Roses, Briars, Blood: Part 10

Roses, Briars, Blood

My darker version of Briar Rose continues….

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Roses, Briars, Blood: Part Ten

As the priests tied Princess Mirabelle to the stake, the rabble, raising their fists, screamed curses at her. From her senses spinning with  fear, all she could see was a sea of contorted black holes spewing waves of pollution into the air.

“This is a mistake! I am Princess Mirabelle!” she cried as the ropes went around her waist.

As the smoldering brands were being laid at her feet, the Princess marveled that these villagers could have been no more than infants in the Sorceress’s time. Many of them had not even been born, yet they acted as though they had been harmed by the Sorceress personally, had been present at her exile.

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Such is the power of tales, she mused as the Executioner lit the scrawny kindling, that they believe the dead past can still harm them.

“Sorceress!, Witch! Now we will watch you die!”

As she stood bent and wild eyed, the Prince of her dreams rode by on his ornately caparisoned white horse. He sneered her as the flames bloomed at the edges of the pyre.

“Now I shall go and find the real Princess Mirabelle,” he shouted over the crackling of the flames. “I’ll see what you have done to her, you Witch!”

The Prince charged off in the direction of the forest followed by his entourage of fifty armed men.

The heat grew stifling and the Princess closed her eyes against the brightness of the flames. Her heart fluttered in dread of the fire singing her hair and licking her bare feet.What would happen when it reached the hem of her shift? And as she trembled and cried, she heard the sound of voices singing her name.  The dancing flames grew taller, and as they danced, they became Nine Ladies who mysteriously walked out of the inferno to encircle Princess Mirabelle.

Mira…Mira…Mira….belllllle. Do not be afraid. Did you not know that you are immortal?

“Oh, please!” the Princess murmured. “Take me out of here. It is a terrible mistake.”

Suddenly, a wand of fire swept up the back of her dress, and the ropes that held her to the stake broke. Princess Mirabelle crumpled down and would have fallen fell face first into the blaze if something hadn’t lifted  her up in time.

The power of flight is still yours, Princess Mirabelle. Had you had forgotten it?

She was floating in the air looking down at the drunken, leering crowd that danced in a ring around the high, snapping fire, celebrating her death, as the Sorceress’s body was consumed in the conflagration.

I am not the Sorceress. She is dead. Now I must go back to the castle before the Prince gets there. I must show him who I really am…

The nine ladies accompanied the flying Princess back to the Sorceress’s castle.
As they flew over the forest, she saw the Prince and his entourage had passed into the region of winter, and were fast approaching the first of the ring walls whose stones were barely to be seen under its cowl of snow, and the wild tangling branches of the briar roses.

At the sight of the wall. Prince Agramant reined in his steed and stood up in his stirrups.

Under a trellis of briars he was able to see the structure of the castle gate. Disconcertingly, he also saw bones hanging on the wall, whose ripped and ravaged silk doublets and satin cloaks flapped like the flags of Princes in the bitterly cold wind, catching on the thorns of the blood red briar roses .

Impatient, and jealous that others had tried to assail his rightful Bride, the Prince shouted at the gate.

“The enchantment is over! The Wicked Enchantress is dead, burned to a crisp, and her soul damned into Hell. Let me in, in the name of God!”

And slowly, the gate was filled with light. And as the light grew, the roses that hung upon it began to sizzle and burn as if they too were subject to the fire. Now the gate stood open, and the dazzled Prince went through.

********

As she watched the Prince pass through, in that way, from one gate to another, as he made his way up the mountainside toward the castle, Princess Mirabelle’s anxiety increased.

“We must hurry! If he gets into the tower before we do, he shall awaken the sleeping Princess, and thinking she is me, will marry the Sorceress!”

Now the Princess felt as though she was flying through syrup, and wondered if the Sorceress was already awake and trying to prevent her getting to the tower in time. Then she remembered that there was a great force field around the castle, proving the enchantment of that place was not quite over yet.

“We must stop him!” the Princess cried as she watched the Prince trot up the the paved parapet that sloped up to the door of the tower.

She turned to see if the Nine Ladies were still with her and found, to her dismay, that she had merely been talking herself. Suddenly, a loud roar split the air like thunder! Princess Mirabelle spun around and, in  her utter terror, almost lost altitude.  An enormous dragon was coiled around the turret where the Sorceress slept, spewing flames at the Prince as he climbed towards the entrance. The Prince’s horse reared, bucked him to the ground, and swiftly galloped back down the parapet. The Prince stood up and pulled out his sword to face the monster. It seemed to laugh at him as a flame licked the sword and it fell to the ground like melted wax.

As the Nine Ladies in the form of a dragon, for she knew that was who it was, held the Prince at bay, Princess Mirabelle was able to float through the tower window and into the chamber where her nemesis lay, in all her golden glory, waiting for the Prince’s kiss.

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To be continued…The last installment comes next!

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Roses, Briars, Blood is in 11 parts

Roses, Briars, Blood: Part 11: Finis

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.

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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

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

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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.