Faerie Tales is still a work in progress. It was an idea which I came up with many years ago, to come up with new ways of telling some of the classic fairy tales, such as Cinderella and so on. It is likely that it will be several years before the work is completed, so don’t go looking to buy t just yet. I will make an announcement in my regular posts when the time comes to put Faerie Tales on Kindle, don’t worry.
I think that some of the original fairy tales can be eternal, and I see no reason why they should not be re-imagined for each new generation of people. I would say to check out the originals collected or written by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, though – ideally you should read them as a child, when you are still full of a sense of wonder, and have not become jaded by the world. Check out them, and Old Peter’s Russian Tales, rather than the Disney versions, which place a hell of a lot of saccharine over the top. Still, though, in recent years Disney has begun looking back at things like Snow White with new movie versions, and I have to admit that they are not too bad – and this is coming from somebody who can’t stand Disney.
My take on some of these tales is a bit more radical than Disney, though. In the finished volume you will have tales of trolls under bridges, of Jack and the beanstalk, and a strange version of Sleeping Beauty where she has a gun… There is a story of what mermaids are really like, and what it is to be a fairy godmother. With each tale I have tried to be original, and some are more than a little strange.
Anyway, as a taster for this work here is one of those tales, Beauty With A Gun.
Beauty With A Gun
How long had she been asleep this time? She felt like death. Which was what she usually dealt out.
Beauty shivered. She was cold, the chill still on her body, life not yet fully restored to her limbs. She hated coming out of cryogenic sleep almost as much as she hated going under. It was the dreams which she hated most. They kept insisting that she wasn’t supposed to be able to dream, but she always did. And, coming out of the Frost, as she thought of it, she always felt as if she was still inside the dream, not knowing which was real, and which was not. Was she entering the dream, or leaving it?
There had been a knight in shining armour, a winter sun glinting off both his gleaming breastplate and the white charger on which he rode, the horse being whiter than the snow underneath, if that was possible.
The horse had paused in its trot across the wintry landscape. Its breath frosted on the air, as it champed at its bit, wanting to move onwards, sweating despite the fact that the day was so cold. It must have been running recently.
The knight had paused to get his bearings, Beauty knew. He was looking for her. But she did not know why.
The lid was slid back from the cryo-chamber, and Beauty was helped out. She had to be physically hauled out, still too weak to move by herself.. This was one of the disadvantages of working for Q.U.E.E.N. This QUEEN, of course, was nothing more than a clever acronym. Beauty tried to remember what it stood for, but her mind was still too fuzzy after her frozen hibernation. She tried to speak, but no intelligible words came out.
“Hush, Beauty.” one of the scientists said. “It will be a while before you can speak yet. You still haven’t had your adrenaline shot.”
She had never seen this scientist before. Or, if she had, then she had forgotten him, in his entirety. Sometimes stuff like that happened, when she was woken up. Or was it when she was sent to sleep?
Another scientist assisted, carrying her still unresponsive body, the only item that she wore being her skin tight cryo-suit. Without that, and the chemicals which it pumped into her, then she would simply have frozen to death in the chamber, rather than being put into suspended animation. The science had all been explained to her, many moons ago. When she got her thoughts back, she might even be able to remember some of it.
The knight was intending to save her. Or kill her. Beauty was not sure which. But she knew that he had ridden many miles. Both he, and the horse, were approaching exhaustion. But they would not stop until they found her, wherever it was that she was.
The horse was armoured. She had not noticed that at first. There was some sort of metal plate one the horse’s head, as reflective as the night’s burnished armour. Other pieces of metal were attached to its front legs. It must be heavy for the horse, with the armour and the knight. It might even have more pieces of armour on it, but it was impossible to tell, as the horse’s body was swathed in some loose-hanging sheet like affair, which almost trailed down to the ground. There was some sort of symbol on it, and beauty realised that it was the same symbol as on the knight’s heater shield – Argent, a lion rampant Gules. That was a rearing red lion on a silver background, although it looked more white to Beauty than silver. She was sure that she had seen that very same symbol somewhere else, but she could not remember where. In some dream that she had had, that strange dream which kept recurring.
Beauty was on the lab table, having the injections which would slowly return her to full life and sentience. She hated the injections. Her one fear was that the scientists would get it wrong, and that she would die on here, or fall asleep and never wake up. Perhaps she would fall asleep for a hundred years. She wondered if she could. She knew that they managed to retard her ageing while she was in her cryo-sleep, but she did not know by how much. Could she sleep for a hundred years, and still return to life? They only defrosted her when there was somebody who they wanted dead. That was all that she was – an assassin.
Why had she come up with the hundred years idea? Was that from her dream? She didn’t know. She didn’t think so. Surely they can’t have put her under for a century. So why didn’t she recognise any of the doctors yet?
Her faculties were slowly coming back to her, along with her circulation as her body warmed. It was painful, an ache that wasn’t. Limbs that had not been used for months suddenly had to start moving again.
“Where’s Smith?” Beauty said, when she was sure that she would not slur the words. Dr Smith had always been there in the past. She was sure that was his name. He was one of the few people who Beauty trusted, if that was the correct term. She had been trained to trust no one. But his kindly old face, with the white goatee beard, put her at ease.
One of the young doctors laughed. Beauty stared at him. She did not like being laughed at. She would remember that.
“He’s probably playing golf.” the doctor said. “He retired last month.”
So Smith was gone. She wondered why the idea that he had retired made her uneasy. Perhaps it was the fact that he had already been well past retirement age when Beauty had first met him. And, each time that she had woken up from her sleep, there had been a few more white hairs. He aged, but she did not. Time could not wither her.
Time would not wither her, not while she slept. It was part of the malison which had overwhelmed her, and condemned her to the strange dreams of another world, that place with the ageing, white-bearded blacksmith. She wondered why he had not stopped; he had looked too old to wield a hammer on an anvil. He had been her friend; yet so strange that a princess should have a friend who was no more than a common smith.
She was a princess. She had forgotten that. Was this questing knight a prince, come to search for her. She wondered where he was now; and found that she could see him, in her mind’s eye. She did not question this vision, or how she had achieved it, but merely watched the knight.
He was riding through a valley now, towards a dark wood. The sun was lower in the sky, almost down to the horizon, and had begun to redden as the night approached. It would set soon, and before he reached the trees. Did he seek them out for safety, or only because they lay in his path? She did not know.
The knight got down off his charger. As he did, the material hanging from the horse was briefly pushed aside, and Beauty saw that the horse had been equipped with chain barding. At least the horse no longer had to bear the weight of the knight, as the paladin lead his mount forward, the sun slowly setting on them.
Beauty could not get over the idea that something was wrong. It haunted her, like her dream. Who was the butterfly here?
Her body was now fully under her control. It was time to get suited up; and then go and get her orders. See who it was who she had to kill this time. Then, once her contract was completed, it would be back in the ice, back to sleep until she was needed again. That was what she had been created for. If she had had a life before becoming an assassin, then she could no longer remember it. Not in her waking mind, at least. Her life was about death: somebody else’s.
She was shown into a room where her equipment awaited her. It was clear that her suit had been designed by a man. A figure-hugging matt black suit, designed to blend with the shadows – it might give her total freedom of movement, but it did tend to ride up in certain areas. Beauty sighed, slipped out of her cryo-monitoring suit, and began to get dressed in black.
Once the suit was on, it was time to equip herself with her weapons. First of all, the utility belt went around her waist. She would have to remember to ask Smith if there were any new toys. But Smith wasn’t there, was he? They said that he had retired, that he was playing golf somewhere. But Beauty had always thought that QUEEN was the sort of organisation which you did not retire from – in extreme cases, they might ‘retire’ you.
She buckled the belt shut. Click. Next there were her throwing spikes. Two metal ones, they slipped into sheaths along her thighs. They had been balanced for throwing, with some sort of alloy inside them, so that they would not deviate or twist while thrown. Throne… why did that homonym mean something to her? Was it her dream again?
It had all been about a throne, hadn’t it? Beauty slept on; but, although her eyes were closed, her mind was active. She dreamt; not one dream, but two, both overlapping. One was the dream of the knight coming to rescue her (she was certain that he was coming to rescue her); and the other was the Beauty of the strange, other world. The Beauty that was her, but was not.
The throne had been stolen from her. It was she who should have been queen. But the usurper ruled in her stead. So where was she? She was still alive, beyond a forest in which the knight and his charger slept, before setting out once more, at first light. He sought to wake her, from her long, long sleep.
Why had she not been killed? That was what she could not understand. For Beauty knew that this false Queen feared her. She feared Beauty more than anything else in the world.
All of her weapons were on now, most of them resembling strange, martial devices. There were no guns. Beauty was a silent killer. Stealth was the most lethal thing at her disposal. She reached towards the door, intending to go to the briefing room, when her hand paused, looking at the symbol embossed into the door. It was a red rose on a white background, the symbol of the QUEEN organisation. So why had Beauty expected to see a red lion instead?
It was time for her briefing. But Beauty did not go to the briefing room, to see who she was supposed to kill this time. It was time to break the pattern of sleep and death. It was time to end the dream.
Beauty was near wakefulness. All that it would take to wake her from her strange dreams was the lightest of touches; a single kiss. Was this knight to be the one, who would succeed where so many had tried, and failed, to end the old of the Queen over her?
Where was he now? Deep within the wood, approaching the ruined castle where her body lay, cobwebs like shrouds covering her still breathing body. Wolves stalked him – but he was a strong man. Wolves should only have gone for the weak and old. These were no normal wolves. They attacked – and he fought them, slaying them with his sword, until the iron blade was drowned in blood as red as the lion on his shield. He slew the wolves, protecting his rearing horse from attack, one hand holding the sword, the other on the reins, as the steed briefly bucked in fear. And then all the wolves were dead and nothing but time lay between the knight and the end of his quest. Nothing could stop him now.
Nothing could stop her now. Beauty was in the lift, taking her to the very top of the building that she was in, the headquarters of QUEEN. And she still could not recall what it stood for. But that didn’t matter any more. She knew what she had to do – kill the Queen.
She would not be missed for a few minutes. Nobody would expect an attack to come from within the organisation. Even if the alarm was raised, any guards who came to tackle her were dead. They just didn’t realise it yet.
The lift came to a stop, on the very top floor, and the doors opened.
The doors to this most isolated of castles was forced open by the questing knight. He had reached his prize at last. There she lay, sleeping Beauty, who had slept longer than he had been alive. It was time for him to end the dream that had entranced her. The knight bent down, and kissed her on the lips.
There were two guards. Beauty put a spike through the visors of their helmets, and into their brains, before they had a chance to draw a bead on Beauty with their submachine guns. She caught their bodies as they fell, easing them silently down to the black-tiled floor. She sneaked along, quieter than any mouse, until she reached the room of the evil queen. Like in her dream.
Beauty opened the door. An attractive, older woman, dressed in a skirt suit, looked up in surprise from behind her luxurious black marble desk. She opened her mouth to speak – but whatever she was going to say came far too late, for Beauty had already thrown a stiletto which buried itself in the centre of the forehead of the woman, the hardened ceramic blade easily cutting through skin and bone. The woman was dead before her corpse hit the floor. The QUEEN was dead: long live the queen. It was done.
Beauty woke up.
Beauty woke up.