Roses, Briars, Blood: Part 11: Finis

Roses, Briars, Blood

by Arlene deWinter, 2009

My darker version of Briar Rose continues to The End


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Roses, Briars, Blood – Part Eleven


The  silver puddle of his sword lying on the cobbles flashed as a lick of flaming dragon’s breath struck the air in front of Prince Agramant. He shot a look up at the gigantic beast, whose slit green eyes blazed in its slender snakes head. She gazed down at him almost kindly, as her sinuous, long neck curved around the turret, protective as a mother. “Well,” said the Prince to himself. “Weapons are useless, but I will have my Princess. I dreamed of nothing but her for what feels like a century.” Gallantly, the Prince dove into a shadowed cranny. Fire crossed the open space at his back, scorching the air so that it briefly took his breath away. The cranny turned out to be a short narrow passage between high walls that curved up the side of the tower. Overjoyed at this discovery, the Prince hurried up the slope, proud that he had foiled the dragon, and certain that the passage led to a door into the tower where his Princess was held captive, waiting for him to save her. Looking straight up at the sky far above him, the Prince saw the dragon watching him intently. Though he shivered inside, he raised hie fist at it and shouted, “You can’t get me in here! You may be large. Your may breathe fire! But I am small enough to slip through that door and get inside. Try setting me alight now!” The dragon cocked its head as if it could hear the Prince’s rant from such distance. As its head lunged back, the Prince had a brief moment to realize that, if the flames could reach him, he would be roasted alive within the stone oven of the walls instantly. But fear only spurred him on!

It was with a joyous laugh that Princess Mirabelle watched the dragon swaying over the tower. Suddenly, the dragon opened her vast wings spread so wide, that they blocked out the sun, and her flaming breath took its place like an enormous torch in the sky. In the now deep shadows, the air had thickened to fog so that the Princess had to rely on the beacon of dragon fire to find her way to the turret.

Finally, she saw the rose covered parapet just below. With a great sight, the Princess willed herself to land, and the minute her feet hit the paving stones, she rushed through the tall window casement that still remained open as she had left it weeks ago.

Inside, she heard the eerie, echoing sound of someone crying. It came from the direction of the bed chamber. Now somber, Princess Mirabelle went slowly. Through the chamber door she saw the Prince with his head in his hands moaning and sobbing as if his heart would break. She must be dead, thought Princess Mirabelle. But not so! For a voice rose from the bed. A voice as dry and spare as winter leaves, old beyond time. The Princess crept up behind the Prince and looked over his shoulder. There in the bed was her own body, aged and crumpled and dusty as a woman who had lived in captivity for one-hundred years.


Suddenly the room was filled with the scintillation of bells with deep gongs underneath, and a lashing flame of fire poured through the window. The sound of crackling embers jarred the Prince  to his feet. But the Princess was not frightened, for within the flames danced the Nine Ladies from the Woods.

As the fire died away, the Ladies circled the bed murmuring a dark and resonant chant. The Prince, heavy with grief and disappointment, fell back on the bed. He did not see the Nine Ladies, nor Princess Mirabelle, but the Sorceress inside the desiccated body did. She lifted herself painfully up on her pillows, and stretched forth her arms as if to embrace the spirit of the Princess and the Nine Ladies in one. The Prince looked around bewildered, and when he suddenly beheld the spirit of Princess Mirabelle, he turned pale with a look of amazement and dread.

“What are you?” he shouted, his wild eyes glancing all over the room as if he could not locate the source of his fear. “Witches! The evil Sorceress’s minions! Your Mistress is dead and on her way to Hell.”

He stood up with shaking legs and reached for his sword. It wasn’t there, so he pulled out his dagger and began slashing at the air. Suddenly, the dagger was struck from his hand.

Princess Mirabelle felt herself grow heavy and, as if in a dense and glowing mist, she raised her hand before her face, and saw it.

You are showing yourself to the Prince in your true shape as Princess Mirabelle, the Nine Ladies whispered.

The Prince looked confused with emotions he never knew he had as he looked at the ghost of Princess Mirabelle. He fell to his knees and clasped his hands as if in prayer. “Oh, you are an angel come to me from Heaven. But I am too late. The Sorceress’s curse has destroyed everything.”

A cry came from the bed. The Sorceress, in the ancient body of Princess Mirabelle, sat up, leaning weakly against the opulent pillows, and whispered.

“Come to me. Please. Have your old body back. I would rather be a spirit than this.”

The Nine Ladies sang a deep and powerful song, and inside the song were words that only Princess Mirabelle could hear. And underneath that was the shimmer of a thousand silver bells.

You are immortal, Princess Mirabelle. Take back your old body and be young and beautiful again.

But what of the Sorceress?

There was a deep rumbling sound as of Nine Ladies conversing among themselves. Then, like a cold north wind their words struck her.

We cannot kill, and we have an ancient pact to assist the Sorceress in all her magical works. Therefore we would have you share the body. That way you, Princess Mirabelle, shall have the powers of the Sorceress, and the Sorceress shall learn to how to be gentle and kind, and to receive love. In that way, your magical powers will be used only for good. Go now, and embrace your other half.

And before the Prince’s stricken eyes, Princess Mirabelle embraced the Sorceress, and slowly melted like snow until she disappeared.

The Prince leaped to his feet in shock and horror.

“What are you doing? How can you, my  Angel, embrace a Devil?”

As he stared in fixed confusion at the ancient body in the bed, he saw a change. The face smoothed out and began to glow, the hair came alive with shimmering gold, the eyes sparkled, the whole body became firm, supple, and young. The Prince spun around as if he would faint, but he gripped the bed post and stared as his Princess Mirabelle, the exact copy of she who had gazed down at him from the balcony so long ago, the exact replica of the face in the miniature that still hung about his neck, looked up at him with eyes of love.

“Come to me, my Prince. Kiss me and I shall be yours.”

The Prince stumbled forward and fell on the bed next to the beautiful Princess. Reaching, he placed his hand on the back of her neck, pulled her towards him, and kissed her. Suddenly, the very air trembled and an ethereal shout went up, and the bells rang louder than ever, as for a wedding.


Prince Agramant carried his Bride back home to the Kingdom Beyond the River, and on hearing how the whole castle had awakened from its enchanted sleep as if no time at all had passed, he brought Princess Mirabelle back home to her family who was just as young as they were before, except for the Traveling Players who had held their grotesque postures for so long that they would have been stuck that way for the rest of the lives but for the Magical Ministrations of the Princess.

A great wedding was held that brought the two kingdoms together. The only point of sadness was that the Prince’s mother, the Queen was dead. At this father, the King, wept both for joy and sadness.

Because of the marriage, peace came back to the Kingdom Beyond the River, for now the citizens knew that there would be a proper heir to the throne.

Prince Agramant and Princess Mirabelle lived happily ever after as long as the Princess’s mild and loving nature held sway. But sometimes, she was taken over by a dark twin who doubted Agramant’s love for her, and said biting, sarcastic things. Agramant was forced to understand that he had not just married a Princess, but a Sorceress as well, who in her spite that he had spurned her former dark beauty in preference to that of Mirabelle, smashed mirrors in his face, turned him into a dog, fed him on slops, and walked around naked with a cage about herself to which she alone had the key. Because of this the Prince could take nothing for granted and was forced to show his love by treating his wife with generosity and kindness no matter what mood she was in. This was not just to insure peace in the house, but also because the dark twin, the Sorceress, smelled of jasmine and roses, and was  lit from within with a magical glamor so deep that he though she was a creature out of dream. Once she forgave him, she moved  with a seductive power that the Princess, for all her bright beauty, warmth, and goodness, could never have indulged in alone.

As for her immortality, the Princess, now the Queen, passed this on from herself to the King in the way of roses and briars that is known, and has gone on, for thousands of years.


Illustrations by Kay Neilsen, L.Lipman, and the film The Brothers Grimm


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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.

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.


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.


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