Sunlight filtered through the trees, forming lacy patterns on the forest path. Twelve-year-old Scott pulled a small, wooden wagon behind him, whistling "Here Comes the Bride.” A buff-colored pony with a calico cat curled on its back paced friskily beside him in time to the wedding march.
The cat yawned, stretched, and growled irritably at the prancing pony. "Take it easy, Buffy. I know you're excited about singing at the king's wedding, but you're disturbing my sleep."
Scott ruffled the cat's fur. "Sunshine, Buffy's got a right to be excited. Ever since King Grace heard him sing at the county fair and declared him the best singer in the kingdom, Buffy has dreamed of singing for the king's wedding. Now that he's been officially selec¬ted, we shouldn't be surprised if he has pre-wedding jit¬ters." Scott did a little jig of his own. "I'm excited too! Of all the boys in the Kingdoms of Graceland and Paisley, I was chosen as ring-bearer!”
He looked at the elegant satin pillow in his wagon. "Not only am I to carry the ring in the wedding, but they trusted me to get the ring pillow there as well. Isn't that some¬thing?"
The cat on the pony's back looked anxiously behind them. "Scottie-boy, you're my master, and you're the best. You deserve to be in the wedding and so does Buffy. But, some¬thing bad is gonna happen! I just know it! That's why I like to sleep 'cause when I'm asleep I don’t think or worry about danger."
Scott smiled at the grumbling cat. "Why did I ever name you Sunshine, when you're nothing but a big, dark, stormy cloud? I should have named you Stormy.”
The heavy covering of trees opened to a clearing on a bluff above a valley. Scott stopped, and Sunshine jumped down from Buffy's back. Buffy moved to a place overlooking the valley below. They had selected this place for him to practice his wedding song.
He posed dramatically and began to sing. The words and melody of his song dipped and soared, touching every buttery-yellow daisy that filled the meadow below. They were his audience, and they turned their faces to catch every note.
"Look, Sunshine, a butterfly!” Scott pointed to a large, golden butterfly drifting up towards them.
"Shhh!” Sunshine said. "Buffy's got to finish practicing. This is his last chance before the wedding."
Scott tiptoed away to chase the butterfly. The butterfly moved in time to Buffy's song as though it floated on the clear, sweet melody. Scott reached out to catch the beautiful creature, but as it touched the ground, it became a yellow daisy.
The last notes lingered in the air as Scott stared at the daisy. “Look, Sunshine!"
Sunshine and Buffy hurried to Scott's side. "What is it, Scottie-Boy?” asked Buffy.
"The butterfly! Just as I was about to catch it, it turned into a daisy!” Scott touched the daisy and gently picked it. "It's got to be lucky! It'll protect us from whatever's spooking you, Sunshine!"
Scott tucked the daisy into Buffy's silver and leather halter. "That's festive enough for even a king's wedding, Buffy."
"Yeah, it's great, but we gotta go," the crotchety cat said. "The wedding starts in a few hours, and we don't want to miss a thing. Boost me up onto Buffy's back, Scottie-boy and let's get going."
As they made their way, each was quietly lost in his own daydream about the wedding, dreams of fairy tale romances like King Grace’s and Princess Faith’s.
Before his death, the old king arranged for the prince to marry Princess Faith of the Kingdom of Paisley. Their countries joined, and an alliance between them would make both stronger.
After his father’s death, the new king traveled to Paisley to meet his princess. On his way, he met a beautiful girl riding a prancing, black stal¬lion. They rode side by side for miles and miles and talked of many things. The king fell in love with the girl and she with him. As they parted, King Grace told her he was to marry the Princess of Paisley so he could never see her again. His heart was heavy with sorrow as he watched her ride away.
The wishes of his father burned in his mind, and his new love burned in his heart as he prepared for the banquet given in his honor that night. He dreaded meeting the princess who would come between him and his true love.
When the princess entered the banquet hall, he reluctantly looked up and found himself looking into the eyes of the girl he had fallen in love with on the way to Paisley. Princess Faith laughed with delight at his surprise.
Before the banquet was over, King Grace had asked Princess Faith to be his bride. They spent hours talking, dreaming, and planning a spring wedding.
Scott sighed dreamily as he recalled the sweet love story. As Princess Faith's stable boy, he had watched their love grow richer and deeper as their wedding day approach¬ed.
Topping a hill, Scott pointed excitedly; Graceland lay in the valley below. The royal palace sat like a shining jewel in the midst of the charming city. It was from there that King Grace and Queen Faith would rule the kingdoms of Graceland and Paisley.
As the trio started down the hill, they heard a heavy pounding behind them. The ground shook and their hearts froze, remembering Sunshine's feeling of doom.
Down the path behind them stomped a giant. He was nine feet tall and big all over. His bushy, black hair was shoulder-length, and his eyes were a deep, stormy green with heavy, dark eyebrows over them.
They saw his scowl and fierce determination as he walked right up to them. Scott, standing small and blond next to the dark giant, spoke first. "Mortimer, you scared us half to death! What's the matter with you anyway? Why are you so angry?"
Mortimer did not answer. He flicked Sunshine off Buffy's back, picked Buffy up and threw him over his shoulders. Then he turned and stomped off the same way he had come, the frightened pony draped around his neck.
Scott and Sunshine were so surprised it took them a moment to recover. "Mortimer, what are you doing?” Scott cried as he ran after the giant. "Buffy's singing at King Grace's wedding. You can't take him away! You just can't!"
Scott was near tears, so the wise old cat took charge. "Scottie-boy, some¬thing's terribly wrong with Mortimer. He looks mean and fierce, but there's not a gentler giant in the whole world. I can't imagine what has him so upset, but whatever it is, I'm sure he'll not hurt Buffy.
"I know where he lives, so let’s go find out what's wrong and see if we can free Buffy. We got to hurry though, if we're going to get you and Buffy to Graceland in time for the wedding."
Scott scared and very worried, asked, "What'll happen if we don't make it in time? Who'll sing for the wedding and who'll carry the ring?” Tears glistened in his eyes.
"Easy, Scottie-boy.” The cat rubbed Scott's leg to comfort him. "We'll get Buffy back, and we’ll get you and him to Graceland on time. Don't worry! You have to have faith and believe that everything's going to be okay!"
Sunshine gently pushed the satin pillow to the front of the wagon and jumped in behind it. "Hurry! You pull the wagon, and I'll watch the ring pillow."
Scott turned the wagon around and hurried up the path muttering, "I believe! I believe!"
Scott stopped and looked to Sunshine for directions when they reached a fork in the road. "The left fork is the way to Mortimer's castle,” Sunshine said. They hurried quickly along the less-traveled path.
Heavy, overhanging trees made the forest dark, but ahead they saw the light of a large clearing, bright with sunshine and yellow daisies. In the middle of the clearing was Mortimer's castle. It seemed huge to Scott and Sunshine, but was a small, humble castle for a giant.
They saw Buffy high on a ledge near the top of the castle, standing very still with his eyes closed. The daisy was still in his halter, blowing in the wind along with his cream-colored mane.
Scott held his breath. "Oh, poor Buffy! He's terrified of heights!"
A scowling Mortimer stood beside his castle with his hands on his hips, watching them approach. "What'd ya' want?" he demanded looking mean and angry.
Scott went to him and touched his hand. "I don't understand, Mortimer. What's the matter? Buffy's supposed to sing at King Grace's wedding, and King Grace is one of your best friends. How could you hurt him like this?"
Mortimer tried to continue frowning, but a tear slipped out onto his cheek. He squatted to eye level with Scott. "I'm the only person in the whole kingdom that didn't get an invitation to the wedding. King Grace didn't want me to come, and I know why. It's because I'm different. I'm the only giant in the country, and I'm big and clumsy and ugly. I can see why he doesn't want me, but if I'm not invited to the wedding, then I'm not going to let Buffy sing for it either.”
In Mortimer’s eyes Scott saw anger, but mostly he saw hurt. Scott wiped the huge tear off the giant's cheek. "I can't believe King Grace didn't invite you to the wedding. Something must have happened to your invitation. The king’s pet starlings delivered Sunshine’s, Buffy’s, and mine. They flew all over the kingdom delivering invitations. Surely, the starling that was delivering yours had an accident. We could find him if we just had time to look; I know we could!”
Scott looked to see if Sunshine could help, but Sunshine was looking at Buffy. The daisy in Buffy's bridle moved, fluttered, and again became a butterfly. Yellow daisies surrounded the castle, and the butterfly flew from one daisy to another. Each one she touched became a butterfly, and soon the clearing was alive with fluttering wings. The butterflies flew in every direction.
Scott jumped up and down. "See, I told you it was a lucky daisy! She's getting the butterflies to look for your invitation, Mortimer."
Scott yelled to Buffy, "Hold on a little longer, Buffy! Don't be afraid! We'll get you down soon!"
Buffy opened his eyes a tiny bit, and what he saw scared him so much that he trembled violently and almost lost his balance. He squeezed his eyes shut tight. "Hurry! Please hurry! I can't stand still much longer!"
A cluster of butterflies fluttered furiously in front of Mortimer, Scott, and Sunshine. "Look, Scottie-boy," Sunshine said. "They want us to follow them!"
Mortimer picked Scott up in one arm and Sunshine and the wagon in the other, then followed the butterflies with huge steps. He followed them to a small creek a quarter of a mile from the castle. There a starling lay wounded on the ground.
Scott jumped from Mortimer's arms and knelt beside the starling. "Poor thing! A hawk or a falcon must have hurt him."
When the little bird saw them, he fluttered one wing; the other was broken. The invitation was still in his beak, but when Scott tried to take it, the starling shook his head and would not let go until Mortimer himself knelt down and took it.
Tears filled Mortimer's eyes as he opened his own personal invitation to the king's wedding. When he spoke, his voice was thick with sorrowful emotion.
"I was wrong to be petty and jealous. I feel terrible about what I've done to Buffy and to you. Can you ever forgive me?"
"Of course we forgive you, Mortimer.” Scott hugged the kneeling giant's neck. "You were deeply hurt, but it's easy to see you're sorry now. But, Mortimer, we've got to hurry! There's not much time to get to Graceland! We can't be late for the king's wedd¬ing!"
"That's no problem!” The giant picked up the pillow and sat Scott in the wagon. He put the pillow in Scott's lap and put Sunshine in his arms. He covered the satin pillow with his handkerchief, then gently lifted the starling and placed it on the pillow. Then he picked up the wagon with everyone in it and hurried to the castle with giant steps.
Arriving at the castle, Mortimer set the wagon on the ground and went to the roof, where he leaned over and with long arms picked up Buffy. He carried him to where Scott and Sunshine sat in the wagon, and gently set him on the ground.
The frightened pony was so relieved to be off his high perch that he hardly heard Mortimer's apology. He gasped when Mortimer again picked him up and put him over his shoulders, but he calmed down when he saw him also pick up the wagon with Scott and Sunshine in it. The giant hurried toward Graceland so fast that the woods passed in a blur.
The entire kingdom was upset when they got there. It was time for the wedding to start, and everyone was searching for them. The king pacing nervously outside the castle was anxiously watching the road and was overjoyed when he saw them coming.
"Buffy, Scott, where have you been?” the relieved king asked. “We've been so worried. We were afraid something had happened to you, and we'd have to start the wedding without you. But, how could we have had the ceremony without our special wedding song or without our ring-bearer? Are you okay? Why's Mortimer carrying you? Have you been hurt?"
Scott laughed at the king's questions and asked Mortimer to put them down. He took the king aside and explained everything to him. The king immediately went to Mortimer and took his big hand.
"Mortimer, my friend, how could you think that I would fail to invite you to my wedding?” The king smiled gently at his large friend.
"But, my King, I'm so different, so ugly.” Mortimer's voice choked.
"Ugly! Mortimer, no one is ugly when he has friends. You're very special to me. Come, let me show you."
The guards threw open the gates of the castle, and they went into the courtyard where the wedding was to be held. A huge chair sat close to the altar where King Grace and Princess Faith would take their vows. The king led Mortimer to it.
"I had this built just for you, my friend, so that you would be comfortable at my wedding."
Mortimer barely had time to sit in his special chair before the trumpets announced that it was time for the wedding to begin.
The king and his attendants took their place by the priest. The bridesmaids came down the aisle one by one, stepping slowly to the wedding music. A lovely, flower girl, tossing daisy petals on the path, followed them. Scott came next, carrying the magnificent satin pillow. Tied to the pillow with a satin ribbon was an equally magnificent ring. Scott carried himself as proudly as he carried the pillow. He stopped by the king and smiled up at him.
The king, handsome in emerald green velvet trimmed in fur, winked at Scott. He had carefully brushed his curly, blond hair, nevertheless a few curls fell around his temples and his smooth, wide forehead. His dark blue eyes crinkled with laugh lines as a smile played at the corners of his mouth. His gaze flickered among his friends, as he waited anxiously for his bride-to-be.
The guests grew silent as the wedding march began. Every eye watched Princess Faith enter. Her dress was unbelievably lovely, with its satin, lace, and pearls, but was not nearly as lovely as Princess Faith herself. Her honey-blond hair, thick and shiny, showed through the sheer, lacy veil. Her smooth, creamy skin glowed with natural color that made one think of springtime. Her laughing, hazel eyes that saw humor in everything danced with joy. She was a perfect match for the king.
The princess began her slow, stately walk down the aisle toward the king. She saw no one but him, and he saw no one but her. When she reached his side, he took her hand and together they turned to face the priest. They exchanged vows, promising to love, cherish, protect, and honor each other until "death do them part." When it was time, the king untied the beautiful ring, winking again at Scott before he turned to put the ring on his bride's finger.
King Grace and his bride laughed joyfully when the priest said, "I now pronounce you husband and wife.” The priest turned to their guests, "May I present King Grace and his lovely bride, Queen Faith."
The king took his queen’s hands and looked deeply into her eyes as Buffy sang their wedding song.
I am yours. You are mine.
We will love 'til the end of time.
We'll have girls. We'll have boys.
They'll fill our palace with their toys.
Here's my love. All can see,
No one can come 'tween you and me.
I love you. You love me.
Love is here for the world to see
Oh, my own, dear, sweet dove.
Not time nor death can end our love.
Here's my love. All can see,
No one can come 'tween you and me.
PLEASE ENCOURAGE AUTHOR,
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