Story Saturday: The Serving Princess

"The Serving Princess"

Once upon a time, there was a small girl who was the sole survivor of a terrible war that devastated her village. Before her parents died, they told her to hide deep in the woods and find the fae that made their home there. The faeries would only come out for innocent maidens like herself, and they would protect her from the cruel outside world. She did as they said and wandered the dark forest scared, alone, and yet filled with hope. The fae were so charmed by her sweetness and innocence that they decided to make her their princess. As she grew older, they taught her to weave beautiful gowns and garlands from the enchanted flowers that grew in the forest. She learned to cook and clean for herself and always kept a positive disposition because she knew how much she was loved. In time, legends spread throughout the neighboring kingdoms of the beautiful fae princess that lived in the woods.

One day, Princess Silverfae noticed that the flowers were losing their color, and the glowing lights that always surrounded the wings of the fae began to dim. When she asked them what was wrong, they told her that their magic depended on the power of the Enchanted Tree, which needed crystal ether to survive. They used so much of its power to help care for the princess that the tree was slowly dying, and when that happened, the fae would die with it. Still, they assured her not to worry and that it was worth every moment they were able to spend caring for her. The princess was horrified and decided to do everything in her power to help restore the tree. For the first time she could remember, she left her home in search of a way to save her family. Teena, the smallest of the fae, who was like a sister to her, accompanied her on her travels.

It took the princess many months to discover a kingdom that had the resources they needed. When she found one, at last, she requested an audience with King Luthor and pleaded her case. She told him that she was willing to pay any price for him to provide the Enchanted Tree with the crystal ether it needed to restore the fae woods. However, she had no gold or diamonds to offer. Her kingdom was rich in natural wonders that would wilt if they were separated from the forest. Still, the king saw that she was sincere in her request, so he agreed to let her have the ether as long as she was willing to serve him until her debt was paid.

Servant girl in the woods

"You can't do it!" cried Teena "He will work you to the bone. As our princess, you should never have to lower yourself to such work."

"It will only be a short while," said Silverfae, "and I can come back to live with you when my debt is repaid."

Silverfae agreed to King Luthor's price and sent Teena back to the forest with the ether. Working for the king turned out to be more of a challenge than Silverfae expected. She didn't mind the cooking or cleaning because these were things she had already taught herself to do when she lived with the fae, but King Luthor was never satisfied with her work on even the simplest of tasks. One time, for instance, he asked her to hang a large portrait of him in the middle of the wall, and no matter where she put it, he would insist that it was uneven.

"A little to the left," he would say. She moved it to the left. "No, that's too far! Now it's crooked! Are you blind?"

Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months. Soon, she had been serving the king for three long years. Her spirit would have surely broken if it hadn't been for the gate near her dusty chamber that led to into the beautiful castle garden. She would lie there among the flowers and dream of her forest, occasionally receiving visits from Teena and the other fae. They were doing well since the Enchanted Tree was restored, but they missed her terribly. Teena would often ask when she could return, and she never had an answer to offer. Every time the princess asked the king when her debt would be repaid, he would only complain about something else she did wrong and ask her why he would possibly let her leave when she couldn't even convince his subjects to provide more gold for the royal treasury or clean his crown without leaving smudge marks or cook food that wasn't too hot. Eventually, she gave up asking at all.

One day, the princess tried to open the gate to the garden as usual and found that it was locked. She pushed and pulled on it as hard as she could, but nothing would make it budge. She swallowed her pride and approached King Luthor about her safe haven.

"No one ever uses that garden," he said. "There's no point in keeping it open. It would only serve as a distraction from your work."

"But I use it," she replied. "It's how I keep in contact with the fae."

"Name one time you've ever needed to go into the garden."

The princess's head pounded. She remembered countless times she lied amongst the roses after a hard day's work and welcomed the occasional visits from Teena, but no matter how hard she thought about it, she couldn't think of only one specific example. After all, she used it countless times, not just on a few special occasions. It was the closest thing she had to her home in the fae woods.

"I go there whenever I'm feeling sad or lonely," she said nervously. "Sometimes Teena visits me to let me know how the other fae are doing."

"That's not an example," he said sharply. "Give me an example."

"You met Teena when I first came to your castle, didn't you?"

"That was not in the garden. When do you use the garden?"

"I told you," she stammered. "I use it all the time."

"Clearly, there is no reason to unlock the gate because you can't think of a single time you have ever needed to use it even though I have given you plenty of opportunities to tell me."

Silverfae swallowed a lump in her throat as her eyes began to burn. She could see that nothing she said would convince King Luthor to let her visit the garden again. She soon became more miserable and fell into a state of despair. One day, the royal gardener found her crying in the corridor.

"You shouldn't let him treat you this way, Princess," he said.

"Why do you call me that?" she asked. "I'm no princess here."

"Everyone knows the rumors of the princess who lives in the fae woods, and you are every bit as beautiful and kind as the rumors claim."

"It doesn't matter anymore. I owe him my life for restoring the fae woods. I'll never be a princess again."

"That is your choice to make, but perhaps this will help."

He held out his hand and dropped a small key into the princess's tiny fingers. She clasped it tightly.

"Is this what I think it is?"

"Surely your debt has been paid by now. You must choose the path that you believe is right for you."

That night, the princess unlocked the gate to the garden, where she found Teena waiting for her.

"Silverfae!" she cried. "I thought I'd never see you again!"

"So did I," admitted the princess. "I needed a little reminding, but now I realize that I deserve to be loved and treated like the princess I am."

Teena darted through the sky like a shooting star in the night leading Silverfae back to their enchanted forest. However, Silverfae didn't get far before King Luthor called out from behind her. He was out of breath as though he had been in a hurry to catch up.

"Where are you going?" he panted.

"You asked for an example of when I would need to use the gate. I am using it right now to return to my home. This is the only example I need because I will never use it again."

"But who will hang my portraits exactly in the middle of the wall? Who will polish my crown without leaving smudges? Who will cook my meals just hot enough that they don't burn my mouth?"

"Certainly not me," she said. "You've made it quite clear that I am not capable of doing any of those things."

"I was wrong. Please, Silverfae, I need you. Remember that I am one that saved your forest! You owe me!"

"I do remember that. I am grateful for everything that you did, but my debt is now repaid. There is nothing more I can do for you."

With that, Silverfae went back to the fae woods to live happily ever after with her family, while King Luthor was miserable and alone for the rest of his life.

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