Once upon a time, on a remote and gilded land, lived a young Princess whose name has
been lost through the passages of time. Her beauty was said to be unsurpassed, with hair every color of the setting sun, and eyes so bright that on the day of her birth, the sun became the golden rays of envy.
The kingdom grew and so did she, as the tiny slip of a Princess would turn her mornings to nights playing in the forest, chasing the chivalrous moon with her feral friends. She preferred the company of the animals you see, for their love was more pure and true than any of the men who fought ceaselessly to conquer her heart and wear the crown.
Brutes, beggars, scoundrels,” she grumbled to herself and she brushed them aside as if they were a stray hair refusing to stay in its place. She would have none of them, and they only left her feeling more alone and unhappy with each passing day.
After some years had passed, and the seasons began to change the landscape from the blues and greens of summer to the brilliant auburns and gold’s of autumn, an old gypsy wandered towards her kingdom. Thirsty and tired from his long journey, his eyes captured a cure for his brittle bones. His face lit up into a smile and carefully he crossed to meet the shore of what was called the Holy Waters. Slowly he kneeled down, and began to drink from its tranquil blue. Unbeknownst to him, this was a terrible crime in the kingdom. The legend was told that the Holy Waters became angry with the people for abusing its life force, and took its vengeance upon their noble King, drowning and dragging him kicking furiously in terror to the dark depths below. From that day forward, no one was to drink from the Holy Waters, lest a terrible curse would befall the land! When the commoners stumbled their vision upon the man's healthy quench, they gasped in horror and ran to capture the aimless rogue, bringing him before their royal court.
The Princess, scoffing at such old and silly tales, gracefully walked to the tattered old gypsy and inquired as to his reasoning. In a soft and gentle voice she asked, "Why do you drink from the Holy Waters, Sir Gypsy? Are you not afraid of the curses that await your fearless thirst?" His eyes met hers with a kind of stoic endearment that touched her heart and quietly replied, "What is the point of such a magnficent lake sweet Princess, if one cannot drink of its purity, or swim within its beautiful face? This my child is the truest of all curses!"
His wisdom that beautiful summer day would echo from the lips of many wise men, but not on this day. On this day she was their Princess, and the law was set down before her time to carry with honor. She would not yield, and imprisoned the gypsy at the top of the watchtower by the Old Sea. The Princess watched curiously as the old man was tossed in to a make shift prison cart and taken away. Yet, his words intrigued her as they burned through her thoughts and questioned her reality. Try as she might to ignore his subtle truth, her curiosity prevailed and by nightfall she was dancing with the winds as she walked the dark path that led to the tower.
Drenched in sea spray and chilled to her bones, the Princess quietly made her way up the old spiral staircase and on to the tiny landing that led to the old mans cell. There was little light except when the moon came dancing by and waved through the windows where the soldiers cased for the enemy. She walked with tender care, adjusting her sight as her hand reached for the cold mossy walls. "Come child, there is no burden within the darkness, there is only the sound of an old man’s tired voice.” Without hesitation she followed his words until she made it to the bars of his cell. Finally her eyes made out his shape in the darkness, and with a sigh she scooped the plumes of her dress into her arms and sat on the cold damp floor.
This was to become the first of a many long nights spent on that floor of sand and hay, quietly listening to magical tales of travels across foreign and distant lands. His words created visions of endless mountain peaks and long winding rivers. Battles of old and long lost lovers skipped hand in hand, coming together in perfect harmony, as if their polarity were but a parody for his gypsy born soul to behold.
His mysterious tales of unknown lands and black stone sea shores, soon convinced her that she would die of sorrow if she were never given the freedom to experience these adventures for herself. "Oh Sir Gypsy, how can I escape this royal debt and be free to go where ever I please?" She was so distraught that she missed the irony in her words, and the selfishness of his imprisonment. Yet without even the slightest recognition of her contradiction, he knelt down and once again spoke his truth. "Remember my words sweet Princess.” She rolled her eyes towards the ceiling and gave a frustrated sigh, "The beauty is in the experience Highness, not in the destination." As the words spilled from her lips, she began to glare at him and hissed, "You ill begotten old fool, once again I digress! All these adventures, yet nowhere to call home! No love to call your own, no one to share these silly quests you speak so fondly of! It sounds so frightfully dull and boring, are you trying make a go at me?” He gave her a playful grin, and leaned forward to look closely into her eyes. "What an impatient little sprite you are," he scoffed. "To treat love as if it is to be hunted down and conquered, are you not simply left with a beautiful fur? Is love not worth any more of your honor, than a trophy to be displayed above the hearth to impress your peers? This is not love girl, and the hunted will never truly love the hunter!"
Frustration began to take her over and she pointed a delicate little finger towards his face. "Blast you and your riddled tongue old man! What a tapestry of words you weave and yet you have no needles in which to sow! How am I to know whom is the hunted or who is the hunter? What if my choice is wrong? Will I then live until the end of all days being shackled to my past ignorance?" The old man tossed his head back and gave a hearty guffaw, stirring the watchtower guards above their heads. "Gypsy you simple little toad!" she spat. "Spare me your me giggles and bits of good cheer at the expense of your Princess!"
Her furrowed brow and pouting lips made her appear to be no older than a fawn cursing the rains of her first spring. "Oh now, calm yourself child," he cooed. "Mistakes are nothing more but the signs along your path that lead you in the right direction, to help you make better choices in the future. You are only what you choose to be, and you will never be shackled unless you wish it to be so. Without these moments, you can live your life in complacency but you will never find this true love that you seek.
His words were like golden raindrops, and she held on to his every syllable. Yet it was so strange, for she was also repulsed by his very presence. His face showed the age of one who had lived since the time of the ancients, and he smelled of it as well. He was dirty and foul, withered and frail, and far beneath the normal associations of royalty. Yet even more odd, she felt such guilt for how much his sight repelled her.
“Oh well,” she thought, it was of little consequence as his vivid and tangled web had been cast, and now she was caught in its fantasy. She could not live her life out within these high stone walls, never to see the adventures that lay beyond the Holy Waters and across the sea, to those distant lands and endless skies. She would fling herself out of the moon tower window rather than suffer a legacy’s rule! But her heart weighed with great sadness, for these thoughts were simply the fantasies of a little girl rebelling against her own immovable fate. It was her destiny to remain within the city, and the royal bloodline had to be preserved at all cost.
As her thoughts tumbled around in her mind, another old tradition was soon to come to pass. Every year at this time, when the summer changed back to fall, the town came together to celebrate the winter solstice. The old ways taught that the spring's harvests would fail if a sacrifice was not made. Centuries steeped in tradition had created apathetic minds and hearts, and the taking of a life for the survival of the kingdom was of little internal consequence.
The city was to hold its annual raffle as tradition unfolds, and each soul is to put a name of their choosing in to an old woven basket. When all the names were collected the Princess herself would tally up the tiny pieces of paper fate, and announce the name of the one to be forsaken. Usually this would be a petty thief or someone of dark character, or even an accused witch, if our lady luck was especially kind that season.
On the morning of the name collection, the Princess’ ward put a light hand on her shoulder and gently roused her awake. "Your Heiress, ‘tis the morning of the solstice. You must rise and smile to the dawn for the raffling is upon your doorstep, and then it is all wine and dancing until the evenings sacrifice is at hand!" The Princess, half asleep and rubbing her sleepy blue eyes, slowly took in her nurse's words. "Oh," she mumbled. "I had all but forgotten of this glorious celebration." The ward gave her a curious look, for the words did not match such a somber reply.
Her thoughts had instantly turned to her gypsy, whom she had kept imprisoned for so long that his name would most certainly be in that basket. There was no way around it, and no one could know of their long talks, save the watch guards, who were but simpletons from local villages. She could not warn him for it was now daylight, and she could not risk getting caught going to the tower without being questioned.
As the town's sleepy morning passed its time to brother noon, the Princess paced continuously back and forth in her bedchamber. She had excused herself from the breakfast feast and retired to her quarters in request for solitude. What if she pulled his name from the basket? How could she hide the shock and horror from her loyal subjects? Twisting her tiny hands in restless fervor, she paced the morning hours away.
Meanwhile, the old gypsy had just been enlightened by one of the village watch guards. He simply smiled and took his porridge and water from the prison guard with no malice. He held no judgment on the poor simpletons apathy; his only concern was for the Princess. He knew that she was under great emotional pain, for he could feel her even when she was far away.
His heart felt heavy at the thought of her. He only wished for her happiness, but at times her plight was so heart wrenching that he wished she would just go away and leave him to his own wretched end. But he could no more push her away than she could save him, so once again in his wisdom he let it go, giving his heart a moment of peace.
Cruel is the ironic foreshadow, for at that very same moment, a kind and fragile Princess was carefully pulling a name out of an old woven basket. As she read the name aloud, everything seemed to suddenly reverse and begin to chase the hands of time, turning a nightmare into a reality. Suddenly she could no longer remember sitting upon her majestic thrown of velvet and gold, signaling the start of the ceremony. She did not know how she had gotten to the sacrificial alter, or shoving the massive man in a black hooded cloak off the platform and on to the ground. It was only until she heard the soft and gentle voice of a tattered old gypsy, did she suddenly awaken to find herself standing before him. "Stop this at once child,” he whispered. “Be off with you and let this thing go. It is not the death that matters your Highness, it is the life. When my time has come on this glorious day, I can only be proud of the things I have done, as I honor the ones I have loved and lost along the way. My only wish is for a simple promise. A promise that you will live by your own choices, and not by the choices of others. When you truly become this person, you will be reborn in to love, and only then will he finally find you.
She looked into his eyes and saw only truth, yet it held no comfort. Stricken with grief, she became so entangled in heartbreak that she had failed to notice the silence that had suddenly overcome the crowd. Every commoner was whispering to one another, and the tension and fear had begun to rise. This was a total deference of tradition, and it terrified their superstitious minds.
Unable to hold in the remorse a moment longer, her tears suddenly began to fall like a fierce April storm. The agony that drenched her beautiful face began to mix with the sand that the winds that had stirred from the sea, and her porcelain skin began to streak the color of Dragons Blood. The onlookers saw this and screamed out in fear. “Our beautiful Princess is a witch! We have been tricked but the gods have delivered us this truth! Hail to the God of Light!” they chanted, and without defense the innocent Princess was judged and sentenced to be burned at the stake and sacrificed along side her gypsy consort.
As the unforgiving crowd rabbled their cries of injustice, not even a hint of fear showed upon her expression. She simply looked upon her people and smiled. She was so very tired. If she was to die never having met her true love, at least she had found her one true friend. In the last moment of silence before their deaths, she had finally found her peace. She turned her smile to the kind face of an old wandering gypsy, and softly whispered four little words. "My name is Alessandria."
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