12 Feb Fantastic Fridays: The Love Edition
As we approach the International Day of Love (a.k.a. Valentine’s Day), I am sharing stories with a message from the heart.
On this sacred day, may we remember that love blossoms all around us. Whether in the face of a flower, the kind smile of a stranger, or a simple hug. Love infuses our lives.
For Fantastic Friday, The Love Edition, I share three tales from Fabled: 17 Tales You Think You Know, including two passages from my beloved Fiction Vixens. Kathryn & Roberta Cottam – two sisters who have brought bushels of love into my life!
And so, with a overflowing heart, I offer you a taste of their stories. xo
The 12 Prancing Princesses (Roberta Cottam)
He went to her then, lowering himself onto the bed beside her. “I will make this prison our paradise — for you, for our child. These bedsheets will be our moss, these pillows freshly fallen snow. And not one night will pass that we will not be in one another’s arms.”
She smiled. “But that can never be. Tonight, the moon —”
“Yes, tonight the moon will change you. And me as well.”
She frowned. “What can you mean?”
He drew from his pocket the herbalist’s vial and the scroll marked with the spell. “It is true I have become a rich man. And I have used my wealth to buy a powerful magic. A magic that will make a B’heast of me, as well, during the hours the moon is full.”
Tears rolled down her cheeks as she asked if he were certain. But the Stalker did not answer. He simply broke open the vial and emptied its contents into his mouth. And when he had swallowed the strong stuff, he read out the spell:
Tongue of R’hat and Blood of Sp’harrow;
Break my bones and twist this marrow,
Into a form that’s much increased;
And thus reveal a transformed B’heast.
They kissed. At first gentle, as new lovers taste one another for the first time. Lips brushing, then returning for more. Then their kisses grew stronger and she fell back on the bed, pulling him on top of her.
Rumpel Silk Skin (Kathryn Cottam & Roberta Cottam)
Qamar enters the palace via the servants’ quarters where few will notice him. He remembers a small garden with a well where he can turn out his horse and parch his thirst. Some hours in the company of birdsong will bring him respite from the sounds of battle that still linger in his ears. And before he confronts the sounds that will emit from his mother’ s mouth when she sees his visage so altered.
His horse carries him into the garden and Qamar breathes a sigh of relief to find it unoccupied. He dismounts and leads the horse to a patch of grass. Then he helps himself to a ladle of well water before he notices he is, in fact, not alone in the garden. At the far end of the enclosure sits a girl, her hair black as ink and her skin as pale as the moon itself. Her back is to him, but he can hear her softly singing. He is intrigued and draws closer.
As he approaches, he realizes that she is not singing, but rather plays an instrument. A lute, perhaps. The sound is compelling, such that he has never heard before. And how curious that a blindfold is tied about her face. Her fingers must be masterful indeed.
When he is near, he sees that he is wrong once again. She plays no instrument. Rather, her fingers are strung with the thread of a half a dozen silkworms that rest in her hands. Her hands themselves are broken, fingers sticking out in an array of awkward angles. But the effect is such that when the wind blows, the dozens of delicate strings woven through her fingers, emit a beautiful and haunting tune.
She has not heard him approach; battle has taught him to move like a ghost. And so he sits a little ways from her, drawing back his hood so that he might feel the sun on his face, and listens. Yes, he will sit awhile, before he enters his mother’s court.
Cora’s Flame (K.M. Tremills)
The wolf hadn’t budged an inch. Not even when sparks from the fire flew onto her fur and singed a few hairs. Her yellow eyes stayed on Cora. She didn’t growl or raise her hackles or attack.
When Cora settled onto her rock, the wolf sat, too. Cora could have sworn the wolf watched her with compassion. Finally, she spoke.
“You,” Cora asked, unsure of herself. “You have a message?”
The wolf nodded. Waiting until the girl’s heartbeat steadied. She didn’t want to startle the poor thing. More than she already had.
Cora tried to relax. She didn’t know how to stay calm in the presence of a wolf. With everything she had learned about survival in the wilderness, which wasn’t much, she had no idea how to fend off an attack. Even if she wanted to.
“Well, that sounds like a familiar theme for you,” the wolf noted.
“No,” Cora denied the observation.
The wolf tilted her head. Questioning Cora’s response with a look kind enough to cause tears to brim in her eyes. And for the first time since she was five, one fell down her cheek without Cora wiping it away in anger. She didn’t cry often. But when she did, she shut it down as fast as possible.
“You don’t have to lie to me, dear,” the wolf said. “I know how much you ache for your pack. I understand how hard you fought. You couldn’t have known it was a losing battle.”
Cora shook her head in defiance. No! She thought, like the little girl standing in the doorway all over again. No, it wasn’t! Then brought an angry fist down onto the rock.
“Yes, dear one,” the wolf replied. “It was. You had no control over your parents. You need to know that, deep in their hearts, they wanted to choose you.”
“Then why didn’t they?” she wailed. Her accusing voice echoing into the far reaches of the desert. She didn’t care who heard her now.
Cora’s pain had cracked open and she sobbed. Hard and desperate, like a child left behind with no one coming to find her.
Gasping for air, she peeked through her tear-drenched to see the wolf standing vigil. Watching and listening with love. Cora wailed. Unable to stop herself. Hearing, in the middle of her cries, the echoing calls of coyotes and wolves far in the distance. And for the first time in her life, Cora felt held by the world around her. Held and understood.
After a time, the sobs subsided.
Cora was able to look at the wolf again. She searched for words and, though they entered her mind, she could not say them. Cora knew if she tried to speak, she would break into sobs all over again.
She no longer felt ashamed of the tears, and she wanted to say thank you. But all Cora could do was place her hand on her heart. Sending her deepest gratitude in silence.
The wolf nodded. Stood. And trotted off into the darkness.
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