Once upon a time, there was a lovely princess with long red hair and a short-legged dog. She ruled Castle Huntress quite efficiently. Her wares sold, she frolicked by the water with her little dog, and the villagers spoke well of her. “Oh, yes. This is our favorite princess yet! She has a generous nature and a very naughty sense of humor,” said they.
But after hundreds and hundreds of days alone, she began to seek a Prince. Not because she needed one, mind you, but because she had no one with whom to laugh.
Word got out, and soon the village was buzzing. A notice arrived from Prince Haddad of Romania with the offer of companionship. He was tall, dark, and handsome. The prince was also an accomplished warrior who frequented the battlefields. She, a former warrior in her own right, felt a kinship. After all, blood is thicker than water. Following an exchange of letters, the princess accepted.
But he did not appear. She inquired as to his absence and he replied with, “Soon, my dear. For now, I must fight.”
She couldn’t wait for his return from battle, for they had much in common and plenty to talk about. Their letters were never a bore, and they conversed endlessly about everything. The prince made her laugh, was well-traveled, and had a quick wit. He seemed perfect for her.
However, the days turned into nights, and the nights turned into days as the princess sat by the window, brushing her long, red hair and petting her short, black dog. She watched the leaves turn crimson and drop. Then, the snow flurries came and blustered forth. Eventually, spring brought new life and the same promises. “Soon, my dear.”
The princess’s hair grew longer, and her dog grew shorter.
Lady Amy and Lady Susan came to tea. They both agreed, the Prince should be there. If he wanted to see the Princess of Huntress Castle, he would find a way. “Actions are telling,” they warned. The princess did not want to hear their words, but she could not deny them.
Instead, she filled her time with art, entertaining, selling her wares, and tending to her affairs, but she spent most days and nights in solitude.
On a warm day when the sun was high in the sky, she sat by the window watching the clouds form the shapes of postal letters that said, “My dear, I’m on my way.” They burst apart before she could grab one.
Her thoughts were abruptly interrupted by a voice with an accent from a land far away.
“Oi, Princess! Your hair is like fire!” She looked down and saw the Duke Liggitt of Birmingham. He stood below her window with a toothy grin and gazed up at her through spectacles. Though he was slighter in stature, he was reputed to have a robust character and a heart so vast it could fill a castle, along with a title from the Shah dynasty.
“Is it?” She asked. Admittedly, not her wittiest response, but she was quite out of practice, having only spoken to her little dog for days on end.
“Christ on a bike, you’re beautiful,” he said as he bowed and pulled forth a striking white rose swirled with hues of pink, red, and violet. “I’ve traveled a great distance to request the pleasure of your company, and behold, I would be willing to travel even further after setting eyes upon you. I should like to take you dancing. We’ll have such fun!”
“Return as the sun sets,” the princess said. “If my answer is yes, I shall meet you in the foyer.”
Now, the princess was in a quandary. Wait for the handsome prince or dance. Wait…or dance. Her heart was torn. Suitors had called after Prince Haddad, but none were as charming as he or the Duke.
As the clock chimed behind her, her little dog yawned with its greying muzzle glinting in the sunlight, and a vision of her mother on her deathbed appeared. “Don’t be a fool, child. Time is the most valuable thing, meant to be spent, not squandered. Go.”
She knew her mother was right. As she gathered all her hair, the post arrived with another letter from Prince Haddad. “The fight goes on. There’s much to be done. I’ll be there as soon as I can, my dear.” She sighed as she placed the letter atop of the pile of his other correspondences, which mounted several feet in height on her boudoir.
It was just a night of dancing. She could always return early to the castle with the explanation that she simply must walk her short dog by a preferred hour.
As the sun sank in the glowing sky, she stood tall in the ornate foyer, clad in her best dancing slippers. Encrusted in shimmering beads and stones, her servant had given the shoes a quick dust-off before he opened the door with a flourish to reveal the awaiting Marquess of Birmingham, decked out in his finest.
“Good evening, Duke,” the princess said with a curtsey as she held out her hand to be kissed. “I am ready.”
Written (and poorly illustrated) by April Hunter