|His Slumbering Rose
Author: Silver Penny PM
To forget is to die.Rated: Fiction T - English - Words: 1,243 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 1 - Published: 07-13-09 - Status: Complete - id: 2696863
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
His Slumbering Rose
She felt a soft fluttering touch on her lips, pulling her from the depths of slumber. She felt a warm vapor on her face and a hand in her hair, trailing down to her chin. She awoke. The first thing she saw was, of course, the handsome man leaning over her. He startled as much as she did. But then he spoke, soothing her fears; and when he opened his mouth, a musical voice filled her ears, a rich, pleasant, familiar voice. He spoke of a curse and a century of rest. He spoke of roses and thorns and dragons and witches. He spoke of fairies and princesses and princes and castles. He spoke of kisses and love.
She had known him before, she thought. But she did not remember when and where. She turned her head and saw a window, a tapestry-covered hole in the wall. Rays of sunshine reached inside through the moth-bitten canvas and spread their fingers throughout the room. She was reminded of soft-flowing waters and rich green pastures, trees and flowers, and birds and bees. She was reminded of fresh-baked bread and muffins and cakes and sweets of every kind. She was reminded of dresses and hats and balls and beaux. She was reminded of everything that was and everything that would be.
But not of him. Him, she did not remember.
She drew her eyes back to his, those familiar blue eyes. He was waiting for her to answer him, she knew. He was waiting for her to tell him his quest had not been fruitless, his battles not fought in vain, his love not unrequited. He was waiting; and she did not know what to say.
I love you, my slumbering rose, he said. I have always loved you, and I always shall.
He was going to tell her more, certainly he meant to, but a ruckus stole his words away. The king's men had bounded up the stairs to the tower which had been their princess's chamber for one hundred sleep-filled years, and they upon seeing the young man had laid hands on him. Then they were taking him away.
No one shall defile the princess, they said.
Treason, they said.
Put him to death, they said.
And he was lead to the gallows, made to stand on a platform, and given one last prayer. All the while he begged and he pleaded: My rose, my rose, he said, do you not remember me? And she stood and watched him. He professed his love, and she answered him not. They fixed the noose around his neck; they cheered and they jeered and they mocked him where he stood. He did not seem to notice. He only had eyes for her.
I waited for you, he said, his voice carrying to the hilltop where she stood. All these hundred years and more, I waited for you. Age could not pass me, death could not touch me, time could not control me until I had held you in my arms again. But I came too late. You were asleep. I am only sorry I did not return much sooner. I am only sorry I ever left you. Had I only known…
And he prayed to his God, his Lord and Savior; and for a quick death, he prayed. Then he spoke to her once more. My slumbering rose, he said, I have loved you faithfully since the time of my childhood, but my love will not die with my body: of that you can be sure. I shall love you, even from the grave. Death cannot stop my love for you. I will always be yours.
And she remembered him, remembered the days they had spent in secret courtship, the nights passed under the stars in each other's company; and she ran. She took up her skirts and hurried her feet and ran with all the abandon of a dying and despairing heart. Down the hill and through the crowd and up the platform she pressed, though they were fain to detain her.
She reached him then; but it was too late. They had given the order. The lever had been pulled, the rope stretched tight, his body dropped. Before her hung her prince, a stable boy, put to death for her honor. He who had been her secret lover; he who had lifted the curse and saved the kingdom; he who did not deserve death—was lifeless, slain without a cause, dead of a broken neck.
She would die too, she thought; she would die of a broken heart.
She wept and she wept; and then she ordered his grave dug and princely garments made. At her behest, a glass coffin was prepared and a feast like never before attended was orchestrated. The entire kingdom turned out to attend the funeral; from the lowliest to the highest, all were invited—all save the king's men, whom she forbade attendance. And so it was that the stable boy received a prince's burial.
Then she retired to her rooms for a time and half a time and would receive no one. Finally the king ordered her out, but she remained wrapped in sorrow. No amount of coaxing could bring her to smile. No amount of riddles and jokes and tricks and pranks could bring her to laugh. No amount of anything and everything could bring her to love another like she had loved him.
It is time you marry, said the king one day.
Never, she said.
You will forget this boy and marry a prince of my choosing. It is your duty to your people.
I will never love another, she said. I care not for duty.
But the groom was selected, the wedding prepared, and the marriage sealed. Over time she grew fond of her husband, but she did not love him, good though he was, and she could not forget her beloved. She could not forget the times they had spent together as children, then as young adults; she could not forget when he had gone to the sea and left her behind, professing to return anew a rich and honorable man, able to ask for her hand. Neither of them had foreseen that a century of time would keep them apart more effectively than the sea ever could.
She had wondered many a time before the curse was fulfilled if she were not foolish for letting him go. She had wondered if he would return to her or if the sea would swallow him up and he would be forever lost to her. She had wondered if he would find another woman to love. She had wondered many a thing, but she had never imagined forgetting him. Yet when the years had passed and he had not returned, the memory of him was too painful to bear, and she had shut it out.
When she became queen, a law was passed: no man, woman, or child would be put to death without first having a trial, regardless of the charges against the person. And when she became a mother, she warned her children. She spoke to them of never forgetting. She spoke of love once gone never returning again.
And she waited, waited for the day when she would see her prince again and they would be reunited for all eternity.