Surprise Me

I killed a king

A serious crime.
Sure, but…What if there was not a single person to mourn him.
What if the entire nation hadn't a single tear to spare for their leader. Would you still consider it a crime? Or would it be an answer to a prayer.

Well, none of this crossed my mind before I committed the act.

The kingdom of Tearza isn't like the kind you find in fairytales. There were princesses, princes, kings, queens, and all that hoopla. But, the kingdom was built upon the backs of warriors.

All of the people of Tearza value one thing above all others: Strength. There isn't a single Tearza citizen that has not had to fight at one point in their lives.

If a man wishes to marry, he must win against his perspective bride first.
If a woman wishes to raise her child the way she wishes she must win against her mother-in-law.

Politics, work, agriculture, all of it revolves back around to fighting. Oh, and all the people born in Tearza are branded with a single teardrop shape between their eyes when they're born. So that they can never leave the nation. Because according to the local's logic "Who would ever want to leave anyway"

But..I digress..this story isn't about the citizens. It's about me.

You see I was one of those wacky people who tried to defect to another nation. Not because I was weak, or even because I don't like fighting. I was just tired of being strong...ALL. THE. TIME.

Unfortunately, we live on an island...

I was stranded on a fishing boat for nearly a week. No food. No water. One of the nation's royal fleets found me and brought me back to the castle on charges of high treason.

I was brought before the king, and made to kneel before him. Apparently, he was beguiled by my newfound beauty.
My skin had turned a deep burgundy red from exposure to the sun, and this made all of my old battle scars look polished and shimmer in the light. My plain brown mattered hair had turned pure white and all of its volume had been tamed as it lay lifeless against my body.
He foolishly stepped toward me and tilted my head up with his shoe. My face tightened and in spite of the pain, I smiled with barred teeth and wild eyes. He dropped my face and talked to his guards about taking me to his bedchamber. The pleasant idea of cutting his throat danced before my eyes, and even in my exhaustion, I could not contain the glee. I propped myself up sat upon my knees and in a swift movement, I pulled my arrowhead earing from my ear. He noticed my movement and jerked me to my feet. "If you are capable of moving than walk on your own. You will be accompanying me tonight." He stated, I looked into his blackened eyes and laughed aloud at the fact that those would be his last words.

With the last of my strength, I forced the arrowhead into his eye as deep as it would go.

Chaos erupted from all around me. I cannot really remember well after that. I know that I was taken to a prison chamber for a while, a place without windows or light. I was given nothing. No medicine, food, or water. I was expecting to die, but in spite of the fact that I wished for it at this point, it still would not come.

One morning when I opened my eyes, I awoke to find myself in a white marble tower with gold bars covering a massive window that overlooked the entire kingdom. I stood in bewilderment, and only the unfamiliar feeling of shackled legs kept me from thinking that I had finally been permitted death. I noticed a full length mirror in front of the bed, I really had become quite beautiful. My skin had turned back to its original pale color but my scars were almost translucent, and my hair had been brushed and oiled, I'd been clothed in luxurious materials, but something bothered me about the woman I saw. Her eyes were a bright yellow that rivaled the value of gold. I heard the faint sound of clapping behind me, and I slowly turned to stare down my unwelcome guest.

"It is a pleasure to finally meet you." stated the woman. She was very attractive. Long glossy black hair, narrow eyes that obviously knew how to tell a lie, slender with porcelain skin. She looked every bit the queen that I recognized her as. "I assume you recognize me." I nodded "Yes, I was the one sitting on the throne as I witnessed you kill my husband." I nodded again, less formally this time, and I took a seat on the large bed I had awoken on. "I really can't thank you enough for that." My eyes widened in surprise. I wasn't expecting gratitude. I knew the king was not well liked by the kingdom, but I had always been a loner. I was not interested in gossiping about the royals. The king had obviously been more hated than I realized. "But I'm starting to realize that you don't know what you've done to yourself." My curiosity/panic was beginning to get the better of me, something that she was obviously picking up on. "You see honey, the reason no one ever overthrew that idiotic king: he was cursed." She arose from the single chair she had been sitting on, walked closer to the gold bars, and rested her arms on them as she hunched forward. "He was cursed with endless desire." I felt my heart drop. "According to an old legend, anyone who has his curse or his blood is something of a good luck charm for the kingdom." I began thinking of all of the misfortune of the kingdom, surely this legend could not be true, but I realized that all the troubles had been because of the selfishness of the people. The land itself was plentiful, and always prosperous, even when other lands we not so fortunate. "If someone ever took his life, then they would be the one cursed to always desire what they can never attain." My shoulders slumped and I felt my jaw drop. I could feel the question begin to form on my tongue, but I was too afraid to ask it. "You want to know, right?" I looked into her eyes and nodded - defeated. "If you were to ever attain your desire, it is said in legend that it would bring ruin throughout the Tearza kingdom. And considering that we found you nearly dead in the middle of the ocean...it wasn't too difficult for us to
realize what it is you desire." I felt my neck tighten and unwittingly, I voiced the word in unison with her.

"Freedom."
"Freedom"

"I'm sorry to say dearie, but - this is something that the entire kingdom of Tearza will ensure that you never have." She walked back toward the single door and knocked softly. She turned back toward me with a parting word. "You needn't worry though, you will want for nothing else. In fact, word of your heroic action has already spread throughout the land. With that white hair of yours, you are revered as a gift from the gods in fact. I hope you find solace in the fact that you will never be alone at least." And as the sound of her footsteps faded I jumped from the bed and ran to the barred window. Just as she said, there were people at the base of the tower, all looking up at me, all of them pointing and clapping and laying offerings. They were praying too. It seemed that overnight I had gone from traitor to savor to goddess. But no matter what I was now, the one thing I had wanted to be all my life, I could never be.

*. . .

It had been nearly a decade since I had been "invited" to stay at the kingdom, and in all that time the stories of my being a gift from gods had only gotten worse. My very existence had become a staple for the Terza kingdom. The queen was still in charge of the kingdom along with her daughters. But since their king was now dead, their blood was no longer the lucky charm it used to be. The queen knew this and for the last few years had been looking for any moment where my guard may be compromised. She was sending suitors into my cage at night. Trying to get me to continue on my bloodline. This of course never worked out well for the unfortunate souls sent to my den. I had been a gift as far as the citizens were concerned, but to everyone within the castle I was every bit a monster. I passed my days simply staring out my window singing a tune to myself every now and then. The only company I had to speak of was the suitors, the royals, and people of political influence. I was a caged beast set on display.

However, there was one individual that I did not detest.

"Why, do you always look so sad?" I didn't bother to move my head, but I strained my eyes as much as I could to see him in the corner of my eye. There sat a cocky looking teenage boy playing with the ends of my hair. This apparition had been haunting me since my first night in this cage. The most likely situation was that he was a figment of my imagination, something to keep me company. "What, you're just goanna ignore me?" I turned my gaze back to the open sky. The sunrise would be coming any moment. It was one of my few pleasures each day, and I would not miss it. "You know, I've been wondering this for a while now. Why don't you ever try to kill me?" I had been resting my head on my hand, but I was so surprised by this question that spun my head around to stare at him. "I know your strong enough to do it. I mean, you killed all those other guys that came to your room. So why not me." My jaw hung for a moment before I finally said, "The thought didn't even cross my mind. You're not real after all." I thought for a moment, in all of these years, why did I never believe he could be real? I mean he had grown up in all this time. At first he was a scrawny brat who looked like he never fought a day in his life, but now he was a scrawny (yet attractive) young man who lived to annoy me.

"Hey, I'm insulted. All this time you didn't think I was real. Thanks a lot."
"No one else ever see you." I spit through my teeth.
"That’s because I don't want them too." He pulled out a small satchel made of animal hide. "It's a spell that my mother gave me. So I would be protected from prying eyes." I looked at him - disillusioned. Suddenly I felt a bit of warmth touch my face and I snapped my head back to stare out the window. I breathed in deeply as I watched the sun rise and the warmth fill my cold chamber. Any interest I had about the boy's odd statement disappeared along with the chill that usually filled my cage. I heard the door open on the other side of the gold gate, but I didn't bother to look. "I'm gonna grab something to eat from the kitchen. Do you want anything?" I let my eye wonder as he seemingly slipped by the attendants as they opened the gate to bring me my breakfast and new cloths for the day. He was half way out the door as he waited for my response."

"Surprise me." I said. I nearly gave the attendants a heart attack. Since this is the first time I had ever spoken in front of them. The boy simply nodded and drifted past them all. I stared in envy. I looked down to my leg shackles. If it had not been for these chains, I would be blowing past these pests, and leveeing a trail of blood in my wake.

Within the hour the attendants had returned to retrieve my dishes, which I had not touched, and the boy slipped by once again to return to my side. He had returned with his arms full of sweet breads. I greedily held my hands out for my share once the attendants had left. I stared at the boy for a moment and tilted my head. He mimicked my position in playful response. "If you are in fact real." I stated "Then why do you choose to keep coming back here?" He averted his gaze for a moment, then took another bite of his bread. "If you have the ability to be invisible. You could go anywhere you wish. So why stay here?" He made a loud gulp as he cleared his throat.

"Do you realize this is the first time you've ever asked me something?" I shrugged. "Well…I guess because this is home for me. I've lived here all my life." My interest had been peaked. "My mother was the first queen to marry that barbarian you killed. It was an arranged marriage, and the entire kingdom hoped for their happiness. But, my mother had a secret. She was a witch. As you can imagine, the castle did eventually find out, but only after she was pregnant with me. To hide their shame of having a witch in the royal family. They built this cage for her. Now for a time, my mother and the king were happy together. So she believed that he would sort everything out before the cage was finished being built." He paused to take another bite.
"He didn't though. Did he?" He looked at me with a doubtful expression.
"You met him. What do you think?" He said with a full mouth and a stifled laugh. I rolled my eyes at my own stupidity.
"No, he was more ashamed than anyone. Now, my mother was more concerned with my safety at this point. So she bit her tongue, and used her power of premonition. She looked into my future. She saw that the king would be power mad and never willing give up his title to the throne. He would murder any son of his that was born. So my mother prepared for me this invisibility spell so that the king would never know where I was. Then she sacrificed what little life she had left to forge a curse." My body went cold.
"It was her…It was your mother that cursed him." I accused.
"That's right."
"Why??" I demanded. "Didn't she realize that curse is what kept him from being killed by anyone else. Everyone was too afraid to suffer that fate. So they just let him do whatever he wanted!"
"Yes, she knew all of that. But, she wanted revenge more. She wanted him to suffer, and that he did."
"And what about me!! Why did she have to make it transferable!!!" I spit.
"Hey you're the one who made that decision. Or do you not recognize that murder is a sin regardless of who the victim is." I could say nothing. For no matter what I said, the king was not the first life I had taken. One of those lives was surely missed. One of those lives was surely worth living, and I had taken it away. That is the kind of person this kingdom taught me to be: cold, cruel, and heartless. It ironic that I should only learn that after being worshiped by them. I turned to sit back by my window, feeling a little more humble.
"Never again." He turned his eye to me.
"What did you say." He said with disbelief.
"I will never again. Take a life." I looked him in eye and said determined.
"What about those guys that the queen sends to your den at night." My lips twisted in disgust.
"Even them. I will never fight with the purpose to kill." I held my hands spread out in front of me, then closed them as tightly as I could, feeling the sharpness of my nails, until I saw blood drip from them. "I hereby renounce myself as a monster of Tearza. With this I swear." The boy ripped a piece of cloth from his own shirt and wrapped my hands in them. He stared at them with an expression I had never seen before. It reminded me of something I had read about…long ago…something called love…I think.

He looked me in the eyes and leaned his head close to mine.

"If you can keep that promise. I promise you won't regret it." He kissed my hands that he cradled and looked at me with a sappy look. For the first time, it didn't annoy me.

*…

It has been nearly a year since I have seen my apparition. I never imagined it would be this lonely, without someone to talk to. Of course I keep busy. The Queen sends suitors more frequently since I haven't been killing them. Every night I have to fight off a small platoon worth of men. But I have managed to keep my promise, and with each life I spare I feel like I have regained a piece of myself. I sit by a window and stare as I see the last of the sunlight dissipate and my heart grows a little heavy with its departure. Today the clouds are a deep black and I can hear the distant threat of lightning. I have enjoyed thunder and lightning ever since my youth, especially when it would torment the other children. I laughed slightly at the memory. What can I say, it’s a guilty pleasure. I hear the gate slightly creak open and as I turned my head I saw a mountain of a man squeezing through its small frame. I stood from my perch. This did not look like it would be a pleasant evening. For either of us.

We both fought fiercely, my furniture had been turned into fire fodder, and my body felt as though it needed hibernation. But my night was going to get worse before it got better. I saw another figure step through the gold gate and I kicked the hulking giant that lay at my feet at him. He let out a slight moan in protest. But evidence of my still present strength did not even seem to phase this stranger. In fact, he even seemed slightly familiar.

I let out a slight gasp, and in nearly the same instant I began to feel my knees buckle. I crouched back toward my window, attempting to put anything in between us. My strength was leaving me, in fact my very consciousness felt like as though it would leave me. The cowered easily grabbed my wrists and pushed me to the ground. I scowled at him: the cook. He had obviously given me something to weaken my senses.

"Thank god. It looks like it finally worked. You know, you have an iron stomach. I've been slipping you sedatives for years, but nothing has worked. But I finally came up with something to give you a run for your money. The queen should reward me handsomely for this." I felt his lips brush at my neck and my organs protested fiercely. I felt as though every touch would make me puke. In spite of my protest my strength was not enough. I leaned my head back and looked to my sky. The lightning was dancing in the clouds and I felt like it was for me. If I would not allow myself to cry, then the sky, my sky would do it for me. I closed my eyes - resolved to hold onto my pride. Suddenly, just as the thunder boomed throughout the kingdom a loud crash broke through the gold-barred window. I shot my eyes open. I could see nothing. I hesitantly stretched my hand out, and I felt scales. I sat up slowly. The man who had been on top of me, had been thrown through the wall along with the mountain man. I stood and backed myself into a corner in surprise. Because there in my cage, my den, stood a silver-scaled dragon that filled every bit of space in the room. The lightning flashed in the distance and it reflected in his eyes as it turned to stare at me. My body still could not move, but even if it could I doubt the fear would let me. It moved its head close. I stared it strait in the eye, and noticed a playful gleam in its silvery color, it was a familiar gleam. One that had annoyed me for years.

"Your. How did this?" I started. I stretch out my hand, shaking slightly. "Who did this?" He took a strand of my hair and chewed on it teasingly.

"I'm the son of a witch. Didn't it cross your mind, that I know a thing or two about magic?" His voice didn't come through his mouth, it echoed through my mind. I rapidly brought my hands to my head in surprise. "I've come to get you." I stared dumbfounded.

"You've come to what?"

"I told you before. If you can keep your promise, you won't regret it." I felt my eyes sting with an unfamiliar sensation. I wiped away a salty drop of water. As if on cue, it began to rain outside. Like the sky was just as happy for me as I was. He helped me climb safely onto his back, and I grabbed two handfuls of his mane. "So, where do you want to go first."

I shook my head, two teardrops fell with the action. "Surprise me." And with, that he lifted his wings and threw us off the tower into the sky. MY sky. We drifted quickly into the clouds, and I saw multiple flashes of lightning pass us by. For a moment, I realized that the lightning was headed for the Tearza kingdom, if the legend was true, then something terrible would happen to the kingdom. But with a quick jerk, I was brought back to reality.

"You don't have to worry about anything." I was about to protest, until he said: "You have every right to be happy, and that's why I'm here." And with that we were out of the cloud banks and above the chaos. I saw the most beautiful full moon I had ever witnessed. I had never realized how compromised my vision had been behind those bars, until this moment. I held my dragon tightly, and for the first time in my life I said: "Thank You"

art, creature, and dragon image
So the dragon and his monster flew towards the moon…truly free…at last.