Once upon a time in a kingdom far away there lived a king and queen who were very happy, except for one thing. They had been together for some time now, and still they had no children, and they were neither of them spring chicken anymore.

One day when the Queen went down to the river to bathe with her servants she spotted her reflection in the water and began to cry.

"Why are you crying?" A kind voice asked her. When the Queen looked up she saw a fairy leaning over her in concern.

"I've just seen my reflection," the Queen explained, "and look how saggy my boobs have become! I'm getting older every day; I'm never going to have a child am I?"

"Would you like a child?" The fairy asked, and the Queen nodded desperately. The fairy smiled impishly and clapped her hands. "Well then I can do that for you no problem! If you will promise me one thing!"

"Anything!" The Queen agreed, which was rather silly of her, since she was talking to a fairy, and who knows what a fairy might ask of you. She could have asked for the Queen's name, or for a mountain full of gold, or even for the Queen's child once it was born.

But this fairy had a penchant for parties. There was nothing she loved more than parties. "When the baby is born you must throw a party and invite me and all my friends to it!" The fairy told the Queen, and then blew some fairy dust over the Queen's head and flew away.

The Queen returned home and told her husband what had happened, and sure enough, nine months later a child was born to them. It was a baby girl, and she was named Aurora.

The Queen did not forget her promise, nor was she unhappy to fulfill it. A great party was planned, with great excitement, for the week after Aurora's birth. The Queen sent an invitation to the river fairy, as well as to the stone fairy and the forest fairy, and so on until she had invited every fairy in the land.

Or so she thought.

In fact, she had forgotten one fairy, one particular fairy that it was always best not to forget. The fairy of thorns. She was the fairy in charge of all things prickly – rose bushes, thistles, you name it. And like the plants she took care of, she was a rather prickly character herself, and she wasn't happy about being left out of the party (after all, who doesn't love a good party?). She decided that invitation or no, she would go to the party.

And so the day of the party arrived, and the palace filled with fairies. Everywhere you looked there were fairies buzzing about – fairies in the rafters, under the tables, under the ladies' skirts. They were all having a merry time, until the doors slammed open and there stood the fairy of thorns (whose name, by the way, was Ethel, which might also have explained some of her prickliness of character).

"What a lovely party!" She cawed. "It really is a shame no one invited me!"

The Queen, horrified at realizing her mistake, quickly had a place set at the dinner table for Ethel, and food prepared for her. Ethel sat down and pretended to be appeased, but she was always one for holding a grudge, and she wasn't about to forget how she had been snubbed.

After the dinner all the fairies went up to look at the new baby and give her gifts; Ethel saw that this was her chance.

"I'm giving her green toenails." The fairy of grass declared happily, gifting the baby Aurora with a rather useless gift, but one she thought was very nice.

"She will have a voice as beautiful as the larks." Sang the fairy of songbirds.

"And eyes as good as the hawk." Added the fairy of predator birds.

It was then Ethel's turn to step up. Everyone quieted to listen carefully to what she had to say. "My gift to the child..." She said loudly, enjoying the attention she was receiving for once. All her life she was ignored, and yet here she was, the key player in this night's festivities. She decided it really was a good party after all. "When she turns sixteen, she will prick her finger on a thorn, and she will fall asleep for a hundred years and if..." Here she paused again, to look around and make sure everyone was still paying attention to her. "And if by the end of that hundred years she has not found her true love, and received true love's kiss, then she will die."

Everyone gasped, which was a rather spectacular gasp, as there were a great many people in the room at the time. Ethel smiled and added, "And because you threw such a nice party, I'll put everyone else to sleep with her, so that you won't have to miss her while she's sleeping."

The Queen fainted upon hearing this, and the King tried desperately to wake her as Ethel smiled wickedly and went to show herself out. Just then however the fairy of the river, who granted the Queen's first wish, stepped up to the baby and smiled down at Aurora. Aurora smiled back and laughed, reaching out to her fairy godmother (the Queen had also promised that the river fairy (whose name was Helga, a name not much better than Ethel, and yet she still had a good personality) would become the child's godmother, not that that meant much to a fairy).

Ethel stopped to see what Helga would do. Helga reached down and picked up Aurora and tickled the baby. "Human babies are so strange aren't they?" She remarked. "They look like aliens."

Aurora laughed loudly then, and Helga put her gently back in her cradle. Then she went to a servant girl and asked her to fetch a bucket of water from the river. The girl ran as quickly as possible and returned in record time with that bucket. Helga took the bucket and thanked the girl.

By this time the Queen had been revived, so that she could witness what happened next.

The river fairy said some incomprehensible words and passed her hand above the bucket. The room was completely silent for a long moment, and then a sound was heard; a baby's cry. The Queen turned to comfort her baby, but Aurora was still smiling (probably because of the daisy fairy's gift that she would be good natured). Helga then reached into the bucket and pulled out another baby.

"For you." She told the Queen, holding out the baby, another girl. "Her name is Alice, and she will always look after Aurora."

The Queen fainted away again, and the King was forced to take the child. As soon as he did, the fairies all called their goodbyes and then disappeared, sensing that the party had taken a downwards turn. And so Aurora was given her curse, and the royal family had a new addition.

Even as toddlers the two girls were inseparable. They grew up together, playing together, eating together, and sleeping together. The Queen and King were happy, thinking that Alice would protect their Aurora from danger. They didn't treat Alice quite as another daughter, but they were very kind, and took good care of her.

Aurora grew up kind and clever and beautiful, and her toenails were always the prettiest shade of emerald green. She turned out to be quite a trouble maker, and Alice was always getting her out of trouble, or taking the punishment for her. Sometimes she complained that Alice slowed her down, or got in the way, but she was always glad to have Alice around. She loved Alice dearly, and couldn't imagine what her life would have been like if not for Helga's gift.

As for Alice, she grew up to be a quiet and dependable girl, though there was always something strange about her. Perhaps because she was born from a bucket of water, perhaps because her mother was actually a fairy, whatever the reason, she never seemed to fit in. There was an otherness about her that kept everyone in the castle distant from her, everyone except for Aurora of course. Alice loved Aurora dearly, and never once did she regret having been born to look after her.

The two lived happily together, laughing every day. The Queen and King were happy too, seeing their daughter happy and healthy. Even though Alice was a little strange, they were okay with her if she made Aurora happy.

Unfortunately, their happiness was doomed to end one day; the day when Aurora turned sixteen in fact, as specified by that grumpy fairy Ethel.

When Aurora's sixteenth birthday came around the royals threw a great party, though this time they were careful about whom they did and didn't invite. They were sure to send off an invitation to Ethel, to show that there were no hard feelings. After all, Aurora was sixteen, and she was still awake and healthy. When she woke up that morning and came down to breakfast with Alice everyone breathed a sigh of relief. They thought she was safe.

Curses are not so easy to get rid of though. As the day was nearing its end and everyone was starting to feel a little dozy, safe and happy, the Queen looked up and realized that Aurora was no longer in the hall. She sat up quickly and nudged her King. "Aurora is not here!"

The King took a look around the room, but he wasn't worried at what he saw. "Alice isn't here either. She'll keep Aurora safe."

Meanwhile Aurora was running through the gardens outside, laughing as she tried to elude Alice. "How is that you always catch me?" She wondered, gasping as Alice caught up with her. "My legs are so much longer than yours."

Alice grimaced. "Why are you always rubbing it in? I already know; you're more graceful, taller, more beautiful – your toenails are so much greener than mine, etc etc."

Aurora grinned and tapped Alice's nose. It was a fight they had all the time, always jokingly. "It's because I know you know all that, and I know that you don't care." She paused, breathing deeply. "And you know I don't."

Alice nodded, and looked back towards the lighted hall. "We should get back to the party. Your parents will be very worried."

"Just wait!" Aurora cried, and jumped away. "I want a rose for my darling Alice!" She was off again, racing towards the rose garden.

Alice felt very worried all of a sudden, and ran after her. 'When she turns sixteen, she will prick her finger on a thorn, and she will fall asleep for a hundred years...' "Aurora wait!" Alice cried, but Aurora wasn't listening.

When she reached the roses, Aurora stood there already, accepting a rose from an old gardener woman. She turned around as Alice approached and smiled. "For you." She said, and held out the rose.

Alice, thinking that maybe she had overreacted, reached out for the rose, but as she took it from Aurora, a thorn from the rose pricked Aurora's finger.

"Ouch!" Aurora winced. "That hurt!"

Alice sighed. "It can't have been that bad." She said practically. "Show me your finger; I'll bandage it for you."

Aurora shook her head. "I feel so strange..." She said, swaying from side to side. Alice reached out to steady her, and Aurora looked at Alice, murmuring her name one last time, "Alice," before falling into Alice's arms.

"What is the meaning of this? What have you done?" Alice asked the old woman, who was changing as she spoke. "Did you poison the rose?"

Alice stepped back as the woman completed her transformation and Ethel stood in her place. "I didn't do anything to the rose." Ethel explained. "It's just an old curse cropping up again." She tilted her head to the side and observed Aurora. "You know, I feel kind of bad about that curse now. It was for such a trifling matter too, I hardly even remember..."

"Well if you feel bad then reverse the curse!" Alice yelled.

Ethel looked shocked, and then shook her head sadly. "I'm afraid I can't do that. A curse is a curse. She'll have to find her true love before a hundred years are out, or else... well, but I really should get going. It's been lovely meeting you. Tata!" And with that, Ethel disappeared into the night, and Alice was left holding Aurora's prone body.

She picked her up and ran back towards the castle. "Help!" She yelled as she burst in on the party. The King sat bolt upright in his throne and pointed at Alice as she came in.

"You! You were supposed to take care of her! What is this now? Guards! Arrest her!" He yelled, but even as he worked himself into a rage at Alice's failure, he started to fall asleep himself. The guards, roused to action, hardly made it across the room before falling to the floor, sound asleep. Alice stood and looked around, and realized that everyone was asleep.

In the kitchens the cook and all her servers had fallen asleep, just as all the rest of the servants around the castle. The horses were all comfortably stabled and sleeping; even the pigeons in the highest towers of the castle had fallen asleep. Everyone had fallen under Ethel's spell.

Everyone except Alice, that is.

Alice felt despair for a moment, until she realized that Aurora was still breathing; she was just asleep. When she saw this she carried Aurora to her bed and laid her down where she would be comfortable. Then, being a practical sort of girl, she went to take stock of her situation. It was true, everyone else was sleeping. Well, at least she had plenty of food to last her one hundred years. For a little while she sat on the step and considered what had happened. Aurora's curse had manifested, despite everyone's best efforts, and now the castle was asleep. But for some reason, she was not.

" Her name is Alice, and she will always look after Aurora."

Alice pounded her fist in her palm, remembering her mother's words the day of her birth (she was able to remember this because of the strange circumstances of her birth). "Of course! My name is Alice, and I will always look after Aurora, whether she is awake or not, cursed or blessed." She looked around at all the people fallen under the curse and figured she might as well take care of all of them while she was at it.

She went to sit beside Aurora, arranging her hair carefully over her pillows, so that she looked as beautiful as possible. Still not as beautiful as she looked running about and smiling, Alice thought, but very beautiful. She thought Aurora was always beautiful. "We have a long time to wait for your prince." Alice said, holding Aurora's hand. "A hundred years, if that awful fairy was telling the truth. So make yourself comfortable. I'll do my best."

And that is what she did. For one hundred years.

For the first ten years she was angry. Angry that she hadn't been able to protect Aurora from this fate, angry at the King, for having turned on her so easily. Angry at her mother, Helga, for giving her this miserable fate. She was angry that she hadn't gone to sleep with all the rest of the castle.

In the second decade of her vigil she turned gloomy. She sometimes didn't bother to clean very well, preferring to spend hours sitting at Aurora's window, staring out at the sky and sighing, and sighing, and sighing.

By the end of that decade she grew quite sick of sighing, and decided to stop moping quite so much. So she spent the next ten years reading. She read through the castle's library, reading most of it aloud to Aurora. She always wondered how much Aurora was aware of in her enchanted sleep.

The next decade was especially lonely for Alice. She felt old, and alone, even though her body was not aging, and she was surrounded by people. How she longed for a companion, for anything, as long as it was awake. She missed Aurora intensely.

The fifth decade was when she started to enjoy her freedom a little more. She grew accustomed to the silence, and even started to enjoy it. She could do whatever she liked, whenever she liked, wherever she liked. There was no one to tell her what to do anymore. She drew faces on the sleeping people, cat whiskers and clown faces. One for everyone, except Aurora. She did draw a little heart on Aurora's cheek.

During the course of the sixth decade Alice taught herself four languages, and learned dozens of court dances, from hundreds of years ago to the present day. She took up gardening, and started to play the piano.

In the seventh decade she tried to cut back the vines that had grown all over the castle, and to remove the great brambles that had sprung up to surround it in a prickly fortress. She didn't have much luck; it seemed that when she cut one down, two sprang up in its place.

She spent the eighth decade doing repairs on the castle, making everything look good for the prince whenever he came. She realized that she was nearing the end of her hundred year vigil, and she wanted everything to look its best when everyone woke up again.

Once that was all done she sat by Aurora's bed and talked to her. She asked her what kind of prince she would love. "What will your true love be like?" Alice asked, feeling a strange knot in her chest. Her eyes started to fill with tears and she realized she didn't want Aurora to fall in love with a prince. "Not some stranger, some man who will come in and love you only for your beauty. What will happen to me when he comes and takes you away? When you marry him, and the curse is broken, what use will you have for strange, plain little Alice?" She wondered.

As much as she wished Aurora wouldn't have to marry a prince, Alice was still excited for his arrival. She wanted to talk to Aurora again. She wanted to run through the gardens, and laugh, and tell secrets. "How I've missed you."

Then one day she heard footsteps in the hall, and she knew that the prince had finally arrived. She raced down to meet him, and found him in the hall still, kneeling beside the Queen and checking her pulse.

"Aurora is upstairs!" Alice gasped. The prince started at the sound of her voice and jumped to his feet, pulling out his sword as he did so.

"Who are you?" He demanded, quite rudely. Alice didn't like the sound of his tone, but she was willing to let it pass, if only he would wake up Aurora.

"I'm just a servant." Alice told him. "The princess is waiting for you upstairs. Follow me." She dashed away, followed by the prince.

They reached Aurora's room and Alice led him in. She could see by his expression that he was enraptured by Aurora's beauty. And who wouldn't be? "You have to kiss her." Alice explained. "Only her true love's kiss will break the curse."

The prince nodded and leaned down to kiss Aurora on the lips. Alice had to hold herself back from stopping him. Her heart thudded painfully in her chest watching him kiss Aurora like that. Who was he, to come in here and claim Aurora's love so easily?

He stepped back and waited for a moment. Alice stepped forward to see Aurora. She had not moved.

"I said you have to kiss her." Alice repeated. "On the lips."

"I did!" He argued.

"Like this." Alice sighed and leaned over, demonstrating proper technique for kissing a cursed princess. She was surprised, for some reason; at how soft Aurora's lips were under her own, and at how much the touch set her own heart racing.

"That's what I did." The prince said impatiently, but just then Aurora opened her eyes and smiled, and his breath was taken away. 'Oh, she is beautiful.' He thought, and he was about to push Alice aside and step forward when Aurora opened her mouth.

"Alice! How happy I am to see you!" Aurora cried happily, and threw her arms around the stunned Alice. "I had the strangest dream, and you were in it. It was such a long dream; it felt like years and years, and I was asleep and helpless and it was terrible, except that you were there, so it wasn't horrible at all."

Alice sat stunned, on the verge of tears.

Aurora pulled back to study Alice's face. "Oh my dear Alice!" She gasped. "Is it true then? The dream, was it real?"

"A hundred years..." Alice mumbled.

"And you took care of me?" Aurora asked, a blush warming her features.

Alice nodded and Aurora kissed her. "I knew it was you, all along, so I was happy." Aurora said. "I love you Alice."

"I love you too Aurora." Alice answered, and they kissed again, quite ignoring the indignant prince who stood in the corner of the room. After a moment he cleared his throat, but they still ignored him.

"Well, I guess I'm not needed here after all..." He muttered, and left the room. It sounded like the rest of the castle was waking up; maybe he would have better luck with other women.

When Aurora and Alice came down later and explained everything to the King and Queen, the royal parents were both quite shocked, but they got over it. Even though Alice was a little strange, and a female to boot, they were okay with her, as long as she made Aurora happy.

And she did make Aurora happy, just as Aurora made Alice happy. So between the two of them, they made enough happiness to live happily ever after.