Arta and the White-Haired Witch

Once upon a time, atop the cliff edge of a great land, there stood a fantastical castle built of silver stone, with four slithering spires that etched shimmers in the sky. Such was its splendour that jealous waves would claw at the cliff-base, desperate to take the stead for its own. Deep in the bowels of this wonder there lived but one man, and his name was Arta. Arta had lived behind the walls of his castle for as long as his memory could reach; He was neither king proclaimed nor nobility to those who lived and worked close-by. To them, he was but a suit of armour unmoved and invisible against the sparkle of the great walls that shut him away.

One day, whilst aslump in the throne that held no history, Arta decided that enough was enough. Sitting behind silver stones would do no more. On that day, and every day thereafter, Arta would venture up a silver spire and declare his kingship to the folks below. So long did he do this, that the common folk came to believe him. Often would they call up for refuge in a storm or for leadership in time of strife, but Arta would not hear them over the boom of his proclamations. Sad and hungry went many days outside the walls of the silver stronghold.

After an age of kingdom, Arta became bored with proclamation and sought that which would cement his royalty forevermore. He thought and pondered, deciding after deliberation that a princess was what he would need. So once again he ventured up a silver spire and bellowed for a princess, and bellowed, and bellowed, until one day a white-haired witch appeared at Arta’s gates and spoke with him,

“To you, King Arta, I shall grant a princess that will ensure royalty forevermore, though first you must answer one simple question.”

Arta bristled with excite at the prospect of a princess to put in his castle, and accepted the offer with vigour. And so, the white-haired witch asked her question:

“Why, great King Arta, do you desire a princess so?”

Scoff did the self-proclaimed king; the white-haired witch was right! The question was as simple as could be. Arta quickly told the witch that with a shimmering stronghold such as his, only right and natural was it that a princess sit beside its king. The witch did not like the answer she received, and so out, she took, her wand and shrink, she did, Arta’s great castle, down to the size of a pea. And poof, she did, away, she went, into thin air.

Arta fell onto the mossy mattress he’d eternally avoided and screeched in dismay. On and on he raged, livid that the white-haired witch could deceive him so. So long did he strop that the common folk left and the waves became calm at the foot of the cliff.

After an age of rage, Arta conspired to seek out the white-haired witch and implore her to return his kingdom and grant him his princess. He was a king after all, weight would his word carry, even with a witch. So, Arta sought out the common folk and took the noblest steed he could find for his adventure. This made the common folk angry, but alas they had become used to the nature of their self-proclaimed king.

Arta rode for 8 months and 29 days in pursuit of the white-haired witch, eventually finding her meditating amongst a gaggle of fairies that nattered in each other’s ears. The witch addressed her visitor as he collapsed off the back of his horse,

“Ah, King Arta, be you ready to answer my question?”

Exhausted from his long ride, and still simmering from their last meeting, Arta did demand the witch to look upon his person. He asked the witch whether she, like he, recognised him as a king. Through a smile, the witch said that she did. With that, Arta put that he was ready to be asked, for a second time, the witch’s question. So, she went,

“Why, great King Arta, do you desire a princess so?”

Arta told the witch that as a recognised king, in name and in stature, he was entitled to his castle and his princess, and that to deny it would be to deny him his king-ship, of which the witch herself had just confirmed. The white-haired witch sniggered at the quip of King Arta’s words, withdrew her wand, and waved it once. In an instant, Arta became bulbous and vulgar in face and physique. He screamed, tears of rage veiling the witch and her fairies as they disappeared all at once with a tinkle.

King Arta, fallen from grace and embarrassed to be seen even by common folk, ran to the mountains to live with the trolls. Secluded in caves he lived for many an age, ugly and harsh he matched his landscape like the silver spires once matched the ambitions he’d had for his great kingdom. Arta was a broken king; his venture had been for nothing.

One day, on the way to wash the pus from his pimples, Arta did notice the white-haired witch sitting on the far bank of the stream that did trickle. He avoided her gaze, though she spoke to him nonetheless,

“Great King Arta, why do you desire a princess so?”

Arta met her gaze at this, for not had he been called a king in many an age. He said,

“White-haired witch, know you do that I am no king, neither do I wish to be, not anymore. Companionship I desire as much a troll as I did a King, loneliness fills as much my cave as it did my castle. Alas a princess would neither forgive my transgression nor look upon the consequence of it.”

And with that Arta did turn his back on the witch to trudge back to his cave where he fell into a deep and timeless sleep, a woebegone troll done wrong.




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