The man held out the contract with an elaborate black fountain pen for me to sign on the line. His innocent, charming features had distorted to look devilish and menacing. I did not trust him as I did only moments ago.
“You asked for this,” he said in a sly voice. It sounded like nails on a chalkboard, “I am here to make your dream come true, all I want is my payment. The information is all here on my contract.”
He was right, though Rumpelstiltskin did have a bad reputation for being a swindler, he wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be, at least not when it came to loopholes. His true nature was seeing how much people would be willing to give up for what they want at the moment.
I reached for the pen then hesitated again. Pulling back and resting my hand on my chin as I contemplated. I could leave this world, once beautiful and full of singing that had turned to hardship and war. The eldest son of the king, heir to the throne.
I would have to give up wealth and power for a normal life in a drab world of no magic, but that offered more security.
“You will bring back peace and prosperity to our world, son,” my father’s words echoed in my head. He had told me this same line ever since I could understand. I was supposed to be the chosen one, only thing was, I didn’t know how I was chosen to save our world.
No one had told me what to do. Clergy prayed over me, the oracles studied me, even the warlocks performed tests. I had never gotten the results nor the idea of what it all meant, though. My father is supposed “The Last King of Peace” when he dies, the final war will happen
“Just give up your power and you will be long away when the bloodshed begins,” Rumpelstiltskin whispered. His vile smile widened to show off his dirty, yellow, misshapen teeth, “Your father, the King, doesn’t have much time. Make your choice, Chosen One.” That last part came out in mockery. The blood pumped too violently in my ears to hear him much, however.
“Can’t I make a deal for peace?” I asked, voice squeaking halfway through the sentence. “Can’t I give you the throne for the bloodshed to end?” I knew the answer even as I asked.
“That’s not how works, dear prince,” Rumpelstiltskin shot back to me. He chuckled an offensive laugh at me. “Besides, do you know how much business a man- well, imp- can make during times like these? People are so willing to pay much more in times of desperation.” He paused for a moment then added, “I had one man sell me his heart- his actual heart- for immortality. Last I heard, he had gone mad trying to feel again and is now living on his back with a boulder on his chest for punishment.”
I shuddered while thinking of what this being would do with someone’s heart.
“You, dear prince. Oh Chosen One,” he gave an evil smile once more, “I am giving you the deal of a lifetime. Secure life in a boring world away from all this turmoil. All I ask of you is to give up the throne and your power over the land. The royal bloodline dies with you, sure one of your siblings will take reign, but you’re the only one with a true shot of bringing back prosperity. Of course, you may fail if you stay too.”
I felt anger rise from my stomach to my chest. I kept my composure, though, allowing the anger to sit uncomfortably inside me.
“What’s it going to be, lad?” he asked me when I hadn’t spoken or moved. “A risk of failing or a definite easy life? Living in a small flat above a busy city or leading your men to their deaths? Taking fathers away from children and husbands from wives. I know what I would choose, then again, I’m not you- am I?”
“All I would have to do is sign my name?” I asked tensely, “Just tell you that I have given up my right to the throne and I am gone? Which world exactly would I go?”
“Just a mundane world that has wars, but no major ones in about seventy years,” he answered dryly, “Sure the animals don’t talk and the people ignore you for the most part, but would you rather watch your home burn? I’ve seen the fields recently, the ones you enjoyed so much growing up, they’re nothing but ash with the rivers dried. Soon enough, this whole country will look like that.”
A tear welled then fell solitarily down my cheek and onto the collar of my shirt. I loved those fields, I loved this land and its people. I adored conversation with the animals and seeking out fairies for the best fruits in each forest. I didn’t want to bear witness to their deaths.
Maybe I could save them. I am the supposed Chosen One, after all.
But you won’t be able to, a voice that sounded closely to Rumpelstiltskin’s spoke in my mind, that’s all just hopeful thinking. You will fall with all you love. The voice was too strong.
With a quaking hand, I took the pen from Rumpelstiltskin’s hand.
“Okay,” was all I could manage to speak.
I heard the scratches as the tip of the pen glided permanent black ink onto the parchment. It took longer than I expected to write my name. The imp smiled when I handed the pen back and opened my eyes.
“See,” he said, looking like the charming creature he had looked before, “Wasn’t so bad, was it?”
“W-what happens now?” I replied.
“Now,’ he spoke, vanishing the pen and contract effortlessly, “you leave.” Rumpelstiltskin took a step back and told me to stand still. His green eyes light up to pure while as he lifted his left hand. It vibrated unrealistically and he spoke something in a language I couldn’t understand.
I felt an imaginary hand pulling me at the back of my shirt. It was like being flung by a slingshot. I landed on my feet in a small room. The room was boring and bare, but not bad at all, definitely no palace. From the window, I could hear some kind of blaring with different voices talking loudly. I looked outside to see a mess of people, vendors, and some weird horseless chariots beeping at each other somehow.
I looked around the small flat and found a book titled Everything You Need to Know About Your New World as well as a small device that instructed me to tap it anytime I needed money. At least the vile imp ensured I wouldn’t need a job.
Feeling overwhelmed, I laid myself down on the cream-colored covers of the small bed in one of the smaller rooms. I would never know what would happen to my homeworld or the people and creatures inhabiting it.
“Maybe I made a mistake,” I whispered to myself. Feeling uncertain about my decision.