Ever read a cheesy "once upon a time" fairy tale where there was a prince and princess and everything was perfect and turned out happy and peachy? Yeah, this isn't one of those stories. However, this is a story about love, about romance. This story took place ages ago in a time where happily ever after happened and where dragons weren't as far fetched as one may think. This story happened when true love was real.
Now, I know you've heard of the great princesses: Cinderella, Sleepy Beauty, and Snow White, but I can bet money that you never heard of Princess Tara. Why was this tale kept secret all these years? Because the story was uncommon among the masses at the time, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Princess Tara was the most beautiful princess in the world. Some say the Goddess Aphrodite conjured Tara herself with ingredients from the Goddess herself. Others, the more religious ones, say that God wanted a daughter instead of a son, so he made this perfect woman. No matter which way you spin it, she was beautiful and perfect.
Our tale begins with a scuffle in the small town of Kensington, in the kingdom of Christiansburg...
"You rat of a woman, look at what your life is! I should slaughter you right on the spot!" spat Buffy Summers, captain of the king's men.
"Buffy, Buffy, Buffy, look at us! We're fighting like the cat and the mouse that live outside my home. We used to scurry around the farm when we were children, and now you hunt me like I'm a deer!" Willow laughed, balancing herself on the top of a roof. She smiled wickedly at her lost friend.
"I was foolish and then I made something out of myself. You? You scamper about town stealing and frolicking with God knows who. I'm ashamed to call you an old friend!" she called back, steadying her horse, Riley.
"Yes, but I do frolic quite nicely. I should think I get credit for that. It's a respectable frolic!" Willow jousted back.
"You stole the man's chicken for Christ's sake! That's almost punishable by death. If you're so respectable, climb down here and take it like the scoundrel you are!" challenged the blonde headed captain.
Willow seemed to ponder the challenge and then she looked down at Buffy with an amused grin, "Nah, I'm good."
Just as Buffy was about to retort, one of the King's advisors on a horse galloped to the center of the town's square.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he began, silencing the commotion around the bustling town, "On behalf of King James III, I have here a decree. The Tuesday after next, our fair princess Tara will turn the age of twenty. The law says that she is to be married on that day. But to prove a man worthy enough for his daughter, the King has locked the princess in a tower in the North Highlands. For the man to reaches her first and brings her back safely, the King himself will bestow his blessings to the both of them," the advisor announced, nudging his horse to exit the square.
A crowd of people swarmed over to where the advisor had attached the decree to the pole. Buffy crossed her arms and chuckled slightly.
She then turned around to spar with the redhead again, but the woman had vanished. Cursing to herself, the blonde pull at the rains of the horse and trotted off to find the rest of the guard.
A young man let the curtain fall back into place and lit the candle in the room.
"She's gone Will," he whispered.
"Thanks Xander. I appreciate it," Willow whispered back. She grabbed her hat from the chair and leaned out his window. She whistled lowly. From around the bend, a strong chestnut horse trotted to the window.
"Hey Sadie," she greeted patting the horse's mane. The horse nudged her hand gently and Willow gracefully mounted the animal. Xander poked his beady head out the window just as Willow was about to leave.
"Will, be careful," he warned. The redhead smiled a devilish grin.
"Have I ever not been?" she asked as she kicked off and rode down the dusty path toward the pond near her home.
"Yes, you damn well have!" shouted Xander after her, laughing to himself and the sight of his friend.
Meanwhile in the castle...
"Daddy, do I honestly have to stay in that tower while some arrogant knight gallops off to ‘save' me from a dreadful dragon?" exclaimed a very irritated blonde. She crossed her arms and sat on her four poster bed dramatically.
"Tara, you are not ordinary! Look at you, you are gorgeous and I'll be damned if some unworthy boy takes your hand in marriage," her father argued, steadying himself on one of the poles that help construct her bed.
"Then you can be damned. It's my life! I don't see why I can't pick the one I marry," she retorted.
"Looks can be deceiving my dear. A handsome young man could ride to the castle, his only intent to take our money and kingdom, and just string you along for however long it takes for you to fall madly in love with him."
"Thank you for your confidence in my judgment Father!" she huffed insulted that her father would think so little of her. With the rolling of the king's eyes, he stomped off towards the door.
"Tara Amelia Maclay, I already announced your rescuing and I will not be overthrown by my own daughter! Tonight in the thick of the fog, young William will ride you to the ancient tower and will over see the men fighting for your hand," demanded King James, scowling at the blonde princess and slamming the hardwood door behind him as he departed the room.
Sighing heavily, the lovely princess, all dressed in a blue silk gown, fell limp onto her bed. A soft thud on the feather mattress caught her attention and a furry black and white kitten. With a tiny paw, the petite pet batted around with Tara's sleeve, moving it about like a string. Chuckling, the blonde rolled over on her side facing her beloved friend. She lightly ruffled the kitten's dark hair.
"What do you think Miss Kitty? You think Father's being an unreasonable, old man too don't you?" she giggled, and scooped up the animal, laying her on her back. The blonde's hair swayed majestically as she tenderly scratched the kitten's belly.
"Sometimes I think you love the cat more than your own family," an older, wiser voice traveled in from the doorway. Startled she jumped up quickly, her eyebrows raised to her hairline.
"Good Lord Mr. Giles, you frightened me horribly!" sputtered out Tara, sighing in relief for his appearance and not her father's.
The older gentleman stepped through the threshold of the double doors into the grand bedroom. He grimaced and he had to take out a cloth and cover his mouth and nose. After a low cough, he refolded the cloth and placed it in a pouch on his rope belt.
"Sorry Dear, it's just....well, one could hear the rather loud bickering from down the hall way...one being me actually. And, well...I was worried that you might be er, upset," Giles, who was Tara's butler of a sort, walked in and looked around, refusing to make eye contact.
"I'm better Mr. Giles. Father just doesn't understand that I can make good judgment. He treats me as a child!" exclaimed Tara, sitting at her desk and combing her long blonde hair.
"Perhaps he just wants the best for his daughter? Perhaps we all want the best for his daughter," concluded Giles, leaving the last statement to linger in the air. Tara ceased her combing and turned around to comment on Giles' words, but she found her room empty, except for Miss Kitty, who was now tinkering with the tassels of her blankets.
"Urg! Men!" she laughed and continued combing her hair.
Just as she finished grooming, a young blonde haired man knocked on her door.
"Lady Tara, it's William. I've come to take you to the North Tower. Queen Elizabeth packed your belongings and they're loaded on the carriage already. King James instructed me to tell you that you have until Sundown to be in the carriage waiting," he disclosed his orders very diplomatically, but then quietly whispered, "I'm sorry Tare. You know I wouldn't do this if anyone but the King himself told me to. Forgive me princess," he apologized.
Blue pools softened at the sight of her childhood friend, one of the only ones she had. Through subtle debate, Tara had sweet talked her father into letting William onto the King's servant staff. Not the most glamorous job in the world, but when his mother turned ill and died shortly after his sixteenth birthday, he and his sister had no other option of living.
Little known to Tara though, William, better known as Spike as a child, fell in love with the princess long ago. From the very first day, actually.
The King's garden had some of the freshest peaches in the world. Spike's family only had bread and cabbage on a good day, so the spunky boy decided he would climb the oak tree up the castle wall. Grabbing his sister, Buffy and her friend Willow, the three friends hoisted Spike up to the top of the wall, Willow pushing Buffy up the wall as well.
Sending their thanks down to Willow, she left to tend to her family's horses while Spike and Buffy gathered the peaches off the tree.
"What are you doing up there?" a meek, demanding voice bellowed from the wooden swing in a shadowy part of the garden.
The sound startled the two so much that they fell off the wall, but safely into a pile of raked leaves. The small figure, dressed in a warm pink dress marched over to them hotly.
"You're lucky it's autumn season. There's usually a pile of rocks there instead," she commented, extending her hand to the two newcomers. The small boy and girl stood up and brushed themselves off, keeping their eye on the young girl, about their age.
"You do realize you're trespassing on royal ground? And stealing my mother's most beloved fruit. If I screamed, you'd be thrown up by your knickers," she crossed her arms defiantly, jutting out her chin for effect. She loved making people squirm, especially the castle staff. They got all tongue tied.
"Well, you see. It's our mother's birthday today and well, she walks past this lovely tree every single day. Every single day I say, and I just thought that maybe for once she could try some of the famous Maclay fruit off the peach tree. Please, please don't turn us in. It'd break her heart!" Spike pleaded, falling to his knees and tugging at her shirt.
Tara giggled at the boy begging for mercy and she had to cover her mouth to stop a full blown laugh.
"You both are thoughtful. For thinking of your mother like that, and to risk your own life just proves how noble you are. What are your names?" she inquired, smiling and lifting the boy off his knees.
"I'm Spike and this is my sister Buffy," he sniffled, introducing his sister to this new girl.
"Spike? Your parents actually named you Spike? What an peculiar name," she commented. Buffy laughed full heartedly and turned to explain to the confused princess.
"Ah, no. Will here thought he would some more intimidating if he changed his name from William to Spike. Apparently," she laughed again, "it's not even frightening to a lady." After saying this bit, she held her sides and laughed harder. Tara found the sight of the new girl Buffy amusing and laughed as well. Spike, on the other hand, pouted.
"Yes, and Buffy is normal. Her real name is Anne, but she calls herself Buffy. Piffle on that," he retorted, causing Buffy to stop her giggle fest.
"You both amuse me. I'll tell you what. If I allow you to go unharmed, with some of my mother's fruit, will you visit me tomorrow? No one else though, because Father wouldn't like it as it is," she warned. Buffy and Spike shook their head vigorously and left with a bushel full of peaches for their mother.
"It's quite fine Will, just give me a moment will you?" she asked and with his nod, she grabbed her kitten Miss Kitty and headed for the stables where she knew Will would be waiting. As he opened the door for her, she silently whispered, "I don't suppose I could pay you to divert the path to somewhere else could I?" she asked. And with his sad shake of the head ‘no' she sighed and stepped into her carriage of doom.