Chapter One

A solution to engagement

"But, I'm too young to get married!" Gloria pleaded to her mother. Her queen mother, of course. What other mother would betroth their daughter to an ugly prince with nasty teeth and an even worse personality?

"You're sixteen, dear. You are of marriageable age." The queen said in that annoyingly proper tone of hers. She gave Gloria one of those looks that spoke no nonsense. She fanned herself as she circled around Gloria and the seamstress.

"Barely." Gloria grumbled.

"Be still, princess. I need to take you're measurements." The seamstress snapped. It seemed everyone was going to have their way with Gloria today.

"Mother, please! He is four years older than me! " Gloria tried again.

"Enough!" The queen Victoria said with a snap to her fan. She regarded Gloria regally. "You are getting married. You are a princess and you have responsibilities to your people." She turned from Gloria then and headed for the balcony window. "Your father has worked hard to arrange this marriage. Your union with Prince Plaklbash will make peace in our two nations."

"But-"

"You are a princess." Mother continued right on over her. "You owe this to your people." She repeated and turned around to face Gloria once again. "We will speak no more of this." With that, she snapped her fan open again, and batted it as she left the room.

Gloria shut her mouth, and let the seamstress do her work. She relaxed her expression into a perfect mask. Nothing but the seamstresses scribbling disturbed the silence of the room. Once the woman finished, she bowed formally to Gloria and took her leave.

Gloria maintained the mask for a moment more once the woman left the room. She then let her face contort into frustration. She ran and threw herself onto her bed, smashed her head into one of her thick fluffy pillows and screamed. The sound came out muffled. She kicked her feet so hard that her slippers came off. One flew clear over the balcony and hit a passing nobleman in the forehead, knocking the poor fellow off his feet. The heel of her slipper left a nasty gash on his face.

Oblivious to this, Gloria took her now red face from the pillow. Tears and snot started dribbling from her. Far too distressed, she did nothing to clear them away. "You're a princess, Gloria." She mocked in a voice that hardly sounded like her mother. "You have responsibilities! You owe it to your people!" She stuffed her face into her pillow and screamed again. When she emerged to breath, her face was twice as red, snot leaked so much from her nose it got in her mouth. This she did wipe away as she sat up, still holding her pillow.

"But what if I don't want to be a princess?" she pouted. She couldn't just run away. Her family had a reputation to maintain. If she ran it would insult Plaklbash and their lands would surely go to war then. As hard as it was to admit it, her mother was right. She was a princess. Everything she did carried weight. All those silly common girls who daydreamed of marrying princes and becoming princess had no idea just how good they had it. They could live their lives however they chose. Nothing they did mattered. Oh, how she envied them.

"That's it." Gloria spoke to herself, as princesses often do when they are alone. "If I were not a princess Plaklbash wouldn't need to marry me. Father will have to find some other way of keeping peace. Tis a silly solution anyway." She abruptly became aware that she was speaking aloud. She made herself stop and glanced around the empty room. No one was there of course. Princesses only spoke to themselves when no one else was around. She, of course, heard the saying before, but it was always good to make sure.

The rest of the day she preformed her duties without the slightest protest. She picked decorations for the wedding, gossiped with the ladies of court, did not flutter her eyes at young and hansom lords. She even managed a smile at Plaklbash when they dined together for supper, with the whole family present of course. She regretted the action soon after, for Plaklbash smiled back at her. She did her best not to look at his teeth.

That evening, Plaklbash took her up to her rooms, leading her by the arm. She fanned her face, more for the prince's breath than for the heat. The evenings were quite cool.

"This has been a pleasant evening, my lady." Plaklbash said with a bow.

"Indeed it has." The lie came smoothly from her lips.

He rose and stared into her eyes. He leaned forward. Panicked, Gloria smacked him in the face. He stared at her, shocked.

"A fly." Gloria said breathlessly. "I didn't want you to catch a disease."

He stared at her a moment more before bursting into laughter. He then cupped her cheek in his hand. "Silly woman, worrying after me already and we aren't even wed."

"Yes." Gloria said, fighting down the desire to slap him again. He might not fall for it a second time. Instead, she took his hand from her face and opened the door. He didn't let go of her hand as she made to enter. "I am quite tired." She told him. "All your talk of hunting and fighting has made me faint. It is quite hard to for me to follow such things." She batted her eyes at him.

"Yes, of course." He said, still not letting go of her hand. "Forgive me, but this might make you fall over."

He quickly leaned in, but Gloria made herself fall to the ground as if she really did faint. Her hand slipped out of his as she fell. On the floor, she kicked the door shut, rose halfway and locked it. When Prince Plaklbash couldn't open the door, he knocked furiously, calling after her.

"I am well." Gloria said. "But now I really must go to sleep."

"Are you sure, my love?"

"Yes." She said rolling her eyes.

"Very well." He said uncertainly. "I hope to see you in the morning."

"I suspect you will." She said and waited for his footsteps to fade away before rising. She went to her closet and picked out a plain riding dress. She had trouble coming out of the gown she wore on her own, but she managed it only falling over twice. The riding dress was far easier to put on. It was still something a common woman could never afford to wear, but it was the simplest she had. She grabbed her fine dark blue cloak with light flowers embodied down the back. Perhaps the cloak made her efforts of picking a simple dress useless, but it was the best she could do.

She went over to her balcony looked about the grounds until she spotted the guards. She knew their route by heart. This wasn't the first time she sneaked out her balcony. Once spotting them she returned to her room to blow out the candles as if she were going to bed. She snatched up a pack of gold and returned to the balcony once more.

She counted the guard's rounds twice, just to be sure, before climbing onto the trellis that clung to the castle wall. Her rooms were only three stories high so the climb wasn't too far. It was enough to make her winded when she reached the bottom. She pulled up the hood to her dark blue cloak and walked purposefully over to the castle stables. No one stopped her. She had learned at a young age that the best way to sneak was not to sneak at all.

Inside, she prodded the stable boy awake and had him saddle one of the lesser ladies horses. She wouldn't be gone long. She was not running away. The sneaking was just a precaution. The boy took his sweet time about his work. She might have snapped at him, but she did just wake him from sleep. It was not his fault that he was groggy and slow, besides, it might make her look suspicious.

"Thank you," she said kindly instead when he had finished. She dropped a copper into his hand. "I shall return before sunrise." With that, she trotted the horse from the stables. An order barked at the gates, sent the guards hopping. They never asked question's of nobility, not unless the king commanded it. Some even offered to escort her, but she brushed them aside.

"I do not require your services this night." She said.

"Pardon, my lady." The fellow bobbed his head. "But the streets are not safe at this hour for one such as yourself. If you will allow me to accompany, my lady?"

"I am quite able of taking care of myself, thank you." Gloria told him with a slight snapped. "You may remain here."

Reluctantly, the guards opened a side door. The main gates were only used on special occasions. Once outside, she kneed the horse into a gallop and held it until she lost view of the castle walls. She led at an easy trot out of the city, taking care to avoid the poorer areas. The city gates were far easier to pass than the castle. The guards didn't seem to mind letting a woman alone out into the world in the middle of the night. The main roads outside were paved with a special stone that glowed when someone was up to mischief. She had found that out the hard way. She came to understand that the brighter the glow the darker the trouble. So it was to her great relief that the stones only shone the faintest bit as she trotted through the gates. It was small enough not to attract the guard's eye.

She followed the main paved road only a short while before branching off onto a not often used dirt one. It led into the woods, and if you knew which twists and turns to follow, right to the witches hut. That was her destination this evening.

Upon arriving at the hut, it came as no surprise to her to find that she wasn't the only hooded, desperate, fool to come to the witch's home. Quite a number of people sulked outside the witch's lit cabin.

After all, night was the best time to meet with the witch. At least that is what anyone who wanted to visit her thought. Night was supposed to be a time when no one else was lurking about so you could do your business in secret. Sadly, this wasn't true for the witch. She had people visiting her all hours. If not in the night, they'd try to come secretly during the day, but someone had already thought of that so of course they are already there. It's is simply easier not to get spotted at night.

Everyone kept to themselves, doing their best to ignore each other until their false name was called and they could get on with their business. Gloria, slid off the horse, she tided it off at a tree away from everyone else. Though, they had the same idea too, so that left a bunch of horses scattered about the woods to random trees. It was a bit difficult to find them again when coming out. You really had to pay attention to which tree you tired your horse too.

Gloria walked up to the hut and signed off with a fake name. She then returned to the horse to wait.

The witch worked surprisingly quickly. Only an hour passed before she called Gloria's fake name. During that span of time, five more people signed off their fake names and sulked about ignoring each other. It was odd how everyone seemed to arrive one by one. Never did two people come together.

Gloria entered into the witches hut. The ragged, dirty, smelly old woman welcomed her in. She waved Gloria to a chair with a hand covered in warts and long twisted fingernails.

"Child, what is it you need?" the witch asked in that crackly way of hers.

Gloria pulled the hood tighter around her face just to be sure the witch didn't recognize her. This wasn't Gloria's first visit. Love potions were quite popular at court. But she did not come for one of those this night. They never lasted very long anyway, and always ended badly. Almost all of the witches help or merchandise ended badly. She was a witch after all. But there were always fools willing to pay a price for trouble.

"I want a bottle of your best wishing dust." She said clearly, being sure there was no way the witch could twist anything out of those words. Witches did like to twist things.

"I see. That is a very expensive thing. I wonder if you can pay the price." She crackled and smiled a nasty smile. It made Plaklbash look pretty, which really was saying something.

"Name it and I will be the judge." Gloria said.

"Three locks of fresh princess hair, right from the top of her head." The witch cackled. "You shall have quite a time getting that."

Gloria grinned beneath her cloak. "Oh, you think so?" She turned her back to the witch, reached her hand into her cloak and pulled three hairs off her head. She handed them to the witch. "I shall have my wishing dust now."

"Truly you are crafty." The witch said to her. She sounded mocking. She twinned the threads of hair in her fingers as she entered into the back rooms of her hut. When she returned she no longer carried the hairs, but a bottle full of colorful wishing dust. Gloria took it without another word and left.

Perhaps it wasn't wise to give the witch three hairs from her head. But soon she would no longer have to worry. Soon she would no longer be a princess. She smiled, gripping the bottle tight.


I started this story a little while ago. I will be very busy this semester, but, depending on how much people like this, I'll be posting at least twice a month. Please read and review. This is quite a fun story!