Jane was a Princess. But don’t let that put you off. She was a person as well, that was the problem. Jane was a Princess, and a person. Jane. You’re finding it hard to picture her aren’t you? It’s the name. It’s not a very princess-y name. Jane thinks it’s because it rhymes with ‘plain’. There are lots of famous ‘Jane’s – princesses too – but they never seem to do as well as, say, the ‘Elizabeth’s or ‘Victoria’s. The ‘Jane’s are more often a role in someone else’s story.
Nevertheless this Princess is a Jane. And this story is about her.
Jane is not plain. She’s not particularly beautiful either. Do you really need to know how she looks? Fine, ok, you can’t see her, you want to picture her (what you really want to do is to pretend to be her, or want to fuck her, but you’re the boss, let’s get it over with).
The politest thing you could say about Jane is that she’s striking, interesting. Not ugly, but her features are arranged in a slightly asymmetric fashion, her teeth aren’t perfectly straight (dentistry, as a profession, is hundreds of years away) but nor are they horribly wonky. Her hair is blonde, but not flaxen, more sort of- greasy mouse brown. She’s not fat, not by any stretch, but she is of a strong build, the kind that suited her brothers more than her. She has a lot of moles, brown eyes, and squints a little when she reads. Her clothes are a simple, heavily darned trousers and shirt. On closer inspection you might realise that these clothes, whilst home made, are sewn from exquisite materials. Well if they thought she was going to wait around in a draughty tower in nothing but silk gowns they had thought wrong.
And there was someone fighting the dragon again. At first it had been quite exciting. Perhaps she should say ‘frightening’, but the truth it that she was never in danger. So bugger it, exciting was right. But after the 20th or 21st death, it all got a bit dull. She wished she could say she’d lost count, but there was bugger all else to count in the Tower. She should probably say bugger less. Or think it less, whatever. Maybe one of the reasons her father sent her here was because of the swearing? But what else could you expect with 6 brothers and a mother dead?
He’d lost his sword now, death usually followed pretty quickly after they lost their sword. She wasn’t sure why, it’s not like the sword was ever much use in the first place. They were fighting a dragon for fu – for goodness sake.
This one would make it 219.
After a while, you began to notice patterns, different types of heroes, who died in different ways. This one was a Tactician. At least he thought he was; he was as much a tactician you can be after the point at which you think attacking a dragon is a good idea. Tacticians are cowards. In certain situations a coward is not a bad thing to be. Fear and timidity in the face of a 29ft high fire-breathing dragon, for example, should be called sensible, not cowardly. He had had a plan. They always had the same plan; a decoy. Goats, ducks, horses, that kind of thing. The idea being that while the dragon was catching and devouring said decoy, they could sneak by unnoticed, and voila: one rescued Princess. What they actually did was provide an appetiser for the main dish.
He’d lost his shield now.
Occasionally, once every few months or so, a hero would make it to the Tower. It was always interesting when that happened. Tower-reachers were usually either Brutes or Scholars. The last one to get to the Tower was a Scholar. Scholars did research. He’d even done his reading on the Tower. He didn’t bother looking around the back (disguised by thick bushes you could leap behind for convenient dragon cover and promptly fall to a cliff-y death). Nor did he bother looking for a secret passage way, tunnel, or concealed door. Instead he had launched a very sharp grappler-thing towards the single window, and then when it failed to find a purchase on the specially greased shale, he’d been knocked out by a tile, and impaled on his own grappler–thing.
In the early thirties, she’d tried to help, shouted advice. Around 50 or so, she’s just tried to have a conversation – asked about the wider world. But they never listened, just shouted the usual “fear not fair maiden”.
She sometimes wondered if the Tower thing was less about protecting her, and more about making her willing to marry any bloody thing that she could have a conversation with.
She had books. They’d left her with books, other basic supplies, that was what the rest of the Tower was filled with. And she had a garderobe that opened onto the sea. She’d first tried to make a rope out of her sheets and silk dresses, tied it to a candle bracket, and thrown it out the hole. She hadn’t fitted through. It was her stupid wide shoulders. The books weren’t worth looking at. They went on about etiquette, coquetry, cooking, birthing, that sort of thing. The birthing illustrations were of morbid interest until the first disembowelling happened. After that they lost their novelty.
A massive fireball singed the trees.
She didn’t not want a husband. It was what you did wasn’t it? What were her other options? She didn’t see why it was necessary to feed her whatever herb it was that had knocked her out long enough to bring her up here and imprison her. She could be here forever, it didn’t look like man versus dragon was that undecided a conflict… No. Jane couldn’t shake the feeling that she was being taught a lesson. That she was supposed to be learning how be a Princess, a Prize. Not a person.
That one nearly had him.
The books were shells now. Using her sewing scissors Jane had cut out the words from the books individually; she stored them alphabetically, and wrote stories (when it wasn’t windy). There were men, eventually, but mostly they were about the wind rushing through her heroine’s mousey hair, speeding, galloping, riding astride a big brown horse, feeling its muscles bunch and shiver as it carried her… anywhere really, it was the moving bit that was important.
Suddenly a stone rattled by her foot. She looked down. Then up. Bloody hell, was the ceiling falling now? Another stone, it had come from outside. A second, and then she moved swiftly to the window. The dragon was down, and the Tactician had a sling shot. He was waving at her. She waved stupidly before she realised he was waving at her to get back, she dazedly did so, and after a few seconds an arrow zipped in, it shot around and embedded itself into the rafters. The barbed end caught, and held. He had a bow! She ran forward, and already he was climbing up the Tower. She panicked. What should she do? Put on a dress? None left. Tidy up? No time. The dragon was out cold! She was running around like an idiot! And then, there he was, head above the sill, brown messy hair, and a lopsided grin across his face. He was clean shaven, and had one of those chins shaped like a bum.
“Hallo there, fancy helping me up?”
It sounded like he‟d been practising it. Jane stood still.
“I say, are you deaf?”
She walked forward a little. She stopped
“What‟s your name?” She said.
“Look, do you mind giving me a bit of help?”
“I think you‟re supposed to do it yourself”
Confusion flickered across his face.
His grin was more of a rictus now.
“I think it’s in the rules, if you want to win, you have to do it yourself”
“Look here,” she could see him shaking slightly from the effort of holding on, “there’s no way a chap could climb all the way up here on a rope, and then jus swing himself over. There’s just not the upper body strength”
“No. No, I suppose not.”
Another gust of wind. The hero swung.
“I don‟t think you‟re supposed to swear in front of a lady.”
“The tiles are edged! They’re wearing away the rope!”
She hadn’t spotted that.
“I expect you only have a certain amount of time, with a rope. A ladder really would have been best”
“But then how are you supposed to transport a 30ft ladder? Yes, I rather see your point”
She was pleased with the ‘rather’.
“Help me up!”
“But you see I can’t –”
“It’s worn half through!”
Another gust of wind. This time he whimpered.
“You’ve gone mad.”
“I might have done, yes.”
“There‟s only a few threads left!”
“Yes but you see if I help you up, you’ll have cheated, and then-“
“Just bloody well help me up will you, you stupid bit—-“
A rushing sound.
Jane moved to the window. She’d never seen a splat before. It was quite-
There was a whinny further off. A chestnut horse tied to a tree in the distance had seen that the dragon was stirring, beginning to wake up. So, a person had about a minute, all in all, with a rope that looked to be about an inch think, but that was twine.
Hers was made of finest silk.
(Or is it?)
(Yes, it is.)