View Full Version : The Legend of Magrete, the Pearl Child
02-21-2013, 09:16 PM
Once upon a time, in the days between the fall of the old gods of Olympus and the rise of the God of Christos, a fisherman and his young wife lived in a small seafaring village along the coast of Crete. They were a hardworking couple, the fisherman going out to sea hours before dawn to cast his nets, and the wife selling whatever he caught in the marketplace. Sometimes it was fish, sometimes oysters, sometimes crabs and shellfish, but they managed to make a good living together.
The young fisherman's wife, whom I will call Mari, was not the typical ill-tempered shrew that people usually believe fishwives are, but dealt fairly and honestly with her customers, and never said anything offensive to anyone. She strove to be kind and virtuous to all her neighbors, and to be charitable to those in need.
The fisherman, however, was a creature of habit, almost solitary in spite of his marriage to Mari. He cast his nets at night, returned at dawn, gave his catches to Mari to sell, mended his nets, repaired his boat, drank in the tavern, then returned home at suppertime to sleep until night fell, then started all over again. He was not an ill-tempered man, for he never beat or abused Mari in any way, simply indifferent to her. To him, she was business partner, cook and housekeeper, a wife in name only.
Mari bore her husband's habits with the patience of an angel, but there was one need she wished he could fulfill: motherhood. How Mari wished for a child of her own! The few times that her indifferent husband performed his marital duty in bed yielded nothing. At first, she thought she was at fault, that she was barren. She prayed at the Orthodox Church for a child. She went to the temple of Aesclepius to dream of a remedy for her childless condition. She followed the advice of the elder wives of the village to conceive. All to no avail. Five years passed, and Mari was no better off than when she had been a maiden.
Her sorrow increased as she watched the other women in the village pass by with their fat, healthy infants in their arms. As time went on, Mari became an object of pity among the villagers. A few of the elder wives banded together to confront the negligent fisherman and remind him of his duty to Mari. A child would ease her grief, they told him. And if he had a son, he could help on the fishing boat when he got older. Even a daughter would be of help around the house. Give Mari a child, and he would be rewarded in many ways he had never thought possible.
Their words fell on deaf ears. The fisherman said he was too busy to be burdened with a child right now. Mari was still young enough, he told the elder wives. She would have a child in due time. His callous words stirred the gossiping tongues of the women in the village. He was having an affair with one of the tavern wenches; he preferred the company of men in ways that were unnatural; he had some ailment that rendered him impotent, such as being born under the new moon ("No moon, no man", it was said), or a childhood disease which had left him sterile. Whatever the reason, he was either unwilling or unable to sire a child by Mari. So the fisherman went out to sea every night while Mari sold her fish and other seafoods in her booth in the marketplace during the day, all the while her heart aching for a child of her own.
One morning, as she stooped over to unpack the basket of freshly caught fish her husband had dropped off on his way to the tavern, she saw a little man, a dwarf, barely as tall as the fishbasket, standing in front of her. Startled at first, but knowing that a customer was a customer, no matter what size he was, she gathered her wits and greeted him. "Good morning, sir," she said courteously.
"Good morning," said the dwarf. "I am here to buy some fish for my master."
Mari showed him the day's catch lying on straw in the booth. The dwarf chose two fine, fat fish and paid her a drachma for them. As Mari wrapped the fish in a clean cloth, the dwarf could not help but notice her sadness.
"I can see you bear a heavy burden, fishwife," said the dwarf. "What ails you?"
"You mean you haven't heard the gossip around the village?" she said with an uncharacteristic twinge of bitterness. "I have no child of my own, and my husband is heedless of my desire for one."
"Ah, 'tis pity," said the dwarf. "Such a lovely woman you are. If I was your husband, you'd be a mother ten times over! But I have a solution for your problem, fishwife. My master is Kristofer Angelos, a great and powerful magician, a true magus. He has powers beyond all human comprehension. He can help fulfill your desire for a child."
Mari turned and looked down at the dwarf. She had heard of the mysterious magician said to live in a cavern in the mountains. Some said he was a holy man, a descendant of one of the Magi who visited the Infant Jesus in Bethlehem. Others said he was a sorcerer, able to command the forces of nature at will. A few skeptical types dismissed him as a charlatan, skilled only at creating deception. But her desire for motherhood overrode any qualms or doubts she may have had about him, and she readily agreed.
"If your master can give me a child, I will pay him handsomely," she said eagerly. She pulled out a little purse and emptied it. "I have these pearls which I have found when my husband brought some oysters one morning. I had been saving them to sell to the merchants. If he gives me a child, they are his to keep."
The dwarf eyed the pearls with great interest. "Meet me at the foothills of the mountains before sunset," he told Mari. "I will take you to my master."
Mari and the dwarf servant met at the foothills at the appointed time, and trod the mountain path to the cavern in which the magician lived. It was a long, ardurous journey, but at last they arrived at the mouth of the cave, aglow with oil lamps and smoky with frankincense. Mari swallowed her fears and entered the cave.
She had expected to see a wizened old man, but through the haze of the frankincense she spied a comely youth, a veritable Adonis with flowing black hair down to his hips, standing on a ledge above her. He was clad only in a simple blue tuinc, but with strange silver amulets around his neck that clattered when he moved. She was too awestruck by the power of his presence and his physical perfection to speak.
"Master," spoke the dwarf servant, "I bring you a woman from the village, suffering from the pain of an empty womb. Will you help her in her time of need?"
The youthful magician floated like a feather from his perch, landing softly on the cavern floor. He gazed at Mari steadily, as if he could bore into her very soul with his eyes alone.
"So," he said to her, "My servant, Cinna, has bought you here for me to cure you of your barreness. Is it not so?"
"Yes," Mari replied nervously. "I long for a child, but I know I am not barren. My husband will not co-operate with me to have one. I have tried all the usual remedies, and endless prayers go unanswered. You are my only hope, Magus. I do not want to go on living an empty life like this."
She took out her bag of pearls. "Here," she said, "I bought these in payment for your services. I wanted to sell them to the merchants, but a child would be worth more to me than all the pearls in the ocean."
The magician took the pearls and examined each one carefully. He chose the largest, most perfect pearl among them. "Cinna," he said to his servant. "Bring a goblet of wine--the gold one with the rubies on the base."
Cinna did as he was bidden. The magician took the goblet and held up the pearl above it like a priest holding up the Eucharist, and dropped it into the goblet, muttering some incantation over it. Then he handed the goblet to Mari.
"Drink this," he bade her, "and you shall conceive in your womb a child of surpassing beauty and perfection. She shall have skin as pure and as flawless as a pearl, hair as golden as the goblet, and lips as red as the rubies on the base of it. All I ask in return is that she be named Magrete, and that I serve as godparent to the child at her baptism. Do you agree?"
"I agree," said Mari, and drank the pearl wine. "I am grateful to you, Magus. I shall do as you ask."
"Now, go," the magician ordered her, "and do not look back, lest the spell be broken. And tell no one of our meeting, or what happened here."
Mari ran, not daring to look over her shoulder as she fled the cavern of the magician, her lips tightly sealed. Inside her belly, she began to feel a faint stirring, a tingling sensation she had never felt before. My baby! she said to herself. My baby is in there!
02-22-2013, 03:57 AM
Ahh! That was amazing! :D :D :D
02-22-2013, 05:54 AM
for some reason I see the long haired Criss as the magician as a younger version of Dimitra as the woman
02-22-2013, 09:37 PM
Mari's womb swelled larger over the passing months. The village women were delighted, not to mention relieved, that Mari was at last able to fulfil her womanly role in life. The rumors and innuendo about her husband the fisherman subsided; many congratulated him on his impending fatherhood. But there were a few malicious types who believed that Mari sought another man's assistance in becoming a mother. Those who still worshipped the old gods of Olympus claimed Zeus himself desired Mari and, being the lecherous King of the Gods he had always been, had come down to earth and had lain with her. Mari told no one about the pearl wine the magician had given her, not even her husband, and so the gossip mill continued to grind on.
Now, any other man would have become suspicious or even enraged if he discovered his wife was bearing a child that was not his own. The fisherman, however, seemed to take it in stride, either because of ignorance or indifference in these matters. Perhaps he truly believed that he had sired the child himself--he had lain with Mari a few times, or so he claimed. In any case, Mari got her wish and had stopped complaining to him about her barreness.
In due course, the happy day came when Mari was to give birth to her child. The miracle of birth is always cause for celebration, but in Mari's case, it was doubly so. Prayers to St. Anne, the mother of Mary, and Eileithyia, the ancient goddess of childbirth, were made for her safe delivery. The ikon of Hestis, the goddess of the hearth, was polished for the occasion, so that the new arrival may be formally accepted into the family by being circled around it, and candles were lit in front of the ikon of the Blessed Virgin. No one was taking any chances.
After hours of sweating, straining, and crying out in agony, the midwives presented Mari with the beautiful daughter the magician had foretold. The women gasped in awe and wonder over this perfect infant. "An angel from Heaven!" said some. "A daughter of Olympus!" said others. "Someone else's child!" snipped the suspicious few who noticed her golden hair and mother-of-pearl complexion, not at all like either her mother or her father, who was dark haired and sunburnt.
"Have you decided on a name?" one of the midwives asked Mari.
"I shall call her 'Magrete'," she replied. "For she is a precious pearl to me."
The women all agreed that it was a fine name, indeed, for in the village tongue, Magrete meant "pearl". And who, asked the women, would have the honor of sponsoring the child at her christeneing?
Mari hesitated at first, then replied, "You shall meet him at the church on the day of the christening."
Now the gossip mill ground at double the pace. Who would be baby Magrete's godfather? they wondered. The guessing game continued for a full month until the day of the christening finally came. The entire village gathered in the church for the ceremony, if only to resolve the mystery which had riddled them for weeks. Imagine their surprise when they saw a handsome young man with jet-black hair flowing to his hips, wearing such robes as scholars do and strange silver amulets around his neck, enter the church, pick up the infant in his arms and carry it to the font. Such regal bearing, they said among themselves, and such power he exuded from his eyes alone! Who was he? they wondered. A prince? A sorcerer? Their minds boggled.
The rite completed, the magician carried the infant out of the church and to her home, the entire village following in his wake. Mari couldn't attend the ceremony, for she had not yet been "churched", or purified, after childbearing. When he arrived at the fisherman's house, the magician tederly passed the child to Mari. "It is done," he said to her.
Mari clutched the child to her bosom. "Bless you, Magus," she said gratefully. "I could not have had this child without your help."
"It was my pleasure," said the magician.
The villagers who overheard this set their tongues wagging anew. He was a Magus, a magician, they said. Only through magic could such a perfect child be born of a woman who was barren. To have such a powerful man as a guardian was a boon to the child.
Rubbish! sneered the more skeptical among them. There was no magic involved--the truth was as plain as day! Unable to conceive a child from her pathetic excuse of a husband, she sought another man's help. That charlatan had lain with Mari himself, and from his own loins sired the child she had carried in her womb! Her husband had been a fool to turn a blind eye to his wife's infidelity! She should have been tried for adultery and stoned to death!
But no charges of any kind were bought against Mari. The fisherman claimed Magrete as his own and went about his business, stating only she should have borne a son instead. He was as indifferent to her as he was to his wife. When Magrete cried from her cradle, he roared at her to be silent. When she reached up to him with her tiny arms, he brushed her aside. When she began to toddle around, he told Mari to tether her to the table.
But Magrete did not grow up without a father's love altogether. Her enigmatic godfather, the magician, would appear in secret, leaving her little trinkets and, later, books for her to read, for she was a bright child and eager to learn. Her mother told her about the pearl wine she drank to make her, and for her to keep all of it a secret from her father, for he did not believe in magic. She also bade her to hide the books given to her, for her negligent father not only believed that education for girls was a waste of time, but he would also sell them for drinking money at the tavern. So she hid her godfather's gifts carefully, saying nothing about it to anyone.
It was thus that Magrete grew into womanhood, the most beautiful maiden in the village. Many young swains came courting her, but as she was but a poor fisherman's daughter with no dowry to her name, she could not marry any of them. Then, in her sixteenth year, tragedy struck. Her mother took ill and died that spring, then the fisherman had gone out in his boat one summer night and never came back. He had either drowned or been shipwrecked, but whatever the reason ruin stared Magrete in the face.
In desperation, Magrete made the ardurous journey to the cavern in the foothills to seek aid from the Magus, but all she found was an empty cave. Poor and abandoned, Magrete decided to find work with the great lord of the realm, either as a housemaid or a kitchen wench. She was not above hard work, having labored beside her mother in the marketplace, so off she went to the castle where the nobleman lived to try her luck.
The nobleman's wife, the lady of the manor, saw how beautiful Magrete was--and the danger she posed. If she became a housemaid, her lecherous husband would take her for his own pleasure; he was not above dallying with serving girls and kitchen wenches. No, she would best be used as her own daughter's personal maid, she thought. That way, she would be confined to the women's apartments, and, therefore, out of her husband's sight as much as possible. The lady Erida, the nobleman's daughter, was betrothed to the prince himself, and would take Magrete away from there with her. Yes, she thought. An excellent plan.
And so Magrete became the lady Erida's personal maid. She combed Erida's hair, laid out her clothes for her, prepared her for bed, and all the other duties required of a maid. The lady Erida, however, while very beautiful to look upon, was vain and haughty, repaying Magrete's services with harsh words and snide remarks. Hardly anything Magrete did pleased her: she was pulling her hair too hard with the comb, she had chosen the wrong girdle for a particular gown, and why didn't she mend her slippers? Poor Magrete was hard-pressed for answers, but, having inherited her mother's patient temperment, bore it all in silence. Yet at night she could not help but weep in the pallet given to her as a bed. She longed for her home village, with its sights and smells of the sea, where she had been loved.
The wedding of Erida and the prince was two weeks' hence, and preparations were made for the long journey. It had been an arranged marriage, for dynastic and political reasons, and neither Erida nor the prince had seen each other in the flesh. The entourage carried her generous dowry and trousseau of gold, silver, silks and jewels in giant chests. Erida herself rode to her future husband's palace in a gilded chariot pulled by two fine white horses. Magrete rode alongside her mistress on a small pony, holding her tongue for fear of rousing Erida's temper, already shortened by the strain of the journey to the palace.
Once they entered the city gates, thousands gathered to see the new princess. Erida basked in the glow of their adoration, smiling and waving at the crowds, reveling in their praises of her beauty. She would have been enraged to know that it was not she whom they praised, but Magrete instead, for she was far lovlier than her mistress, so they thought.
Erida set foot in her new home for the first time that afternoon, Magrete and the rest of her retinue in tow. In the great hall she met her husband for the first time, a handsome lad of twenty or so. She made the usual courtesies to the King, and played the virtuous maiden to the hilt for the prince, but inwardly she gloated, for she had achieved the highest status a woman of her time could achieve: to become the future queen of the realm.
The prince returned those courtesies as best he could, but his heart yearned for her maid, Magrete, standing far behind his future bride. If only the roles could have been reversed, he wished, for she was far more beautiful than any woman he had ever seen. Her hair was Apollo's golden rays of the sun, her skin like a lustrous pearl, her eyes blue as the sea, and her walk as graceful as a flower in the breeze. How he longed for her to be his bride, instead of this haughty baggage, Erida. Oh, yes, he had heard of her vanity and ill-tempered ways from the gossiping of the court. She cared nothing for no one except herself. She was extravagant, they said, spending more on gowns and adornments for herself than was considered wise, or even sane. Such a woman would bankrupt his kingdom, he thought. But, the arrangement was made, the dowry accepted, and there was no choice for him but to go through with it. How he wished he was a common man, free to choose his bride for himself!
In sorrow, he turned to his tutor of many years, the one man whom he trusted above all others. To him he poured out his heart's burden, and his longing for the lady's maid whose name he did not know. The tutor listened in thoughtful silence.
"I understand your dilemma, Highness," said the tutor. "And I will help you resolve it, for if you do marry the lady Erida, your kingdom will fall to ruin. No, Highness, you deserve better."
"Shall you help me gain the hand of the maiden?" the prince asked. "Oh, would that I knew her name!"
"It is Magrete," said the tutor, "and she is my goddaughter."
The prince was astonished at this revelation. "Your goddaughter? Tell me about her, I beg you, Master."
And the Magus told his pupil about her mother, Mari, who sought his aid for her barreness, of the pearl wine he bade her drink, and of her promise to allow him to sponsor the child at baptism. It was with great sorrow that he had to leave her behind when he accepted the position of royal tutor to the prince, but now he would make amends to her. He arranged for the prince and Magrete to meet secretly in the garden at midnight.
Under the full moon in the garden, Magrete and the prince met under a huge olive tree. The more they talked, the deeper they fell in love. So happy they were together that it was near dawn when they parted. With heavy hearts, they parted, for it was the day of the wedding. Magrete sadly helped the bride prepare for the ceremony. The prince cursed his fate, standing at the altar like a man on the scaffold, reluctantly going through the cermony with a woman he did not love, nor ever would.
The wedding feast was lavish, with the finest foods and many entertainments, but it may have well been a funeral as far as the unhappy bridegroom was concerned. He hardly touched his meal, paid no heed to the dancers and buffoons brought in to amuse the guests, and dreaded the wedding night in the bridal chamber with Erida. He made no effort to consummate the marriage that night, and rose early to go hunting to escape her.
To a self-centered woman such as Erida, this made no difference to her. She was the crown princess, destined to become queen. Her husband was but a stepping-stone on her path to greatness. Granted, she knew she was required to provide an heir to the throne, but she would in time; she did not want to mar her beauty with childbearing. In the meantime, she relished her new role, treating those beneath her with disdain, if not outright contempt, showing her true colors at last.
Magrete, for her part, repressed her sorrow and continued in her duty as lady's maid. In what little time she could spare, she shared scraps from the royal table to beggars and waifs, remembering her own life of hardship and privation. She sat with the servants, mending linens and spinning silken thread for the royal household while exchanging stories and bits of gossip.
When the queen's own maid fell ill to a fever, Magrete took over her duties until she recovered. As two women will when they are together, they began to confide in each other.
"I curse the day I consented to my son's marriage to that lady Erida," she said one day as Magrete combed the queen's hair. "I don't know how you can put up with her every day."
"I fear it is my lot in life to suffer, Majesty," Magrete said. "My father ignored me, my lady is sharp with me, and my godfather abandoned me years ago. Though my heart yearns for His Highness, I know I can never be his wife, nor even his mistress."
"You are in love with the prince?" the queen asked.
"Oh, yes, Majesty," Magrete answered. "I must confess to you that he and I met secretly in the garden the night before the wedding, arranged by his tutor. But we only talked, Majesty, and nothing more. I would do nothing to cause strife in Your Majesty's household."
"My own marriage to His Majesty was not of my own choosing, either," confided the queen. "He was a total stranger to me on our wedding night. But, in time, I grew to love him, for he proved to be a good man in many respects--even if he did have a passion for hunting. And he grew to love me as well, for I strove to be a good wife as well as a good queen. Not like Erida, that self-centered, vain woman, strutting like a peacock around court! She knows not that a queen is the wife of a king, and her role is to be consort and mother to the heir of the throne, not be the king himself!"
Magrete finished styling the queen's hair. The queen turned to her. "Would that the Fates had decreed you to be a princess instead of Erida," she said to her.
Unbeknownst to either of them, Erida had overheard their conversation from another room, and she flew into a rage. It was bad enough that Magrete was in love with the prince, but that they met in the garden on the eve of her wedding, and the queen favored her over herself, the princess! It was too much! Magrete had to go! She could always find another lady's maid somewhere in the court. She would banish her, demote her to a scullery maid, throw her to the wild beasts that roamed the fields--anything to be rid of her once and for all! She was the crown princess after all; she could do anything she wanted.
And what she wanted was revenge against Magrete.
02-23-2013, 12:42 AM
Can't wait to read what happens next
02-23-2013, 05:12 PM
Erida sent her servants to fetch both Magrete and the Magus, keeping her wrath in check until both were in her presence.
"You two have been conspiring against me!" she accused them.
"In what manner, Your Highness?" the Magus asked curiously.
Erida pointed at the Magus. "You arranged a midnight meeting between my husband and that...that she-dog there!" she stormed. "On the eve of my wedding, yet! How dare you try to ruin my happiness!"
The Magus stood stolidly before her, his face expressionless.
She turned her fury upon Magrete. "So, you are in love with my husband, are you? Ah, don't deny it! I heard your little confession to the queen! You thought you could steal him away from me, didn't you?"
"Milady, I swear I did nothing--" Magrete began to protest.
"Spare me your lies!" Erida snapped at her. "You think he loves you more than he loves me, his lawfully wedded wife? Do you?"
"If you want the truth," spoke the Magus, "he does."
Erida stared at the Magus in disbelief. "How dare you presume such a thing?!"
"His Highness the prince bade me arrange the meeting himself," the Magus continued. "I agreed to do so, not only because he was smitten with Magrete, but she is also my own goddaughter."
Now it was Magrete's turn to be astonished. "You? You were the one my mother told me about, and who left me all those little gifts and books for me when I was a child?"
"Yes," he replied. "'Twas I who did those things. Fate bought you back to me, dear Magrete, after I left you to become tutor to His Highness so many years ago."
Magrete stared at the Magus, no longer the youthful Adonis, but a man in the prime of his life. She dashed forward and embraced him, happy tears shining in her eyes. "Ah, dear Godfather! I am so happy to have met you at last!"
Erida looked at the two with contempt. "So, now the truth is out," she sneered. "You, Magus, cast a spell over my husband the prince to make him fall in love with your goddaughter and forsake me! Well, your little plan has fallen through, Magus! As crown princess, I can have the both of you condemned to death. To conjure spells against any member of the royal family is treason in the eyes of the law and the Church!"
"You forget, Highness," the Magus said, "only the king himself can condemn a man to death. And you have no proof of it."
"My word is proof enough," retorted Erida. She then turned back to Magrete. "And as for you, you baggage--I'll see to it that you never lay your pretty eyes on my husband again!"
With that, she flung a burning oil lamp at Magrete's face. Magrete shrieked as the flaming oil incinerated her flesh and tore into her eyes, blinding her. She fell unconscious to the floor, her once beautiful face a charred ruin. The Magus rushed to her side and cradled her in his arms, howling and weeping over his goddaughter's ravaged flesh. Erida stood over them dispassionatly.
"Take the wretch out of here," she ordered the Magus. "I shall speak to the king about your own trechery against me later."
The grieving Magus gathered his goddaughter and carried her away, his brilliant mind already at work seeking the perfect form of retribution against the arrogant princess. But first, he had to tend to the injured Magrete. It would take all of his skill and knowledge to undo the damage, but it would be worth the effort.
He took her into his chamber and bound her burned flesh in strips of fine Egyptian linen. Then he pored over his books for the remedy to restore her face and eyes. He labored the entire night over her, mixing potions, incanting spells and tending to Magrete, lying in agony from her burns. Cinna, his faithful dwarf servant, assisted in every way he could, forgoing his own rest to aid Magrete. Finally, all that could be done for her was finished.
"For the next ten days," the Magus instructed his servant, "she must remain here in my chamber, and the bandages must not be removed before then. If they are, her sight and skin will not be restored."
"Yes, Master," Cinna replied.
"Go to the prince," the Magus continued. "Tell him what came to pass."
"I shall, Master," Cinna said, and trotted off on his stubby legs to deliver the message. The Magus sat in his chair, brooding, simmering with anger over Erida's crime.
When the prince heard of what happened to Magrete, he was frantic with worry. He dashed away to his tutor's chamber to see for himself what trechery his wife had brought upon his one true love. When he saw the mummylike form of Magrete, he fell to her bedside, weeping, clutching her one unscathed hand.
"Ah, my love!" he wailed. "My Magrete, my pearl! How could she do this to you?" He touched the bandages covering her head. "How I long to see your beautiful face again!"
"Her face is torn, burned," said the Magus. "She must remain thus for the next ten days, or she will not be restored."
The prince stood up. "I will have her moved to a private apartment," he said, "and have a servant or two to tend to her."
"No, Highness," the Magus said. "In order for her to be fully restored, she must remain here. I will tend to her myself. She will be safer here from the princess."
"Very well," the prince agreed reluctantly. "I will leave it in your hands. Only, please, restore my love to me! I will do anything, anything at all to have her back with me!"
The Magus looked at the prince. "Anything at all?" he repeated.
"Anything! Just name it, and it will be so!" promised the prince.
"Very well. I ask for a large length of crimson silk, enough to cover a person's body. It must be flawless in its weave, with no fraying at the edges, and no crooked edges from the blade which cut it."
The prince was bewildered by such a strange request, but he knew his tutor was a powerful magician who could work miracles with any object he touched, so he agreed. By next morning, he had procured from the silk merchant the finest crimson silk cloth and gave it to the Magus. Then he waited for ten long days, each passing day more agonizing than the last.
Erida, meanwhile, stayed in her apartments, admiring herself in the mirror. She had another maid to tend to her needs, a plain woman who posed no threat to her. The court treated her with the proper deference as befitting her rank, but they bore no love for her, especially after hearing about what she did to Magrete. Her husband the prince no longer lay with her, keeping to his own apartments. The commonfolk griped about her in the streets, mocking her haughty ways. Erida found herself cold-shouldered by all, but she paid them no heed. Once she was queen, she thought, they would be more courteous to her. Magrete was all but forgotten to her, a sour note in her perfect life.
Ten days passed. The prince stood by nervously as the Magus undid the bandages from Magrete's face, muttering incantations--or were they prayers? As the last length of linen fell to the floor, Magrete sat up in bed, her lovely face and beautiful sapphire eyes fully restored to their original beauty.
"Are you well, my dear?" the Magus asked her.
Magrete blinked and saw her godfather for the first time in ten days. "Yes, Godfather, I am well."
The prince rushed to embrace her. "Master! You have worked a miracle!" he exclaimed. "You have restored my love to me!"
The Magus rose. "Now you must come with me, Highness," he said. "We have business to attend to. Cinna, you come along as well, and bring the silk. Magrete, you must remain here for a while longer; you will be safer here."
The Magus, the prince, and the dwarf left the chamber and made their way to the apartments of the Princess Erida. They stood before the door of her chamber, watching herself preen in front of the mirror.
"All right, Cinna," said the Magus. "You know what to do."
Cinna nodded. "Your Highness," he simpered in the doorway. "I humbly ask permission to enter your chamber to present you with a gift from the Magus."
Erida turned away from the mirror. "A gift? For me? Bring it here, little man, and let me see it."
Cinna waddled over to the dressing table and presented her with the crimson silk with a great show of humility. Erida examined it carefully, but found nothing extraordinary about it.
"Strange gift," she said. "A length of silk, that's all it is."
"It is not ordinary silk, Your Highness," Cinna said. "It is enchanted."
"Enchanted?" asked Erida. "How?"
"Everyone knows how beautiful beyond compare you are," Cinna told her. "It is a shame that it won't last forever."
"What are you saying?" Erida demanded.
"In time, as you grow older, your beauty will wither like summer flowers in the autumn. The roses in your cheeks will fade, your face will shrivel and sag with age. Your graceful walk will turn into a hobble."
"Don't go on!" Erida shrieked.
"Ah, but the Magus has provided a means to preserve that beauty forever," Cinna continued. "The means contained in that length of crimson silk."
"You mean with this silk, I can stay young and beautiful forever?"
"Forever and ever and ever," Cinna answered. "Use it, and you shall remain as beautiful as you are now. Don't use it, and watch yourself shrivel into a dried fig."
Erida looked at the silk in her hands. "What must I do with it?" she asked.
"Simple," Cinna replied. "Just stand on that stool over there, and drape yourself all over with it, head to toe. No part of yourself must be seen from under it. Then close your eyes, and picture yourself as eternally beautiful, but say nothing. That is what my master has instructed me to tell you."
Erida climbed upon the stool and covered herself with the silk. The light fabric concealed her completely, dangling over the edge of the stool. She closed her eyes and imagined herself as forever beautiful, with everyone fawning and flattering her, showering her with gifts and praise. She felt the enchantment beginning to work upon her, but not in the way she expected.
The Magus and the prince entered the chamber. With an angry shout of "Now!", "the Magus whipped away the silk to reveal the Princess Erida's beauty forever preserved--in cold, hard marble.
"Well, Your Highness," the Magus addressed the statue on the stool, "you will never worry about losing your beauty from aging. And everyone will pass by to admire you, wherever you may stand."
And so Magrete and the prince were married. Their lives were long and happy, blessed with many children. The Magus remained at court, as the future king's most trusted advisor. As for Erida, she still resides in the palace garden among the flowers and trees for birds to perch upon her proud head, year after year after year...
02-23-2013, 11:38 PM
Cool story :) :)
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