Open 2020, Short Stories - Andrew Davis


The Thief and the Princess

By Andrew Davis  


The guard standing before the Thief was a huge, hulking beast of a man. The sound of metal boots against a stone floor echoed throughout the chamber as he raced forwards with alarming speed. But the Thief stood her ground and drew her sword. This was not the time to run. The bounty she sought was worth too much. The Thief had a Princess to steal.

On the night they first met, the Thief hadn’t planned to find the Princess. She had snuck into the palace under cover of night, scaling the walls of the castle’s southernmost tower, where no one lived.

At least, that was what people said.

As she prised the window open and landed noiselessly on the floor, the Thief carefully started to make her way through the room when she felt the familiar touch of steel against her throat.

“What are you doing in my bedchamber?”

The voice that spoke the words was gentle and musical, like the sound of a lute being plucked by the softest fingers.

“I was actually in the process of leaving,” said the Thief. “If you were to lower your weapon, I will continue to do so.”

“I think not. Not until you answer properly.”

There it was again: the voice of the spring breeze that ends the harshest of winters.

“Very well. Light a candle, and you have my word, I will answer truthfully.”

“A candle?”

“I would look upon the face of one with so sweet a voice.”

A match was struck, a candle was lit, and the Thief saw a young woman with hazel eyes and auburn hair that tumbled past her shoulders. The woman furrowed her eyebrows. She still held the sword at the Thief’s neck.

“Answer my question, intruder, or I shall cut your throat.”

In a sudden, sweeping motion, the Thief drew her own sword, disarming the woman, who gasped in shock as she did so. Sheathing her sword, the Thief ran back to the window.

“If you wish for me to return, leave this window open for me tomorrow night.”

“A-and why should I want that?” stammered the woman.

“Because I think you’ve been alone up here for a very long time,” said the Thief. “Now, don’t let it be said that I’m anything other than a woman of my word. I said I would tell you why I’m here. I came to steal the crown jewels.”

Then why are you leaving?”

“Because I think I’ve found something far more valuable within the walls of this castle.”

“And what might that be?”

“Your heart.”

The sound of steel clashing against steel echoed round the chamber as the Thief parried the guard’s heavy blows. Where he wore heavy plated armour from head to foot, she was protected only by the thin layer of chainmail she wore over her tunics. But therein lay her advantage; he was fast for one so tall and bulky, but she was faster. Weaving and spinning as she traded blows with the guard, the Thief ducked as he swung a punch her way. As she dodged the strike, the guard’s fist crunched into the stone wall, and he cried out in rage.


Never mind his sword, one blow from those fists would be enough to end her life; he was renowned for crushing the skulls of local peasants for fun.
But one hit was all she needed, too. She just needed to find the crack in his defences. A visor covered his eye, and she couldn’t get to the gap underneath his arm.


With perfect precision, her sword pierced the gap between the guard’s body armour and his helmet, and as she removed her blade from his neck in the same motion, the Thief watched in satisfaction as the guard crumpled to the ground, dead in an instant.

He was a cruel and brutal man, and would not be missed.

As the Thief had suspected, stealing the heart of a princess had proven a greater challenge than stealing the riches of any lord or king. Treasure belonged to no-one; if you could pick the right locks and stay hidden in the shadows, it was yours for the taking. But the heart of another had to be freely given.

She tried bringing the Princess treasures from her adventures. First, a diamond stolen from the deepest mine in the land. Then a fang taken from one of the dragons of days gone by, whose skeletal remains lay on the peak of the tallest mountain in the kingdom. But the Princess was unimpressed; she had no need for riches or the tooth of a long dead beast.

Next, she wrote poetry, praising the Princess’s beauty and begging her to spare the Thief from the sickness eating away at her. But the Princess was unmoved; she had read these poems a thousand times before, in all the old scrolls knights wrote for the many princesses hidden in towers that had come before her.

This gave the Thief pause for thought, for she was not a knight. What did a thief know about the ways of the heart that no knight had taken the time to learn? And why did the Princess keep leaving the window open for her to come back?

The next night, as the Thief returned, she knocked gently at the window to rouse the Princess.

“What have you brought for me tonight, Thief?” asked the Princess.



For the first time, the Princess seemed curious.

“I should like to know you better,” said the Thief. “Why does no one in the Kingdom know that the king has a daughter? Have you lived your whole life up here, in this tall and distant tower? Tell me. Tonight, I will listen.”

And so the Princess told the Thief her story. It seemed the King, like all kings, had a jealous heart, one that built walls around itself and the things that it owned, and his heart counted his daughter as one of the many possessions he had to hide away and covetously guard. He would let her out only when he had found a lord he deemed a suitable husband, and he had yet to find a man who satisfied his requirements.


So she had lived her life in this tower, her existence known only to the King and the hulking beast of a guard who would accompany her on her walks around the castle grounds. Otherwise, she would stay in this tower, with only her embroidery and the scrolls she read and read again to keep her mind occupied. By now, she had read every scroll in the castle’s vast library: the stories offered her escape, let her live the lives she could not in her isolation and confinement, but now they were all read, the lives all lived.

However, the Thief could offer her new life. The Princess had no use for her treasures, but the stories behind those treasures were a different thing entirely. Not only did they take her on new adventures, they introduced her to a world she had never experienced, either in her castle or the scrolls the king deemed appropriate for her to read. For the Thief didn’t steal treasure for herself, but the children, the mothers, and peasant workers who needed shelter, warmth, and food to see them through the bitter winters.


She told the Princess of the servant girl she’d rescued from the master who beat her, the starving family she fed after their crops had been burned to the ground by the King’s army, and the village she’d successfully armed and led in rebellion against their tyrant of a lord.

With time, the Princess started to invent stories of her own, imagined adventures in lands of make-believe. The Thief would join her in weaving these tales, as together they imagined endless places to visit, limitless treasure to be stolen, and countless people to save. Slowly, these fantasies bled into reality, as they dreamt up a future for themselves, one where they ran away and lived in a small cottage far away from the Kingdom and its concerns, safe, happy, and together.

And so, as the days became weeks and the weeks became months, the Thief and the Princess fell in love, sharing stories of their lives and themselves.

At the top of the stairs, a door stood in front of the Thief. Trying the handle and finding it unresponsive, she laughed. A locked door had never been a problem for her. Removing a lock pick from the pocket of her tunic, she started working on the latch. Within a few seconds, she heard the satisfying click of the door unlocking, and she pulled it open.

As she and the Princess continued talking of the life they could have together, the Thief resolved to turn their stories into reality.

“Run away with me,” she said to the Princess, as they lay on the bed, holding each other close, silver moonlight slipping into the room through the gap in the window. “Tonight.”

The Princess pulled back from her, alarm flashing across her face. “Tonight?”

“You’ve spent so many years of your life trapped in this tower. Why lose more?”

The Princess sat up, lifted her knees up to her chin, and breathed in and out. “Very well. Let us run.”

And so they ran, the Princess guiding the Thief through the castle’s maze of corridors, the Thief making sure they kept to the shadows. They stole across the castle grounds, the early morning dew sparkling beneath their feet.

However, as they passed through the gap in the castle walls, a harsh, commanding voice called out.

“Seize them!”

Before she could react, huge, overgrown hands clad in steel grabbed the Thief. She cried out in pain as bear-like paws dug into her shoulders, and struggled, unable to escape the guard’s grasp as the King stepped in front of her.

“So you’re the reason my daughter has been so changed of late,” he said. “Sighing with longing, always gazing out the window, don’t think I haven’t noticed. But no matter, that can soon be fixed.”

He clicked his fingers. “Guard, kill her. We’ll fix the spell she’s put on my daughter afterwards.”

“NO!” screamed the Princess. Racing forward, she threw the full weight of her body into the guard, crying out in pain as she did so. The guard was barely winded by the blow, but he was shaken just enough to loosen his grasp, enabling the Thief to slip free.

For a moment, everyone seemed to stand quite still, utterly shocked.

“Run, you fool!” commanded the Princess.

Obeying her order, the Thief raced away. After a time, she paused in a forest clearing, leaves rustling gently as birdsong was carried past on the breeze.
What would she do now? Find an inn to drown her sorrows and lick her wounds? Run from her pain by stealing a corrupt lord’s riches?

No. Every day the Princess spent in the King’s clutches was one day too many. And he was sure to double down on the Princess’ confinement if he was given the time to do so.

The Thief had to act quickly.

She closed her eyes and made a silent promise.

She was coming back for the Princess, and she was coming back now.

The King was waiting for her. He held a dagger to the Princess’ neck.

“Don’t move,” he said through gritted teeth. “One more step, and I cut her throat.”

The Thief felt her heart racing in her chest. “Would you really? Your own daughter?”

“I would do whatever I deemed necessary to stop you stealing her, Thief. She’s mine, and you will not take her from me!”

“I never stole her,” said the Thief. “She gave me her heart freely.”

The Princess gasped as the King pressed the knife firmer against her throat.

“Enough,” he said. “Leave now and never come back, or she dies.”

The Thief looked into the Princess’ hazel eyes. They gave the Princess a clear message.

I trust you.

“One problem, your majesty.”

The King drew himself as tall as he could. “And what would that be?”

“I don’t think you’re fast enough.”

The Thief plunged her sword into his chest before he could even blink, and he staggered backwards, dagger dropping to the floor. As he fell to the ground, quite dead, the Thief wrapped her arms around the Princess. Shaking, the Princess leant forward, and kissed her softly.

After a time, the Thief drew back from the Princess, sighing with relief. Pulling her sword out of the King’s chest, she wiped the blood off on his robes. His heart was not one that shared itself gladly with others, but one that took people and swallowed them whole. The only thing to be done with such a heart was to stop it beating.

She offered the Princess her hand.

“Run away with me. There’s no one to stop us this time.”

The Princess took her hand, and they ran.




Andrew Davis (he/him) is a writer based in Cardiff. He writes a mix of prose and poetry, which has been published in anthologies and online journals by independent publishers including Black Pear Press, Fictive Dream and Abergavenny Small Press.


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