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Fantasticoe 1995

The Wall
Shannon De Witt

     The two cities faced each other from summits divided by a rich, green valley. The summits were surmounted by majestic towers of stone where the royalty lived. Many years ago the princes of these cities decided to travel together and see the world. They were gone for many years and experienced many things. They eventually came home and with them they brought brides that they had found in a faraway land. These brides were sisters and beautiful to look at. Unfortunately, with this beauty came vanity. The princes had overlooked this vanity in their quest to win the hearts of the exotic women. They also overlooked that the sisters hated each other. They were so much alike in beauty and personality that they were jealous and spiteful of the other. Years later when they both were Queens, they both became pregnant. During this time the Kings both were killed in a hiking accident and were mourned deeply. The people of these two kingdoms loved their Kings and turned to the Queens in this tragic time. The Queens, who were shallow and cruel and had married the princes only so one would not have more than the other, took advantage of this to begin what they thought would be the Golden Age of the city.

     At this time both cities were prosperous and had many things in common. Before these two became queens the kingdoms were amiable and enjoyed friendly competition in games and tournaments. They traded and exchanged goods and ideas. Then the Queens had children, each having twins, a boy and a girl. When the festivities for the new heirs began, so did the bragging.

     "Mine are so beautiful!" one mother would exclaim.

     "Well, if those are the qualities you think are attractive I suppose you might think that way." the other would whisper to her court.

     "A mother's eyes will always see the best in her children", the first would snicker,"so that makes one person who find those little trolls appealing."

     The insults got worse and the kingdoms became more and more alienated towards one another. The Queens led the way in this. Prejudiced judgements and laws against the people of the other kingdom made the people stop trade and communication. The general populace became obsessed with looks and the concept of beauty, in imitation of the Queens, until in both kingdoms beauty was the most important aspect of life. At this point the Queens needed to do something not to stop this obsession, but to let there be no doubt whose kingdom was the most beautiful.

     It was rumored in both kingdoms that an old woman who could do magic lived on the third summit. No one knew where she had come from. For a long time the Queens ignored the rumors of her power because it was also rumored that she was old and ugly. Eventually though, the queens got over their disgust and sent messengers to find this old woman and ask her what she could do to make one kingdom more beautiful than the other. When the old woman was found she was already aware of the competition raging between the other two summits. She had watched it grow at pace with the growth of the twin heirs of each kingdom. In response to each Queen's plea the exasperated old woman pronounced a double-edged spell.

           Grand and plain, modest and vain
      From what you ask you will receive no gain.
      To ignore your duty, obsessed with beauty
           I now pass on the responsibility.
      Keeping towers tall, each kingdom will fall
      Nothing of beauty will pass through my wall!

     The spell was heard throughout both kingdoms and at the same time a translucent wall of mist divided the valley and the kingdoms. The people of the kingdoms went down to the wall to see how this spell worked.

     "Why, they all look the same as they always have!" exclaimed many.

     "They are not ugly!" cried others.

     The transparent wall disappointed the Queens and their people. It did not hide the other city, and it did not make them ugly so that they could make fun of the other city. So what was the point many asked themselves.

     It took a mishap by a clumsy teen to make them aware of the change. The clumsy boy was walking down to the wall when he tripped on a root and tumbled head over heels the rest of the way down and right through the mist. A gasp rose from the crowds, then a heavy silence. The boy, who was nice looking and well formed, had become a hunched, misshapen, caricature of himself. His mattery eyes looked around in confusion and then in fear. He didn't know he had changed, all he knew was that he was surrounded by horrid, drooling creatures of all shapes and sizes! It was the people of the other city. They were horrid and they were going to get him! Stumbling, he made his way back through the wall and the creatures became humans again.

     "You turned into a horrible beast!" his younger brother informed him.

     "Me!" he cried, "It was them! They all became monsters and were going to get me!"

     Hearing the boy the people of each kingdom began to understand what the wall meant. In order to communicate with anyone from the other city they would have to become and be surrounded by ugly creatures. With the concept of beauty so important, no one was going to risk their looks for a mere conversation with anyone from the other city. It just wasn't worth it.

     "Those other children could never come into her kingdom and try to compete with her wonderful twins now." the Queens each thought to herself.

     As the twins grew and began to understand what had been done, they were appalled! Each tried to think of a way to stop the curse, for a curse it was, not just a simple spell. Trade had stopped completely. Anything, food, drink, products, even notes, were fouled by the wall. Some had tried to find a way around the wall, or under it, but it seemed like they were carrying the wall with them. Each brother and sister discussed what they could do to unite the kingdoms once more.

     The heirs decided to go to the old woman and ask her what could be done to make the wall go away. In the middle of the night they crept out of the castle and began the journey to the third summit. The climb was rocky and treacherous, but after many days they reached the witch's shack. To their amazement they found the twins of the neighboring kingdom there also. They had remain on either side of the shack, though, for the curse worked even here.

     The heirs of each kingdom spent many days in the witch's cabin begging and pleading that the woman take down the wall. In that time they remained separated from each other, but did not fail to notice each other. The Queens had been correct in thinking that their twins were beautiful, but they had been wrong in thinking that the others were ugly. The old woman noticed the attention and had been waiting for this moment.

     "What are you willing to do in order to make this wall go away? Are you willing to give up your kingdoms? Or your lives, perhaps?" she asked them.

     They were fearful, but willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the kingdom, for that was how they had been raised.

Seeing them so willing to sacrifice made the old woman chuckle to herself.

     "Perhaps you will wish for death when I tell you of the price you must pay, for it will take giving up your lives and your kingdoms, but not to death. I speak of a union between the kingdoms in the form of marriages to each other."

     Agreement was not long in coming. In each of their minds the heirs were happy and quite excited to marry, for it would truly be amusing to see how their mothers were going to react to this! The old woman brought a churchman from a village in the valley and the vows were exchanged. Like the curse, the vows could be heard throughout the kingdoms. The wall dissipated from between the two kingdoms, and the Queens fainted. As the couples came back down to the valley hand in hand, the words of the curse came back to some and they realized its meaning. The Queen's pleas had not been fulfilled as they had wished. It had been selfishness and spite that led them down this path and they had not thought about responsibility to their people. The twins were thinking of their responsibility and now it had passed to them. With this marriage union, the kingdoms have become one, though the twins live in the separate towers, for they still stood on each summit.

     The people of each kingdom came out to celebrate the reunion and to get to know their neighbors. When the now former Queens awoke from their faint, they found themselves locked together in a wing of one of the castles. As their punishment for all the trouble they had caused they saw their two kingdoms become one, and remained locked together in a wing of the castle where they could speak to no one but each other for the rest of their days.



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