Excerpt from "Shorn"

Do not believe what you hear of me. It was not to preserve my chastity that I was imprisoned here, in this amusingly phallic tower with its sealed entrance and single window. I have not been a virgin for years; even my father knows that. In the cesspit of hypocrisy that is his court, no one cares what goes on behind closed doors. Only appearances matter.

And appearances are what landed me here in this unorthodox prison. I'm confined to this aerie because despite all blandishments and threats, I refused to cut my hair.

In a society like ours, valuing external neatness and order above else, my wild auburn locks are an offense to public decency, or so my royal parents would like me to believe. My father's crown rests upon a bald pate, shaved daily. My mother and sisters wear pale helmets of curls that are clipped back whenever they grow beyond the earlobes. Every proper citizen plucks, trims, waxes and shaves to eliminate any hint of the hirsute.

Not I. I love my hair, not just the luxurious tresses that flow over my shoulders and down to the floor, but the rest, too: my unfashionably bushy eyebrows, the soft tufts gracing my armpits, the wiry tangle that hides my sex. My hair is a source of my power. My father suspects as much. An ancient prophecy says the kingdom shall one day be lost to a red-haired sorceress and he fears I am the fulfillment of that promise.

He need not worry. I care not for the sort of power he wields. All I want is freedom - to travel the world, to think for myself, to love whom I please. To my father, I am nothing but a bargaining chip in the game of alliances. For that role, my hair diminishes my worth - as do my forthright tongue and legendary temper. I'm pleased to note that I've successfully discouraged every suitor the king attempted to lure into taking me off his hands.

His ambitious majesty sent his minions to my room while I slept, to shear me by force. When one returned with a broken arm, the other soaked with blood from the scissors embedded in his chest, the king decided prison was the only way to deal with the threat posed by my independence. He spread the tale that the servants had been injured fighting off rapists. Under pretext of guarding his beloved daughter from ravishment, he locked me in this lofty turret and sealed the door from the outside.

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