Once upon a time,
There was a young woman who lived in a giant castle, all by herself.
She had once been married to the prince of the kingdom, but all of them had ridden off to battle to stop the giant orcs who were attacking from the south. Her prince had fallen in the first day of battle, and the king, to keep the princess safe, had sent her to the lonely castle in the highlands. Since orc spies were in the lands, it was thought best that she be put in the castle by herself so as to not draw attention to her hiding place. And so in the castle she remained, while the bitter wind blew through winter nights.
After a few weeks of living in the castle, a particularly bad storm started up. There were drifts piled high against the northern gate of the wall. The wall was ninety feet high, but by the end of the fifth day of the blizzard, the drifts had scaled the wall completely. The young woman kept warm in the kitchen of the castle, stoking the oven's stove for heat and for cooking her meals.
Across the way, a woodsman saw a trail of smoke coming from the chimney. He had seen it before, but could never get into the castle due to the moat and the castle walls. But now, the drifts were high enough. Curious as to who could be squatting in the king's old hunting castle, the woodsman hefted his ax and made his way up the frosty slope to the top of the castle wall. He caught a glimpse of warm light from the window of the kitchen, and made his way toward it.
He peeked in and caught sight of the woman. Her back was to him, and he quickly ducked out of view again. She was wearing a beautiful red dress and jewelry from the king's supply. At this, the woodsman grew upset. A peasant woman had broken into the lodge and stolen the king's bounty! The woodsman walked through the courtyard of the castle while he wondered what to do.
At last, he stumbled across the carpenter's hut and found the needed supplies. Taking boards and nails, he moved to the kitchen door and began to nail it shut. If the peasant woman wanted the kings supplies, she could just stay in there forever! Inside the kitchen, the young woman heard the bangs as the first nails were driven into boards at the front door. Fearful, she rushed to the pantry and looked for a weapon, but all she had were pans and a bread knife--all the sharpened cutlery had been transported back to the king's palace and they hadn't thought to return it when she came to live there.
When the noise at the kitchen door stopped, the woman made her way to the door. She quickly realized she couldn't get the door open, and then a sudden bang came from the dinning room door! The woman rushed up the stairs through the servant's entrance to the main chambers of the castle. She reached the balcony outside the main hall and looked down as the woodcutter finished the dining room door.
"What are you doing?" she demanded.
The woodcutter remained silent. There was no sense talking to peasants. "If you do not leave at once, you'll be cast into the dungeon!" the woman continued.
The woodcutter knew that was an idle threat. This castle was never used during the winter months, and besides when the authorities came back they'd be tossing the peasant woman into the dungeon anyway. There was only one more entrance into the living quarters of the castle. The woodcutter made his way to the final door and waited. Sure enough, the woman appeared in the doorway, fuming in anger.
The woodsman held his ax up: "Stay where you are."
"You dare not speak that way to a princess!"
The woodcutter scoffed. "A princess? Alone in this castle?"
"The king--my father-in-law--will see you hanged for this!"
The woman gestured with the bread knife she still held in her hand.
The woodcutter laughed at the pitiful weapon.
"We shall see what the king says," he replied. "He's sure to get here by the end of spring."
"So we shall," she responded.
The woodcutter motioned with his ax and waited until the woman had stepped far from the doorway. Then, he lowered the ax, picked up a board and fastened it to the door. When he was finished, he looked up and saw the woman standing at the balcony once more. "There's not enough supplies for me to last until spring," she called out.
"That's because no one is supposed to be in the castle," the woodcutter said. He was proud of having done his civic duty to defend the throne.
"Do you know why I'm not concerned about that?" the woman shouted back. She seemed almost gleeful and proud. "No, and I'm not interested." "Because the king knows I'm here and knows I'll need supplies. Those supplies will be arriving any day now, and when they get here, you'll be dead!” The woodcutter laughed. "You should fear more for your own neck." And with that, the woman retreated inside the castle and the woodcutter climbed back over the walls and returned to his cottage.
The king's envoy did arrive a week later. They found the princess in the castle, bored but otherwise fine. They searched for the woodcutter to arrest him, but the woods were vast and the woodcutter, having seen the coming envoy, knew enough to realize he'd made a mistake.
A few months later, the campaign against the orcs was ended, the king victorious again.
And the events after that cold winter's day slowly faded from the memories of all who were involved.
Even so, at the time,
it had been the most important thing that had happened in the wood.