Once upon a time there was a young princess who spent each day encompassed in joy. Her laughter would spread a smile upon any face who heard and it would go far and merry across the land. But here was an evil witch, who found the princess’ laughter made her cringe. So one day she went to the palace, guising as a friend wishing to bestow a blessing.
They took her to see the babe and she stared into the cradle at the shining face. She was taken at first by the smile that went upon her innocent face, the one that touched the blue eyes. Then she laughed; she laughed.
“My blessing is this; the moment that you are happy again will be the moment that you die.” And the evil witch left in a gust of wind without saying another word.
Her parents cried, the kingdom lamented. They sent for witches to come, and find a remedy for the curse, but all appeared with no avail. There was an old witch that came, one who took one glance at the princess and turned away.
“You must take all happiness away from her. Give her nothing but sadness and she will live.”
So that is what they did. They put her in a cot of glass, and did not give her toys. Her food was scraps and her skin shivered from the rags she wore. To anyone who did not know, she seemed a pauper.
One day when she was called her name, they almost saw a glimpse of a smile on her lips, so they then only called her girl, and her name was forgotten.
The Kingdom was quiet about her curse, and when she asked about why everything was taken from her all would turn away.
Her parents found that she would wonder off and would never let her leave someone’s sight. All friends she made as she grew they would take away, and she soon let her voice remain inside, words gone with the laughter.
No more was there a smile, and as her eyes turned bleak, her hair grew grey.
She could not remember what happiness was, and the word was foreign to her ears.
As she grew her parents found it harder to keep happiness from her in the palace, and so they locked her in her room and left her with nothing but the glass bed. She was melancholy and silent and each day she would sit there and stare out of her single window. The land below her was an empty plain, the part of the Kingdom that was void of anyone.
She amused herself in watching the clouds, seeing as they drooped across the sky; the ever-changing paint on a canvas.
It was only each birthday that she would see her parents as the door was unlocked and they would enter. But seeing them brought her no joy. They would not smile, nor give her any gifts. They would enter, speak some words, and leave.
It was on her eighteenth birthday that her mother lingered at the door.
“Girl, what do you do to pass the time?”
As always she did not speak, just looked at the window and nodded.
Her mother looked and on her heel left the room and the princess to her clouds.
She began to sit on the windowsill, high up from the ground, and imagine what it would be like to fall. She would fly for a moment, before hitting the ground, but she would of flown free. She saw her life as a misery, there was no hope, no one to love her, nothing to make her happy.
It was one day, when she for a moment was contemplating letting herself just slide off, that she saw the figure in the distance. It grew closer and closer, and she saw it as a man. She wondered where he came from, and where he was going. She thought he would get to a point and turn, but still he seemed to head straight for where she sat in her window.
She moved inside and hid, peeking by the sides. Still he walked closer. She saw his dress to be that of a poor man, his clothes torn in many places. He had nothing with him but what he wore.
When he came too close she sat with her back to the wall, mind turning with questions. She wanted to look out, and see where he had gone but feared he would see her.
Eventually she grew the courage, and stuck one corner of her eye around the edge. Immediately she withdrew, seeing him right below her window, but he had already seen.
“Stop!” He said, as he had seen her peak, trying to stop her from going.
She heard his words but did not stir.
“Please fair maiden, come out again.”
She found his odd, something like that which she did not know, but ought to. Slowly, she reached out her head, and came again into his view.
Close up he seemed younger than she had thought, but still he was not young. His brown hair was covered in dirt and she found it a comparison to his murky eyes.
“Fair maiden, you are quite beautiful.”
She questioned the unfamiliar word; beautiful.
The man below was shuffling, waiting for her to speak. But she said nothing, as she always did.
“Can I enquire to your name?” He asked.
She still made no move. She wondered if it would be better to retreat back into the shadows, he could not come up, but she felt compelled to stay.
“You don’t talk, do you?”
She nodded in agreement to him.
“Well that’s not a bad thing, I like to talk. My name’s Felix.” There was a silence, then “can I come up?”
She shook her head, glancing back at the locked door.
“Just for a little while?”
Again she shook her head.
“Please, I have a lot of stories I can tell you.”
It had been a long time since she had had a friend, and this man was right there. The temptation was too great. She motioned for him to come up, wondering how he would do so.
“Ah there we go now, see I’m not scary.” He reached around his waist and began to unravel a rope. “Catch it aye?”
She nodded, and when he threw the rope she caught it in her hands. Quickly she tied it to her bed, and stood back as he began to pull himself up. In a moment he was there, slipping through her window, and standing in her room.
Standing right before he, she truly saw his features. His face was bruised, his skin was pulled. She wanted to reach out and heal the man, but knew she could not.
“You’ve got a nice room here. You like the spacey feature it seems.”
He was moving around the almost-empty room.
“Where am I? This isn’t the palace is it?”
Again she nodded.
“Then who are you. You’re not the princess are you?”
She touched his arm to make him face her, to see her answer of yes.
“And they treat you like this, with a glass bed and rags?”
Sadly she looked away. She had always wondered why they, and had only reasoned they were just waiting for her to die.
He sensed an uncomfort in her and quickly hurried on. “So which story do you want to hear first, barbarians or raiders?”
She shrugged her shoulders.
He settled himself upon her bed. “Raiders it is then.”
He spoke long through the day, telling story after story. Which each she felt something inside her grow; she wanted to hear each story more and more. She stared at him, and watched the stubble around his mouth move, the way his lips created words in a pattern. She had not realised when night came, for his speech had not lingered.
“Princess?” He had just finished a story. “Do you like it here, all alone?”
She thought for a moment, though she knew the answer. Her head shook.
“You shouldn’t have to be here, come with me.”
Someone in her, she felt she wanted to, but could not.
“You could be happy you know.”
Somewhere inside her something twinged. She knew not what it was, nor what it meant. But she shook her head.
“You could be free out there, you could do what you wanted; you could sleep in a soft bed and have the key to your own door.”
The princess did not want to hear any more. She pulled him towards the window, and he did not resist.
“I’ll come back tomorrow princess, think about it.” He slipped down the rope and away into the night.
Like promised he was there the next day, dressed the same, and wanting the same.
“Will you come?”
She shook her head.
“Will you let me tell you a story?”
She nodded, so he scaled the rope and sat on the bed.
When the night drew in he asked again, “will you come?”
And again he shook her head.
“I will return tomorrow then.”
Like promised again he did, and he asked the same, and she responded the same. She heard his stories, shook her head, and he left.
For one year he did this and for one year her response was always the same. But for one year she felt something grow inside her, and for one year, contemplated what it was.
Her nineteenth birthday came, and her parents paid her their one visit.
“What do you do to pass the time?” Her mother asked like she had the year before.
She looked at the window, but this time it was for a different reason.
“Do you like the window?” Her father asked.
Her father gazed at the window for a moment, then turned to leave. The Queen followed with nothing more to say. But just before the door closed, the princess heard her father murmur to the Queen, “we’ll have that window boarded up.”
She knew then, that she would have one more chance to leave. She thought about life out there, no matter how hard it may be, at least she would be free.
The man came again, and when he first asked she shook her head, so he came up and told her a story.
All day she watched him, barely listening to his words, but watching the way he spoke. It was with something she did not know, something she could not understand.
The night came and he asked again, “will you come?”
It was her final chance, the final time she would be asked it. She stared at his face, heard the question repeat in her mind.
Slowly, softly, she nodded.
He was taken for a moment, surprised at her response. “You’ll leave here?”
Again she nodded, more definite.
The broadest smile spread across his lips. She felt a twinge inside her, and looked away.
“We should go fast then, come, let’s go.” He led her to the window. “Just climb down, don’t worry.”
She slipped onto the windowsill, her mind churning. This would be it.
Her feet hit the ground. He was right beside her in an instant. He took her hand, and taking the first step, she followed.
She didn’t look back, and knew that if she did, she would see only the sadness that had encompassed her life for so long.
At first they walked in silence, his smile beaming all the way. At last he spoke. “Will you tell me your name now?”
Her head shook.
“Do you have a name?”
She did not, and her signals showed it.
“You need one. Can I give you one?”
She thought about having her own name. She nodded.
He stopped them walking. “It’s got to be something that matches you. Something beautiful.” He stared deeply at her. “Something as beautiful as this.” He reached out and softly touched her hair. “Liath.”
It was not a kiss to break her spell, nor an overwhelm of true happiness, but her name. The name that had been forgotten long ago, and that just needed to be spoken from a true love’s mouth.
It filled her, spread throughout her, made her heart dance. She heard it spoken from his lips, saw the way he smiled when he said it. And she laughed, the laughter that had been waiting, sitting silent in her.
Her laughter broke out, and it was like all the Kingdom heard it. She laughed and laughed, not wanting to stop. Her face was covered in a smile, and her heart filled with happiness.
He caught her in his arms, overwhelmed himself by her outburst. “I guess you like that name?”
She nodded, she laughed, she smiled, and she spoke. “I love it.”
He was surprised by her voice, not expecting it after so long in silence. “So you do have a voice then.”
She nodded, then realised she could speak. “Yes.”
“Then you can do something for me?”
“Anything.” Her face was beaming with more joy than she had ever had.
“Say that you’ll marry me.”
She jumped into his arms, holding tight his embrace. “I’ll marry you.”
And so the princess and the pauper were married. They soon returned to the palace, where the princess meet again her parents and learnt about her curse, and once all was understood, all was forgiven. The princess’ laughter was once again heard all throughout the land, far and merry. She smiled each moment, and none made her smile more than her true love. And so, with curses afar, and laughter around, they each and all lived happily ever after.