Once upon a time there was an elderly, wrinkly princess with grey hair and a surly attitude.
Princess Blanche had grown old, waiting for a prince to come. She was the tenth of sixteen children, from five different mothers. Legally speaking, three of those children didn’t exist, but as a child she played with them anyway, as they were kind and friendly.
Princess Blanche had no hope of reaching the throne. The eight “legitimate” – how she hated that word – heirs ahead of her had all proved quite robust. It was the third wife of her father who gave birth to the younger simpering idiots who marched bravely off to war and were promptly killed. If only her older siblings had followed suit.
So Blanche waited for the perfect prince to come along and sweep her off her feet, as she had been told must happen. When she turned twenty, wiser in the world, she waited for a decent prince to come along so her parents could place her in a politically expedient marriage. When she reached twenty-five, she knew she would be a spinster for the rest of her life, and so retired to the upper towers to knit and grow cynical.
As the years went by, the kingdom grew and shrank, and Blanche shrank and grew. To prepare for her seventy-fifth birthday, and to celebrate surviving the fourth great plague of her lifetime – as well as the routine measles, mumps, fevers, bacterial infections, and assorted other ailments that only the gods can treat – she sat in the throne room, to the far left, the eighth chair after the doddering old king, and waited for the diplomatic retinue recently arrived from the nearby kingdom, with whom they had been at war for some forty-two years.
The main doors opened grandly, and a gang of smartly-dressed royals marched in, each pulling off their riding gloves in the most pretentious manner possible. Blanche eyed them all one by one, until her eyes fell on a sweet-looking geriatric in a simple purple robe, lightly lined with ermine. His eyes were a warm brown, his skin like the mountains protecting their kingdoms from the trolls, and he raised his eyebrows when he caught sight of Blanche.
As the head diplomat announced himself, Blanche blushed and smiled at the old man near the back of the gang. He smiled back. She considered falling in love, but knew that would just be ridiculous. Still, she thought, I’ll have to talk to that man later.