"Why oh why must I be kept in the castle all the time?" cried Princess Larissa, lying on her four-poster bed, wiping her bitter tears in the soft satin sheets.

"Your Highness," said her maid, Mrs. Bessemer, "you should be glad of the safety you're in. Why, outside the palace walls there is so much conflict that the moment you step outside, you'd be killed!"

"Well I don't care," said Larissa, "it's better than being cooped up in an ugly old castle such as this."

Mrs. Bessemer shook her head, picked up the laundry, and went out of the room.

"It isn't much fun seeing the same things one sees ever since one was born!" Larissa exclaimed. "I do believe that I've never gone past the castle walls!"

Princess Larissa is the daughter of the great King Alfred III. When he was young, he conquered many lands. He made himself Chief King of all the nations that has fallen in his wrath. For many years, he enjoyed the fruits of victory. He heavily taxed all the people in his lands. But six years ago, when Larissa was ten, some neighboring nations decided to free the lands that King Alfred III conquered. Thus, there was chaos all over. Not one man could be trusted. Therefore, Larissa was never allowed to wander out the palace walls.

"Oh dear," said Larissa standing up, "it's about time for my daily stroll in the gardens. About the only other place besides the castle that I'm aloud to go to." She clapped her hands. Several maids appeared by the door, and dressed her up.

It was a calm night. The big bright moon could be seen through the trees, shining like the sun. Larissa walked up the garden path, smelling the crisp, fresh smell of spring flowers. Behind her walked her maids, whispering to themselves. Larissa reached the small pond with a white swing hanging from a tree near it. It was one of her favorite places.

"Ladies," she called to the maids, "please leave me to myself for a moment. I want to have some time alone."

The maids looked at one another with questioning expressions. Larissa had never asked for privacy.

"Perhaps she is growing up," said one of the maids. "After all, she is sixteen."

"Very well your highness," said another maid. They then went to another section of the garden to gossip.

"Phew!" said Larissa kneeling by the pond. "That got rid of them."

She looked at her reflection in the water. She could see a beautiful young lady with long golden hair tumbling down her shoulders. Her fair skin looked nice with the pink dress she was wearing.

"Why," said Larissa, "I do believe that this is the best reflection I've seen of myself."

Suddenly her reflection rippled. A little twig had fallen from the tree standing beside the pond. Larissa smiled. Her fantasies had disappeared with the ripples.

"Oh if only a genie would appear and grant me one wish," she sighed. "If that does happen, I would ask him to - " Larissa stopped in the middle of her sentence. She gasped. For in the pond there appeared a face - a man's face.

"Who-who are you?" she stammered.

"Good evening princess," said the man. He smiled. "What is a beautiful girl like you doing here at nighttime?"

"Oh dear," said Larissa covering her mouth, "he speaks!"

"Don't be frightened," said the man, "I would never even think of hurting you."

"Are you a genie?" asked Larissa. "Have you come to grant me my wish?"

"Well," said the man chuckling, "close your eyes and you will see."

Larissa closed her eyes. He is quite charming for a genie, she thought. While she was sitting there, she heard a loud thump coming from behind her. She opened her eyes. Standing behind her was the same man she had talked to from the pond!

"What?!" she exclaimed.

The man held her hands and looked deep into her blue-green eyes. "I am not a genie, but I will grant you one wish if it is not beyond human nature."

"Why," said Larissa, "you were in that tree all along!" She let go of his hands, looked away from his handsome face, and felt her own face. It was hot. "And now I am blushing terribly!"

"I am sorry," said the man. "Let me introduce myself," He bowed. "My name is Jack Taylor. I am from the land of Dodona."

Dodona? That is one of the enemy lands, thought Larissa. "My lord," she said with a little curtsy, "I am Princess Larissa, the daughter of King Alfred III. Are you one of my father's enemies?"

Jack smiled. "Why do you ask?"

"Because if you are," said Larissa, "then you are here to kill me!"

"What a horrible thought!" cried Jack. "I would never even think of hurting you Princess."

"Please answer my question Mr. Taylor," Larissa begged.

"Call me Jack. Yes, I am," said Jack, "but I am not here to kill you. You see, my father is dying, and the only antidote to his illness is a golden lock of hair from a girl who has royal blood. And you, Princess, are the only one who has that kind of hair." He held her hands, squeezed it gently, and looked deep into her eyes again. Larissa smiled. No one had ever treated her like this before. "Will you go to Dodona with me and save my father from dying?" he asked.

Larissa was touched. She fell in love with Jack and felt as if she was floating. "Yes," she said, "I will go with you on one condition," she smiled. "Promise me that you will take me around the world after we've healed your father."

"Why yes Princess," said Jack, "I will grant you your wish."