Story time: Two Candles – A Sapphic Fairy Tale

Story time: Two Candles – A Sapphic Fairy Tale

I’m sorry for having disappeared so completely; it’s my busiest time of year, and, wonderfully enough, in the middle of all the hubbub had the opportunity to fly off and participate in the wedding of an old friend to her long-time girlfriend — and I realized that, astonishingly enough, it was the first legal same-sex wedding I’d ever attended.

In celebration of their happy union, here’s a little fairy tale — the kind that may not have been in circulation when the Grimms were gathering their stories, but which ought to have. No smut — very Disney-friendly… if Disney’s princesses were gay. And hey! Another wedding story! 😉

 

Two Candles

A Sapphic Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, in the north, where the rolling plains begin to rise into the mountains, there was a girl with hair as black as coal, and eyes as bright as diamonds, and she was called Brilliante. Her father was a merchant in the town, and her hand was promised in marriage to Georges, the brewer’s son.

Now Georges was handsome and rich and pleasant enough, but whenever Brilliante looked at him, her heart was leaden, and when, on the occasions that he walked out with her, he happened to kiss her, her mouth was filled with the taste of ashes.

So it came to pass that, on the morning of her long-anticipated wedding, Brilliante walked out of her parents’ house dressed in the crimson gown traditional for brides in that region, and passed north along the great river that flowed out of the heart of the mountains.

At first she had intended merely to clear her head on the way to the church. Yet as morning gave way to afternoon, she was still walking north, past the last farms and into the wild countryside of the mountain foothills.

She came to a place where the river blocked her path, and white water frothed around black rocks, and for the first time she considered turning around, for she had heard of this place, as had any child of her town. It was said to be inhabited by the Lorelei,ondines, who would lure men to their deaths in the swirling water–and there they where, white haired and fey beneath the water, singing for her to cross to them. At first she was terrified, thinking they meant to destroy her, but she could not ignore their song. Yet when she stepped out into the flood, she found that she was not borne under the waves, but rather walked across as if the river had frozen solid.

When she had crossed to the far shore, she turned around to see five white arms waving in farewell before disappearing into the foam.

Now she was in the great birch forest that blanketed the land above the river. Before she had time to wonder where she should go from here, bright copper hair flashed at the edge of her vision, and she thought she saw another white arm beckoning her even deeper into the wood.

Now, Brilliante was a well-read and intelligent young woman, and knew that following nymphs into the forest was courting trouble, yet she could not help but accept the invitation. Deeper and deeper into the wood she wandered, and every time she thought she was lost and forsaken, red hair would flicker and a white hand summon her further on. Whether it was a single mortal woman or a host of dryads, Brilliante could not tell, but she could no more ignore them than she had the river maidens.

Soon, the forest became wrapped in dusk, and Brilliante was no longer sure that she could distinguish the white arms from the bark of the trees, or red hair from the gold and crimson of the autumnal leaves. For the first time, fear truly gripped her.

Just as the night was truly about to set, Brilliante stumbled into a small farm. There was a tiny barn, a yard with several chickens, and a snug cottage with smoke curling deliciously from the chimney. Two candles burned in one of the windows — one bright red and one stark white. She went to knock on the door as the first stars twinkled overhead, but was surprised when, even after several minutes of knocking, no answer came from inside the house. The only response was a whiney from a startling white horse that had suddenly appeared outside the house.

Brilliante was growing cold there in the mountain night air, and she had not eaten all day–she had been too nervous to break her fast that morning. From inside the house she could smell fresh baked bread, rich stew, and the sharp scent of a pine fire on the hearth. She will be forgiven if, after some minutes of knocking and calling, she found she could wait no longer, and entered the cottage.

The sight inside made her breath catch. It was a lovely home, with merry fire with dinner bubbling in a heavy cauldron, a table set for two, a white, fluffy bed and–what most caught her eye–shelves full of leather-bound books.

At first, Brilliante promised herself she would wait to eat until the owner of the house arrived. She took down a book and was delighted to find that it contained one of her favorite stories, La Belle et La Bête, beautifully illustrated. Several times as she read through the familiar tale, she thought she heard someone at the threshold, and looked up. Yet each time she saw only the white horse, peering though its long eyelashes into the room.

Finally, she could stand it no longer. Thinking that she should not let good supper go to waste, and more hungry than she had ever been, she served herself a small portion of the stew and ate.

Once she had finished, she found that she could not keep her eyes open. I’ll just take a quick nap as I wait for the person who lives here, she thought, and slipped under the heavy white eiderdown quilt beneath the protective gaze of the white mare. Before she had time to notice the smell of cedar and lavender in the pillow, she was fast asleep.

When she awoke, the sun had risen. Brilliante was stunned to find that the fire was still going and the smell of rich stew had given way to the scent of nutty porridge and honey. Again she was seized by hunger, and without considering the fact that she was taking a second meal without asking, Brilliante served out a healthy portion of the cereal and broke her fast.

In the window, two tapers stood in the candlesticks — once more, one red and one white, but now unlit, and full.

Once her belly too was full once more, the erstwhile bride weighed what she should do next. Thinking perhaps that her host must be working out in the barn, she opened the door.

She was stunned to find, not the beautiful white mare, but a woman. Like Brilliante herself, she was clad for a wedding — not in red, but the stark white traditional to the strange folk of the mountain north. Her hair was bronze, her eyes the blue of the winter sky, but her lashes were as long and elegant as a horse’s. Looking at her, Brilliante’s heart leapt with a flame as steady as midwinter candles.

White. And red.

“Good morning,” said Brilliante.

“Good morning,” said the beautiful young woman.

“Thank you for your wonderful hospitality,” said Brilliante.

“Thank you for gracing this farm with your presence,” said the woman, and Brilliante found herself blushing. Then the woman’s brow furrowed slightly. “You are dressed,” she said, “for a wedding. Are you married?”

“No,” replied Brilliante, and she quickly told the stranger her story. “Are you married?” she asked, when she was done.

The woman shook her head.

“Is this your home?” asked Brilliante.

The woman nodded.

“Are you awaiting your beloved?” asked Brilliante.

“No longer,” said the woman, and her eyes flashed so brightly that the flame in Brilliante’s heart flared up.

They stood in silence, the morning sunshine flashing off of motes of dust drifting through the yard.

“May I tell you a tale?” said the young woman.

Now it was Brilliante’s turn to nod.

“My name,” the woman said, “is Kerzen. I was born on this farm, and have lived here my whole life, but I may not possess it yet. Let me tell you why.

“My mother died when I was born. She lay her dying kiss here.” Very seriously, the woman touched a finger to her left check. “My father, wanting me to grow up in a woman’s care, looked for another wife, grief-stricken as he was. We are two days from the closest village here, unless we go through the Haunted Woods, and so his search went in vain for some years, and so he was shocked when, one day, a woman came and said that she wished to marry him. She was fair-seeming and soft-spoken, cooked well, and knew the ways of a farm, and so my father agreed. They were wed on the day they met, and she became my stepmother.

“You seem well-spoken and well-read yourself, Brilliante, and so you will perhaps guess what happened. Alas, my stepmother was a witch. And by witch I do not mean merely that she was shrill and cruel, though she was that, nor that she was a follower of the old ways. Rather I mean it in the most literal sense: she was a caster of spells and a great brewer of potions and poisons. She enchanted the house so that it cooks and cleans itself, which seemed delightful at first. She set wards around this stead so that none may find it but who were meant to be here.

Kerzen paused and gazed at Brilliante for a long moment, then continued. “In the beginning, she treated me well, and this farm prospered and we were happy, though I never liked the way she ordered my father about. Then, when I reached my first womanhood, she began to become suspicious and resentful, jealous of my father’s love of me. She banished me from the house, and made me do the most menial tasks around the farm. When this did not break my spirit, nor my father’s love, she became bitter. She could not kill me, because of the protection of my mother’s kiss. So she decided to kill my father and bewitch me.” A tear leaked from Kerzen’s pale blue eye.

“My father dearly loved mushroom pie. She prepared his dinner one night by hand, adding Death Caps to the pie. He died in agony that night, bestowing his dying kiss here.” Very seriously, she touched her right cheek.

“When he died,” Kerzen continued, “my stepmother howled with laughter, and cursed me, transforming me into a white mare and binding me to this place as one of the cattle of her farm. ‘Just wait,’ she cried, ‘just wait and see how long it actually takes for True Love’s first kiss to come riding over the hill!” Now tears flowed freely down her cheeks. Brilliante, moved by pity, and by some other passion, reached out to comfort the young woman, who held her hand up. “Brilliante, as she cackled away, crowing her victory over me and my father, she licked her fingers. The deadly mushrooms’ essence lingered there, and so, fittingly, she too died in agony.”

Now Kerzen gave a long, wet sigh. “And so, for the past two years, I have been imprisoned on my own homestead. Every night I transform back into a horse, and sleep in the barn. I am still banished from the house. I am still waiting, in my wedding dress, for True Love’s first kiss to set me free.” Suddenly, Kerzen’s eyes, still wet, flared with determination. She closed them, lifted her chin, and presented her mouth.

Brilliante looked at the beautiful young woman, and the love that had kindled in her heart roared into full flame. Leaning in to her, so that she could detect the smell of straw and tears, she joyfully bestowed upon Kerzen the kiss that would set her free. And many more besides.

That evening the two brides married in the country way, by plighting their troth and leaping hand in hand thrice over the broom that had belonged to Kerzen’s mother.

The witch’s curses broken, the two lovely young women retired to the enchanted cottage, where they spent their days in joy, their nights in bliss, and lived happily ever after.

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