“Because, Be, I need you to protect me from all the evil men in the capital whose only purpose in life is to deprive me of my virtue. And besides, you promised.” She replied in an overly syrupy voice.
I groaned to myself, decided discretion was the better part of valor, and kept my mouth shut. Ever since that bard had come through town, telling tales of our beloved cursed prince when she was eight years old, she had vowed that when she was old enough she would be the one to break the curse with true love’s kiss.
Stupidly, when she was twelve, I promised her that if she still wanted to go when she turned eighteen, I would take her to the capital for her chance.
“Name and purpose of visit.” The court secretary demanded.
“Milara Nalorna of Sasharin and Bierni Nalorna of Sasharin here to attempt to break the curse.” Mils announced boldly.
The pompous looking man in the official blue and silver livery of a high court functionary slowly ran his eyes up and down each of us and it was obvious from his expression that he believed such back country hicks should not be allowed in the same room as the prince. But the law said any citizen could make their vow and then be allowed an attempt.
He turned towards the ornate wooden doors, carved with idyllic scenes from each of the four heavens and pulled them open. The gold handles were almost as long as my forearm and shaped to look like vines emerging from the landscape below them.
We had barely made it through the doors when they slammed shut behind us and a voice boomed out, “Kneel.” There was such command in the voice that both our knees had hit the ground before we even realized we had been given an order.
“Make your oath.”
We knew the oath from heart as did every citizen who knew the story of our cursed prince. “I swear by Niernan, the Northern Heaven; I swear by Suserar, the Southern Heaven; I swear by Oerme, the Eastern Heaven; and I swear by Wistilla, the Western Heaven that I have no hatred in my heart towards the prince, will by no action, whether on purpose or by accident, cause harm to the prince or allow harm to be done to the prince. And should I fail in my oath I offer my life as justice’s due and may my soul be forever banned from the sight of the Heavens. So be it.”
As we stood up, the voice that seemed to come from nowhere resounded within the large room saying. “Enter.”
I gave Mils an encouraging look as she approached the only other door in the room and tentatively went through it. I stood as still as I could while I waited for her to return. When my thoughts had just began to wander, “Enter” boomed through the room again.
I glanced around to make sure I was the only one still in the room. There must be some mistake. I did not mean to make an attempt. But before I could open my mouth to protest, the voice bellowed again, “Enter.” I could feel the words in my bones as the room quivered around me.
I hurried towards the door, figuring I didn’t really have a choice. Prince Kalristian was lying on a raised platform in the center of the small room. His dark hair spread out around his pale face, his red lips the only thing giving him any color. For all that he looked achingly handsome laid out there for all to see while he slept, a hint of melancholy showed in the line of jaw, loneliness in the curve of his cheek, hopelessness in the set of his shoulders.
It was as if, despite being placed in a dreamless sleep until the curse could be broken, he had felt the decades pass. Many years ago, an evil witch had cursed the royal line. Unless they bonded with their true love by the time they reached twenty years old they would die. So, for years beyond counting, our princes and princesses had been put to sleep just before they turned nineteen and would remain so until awakened by the kiss of one with the potential to be their true love. They would then have one year to bond, decide to be put back to sleep, or die.
It was all a load of bull, of course. How in the four heavens would some curse be able to tell if someone were the prince’s true love when the prince had never met them before? But that little bit of logic didn’t stop thousands of people from all over the kingdom from coming and making an attempt to break the curse. They were all a bunch of overly romantic saps.
I glanced once more at the prince and made to move around the platform towards the open door on the other side of the room. Before I had made it two steps, the door slammed shut and that same bone quivering voice from the other room commanded, “Make your attempt.”
I stared, gape mouthed, around the room even though I knew there was no one for me to confront and tell that a mistake had been made. When I made no show of approaching the prince, the voice repeated itself, “Make your attempt.”
At a loss, I turned around and moved woodenly towards the platform. I came to a halt near the prince’s head and gently reached out a hand to smooth his hair behind his ear. Then I shook myself. It is not as if this kiss meant anything. I leaned over to perfunctorily buss my lips over his.
But as soon as our lips touched, something gripped me and held me in place. I stood there, unable to move, as I felt waves of magic break over me. What little power I had, I felt streaming out of me as if it were being pulled from my chest. At the same time, I felt a burst of power greater than I had ever sensed flowing back into me at the same spot. It was different from mine somehow and I could feel myself changing in some unidentifiable way as it filled me.
When the force holding me finally let go, I was so surprised I fell to the ground. I glanced up and found myself staring into the weary looking forest green eyes of a very much awake Prince Kalristian.
“Crap. It worked.”
Next Chapter - Part 2
Next Chapter - Part 2