Eleven Dancing Princesses

Or, Karma's a Bitch and So's Your Brother!

There once was a kindly old king to whom was born twelve beautiful children. His eleven daughters were the loveliest maidens in all of the kingdom, and his only son, the youngest of the twelve, was every bit as enchanting as any of his daughters. The king had lost his wife to illness shortly after his last child's birth, and so he was left to raise his eleven daughters and his son alone. The kindly king tried his best, but as the years progressed and his children grew the king despaired to find that his daughters became increasingly unruly and difficult. They would disobey his every word, they were disrespectful to visiting nobles, and they would disappear for days on end without any explanation or care for the worry that it caused their aging father. Only his son, amongst all of his twelve children, endeavored to make his father happy. The pretty young prince was kind and sweet, gentle of temper and ever obedient. The king could not be prouder of his son, and he prayed with all of his might that he should live to see the day that his daughters were anything so noble as his only son.

It so happened that one summer the king found himself even more upset by his daughters' behavior than usual. In an effort to keep them from their nightly drunken escapades in the village that was nestled at the foot of their castle the king had commissioned his royal carpenters to create a great bedchamber where all of his daughters could sleep, and each evening he would kiss his children good night and lock the girls securely away in the room to keep them safe and to preserve his dwindling sanity. But, every morning when the serving girls would unlock the door to inform the princesses that it was time for breakfast the servants would find the young women sound asleep, their hair tousled and their best clothes scattered about them. And their shoes bore the greatest evidence of their defiance, because each morning the maids would find the girl's shoes wore and tattered.

The princesses giggled and shared secretive smiles between them every time that their father questioned them as to where they had been and what they had been doing to have left their shoes in such a state. They told the king that they had simply been dressing up in their rooms and that they could not have been doing anything else because he saw to it himself each night that their door was securely locked.

The king was at his wits end with his wayward children. He even asked his beloved son to sleep in the room with his sisters, thinking that the boy might be able to somehow stop his siblings from whatever they were doing, or at least that he would be able to report to his father as to where the girls were going at night. The king's hopes were soon dashed, however, by the fact that his youngest child had long been bullied and controlled by his elder siblings. Every morning the prince would tell his father that he had fallen asleep or that he had seen nothing, all the while averting his eyes so that his father might miss the tears that welled up there. But his father's sharp eyes did not miss the tears, nor did he fail to see the enchanted amulet that suddenly hung about the boy's neck, surely there to silence him, although he did not wish to remove it for fear of harming the prince. His father did not fault his son his weakness nor his inability to stop his sisters, and instead he cursed his daughters for daring to hurt such a kind soul.

With his son unable to help him, the king sought far and wide for another way to discover the princesses' secrets. He could not seem to discover the secret of his daughters' damaged shoes, nor could he stop their terrible behavior during the daylight hours, and it was affecting both their household and the kingdom that they ruled over. He thought that, if only he could find a way of controlling his daughters and their willful ways, that they might all once again find peace within their once happy home. It was not until his long time manservant, in truth his most beloved friend, suggested a contest of sorts, that the king once again felt hope.

His attendant told the king to send word throughout his kingdom and to their neighbors that any man who could discover the source of the princesses' wore shoes would have his choice of the girls as his bride and would be named as the king's heir, to inherent the kingdom when he passed on to the next world. To make things fair and to give as many young princes a chance as possible the king decreed that the men would have three nights to discover the answers he sought before he would be forced to conceded defeat and to allow the next man a chance at the prize. The princesses were furious with their father for declaring this contest, but they soon quieted, confident that the eleven of them could outwit any would-be suitors.

Princes and nobles came from kingdoms near and far to court the princess and to attempt to answer their father's questions. Each time that a man would come to the court the king would greet him warmly, welcoming him into his halls, and a great feast would be held in his honor. The princesses would watch, coldly confident and utterly silent, from their places at the great table as each man attempted to garner favor with their father or to woo one of them in the hopes of getting a hint or a clue that would aid him in his task.

When their attempts to turn the princesses' heads inevitably failed each man would be lead down the castle's many winding hallways until they entered a room that had been specially prepared for them. The room was directly across the hall from the room that the princesses shared, and the doors to both rooms would be left open so that the suitor could keep watch throughout the night.

Each day the king would awaken with hope in his heart, eager to hear that the guest who had slept under his roof had at last discovered the secrets of his daughters' nightly activities. But, to his great disappointment, each morning the young man would come before the king and tell him that he had no answers to give. Every night the young nobles would find themselves unable to stay awake, or they would watch until the dawn and see nothing, yet the shoes would still be found damaged and the girls would still be disheveled. The princesses would inevitably be the last to enter the dinning hall, each with a knowing smile on their pretty faces, each with a challenging sneer for the young man whom they already knew had failed.

The worst part of the whole debacle, in the king's opinion, was the ever confusing behavior of their family's guardian spirit. The being had been tied to his family for generations long past, it's duty to protect the descendants of the royal line, and it had always carried out it's duty with efficiency and certainty. But now that the king had begun his contest of wills against his daughters the spirit seemed to have taken a great dislike for the young men who came into the kingdom. After every third night, when the princes were defeated, the great guardian spirit had taken to beheading the nobles and princes and leaving their heads before the door to the princesses' room. This seemed to agree with the princesses, even as it angered and disheartened the king.

Soon, word got out that the suitors who came to discover the secrets of the princesses' worn shoes were finding their lives at an end when they were unsuccessful, and the almost daily barrage of young men that had once been visiting the castle trickled down to perhaps one or two a month. The king began to grow weary of ever finding a way to curtail his daughters' disgraceful behavior, and his health began to suffer for it. The young girls did not seem to mind their father's ailing health, and only the prince among his children sought to help his father as he grew worse and worse. There was great sadness in the kingdom, and only the princesses seemed immune to it.


About the time that word got out as to the king's failing health, a retired soldier was making his way through the forests that surrounded the beautiful kingdom in which the king and his twelve children resided. He was from a kingdom far away and had once been the strongest warrior amongst his people, never having met his better on the field of battle, but years of hard service to his country in a seemingly unending war had left him scared and worldweary. His body bore the marks of many an old injury, the hair at his temples prematurely grey, and he walked with a pronounced limp from a wound that had refused to heal properly. When an unfortunate accident had left him unable to battle any longer he had been dismissed from his post, a country at war having no use for an old soldier who couldn't fight any longer, and he had been left to fend for himself. Knowing no other way but that of a warrior, the soldier had taken to wandering, hoping to one day find somewhere to belong in a world that no longer seemed to have a place for him.

The soldier had heard word of the king and his eleven unruly daughters, but he had not thought to seek an audience with the king. However, as he paused at a stream to take a drink of water, the soldier happened upon an old woman who was sitting by the river's edge with a pole as she waited for the fish to bite. As they talked the old woman spoke of the king and his daughters, and of the horrible fate that the young princes and nobles had met because of them. She also spoke of the kindness of the king, and of his suffering, and then at length about the most beautiful of the ruler's children. She talked of the young prince who suffered as greatly as his father, and of the sorry state that the two men had come to because of the callousness of the princesses and their selfish ways. The soldier thought this a horrible tale, and the noble heart that had always led him to fight for his country and his men with all of his strength told him that he must be the one to save the king and his son, if not the princesses. They, he thought, deserved no kindness for all that they had done.

The old woman looked kindly upon the soldier, respecting his noble heart and rejoicing at having met such a truly good man who would suffer so at the story of strangers. She said to him that she would help him to free the king from his daughters' selfish ways, and that together they would allow no more young suitors to die for their whims. She gave to the soldier a magick cloak that would render the soldier invisible, and then she placed into his hand a simple green herb, telling him that the princesses were drugging the wine of the young men sent to watch them and that should the soldier eat the bitter herb then he should be immune to their poisons.

The soldier thanked the old woman and swiftly made his way to the castle.

Even though he was not of noble blood the king welcomed him as warmly as he had any of the young princes before him. The king held a great feast in honor of the soldier, every bit as grand as those that had come before, and despite the reason for his visit the soldier found himself happier than he had been in a very long while.

The princesses were agast that their father would even allow such a man to entertain the thought of taking one of them as a wife, but the king ignored their cries and spent much of the night talking companionably with the man. The young prince, as well, seemed to take to the soldier, seeing the scars that so sickened his sisters as proof of strength of will instead.

The soldier was as equally taken with the young prince as the boy seemed to be with him, and the soldier found himself completely enraptured by every word that left the young man's pretty lips. The king saw this instant attraction and smiled, as it pleased him to see his son so happy, more than approving of the bond that they were forming. He only hoped that the happiness of the two would not be short lived.

When the feast was over and the soldier was lead into what was to be his room for the next three nights he found himself reluctant to part with the young prince, and he vowed to find the secret of his sisters' nightly escapades as much for the beautiful young man who had so quickly captured his heart as for any fear for his own wellbeing.


For over an hour after the twelve siblings took to their beds the soldier lay still and waited. He feigned sleep and tried to force himself to remain calm despite the rapid beating of his heart. He knew that if one of the princesses looked too closely at him they would know instantly that their poisons had failed, and he could only hope that the young women had grown too confident in their own abilities to deceive to pay him much mind.

The soldier began to grow restless, fearing that he may have been trying too hard to pretend to be asleep and had thus missed the princesses moving, but just as he thought to rise and check on the girls the soldier heard one of them entering his room, giggling all the while as she taunted the supposedly oblivious man. The soldier was suddenly grateful for the patience that long years on the battle field had taught him as he listened to the girl while she told her sisters that he had been just as easy as the others, mocking him for falling into such an easy trap, before disappearing back into her own room. The soldier waited until her footsteps grew distant before slipping out of his bed and pulling on the cloak that the old woman had given to him.

He stole quickly into the room that the eleven girls shared with their brother, watching in awe as the eldest sister clapped her hands loudly three times before the foot of her own bed. With the sound of heavy stone grinding against itself the entire bed moved to the side, revealing a hidden passageway beneath it. As soon as the bed ceased moving the girls filled into the passageway, two of them stopping to grab their resisting brother, dragging the boy down the stairs with them.

The soldier wanted to go to the prince's aid, but he reminded himself that they would both be better served with silence, and so he followed the twelve siblings down the winding staircase. He glared at the princesses fiercely every time that one of them taunted or shoved the young prince, and after a while the youngest of the princesses began to shiver, saying that she felt as though an evil spirit were watching her. This made the soldier smile, nearly giving himself away with his laughter when he accidentally tripped on the hem of her ruffled skirt and she shrieked loudly with fright.

By the time that they reached the end of the stairway the youngest sister was shaking, she was so terrified, and one of the other younger girls seemed to be growing just as frightened as her sister. Looking at the poor prince, who had more than once begged his sisters to let him return to the rooms above, even once making a plea for sparing the soldier's life, the soldier thought her terror to be more than justifiable.

At the foot of the stair the soldier was surprised to see a great lake filling a massive cavern. There were twelve boats waiting at the lake's edge, and at each boat stood a young man, each as finely appointed as the eleven women were. The girls ran to the young men, leaping into their arms and sharing sloppy kisses that hardly seemed befitting for women of their station.

The twelfth man, the soldier supposed, was meant for the prince. The man eyed the young royal with calculating eyes, and it was all that the soldier could do to remain still as the man approached the prince. When the haughty looking man suddenly grabbed the prince around the waist, forcing a brutal kiss to the protesting man's lips, the soldier could not repress the growl that escaped him. The sudden sound caused the youngest sister to shriek again, and the man released his hold on the prince, so the soldier did not scold himself overly much for his slip.

The princesses each climbed into a boat manned by their respective partners, and the soldier momentarily thought of getting into the boat of the youngest princess. He had seen her teasing her brother at the banquet earlier that night, and he delighted in bringing her some measure of discomfort, but the openly lustful leer that the man beside the prince was giving the younger man made up the soldier's mind. He climbed into the boat of the prince just before it set off for the opposite shore, not really caring about the princesses shoes, far more intent on watching over the prince.

When they reached the farthest shore the soldier was shocked to see the ground glittering beneath their feet. The very floors were made of diamonds, and the trees themselves were solid gold, the flowers each made of precious gems. And, there before it all, was a magnificent castle that filled the massive cavern. By the light of the glittering gold and diamond surroundings the soldier could see clearly the demon horns that graced the heads of the princesses' men, and he berated himself for not noticing earlier the spiked tails that curled from beneath their fancy dinner jackets as he unconsciously moved closer to the defenseless prince.

Soon the cause of the princesses' worn shoes was evident to the soldier, as the girls immediately began to dance across the hard diamond floors, laughing and talking with their demon partners. The girls behaved as anything but princesses as the night passed, drinking massive amounts of alcohol and joking about all of the princes who had lost their lives trying to discover this very secret dance of theirs. Their callousness angered the soldier, as did the way that the demon with his prince kept trying to manhandle the beautifully delicate young man.

By the night's end the princesses were nothing but a tangled mass of limbs and flesh, all lying with the demons that they had rowed across the river with before switching partners and staring again. The drunken orgy lasted well into the early hours of the morning, and the disheveled state of the young women's garments each morning soon became clear to the soldier as well. Only the prince remained clothed, and it was due to the fact that the demon who courted the prince seemed to take as much pleasure from tormenting the boy with words as he would have from lying with him, that the soldier was able to keep his silence under the invisible cloak. Had the man touched the prince even once then he surely would have had to kill the creature with his bare hands.

After a long night of debauchery the princesses decided that it was time to steal away back to their beds, and the soldier was grateful to follow them out of that mysterious chamber. Before leaving he thought to take a memento of the night's journey, as proof to show to the king, so he snapped off one of the golden leaves from a tree. The youngest princess was the only one who took notice of the noise, and she ran trembling to catch up with her demon lover while muttering about being haunted by the vengeful ghosts of her past suitors. It made the tired soldier smile.


Thinking that the king would want a fair amount of proof against his daughters, even after years of ill treatment, the soldier decided to follow the princesses for the whole of his allotted three days. He also took the time to get to know the young prince better, silently seeking his forgiveness for not coming to his aid in the hidden chamber beneath the castle, ever amazed at how sweet and kind the young man could be after all that he had been through. The soldier enjoyed long walks with the young man in the royal gardens, understanding more than the boy knew why his steps were slow and his words interspersed with yawns, feeling guilty every time that the boy apologized. Watching the pretty young prince smile in the afternoon sun, trying his best to seem upbeat despite the obvious need to rest and the heavy burden of his secrets weighing heavily on his young shoulders, the soldier vowed to see to it that after his three days were up the prince would never know another day of unhappiness so long as they both lived.

That night the soldier once again pretended to be asleep, waiting for the ever confident princess to come and check on him before donning his cloak and following the girls down into the darkness again.

Their second night went much the same as the first, only this time the girls got even drunker, became even cruder, and spent much of the night congratulating themselves on having dispatched so many of their suitors in the past years. The soldier was surprised to hear them boast of having forced the family's guardian spirt to bend to their wills, taking the lives of the princes and noblemen who had come to discover their secrets, all to the spirit's great displeasure. Two of the older girls even confessed to having beheaded one or two of the men themselves. The soldier hated them all the more at that moment.

For proof of the second night the soldier took one of the small diamonds that had chipped away from the ground to lay like a pebbles in small piles about the underground cavern. He could not quite resist tossing one of the stones at the youngest princess, delighting in the squeal that she let out when it hit her in the back of the head. Her sisters only laughed at her and again called her silly and childish.


On the third night the demon who the young prince had tried so hard to avoid finally cornered the boy while his sisters dallied with their men, telling him that once the soldier had been murdered that he had a plan to become the king's heir. He said that he would enter the world above, bringing with him proof of the princesses' nightly activities, and as a result would win the right to marry one of the king's children. Of course, the demon said, he would choose the prince. Then the prince would have no choice but to give in to his advances.

Seeing that the demon had grown tired of games, no longer finding the prince's attempts to thwart him amusing, the soldier was glad that he would soon be revealing the truth to the king. Another night of watching in silence while the demon tormented his prince was more than the soldier thought that his old heart could bear.


The morning after the third night the soldier went before the king. The princesses all smiled at him as he approached the king's throne, confident that by the end of the day they would be calling up their guardian spirit to take the man's head. The prince, for his part, looked more forlorn than his father could ever remember seeing him. The soldier was sad that he had been forced to keep silent about what he had seen, not wanting to keep secrets from the boy who had stolen his heart in three short days, but he knew that it would all be over soon.

The soldier walked right up to the king and knelt before him. He thought it unfortunate that he was about to tell the old man just how horrible his eleven daughters truly were, but when he thought back on the way that they had treated their brother, and the heartless way that they had joked about the young men that they had murdered, he believed that the king would be better off knowing the truth. At least then he could see the girls for the monsters that they really were.

When the king asked him if he had discovered the truth of his daughters' damaged shoes, the soldier said yes, drawing forth from his pockets the golden leaves and the diamond pebbles that he had gathered the past three nights. The princesses had been muttering between themselves, no doubt plotting the soldier's eminent death, but they fell silent as one when the soldier lay his offerings at the feet of the king. The eleven girls grew increasingly pale as he spun his tale of demons and debauchery, their mouths hanging open as they heard his words echoing in the great hall. They were too shocked even to find lies with which to defend themselves.

When the soldier had completed his retelling of the past three nights the king looked sadly at his daughters and hung his head in shame. How could he and his dear late wife have given the world eleven such awful women? With tears in his eyes the king thanked the soldier and asked him which of his children he would have as his bride. The king was not surprised to hear that it was the prince whom the soldier would wed, and his heart was glad to see that this made the prince very happy.

After promising the soldier a grand wedding and telling him that he would indeed keep his word and name the man his successor, the king then turned to his eleven daughters and did the only thing that he could do. He told all eleven that they were from that day forth disinherited, having shown themselves unfit to be princesses of such a noble royal family. He gladly gave them to their demon lovers and banished them from his sight and from his kingdom. He could not bear to bring himself to be so cruel as to condemn them to death, as he knew he ought to in exchange for all of the lives that they had taken, but neither could he keep them in his heart or in his castle. The guards were called and the girls were taken away that very instant, never to be seen again.


The wedding took place three days later. Every noble house in the kingdom was in attendance, including those who had lost sons to the king's deceitful daughters. The kingdom rejoiced at finally being rid of the eleven princesses, and they were even more happy to see that the king's health was increasing greatly now that his daughters had been taken from his sight.

The young prince was grateful to the soldier for saving both his father and himself, and he was overjoyed by the man's affections. He happily went to the alter to join his husband, as well as to their wedding bed that night, after having enjoyed a grand feast full of spirited celebration.

The king ruled for many years afterwards, and when he finally went on into the next world it was with a smile on his kindly old face, for he knew that both his kingdom and his son were in good hands. The soldier and his prince then ruled the peaceful kingdom until the end of their days, loving each other completely, never knowing another day of sadness between them.





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