Lord Bob of Sapphire Lake (which was really more like Sapphire Puddle in the drought) had a shoe problem. It was not his own footwear that was troubling him, but the shoes of his daughters. And he had twelve daughters, which meant he had twelve pairs of problems. Twenty-four problems in all, if you aren't counting the overarching problem of the drought, which was a problem for everybody in the kingdom so we aren't counting it.
The problem with the shoes in question was that night after night they were worn through. Lord Bob had never seen anyone go through dancing shoes as quickly as his twelve beloved daughters did. On any given day they would each have a fresh pair of shoes - never been worn - and by the next morning those shoes would have holes in the soles and blows to the bows. Every single morning the eldest of the daughters came to her father with a bin of ruined slippers and politely request more.
Since he loved his daughters and was a rather well off member of the nobility, Lord Bob did not deny his girls their shoes. He had no clue how they could be wearing out slippers meant for ballroom dancing without ever leaving the castle, and he didn't think it was his place to ask. Lord Bob was a bit of a pushover when it came to spoiling his children.
He did not mind buying his girls shoes so much, but he did mind the fact that the town on the shore of Sapphire Lake did not house a cobbler. It was an odd problem that had never before been a problem in the community, as most of those who did not possess shoes did not want for them. They liked going barefoot on the sand by the beach and through their town. So if anyone wanted to buy shoes they went several miles eastward to the town that the late king's second cousin had governed before disappearing. In that town there was a fine cobbler.
So Lord Bob's major problem was that in order to get his twelve daughters the shoes they requested, he had to send a servant all the way to the other town to get the shoes. Which was rather inconvenient and expensive since the servant demanded overtime pay.
Still, he never asked what was happening to cause the shoes to wear out so quickly and he never scolded his daughters about it. He was so busy trying to help his people, who relied on the water of the lake for their livelihoods and were not doing so hot because of the heat and lack of water, that he didn't really have time to worry over his twelve pair problem.
Besides, it seemed as time passed that the shoes were getting to be of better quality, almost of magical quality. And his daughters seemed more and more enthused with them. So the cycle continued and looked like it might continued for a good long while. If it weren't for the fairy.
"Who are you?" Lord Bob asked suspiciously as he entered his study. There was a woman there with beauty so remarkable that it made the castle look dim in comparison. She also happened to have wings sprouting from two holes in her green dress, which was concerning since fairies were hardly known to be trustworthy creatures.
"Hi," the fairy nodded at him, "See, you should always start conversations with a polite 'hello' or 'hi'. Rudeness is really unbecoming. Almost as bad as shallowness."
"Good job! I was going to turn you into a butterfly if you messed up," the fairy smirked and plopped down in one of the study's big leather chairs, "So you're the father of the twelve dancing princesses, hmm?"
"Well, they aren't princesses exactly," he noted, "More like twelve dancing ladies. And I'm sorry, who are you again?"
"I'm a fairy, nimwit, you see the wings?"
"Yes, of course, and they are lovely wings," Lord Bob commented, ignoring the fact that she was being rude, "But, if I may ask, why are you here, Madame Fairy?"
"Madame?! Do I look old enough to be a 'madame' to you?"
He didn't bother to ask for her real name. Fairies had odd opinions on things like names and saying 'thank you'. They hated to tell people their names because they thought names were powerful and they loved it when humans said 'thank you' because it implied that the human was in their debt. There were a great deal of rambunctious water fairies by Sapphire Lake and Lord Bob had been trained how to deal with them from a young age.
"As for why I'm here, well," she huffed in irritation, "My brother knows a guy who knows some guys who know the cobbler you go to."
"Oh, that's funny," Lord Bob smiled, "Small world, hmm?"
"Yes, yes," she yawned, "Apparently the cobbler has a lot of work to do and he's getting old and can't keep up. So, as much as he appreciates the business, he wants the twelve pairs a day thing to stop."
"I suppose twelve is rather a lot at a time, isn't it?"
"Yeah," the fairy rolled her eyes, "I guess. Anyway, I'm here to remove the curse so you won't have to put up with buying anymore shoes."
"Curse?! What curse?!" Lord Bob gasped.
"They haven't told you?" She blinked at him, "Wow. That wasn't part of the curse. They must not like trusting you with stuff."
"Your daughters! Duh!"
"Who put a curse on my daughters?!"
"I did, sheesh, keep up!"
"What kind of curse?"
"Well, basically, one of your daughters - the youngest one - she said that my wings were weird looking! Can you believe that?! How shallow! So I curses the lot of them."
"The youngest one is nine years old! And she's always been treated like a baby what with her twelve older sisters! She didn't know any better!"
"Well maybe you didn't teach her any better," the fairy glared, "Honestly, it doesn't seem like you communicate with your daughters very well. Communication is key in these big families! Believe me, I had twelve older brothers myself and my family did not communicate well."
"What exactly is this curse that you put on my daughters? What happened to them?"
"My specialty is normally turning people into animals or ugly beasts if they offend me, and I was really tempted to turn them into ravens, but I've been trying to branch out lately. So I decided on a dancing curse," she pointed at the floorboards, "There are tunnels under your castle that lead to the silver forest, which is an old fairy hang out. There's a castle and a lake down there that mirrors the Lake up here - it's actually the real Sapphire Lake and the one up here is just called Topaz Lake, but the humans didn't see the real lake so they decided that the one up top must be Sapphire Lake…"
"Right. So, my brother's friend's friends' cousin, the prince of the elves is getting married and he's having the reception at the castle on Sapphire Lake. And you know elves," she rolled her eyes, "They always like to have human guests at the party because humans get stuck so easily in fairy circles. Nevermind that they are giants compared to the other guests. Since I owe the elf prince some money, I volunteered to send him twelve humans instead."
"And the curse?"
"I was getting to that, be patient," she snapped at him, "I cast a spell on your girls so that every night that the wedding is going on they have to climb down into the secret tunnels under the castle, go to the fairy castle in the middle of the lake, and then dance until their shoes wear through."
"But this has been happening for weeks now! How long does an elven wedding last?!"
"You gotta remember that time is different inside fairy circles. A wedding inside could go on for fifty to a hundred years!"
"My daughters can't dance that long! They'll die!"
"Yeah, see, curses aren't meant to be nice," the fairy raised a well manicured brow, "Hence the word 'curse'."
"But you said you'd break the spell? Right?"
"Just because my brother's friend's friends asked," she stood up, "Don't expect me to go around breaking other curses I've made this summer."
"Please, just help my girls!"
"Alright, so I can't exactly break the spell myself," she shrugged, "I usually make it so that I can't go back on my word. But that doesn't mean it's hopeless. There's always a claus. Any guesses?"
"Come on Lord Bob! It's super easy! It's the same claus I use on most of my curses!"
"I really don't have any idea."
"A kiss! And lucky for you, it doesn't even have to be true love's kiss! I was lazy when I made this spell," she patted Lord Bob's shoulder, "All you have to do is get a man to kiss one of your daughters and wa-la! Curse broken!"
"Wonderful! Do you have any men in mind?"
"I was hoping you'd ask! Because I've seen this gentleman running around the kingdom lately, being shallow, being weird, looking for a wife, like you do," she snapped her fingers and in a poof of lights and smoke a man appeared. The man blinked in surprise and clutched to the wooden clog shoe he was carrying.
"Where am I?!"
"Lord Bob of Sapphire and Topaz Lakes, I present Lord Ray of the Mountains."
"You hosted a ball a while back, didn't you?" Lord Bob asked, "I wanted my daughters to go, but they said they had other plans and they disappeared that night. Apparently they went to a fairy circle."
"Yes, that was me," Lord Ray replied, looking warily at the fairy, "Why am I here?"
"We need you to break a curse with a kiss," Lord Bob said, "This fairy has cursed all twelve of my girls and the only way to fix it is for one of them to be kissed. Would you mind terribly?"
"No," Lord Ray slicked back his hair and held his clog like one might hold a child, "I've been looking for a wife anyway. Maybe one of your daughters and I will hit it off."
The group walked to the hallway that was lined with twelve bedroom doors and knocked on the doors of the three oldest girls. The girls answered sleepily (dancing all night really wears a girl out) and gave Lord Ray and the fairy curious looks.
"My dears," Lord Bob said, "Why didn't you tell me that you were cursed?"
"We didn't think it was that big of a deal," the eldest, Agnes (twenty years old), yawned.
"And we didn't want to bother you since you are so busy with this horrid drought," the second eldest, Brandy (nineteen years old), agreed.
"I was just having fun not telling you, honestly," the third eldest, Claudia (who was eighteen and a bit of a troublemaker), replied with a shrug.
"Lack of communication," the fairy whispered condescendingly.
"Anyway, if it is alright with you, we found a way to break the curse," Lord Bob pointed at Lord Ray, "One of you just has to kiss him."
"Ew, no way. I've seen him before," the eighteen year old said, "He's always trying to get people to try on that muddy old shoe! I bet it's infested with mold and athlete's foot!"
"None of your daughters are named Eileen, are they?" Lord Ray asked Lord Bob.
"So Claudia is out for the kissing thing," Agnes interrupted, "I'll do it. He's kind of cute."
"Thank you," Lord Ray smiled.
"Kissing him just because he's cute?!" The fairy exclaimed, "How shal-"
"And also because it will break this curse you put on us," the eldest added with a strained smile, "Thanks so much for that by the way."
The fairy closed her mouth.
"Alright, Lord Ray, pucker up."
Lord Ray gave Agnes a smooch and the fairy declared that the curse was broken and if it wasn't then she wasn't going to do anything about it. She vanished with that and Lord Bob turned to his daughters. He woke up the others and they spent the next two hours working on better communication.
Lord Ray decided that he quite liked the lake as a summer vacation spot, so he hung around for a while and started dating Agnes.
They didn't have to deal with the fairy that cursed them much more (Brandy and the fairy had some conflict a month later), but since their castle was on top of the entrance to a fairy circle, they had to deal with quite a few other magical creatures, which could be problematic at times. But as long as they were polite to the elves, sprites, and others no serious harm came their way.