A long, long time ago, in a land far, far away, a princess woke. She saw the sun through her window and felt something had changed. She felt at peace – and ready.
She'd read about this in the books, of course. It was time for her Ambling.
Only when a princess felt at peace and ready, was she to go on her Ambling. And she would Amble until she found someone worthy of Roaming the earth with. Roaming, was, of course, only one letter short of rooming – that might not have been a coincidence, for one roomed with the person they chose to Roam with. She was going to find her Prince.
She set out without dawdling, her feet trotting lightly as she Ambled. Follow your feet, was the rule. She did.
There was only one rule about Ambling – and that was that you only got to ask one question. The princess found that curious. Most princesses just Ambled until finally they asked someone to marry them – but the Book didn't say that that was the rule. You got to ask one question, but you could choose the question and you could ask it multiple times.
She came onto a house – ah, the tailor. She studied him for a moment, watching him work, before she came closer.
The question flew from her lips without conscious thought. "Are you a good man?"
The man looked up with a nice smile that, for a second, froze and turned brittle. Then he looked charming, flirty.. a bit mischievous. "Always."
But he didn't speak the truth – he didn't agree with his own answer.
She ambled on.
A one-eyed lumberjack. She'd never been fond of him, but she knew not to judge. "Are you a good man?"
"No one is," he said, and there was a bit of arrogance and cruelty in his eyes. In a way, he spoke truth – but he used others being bad as an excuse not to be good himself, and she couldn't accept that.
She ambled on.
The man sharpening his knife met her eyes somewhat defiantly. "No," he almost-challenged.
But those who challenged looked for a fight, and she did not want to marry someone who looked for a fight.
"Yes," the answer was spoken confidently by the herbalists' gardener, but then he frowned as he realized it wasn't true.
The herbalist himself looked at her almost sadly. "I hope to be," he said with quiet dignity.
"Yes," the answer was given as a challenge.
She ambled on.
The young man almost started crying. "No," he said guiltily, looking down.
Several times she heard 'no' of men who wanted to say yes but look humble. Several times she heard yes of people too ashamed to say no.
One man met her eyes. "No," he said without offering excuses – but he said it with resignation, and she didn't want to marry someone resigned.
"Yes," was said earnestly by a man who clearly wanted to please and might not even have heard the question.
She'd had most of the village surrounding the castle, and she followed her feet to the woods.
"No," was bitten.
"Yes," was said seductively.
She ambled on, following the stream.
A man was working on his boat. He looked up to her approach, but went back to his work; most had, it not being polite to stare or wait (and thus force the other person to have you wait or hurry). Her feet took her closer.
"Are you a good man?" she asked.
The man met her eyes frankly. "No." And there was quiet acceptance in his voice – he was not a good man, and he'd live with the consequences of his actions. But there was also remorse. Not guilt – guilt was self-pity. Just remorse, that he had done wrong, and acceptance, that he would not fight the consequences.
She extended her hand.
The man hadn't expected that. He drew backward slightly to gaze upon it, then met her eyes evenly, plainly. He gave her a chance to withdraw, and she knew that if she did, he would not hold her in contempt.
But she met his eyes, and she thought that the man would see peace, and fulfilment, within. She felt like they were shining with joy.. contentment.. hope.
He took her hand reverently, and sank to his knees in a silent vow.
No words were necessary. From that moment until happily ever after, they Roamed.