Category Archives: fairy tale

The Intruder

The princess quickly pulled the veil over her face.  “Guards!  Guards!” she cried, despite the protestations of the young man who had climbed over the garden wall.

“No!  Wait!  Listen!” he made calming gestures.  “I can explain.”

“You are aware, are you not, of the statutes?  No man may look upon my face and live!”

“It can’t be that bad,” the young man scoffed.  “No, wait.  Listen.  I didn’t mean that; that was a joke.  But honestly, Your Highness, I didn’t see anything.  I am not here for you.  I don’t give a hoot what you look like.  I’m not interested.”

Behind the mesh, Royal eyebrows dipped.

“My beauty is famed far and wide.  Many highborn men have forfeited their lives in the trial to win my hand.”

“Yes, yes,” said the young man.  “We’ve all heard the stories, love.”

The princess was aghast.  No one had ever spoken to her in this manner.

“You dare!  You have the temerity, the audacity, to call me your love!”

“Don’t get your knickers in a knot.  It’s just an expression.  Where I come from, we all call each other love all the time.”

The Royal shoulders shuddered.  The princess dreaded to imagine what kind of squalor had given rise to the scruffy youth before her.  His clothes were patched and ragged and his face, though not unpleasant – rather handsome, in fact – was dirty and unshaven.  His arms looked strong – why, if he were to force himself upon me, to carry me away, there would be little point in resisting…

The princess brought herself up sharp.  And where the hell were those guards?

“You say you have not come for me.  For what then have you scaled my walls and penetrated my private garden?”

“Steady on there, Mrs,” the young man laughed.

“Apples!  You are after my apples – what’s the word?  You are scrumping!  Guards!  Guards!”

“Relax.  I don’t give a fig about your apples.  If you must know, I’m here on an assignation.  Within these walls my true love resides.  Stony limits cannot keep love out.”

There was a fire in the young man’s eyes; the princess was certain none of the highborn men who had ventured their lives to win her hand had ever looked at her with such passion.

“For whom have you come?  For whom do you risk your neck?”

The young man blushed, rather endearingly.  “Why, for your brother, the Prince.  You see, once he smiled at me, that special smile – you know the one?  The smile that burns through your eyes and into your very soul and you just know.  You know?”

“I can’t say that I do,” the princess scowled.  “For my brother, you say?”

Curse the fool!  Why should the Prince have everything?  Was it not enough that he would inherit the kingdom?

“Your Highness.”  Two burly men with gleaming breastplates and curvy scimitars bowed before her.  “What is your will?”

“You took your time,” she snapped.  “This youth.  He is an intruder.  Seize him and execute him.”

“No!” cried the youth.  “Why?”

The princess removed her veil and grinned.

veil

 

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Wicked Queen

The peasants are getting cocky.  They come right up to the castle walls to forage their herbs and fungi.  They use them to lend flavour to the myriad dishes they concoct from the humble turnip.  They have developed quite a cuisine, I’ll say that for them, but you won’t catch me – or my taster – sampling any of their homely fare.  It’s the hygiene, you see.  They’ve never heard of it.

But I can’t have them and their grubby mitts pawing my things.  Not even the black stones of my retreat.  Time was, they wouldn’t come within a league of my domicile and I would have a bit of peace.  Now, they encroach upon my personal space – I need a lot! – as if they’ve never heard of me other than as a figure of legend.

It’s time I flexed my muscles once more.  Remind them who’s boss.

Last week I tried showing myself on the parapet.  There was a full moon and I angled myself so the horns of my headdress would be in silhouette against its pallid splendour.  My high collar was turned up and the jagged edges of my cloak – oh, I looked the part all right.  Three hours I stalked along the battlements, wafting my dragon-headed staff about as though I might smite someone at any second.

Waste of time.  No bugger was out that night.  Oh, they still fear the full moon, all right.  They daren’t traverse the forest when there’s a full moon.  Werewolves and all that nonsense.  Why they have to invent monsters to frighten their children into an early bedtime when I’m right here, I’ll never know!

I’ve been too complacent; I see that now.  It’s been too long since I last put myself about.  So long, I can’t remember the spell for turning someone into a toad.  I’d better look that up in the grimoire before I venture out.  I’m a bit rusty with the staff, if I’m honest.  I’d better get some practice in – I don’t want to put my shoulder out.  You must never show weakness to these people or they start getting ideas.

No, toads and staff-wafting won’t cut it.  I’ll have to go full dragon if I’m to reassert my reputation in these parts.  The peasants are thriving.  More and more of them build their ramshackle shacks closer and closer to my land.  But that’s the thing when you fashion your houses from twigs and dried dung: they burn up a treat.

A quick sortie, a flyover and a few blasts of fire from my nostrils ought to do the trick.

Sometimes you just have to remind people of their place.

maleficent

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Meanwhile at the Ball…

“There!” the fairy godmother stepped back to admire what she had done. The girl was pretty to start with – that always helped – but now she was truly beautiful. She would take the Prince’s breath away as soon as she walked in.

She walked around the girl, inspecting her from every angle. “That gown is the best I have ever created. It seems to trap the starlight and twinkle as you breathe. And those glass slippers make your legs look so elegant, my dear. Right, so: gown, coach, horses… I believe that’s everything. Just one more thing: whatever you do, you must, you absolutely must, leave the Palace when the clock strikes midnight. For that is when my charms must end and you will be the lowly scullery maid you were when I found you. Is that understood? The very stroke of midnight. Not a second later.”

“Yes!” enthused the girl. “That should be plenty of time.   Thank you so much, Godmother. I could never have dreamed a girl like me would ever go to the Royal Ball.”

The old woman beamed. “Tush, child. And hurry you to the Palace. You must make the most of the opportunity.”

The girl stepped into the glittering coach of sparkling diamonds and the team of white horses bore her away to the Palace.

The Ball was well under way when the mysterious Princess Starlight made her entrance. She strode down the grand staircase with her head held high, for she knew in her heart that beneath the fancy clothes and the glamour, she was just as good as anyone there. The other guests parted, leaving her a clear path to the Prince who was holding the Ball in order to find himself a bride.

“Charmed, my dear,” he bowed low in greeting. He reached to kiss her gloved hand but instead found the blade of a kitchen knife slashing his throat wide open. The guests cried out in alarm as the Prince toppled. A pool of blood that was undeniably red rather than blue, spread from the dying heir to the throne. The girl had taken his breath away, right enough.

Starlight wasted no time. She curled a finger and thumb in her mouth and whistled. Her army of peasants and fellow servants swarmed the ballroom, hacking and slashing at the startled aristocrats.

It was a bloodbath but it was also the party of a lifetime.

As the grand clock struck midnight, and the chimes rang out heralding the start of a new day, Starlight’s trappings faded and fell away but she made no effort to flee from the Palace.

“Comrades!” she cried as her tattered clothes reappeared. “We have seized the seat of power in this land. No longer will we be oppressed by greedy, unelected tyrants who exploit us and deny us our fair share. Join me now and drink champagne from my slipper of glass!”

The peasants and the servants cheered, brandishing their blood-drenched weapons.

But when Cinderella took off her slipper, it crumbled to dust.

Oh well, she thought as the corks popped all around her, can’t have everything.

She surveyed the carnage, the hacked-off limbs, the bloodshed and the gore.

Someone’s going to have to clean that up, she thought.

princess-md

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The Princess in the Tower

The Princess languished in the tower year after lonely year. She had almost given up peering through its only window to see the clouds pass by, just as life was passing her by, and the birds making nests in the treetops below, just as she would never have a family or home of her own.

Why she had been locked in the cylinder of stone since birth she couldn’t say. She suspected jealousy on the part of the old woman who was her gaoler and her only contact with the human race. The Princess would idle away the hours imagining stories: the old woman had stolen her as a baby and things had got out of hand and now she couldn’t possibly return her to her real, royal family… The old woman had entered into a pact with an enchantress and the price of having a baby had been her youth and beauty, and now she kept her daughter imprisoned in a place so secret no enchantress could ever find her…

Now, as her eighteenth birthday approached, she yearned more than ever to leave the tower, to feel the green grass, so distant and unknowable, tickle her feet; to paddle in the silver stream she could see glistening in the distance; to meet people – her subjects! – and talk with them and actually at long, long last live in the world that had been denied her for a lifetime.

She had concocted a plan years ago, when the old woman had become too frail to climb the hundreds of steps to the top of the tower. Nowadays, the old woman would put provisions in a bucket on a long, long rope and the Princess had to haul it all the way up to the window or go without her supper.

The Princess planned to climb down the rope and run and run and run, she cared not in which direction; she just had to get away. But she bided her time. She waited and waited. And waited.

One day the old woman didn’t come. Or the next day. Or the next. The rumbles in the Princess’s belly echoed through the tower. But she continued to wait. Perhaps the old woman was sick. She would get better and then she would return…

Perhaps – the Princess’s blood ran cold to think of it – perhaps the old woman was dead.

A week passed. The old woman was dead, to be sure, and the Princess would surely starve.

The time had come at last to climb down the rope and flee to freedom.

The Princess sat on the windowsill. A wave of vertigo nauseated her and she almost swooned. She put one foot in the bucket and held onto the rope with both hands, clutching it tight so that the bucket did not plummet to the ground and take her with it to certain death on the stony ground below.

Gradually, she lowered herself, moving hand over hand, until the window was a speck above her and the shadow of the trees fell across her, and the smell of the grass and the flowers rose up to her nose as though in greeting.

The bottom of the bucket hit the ground. The Princess held her breath and stepped out. She was free at last.

“Who goes there?” said a voice, a deep voice, quite startling the Princess. She gazed at the man who had spoken with wonder and admiration on her face. His armour was glinting in the sunlight and so was the tip of the pikestaff he was pointing at her chest.

“Why,” said the Princess. “Do you not know who I am?”

“Oh, we know who you are all right.” The man nodded to his confederates who were strolling around the base of the tower. “Here, lads. We’ve got her at last. This is Old Sal’s girl. For years, the old boot’s been robbing the palace kitchens blind and this one here’s been scoffing the lot. Eating the evidence.”

“She wants locking up,” said another.

“No!” cried the Princess. “That’s the last thing I want.”

But her words fell on deaf ears. The men marched her off to the castle where she was locked in a dungeon, deep under the ground, and left there to rot.

 tower

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