Princess Gwen sat on the chair by the window, drinking in the cool winter air. It slipped through the meager protection of her silken nightgown, but her twelve-year old mind was on more important thoughts than warmth. And certainly very far away from sleep.
“Gwen? Gwendolyn!” Lady Muriel’s voice echoed in the hallway and Gwen scrambled down from the chair to hurry to the door.
“Gwen!” Lady Muriel frowned. “Where’s your dressing gown? You’ll catch your death of cold!”
Gwen dutifully retrieved her dressing gown, fumbling with the cords. “It’s Christmas Eve, Maury.” She held out the strings.
Her mentor set a bundle on the bed and glided across the room to tie the strings neatly in a bow. “You’re old enough to do this yourself, you know.” She moved to light the nearest candle. A weak flame sputtered to life as Gwen hurried to bring her favorite candle.
A soft rosy pink pillar of wax, she treasured it as Lady Muriel lit the rest of the candles and lamps. Light flooded the room and Gwen felt her toes tingle. She felt so deliciously free she could twirl the night away.
Lady Muriel whisked the candle away from her fingers. “Gwendolyn! I know exactly what you’re thinking.” The smile was playful. “No twirling with candles. Go fetch the package on the bed.”
Gwen hurried to the bed and back as Lady Muriel moved to the chair beneath the window. “What is it?” Gwen settled onto the chair, the package carefully balanced on her lap. It hinted of something wonderful within.
“Open it and see.” Lady Muriel smiled mysteriously.
Gwen tore through the wrapper with careful fingers. A gasp escaped as she drew a slender, ornamental lamp from the swaddling of paper. Beautiful painted symbols adored the white surface, with the glass shade stylishly curved and rounded. “Is it mine?” Gwen breathed.
Lady Muriel’s smile blossomed. “Aye, it is.” She held the candle out of reach as Gwen grabbed her in a hug. “Careful, love.” They shared a giggle as Gwen quickly stepped back.
In a matter of minutes, her pink candle glowed brightly from within her new lamp. “It’s beautiful.” Gwen murmured, turning the lamp in her hands. “Thank you, Maury.”
“You’re a young lady this year.” Lady Muriel murmured. “This year you may join in the Eve festivities.”
“Truly?” Gwen stared at her in disbelief.
Lady Muriel perked a brow. “Truly…” Her voice trailed off as Gwen scrambled to stand up on the chair.
The faintest chorus could be heard, growing louder with every moment. Gwen stared out in night at the thin line of light growing brighter. “Father?” She dared to whisper.
Lady Muriel laughed again. “Aye, the first rider arrived within the hour. Merry Christmas, princess. Come quickly and dress before they arrive.”
Gwen found herself whisked behind the dressing screens and quickly smothered in the layers of her new gown. But her thoughts melted away to wonder when she saw the grown-up figure in the looking glass. Her thoughts swirled in tandem with Lady Muriel's retelling of the Christmas story.
By now, the singing was loud and clear, as it wafted through the bedroom window. Christmas songs sung in melody by the hundreds of voices returning with King Roald from the borderlands.
A sigh of happiness trickled out as Gwen stepped into the courtyard. It was beautifully lit and abuzz with happenings. Lady Muriel navigated through the crowds to find the royal waiting party.
“Mama!” Gwen whispered, waving as she caught her mother’s eye.
A hush settled over the courtyard as the king’s horse entered first, followed by the rest of the troops. Singing filled the courtyard and Gwen could hardly stand still.
King Roald swung down from his steed, as wise gray eyes scanned the crowd. It settled with a twinkle on his lovely wife, and a smile for Gwen as he opened his arms .
Gwen rushed straight for them, closing her eyes as he swung her around in a small circle. “Father!” She hugged his neck. “It’s Christmas!”
His eyes danced merrily. “Is it now?” He paused to wrap an arm around his wife. “Our daughter says it is Christmas, wife.” His voice was teasing. “I suppose we ought to be singing?”
Gwen burst into giggles as she looped one arm through her Father’s and the other through Lady Muriel’s. “Oh yes, please, Father. Let’s sing!”
The laughter rose above the music before their voices joined in.
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