Monday, January 17, 2011

Grimmer Fairy Tales-- Part the Tenth

Catalena rocked back and forth, singing to herself, hands clamped over her ears. Somewhere in the gloom the monstrous wolf howled, raging against his confinement. It was everything she could do to drown out the horrid noise knowing she would likely run mad if forced to endure it. The kind old servant woman appeared with a tray of food the first day and bandaged her wounded arm, but the injury ached. Time was a meaningless concept within these confines, trapped like an animal in the dark, cold and alone. The cruel injustice of her situation stung like a thorn. This was a game where the rules changed at the whim of the prince without regard for those around him. This was a game she was destined to lose. A sliver of pale light and the sound of footsteps alerted her to the disruption of her solitude. All she could do was glare in bitter animosity at the figure of the prince on the opposite side of the bars, flickering torch in hand.
"No words of reproach, Catalena?"
"What good would it do? It will not alter your decision," she retorted with disdain.
"You attacked me."
"How was I to know it was you? You placed me in an impossible situation. What do you gain by killing me?"
His face remained the superior, expressionless mask she was accustomed to, never once wavering. He felt no compulsion to provide her an answer.
"I took the liberty of informing your father of your fate. He begged me for your life. He offered his instead."
Catalena choked back a rush of tears at the notion of her grief-stricken father, forced to lose his beloved wife and now his only child. "I would never allow that. I was my decision to come here, my mistake. I will bear the punishment for my misjudgment."
"Rarely do people pass up the opportunity to save themselves." She refused to answer him having made her point perfectly clear. Even in the gloom, the prince was not ignorant of her anger as it burned behind her eyes brighter than the torch he carried. "You did not always despise me, Catalena. You told me there was nothing to fear, no monster did you see. How fickle you are. How quickly your opinion changed."
"Despite your desire to portray otherwise, you are no monster. Nevertheless, you have a spiteful heart. I should have seen it from the beginning."
"Our game is not yet finished. You promised you would play til the end."
"I have been playing your game from the moment I arrived at the palace. I refuse to humor you anymore."
The prince stepped closer, a smile briefly flickering across his visage. "It would be a shame for you to sulk in your cell awaiting execution. You have come so far, so close to besting me. Finish the game, Catalena. Lose, and you will be no worse off than you are at present. Win, and I will spare your life."

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