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He dried her tears, because that’s what fathers do, and carefully brushed a lock of hair from her forehead. “It’s alright, Sweetness…” he said softly. “It’s alright…”

Sweetness. Her mother had called her that from the first day she was born, and as she looked up at him, the sparkling green eyes of his daughter carried the smile from her lips to his heart, and he knew that the nightmare she’d had would pass, just as they always did.

“I know, Daddy,” she said, her tiny hand gripping his middle and index finger.

When he tugged his fingers, she didn’t let go, and he slowly smiled. She smiled back. “Tell me a story please, Daddy?” she requested.

He had to laugh. Had she faked the dream? Maybe even the tears? He didn’t know. But now that he was here, awake, and relieved by that sort of rapid recovery from terror that only children can have, he assented.

“Of course, Sweetness…” he said.

There was once a princess who a wicked man and his army kept in a tower. She was so beautiful—“Beautiful like Mommy, Daddy?” she interrupted—beautiful. Beautiful as a sunrise over the Sarawats, Princess.

And she cried, my dear child. She cried and she screamed and she raged against those around her, and she dreamt day and night of seeing her father the king. If only she could escape from the wicked man and his army, she could see him, and together, they would drive the man out of the country and be happy and safe for all of time!

It was her voice that was the reason they imprisoned her, of course. She sang, so beautifully, much more beautifully than anything else in the world, and the wicked man and his army wanted her songs for themselves, and so in their custody she remained.

There was a knight among the wicked man’s army, one of her father’s loyal men. He was wise and brave and—“What was his name?!”—oh, Sweetness, I can’t tell you that. He’d be found out if his name was spoken aloud. But he was a good man. A great man of her people, and he slipped her things, presents and trinkets to help her run away. Soon, it would be time… She had merely to wait for the time.

One day, she heard shouting from outside, and a loud noise called through the air, and she grew quiet and hushed her crying and screaming, for she saw her knight and his squires approach her with a large, metal horse—“Can you tell me the horse’s name, Daddy?”—named Aziz! And they quickly took her, and placed her on the back of Aziz, her horse, and they quickly sent her on her way, fighting back the men who came to attack her and take her hostage again, their swords moving quickly, so quickly, cutting at the wicked man’s foes.

She rode on faithful Aziz and reached her father’s kingdom after a long journey, but as they rode, Aziz would tell her stories—“He could talk?”—of course he could talk! Aziz was a brilliant and loyal horse, and he would tell her tales of the desert and jinni and even the secrets of other metal things, like swords or pots or sewing needles. And though the journey was long and hard, she finally found her father’s castle, and hurried inside, only to discover that her father had been injured.

It was an awful day… Her father was a great and loyal and wonderful man, the greatest to ever be, but he had been terribly wounded. He was so wise and strong, that he did not die, even though his assailants, who were those men in the army of the wicked man who imprisoned her, had cut out his heart and his tongue and his hands. They’d even stolen his blood.

And the princess, who felt guilty now that she had screamed and cried and yelled because her father was doing no such thing. He sat there, wise and wonderful and nodding to her, and she lowered her head and he kissed her, for he had missed her so much and so terribly. And when he kissed her, she knew what she had to do. She had to give of herself to help him. And so, she gave him her voice so that he could again give orders to his loyal soldiers, who gathered instantly to his call!

And the princess, now silent, rode with his soldiers… for they were going to find all of the King’s body and return it to him, and then he could be whole and well again, and the world could finally be at peace.

And he stopped, and she looked up at him, a whimpering coming onto her lips. “But…But Daddy! That’s not fair!” she exclaimed quickly.

“What isn’t fair?” he asked, smiling to her and patting her hand.

“Why did she give up her voice? She was just sad when she was crying…”

“Oh, my Sweetness,” he said, chuckling softly. “All of us will give of our bodies one day, and we will all be among those who restore the king to his wholeness…” he said gently. “This princess gave of herself her greatest gift, just as one day, we shall too.”

And his Sweetness smiled, because she knew this story now. It was one she’d been taught since she was born, learning her first words.

“And will God be whole again soon, Daddy?” she asked.

He smiled. “I pray, my Sweetness. Tomorrow, I shall tell you of the Princess’ quest to find her father’s heart and the secret of the golden tablet that made all things into his hands and many other wonderful things… But for now… sleep.”

And he leaned down again, brushing away the same, troublesome lock of hair as earlier, and kissed her head, hearing the soft clicking in her arms and legs, and smiling at her proudly. So proudly.

“Sleep, my Sweetness.”

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