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A Beltane Story by Barbara Ardinger

Barbara Ardinger Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess—NO, stop right there. Tales like this do not require princesses. Let’s try again. Once upon a time there was a sturdy young woman who lived in a small town in Mitteleuropa not too far from the castle of the Holy Roman Emperor.

The girl’s name is Madchen. Her parents are a Farmer and a Cunning Woman. She is proud to say that just last fall she actually saw the Emperor, who is a stiff, elderly man who always wears a fussed-up military uniform and a pince nez and has enormous sidewhiskers. The Emperor did not, of course, notice the girl as he sat in his carriage and waved stiffly to his subjects. But what Madchen doesn’t know is that Crown Prince Rufus, whose uniform and sidewhiskers are considerably more modest than his father’s and who was riding on a great red

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