Sir Joey Owl nudged Princess Rosie when she started to say something, causing her to grab the branch he had flown her to half an hour earlier.
"Sshh!" He had a hard time shushing, his beak wasn't meant for that sound, but Princess Rosie got it. His eyes were just fierce enough to silence her, and remind her that bees, like the ones in the hive hanging from the branch just below them, like their privacy, and would be pretty ticked off to see they were being spied upon. Even by a kindly princess who meant them no harm, but just liked to watch how they collect honey and bring it back to their queen.
Princess Rosie knew bees had queens, and she wondered if they had princesses too, like people. But the question would have to wait for later, she supposed. Otherwise Queen Mommy would probably be picking bee stingers out of her butt for a week!
Then, splat! Princess Rosie felt it.
"Oh no," she whispered. "I think it's starting to rain." She carefully raised her hand to her head and found wetness there.
She and Sir Joey Owl sat very still for a few minutes, Joey Owl with his wings extended, feeling for rain. Another drop plunked onto Princess Rosie's head, and another, but Joey Owl's keen eyes could see no raindrops anywhere else.
Then he looked up. And there, a few branches above he saw them…
…little toes sticking out, curled around a branch several feet above Princess Rosie. "Oh for Pete's sake," he said, and tapped Princess Rosie, then gestured for her to follow his gaze.
"What's that?" Princess Rosie whispered, still cautious about ticking off the bees.
"Climb aboard," Joey Owl whispered, and took off once Princess Rosie was holding on.
Princess Rosie's eye widened in surprise when they landed on a sturdy branch where a little gray colored creature sat, weeping. When he felt the branch move, he quickly faced the trunk of the tree, hiding his face, and crying harder.
"I'm Princess Rosie of Rosieland, and I like my subjects to be happy. Maybe if you tell me why you're sad, I can help make it better."
The little creature continued crying.
"He is a gargoyle, Princess Rosie," Joey Owl whispered, still minding the bees below. "His family lives on the church in Rosieland."
"I didn't know anyone lived in churches except God," Princess Rosie said, confused.
"Not in the church, Princess Rosie, but on the church. Gargoyles are stone creatures, see?" Joey Owl pointed to the creature with a wingtip, and Princess Rosie looked more closely at him, then nodded. "Also, they are magical and sometimes even fly about if they have a really good reason."
"They are like magical flying guards?" Princess Rosie repeated.
"Yes. Guards. They hang around churches and other human buildings to guard against evil." Joey Owl explained.
The little creature cried harder.
"That's a very important job, little guy," Princess Rosie whispered. "Won't you turn around and talk to me?"
"Are you really made of stone?" Princess Rosie reached out and touched the little creature. Sure enough, cold and rough, stone.
Even more crying. Princess Rosie yanked her hand back quickly. "I'm sorry, really sorry, I didn't mean to scare you."
"We can't help you make things better if you keep crying like this," Joey Owl whispered, wishing they could find a better place to comfort this little gargoyle. Whatever the problem was, it wouldn't get any better if they ticked off the bees.
The little gargoyle sniffed, and took a deep breath, the branch beneath them quivering with his movement. He was heavier than Princess Rosie and Joey Owl put together, because he was made of stone.
"Can you fly okay? We could go to the palace and you could tell me what's wrong. You would be surprised at what I have the power to fix," Princess Rosie offered, hoping the branch would be kind and hold all of them for just a little while longer.
Little stone head moving side to side dashed Princess Rosie's hopes of finding a safer place to talk.
"Come on, little guy, at least turn around and talk to us," Joey Owl pleaded.
"Ugly," the little gargoyle heaved out the word.
"I am not ugly, and neither is Joey Owl," Princess Rosie whispered, her feelings a little hurt.
"Me. I'm ugly," the gargoyle sobbed, crying all over again.
"Well of course you're ugly!" Joey Owl whispered, and Princess Rosie's head snapped round in his direction, her eyes wide with shock that he could be so mean.
"Joey Owl!" she said out loud, then gasped as a bee or two looked up at her.
"He's supposed to be ugly! He's a gargoyle!" Joey Owl said, then looked down at the hive, where bees were getting together and pointing wings at Princess Rosie. "Now you've done it! We need to get out of here, fast."
"Please come with us!" Princess Rosie said to the sad little gargoyle as she climbed onto Joey Owl's back. "Please come now. I'm sure there's something we can do to help!"
The little creature still cried, facing the trunk of the tree as Joey Owl flew Princess Rosie out of the line of danger.
"Oh, Joey Owl, we have to do something! Those bees are really mad. They'll sting him, and make everything worse."
"They won't sting him," Joey Owl said.
"They won't? Why?" Princess Rosie asked.
"They know it's a waste of time. It would hurt the bees, not him. He's made of stone. It would be like trying to sting a brick wall. Can't you see a hive full of bees all staggering around with little bee concussions? All having to get their stingers straightened out because they tried to sting stone? They'd never live it down. They'd be the laughing stock of every beehive all over the world."
Princess Rosie laughed, even though she was still worried about the little gargoyle. "We can't just leave him crying like that, Joey Owl. He's so miserable and sad."
"Once the bees settle down we'll go back and see if we can't get him to talk to us," Joey Owl suggested.
And true to his word, after they'd gone back to the palace for about an hour, had some tea and cookies, Joey Owl had Princess Rosie climb onto his back, and off they flew into the Royal Woods of Rosieland. Joey Owl flapped his way to the bee tree, flying high above it, and silently landed on the branch next to the little gargoyle who turned to face the trunk again when Princess Rosie and Joey Owl arrived.
"Oh come on, little guy, you can't just sit on a tree branch for the rest of your life, you know? I mean, think of the poor tree. You're stone. You're very heavy. The branch is going to get tired." Princess Rosie whispered, mindful of the bees below.
"And you're supposed to be helping to guard the church in Rosieland, scaring away evil spirits!" Joey Owl added.
"But people are scared of me too," the little gargoyle said, his head drooping, and tears starting to drip again.
"I'm not scared of you," Joey Owl said, and Princess Rosie chimed in, "Neither am I." And then she added, "so why not turn around?"
The little gargoyle sat very still, and then his headed tilted for a moment, and then, very slowly he turned his foot on the branch. His body started to follow, and CRACK!!! The branch broke!
Joey Owl dove faster than he'd ever dived before and swooped underneath of Princess Rosie just before she hit the ground, and soared upward, saving her life, and even more important, sweeping her away from the tree where the bees were now furious and organizing a war party!
Joey Owl flew out of the Royal Woods and landed on a branch in the middle of one of the peach trees on the palace grounds. His sharp-sighted eyes scanned the air for sight of the little gargoyle, who also had wings, but there was no sign of him.
"He is really stubborn! And he's being silly!" Joey Owl said, running out of patience.
"It hurts to be ugly, Joey Owl."
"God created gargoyles ugly! They are meant to be uglier than the evil spirits they scare away!"
"But he said everybody's scared of him, and he's so sad," Princess Rosie said softly, shaking her head. "Can you go see if you can find him? I'll wait here, it'll be faster," Princess Rosie pleaded with Joey Owl, who could never resist a request from his friend, and took off. Soon he was back.
"Close your eyes," Joey Owl said to Princess Rosie. She trusted him completely, and did so.
"Okay, you can open them now," came the gargoyle's little voice.
When Princess Rosie opened her eyes, she kept a straight face, even though the little creature before her was pretty ugly. First of all, even though he was made of stone, his eyes were all red from crying, though Princess Rosie thought it couldn't make his ugliness much worse. He had a fierce frown, a sort of a smooshed in dog's face. He had kind of a dog's body, but squat and unattractive, and of course, he had wings, but not shapely feathery angel wings, or sparkly see through fairy wings, but stone wings, if you can imagine that.
Ew. But Princess Rosie didn't want to hurt his feelings, she wanted to show him that she was different from people who were scared of him, or who made fun of him.
"What's your name?" she asked softly, and he looked at her, just trying to find any kind of reaction from Princess Rosie that meant she found him ugly.
"Gary. Gary Gargoyle."
"That's a nice name, Gary," Princess Rosie said politely. "I've never had a friend named Gary before. Welcome to the palace grounds."
"Thank you," Gary said before he could help himself. Most people weren't nice to him. Most people ignored him, high above their heads, hanging out from the church roof, but when they did pay him attention, they usually commented on his dreadful appearance.
"Do you like sitting on top of the church all the time, seeing all of Rosieland at once?" Princess Rosie asked.
"It's nice up there. Always a nice breeze," Gary said.
"Did you fly here?" Princess Rosie asked.
"Yes. I'm lucky, I guess. Some gargoyles don't have wings. But I do." Gary answered.
"Wow! You're wings must be stronger than even Joey Owl's since you're made of stone and very heavy!" Princess Rosie was impressed.
"Well, gargoyles are magical, you know," Gary said softly, not wanting to brag.
"I wish I were magical," Princess Rosie sighed. "But I have many magical friends, fairies, gnomes, Joey Owl, mermaids, and angels."
"And now, Gary the Gargoyle," Joey Owl said happily.
Gary nodded slowly, noticing his neck was a little stiff from the branch breaking, although his neck was always a little stiff, he was, after all made of stone.
"Can I see you fly?" Princess Rosie asked softly. Gary leapt off the back of the garden bench he'd perched on, the weight of him pushing off knocking it over, and swooped up to the palace roof and back, landing on the edge of the overturned chair. It cracked under his weight, and he landed on the ground, his head bowed in shame.
"I am a disaster area!" he said, tears beginning to spill down his cheeks yet again.
"Well, here on the palace grounds, maybe! But up on the church roof you're a hero!" Joey Owl said, and Princess Rosie nodded.
"Yes, Gary, Joey Owl is right! You keep bad spirits away! How cool is that!" Princess Rosie said.
"You have to be heavy and fearsome to do your job so well, for no one has ever seen or heard tell of evil spirits anywhere near the church, or anywhere in Rosieland for that matter! You and your family and friends keep us safe! And all the people in Rosieland are grateful," Joey Owl said.
"And to show how grateful my subjects are, there's going to be a little surprise in Rosieland tomorrow, if you promise to go back to the church now, so your family doesn't worry about you anymore," Princess Rosie said.
"I promise," Gary said, coming close to a smile, scary as it was, for Princess Rosie.
"Okay. You just watch what happens tomorrow," Princess Rosie said, her voice mysterious, and even Joey Owl didn't know what she was up to as Gary flew off in the direction of the church in Rosieland where he and his family lived and worked.
The next day just happened to be Sunday, and Princess Rosie, Queen Mommy carrying Prince Joseph, King Daddy, Joey Owl, and Joey Owl's parents all went to church together.
After the mass, Princess Rosie asked all the people to wait outside the church, and she stood at the top of the church steps waiting to speak to her subjects.
Everyone quieted rather quickly, knowing that whatever Princess Rosie had to say must be important, for she rarely made speeches.
"Hi Rosieland!" she started to speak to everyone.
"Hi Princess Rosie!" Everyone replied, which gave Princess Rosie a little chill of excitement, there was so much love in the crowd.
"I have a question for you. If I were ugly, but still a nice princess inside, would you all still love me?"
"YES!" the crowd cheered.
"Very well then, we all understand that ugliness has nothing to do with the kind of person you are, right?" Princess Rosie asked, just to make sure.
"RIGHT!" the crowd answered.
"I'm glad to hear that. I have a friend who has been having a little problem. It seems that some people in Rosieland think he's ugly, and that he's mean, and they are afraid and mean to him. This can't happen in Rosieland. Our land is filled with good, and there is no room for meanness, or fear of people because they look a certain way. That's just silly."
The crowd cheered, agreeing with Princess Rosie.
"I want you to look up at the church roof, and some friends of mine who live there." Princess Rosie said, turning to face the church and looking up. "You see the little gargoyle in between the two larger ones? Well that's Gary. You see how he leans forward? That's because he has a very important job to do.
"God made gargoyles ugly and fierce-looking on purpose, so that they would frighten away evil spirits that might try and harm us, or get into the church."
Princess Rosie turned back to face the crowd of her subjects who were all still gazing up at the stone creatures leaning forward at the rooftop.
"Gargoyles guard us and keep us safe from bad things. They are ugly because it helps them to fight things even uglier than they are. They should be proud to look the way they do, because they have a very important job. We should always remember that."
High above the crowd, Gary's parents gazed at their little son, proud that he had made a friend of Princess Rosie. They had been worried about him, because he'd been so upset about being ugly. They were very relieved that he seemed to feel better now, especially since the crowd was cheering him name below.
"Yay Gary Gargoyle!" People shouted. "We love you!" "Thank you!"
Gary Gargoyle knew that his face might actually crack if he smiled too wide, but his snarly little lips did stretch into a small smile that did not go unnoticed by his new friend, Princess Rosie. Nor did it escape the attention of his parents, and for that matter Queen Mommy and King Daddy.
Now most people might think that this is the happy ending for this story. And for Gary, the problem was indeed solved.
However, Queen Mommy and King Daddy knew that there was another problem plaguing Rosieland. Well, perhaps not all of Rosieland, but indeed, bothering Princess Rosie herself, which bothered Queen Mommy and King Daddy a lot.
Princess Rosie was trying very hard to get over a fear. She was afraid of little monsters sneaking into the palace while she was sleeping. Even though she knew Sir Joey Owl flew about the royal grounds hunting for food, and keeping watch over the palace, she was spooked by herself at night, and occasionally had bad dreams, too.
King Daddy had an idea, and went inside the church and up the stairs that led to the roof. He opened a window that looked out onto the roof, and spoke to Gary's parents. "Hello there, Mr. & Mrs. Gargoyle, may I ask a favor of you?"
The Gargoyle family, magically transformed into moveable creatures, and faced King Daddy. "Yes, Sire?" they responded.
"Princess Rosie and Gary have become friends, I believe, and I think that might solve a little problem we're having in the palace." King Daddy began to explain.
Below, Princess Rosie, Queen Mommy holding Prince Joseph, Joey Owl, and his family waited for King Daddy, not being able to imagine what he might have to say to the Gargoyle family.
Soon he returned to them from out of the church, and they decided to walk through the town back to the palace it was such a nice day.
"Did you have a nice time chatting with the Gargoyles?" Princess Rosie asked King Daddy, hoping he would tell her what they'd talked about.
"Yes I did. And I think there might just be a little surprise for you tonight, my dear." King Daddy said, being a little mysterious. A surprise, thought Princess Rosie, smiling. She loved surprises.
"Tonight?" she asked.
"Yes, at about bedtime." King Daddy said.
And Princess Rosie's smile faded a little. She didn't like bedtime. She didn't like sleeping. It made her feel open to little monsters that she'd heard of, little ones that could sneak in through any tiny holes.
King Daddy knelt next to Princess Rosie, and looked her in the eyes. "You were smiling a moment ago, honey, just the mention of bedtime makes you worried," he said, hugging her.
"I'm afraid of little monsters getting me."
King Daddy picked Princess Rosie up and carried her to a nearby bench, the rest of the royal family following and resting for a few moments while King Daddy sat Princess Rosie on his lap and talked to her.
"You know, Princess, you have many magical friends who love you very much. There's Angela, your guardian angel, Tasha, the Tooth Fairy, Shirley and Early your mermaid friends, and also, though you haven't met him, there's the Sandman who sprinkles you with magic sand to help you fall asleep at night. And he's important also, because along with helping you fall asleep, Sandman's magic sand is also protective. That means that it keeps you safe while you're sleeping. And the Tooth Fairy's magic dust does the same thing. And of course Angela always hovers nearby you while you're sleeping, and while you're playing too. And now, there's Gary as well. You must be the safest kid in the whole wide world with all your special, magical friends!" King Daddy said. "And you know who else is around to protect you?"
Princess Rosie, being a very smart princess, already suspected the answer to that one. "You?"
"That's right, me," King Daddy said, "And even more than me, Queen Mommy. Nobody better cross Queen Mommy, she would be seriously mad. And nobody messes with Queen Mommy when she's mad, right?" King Daddy poked Princess Rosie's tummy, getting a little squealy giggle out of her. She hugged his neck, and then the royal family and their owl friends took off for home once more.
That night, just after Joey Owl left to have breakfast with his family, Princess Rosie got her bath, brushed her teeth, and got her jammies on. As Queen Mommy was tucking her into her bed, there was a huge clunk outside on her windowsill. Princess Rosie's eyes got wide and frightened, but King Daddy hurried to the window and opened it up. "I think your surprise is here, Princess!" he said, reassuring her that there was no danger in opening up her window.
With the window open, Princess Rosie could see past King Daddy, who'd stepped aside to let in…
"Gary! What are you doing here?" Princess Rosie called out happily to him as he sat on the windowsill.
"Your Daddy talked to my Mommy and Daddy today, and they said it would be alright for me to stand guard over you every night. The church has many gargoyles to protect it. So I won't be missed. And all the gargoyles are very proud of me, that I will be protecting Princess Rosie of Rosieland! It's a huge honor!" Gary said, beaming, sitting up very tall in the window looking a whole lot less ugly, and much more dignified.
"Where would you like me to stand guard, Your Highness?" Gary asked Princess Rosie, taking his job very seriously, already beginning to frown and look very fierce.
Princess Rosie pointed to the door of her room. "If you stand in front of the door, you can see down the hall and still see the windows. Would that be alright with you?"
"Your wish is my command, Your Highness," Gary said, and leapt from the window sill to the floor near Princess Rosie's door. And then he turned to stone, fierce and ugly, to scare off any little monsters (or big monsters) who were stupid enough to even think of bothering Gary's beloved Princess Rosie.
Princess Rosie started to lie down, and then thought of something. "Gary, if Tasha the Tooth Fairy, or the Sandman stop by, they're okay. They're my friends. And of course, Angela, my guardian Angel too. They are all nite-nite friends.
"I know Tasha. I lost a fang last summer, and she put some money under my paw (gargoyles don't have pillows, you know).
"Oh! That's good! Okay, Gary, goodnight!" Princess Rosie said, and worry-free now, she was asleep even before King Daddy and Queen Mommy were out her door.
And that is how Gary Gargoyle became the official ugliest and most beloved guard of Princess Rosie's room in the Rosieland palace.