by Serena W. Sorrell
A bruised night draped over the wild ocean waves by the kingdom beside the sea. Clouds churned; thunder cracked; lightning pealed; and a prince was born. The babe’s hair was the same color of that boiling sky. His eyes the same as the electric sea. Across his fair skin shadows marbled him like a tempest. At the final crack of lightning from the heavens the prince’s wailing ceased. It was an omen, quickly decided, but undetermined whether it was for ill or good. Whatever the case, what was born was born and could not be returned. So, the kingdom beside the sea had a prince named Storm.
As that last peal of thunder rumbled into nothing, in the kingdom beside the mountains it was very much the same. Evening parted; the blue sky yawned; the dawn warmed the wheat and flowers; and a princess was born. This babe’s hair was the same color as an orange sunrise. Her eyes the same as the verdant hills. Across her earthy skin white clouds dotted her like a fair summer day. And, as soon as she laughed a rainbow stretched above. It was decided to be the loveliest omen ever. How lucky, for what was born was born and could not be returned. So, the kingdom beside the mountains had a princess called Dawn.
Now, before they’d been born the two little babes had been promised by their parents to wed. It seemed awfully unfair for them to not have a say, but that’s how things were in that place and day. So Dawn and Storm were engaged from their birth and their kingdoms rejoiced for the promise of bright futures. Their opinions of one another, their personalities and quirks, these things did not weigh on their parents’ thoughts. The kingdom beside the sea dreamed of fresh fruits and grains. The kingdom beside the mountain anticipated bounty from the seas. Both were quite please by the bargain they’d struck.
Not a few years passed before Storm and Dawn settled into who’d they’d become. Dawn was quiet and lovely. She smiled at all. She was polite and kind and loved everyone. In contrast, Storm was loud and unkind. He was wicked to all. He was sneaky and rude and disliked everyone. Including, and especially, that goody good Dawn. He hated her quite most of all.
The first time they’d met, only months old, he’d pulled her hair and slapped her cheek. But it had been cute, for that’s what babies do. On their fifth birthday Dawn had given him a beautiful dog. Storm had gifted her with a warty, muddy frog. But that was how little boys are and so it couldn’t be helped. On their tenth birthday, at last, Storm gave her something sweet. A poem he’d written just for the princess alone. It listed all her pretty habits, and how each disgusted him. Dawn only smiled and gave him a gift, which only disgusted Storm more.
However, Dawn was a patient sort and still thought Storm endearing. She could change those naughty habits during their time. After all, they would be wed. That was a fact. So Dawn devised a list of the many ways she would try to calm Storm’s skies. It took her many an evening to ponder and think on how best to temper her groom.
First, no matter how awful he was, or however mean, she was always to smile and show she accepted him. In time he would see how understanding she could be and not feel the need to hide his true feelings behind such cruelty.
Second, any gift he gave her, though he had to be forced, she would receive with a ‘thank you’ and nevermind his lacking ‘you’re welcome’s. This would show him how thankful she was for anything he gave her, and in time he’d surely repeat the phrase when she gifted him.
Third, she concluded, no matter how loud he thundered, or threw up a terrible mess, she would not be afraid or cry or grow mad. She’s simply stay quiet until it was out of his system, then clean up whatever Storm had left in his wake. This was sure to teach him throwing a fit was not how princes behaved.
These three tactics, Dawn was certain, would tame her prince in due time. Until he threw her down the staircase on their thirteenth birthday anyway. At that point it became clear Storm was glad being a monster and he’d happily end Dawn if he could. She’d got off lucky that time, only a broken leg and a rib.
The Queen and King beside the mountains were enraged. How dare the seaside prince treat their daughter this way! As for the King and Queen beside the sea, well, they quite agreed. They told Storm it simply did not do to fling one’s fiancé down a flight of forty-four steps. Storm simply remarked he had rather hoped she’d have hit her head. That was it as far as the mountainside kingdom cared.
Dawn only smiled and on crutches hobbled to Storm. She placed a kiss on his cheek and told him she would definitely cure him of his wickedness. To which he replied by pushing her over and walking away. Still, Dawn persevered! She’d have her princely prince. Storm could be changed if she just loved him enough. If she tried and she wished and she prayed and she loved, Dawn was certain Storm would be good.
But, no matter how much she smiled, thanked him, weathered his tempests, or kissed his cheek Storm was still Storm, terrible and despising. Dawn didn’t crack under the pressure, although both kingdoms had come to pity her very much she never gave up. It was hard to say which caused which. Was Dawn’s exceeding kindness making Storm worse, or did Storm’s fitful rages make Dawn ever kinder? In any case, it seemed a sort of challenge on each side in which there’d be no winner.
On the eve of the princess and prince’s sixteenth birthday, when both kingdoms were preparing gifts and celebrations, the King and Queen of the seaside castle were found dead. Now, no one said it out loud, for fear most of all, but more than one pair of eyes looked at the prince with certain suspicion. Well, now Prince Storm was King Storm which made everyone sad, so Storm, of course, was exceedingly glad.
He’d had quite enough of that princess with all her niceness and smiles, her laughter and kisses. It was most definitely time to do something about that. As King he could simply cancel the arrangement, but no– not after suffering Dawn for sixteen years. It had to be better, more permanent too. He couldn’t just kill her. He’d just murdered two. Even his council wasn’t that stupid, and the kingdom beside the mountain would not take such news well. Although a war did sound grand Storm had an even better plan.
Dutiful Dawn arrived with the sun, dressed all in black to mourn the two parents her prince had lost. She was almost not terrible to look at in that color, Storm thought, it didn’t change his plan, but it made looking at her easier. Storm had happened upon his relief from this pest some months ago. It had been a rotten night of raging winds and ocean whirlpools and Storm had gone into the highest tower to better watch the scene. Then, a flash of lightning lit his attic and caught a spot behind him.
A mirror. The lightning had reflected in a mirror. As much as Storm hated all things bright lightning was the only light he found beautiful. The mirror was cruddy. It was dusty and forgotten. So Storm thought until he caught the rhyme around the oval frame. Oh, how he grinned. It would have scared a demon. This was it. This cruddy, dusty, forgotten mirror in a dark attic tower his escape from the insufferable Dawn. First, he’d have to make himself King so the princess’ parents would join their daughter’s visit.
And now here they were, all dressed in black. It was most appropriate for so much death. Storm, king that he was, resolved to play the part Dawn wanted for this one day. He wouldn’t like it, but he had to make sacrifices for the good it would do. Really, he would be doing her a favor, not that he cared. He simply liked being him. He liked being loud and rude, cruel and crass, and he was very good at being bad. That counted for something. In the sixteen years they’d been engaged Storm had never changed and yet Dawn insisted he would in time. The cheek! Why did he have to be the one to change? It was selfishness and he was sick to death of those sweet smiles.
Today though he returned Dawn’s sweet smile. Those present gasped. Storm had smiled, kindly. The princess curtsied. Storm bowed back. The audience grew alarmed. When Dawn offered condolences Storm squeezed out a tear or two. The crowd began to believe the nightmare reign of Storm had ended with his parents. And when Dawn embraced the new Kingling he wrapped his arms around her too, and kissed her brow. That settled it. Storm was cured of his wickedness. The watching people almost cheered, and would have had not two deaths been the cause.
King Storm assured both Queen and King he intended to keep the oath his parents made before his birth. He would marry the lovely Princess Dawn, that is, if she’d still have him. With a nod and a smile Dawn assured him she’d known the good inside him was there from the start. It was only too sad such tragedy had revealed it to all. King Storm swallowed his curses and smiled back bile. He asked Dawn to walk with him while he mourned, for only she had believed in his heart. The couple walked hand in hand and every soul rejoiced. This was the end to their troubles, at last.
Princess Dawn clasped Storm’s hand. She twined her fingers with his. She spoke of their future she saw while he imagined the future he was crafting. He led her through the seaside castle saying pretty words of mourning. She cried for his sorrow and patted his cheek. He’d do his best to keep up the act if she tried to kiss him, though his confidence wavered and his stomach rolled. She seemed content to listen to him complain and weep, miss the parents he had poisoned, a secret he decided best kept. It had been so very clever and he wanted to share, but he had to follow the plan.
Up the narrow steps, to his private, personal place, he said. She followed. There he looked out over the sea, not nearly as nice all calm with soft white-capped waves. Princess Dawn remarked how pretty. Storm gawked. How could one person be so– so– not like him? He took up both Dawn’s dainty hands in his. Though it was a sad day, still it was their birthday and Storm had a gift.
He turned Dawn to face a gleaming mirror. Its surface gleamed clear. The frame sparkled golden. It was the most beautiful mirror Dawn had ever seen. She threw her arms around Storm and told him so, along with a ‘thank you’. Storm gave her that which she had so longed for and replied ‘you’re welcome’, but then he insisted she read the inscription around the frame. With one hand on each side of her reflection Princess Dawn leaned close to see the words clear.
‘I will say good-bye, but I will not die. Instead a short curse, here comes my reverse. You may send them back if there is no crack. Now let me bypass who lives in the glass.’
Before Dawn could remark what a funny poem it was, as Storm suspected she would, she went into herself and came back out again. And there she stood, not speaking, not moving. Storm thought he had made a mistake, that was, until she at last looked at him. Those eyes were not nice. Those eyes did not smile. Those eyes were not Dawn’s. Those eyes watched him with cunning, measured his worth, and calculated a value. Storm did not hate eyes like those.
Inside the mirror Dawn knocked, a look of alarm twisted her pretty mouth and tears pricked at her eyes. The not-Dawn frowned at the sight and looked back to the boy King.
“You’re not Prince Breeze.”
“And, you aren’t Princess Dawn.”
“I’m Queen Dusk.”
“And, I’m Storm.”
“King. I poisoned my parents last night.”
Dusk smiled. Dawn stared, mouth agape. Storm offered Dusk a small, steel mallet. This time the two smiled together. Dusk tapped and shattered the looking glass. A web of cracks spread like a spider web across the mirror and poor, trapped Princess Dawn. Dusk dropped the hammer without a care. By Storm’s side she looked out at the ocean. She frowned the see the bright sea until Storm pointed out dark clouds bruising the distant skies and said they’d soon arrive. Then Dusk leered, something like happy to match Storm’s own sinister glee.
When the first bolt of lightning stabbed into the sea Storm mentioned to Dusk Dawn had been only a princess. Her mother and father still ruled the mountainside kingdom. Dusk lazily shrugged and merely said it’d be interesting to murder the same people twice. At that King Storm knew this was as close to love as his heart could get. Dusk spared a thought to the same, but she was more busy plotting how to become queen by the end of the week.
King Storm and Queen Dusk ruled their miserable kingdoms for their whole lives until they died withered and gray. Every man, woman, and child rejoiced their last day.
And what of poor, kind, sweet Princess Dawn? She was quite pleased to discover Prince Breeze, intelligent and warm, it was love at first sappy sentence. He learned she was Princess Dawn and not that bully, Queen Dusk. The two lived happily ever after, until more ruthless rulers stole their crowns. Then they lived happily poor.