One thing the Brothers Grimm did not tell us in their story about Briar-Rose is that she was not exactly asleep.
Nor was she saved by a prince.
And she wasn’t even kept isolated by a great hedge of thorns that surrounded her castle and prevented anyone from trying to wake her before her 100 years of sleep were up.
They actually seem to have gotten it all quite wrong, except for the girl, the spell, and the castle.
Well, technically, it was a palace.
* * *
Briar-Rose, Sleeping Beauty, Aurora…of all the names that she was called, she actually preferred Maddie.
Francesca Madeline Aurora Rose, Princess, daughter to Thomas Thorne (which is obviously how the Grimm Brothers were led astray) and Theresa Simmons-Thorne, King and Queen.
Maddie was, as previously mentioned, not exactly asleep when the spell hit. She did fall to the ground, and she did appear asleep, as did every man, woman, child, and beast that was within the walls of the palace at that fateful moment. But their sleep was false. They could still hear, and though their eyes were closed they could still see.
It was as if every eye in every head flew five feet above the ground where the body had fallen, and allowed a view of the entire palace to all within. The victims of the horrible spell, with Maddie herself able to direct the conversation and view from her own spell-sleep, could watch over the palace, the grounds, and any who dared enter.
Or try to enter. Maddie watched more than a few young men—Princes, the horses in the courtyards tried to convince her—come to the palace and immediately be overcome. It wasn’t clear what exactly caused them to turn and run like the devil himself was chasing them, but each and every one of them did so.
Maddie had to laugh. There was nothing there to frighten them. There was nothing there to keep them out. Perhaps there was a nasty layer of dust on the marble steps, and maybe nobody had been around to pull the weeds that surely crept up between the paving stones.
If they couldn’t tolerate those things, that they shouldn’t be trying to visit in the first place.
Maddie and the children, in the 100 years that they slept, made up games to pass the time. They played as if not a day had passed, with joyous laughter ringing through their minds. But never their hearts, because they knew that with each day that passed, even though the spell was strong, that their bodies grew weaker. If the 100 year spell wasn’t broken soon, there would be no way to continue their lives.
Mistress Maddie, I see someone!
A horse neighed its agreement, and spoke in their collected minds as a human might.
(This particular palace would never look at their beasts of burden quite the same way again, by the way.)
It’s not a prince, the horse conveyed, sounding quite disappointed.
Of course it’s a prince, an old maid of Maddie’s replied. They’re always princes.
No, this is not a prince* a dog that lay quite close to the gates replied. It looks much more like…a fool.
A fool? Maddie was curious. What’s that?
It’s like Brian, right? a small voice piped up. One of the youngest children, only five years old and the most hopeful that the spell soon be broken, continued, Because mama always says he’s acting like a fool.
The queen’s laugh was like crystal, cascading throughout the palace. *No, not like Brian.*
We haven’t had a court fool for some time, Maddie’s father said thoughtfully. A fool is someone who makes a dark king light, who brings levity to times when things see the most hopeless.
What’s levity, a young girl asked.
Laughter, Maddie replied, but she did not have the definition of her answer in her voice. Instead, she was concerned. Why was her father giving them hope? They had watched men run from the palace for only a few days short of 100 years. Time was out. Better to prepare them for reality, that this was life now, not true joy and running and playing games with toys instead of thoughts.
She bit back a sob, but the bitterness remained.
Maddie was tired of not having a private thought to herself, and it was harder as time went on to hide it. She was tired of trying to convince the children that things would be okay, and even tired of trying to keep them children, instead of letting them grow up as they yearned to.
It was exhausting.
Is he gone yet? she snapped.
This time it was a guard who answered. He has not. He’s…well, he’s just standing there, Princess.
Her curiosity overtook her, and she watched the strange man approach.
* * *
Jackson was trying very hard to walk away from his problems when he managed to stumble on to someone else’s.
Is he gone yet?
His head jerked up at the voice that was quite loud in his head, as if someone behind him had spoken.
Someone quite beautiful.
He looked up from the path he’d been on for some time. He wasn’t even sure how long at this point, only that several days ago he’d walked through a patch where everyone who saw him warned him that if he stayed on the road he was on, he’d better take a wide berth around the palace at the end of it.
He’d apparently not paid too much attention.
Jackson had found the palace.
He’s just standing there, he heard on his other side, and he spun to look in the opposite direction. He actually looks kind of scared.
“Who is that,” Jackson demanded in his court voice, one that rang loud and carried far. “Who are you?”
He did not look scared.
“I demand you show your face!”
Ha! Fat lot of good that’s going to do him.
How long is he going to just writhe around like that?
Does it matter? It’s been so long since anyone’s been by. Maybe he’ll come in!
He’s not coming in, Mother, a sharp young voice snapped that Jackson recognized as the first he had heard. He’s going to run like all the others.
Jackson swatted at the noise that swam around his head, the voices without bodies that he could not control.
But the last…
“I am not a coward,” he growled, this time not imagining that they could hear his reply. He was not a coward! He was many things—unemployed, unloved, and friendless, but never a coward.
He was within ten steps of the palace gates, and they stood open as if they’d been in the middle of a busy day.
So Jackson stormed through them.
And froze as the voices stopped as if startled by his action.
“See? Not as scared as you are now, am I?”
What does he think he’s doing?
“I’m coming in your damned palace, that’s what I’m doing,” he growled.
This time the voice that replied was new, deep, and commanding, even though the words were not a command. He can hear us.
The press of voices now were more than a buzz, they were a roar. A physical weight that pressed down on him and forced him nearly to his knees. Jackson now was scared, as he felt like the life was being squeezed from his body.
His hand touched something warm and soft, and he turned to look at it. It was the body of a small dog that appeared to be dead. It did not move, or take breath, but lay there with eyes closed.
Jackson ignored the voices now and looked around him. The courtyard was filled with animals, not only this dog. Horses lay as if they had folded where they stood, harnesses and saddles still strapped to their bodies. Goats, sheep, and chickens were grouped together in pens, but all were asleep. One rooster still sat on his perch.
He stood—the voices had again gone silent. Walking over to one of the horses, he saw a thick layer of dust and grime staining the saddle on the animal’s back. He knelt again, feeling its head and neck.
The body was as if dead, obviously not moved from its position in years, and yet still warm to the touch, as if alive.
“What the hell is wrong with this place?”
This time, no voices answered.
Well, if they wouldn’t give them to him, he’d find them.
He walked past something coated in dirt and mud, and it wasn’t until he made his way indoors and saw a young maid lying on the ground with her face towards the ceiling. Her clothing was filthy, as was the horse’s saddle, but her face showed no sign of age. It was as clean as if she had washed it, then lay down in the doorway for a nap.
He passed her, and moved quickly down the first hallway he saw.
Jackson’s heart leapt from his chest to his throat when he saw the children lying as if…
He couldn’t even think it.
He kept walking.
He passed a long room, and looked in it only long enough to see that there sat a king and a queen, their crowns long since tarnished, their gems coated with dust.
They had yelled at his back that the young woman had been ensorceled in a deep sleep. It had affected the entire palace, and only she could break it.
He remembered their words now that had previously been lost in the haze of drink. He needed to be looking for a young woman.
“Where the hell do you hide a princess in this damned place?”
Up the stairs, a young voice said, and if he could have seen her, she might have been smiling.
And don’t say ‘damned’, another child reprimanded him.
“You said it,” he replied, actually talking to the voices now. He was talking to voices in his head. He knew it was crazy.
Except these voices sounded like they could have been the group of children he’d passed, the ball on the floor waiting to be picked up so they could resume their game.
I just said it ‘cause you said it, the small voice replied petulantly.
He’s just teasing, an older child soothed.
Fools do that.
“Who told you I’m a fool? I’ll have his head!”
The King told us.
Jackson stopped, and looked around at the empty stairwell. “Well, maybe not his head.”
Down this hall, a woman whispered now.
His assistance was getting older.
Through the third door on your left, another voice instructed.
On your right, not you left, you dolt!
Oh, yeah. Right.
Jackson smiled to himself. He kind of thought he liked these voices.
The instructions were true. He opened the third door on his right, and found a most magnificent room with a very large and elaborate stained glass window. Each framed piece of glass formed to display a magnificent rose on and about the centerpiece of the room, a pedestal with a young woman prone on its surface, her hands folded gently below her chest.
A spinning wheel sat in the corner, as pristine as it was the day it was manufactured.
“I think I found you,” he said to the young woman. She was beautiful, with dark hair and long lashes. Her dress was a little out of fashion, and quite dirty, but again, her hands and face, any part of her that was exposed, was as clean as if it had just been washed.
What took you so long, the first voice from the courtyard snapped.
Jackson just smiled. He had spent his entire life in one court or another, and he held more than a little pride—justly—at his ability to understand royalty.
“What, you missed me?”
How can I miss someone I’ve never met?
“Come on. Admit it. You missed me a little bit.”
And then, Jackson broke the spell.
This post of fiction is part of the April A to Z Blogging Challenge. I’m doing short stories of about 1,000 words, based on words I like that start with today’s letter, and twisting each to a Grimm Brother’s fairy tale. Don’t forget to check out the participant list to check out other amazing bloggers blogging about today’s letter!