Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there lived a young girl named Clara. Clara loved her mother and father very much, but on her twelfth birthday, a dragon swooped down from the blue, blue sky and ate them both up. The dragon looked at Clara, as if deciding whether or not to eat her up, too. Her parents must have made enough of a meal for him, though, and he flew off, burping a fiery belch as he beat the air with his scaly wings.
On her twelfth birthday, Clara decided that she would become a dragon slayer when she grew up.
The best–the greatest, most well-known and world-renowned dragon slayers came from a country bordering Clara’s homeland of Bodoni–a country called Eltis. In addition to training the fiercest, most dedicated dragon slayers in the world, Eltis also hosted the most respected school of magic in the world: two slightly related achievements. Related because dragons cannot be slain without magic; slightly because magic cannot be taught to someone without an innate talent for it.
With her parents lost to the appetite of a giant fire-breathing beast, Clara had no one to take care of her. Her father’s parents had died before she was born, victims of a rogue pixie who had sparked their cottage to flames while they slept peacefully in their bed. Her mother’s father had been crushed by the tree he was cutting down the previous summer, and her mother’s mother died of grief less than a month later.
She did have an uncle on her mother’s side, but no one had heard from him since he disappeared on his own twelfth birthday, nearly twenty years earlier. Sometimes Clara felt that she’d known him, she’d heard her mother talk about him so often and so fondly. Other times, Clara wondered if her uncle ever really existed. She had her doubts, since no one in their village knew of any other inexplicable disappearances.
Clara Paused to consider the fact that she was the only witness to her parents’ demise. Would anyone believe her? Of course they would; Clara was a trustworthy girl, and the marauding dragons had become more and more problematic as the year progressed. Of course they would believe her. She was twelve years old now; old enough for apprenticeship or marriage, even, if her family had been better off.
Clara laid down next to the scorched patch of ground that was all that remained of her parents. The clouds broke overhead, and a single shaft of sunlight reached down to caress her faced, drying her single tear and warming her clammy skin. Clara closed her eyes and drifted into sleep.
When she woke it was dark, and the air was growing chilly. She sat up quickly, and for a moment, lived again in a world with her parents. Then she turned her head enough to catch a glimpse of the burnt grass, and reality slammed back into her chest with a physical pain. She turned the opposite way to shut out the sight, and cocked her head as she realized that a fairy ring had sprung up around her as she slept. The small white mushrooms almost seemed to be glowing in the moonlight.
Clara tucked her feet beneath her as she sat up in curiosity, her grief momentarily forgotten. They were glowing; it wasn’t just a trick of the light. She leaned forward until she was on all fours and slowly, so slowly, crept forward.
The swish of wings sounded above her, and Clara cringed as she looked upward in fear, but it was a swooping bat, hungry for insects, not a dragon, hungry for Clara. She sighed in relief and returned her attention to the mushroom surrounding her.
But they weren’t mushrooms, after all, Clara saw as, one by one, the tiny glowing orbs began to craze with jagged cracks, She had no idea what was about to happen; no one had ever said anything about weird mushroom eggs hatching in the middle of the night. Having just turned twelve, however, Clara had precious little caution to begin with, and so she threw that little bit of caution to the wind and reached out to touch the nearest egg with one finger.
The shell fell to the ground in pieces, and Clara jerked her hand back. She quickly looked around as she heard the tinkling of the other dozen or so shells crumbling into shards. The light coming form the eggs intensified until Clara had to shield her eyes with one hand.
As one, the bright orbs rose from the ground and hovered a few inches above it. Clara fell back from the edge, then rose to stand in the center of the circle.
…to be continued.
Once upon a time, there was a princess who lived in a castle. She went out every day to play by the fountain in the garden, but she always had to play by herself, because she wasn’t allowed to play with the servants, and there weren’t any other princesses her age.
One day she wanted to go outside, but the queen forbid it because of a lightning storm. Finally the storm ended, and the princess ran outside. A beautiful rainbow arced over the castle, and the raindrops glistened in the leaves of the apple trees like diamonds in the bright sunlight.
The princess sat on the side of the fountain and peered over to look for the goldfish she loved to feed pieces of bread. She saw only one, lazily flipping its tail as it swam in circles nearby. She pulled a smuggled piece of bread from her pocket and began to tear it into tiny pieces, dropping them into the water one at a time.
Suddenly, she heard a plop. The princess looked around on the surface of the water until she was where the ripples were coming from, but that was all she saw. Then a turtle popped into view from under the lily pads right in front of her, next to the fish.
She tore some larger pieces of bread for the turtle, and he took them gently from her fingers before disappearing into the depths of the fountain.
“And then what happened?” the little girl asked, sleepily, bundled up in her covers.
“You’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out. Goodnight, sweetie.”
Have you heard the story of Rumpelstiltskin? Go have a quick read if not.
I was minding my own business, see, plucking a chicken for tomorrow’s dinner, and I felt this tugging, tugging, tugging at me. I groaned to myself, because I knew what it was. Ever since that witch taught me how to spin straw into gold, whenever someone has an impossible task assigned to them, I get called.
And it doesn’t even have to be spinning straw into gold. Once I got pulled away after someone wanting a goose that laid golden eggs. I don’t know the first thing about poultry, other than killing it and cooking it for my supper. Didn’t matter. I was up next, so I got the summons.
But this was the third night in a row, and that never happens. It shouldn’t be my turn again so soon. Two nights in a row was bad enough, but I guess it was because that girl and I hit it off so well that I jumped the line to help her out again. She looked so poor, I don’t see how it would be her again. She wouldn’t have anything left to give me. Unless…
I was right. It was her again, and she was desperate enough to agree to hand over her firstborn. What a laugh! When they think they’re in it up to their necks, they’ll agree to anything. No wonder the witches always go after kids. It’s so satisfying to con someone out of a jam with the one thing that they’ll never give up without a fight.
Anyway, it’ll be a while, I’m sure. She’s not even married yet. Just a slip of a girl herself. Hopefully I’ll have a bit of a vacation while I’m waiting, no more of this three nights in a row stuff. That’s too hard on a body.
That didn’t take nearly as long as I expected! The king liked that little girl enough to marry her straight off, and any day now, I’ll have my final reward. I don’t expect she’ll put up too much of a fight. She was just a poor miller’s daughter after all, and now she’s queen, with anything her little heart desires. There’ll be other children, I’ll tell her, and she’ll hand him right over, no questions asked, I’m sure of it.
That did not go as planned. That dirty little wench refuses to listen. It’s only one child, after all, not her whole kingdom! What happened to honoring a contract? What happened to the value of personal sacrifice? What happened to my grand plan?
It’ll be alright, though. I gave her three days to guess my name, and I know that’ll never happen. She only guessed three names today, and I told her I’d be back tomorrow, so come up with some good ones. Ha! She could guess from sunrise to sunset all three days. She could guess without sleeping the whole time. Even if I gave her a year, or ten years, she’d never guess the name Rumpelstilitskin!
So far, so good, as I expected. She didn’t even keep me there an hour! And I laughed in her face when all she could come up with was the same old Fred and Ted nonsense that everyone else does. Tonight I feast and dance around the fire, singing songs of her failure. Tomorrow I’ll be coming home with that sweet babe in my arms.
The apple fell from her hand and rolled across the floor until it came to rest against the leg of the dining table. It lay there while Snow White slipped deeper into unconsciousness; it lay there while the dwarves trooped in from work to find her lying cold and still.
Days passed, and even though the dwarves grieved too deeply to clean house, the apple stayed fresh and crisp. Not so well fared the ants who had discovered it. Their lifeless bodies created a border around the tainted fruit that no other insects dared to breach.
When the happy day came that the Prince resurrected Snow White with a kiss, the apple still remained as it was the day it had been cursed. After the revelry, one of the dwarves swept the apple from beneath the table in the midst of cleaning. In the hustle and bustle, the apple was knocked about until it bounced out the front door, where another dwarf picked it up to throw it onto the compost pile.
The shining redness of its skin caught the attention of birds and butterflies alike, but only the first wren was daring and hungry enough to attempt a taste. He lay, wings spread, a cautionary tale until he and the apple were eventually covered over with leaves and vegetable scraps.
Winter passed, then spring, summer, another winter, and while the wren rotted and returned to the earth, the apple did not.
Spring came again, and the dwarves began to shovel compost for their garden. They came upon the temptingly bright apple and marveled at such a thing.
Snow White had not shared her story; indeed, she remembered nothing of the moments before her brush with death, so she had nothing to tell even had she been so inclined.
Fortunately for his brothers, one of the dwarves had enough sense not to consume produce that stayed fresh in the middle of a compost heap. He warned the others off, and he picked up the apple with a shovel to bring it inside, where he put it in the fireplace.
The next morning the dwarves lit a fire before they left for work, expecting the apple to be ashes when they returned. It was not.
The logs had burned to nothing, but the apple still remained, perfect but for that single bite. The dwarves immediately knew that the apple must be bewitched. Using the shovel and teamwork, they knotted the apple in a worn old sock before placing it inside a burlap sack, which they tied securely.
The seven drew straws to determine who among them would travel to the castle to speak with Snow White and her Prince, now king and queen. The loser was well provisioned with food and water, and he set off early the next morning with the apple well separated from his necessary supplies. The others wished him luck, and each retreated into his own realm of worry.
The unlucky dwarf set off for the castle. Before too long, he sat down for a rest. Walking required a different kind of stamina than swinging a pickax all day long. He opened his pack to get some food for a snack and set the bag containing the apple on the ground to his side.
As he chewed on some jerky while resting his sore feet, a great eagle swooped down at him. He was too frightened to think straight, and grabbed his pack, but not the apple, as he ducked for safety behind the nearest tree.
The eagle was already committed, with razor-sharp talons outstretched, but since it couldn’t get to the dwarf from the angle of this dive, it snatched up the bag containing the apple and soared away before the dwarf could realize what had happened.
He breathed a sigh of relief, but as he was picking himself up, he saw the bundle in the eagle’s claws, high above the trees. He quickly took an inventory to establish what was missing. When he confirmed that it was the cursed apple, he staggered fro a moment of indecision. Ultimately, he decided to continue on his journey. The king and queen needed to know that a piece of evil was loose in the kingdom.
To be continued.