By Melissa L. Webb
The Prince stood in the overgrown woods. Weeds and roots had taken over, coating everything with a dark, slimy feel. He moved through it the best he could, but the plants seemed to squirm under his feet, creeping around his ankles every now or then.
He used the glowing white sword in his hand to hack through them, freeing himself once again. It was slow going and he never expected any less, but at least his destination was now in sight.
A castle loomed in front of him. Its dark shape illuminated by the moon above. The Prince shivered at the sight of it. Its aura was thick with the evil that had taken place inside so many years ago.
He heard a horse neighing in the distance and cringed when he realized it was his. He prayed to God Charger was alright. He hadn’t wanted to leave his stead alone when evil lurked so close, but it was all he could do to get through this overgrown hell. The horse would have never stood a chance this close to the castle.
Taking a deep breath, he chopped another root as it moved towards his feet. The closer he got to the place, the more he could feel it trying to keep him out.
As he neared the castle walls, thick with dark rotten vines, the ground shuddered beneath him, throwing him off his feet. His hands groped across the cloying dirt, ripe with mildew and age, looking for his sword. If he lost that, it would be all over.
The sword was the only thing that could ensure his triumph. Without it, he would become just another set of bleached bones tangled in the vines on the castle walls.
His fingers finally touched cold steel as a vine wrapped around his body. It squeezed him tight, trying to crush the very life out of him.
“Oh no you don’t,” the Prince growled as he swung the sword. It once again shone brightly in the darkness, taking strength from his life force. He brought it down, hacking clean through the vine. It screamed like a living thing, shrinking away from him. The cleaved edges smoking where the blessed blade had touched it.
Getting to his feet, the Prince hurried through the opened portcullis as fast as he could. He was so close now. He didn’t want to give anything else a chance to slow him down.
She was in there.
He needed to get to her. Awaken her from her dark slumber. The fate of his world depended on it.
The Prince raced across the shadowed courtyard. Skeletons grinned at him as he went. He turned away from them, setting his jaw, determination steadying him.
He couldn’t let himself think about all the lives that had been claimed here because of this evil. Sadness and grief would only distract him. There would be plenty of time to mourn for them later.
If he stayed alive.
Something scurried behind him and he quickened his pace. It didn’t matter what lay behind him, only in front of him. Ignoring the movement, he entered the castle, the light from the sword leading the way.
The stench wafting off the walls was enough to make the Prince gag and he shuddered to think what might be the cause of it. What secrets did the shadows keep around here? He wasn’t sure he really wanted to know the answer. It didn’t matter though. Once he awoke the girl this would all be nothing but a distant nightmare. Everybody could live happily ever after. Including him.
“Oh, look. Dear sweet Prince thinks he can save everyone.”
The Prince stopped, trying to find the source of the mockery, but there was nothing around him but cobwebs and rot. He let it go. It was only a distraction anyway. Digging at his fears was just another game. And he refused to play it this time.
“You can’t save anyone. Not even yourself,” the voice said with a chuckle. “Either flee or cower before me. Those are your only options.”
The Prince didn’t stop. Words would not get to him. Not when he had purity and truth on his side. The foul thing could dribble lies all it wanted, he would never fall for them.
Ascending a long staircase, he rushed down a hallway towards a chamber at the end. Candlelight flickered behind the door, spilling out through the cracks in the wood. The girl was in there. The ones who entrusted him with the sword had confirmed that. His quest was almost at an end.
A growl erupted from behind. Before the Prince could turn around, something slammed into him, pinning him to the ground. He squirmed underneath it, trying to free the sword from underneath himself. He managed to roll over and found himself face to face with a very large demon.
It snapped at him, its jaw only inches from his face. Its rough grey skin dripped a black substance which burned as it came in contact with any uncovered skin.
The Prince groaned in frustration and in pain. He didn’t have time for this. Not now that he was this close. He could practically hear her breathing from behind the door. This could be over in only a matter of minutes if the damned thing would just get off him.
He could only imagine what was going on in his kingdom right now. Or in other kingdoms. Hell, in all the lands. The demons and monsters which roamed the countryside because of this curse were destroying everything. He had lost so much already. He refused to lose anything more.
Pulling his free hand back, he punched the demon square in the face. It snarled and reared back, giving the Prince the chance he needed.
Lifting the sword, he drove it deep into the demon’s neck. It wailed loudly, shaking the walls around them, then pitched to the side, falling lifelessly to the floor.
The Prince got to his feet, wiping the gore from his clothes. Enough was enough. It was time to finish this.
He strode down the hallway, sword raised as his blood hummed for the victory.
More growling sounded behind him. It caused his step to waiver, but he kept the sword raised. If it was a fight they wanted, they could bring it.
Turning back to the chamber door, he met the first rushing body with a swipe of the massive sword. It fell harmlessly at his feet, the entire body cleaved cleanly in half.
“Who’s next?” he called as more demons rushed him. He laid them too out next to their friend on the floor. They were no match for the sword of glory. As long as it was in his hand, nothing would stop him.
The Prince pushed against the door. It didn’t budge. He lifted a booted foot and kicked out, knocking the thin door from its hinges. He stepped through, looking around the room.
Candles lit the darkness, making the room glow in a way the rest of the castle could never. A huge bed sat center, its carved wooden frame and plush bedding making it look more like a throne and less like a place to sleep. And he supposed in a way it was a throne.
For there before him, slumbering peacefully, was the Princess. Her long dark hair was fanned out around her head like a halo and her milky white skin gleamed in the candlelight. She was breathtakingly beautiful and the Prince yearned to reach out and touch her.
He moved closer to the bed and staring down at her. She looked so peaceful, so content in her sleep, it was hard to imagine she was the key to the curse. All he had to do was wake the Princess and it would be over. The world would be safe from the evil consuming it.
Taking a deep breath, he prepared himself for what was to come. His heart raced in a way it never had before as he stared down at this beautiful creature. He was responsible for her now. He must free her from her slumber.
“Are you really ready for what it means if you do this?” a voice called out to him.
The Prince moved from the bed, locking eyes with a creature on the other side of the room. It sat in a chair, watching him with curious red eyes. Its long dark robe hid the rest of his face. A black rusty sword sat across its lap.
“I suppose you are the Guardian? You’re here to stop me from doing what I must do.”
It rose from the chair, taking the sword into its hand. “I must prevent you from breaking the curse. That is my duty. I will kill you, unless…you turn around and walk away. Forget about this castle and the darkness it contains inside.”
“I can’t. People are dying out there. The world is falling apart. I can’t turn my back on that. I can’t give up everything I love.”
The Guardian raised its sword. “Very well. The castle will have a new set of bones when I am done with you.”
The Prince raised his sword as well. “This sword will have its triumph. But not from you.” He spun around, turning his back to the Guardian and stepped towards the bed.
“Are you too much of a coward to face me,” the Guardian called.
“No, I just know fighting you is pointless,” the Prince told him calmly, staring down at the beautiful girl in the bed. “You’re not the real threat here.” Lifting the sword of glory high above his head, he brought it down, straight into the heart of the girl.
She screamed, waking suddenly. Her dark crimson eyes locked onto the Prince as her hands groped uselessly at the sword in her chest. “You stupid mortal. How dare you slay me. Most men couldn’t have resisted my allure. They would have kissed me and burned to death for their forwardness,” she hissed. “But you, you knew the truth and you went right for the heart of it.” She glanced down as blood pooled around her. “My heart.”
The sword glowed brighter in her flesh, spilling fire into her veins. It consumed her, eating her body from existence.
The Prince stepped back, smiling as the Guardian faded as well. The castle was returning to what it had been before the evil Princess had invaded this kingdom and murdered his betrothed.
Justice had prevailed where it had failed before. The elders thought it would be enough to curse her into a never-ending sleep. But their compassion had been the world’s downfall.
The demon Princess had been more powerful than anyone could have imagined. She continued to plague the world through sleep, dreaming into reality monsters and demons to take over the world.
Her death was the only thing that could save them; and the Prince’s heart already belonged to someone else, even if she was dead. That love was armor enough to protect him where others had failed.
© 2019 Melissa L. Webb