Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Lay of the Princess and the Lady Beneath

1. Asleep in their beds lay the nation's princess
and, dying, her mother the queen;
the people were blessed by her thirty year reign,
but her daughter was only fifteen.

2. The death of the lady was peaceful and quick,
but the princess could not bear the news,
for she knew she was heir to the hardships of state
and an office she couldn't refuse.

3. In thirty day's passing, our frightened princess
was set to be crowned as our queen,
and no one would listen to hear her complain
she was only a girl of fifteen.

4. Oh, woe to the nation that heeded her not,
to the people who furnished her crown!
And more woe to the child of regal neglect
whom they dressed in her dead mother's gown.

5. With twenty days left, though the girl did protest
(for as yet she had not been made queen),
they enjoined her to stand in her dear mother's name,
as a figurehead lass of fifteen.

6. Forbidden to walk, she remained on the throne
as ambassadors hung up their capes;
Unable to speak in the turbulent din,
she prayed for a path of escape.

7. The retainers would gawk at and crowd the princess,
but compared to the previous queen
she seemed small for a monarch and weak for a dame -
after all, she was only fifteen.

8. Now among the legations that came to her court
were the elves of an underground realm,
and a certain elf-woman stood out for her charms
that could glamour, bewitch, overwhelm.

9. As the elf was approaching the lonely princess
in this clamorous mess of a scene,
she held a small box, which concealed her aim
to deceive the poor girl of fifteen.

10. The box was constructed of rosewood and tin,
and inlaid with black gemstones and runes;
they glinted as if from a torch in the night
as the shadows encircle the moon.

11. Her gaze met the eyes of the quiet princess
who despaired at becoming a queen -
and quietly offered a way to obtain
the assistance of powers unseen.

12. "This wood is alike with the shade of your skin,
and the onyx-stone matches your eyes.
This box should be yours: if you search it, I know
you will find your desired disguise."

13. A soldier sprang forward to make an arrest,
for when she was a lass of eighteen,
in Elventown she had been harshly detained,
and mistrusted their ominous queen.

14. "This woman's a witch, and intent on revenge
for your mother's defeat of her tribe!
These elves should have never been suffered to come -
I suggest you should have them proscribed."

15. The elf only smiled, and soothed the princess:
"my people would scarce harm a queen!
Our Lady Beneath was your dear mother's thane,"
she declared to the girl of fifteen,

16. "And this box is a tribute from elf-kind to you,
may it keep you for many long years!
It was crafted to guard against threats to your soul,
and allay your most deep-seated fears".

17. Like many young children, the infant princess
had been taught to suspect the unseen,
and especially mystery trinkets that came
from the halls of the faerie-folk's queen;

18. Yet a luminous spark in the eye of the witch
and the desperate prayer in her mind
set the former queen's daughter on destiny's course,
to whatever result she might find.

19. "This woman, and all of her folk, are my guests,"
were the words of the soon-to-be queen,
and the soldier's suspicions were duly restrained,
though the princess was only fifteen.

20. The elf curtsied low to her sovereign liege
and again she presented her gift,
as seductive as jasmine, attractive as gold,
but as light as a feather to lift.

21. Extending her fingers, she gave the princess
this respect from the faerie-folk's queen:
she opened the present, and found it contained
an elf-cloak with a gossamer sheen.

22. It was barely observed, but a sinister light
seemed to flash in the princess's cheek,
yet she giggled with girlish delight as the cloak
was displayed on her youthful physique.

23. The people were pleased to behold their princess
in a mantle befitting a queen,
enchanting the likeness of lightning and rain
in the form of a girl of fifteen.

24. As the party continued for three hours more,
the retainers found nothing awry
and the soldier admitted she may have been wrong
in suspecting the fay of a lie.

25. But the sun must descend, and deserted the guests
at the hour of seven fifteen,
as they noticed the color had started to drain
from the skin of their soon-to-be queen.

26. Without being noticed, away from the crowd
the elf-witch and her party had flown;
and the people cried out in dismay when they saw
that the princess was turned into stone.

27. The nation's ambassadors mourned the princess
who'd been cursed by the treacherous queen,
and the soldier who'd warned of the elves and their games
vowed revenge for the girl of fifteen.

28. Barely three hours distant, the witch and her elves
bid the overground nation farewell,
and they carried a box with a miniature girl
(who was shaken, but otherwise well).

29. "Enclosed in this cell," thought the little princess,
"I may never have need to be queen;
yet in elvish captivity, could I maintain
I shall live to be more than fifteen?"

30. Then the party approached a magnificent cave,
and they entered that hole in the ground
to be hailed as heroes, triumphant and true
for a deed that would make them renowned.

31. The Elventown commons were brilliantly dressed
in their tunics of ultramarine,
when the elf-witch presented the princess's bane
to the sinister hand of her queen.

32. With great satisfaction, the Lady Beneath
then opened the magical case,
and she said, "Dearest Princess, look up to my eyes,
and behold ye my sovereign face."

33. Though small as a sparrow, and weighing just less,
she was sure it was no good to scream;
so the princess looked proud as she boldly exclaimed,
"I give thanks to the underground queen!"

34. "Give thanks?" said the lady who reigned in the caves,
"how very grown up and polite!
I might have expected to see you in tears,
or to put up a childish fight".

35. "I've no tears to show you", declared the princess,
"though I think I can see what you mean.
But I'm surely too old to throw fits and complain,
as a woman of nearly sixteen!"

36. "How worthy, the daughter of my greatest foe!"
Said the queen of the elves with a laugh,
"but still, to believe you should thank me for this
is simply too funny by half!"

37. "So if you would kindly explain, my princess,
how you came by such manners and mien
to be grateful to one who would loyalty feign
and abduct a sweet girl of fifteen?"

38. The princess explained to the Lady Beneath
how she loathed to be placed on the throne,
"where my mother was seated for so many years
and left me completely alone,"

39. "And although I've been called a beloved princess,
I believe my performance as queen
would only bring everyone sorrow and pain,"
said the innocent girl of fifteen.

40. "But alas," she continued, "I'm surely confused
as to how you could take me from there!
Could you tell me, my lady, what magic was used
when you answered my secretive prayer?"

41. "The magic was mine, my delightful princess",
said the elf witch attending the queen,
"a masterful casting of spells with my cane
and the aid of the powers unseen:"

42. "The enchantments to shrink you, and glamours to fool
that unwitting assembly of folk,
were woven with lightning and subtly concealed
in the folds of your lovely new cloak!"

43. "How expertly sewn!" said the tiny princess
as she fondled its delicate seams,
"and the power that dwells in your cherry wood cane
gives my cloak its peculiar sheen?"

44. "A clever young girl!" said the Lady Beneath
with a withering glance at the witch,
"that power abides by the will of the elves
and obeys me with nary a hitch."

45. "In any event, my agreeable guest,
I assure you, you shall not be queen!
Here in the cave of the fay, you'll remain,
to the age of a hundred fifteen!"

46. And the beautiful box with the princess inside
was secured in an underground cell,
where the girl was imprisoned for three days and nights,
(she could tell by the sound of the bells).

47. Pretending to sleep, the resourceful princess
worked hard on a devious scheme:
she studied the lock that would keep her contained,
determined to outwit the queen.

48. And on the fourth morning, she finally picked
it, and warily opened the lid:
then seeing no guard, she climbed down to the carpet,
where deep in the shadows she hid.

49. In no time at all there was strife and distress
as the witch met the guards with a scream,
"how hard could it possibly be to detain
a minuscule girl of fifteen!?"

50. "Now find her, you fools, if you value your ears,
and replace her inside of that hutch!
Apart from its confines, the princess can shrink
any object she likes with her touch!"

51. And hearing this story, the little princess
saw a penny of stature obscene,
yet it shrank at her touch to a scale more mundane
like a typical pebble or bean.

52. "Now somewhere in Elventown, surely I'll find
the dear witch's mysterious den;
if I can lay hands on the cane that she used,
then perhaps I can go home again!"

53. With the penny for luck in a fold of her dress
she set off with the nerve of a queen,
and her fine elvish cloak with its motive of rain
seemed to aid her with powers unseen.

54. It took nearly an hour, but somehow she found
it, and slipped herself under the door.
The girl beheld books in the Old Elvish tongue
stacked in piles all over the floor,

55. Stones of great beauty and flowers possessed
of the light of celestial dreams;
but a rack in the corner with magical canes
caught the eyes of the girl of fifteen.

56. She made a quick dash at the sight of her goal,
but was met by a cruel surprise
when the crafty elf sorceress stepped from the shadows
she'd worn as a mystic disguise.

57. "The moment I saw you, my darling princess,
I knew you were loath to be queen;
so I can't say it's clear why you'd cause me the pain
of pursuing an ungrateful teen!"

58. The princess looked up to her eyes of citrine:
"It's the cherry wood cane that I need?"
The sorceress laughed with a manic intent,
"if you think you can finish the deed!"

59. Then she cast out a net at the little princess,
who dodged with the lightness of steam,
and she chased her through canyons of spell-books arcane
and grimoires of the powers unseen.

60. She might have been captured for all of her nerve,
as she wearied of using her feet,
when a clamor of shouting came out from the hall,
"they're attacking the Lady Beneath!"

61. And the elf witch grew pale with fear and distress,
and broke off to defend the old queen,
but she ran to the scene with her cherry wood cane,
to withhold from the girl of fifteen.

62. "Guard!" she called out to a panicking elf,
"the young princess is trapped in my room!
Make sure she's still there by the time I return,
or I'll curse thee to sputter and spume!"

63. So the guard was assigned to the tiny princess,
and the sorceress sped to the scene,
where brave volunteers from the human domain
sought revenge for their petrified queen.

64. In the thick of the fight was the Lady Beneath,
who stood tall with a glittering blade
in the face of the soldier who'd tried to arrest
the elf witch who had hatched the charade.

65. The combat was fierce, there was blood on the dress
of the faerie-folk's treacherous queen,
but the sorceress smiled, as it principally came
from the wounds of the soldier, it seemed.

66. But her smile was erased when the brave woman's sword
struck the queen in a desperate blow;
as the queen staggered back her opponent announced,
"there is something I think you should know:"

67. "Some years in the past I was under arrest
by the guards of this rebel regime,
and in spite of the standards for treatments humane,
my detention was heartless and mean!"

68. "As much as for duty, I fight for myself!"
she declared with her victory won,
"I demand your surrender, or else at my hands
you'll face justice for what you have done!"

69. The queen slowly rose, and her eyes were impressed,
though her forehead was furrowed between,
and she seethed, "I'll resist you until I am slain,
for I bow to no overground queen!"

70. With a wave of her cherry wood cane, the elf witch
made her queen disappear in a blink,
and the soldier whirled 'round to behold her new foe,
in her vestments of crimson and pink.

71. "A very good speech - for a human, I guess,"
she pronounced with a sneer and a lean,
"but a speech will not save thee from thunder and rain,
nor stifle the music of screams!"

72. Then she threw up her arms and began to enchant,
and a storm cloud arose in the cave,
but the casting was halted when out of the blue,
she was struck by a bolt from a stave.

73. A few paces back stood our tiny princess,
that brazen-eyed girl of fifteen,
in her miniature cloak, with a miniature cane
in the hands of the soon-to-be queen.

74. The cane that she held was of rosewood, as dark
as the natural tone of her skin,
and her laughter was tiny, but still it was heard
from without the elf town and within.

75. The soldiers looked down at their little princess,
and some thought she was only a dream,
but her onyx eyes flashed with her mother's own flame,
and they knew her, the heir of the queen.

76. "The blast will have stunned her," the princess instructed
the soldier who led the attack,
"and the cherry wood rod that flew out of her hands
has the power to make me grow back."

77. So she dutifully fetched for the patient princess
the old cane with the powers unseen,
and with it her stature she quickly regained,
a fair height for a girl of fifteen.

78. With the elves in a rout and the danger averted,
the princess desired a truce.
"when next we should hear from the Lady Beneath,
let her know she need not fear the noose;"

79. "Though the elves took advantage of all my distress,
they have grievances of the old queen.
I wish to make right all the wrongs to my name,
though I'm only a girl of fifteen."

80. Then out from the shades came the Lady Beneath,
with a poultice applied to her waist;
"You humans are gifted in fair-seeming speech,
but do not look forward in haste,"

81. "In time it may be we can finally rest
from our strife with the overground queen,
but perhaps I will sign by your granddaughter's name
on the treaty that hails this dream."

82. Then the princess replied with a light in her heart,
"I shall teach her the value of peace,
so whoever may reign from my throne at that time
will ensure that our blood feud shall cease.

83. The dutiful soldier approved her princess:
"they shall call you the wisest of queens,
for it takes real courage to cast aside blame
when the hurt is a mighty ravine".

84. So the humans departed, and sent architects
to help to repair Elventown,
and the nation rejoiced at the sight of the girl
they believed they would never see crowned.

85. And in time, the enlightened and gracious princess
took her seat on the throne of the queen,
with her magical rosewood and cherry wood canes
on the day that she turned sixteen.

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