Roses, Briars, Blood
My dark version of Briar Rose continues…
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The beautiful Sorceress was gazing at her reflection in a tall mirror. Her face was like a sundial on which the passage of time was kept by the balance of light to darkness, and now the shadows lingered around her eyes, and the forelock of her raven hair was powdered with sudden snow.
Yet the face of the Princess Mirabelle retained the freshness and bloom of youth, and like sunlight captured in clear crystal, she glowed with a ceaseless inner light. The roses around her bed never faded, rather they grew in lush arrangements, as if jealous of intruders in the Princess’s domain. Sometimes the Sorceress heard voices around the Princess’s bed, humming a low minor air and then drifting away.
The nine ladies, she thought resentfully. Will they never cease? They were meant to work for me!
Restless and unhappy, the Sorceress went out to wander the the labyrinthine paths of the snowy garden. Her reverie was suddenly broken by a strange undulation in the roses that trellised the walls of the tower. She quickly drifted over the snow to see what it was, and what she saw froze her blood.! A young man, handsome enough to be a Prince, was standing among the strong branches of the roses, climbing up wall of the tower.
How had he found his way through the mirror clouds? The Sorceress stood directly below him on the path, and stared up at his violet cloaked back, but he took no notice of her.
“Who are you, and what do you want?” she shouted.
The young man, startled, turned to look down, lost his grip, and slipped. He fell and fell until he was caught in the tangled rose branches, and buried under the blossoms. The more he struggled to free himself, the tighter the thorns held him, until finally, he grew still, and moved no more.
As the Prince’s cries faded away, the beautiful Sorceress flew back to the tower chamber where Princess Mirabelle was sleeping. She paced around the curtained bed, so like a bier sometimes, or a sarcophagus. What magic did the Princess do in her sleep to draw them to her, for surely she lived in an endless dream, or she would not be sleeping, but dead.
Perhaps in her dreams she spins. She sends out threads like spiders silk. The threads attach to Princes, as she wills, and then she pulls them to her, wishing for rescue before the time is up. The Sorceress brooded over this for a long while.
The Sorceress stood before the enchanted mirror and looked out into the world.
She saw another Prince on a fine horse, coming through the forest towards the castle.
They know about us, Princess Mirabelle. But how do they know? No one from the Palace could have told them.
A sweeping gray cloak hung in the wardrobe. It had enough fabric to hide the graceful slenderness of the Sorceress’s body, and the hood was deep enough to conceal her face as she went through the streets of the Kingdom on the other side of the river.
The winter that held sway in the mountains, gave way to high summer in the valley, and when the Sorceress set her feet down in the courtyard of the Castle in the Kingdom on the Other Side of the River, the Courtiers looked at her strangely.
“Hallo, old woman, isn’t it warm for that cloak? Mind the heat.”
“Yes. It can be dangerous for one of your years to become overly hot.”
Stung, the Sorceress drew herself up to her full height, and turned the glowing lamps of her eyes on them.
“Oh, she’s mad,” one of them scoffed. They hurried away.
Oh, I wonder…The Sorceress covered her face with her hands, feeling it for lines. It must be this cloak that gives them the impression I am old…
Slipping through the narrow cobbled streets, the Sorceress made her way to the Palace, for wasn’t that where Princes lived? Soon the fine portal loomed before her. Smiling and coy, she had only to slip a golden coin into the hand of the smirking guard to be allowed inside. The great doors opened and the light of a thousand candles shone through.
Inside the Palace hall, the atmosphere was subdued; the elegant Courtiers walked quietly in slippered feet, their rich satin clothes glowing in the candlelight. They spoke in whispers, as if to make a sound would bring on a terrible headache. A grand staircase rose toward magnificent windows of colored glass. As the Sorceress ascended the stairs, she heard voices floating and echoing in the chambers above. Wrapped in her gray cloak, she was like rain upon a window, or a shadow cast by torchlight. Blended thus, she moved from corner to corner, following the sound of the voices without being seen. Suddenly a door opened and a Queen walked out. She was dressed all in white as if in deepest mourning. A small crown was perched upon her head, and her once lovely face was creased with lines. A priest walked beside her, bent towards her in sympathy.
“I fear I will be dead before they wake,” said the Queen. “ It has been so many years…”
“”Ah, Your Highness, they sleep under deep enchantment, for they do not age as we have. If we could only find the witch that cast this spell upon them, I am sure they would be restored to you.”
“But we have sent forth many search parties. They return claiming the Sorceress must surely be dead by now. There is a strange tower in the mountains, they say, covered over with red roses. The Sorceress’s Tomb they call it. You don’t think she is immortal do you?’”
“Impossible, Highness. Only the soul is immortal, and she does not have one.”
The Sorceress watched the white Queen and the priest go down the stairs, and when they were quite well away, she hurried on her silent feet, for they did not quite touch the ground, toward the lighted chamber they had left.
Ringed by candle branches, laid out on twin biers, she saw a King and handsome Prince in the same deep slumber as Princess Mirabelle.
Top image from the film :The Brothers Grimm
To be continued….
Click here for Part 8 : Roses, Briars, Blood: Part 8
Roses, Briars, Blood is in 11 parts: