Tuesday, 5 August 2008
There were once two brothers. Their father on his deathbed told them that he had a daughter by his former wife who had been the Faery of the Emerald, but that their mother would not like to hear of it. He left them all that he had, the farm and all that was on it, save all that he had bought for his wife. Then he died and with their mother, the boys buried him with much grief as is the way of things. They then decided to go and seek out the daughter to share the inheritance with her.
Now the Faery of the Emerald lived by the sea in a glorious palace. Her daughter by the mortal was called Rose and the other faeries in the palace did not much care for her being half-mortal. So, about the same time as her brothers were setting out to seek for her, she left the glorious palace and went out into the world to seek her fortune.
The two boys wandered through towns, valleys, meadows, villages and sometimes they stopped at cities, but they always rode on towards the Glorious Palace of the Faery of the Emerald. Eventually there were no more cities or villages. There were no more valleys or meadows either, just a vast dark forest. The forest was so unfriendly that the very trees seemed to reach out to hinder them. Still, they persevered for they longed to see their half-sister. Halfway through the forest, they stopped to rest and lit a fire in a clearing, not wishing to damage the trees, tho' the trees had done their best to hamper their journey. The boys took out their bread and cheese and wine. They fed their horses first on the few carrots and the like they had with them and sat to eat. Then, through the wood came an old woman staggering under a pile of firewood she was carrying. She dropped the wood at the edge of the clearing and sat with them grumbling quietly.
"Good evening grandmother," the oldest son said, "If you wish, we can help you carry your firewood while you ride on one of our horses. But first do have some of our food."
The youngest son had been reaching for an extra cup and the best of the bread and cheese as his older brother spoke. The old woman thanked them both and ate with them. When they had eaten, the youngest son gave up his horse to her and helped her up into the saddle. His brother took up the kindling and walked along side his horse to let his younger brother ride. In this way, they passed through the wood and now it seemed as if the trees bowed to let them pass. Before long, they arrived at a small hut and the old woman was helped down from the horse and the brothers placed her kindling ready for the fire. They were about to leave when the old woman called them back.
"You are looking for the palace of the Faery of the Emerald are you not?" she asked them.
They said that indeed they were for their half-sister was the faery's daughter. The old woman sighed and bid them come inside her little hut.
"Well I can't stop you going I suppose, young people will have their way. But remember to address the faery as 'Most Glorious' and maybe she will let you both live. If you show her the slightest disrespect you will undoubtedly die. When you leave me, go through the wood the way you were going until you smell the sea at your right hand. Then ride that way. But do not speak a word. If you say anything before the faery has spoken to you, she will become angry and you will suffer for it. May the love of your dear mother help you," she said.
Then the boys left her and rode silently on until they caught the sharp scent of the sea. They turned their horses towards it and continued on in silence. But tragedy of errors! As they were riding, the younger brother sneezed and his older brother murmured, 'Bless you.'
Suddenly the sky darkened until it was black with cloud. Lightning struck and in a green light, the faery appeared.
"Do you dare speak before the Faery of the Emerald has permitted you?" she thundered.
The boys begged her pardon and tried to explain, but her anger was as the storm that raged about them and with a word and a contemptuous wave of her hand, she turned them into pelicans and their horses into trees. The two pelicans flew away weeping for their misfortune.
Now let us not forget Rose, who was wandering in the wilderness herself. Night drew on and being in the forest, she used her magic and flew up into a tree so as not to be prey to the wild beasts. She made herself comfortable and was just shutting her eyes when she heard voices below. She kept very still and quiet for men too are apt to be as wild beasts when a woman is alone. But she also watched them and heard them. They had been hunting it seemed and caught nothing, for which Rose, being a gentle soul was grateful. Being so grateful that nothing had been killed, she sighed softly. The men heard her and looking up they saw her great beauty and bid her come down. She would not. They ordered and commanded, cajoled with honeyed words but she would not budge. Then they threatened to shoot her down like a wild bird if she would not come down. Still, she would not be moved.
These boorish hunters were the hunters of the King and being sure of his forgiveness at catching no food but bringing back such a beauty, three of their number were sent back to the King to tell him of their prize. The King rode out with them immediately and seeing Rose, fell in love with her. But still Rose would not come out of the tree. Instead she shut her eyes and went to sleep. The hunters were furious, but the King sent them home and settled beneath the tree. As he guessed, when Rose fell asleep she relaxed and fell out of the tree. But being the daughter of a faery she floated like thistledown into the King's arms. He gently carried her home, resting her head against his shoulder, unable to take his eyes from her face.
When Rose awoke she was in a large comfortable bed in a large comfortable room. Beside the bed in an armchair sat the King, gazing with love upon her. She sat up and politely asked if she might have some water. The King offered her the finest coffee, juice from the loveliest of oranges, but she insisted that she would prefer water. So the clearest cool water was brought to her in a crystal glass. She drank thereof and was refreshed. Now the King sent away his servants and told Rose his feelings for her. Rose, seeing how gentle he was and also how handsome (for nobody falls for gentleness if it is not in a good-looking package) agreed to marry him. The King was overjoyed and proclaimed the wedding day a national holiday.
However, his mother was not so impressed. She saw Rose's beauty and suspected that her son had fallen for a notorious adventuress who was only interested in his wealth and position. She determined to cut the young lady down to size. There is, as the British say, always one. The Queen Mother was the fly in Rose's ointment.
Still and all, the couple were wed and before long Rose gave birth to three little children. The Queen Mother sent to her sister who at her desire sent a letter to the King telling him that his help was required with an annoying neighbouring monarch. The King, all goodwill rode out at the head of his army to his aunt's realm. Rose and her children were left alone with her mother-in-law. The Queen Mother slipped a sleeping potion into Rose's afternoon tea and was about to kidnap the eldest child when a large pelican flew in at the window and swallowed the eldest child, a daughter, in its beak. The Queen Mother descended upon the middle child a boy, but another large pelican swallowed the second child and hid it in its beak. As for the youngest child, she with some presence of mind had hidden beneath her mother's skirts. The Queen Mother laughed anyway, for now she could call Rose a murderer of her own children and who could prove otherwise?
The King soon returned, grumbling about his aunt not knowing a war from a grumble and was met with his mother in tears.
"Your precious children, my son. Your wife has done away with them and the bodies are nowhere to be found," she said.
The King paled in horror but seeing Rose again in her own distress, could not believe that his wife would murder her own children. He asked her what had happened but Rose could tell him nothing for she had been asleep. All she would say was that her youngest daughter would not let go of her and stayed with her at all times. She would not be with her grandmother at all and would say nothing. The Queen Mother whipped up the emotions of the court and of the people in secret until the whole nation was baying for Rose's blood. With great sadness, the King was forced to have Rose tried and when she could not defend herself she was sentenced to death.
In her prison cell she wept and called upon the Faery of the Emerald Palace to help her. Now her Emerald mother had since calmed down after turning the two brothers into pelicans and when those two pelicans arrived at her palace and bowing before her revealed her nephew and niece, she knew them for her daughter's children. She questioned the children who told her what had happened and at this, she told the pelicans to save their sister, for,
"Only if you save her life can you regain your true shapes," she said.
Instantly the pelicans set out for the King's palace where they perched upon a street lamp and a telegraph pole overlooking the execution ground. The sky darkened with the wrath of the Faery of the Emerald Palace and the pelicans watched. Before long, the tumbrel approached with Rose and her daughter bound to a stake. She was untied from the stake and led forward to be burned to death when the pelicans swooped down and scooped up Rose and her daughter in their beaks. They flew up onto the battlements of the highest tower of the King's castle and released Rose and her daughter. A flash of green lightning burst from the sky and the brothers regained their human form again. One brother untied Rose's hands and feet, the other took up his little niece and kissed her. Another flash of green lightning suddenly revealed the Faery of the Emerald Palace with the other two children.
The King was amazed, as was his mother. The Faery brought the children to their father and they told him what had happened. The King was furious and banished his mother from the castle for a hundred years and a day. Rose and the King were united and the court was ashamed and asked Rose for her forgiveness. The Faery of the Emerald Palace then insisted that the King's two sisters be married to Rose's brothers and they all lived happily ever after until the washing up needed doing at which point there were - shall we say, disputes as to whose turn it was. But these were resolved.