Sleeping Beauty (Part 1)

Last year for Valentine’s Day I wrote stories from my characters to their significant others and this year I decided to write one again.  Coming on the heels of Christmas, this essentially means that I spent 3.5 straight months writing and drawing gift art, but the outcomes forth both holidays was worth it.  VDay 2019’s story is a retelling of a classic fairytale with my characters and Nezumi’s playing all the roles.  Due to length, I’ve split the post into two parts.

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Angel Hunt and Streifen present:

Sleeping Beauty

[a retelling]

ooO~~~*OO*~~~Ooo

[Professor Sowerby sits by a large stone fireplace in the Castlekeep, a thick, leatherbound book with gilded edges open on his lap.  Snow flies in the night outside the cased window, and frost rims the glass panes in swooping swirls of white. Sprawled on a bed before the wizened dragon professor are Mitten, Ikiri, Captain Sassy Pants, and Lock.  Wrapped in an array of blankets, the children wait intently for the Professor, but the elder dragon doesn’t move.]

Ikiri: Professor?

Mitten: Hello?  Story?

Sassy:  [flings the blankets aside and scrambles up to her knees, peering at the Professor] He’s… asleep!

Ikiri:  Professor! Sir! [He reaches out toward the dragon.]

Professor Sowerby:  [startles awake]  Yes, yes, where were we?  Right: And they all lived happily ever after.

Mitten:  But you didn’t even start the story!

Professor Sowerby:  Well of course not, child.  I was just checking to make sure you were paying attention.  [Mitten frowns, but gathers up his plush star toy and hugs it to his chest.]  Yes, now… This story is a time-honored tale of the realms.  A story told and retold through the ages, but diminished nonetheless.  

Sassy: Is there treasure?

Mitten:  Sword fights?  Flying bears? Dragons?  No, better yet, stars? Are there oceans of stars?  

Sassy: Aren’t you a Dragon?  Why would you want to hear stories about them?

Mitten: Because Dragons are awesome! [Sticks out his tongue, and Sassy sticks her out right back at him.]

Ikiri:  Are there sorcerers?  Gods? Fey creatures?

Professor Sowerby:  Let us hear the story and we shall see what happens.  [He resettles the book on his lap and prepares to begin the story.]

Lock: Emilies?

Professor Sowerby: [turns his ancient gaze on the youngest child]  No.  There are absolutely no Emilies allowed in any stories.

Sassy, Mitten, and Ikiri:  Oooooohhhhhh…

Professor Sowerby:  But this story does have many things, so let us begin…

ooO~~~*OO*~~~Ooo

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there was a kingdom.  Centered around a lake and an ancient forest, the kingdom was known as a peaceful and beautiful place filled with kind people.  For many long years, two Kings ruled the kingdom. King Lan was loved by those he ruled, bright and warm and always smiling. King Sashi was quieter and darker, but was known as a just king, and the fact that Lan loved him was enough for everyone else.  For many years, the two kings ruled their land together, but after a time they wished for a child. They waited and waited, pleading with the deities and magical forces to bless them with an heir for their kingdom. They prayed to the FairyGodSelestarri, to the known gods – Light, Death, Hel, Night, Hesue, and Other, and even a slew of demigods, and finally one of them – no one knows who exactly – granted their wish and a son was born.

(Ikiri: Wait, wait.  Two kings and they had a son?  I don’t think that’s how it works… right?

Professor Sowerby:  It’s not important.

Ikiri: [frowns] It seems pretty important, I mean–

Professor Sowerby: No, it’s not.  I promise you, child.

Ikiri: I guess…)

King Sashi and King Lan named their son Jun.  Born with white hair and bright pink eyes, the child was proclaimed as the fairest ever born by everyone who met him.  He was as generous as his father, Lan, and somewhat quiet like his father, Sashi, and also shy in a way that made those around him want to hug him at all times and extol his cuteness from the nearest available rooftop.  Which they did, much to Jun’s bafflement and unhappiness.

Upon the arrival of Jun’s fifth birthday, the two kings announced a celebration for the entire kingdom to officially introduce their heir and to honor whomever it was who had finally sent him into their lives.  Everyone in the land was invited, commoners, nobles, and magical folk alike. There was feasting and dancing, friendly tournaments and competitions, and general merriment for an entire week. Visitors came from far and wide to wish Jun the happiest of birthdays, some even traveling from the worlds beyond their own.  

On the final day of the festivities, the guests each came to the castle’s grand hall to present their gifts to Jun.  There were fine ponies, sweet puppies, playful kittens, and colorful birds, whimsical toys that spun and danced and whirled, fancy cakes, sugar treats, and delicate chocolates, and beautiful garments made of shimmering silks, rich velvets, and highly prized pink leopard.  Jun received each gift with grace, thanking his guests with the words his fathers had taught him. As the afternoon passed, the line of guests dwindled to only a very few, and then finally to four.

Into the late afternoon sun that spilled from the tall windows to illuminate the hall strode a woman, her hair as dark as pitch as it spilled down her shoulders.  Deep red eyes, the depths burning with anger, fixed on the royals sitting upon the raised dais, and a hard frown twisted her painted lips. Gasps resounded throughout the room as she flung back her cloak to reveal her petite, yet spectacularly well-endowed frame, and she stabbed one long, red lacquered nail at the kings.  “Fools,” the woman hissed, “Think you could throw such a grand party and fail to invite me?”

The two kings slowly rose from their thrones, magic crackling through the air.  The assembled guests stood frozen in place, torn between bearing witness to the confrontation and running from the amount of powerful energy swirling around the room. “We invited none of your dark kind, Saiyuri,” King Sashi told her.  “Your evil has no place here.”

The faerie snorted at the statement, but her eyes continued to burn.  “Mercerdryn, Ancelin, Shura, and the other dark faerie were willing to overlook your slight, but I will not be cast aside so lightly.”  She turned away from the kings with a dismissive flip of her hair, her gaze settling on the prince. “As payment for your insult, I shall take Jun and raise him amongst my brethren.”

Cracks spider webbed across the floor, originating at King Sashi’s feet, but it’s King Lan who spoke, his soft voice ironclad in its resolve.  “You shall do no such thing… Jun is our child and the child of this kingdom…”

A wicked gleam flashed in Saiyuri’s eyes and she set one hand on her hip as a smirk settled on painted lips.  “You truly believe you could stop me if I took him?”

King Lan nodded, the late afternoon sunlight glinting off his crown.  “I believe we and every citizen of our kingdom would prevent you, yes…”

“Fine,” the dark faerie spat, the smirk never leaving her lips.  “I came to honor the child just as any other guest, and honor him I will.”  Swiveling her gaze to the prince, she stared into his deep pink eyes, her voice echoing throughout the large room.  “You shall prick your finger on a spindle and die!”

(Mitten:  Wait, what, a spindle?  Is that like a sword or a knife or something?

Ikiri:  Don’t you know how clothes are made? A spinning wheel winds the fibers that makes thread or yarn.  A spindle is part of the spinning wheel.

Mitten:  I just thought they were magicked up or something.  Isn’t that what the staff here does?

Sassy:  Don’t you know anything?

Mitten:  Not about clothes!  Why should I? [points at Ikiri]  How do you know anything?

Ikiri:  I read, Mitten.  Also, there’s Project Runway.

Professor Sowerby:  Children, if I may continue?)

Horrified cries rose around the room and several guests fainted, shocked into senselessness by the venom of the curse leveled against the small prince.  A few of the guards made to draw their swords, armor clanking and adding to the general noise. However, all other sound was drown out a moment later when Saiyuri began to laugh, the menacing sound sweeping upward in volume, filling the air right up to the arched ceilings high above.  A cloud of blue-black smoke spiralled around the dark faerie’s body, faster and faster, the whirlwind tugging at hair, clothing, and festive decor. With a thunderclap that shook the ground, Saiyuri disappeared and the smoke slowly began to dissipate.

A stunned silence sits heavily over the room, thick as the haze that hangs in the air.  Confused and scared, Jun stepped in close to Lan, pressing his face into his thick robes and allowing his father to comfort him.  Electricity snapping around him, Sashi took up a position in front of them both, as if daring another threat to arise and imperil his family.

While no such threat appears, there is movement in the crowd, the guests slowly parting way as three figures approached the thrones.  The one at the front is slight, her long black hair hanging in a perfectly straight sheet over her frilled and ruffled dress. The next is taller, one eye a milky white and the other dark, his body draped in a dress so spectacular it could only have come from the kingdom’s most skilled tailors.  The third is taller still and clad all in white, his silver hair falling just past his shoulders. Throughout the realm they were known as the good faeries, beings who had long since helped mankind in their time of need. They were well respected and revered for their kindness and willingness to use their magic to aid instead of to harm.  Unlike the dark faeries, they had been invited and wholeheartedly welcomed to the celebration.

Megumi, the faerie in the front, set her ocean blue eyes on the royal family, the limitless depths shifting through and then beyond them before she spoke.  “I believe my sister has been… overdramatic.” Her voice was quiet and a bit distant, although none in the large room had difficulty hearing her. “However, once spoken a curse cannot be unmade.”

Grumbles and whispers began to circulate around the room, disbelief and worry kindling in a heartbeat as citizens truly started to fear for their prince.  The impeccably dressed faerie, Fuan, stepped forward to stand beside Megumi, a kind smile on his lips. “That does not mean, dear,” his one good eye slipping to the small prince, “that we lack the ability to alter it.”  

The citizenry goes silent once again, hanging on every word as the third of the good faeries joined the other two, the light of the afternoon sun turning his hair into a silver halo.  “When the spindle pricks Prince Jun’s finger,” Taz said, “the result won’t be instant death. Instead he’ll fall into a deep, magical sleep–”

“–Sleep,” Fuan interrupted, “that can only be broken by true love’s kiss.”

A heavy frown shadowed Taz’s face, but Megumi nodded, and a glowing blue aura surrounded her.  A moment later, Fuan began to glow a deep emerald green, and with a sigh, Taz followed suit with his own white aura.  The three colors shot into the air, twisting around one another until they reached the ceiling and exploded in a shower of falling sparks as the silent guests watched from far below.

Thus the alteration of the curse was sealed…

ooO~~~*OO*~~~Ooo

Bright sunlight wove through the thick canopy of trees to pepper the small cottage in shafts of pure, golden light.  To most, the cozy structure appeared at first glance to be the home of a woodcutter, or perhaps an herbalist or a hunter.  What many would not guess upon looks alone or its location in a dense, secluded forest, is that the humble house holds within it one of the greatest treasures of the kingdom.  

A treasure who lies on the pink quilt of a soft, airy bed and bathes in one of those warm beams of light.  Legs hooked together at the ankle swing to the beat of a song only he could hear, Prince Jun’s attention was settled on the glossy pages of the book spread out just in front of him, dawn-tinted eyes studying the images and accompanying text.  So fixated was he on the subject, that the arrival of a tall figure at the side of the bed went completely unnoticed.

“Still reading that rag?”  

Startled, the prince all but jumped to the ceiling, one hand flying up to his heart as he glared at the faerie through dyed pink bangs.  “I’m allowed to read whatever I want,” he retorted and shifted to a sitting position. “Besides, the knowledge will be helpful once I return to my fathers’ castle.”

Ever since he was a small child and a dark faerie cast a curse on him at his birthday party–an event Jun only vaguely remembered, but had been told the story many times–he has lived here in the forest under the protection of the good faeries, Megumi, Fuan, and Taz.  They’re an odd trio, although perhaps all faeries are odd, however they kept him safe and cared for in the little cottage, away from the curse and Saiyuri, the dark one who cast it. They taught him about the woodland and its creatures, how to use a sword and magic, and, perhaps strangest of all, how to identify seasonal trends in fashion.  His fathers, the kings of this land, visit when their responsibilities allow, and teach him of statecraft and the neighboring kingdoms. Now seventeen, Jun has been happy here, tucked away in the woods with his small but strange family. Eventually he’ll return to his true home, yet know one seems to have an idea of when it might be safe to do so because of the curse.

“Yeah,” Taz said, voice heavy with sarcasm.  “I’m so sure that Heartthrob Princes of the Known Kingdoms is on every heir’s list of required reading.”

Reaching behind him, Jun seized the nearest pillow and launched it at the faerie.  Just before it struck the tall, white clad man, it disintegrated into a hundred colorful flower petals that scattered over the woven rug.  “Shut up. It doesn’t matter what I read.” Of the three faeries who act as his guardians, Taz is the one who seems closest to the prince’s own age, although he was likely several dozen millennia old.  Still, Taz is the one who played with him the most as a child and the one who seemed to love to tease whenever possible.

“Look, as much fun as it is to bust you about that crap, Megumi says she wants to speak with you.”  With a shrug, Jun followed Taz downstairs to find the one who summoned him seated in a tall, velvet covered wingback chair, a delicate tea cup held in one small hand.  At her side sat Fuan, who also held a cup of tea and was dressed in a fabulous ruby colored gown of expensive silk. The prince settled on the edge of the third chair, Taz leaning against the back of it.

“A message has arrived from your father, King Sashi.” Megumi momentarily turned her vacant gaze to a large hawk perched on a nearby windowsill, a small leather tube attached to one of its feet.  “It seems as though King Lan has fallen ill.”

Stunned, Jun blinked, thoughts swirling through his head.  His father is the warmest, kindest person he knew, a man imbued with a steady patience not found in most others.  He couldn’t possibly be ill, he just couldn’t. “Is he…” the words trailed off for a moment before the prince could gather them together again.  “Will he recover?”

“King Sashi doesn’t say, dear,” Fuan replied.  “The message says only that all the best healers in this kingdom and all others are treating him.”

Unsteady fingers pushed deep pink bangs away from his face, and Jun gave a shaky nod before he rose to his feet.  “I must see him. Now. If something happens… if he… I won’t forgive myself.”

Shifting to his full height, Taz spoke up.  “Yeah, we thought so. Fuan and I will go with–”

“No,” Jun interrupted, flicking his gaze back to the silver-haired faerie.  “I want to go alone. None of you need to come.”

Protests immediately issued forth from Fuan and Taz, concerns about the safety of the forest, the dark faerie, and the social faux pas of traveling unaccompanied were all shot down by the prince.  It was Megumi, her quiet voice cutting through the others, who made the final decision. “Prince Jun is trustworthy and careful. He has earned the right to travel alone to the castle of his fathers.”

The argument over, Fuan set his porcelain cup gently on the tea tray and rose gracefully to his feet.  “Let us at least dress you in a look that is befitting of a returning heir.” Sweeping from the room to the stairs with Jun and Taz in his wake, the glamourous faerie entered the prince’s room and threw open the doors of his wardrobe.  Rifling through the contents, he discarded the numerous pants, tunics, cloaks, boots and other garments one after another. Finally, the dark-haired faerie sighed. “Dear, I do wish you’d try to look a little prettier.”

Surrounded by a heap of clothing, Jun frowned.  “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing now?” He pointed at his white and pink tunic and black pants.  Ever since he was little, Fuan had always tried to pretty him up, going on and on about ruffly dresses, flowing skirts, and the coordinating accessories.  “I’ve told you before that I’m a boy.”

The faerie reached back into the far recess of the wardrobe and pulled out a beaded tunic and coordinating plaid skirt.  “Don’t be silly, you’re a princess. Pretty should come as naturally to you as swimming does to a fish.”

This time it’s Jun’s turn to sigh.  “Boys can’t be princesses.”

A graceful hand dismissed his argument with a wave.  “What’s the real difference, anyway?”

The prince opened his mouth to reply, when Taz cut in with a smirk.  “Two letters.” At a pleading look from Jun, the white clad faerie intervened.  “What if he just wears the skirt part?”

“What?  Taz! No–” Jun tries, but is overridden by Fuan’s acceptance.  

“Done!”

ooO~~~*OO*~~~Ooo

The beautiful sunshine that had shone on the cottage continues in the forest, the patchy light illuminating the grasses, shrubs, and occasional small animal below the canopy.  For safety purposes was no direct path to the castle or even to the town that surrounds it, but the instructions on which landmarks to look for that the faeries had given have proven accurate.  For the most part, the prince was simply enjoying the walk in spite of the reasons he’s returning to the castle. His concerns about the health of his father were overshadowed only by the stupid skirt he’d been forced to wear.  It’s way shorter than any skirt should be and one swift breeze would give the nearest bird or squirrel quite the show.

Turning east at an oak tree that had obviously been struck by lightning, Jun stopped beside a creek for a quick drink.  Running wet fingers through his hair as he stood to his full height, he stifled a cry at the sudden appearance of deep blue eyes looking at him from the opposite bank.

“Oh gods, I’m sorry… I didn’t…” he stammered, the sentences falling apart as a smile spread across the stranger’s face.  “I didn’t think anyone else was here.”

Still smiling, the handsome stranger tied his horse to a tree and stepped onto the nearest rock, his long legs quickly carrying him over the water so that they stood on the same side of the creek.  “Well, I didn’t exactly announce myself,” he said, “so I’m at least partly to blame.” He sketched a sweeping, elegant bow that only a noble could master. “I’m heading back to Selestarria, my homeland, after visiting with the kings about trade agreements.  My name is Zephyr.”

Jun blinked, his mind instantly placing the blonde.  “Page 14?”

This time it’s Zephyr’s turn to be confused, although the smile never left his lips.  “I’m sorry, what?”

Scarlet immediately tinted pale cheeks as the prince tried to make some kind of excuse. “Uh, yeah that’s not… I shouldn’t have…” He desperately tried to find something to hold on to, no matter how lame it sounded.  “I mean… page 14 of the treaties of good, um, tradesmanship.”

(Mitten: Boring!  Can we skip this part?  No one cares about trade, and this is supposed to be a story, not a lesson. When will there be fighting?

Ikiri:  Not everything is about fighting.  

Mitten: Well it should be.  

Sassy: Less talking you two, more story. )

“Hmm, I must not have read those treaties.”  The tall prince shrugged. “Do you live in this forest?”

Glancing up from where his gaze had been focused on the ground just off to their side, Jun found midnight blue eyes settled on him.  His heart immediately did a backflip even as he discovered his tongue unable to form actual words. Zephyr is even more hot than his photos in the Heartthrob Princes book, easily the hottest guy he’d ever stood next to, and it made it very hard to speak.  “Um, well… sort of? I mean, I live here in the forest with the light faeries, but my actual home is the castle…  I’m Jun…”

The other teenager nodded, white-gold bangs falling across his eyes.  “Prince Jun?” With an ingrained motion, he flicked them from line of sight.  “I thought maybe I’d see you at the castle, but never ran into you there. But I guess it makes sense you don’t live there, what with the curse.”

Jun frowns at the mention of the curse that’s plagued his entire life.  “You know about that?”

“All the royal families know since most of them were at the celebration that day.  My parents were there and so was I.” He flashed a grin that threatened to melt the shorter teen completely.  “I was just a little kid too, back then. I don’t remember much except the tables of food and formal clothes I couldn’t get dirty, but I was there.”

Settling beneath a nearby tree, the two continued to talk, an easiness falling over them that was lit by an undercurrent of mutual attraction, although neither prince named it as such at the time.  Zephyr shared one of the meals he’d been carrying for his trip home and an hour passed as quickly as if it had been only a single minute. Just as Zephyr was sharing a story about some snobby princesses he’d been forced to host at his home last year, a small bluebird landed on his shoulder.  The dainty bird hopped up beside his ear and whispered its message before flying off again.

“Ugh, sorry, it’s a message from my best friend, asking me to return home as soon as possible.”  The blonde looked as sorry as Jun felt, but he slowly climbed to his feet, dusting off his riding tunic.  “It was good to meet you, Jun. I’ll find you again sometime, if that’s okay with you?” When he’s given a nod, a smile lit Zephyr’s face, and he reached to take the other prince’s hand, sparks swirling beneath Jun’s skin at the touch.  “Maybe we’ll have more time to talk or just hang out or something.”

When Jun agreed, Zephyr took his leave, crossing back over the creek to his horse.  Effortlessly stepping up into the saddle, he waved one last time and then disappeared into the trees, leaving Jun to continue toward the castle.  

To be continued in part 2…

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[Jun, Lan, Saiyuri, Megumi, Taz, Fuan, Shura, and Sassy belong to Nezumi.  All other characters belong to me.]

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