I said, there had to be a sequel. (And that's it, never fear).
Story: Happy Ever After Is Not The Problem
Author: Lost Spook
Characters etc.: Sleeping Beauty, Fairy tales (Briar, Ferrand, Alain, various Fairies)
Word Count: 5,439
Summary: Sleeping Beauty is about to marry her prince and live happily ever after. Or trying to, if only things will stop going horribly wrong.
Edit: I have now altered the font size so that it can be read without a magnifying glass! (Don't ask me what that was about...)
Ferrand had assumed that once he’d found his story and rescued his princess, he could get on with doing whatever needed to be done around the kingdom. With Briar, of course.
This didn’t take into account her delight in exploring, and ensuing regular disappearances. The worst of it was, even after the twenty-seventh time she had vanished, he still couldn’t lose the fear that she’d really gone this time, even though she was usually in a forgotten corner of the castle, or talking to tenants, or out in the forest.
She kept asking for unreasonable things like fencing lessons and trying to learn some of Alain’s tricks. He supposed, given the life she’d had until now, none of this was surprising. (And she was getting quite good at the sword-fighting, although he’d told her if she ever mentioned it to his mother, he’d call the wedding off.)
The queen had started planning their wedding on the day they arrived back from the other castle. Luckily, this had taken long enough for both Briar and Ferrand to feel that it was a good idea, although there wasn’t much choice after a troupe of fairies had foisted a happy ending upon them.
He had paid very little attention to this. Knowing his mother’s attitude to such things, he had assumed that it would be a trying few days, but at the end of it he would have Briar and they would finally be left in peace. All he had to do was stand where he was told and speak at the right times and be pleasant to guests.
When it finally dawned on him which guests they were expecting, he rebelled.
“We’ve invited all twenty of your fairy godmothers?”
Briar coloured. “It’s twelve. And we must. I ended up in that tower because my parents forgot to invite a fairy to my christening.”
“Yes, but all of them?” he said. He wasn’t even sure he believed Briar when she told him they meant well. Plus, they thought Briar was ugly and they insisted on trying to prettify things. The idea of twelve of them in the castle was enough to make his hair stand on end.
She nodded. “It would be even worse to miss one out. You see, Primrose explained to me that fairies only turn evil when someone is unpleasant to them. Once nurse left, I had to be always careful not to upset them.”
“Really?” said Ferrand. “How convenient.”
Briar said, “It is true. Peony told me that the evil fairy was once called Periwinkle, but then she -.”
“This is what comes of creatures that don’t have to live in the real world,” he returned.
She said, “Promise me you’ll be polite to them.”
“Oh, I will,” he said reluctantly, “but only because my mother would have my head if I insulted a guest under our roof.”
Briar sighed. “They did bring me up and they are fond of me in their own way.”
“They think you’re odd-looking and they put you to sleep for a hundred years,” he said. “I don’t like them.” But she hadn’t played for sympathy and pointed out that they were the only family or friends she had to invite. It was these things for which he forgave her all the fairy tale trappings.
She bit her lip. “Of course, we shall have to keep an eye on them, because they will most likely try to improve things.”
She said, “Well, me. My dress. The castle. Possibly even you. Anything that they don’t think is quite romantic enough for a fairy tale wedding.”
“Is that what this is?” he said. “And how?”
She said, “You remember the glamour they cast over me when we first met?”
“Too well to want them here.”
She faced him. “I am not going to end up under a spell again and nor are you! It’s much simpler to be polite.”
“I don’t think it’s me you need to worry over. My mother has planned this wedding and she is very attentive to detail. She will pounce on the smallest change in an instant. Besides, even my father might notice if I suddenly appeared to be marrying a completely different woman.”
Briar said, “I shall make them promise not to interfere, but they see promises more as things that they keep when they want to.”
“I thought it was bad enough having all three of my sisters here. My mother and my sister Adeline are very alike and once they get together – you have no idea what it’s like to sit in a room with the two most delicate women who ever lived.”
She said, “Oh, dear. I shall probably laugh.”
“Yes, you probably will,” he agreed.
“Ferrand, you will mind the fairies, won’t you? I’m quite fond of Primrose and Blossom -.”
“Spare me,” he said. Then he scowled. “Did all these fairies have flower names?”
“They always do.”
“And they called you Briar?” He faced her. “Don’t fool yourself. They’re not kind – and they’re not coming to our wedding!”
It was an empty threat. The invitations had gone out a month before and there was nothing he could do about it, but, he told himself, no matter what Briar said, if any fairy made a disparaging comment about her, he was telling them exactly what he thought.
However, fairies were not the immediate problem. His family had arrived.
“You remember how we’re not allowed to mention the affair with the pea?” said Ferrand to Briar. “Well, once Adeline turns up it’s safest not to mention any small, green things at all. Frogs, particularly.”
Briar was silently laughing at him again. “It will be difficult, but I shall try. Is there anything else?”
“You must be careful with Elise and her husband. They don’t mind people knowing about Berend having been a bear, but he doesn’t get on with my mother. It’s a very long story, all to do with a bit of advice she once gave Elise that meant she nearly lost him and he had to go and marry a troll or something. I’m not really clear about it myself.”
She bit her lip. “I can see that he might have found that trying. And your other sister?”
“Oh, you needn’t worry about Emeraude,” he told her. “Anything you say will upset her, so do as you please.”
Adeline wrinkled up her nose as she entered the throne room on the arm of her husband Hieron (the one who had once been a frog), behind Elise and her husband Berend (the one who had once been a bear). “Those curtains have grown shabby, Mother. Such a shame.”
“I don’t think so, dear,” said the Queen. “How nice to see you both. Audric, will you shut the door? There is distinct a draft. I can feel it.”
The King obliged. Their few castle servants had been very busy preparing the castle for the guests and the wedding feast and all the other things that Ferrand and Briar would have been happier without, so he did as his father always had.
Adeline turned to her would-be sister-in-law. “And you’re Ferrand’s princess, are you?”
“I’m Briar,” she said.
“You know,” Briar said to Ferrand afterwards, “you’re right. It is very hard not to talk about frogs.”
Emeraude arrived without her husband, as he had also been invited to a wedding in a neighbouring kingdom. (“You recall,” Audric reminded the Queen, “King Faramond’s son, who’s marrying that servant girl who lost her shoe.”) The other wedding had been going on for two weeks now, so Ferrand realised there were some things to be grateful for.
She had been home for barely ten minutes, before ending up in tears at an innocent comment her mother had made.
“It’s because I’m the middle daughter, isn’t it?” she sobbed. “I expect you paid that old witch to take me away!”
The Queen frowned. “Now, don’t be foolish, Emeraude. It’s not as if we weren’t upset at the time, but what else could we do, but trust you would turn up seventeen or so years later on the arm of royal suitor?”
“We had them scour every corner of the kingdom for you,” her father added. “I even sent riders out to all the neighbouring kingdoms and beyond.”
Her mother patted her hand. “It was your story, dear. There was nothing to be done.”
“And,” said Elise, quietly but pointedly, “it could have been worse.”
Her younger sister sniffed. “Worse? I spent seventeen years alone in a tower with some old witch tugging on my hair! It wasn’t even original.”
The Queen raised her eyes to the ceiling. “Girls, must we go over this every time? It is all very unfortunate, but at least everything ended well -.”
“I suppose if you only had to sit on a pea, that’s easy to say,” commented Elise. “It’s the same for Adeline. All she had to do was kiss a frog.”
Adeline flushed a furious red. “It’s plain that you’ve never tried!” She paused, catching her husband’s hurt look. “Oh, Hieron, I’m sorry, but it really was dreadful.”
“How many days till they all go again?” asked the king in an undertone to Ferrand.
The Queen got to her feet. “This is a most undignified conversation. I don’t know what sort of impression you are giving poor Briar. And I might add, if I chose, that perhaps you have never stopped to ask yourself what a real princess is doing out alone on a stormy night, looking for shelter?”
Briar escaped out of one of the windows and nearly landed on top of Alain the Fool. “I didn’t see you there,” she apologised.
“Think nothing of it,” he said. “If anyone is going to attempt to kill me, I would rather it was you.”
She paused. “Don’t be silly. You know, you’ve been quiet lately.”
“Ah, yes,” he returned and smiled at her. “The family are making their own entertainment.”
She would have laughed, but at that moment, she spied a procession of twelve fairies crossing the courtyard and she paled slightly. “Oh. My godmothers are here.”
It should have been simple to take Briar’s advice and not insult the fairies. It would certainly have been the wise course of action.
One of them was talking to Briar now; he could hear her. “Surely, merely a small spell? We could hide all those dirty marks. And only a tiny glamour would make the nose right.”
“No,” said Briar.
Ferrand turned to those fairies nearest him – still watching him with their wide, oddly coloured eyes, as if he were the magical creature. He folded his arms. “So, which one of you named her?”
"You three in the corner," snapped the Queen, walking over, "put down those wands and stop what you're doing. I can see you."
Three different shades of fairy eyes stared back at her. Their coloured, transparent wings fluttered. "You don't wish us to help?"
"I like everything here precisely as it is," she told them. "I spent months planning it this way, so leave it alone!"
They exchanged glances and amazed laughter. "Truly?"
"I certainly don't want these awful, garish ribbons and roses -. Kindly remove them at once!"
Now they became still and stared back at her without the amusement.
She turned to see her prince running across to her.
“You remember what you told me about fairies?" said Ferrand, catching hold of her. "And you remember what I told you about my family?"
He said, "Between us we've insulted every one of them. What do we do?"