Original Author's note: Sorry for a short chapter, and for the slow way this story is starting out, but it will become more humorous and adventurous soon!
This chapter is unedited; it is the same as in "A Slightly Different Cinderella Story".
"Your majesty!" the stable boy exclaimed. "I had no idea you were returning so soon. Did you have a great trip?" He led the mare into the stable and gave him some water. The Prince followed.
"No," the Prince said dejectedly. His brown curly hair blew in the wind. "And do you want to know why?"
"By all means," the stable boy said.
"I am approaching a score of years, and I have never had an adventure! Oh, I admit, I've been involved in a joust or two, but there is always something missing!"
"Like what?" the stable boy prompted, his ears twitching with interest.
The Prince stared at him for a long moment before replying. "I don't know if I should tell you…"
"Bartholemew," the stable boy supplied.
"Ah, you have a magic talent! I was going to ask your name since I am telling a confidence," the Prince said, smiling. "I think," he said to Bartholemew, "my greatest adventure will be found when I have kissed a girl!"
"You might not want adventures of that kind as much as you think, my Prince," Bartholemew said. He gave the horse some hay and walked out of the stable. The Prince followed; his dark brown eyes lighted up with mischief.
"So, you know all about it, eh, my servant?" the Prince asked, intrigued.
"Actually...no, but I have heard some things, and I know that when most people, even royal ones, receive what they wish for, sometimes they realize that what they wish for is not always what they should have," Bartholemew answered.
"Perhaps, but I shall be the judge of that," the Prince said, adding, "You interest me, stable boy. I would love to speak to you some more."
"I'm sure we will speak again," Bartholemew said cryptically. The Prince was oblivious to Bartholemew's tone and pointed look. He strode off to the castle, thinking about the possibility of meeting and wooing maidens.
Bartholemew shook his head, walking off, then disappearing. He reappeared in front of a small house nestled in the woods. Removing his peasant's gear, the stable boy became a young man. He rapped on the door of the house and walked in. The house, which from all appearances seemed small and quite common, with its straw roof and outer stone walls, was not as common inside. The furnishings were comfortable and well appointed. The young man walked on to an old man, seated in the living quarters by an enormous fireplace. The old man had a long face, with a cleft in his chin. His brown eyes belied the secrets of many ages in them, and an intelligence which spanned many years. He seemed quite at home by the fireplace, and yet, also seemed as if he could find another home just as easily without giving the cozy house he occupied another thought.
"So, you have returned," the old man said, not looking at the young man. "Have you observed the maiden?"
"Yes," the young man answered. "I think I can help her. She seems worthy."
"Then, by all means, do whatever is necessary to complete your first mission," the old man instructed. The younger man nodded, leaving the house.