Black as Light, Part 1

From deep in my writing files (high school) comes this poorly and oddly titled short story. Which reminds me…help, I need a new title! Also, originally posted a few years ago if it sounds familiar to you. This is my favorite short story, so I thought I would start Writing Wednesdays off with it.

There is an old castle of black stone that sits atop the hill overlooking the quaint town of Bottlecreek ruled by the widower King Adam, who has just seven “infuriatingly acute daughters who have an incredible lack of desire to marry.” The Black Castle, as all of Bottlecreek has taken to calling it, is in turn ruled by any number of wicked creatures. I’ve heard tell of vampires and dragons, giant serpents and living gargoyles, starving werewolves and giant man-eating cats. But no one knows for sure since nary a soul is brave enough to cross the bridge arching over a moat of steaming water.

That all changed, or should have in any event, when the fourth princess, Princess Tanith, disappeared last year. The king, while desperate to marry off the eldest, Princess Cornelia, neglected to pay any attention to his other six daughters. Though five of them were content to lounge and study everything from abbreviations to zymurgy, the Princess Tanith was a little more venturous and the king soon learned his fourth daughter had been lured into the Black Castle.

You can only imagine the terror and fury the king flew into (at supper, no less) when he learned of her disappearing act. I saw it, as a squire back then attending to the royal court at the time my lifelong friend vanished, and it wasn’t pretty; rather messy, actually.

It was the court jester, oddly enough, who came rushing in excitedly halfway through the minstrels appallingly bad song, boringly about two blue jays singing in a tree one sunny morning, during supper to tell the king the Princess Tanith was gone, most likely to the Black Castle, and to inform him that it was most fortunate since whoever rescued her should, by rights (and according to stories and legend), be married to her whether or not she wanted to be married. It would at least get rid of one princess.

Things didn’t go as the jester had probably planned as he said all this rather calmly. The minstrel choked on his note and broke a string. Ladies gasped and Lords stood so fast that they took a tumble right into their own plates. The servants and squires had saucer wide eyes and turned to one another for healthy gossip over what this could mean and which knight would be sent out in the hopes of attaining a royal hand in marriage, or who would be the unfortunate soul to rescue and marry a woman far smarter than he. The six remaining princesses sighed heavily in regret, each wondering why none of them had been bright enough to vanish into the black void to avoid marriage (to them, marriage’s only meaning was “avoid at all costs”). And the king’s face went red with fury before immediately turning ashen with terror. He yelled and screamed and roared so the dining hall echoed and all the other lute strings snapped. Dishes, silverware, and food went flying. He probably would have thrown someone, too, had he been able to get his hands on someone weighing a mere three pounds.

It was the year prior to my knighthood and I had to help suit up and equip the knights the king sent to fetch Tanith back. I longed for the day I would be suited up and equipped to take my turn at rescuing her. I knew it would come. You see, every single knight came running back in terror with his stallion galloping not far behind with wild eyes, without ever having placed a toe on the stone bridge arching over to the Black Castle.

I dreamed that I would be the one to rescue her, and all the other squires called me foolish. I didn’t really care, though. Tanith was my best friend and I wouldn’t let her suffer in the Black Castle. There was no telling what was happening to her in there. It terrified me to think that she was being tortured or drained of blood by a thirsty vampire.
I would have nightmares over her safety and sometimes I fancied I could hear her screams echoing throughout the basin. I often wondered what her sisters thought and wondered if they, too, could hear her screams. But they just sighed and plaintively asked why they hadn’t thought of it earlier. This talk disgusted the king and, in no time at all, they were packed up and shipped over to his sister in Roseweed, a good fifty-eight and a quarter miles away.

Then, on the dawning of my next birthday (I couldn’t tell you exactly how old I was since we went from Baby to Toddler to Kid to Youth to Little Adult to Adult to Older Aged to Graying to Getting on in Years to Ancient and even to Decrepit), I was summoned to the Great Hall, ceremoniously given one last test, and knighted as Sir Shane of Bottlecreek. Immediately following, a squire suited me up in beige armor. All the white armor had been used by the other knights (who had shortly after returning from their sojourn to the Black Castle gone into hiding behind their couches and couldn’t be coerced to come out). Then I launched myself at my very own stallion and was soon riding up the hill to the Black Castle.

8 thoughts on “Black as Light, Part 1

  1. What an interesting start to a fairy tale! It could be called something like “the princess who didn’t need rescuing” or “the runaway princess” Depends on how it turns out. Did you write any more? I think it would make a fun kids book.


  2. Hi there, thanks for following me. I must say, I like the sardonic nature of your style, however, I’ll leave a few things to note for… general improvement in your future writing endeavours. It’s always worth a little critique from time to time, in my opinion.

    While the rambling nature of the narrator’s voice makes sense (it has a Lemony Snicket vibe), what is jarring is the singular use of the ‘you could imagine x’. Using ‘you’ is really risky, as it can, as it does in this case, completely knock the reader out of the immersion. ‘One’ is better here; ‘one could imagine’, ‘one did not need telling’, etc, etc.

    Occasionally sentences run on in a way that obviously wasn’t intended as part of the style, like here: ‘Things didn’t go as the jester had probably planned as he said all this rather calmly.’ I can’t fully describe why this feels wrong, but it has something to do with cadence and rhythm. A good way to tell if a sentence feels right is reading it aloud back to yourself.

    From time to time you miss apostrophes and will use the same word in a sentence repeatedly (like the word ‘wondered’). We all have those words we’re addicted to (mine is ‘seemed’, as I employ non-omniscient third-person narration, so I get caught up in overemphasising the subjectivity of the experience), but if you can spot your habits, try to cut them out.

    Still, it was very enjoyable as an opener, had a quirky style that I liked, and was short enough that it didn’t outstay its welcome.

    Kind regards,
    Matt Dave, owner of Stories from Sekai.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, thank you so much for your very thoughtful and thorough comments! This was written somewhere around 15 years ago, but, as I have yet to decide what to do with it, have been loathe to edit it a certain way. Though I am hoping that comments from readers like yourself will help me decide and, when the time comes, I will definitely keep your notes in mind.

      As a general rule, I do usually read my stories aloud and, after struggling through many self-published books lately, believe every writer should do this. Unfortunately, I have 2 small children right now, so finding time to do so is like pulling teeth. But, one day I will pick up the habit.

      The style is something I debate a lot about, but I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      Thank you so much for reading!


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