A vast castle loomed over a sheer cliff. Its towering presence impressed every visitor. Impenetrable stone walls stood stalwart against any intruders. Its location aided on its defence. All in all, a veritable fortress.

A tower stood at its centre. Windows were abundant, to say the least. It was the heart of the castle. It shimmered by daylight and cast an enigmatic ambience under the moonlight. It boasted of more refined materials than those of the castle’s exterior.

The tower felt alien. It felt like they built the castle in its perimeter. Its exotic nature was evident. A mismatching architecture. Different, exceptional materials used in its construction. Peerless window panes that defied time were everywhere. The tower had its own story despite the castle’s existence.

Nobody knows how it remains in good condition. No servants live in the castle. No grunts are present to keep its walls. Only the princess’ nanny, and even then, she seldom showed up. Yet, it remained in such exceptional condition. One would think someone rebuilds the castle every day.

The castle boasts of majestic decorations and a pristine condition. Masterwork portraits of every king, queen, prince and princess covered its walls. The rugs were of the finest quality and vermilion dyed. It was impossible to discern a speck of dust in the entirety of the castle. Lacquered, unscathed furniture decorated the rooms. Nothing seemed improper and everything was awe-inspiring.

The royal crest was the face of a human. Half it vulpine, the other unchanged. It was present in banners and other paraphernalia. Many people speculated over its significance. No one agreed upon what its imagery conveyed.

Agatha’ room was as breath-taking as the rest of fortress. Delicate, frilly, coral curtains adorned the area. Colossal stuffed animals of every colour and species cluttered the room. Extraordinary pieces of art peppered the surface of the walls. Jewel-engraved mirrors enriched the princess’ room.

Every stuffed animal suffered from injuries of some kind. Eyes gouged. Fluffy innards spilling from brutal cuts. Dismembered toys. Sawed off arms. Ripped off paws. An unsettling atmosphere set in if you noticed these eerie details.

Judging by her looks, Agatha was petite, graceful and charismatic. Well-bred, her manners were impeccable. Her smile would illuminate the bleakest heart. Lithe, frail and innocent, she commanded the respect and admiration of many.

Agatha’s personality does not match her looks at all. Petulance, pettiness, indolence and above all, unprecedented hubris defined her. Spoiled rotten, she would refuse to take “no” for an answer. Fulfilment of her demands was imperative. Opposing her wish resulted in a tantrum of monstrous proportions. Her screeching, soul-crushing cries would upset everyone. The shriek of a mandragora would be preferable to endure than her wailing.

Agatha liked to abuse everyone. Toys, guests, her own mother. No one was safe from her outbursts and insolence. While many laughed it off, she had a way with words. She knew how to wound someone’s pride. As such, she instilled an impression upon everyone who had the misfortune of meeting her.

Such rotten personality would cause many clashes among Agatha and her mother. Queen Circe had to act as her conscience. “Apate, mind your tongue!”; “Apate, don’t make such gestures to our guests!” she’d remind her daughter on a constant basis. “Apate, why would you break your toys?”, she scolded the little one. And, above all, the most irritating berating of them all: “Apate, treat others with respect. How do you expect them to respect you, otherwise?”.

Nothing enraged Agatha beyond reason than the nickname her mother made up for her, “Apate”. It seemed so lame to her. It was the combination of her two names: Agatha Patrice. She felt it was so clumsy and uninspired that she resented her mother for it.

Queen Circe loved her little princess but she was oblivious to why she was so mercurial. Agatha’s education was top-notch. She had the best tutors. In her opinion, she had the best role model available always: her own mother. Yet her wickedness seemed to grow rather than recede on every passing day.

Agatha ran all over the castle, crying. She was unable to contain her anger over the constant reprimands from her mother. She ran everywhere without a care in the world, weeping and sobbing non-stop. Soon, she found herself lost in the greatness of the castle. That served to enrage her to the boiling point. “Why would they make such a huge castle? Idiots!” managed to screech amid sobs and tears.

After what it seemed an eternity, Agatha found herself in a familiar place. It was the hallway next to the anteroom, where they meet guests.

She heard people chatting. She peeped in their conversation. After all, every matter in the castle concerns her. Two stuffy, well-fed rather than well-bred nobles were conversing. Their animated exchange piqued her curiosity. The gentlemen were making plans for tonight’s event at the castle’s courtyard. They wouldn’t miss a chance to become successors to the crown. In particular with such lax requirements: anyone could assist and be a candidate!

Agatha became worried by this revelation. “A new heir? What’s wrong with me?” protested, trying to remain quiet. “My own mother hates me! She wants to replace me!” said in disbelief.

With grim determination, Agatha decided to dispose of Queen Circe. She had to act quick. Her mother would cast her aside otherwise. She would, at last, put her education at work. But first, she had to concoct a plan. A fool proof strategy. A stratagem that would leave her clean of any suspicions. Determined, she rushed into her room and began plotting against her treacherous “mother”.


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