On December 22, 2021, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving an empty bottle, a log, and apples.
Apples always make me think of Oriana and Fairest. This story about Oriana during her darker hours came to me…
How she hated that apple tree, growing over the log right outside her father’s estate.
Once Oriana used to meet Blanche there. The apples always seemed ripe and red whenever she saw the princess. As ripe and red as the snow white beauty’s waiting lips.
Many of the blossoms started to fall after her princess stopped coming. What fruit ripened was sour and green.
“This is your doing,” her stepmother whispered, making a warding sign with her hand. “You’ve blighted the land with your unnatural heart.”
Oriana no longer bothered to argue with her stepmother. She walked past her into the kitchen where ladies weren’t supposed to go unless they had something to discuss with the staff.
There were a lot of things ladies weren’t supposed to do.
She stopped at the sight of the empty bottle on the table in front of the little man with the red cap, a bell jingling from its floppy tip.
“She has a point,” Nimmie Not said gravely even while his eyes twinkled. “Your temper could blight a tree, my dear.”
“What do you want?” Her heart nearly stopped in her chest.
What if he wanted the magic mirror back? The mirror which was her only consolation?
She’d taken to making faces, striking poses. Pretending to be Blanche. Saying all of the things she wanted her princess to say.
Why bother? Why not be her lover? See only herself? Smile at herself? Enjoy her own beauty?
Oriana was always here for herself. Which was more than she could say for Blanche.
“Would you like to see her? See your princess?” The little man tapped his foot against the floor.
“How is that possible?” Oriana leaned against the table. “She’s in the castle with the king. I’m not allowed anywhere near it.”
“Ah, but what if the king invited you in himself?” Nimmie Not stuck up a finger and wagged it at Oriana. “What if you had power over the king’s heart? Power enough to change his mind about seeing his daughter?”
“Power to change his mind,” she murmured. “No power is going to change his mind. No woman is allowed to love his daughter.”
“Ah, but what if he loved you?” Nimmie Not winked. “Loved you so much, all he could see if you?”
“The king?” Oriana recoiled a bit at this. A man twice her age. Blanche’s father.
A man who outranked her stepmother. A man her stepmother was hoping to marry herself. Spending hours applying oils to her skin, plucking her eyebrows to impress, to bewitch.
“If only I was your age!” That woman lamented. “It would be so easy to lead him around by the nose! All I’d need was a low-cut dress.”
Yes, it would be satisfying to dash her stepmother’s dreams to pieces the way she’d dashed Oriana’s. The very thought made her mouth twisted into a smile.
“Are you suggesting I marry the king myself?” Oriana asked slowly. “Or simply become his mistress?”
To make love to a man she had no desire for. This seemed a far worse thing than to be with a girl she wanted more than anything.
It was what countless ladies did. Including her stepmother. It wasn’t the king himself they found desirable. It was the fact that he was king, the power and wealth which went with his position.
“Bewitch him and you won’t have to do anything,” Nimmie Not suggested. “Simply smile, flutter your eyelashes, and laugh at everything he says, darting away whenever he tries to touch you.”
This was a game many a lady played at court in hopes to madden a man enough he’d marry her.
“I don’t want to marry him.” Oriana closed her eyes. “I want to marry his daughter.”
What a relief it was, to state this shocking truth out loud.
“I don’t see why you shouldn’t, my dear.” How kind Nimmie Not’s voice. “Only your fool human customs forbid you to.”
“They are foolish customs.” She tightened her fists. “They shouldn’t exist.”
“If you were queen, you could do away with them,” Nimmie Not wheedled. “If you were queen, you could do many things you cannot. You would be close to your beloved princess.”
“I’d be her stepmother.” What that woman was to Oriana. “That’s not what either of us want.”
“Ah, but you’d be in the castle with her. Close to her.” The kobold smacked his lips. “Isn’t that worth a little deception? Especially if you’re deceiving those who deserve to be deceived.”
Yes. Yes, it would be worth it.
Oriana opened her eyes and looked at the little man who’d given her the magic mirror. Whom she couldn’t trust, but had been more dependable than anyone in her life of late.
Including her beloved.
“All right, kobold.” Oriana inclined her head. “Just what do you have in mind?”
Nimmie Not’s grin widened, becoming even more predatory.
Once it would have worried her, but Oriana was moving past the point of caring.
He was preferable to most humans right now.