At the base of the tower was a door. At the base of the door was a question.
No one knew what lay beyond it, nor even how to open it to find out. The question sat quietly, waiting, until the prince was born. They said he was mad, and hid him away. He laughed at odd moments, and in his dreams he spoke a language he’d never heard. And the door called to him.
Guards couldn’t open it. Spells fizzled, words failed. Finally, he snuck out to ask a witch. She took his measure with bright grey eyes and told him to “find two lengths, one of yew-wood, one of bone. Fashion them into wands, and stand before the door. Your blood at the cross is the key.”
So the prince found a yew tree and snapped off a branch. He dug out a bone from the kitchen stores when all the staff were in bed. The wands were easy, but the door didn’t open. The prince looked for a cross, but there were none in sight.
The next day, he brought a cross from the family’s chapel. He sliced his hand open and gripped the cross, but the door didn’t open. He sighed, and wept, and went to bed.
On the third day, he pounded on the door, drumming wood and bone against its silent expanse. The door didn’t open. Only his sliced hand opened, slicking the wands with his blood. He sank to his knees and put his face in his hands, and the wands fell crossed before him.
The door opened.
The prince stepped through onto a dock, where a ship waited at full sail.
“Finally,” said the captain, in the language the prince had dreamed. “We’ve been waiting.”
The prince climbed aboard, and when he laughed, he didn’t sound mad at all.