9. The Owners of History

6.1K 586 604

After Maxine's departure, Ashley thought this might be a good time to make sense of her life, but this exercise only resulted in more confusion. What did it mean to be a princess? Why did the prince marry her if he didn't want to be near her? How did she not know her fairy godmother was temporary? That she worked for a place that had a "headquarters?" What had Maxine meant to tell Ashley at the end?

The more confused she became, the more her body temperature rose. The silk bodice of her dress clung to her skin with sweat. She longed to strip off the layers. If only she could be a nymph, swimming in a cold mountain spring. But come to think of it, the few nymphs she'd met harbored bitterness about being confined to a single body of water or tree, their only company a human who might stumble into their domain. A nymph's life was rather like being a princess in a castle, only with less protocol and clothing.

Even a breeze would help. Though the fog and rain (courtesy of the fairy godmother head office) had dissipated, the library was abnormally humid. Charred remnants of an ancient fire decayed in the hearth, and cobwebs stretched between the stones.

Rows and rows of dusty, faded leather-bound books lined every wall of the dim library except for one at the far end. The shelves on this wall housed a collection of candles, flints, snuffers, crystal bottles of amber liquid, a human skull whose hollow eyes seemed to hold the secret of how it had come to rest in the Cornell Castle library, several scandalous nude female bronze sculptures, and a deck of strange cards with an aura of evil. Above the shelves was a small window overlooking wild fields and the Ever After River. Ashley threw the window open. The river roared, and a blast of chill mountain air cooled her face.




So what if Ashley's life so far contained more questions than answers? Time to change that.

She stood, her skirts unfurling themselves like the petals of a water lily in full sun. So many books. How to choose? How much time did she have? Perhaps someone would notice her absence and send a search party.

At random, she pulled a small volume from between two behemoths. It smelled of old leather, dust, and boredom. The cover read Crop Yields, 1523. That was twenty years ago. Its pages contained lists of plants, dates, and numbers, drawn in neat, precise writing.

Nothing at all about being a princess.

She replaced the book and made her way to the next shelf. And the next. There were books on shipping, swordsmanship, cigar rolling, and beard care. None at all helpful. She closed her eyes and picked a book at random.

"You called?"

Ashley started, almost dropping the book entitled 101 Uses for Leeches. "Domino!"

The little pigeon balanced on the windowsill, tipping back and forth on her twiggy orange legs. "Sorry to scare you. Heard you had a job for me."

"I ... uh ... don't. Where did you hear this?"

"Aw, you know. The grapevine. This lizard told that squirrel who told that hedgehog. Like a game of telephone. In the end, no one knows the original message."

"A game of what?"

"Telephone. Oh, sorry. Forgot you humans don't have those yet, which is a good thing. Turns out, they put a lot of skilled pigeons out of business."

"Uh ... okay."

"So whatcha up to?" Domino flew in, skimming over the highest shelves close to the vaulted ceiling.

"Just looking for answers."

"In here?"

Ashley placed her hands on her hips, scanning the shelves. "It is a library."

Prince Charming Must DieWhere stories live. Discover now