Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Winner: The Prince With Good Manners, By Tahlia Merrill

Note: I received a number of requests to put the winning posts up on this site as well, so here it is! Please see Diamondsandtoads.com for a post on why she won.

“This is the last quest I am ever going on,” Patrick muttered to himself.

He struggled up the never-ending staircase, sweat weighing down his tunic. At the top, a door was finally in sight. Before he could reach it, his brother Prince Conrad burst out of it and rushed passed him, muttering to himself, “…didn’t work…bad omen…voices of ghouls…” Before Patrick could say a word, Conrad was gone.

“Well, I’m not giving up now that I’m here!” Patrick called to the sound of retreating footsteps. Plodding behind Conrad for hours chasing this legend had been bad enough. For Patrick, there was no turning back. Moving closer, he could read a stone plaque on the door.

“Here sleeps Princess Deirdre of Acrasia, until after a hundred years have passed from the twelfth day of Yune, 988. Whence that time arrives, she shall be awakened by a kiss, and the rule of the royal family shall continue.

“That silly ninny!” Patrick laughed out loud. “Con was a whole year too early!” It was the year 1087, not 1088. Stepping into the room, he saw an ornate canopy bed with the princess on it. “What?” A female voice said. “Back for more are you?”

Patrick spun in a full circle, frantically searching for the speaker. Confused, and a little frightened, Patrick crept over to the bed. The princess talking must not be asleep after all, maybe she was just pretending. There she was, lying on top of the covers. Her breathing was deep and relaxed. She certainly looked like she was sleeping.

Patrick swallowed hard and tried to remember his manners.

“Sorry to disturb you, err, Miss.”

“Oh! You’re a different one,” the disembodied voice gasped. The lips of the princess remained motionless. The voice softened. “I’m so sorry…I just assumed that you were that blockhead of a fellow who was just here.”

“Actually, I’m his younger brother.”

“Well, before you run away, would you mind giving me your name, title, and age?”

“Why do you want to know all that?” Patrick asked, confused.

“I keep a record of every knight and prince who has entered the tower. It’s fascinating to track family lines. You’re number one-hundred and ten, in case you’re interested.”

“I am Prince Patrick of Menolaine, and I am eighteen years old. My older brother is Conrad, and he is twenty-five. I don’t expect that he told you that.”

“He was awfully spooked when I started talking to him,” Deirdre laughed. “Now, let me see…do you know a ‘Terrence Yorke’ by any chance?”

“I think my grandfather’s name was Yorke. He died before I was born.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Deirdre sounded sad. “He was one of the nicer ones. I imagine that you inherited your good manners from him.”

“Before I go,” Patrick said, “Could you explain to me what you’re doing up here? I’ve heard the legend, but it doesn’t quite fit.”

“Of course! When my parents first told me about the deadly curse that Morfea – who was a mean, jealous fairy -- put on me, I resolved to find a way to break the spell. I discovered that curses only last until the fairy dies and Morfea was already very old and couldn’t possibly live for over fifty more years. I could avoid the curse by outliving her. I have some fairy blood in me so I came up with the idea of casting a spell on myself and the entire castle to sleep for a hundred years.”

“Still,” Patrick said. “It’s very odd that you can talk.”

“That was a complete accident — an unforeseen side effect, and not an entirely a bad one, in my opinion.”

An awkward silence followed. Patrick was at a loss about what to do next. It felt wrong to just leave Deirdre there alone. He glanced out a window in time to see a tiny speck in the courtyard running toward the drawbridge. It must have taken Conrad all this time just to get down the tower. On an impulse, he said, “Would you like me to take a look around Acrasia? I could give you a report on how things are going. That way, when you woke up next year, you’d be ready to take up your duties as princess again.”

“Oh, could you? I’ve worried so much that once I wake up, I won’t even recognize Acrasia anymore!”

“It would be my pleasure, your highness.”
***
During the following weeks, Patrick spent his days traveling around Acrasia, his evenings reporting his findings to Deirdre, and his nights in one of the castle’s guestrooms. After he had visited all of the villages in the kingdom, Patrick found himself coming up with excuses to stay at the castle. One week he restocked the firewood supply and the next, he gave all the furniture a good dusting—anything that would help the sleepers live life as normally as possible once they awoke.

Time galloped by like a war-horse, threatening to throw its rider from the saddle and soon, autumn had turned to winter. Every time he made the journey down from the tower, Patrick felt more and more like he was leaving a part of himself behind.

And then the day arrived.

“I can feel the magic swirling around me.” Deirdre’s voice was soft with wonder. “I almost feel frightened. Patrick,” she faltered. “After I’ve woken up, are you intending to stay? Or will you go back to Menolaine?”

Patrick ran a finger down her delicate cheekbone. “I’ll stay as long as you wish.”

“Then I wish you’d stay forever.” Deirdre’s voice was a barely audible whisper.

Patrick’s heart leapt at the words, and without any hesitation, he bent over and kissed her.

For one eternity, Patrick could feel the beating of Deirdre’s heart close to his own, and then a great gust of wind surged around them—just for an instant, and then it vanished. The next thing he knew, a soft hand touched his wrist, and he was gazing down into the most captivating pair of sterling gray eyes he had ever seen.

6 comments:

  1. I love this interpretation. Fairy tales where the prince and princess fall in love at first sight and then are assumed to live happily ever after have always bugged me. I really like that they have a chance to get to know each other first in this version.

    Also I'd love to be entered for the new Cat Mallard print contest. :)

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  2. You are in,Rich Layers! KateW

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  3. Lori H (jafralady@hotmail.comAugust 13, 2009 at 5:58 AM

    Tahlia, congratulations on winning the contest. I really liked your story. Imagine, a man who offers to dust - he was a REAL prince!

    Kate: I'd like to enter the contest for the Cat Mallard print.
    Thanks.

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  4. CatLover (hattenjoy@hotmail.com)August 13, 2009 at 6:07 AM

    Tahlia, what a great story. I really liked that the princess talked (go figure, a female who can't keep quiet even under spell) and the prince actually WANTED to clean the castle! And, of course, that they actually took time to get to know one another before hopping into a forever after relationship - which I'm sure it was. Looking forward to your next story!

    Kate: I'd like to be entered into the Cat Mallard giveaway. Thanks.

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  5. Crystal (crystal@volitek.com)August 19, 2009 at 6:11 PM

    Very nice story. Would make a beautiful animation!

    I want to be entered into the contest, too!

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  6. It's so cute! Short and sweet. And yeah, it was nice that they got to know each other first. Prince was very very chivalrous. Princess was playful and I like it, especially her curiosity.

    Haha. I guess my comment is 3 months late. Silly me.

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