Author: Jeanne (a.k.a. kindagay)
"Willow." Tara's mother had found the two girls early the following morning, lying fast asleep together in Tara's bed. "Your father wishes to speak to you immediately."
"I regret that I must depart." Willow sighed. "But I shall return to you forthwith my dove." Willow placed a soft kiss on the back of Tara's hand and woefully left the room.
The princess ran to the King's study, making sure to visit her sleeping quarters on the way, in order to collect her green velvet robe to throw over her undergarments, which she had fallen asleep in.
Willow approached the large oak door slowly and with much trepidation. Taking a deep breath, she gathered all of her resolve and knocked boldly at the solid wood. Receiving a bellowed command to "Enter" she pushed open the door and took three steps into the large room.
"Father, you requested my company?"
"Where have you been Willow? You were not in your room this morning."
"I, uh, I awoke in the early hours and decided to take a walk around the gardens."
"You were in the gardens wearing only your under garments?" The King enquired, taking in his daughter's appearance.
"No father, I was preparing to bathe when I heard that you were searching for me; that is the reason for my current attire."
"Willow, I need to talk to you about your behaviour."
At her father's words, Willow gave a large, discomforted gulp as if she had just swallowed a marble.
"As I have told you on many occasions, your behaviour is unacceptable for a young lady, especially a young lady who also happens to be a princess. I have tried many strategies to rectify your disobedience, all of which have failed; as such I fear that I am left with only one option. I have had word from the King and Queen of our neighbouring kingdom, they are searching for a wife for their son and I feel that perhaps if he were to take you as his bride this would cure you of your unladylike behaviour."
"You mean that ghastly Prince Charming?"
"Willow, you have never met the Prince."
"That is true, and I am aware that I have no grounds to claim that he is ghastly; in fact I am sure that the Prince is perfectly pleasant and sociable; however, what with the Prince being uhm, male, I can image that being married to him would be a rather ghastly affair. Are there no princesses who wish to be married? I would much rather marry a princess than a prince."
"Willow, princesses do not marry other princesses, they marry princes." The King explained exasperatedly.
"But why father?"
"Because that is how the law and nature say that things ought to be."
"When I am in power I shall pass a law that allows every person to marry whomever they choose, regardless of gender."
"I honestly have no idea where you get such preposterous ideas from Willow. You shall be saying next that servants should be allowed to marry royalty."
"I see no reason why they should not. If two people are in love why should they not be permitted to marry?"
"Love? My dear girl, marriage has nothing to do with love. Now stop this nonsense at once, you shall marry Prince Charming whether you like it or not."
"But father, that is not at all fair. What does my mother have to say about this?"
"Your mother is in complete agreement." The king answered curtly. "I am sorry that you feel I am being unfair, but you really have left me with no other choice. I have arranged that the prince and his mother should visit us on the morrow, they will arrive at the stroke of nine in the morning and I expect that you will be suitably attired and on your best behaviour. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes father, I understand." Willow responded; her voice and lower lip trembling with despair.
"Very good." The King was a little surprised by Willow's sudden acquiescence. "Well then, you are excused."
"Thank you father." Willow gave a small curtsy and promptly left the study.
"Prince Charming? Oh, how simply perfect Willow."
Tara, for some explicable reason, was rather excited by the new piece of information which the princess had just relayed to her.
"I fail to understand how any part of this could possibly be described as perfect my dove."
"Do you recall my brother's friend Cinderella?"
"The one who calls him Buttons? Yes, I recall her, why?"
"Cinderella resides in our neighbouring kingdom and she informed Donald of a great ball which has been arranged in the hope that Prince Charming shall find a wife. All of the ladies in the kingdom who are of noble birth shall be in attendance."
"You mean to say, that my father has offered my hand in marriage, and the prince to whom I am intended is hosting an elaborate gathering in the hopes of finding someone else? How utterly impertinent of him."
"What does it matter that the prince is in search of an alternative bride? You have no desire to marry him do you?"
"Certainly not!" Willow insisted vehemently.
"Then I fail to understand your distress my sweet?"
"It is the principal of the matter Tara; I do not appreciate being the second choice."
"My sweet, you can be infuriating at times." Tara chuckled good naturedly. "Do you not see how we can use this detail to our advantage? If the prince were to find his match at the ball, you shall no longer be required to be his wife."
"Thus, we must locate Prince Charming's true love and ensure that she attends the ball." The princess continued, finally understanding Tara's proposal.
"Precisely!" Tara gave an enthusiastic nod.
"There is just one minor flaw in our ingenious plan my dove. How are we to know who, or indeed where, Prince Charming's true love is?"
It was a little known fact, that as well as being an accomplished nurse and a wonderful mother, Elizabeth Maclay was something of a witch.
Now, I'm sure that you are thinking, as people tend to think when witches are mentioned, that she must have been terribly ugly, possibly even disfigured, with hairy warts and wiry, untidy grey hair. You probably also suspect that she danced around a cauldron making scary bubbling potions, flew around on a broomstick and turned people into toads. If that is indeed what you are thinking then I must tell you that you have been grossly misinformed about witches.
Elizabeth was quite beautiful, with a soft friendly face, a kind smile, twinkling hazel eyes and long brown hair which was always tied back into a neat bun. She was rather proficient at mixing various herbs and things together to make healing lotions and medicines and had a rather inexplicable ability to ‘visualise' a persons soul mate, when, of course, she set her mind to do so. This could, perhaps, be the reason why she was not at all surprised when she had discovered that her daughter's relationship with Willow was fast progressing far beyond a close friendship.
"Mamma." Tara called breathlessly as she ran into her mother's sitting room, where Elizabeth was busily darning socks.
"We need your help." Willow concluded Tara's thought, looking to her nurse expectantly.
"And why might we be so out of breath my children?"
"We ran here."
"You were running in the castle? I rather suspect that you two girls quite enjoy getting yourselves into trouble."
"There is no rule forbidding running in the castle."
"Just because you choose to ignore it little princess, does not mean that the rule does not exist."
"Do you intend to scold us Nurse? Because we are in urgent need of your assistance and a scolding would be rather inconvenient at this moment."
"No Willow, I have learned that scolding you would have very little effect, besides, I am sure that there are worse things you could be doing than running in the castle. Now, what is so urgent that you need my help?"
The two girls settled themselves on the floor at Elizabeth's feet and Willow proceeded to explain her predicament, whilst Tara relayed the details of their plan.
"So, you wish for me to discover who Prince Charming's soul mate is?" Elizabeth clarified at the conclusion of the commentary.
"And where she is also." Willow added impetuously, which brought about a gently scolding look from Tara. "If it is not too much of an inconvenience." The princess added politely.
"You shall have to bring his majesty to me."
"That should not be a problem."
"Very well, I shall do what I can."
"Oh, thank you Nurse." Willow flung her arms around Elizabeth in an enthusiastically grateful embrace.
The rest of the morning, before Willow had to go for her lessons, was spent working out the specific details of the plan. After Willow's lessons, she, Tara and Alexander wandered down to the boating lake where, to begin with, they were leisurely floating along on the water. After a short time however, Alexander and Willow decided that trying to capsize each other's boats would be much more fun, naturally they both ended up sat in the lake, drenched and muddy, whilst Tara sat, dry and safe, in her boat chuckling at her friends' antics.