Chapter 4

"....And our great King,

With one great swing,

Killed the beast that so haunted this land,

With his one, single human hand.

Horrah, Hurray, Oh Joy!

Now we may all dance and sing!

He wears his crown,

Let us have peace now,

Now and forever more!"

The court applauded the jester, the King chuckling over the crowd's noise, "Ah, that was a good one. Though, I did weild a sword, you know. I do not believe the Gods could kill a dragon with one, single hand!"

The court, and even the small jester Fayenbalm, continued in a chorus of laughter to correspond with their King's, ceasing only when he did. The Queen sighed, dreading even being in this very room. Finally she stood, turning to leave with the intention of going unnoticed.

"Sugarplum!" Henry stopped her, though he did not bother to remove himself from his chair. "Where are you heading?"

Penelope faced him, internally moaning to herself. She put one of her delicate hands to her head, weakly replying, "My head aches. I am going to lay down for a moment."

"Oh, alright, Dearest," he said. "Do not be long, I hear there is to be....,"

She did not even listen to the rest of what he said, continuing to make her way out of the hall. The guards bowed and the servants curtsied as she passed through the corridors in which she had spent so much of her childhood, through the mazes of turns and stairways she knew like the back of her hand. They chanted their proper pleasantries, their murmurs of "Good-day, Your Majesty," seeming to ripple down the halls as she passed by the infinite numbers of maids which it took to care for this monstrous place. She warranted she knew many of them, and could converse easily and kindly upon simple aspects of their lives, their families.

"Your Majesty," Jaqueline, her dark-haired handmaid, hustled towards her. "I have your warm bath-water prepared, and your silken nightdress on your bed; all we have to do in change you--,"

"Never mind that, Jaqueline--I have something to do," The Queen interrupted her, striding ahead to her bedroom door with the handmaid still at her heels. Penelope paused, allowing the two guards stationed there to swing open the door for her.

"Is there anything more I can do for you, Your Majesty?" Jaqueline inquired.

She frowned, thoughtful for a moment. "No, I am good for now. You are excused. Thank you."

Jaqueline briskly curtsied and scuttled back down the hall, out of sight. Bowing her head to the guards in thanks, Penelope moved forward into her bedchambers, the door shutting behind her.

Taking her skirts around her, she moved to the bathing tub seperated off from the rest of the chamber, the water clear and slightly steamy. It was almost enticing, like the delightful, warm water could wash away her worries.

Penelope then bent to look at her reflection, the familiar face which was hers appearing so...unlike her. It was older, tired, worn, solemn, sad. She didn't look herself, or feel it either.

She reached forward, brushing her fingers across the water and dashing her reflection into a million different pieces like that of a shattered mirror. When it finally cleared and settled, it wasn't herself looking back at her. It was just who she was looking for.

The three women in the little scene cast before her jerked their heads up from whatever work they were doing, glancing directly in her direction. They were beautiful women, long-limbed, graceful, with hair colored white and pure, and great billowing gowns a matching hue. They were scarless, ageless, yet their eyes, each a different color themselves, and expression was wise, thoughtful, and understanding.

"Your Majesty!" they cried, moving forward to be seen closer by Penelope. They curtsied simultaneously.  

"Veronica, Vera, Vanessa," Penelope titled her head to each one.

"Your Majesty, you look terrible! Whatever is the matter?" asked one.

"Vera!" the two other fairies exclaimed harmoniously.

Veronica, her eyes a icy blue almost gleaming white, cleared her throat, "What she meant to say is that you look sad. What is wrong?"

Penelope frowned, "You know perfectly well what is wrong. Henry is horrible."

"He is handsome," muttered Vanessa.

"Ha! I told you he was horrific!" Vera laughed, settling her violet eyes smugly upon Vanessa.

"She said horrible, she didn't say--," Vanessa's pink eyes flaired, almost reddening.

"Ladies!" Veronica shouted at her two sisters, the surface of the water from which Penelope watched even rippling. "This is no time for your useless bickering. Our Princess has a problem." Sighing, Veronica turned her even gaze upon the Queen. "Don't fret of it, Your Majesty. Soon, your true prince shall come to rescue you."

"But, what if I do not wish to be rescued? What if I do not want someone to pick me, to win me as their contest prize? Is there not such a thing as true love!?" Penelope burst out. 

The three fairies were silent. "Dearest, all you have to do is wait," Vanessa broke the quiet, and with that, their image was replaced with Penelope's own.

Wait! Penelope walked from the room, slumping down on her bed. I might as well be still trapped in that tower with that dragon. Actually, I think I should prefer the dragon to Henry...

She flopped back onto her pillow, staring at the ceiling.


The End

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