Now for the new snippet.
“Well, what kind of story do you want to hear?” I asked her.
“I want to hear a story about a proper princess.” “Who has a pony.” “And a knight.” “And something really scary.” Well, I only asked one of them but ideas were bouncing everywhere.
I put one hand up. “That’s enough. So somewhere far away, there lived a lovely princess called …”
“Yes, exactly, her name was Daisy. And she was growing up in a castle because that’s where all princesses live, right?”
Every head nodded at that.
“Princess Daisy was very very bored. She had lessons; music, dance, geography, languages, history, and more. And she knew how to sew and do a variety of fancy stitches and everything else that a princess needs to know. But it wasn’t what she wanted to do.”
“What Princess Daisy wanted to do was to go explore the world beyond the castle. What good was learning geography if you never left the place you were born? Why learn a language that you never used? Why not visit some of the places mentioned in history?”
“But wouldn’t she travel with her clan?”
“No, her parents, her family always stayed in the same place. She never got to go outside at all. So one day, she decided that she was old enough and she wanted to go into the world away from her castle. So first she borrowed clothes from…”
The children looked at each other. “A maid?” “A servant?” “Someone who tended the ponies?”
“She borrowed clothes from the boy who tended the ponies. ‘You have to promise not to tell anyone.’ She said. ‘I cannot lie to the king,’ he replied. ‘If the king asks, I must tell him everything.’”
“Princess Daisy had to think about this but she realised that the boy could be in real trouble if he didn’t talk to the king. ‘Well, ok. You have my leave to tell the king if he asks.’ ‘Thank you, Princess,’ he replied. Now once Princess Daisy was wearing the clothes of the boy, the ponies seemed to like her a lot better. They all gathered around her, looking for treats. She looked at the ponies and picked a pretty white one with many deep brown spots.”
“Now the princess knew a little about riding but not a lot. Sometimes her family rode the ponies for special occasions but they never actually rode them very far. So she had to have the help of the boy who tended the ponies to put the proper riding gear on it.” While I have seen a few beast being ridden, I had no clue what the equipment meant be called.
“She watched what he did very carefully and tried to remember everything. She did know that once she left, no one would know she was a princess and they might not do things for her. When he had finished, she gave him a coin and rode the pony toward the big castle gates.”
“Now Princess Daisy was very brave or she would never have decided to see the world. But once she was on the other side of the gates, she was very frightened indeed. The road went through a forest and the princess had never seen so many big trees before. She rode cautiously along the road, wondering if she were doing the right thing. But it was a nice day and the princess liked how the light looked as it came through the trees. She slowly relaxed.”
“As evening came, she realised that she hadn’t considered what to do at night. Her bed was far away and she couldn’t see any lights or anything at all. ‘Well, Spots,’ she said to her pony. The pony snorted at her, it was trying to say it was tired and very hungry after a long day of work, but the princess didn’t speak pony. Finally, she was just too tired and she still couldn’t find any place to sleep. She slid off the pony and stumbled to a nearby bit of grass.”
“While the princess was still asleep, the pony decided it had enough nonsense already and started the journey home. So the princess woke, she hurt all over because she hadn’t slept on her beautiful bed and the pony was nowhere to be seen. ‘Oh dear,’ thought Princess Daisy. ‘This isn’t the best start to seeing the world. Still, I’m not ready to go home yet.’ So she decided to continue on down the road.”
I took a long pause and had a big drink. Not one of the children made a single sound while I had my drink. I put down the cup and just looked at them for a moment.
“Now a princess learns many things but there’s still a lot she doesn’t know. If she had known what to do with the pony at night, it wouldn’t have wandered away. And after she’d been walking down the road for a few hours, she discovered a new thing. That was that walking can make your feet hurt when you aren’t used to it. She sat down and rubbed her feet but soon after she started walking again, they started hurting again.”
“So the princess was very happy when she heard the sound of hooves on the road. Soon someone would come along and then she wouldn’t have to walk any further. When the rider was near, the princess stood in the middle of the road. ‘I demand a ride to the nearest town,’ she said. ‘Boy!’ replied the rider. ‘If I had time, I’d teach you better manners. Since I don’t have time for that, I’ll leave you to walk there.’ And he rode away.”
“Princess Daisy was very upset. No one had ever refused her anything before. She realised that she was dressed as a boy and finding a princess walking on the road might not happen too often. So she and her poor tired feet had to continue down the road. Another thing the princess was beginning to notice was that she was getting very hungry. She left before dinner the night before, no one brought her breakfast this morning and it was nearly time for a mid day meal.”
“So she was tired and hungry when she heard more hooves in the distance. This time, it didn’t sound like a rider but a wagon being pulled down the road. ‘So,’ the princess thought to herself. ‘I have to remember, they won’t know I’m a princess. They won’t do something because I tell them to.’”
“Again, she waited in the middle of the road. It was an old horse pulling a very ancient wagon. ‘Greetings,’ she said to the driver. ‘May I have a ride to the next town?’ The old woman stared at her and then nodded to the seat next to her. ‘You can have a ride if you like but Bess and I go slow these days. Might not get there any faster than you could have.’ Princess Daisy climbed up on the wagon. ‘I don’t mind, and thank you.’”
“‘Now my girl,’ said the old woman. ‘Why are you out on the road by yourself?’ ‘I’m a boy!’ protested the princess. The old woman stared at her for a moment and said flatly, ‘No, you aren’t. Clothes along won’t fool anyone for long. The road is a dangerous place for someone of your age.’ ‘Surely not. Our kingdom is known for how good the people are,’ declared the princess. ‘Believe me or not,’ said the old woman. ‘But don’t wander around too much at night by yourself. That’s just asking for trouble, that is.’”
“Well, the wagon reached town as dusk was falling. Princess Daisy remembered to thank the old woman then went off looking for food and a place to stay. It didn’t take her long to find an inn which served food and had beds for guests. ‘I’d like a room and food please,’ she told the host. He looked at the clothes and replied, ‘You’ve naught the money to pay, have you?’ Princess Daisy carefully pulled a half piece of silver from a pouch. ‘I do have money.’”
“The innkeeper took the coin and carefully looked at it. Then he hit her. ‘That’s for having stolen money, you young imp. There’s no one someone like you could have this much.’ The princess had been trying to be brave all day but this was the final straw. Tears flowed down her cheeks. ‘Tell you what lad. You can have a bowl of our stew and sleep in the hay outside the kitchen.’ While stew and hay certainly were not up to princess standards, she nodded. It would be better than no food and sleeping on the ground again.”
“The next morning, Princess Daisy quietly left. She wasn’t waiting to find out if the innkeeper was going to demand more coins or hit her again for stealing. The big world beyond her castle was so much stranger and more scary than she’d ever thought. Now when she reached the road, she had a choice. She could go back or go on. Now which do you think a princess would do?”
“No, she’d go on. It has to get better.”
“Princess Daisy went on. She was determined to see something of the world and a few little things should never stop a princess. Now what the princess didn’t know was that the king and queen were frightened for their only child. They knew that the princess wasn’t ready to explore, she was much too young yet. They asked everybody in the castle if they knew anything. Eventually, they even asked the boy who tended the ponies. ‘Oh yes, she borrowed my clothes yesterday,’ he told the king. ‘She also took a pony but the pony came home yesterday.’ Now the king and queen were frantic when they found out about the pony. ‘Anyone who returns my daughter safely will be rewarded with gold,’ the king proclaimed. Well, many people thought they could find the princess and so rushed off to start looking.”
“Princess Daisy had gotten very very thirsty following the road. She thought she heard water nearby and went searching for the stream. It didn’t take long for the princess to realise that she hadn’t heard a stream and she couldn’t find the road again. She was tired, thirsty and hungry again. Being lost was the final blow. She sank down to her knees and started crying. This time, she let herself cry for a long time, she hadn’t done that when the innkeeper hit her. When her tears finally stopped, she was even more tired but she did feel a bit better. ‘I just wish I knew how to get out of this dreadful forest,’ she said. ‘But why would anyone want to leave the forest?’ a voice behind her asked. Princess Daisy gasped, she hadn’t heard anything creeping up behind her. Now when she looked around, she nearly screamed. There was a monster behind her. It was huge, over twice as tall as she was. It was dark red with big purple spots and when it smiled…well, it had the biggest sharpest teeth the princess had ever seen. She was certain the monster was the one who had spoken, there was no one else she could see. ‘No offence, kind sir,’ she started. She decided to be extra polite to someone with such large teeth. ‘It’s just the forest is dark, and there’s no food and there’s no water and I don’t like it.’ ‘There’s plenty of food and water. You just have to know where.’ Poor Princess Daisy trembled. She was terribly afraid that the food the monster could see was one princess. It started to walk away. Princess Daisy thought that maybe this would be a way to be rid of the monster but it turned around and said, ‘Well? Come on then.’ She knew the monster could easily carry her away if it tried, so she followed it.”
“Now the monster first lead her to a stream. She drank her fill of the cold water. ‘At least I won’t be thirsty if the monster eats me now,’ she thought to herself. Then the monster took her to a little meadow and showed her some berries and small plants that she could eat. ‘At least I won’t be hungry if the monster eats me now.’ ‘Are you feeling better, little princess?’ the monster asked. ‘How did you know I’m a princess? I’m not wearing my proper clothes or anything.’ ‘Don’t you think a monster can smell a princess when they meet one?’ ‘On my,’ thought the princess. ‘Would a princess smell?’ She decided to ask the monster a different question. ‘What’s your name?’ then she hoped that wasn’t a rude thing to ask. ‘My name is Balthus,’ the monster replied. ‘And you are?’ ‘Princess Daisy.’ ‘Well met, Princess Daisy. Is there anything more that your heart desires?’”
I paused for a little break and heard a few whispers among the audience. “The princess only thought for a few moments. ‘I wish to go home, Balthus. I thought the world outside was full of adventure and fun things. It isn’t what I wanted, and now I want to go home.’ ‘If I help you today, will you promise that someday, you will help me?’ Balthus asked. Princess Daisy nodded. ‘All right then,’ said Balthus. ‘Just follow me.’ He went off at a very fast walk and soon the little princess was far behind. She wasn’t sure if she should keep going or stop. Soon though, Balthus came back. ‘Why aren’t you following?’ ‘I was trying,’ replied the princess. ‘But you are so much faster than I am.’ Balthus lifted the princess into his arms.[arms?] and started off again. Because he was so much quicker than the princess, it didn’t take him long at all to go past the village where she’d spent the night. A few hours later and he was getting quite close to the castle. He approached the road and told the princess, ‘It’s best if you find your way from here. Everyone must be looking for you.’”
“‘Unhand our princess,’ said a gruff voice. Princess Daisy and Balthus turned around to find a knight ready to attack. ‘The princess is safe and well,’ replied Balthus. ‘I was just bringing her home.’ But once Balthus put the princess down, the knight attacked him. Balthus collapsed on the road, a huge gash in his chest. ‘How could you?’ the princess demanded of the knight. ‘He was going to eat you, I know his type,’ said the knight. ‘Now I can take you to the castle for the reward.’ The princess knelt by Balthus sobbing softly. ‘Is there anything I can do? You’ve been so kind to me.’ She took Balthus’s hand and squeezed it. It was then that Balthus started to change. He grew smaller in size, he went from  to a human colour, his teeth changed and his wound healed. He sat up, ‘You have done all you need to do. I was under a spell and someone had to truly care for me to break it. You broke the spell.’ The princess and Balthus went to the castle together, since he wasn’t a monster now. Her parents were very happy to see their daughter and rewarded Balthus with gold and some titles. When the princess was old enough, she and Balthus got married and lived a long and happy life.”