One day, as she sat alone in her tower bedroom, far above the long stream of suitors who would be challenging each other for something she could never freely give, she began to weep. With her tears, a glistening ball of light was called. And from within the light, a faerie burst into life.
"Princess Annabell," the nebulous faerie called, beckoning the princess closer, as she grasped the young princess to her breast. "Princess Annabell, why the tears?" She soothed the princess, but it only brought more tears.
"Sweet Maylan," the princess shuddered through her tears, "suitors have come to sample my beauty, to keep me to locked away, without love or desire. I don't know if I can choose to live this life. What am I to do?" The princess wept against Maylan's misty shoulder.
"What would you have me do, my princess? Chase the suitors away?" Maylan took the princess's tear bruised face in her hands, wiping them away with a brush of her magical fingertips.
"What would be the use? Only more would come tomorrow or the day after, and in the weeks yet to come until my eighteenth birthday when my betrothed will be announced. What choice does this life offer?" Fresh tears sprang from the princess's eyes, realizing in three short weeks, a suitor will be proclaimed champion, and marriage to a stranger will be forced upon her. "If I only knew that the man wanted me, not my beauty, not my father's riches, or my mother's lands, if only I knew that I was his desire...." The princess look to the veiled faerie, maybe Maylan could be her savior.
"Maylan, please help me. You can let me find the love that chooses me for the person beneath the beauty." The princess showed a watery smile. Maylan's heart broke for the tragic beauty, but the consequences of wishes often come at price.
"Princess Annabell, do you wish me to remove your beauty? Make you plain as any commoner? Please say this is not your desire." Maylan begged the naive princess.
"No, Maylan, I want to become the commoner, but just for one day. I want to meet the challengers with my beauty hidden. Without the constraints of beauty, wealth, or land. Will you help me?" The princess pleaded, eyes still bright with tears.
"My princess, I can do as you ask," the baffled Maylan replied, "but I have to caution you my child, wishes may be only what they are, but if you're sure this is your desire, I will help you." Maylan took the princess's hand in her own, and placed a bead of a wish within her palm. "To grant your wish, simply break the bead. For one day, you'll be the commoner with the ability to walk amongst your suitors. But, within the bead, the truth will also be revealed. You will be able to see into the hearts, visit their desires, know their truths. This is the price of the wish." Maylan's eyes bore into the princess's, making sure she understood the price.
The princess nodded, "Yes, Maylan, I know what I ask, but I do not want a loveless life." The princess gazed at the bead, so much power in a tiny little thing. "I'll break the bead on the eve of my birth." The princess promised, as the mist formed a ball which grew smaller and smaller before it popped from existence.
So, the princess planned, arranged for one of her personal maids to sit in her tower room overlooking the line of suitors, while she would wonder within to find her one true champion. The day of eve of her birth dawned and all of her careful plans were put into place, and the princess broke the bead. She watched as the luster and curls left her golden locks to become a string mess. She gazed into her looking glass as the beauty was replaced with a weathered skin, still a youthfulness, but a beauty that had known hard work. Her hands became calloused, her fingernails unpainted, short and stubby, a little grimy from toiling. Her gown replaced by a coarse gray cloak and a peasant's brown dress hidden beneath. The princess couldn't believe her eyes. It was still her, but another being, if her life had been born different. The faerie's magic was harsh, powerful, and just what her wish desired.
The princess left the castle and stole among the many suitors, bucket in hand offering sips of water to the participants who had gathered.
"Mi lord, drink, it is surely to be a long day." She said again and again, and as she looked into each face, the desires of their hearts were clearly spoken to hers.
"I desire her kingdom, I desire her riches, I desire her beauty upon my arm, I desire her body in my bed," were spoken over and over again, so many times the princess began to lose hope. Not once did she hear, I desire to make her happy, I desire the princess for her kindness. Her heart began to break anew as she reached the end of the suitors and there was only one lord left. The princess offered him a sip from her ladle, and he took it in both hands bringing to his lips, but as his hands grasped the ladle, she heard, "I desire love." The princess gazed up into the eyes of the lord, he wasn't the most handsome or the tallest or the most powerful. His armor was worn and dusty, but there was kindness in his eyes as he thanked her for quenching his thirst.
"Mi lord, may I inquire your name for the princess?"
The lord returned, "I am Lord Renault, but I've hardly a chance to win her hand. I'm here at my parents request, I'm the youngest of seven princes with only one kingdom to share. Needless to say, lass, I'll return empty handed." He grinned at the commoner princess knowing full well that he didn't stand a chance. Look at the field before him, he may as well go home now than risk his life.
The princess could hear this in his heart as well, and she encouraged the young prince to stay, make a stand, and maybe he'd go home the proud victor. She left the young lord to watch her leave as she made her way back within the castle walls, away from the conniving suitors with only one true hope, Lord Renault.
She made her way back to her tower room, releasing the maid from her stay, and as night broke on the eve of her birth, she gazed into the mirror and watched her beauty return. For the first time in weeks, she fell into an exhausted sleep knowing her heart had found her desire.
The morning came quickly and as the princess rose, she called her father to her tower room.
"Father, I know you have many splendid events and challenges arranged for the day, but I desire to choose my own betrothed. If you love me at all, you will allow this one request." The princess smiled at her father.
"Daughter, many suitors have come from far away lands with the hopes of winning your hand. I cannot disappoint them, they must be given their due." Her father chastised his young daughter.
"Fine, then allow me to chose the champion of each challenge." And her father agreed.
With each challenge, she chose the weakest champion, the weakest mount, until young Renault stood before her claimed champion again and again. Until the last challenge came.
The King proclaimed to the two remaining suitors, the winner of the last challenge wins the hand of the fair Princess Annabell. And the crowd roared in the background, encouraging the two young suitors.
And the final challenge began. Even as the princess looked on, she knew the winner of the challenge and called Prince Renault to her side, putting her hand in his worn gloved armor, and proclaimed him the winner of her hand, her life, her lands, and her riches.
The young Renault gazed upon the princess's beauty with a sadness in his eyes and removed her hand from his own. "My princess, I would gladly claim everything you have offered, but my parents have sent me in my brother's stead. You see my princess, my loss would not have been of consequence, but Richard is to be the next ruler of our kingdom." He bowed and turned away with regret. And in his place stood another, but the bead of the wish had not worn completely away. In his heart, she heard the words that brought dread to her own, "I will be powerful, able to kill my many enemies, and I'll start with Renault." Prince Richard sneered at his brother's retreating back.
"No," the princess cried, "if I cannot have Renault, I chose no one." Tears filled her eyes, as the faerie's warning came back to haunt her, she had heard her champions desire, but not his purpose or his own wish.
Princess Annabell, beauty that she is, was promised to Richard as he plotted Renault's death. But, the princess had fallen in love with young Renault, and when the time came, when the brother chose to strike the other, she fell upon the dagger, saving Renault and releasing herself from a loveless life. And in return, she became a part of faerie, forever blessed for her selflessness, but forever cursed to love unrequited. The King chose young Renault as the king to be crowned upon the old king's death, as he, himself, had run through Richard for bringing death to his only child. In the countless nights that followed until King Renault's death at the ripe old age of 80, he was visited by a glowing bright light that made love to his mind, that spoke to him in his dreams where he was once again the young Renault. The one he called his Tinkerbell faerie, tinkling faerie dust left in her wake and upon his body when he opened his eyes every morning.
King Renault was known for his kindness, loved by all in the land. Upon his death, having remained unmarried, he passed his kingdom to his godson, Lord Locksley, but that is another story. He was laid to rest next to the fabled beauty that gave her life for love, the Princess Annabell.
© Dottie Taylor
I just wanted to share a short story I whipped up on a whim. It's one that I would have used as a bedtime story for my sisters. More than once I related the stories of princesses, castles, magical and mysterious.