It was a very bright dawn on a very special day. Princess Rainbow stretched her arms and greeted the day like she always did. First, was a happy groan followed by a dainty yawn. Next, was a series of stretches to get her muscles awake on her queen-sized, four-poster bed. It felt warm and soft as she splayed herself across several pink blankets. The white gossamer curtains that draped down past the four posters lightly blew from a calming wind flowing in from her large, open arch-window.

When she heard the sounds of songbirds, she leapt from her bed with a whimsical giggle and went to her window. She looked out at her kingdom, seeing first thing a brighter-than-sapphire blue sky with a diamond luster. The clouds that hung in the sky - what little there were - looked more comfortable than all the pillows in the world. Rolling hills dotted the landscape with valleys and farmlands. Princess Rainbow took a strong whiff of the wind and smelled the strongest tinge of three different aromas: baked bread, freshly cut grass, and clean, cool river water. With another powerful inhale of this trifecta of perfection, she told herself, "Happy birthday, Rainbow!"

She rushed to her armoire and threw it open, looking for the perfect dress. She could have gone to her dressing room and picked out a dress from there, but this armoire was special to her. Crafted and etched by her great grandmother it was said to be full of love and magic. This was where she had put her four-dress choices last night.

The first dress she pulled out was a long, pink, simple dress. This was the one she had worn last year on her fifteenth birthday. She thought for a moment then shook her head.

The next dress was an aquatic teal with bright sparkles. She had worn a dress like it when she was twelve. She liked it so much that she always had a new one made each year by Timmy; the tailor. (A small boy who seemed to be a wizard with fabrics.) She pushed the dress back inside, still deciding whether this was the one or not.

The third was a brilliant blue, flowing dress with dainty shoulder ruffles. It came with an angel white belt and diamonds that swirled into elegant designs above the belt. It was tempting but Rainbow put it back, wondering if she shouldn't save this dress for a more appropriate occasion.

The final dress was one she had never worn before. A dark green dress with hints of wooden brown. This was a dress that was replicated from another dress her mother had lost a long time ago in a cave. She decided that this was the dress she wanted to wear today, if only for the simple reason that she wanted to wear something that reminded her of a forest. (She figured on having an outdoor birthday party.)

After getting it on, she stepped outside into the long castle corridor.

Nearly skipping to her first destination, humming sweetly to herself, she came to a tower filled with a spiral staircase. She knew the tower well, and there were only a few sconces to light her way. She had talked to her mother before, but it had not helped, and her father would just refer her back to the queen. Poorly lit and gloomy, her joyous mood dissipated. Mustering all of her courage, good feelings, and sweet music to proceed, Rainbow took the first step.

She was heading to the main kitchen to see her cake and by all the stars in heaven, she was going to make it there. This was the only way to the main kitchen and she didn't visit it very often for this very reason. Taking a heavy breath, she made it down the first bit of steps, moaning every footfall. She stopped ten steps down, holding her dress to her thighs and bit her bottom lip. She let out another terrified moan. The Princess had no idea what laid in the black void and did not want to find out. She couldn't even see the next bout of light, just pure unyielding darkness. Trying to convince herself that she was a grown adult, now at age sixteen, she took another slow, well-placed step.

It was then she saw a bit of candlelight, but not from any of the sconces in the tower. It got closer to her, brightening up the tower with a dance that pushed away the darkness. A burning orange aura that seemed to be coming to her aid.

Moping up the steps towards her was a sad looking figure. An elderly gentleman dressed in a fine suit, holding a nine-piece candelabra.

Rainbow recognized him right away and cheered out his name, "Codsworth!"

Slightly startled he looked up quickly. His face went from a barren, glum frown to a glowing, cheerful smile. "Princess Rainbow! My dear, wh-what are you doing here?" He asked, his creaky voice higher than usual.

Princess Rainbow fearfully told him, "I-I was trying to find my way to the main kitchen. I don't like traveling down this way."

"It's the only way to the main kitchen, my dear." Codsworth told her, his voice back to its grainy, old, worn tone.

"I know."

"The queen can be quite stubborn about it, can't she?"

Princess Rainbow just nodded, knowing her mother all too well.

Looking back, Codsworth told Princess Rainbow, "Well, I just came from there, but I can guide you back there, if you want?"

"Oh, would you, Codsworth? That would be really swell!"

"Of course, princess, follow me." He turned ever so slowly and made his way down the steps, moving at a snail's pace - which was fine with Rainbow, that way she could take her time with each step.

Finally, the two had reached the bottom of the tower and a corridor that lead right to the main kitchen. It was brightly lit with sunlight and every window was cracked to let in the warm breeze. Rainbow looked at Codsworth and hugged him gently. He returned what little of the embrace he could, his free arm barely able to manage a squeeze. She then whispered, "Thank you!"

"You are welcome, princess."

"Codsworth?" Princess Rainbow questioned.

"Hmm?"

"You didn't happen to see a cake in the main kitchen, did you?"

"Cake?" Codsworth thought. "No, cannot say as I did. Why? Did you put in a request for one, your majesty?"

Princess Rainbow shook her head, solemnly. "No, but today is my birthday."

"It is?!" Codsworth gasped.

"Yeah!" Princess Rainbow shouted angrily. "Don't tell me you had forgotten?!"

Again, flabbergasted, Codsworth gasped out, "Your highness, I had not the foggiest! I do believe the highest of apologies are in order, for I did not hear any whispers or rumors. Not even your parents were talking of it."

"They weren't?" Rainbow asked.

"Afraid not, your majesty." Codsworth depressingly informed the princess.

"Did they forget?" Rainbow sadly thought out loud.

Codsworth patted her on the shoulder and said, "Excuse me, princess, I have other duties to fulfill. I'm sure they didn't forget about you, your highness."

Princess Rainbow was still silent. She let Codsworth leave in peace as she looked towards the kitchen. She entered it somberly and saw one, single cook at a wooden table, patting down a dough roll. He beat and pounded the thing into a circular form and then threw it into the air. It spun with grace and hovered for just a second in the air, spinning like an unfurled gown. It fell back to earth, in to the chef's hands expertly, and this was about the time the chef noticed Rainbow. He nearly dropped the dough on the ground and clutched at his chest. "Princess Rainbow! You scared the life out of me!"

"Sorry, Chef Sebastian. I, I was hoping that maybe you were making my cake?"

Chef Sebastian was a large man. Not only was he a round man, but a tall, powerful man. His voice was very deep, but also very friendly. He sounded much like a caring, nonviolent bear. "What cake, your highness? Please, don't tell me they didn't take your order for dinner tonight?"

"Today is my birthday, Chef!"

Sebastian's eyes went wide. He looked at Rainbow, shocked. "Wh-What?"

"You didn't know?!"

"Princess, I was not told! I have no orders for any cakes! If - if I had, I would have had the order nearly a week ago. Oh, Princess, I - I was just making tonight's dinner."

"What is on the docket for tonight?"

"Pizza."

"Again? Wasn't that ordered last night?"

"Yes, your highness, but the queen wanted another for tonight."

Making a disgusted sound, Princess Rainbow stomped her foot, saying loudly and angrily, "This doesn't make any sense!"

"I couldn't agree more, princess. Perhaps you need to talk to your parents. Last I knew they were in the throne room, discussing some sort of politics."

Princess Rainbow was upset, but before storming off she looked at Sebastian. "I'm - I'm sorry Sebastian, I'm not mad at you."

"I know, princess. If… later you would like a cake of some kind, I would happily make you one. It wouldn't be a multi-tier cake or anything fancy, but I can do a simple cake - very easily."

"Thanks, Sebastian. I will want something different than pizza, but, for now, I've got to find my parents." She then exited the kitchen, looking for her mom and dad.

First thing she had to do was go back up the dark tower. It wasn't that bad going back up. The light wasn't as slim, and she felt like she could take her time with each step. She concentrated on her steps and it helped her get back up the hallway. After she crossed her bedroom door again, and a few other guest bedroom doors, she turned a few bends that took her through several corridors. Finally, heading down three long staircases, she finally made it to the throne room.

It was barren. Usually the throne room was filled with either knights, advisors, or townspeople complaining to her parents about this or that. It was quite eerie. Rainbow hollered out, "Hello?"

Nothing.

The princess rubbed her hands together in worry, whispering out, "Ohh, mom, dad, where are you?"

She went up to their thrones and sat on the king's. She looked around again as if sitting in his throne would get her in trouble, like it had when she was little. Not with her dad, either. Her mother had given her quite a talking to about sitting on a throne before it was "her time." Her father, on the other hand, had found it quite amusing. She had gone to bed without dinner, but the king had snuck in a bowl of ice cream for him and her to enjoy.

Now she was wishing to see either. Both would be an outstanding miracle at this point.

It was then she heard a sound. A clanking, heavy, metal sound. She had heard it before and knew it instantly as a knight's armor. She got off the throne and approached the sound, seeing a heavily armored knight come around the corner. He was draped in a yellow cape, signifying him as a captain of the guard. He had short-cropped blonde hair and beautiful features. This was enough for Rainbow to recognize him right away. She ran at him, hugging him tightly, saying, "Sir Ernest! It's so good to you!"

Sir Ernest embraced the princess back, shocked to see her. "Your highness?! What - what are you doing here?"

"Where are my parents?!"

Ernest looked down at her, being almost two feet taller and told her, "You highness, did they not tell you?"
"Tell me what?! Please, Ernest, tell me! Don't play these games with me!"

"They are out in the village. They had an urgent matter they had to attended to. I was going to join them myself soon."

"What matter? Why didn't they tell me?"

"Not sure, princess. Would you like to accompany me?"

"May I, Sir Ernest?"

"Of course, your highness." He offered his elbow to her and guided her towards the main doors.

Opening them, Princess Rainbow was assaulted with sunlight. A long red carpet laid on cobblestone groundwork, leading to the town square with a multitude of people, noises, and businesses.

The two walked past the shops and houses that made up the village surrounding the castle. The princess clung to her knight like a kid to her teddy bear. The bright afternoon day nearly blinded her to the heavy mercantile business happening. Lots of voices shouted out different pitches as she followed the knight and red carpet.

"Fine, fresh vegetables here! All you can eat tomatoes for ten gold!" one vendor yelled.

"Wonderful fish for sale, caught in the pristine waters of Lake Cumulus!" another shouted.

"Affordable jewelry right here, just twenty gold for this fine, intricate emerald necklace! Just twenty gold!"

Timmy; the tailor, had his kiosk was set up too, but he wasn't advertising... he didn't have to. His fine silks and intricately woven garments spoke for themselves.

This was when the princess said, pointing at Timmy, "He is so brilliant!"

Sir Ernest tugged her close, trying to keep an eye on her.

Five kids ran past Rainbow, playing some pretended game of knights and dragons. She smiled, watching the toddlers scamper into the distance. She looked at Ernest and told him ,"I should come out here more often."

"Aye," Sir Ernest said; "I know the king would certainly approve of it."

"But not the queen," Princess Rainbow said glumly.

The knight stopped and grabbed the princess by her shoulders. "Your majesty, both of your parents care an awful lot about you." He looked deep in her eyes. "You know that, right?"

Dourly, Princess Rainbow shook her head with a forced smile.

Not wanting to push any further, Ernest forced his own smile, hiding a slight defeated feeling and lead her along to the front gate.

They both easily got through the two guards at the front gate as they walked out to the forest road. The Princess spared a glance back at the front gates as they closed. She then looked up at the sky, putting a daunting thought in her mind. She thought back to what Ernest had said before, referring to her parents being in the city. She asked, "Aren't there usually four or six guards at the front gates?"

Ernest gave her a quick look, stalling for a moment. "Changing of the guard."

"I thought you said my parents were in the city."

Ernest cleared his throat, getting noticeably more uncomfortable with each question. "Uh, yes, I did, but, perhaps, they made their way out to the forest."

"Why?"

"Because… maybe they wanted to get you… something."

"Like what?"

"Let's try to find out."

They had been walking for a long time before Rainbow stopped and Ernest protested. "Your highness, I'm sure it's not too far now."

"From what? From where? Sir Ernest, you promised to take me to my family, yet here I am; nearly two leagues from home with the sun setting in the sky, and we have yet to see the king or queen."

"It cannot be far now, just trust me a little while longer."

She shook her head. "No, Sir Ernest! You will take me home - this instant!"

Looking up at the sky, sighing heavily, Sir Ernest looked back at the princess and smiled. "I'm afraid I cannot do that, Princess."

She began to back away slowly.

"I promised their majesties I wouldn't allow that. You were earlier than any of us thought."

"What - what are you talking about? Where's my mother and father?! I will remind you that you are a knight!"

"Yes, and as a knight, I'm asking for you to trust me just a bit longer."

"No! As a knight, you are bound to follow my orders!" Rainbow said, putting up her hand in a fist, her eyes full of fear. She wanted to run, but she had a hard time moving in her dress, and backing away from the knight seemed to be an arduous chore.

"Princess, please, I am bound by the king and queen's orders first."

Princess Rainbow nearly tripped and Ernest went to catch her, but that just made her turn and run. Ernest cursed to himself and went after her.

Grabbing her dress, pulling it up as much as she could, Rainbow sprinted down the road with the big knight coming after her. She cried out for help, but nobody came.

"Please," Sir Ernest yelled out. "If you're going to run, go in the other direction."

It wasn't long before Sir Ernest caught her by the wrist, causing her to yell out, "Let me go!"

"Princess, please, I am to escort you down the road. I'm not completely sure where it is, but I promise no harm will come to you!"

"Let me go and I will follow."

He did as he was commanded and the Princess was slightly stunned. She rolled her wrist and proceeded past the knight, not wanting him too close. She walked over a short bridge, and just before the sun completely disappeared from the sky, a strange opening on the right side of the road caught her attention. An opening in the foliage that seemed to invite her in, beckoning to her. She walked off the road and followed the path laid out before her. Looking back she saw Sir Ernest standing at the entrance, motioning her to continue. She did and began to hear bubbling water and joyous music. Continuing on she had to duck as the foliage lowered and wasn't as cleared-out here.

After the sun had finally set, and the last tint of orange and red disappeared from the sky, Princess Rainbow saw a string of triangular flags colored in her family crest. She entered a large clearing full of people and sounds as the green roof gave way to the sky above. Light came from several bonfires as everyone enjoyed the music played by a band on a makeshift, wooden stage to her left. To her right were more people, dancing around the fire, having a good time. In front of her was another makeshift stage that held a seven tier cake. It was as tall as Sir Ernest and bigger than any cake she had ever seen before. Behind the stage was a small waterfall, glowing with twilight and outlining the cake.

This was when everyone caught sight of the princess and bowed to her. Even the band stopped and bowed. She walked towards the cake and that was when her parents came out from behind it. (It was very easy for them to hide behind it.) Wide-eyed and mouth agape, the princess cried out with tears flowing down her cheeks, "Mom! Dad!" She ran for them and hugged them both, not wanting to let go of either. After she hugged them both, her mom said in her usual regal tone, "I'm glad to see that Sir Ernest has done his job."

Smiling with a slight laugh, wiping tears from her face, Princess rainbow said, "I did not make it easy on him."

The king said with a big smile of his own, holding his robes, "I'll bet!"

This was when Sir Ernest entered the clearing nearly having to crawl on his knees to get through the forest tunnel. He bowed to their highnesses and said, "I am so sorry I scared you, Princess."

Rainbow, with tears still in her eyes, hiding her bright smile behind her hands, she walked over to the knight and said with a heavy quiver to her voice, "You - you gave me back my parents!" She fell into him, letting her arms wrap around him, overjoyed that he returned her hug. She didn't see her mother's slight disgust, or her father's pride.

She grabbed his hands and guided him up. She looked around at all the people and said, "Thank you all. I thought…"

"You thought we forgot your birthday, didn't you?" The king guessed.

She nodded, still teary-eyed.

Stepping down, approaching his daughter, the king said, "It has become quite the chore to surprise you anymore, and since this is your sweet-sixteen birthday, we had to surprise you somehow."

She hugged her dad again, making her mother smile.

The king looked around and at the band. "What is this? Come on, this is a birthday party! Start the music!"

The band began to play again and Rainbow's dad bowed, putting out his hand, silent requesting a dance from his birthday girl. She happily grabbed his hand and swung off into a nice dance with her daddy.

Later on, when twilight had fallen, most of the castle staff had shown up along with Sir Ernest's company. Codsworth had arrived by royal coach while Sebastian had come by escort. Even Timmy the tailor was there. He was extremely shy, making Princess Rainbow come over to him and share two dances with the introverted teen. (He was almost the same age as Rainbow.)

Stories were told around the bonfires and hot food was severed along with the cake. Tasty cold treats complimented the birthday, sugary confections were also served while the king made several speeches exalting his daughter. The queen also made a speech, but it was mostly on the status of the kingdom, and how it would be better once Rainbow was in charge. The guest-of-honor had actually had quite a bit of wine by this time, and three pieces of cake, tuckering herself out.

It was late night when the party wrapped up and most of the party-goers stayed in the woods, sleeping off all the cake, food, wine, and good music. The knights stood guard and it wasn't until sunrise when everyone started heading home. For most it was a great night, but for Princess Rainbow - it was the best night she would have in a long, long time to come. It most certainly was the best birthday party she would ever have because she had already received the greatest gift ever: her parents back and the love of her entire kingdom.