Twist of Hair
He drew back the reins of his black stallion, the horse coming to a halt. The forest seemed so still. Daylight was fading fast and he still hadn’t found the village. It should have been to the north, through the woods, but all he could see were endless trees. Slowly, he turned his horse, ready to head back; he must have made a wrong turning somewhere. A distant sound made him pause. Could it be singing? He dismounted, listening carefully. The singing was clearer now, carried along on the northern breeze. It was emanating from where the village was supposed to be. The sun had fully set, but as he peered through the trees he still couldn’t see any lights or any other sign of inhabitants.
Taking hold of the reins, he walked with his horse towards the singing. As he weaved through the trees he glimpsed a light. Riding further, and the trees thinned to reveal a small clearing, in the centre of which stood a tall dark-stoned tower. Near the top, above the tree line, was a single window, illuminated by candlelight.
Having tethered his horse nearby, he strolled over to the tower. He walked around the structure in search of an entrance. When he returned to the point where he had started he frowned; there was no door. He glanced up at the window, still able to hear the haunting song. Who was the owner of such a beautiful voice? Maybe the songstress in the tower knew where the village was, but could he trust her? He glanced across at his horse, would she gather from the royal seal on the saddle who he was? Would she give him the right directions? He sighed, he couldn’t shelter in the forest as there were rumours of wolves. Still perplexed by the lack of entrance, he stepped back and looked up at the window.
“Hello?” he called. The singing ceased, he saw a movement and then there was a silhouette in the window. “How did you get up there?” he called up to her.
The woman began to sing again, her voice warm and evocative. The sound seemed to swirl around, transfixing him like a spell. It only released him when the singing stopped. There was a sweet giggle and the window opened.
“My father put me here to keep me safe.” The woman said, her voice warm and sultry. “But he never said I couldn’t invite anyone inside. The woods are not safe. Why not come up here for the night?”
He responded, “But how?”
A moment later a shimmering rope came tumbling out of the window and hung down the side of the tower. He walked over and took hold of it. It was silky to the touch and he gasped when he realised it was hair, finely braided a number of times, in order to make a strong rope.
Staring up at the window in wonder, he asked, “Is this your hair?”
There was another gentle giggle. “Yes, I have been here a long time. Do not worry, it is very strong. You can climb up without fear of it breaking.”
She began to hum and he was captivated by the sound once more. Taking a firm hold he climbed the tower wall, the braided hair never giving way. When he reached the window he swung himself inside the large circular room. There was a four-poster bed and a desk at one end and a long comfortable couch at the other. A blazing fire warmed the whole of the space. In the centre of the room, hanging from the ceiling was a large metal hook, which the braided hair was wrapped around to secure it. The hair also hung down from the other side and snaked across the floor. He followed it with his eyes, tracing the path to its owner and saw that is was still attached to her head. From just below her knees it was no longer braided and fell from her delicate head, in long luscious blonde curls.
He looked into her vivid green eyes and he gasped at her rare beauty. “How long have you been here?” he murmured.
She gazed into his eyes. “Does it matter? Where are you from kind, sir? I couldn’t see any companions.”
He smiled, he could barely remember why he was travelling at all. “Erm, from the city.” He stammered. “I decided to travel here alone, ahead of my men.”
She smiled and gently caressed his cheek. “Let me pull up my hair and we can talk for a while.”
He nodded, still captivated by her. Once she had piled her hair up out of the way, she closed the window. Slowly, she walked seductively towards him. He was rooted to the spot. The room seemed to grow colder, the candle lights flickered in a non-existent draft. As she drew nearer, her smile grew wider and wider and her teeth seemed to elongate, like that of a wild animal. His heart was pounding against his chest in fear but he couldn’t move. The air seemed thick and heavy with her musk.
As she drew nearer, her beautiful features slowly contorted, her skin seeming to become translucent. Her hair moving with a life of its own. She was now hovering, floating towards him, her gown flowing in some invisible breeze. Humming almost absent-mindedly, her eyes glistened as her gaze fixed on the soft pink skin just below his jawline. Then, like a ravenous animal, she struck, sinking her teeth into his neck. As she tore at the flesh, he felt the unbearable pain but still, he could not break free from the powerful trance. She continued to suckle on his neck draining him, then violently tore her teeth free, sending fine blood droplets across the room. As he fell to the floor his last breath leaving his body, he saw her beautiful face smeared in red and he heard her singing once more.
* * * *
The woodsman paused, looking up at the dark tower. He thought it looked menacing, even in daylight. He quickly unfastened the horse. He was dismayed to think that yet another lone traveller had fallen under Rapunzel’s wicked spell. The villagers should have put up a warning sign, but they could never agree on what it should say. ‘Beware of the monster’ would damage valuable trade in the village. Anyway, not many were taken by her; stories abounded far and wide about these woods at night. Everyone believed it was wolves, little did they know!
He was surprised to see the royal crest on the saddle and wondered if it was one of the king’s scouts. They usually checked out the routes before the King rode on his own through the kingdom. This wouldn’t be good news for the village. He wondered when the king would arrive, remembering that he did like to make surprise visits. He would have to tell the village elders and they would have to come up with some type of wolf attack. Sighing, he headed back to the main road, looking forward to meeting the king.