Prinsessen, dronningen og det lille gamle fruentømmeret.
© MMXVII Agimar N. Edelgranberget
The story that I am going to tell you this time, is a very rare one. I myself was told it some years ago, when I was in Prague.
It was a rainy valpurgisnight and I was spending the time in a pub, a little outside of the city centre. It was the thirtieth of April, some time before midnight, if I remember correctly. That pub was an old, dark and gloomy restaurant near the main road where all the travelers who, in ancient times, entered Prague would stay for their first nights. There was only little light, a lot of smoke in the air and just few other people, probably travelers like me.
I sat in a booth, drank exquisite absinthe and smoked some epic weed. So I was sipping a little absinth, taking some drags from my pipe for a while, when suddenly a cold shudder ran down my spine – I was indeed a little dreamy – and then I noticed this evil spirit sitting next to me on my left hand side.
The spirit just stared at me. He really did only that. Well, I thought, I have travelled a lot, and I know these buddhist stoics, who want nothing more than all your money or all of your precious time.
Absinthe in the right hand, pipe in mouth, I began working eagerly on my nose, demonstrating that I had more important business to attend to. The spirit stared me out. What a disgusting little fellow, I thought. When my nose almost started bleeding, my ears seemed to be cleared of all dirt, too, I slowly began feeling uncomfortable.
The spirit stared at me, wouldn’t say a word. I had enough, I gave up. So I started bargaining about the peace of my mind with that spirit. The spirit wasn’t impressed over my propositions, so eventually, just as I was about to think that it’d never leave me alone, it suggested that, now that my ears were cleared of all the dirt, that it might as well tell me a story and leave me for good afterwards. All I had to do was to listen to a story? I was concerned. The spirit smiled. He told me, that it was not going to be a short story, in fact a rather long one.
Since I already had given up only minutes before, I agreed. I took a good sip from my absinthe, deeply inhaled some smoke. And this is the story the evil spirit told me:
Not far from here, behind the deepest, darkest forest, behind the highest, most snow covered mountains, encircled by seven screaming torrents, right before they run into the endless swamps, there once was this Kingdom.
It was a beautiful Kingdom, as one can not imagine, it was very peaceful and the capital was of the most impressive architecture ever created by man. There were two rivers running through the city, lots of canals and bridges and huge flourishing and soul uplifting parks and markets. But there also lay a dark shadow over the Kingdom. Because in the middle of the kingdom was a short, but deep canyon called the Cracks of Hell. In that canyon, in a cavern, lived an old and oh so evil dragon. It had three heads, of which one was twice as strong as all the others, that had twice as many teeth in its mouth, that could spit twice as much fire than the other two and it had three eyes instead of two. The other two heads were sure less impressive, but nonetheless pretty dangerous.
Every once in a while, the dragon would claim its toll. If people wanted to keep him asleep, they had to make a human sacrifice. The dragon was one of the picky kind and it would only devour the flesh and drink the blood of virgin princesses.
So it happened once again, that black flags, black tapestries, black flowers and citizens clad in black were all over the streets and the places, because the mourning king was going to hold a speech. The dragon was about to awaken, the king told his people. His daughter was doomed to die. „His precious, beautiful, virgin daughter, beloved by all!“
So he shouted in sheer despair: „The one who will kill the dragon, once and for good, will be rewarded the hand of my daughter and the throne of my kingdom!“
Sadly, nobody was willing to risk his own life, even in favor of the throne and the princess. They feared the dragons breath, they feared his sharp claws and his smoldering eyes. It appeared to be a human sacrifice either way. So why be the one, who has to endure the inevitable?
The princess knew all too well what was going to happen. That beautiful kingdom would not be hers. She would never see the sun setting or rising again. No more flowers, no more delicious meals, no more art, no more music, no more tales, no future at all. No children to enjoy the throne and the kingdom. The princess was crying. Oh, was she crying. It was almost full moon, soon she’d be nothing more than a dog’s treat, a treat for Kerberos, so that the gates of Hades may stay closed. She knew she had to die. But she had so much to lose, all her life was at stake. She was crying thin and salty creeks of tears until her eyes no longer bore the power to weep.
The night of the full moon had finally arrived. The princess was shivering and trembling, scratching the backs of her hands, biting her nails and ripping her hair out, sitting alone in her chamber, chucking up all over the place and waiting for the priest, the guide to arrive, to be lead to the demon.
„Raven King…“, she murmured.
„Raven … King.“, she said firmly.
„RAVEN KING!!!“, she screamed with all the might her body was still capable of.
Exhausted, she fell out of consciousness, yet only for a split second. When she had regained her senses, she felt a weight on her right shoulder. For on her shoulder sat the Raven King.
„Raven King!“, she exclaimed, obviously startled, „You HAVE come, you came to save my soul and the soul of my father and the soul of all the kingdom!“
„I may save you, indeed“, he said with the most hoarse of voices, „but I need you to promise me three things.“
„I do promise anything you demand of me! I am all yours! I’ll be thy queen! Promise me my life and a son and I will do whatever you could ask for!“, the princess said gravely.
„The first thing is a son, indeed. I also require you to grant me my freedom. And last but not least: I must be granted to keep two pieces of junk that I will gain in the process!“, the raven was croaking.
„That is the deal, as you say, so be it.“, the Virgin with the mark of death on her forehead replied firmly.
As soon as these words could no longer be heard, had gotten lost in time, the raven spread his wings and flew through the window. He flew high and higher into the obnoxious sky. When he couldn’t get any higher, he let himself fall, head first, like a black lightning bolt on it’s way down to earth. Not far above the ground he would then use all the momentum he had gained, flapped with his wings thrice and with immense power, ripped his head upwards, made a curve right above ground and sped up into the nightsky like a homerun.
He was heading right for the moon. When he was close enough to the moon and could reach it, he broke off a pristine shard of moonstone and made his way down to the Cracks of Hell.
Without any fear, the shard of moonstone in his claws, he entered the caverns of oblivion. Before the dragon could even react, he was blinded by the intense rays of the moonstone, the Raven King pecked out all of the dragons seven eyes and the worm of Saturn was left as blind as furious. With three voices, one extremely loud, one extremely hateful and one extremely bone-crushing it swore:
„Doomed be you, your children and the children of their children, faceless bearer of moonlight and the devil’s wits! May you all die out proudly!“
That was when the Raven King had hewn off the one most powerful head with the edge of the shard, the one that was twice as strong as all the others, that had twice as many teeth in its mouth, that could spit twice as much fire than the other two and that had had three eyes instead of two.
The dragon fell, deadly beaten and heavily bleeding its black, boiling blood. The victorious Raven King sat on a rock in the cavern and watched the dying dragon. But elder dragons die very, very slowly. He picked up all the evidence of his deed and a box with the finest jewels for his wife in spe. Then he flew home to the city, but first he would wake the silver smith and made him create an amulet from the moonstone with a silver chain. When he had received the amulet, he flew to the gold smith woke him and made him fashion a golden ring holding a mysterious black orb. When the gold smith was done, he flew to the iron smith and made him engrave lovely poems and epigrams of life’s pleasures into the jewels for the queen and on the box containing them with iron intarsia.
Then he flew to the princess, informed her of his deed. The Princess was overjoyed and they went to the King. The king was happy as a king could be, but he was a little appalled of the thought of King Raven the first. So he whispered to his best counsellor: „Figure something out for me, will you. I sure don’t appreciate the idea of a ravenous king.“
The counsellor was an old and wise and true man, so he wanted to see evidence. The king seemed to be pleased. But that was only until the Raven King showed the eyes of the dragon. Now there was no more doubt. The king was shocked. He was so angry and enraged, he fired his counsellor, wanted him to vanish from earths surface and never to show up again. The Raven King was crowned King Raven the first in an instance and given the kings daughter as his prize.
On this same late wedding night he presented to her the box of jewels that he had customized for her alongside with thirteen blood red roses and the Queen was enthralled.
„I will always love you my dear king, claim me, whenever you please, and make me a son! with a good deal of wickedness in her smooth voice.
„Very well“, the Raven King said. „Get on the bed and present me your bare back, if you will.“
The queen did as she was told, the raven flew on her back an pressed his cloaca onto her heavenly gates and a small amount of semen and shit entered her womb. There was this one corvunculus that made it to the cosiest place, but that remained unseen.
„Remember you promising me something?“, he said with his hoarse voice sitting next to her, „Now I claim the freedom that I was granted.“
Only a tear ran over her face, because she didn’t make it to reply, off through the window was the raven, amulet in one of the claws, ring in the other and he was never to be seen again.
Nine months went by and the Widow queen gave birth to a beautiful son. Suncircles passed by, the boy grew up, he was cheerful and playful and loved it, when his mother would read heavenly poems and epigrams to him.
But the queen was feeling lonely, she loved her son and all, but even a queen has certain needs that she feeds on if they are met. So she married again. The boy and his step father didn’t like each other very much, the prince would often call him „Dumbass“ or „Douche the Duce“ or he’d simply say: „No dice!“; the stepking himself would beat him up, whenever he was drunk. The queen loved both alike, she was very forgiving and noble, and it was anyway her, who reigned the hearts of the kingdom’s people which rendered the stepking rather short on influence.
When the Prince turned thirteen on a night of fullmoon, he found a glowing silver amulet with a stone embedded and a golden ring with a black orb on the board of the open window of his sleeping chambers. Thinking what curious presents these were, he slipped his finger through the ring and hung the amulet around his neck. But when he, later that same day, tried to take them off he found out that it was an impossibility. Given the chills he ran into the bathroom, in front of a huge mirror. He turned pale. In the mirror sat a raven on the floor, just where he stood. He grabbed his hand, the raven crossed his wings. He opened his mouth, the raven opened his beak. He would jump into thin air, so did the raven.
That was more than a little too much, he ran away from the mirror and hid under his bed.
What a weak effort that was. Of course, people found out about his little secret only about a couple of days later, at a banquet held in the mirror atrium. The ministers were heart struck upon seeing a raven pecking a duck’s bones in the mirrors. It didn’t take a lot of time after this banquet, when finally all the kingdom knew how the prince looked like in the mirror, in alternated reality.
They wanted him dead. Rumors of black sorcery, witchcraft and shamanism went throughout the kingdom, rumors that were attached to the chorus of demands to kill that son of darkness and evil.
So full of terror was the queen, that one stormy night she would disguise herself and her son, the Prince of Doom, as beggars, ran to one of the rivers, set him into a small rowboat and yelled: „Flee, my son and never come back! Hide in the deepest forest of the kingdom, try to find your father, the Raven King and stay with him! I will always love you, my son! Farewell!“ And she untied the boat, and the roaring river grabbed the boat and it headed for the deepest forests of the kingdom. Again, thin rivers of tears ran down her cheeks, although this time, both of determination and hope.
The next day, the ancient king was told the terrible news: His beloved grandson and own flesh and blood had vanished. He was so sad, he only exclaimed: „Alas…“, and died.
The queen was troubled twice, because she had lost first her son and then her father. She was sad for many years, slept a lot and wouldn’t show up in public.
Only after the birth of a new son and his twin sister she became happy again. But she never saw her only son again, so a dark shadow lay on her heart for the rest of her life.
The son’s boat had gotten entangled with some weeds at the river’s banks deep in the dark forests of the kingdom. He had gotten off the boat, walked throughout all the deepest, darkest forests of the kingdom, but he couldn’t t find the Raven King, his father.
He loved to wander through the forest at night, especially on nights of full moon, because then his amulet would start to glow intensely, and the finger of his left hand which bore the ring would feel so funny and silky. It was one of these nights, when he became aware of a crack in the mountain, hidden behind some bushes. The crack was very narrow, but after approximately seven meters it would lead into a big domelike cave. The Prince of Doom liked the place very much. He hung the amulet up in the center of the dome, where it never would stop to glow, but the crack into the cave was locked. He could even take the ring off, but chose not to do so, because if the light ever went out, it might be an impossibility to find the ring again.
He lived in this womblike tomb for ages, lonely, depressed. Deprived of all the joys of life. The only thing that kept him halfway happy and alive, was that there were no mirrors that showed his other side. But he could anyway and always feel his ravenous heart beating, craving for love and lust and joy.
‚The thoughts of the Prince of Doom, Son of the Raven King‚:
„Will I ever find you, oh my love!
Will You ever be satisfied, oh my fire!
Will You ever enlighten me, oh my light!
Do I have to hurry – or should I rest for a while?
Have we met before, when young we were – but didn’t recognize ourselves?
Let alone each other?
Do You even exist – or am I the Blind Fool, who makes it all up?
I do not know, yes,
I do want to know,
oh, will I ever know?
And, am I sure, do –
I really want to know?
After a certain time he couldn’t bear it anymore, and he had become a young, handsome and strong black-haired knight. So he took the amulet from the ceiling, the wall cracked slightly in one ominous place and the Prince of Doom left the cavern. When he had stepped out, it was full moon. His amulet glowed and his finger felt funny.
He returned to the Kingdom, and to the capital, but all the Kingdom had been Pommerland. He only met a few people, but they all looked very scarred and disturbed.
The former palace was only a hole in the ground, and he overheard some peasants saying that the queen was sure to be dead.
He felt so sad. The beautiful capital, his dear mother, all gone to ashes. So he returned to the forest. The forest was lush at first, but there also were numerous smaller and larger glades of terror.
In one of these glades he met an old, blind woman who leaned on a crooked piece of wood. There was a field of corn and some animals around her and a half destroyed shed.
„What is the matter with you?“, the Knight asked politely.
„I am only old and blind and leaning on a crooked piece of wood“, the woman answered with a crackling voice, „There is no hope any more. Not for me. Not for you, not for anyone in this joyforsaken land.“
„Well, I don’t know nothing about that. At least you are alive, aren’t you?“, the Prince of Doom replied.
„What good is it? I ask you.“, the old woman moaned, „I am old. My body hurts. I am blind. My eyes won’t see. Nah, not so bad, that one. And this crooked piece of wood is of no use either.“
„May I help you, my dear Lady?“, the Raven Chevalier asked politely, „In return you give me shelter, to eat, company and your crooked piece of wood, so it has some use at least!“
The old woman agreed and they entered the shed, the Knight giving the old woman a hand. Inside he found shelter, to eat, and he would care for the woman, the animals and the field. In the shed there also was a mirror and a wooden crate. Luckily the old woman was blind, so she didn’t see his alter ego and was therefore not scared to death.
Years passed by, the Prince of Doom even repaired the shed, built new rooms and had made a cosy place out of the shack. The fields were flourishing and the animals healthy and happy. Even the old woman had blossomed up and didn’t even need her stick anymore.
There came a time, when there was hunger all over the kingdom, although the kingdom, too, had been blossoming the recent years before. A couple of twins were said to rule the kingdom now. Although there was only little to eat, the old woman was rather happy, and the Knight had nothing to complain about, either.
There was little rain and it got worse the following years, so Hunger was riding his haggard horse throughout the land.
At one point, they only had a cow and a goose left. „Go sell the cow on the market“, the old lady said, „Go get us some corn, that would be great. I could bake the cakes you love so much!“
„Will do! But take good care of the goose and yourself, I will be back soon!“, the Prince of Doom said.
So he took the cow and made his way to the market. On the road he met a filthy beggar monk.
„So… hungry…“‚ the monk whispered, „May I have your cow, please, or else I’ll die!“
So the Chevalier gave their last cow to the Beggar.
„God bless you!“, said the monk, „I do not have use for this any longer, I guess!“, and threw a magic bean to the feet of the Prince of Doom. The Knight shook his head, picked up the bean and went home to the Old, Blind Woman.
„Oh, my, what have you gotten into?“, the woman asked, „Now, what are we supposed to eat?“
„Let us fry the goose, I will plant the bean into the bosom of our mother earth, and when it has grown, we will have plenty of beans and we will no longer be hungry!“, the Prince of Doom replied.
So they fried the the goose, ate it and went to bed. The next morning a huge bean tendril was piercing the clouds above that even shed a little rain.
„What an interesting vine!“, the Knight stated. This being said, he began to climb the bean up into heaven. He came to a stop in front of a huge, golden gate on the last cloud that he was entering. There were millions of incredibly detailed relief-like figures on the doors of of gold, made from ivory. He had no clue how to open the door. Since his amulet was shining, astonishingly, he was eventually able to make out a circumcision around the neck of one of the figures. He pulled the head, and the doors opened.
He entered a huge, wooden hall made of cedar wood, elephant teeth and human bones. In one corner, there was a huge crystal chest filled with diamonds. In the middle there was a table as high as a house made out of moose antlers. It was so tall, it was impossible for the Knight to see what was on the table. In another corner there was a huge oven. In front of the Oven were two giant trolls with their backs towards the Prince of Doom. In the two other corners, the one to the left and to the right was nothing, luckily. The two giant Trolls were cooking humans, obviously.
The Knight went one step in direction of the table, but stepped on a human ear bone. It cracked. The two trolls turned around quickly.
„Who is it, who pulled St. Peter’s head?, they growled eerily.
„Don’t you worry, it’s just me, the Prince of Doom, don’t be afraid!“, the Knight said friendly.
The trolls held their huge stomachs and laughed a deep, grumbling thunder: „You are ragout!“
„Now, that is what I call OVERKILL!“, the Knight said calmly, „Are you afraid of it might take two of you giant trolls to kill such a tiny little humanoid like me? What cowards you practically are.“
The trolls stopped, saying sweetly: „As if! How sweet! If that is your choice, so be it you little worm! We will hide something in one of our hands, our biggest secret, so you will have up to four attempts to finding out what it is. If you pick the right hand and don’t find out, we will cook you in our oven. Hold your hands before your eyes while we hide it and don’t you dare to peek. We see everything!“
„That is the deal, as you say, so be it.“, the Prince of Doom replied without any fear. He then held his hands, the one with the ring first, before his eyes. How surprised he was, when he noticed he had become clairvoyant. He didn’t know it of course, but the mysterious orb cased in his golden ring was the third, the all seeing eye of the arch dragon. That was why he clearly saw before his inner eye, that the Troll Priestess who was dressed in red and blue, by the way, carefully hid nothing in her left hand.
„You may look now!“, The troll-lock, who had a long white beard and a golden crown hovering above his head, said.
The Knight revealed his eyes. The two troll giants held their arms stretched out in front of them and smiled in hubris: „Which hand do you want to pick first? But beware, if you pick the right hand right away, you will have only that one choice to guess!“
„Hum, hum. Hum…“, the Prince of Doom gave himself, „I think i’d pick Mary’s left Hand. Hope it isn’t the one…“
The two trolls laughed out aloud: „You fool! That was THE hand! We would have given you either one or two free guesses, depending on which side you would have started from, because we are all good and all wise! Now you’ll have to guess right away!
„Ok, it’s anything. There is nothing in that hand!“, the Knight said. And as he had said this, the trolls turned to stone.
So with him he took the crystal crate of diamonds, left the hall, closed the gates behind him, but made sure he’d break off St. Peter’s head after him. He descended the vine down on earth, gave the crate to the old woman, who had become even elder, so now she had two crates in her house. One you could peek into, full of diamonds and one that was locked and impossible to see through, even if you’d use the dragons all-revealing eye.
He went into another shack, picked up an Axe and hogged down the vine, which was hanging full of beans.
He collected all the beans, and it were a lot of beans and it took him quite a while, and the old woman and the Prince of Doom wouldn’t have to starve for a long time to come.
A year later, the king in office of that kingdom made an announcement, that his virgin sister, the queen, had to be sacrificed to an unspeakably evil arch dragon and his servant in a cavern in the Cracks of Hell, which, in the meantime had become a smoking Volcano.
Suddenly, the old woman was trembling. „My Knight, my trve knight and good friend!“, she cried, „Please, would you be so kind and fight the dragon! He has destroyed half my hut and half my life! I fear for the life of our beloved Queen! Can YOU kill the dragon? Because I know of nobody else that I would trust, or that I deem to be brave enough.“
„Alright!“, the Knight in black said, „May I borrow your crooked stick of wood? I have a feeling that it might come in handy at some point.“
The old, blind woman gave him her old, crooked piece of wood and the Prince of Doom departed soon after.
On the road he met The Little Velveteen Hero, who sat in the grass next to a grave.
„Little Velveteen Hero, what are you doing here?“, the Prince of Doom asked, curiously.
„What am I doing, what am I doing, what are you doing?“, the Little Velveteen Hero chuckled, „obviously, I am guarding my mothers grave, as the grave stone says: R.I.P. Big Velveteen Mother…“
The Knight took a look onto the stone.
Over the grave and the gravestone, an artistically fashioned net had been placed, and the stone read:
„That is interesting“, the Knight said, „I am looking for the Cracks of Hell, you know. You do not accidentally happen to know where to find that place?“
„Of course I know this place“, the Little Velveteen Hero said, „but you’d rather be careful. Now, what on earth would anyone want there? Not even I dare, and I’ve slain the great conqueror worm! That means, if I had time, I wouldn’t dare. I need to watch my mother’s grave, anyway.“
„I don’t know that worm of yours“, the Prince of Doom exclaimed, „but maybe you can give me some hints as to how to slay a dragon. Because that’s what I am planning to do!“
„No way! Well. As far as I’ve heard, the dragon isn’t even the main problem although it is said to be twigh-headed. It’s virtually blind. But it has a woeful servant, an old and wise and true counsellor. Sitting on the stump where there used to be a third head. You’d need a least a strong stick, about an ell in length. Hard to find, nowadays, because everything got burned. Once you smacked down the counsellor, it should be easy to choke the dragon’s heads one after the other. Or try to plug him off, because I bet he’s closing the veins with one, and the arteries with his other legs and toes. But that’s only grey theory! Who knows what the dragon really is capable of!“, the Little Velveteen Hero answered in sheer amazement.
„Consider that done!“, the Prince of Doom said.
So the Prince of Doom climbed up Mount Doom, descended into the Cracks of Hell, stalked into the cavern, climbed on a rock and watched the sleeping dragon. He had indeed two heads and a stump in between them, in which an old man was plugged, seemingly grown into the dragons flesh.
To cut a long story short, he sneaked the dragon, smacked the counsellor unconscious, choked the two heads and then he unplugged the counsellor.
Black, boiling blood ran out of the stump, and he gave the bleeding cadaver an ambitious kick in the ass so that it fell right into the volcano and was gone for good. He didn’t kill the counsellor, why would he. So the counsellor lived happily ever after. But because he was very old and wouldn’t be sustained by the dragon’s blood, he died of age only a few weeks later, you see.
He noticed furthermore, that his finger was not tickling, and the amulet was hanging loose. So he picked both and he threw the ring into the abyss, and he threw the amulet into the abyss.
Back in the city, everybody was cheerful, they encircled the young handsome Knight. He was lead to the king and was married to the Queen.
On wedding night, the Prince of Doom and the Queen kissed. They both were shocked, and shouted simultaneously: „Holy mother!“
The Prince of Doom, who had until then really thought he had found the love and the reason for his life was scarred.
In tears, he went home to the old woman, but when he arrived at the hamlet it was devastated. A group of marauding outlawish infant soldiers had killed all the animals, burned all the fields and stolen both the crystal chest of diamonds and the other one. The old lady had been impaled in front of the glowing ashes of the main house.
He couldn’t bear it anymore. So he went back into the woods, into the crack in the mountain. He stayed in there until the day he died. The crack would never close, because he lacked the amulet to be attached to the ceiling. It was nonetheless pitch black in there. If he chose not to, or if he couldn’t find the exit anymore is not known. Nobody ever found the crack in the mountain.
Such was the story of the Evil Spirit. As soon as his last words could no longer be heard, had gotten lost in time, the spirit was gone, too. Outside, dawn was breaking and I made my way home to the hotel and slept like a baby.