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Once upon a time, as many stories like it begin, there was a village. It was modest in size and was often bustling with various merchants, travelers, and so forth going through their daily activities.
Meredith was one of these villagers. She was a fine young woman somewhere around 15-17 years old. Her exact age was unknown due to the fact that her birthday had long been forgotten or simply not acknowledged. What could be acknowledged was that she was one of the most beautiful girls in the village. Something that could only be said about only a handful of other villagers. One of which, of course, was her stepmother.
The Stepmother had, as one would expect, become part of Meredith’s family sometime after the death of her biological father. Though not as cruel as other stepmothers, this one was still quite strict and extremely vain. She’d spend more time preening herself and attempting to get in good graces with the more affluent members of society than with any quality time with her stepdaughter. In fact, the only time she would acknowledge Meredith’s existence was if it would benefit her attempts to be part of high society.
So, naturally, it should come as no surprise that the Stepmother was elated when she found out that the Prince would be visiting their humble village. Rumors had spread that he was looking for a bride and was personally visiting every cottage at the time in search of a bride. And, what higher position is there than royalty? With the prospect of potentially being part of the aristocracy, the Stepmother got to work grooming her stepdaughter into the ideal potential bride.
The days that followed were long, tiresome, and agonizing at times. Meredith spent all of her time learning how to be a proper lady. She learned how to sit properly, how to eat properly, even how to walk and talk properly. Her legs and neck ached from the hours spent balancing books on her head to learn proper posture. She grew tired of trying on uncomfortable dress after uncomfortable dress. And, she grew bored of each long repetitive conversation her Stepmother’s friends would engage with her.
Between that, and the hours of preening herself with the latest makeup fashions and hairstyles, Meredith felt more like it was a form of torture than any sort of preparation of potentially meeting the Prince. Still, she endured. Not because she had grown to like any of it, but rather because of two things. First, it meant spending more time with her Stepmother. Despite barely acknowledging her, Meredith never held any sort of grudge.
Second, and more importantly, she shared a fantasy that many girls had. The dream of meeting, and possibly marrying, a prince. Since childhood, she’d fantasize that she’d find herself at a royal ball and be swept off her feet by the handsome royal boy. Or, perhaps her village would be under siege and she’d find herself rescued by a prince whom had taken on the role of a knight in shining armor riding upon a majestic stallion.
It wasn’t long before the fated day arrived. The Prince, flanked on each side by royal guards, made his way from home to home in search of a woman who fit his requirements. A royal announcement had been made the day before stating what the Prince would be seeking in a woman. She had to be young, not married (nor have had any prior marriages), in good health, exhibit radiant beauty, and, most important, be a virgin. Though she found this last requirement odd, Meredith simply assumed that perhaps the Prince sought out a virgin bride since one would be more “pure” than a non-virgin. The Prince had a reputation to keep, after all.
Cottage after cottage, the Prince sought out his ideal woman though had yet to find what he was seeking. His disposition and confidence slowly faded until he came upon the cottage where Meredith and her Stepmother dwelled. Said Stepmother immediately opened the door and greeted the Prince with the most overtly cheery yet proper tone she could muster. Meredith knew she was only acting this way because he was royalty. Still, she said nothing as she didn’t want to make a fool of herself, the Prince, or her Stepmother.
After some long drawn-out time, the Prince’s expression turned to delight. Meredith was exactly the lady he had been seeking. She met all of his requirements. Her Stepmother and she were overjoyed to hear that Meredith would be chosen.
Had she known it wasn’t for a wedding, however, perhaps Meredith’s reaction would’ve been quite different.
Weeks passed before Meredith found herself tied to a wooden pole. She struggled fruitlessly against the tight ropes wrapped around her. Said ropes dug into her sides and caused her pain. Soon, she grew exhausted and panted. Her mouth was dry from not drinking all day. Any attempts at screaming out for help had long since passed for her throat was sore from thirst and prior cries. Watching her from a distance, were various members of the village, her Stepmother, and the Prince as they awaited her fate. All Meredith could do was await whatever was to happen to her.
Soon, faint footsteps could be heard before growing louder. The ground began to tremble slightly before it too grew in volume and frequency. And, most telling of all, the clear air began to slowly fill with a burning smell and the sight of billowing black smoke as saliva-filled hungry jaws made their way towards Meredith.
Written by Chelsea.adams.524