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THE ICICLE TOWER
There was a King in the days when kings held much more sway in their kingdoms. This King had a single daughter, and being a man of particular family loyalty, he had won for his daughter the right to be named the heir to his throne. But not every sovereign's power is absolute, and the agreement had come with a single condition: that the Princess be married before she could receive the crown.
This seemed a minor concession while the Princess remained a young child, but as she grew older, the King realized with some pride that his daughter possessed not only beauty, but talent and wit as well. It dawned upon him that choosing a suitable husband for her would not be an easy task. "After all," he thought, "we're not just talking about my daughter. She is a national asset, and must be protected against ne'er-do-wells and fortune-seekers."
As much as he loved his daughter, the King was nevertheless a man of his time. It never occurred to him to ask her opinion in the choice of a husband. "This is a matter of state," he thought, "and can't be left to a young girl to decide, no matter how clever she is. A Queen needs a strong man at her side. And I believe I know how to find one."
While searching the Royal Archives, the King had found an old book which contained a magic spell, which now seemed to be just the solution to his problem. He had a tower built at the foot of a limestone cliff, a picturesque little structure with channels on the roof to catch the water that dripped from the rock face. He then challenged his daughter to weave an elaborate tapestry that would be prominently displayed in the palace. The Princess, who took great pride in her talent, eagerly took up the challenge, whereupon her father offered her the tower he had built as a place where she might work without distraction.
The Princess began her work, but before too long, she was lulled to sleep by the gentle sound of trickling water on the roof and walls of the tower. The King, seizing his opportunity, cast his spell, and an icy wind whipped up around the tower. The water, still dripping from the rocky cliff, began to freeze, and before long, the entire tower was encased in a thick, impenetrable layer of ice.
The King then sent out word to all the land, that the man who managed to break through the ice and free the Princess would win her hand in marriage. Naturally, the young men came. Princes came with handsome, shining swords bearing names and pedigrees all their own. Knights came with heavy blades of iron and steel, wielded by powerful arms hardened by battle. Even farmers and woodcutters came, with axes and shoulders made broad by hard, backbreaking work.
They all failed. The polished swords with names of renown rang like bells, the bloodstained blades of war gained new nicks and chips, the axes thudded loudly and lost a little more of their sharpness on the frozen walls. But the walls of ice remained unbroken.
A young Huntsman came with the others. Despite his tender age, he was experienced in tracking all manner of game, even in the highest mountains of the kingdom. The only blade he owned was a hunting knife, which he had left at home, guessing that it would do no good. When his turn came, the young man stood before the icy tower and knocked on the ice. Then he called out: "Princess, are you all right in there?"
“I'm fine,” came a voice from inside. “Thank you.”
“This may seem a silly question, your Highness,” the Huntsman called, “But would you like to be let out of there?”
“I appreciate your asking,” the Princess replied. “Yes, I should like that very much.”
“Forgive my curiosity, Princess, but how is it that you haven't frozen to death inside this icicle?”
“It's a fair question. In fact, my father has built a hearth in the center of the tower. As long as I remain close to it, I'm quite comfortable.”
“And hasn't the fire filled up your tower with smoke by this time? How can you breathe?”
“The smoke escapes through a hole in the roof, drawn out by the winds my father has set around the tower. But the inside walls are smooth, and I cannot scale them to reach the hole.”
“I have an idea, but I'll need your help,” called the Huntsman. “You'll need to weave a bag of your finest, lightest silk, woven tightly enough to hold smoke inside it, then attach to that bag a long, strong thread. Can you do that?”
“Of course,” the Princess replied proudly. “I'll weave you a bag that's lighter than air!”
The Princess set to work, and the Huntsman returned to his home to fetch his mountain climbing equipment. He then scaled the cliff behind the tower, finally positioning himself directly above the hole the Princess had described.
“Can you hear me, Princess?” the Huntsman called down. “Have you finished the silken bag?”
“I have indeed,” the Princess replied. “And I've attached a strong thread to it.”
“Now, your Majesty, please hold that bag upside down over the fire and wait until it fills with smoke and warm air. Once it's completely full, let it go and allow it to rise up through the hole. I shall catch it when it comes out, and we can tie the thread to a stronger thread, and then to a woven rope that will be strong enough to hold you. Finally, you should be able to tie the rope around yourself, and I will pull you out to freedom.”
And true enough, that's precisely what they did. In no time, the Huntsman was able to hoist the Princess out of her prison, and the two of them descended the cliff to the cheering crowd below. But the King was still hesitant to make good on his promise. “He's wiry enough, but he never did break through the ice. And a Queen needs a strong man at her side,” he said.
“On the contrary, Father,” the Princess said happily. “I think you've chosen a perfect husband for me.”
“First, of all the men who came to try their hand, he was the only one who asked about my well-being. He also asked questions to better understand the situation both inside and outside the tower. Then he made a plan that used the best of both our talents. This is a man who listens and thinks things through. I can't think of a better Prince Consort.” She looked at the Huntsman and smiled again. “He's quite pleasant to look at, too.”
So the Princess and the Huntsman were married, and when she eventually ascended to the throne, it was said among the people of the kingdom that no stronger or wiser rulers were to be found in all the world than their Queen and her Consort.
Actor, sculptor, author and cartoonist, resident of Temperance, Michigan, husband and father of two daughters. Can sing and dance, but not juggle.
Current Residence: Temperance, MI
deviantWEAR sizing preference: XXL
Skin of choice: Epidermis - it's flexible!
Personal Quote: "As the one-armed surgeon said, suture self!"