The Prince Who Never Smiled
Long ago, there was a kingdom that sat along the edge of the ocean, on the very tip of the Castanet peninsula.
King Hamilton ruled over his lands benevolently, welcoming all and seeing that every person down to the stable hands prospered. Still, his kind nature paled in comparison to that of his wife, who was known throughout the land of great beauty both inside and out, hair as pure of white as her soul. Together they had but one child, a son, a prince known as Gill.
They were a small family, but happy, and this joy spread through the kingdom and all was well for many years.
Tragedy would soon worm it's way in to the colorful stone walls of the castle, as the Queen fell sick, and soon succumbed to an unknown sickness that stole her away piece by piece.
The prince, now a boy entering his sixth year, was devastated and any trace of the smiling child he had been began to disappear, as his heart slowly began to ice over. By his twenty-first winter, it was completely frozen.
The throne room full of laughter, would muffle down as he sat off to the side, face like a statue, glacier blue eyes glaring out in to the crowds. He was dutiful, but failed to connect with the people, and many advisors and townspeople worried when the time came for him to take the throne.
Would their communities fall to a bureaucratic lord, or would he let them carry on as they had before?
The king worried, too. Every princess and lord's daughter brought before him would leave dinner in tears after speaking to the prince. Gill was unfazed, however, and he continued to neither laugh nor smile.
The king issued a decree, any woman in the land who could make his son laugh, or even smile, and begin to thaw his heart, would be allowed to have it, and they would be married.
Meanwhile, in a kingdom to the east, land locked, but full of merchants as it was the cross-roads for many lands.
It was here that a maiden named Molly worked as a handmaid for the Lady Elise. The lady was known to be a bit crude and a snob, but her heart was good, and she rewarded those who deserved it and were in her favor.
At the end of the year she placed a small sack of gold in front of her staff and told them to take what they believed they deserved. While others took handfuls of gold pieces, Molly took but one gold coin, to avoid sinning through greed, and with the belief that her wages more than enough covered her service, but knew that there would be questions if she took nothing.
At the end of the day she walked to the local well to draw some water and bring it back to her humble dwelling, but as she leaned over to pick up the bucket, the gold coin fell from her apron pocket, and floated to the bottom of the well.
"Oh, well," Molly sighed, as she returned home for the night, and went to bed feeling as if nothing was lost.
Two seasons passed and many women had been brought before the prince, some on their own accord, and some on the behest of their fathers. All attempts to coax a smile or even a snicker out of the prince, and marry in to the prosperous kingdom on the sea.
In the middle of the summer heat, Princess Selena of an island kingdom brought exotic flowers and fruits to the prince, hoping the sweet smells and flavors of warm southern waters would melt his icy exterior, but, alas, he was not impressed.
"It would be rude of me to not accept this gift," Gill started, picking at the fruit with his fingers, "But it wouldn't be wise to eat it by myself, there is so much sugar in fruit after all."
The red-headed princess felt her cheeks darken on her tan skin, and she left the castle in a huff, but not before the local woodcutter caught her eye.
Winter came once again, and another sack of gold was placed before the servants in House Oak Tree.
Once again, Molly took only a single piece of gold before leaving the grounds.
As she trudged through the snow to get water for the night, she sighed "I wonder what it'd be like to be on the ocean right now." She had lived her entire life in the village outside the walls of the castle, higher up in the mountains, where snow fell for half the year.
Lost in her day dreaming, she one again lost her gold coin to the dark waters below.
A year later, at the party celebrating the prince's twenty-third birthday, the daughter of a wealthy cloth merchant approached him. Her pink hair piled high on her head, her body draped in silks and furs, she greeted the prince and presented him with her families gift, clothing she had designed and sewn herself.
She had hoped that he would be pleased with her skill, and grace her with a smile of gratitude, but instead he only offered polite thanks with a straight face.
She walked back towards her sister, who only had words of comfort for her, but she rejected them, "You don't understand! You're being married off to the royal jeweler come spring, and I've yet to be a prospect." She drank from her cup of wine and silently pouted at her families table.
That night, Molly left her lady's quarters for the final time. Lady Elise was to be married the next day, and set off with her husband the day after. She wouldn't be taking any of her servants, and would find new ones in her new home.
A larger than usual bag was left for the servants that night, but as in the previous years, Molly took only one gold piece. She headed home directly, and took a final look at her shack, the only home she had ever known, before she lifted her trunk into the hay carriage of the horse she inherited after her parents passed away.
She lead the horse to the well to fill up one final bucket, being careful to not drop anything in, as she didn't know if she would be able to replace it with no work left. As she lifted the bucket, she saw a shimmer at the bottom of it. As she reached her hand in, she found the two gold pieces she had dropped in before.
She placed them in her coin purse as turned around and mounted the horse, intent to find a new place to settle, and cure her restlessness.
She took a path west out of her home kingdom, and soon came across a beggar sitting on a tree stump. Upon noticing her, he stood and approached her horse, "Excuse me, excuse me," his voice was hoarse and raspy, "Alms for the poor?"
He held out his dirty, bony hand expectantly. Without hesitation, Molly placed a gold coin in to his hand and smiled.
"Thank you," his voice broke, as his hand closed around the gold piece. He moved slowly back to the stump and sat back down, watching her as she became smaller in the distance.
After traveling for a fortnight, Molly came upon a woman crying outside a church.
Feeling sorry for the woman, she asked her what was wrong as she climbed off her horse, "Are you alright?"
"Oh, my goodness, this is so embarrassing, but I've lost my child recently, and I can't afford my donation to the church to bury him. I don't know what I'm going to do," he voice was strained and choked with tears held back.
Molly felt pity for the woman and reached in to her pocket, and pulled out a single gold piece, "Will this be enough to bury your son?" She asked, and placed in the woman's palm.
She exploded in tears, "This is more than enough. How can I ever repay you?"
"It's alright, it's the right thing to do," She told the woman, then apologized that she really must be on her way to check in to the local inn for the night.
The woman thank her profusely again, and watched her as walked off in to the distance with her horse by her side.
After another two weeks of traveling, Molly found herself at the edge of the woods, and her horse refused to go any further in to the trees. Molly tried to soothe him, but he continued to stomp and whiney.
She heard a deep voice from behind her, "Trouble with your horse there?"
She turned around to see a tall man with bright red hair tied back in a braid. She was sure he hadn't been there when she reached the edge of the forest, but she bit her tongue on that.
"I'm sorry, I didn't see you there, you startled me!" She said as calm as she could muster.
"I guess when a woodcutters axe breaks, they don't make much sound."
"Oh, no! I'm sorry to hear that! How will you make a living if you can't cut any wood?"
"I'm sure I'll figure something out," he rubbed his neck.
Molly once again reached in to her coin purse and pulled out the third gold piece, "Will this be enough to get your axe fixed?" She asked placing it in the woodcutter's large hand.
"I can't take this," he said attempting to hand the coin back.
Molly hid her hands and refused, "No, I insist, it's the right thing to do."
"Well, I wish I could repay you," he said as he went to pet the horses nose.
"Don't worry about it," she said, grabbing the horses reins, "I'm sorry, but I wanted to try to get through this forest by nightfall."
"Well, that's one way I can help, if you take the left a little bit down, instead of going straight, you'll cut a few hours off your time."
Her horse began walking towards the forest on it's own and she had to quicken her pace to catch up. Looking over he shoulder she turned to thank the woodcutter, but he was no longer there. She shrugged and turned back to face the path.
The red haired man watched her walk off in to the woods without her noticing.
Molly did as the woodcutter had told her, and was out on the other side of the trees before the sun had set. As she came in to the clearing she saw the beggar she helped a season ago, speaking to the grieving mother from the previous town as red-haired woodcutter approached them, and they turned to her and all of them smiled.
The mother approached her first, she reached out and touched Molly's face, and soon all four were surrounded with shimmering light.
Molly was in disbelief as in front of her was the Harvest Goddess and God themselves, and one of the Harvest Sprites.
"My child," the goddess said, her voice as soft as a babbling brook, "it's so good to see someone with such a pure heart in these times, allow us to accompany you on the last leg of your travels to help in any way we can."
Molly had no reply, but was soon surrounded by more light as the Goddess turned herself in to a mouse, as the sprite became a beetle, and as the Harvest God became a squirrel. They climbed up on to her shoulder and they headed out to the city by the ocean, just over the hills.
After a few days of travel, they arrived at the city. In awe of it's colorful stone buildings and the large crowds of people, Molly didn't notice when she bumped in to a tall man and fell backwards in to a puddle of mud.
When Molly looked up, she saw a man with pale blonde hair staring down at her with his icy blue eyes, and the royal guards behind him.
In her panic she tried to stand, but fell once more in to the mud. Seeing her struggle the deities in their animal forms attempted to help her up, but only added to the spectacle.
Molly attempted to apologize while still kneeling in the mud, but was cut off by a warm laugh coming from the man in front of her.
"Bring her to the castle and clean her up. By my father's decree I've found my wife, and by my own, I will take her."
Molly was soon lifted up off the ground and began walking towards the sprawling castle in the back of the city. She looked behind her to see no mouse, or beetle, or squirrel in sight.
A season later the whole city rejoiced and celebrated as the prince was married to the former handmaiden, who through her virtue and pureness, had found good fortune and love she hadn't even searched for.
And the prince continued to smile.
A/N: Hey, everyone! This is my entry for the Once Upon A Harvest Moon Time fairytale prompt in The Village Square forum! It's based off the Russian fairytale of The Princess Who Never smiled, but gender-flipped, and well, given the Harvest Moon spin, and a the very confused Halidom treatment.
Thanks to SaoirseParisa for setting up the prompt that got my to actually write something!