By Paulo Conú
“WITCH!” I duck below the windowsill and close my eyes, squeezing them shut. I don’t know why I do it to myself thinking every day, or any day will be different. Even as a princess, the only princess I am still treated like a monster. I do so much for this country, and I am treated like a monster.
I pulled my dirty fingers from the sill the small scrapes digging into my fingertips, scraping the scabs off and offering my blood air and filth. I lean back on the stone floor and cross my legs sliding my dirty palms over my skirts. In the far distance I can hear them, the open court judging a man for stealing. Soon they’d come to get me, and my mother would hate if I looked anything but the perfect princess.
But my maids could care less if I looked like a rat crawling from a hole. I sigh and stand the memories of before fading to the back of my mind and fear taking its place. As it always does when days like this come. Every fourth day of the moon dial they judge those that have been in the prison. Based on the worst crime they all receive the same judgement. As per our Goddess Edirena would proclaim. ‘This world is a temple; you and your people are equal’.
I do feel as though they may have taken it a bit far with the equal punishments for unequal crimes. I jump from my thoughts as a loud banging hit my door.
“In twenty paces your highness, please prepare!” Gustave’s voice bellows into my room and I rush to the bathroom, closing and locking the door behind me.
I begin by washing my hands and checking my appearance as I do so. My curly black hair now straightened the night before hang in loose waves around my shoulders. MY mother’s barbaric beauty technique included a stone rock, fire, and a rubber glove. She always despised my hair, always tried to change it. I ran my fingers through it and shook it out. It’d have to do for now. I splashed water on my face and dried it and my hands on the towel hanging off my sink.
I stood tall and stared at my reflection, my black hair, large brown eyes, and chocolate colored skin. Another thing my mother was annoyed with, I took after my father. Not like her precious boy Harlow he looked just like my mother. He was also my twin brother. Many were surprised when my mother gave birth to the two of us. Me and my dark complexion and features of my fathers and my brother with his alabaster skin, red hair, and green eyes. The only thing we had in common were the smattering of freckles we each had over our noses. The same place not quite the same color.
“Alamore!” My mothers voice shook me, and I jumped turning and briskly walking to the door and unlocking it just as she opened it from the other side.
“Darling, you-! Never mind we don’t have time look, judgements over its time get to the courts now. I’m losing my patience and so are the people of Vertura Haliska. Move it!”
“Yes mother” I curtsied and followed behind my mother after she turned on her heel and began to move briskly toward the door and from the room. I barely had time to slide my feet into my sandals and grab my gloves from my desk sliding them over my hands.
I followed behind her keeping her brisk pace and admiring her beauty, my mother was these countries most beautiful woman and everyone was in awe of her. Even my father still stole glances of her now and then and they’re married. Her hip length red locks flowed freely down her back; her pale skin marred by a light dusting of freckles. And her sharp green eyes caught everything and saw everything. Her family was the reason I was called a witch, the Kings lineage had no powers and needed someone strong to help lead. Although all my mother could do was light magic, just healing and flora work. I on the other had dark magic and what I do with it makes people fear me. It’s what makes them call me a monster, a witch, an embarrassment.
I shook the thoughts away and glanced around as we made our way through the castle walls, the stone was in pristine condition, the furnishings, the drapes, the candles everything was always perfect. Everything except my room.
“Do you want to know the crimes, More?” my mother glanced back at me her voice carrying to my ears like a song.
“No, mother I’d rather not.” She raised a ginger brow and nodded turning back and grasping the banister she descended the stairs my steps behind her.
“I figured it would make it easier for you…”
“Nothing would make this easy mother.”
“It is a – “
“Privilege to serve this country and its people. I understand mother”
“Do not disappoint me Alamore.”
I didn’t respond and just followed as we made the landing and headed out to the tunnel. The guards closed in around us glancing nervously at me and then at my gloves. When we finally made it to the courts the last prisoner was being positioned in the steel locks on the stage. My mother and her guards left me and Gustave and headed to the section for the royals, I however made my way to the stage.
The yelling and jeering, weeping, and screaming all stopped when I ascended. I nodded to the priest and judge.
“We judge with the gifts our goddess bestows upon us. Our princess takes on the duty of making everything just. Please Princess Alamore know that these three individuals were all charged with the highest crime among them, thievery from the lord of their sanctum. There judgement has been the removal of their less dominant hand. If you, please….” He swept his hand for me to move toward them and I nodded.
I made my way over and steeled my heart repeating the words I heard in my dreams as I removed my gloves.
“Light is honesty, darkness is truth. Forget who you are and learn anew, become who you must and do better for the world. Your gifts make you special, may your wounds heal…” my voice cracked on the last part because I knew their wounds would never heal.
I grabbed the first mans hand with my mine and stared at him. Then he began to scream…screaming for me to stop, screaming for me to let go, screaming for help. His hand, bones, flesh everything was disintegrating just from my touch until there was nothing but a nub. Then I moved on to the next person, doing the same until I was completed. And all men had lost their left-hand blood seeping from their wrists. They likely wouldn’t survive if it became infected, but no one would care. These men had just lost their livelihood, they would no longer be able to work, and I did that to them. I sighed moving to the stairs near the stage and slid my gloves back on.
“May our goddess bless this country, its people, and its king and queen as well as their child.” The priest spoke and I grimaced when he said child. He never blessed me. He didn’t think it was worth it.
Once the people started to leave my guard grabbed my arm and began to pull me back to my room.
“G-Gustave, can we go for a walk in the garden?” I questioned, stumbling behind him
“The queen instructed that you be brought back to your room.” I nodded and frowned following behind him.
As we made our way back and exited the tunnel, I made a quick decision I didn’t think I would. The words ‘freedom from captivity’ flashed in my mind and I ripped my glove from my hand and touched the back of Gustave’s nape.
“I am sorry.” I whispered as he dropped to the ground. I turned him over and caressed his check with my bare hand. His cheeks began to decay and sink into his face.
“I am sorry, I- I want to be free….” I let him go and his brown eyes warmed and a whisper of a smile touched his lips, or I imagined that it did. I redonned my glove and took his coat putting the hood up I tucked my hair inside and began to run.
This day had solidified my future and the course of several events. I just didn’t know it yet.
When you’re not reading books, read our newsletter.