I promised a new story and I delivered. Why have the last few stories been in the fairy tale and/or fantasy realm? *shrugs* No clue.
My writing tends to happen in themed waves. Wait a while and you'll probably get murders and monsters. Want a different kind of story? Send me a prompt!
Princess Verona took her first breath as her mother, the queen, took her last. The midwives that delivered the babe told the grieving king his wife’s last words were that her child have the power to
It came as little surprise then that when Verona was still very young, she carried with her an air of otherworldliness. Anyone who spent time around the child found their luck improved. The kingdom prospered as it had never before and no one doubted it was due to the little princess.
On Verona’s fourth birthday, her true powers became clear. The king raised his wine to address those gathered at the birthday feast. Turning to his daughter, he smiled.
“To my own dear little one.” He said to the smiling child, sitting in her nanny’s lap. “I wish this day be one of great joy for all as they celebrate you as I do.”
A glow came from Verona’s face and the young child’s body quaked. The nanny held the little girl close to her chest to help her through the worst of the seizure.
Despite the scene in front of them, everyone began laughing and feeling a great joy they had never known. All through the kingdom, there was celebrating and laughing that lasted well into the night.
The next morning found everyone much as they had been before. Life returned to normal for all except the princess. She lay in her bed, sweating from fever and unable to waken from a deep sleep.
Doctors were called to examine the young child. Much was discussed and many tonics given but Verona stayed in her uneasy sleep for a week. When the child finally did wake, she had a permanent lameness in her left leg.
Her nanny, who knew something of the magical arts, pleaded with the king to call her own sister to examine the child. The king did as he was asked and soon his daughter’s malady was explained.
“Your child has the power of wish granting.” The old woman told the king. “She will grant the desires of any who ask it of her but it will come at a great price.”
The woman ran a fond hand over the little girl’s black curls.
“Any wish she grants will cost her her very life force.” The woman explained. “Little by little, wish by wish, her powers will drain her. You must be very careful that none are able to use her powers if you want your child to live a long life.”
Giving her advice, the old woman was given a purse of gold and left the king with his daughter while the child’s nanny walked her out of the castle.
“I fear for your charge.” The older sister said. “She will not survive her childhood if the king does not heed my advice.”
The nanny, the more optimistic of the two sisters, laughed.
“Now that we know of her powers and the damage it may cause,” She said, “the king will not risk his only child’s life. She is well loved and shall be protected.”
The older sister stopped near her cart and turned to look her sister full in the face.
“Love is not always enough to keep one from harm.” She said. “Very ruinous things are done in the name of love. Should you one day find to be in need of a safe place for the child, you may come to me.”
With these words, the older woman climbed in her cart and began driving away. She did not need her magics to know she would not long from now be seeing her younger sister and the princess.
And so her fears were soon realized. Word quickly spread about the young princess’ powers. Kings, princes, and lords from many kingdoms came to ask wishes from the child. The king, for his part, denied the first that came to his door. He loved his daughter and did not wish for her to become ill again.
Pressure was put on him from all quarters. Ill feeling from the other kingdoms were mounting and whispers of war began to reach his ears. The king gathered his advisors and all agreed it would be best for the kingdom to allow these great men to make their wishes for the safety of the kingdom.
It was agreed that each year, on the princess’ birthday, all those wanting to make wishes would come and first voice their wish to the king. If he agreed to it, he would then make the official wish on their behalf. All would be required to bring great gifts on this day to honor his daughter and to show their loyalty to the king.
On Verona’s sixth birthday, she was given a beautiful dress and jewels and brought to her very own throne to greet the great men who came bearing gifts. Each would approach the throne, laying their gifts at the child’s feet and handing a small scroll to the king. Once the procession had completed, the king had fifteen scrolls.
He turned to his small child, and read the wishes on all fifteen scrolls. When he was on the fourth, her nanny was needed to hold the child’s shaking body while the king finished. The nanny, unaware of what had been about to happen, did her best to hide her tears as the child she loved convulsed.
Once all fifteen were read, the nanny was allowed to take the child from the throne room while the rest of the party continued to the banquet hall. The nanny along with a doctor brought in for the occasion, sat with the child until her seizures eased.
The child lay unconscious for two weeks this time. When she woke, she had completely lost the use of her right leg. For six months, she was too weak to do much without assistance. The young child did not understand what was happening to her, but she was a naturally happy child and took her illness with the grace others older than she would not have shown.
For six more years, Verona was put through the yearly trial. Each year saw more and more coming with wishes and each year it took longer from her to recover.
When Verona’s thirteenth birthday drew near, she was no longer looking forward to the horror of her own birthday. Verona had a special wheeled chair her nanny took her around in as the child could no longer use her own legs. She could not wheel herself for long periods in the chair as her arms were also very weak. Though her hearing still remained, the young girl’s eyesight was all but gone.
It was chance that found Verona and her nanny in the garden under the window where the king was speaking to a neighboring prince named Guilford.
“She is still quite young.” The king was heard to say. “Not yet thirteen.”
A harsh laugh made both women’s skin prickle. Guilford was not known for his kind nature.
“She may be young but how many more birthdays do you think she will have?” The young prince asked. “We can be honest with each other that she will not live to see twenty.”
Verona shuddered even with the warm sun streaming on her.
“No one else will take her.” The man continued. “I am yet but eighteen but am making you an offer you will not receive from another. You give me your daughter in marriage and our kingdoms will be united. You have no other heir and your kingdom will be at war once you die. I can ensure it will not come to that.”
There was a silence in which the two below the window held their breath.
“I will make the arrangements.” The king said. “Your marriage shall take place before the month is done.”
“You are making a wise decision.” The prince’s voice made Verona cold. “There would have been no other.”
Verona felt her nanny quickly wheel her away from the window and back to her own rooms. The child was not aware she was crying until a gentle hand wiped the tears from her face.
“Oh, Marthe, what will we do?” Verona’s voice was shaking. She knew that should her marriage to Guilford be, she would face far worse than her yearly birthday celebration. Guilford would not wait a year in between seeing his own wishes granted.
The nanny knelt next to the child she had raised from a baby and felt the anger and pain her own heart well up. She loved this child more than she had ever felt she could love one she had not borne, but she had let the girl suffer for many years because of her own fear.
“We will run away.” Marthe said. Her voice was resolute. “We shall leave this very day. No one will ever hurt you again.”
The young girl stopped crying and reached out for Marthe. They held each other close until both felt courage again.
Marthe was a clever woman and knew there would be no way they could pack any belongings to take on this trip. The only way she would be able to get the child safely away would be to leave quickly but on some innocent pretext.
The woman called down to the kitchen to have a picnic lunch prepared for the princess and for a small horse and trap to be readied. Marthe often took her young charge to the sea on nice days for the child to have a small day out. This would at least allow her to have some food for their escape.
On her way back with the basket, one of the king’s guards blocked Marthe’s path.
“The king wishes to speak to you.” The guard did not look at Marthe as he spoke. “You are to follow me.”
Unable to refuse, Marthe walked behind the guard until they reached the very room she and Verona had been under only moments before.
“Sire, the princess’ nanny, as you requested.” The guard bowed and made his exit to stand outside the door.
Marthe bowed. When she rose, she saw the king looking at the basket in her hands.
“Sire, the princess wishes to have a day at the sea.” Marthe said by way of explanation. “I have lunch prepared for her and we shall be back before sundown.”
“The princess shall not leave the castle today.” The king’s voice was weary. “Prince Guilford has come to ask her hand in marriage and I’ve consented. She will be readied for a banquet tonight in honor of her betrothal.”
Marthe bowed again and made her way quickly from the men’s presence. It was a struggle for her to go back to the princess’ rooms without running.
“We must go now.” Marthe said as she shut the door behind her. “Your father is preparing a banquet to announce your upcoming marriage to the prince.”
Verona’s pale features lost what little color they possessed. Her slight frame began shaking, not in seizure, but in fear and frustration.
“Is it hopeless?” Marthe looked into the terrified face of the young girl. She knew she would do whatever it took to ensure Verona would not suffer another day from her inaction.
“No, child.” The woman’s voice was kind but firm. “We will leave but it will be a difficult journey. I will not have tonics to soothe your pain and I cannot guarantee you will not go hungry before who reach our end.”
Verona seemed to think on these words but lifted her chin and nodded.
“I am ready.”
Marthe took a few bits of food from the basket and laid them on Verona’s lap before covering them with a blanket. It would not last long but it was all she felt she could get by with unnoticed.
Marthe wheeled Verona through the castle and out towards the garden. She had already told the stablehand to prepare the trap. If she could just get the child to it, they could get away.
Prince Guilford was in the garden when they finally reached it. He smirked at the nanny and the young girl in the wheelchair.
“Ah, my bride to be!” The prince came forward and took the handles of the chair from Marthe. “I do hope your nanny has given you the happy news.”
Marthe walked a step behind but made it clear she would not leave the princess’ side.
“I have been told.” Verona said, not a trace of fear in her voice. “Though I cannot see how you would find me a suitable wife.”
Guilford laughed. It was not kind.
“A wife who instantly grants her husband’s wishes is more than suitable.” The prince continued pushing the chair through the garden. “I am quite sure I will find you a useful wife until death do us part.”
Verona shuddered but said nothing.
The trio walked in silence for a few steps until they reached a secluded stretch of garden near a stream. The prince pushed Verona’s chair at the very edge of the stream, which was deep and rushing quickly out to the sea.
“Do not forget, princess.” Guilford’s voice was low and menacing. “As your husband, it is within my power to decide how comfortable your life is that day you do die.”
He pulled her chair back to a safer distance. Without another word, Guilford walked away from both.
Marthe rushed to her charge and moved Verona so she was no longer looking at the rushing stream. The pair waited until their hearts had slowed before moving on to the stables.
Since word of the upcoming banquet had not yet reached the entire castle, no one in the stables took it amiss when Marthe and Verona left in their little trap for a day out.
It was two weeks of hard journeying to reach Marthe’s sister. As Marthe had predicted, the worst of the journey fell upon the young princess. The child was in constant pain without her soothing tonics and the travel on the rough roads made it worse for her. Marthe went hungry so that their meager rations would last the entire time.
No one could say who was more relieved when they finally reached the small village where Marthe’s sister Catla lived. The village witch had seen the signs and was expecting the pair. Villagers came to help bring Verona’s pain-wracked frame into Catla’s cottage. Food and clean clothing was brought for the pair while Catla tended to Verona.
When Marthe confided in her sister as to the reason for their running away, Catla agreed it would be necessary to hide the young princess in case the king or Prince Guilford were able to track them.
With the help of the villagers, who were kind people and owed much to their resident witch, and using all of her magical arts, Catla designed a tower in the woods where Marthe and Verona could live in safety and peace.
The tower was over a day’s walk from the village and could only be entered with Verona’s permission. No door would be found until the princess granted access to her sanctuary. No axe or weapon could harm the stones which glowed with the magics Catla had placed in them.
In this tower, Verona spent the next seven years of her life. Marthe was her constant companion and some villagers came to visit and bring supplies to the pair. Not one word was heard about her father or the prince.
For Verona’s part, she was never lonely in the tower. She had suffered much in her young life and the sound of people’s voices would giver her a tightness in her chest that left her exhausted. She lived in fear someone would make a wish in her presence, even though she did trust the villagers who had come to love their adopted princess.
Marthe did love Verona, but she felt the need for the company of others, including her sister. It was arranged that once a month, Marthe would make the journey into town and stay with Catla for two days before returning to Verona.
The peace that Verona felt on those days was beyond what she could describe. Even though she knew she would never be able to live on her own, she enjoyed this small solitude where she could be completely at peace.
It was on one of Marthe’s visits that life changed for Verona. The princess was at her window, listening to the sounds of the forest when she heard someone running through the brush. Marthe had been gone for over three hours and Verona knew the older woman would not be running, even if she had cause to return.
Verona pulled back from her window and listened. Her hearing was the only part of her body that had yet to be affected by the wishing. She held her breath as she waited to know if the running was from man or beast.
“Hello?” A female voice, out of breath, called out. “Is there someone there? Please! I need shelter!”
Verona gritted her teeth together but did not go again to the window.
“Please!” The female voice began to sob. “I…please someone help me…”
Verona moved to the window again, unable to keep her tender heart from this forlorn plea.
“Who is there?” Verona called out. “What is it you want?”
Verona heard a shuffling before a dim figure could be made out at the bottom of her tower.
“Oh, miss, please!” The unknown woman began. “I have been running for a full day and need shelter. Please help me!”
“Who are you?” Verona asked again. “And what are you running from?”
There was silence before the other woman spoke again.
“I..my name is..please, can you help me?” The woman asked, her voice seemed on the verge of cracking again. “I fear to tell you who I am for you if you will not help me, I don’t wish you to tell anyone you have met me.”
Verona felt other woman’s need but her own fear was too great.
“There is a village.” Verona began. “It is half a day’s walk to the north. If you have genuine need, they will help you.”
There was another silence.
“Will you not help me then?” The woman asked. Her voice was not judgmental, but tired. “I have come so far….”
Verona felt her heart ache for this stranger.
“I can provide you food and water from our well but no shelter.” Verona said. “They will help you at the village.”
Verona waited for the woman to speak again, but there was only a heavy silence. She prepared a small bundle of food and a water bladder in case the woman had none. These items she placed in a basket and sent down.
“Thank you.” Verona heard the barely audible voice as there was a lightening of the bucket.
“The well is—“ Verona began.
“I can see the well.” The voice cut her off. “Thank you for what kindness you could provide. I know you would have done more if you could.”
Verona let the words wash over her. She knew she could do more but the fear was too great, especially not even having Marthe with her.
“Miss?” The woman called back. “May I ask you a question before I go?”
Verona looked further out of her window.
“Are you trapped here?” The woman asked. “Or are you here of your own wishes?”
Verona shuddered involuntarily at the woman’s choice of words. Her fear expanded in her chest, blooming into near panic.
“I do not need saving.” Verona said once she had swallowed back enough fear to find her voice.
There were no more words, but Verona could hear the woman walking down the path to the north in the direction of the village. Once the woman was well out of earshot, Verona took to her bed, the panic ebbing and leaving her without energy.
Since the woman was young and fit, it wasn’t many miles before she came upon Marthe walking the same path. Being fearful but also needing help, the young woman called out to the older one so she did not frighten her with a sudden appearance.
Marthe turned towards the voice, seeing a dark skinned, dark haired woman, no older than her own Verona coming up the path. She stopped and waited for the young woman to catch up to her.
When she had gotten closer, Marthe’s heart filled with sympathy. The young woman was scratched from her run through the forest. Her dress was thin and ripped in many places. Dirt covered most of her clothing and flesh. It was clear to Marthe this woman had not had an easy journey.
Another thing Marthe noticed was the bundle the woman carried. She knew this was from her own Verona. For a moment, a sliver of fear ran through Marthe. What if this woman had wished for these items? Should she return to the tower?
Marthe damped down the fear and smiled kindly at the exhausted young woman.
“Hello, child.” Marthe greeted the woman. “What brings you to this forest?”
The woman looked down at the ground, unwilling to meet Marthe’s eyes.
“Did you meet the girl in the tower?” She asked. “Did she send you this way?”
The young woman nodded but still did not look up.
“Come now, child.” Marthe walked over and put a hand on the young woman’s shoulder. “Do you fear me?”
The woman looked into Marthe’s eyes and studied them. She risked a smile at the older woman.
“You seem quite kind.” The woman said. “Will you please help me?”
“If I can, I will.” Marthe waved towards the ground before sitting and pulling food out of her basket. “Sit with me and tell me your tale. After we have filled our bellies, we will continue on to the village together if you wish.”
The young woman looked around, listening. After a moment she deemed it safe to join Marthe at her picnic.
“Now, let’s begin with niceties.” Marthe said, offering the young woman slices of bread and cheese. “I am Marthe, the guardian of the girl you met in the tower. I am on my way to visit my sister who lives in the village.”
The young woman took great gulps of her food and drank deeply from the water bladder she had filled at the tower well. Marthe waited patiently for her to sate her hunger.
“I am called Lark.” The young woman finally spoke when it was clear Marthe would not continue with the conversation. “I… I have run away from a place I did not belong.”
“Lark is a lovely name.” Marthe said. “Is it the one your mother gave you?”
The young woman gave a sad smile and shook her head.
“Dinara.” She confided. “But I have been called Lark for as long as I can remember.”
Marthe smiled and offered the young woman an apple from the basket.
“Which do you prefer?” Marthe asked.
The young woman turned the apple over in her hands, running her fingers over the smooth surface.
“Dinara.” She said. Then again with confidence. “My name is Dinara.”
“Then I shall call you Dinara.” She said. “Can you tell me more about why you have run away, Dinara?”
“Can I trust you?” Dinara asked, still considering the apple.
Marthe sighed and reached out to take the young woman’s hand.
“I only wish to help you.” She said. “You would not be the first girl I have shared a confidence with.”
Dinara looked up.
“The woman in the tower?” She asked. “You said you were her guardian. Did you help her find a safe place?”
Marthe nodded and gripped Dinara’s hand tighter. The older woman realized Dinara could not be any older than Verona. She still thought of Verona as a child needing to be protected. This young woman deserved at least as much protection. Marthe could see the hurt in the young woman’s face. She could also see sheer exhaustion.
“Will you tell me about her?” Dinara asked. “If I tell you my story?”
Marthe nodded again. She began putting items back into the basket.
“Let’s talk on our journey.” Marthe said. “We still have a long way to go and my old bones do not move quickly. Also, I find moving the feet can often loosen the tongue.”
Dinara stood and helped Marthe to her feet. The young woman put her bundle into the basket and carried it for the older woman.
“I told you I was called Lark.” Dinara began as they started walking down the path. “This is because I have a special power.”
There was a short silence as Dinara gathered her courage.
“It was discovered when I was very young that my singing eases pain.” She said. “I can even heal minor wounds.”
Marthe felt her heart beat a little faster but she said nothing.
“We were very poor.” Dinara continued. “And when it was discovered what I could do, people would pay my mother and father to have me sing to cure people. More and more people would come every year. So many that it was very tiring for me, but I continued because I felt it was my duty to use my powers to help.”
“Three years ago this man came to our cottage and spoke to my parents in private.”
Dinara’s voice became angry.
“They sold me to this man for his lord.” She said. “He was a very old man who was dying. He heard about me and sent his emissary to offer my parents whatever they wanted so he could possess me. I don’t know what price they accepted for their own child but he took me away that day.”
“For three years I sang hours every day.” She said, angry tears starting to flow. “I had to sing to him all night because he feared dying in his sleep. I was only granted short breaks for food and water. I slept rarely and usually only in snatches on the floor near him in case he felt ill.”
Marthe linked her arm around Dinara’s to comfort the girl. She saw Verona’s struggles in this young woman. Her heart hurt for her. Her fleeting feeling that this young woman would help Verona vanished as Marthe knew she could never ask Dinara to use her powers just as she would never ask Verona for a wish.
“We were traveling to the lord’s country home when I ran away.” Dinara wiped away the hot tears that fell down her cheeks, cutting rivulets into the streaked dirt. “I jumped from the carriage and ran. I don’t know how long I ran or in what direction. I simply ran until I fell down too exhausted to continue. I slept and when I awoke, I continued through the forest. I only stopped when I came upon the tower with the other woman in it."
Dinara looked at Marthe.
“Why would she not help me?” She asked the older woman. “She seemed scared of me. I only wanted sanctuary, not to hurt her. How could I hurt her?”
Marthe patted the young woman’s arm and told her Verona’s story. At the end, Dinara had slowed her pace until she simply stopped.
“Why do they all want to hurt us?” Dinara had begun crying again. “Why does the world wish to take the power we are born with and use it until we are broken?”
Marthe did not have a answer for the pained young woman. She simply held her in a hug until the young woman’s sobs had quieted and they were able to continue on their journey.
“I cannot make Verona take you into her tower.” Marthe said when they had started walking. “Nor would I want to make her. Like you, she has been hurt beyond endurance.”
Dinara nodded but said nothing.
“However, my sister in the village can help you.” She continued. “Stay with us in the village until we can find a more permanent solution for your safety.”
“I want to stay with Verona.” Dinara said. “She would understand me. And I could sing to her. I could make her pain ease without tonics. If I sing with all I have, maybe she would walk again.”
It was Marthe’s turn to hold her tongue. If should could make a wish, it would be for this. She was growing older and did not know if Verona would accept a new guardian once Marthe was too old to be of any use. If Verona could care for herself more, it would ease Marthe’s mind.
Dinara and Marthe spent the two days with Catla, the latter tending to Dinara’s wounds and assessing the girl’s powers. After a few discussions, it was decided that Dinara would return with Marthe to the tower to help carry supplies, but Dinara would not ask to stay at the tower. She would return that same day to Catla.
And so that is what happened. For nearly a year Dinara would come to collect Marthe during her monthly trips to visit Catla and would return with supplies. Marthe had told Verona the young woman’s story but Verona would always refuse to allow Dinara into the tower.
However, Marthe could see that Verona looked forward to Dinara’s visits as she had never looked forward to anyone else’s. The young women would have long conversations from the window while Marthe prepared for the journey. Sometimes Dinara would bring a book and read out loud under Verona’s window while the other girl listened intently.
One day, after having walked Marthe back to the tower, Dinara sat under Verona’s window and called up to the princess.
“Verona, are we friends?” Dinara asked.
The question clearly surprised Verona, but Marthe held in her breath, waiting for her young ward to answer. There was an awkward silence before Verona answered.
“I think we are.” Verona said. “I count you as my friend. Do you count me among yours?”
“You are my only friend.” Dinara said without hesitation. “I want to be with you in your tower. I want to feel safe with you instead of always feeling fear that I will be found one day in the village and taken back to my old life.”
Dinara took a deep breath.
“No, that’s not entirely true.” Dinara said. “Please let me in, Verona. I will sing to you every day. I will sing any time you wish it, not because I fear but because I love you and want to help my friend.”
Marthe felt a tear fall from her eye at Dinara’s plea. She knew Dinara truly did love Verona as much as she did. She also knew Verona felt the same.
“You may come in, Dinara.” Verona said.
A quavering outline of an archway appeared in the lower half of the tower. Unbelieving, Dinara reached for the door’s handle and pushed. When the door opened, Dinara stepped in quickly as if she thought the entire contract might disappear.
She walked up to the room she had only glimpsed through the window and found Verona sitting in her chair, waiting for her.
Dinara ran to Verona and the young women hugged, both having tears in their eyes.
“You can stay forever.” Verona said. “This is your home now and you need never ask permission to come in.”
“And all you need do is ask, and I will be your lark.” Dinara said, holding Verona’s hands in her own.
Verona shook her head and, though she had little strength in her arms, she gripped Dinara’s hands as tightly as she could.
“I will never ask.” Verona said with passion. “I do not demand anything for my friendship. I am how I am and you are how you are. We do not need to change ourselves and we do not need to prove our loyalty by offering parts of ourselves in trade.”
Marthe cried along with the two she loved like daughters. Her emotions overtook her to such a point she began to feel a pain in her chest. In another moment she realized the pain was not from her emotions.
Marthe clutched her chest as it began to tighten. She gasped for breathe and fell to her knees. The world began to turn hazy as pain intensified. She could hear the cries of alarm from both young women.
Verona used every ounce of her strength to wheel herself to Marthe’s prone form. The woman she loved dearly was dying in front of her. She turned and clutched at Dinara.
“You have to make a wish!” She said frantically. “I can’t make them on my own. It has to be someone else!”
Dinara looked from Marthe to Verona. She could not save one without hurting the other.
“I… I could sing.” Dinara began. “I could help heal her.”
Verona shook Dinara as much as she could manage.
“There isn’t time!” Verona said. “Wish for Marthe to be well again! Do it now! Please, if you love us, do not let her die!”
Dinara grabbed Verona’s hands in hers, releasing the other’s grip on her dress. She knelt next to Verona and looked into her eyes. She made her wish. When Verona’s face began to glow, Dinara started singing.
On the floor, Marthe felt the pressure in her chest ease. She could breathe easier now and lay there, taking in lungfuls of cool air. The fuzziness around her vision stopped.
She sat up slowly, taking in the sight before her. She heard Dinara make the wish and her long years of seeing the aftermath of wishes on Verona told her what she should be witnessing. To her amazement, Verona was not convulsing. She was holding Dinara’s hands, smiling as she listened to the other’s beautiful voice. The young women were staring into each other’s eyes, entranced.
When Dinara finished her song, both young women looked at Marthe. Their smiles, tears and hugs lasted for the rest of the day.
In years to come, those with great need would eventually find their way to the tower in the woods. They would see the beautiful women in the tower, one pale, one dark. They made their plea and, should their hearts be pure and their need sincere, they would come away from the tower with their wish granted and a hauntingly beautiful melody in their hearts.
My lofty dreams of being a famous & brilliant writer were literally smacked out of my head. Now I plan to fill the void with copious amounts of subpar writing!