His parents had given up all hope. Their son, a noble prince of the realm, simply refused to get married. Every weekend he was sent to this ball or that party, or they hosted yet another of their own in a vain attempt to find him a suitable wife.
They doted on their son. They should not have done but he was their only child and they wanted the best for him. They agreed to his terms. He could pick his own bride and she had to be both clever and beautiful. It became quickly apparent he was seeking an impossible dream. Beauty did not always come with intelligence and he had met many a bright young lady only to be disappointed by their plain features.
“Plain?” his father would roar. “She was quite adequate. Fair and well proportioned.”
“She lacked grace,” countered his son.
“Not everyone woman is blessed with the ability to dance.”
“I want grace too.”
The list grew with each encounter with a failed applicant. His son was developing a terrible reputation in the kingdom.
“Go travel. See the world. Maybe you will meet somebody on your travels or perhaps learn to judge others better,” his father suggested.
The prince left the boundaries of his realm, with a small entourage, and began his journey to see distant lands and people. His eyes were opened. He saw the ravages of war, disease and the indiscriminate impact of natural disasters. He saw humanity at his best and worse. People helping one another regardless of class or creed. It made him realise how narrow minded he had been in his desires. After a year of travelling he returned home a different man. He still hoped to find his perfect bride, but his criteria had changed. He wanted a real woman, nothing pretentious or contrived and he had been given an idea for achieving his goal.
She had become lost in the forest. The storm had caught her by surprise as she picked wild mushrooms. The rain lashed down on her already drenched cloak and her feet were soaked. She rarely strayed far from her home and upon this occasion she regretted her curiosity. She had followed the deer deeper into the woods and then lost her way. Trying to retrace her steps, her footprints had been washed away in the downpour. She was frozen and scared.
The castle on the hill was one she knew about, but had never had any interest in visiting. Her parents had often asked if she wanted to attend one of the balls as she was entitled given her status. She had consistently declined, showing no interest in the regal parties. She preferred the quiet life of contemplation and reading books. The invitations had stopped arriving and for a year the castle had been quiet.
She stumbled up the cobbled path to the great gate and rang the bell. A guard approached and seeing her dripping hair and sodden clothes told her she could go to the kitchens to warm up and have broth.
The cook was friendly and helpful, drying her cloak before the fire and giving her a hot stone to put her feet on. The chicken broth warmed her belly and she felt sleepy.
“I must return home.”
“Oh child, not tonight,” said the cook with concern. “It is miserable out there. Let me speak with the king, he will keep you safe here until the morning.”
She did not want to meet the king, but it would be rude not to and she was sent to throne room. When she gave her name to them and her lineage, they gasped and could not hide their delight.
“Dear princess, we have always hoped you would come here one day,” said the queen.
The princess simply shrugged. “I do not like parties.”
“Now, you must stay and sleep in our best bedroom. The prince will be here in the morning, he has gone to inspect our borders but will be back.”
She did not want to meet the prince. She had heard much about him and none of it favourable, but it would be ungracious to turn down their offer of comfort.
The bedroom was a fair size, the fire roaring and the bed itself enormous. Not in width and breadth, but in height.
“I do not need this many mattresses,” she told the servant who led her to the room.
The servant was nervous. “I’m sorry. It is what I was told to do. For your comfort.”
“I want a different bed. I need a stool to climb up there. I will fall off and break my neck.”
She was adamant she would not sleep in the bed and settled before the fire on the rug, wrapped in a blanket.
In the morning at the breakfast table, her hosts were aghast when the princess explained she had not slept in the bed.
“You did not sleep in the bed!” exclaimed the queen. “You have to.”
“Why?” the princess asked confused.
“Because…. Because. It is impolite not to accept our hospitality.”
“Your have been good hosts. I was happy with the rug before the fire,” she said spooning porridge into her bowl.
“He will be disappointed,” remarked the king.
“The prince, our son. He sets great store by that bed.”
The princess began to question the sanity of her hosts.
“Please stay another night,” said the queen. “And sleep in the bed.”
“I really should get home. I was in the middle of a really good book,” she said grumpily.
“You could read in bed,” suggested the king. “We’ve lots of books.”
“You do?” The princess was almost tempted by the offer.
It was at that moment the prince swept into the room with his muddy boots. He stopped when he saw the visitor, chewing on a mouthful of porridge.
Introductions were made and the prince could not help staring at the princess. “You’re beautiful.”
“Thank you,” she said dismissively. She knew she was attractive but she did not like it being pointed out to her. It was a nuisance and attracted all kinds of men to her door, forcing her to live like a recluse.
“She reads a lot too,” whispered his mother.
The prince smiled. “Such things are not important, mother, looks and intelligence. What I seek is a woman to keep me company and make me happy.”
“Indeed,” said his father.
“How did she find the bed?” asked the prince.
“She didn’t sleep in it,” hissed his mother.
The princess’s porridge bowl had been scraped clean and the young woman went to leave. “Perhaps I should go home, now your son his back.”
“Oh no,” said the prince. “You have to stay and sleep in the bed.”
She wanted to curse. The bed seemed to hold much importance to the family. “I have absolutely no intention of sleeping in the damn bed. I don’t need to be up there with my nose against the ceiling.”
“This is no good, mother. If she won’t sleep in the bed, how can I judge her sensibilities? She certainly looks like she would be a handful.”
“There is nothing wrong with being feisty,” The princess snapped at the prince. “I have my own opinions.”
“Of course you do, dear,” said the queen. “This not about opinions. The prince merely seeks a woman to marry who will be his perfect mate.”
“Marry!” the princess screeched. “I’m not interested in marriage.”
“Don’t you want to be in love,” said the prince astounded.
“Yes, just not yet,” she answered, trying not to look at the rather handsome man who stood in his leather riding gear.
“She reminds me of you, dear,” said the king to his queen. “Do you remember?”
The queen blushed pink. “I was a bit of a brat, wasn’t I?”
“Mother!” said the prince. “I can’t believe that. How did father manage?”
The royal couple went quiet, glancing back and forth at each other over the dining table. The king cleared his throat. “I took her over my knee and gave her a jolly good spanking.”
“What!” the princess said in unison with the prince.
There was an awkward silence. “Did it work?” asked the prince.
“Naturally. Your mother is the perfect wife and queen. I don’t have to ask her to do anything twice.”
The princess shifted on her seat, embarrassed at the family’s revelation. “I thought my folks were weird,” she muttered to herself.
The prince couldn’t stop looking at her as she ran a finger along the table surface, occasionally she glanced in his direction as he paced the floor. His dissatisfaction in her made her unhappy.
“Look,” she said finally. “If you spank me, can we forget the whole bed business.”
The prince stop in his tracks. “I’m sorry, you want me to spank you because you’re refusing to sleep in the bed?”
“Yes. It is obviously important to you and I’ve let you down in some way and I don’t like it,” the rush of words surprised her as much as anyone else in the room.
The prince’s hand took hers. “Come.”
“Where are we going?”
“The blasted bedroom.” He led the princess down the corridor, up the spiral stone staircase and into the chamber.
“Right,” he said. “I’ve never done this before, but I’m sure we’ll work it out.”
“I am not bending over the bed,” she said firmly. “For one thing I need a step ladder.”
“Fine.” He picked up a stool. “How about over my knee. This is a sturdy stool.”
“Right,” she said. “Do I lift up my skirts?”
The prince examined her thick winter dress. “Might help. Yes, take it off.”
“There is far too much of it, you’ll topple off my lap.”
She removed her outer garment, leaving her standing in a plain satin chemise. It twinkled in the firelight.
The prince gulped back a gasp of delight at her figure. “Let me help you,” he said taking her hand and assisting her to lean over his lap.
“You’re going to use your hand?” she asked nervously.
“It seems appropriate. I could take off my belt…”
“OH no, please don’t. I’m sure that strong hand of yours will be effective.”
He rolled up the petticoat until it lay on her back and her bottom was exposed. Her heart fluttered with anticipation. “You will be gentle with me?”
“I don’t think it is a good idea to be gentle. I’m meant to spanking you. I won’t harm you though,” he said. “It might help if I lower these panties of yours, so I can see your skin.”
Now her heart pounded hard and she rested her hands on the rug beneath her to stop the trembling.
“Yes, please,” she whispered.
The heat of the fire could be felt against her skin and at the same time a rush of cold air from the harsh stone walls swept between her legs.
The prince cleared his throat. “I think it was very rude not to sleep in our lovely bed. I’m going to spank you, now.”
The first few smacks hardly made an impression on her skin. The noise seemed excessively loud and he paused. “I’m going to spank you harder. I want to see a little red bottom.”
“You do?” she said wriggling her hips.
“I’m trying!” she said and then kicked her legs as he landed a more substantial blow on her buttocks.
The princess heard a satisfied grunt and then a smart sting. She wanted to cry out, but decided not to. She didn’t want to put him off.
The smacks came quicker, firmer and delivered with the flat of his hand. “Oh my!” she muttered trying to catch her breath.
“Will you sleep in my bed?” he demanded.
“No!” she snapped back at him. “Keep spanking me.”
The heat grew, searing into her flesh and with it she felt a strange sense of bliss. Nobody had ever paid her this much attention before, including her own parents and now her tutors had long gone, satisfied with her accomplishments.
His hand rubbed her bottom and she sighed.
“That is enough. I have made your bottom very red,” he said.
“Good. It needed it,” she said twisting around to face him. He helped her pulled up her drawers and they knelt side by side before the fire.
The prince held her hand and stroked his fingers over it.
“I’m sorry I didn’t sleep in your bed,” said the princess eventually. “I’m sure it was very comfortable. I don’t like heights.”
“Oh,” he said. “I’d not thought of that. It doesn’t matter. I don’t think I need it now. I’ve made up my mind whom I’m going to marry.”
“You have?” she asked sheepishly.
“Yes. Don’t worry. You’ll be the first to know after I’ve spoken with your father.”
She blushed keenly at his response. “Why did you want me to sleep in the infernal bed?” she asked, cuddling up to him before the embers of the fire.
“While I was travelling, a wise sage told me that a true princess will always be able to feel anything, no matter how hard it is hidden from her. So I put a pea under the bottom mattress, piled it high and decided if a princess could feel that when she slept in the bed, she was the one.”
“Oh,” said the prince. “Perhaps it was lost in translation. We were a little drunk too…..”
“In any case, I felt your hand on me. I quite liked it. It certainly left me filled with emotions and I can’t hide those from you.”
“So, perhaps it worked after all, just not the way I intended.”
She smiled at him. “No. But then in my opinion, nothing ever works the way it is intended. It makes me happy though.”
They stayed by the fire all day and night. The bed never was slept in.