This latest weekly photo challenge was “Up,” a very open-ended inspiration indeed. I didn’t find the DP photo all that inspiring, I admit, but there were two submissions I noticed in the comments that were very interesting to me. The first was called “Stairway to Love” from experiments in experience, and the second is “Bottoms Up!” from Conspiracy of Ravens. I’m going to give each one an entry inspired by these photos. First up…Stairway to Love!
His legs burned with the effort of the climb, each step by this point was an agony of burning muscle. He wasn’t sure how he kept going, feeling by now that the next step could be the last he was physically able to take. His knees ached and threatened to give out, his thighs protested, everything was awful. His labored breath and sweating brow only spoke as further proof to the physical strain he was under. This was the ultimate endurance, to be sure.
Who would’ve thought it would be this that would finally defeat him? Hordes of enemies had waited in the courtyard, but he’d dispatched them with his gleamig sword, the well-made armor deflecting their blows and attempts on his own life. Now that same armor felt like a curse as it weighed him down, but removing it on his own was simply not a viable option. Besides…more peril waited him above, he knew. And it wouldn’t do to meet his true love in damp and odorous underthings. There were standards to uphold here.
Truly, though, the Wizard was proving to be diabolical in a way the Prince had not anticipated. A small army of guards to wear him down but make him feel victorious, and now…this hellish ascent up a tower that seemed to have no end to truly wear him down. Down…the word was sweet to think on. Turning about and heading down these stairs, now that would be heaven itself. No more climbing, no more tight turns, no more stairs…
The Prince slumped against the wall, trying to catch his breath and regain a few drops of energy. What he wouldn’t do for water, just a swallow, a drop would be so welcome…he knew that back down in the courtyard there was a well, and he could almost taste the rush of relief upon his throat now just thinking about it… Was all this really worth it? he wondered. He’d be too exhausted to defend himself or anyone else when he arrived at the top at this rate. Would it not be better to retreat, regroup, and return in force? The Wizard did not intend to harm the Princess, he knew that, but what might he do in the meantime if given the chance? Then again, if the Prince died moments after reaching the top, no one was any better off.
His eyes lifted to the next few steps, and there, on the window at the next landing, a small heart had been worked into the glass, stained pink with color that lit up a spot on the stone, and he was taken back to the moment the Magic Mirror had shown him the sleeping princess, a pink heart-shaped jewel upon her breast, clear and gleaming, as lovely and pure as the Princess herself. And the hand of the dark-hearted Wizard who had snatched it from her and smashed it upon the ground as he watched.
The Prince’s jaw tightened and he gripped his sword hilt. There was yet one more fiend who must die today…and it was his duty to kill the man and free the Princess. Pushing himself upright, he pushed past the pain and fatigue and ascended the stairway to his love.
Not a half hour later, the window and its pink heart smashed outwards when his body was flung back down by the wizard’s spell.