Day 199 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: Write the beginning of a new princess story.
Erin: Everyone thinks being a princess is ball gowns and tiaras. Part of it is. That is until my mother, the queen, was given one year to live. Now my life is constantly stressing about how I will step up for our people.
Shannon: Once upon a time in a city you’ll never find on a map, there lived a group of people who were blessed with two gifts. They could fly with the wings on their backs, and turn invisible on the spot. Though they are rarely ever caught by the human eye, they do venture out from time to time, and sometimes get mistaken for angels. That was all they’d be known for until a young woman name Cora broke the divide.
Try to write your own version of a story that has been written plenty of times.
(This was one of the first stories I ever thought up when I was, like, 8…well, this is the prequel to it, anyway…)
I sat alone on my bed in the enormous church nursery, or what used to be a place for infants, but was now home to the abandoned and disillusioned. Staring up into the rotting beams of the chapel, I sighed deeply at my string of horrible luck which had, evidently, begun the moment I was born, and which had been getting steadily worse as I grew older. Now ten years old and still waiting for a family to claim me in their name, the terrifying truth was finally beginning to sink in; I was going to be a prisoner here until I came of age, at which point I would be thrown out on the streets to fend for myself in a dull and dreadful world I didn’t understand. For years now, the sisters scolded me for my fantastical imagination and thirst for knowledge, and now I was, at long last, starting to understand that my naïveté was the problem.
Though the library here, at St. Christopher’s Orphanage, was miniscule and only included approved books, I’d read through each and every one at least twice since I was eight; it wasn’t a huge feat, unfortunately. None contained one drop of the magic that could be found, on our bi-monthly visits into town, in a single library book. Sneaking away for a few enchanting moments on each visit, I would sign out the most fantastical texts full of wizards and princesses and all manner of mystical creature. On the third such visit, one of the librarians noticed my mad scramble to hide the book I’d just signed out from the sisters and took a liking to me. Now, they had several false dustjackets which could be placed over the real covers of banned books, which meant I didn’t have a need to worry any more.
Instead, I scoured the small store for the most interesting books to take me away to their faraway lands so that I could escape the dreariness of everyday life. Lands of brilliant emeralds forests alive with fairies, glittering nymphs who rose from their rivers to greet kindly strangers and mountains so tall and formidable that only the fiercest dragons dared to roost in them filled my mind like a plague, as the sisters would describe it. Between learning how to properly scrub tiles and peeling hundreds of potatoes for stew, I would plunge into the deepest oceans and swim with mermaids whose scales shimmered and changed with the wind. It was a freedom that felt as real as the ground on which I stood, though it had a special, familiar quality I couldn’t describe.
When the sisters had all gone to bed and the other children were snoring soundly, exhausted from the day’s chores and lessons, I crept out from under my thin sheets, retrieved a precious magical book from my horde inside my mattress, and snuck across the creaking floor to the window overlooking the driveway. Swinging in an unseen breeze was the lone outside lamp meant to scare off anyone who might want to gain entry to the tiny, rundown orphanage. As I watched it with curiosity, my book hanging forgotten in my freezing fingers, the light dimmed and flickered as though it were alive. It went out suddenly, thrusting the murky night upon the ancient, dilapidated building and sending a shiver down my spine. From the deep, dim forest that served as a fence to keep us on the grounds stepped a short shadowy figure, which paused at the edge of the dirt drive, the moonlight barely touching their dark clothing.
They turned their face skyward and a harsh shaft of light crossed a pale, round child’s face, illuminating one steel-grey eye in the night. Pulling a heavy hood up to cover their face again, they stepped swiftly to the front of the building and out of my sight.
Downstairs, there was a horrible commotion from the sister’s rooms, followed by many sets of shoes thundering down the main hallway, and muffled shouts of concern. Rushing on numb feet, I leapt into my bed, covering myself and my reading material just as the door creaked open, carving the silhouette of Sister Harriette into the doorframe. Behind her, all the lights had been lit, casting shadows on the trees outside the window that appeared to move and writhe before my exhausted eyes. She took a few steps into the room, turned to face out into the hallway and adjusted something that looked sickeningly similar to a rifle against her shoulder; clearly, she was to guard us as a last line of defense. When I shifted uncomfortably on my lumpy bed, she flicked her shining eyes to me instantly, seeming to assess me as being asleep, and I went back to staring down the hall.
There was a great commotion from downstairs that carried through the floorboard as though it were glass as someone knocked on the door. Sister Beth was shouting something so ear-piercingly that I couldn’t make it out while a few others murmured quietly at each other. Around the bedchambers, I could see some other children raise their heads minutely and their breathing speed up as the door downstairs was opened. Outside the window opposite, the shadow of the hooded figure was cast on the trees, prompting many swivelled heads and low mutterings from the crowded room.
“Children, you must stay as silent as you can; there is an intruder. We will not let anything happen to you, I promise,” Sister Harriette whispered, motioning to us to lower our heads and peering around the doorframe on the balls of her feet. If there was one thing I commended them on, it was their ferocious protectiveness when it came to us and any outside forces. Not that I didn’t also resent them for that very stance on anything, and I really do mean anything at all, having an effect on us, but it was a kind of love.
When the light was suddenly extinguished as the front door slammed shut, I held my breath in the cold room, wishing I could see where the figure had gone. At the same moment, the cold lantern hanging in the drive flickered back on and swung in the breeze as though it had been alight all night.
More hushed voices carried up to my piqued ears and I wanted so badly to roll onto the floor just to be closer to the original sounds; this was the most exciting thing that had happened since I’d arrived when I was two. Though I knew Sister Harriette meant the best, she was the only thing between me and finding out who that stranger was. Well, her and a rifle that I had a sinking suspicion she knew how to use very well. So, biting my tongue hard enough to taste blood, I remained still as a statue in the icebox room with the faintest of murmurs reaching my ears.
After what could have been an eternity, Sister Beth appeared in the doorway and whispered something in Sister Harriette’s ear. Most of the children were snoring away again, having been awake for the exciting part, but unable to stave off sleep for longer than that. It was a few more minutes of inaudible discussion before the two shut the door softly and the light turned off in the hall. I could hear their heavy footsteps receding down the stairs after a bit, and before long there was just a light smattering of voices from far away downstairs.
When I could bear it no longer, I crept out from my cover, shoving the book back into the hollow in my mattress and slinking across the floor on my bare toes. I reached the solid door and paused, psyching myself up in order to open it; thinking back on instances when I’d been caught out of bed late at night and punished for it. With my fingers gently touching the frozen handle, I felt a wave of anxiety wash over my, followed immediately by a second, more powerful, wave of adrenaline and curiosity that drowned out the caution. Twisting the knob and yanking the door out of my way, I staggered forward in a trance of mingled exhaustion and brain chemical imbalance.
Down the stairs I stumbled, keeping as quiet as a mouse as I stepped, though I couldn’t tell you how long it took me to reach the bottom step. As I peeked around the corner, I spotted the stranger, now standing before a roaring fire in the hearth, and gasped, leaning back against the wall for stability. In that second, being able to see the woman in the light, I’d taken in a long, flowing plaid of orange hair and dull grey irises that were pained and determined.
Her voice was oddly familiar as she spoke to the sisters with an air of authority that was almost treasonous, “-I understand that you cannot relinquish her into the custody of just anyone, even if you could not even begin to imagine the importance of her well-being, but I am her sister and I have come to take her home.” There was a rounded, decisiveness in her tone that had obviously shocked the sisters, but they seemed to be coming back to their senses as a couple actually laughed, harshly, out loud.
“Oh, yes, we’ll get right on that, dear,” spat Sister Trinity and I could imagine the way she screwed up her face when she filled a sentence that completely with sarcasm. Pausing, the lot must have been staring each other down because Sister Trinity’s next comment was just as venomous as the last, “You clearly don’t understand how this works; we can’t just give her back to the family who abandoned her in the dead of night on our doorstep, much less the apparent sibling of the child. It simply would not be right of us to do that to her.” I’d only seen her that irate a handful of times, and it never ended well for the child standing before her.
With an insolent huff of someone who’d been given far too much political power over her superiors at a young age, the interloper countered, “You do not understand, Sister, how important it is that I bring her home right now. It is not safe for her to be alone and without the proper protections in this, this horrid place that is so dull and dreary and lacks any iota of the magic she needs.” At her last words even I gasped at the use of the M word, and silently wished she hadn’t said it at all; any ground she might have gained against the sisters was instantly lost as she lost the entire battle.
“Well, I can see you are delusional as well; you can see yourself out or we can escort you to the edge of our property,” spoke Sister Beth in a calm and collected voice as any unnecessary worry about a proper claim on a charge was now gone. Boot heels stomped heavily on the old wooden floors and the fire wavered dangerously, dust motes falling from the ceiling.
After a second of awkward silence, the young girl spoke again, this time in a last-ditch tone that was high and irrational, “At the very least, would you let me see my little sister, Aurora?”
I froze. Heart pounding painfully in my chest, I could move in astonishment, I struggled to suck in an icy breath of air. As the house remained silent and still as the grave, I stumbled forward into the foyer and stared toward the fireplace. All heads snapped to me, half a dozen sets of eyes settling on my trembling figure as I struggled to stay upright. “What did you say about me?”
The truth dawned in the darkened, stunning features of the stranger and the rest of the room melted into shadow around me. As a wide, ecstatic grin spread across the woman’s face, she started forward, tears of joy rolling down her child-like cheeks. “Oh, Aurora, I missed you so much!” she shouted as she embraced me, the fur lining on her winter cloak tickling my nose and the sound of sniffling in my hair. When she gave one last, breathtaking squeeze before holding me at arm’s length to look me over, she breathed, “I’m taking you home right now,” with her dull eyes glistening.
“Okay Josh,” Vivian says, following him into the house, “you said you’d show me something of your mother’s.”
“I know, I know. C’mon,” Josh pulls her up the stairs after she gets her shoes off. He opens up his door. She sits at his desk, looking around the paper covered room. Josh pulls a box off his shelf and starts carefully shuffling through the books. He then pulls one out and brings it to her, “Page sixteen.”
Vivian takes the book and opens it the correct page. At the top it says, ‘Possible princess story’…
Within a world that only thrives on the imaginations of the young at heart, seven kingdoms celebrated the birth of a beautiful princess. Like her parents, she was wise, brave, and had a beautiful heart. Unbeknownst to the world, one envied the prosperity of the family so much, that he was bent on bringing them down.
He was only a rumor, but rumor enough for people to be concerned for their king and queen. It wasn’t until the king passed on a hunting accident, with the queen’s faint heart following soon after, that they heeded the supposed rumor’s warning. But something awaited for the princess still. Everything was quiet, when the fate was made public. One with a hidden mark, revealed only by the princess, was destined to end her family’s rule, under the command of the wicked man.
The mark of the dragon.
Vivian looks up from the pages, “Whoa… that’s not like any princess story I’ve heard.”
“She actually wrote a copy,” Josh states, getting up to find it, “that’s just the story idea.”
“Can I read it?” Vivian asks.
Josh holds up the thick manuscript, “Sure, just…”
“Don’t get too attached to certain characters,” Josh states.
“Josh! Don’t tell me that!” Vivian threatens to throw the journal while Josh laughs, clutching the binder to his chest.