by Brad Ruxton
There were bars on her window. With her elbows on the rough stone sill,
she stared out over the vista. The kingdom – her kingdom
– covered many leagues and stretched to the foot of the far mountains
untill the houses seemed like specs.
A painting of her father smiling beneath his crown adorned her wall.
Darts stuck from both his eyes and his image was dotted with tiny
holes. She could not bring herself to look at him.
Princess Petrosinella had incredibly long hair the colour of beaten
gold. Her eyes were blue, her dress blood red. She groomed her hair,
easing a whalebone comb through its soft length.
Her father (with the help of a sorceress) had trapped her in here then
died. So, no one knew why she had been locked up in the first place. It
was so cruel and stupid it was almost comical. Petrosinella had tried
to learn magicks to help her escape but her tongue tangled the
incantations rendering them just useless words.
The gurgling of her stomach filled the room.
Petrosinella covered her belly with both hands. Her tower had no latch,
no conveyer or pulley system and so she was always hungry. And when she
was hungry, she sang.
Her voice rung down from her high tower. It was clear as ice, haunting
like the howl of wind through open doors. Peasants and laypeople
stopped to look up then shuffled quickly away. Her voice tumbled over
the thatch roof buildings and parsnip fields. It reached all the way to
the church on Highbridge Lane. The pastor shuttered his window.
When Petrosinella was done her stomach gurgled with fierce hunger.
“Fair lady!” a voice echoed from below.
Petrosinella pressed her face against the bars and peered down. When
she saw the gallant man, she licked her lips. He was dashing with tight
green leggings and matching tunic. His boots were black, his horse a
chestnut brown rearing beside him. He had a little trouble hitching the
post to tie his beast as the creature tugged away. When his job was
done, he called to her. “Pray tell fair lady, what be your name?”
“I am Princess Petrosinella.”
“I am not from these lands. Why is such a voice singing from so high a
“I am trapped. My father placed me here but passed on before he told me
why. So now I wait for a sign that I may leave.”
The man might have smiled, he was too far away to tell. “Well fair
lady,” he begun, “it just so happens I am your sign.”
The man searched the foot of the tower. He actually scratched the top
of his head and it made Petrosinella giggle. “Kind knight, this tower
is bewitched. It has no entrance way, even crawling creatures fall from
“Then how am I to reach you? How am I too see the origin of this
“If I give you my hair you could use it to scale the tower. Though I
warn you it is a dangerous journey, many men have fallen to their death
trying to reach me.”
“Fair lady let down your hair!” the man said, his
tone indicating he thought this was some jest.
Petrosinella uncoiled the entirety of her hair, careful to wrap it
around two bars first (she had learned the hard way that it needed a
hitch elsewise the weight of the man would pull her against the bars
painfully). She rubbed her forehead at the memory.
The golden tangle slithered down the tower, easily a hundred feet long
it stopped prettily before the man. “Fair lady … some spell has been
cast upon you.”
“Yes,” Petrosinella said, “it is dangerous to come up here good Sir, I
would not ask it, but my window may only be opened from the outside. An
ingenious latch that is as cruel as it is effective. I beg of you Sir,
please scale my tower and set me free.”
The man rubbed his chin as if deciding whether to attempt the climb.
“I would be forever in your favour and endeavour to repay you in any
“Very well. Julien, I shall return,” he said bidding his horse goodbye.
The man begun to climb. It took him a few attempts to get it right but
once he had the trick (coil the hair around his foot to form a soft
hold) he raced up to meet Petrosinella.
“Fair lady your hair smells like a fleshers shop. Part of the witchery
“I’ve been ever so lonely,” Petrosinella called out, ignoring his
observation, “and ever so hungry.”
“For what reason do you believe your father placed you under this
confinement without hope of egress?”
Petrosinella drew circles in the dust with the tip of a carving knife.
“At our family manse all the kennelmaster’s dogs were vanishing. When a
stable boy turned up flayed, Father blamed me, claimed I had been born
on the eve of a thunderstorm and was an ill omen.”
The man could not respond, the effort it took to scale the tower was
too taxing. After ten minutes a red face appeared at her window. He was
comely, with an angular face and soft features doused with sweat. “Fair
lady, you are the most radiant creature I have ever laid eyes on,” he
said between gasps for breath.
“The latch is just there,” Petrosinella said and pointed, her other
hand hidden behind her back.
The window was lifted, the man clambered inside. He dusted his green
tunic and bowed low. “My lady, I am known in all three countries as
Piper the Pretty of the Catskill Mountains. I am to be knighted one
sennight from now by his excellency Sir Beauchamp of…” his voice
trailed off to nothing as he scanned her tower room. The flush drained
from his face.
“My lady … what are all these skeletons doing in your room?”
Petrosinella licked her lips.
“Why … all the bones have been picked clean…” The window bars slammed
The knife appeared from behind her back. “I am ever so hungry…”
© 2021 Brad Ruxton
Bio: "I am a twenty-seven-year-old Australian who recently
graduated from university with a degree in English. I am easy-going and
personable with a penchant for suspense, horror and bad endings of all
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