Monday, November 29, 2010

Grimmer Fairy Tales-- Part the Third

Catalena set off before dawn, riding at full gallop to be at the castle by the noon hour. A pewter sky hung over the palace as frayed flags slapped in the breeze. She left her faithful horse in the care of the stable boy, entering the great hall with the other young women. The offer of instant riches had not been enough to quell the fear of many; only fifty eligible women gathered to seek the prince's approval. While she had chosen her best and most respectable dress, Catalena still looked afright. Her hair was windblown from the ride and the hem of her clothing mud splattered. The regrets of her wardrobe instantly vanished from her psyche as the porter called the women to silence, announcing the arrival of Prince Dragos. Like everyone else, she bowed her head low, as was common courtesy in the presence of royalty. Before she averted her gaze Catalena snuck a look at the prince as he appeared at the top of the stone stairs. He had wavy raven hair and a pleasant form most would consider handsome, but his skin was eerily pale as if he rarely saw the light of day. Prince Dragos made his way through the sea of gathered young ladies, sizing each up with cold precision. Catalena kept her eyes on the floor and noticed the prominent singe marks at the hem of her dress where she'd stepped too close to the fire last Christmas. However, her notice of the imperfection came too late as two well polished black boots entered her field of vision. The prince spoke not a word, but the disapproving noise he made at the sight of her was less than subtle. Catalena felt her pulse instantly race at the insult. She did not consider her actions, only her wounded pride, as she jerked her head up to face the source of such scorn. Twin eyes, like chunks of unlit coal, stared back at her from an unreadable face marred by a thick scar which cut across his brow and eye, ending on his right upper cheek. It was a miracle he had an eye left after such an injury, was the first thought in her head, but that was chased out swiftly as she remembered her station. She cast her eyes down once more, and the prince carried on until he finished examining all who had come. He whispered to his Vizier, his chief counselor and only friend, before he disappeared again into the castle's depths. The Vizier announced any young lady who was not chosen could collect her gold pieces and depart immediately. However, it was when he announced the names of the four women who were invited to remain, to continue on in the hopes of being queen, that Catalena was left speechless. He named her as one of the four. Whether she liked it or not, she would be spending tonight in the castle as a guest of the prince.

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