Once upon a time, there lived a princess, and her name was Mary. Princess Mary lived with her brother, Prince Steve, and her mother and father, the King and Queen, in a beautiful palace on a beach in the land of Hawai'i.
Mary grew up happy in Hawai'i (except for when her brother made her play knights and warlocks with him, because she always had to be the warlock and never got to be the knight), until one day, her mother, the Queen, was killed by a terrible spell.
Her father, the King, worried that the Prince and Princess would be next, and so he sent both of them into exile to The Mainland. To protect them, he said, though Mary didn't understand why he couldn't protect them, since he was the king.
On The Mainland, no-one knew that Mary was a princess. She lived with her grandmother and grandfather, who were quite old and didn't really know what to do with a young princess who spent a lot of time in her room asking the courtiers to play music very loudly.
After a while, they stopped checking on her. Mary learnt how to sneak out of their house by climbing down a tree that grew outside the window (her mother, the Queen, would never have let that tree keep growing. The Queen had been a rebellious young woman herself, and knew what young princesses could get up to).
For many years, Mary roamed about The Mainland, getting up to all sorts of things that princesses oughtn't to get up to. It reminded her of playing knights and warlocks with Prince Steve, but she tried not to think about that, because then she got sad, remembering that he wouldn't come after her and capture her any more.
Then one day Mary got terrible news – her father, the King, had been killed as well, and Prince Steve, who had been roaming The Mainland and the Faraway Lands as well, but like a knight, not like a warlock, was going back to Hawai'i to bury him.
Mary knew she should have gone as well. Instead, she went to the magical land of Las Vegas, where there were lots of palaces and beautiful things, and tried to forget that her parents were dead.
And then, one day, Princess Mary woke up and thought, "I miss my home, and my brother, the Prince. I will go home and see them again."
(At the time, Princess Mary was in a cell, where she had spent the night after being picked up for shoplifting by the knights of the Las Vegas Knights, but that's neither here nor there).
Mary persuaded the knights to let her go, promised not to leave town or to misbehave, and caught the ship back to Hawai'i. She was looking forward to seeing her brother (sort of), but she was nervous as well, and when she was nervous, she sometimes smoked, even though it was bad for her and Not Done for princesses to smoke.
The knights of Aloha Ships caught her, and her brother had to rescue her. Mary sighed. That wasn't how she'd meant for things to go.
Although they did get better, a little bit.
Princess Mary was a little bit surprised to find out that Steve had become a knight, instead of taking over as King like he was supposed to, and being a knight on the side, like their father had done.
"Who's going to be King now?" she asked him (they were sitting by the King's grave, eating sandwiches. It was a bit like being a young princess again, though it made Mary miss the King and Queen a lot as well).
Steve shrugged. "I don't know. Governor Jameson is like a queen."
Mary had seen Governor Jameson, and didn't think she was anything like a queen, or a king. She was doing a good job of running the country though. "Maybe I want to be queen. Since you're not being king, and you don't have any children. Do you?" she added, just checking. It had been a long time since she'd spoken to her brother, after all.
Steve made a face. "No. Don't you think I would have told you?"
"So I'm next in line," Mary said. She thought it was probably better not to answer that question. "I could be queen."
"You can't be queen." Steve looked worried, and kept looking at the King's gravestone. "It wouldn't be safe."
"I thought you said the warlock who killed Dad was dead."
"He is," Steve said, but he didn't look very sure. "It's still not safe. You don't know how to protect yourself, and we don't have enough knights to watch you all the time."
Well, Mary thought, that was something she could do something about.
There were lots of knights in Hawai'i, and most of them would probably teach her, if she asked them. Of course, most of them would be doing it because they thought she was ordering them to, as the Princess, and she didn't really like that idea.
Instead, she asked Knight Kono, who worked for Prince Steve and, according to Kamekono, didn't take orders from anyone.
"I don't know if I'll be any good at it," she said to Kono, "but I'm a little tired of needing to be protected."
She didn't say, "Especially by Steve," even though that was true. Kono was a knight after all, and Steve was her brother.
"You know your brother could teach you some pretty good moves too, right?" Kono asked when she arrived at Mary's house (Mary didn't like to stay at the palace, since Steve sometimes brought his friend to visit there. Catherine was pretty and looked good in the mornings; Princess Mary thought it was probably best that she didn't see Catherine too much, just in case).
"He won't though," Mary told Kono. "He just thinks of me as the princess."
Kono nodded, looking thoughtful. "Just in case you get kidnapped," she said, smiling. Kono had a nice smile. "I hear that happens to princesses a lot."
Mary smiled back. She didn't think anyone would want to kidnap her, but she hadn't thought anyone would want to kill the King either, or her mother, the Queen, so maybe she was wrong. The thought made her feel a bit sick. She didn't want to be kidnapped.
"So, um, can we do this here?"
"Here's good," Kono said, and started pushing furniture aside without asking, like Mary wasn't a princess at all, but just another knight, in Kono's eyes. Mary pushed her sleeves up, tucked her hair into the neck of her shirt, and helped her.
The day the evil warlock who'd killed the King sent his minions for Princess Mary, she wished that Knight Kono or Prince Steve was there to protect her.
Then she remembered that she wasn't the kind of princess who needed protecting, or who went quietly when she was getting kidnapped, and she punched the evil minion in the face.
She grinned when he screamed in pain, even though she was being dragged away and stuffed into the trunk of a horseless conveyance. Knight Kono had been right – it did feel good to hit someone who deserved it, and her hand didn't even hurt.
She still panicked a bit when they closed the trunk and drove off with her, but not so badly that she couldn't call Prince Steve to help her.
When the evil warlock and his evil minions were all locked up, and Steve left to go tell Governor Jameson all about how he and Knight Danny had found Mary, Knight Kono brought Mary a bottle of ale and sat down with her.
"Nice job with the tooth," she said again.
"Thanks." Mary smiled, even though it made her face hurt a bit where they'd hit her. Now that she wasn't scared she was going to be killed, she felt good about what she'd done. How she'd defended herself, even if it hadn't worked perfectly. "I remembered what you said, about not tucking my thumb in my fist, and putting my weight behind it."
"Nice going." Kono tapped her bottle of ale against Mary's and they both drank. "You can show me on Thursday."
Mary looked down at her ale. "I don't think I'll be there. Steve says I should go back to The Mainland until it's safe."
"That's just silly," Kono said firmly. "You're the Princess, I thought you were going to rule here."
"He's worried about me," Mary said.
"Why?" Kono asked. "You knocked out an evil minion's tooth, when you'd just been woken up." She looked down then, and Mary thought she was blushing a little bit. She'd never seen Kono blush – she didn't think knights ever blushed. "If you're here, we can look out for you. I can look out for you."
"Oh," Mary said softly. Kono looked up and they smiled at each other. "Maybe I should ask Steve if I can borrow you – you could be my official protector. Queens and Kings used to have those, you know."
"I know. I read about the royalty. I'd like that."
"I would too." Mary drank some of her ale; she thought she was grinning like a fool, which Wasn't Done for a Princess who might be about to be Queen, but she didn’t think she really cared. "Your first official protecting can be to back me up while I tell Steve I'm not leaving."
Steve didn't like it, but he'd officially abstained from becoming King, which meant she could take over as Queen, and tell him to suck it up (Governor Jameson, who Queen Mary made her official co-ruler, said the same thing).
Queen Mary knew she wasn't really safe, even if she could punch an evil minion hard enough to knock out his tooth, but she knew that she could help to keep herself safe if she needed to.
And she knew that it was her decision, for the first time since she was a child. It felt good.