Saturday, December 18, 2010

Beauty or Beast part 2

Gerhard had brought the new serving girl. She seemed very pretty perched on the back of the wagon. What hid in her heart of course was small, and petty. But then that was the requirement of the spell. Only a heart that was itself as ugly as I was could set me free and only if it learned to see my heart as the match for their exterior. Her heart had to find redemption in me in order for my looks  to change. Typical spell-caster’s riddles. What small and petty heart was able to see beyond itself?

A decade ago Gerhard had postulated that perhaps a heart that had been taught to be small would still have the capacity to learn to see. They simply needed some hardship in order to grow. He had been collecting pretty serving girls since. None had been able to see him truly. After a year they were given the choice to stay and be apprenticed to a career, or to leave with a small dowry. If they had learned to think ahead they would stay. To date none had.

This girl was the most vain yet. She refused to even consider doing the simple washing up assigned to her, because her hands might chap. She wouldn’t go out to care for the animals or prepare the ground for spring seeding, because the sunlight might damage her complexion. She wouldn’t even sew for fear of developing a squint. If she wouldn’t work how was she supposed to learn to be kinder. It was time for the test.

“Girl, we require winter berries for the meal tonight. Go out and fetch them or you won’t eat.” The cook shouted. She raised a hand as if to cuff the little serving girl.

“Fine, I’ll go out and get your berries. Just don’t you dare lay hand on me. I will be an important lady here soon.”

Belle grabbed the bonnet that had been supplied with her uniform, and the carry basket cook shoved at her. After dodging cook’s parting swing she went outside and headed for the woods.

Berry picking of all things. That I should be lowered to such menial labour. Why, I might scratch my skin on those nasty thorns. That old witch of a cook, she probably wants me to be ruined so that I will be stuck working for her forever. When the master finally sees me he will set her straight. No man could resist my looks.” Belle mumbled to herself while she went down the trail, deeper into the old forest. She looked neither left nor right and completely disregarded any dangers that might be lurking.

The lord of the mansion looked on and shook his head in regret. She was such a pretty thing, it was too bad that her heart couldn’t match the exterior. So vain that she hadn’t even noticed the classic tests of the hero. The nest of drowning ants, the dove who is attacked by the hawk, or the fox with it’s paw caught in a trap. He had saved all of these once he was sure that she wouldn’t. he could hear them as any open heart would have in this wood. The final test then, knowing that if she lost she would truly lose.

Belle’s head snapped up. A scream to the side of the path. She froze. Should she leave without the berries or continue on and hope whatever was happening wouldn’t happen to her. She certainly couldn’t help whoever that was. She ran back, she would just pick whatever berries she found on the way. Cook wouldn’t notice anyway. And she wouldn’t risk her beauty to whatever was making that horrible sound.

“Well that settles it. She didn’t even think of trying to help, never mind actually going over and seeing what was happening. She’s your to deal with beast, you know our recommendation.”

“I won’t kill her. While that might work to weed out the bad blood among the elves it won’t help among humans. She needs to learn. As such it is my responsibility to teach her, and hope that in so learning she will learn to see me.”

The beast ran ahead of the girl to block her path. While she cowered from the dread beast he explained why she was being cursed. She didn’t hear a word. After a moment he swung and she lost consciousness.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Beauty of Beast part 1

Once upon a time...
A trite beginning to an old tale. One you have all known. Or thought you knew. You've all seen the movie after all. The beautiful girl  who sings the village awake. The horrible monster in the enchanted castle. Singing flatware, and dancing candelabra.  You know the one I mean. Of course, you know the original couldn't have been like that. Some of you may even have read an older version. The poor, but still beautiful girl, forced to marry the horrible talking animal. She lives through years of trials and tribulations, and has to fight to keep her prince once he finally materializes. She risks gruesome death, but finally breaks the spell, only to lose him to some still young princess. At the end everyone is miserable or dies, or is just plain horrible. That story is older, and closer to the truth than most would find comfortable. But it is still not exactly what happened.

It's still not my story. Would you like to hear the truth? It's not for the faint-hearted. It's a story of transformation and redemption, for both parties.

I'm sure you have noticed that there is beauty and beast in all people. Some are more outward, and some more inward. In most people this is an even mix. They are ordinary, with small vices and kindnesses. They have visages that are neither greatly beautiful, nor horridly ugly. Sometimes the balance tips, and nature will go to great lengths to correct it.

I was born a beautiful baby to a handsome couple. Though we were poor, in an already poor village, my mother was very vain. She cared for nothing more than outward beauty. Only that which was beautiful was allowed in her house, or seen to have any worth. Whenever my father got payed for his work in the fields, rather than saving and stretching it to the next quarter day, my mother would spend it on flattering her own beauty. As I was an extension of her, this sometimes meant that she would buy new things for me. Because of this we were always poor, and had nothing to tide us over the bad times when they came.

I grew up always primped and pretty. My dark curls were always brushed at dawn and dusk until they glowed. My white skin was always protected from the sun lest it toughen from being burnt. Mother pinched my cheeks to make them redder than the rose whenever we went out. If this were a fairy tale as you are used to, somehow even through this I would build character. I would be sweet and kind to all who met me. As beautiful on the inside as on the outside. Honestly, have you ever known any child to be raised in such an environment who actually turned out well without some outside help? I was no exception. I was quiet, because speaking in more than a soft whisper might create lines on my fine face. But the things I thought. No one was free from my sarcastic and critical mind. No one was good enough for me. Because of my great beauty on the outside, I was horribly small and petty on the inside. A perfect copy of my mother.

When the offers for my hand started coming, even though we were poor and there would be no dowry there were many in the village who wanted me, My mother and I turned them all down. I accepted the gifts and the courtship as my due, but would except none who were not equally as handsome as I was beautiful. My mother and I used to talk of them and laugh when they left.

Of Hans the baker we said "Can you imagine sitting across from those ears every night?"

Of George the miller we said "Those teeth would give chipmunks nightmares."

Of John the blacksmith we said "Oh, that hair! You could thatch the house with it."

And so while the rest of the girls in the village were getting married, I remained betrothed waiting for the man who could match me. And my family remained poor. We accumulated many debts, as mother tried to keep both of us in the style to which she thought we belonged. Of course it couldn't last. One day father went out to harvest the wheat and didn't return. They say he missed his swing and the scythe caught too much blood.

My mother and I were destitute. The house and all our belongings were repossessed to pay the debts. As we had no marketable skills we had nothing else to sell but ourselves. I was born free, and now I belonged body and soul to the master of the manor up the way. Mother was sold elsewhere and I never saw her again.

I was bitter and angry at my lot. How dare I have to work for some stranger. I was the fairest woman in four counties. I should have been the toast of the town, not some slave to the whims of this man. No one had even seen him. He stayed on his land and in his house. No one who went to serve him would talk about the doings at the manor when they came down. At the time I thought he was so proud he couldn't be bothered to show his face to others. We always do suspect the worst vices in others that we possess ourselves.

The morning after my auction I was loaded into a cart, next to the vegetables of all things. Well, I would use this time to improve myself as best I may. The master of the manor would surely treat me better when he saw how much better I was than those others serving him. I certainly wouldn't be treated like a sack of flour.
I would show him.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Havenroth's Hero

“You were just the first orphan boy we found who seemed like he might have the ability to pull this off."

I could not believe this, after months of back breaking labour trying to retrieve this fabled sword of some great ancestor, and defeating the great evil of my land. I hear this. From the man who walked up to me in the middle of what had been the worst night of my life and told me I was destined to do this. I was speechless. My raw, burned hands throbbed, I had to put this stupid sword down soon. “Do you really, honestly think that the people of Havenroth will accept me as their ruler if I'm not descended from the last one?”

“My child, that country has been a small republic ever since they killed all the members of the royal family three centuries ago. There were rumours at the time of a child who had been missed, but who is going to trace the genealogy of a child that no one can even find? Especially since this genealogy would have needed to be traced over the aforementioned three centuries? Considering how many mistresses the last few kings had kept, there are probably bastard lines by the score, also undocumented. It's vaguely possible that you are related to the line, distantly.”

I look at the sword in my hand, and then around at the scores of evil-doers that I had to kill to get it. Bile rose in my gorge, I wanted one more question answered before I left to be sick.

“So what was the point of all this? I don't get to rule, the sword is certainly no prize, and there isn't even much other treasure here to set me up comfortably elsewhere. At least at the orphanage no one was trying to kill me.”

Altarn smiled, “The man who controlled all this stole my favourite toy when we were kids. Now we're even and he's dead. You got some fresh air and sunlight, a bit of exercise and a chance to see the countryside. You also received excellent instruction in swordsmanship and thievery. Either of those would lead to lucrative careers. You show more promise in swordsmanship, I suggest work as a mercenary. Good luck.”

I watched him turn around and leave, without so much as a backwards glance. I then found a corner and lost what little was left in my stomach. I am so not cut out for this job. Maybe I should become a travelling storyteller, I had seen enough to get a shiver out of anyone. And if there was some gullible kid along the way, well that old man needed a payback, he had to have some kind of worthless trinket in his possession. I hear Scrola is short a ruler at the moment.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Why don't you see me when I cry?

You turned away when I skinned my knee,
Too busy that day to tend to me.

He broke my heart and then my jaw,
You simpered "There, there, it's not so bad now."

I am strong, fight fears
Work hard, and study long.
I've made it, I'm there!
And then I turn back...
You didn't see it, you turned your back.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Welcome gentles all. Join together as we step the path between wakening and dreaming. Take neither the narrow and rutted road to the right, nor the broad and tempting road to the left. This is a journey down the sylvan, mysterious road at the centre of our mind. Welcome to the road to Faerie.