I love the idea of taking the common conceptions of these characters and putting them down a darker road. It's so much more interesting, in my mind - to explore the darkness. So this was born of my creepy little imagination. Let me know what you thought in the comments and if these stories are something you'd want to read more of. I have a few more twisted ideas.
After the Dawn
“No, Mother, don’t make me go, please.” She clung to her mother’s arms but the woman would not embrace her.
“You have to; I can’t get you out of the kingdom.” The queen looked into her daughter’s eyes, so full of defeat. “If they think you’re dead they won’t touch you, it’s not their way.”
“But you can drink the potion, too.”
She shook her head. “No, I’m sorry. My first job is to protect the people.”
From below the clinking of footsteps alerted them to the battle below and she clung tighter to her daughter, pulling her behind her back. A knight in shining armour appeared at the top of the stairs. “Your Majesty.”
“Phillip.” The princess cried out, running into her fiancé’s arms. He enveloped her instinctually but caught the queen’s eye over her shoulder.
“Phillip what is it?” She asked cautiously.
Reluctantly, the knight shook his head, the metal pinching and striking against his skull. “There are bandits behind me. There’s no time left.”
The princess pulled back to stare into his eyes; those sweet, trusting eyes he’d fallen in love with. “Don’t make me drink the poison.” Her voice was so small, so scared. He melted with a sudden need to envelope her and never let go.
“You have to. I can’t lose you.”
“Don’t forget me?”
“I could never forget you.” He smiled, forgetting himself in the moment. “You have my heart.”
He kissed her sweet and slow, pulling her against him in a rough embrace that broke when the queen growled “there’s no time for that” and rushed to her daughter’s side. “Quickly. You must lie on the bed and drink the potion.” With a last hug the princess reluctantly obeyed, scooting to the middle of the bed and covering herself with a silken sheet.
From somewhere closing in the sounds of warrior cries and clinking metal could be heard. Phillip headed down the stairs without a single look behind him. She called out to him but the queen, with a stern look and a knee by her daughter’s chest, kept her quiet. “None of that. He’s doing his job and now so must you.” She pressed the small vial into the princess’s hands. “You must drink the potion so it can take effect before the enemy gets their hand on you.” In a single breath, she softened and tried to smile at her daughter. “I wish there was another way.” And then the queen was gone.
Left alone, the princess watched a battle rage against the shadows on the stared and she looked at the vial in her hand. “I love you.”
He ascended the stairs carefully, time having crumpled the stone at his feet. Slowly, slowly he wound the stair, holding his breath for whatever lay there. It had been a long, hard battle and he’d barely survived but he did. For her. He never forgot the promise he gave to his princess and he would finally fulfill it. But when he reached the top of the stair, he paused at the sight of her.
More in shock than awe, he stepped into the light and looked at his princess – the beauty of the kingdom – and stood over her rotting, mangled corpse.
Her flesh was hanging from her bones, sunken into the spaces left by her most vital of organs. Her right cheek had been picked to the bone by birds, bare to the eye, scraps of her ear lying on the pillow beside her. Her bottom lip had been cut bare bit by bit until her rotting teeth were all that was left of her jaw. A dozen ants crawled over the thin, silken sheet covering what could only be a skeleton, carrying bits of unaccounted flesh back to their nest at her feet. What was left of her beauty was black and bruised, frost bitten and burnt with the seasons, dried and cracked to the touch. So thin he could see her still heart just beneath the surface. Taunting her in her death.
He swatted at the swarm of flies burrowing into the blue eyes he’d once fallen for. Now her one remaining eyelid was picked raw and black. The other eye, bare and swollen, stared at him from the mouth of hell.
With a shaking hand he uncorked the potion, the antidote that would cure her of her death. He paused, the bottle just over her lip. He had been gone too long; he never realized what would happen in the darkness and now he hesitated. Should he bring her back? The words of the dearly departed queen echoed in his head through the walls of the crumbling tower. Save her.
He tipped the poison over her lips and he stared into her eye as he watched breath return. No life returned but the breath of her beating heart beneath the thin layer of skin. Her eye flew open with a crunch and found his in an instant. His heart stopped as she stared at him with an intensity that shook the world.
He gasped and gagged when her hand flew out to grasp his throat with a strength that seemed inhuman. He held her hand weakly, feeling the frail muscle where her flesh should have been. He squeezed her wrist and felt the crack of bone but she pressed harder into his throat until he saws stars.
“You’re late.” Her voice wasn’t her own; not the sweet, melodic voice he caught singing in the garden all those summers ago. This was the voice of one whose throat was coated with decay. Whose mouth had not felt the pleasure of nourishment in too long. He held tighter to her wrist, hoping to dispel some pressure but she squeezed harder and pressed her bones into his flesh.
“I’m sorry” he gasped, digging into her muscles, catching bits in his fingernails while she lay in bed, her eyes glowing dark.
“Sorry? I felt every bug, every bird, every worm crawling through my body. I can still feel them now.” He watched her bottom teeth scrape against her upper lip as she spoke, working her jaw while a beetle crawled off her tongue at a leisurely place and travelled down off the bed. He would have shuddered had he the capacity to breathe. “You betrayed me. You left me here to die.”
“No…” The last of his life drained from his body as he crumpled to the floor.
She was left again in the silence. Her dearest friend. Blindly she sat up, leaving her back behind, her head swimming with a thousand years. She’d grown numb to her prison long ago but the headache – the blinding light – was something new. With a deep, angered moan she grabbed her head but pulled back the remains of her curled blonde hair, limp and lifeless in her hand. The last thread of her vanity cried out and was dispelled into the air, gone forever; replaced with indifference to this new world around her.
A strength that wasn’t her own pulled her from the bed, dragging her feet over the stone floor to the last window in the tower. In the glow of the afternoon sun, one could see clear through her and her think nightgown that had been eaten away by moths and insects. A shadow of the woman she once was. The sunlight burnt her eyes but she couldn’t close them so she looked down over the valley. Against the backdrop of the bright spring morning, green with envy at the sun’s light, she stared out.
It was all gone. Every last trace of the life that was had been erased from the surface of the earth, leaving green; leaving lush pastures with no one to tend to them. Leaving her tower as the only standing structure to the edge of the hills across the valley. It was all gone.
It was the raiders. It was the men who took her mother. They burned the kingdom to the ground for the sake of their treasure. She was alone.
With a whimper she brought her hand to her hand to sooth away the pounding behind her eyes, the desperate need to rid the world of its evils. The flesh she felt in place of her hair was all the darkness she needed.
“I’m sorry, Mother.” She whispered to the wind. “I will have my revenge.”
With heavy limbs she slowly turned around, looking down at her former fiancé. She scraped her feet across the floor, leaving piece of herself behind as she approached the man who once held her heart. She didn’t pause, she didn’t – couldn’t – blink. She reached down with spasming fingers from apparent nerve damage and plucked the sword from his waist. The weight of it dragged her across the room with slow determination. Hair pieces hung limply at her sides, her left eye barely holding in place.
Slowly, slowly she made her way towards the stairs, the world drowned out by the beating behind her eyes. Her hands were covered in the blood of the flesh that was left behind and dripped down the hilt of the sword as she dragged it behind her.
She took a step *clink* another step down the crumbling stairs *clink* the sword followed dutifully behind her, waiting for its purpose. Waiting to strike the deadly blow to make the world just like her.