Fairy-Tale Ending

And she lived happily ever after, with her wonderful Prince Charming in their perfect, pretty castle, and everything was good.

Yeah, right. Because no one ever doubts the fairy-tales. Because they're all true, right?

So what happens when the fairy-tale is wrong? What happens when the Prince Charming isn't actually so charming? What if he's actually a tyrant who only cares about how much stuff he has and doesn't pay any attention to what his subjects have? What do you do then?

Karla-Mae was that fairy-tale princess. Once a peasant, picked for her beauty by the Prince "Charming," Jasco, married that same day. Except she protested the entire time. She didn't think she was that pretty. She had long black hair and dark eyes, and she was hard and muscled from a life of hard work. She was skinny, of course, from not eating properly ever. But she was far from plain.

Still, even after being told that she was pretty, she protested. She didn't want to leave her home. She was never one to care about pretty dresses and such. That stuff didn't matter to her. She would rather have stayed at home and climbed trees and milk cows and do things like that. She didn't like royal people, and they didn't like her. Karla always had the opinion that the nobles had never worked a day in their lives and got money for it, while all the peasants did hard labor every day and grew poorer despite their work. She hated to think that she would have to be just like all the other spoiled brats if she were to marry into the royal family. But what Prince Jasco wants, Prince Jasco gets. This was why he was such a spoiled, rotten person.

You see, Karla-Mae was obsessed with her idea of a fairy-tale ending. She loved to listen to her papa telling fairy-tales when she was younger, and something about them always stuck with her. When she was very young, she decided that she would have a fairy-tale ending however she could get it. This was the only reason she decided that she would marry Jasco.

But as soon as Karla-Mae set foot in her new home, she could tell that she would hate it forever and that she had made a bad choice. This "home" was a very old, very dark, very hot and stuffy castle that was supposed to be beautiful. It wasn't. And Karla hated it.

Then again, so did everyone who entered the castle.

And they all still stayed there.

Because Jasco wanted them to, and so they did.

But Karla was different. She hated to do what she was told, so she decided that she would not listen to her new husband no matter what he did. She would not like him, she would not obey him, and she would not do anything she did not want to do.

"Karla!" she heard. It was Jasco, of course. Who else would it be? And besides, he had a deep voice, the kind easily heard from across the huge castle. It would be impossible to ignore it.

"Karla, you come here!" Jasco thundered. Karla, however, did her best to ignore him until he was right in her face. He made her look up at him.

"What do you want, Jasco?" she asked tiredly. "I'm busy here, in case you hadn't noticed." She had been going through and throwing away all the dresses that were covered in frills. They were just the kind of dresses that she would refuse to wear.

"You will not speak to me in that way," Jasco said. "I will not put up with it."

"You will not speak to me that way," Karla said, mocking him. "Whether I like it or not, I am your new wife and therefore, I will be treated with some respect."

"I was going to let you meet your new lady-in-waiting and her brother," Jasco said. "But now I'm not so sure I will. Instead, you may stay here in your room alone. Dinner will be in an hour, if you can find your way out." Karla rolled her eyes. He was threatening her with no dinner or companionship. Those were the least of her worries. She had always been good at finding her way out of tough situations. She was good at that sort of thing.

Making friends, however, was not a strong point with her. People never liked her sarcasm or cynicism. Most people didn't put up with her comments and meanness. So not having companionship in that castle didn't worry her.

No, she worried about things such as how she would get out of having to wear all those dresses and what she would do with her time. She didn't even worry about not having her dinner that night. At her home, more often than not, she never had dinner anyway. Not enough money and all that.

Jasco stomped out of her room and slammed the door on the way. Karla made a face at him once he was gone. Had any of her old friends been there, they would have noticed that she didn't make the face while he could see, and they would have thought that it was odd. But in truth, Jasco scared Karla a bit.

Karla went to the door and tried opening it. She didn't expect it to open. He had locked her in, which was what she figured he would do. So she searched around her room for another passage way or something. Everyone knows that whenever you're locked in your room, there's another way out somewhere. That's like, the law of fairy-tales. Nothing would ever happen if there weren't secret passageways like that. And sure enough, in the right corner of her room, covered by the wardrobe, was a door that led to some stairs. Probably the servant stairs, Karla told herself. She took them two at a time and ended up in the kitchen. An elderly woman looked up from where she was sitting and waved.

"Hello, Karla, dear," she said. Karla wondered if this was her fairy godmother or something. After all, it wouldn't have been much of a fairy tale without a fairy godmother.

"Hi," Karla replied shortly. She looked around and dusted off her skirt. She was still wearing her wedding dress, which was, by her town's standards, a very precious and expensive dress. But by the looks of the dresses she had already seen, it was very, very plain.

"Oh, now, don't be like that. Dear Master Jasco only has your best interests in mind," the old woman said.

"And who are you?" Karla asked.

"You may call me Nana," the old woman said. "I am to be your guardian here. My job is to help you with everything you could possibly need or want."

"Yeah…thanks, but no thanks," Karla said. "I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself." Nana chuckled.

"Of course you are, dear," Nana said gently. She sounded almost grandmotherly, as if she was talking to a small child who was insisting that she was able to fly. Karla scowled at her.

"You've nothing to scowl about, my dear. You will be perfectly happy here in this castle," Nana reassured her.

Somehow, I doubt that, Karla thought.

"Oh my, have you met Lacey yet? I bet you haven't," Nana said. "Master Jasco will have wanted you to find her on your own. I swear, as much as I love the boy, he really does have some pig-headed ideas sometimes. Come along, dear. We'll go find Lacey." Nana stood up and began walking at a brisk pace down the hallway leading from the kitchen to some other room in the castle. Karla rolled her eyes and considered going back up to her room, but then decided it wouldn't hurt to meet this Lacey character. She might be in need of a favor later anyway.

They walked for a while before coming to a set of doors. They were rather large, but they opened easily. Inside were rows and rows of books. Every wall was covered in books. There were shelves everywhere, all full of different books. Karla snorted. What use would she have for books? It wasn't like she could read. She got the feeling that she was supposed to be impressed by the large room, but all she could think was that only stupid nobles would waste their time doing something as stupid as reading.

In the center of the room, there was a small clustering of chairs. There was another girl sitting in one of the chairs there. She was small, and she had brown hair and green eyes. She looked very fragile. Nana walked up to her and tapped her shoulder.

"Lacey, darling? I have someone you might like to meet," she said. Lacey stood up and looked around before seeing Karla. She walked over to her and had to look up at her. She was really short.

"Hi! You must be Karla-Mae!" she said. Karla groaned.

"You're one of those chipper people, aren't you?" she asked. "The kind of people who won't stop talking and you're always happy, no matter what." Lacey nodded, her curls bouncing.

"Yep, I certainly am," she replied.

"I hate those kinds of people," Karla told her. She turned on my heel and made her way back to her room, miraculously not getting lost. Lacey followed her everywhere, and by the end of Karla's first year there in that castle, they had become great friends.

Also during that first year, Karla noticed just how horrible Jasco really was. She sat with him occasionally when he was in meetings with people. His right-hand man, Benji, usually talked to Karla during these meetings, trying to make them more enjoyable for her. But Jasco always called him away, as if he didn't want Karla to have fun. He never really cared for her; he just wanted to show off his bride. And Karla wouldn't put up with that. He had to resort to threatening her in order to get what he wanted. During those meetings, she would see just what he did to those poor townspeople, her friends, and her family.

He wouldn't give them more food, and he raised their taxes every few weeks. He was a very bad person, and eventually, Karla just couldn't stand it anymore. So she decided to do something.

Karla approached Jasco one night over dinner. He made it a habit to eat dinner with her at the long table in their dining room. He sat on one end and made Karla sit on the other end. It was an uncomfortable dinner, as they had to shout down the table in order to hear each other. Karla decided to give it a go anyway.

"Jasco!" she shouted. "Jasco, I need to talk to you about something!"

"What?" he shouted back. "Can you not see that I am eating, woman?"

"No, I can't. It might have something to do with the fact that you're all the way down there!" she mumbled to herself. Then, louder, she said, "It's about the townspeople!"

"Why must we discuss them over dinner? They make me lose my appetite," he complained.

"Because they matter? Because you're supposed to be taking care of them? Because you are their prince and as such, it is your duty to provide for them and make sure they are living?" Karla spouted off the reasons.

"They are just peasants like you. Why should they matter to me? You certainly don't matter to me, you're only here for your beauty and you know that well by now. Give me a good reason to listen to you, and maybe I will consider it," Jasco said.

"Because I'm your wife, even though neither of us particularly likes it, and you swore to me that you would listen," she told him. She was reasonably smug, because she had managed to outwit him yet again.

"You are not to speak to me. That's not your purpose here. I do not want to hear another word out of your mouth, young lady. Is that clear?" he asked. Karla smirked at him.

"Not another word, huh? Sure, sure. Whatever," she said. Jasco stood up from his end of the table.

"I am warning you, Karla-Mae. Not another word or I shall be forced into something that I'm not sure I'll regret doing," he threatened. Karla just looked at him.

"Help the townspeople, Jasco. I refuse to believe that you're that big of a jerk. I think there must be some sort of kindness in you," she said. Jasco started walking down the length of the table, his hands clenched.

"Again, I'm warning you. For the last time, you are to be seen and not heard. Remember that and shut your mouth," he said.

"Help them, Jasco, or I will," Karla said. At that point, he was at her side of the table and glaring down at her. He grabbed her arm and hauled her out of her chair. She struggled, but he hit the back of her head, knocking her out, and dragged her back to her room, where he threw her inside and closed and locked the door.

When Karla came to, she saw the faces of Nana and Lacey staring down at her. Karla had a horrible headache, and Nana gave her a painkiller for it.

"I'll kill him," she said. Nana and Lacey looked shocked, although Lacey looked a little less shocked than Nana.

"Child, I understand that you are disoriented and confused, but that is no way for a princess to talk, let alone about her prince. That is treason, my dear, and I'll not see you dead for saying it!" Nana scolded. "Not another word out of you!"

"Oh Nana, do you even know what he's done? You don't, do you? No, you think he's just the perfect ruler who gives everything to his people and nothing to himself. You can't tell me I'm wrong. But he's not like that, really, he's not. He takes everything for himself and no one else ever gets any of it. I know, I used to live like that. Nana, really, you must believe me!" Karla said. "I'm fairly sure that he'll only take even more away from them now that I've said something. Lacey, what am I going to do? I can't be the cause of all this misery for my friends."

"It's okay, Karla. I'll see if I can get Benji to talk to him about it, see if he can reason with him. But you know that everything Master Jasco does is for the good of the people, right?" Lacey said, shooting a meaningful look at the stern-looking Nana. Karla understood. That didn't mean that she would go down that easily, though.

"Oh, sure. Locking me in my room. Threatening me within an inch of my life. Starving my family and killing anyone who looks at him. Sure. Great. That's just the kind of thing that I need, because I know that's all in my best interest," she said. "Now seriously, I hate him. I'll kill him if I ever get the chance. No," she said, seeing Nana about to interrupt, "that's not a threat. That is a promise."

"Child, you better not ever say something like that again or I'll have to smack that smirk right off your cheeky face, and I won't feel a moment's remorse about doing it, either," Nana threatened. Karla's face darkened, and Lacey felt bad. Lacey hated "Master" Jasco not nearly as much as Karla, but she disliked him enough to understand what Karla felt. She was sorry they had to avoid saying what they wanted when Nana was there.

"Karla, come with me. I need to do your hair still," Lacey said cheerfully, trying to keep the enraged girl from doing something she'd regret later. She dragged Karla into the spacious bathroom and sat her down in a chair. She knew Nana was still listening outside the door, so she chattered on cheerfully about how one of the kitchen boys had smiled at her earlier that morning until Nana had left. It was then that Karla turned on her.

"Lacey, how could you let Nana say such things? Does she really not know what our charming prince is like? Has she never seen him before?" Karla asked. Lacey began brushing out Karla's long hair.

"Now Karla, you know we can't bad-mouth the prince in his own home," she started. Karla cut her off.

"Oh, like that's stopped me before. Please," she snorted.

"I know, but it could mean death for me and at the very least, you would be divorced and sent away to jail, if not killed yourself. I just want you to be careful," Lacey said.

"Like I care, Lacey! I don't care what Jasco does; it won't hurt me. I'll just get out of it anyway," Karla said. She was confident in her ability to get out of any situation that came her way. She had done it in the past, so by her reasoning, she should be able to do it again easily.

"Is that so?" came Jasco's voice from the doorway. Lacey stopped brushing Karla's hair at once and sank into a very deep curtsy before tugging Karla's dress and urging her silently to do so herself. Karla did not, and didn't even stand. Jasco noticed, and he narrowed his eyes.

"Lacey, leave us. I wish to have a word with my wife. Privately," he said, waving the girl off. Lacey stood up and, keeping her head bowed, left the room. She went into the hallway to wait for her friend.

"Now then," Jasco said when they were alone. "What's all this I hear about you promising to kill me? You know that's treason and I could have you killed for that, right?" He kept his tone light, but Karla detected menace underneath it.

"Of course," Karla said conversationally. She picked up her brush and continued brushing her hair where Lacey had left off.

"And this does not worry you as it should," Jasco observed. "It should, you know. I would have no problem doing away with you. The only problem would be how. It would have to be public, of course. It would not do to stab you in my home. I would need to make an example of you. Anyone who talks that way about their prince needs to understand the consequences."

"Well, you could throw me off the wall into the moat and let the alligators or whatever disgusting animals you keep in that rank thing eat me, and have an audience while doing so. Or you could hold a public hanging," Karla said. She was mocking him, but he didn't realize it.

"That I could. But I think I will not. You have such beauty that it would be a pity to waste it. I could, of course, just drive you insane here. I could torture you here as well," he said, searching her face for any sort of revulsion or fear. She didn't show any, so he hauled her up off of her chair and wrapped his hands around her neck. They weren't tight, she could still breathe, but he could snap her neck or strangle her in a moment's notice.

"I don't think you're showing the proper respect, dear wife," he snarled, and he started squeezing. She clawed at her throat and his hands, but he wouldn't let go. Karla saw that he meant business and would really and truly kill her there if she made one wrong move. So instead of giving him that chance, she brought her foot up and effectively brought him down. She dropped to the ground, gulping in giant breaths of air. When she could stand without collapsing again, she ran, locking Jasco in the bathroom from the outside.

In her time at the castle, she had found many hiding spots and secret passageways. She doubted even Jasco knew all about them, and the only other person she had told about them was Lacey. She knew Lacey would help her. So she screamed before running into the stairwell behind her wardrobe. Karla ran down the stairs and out into the kitchen, disrupting the kitchen staff but not stopping for anything. She ran into the great library and found the spot behind the bookshelves that led into another secret tunnel, which led to a secret room, which had many more secret tunnels leading to various parts of the castle branching off from it.

She stayed in the secret room until Lacey came to her.

"Oh, Karla, what happened to you?" she asked. There were marks on her neck where Jasco's hands had started to squeeze.

"He tried to kill me while you were gone," Karla said calmly. "And now I need to get out of here. Will you help me?"

"Of course I will! What do you need?" Lacey asked. Karla gave her a list of things she could get quickly and quietly to the inside of the walls guarding the castle. There was a passageway between the walls that Karla would be hiding in, and Lacey was to bring her the supplies she needed and then she was supposed to get out and get to some work so she wouldn't be accused of helping Karla.

They did this quickly and quietly, and soon they stood together in the passageway.

"Karla, I'm going to miss you so much!" Lacey said. She wiped at her eyes, and Karla gazed at her steadily.

"Don't worry about missing me, Lacey. Just worry about staying out of Jasco's little adoring cult he's created. Keep yourself safe, for me," Karla said, and offered Lacey a tissue. Lacey was bawling at that point.

"But…Karla, how can you be so brave? Where will you go? What will you do?" she asked.

"I can be brave because I know that if I want my fairy-tale ending, I've got to make it happen myself. I will go into the forest and live with some of the people there. I don't know what I'll do. Most likely plot the downfall of dear, dear hubby Jasco, I should think," Karla said.

"The forest? You can't go there; do you know the sorts of people in there? They would eat you! Or kill you! Or kill you then eat you! Karla, please say you won't go in there!" Lacey cried. Karla shushed her.

"Not so loud, Lacey! Do you want to give us away? By now, all the guards will be looking for me. And yes, I will go to the forest. Don't you dare try to tell me what I can or can't do," she admonished gently. Well, gently by Karla's standards. "It won't be that bad. Don't you trust me to take care of myself?"

"Of course I do," Lacey said. "Just…be careful. For my sake?" Karla nodded.

"I'll try. And I promise, one of these days, I'll be back and I will kill Jasco and no one will ever have to deal with that idiot ever again," Karla said. She turned to go, but Lacey latched on in one last hug. Karla gently pried her off, squared her shoulders, and left with her bag on one shoulder.

She traveled for a while until she no longer knew where she was, and then she stopped for lunch.

The leaves overhead rustled gently, and a dark figure dropped down behind her. Karla whirled around and backed up a bit. The figure walked towards her with a knife held out.

"Well, well, well. Lookie whats we gots here. A pretty youngin' whats lost in them woods, eh?" The figure- it was male, Karla was sure—asked. "Whatcha doin' here, sweets?" Karla backed up until she was back to back with a tree. The strange man kept walking towards her with the knife held out.

"I don't want any trouble," she said. "I just want to be away from my husband."

"Aww, what's a rich li'l lady like you want to be away from 'er husband for?" the man asked. "Looks ta me like you gots some good life back at yer home. Tell me, who's yer husband?"

"If I tell you, you'll kill me," Karla said. "If I don't tell you, you'll kill me anyway. Swear to me that you won't kill me and somehow prove to me that your word is worth something, and then I'll talk to you." Karla wasn't a fool. She knew what the people in that forest were like. She had grown up around folks like that. She knew that defending herself would be a challenge, but if she proved herself in the first few minutes, he wouldn't harm her.

"Ah, yer a smart one. Too bad, li'l lady. I cain't do that. You tell me who's yer husband an' we'll see if'n I can let ya live," the man said.

"You tell me your name first," Karla said. She hated the way her words sounded next to his. They sounded too proper. Too nice. Too…castle-bred. Everyone at her home had sounded like this man, and yet somehow, she had managed to speak properly.

"Gimme a good reason ta do that," the man said.

"Because if you don't, I won't tell you who my husband is," Karla said.

"You forget, I'll just kill ya. I dun need to know, ya know," the man told her.

"But you're curious. And that curiosity will build and build until you have to know. Curiosity is a strange thing like that," Karla said. She wouldn't go down without a fight. "So tell me your name first, and what exactly you plan to do, and then I'll tell you who I am and why I'm here. Because you know that no sane girl would go into the woods on her own without a good reason."

"Okay, okay. M'name's Kaval. I plan ta kill ya if ya dun have a good reason fer bein' out here," the man- Kaval- said.

"My name is Karla-Mae, and I'm out here because my husband, Prince Jasco, tried to kill me. I plan to go back and kill him as soon as I can," Karla said. Kaval looked shocked for a moment before he got himself under control.

"So…yer the princess, then?" he asked.

"I am," she said.

"Yer right, I woulda killed ya if I had known that. I hate that man more'n anyone else," Kaval said.

"So would I have your help if I was to go back and kill him sometime?" Karla asked. Kaval looked deep in thought for a few seconds.

"Depends. What's in it fer me?" he asked. Karla grinned.

"You and I are going to get along just fine," she said. Kaval invited her home with him to meet his friends, and she went along. It had been her plan to find some people she could stay with, because staying in the forest alone was suicide. Any number of people could come along and kill without a second thought.

Karla went along and met all his friends, but one in particular stuck in her mind. Her name was Charmaine, and she was an assassin. She had a gypsy-like look to her, and her accent was one that Karla had never heard before. Charmaine was nearly as cynical and sarcastic as Karla was, and it was like they were twins separated at birth. They had incredibly similar personalities. Charmaine was skeptical of the princess when Kaval first introduced her, and she had no problems letting her know that.

"So tell me, princess, have you ever done a real hard day's work? Have you ever slept on the ground? Have you lived in poverty, in the dirt? Has your pretty little face ever been dirty? Your tender soft hands hard?" she asked.

"So tell me, assassin, have you ever milked a cow? Have you ever hauled water? Have you ever lived on less than fifty cents a day? Have you ever lived on the tiny sips of water you get when your baby brothers and sisters aren't drinking? Have you ever almost been strangled for voicing your opinion? Have you ever been threatened into obedience?" Karla retorted. "Are you kidding me? I lived in poverty from the day I was born until I was nineteen, until last year. You know how cruel the prince is, but that's nothing compared to what I went through at his castle. Sure, I got nice clothes, and okay, I did have some somewhat decent food, but it all came at a cost. Don't you dare ever say anything like that to me again."

"Good. I wouldn't have a stuffed-up little princess living in the same camp as I do," Charmaine replied. Over the next few days, Karla learned that Charmaine only became an assassin because her family needed the money. And as it turned out, the nobles paid quite a large sum for her to kill someone on the road traveling. She hated her job, but she was good at it, and it paid the bills for her family as well as keeping her safe and somewhat comfortable.

Kaval was a young boy when he first started thieving, Karla found out. He had been orphaned at age five, and nearly put to death at age thirteen. He had escaped then, and lived in the forest ever since, in Charmaine's camp. Charmaine let him stay with her because he was so good at what he did, and eventually they came to be best friends.

Karla was lucky. There must have been at least ten people in that camp, so if one of them didn't like her, none of them would like her. But everyone enjoyed her company and she soon felt right at home in the forest, and learned to move silently through the tree-tops. Charmaine decided that if she was indeed going to kill Jasco, she needed to know how to use weapons. Karla was again lucky. Charmaine was a patient teacher, and Karla found that she was very good at throwing knives.

Three years passed in the blink of an eye before Karla decided that it was time to go back to Jasco. Charmaine gave instructions to another boy who would look after the camp while she was gone, and then Karla, Charmaine, and Kaval set off for the castle. It didn't take long to find. When Karla had first run into the woods three years earlier, she had run in circles before Kaval found her, and so they weren't too far from the edge of the woods.

"I have been waiting so long for this moment, you don't even know," Charmaine said when they glimpsed the castle for the first time.

"My thoughts exactly," Karla said.

"Ditto," Kaval said, because he felt like he should add something.

They reached the walls of the castle, and Karla showed them the way inside. They were all as silent as they could be, because they would be dead instantly if any guard caught sight of them. They might not recognize Karla, but there was the chance that they would, even though she was dirty and covered in forest. Any intruder found in the castle grounds was brought before Jasco, and Jasco would immediately order their deaths, no matter what the reason for their trespassing was.

The three searched quietly via secret passageway throughout the castle for Jasco. Finally they found him in the library, and they hid quietly while they listened to him speak.

"Lacey! Lacey come here now," they heard him say. Karla peeked out of her hiding spot at the mention of her old friend's name. She saw Lacey go to Jasco and kneel by his chair.

"Lacey, are we having company over for dinner tonight or are we dining alone again?" he asked her.

"We are alone, sir," Lacey said quietly. She kept her head bowed.

"Then you will meet me in the dining hall at five o'clock sharp. You may go," he said, waving her away again. Karla drew in her breath sharply and hoped that Jasco hadn't done what she thought he did.

"Yes sir. I shall see you then…my husband," Lacey said. She stood again and curtsied and backed away slowly with her head still bowed. Karla flew out of her hiding spot and tackled Jasco quickly in a rage.

"You…you…how dare you?" she cried, sitting on Jasco's chest. She heard Charmaine cry out at her, and she heard her two companions come up behind her to help.

"How dare you? How dare you marry her? What has she ever done to you that you must torture her by wedding her?" Karla asked as she stared down into the face that had scared her so much once. She watched as Jasco struggled for breath and words to say, and laughed as he coughed and struggled against the weight on his chest.

"You…how did you come back? You're dead," he said. Then he laughed. "Terribly sorry, my dear, but when you were presumed dead, I had to marry quickly to maintain my image. Lacey here was the only one around, and although she is far from beautiful, I have made do with her." Karla felt her face growing red with rage. She considered punching his throat, but then thought that while it would be fun to watch him die of suffocation from a broken windpipe, it would be much more satisfying if she drew it out for a bit. Give him a taste of what he put her and her townspeople through and such. She punched Jasco's face instead, making his head roll to one side.

"That's for the torture you put me through," she said. She aimed another one and broke his nose. "That's for the torture you're putting Lacey through." She backhanded him, whipping his head the other way. "That's for what you've done to my family and friends." She backhanded him again. "And that's for everything else you've done."

"Karla, what are you waiting for? We have a job to do, and if you won't do it, I will," Charmaine said. She knew the guards would have heard the squabble already, and while they weren't paying attention to it then, they would soon.

"I want to make sure he knows exactly how long I've been waiting for this moment, Charmaine. Give me a minute," Karla said. Jasco started laughing.

"Oh. Oh, you plan to kill me here now," he said, still laughing. It was a disgusting sound because his nose was gushing blood. "Oh, that is too good. You know that by killing me, you're signing your own death warrants. You'll never get that fairy-tale ending you've always dreamed of, Karma."

"It's Karla. And this is my fairy-tale ending, Jacko," she said, purposely mangling his name. She pounded his face, hoping to mangle him so he couldn't speak to her anymore.

"And you…other girl. You'll never live to be what you wanted to be. And you there, boy, you'll die young, with nothing to show for your life except a pair of dirty pants and the shirt on your back," Jasco said, wheezing from the beating he was taking from Karla. Both of them responded with muttered I don't care's and So what's?

"Well, I certainly hope you feel accomplished. But I hope you know this: As soon as I'm gone, another ruler just as good as I am will step up and continue my legacy. And as soon as that one is gone, another will step up. And so on, and so on. No one cares about the townspeople. They're just pawns to be used how we wish. Not one of them has a mind of their own, not one of them has anything to live for. And every noble person here knows that," Jasco said.

"Charmaine, Kaval, go run and hide. Meet me down by the wall where we came in, okay? I'm going to finish here, and I'll be right down," Karla said calmly. Inside, she was furious at Jasco, but to let him see that would be too much for her to handle. Charmaine and Kaval ran into the passageway again and when she couldn't hear them anymore, Karla took a knife from her belt and held it to Jasco's throat. It was then that she heard the fall of footsteps outside the door, and then Benji and Lacey and a couple of guards came in. Benji looked at the bloody mess on the floor and at the girl sitting on top of her husband with a knife to his throat.

"No!" he shouted, and threw himself at her, knocking her off balance and making a shallow cut on Jasco's throat where the knife slipped. Benji knocked her head against the floor.

"Lacey, don't look!" he growled. Lacey turned away and one of the guards escorted her out of the room. Karla took advantage of Benji's head being turned, and kicked out at him, pushing him off of her and launching herself at Jasco again. Benji grabbed at her waist and managed to latch on to her, but not before Karla buried her knife in Jasco's chest.

Jasco wheezed once more before shuddering and dying. Karla stood up and pulled her knife out of him and wiped the blood off on his shirt. She stood over him, bloodstained and smiling, and laughed.

The guards came to Benji's aid then, when he waved them over, and yanked Karla's arms painfully behind her back. She was still laughing and let them do it. Her purpose had been fulfilled; she didn't care if she was captured anymore. Benji stood up carefully and tore the knife out of her hand and pressed it to her throat. Lacey barged back in then, and stopped suddenly. One of the guards kicked Karla's knees out painfully, and she cried out, crumpling. She stayed there on her knees, with Benji still pointing her own knife at her, until Lacey managed to say something.

"Karla, what's happened to you? How…you…" she said, then started crying again.

"Lacey! Lacey, he's dead! I told you I would do it, didn't I? Now none of us have to deal with him ever again!" Karla said, laughing. Lacey looked at her with revulsion.

"Did you have to do it so cruelly, though? Much as I hated him, he didn't deserve that," Lacey said. Karla laughed again.

"Oh, Lacey. I did it for your sake as well, you know. No woman should have to deal with that pig of a man. The things he did to me…you don't know, Lacey, you don't…" Karla said.

Benji slapped her and pulled her head back, exposing her throat.

"Stop that. Don't you see what you're doing to her?" he asked. "Jasco may have done a few things you don't like, but he was your prince and your ruler, and you should not have done those things. You deserve much worse than what I'm going to do to you, Karla. You disgust me." With that, he drew the knife across her throat swiftly but not deeply. It was just a big enough cut to make her bleed profusely, but not big enough that she died instantly.

It was a painful death, slow, and Karla screamed until her voice broke, blood bubbling at her lips.

"Karla, what about your fairy-tale ending?" Lacey asked right before she died. "Because of this, you'll never get it."

"This…is my fairy-tale ending," Karla said. She laughed once more, and then her eyes rolled back in her head and she went completely limp. Lacey screamed and ran to her friend.

Benji, meanwhile, was staring down at the knife in his hand. It was coated with two layers of blood, and he couldn't believe that he had just killed the woman his sister was best friends with. He saw, as if looking down on the scene from the ceiling, himself staring at the knife and at the body, and he saw Lacey running towards the body that the guards still clutched. He saw the tears on his sister's face, and he couldn't believe what he had just done. He looked at the body of his former prince, and couldn't believe what Karla had just done. He dropped to his knees and straightened Jasco's body out, letting Lacey take care of Karla's body. He wiped the blood away from Jasco's face and neck with his own shirt, which was already bloodstained from Karla. Tears fell down his face as the realization hit him: he had killed a woman.

The guards carried Karla's body down to the moat and were about to throw it in, but Lacey stopped them.

"Stop!" she said. The guards looked at her in confusion, so she went on. "I am your new princess, as I was Jasco's wife and he had no heir. As the only relation left to him, that makes me your princess. So you will heed my wishes, no matter what your opinion on them are. We will hold a proper burial for her, and then one for Jasco. You will all go off duty today, as I don't want anyone further harmed. Explain to your wives that you have the day off for mourning if you wish. I don't care. I will keep two guards around me, but that is all. I know Karla had help in killing my former husband, and I believe that it would be your former princess's wish that they escaped freely. Therefore, you are not to arrest anyone strange found on the grounds for the next day. Now, take Karla's body to be prepared for the funeral, and then you may go."

Nearby, in the wall, Charmaine and Kaval heard everything Lacey said. Charmaine wiped tears away from her face and turned to Kaval. Without speaking, they understood what they would do. They turned around and went back to the castle.

Lacey stayed in her rooms, what were once Karla's rooms, for the rest of the day. She heard the door to the passageway behind the wardrobe open and close once, and she saw two dirty people standing in the middle of her room when she turned around. She eyed them warily. Charmaine held her hands out, showing that she didn't mean any harm.

"We…would like to say goodbye to Karla, if that isn't too much trouble, miss," Charmaine said.

"You are the two who helped Karla kill my husband?" Lacey asked. Kaval nodded.

"Please, may we say goodbye? She sacrificed herself for us, and I would like to honor that. We'll leave if we can't…we heard what you are doing for us, and we would not like to intrude," Charmaine said.

"Of course you may. You helped set the townspeople and everyone in this castle free. You gave Karla her fairy-tale ending, although it isn't what she expected. You made her happy. Of course you can say goodbye. I will even personally escort you," Lacey said. They left the room and the guards who had been standing outside the doors followed them, giving each other puzzled looks, but saying nothing.

When they reached Karla, she was lying on a table, dressed prettily in a white dress with her hands folded over a rose on her stomach. Charmaine walked over to her and kissed her bruised cheek, stroked her hair, and whispered goodbye to her friend, and Kaval kissed her forehead and thanked her for what she did. Then they walked out of the castle and left the grounds, with a nod of thanks to Lacey.

When they left, Lacey walked over and sat next to Karla.

"Karla…even in death, you're still your naturally gorgeous self," Lacey said. She sniffed and wiped her eyes, smiling. "If only you had lived to pass that on to your children." She paused, trying to think of something to say to her friend.

"I wish you were still alive. Why were you so stupid? Why couldn't you have been happy where you were? I thank you for freeing us all from Jasco, but did you have to go and die on me? I promise I'll try to do better than he did, at least for your sake. And…I miss you. I love you," Lacey said, finally deciding on words to use. "I want you to be here with me. You should be here today, not me. I'm not built for ruling. You…even though you were only a filthy peasant at first, you're really a princess. I…wherever you are, I hope you're happy. I really hope you truly did get your fairy-tale ending." With that, she said her goodbyes and left Karla alone.

Benji took care of treating Jasco as a prince should be buried and created a long speech about how Jasco was the greatest prince the kingdom had ever had, but there was hardly anyone at his funeral to hear him. Jasco's funeral was held on the south side of the castle, which was hidden in the shadow of the castle. In the end, he ended up alone at Jasco's grave before going to visit Karla.

"I'm sorry I killed you," Benji said, standing over her casket. "I was not wrong to do it, but I still feel sorry. We will miss you, Karla-Mae."

There were over one hundred people at Karla's funeral. By the time the funeral was over, there wasn't a dry eye in the courtyard, which was the most beautiful part of the castle and thus where the funeral was held. Everyone wept for the beautiful heroine.

Several years later, a small girl walked through the town's main road, swinging her arms and skipping. She skipped to the town center, which was much nicer than it used to be eleven years ago. The girl stopped in front of the statue that was in the center, and sat on the bench by it.

"Hi, Aunt Karla," the girl said. "Do you know who I am? I'm your niece, Alissa. I wanted to say thanks, because Mommy says you saved the town. Mommy told me that you used to live here one time, but I think she's making that part up, because you were a princess, right? Mommy said that you could hear me, wherever you are. I believe that part. Besides, you killed that mean Jasco guy, so you must be able to do anything!" Alissa paused for a moment, thinking about what it was that she wanted to say.

"Mommy also said to tell you that she misses you a lot. She said that everything in the kingdom is going well, thanks to you. I can't remember what else I was going to say, but I want you to know that you're my hero, and I want to be just like you when I grow up," Lacey's daughter said. She swung her legs a couple of times, looking up at the great statue of her "aunt." Alissa hopped down and went up to the statue and hugged it.

"Why are you hugging that statue?" another girl asked. She was standing a little behind Alissa and had a daisy in her fist.

"Because this is my Aunt Karla and she died," Alissa said proudly. She hopped down.

"No way! That's my Aunt Karla too!" the other girl said excitedly. "Who are you?"

"I'm Alissa, and my mommy is the princess, which makes me a princess too. Who are you?" Alissa asked.

"I'm Carmen, and my mommy helped Aunt Karla kill that guy," said Carmen. "Nice to meet you."

"Whoa, your mommy is Charmaine? Wow!" Alissa said.

"Yep. I was just gonna give this flower to Aunt Karla before I go to the candy shop. Do you wanna come with me?" Carmen asked.

"Okay!" Alissa replied. Carmen got up and hugged the statue as well before putting the flower in Karla's outstretched hand. She jumped down and ran down the street.

"Come on, Alissa!" she called.

"One minute," Alissa said. She stopped and looked at the statue again.

"I love you, Aunt Karla," she said. Before leaving, she stared down at the plaque and read it aloud:

This Is Her Fairy-Tale Ending.

This is the story I wrote at SHI Shawnee State this year. Let me know what you think.