Once Upon a Spinning-Wheel (Part I): The Serpent’s Kiss

 

‘Won’t hurt a bit,’ she says, ‘just a little prick.’ Sure. Because that’s always been true. Except this time it’s a magical spinning-wheel, and no lollipops for good boys and girls. Evil fairies running amok, and I was just about ready to pass out after cutting my finger on that confounded spindle. My name’s— well that’s not important right now — welcome to my life — this kind of thing happens to me all the time. Except everyone was trying to kill me — long story, they thought I was responsible for— Anyway, no time now, guards are coming. Why hadn’t they fallen asleep, and the kingdom with them, you ask? Well, funny thing, when I get hit by an evil enchantment I tend to grab the nearest heavy object and smash the evil magic spinning-wheel to pieces. But that’s just me. So the enchantment was short-circuited — and short-circuiting — and I wasn’t feeling at all well. No matter, no matter, think … think. Got to be something else I can do, something else I need to do. Well, aside from hiding behind this tapestry … with a secret passage behind it. Interesting … Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, and in case it’s not clear, I’m not a princess (maybe that’s why the spinning-wheel hadn’t sent me to sleep for a hundred years that instant), I’m a guy — and the girl I’m in love with is probably going to marry someone else whether or not I can break this enchant— There was an echoing clang, as of a mop bucket which some idiot has kicked, rolling down the stairs.

So, the secret passage turns out to be a janitor’s closet, or something, and that clang was going to attract some attention — or would do if everyone wasn’t making too much noise looking for me as it was. Small mercies. But do janitors’ closets usually have a spiral stone staircase leading down from them? I would say not, but I haven’t been in all that many. Look, I went to knight school, all right? Graduated knight school, anyway — but that’s not important right now. Look, it’s not as if I even started life in this fairy tale, okay? I know it sounds unlikely, but I just sort of … woke up here. I don’t know what happened. One minute everyone was normal, next minute it’s this weird sugar-spun world where nothing makes any sense anymore. I thought things made sense again, a little, for a while … Hey, do you mind looking the other way a moment — intruding on private grief here! Thank you! Anyway, where were we again? It sure was dark down this staircase. I hope I didn’t fall and kick the bucket — again.

Well, I made it to the bottom, in case you’re interested. Alive and unhurt. Jeez, I don’t know why they say this generation is so self-involved. I hadn’t checked my magic mirror in months … and what’s with all the chains and barred doors and stuff? Crap. My luck. I’d escaped into the castle’s dungeon. Stupid warped fairy tales! Okay, back up the staircase before the secret door closes on me and leaves me stuck here. Don’t laugh, it happens. Random background magic or something, I don’t know.

I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, that’s all. I didn’t do anything. I wasn’t even the one the enchantment was aimed at, surely? … But I couldn’t just let them get away with it, whoever was behind all this. I couldn’t just leave people I cared about to rot or feel the fall-out. I just couldn’t. I know I’m stupid. I know I’m a screw-up. But … I’m still me. What would be the point else? And besides, I want to get home someday …

Did anyone mention that spiral staircases are a real pain to climb back up? I needed to get in shape. I was practically wheezing by the time I made it back to the top. Aaaaand the guards were here.

‘That’s him!’ said a girl I’d never seen before in my life, standing behind them. There were two of them, swords drawn (smart move, fellas, running around like that) and with unpleasant expressions on their faces. They were just the kind of jerks I used to go to knight school with. Come to think of it, the girl looked kind of familiar in that way too …

‘Got him,’ said one of them with satisfaction, drawing his sword back. I froze. Look, sometimes you just do, it all gets too much. Fortunately, the guy had forgotten to switch his magic mirror to silent and it started buzzing and warbling.

‘Yello?’

The girl turned incredulous to her goon, ‘You idiot, he’s getting away!’

He was, too — I mean, I was. What? Open window, guards distracted — give me some credit. Unfortunately, I slipped, and was now hanging from a stone ledge by my fingernails. It was a long way down. ‘Ulp! The girl loomed over me with satisfaction, the guards somewhere behind her. The lead goon was still talking into his magic mirror, apparently to his girlfriend — ‘It’s all a lie! I never seen her before in my life! Honest!’ (maybe she believed him, but I would have voted to convict). The girl had a dagger. I was wondering where I’d seen her before. It didn’t seem right that someone I’d never met would be this keen to do me in — and this viciously. The smirk on her face was just uncalled for.

‘Well, well, well,’ she said, leaning close, and whispering so that only she and I could hear, ‘I see you broke my spinning-wheel … Too bad you’ll never get to tell anyone about it.’ Her non-dagger hand started shimmering round with a glow of soft green light. She dropped the dagger and heaved me up by the neck. God, she was strong. Those eyes. Something about those eyes. Not the eyes, idiot. Look at her mouth. A forked, serpent-like tongue flickered between her lips as she smiled down at me. ‘Ah, I ssee you’ve noticed my little ssecret … Goodbye, would-be hero. Have a nice journey down.’

She brought the hand flickering with what was obviously some kind of evil curse or something to my chest, which promptly burst into the most excruciating agony. It felt like someone was channelling a lightning bolt straight to my heart. Horrible nightmares, things no man should have to see, flickered past my eyes and into my brain, it seemed like death was closing in. And all the while there she was, smiling at me. The guards grinning stupidly behind her couldn’t see what she was doing. My grip on the stone went limp. I think my heart had stopped. I was going to die, I thought light-headedly. Her hand had stopped glowing. She brought it up from my chest and to her lips and blew me a kiss as she let go and sent me plummeting from the top of the tower. Wait, what — what’s happening — I didn’t want to die …

To be continued … ?

Once Upon a Spinning Wheel:

[Next –> Part 2: A Hiss in the Dark]

There are 27 comments.

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  1. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Another fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into.

    • #1
  2. Andrew Miller Member
    Andrew Miller
    @AndrewMiller

    Percival (View Comment):

    Another fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into.

    Me? I wasn’t even there! I just wrote the thing — honest!

    • #2
  3. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    When is the next episode coming out?

    • #3
  4. Andrew Miller Member
    Andrew Miller
    @AndrewMiller

    JoelB (View Comment):

    When is the next episode coming out?

    Excellent question! Er, as soon as I’ve written it, if enough people are keen, would be the honest answer to that one. But don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging about, as the snake-maiden said to the hero . . .

    • #4
  5. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Andrew Miller (View Comment):

    JoelB (View Comment):

    When is the next episode coming out?

    Excellent question! Er, as soon as I’ve written it, if enough people are keen, would be the honest answer to that one. But don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging about, as the snake-maiden said to the hero . . .

    It’s worth doing even if no one comments, for the practice if nothing else.

    • #5
  6. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    James Joyce and the Brothers Grimm work together using Evernote?

    • #6
  7. Andrew Miller Member
    Andrew Miller
    @AndrewMiller

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    James Joyce and the Brothers Grimm work together using Evernote?

    I’m the one they don’t talk about very much. (Andreas Grimm, now there’s a thought . . .)

    Okay, okay, so it’s off to a rough start — but I run a respectable story-mill here! Heroes and happy endings, true love, life, laughter, adventure — more-or-less guaranteed! Hopefully.

    The characters just get ideas of their own sometimes, is all . . .

    • #7
  8. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Andrew Miller: They were just the kind of jerks I used to go to knight school with.

    So, Percival?

    • #8
  9. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Andrew Miller (View Comment):
    Okay, okay, so it’s off to a rough start — but I run a respectable story-mill here! Heroes and happy endings, true love, life, laughter, adventure — more-or-less guaranteed! Hopefully.

    • #9
  10. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Andrew Miller (View Comment):
    The characters just get ideas of their own sometimes, is all . . .

    Tell me about it. I have over 41,000 characters, and they misbehave constantly. It’s hard to wrangle them back into doing what they’re supposed to do to make a good story. Some are good and do what’s needed. Others? Why did she run off to Lorraine to shack up with the Duke? That’s really not what I needed her to do. Just have to make the best of it.

    • #10
  11. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Andrew Miller: Not the eyes, idiot. Look at her mouth. A forked, serpent-like tongue flickered between her lips as she smiled down at me. ‘Ah, I ssee you’ve noticed my little ssecret … Goodbye, would-be hero. Have a nice journey down.’

    So, it’s Hillary?

    • #11
  12. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Andrew Miller (View Comment):

    JoelB (View Comment):

    When is the next episode coming out?

    Excellent question! Er, as soon as I’ve written it, if enough people are keen, would be the honest answer to that one. But don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging about, as the snake-maiden said to the hero . . .

    Reminds me of a group of Morris Dancers Mr. She and I watched outside The Abbey Hotel in the Malvern Hills one Boxing Day. Some of their chants were quite lewd about snakes too. Amusing.

    Write for yourself. Write because of what writing does for you. It’s marvelous if others read it and enjoy it. And if you write from your heart, many people likely will. Some won’t. And even though it’s tough, you’ll learn from constructive criticism and comments and you’ll get better. Sooner or later, someone will say something that’s just rude or hurtful about your writing. That’s not about you; that’s about them. Ignore them. And keep going.

    Write for yourself.

    • #12
  13. Mim526 Member
    Mim526
    @Mim526

    Magic lore with humor, what’s not to like? More, please :-)

    We’re in uber villain territory, tho. Hate snakes (yuck, shiver), disguised or no.

    • #13
  14. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    She (View Comment):
    Sooner or later, someone will say something that’s just rude or hurtful about your writing. That’s not about you; that’s about them. Ignore them. And keep going.

    Critics are very fine people.

    • #14
  15. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Andrew Miller: They were just the kind of jerks I used to go to knight school with.

    So, Percival?

    Generally, if a knight came from a noble family, he was sent at age 7 or 8 to live with another knight’s family. The knight was responsible for the boy’s training as it was taken as a given that a father would be at a disadvantage trying to train his own son. Pages had a lot of physical activity (horsemmanship including caring for horses, sharpening various weapons, pushing barrels filled with water and chainmail in them around the courtyard to polish the mail, etc.) He would receive schooling in reading, writing, counting the number of Saracens in a camp and such like. Also, there was etiquette and courtly diplomacy, history, music, and poetry. You would also spend some time bashing your fellow pages with wooden weapons under the watchful eyes of the knight or a senior squire. Once you hit 13 or 14, you would yourself become a squire (unless you were a complete basketcase). Then, another seven or eight years of training with more weapons training, more horsemanship, occasional skirmishes and battles, until it was acknowledged that you were able and ready to receive your golden spurs.

    Or, if you were a valorous peasant, you could make it as a result of a single afternoon of bashing Saracens over their heads with something heavy. That happened too. Such knights had a lot to learn to make up for their other educational deficiencies.

    The origin story of Percival is something like that. He lived in the woods with his mother, who sought to shield him from the whole concept of knighthood as it was as a knight that his father had been killed. He lays eyes on some knights from Camelot, gives his mother a goodbye kiss, and runs after them. To make a long story short, he ends up killing the Red Knight while wearing borrowed armor. He takes Red’s gear after the fight, then gets dubbed in by Arthur.

    Some knights had an excellent reputation for managing the process. That would be a “knight school” of a sort. Or you could say “the other pages at Sir Bertram’s manor” to mean the same thing.

    • #15
  16. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Note: All of my folderol above isn’t criticism. In a fantasy setting where there may be a College of Wizardry and Applied Sorcery, there’s no reason why there couldn’t be a Knight’s School.

    • #16
  17. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    I just meant what he said reminded us of you.

    • #17
  18. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Arahant (View Comment):

    I just meant what he said reminded us of you.

    Then there’s that.

    It’s a pity Chrétien de Troyes didn’t finish his Grail Cycle. Others did, with various degrees of success. Then that hack Malory bunged the whole thing up.

    • #18
  19. Hank Rhody, Drunk on Power Contributor
    Hank Rhody, Drunk on Power
    @HankRhody

    • #19
  20. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Percival (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    I just meant what he said reminded us of you.

    Then there’s that.

    It’s a pity Chrétien de Troyes didn’t finish his Grail Cycle. Others did, with various degrees of success. Then that hack Malory bunged the whole thing up.

    Shameless self-promotion alert: http://ricochet.com/604051/unexpected-gifts-an-unlikely-troubadour/

     

    • #20
  21. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    She (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    I just meant what he said reminded us of you.

    Then there’s that.

    It’s a pity Chrétien de Troyes didn’t finish his Grail Cycle. Others did, with various degrees of success. Then that hack Malory bunged the whole thing up.

    Shameless self-promotion alert: http://ricochet.com/604051/unexpected-gifts-an-unlikely-troubadour/

     

    She, ripping Malory has been a hobby of mine since I dated the Medieval Literature major back in college.

    (Made her furious.)

    • #21
  22. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Percival (View Comment):

    Note: All of my folderol above isn’t criticism. In a fantasy setting where there may be a College of Wizardry and Applied Sorcery, there’s no reason why there couldn’t be a Knight’s School.

    Knight School. http://www.medievalfantasiesco.com/KnightsSchool.htm

    Some of these look very tempting . . . 

     

     

    • #22
  23. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Percival (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    I just meant what he said reminded us of you.

    Then there’s that.

    It’s a pity Chrétien de Troyes didn’t finish his Grail Cycle. Others did, with various degrees of success. Then that hack Malory bunged the whole thing up.

    Shameless self-promotion alert: http://ricochet.com/604051/unexpected-gifts-an-unlikely-troubadour/

     

    She, ripping Malory has been a hobby of mine since I dated the Medieval Literature major back in college.

    (Made her furious.)

    Yeah, I know, you’ve done it to me before. I’m just teasing . . .

    • #23
  24. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    She (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Note: All of my folderol above isn’t criticism. In a fantasy setting where there may be a College of Wizardry and Applied Sorcery, there’s no reason why there couldn’t be a Knight’s School.

    Knight School. http://www.medievalfantasiesco.com/KnightsSchool.htm

    Some of these look very tempting . . .

     

     

    Arms & Armour
    The Student is taught how to care for and repair Harness. How it is properly worn and used in combat. The proper methods of keeping and preparing weapons.

    Yup. Barrels with mail and water in them thirty times around the courtyard. Then dry the mail, replace the water with sand, then thirty more times around the courtyard.

    • #24
  25. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Percival (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Note: All of my folderol above isn’t criticism. In a fantasy setting where there may be a College of Wizardry and Applied Sorcery, there’s no reason why there couldn’t be a Knight’s School.

    Knight School. http://www.medievalfantasiesco.com/KnightsSchool.htm

    Some of these look very tempting . . .

    Arms & Armour
    The Student is taught how to care for and repair Harness. How it is properly worn and used in combat. The proper methods of keeping and preparing weapons.

    Yup. Barrels with mail and water in them thirty times around the courtyard. Then dry the mail, replace the water with sand, then thirty more times around the courtyard.

    On the “tempting” front, I was thinking more along the lines of “Poetry,” “Clothing” and “Feast, Music and Dance.” Not so much “Harnessing and Barreling.” YMMV. My spinning wheel is, as always, front and center in the living room and ready for action.

     

    • #25
  26. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    She (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Note: All of my folderol above isn’t criticism. In a fantasy setting where there may be a College of Wizardry and Applied Sorcery, there’s no reason why there couldn’t be a Knight’s School.

    Knight School. http://www.medievalfantasiesco.com/KnightsSchool.htm

    Some of these look very tempting . . .

    Arms & Armour
    The Student is taught how to care for and repair Harness. How it is properly worn and used in combat. The proper methods of keeping and preparing weapons.

    Yup. Barrels with mail and water in them thirty times around the courtyard. Then dry the mail, replace the water with sand, then thirty more times around the courtyard.

    On the “tempting” front, I was thinking more along the lines of “Poetry,” “Clothing” and “Feast, Music and Dance.” Not so much “Harnessing and Barreling.” YMMV. My spinning wheel is, as always, front and center in the living room and ready for action.

     

    I can’t believe that I skipped music in my list. Music is very important. The damsels love it.

    • #26
  27. Andrew Miller Member
    Andrew Miller
    @AndrewMiller

    Presenting, Once Upon a Spinning-Wheel, Part II: A Hiss in the Dark. :)

    • #27

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