Monday, January 3, 2011

Grimmer Fairy Tales-- Part the Eighth

Empty though the lonely castle was during waking hours, it was a veritable hive of activity as the sun dipped below the horizon. Creaks and clatters normally muffled by light and life were granted free rein by moonlight. Spirits roamed the halls where once knights walked and children played, taking ownership of what had been theirs in life since there was no one left in the stone confines to quiet them. Catalena had grown accustomed to these noises, finding she was able to block them out in favor of a brief, fitful night's rest. So adept at ignoring every out of place scuttle and moan, she missed the soft sound of a key turning in the lock. The guards dragged her from her warm repose and hurried her along, the frigid air seeping through her night dress and bare feet. Her mind foggy in sleep, she was unaware of where they were taking her until they came to a familiar sight--the door to the library. The guards shoved her in, leaving her alone in the room with an unexpected companion. Prince Dragos sat at the table with the chess set before him, motioning for her to take the chair opposite. Catalena rapidly complied. The roaring fire in the fireplace at her back warmed her bones, but she was barely aware of anything except the way the light shimmered off the prince's onyx eyes, setting them aglow. "You should never begin a game unless you intend to finish it," Prince Dragos spoke, his smoky baritone unwavering. "If it pleases you to play, I intend to finish," Catalena responded, finally tearing her vision from his mesmerizing gaze. "Then do not divert your eyes like a chambermaid. Face me and play the game. It is your turn." Catalena defiantly raised her eyes once again before studying the board, a black pawn moved one space forward. Catalena and Prince Dragos continued the game for some time in silence before Catalena summoned the courage to ask the question gnawing at the edge of her consciousness. "Did you release the wolf in the dungeon?" The prince stared at her for a moment, the disdaining rise of his eyebrow wrinkling the scar. "Yes." "Why would you have done such a horrid thing?" she asked, moving her bishop on the offensive. "It was not I who ignored the warning. Some places are forbidden for good reason," he answered, countering her with his knight. "Sometimes places are forbidden because people are too frightened to let others in. Frightened of what they might witness." Prince Dragos paused, his hand in midair about to pick up a piece. "You have experienced firsthand many of the creatures which dwell in this dark place, Catalena. Tell me, are you frightened?" Catalena swallowed hard, carefully formulating her response as the prince settled back in his chair, waiting for her answer. "What lives in the dungeon is a monster and monsters are meant to scare us. Yes, I was frightened then, as I was frightened by the ghosts the first night. I am not frightened now." A full moment of silence passed between them before the prince stopped the game for the night, summoning the guards to escort her back to her room. Catalena did not know what she had said or done wrong. It plagued her as she fought to return to a dreamless sleep. Prince Dragos remained in the library studying the chess board, her answer echoing in his head long after the sun rose and the fire died.

No comments:

Post a Comment