I’m not that great at horror stories but I tried. :] I chose a tale that most people are familiar with, I hope you will be able to guess which one it is. ;) I’m sorry it’s so long though…I started working on it last night and had planned on just writing some and then posting it, but I got so into it that it went on and on! Hope you enjoy anyway. Thanks very much to Francine for hosting this. Be sure to check out the other entries as well!
The Tragedy of Prince Ivan
It was a dark and stormy night. Prince Ivan was lamenting on his favorite regal couch in the parlor. “Why, oh why is it that none of the women I meet are real princesses?” he moaned in anguish. The sorrowful pelts of rain outside seem to be parallel with his own inner grief. His mother was walking in long strides in front of him, her giant purple cloak trailing behind. Servants fanned her as best as they could, but every time they got too close she would shoo them away with one hand covered in gaudy rings.
“Don’t fret, my son,” the Queen said. “We will find you a royal lady yet.” At that moment, there was a knock on the main entrance, which echoed five times over throughout the castle. The prince and his mother had the same skeptical look on their faces, and they both left the room. A servant had already opened the door.
“Your Royal Highness,” Bonnie uttered, immediately bowing down to her knees. She kept her head down but her eyes kept moving back to a tall and skinny silhouette behind the door.
The Queen dismissed the servant with a single wave of her hand, and poor Bonnie retreated into the shadows. Prince Ivan peeked from behind his mother and found a young girl peering at him, her golden locks and dress soaked in rainwater. Her eyes were a brilliant emerald green, which immediately captivated him. Freckles slightly sprinkled over her nose.
The girl bowed her head once and looked into the Queen’s eyes. “My name is Hazel. I was walking out in the woods, and I got lost when it started to rain.”
“We don’t allow peasants into our home,” the Queen said coolly. “You’ll just have to seek shelter elsewhere, my dear. If you haven’t noticed my crown already, I suppose I should point out that you are at a king’s castle. My husband, King Ivan, to be exact. And this is my son, Prince Ivan the Second.” She gestured at her son, who straightened his back as if to look the part better. “So as you can tell, now, this is no place for, ah, a little girl like you.”
“Oh, but you see…I am of royal blood myself.” The woman’s eyes never left the Queen’s, a small smile dancing upon her lips. “I am Princess Hazel, of King Martin in the East.”
~ ~ ~
Prince Ivan couldn’t take his eyes off of Princess Hazel. Inside, he had already accepted that she was, well, a princess. Certainly, none of the other young ladies that he had reviewed over the course of the week had been as beautiful as this girl Hazel.
After his mother had allowed her inside the castle and ordered servants to bathe and clean her, Prince Ivan hadn’t been able to sit still. Yet, when Hazel had finally come down from the staircase and met him and the Queen for a light snack in the dining hall, he somehow lost his speech and movement altogether. Her beauty paralyzed him. True, Hazel was simply wearing a nightgown that the servants had provided her…perhaps it was the way her now-dry golden hair curled gently over her shoulder or the way her nose crinkled up when she smiled, but there was no doubt in his mind that this was the real deal. He was sure that, in just a few days, he’d find himself a wife in this woman.
“So how come I’ve never heard of this….King Martin?” the Queen asked, watching Hazel’s expression as she drank her soup.
Hazel dabbed her mouth lightly with the cloth napkin in her lap. “Royal politics is never something kings like to discuss with their family. It’s improper, or so my mother says. I mean, has your husband ever spoken to you about what is discussed behind closed doors at his meetings?” Her eyes lowered and found Prince Ivan, who was looking at her and smirking.
The Queen sucked her breath quickly. “No. No, I guess not.”
“Of course, being a part of a king’s family isn’t dull either. When Father is ever away on business, he arranges visits to museums, parks, and whatever else he thinks is stimulating to the mind.” Hazel finished the soup with one last delicate sip. “Lately, however, my parents have been trying to find me a suitable husband. None of the princes we have been searching for in the East have been good enough for my taste, nor theirs.” She looked pointedly at Prince Ivan, who couldn’t help but blush.
There was a short, awkward silence. “Ivan, may I have a word with you, darling?” Ivan looked up, as if surprised, and followed his mother into the parlor.
“What is it, Mother?” he asked her, his eyebrows furrowed in puzzlement.
“If she really is a princess,” the Queen almost scoffed out as if she’d already set her mind on the fact that Hazel wasn’t, “then she must be a fair and sensitive-skinned little woman. Why don’t we test her by putting a pea in her bed?”
“A pea?” Prince Ivan repeated blankly.
“Yes, Ivan, a pea. You see, if Hazel really is Princess Hazel, then she ought to feel the pea underneath her no matter how many feather beds she sleeps on. If tomorrow morning she says nothing of it and seems well-rested, ha! well she will be out of this castle faster than you can say princess.”
“Are you sure that will work, Mother? I doubt I could even feel a pea under my bed, and I am as royal as you are.”
A small curve appeared at the base of the Queen’s mouth. She put her hands on her son’s neck. “Trust me, my dear boy, we will find out soon enough just how ‘royal’ Hazel is.”
Neither of them saw Hazel’s eyes peeking through the key lock before she turned and went back to the dining hall to wait.
~ ~ ~
“I must thank you again, your Highness, for allowing me to stay here during this awful storm. You have a lovely home, and family,” Hazel said. She and the Queen were standing beside her guest bed, watching six servants prepare Hazel’s quarters for the night.
“Please, I am Queen Rhamalia, and you may refer me with that name. If you really are who you say you are, there’s no need for any of that Royal Highness jargon,” the Queen said in a mockingly gracious tone.
“Of course. Queen Rhamalia.”
As the servants smoothed out the sheets one last time and left, one by one, Bonnie bowed her head as she approached the Queen and said, “Your Highness, everything is ready for the girl.”
“Thank you, Bonnie. You may go.” And so she did.
“I hope you find your bed suitable enough for you,” the Queen said with a twisted smile. “I know it probably doesn’t measure up to your own bed at home…”
“Oh, er, I think these seven feather beds are definitely quite enough…good enough, I mean,” Hazel replied, eyeing the fluffy, neat pile in front of her.
“Indeed. They have been made with the finest material…the softest and the gentlest. I know princesses tend to have rather sensitive skin and soft bones.”
“How very considerate of you.”
“Well…it is getting late, and I am tired from today’s excitement, and I know you must be, too. Goodnight, Hazel.” The Queen turned to leave the room.
“Goodnight, Queen Rhamalia. Please tell Prince Ivan goodnight for me, wherever he is.”
Queen Rhamalia looked back at Hazel, her eyes narrowing ever so slightly. “I shall be sure to do so,” she said slowly. “He is in the North Wing, where most Royal Princes take their respite… but surely you knew that already?”
Hazel’s eyes darted down to her nightgown. “Of course I did. Goodnight.”
The Queen paused a few seconds. “Goodnight.”
~ ~ ~
The clock struck twelve, and Prince Ivan was still awake. He couldn’t stop thinking about Princess Hazel. His heart was racing, even though he’d been unmoving in bed for at least an hour already. He sighed deeply. He couldn’t wait to see her again.
The doorknob turned. Prince Ivan’s eyes darted to the door of his room. “Mother?” he whispered out loud.
A gown of white appeared, yet the face it belonged to remained in the shadows. “Bonnie? Is that you?” The figure walked closer until the face hit the light of the moon. It was Princess.
“Hazel!” The Prince said out loud, alarmed but not frightened. He jumped out of bed. “Is something the matter?” He went to stand in front of her. It was amazing how pretty she looked even with just a simple nightgown on.
Hazel looked deeply into his eyes. “Nothing is the matter, Prince Ivan,” she said. “I just liked to see you again. I couldn’t help but notice how you stared at me so during dinner.”
“Oh…” Prince Ivan started to blush, but then he noticed something very strange. “Hazel…your eyes. They’re black.” Was he seeing things? But no…the girl’s eyes were not the same color they were before.
Hazel looked down, and from her hands uncovered a small, green pea. “I found this in my feather bed.”
Damn. Prince Ivan gulped. “Uh…I have no idea how that got there.”
To his surprise, Hazel grinned. “Oh Ivan, it’s all right. I’ve heard of this trick before. Mother taught me one time and I actually tried it before to see if it actually worked. And it does…it’s quite uncomfortable. Feels like a very small stone sticking into my back.”
“I can explain,” Ivan held up his hands. “Mother said that if you were a real princess, then you’d feel it while you were sleeping no matter how many feather beds there were.”
“Well, I suppose you don’t have to worry anymore.” Hazel took a step closer to Ivan, looking up at him with a smile. She brought a hand to his face and stroked his cheek gently. “I am a real princess, Ivan. I have always been so, always will be. We are going to have a lovely afterlife together.”
Ivan couldn’t help but feel something warm and fuzzy inside. Her hand was so warm against his skin. He stroked it lovingly…and then….
But before he could question any further, Princess Hazel had popped the pea in her mouth and pressed her lips against his. His eyes closed and his mouth opened, and he began to get hungrier for more. Ivan put his hands on her hips, and that was when he felt that small, round something in his mouth. Without knowing what he was doing, he bit into it.
Something thick, wet, and bitter began to ooze all around his mouth….his gums, his teeth, his tongue. It was paralyzing him, and, as it reached his throat, choking him. Poisoning him. Hazel parted from him, and when he opened his eyes, it was not Hazel standing in front of him but a rotting corpse smiling at him with beetle black eyes.
Ivan fell to the floor, writhing in pain. The poison was slowly spreading across his entire body, he could feel it. And everything was clouding up in his vision. He looked into the bedroom mirror, and wasn’t even able to move in order to express his horror at what he saw. His eyes were entire black. Just like Hazel’s.
She knelt beside him. “My beloved, I have been searching for centuries for you. For the one. And now here we are together.” She pushed hair out of his eyes, and kissed him even as he was still squirming. “It hurts, I know. But this was the best way. I was going to slip you this in a drink, but when I found out about the pea I knew it would be even better.”
Ivan tried to speak, to shout, to call for help…anything and anyone to come and save him.
“Shh, shh…” The corpse’s hand brushed against his lips. He tried to shudder, and couldn’t. “We will be happy. You’ll see. You’re mine now.”
And everything went black.