Saturday, November 21, 2015

Jennifer and I are in the final weeks of editing and formatting her latest novel. We will offer Fairy Godmothers of The Four Directions as an ebook on Amazon Kindle. Enjoy this sneak preview and free chapter.
Fairy Godmothers of the Four Directions

Chapter Two

Finding Cinderella

Did you ever wonder how the Prince discovered Cinderella? She was hidden by her stepmother’s illusions. In plain sight, on the fireplace hearth, Cinderella was invisible.

Maybe you didn’t know Cinderella and the Prince grew up together. Their parents played Bridge, a strategic card game. Tournaments hosted the King and Queen went on for days. Their play was so intense, they were lost. Absorbed by the challenged they were oblivious to the adventures of Charlotte and the Prince.

While the adults played cards the Prince and Cinderella explored the castle. They played hide and seek in the gardens and basements. The Prince taught Charlotte to play the drums. Soon she played at his skill level. They began challenging each other tapping out sophisticated rhythmic patterns. Music became one of their shared passions.

On rainy days they explored the palace attics. Opening trunks they found elaborate gowns and uniforms. Dressing up, they danced. Already they shared the joy of music. Dance was a natural evolution of their partnership. Swaying, fast stepping, kicking and turning they moved with easy elegance.

Sometimes they even brought meals up to the attic, to eat in full costume. Late in the evening they raided the kitchen for molasses cookies dusted in extra fine baker’s sugar. They found a empty guest room and shared stories Charlotte heard in the market. The Prince picked up his stories hanging around the guard’s break room. They embellished with voice, gestures and facial expressions, always ending in laughter.

After Charlotte’s father won the pick of the litter from the palace kennel, Charlotte’s puppy Blackie became their constant companion. They raced through gardens. In winter months they used warrior’s shields to slide down the snowy hills. Blackie stumbled and rolled in pursuit, until he stole Charlotte’s fur hat. The Prince laughed until he was doubled over watching Charlotte chase Blackie across the frozen lake. He finally dropped the hat, a little the worse for wear. The ear flap was torn and the fur clumped together with drool. Charlotte treasured that hat even with the holes left by Blackie’s sharp puppy teeth.

Charlotte and the Prince both wore a network of nearly-invisible-interlacing-scars from Blackie’s puppy desire to hold hands in his mouth simultaneously levitating and tugging them across the room.

Evenings, filled with food and adventures, they settled with Blackie on thick rugs and oversized pillows. They dreamed of a life shared, planning good works for the Palace and Kingdom. Energized with the combination of hope and imagination one vision led to another until starry-eyed they fell asleep with Blackie between them. They never guessed their carefully planned future would be torn apart by the death of Charlotte’s parents.

Few people know it was the Prince’s idea to stage a ball. Returning home after studying diplomacy abroad he was appalled to find his beautiful Charlotte renamed Cinderella. He gathered his advisors for a meeting. Included among them were the Fairy Godmother and the Fairy Godmothers of the Four Directions. When the Prince decided to create a celebration as a distraction the Fairy Godmother offered to meet with Cinderella and help her find a way to the dance.

Invitations were sent to every young woman in the Kingdom. The Prince’s purpose in staging the gala was to get Cinderella’s stepmother and her daughters out of the house. His teacher, the Fairy Godmother, would prepare Cinderella and escort her to the celebration under her protection. The Prince vowed to recapture the love he and Charlotte shared.

At midnight when Charlotte transformed into Cinderella the servant, his plan was to ask her to be his wife in front of the entire court. But when the clock struck midnight reverberating throughout the castle Cinderella noticed her stepmother bearing down on them. She panicked and ran.

Wow! He had forgotten how fast she could run! Shouting orders, he gathered a crew of his fastest men. They chased her all the way back to her parent’s stone cottage. Bright lights of the castle left behind, the dark night settled around them. The Prince did not need light. His feet knew the forest trails.

He wasn’t prepared for the treachery of Cinderella’s stepmother.

She raced along the edges of forest. Knowing the Prince followed close behind, Cinderella’s stepmother conjured oil. Black and sticky the spill extended across the narrowing path instantly suffocating the plants along the roadside. In the chaos that followed bodies fell, twisting into piles, the guards tumbled one-over-another.

A wicked smile curving her lips the stepmother thought, “If I’d had more time I would have thrown fire.” Envisioning the flames leaping along the edges of piled up bodies her smile deepened. But the spell required too much concentration. The agile Prince avoided falling by leaping past his men. Now he was beginning to out pace her. She ignited her power and sped after Cinderella.

Wrenching open the heavy wood door Cinderella’s stepmother fell into the kitchen panting and out of breath. Standing at the kitchen sink Cinderella understood this would be their final encounter.

Cinderella stayed to protect her family’s treasures. She could have fled into the forest. But her stepmother’s magic would have seen her. Every part of the forest that helped her would be made to suffer. She realized, tonight, her stepmother would try and kill her with magic. Instinctively she backed away.

In the near distance the Prince was shouting, “Charlotte! Charlotte! Come to me!” Cinderella swiveled her head to look out the window. With supernatural strength her stepmother shoved Cinderella toward the fireplace. She stumbled. One shoe flew across the room. Her head struck the stone mantle and Cinderella crumpled. Her stepmother smiled, pushing a loose strand of hair away from her face.

When the Prince catapulted through the open door the first thing he saw was Cinderella’s shoe. A shoe his Fairy Godmother had created. Made of clear quartz crystal it sparkled in the dim light. Pretending not to notice the slipper, the Prince moved toward the wicked stepmother.

Yes, the Prince could see through her disguise. Yellow teeth, shriveled hands more claw than fingers, and her thin hair revealed a thickly veined blue scalp. Her hiss spewed acid. Droplets formed on the shield he threw up to protect his face.

Where was Charlotte? It was difficult to see past the crone without the light of a fire. Yet he didn’t want to use magic. Changing the environment without knowing where Cinderella was located could be dangerous. The first lesson with his Fairy Godmother the Prince learned magic rebounds, splinters taking detours. It’s not reliable. Stories written tell us the successes of magic. Too few stories are told of magic’s failures.

Outside, rain turned to hail beating a vicious tempo along the copper roof. Cinderella heard the Prince calling. A muddy blue cloud, her stepmother’s enchantment, obscured her sight. Guards tumbled into the kitchen. The noise amplified the enchantment making it difficult to breathe. Stamping grew to stomping. Yelling expanded. Not one word was decipherable. The hail receded leaving a soft misty rain in its place.

When the Prince picked up Cinderella’s shoe the witch’s spell wavered. Coughing and belching the enchantment’s gritty residue, the Prince could not see her but then, a sound – out of place with the carnage in the room - caught his ear

Inspired Cinderella tapped out a musical phrase with a piece of kindling on the stone fireplace. The Prince might not be able to see her but if he heard the familiar cadence of her rhythmic tapping maybe he could find her.

Carried by the density of stone she tapped, “DA, da, da, duh. DA, da, da, duh.” Urgency was building a fire in her veins. Double time the rhythm changed. “BA-ba-ba—buh—TA-ta-ta-Tah-TA-ta-ta-Tah.”

The Prince froze. Within his stillness he heard, transformed by her love and fear, a symphony. He heard her song: “Please hurry…..I love you…..….” Beyond the stench of the stepmother’s incantations he saw her surrounded in bursts of pink. Suffering in the stifling reek hinting of blood and violence, the Prince saw Cinderella hidden in the stepmother’s grainy shadows and disease.

In this way, although Cinderella was hidden from view by her stepmother’s spell, the Prince located her. Standing by the massive hearth the Prince stripped the spell. He shouted orders. Guards moved toward the stepmother. A snarl from the depths of jealousy obscured the witch.

She screamed, “I will never be your newest occupant in the palace prisons!” Growing to enormous proportions she sealed all the exits. Her hair shot out in a hundred different directions. Her breath stank of freshly clotted blood. Sweet with disease it petrified the surrounding air. No one could breathe without gagging… A riptide of rage, the wave of putrid odor, exploded across the room.

Horrified, every eye entrained. They watched the stepmother transform, from an obsequious fawning woman at the ball, into a primordial creature sobbing with anguish. The guards froze in the horror.

Launching herself at Cinderella she attacked. Talons tore at the fireplace mantle. Lightening left acrid, toxic fumes. Thunder rocked the foundation of the cottage. Plates, knives, vases and even chairs shuddered then flew across the room. The room exploded as flames shot out the doors and windows.

The spell hiding Cinderella had faded yet she was trapped on the apron of stone, frozen by the witch’s immobilization spell. She choked on the black smoke pouring out of the fireplace. Her stepmother’s nails tore at her clothes and face, narrowly missing an eye. A knife shooting like an arrow sank in the limestone just over Cinderella’s shoulder. A wooden spoon hit her head. Windows shattered. Hundreds of pieces of tiny glass fragments targeted Cinderella embedding in her face and arms. The acrid stink; values twisted by greed and despair, turned the room a dirty dusky blue. Eyes watered, noses swelled.

Cinderella trained her eyes on the Prince. A nimbus of light was growing, golden and deep. Tendrils extended to fill the room. His eye fell on Cinderella. In the space of a heartbeat his love and concerned wrapped around her.

He didn’t see her torn clothing or the deep circles under her eyes. He saw his lifetime friend. He saw the woman he loved, just as he had known for his entire life he would love her. Looking through the filters of his magic he checked for traps in Cinderella’s aura. He could see no physical damage. He bit back rage when he saw her spirit bent with sorrow. Was it shame he saw in her heart?

He pulled Cinderella from the hearth, wrapped her in his cloak and set her behind him. The entire room filled with a soft glow. House ware, transformed into missiles, settled to the floor. A collective sigh filled the silence. The sweetness of honeysuckle was drawn into the house on a current of fresh air.

Cinderella stood on shaking legs. She was never more grateful for the honeysuckle vine. Intertwined with the garden gate, without restraint the flowers shared their sticky fragrance. It mixed with Cinderella’s gratitude; a subliminal message restoring the spirits of every warrior standing in the stone kitchen.

Then the massive kitchen island trembled. Cinderella looked at her stepmother. Her blood shot eyes, hair standing on end with power; her psychotic hatred laced with insanity was their only warning.

The stepmother’s rage fractured the calm with jagged bolts muddy red. Her face contorted. Her scream raised the roof. Hair crackling, eyes red with broken vessels, she called up hurricane winds. Rain tore across the kitchen.

The limestone fireplace cracked. Family treasures disintegrated. Furniture exploded. The seams holding the house to its foundation groaned. Stone screamed shifting along mortar. Guards could not fight the wind.

Pressure building exploded ear drums. The men fell to the floor holding their heads, screaming their pain. Darkness tore at uniforms cleaving long red welts. Cinderella and the Prince were doubled over in agony.

Her heart squeezed painfully. Each inhale burned long striations of acid. Facing death, in that pivotal moment, Cinderella chose. She chose love. Showering the Prince with her love, she dove into a benevolent grace. Golden droplets, dewy and sweet, infused with honeysuckle, burst, spreading the potency of love’s protection throughout the room.

Yet the tornado of grainy debris, impenetrable, continued to assault. The Prince recoiled against the darkness scraping across every soul. Pain and paralysis gripped his muscles. Even his heart threatening to stop, for this brief moment, violence diminished in the luminosity of Cinderella’s love.

He had this one liberated instant. Reaching for the silver chain, infinitesimally thin, hanging at his side he jerked it free. The length whipped across the room. A flash of supernatural silver parted the grainy debris. The thunder of freedom, a collective inhale; bodies dropped to the floor, free of pain. As the Prince fell, choking out words of power, the silver snake sliced through fumes and furniture alike. Glittering with magic, it lashed around Cinderella’s stepmother, transforming her back into a woman.

All of the darkness infiltrating molecules constellated around the stepmother trapped in the silver chain binding her. Her scream tore at the walls and extinguished. 

This was how the Prince discovered Cinderella hidden in the fireplace. She was tapping with a piece of kindling on the stone.

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