The Piper and the Princess

With a sigh, the wind took leave of its dancing partners and swept on up the high hill, like a carriage late for its appointment at the castle. It skirled round the towers and shrieked down the cloisters, and, to the princess who lived in the tallest tower, it seemed like an undisciplined child, always angry or mischievous.

“If only somebody would take it away and give it a smack!” her nurse cried peevishly. The princess stabbed her needle once more into her embroidery.

“Endless embroidery, every day,” she sighed. “I wish I could go outside and play, like the wind.” She spoke in barely a whisper, but her nurse’s keen ears missed nothing.

“Now, now my little precious thing, you know that playing outside with the wind is a fine thing for little girls who know no better, who don’t wear fine silk dresses and aren’t being courted by...” the nurse droned on, and her words were soon lost beneath the beguiling wail and call of the wind. If she listened almost as hard as she could, the princess imagined that she could hear a music carried on the wind. Something wild and old, not at all like the stately and rigid compositions of the castle minstrels.

Suddenly, she stood up. “I need to go to Confession,” she told her startled nurse, and skipped off out of the door before any remonstrance could be made.

The princess raced down the hill, the wind behind her pushing her forward like a fussy courtier anxious that she shouldn’t keep the party waiting. She giggled as she thought this, and the wind grabbed hold of her laughter, amplifying and distorting it and carrying it deep into the forest. The sound disquieted her, and she slowed her footsteps. The forest was close now, and she fancied that she could feel the darkness flowing out of it like a vapour. She shivered as it touched her, and for a single moment she hesitated, turned half towards the castle. Then a skein of music drifted high and thin and sinuous from the forest, entwining itself unnoticed around the princess’ feet and heart. She took three steps forward, plunging into the forest like a swimmer into water that is cold and immeasurably deep.

You can find the complete version of The Piper and the Princess in issue 50 of TBD.

Laura Peregrin