Ксения Богданова

Страна: Россия

Аспирант филологического факультета Санкт-Петербургского государственного университета. Перевожу с русского языка на английский, с английского на русский и с испанского на русский. Люблю сочинять малую прозу на английском языке в жанре фэнтези, а также создавать иллюстрации.

Country: Russia

I am a graduate student at the faculty of philology of the St. Petersburg State University. As a translator, I am capable of rendering texts from Russian into English, from English into Russian, and from Spanish into Russian. My passions include writing short fantasy stories in English and creating illustrations.

Сказка. Притча.

The Sorcerer, the Tree, and the Bad Princess

…With all eyes following her in silence, the Princess marched to the treasury, where she would so often go to pick out gifts for her subjects. Once there, she took her late mother’s armour off its rack, still blazing like it did in that accusing portrait, and locked the hard metal bracers round her arms, and lowered the heavy cuirass on her shoulders, and tucked her long black hair (about the only thing that she and the Great and Glorious Queen had in common) under a feathered helmet.

Fully armoured, she took her mother’s sword from another rack, along with a dagger and a bow to serve her if the sword failed, and without a word, saddled her kingdom’s best steed, and set off to the distant mountains. For she was tired of being a bad princess, and thought that if she struck down her realm’s foe in single combat, like the Great and Glorious Queen had done so often, she would, at long last, be able to walk among her people without her heart breaking.

Long was her journey, and arduous, and filled with grave danger: for there was dark magic brewing wherever she tread, and many a time did she and her steed narrowly escape being carried off by a boiling river of fire, or getting pierced through the heart by pillar-like lightning, or being crushed by a waterfall that did not flow as it should. But, after coming to the brink of perishing more often than she would care to account, the Princess finally arrived in the secluded village in the mountains, which now lay in a pile of smouldering ruins, as its people had abandoned it, with their staves on the ready and their minds filled with the treacherous whispers of the Spirit of Darkness.

It did not take the Princess too long to notice the tower that stood beyond the far outskirts of the village, looming tall and lonesome against the dark, red-tinged clouds that brewed in the sky, with the dead tree hugging it with its bone-like branches. And so, the Princess tethered her steed to a nearby rickety fence, and hugged his arching neck (for, being a very bad princess, she was much too fond of greeting every living creature with a hug, instead of ordering it to kneel), and made her way to the tower.

As she entered through the creaking door, the Princess was greeted by marrow-biting cold, and ringing emptiness, and utter, oppressive dreariness, which now reigned in all the halls and passageways of the Sorcerer’s tower, where once the voices of carefree children would ring out, and the rustling murmurs of the great tree would flow in through the window.

The Princess could not see the invading Spirit of Darkness, for it was cunning in its ways, and masked its presence, hiding in the dark shadows behind the fluttering torn curtains, and within the crevices of the crumbling walls, and below the cobwebbed tables, desks, and bookcases. But she did find the Sorcerer, sitting in a tall armchair in one of the abandoned rooms, his face like a mask of grey and yellow wax, his empty eyes looking out of the window, at the branches of the dead tree that scraped sadly against the pane.

Pursing her mouth tight and steadying her breath, the Princess drew her mother’s sword, ready to pierce the dark, evil heart of her realm’s foe — but as she approached closer, with the Sorcerer taking no heed of her all the while, her lips and hands began to tremble, and her breathing became shallow and erratic, and the bared blade froze in the air, never falling as it was meant to. For when the Princess looked into the Sorcerer’s eyes, those empty eyes, so tired and dark, gazing at the dead tree with not a single blink, she recognized the look that she had so often seen in the mirror. The look of someone whose heart was broken.

With scarcely a sound, the mighty blade fell down to the floor, sinking into the soft, carpet-like dust: the Princess was unable to wield it. Coughing in the dry, scraping dust cloud that the sword had raised, she chastised herself for her softness, and drew her dagger instead, aiming to slit the Sorcerer’s throat, quick and quiet, while he sat so stiff and silent, not knowing (or not caring) that she was there.

But she was unable to wield the dagger either, and down it dropped into the dust, just like the sword. Again, the Princess chastised herself, and took some steps back until she could no longer see the Sorcerer’s face, and drew her bow, thinking that she would be able to slay him if she did not look at him too closely, but rather took aim from a distance.

But even so, she was unable to wield her weapon, and let it clatter down into the dust, joining the sword and the dagger. And while the Princess stood over her pile of discarded weapons, her broken heart called out to the broken heart of the Sorcerer, its rhythm soft and sad and impossible to resist; drawn by this rhythm, the Princess ran across the dusty chamber, and threw herself to her knees next to the Sorcerer’s chair, and wrapped her arms around him.

As she did so, the Sorcerer stirred, the dark, bleak pall falling from his eyes; he, too, glanced into her face and recognized the look that he knew all too well, the look that had never left him ever since his cherished tree withered. Sensing that her pain was akin to his, he returned the Princess’ embrace, and their two broken hearts beat as one.

And even though on their own, their hearts were filled with cracks that weakened them, together they were strong enough to make the old, warm, healing magic return to the tower. All because the young woman who thought herself a bad princess had shown the lonely Sorcerer a little kindness.

In a flash, the dreary cobwebs dissolved into thin air, washed away by a torrent of cleansing light, and the red clouds outside drew back, letting in the long-awaited sunshine, which burst into every hidden nook where the Spirit of Darkness tried to hide, and burned and stung at it till it melted away. All because the young woman who thought herself a bad princess had shown the lonely Sorcerer a little kindness.

With the Spirit gone, the horrible things that it had done with its twisted incantations began to reverse: the wild mage fire stopped burning, and the sick and the wounded felt whole again, and the spellcasters from the village shook off the tethers of the dark enchantment, and, struck by what they had wrought, embraced one another and swore never to squabble again. All because the young woman who thought herself a bad princess had shown the lonely Sorcerer a little kindness.

Overjoyed, the two of them ran to the window of the tower, where they stood for quite a while, talking about their past and wondering aloud about the future as they looked on at the blossoming mountain ranges and the stream of people flowing back into the village below. But then, the Sorcerer saw the white branches of the great tree, and wept, and said,

‘The world is healed, but my tree, which I cared for so tenderly and which taught me so much, is still dead’.

And the Princess took his hands in hers, and kissed them, and said,

‘It is… But you are alive, and you still remember what the tree taught you. And as long as you continue sharing what you learned with the people who need a little warmth and healing and nourishment, a part of your tree will always remain within your soul’.

Hardly had the Princess finished speaking, when she heard her horse neigh, reminding her that it was time to return to her palace. And the Princess remembered the purpose of her journey, and wept, and said,

‘I was supposed to slay you for threatening my people, like my mother would have done… And what did I do instead? I am such a bad princess…’

And now the Sorcerer took her hands in his, and kissed them, and said,

‘Your mother may have tried to slay me if she were here, but you are not her. You are you, and what you are is the best, kindest, and noblest princess that I have ever met’.

And with that, he gazed into her eyes, and she in his, and they have each other a smile, and shared a third kiss, on the lips this time.

As their lips touched, and their souls touched as well, they had no way of knowing if they were supposed to live happily ever after — but what they did know was that, deep down, the cracks in their broken hearts had begun to seal.

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