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THE PRINCE had all his young life known the story of Sleeping Beauty, cursed to sleep for a hundred years, with her parents, the King and Queen, and all of the Court, after pricking her finger on a spindle.
But he did not believe it until he was inside the castle.
Even the bodies of those other Princes caught in the thorns of the rose vines that covered the walls had not made him believe it. They had come believing it, true enough, but he must see for himself inside the castle.
Careless with grief for the death of his father, and too powerful under his mother’s rule for his own good, he cut these awesome vines at their roots, and immediately prevented them from ensnaring him. It was not his desire to die so much as to conquer.
And picking his way through the bones of those who had failed to solve the mystery, he stepped alone into the great banquet hall.
The sun was high in the sky and those vines had fallen away, so the light fell in dusty shafts from the lofty windows.
And all along the banquet table, the Prince saw the men and women of the old Court, sleeping under layers of dust, their ruddy and slack faces spun over with spider webs.
He gasped to see the servants dozing against the walls, their clothing rotted to tatters.
But it was true, this old tale. And, fearless as before, he went in search of the Sleeping Beauty who must be at the core of it.
In the topmost bedchamber of the house he found her. He had stepped over sleeping chambermaids and valets, and, breathing the dust and damp of the place, he finally stood in the door of her sanctuary.
Her flaxen hair lay long and straight over the deep green velvet of her bed, and her dress in loose folds revealed the rounded breasts and limbs of a young woman.
He opened the shuttered windows. The sunlight flooded down on her. And approaching her, he gave a soft gasp as he touched her cheek, and her teeth through her parted lips, and then her tender rounded eyelids.
Her face was perfect to him, and her embroidered gown had fallen deep into the crease between her legs so that he could see the shape of her sex beneath it.
He drew out his sword, with which he had cut back all the vines outside, and gently slipping the blade between her breasts, let it rip easily through the old fabric.
Her dress was laid open to the hem, and he folded it back and looked at her. Her nipples were a rosy pink as were her lips, and the hair between her legs was darkly yellow and curlier than the long straight hair of her head which covered her arms almost down to her hips on either side of her.
He cut the sleeves away, lifting her ever so gently to free the cloth, and the weight of her hair seemed to pull her head down over his arms, and her mouth opened just a little bit wider.
He put his sword to one side. He removed his heavy armor. And then he lifted her again, his left arm under her shoulders, his right hand between her legs, his thumb on top of her pubis.
She made no sound; but if a person could moan silently, then she made such a moan with her whole attitude. Her head fell towards him, and he felt the hot moisture against his right hand, and laying her down again, he cupped both of her breasts, and sucked gently on one and then the other.
They were plump and firm, these breasts. She’d been fifteen when the curse struck her. And he bit at her nipples, moving the breasts almost roughly so as to feel their weight, and then lightly he slapped them back and forth, delighting in this.
His desire had been hard and almost painful to him when he had come into the room, and now it was urging him almost mercilessly.
He mounted her, parting her legs, giving the white inner flesh of her thighs a soft, deep pinch, and, clasping her right breast in his left hand, he thrust his sex into her.
He was holding her up as he did this, to gather her mouth to him, and as he broke through her innocence, he opened her mouth with his tongue and pinched her breast sharply.
He sucked on her lips, he drew the life out of her into himself, and feeling his seed explode within her, heard her cry out.
And then her blue eyes opened.
“Beauty!” he whispered to her.
She closed her eyes, her golden eyebrows brought together in a little frown and the sun gleaming on her broad white forehead.
He lifted her chin, kissed her throat, and drawing his organ out of her tight sex, heard her moan beneath him.
She was stunned. He lifted her until she sat naked, one knee crooked on the ruin of her velvet gown on the bed which was as flat and hard as a table.
“I’ve awakened you, my dear,” he said to her. “For a hundred years you’ve slept and so have all those who loved you. Listen. Listen! You’ll hear this castle come alive as no one before you has ever heard it.”
Already a shriek had come from the passage outside. The serving girl was standing there with her hands to her lips.
And the Prince went to the door to speak to her.
“Go to your master, the King. Tell him the Prince has come who was foretold to remove the curse on this household. Tell him I shall be closeted now with his daughter.”
He shut the door, bolting it, and turned to look at Beauty.
Beauty was covering her breasts with her hands, and her long straight golden hair, heavy and full of a great silky density, flared down to the bed around her.
She bowed her head so that the hair covered her.
But she looked at the Prince and her eyes struck him as devoid of fear or cunning. She was like those tender animals of the wood just before he slew them in the hunt: eyes wide, expressionless.
Her bosom heaved with anxious breath. And now he laughed, drawing near, and lifting her hair back from her right shoulder. She looked up at him steadily, her cheeks suffused with a raw blush, and again he kissed her.
He opened her mouth with his lips, and taking her hands in his left hand he laid them down on her naked lap so that he might lift her breasts now and better examine them.
“Innocent beauty,” he whispered.
He knew what she was seeing as she looked at him. He was only three years older than she had been. Eighteen, newly a man, but afraid of nothing and no one. He was tall, black haired; he had a lean build which made him agile. He liked to think of himself as a sword—light, straight, and very deft, and utterly dangerous.
And he had left behind him many who would concur with this.
He had not so much pride in himself now as immense satisfaction. He had gotten to the core of the accursed castle.
There were knocks at the door, cries.
He didn’t bother to answer them. He laid Beauty down again.
“I’m your Prince,” he said, “and that is how you will address me, and that is why you will obey me.”
He parted her legs again. He saw the blood of her innocence on the cloth and this made him laugh softly to himself as again he gently entered her.
She gave a soft series of moans that were like kisses to his ear.
“Answer me properly,” he whispered.
“My Prince,” she said.
“Ah,” he sighed, “that is lovely.”
When he opened the door, the room was almost dark. He told the servants he would have his supper now, and he would receive the King immediately.
Beauty he ordered to dine with him, and to remain with him, and he told her firmly that she was to wear no clothing.
“It’s my wish to have you naked and always ready for me,” he said.
He might have told her she was incomparably lovely, with only her golden hair to clothe her, and the blushes on her cheeks to cover her, and her hands trying so vainly to shield her sex and her breasts, but he didn’t say this aloud.
Rather he took her little wrists and held them behind her back as the table was brought in, and then he ordered her to sit opposite.
The table was not so wide that he couldn’t reach her easily, touch her, caress her breasts if he liked. And reaching out he lifted her chin so that he could inspect her by the light of the servants’ candles.
The table was laid with roast pork and fowl, fruit in big glistening silver bowls, and immediately the King stood in the door, dressed in his heavy ceremonial robes, a gold crown atop his head as he bowed to the Prince and waited for the command to enter.
“Your Kingdom has been neglected for a hundred years,” said the Prince as he lifted his wine goblet. “Your vassals have many of them fled to other lords; good land lies fallow. But you have your wealth, your Court, your soldiers. So much lies ahead of you.”
“I am in your debt, Prince,” the King answered. “But will you tell me your name, the name of your family?”
“My mother, Queen Eleanor, lives on the other side of the forest,” said the Prince. “In your time, it was my great-grandfather’s kingdom; he was King Heinrick, your powerful ally.”
The Prince saw the King’s immediate surprise and then his look of confusion. The Prince understood it perfectly. And when a blush came to the King’s face, the Prince said:
“And in those times you served your time in my great-grandfather’s castle, did you not, and perhaps your queen also?”
The King pressed his lips together in resignation and slowly nodded. “You are the son of a powerful monarch,” he whispered. And the Prince could see that the King would not raise his eyes to see his naked daughter, Beauty.
“I will take Beauty to serve,” said the Prince. “She is mine now.” He took out his long silver knife and, cutting the hot, succulent pork, he laid several pieces on his own plate. The servants all about him vied with one another to place other dishes near him.
Beauty sat with her hands over her breasts again; her cheeks were moist with tears, and she was trembling slightly.
“As you wish,” said the King. “I am in your debt.”
“You have your life and your Kingdom now,” said the Prince. “And I have your daughter. I will spend the night here. And tomorrow set out to make her my Princess across the mountains.”
He had placed some fruit on his plate, and other hot morsels of cooked food, and now he snapped his fingers gently and in a whisper told Beauty to come around the table to him.
He could see her shame before the servants.
But he brushed her hand away from her sex.
“Never cover yourself like that again,” he said. He spoke these words almost tenderly, as he lifted her hair back from her face.
“Yes, my Prince,” she whispered. She had a lovely little voice. “But it’s so difficult.”
“Of course it is,” he smiled. “But for me you’ll do it.”
And now he took her and placed her on his lap, cradling her in his left arm. “Kiss me,” he said, and feeling her warm mouth on his again, he felt his desire rising too soon for his taste, but he decided he could savor this slight torment.
“You may go,” he said to the King. “Tell your servants to have my horse ready in the morning. I won’t need a horse for Beauty. My soldiers you’ve found, no doubt, at your gates,” and the Prince laughed. “They were afraid to come in with me. Tell them to be ready at dawn, and then you can say goodbye to your daughter, Beauty.”
The King glanced up very quickly to accept the Prince’s commands and with unfailing courtesy he backed out of the doorway.
The Prince turned his full attention to Beauty.
Lifting a napkin he wiped at her tears. She kept her hands obediently on her thighs, exposing her sex, and he observed that she did not try to hide her stiff little pink nipples with her arms and he approved of this.
“Now don’t be frightened,” he said to her softly, feeding a little on her trembling mouth again, and then slapping her breasts so they shivered lightly. “I could be old and ugly.”
“Ah, but then I could feel sorry for you,” she said in a sweet, tremulous voice.
He laughed. “I’m going to punish you for that,” he said to her tenderly. “But now and then just a little very ladylike impertinence is amusing.”
She blushed darkly, biting her lip.
“Are you hungry, beautiful one?” he asked.
He could see she was afraid to answer.
“When I ask you will say, ‘Only if it pleases you, my Prince,’ and I shall know the answer is yes. Or, ‘Not unless it should please you, my Prince,’ and I shall know the answer is no. Do you understand me?”
“Yes, my Prince,” she answered. “I’m hungry only if it pleases you.”
“Very good, very good,” he said to her with genuine feeling. He lifted a small cluster of glistening purple grapes and fed them to her one by one, taking the seeds out of her mouth and casting them aside.
And he watched with obvious pleasure as she drank deeply from the wine cup he held to her lips. Then he wiped her mouth and kissed her.
Her eyes were glistening. But she had stopped crying. He felt the smooth flesh of her back, and her breasts again.
“Superb,” he whispered. “And were you terribly spoilt before and given everything that you wished?”
She was confused, blushing again, and then full of shame she nodded.
“Yes, my Prince, I think perhaps ...”
“Don’t be afraid to answer me with many words,” he coaxed, “as long as they are respectful. And never speak unless I speak to you first, and in all these things, be careful to note what pleases me. You were very spoilt, given everything, but were you willful?”
“No, my Prince, I don’t think I was that,” she said. “I tried to be a joy to my parents.”
“And you’ll be a joy to me, my dear,” he said lovingly.
Still holding her firmly in his left arm, he turned to his supper.
He ate heartily, pork, roast fowl, some fruit, and several cups of wine. Then he told the servants to take it all away and leave them.
New sheets and coverlets had been laid on the bed; there were fresh down pillows, and roses in a vase nearby, and several candelabra.
“Now,” he said as he rose and set her before him. “We must get to bed as we have a long journey before us tomorrow. And I have still to punish you for your earlier impertinence.”
Immediately the tears stood in her eyes; she looked up at him imploring. She almost reached to cover her breasts and her sex, and then remembering herself she made her hands into two little helpless fists at her sides.
“I won’t punish you very much,” he said gently, lifting her chin. “It was just a little offense, and your first after all. But Beauty, to confess the truth, I shall love punishing you.”
She was biting her lip, and he could see she wanted to speak, and the effort to control her tongue and her hands was almost too much for her.
“All right, lovely one, what do you want to say?” he asked.
“Please, my Prince,” she begged. “I’m so afraid of you.”
“You’ll find me more reasonable than you expect,” he said.
He removed his long cloak, tossing it over a chair, and bolted the door. Then he snuffed all but a few candles.
He would sleep in his clothes as he did most nights, in the forest, or in the country inns, or in the houses of those humble peasants at which he sometimes stopped, and that was no great inconvenience to him.
And as he drew near her now, he thought he must be merciful and make her punishment quick. And seating himself on the side of the bed, he reached out for her, and pulling her wrists into his left hand he brought her naked body down over his lap so that her legs dangled over the floor helplessly.
“Very, very lovely,” he said, his right hand moving languidly over her rounded buttocks, forcing them ever so slightly apart.
Beauty was crying aloud, but muffling her cries into the bed, her hands held out in front of her by his long left arm.
And now with his right hand he spanked her buttocks hard and heard her cries grow louder. It wasn’t really much of a slap.
But it left a red mark on her. And he spanked her hard again, and he felt her writhing against him, the heat and moisture of her sex against his leg, and again he spanked her.
“I think you are sobbing more from the humiliation than the pain,” he scolded her in a soft voice.
She was struggling not to make her cries too loud.
He flattened out his right hand, and feeling the heat of her reddened buttocks drew it up and delivered another series of hard, loud slaps, smiling as he watched her struggle.
He could have spanked her much harder, for his own pleasure, and without really hurting her. But he thought the better of it. He had so many nights ahead of him for these delights.
He lifted her up now so that she was standing in front of him.
“Toss your hair back,” he commanded. Her tear-stained face was unspeakably beautiful, her lips trembling, her blue eyes gleaming with the dampness of the tears. She obeyed immediately.
“I don’t think you were so very spoilt,” he said. “I find you very obedient and eager to please, and this makes me very happy.”
He could see her relief.
“Clasp your hands behind your neck,” he said, “under your hair. That’s it. Very good.” He lifted her chin again. “And you have a lovely modest habit of looking down. But now I want you to look directly at me.”
She obeyed shyly, miserably. It seemed she felt her nakedness and her helplessness more fully now as she looked at him. Her lashes were matted and dark, and her blue eyes larger than he had thought.
“Do you find me handsome?” he asked her. “Ah, but before you answer, I should like to know the truth from you, not what you think I should like to hear, or what would be best for you to say, you understand me?”
“Yes, my Prince,” she whispered. She seemed calmer.
He reached out, massaged her right breast lightly, and then stroked her downy underarms, feeling the little curve of the muscle there beneath the tiny wisp of golden hair, and then he stroked that full, moist hair between her legs so that she sighed and trembled.
“Now,” he said, “answer my question, and describe what you see. Describe me as if you had only just met me and were confiding in your chambermaid.”
Again she bit her lip, which he dearly loved, and then, her voice a little diminished by uncertainty, she said:
“You are very handsome, my Prince, no one could deny that. And for one ... for one ...”
“Go on,” he said. He drew her just a little closer so that her sex was against his knee, and putting his right arm about her, he cradled her breast in his left hand and let his lips touch her cheek.
“And for one so young to be so commanding,” she said, “it’s not what one might expect.”
“And tell me how does that show itself in me, other than my actions?”
“Your manner, my Prince,” she said, her voice gaining a little strength. “The look of your eyes, such dark eyes ... your face. There are none of the doubts of youth in it.”
He smiled and kissed her ear. He wondered why the wet little cleft between her legs was so very hot. His fingers could not keep from touching it. Twice already he’d had her today, and he would have her again, but he was thinking he should go about it more slowly.
“Would you like it if I were older?” he whispered.
“I had thought,” she said, “that it would be easier. To be commanded by one so very young,” she said, “is to feel one’s helplessness.”
It seemed the tears had welled up and were spilling out of her eyes, so he pushed her gently back so he might see them.
“My darling, I have awakened you from a century’s sleep, and restored you father’s Kingdom. You’re mine. And you won’t find me such a hard master. Only a very thorough master. When you think night and day and every moment only of pleasing me, things will be very easy for you.”
And as she struggled not to look away, he could see again the relief in her face, and that she was in complete awe of him.
“Now,” he said, pushing his left fingers between her legs, and drawing her close again so that she let out a little gasp before she could stop herself, “I want more of you than I’ve had before. Do you know what I mean, my Sleeping Beauty?”
She shook her head; for this moment she was in terror.
He lifted her up onto the bed and laid her down.
The candles threw a warm, almost rosy light over her. Her hair fell down on either side of the bed, and she seemed on the verge of crying out, her hands struggling to keep still at her sides.
“My darling, you have a dignity about you that shields you from me, much like your lovely golden hair shrouds you and shields you. Now I want you to surrender to me. You’ll see, and you’ll be very surprised that you wept when I first suggested it.”
The Prince bent over her. He parted her legs. He could see the battle she fought not to cover herself or turn away from him. He stroked her thighs. Then with his finger and thumb, he reached into the silky damp hair itself and felt those tender little lips and forced them very wide open.
Beauty gave a terrible shudder. With his left hand he covered her mouth, and behind his hand she cried softly. It seemed easier for her with him covering her mouth and that was all right for now, he thought. She shall be taught everything in time.
And with his right fingers, he found that tiny nodule of flesh between her tender nether lips and he worked it back and forth until she raised her hips, arching her back, in spite of herself. Her little face under his hand was the picture of distress. He smiled to himself.
But even as he smiled, he felt the hot fluid between her legs for the first time, the real fluid which had not come before with her innocent blood. “That’s it, that’s it, my darling,” he said. “And you mustn’t resist your Lord and master, hmmmm?”
Now he opened his clothing and took out his hard, eager sex, and mounting her he let it rest against her thigh as he continued to stroke her and work her.
She was twisting from one side to the other, her hands gathering up the soft sheets at her sides into knots, and it seemed her whole body grew pink, and the nipples of her breasts looked as hard as if they were tiny stones. He could not resist them.
He bit at them with his teeth, playfully, not hurting her. He licked them with his tongue, and then he licked her sex, too, and as she struggled, and blushed and moaned beneath him, he mounted her, slowly.
Again she arched her back. Her breasts were suffused with red. And as he drove his organ into her, he felt her shudder violently with unwilling pleasure.
An awful cry was muffled by the hand over her mouth; she was shuddering so violently it seemed she all but lifted him on top of her.
And then she lay still, moist, pink, with her eyes closed, breathing deeply as the tears flowed silently.
“That was lovely, my darling,” he said. “Open your eyes.”
She did it timidly.
But then she lay looking up at him.
“This has been so hard for you,” he whispered. “You could not even imagine these things happening to you. And you are red with shame, and shaking with fear, and you believe perhaps it’s one of the dreams you dreamed in your hundred years. But it’s real, Beauty,” he said. “And it is only the beginning! You think I’ve made you my Princess. But I’ve only started. The day will come when you can see nothing but me as if I were the sun and the moon, when I mean all to you, food, drink, the air you breathe. Then you will truly be mine, and these first lessons ... and pleasures ...” he smiled, “will seem like nothing.”
He bent over her. She lay so very still, gazing up at him.
“Now kiss me,” he commanded. “And I mean, really ... kiss me.”
THE JOURNEY AND THE PUNISHMENT AT THE INN
THE NEXT morning all the Court was gathered in the Great Hall to see the Prince off, and all of the Court, including the grateful King and Queen, stood with their eyes down, bowing from the waist as the Prince came down the steps with the naked Beauty walking behind him. He had commanded her to clasp her hands on the back of her neck beneath her hair, and to walk just a little to his right so that he might see her in the corner of his eye. And she obeyed, her bare feet making not the slightest sound on the worn stone steps as she followed him.
“Dear Prince,” said the Queen, when he reached the great front door and saw that his soldiers stood mounted on the drawbridge, “we are in your eternal debt, but she is our only daughter.”
The Prince turned to look at her. She was yet beautiful, though more than twice Beauty’s age, and he wondered if she too had served his great-grandfather.
“How can you question me?” the Prince asked patiently. “I have restored your Kingdom, and you know full well if you remember anything of the ways of my land, that Beauty will be much enhanced by her service there.”
Then the telltale blush came to the Queen as it had to the King before, and she bowed her head in acceptance.
“But surely you will allow Beauty some clothing,” she whispered, “at least until she reaches the border of your Kingdom.”
“All those towns between here and my Kingdom have owed their allegiance to us for a century. And in each I will proclaim your restoration and new dominion. Can you ask for more than that? The spring is warm already; Beauty shall suffer no ill effects from serving me immediately.”
“Forgive us, your Highness,” the King hastened to say. “But is it the same in this age? Beauty’s servitude will not be forever?”
“It is the same now as it was always. Beauty will be returned in time. And she shall be greatly enhanced in wisdom and beauty. Now, tell her to obey as your parents commanded you to obey when you were sent to us.”
“The Prince speaks the truth, Beauty,” the King said in a low voice, still unwilling to look at his daughter. “Obey him. Obey the Queen. And though you find your servitude surprising and difficult at times, be confident you will return, as he says, greatly changed for the better.”
The Prince smiled.
The horses were restless on the drawbridge. The Prince’s charger, a black stallion, was particularly hard to restrain, so the Prince, bidding them all farewell again, turned and picked up Beauty.
He heaved her easily over his right shoulder, clasping her ankles to his waist, and heard her cry out softly as she fell over his back. He could see her long hair sweep the ground just before he mounted the stallion.
All the soldiers fell into place behind him.
He rode into the forest.
The sun spilled down in glorious rays through the heavy green leaves, the sky now brilliant and blue overhead only to vanish in a shifting green-tinted light as the Prince rode on at the head of his soldiers, humming to himself, and now and then singing.
From the Trade Paperback edition.