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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 Six

Princess Hannah stared at the floor, where her tallies of the days were scratched. She had come up with a system in order for her to tell accurately how much time had passed. After seven marks, she drew a line above the tallies to show a week. After four weeks, she drew a bigger line above the week marks to indicate a month. She hoped that she wouldn’t have to mark any years, but if she did she would scratch a third line above twelve months. Right now, there were one-hundred-eighty-two days, forty-five weeks, and six months carved into the wooden floor of her tower.
Sighing, she said to herself, “I’ve waited six months, and nothing has happened. But perhaps, if Sir Dragon was correct in saying that it took half of a year to get here, perhaps soon my rescuer will come.”
Hannah looked up from her tallies, eyes falling on the collection of bowls, plates, glasses, and silverware that stood at one end of her room. For reasons she didn’t know, after she was finished with her magical meals, the dishes would stay and new ones would appear at the next meal. All of those dishes were clean; the magic took the food away but left the bearers of the food for the princess to deal with. She had thrown many out of the window, but only every other week or so, and so there was always a pile by the foot of her bed.
Hannah cocked her head to the side, staring at the dishes and thinking. Then she got up and grabbed some, piling them in the center of the circular room. She made four pillars of bowls, plates, and glasses, being extra cautious of them falling over. Then she rushed to the bed and grabbed the blankets off, draping them very carefully over her pillars. She smiled. Before her, a fort stood in the middle of the room. She crawled into it.
Inside, light from the open window filtered through the blankets, turning the sunshine into a dull golden glow. It was warm and comfortable inside, and there was enough room for Princess Hannah to sit up. She didn’t. She curled up on the floor and closed her eyes, letting the magnified warmth of the sun fall on her face.
“Princess Hannah?”
Hannah jumped. Her eyes shot open, but she recognized Sir Dragon’s voice, and she closed her eyes again. “Hello, Sir Dragon,” she said.
“Princess Hannah, are you under those blankets?” Sir Dragon asked. He was peering into the room, his amber eye searching for the princess.
“Yes,” Hannah responded. “I’m here. Now please go away, Sir Dragon, I want to be alone.”
“Princess Hannah,” Sir Dragon said, concerned, “you never want to be alone.”
“I want to now. Don’t talk to me.”
Sir Dragon didn’t know what to do. He stood by her window for a few minutes, and then disappeared into his cavern. Hannah heard his wings as they brushed against the tower, and she lifted her head. “Sir Dragon?” she called, sticking her head out of her fort. She didn’t see the dragon’s eyes at the window, like she was so used to seeing. “He left me,” she whispered. Retreating into her fort, she began to cry.
She couldn’t understand her own frustration. Although her words seemed to push Sir Dragon away, Hannah needed him the most at that moment. Her words contradicted her emotions, but her response confirmed them. And she was angry at Sir Dragon for not realizing that under her false commands, she was really crying out for him to stay.
Princess Hannah sobbed on the wooden floor of her circular prison. Curling in on herself, her hand brushed the marks of the days she had been absent from home. She grabbed at something, anything, wanting a hug and settling for a false one. Her arms closed around her pillar of plates and bowls. The pillar fell, causing the three other pillars to tumble and fall as the blanket fluttered onto Hannah.
Hannah screamed as plates, bowls, goblets, and a blanket crashed around her. She hugged the one bowl she had been able to grasp closer to her, as if it could keep her safe from the shattering dishes. When all was quiet, and the blanket from the bed had settled on top of the princess, Hannah remained silent. Tears still leaked from her eyes. She was tempted to start crying again, but she had just thought of something.
Today was Frederic’s birthday. They were born exactly a year and a half apart, and so today was also Hannah’s half-birthday. Under the blankets and amid the shattered remains of her empty dishes, Princess Hannah began to softly sing.
“Happy birthday to you.” She sniffed. “Happy birthday to you.” A smile twitched at the corner of her lips. “Happy birthday dear Frederic. Happy birthday to you.” She closed her eyes. A single tear fell down her cheek. “I miss you.”

Frederic felt weird. He was fourteen now, but that wasn’t why he felt weird. He felt weird because, ever since he could remember, Hannah had given him a present on his birthday, and he had given her one on her half-birthday. But today, his fourteenth birthday, Hannah was not here to give presents, or to receive them.
“Frederic,” Sir Timothy said, “are you alright?”
Frederic replaced the dagger the knight had given him back in its case. “Yes. I’m fine. Thank you, Timothy. But…” He hesitated. Timothy’s kind brown eyes were big and attentive and encouraging. “Hannah’s usually here.”
Timothy sighed. “I know you miss her, Frederic. Everyone does. You and the king and queen more than anyone. But King Oliver has sent word to all the neighboring countries, and soon we’ll have an army of noble princes and knights questing to save her.”
“One of them has to be her true love,” he whispered, staring at the floor.
“Pardon?” Sir Timothy said, unable to hear his squire’s quiet voice.
“One of them must be her true love, if they ever want to save her,” Frederic said, only slightly louder.
Timothy leaned back, staring at Frederic knowingly. “You don’t think any of them are going to be her true love, do you Frederic?”
Blushing, Frederic stammered, “Well, I mean… No, when you put it like that, I don’t. I think… I think you can’t have a true love without knowing each other first. It’s… It’s silly. And I think impossible.”
“Yes,” Sir Timothy said, smiling. “You’re most likely right.”
Frederic nodded. “Yes. I am.”
“Yes you are. Now, I know that it’s your birthday, but Miss Abigail wanted to tell you about magical creatures, and such.”
“Who?” Frederic asked, confused.
Standing up, Sir Timothy began to leave Frederic’s small room. “Miss Abigail,” he said at the door. “I believe she’s waiting in the library.”
Slightly perplexed, Frederic left his room, leaving his new dagger on his bed. Upon entering the library, he was shocked to find Teacher waiting by the door.
“Teacher!” he said, astonished. “It’s you! Sir Timothy told me… I didn’t know it was you.”
Teacher smiled. “Hello Frederic. Yes, I do have a name. Are you surprised?”
If Frederic was to be honest with her, he would have replied, “Yes.” However, he knew this was probably rude, so he said, “I guess I always knew that you must have a name, but I never gave it much thought.”
“Princess Hannah has given me a name, and so my birth name was never remembered.” Teacher sighed. “I don’t mind. I do wish her back, though.”
Frederic nodded. “Me too.”
The two sat silently for a few seconds. Then Teacher, suddenly brisk, clapped her hands and said, “Now. If you’re going to go through dangerous forests filled with dangerous beasts, then you must learn about these magical creatures. Although, honestly, I should be giving this lesson to anyone who wants to save the princess and not just you. But I don’t think many people will listen to me, and so I’m stuck with you.”
She turned around, grabbed a stack of books from a nearby table, and handed them to Frederic. “Read these, take notes, and we’ll meet tomorrow.”
Frederic blushed, staring at the books in his hands. The letters on the cover of the book on top looked to him like magical symbols that would take years to decipher. “Um… Teacher,” he said quietly, “I can’t read.”
Teacher blinked at him. “How can you not read?”
“No one ever taught me how. And I never needed to know.”
Grabbing the worn books from Frederic, Teacher groaned and set the books down with a thud. Seating herself at a table and gesturing vaguely for Frederic to do the same, she reached for a quill and piece of parchment. With neat and patient strokes, Teacher began to write the alphabet.
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