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Authors: Anya Wylde

Tags: #romance, #funny, #novella, #fairytale, #fairytale adventure, #fairytales for adults

Ever After

BOOK: Ever After
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EVER
AFTER
A Novella
By
ANYA
WYLDE

Copywright 2014
Anya Wylde

Smashwords
Edition

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Once again, I
am ever so grateful to my adorable husband, my poodle, my friends,
my family ... in fact the whole wide world.

 

(i)

It was
time.

The land was
pining, the people yearning and the queen getting on in years. The
king, too, had lost all the hair on his head save one tiny grey
curl.

Yes, it was
time.

Time for the
king and queen of the great snowcapped mountains to have a child. A
child who would be heir to the throne and rule over the people of
the snowcapped kingdom. A wonderful, obedient child who would love
and care for his ageing parents.

The king and
queen smiled at each other. Yes, it was time.

Once the
decision was made, the king and queen immediately turned to the
wise council and asked them for the best method to achieve this
end. The wise counsel consisted of four very old turtles with
wrinkled necks and dark, mysterious eyes. For centuries they had
served the kings and queens of the great snowcapped mountains
faithfully offering incomprehensible advice. But this time the
question posed to them was unique … How did one go about producing
a child?

They poked
their heads out of their ancient shells and had a long discussion
amongst themselves. They argued, they wheezed, they grumbled, but
in the end they agreed unanimously. It was the clearest, shortest
and most straightforward answer any council had ever given. They
were firm in their belief that this was the only solution. They
smiled through dried, crinkled lips and said that it was
simple.

"What," the
king asked feverishly "must I do?"

“Search from
north to south, east to west,” they chanted, “and procure the best
quality clay you can find.”

"And?" the
queen prompted through nervous, quivering lips.

"Take the
clay," they said triumphantly, "and make a baby out of it."

The king and
queen grinned and leaped into the air. They clapped their hands and
danced and sang. Once the celebrations ended, they called all their
runners and set them to work.

The king also
wrote a long notice to be sent to the other kingdoms. It was sixty
feet long and written in gold ink. It consisted of long winded
formalities, hellos and howdies, but what it all boiled down to
was, in short, simply this. "If you value our alliance, find me the
best clay in this world and I will reward you handsomely."

Thereafter, the
runners, soldiers and foreign ministers raced all over the world.
They searched through dry desserts on camels and things. They
galloped across green forests and over mountains and hills. They
bobbed and floated on boats, ships and crocodiles ….

Until one day a
simple farm boy wearing plain brown clothes and tattered shoes
staggered up to the King. He smiled proudly and held out his hands,
letting the softest, smoothest and whitest clay trickle between his
calloused fingers.

The king and
the queen rejoiced. They had found their clay. They rewarded the
boy and immediately set their artisans to work to make the most
beautiful babe in the world.

Finally the day
arrived, and the kingdom waited in breathless silence. The
sculpture was unveiled after a lot of ceremony and fuss. The
cellist stopped playing, the pianist’s fingers paused, the kingdom
stilled, and the king and queen of the great snowcapped mountains
peered into the cradle ….

The tiny form
was as pretty as can be. But, alas, it had no life … no
heartbeat.

***

"We knew it!"
crowed the young ministers. "No old, traditional methods can ever
work. What the king needs is a more modern approach. Something
scientific and progressive, and officially approved."

The king
scratched his tired head and asked them what they meant.

"All you have
to do," the ministers replied, "is send a petition to the chief
minister of storks responsible for the safe transport of newborn
babies who resides in the kingdom of the wind. Your babe will
arrive in no time all. No time at all …."

The king spoke
to his lawyers, and they agreed that this could work. He dictated
an eighty feet long scroll and sent it off. But, alas, on the way
the petition became tied up in rolls of red tape and got stuck to
the tip of the tallest tree and was lost forever.

The queen
wilted and threatened to go live with her mother forever.

The king had no
choice. He had to turn to his last resort. Hence, on a dark
moonless night he crept out of his castle and trekked up the
mountain.

He paused under
an old gnarled tree and started digging the snow covered earth. He
dug and he dug and he dug until his cold, blistered hands touched
something hard. His fingers now worked more frantically. Finally,
huffing and puffing he dragged an old turtle out into the open.

This particular
turtle was a royal secret. It was their powerful spiritual advisor,
who was rumoured to be as old as the earth. Looking at it now, the
king wondered if it was finally dead. Worried, he knocked on the
shell.

A disgruntled
head appeared out of the shell and dry, cracked lips spat out a
mouthful of snow. "What do you want?" it growled.

"A child," the
king replied promptly.

The wise
turtled squinted its eyes and peered at the king. "It is simple,"
it said. "Stand on one leg and pray to the goddess of
fertility.”

The king
returned back to the castle. By now he was too tired to stand on
two legs, forget praying on one. He, therefore, requested his
footman to do it in his stead. His wife joined the footmen, and the
two stood on one leg and began praying for a babe.

 Many suns
rose, many moons set, and the earth circled the sun four times
before the discordant voices of the footman and the queen reached
the Goddess. It was yet another rotation before the Goddess became
annoyed enough to grant them what they desired.

The people of
the kingdom rejoiced.

The queen took
up knitting.

The king became
fat.

The footman was
promoted to the post of sergeant major.

And with a
shout from the queen, a hoot from the major, a joyous giggle from
the good king … the long awaited princess finally arrived.

***

After all the
ups and downs and downs and ups, the king was understandably
protective about his daughter. He took one look at her flushed,
wrinkled face, declared her too precious for the world and locked
her away in the prettiest tower in the kingdom.

The princess
grew up quickly as children often do. In a blink of an eye, the
baby princess started crawling. Another blink and she was walking,
and a third blink had her running from room to room.

One day the
queen sat watching her young daughter playing with gold and ruby
trinkets. All of a sudden, the princess let out a shout as a pearl
slipped out of her tiny hands and hit the window with a soft crack.
The young princess jumped up and raced to the window.

The queen's
mood turned maudlin as she watched her daughter hunt for the
elusive jewel. She wondered what the princess would do when she
became tired of the beauty of the tower and all the wonders it
beheld.

A majestic
eagle whizzed by the window just then. Distracted, the princess
forgot about the pearl and instead began watching the eagle beating
its strong brown wings as it glided and dipped and flirted with the
clouds. She tapped the glass in joy.

The queen's
face turned grey as an odd fearful thought nestled in her breast.
She wondered if her little princess would one day weary of her
gilded cage. What then? Would her beloved daughter turn to the
window and leap from it in an attempt to join the soaring
eagles?

Days went by
and the princess continued to grow and so did the worrisome fear in
the queen's heart. At last the queen could bear it no longer. She
turned to her own wise council and unburdened her heart. The
queen's council consisted of twelve grasshoppers who lived in the
garden. They respectfully took off their flowery bonnets and heard
the queen out.

"I worry and
worry and worry," the queen cried, "that one day my daughter will
jump from the tower and die."

The
grasshoppers rubbed their green hands and feet together and
chittered amongst themselves. The grasshoppers were female; hence,
a solution was found quickly enough.

"Wrap her in
cotton wool," they announced, "and pad her up well. It is the only
way."

The queen
smiled her thanks and rewarded them with silver spoons and plates
specially crafted for their size.

Next, she got
busy sticking hundreds of cotton balls all over the princess. It
was only after the princess was so padded that she could barely
walk that the queen was satisfied. And it was just as well, for the
Queen had been right as mothers so often are ….

The princess
grew up into a lovely young woman with hair like the night and eyes
like a clear morning sky. She was also intelligent, which was why
she soon grew bored of sparkling baubles and frivolous games.

It was on her
seventeenth birthday that she turned her attention towards the
window. From then on her beautiful, expressive face appeared to
wear a mask of yearning. Every morning she would draw back the
thick gold curtains, rest her head against the window and stare out
of the spotless glass at the never-ending blue sea. She would gaze
longingly at the fishermen in their boats and the fishwives waiting
for their husbands to return to the shore. She wished she could see
their faces, but they were so far away. They appeared no larger
than her dolls from where she stood high up in her golden
tower.

She wanted to
escape. To swim and bath in the ocean water. She wanted to paddle
and frolic and make tiny paper boats and set them afloat on the
puddles in the sand. She grew forlorn as days went by and she
remained trapped in the tower. Her servants, friends, and even her
parents’ love, was no longer enough to fill her heart.

Then one day
the sun beckoned too invitingly for the princess to resist, and she
used her solid gold violin to break the glass and leaped from the
window of the tower.

***

It was her
mother’s foresight and the cotton padding that saved her life.

The princess
limped back to the tower with a broken ankle and a sore heart. The
king took one look at his beloved daughter and melted. He was not a
cruel man. He loved his daughter and could not bear to see her
lovely face looking so forlorn with tears glistening in her big
blue eyes. He engulfed his daughter in a warm, comforting hug and
told her that from now on she could leave her tower.

"Truly?" the
princess asked in awe.

"Yes," the king
replied.

"Can I explore
the palace?"

"To your
heart's content," he smiled.

"And see a
market, visit a fair and paddle in the sea."

"You can if you
will heed my advice," he warned.

She folded her
hands on her lap and lifted a shining face to her father.

He patted her
eager head and continued. "Twenty four guards will follow you every
time you leave the tower."

She nodded
eagerly.

He lifted a
hand. "I have not finished. The guards will follow you everywhere.
You will listen to them, and if they advise you not to go someplace
… you shall not go."

She gave a firm
nod.

He narrowed his
eyes and continued. "You will also take with you a lady's maid, a
doctor and two nurses in case you get hurt, a pistol in each
pocket, a machine gun strapped to your back and a grenade
squirreled away in your bonnet."

Her eyes
widened at this pronouncement.

"You will have
a military tank follow you every time you venture further than the
palace walls," he added.

Her mouth fell
open. “A tank?"

"Yes."

"With a giant
cannon attached to the roof?" she asked.

"Yes."

"Can I operate
the cannon and launch …err… stuff?"

"If
needed."

"What fun," she
exclaimed and leaped up to kiss her father's cheek.

The king turned
red in pleasure and mumbled gruffly, "You can't go too far from the
palace, and you must not talk to strangers. Don’t eat strange
foods, drink funny things, smoke odd stuff…."

The princess
stopped listening. She quivered in excitement, her feet itching to
get away. She had a whole world waiting to be explored.

She nodded
absently as her father continued to lecture her for the next six
hours. Her face sported a practised obedient expression, but inside
her a storm was brewing. It was a wonderful, thundery and exciting
storm—the sort of storm that one looks forward to on a hot summer
day—It grew inside her, a tiny baby seed of a tempest, and as her
thoughts and emotions grew so did the seed start swelling bigger
and bigger and bigger until it had no choice but to erupt. It
erupted in a shimmer of happy rain and washed away her sadness. The
accompanying gale soothed the ridges in her soul picking away the
dark, unhappy bits. And like one who is young, she was once again
strong, hopeful and full of joy.

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