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The Princess in the Tower

Author's note: So this is actually like a story within a story.  In another book I was writing, the main...  Show full author's note »
Author's note:

So this is actually like a story within a story.  In another book I was writing, the main character was reading a book about Princess Hannah and Sir Frederic, and I figured, "Hey, I can work with this!"  So this is the story a main character in another story was reading, if that makes any sense at all.

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Chapter Three

“Frederic,” said the king the day after the young former carpenter got his request approved, “this is Sir Timothy. He will be teaching you everything you need to know about knights.”
Frederic bowed to the knight, but Sir Timothy burst into merry laughter and clapped him on the shoulder. “No need for that, my little man!” said the knight. “We treat each other as equals, understand?”
“Yes, sir,” said Frederic, grinning.
“Splendid,” the king said. “I will leave you two, then. Queen Margaret and I have some business to discuss.”
As the king walked away, Sir Timothy bent down and whispered in Frederic’s ear, “Probably ordering new clothes for the party when Hannah gets home.” Frederic looked up at Sir Timothy, surprised, and Sir Timothy winked down at him. “Now,” said the knight, a little more business-like (but not much), “The first thing I want you to do is to bring me back the biggest rock you can find.”
“Right now, sir?” said Frederic.
“Yes, of course right now! And don’t call me ‘sir’, that’s so formal! Just call me Timothy.”
Frederic nodded, a little scared to do anything else, and ran off, searching for a nice, big stone. He found one by the moat of the castle, and he actually had to dive into the river to get it, but he didn’t mind; he was an excellent swimmer and loved the water. When he came back, he found Sir Timothy laughing and joking with another knight, and he placed it by Timothy’s feet.
“Is this a good one, sir – I mean –” He glanced nervously at the other knight. “Timothy. Is this a good one, Timothy?”
Timothy screwed up his eyes, examining the stone Frederic had brought. “Hmm… Well, it is a nice rock, I’ll give you that. But do you think it’s very big?”
Frederic did, in fact, think it very big, but he didn’t say so. He just obediently said, “I’ll get another,” and ran off again.
Each rock he got was twice as big as the last one, but Sir Timothy still didn’t seem satisfied. Finally, after rolling a boulder half his size, Timothy blinked in surprise and asked, a little hesitantly, “Can you… find a bigger one and bring it to me?”
Frederic inwardly groaned. He bent over, blinking sweat out of his eyes and staring with dismay at the array of stones at Sir Timothy’s feet. But he just nodded, once, and turned to find another, bigger, rock. He did find one, on the bank of the moat, stuck in the mud. Looking around to make sure no one was there, he let out a true, frustrated groan and kicked the mud, sending dirt spraying into the river. Then he shook his head, dug his heels into the ground, and shoved with all his might against the boulder.
This one was just as big as him; in other times he and Hannah would have struggled to be king of it, scrambling up its side. But now, all Frederic could think about was moving it, if only an inch. He managed only to sink his feet deeper into the mud. Finally, he had to give up and walk sulkily back to Timothy, ashamed.
“Sir Timothy,” he said when he had found the knight examining the stones he had already brought back, “I couldn’t do it. I’m sorry.”
Timothy looked up from the stones and realized that Frederic was truly upset that he couldn’t find a bigger rock. He grasped the boy’s shoulders and lifted his head so that their eyes met. Then he did something Frederic was not expecting: he smiled.
“Yes, you did do it,” he said. “You got the biggest rock you could carry, and then some. Don’t be mad, Frederic. I actually have no purpose for these stones. I just wanted to see how far you would go before you gave up, and I was expecting you to give up a lot sooner. So thank you, for trying like a true knight.”
Frederic smiled at Timothy, feeling, for the first time in a long time, proud of himself. Then he and the knight turned and headed inside the castle, both looking forward to a nice dinner and an even nicer bed.

Princess Hannah repeatedly hit her head on the side of the tower, eyes downcast, hair curtaining her face. “I’m so… so… There isn’t even a word to describe what I am right now! I’m beyond boredom,” she groaned, once more slamming her forehead onto the wall. She stopped then, because it was beginning to hurt.
“I’ve been up here for a week now, and everything is exactly the same every day,” she complained to no one, scratching another tally onto the floor. The first time she had done this, she had been a little angry with herself for caving into a cliché. She didn’t care, now. Now, it was something to do, if not for only a second or two.
“I wake up, eat a magical breakfast that’s the same as it was yesterday, get a new dress out of the wardrobe, maybe talk to Sir Dragon, if he isn’t hunting who knows what, and then sit and dream for the rest of the day. Dull.”
“Dreaming isn’t all bad,” a rumbling voice said behind her. “And I usually hunt cows.”
Hannah turned around and raced to the window, glad that Sir Dragon had come back from his morning flight. “Hello, Sir Dragon,” she sang, perching herself on the windowsill. “Did you catch any today?”
“No, Princess Hannah. I was just flying today.”
“What did you see?”
“The same thing I see every day,” said the dragon, like he said almost every day. “I saw the sea to my right as I flew north, and the forest to my left, with all sorts of creatures in it.”
“What sort of creatures, Sir Dragon?” This was Hannah’s favorite part of the day, because it allowed her to escape the tower for a little while.
“Well, I don’t always see them, but I know that unicorns run free by the forest’s streams, and phoenixes fly overhead, igniting the dark night with their bright flames. There are also elves and fairies, who many a tired stranger falls victim under their enchanting songs.”
“Are there any evil creatures, Sir Dragon?”
“Oh, yes. There are plenty. Trolls and goblins, and sly, smaller dragons than myself who like to strike at travelers’ heels and disappear before the lonely men know what happened to them.”
Hannah sighed with longing. “I wish I could travel in those woods. That would be an adventure.”
Sir Dragon cocked his old, gray head to the side. “Should a princess long for adventure?”
“Well, perhaps not,” Hannah said after thinking about this. “But all the same, I would like it.”
Growling affectionately, Sir Dragon turned his head to go, but Hannah stopped him. “Wait!” she called. “Please, I… I want to talk to you some more.”
“Unfortunately, that is something neither you nor I can control,” Sir Dragon replied, amber eyes narrowing with sadness. “The witch Morgan does not wish for her…”
“Does not wish for her captive to be happy,” Hannah droned. “I know that, Sir Dragon, but please? Could you not fight her enchantments just for another minute or two?”
The dragon turned his back to the window, shaking his wings and dislodging old scales, which fell to the ground like gray snow. “I have tried. I am trying now. But I must leave now. Forgive me, little princess.” He dove into his cavern, and Hannah stomped her bare foot with frustration.
“I hate that stupid Morgan,” she whispered. “I don’t care if that brings a greater peril to me than the one I am now. I don’t! I hate her and I will always hate her and I wish her dead!”
She waited. She waited for the thunder and lightning that would strike her dead. She waited for Morgan herself to appear inside the tower and start hurling fireballs with rage. For she thought, if a woman was powerful enough to keep a dragon from talking to her, surely that same woman would be able to hear everything she wished to hear? But Hannah waited in vain, and after a few moments, she sat down on the bed and stared at the floor, miserable beyond belief.

“No, Frederic,” Timothy said, shaking his head. “You’re still too frightened. You’re holding the sword like it’s going to bite your arm off; you’re holding it like it’s a big metal stick.”
Frederic let his arm drop, the tip of the sword clinking against the ground. “But it is a big metal stick,” he said. For a week, Sir Timothy had been trying to teach him to use a sword and shield, but still Frederic couldn’t master either. It frustrated him, and he felt bad for letting Timothy down.
“No, it’s not,” said Sir Timothy, drawing his own sword and holding it in front of him. “The sword is an extension of your arm; you should feel like it’s part of you.”
With a sigh, Frederic hefted his sword up so the blade was at eye level. “I’ll try. Now show me that move again. I don’t want to leave today until I’ve mastered it.”
Timothy smiled and obeyed. They drilled the one move over and over, until the sun was low in the sky and the first stars had just begun to shine. Finally, Timothy said, “Alright, enough. It is almost night. Go to bed, Frederic, you’ve done well today.” Frederic bowed and scurried to his room, but he did not go to bed. He held his sword in front of his face, furrowed his brow at it, and murmured, “I will be able to use you correctly. So don’t try to stop me! I have a princess to save and if you don’t cooperate, I won’t be able to save her. So please work with me.”
When Sir Timothy came to wake him the next morning, he found Frederic crumpled on the floor, his sword still grasped in his hand.
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