This story is by Kayla Bouy and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Once upon a time, there lived a king. Long years of war against a witch from a neighboring kingdom had turned King Vallen’s heart stone cold. King Vallen ruled his land with an iron fist. His only son was the single thing that could thaw parts of the King’s heart. As the endless years of war continued, King Vallen was forced to make Prince William choose a wife.
Prince William agreed to marry if he could choose his new wife, for he had long been in love with a nobleman’s daughter from the outskirts of the kingdom. He begged his father to change the law and allow him to marry the nobleman’s daughter instead of a member of a neighboring royal family. The King, unable to deny his beloved son, agreed. He sent his personal guard to bring her to the castle at once. Upon entering the throne room, Shandrie was informed that she was chosen to marry Prince William. With an effort, not to offend the King that she had been told was ruthless to those who opposed him, she stated that she could not marry the Prince. She would only marry a man whom she loved. The King, infuriated by her refusal threatened her with imprisonment until she agreed. Shandrie, stubborn to her core, adamantly refused to marry a man she did not love. Before the King’s guards escorted her to her new prison, the King relayed his conditions for her release.
“Your new home will be in the West Tower. I will not make your stay uncomfortable. You will have food, water, and firewood brought daily. You have until the end of the Fall season to make your decision. If you choose to marry Prince William, you will live out the rest of your days comfortably in the Castle, your parents cared for until their death. If you refuse, you and your family will be banished from the kingdom, never to return. Choose wisely.”
The summer heat gave way to the chilly Fall. The leaves turned brown and littered the forest floor. From her tower, Shandrie watched as each day the vivid green grass smothered under dead leaves. She sighed and stepped away from the small barred window. A faint Clunk, Clunk alerted her to the guards making their way up the winding steps.
“Please stay back, My Lady.” A guard requested.
“You may enter, Javer,” Shandrie said from the chair next to the roaring fire. Her view from the window had chilled her. Javer carried a long tray packed with gifts. A bowl of a hearty rich smelling soup, a small loaf of nutty bread, two parcels of firewood to get her through the brisk night, a jug of amber liquid that sloshed over the sides with each step, and a bound leather book. After depositing the tray, Javer picked up an identical one that sat empty near the door.
“My Lady, the King asks if you have changed your mind,” Javer asked.
“You may tell him my answer has not wavered. I will not marry someone I do not know or love.”
Dismissing Javer she spooned a bite of the hearty soup. Warmth flooded her with each mouthful. The room grew warmer, taking on a hazy quality. Her spoon clattered to the tray, her head spinning. She heard the crash of the tray as it slipped out her lap and watched the soup spread across the floor before slipping into darkness.
“Hey wake up!” A strained male voice said before a sharp slap on her cheek sent her bolting upright.
“What…” Shandrie stammered shaking her head to clear the cobwebs. “Who are you? The guards aren’t allowed to touch me.”
“Hi, neighbor. I’m Liam,” he replied with a slight wave. He gestured to a how in the wall, just big enough to squeeze through. He jumped up and inspected her room. “I was brought last night. Did you know there were loose stones? I wonder what else is in disrepair.”
She finally shook the fog from her head and took stock of her neighbor. They were similar in some ways, Brown hair, green eyes, ivory skin, and an inner nobility that showed through mannerisms. His eyes held a mischievous twinkle that intrigued her as he looked down on her from his considerable height.
Shandrie rose from her chair and walked to the window. The sun had started to peek over the distant mountain range. Liam watched her as she took stock of the changes to her wall. She walked over to a nearby tapestry and started pulling on it.
“Please help me. This will do nicely to cover the hole. Now that I’m no longer alone in there, I’d rather not have my only source of company end up in the dungeons.” She said waiting for him to respond. A smile spread across his face sending her heart racing. They covered the hole, then climbed through to do the same in his room, watching each other as they worked.
They fell into an easy pattern. After the guards dropped off breakfast he would slip through and they would spend the morning close to the fire reading the extensive collection the King had provided her. Shandrie opened the leather-bound book only once.
‘My Dear Lady,
I hope you are healthy and well. My father is holding fast…’
The elegant writing filled the pages. She slammed it shut.
“You should read that,” Liam commented. “It may be informative.”
“I will not. Nothing he could write will change my mind. If he wants me so bad why hasn’t he tried to visit.” Shandrie said ending the discussion.
Once the mid-day meal was delivered they would discuss their lives up to their captivity. Both had grown up with wealthy parents. Shandrie realized early one that her family’s wealth was nothing compared to his. Liam refused to say much about his parents, only that his mother had died and his father was controlling.
She would often catch him smiling a sad smile while he watched her. The deeper they went into the Fall season the colder the tower would stay. The guards brought enough wood to keep their fires burning. As the icy winds blew through the barred window, the young couple would sit close to the fire. Their chairs getting closer with each passing day.
Shandrie was starting to enjoy her imprisonment when she said this in passing Liam gave a hollow laugh and turned solemnly to the fire. It surprised her to see him so serious.
“Soon my life will change forever, as will yours. It will either bring me immense happiness, for I will wed the woman of my dreams, or it will drive me to despair. I have until the end of this season to marry the woman I love. The woman I have longed for ached for, or I am tied to the first King’s daughter that will have me.”
When he spoke of his love, his face shone in the firelight. The dying sun casting a glow around his handsome form. Shandrie felt a stab of jealousy over this unknown woman. How could she not love him? He was kind, funny, intelligent, and considerate. Unlike the unknown prince, she was held captive for. She realized how foolish she had been, dreaming of their time together in the tower.
“I envy you, Liam to love so fiercely. I pray for love that consumes me. I thought I was falling…” A knock at the door sent Liam sprinting for the hole in the wall.
“Please, stay back My Lady.” A voice requested.
Late one night, after a long day of talking with Liam, Shandrie’s door burst open with a crash and the King framed in the doorway. The firelight casting shadows around his form.
“You must help him.” He demanded. “She has cursed him and only true love’s kiss will awaken him now. I can’t lose him. You MUST help him.”
Before Shandrie could utter a word, Javer grabbed her and dragged her down the tower steps and into the throne room. She gasped when she saw the body of a man lying on the stone floor. Liam, her Liam, was ashen faced with blood trickling from a wound on his temple. She took several shaky steps towards him, before dashing the last few feet. Dropping to her knees on the hard-cold floor she cradled his head in her lap.
“My Liam, My Love. Why didn’t you tell me?” She cried. Her tears dripped down his face. She touched her lips to his praying to see his beautiful green eyes again.
Prince Williams eyes fluttered open, “My Lady. Please bring my life back as only you can and marry me.”
Shandrie smiled down at the face she had grown to love in their confined time. “Always, my love.”