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Fantasy Horror Sad

TW: suggested abuse, gore, blood








Miro stood in front of his father, dressed in finery expected in the presence of the King. The King appraised Miro with a piercing gaze, not as a father would, but as a master judges a pawn in his game, stoic and cold. Miro didn’t flinch as the king's voice boomed against the chamber walls. 

“This is the end of your mockery, Miroslav. My counselors advised that you be confined to the tower until your marriage to the Duchess of Waitte, where you will complete your studies and no longer embarrass me with your flights and fancies.” 

Miro swallowed, eyes half-lidded, trained on the cold stone floor. 

“Yes, Father.” 

Every particle of his body waited for the other shoe to drop. For a harsh hand, or threats thrown like darts at his skull. To his surprise, he was bidden away with only a soft, vexed click of the King’s tongue. Miro bowed deeply, not meeting his father’s eyes before following in step with the palace guards who stood around him, flanking him like a prisoner to the tower. 

Each step up the spiral stone staircase, like a seal on his fate, grew heavy laden and all consuming. He entered the circular one room chamber, decorated with modest furniture, finding a fire already lit in the fireplace. He didn’t turn to look as the guards shut the door, locking him in. 

Miro’s stomach dropped and bile climbed his throat, threatening to release. His breath shallowed and he leaned against the heavy wooden door to brace himself, eyeing the room. A large mahogany four poster bed with a hanging canopy in red velvet took up most of the space. A matching mahogany desk stood against the only lattice window, allowing at least some light in. 

All this for his “wanton ways,” or rather - loving the wrong person. How strange being denied the only choice he desired as the Crown Prince. Miro knew that if his father had had any other children, he would be cast aside, maybe even forgotten, free to do as he pleased in the shadow of others. But there were no other sons or daughters. No one could take the place of Crown Prince Miroslav. 

Adrenaline left him and he shivered in the warmth of the fireplace as he neared it, mind wandering as he watched the dancing flames. It had seemed such a small thing in the beginning, yet grew to mean so much more. He knew it was reckless, but inconsequential in the scheme of all the expectations of his life. 

In the fireplace flames, images swum; the heat of the bellows, the clang of the hammer against the anvil. She moved with strength and grace, not a moment of hesitation between each pound of iron and hiss of the water. Though her frame was slight, her strong arms hammered metal into gleaming swords, nails, horseshoes and plates of armor. His one true love, the blacksmith Beyla. 

At first sight that summer day, Miro thought her a mirage; a woman doing men’s work is an unusual sight. But as he passed with his guard, it was clear who she was he was reminded of a story told in castle gossip that the great blacksmith Yaromir, a man known far and wide for his craft, had died an early death. His widow Beyla worked the bellows in his stead, a master in her own right. And Miro fell in love with her. 

He couldn’t stop it though he tried. In spite of himself, he found her captivating. Her energy, her smile, her attention to detail and hard work. She was nothing like the women of nobility; all waifs and genteel, taught to lower their eyes and curtsy as he passed, never saying more than, “yes, M'Lord.” 

But not Beyla. Beyla was as sharp as the swords of her craft and as hot as the bellow’s flame. She’d say no “yes, M'Lords” anymore than a knight throws down a weapon in a fight. No, she was the center of his passion, and of his undoing. Her fight and fire, the spark that lit the flames of his heart. 

It took many weeks to win Beyla’s friendship and a few more to win her interest. But their first kiss was a dream worth the wait. Though they’d been discrete, the impossibility of the Crown Prince sneaking around unnoticed caught up to them. 

Miro sighed. “What I wouldn’t give to be just a man in the village.” 

“Aye, what would you give, dear Princling?” 

Miro whirled around so quick, vertigo made his head spin. The voice came from the high rafted ceiling, but as he looked there were only shadows there. 

His heart pound as he strained his eyes to see in the darkness above. 

“Down here, Princling.” 

Miro snapped his gaze back down. Nearly inches from his face was a creature so foul he thought his heart stopped at the sight. His scream stuck in his throat and dissolved as the creature chuckled a raspy laugh. 

“You’re quite hardy. I am pleased,” it grinned, or rather, its lips peeled back revealing sharp teeth across half its face. If it had eyes, Miro could not tell. He saw only grey, scaly skin covering the body standing in front of him, clothed in sackcloth, dirty and ragged. Though repellent in appearance, its scent was oddly reminiscent of musk and copper. 

“What are you?” Miro managed to breath.

“Daemon at your service,” the creature grinned again and Miro wished that it would stop. 

“What do you want?” 

“That’s my question for you, Princeling,” Daemon moved away so suddenly Miro’s head spun with the impossibility of it. In an instant it lay on his bed, its scaly arms behind its head in repose. 

Miro found his voice again, biting out, “what could I possibly want from you?” 

“Tsk, tsk, Crown Prince. I offer you a chance of a lifetime and you insult me,” Daemon’s mouth bowed in a deep frowned, “think hard, this offer won’t be given again.” 

Though logically Miro knew this creature to be a terrible thing, his heart wandered back to Beyla. To the kiss. To her soft sighs and calloused hands, and his wish to live a life away from the crown. Away from the King. Away from it all, with her alone. 

“What do you want for what I want?” Miro heard himself say before he thought it out. Daemon’s grin returned, sending shivers down Miro’s spine as it stood from the bed, exuberant, triumphant. 

“Yes, I will tell you Princeling. For I know your heart. Your Father King is an evil man who conjures evil things. He has trapped you here to please himself, to keep you as his prisoner and you long for nothing more than the life he denies you. I will offer you this, for I’ve a bone to pick with your Father King,” Daemon stood at its height, as if to observe Miro properly, “I’ll give you the freedom you seek, Princeling. But there are rules.

Firstly, you must give up your face, 

secondly, you must never speak your name, 

thirdly, your lady love must kiss you at her willing by the full moon, in three days' time. 

In exchange, you’ll be free from the reaches of your Father King, no longer crown prince.” 

Miro’s lips parted, all at once wanting to throw the demon out and accept the offer with no hesitation. “Give up my face?” 

“Yes. It is painless, Princling, painless,” Daemon nodded solemnly.

Miro’s thoughts rushed as he weighed the thought. He could keep living the privilege of a prince, confined to a lifetime of servitude to the kingdom under the thumb of a man who despised him. Not until that man’s dying breath would Miro be free of him, but he would never be free to love Beyla. He would never be free at all. 

“Yes, Daemon. I take your offer.” Miro squared his shoulders. 

“Deal.” Daemon’s grin widened further, its voice reverberating in the chamber, rattling excruciatingly in Miro's head. He no longer heard, nor saw, but felt as the skin of his face morphed and changed, like bubbles in boiling water. Miro tried to scream, but no sound came out and he thought he might be dying, as sheer white-hot pain seared his skin. Darkness crept in, though his eyes were wide open, he saw nothing but black shadow. 

When he opened his eyes again, it was to bright blue sky painted in hues of magenta sunset. Birds chirped a summer song in the rustle of leaves. Miro sat up slowly. He looked at his hands, his legs, all intact. He looked down at his clothes and found the wool shirt and pants used for sword training in the yard. An uncomfortable tug told him his sword was at his hip, and he stood up slowly, unsheathing the broadsword. 

In the gleam of its iron, the reflection of a man’s face stared back, but it was no one he recognized. Blonde hair and blue eyes, trademarks of his mother’s blood, were replaced with mouse brown and hazel eyes against tan skin, as if he had worked in the sun all his life. A pink scar ran from his temple across his left eye, not obscuring his vision, but causing a squint. 

“Ah,” he said, and jumped, looking around himself only to realize a moment later that the voice was his own, husky and strange. He was indeed a different man. 

His heart filled with joy. He was free; untraceable in this form. But a slow comprehension seeped into his heart. 

“How will I face Beyla now?” he murmured, his voice harsh to his ears. 

He stood gingerly, testing the weight of his legs. After a rush of blood to the head dissipated, he started to walk, realizing that he was in the middle of the trade route due South. It would be a bit of a walk, but town was not a half days' walk. If he walked through the night, he would be in time to catch Beyla just starting up the bellows. Eager anticipation of seeing her swelled in his chest and he pushed away the unsettling concern that she wouldn’t recognize him. 

“She knows me,” Miro murmured to himself, the gruff voice growing less grating as he considered the possibilities, “she might not recognize me like this, but she knows me.” 

With that thought he started along the path and headed toward the village


###


In the morning hours, Miro found himself in the town market just as shops opened, ready to call out their wares and produce for customers. He had come through the market a fair few times in the past, but knowing that no one would stop and bow or murmur graces as he passed thrilled him. Every nerve of his body pulsed with the excitement of finally being an ordinary man. 

“Outta the way, ya cumberworld!” 

Miro lunged aside as a burly man with a ruddy face pushed a large wooden cart of hay past him. His heart beat in his chest furiously as he navigated the rest of the market without another incident. As he walked, he contemplated his next move.

 The demon stated three criteria for his transformation; he indeed gave up his face, but he must never speak his name and must kiss Beyla by the full moon. First he must get past the obstacle of recognition, as she will quite surely be alarmed at his transformation. Once she understood, she would surely kiss him. He needs never speak his name, as she will know him besides. 

As Miro neared Beyla’s smithy, his nerves caught up to him. Courage failed as he stood at her door when Beyla opened the door and stopped, staring at him with a wary eye. 

“Good Morrow, Sir, I am only just stepping out, but what can I help you with?’ She asked, her voice all business, but her tone and gestures hesitant. A widow for the past two years, Beyla had learned caution was her best defense. 

“I …” Miro started, his voice failing him as the mountainous task in front of him sank in. 

“Sir?” Beyla stepped forward, her eyes searching his, as if she could see his trouble. Her brow furrowed and Miro thought of a way to say who he was without speaking his name. His mind blanked and he said the first thing that came to mind. 

“Madam, I am in need of a ring.” 

“A ring?” she looked him up and down, as if unsure if he were telling the truth, but afterward was all business, “I make the best of them.” 

Miro smiled. “I’ve heard of your craft and would like you to make me a braided ring, of gold and silver.” 

“Done,” Beyla said, eyeing him, “by what name do ye go by?” 

Miro licked his lips, turning his eyes away, “I’d rather not say.” 

Beyla’s eyes narrowed, but her lips curled and she said, “half now, half later.” 

Miro reached into his pocket and found he had nothing of value. 

“May I work it off, M’am?” he said, feeling foolish. 

She watched him and in what felt like hours instead of seconds, she shook her head and smirked, “come, you are young and strong. You will help me make it and it shall be yours.” 

For the next few days, Miro served as an apprentice for Beyla and he loved every second of it. Their conversations bloomed from shy tit-for-tat to deep discussion as he was used to with her. At night, he slept in the alley, not willing to ask much more of her, but ate heartily as she fed him breakfast and lunch while he worked at her side. 

The news of the Crown Prince and his betrothal had reached the village by the day of the full moon. Miro observed Beyla’s foul mood that for anyone else would be a torrid temper, but he knew to be a broken heart. His own heart ached to tell her that he’d been by her side the whole time, but he never broke Daemon’s rules, keeping his name secret. 

That afternoon they finished the ring. Beyla held it aloft smiling, her pride beaming on her soot covered face. 

“Here, for any man or lady you might wish to give, they shall be surely pleased. Well done.” 

Miro held out his hand and as Beyla put the cold metal in his palm, he closed his fingers over hers and looked into her eyes. 

“Aye, well done, Beyla. Your craft is unmatched. You are a magician.” 

Her eyes shimmered with understanding her lips parted, “it can’t be ...” 

Miro knew it was his last chance, keeping in mind the rules, “I know this is too fantastic to hear, but Beyla, my love, I am not marrying the Duchess of Waitte, as the crier says. I made a deal to change my face so that I might come to you and live at your side, as equals.” 

Beyla’s eyes blazed. For a moment, Miro thought Beyla did not believe him. But the blaze transformed to pure passion as she hugged him. Her kiss was swift and needy, without question or doubt. Miro melted into her lips. In one moment he was complete. In the next, his eyes met hers in fear. He gasped as his heart stopped. Beyla’s cries were the last thing he heard and her tears the last he saw as his mind fell in dark oblivion. 


###


“Crown Prince Miroslav and the Duchess of Waitte.” 

As the announcement reverberated around the ballroom, Prince Miroslav walked tall and proud down the length of the red carpet toward the Father King on his golden throne. The Duchess, a wiry, sickly creature, hung on his arm, looking as miserable as any prisoner of the castle. As Prince Miroslav approached the steps, he stopped, and both him and his companion bowed deep to the Father King. 

“Rise,” the King’s booming voice called, “approach, Prince Miroslav, for my blessing.” 

“As you wish, your Highness.”

Prince Miroslav stood slowly, a grin on his face as he met the Father King’s gaze. The deal now locked, his eyes flashed crimson. The King and his guard had no time to scream as Prince Miroslav rushed forward, ripping out their throats. As he feasted on their gore, his Duchess bride stood in a pool of scarlet blood, wide-eyed fear frozen on her ashen face. 


April 07, 2021 19:37

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