Forest of Sleeping Beauty

She is quiet and peaceful

Watched over, sleeping, by only the stars

 

The whiteness of her landscape

Shines true to the pureness of her nature 

 

The blackness of her bark

Strikes strong contrast down to her roots

 

The redness of her berries

Pecks at the sky with delicate

Notes of promise and pleading

 

Silently waiting for a

Traveler to disturb her slumber

Bad Date

I sat at a table, impressively set with flowers and a candle, uncomfortably pulling at my tight dress. My feet hurt from the high heels I wore; I knew they would give me blisters but wore them anyway. I wanted to make a good first impression after all.

The friend who set up the blind date could not stop gushing over the majesty of who she set me up with. I was told the man I would meet was good, worthwhile, kind, and understanding. Everything I said I wanted. I would be presented with a man, a real man. Finally. Lord only knew what I would give it if were true.

“Your table sir,” a deep voice said over my shoulder, and the next moment a god entered my vision. Or at least a cousin of a god. Dressed like a romance novel character I ogled as his jaw line, thinking there was no possibility he was intended for me that evening.

But there he was, sitting down across from me. The waiter hovered and he ordered a drink politely. He then turned to me with a perfect smile and introduced himself. “Hello, my name is Mark,”

“Ellan,” I held out my hand, a bit breathless.

“Ah,” he eyed it, his whole countenance changing suddenly. “I don’t like that.”

“I’m sorry?” My hand went limp.

“Holding your hand across the table like that. It’s not very polite.”

“I—uh,” slowly I withdrew my hand under the table. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know offering your hand to someone was rude…”

“Depends on how you do it.” He smiled again. “So, Miss Ellan, tell me about yourself. Where do you work?”

I dismissed the odd beginning, answering, “I work for a marketing company in the city. I actually just started so I’m still getting the hang of things.”

He made a face. “I like women who are intelligent. Do you think you’ve made an impression?”

“Well not yet, it’s only been a few weeks,”

“What are your views on Scandinavian furniture?”

“I’m sorry?”

“What are your views on Scandinavian furniture? Do you think the style fits with the contemporary city or does it more suit the modern country?”

“I don’t—”

“How do you decorate your home?”

“Regularly?” I faltered. “I suppose I don’t really have a specific taste at the moment.”

“I see.” Mark looked across the table long and hard. Just as his drink arrived he asked for the check. “I’m sorry, but I don’t see this going anywhere.” He smiled again, just as charming as before.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I feel we don’t have the same interests.”

“Are you serious?” I scoffed. “That’s it? I get five minutes of your time and then you decide this isn’t going anywhere? Do you realize that I bought a whole new outfit for this date?”

“That’s new?” He looked me up and down.

“I dieted for a week in preparation of this night. I even got a pedicure!”

“Miss Ellan, please lower your voice. Don’t be so upset. I realize your friend probably raised your hopes up. Don’t worry, I’m sure you will meet a perfectly suitable man for you some day.”

My mouth dropped open while he finished his drink and stood. “I had to take a taxi across town to get here…” I mumbled under my breath.

“I’m certain you will be able to find another to take you home.” Mark handed a bill to the waiter and, with one final smile, made his dash.

“Miss?” The waiter questioned, hesitantly looking down at me.

I unfolded my napkin and laid it across my lap. “I would like to see your wine and dessert menus please.”  

The Five Trials of Peru: Trial 5 Part 3

The next day marked the wedding. Festivities began with the rising sun and continued until the noontide meal. Peru expected to see Florette during the celebrations; after all they were for him just as much as for her. But she remained absent, instead to his right sat Lothar and to the left the mistress. She abounded in talk and laughter, seemingly the happiest of all, while his captain remained silent.

The ceremony followed the meal and proceeded without a hitch. Soft music played and the living proof of all his dreams appeared before Peru’s eyes. At long last the prince stood across from Florette, concealed by a veil and a long dress so that nothing of her skin showed. “I have dreamed of this day for many years,” he whispered, wanting nothing more than to hear her voice in response. The figure simply nodded and spoke not.  

The leader of the church stood at the head of the alter, a steady stream of chants and blessings issuing from his lips until the final moments. Just as the prince reached out to his moments-away wife to seal the ring around her finger he felt a strong pair of hands pull him away.

Stepping forward Lothar spoke to the prince but loud enough for the whole of the room to hear. “This wedding is a miserable scheme. This woman is Florette, but she is not the one you seek.” Pulling the veil from the bride’s head a hideously deformed face revealed itself. The figure fell back in shame and fear as a gasp issued from the very room they stood in. “The drawing you fell in love with is of another,” Lothar looked to the side of the room. Following his gaze Peru turned to see the girl, the slave, he had so easily dismissed, standing calmly a few feet away with an air of certainty he had never seen in another and a smile to calm even the sun’s flames. It was then he saw her for who she really was and not who others pretended her to be.   

Silence settled over the room. Prince Peru slowly approached the woman, whom he once believed to be nothing to him, and wept. Throwing himself to his knees he raised his face to hers. “I am sorry. I was a fool to believe lies when truth stood obviously before me. I am unworthy to stand by your side.”

“Many men have come seeking the nobleman’s daughter,” the girl said, kneeling next to the prince. “All these I have left to their own devices, caring for them not. But with you… I think there is hope.”

Rising to their feet the two embraced and felt true love before a rending screech ended the moment. The mistress, Florette’s mother, stood in the isle eyes ablaze. “How dare you!” She accused the girl still in Peru’s arms. “I should have killed you the moment that fool of a painter portrayed you on paper!”

A loud popping noise accompanied this curse. A woman screamed as the king of the jinn and all his men appeared at the head of the church, sending the clergyman stumbling out of the way in awkward fear. “Dear prince Peru,” the king spread his arms out wide, encompassing the whole assembly in warm benevolence. “I am pleased to see you overcome this puzzle. Ederin is the true one you seek, not Florette. The mistress, that wretch of a woman, cursed her daughter to be born undesirable by any man due to her wicked deeds throughout life. After the death of her husband she knew her extravagant lifestyle could only be maintained through the marriage of her only child to a prince. But none would consent to marry such a creature; seeing this she took the lovely Ederin and played her as heir. Once suitors came they could only see the supposed beauty they courted on the day of the wedding. But once seeing whom they truly married all called for divorce straight away. Sworn to secrecy concerning the truth word did not spread of the scheme.” The king smiled down fondly at Ederin. “Dear, sweet Ederin is a distant relative of mine who under unfortunate circumstances was kidnapped and sold, forced to serve the noble’s wife. When you landed on my island I knew you were seeking her, the picture in your pocket confirmed it. I decided to test you in worthiness to judge if you were even fit to stand before her, let alone marry. I was pleased then and I am all the more pleased now to see Ederin has decided she likes you as well. So what more is there to discuss? May the two of you find pleasure and happiness with each other as long as each shall live.” With that the Jinn king smote the mistress where she stood, riding the world of her. Peru and Ederin, along with the captain and the rest of his men, all rode on the backs of jinn to their island where a proper wedding took place without a hitch or lie.

The party flew back to Peru’s homeland, which he had not seen in over ten years. In an act of kindness the Prince and his new bride brought the poor Florette back as well. Shunned and locked in the attic since birth she was innocent in her mother’s schemes. She led the rest of her life happily, spending most of her time outside in the gardens making up for lost time.

True to his word Peru opened his treasury and served each family of the men lost on the journey with everything they would need to lead a comfortable life for many generations to come, hoping to make amends and receive a pardon from the surviving family members. Pleased with the act no one begrudged him.

The tale of Peru’s quest soon spread throughout the kingdom and he became a hero to the people. They also regarded Ederin fondly, her rise from slavery endearing her to their hearts.

With his heir back in the country safe and sound Peru’s father died a few months later, elevating the prince to king and Ederin to queen. Lothar, Peru’s truest and most reliable friend, stayed in the kingdom as the king’s advisor, serving faithfully all the years he ruled. They were visited often by the Jinn king, who loved to tell anyone who would listen the wild stories of a young boy beneath a pear tree who fell in love with a painting.

The Five Trials of Peru: Trial 5 Part 2

Peru felt foolish for his actions and bade many pardons from the mistress the very next morning, lest overnight she find herself so insulted she order the whole lot of he and his men thrown out onto the street. She was quick to dismiss the whole incident and drew him into the sitting area to discuss the wedding. Meeting his men that night Peru excitedly told them all that was to come. Rejoicing their journey would have a happy ending only Lothar sat in silence, seemingly sore troubled.

“My friend, what is the matter?” Peru threw an arm around his shoulder. “Do you not see everything has worked out? I will be married within the week and soon we will be on our way home.”

“Something is not right,” he said to Peru.

“How could you say that? Everything is right.” The prince assured. Still Lothar felt ill at ease and watched from afar as the wedding preparations buzzed around him.

Days later Lothar wandered into the kitchen in search of food to find the same servant girl the prince had mistaken for Florette preparing various dishes for the evening meal. Struck by her beauty he found it charming she wore a bell in her ear. Inviting him to sit at the table she served bread and cheese, discussing in small talk the recent events of the men’s arrival and engagement.

“The wedding is nearing and the prince couldn’t be happier.” Lothar sighed. “Why do I feel troubled?”

“Has the prince traveled far to find Florette?” The servant asked, busily kneading dough.  

He nodded. “Possibly halfway across the world, but I wouldn’t know. I did not meet him until after he was captured by the cyclops.”

“Cyclops?” The girl paused in her work. Lothar told all things to the young woman, from beginning to end. “He won my gratitude by saving my life, but won my devotion by displaying the purest heart. He was foolish in his quest, but perhaps that is his charm.” The captain shrugged. “I thought I would be happy having finally reached our goal, but…”

The girl thought deeply before speaking. “The mistress has a daughter, this is true,” she said in a hushed voice. “But the drawing the prince fell in love with is not of her.”