Beauty and the Corpse

by chris rhyanne

Once upon a time, there was a castle. A magnificent castle, where the tapestries were gold, and the occupants spent their days laughing and dancing. It was real castle - there was a king and queen, a whole hoard of maids and butlers, and even a magician to aid the people's ills from far around the land. All was well, all was peaceful, and all was happy. The king and queen ruled fairly, and the nobles were friends with the commoners. But all good times must come to an end eventually, and this happy place was no exception for the rules of life.

After a time, there was a prince born to the twenty-first king and queen; they loved him with all of their might, and he was adored by everyone. But the young prince was quite queer. From a young age, he preferred the black velvets to the fair silks, and strolled in the rose gardens in the light of the stars. His parents fretted over him, but he assured them that he was perfectly fine. He simply loved the darkness, and the finality of it. Indeed, he was just and righteous as any other young man, and soon was prepared to become a fine young king.

But alas, the prince was uninterested in politics. He was drawn to the field of magic, where the shadows were embraced with the light. It was such an interest that led to his exploring. He would wander under the castle into the catacombs where many a magical treasured laid. One day, he came across a peculiar bottle. Intrigued , he unthinkingly uncorked it, releasing a powerful witch, who was imprisoned there a thousand years ago.

The witch, furious after a thousand years of imprisonment, cursed the castle to its doom. It was torn from of the Land of the Living, and was cast into the Land of the Dead. Cries of agony were heard over the lands as the trees came alive and the inhabitants died. The witch banished the royal family to her cauldron's fire, sparing only the poor lad who had let her loose. She sentenced him to an eternity of darkness, living as neither man nor beast nor demon nor ghost. As a last taunting endowment, she told the young prince he could escape his punishment if he could win the heart of a young maiden; her hand -willingly given and equally returned - would save his life. She laughed as she set the curse in stone, flying back away to her tower in the far north, leaving the ruined castle behind her.

Now the castle still lies there, where the trees are alive and ghosts romp the woods. Skeletons roam the castle walls, tending to the corpse of a prince, waiting for some poor girl to come along and take his hand. Of course, everyone sent into the woods was never seen from again, and even master magicians and princesses disappeared without a trace. Some say the prince feeds his visitors into the cauldron where the witch boiled his family. Others say he starves them to skeletons in his dungeon, or binds them as enternal servants. Others say he simply eats them. Whatever anyone says, the Desolete Woods is a dangerous place to be, and a mistake to wander into.