Once Upon a Time The Fairy Tale
Once upon a time a long, long time ago there lived a widowed king, he had three daughters. The eldest had raven hair like her mother had in her youth, milk-white skin, and was beautiful as one could be on the outside. Inside, her heart was as cold as ice and hard as iron. She thought the world owed her and expected to collect any day. They called her Sarah for the princess she was.
The middle daughter had wild red tresses, sunburned skin, and freckles like her father. She was not fair of face but her heart was as warm as the sun, as soft as goose down, and as strong as it should be. She enjoyed being close to nature and held all life precious. They named her Mavelle, their little songbird.
The youngest daughter had beautiful blonde hair like her grandmother, the most gorgeous brown eyes you ever saw, and no face was fairer in all the land. Her heart was kind and as delicate as porcelain. She loved everyone she ever met. Her name came easy, Lovena, the joy of all who met her.
One night a stone ogre stole the youngest princess from her bed. The king’s knights searched far and wide but couldn’t find a trace of her.
There came a day where the king offered his kingdom as reward for finding his beloved youngest daughter. The eldest daughter, Sarah, not out of kindness but out of a greedy quest for acclaim and the throne, asked her father if she could try to search for her missing sister. Her father begged her not to go saying he couldn’t bear to lose another daughter. She laughed at him and said, “Father, I am smarter than your all knights and I will bring her back. When I do, everyone will bow down to me and call me Queen.”
She took two knights who were under her sway with her and off she went. First, she went to the old crone who lived in the woods. She had her men drag the woman out of her hut and hold a sword to her throat. “Tell me how to find my sister and defeat the ogre so I can be queen.”
The Crone held up her hands and besought the cruel girl to let her go that she knew not how to find the sister or how to defeat the ogre.
“Cut her. Make her bleed and cry so that she tells me.” The cruel princess told her men.
“I know not. I cannot tell you what I know not. Perhaps the wizard of the swamp can tell you.”
They left the Crone bleeding and sobbing. Now the middle princess, Mavelle had a habit of walking through the woods at all hours of the night and she came upon the bloodied, weak, and wailing Crone.
“Mother, who did this to you? Let me help you.” The princess gently aided the Crone to her hut. She washed and doctored the Crone’s wounds and patiently waited for the old woman to stop sobbing and tell her the story of her cruel treatment.
When at last she could speak, the Crone told the young princess a tale that she found horrifying. “Little one, it was your sister. So cruelly did she treat me that I refused to answer her questions. For your kindness, I will reward you.
“Mother, I need no reward, for what I did, anyone would do for one who suffers.”
“Anyone other than your sister, it seems. Now listen carefully. You must travel to the center of the deep forest. There you will find a cave of stone. Inside is a dagger of dark crystal, this is the only thing that can kill a stone ogre. It can pierce his stone heart.
The princess traveled to the forest accompanied only by her deerhound, McDougal. There she trod softly on bare feet following the deer trails to the center. It took some time to find the cave and when she did, she easily prized the dark crystal knife from its lair.
Holding a kerchief of her sister’s in front of her deerhound’s face, she begged her companion to seek her sister. Fleet of foot, the hound raced ahead of her for many miles only slowing to see if she still followed.
Finally, the hound halted, he dropped to the ground and whined. She could no more move than a mountain. She sat next to him, pillowed her head on his back, and napped. As she slept, she dreamed.
Her sister beckoned to her and said, “Look below and not above, behind and not in front. Beware the heart of ice and listen only to one who is true. Hurry sister.”
She woke with a start. “McDougal, we need to hurry. Find her!”
Her deerhound sat in place and whined. He held up one paw and then the other.
“Here? She’s here? But where?” Mavelle looked around her. They were in the courtyard of a long abandoned summer home. Most of the home was in ruins but to her right and below ground level, she saw a small window. She would’ve missed the window had her sister’s words not echoed in her mind.
“How do I get in there?” She walked to the small window and tried to see in but the glass was thick and opaque. The strange little window was in a low wall that swerved away from her at an angle and ended under a wide expanse of mangled stone flooring.
“Not above, behind and not in front. That makes no sense.” Mavelle traced the edges of the walls all of them angled away in strange directions. She picked up a thick branch and began to dig in the soil in front of the window, only to hit solid bedrock.
McDougal began to growl a deep rumble in the body savage growl. She stopped what she was doing and listened. She heard voices and footsteps approaching from the far side of the ruins. With a hand signal to McDougal for silence, she grabbed his collar, led him to a sheltered spot, and they hid.
She heard her sister Sarah’s voice and almost broke cover. That is until she heard what her sister had to say. “No, you will kill her as I said. My father will be heartbroken but will still give me the kingdom. We will have riches and power.”
Mavelle couldn’t hear the soldier’s reply but didn’t care. She couldn’t allow her sister’s death. She had to act fast. If only I’d brought my bow, she thought. She backed away from the ruins staying under cover and keeping an eye on where he older sister and the soldiers were.
Once she was sure she was out of sight, she relaxed a bit, eased her hold on McDougal’s collar, and let loose with a gut-wrenching groan.
“How could she!” Mavelle raised her hands skyward. “Is the stone ogre even real?”
The implications were horrible. Had Sarah plotted with the soldiers to kidnap Lovena? Had they faked the ogre? How does one fake a stone ogre attack? She knew she should go back to the palace and tell her parents but wondered if they would believe her accusation of her sister. Besides, if she went back no one would be there to save Lovena.
“McDougal, you stay here.” She pulled the crystal knife from her pack, gripping it tightly she crept back to where she could see the ruins, hear what was going on, and yet not be seen.
“Dig there.” Sarah pointed to a section of stone floor in the ruins. “The entrance should be under there.”
“What if it comes back?” One soldier asked.
“If it comes back we kill it. It didn’t notice us tracking it.”
The sound of falling rocks made everyone stop what they were doing and listen.
“There’s no way to kill one of them.” The soldier dropped his shovel. “I’m out of here.”
“Get back here!” Sarah screamed at the fleeing soldier.
The next thing that happened made Mavelle drop the crystal knife, cover her eyes and wish she had four hands so she could cover her ears too. The sounds were dreadful. When she opened her eyes again, she could see Sarah held high above the ground in the three-fingered grip of a stone ogre. The four soldiers’ bodies torn to bloody pieces and scattered about brought bile to her throat. Mavelle trembled with dread.
Sarah’s screams assured Mavelle that her sister still lived. The Ogre lifted the stone floor, dropped Sarah in the hole beneath it, replaced the floor above Sarah, and stomped off in the opposite direction from Mavelle’s hiding place.
“Oh, Goddesses. What can I do to get them out of there?” She gave a low whistle and within seconds, McDougal was by her side. His hackles stood on end and he growled deep in his chest.
“Easy boy. He’s gone.” She directed him toward the ruins. “Find Lovena. There has to be a way in.”
They crawled over lichen covered granite and broken marble. Searching for hours with no luck, she called a halt by the remains of a guard tower. Within there she found a covered section, like a cave, where they could camp for the night.
Restless sleep came to her and along with it another vision of her sister Lovena. This time the vision showed Sarah asleep and Lovena pacing. “Sister, we know not what he wishes us for but he is vicious. Hurry, I fear we haven’t long.
The snap of a branch woke Mavelle with a start. McDougal was on his feet and growling. The wee hours of the morning brought with them, no light to see by, she peered into the darkest of dark. Mavelle clung to McDougal’s collar to keep him close.
“Hey the tower.” A voice broke the silence.
“Who are you?” Mavelle dug the dagger from under her cloak with her free hand.
“Name’s Cragger. I’m a peddler of sorts. I was looking for shelter when I smelled your smoke.”
“Come to where I can see you.” She threw some wood on her dying fire.
A very small of stature man stepped in front of the cave entrance. “Are you a Dunningham Dwarf?” She asked.
Cragger bowed, sweeping his arm out wide. “One and the same, peddler by trade, I am.”
“Isn’t that unusual for a mining race?”
“A bit, but the miners need supplies and trinkets. My line is a long line of peddlers back thirty-two generations. If I may come close to your warm fire I will tell you our story.”
Mavelle gasped. “My manners, where are my manners? Certainly Cragger, come warm yourself, and welcome.
The dwarf entered the narrow cavern and sat near the fire. “Thank you, after I came across a pack of wolves tearing into those bodies I was afraid to stay in the open. What do I call you, young lady?”
Mavelle found it odd that any man would admit a fear but liked that he had. She warmed to the man. “Mavelle, call me Mavelle, please.” With a tentative smile she asked, “What is the story you would tell me?”
“Ah, my tale. It is a tale of danger, heroism, and cowardice and I hope it ends here in these ruins.” There he paused and seemed to wait for her to comment.
“Ends here? How? Why?”
“Let me start at the beginning. Many long ago and far aways, my great, great, great, ever so great-grandfather ran afoul a stone troll. The very one I have tracked to these ruins.”
“But, Sir Cragger, I am after the very same troll, he holds my sisters as prisoners.”
“Then it must be by the fates that I was drawn here. Let me continue my tale and we shall see if it is so. Grandfather was deep in the family mine digging for gems as we do when he opened a new cavern with the strike of a hammer. He had no idea there was one behind the wall he’d been hammering on for a lifetime.” Cragger reached for his pack and drew out a wine skin. He offered it to Mavelle but she shook her head.
“No thank you. Please go on.”
Cragger drank deep, wiped his mouth on his sleeve, belched, begged her pardon, and continued. “Grandfather began to mine the new tunnel finding better jewels there than we’d found for centuries in the old mines. At the end of the shift, he came out of the mine with more quality jewels than our family had seen in a century. A family council met and the Elders decided to have everyone mine that tunnel. No one suspected the danger and horror that lurked deep within.”
A large tear rolled down Cragger’s face. “Grandfather led a group of miners into the mine, the first shift after the decision to mine the one tunnel. Hours passed and one mine car after another arrived outside loaded with fabulous jewels. Everyone celebrated their new-found wealth.”
His hand trembled. He swiped tears from his eyes, and continued his tale. “No one knew what to think when the mine cars suddenly stopped coming. Hours passed and no cars arrived on the surface. Finally, in the distance, one could hear mine cars approach. No one expected the sight that met their eyes when the cars exited the mine.” Cragger’s voice cracked.
“Please, stop and drink.” Mavelle feared what he’d say next and wished to put it off for a few minutes.
The Dwarf drained his wineskin, took a few deep breaths, and began to recite his tale of horror. “Blood, bodies, body parts, none alive. Not one survivor in the first four cars that reached the surface. The fifth car was the worst, two of Grandfather’s brother– one alive and broken, the other dead and torn apart. Grandfather alive, bloodied and half out of his mind pushed the cart the entire way. He raved about a monster. A stone troll. After that day, he swore he’d never enter a mine or any underground again for as long as he lived, and he lived another six hundred and seven years.”
His eyes glowed with tears unshed. “The Dwarf Council arranged to have a car loaded with explosives blown up at the entrance to the tunnel. They had warning signs posted so dwarves would ever dig there again. Now centuries later, it must be that man has found the tunnel and released the creature once again. My people have burdened me with the task of destroying it before he takes more dwarves. They have no concern over men; they want only that I avenge the deaths of our own. Come back with him dead or never come home again. That is what they told me. I know of no way to kill a rock troll. Now, tell me your story.”
“There’s not much to tell other than he stole my younger sister from her bed and my older sister he grabbed while she pursued him. It is on me to get them back.”
Cragger lit a pipe and took a long drag on it. He blew it out in a large cloud. “I’ve tracked him here. He seems to like these ruins.”
“Will you help me? I will give you the means to kill him if you help me save my sisters.”
“You’ve a way to kill him?”
“Yes. I will show you if you promise me your help.”
“My Lady, if you can give me the means to kill him, I will help you. You have my word.”
Mavelle opened her pack and pulled out a bundle. She opened the bundle with great care. Lifting the crystal knife from its wrappings, she showed it to Cragger. Its surface glowed, a perfect reflection of the fire that kept them warm. “I hate to admit that I almost lost this when the troll attacked my sister and her party. After that, I felt it best put away safely until I could find someone to wield it for me. I knew I hadn’t the strength to do it myself.” She handed it to Cragger.
Cragger turned the blade over in his hand. “The Griffon’s blade! I thought it was a myth. This was lost to History a millennium ago.”
“That explains why I never heard of it.”
“My Lady, This blade has struck down Gods and Giants. It will do against the troll.” He held the blade in both hands, raised them as in the Goddess blessing, and bowed his head. “I am honored.”
“Now sir, you may rest your head in the shelter with me and my companion. Since he shows me that I am safe with you.” Mavelle pointed to McDougal who stretched out on his side snored loud enough to rival the thunder overhead.
With the dawn’s light, they both awakened. McDougal stretched and led his mistress outside to a nearby stream to drink and for her to wash. Cragger stoked the fire and readied a meal. It would seem to an outsider that they had done this forever they looked to be so comfortable with the routine.
McDougal surprised them by catching three trout. He would pounce in the stream, his head disappearing under the water, and reappearing with a trout in his jaws that he would drop on the bank next to his mistress’s feet. She promptly set to cleaning the fish using a small blade that Cragger gave her to replace the crystal one he now had in his keeping.
Cragger had oats boiling over the fire and raised an eyebrow at their fortunate addition to their breakfast. “You caught these?” He asked as he took them from Mavelle’s hands to cook.
“Not me, McDougal.” She laughed when Cragger turned to stare at the dog who sat nearby wagging his tail.
“Handy creature, this giant of a hound.”
“You have no idea how handy he is. This one was trained for war from birth with the rest of his litter. Unfortunately, for my father’s trainer, McDougal prefers to be with me.” She threw her arms around the dog’s neck. “He’s my baby.”
“Then most certainly one of the fish is his.” Cragger tossed the largest fish to McDougal. “Here’s yours.”
The dog settled down and tore into his meal, his tail wagged the entire time. As soon as he finished, he walked over to Mavelle and gave her face a big slurp.
“Oh, icky fish breath! You crazy hound.” She hugged his neck for a minute. “Go lie down now.”
“Here” Cragger passed a plate to her. “We’ll need plenty of energy for what we have to do.”
They passed their meal in silence then, their thoughts filled with what was to come. The imagination is not a pretty thing sometimes.
Cragger crept forward through the thick undergrowth. Mavelle and McDougal followed close behind. Heavy vines, bushes loaded with thorns, and moss covered ground made the going slow. More than once Mavelle’s feet slipped out from under her and Cragger helped her to her feet. Their conversation limited to grunts and groans by the effort they put forth.
Before long, they had a view of Lovena and Sarah’s prison. Mavelle’s eyes swept over the heavy stone that kept her sisters prisoner.
“How will we ever get them out of there even when we kill the troll?”
“You forget, I’m a dwarf, and we dwarves have a way with stone.” He pointed to a thicket ahead of them. “We can take cover there until he appears.”
Mavelle pushed to her feet and continued. Once they reached the thicket, they used hand signals to position themselves. Cragger watched one direction while Mavelle watched the opposite.
McDougal growled. The rumble came from deep within his body. He raised his lips to show his teeth, and stared at a pile of rubble in front of them that began to move. In an instant Mavelle was helpless in a grip of stone. The last thing she saw was Cragger’s limp body flying through the air. The last thing she heard was McDougal’s howl of pain.
She heard her younger sister’s voice but her eyes refused to open.
“Mavelle? Mavelle, it’s me Lovena.”
“Oh, for pity’s sake. Quit it. I’m sick of hearing you calling her name.”
That voice could only be Sarah’s, Mavelle thought as she tried to move. A sharp pain sliced through her side. She moaned and opened her eyes only to have them stabbed with a bright light. She slammed them shut.
A cold cloth-covered her eyes and a gentle hand smoothed her hair. “You’re alive, dear sister. Rest now.”
Mavelle drifted off to sleep.
The voice grated through her veil of sleep like a farrier’s rasp. “We’ll never get out of here. She was our last hope.”
“Shut up, Sarah.” Mavelle sat up. “I wasn’t out there alone. I had help.” If Cragger and McDougal are still alive, that is. She didn’t dare voice that aloud.
Lovena ran to her side. “Are you okay?”
“Not for long if our rocky friend has anything to say about it,” said Sarah.
“Always the pessimist.” Mavelle tipped an imaginary hat to Sarah. “Lovena, what do we have?”
“I’ve made three slingshots exactly the way you taught me to do. Even though Sarah had no petticoats to spare for the job, I managed by using all of mine and part of yours. We have a fire pit and every scrap of wood I could find is stacked near it. I couldn’t get one started. I hope you have more skill. There’s no food, but we have water.”
Mavelle checked her boot and was pleased to find her knife was still safe inside its sheath. “At least the troll hadn’t the wits to search me. We have your slingshots and my knife. I wish this were the crystal knife though.” Her heart lurched in her chest. “Cragger! I hope he’s alive.”
Lovena sniffed. “Last night was cold. Tonight will be colder. Can you start a fire?”
“Yes, I have a flint in the handle of my knife.” Mavelle set to work lighting a fire. Before long, they had a crackling good one going.
Sarah stood close to the fire rubbing her hands together. “I thought I’d never be warm again.”
Mavelle and Lovena sat next to each other; Lovena rested her head on her sister’s shoulder and asked, “Will we get out of here?”
Sarah scoffed. “How can you be so sure of that?”
“Because as long as I have a breath in me, as long as my heart beats in my chest, I will try to get us home. Unlike you, dear sister.” Mavelle spat those last words out.