It began the evening that the king and his family were standing on a balcony, smiling and waving to the knights who were preparing to battle in a tournament. “Maybe we could let the winner marry our youngest,” the king said to his wife.
“That’s a terrible idea,” the queen said.
“It might make it more interesting,” the king said.
The youngest princess calmly shoved him. The king stumbled and an arrow thwacked into the wall where he’d been standing. Everyone on the balcony crouched to hide behind the stone wall.
“Where did the arrow come from?” the queen asked. She turned to the youngest princess. “Did you see it coming?”
Outside the balcony, they could hear shouting. Another arrow hit the wall above their heads. The oldest princess started herding her husband and children inside. The others followed, all of them crawling to stay hidden.
Once inside, the doors closed, the family waited for word from the guards. The foolish archer was a knight from a nearby kingdom who believed he had some claim on the throne through a third cousin. He was quickly caught and thrown in the dungeons.
“I think you saved my life,” the king told his youngest daughter that evening at dinner.
“Does that mean you owe me a favor?” the princess clapped her hands. “Good! I want to marry my pen pal.”
“You’re still writing your pen pal?” the queen asked.
“Of course I am. We’re best friends.” The princess deliberately took the third fork in instead of the second. Her mother frowned.
The king looked confused. “What pen pal?” He absently picked up the third fork as well. Everyone at the table switched forks.
The queen leaned forward and patted his arm. “The one she’s been writing to since she was eleven.”
The king thought for a moment. “I thought we didn’t know who was sending those letters. They just started showing up one day.”
“That’s right.” The queen set aside her fork with a sigh.
The king leaned in and whispered. “I thought we decided it was an imaginary friend. I thought all the letters were in her handwriting.”
“I heard that.” The princess dropped her fork and narrowed her eyes. She picked up the second spoon in and started eating her potatoes.
The queen rolled her eyes. “You haven’t met your pen pal. He might be anybody at all. Why don’t you meet him first?”
“Invite him to the palace for a week,” the king said. He absently switched his fork for his second spoon. The queen sighed as everyone at the table switched from their fork to their spoon.
The princess grinned. “And if I like him, I can marry him, right? I did save your life, after all.”
“Very well,” the king said. He looked down as a piece of potato slipped off his spoon. “Why are we using spoons to eat potatoes?”
The next morning, the youngest princess brought her fountain pen to the breakfast table. When her older sister wanted to sit down next to her the youngest princess stopped her. “You can’t sit there, my pen pal is sitting in that chair.”
The queen leaned forward to look over the table. “That’s a pen.”
“He’s enchanted,” the princess said.
“Of course he is,” the queen said. She didn’t sound convinced.
The youngest princess took her fountain pen around with her everywhere that week. She introduced the pen to her friends and family as her fiance. The king and queen weren’t sure what to think.
At the end of the week, at dinner, the youngest princess turned to her father. “I still like him. I’d like to get married, just like you promised.”
“You want to marry your fountain pen?” The king looked over at the pen sitting on the chair next to his daughter.
“You promised,” the princess said.
“But it’s a pen. I’m not sure that’s legal,” the queen said.
“I saved the king,” the youngest princess said. “You promised.”
And so, two months later, the youngest princess walked down the aisle to meet the waiting fountain pen sitting on an embroidered pillow in front of the priest. As the priest started the ceremony, the pen started to glow.
Moments later, a handsome young man was sitting on the pillow. He was dressed in old-fashioned, but appropriately fancy clothes. He looked around for a moment, then grinned and stood. He grabbed the princess’s hands and they smiled at each other.
The priest had stopped speaking, and was staring at the young couple. The princess turned to look at him, still holding her unenchanted fiance’s hands. “Go on, then. We were just getting started.”
“I guess that explains why the letters were in her handwriting,” the king whispered to the queen. “I’m glad I won’t have a pen for a son-in-law.”
“Me too,” the queen whispered back. They all lived happily ever after.