The Twelve Dancing Princesses (A Christmas Tale), Day 3: Daphne’s Purple Gown with Light Purple and Silver Accents and Moonflowers

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Now, said cobbler’s assistant was actually a wise choice on the part of the Minister of Sorcery. The cobbler himself had encouraged his apprentice to look into a (higher-paid) position with the Sjalfer military, for there was something about his cat-like way of delivering shoes to people and staying under the radar that suggested a potential spy or an assassin. But the assistant himself, whose name was Ced (short for Cedric, but no one called him that), much preferred making things and was rather shy besides. The wordy explanation from the minister left him rather dizzy, but he was already formulating plans before he left the room.

First he visited his master to pick up the slippers that had just been made for the princesses. The cobbler presented a box of them and also a pair of royal blue shoes. “The slippers are for the princesses and those shoes are for you. Special soles, you see,” he said proudly as he turned them over and poked at them. “Wonderful things, muffle your footsteps. Like walking on little clouds, almost. I’ve been working on a pair for the Minister of Defense, but he can wait while you track those silly girls.”

After thanking the cobbler, Ced’s next destination was his mother’s room. The Minister of Sorcery had hinted that returning to the King with no answer might be fatal, and although Ced suspected that this was only one of the Minster’s dramatic flourishes, he had better make his preparations anyways. She was a seamstress, and was stitching away at some golden material as he came in, her hands flying even as he explained the situation.
“My, I can hardly blame them if they have found a way out, even if demons are behind it,” she said disapprovingly. “His Majesty keeps them on a tight leash, yes indeed. You know, I taught Gabrielle how to sew, yes I did, but that was when the Queen was alive, and after her passing those girls got locked up, it seems like. It seemed like a major breakthrough when he first let them out to decorate for Christmas a couple years back! I miss them. You know, I got something for them last year, and I never did get around to applying for an audience… Can you bring them this book from me?” She produced a handsome old book from her closet and handed it to her son. “They do love their fairy tales, those girls. I bought this off a peddler with them in mind. Don’t mention that it’s a year late, of course.”

At twilight, armed with the box, the shoes and the book, Ced hurried to the princesses’ chambers. He had been there before, but only to drop off their finished slippers; being naturally shy and wary, he liked to finish the task as quickly and unobtrusively as possible. So he had hardly ever seen them, much less talked to them, and although he knew their names he wasn’t sure he could tell them apart without looking at their shoes. His mom had taught him the basics of etiquette when dealing with royalty, but all Ced could remember of it was that you kneeled and used titles instead of names. He had developed his stealthy style partially to avoid having to remember such troublesome things.

After announcing his name and mission to the guards at the door, he stepped into the hallway. Usually he would deliver the shoes into individual closets without announcing his presence, but this time he called out “Delivery for the princesses,” and in a moment he was mobbed by twelve young women.

“What have you brought for us?” asked one eagerly.
“The cobbler has finished your slippers, and I’m here to deliver them,” he answered, opening the box and selecting a petal pink pair to pass out first.
“Those must be mine,” one cried, reaching for the shoes. “Pink’s my favorite.” I almost forgot, thought Ged with a great wave of relief, the princesses are color-coded. Juliette likes pink, so that one’s her. He next pulled out a red pair for Perdita and a gold pair for Camellia, and by and by all of the princesses were poking out their feet from under their bell-shaped skirts and admiring each others’ slippers.

This dress belongs to twenty-three year old Daphne. She isn’t as smart as Perdita or as wise as Camellia, and she’s even more passive and shy than either of them, so she often feels a little overshadowed and put-upon. She has a romantic soul and a refined aesthetic sense, and she loves to be by herself, writing poetry and drawing. She’s kind, but not overly friendly with any of the princesses except for Juliette, as the two of them have collaborated in writing songs and lyrics for several years. Her favorite color is violet, and her favorite flowers are moonflowers.

The Twelve Dancing Princesses (A Christmas Tale), Day 2: Camellia’s Gold Gown with Calla Lilies and Green Ribbons

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“Those are mine, Father,” the youngest daughter Joy said quickly. “I sent them to the cobbler yesterday because they were so worn. Is something wrong?”

The king’s face softened, and he started to smile. It was quite impossible to be angry at Joy, who had arrived an orphaned baby at the castle in such a miserable little basket during the worst ice storm anyone could remember. “I am just curious as to why your new slippers are so worn. Surely you are not leaving the castle?” Joy turned quickly to Perdita, the eldest, who had come over to them.

“No indeed, how could we leave? There is nothing for miles, and the attendants know that we aren’t allowed the horses and carriages without your permission. Besides, the weather is so very treacherous this month that I for one wouldn’t want to leave, don’t you think Camellia?”

Camellia was one year younger than Perdita and was well known for her wisdom. “Of course! Dear father, the shoes are only worn because we have been so busy preparing for Christmas. We’ve run all over the castle all this week. Juliette even decorated the South Tower yesterday, and you know how many stairs that one has.” When quizzed, each princess could provide a plausible reason for her shoes being worn out — decorating, games of hide-and-seek, aimless walking. However, although they spoke earnestly and without any nervousness, the King felt that all was not right. The explanations were so weak, for one thing, and they moved languidly, as if they were tired. A couple of them seemed to have dark circles under their eyes, Natalie was rubbing her feet when she thought no one was watching, and Daphne was still sleeping. He left the room perplexed, not willing to admit that his honest and good daughters had lied to him, but feeling like something was going on beyond his knowledge.

First he summoned the Minister of Defense and found that the castle guards had neither seen nor heard anyone leaving the Princesses’ quarters or the castle. Next came the Minister of Architecture, who after being briefed by the Chancellor dispatched his subordinates to go over every inch of the Princesses’ quarters and check for secret passages or hidden doors. None were found, and the King resorted to calling the Minister of Sorcery, a mysterious man who the King didn’t really like to bother.

“I quite understand the situation,” the Minister of Sorcery said imperiously after the King had explained all. “Unexplained movement, no possible means of escape, the girls’ excuses have the ring of truth and yet their behavior seems odd… Of course, it can only be an enchantment. Did they seem enchanted to you?”
“Not at all,” said the king uncertainly.
“Well, never mind that, that’s part of the enchantment. Yes, there was a similar case I read about, very curious indeed, where the victims accessed a sort of portal and, led on by demons through halls of crystal and gold, they danced all night with enchanted princes.”
The King’s face had been turning paler with each detail. “Demons? Dancing? Not my poor girls!”
“Your only hope,” continued the Minster, “is to ascertain the details of the enchantment and confront them with the truth. But it must be done secretly, such that the princesses are unaware that something is amiss.”
“You mean to spy on them?”
“Well, yes, you could say as such. I believe I know just the person we need, as well. I have long remarked that the cobbler’s assistant would be better suited to stealthier work, and indeed have even thought of making him my…”
“The cobbler’s assistant?” interrupted the king. “Should it not be a prince of some persuasion?”
The king’s chancellor coughed. “Most of those of noble birth who have visited the castle as of late left almost in tears after being bested in chess. I doubt they would wish to revisit the scene to do us a favor.”
“Princes be hanged, then,” the King replied irritably. “Find this assistant and set him on the case.”

This dress belongs to Camellia, who is twenty-four. Where Perdita is clever she is wise, and when there are differences among the princesses she’s often called on to resolve them; her father also goes frequently to her for advice, for she’s quite as learned as any of his advisors and has even written books about their country’s laws and history. She is a little more assertive and direct than Perdita, but she respects the king and thinks him fair, if a little overprotective, although she would secretly love to travel. (It’s my opinion that if the stronger, more independent Holly and Pieris had been born first, none of this would have happened.) She loves champagne colors and calla lilies.

The Twelve Dancing Princesses (A Christmas Tale), Day 1: Perdita’s Red Gown with Rose Embroidery and Gold Trim

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Once upon a time, a king and twelve princesses lived in a distant land far in the north. Some of the princesses were his own daughters, some were adopted, some were cousins of varying distances, but they were all kind, merry and if not all wise, at least exceedingly smart. The king, whatever his other faults, loved them all dearly and considered all of them his own, but this affection, no longer tempered by the wisdom of the queen who had passed on in their childhood, led to over-protecting his precious girls. For he had read the story of the man who became Buddha, but managed to glean the wrong lesson entirely from it. “Such a wise man the Buddha’s father was, such sound ideas of child-rearing,” he thought, and therefore the princesses were brought up with the utmost care. They never knew even a mild cold, much less contact with bitter poverty or death; even balls were forbidden. “You would get chilled to the bone just leaving the castle,” insisted the King, “you would have to travel for hours, and goodness knows what kinds of people you might meet at one of those sordid affairs.” Instead, when a suitor came to call, he would be forced into a game of chess with the desired princess, the King standing behind her, smiling gleefully as his daughter beat the stuffing out of the flabbergasted suitor.

For the princesses were all very good at chess, having played each other for hours on end. As a matter of fact, they were accomplished at all one might learn or do without leaving the castle, for they were smart women and hated being bored. Perdita, the eldest, was the cleverest and the best at chess, but they all had their specialties. For example, Camellia was the wisest, with the personality of a judge and a few books about the laws of her country and child rearing under her belt, while Juliette had perfect pitch and a knack for playing about any instrument she touched.

Winter in this kingdom was much like any other season there, but the princesses felt even more restless than usual around this time of year. They had no Christmas parties to look forwards to, no way to help the less fortunate, no one to carol to except the castle residents who had heard all their songs before. They would do things like read Christmas stories to each other and decorate the castle to within an inch of its life, of course, but it wasn’t really what they hoped for. They pleaded for a change of some sort, as they had every year, and their father was getting quite tired of all their petitions and complaints. Then, one day near the beginning of December, the petitions suddenly stopped.  The King — not, frankly, a very introspective man — thought they had finally learned that whining got them nowhere.

He was very angry, then, to learn that the silence didn’t stem from obedience, but from subterfuge. For after luxuriating in the silence for a week, he learned from the royal cobbler one morning that the princesses had all requested new slippers recently. This seemed a trivial fact to him, and he was prepared to scold the cobbler for bothering him with nonsense, until the cobbler patiently spelled it out for him.

“Your Majesty, it seemed strange to me merely because the slippers are so new, I made them just two months ago, but now they return to me so very worn. Usually the princesses’ slippers last for a good deal of time — well, except for the twins’ shoes.” The king frowned, obviously preparing to scold, and the cobbler went on quickly. “So you see, these shoes have seen a great deal of use as of late…”

“Use? What do you mean?”

“I mean,” stammered the cobbler, who was a wise old man who was a little embarrassed about having to explain something so obvious, “that they are walking more, perhaps, or dancing, or leaving the castle. Nothing else can account for how worn the slippers look in such a short time.”

“What?!” roared the king, jumping up from his throne. “Dancing? Leaving the castle? I knew it! I knew they were being too quiet,” he said triumphantly, although he had known nothing of the kind. He snatched the worn pair of shoes from the cobbler and stormed down the hallway to the princesses’ chambers. Throwing open the door, he boomed, “Whose shoes are these?”
(To be continued…)

This dress belongs to Perdita, the oldest at twenty-five. She’s the cleverest of all the princesses and the best at chess. She’s very close to Camellia, the next eldest of the princesses, but all of the girls look up to her and respect her. A placid woman, she usually accepts her father’s ideas and orders, and enjoys her life in the castle, where she can practice chess and write stories (in secret) to her heart’s content. But she’s only placid as long as she’s content, and if she feels put-upon and frustrated she can be hard to deal with. She loves the color red and roses of every color.

Two More Fantasy Princess Gowns from Liana’s Paper Doll Boutique

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So, today I don’t think I’ll have the time to get to the doll I was hoping to do, the coloring of which was going to be based on a particularly pretty image I saw on this webcam the other day. The reason I won’t have time, and the reason I was looking at that webcam, is that I’m going on vacation! Yay! Yay! We need a vacation like crazy, I’ve been working full-time lately and I’m quite sick of Brian pulling 13+ hour days. We’re going up to see my family and to spend time in a lovely area with no internet access whatsoever.

I had a plan for the time I was going to be done, but I ended up being just too busy with work, I’m afraid. So I’m going to post some Boutique things automatically while I’m gone. I forget, while they’re old and clunky-looking to me, they’re new to a lot of you, so I hope you don’t mind them too much.

I’m putting up a poll while I’m going to be gone, since I’m curious… Feel free to add comments.