(Prompt: Fantasy-Rescue the princess from the tower).

gothic

Everyone knows the story of Rapunzel. Girl trapped in tower by a witch, insanely long hair by which a princes rescues her. Balderdash. Rubbish. That’s not how it happened. Not even close. But everyone likes a happy ending–a fairy tale. So the story of my mother was re-told so that it had a happy ending. But that doesn’t make it truth.

My mother, Rapunzel, was born to a crofter and his new and young wife. She had three older half-sisters who had already been married off by the time she was born. Her father was desperate for that son, the son to give his holdings to–someone he wouldn’t have to dower. So when his young wife bore yet another daughter he went into a fit of rage. Recently a young widow and her baby son had moved to the village. He approached this widow and offered an exchange. My bother for the baby boy. The widow took him up on his offer, sold him her son for the price of his daughter.

A few weeks later the widow disappeared with my mother. My mother never knew where they traveled when she was a baby or how far she was from her home village. Her first memory was the tower upon which the widow decided to live. It was all that was left of a once great castle, this great tower, built of deep black stone. During the days the widow, whom my mother Rapunzel called Lady, would leave her locked in the tower while she went off to do whatever it was she did to earn their bread and clothes. Many a night Lady would return with great chests of gold and gems, which she would hide within the tower. Sometimes she returned with piles of silks and other expensive cloth which she taught my mother to make into gowns.

When my mother was young, about 6 or 7, Lady told her about her birth parents. Upon hearing that she wasn’t wanted because she was a girl she made the decision to hate them. She wrote in a journal, which the Lady had started with her to teach her how to write. My mother wrote how she loved Lady because she wanted her because of who she was. My mother spent her childhood wanting to do anything she could to please Lady. If only she had known then who the Lady really was.

My mother grew into a lovely young woman. Deep red-gold hair that swirled in beautiful waves across her shoulders and down her back, drifting to her waist. Long hair for a certain, but nothing so extreme as believed in the fairy-tale. Deep green eyes that filled with emotion. I only know how beautiful my mother was because I’ve been told by my father that I look exactly like her.

One day while Lady was out my mother was outside the tower, gathering wildflowers to decorate with. She loved cooking dinner for Lady and decorating the table with flowers–as it pleased the Lady so. While gathering flowers a noise startled her and she looked towards the woods that surrounded her home. Coming from the woods was a young man, about my mother’s age. He was dressed in hunter’s gear, complete with an insignia on his breast that my mother did not recognize.  He had dark hair and eyes but a bright smile on his face. He held his hands up as if to apologize for frightening her.  As he slowly walked closer towards she noticed that he was soaking wet.

“Good morrow, mistress. Please, don’t be frightened. I fell in the river a few leagues back. I was hoping you could help me. ”

“Help you with what? ” Manners were not necessarily my mother’s strong suit.

“I have lost my way a bit. I got turned around while on a hunt. When I fell in the river I lost my weapons and my bag which had food and a map. I have no food and no knowledge of where I am.” The hunter stopped moving forward but kept the smile on his face, despite my mother’s rudeness.

“I’m sorry but I can’t help you.” my mother turned to go back to the tower.

“Please, good mistress. Can you at least tell me where I am?” He reached towards her. His hand lightly brushed her arm.

A blush crept up my mother’s face. She’d never been this close to anyone, let a lone a handsome man. “I’m sorry, but I truly can’t. I’ve never been passed this field. The tower is my home.” She pointed to the tower over her shoulder, standing black against the horizon.

The man’s face went pale. “You live in the Black Tower?” He jumped away from her.

“Since I was a young girl. Yes.” My mother was confused. She didn’t understand this man’s reaction to her home. Why was he afraid of the tower?

“Then…then you know the Witch?”

“Witch? I know of no witch. Only the Lady. She took me in and has taken care of me. ”

“What does the Lady look like?” The man seemed eager now.

“Beautiful of course. Brown hair, bright blue eyes. She loves the color red and I made her a deep red cloak that she wears all the time now. ” My mother gave a half-smile.

The hunter literally sat down in the middle of the field. He looked shocked. “Good mistress, the Lady of whom you speak so fondly. She is not who you think she is.”

He then begun to spin a tale that frightened my mother. It was about a cruel woman who used magic to steal what she wanted. She took gold and silks from anyone she came across. If someone stood in her way she callously murdered them. For the past few months she had taken to stealing young women, murdering them and stealing their souls. She used these souls to keep her young and her powers strong. The hunter’s sister had been murdered in this way and so he had set out looking for the Black Tower and the Witch who lived there. He was determined to do away with the Witch and protect anyone else from harm at her hands.

My mother shook her head in the negative. “That is not the Lady. You are mistaken!” She fled his presence and returned to the tower, the safety of her home.

The Lady returned at sunset and my mother had dinner on the table awaiting her.

“Welcome home Lady.” my mother gave her a hug.

“Thank you Rapunzel. This dinner looks wonderful.” She settled down to eat, flinging her great red cloak across the back of the chair. “What did you do today, my child?”

“Oh nothing of important. What about you Lady?” This was the first time my mother had ever dared asked the Lady what it was she did during the day.

The Lady glared at my mother. She refused to answer.

This same routine continued for weeks. My mother asking the Lady refusing to answer. Slowly my mother realized that the Lady looked no older as time passed. In fact anyone in passing would easily assume that the Lady and she were sisters. My mother returned to the field each day and the hunter awaited her. He told her his name was Mikael. He told her all the stories of the Witch and each day my mother would ask for more. She brought him food, she brought him water. She helped him build a tent in the forest. He refused to leave unless she promised to come with him. She refused unless he would he promised he would not hurt the Lady. The were at a standstill.

As time went on Lady became increasingly angry that my mother was constantly asking questions. When my mother would ask Lady would grab her by the hair and fling her down. She would rant and rave, yelling and screaming at her that she had taken care of her, raised her when no one wanted her. The ferocity of her attacks escalated until one day Rapunzel came to Mikael, hair torn from her scalp, her eye and cheek bruised. Her eyes were swollen from crying and her arms and hand bloody from holding them up to protect her face. Mikael took Rapunzel into his arms and begged her to come away with him. He couldn’t bear to see her hurt. Watching her suffer was killing him for he had fallen in love with her. His love for her overrode his hatred of the Witch. He gave my mother the promise she begged. He would take her away from here and would not return to hurt Lady, even though he was positive she was the Witch.

So they ran. That day they ran. Mikael was a good huntsmen and despite being lost for a few days was able to finally get his bearings and he eventually brought my mother home. He lived in a village near the castle where the King and Queen lived. He was hunter in their employ. And so it was with their blessing my mother married Mikael. Years went by and she lived happily. Everyone in the village loved my mother and she never spoke of where she had come from. It saddened her so. Stories of the Witch became more and more frequent and more and more young women were murdered, their souls stolen. My mother would never gossip with the town about these rumors saying only they made her too sad to think about.

One day when my mother was pregnant with me, she went into the village to help one of the old men who was sick. This man was delirious with fever. He spoke of a girl child he’d sold to the Witch in exchange for a boy. He raved about how the boy had been nothing but a vision. He cried into my mother’s hands asking her to find his daughter and tell her his was sorry. My mother said nothing. What could she say? She never thought to come across her father, the one who had given her away. She cried silently as the man babbled in his fever. He spoke of tale that said the Witch could be defeated if the person who held her soul was killed. My father came to gather my mother once the old man had passed.

He found her in the early stages of labor, crying, and desperate. She told him what she had learned. She realized that she had been the Lady’s, the Witch’s, first victim. She didn’t know why the Lady had stolen and kept her but she, now years later, had finally come to believe that person she thought of as her savior was truly evil.

My birth was not easy. Once it was done my father begged my mother to allow him to return to the Tower. Once he saw I was a girl babe he wanted to do anything he could to protect me. My mother was weak but she agreed on the condition. He fought with her for days about it. In those days she gained strength and convinced him she was well enough to travel. So it was I was left with the mid-wife and my parents returned to the Black Tower to face the Witch.

The Witch of course murdered my mother. As the life left my mother, the Witch suddenly appeared as an old wizened woman. My father, through his grief realized what had happened. My mother was where the Witch kept her soul, she protected my mother all those years, because she protected her soul. In the fight he believed she didn’t mean to murder my mother, because of course she knew it would be her downfall. But the Lady underestimated my mother’s love.

My mother sacrificed herself to save me. To save all the other women she knew the Lady would steal to keep her alive. But this is not he happy ending everyone wanted. So the story changed as the years went on. The story of Rapunzel became one of magic hair and hidden away princesses. It is my story. The story of my mother. And so here I write the truth, to show her honor.

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