Alone in the ruins of the castle, at least for now, Princess Eleanor (or Elle, as she prefers) stands peering out of a breach in the stonework which had since been blasted open in the wars of the previous years. The hole in the wall threw a welcoming embrace to all forms of weathering. Waist-high at its lowest point, it ascended the crumbling wall and spanned a large part of the ceiling, exposing it to the dark twilight morning outside. Mother nature had wreaked havoc on the room, the highest point in the castle, followed by another tower noticeably smaller, each with a doorway facing each other. She remembered the bridge that had once connected the two, wooden and rickety, she missed its whines for relief.
Noticing a commotion coming from the wood in the distance, Elle watches the imperial guard burst through the trees in swift synchronisation, the king following close behind. It would only be a matter of time before she was reunited with her father and he would accompany her back to her chambers in their own castle.
Except this castle was their castle, now only her castle. Elle was the only one to remain attached to the tattered strips of cloth and smashed remnants of wealth strewn about the draughty halls. It was in this room she watched her mother die, shot by an invading solider from across the battlements years ago. It was here she always returned, to mourn and to escape her smotheringly-absent father. His ignorance of her need for a father figure hadn’t been lost on Elle, she quickly realised when she was born she only had one loving parental figure, her mother.
And she was gone.
Patting her dress down, it trailed on the floor without its pompous underwires and frame keeping it aloft. The bottom seams were filthy and she enjoyed the thought of her father seeing the state she was in and expressing his obvious disappointment. She liked it when he was disappointed, his expectations deserved no more than what she gave to fuel them: nothing.
The advancing soldiers clattered into the courtyard and reigned in their horses as the curious beasts of the brigade recognised the loosely familiar surroundings. Calmed by the memory, they knew they were safe. The King, however, was furious to have returned. Commanding his men to storm the tower and retrieve his daughter, he insisted on waiting in the courtyard with his closest comrades. Staring at the face of his regrets and lost futures, he hated it here, the memories haunted his thoughts.
As the soldiers battered on the door from the outside, Elle closed her eyes and wished hard, she always believed those who died never really left, and she asked just this once that they prove it to her. On opening her eyes she was met with a faint light growing from the moon, gazing down onto her and her request. With a tiny flash, the holes in the ceiling and walls closed over in a light resembling the constellations in the night sky. Feeling the newly replaced defenses from the outside, she could feel the sturdy craftsmanship of the moon above.
Knocking on the door, Elle could no longer hear the soldiers outside. With a gentle push it swung open without a sound except for the tinkling of magic surrounding the tower. Veins of reinforced starlight filled in all the gaps, the holes, the weaknesses. She padded down the stairs, lifting her dress over her careful tread so as not to fall, she came to the doorway which once held the wooden bridge and saw its successor. An impressive shining construction now connected the towers, twinkling in the breeze as the princess took her first step onto the gleam of the celestial body above, she held onto the side and a figure stepped out of the doorway on the tower opposite.
It was her mother, shining and glorious, an absolute vision.
Raising a hand, Elle’s mother said only “come” and her daughter began to cross the bridge without hesitation.
The King, however, witnessing his daughter step out of the doorway above into nothingness screamed her name and dismounted his horse in terror for her life.
Hearing the commotion, Elle glanced downwards to make eye contact with her father and stopped to breathe in the purity she felt surrounding her. Utter clarity seemed to flood her mind and she replied with
“Father, look, it’s mother! She’s here!”
Looking over at her mother again, standing in the threshold of the other tower, she had now angled her gaze to the courtyard, taking in the sight of the man she once knew and loved.
And she burst into flames, screaming.
The princess, frightened for her mother’s life for a second time, took a tentative step towards her and recoiled in the blinding heat. Now catching onto the bridge, the starlit constructions quickly disappeared and the King watched as his daughter fell towards the courtyard.
Feeling the rush of air freeze her cheeks and send her mousey blonde hair whipping upwards, tears flew towards the towers as Elle knew this was how it was meant to be. She was going to be with her mother again.
The King, running to try and catch his daughter screams for help, resulting in nothing as fast as his daughter is descending.
With a scream shattering the magic, princess and parent are reunited.