art by Eleanor Bennett
A Little Sleep
by Melissa Mead
The princess searched the throne room, the stable, the scullery... no spindles anywhere. Her father had been most thorough. It had taken her a year of questioning every old woman she met just to find out what a spindle was, and longer still to extract the details of the curse from the servants without alerting His Majesty.
"One hundred years," she muttered as she rummaged through her late mother's hope chest. It was nearly empty, which struck her as oddly appropriate. It held some scraps of yellowed lace--a tiny, unworn christening gown for the infant prince who had died with Mother, and taken her father's heart with them.
None of her fairy godmothers' gifts had done any good, then. She couldn't sing or play his grief away. He scorned her wit, since no girl-child, however clever, could inherit his throne, and her beauty only reminded him of his lost wife.
So the princess used her fae-given wit and grace to keep out of her father's bitter eye. He followed her progress in her lessons with the cool interest of a man calculating the worth of a bargaining chip. She must have tallied up in the "assets" column, because now the palace gossip was all about the suitors the king was lining up for his daughter. Men who knew the worth of a bargaining chip, if nothing else. All her father's age or older, with hard eyes and thin mouths.
One hundred years from now, they would all be gone.