As so often happens to me, my retelling of "The Most Incredible Thing" is turning out longer than I expected. Still, I don't think you mind that, O readers, so happy Fiction Friday! Today's installment ends, as last week's did, on a cliffhanger, but I may do what I did this week and get in a Made-Up Monday post as well, to help resolve it.
A word about one of my newest goals over at my Patreon page, that of Made-Up Mondays. It is meant to reward my patrons, not charge them more money. If I achieve that goal, the Made-Up Monday posts will be linked on Patreon for FREE, and of course will remain free here on the blog, as they have always been. Only Fiction Fridays will be paid posts.
That said, let's get to why you're really here: the story. I'm enjoying hearing what you have to say about this one, and yes, the King is rather stupid not to find a way around his crazy law, but hey, he made the law in the first place. If I rewrite this story to include it in a collection, or even submit it for publication somewhere, I may redo some of the parts about magic so that the King's proclamation must be obeyed or there are consequences.
In any case, here is today's installment, and please enjoy! I will see what I can do towards making this Friday doubly fictional, but that, of course, depends on a lot of other matters. Including whether you, O readers, send me lots of encouragement in the form of comments and reviews! Until next time, thanks as always!
And so the frantic preparations began for the wedding of the Princess Alvida, for to create the pomp and circumstance which should surround any proper royal wedding in such a short time as three weeks is no mean feat. The city was as busy as a beehive in spring, but still its people found time to talk.
"Did you see the wonderful clock, before it was destroyed?" one man would ask another as they lifted sacks of flour or barrels of wine off a cart at the palace or the home of a nobleman. "Which hour was your favorite as it struck?"
"I loved nine o'clock best, with the Muses who govern the arts," one woman would say to another as they stitched together fine clothes for the bridal day. "But four, with the procession of the Seasons, was very nearly as lovely."
Rune smiled to himself whenever he heard one of these conversations, and he heard them often, as the people of the city seemed compelled to commiserate with him whenever they saw him. He listened gravely to the discussions over whether the King should have overridden his decree, whether destruction could be considered as incredible a thing as creation, whether the wedding of the Princess to Jan Larsen would tell their country's neighbors that they were ruled by fools and madmen, but always, as Alvida had instructed him, guided the conversation gently back to the clock itself.
"Were the figures for seven o'clock the seven deadly sins, or the seven days of the week?" "How did the gambler's dice always turn up double sixes?" "Do you think Adam and Eve met at two o'clock in the afternoon?" The questions buzzed about the city, competing with the gossip about the royal wedding, at times almost eclipsing it. Rune smiled all the more when Master Paulson told him so, and begged Mistress Kathrine's help in preparing his best clothes for the wedding day.
At last it dawned, bright and clear, with trumpets sounding from the ramparts and the city towers, and people singing in processions in the streets, though from their faces an observer might have thought they were going to a funeral rather than a wedding. All those who could fit into the great cathedral were there, and thousands more stood outside. Whispers had already begun about the far wall of the church, which was, Rune saw as he made his way to the place Master Paulson and Mistress Kathrine had saved for him, lined with beautifully silvered mirrors, reflecting back the gala clothing of the crowd.
The lords of the court came into the church with the bridegroom in their midst. Though his clothes had been fitted to him by the most expensive tailor in the city, still Jan Larsen looked like nothing more than the rawboned lout that he was, and he strutted and swaggered his way to the altar, making Rune's fists clench until Mistress Kathrine laid her calming hand on his sleeve.
Then the whispering began, as heads turned and fingers pointed. "The mirrors!" "Look at him!" "His reflection, look!" "How can it be?"
Rune let his eyes move towards the place where all the people were now staring in awe, and sighed deeply in satisfaction, for Alvida's magic was already beginning to work. Where the reflection of Jan Larsen should have been, there stood a hideous ogre, grinning and licking his chops, and from his hands hung a set of shackles to fit a beautiful Princess.
The music from the organ changed, and the doors of the cathedral were flung wide. The Princess Alvida had arrived, glorious in bridal white, with the ladies of her court in their own best gowns like so many flowers or jewels in her train. The people stared and murmured, but Rune saw with glee that most of their eyes were fixed not on the Princess herself but on the place where her reflection would first appear.
"Mirrors show the truth," he murmured, and Mistress Kathrine smiled and nodded, for the flesh-and-blood Princess looked as calm as a forest pool on a windless day, but Alvida of the reflections, as she stepped into view, sent a look of hatred and revulsion towards the horrid figure of her waiting bridegroom. Her dainty feet, carrying her forward to the altar, were lifted higher than perhaps they had to be, and another wave of gasps ran through the crowd as they saw the reason.
Strewn upon the ground in the mirror-reflected church lay the carven figures from the wonderful clock, Moses the lawgiver, Adam and Eve, the three Kings and the four Seasons and all the rest. Shattered and broken, they lined the Princess's path to her doom, and the Alvida in the mirrors wept openly at the sight, her face devastated by this wanton destruction.
At last the murmurs of the crowd penetrated even the smugness of Jan Larsen, and he turned to see what all the fuss was about. His eyes went wide in shock as he saw the reflections, his own as the ogre and the weeping Princess who approached him. "Magic," he bellowed, "foul magic and devil's work! It must be destroyed!"
Snatching up a heavy candlestick from beside the altar, he charged towards the mirrors.
"No!" Rune cried out, his voice only one of many, but Jan Larsen was beyond listening. Reaching the mirror which showed his warped reflection, he swung the candlestick at it as furiously as he had swung his axe at the wonderful clock. People screamed and shielded their faces as glass flew in a thousand sharp slivers.
The frame of the shattered mirror stood empty for a moment. Then a deep and gravelly laugh sounded, and a figure materialized where seconds before it had been visible in the reflected world. Leering in triumph, the ogre-form of Jan Larsen stepped free of the mirror's frame and into reality.
The real Jan Larsen screamed in terror as his own monstrous fingers closed about his throat.