Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sleeping Beauty (How it was never told)

I have heard of tales of a beautiful princess, locked up in a tower in the middle of the Dark Forest. The town folk’s men called it the Dark Tower.

“She was taken away by the Sorceress Morgan from us as a punishment for my deeds. She had been asleep for some time now. Ever since Morgan had inflicted this terrible curse upon her. A curse that puts her to sleep until true loves’ first kiss is planted upon her lips. Or if none, for eternity.

A beast guards the tower. The Beast had the body of a dragon, talons of an eagle, horns of a bull and was fire breathing. And many have tried to rescue her from such a horrible fate. But they have done so in vain. Prince Markus of Errlund was the last to perish from the quest”.

This was what was told to me by King Lehnarnd, the princesses’ father as I listened and sipped the blood red wine offered to me. No men could refuse such splendid wine.

“I miss Lilith. I miss her so much. It’s been nothing but darkness since she was taken from us! Please, sir, please bring her back to us, and relieve me of this punishment!”

I am Prince Valiant, and I was summoned to take on this quest. To rescue the King’s much beloved princess. Many princes have gone before me. Many have perished. Not I. I’m certain this task would not prove daunting for my capabilities. After all I’m not named Prince Valiant for being a coward. The land knows me for my bravery and my perfect being. Would it not then the reason be that I was summoned for this cause? Of course I would succeed. Twas’ never a doubt in my mind. Furthermore, if I succeed in my quest, Princess Lilith will be my bride, and I will one day inherit the land of Rhionnan. This land of Rhionnan, beautiful with streams flowing of milk and honey some say. It will be the ultimate prize.

The king showed me a painting the princess. Beautiful as the brightest star and skin as fair and white as the snow. Her lips red and her hair ebony black. She had a small mark on her forehead. Not very distinct but nevertheless apparent. A radiance or glow surrounds her. Looking at her painting further fuelled my desire. Such a wild desire it is. But also a sense of caution invoked in me, or fear as I look into her wild eyes. Nevertheless, I’m drawn by her beauty and my cause for this perilous journey would be a worthwhile cause indeed. I decided then, that I will embark on it at all costs.

So, my journey began the next day. The King and Queen of Rhionnan bade me farewell as I embarked on my quest. As I left, I could have swore that even they, the Royals seem to be crying for me. A look of sadness was all but evident in their eyes. Why is this, I asked myself. But I shrugged it aside as fast as I could remember.

My loyal steed, Ebony (for the colour of her skin was as black as ebony) was to be my only companion for the journey ahead. We traveled to the Wild Lands en route to the Dark Forest. The roads in the Wild Lands are dangerous. The Highwaymen claimed a stake in these areas. Any traveller unfortunate enough to travel these roads meet unfortunate ends, either robbed or murdered. Sometimes both. All this however, is nothing to me.

True enough, in these harsh roads, I encountered the Highwaymen. They tried to rob me. Of my horse, my sword and my bagful of rations. The encounters were short. They did not stand a chance. All ten of them. My sword skills prove no match for these dimwitted fools. It was all too easy. I decided to take one of the severed heads of the Highwaymen. I chose the ugliest. What a prize this would look in my trophy room. I have have had hunted boars, lions, wolves even trolls. But this Highwayman was the first for me.

As I continue my journey along Baskarn, a small town past the Wild lands, the townspeople of Baskun asked where I was headed. I proudly announced that I was going to rescue the fair Princes Lilith. They gave me the most fearful of looks. Some told me that my quest was foolish. A folly even. But of course, they would say such things. They are but common folk. They do not know me. I am after all Prince Valiant. And I have killed many beasts in my time. This task would merely serve as practice. After all, why should I waste my time answering queries of simple folk? They no of nothing! I stayed at an inn at Baskarn and arose the next morning refreshed not before cleaning my armour. I was on my way thereafter.

I reached the Dark Forest eventually. Six days have past. Perhaps seven. I couldn’t remember anymore. I lost track of the days passed between. But it did not matter. I was closer to my quest than ever before.
I met three trolls in the Dark Forest. The fiercest I have seen thus far. They wanted to have me for dinner. That wasn’t an invitation. The fought was bloody. But they were no matched for me. Easy tasks. All slain by my sword. More heads. More trophies. I loved trophies. I always pride myself with them, but right now, one head would suffice.

And then I saw the Dark Tower from afar. I anticipate that the Beast awaits me. It would be added into my collection of odd creatures list of slayed creatures. I smiled at that thought. This was going to be all too easy.
With an anticipated breathe and a tinge of fear (or at least I thought I felt it) I reached the Dark Tower. The sky was dark, but it had a red glow. An unnatural red twilight glow. And I could tell, it was dusk. No time to waste. Time to claim my prize.

Strangely enough, there was no Beast. Rather, the Dark Tower was surrounded by thick hedges almost as high as the tower itself (or some sort of creepers, but I couldn’t tell). It was still dark except for the light illuminating from the window above.

No Beast then, I thought to myself. How odd. Perhaps the beast was on guard in the Tower itself. Given the limited space to spar, it would be more a challenge. Something I looked forward to. Prince Valiant was always fond of challenges.
I entered the Tower. The doors have been broken into. I saw some skeletal remains on the floor. Previous suitors for Lilith? Perhaps. I felt a sense of sympathy for those who preceded me. I climbed up the Tower stairs and finally reached the upper room where the light was emitting. I have looked upon the other rooms, hoping to find the Beast. For me to slay. But nothing thus far. And now the upper room in the upper floor.

In the room, I see candles and smoke, brightly lit though. I smelled a foul stench of what I did not know. But a foul smell. There were bones around the place. And from afar, I see a bed, with white cloth covering over the high frames of the bed. I walked towards the bed to see the Princess. I know she will be glad to see me when my kiss awakens her. However, I have this dread that I couldn’t shake off. I don’t know what.

I reached the bed and…..there was no Princess. An empty bed with blood stained sheets of white. A crippling sense of dread creep over me.

And then I heard a sinister snarl behind me. I turned to look. And I saw the most wild and fiery eyes looking back at me. And for a while I went numb and felt something hard hitting me on the face. Everything was black then.

When I awoke, I couldn’t move. My limbs did not respond. I was bound. I could see my sword on the floor. But there isn’t much use for it now. And then I saw her.

“Morgan!” I cried.

“What have you done to the Princess?!”

“The Princess? Princess Lilith? Morgan I am not, but Lilith, it is I”
she hissed.

“What?! That cannot be!” I shrugged.

And then I noticed the mark on her head. The mark was more distinct now. It was her. The Princess. Lilith! She looked nothing like the painting at all. But I knew then, I knew it was her. She had razor sharp teeth and fiery eyes. Wild fiery eyes. Her skin pale and white and rotten. She had dark, ebony black hair, but her features are now otherwordly. She smiled as I caught sight of her fangs.

Then I knew. A chilling realization. What my quest was for. There was never a rescue mission. I was the prey. I was the reward. The long suffering list of princes who died before me and now I was about to be a part of them. The curse did not put her to sleep. It had turned her into this, this thing!

“Your father said you were under a curse?! A curse of deep slumber?!” I asked. Perhaps knowing that would be my last. For the first time I felt a deep sense of fear. And it crippled me.

“Curse?” she laughed. And then she shrieked. An unnatural wail. Like the wail of a banshee.

“Twas never a curse. I am, what I am, young prince. I have never slept. Never slept at all” she hissed and smiled, wiidly.

She draws closer to me. She now bared her sharp teeth and I knew she was preparing to sink her teeth into me. Perhaps this was finally the end of Prince Valiant, the end of me. And as I felt the pain on my neck and the moist feeling of dark, red blood running down my neck and I know….it is I who will sleep in this Tower tonight. Forever.

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