The Princess had been kept in a dungeon without food and water for days. She passed the time singing to herself... songs from her childhood...a happier time. She thought about her mother brushing her long auburn hair and telling her stories when she was a little girl. In these stories, Princesses were treated... well...like Princesses. And they were loved by handsome Princes. The men weren't always royalty...a man could be handsome and wise and possess the qualities of a Prince. This Princess enjoyed stories of a love hard won. Of love triumphing over everything. The Prince simply had to be a kind man with the capacity for love. That's all that was ever needed.

As she was thinking back to those stories, the gruff guardians of Covington Castle came for her. One of the guards, with his eyes averted and emotionless, opened the gate of the dungeon. "The King is waiting for you", he said sternly. The other guards proceeded to remove her shackles and wrap a cloak around her naked body.

"Funny", she thought only to herself. "I almost feel free."

And just as she finished thinking that thought, one of the guards grabbed her wrists and tied them in chains tightly at her back.

The guards were as rough as they could be in handling her on the long walk down the corrider, to where the King awaited her. It was clear that they knew who she was and what she had done. Yet at the same time, she felt invisable. Their eyes were fixated straight ahead, their faces void of any expression. She supposed that's what they were paid to do. Yet she wanted to scream... even without the shackles, this was too much like every other experience she had ever had.

The Princess always longed for something different. And that was how she got here.

One of the guards opened the huge heavy door to the King's Hall, and it creaked open loudly, announcing her arrival.

There, perched on their thrones were the King and his son Prince Ofnothing. One of the guards removed the chains from her wrists. The Princess was made to stand in front of the King and his son, and as much as she hated it, she knew what she had to do next. With what she felt just might be her last bit of strength, she knelt before them and bowed her head.

"Princess, you are aware of the actions that have lead you to this point. What say you of your misdeeds?"

"With all due respect Your Majesty", the Princess replied, "I have been kept in your dark dungeon for days now. I am thirsty, and have suffered many cruelties at the hands of your guards. Yet, I feel I've done nothing wrong."

"Nonsense!" Yelled the King. He then stood up from his throne, and his gait towered above as he looked down upon her. "You are here because you dared seek a life outside of this castle. You are guilty of wanting that which you do not deserve!"

"With all due respect Your Graciousness, I implore you to please tell me why that is a crime?" said the Princess.

"My son has provided you with everything you need. You have a place to live... the wine cellar is plentiful....you have gowns fit for a Queen. And yet you have disrespected him."

The Princess looked over at Prince Ofnothing, and saw...well...nothing. He was there of course, as he always was, but she felt with him the same way she did with the guards of Covington Castle. She felt invisable. In her eyes, there was nothing worse than this feeling. She felt that she would search every dwelling in the village to find a man who could look at her with love in his eyes.

The Princess was always so close to finding love...so close in fact, that she thought many times she had actually found it. She mistook action for feeling... it was only recently that she realized any man would share his bed with any woman. Sometimes it took the right lighting or just the right amount of wine... but it was true. The Princess didn't want to be just any woman.... she wanted to be herself. And even more complicated....she wanted to be loved for being herself.

Prince Ofnothing thought he knew the Princess. But in truth, he never noticed her. All he cared about was having a warm body in his bed... someone to fire orders at and cater to his every need. He had no idea how much she loved the ocean... or that she loved to write and paint. Her notebooks and paintings were always around... but he would never look at them. He didn't know how badly she had been hurt in the past.... and he didn't care to know.

"Shhhh...." he would say. "These trivialities mean nothing to me."

So when she saw Sir Bravebiker, she saw hope. He had been there all along, and she had always felt a connection to him, for as long as she could remember. She had always found him handsome and smart, not to mention incredibly interesting. She had come to realize what a gift he had been in her life.

She was possessed with a desire to know him...but because she had never had any good experiences, she was afraid that he would not want to know her in return. So she visited him with a veil covering her face. In the time they spent together, he was convinced that the Princess was a dream come true for him. But when she revealed herself... Sir Bravebiker left her without saying a word.

Sir Bravebiker had broken the Princess' heart. And more so than any other man ever had....he was the first one who seemed to care about who she was inside. So when she revealed herself, and he said not a single word... it only proved to her something she had always feared. The Princess finally knew for certain that she would never be enough for anyone.

The Princess was overcome with sadness remembering the man she loved, who did not love her back. She lay on the floor with tears flowing from her eyes.

She was brought back to the present by the feel of the King crushing her weak right hand with his boot.

"Look at you!" he said. "You disgust me!"

Her eyes drifted to Prince Ofnothing, who had stepped down from his throne and now looked down upon her as well.

"You will never be good enough", he said. "And for that you must die."

He kicked her in the place her heart once was. The final blow to her body and soul was too much.

Just before the Princess succombed on the floor of the Great Hall, her final thought came to her...

"Now I am free."

--Based on a dream

Copyright © Carrie Batcheller, 2024, All rights reserved.