The tale continues…
It’s late in the day when Jun finished sitting at his father’s bedside and was shooed out of the room by his other father. Disinterested in dinner, he instead wandered the castle, surprised at how much he recalled from his early childhood. In all, not much has changed aside from a new tapestry or suit of armor or display of valuable artwork or piece of furniture. The castle servants and guards waved and bowed whenever he ran across them, barely able to suppress their smiles at seeing their prince in the hallways once more.
Climbing a tower he remembered quite well because it housed one of his playrooms at the top, Jun passes through layers of dirt, dust, and cobwebs not found anywhere else in the castle. One of the maids had mentioned before he’d walked through the door downstairs that it was no longer used, so they didn’t bother cleaning it more than once a year or so. She offered to round up a few other servants and some cleaning supplies to make it presentable, but he’d waved her off, promising it would be fine and he didn’t mind getting a little dirty.
The door to the topmost room creaked open on hinges in need of grease, the last rays of sunlight illuminating chairs and furniture, some sized for adults and some sized for children, as well as a scattering of old toys, some of which he’d outgrown before leaving the castle. The room held many happy memories of his father Lan reading him stories beside the large fireplace, his father Sashi sitting on the floor and setting up battle after battle with little wooden knights, and his nannies and guards indulging in games of hide and seek or whatever other game his young mind dreamed up.
Slowly turning in a circle as he took it all in and relieved the associated memories, there is one item in the room that freezes him to the spot. Sitting close to a window, cobwebs trailing down to the floor, is a spinning wheel. Jun recalled one of the servants using it as she supervised his playing and showing him how the fibres fed through each piece of the simple mechanisms. This of course was well before the celebration and the visit by Saiyuri. With this tower closed off, he supposed his fathers had no need to be rid of it as they did with the others within the castle walls.
Just as he was about to turn around and leave, a white raven smashed through one of the windows, glass scattering in its wake. The large bird shrieked and dove at the prince, undeterred as he swiped at it. Again and again it attacked with razor sharp talons, cutting bloody furrows in the prince’s arms and even cutting a gash into his scalp that caused blood to cascade into his eyes. Partly blinded, Jun continued to fight, stumbling around the room as he alternated between fending off the attacks and striking at it with his fists. Magic crackled through the air as he let a lightning bolt loose, but it missed the bird and harmlessly smashed into a wall. Deciding to forgo the magic without a clear shot, he took one last swipe at the bird as it flew past, its large body smashing into him and throwing him off balance. As he staggered to the left, his vision clouded by blood, he had only a moment to realize what he was falling toward, the spinning wheel rapidly looming up even as he desperately twisted away from it. Nimble and graceful, the prince almost managed to escape, however the spindle grazed his arm as he fell, drawing a line of scarlet blood.
It was the last thing Jun saw before the world turned completely dark…
The raven looped once around the tower room, its silver eyes watching the prince fall before it slipped back through the shattered window and into the darkening skies. The castle and the town around it fall rapidly away as the bird flies northwest, toward the mountains that make up one of the borders of the kingdom. Full night has fallen by the time it sails into a deep valley nestled between two towering mountains, following the silver ribbon of the river to a small castle situated above a waterfall.
Spiralling lower and lower, the raven lithely twisted its body to the side, slipping through a narrow window and into a large room. Soaring past the carved, marble columns, it headed toward a fireplace so massive it could easily hold a wagon. Before it on a rug made entirely of white scales, was a chair so large it could only be named a throne. The raven settled on the onyx perch beside the chair, flapping its wings to shake out the dust before turning to the one seated on the luxurious cushions.
Clear red eyes focused on the mirror in her lap, Saiyuri didn’t immediately look up, even when her servant spoke. “Mistress,” the raven’s voice was devoid of any expected bird-like tones, unsurprising given that it was in fact the prince Fanuel, ensorcelled by the dark faerie’s magic many years before . “I have been watching the prince, Jun, as you commanded. Today he returned to the castle and I confronted him in one of the towers.”
Saiyuri finally gave her servant her full attention, blood red gaze lifting. “And?”
If the raven could have smiled, it would have done so, for it was a rather wicked ensorcelled prince. “Your curse is complete, Mistress. The spinning wheel has sent Jun into a deep, eternal sleep.”
Very rarely did the dark faerie smile, for when she did, the very land cowered in fear. At this news from her servant she not only smiled, but she laughed, and the very heavens shook…
Three beams of pure light shaded blue, green, and white announced the arrival of the good faeries at the castle of Kings Sashi and Lan. Activity filled every corner of the castle and the town beyond, servants carried messages and conducted their duties, guards carefully patrolled, healers and apothecaries debated treatments and medicines, scribes took missives from the kings, advisors and other nobles dispatched heralds, and citizens gathered to wait for any news. Unfortunately the arrival of the faeries was not the blessing that many had hoped, for Megumi, Fuan, and Taz had already done all they could to circumvent the curse by changing the result from instant death to enchanted sleep. Only true love – or possibly even lust, the exact needed emotion is somewhat unclear– could break the curse and wake the prince.
Distraught and heartbroken, the kings promised everything within their power to the one who could wake their son. While they waited for that person to appear, they built a beautiful solarium adjacent to the castle and filled it with roses of every variety and color. At the center and beneath the glass that would display the passing seasons, the brightness of the sun, and the speckled night sky, they placed their slumbering child on a raised altar made of glass.
Many came from far and wide, noble and commoner alike, but none of their kisses had the power to wake the prince, who quickly earned the nickname Sleeping Beauty. On a moonless night and with great stealth, even the good faerie Taz stole into the solarium, for long had he loved the prince he was charged with protecting. Gently he laid his lips against Jun’s, fully expecting him to immediately wake, and was bitterly disappointed when he did not.
Weeks tuned to months, months to seasons, seasons to years, and still none that attempted to wake Jun were successful. Finally, in order to preserve the kingdom in the hopes that a suitable waker would eventually appear, the good faeries cast a spell, sending the kings, their court, and the surrounding town into a sleep that mirrored that of the prince.
In the kingdom of Selestarria, Prince Zephyr and Lord Innic were eating breakfast in one of the castle’s smaller halls. The prince had only just returned from spending five years training at a mountain monastery on the far outreaches of the kingdom.
(Ikiri: No. Before you say anything, the answer is no, the monks are not zombies. Not all monks are zombies, that was one time was unusual.
Sassy: You met zombie monks? Why am I only hearing about this now?
Mitten: Yeah! They totally tried to eat our brains–it was awesome! *turns to Ikiri: Why couldn’t they be? Zombie monks are too cool to only exist in that one place the chalk door took us.
Professor Sowerby: Children, please. Let’s continue the story. [whispers to Mitten] There are many zombie monks out there. I’ve roasted plenty in my time.
Mitten: I knew it!)
“You once met Prince Jun, didn’t you?” Innic asked, spreading fruit jam on a slice of toast.
Zephyr, his mouth full of eggs and ham, merely nodded. He had thought often of the other prince while he was supposed to be meditating. Their time together had been short, and perhaps Jun would disagree, but there had been a spark between them. Jun, with his pink eyes and pale skin, was beautiful, and the shy flushes that had tinted his cheeks were absolutely adorable. And that skirt! Those toned legs beneath that short skirt had fueled many of his dreams those past five years.
A folded piece of parchment paper appeared in Innic’s hand, and he offered it to the blonde. “I’m sorry to tell you his curse was enacted. This arrived not long after you left.”
“What?” Unfolding the paper, Zephyr read in horror the words of Jun’s fathers, inviting any to come and try to wake their son. “But he was living with the good faeries. They were supposed to keep him safe.”
Innic shook his head. “Something went terribly wrong. Lots of people attempted to wake him, but none were successful. Two years ago the good faeries placed the entire castle under a sleep spell that will last until Prince Jun wakes. Your parents and other monarchs in the neighboring realms have taken turns governing the parts of the kingdom that remain awake.”
Thoughts reeling, Zephyr set the paper down on the table, disregarding the fact that part of it was leaning against the butter dish. This couldn’t have happened. He had planned to visit Jun as soon as he could, to see if that spark was still as alive as it had felt five years ago. But now… now… “I have to see Jun,” he declared to his best friend. “Maybe I can free him from the curse.”
Innic laughed and lifted the toast to his lips, taking a bite. At Zephyr’s puzzled look, he grinned. “Do you honestly think I’m surprised at that statement?” He shook his head at the prince’s silliness. They may have spent the last five years apart, but no one knew the blonde better. “Please, Zeph, Prince Jun is totally your type. I’d be much more shocked if you weren’t running off to save him…”
The iron bound gates of the castle wall opened just enough for a single rider on a dark gray horse to emerge. The horse, as if it sensed the haste of the one in the saddle, shifted easily to a canter, hoofbeats thundering against the cobblestone road. The white-gold hair of the prince of Selestarria shone in the sunlight like a torch as he sped toward the direction of the sleeping prince.
Although the castle guard and citizens of the town bowed to their prince as he rode past, no one noticed the large white raven launch into the sky from the rooftop of a guard tower, silent wings carrying it toward the northwest. It had been sent by its mistress to watch over several of the more prominent royal castles, for the dark faerie had decided that no longer would she allow anyone to attempt to wake Prince Jun. For if she was denied him, all others would be as well…
Travelling through the entirety of the day and night and into the next morning, the sun was high in the cloudy sky when Zephyr reached the forest surrounding the castle in which Jun slept. Sliding from the back of his exhausted horse, he left it at the same creek in which he’d first met the prince five years ago, and continued on by foot. The forest was eerily quiet and still, too far away from the castle to be under the sleep spell of the good faeries. The prince cast a shield spell as he walked, a soft white glow settling around his tall frame.
Just before the first houses of the village that ringed the castle came into view, a flock of birds burst from the trees, trilling in terror as they fled toward the south. No sooner had the prince’s sword slid free from its sheath, than a massive shape rose up over the leafy canopy, tree branches snapping as it grew to practically fill the very sky. Black as midnight, leathery wings unfolded from the creature’s back, and its massive mouth filled with razor sharp teeth opened and released a gout of purple flame into the air.
(Mitten: Yes! A Dragon! Does it destroy the castle? Eat the prince? Burn down the forest?
Sassy: Why are you so excited? Like I said before, aren’t you a dragon, too?
Mitten: Of course I am. So is the Professor. And like I said before, it doesn’t mean I can’t get excited when one shows up in the story.
Sassy: [rolls her eyes] Well at least this one has a cool breath weapon, unlike some dragons I know.
Mitten: I can breathe a frost so cold it will freeze your bones and shatter you into a trillion billion pieces, which is just as cool as fire.
Sassy: Oh you can?
Mitten: Well, I can’t do it now, but I will when I get older…
Ikiri: Keep reading, Professor, or we’ll never get to the end of this story.)
The dragon loomed above Zephyr, fire dripping from its maw and it roared so loudly that the prince was temporarily deafened. Unwilling to be so easily intimidated, he leapt into the nearest tree, jumping from branch to branch with the speed and agility he’d honed with the monks. With one final push, he launched himself through the canopy, his sword scraping the scales of the dragon’s chest before a taloned paw sent him flying. The ground rising up with speed, the prince instinctively rolled just as a wash of flame descended from above. The magic shield took the brunt of the damage, flickering once before it dissipated completely.
“You shall not break my curse, princeling,” the dragon growled, flame flickering between its teeth. “If I can’t have Prince Jun, then none will, and he’ll sleep for eternity!”
Gritting his teeth, Zephyr stood to face his enemy, knowing now that he faced the dark faerie Saiyuri. Lifting his sword, he charged again, and the battle truly began. Over and over the prince struck at the dragon, his blade and a variety of attack spells drawing minor amounts of blood, but nothing of a serious nature. The creature, however, was much more successful with its attacks, and in a rather short amount of time, the blonde was battered and bloodied. Not for much longer could the prince continue, for he was losing badly.
Tossed through the trees like a rag doll, Zephyr rolled to a stop on the ground, his sword torn from his grip lost somewhere in the forest. Coughing, blood pouring down his face from a cut to his head, the prince of Selestarri pushed one palm into the ground and then the other, slowly lifting his body away from the forest floor. Midnight eyes took a moment to focus, his head ringing from where it struck a branch during his flight, and when it finally cleared he found he wasn’t alone.
Leaning against a nearby tree is a figure dressed all in white, silver hair glimmering with a hint of purple as the dragon released a blast of flame across the top of the trees above. Even in his somewhat disoriented state, Zephyr knew this is the faerie Taz, and one of those who helped raise and protect Jun. Cold silver eyes skim the prince’s battered frame before one hand was held out, white energy twisting and turning as a sword is formed above his palm. Crafted of pure white wood shot through with tiny, glowing stars, the weapon was beautiful and radiated magic.
“This sword comes from the Glade of Silver Light, a place that is sacred to the good faeries,” Taz explained. The blade floated through the air to hover before the prince. “The wood of the grove can’t be broken and is anathema to the dark faeries.”
Zephyr wiped blood from his face and slowly pushed himself to his feet, ignoring the pain of his abused body. “I thank you for your help.”
The silver-haired faerie snorted, his glare sharp. “This sure as hell isn’t for you. I could give a fuck about you, but Megumi and Fuan think you’re the best chance Jun’s got. So take the sword and kill the damn dragon.” Before the prince could reply, the faerie disappeared.
Gathering what was left of his strength, his hand wrapped securely around the hilt of the gifted weapon, Zephyr once again took to the trees. The dragon loomed above the canopy, watching for movement within the branches. The prince attempted to circle wide, hoping to catch the dark faerie unaware, but he was spotted, the great horned head whipping downward. Dropping straight downward from the top of a tree, he narrowly avoided the snap of powerful jaws, heated breath washing over him as he called on his magic to cushion the fall.
The same pattern repeated a few more times, but the prince was growing ever closer to Saiyuri. Using the final dregs of his magic, he jumped into an opening between trees, knowing full well he would be spotted. With the faerie looking in that direction, he called on his magic to teleport him the short distance to the dragon’s opposite shoulder. Hanging in midair, a trick he’d learned from the monks, Zephyr drove the enchanted weapon into the armored hide, surprised when it parted easily and the blade sunk to the hilt.
Saiyuri roared, a sound so loud it could split the very sky, and raked her claws through the air toward the prince. Avoiding the talons, the blonde allowed the top of the dragon’s paw to meet his feet, using the momentum to launch him higher, the sword pulling free in the process. Soaring toward toward the dark faerie’s head, he used his free hand to grab a horn, swinging close to a glittering red eye. With all his strength, Zephyr plunged his weapon into the orb, the blade sinking deep into Saiyuri’s brain, killing her instantly.
Trees splintered and fell as the dragon collapsed, the prince still holding tight to one horn. Exhausted, he finally slid to the ground and began to limp his way toward the castle, the towers visible just beyond the remaining tree line.
The stillness and silence continued all the way to the castle, not a single soul greeting the victorious prince, not even at the gate. Slipping through an opened side door, Zephyr found a lantern hanging on the wall and lit it before continuing deeper into the castle. The first sleeping person he stumbled across sits in a chair near an intersection of two hallways. The burly guard’s armor still shone, the spell preserving all in the same state as when the spell was cast. More guards and servants appeared the further he walked, some alone, others in groups of two or three. Liveried maids and butlers, messenger boys, porters, scribes, and advisors all locked in sleep.
In the main throne room, seated in ornate chairs with their hands joined, King Sashi and King Lan slumbered. With a painful and rather inelegant bow of respect to their majesties, Zephyr followed the scent of roses to the opened doors on the far side of the chamber. The solarium was filled with sunlight and color, the flowers blooming bright pinks, yellows, reds, oranges, and purples. Passing by row after row of pots, the stone path wound toward the center, where under a shaft of golden light, a still form lay in repose.
His heart pounding, the blonde slowly ascended the shallow stairs to the raised platform, pausing to wipe the drying blood from his fingers before carefully tracing the line of Jun’s jaw. “I’m sorry it took me so long to see you again,” he whispered. Leaning in, Zephyr gently kissed the sleeping prince.
For a long moment, nothing happened. The silence of the castle was deafening, the stillness so deep it sank into the very bones, weighing them down as if made of lead. Nothing within the walls moved, not even the tiniest flicker… until long eyelashes fluttered once, then twice, and deep, dawn-tinted eyes slowly opened to stare into midnight blue.
“What happened–?” Jun asked, confused. Then, as his vision cleared, a smile formed on full lips, lighting his entire face. “It’s you. I knew it would be you.”
With a laugh, Zephyr helped Jun from the platform, and together they returned to the throne room. With Jun’s awakening, the good faeries’ spell was broken, and all those who had slept in solidarity with their prince were soon awakened. Overjoyed to be reunited with Jun and rid of the dark faerie Saiyuri, King Sashi and King Lan declared a feast and invited the entire kingdom and the neighboring ones as well. Many of those who had attended the last feast held in the castle returned, happy to celebrate the breaking of the curse and the return of the prince.
With much fanfare, the good faeries arrived, sweeping into the castle as beams of colored light while the people cheered. as pleased as any to see their young charge awake once again. After an exchange of hugs and happy greetings, it was business usual.
With a cup in hand, Taz stepped up next to the newly awakened prince. “Page 14?” he teased, one white eyebrow raised. “Really, Jun?”
A deep blush crept over pale cheeks. “It’s… I just… You can’t help who you love, page 14 or any other page!”
Sliding an arm around the other prince’s waist, Zephyr gave the white clad faerie a long look before turning back to Jun. “I love you, too, but what’s all this page 14 stuff?” he asked. “You said that the first time we met, too.”
“It’s a tome of the eligible and desirable princes from throughout the known realms.” Megumi spoke up, all those around her turning to listen. “I produce it on an annual basis.”
“You what?!” Taz and Jun exclaimed in unison.
The faerie blinked, her general equivalent of a shrug. “Fuan helps. How do you think King Sashi and King Lan met? They were pages 7 and 19 that year.”
The silver-haired faerie stared at his companion for a long moment before he drained his drink and reached for another. “I don’t even know what to say to this.”
Thus we come to the end of the story of Sleeping Beauty, a prince once cursed by the dark faerie Saiyuri and woken from eternal sleep by the kiss of his one true love. And they lived happily ever after.
[Turning the last page, the ancient dragon closes the heavy leather book, the gilded pages glinting in the firelight. Outside, snow continues to fall, burying the Castlekeep in a heavy, white blanket. Four sets of eyes stare back at Professor Sowerby for a long moment, the only sound the snapping of the logs in the hearth. Then the spell of the story is broken and the children begin to speak all at once.]
Ikiri: Professor, I’m a little confused about the line of succession. If Prince Jun is his fathers’ only child and Prince Zephyr didn’t have any brothers or sisters, which kingdom will they rule if they get married?
Mitten: Do you think the faeries are real? Could we find them? [turns to Ikiri once the Ashkarin’s questions registers] Both! They can rule both and form an empire!
Ikiri: [frowns] That’s more complicated than you think. The economics alone–
Mitten: Who cares about stuff like that? If they have two kingdoms, then they can conquer more and make an empire! The zombie monks will fight for them and the good faerie can be their chief mages or whatever and the raven prince guy can be their scout…
Sassy: [ignores the others] That was an okay story, Professor. It needed more treasure or maybe an ending where the dark faerie doesn’t die. She was cool. Do you have a story about just her?
Mitten: Dragon you mean. She wasn’t a dark faerie, she was a dragon.
Ikiri: [shakes his head] The dragon was just a shape changed form, like a spell, not her real form. Her real form was the faerie.
Mitten: Dragons have two forms, Ikiri. [he sighs dramatically] Look at me, look at the Professor. Sometimes we’re like this and sometimes we’re full sized dragons.
Professor Sowerby: Children, I believe it’s time for dinner.
Mitten: Yes! I bet it’s steak! Or maybe roast duck!
Ikiri: It’s tuesday, so you know the staff makes soup tonight.
Sassy: Everyone knows soup is way better than macaroni and cheese.
Mitten: Is not!
Sassy: Is too! Race you to the dining room!
[Sassy and Mitten sprint from the chamber with Ikiri trailing more slowly behind. Professor Sowerby sighs and slips from his overstuffed chair, smoke trailing behind the fire dragon as he sets the heavy book on a nearby shelf. Lock stands up and takes his hand, and the two of them follow in the wake of the others…]
[Jun, Lan, Megumi, Saiyuri, Taz, Fuan, Fanuel, and Sassy belong to Nezumi. All other characters belong to me.]