The Merry Sisters of Fate are hosting yet another fabulous contest on their blog: http://community.livejournal.com/merry_fates/95549.html
Eligible prizes include a signed copy of LINGER by Maggie Stiefvater, and a signed ARC of THE REPLACEMENT by Brenna Yovanoff and some other stuff that I thought was cool enough to make me enter. (The Merry Sisters of Fate are authors: Maggie Stiefvater, Brenna Yovanoff, and Tessa Gratton)
To enter, you must use the below image as a writing prompt. It can be a short story, flash fiction, a poem, whatever! If you’re also interested you can go to their blog for more detailed instructions on how to enter.
The prompt: "The Princess and the Pea" by Edmund Dulac
Here we go...
(Every time I present something using those words it reminds me of Calhoun Tubbs from In Living Color when he would say "I wrote a song about it. Wanna' hear it? Here it goes." ... now back to my Entry.)
"Oh, Its so high." Elspeth said timidly as she was shown to her room for the night. Turning to her hostess she smiled radiantly and added, "This will be perfect."
"For your comfort," Mistress Annan said as she bowed slightly to the girl before her. "We only want to give our guests the best accommodations."
The older woman backed out of the room leaving Elspeth alone staring up at the huge pile before her. Elspeth had felt like she had been treated strangely since entering into this house, from dinner where she was served first, to being offered the warmest place by the fire. Perhaps this was their custom she thought, but that statement didn't bring her any more understanding of the strangeness of it all. There was a ladder propped up against the bed waiting for her to ascend to the top, but she couldn't her arms trembled and her feet felt glued to the floor.
"One... Two... Three..." She started counting to calm herself, then quickly realized that she was counting mattresses instead. "Sixteen... Seventeen... Eighteen..." She stopped counting and swallowed taking hold of the first rung of the ladder. Stepping up she started her count again lifting one foot above the other and nineteen rungs later she threw herself onto the pile of stack of mattresses.
The bedding was soft, made from the finest materials. The silks whispered across her skin as she turned over and stared at the very close ceiling.
"Breath," she reminded herself, "just breathe."
And that's how the hours passed until the first light of morning blushed through the window far below her.
"Oh, my Dear," the older woman addressed her at the breakfast table. "You look so tired. Did you sleep well?"
"Yes, quite well. Thank you." Elspeth lied, and plastered a smile on her face.
Mistress Annan paused for a moment in thought, her lips curling up at the corners as she outwardly accepted the lie, but inwardly she laughed at her discovery. This girl, more than likely was the lost princess! That pea beneath the piles of feathers and cloth must be what kept her awake all night. However she didn't say anything out loud and continued to serve Elspeth throughout the day and finally escorted her back to the mattress room that evening.
"Good night, Dear." Mistress Annan said, a little patronizingly as she left Elspeth once again at the door.
Again she turned around and looked at the daunting climb, and tonight, instead of summiting the mountain she curled up on the floor near the door and tried to sleep. The floor was most uncomfortable, making her toss and turn throughout the night resulting in little sleep and a crick in her neck.
The second morning she sat at the table and rubbed her neck gently while the household bustled about her.
"Is everything all right, Miss?" A young serving girl asked her as the table was being cleared. Elspeth didn't notice the mistress of the house lurking in a near by doorway when she replied.
"I didn't sleep very well Bessie. Might you bring me a warm cloth for my aches while I lounge on the settee for a while.
"Yes, Miss. Right away." and the girl scurried off passing Mistress Annan in the hall, the latter wearing a triumphant smile.
One more night. She thought, One more test. Three would be her lucky number and then she would marry this girl to her son Hubert before announcing her royalty to the world.
As Elspeth reclined in the sitting room she was startled by Hubert touching her hand.
“Miss Elspeth?” He inquired as she opened her eyes. “I have grown very fond of you since you have come into my home, I’d be happy to have you as my wife… If you would take me.”
She was surprised to say the least. But she too had grown very fond of Hubert in their short time together, in fact, she would say that she had fallen in love.
“Hubert,” she said quietly. “I would have you. But I don’t think that we can be together, we are so different. Your mother would not approve.”
“She will,” Hubert said, sounding certain. “give me until tomorrow. Then we shall marry right away, I have lived this long without you, to spare another day would be torture.”
Elspeth nodded vigorously and they sealed their pact with a kiss before he excused himself to speak with his mother.
“I wish to marry Elspeth, Mother. She is my match in every way.” He said forcefully to his mothers back. She was standing in her garden watching the servants week her flower beds. “She is the one I have chosen.”
His voice had lost a little of his fire when Mother didn’t turn to look at him. The evening was creeping in over the tree tops creating long shadowing in the suns orange light making her seem larger and menacing.
“You have made this decision on your own?” She said, her voice cool though he had unknowingly fallen into her plans.
“Yes Mother.” His response quiet, fearing her disapproval.
“I shall give you my answer on the morrow. Go now, and escort your betrothed to her chambers, the night is upon us.
“Sleep well, My love.” Hubert kissed the dainty hand that he held in his before leaving her to her evening preparations.
“Hubert, I haven’t slept well these last two nights. I fear tonight will be no different.” She sounded resigned and lay her hand on the knob to her chamber. “Good night nonetheless, dear Hubert.”
He reached out taking her hand and pulling her one step towards him. “Then we shall wed at mid-day and tomorrow night you may rest in my arms.”
With a kiss he was off and Elspeth was again left alone with the insurmountable task of trying to sleep on the great pile that was her bed. Remembering how horrible the floor was to sleep on she once again climbed the ladder, because lying awake all night fearing a fall to her death was much more comfortable upon the mattresses than sleeping on the hard wooden floors.
Upon the third morning the bags under Elspeth’s eyes were darker and her eyes had a hard time remaining open, but today was her wedding day and she could not fall asleep before the ceremony.
Mother had surprised Hubert by bringing the Parson to breakfast and announcing that he should marry as soon as possible and as soon as they had breakfasted preparations were hurriedly being made.
Elspeth was swept off by several maids and bathed before she was stuffed into a white dress that she was told belonged to the Mistress Annan and adorned with jewels from the master’s collection.
Before she knew it she was standing next to Hubert, dressed in his finest suit and taking her vows.
“… and now I pronounce you man and wife.” The Parson’s final words hung in the air for a moment before Huber and Elspeth kissed for the first time as a married couple and as they parted Mother waved two men in to the room.
“Mother?” Huber questioned. “Who are these gentlemen?”
“Sir Lelandor and Sir Cavendish,” She addressed to herself to the men, and not to Hubert. “I present to you the Princess Elizabeth Orillia Graventhope Calliope.” She bowed low, holding her hand out towards Elspeth as if presenting her as a gift to the new comers.
“What?” Hubert and Elspeth asked at the same time. Elspeth gapped and Hubert turned to her.
“I can't believe it. I'm in love! I'm in love with a young, beautiful, talented Princess.” Hubert dipped her low and kissed her.
“Princess?” She sounded confused, pushing on his chest urging him to put her up right.
“Oh... not that the title's important, of course!” He said quickly to be sure she understood.
“I’m not a Princess.” She said flatly.
“Not a Princess?” Hubert questioned.
“No, I’m a poet.” Shaking her head she looked at Mistress Annan.
“A poet?” Sir Lelandor replied sounding scandalized.
”What?” Mother interjected, for now she was Elspeth mother as well.
“I’m not a Princess,” she restated it seemed everyone was hard of hearing today.
But the test?! Mother said, her hand fluttering in Elspeth’s direction. “She slept three nights on a pea beneath twenty mattresses and slept poorly each night.. How can you not be the Princess?!?”
“You silly woman,” Elspeth practically laughed. “I slept poorly, because I am afraid of heights. Not because of some miniscule vegetable place beneath me.”
“Oh!” Mother wailed. “Oh, I am ruined!” crumpling to the floor she sobbed loudly.
“And you, Hubert?” Elspeth asked turning to her new husband. “Are you ruined as well?”
“No, My love, You make a much better poet than a princess any day.” He smiled lifting her into his arms.
Sir Lelandor and Sir Cavendish, stood dumbfounded at the revelation that wasn’t a revelation right in the way of the happy couple.
“If you’ll excuse me gentlemen, I’m going home to sleep with my wife.”
(yes, I know, I stole some movie quotes. Don't sue me.)