Prince Thad spied the evil wizard’s tower nestled darkly in the shadows of Festering Hill just as the one-eyed gypsy had promised him. He rode his white stallion proudly up to the sinister residence and dismounted haughtily. Then, he took a moment to look upon the tower with disdain.
“Not much of a tower,” he proclaimed to no one in particular, perhaps posterity. “This task will be even easier than I thought.”
Indeed, the tower rose merely thirty feet in the air. In addition, there was a crumbly staircase winding around from the pitiful door at the bottom to a balcony at the top. And there she would be! The lovely object of his quest was at hand!
The prince patted his horse, literally girded his loins, and charged onto the stairway.
About midway, a surly dog poked out of a small opening and had the gall to snarl at him. Thad hastily launched the midsize mutt into the air with a mighty kick and continued on. With no further obstacle, the prince reached the treasured balcony.
Pausing at the large curtained window, Thad peered inside. Sitting up on a golden bed, looking bewildered yet beautiful, was his love. The object of his dreams and pursuit, the kidnapped princess of Lorelay and his bethrothed: Princess Shelley!
Unable to wait any longer, the prince thrust open the window and boldly entered the princess’ cell. Shelley stood up, startlement and wonder in her gaze.
“You are rescued, Princess!” Thad declared with every ounce of drama he’d envisioned this moment would bear.
The princess continued to stare, amazed. Then, she groaned and sat back down on her bed, face clasped in her dainty hands.
“It is I, Prince Thad of Donley!” the prince bellowed, not getting the reaction he’d expected.
“Yeah. I know who you are,” Shelley said, somewhat sullenly in Thad’s opinion. He decided to shift tactics.
“Is the wizard nigh?” he asked her.
“What? Yeah, he’s around,” she replied vaguely.
“We must hence,” the prince continued. “Attire yourself in something sturdier than your dressing gown, for we must ride several days, my beloved.”
“What did you call me?” Shelley wondered, giving Thad a strange look.
The prince shuffled his feet uncomfortably, this awkward moment beginning to throw him off.
“Shelley! It is I, Prince Thad!” he repeated.
“You said that, but I am not your beloved,” the princess said with irritation.
Thad stared at her dumbly.
“We are betrothed,” he finally got out.
“We’ve never met,” Shelley countered.
“But, we are–”
“We are betrothed!” the princess interrupted angrily. She got to her feet and began pacing in front of him. “So you say, so your family says, so my family says!” She stopped right in front of him and snapped her fingers in his face. “But I don’t say! I don’t want to marry you!”
The prince numbly drew a locket from his tunic and held it out to her.
“This is my treasure,” Thad offered. “A lovely miniature of you that I have kept close to me on this quest–”
Shelley snatched the locket from his hand and snapped it open. Inside was an image of her. She irately waved it back in the prince’s face.
“Where did you get this?” she demanded.
“When you were stolen away by the wizard, your mother gave me this keepsake and adjured me to find you,”Thad stated nobly.
“Ha!” the princess interjected. “I should have know she would butt in! That harpy can’t stand for me to be happy!”
Shelley dashed the locket to the floor where it shattered into pieces. The prince, feeling somewhat shattered himself, fell back into a plush chair.
“Happy?” he echoed. “Your sainted mother…a harpy?”
“Oh, and I bet my father embraced you as a noble son and blessed your journey to bring me back!” the princess went on.
“Of course he did, princess,” Thad acknowledged. “He fears for you–”
“All he cares about is the embarrassment,” Shelley scoffed. “Whether you find me or not, he couldn’t care less about. In fact, now he doesn’t have to pay my dowry to your greedy parents!”
The prince shook his head, sorely troubled. Then, suddenly, the truth of this strange situation struck him and he looked up at the princess with purity etched into his eyes.
“It is worse than I feared,” he said softly. “The wizard didn’t just steal you away. He has bewitched your senses. You know not what you are saying, beloved. You are under his spell.”
Shelley laughed so hard that she even forgot to get mad with Thad calling her “beloved” again.
“We ran off together because my life was so boring!” she declared. “We are in love. True love. My stupid parents would rather I marry an idiot like you, but I won’t! I refuse!”
The prince stood up valiantly.
“You and I are meant for each other, Shelley,” he insisted.
“Why? Because we’re royalty? Because we’re beautiful?”
“Yes!” Thad affirmed. “It’s just the way things are!”
“The way things are is stupid,” the princess maintained. “Now you need to get out of my room before you need to be rescued.”
Shelley turned her back on him and the prince fought to remain steadfast. This was all wrong. How could his lovely bride-to-be even think such things? But no, he told himself.
“No,” Thad continued aloud. “I insist you are bewitched by the wizard and know not what you are saying. I will yet save you, Shelley. A true prince never falters, and never relents.”
The princess whirled on him in disbelief.
“You utter moron!” she screamed. “You arrogant fool! Look in my eyes and call me bewitched!”
The prince did as she bade him and gazed deeply into her eyes.
“I see contempt,” he began.
“Yep,” Shelley confirmed.
“Exactly. Prince Thad, you are a contemptible buffoon with delusions of grandeur. You’re not half the man my boyfriend is, which you are going to find out painfully if you stick around here much longer. Now take your inbred carcass out of here right this minute!”
Thad closed his eyes a moment and pondered. When he opened them again and regarded the princess, a look of renewed purpose filled them.
“Indubitably, a spell,” he reaffirmed. “Only an evil wizard could make you look upon me with such disdain.”
Shelley scoffed at him rudely.
“You’re earning my disdain all by yourself,” she informed him coldly.
The prince’s response was deflected by a knock at the princess’ door. Shelley turned a withering, triumphant gaze on Thad.
“I gave you a chance to get away,” she said grandly. “Now my boyfriend’s here and you’re in for it , Prince Jackass.”
…to be concluded