She stared at him, and suddenly, without warning or a word, went white, and fainted dead away onto the white-scrubbed floorboards, the jar of ginger clutched in her hand, which smashed as she fell, leaving a halo of glassine blood around her long, long, unbound red hair.
“Tell me, Mr Dunne – what prompted the start of this – what shall one call it, to do it justice, one wonders?” and he tapped his pointed chin consideringly, and waved a pale, languid hand in a vague, all encompassing gesture around the large, otherwise sparsely furnished room. This simple back and forth of his wrist mesmerised James ‘Jimmy’ P. Dunne, and somehow managed to indicate the magnitude of the many and varied birdcages lining the walls, tilting forlornly on stands, even tipping sideways on the floor.
She knew her duty, and her duty was to marry up. For Queen, Country, and bally well the chance to make every other girl at Miss Whistle’s look back with envy and say “do you remember Creddy Buffet-Smythe that was? My goodness, what a splendid marriage she made! Jolly marvellous, talk of Queen Charlotte’s she was, the way she swept Muzzy Beauclerk orf his feet, what?”
He wasn’t brilliant; he fumbled a few of the chords, there were some dropped notes, and his voice carried the nasal overtones of a typical Scouser – but there was something – something indefinable that made the music shop owner shiver like a cat does just before an electrical storm. A spark in the hands, dancing along the cheap guitar’s strings. Something in the way he moved, perhaps – he shook his head. He was being fanciful. He cleared his throat, and it was just another Teddy Boy, strutting with a guitar, moving into Be-Bop-A-Lula like he thought he was Elvis Bluddy Presley.
It should also be mentioned that said kingdom was not actually a kingdom. It was for all intents and purposes a queendom, as the crown was handed down first born daughter to first born daughter. If there was no daughter, it rather grudgingly went to the first born son, until a girl arrived, in which circumstance the whisky flowed like – well, like whisky, and villeins and nobles alike were willing to accept someone named Beelzebub without demur, as long as the Princess of Darkness brought them some aspirin, and was extremely quiet whilst she did so.
With another sigh, Rue shook herself, and stepped back from the mirror. She picked up her hairbrush, and began, as she did every morning, as she did every evening, to draw the first of one hundred strokes through her long, long, corn-yellow hair, knowing if she failed to fulfil this task, it would not go easy for her.
“Look, I said I was sorry; there’s no need to get so highty-tigh – oh, hang on, there really isn’t any need to get so highty-tighty about it. It was just the extension cord! See?” and he rose up from a sudden crouch, almost bashing Nikola on the chin with the back of his head, as Tesla craned down to look as instructed.
In a surface glance, anyone looking at the pair of them would have seen nothing but two elegantly and formally dressed, attractive people, champagne glasses held casually, watching the croupier’s hands as he in turn dealt yet another hand. Anyone looking very closely indeed would have seen the tall, blonde, tanned gentleman blanch slightly and wonder why he had paled, when there was such a beautiful woman beside him.
Blinking slightly, both of them, from the inevitable change in light as they came out of the tunnel to the transport bay, the usual crowds waited for the Judiciaris to appear. Waving, smiling, shrieking their approval. Most of them, anyway. Oh, there were the usual few rabble-rousers, one or two low-level Kant Edda thugs lurking in the background, waiting to see if there were any mental pickings to be had; but today it was evident there were no Cassandras or Narcissi in the crowd for them to glean predictions or beauty from, and their venture out from their foetid holes a wasted journey.
Colonel Hawkins sat in his office, a new, plain, buff folder open in front of him. He carefully stamped it precisely with a TS1 stamp, and wrote on it: for the following eyes only – and added his own name, that of Major-General Fletcher-Christie, and for good measure, a name made up on the spot of a civilian operative, with, after it, in brackets, [FS], for Field Staff. He knew there was no chance the CO would check said person’s identity. It would compromise them, and he wouldn’t risk their safety.
“Are you deaf, Cadet Dentine? Wax in your lugholes? In need of a premature digital aural implant?” Fluoride-Iodine asked, somewhat acidly, endangering her faultless tooth enamel.
“No, Wing One!” barked back Dentine. “I just assumed…” and she looked the Head Lecturer squarely in the eye, with a steely glint which looked somewhat familiar, reflected the Wing, as it should – it had been staring at her in the mirror for more years than she liked to think of – “…I had been overlooked.”
As St Valentine towed a sulky Cupid away from the bar, he explained what he he had seen. One person who was certain he and Cupid weren't even real, and a man who thought he was unhelpful! Him - the hero of love, Valentinius Sanctus, patron saint of lovers, BFF to those who wished to wed! He'd been martyred for these people, he complained, sounding er, martyred. He'd had his head chopped off for the ungrateful little apes! Whatever happened to respect, to omnia vincit amor, and all that? I mean, what did they want from him - blood?
'I wouldn't mind' mumbled Cupid. 'Still had half a Peroni left'.
Polly opened her mouth to tell him she had no idea - maybe petition the local member? - when she realised she absolutely, most definitely did know what she was going to do.
She smiled. It was the smile of a crocodile as it sights lunch on the banks of the river in the shape of a plump, juicy antelope with a broken leg.
'I'm going to sue the human race for negligence against each other and the earth'.
Once upon a time – well, 'once upon a time' when Henry VIII was just on the throne, and before he started cutting off his extraneous wives’ heads – there was a tiny kitten who was born on a scrap heap outside a dirty little village in the south of England. There was no way this kitten should have survived; it was abandoned almost immediately by its mother, left for dead... and, to be brutal about it, that should have been that.
As Henry himself may have said, whilst throwing an extremely well gnawed haunch of venison over his shoulder towards his pack of eager hounds, survival of the fittest, y'know.
However, the kitten dragged itself onto the high road and was lying there, near death, when all at once there came a great trampling and trotting and viewing and hallooing. It was a company of the newly crowned and no longer ‘Prince Hal’s’, but rather The King’s Men, on their way to a great tourney in the North. The villagers all came to gawp and gape as the pages and squires scurried to water the horses and get their masters wine and refreshments to break their fast.
A young page saw the kitten and went to kick it – not out of cruelty, you must understand, but to put it out of its misery – when a great voice stopped him, and he felt a hand on his shoulder. ‘Why would you not try to save the creature first?’ inquired the voice. ‘Well, sir, it looks more like kindness to let it go to God’, said the boy. ‘I disagree’, said the voice, whom the boy could not see the owner of, as the hand was preventing him from turning around. ‘I believe that every living thing deserves a chance at life before we consign it to the possibility of heaven’.
The boy was confused. A possibility of heaven? If you were good, you had to get to heaven yes? However, his was not to question why; the voice told him to get the kitten some milk and bread, look after it and take it with him on the journey, squeezed him briefly on the shoulder, and disappeared. The boy, who was after all a page and thus trained to obedience, did as he was told. The kitten ended up looking like a very small (and very loudly purry) barrel, and it promptly went to sleep in his saddlebag.
The boy never did find out who the voice had been. But he and the kitten – soon known as Leo The Lionheart, for his habit of killing ‘infidels’ or rats before they had a chance to strike sleeping knights – became fast friends, and the page’s rise to squire and then knight came about more rapidly than he would have imagined. It was almost as if the day The Lionheart came into his life had been a lucky omen – if he believed in that type of thing.
Eventually, the boy – and you must understand, to go through his kind of training meant being of noble birth – took his place at court. He was very shy, and not inclined to the kind of bawdy blathering that the others of his age indulged in. They would have been seen as quite the odd pair, he and The Lionheart, if he had not been intensely brave, and coincidentally able to knock the teeth sideways out of anybody who questioned his - shall we say - ‘manhood’.
Plus, The Lionheart bit.
By this stage, Henry had become slightly less the young dashing prince and more the stern and running towards stout king – but there were still signs of that merry eyed boy he had once been. So when our friend and his cat – yes, Leo of course was there – were eventually presented to him and his Spanish Queen, the King’s eyes brimmed with mirth.
‘God's wounds!’ he exclaimed, ‘is this a lion I see before me? Do you seek ennoblement for this fine defender of the realm, my Lord Robert?’ (for this was our hero’s name).
Robert finally realised whom the voice belonged to, not unkindly telling him to keep the cat alive some twelve years before. He was astounded, but realised that the King awaited his reply.
‘Why yes, Your Grace, I do.’
There was an intake of breath around the court at this presumptive behaviour, except from the Queen, who looked as if this whole interchange was of absolutely no interest to her (NB future Mrs H Tudors: not wise) – and the King himself, who grinned.
‘And why is this? What possible service could a humble animal have performed to merit a rise to the ranks of my most devoted and noble men? A mere beast, not even of the field, who neither reaps nor sows?’
Robert looked squarely at the King.
‘Because, Your Grace, if every living thing deserves a chance at life, doesn’t every living thing also deserve a chance at bettering its station in said life? And as for what service Leo has provided – well, last night he recognised that the wine destined for your bedchamber was poisoned. He sniffed it and knocked it over, whereupon we had a mouse be doused in it – and the mouse died.
‘He has performed this service for you three times now, Your Grace. Because Leo indeed has the heart of a lion’.
Henry turned very white, then very red. The entire court held its collective breath. Robert felt the whisper of the axe's blade as it slowly descended on his and Leo’s necks, and squeezed his cat to the point of Leo saying ‘ouch’, loudly and ostentatiously, in Tabbyese.
‘It seems that you paid a great deal of attention all those years ago, my Lord Robert’ said Henry, quite calmly, and everyone exhaled. The Duke of Suffolk had a coughing fit and rapidly left the throne room before the king’s mood could change. ‘Not only did you listen to my words, but you listened to the intent behind them. Please bring your cat, and yourself, forward, and kneel’.
Robert of course did so. Leo refused to kneel. He sprawled at Henry’s feet. On his back, with his legs in the air.
Henry grinned again.
‘Leo the Lionheart, I now name thee Lord Leo of The Tower, Keeper of the King’s Person, Royal Ratter and Privy Council Cat. I would say arise but I doubt I would be obeyed. Lord Robert, I hereby appoint you to my Privy Council and ask you to become the head of my Personal Guard. You, I think, may manage to rise’.
Robert was astounded. He had a feeling that this may all end in tears, at least for him, because the King’s moods were what were then known as mercurial – but how wondrous that Leo was being recognised for the loyal and clever creature that he was! What gratitude he felt that Henry had not let him ‘put him out of his misery’ all those years before!
Henry waved them both away. Robert bowed out backwards. Leo sauntered fatly away, occasionally stopping to lick his behind and have a bit of a sniff up the ladies’ frocks. Sometimes, Robert reflected, it was uncanny just how much like the sovereign that cat actually was.
Amazingly, perhaps because every time he was prone to contradict Henry’s wilder ideas (mainly concerning the lady Anne Boleyn, who had just popped her minxy little head up – not yet off), Leo would headbutt him in Privy Council sessions – Robert thrived. But of course, by this stage, Leo was a ripe old age – and one day, sadly, Robert found him peacefully, permanently asleep in the sun of the winter garden at Windsor, his legs in the air and his fat tummy looking glossy and content.
There was a half chewed rat by his side.
Robert cried great tears of loss and gratitude for his wonderful companion. When his page asked him very timidly if he was not ashamed to be seen weeping in public – ‘for he is but a cat, my Lord!’ – Robert turned and took the boy to his quarters. There he gave him one of Leo’s most recent great-grand offspring (Leo was a cat that Henry would have been proud to call ‘son’, or in fact, possibly be slightly jealous of in terms of his procreational abilities).
This is what he said:
‘A cat is never just a cat. A cat is a friend. A cat is an adviser. A cat will tell you when you are a bad master with naught but a simple look. A cat will always be there to warm you. And if you are very lucky, a cat will look at a king – and make you see the value of every life’.
With that, Robert walked away, and with the King’s permission, left the court and retired to his estate in the country.
He died at the age of 82. All that was on his tomb?
‘A cat may indeed look at a king – and if a king is wise, he will look back at a cat.’
A furry tale - or should that be furry stomach? - ending.
Many, many years ago, there were no stars. The sky was - well, blank. Oh, the moon was there, lonely in her solitary glory, and the other planets of course; but there were no twinkling pieces of fiery ice for us to wonder at, for poetry to be written about, for songs to be sung to, for stories to be scribbled down in wonder... and for couples to stand under, hand in hand - with stars in their eyes.
This is how stars came to be.
They were born, as one would expect, from a fairytale.
Once upon a time, in a land whose borders have long since moved beyond memory, there lived a young princess called Asta. She was in fact rather more than just a princess; she was the Crown Princess, and when her father died (which with great good luck, would not be for many years yet), the country would be hers to rule. This pleased the people greatly, as she was generous, and kind, and known for her wit and humour. Was she a great beauty? Not really; but she had an indefinable something which made her more attractive to the young princes in those parts than all the classic sharp-cheekboned goddesses soulfully mooning around the court.
She was certainly in no hurry to take on the role of Queen. Since her mother's death, she and her father had been very close, and the thought of his not being around, a pack of large slobbery dogs at his shabby heels, was almost too much to bear.
We all know however, that life isn't kind, or fair, and that sometimes great pain has to come before great happiness. And this, sadly, was closer than anyone could have anticipated.
The entire country had been humming with excitement for weeks, because it was both the 30th anniversary of the King's ascension to the throne, and Asta's 21st birthday. Preparations for an enormous ball had been occupying the court, with neighbouring nations sending emissaries and envoys - not to mention hopeful royal suitors. Unfortunately, not all of those who had to be invited were friends... some, as the King had taught Asta carefully, were strategic guests.
One of them was Queen Ondska.
She was incredibly beautiful, it was true. She was also incredibly ambitious, and had made no secret of her desire to marry the widowed King. It was whispered that she had magic in her blood, but only the brave (or perhaps the foolhardy) dared to voice their suspicions aloud, for those who did had a nasty habit of disappearing.
Ondska arrived with her usual pomp and ceremony, a large retinue, and an even larger mirror, which glittered strangely and made the servants uncomfortable. Asta disliked her intensely, but was too well mannered to let it show - and of course she would never let her father down by being less than courteous to any guest.
The night of the ball arrived. Asta had noticed that her father had looked quite pale all day, but he assured her he was well, just preoccupied with making sure all of their guests were taken care of. And she was, admittedly, a little too excited to notice the extent of his pallor and shaking hands.
As she and the King descended the stairs into the palace ballroom, the assembled crowd bowed low. Even Ondska, although it was with gritted teeth. As they straightened up, Asta noticed a young man she had never before seen looking straight at her. He had a look of wildness, and fearlessness, and adventure, and life.
Then he grinned, and Asta's hitherto untouched heart was lost. Her worries over her father, her nagging concern over Ondska and her magic - all were gone. All she saw was a tall figure with laughing eyes making his way towards her, hand held out, asking her to dance.
His name was Prince Fin, and he had been at sea, heading his father's navy. He had been sent to the celebrations because his brother the Crown Prince and his wife were about to have their first child, and could not leave home. He explained this to Asta as they danced, saying with a grin that 'as the spare, I am used to being the last minute substitute for diplomatic missions. I must say in this case, it is no hardship at all.'
'In fact, I am not sure I am likely to ever return to sea - unless I were to have a new executive officer, who just happened to be a princess.'
Asta blushed. And grinned back. And Fin felt his heart turn over.
Suddenly there was a commotion near the throne dais. Asta looked up, and her world collapsed. The King was lying on the ground. He was horribly, terribly still; and she saw the Lord Chamberlain shake his head, search the crowd, and through the whirling white noise in her head, as Fin held her up, heard the words she had thought would be years away:
She hid her face for a moment against Fin's chest, then straightened up and walked towards her people.
She did not see the look of malevolence and triumph on Ondska's face.
In the Queen's rooms meanwhile, a maidservant ran in fear as the mirror spoke. Unfortunately, she tripped and broke her neck, which of course everyone dismissed as clumsiness, so she was never able to say whose voice she had heard.
Or, of course, what it had said.
In the days that followed, everyone said with what dignity the young Queen comported herself. Or, it should be said, the Queen to be, for she was yet to be crowned. Asta insisted on the correct mourning period being observed for her father before any kind of celebration be held, and that included her own coronation. This only added to how dearly her people loved her, for it showed her grief and respect.
Fin did not leave her side. Asta found herself reaching for him without thinking, and it was only his steadiness which saved her from retreating to her room and staying there. But this she couldn't do, for she had seen the way Ondska was watching.
Watching... and waiting.
The Queen claimed to be staying 'for Asta's solace'. And her standing was too great, her own country too powerful for Asta to say 'please leave'. But the servants were growing ever more nervous, to the point where after dark they would not go to her quarters, claiming there were voices coming from the mirror.
Finally, the day of the coronation approached. Asta realised that for the sake of her people, she had to see it as a happy occasion. If she was brutally honest with herself, in some ways she was happy, for she knew she would rule well and wisely - and of course there was Fin.
He was nervous. Petrified in fact, because today was the day he was going to ask Asta to marry him - and he had to do it before she was crowned, so that she understood it was for her that he asked, not her country. He took a deep breath, and got ready to see her. Just as he was about to set off to her rooms, Queen Ondska called out to him.
'Prince Fin. If I may? I would very much appreciate your counsel.'
Fin turned. He had no desire whatsoever to be anywhere near the Queen, but as he looked at her, she snapped her fingers in front of his face, and he felt his will being drained. She smiled.
It was not a nice smile.
'If you will, Prince Fin... just stand in front of the mirror. Just for a moment.'
With the last of his strength, he tried to avert his gaze. But the mirror pulled at him, and with mounting horror he looked into its depths.
And saw the King, and hundreds of others behind him, sorrow in their eyes.
And he felt his own death upon him.
Asta had expected Fin to escort her to the throne room, and when he didn't appear, decided to find him. She had felt an uneasy tickling in the back of her mind for a while, and it seemed to be growing the closer she got - why, it was the closer she got to Queen Ondska's rooms! She knocked at the door. There was no answer, but she heard a low cry - and she pushed on the latch. It opened, and she ran inside.
She saw Fin lying still and white on the floor in front of the mirror, and the Queen looking as though she had just finished a wonderful meal.
'What... what has happened here?' she whispered.
Ondska looked at her, her eyes glazed with power and evil.
'Oh my dear. I am afraid there has been a tragic accident. Your dear Prince has died. There was nothing to be done. I am so very sorry for you!'
'Fin - no! It can't - '
'But yes. As you can see, he is clearly not coming back. I think it is best you immediately call off the coronation and go into mourning. Perhaps you should consider appointing a regent? Someone older, more capable. Trustworthy.'
Ondska's voice had taken on a hypnotic hissing quality. For a moment, Asta was mesmerised.
And then she looked in the mirror.
And saw Fin and her father looking back, shaking their heads.
The clouds in her mind dissolved.
Asta screamed. It came from deep - so deep - inside her, and sounded like the agonised cry of a seabird. It was a scream of agony, and loss, and love, and a breaking heart.
The mirror shattered, the pieces flying, whirling outwards in a glittering, lethal diamond cloud - towards Ondska. There was a sudden blur, a snarling roar of defeat, a babble of triumphant voices - and then, like a shining tornado, the source of the Queen's power and her death headed for the skies.
And all that was left of Ondska was a pool of puddled velvet... and a rapidly blackening crown.
There was a low whisper.
She whirled around, the colour coming back to her face.
It was Fin. He was back... and beside him, her father.
The joy in the castle was overwhelming.
That night, a strange phenomenon was observed in the sky. Glittering points of light had started to shine - faintly, it was true, but they shone nevertheless. Over the course of the next few decades, they grew stronger and stronger, until people could not remember a time when there were not shimmering ribbons of unreality above.
And what did they call them?
In the common tongue, they called them 'stars'... but those who knew and loved her best remembered who they were named after.
Once there was a princess. Her name was Amelia.
She lived in a not so far off land with her father and mother, the King and Queen, who were generally beloved by the populace - mainly because they were fairly ordinary, and did things like take budget flights instead of the Royal Jet to make sure they didn't squeeze the economy. People tend to appreciate value for money I have found, and these two were right on top of budgeting.
Her three older sisters on the other hand...
Let's just say that if you combined Elizabeth Taylor's love of very large rocks with Imelda Marcos' shoe habit - you wouldn't even touch the sides. As far as they were concerned, Princess equalled PRINCESS in bold and with flashing lights in case someone missed the point. They were not interested in anything much besides shopping, more shopping and waiting for a prince with a black AmEx to whisk them away to a larger castle with better closet space.
Amelia though - well, Amelia was a little bit...
She didn't look peculiar. She didn't sound peculiar. Everyone thought she was a lovely girl - certainly much nicer than the Shopaholics - uh, I mean her siblings. She just didn't seem to quite fit in, and nobody could really put their finger on it - even her parents, much as they loved her, found it easier to deal with large credit card bills, and getting the royal carpenters in to put up new shoe racks, rather than address what was going on with Princess Number 4.
Amelia herself though - she knew exactly what the issue was. And she was finding it harder and harder to hide her 'totally bizarre weirdness' as her delightful eldest sister Prunella called it.
Princess A had very vivid dreams. This wasn't the totally bizarre weird part however - many people have startlingly 'real' dreams and are none the worse for it, other than a tendency to grin stupidly during the day if it was a particularly enjoyable one. No - the TBW was this;
Amelia's dreams were starting to come true.
It began when she turned twenty-one. The night before her birthday, she dreamt that the next day, Morcilla (she got off lightly with Amelia, didn't she?), sister number two, was going to throw an enormous tanty when she saw Amelia's birthday present and insist that it be given to her. As it was a vintage Mercedes convertible, Amelia wasn't too keen on this idea (hey, she may not have been a shopping addict, but the girl was only human) and told Morcilla if she touched a finger to the paintwork, her hand would be permanently stuck to it until she promised to never, ever go near it again.
And this is exactly what happened. Morcilla went berkers, Amelia said her piece - and suddenly an errant finger was attached to the bonnet. Shrieks, tears and a grudging promise later - the finger was removed and Amelia was sitting in a corner glugging champagne out of terror (and quiet enjoyment) at what had just happened.
A few more similar incidents occurred, mostly involving her sisters and their love of shiny objects. Amelia would dream a scenario, and within a few days - hey presto, it happened. Whilst this had a certain good side effect of making her sisters leave her (and her possessions) alone, Amelia was petrified that one night, she would dream something which ended up hurting someone badly - and so she stopped sleeping.
No person, let alone a princess who spent most of her time in surrounding kingdoms on diplomatic duties, can go without sleep. Things go wrong when there's tiredness involved, such as promising the next door country the profits from the year's beet crop (big bucks - they loved their beets in that part of the world). And eventually, as she was strap-hanging on the Fly Cheap, Fly Standing! flight home after the Beet Incident of '03... her eyes closed.
And she started to dream.
This one wasn't about shoes, or cars, or grabby sisters. This one - well, this one was a nightmare. The land was on fire. Her parents were held by very large men with very large weapons - her father had been hit and was bleeding. Her sisters were also in the same situation, but even nightmares have some moments of levity. And there was a man with a cruel, hard face, in a very ostentatious uniform, who said to Amelia 'this is all your doing - after all, you dreamt it, didn't you?'
She woke up on the floor of the plane, with her bodyguards trying frantically to work out why she was screaming.
And so it was back to insomnia. Until two weeks later.
When the kingdom was attacked.
They came from nowhere - moving swiftly and silently. The cities were surrounded by tanks and insanely complicated weaponry. Amelia's family were dragged from the palace in the middle of the night, and it was all just as she had dreamed it would be. She struggled, and fought (and took quite a few men out - just saying) - but eventually she was face to face with General Despicable from her dream. He slapped her, which was totally unnecessary but showed the kind of ratbrain he was.
'Tell your parents to send out a notice of surrender, or I will kill your entire family - and it will be your fault, Princess Amelia' he said, with a faint smile.
'What did you do to me?' she asked very bravely.
'Oh, the standard evil fairy thing - when you were born, got her to put a curse on you, yada yada yada' he replied, yawning and examining his seriously long nails (yuck). 'She guaranteed that eventually you would dream something which would allow me to take over - and I am delighted to say, she didn't lie. I killed her anyway, but I do like value for money'.
'And by the way', he added 'apparently the curse is unbreakable - you will always dream the truth. Bad luck there.'
Amelia looked around at her parents, her sobbing sisters, and listened to the gunfire and terror surrounding them. And she realised there was only one thing to do.
She put all of her love for her family and her country into her thoughts - and fell asleep. She vaguely heard and felt the General screaming at her to wake up and shaking her, but she was determined to sleep, perchance to dream.
And dream she did. She dreamt of her parents. She dreamt of the beet crops (I told you she was weird). She even dreamt of her sisters, who for once hugged and kissed her instead of stealing her shoes. She dreamt of every good thing she could... and finally, she dreamt a dead General and a defeated army.
And she opened her eyes and smiled, because she had dreamed her own truth.
The army was gone. The General was a cloud of dust at her feet. And the kingdom and her family were safe. It may have been a curse, but who exactly had the curse been on? Those evil fairies sometimes aren't quite as evil as they look, you know.
The country rejoiced. Her parents were back in fiduciary charge. Amelia went back to dreaming of - well, just normal dreams - there may have been a prince somewhere in there, but that's her business. And her sisters...
Let's just say they developed a healthy respect for not touching other princesses' property.
Dream a little dream.