The Greatest Power
Show me a hero and I'll write you a tragedy F. Scott Fitzgerald
The beautiful princess and her love. This is the stuff of which stories are made. This is, in fact, where our story begins. The Princess Isabeau was a beautiful young woman, the envy and pride of all her kingdom. She had raven locks that fell to her waist, so dark that one wondered why the birds themselves did not believe her one of them. She had the fairest of skin, a voice to rival the sweetest singing lark, and eyes the bluest of blues. She had also found the one thing most women search lifetimes for: her true love. Oh, it was not a simple love. No, she was a princess, the heir to a kingdom; he was merely a knight, her protector and constant companion. She was expected to wed a wealthy prince from some kingdom or other, but instead she found herself deeply, irreversibly in love with her knight and he with her. So the Princess grew, surrounded by those who loved and cared for her, and followed perpetually by her knight. They each knew of their love for the other, yet neither could share that love for fear of the consequences. And so they secretly loved and hid from that love, being the best of friends and yet suffering all the while.
As time passed, the beautiful kingdom was attacked by another, jealous of their lush fields, healthy herds, and, of course, the fair Princess Isabeau. The land known as the Kingdom of Xil was an unhappy place of deserts and high mountain ranges. It was ruled by a harsh king who cared for nothing but his own happiness. He let his people starve and their crops die to fill his coffers with their earnings. When he heard of the beautiful Isabeau about to reach her 14th birthday, he wrote to her father the King, asking for her hand in marriage. The King, knowing the foulness of this king of Xil, refused. Instead, he planned to let his daughter live as she wished for yet a little while, sending her to be schooled under the most talented sorceress in the land, with her faithful knight always at her heals. More time passed, and the Princess returned to her beloved kingdom on her 18th birthday, a sorceress. She was greeted by her parents, overjoyed that their little girl, who was not so little anymore, had returned. They held a great feast in her honor. But that very night at that very feast, the King and Queen were struck down by a terrible poison. The Princess knew it had been the king of Xil.
The commoners of the kingdom, who had much loved their King and Queen, were outraged and vowed to fight alongside their Princess. She wept instead for peace, crying to her people that there must not be any more blood shed. Reluctantly they agreed. Then the king of Xil did what the Princess had expected, he invaded the fair kingdom with his army of evil creatures, sowing death wherever they went. The king of Xil was a great and powerful warlock. He cast his evil spells on the countryside, causing the lush fields and healthy herds to fall to dust. The Princess had known the evil king would try something like this, but she was a powerful sorceress now and had set a trap to catch him. She only had to wait for the king to approach the capital city to spring her trap.
The people feared for their lives, yet they loved and trusted their Princess and so they did not fight. They watched as their wonderful kingdom turned to ash in the wake of the dreadful army. Finally the day came when the evil king stood outside the gates of the great city which was all that now remained of the once great and beautiful kingdom. The king stepped up to the wide gates, shut for the first time in many years, and declared that, should he be given the Princess, the people of the city would be allowed to live in peace under his rule. The people trembled and feared – they could not give up their wonderful Princess, but how should any such as they defy a dread and powerful king like the warlock of Xil? They knew better than to trust any promise made by him. The Princess then went among them and told them not to fear for she would deal with the king in the morning and all would be well. The people wept for what they thought would be the last great sacrifice of their royalty for the people.
The morning came and with it, the Princess Isabeau's one chance to stop the warlock king. As the sun rose over the beleaguered kingdom, the beautiful Princess stood at her chamber window and sang a lament to the day. The people thought she was expressing her sadness of the coming union, but it was not so. The sorceress that Isabeau had studied her magic under had taught her the arts of the old ways, how one could trap another with an object as simple as a piece of thread or something as intangible as a song. Her Knight, who had spent the long years of study always by her side, knew what she now attempted as did one other. Though the king of Xil was only able to use the corrupt and deadly powers of a warlock, he had studied the arts of others until he knew all they could do. As soon as he felt the bindings of the song, he knew at once what the Princess was trying to do. So he struck back at her with his magic, causing her to fall to the floor of her bower. She gasped in pain as it felt like a needle had pierced her heart. If she did nothing, she would die. She knew she could defend herself from the blackness of the warlock's magic, but how could she save her kingdom if she had no strength left to attack in return?
The brave Knight had stood beside his Princess for many years now and loved her more than he loved life as he knew she returned the feeling. He knew she would give her life to save her people, and so he resolved to make it unnecessary. The Knight turned from the sight of his beloved, a sight he hoped to return to quickly. He walked through the deserted streets of the city until he reached the great gates. He exited through a side door few knew of and soon found himself standing before the great and evil army. Though he knew the warlock king to be much more powerful, he challenged him to single combat. The king of Xil laughed, for he had been told by an ancient seeress many years ago that he would not die a mortal's death. He accepted the challenge of the worthy Knight feeling no worry as he switched his attention from the now helpless Princess to her defender. And so they all came to the end.
For once they had been dueling but a little while, the king struck a mortal blow to the faithful Knight. As he lay stricken on the ground, the Knight unknowingly did what few had done before or have done since; his heart, in its last moments, sent a cry through the space separating them to his one true love, the beautiful Princess. At his anguished call, she awoke from her faint. She could feel the Knight as though he stood beside her in her room. She looked out to the battlefield with the eyes of a hawk and cried with despair at what she saw. She could feel her spell flowing through the air around her; she had nearly finished it before she was attacked. She had only to direct it. She knew the arts of healing as well as those of war and enchantment. She could save her Knight, her love with but a thought. She could feel the warlock king gathering his power to strike at her again, she knew she had to act then or never. She sent a prayer to any god who may be listening, and with a thought, sent her spell hurtling toward the two combatants.
The Knight felt the love the Princess sent him just before he closed his eyes. He did not hear the scream of the king of Xil as the king felt his consciousness ripped from his body. He knew only that he was now free to go and that his love would be waiting for him. The people went immediately to tell their Princess of the death of her guard, but when they entered her bower, they found her laid on the floor as if in a deep sleep. She looked at rest, but the stillness of her heart told otherwise. She had died at the moment her spell killed the king and left her Knight to die. She had fallen from a broken heart, a single tear streaming down her cheek. Love of her people had felled the king, love for the Knight had felled the Princess.
The king of Xil would die no mortal death, indeed, just as the seeress had predicted. Instead, he would be forever trapped in a song that the people of the city say can be heard outside the front gates to this day. As the king's control of his body was lost, so were his powers destroyed and the creatures he had created for his evil gains returned to the blood and ash they had been before he twisted them. The people found no body when they went to look for the faithful Knight. They found nothing on the battlefield at all but new grass sprouting from the ashes of the old and a single, pure white flower growing from a patch of drying blood. The power of love had proven far greater than the power of death wielded by the corrupt and bloody king.
The people still tell the story of the beloved and loving Princess Isabeau and her loyal Knight. They tell a story of how a pair of stars, now called The Lovers, winked brightly in the sky that night and shown day and night for a week after the battle. They tell a story of how those very stars are said to turn out their lights on that fateful anniversary every year, and, if one were to look closely enough, one would see a pair of white doves, one with a blood red breast, sitting atop the tower that once held the Princess Isabeau's chambers. They tell a story of love that withstands time and separation and the greatest obstacle of all: hate. The day after the final battle the people of the kingdom began to rebuild, and as they went to bury the Princess, they found a short verse inscribed deeply into the rock of the tower, though no one had entered the tower. It has remained there till this day.
Though through fire or flood you rove
Know the greatest power is love.