His despair was genuine, as was his outrage, all swiftly turning into self-loathing and shame. He fled his court, wailing at the travesty brought upon him by his golden touch. He never returned.
The Golden Princess was left behind. The hand that had reached out to her father in his anguish was still outstretched. Her still face reflected the the concern she had for him, her shoulders slightly hunched; all immobile. Except…
She was aware.
Aware of all that went on around her. The King’s advisers tried to keep decorum, waiting (in vain) for Midas to return. That lasted only so long. A bloody power struggle for the rule of the land ensued, as the only true heir was a lovely gold statue.
Whatever gold items that had been left behind were taken: either to support the efforts of the warring factions, or stolen to create a new life somewhere else. The Golden Princess was the last artifact of The Midas Touch remaining in one piece.
She was aware of all the plotting, the treacheries, the betrayals. She heard her father both cursed and praised, although the praises were for the gold he created. She heard grief about her own loss, from servants and from lords, and she heard some of the tales of those who wished they had bedded her…and more.
Awareness was a curse unto itself.
Time passed. Long giving up counting the days and nights, she knew not how long. Moved around now and then, new faces appeared, new voices heard. They long since stopped calling her Princess Marygold. The Golden Princess became her own legend.
The worst, or so she thought at the time, was being placed into a dark room. Hearing the bolt and lock clack and snick so loudly, she remained in darkness for an uncountable determination. She screamed and cried and wailed and keened…all inside her golden self.
No one heard. No one heard anything of her for a very long time.
Voices. Loud yells…and screams. Clashing of metal on metal, explosions shook her, waking her out of her stupor. “I’m here. I’m here!” she wanted to bellow. She wanted light, freedom, release. It had gnawed at her.
She was aware of the sound of the lock being broken, of the bolt driven back, of the door flung open and torch light coming in. The joy she felt at these things, taking in the unknown faces. The men, battered and bloody, whooped and grinned when they saw her. She heard shouts of “The Golden Princess!!” from these men and then outside of her imprisonment.
Lifted up and out, with great effort, the men brought her up to the throne room. Or, what was left of the room. She was aware there was blood along the way, bodies strewn. Damage…damage to the walls, stairways crumbled, light streaming in from what had been the west wall of the hall.
The Golden Princess was placed down in a shaft of light that streamed in from the gaping wound of the castle. The men talked continuously, starting at her, running their hands all over her. All over her. They stopped only when one man yelled to them, as he walked over and they parted for him, going to knee.
“Please,” she thought with urgency. “Please, find a way to release me.”
In a language she was unfamiliar with, he spoke to his horde. They brayed in unison at times to his speech, the rest of the time they were rapt in attention. When he was done, as one, they stood, and cheered, cheered, cheered!
If she could have shed tears, a dam would not have been able to hold them. She did not know these people, but to be in the light, to not be so alone…
They removed her from her castle, her home and prison of so long. She was aware of being put on a cart and moved, screaming inside when a covering was placed on her, again hiding out any light. She was aware of the voices, the animal noises, the movement of the cart, then being hoisted off the cart and brought inside.
She was aware when the covering was taken off, and she was equally aware of the immense heat around her. A cauldron, large and blackened, fire raging underneath it, took up a good part of the room. New men surrounded her, black with soot and grease and sweating.
Their rough hands brought her to the edge of the cauldron. She was aware of their laughter, their horrid, filthy jokes. Vile, vile men, they handed her with no care. They dropped her on the floor, and her outstretched hand…her outstretched hand…one of them took red hot glowing pincers from a smaller smoldering bin, and she was aware as he took great care in separating that hand, at the wrist, the thinnest part.
She was aware of the noise it made as it hit the floor.
Great peals of laughter surrounded her now. The hiss and noise of the fire and cauldron goo mixed with the glee of the men. Many hands now were on her, and again she was aware she was lifted. A count started; they all joined in, and what she assumed was three, they tossed her.
She was aware of the hands letting go. She was aware of the short flight in the air. She was aware of the horrible heat. She was aware of the splash she made, and the sinking down, and the melting away, and she was aware, aware, aware…
She was aware…they found a way to release her.