The Princess was beautiful and radiant, just like a princess is supposed to be. Her parents, the King and Queen, loved her and watched over her, just as parents are supposed to do. They noticed her interest in painting and got her watercolors and oils. They saw her love of horses and taught her to ride and jump her pony over fences. She was fascinated with maps and soon she was taken on trips to see far away lands and different cultures. She was a lively, happy  and inquisitive girl.

As she grew she became more beautiful and Princes from neighboring lands came to visit. With the the King’s permission they requested the honor of courting her. The Princess was disinterested in them all preferring her own pursuits. Her mother the Queen implored her and her father the King became uncharacteristically stern when he explained the need to choose a husband. Surely one of these handsome, charming princes was worthy of her regard. Both politics and tradition demanded it of her, but she could not find it in herself to care for any of them. Her parents wrung their hands and widened their search.

When she turned eighteen the Princess was told that she was fast becoming of an age when not marrying would be a serious embarrassment. She saw that she was truly making her dear parents very desperate and decided to accept who ever her father wanted her to marry.

The King chose a Prince with the great advantage of wealth and adjoining lands. The Princess did her best to pay attention when this suitor spoke and to look upon his actually quite handsome face. She agreed to his visits and her parents could not have been more relieved. As for himself, the Prince was completely overjoyed and determined to win her as his bride.

He came time and time again with gorgeous jewels and remarkably beautiful fabrics for her new gowns. She had never cared about her appearance, no less her clothes or wearing jewels, but she was gracious and thanked him. He went riding with her once and next time he came to visit he brought a silver laden saddle and a new mount, a stallion, worth more than a lifetime salary for any tradesman in her father’s kingdom. The Princess had a special bond with her own mare since she was a child, but she rode the stallion while the Prince was there and promptly had it turned out to pasture when her suitor finally left. His visits were long and he made ardent speeches to her about his love of her luminous eyes, the glow of her cheeks, her graceful walk and her charming manners. While he talked she worked to keep herself sitting still and acting as if she were positively effected by his words. He is a nice man, really, she would tell herself.

Then one day the Prince proposed and she accepted as she promise her father she would.The next day the Princess was gone! Her servants ran to the Queen who had the palace and grounds searched. The King ordered his soldiers into the town to find her. Every one in the town knew the royal family, surely someone had seen her. The soldiers scoured the town, looking into people’s homes and shops and posting signs of huge reward for bringing the Princess safely back to the palace. It was of no use. Weeks went by without satisfaction. The search went on and on.

One morning a palace soldier was entering a tavern to make inquires about the Princess and stepped around a scullery maid scrubbing the stoop. The maid bowed her head even lower as she dipped her rag into a pail of dirty water. It had taken a lot to make herself unrecognizable, but it was worth it. At least in this life she didn’t have to pretend to like what she hated. The soldier almost stopped to look at her face more closely but the maid tucked her chin to her chest glancing away from the big man. The soldier shrugged and continued into the tavern.

As for the maid, all her life long, she never regretted her choice.

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