This is a story I have always wanted to tell. Now that I am finally sitting down to write it out, I hope…
Long, long ago, there lived a King in a castle on a hill. King Alasdair was a charming young man, a beloved leader. He had golden hair and captivating green eyes; the hierarchy in his court and kingdom was not very strict, yet everything ran smoothly. There was order amongst chaos, and chaos amongst order. Sometimes, he would even find people he could have sworn he’d never seen before working at the castle. Sometimes, they turned out to be traitors; most times, they were just...there. Circumstances brought them there, and later on, a different set of circumstances would see them off. Such was life in his kingdom.
On one of his expeditions, one of the King’s knights found a girl, lost and wandering. Back then, she was barefoot, wearing nothing but a ragged dress. Her eyes were a brilliant blue, inquisitive yet pure; her hair seemed to be some sort of pink. The King did see her, but it was his knight who took her in. She was soft-spoken and petite. She gave her name but could tell nothing else—Valerie. Valerie’s curious gaze surveyed everyone equally, but she took the knight’s outreached hand and she followed him back to the castle.
The King watched it all in silence, and he watched in caution. Under the knight’s care, Valerie was treated as if she were a constant guest. She was dressed in light pastel colors to match the color of her hair and her gentle nature; she made herself useful, sorting the books in the castle—and reading them as well. She never said much, only bowing her head and mumbling a quiet “sire” whenever King Alasdair passed by. In response, he would nod and smile. At times, if he had the time, he asked how she was doing. She was always fine.
But the King watched in silence, and he watched in caution. He watched his knight approach her and she observed the light blush on her cheeks. He saw her laugh that one time she accidentally stepped on the knight’s foot trying to dance with him. Eventually, he heard his knight ask to kiss her. Just as he thought he could see exactly where the story was going, he heard her reply, “You can kiss my foot.”
Two days later, the knight fled from the castle in the middle of the night, not even bothering to resign. King Alasdair watched him leave but said nothing. He wondered to himself: is one rejection enough to hurt your pride that badly?
His confusion lasted only another two days—and then he understood. At least, he thought he did.
Valerie stopped wearing pastel colors. She began to wear black. She wore trousers, and she wore leather boots. Somehow, her hair seemed a little less pink and a little closer to red. Her crystal blues seemed less pure but ever more piercing. Although the man who’d brought her in was no longer there, she stayed in the castle, continuing the duties that she had voluntarily assumed in the first place.
“You don’t have to stay here, you know,” said King Alasdair. “Nobody’s stopping you from going where you please or doing what you actually want to do. Just because he brought you here doesn’t mean you owe me anything.”
“Sire,” Valerie responded, “I will follow you to the stars if you take me there.”
King Alasdair decided he did not need to fill his head with more of the confusing mess that Valerie presented herself to be, so he let the conversation end there. Valerie stayed, and for a long time, she continued simply to do what she had always done.
She didn’t seem to be after anything. That, to him, was a little concerning.
Another day, an official brought to the King news of his former knight’s death—the one who ran away. Upon his death, notes and documents were discovered at his home, revealing that he had once plotted the King’s assassination. In his notes, he had written: I was almost killed that night. I had brought a monster to the castle, and I didn’t even know.
Valerie was summoned.
“What happened?” King Alasdair asked, showing her the notes.
“Why do you ask?” she replied.
“Because I want to know,” he said.
She shook her head. “Sire, you trust me. You ask because you want to know that it wasn’t me—but I will tell you nothing but the truth, and the truth is it was me. That knight of yours was nothing but a jealous coward. I only had to show him this for him to flee.”
Saying thus, she shed her coat. In the moonlight, there came a faint, glimmering outline of a pair of wings on her back. They looked vaguely like butterfly wings. The king gazed upon them for a while, silent.
“Well?” Valerie prompted.
“That was it? That was all it took?” he voiced.
The girl smirked. “I thought you might say so.”
She put her coat back on and the wings faded from view.
“And you, Valerie? What is it that you want?” King Alasdair asked.
“To be by your side, Sire.” She repeated the answer she had given once before, albeit in slightly different wording.
“What do you mean by that?”
“Only exactly what I said, Sire.”
“Because I like to, Sire.”
Once again, King Alasdair decided he did not want to fill his head with her confusing answers. The conversation ended there—and Valerie stayed.
After revealing herself to him, Valerie began to play a more active role. At first, she tinkered with his weaponry. Then, she became a part of his army. Soon, she was leading it and expanding it. Valerie was the only female in the army, but not a single soul disobeyed her commands. When King Alasdair observed the army, he noted that it had nothing to do with the glimpses of sparkles she left behind on his desk after peering over his maps; it had nothing to do with the wings on her back—the men didn’t even know they were there; the now-crimson color of her hair was most certainly irrelevant, too. Valerie led the army in every conquest. Often, she disappeared from the frontlines as soon as a battle started, only to reappear with the head of the opposing general a few minutes later. Because of that, King Alasdair’s wars ended almost as soon as they started. His name became known throughout the land, spreading across kingdoms. Valerie was known only in his kingdom; she earned herself the alias of “warrior princess”—a title she never responded to.
There came a time when the King lost his Queen. The nation mourned, and on the night she passed, the King brought himself to a tower, overlooking the land. So what if I have all the riches of the world? He thought. What is it worth, if…
Familiar golden sparkles alerted him, snapping him out of his own thoughts. Next to him, Valerie landed, a light smile on her face.
“...the whole kingdom is mourning out of obligation, you alone dare smile like that—and right next to the King too,” he noted, although a bitter smile found its way to his features.
“I would not be able to find you tonight if you truly wanted to be alone. Nobody disturbs your quarters, and yet you walk yourself to this tower,” Valerie said.
“Well, I do appreciate your company, but...”
“Pretend I’m not here, then. Cry your heart out. Do whatever.”
“Valerie...why are you here? A girl like you could do well anywhere—you could rule your own country, even. People have come and gone throughout the years. The glory of my kingdom only attracts them for so long, and they leave as they please since I don’t coerce them to stay loyal. I would ask if it were the queenship you are after, but I doubt it.”
“I want to be where you are,” she answered—for the third time, again in slightly different wording. “I’ll be your sword and shield, something you can always rely on. You’re right, I could rule a kingdom of my own, I could take over yours as well, but I won’t, because that’s not what I’m after. I am after nothing but your company.”
This time, he believed her.
From that moment on, Valerie became more carefree and Alasdair less uptight. His office always had traces of golden sparks—sometimes he even sneezed in the middle of reading. She was often there, drawing plans with him. Kingdoms rose and fell, but Alasdair’s seemed constant. When asked what his victory was based, his answer would always be, “Gold.” He didn’t mean the physical gold that he also did have, but he didn’t feel the need to clarify.
Once, Valerie pointed to a kingdom on the world map and suggested they overtake that next. “I’m going to look for my prince there,” she claimed. Thinking back to his former knight, Alasdair arched an eyebrow but agreed.
That, too, was a war she won. It took a little longer this time, long enough that he even worried a little. Yet, when she returned, it started to make sense: Valerie returned not with the head of a general but a pair of crumpled, golden wings that were not her own. She landed in front of Alasdair, laying the wings on the ground as they began to lose their sparkle.
“...I see,” the King noted, “You really meant it when you said you were to look for your prince.”
Valerie wiped a streak of blood from her own cheek—for once, the blood belonged to herself. Then, she chuckled.
“My hair got all messed up, Sire. Think you could help me out a little?” she requested.
“Of course, Valerie.” The King picked up a hairbrush and began combing through her locks. “What did he do?”
“Banished me from the palace, ruined my name, and—”
“Wait...banished you from the palace?”
“Haven’t I told you? I was the ‘warrior princess’ in this land before your knight found me on the streets.”
“An actual princess?”
“Yeah. Not that it matters now.”
...that you’ll read it and remember it. Maybe even keep it with you.
When you read this, I’m probably...haha. The line sounds cool, but I’m not going anywhere. I’m probably just sleeping. When I wake up, let’s go hunt for that treasure we talked about yesterday...my king.
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