Thursday, January 11, 2018

Briar Rose


slightly reworked and much expanded version of sleeping Beauty.

A long time ago there were a King and Queen who said every day, "Ah, if only we had a child!" but never did. Then it happened that once when the Queen was bathing, a frog that was not a frog crept out of the water on to the land, and said to her, "Your wish shall be fulfilled; before a year has gone by, you shall have a daughter.”
The Queen knew that this was magic, but was so happy to hear of her coming daughter that she put the knowledge that no good ever comes from magic to the back of her mind and shut it away.
What the frog had said came true, and the Queen had a little girl who was so pretty that the King could not contain himself for joy, and ordered a great feast. He invited not only his kindred, friends and acquaintance, but also the Wise Women, in order that they might be kind and well-disposed towards the child. There were thirteen of them in his kingdom, but, as thirteen is the bad number only invited twelve.
The feast was held with all manner of splendour and when it came to an end the Wise Women bestowed their gifts upon the baby: one gave virtue, another beauty, a third strength, and so on with everything in the world that one can wish for. For the Wise Women were also witches.
When eleven of them had made their promise, the thirteenth suddenly came in. She wished to avenge herself for not having been invited, and without greeting, or even looking at anyone, she cried with a loud voice, "The King's daughter shall in her eighteenth year prick herself with a spindle, and fall down dead." And then she was gone.
All were shocked; but the twelfth, whose good wish still remained unspoken, came forward, and as she could not undo the evil sentence, but only soften it, she said, "It shall not be death, but a deep sleep, into which the princess shall fall."
The King, who would fain keep his dear child from the misfortune, gave orders that every spindle in the kingdom should be burnt. Meanwhile the gifts of the Wise Women were plenteously fulfilled on the young girl, for she was so beautiful, modest, good-natured, and wise, that everyone who saw her was bound to love her.
It happened that on the very day when she was eighteen years old, the King and Queen were not at home, and the maiden was left in the palace quite alone. So she went round into all sorts of places, looked into rooms and bed-chambers just as she liked, and at last came to an old tower. She climbed up the narrow winding-staircase, and reached a little door. A rusty key was in the lock, and when she turned it the door sprang open, and there in a little room sat an old woman with a spindle, busily spinning her flax.
"Good day, old dame," said the King's daughter; "what are you doing there?”
"I am spinning," said the old woman, and nodded her head. "What sort of thing is that, that rattles round so merrily?" said the girl, and she took the spindle and wanted to spin too. But scarcely had she touched the spindle when the magic decree was fulfilled, and she pricked her finger with it.
And, in the very moment when she felt the prick, she fell down upon the bed that stood there. Death came for her, but was pushed back by the twelfth woman’s spell. So, as no good comes from magic, death took everyone else in the palace; the King and Queen who had just come home, and had entered the great hall, fell dead as they sat upon their thrones, and the whole of the court with them. The horses, too, died in the stable, the dogs in the yard, the pigeons upon the roof, the flies on the wall; even the fire that was flaming on the hearth died, the roast meat cooled, and the cook died too. The wind fell, and on the trees before the castle, not a leaf moved.
Then round about the castle there grew a great mess of thorns, which each hour became higher, and at last grew close up round the castle and all over it, so that there was nothing of it to be seen, not even the flag upon the roof. The thorns grew far and wide from horizon to horizon and amongst the thorns strange creatures stalked.

The story of the beautiful sleeping "Briar-rose," for so the princess was named, went about the country, so that from time to time kings' sons came and tried to get through the thorns into the castle.
They found it impossible, for the thorns held fast together, as if they had hands, and the youths were caught in them, could not get loose again, and died a miserable death.
After long, long years a King's son came again to that country, and heard an old man talking about the princess in the thorns who had been asleep for a hundred years; and that the King and Queen and the whole court were asleep likewise. He had heard, too, from his grandfather, that many kings' sons had already come, and had tried to get through the thorns, but they had remained stuck fast in it, and had died a pitiful death. Then the youth said, "I am not afraid, I will go and see the beautiful Briar-rose." The good old man might dissuade him as he would, he did not listen to his words.
But by this time the hundred years had just passed, and the magic had grown weak. When the King's son came near to the thorns amongst them there were flowers. The prince took his sword and chopped his way into the thorns, followed by his squire and horse.
But closer to the castle the magic grew stronger, and before long the horse was dead from the poisoned bite of a thing that was not unlike a wolf. The Prince killed the thing with his sword but on the fourth day he too died from the sting of a thing that was not unlike a wasp. The Prince’s young squire picked up the sword and wandered in the thorns for two more days, and with the food all gone thought that death for him would soon be near, but by chance he came upon the castle. In the castle-yard he saw the horses and the spotted hounds lying dead, not asleep as the legend told. He entered the house, through the kitchen past the bones of the cook.

He went on farther, and in the great hall he saw the whole of the court lying dead, and up by the throne lay the bones of the King and Queen.
Then the Squire went on still farther, and all was so quiet that a breath could be heard, and at last he came to the tower, and opened the door into the little room where Briar-rose was sleeping. There she lay, so beautiful that he could not turn his eyes away. The squire knew nothing of magic save for the tails he was told as a small boy, in which a kiss often broke the spell. He stooped down to kiss her, but found that he could not, as his mother had told him it was wrong to steal a kiss. The squire knew though that he would soon die if he didn’t so kissed her on the hand. As soon as he kissed her, Briar-rose opened her eyes and awoke, and looked at him quite sweetly. As he fell to the floor sleeping.
Briar-rose sat up, confused. For as she slept for a hundred years she also dreamed. Dreamed that she had pricked her finger but did not go to sleep. Dreamed that she grew older, fell in love with a knight and married him. Then after many happy years she dreamt her father the king died of old age, then some years later her mother the Queen, and with that she became Queen, and she dreamt she ruled the land for a great many years, and that she and the Knight had many children, and those children had children.
Then at the great age of one hundred and eighteen, long after the death of her beloved husband the Knight, she went to sleep and woke up in the real world, eighteen again, and on the floor, or so she believed, for he looked just like him, her beloved Knight, also somehow made young again.
Briar Rose tried to wake her one true love but he wouldn’t stir. Believing this to be magic of some sort she kissed him to break the spell and he woke on the floor with Briar Rose lying next to him sleeping.
He did not know what had happened. How he, or her, came to lying on the floor. Again he tried to wake the Princess. He kissed her hand and fell asleep.
The Princess woke again to find her beloved lying face down on her arm. She believed she had died in her sleep an aged Queen. And that she had been, in death, reunited with her one true love, but something was wrong. This was neither Heaven nor Hell. She knew noting of the curse that had been put upon her as a child. As the King and Queen had kept that from her.
Perhaps the thing to do was leave this strange place that was like but unlike the castle she knew so well?
The curse had kept her whole these hundred years. So she was able to lift her Knight and using his sword to aid her she climbed down the stairs and left the castle.
Upon leaving the castle, however, she found it to be surrounded by a jungle of thorns. Not put off she carried on. Hoping to find a way out, but instead came upon a thing that was not unlike a wolf. She dropped her beloved and faced the thing. It came at her mouth open, teeth flashing, but she bested the creature. Only to find herself suddenly facing two more. She fought these too, but as she killed one the other bit her badly and three more appeared from within the thorns. She did her best, but was mortally wounded. She fell next to her love and as the wolfen pack closed in, kissed her love one last time.
The Squire woke in the thorns surrounded by wolves. The princess lying dead beside him, horribly blooded. He picked up the sword and had at the creatures with great fury at what they had done. He slew a great many, but as he did more came, and as only one remained he too was mortally wounded. He fell to his knee, next to the Princess to weak to lift the sword and saw that she was not dead but sleeping, and in sleeping her wounds were closing. For it was the way of the curse to keep her unchanging.
The wolf stalked closer and before the Squire died he put the sword in the Princes’s hand and kissed her.
Briar Rose woke to find herself blooded but unwounded next to her dead love, facing one last wolf. Perhaps she was wrong? Perhaps this was the way of hell.
She thought that perhaps she and her Knight would meet again in the next death, and considered letting the wolf take her, but as the wolf leapt for her, her body killed it anyway.

She looked to her knight and cried and through her tears she saw his wounds close and that he was not dead, but sleeping. As they now shared the curse.
The Princess fought the Oberlact and bested it, but with much trouble. The Squire fought the many Latterblat’s and won and near death woke the Princess so that he may sleep and heal once more.
In the fight with the bear like thing that stood as tall as trees they died and slept and slept and died thrice over before the deed was done.
Then one day, while at a river, trying to find a shallow crossing, the Squire met an old woman who laughed and cried and shouted at the Earth and sky just as much as she did the same to him. So the Squire woke the Princess and slept, in the hopes that she might understand the woman better.
Briar Rose woke and saw the old woman she’d met in the tower with a spindle.
It was the thirteenth witch, and as no good comes from magic to anyone. The witch, who was very old at the time of Briar’s birth, much older than anyone has right to remained undying. Entangled in the curse and lived longer than her mind could stand. She saw Briar, un-aged and as beautiful as ever and went to kill her to perhaps end her own tortured self. They struggled by the river side and the witch fell in and was eaten by a monstrous pike, but still the curse was not undone.
Days more passed and as Briar and the Squire slept and fought and healed and fought again it became clear to both that the thorns were moving. The path was changing. They were in an ever changing maze of thorns that wouldn’t let them leave.
Then, as Summer changed to Winter, Briar met a frog that was not a frog. And this frog that stood as a man and just as tall told her that it had been his magic that had brought her into existence inside her mothers belly. So that one day she could be his wife. But Briar didn’t want to be the wife of a frog so fought him, but could not win so woke her Knight who fought him too as she slept. The Squire bested the frog and as he died Briar Rose woke and the thorns began to wither.
The frogs spell had been twisted by the bad witches curse which had been twisted by the good witches wish. Magic over magic over magic.
Briar Rose woke and saw her love still woke and spoke his name.
“Peter.” She said for that was the name of her knight in her dream and also the Squires name. She knew him from the dream, and knew him well. And loved him, and soon he loved her too.
A year later they were married in the castle without much splendour and a year after that they had their first child. The child she’d had in her hundred years dream. In time all her lost dream children and grandchildren were returned to her.
Because sometimes, just sometimes some good comes from magic.


And they lived contented to the end of their days.

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