While the attempt has been made to be medically accurate, some artistic license has been taken, and statements made by Madrigal and other healers are not to be regarded as authoritative.

The same scene told from the perspective of different characters is purposely different, as no two people remember an event the same way, and assumptions a person made about what someone meant may colour their memory of what that person actually said.

This story is a work of fantasy, and is not intended to be allegorical. While similarities to Christianity are intentional, aspects of the Light and events described do not necessarily reflect my own theological beliefs. All characters and story © 2017 FemaleChauvinist.

Do not post without permission. Do not copy/print without including the above copyright in its entirety. Do not borrow my characters without permission.

A/N: I got the first part of this story from a dream (I forget just how far that part goes), so if some of the set-up feels a little far-fetched, please bear with me. Barbie

PART ONE: CALLIE

Chapter One: The Dream

As I look back, it's hard to believe how quickly my life changed. For more'n fourteen years, one day had been the same as the next. I could predict exactly what would happen tomorrow because the same thing had happened yesterday and the day before. Then quite suddenly, my days weren't so predictable.

It's hard to say when it began, but I think it was with the dream. Yes, it must have been the dream.

Not that I'd never had dreams before. I've had some pretty strange ones, about foxes that could talk and cooking pots that did all the work for you. But I'd never had a dream like this before.

The strange part is, for all it affected me so, I really can't remember what it was about. All I really remember is the Prince. I always spell it that way, with a capital P. No one had to tell me he was a Prince. I just knew. He could have been dressed in rags, and I still would have known. It was something about his eyes.

He was just about to say something to me when Ole Martha called an' woke me up. At that moment, I coulda killed Ole Martha.

But in that moment, I knew somethin' else. I knew the Prince an' I belonged to each other, an' if he didn't come for me, I wasn't about to accept any substitutes. It was the Prince or nobody, though Ole Martha always said bein' an old maid is 'bout the worst thing that can happen to a body. She ought to know, bein' one herself, but I was willin' to take my chances.

Anyway, Ole Martha never looks on the bright side because she doesn't believe there is one. So maybe bein' an old maid wouldn't be as bad as she makes out.

I'd lived with Ole Martha for as long as I could remember. She says I was left on her doorstep during one of the wildest storms she had ever seen. She took me in 'cause she didn't know what else to do with me, an' I'd been livin' with her ever since. It wasn't a bad life, even if we are 'bout the lowest kind of servants you can be.

See, in this country, the king's servants are all so stuck up that they can't do any of their own work. Beats me why they can't eat what's left over from the king's table 'stead of lettin' it all go to waste, but they won't. So, Ole Martha does the cookin' for them, an' they all come here to eat.

It ain't such a bad arrangement. 'Least I didn't hafta see Zarinda, like I woulda if Ole Martha had been one of the undercooks at the palace. That girl is poison. Pure, beautiful poison.

She's the king's daughter, though she ain't no princess. I got different ideas about that than most people, an' it seems to me it takes more than royal blood to make a girl a princess.

Anyway, Zarinda's two years or so older'n I am, an' I was just shy of fifteen, close as Martha an' I knew, when this whole thing started. She's got silky waves of black hair down to her knees, almost, an' emerald green eyes. Since she turned sixteen a year before all this started, all the princes from neighbourin' countries had been comin' to woo her.

I felt like warnin' the nicer ones. Zarinda put on a pretty good act with them, but she'd never be able to keep it up. Peasants might get away with leavin' their wives sometimes, but a prince would be stuck with her.

Look at me, jabberin' on here. Where was I?

Oh, yes, the dream.

Well, when you have a dream like that, you just naturally gotta tell someone. An' bein' as it was only Ole Martha an' me in the house, I didn't have much choice as to who to tell.

She was stirrin' the porridge when I came down, an' her face was all red from the heat. I shoulda known better than to bother her, though she ain't too sympathetic at the best of times.

"Martha, I was dreamin' this mornin'."

"Yer dreamin' now if ye think the table's gonna set itself. Git a move on, girl, yer late."

Well, I knew better than to disobey Ole Martha. I went to the cupboard an' pulled out the silverware — which ain't really silver like the stuff in the palace is. I began spreadin' it around the table, but I was burstin' with my dream. "Martha, know what I was dreamin' about?"

"Cain't imagine."

She didn't sound the least bit interested, either, but I fired ahead anyway. "I was dreamin' about a Prince."

Ole Martha glanced at me kind of sideways. "Daydream or sleep dream?"

"Sleep dream," I told her, not seein' what difference it made.

"That's good. A slave ain't got no business daydreamin' about a prince."

I felt my face flush. I hated when she called me a slave. I knew I did a lot of work an' didn't git paid nuthin', but I figured I ain't a slave if I can quit. 'Course, I never tried quittin', an' maybe I didn't have as much freedom as I thought. Still… "I ain't a slave," I said firmly. "An' I'm gonna marry my Prince someday."

Ole Martha sniffed. "Yer settin' yer sights awful high fer a peasant girl, Callie."

"You don't know who my parents are," I pointed out. "Could be I'm a princess."

Ole Martha grunted. "Could be, but 'tain't likely. An' even if ye are, how's a prince gonna know?"

"He will," I said quietly. I didn't tell her that my Prince might not be a king's son. I didn't tell her I'd know him in beggar's rags. Ole Martha never woulda understood.

Then she surprised me. Wipin' her hands on her apron, she came over and put a hand on my shoulder. For once, her voice was almost gentle. "I don't want ye to be hurt, Callie. Don't go thinkin' ye can marry a prince."

"I don't want to marry a prince. I want to marry my Prince."

Ole Martha sighed, an' her eyes looked soft. "I hope ye find 'im, Callie. I hope ye do." Maybe she understood better than I thought.

oOo

The next coupla weeks were kind of quiet. For us, anyways. Up at the palace, there was a whirl of activity. Zarinda had three princes courtin' her at once, an' when that happens things always get excitin'.

Not that I'd ever been to the palace, mind you. But I ain't deaf, an' I wasn't shy 'bout listenin' to the servants' talk durin' meals. How else was a girl s'posed to know what was happenin'?

Ole Martha said it was just gossip, an' I shouldn't believe half of it. She just didn't want me thinkin' people really act that way. Ole Martha forgot that I wasn't a little girl anymore.

Anyway, the servants were talkin' 'bout how they had a ball 'most every night. To hear the servants tell it, those three princes just 'bout fell over each other tryin' to stay on Zarinda's good side so she'd pick them as her escort. They weren't as polite when they were alone together, though; Ole Martha says if she ever catches me usin' the words the servants repeated at table, she'll cut my tongue out. So I guess I ain't gonna tell you what they were.

As for the servant who repeated the language, Ole Martha said if he did it again he'd be shiftin' for himself at mealtimes. Ole Martha ain't lackin' in boldness, that's for sure.

It didn't make her too popular with the servants, but they didn't burn our ears again, either. So I guess maybe they respected her more than they let on.

Anyway, while the princes (if you can call them that) were busy swearin' at each other, Zarinda was up in her room throwin' a tantrum 'cause she didn't have a new dress to wear. She an' those princes were just made for each other!

Trouble is, none of them were gonna get her. Some nice prince who deserved better was gonna wind up havin' to marry her, 'cause in the end it ain't Zarinda or the princes who decide who she marries. It's the kings, an' all they care about is which country'll make the most profitable alliance.

Sometimes I was glad I wasn't royalty. 'Least I could marry my Prince without havin' to worry 'bout whether his country was friendly to mine.

Ole Martha said even if I did find him, he probably wouldn't have me. But she was wrong, 'cause I knew that when I found my Prince, he'd know I was his Princess, an' we'd live happily ever after.

Leastways, that's what I thought. Sometimes I wonder what makes Ole Martha so pessimistic. I'm beginnin' to wonder if maybe her prince didn't love her like he should have.

Anyway, Zarinda may have acted like a spoiled two-year-old in her room (Ole Martha would wallop me good if I tried that), but in public she was a perfect princess. Must be hard to put on an act like that. Me, I'm just plain Callie, an' what you see is what you get.

On the days when they didn't have fancy balls, the princes had all kinds of competitions. Some of them sounded downright dangerous to me. I mean, the sword fightin' was all well an' good, but Zarinda's suitors ain't always on the best of terms with each other. Easiest thing in the world for an "accident" to happen.

But none did, an' 'bout when the rainy season was almost here, all the princes packed up an' left. Guess they had business to take care of at home, or maybe they wanted to visit other king's daughters in case it didn't work out with Zarinda.

I knew my Prince would be more loyal than that.

Next chapter coming next week!

I proofread all my stories at least once before posting, but if you see any mistakes I might have missed, please let me know! (Please note that this story is formatted with British spellings.)

Please note that I have internet access only once a week, and may not have time to respond to all reviews/messages. If you have questions regarding my story worlds, check my profile first to see if they're answered there. Thanks for your understanding! Barbie