Return to Sleeping Beauty Chapter Two
One day, many, many years later, the young Princess Tara happened to be riding near to the tangled forest when she saw something unusual.
"What are those towers I can see inside the forest?" She asked her escort, an older, well-presented man.
"Those?" He started, "Well, there are many different stories. Some say that it's an old castle haunted by ghosts, others that an Ogre dwells there, who catches small children and then takes them back to eat at his leisure." At this point the man took off his glasses and started to clean them on his shirt.
"An ogre?" whispered the Princess, "Surely that is not true, I mean, I-I don't feel anything nasty about this place. It f-feels peaceful. Calm. What do you think Mr Giles?"
"Well yes" he continued, "I myself never believed such stories. Long ago I heard my father say that within the castle walls there is a most beautiful Princess, that she must lie there asleep for many, many years and that one day, she will be awakened by her true love. A kind of, destiny if you will"
Upon hearing this, the Princess Tara felt her eyes being drawn to the castle. She had a feeling within her that there was where she should be. In a move that was so smooth and so quick, Tara turned her horse towards the forest and kicked her heels. She was almost at the forests edge when her escort realised what was happening and began yelling for her to stop.
Tara felt the forest calling to her as she lowered herself from her horse. Moving slowly towards it she was surprised when the trees, the shrubs, the creepers, the briars and brambles, all unlaced themselves as if by magic and drew aside to let her pass. Something was calling to her from inside the castle walls, which she could now see, as a makeshift avenue seemed to have appeared in front of her. Unable it seemed, to stop herself; Tara started making her way forward, barely registering the calls of her attendants as the undergrowth closed up behind her.
Soon she arrived at the castle and taking a deep breath, pushed aside the vines that hung like a curtain over the gateway. As she entered the courtyard, she stood still for a moment and a startled gasp fled her lips. Every direction she looked lay straight, stiff bodies of men and beasts, at first glance seemingly all dead. Faltering but a second, Tara closed her eyes and forced herself to focus. Her courage returned as she looked around again and realised that everyone was sleeping.
Stepping around them Tara passed across a second great court paved with marble, which lead to the main doorway. Had she stopped to think about it Tara would have wondered how it was that she knew where to go, as it was, she seemed to be following where her heart was leading her!
Cautiously Tara entered the guardroom and what she saw caused her to stifle a giggle. The Guards stood in rank with shouldered muskets, each one of them asleep and snoring his best. Carrying on Tara made her way through a number of rooms, each filled with ladies and gentlemen in various poses all soundly asleep.
"I wonder what happened here?" Tara whispered to herself, almost afraid to speak out loud.
Slowly she made her way towards a heavy purple curtain and gradually drew it aside. Unable to contain a gasp this time Tara looked in amazement around what she assumed to be the Great Hall of State. In front of her was a long table and sat around was the King and his council. The Lord Chancellor slept in the act of dipping his pen into an inkpot and between the spectacles sitting on the Archbishop's nose and the spectacles on the Lord Chancellor's, a spider had spun a beautiful web.
Tiptoeing very carefully past the very august sleepers and, leaving the hall via another door, Tara came to the foot of the Grand staircase. Feeling herself drawn towards the second level, Tara started her ascent, stopping intermittently to gaze at her surroundings and comparing the palace, somewhat unconsciously, to her own.
On reaching the uppermost step, Tara again stopped. There were two corridors, one to the left and one to the right. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath and tried to clear her mind, hoping for a sign of which route to take. Focussing left Tara could feel nothing other then the stillness of slumbering persons, focussing right however, Tara felt a calmness wash over her like nothing she had ever felt before. Decision made Tara began to walk along the corridor to her right.
Seeing the many doors, Tara decided to try one. Opening the door Tara found a bathroom lined with mirrors and in its midst, sunk in the floor, a huge round basin filled with bubbling water. Three steps led down to the bath, and at the head of them stood a couch, with towels, and a suit of her favourite colour laid ready, delicately embroidered and complete with the daintiest of lace ruffles.
With something akin to awe on her face, Tara fingered the material. Never could she remember feeling something so smooth. Looking up Tara caught sight of herself in one of the mirrors. She had ridden far before even reaching the forest and the image before her, told that she was somewhat travel-stained from her journey through it. So, having by this time learnt to accept the strange occurrences without question, she undressed and languidly lowered herself into the warm water.
After enjoying the bath and feeling so very much cleaner, Tara decided to try the clothes that had been left, for why would the water be warm if not freshly drawn and why would the clothes be there, as this was the one room where no-one was asleep? She was not even surprised when she found that they fitted her perfectly, even the shoes might have been made to measure.
Having dressed and arranged her hair, she decided to resume her quest along the corridor. Suddenly she stopped. A great feeling of warmth enveloped her senses and she turned to open the door in front of which she stood. The chamber was all panelled with white and gold but it was not this that took her breath away.
There, on a bed with the curtains drawn wide, Tara beheld the loveliest vision she had ever seen. A Princess, maybe 1 or 2 years younger then herself, with a crown of wondrous red hair. At first glance one may be forgiven for thinking she had passed, but the soft rise and fall of her chest proved that this was not so.
Trembling, Tara sank to her knees beside the beauty's bed, and proceeded to take the girls hand in her own.
"Her skin is so soft, and warm" Tara thought to herself as she bent and touched her lips to the delicate hand that now rested within her own.