So once again, we come to Fiction Friday, this time with another fairy tale offering. What can I say? I like the genre. I like the style, the feel of a spoken story written down, and I like the way that cleverness, or goodness, or both, win out over stupidity and evildoing. I like the images they invoke, even if I wouldn't want to live like that.
Today's tale is, as the title of this post might suggest, about a prince who misuses his position and the three clever women who teach him that he shouldn't do that. I think everybody knows a "foolish prince", whether or not he has an actual title. Or she -- there are foolish princesses too. I've been on both sides of that line in my time.
Enjoy the tale, and let me know what you think! Remember, if your comment disappears, it has NOT gone into nothingness but is simply awaiting my moderation. Also, I finally got fanficauthors to cooperate, so Surpassing Danger is updated on both websites, and Playing with Fire may start playing nice soon... please, stay tuned!
Once upon a time there were three sisters.
Now, if this were one sort of fairy tale, the sisters would have been jealous and fought over the man they wanted, or the older two would have been lazy, or wicked, or foolish, and piled their work onto the youngest. But this is a fairy tale of a different kind, and so the sisters got along as most siblings do, with squabbles and jokes and shouting and laughter and love.
One day, as often happens in fairy tales, a handsome prince rode by the home of the three sisters, and happened to see the oldest sister in the garden, pulling weeds. "Ho, wench!" he called out to her. "Fetch me a drink of water, and be quick about it!"
The oldest sister got to her feet and did as the prince commanded, but she dipped the ends of her fingers into the water and flicked it into the air while he drank, murmuring a charm as she did (for the sisters were all three witches). And the prince rode off, unknowing.
Some weeks passed, and the prince rode that way again, to see the middle sister sitting on a bench, hulling strawberries. "Ho, wench!" he called out to her. "Bring me some of those berries, and be quick about it!"
The middle sister got to her feet and did as she was told, but she hid the juiciest strawberry in her hand and crushed it while the prince bit mouthfuls from the others, murmuring another charm as she did. And the prince rode off again, unknowing.
Warned by what had happened, the youngest sister took money she had saved and bought some expensive cloth, and with it began to fashion exotic robes for herself and her sisters. She had nearly finished the third one, and was sewing on it at the front of the house, when the prince rode up to their home a third time. "Ho, wench!" he called. "Come stitch up this rip in my sleeve, and be quick about it!"
The youngest sister got to her feet and did as she was told, but as she did, she murmured a charm which deadened the prince's arm for an instant, and into the deadened skin she thrust her needle's tip and brought it out red with blood. This blood she wiped on a scrap of cloth, which she thrust into the pocket which hung from her belt, and in another moment the charm was lifted and the prince's sleeve was mended. The prince cuffed her away from his horse as a thank-you and rode off at speed, unknowing.
Some days later, the news reached the cottage of the sisters that the prince was either ill or cursed, for he had taken to his bed. The quietest whispers, which travel the furthest, spoke of a sweat which broke out all over his body when he raised his voice, welts the size of strawberries which closed his throat when he tried to swallow, bleeding wounds on his shoulders and arms which came and went without reason.
The three sisters smiled when they heard these tidings, and dressed themselves in the robes, and took themselves to the palace with baskets on their arms. "We are wise women from a distant land," they told the king and queen, "and we can cure your son of his malady." They were given access to the prince's bedroom straightaway, and there the oldest sister took from her basket a flask of water, the second a bowl of strawberries, the third a cloth dampened with blood. They ranged themselves by his bedside, and began to speak.
"This is the water you ordered me to bring you," said the oldest sister, holding it up. "Your manner had nothing of courtesy or kindness, and thus you lose water from your body at every moment. If you ask me for this water kindly and courteously, it will be yours, but you must speak always with those two things in mind from this day forward."
The prince licked his lips once, twice, three times, and then was able to whisper, "Please, give me the water." The oldest sister smiled, and held it so that he could drink, and his sweating subsided.
"These are the berries you ordered me to bring you," said the middle sister, holding them up. "They could have made the difference between my family's satisfaction and our hunger, but you took and wasted them, and thus you have learned what it is to be hungry, for now you can eat nothing. If you promise to eat these berries and waste nothing, you will be able to swallow them, but you must eat always with the knowledge of hunger in mind from this day forward."
The prince drew breath, once, twice, three times, and sat upright. "Please, give me the berries," he said. The middle sister smiled and placed them in his hands, and he ate them gratefully.
"This is your blood, shed as you have shed the blood of others," said the youngest sister, holding it up. "Your wounds are the wounds you have inflicted upon others, forgetting that a prince must be the humble servant of his people, not their bullying master. If you will swear to remember that from this day forward, your wounds will heal."
The prince bowed his head, and tears fell onto his blankets, once, twice, three times. "I have been a fool," he said. "Please, heal me of these wounds, and I will never inflict another upon my people." The youngest sister smiled, and murmured a charm over the bloodstain, and the wounds on the prince's arms faded away, leaving him a better man than before, for he was ever courteous and kind, careful instead of wasteful, and gentle towards his servants and his subjects.
Some say the prince married the oldest sister, and some say the middle, and some say the youngest. No one knows for sure.
What do you say?