But I have such excellent excuses! I finally finished up the most recent draft of my Sleeping Beauty retelling, and sent it off to my betas for feedback. That feedback has started coming in, and although I was well-nigh sick of the story when I sent it out, I'm once again excited about it, and about making it even better. Nathan has been especially helpful- this is the first time I've let him read anything longer than a scene, and he's risen to the challenge of telling me all the things I don't want to hear, even when I flail around on the ground whining, "I don't want to write that scene..." because I know he is right and I need to.
My other excuse is that my nephew went and got himself born- but more on that in a later entry. For now I shall make up for my long silence with a nice long excerpt from some of the most recent rewrites (the narrator has been describing his great-grandmother):
I often wonder if she herself would have shown such interest in me, had I not been such a blatant throwback to her bloodlines, a single spear of golden wheat amongst the six dark blades of grass that were my older brothers. Whether it was my coloration that drew her to me, or merely the fact that I, like she, seemed somewhat redundant in the royal household, I was never certain. Whatever the reason, I became her favorite, and as such she would spend many long hours entertaining me with stories of her homeland- that dark, wild kingdom called Valtor, in which great and terrible magics still held sway.
One story always remained particularly clear in my head- and although she told it to me many times, I like best to recall the first time.
We were in her chambers, her sitting in the rocking chair with the same air my father sat in his throne, me sprawled at her feet. She was knitting something- in my memories she was always knitting something, although I don’t recall ever seeing the outcome of these endeavors- and I was making a game of sorting her yarns into armies to do battle against one another. All the blues, greens, and purples were my father’s soldiers and his allies- all the reds, yellows, and oranges were our enemies. Whites, blacks, and browns were sitting out until I could figure out how to align them.
“Once upon time,” Uri began, but I looked up from my armies to interrupt her with something that had been bothering me, lately.
“What does that even mean?”
“It is something you are saying at the beginning of story, my little Kriegerprinz. It is meaning these things happened long time ago.”
“How long ago?” I eyed a brown hank. I’d seen red-browns and yellow-browns in the woods- therefore it seemed more likely this pile would belong with the enemy forces, and so I nudged it towards that area.
“In this story, almost two hundred years.”
“That’s super old.”
“Indeed. Shall we be having story or not?”
“Sorry Uri. I’ll be good.”
The old woman (for she was old even then) snorted. “You’ll be what you’ll be, I am supposing, and I will be indulging you, regardless. But now, once upon time-“
“Two hundred years ago!” I said helpfully.
“Yes. Two hundred years ago, king and his queen wished and wished for child, for little Kriegerprinz of their own, and in time their wish was being granted.”
“Babies are boring.” I considered the piles of blacks and whites. They just didn’t seem to fit with either army.
“You are not boring.”
I looked up sharply at this. “I’m not a baby!”
“Perhaps not- but you were. All of us were once babies, even your Uri.”
My eyes widened as I considered this tidbit- my great-grandmother, a baby? “Are you the baby they got?”
“No,” she said dryly… “I am not being quite so old as that. But it was girl-child, this new Rosamund. And for her naming day the king and queen invited all the land, including the six good… you say Hill Folk, I am thinking.”
“Fairies? Fairies don’t exist!”
“Just because they are being gone from Pomagar does not mean they were never here. And in my home Valtor they are still very much present.”
“Fairies have magic…” I whispered. Suddenly I knew exactly what those hanks of black and white were to be. I divided them amongst the forces, whites to be allied to my father, blacks to be against him.
She shook her head and sighed. “Fairies, you say. Sometimes, even now, I am not knowing all your words, I think.”
I patted her leg absently. “That’s okay, Uri. I don’t know them all, either.”
“Of course you do not. But you will. The… fairies… they each gifted the baby girl. She received blessings of beauty, grace, great musical talent-“
“Those are boring gifts.” I considered my rainbow armies; the enemy outnumbered us, but I knew my father’s armies, led by my brothers, would be more than a match for such odds.
“You will not perhaps be thinking so in few more years. Now try to quiet, for we are getting to the part you will find more exciting. Before the sixth good fairy could give her gift, there was being great thunderclap, and the dark fairy appeared, full of rage.”
“Was she angry because she didn’t get invited to the party?” I had recently been lectured by my mother on the political importance of inviting all the noble sons and daughters to my birthday party, regardless of my personal feelings towards them. Frankly I didn’t think they wanted to come any more than I wanted to invite them, but grownups will have their way.
“Perhaps. No matter the reason, she did not have blessing for the princess- she had curse. And that curse was that in the princess’s sixteenth year she would prick her finger on spindle and fall down dead.”
I mulled this over, thinking of the spindles I’d seen my mother’s women working with. They were certainly sharp enough to prick your finger on. I resolved to avoid them in the future, just in case. “Then what happened?”
“The dark fairy disappeared as she had come, and the court was so upset. But then the sixth fairy came forward-“
“She hadn’t given her gift yet!”
“Correct. And she said, ‘I cannot undo curse, but I can gentle to sleep, not death. And from this sleep she will wake when true love’s kiss is pressed to her lips.’”
“Kissing?” my five-year-old self was outraged at this unexpected turn of events. Babies might be boring, but kissing was just gross.
“You will see. Now, the king was not being satisfied with the gentling of curse, and to further protect his daughter he sent her away from the palace, to be reared by good faries far from spindle. But he and queen were missing girl child so much that they would bring her home for secret visits.” Uri shook her head at such sentimental folly. “And when she had sixteen years, she wandered into a forbidden part of the palace, where she met the dark fairy in disguise, and indeed was pricking herself on spindle and falling down in enchanted sleep.
“The king and queen, they were being so sad, but they knew there was hope because of the sixth fairy, so they dressed daughter in finest gown and put her in tallest tower of palace, to await coming of true love’s kiss.”
Uri ignored my muttering. “To make certain no unworthy soul could be taking advantage, fairies caused a great wall of… what is word? Verbrenindorn, thorns that burn?”
I thought of the painful encounter I’d had while running through the woods with my brother Oliver. “Nettles?”
“Nettles? These burn?” she looked doubtful.
“Like fire,” I added, and rubbed my calf where I’d brushed against them.
“Hmph. Nettles. Does not seem...” she shook her head. “The Verbrenindorn grew up and covered the palace, and no one could be getting through. Many years passed, one hundred years, and on that day, thorns turned to flowers.”
“This I am not knowing. Perhaps fairies must rest their powers every hundred years? But whatever reason, thorns became flowers. And that is when our family enters the story.”
“We do?” I sat up straighter, momentarily abandoning my battle. Stories, I felt, were always more interesting when they involved one’s self.
“Yes. My youngest uncle decided he would like to make bride of sleeping Rosamund, so he approached palace to break her curse.”
“To kiss her,” I said glumly.
“That was idea,” she admitted, “but when he found her in tower, he discovered that dark fairy had not forgotten, either. She was laying in wait at top of tower, to keep any from breaking her curse. She changed into terrible dragon to fight my uncle, and he could not stand against her might. He escaped with his life, but was being so badly wounded he spent the rest of his days cripple. This I saw for myself, burns upon his body, twisting of his leg. And when he left, flowers became Verbrenidorn again.”
“So he didn’t kiss her?”
“No, little Kriegerprinz, he did not kiss her. She slumbers still.”
“But this happened when you were a baby?”
“Not quite baby. I was your age, and you have said- five years is baby no more.”
“No, I am a young man,” I answered with as much dignity as possible. I eyed her wrinkled face speculatively. “How old are you now, Uri?”
She cackled. “This is not question to be asking your elders, child, especially not lady elders.” She reached a hand over to ruffle my still white-blonde hair. “But I will be telling you, since we are being such good friends. I have nine and eighty years.”
My brow furrowed as I ran the numbers through my head. “That’s… almost one hundred?”
“There is more than twice your age before I am having one hundred years,” she said dryly. “And I am planning to enjoy my years getting to that great age, thank you.”
“Oh. But… will the nettles to turn flowers again?”
“Perhaps we will go and see for ourselves, eh? I would like to see my home again.”
But we never did visit Valtor together, and that is something that I find it in myself to regret.
...and also with a quick sketch of the Sleeping Beauty herself:
|No kisses for you!|