There was much bustling about at that point, but in the end I was given a large meal, full of delicacies I’d only ever heard tales of, and a light sweet wine that I was careful not to drink too much of, and shown to a room with a comfortable bed where I could sleep. A nightgown was even laid out for me, but I opted to keep my clothes on as I crawled beneath the covers.
They let me sleep myself out, and when I woke there was a girl in the room, perhaps a handful of years younger than myself, eyes wide with awe.
“I’m to help you dress, m’lady,” she whispered.
“I’m not a lady,” I said, sitting up and gesturing to my bodice. “And I am dressed. But thank you.”
“No,” she said, turning red, “I mean for your audience with the king. You’re- you’re to wear this,” she gestured to a voluminous silk gown the color of bright yellow pansies, trimmed in finely stitched, gold embroidery. I wrinkled my nose.
“I’d look terrible in that,” I said. “It doesn't suit my coloring at all.”
The girl looked wretched. “I know that, m’la- miss, but you have to wear it. The king sent it and said you must be suitably dressed.”
I scowled. “My dress was suitable enough for him to drag me to this place, and lock me in a tower to perform an impossible task. I think I’ll keep it, thank you very much.”
“Oh m’lady, please,” she said, a note of panic creeping into her voice. “He’ll be so angry if you’re not wearing it, and I was told to help you dress. He’ll say it’s my fault,” she was crying now, and as loathe as I was to put that wretched dress on, even if it had been a flattering color, I was even more loathe to let my stubbornness lead to this poor child being punished. If he was willing to destroy an entire village because I couldn’t spin straw to gold, what might he do to a servant who didn’t accomplish an entirely rational duty?
“Fine,” I sighed and rose from the bed, eyeing the fabric with distaste. “But I don’t need your help. I don’t have a maid at home, you know.”
The girl gulped, and took a step back. “Not to contradict m’la- miss, but this dress isn’t like what you or I would wear, even to a dance. You have to be sewn into it.”
“What?” I raised the dress to stare at it in disbelief. “How absolutely ludicrous! Trust the nobility to deliberately design something so impractical.” I turned to face her, and as I did so, the spool in my pocket bumped against knee.
“But I suppose I have no choice,” I said, and slowly lowered the dress. “What will you use to sew me into the dress?”
She held up a spool of glittering embroidery thread. “To match the embroidery, miss.” I eyed it narrowly.
“Is that gold wrapped around a cotton core?” I asked.
“Silk, miss,” she nodded appreciatively. “It’s stronger, you know.”
“Mmm,” I said. “I’d rather you use some of my thread, if you don’t mind."