Princess Penelope stood there head slightly tilted, squinting up through the rain and wondering what had just happened.
The storm reminded her of the one previous, when she'd been torn from her bed and stuffed into the back of a carriage with the muttered instructions to 'stop her infernal screaming.' It had been a frigthening night, but it had also been a wonderful one. For after she had silently wriggled her hands free of the ropes, untied her ankles, and leapt out of the speeding carriage into the mud, she had spotted a castle not far off. Exhausted, she had stumbled her way to it and timidly knocked on its enormous doors, bringing a muffled conversation to an end. There was rumbling inside before the door finally opened to reveal a young man with flashing green eyes and a shock of red hair--Peter, her dear Peter.
"Good evening Miss," he grinned widely, "May I help you?"
His parents had then joined him at the door and she'd told them her story, asking if they would be so kind as to help her find her way back. But they'd did more than that, offering their hospitality for a night.
"And here's your..." Peter's composure fell and he slapped his forehead, "Your room." Penelope had peered up with wide eyes at the towering stack of mattresses that seemed to embarrass her new friend so much.
"I think it's wonderful," she had smiled kindly, "But I may need a ladder."
It had been a terribly uncomfortable night with that bump jabbing her back the entire night and the ceiling only centimeters in front of her nose, but, afraid of offending her gracious hosts, she'd endured it--and she was glad she had.
Though Peter's parents had insisted on putting the pea in the museum, he later apologetically told me that he had stuck a large bowl upsideown underneath the top mattress so as to make sure the plan worked, telling me I probably could've felt the pea but that he loved me so much he didn't want to take any chances.
It had only been a few months since her and Peter had been married, but it had been the best months of her entire life--silly inlaws and all! And, she thought as she turned on her heel and ran towards the castle, she wasn't about to let whoever that eerie man was end it.
"Where are you going dear?"
The maid's voice startled Penelope and she whirled around, instinctively hiding her one of her husband's spare swords behind her.
"Has Peter returned?"
"I haven't seen him Miss."
The princess bit her bottom lip, wondering how to break the news. She decided to go with the blunt explanation, "Well then I'm going to go find him."
"But your highness," the maid clung at her dress as she tried to pass, "You can't go out there alone! Who knows, you may be kidnapped again--or worse."
Knowing her maid wouldn't let her go without getting the entire palace in an uproar first, she surrended, lowering the hood of her traveling cloak, "You're right. I need to find someone to go with me."
"Peter will be back before you know it," the maid reasoned desperately, "He probably just went on a walk. Don't get all worked up over--"
"He is in trouble," Penelope interrupted, "I saw him. And there's nothing you can do that will stop me from returning his favor to me."
"Of course your majesty," she hung her head, "But who will watch after the castle while you're gone?"
"I don't have time to appoint anyone. Besides, you've been my maid for as long as I remember, I trust you. And you won't even have to let people know I'm gone. Just maintain the castle and I'll do my best to return with haste."
"You'll do fine," Penelope grinned, patting her loyal maid quickly on the shoulder, "Now if you'll excuse me I need to go see Peter's friend Phillip, he'll know what to do."