The Forgetful Princess
The young princess rode quietly next to her mother, Queen Shaelyn. Today was a very important day for the princess. She was going to the next kingdom to meet the man she was to marry next year. The princess’s horse stepped lively over the rocky road and Queen Shelyn’s horse danced carefully along. Around them rode King Soren’s special guards protecting Queen Shaelyn and the princess from the bandits who haunted this road.
All was very still on the forest road when suddenly bandits appeared all around them. The guards acted quickly and swords were drawn. The battle was fierce. One of King Soren’s guards led Queen Shaelyn and princess away from the battle but just as they were getting away, he was knocked off his horse by a bandit’s club.
“Flee!” cried Queen Shaelyn as she urged her horse to go faster down a small trail leading off the road.
“I’m coming!” shouted the princess and she followed the queen down the path.
Soon the path split in two different paths. Queen Shaelyn’s horse slowed just a little blocking one of the paths and the princess’s horse was going too fast. The princess’s horse took the other path at full speed. In just a few moments she was far from the guards and from the queen. The princess looked behind her to see if she was being followed and did not see the large branch hanging across the path. Knocked from her running horse, Ella fell on the rocky path, hitting her head on a large stone, and rolled down a steep hill, landing next to a large stream.
When the princess opened her eyes, she saw three beautiful young girls staring at her.
“Who are you?” asked the youngest.
“Why are you here?” asked the middle one.
“Where did you come from?” asked the oldest.
“I don’t remember where I came from,” said the princess to the oldest.
“I don’t know why I am here but I think I have fallen and hurt my head,” said the princess to the middle girl.
“I don’t remember who I am but who are you?” the princess said to the youngest girl.
“I am Brilee. This is my older sister, Kessa and this is my oldest sister, Whitney,” said Brilee, her light blue eyes shinning brightly.
“We come from the village at the top of the hill,” said Kessa, smiling.
Whitney sighed. “We are here to get water. We saw your pretty dress sparkling in the sun. It is a very pretty dress. Too bad it is all dirty.”
“Where are you going?” asked Brilee.
“How will you get there?” asked Kessa.
“I really don’t know where I was going. I don’t know how to get there,” said the princess.
“Do you have a place to stay?” asked Whitney.
The princess began to cry. “I don’t know who I am, where I am going, how I am going to get there. I don’t remember anything at all! I don’t have a place to sleep or food to eat,” she sobbed quietly and sweetly.
“You can stay with us and be our oldest older sister!” said Brilee happily.
“We have an extra bed in our house, though not much food” said Kessa.
“Our mother was taken by bandits and made into a slave. Our father is away in King Soren’s army, looking for the bandits,” said Whitney. “You may use their bed for now.”
The princess nodded. “I am most sorry about your mother and father but I shall like to stay with you if I may.”
Whitney helped the princess from the ground.
Kessa picked up the princess’s cape. “This will make a nice blanket for you at night even though it is torn and dirty,” she said.
Everyone picked up the water buckets. Even the princess picked up a water bucket though the wooden handle hurt her tender hands.
When the young girls got to town, they crossed the main plaza to a small yellow house with a thatched roof and a lazy stream of smoke rising from the chimney.
Whitney opened the door and the girls all walked inside with their water buckets. The princess was glad to put the water bucket down because her hands hurt so much from the rough handle.
“We all work to earn enough money to eat. If you stay with us, you must also find work.”
The princess nodded.
“We need to call you by a name,” said Kessa. “Can we call you Eirelyn for now?”
“I do need a name,” said the princess. “Eirelyn is a very beautiful name. I like it.”
“We have soup for dinner tonight, “ said Brilee. And they all sat down at the rough wooden table to eat supper.
The next day, Eirelyn was still sleeping when everyone else was ready for work.
Kessa woke her saying, “It is time to be up for work. You can go with Whitney today. She works at the inn and they need a new cleaning maid.”
The innkeeper’s wife hired Eirelyn that morning. Her first task was changing beds but Eirelyn didn’t know how to change beds. The blankets were all loose and crooked. Her next task was washing dishes but she didn’t know how to wash dishes. She broke many plates and she didn’t get the cups all clean. Her last task of the day was to dust the inn’s tables and chairs but she didn’t know how to dust. Many of the tables and chairs had streaks of dust on them. The innkeeper’s wife fired Eirelyn that night. After paying for all the dishes she broke, Eirelyn only had enough money to buy a single loaf of bread.
“Don’t worry,” said Whitney, “Kessa works with the miller. She said there was lots of work now that harvest season is here. I think you could work there.”
The next day Eirelyn went to the mill. The miller’s wife hired her on the spot. There was only one task Eirelyn had to do. She put the grain from the sacks onto the grinding wheel. But Eirelyn did not know oats or barley or wheat or any other grain. Three times she put two different kinds of grain on the grinding stone. Three times she mixed the grounded grain. Before the day was over, the miller’s wife fired her. She did not get any money because she had ruined so many batches of flour.
“Don’t worry,” said Kessa, “ Brilee works with a seamstress. Everyone knows how to sew. You can go to work with her tomorrow.”
Early in the morning, Eirelyn went to work with Brilee. The seamstress said she had heard about the girl that didn’t know how to wash dishes or how to make a bed or how to tell grains one from another but everyone knows how to sew. The seamstress hired Eirelyn. But Eirelyn didn’t know how to sew. Her stitches were too big, her seams too tight, her buttons too loose but worst of all her fingers bled because she kept poking them with the needle. The seamstress shook her head. She could not take the time to teach Eirelyn what everyone else knew. She fired her but gave her enough money to buy fresh milk for the house.
“Don’t worry,” said Brilee, “there will be something you can do.”
But Eirelyn only shook her head and cried softly to herself. If only she could remember who she was and how to do things again.
As they crossed the plaza together, Eirelyn spotted a poster on the main post. She stopped to look at the poster.
“Two women of King’s Soren’s court have been captured by bandits and there is a call for all to help find them,” said Eirelyn.
Brilee’s eyes went wide. “You can read?” she whispered softly in awe.
“Well, yes, I guess I can read. Can’t everyone read?” asked Eirelyn.
“Oh no! Only some people can read. Only very special people can read.”
“I know how to read. I must not have forgotten even though I forgot how to sew or make beds or choose grains.”
“Can your teach me how to read? I will teach you how to sew. Please, teach me to read!” Brilee said as she took Eirelyn’s hand pleadingly.
“Of course I will teach you to read and I should like very much to learn how to sew. I think this is a fair trade,” Eirelyn replied. “I still need to find a way to earn money for my food, though.”
Brilee thought for a long time. “I know,” she said at last, “maybe others will want to learn to read. You could teach them!”
When they reached home, Brilee told Kessa and Whitney all about their plan.
“Teach me to read. Please.” begged Kessa. “I will teach you all about grains. I will teach you all about many kinds of other foods, too.”
“I would like to learn as well,” said Whitney, “and I will teach you all about dusting, making beds and washing dishes. I don’t think, though, many people will come to you to learn to read. Everyone works hard all day and they take care of the family and house at night. There is no time to learn reading. We will learn because you live with us.”
The next day Eirelyn did not go to the inn or to the mill or to the seamstress’s home. She walked around the small village looking for work. She did not know how to make horseshoes or plows, so she could not work at the blacksmith’s. She did not know how to serve food and ale, so she could not work at the alehouse.
As she walked, several men on horseback rode through the small village. A small child running to see fell in front of one of the horses. Eirelyn swept in and pick up the child, saving him from being trampled. The horsemen continued to the blacksmith’s, not caring about a small village child. The little one cried and cried from fear and from the scrape on his knee.
“Where are you mother and father?” Eirelyn asked.
“In the fields,” sobbed the child.
“You are all alone?” asked Eirelyn.
The child nodded, still crying.
“Hush now. Let me see your knee. Oh, it is not too bad,” said Eirelyn as she wiped away the dirt. “Hey now, have you heard the story of the house that grew too big?”
“No,” said the child, his crying slowing.
“Would you like to hear it?”
The child nodded and Eirelyn began the story. Soon several little children were at her feet, listening to her story. She drew pictures in the dirt and wrote words like door and window under the pictures. She had the children say the letters of the words aloud each time the story talked about a door or window or roof.
That night after the children returned home, a knock came on the girls’ door. Outside stood a man and a woman with four children. The little boy was with them
“We heard that you saved our little Jimmy. We don’t have much but we can give you these apples. Can he come and stay with you again tomorrow? We worry so much, leaving him alone but the field is too far and too dangerous for such a small one.”
Eirelyn took the four apples and smiled. “Yes, he can stay with me tomorrow while I look for work.”
The next day, though, many of the small children whose mothers and fathers were working, came to sit with Eirelyn. This day she told them the tale of the princess who had too many animals. Each time she spoke of an animal, she wrote its name in the dirt and had the children spell the name aloud. Some of the children brought small gifts to her; a piece of bread, a scrap of cloth, or a bit of wood.
By the end of the week, Eirelyn had not found work but she had enough wood to make the fire up for the next few days and enough food so that she would not go hungry.
And so Eirelyn, Whitney, Kessa, and Brilee lived very well all through the summer harvest. Eirelyn still wished to remember who she was. Whitney, Kessa, and Brilee still wished their father would find their mother so they could be a family again. But they were warm and had food, so the girls did not complain.
The first day of fall, Prince Jace rode into town. He was staying at the inn with all of his men, resting before they went in search of the bandits who had taken his wife to be and her mother.
That afternoon, Prince Jace was walking to the stables when he saw Eirelyn telling her tales to the small children of the village.
“You can read,” called the handsome prince.
“Yes, I can, sire,” said Eirelyn as she curtsied and nodded for the children to do the same.
“I would have use of your skill, Miss, if you would be so kind as to give it,” Prince Jace said as he approached the young girl. “I have need of someone who can read and write so that I may send and receive reports from all the squad commanders. Some of my men can read but I need everyone of them to train and to hunt for my wife to be.”
“Sire, I should be most honored,” replied Eirelyn still in her curtsy.
“Come then, stand up and walk with me to the inn,” said Prince Jace.
As they walked, Prince Jace explained that he and his men would go out each day in search of the bandits’ camp. Every day or two, they would return here to the inn to receive and send reports. This was one of the last places to search and he hoped to find the missing women soon.
For many days, Eirelyn would arrive at the inn in time to see Prince Jace off. She would clean his room and make the bed. Whitney had taught her well. One day the prince came back to his room and found Eirelyn cleaning it. He was impressed at how well she did the job for he had thought it was the innkeeper’s girls who cleaned the room.
One day Prince Jace came in from a very rough ride. His cape and pants were torn. Quick as could be, Eirelyn mended his clothes. Brilee had taught her well. Prince Jace was impressed.
Near the end of the first week, Prince Jace came back in the middle of the day to send a report. Eirelyn brought a sack of oats for his horse. She fed the horse while Prince Jace told her what to write in the report. Prince Jace was impressed.
By the end of the second week, Eirelyn realized she was falling in love with Prince Jace. “He is so wonderful and kind,” she told Whitney. “He treats me very well,” she said to Brilee. “I love the way he laughs,” she confided in Kessa.
“You know he is a prince and cannot marry you, don’t you?” asked Whitney.
“He is looking for the woman he is to marry right now and it isn’t you, “ said Kessa.
“I think he would be perfect for you and then we could all live in a palace and everything,” said Brilee.
Each day Prince Jace spent more and more time with Eirelyn when he was in the village. He said very nice things to her each time they met. Then one day he kissed her.
“Forgive me!” he cried. “I am to wed another but I think I love you so! This will not do. I have promised King Soren to marry his daughter and I can do nothing else. I am truly sorry. We must not work together any longer.” With that he strode back to the stable, got on his horse, and rode out of town.
“You know that you could never marry a prince. You are not of royal blood,” said Whitney.
“He is already promised to the girl he searches for,” said Kessa.
“I shall miss the palace and all the fun we could have had,” said Brilee.
Eirelyn sobbed quietly.
Slowly, over the next few days, everything returned to normal. The girls went to work and Eirelyn went back to telling stories to the young children of the village.
One evening, as the fire was burning low, the front door of the small house burst open and in came two women and a man.
“Father!” cried Whitney.
“Mother!” cried Kessa.
“Who are you?” asked Brilee, looking at the strange woman standing behind Brilee’s mother.
The girls hugged their father and mother, all laughing and sobbing for joy. Eirelyn stayed deep in a dark corner watching the reunion.
“This woman says she is Queen Shaelyn,” said their father. “She was captured by the same bandits that held your mother.”
“She and I worked together for many weeks,” said their mother.
All the girls, including Eirelyn curtsied before the queen.
“Well, now, who taught you the proper way to curtsy? Come now stand up and look at me,” said Queen Shaelyn.
“Eirelyn taught us when Prince Jace came to the village,” said Whitney.
“He asked her to help him while he looked for his wife to be because she can read,” said Kessa.
“She’s in love with him so he left,” said Brilee.
“It is true Prince Jace is to wed another. He is to marry my daughter. But I thought she had gotten away from the bandits. I never saw her in their camp,” said Queen Shaelyn. “Where is this Eirelyn?”
The girls parted and pointed into the dark corner.
“Come girl, out of the shadows, where we can have a good look at you,” said their father.
“She doesn’t know who she is, father,” said Whitney.
“We found her by the stream one day looking scared,” said Kessa.
“She didn’t know anything about how to clean or sew or grains or food or anything, except how to read,” said Brilee. “She had really nice clothes, though,” she added.
Eirelyn stepped from the shadows and Queen Shaelyn took a short breath. “Ella, is that you? My dear Ella Rose! I thought you were safe at home!”
Eirelyn looked up into the queen’s face as the queen rushed to hold her. “Mother?” she said questioningly. Then her memories flooded back to her. “Mother!” she cried as she fell into the queen’s arms, happy not only to see her mother again but happy to know who she was.
All sat down and the tales were told. The girls told the tale of finding Eirelyn or as they now knew, Princess Ella. Princess Ella told the tale of how she had to learn so many new things. The girls’ father told of the how he had searched everywhere for the bandits who seemed just one step ahead of his squad at all times. The girls’ mother and Queen Shaelyn told how hard it was to be slaves in the bandits’ camp. It was especially difficult for Queen Shaelyn because she didn’t know how to cook or mend. Everyone had a good laugh at that because Ella had to learn those things, too.
“This means you will marry Prince Jace after all,” said Whitney.
“Won’t he be surprised to find out the girl he fell in love with is the girl he has to marry?” asked Kessa.
“And you get to live in a palace!” said Brilee and everyone laughed.