Monday, 23 June 2014

Pictonaut June 2014: Them Apples

It's been a while since I last came poking around this blog. I'm dusting it off for a good cause though. My friend John, the Rogue Verbumancer still persists in his noble Pictonaut quest. Every month he posts a picture and writes a thousand or so words of short story based on that picture. Sometimes, I manage to join him in that noble quest.


This months picture is called Them Apples. This is what I wrote.


Them Apples


Everyone knows the story of Snow White. Or at least, some variation on the story. There's always an evil queen who is jealous of the unsurpassed beauty of the titular princess. There's usually a huntsman tasked with killing the princess out in the woods and there are almost always dwarves. The queen poisons Snow White who falls into an enchanted sleep only to be awoken by a kiss from her one true love. Snow White and her charming Prince live happily ever after. Blah blah blah, yuck. The story always, always ends with the gruesome and justly deserved death of the evil queen. Every single version of the story.

Every single version of the story is wrong.

It's not surprising that the fairy tales we teach our children overlook the tiny detail of the Queen's true fate. I mean, most of the stories don't even bother to tell you her name. Regina. Her name is Regina. And do you seriously think that a woman capable of plotting and scheming her way to power would be brought low by a vapid teenager and her entourage of vertically challenged minions?

No. 

In the true story, Queen Regina survives.

Oh she is undoubtedly changed by her ordeal; it wouldn't be a very good story if our characters weren't changed somehow. At the end of Snow White's story our Queen is still alive, but trapped in the form of the old woman who delivered Snow White the poisoned apple.

It took all of her considerable cunning to escape the combined wrath of the dwarves, but she managed it. She hid in the woods for months, eating rotten fruit and raw fish. At night she slept under the stars, no matter the weather. She almost froze to death on a number of occasions. The experience humbled her.

It quickly became obvious that she couldn't return to her throne in her current form. She was no longer a contender for the most beautiful woman in the kingdom, no matter what they say about the eye of the beholder. And she had learned her lesson with regards to Snow White; she vowed to stay as far away from that troublesome wretch as she possibly could. Her schemes had been thwarted, her goals were out of reach and her throne had no doubt been usurped. There was only one path left open to her; to regain her true self at any cost.

The quest was not undertaken lightly; the magics involved in transforming a person's form are powerful and deadly. Regina had been weakened by her flight from the dwarves and stay in the forest and could no longer summon the required power. So she had to be patient.

Eventually, she stumbled upon a village whose inhabitants took pity on her. They fed her, clothed her and provided a hot bath. One of the villagers let her stay in their stable because she reminded them of their grandmother. Regina was profoundly grateful for the villagers' kindness. In return she cast a spell to ensure their crop would be good and their livestock healthy. That small spell cost her most of the magic reserves she had left, but she didn't mind the setback.

So it went for Regina; she would travel from village to village trading small items or simple spells for food and board. She knew that if she kept using her magic at this rate she would never be able to summon enough power to returned to her previous form. But she also knew that her magic was one of the few things she had left to trade, and she would never regain her throne if she starved to death.  Simple patience would not restore her powers, but Regina knew that there were immense resources of magic in the world if one knew where to look. Wherever she went on her travels, she kept an ear out for rumours of such sources of power, for they were her only hope of returning to herself.

Eventually she passed out of reckoning. The world moved on, new kings and queens rose and fell. People assumed that Queen Regina the Evil had simply perished. They got on with their lives, completely oblivious to the truth. But you can never completely kill a legend.

There are rumours that the evil queen still wanders the lands even today, kept alive by malice and sheer force of will. Neither Heaven nor Hell will accept her, and so she lingers on this mortal plane, ever searching for the key to her salvation. One day, perhaps she will find the source of power she longs for and the Evil Queen will return to enact her vengeance on the world. Perhaps.

The rumours say that her wandering days are over, and that she now prefers to stay in one place, selling apples as she once did to Snow White. The redder the apple, the better. So be wary, fellow travellers, of old women offering you apples as red as blood.

It could be poisoned.

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