Amalia’s father, King Norwood, loved her so much, he wanted to protect her from all life’s dangers. To keep her safe from the greatest danger of all – men – he surrounded her with three chaste companions and a special troop of guards sworn to defend her virtue. He forbade all single males over the age of twelve from approaching her. He blocked all love songs from reaching her ears, all romantic stories from passing before her eyes, and even made it a crime to discuss such matters with her.
In short, he wanted to keep her as pure as fresh snow, as innocent as a fawn, until her beauty, kindness, and purity attracted a crown prince from one of the big kingdoms. He hoped such a union would not only make her happy, but would also help his small, impoverished kingdom of Westwich survive.
By the time Amalia turned eighteen, the king’s plan seemed to have worked. Eleven princes had asked for her hand in marriage on reputation alone. The king had rejected all but one: Prince Rupert from the mighty kingdom of Arginy, who was now on his way to meet her. Everything was going perfectly – Amalia’s gilded cage had not a single scratch – until one morning she arrived for breakfast in the Great Hall, rubbing her eyes and yawning.
“Why so tired?” asked Queen Isabella, Amalia’s ageless and graceful mother. “Did you not sleep well, my dear?”
“It’s my bed,” Amalia answered drowsily. “There was a lump under my rump all night long.”
“A lump?” said the king, who couldn’t bear to see his daughter suffer the slightest discomfort. “That’s unacceptable. I’ll have the steward replace your mattress right away.”
“Thank you, Father,” said Amalia, as she gently massaged her behind.
* * *
The next morning, Amalia entered the Great Hall with the same look of sleepy discomfort on her face.
“What’s wrong, my child?” asked the queen.