The Dark Tower Falls - a fairy tale for lockdown by Katherine Roberts

At the start of this pandemic, when the first UK lockdown knocked everyone's life sideways, I took out a two-year subscription offer to Psychologies magazine as a treat to myself. I never imagined my subscription might be in danger of running out before this is all over, but perhaps I instinctively knew something at the time? Almost a year later, and we are still in lockdown, with even more restrictions and mandates than the first one, and with apparently no plan any time soon to emerge from lockdownitis (I just invented that word, but perhaps it'll be added to the dictionary in a year or so for future generations to wonder at). Anyway, we are still living through it all, and I am finding staying positive increasingly difficult, even with such a brilliant magazine popping through my letterbox each month. In the latest issue, coach Kim Morgan invited us to write about our current life as a fairy tale, complete with heroes and villains and a happy ending and just desserts for the characters - the idea being that writing this fairy tale as an observer might help us see how we are being manipulated and badly treated in real life. I've been struggling to write anything at all under the current 'emergency rules', but as a fantasy author and lover of fairy tales how could I resist? We were invited to write freely without editing, and I was a bit surprised at what emerged. With apologies to JRR Tolkien (Lord of the Rings), here is the result.

Once Upon A Time, there was an Evil Sorcerer who lived in a Dark Tower surrounded by fiendishly clever inventions of every kind. He spent so long in his tower with his beloved machines that he began to believe he had the power of a god. One of these inventions was a smart-ring-ring that enabled everyone who bore one, including the governments of the world, to communicate with other ring-ring-bearers, while (unknown to them all) the sorcerer listened and watched and manipulated them from the safety of his Dark Tower, using his own Smart-Ring-Ring-To-Rule-Them-All.

For a while, he was content with the sense of power this gave him. But one day, a Young Maiden realised that the sorcerer's experiments and the policies of the smart-ring-ring-bearers in governments (who had been unknowingly manipulated by the sorcerer for years) were damaging the heart and soul of her future world. She bravely stood up to these powerful men and spoke out on behalf of the Goddess of the Earth, who was being slowly destroyed by all the hungry ring-rings that fed eagerly on her flesh. And the sorcerer heard her words and was afraid, for the Maiden was as yet innocent and uninfluenced by his smart-ring-rings... although, of course, she and her young friends bore them like everyone else. So the sorcerer listened and watched and manipulated even her, until she became a puppet for the governments of the world and helpless to stop the next stage of his Evil Plan.

He arranged for a Plague to be released upon the world that would not make those who worshipped him sick, but would target those troublesome Elders and anyone else who sympathised with the Maiden, and also kill the most vulnerable and useless in society - that is, useless to the sorcerer's Plan, because they refused to use his demonic inventions (most of them did not even bear smart-ring-rings, and so could not be influenced so easily). He made sure that the governments of the world and their populations were so afraid of this plague that they became slaves to his Evil Plan. Then, when he judged their fear was greatest, he emerged from his Dark Tower wearing a dazzling white robe and bearing a Magic Potion that he himself had invented to cure the plague, for which the governments of the world were only too eager too pay him all the gold remaining in their treasure chests, and more, so they would be in debt to the Sorcerer for a Thousand Years.

But the sorcerer had not suddenly changed his spots. For this potion contained a secret formula that, once drunk, would make the drinker dependent upon it (and him as its maker) for the rest of their natural life. However, not everyone would drink of the sorcerer's potion. Those Elders who could still think for themselves, and many people both young and old who had survived the Plague, discovered their own way of curing the sickness that had been released upon the world and joined the Free Knights of the Earth, riding out to tell others the good news. They were ousted from society and driven underground by the fearful majority, but because they did not bear the sorcerer's smart-ring-rings they remained free. Meanwhile, the Evil Sorcerer caged the entire world with his inventions, which shone brighter than the stars in the sky, making ready for the time when he would unleash his fearsome Stardragon upon the world and declare himself to be their Living God. And if anyone dared stand against him, he was swift to punish them from above with dragonfire.

The Free Knights discovered his plan and swore an oath to slay the Stardragon. Hero after hero died on this quest, and many heroines too, because the sorcerer's ring-ring bearing spies were everywhere. Then the Maiden, who had been at first innocent, and then a puppet, and then fearful, and finally seen the truth, bravely offered herself to the dragon as a sacrifice. She was not afraid, for instead of a smart-ring-ring that could be controlled by the sorcerer, she knew a charm taught to her by the dying Goddess of the Earth to protect her from the dragon's fire. So when the evil sorcerer captured her and took her into his Dark Tower so that he could sacrifice her to his Stardragon, she spoke this secret charm and remained unburnt, and the dragon - its fire spent - fell down from the sky and laid its weary head in her lap in surrender. She emerged from that tower stronger than before, while all around her the sorcerer's inventions caught fire and burned to ashes, and his cage of false stars fell from the sky, freeing the populations of the world from his Evil Plan.

Blinking, people emerged from their homes on that soft summer morning. They heard the birds singing again, and saw the sun rise in a fiery red ball over the ruins of the Dark Tower. Their previously smart ring-rings were black and dead, so for the first time in ages they had to think for themselves, and although this was a bit of a struggle at first, they decided they quite liked it. They took off their plague masks and breathed deeply of the clean air. They hugged their children and their neighbours' children, and they smiled at the clear sky and were no longer afraid. For the Free Knights of the Earth beat their swords into ploughshares and showed them how to rebuild their lives so that they could help heal the Goddess, and the fire-breathing dragon was now no more frightening than a maiden's pet.

The Evil Sorcerer, meanwhile, burnt to ashes inside his Dark Tower along with his fiendishly clever inventions, and was never heard of again.

THE END

Disclaimer: The above tale is a product of my fevered lockdown imagination (i.e. a work of fiction) and any resemblance to real people or organisations, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

*

Katherine Roberts writes fantasy and historical fiction for young readers, and you can read Book 1 of her Pendragon Legacy series Sword of Light for only 99c/99p while lockdownitis continues.

SWORD OF LIGHT
* lockdown offer only 99c/99p *


Find out more at www.katherineroberts.co.uk


Comments

Umberto Tosi said…
I like that your cautionary fairy tale leaves us with a challenge and not just a happy ending. "...so for the first time in ages they had to think for themselves. ... "
Ruth Leigh said…
Very thought-provoking and some beautiful poetic language!
Beautiful! I love how you wove it all together, and stories are so powerful! Thanks for sharing!
Jan Needle said…
Brilliant! Thanks Katherine. My only quibble is that the good maiden who saves us all might just turn out to be called Carrie ( see Catherine Bennett in today's Observer.) But Boris does look a bit like Rumpelstiltskin, doesn't he?
ha ha Jan - though my fairytale is not based on real people, remember! It was a 'free writing' session in response to the Psychologies magazine challenge, and I made very few edits before I posted it up here.
Eden Baylee said…
Hi Katherine,

Thanks for sharing this. I like the exercise of writing to deal with what's happening, to give ourselves hope and find that happy ending.

Most of all, I love getting rid of the villains. ;)



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