This is an assignment from Vein of Gold. I was supposed to write a Fairy Tale.
So I did.
The princess was on a quest. She had to visit each fount of wisdom before she could ascend to her throne. She visited the Troll of Numbers and learned the ways of shapes and lines. She visited the handsome and mischievous demigod of Animals and learned what the insides of turtles looked like. She visited the coven of the good witches of many tongues and learned how to string words together lovingly.
Then, one day, she had to visit the singing tower of the Fae, commanded by the beautiful Faerie Belleht. The princess was excited about this task. The tower was lovely and surrounded by beautiful music. Belleht was known far and wide of be good and pure, to be kind to all, and to bring out the voice and the song in every seeker who reaches her tower.
The princess knew that several of her friends were already in the tower with her, and she knew that she would not be alone in this endeavor.
But she was.
You see, Belleht had a terrible secret. She ate the music that the seekers created. She had to draw it to herself, stealing their light, their fame, their power as she drew lovely chords from their lips and fingers.
The princess alone could see that the darkness of Belleht was just as great and deep as her light. While the princess’s friends gave their power and song to the Fae willingly, the princess faltered. She would sing, but it was her song, and no one else’s. Eventually, Belleht noticed the Princess was not feeding her as much as she should. She requested a private audience with the girl.
Bowing before Belleht, the princess hoped that she was not in too grave a danger, but she was not prepared for the beautiful Faerie’s face to change from stern into terrifying. She was not prepared for the Fae mouth to drop open too far for a small jaw. She had no protection for the roar that escaped the lips of the evil side of Belleht.
Her ears ringing, the drums muffled and injured with the Fae roar, the Princess could no longer sing. She was banished from the tower, and left her friends behind her.
She mourned as she traveled, the birds were warbling, and she couldn’t hear them. The creek bubbled and wind rustled the leaves of trees. The only sound the princess could hear was the roar of Belleht in her mind. She was afraid to speak. Afraid to share her voice. She had been robbed of her ears, could she also be robbed of her tongue?
Alone, stumbling, months before she should reach her next tutor, the Princess came to a small monastery. Within the walls, the monks had all taken a vow of silence. Through prayer and small writing, the Princess was assigned a cell of her own. In the silence of the halls, it didn’t hurt her to only hear the roaring of the faerie. Here she could rest a while before continuing her journey.
A grizzled monk with kind eyes and large hands gave her work. First he handed her a quill and blank scrolls, and set her to transcribing words from one scroll of paper onto the next. She’d learned to write from the witches of many tongues, and happily set about the silent task. Every day at dawn she would light a small taper and go to the library.
Her fingers grew thick with callouses, the nail beds black with ink. She didn’t mind. The scrolls she transcribed were lovely. Lovely, though some of them were incomplete. One day, she added the missing final sentence to a scroll she’d been assigned. She didn’t know what the true final line was to the benediction, but she knew what felt right in her heart and her bones.
The old monk’s eyes flickered in the light, and the edges of his mouth wrinkled into a small wry smile. He handed her another scroll. To her dismay, this one was also unfinished. The princess reread the scroll to see what the voice of the author might speak, and again, she added a few final words at the end of her version of the scroll.
The old monk merely nodded, and handed her a finished scroll to transcribe. This one was lovely. The prose was fierce and scant. She wanted to dance to the tune of the percussion set up by the consonants on her page. It had movement, rhythm, depth. Feeling. She wanted to sing, but she dare not.
Belleht’s voice still rang in her ears.
The next scroll felt much like the dancing one previous. It had a drummer and a fife to its words. Sadly, this scroll’s song was left unfinished. The princess, having seen no reproach for finishing the other scrolls added her own beats to finalize this new fresh piece.
The old monk nodded. He handed her another scroll.
Seasons passed, and the Princess knew she would need to depart from the sanctuary of the monastery. Belleht’s voice had dimmed to a low roar. It was no longer strong enough to block out all sound. The Princess suspected she would hear human speech. She couldn’t hear the whispering glide of sheets of parchment against one another, or the wind in the trees. But she would be able to survive if she set out on her next journey.
The day she left, the old monk handed her a sealed scroll. The wax was magical, and she could not open the scroll to read its contents. She kissed his cheek and hugged him before she set out to visit Agrapus the Wise to learn of things past and future.
As the princess traveled, she discovered she could indeed hear people talking. After having been so long without spoken company, the princess listened to the lilt and cadence of speech, to the rhythm and rhyme of body language. She remembered the lessons from the witches of many tongues, and she listened carefully for the changes between words. She discovered the dance of speech and silence, the music of the everyday word.
As she rode, she refused to sing. She would not join in when the bards struck chords, Belleht’s voice still distorted the sound. She began speaking, though. And more than speaking, she began to write.
The old monk had taught her diligence, and he had assigned her to transcribe some of the greatest works of her native land. She had taken to carrying his scroll with her everywhere. Using it as a reminder of the lessons she had learned in his quiet library.
She started by writing what she heard in the speech of people around her. Then she began devising conversations in her head, mimicking their patterns. Sometimes the conversations were personal, she would have conversations with people she missed. Sometimes they were flights of fantasy – a conversation between her horse and a goat, perchance.
One day, alone in the woods, the princess heard birdsong again for the first time. She lifted her head, and without fear or thought, she opened her voice, and sang.
The old monk’s scroll popped open, the wax broken as if she had run a blade through it.
The scroll contained a song. It must be a magical song, to be tied so tightly.
The princess settled in the grass and she read the scroll, learning the beat and rhythm of the words.
And she sang.
In her tower, Belleht collapsed. Dead.