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The Time in the Tower
The patriarchal Wellstone family ruled the kingdom for centuries, king after king after king. King Wellstone, XXIX, married a dear woman. She was the first honored to wear a queen’s crown and sit in a queen’s throne. When their child was born, it was a time of joy and sadness. Although the princess would never rule the kingdom, her father loved her. The queen fell ill and died before the girl’s fourth birthday.
The Council of Elders demanded the king re-marry. In his grief, he married a woman ravishing and ravenous. In the next decade, she did not produce children. The council insisted the king take another wife to ensure a male heir. Before he could re-marry, the king died unexpectedly. The widowed queen insisted she rule the kingdom alone.
The Council of Elders protested. They initiated a search for a male relative of King Wellstone. After five years, they found the king’s distant cousin, Lord Wellingham. He was two years older than the princess and a perfect mate for her. She was in her late teens, brilliant and beautiful. The queen challenged the council. The queen, ravishing and ravenous, wanted the young lord and the kingdom.
To prevent the girl from meeting her cousin, she was forbidden to leave her room. The princess slipped out one morning to gallop on her mare. When she stopped at the well in the village, she met an old woman who took her to Lord Wellingham. The two young people met covertly over the next months and fell in love. The old woman (the Fairy of the Well) married them secretly. When the queen found them, she had Lord Wellingham killed and the princess sealed in a new brick tower hidden in the forest.
The Council of Elders concurred because the most solemn law was parental obedience. Brick by brick, the walls were built. The princess sat until her shoulders ached. When she stood up, she paced in small circles around the wooden chair.
The workers stacked the bricks building the tower walls around the princess. She was left in darkness. A bit of sky could be seen at the top. The lack of roof was a blessing because rain provided water. The princess was drenched and water puddled on the floor. She drank the muddy water and lived. When insects crawled in the tower, she ate the larger insects and lived.
A curious bird flew in the tower. In its attempts to escape, it died crashing into the wall. The princess ate the bird. She decided she would rather eat birds than insects. She sang for hours, attracting birds and trapping them.
The king of birds, the eagle, told her, “You must not eat the songbirds because the forest will grow silent.”
“I must live, I’ve been imprisoned in the tower.”
“I will speak to the Council of Birds.”
Moonlight shone in the tower that night. The princess was hungry. She loved the singing of the songbirds as much as she loved singing herself. She regretted eating the tender creatures, but could not bear to eat beetles and worms, larvae and crickets. The princess fell asleep.
The eagle woke the princess, “The Council of Birds has forbidden you to eat songbirds, princess.”
“I will starve. I will not eat bugs and beetles again.”
“We will feed you. The ravens and crows, the hawks and falcons will hunt and bring you meat. We’ll bring sticks so you can cook and warm yourself.”
She survived until she gave birth to her son. She treasured the child whom she nursed until he was nine months old. She would not raise him in the Dark Tower and begged the birds to help her. The bower bird made a basket to hold the infant.
The birds carried him to the Fairy of the Well who named the boy Wellington. He grew strong without knowing he was the son of the princess trapped in the Dark Tower or the identity of his father.
The princess in the Dark Tower became the Princess of the Birds. They sang together. The birds comforted her with meat and fruit, loaves of bread and sweet cakes. They stole clothing from clotheslines as well as sheets and linen. She wove feathers into baskets and bowls and the birds left these gifts for the villagers.
When he was a young man, Wellington heard singing as he rode in the forest. He discovered the tower and was reunited with his mother. He remembered living in darkness with her. After hours of telling and listening, explaining and remembering they understood what had happened to them. How could he free her?
The princess told him, “The Wellstone family ruled the kingdom for centuries. Each king wielded the Wellstone Blade. My ravishing and ravenous stepmother took the blade from my father and hid it. Find the Wellstone Blade.”
Young Wellington began his search. Nine tellers of tale recount the Blade Quest Legend on nine nights every November. Wellington returned with the blade to the Dark Tower.
“I can’t knock down the tower. I expected a golden sword encrusted with diamonds. This is a rusted dagger.” He told his mother.
“You don’t need to free me. I’m content to be Princess of the Birds. They keep me in comfort. Defeat the queen and protect our kingdom.”
The Fairy of the Well purified and sharpened the Wellstone Blade. The dagger was adequate to stab the tiny heart of the queen. The prince was crowned King Wellstone XXX and married a princess brilliant and beautiful.
What happened to the Princess of the Birds? Her daughter-in-law saved her. The young queen visited the tower to talk and sing with her mother-in-law. She noticed the tower bricks had been loosened by birds roosting on the edge. She asked the eagle to have the Council of Birds dismantle the tower. The Princess of the Birds escaped to live with her son, his wife and her grandchildren.
All is well that ends well.
micheledutcher - Finally a tale that ends happily thanks to a daughter-in-law. Interesting take on the princess held in a tower genre.
Well crafted story - loved the images of the birds tending to the imprisoned princess!
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