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Short story: “The Princess”

Woo, my creative juices are flowing a bit more freely now and this came out today: a fantasy story with a little twist to it.

***

The throne room was awash with light as the royal couple held court that beautiful summer’s day.

“Mother, father, I have returned!”

The voice echoed against the ornate rafters and the statues of kings and queens long since passed that lined the room. The heads of all the members of court were turned around towards the entrance at the back to see who had interrupted the proceedings so rudely.

The queen needed no second looks, for she knew the voice of her only child. Their daughter.

Even since she’d been quite small the princess had had a preference for the tasks the better fitted a prince than a princess. Fine embroidery and dresses here not for her, no, she wanted to ride horses and learn how to fight with a sword and bow.

The queen had not approved it, but the girl had had both her parents wrapped around her little finger and somehow they had both hoped that the girl would grow out of it eventually and turn to more fitting activities for a princess. Alas, it had never quite come to pass and when the girl, after she had come of age had demanded both armor and a strong horse to go on adventures with, her father had been forced to comply.

They had feared for her, enough to have a number of loyal and strong men accompany her, but not enough to force her to remain at court. Perhaps she would come back humbled and forced to see that the adventurous life of a prince was much too hard and painful for a girl. That she’d learn the hard way why it was that princesses wore gowns and princes wore the armor.

And now the day had come, the princess had finally arrived home.

She looked far from humbled though.

The princess strode up towards the king and queen, still wearing her suit of armor, which looked rather dented and singed. At the sight of this the queen has to restrain herself, keep the look of shock and worry off her regal face. The princess herself was beaming a smile at them both, gesturing with her arms.

“I have had the grandest adventure!” the girl announced, her short, curly hair shining in the light from the high and ornate windows.

“Though I am not certain why you sent all those men with me, half the number would have sufficed, if even that!”

The king mumbled something about how any royal child would need the proper escort when he or she ventured out into the wild world out there, filled with monsters and highway robbers.

The girl took little notice of this and instead continued her story.

“The ruffians we came upon in the woods laughed at me when they found out I was a girl, but I made them sorry soon enough! We collected a handsome bounty in the next town, which ensured that we had plenty of supplies for the rest of our journey.

I then participated in a local tourney, though they would not let me compete at first, but when I unhorsed one of the more gallant and talented knights they had to let me try. Alas, I did not win, but your men will attest that I did admirably.

Then I heard about the dragon keeping a princess hostage…”

“A dragon!”

The queen was unable to keep herself calm and found herself rising up from her throne, standing pale faced in front of the court.

“Yes, a dragon. Quite a fierce beast!” the princess said, not paying any close attention to her upset mother. “Your men tried to discourage me, but I would not let myself be talked down, not when innocent lives were at stake!”

The king looked rather nervous now, enough that he dabbed his forehead with a corner of his ermine mantle.

“And what happened then, my dear?” he asked with quavering voice and fastened his weary blue gaze on the girl.

“Why, I rode up to the monsters lair and challenged it into battle!”

The queen nearly fainted and had to be gently coaxed back into her seat.

“What happened then?”

The question came from an older man at arms, the very man who had had a hand in teaching the princess swordsmanship back when she was still very little.

“Why, the beast did not understand human words, but it came at me, roaring and spewing flame!”

One of the queen’s ladies in waiting fell to the ground in a dead faint and there was some commotion while she was taken away to an adjoined room to rest.

“I must assure you that I was never in any real harm”, the princess hurried herself to say. “I have been trained by the best how to approach any enemy and that includes dragons.

While the men had my back I bravely fought the monster and finally managed to plunge my sword into its chest. We all were a bit singed around the edges, but it was nothing too serious.”

Despite the matter of fact tone she used, the queen looked like she might faint too and the king reached out a comforting hand, to squeeze his wife’s own hand.

“Well, with the dragon slayed…” The princess trailed off, twitching nervously for the first time since she’d arrived. “I then returned here to present to you…my bride.”

If the king’s wine cup had been full he surely would have spilled its entire content on the fine plush carpets, but as it was he merely stuttered, struggling despite his fine breeding to find the right response.

“B-Bride? Surely you mean to say that you have found a husband after your adventures”, the king finally managed.

“My lord, father…I meant exactly what I said”, the princess said, looking bolder and gesturing to one of the men she had left at the other end of the hall.

As the assembled watched, a pretty maiden was escorted through the grand doors and brought up to the princess, who quickly took her hand and kissed it.

“This is the princess I rescued from the foul beast of a dragon”, the princess said. “I offered to escort her to her father’s castle, but before we had come that far I had found myself quite taken with her lively personality and her wit. Smitten even. And after her complaints of the male suitors that her father had forced upon her I suggested that we marry instead.

She graciously accepted my offer, having fallen for me also.”

The princess now kissed the fair maid’s cheek and received a playful pinch in return. That the love they shared was true and consensual was obvious to everyone in attendance.

The king found himself dumbstruck once more. It was one thing to see your daughter, a fair maid pick up sword and shield and fight like a man; it was quite another thing to have her bring home a bride to marry.

In silence he contemplated his options. Did not the laws of the land state that the throne be passed through the male line and if there was no son to inherit his father, the husband of the princess would be the de facto ruler? For all the difficulties the king had endured with his stubborn daughter he still loved her dearly. He wanted nothing more than see her settled and happy before he passed away and left her to manage things. This other girl, this other princess seemed like a well brought up maiden…”

“She looks like a fine girl”, the queen said, breaking the king’s silence. “Perhaps we should send a messenger to the other king so that we might come to some agreement…”

The king glanced at his wife. Surely they could manage something; surely they could come to some form of agreement with the other princess’ father. Surely the happiness of their children should be the most important thing.

“Send off a messenger at once”, the king said, finally finding his voice and addressing his herald. “It seems our kingdoms will soon be joined, if the gods allow it.”

The princess beamed a smile at her father and wrapped an armored hand around the other princess’ waist.

“Thank you father!” she cried.

“I think you will find my father quite accommodating”, the other princess said, smiling coyly. “He must be quite relieved to hear that I have accepted a suitor at last, even if she is another maid.”

“Call me maid again and I shall have to be quite cross with you”, their armored, fierce, lovely daughter said, smiling at her bride to be. The other girl merely giggled

The court who had first responded with puzzlement and confusion now finally broke out in cheers and huzzahs at the news that there might soon be a wedding to celebrate. Their princess would soon marry the love she had found out on her grand adventures.

“Perhaps we should see about changing those old laws”, the queen whispered to the king. “I have always felt a princess should be allowed to be queen and inherit the kingdom. The oldest should inherit no matter if it is a man or a woman.”

“Perhaps”, the king said, smiling slightly. “Mayhaps the other king will want some say in it too…”

“What matters is the happiness of our daughter, yes?”

“And we would want a grandchild sometime…”

“There are ways that can be arranged…”

The queen smiled and there was such a devious sparkle in her eye that the king was almost frightened…And also happy she was his wife and not his enemy.

“Well, in the meantime we should prepare, should we not?” the queen rose from her throne and called her attendants to her before she swept down upon her daughter who still stood there with her princess.

The king sighed and decided that if his father could craft a peace with their neighbors and his grandfather endure a fierce civil war then surely he could manage this little thing. For the good of the realm.

And for the good of his own daughter.

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