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1. "The Miller's Daughter" by Claire Martens (a Rumpelstiltskin retelling)
The Miller's Daughter
(A Rumpelstiltskin retelling)
By Claire Martens
Once upon a time, there lived a poor miller whose wife had died, leaving him to bring up their only daughter. The two of them lived happily together on the green bank of a blue river, and the daughter wore her mother's picture in a gold locket around her neck. Although as the years passed the kingdom grew poorer, their mill never wanted for grain. What's more, the miller and his daughter dearly loved each other, and being so loved, the miller's daughter could not help but to grow up as beautiful as could be.
One day while the miller's daughter sat spinning in the sunshine, the king's only son, Prince Gerald, rode past. When he saw her beauty, he immediately fell in love with her, and crossed the river to tell her so. "However," he said, "I am bound by duty. I must marry a bride who meets my father's approval; he will never allow me to marry a woman who is without fortune, for our kingdom lies in grave need. Nevertheless, I will find a way." He kissed her hand, and promising to return soon, he mounted his horse and galloped away.
When she was alone, the miller's daughter despaired. "How can Prince Gerald possibly marry a commoner?"
"Not so fast," said a shrill voice. The miller's daughter stared. There stood a tiny, hunchbacked man with wiry red hair and beard, and a long, hooked nose, dressed all in green. "I am Rumplestiltksin," he said, "and I can give you your wish. But nothing comes without a price."
"What price?" she asked.
"Nothing you cannot afford, I assure you," whined Rumpelstiltskin, twisting his green cap in his long, bony fingers. "So now, shall I make you rich, that you and your prince may wed?"
"Very well," the miller's daughter said, although his words rested uneasily with her.
"I am glad to hear it," Rumpelstiltskin grinned. "Now, when you take your spinning wheel, sing this song, and you will be able to spin straw into gold:
"Spin, good wheel, and bring me gold in time,
Yield your treasure, that it may be mine.
"When thus you use the wheel that is yours, I will return to take the payment that is mine."
When Prince Gerald returned to the mill, the miller's daughter met him with a smile.
"I had a visitor last night," she told him. "And though I may be a poor miller's daughter, I shall soon be rich enough to please your father."
Prince Gerald was overjoyed. "How, my love?"
(A companion tale to "Cupid and Psyche")
By Jude Tulli
Aurora had always heard that when Venus smiled, the colors of the world grew brighter. Yet when Mercury delivered the mortal slave girl Venus had sought for so long, the world around them faded a little closer to blackness.
"Harlot," the air between them froze with the goddess' contempt as the veins on her forehead glimmered a gorgeous shade of blue. "Never mind the grime that lives on your face and hands and underneath your fingernails. You somehow believe you are more beautiful than I! And you somehow managed to seduce my son Cupid, whom I fear must be going blind or losing the few wits he once had in his old agelessness, in a vain attempt to steal his quiver to use for your own personal whims."
Aurora settled on her knees, mesmerized by the tightly-woven curls of Venus' hair, the measured rhythm of her breath and even the perfect snarl that played upon her lips. Words refused to assemble in Aurora's mind within the slender token silence.
"I cannot allow these misdeeds to go unpunished," the goddess decreed. "Unfortunately for you, I am not the proper judge to decide your fate. I leave that to the goddess you have harmed most directly. Psyche, devoted bride of Cupid, I grant you full authority. Though nothing would please me more than to beat her senseless for the scandal she brings our family, I have left that satisfaction entirely for you."
Psyche descended from the autumn sky as a leaf might fall from a tree; delicately, with an eloquence long forgotten by the world.
Aurora felt the elder goddess' chill abated if only slightly by the younger's presence. She could see why Venus had felt threatened by her daughter-in-law amid the stories of old; though both could disarm any Caesar with a wink, the latter's curls were sleek and slack like Aurora's, and her breath ran slow and deep. What's more, Psyche possessed a radiance of spirit that seemed worn down within the Goddess of Love by eons of wanton jealousy. If she trusted either to execute justice, it was sure to fall from Psyche's fair hands.
When Psyche said her name the prisoner straightened to appear as tall as a mortal can from the knees up.
"That is my name," she replied to fill the long pause.
"You are the bastard child of a noble mother and one of her husband's own farm slaves. Beautiful as you are, how is it you have forged your way from such humble beginnings to becoming the object of a goddess' wrath?"
Aurora's eyes held Psyche's tight while her tongue wove her defense from air to ear:
The Tale of the Accused
I have sunk to this pitiful depth in much the same manner as you once did, my dear Psyche. When I came of age, fellow household slaves began singing praises of my beauty. I did not ask for it. Nor did I encourage it, yet once my master's highborn friend compared me to your unparalleled mother-in-law, this moment became my destiny.
Two Knights in One Day
(A Sleeping Beauty retelling)
By Tahlia Merrill
A lone knight pounded on the thick oak door of the fortress with all his rapidly waning strength. A sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach told him no one would answer. This was a bad turn of events for him. Moving on in this weather meant risking getting lost again or being attacked by bandits. The knight hoisted himself into the saddle and tried to push away some of the hair plastered to his forehead. He was just about to snap the reigns when a shaft of light appeared from the door.
“Is someone here?” A creaky voice, almost swept away by the wind, called.
“Yes!” The knight replied, jumping off the saddle.
A shriveled old man stood in the doorway, dressed in the mundane robes of a monk and framed by an inviting glow.
“Prince Patrick of Menolaine, I presume?”
The knight could only nod. How did this man know who he was? He was quite sure he didn’t look like a prince tonight!
The monk pointed to his horse.
“I’ll get one of the brothers to take your steed to our stables. Please, come in.”
Bewildered, Patrick stepped in, and let the monk escort him through the bare corridors into a simple dining hall. The half dozen tables were all empty and the room itself was completely dark except for the light emitted by a small fire. “Please, sit down and warm yourself.” The monk indicated one of two wooden benches near the fireplace. “My name is Father Thomas. I see the swamp has given you a hard time.”
Looking down at his clothes, Patrick found the strength to laugh. Mud covered every inch of him, from his waterlogged boots to the royal insignia embroidered in gold on his velvet tunic.
“I shall never again believe a dwarf when he counsels me on a shortcut. If I ever see that little blighter again, I’ll be sure he returns my gold ducat! Not only did his ‘shortcut’ take me directly through a swamp, but it also took double the time that my planned path would!”
Father Thomas coughed lightly to hide a smile.
“It will most likely be difficult for your highness to reacquire the coin. Dwarves in this country are known not only for their voracious greed, but also for their penchant towards gambling. I fear your ducat is long gone, sire.”
“How do you know who I am, Father?”
Father Thomas reached into his pockets and took out a small knife and a half-finished carving. His gnarly hands began to whittle away. “I do not know who you are, young man.” Father Thomas said rather severely, his misty gray eyes focused on his work. “But I was expecting you. Prince Conrad had mentioned—“
Patrick, who had been leaning forward to catch the monk’s softly spoken words, now sat bolt upright.
“Conrad’s here? Where? I must speak with him.”
“Not anymore,” Father Thomas assured him. “He left this morning, saying to me that, should his youngest brother, Prince Patrick, be sent to find him and bring Conrad back, I was to give that brother a message-”
Again, Patrick couldn’t help but interrupt,
“Let me venture a guess,” he said without enthusiasm. “The message was: ‘Not even the prospect of death will daunt me on my perilous quest. Alas, my only memento I can leave for you is my memory whenever you stare west.’ He always quotes the same idiotic poem!” Patrick pounded the bench with his fist. How many times had his parents sent him to find Conrad after his older brother had ran off in search of adventure? It was tiresome always digging him out of trouble and hauling him home. ...Read More