October 31, 2015

CLOSED $100 Flash Writing Contest at EC

CLOSED

Here's a flash-writing contest to celebrate the release of Frozen Fairy Tales on Nov.10.


Below, in the comments section, write a flash story or vignette or even a poem depicting the story of "Sleeping Beauty." The entry must be no more than 700 words, but no less than 200. I'm leaving it to your imagination as to when, where, etc. You can pick any character, scene or aspect of the fairy tale to set in winter.

Please do give some kind name associated with you entry (although you may use a pen name). POST THE ENTRY IN COMMENTS. DO NOT SEND IT TO EC'S EMAIL ADDRESS.

It is always a good idea to familiarize yourself with a publication's style and focus. If you want to get to learn about my advice and point of view about fairy tales, please read Beyond the Glass Slipper. Krampusnacht: Twelve Tales of Krampus, demonstrates my tastes as an editor, as do the stories and poems on this site. Or, if you are a fast reader, Frozen Fairy Tales.


The contest starts Nov. 1 and runs until Nov. 20. The winner will be reposted on this site and awarded $100 through Paypal. I am buying first time electronic rights only. Once the winner is officially posted, anyone who entered, including the winner, is free to sell the work elsewhere in any form. You must have a Paypal address. The winner will be announced by Nov. 27. If the winner does not contact me within 72 hours at enchantedconversation@gmail.com, the next entry in line will become the winner.

EC is aimed toward an audience of 15 and up. No content that an 80-year-old grandma couldn't read, please.

There is no entry fee. 

Update: You must be 18 years of age or older. You must have a Paypal account. Money is in US dollars only. One entry per writer, please.

Below is Neuschwanstein Castle in the snow, for inspiration.



24 comments

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Ah, Sleeping Beauty…the fairest face in all the land, and yet the coldest heart, as well. Or so I think as I stand there, looking into the face of my advisor, who is even now advising me that this girl, this beautiful princess, has been chosen to marry the prince, and thus become Queen. The Mirror, they call him, my advisor who sees all and reports it back to me faithfully.

    But sometimes I wonder if the truths he shows me aren’t somehow distorted, like a magician’s mirror that shows ugly as fair and fair as ugly. For I know something of this girl, and yes, her outside form is quite pleasing. Blonde hair, blue eyes, smooth skin…the Mirror is correct to say that she is the most beautiful girl in the kingdom. But the beautiful princess is also vapid, and shallow, and a little bit stupid. She knows nought (and cares even less) about what it takes to rule. She thinks nothing of politics, or diplomacy, or how to keep food on the tables of her poorer subjects during the long, cold winters.

    All that this particular princess, the one with the fairest face in all the land, the one who is to marry the prince and become the Queen, thinks about is pretty dresses and new hairstyles and extravagant parties, all while the poor people cry out for succor. But she does not hear them, and she does not want to hear them.

    The Mirror sees my irritated thoughts dance across my face, and he thinks me jealous. Me, jealous! Jealous of a mere wisp of a girl, a girl with taffeta and silky ribbons and chocolate tasties for brains, where I am smart as a whip, and the people on my lands have prospered under my rule. But the Mirror thinks I am jealous simply because this silly girl is a tiny bit prettier than me. They all think that I am jealous, and that everything I say against her is born of this.

    But I do not care what they think. I care only for the fate of the land, and that the people cannot survive, much less prosper, under such a Queen as this. And so I will do what I must to prevent her becoming Queen. Let history judge me, let me be remembered as an ugly crone, an evil witch, a villain who conspires against the fair heroine. I care not. I will do what I must. I will do what is right.

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  3. Perchance To Dream

    There was a time when you woke at the break of dawn or earlier.

    When you’re a toddler, you don't want to miss a second of life. You are sure everyone else is having fun while you sleep. You’re certain they’re all sneaking around enjoying things you can’t. You fight sleep with every ounce of toddler energy (which is a lot) and toddler screams (which are ear-shattering) you have in your little, tired body.

    Once you eventually fall asleep due to utter exhaustion, and the exhaustion of all the adults in your attendance, you have fitful dreams of faeries…good faeries with bright smiles and equally bright gifts, bad faeries with evil smiles and promises of woe to come. You toss and turn and kick and whimper in your sleep. It’s a good thing you have a royal bed all to yourself with silk bedding and extra soft down pillows and mattress, or you’d bruise yourself a royal purple.

    But as the years go on, you start to realize that there isn’t a whole lot of fun you were actually missing out on. Anything you want to play with, you can order on a whim and the servants scurry off to fetch for you. All except for a spindle, of course, but you had never seen one and didn’t know to ask for one.

    Life became rather boring. You wander as far in your kingdom as your parents will allow you, always shadowed by ladies-in-waiting and guards, but there is nothing new that amuses you anymore after a decade of that. You start to cherish your sleep because in your dreams, anything is possible and play is limitless.

    So when on a winter’s day, with snow swirling thick as soapsuds outside, you meander aimlessly through the castle, discover a new turret, prick your finger on something the queer old woman there called a spinning wheel and become drowsy, you think nothing of it. Instead, you make your way back to your fine silk bed like a somnambulist and lay down happily, thinking of the amusing dreams you’ll have.

    You couldn’t have known you would dream for one hundred years…and you would not have cared.

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  4. There are queer things that happen under the midnight sun that will make the blood run cold
    For the North Wind's trails have their secret tales of love, lust and greed for gold
    But nothing can beat a story so rare, of a body that sleeps in melancholy
    of a face so young yet seems so bold, never rotten though very lonely.

    You were born to be fair, to be as sweet as cherries growing on a meadow so green
    But you were fated to die not with a poisonous pie but with a spindle you haven't seen
    For a woman's revenge can never be scorned and never be flamed with envy
    By wrath, by greed, and by seeing your kingdom dead and empty

    And there you go, you sweet little cherry, withering in the bites of time
    Oh sweet damsel in distress with a voice singing that which never rhyme
    with the music of life, with the dances of the nymphs that bring you dreams
    Drowning the length of your slumber as white snow cap gleams

    But Oh halt, halt the man who passes by and breaks the palace door
    Oh praise the lad who'd break the spell and make you sleep no more
    For the song unheard from your red precious lips awaits for a kiss so tender
    From the prince who's come from a kingdom afar, set for a journey to remember

    But weary is his heart and weary is your soul, but who can never be merry?
    When a sleeping beauty wakes by a sting of a kiss so dearly
    There are queer things that happen under the midnight sun that will make the blood run cold
    For the North Wind's trails have their secret tales as love, greed, lust and death unfold.

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  5. Winter has come at last. The rank grass and the flowers that turn so quickly from sweetness to rot are shrouded in snow as white as the skin the first good wise-woman wished on me. The moat where my little maid drowned herself is sealed in ice. I know they pulled her out, sodden and stinking, with that strange swelling in her belly, but now I can almost imagine that they let her stay safe down there, far away from their hard hands and disapproving voices, cradled by the cold, slender and pretty as she was when she drowned.

    Pretty, pretty, they all called her, my pretty little love. The same thing they said of me as they praised my fair smooth skin and my bright eyes, my kindness and courtesy, all the perfection wished on me at my birth. They still say the same thing, but now I see the doubt in their eyes.

    Oh, I don’t blame them. Once I was what they called me. Now my skin is smooth only because my maid--the new one--helps me to tear the rough ugly hairs from my arms and legs every day, and my body stinks in the summer heat under the perfumes I must always wear. Winter’s cold quiets all scents, and while I stand out on my balcony with the icy wind in my long hair I am, almost, what they need me to be. But when I come back inside they still stare at me.

    They fear the curse. I know that much, for my little maid told me when I begged--no, let me tell the truth, though no one else would believe it of me: when I slapped her face and pulled her hair and threatened to give an ill report of her to my parents if she wouldn’t tell me why they looked at me so strangely. I knew she’d know; my mother the Queen says that servants know everything. So I frightened her, and she told me the old story about the eleven blessings given at my birth, and also told me the part I had never heard: how the angry old woman, the uninvited one, broke into the feast and cursed me and said I would prick my finger on a spindle and die in my fifteenth year. This year. That frightened me less than it should have. I had not seen or smelled death, not then.

    She told me, too, how the last invited wise-woman stood up after the curse-bringer and softened the curse, saying that I would not die but only fall into a hundred-year sleep. My father then banished spinners and spindles for many miles around the royal city, “which is why we have to buy all our cloth in, and dear enough it is,” she said.

    I wanted to see a spindle, but she feared the harm that might do more than she feared anything I could do or threaten. I do not want to think it was that fear that drove her into the water three months later in the dark of the moon. I do not know what else to think. Why else should they mutter about her and stop when I come close? I have not dared to ask them. Since she died I have not dared to ask anyone anything.

    I do not have to ask for a spindle now. The night after my little maid died the old woman came to me in my dreams and told me where I could find her spinning. It was late summer then, and I thought of myself lying still for a hundred years in that heat, sweating and foul But now... now if I slept I would lie cold and clean and still as the snow-bound fields, still as the girl I was meant to be, who would never have hurt anyone. No harm done, no fear, no ugliness, for a hundred years. Yes, I think I will go to her today.

    Another old woman came into my dream just last night. She looked at me sadly and said, “I would have given you courage.”

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  6. Sleeping Handsome: A Bar Chronicle

    How did we meet? That is a very interesting story. You wanna tell it?

    Oh you go ahead and start,Rory, I will come in at the end.

    We met when I had to go to his place on a work order this past winter. Let me tell ya, it sure was tough gettin’ that job done. First, it was snowing – a blizzard. Then my truck would not start, but the boss says hey it is close enough to walk, get over there. Third, I go for my tools and they’re not where I left them, gotta round ‘em all up. When I finally get ‘em all together, I still have to trudge the three blocks in the snowstorm to the apartment building.

    Once I am in - really? The elevator is not workin’, I gotta go up four flights. Luggin’ all these tools. At the fourth floor I sit for a minute to catch my breath. And THEN, no one is answering the door. By now I’m getting’ angry, so I use the master key, and I’m in. What a god-awful racket! Work order says neighbor complaint of noise/electronics, so that must be the problem. Yup, alarm clock stuck on, I can hear it all the way down the hall – but, wait a minute! There was someone sleeping in the bed still. I shout and whistle, I flick the lights, I shake him. Nothing. What the heck – leave him alone. Fix the clock – corroded batteries shorted a wire. That’s done, I took a minute to look around – real nice place. Figure the guy must be a CPA or an accountant, all those tax papers and documents, and receipts on an old-fashioned spindle. Sharp looking sucker, dangerous that is. Take a good look at the dude and boy is he handsome, like a model. He kinda reminded me of a guy I saw on that bird watching event awhile back. Or was he riding a horse in the park? Suddenly the lights go out. Dang storm. Room dark as pitch. I better clear out, turn and crash onto the bed, sprawled right on top of the hunk. Still does not wake up! Now I start to think this is like some fairy tale, like that sleeping beauty story right? And what happens in that story? Yeah! So – what the heck - I kiss him! Don’t know what got into me, almost like I was enchanted. Crazy…

    …and the next thing I knew I wake up in the arms of this sweet little electrician. I remembered starting in on Ms. Bose’s taxes and reaching for those receipts; must have pricked my finger. Passed right out at the site of blood, lucky I made it to the bed. It really was like that fairy tale, even to the point that I recognized him from my dreams. At least that is what I say. He says we must have seen each other in the park, or at that birding event. I like the dream story better – who wouldn’t? At any rate here we are celebrating our anniversary.

    Okay. Okay, dream it is. I cannot deny you anything. Hey, look at the time! C’mon Phil we better get going. Hey if you ever need any electrical work…

    Or taxes done…

    …here’s our business cards: Phil Prince CPA, and R. Dornbusch Electrics –Taming the Beast of Technology

    That was a nice place; we will have to go there again. Catchy name too – Perrault’s.

    Marcia A. Sherman

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  7. The Sleeper

    “Rory, wake up! It's freezing out here.” Phil turned his wife around and wrapped her fleecy robe around her shoulders. Then he pulled her against his body.

    Rory startled. “Wh-Where am I?” She blinked and stepped back. “Why am I outside? Oh no, I wasn't sleep walking again, was I?”

    Phil led her shivering form gently back into the house and sat her down beside him on the sofa.

    “What am I going to do?” she sobbed into his chest.

    “We'll figure it out.”

    “You'll have to strap me in the bed,” she choked out.

    “What?”

    “When I was a little girl, my mom tied me to the bed at night. She said it was for my own good—so I wouldn't hurt myself.”

    Phil's eyes narrowed. “That's despicable. You must have been terrified.”

    Rory nodded. “I was. I cried and cried. I begged her not to, but she said it would make me strong to face my fears. She said someday I'd be all alone like her and I'd need to be brave.”

    “That's the most disgusting thing I've ever heard. I was afraid of monsters in my closet when I was a kid but nobody ever locked me in there with them, thank God.”

    Rory looked up at him like a scared little rabbit, trembling. “But maybe she was right. I am stronger. That's why I do social work.”

    “You're compassionate because of the injustices you went through. There are other ways of handling sleep walking.”

    ###
    “Anticipatory waking may be a good solution for you,” the doctor told them.

    “What's that?” Phil asked.

    “Before the event the patient is woken up and talked through until the episode normally passes.”

    Rory hung her head. “Like a kid with nightmares.”

    The doctor smiled sympathetically. “Sleepwalking is often stress related. When you begin to feel secure, I believe your sleepwalking will stop.”

    ###
    “I can do it, sweetie.” Phil dodged around the cars on the bypass as was his usual routine.

    Rory frowned. “With your impatience? This could take weeks. You won't sleep nights.”

    “What do you think is more important to me, sleep or you?”

    He glanced over at Rory, who was looking out the side window, her body hunched against the door frame.

    He swerved the car to the side of the road, tires screeching. Cars flashed by them, their horns wailing.

    “What are you doing?” Rory asked, watching the angry cars whiz by.

    He grabbed her shoulders and turned her to face him. “Look at me, Rory.” She turned her face to him, her eyes wet with tears. “You're safe with me. I'm never going to tie you to a bed and leave you. I'm always going to be right here for you.”

    Rory melted into his shoulders and sobbed.

    ###
    Rory sat in bed, her body propped against her huge fluffy pillow, a ratty old sweater on her lap. She squinted her eyes as she maneuvered the thread through the eye of the needle she held. As she did so, she pricked the needle into the finger of her other hand. A drop of blood spilled onto her sweater. She stuck her finger into her mouth.

    Phil sat down beside her on the bed. “You don't have to be afraid to go to sleep, you know.”

    Rory grinned. “It's that obvious?”

    “I mean, you—sewing?” He laughed.

    She put the sweater aside and scrunched her head into her pillow. “Wake me up?” she asked, tentatively.

    Phil touched her hair tenderly. “Always.”

    ###

    “Wake up, Sleeping Beauty.”

    Rory's eyes flickered to awareness. Phil cradled her in his arms. He brushed her lips with a kiss, and she knew she finally found her prince.

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  8. As My Lady Sleeps

    I am the last prince of a forgotten citadel. On this frosty evening, I awake and, but for the slumbering maiden whose warm, soft belly I have made my bed, I would find myself once again alone. The sunlight that guards the patch where I lie curled has long departed, leaving the falling snow to collect on the window sill and cold, marbled floor. With a wide yawn, velvet mouth behind thorn-like teeth exposed, tongue tasting the chill in the air, I stretch, arching head to hind with feline luxury. The fallen gray fur of my coat, grown heavy with down due to this never-ending winter, intertwines with the ermine lining of my lady’s mantle. The mantle conceals the ever-youthful curves of her form, blanketed like a snowy hillside by some thoughtful, royal soul long passed.

    My lady is the most accommodating hostess, never sweeping me away as I scratch and knead her thick cloak to arrange my cradle. I press my padded paws into her borrowed mantle, shining and blue like bog sage veiled in hoar frost, and the act recalls memories of my mother’s milk. I suckle, wetting the fabric, but I know my lady won’t mind. I have even played with her long, golden, plaited locks, batting at the motionless end when it irked me. Through all my play, my comings and goings, she sleeps on.

    As I lap at my paws, I listen. Despite the once active forms occupying the castle spaces, there persists a vacant silence. Beyond the scurry of field mice, no sound has encroached on the stillness in untold years, but I remain vigilant – it is my nature. I cannot rely on the glazed eyes of the guards standing at doors and in halls, layers of dust adorning their broad shoulders. The idle maids, crisp, shrunken leaves huddled about their feet, neglect my mane, so I must keep it myself. The kitchen boy sits on stool, head in hand, before a long-dead fire, and no longer brings me vittles. The mice do, for now. I am master of myself and my domain.

    I pad up and down my lady’s body, stopping finally at the swell of her breast. Turning once, twice, and three times, I gather and knead the snow-white ermine of the collar that swaddles her throat. I sit, watching her restful, smooth face, her lips pink as the bottoms of my paws, listening to the faintest sound of deep sleep. I rest my head on my paws and blink, once and twice, deciding to put off my nightly rounds, for a while at least. The moonlight has resumed its nightly post at my lady’s feet, and I, with an occasional lick at her chin, keep watch through this winter’s night.

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  9. Dream Walker (691 Words)

    My dearest daughter, how much I have devoted my life to you. You were barely a newborn babe when we christened you before the entire kingdom. Our Lord Protector told me that you would live with grace and beauty, wisdom and honesty. He told me you would be happy, that you would laugh with wonder and dance with poise. He told me that the warmth of your spirit that would lead our kingdom through even the coldest winters. I felt blessed to be the father of a daughter born with such perfection.

    But, some people felt nothing but jealousy, and for one woman—one whom I am convinced is the devil herself-- that jealousy turned to hate. She spoke of a different fate for you. I remember her wicked laughter when she told me that a poisoned spinning wheel would one day bring you a hundred years of misery. Like any protective father, I burned all the spinning wheels in our kingdom and confined you to remain within our borders. I had outsmarted the devil. I had defeated her. I was glad.

    I was a fool. A creature of hate can never truly be destroyed. I should have known that defeat would only fuel her spite. It was in your third year, she came to you in the only place where I couldn’t protect you -- at night, while you slept on a canopied bed of gold lace and feathers. She spoke to you in your dreams. She made you giggle in your sleep. She offered you candy. She danced with you and took you for pony rides. You were happy. You trusted her. Eventually, you followed her.

    I remember the first night you chased after her in your dreams. It was the first snowfall of a long winter. I awoke in the morning to find you missing from your bed. I followed your tiny footprints in the fresh fallen snow to the courtyard. You were there-- a small, shivering child, curled on the ground like a newborn infant. You were still sleeping and near dead from the harsh cold, but still, you were smiling. You lost four of your fingers and four of your toes to the frost that night; a permanent mark on your otherwise flawless beauty.

    After that day, you no longer danced with grace and balance. You no longer painted or stitched with delicate precision. You no longer smiled while you watched the snow flutter towards the ground. Each morning, you longed for the night to come so that you could go back to sleep, for it was the only in sleep that you would be happy. You were defeated. She had won.

    But, for her, winning wasn’t enough. A true creature of hate needs more.

    For the next thirteen years, I prayed to the Lord Protector every night that your dreams would never again lead you outside; that a power beyond mine could confine you to the safety of our castle. The Lord listened. For thirteen years, you never strayed beyond our palace walls. But, your fate was sealed those many years ago, and now, on the coldest day of the coldest winter, you lay here in silent sleep. The Lord may have answered my prayers, but the devil still lives in your dreams. In your sleep, she had led you to the tower, through a locked door, to the remnants of a forgotten spinning wheel that was placed here long before your birth. Despite my warnings, and despite the Lord’s protection, the child in your dreams still trusted her.

    What I would give now to hear the sound of your sweet voice. You no longer speak to the woman in your sleep. You no longer giggle. You don’t even follow her. You lay here with such stillness that one can only assume you are at peace. But, I know the devil far better than that. I know the promise she made sixteen years ago. She no longer dances with you in your dreams. She doesn’t offer you candy and pony rides. For the next hundred years, she will do nothing but haunt you with nightmares.

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  10. Snowing Beauty 270 words

    In her dreams, the young princess still watches it snow, as she did from the tower room’s window that day, where the old woman sat with her spindle. Beauty does not know she lies aslumber; she sees the white at the window, the line of road beyond to the village, hears the faint swish of the wind blowing flurries.

    She also doesn’t know that when the good fairy cast her spell to put everyone in the castle to sleep, she also fixed the weather into permanent endless winter.

    For what is snow but the Earth’s magic?

    ###

    A century passed, and in the spring the Prince came to the castle, when the roses were blooming and trees bright with new leaves. After he hacked his way through the sharp brambles and black thorns blocking the way, he saw a strange sight--a palace enclosed by ceaseless snow.

    Fairy snow, he thought. He struggled through the giant snowdrifts ahead, some taller than him, crossed the frozen moat, and entered through the heavy oak castle door, which had been left ajar.

    He ascended the grand staircase, searching in the sea of sleepers. Wet and chilled, at last he found the bed chamber and the one he sought. He kissed her.
    The snow paused, hesitating in midair.

    She awakened, yawned, stretched, and jerked upright, shocked to see a strange man sprawled next to her on the coverlet, as if fallen.

    ###

    In his dreams, it is still snowing and he is about to kiss a beautiful princess who lies abed as the snow resumes falling outside.



    ReplyDelete
  11. THAT OTHER GUY
    by Guy S. Ricketts

    'History is written by the victors.' — Walter Benjamin

    The surrounding snow and winter winds are both harsh and beautiful as I find my way through the murky lit forest, hiding behind one tree after another. I am fleeing for my life, but the rays of light from the full winter moon occasionally betray my location in these dark woods, and my opponent is closing in.
    My name is Wyatt King, and you have never heard of me, though you really should have. I am the one who fought a dragon (by tricking it into impaling itself on a long, thorny enchanted tree branch) for a princess; I am the one who defeated the evil fairy by waking the sleeping beauty with a kiss of true love and breaking that curse; I am the one who truly loves her.

    The hairs on the back of my neck bristle, and it's not just from the bone-chilling gusts pushing through my frame - it's also because I can hear him closing in on me. The 'him' I refer to is the prince himself, the one who takes credit for rescuing the princess and ending the reign of the evil fairy. He means to slay me so that no one ever learns the truth, and that he may marry the beautiful princess instead of her true rescuer.
    I hear his boots crunching with each step in the snow behind me, then suddenly stopping, and I turn to see him standing there with his sword drawn. He has the nastiest scowl on his handsome features, and he does not intend to let me leave this dark forest alive. Unfortunately, I believe he will succeed, as I have no sword and have never used one. I am a simple painter, an artist who paints portraits, and the only weapon I have ever held in my hand was a paint brush. I was chosen to paint the portrait of the princess for her parents, and one day I suddenly realized I had fallen deeply in love with her, that I couldn't live without her, and that I would do anything to win her fair heart.

    He speaks and breaks my chain of thought. "You don't really think you have a chance, do you?" Then he sneers, and I would swear the steam from his mouth in the cold winter air took the shape of a claw before it faded.
    "No," I replied. I may be an artist, but I am also a realist. "Though I really, really, wish to." Then an inspiration suddenly came to me. "Would it be possible to let me live, if I promise to never say a word about this to anyone for as long as I shall live?"
    "No," he answered.
    He lunges at me and tries to strike me a few times, but I was able to dodge each thrust and swing of his sword, even when I almost slipped in the snow. Just as I was beginning to wonder how long I might be able to delay his victory, the answer came with his blade finding its way deep into my chest.
    I fall to my knees, and I can tell it is a fatal wound.
    "Legend has it that a young fairy foretold that the princess would marry the son of a king, which I am," the prince taunted. "So you lost this from the very start."

    "As I am dying, I see little point - except satisfaction - in telling you something," I replied. "My name is Wyatt King. My dad was Charles King. Which makes me the son of a King as well." I think I smiled at his irritated reaction.

    My time was running out fast, and the already murky light of the thick forest was growing darker. I found it so pathetically humorous that even though it was really I who saved the princess and all the townspeople from the evil fairy's curse, this cruel prince would take all the credit - and the princess as his bride. No one would even know I had anything to do with that, because I would be dead and he would convince everyone what a great hero he is.

    Funny that in my final seconds of life on this earth, as blackness surrounds me completely now, I find myself laughing and realizing the sad truth that no one will know what I did, or that I even had existed. It will be the prince's version history will remember, because history is written by the victors, and my voice is now silent forever.

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  12. Snowing Beauty 270 words

    In her dreams, the young princess still watches it snow, as she did from the tower room’s window that day, where the old woman sat with her spindle. Beauty does not know she lies aslumber; she sees the white at the window, the line of road beyond to the village, hears the faint swish of the wind blowing flurries.

    She also doesn’t know that when the good fairy cast her spell to put everyone in the castle to sleep, she also fixed the weather into permanent endless winter.

    For what is snow but the Earth’s magic?


    ###

    A century passed, and in the spring the Prince came to the castle, when the roses were blooming and trees bright with new leaves. After he hacked his way through the sharp brambles and black thorns blocking the way, he saw a strange sight--a palace enclosed by ceaseless snow.

    Fairy snow, he thought. He struggled through the giant snowdrifts ahead, some taller than him, crossed the frozen moat, and entered through the heavy oak castle door, which had been left ajar.

    He ascended the grand staircase, searching in the sea of sleepers. Wet and chilled, at last he found the bed chamber and the one he sought. He kissed her.

    The snow paused, hesitating in midair.

    She awakened, yawned, stretched, and jerked upright, shocked to see a strange man sprawled next to her on the coverlet, as if fallen.

    ###

    In his dreams, it is still snowing and he is about to kiss a beautiful princess who lies abed as the snow resumes falling outside.





    ReplyDelete
  13. As the brambles rose the frost fell, wrapping the castle as much in thorns as ice. Cold covered all, stopped mice from nesting in the walls, stopped foxes from making dens in the roots of the rose bushes, and stopped all those who would think to intrude.

    Time passed until one day there was a boy only barely a man who could be called both foolish and mad. This boy decided to venture west, to go where no one went any longer, to seek his fortune from the fairy who had called down ice into the land and driven out all those who would seek to dwell there. He was the third son of a carpenter, strong, good at his work, but without a future except that of his own making as his father’s carpentry shop would go to his first brother and his father’s house would go to his second brother. For him there was nothing, so he travelled west.

    The air grew slowly colder, imperceptibly at first, but soon he had to make use of the sweater he had brought, and then the fur, and finally the blanket and still he shivered if he stopped moving and did not build a fire. Foraging and hunting grew more difficult, and he lived off dried fruit and dried rabbit from his pack.

    When the pack was nearly empty, he saw the castle, there on the horizon. It took shape slowly, though no shape he could make sense of. Brambles and leaves crowded over themselves and icicles covered the brambles, sharpness upon sharpness. This, he knew, must be where the fairy lived, protected by the points of the thorns and the icicles.

    It was harder than he had expected to cut at the brambles and the vines and the frost. Winters in the east were mild and he knew little of ice, but now it splintered around him and he squinted and dodged as his dagger slipped against the ice or the sun reflected back into his eyes. Strange that the sun could be so bright and the ice could be so cold.

    Little by little, he worked his way through the brambles of ice. He found he was panting and his arm ached, but he knew he could not stop to rest. If he sat, he would become cold like the icicles and he would never find the fairy.

    Then, suddenly, his dagger hit not ice, not woody vine, but rock. He put his hand, covered only in a thin woolen mitten, on the grey stone in front of him. This was what the briars had grown upon: a house, a castle. He needed to find the door.

    As he made his way along the wall, one hand on it for support, creating a tunnel through the brambles, he worried they would all come falling in on him, his life ending there amongst the thorns and the ice. But the brambles did not move except to fall away and no ice pierced his heart.

    He stopped once to eat his last piece of rabbit before he found the door, but then it was before him, massive, opening inward, and all he had to do was enter.

    The castle was strange and dark and silent. His breath came in shallow gasps, the mist of it seeming to light his way through the corridors. Nothing moved. There was no one there. He searched every room, marveling at the tapestries of unicorn hunts, the gold candlesticks, the carved fireplaces devoid of any warmth.

    He found no one, not until the final room at the top of the tallest tower, in the farthest corner, where there was a bed. And in the bed there was a girl. Her hair was white, so covered in frost that he could not tell what color it would be in the sunlight. A blanket covered her, frosted also, though a delicate pattern of embroidery showed beneath the ice. Her hands were folded on top of the blanket, so pale.

    And yet she breathed. He leaned over her, seeing her breath, knowing she lived. He took a step back. He paused.

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  15. "Gedoff me,Tommy, gedoff!” I said, snatching my hand away from him. He was holding tight so I had to struggle to stop my basket of blueberries from falling.
    “See whatcha almost done? These be for Princess Rose's bir'day. Mama would give me a spankin' if I dun't bring 'em back,” I continued, shaking the basket under his small nose. Tommy giggled, the silly lad.
    “Comma see, Jon, comma see,” he said happily, clapping his chubby hands together. I rolled my eyes and followed, keeping a careful watch on my precious blueberries. One can't ever be too careful with Tommy around. I didn't want him to come, but mama made me take him. Shes makes me watch him oft, 'cause I is older then he, me being already eight and him being only four.

    We reached the castle walls and slipped through the servants' entrance.
    “Look Jon, look,” Tommy pointed, starting to giggle again. At first I didn't see nothing amiss. The servants' garden was full as ever. But then I noticed the quiet, and the fact that none were moving and how nobody seemed to be standing. All were sitting or lying or slumping over walls and on the floor and the benches.
    All were sleeping.
    “Why's everyone asleepin'? Ain't there work to be doin'?” I asked. Mama had said that there ain't no time for playing today, 'cause it was the princess's birthday and all and there was tons and tons to prepare.
    We went to the huge kitchen to give the blueberries to mama. She wouldn't be sleeping, mama never slept when there was work to be doing. But the kitchen was as silent as the garden. Mama was slumped over the huge wooden table, snoring gently into a lump a dough. Tommy ran up and hugged her big leg.
    “Mama! Mama! We got 'em blueberries mama, jus' like you asks us!” he shouted joyfully, but she didn't answer him. I put the blueberries down and took Tommy by the hand.
    “Come, she's restin',” I think something worse has happened, but I don't wanna worry him, “lets go play.” I said, 'cause I know that's what Mama woudda wanted.
    “Stay outta the way,” she woudda said, “An' take Tommy with ya”. So we played Hiders and Finders in the sleeping castle till nightfall.

    Evening fell, and still me and Tommy went back to the kitchen 'cause we were both getting hungry. I went over to Mama, and I shook her arm.
    “Wake up, Mama. I is hungry.” I said. She didn't move. I saw her breathing so I knew she was only sleeping, but why didn't she wake up? Was she gonna sleep forever?
    “Mama, wake up,” I said again. Tommy began to crying I was feeling tears in me eyes too, but big boys don't ever cry, so I blinked them away.
    “I is hungry, Jon” Tommy wailed, so I tried waking Mama up again. At last me own hunger was gnawing too badly so I went to the larder and took out some bread and split it in half and Tommy and I ate it hungrily. We didn't wanna go to sleep in our bed without Mama there, so we ended up curled on the kitchen floor by mama's legs.
    “I wants mama t'awake,” Tommy whispered be for he closed his eyes.
    “Me also,” I say.
    “When will she awake?” he asked.
    'I dun't know', I wanna say, 'mayhaps never'. But that is too scary to think about and I am a big boy and need to make sure Tommy ain't scared so instead I say; “ 'tis like winter, me thinks. In winter the trees an' the birdies an' the mice all are asleepin', but then spring comes an' they awakes again.”
    “When is spring a'comin'?” Tommy made a big yawn. I was tired too.
    “I dun't know. Soon,” I told him. It must come soon. Everyone couldn't sleep forever and ever, “mayhaps they will awake with us t'morrow.”
    Tommy nodded sleepily and put his thumb in his mouth.
    As I closed my eyes I wondered if spring would ever come. I didn't think one bit that we might fall asleep waiting for it also.

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  18. Sleeping Beauty and the Snow Beast
    by Jude Tulli

    It feels as if the snow just started. Yet I can’t recall a time before its muffled silence fell like a stray feather from the grand fluffing cloud that swallowed the sky; before the crunch of every step packed snow tighter against the frozen leaves that shattered beneath. My soul shivers.

    Only my dog’s loving gaze warms my heart. “Come, Pouste,” I say, and he does. Such a good friend.

    “Let’s make something out of all this cold. You dig here and I’ll shape the snow there.” No fairy gifted me with talent as a sculptress. That makes it infinitely more fun than dancing or singing or playing the harp, all of which require no struggle. This takes work. I find myself out of breath from exertion until, after what could be ten minutes or a hundred years, I’m simply breathless.

    We take another minute or decade admiring our creation. One of its eyes opens wider than the other. Its icicle beard is broken off in spots. I love that it’s not perfect.

    “Have you ever seen a dragon before, Pouste? Oh, I would give up all my fairy blessings if it could but come to life.” Pouste stands still, tail wagging, untouched by the force that grips and shakes me.

    Six glowing lights arc a rainbow from my core to the snow dragon’s underbelly. Pouste barks and looks at me with his head tilted sideways.

    “I’m fine.” I smile while six hearts I never knew I had are ripped from my chest. The pain fades. Maybe I’m fine.

    The dragon stands and shakes the snow from its white hide onto us. It turns in time to see Pouste do the same while I just shiver some more.

    The dragon crouches and spreads its wings. I scoop Pouste up in my arms and make a dash to climb on its tail but it thrashes and I sink so deep in the snow I can’t breathe. Pouste licks my face as if nothing happened.

    “Wait!” My voice cracks as I shout. “We created you!” I run faster and grasp harder this time as the dragon leaps into flight but its scales break off in my hands and leave them numb.

    “Dragons make terrible dogs, don’t they?” I scratch Pouste under his chin. He sneezes twice and any neglect he might have felt gets washed away by his concern over whether a third will follow. What a terrible dog I would make, too.

    And now that the burden of perfection has flown off with our monstrous creation, I dance and sing and strum more. The cold ensures a certain degree of stiffness anyway. Lower expectations rule the day.

    Every so often I wonder where our dragon went, and what it’s doing with all those gifts. And every time, the same vision appears. It brings a bounty of snow to some far-off thirsty throng, and when it shakes its hide clean, it dowses the fires of their suffering. I see the crowds cheering. Oh, to hear them too!

    Today I close my eyes and imagine what might have been. What gift is this? As I dream, it becomes. The air above the clouds tastes like living as the dragon carries me and…”Pouste? Where did you go? I wanted us to hear the cheers together.”

    A weight seizes my chest and I scratch at my heart in panic. “I’ve lost Pouste!” I thrust my left fist in the creature’s cargo but it’s my right hand that gets wet. My heart pounds so hard it’s about to burst. I jump.

    Why did it bother me so much not knowing what a spindle was? Is all this the price of perfection? What an odd thought to have while falling with the snow toward death.

    Only I don’t die.

    I want to sit up in bed, but someone’s curled up on my stomach, licking and nuzzling my right hand. “Mopsey, my little Princie! How long have you been awake? In my dream your name was Pouste! Oh, never mind. No time to go back to sleep. Whatever gifts we’ve got left, it’s time to give them wings.”

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  19. Misread rules, so posting this just for fun.
    =
    I braid her hair, runway fashion fashionable white. "It's natural," Snegurochka says.
    I believe this, but not where she comes from.
    Her home is the lambing season, brilliant pink quince blossoms rash on bare branches, and Imbolc, our ancestors burning bonfires to encourage the rising light.
    "It's a short time," she says. "A small place."
    Smaller than here, smaller than Gedding, she insists. Also, she vows her happiness, that Gedding and her houseparents and the main street and the girls' school and a friend like me are all she's ever wanted.
    I dream of London and Paris and New York and Rome. Los Angeles and Toyko. Snegurochka could have gone anywhere, instead of here.
    She's happy here, she says. But her heart is made of ice.
    She fidgets; her soft silver hair slips from my hands, and I have to restart her braid. "Sit still, or I won't get this done," I say. Already we are like sisters.
    She shifts, but I hold her tight. It's her first dance, but Gedding boys are hicks, with pimples on their chins and wisps on their lips.
    "Except Mizgir," she says.
    "Yes," I agree, and smile at the idea of Mizgir. "I love him."
    "Oh, Kupava." Snegurochka sighs. "I wish I understood what that means." Her voice's wistful, craving. Like any girl our age, on either side of sixteen.
    "You will," I say. I promise her, then smooth down a few stray hairs.
    Then it's time to do mine. I sit down on the floor at her feet. "Switch places with me," I say, and close my eyes.
    ++
    Gelled fluorescent lights enchant the gymnasium blue and green. Snegurochka's silver hair illuminates her like a lantern. She leads into the room, confident and greedy, but I find Mizgir drinking, smoking, watching the picnic table. The girls circle around Lel, playing guitar, singing.
    Lel has floppy yellow hair and his eyes are brown and blue like a husky dog. The girls all love him, but I don't see it. Riva says I'm cold. Radost says I'm like a maiden made of snow.
    It isn't true. I burn inside when I take Mizgir's hand. I could stay there forever, I should stay there forever. Instead, I say, "Snegurochka's inside. I should get her."
    Mizgir squeezes my hand for me to wait. I watch my puffs of breath rise into clouds.
    When Lel finishes his song, Mizgir applauds as loudly as the girls; he knows other boys don't like Lel. Then everyone disperses into little groups, so I go. I go to find Snegurochka.
    ++
    Snegurochka dances with all the children. "Dance with me, Kupava." Her voice is clear above the blaring music.
    Mine is swallowed up. I mouth my words and act them out. "Come outside."
    She nods and takes my arm.
    "You want your jacket?" I ask. Snegurochka's arms are bare in my borrowed dress.
    "No," she says. "I like the cold."
    ++
    Snegurochka says, "I like the cold." She should say, "I am the cold."
    She comes outside, sits at Lel's table. Her eyes are moons. She finds a daffodil and presents it to him, shy, with both hands. It's the yellow of his hair, and he tucks it in a buttonhole.
    He doesn't choose her. She doesn't know this. She's from a small time, smaller than Gedding. But, Lel never chooses; that's why the other boys hate him.
    The flower falls during his next song, already forgotten. She rescues it from being trampled, sadly tucks it in her hair, the hair that I braided. When she does, Mizgir opens his mouth. He acts as if she invented the thought.
    ++
    I'd smoothed down her rime white hair. Her voice was wistful, craving, and I promised her. I promised, then I sat at her feet. "Switch places with me," I said, and closed my eyes.
    Now, I'm freezing, slowing down, a maiden made of snow. And she's burning, her ice heart melting. By morning, she's a puff, a breath, a little risen cloud.
    Already we are like sisters.

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  20. Frozen in Time

    By: Carol J. Douglas

    ‘Frozen in time. Literally.’ This thought was swirling through the Prince’s head as he contemplated the cold gray castle in the midst before him. It sparkled as the sun glinted on the icy façade causing long icicles to form and hang from the turrets. He had managed a trek though the glistening forest, his horse’s hooves crunching on the frozen ground beneath him as he managed to dodge the stiff branches heavy with ice. The cold howling wind seemed to whisper in his ear, “Keep going,” urging him through the cold.

    The castle was styled in the architecture of a century before but seemed oddly well preserved. As the prince approached, he noticed a knight standing guard at the door, but curiously no challenge was issued. And as the prince moved closer, he noticed that the knight was slouched and his eyes were closed. But most astonishing of all a subtle snoring sound was coming from the knight’s slightly opened mouth

    ‘What good is a guard who sleeps on the job?’ thought the prince.

    So he passed the knight and pushed gently on the heavy wooden door. To his surprise the door creaked, and then opened easily!

    The chill in the castle caused the prince to shiver. He could see the cloud of his breath as he blew into his hands to warm them. Looking around he saw people and animals in various stages of slumber. The people appeared to be servants dressed in ancient clothes and there were animals of breeds that he couldn’t even identify.

    “What a strange place,’ he thought and almost turned and walked out. But something held him back much like the urging of the wind in the woods leading him forward.

    “The staircase,” it seemed to whisper, “Go up the staircase.”

    Obediently he climbed the winding spiral of stairs. The door at the top was ornate with jewels encrusted in the handle. “Go in,” said the tiny voice, and he wondered if he was going mad and imagining the orders he seemed to hear. Pausing, the prince wondered if it was all a trap and someone or something was in this room ready to kill him. Touching his sword sheathed at his side, bolstered his confidence and curiosity won. The door slowly opened under his gentle urging.

    The room was even colder than the rest of the castle. The large bed he saw in the middle of the room surely was covered in frost, he thought. The hearth had long since burned out and was filled with gray ash.

    Moving in closer, he glanced at a figure lying on the bed and the breath was nearly knocked from his body as though he had been physically assaulted. She lay there in deep slumber, soft lips slightly parted and long black lashes fanning her petal pink cheeks. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Golden hair cascaded beside her face like waves of sunlight. And even though her gown was not in the style of the women in his court, it suited her and accentuated her delicate curves. He drank in the sight and felt a stirring deep within.

    With trembling fingertips he gently touched her soft cheek. She was warm despite the chill of the castle.

    “Kiss her,” whispered the mysterious voice in his head. And without thought or contemplation he leaned down wanting nothing more than to kiss this fair maiden. He touched her silky hair and closed his eyes. As his lips softly brushed hers, a peace came over him. And the voice was silent now.

    Her eyes fluttered open and he looked into two blue crystal pools. She sighed and he heard faint rustling sounds throughout the castle. It was like everyone was stirring into different positions as they stretched and yawned.

    “I knew you would find me,” she said smiling at him. And he knew with all his heart that he was destined for this moment, time unfrozen and the warmth of love filling his heart.

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  22. La Neuvième

    Seven had been invited. One took umbrage to the insult of having been overlooked.

    Six had offered fairy blessings. One cast the shadow of her curse over an innocent young mortal. One had ameliorated that curse to the best of her limited ability.

    When the time came, that one cursed the castle's occupants so the child would not be alone. Blessings were dear, but curses always came cheaply. She made a forest of brambles grow for a hundred years around that sleeping castle so that only one would disturb their slumber.

    For a hundred summers, the brambles grew. For a hundred autumns they sheltered foxes and voles and mink and rabbits.

    The thorns were dense. Only the bravest hunters dared venture there in search of game. It was the hunt that first brought the one. He spied the castle, learned the stories, woke the princess, broke two curses.

    Two, had been overlooked, but one had taken no offense. The Ninth, for that is what they called her if they thought of her at all, did not think it wise to meddle in the affairs of mortals and had neither blessing nor curse for the little princess. Such petty games meant little to her.

    All the creatures of the forest were her care for a century of springs--until one winter's morning, when the brambles were barest and the white sun shone pale in the nacreous sky, the prince had broken both curses. In an instant the forest of thorns disappeared forever. Warrenless, the rabbits shivered. The foxes and wolves stalked the mink and voles. Those that w froze. Those that did not freeze starved. Those that survived had no choice but to seek another forest far away.

    The ninth did not blame the prince, nor did she blame the slumbering princess nor the king nor queen. No, she did not blame the mortals. Fools though they were, they were short-lived and short-sighted, barely superior in wisdom to the creatures of the forest. But her own kind, so petty and unthinkingly cruel… Curses were cheap.

    One she turned into a vixen. The second a vole. The third was a mink and the fourth a rabbit. The fifth became a hind. The fifth a cricket. The sixth she made a badger and the seventh a wolf. She saved the worst curse for the last one and made her a vulture, who would know hunger until her sisters were dead. Then she left them there and followed what was left of her creatures to their new forest home.

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  23. It sprang up overnight, years before my grandmother was born. The Briarwood they called it, reflexively. All thorn and bramble and rattling limbs threatening like spears. They say that the night was full of wings and feet as the wildlife of the slopes fled in fright, and that the grasses lay flat and trampled for a season afterwards.

    It's a beautiful place, the wood. Sometimes in motion, green and fast. Treacherous where new growth coils; sap running, leaves snapping-to, spring-loaded thorns. Sometimes still as a prison, woody stems petrified with amber, bristling with old teeth, sharp as spindles. But everywhere, EVERYWHERE, are the blackberries. Hanging in clusters, studding the canopy like crown jewels. Large as fists and bursting. Where the Briar moves, they get crushed by the hundreds and they bleed down the vines and spatter the floor.

    Our town lies hard by, east, nestled in a crook between the king's old wood and his daughter's new, so snug that we get only midday sun, and whatever light wanders between branches at sunrise (green and gold), and at dusk (the color of bruised fruit). There's a stream that exits the Briar, near the pasture. I hear that it's lively and glittering on its way in, but it comes to us languid, slow and sweet and tinted pink as if it's passed through a battle.

    People say it's impenetrable, the wood, but that's not wholly true. Birds may disdain a prickly perch, but soldiers dare, and adventurers, and romantics, and they are allowed entry, though not passage. There's a friary that sometimes sends monks looking to dream. I think the wood is gentle with them.

    And the children dare, though not deeply. The prize is berries and the longest Stretch of the Thread. Some are boastful, claiming they don't need it, but everyone gets Threaded. They bolt into the Briar, loading sacks, straining legs, breathing cautiously until the sleep takes them. The onlookers stand at the skirts, thread in hand, and when the rope stops its run, they mark the length, and reel in the slumbering Theseus, hands purpled and sweet, clothes bramble-tattered. (Our textile industry does a brisk business, now. Funny, that bit of irony.) Then they slap his cheeks, wake him rudely, and laugh.

    We're a mild bunch--a "sleepy little town" I once heard a person snicker. They say someone will eventually tame the wood, but if it's true, it won't be from our drowsy ranks. We prefer fireside and story. We drink our rich black wine. We sleep mightily, subject to the soporific breezes that come off the wood. If the wind's in the west, we may be sent to bed for days. On one particularly Zephyrous Yule we all turned in and woke in spring, too shaken to ask how many winters had passed.

    But we hold our breath, too. Waiting for the release. Cycling through generations. Mending our clothes on newly made wheels, naming our girlchildren Rose and sleeping in solidarity with those on the hill.

    I have a notion, though, that the magic of the wood will be its unmaking. That one violet evening, a monkish figure will make his way back out from under the brush, sap in his hair, vision in his eyes. And he will seek and he will find and he will return with what the Briar has given him.

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  24. ONE JOB
    By: Alexandra Simone
    It was a cold night sixteen years ago when the king summoned me to his chambers. He was pacing in front of his terrace like a madman when I entered.
    "Pierre," he said. His voice trembled as he moved to embrace me. His hands felt like the touch of a thousand icicles. "I have a job for you, one of utmost importance. You are the only man I trust to do it properly."
    "Of course, Your Majesty. Anything you need."
    "You must travel the kingdom. Search every room in every house and cottage. Promise me that you won't return until you have destroyed every spindle in the kingdom."
    I stared at him for a moment, marveling at the desperation in his voice. I let my gaze drift past him, through the soft candlelight, to the open terrace. Flurries of snow drifted towards the ground with each gust of wind.
    "Your Majesty," I responded, bowing my head. "I must ask, can this task wait until the winter is over? Travel will be dangerous and difficult in the deep snow. It will triple the number of days needed to complete the mission."
    "No," he said. His body trembled visibly. "Pierre, you are my finest soldier, my oldest friend, and my most trusted confidant. For the sake of my daughter, you must leave at dawn."
    His decision was made. He didn't seem to care that I, too, was father to an infant daughter. I, too, wanted to watch my daughter grow each day. I, too, had a family that I cherished. My heart ached at the thought of leaving them behind.
    "Of course, Your Majesty."
    #
    My mission took just over two years to complete. The winter felt as if it lasted just as long. Each night, I stood before a bonfire of spindles and warmed my hands above the dancing flames. Each night, I prayed that God would grant me safe journey so that I may see the face of my daughter again soon. Each night, I asked God to freeze time, just as He had frozen our kingdom, so that I could still have a chance to watch my daughter grow. By the end, I felt less like a father, and more like a servant to the king's selfishness.

    #
    My return was euphoric. My daughter waited for me at the gates of the castle. She had learned to walk and talk in my absence. The sound of her speaking my name brought me more joy than even the finest music.
    For fifteen years, the king thanked me each day for my sacrifice. He adorned me with wealth and riches. He gave me land and titles. He appointed me Grand Duke. That was, until the night his daughter wandered the castle and discovered the last remaining spinning wheel in the kingdom. It was the spinning wheel I had overlooked, as the joy of holding my own daughter in my arms was far more important to me than searching the castle itself.
    My trial was quick. I had no defense. An oversight? An accident? An assumption that the king had searched his own castle in my absence? It didn't matter. The king sentenced me to an eternal sleep. I suppose God has answered my prayer, for it will be as if time has frozen me. Perhaps one day, when my daughter is old and grey, I will wake to see her face one last time. Perhaps this punishment is well deserved, for I had only one job to do, and I failed.

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