Roses, Briars, Blood: Part 9

Roses, Briars, Blood: Part 9

My darker version of Briar Rose continues…

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Roses, Briars, Blood – Part Nine

Princess Mirabelle shimmered in a sorcerous gown of liquid red silk, as she went to the tower window.  She gazed longingly over the steep forest. There were little horse trails winding among the trees that led up the snow dusted castle walls. But whoever rode those trails to the castle would never get in, for the gate was buried under the thick, luxuriant cascades of deep, dark red briar roses.

Beyond the forest, across the river, as the crow flies, was a Kingdom. Its turrets and towers poked up above the trees. Princess Mirabelle wondered what riches such a place held. She wondered about the inhabitants, were they awake or asleep?  Were any of them Princes?

She was compelled to climb the stair to the top of the tower for a better view. There was a bell up there. She did not fancy bells, for she associated them with her captivity and the long sleep she feared would overcome her again. Rather, she loved the air, and the wide sky. The Princess walked around the parapet that encircled the turret with her arms reaching toward the sky. All around the castle was forested mountainside lit up by threaded waterfalls. Rows of circular curtain walls fell away from the base of the castle, down the hill of trees, all of them covered with roses. Marveling at such rich growth of life, excited by her freedom, the Princess stood upon the parapet raising her rams like wings as if join the flock of crows that swirled around her in the sky. Suddenly she toppled over. Falling, she marveled at how the ground came towards her until, something lifted her up and she found herself moving  through the air in the direction of the setting sun.

*******

The beautiful Sorceress lay in the coffin of Princess Mirabelle’s sleeping body. She dreamed of flying over the forest to the Old Kingdom where they slept out their one-hundred years of enchantment. She tried to lift her fingers, but they would not move.  Perhaps she should have timed her switch better, but then she had grown old and would not have lived much longer. Now she lived between death and life, waiting for the Great Clock to fill the castle with its clanging at the end of time, waking her for another incarnation, or better yet, waiting for the embrace of a handsome Prince.

Princess Mirabelle set her feet down on a snowy cobbled clearing in a forest that grew inside the ringwall of a castle that was hauntingly familiar. There seemed to be no one about. It was as silent as one of her dreams but for a sudden whistling whirlwind of snow that swept her skirts above her ankles, freezing her bare skin.

She glanced around, overcome with a strange sadness, for the once majestic buildings were overtaken by great trees whose roots broke through the walls, cracked open the foundations, merged with the corners of the masonry, and thrust branches out of windows like invading giants. The Princess found a yawning portal, its once stout double doors breached open and hanging from their hinges like broken wings. She went inside hurried along by a snowdrift at her back.

The short passage led into the great hall where a waxworks banquet was taking place — or so it seemed, for all the figures had stiffened into postures that no living person could have held for very long. This was especially true of a few contorted acrobats whose taunt, muscled flesh showed through tattered silks and satins worn through by the elements.

At the head of the banqueting table was a King caught in the midst of an excited conversation with the empty space beside him. His face was shockingly familiar in a way the caused tears to start in Princess Mirabelle’s eyes. She fled from that place out into the forest. The trees had come so close to the doors of the palace that it would not be long before they got inside.

It was with a shock that Princess Mirabelle discovered that all she had to do was think of a place that she wanted to go to be lifted into the air and moved in its direction. This was why she was suddenly looking down at the river, and crossing over it to the Kingdom Beyond the River. As she got closer to it, signs of life struck her with such brilliance that she almost halted in midair and began to fall.

This is where the Prince is, thought Princess Mirabelle. I can feel it.

The village around the castle was a great tumult, for the citizens of that Kingdom were at war with each other. Princess Mirabelle did not understand such things so she ignored them. All she could think of was the Prince, and how she had longed for him all through her mysterious sleep. She set down on a grand staircase and almost floated in her hurry up to the gallery. Several magnificent rooms opened out along the corridor, but never the right one, for they were all empty. Finally she came to a closed door at the end of the passage. Almost ignoring the barrier of the door, she went inside.

There were three biers flanked by several tall, flickering candle branches, solemn as a church. One the first bier was a King snoring peacefully. Could he be asleep as she had been? On the second bier was, indeed, a young Prince so handsome, and so pure in his repose, that the Princess would have kissed him awake at once if her eye had not been caught by the third bier. The figure on it was surely not asleep, for it was enclosed with a casquet of glass. And inside was an old Queen all in white, her skin unlined, smoothed, as it was, over the angular facebones of the dead. A large bouquet of briar roses spilled over her body as if they spouted from her folded hands.

The sight of the dead Queen gave Princess Mirabelle pause, for she looked older than the King by many scores of years.

The Prince was smiling in his sleep. What did he dream of? Princess Mirabelle could not wait to ask. She leaned over him, kissed his mouth, and then drew back to watch. Slowly his eyes fluttered open. The pupils were very dark. He shook his head slightly, yawned and stretched, smiled to himself and suddenly looked up at the Princess.

“Good morning, my Prince!” she cried holding out her arms to embrace him.

But rather than rushing to her in a heat of gratitude and love, the Prince shrank away.

“Who are you?” he demanded. “Witch! Sorceress! What have you done?”
The Princess was stunned. “But I am not the Sorceress. I am Princess Mirabelle.”

“Fie! You are not. You are that same witch that put a curse upon that other Kingdom. You were exiled into the mountains a long time ago. I know your face.”

The Princess’s heart sank, for she realized he was right. The long dark hair, the sinuous, sensuous body sheathed in its blood red gown, the age old  wisdom in her eyes, the magic of her flight… How had she come to be the Sorceress? Inside she was still Princess Mirabelle!

The Prince jostled the King awake.

“Look father. Look! See who has visited us. Wake up will you! Look!”

The King sat up, startled out of his sleep, and glared menacingly, first, at his son, and then at Princess Mirabelle,

“Ahhh!” he cried. “What is she doing here? Don’t look at her eyes Agramant. Avaunt thee Witch!”

The King pointed his fingers at her in the sign of the horns.

This was how poor Princess Mirabelle found herself being led to the stake. The outraged citizens forgot their war with each other and focused all of their rage upon her. Had not the Sorceress caused the friction that raised the fire of war by obstructing the Succession with her curse of sleep?

“But I am not a Sorceress. I am Princess Mirabelle. I was cursed as well.”

Her sincere protestations fell on deaf ears.

Castle ruins image by Andy Duffell

To be continued…

Click here for Part 10: Roses, Briars, Blood: Part 10

Roses, Briars, Blood is in 11 parts:

Roses, Briars, Blood: Part 11: Finis

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