Supposed Crimes Anthology
Crimes LLC, Matthews, North Carolina
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by Jess Martin
shape-shifting, and shrimp fairies: welcome to Jess’s version of
Madame d’Aulnoy’s fairy tale where she gender-bends the cursed
creation, takes liberty with the hero’s tale, and finds a princess
who isn’t in a rush to get rescued.
by Christina Rosso
Snow White's father brings home Nadene, her new step-mother, the
princess has doubts about the girl's ability to be a queen and
mother, but what Snow White never expects is to fall in love with
Tree of Wisdom
by Dale Cameron Lowry
curse cast on Prince Florian makes love a dangerous enterprise. But
when he meets animal whisperer Olvir, he falls willingly.
Only You Were Someone Else
by Jennifer Loring
changeling is willing to risk everything to discover who and what
s/he really is--especially when s/he falls for a human male.
by Chantal Boudreau
highly sensual retelling of Rapunzel from an insider's
punishment shouldn’t bring so much joy. Yet when the sun
illuminated Faith’s human shape initiating her transformation into
a deer, pleasure radiated through the cursed princess. Cloaked in an
ethereal white coat, Faith marveled at the silver antlers that rose
anew each dawn from where her father had once placed her mother’s
crown on her head. He teased her then as a father does, declaring,
“one day, you will be the queen of every soul that looks upon you.”
or doe, Faith wondered why the curse warped her into a creature that
was neither one nor the other. But then, fairies that wove magical
spells as easily as tapestries were not often called upon to explain
the story was told to Faith, the Well Fairy issued her fateful words
on the day of Faith’s christening: the princess should never see
the sun before her eighteenth birthday or else an unnamed doom would
befall her. Faith’s mother blanketed the child’s head and
retreated to the castle’s deepest keep. Faith’s father
constructed a magnificent underground palace that he staffed with the
kindest and most talented of tradesfolk and teachers. Faith’s
sentence banished them all from the light, but as a family, they
found a way to make a new world, which would allow them to bear the
years of darkness to come.
never wanted for sunlight. Grand rooms carved in the stony earth were
painted in an array of vivid colors. Footmen lit thousands of candles
every hour, adorning the caverns in a subterranean glow that burned
and bounced about in flickering delight. The smell of wax and flame
became the aroma of home.
the year of her eighteenth birthday, Faith noticed a palpable change
in the atmosphere of the underground palace. Though no one dared show
any unease with the nontraditional accommodations, Faith noticed the
growing excitement for the day of her release into the world above.
Faith avoided any discussion about that long awaited day. She clung
to the darkness around her like a well-worn cape. Candlelight cast
shadowy figures that enticed her imagination, and if she ever wished
to avoid an argument with her mother or a teacher, Faith crawled away
into her labyrinth of secreted wormholes. There, she chiseled her own
chambers and often found her way to them without a light to guide
her. The dark, like a kind friend tugging her ahead, led her deeper
into the earth to a place where she could feel completely safe.
couldn’t avoid the march of time, and no hiding place could keep
her birthday from arriving. Her father busied himself with restoring
the neglected palace that towered above their current home. Her
mother commissioned artisans to paint a portrait of Faith. The king
found the painting so pleasing that he had copies sent across the
land as he prepared for Faith’s entry into the over-world. He
invited royal families across the neighboring territories to a
reception to welcome his daughter to the land where seasons dwelled.
a month before the happy day, however, a large retinue arrived in
Faith’s homeland. Messengers relayed that the impressive party took
three days to enter the kingdom. A young man dressed in the finest
regalia bore a purple banner emblazoned with two brilliant gold
arrows that crossed in an X. When he spoke, he brushed aside the
curled auburn hair from his face and introduced himself as Lord
Converse, an emissary sent by King Warlock.
the name of Warlock was mentioned, it traveled the underground
kingdom as quickly as any echo. It had only been a year since the
young ruler had inherited the throne from his well-regarded father.
The new king was the subject of many discussions as his every move
was weighed and analyzed. Not only did Warlock rule over the large
port city where all trade gravitated to, but he also oversaw a fleet
of warships and an army five times the size of any known to the
people in Faith’s home. He had already proven his ambition by
leading that army in a successful battle to take the southern lands
that had so long vexed his family line. Warlock wanted only for a
queen, and Warlock had received Faith’s portrait.
behalf of the warrior king, Converse urged, cajoled and then as much
as quietly threatened Faith’s parents to permit the princess to
travel overland to his master’s kingdom. As Converse put it, this
would be Faith’s opportunity to prove her eligibility to be
mother met Lord Converse’s gaze and explained the Well Fairy’s
curse to him. “You have but only a scant month to tell your kind
lord to wait, surely he can grant us this time as a show of his pure
intentions,” the queen spoke with as much honey as she could will
into her tone.
Converse had heard the strange tale of the curse on his journey to
this quaint and backward kingdom. He allowed for some eccentricities
of these simpler country folk with their charming beliefs in a world
of magic and fairies, but he would not be deterred by superstitious
nonsense. He steeled himself for his next words, coughing gently into
his chest to alleviate the weight of the stale air that hung about
King’s heart suffers greatly for a queen, and His Majesty accepts
no compromise once he has set himself on his course. This makes him
an exceptional lord, as I’m sure you agree. Upon hearing about the
princess’ condition, I had my men construct a carriage as
impenetrable to light as this very unusual castle. The princess will
not come to any harm as she makes but a week’s journey hence.”
Converse clapped his hands loudly to cue the spectacle to come. The
ancient oak doors of the court were pushed as wide as they would
open. Thirty men dressed in sleek decorated purple uniforms lumbered
into the court, carrying the carriage on long boards that rested on
their broad shoulders.
message was clear. There was only one response expected:
capitulation. Faith’s parents surrendered to the twist destiny had
set before them. While Faith’s father ensured that the courtiers
installed Faith in the carriage under the light of a full moon, her
mother recruited her most trusted Lady-in-Waiting, Lady Weed, and
Lady Weed’s two daughters, Prickly and Daisy, to join Faith in the
beckoned the curse despite every effort Faith’s parents made, and
Lady Weed stood perfectly poised to encourage the arrival of Faith’s
doom. Lady Weed had earned her place at the queen’s side through
flattery and manipulation, plotting her rise to royal status. Her
years of deception finally appeared to have its reward close at hand
with the arrival of Lord Converse. This journey gave her the
opportunity to put her eldest daughter before King Warlock in the
Weed had ensured that no one outside the court had ever seen the
princess, aside from that ill-conceived portrait. It was a common
enough practice, Lady Weed convinced herself, that royals exaggerated
their own beauty, and Prickly’s unassuming visage could be
explained away to King Warlock with a few flattering turns of
phrases. Lady Weed trusted her way with words when it came to
royalty. She folded a knife deep into her skirts as she boarded her
two daughters into the carriage and swore a false oath to protect the
had never traveled beyond the confines of her palace, even when night
offered reprieve from the curse. Her parents had practiced caution in
this respect. After all, couldn’t fairies summon daylight with but
a few words? Despite this, Faith felt the change of territory as the
carriage hobbled over the well-traveled road that led toward the sea.
Daisy, her truest friend, sat next to her, arm entwined in Faith’s
as a comfort, whispering stories of imagined landscape they could not
see from the dark confines of the carriage. Five days passed, and
Faith recalled from her studies of these lands that they would enter
the hunting grounds of King Warlock. Her homeland behind her, the
rich scent of fir and summer heat filled the carriage.
Faith had not been restricted to the gentler arts of science and
literature, if she had been trained in the art of battle, she might
have known how to react when she saw the glint of steel. The blade in
Lady Weed’s hand sliced through the carriage of shadows as she
slashed at the heavy curtains. Instead, Faith sat stupidly to the
side, avoiding the blade’s edge and wondering at Prickly’s
cackling laugh that had always irritated her so.
bright warm light filled Faith’s eyes! Her heart felt the larger
for it, and her very flesh responded to the sensation of this orb’s
life-giving heat. This was sunlight, she thought, so this is that
element she had only read about. Too late, Daisy raised her cloak to
cover Faith from the light that tickled over her form. Faith’s fate
fluttered in on soft waves of light only to land with a sharp and
heavy pain that shook her body out of the carriage.
stumbled onto the ground. Warm earth crumbled in her hands, so
different from the cold stone she had always known. She felt blind in
this new world; the light eclipsed her. She pressed her eyes shut.
Her lungs burned at the openness of the air. The pain returned twice
over with a heat equal to the summer sun that pressed down on her,
but this new heat swirled inside her. Blood and bones boiled and
twisted. Surely, this was dying, Faith rolled on her back wishing for
the final blow that would deliver the release of death.
cried out as she reached for the earth, but rather than feeling her
fingers in the loose dirt, hoof pawed the ground. Faith lurched
forward. She heard the tear and release of her dress as she jerked up
to stand on four sinewy legs. The width and girth of her new shape
replaced her slim, delicate body, and as she came to her full height,
the pain that had so suddenly held her in its grip had just as
quickly subsided. Her new form commanded her to leap. She relished
the energy brought about by the growing muscles that twisted new
pathways inside her. Infused with a wild energy, she bounded in a
wide circle around the carriage, relishing the sensation of the air
combing over her coat of brilliant white hair.
met Daisy’s gaze for only the briefest of moments. Her dearest
friend cried out as she climbed down from the carriage. Faith’s
ears twitched in instinctual warning as she heard the carriage driver
notch an arrow in his bow. Lady Weed stood beside the man, urging him
to shoot the demon-beast that threatened the fair princess. Prickly,
for her part, hid herself under the cloak she stole from Daisy’s
ran to the dark woods. The shadows called her to the sanctuary they
provided among the trees and dense undergrowth. Arrows struck the
ground at her feet with reverberating thwunks, but none made their
mark that day.
passed in this way for Faith. Exiled by her inability to hide because
of her moon-glow hue, she dared not risk traversing the open farmland
that lay between these woods and her homeland when she had no natural
landscape to disguise her from a hunter’s arrow or another
predator’s hunger. She thanked the spell for at least making her
larger than the other deer that wandered these foreign woods. She
liked too the weight of her five-pointed antlers. They were her
greatest weapons. She knew her size as a stag was impressive; even
wolves slinked back at the sight of her.
found this forest a wonderland of green. She enjoyed the grasses and
leaves. She grew bigger and stronger with each passing day. She
clambered up hillsides without losing a breath or step. She
gracefully descended steep rocky paths with her four sure-footed
hooves. She recognized the paths made by other deer, and soon enough
found herself among her new kin. She stood apart from the other deer,
for they sensed the magic around her even if she had not been so
strikingly different in appearance. But she earned their trust and a
place among the doe and fawns as she protected them from the bear and
wolf as well as the traps placed by man.
each day ended, the curse relaxed its hold on her, and, she returned
to her human shape. Naked as she was to the elements, she negotiated
a space in the den of her fellow creatures, which kept her warm and
safe in their fold. Perhaps some aura of the magic hung onto her
flesh or perhaps the musk of her animal form fooled them as Faith
convinced herself that this could be the only way these deer allowed
her to nest among them. However, there were times when Faith would
meet a doe’s gaze, and she wondered if the creature somehow knew
and welcomed the protection she offered as the White Stag.
dawn, she returned to her wild self. She saw no reason in the change
except the sunlight’s return, and with that knowledge, Faith
resolved herself to her destiny. In those early days, she had hoped
to find signs of anyone searching for her. She once wondered if the
story of her change had traveled back to her home. But after the
woods had stood silent for too long, Faith came to believe that Lady
Weed’s treachery must have included a tale that told of the
princess’ death by the crushing blow from the demon moon-beast that
had risen from the earth on that fateful day. With time, thoughts of
her parents and home floated into the mist of magic that enshrouded
her, and the longing for her former life lessened with each passing
autumn came, the leaves fell; the days became gray and full of the
sounds of hunters. Arrows flew and traps snapped as King Warlock’s
best men looked to build up their meat stores for the winter. These
were his hunters. She knew them by the purple of their cloaks and the
banners with the crossed arrows they kept at their campsites.
took to the rocky crags, the high ground for her daytime jaunts, to
track the hunters as they stalked through the forest. From that
vantage point, she secured another day of life. When the hunters
would break their hunt in the dying light, Faith waited until the
camps grew quiet with sleeping men. In her human form, she crept into
these camps with only her familiar friend of darkness close at hand.
Almost eighteen years under the earth had sharpened her night vision,
and she slipped past traps and undetected into the camps. She
dismantled their bear traps and snapped arrows in half when the wind
stirred the trees; the swing of branches covered the sounds of
At dawn’s light, she watched from her hillside perch the roving
bands of hunters bickering over broken arrows and lost gear.
of the great white stag traveled to the nearby farms and villages,
primarily on the mouths of disgruntled hunters who returned early
from their expeditions, with less bounty than they had hoped for.
These tales spread from one farm to another along the river valley
that marked the border between the woods and the rest of King
Warlock’s land. These animated words made their way to the modest
farm that Daisy had taken shelter at.
of the day the sun had found Faith haunted the young maid all summer.
On that cursed day, she raced into the woods after her transfigured
princess, deserting her mother and deplorable sister on the forest
road rather than join in their treacherous scheme. Though she made
every effort, Daisy lost hope of catching the mystical stag that
vanished into the cover of the lush green woods. Daisy heard the
carriage drive on without her, and she wished it a bitter farewell.
She had not anticipated her mother’s betrayal, and she never
considered returning to the road to beg for a safe journey out of
this wild and unknown land. She pushed through the thick bracken,
leaving the road further and further behind.
spent a few nights in those woods, harvesting berries and what few
mushrooms she was certain were safe to eat. Gratefully, she managed
to reach the woods’ end and wandered down a narrow path to a small
farmhouse. There, an aging farmer and his childless wife allowed her
to make camp on their property in exchange for some tasks she would
do around the farm. At the end of each working day, she wandered into
the forest, as far as she dared in the dim light, following game
trails and leaving rock towers to guide her on the next search.
these new stories of this unearthly creature, Daisy reaffirmed her
resolve to find the princess. She gathered as many details as she
could from the hunters leaving the forest and made her preparations
for a longer journey, following the game paths to the encampments the
hunters advised her to seek, if the clever maid thought herself bold
enough to catch a glimpse of the terrible white stag.
sun was yet to rise as Daisy helped the farmer and his wife load
their cart with bushels of squashes, potatoes and apples to take to
the village’s Fall Harvest Festival. She waved a fond safe journey
and safe roads to them as the farmer whipped his stubborn mule to
stutter-step into the cold early morning light. Daisy packed food for
her day’s search, gathering her warmest cloak around her before
setting off on her course through the woods.
sunbeams cast brilliant angled columns of light along the forest
floor. While her former paths lay hidden under so many newly fallen
leaves, Daisy welcomed the openness provided by the leafless trees as
she marched on with undaunted steps. She trusted that she had learned
roughly the right direction to the closest hunter’s camp. She
sighed with satisfaction, as she smelled campfire smoke after only an
hour’s walking. She followed the scent and then the sounds of men
rising for the morning, preparing for the day’s hunt.
Howard! Where are you, foolish boy?” a booming voice cried. As the
man called the name of this poor soul, Howard, Daisy felt a kinship
for the servant who was clearly going to be recipient of a strong
scolding if not worse.
heard the servant running through the woods, breaking through brush
and dead branches with all the grace of a wounded bear. “Sire, I
have spied the stag!” Howard’s youthful voice returned, eager and
short of breath.
didn’t see the men, but these words rang clear. She swept her eyes
over the forest landscape, straining her vision to catch a glimpse of
white, a shadow of the ghostly deer, or more, her princess, there,
before her. An arrow pierced her cloak before lodging itself in a
tree. Daisy screamed, less in terror than in defiance. Birds
scattered from the tree canopy at her cry.
white of her own apron betrayed her, making the hunter see her as the
white stag Daisy sought. For the next two hours, the hunter and his
squire begged her forgiveness as they fortified her from their own
food stocks. Howard produced a rich coffee from the campfire, and the
hunter told even better stories of the White Stag that managed to
elude men. “I know that stag takes to the rocky hills, like a demon
who doesn’t know its own skin. No other deer takes to rocks like
that,” the hunter expounded. “And we’re left with three arrows
this morning, thanks to that blasted creature. It’s not a
coincidence, miss. Every time arrows go missing, that stag is spied
somewhere nearby the next morning. I can feel it watching us even
now! We will have to fish for our winter’s stores. I hate dried
advised the hunter to take up pig farming before he pointed her
toward the hills he considered the stag’s territory. With a
blessing of farewells, Daisy headed back into the woods. As she left
the camp, she passed the arrow that remained in the pine tree’s
scarred trunk. Sap slunk out from the tree, like an oozing wound. She
shivered once more at the thought of the arrow piercing her own skin,
but at the thought of an arrow finding her princess, Daisy felt a
pang that twisted at her heart in a way she did not want to dwell on.
She turned her attention back to the task at hand; the hills were a
fair distance away, and it would take her most of an afternoon to
make the journey.
ears pricked up at the sound. No doubt some creature moved through
the leaves, clumsy shuffling feet. Had she heard a voice? Words
traveled light on the air, but also resonated in defiance of anyone
who would question they had been spoken. Faith smiled at the memory
of that voice, as much as a stag could smile.
princess?” A voice formed a structure around the shape of sound.
and clear, as she remembered, Faith heard Daisy’s call from the
woods. Faith surveyed the barren trees, looking for a flash of
movement, a sign of her dear friend.
princess?” Daisy called again.
found her stumbling lost in the woods. She spied Daisy as the young
maid struggled through the leaf-fall. The young maid looked pale and
underfed since Faith had last seen her. She appeared as though she
had been searching since the moment they were separated, and as soon
as Faith thought that, she knew it to be true. Faith held herself
back from charging down the slope to her friend’s side. Caution and
a familiar twitching in her ears told her that there were hunters
close at hand, and while they may be a distance off, their arrows
looked to the sky, to the clouds thickly gathered overhead. She sent
an urgent prayer to the fairies she felt certain were dancing there.
“Grant me a snow fall, heavy and quick, for this lost princess.”
Only a wish for winter with its gift of white could offer Faith the
cover she needed to close the space between her friend and herself.
formed and fell, and soon there was a fine layer of snow and ice
making the world sparkle as well as any fairy kingdom could aspire
heard the hunters’ retreat. The sudden winter pushed them back to
warm hearths and dry shelter. But Daisy, her truest, shielded her
eyes from the snow while she pressed deeper into the wood.
picked her way down the hillside, and not wishing to startle Daisy in
her beastly form, thought it best to stay hidden for a while longer.
She broke a path through the snow, certain Daisy would find and
follow the signs. Faith tucked herself in the shelter of branches,
seeming to disappear within the veil of white that filled the meadow.
She waited, still and silent.
snow blanketed the forest and sound alike, so Faith calmed her breath
as she listened to each crunching footfall. When Daisy reached the
meadow, the young maid collapsed at the water’s edge. She grabbed a
stone no bigger than her fist and smashed the thin skin of ice that
had formed over the water. Tossing the stone aside, she cupped her
hands and scooped water into her mouth to satisfy her desperate
thirst. She neglected to hear the wolf’s approach. An unpleasant
snarl from behind made her reach for the stone though she feared it
might be too late.
Daisy turned to see her attacker face on, she witnessed a terrible
magical sight. A great white stag leapt from the tree cover and
hoisted the wolf, mid-pounce, up in its silver antlers and tossed the
haggard beast, yelping into the icy pond. The rabid wolf crashed
through the ice and grappled to pull itself out of the cool water but
could get no purchase on the ice around it. It barked and growled at
the air, until it sank below the water’s surface. Ice formed back
over the gaping hole, and an eerie silence swept over the meadow.
staggered up to her feet. She wrapped her arms around the stag’s
felt her own arms reach around Daisy, hands clasping the too thin
form of her friend. Faith had lost track of the day, and as dusk
settled around them, her human form had returned.
saw as much as felt the transformation of her princess in her arms.
It took but a moment, and Daisy was amazed, not expecting this day to
end with her looking upon her dear friend’s beautiful face.
Certainly, she had not expected to see all of her friend in human
wrapped her cloak around the princess’ shoulders. “Are you real
again? Is it possible that I broke the spell?”
for the time between dusk and dawn.” Faith’s voice was raw and
cracked, for it had been almost two seasons since she had spoken.
Faith pulled Daisy back into her arms. “Come dear one, we have so
much to tell each other. Come with me into the wood.”
fell down Daisy’s cheeks freely as Faith led Daisy into the
darkening wood. She smiled at the strength of Faith’s grip around
her hand, determined not to lose the touch that connected them in the
gathering storm. Daisy marveled at Faith’s bare feet breaking the
snow, seemingly impervious to the cold. Daisy dared herself to
believe in the vision that moved so gracefully through the woods
before her. A glow began to burn within her, as her heart seemed to
swell and her breathing quicken. After so many months of searching,
she had her princess again.
Daisy woke, she realized dawn had long since arrived, and she found
herself abandoned in the den that the deer had shared with them. Her
cloak was spread over her in a careful way, so what warmth she had
stayed with her.
must have been tired when she awoke as the white stag at dawn. For
the two of them had lain close together throughout the night, telling
each other the tales of the past four months. Though the darkness had
been deep in the folds of so many snow-laden branches of the thicket,
occasionally a shaft of moonlight would pierce the shelter. All too
briefly, Daisy caught a glimpse of Faith’s lips, turning to a
smile, or her eyes, reflecting a knowledge that hadn’t been there
before. Daisy struggled against the unfamiliar darkness, but Faith
had long found a home in the night. Night held no threat to her.
Faith spilled out the stories of her life as the magical stag of
these woods. Daisy’s face became sore from smiling so much as she
treasured her sweet friend’s return.
stag? I saw it myself, but still, I don’t understand.”
not seek answers from the one who suffers from the curse.” Faith
laughed. “But I am grateful to have the form that gives me a
felt the winter’s bite at her skin, and she trembled both at the
coldness and the vision of her princess facing wolves, hunters, and
other dangers unknown to her. “My princess.” Daisy clutched Faith
closer to her, finding both warmth and comfort in her arms. A passing
ray of moonlight passed over the thicket as the wind stirred the
branches, and for a moment, Daisy saw her mistress again. Faith’s
alabaster skin reminded Daisy how long the poor princess had lived
without daylight. Daisy caught up the cloak that had slipped from the
soft curve of Faith’s hip and pulled it tight around her. Faith
snuggled closer to Daisy’s chest, keeping Daisy wrapped around her.
warmth,” Faith had said.
friendship,” Daisy had whispered in return.
in the mid-morning, Daisy crawled back through the briars and out
into the wintry world. A collection of hoof prints preceded her exit,
so she used these depressions for her own purpose as she pulled
herself free of the den.
word and heart indeed,” an elderly woman’s voice exclaimed. The
unexpected voice caused Daisy to lose her delicate balance and she
collapsed, feeling foolish as she felt the wet snow seep into her
dress. She raised herself up to standing to face the stranger, and in
deference to her elder, Daisy then stooped a little to meet the
woman, face-to-face. The woman smiled broadly despite the gaps where
her teeth had once been. “Are you fairy or monster or simply a lost
maid who rises from the frozen earth?” the woman asked, a pinch of
humor in her tone as if she knew the answer already.
not fear. I am a maid, no longer lost but found again by your honored
are a precious one to flatter me so. It is rare I walk this path, but
a grumpy old white stag blocked my way and seemed to insist I go this
shared a smile, and Daisy felt this old woman must be very wise, or a
fairy herself, or perhaps both; and on good feeling alone did she
decide to trust the seeming kind stranger.
stag is my princess, cursed to wander as a wild creature during the
day as long as the sun shines. I am her lady, and only just found
as the sun sets, she returns to her human form until the sun rises
again. I know the spell all too well.”
you an enchantress?”
am a silly old woman, who has lived long and forgotten in this
forest, but still I listen to all the stories these woods tell me. I
have a cottage nearby, and I can provide you shelter and hearth for
the coming winter that seems to have come all the earlier this year.
You may stay as long as the curse continues, as long as you wish it.”
clasped the old woman’s hand with both of hers, and because she had
been well-trained in the manner of the old rituals as well as the
new, she chose the old form of pledging respect and gratitude by
kissing the back of the old woman’s hand twice. She shouldered the
old woman’s rucksack as a small gesture of what she could offer in
return. The old woman stared at Daisy then waved her hand at nothing,
snorting a bit at the air. She shuffled in place, adjusting to the
absence of the weight she had been used to carrying.
I take it that you will keep me company. Follow along then.”
then led the poor, threadbare girl through the woods on some secret
path, made even more hidden by the fresh snow, to her cottage.
they walked and chatted and lapsed into peaceful silence, they heard
at times the soft crunch of a heavy hoof or the brush of hair against
a branch, creating flurries of snow to fall from low branches. Daisy
and the old woman shared a knowing look.
have a chicken roasting over the fire, and now I find it is time to
make a feast in honor of our new family.” The old woman made sure
to say this loud enough for anyone close to hear. “But one must
arrive in good time to enjoy the feast.”
humble cottage of hewn logs and a sturdy thatch roof lay nestled in a
clasp of trees. A shallow brook tripped along a pebble path past a
small garden where tomatoes frosted with ice still clutched to the
vines. An eave hung over a welcoming front porch, and Daisy could see
the windows were trimmed with simple linen curtains. The old woman
opened her door wide as she shuffled her feet over the doorstep.
Daisy stayed at the entrance. She smelled the roasting chicken from
the hearth that filled the interior of the cabin. A hunger crawled
through her belly at the aroma.
modest fire blazed as the chicken turned on its spit. A rough
lopsided table stood close to the hearth with collection of candles
burnt down to nubs of wax. A broken rocking chair lay tilted on its
side. A bench cluttered with drying herbs, flowers, and stray swaths
of cloth leaned against the chair. Cabinets with broken doors held
little reserve of food on their rough-hewn shelves. Curtains of
smoke-stained linen hung on each side of the hearth, and Daisy
supposed they served as a screen to the rooms beyond, one for the old
woman and another for herself. Simple and sparse as it was, Daisy
felt she stood upon the edge of a fairy’s palace. She touched her
forehead and tapped her foot once at the doorstep as she made the
blessing of safe home before stepping over the threshold.
arrived, and so too a light knock on the door. With a nod and
approving smile from her hostess, Daisy ushered the naked Faith into
the warm home. Daisy draped a winter dress of linen over Faith.
did this shift come from?” Faith smiled as her head emerged through
the dress. Her long arms stretched through the sleeves.
host provided the material. It is poorly made now, but I will improve
it tomorrow with more time.” Daisy blushed as she helped Faith’s
hands find their way through the sleeves. She expected to find Faith
frozen from the cold, but she found her warm to the touch. Daisy
gasped in delight as she lifted Faith’s hands to her face.
heat stays with me for a while after the change,” Faith said,
allowing the girl to enjoy the feeling of Faith’s hands against her
cool face. “Perhaps you noticed yesterday?”
only knew you in that moment, and now I have you again to notice all
fingers traced the edges of Daisy’s cheeks. a gentle touch
journeyed over the maid’s black eyebrows followed by a thumb
glancing over Daisy’s lips. A sudden warmth traveled from down
Daisy’s neck and would have continued further if she hadn’t
pulled herself back and taken the princess’ hands into her own.
“Please, come in, my princess, and meet our kind mother who has
offered us this shelter.” Faith squeezed Daisy’s hand, and Daisy
nodded as she met Faith’s questioning gaze. “Come, I trust her as
I trust you.”
stepped forward, feeling the comfort of Daisy’s arm next to her own
as they stood in the welcoming hearth. Before Faith could make her
greeting, the old woman lowered herself in homage to the princess.
Highness, you do me this great honor to enter my home,” the old
woman tried to speak as she thought she should.
had grown unaccustomed to such formalities and stood dumbly silent as
she struggled to remember the right words to say. Her eyes made a
desperate look to Daisy, and Daisy winked then raised her eyebrows as
she curled her lip. It was a game they had played as children. At
court, Daisy had been so much better at memorizing all the rites and
customs of the court. Faith failed at keeping the practices in her
mind, but Daisy taught her a secret language in which Daisy made
certain gestures and motions to remind Faith how to proceed. Faith
need only discover a moment to steal a look to gather Daisy’s
expressed clues. Now, Faith fought the urge to caress Daisy’s
curling lip again with her thumb to thank it for the indications it
kind and fair mother, rise and look upon me as your own family. For
this service and shelter you provide, you shall ever have a place in
my heart.” Faith remembered how Daisy had called the old woman
‘mother.’ So Faith added, “you shall be as my own mother, for
as long as I walk upon the earth, and beyond it as I am able.”
old woman rose and, in her squinting and smiling eyes, she appeared
to be filled with a goodness too great to behold. “May this be the
darkest winter that travels to our door, so we all have many hours to
know each other.”
when nightfall came, time slowed its pace, letting the course of the
evening unwind minutes into moments. Though the winter solstice is
not known as a season of growing, each night fed the seeds of
fondness and loving regard the three women felt blossoming by the
hearth of their new family.
evening passed with the same rituals. Once Faith arrived hot from the
change, Daisy dressed her. Daisy constructed simple but tasty meals
from their meager larder, while Faith applied her childhood lessons
in carpentry to repair a chair, rehang a shelf, or seal the windows
that let in the frigid winter air seep in. After Daisy tucked their
kind mother into the rocking chair that Faith had righted, she
insisted that Faith join her on the bench by the fire, requiring the
princess to assist her with the mending of clothes, curtains, and a
seemingly endless supply of blankets.
treat do you have for me tonight?” Faith’s patience ended before
the owls could begin their hunting calls.
my princess, I had no time to bake.” Daisy dared not meet her old
mother’s look for fear it would make her laugh as it always did
when Faith began their game, or as Faith liked to call it, the hunt
for sweet salvation.
suffer an endless curse. Half beast, half helpless maiden. I suffer,
how I suffer. Only one gift I ever ask of this world to ease my pain.
Ah, a piece of nut bread, a sliver of cake.” Faith crossed to the
hearth’s mantle, burying her face in the crook of her arm as she
leaned against it.
are no sweets for you. Sadly, your suffering must continue, my poor
princess-beast.” Daisy set her sewing aside, clearing the path as
she launched herself off the bench towards Faith, hands free to
tickle the princess.
Faith had grown so much stronger since the curse had taken her. Faith
easily pulled the maid into her lap as she returned to her seat on
the bench. “Do you seek my wrath?” Faith raised her free hand and
spun her fingers in the familiar dance. “Do you surrender?”
Daisy’s eyes widened as she watched Faith’s dancing fingers
descend, navigating their way through the folds of her dress to
tickle her. Daisy shook with giggling, and Faith persisted until
Daisy gasped for air, burying her face in her princess’ neck,
begging her to stop.
Faith stayed her hand on Daisy’s belly. Daisy breathed heavily into
the princess’ ear, unable to speak. A sudden light-headedness
seized Faith, but she remembered her script as she ordered, her voice
thick, “Produce my boon.”
extracted a wrapped offering from her apron’s pocket and placed a
bit of the sugar cake on Faith’s waiting tongue. Faith moaned with
exaggerated delight at the reward as she rocked the maid in her
found it strangely sad when she fed the last bite to Faith. She found
it stranger still that she did not have the will to meet the
princess’ gaze as she pulled herself out of Faith’s lap, dusting
the crumbs off her apron as she stood. She retrieved the cakes she’d
baked for her mother and herself, and after teasing Faith with a
second piece, she rejoined her on the bench where they enjoyed
dessert by the waning fire.
the night slipped into lengthy quiet pauses and softer voices, Daisy
led the princess to the narrow bed they shared. Faith stretched along
the length of Daisy, easily folding the maid into the warmth of her.
The whisper of Faith’s breath on Daisy’s neck sent a shiver
through her that wasn’t chilled at all. Even still, Daisy clutched
the blanket to her, waiting for sleep to come.
could not last forever. The season’s cycle proved stronger than any
magical wish. TTThe
snow melted and the scent of green returned to the air. Villagers
welcomed the return of the longer days as they greeted neighbors and
traded stories, often colored by words eager for new ears to hear
them. Hunter’s tales of the white deer traveled from home to home,
transforming the creature into a beast of legend, of mythic size and
strength. The woods themselves became the territory of fairies and
witches, too dangerous to explore as the frost still held its sway in
the morning light. Had not a maid been lost there when the winter
came too soon? Had not a princess died under the hoof of that very
reached King Warlock. His hunters had failed this past season in
their collection of venison and bear, and he grew tired of dried fish
and pork. For their part, the hunting party offered only excuses
about being plagued by creatures that they were unable to kill.
Creatures no doubt led by this unearthly White Stag.
tugged at the belt that held his royal purple raiment to him. He let
the heavy woolen garb fall to the floor as he lifted the crown off
his thick black hair. His midnight locks draped to his shoulders,
casting a strange shadow against his pale flesh. He had spent too
much of this winter inside. Little sign remained of any winter fat on
his muscular form; he felt as strong and as ready for the release of
the new season as any caged man could. He tired at the thought of
another day spent in the company of advisors and tradesmen in the
stuffy halls of his castle. He swiveled on one heel at the sound of
water being disturbed. His features relaxed as he met Lord Converse’s
gaze, waiting at the entry of his bath.
it pleases Your Majesty.” Lord Converse bowed, beckoning the king
to take his place by the tub.
reposed on top of his bathing robes next to the tub while Converse
washed his legs and back. As Converse’s strong hands kneaded
Warlock’s stiff back, the young king flexed his arms and stretched.
was to be married this spring,” he yawned. “But that foolish
princess had to die rather than finish the journey. And that wretched
Lady Weed and her sour-faced daughter, showing up here, daring to
pretend to be royalty in her place! As if I’m blind, as if I’m a
Weed’s plot to pass her gaunt and gangly daughter as the lovely
Princess Faith had been misconceived at best. Converse himself
delivered the two disgraced ladies to the dungeon upon the revelation
of their villainy.
do not envy any man who must take such news back to the parents of so
fair a maiden.” Converse blinked at the flash of memory of the
queen’s desperate wail as he delivered the news of Lady Weed’s
betrayal, of Princess Faith’s death in the daylight. “I should
have stayed with the escort rather than racing ahead. I regret my
impatience every day.” Converse ran the cloth over the King’s
exposed leg in thoughtful contemplation. “Some men say she became
this white stag. Some men say they saw her change. Do you think it
tales! Since when do my people believe in fairy tales? What’s next,
the fishermen come back and say they can’t catch fish because
mermaids cut the lines? My bravest men retreat from the field because
they might upset a fairy asleep on a toadstool?” The King laughed
at the idea he conjured up.
echoed Warlock’s laugh. “Would your majesty like to hunt the
King considered the question. It had been some time since he had gone
on a hunt. He felt the lingering desire in him to draw back an arrow
and feel the quickening release. The satisfying sound of the shaft
hitting its mark rang in his memory. “Make it known to the hunters
that no one is to hunt in the stag’s glade. Let him get fat and
comfortable. I will hunt him in a fortnight. You shall be my only
companion, Converse. We will keep our own vigil.”
mouth spread into a wide smile. The King rolled over on to his back,
giving a nod of assent for Converse to continue.
your lordship pleases.”
early is it?” Daisy found herself waking at the darkest hour of
night. Daisy heard the slide of fabric against skin as Faith pulled
the nightdress off. As a habit, Faith left her linen shift at the
foot of the bed before she made her way out of the cottage. The
princess avoided a transformation inside the home and refused to risk
ruining one of her few outfits as well. “It’s not time yet, is
Faith laughed in her sad way. “I can feel the time is close.”
it be night a little longer.” Daisy reached for her princess and
her hand found the naked flesh of Faith’s waist. She started to
draw her hand away, but Faith’s hand held Daisy to her.
Faith’s request for silence was impossible to meet. Daisy’sheart
thundered inside her. Faith moved again, and Daisy, reflexively, gave
Faith’s waist a squeeze. Faith bent over Daisy, the heat of her
body close, calling to the maid’s own.
Daisy wished, but that wasn’t her truest wish. She wanted her
princess closer still, under those blankets, their bodies tangled in
linen, until flesh found flesh again. Daisy’s breath caught in her
kissed Daisy’s forehead as she lifted Daisy’s hand from her
waist. “I must go, my sweet.” Faith’s words were barely a
whisper. Perhaps the change had already begun and she hadn’t
expected to say them at all. Faith rushed from the room, the ghostly
presence of her kiss lingering on Daisy’s head.
fell unwelcome and unheeded from Daisy as she pushed back at that
terrible ache that squeezed her body, causing her to want beyond hope
to hear her princess say those words to her again: “My sweet.”
But the words wilted in their intensity with the coming of dawn, and
as the morning sun gathered around the cottage, Daisy shook herself
of the dream she knew was hers alone.
spent her days in the close comfort of her dear old mother, for this
is how she truly regarded their kind benefactress. The old woman
never spoke a word about magic. But everyday with a knowing nod, she
packed a basket of food and led Daisy to a meadow hidden deep in the
forest. This place lay more hidden than the cottage, and there under
a great hemlock tree, they passed hours under the evergreen branches.
woman shared her knowledge of the powers hidden in nature. In this
meadow, it was never quite winter or summer, rather a season of its
own. The air itself felt different on Daisy’s flesh and in her
lungs. When she went to this place, she experienced a peculiar
sensation of glitteriness that suffused her in a way that she
imagined fairies must feel all the time. Her mind and heart became
open to her good mother’s teaching. Her mother kept the measure of
each lesson and the day. When the lesson ended and the day began to
dress in the pinks and oranges of the dying light, she followed the
ritual of sacred parting by clasping Daisy’s hands in hers, kissing
each of the maid’s fingers. Daisy frowned at the lesson’s end as
she helped her mother up to her feet once more.
little more time, please mother.”
calls us home.” Her old mother reached up and pinched Daisy’s
soft cheek in her fingers. “You would not wish to be late for our
rolled her eyes at her mother’s often repeated play on words. Her
old mother barked a laugh at her tired joke. “Don’t let the
princess hear you say that.”
think she’d rather hear you say it than I.”
shook her head at her mother’s teasing. “Come along my sweet mad
mother. Let us go back to our cozy den.”
know the path home better than I.” Her good mother clutched Daisy’s
arm for support. She grew weaker as the winter slowly lost its
command of the land and sky.
have a good teacher. I see the path like a sparkling trail of
stardust stretching before us, a silver river.”
you see other paths as well?”
cast a look around her. “Indeed, you are right mother. There flows
a stream of red. It leads to a village, or at least to people,
perhaps they are kind. The red glows like a warm heart.”
one of bright green.” Daisy laughed. “It leads to a lake.”
do you laugh at this vision?”
see two lovers there. They have stolen away. They think no one sees
common enough practice in my day.” The old woman laughed as well,
perhaps at her own mischievous memories. “Look again, my dear, you
have stronger eyes than me.”
coldness gripped Daisy’s heart as she tracked a royal purple trail.
She felt as if a thousand wasps stung her skin, and she fell to her
knees as she heaved for breath.
woman knelt by her, running her hand over Daisy’s hair. The motion
sent a wave of calm through the poor suffering girl.
hunter.” Daisy coughed. “He hunts my…” Daisy caught herself,
had she wanted to say ‘love’? She had neither the hope nor the
station to desire such an esteemed place. She corrected herself,
disguising her almost error with a heavy sigh, “my princess.”
hunts with one other.” The old woman followed the vision as well.
“He has a strong passion to win his prize.”
wish is to kill the stag.” The old woman helped Daisy back to her
feet. “But the day is late enough, and soon there will be no stag
to seek. And I see a very hungry princess waiting naked on our front
step, if we stay here.”
woman’s words worked their spell and roused Daisy out of her
terrible distraction. They made their way home.
took its time finding them. Daisy prepared the evening meal, tidied
the rooms, built a fire, and swept the floors. She twice washed the
table and cabinetry, and still she found time to sweep the path that
led to the cottage door.
respite came as the sun set. There was no knock on the door. Daisy
told herself she would not cry, not yet. She grabbed a lantern and
held it aloft as she paced up and down the cottage path. She peered
into the dusk shrouded trees, seeking visions of trails to tell her
how to find her princess. But only shadows danced around her.
cannot search in this way.” Daisy had not heard the woman approach.
She dropped the lantern, but deftly caught it again before it could
strike the ground.
mother. How can I find her?”
will return. Trust in that. Come inside and wait with me by the
the woman settled Daisy by the hearth, she rapped her knuckles on the
mantle and a cloud of ash stirred up from beneath the flames. The
cloud curled into a butterfly’s delicate shape before flitting up
the chimney, setting out on an unspoken mission.
will be home soon.”
knew the woman to be true. “I must be as you, mother. I must know
cost is too high for you. You cannot have my path without giving up
have no path to speak of, except to serve.”
turned away from the woman. A breeze stirred the curtain that hid the
bed Faith and she shared. Daisy saw a vision of Faith standing next
to the bed, her nightdress gathered in her hands. Daisy blinked away
the phantom sight.
old woman called her back. “You are worthy of such a love in
I know my place in the world.”
know the place where man has put you, but you must unlearn that, if
you dare to find your true path. That path, my child, will not betray
drank in the old mother’s words even as she was not quite sure what
they meant. She knew she must puzzle them out, but there as she
contemplated the flames, she heard that familiar step on the porch,
followed by a rapid knock.
flung open the door and captured her poor mistress in her arms.
Faith, naked, damp with sweat, panting from the long chase.
hunter… the King himself… all day.” Words she managed to
breathe out as her heart raced, beating mad against her chest. Daisy
shushed and ran her hands over Faith’s head, as her mother had
taught her, trying to restore a calm back to the woman bent in her
will draw her a milk bath. This will give her some strength.” The
old woman set to filling a copper tub with warm water and milk
can help.” Daisy made the offer, but her princess clutched at
Daisy, still seeking a steady breath. Daisy rocked Faith in her arms,
whispering calm words to her.
the bath was ready, she helped Faith into the nourishing tub. The old
woman had made a paste of herbs and gave the bowl to Daisy to feed
the princess. Daisy swept up two fingers full of the restorative and
held the healing concoction to Faith’s mouth.
welcomed the much-needed sustenance that began to restore her. As
Daisy’s fingers slipped over her lips, she also felt a curious
weakness travel through her belly. When she looked up to meet Daisy’s
gaze, her tongue played across Daisy’s fingers. Daisy’s cheeks
flushed a rising pink, and Faith felt the girl’s fingers tremble on
her lips. Faith opened her mouth, embarrassed at the pleasure she had
found there, and yet she longed for the feeling to return.
I need more,” Faith suggested.
you are strong enough already.”
pleasant buzz stirred within Faith. She submerged herself in the tub.
She raised her head above the milky water, and Daisy smiled back at
her. Faith leaned toward the maid, reaching for Daisy’s hand, but
Daisy placed the bowl solidly in Faith’s palm.
the rest, as you like.” Daisy nodded as she crossed to their room.
barely caught the bowl in her grip as she watched Daisy retreat. She
smiled at the girl’s escape. Even though Daisy hadn’t complied
with Faith’s wish, Faith knew in that instant that Daisy desired
stood only a few feet away in the confines of their small room, but
at least she had left the princess’ company before Faith could
unravel her with another glance. Daisy felt her whole self betraying
her heart in every look and touch. She had been so close to saying
the wrong words to the old woman, and now she stood on the precipice
of surrendering her very soul to the woman she was indentured to
collapsed in the tent. The chase had taken its toll, and he weakly
pulled the bearskin blanket over his panting form. Converse cooked
their evening meal over a small fire he had built at the entrance of
their tent. Warlock listened to the good man’s voice, but
Converse’s words defied taking any shape that Warlock could
recognize. He heard something about food and felt the wineskin flop
on his belly when Converse tossed it to him. Warlock drank the red
elixir, savoring the soothing balm it sent through his aching body.
brought a spoonful of the rabbit stew to Warlock’s mouth, and the
rich aroma stirred his appetite. Warlock tucked into the stew, and
soon he rose, rejuvenated and laughing at the thrill of the hunt.
know its rhyme and reason. And tomorrow I will have that stag’s
head at our table. Brilliant, wasn’t it? Did you manage to catch a
glimpse of it? The antlers almost looked silver in the light.”
flash of white is all. I thought it best to keep my eye on the path
and where we went.”
man, wise friend.” King Warlock slapped Converse’s back in fond
appreciation. He kept his hand on Converse’s broad shoulder,
enjoying the company of his most loyal man. “You always keep me on
the right path.”
it is the princess, your lordship. What might you risk if you take
the stag’s head and find rather than a prize, you have a child
bride’s bloodied gold locks at your feet?”
withdrew his hand. The image Converse conjured up startled him.
“There is no proof that the girl is that beast, and even still, if
she is so cursed, who’s to say she doesn’t bring that evil to our
country? This magic cannot be trusted or believed. Pah! Listen to me,
magic, curses, evil, I talk like a simple farmer who prays to the
Fairy Queen to make his vegetables grow. I should strike any man who
invents such tales to cloud our more rational minds.”