So I took this story and eleven other fairy tales that I've written and self-published them on the Amazon Kindle. I should probably take this story down--I took the others down--but it's one of my most popular, so I've decided to leave it as a hook. So. If you like this story, and would like to read others like it that are no longer available for free on FictionPress, then you can go search Amazon for 'Fairies, Princes and Fairy Princes,' and read it there.

Otherwise, enjoy this story.


The Doll in the Grass

Once upon a time, in a kingdom at the edge of the wind's strength, there was a king with three sons. His sons were all wise and clever and handsome, and the king found himself unsure of which he should name as his heir.

Believing that any of his sons would make a fine king, their father decided to set for them a series of tasks. The prince who preformed the best in each of these tasks would be the one to succeed to the throne.

With this in mind, he called to his three sons.

"Your first task," said the king, "is to go out into the world and bring back the best-made shirt you can find; the one with the finest weaving and the most delicate embroidery. I will give you three months to conduct your search."

Knowing this, the brothers gathered together their gear, and saddled up their warhorses. Meeting in the courtyard of the palace, the elder two brothers started to argue about which way they should travel from the gates- lest they end up following the same path.

The younger brother, who's mount was more 'horse' than 'war,' listened silently to his brothers' disagreement. When it looked as though they might come to blows, he finally stepped in.

"Brothers," said the youngest, whose name was Espin, "Rather than stand here fighting as our allotted time runs out, let us instead shoot each an arrow into the air, and follow the direction that our arrow takes."

"Always the clever one!" shouted the elder brothers, though they did as he suggested.

The oldest brother's arrow flew to the west, towards the mountains.

The middle brother's arrow flew to the east, towards the ocean.

But the youngest brother's arrow did not fly very far at all, and landed in the grass just beyond the gates.

"What poor fortune marks your fate!" Cried the oldest brother to the youngest, before he galloped out of the gate, his mind already filled with thoughts of fine wool gathered from goats, and long winter nights to perfect embroidery.

"Perhaps you should take better care of your bow!" cried the middle brother, as he urged his horse down the forest path, thinking of silks as light as the wind and foreign embroidery the like of which their father had never seen.

"I didn't want to go far from home anyway," muttered Espin as he led his horse out of the gate and into the grass to retrieve his arrow.

As he was bending down to retrieve it, he saw a most curious sight.

There, sitting on a rock not six inches from where the arrow had landed, was a doll. This doll was perfect in every way, and so lifelike that Espin found himself unsurprised when, upon reaching out to pick it up, the doll slapped his hand away.

"First you shoot at me, and then you try to molest me?" asked the doll in a small voice.

"I beg your pardon," Espin said to the tiny doll. "I did not mean to alarm you. Nor did I wish to hit you when I shot that arrow."

The doll demanded an explanation, and so Espin told the doll about the task set by his father, and about his own idea to leave their paths to fate and an arrow shot at random.

"You say you need a shirt of the finest weaving and the most delicate embroidery?" asked the doll.

Espin nodded. "But now I don't know where to look."

"Well," said the doll, "your arrow brought you to me, and so I will help you."

"You?" asked Espin in disbelief, "but you're-"

"Just because I'm a man doesn't mean that I can't make clothing," snapped the doll. "Do you think clothing this size grows on trees?"

Espin, eying the leaf the doll wore as a cap, wisely choose not to say anything.

"I will make you a shirt the likes of which your father has never seen," the doll continued. "Return in three months and it will be done."

Bemused, Espin returned to the castle to wait the proper amount of time. Everyone there, servants, nobles and his father alike, questioned why Espin was not out questing. But Espin merely replied, "no need, no need," and would not explain.

The first son returned with two weeks to spare, bringing with him a shirt of the softest cashmere, embroidered in the geometric patterns of the mountains.

The second son returned with one week to spare, carrying a shirt light as a cloud and stitched with images of dragons from over the ocean.

The third son dragged his heels until the very last day, when he returned to the grass outside the gate and collected a shirt no bigger than the palm of his hand from the doll.

The king and court were amazed by the first shirt, and speechless at the second. But the tiny shirt that Espin brought before his father left them all quite confused.

"It's rather small," said the king. "What is it made of?"

"Squirrel fur," replied Espin. "And embroidered with spider silk."

"It's roughly woven," said the king.

"But so finely that you can see neither warp nor weft," replied Espin.

The king admitted that this was so. "But the embroidery is shoddy," said the king.

"But delicately so," replied Espin.

And the king found that he had to admit that this was so.

Yet for all that, the king declared that the second brother was the winner of this challenge.

"Now, for your next challenge," said the king, "you must go out into the world, search far and wide, and the brother who brings back the most treasure will win. You have six months."

In the courtyard, the three brothers once again shot arrows into the air.

The oldest brother's fell to the northeast and the lands of snow.

The middle brother's fell to the south and the deserts of sand.

The youngest brother's fell in the patch of grass just outside the castle gates.

After his brothers had left in search of wonders untold, Espin walked once again into the grass, where he found the tiny doll standing angrily near his fallen arrow.

"We've got to stop meeting like this," the doll snapped.

Espin looked at the pretty doll. "I don't suppose you have riches untold hidden about somewhere?" he asked.

"Is this another quest-thing?" asked the doll. "Oh, well, I can see that it is. I will see what I can do. Return in six months." And with that, he disappeared into the tall grass.

Espin returned to his father's castle, and when asked why he was not out seeking riches, he simply replied, "no need, no need," and left it at that.

In five and a half months the first brother returned, carrying with him stories of a distant king, and seven carts of treasure he had earned in service to that king.

In five months and three weeks, the second son returned, hauling five carts of treasure that he boasted of retrieving from bandits and thieves in the desert.

In six months, the third brother returned to the grass, where the pretty doll gave him a small amount of finely made jewelry.

The riches of the first brother impressed the court, and the treasure of the second awed them. But the few pieces that the third brother brought angered them.

"These are your Aunt's pearls," said the king. "And the duke's signet ring and the Earl's amulet of service."

"All of them lost more than a year ago," Espin replied, in his own defense.

"And these are river stones," said the king

"Yes, but they are very pretty underwater," replied Espin.

The king shook his head and ordered that Espin return the jewelry to its owners, and the pebbles to their beds.

"I declare my oldest son the winner of this challenge," said the king. "The third task is to find for yourselves a suitable bride. You have one year."

Again the brothers shot their arrows into the air from the courtyard.

The oldest brother went northeast again, his thoughts on the daughter of the king he had served.

The middle brother went southwest, his thoughts on exotic women with dark hair and large eyes.

The youngest brother went once more into the field of grass outside the castle gate, his thoughts filled by a tiny doll.

At first Espin could not find his arrow. Then he felt a stabbing in his ankle, and looked down to see that the pretty doll had jabbed him with it.

"What stupid task almost cost my life this time?" asked the doll.

"Well," said Espin, sitting down carefully to apply some first aid to his slowly bleeding ankle, "I've got to find a bride this time. But I'm not sure I want you to help, after the last time."

"Well, I'm what you get when you entrust your future to the wind. Now, pick me up," the doll demanded.

"What?" asked Espin.

"Pick me up!" the doll repeated. "So we can go find you a wife."

Finding a small amount of relief because the doll wasn't going to search on his own, Espin picked up the very small (and very pretty) man, and placed him on his shoulder.

Over the next year the two traveled around the kingdom, searching out a bride that would be right for the youngest prince to marry.

But Espin was a picky lad, and found something wrong with every girl that they met, be her ever so sweet or so pretty. They searched commoners and nobles, bold and meek, beautiful and ugly. But none could please Espin.

Finally, after the year had passed, the two made their weary way back towards the palace. As they returned they heard that the first brother had returned, with the daughter of his snow-king for his bride. A week later they heard that the second brother had returned, already married to a beautiful peasant girl from the southwest.

On the last day of the year he had been granted, Espin re-entered the patch of grass outside the castle gates, the pretty doll on his shoulder.

"I'm sorry we couldn't find you a bride," said the doll.

"Oh," said Espin, "I didn't really want one."

"But- then you couldn't be king!" exclaimed the doll.

"Oh," said Espin, "I didn't really want to be king."

"Then what do you want?" asked the doll.

The princess that the oldest brother had returned with quickly made herself at home among the nobles of his father's court. The maiden who returned with the middle brother had soon charmed the court with her mild and polite ways.

But the court had no idea how to handle the one the youngest brother claimed he would spend the rest of his life with.

"He's rather small," said the king.

"But pretty," replied Espin.

"And right here," said the doll.

"And he's a man," said the king.

"I don't mind," replied Espin.

"And still right here," said the doll.

"Well," said the king, "If you're sure, but I'm declaring your oldest brother as my heir."

Because he was sure, Espin picked up the doll, and kissed him, gently, so as not to damage him.

Imagine Espin's surprise when he found himself not kissing a tiny doll, but instead a full-sized man.

"Your love and devotion broke the spell," said the pretty man, who was no longer a doll. "It was placed on me by a witch, acting on behalf of a princess I refused to marry. I had resigned myself to a life as a doll before I met you," he explained.

"But now you're much bigger," said Espin. "Perhaps we should go and figure out how much bigger?" he asked, scandalizing the court, his brothers and his father, as he dragged his pretty not-doll away.

And so, the king declared his oldest son as his heir, but all three sons lived happily ever after with their chosen brides.

The End

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