Welcome to my serial science-fiction/fantasy adventure, The Only City Left. This is the story of Allin Arcady and his adventures through a dying, planet-sized city called Earth. (Click here for the Table of Contents.)
At the end of Part 48, Allin is remembering a fairy tale his mother told him once. In it, a princess was forced to marry a monster, who locked her up when she tried to steal his magic.
The Only City Left: Part 49
Locked in darkness, the princess would surely have gone mad if not for secret and risky visits from the monster king’s younger brother. Each day, he snuck in to spend some time with her and share the light from the orb that had transformed him into a monster. Knowing that the monster king had dispatched his other brother without a second thought, the princess asked the younger brother why he risked seeing her. He lowered his head and did not answer, but it was clear that he was in love with her.
In the times when he was gone and she was alone in the dark, the princess thought of him often. He was a monster and had not stopped his brother from committing countless evil acts. But where the monster king reveled in his crimes, his brother seemed ashamed of what he had become. Despite her misgivings, she slowly found herself coming to love the younger brother in return, for he was the only light in her dark world. Because of this growing love, the princess entrusted the younger brother with the secret she had kept hidden all these months: she planned to have her revenge on the monster king for his many misdeeds.
At first, the younger brother tried to talk her out of her plan, not out of any love for the monster king, but out of fear for the princess. The monster king was too powerful to fight. All who had tried to knock him from his throne had perished in the attempt. The princess would have none of this, though. She would not spend the rest of her life in servitude to the monster king, not when there was any chance of escape.
She asked the younger brother why the king’s magic orb had not worked for her and he explained that the orb alone did nothing. It only worked on those who had been cursed with a monster’s bite. Even then, the orbs would only work for those who know the magic words to unlock their light. The princess asked the younger brother if he knew where extra orbs were kept. As she suspected, there was a trove of them, and the younger brother reluctantly admitted that he could get her one.
“But it will be useless to you, unless…”
“Unless I, too, am cursed,” she said, and bared her neck for him.
When the month was over, the princess emerged from her dark prison as the perfect picture of submissiveness. The monster king was well pleased at the effect his punishment had produced. He would brook no misbehavior from his subjects, much less his wife. She obeyed all his commands and made sure he stayed in a good mood, for she feared him becoming suspicious and punishing her again before she could put her plan into action.
A few nights later, when his younger brother came to visit, the monster king was in such a boisterous state, he invited him in despite the late hour. He ordered his wife to serve them drinks while they regaled each other with stories of conquest. The princess could see how nervous the younger brother was, so she made sure to stay nearby and offer the monster king sweets and heady drinks whenever there was a lull in the conversation. The longer the younger brother could keep him talking and drinking, the better their chances of success would be. Soon, the king began to yawn and stretch his great arms above his head. The princess knew he would next demand that his brother leave so that he could sleep. The time was ripe to enact her plan. She could only trust that nerves would not prevent the younger brother from performing his part in this dark play.
The princess offered the monster king one last drink, and at the same time begged him to tell a story of when he and his brother were young, for she (truly) could not imagine them at such an age. Well into his cups and feeling benevolent, the monster king readily agreed to this nostalgic request, curiously glossing over any reference to their other brother as he told his tale.
While the monster king was thus engaged, the princess took a step back and produced the magic orb that the younger brother had given to her while she was in prison, which she had kept hidden until this moment. Speaking the magic words, she transformed into a foul monster and felt the great power of which the monster king oft boasted.
So shocked was he at his wife’s transformation that he lost the power of speech. Instead he roared in anger and stood up, ready to punish her severely for her crimes. He was in such a rage that he did not notice his younger brother move in behind him until he looked down and saw a great blade piercing his chest. When the blade was pulled back out, he turned around and asked, “What treachery is this that my own brother would wrong me so?”
Any doubts the younger brother had were erased upon hearing those words from the mouth of a fratricide. Both the princess and the younger brother took their revenge upon the monster king. They fatally wounded him, but before he succumbed to his many wounds he managed to call out for his guards. The princess and the younger brother were forced to flee before they could watch the monster king die, but as the princess was now a monster, too, they blended in with the other monsters and were able to escape the Garden unmolested. The End.
Mom didn’t like interruptions during the telling of tales, but once the story was over, I was allowed to ask all the questions I wanted.
“You didn’t say they lived happily ever after.”
“Well, did they?”
“More or less.”
I was old enough to know that meant “not really.”
“Did the princess stay with the younger brother after they escaped?”
“Yes, I believe she did.”
“Why? I mean, he wanted to lock her up in a dungeon at first, too, didn’t he?”
“He did, and that wasn’t the only terrible thing he had done or would do, but the princess fell in love with him anyways.”
“I don’t think she really loved him.”
“Sounds to me like she needed his help. Which is cool. But if it were me, I would have split after they escaped. All the brothers were messed up.”
Mom smiled and looked at the door. Still no Dad. She looked back at me and said, “Maybe that would have been the smarter choice, but things aren’t always that simple, Allin.”
She grabbed her backpack, stood up, and said, “Now let’s go find your father. I’m tired of waiting for him.”
* * *
I printed out the first complete draft of The Only City Left recently and am in the midst of doing a red-pen edit and then making those changes in the master file. It’s exciting and daunting at the same time to be in this phase of the project. I’ve also started throwing out ideas for Books 2 and 3. Fun times.
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Logo Credit:The TOCL logo is courtesy of Jande Rowe of the webcomic Aedre’s Firefly. If you haven’t already read AF, I encourage you to go check it out. Not only does Jande produce the comic, she reviews other long-form webcomics, gives tips and instructions on creating a comic, and is endlessly supportive of other creators. For a great review that will bring you up to speed on Aedre’s Firefly, check out this page at Webcomic Alliance.