And what a fun little journey it's been! Greetings, O readers, and welcome once more to Fiction Friday! I'm your host, Anne B. Walsh, and today I am apparently somewhat loopy. Which is nothing new, for anyone who knows me, but its cause is a bit mysterious. Perhaps I'm just relieved at making it through the first third of the year?
Whatever the reason, my heart or my shoes, I stand here on May Day... except I'm sitting down. And I don't hate anyone. And my dogs aren't named Max. Wow, I am really loopy today. Pay no attention to the crazy woman behind the blog.
In any case, standing, sitting, whatever, I've got the ending of my latest fairy tale retelling for you, and a reminder that patrons over at my Patreon site not only support my writing habits but get weekly drabbles of silliness, and other rewards as well if they are able to donate a bit more! I'll be getting onto sending those out this weekend, so any higher-level donors watch your email!
Also, since people had requested to know what the figures on the clock were, here it is in Hans Christian Andersen's own words (well, a translation of them, but who's counting):
The clock struck one, and there stood Moses on the mountain, writing in the tablets of the law the first great commandment: "There is only one true God." The clock struck two, and there were Adam and Eve, just as they first met in the Garden of Eden. Were ever two people so lucky! They didn't own so much as a clothes-closet, and they didn't need one.
At the stroke of three the three Holy Kings appeared. One was as black as a coal, but he couldn't help that. The sun had blackened him. These kings brought incense and precious gifts. When the stroke of four sounded, the seasons advanced in their order. Spring carried a budding bough of beech, on which a cuckoo sang. Summer had for her sign a grasshopper on a ripening ear of wheat. Autumn had only an empty stork's nest, for the birds had flown away. Winter's tame crow perched on the corner of the stove, and told old tales of bygone days.
At five o'clock there was a procession of the five senses. Sight was represented by a man who made spectacles. Hearing was a noisy coppersmith. Smell was a flower girl with violets for sale. Taste came dressed as a cook. Feeling was a mourner, with crape down to his heels. As the clock struck six, there sat a gambler, throwing dice for the highest cast of all, and they fell with the sixes up.
Then came the seven days of the week, or they might be the seven deadly sins. People could not be sure which they were, for they were not easy to distinguish. Next came a choir of monks, to sing the eight o'clock evensong.
At the stroke of nine, the nine muses appeared. One was an astronomer, one kept the books of history, and the others were connected with the theater. Ten o'clock struck, and Moses came forth again, this time with the tables in which were written all ten of God's commandments.
When the clock struck again, boys and girls danced out. They played and sang this song: "All the way to heaven, the clock struck eleven." And eleven it struck. Then came the stroke of twelve. Out marched the night watchman, wearing his cap and carrying his morning star - which is a truncheon tipped with spikes. He sang the old watch song: "'Twas at the midnight hour, our Savior He was born-" and as he sang the roses about him unfolded into the heads of angels, with rainbow-tinted wings.
So now that we have that sorted out, here is the final section of my retelling of "The Most Incredible Thing". As I enjoy doing, I've made the final line extra meaningful -- in this case, a direct quote from the edition of the story I've been using, as was the first line.
Please enjoy, and what would people think of this story (a bit cleaned up and revised, of course), along with a few other fairy tale retellings which focus on princesses and ladies taking their fate into their own hands, as an upcoming collection of mine, perhaps entitled Ladies' Choice? Let me know!
A great silence fell over the cathedral, until Mistress Kathrine stepped up onto the pew in which she and her husband had been seated. "Hurrah for the Princess!" she cried out. "The Princess Alvida has done the most incredible thing!"
As though her words had broken a spell of silence, the crowd came to life, cheering and calling Alvida's name, until she raised her hands to quiet them, then turned to face her father, who had come down from the dais where he had been seated to watch the wedding. "Your Majesty," she said, curtseying low.
"Daughter." The King bowed curtly to his child, then waved a hand at the world of the mirrors, now tranquilly reflecting nothing more nor less than the cathedral as it appeared in reality. "Explain. How has this happened, and why?"
"I have my great-grandmother's magic, Father." Alvida stepped to the mirror and laid her hand against her reflection's, then took it away again. In it there rested a single white rose, and the flowers in one of the arrangements alongside the pews were quivering. "The ability to make reflections play with reality. But I must have great power if I am to do anything more than simple tricks with that magic. Power like the belief and love of all those here, who saw my wonderful clock and loved it, and kept it alive in their memories so that the figures of the hours could come to our rescue when we needed them."
"Yes, that also needs explanation." The King frowned. "Your clock? I had thought it was the work of the craftsman named Rune. And yet the figures called you Mother..."
"Rightly so, Your Majesty," said Rune, as Alvida's blushes deepened. "The idea for the clock, the finding of proper groupings for the hours, the carving of the figures for those hours, all these were the work of the Princess Alvida." He bowed low to her. "My sole contribution was to craft and set in place the workings of the clock, to allow it to keep proper time and bring the figures to life as the hours struck. I only agreed to stand as the clock's creator because my fellow crafter asked it of me. But now the truth is known."
Not without a pang, Rune took one deliberate step back, raising his voice for all to hear. "As good Mistress Kathrine has said, Your Majesty, the Princess herself has won your contest, for both in the creation of the work of art which was the wonderful clock and in the summoning of its spirit to save us from the forces of destruction, she has done the most incredible thing. Am I not right?" he appealed to the people around him.
The King opened his mouth, but the full-throated roar of agreement from the crowd packed into the cathedral drowned his voice. Alvida had a hand pressed to her chest, her eyes brighter than Rune had ever seen them and a small smile of wonder playing across her face.
"Very well, very well," said the King when again he could be heard. "Though how I am to give you in marriage to yourself, I don't know," he added irritably to his daughter.
"Where in your proclamation did it mention marriage, Father?" Alvida twined the edge of her veil around her fingers idly. "It said only that the winner of the contest was to 'have' me. Can you not proclaim that I am to 'have' myself? That from this day I am my own mistress, free to do with myself as I will? And with half your kingdom, of course," she added demurely.
"Troublesome chit," muttered the King, sending a soft wave of laughter through those close enough to hear him, and a ripple of murmuring as it was repeated outwards to those who had not heard. "Very well. Hear this, my people! From this day, my daughter, the Princess Alvida, is to have herself! She alone will be mistress of her comings and goings, she alone will say what she will and will not do, and she will rule over half my kingdom as sovereign and lady, as is her right and her privilege as the winner of my contest! What say you?"
As he led the shouts and cheers of approval, Rune told his foolish heart firmly to be quiet. If Jan Larsen (who had been taken away by some of the King's guards, to what fate Rune found he cared not at all) had never interfered, he would indeed have won the contest, but his winning would have been a sham, and he and Alvida would both have known it, which would eventually have wrecked any happiness they might have found. It was better, far better, to lose by the truth than to win by a lie.
He only wished his heart would listen to him.
"Father, I thank you," said Alvida aloud when the cheering at last had calmed. "But now that I have myself, I may do with myself as I please, may I not? And our people came here to see a royal wedding. It would be churlish of me to disappoint them." She smiled broadly. "Besides, it is only right that the parents of so many children should be wedded to one another at last."
Rune found himself unable to keep an idiotic grin from breaking out on his face as the Princess Alvida turned towards him and held out her beautiful, knife-scarred hands. "Craftsman Rune," she said in her most carrying voice, "will you share in all my labors as we shared between us the making of one wondrous work of art? Will you be my husband and my lord, as I wish to be your wife and your lady?"
He stood beside her in the church. All the people were in his train. Everyone was happy for him, everyone blessed him, and there was no one who was envious. And that was the most incredible thing.