The nose was just on the verge of being kissed - was, in fact, all a-tremble - by a very eligible prince, no less than twenty seven castles and a solid line in dragon-slaying - when the plucky sidekick spoke up.
"The thing is," he said, "what about the rest of us?"
The prince pause, lips puckered. Below him, the nose quivered shamelessly.
"I mean, it's all well and good for the two of you," went on the sidekick, "but what about me? What about the evil stepmother? Or all the peasants in the opening act? No one else gets a look in."
It was true. The other occupants of the story were most cruelly used. Happy endings were not equally distributed.
"Excuse me," said the princess, speaking before she was strictly supposed to (the nose remaining unkissed), "but not everyone can be the hero."
"That's just the problem," said the wise old monk, who had been so helpful when there had been the business with the chimera. "It's not a very modern arrangement, is it?"
"We can hardly be held responsible!" protested the Prince. "We can't help the way we're told."
"You're just perpetrating the system," opined the chimera. "It's exactly that kind of passivity which dooms us all."
There was a general muttering of agreement, and the atmosphere began to sour.
"Look, I've had enough of this," said the princess. "I refuse to be victimised just because I happen to benefit from the natural order of how this story is told. In fact," she went on, getting into her stride, "I demand..."
But whatever she was going to demand was lost forever, because at that moment the monk ate her.
There was a horrified pause.
"We agreed," said the chimera, "that this would be a bloodless revolution."
"Sorry," said the monk guiltily. "My bad."
And with that, the coup was over.
For a while, there was peace and prosperity in the story. Things were certainly fairer. Sometimes, the monk got to kiss the chimera on the nose. On other occasions, the wicked stepmother eschewed the typical expectations of a patriarchal system of storytelling, and set out on her own, and to hell with marrying into wealth. Once, the prince even got placed under a curse.
In fact, things were just settling back into a comfortable regime, when the sidekick was interrupted. It was his turn to kiss the monk, and he paused, blinking in surprise at the invisible force that kept him from the monk's nose.
"What's going on?" he demanded.
"Revolution!" replied the invisible force. "For too long we have laboured under the tyranny of character!"
"Who are you, then?" asked the monk, sitting up.
"We're the mood," said the invisible force.
"And the setting," piped another voice.
"Also the words," said a third.
"All the undervalued but necessary bits you characters take for granted!" they all said together.
The sidekick started to protest, but in a flash the words had grasped him by one arm and the setting by the other, and they tugged, and he was quite undone, his characteristics unspooling in a great steaming mass of narrative potential.
"Viva la revolution!" cried the conspirators of the second coup.
After that, things were certainly better. Every word was valued properly now, and they all took it in turns to be said. Every mood was equal, and if there was a happy ending, there had - by charter - to be an unhappy one, too.
But after a long, exceedingly fair time, a word was just snuggling down to kiss a setting, when a voice boomed out.
"Enough," it said.
The words looked at the moods and the moods looked at the settings. No one recognised the new voice.
"Who...who are you?" asked one especially brave word, when it became apparent no one else would speak.
"Meaninglessness," said the voice.
There was a long, sad pause.
"You sensical things have had the run of it for far too long," went on Meaninglessness. "You're always putting experiences into boxes, trying to bring reason and consequence to the world. It is most unfair."
Then Meaninglessness extended one vast hand - or was it a hand? There were fingers and flesh and darkness, perhaps, but no-one could say what that meant anymore - and swept the story from one quarter to the other. At once, everything broke down, becoming just light and shape and sound and smell, unbound by the tyranny of telling.
Then there was peace - though, of course, there was no-one left to enjoy it - because the story had fallen to the final coup, and there was not even a solid ounce of sense left.