Tendrils of damp hair cling to his face as he looks up from the straw mat floor of his cell into the pale torchlight streaming through the lone barred window in the door. Sweat bathes his feverish skin, permeating the confining space with a sour musk. Visions dance before his eyes, transporting him to another place, where rat chewed rags become regal apparel.
He doesn't even know who he is.
Aye, but the king has pardoned all, for the night's royal ball. He'll be back soon enough.
Course hands grip his arms, dragging him against his protest, knees banging stone stairs in their wake. Eyes clench at the daylight, shrieking his body flies to land in a puddle, spraying refuse across his profile, matting his beard with the taste of earth. Scampering he flees into hustle and bustle of the town, caught in the fantasy of the evenings amusements.
Perfumed and painted, the parade of upturned noses promenades past the disheveled fool begging by the entrance way, avoiding his wild eyes and intelligible pleas. Once through, the twinkling chandeliers and swirling vestments massage the accosting visage into witticisms at one who would present themselves so careless at the king's court.
Trumpets blare, signalling the entrance of the royal family and all eyes turn into their brilliance, as they descend from on high to join in the festivities. Minstrels fill the air with melody, the floors with dancing and smiles with joy, inviting all into their bewitching. The ball has begun.
His entrance goes unnoticed, a mere shadow under their sun.
Her eyes, shimmering pools his heart drowns in, her hair like the sun as he orbits her beauty with his eyes, from the safety of the corner. Air leaves the room as the princess rises, sending hearts of young men galloping like colts, at the opportunity for a dance. Their sea of color parts, hope dashed to the rocks with each passing. Pale as the diamonds that grace them, her fingers beckon his crumpled form from the shadows, into the center of the parquet floor.
Disgust ripples through the throng, that she would stoop so lower in her choosing, even as his crusted hand takes her in the lead. Spinning and spinning, before their very eyes, a prince is reborn, washed in embrace of love's first kiss.
Is this a dream, he muttered.
No this is happily ever after, she whispered.
Dad, did that really happen?
Well, something like that.
Mom was really a princess.
Doesn't she look like one?
Can you tell it again?