There once was a maid who loved a prince. She was no striking beauty, but she was gifted with a fair heart and a sharp mind. Indeed, for she didn't warrant a second glance, except by those who looked back to affirm the existence of her abnormally large nose. The only features about her worth mentioning were her long hair and deep, expressive blue-gray eyes.
Now, the Prince was indeed a handsome man, tall with a dashing smile and twinkling eyes that made many a heart flutter. His manners were such that all who had the pleasure of meeting him loved him, though none so much as the maid. Yet, she always forced herself back to reality. The Prince would never love her, and all hope of marriage or friendship was lost. For, whoever heard of a prince and a peasant as man and wife? It just wasn't done.
Many a night the maid wept and dreamed of a life different from her own. Yet in her despair, she never lost sight of that love. Every night she went to bed, she sent up one prayer to God; 'Give this Prince the life he deserves, full of triumph and joy. Let not the darkness touch him, and as long as he is well, I shall be glad.'
There were many days that she spent out in the fields by the main road, waiting for one glimpse, just one look upon his face as he returned from hunting or travel. On one such day of waiting, a Sorceress came to the girl. She wore a dress that was long and flowing, black as the dark night sky, just like her cold eyes. Not an evil woman was she, but true Virtue was far beyond this Sorceress, and today she'd come for blood.
"Stay still now, girl, and I assure of a smooth passing."
Her voice was cold, and her eyes glittered with malice as her long hands reached forth to drain her victim of life. The maid, with her sharp tongue and quick wit, cried out in hopes of surviving.
"Stop, my Lady! Give me a chance to earn my life!"
The Sorceress paused, and her hands drew back, a cruel smile spreading on her thin lips.
"Well now, girl, if you do insist, I will propose to you a wager. A question I shall ask you, and if you answer correctly, as I assure you won't, I shall be in your service for a week, and shall never kill you. If you give the wrong answer, be comforted that you will suffer a painful death, long and slow to reflect your impudence."
The maid then paused, weighing her chances, and thought along these lines; either way, she would probably die, the only difference being that one death was painful and slow, while the other was short if she refused the wager. However, wouldn't her life be like a prolonged death without the love of the Prince? She shook her head clear and made up her mind.
"I accept your wager, Sorceress. Ask what you will."
The Sorceress delved deep into her mind, wondering what might most stump a peasant girl. Due to her own twisted reasoning, she would not ask a question of magic. Perhaps a riddle? Yes, riddles suited her very well.
"Oft I must strive with wind
and wave, Battle them both when under the sea
I feel out the bottom, a foreign land. In lying still I am strong in the strife;
If I fail in that they are stronger than I, And wrenching me loose, soon put me to rout.
They wish to capture what I must keep. I can master them both if my grip holds out,
If the rocks bring succor and lend support, Strength in the struggle. Ask me my name!"
The maid was dumbfounded, not because of her unability to answer, but because of her ability.
"Why, my Lady Sorceress, it is an anchor."
The Sorceress' face clouded in anger, and she made to swipe the girl's head from her shoulders, yet her arm would not move to perform the desired action. A wager was a wager, and she could not kill the girl. Frowning, she glared at the maid before her, fire burning in her eyes. "And you, maid. What do you wish to have done?"
The maid first had the Sorceress finish her chores and mend her clothing, then make fertile all the fields of her master. The maid then sent away the Sorceress for the day, and she, in turn, told the maid how to summon her again tomorrow. Take a copper pot, she said, and fill it with water. Then, pour two drops of ink, and call 'Sorceress' three times once the black had spread. She would come then, no matter what she was doing.
And so, the next day the maid got out the pot and ink, letting fall two drops and calling the Sorceress' name. The woman appeared, now clothed in deep red, ready to do that day's bidding. The maid set her doing her chores again, but left her to answer a company of horsemen from the palace. It was a letter from the king that was sent to all households, declaring a ball was to be held in five day's time. There, the Prince would be looking for a future wife. The maid's heart at once soared and fell, for she knew she could not go. Of course, neither could anyone else in the household, for she cared for and older couple with no children.
She tossed the letter into the fireplace and watched it burn. The flames, dancing recklessly before her reflective eyes, put into her mind a firm decision. She would go to that ball, dressed up in proper attire which would be gotten one way or another, and she would try to win the love of the Prince. If she could foil a Sorceress into her service, she could certainly do this.
She plotted with the Sorceress, and it was decided that the woman would give her a dress and carriage, then wander around the house on the night of the ball in the maid's appearance, and all would be well. At least, so the maid hoped.
When that night finally came, the maid arrived dressed in lavender purple, gold, and dazzling white. Her finery was on par with the nobles there, and in this attire she drew many second and third glances. That night, she remembered dancing with several people (with the aid of shoes the Sorceress had made so she knew how to dance), but none were the Prince, and the night was growing old.
At last, the Prince was left without a partner, and so was the maid. She made her way through the crowds towards him, hope blazing like a fire in her chest, but she was very much disappointed when she finally came within his proximity. There was already a young woman in a light blueish-white dress dancing with him. This woman wasn't like the others she'd seen him with, oh no. The look in their eyes made her own grow cold. She beheld a new feeling then, one the felt like the world were suffocating her in a large velvet cloth, and she felt it hard to breath. With a hand on her chest, the maid slowly slipped between dancing people, though somehow not seeing them. She was out in the courtyard before she knew it, and there was a pair out there now. She swallowed back bile upon realizing just who they were. Tears brimmed in her eyes, she tore from the peaceful scene, back to the waiting carriages, and back to her small room in the mansion.
The Sorceress was waiting for her, knowing what had happened. Strangely, she felt pity for the girl, and wove spells to send the maid to sleep, and sleep she did. Before the Sorceress left for the night, she took out some parchment and wrote upon it with an eagle-feather quill. The contents would not be known until the next morning when the maid woke up.
The maid's dreams were frightful, and only increased her pain tenfold. She was very much glad to wake in the morning, momentarily forgetting all the horrors of the night before. Then, it all came back painfully swift. Yet, her feelings halted when her eyes alighted on the parchment left by the Sorceress.
'This paper and the ink have been infused with enough of my magic to grant you one wish. I suggest you use the power well, and preferably not on washing dishes. I advise you to do something about the Prince, for that is what I would do. Still, the choice is yours. To activate the magic, just burn this in the fire, and speak your wish into the flames. Then, you will fall asleep. When you next wake up, it will be to the effects of whatever wish your girlish heart may so speak of.'
Upon reading this, the maid knew exactly what to do. She snatched up the parchment and rushed over to the fireplace, running over how she would word her one wish. What she needed was for two things to happen, one by the wish, and one by the Sorceress, whom she knew was watching. She always was.
Her wish set right, she let the paper float onto the flames and spoke her wish into the fire. She stood still for a while, and nothing happened. She began to wonder if this was just the vengeance of the Sorceress, but then, her eyelids drooped sleepily, and then closed.
The Sorceress, who was indeed watching, marveled at just how wrong she had been in guessing what the maid would wish for.
A few days later, a delivery was made to the palace by an anonymous source, left by the large front doors with a note, saying simply 'Place this in the Prince's garden.' The content of the package was so beautiful that it was moved into the requested spot immediately where all who walked through could see it. The package is, as you've no doubt guessed, part of the maid's wish. With the magic loaned to her, she became a statue, one that reflected all her fair qualities. The figure had long, wavy hair that flowed to the ground and spread behind her, flanked on either side by large, feathery wings, and the arms were placed in a praying position, while the featureless eyes looked kindly down on those who passed under it, a single tear carved under the left eye. The Prince and his new wife marveled at it and the great intricacy in the carving of the marble, wondering both who made it, and who it was modeled after. For, they decided it had too much personality to it for just merely being carved. There, on a small brass tile set at the base, read a few short words of the statue.
THE MAID'S WISH