Whoops, this weird idea about a cursed king and his also-cursed captive somehow morphed into being my Camp Nanowrimo 2022 project. It might border on a novella by the time I’m done with it.
The creature had a name, once, but it’s been so long since she’s used it that she’s forgotten. There were too many things like that in her life, things it was safer to keep unimportant than admit that she should be missing them.
Nothing matters now that she belongs to him. Unless she has a series of dreamless sleeps, she’ll be here to stay. To feed his curiosity and appetite.
The princeling–king, she has to remind herself, despite his youth–is very beautiful. Almost too beautiful. There’s something uncanny about the ghost-whiteness of his smile. The way his fingers drag meals from unwitting dreamers, somehow more claw-like than her own claws.
He’s a pretty man. Slight. Easy to underestimate. The sheer confidence in his every word and move belies the relative weakness of his body.
She could have killed him to defend herself, but she wouldn’t. Her line for what cruelties she’s willing to commit to protect herself stop long before murder. She’d startled herself when she lashed out at one of the hunters that cornered her. So instead she followed him out of the cave, tame as a lamb, and allowed herself to be caged and carried off.
The thought of more blood or even death makes her heart feel like it’s being squeezed. Besides, she would have probably been on the receiving end of more violence if she resisted any further.
So she surrenders. It doesn’t involve as much torture as she thought it would. That comes mostly in the form of sleep deprivation and a gradual sensation of loss, setting in slowly and subtly.
Most of the time he isn’t around, presumably talking politics or fighting wars or eating non-dream delicacies or whatever it is that kings do. But at night, without fail, he appears, pale hair silvered by moonlight. Some of the creatures try to avoid his feasting by sleeping during the day, but a servant will check hourly and awaken them by clanging a series of bells in the window. Even when she isn’t around to do it, the cold wind streaming through the bars jostles them against each other. The sound jostles the creature awake whenever she dares to teeter on the brink of sleep.
When the king is there, he tends to come ever-so-briefly, intent on getting his meal and leaving. Even when she’s asleep, she tends to hear him enter, sensitive ears attuned to listening for danger. It’s usually only the subtle rasp of the door against the frame that gives him away. After that, he walks silent as death over to the sleeping beasts, reaches towards them, and pulls the dream out from between the bars of the cages.