Roses, Briars, Blood: Part 6

Roses, Briars, Blood

My dark version of Briar Rose continues…

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Roses, Briars, Blood: Part Six

As the snow fell, the kingdom slept.
The beautiful Sorceress stood at the window. It had once looked out over deep slopes of pine and rock, waterfalls and caves, but now the glass was encrusted with ice that admitted only a dim, cold light that shone along the throat and facebones of the Sorceress so her skin shone like a pearl under water. Bored, listless, she traced the lace-like patterns in the ice with a long, jeweled finger. The heat of her finger melted the frost, uncovering a layer of opalescent glass etched with snowflakes. The beautiful Sorceress sighed.
“They look the webs of spiders. The whole castle is ringed with them. The Princess and I wait in the middle to be devoured by Old Spider Time.”

The wavering flames of candles and torches were the only light the Sorceress ever saw now, for winter days were naught but an endless twilight that bled into darkest night. She wandered the endless corridors, drifted up and down the grand stairways, lighting and re-lighting, by sorcery, her thousands of candles as she passed. By sorcery, she changed her gowns as she walked, and by sorcery, she flew over the gardens to look at  the roses that continuously crept up the sides of the tower, in full bloom, despite the snow.
On this day, she gazed in awe at the roses, for they grew very high about the tower and had begun to entwine around the portals, windows, and gargoyles of the castle. the roses were scarlet red and open like gouts of blood against the soft pallor of the snow, their black thorns curving like hooks. It reminded the Sorceress of the Princess’s white hand dripping with blood from the wounding spindle.  But, since she believed this vision was a mirror of her own magic, the Sorceress did not question the true meaning of roses blooming in winter, nor the death that was buried under them.

But on this day, the Sorceress discovered the body of a Prince hanging in the roses. He was tangled in the branches high above the ground as if he had been climbing up the side of the tower, had missed his footing, and fallen to his death, impaled on the strong, black talons of the thorns. His eyes sought the high window of the tower for eternity now.
Why was he there? She must find out, for she thought the nine ladies form the woods had put them all to sleep for one hundred years. Perhaps the Prince had come from a far kingdom.
“They said she would sleep for one-hundred years unless wakened by a Prince’s kiss. I must find out how fast this news has spread among Princes.”

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As Mirabelle slept, she dreamed. Gazing from the top of a high tower, she saw a Prince coming along the road. Over and over again he came, but he never got farther than the outside walls of the castle. Sometimes she flew through the air, over forests and mountain peaks. There was a castle in the mountains covered with snow and roses. She flew into the tower where the roses grew over the windows, and forgot where she was. Then she felt she was lying in a pool beneath a layer of ice.  It was dark under there, and the water was cold. Someone walked over her, their boots squeaking and their voice muffled by the snow. Blood splattered down on the ice, staining it bright red. The blood turned into rose petals. Their stems twined around her, holding her in a cage held together with thorns over which roses bloomed and died and bloomed again.

I shall go mad, she thought, for she could think in her endless sleep, if someone doesn’t wake me up.

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Not long after the kingdom fell into its enchanted sleep, a troupe of Traveling Players wandered into it, looking for an inn and audience. They found the inn, but the audience looked like figures of wax posed in the acts of drinking and conversation. The Players, finding the castle gates open, and the Gatekeeper frozen with his keys, went into the castle yard, and through the entrance to the Great Hall.

There was a large audience in the banqueting hall frozen in the midst of a feast — a waxworks feast, the players declared all at once.  Another troupe of Players was already there, fixed in grotesque cartwheels, or frozen in the air in the midst of a somersault! They displayed, what the Traveling Players described later on in their tales, a complete lack of elegance and grace. They obviously failed to entertain the two Kings whose heads were on their hands, and their mouths open and snoring. A handsome Prince sat around the corner of the table near the Kings, slumped in his chair holding a small bright object in his hand in which he seemed enraptured even in sleep. The food on the table was still very good, for the very forces of life and death had been arrested under the sorcerous enchantment.

“What can have happened?” the Players muttered as they explored on room after another.

Finally they gave up trying to figure it out and, used to living in an enchanted world, they each found a sumptuous Royal bed and spent a few days living in high style. But Traveling Players being what they are, they were soon on their way, now armed with the most astonishing story of a lost kingdom populated with life-sized dolls.

While on the road, the Players had also seen, high above the trees, a strange tower covered with roses and snow. What could possible live in such a place but a captive Princess guarded by dragon. And so the tale was spread through villages and towns, earning the Players warm hospitality, and much money. Eventually, they were invited to into the Royal Court of the Kingdom on the Other Side of the River where the Queen and the Court were hungry for news of their vanished King and Prince Agramant.

Candle image by Matt Austin

For Part 7 click here:

Roses, Briars, Blood: part 7

Comments are always welcome!

Roses, Briars, Blood is in 11 Parts:

Roses, Briars, Blood: Part 11: Finis

Roses, Briars, Blood: Part 2

Roses, Briars, Blood: Part Two

My dark version of Briar Rose continues…

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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.”

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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

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Roses, Briars, Blood is in 11 parts:

Roses, Briars, Blood: Part 11: Finis

What are Gothic Faery Tales?

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What is the Difference Between Gothic Faery Tales and Traditional Fairy Tales?

Now that she is awake, Briar Rose returns to the palace and the Evil Queen. What else can she do now that she is Undead?

Gothic Faery Tales are reworkings of traditional Grimm’s Fairy Tales, or are based on their themes.

The Gothic Faery Tale writer is interested in the dark, disturbing elements of Faeryland. Whereas most contemporary re-tellings focus on sweetness, simplistic portrayals of good vs evil, and happily ever after endings, Gothic Faery Tales dive deep into the fears, anxieties, and superstitions of the subconscious.

The familiar fairy tales have been ‘Disneyfied’, or cleaned up, for children. Gothic Faery Tales evoke the primal, erotic, and blur the lines between god and evil. They are written for adults.

Vampires, werewolves, changelings, sorceresses, black magicians, dragons, all belong to the Gothic Faery Tale. It is possible that these figures of fright have always been part of the folklore fairy tales come from, or perhaps they crept in over time, leaving the pages of novels and the stage to inhabit the fairy tale realm and spice it up a bit. Of course the evil Queens and witches have always been part of Tradition and most likely held the door open for these others.

What is Our Attraction to the Dark?

Because the greatest mysteries have been forced into hiding; the most powerful truths are sequestered in the dark. To find the core, we must have the courage of a knight or a fool to enter the kingdom of shadows. To know ourselves deeply, as individuals, and as part of the whole, means to discover the vision of the light that lives within the blackest night.

Many great writers have used traditional fairy tales as a basis for their work.

The poet Anne Sexton  was one of the first writers to explore her inner conflicts through the use of fairy tales. Her book, Transformations, explores the limitations of being a woman in the 1950’s, and the dark psychological issues that kept her constantly on the brink of suicide.

It should come as no surprise that Gothic writers have a fascination with death. But isn’t death in its final form, for it is always transcended. The character who dies, or like Briar Rose and Snow White, fall into a 100 year sleep, are always brought back to life. Just as the Vampire is.  Faeries also inhabit the betwitx and between, the boundary between life and death.

There is an interest in transformation. Death is the ultimate transformer and shape-changer. The magnetism of the dead coming back to life mirrors the cycle of the seasons, mirrors the natural progression of living forms on Earth. This is primal. We cannot escape the cycles of seasons: birth, growth, decay, and death. Of all of these death is the most powerful. Yet, Gothic Tales suggest it is possible to live inside of death, to move, to relate, and to haunt. Gothic artists and writers reveal that to accept the facts is to transform them into something glamorous and fraught with desire.  Sometimes the dead become the living in the same gesture by which the living become the dead. It is the mirror realm of reversals where we walk head downwards like images reflected in a still pane of water.


Decadence

Simply put, the favored seasons for Goths are Autumn and Winter. Seasons of decay and death, silence, and a strange quality of light.

The decadence of fringe societies is like the golden decay of Autumn, a time when approaching death produces a gaudy display of glory. Winter covers the coffin under a snowy blanket, making the grave a place of hibernation with the potential to incubate new life. Gothic Faery Tales often take place in dim, ornate, quiet rooms with high ceilings and vast sweeping stairs. Places that are haunted and haunt one with feelings of dread and revelation.

Some Gothic tales seem to have been written by authors immobilized at the threshold between childhood and adulthood, and unable to cross over because of some deep fear of the adult reality. Welcome to the nightmare, the adults seem to say. Here is the true darkness of corruption and loss.

This is the border from which the Gothic Faery Tale beckons with its darkling wonders.

Come across the threshold. The dark is painful and at the same time so achingly beautiful. Of course you are curious. We embody the mystery you seek.”

Here we shall tell secrets.

The parts we are not supposed to talk about. The hidden things. The secrets that give the fairy tale its power penetrating over us.

To set the tone, here is a short piece from  1979’s The Bloody Chamber by the legendary Angela Carter. Based on Snow White, it is entitled:

The Snow Child

Midwinter — invincible, immaculate. The Count and his wife go riding, he on a grey mare, she on a black one, she wrapped in the glittering pelts of black foxes; and she wore high, black, shining bots, with scarlet heels and spurs. Fresh snow fell on snow already fallen; when it ceased, the whole world was white. “I wish I had a girl as white as snow,” says the Count. They ride on. They come to a hole in the snow; this hole is filled with blood. He says: “I wish I had a girl as red as blood.” So they ride on again; here is a raven, perched on a bare bough. “I wish I had a girl as black as that bird’s feathers.”

As soon as he completed her description, there she stood, beside ther road, white skin, red mouth, black hair and stark naked; she was the child of his desire and the Countess hated her. the Count lifted her up and sat her in front of him on his saddle, but the Countess had only one thought: how shall I be rid of her?

The Countess dropped her glove in the snow and told the girl to get down to look for it; she meant to gallop off and leave her there but the Count said,” I’ll buy you new gloves.” At that, the furs sprang off the Countess’s shoulders and twined around the naked girl. then the Countess threw her diamond brooch through the ice of a frozen pond. ‘Dive in and fetch it for me,” she said; she thought the girl would drown. But the Count said,” is she a fish to swim in such cold weather?” Then her boots leapt off the Countess’s feet, and onto the girl’s legs. Now the Countess was as bare as a bone and the girl furred and booted; the Count felt sorry for his wife.  they came to a bush of roses, all in flower. “Pick me one,” said the Countess to the girl. “I can’t deny you that,” said the Count.

So the girl picks a rose; pricks her finger on the thorn; bleeds, screams, falls.

Weeping, the Count got off his horse, unfastened his breeches and thrust his virile member into the dead girl. the Countess reined in her stamping mare and watched him narrowly; he was soon finished.

Then the girl began to melt. Soon there was nothing left of her but a feather a bird might have dropped,a blood stain, like the trace of a foxes kill on the snow, and the rose she had pulled off the bush. Now the Countess had all her clothes on again. With her long hand, she stroked her furs. the Count picked up the rose, bowed and handed it to his wife; when she touched it, she dropped it,

“It bites!” she said.