He needed me to sit on his bed while he fell asleep. Whether that was true or not is a whole other story, but I did it in the hopes that it was the truth. I turned of the lights and his sister came in to join the party. They wanted story after story until I ran out of ones to tell. "Make one up," they said. As if it was that easy.
I've never made up a bedtime story. I've always relied on the stories my dad told me about his childhood and they were always funny enough to get away with, but this time I was on my own. This is the story I told them as they sat there listening, trying to stay up past their bedtime:
A Princess, Her friend, and their seat at the table
Once upon a time there was a princess who lived far, far away from here. She lived in a castle with her mom, dad, and older brother. They were the king, queen, and prince respectively.
In an effort to prepare their children for adulthood in the kingdom as royalty, the king and queen had their children do activities that would teach them what they needed to know. The prince was taught history and politics as well as how to ride a horse and wield a sword. The princess was told to be nice, be pretty, and be polite. This meant she had to learn how to walk and talk like a princess, but only when first spoken to. She was taught needle point and... other things that princesses should know, but none of those things are what she wanted to do.
Whenever the King and Queen weren't looking, the princess would run to the stable where her brother was taught how to be a prince to meet her friend. Together, they would watch his sword fighting lessons and pay very close attention. After a while of watching the prince's lessons, they looked for sticks to practice what they had seen. The older the two girls became, the harder it was for them to sneak away to practice, but they did it anyway.
The princess' friend's father was a carpenter and a blacksmith with a ton of extra wood and iron laying around. Over the years, she learned how to make realistic wooden swords for them to practice with and crude versions of armor to wear. They were never far behind the prince in his lessons.
The king, queen, and prince found it suspicious that the princess would come in with a dirty face and a clean dress every night when she came back for dinner, but they just figured she didn't know how to bathe very well. What they never noticed was the prince's old clothing that would go missing as soon as he grew out of them or the basket they were hiding in behind the stable.
Eventually, they all grew up and the young ladies' rendezvous became much less frequent. They were hardly ever able to practice, but when they did, it was like no time had passed. They were that good.
One day, the king decided to hold a contest to see who would join his son at the knight's table. Men from all over the kingdom came to compete for a seat at this table, but the king and the prince were not satisfied with any of them.
Towards the end of the day, two men approached them, covered head to toe in the most spectacular armor they had ever seen. With their weapons ready, the two potential knights fought the other men that were there to compete and plowed through them until they were the last two standing. The king and prince were pleased.
"Please," said the king, "take a seat at the table. You have shown great strength and a terrific sense for battle. One of you must marry my daughter. We will fetch her for you."
The newfound knights tried to hold back laughter as the two left. The prince whispered to his father, "They must be pretty excited to be stifling their laughter like that."
The king and prince went to retrieve the princess from her bed chamber, but she wasn't there. They searched the castle high and low, but she was nowhere to be found. Convinced that the princess had been taken from the castle, the king and prince gathered a search party to go find her. Meanwhile, the two knights waited at the table until everyone returned from searching the kingdom without the princess.
"You two are the best I have, please go out and search for my daughter," said the king.
The two knights mounted their horses and rode off into the kingdom. Faint laughter could be heard as they rode away, but no one thought anything of it. They must have been excited to be on their first knightly mission.
When the knights returned empty handed, the king and queen started to really panic, but were quickly interrupted by the muffled voice of one of the knights.
"Your majesties, we know where you daughter is," they said.
"Well then what are you waiting for? Where is she?" the king exclaimed hastily.
The knights walked slowly to their seats at the table and sat down with a room full of people watching them. The whole royal court was there, waiting to hear where the princess was. With one look towards each other, the knights took hold of their helmets and raised them over their heads. The entire royal court gasped as they realized the princess had been there the whole time.
"You're the greatest knights in the kingdom?!" exclaimed the prince in utter surprise.
"We sure are," replied the two friends with a smile on their face and a laugh in their bellies.
When everyone realized the full extent of what had just happened, a huge debate broke out in the royal courts. They couldn't possibly allow women to serve as knights, could they? Especially considering that one of them was the princess! But the two women would not back down. They were the best the kingdom had to offer, what did it matter that they were women?
"The princess' job is to be nice, be pretty, and be polite, she can't do that if she's galavanting all over the kingdom!" said someone from the back of the royal court. The princess stood up when this was said with purpose and with authority. Everyone stopped talking and listened to her.
"My whole life I've been told to be nice, be pretty, and be polite. Up until this point, no one doubted that I was. I have done my duty as the princess, which is not much of a duty at all by the way, and I have managed to train with my friend here in our spare time to become the best. We have trained harder than anyone in this kingdom and we earned these seats at this table. Just because I am nice and I am pretty and I am polite does not mean that I cannot be the best. Just because I am a woman does not mean I cannot be a knight. We have proven that today, haven't we?"
After hearing what the princess had to say, the royal court had no other option but to give in and the king loved his daughter too much to take away her personal victory. He couldn't deny that she and her friend were the best. So with a swift movement of his sword from one shoulder to the next, the king knighted the two women and they were given their rightful seats at the table, for real this time.
The only person who was unhappy with the decision was the prince. He couldn't believe his little sister was better than him, but he kept his mouth shut because he knew he would get over it eventually.
For Sam & Stella