Inai stood at a window-sill and shivered. The moon shone on her empty courtyard, but although the flowers were still in bloom, they could not distract her from her dream. It had felt like a nightmare, although nothing about it had seemed frightening. Inai had stood before a great tower, screaming up towards its singular window. A shadow had passed by it and continued on, oblivious to her shouts.
The worst part was that a part of her felt like the tower was real, that she even knew where to find it. But every time she sought it out, it flickered back out of her mind.
Something stirred behind her, and Inai turned as her Prince Consort and husband, Neyl, wrapped his arms around her. “Bad dreams again?”
Inai nodded. “The same one. Over and over. There’s no escaping it. I fear if I do not find this tower, Neyl, it shall drive me mad.”
She looked over her shoulder, certain he would dismiss her concerns or think she’d lost her mind already. For a wonder, he seemed to take her seriously. “Then we’ll find it. Leave matters to your advisors for a short while. We can travel the kingdom together and find this mysterious tower that will give you no rest.”
Neyl tried to pull her back to bed, but she was not tired yet. There was an image that flickered in and out of her mind, just out of reach. An oddly-colored chicken that laid purple eggs… and a child, a newborn still. Not her own. There was something she was missing, and she had waited long enough to find it.
A few days later, everything was finally ready for the journey. Her advisors had been given their duties, and everything had been packed. Neyl had prepared for speed, to which Inai could be nothing but grateful. Now that they’d made the decision to go seeking, the desire to find the tower burned even hotter than ever before.
They left early in the morning. Inai’s mount was a beautiful brown mare with a light step. With Neyl and several knights to accompany her, they thundered out of the castle. Armed with the memories of stories told by her father, of mysterious and haunted places within her kingdom, the Queen and Prince Consort searched everywhere for Inai’s strange tower.
Many months went by, and Inai was on the point of returning to her castle empty-handed when she found herself presented with news of the tower from her dreams. They meandered dolefully through a forest, nearing its edge, when a scout thundered up to them and announced that a great plain stood past the trees with a tower, impossibly tall and with only a window for a way to escape.
Inai could not help herself. She heeled her brown mare into a dainty but fast-paced trot. When they broke free of the trees, the mare stopped suddenly, whickering, unwilling to take another step. The scout had spoken truly. It was the tower of her dreams!
“Its real,” Neyl whispered hoarsely at her side.
Suddenly she was galloping across the empty expanse, thundering towards the tower. Neyl and her retinue streamed behind her, their own horses’ hooves digging small craters out of the soft earth. As they drew nearer, the tower grew even taller in appearance, until Inai had to slow her horse down or else risk breaking both of their necks.
The tower truly did seem to touch the sky. If every room in the palace had been stacked atop each other, it might well have reached the same height, yet the base of the tower easily could have fit both the great anteroom and the throne room.
“Look for any signs of a door,” she commanded the knights. “Anything at all.”
The knights split into two and sent their steeds on either side of the tower. Inai herself craned her neck upward, searching the window for any signs of life. A shadow passed the window. “Hello!” She shouted. “Hello! I’m here!”
No one appeared.
The knights reappeared, shaking their heads in disbelief. “I’m sorry, my Queen,” Gerys the Valient said. “We saw nothing.”
She frowned. “Go out. Find me the most capable climbers of the kingdom. Anyone who can climb the tower will earn a reward of a hundred gold crowns.”
The knights bowed.
To her husband, Inai said, “My love, you must return home. I fear we’ve left matters unattended for far too long as it is. I cannot return until the mystery of this tower’s been unraveled, I’m afraid, but we have found it. I cannot believe we’ve found it. Whatever truth is tucked away, I will know of soon.”
“I would rather not leave your side,” Neyl told her softly. “Your advisors will take care of the kingdom while we are gone. I trust them to do what’s right.”
Inai could not help but smile. “True, but certainly they will come across some problem that they cannot solve on their own. Our people need you until I can return.”
Neyl knew she was right, though he was loathe to admit it. He and all but one of the knights departed, thundering off back home to spread the word.
In the days and weeks that they were gone, Inai stayed camped near the tower. In the times she was not staring hopefully at the tower for some proof that something resided within, she walked around the length of the tower, certain that at some point it would reveal the secret way in. Surely there was a door, after all. What was the point of a building that no one could enter?
The knight remained with her, though the only danger she faced were strange dreams of winged people, of a girl in a dress that changed colors like a sky at dusk, and a great wolf that trotted down dark hallways, searching for something that he could never find.
One night, music woke her. It had haunted her dreams with its beautiful melody, but when she woke, the music remained. Leaving her tent, she found the knight asleep by the fire. Rubbing the exhaustion from her eyes, she walked to the base of the tower and looked up. A candle flickered in the window. Her heart leapt.
I will meet you, she thought furiously. Whoever you are, this tower will not separate us much longer.
She returned to her tent, but could not fall asleep right away. Inai hummed along with the song. When she fell back asleep, she dreamed of a baby. The baby turned a chicken from yellow to a spotted green, and grew a toy giraffe until it was as big as a real one, and breathed and moved like one too. An old name came to mind, one she hadn’t heard since she was a toddler. Ella. Princess Ella locked in a tower. Her sister.
This story was based off of my Princess in the Tower series from my old Mad Chronicler blog.