Roses, Briars, Blood: Part Two
My dark version of Briar Rose continues…
To listen to an exciting podcast of this episode, please click the button below!
To download an mp3 click the title below: Download is faster.
Now the Queen was adored again.
The King sat next to her at the banqueting table, beaming. He was surprisingly glad that the child was a girl, and explained to his skeptical courtiers that he had always wanted to seal an alliance with the powerful kingdom on the other side of the river. This daughter would certainly grow to be beautiful, and worthy, of the hand of the Prince. And the Queen, having proven herself, could strive to do better next time.
“Because of our daughter, we may look forward to our future with confidence,” the King said to the Queen one night as he removed his nightshirt and got into bed. “Let us make a son now. Come on, my love. Snuggle up!”
The Queen recoiled. The thought of another birth frightened her. She could not tempt Fate again by going to the Sorceress twice. As it was, she didn’t know how to tell the King that the most horrifying woman in the realm was to be invited to the baby’s Christening.
As she lay under the King, dark thoughts began to cloud the Queen’s mind.The image of the beautiful Sorceress entering the hall in a dark slithering gown, sitting down to dine among the nobles of the land, capturing the candlelight just to steal the glamor of the night, smiling her serpent smile at the Holy Father… What if she stood up and raised a glass to the Queen, congratulating her on the birth of a child? Drawing undue attention to herself! The Queen almost gasped as she imagined her guests rising in protest, crying, “Seize the witch!” — Not the Sorceress who, by magic, slides away into the shadows, but the Queen!
She stared up at the Danse Macabre on the wall opposite the bed, and stifled a scream.
When the time came for the baby’s Christening, the King called for a grand celebration. Bells rang throughout the kingdom as the Holy Father and his Cardinals processed through the narrow streets to bless the tiny child whose unexpected survival brought so much happiness to the King, and fulfillment to the Queen. The Princess was to be called Mirabelle because of her beauty, and her miraculous birth.
The Queen’s joy was feigned, for in the midst of the clanging and bonging of the bells of the city, she heard those other bells ringing far off, but distinct — the bells she had heard at the castle of the Sorceress. Her heat sinking into her stomach, the Queen brooded on the sound, trying to tell how close the bells were, and if they were coming any closer. Her face, squeezed into its tight wimple, was a mask of maternal joy over utter terror. She had decided that her commerce with the Sorceress had all been a dream ( how else could the midwife not have seen her and those faeries ringing her bed?). So she did not invite the Sorceress to the Christening.Now she shuddered, for she knew that, invited or not, the Witch was coming.
The Queen looked at her child in the bassinet beside her and smiled her rare smile. The baby daughter was beautiful. Suddenly, just as she began to warm toward the sleeping infant, her nurse came to take the baby behind a rosewood screen so the Queen could be free to entertain her guests.
The bells rang the hour. They rang another hour. And another…
The celebrations were getting long. The noise and the crowd exhausted the Queen. She was sitting, languid with fatigue, beside the King at the head of the banqueting table when the First Cardinal came forward to call them to the Cathedral for the Christening. Waking from a doze, the Holy Father nodded. He stood up ready and smiling, his eyes twinkling from too much wine.
They all proceeded to the Cathedral and crowded into the alcove where the baptismal font stood on an altar carved with leaves to look like an archaic, sacred well in the center of a dark forest. The Princess was lying in a gilded ivory bassinet beside the altar, tended by a nun who seemed intent on keeping the Queen at bay.
Just as the Holy Father was about to begin his sermon on the blight of Original Sin, and the necessity of God’s grace, the sounds of powerful wind, thundered, banged, and echoed through the arches and the columns, rising to the ceilings and whistling down the aisles. And under that roaring were deep gongs, and the faint, silvery scintillation of the bells known only to the Queen…
Alarmed, the Queen stood up and instinctively pushed her way through the crush of guests to rescue her child. When she got to to the altar, she froze dead in her tracks, for standing around the bassinet, in a glowing green haze, were the nine ladies from the woods. They looked at the Queen with eyes like green flames, as out from among them, walking forward like Doom, was the beautiful Sorceress.
“My child! Give me my child!” the Queen cried. Her voice rang loud in the heavy silence of the vault.
The Sorceress hissed at the Queen, her eyes like whirlpools filled with strange sparks. She rose up above the the crowd, revealing herself to the nobles and courtiers, the Cardinals, the Holy Father, the King! Wickedly, she hovered in the air in the House of God!
“NO!” screamed the Queen, dragging her long veils behind her to reach the Princess Mirabelle, yet her eyes fastened on the Sorceress and the long snaky tail uncoiling under her gown.
The Sorceress looked down at all the guests who had, to a man, gone rigid with shock. Even the King and the Holy Father and all of the Cardinals stood petrified in the liquid violet light shining forth from the Sorceress.
“So Your Majesty, you don’t deem me worthy to attend the Christening of your child — a child who would never have been born without my magic. Therefore, I shall take back what I have given. When Princess Mirabelle reaches the age of fourteen years, she shall prick her finger on a spindle and die!”
“No! No!” cried the Queen. “I beg you. No.”
The Sorceress turned her baleful gaze at the Queen who seemed to have shrunk like a melted candle. “If you had kept your side of the bargain, you would have borne the second child to term as well — a son — and the kingdom would have thrived because of him.”
“What do you mean?” The Queen, in despair, covered her belly with her hands, glanced at the King, and fainted on the spot. His face slowly melted into a mask of rage.
A soft voice lilted over the now frantic babble of the guests, and filtered into the Queen’s ear as she swam just below consciousness.
“The child shall not die, my Queen. Rather, when she pricks her finger, she shall fall asleep for one-hundred years, or until a Prince wakens her with a kiss.”
The next morning, the Queen was escorted to the tower and locked in. Several months later, she gave birth to a healthy boy who howled his way into the world like a wild animal or a madman. After that, she was beheaded in the public square.
Her bewitched, dismembered corpse was then burned in the fire so she would not come back to haunt the King. He began to wonder about the soul of his daughter. When, three days later, the baby boy died, what was left of the King’s heart died with him.
The Princess Mirabelle was sent into a convent in the forest, to be cared for by nuns.
To be continued….
Click here: Roses, Briars, Blood: Part 3
The Comment button is below, if you care to leave feedback. Thanks!
Roses, Briars, Blood is in 11 parts: