The Girl in the Tower

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Bones litter the ground.

From my perch in the tower, I pretend they're fallen branches, bleached from the sun, and not the remnants of those who came before. A carpet of men who've tried and failed.

You'd think by now, they would have stopped coming. The single tower, rising a dizzying eighty feet above the ground, is carefully hidden. To find it, adventurers and suitors alike must travel through a vast forest, cross a rapid river, and match wits with the wild creatures that call this valley home.

Still, they venture out, the brave and determined, arriving battle-scarred and hungry at the base of my prison, only to find saving me to be the greatest challenge. I am the stuff of legends. A princess trapped in a tower awaiting rescue. Beauty unlike any other with hair long enough to reach the ground.  

So many have tried.

All have failed.

Yet, every arrival fills me with renewed hope.

I lean out the window and survey the small valley. It's been almost a month since the last one. I keep track by carving the days with charcoal onto the wall. The longest between rescue attempts was a year. The shortest three weeks.

My stomach rumbles, and I give up my watch to make breakfast. A set of stairs leads to the top of the tower, where a small landing holds my vegetable garden. Meat is a luxury, and the traps I lower to the ground rarely produce more than an occasional rabbit.

A sack of rice will pair well with the ripened tomato I twist from the vine. The rice was a gift from a previous rescuer. They always bring gifts, placing them in a bucket I've arranged on a pulley system. Food, I welcome. It's the jewels I have no use for. They sit discarded and forgotten in the corner, not unlike the bones at the base of the tower.

I asked a rescuer once, called down to him from my window. "Why do you bring me offerings of gold, yet you bring no one else to fight off the vicious creatures?"

The man kneeled before me. "I offer you gold to celebrate your beauty and come alone as a show of strength. A strong man needs no other."

"Look around you, sir. Strong men's bones are at your feet. They should send someone wise."

He smirked. He didn't die with a smirk, though. He died with the gold still clutched in his hand, a look of horror spreading across his features as the blood drained from his veins.

Lot of good gold does you in this valley.

I prepare breakfast, humming to myself as I chop the tomato. My hand stills over the vegetable when I hear a sound below.

"Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair."

I smile, excitement thrumming through my body. A new rescuer has come. I smooth the fabric of my gown and try to calm my racing nerves. Will this man be the one? Have they sent someone worthy of the challenge? Or will there be a new set of bones to add to the macabre collection below?

The long golden braid, I've cultivated over the years, curls around the room. I drag the length with me to the window and peer over the ledge.

A man stands below, alone. His legs braced apart, gives him the appearance of a sturdy tree trunk. He's strong like the others, but is he wise?

"Have you come alone?"

"Yes, my lady. Throw down your hair before the beasts arrive."

I study him further. A bag is slung over his shoulder and a sword is strapped to his lean waist, yet he looks like he could fight a beast with his bare hands. Not that I'm worried about that. I simply want to make sure he can make the climb. I lost a rescuer or two when they slipped halfway up the tower.

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