First, a Happy Guy Fawkes Day to everyone! And an acknowledgment to Edith Nesbit and her book, The House of Arden, which taught me the November 5th rhyme before V for Vendetta made it trendy. I’ll review Nesbit another day…
…but today is Friday, and on Fridays I plan to share my own writing. For my first “Fiction Friday,” I thought I’d start with my biggest current project. As you know if you’ve glanced at my “About the Author” page or my user profile, I’m an aspiring novelist, and right now I’m mostly aspiring with The People the Fairies Forget.
I love novels that retell fairy tales, so I wrote one myself. It follows the adventures of Tarragon (or Tarry, for friends), who is an unusual fairy–no sparkles, no little wings, and did I mention he’s male? Also unlike his sparkly fairy colleagues, he’s much more interested in ordinary people than in royalty (for one thing, commoner girls are more willing to dance at a party).
Tarry tells us his tale as he tries to help the ordinary people who end up as the unintended victims of familiar fairy tales–the kitchen maid who falls asleep with the rest of the castle when Sleeping Beauty pricks her finger…the girl who gets stuck engaged to the prince when Cinderella’s slipper fits her, even though she’d rather marry someone else…Beauty’s brother, who’d rather not be whisked off to live at the Beast-turned-Prince’s castle. The stories are familiar, but the focus is different, as new stories lurking in the corners of the fairy tale emerge into the spotlight.
The People the Fairies Forget is a completed novel, so if you know an agent or a publisher who might be interested, I’d love to hear from you! My email address is email@example.com. Here’s the first five pages–which are also available at the link above.
If I’d had the sense to stay away from the royal christening, it might have saved a great heap of trouble. But I never could resist a good party, or the excellent food people invariably serve at good parties.
I made my way through the crowd at the christening, brushing past silks and satins and trusting that my hair was shaggy enough to hide my pointed ears. That always makes it easier for me to mingle among humans. I was trusting to the size of the crowd to keep anyone from noticing that I hadn’t been invited. A lack of an invitation never bothers me. Unlike some fairies I could name if I cared to, I don’t launch curses just because someone forgets to add me onto the guest list for their festivities. Besides, there’s nothing like a curse to kill a mood and spoil everyone’s appetite, which wouldn’t help me enjoy the party at all.
So far, I was enjoying this one. I was heading to the banquet table for the fourth time. I secured a leg of lamb and some beautiful red and green apples, then found a convenient place to sit. It had a clear view of the table where the other fairies were sitting. It was the usual set-up: places of honor, gold plates, hovering servants, and so on. I didn’t want to sit over there. Everyone’s so busy bowing at you that you can’t have a decent conversation, and it’s hard to eat a really decent amount with everyone watching. Besides, everybody always looks so surprised to see a fairy who isn’t plump and female, with little gossamer wings and sparkles everywhere.
There were six fairies at this event, plus me. That wasn’t surprising, as they always turn out for royal christenings. I hardly ever see any at non-royal ones, even though the commoners often throw better parties. Not to mention, commoner girls are much more willing to dance—though that obviously counts for more with me than with my plump and female fairy colleagues.
I was finishing my third apple when the herald started blowing his trumpet. Once he had relative silence, he grandly presented the King and Queen of Waldisan.
It was too bad that he hadn’t mentioned their names. I couldn’t remember them, and didn’t want to go to the trouble of using a spell to learn them. Kings and queens tend to run together for me, especially when their biographies are similar. You know. He was wise, she was beautiful, they wanted a child for a long time and were very sad not to have one, and then lo and behold a daughter was born. In this case, her name was Rosaline. That was her first name, anyway; she had eleven others. They’d said them all during the christening ceremony, directly before the banquet.
“Thank you all so much for coming,” the Queen said to the crowd. “We are deeply touched by your presence. And we especially want to thank our dear friends…” She turned towards the table with all the sparkles and wings. She introduced each fairy, and I didn’t listen because I already knew their names. I focused in again when the Queen concluded, “And we are so honored that they have offered to bestow their own very special gifts upon our daughter.”
I always pay attention to magical christening gifts, to see if anyone’s become more creative since the last time. They hadn’t this time. It was all angelic disposition and unearthly beauty and wonderful skill at dancing. The nobility never ask me to give a gift to their offspring. That may be just as well. They probably wouldn’t like what I’d come up with.
It was all going along smoothly until right after Fairy Number Five gave her gift. She was backing away when there was a clap of thunder and an explosion of green sparks and black smoke in the middle of the hall. When the smoke cleared, a tall woman with bat-like wings and serpent-like hair was standing before the cradle. She sparkled in a black and purple sort of way.
That was Echinacea. I had been half-expecting her, like you expect the last of your figs to turn up rotten just when you desperately need to make a pudding.
There’d been an uproar of cries and exclamations when the smoke rose, but everyone fell silent when Echinacea fixed them with her gaze. “Someone,” she said, “forgot to invite me.”
Saw that one coming too. Someone always ends up forgotten for these little affairs. Someone besides me, I mean.
And the result? Curses, always. Confidentially, Echinacea had dropped a curse on Rosaline before the smoke even cleared, to make sure the rest of us wouldn’t have time to prevent it. So when she spread her arms and launched showers of purple sparks everywhere and intoned, “I shall have to enact payment for this slight,” it was all strictly for effect. Rosaline had been cursed to prick her finger on a spinning wheel and drop down dead since the moment Echinacea arrived.
After announcing the particulars of her curse, Echinacea stormed out with an exit as overdramatic as her entrance. Practically before the thunderclouds cleared, Fairy Number Six—Seven, counting Echinacea—came prancing forward. That was Marjoram. She’s my…cousin, I guess you’d say. Fairies don’t always relate to each other in the same ways humans do, but that’s close enough. She was looking all puffed up with importance, made a very pretty speech, and cast an ever-so-nice spell so that the princess would really just fall asleep until awoken by a kiss. Everyone murmured about a hundred years and true love, and for some reason seemed to feel much better. Marjoram bestowed a few kind looks, and then popped out in a cloud of pink smoke and glitter.
I tucked my last apple into my jacket pocket, then left to find Marjoram and discuss recent events. I walked out of the hall, saving my popping for when I was out of sight. Not all of us are melodramatic.
We’re all good at finding each other, if the one we’re looking for doesn’t try to hide (and then it becomes pretty near impossible), so it was easy for me to orient on Marjoram and pop after her. I found myself knee-deep in flowers in some meadow, which was the sort of place she would decide to go. She was stretched on a rock sunning herself, gossamer wings spread to the light.
“What,” I demanded, kicking a few flowers as I clumped towards her, “was that?”
“Why, Tarragon, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said.
“Cut the act, Marj,” I said, sitting down at one end of the rock. “The christening. Rosaline. Why didn’t you comment when they mentioned a hundred years?”
She sat up, wrapping her arms around her ankles. “It’s tradition, Tarry; you know that. It’s always a hundred years.”
“And somehow you never tell them that it doesn’t have to be a hundred years.”
“I didn’t hear you jump in with it either.”
I snorted. “Like they’d have believed me. Royalty always looks at me slantways and dismisses me completely.”
“If you’d just magic up some wings and a little sparkle…”
“No, thanks, it’s against my deepest principles.” Me, with sparkles. The very idea gives me nightmares. Contrary to what may seem evident, sparkles are not an inherent part of our physical form. Sparkles are a choice, and I choose otherwise. “But they’d have believed you.”
“But it sounds so…unimpressive to say that the princess will fall asleep and could wake up any old time. That wouldn’t create a sensation at all.”
The remarkable part is that Marjoram genuinely doesn’t notice that that’s a shallow and selfish motivation.
“What I really don’t understand is why they find it such a comfort to hear their daughter’s going to be asleep for a century,” I said. “They’ll never see her again awake after she stabs herself on the spindle.”
Marj smiled an elusive smile. The more elusive the smile, the more dangerous it is. “Maybe.”
“Oh no, not that again,” I groaned. “Come on, Marj, how many times do I have to tell you this? It’s not nice to put an entire palace to sleep.”
She sniffed. “As if you know anything about Goodness and Niceness. I am a certified Good Fairy, an official practitioner of White Magic. I know what I’m doing.”
“You and your Good Fairy clique…none of you give any thought to anyone who isn’t royalty, did you ever notice that? You’re not being very Good to those palace workers you’re knocking out until a prince rides up.”
She shrugged. “Their duty is to serve their princess. They serve her by being there while she sleeps. I don’t see a problem.”
“They have lives, you know.” Except she didn’t know. That was the problem, or the root of it. “Interests, and families, and…love affairs, even. You may not believe this, but it is possible to fall in love without crowns or enchantments.”
Maybe. What is a person supposed to do with that? A sane man would probably throw up his hands and go back to the party, but I have a bad streak of stubborn and I’d been listening to this nonsense for one too many centuries. So instead of returning to the christening, I said, “Would you be interested in a small wager on that subject?”