George and the Maiden is the title of my offering for the #writephoto prompt today. Thank you, KL Caley, for organising the blog hop at New2Writing each week.
Here’s the picture:
Today is the tenth anniversary of my hero George. He went over the Rainbow Bridge on 17th May 2011, the first of my guinea pigs to do so. He’d had a life dogged by teeth trouble, and had struggled through it in good humour, in true gentlemanlike fashion. And of course, he’s the hero of my Princelings of the East series, along with his brother Fred.
There’s a fundraising effort and giveaway on the website he started: George’s Guinea Pig World, today. Read more about the Notebook which is on offer as a prize. I hope you would like to take part in the fundraiser.
And of course, George just had to be the hero of today’s story. It’s just under 900 words.
George and the Maiden
Now that George stood at the foot of the tower, he could hear nothing save the wind in the trees, and an occasional trickling noise of crumbling stone.
Erosion, he thought. Maybe he’d been tricked by the wind.
He stepped back a few paces, and then turned to go. He was wasting time. He had other things to do, including finding his way home. If he didn’t get home to get some spares for his flying machine, he’d be stuck in the middle of nowhere for the night. Well, he could go back to his plane, or stay in the bottom of this tower.
His tummy rumbled.
He wanted to get home tonight.
The noise came again.
It was really a squeak, but had more depth to it than a squeaky floorboard, or the rub of branches on treetrunks. Then it repeated and turned into a sob.
No, someone was really crying in this tower. Were they trapped? Was it a trick?
He turned to face the tower again. There was no light from the narrow arched windows. Gothic, he thought. Sandstone, local, no doubt. Been here a while, as that’s what’s crumbling.
It was nothing like his own castle, except it was a tower. His, or rather, his brother Fred’s, since Fred was king, had four smooth round towers with circular roofs and a flagpole on each. And a few more turrets on the guardhouses on the walls.
This was just one tower, attached to a ruin. Overgrown. In the middle of nowhere.
But there was definitely someone in there. Someone crying.
“Halloo!” he called. “Hello, up there in the tower. Can you hear me?”
The sound stopped. He waited.
“My name’s George,” he called, in case it helped create confidence in a person who’d been crying. They’d stopped at his first call.
A face, very pale in the increasingly dull light, appeared at the top window, pushing past a straggly curtain.
“Hello,” George said again. “Are you all right? Are you trapped?”
“Who are you?”
“I’m George.” George was renowned for his patience. “I was just passing. Need to go soon, though, it’s getting dark. Do you need help?”
“Yes… I… I’m stuck.”
“The door’s locked. They threw the key away. Into those bushes.” The face nodded towards the woods.
George did not fancy scrambling among the brambles to look for a key. “How long ago was this?”
“Oh, months. They leave me food every now and then. I winch it up.”
George could see no sign of any winching apparatus. He was an engineer, he’d know if he saw it. He thought he was talking to a woman, but given the cracked and croaky voice, probably because they hadn’t spoken to anyone for months, he was really guessing. No, the sobbing sounded more like a woman.
“Well, why can’t you winch yourself down?”
“It’s complicated.” The voice broke into spasms of coughing, probably from unaccustomed use.
“Why not show me?”
“All right then.”
A skein of ginger coloured rope started to be fed out of the window. It was lighter than George’s ginger hair, but darker than Fred’s, which was turning fudge-colour as he got older. It reached the bottom of the tower, and the face appeared again.
“You can climb up if you like.”
“Why don’t you just climb down?”
“I can’t. It’s attached.”
George frowned. “Why are you in there, anyway?”
“They said it was for my own safety.”
“Who are ‘they’?”
There was no reply. George puzzled over the very long piece of rope, which seemed to have seen better days, since it was frayed and ragged at the end nearest him. It was attached at the top. What to?
He pondered some more, and realised that if he didn’t hurry up, he’d be here for the night. This seemed to be a damsel in distress, and he was no good with damsels, let alone in distress.
“If I send you up some scissors, you can cut it off whatever it’s attached to, tie it up again, and climb down.”
“Why is that surprising?”
“Most people climb up to help me.”
George smiled. So, he was right. The rumours were true. He wondered whether the famous story-teller, Willoughby, had met her after all. He’d always sworn it was a fairy tale.
“Well, I’ll just send up my spare scissors. If you want to return them later, send them to Castle Marsh for George, the engineer.”
He searched in his satchel, pulled out his scissors, said goodbye to them and tied them to the bottom of the rope.
“There you go. Pull them in, and get it all unattached, then tie it onto a beam or something and slide down it. I’m off now. Got to get home, you know.”
“But aren’t you going to rescue me?”
“You’ve got all the means to rescue yourself now. You don’t need anybody else. Good luck.”
George heard her protesting as he started to walk back to the track which appeared to be heading east.
“But… aren’t you even going to ask my name?”
“What’s your name?”
“Yes, I rather thought so. That’s what Willoughby called you. Bye!”
George had no intention of being caught in anyone’s fairy tale, happy ending or no.
© J M Pett 2021George and the Maiden #writephoto #anniversary Retelling of a fairy tale with Prince Engineer George as the hero – and join his Anniversary Fundraising #Giveaway #guineapig Click To Tweet