Microfiction: The hunting of the white hind

I wasn’t sure I was going to do this one, but changed my mind. Another long fairy story.

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The door was closed but the hind rapped on it with her fore hooves until someone came to open it.

“A deer!” said the girl in consternation.

“Hind” said the cat. “I told you the hunt was close.”

The hind, without waiting for the end of the discussion, pushed into the chapel and hid behind the altar. The girl closed the door tight again and sat down on the altar steps to wait. It was not long before there was a loud hammering on the door.

“Better open it,” said the cat, so the girl took the bar from the door. On the threshold, a noble company sat horses that were all brightly caparisoned and champing at the bit. Their breath made clouds of mist in the frosty air. Hounds waited silently, their tongues lolling. Two young men were to the fore, one on a white horse, the other on a black. The young man on the black horse wore a silver circlet set with a blue stone to hold back his yellow hair. “We have lost our quarry, a white hind. Have you given her shelter?”

The young man on the white horse said in a loud, imperious voice, “If you have, you must hand her over. She is my betrothed and thought to escape her marriage by changing herself into a hind.”

The young man on the white horse had black hair held back with a circlet of gold and the stone on his brow was a ruby. The girl considered the two of them.

“Why didn’t she want to marry you?” she asked finally.

The young man with black hair said, “Because she is stupid and ignorant. She thinks more of her books, her walks in the forest, her cats and her doves than she does of marriage to the most powerful prince in the land.”

“So why don’t you choose someone else?” asked the girl. “Someone who will value what you value.”

“Exactly what I’ve been telling you, Florian,” said the young man with yellow hair. “Find a princess who likes hunting and…hunting. You’d be happier in the long run.”

“I like hunting,” said the girl. “I have a goshawk in the mews at home, but she’s in moult at present so I can’t fly her.”

“Really? I would have said you were more of a merlin myself.” The prince, Florian looked at the girl with a professional eye.

The girl snorted. “A merlin is useless for serious hunting. Father has promised me a peregrine for my next name day.”

“And who might your father be?” asked Florian.

“King Amaury,” she replied with a sly smile. “I’m Princess Adele, by the way.”

The other young man, the one with yellow hair and a black horse and whose name was Rollo, sighed with relief.

“Does this mean we can stop chasing that poor girl over hill and down dale and go home?”

“Perhaps,” said Florian, with a smile as sly as the princess’s, “if the Princess Adele will accompany us.”

“With pleasure,” said Adele. “As long as you have a decent horse. Something with a bit of spirit. I can’t abide placid animals.”

“Nor can I,” Florian said with a broad grin, and clapped his hands for a fiery bay gelding to be brought up for the princess.

She was about to mount when the cat slipped out of the chapel and whispered to her, “What about the hind, the enchanted princess?”

Adele frowned. “What about her?”

“She’s stuck in the form of a hind until someone she is kissed by someone who truly loves her.”

Adele looked questioningly at Prince Rollo. “Well?”

Rollo looked from Adele to Florian and wrinkled his nose. “Kiss a deer? Are you kidding?”

The cat whisked her tail in annoyance. Adele shrugged. “She’ll just have to wait a bit longer, won’t she? Come on boys. I’m looking forward to putting this beauty through his paces.”

Florian laughed. “Race you!”

The cat watched them go. When all was quiet, the white hind peeped timidly round the door.

“You’re best out of it,” the cat said.

“I know,” said the hind and wandered off to look for a nice bit of grass.

Microfiction challenge #27: Rescue

Another illustration from Virginia Frances Sterret this week. It’s another old French fairy tale (are there new ones?) but don’t let your imagination be limited by the idea of the fairy tale. The story can be anything at all, whatever the image suggests. My eye is drawn to the window behind. Is it stained glass, looking into a cathedral? And the draperies on the left have a distinctly Japanese look to them. Then there are the questions of: who is the girl, is she protecting the deer or is it the other way round, and what’s with the inscrutable cat?  See what you come up with and post the link to your short (whatever) story in the comments before next Thursday. Sod the Christmas shopping; just have fun 🙂

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Microfiction challenge #26: A journey

Back to one of my favourite illustrators for this week’s challenge—John Bauer. It carries on the fairy/folk tale theme that opens up so many possibilities for letting out our inner child. Who are the children on the white horse? Who is leading them and why? Are they searching for something or escaping? Tell me a story to fit John Bauer’s magical illustration and post the link in the comments before next Thursday. As I mentioned before, internet access is a bit iffy at the moment so expect glitches.

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Flash Fiction: Mother Vine

We’ve been without internet for the last 48 hours (seems like forever) so I have been doing a lot of writing. Probably why this story ended up considerably longer than it should have done.

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The princess was furious. Each step she climbed up the highest tower in the tallest building in the city made her angrier. Her mother had no business just going off like that, leaving her to deal with assemblies and councils and delegations alone. Her father had left her the reins of government when he died, but that didn’t mean her mother could just leave her in the lurch.

The battlements of the tallest tower looked down on the sleeping city. Above her head, the great dome stretched, keeping out the night and the stars and the clouds. The air was warm and pleasant and silent. Nothing stirred; the world slept. She searched for her mother in her favourite place, where gardeners had brought up barrow loads of earth so she could plant her favourite flowers. Nothing grew in the shadows below, she was fond of saying. The buildings blotted out the light and there was no wind to carry seeds, no bees to carry pollen from flower to flower. She made her magic up above the city, made her bees and her soft breezes, and even a few birds. And the flowers of course. The flowers were pretty, the princess agreed, but then so were lots of things, and duty was duty. Her mother should have been at court.

Still fuming, she poked about in the bushes and among the fruit trees, looked in every cosy corner, the little pond with the gold and silver fish and where irises grew tall and straight. Her mother was nowhere to be seen. Then she noticed it, the gnarly, twisted vine the colour of suntan and wrinkled as one of last year’s apples. The vine seemed to shrink away from her gaze, and the fruit that dangled at the end of each of the two branches shivered.

“Mother! What have you done to yourself?”

The vine wilted a little more. “I’m sorry, dear,” it said, “but I couldn’t take any more. Your father was bad enough, but you, I’m afraid, you seem to understand even less.”

The princess stamped her foot and frowned. Her lips pouted and she threw out her hands in exasperation. “But you have to help me! You know all about the protocols and the regulations, the treaties and the maintenance contracts. How am I supposed to do it on my own?”

The vine shrugged and the fruits, like dangling earrings swayed from side to side. “You’re not. No one woman should have the fate of the world in her hands. Organize an election. Ask the people to decide.”

The princess’s jaw dropped. “Ask the people? They would tear down the dome in a twinkling if they had their way!”

“It’s for the best, dear. We have kept the outside at bay too long. The stars know and the wild things. They have no need of a sanitized dome. We need to breathe the clean fresh air and walk on grass from time to time.”

“So you’ve changed yourself into a pot plant so as not to participate any more, is that it?”

The queen mother nodded her fruity head. “You can hardly have a tree as a counsellor can you?”

The princess looked out through the glass panels of the dome at the stars. It seemed to her that one of them winked at her. She looked along the horizon. Clouds floated, pale grey against the dark blue sky, across the moon. Their edges shone with silver light, and long beams fell through the gaps between them, dappling the tower garden with pale light and soft shadows.

“It’s harsh out there,” she whispered.

“But it’s real,” her mother said.

“So is the wet that drops out of the clouds, and the cold swirling stuff that covers the ground with white. What will happen when the earth is covered in cold white or wet water? What will happen when the sun frazzles and the rivers flood and the leaves fall and the winds howl?”

Her mother shrugged again. “We will wait for it to pass. If we behave ourselves and take care of the outside, all those things will pass, no problem. And most of it is fun, anyway.”

The princess looked through the glass panes to the rolling hills and the woods and forests and the silver mirrors of lakes in the distance. She had never been outside the city, never walked on grass or felt the wind on her face, rain on her skin or tasted snowflakes.

“So if we look after it, tread carefully and not disturb things too much, the outside will not turn into a raging beast and destroy us all?”

Her mother was silent for a moment, and a silver pear-shaped tear dropped from each of her branches. “We did that once before. But we were the raging beasts. We raged and rampaged until nothing was left of the outside. Outside is strong and courageous though. It came back and with us out of the way, it grew green again.” She bent her branches close to her daughter and brushed her cheek with a soft leaf. “It’s where we are meant to be, dear. Not cooped inside a tank. Let the people out, but make sure they behave themselves this time.”

The stars looked down and winked again. The princess watched the changing light as the clouds passed in front of the moon, the reflections on the silver lakes, the mysterious deepness of the forest. She thought long and hard. Eventually, she turned back to her mother and said, “I’ll think about it. But it sounds like a cranky idea to me. There’s the midsummer ball coming up and I’d hate for something like a rain shower to spoil it. Or for it to be too hot. Meanwhile, I suppose I’ll just have to get used to dealing with embassies on my own.”

Her mother wilted and her earring fruits dangled almost to the ground. “Don’t forget to water me,” she called after her departing daughter in a small voice.

 

#Three Line Tales: Fairy tale

This is for Sonya’s photo prompt, a lovely one this week.

Photo ©Dmitri Popov

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“Pretty,” the child said, pointing at the candy-striped stucco, the neat, even windows and the cornice strung with coloured lights.

“That’s where the princesses live,” her mother said knowingly, “and if you’re a good girl, one day you might be chosen to join them while you wait for a prince to take you for his wife.”

At one of the neat windows that didn’t open, a girl gripped the bars behind and stared down into the street, where a child skipped happily holding her mother’s hand, and she longed to be able to reach the glass and smash it and scream to the carefree child that it was all lies.

The wild princess

I was wondering when something would crop up that would be a suitable use for this lovely painting. Sacha’s prompt just fitted the bill.

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Once upon a time there was a forest, deep and dark, that no one ever entered, not even the king, because it was said to be haunted. One day, the royal hunt chased a deer into the forest. The prince cursed the hounds and had the kennel master thrashed, and turned his horse for home, for he didn’t dare venture beneath the threatening eaves.

In the dark green shadows, the deer slowed to a trot, then a walk, and then she stopped to drink from a stream. She listened to the fading sounds of the hunt, of the prince shouting his anger, the horses whinnying, whips cracking and hounds whining in pain. When she was satisfied the hunt would not follow her, the deer turned back into a girl.

The girl picked a handful of berries and remembered. She remembered her cradle in the castle where her brother’s voice gave her baby nightmares and nobody cared about an unnecessary third princess. She remembered the breath of forest air that lifted her from the cradle, carried her to the forest and brought her up in the ways of the wild things until she was half wild herself.

The deer girl ate her red berries and listened to the murmuring of the trees. Soon, they said, the forest would roll like a slow, green ocean over the castle to drown the cruelty it harboured, and she would run with the trees. Soon, her brother the prince, their parents and all the court would learn the meaning of the stories of the haunted forest.

 

Microfiction challenge Far Far Away: the entries

Such a diversity of responses this week, given that the core was so well-defined—a painting with a very clear image, and a limiting theme for the story line. But although the central figure is the same, so many different stories have formed around him. I loved reading these, many of them worthy of the great folk legend tradition.

Sarah’s is a cautionary tale with a surprise ending.

Far far away – microfiction#10 for Jane Dougherty. | fmme writes poems

 

Lady Lee’s is a romantic story in a poem.

Microfiction challenge #10: Far far away – ladyleemanila

 

Shaun’s story is another cautionary tale, but with a different injunction to Sarah’s. Sarah warns against following dubious dreams, Shaun urges us to go for it. Both work as stories.

Far, Far Away: A MicroFiction – Clockwork Clouds

 

And Ken’s story is about what happens to you if you dither on the fence.

Farther Away | rivrvlogr

 

In Michael’s story, I’m wondering if the fact that the boy has to leave his stick outside the city before he can enter is significant. Perhaps a call to lay down our arms if we want to live in peace?

Microfiction challenge #10: Far far away | Morpethroad

 

Kat brings the boy into her ongoing saga with consummate ease. This story will be a novel before it’s over 🙂

Seasoning – Part 7 | like mercury colliding…

 

Kerfe has created a dance in pictures in response to the prompt—beautiful!

https://methodtwomadness.wordpress.com/2016/08/22/junk-mail-art-grace-of-light/

 

Leara’s story makes me think of Superman. It’s certainly the start of something epic.

The Golden City – LearaWrites

 

Merril’s story is a perfect fairy tale, tinged with a hint of sadness.

Far Away: Microfiction | Yesterday and today: Merril’s historical musings

 

The end of Phylor’s story took me by surprise. A familiar character returns and I was not expecting it at all.

JD’s Microfiction Challenge #10 far far away – Phylor’s Blog

 

Great stories (and poem) all. I hope you’ll look in tomorrow for another image prompt, and that it inspires some more tremendous writing.

Microfiction challenge #10: Far far away

I did have another image lined up for this week but decided it was just too weird to use. I’ll post it sometime, but maybe with an alternative. I wanted this week’s prompt to inspire a fairy tale (and that other image would just have inspired sleepless nights) and also allow those of you who are pursuing a serial not to have to scratch their heads too much. So I’ve gone for this painting by Theodore Kittelsen. I don’t know the fairy story it represents, but there’s a golden city far far away, and slap bang in the centre of the painting, a lone child. He’s obviously on his way somewhere. To the golden city? Or escaping from it? Is he entranced or relieved for there to be so much distance between them? Up to you to decide. If you need more than 200 words, I won’t mark you down. Just keep me enthralled.

As usual, links in the comments box before the round up next Thursday, and if you want any helpful criticism, just say.

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Skyrider

For the Daily Post prompt: Punishment, a slightly different interpretation of the fairy tale prince.

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In a fury, the prince stormed into the stables and ordered his favourite horse to be saddled, the horse that rode the sky. Grooms and stable boys fell over themselves to prepare the horse, terrified of the prince’s anger should they keep him waiting, or should he find fault with their work. The prince had barely time to tap his foot with impatience before his horse was brought out, shining and brilliant in his finest trappings. Thin-lipped and white-faced, the prince snatched the reins and, without a word, leapt into the saddle.

He dug the spurs savagely into Skyrider’s flanks, and the horse soared into the darkening sky. Already the first stars were shining; soon it would be night. Mercilessly the young prince urged his horse on, further and higher, higher and further, until the roaring wind of their flight blew white foam flecks from Skyrider’s flanks to join the waking stars. At last, his horse tiring, and when even the spurs could make him go no faster, the prince found what he had been searching for.

He reached out a jewelled gauntlet and snatched it from its velvet bed—the star of destruction. His face, white with anger, grimaced as a mirthless grin of victory spread across his face, and he balanced the star in his hand, testing its weight. When his father raised his face to the heavens and saw the red star of death streak across the sky and fall upon his palace, his city, his realm, he would regret bitterly his refusal to name his youngest son as his heir.

Microfiction: Let there be light

Another 99 word fairy tale for Charli’s Carrot ranch writing prompt

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Once upon a time the world was dark, and people lived in fear of things that went bump and things with sharp teeth and claws. A little girl sat in a corner out of the way of blundering feet, listening to the mutterings and the scufflings, waiting until she was big enough to help the people get over their fear. On her sixth birthday she decided she was big enough. She felt her way around the room until she found the place, then she reached up high, as high as ever she could, and she turned on the light.