The favorite legend of the people was the one about a sleeping princess and the handsome prince who would someday come to wake her.
"The princess will sleep for one hundred years is what the legend says, but I'm not too sure about it myself," one woman said as she scrubbed at her washing.
It was one of the last chances to do washing outdoors before the autumn rains came, and many women had gathered to work together and to gossip.
"That's the problem with them legends," another spoke up, "because others say it's fifty years, and they go even as far as to say the prince's name will be Randolph."
The first woman snorted and shook her head.
"Well, why shouldn't it be?" an old woman said looking at them sharply. Old Mira was a fierce believer in the legends, and everyone knew better than to make light of them in her hearing.
The women silenced their tongues and lowered their heads respectfully.
"And besides, it's been almost one hundred years since that castle went silent and the hedge grew. We'll find out soon enough if the legends are true or not. And mind you, they never said he was a prince—just the true love."
Maybe she had been around long enough to know the true story, or maybe it was just coincidence; for Old Mira was right in believing the legends. Ninety and nine years (and several days as well) before, the beautiful princess had pricked her finger on that fateful spindle causing her to fall asleep and the entire castle with her.
At the very time of this discussion when autumn was coming on and the leaves were turning to gold in celebration, she was laying stretched out on a luxurious bed in her chamber. Finely embroidered silken blankets were wrapped about her, and she was sleeping as peacefully as she had for close to one hundred years.
A small fire burned on the hearth replenished by one who had taken pity on the sleeping castle and devoted himself to serving his overlords. When he had first stumbled upon the strange sight, he had been a young boy out watching his sheep.
One stubborn ewe in particular was constantly wandering off, and he found himself having to follow her again leaving the dog to watch the other, more compliant sheep.
"She had better not have found the swamp again," he grumbled aloud as he hiked through the underbrush following her trail. "As sure as my name is Ran, that ewe is worth less than her keep."
Despite his grumbling, the boy really did enjoy his job and these excursions into the woods helped to make it a little more exciting. Still, the old sheep was a troublesome one, and he didn't relish finding where she had gone this time.
She hadn't found the swamp but instead something worse—a thick briar hedge.
"Hold on a minute, I'm coming," he called in reply to her frantic bleating as he drew his long knife to cut his way through the thorns. To his surprise, they drew back at his touch and behind them a great castle loomed tall and still.
He untangled the sheep and caught her neck in his crook to lead her along; but they did not start back for the herd. Instead, he started towards the castle and stopped abruptly at the gate for it was open! Scratching his light brown hair, he studied the scene. The guards were there, all right; but their eyes were shut, and they were slumped over from a long sleep. Tiptoeing past them into the courtyard, he saw a sight that sent an excited shiver up his spine.