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The Princess and the Pea - All Maps Welcome
I Know I'm Right Running Into This Night Running Another Dream To The Ground
The Princess and the Pea
Over at merry_fates the authors Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton and Brenna Yovanoff are having a competition so this is my entry.

This was the Prompt

The Princess and the Pea.

The Queen hated her on sight. Margery wasn’t really surprised. She was not the kind of princess a royal mother wanted for their son. The other princesses had skin that was soft and smooth and pale as milk or rich as cinnamon or dark and gleaming like ebony. Her own skin was darkened nut brown and freckled from the sun and her hands were rough and callused. The other princesses had their hair arranged in elaborate styles or gleaming in waves or braided with jewels and precious stones. Her own hair was her one vanity and it still swung soft and simply to her waist, a dull brown not gleaming gold or russet red or thick and dark as pitch.

But the queen’s hatred was more than simple distain at her appearance. A look of distaste had flittered across the queen’s face when Margery was announced. Margery thought that perhaps the queen had heard of her father’s methods of educating his daughters and disapproved, like so many before her. Her father had raised her and her sisters as he would have raised his sons. He allowed each of them to find their talents and instructed them to use them to be of service to their country and their people.

Her sister Abigail was the eldest and she was raised to rule. She had spent her childhood travelling around their country meeting the people and learning about how they lived and worked. She learned the geography of their country, its resources and its industry. She began sitting in on their father’s council meetings when she was eight and spent time apprenticed to all the members of the council. When she was fourteen she decided to spend a year and a day living with a poor farmer’s family so that she could truly understand the lives of her people. And the people loved her.

Alexandra, the second eldest, loved to learn. She wanted to know about everything, how everything worked. Their father hired the best tutors for her and bought her all the books and scientific equipment she wanted. She had studied medicine with the royal physician and would spend hours listening to the old men who ran the royal college. Two years ago she married the Prince of M. Just because his palace had one of the largest libraries in the world and well, Margery remembered that there may have been something about how intelligent and gentle and handsome he was too.

Penelope, the youngest, had accidently set fire to the curtains in her nursery when she was two and they had all known that she would take after their mother. She spent most of her time studying the Secrets in their mother’s tower. She also had the healing touch. When Peter, the stable boy had taken a kick to the head, Penelope laid her hands upon him and recovered his wits. He had followed her around like a puppy ever since. Their mother thought so much of Penelope’s gift that she was talking of sending her to the forest to study with the Wise Woman for a time.

And Margery herself, well she would be the first to admit that she had run a little wild. She had a troop of dogs that she had collected over the years, who followed her around the castle. She spent her time in the stables or riding, talking with the stable hands or her father’s Masters of Horse and Hounds. She went into the forest with her father’s woodcraftsmen, who hunted wild boar and deer for the table and taught her the ways of plant and arrow, bow and tree. She learned sword with the squires and horse with the stable boys. She began breeding her own horses at nine and everyone said she had the truest shot in the palace. Not that these talents would impress the Queen.

Over the days it became obvious that the Queen was testing the princesses’ talents and aptitudes and Margery had gotten off to a bad start. It wasn’t just that the Queen didn’t like her she had also clearly brought the wrong kind of gifts. The other princesses had all brought gifts that represented all the resources and wealth that their countries had to offer. Margery’s father on the other hand had thought it was a good idea for her to bring gifts that would represent what she had to offer. So the warhorse that she had bred especially for her father was presented to a king she knew nothing of and his sons who were reckless, vain and weak. The best pup from her favourite hound’s most recent litter was handed over to their Master of Hound, who at least knew the value of what he was being given.

The pup had stayed with her throughout their long journey and they had both grown attached. From the very first night he began escaping from the kennels and following his nose to wherever she was. This of course was another black mark against her in the Queen’s book. In fact there was very little that Margery could do to recommend herself to the Queen. Her tests all involved sewing or etiquette or some brand of the feminine arts that Margery had no knowledge of. Her tapestries looked like balls of thread, knotted and twisted. She couldn’t paint or sketch. She couldn’t play music or sing, well she could sing but the only songs she knew were the bawdy sailor songs that she and her sisters had learned on their trip to Alex’s wedding in M or the childish lullabies her mother had sung to them as children.

By the end of a week of feasts and dances and being poked and prodded by the Queen Margery was more than happy to be hated on her own merits. Then on the final night before the official marriage proposals would be made the Queen announced the final test and Margery knew exactly why the Queen didn’t like her.

“The final test,” the Queen said, “will be a test to reveal who is a true princess. A princess of blood as well as manner and breeding.”

Margery knew immediately that this test was aimed at her. The Queen had obviously heard the rumours about her mother. Her parents never paid any attention to those rumours, as if it really mattered whether her mother was really a princess who was kidnapped or the witch’s own daughter who she had locked up in the tower. All that mattered to them was that they had fallen in love and then her father had rescued her mother and afterwards she had repaid him by rescuing him. That was all that should matter to anyone as far as Margery was concerned. She felt a flame of anger burning in her chest and decided that no matter what she would pass this final test, for her mother if for nothing else.

She waited all night for the test to begin but nothing happened. Finally they were directed to their bed chambers and there she found what had to be the final test. Her bed was piled high with mattresses; a ladder perched hazardously against them. She shook her head at the sight. She had thought the Queen was mean, vindictive and not very nice but at no time during the week she had spent in the castle had she thought that she was crazy, until now. She had no idea what this was intended to test, perhaps balance was a necessary skill for a princess that she had not known about.

She climbed the ladder slowly, her lady’s maid clutching the bottom of it to hold it steady. She breathed a sigh of relief when she reached the top. She dismissed her maid and lay down to try and sleep. After twisting and turning for what felt like an hour Margery finally decided that she was going to give it all up as a lost cause. She didn’t care what any queen thought of her, particularly one that would pile twenty uncomfortable mattresses on her bed and try to force her to sleep on them. She grabbed the blanket from the bed and slipped down the ladder. She would spend the night in the stables. At least there she would be comfortable.

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