There was a beautiful princess. She grew up in a world of pink petunias, mauve moons, and fuchsia fireflies . Her hair trailed like golden mist while her laugh chimed like silver bells. She had a smile that outshone the stars and eyes like slivers of sky, with grace and humility to match.
Her father was a kind man, but was busy overseeing his kingdom. Her mother, as well, shared in courtly duties, so the princess was left under the tutelage of a strict etiquette teacher, with only the best of intentions for her. The Princess learned to act as a Lady, to curtsy, nod, laugh, and agree at the proper times. She was taught to be the perfect bride for the most handsome Prince, moving with angelic grace in the finest of layered silks and brocades.
None of this would save her.
She walked to her tutor’s cottage each day, singing and skipping along the way. She would traipse through a field of sapphire lilies, where the Riley twins would wave from the window of the flour mill. She would dance through the verdant grove, where she’d exchange pleasantries with Miss McMillan, whose sweetbreads would fill the air with the smells of berries and compassion. Children would weave her tiaras of daffodils, while the susurrus of the crystal waterfalls cooled the air. She would sing to the lonely endless canyon, hearing her voice echo back in perfectly timed harmony.
There was a part of the path, along the rocky edge, where she would see the amber skies push the sun below distant mountains. That burning sun seemed so far, as the dusk brought the fireflies to guide her way.
This was her routine, since was a wee little one, so far back she couldn’t remember not waving to the Riley’s, or talking to Miss McMillan. But this change of seasons brought a chill to the air, and from the Hills descended the wolves. Their cries carried through the dead of night, and came ever closer to the village.
She would walk the path, but the windows of the mill were shut. Miss McMillan no longer came out to collect berries, nor did her sweetbreads fill the air. The children weren’t let out to play, and the coldness took the skip from her step. She could hear the wolves, growling from the shadows, watching from afar. Her bright and beautiful dresses only drew their predatory eyes, and her song only drew them closer. She started walking hurriedly in silence, scared of the lupine threats.
Along the edge of the canyon, she found herself surrounded. Wolves at the front and the back taunted her, making her feel vulnerable and afraid. They advanced, drool dripping and claws scratching stone, breath hot and lewd, and she knew her song, her grace, her etiquette would not save her. She suddenly saw The Lie.
She needn’t be any Princess. She needn’t curtsy, pirouette, nor smile when called upon to do so. She needed no Prince, no man, nor woman, nor lover to rescue her. And upon realizing this, her dress fell away to reveal the scarred armor beneath. She found in her heart a sword, and chopped away her hair, and her song became a foreboding dirge of battle, echoed in haunting minor by the canyon’s abyss. The fireflies became a rain of flame, striking the ground around her, and the setting sun burst into explosive tendrils of doom. Her dark eyes fell upon these wolves, her smoldering fury and tempered strength palpable in the smoke-filled air.
The wolves backed away, fear evident in their eyes. Glancing at each other, tails between their legs, they realized they no longer held power over her. They could not look her in the eye, seeing the shame of their own sins reflecting in her blade. They suddenly seemed so small and meek, and beneath notice. She wondered why she ever noticed them at all. Her fire burned away the darkness and cold, and the wolves ran back to hide in their hills, never to be seen again.
And with a smirk, the little girl’s dreams of swords and songs kept her brave, and the cacophonous din of predatory bullies and catcalls by the abandoned grocery fell behind her. With a thought, she had grown from the princess she was told to be into the woman she knew she could be. And she held her schoolbooks close, held her head high, and never thought about them again, until the wolves, unheard and forgotten, disappeared back into the woods from which they came.
She became her own hero, and her sword lived within her for the rest of her days.