Once upon a time a princess, pure of heart, whose loveliness no poet could impart, lived locked within the highest tower, her lot to bide the daylight hours, without solace or respite. The tower’s guard was, the familiar and the feared, a fierce, fire breathing dragon, to whom she would adhere. The princess stood day by day at the only window, and there she’d pray a prince, brave and bold, might hear of her plight and take upon himself the heroic deed of dispatching the dragon.
Until one day, as she waited, pondered on her prince belated, she thought to herself “That’s it. Why should I wait for some asshole prince to come save me?” That thought marked an epiphany for Princess Alyssa; a moment of perfect clarity. She realized then that she was more than just the symbolic trophy-object that patriarchal society had reduced her to. She picked the lock on the tower door with her metal hair pin, a skill she’d incidentally acquired during her youth, and descended the winding stone stairwell.
A mass of corpses: a testament to the dragons permanency, lay decomposing at the tower’s base. Upon seeing this horrid spectacle Alyssa contemplated how she might deal with the creature. Suddenly it came into view. She braced herself. Her muscles tensed. She bravely held her stance. Her heart skipped a beat. Then she noticed a particularly important detail that all of her post-humorous, would-be saviors seemed to have missed; the dragon didn’t care much for instigating violence, nor was it particularly concerned with the princess’s escape. Instead the dragon seemed content wandering about placidly, eating fruit that had fallen from a nearby tree. The princess approached and once close enough she extended her arm and stroked what little of the dragon’s underbelly she could reach. The dragon, startled and understandably hesitant, recoiled at first and then realized Alyssa was not trying to impale him with a long shiny piece of tempered steel.
Won over by this strange and simple gesture the dragon spoke softly “H-H-Hello, k-kind stranger. My-y name’s-s Alex.” The two bonded instantly and, both needing of a little company, spent the next few hours sitting beneath the night sky engaged in a profound conversation about all manner of things. Until eventually Alyssa posed the question that had been patiently lingering at the back of her mind.
“N-n-no, not ex-exactly, only there w-was this s-s-sorcerer when you were l-l-locked up. I c-could take you to him, i-i-if you like.”
Meanwhile far away in the Castle, the nameless prince readied his armor.
“I hereby swear that I shall slay the wicked dragon and save the helpless princess.” he bellowed so that the reader might be awe-stricken by his phallic masculinity. Without regard for anything but the intended task, he entered the throne room, un-caring that his armor had damaged the delicate wooden archway in passing. Inside the king forced himself upon the queen. The prince paused upon seeing this and then modestly diverted his gaze before speaking. It wasn’t the rape itself that brought the queen to tears, for that was a common occurrence, but rather that her only son witnessed the act and did nothing.
Aware that she had become distraught the prince thoughtfully offered “Fret not mother, I give you my word I shall return home safely.” The prince then bid his father farewell and dramatically departed.
The king, not bothering to withdraw himself from inside the queen, shouted over his shoulder “Good luck on your noble quest my beloved son.”
With the dragon’s help, Princess Alyssa soon reached her intended destination.
“T-There. I-In that old c-cottage. T-That’s where he l-lives.” Alex said and gestured with his head towards what outwardly appeared to be an abandoned residence. Alyssa entered this decrepit abode alone. To her surprise the interior was warm, dimly lit, and smelt vaguely of lavender. A cloaked figure sat crossed-legged, books piled around him, in the centre of a large pentagram that was etched into the wooden floor boards.
Filled with resolve and courage by her recent escape, she addressed the figure “Answer me sorcerer. Why imprison me within that tower? What have I done to make you want such a thing?” Startled by her presence he jumped.
He paused, looking a little bewildered, and then in a moment of recollection he replied “I wanted no such thing and how did you find me here?” It was then, as he raised his head and the soft candle light danced across his face to some inaudible melody, that Alyssa noticed how indisputably attractive he was.
“Why do you think?” he replied and she responded with an impatient glare. He sighed submissively “The narrative requires of me a suitable antagonist to create conflict and convey the traditional humanist theme of good triumphing over evil, blah-dy, blah, blah.” He sighed again “and what better villain for a prince to dispatch than one with a belief system that is feared by dominant ideology.” The princess noted then that the books scattered beneath their feet were not of sorcery. He obviously dabbled in the “occult” but, as it would seem, mostly astrology, with a little Wicca in the mix. Still Alyssa’s only response was her icy gaze and by this he felt implored to offer more still. “Look I’m not a sorcerer, my name is Gabriel, and I’m sorry I locked you in that tower.”
The princess stood silently, taking a moment to process this, and then finally spoke. “Mine’s Alyssa and I shall accept your apology Gabriel, if you grant me but one favor?”
“And what might that favor be?” he asked and she outlined her terms. Soon after, with the dragon’s help, she left Gabriel and returned to the tower to await her prince in shining armor.
The prince reached the tower just as the rising sun began to cradle the horizon with its hopeful red glow. He came to a halt and dismounted, then moved towards the stairwell entrance on foot. His sword was drawn and ready. His shield held out before him. He scoured the land for his intended victim. Eventually he came upon the dragon, hiding behind the tower itself. The prince had the advantage. The dragon hadn’t seen him yet. His heart skipped a beat. He approached cautiously. Then quickly he thrust his sword into the dragon’s back. Alex roared in agony. He slashed at the dragon’s leg, severing muscle and tendon. Alex stumbled forward in a desperate attempt to evade. Blood gushed from his open wounds. Alex turned to defend himself. Without mercy the prince thrust his sword again. The blade penetrated the dragon’s upper torso. Alex screamed until his voice was swallowed up by the blood that quickly filled his lungs. The prince left Alex there to die. As he walked away he smiled widely, deeply satisfied with the cruelty he believed to be his birth right and personal claim to glory. Shedding his armor and shield he then proceeded to ascend the staircase and push the unlocked door open.The princess stood by the window waiting patiently.
“Fear not my love” he announced, “for I have slain the dragon, the wretched creature is no more. Now come quickly I will save you from this place, take you as my bride and we shall live happily ever after.”
“I’d rather jump out the window and die on impact.” Alyssa muttered under her breath.
The prince, unequipped to respond, pretended not to notice this remark.
“Come! Now my love, into my arms.” he said and so extended his arms. Without saying a word Alyssa turned to face him, grabbed his wrist, twisted his arm behind his back and collapsed his legs with her foot to the back of his knees. He fell to the ground with her on top of him, her knee pressed into the small of his back. She held him down for a few moments while he struggled helplessly against her wrath like a worm against the hook.
“Be your bride? And what then, would you have me bend to your every whim? Fill your every desire as though I had none of my own? Would you have me swap this prison for a lavishly furnished one? You’re the reason I was locked up here to begin with. It was so you could save me.”
“What? My father the king sent me on this noble quest. How dare you accuse me whore?!”
“Your father? I’ll remember that.” Alyssa composed herself and stood calmly. She collected his sword as he tried desperately to scamper to his feet then she casually walked out the door and into the stairwell. Remembering the favor Gabriel had granted her she paused and reached into the bust of her dress for the key. She locked the tower door and watched it shake from the impact of the prince’s body as he threw himself against it. As she once more descended the stairs she called out for Alex. Of course she had heard his cries but she never actually believed him to be dead. She’d thought rather that the prince had failed like so many before him and that his claim to have slain the dragon was simply an embellishment for aesthetic purposes. When she discovered Alex’s still warm corpse and its fade of blood she dropped to her knees. A moment passed as she knelt there silently and let her tears artistically carve their fluid path down her stark cheeks.
“My dear friend, my only friend. I’m so sorry. I swear to you I will have revenge against the bastard king for his part in your death as well.” As she slowly became aware of the prince’s pitiful pleas for help she looked up at the tower and felt the compulsion to see it, and all its symbolic value, reduced to a pile of smoldering rubble. With some difficulty she tore herself away from this notion, mounted the prince’s horse and galloped towards her intended destination.
Back in the castle the king was once more upon Queen Kate. He pinned her arms to the floor like the wings of a display case butterfly. Her neck was bent, crooked against the base of the throne. She no longer bothered to contest or fight, knowing well enough he would only have his guards hold her down and then perhaps, if he felt particularly charitable, they would take turns with her after. He was more violent than usual on this occasion. She bled and although she tried to resist the cries of pain, they frantically pulsated through her body and forced their way out past her lips. Accompanying these cries was the sound of her head smashing against the marble throne over and over and over and over. Soon a maid appeared in the doorway. She held in one hand a bottle of red wine and two glasses in the other.
Distraught by what she saw, she chanced an intervention “My lord, please do taste th…”
“How dare you interrupt me whore? Stand over there, in that corner, and watch. I’ll deal with you shortly.” Terrified the maid placed the wine bottle and glasses on a nearby table and withdrew to the room’s far corner where she stood silently. Her lovely, dark complexion turned sickly pale with grief as she witnessed the affair.
“My queen, thou art as beautiful as the morning sky, this I have said time and time again, and shall do ever after.” said the king as he finished himself. He filled both glasses with wine and handed one to the queen. He raised his glass and tilted it slightly forward. “To you and I, my love” he said warmly, the words were salt to an open cut. The queen’s glass slipped through her fingers, hit the floor and shattered. The king became infuriated by this. Slamming his own glass down upon the table, he grabbed her by the throat with both hands. He strangled her until her face faded to a deep purple and her eyes began to roll backwards into her head. The terrified maid began to cry softly as she watched. Then he relinquished his hold, leaving the queen to suffer, gasping for air. “I’m sorry but you know you bring this down upon yourself. If only you could hold a simple wine glass.” At that moment princess Alyssa entered the throne room. The guards had let her pass under the pretense that she was just a woman. She threw the prince’s sword down on the floor, before the king.
“Here, that’s all that’s left of your beloved son. And now it’s your turn to pay for your part in all this. For what you made me endure and of course for the death of my sweet, harmless Alex.”
“How dare you wretched harpy?” the king said as he quickly retrieved the sword and held its point against Alyssa’s bare neck. She realized instantly the stupidity of her decision to unhand the weapon. The timid maid once again latched onto the foolish hope that she might enact some peaceful intervention. She cautiously approached the king but before she even thought words fitting of such an attempt he shouted “And you! Maid! What the hell do you want? Clean that glass up now.” Those few common words had a strange and intense effect on the maid Sara. As if they’d been uttered by an apostle they triggered a sudden miraculous change in her. They awarded her formerly convoluted and confused mind a rare clarity. The fear that once bound her recanted its iron chains and then dissipated as though it never were. Beneath her passive complacency something dark and beautiful flourished; a perfect rage. She picked up the base and neck of the broken wine glass, which had remained in one piece. From behind she forced the broken glass into the king’s rib cage, making sure to cover his mouth with her free hand so that he couldn’t scream for help. Needing no other incentive Alyssa snatched the sword from his hand. He struggled furiously against Sara but she held fast with strength she did not know she possessed. She twisted the glass and pushed it in deeper. A single muffled cry escaped the king’s mouth before he went limp in her arms. Then she carefully, not out of reverence but rather for the sake of an already compromised stealth, laid the corpse down upon the floor. Blood entangled with spilt wine until the two were one shallow coalescent pool of crimson. Expecting an unwelcome intrusion by the castle guards Alyssa immediately set to work bolting closed the throne room doors.
“There that should keep them at bay for a while.” she said and no sooner did the words leave her dry mouth than the awful thud of bodies ramming against the door’s exterior begin.
Like to almost everything, Queen Kate was oblivious to this chaotic pounding. To her it was no more audible than the beat of her own heart. She sat there naked, exposed, her back arched and pressed against the throne, her hands quaintly on her lap. Her body shivered without her wanting it to, and convulsed on occasion. Her eyes were clouded with detachment; the kind of numbness that only years of abuse can cause. Sara offered Alyssa a brief nod of approval in response to her efforts with the door. Then after disappearing into another room, she reappeared with a cotton sheet, and a pail of warm water. She tended to Kate’s wounds and covered Kate’s body. Alyssa respectfully stood in patient silence as this happened.
“I hate to interrupt but the guards are…” she finally began while walking towards the two. She slipped on the pool of blood and fell backwards. Her head impacted against the concrete floor. It made a crunching sound that pierced the air and resonated over the guard’s incessant pounding. Alyssa stopped moving after that.
At the sight of this Sara embraced the queen tightly, pulling her close.
She pressed her lips against the queen’s ear and whispered softly “Never after”. As if those words were some dark, archaic incantation to tear a lost soul from the fiery pit, Kate’s eyes slowly came to life and darted about the room absorbing all. She clung tightly to Sara and wept, a little at first and then uncontrollably until she had naught but a tear left to cry. Then she let her head fall down upon Sara’s shoulder; an un-familiar and yet welcoming alcove for the weight of her consciousness. Her long unkempt hair silently whispered songs of liberation as it fell across her face and covered her pale features. The two of them sat this way for some time, the clumsy entanglement of their limbs somehow a perfect unity.
“Its okay now baby. It doesn’t matter anymore.” Sara said softly and then kissed Kate tenderly on the lips. “The king’s guards… they will surely kill us both, but at least it will be quick.”
“Yes” Kate replied “but first let them see how weak I am when I’m not being held down.” She stood up, tied the sheet tightly to her body, took the sword from next to Alyssa’s corpse and walked towards the door. From that point forward Kate lived happily ever after…
…which equated to an expanse of no more than twenty minutes. Never the less, she was happier in those brief moments of empowerment than ever before in her life. The end.