A Fairy Tale

Many years ago, so long ago that the mother earth was still fresh and innocent, a sweet and regal princess was in love with a kind, generous prince. He was in love with her, too. It was a happy time for them, and the land and sea and sky shared equally in rejoicing their love. When the couple walked, the Sun shone warmly upon them; when they dined, the Moon glowed more brightly; and when they ran through the forest, the trees stood at attention, calming the wind so that the two might pass uninhibited. All the common folk of the land spoke eagerly of the wedding that must surely be imminent.

But there were two who were not so pleased. At the highest point of the dark, brooding mountain, which towered behind the happy land, lived a Sorceress and her daughter. The sorceress’s daughter was not blessed with the sweet, tender nature of the princess, and her mere presence could not make the Sun shine brighter or the Moon grow bigger, but nonetheless, she was convinced she felt a deep love for the prince. The sorceress was well aware of her daughter’s agony at the prince’s betrothal. She, herself, had put forth great effort to encourage her daughter’s opinion, and the sorceress was incredibly powerful, especially when she was angry. It was rumored that the Sorceress could control some of the greatest natural forces on Earth, and now, she was angry.

So it was, one evening, that the prince and princess were walking along through the moonlit forest, stopping to pick the small lavender flowers to make a wreath for the princess’s golden locks, when out of nowhere, a fast gust of wind stole the wreath and carried it along, out of the forest and back toward the clearing near the palace grounds. The prince ran after the wreath trying to save it for his beloved. The princess attempted to follow, but her feet grew heavier and heavier with every step she took. At last she made it to the clearing and could move no more, and there she saw the sorceress, shrouded in a dark purple cloth, glowering smugly at her.

“I think,” said the Sorceress to the princess, “I think that you shall move no faster than a stone.”

And with that, she turned the princess into a marble statue. The young damsel was beautiful in stone; her curves were gentle and her face was soft and compassionate.

The Sorceress was disappointed that the statue was not more grotesque, but she laughed mercilessly knowing that she had just prevented the marriage. Hearing the laughter, the prince stopped chasing the wreath and turned abruptly, fearing what he might find. He was horrified to see his sweetheart in such a state, but before he could do anything, the

Sorceress stepped in front of the statue said, “Don’t bother trying to save her. You are invisible to all who matter.”

The Prince knew he was no match for the Sorceress, and so he ran back to the palace to get help. But no one who could offer any help could see him. He ran first to his guards, but no matter how he poked and prodded them, they refused to acknowledge his presence. He then ran up the stairs to his father’s office, but no matter how high he jumped or how loud he hollered, his father never so much as glanced his way. He ran down the stairs to his mother’s chambers, but no matter how desperately he pleaded for her attention, she simply wouldn’t recognize her own son. He ran through the castle helplessly then, not knowing where to go next.

He flew by a maid doing laundry with her child, but stopped when the child said, “Look,

Mama, it’s the prince.”

The maid immediately straightened up and looked around, then she cuffed the little boy on the ear and told him to stop making up such nonsense.

The Prince walked slowly to the child. “Can you see me?” he asked.

“Of course I can,” said the little boy. “Why can’t Mama?”

The maid stood up fully and cuffed the boy on the ear again. “That’s enough,” she told him. “You go find your sister and stay with her. And you stay out of trouble and quit making up nonsense.”

The child stood and walked away, turning briefly to the Prince to say, “I’m sorry.”

“Go!” his mother ordered.

The Prince stood there for a while confused, watching the maid continue to wash the laundry. He finally walked slowly away, wondering what to do next. He walked by many of the servants and guards of the castle, but no one saw him. Missing his beloved princess, he started to walk back to her, but as he passed a couple children playing, he was startled to see them stop and bow to him.

“Can you see me?” He asked them.

“Of course we can, your highness,” said one of the little girls, curtseying as she spoke.

He backed away, not knowing what to make of his situation. Not looking where he was going, he backed right into a wizened, old blind man.

“Only the children can save you now, my Prince,” the old man whispered to him.

“What do you mean?”

“They’re the only ones who can see you. If I could see, I could help, but no one will listen to just one old, blind man. And, of course, if I could see, then I would be too important to know you were in front of me.”

Just then, a guard walked by and ordered the old man to move along since there was no place on the castle grounds for someone like him.

“No!” yelled the Prince who wanted to continue speaking with the old man.

“I’m sorry my Prince, but I just don’t matter enough to help you.” The old man replied.

The guard stopped, surprised that the old man had referred to the Prince. However, after looking around and not seeing anyone, the guard ordered the old, blind man to leave immediately.

The Prince walked away dejected, and as he did so, the children playing all said goodbye to him. The guard started again, not sure what to make of the fact that so many had just spoken to someone he couldn’t see.

“Prince Jacob?” he asked uncertainly.

“Yes, Guard, I’m here!” shouted the Prince, who had stopped when the children called out to him.

The guard, hearing no reply, glanced around one more time, shook his head, and walked off. The Prince looked back at the children, thoughtfully. He walked on, considering the comments of the old man. No one will listen to just one old, blind man, he had said. Just one, thought the Prince. So maybe if I talk to many of the people who can hear me, and enough of them tell the more important adults, then they can help.

“I don’t think so.” The Sorceress appeared out of nowhere. “There are never any weaknesses to my spells, and I don’t feel like letting you find one now. I think you should go to your room, and stay there. Maybe you should think about what you’ve done.”

She finished her last sentence with a cackle. The Prince felt a cold whoosh of air surround him, and he suddenly found himself in his room. He ran to the door and tried to open it, but alas, it was locked by a powerful curse. The window, though on the ground floor, offered no more means of escape than the door. Even when he hurled a heavy wooden chair at it to break the glass, his attempts were thwarted by the Sorceress’ evil spell.

The Prince sat on his bed and stared hopelessly out the window, which overlooked the spot where his beloved princess had been turned to a statue. A young governess walked by, followed by small group of unkempt, dirty children from the palace’s orphanage. The

Prince pounded the window with his fists as hard as he could, yelling for help, but the governess didn’t even glance his way. The children, however, did. The oldest child, a boy of about 12, trotted up to the window and said something to the Prince.

The Prince shook his head at the child, and yelled, “I can’t hear you!”

The child glanced back at the governess to be sure she hadn’t seen, turned back to the prince, and shouted something.

The Prince shook his head again, unable to hear anything the boy was trying to say. The boy looked frustrated and made a gesture to the Prince to wait. The child ran to catch up to his group, looking back with a wave of reassurance. The Prince sat back down on his bed, and after 20 minutes of waiting for the child to return, he fell back onto his pillows feeling dejected. As he stared up at his ceiling wondering what to do next, he began to think more about the old man and what he had said. Clearly he wasn’t going to come across many adults like the old man, so his only hope was with the children who saw him. But what could such a young group do, especially if no one with any power would pay them any mind? Then again, even if people with power could see him, how could they help him fight off someone as strong and resourceful as the Sorceress?

At that moment, a note slid under his door. The Prince picked it up and peaked through the small keyhole below his doorknob, but he saw nothing. He looked down at the letter, which read

I can help you, my Prince. I do not know how yet because we do not know what the Sorceress’ intentions are. I am seeking the council of the old blind man. He has helped those of us with nowhere else to turn in the past. He will know what to do now. You will hear from me again soon.

The Prince sat by his door and peaked out the keyhole again. This time he saw the young orphan boy walking by, and he knew that the boy had come back to follow up on his promise. The Prince was reassured to know that others were out to help him, but he was impatient for something to happen, and he still couldn’t see how a group of helpless children could pull him out of his dire situation. And though he hadn’t thought about it before, he was now also quite curious as to what the Sorceress was trying to accomplish.

He didn’t have long to wait. Within an hour of receiving the note from the boy, the Sorceress reappeared to him. He was curled on his bed staring at the wall, but he could feel her evil presence before he saw her. He sat up when she began to speak.

“I suppose you’re ready to leave this room?” She asked.

“I am.” The Prince responded. “But I don’t suspect you’ll let me walk out and return everything to normal.”

“Not exactly.” She said with an evil laugh. “But I do have a very simple task for you.”

The Prince was immediately suspicious.

“A simple task?”

“Yes. Fall in love with my daughter and you will be free. I might even release the Princess after you have proven yourself.”

“And how do you expect me to do that?” He asked.

“Well, to start, I expect you to marry my daughter. I’m sure that once you’ve lived with her for just a short time, you’ll fall as madly in love with her as she is with you.”

The Prince was lost in thought at the prospect of the release of his beloved Princess when he realized what claims the Sorceress had just made about her daughter.

“Your daughter is in love with me?” He was quite shocked by this and had difficulty believing such a thing could be true.

“Why do you think I would go to all of this trouble? You didn’t honestly think I could care at all for your pathetic little lives do you?” She cackled. “Neither you nor that silly princess are worth this kind of effort. But my daughter is. And she’s worth a lot more effort on my part, so I suggest you start thinking about the best way for you to fall in love with her.”

She began her disappearing routine, but stopped while still in mist form.

“Don’t forget,” she said, “I expect you to start with marriage.”

And with that, she disappeared fully.

The Prince sat on his bed staring at the floor. The Sorceress’ daughter was in love with him? How could that be? He’d never spoken to her. He’d never met her. He’d never seen her. Something seemed wrong. But what?

“Is she gone, my prince?” The child whispered through the keyhole of the door.

“Yes.”

“What did she want?” The boy queried.

“She wants me to marry her daughter.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. I don’t understand. I don’t understand why her daughter would want to be with someone whose heart so clearly belonged to another.”

The child didn’t know what to say, and so he remained silent.

“Please go get the old man for me,” said the Prince. “For some reason, I’m certain he’ll know what to do.”

The Prince listened as the child’s running footsteps grew fainter and fainter until he could hear nothing. For all of his despair, the Prince was suddenly happy to realize that even in his most challenging time, someone was there trying to help. And although they may not be the strongest or the most influential, he was pleased that he wasn’t alone through this ordeal. This realization gave him strength and he got out of bed. He began pacing the room trying to comprehend just what the Sorceress had ordered. He must marry her daughter, she had said. If it meant that his beloved Princess would be freed from her stone cage, then that’s what he must do, but he knew he would never fall in love with any other. Perhaps if he went along with the plan now, he could figure out a way to escape later.

“My Prince.” The old man was at his door.

“Oh, sir, I don’t know what to do. I must marry the Sorceress’s daughter or my sweet

Princess will forever be a stone statue!”

“My Prince, calm down. There is always an alternative to every situation.”

“Yes. I can either marry the Sorceress’s daughter or I can stare longingly at my Princess’s statue.”

“That’s what the Sorceress wants you to think. But I believe, and I could be wrong, but I believe that if you forcefully refuse to follow the orders of the Sorceress, something magical will happen.”

“I don’t want magic! I’ve had enough magic! My life has been ruined by magic!”

“Calm down, my Prince. Think of what you know of the Sorceress. Have you ever heard of someone saying no to her?”

“No. And for a reason: No one wants to face her wrath.”

“Perhaps. Or perhaps the fear of what could be leads people to follow her orders, without ever trying a different route.”

“What do you mean?”

“My Prince, no one has ever said no to her. Therefore, no one knows what would actually happen. Consider for a moment, what the worst could possibly be.”

“Things would stay like this forever!”

“Do you think so? And what exactly is so bad about this?”

“I’m trapped! I can’t do anything! And my princess has been turned to stone!”

“And what would your situation be if you were to follow the Sorceress’s orders?”

“I’d marry her daughter.”

“And would you be free.”

“I don’t know.”

“And would your princess be free?”

“She didn’t really promise that, but she implied.”

“What did she imply?

“She said that if I married her daughter, she’d see how things went.” The Prince’s was getting quieter and more thoughtful as he answered the old man’s questions.

“You think that if I follow the Sorceress’s orders there’s a chance that nothing will improve?” The Prince asked.

“On the contrary, I think that if you follow her orders, you can be assured of at least some improvement. However, I think if you tell her no you’ll either be miserable, or you’ll destroy her.”

The Prince sat silently, staring into nothing, as he considered what the old man had just said. After quite some time, he spoke.

“I have the option of following her orders and letting her control me, or I can try to take control and run the risk of absolute success or absolute failure.”

“There are few absolutes in life, my Prince. This is not about your risk of failure, but your risk of happiness. If you follow the Sorceress’s orders, do you think either you or your Princess will be happy?”

“No.” The Prince answered quietly.

“And if you choose to defy her what will happen?”

“We might still be miserable, or we could succeed and be happy.”

The Prince went silent again.

“My Prince, do you need anymore help from me?”

“No, kind sir. I think I know what I must do. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your patience and assistance.”

“Tis nothing, my Prince. I shall leave you now before anyone notices my absence.”

The Prince listened as the old man’s footsteps faded, and was then startled to hear the child speak up.

“My Prince, do you need anything more from me?”

The Prince smiled to himself, “No my child. And I couldn’t be more grateful for your assistance.”

“Thank you, my Prince.” And he, too, walked away.

The Prince sat alone in his room. A sudden fear gripped him as he thought about what he was soon to do. No one had ever defied the Sorceress. Did he have the strength? He knew that the worst that could happen was a terrible option indeed. But as he considered the old man’s words, he realized that taking the safe alternative would not likely lead to a happy ending either. His Princess deserved a happy ending, and he would do all he could to give that to her, even if it took every last ounce of his strength, or his life.

The summer day was coming to an end, but there were still many hours of light left. The Prince sat in his room for quite some time, staring out the window, trying to formulate a plan of action. Every new scene he played in his mind, though, always ended with the Sorceress destroying him and his beloved. He grew nervous and started pacing the room. He was crossing the middle of the room when the door opened quite suddenly.

There stood a lovely young woman, about the age of the Princess. Caught by surprise by the door opening, and in mid-stride, the Prince stumbled slightly as he turned to see the charming woman in his doorway. She smiled slightly at his awkwardness.

“My Prince,” she began in a soft, elegant voice, “my mother has suggested I come speak with you so that we might get acquainted before our marriage.” Her voice faltered slightly as she came to the word marriage and her eyes, though gentle, never seemed to fully focus, almost as though as slight fog hung around her.

“You are the Sorceress’ daughter.” The Prince was stunned.

Many believe that the children of evil are ugly, deformed and crude, and the Prince had been raised under this belief. He was surprised to see the young lady before him so poised and attractive. In his eyes, she was nothing compared to the Princess, but she had pleasant features and an air about her that inspired peace.

“Yes, my Prince,” she said, curtsying as she spoke.

The Prince just stared at her in silence now. He was dumbstruck and unsure where to go next with the conversation. The daughter seemed equally unsettled, and she began looking around the room, avoiding the Prince’s eyes.

Finally she said, “Perhaps the Prince thinks it is inappropriate for me to be in his bedroom?”

“Oh. No.” The Prince shook his head slightly and tried to come out of his trance. “I am sorry, my Lady, I meant no disrespect. I was not expecting you to appear before me so soon. Please, have a seat.”

He walked over to her and took her elbow, guiding her to one of two chairs in his room.

He sat in the chair opposite, but again, he knew not what to say. The two sat silently for a few moments, not looking at each other.

“I hope my mother hasn’t created too much of an inconvenience for you.” The Sorceress’ daughter spoke again.

The Prince turned his eyes back to her, but this time they were full of anger rather than surprise. The daughter seemed startled by this. Her eyes lost some of their fog, and she began speaking quickly to try to calm him.

“I know how aggressive my mother can get, and she mentioned that she’d done everything necessary to prove to me that you love me, but I hope she didn’t do anything too inconvenient for that to come about.” The daughter watched him closely for any change of expression, and she was relieved to see his face soften somewhat.

“Are you aware of what has gone on today?” The Prince asked.

“I only know that my mother came and spoke to you, and that she returned to me saying that you desired to wed this evening.” The daughter spoke with a note of concern, and her voice cracked again as she said the word “wed.” The young woman continued.

“The Sorceress said that you were resting in your room all day to prepare for the events tonight. But looking at you now, I suspect that perhaps there is more to the story. I know how my mother can be, so please let me know if any of this is untrue.” She paused. “Or if you do not want to marry me.” Again, her voice cracked unnaturally as she spoke of marriage.

The Prince was puzzled by her words, which seemed so pure and honest. She seemed to have such a sweet soul. He wondered how she could be so different from the Sorceress.

“My Lady, why is it that you wish to marry me?” He asked.

An ever so slight grimace seemed to flash across her gentle face, but it passed as quickly as it appeared, leaving the Prince uncertain if he had simply imagined it.

“I’ve watched you from afar. I’ve seen the kindness you’ve shown to all around you. I’ve seen the love you’ve poured upon the Princess.” She sounded as though she were reciting these lines, but as she mentioned the Princess, she saw the hurt on the Prince’s face, and again, the Prince got the impression of a fog lifting. “Where is the Princess?” she asked. “Why are you no longer with her?”

With a rush of wind, the Sorceress appeared.

“My darling,” she said, her voice dripping with false kindness and concern, “surely you realize it’s inappropriate for you to be found in a young man’s room.”

Her daughter blinked a couple times and stood up, almost as if in a trance.

“Of course mother. I don’t what I was thinking. I shall leave now.” And with that, she departed as suddenly and as elegantly as she’d arrived.

The Sorceress remained silent and kept her expression neutral as her daughter left the room, but has soon as she and the Prince were alone, she turned to him with rage in her eyes.

“I strongly suggest that you forget this conversation ever happened,” said the Sorceress, obviously straining to remain calm, “Only bad will come of you pondering anything my daughter may have said. She has a forgetful quality about her, and she will remember none of this.”

Smoke again filled the room, and the Sorceress disappeared as quickly as she’d appeared.

The Prince looked around the room confused, trying to understand what had just happened. Was the daughter really as innocent as she’d appeared? Had the Sorceress been telling the truth when she said her offspring was forgetful?

The Prince began pacing his room again, but on his second round, his gaze drifted to the window and fell upon the statue of his beloved Princess, which stood a mere hundred yards away. He paused and stared at her, his mind devoid all thought save one: He desperately wanted her by his side again. His eyes drifted across the grounds as he imagined the two of them together again, but he was distracted by what looked like preparations for a wedding. And with that he’d had enough!

With the words of the old man racing through his head, he stormed out of his room, determined to stop this wedding. He absolutely refused to follow through with the Sorceress’s plans.

“My darling,” His mother stopped him. “I was just coming to find you. I’m so pleased to hear about this evening’s wedding between you and the Sorceress’s daughter.”

The Prince halted as two amazing facts came to his attention. First, he’d escaped his room, and second, an adult was seeing him. He stood, stupidly, staring at his mother for a moment.

“Darling,” She said, “Are you all right?”

“Oh Mother,” He hugged her, “I am so pleased to see you.”

Then he pulled back.

“But why are you pleased to hear I’m marrying the Sorceress’s daughter?” He continued.

Too much had happened to him today for him to be capable of comprehending all events at once, and it came too him too late that his mother’s comments were exceedingly uncharacteristic.

“You’ll be forming a powerful union between our family and the Sorceress. How could I not be pleased?” She, too, sounded almost as though she were reciting lines, and the

Prince realized that she had a similar trance-like quality that the Sorceress’ daughter had when she left his room.

He backed away from her slowly, saying, “Thank you for your support, Mother. I’ll see you soon.”

He continued backing up until he’d rounded the corner and was in another hallway. He ran down that hallway, turned again and stopped. The Prince looked behind him, and seeing no one there, he closed his eyes and leaned against the wall. His experience with his mother was worse than her not seeing him. He’d rather she was getting on with her life, normally, without him, than be so clearly under a spell. He opened his eyes and saw the group of orphans standing in front of him.

The oldest boy who had helped him earlier spoke up, “Is there anything we can do to help?”

The Prince looked at each of them, and considered his situation.

“I need my sword,” he said, “and my shield.”

“We can get those for you, my Prince,” said the boy. “Is there anything else you need?”

“Just stay out of sight. I don’t want anyone to know what you’re up to. And don’t bring me my sword and shield until I say ‘now.’ Is that clear?” He sounded sterner than he meant, but he also didn’t want to put the children in any more danger than absolutely necessary.

The oldest boy looked scared but he pulled his shoulders back with courage and told the Prince that the children would prove themselves worthy. The Prince watched as the ragged children walked away, determined to do everything they could to help him break this curse. If they all made it through this evening successfully, the Prince knew he would do anything he could to repay them.

The Prince then turned his back on the children, and again ran through the halls of the castle, working his way to the palace yard where preparations for his wedding were nearly finished. The Prince walked through a swarm of people, all of whom tried to shake his hand or congratulate him on his union as they made their way to their seats. He searched through the crowd trying to find the Sorceress but to no avail. She was nowhere to be seen. Desperation and anger began to well up in him, and he was on the verge of doing something drastic when he stumbled upon the old man.

“You seem distressed, my Prince,” said the old man.

“How can I not be?” The Prince’s voice shook as he struggled to regain control of his emotions and actions.

“I realize this is difficult, but you must always try to remain calm, no matter how upsetting the situation may become. You cannot function at your highest level unless your mind is at ease.”

“Being able to function is irrelevant if there’s nothing to do!” The Prince yelled, causing many people to turn and look at him.

“The only thing you need to be doing right now, is preparing for your wedding.”

The Prince stepped back, “Are you cursed as well?”

“Nonsense,” chuckled the old man, “I am invisible to the Sorceress. But I am calm and therefore able to think rationally.”

“I don’t follow.”

“Of course you don’t. Not yet. You’re too focused on the moment to see the whole picture. But I happen to know of an ideal time during the wedding for you to simply say no.”

A guard came along then, and told the old man to move along. The old man took up his cane and started to walk away.

“Wait!” cried the Prince, “you can’t just leave me like that!”

“Calm down my Prince. Let things take their course and act when the moment is right.”

The old man said as he continued to walk away.

The guard looked confused for a moment, and then turned to the Prince, “My Prince, everyone is ready. It’s time for you to take your place at the alter.”

The Prince looked at him, and then, in an effort to follow the advice of the old man, he took his place at the alter and tried to prepare himself for whatever might come next.

The Sorceress appeared next to him suddenly, and the guests in the seats all clapped politely. She turned and bowed slightly to them, and then returned her attention to the

Prince.

“Where did all of these people come from?” He asked. “There must be a hundred people sitting here.”

“My dear Prince, surely you realized that everyone would drop everything to witness the marriage between you and my daughter.” She said. “Now, take this ring. It will bind you to my daughter forever.”

“Forever?” The Prince felt cold all over.

The Sorceress’s smile was pure evil. “Forever,” she said, and then added a warning. “I expect this wedding to go off without a hitch.” She cackled. “I expect you to get hitched without a hitch.”

She walked to her seat in the front row, still cackling, and sat down. The wedding march began, and the Sorceress’ daughter floated down the aisle to the applause of all in the audience. She arrived at the alter, smiling happily, but the Prince noticed a slightly vacant stare in her eyes when she looked at him.

“I am so excited for our life together, my sweetest loveliest Prince,” gushed the daughter, again sounding as though she were reciting.

The preacher began the sermon, and the Prince looked around at everyone, searching for just one person who could help him. He saw the children huddled quietly in the back, watching him, waiting for their cue. He found the old, blind man and was startled that the old blind man appeared to be staring at him. He turned slightly and saw the statue of his beloved Princess. Everything was surely about to fall into place, but the Prince was uncertain what his next move was to be.

“And now, my Lady Rebecca, do you take this man to be your husband?” asked the preacher.

“I do,” she said and gave the Prince her most devoted smile.

“And do you, Prince Jacob, take this woman to be your wife?” asked the Preacher.

The Prince went still. This was it. This was what the old man had been speaking of. This was his perfect opportunity to say no.

“Of course he does!” shouted the Sorceress with anger edging into her voice.

The startled Prince froze and then turned to look at her. Had he just lost his chance?

“Very well,” continued the preacher, “My Lady, please take your ring and place it on his finger.”

The Sorceress’ daughter took his left hand and slipped the ring onto his finger. The ring that was to bind him to her forever. The Prince could do nothing but stare at his hand.

“And now, my Prince,” said the preacher, “please take your ring and place it on her finger.”

The Prince looked at the ring in his hand, then the ring on his finger, then at the daughter, and then at the Sorceress. His eyes met those of the Sorceress, and he saw, mixed in with the rage, a hint of uncertainty lurking beneath her. Now was his time to act.

He ripped the ring off his finger, turned and threw the rings as hard as he could, screaming, “NO!”

He’d paid no attention to the direction he’d turned, and was startled to see both the rings strike the statue of the Princess. Suddenly, the Princess came to life. She took a step back, shook her head, looked around, and, seeing the Prince, ran straight into his arms.

He held onto her with all his might, and in the background, the audience gasped and began to slowly come out of the trance.

The Sorceress leaped to her feet, and she too screamed, “NO!” Her scream held such power that everyone was pushed back into their seats, and the Prince and Princess were torn apart. The Princess fell to the ground, while the Prince stumbled into the Sorceress’s daughter. The young woman secretly placed a small pin in his hand and, in a moment of clarity, whispered, “Her powers come from what she sees. This is the only way to beat her.”

The Sorceress bounded up to the Prince and grabbed him by the collar, “Now you and your Princess will regret your actions.”

The Prince looked at her and yelled, “Now!”

The Sorceress, not knowing what he was referring to, shoved him to the ground and turned away, saying, “My minions will take care of you.”

She grabbed her daughter by the hand and pulled her off of the alter.

“Mother, I don’t understand. What’s happening? Why has the Prince not married me?” she questioned.

The children came down and surrounded the Prince at the same moment that a large army of grotesque goblins, the Sorceress’ minions, began pouring out of the woods behind the palace. The Prince took up his sword and shield and prepared for battle. The King came up and carried the Princess into a safe bunker with his wife, while the guards and soldiers of the castle rushed to meet their opponents. A heavy battle ensued. For hours, the men and goblins fought, but neither side made any headway. Each side seemed to incur the same number of casualties, and yet neither side seemed to diminish. Eventually though, fatigue swept over the men, and many of them simply lay down and fell asleep. The Prince, too, found himself struggling to stay awake, and it was then it occurred to him that perhaps this was part of the curse. He knew he was a stronger fighter than any of the goblins, even as tired as he was he was still warding them off, and yet, if he gave in and fell asleep, they would beat him.

He backed away from fighting, and started racing up towards the fortress on the mountain in search of the Sorceress. Immediately he felt more energized.

“My Prince!”

The Prince stopped upon hearing his name and looked around. The old, blind man came out of the bushes.

“I knew you’d come up this way eventually,” he said.

“What are you doing here?” The Prince wasn’t sure whether he should be grateful or suspicious.

“I have one more word of advice: The Sorceress’s daughter can be trusted.”

“Well, now, isn’t that nice.” The Sorceress’ voice appeared before she did. But with a puff of smoke, she became visible. Her daughter was with her. “But I think the Prince is really too tired from his fighting to do much good now.”

The Prince felt his eyes become heavy, and the earth felt as though it were pulling his body down to meet it. And yet, with every last drop of strength he had, he remained standing. The Sorceress walked up to him and gave him a gentle shove. He stumbled and dropped his shield, but still didn’t fall. Earlier, he’d positioned the pin on the handle of his shield, and as it fell, he felt the pin stick painfully into his left hand.

“So,” she said, with a smirk in her eyes, “You think you can beat me? Go ahead and try.”

His sword was still in his right hand, and he swung at her, but it was clumsy and slow.

She grabbed his wrist with both her hands and squeezed it until he dropped the sword in pain.

She pulled him close to her, and said, “My dear boy, you are no match for me.”

To this day, no one is sure where his speed came from, but the Prince took the pin and shoved it into her right eye before she even realized what had happened. She screamed as he quickly yanked it out. He stabbed her in the left eye, and then he fell to his knees, what energy he’d mustered seeped out of him quickly.

The Sorceress fell to her knees, holding her bleeding eyes. And then the flow of energy seemed to reverse itself and the Prince became more aware of what was happening.

The Sorceress, screaming, was turning to mist. Her daughter watched it all without any sign of emotion. After a few minutes, the Sorceress disappeared completely. The sounds of the battle faded immediately, as the goblins also turned to mist and vanished. The young woman shook herself and looked around confused. Then the Prince watched in awe as the old, blind man before him transformed into a young, attractive man, about ten years older than the Prince. This transformed man ran to the young woman, who now aged ever so slightly, becoming ever more regal and elegant.

“My dearest Rebecca, are you alright?” He asked, taking her hands.

“Prince Edward, what has happened?” she asked, still shaking off her fog and gazing around confusedly.

“Prince Edward?” The Prince repeated, now fully awake again and also deeply confused.

Edward turned toward him, and spoke, “Prince Jacob, let me tell you a story. Many years ago, in my kingdom, my family upset the evil Sorceress who lived on the nearby mountain. As punishment, she turned their son into an old, blind man, and she kidnapped the daughter of their closest family friend. The two children were betrothed, and her actions were an attempt to prevent any further generations of the family. The families were terrified of her, and they made no attempts to stop her. The old, blind man traveled to the kingdom on the other side of the mountain where he could monitor the activities of the Sorceress without her noticing. He knew that one day she would slip up, and he was fairly certain that he knew how to beat her, but being blind and decrepit, he had no way of doing so himself. And so he waited. The young woman she’d kidnapped, though in a trance, never forgot that she wanted to marry the prince. However, she was easily confused, and so, when the Sorceress decided to finalize her punishment, she did so by trying to force the young woman to marry the wrong prince. The young woman, not knowing better, was convinced that this was the person she was supposed to wed.

Occasionally, though, the Sorceress left her alone too long and the trance wore off slightly, and those were the times that she could be honest with this new prince.”

“Stop.” said Prince Jacob, “I understand what you’re telling me is no story.”

“No,” said Prince Edward, “these are recent events.”

“And how did you know how to break the curse?”

“Without sight, I was left to rely heavily on my ears, and I listened. Any time someone spoke of the Sorceress, I listened. I began to realize that everyone had always just gone along with whatever she said, and no one had ever simply said no. I suspected that this was my path home. Unfortunately, I was in no position to refuse her, and so I was forced to wait for the opportunity to guide someone else. With the curse she place upon you and Princess Sarah, I saw my chance.”

“What about me?” spoke a soft voice behind them.

Prince Jacob turned and saw his beloved coming up the hill with the King and Queen. He ran to her.

“Oh, my dear, sweet Princess, you’re free!” He cried as he hugged her.

She touched his face and smiled, “We’re free.”

Both couples married soon after, and the kingdoms were united in friendship. The two Princes, each indebted to the children for their assistance, adopted all of the orphans to be raised as members of the royal family.

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