art by Shane M. Gavin
Peas, Plots, and Peril
by Melissa Mead
The hardest part was spreading that silly rumor in the first place. I didn't use magic. A dairymaid's pay doesn't cover hiring sorcerers. No, I spent months discretely complimenting the ladies who came to the dairy on the delicacy of their complexions, working my way up to the nonsense about, "A true princess can feel a dried pea through a dozen mattresses." Soon the dressmakers doubled their orders for fine silk and satin, because any lady with pretensions to quality claimed that ordinary calico chafed her delicate skin.
People are foolish and vain, and our former Royal Family doubly so. Word spread to the Palace. The Prince broke off his engagement, claiming that his planned bride was "too coarse," and commandeered enough geese to make a dozen feather mattresses.
He was an idiot. But a good-looking idiot, with wealth and power enough to make up for his lack of wits. Besides, this only proved that he'd make a biddable husband.
I laughed when I heard the news. The dairy mistress beat me for my impertinence and sent me packing, which suited my plans just fine.
The dress I stole from the lady of the manor both looked elegant and hid the bruises. It was raining, too. Perfect. I arrived at the palace bedraggled and dripping. Their Majesties exclaimed over my state, and over my smooth, ladylike dairymaid's hands.
I begged to be allowed to rest from my ordeal. At once, servants led me to the room with the towering feather beds. I dismissed my escort, climbed the ladder to the top of the downy pile, and slept my first night in my new home.