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May 29, 2023

When Fairy Tales Come Alive 25

By Lydia Manx

The two princes screamed into the twilight between the worlds to no effect. They stayed there for decades, without any knowledge of the effortless years passing them by. Not aging, or even feeling the tick-tock of time slipping away, it was thus that they didn't know that the kingdom had begun to fail while they were missing, lost to the royals and their promised kingdom. Everyone blamed the others for their disappearance. Trials and declarations of betrayals led to final deaths for many without much notice. The seasons weren't returning to any semblance of normalcy, and villages and their occupants were dying in the chaos; so any oddity wasn't being gossiped about or given much attention as it had in the past.

Despite the overall numbness of the kingdom, the queen and the royal consort offered anything and everything they could think of to the various fae and supernatural creatures that made up the kingdom for any word of their sons.

Daily men and women begged an audience with one of the two mothers, and nothing they slowly confessed or claimed to have seen was even remotely true. The two women had their own fae folks to vet the words spoken, and unlike the fake seers from before the princes disappeared, the latest batch of visionaries, the new ones, were actually good. Once the lies were uttered, each of the visitors were sent on their way, their falsehoods spoken to the mothers and overheard by their seers. Had it been prior to the princes disappearing, the punishments would have been far more severe for the lies; but with the loss of crops and the failing of the villages, it was mostly ignored. As it was, eventually all manner of lies colored the court, and the king ran away from his women to one of the far away battlefields.

So it came that blood was shed for no other reason than the fears shading the court and hovering above the entire kingdom. Battles waged and supposed enemies slain, bleeding through the ground where they fell -- for the simple fact that the king was frightened to return home to his women angrily walking and screaming around in the court.

Even dying in battles that had no true reason, the soldiers actually understood.

All the while, unseen by anyone and under the canopy of its branches, the forest was growing at such a rate that the cottage off the now-hidden path from the court was never discovered by anyone who possibly had ever been there. The crone and Adrienne had an uneasy alliance that held them together in the darkness; time passed as it always does. Adrienne was tied completely to the princes and thus didn't age, but the crone wasn't. One night in the middle of the decades since the princes had vanished, Adrienne heard the scream and subsequent death rattle of her dark companion's passing. In the early morning hours she ventured out of her room to find nothing but sooty ashes in the bed of the crone.

She didn't have to bury the woman, but simply opened the window in the dead one's room and let the winds take her ashy remains away. Adrienne didn't leave the cursed cottage, but stayed to make sure the princes remained lost in between the worlds.

Her anger and poisonous nature kept her anchored while everyone else was floundering in the failing seasons and disturbed worlds -- the seen and unseen universes. Adrienne was not just bitter, but felt justified in her passionate anger. When her blind mother had died, she had internalized the mourning of her family with intense hatred of the princes and their existing families. Her jealousy overrode any logic; she didn't bother to share her feelings or try to ponder her life choices. Her mother hadn't engendered any such notions of pondering, but instead always fed the hatred in her daughter from birth.

Time passing didn't diminish emotions that festering in her hardened heart and lost dark soul. Adrienne noticed that sounds in the distance that used to disturb her weren't in the wind any longer. Search parties for the two missing princes had fallen off years and years ago, and the royals couldn't command them to venture through thickets of sharp brambles and thick branches spiked with deadly barbs that had grown up covering any possible path to the cursed cottage. She smiled a bitter little wince as she decided that she was winning.

Part of what made her so delighted was that when the princes had been sent elsewhere, right after the crone had just introduced them to Adrienne, they were suddenly gone by the crone's curse without a clue why they'd been such selected. So that last thing that they would be able to recall was going to be just Adrienne's face. She figured that they would spend decades to try and puzzle out who Adrienne was and why they had been thrown away from their known world. What they also had no way of knowing was that when the spell was cast, it allowed a sliver of amber to fall beneath each of the young men before they went away. Those drops of amber were in a crystal dish on the mantle above the crone's ever-burning fireplace.

Adrienne kept that fire burning after the crone passed, because in an odd way it comforted her in the darkest of nights. It wasn't like she ever ran out of wood. The thickets were dry and brittle along the edges of the glade her cottage was in, and she had vast amounts of fuel to feed the hearth. Best of all, the golden drops of amber of the missing princes were a reward that Adrienne was able to gloat over nightly, above the fire she fed so carefully.

Adrienne would have been perfectly happy living in the cottage for many more decades while the kingdom disappeared into the ages, but alas, she wasn't the only evil sort lurking on the fringes of the kingdom.

The gardener had planted his seed far and wide, as it has already been told. One of the women he'd met had birthed an absolute angel -- at least on the surface. His child was a chubby-cheeked girl with dark ringlets that sprung out of her head at birth. She took after her mother, a chameleon of sort creature in the fae community, so her troll features weren't visible, but the stubborn, bloodthirsty nature wasn't ever far off in the girl's thoughts. She looked innocent, but in all actuality wasn't in the least. Her mother had been more than slightly obsessed by the gardener, but once he was dead she was denied her focus, and instead began to fill her child's head with information about all of the half-brothers and half-sisters she knew about, from over the years the gardener had plowed the readily available fields.

Sadly, the child heard a great number of stories of such encounters, about her dead father and his active sexual prowess; stories of which as you may have already gathered that there were many. Her mother had two reasons for filling her child with her such noxious detailed knowledge. First of all, she didn't want her child unintentionally taking up with a blood relative. In the fae chameleon nature that could cause extreme mutations of which many were deadly from birth -- and not just for the offspring but at times the entire village. And secondly, she was upset to lose the girl's father, and on the off-chance they might find time again to be together in the afterlife, she wanted to let her daughter know her own worth. The lessons were jumbled with the casual insanity only the truly mentally unstable can achieve and make sound believable and convincing. Spoon-feeding her child with such poison since birth bloated the child's very nature -- she didn't stand a chance of a normal existence.

Her name at birth was barely pronounceable by her own kind, so eventually her mother took to calling her Ornias, after a nightmare she'd had when the child was extremely young. After she began to grow up, the girl was soon just Rena. Being such a nasty but pretty piece of work meant that the girl didn't have any true friends; but children were so frightened of Rena they did her bidding to avoid being possibly fatally harmed. Rena didn't have to really do much make the others afraid of her. Her mother was crazy enough to spill over into the neighborhood, and the innocent little children had mothers who warned them how careful they needed to be around the scary family.

Rena was smart enough and talented enough in the darkness of magic that soon the little girls that followed her became hers. They weren't old enough to be called minions, but from everything observed it was only a matter of time for that to happen. Rena didn't charm anyone except elders who were wary of her and had a certain look she grew to recognize as a possible problem down the road. Besides her part chameleon nature with troll strength, she was fast to assess dangers, and with her mother's constant reminders, they added in to the lessons she learned. Her talents were stretched as she got older, and once the princes were vanished her mother began the real training in earnest. As Rena learned more and more it seemed to diminish her mother's vitality and strength. Her mother was literally wasting away while Rena was growing more and more gorgeous and finding her skill set. She didn't look innocent any more, but she wasn't a frightening creature so her growing powers were starting to be feared and respected.

What a skill set it was that was being bequeathed to Rena by her mother -- truly awe-inspiring to all dark kinds of creatures if it had been known. Rena kept finding new ways to get her way with little effort. A lovely blue moon pushed from the fog in an evening in between summer and winter -- now both ill-defined seasons -- illuminating a chiaroscuro landscape. It was the beginning of Rena's changing world.

Various gods and goddesses had been watching what was happening in the world of the trolls, fae and others. That the king had basically abandoned his kingdom was remarked on as well as the missing princes. They knew where they were frozen in time, and weren't inclined to hinder as it was the course that Matt and Bob needed to journey. But they argued and discussed the need to perhaps push a bit and change the course. The various humans and fae who had worshiped and prayed to them actually emotionally weighed on them and so they held a symposium to evaluate the situation.

It may or may not be common knowledge, but gods and goddesses of whatever ilk never made quick decisions. The large symposium that was created lasted a few centuries and all the while Adrienne gloated and Rena grew in power and anger. Not a pretty situation, but that was how time passed.

It must be mentioned that the princes, Bob and Matt, had felt little more than a few weeks passing during this time, and as otherly creatures, they weren't conscious of the decades. And as they were in between the worlds they felt not the various human pressing needs -- not hunger or thirst or any other biological urges -- it was like a dream state but not quite. A few sentences of where they were and who those odd women were had passed their lips but nothing like Adrienne thought. She'd had grandiose notions of how the princes must have felt, but she seriously overly inflated their reaction to her. Considering it had been only a brief conversation between the crone and the princes that happened before they were stuffed in between the worlds, it wasn't difficult to understand why Bob and Matt didn't focus their lives on the mystery of Adrienne. Had Adrienne known that maybe things would have been different. But she didn't have a clue.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2015-04-06
Image(s) © Lydia Manx and Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
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