thulcandran: (Default)
This is easily the corniest thing I have ever written. It started with taking three words from my sister's still-life display-- mask, fire, castle-- and before too long, I realized my subconscious had thrown a wrench in the works. So I gave up on subtlety, ran with it, and this is the result. Don't hate me.

He grinned up at the balcony, knowing she couldn't see. It didn't matter - she'd know he was grinning in the middle of a blizzard, though walls thicker than the world itself stood between them, and know she did. She grinned back, and bowed, her silhouette showing with the firelight behind her.

He did not drop a rose on the snow-covered ground; he had no rose, for none could have survived the climb, the swim, and the possibility of pursuit. She smiled, though, and dropped one from the balcony - she preferred to do things backwards, anyway. And he bowed, deeply, and removed his mask; the darkness, in the new moon, was enough to hide his face behind it. And taking the rose, he hid it in his breast, and turned to flee across the courtyard once again, leaving the mask below.

The lady in waiting smiled again; this was a dangerous game, and surely if he discovered, all things would change. But for now, she enjoyed it, and when her duties to her mistress were done, she walked daintily down the stairs, to where a mask lay, careful, on the snow. She felt unsure, sometimes, after these new moons; it was not as if she had lied to him. He was not, in any case, openly pursuing a princess - unless that was what he intended, all this time. She sighed, took the mask into the folds of her cloak, and returned to the castle, towards her own chambers.

Next time, she would leave him a song. The bard had been teaching her how to write the songs; it was a script she had not dreamed existed, before coming to the castle. They did not hold with such things, in the distant holds of the West, and their songs changed by the generation. But the mysterious prince was clearly from an educated land; his masks were done in the art of the Capital, near where this castle stood, and she had known this for some time. He deserved a gift in kind, she thought; a rose would not do forever.

She tried not to wonder if she thought this because a song was the gift you'd expect, from a real princess. She simply wanted to give him an art equal to his own.

This was how it happened: a prince in hiding, for his throne had been lost by intrigue and deceit, and his bloodline had been thrust out of sight for his own good. And of course, he met in throes of deep romance a young and beautiful princess, and they fell in love, and he wooed her in secret - for a princess can only be wooed by a prince, which he could not openly declare - and when he reclaimed his throne, the first thing he did was mount a quest, with his loyal knights, to capture the hand of the fair lady. (Of course, this also involved a great deal of persuasion, as a prince never resembled the bandit or ruffian who had captured her heart.)

She had several problems with this world. For one, how was it that a man's face could change so much by claiming his throne that his One True Love didn't recognize him, scant months later? After a supposedly legendary courtship, it seemed so trite. That, and the princess seemed to exist solely for the purpose of being wooed in a tower - to prove, through subversion, that royalty was made for royalty.

In this world, their world, the man could only be a prince. He was noble, true, strong of heart and clever in art and mysterious in his pursuit of a woman in a castle. She should have alerted the princess to his designs immediately, and been the knowing sidekick. But her mistress, the princess of the castle, had fallen two years prior for her father's captain of the guard, young and strong and, as long as he'd been there, stoic and grave, rather like the princess. They talked sometimes, she and the princess, about the world around them, about the captain of the guard, about the gardens and the footsteps and the strangeness of the full moons, out on the moors. And she knew fair well where her lady's heart was, and she knew full well where hers was-- it was a betrayal of him that she feared, not of her lady.

The first song she left him vanished, as the roses had, into his shadow. When the new moon next came, he left her a mask whose designs matched perfectly the song; the song she left him that time was less perfectly captured. She had tried to write the notes of a tune that she'd only heard sung in her own heart. And the mask that he left, when she saw him next, felt very much the same - as though the shape he had conceived was more than could be made with hand and earth. The winter wore on, and the snow melted, and brought mud, and the sun came, and brought new flowers on the boughs, and mockingbirds from the South.

The mockingbirds sang at night, for the first weeks of the season, in the cooler nights, and so she and her lady often sat up later than they should, to hear the new trills they returned with.

When she nearly swooned, one such evening, she told her lady that the lengthening days had worn her, with all the chores preparing for the sowing - she grew stronger in the Spring, but tired, too, and perhaps it was not fully a lie. But she knew that next new moon must bring a change, for the birds would give her away, and so she waited by the walls when next her masked prince arrived, and sang him, softly, from the arch, a song of another world, where princes were allowed to be more than dashing rogues, and princesses were allowed to run away with the captains, and he smiled beneath his mask, and the dark space in the skies hid their escape, and the eloping of the brave captain and rebelling princess from the gate.

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thulcandran

May 2013

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