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.”


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.


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 5

Roses, Briars, Blood

My dark version of Briar Rose continues…

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Roses, Briars, Blood: Part Five

That same day, the King was banqueting with the King from Across the River discussing preparations for the marriage  of Princess Mirabelle and Prince Agramant. The dowry was to be most magnificent. Apart from her jewels, pearls, precious stones and fabrics, the Princess would bring two hundred thousand gold pieces, paid in ten yearly installments of ten thousand each, secured by the rents of the towns and villages of the kingdom.

“And,” the King smiled as if he enjoyed a private joke,”She will also bring with her, a priceless collection of gloves created by the great Milanese artisan, Sebastiano.”

“Oh,” said the King from Across the River. “I would enjoy seeing that!”

Prince Agramant sipped his wine, smiling with his perfect teeth, his dark eyes flashing. “When shall I meet the Princess? I have been told she is very beautiful. Is she more beautiful than the fair Lady I saw looking down from a high balcony as we entered the castle? Surely no one could be more exquisite than that! Could it have been the Princess that I saw?”

The Prince looked abstracted and pushed his glossy hair back form his face, sighing.

The two Kings laughed together, raising their eyebrows at the Prince. They looked, one at the other, about to speak, and then froze when they caught each others’ eyes. Then they burst out laughing once again.

The King wasn’t sure how he felt about the eagerness of the Prince to see his daughter. Mirabelle was his little girl, after all. With that thought in mind, he quaffed his wine and looked daggers at the Prince over his goblet. The Prince continued to smile to himself as if he had no idea of the implications.

“Tomorrow you shall see her for the first time. At the grand ball,” the King finally said to break the silence. “In the meantime, I have a small gift for you. Here.”

The King dangled a silver locket in front of the Prince as if daring him to accept it. The Prince grabbed it playfully and opened it up with a loud laugh. Then he grew quiet and said,

“But it is that same exquisite Lady I saw on the balcony. Her very likeness! And what is this under the cover of the locket, but a skein of her golden hair!”

The Prince looked mesmerized causing the King to laugh nervously, glancing form the tail of his eye at the King from Across the River who looked soberly down at his plate lost in thought.

“Well,” said the King, Princess Mirabelle’s father. “My Miniaturist is a genius. He has captured my daughter’s likeness exactly. I am glad she does not disappoint you, young man.”

The Prince leaned toward the King, barely containing his excitement. “ Such beauty could never disappoint! Did you know that her beauty is sung by the troubadours who have taken their songs from our Kingdom Across the River, all the way to Paris, and now they shall return here to sing of the beauty of the Princess Mirabelle for the wedding. They say her hands shine like silver, her face is as pure as exquisitely carved ivory, and her hair hangs like sheets of iridescent gold. Now I know it is true. How lucky I am!” the Prince cried looking at his father with fire in his eyes. “Let me see her at once!”

“You must wait, Agramant,” said the King from Across the River, watching the King’s reaction from the tail of his eye. “A gentleman must not be too hasty. Perhaps we shall go hawking in the morning while the Princess prepares for the ball tomorrow night. Work off a little steam, as it were.”

“Yes,” said the King. “I would like that, We have a fine forest here full of game. The young Prince may as well get used to hunting in it straight away. You will meet my sons today, if that is any consolation.”

The two Kings and the Prince crashed their goblets together, and drank healths to each other, while the acrobats turned cartwheels, walked on their hands, or sprung circles in the air, and the Court minstrels sang songs about the wonders of true love.

When the Princess arrived at the top of the stairs, she stepped onto a a landing with a long gallery, that looked down over what once must have been a palatial ballroom, now under layers of dust. The sound of the singing, and the bells, drew her to a partly opened door where the glow of firelight shone through.  The Princess passed through the door into a vast bedchamber with high ceilings and tall windows, and standing before the hearth in the light cast by the fire, was a tall, dark lady with a spindle in her hand. From her other hand dangled a bobbin that whirled round and around, faster and faster, as she sang the name of Mirabelle. The sound of silvery bells scintillated in the air, invisible, and the floor slightly trembled with gongs, causing the long shadow of the lady to waver over it like a flame.

“Who are you?” asked Princess Mirabelle, entranced by the mysterious presence of the beautiful woman who vaguely reminded her of a figure in a recurring dream.

“Come closer and I will tell you,” said the lady, spinning the bobbin round and round.

“What is that?” asked Princess Mirabelle, for she had never seen a spindle before.

“Come closer and I will show it you,” the lady said.

The Princess, suspecting no harm, did as she was told.

“Do you like the sheen of the silken thread?” the lady asked, holding the spindle up before the Princess’s eyes. “I have been spinning it for a long, long time. It is the softest and strongest thread in the land. First, I spun the copper thread, then the silver. Now, I spin the gold. Look closer. It is made more beautiful with hair-like strands of red and black mixed in.”

The Princess put her face very close to the spindle. “It is lovely,” she said.

“Here, hold it for yourself. Try pulling the silk and see how fine it is. It is like your hair,” the lady said smiling with admiration. “Perhaps you will enjoy the magic of spinning.”

As the Princess grasped the spindle, she put her finger over the very top. It was sharp! It cut her!

“Ah!” the Princess cried out, watching her finger blossom with a stream of sudden blood. She looked at the woman, pleading for help. “The room is spinning! Oh my,” she cried as she fell to the floor and blacked out.

“How dreadful,” said the Sorceress. “How very dreadful.”

A strange, heavy reflecting cloud fell over the Palace so that the day darkened to twilight, and snow began to fall. There were bells ringing, close, yet far away, increasing the silence with their sound as of waves crashing on a distant shore. The servants moved slowly around the table as if they walked in their sleep. The acrobats paused in their contortions, and the minstrels fell down in a picturesque pile of hat feathers, cloaks and mandolins.

The Prince struggled to stay awake, but when he saw the heads of his father and the King nodding, he, too, surrendered to sleep. And as he slipped into darkness, he dreamed he was falling down a deep well into a tangle of blood red roses. As he fell into them, they bore his body up on a nest of thorns, and there he rested, gazing up at a small circle of winter sky. Crows flew over it, black flapping against the white clouds. Snow was falling on the roses that grew up the inside walls of the well, turning them white. The Prince was dimly aware of the face of a dark woman looking down at him from the circle of sky, before he slipped away into oblivion.


If they had been awake, the King’s subjects would have see a heresy: the Sorceress, with the sleeping Princess at her side, flying through the air towards the forest. She landed on the parapet of her Castle, and carried the Princess into a high tower where a luxurious bed, draped in pale satin brocade, awaited its royal occupant.

The Sorceress placed the Princess so that her shimmering hair streamed over the pillows, her shining hands were folded over her breast, and her feet were pointed delicately. Then she wrapped her in gauzy spells, and lucid dreams, spinning a magic cage around her so that no other sorceries could get in.

“One-hundred years is but a day in my world,” said the Sorceress. “The time will soon pass, and then where will you be?”

But the nine ladies of the woods  were listening by means of their long ear horns, and they knew their spell was being undermined by the clever Sorceress.

“All we can do is make the one-hundred years pass as in mortal time, and this we shall do by wrapping the tower around with briar roses. It will take the roses one-hundred years to reach the top of the tower. Thus, the spell shall dissolve when the Sorceress is no more. The roses shall also serve to keep the Princess in the perpetual summer of youth, and prevent the Sorceress’s winter of age touching her.”

To be continued….

Click here for Part 6: Roses, Briars, Blood:Part 6

Comments are always welcome!

Roses, Briars, Blood is in 11 parts:

Roses, Briars, Blood: Part 11: Finis

Roses, Briars, Blood: Part 4

Roses, Briars, Blood: Part 4

My dark version of Briar Rose continues…


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When the Princess’s wedding day approached, the King grew anxious. He squabbled with the Queen when she interrupted his brooding and pacing the long corridors, with news of another wedding guest needing the Royal Suite, plus extra rooms for his retainers, or threats that the Prince of Bohemia was going to entertain the Court with his devilish collection of automatons, or that the entire west wing was haunted, so who could they expect to stay there?

The King nodded while the Queen worried on, but did not hear a word she said. He continued to ruminate, certain of only one thing: that whatever he did to protect his daughter must be kept absolutely secret.  After many weeks of deep conflict, he simply had her moved, in the dark of the night, into sumptuous, but neglected, chambers in a remote part of the Palace. These rooms were so rarely visited, he had to have a map drawn up just so he could find them again.

Now the Princess was alone. She spent the whole day looking out over the balcony, wondering if she would be able to see the Prince’s entourage approaching along the road for the wedding. But she saw  only the mountains , pines, clouds, and birds flying past on the wind. Her nurse was often asleep beside the fire, for the Princess made few demands. Because she was locked in, she saw no reason to wear the beautiful but uncomfortable  diamond gloves all the time, so they often sat on her dressing table beside her hair brushes and bottles of scent, outshining of all her other unnecessary jewels. Reading by the fire, she occasionally looked up from her book, and sighed with resigned expectation.

One night, the Princess was awakened when a shaft of bright moonlight was caught in the filmy curtains that blew into the room from the open window casement, setting the room alight, and like moonbeams, the nine ladies from the woods floated in, murmuring, and gazing at the Princess with deep eyes like shadows in their luminous faces. The sound of gongs rolling under the shimmer of silvery bells, came drifting down from someplace higher up within the Palace. The music was haunting and seductive. The Princess sat up to listen to it while the nine ladies stood around her bed in a ring of pale shadows.

“What is that music?” asked the Princess, for she thought she heard a voice among the bells, calling her name in  a scale of falling, ghostly notes.


She was answered by a breeze whistling in, that blew the lighted curtains up so that they swirled like white smoke.

The nine ladies stepped forward as of moved by the sound of the bells. They swayed and rippled in the mottled shadows, there, and then not, and there again, like a flash of lightening. A low moaning chant erupted from them like a warning.

“Someone wants me?” the Princess said sitting up.


The Princess got out of bed slowly, and putting a long cloak on over her nightgown, walked toward the door of her chamber. She heard whispering voices, and felt the nine ladies touching her as if to hold her back, but the voice was calling, and calling, just audible under the steady jingling of the bells.

“Someone wants me,” she said. “I must go.”

The Princess was suddenly startled by a sharp whack! She turned to see the diamond gloves had fallen onto the floor. The nine ladies called for a storm. Winds began to buffet the room, and the sound of thunder rolled. The nine ladies stood before the door, blocking the Princess’s way.

Another, louder voice cried out.

“Mirabelle! What is going on in there?”

All of a sudden, the door grew as tall as a tower, and the nurse burst in, dwarfed in the doorway to the size of a terrier. The Princess screamed and ran back into the room. Spinning around, she came face to face with a tapestry of a dying swan edged with shining blue light.

The bells bonged and shimmered and the distant voice called her.

“I must go!” she cried.

Pushing the tapestry aside, the Princess found a gap in the wall. She hurried through it and entered a passageway with stair leading up into the darkness where the bells came from, and the voice was calling, calling, calling her.


The bobbin of her spindle dangled from her long hand, spinning faster and faster, as the beautiful Sorceress stood before her enchanted mirror and watched the Princess ascend the stairs. She sang the song of her name, Mirabelle, insinuating her thoughts into the Princess’s mind as she had always done, stealing the girls’ many gifts, given by the nine ladies, for herself. Now she would take back the Princess’s whole body, for was she not the true mother of this child? Had she not given of her own essence so that the Queen could carry her to birth? Mirabelle would be hers now, for one-hundred years, long enough for the Sorceress to feed off of, taking in everything, even greater beauty, and adding another century to her life.

To be continued…..

Top Image: Waiting Sorceress by Kimded

Click for Part 5: Roses, Briars, Blood: Part 5

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Roses, Brairs, Blood is in 11 parts:

Roses, Briars, Blood: Part 11: Finis

Roses, Briars, Blood: Part 3

Roses, Briars, Blood: Part Three

My dark version of Briar Rose continues…

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With his daughter safely ensconced in a forest convent where the good sisters were ordered to keep strict watch on her, the King ordered every spinning wheel in the kingdom to be burned in the palace yard, on the same pyre that the Queen’s decapitated body, and her errant soul, had been sent up in smoke a month before. As he watched the fire from a high balcony, the King wondered, all the while, about the fate of the young Princess Mirabelle, tainted with witchcraft. Bowed down with these dark thoughts, he walked away from the spectacle, and sought solace in the shadows.

Of course without the means of spinning thread, the price of clothing increased. Much more time and  labor was involved in pulling the wool into yarn by hand, which was, yet, no where near as fine as wheel spun thread. Thus the serfs were forced to go about wearing the skins of wild beasts. The Court had always traded for silks and satins with the East, and the art of fashion thrived as the royal spinners tried their hands at stitchery, creating more fantastic garments than ever before.

All the while, the King’s army was out searching for the Sorceress, and though they scoured the forest and the mountainside, they could find no trace of her forbidding castle with its rings of high walls. The knights came back to the King’s Palace, fewer in number, and constantly bothering him with tales of an endless twilight atmosphere that clung about the forest. Strange apparitions appeared, floating lights, creatures with the bodies of animals and the heads of men, rows of trees with mirrors hanging among them that were impenetrable as walls, and the disorienting tinkling of thousands of bells over the deep pulsing of gongs. Strong men though they were, they were frightened.

The furious King had them all flogged and sent them out again, shouting “Bring back the Witch, or don’t come back at all!”


The beautiful Sorceress laughed. They had underestimated her. She had hidden the castle in a reflecting cloud of moonlight so that it merged with the trees in the forest. Then she ensorcelled herself in the most remote tower in the King’s own palace and bided her time, spinning.

The King married a new Queen who, unlike the first, was fat, rosy, and fertile. She gave him many strong sons who made a tremendous racket of noise in the palace, setting things alight and shooting objects through the air. The King was amused as his ministers dodged about with annoyed frowns on their faces, the favorite targets of the Princes’ high spirits.

Still, concern for his daughter buffeted the back of the King’s mind like a contained storm. In nine years, he had had no ill reports of her from the Good Sisters. In fact, he had had no reports at all. It was getting to be time to seal her betrothal to the Prince on the other side of the river. She must not get too old, or the alliance would be compromised. So the King sent a letter to the Holy Mother to ask about the Princess. Her answer was brief.

Greetings, Your Majesty,

The Princess is especially devoted to Our Lady of the Roses. She wears the emblems of that Saint, and it is our hope that she will take the veil as Sister Marie Rose.

Yours in Christ,
Mother Ignatius Teresa Barbara Josephine d’Annunciate

The King was not pleased about that.

So, on her tenth birthday, the King went to see his first born child.

He found that the nuns had grown anxious and possessive of the Princess, whispering to each other of their worry that the King would take her away from them.  When the King saw his daughter, he understood, for when she gazed at him with her light turquoise eyes, he was entranced. The simple black habit of the Convent was designed to erase vanity, but the Princess’s beauty shone forth more brightly, for it set off her pale skin and flaxen hair like a pearl on black velvet cushion. A single red rose was embroidered on her bodice with long hooked thorns that made the King think of claws. And under her sweet, docile manner, he detected a deep whirlpool of emotion, and sensed that she could see into his most hidden, secret parts. He decided not to pay attention to these thoughts, for he needed the Princess to be as he wanted her to be. He smiled jovially and rubbed his hands together as he approached Her stern Holiness.

“Ah, such a beautiful girl she has grown to be,” the King told Holy Mother. “ It is time for her betrothal, and I am sure the Prince will be well pleased with his bride. You have done an excellent job. I shall grant the convent more lands — perhaps the orchard that we passed along the way — as a reward for your kind nurturance of the Princess.”

“Thank you, I’m sure,” said Holy Mother.

The nuns looked askance as the Princess rode away with the King, worried about the watering down of her vocation as the evil worm of luxury entered her soul.

As he rode back to the Palace with his daughter, the King brooded. He remembered the danger of her fourteenth year — the year she was to marry the Prince — the year the curse was meant to take effect. One hundred years of sleep was like a death, was it not?

So the King sent forth a summons for the best, most talented silversmiths, from everywhere in the world, to make his daughter gloves of silver, hinged and padded inside so that her fingers could move, and so the metal would not pinch her pale, delicate skin. A great artist came from Venice and created a pair of gloves woven of real silver thread with cuffs embroidered with a motif of roses, set with rubies, and with beautiful, tapering fingers jointed in all the right places. When the Princess pulled them over her wrists, she went into ecstasies as her hands shone and sparkled in the sunshine.

“Nothing shall pierce those fingers now, my child!” said the King. “Now you are doubly safe.”

And each year after that, new gloves were fitted and made more elaborately than the ones before. Her eleventh year saw a pair of hands encrusted with pearls, the next pair were made of ivory and gold, and so on, The Princess could do nothing with such hands except admire them. She was tired most of the time anyway, so it didn’t really matter. She was content to sit beside the moat under a tree and look at the swans, or stroll along the labyrinth in the walled garden, or sit in the rose entwined bower beside the well, affecting a vacant look, for she did not like personal questions.  But deep inside, dark images moved in and out of her inner vision, obsessing her, drawing her away from the world, draining her of all her qualities. She constantly sensed she was being watched, and once she thought she saw a woman spying on her from the trees, and once a face, that was not her own, was looking up at her from under the water of the moat.


The Sorceress watched Princess Mirabelle from an enchanted mirror, fascinated by her increasingly eerie, white beauty as she grew from child to young woman. She was amused by the jeweled gloves the King had so painstakingly made for her, as if Fate could be thwarted by such means!  And the nine ladies from the woods were but to be mocked!
They guarded the Princess by standing in a ring around her bed at night, and accompanying her on her walks about the palace grounds. But, though protective, the influence of the nine ladies was isolating. They created an impenetrable night around Princess Mirabelle that kept, not the Sorceress, but all other people, away.


On Princess Mirabelle’s fourteenth birthday, the King held a great celebration, calling to witness every single living thing in the kingdom. A fine artist from Milan presented the Princess with gloves made of nothing but diamonds, proclaiming them hardest substance in the world, impervious to all penetration. Princess Mirabelle was amazed at how her hands caught the light and cast rainbows on the walls and ceiling, turning frosty in the moonlight, or  deep red in the nimbus of the fire.

But her joy was short lived, for Mirabelle’s fourteenth year was one of increasingly dark moods, nights of bewildered tears, and blood. Her hands swelled and hurt inside the stiff gloves so that she often took them off. On the nights of the full moon she lay in bed unsleeping and saw, or thought she saw, tall faeries standing around her bed. They wore filmy gray-green gowns, and on each of their heads was a bi-horned headdress that shone like the moon.

But they were only impressions, really. Like creatures in a strong, vivid dream…

Spiral in Pine Woods image by Stu Jenks

To be continued…..

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Link to next part: Roses, Briars, Blood: Part 4

Roses, Briars, Blood is in 11 parts:

Roses, Briars, Blood: Part 11: Finis

Roses, Briars, Blood: Part 1

Please enjoy the podcast of Roses, Briars, Blood: Part 1

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mp3: Roses, Briars, Blood 6.9mb 15 minutes


I decided to take take my own challenge and write a Gothic Faery tale just for this blog. I have always loved the Grimm’s story of Briar Rose for its strange images of light and dark, beauty, sorcery, and the  formidable rose covered tower where the Princess sleeps for one-hundred years. This tale is pouring out, not even finished yet! I shall write it in parts. I despair of ever being to write a truly short story. Maybe someday, with enough practice, I will.

Roses, Briars, Blood

by Arlene deWinter


Part One

The Queen longed for a child.

Though she conceived, she could not carry; the babes simply slipped out of her  in a torrent of blood; her tears did not matter. She could not command them to stay the course. Frightened of the mocking laughter, and sly whispers of the Courtiers, the Queen dressed in widow’s white and retreated into the dim lit Halls of Melancholy where the echoes of disembodied voices, the tap, tap, tapping of distant footsteps, and the soft pattering of snow falling upon snow were the only sounds she heard.

The King looked askance at the frail Queen. She was ever so pale, like that luminous, crown-petaled flower that glows along the dim paths and the banks of the streams that lead into the deeper shadows of the Otherworld. The fine, flax colored hair, and the small, perfect features that had drawn him with their poignant delicacy, were now an arrangement of signs that hinted of thin, fragile bones, and a slipshod womb.

So, disappointed, the King’s sighs filled the halls of the castle, followed, as the time wore on, by great majestic groans. The Queen grew anxious. Would the King seek to put her away ,and find another who give him the heir he craved?

A third child fell from her body, into the net of a lacy shroud, to be buried, without ceremony, at the crossing of the catacombs. In desperation, the Queen sought the help of a Sorceress whose powers were so great and fearsome, that she was forced to live at the nether end of the forest in a chateau on the side of a mountain ringed about with a high stone wall.

The Queen was frightened, for she must go utterly alone and did not know the way. No one must know she was consulting the Sorceress, for it would give the King just the reason he needed to dispose of her. He might even have her burned for witchcraft! So on the night when the moon was dark, she wrapped herself in a long, black cloak and met the groom in the stables. Slipping him a golden sovereign, (for silence is golden is it not?) she climbed upon the back of her blackest horse and set out for the forest. The Queen’s heart shivered at the sight of the tall peaks of the pines that looked, from this distance, like a wall of impenetrable shadows. But there was a narrow road that wound into that wood, worn down by hunters, and the King’s armed men.

Soon, the path vanished, and the Queen had to pick her way through an icy stream bed, led by the sight of a high stone wall edging just above the fringe of trees at the foot of the mountain. By the time she arrived at the gatehouse, it was beginning to snow. Strange peals of thunder, or high winds, rolled in the heavens above the heavy white clouds that seemed to have fallen closer to the earth, forming mists filled with snowflakes that swirled around the Queen and her horse.

Oh, what am doing? I shall surely suffer for this...she moaned.

Ah, the high, dark walls leaned toward her as if they would fall, and the gate was closed and dim.

How shall I get in? Perhaps there is gatekeeper, and a bell.

Indeed, a large bell hung inside a niche on the wall near the gate. Just as the Queen was about to pull the rope, a whole chorus of bells rang inside the castle walls, ethereal as heaven and deep as earth. The gate slowly opened, and the astonished Queen saw, just across the threshold, a tall and beautiful woman standing in a shaft of torchlight that  cast her long, long shadow before her on the ground.

“Who are you? Why do you come here?” the woman asked in an odd, low, lilting voice. “What do you want?”

Ah! I cannot say my name…I come because of a child, said the Queen in her silvery, whispery tones.

The Sorceress, for surely it was she, raised one eyebrow and smiled a knowing, red lipped smile. “You desire a child.”


“Come inside.”

The Queen, every nerve on edge, slipped quickly through the gate, turning to look back as it shut, creaking, behind her, sealing her in, like a pact. She turned to face the Sorceress whose face, up close, shone with an eerie inner light, pale as the moon in a night of wavy, floating hair that lifted on a wind that blew all around her, and her alone.

The Queen followed the Sorceress across the cobbled courtyard and up a long stair lined with dusty portraits of rather beastly looking ancestors, and into the wide doors of a great hall. There, a table was laid as for a feast. The Sorceress gestured to the Queen to sit down.

It is as if she was expecting me, the Queen thought, suddenly alarmed, and looking for the door.

“You just happened to arrive at my dinner time,” said the Sorceress uncorking the wine. “It is fortunate for you that I had such a sumptuous meal planned for tonight — fit for a Queen. It is, of course Wahlpurgis Night when I must set a feast for the dead.”

Oh dear, thought the Queen crossing herself.

“Please enjoy yourself, Your Majesty!” said the Sorceress pouring the wine into a goblet and setting it before the Queen. “It is pomegranate wine made in my own land. Have some food. You are so thin. No wonder you cannot bear.”

Yes, of course. The Queen sipped her wine. Perhaps she can help me.

The wine was sweet. The food was rich. A peacock lay in a silver charger, but its dark, iridescent feathers were only a decorative cover for some indecipherable meat underneath that tasted like pork.

The Sorceress drank a goblet of wine, and picked at her food silently, gazing at the Queen with her large luminous eyes.  Suddenly the bells began to ring again.

Oh no! The King, my husband has come to get me! He knows where I am!

The Sorceress stood up. She looked very elongated and tall.

“He is not coming.The bells ring the time. Come with me. Be careful, though. The stairs are steep and you are quite drunk, Your Majesty.”

The Sorceress held out a long hand to grasp the arm of the tipsy Queen. Her fingers glittered and flashed with jewels in the firelight; jewels more precious than the Queen’s own.

Certainly not. The Queen shook the outrageous observation away and, at the same time, quickly appraised the rings on the Sorceress’s fingers. I have the finest jewels in the kingdom. Hers are naught but enchanted paste.

Still, rings and a wristlet of rubies, shining like drops of fresh blood, stayed in the Queen’s mind to hypnotic effect, as the Sorceress led her down a long, dark passage, past a series of magnificent bedchambers, to a door at the end under a groined alcove. The door opened into a  small chamber that contained nothing but a gilded cabinet with a crystal door, much like the reliquary of the Holy Sacrament in the Cathedral. The Sorceress opened the crystal door, and took out a vial of deep emerald green glass chased with copper filigree. Whatever was inside glowed so brightly that it created a soft green aura around the vial that lighted the face of the Sorceress so that her skin was tinged like the faint green underskin of a lily.

The Sorceress smiled and took the elegant stopper out of the bottle and poured a portion into a small vessel of violet glass. A wonderful scent filled the air of wet Spring grasses and flowers. The Queen felt as if the very breath of Life Eternal filled the air. When the Sorceress handed her the drink, the Queen quaffed it down without a thought, charmed at the way the elixir, for that is what it must be, warmed her limbs and calmed her nervous heart.

Oh yes!

“Now, this elixir shall help you to bear a child to term, and it shall be a beautiful child, healthy, and worthy of a kingdom. His Highness, the King, shall be so pleased, he will fall in love with you all over again. I only ask for one thing in return,” said the Sorceress, gently passionate, as if she pleaded from her heart.

Oh thank you! Ask anything, anything you want!

“Invite me to your baby’s Christening, Your Majesty. Make me her Godmother! I would so love to be at her wedding, her births, and when the time arrives, I shall attend her funerary rites. I wish to be treated as part of the royal family, so that my exile out here in the wilderness shall not be so bitter any more.”

Is that all? Why of course. For, if all goes well, I shall be the happiest woman in the world!


When the Queen lay a-bed in sudden labor, far above the noise of the celebrations that the King had ordained to take place throughout the kingdom, nine ladies from the wood, wearing translucent green gowns, and luminous bi-horned headdresses, crowded around her bed whispering enchantments:

We bestow upon this child exquisite beauty,…charm…wealth…strength… a lovely voice…grace…good fortune…kindness…power….

The chief of these ladies was the graceful Sorceress who stood like a shaft of violet moonlight, at the foot of the bed, watching with an interested smile upon her face.

The Queen’s labor was mercifully fast and, unlike those changelings who had torn away from her in waves of agony and blood, almost painless. The midwife bustled around, singing charms under her breath, leaning over the Queen, as if she did not notice the nine ladies, tall and stately though they were. Rather, she moved through them as if they were nothing more than shadows thrown across the bed from the images of the saints embedded in the stained glass windows.

“Such a clever Queen you are this time, Highness. This one is quick as Mercury! And look out! Here he comes! Push now, just a little harder…Here he comes! It…is …a…girl…”

The Queen sighed over the midwife’s worried disappointment. The Sorceress smiled in the shadows, her eyes glowing in the dark like embers. The new born cried as the nurse wiped the blood away in a basin.

“A beautiful baby,” said the midwife. “Good thing too. It’ll be easier to marry her off to a great house when the time comes. If she stays beautiful, that is.”

The Queen smiled, and held her now rounded arms out to hold the baby. She cuddled the clean, swaddled infant to her hot, damp body, lifting her head weakly, and cooing at her.

The beautiful Sorceress glowed white and green, her secret face flashed, and then she vanished. The nine ladies whirled away in a glimmering, smoky haze, out into the night.

To be continued….

Roses, Briars, Blood: Part 2

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Roses, Briars, Blood is in 11 parts:

Rosewolf, by Aline deWinter

The  following are the first two chapters of my YA novel, Rosewolf,  about a twelve year old girl,  Rose Tamlin, who is gradually transformed into a werewolf.  Her fate is sealed when she voluntarily opens the gate to Winterslewe, a strange mansion in the Forest of Wonders where Grandma invites her  in for tea…


Part One

Nether End, England 1931

The Gift

Rose had not seen herself for the last four years.
The last memory she had of her face was in August on her thirteenth birthday. She traced her loss of reflection to the previous Christmas when she woke very early in the morning to find a large box at the end of her bed tied with a wide silk ribbon. The box looked old and was made of crinkled golden paper. When she undid the ribbon and opened the box, the dark, musty smell of old roses rose up out of it like a messenger.  Underneath the delicate ivory tissue she found a coat of blood red velvet.
She lifted the coat out of its box. It was as fine as silk and very wide and much too long for her. It had a deep, soft hood lined with fur. When she put the coat on, it floated around her, swinging in a wide circle as she spun around, and falling gracefully to her sides when she stopped.
There was something in one of the pockets. Rose felt around and pulled out a heavy parchment letter with a red seal. The seal was stamped the image of a woman in a long cloak. Rose opened it carefully, for it was very old; the writing faded to pale sepia and the parchment had grown soft and crumbly.

My dearest Childe, (the letter began…)
This coat is a gift for the time of your first blood moon. It is your inheritance. As time goes on, you will learn why it has come to you. Wear it on the night  of the full moon. Keep it in a secret place. Away from the others.
I love you, all blessings Childe,

Rose did not understand what was meant by first blood moon, but she did understand that she had to hide the coat. But until when? And from whom? Her parents, she imagined. Rose felt around in the other pocket and her hand fell upon a small book-like object. It was covered in fine black leather crossed with a silver hinge and clasp. Inside were the portraits of two women. The images were very old, for both were wearing gowns with high Elizabethan neck ruffs. Jewels glinted in their elaborate hairstyles.
One of the Ladies had high, pale hair and hard eyes. She was beautiful, but looked very haughty to Rose with her aquiline nose and long neck. In the background was a wall of white roses. The woman was pointing at something with her long, jeweled finger. The forefinger was longer than it should be. Her red lips smiled enigmatically.
The other Lady wore a red bodice with a white, jeweled ruff that framed her rosy face. Her auburn hair was coiled in an intricate style with rubies and pearls woven in. Rose’s impression of this Lady was of fiery brilliance. Golden symbols floated in the air around her. She looked wise and playful holding a branch of red roses against her face. Her hand was long-fingered like the other one’s, the one with the hard eyes.
Rose also found in the same pocket, a large black key.
She lay the key and portraits on her bed with a sigh. Outside, snow was falling, the dawn light making it sparkle like motes of iridescence swirling at the casement windows. Rose looked again at the pictures of the Ladies and shivered. What did they want? Who were they? Daddy must know. He knows about all the ghosts and things.
Rose stood gazing at her reflection in a the tall, gilt framed mirror that filled a niche in the wall above her dressing table. The sun shone in at the window, rays streaming over the horizon and scattering prisms on the walls. The cat came in, curled around her legs, looking at her in the glass. This was her cue to quickly take off the coat, wrap in back into the box, and hide it. She put in the drawer under her bed and covered it with her nightgowns for now.
When she went downstairs, the Christmas tree was gleaming brightly in the half light. Her father was sitting beside the tree, an animated expression on his face. Her mother was in the kitchen making tea. They were excited about her new presents that they still pretended were brought by fairies in the night.
She could tell they had no idea about her other present…

First Moon

The night of the full moon came after a storm. The wind had blown some branches down and piled snow drifts against the outside walls of the garden. Rose looked out on the garden from the window seat in her bedroom at the top of the tower. The white roses she had planted beside the wall refused to fade, rather they bloomed more brightly against the snow, like fairy lights.
Rose rummaged in the drawer under her bed for the box with the coat inside and pulled it out. As the musty aroma struck her face, she flushed with anticipation. She put the coat on and twirled around in front of the mirror, trying the hood that framed her face with brownish fur. She was startled to see herself looking so wild! She thought her eyes looked different somehow, greener, more slanted, brighter than before. She laughed.
Moonlight spilled into over the garden wall and through the window where it reflected in the mirror above Rose’s head. It was time to go! She pulled her boots on and drew the crimson hood over her dark hair, pushing the straggling tendrils inside and fastening the clasp at her throat. She closed her door quietly and tiptoed down the spiral stair to the landing. The house was dark and very quiet. She hoped her parents had gone to bed. The house was so large, they could be anywhere and she must not be seen in Grandma’s coat! There was a line of light beneath their closed bedroom door. She heard them talking. Holding her breath, Rose hurried down the stairs to the bottom floor, into the entryway, and pushed open the door.  A gust of cold air hit her face with the smell of snow. The ground sparkled darkly in the moonlight. Suddenly the cat dashed in, almost knocking into her. It was crying and cold, arching its back when it saw her.
“What’s wrong, Shadow? Be quiet now! Shhhh!” she admonished.
Rose felt annoyed that her mother had not let the cat in earlier. The way it was purring, rubbing her legs, and clinging to her coat, it must have been very upset and cold. She detached the little claws carefully and put the cat in the lounge. Then she let herself out quickly into the night, shutting the door firmly behind her.
Once out in the frosty air, Rose headed for the forest. Flying over the snow, she was amazed at how warm the coat was; she hardly felt the chill. In the distance, the trees stood black and stark, fretting the pale, moon stricken clouds that floated above the horizon. When she arrived at the edge of the trees, a bright path lit up over the snow, leading into the forest where she was forbidden to go.
Rose moved away and went down a known path to the lake. It shone like a milky opal in its ring of bare trees and dark shrubberies. Her sister had been lost in the Forest of Wonders long ago. Remembering that, how could she disobey her worried parents and follow the bright path that she knew Grandma meant for her take into the Forest on this night of the full moon?  She might never return again!
Rose gazed across the lake. It was frozen and riddled with snow drifts and black patches where water ran cold beneath the ice. Mist rose on the other side like veils before the moon. A dog howled far away and sad. Then everything fell silent and as still as the crystalline shimmer of ice among the trees.
Filled with a sense of strange desolation, Rose  decided to go home. The forest loomed, the shadows gathered in the depths of the trees, and the bright path shone like a magic thread. It  pulled on her somehow, seemed to wind her in.
“It can’t hurt to go into the woods. Not just this once,” she reasoned. “Grandma wouldn’t harm me. She gave me this coat, after all.”
Rose still stood very still, glancing around and listening. She heard bells ringing.  She stepped on the path.
She walked for a long time before the woods opened up to a clearing. The path ended abruptly in front of a tall, black, wrought iron gate. Beyond the bars, a large manor house loomed, high and noble looking, with carved window frames, gables and turrets. The windows were dark. The house seemed to be sleeping, dreaming like a living thing. Suddenly, everything was turned about; the house, and the wood were skewed so that Rose looked down on herself from high above, standing small and lost in her red coat the color of blood on the snow.

As she gazed at the house, the front door opened, and a tall woman emerged shrouded in fur. She had a regal bearing. She stood on the walkway for a moment looking back at Rose. Her eyes were large and luminous in her delicate, heart shaped face; her scarlet lips turned up at the corners in a smile that did not reach her eyes.  She wore her pale ivory hair piled high on her head, held in place with an elaborate tarnished comb like a claw. Rose thought she must be very old, but she did not look old. Her hair was glossy, her complexion was brilliant, clear ,and empty of lines. When she spoke her voice was sweet, but hollow, and sent shivers down Rose’s spine.
“At last you arrive at Winterslewe. welcome. I have waited a long time for you to come. Your name is Rose. Am I not mistaken, my little one?”
Rose gripped the bars of the gate. She wanted to run, but the gaze of the mysterious woman held her. Her struggle must been apparent to the Lady who smiled a trifle mockingly. Her teeth were long and yellow.
“Cat got your tongue?”?    “Y-y-yes,” Rose cleared her throat. “Did you give me that letter? And this c-c-coat, Ma’am?”
“Yes, I did. Now you have come, it is up to you whether you let yourself in, Rose. Remember the key? It fits the lock to the gate you grip so tightly. Let yourself in, Rose, for I am not allowed beyond the gate. Use the key and come inside. We shall have tea. I have already prepared it.”
Rose felt around in the coat pocket and took out the key. It was heavy and carved the same as the gate and the tall railings of the fence. The lock was huge and groaned loudly as she turned the key and opened it. The gate suddenly swung wide as if caught by a strong wind. The way forward shone brightly. Rose felt a shock go through her as she got closer to the Lady who smelled like bark and fur as if she were a wild animal from the wood. Once Rose was over the threshold, the gate clanged shut behind her of its own accord…
“Yes, Rose. Now you enter my humble home of Winterslewe. It is named so because here it is always winter. Do you know who I am Rose?” The Lady walked slowly towards the house as she spoke. She seemed to drift above the ground, so smooth was her step.
“No, I don’t. Who are you, Ma’am?” Rose felt her throat tighten as if she was afraid to know the answer.
“I am your grandmother, Lianna, Rose. Have you not heard about me?”
“The Grandma who gave me this coat?”
“Yes, Rose.”
Rose felt her skin prickle as Grandma opened the door and let her inside. She knew she should not go in, but she followed her grandmother in through the dark door anyway. Grandma seemed so kind, smiling at Rose, and bending graciously to help her find her way in the dimness of the long passageway. They passed under an arch and down a hallway that led to a formal drawing room. When Grandma pushed the door open, Rose gasped in astonishment.
The far end of the long room was taken up by an ornately carved fireplace the size of a small room. An inviting, warm fire raged in the grate. The furniture was very old and a bit tatty, the Persian carpets worn, the ceilings were lofty, and the walls! — the walls were buried under trellises of climbing white roses. They grew unchecked, twining around the windows, spreading across the ceiling, weaving round the chandelier, and sprouting shoots over the floor. Rose felt enveloped in a sweet, narcotic scent so heavy that she could hardly breathe. The cloying air, and the twilight blueness, lit only by the fire and a few flaring candles in tall, treelike stands, made her feel weak and light headed so that she longed to sit down.
Grandma motioned to Rose to sit in an wing chair that faced the fire, and she sank into it with the last of her strength. On a delicate round table in front of her, a silver tea service was placed, its shiny surface glinting with firelight.  Steam wafted from the teapot with a vapor as sweet smelling as the white roses. Grandma sat across from her pouring tea into china cups. Rose huddled deep into the chair, and the warmth of the ruby red coat. She felt drowsy, but alert. The room was hazy, seen through the vapor. Grandma looked like an image in a steamy mirror as she hand the teacup and saucer to Rose.
“Now you shall have my special tea and cakes. It is brewed from the very same flowers you see all around you, Rose. I brought them indoors as it so cold outside always. They make a wonderful tea. It is for this that I invited you here, and I want you to come every month on the full moon so we can enjoy tea together. Imagine! I have never met my own grandchild in all these years! How old are you, Rose?”
Grandma handed Rose a small cake in a porcelain plate.
Rose looked at her with wide eyes. “Twelve. Grandma? How come you never came to visit us? I am sure my dad misses you. You are Daddy’s mother aren’t you? He told me you were all witches…”
Grandma shook her head as if get cobwebs out. “Twelve! What and excellent age! An interesting time in a young girl’s life.” Grandma smiled, her eyes bright and piercing. “Wait for the first blood moon. That is the magic time. That is what I am preparing you for. Drink up! The tea will help you grow oh, so strong.”

Suddenly a laugh rang out from somewhere in the house.
Grandma rose from her chair and looked over Rose’s chair toward the drawing room door and shouted,”Isabella! Stop it now!”
Whoever it was giggled and came right behind Rose’ s chair. Rose jumped! Little fingers were creeping over the wing of the chair. Rose looked from the fingers to Grandma with alarm!
“What are you worried about Rose? It is only Isabella. Come, Isabella, meet Rose. Rose, this is my other granddaughter, Isabella.”
A little girl stood before Rose, grinning and giggling. She had pale crinkly hair that hung down to her ankles. She wore a small ivory satin gown that made her look like a doll. Rose smiled at the girl who smiled back.  Her teeth were long and sharp looking, like Grandma’s.
“Would you like some tea, Isabella?” Grandma asked pouring her some as she settled into a brocade chair.
Isabella sipped her tea with a stiff smile.
“Why is she here, Lady Lianna?”
“I invited her, Isabella. She is my granddaughter and was born with a caul. That makes her one of us, darling.”
“What?” Rose asked, not sure of what she heard. Isabella was glaring at her.
Unnerved, Rose drank more tea, and munched the very sweet cake. Moonlight streamed in through one of the tall French windows that stood in a row along the eastern wall. Its eerie rays lit up the roses as it touched them so that the walls glowed with myriad orbs of white light. Outside, wolves were howling.
A shadow floated up behind Grandma. Grandma stood up and opened the casement window. The howling sounded much closer then. Rose wasn’t sure, but she thought she saw the wolves come into the room and swarm around her grandmother whose eyes lit up at the sight of them, glinting with cold fire. Rose blinked the vision away. It was only smoke from the hearth, after all, not wolves. Isabella was playing in the smoke. She and Grandma were laughing. Grandma tilted her head back and, when she laughed, and her mouth was wide.
Rose heard a snuffling sound beside her, below the wing of the chair. She squeezed her eyes shut, her heart pounding with fright. A hot breath brushed her face. When she opened her eyes, the face of a wolf was at her shoulder, looking at her intently.
“Ah!” she jumped and then froze.
It was staring at her over the arm of the chair, smiling, snarling, smiling. Rose squeezed her eyes shut again and shivered. A cold nose touching her neck. She screamed, but as in a nightmare, could make no sound. When Rose opened her eyes again, the wolf was slowly vanishing into a swirling mist.
Smiling, Grandma swayed toward Rose holding out a delicate china plate with a cake on it.
“Rose, here, eat this cake. It is time to go now.”
Rose obediently held her mouth open for the cake. As she chewed, the room began to clear and energy returned to her body.  Suddenly, Grandma lifted her out up and escorted her to the door. She opened it, and Isabella pushed her out.
Rose stood shivering on the front step. The sky was gray with pre-dawn light. She wasn’t sure if she was awake or dreaming until she heard a voice behind her calling.
“Rose, when you leave, don’t forget to lock the gate. Thank you for visiting your old Grandma. Come again next month, when the moon is full. It has been a great pleasure to have you. Goodbye for now.”
Rose walked down the walkway, her feet crunching over the snow, and went out of the gate. When she turned to lock it, she saw Grandma and Isabella standing in the doorway, waving at her. It was uncanny how much alike they looked, one smaller than the other, but the same.
“Goodbye,” she said softly, still unsure whether she dreamed or not.
The heavy gate closed with a loud clang, almost catching her fingers so that she snapped awake. And indeed, Winterslewe, Grandma, and Isabella, were still there.

This is a work in progress. let me know what you think and if you want more. I might be able to serialize it, but it is a novel and therefore very long.

Please comment! I love to hear what you think.

The Threshold by A.S. Byatt, conclusion

And one day we will write it otherwise, that he would not come, that he stayed, or chose the sparkling ones, or went out again onto the moors to live free of fate, if such can be. But you must know now, that it turned out as it must turn out, must you not? Such is the power of necessity in tales.

Well, she took his hand softly, and the touch of her cool fingers was the kiss of moths, or cool linen after a hard days work, and she turned her face towards him and lifted up those eyelids and looked at him and then he saw her eyes. What can I say of her eyes, save that he looked into them and was lost and no more saw the heath, nor the other two bright creatures turning and turning in their cages of light, nor yet  his own trusty steed who had come with him prancing and saddle-sore to the known world’s end? If I were to attempt this description — but no, I cannot — yet I must, for I am your chronicler, bound to recount toyou, what? Imagine then twin pools at midnight, lit by no external shining, but from deep within, some glimmer, some promise, lucid though sloe-black, deep after deep. Imagine then, when she turned her head slightly, a black not after all bluish, like those black plums, but very faintly brown, the slightly hot black of panther-skin, waiting, out of the gleam of the moon.

‘I will come with you,’ said the Childe, a second time, and she said softly enough, inclining her head in what might have been a dutiful way, ‘Come then.’

And she drew him on, over and under the threshold of the standing stones, and his horse called out in alarm, but he stepped on unhearing. And although the stones seemed simple enough in the  midst of the moor, which seemed vaguely to stretch on behind as it had before, he found it was no such thing, for beyond the lintel was a descending track, winding and winding, between banks of sweetly scented flowers that he had never seen or dreamed of, blowing soft dust at him from their huge throats, and lit by a light neither of day, nor of night, but even the perpetual unchanging light of that kingdom…

by Christabel LaMotte                                                       Finis

The Threshold by A.S.Byatt continued…

And the first came in a golden glow, putting out gold slippered feet from under a dress rich and stiff with cloth of gold and all manner of silk embroidery. And the cushion she bore was tissue of gold and the chased box shone like the vanishing sun herself with rich gold chasing and fretwork.

The second was bright with silver like the light of the moon, and her slippered feet were like slivers of moonlight, and all over the silvery gown shone crescents and luminous rounds of argent light, and she was bathed in a cool but intense brilliance, which most beautifully embellished the polished surface of the silver casket she bore on a cloth of silver, with its threads like needles of pure white light.

And the third was dull behind these two and had a subdued lustre, like that of armour burnished and used, like that of the undersides of high clouds hiding the true light that suffuses their steely grey with a borrowed brilliance. Her dress was alive with slow lights like still water under the stars but in the shadow of great trees, and her slippered feet were softly velvet, and her hair, unlike that of the others, was caught back under a masking veil. And the first two smiled at the Childe as they came out of the stone shadows in their brilliant pools of glimmering light. Only the third cast down her eyes, modestly, and he could see that her lips were pale, and that her eyelids were heavy and smoky dark and threaded with violet veinings and her lashes were like the feathery plumes of moths on her colorless cheeks.

And they spoke to him, it seemed, with one voice, which had in it three tones, a clear clarion, a reedy oboe, a whispering low flute.

‘You may go no further this way,’ said they,’ for this is the edge of things, here, and beyond is another country. But you may choose, if you will,  one of us to be your guide, and venture further. Or you may turn back if you will, without dishonour, and trust yourself again to the plain.’

And he answered them courteously that they should speak on, for he had not come so far and so wearily simply in order to turn back. Moreover he was charged by his father with a mission, which he might not reveal in that place. ‘It is known to us already,’ said the three damsels. ‘We have waited long for you.’

‘How am I to know, then,’said the Childe. greatly daring, and in tones of the most humble respect,’that you are not those whiteladies of whom they speak with such fear and honour in the villages I have come through?’

Then they laughed, high, low, clear and whispering, and said they doubted much whether honour was so very apparent when those were spoken of; however there was much superstition and misbelief, as to the whiteladies, among the common people, to which he should perhaps not give too much credence.

‘As for ourselves,’ sad they,’ you must take us as you find us, and judge of us as you see us, what we are, or what we may be to you, as all men must, who have a high courage and a clear vision.’

Then said he, not knowing before he spoke that he had made up his mind to venture, but as if some voice spoke through him,

‘I will assay.’

‘Choose now,’ they said then,’ and choose wisely, for extremes of bliss and misery stand on your choice.’

#2 0f 4:To be continued at the next link below…

The Threshold by A.S.Byatt, Part 3, continued…

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.


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.