The typical "Prince Meets Princess, Prince Saves Princess, Prince Marries Princess" story is turned on its head.
Once upon a time there lived a princess named Teress. Like most girls of good and noble blood, she was beautiful. Also like most girls of good and noble blood, she was cursed. Teress’ mildly curled dark tresses and flawless milky skin were kept in perfect preservation by her ceaseless slumber. One day in her fourteenth year, she had simply gone to sleep and never awakened; the witch behind the spell still had not been caught. Regardless, Teress’ unconscious state preceded certain measures that were by now standard for bedridden royal heiresses. She was locked into a spacious bedchamber, the other occupants of the castle were evicted, and thorny creepers were set to grow along the walls. Within the year a score of eligible foreign princes would arrive to release Teress from her affliction. At least, that was the generally accepted belief.
The first heir to appear on the scene was Nor from neighbouring Sisters. He rode, ever so admirably, into the courtyard, and in minutes his sharp sword had made quick work of the yet young and green plants. It was not long before mannish Nor forced his way into the princess’ bedchamber. He gazed upon Teress’ teenage body for a while, but he really didn’t need much except for the promise of the throne to spur him on into a kiss. His lips touched hers chastely, and Nor was expectant for the moment she would open her eyes and return the kiss. However, that didn’t happen, and something else seemed wrong with the situation, besides. Nor’s own lids flickered, and the weight he bore on one knee suddenly seemed too heavy for words to describe. Nor slipped into another stance, and he laid his hands over Teress’ as though waiting for a death and not a wedding, and now his head rested on their clasped wrists...Nor began a steady and exaggerated snoring.
The next unfortunate to follow the rumours of Teress’ infirmity all the way to Okrey was Reki of Val Sous. In contrast to Nor, Reki was a sensitive and youthful scholar, but he too appeared considerably old for Teress, when he bounded in through the bedroom’s open doors. Not much time had passed since Nor’s attempt to claim glory and wealth as his, and so the path to the princess – who personified both – was fresh; it had been barely a minute between when Reki had left his fine Arabian mount in the courtyard, to when he’d danced forward to her bedside with a lithe athlete’s step. To say that Reki was dumbfounded by the dozing Nor would be an understatement. But what he didn’t understand, he was quick to push aside, and Reki was able to focus more or less all of his attention on Teress, after a short moment. “Teress,” he said, sparing a fleeting glance at Nor, in case the larger man should only be faking unconsciousness in order to embarrass him, “I am Reki. I’ve come to save you.” Reki remained a virgin to the day, and suddenly it wasn’t so hard to see the reason why. Awkwardly Reki broke off speaking to bend down and kiss Teress, and he plummeted rather instantaneously into dreams.
It’s glaringly obvious that a pattern started to emerge, each and every time Teress’ imminent rescue loomed on the horizon. Subsequently, you can imagine how startled Sir Chat was in ten years’ time, when he moved on from a war in his own country to have his own try at waking the now legendary sleeping beauty. Chat was then Teress’ fiftieth suitor, give or take a few. The knight had to step gingerly to find floor not obscured by musky bodies, because not all of the aspiring young men had been rendered dead to the world close to Teress’ side; as Reki had been knocked out uncommonly fast, others appeared to have been taken down before they’d walked more than a couple of steps across the threshold. Corpse-like stills littered the plush carpet of the princess’ sanctuary, and Chat was disgusted to find a particularly forward lord practically sharing her bed. Chat could only wonder at what this looked like to the gods. Had they been playing a game with these mortals for the past decade? He was sure – and he’d be able to check with his city’s chief archivist when he returned home, for he definitely wasn’t staying here with the evidence being presented to him – that the kiss of a prince was supposed to remove the curse laid on a maiden. Never had he heard of a princess whose kiss – though unwilling – put grown men to sleep instead! This challenged all the practical knowledge he had of the world; it shattered his very faith in Heaven.