The warrior beat back the branches with his blade. Sweat on the brow, prayers on the tongue. He felled another branch. Daylight. He prised himself through the gap, emerging into a clearing, a perfect circle of green grass. It was a sanctuary in the middle of the unforgiving, long forgotten forest.
At the centre of the clearing stood a tower constructed from large, grey stone. Where there ought to have been a door, no door could be found. From half way up a meticulous tangle of poison ivy began to wind heavenward uninterrupted save for the turret’s jutting roof and a single, paneless window. Sitting on the windowsill there was a mug that read ‘Hot Stuff!’
The warrior, who had overcame so many arduous challenges to arrive at this advanced stage (the smiting of three dragons, being unable to find his favourite doublet with extra billows), circled the base of the tower.
He listened for the slightest peep from the princess who was surely trapped inside. Now and then he heard a tapping; doubtless the left to right roll of her dainty fingers that so yearned to hold his hand, that so longed for his protection. He wondered where his courage had fled to.
He breathed hard against his gloved hand and the resulting aroma filled his nostrils. He allowed himself a smile for the first time in months. Raw meat.
He shouted up: ‘Rapunzel Rapunzel! Let down your hair!’
A pert blonde stumbled to the window. She wore a white tee that was too large and her brilliant green eyes were underscored by purple shadow. How often she must have wept in her solitude.
‘Hi. Can I help you?’ She asked, pushing a rope’s length of hair behind her ear.
‘I’m here to save you, princess.’
‘Yes.’ The warrior was taken aback. ‘Your wicked father has encased you within this tower has he not?’
‘Oh, no! That’s not it.’ She called down suddenly animated. ‘I’m here on a writer’s retreat.’
‘Yeah. I’m writing my first full length novel.’
‘I see. What’s it about?’
‘Well. It’s hard to explain.’
The warrior could not help but roll his eyes towards the heavens. If she couldn’t pitch it to him, what chance did she have of selling it to impatient, world weary agents who’d heard it all before?
She continued: ‘It’s a non-fiction novel. Like, none of it’s real but all of it’s true, you know?
‘Yeah, the Bible’s been a big influence, actually.’
The warrior was beginning to regret the perilous pilgrimage made in order to win this maiden’s eternal, unwavering love. She seemed a little self-involved.
Still, the warrior would not give up so easily. He had needs and he’d forgotten his hairshirt. He really wanted her to give him a leg up when it came to the tower, in a number of ways.
He steered the conversation elsewhere: ‘So your Christian name’s the same as your surname?’
‘Technically, no. Rapunzel Rapunzel’s my pen name.’
The warrior would not be deterred. He figured that once married she would soon exhaust herself from literary ambition and turn her feeble mind toward domestic duty and motherhood.
‘Beauteous maiden’ He started, ‘Anybody courting you currently?’
‘God no. I’m so busy what with the book and everything. Maybe when I’ve finished it but, honestly- I don’t know. I don’t feel like I need to be seeing anybody right now.’
Inspiration hit the warrior though it was more diabolical in nature than it was divine.
‘I must declare, Rapunzel, I really do covert the latest draft of your non-fiction novel. May I venture up to view it?’
Her eyes became lustrous with pleasure. Her cheeks became flushed with joy. He immediately pictured her double poster. Also, he imagined what her bed was like.
‘You want to read it? Really?’ She asked, barely restraining her ecstatic smile.
‘Really.’ Not really.
Taking the mug, she disappeared into the bedroom to do God knows what.
The warrior fist pumped the air. Finding this not enough, he gathered up the spare slack of his chain mail and twirled it around in celebration whilst making whooping noises.
Then, the unfurling thud from above, as if heaven was falling to earth. However, the sound was not from Rapunzel’s long, luxuriant locks as he had so hoped but from a manuscript tied together. It was massive. The bible comparison now made sense.
‘Okay I’m super grateful but there’s just a few things. First, you’ve got to read it in one sitting.’
‘How many pages?’
‘About 900.’ She readjusted her modest guess, ‘Slightly over.’
The cylinder of chainmail gathered between his hands drooped like a wilting flower.
Crestfallen, the warrior settled down to read her epic, Tis A Pity There’s No Door.
He considered asking her to come down and sign it for him but flicking ahead he saw she already had. The inscription read ‘Live out your dreams. Outlive your dreams. XOXO RR’
Slumped against the tower with the book perched on one knee, he lost heart about the conquest that he had earlier entertained. The only way he might be able to salvage his mission was to get through the book as quickly as possible. He read and he read. The sun was beginning to set when he heard a click.
‘What are you doing, forsooth?’ He wasn’t sure if he’d used forsooth in the correct context and he immediately regretted saying it, lest she call him out on it.
‘I’m taking a picture of you!’ His hearted fluttered.
‘Caption: My first fanboy!’ His heart nearly stopped.
‘You’re uploading it now?’
‘How have you got signal?’
‘I had them install wifi.’ She said, surprised that she had to explain to him.
He shook his head in disbelief, cursing under his breath.
‘No door, no staircase but wifi? Yeah of course. Obviously you get wifi-first thing you do…’
He delved back into the book in order to get away from her. She talked at him anyway, leaning on the windowsill whilst twirling her excessively big hair.
‘I’ve been thinking: you’re right.’
‘I’ve been working so hard- I really should let my hair down. I deserve a break, right?’
He ignored her.
He considered his approach to love and wondered why it wasn’t working. Maybe by going on so many quests he was forcing it a touch. Maybe he just needed to let it happen.
He let out an involuntary groan. He felt rotten about the whole ordeal.
Worst of all, against his deepest wishes, the book was pretty good- raw, certainly, but it definitely showed potential. It made him sick to say it, so he never would, but Rapunzel had talent.