Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Witch-Queen (Witch)

Not the same story as the other two, but inspired by the same idea.

Once, there lived a princess who was also a witch. She make her land perpetually prosperous and well fed. For reasons of her magic, she could not marry without love, even when her parents died, leaving the kingdom without heirs and without the respect her parents had drawn. Many armies came to take the lovely kingdom, so the witch-queen drew up a thick and thorny bush about her home. When the armies failed, the kingdoms began to send princes and other nobles from their lands, to win her heart.

From her room in the highest tower, she would challenge each suitor to make their way through the thorny bushes, where just-slashed thorns would grow back as soon as one entered, striking through armor and skin. None could defeat her magics.

One day, a young man rode up to the bush nearest her tower. "Hail, Witch-Queen."

"Hail, traveler," the witch-queen said, coming to her window. "Are you here to present a suit?"

"No, Your Majesty. I merely wished to meet one as strong in will and magic as yourself."

She nodded, a large enough gesture to be seen from the top of her tower. "So you have done." Many nobles took great offense at such replies, and it was a simple enough way to have fewer fertilizing her briar and more protecting their people.

The man grinned widely enough for the witch-queen to see it from her tower. "I would know you better than an exchange of hellos. I have some magics of my own, and I am in need of a tutor. Whoever taught you must be a fine teacher indeed."

"I taught myself."

"Then you are more powerful than any tale has told me."

And the witch-queen granted him some of his wish, for it is bad luck to turn away a traveler, and because a fellow mage interested her.

Soon enough, the witch-queen allowed the man within the thorny bushes, though when the witch-queen slept, the young man stayed in a room which locked from the outside. Friend or not, the man was indeed versed in the craft, and gaining new talent each day.

"May I not sleep somewhere more comfortable?" The man asked after dinner, in his eighth or ninth month in the witch-queen's palace.

"You may choose any chambers in the castle, though I shall place a lock on any chambers you choose." The man was no noble after her heart for a prize, and anything else was irrelevant.

The man smiled. "I may choose any chambers in the castle?"

The witch-queen nodded. "Should a servant wish to not share a room with you, they could always move."The witch-queen did not say, but thought, If you wished to do one harm, you would not need to enter their chambers.

"There is one room I enjoy, I admit." The man smiled in a way that made something twist in the witch-queen's gut. "I quite enjoy the view from the room atop the highest tower in this palace."

The witch-queen's eyebrows rose, and then she laughed.

"As I have given my word, so shall it be. You may move in a week, when the smith has made an appropriate lock, and I have spelled it as I need."

The man rose from the empty table. "Thank you, Your Majesty." He said with a smile and a deep bow.

By the next week, they shared chambers, though not a bed. Because it was most convenient, their lessons gradually moved to before breakfast and after dinner, when the subjects petitioning the witch-queen were in their beds, and even the bravest of suitors would not enter the thorny bushes.

"How did you learn all this on your own?" the man asked as they settled for the evening.

The witch-queen looked at him, considering. Then she said, "Magic is simple to do on oneself."

He nodded.

"The ruler is the land. The magic you know me so versed in is magic of the land. Every spell I cast, I cast on myself." They remained quiet for a time after that, and the witch-queen knew that there would be no more lessons discussed that evening. She dimmed the lamp.

"What does that do to you?"


"You are the land. You drew up a great wall of thorns to protect you home. I may not know as much magic as you know, Your Majesty, but I know enough."

The witch-queen shrugged. "I became what my people needed, as the land did. I could only wed one whom I loved, but I promised my mother and father that I would marry if I could." She stared at the ceiling. She'd never told anyone that. "I could not be marrying the first man who came along. I put up thorns against armies, and thorns against suitors."

There was a silence long enough for the witch-queen to believe the man had fallen asleep before he said, "You parted the thorns for one."

The witch-queen glanced at him, his eyes bright and keen in the moonlight. She remembered what she had learned of him: that he was clever, quick to learn, and kind to her and to her subjects. And, though he had not been handsome when they first met and his appearance had never changed, she found herself thinking him quite handsome now.

"A kind stranger who asked for entrance, rather than demanding it as a right. Yes."

"And who counts himself blessed to have gotten as far as he has." He smiled. The witch-queen thought, Oh. That's what that is.

"I love you," she said, tasting words that she hadn't used since her parents' death.

"I love you, too." Odd to hear him say it second. He had declared his love ages ago; she had simply ignored his heart as she ignored the other suitors'.

"And had I not?"

"Then I would have a wonderful teacher and a better friend than most could find in several lifetimes." He paused. His brow furrowed. "Do I ask you to marry me, or do I ask you to ask me?"

"I will be sure to look it up later, and then we shall both say that the correct person asked." The witch-queen nodded to herself. "I always wanted to wed at midsummer, when I was a child."

The king-to-be grinned widely. "That sounds wonderful."

The witch-queen kept her powers, and at midsummer gained a witch-king. The thorny bushes about her kingdom remained, and every summer, from that day to this, bright roses bloomed upon them.

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