Els Wolters – Fate

When the princess was kidnapped every self-claimed hero lined up to save her. The cliché price of the princess’ hand and a future life as royalty sounded appealing enough to most young and even old men to undertake the quest across the kingdom to the abandoned castle where the princess was held captive. The first time many men made the journey, thinking it would be easy to save the princess from this unknown kidnapper, but none returned. Rumors began to spread about the kidnapper. What could have possibly take out so many men? Every time fewer and fewer men came to the king’s castle to announce that they would rescue the princess. Until one time only one man showed up, a young knight just given the title.
‘Young man,’ the king said to the young, inexperienced knight. ‘five years ago my daughter was brutally taken from my side, by a horrible monster. Many brave men have tried to get her back, without success.’
The king stopped talking, sighed and slumped back in his throne. He missed his daughter. She was the light of his life, his youth and it seemed like those things left had left with her too.
‘But now, a new hero has risen and will save her. I know the journey is hard and I’m sure you’ve heard about the other men who went, but that shouldn’t keep you from sealing your fate.’
The young knight left the castle full of hope He would save the princess, slay anything that was in his way and come back a hero. Easy, or so he thought. Getting to the abandoned castle already was a bigger challenge than he had expected. Trolls, bandits and other threats came in his way, but that wasn’t the worst. Every time he came into an inn or a village, he heard different stories about the monster that held the princess. The first time it was just a man, then it became a renegade knight. Nothing too bad, but from there it escalated quickly, a dragon, a sorcerer. Nobody knew for sure, which made everything even worst. The uncertainty caused the knight many sleepless nights.
After a two month journey. He stood before the castle. He had been so certain when he started, but now that the castle was in his view, he couldn’t move. The forest that first had seemed to move on its own and had never been without sound, now was lifeless and eerie quiet. Clouds surrounded the two slim towers, the outer walls were covered with veins and cracks. In his sleep deprived state it looked horrifying. He took a step forward, then another one and… all of a sudden the earth disappeared under his feet. He fell for what seemed like hours, hitting several walls on his way down, to the unknown. A loud smack was heard when he hit the bottom. He let out a shaky breath and managed to glance at his surroundings, before he lost consciousness. Yet he swore he caught a glimpse of a wicked smile.
The face of death, that was what he saw when he could finally open his eyes again. Well, it was a skull. A human skull, faced towards him, maggots were filling its eye sockets. The knight let out a disturbed cry and jumped up. What turned out to be a horrible mistake, since his body was sore due to his fall down. Still, terrified he continued to stumble backwards until his back hit something. A cell. He realized he was in a cell, when he saw the steel bars, dividing the slim hall in half and with him were… corpses. Some were nothing more than a pile of bones, others… more fresh. Would that be his fate too?
‘Hello!’ he cried out, but swallowed his next words.
He had to be careful. What if the monster heard him.
Footsteps sounded through the room and he searched the area behind the bars for someone or something, which was hard since the only light came from the hole he fell through. His eyes widened when he caught a glimpse of long brown hair. He let out a shaky sigh in relieve and started talking with a charming smile.
‘In my life I never encountered someone as beautiful as you, princess.’ The knight said, as the young woman moved into the light. The princess giggled and shook her head.
‘I know that I’m supposed to save you, but do you mind freeing me from this cell, so I can slay the beast and free you.’
The princess giggled again and started to speak, but not in the helpless tone the knight had expected.
‘Who says I need saving.’
The knight’s eyebrows drew together.
‘Well, you’re the damsel in distress, of course.’ He explained.
That made her laugh loudly and she showed a wicked grin, he swore he had caught a glimpse of before.
‘Oh, I’m not the one in distress here.’
She gestured to the corpses around him.
‘I, I don’t understand.’ You could hear the uncertainty in his voice.
‘Of course you don’t. I told my father thousand times that I want to be left alone, but he keeps sending you morons. Promises’ you my hand! Like I’m some price or some stubborn teenager that doesn’t know what she wants. Well, I know! And I’m not going anywhere…’ her angry expression changed to a satisfied smile.
‘Just like you.’ She turned around and started to walk away without giving him another look.
‘Wait! You can’t leave me here!’ the desperation could be heard in his voice.
‘Oh, yes I can. Your fate is sealed.’ she smiled.
The darkness of her voice made the color in the knight cheeks fade away. He turned around and slid to the ground. A rat feasting on one of the corpses looked at him and in its eyes he saw his fate.