An original tale of mine. – David England
“Once upon a time the land rejoiced as a princess was born.” This is how I like to begin my story. I think of myself as a princess. I really do. Not that I have a princessish name, Princess Veronica, but I can still feel like a princess, can’t I? Well, I am as tall as a princess. I have short auburn hair, more of a page boy than a princess, but anyway. I think I am as beautiful as a princess. I have a straight nose and grave grey eyes (I like that). I think I have quite high cheek bones, and my cheeks are flat underneath them, nearly hollow. I have a stern little mouth, anyway I think of it as stern, regal somehow.
Near to the palace where we live (It is in Paradise Street, the middle of three, and our Dad calls it a double-semi) there is a park, quite a large one, with an enchanted lake at the very centre. I love to walk alone in my park on windy days. In the Autumn. It is my kingdom, my land.
I have a funny feeling inside me that goes up and down with the wind in the trees. I love to stand by the lake, perfectly still, and feel the wind going up and down in me, and feel the cold creeping up my legs and around my body, so that it makes me shiver. I can catch the shiver, and hold it there. It feels like forever. It makes my heart swell. I cannot describe it any more. It has no words.
Now that I think about it some more, Princess Veronica is not a bad name. After all, I am a fairy tale princess. Fairy tale princesses do not have normal names like Elizabeth or Mary, they have interesting names. We are interesting people (Hum, Hum!). We are very wise and old. We live for centuries. But we stay very beautiful, with our grave grey eyes that see so much.
Well, that is enough about me now. This story is about when I was born and how my land rejoiced. It must be a funny thing being born. I remember when my little brother Adam was born. I imagined him swimming about in our Mum’s womb, now the dog paddle, now the butterfly crawl. I felt how lovely it was immersed in that warm pool. Not a thought. Not a care. Just that lovely womb feeling.
When he was born it was a different matter. He screamed. Did he scream! I felt how angry he was at being woken up. He still thrashed about with his arms and legs, but his warm pool had turned suddenly chilly. And I felt how frightened he was of the monstrous, lumpy shapes that now swam around him and bumped into him. The first thought he ever had was of his loss, the first conscious feeling a stabbing pain. I understood somehow, and watched over him.
His second conscious feeling was hunger. Wailing, overwhelming hunger, as the link with our Mum was cut. He could not tell the first loss from the second, they merged into one everlasting wail. Now he wails, and works for his nourishment, and plays hunt the nipple, for warmth and comfort and to keep himself alive. I know he does this, but not he. All he knows is what he must do to rid himself of those awful feelings, push them away. But they come back, they always come back, and he goes on driving them away.
With him it is just on with his armour and off to fight the foe. All those dragons that he sees! I watch and wait for him to come home like the patient princess that I am, but he does not see me. What boy does see his big sister?
Well, there are not many dragons in Paradise Street, so our Adam made them up in his head. They were real enough to the other kids, though. He made his dragons fly and breath fire. The kids were terrified, but they always came back for more.
He had this idea in his head that dragons had great wealth and power that they had somehow stolen from him. And he must win it back. This is how his Great Quest came about. Our Mum said, “Don’t scuff your new shoes.” and our Dad said “Don’t be in late.” and off he strode with Spring in his step.
He quailed when he met his first dragon. It was an evil, scaly, Scottish creature, with bitter breath, by the name of McGowan. The fight was short, Adam’s bright young blade against McGowan’s caustic gall. The fight was inconclusive, but Adam and McGowan inflicted wounds on each other that were long in healing. Years later Adam met McGowan again, diminished and spent, and showed him some kindness and curbed his sense of triumph. I felt close to him then.
There were many dragons. There was Victor the Mandible, with teeth as sharp as razors, who lorded over Adam for a while. And Hemlock Will, whose potions were deadlier than any blade. Adam had to join forces with Hemlock to defeat Victor, by giving him a sleeping draught and pulling his teeth. That was a great victory, and very sweet to Adam. But I did not feel close to him then.
Adam was not alone in his Great Quest. There were always other ignorant folk eager to heed his tales of adventure and join battle alongside him. He always had his way with words.
As Adam fought battle after battle, he drew strength from his adversaries. His armour became tougher and stronger, his helm more emblazoned, his sword more keen. Yet, within these defences he was ever that same little man that both quailed at McGowan and showed him kindness.
Adam’s fiercest and final dragon foe was the Lessening Leech, who takes the form of an emaciated vulture, surrounded and protected by the Eighteen Circles of Enchantment. These give him beauty of form and raiment, the voice of seeming reason and wisdom, the protective arm of concern and comfort, and an air of innocent goodwill. Only those who fall victim to his spell, and are drawn into the Circles of Enchantment, discover the horror within and his voracious appetites, who can draw blood from empty veins yet never add one ounce of flesh to his dread bones.
Adam and his companions befriended the Lessening Leech, ill prepared as they were for his beguilements. For years he travelled along their road, or met with them along the way, and made trade with them. Always courteous, he learnt their secret ways. Until one hard day they passed within the Circles of Enchantment, and he revealed his face, fell and foul.
With courage failed and bowels loosed they met him on the field of valour, with all his might host. Adam, soon divided from his friends, was pulled down and torn in pieces. They sucked him dry, boiled off his flesh for soup, ground up his bones for meal, and cast his vitals to the dogs.
But I kept his spirit from them, and he came at last, in the Autumn, to the shores of the enchanted lake at the very centre of my park. He cast his worn blade into the lake. He removed his emblazoned helm. He threw his heavy armour to the ground. He let fall mail and mantle. He stood by the lake alone, at the end of his quest, his life drawn as thin as our postman’s whistle.
Then he raised his head, drew a breath, smelt the air, and stood perfectly still. A strange feeling grew inside him that seemed to go up and down with the wind in the trees. He felt the cold creeping up his legs and around his body, so that it made him shiver. He caught the shiver, and held it. It felt like forever. It made his heart swell, and with all his new heart he made a wish beyond words.
I am a fair and fay princess. I granted the wish I had awaited for so long. I am the wish. In this consummation I am born, and all my land rejoices. So this is not, as Adam thought, the end of his journey. It is, as he now feels, just the beginning.
Try explaining that to our Mum and Dad.
This is one of my original stories.
© David England, 2003