When I originally created the Courne Supremacy I thought that it would be all about writing. I would post short stories and my friends could come and read them. It hasn’t turned out that way. More or less, Courne Supremacy is a blog about all the projects I’m currently working on. I like a lot of different forms of expression if you haven’t noticed.
My brother and I talked over winter break about trying to do a project together. I wanted to write; he wanted to draw. I thought we might be able to do a comic strip of some sort, but really that’s a lot of work and we’re both very busy. I proposed to him the idea that I would write a short story and he could illustrate a scene from it. This is the first of those short stories and hopefully you’ll see a new one every two weeks. I was hoping for every week, but really, that might be too much. This is based off a short story I posted on here a year ago called “Alicia and the Mechanical Bird.” If you recognize the fairy tale of the “Briar Rose,” then you’ll have an idea as to the type of stories I’m shooting for. Enjoy.
“Legend speaks of the beautiful, sleeping Princess Rose. I’ve come to kiss her and lift the curse from this city,” said the Prince from Anterfield, a country to the north with a burgeoning military and few towns and villages to conquer. This Prince must have rode out to seek glory and validation, neither of which he could earn under the watchful eye of his father and the shelter of Anterfield’s high walls and crowded hierarchy of princes and lords. “What does a girl seek in a city like this?”
“How did this curse come about?” I pulled my hammer from my belt and began to board the windows up with planks from the tea counter and chair seats. I reloaded my rifle and ensured that all the rooms were locked tight. The wolves would be back soon and no doubt they were clever enough to find other ways into the tea house. This is what the Prince told me while I worked:
“Once the princess was born, the King, in his joy, held a great celebration. He invited men of fortune and grandeur and twelve of thirteen wise women of his kingdom. Each woman bestowed a gift upon the newborn. When the eleventh had graced the child, the thirteenth woman forced her way into the castle and cursed the newborn with death from a spindle needle. The twelfth woman blessed her with a chance to survive. The young princess turned fifteen and true to the prediction she pierced her finger on a needle and collapsed into a deep sleep. As did all the people of this city. For one hundred years, it has been so. Today is the day that the Princess will reawaken, that was what the local people told me.”
The story accounted for the half-eaten bodies I found in the streets. The wolves and bears had gotten to those intrepid men. Not all of them were princes but men seeking fortune and power.
Above us a window shattered. Claws scrapped against the wood floor. I counted three wolves by the sound made by each animal entering through the window. They must have found a way through one of the abandoned buildings adjacent to the tea house.
“Can you run?” I asked. The Prince’s leg was bandaged the blood soaked through the cotton gauze wrapped around it.
He clapped his hands on the counter and heaved himself up on his feet. He drew his saber. “Let them come.”
Pitter-patter. The trio of wolves sauntered about upstairs biding their time. I imagined them panting and growling at one another, speaking in their own tongue, and plotting the best way to ensnare us. One of the wolves departed from the others and trotted down the stairs. He scratched at the door and growled.
I quietly moved to the window. The wolf on the other side of the door barked and scratched the door as if it were trying to dig the wood away.
I peeked through the cracks of the boarded up windows. A blurry thing jumped at me from the other side. I screamed and fell backwards onto the floor. Chips of wood flew into the room and a snout full of yellow, sharp teeth gnashed at where I stood. Both of us stayed still and listened to the click-click of the wolf’s teeth biting at the empty air and the scratching on the door. Before I could regain my footing and fire my rifle, the Prince stabbed the beast through the boards. A whimper and thump announced its death.
The wolf at the door scurried back up the stairs to confer with his partner.
“Look at this,” said the prince. I peeped through the cracks again. The two wolves had jumped down from the second story. They circled the wall watching their fallen comrade.
The idea struck me right when I saw them. “They’ll be well fed. Let’s go.” I pulled the Prince back from the window. At first his feet didn’t budge but we were soon by the door. We listened a moment longer and soon I could hear the wolves dragging the body away.
“Let’s find your castle,” I said.
“You didn’t answer my question from before,” the Prince responded.
“I didn’t know what my answer was until you told me.”
* * * * *
The architects of this town packed the buildings tightly. Bad for the citizens — if a major fire broke out or some other disaster, they would all be consumed by it. Good for us — it made it easier to climb from one roof to the next. Plus, traveling this way made it harder for animals to hunt us.
There were still dangers to contend too. We nearly fell to our deaths when one of the rooftops we stepped on cracked and crumbled. Someone had planted an entire garden and after a hundred years of exposure to rain and sunlight dandelions and moss carpeted everything. The roots grew into the concrete and wood splintering it just enough for our weight to do it in. We tread carefully through the thicket of overgrown herbs and spice plants. The fragrance of those plants brought me back to my days living in Aeterall and leisurely spending time with friends and classmates at the local taverns and cafes. As we walked I stuffed my coat with the aromatic leaves — they would make some of my canned meals a little more flavorful.
When we had to cross the street to move in between blocks of buildings, we’d hurry down the building and made sure that the path was clear of animals. I would draw my rifle and the Prince unsheathed his saber as we crossed the street, but aside from the wolves in the teahouse the animals that we came across left us alone.
We made it to the city’s center and the castle. Ivy, vines, and moss covered the edifice of the castle’s walls. The iron and wood gates were shut.
The Prince raised his hand. “Do you hear that?”
I listened and speedily unslung my rifle. The growls of wolves meant that we had more company. I peeked through the scope and tried to pick the little monsters out from the trees, but the forest concealed them.
“We climb,” I told him. I wrapped my gloved hands around the thickest vines and hoisted myself up the side of the great stone wall. The prince, grunting in pain, followed behind me. The wolves arrived below to sniff the ground, but we were already atop the wall on the narrow catwalk.
Two guards were slumped against the wall in the tower we had climbed into. No carnivores had scavenged these men; their bodies were mostly intact. Time though had made their skin brittle. The skin of their cheeks clung to their skull and their eyes sunk in their sockets.
“What will happen when you kiss this princess?” I asked.
“She will awaken from her slumber. Unlike these poor chaps.”
“But if the same curse has effected everyone, wouldn’t they awaken as well?” I pulled a sprig of mint from my coat pocket and held it under the guard’s mummified nose. I steadied my hand and watched for any signs of breath. I hoped and prayed that his eyes stayed closed. The sprig fluttered gently. “By the King!” I whispered. “He’s still alive!” I drew my hand away as quick as I could.
“Let’s hurry. The sooner I awaken the princess the sooner this town will be saved.”
Down the spiral stairs and across the courtyard we went. The manicured lawn and pruned trees had turned wild without a gardener. A monstrous tree with water engorged roots tore up a circular fountain and absorbed all of the water.
The Prince pushed the double doors apart to the main castle entrance. Dust danced in the first rays of sunlight it had seen in a century. My nose wrinkled at a hundred years of unwashed clothing, unwashed bodies, and rotted food. Vines, weeds, and moss broke through the marble floor and reclaimed the interior as its own. We climbed the grand staircase and entered through another set of double doors in to the throne room.
Before us sat the sleeping King and Queen. The King’s beard and Queen’s hair had grown long and gray over these hundred years. I lingered with the centennials studying them as the Prince searched from pillar to pillar and room to room for his prize.
“At last!” I heard the Prince cry. I stood away from the ancient royals. The room was filled with sleeping men. Knights slumbered against the pillars of the great hall. A fat jester splayed out on the floor snoozing away. Men and women dressed in noble suits and gowns huddled by one another. I did not want to see them reawaken. “Come quickly, girl. Witness as I take this fair princess to be my own.”
I followed his voice, it came from behind the throne room and out of an open door. The room had belonged to a maidservant but now it was overrun with cobwebs. Laying in a bed of hay was a young woman with lips as red as blood, skin as white as snow, and hair as gold as flax. Her blue silk dress fluttered in the breeze coming from the open window. She kept her youth of fifteen years. The Prince was cleaning the cobwebs away from her and he gently caressed her heart-shaped face.
He leaned over her and mumbled words I couldn’t discern (a prayer I assumed). He kissed her.
The princess’ eyes opened. They were a serene and beautiful azure. All at once she appeared radiant and majestic. Her lips parted as to smile, but her hands clapped over her belly. She arched her back and gasped for air. Spiders poured from her nose, ears, and mouth. From under the haystack more of the wretched things crept away from her reanimated body. She thrashed and screamed but the volume of arachnids pouring from her mouth silenced her.
In the courtyard I heard rustling and movement. I brushed the cobwebs from the window and opened it wider. Just as I thought, the near-dead were awake. People walked and crawled about. If souls still inhabited those bodies, I felt them poorer for it.
“My eyes! My eyes!” A man lamented. He stumbled and crawled. “Why can’t I see?” Other moans and howls of distress emanated from every corner of the courtyard.
“My Princess! My love!” I turned to see the Prince helping his Queen-to-be to her feet. She vomited more of the spiders. “Help me!” A prince asking a common girl for help? “Save her!” This was his kingdom slipping through his hands. I backed out through the door, but I was greeted by a man covered in mangled hair and bugs crawling all over his face. It was the King! He had staggered down the hallway. When he saw me, his lips moved and he tried to speak but the noise came out as low moans. Once I gathered my senses again and put some distance between myself and the King, I realized what he was saying: “My daughter, my daughter.” His bony fingers clawed at the walls and tore to pieces as he fell towards the room I had departed. His Queen came lurching after. Her jaw hung slackly and she rolled against the wall whilst her head lolled about as if it had become unhinged from her neck. Behind her a parade of horror continued as far as my eyes could see.
“Do something for her!” The prince exited the room but at the sight of the monstrosities in front of him he drew his sword.
“No!” I took his arm and held him back. I turned my eyes to the King’s daughter. She choked and sputtered. Her eyes bled red. If these people were alive and crying in pain, then what about the townspeople? After a hundred years they would be defenseless against the beasts of the wild, absolutely famished, and completely dehydrated and only the King knows what kind of agony they would be in.
I pushed past the Prince and raised my rifle. The girl lumbered towards me with outstretched arms. The spiders swarmed out of her mouth and over her pristine flesh. She didn’t move from my sights. “Go back to sleep,” I whispered as I pulled the trigger. The cries stopped except for the Prince’s.
It was the only humane thing I could do.
* * * * *
I came here for fuel or food, neither of which I found. My plane was packed and ready for takeoff. I remember how pretty the city looked from the air. The buildings covered over with greenery and overtaken by trees. It excited my imagination. I believed I would find wonders that I had never seen before, and I suppose, I did.
As for the prince, I left him in the castle. He would not part from his beloved.