The Tower Princess

Prompt: I survived the war between the kingdoms by hiding in a tower.

 

I was the last to arrive at my own palace when they returned my father’s body from the kingdom to the north, wrapped in a white shroud.

Peace. It was a word that held no meaning for me anymore. It was all that the kingdom could talk about, but it didn’t live inside of me anymore.

They fussed over me on my way down to the throne room. I’d chosen a dress of the darkest emerald, almost black but with the barest hint of life beneath. It was an unlucky color for a wedding. It was the wrong color for mourning. It was the right color for me, today.

My father’s throne room. My mother’s throne room when he went to the border forts to fight. By rights, it should be my throne room but the crown prince from the north sat on the throne as I entered. My betrothed. I would be permitted to take the chair beside him once our two kingdoms were bound in holy matrimony, where I would be decorative rather than effective. A pact made long before the war started. A white silk cord wrapped around my wrist heavy with charms the prince had sent before the war. Childhood things. Old things worn smooth by my fingers over the years.

As the queen, I had the right to revoke that betrothal.

“Your Royal Highness,” I said as I stood before him. The crowd around him stilled as I spoke. Men seeking his favor now that the war had been lost. I intended to hold their attention. How today went would determine everything.

“Princess. It seems so long since we played together as children,” he said.

“It’s been twelve years, Prince. The length of a war,” I said. “I’ve been away.”

He did not rise to greet me. He wasn’t going to let go of that throne so easily. It would make this harder, but not impossible. Women were taught to control the conversation at dinner. To steer the conversation. This would be no different.

“The towers to the south along the coast. I heard. I was saddened to hear of your mother’s passing when I arrived. She must have died of a broken heart after the news of the king’s death.”

“She died of the plague. The same plague that would be burning through your body now if there were any justice in the world,” I said, risking a step towards him. I had to know which side the people in the room were on. If anyone tried to stop me, this would be over before it began.

The prince was the only one in the room who moved, standing from his throne. I kept any bit of expression from passing across my face lest he guess my intent. My hand covered the betrothal cord wrapped around my wrist. I’d worked the knot free last night and retied it. I fingered the new knot now.

We would dance now, the prince and I. And whichever of us could hold control of the room would win.

“You would see your husband die before the wedding?” he asked.

I stepped forward again, closing some of the distance between us. One two three four. We were in it now.

“I would trade my mother’s breath for my wedding night. My coronation for my father’s life. Such is the sorrow of our kingdom,” I said, hoping he mistook my anger for grief.

“My dear princess, what a time of it you’ve had,” he said, opening his arms to me. He embraced me as though we were still old friends. For just a moment, it felt like we were.

The knot came loose in a flash and was off my wrist with a twist. If he noticed the flourish, it was too late. I moved to wrap the cord around his thick neck, but be caught my arm, fingers crushing my forearm.

“Did you think you could kill me, Princess?” he asked, dragging my arm away. “They trained me to be a soldier.”

“They trained me to be a queen. A queen at war,” I replied, slipping the knife out of my sleeve.

My blade slid between his ribs and his blood darkened my dress to the blackest black. I did not hesitate to pull the knife out and stab again. Two more times before the tip broke off in his ribs. He grabbed my shoulder with what little strength was left to him and we tumbled to the stone floor, blood choking what ever curses he might want to put on me. I pulled the cord tight around his neck and held him close until he died. He was just one more empty body in my kingdom. The dead held no more fear or fascination for me anymore.

The white silk cord of our betrothal was soaked through with his gore. I held it up like it was a chicken for butcher. “This cord bound the two of us together for life. And now it will bind our two kingdoms together until one of them is dead. We must build new towers before word of this reaches the north.”

No one else in the room moved.

Dianne Williams lives in Lawrence, Kansas. She grew up reading Nancy Drew mysteries and classic science fiction. She once dreamed of being an astronaut. Or maybe a lawyer. Or an artist. She settled for being as many of them as she could all at once through fiction writing.

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