Rudyard Kipling’s “Her Majesty’s Servants”

You can work it out by Fractions or by simple Rule of Three,

But the way of Tweedle-dum is not the way of Tweedle-dee.

You can twist it, you can turn it, you can plait it till you drop,

But the way of Pilly Winky’s not the way of Winkie Pop!

It had been raining heavily for one whole month — raining on a camp of thirty thousand men and thousands of camels, elephants, horses, bullocks, and mules all gathered together at a place called Rawal Pindi, to be reviewed by the Viceroy of India. He was receiving a visit from the Amir of Afghanistan — a wild king of a very wild country. The Amir had brought with him for a bodyguard eight hundred men and horses who had never seen a camp or a locomotive before in their lives — savage men and savage horses from somewhere at the back of Central Asia. Every night a mob of these horses would be sure to break their heel ropes and stampede up and down the camp through the mud in the dark, or the camels would break loose and run about and fall over the ropes of the tents, and you can imagine how pleasant that was for men trying to go to sleep. My tent lay far away from the camel lines, and I thought it was safe. But one night a man popped his head in and shouted, “Get out, quick! They’re coming! My tent’s gone!”

I knew who “they” were, so I put on my boots and waterproof and scuttled out into the slush. Little Vixen, my fox terrier, went out through the other side; and then there was a roaring and a grunting and bubbling, and I saw the tent cave in, as the pole snapped, and begin to dance about like a mad ghost. A camel had blundered into it, and wet and angry as I was, I could not help laughing. Then I ran on, because I did not know how many camels might have got loose, and before long I was out of sight of the camp, plowing my way through the mud.

At last I fell over the tail-end of a gun, and by that knew I was somewhere near the artillery lines where the cannon were stacked at night. As I did not want to plowter about any more in the drizzle and the dark, I put my waterproof over the muzzle of one gun, and made a sort of wigwam with two or three rammers that I found, and lay along the tail of another gun, wondering where Vixen had got to, and where I might be.

Just as I was getting ready to go to sleep I heard a jingle of harness and a grunt, and a mule passed me shaking his wet ears. He belonged to a screw-gun battery, for I could hear the rattle of the straps and rings and chains and things on his saddle pad. The screw-guns are tiny little cannon made in two pieces, that are screwed together when the time comes to use them. They are taken up mountains, anywhere that a mule can find a road, and they are very useful for fighting in rocky country.

Behind the mule there was a camel, with his big soft feet squelching and slipping in the mud, and his neck bobbing to and fro like a strayed hen’s. Luckily, I knew enough of beast language — not wild-beast language, but camp-beast language, of course — from the natives to know what he was saying.

He must have been the one that flopped into my tent, for he called to the mule, “What shall I do? Where shall I go? I have fought with a white thing that waved, and it took a stick and hit me on the neck.” (That was my broken tent pole, and I was very glad to know it.) “Shall we run on?”

“Oh, it was you,” said the mule, “you and your friends, that have been disturbing the camp? All right. You’ll be beaten for this in the morning. But I may as well give you something on account now.”

I heard the harness jingle as the mule backed and caught the camel two kicks in the ribs that rang like a drum. “Another time,” he said, “you’ll know better than to run through a mule battery at night, shouting ‘Thieves and fire!’ Sit down, and keep your silly neck quiet.”

The camel doubled up camel-fashion, like a two-foot rule, and sat down whimpering. There was a regular beat of hoofs in the darkness, and a big troop-horse cantered up as steadily as though he were on parade, jumped a gun tail, and landed close to the mule.

“It’s disgraceful,” he said, blowing out his nostrils. “Those camels have racketed through our lines again — the third time this week. How’s a horse to keep his condition if he isn’t allowed to sleep. Who’s here?”

“I’m the breech-piece mule of number two gun of the First Screw Battery,” said the mule, “and the other’s one of your friends. He’s waked me up too. Who are you?”

“Number Fifteen, E troop, Ninth Lancers — Dick Cunliffe’s horse. Stand over a little, there.”

“Oh, beg your pardon,” said the mule. “It’s too dark to see much. Aren’t these camels too sickening for anything? I walked out of my lines to get a little peace and quiet here.”

“My lords,” said the camel humbly, “we dreamed bad dreams in the night, and we were very much afraid. I am only a baggage camel of the 39th Native Infantry, and I am not as brave as you are, my lords.”

“Then why didn’t you stay and carry baggage for the 39th Native Infantry, instead of running all round the camp?” said the mule.

“They were such very bad dreams,” said the camel. “I am sorry. Listen! What is that? Shall we run on again?”

“Sit down,” said the mule, “or you’ll snap your long stick-legs between the guns.” He cocked one ear and listened. “Bullocks!” he said. “Gun bullocks. On my word, you and your friends have waked the camp very thoroughly. It takes a good deal of prodding to put up a gun-bullock.”

I heard a chain dragging along the ground, and a yoke of the great sulky white bullocks that drag the heavy siege guns when the elephants won’t go any nearer to the firing, came shouldering along together. And almost stepping on the chain was another battery mule, calling wildly for “Billy.”

“That’s one of our recruits,” said the old mule to the troop horse. “He’s calling for me. Here, youngster, stop squealing. The dark never hurt anybody yet.”

The gun-bullocks lay down together and began chewing the cud, but the young mule huddled close to Billy.

“Things!” he said. “Fearful and horrible, Billy! They came into our lines while we were asleep. D’you think they’ll kill us?”

“I’ve a very great mind to give you a number-one kicking,” said Billy. “The idea of a fourteen-hand mule with your training disgracing the battery before this gentleman!”

“Gently, gently!” said the troop-horse. “Remember they are always like this to begin with. The first time I ever saw a man (it was in Australia when I was a three-year-old) I ran for half a day, and if I’d seen a camel, I should have been running still.”

Nearly all our horses for the English cavalry are brought to India from Australia, and are broken in by the troopers themselves.

“True enough,” said Billy. “Stop shaking, youngster. The first time they put the full harness with all its chains on my back I stood on my forelegs and kicked every bit of it off. I hadn’t learned the real science of kicking then, but the battery said they had never seen anything like it.”

“But this wasn’t harness or anything that jingled,” said the young mule. “You know I don’t mind that now, Billy. It was Things like trees, and they fell up and down the lines and bubbled; and my head-rope broke, and I couldn’t find my driver, and I couldn’t find you, Billy, so I ran off with — with these gentlemen.”

“H’m!” said Billy. “As soon as I heard the camels were loose I came away on my own account. When a battery — a screw-gun mule calls gun-bullocks gentlemen, he must be very badly shaken up. Who are you fellows on the ground there?”

The gun bullocks rolled their cuds, and answered both together: “The seventh yoke of the first gun of the Big Gun Battery. We were asleep when the camels came, but when we were trampled on we got up and walked away. It is better to lie quiet in the mud than to be disturbed on good bedding. We told your friend here that there was nothing to be afraid of, but he knew so much that he thought otherwise. Wah!”

They went on chewing.

“That comes of being afraid,” said Billy. “You get laughed at by gun-bullocks. I hope you like it, young un.”

The young mule’s teeth snapped, and I heard him say something about not being afraid of any beefy old bullock in the world. But the bullocks only clicked their horns together and went on chewing.

“Now, don’t be angry after you’ve been afraid. That’s the worst kind of cowardice,” said the troop-horse. “Anybody can be forgiven for being scared in the night, I think, if they see things they don’t understand. We’ve broken out of our pickets, again and again, four hundred and fifty of us, just because a new recruit got to telling tales of whip snakes at home in Australia till we were scared to death of the loose ends of our head-ropes.”

“That’s all very well in camp,” said Billy. “I’m not above stampeding myself, for the fun of the thing, when I haven’t been out for a day or two. But what do you do on active service?”

“Oh, that’s quite another set of new shoes,” said the troop horse. “Dick Cunliffe’s on my back then, and drives his knees into me, and all I have to do is to watch where I am putting my feet, and to keep my hind legs well under me, and be bridle-wise.”

“What’s bridle-wise?” said the young mule.

“By the Blue Gums of the Back Blocks,” snorted the troop-horse, “do you mean to say that you aren’t taught to be bridle-wise in your business? How can you do anything, unless you can spin round at once when the rein is pressed on your neck? It means life or death to your man, and of course that’s life and death to you. Get round with your hind legs under you the instant you feel the rein on your neck. If you haven’t room to swing round, rear up a little and come round on your hind legs. That’s being bridle-wise.”

“We aren’t taught that way,” said Billy the mule stiffly. “We’re taught to obey the man at our head: step off when he says so, and step in when he says so. I suppose it comes to the same thing. Now, with all this fine fancy business and rearing, which must be very bad for your hocks, what do you do?”

“That depends,” said the troop-horse. “Generally I have to go in among a lot of yelling, hairy men with knives — long shiny knives, worse than the farrier’s knives — and I have to take care that Dick’s boot is just touching the next man’s boot without crushing it. I can see Dick’s lance to the right of my right eye, and I know I’m safe. I shouldn’t care to be the man or horse that stood up to Dick and me when we’re in a hurry.”

“Don’t the knives hurt?” said the young mule.

“Well, I got one cut across the chest once, but that wasn’t Dick’s fault —”

“A lot I should have cared whose fault it was, if it hurt!” said the young mule.

“You must,” said the troop horse. “If you don’t trust your man, you may as well run away at once. That’s what some of our horses do, and I don’t blame them. As I was saying, it wasn’t Dick’s fault. The man was lying on the ground, and I stretched myself not to tread on him, and he slashed up at me. Next time I have to go over a man lying down I shall step on him — hard.”

“H’m!” said Billy. “It sounds very foolish. Knives are dirty things at any time. The proper thing to do is to climb up a mountain with a well-balanced saddle, hang on by all four feet and your ears too, and creep and crawl and wriggle along, till you come out hundreds of feet above anyone else on a ledge where there’s just room enough for your hoofs. Then you stand still and keep quiet — never ask a man to hold your head, young un-keep quiet while the guns are being put together, and then you watch the little poppy shells drop down into the tree-tops ever so far below.”

“Don’t you ever trip?” said the troop-horse.

“They say that when a mule trips you can split a hen’s ear,” said Billy. “Now and again perhaps a badly packed saddle will upset a mule, but it’s very seldom. I wish I could show you our business. It’s beautiful. Why, it took me three years to find out what the men were driving at. The science of the thing is never to show up against the sky line, because, if you do, you may get fired at. Remember that, young un. Always keep hidden as much as possible, even if you have to go a mile out of your way. I lead the battery when it comes to that sort of climbing.”

“Fired at without the chance of running into the people who are firing!” said the troop-horse, thinking hard. “I couldn’t stand that. I should want to charge — with Dick.”

“Oh, no, you wouldn’t. You know that as soon as the guns are in position they’ll do all the charging. That’s scientific and neat. But knives — pah!”

The baggage-camel had been bobbing his head to and fro for some time past, anxious to get a word in edgewise. Then I heard him say, as he cleared his throat, nervously:

“I— I— I have fought a little, but not in that climbing way or that running way.”

“No. Now you mention it,” said Billy, “you don’t look as though you were made for climbing or running — much. Well, how was it, old Hay-bales?”

“The proper way,” said the camel. “We all sat down —”

“Oh, my crupper and breastplate!” said the troop-horse under his breath. “Sat down!”

“We sat down — a hundred of us,” the camel went on, “in a big square, and the men piled our packs and saddles, outside the square, and they fired over our backs, the men did, on all sides of the square.”

“What sort of men? Any men that came along?” said the troop-horse. “They teach us in riding school to lie down and let our masters fire across us, but Dick Cunliffe is the only man I’d trust to do that. It tickles my girths, and, besides, I can’t see with my head on the ground.”

“What does it matter who fires across you?” said the camel. “There are plenty of men and plenty of other camels close by, and a great many clouds of smoke. I am not frightened then. I sit still and wait.”

“And yet,” said Billy, “you dream bad dreams and upset the camp at night. Well, well! Before I’d lie down, not to speak of sitting down, and let a man fire across me, my heels and his head would have something to say to each other. Did you ever hear anything so awful as that?”

There was a long silence, and then one of the gun bullocks lifted up his big head and said, “This is very foolish indeed. There is only one way of fighting.”

“Oh, go on,” said Billy. “Please don’t mind me. I suppose you fellows fight standing on your tails?”

“Only one way,” said the two together. (They must have been twins.) “This is that way. To put all twenty yoke of us to the big gun as soon as Two Tails trumpets.” (“Two Tails” is camp slang for the elephant.)

“What does Two Tails trumpet for?” said the young mule.

“To show that he is not going any nearer to the smoke on the other side. Two Tails is a great coward. Then we tug the big gun all together — Heya — Hullah! Heeyah! Hullah! We do not climb like cats nor run like calves. We go across the level plain, twenty yoke of us, till we are unyoked again, and we graze while the big guns talk across the plain to some town with mud walls, and pieces of the wall fall out, and the dust goes up as though many cattle were coming home.”

“Oh! And you choose that time for grazing?” said the young mule.

“That time or any other. Eating is always good. We eat till we are yoked up again and tug the gun back to where Two Tails is waiting for it. Sometimes there are big guns in the city that speak back, and some of us are killed, and then there is all the more grazing for those that are left. This is Fate. None the less, Two Tails is a great coward. That is the proper way to fight. We are brothers from Hapur. Our father was a sacred bull of Shiva. We have spoken.”

“Well, I’ve certainly learned something tonight,” said the troop-horse. “Do you gentlemen of the screw-gun battery feel inclined to eat when you are being fired at with big guns, and Two Tails is behind you?”

“About as much as we feel inclined to sit down and let men sprawl all over us, or run into people with knives. I never heard such stuff. A mountain ledge, a well-balanced load, a driver you can trust to let you pick your own way, and I’m your mule. But — the other things — no!” said Billy, with a stamp of his foot.

“Of course,” said the troop horse, “everyone is not made in the same way, and I can quite see that your family, on your father’s side, would fail to understand a great many things.”

“Never you mind my family on my father’s side,” said Billy angrily, for every mule hates to be reminded that his father was a donkey. “My father was a Southern gentleman, and he could pull down and bite and kick into rags every horse he came across. Remember that, you big brown Brumby!”

Brumby means wild horse without any breeding. Imagine the feelings of Sunol if a car-horse called her a “skate,” and you can imagine how the Australian horse felt. I saw the white of his eye glitter in the dark.

“See here, you son of an imported Malaga jackass,” he said between his teeth, “I’d have you know that I’m related on my mother’s side to Carbine, winner of the Melbourne Cup, and where I come from we aren’t accustomed to being ridden over roughshod by any parrot-mouthed, pig-headed mule in a pop-gun pea-shooter battery. Are you ready?”

“On your hind legs!” squealed Billy. They both reared up facing each other, and I was expecting a furious fight, when a gurgly, rumbly voice, called out of the darkness to the right —“Children, what are you fighting about there? Be quiet.”

Both beasts dropped down with a snort of disgust, for neither horse nor mule can bear to listen to an elephant’s voice.

“It’s Two Tails!” said the troop-horse. “I can’t stand him. A tail at each end isn’t fair!”

“My feelings exactly,” said Billy, crowding into the troop-horse for company. “We’re very alike in some things.”

“I suppose we’ve inherited them from our mothers,” said the troop horse. “It’s not worth quarreling about. Hi! Two Tails, are you tied up?”

“Yes,” said Two Tails, with a laugh all up his trunk. “I’m picketed for the night. I’ve heard what you fellows have been saying. But don’t be afraid. I’m not coming over.”

The bullocks and the camel said, half aloud, “Afraid of Two Tails — what nonsense!” And the bullocks went on, “We are sorry that you heard, but it is true. Two Tails, why are you afraid of the guns when they fire?”

“Well,” said Two Tails, rubbing one hind leg against the other, exactly like a little boy saying a poem, “I don’t quite know whether you’d understand.”

“We don’t, but we have to pull the guns,” said the bullocks.

“I know it, and I know you are a good deal braver than you think you are. But it’s different with me. My battery captain called me a Pachydermatous Anachronism the other day.”

“That’s another way of fighting, I suppose?” said Billy, who was recovering his spirits.

“You don’t know what that means, of course, but I do. It means betwixt and between, and that is just where I am. I can see inside my head what will happen when a shell bursts, and you bullocks can’t.”

“I can,” said the troop-horse. “At least a little bit. I try not to think about it.”

“I can see more than you, and I do think about it. I know there’s a great deal of me to take care of, and I know that nobody knows how to cure me when I’m sick. All they can do is to stop my driver’s pay till I get well, and I can’t trust my driver.”

“Ah!” said the troop horse. “That explains it. I can trust Dick.”

“You could put a whole regiment of Dicks on my back without making me feel any better. I know just enough to be uncomfortable, and not enough to go on in spite of it.”

“We do not understand,” said the bullocks.

“I know you don’t. I’m not talking to you. You don’t know what blood is.”

“We do,” said the bullocks. “It is red stuff that soaks into the ground and smells.”

The troop-horse gave a kick and a bound and a snort.

“Don’t talk of it,” he said. “I can smell it now, just thinking of it. It makes me want to run — when I haven’t Dick on my back.”

“But it is not here,” said the camel and the bullocks. “Why are you so stupid?”

“It’s vile stuff,” said Billy. “I don’t want to run, but I don’t want to talk about it.”

“There you are!” said Two Tails, waving his tail to explain.

“Surely. Yes, we have been here all night,” said the bullocks.

Two Tails stamped his foot till the iron ring on it jingled. “Oh, I’m not talking to you. You can’t see inside your heads.”

“No. We see out of our four eyes,” said the bullocks. “We see straight in front of us.”

“If I could do that and nothing else, you wouldn’t be needed to pull the big guns at all. If I was like my captain — he can see things inside his head before the firing begins, and he shakes all over, but he knows too much to run away — if I was like him I could pull the guns. But if I were as wise as all that I should never be here. I should be a king in the forest, as I used to be, sleeping half the day and bathing when I liked. I haven’t had a good bath for a month.”

“That’s all very fine,” said Billy. “But giving a thing a long name doesn’t make it any better.”

“H’sh!” said the troop horse. “I think I understand what Two Tails means.”

“You’ll understand better in a minute,” said Two Tails angrily. “Now you just explain to me why you don’t like this!”

He began trumpeting furiously at the top of his trumpet.

“Stop that!” said Billy and the troop horse together, and I could hear them stamp and shiver. An elephant’s trumpeting is always nasty, especially on a dark night.

“I shan’t stop,” said Two Tails. “Won’t you explain that, please? Hhrrmph! Rrrt! Rrrmph! Rrrhha!” Then he stopped suddenly, and I heard a little whimper in the dark, and knew that Vixen had found me at last. She knew as well as I did that if there is one thing in the world the elephant is more afraid of than another it is a little barking dog. So she stopped to bully Two Tails in his pickets, and yapped round his big feet. Two Tails shuffled and squeaked. “Go away, little dog!” he said. “Don’t snuff at my ankles, or I’ll kick at you. Good little dog — nice little doggie, then! Go home, you yelping little beast! Oh, why doesn’t someone take her away? She’ll bite me in a minute.”

“Seems to me,” said Billy to the troop horse, “that our friend Two Tails is afraid of most things. Now, if I had a full meal for every dog I’ve kicked across the parade-ground I should be as fat as Two Tails nearly.”

I whistled, and Vixen ran up to me, muddy all over, and licked my nose, and told me a long tale about hunting for me all through the camp. I never let her know that I understood beast talk, or she would have taken all sorts of liberties. So I buttoned her into the breast of my overcoat, and Two Tails shuffled and stamped and growled to himself.

“Extraordinary! Most extraordinary!” he said. “It runs in our family. Now, where has that nasty little beast gone to?”

I heard him feeling about with his trunk.

“We all seem to be affected in various ways,” he went on, blowing his nose. “Now, you gentlemen were alarmed, I believe, when I trumpeted.”

“Not alarmed, exactly,” said the troop-horse, “but it made me feel as though I had hornets where my saddle ought to be. Don’t begin again.”

“I’m frightened of a little dog, and the camel here is frightened by bad dreams in the night.”

“It is very lucky for us that we haven’t all got to fight in the same way,” said the troop-horse.

“What I want to know,” said the young mule, who had been quiet for a long time —“what I want to know is, why we have to fight at all.”

“Because we’re told to,” said the troop-horse, with a snort of contempt.

“Orders,” said Billy the mule, and his teeth snapped.

“Hukm hai!” (It is an order!), said the camel with a gurgle, and Two Tails and the bullocks repeated, “Hukm hai!”

“Yes, but who gives the orders?” said the recruit-mule.

“The man who walks at your head — Or sits on your back — Or holds the nose rope — Or twists your tail,” said Billy and the troop-horse and the camel and the bullocks one after the other.

“But who gives them the orders?”

“Now you want to know too much, young un,” said Billy, “and that is one way of getting kicked. All you have to do is to obey the man at your head and ask no questions.”

“He’s quite right,” said Two Tails. “I can’t always obey, because I’m betwixt and between. But Billy’s right. Obey the man next to you who gives the order, or you’ll stop all the battery, besides getting a thrashing.”

The gun-bullocks got up to go. “Morning is coming,” they said. “We will go back to our lines. It is true that we only see out of our eyes, and we are not very clever. But still, we are the only people to-night who have not been afraid. Good-night, you brave people.”

Nobody answered, and the troop-horse said, to change the conversation, “Where’s that little dog? A dog means a man somewhere about.”

“Here I am,” yapped Vixen, “under the gun tail with my man. You big, blundering beast of a camel you, you upset our tent. My man’s very angry.”

“Phew!” said the bullocks. “He must be white!”

“Of course he is,” said Vixen. “Do you suppose I’m looked after by a black bullock-driver?”

“Huah! Ouach! Ugh!” said the bullocks. “Let us get away quickly.”

They plunged forward in the mud, and managed somehow to run their yoke on the pole of an ammunition wagon, where it jammed.

“Now you have done it,” said Billy calmly. “Don’t struggle. You’re hung up till daylight. What on earth’s the matter?”

The bullocks went off into the long hissing snorts that Indian cattle give, and pushed and crowded and slued and stamped and slipped and nearly fell down in the mud, grunting savagely.

“You’ll break your necks in a minute,” said the troop-horse. “What’s the matter with white men? I live with ’em.”

“They — eat — us! Pull!” said the near bullock. The yoke snapped with a twang, and they lumbered off together.

I never knew before what made Indian cattle so scared of Englishmen. We eat beef — a thing that no cattle-driver touches — and of course the cattle do not like it.

“May I be flogged with my own pad-chains! Who’d have thought of two big lumps like those losing their heads?” said Billy.

“Never mind. I’m going to look at this man. Most of the white men, I know, have things in their pockets,” said the troop-horse.

“I’ll leave you, then. I can’t say I’m over-fond of ’em myself. Besides, white men who haven’t a place to sleep in are more than likely to be thieves, and I’ve a good deal of Government property on my back. Come along, young un, and we’ll go back to our lines. Good-night, Australia! See you on parade tomorrow, I suppose. Good-night, old Hay-bale! — try to control your feelings, won’t you? Good-night, Two Tails! If you pass us on the ground tomorrow, don’t trumpet. It spoils our formation.”

Billy the Mule stumped off with the swaggering limp of an old campaigner, as the troop-horse’s head came nuzzling into my breast, and I gave him biscuits, while Vixen, who is a most conceited little dog, told him fibs about the scores of horses that she and I kept.

“I’m coming to the parade tomorrow in my dog-cart,” she said. “Where will you be?”

“On the left hand of the second squadron. I set the time for all my troop, little lady,” he said politely. “Now I must go back to Dick. My tail’s all muddy, and he’ll have two hours’ hard work dressing me for parade.”

The big parade of all the thirty thousand men was held that afternoon, and Vixen and I had a good place close to the Viceroy and the Amir of Afghanistan, with high, big black hat of astrakhan wool and the great diamond star in the center. The first part of the review was all sunshine, and the regiments went by in wave upon wave of legs all moving together, and guns all in a line, till our eyes grew dizzy. Then the cavalry came up, to the beautiful cavalry canter of “Bonnie Dundee,” and Vixen cocked her ear where she sat on the dog-cart. The second squadron of the Lancers shot by, and there was the troop-horse, with his tail like spun silk, his head pulled into his breast, one ear forward and one back, setting the time for all his squadron, his legs going as smoothly as waltz music. Then the big guns came by, and I saw Two Tails and two other elephants harnessed in line to a forty-pounder siege gun, while twenty yoke of oxen walked behind. The seventh pair had a new yoke, and they looked rather stiff and tired. Last came the screw guns, and Billy the mule carried himself as though he commanded all the troops, and his harness was oiled and polished till it winked. I gave a cheer all by myself for Billy the mule, but he never looked right or left.

The rain began to fall again, and for a while it was too misty to see what the troops were doing. They had made a big half circle across the plain, and were spreading out into a line. That line grew and grew and grew till it was three-quarters of a mile long from wing to wing — one solid wall of men, horses, and guns. Then it came on straight toward the Viceroy and the Amir, and as it got nearer the ground began to shake, like the deck of a steamer when the engines are going fast.

Unless you have been there you cannot imagine what a frightening effect this steady come-down of troops has on the spectators, even when they know it is only a review. I looked at the Amir. Up till then he had not shown the shadow of a sign of astonishment or anything else. But now his eyes began to get bigger and bigger, and he picked up the reins on his horse’s neck and looked behind him. For a minute it seemed as though he were going to draw his sword and slash his way out through the English men and women in the carriages at the back. Then the advance stopped dead, the ground stood still, the whole line saluted, and thirty bands began to play all together. That was the end of the review, and the regiments went off to their camps in the rain, and an infantry band struck up with —

The animals went in two by two,

Hurrah!

The animals went in two by two,

The elephant and the battery mul’,

and they all got into the Ark

For to get out of the rain!

Then I heard an old grizzled, long-haired Central Asian chief, who had come down with the Amir, asking questions of a native officer.

“Now,” said he, “in what manner was this wonderful thing done?”

And the officer answered, “An order was given, and they obeyed.”

“But are the beasts as wise as the men?” said the chief.

“They obey, as the men do. Mule, horse, elephant, or bullock, he obeys his driver, and the driver his sergeant, and the sergeant his lieutenant, and the lieutenant his captain, and the captain his major, and the major his colonel, and the colonel his brigadier commanding three regiments, and the brigadier the general, who obeys the Viceroy, who is the servant of the Empress. Thus it is done.”

“Would it were so in Afghanistan!” said the chief, “for there we obey only our own wills.”

“And for that reason,” said the native officer, twirling his mustache, “your Amir whom you do not obey must come here and take orders from our Viceroy.”

 

I’ve gotten really lucky with the days I post things on this year! I’m posting this in honor of Rudyard Kipling’s birthday (which was yesterday, December 30th)! I’ll be posting something special for Jacob Grimm on January 3rd (his birthday’s on the 4th). For new fairy tales, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year 2015

Well, folks, a new year is once again upon us. This year wasn’t too bad for me, but I hope next year will be even better for all of us!

I’m getting ready for the launch party of my second book, The Prince of Prophecy Vol. II: Cursed, which will be held on Saturday (January 3rd). I just received the books for the party today—I feel like I really cut it close with that—and now everything’s ready to go! I’m super excited about this launch, and I can’t wait for people to read this second book—it’s really action packed and full of surprises!

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I’ve already begun working on my second book series (it’s a sci-fi/fantasy/adventure series), but I do plan to take some time this month to catch up on some long neglected video games that have been collected dust on my shelf for two years while I was writing the Prince of Prophecy series. I’ve got to work in as much fun as I can before I start school again in February!

I’m going to be opening up Etsy and Cafepress shops soon for cool Prince of Prophecy merchandise. I might even get back into sewing and crafting if I have time during the next year. However, I know that 2015 is going to be really busy. I’ll be releasing my third book in the Prince of Prophecy series in June of 2015, and the fourth book in December of 2015—so yeah, my plate’s super full.

Anyway, I hope you all have a wonderful and prosperous new year, and I thank you all for following my blog! A fairy tale post is coming up next, so stay tuned! ❤

 

For new fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

“Cursed” is available for purchase!!!!

Cursed eBook cover

Sorry this post is a little late, but I’ve had a very busy day. Yesterday (on the 27th) my second book, The Prince of Prophecy Vol. II: Cursed, was released in paperback format–the eBook has been available since late November. You can purchase the book at the following links (as usual, my publishing site, Nautilus Press, will have the best deal for you):

Amazon

Createspace

Nautilus Press

There will be more links to come in the weeks to follow! Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on this action packed sequel–things get really exciting and there’re fun new characters to get to know!

Cursed Blurb:

Months after his encounter with the Snow Queen, Destan finds himself longing for adventure once more. Word has spread about his triumph over Queen Isole, and everyone is calling him a hero—a wonderful achievement if only Destan believed that too. With the pressure of the crown looming closer with each and every day, Destan wonders what it would be like to cast aside his royal life and pursue the adventures that he longs for. Perhaps then he could prove to himself that he is truly a hero worthy of recognition.

When his devious cousin returns with an olive branch and a new court magician, Destan’s dream of a different life becomes a reality. However, like most magic, his wish comes at a precious price.

In this frightening new world filled with suave mercenaries, obsessive witches, and blood-thirsty ogres, he can’t be sure who he can trust—not even the people he used to call friends. Destan realises—a little too late—that he should have been more careful about what he wished for.

On a separate note, I’m returning to my regular schedule (fairy tales, poems, classic literature, and Writer’s Corner stuff) on Wednesday, December 31st! I hope you all enjoyed The Prince of Prophecy’s Christmas Carol–I think it was a fun little detour from the usual. I can’t wait for all the good things that I’m sure 2015 will bring, and I wish you all a very prosperous new year!

For new fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

The Prince of Prophecy’s Christmas Carol: PART 3 (FINALE)

the prince of prophecy contest version

Ding-dong!

Destan’s eyes shot open and he found that he was laying, not in his soft, warm bed, but on the cold, hard ground. He wasn’t even in his room! He was outside in what looked like the palace gardens.

Ding-dong!

Mist like rain fell from the cloudy, grey sky above, covering his robe in a coat of glistening beads. What was he doing out here? Had he sleep walked? Where was that chiming coming from? There was certainly no clock out here, and it sounded too close to be from the church bells in Gründorf.

Ding-dong!

Destan wiped the moisture from his face, slowly sat up, and nearly jumped out of his skin at the sight before him. There was a figure in a black coat standing before him. The figure was wearing a hood that hid its face from Destan’s view—he was not sure if he was glad for it or not.

The prince got to his feet, not daring to take his eyes off the intimidating figure. “You must be the final spirit, right?”

The figure gave one slow nod in response.

“Then I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come?”

The phantom nodded gravely once more. It then gave an exaggerated sigh and removed its hood to reveal the face of a striking young man with short, perfectly disheveled raven hair and brilliant blue eyes that glimmered with an amusement that was inappropriate given the solemn circumstances and setting. The man looked to be no older than twenty and had meticulously groomed facial hair. Now that his hood was down, he didn’t look nearly as intimidating as he had before.

“Yep! That’d be me, laddy!” the spirit said cheerily, with an accent that Destan thought he recognized as Scottish. “And who might you be?”

Destan raised a brow. “Um … pardon me, but aren’t you supposed to know that. The other spirits did.”

The ghost smirked. “Humor me.”

“My name is Destan—”

“Nope! Don’t like it. I’m going to call you Blondie,” the spirit interrupted with a bright smile. He set his hands on his hips and looked around, whistling lowly. “Would you look at this sight? It’s bloody depressing! Your future looks really bleak, Blondie.”

Destan’s eyes widened, his gaze darting around the frostbitten palace gardens. “This is my future?”

“It would seem so,” the ghost nodded.

The prince studied the man for a moment longer, furrowing his brow. “Hold on. I don’t know you…”

“So? I don’t know you either. What’s that got to do with anything?”

“The other spirits that I met I at least vaguely recognized, but I’m quite certain I’ve never seen your face before,” Destan explained.

The ghost shrugged, moving closer and gently elbowing him in the side. “Then perhaps I’m someone you haven’t met yet, laddy. I am the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, after all. Speaking of, let’s have a look around your future, shall we?” He shivered and rubbed his arms. “Let’s go inside first, yeah? I’m freezing my arse off out here, and this rain is going to make my hair all poofy.”

The ghost hurried towards the castle as thunder sounded in the distance. Destan followed after him, still trying to make sense of the strange spirit. “When I first saw you, I thought you’d be … different.”

The ghost airily waved his hand, not bothering to look back. “What? You expected me to be all silent and brooding? I know I’m supposed to keep my mouth shut and point ominously at grave stones, but after 1800 years of that rubbish, it’s become ‘old hat’, if you know what I mean. A ghost needs a bit of conversation every once in a while! Now hurry up, Blondie! Time is of the essence, and your future is hanging in the balance, and blah, blah, blah!”

Destan pulled his robe more tightly around himself—his short legs struggling to keep up with the quick spirit. All I want for Christmas is a ten more centimetres… he thought glumly to himself as he and the ghost traipsed up the terrace steps and entered Rosenstaat Palace.

The palace hallways were dark and silent. No colourful decorations hung on the walls, and there were no servants merrily humming Christmas carols as they went about their work. Was the palace abandoned?

Destan brushed a damp tendril of golden blonde hair out of his face as he turned his head this way and that. “Are you sure you’ve brought me to the right time, spirit?”

“Of course, I’m sure,” the ghost scoffed indignantly, crossing his arms over his chest. “This is your future.”

“I don’t doubt that—I just wonder if you’re brought me to the right time of year. I see no decorations.”

“You banned them,” the spirit replied, smiling pleasantly once more. “Once you became King, you decreed that Christmas shall no longer be celebrated in the kingdom of Rosenstaat.”

Destan blinked hard, taken aback by what he’d just heard. “No… That can’t be right. I may not like Christmas, but I would never take it from someone else.”

“Ah, but you did,” the ghost said flinging his arms out wide. “Just look around you, Blondie! Not a Christmas wreath, or sprig of mistletoe, or fruitcake in sight—though I’m sure no one will miss the latter. I always hated fruit cake…”

Destan shook his head vigorously, stumbling back a couple of steps. “No, no! This isn’t want I wanted! I just didn’t want to have to suffer through this holiday.”

“Mission accomplished, I say!” the spirit cried merrily. “You banned Christmas from the kingdom and now you—along with everyone else—don’t have to ‘suffer’ through it.”

Destan gaze trailed down to his slippers. “How could I do something so dreadful?”

“You let your misery consume you,” the ghost said, flicking his raven hair out of his face. “You let it eat away at you every December until it eventually took hold of your heart. You let it take over and it made you cold. You stopped caring about what your people needed, and you focused on your own selfish desires.”

Destan’s heart thudded painfully in his chest. “N-no. You’re lying! This can’t be my future!”

The spirit smirked, though his expression lacked malice. He grabbed hold of the prince’s arm, chuckling softly. “Don’t you let that pure heart of yours break just yet, Blondie. I haven’t even shown you the best part!” he said, forcefully tugging him down the hall.

Destan got the distinct impression that by ‘best part’ the ghost wasn’t talking about something nice. The ghost led him through the palace, past miserable looking servants and staff, and eventually they found their way to the resident wing. Destan tried to tug his arm out of the spirit’s grasp, but he was too strong. The prince felt the blood drain from his face as they approached the king’s chambers.

“Please! I’ve seen enough! I don’t want to know any more!” Destan cried desperately.

The Ghost turned his head, giving him a crooked grin. “Sorry, Blondie. You haven’t seen enough yet.”

“I’ll change!”

“Maybe, maybe not. I guess we’ll see after this, ey?” The spirit winked before throwing him through the door and into the king’s chambers.

Just as before, Destan sunk right through the wood as if he too were merely an apparition. He caught himself before he could fall to the ground and quickly composed himself. The room was dark and the drapes were drawn. The only light in the large room came from the dying flames in the fireplace. At the back of the room, beside the balcony doors, sat man in a dressing robe hunched over a desk. His left elbow rested on the surface of the desk whilst the finger of his left hand curled into his mess of short, golden coloured hair. He didn’t move, or sigh, or anything to signal that he was even awake.

Destan cautiously made his way over to the desk and leaned forward to look upon the man’s face. He looked familiar—he looked like Klaus. But, unlike Klaus, there was no vibrancy in his features. His blue eyes were dim and stared listlessly down at the desk, his long dark lashes nearly shielding his irises from Destan’s view.

The spirit leant over on the opposite side of the man, leaning his cheek against his fist. He pursed his lips. “You’re a fetching one, you are. Too bad that frown ruins it—you’re going to get premature wrinkles.”

Destan’s lips parted slightly as he stared at his older self. “He’s me? I look so…”

“Brooding? Dark? Mysterious?” the spirit offered.

The prince shook his head, his eyes never straying from his future self. “Sad… I look so sad.”

The spirit hissed in a breath through his teeth. “Right. About that…”

The bedroom door burst open and Destan jumped in surprise, though his older self didn’t even flinch. A beautiful, but furious looking woman stormed into the room, her light brown eyes absolutely livid. She paused just behind older Destan’s seat, took a deep breath through her nose, and haughtily pushed his wavy, dark blonde hair over her shoulder.

“I’ve been patient with you, Destan. I’ve endured this stupid, sulky behaviour for fourteen years, and for what?” the woman demanded, straightening out her satin gown. “We don’t have any children, this kingdom is the laughing-stock of Germany, and on top of everything else I’m absolutely miserable! It’s Christmas Eve, Destan! I deserve a little bit of happiness after having to deal with you for all these years. I don’t care what you say, I’m celebrating the holiday this year!”

The man shut his eyes releasing a tired sigh. “Not in this kingdom, Klara.”

Destan cringed. That’s Klara? So I do have to marry her after all… he thought glumly to himself.

“Fine! I’ll go to Östlichwald for Christmas and I’ll stay there.” The prince saw that her eyes were filled with tears despite her sharp word. “I thought marrying you would make me happy. There was a time when you were sweet—if not a bit blunt sometimes. But now … there’s no life in you, Destan.” She crept towards him and cautiously placed her hands on his shoulders. “Please stop this. Lift the ban on Christmas and celebrate it with me. At least pretend that we’re happily married, even if it’s just for a day.”

The king was quiet for a long moment, his solemn expression unchanging. “Go to Östlichwald,” he said coolly. “Leave me if that’s what you want. I don’t need you—I don’t need anyone. The ban on this blasted holiday will stay in place, and if you don’t like it, then go somewhere else.”

Klara’s pretty features hardened as a tear slid down her cheek. She removed her hands from his shoulders and backed away. “I wasted my youth on you. I wasted my time thinking that you would change—that your heart would soften with time, but it hasn’t. You’ve become so … cruel. I was a fool to think that you would ever care about me. You don’t care for anyone—not even yourself.” She took a deep breath and lifted her chin. “Goodbye, Destan. I hope you find loneliness to your liking.”

The king scowled, gripping his hair. “Loneliness would be much better than having to listen to you whine and complain for the rest of my days. Go on, then—leave.”

Klara’s red lips parted as if she were going to say something in retort. However, seeming to think better of it, she shut her mouth just as the tears began to stream from her eyes. She turned on her heel and hurried out of the room, slamming the door and leaving the scent of jasmine and ambergris behind her.

Destan gritted his teeth and took a step away from the man who was supposed to be himself. He narrowed his eyes at the king, the heat of anger bubbling up inside of him like lava in a volcano. “How could you say that to her?” he shouted, wanting his older counterpart to hear him. “How could you be so mean? How could you destroy everyone else’s happiness because of your own grief? How—how could you…?”

The king shut his eyes tightly once more, swallowing as a single tear rolled down his cheek. The spirit leaned casually against the wall beside the desk, examining his fingernails. “Don’t you mean, ‘how could I’?” the ghost asked.

“That’s not me!” Destan protested, pointing an accusing finger at the king. “I would never say or do the things that this wretched man has!”

“Perhaps you wouldn’t as you are now,” the spirit said calmly. “But this man—this you—shut his heart to love.”

Destan braced himself on a chair, feeling light-headed all of a sudden. He feared he already knew the answer to his next question, but he had to ask. “Wh-where are my friends? Where are Hansel, Gretel, Evie, Finn, Wilhelm, and Jacob?”

The spirit’s bright blue eyes flickered towards Destan. “They’ve all left you. They’ve cut you out of their lives. Can’t say that I blame them—I mean, just look at him! Who’d want to be around a sad sack like him, anyway?” the ghost asked, motioning towards the broken king.

Destan slowly shook his head. “Is this future set in stone, spirit? Is there nothing I can do to change this terrible fate? Tell me what I must do!”

The spirit chuckled lowly and pulled up his hood. “That is not for me to tell, Blondie.” The ghost pushed himself from the wall and sauntered toward Destan, offering his hand. “Come on, laddy. We’ve still got one more stop to make.”

“No more!” Destan said swiping the spirit’s hand away. “I want to go home!”

“I can do that, but then you wouldn’t learn,” the spirit said, holding out his hand more insistently. “If you’re content with this future, I’ll gladly take you home. But if you want to change this, you have to see one more thing. So what’s it going to be?”

Destan’s gaze darted between the ghost’s hand and the shadowy face that hid beneath the spirit’s hood. He was grinning again, but Destan could not tell if it was sinister or friendly this time. After a long moment of weight his options, Destan hesitantly reached out and grasped the spirit’s hand. I don’t want this future. I … I want to change.

The room around them began to swirl and blur into incomprehensible shapes and multitudes of colours. When the swirling finally stopped and the world came back into focus, Destan saw that they were standing in the palace gardens yet again. However, this time, the gardens were covered in a fresh layer of snow and pretty, white flakes drifted down from the heavens above. Destan turned his face up towards the sky, feeling icy snow flakes land upon his cheeks.

“How can this be?” Destan whispered, not wanting to disturb the silence that surrounded them. “I banned Queen Isole from Rosenstaat.”

The spirit shrugged. “I guess there was no grandfather clause in your agreement.”

“Huh?”

The ghost nodded his head to the stone path in front of them. “You’ll see. Come on.”

As the spirit started off down the path, Destan hurried after him, his slippers crunching in the freshly fallen snow. All was quiet between them as the spirit led Destan up the path and into a familiar rose garden. The plants were an ugly, dead brown, and there was not a single white bloom in sight. This wasn’t right. His mother’s rose garden always thrived, even during the harsh winters that Rosenstaat used to have.

That’s when he noticed the stone casket. It was covered in a thin layer of snow and the area around the casket didn’t appear as if many people had been to visit—there were only two sets of footprints, not including his and the spirit’s. A single pink rose, tied with a white ribbon sat atop the casket. It looked fresh as if someone had only just been there to drop it off. Other than the rose, there appeared to be no other signs of memorialization.

Destan reached out with a shaking hand and set it atop the tomb. “Is this…” his voice trailed off, as if the rest of his question was carried away in the gentle but icy breeze.

The ghost nodded gravely. “Aye, lad. This is yours.”

Destan shut his eyes, finding it difficult to swallow the cold lump in his throat. “When did it happen?”

“Earlier this morning,” said the spirit.

The prince’s heart sank into his stomach. If that was the case, then his funeral must not have been very large, for there were only two sets of tracks leading to and from this place. He gingerly picked up the rose and examined it carefully, wondering who had been kind enough to pay tribute to such a horrid wretch like himself.

“So this is my fate? I am to die alone with only one kind person to pity me?” Destan asked, his voice as brittle as the snowflakes that fell from the sky.

The spirit didn’t reply this time, much to Destan’s dismay. The prince shut his eyes tightly before any of his tears could fall. His chest ached with some horrid pain, the likes of which cannot adequately be expressed in words. He gripped the rose tightly in his hands, feeling its thorns digging into his palm. I die alone, unwanted, and unloved … I have no one but myself to blame. I shut love out of my heart and this is the price that I will have to pay, he thought, his face contorting with agony.

His body began to tremble—and it had nothing to do with the icy air. The cold that chilled him now, came from within his very being. It was a cold that no blanket could ward off, and no fire could warm.

He spun around to face the ghost, his eyes wet with unshed tears. “You said that I could change this. You said that this didn’t have to be my fate.”

“I did,” the spirit replied easily.

“Then tell me what I must do to change it! Please! I’m begging you!

The ghost clasped his hands in front of him, silent once more.

The prince could no longer hold back his emotions. He felt warm tears roll down his cold-bitten cheeks as he fell to his knees in front of the ghost. “Don’t resign me to this fate… Tell me what I must do!”

Still the spirit said nothing, only staring down at him from beneath his black hood.

Destan wiped his tears away with the back of his sleeve, though they continued to spill from his eyes. “I will keep Christmas in my heart, and I will cherish my friends and family always. I swear I will not let my grief destroy me. But I ask you now, please, do not let this terrible fate befall the people of this kingdom. If it is in your power to change my future, then do it—not for my sake, but for the sake of this kingdom and the people who I love!”

The spirit laughed humorlessly. “Your fate was never in my hands, lad. It is not in the hands of any of the spirits you met tonight.”

Destan stared up at the spirit, his eyes wide and unblinking. “Then it’s … in mine? Is that what you’re saying?”

The ghost nodded and removed his hood once more to give Destan a broad smile. “It’s always been up to you, Blondie. Life is what you make it—so make it great.” He winked, and the world began to swirl once more.

The next thing he knew, Destan was tumbling down, down, down, into a swirling abyss of dark shapes and shades of grey. Although, strangely, he wasn’t frightened. He felt as if the chains of guilt and sorrow that had weighed him down for so many years had finally lifted. He was free.

He leaned back into the fall and shut his eyes, a relaxed smile spreading across his face. His heart was open, and he was finally ready to let love in and shut misery out. He was in control of his future, and he was going to make certain that it was changed for the better.

 

***************

 

Destan awoke to the sound of birds chirping and sunlight streaming through the parts in his bed drapes. He sat up and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. Before he had the chance to form any comprehensible thoughts, he heard the sound of his door opening and footsteps. His bed drapes were then pushed aside to reveal Florian.

The advisor raised a brow, studying the prince carefully. “Good morning, your highness. I didn’t expect you to be up already…”

Destan smiled sleepily and brushed his hair out of his face. “I just woke up. Normally I would go right back to sleep on a day like this—wait! What day is it?” he asked, worry clenching his stomach.

Florian’s stared at him for a long moment, appearing unsure if his charge was joking or not. “It’s Christmas Eve, your highness. Surely you knew that.”

Destan beamed and hopped out of bed, hugging Florian tightly, much to the advisor’s surprise. “I haven’t missed it! I still have time to make things right!” he cried, pulling away from the advisor and hurrying to the wardrobe to collect some clothes. “Please tell the stable hand to ready my horse and two carriages.”

“Whatever do you need two carriages for?” Florian asked, looking more confused than ever. “Are you going somewhere? His majesty wanted to have breakfast with you—”

“And so I shall have breakfast with him. We all shall,” Destan said as he went in his washroom to change.

All, your highness? I’m afraid I don’t understand,” Florian called.

Destan quickly pulled on his clothes and carelessly tied his hair back with a ribbon. “Never mind that. Have the table in the blue dining room set for nineteen.”

Florian laughed in disbelief. “That many, my prince? Are you feeling alright?”

Destan marched out of the washroom, straightening out his clothes. “I feel wonderful, Herr Florian! It’s Christmas Eve, after all, and I want to share this day with all the people I care about—Grandfather, you and the other advisors, Herr Christof, the Gottschalks, and my friends.” He took his cape from out of the wardrobe and slung it over his shoulders. “Ask Hofrat Pfeil to have the grand ballroom decorated for tonight.”

“Alright…” Florian said slowly. “Are we having some sort of ball tonight? I wasn’t informed—”

“That’s because I’ve only just decided,” Destan said cheerily, pushing back his shoulders.

“And who will be attending this ball?”

“The good people of Gründorf, of course! As soon as you have my horse readied, I’m going to the village to invite everyone.”

For a moment, Florian was at a loss for words. Finally, a bright smile spread across his face. “Of course, your highness. I’ll begin making the preparations immediately.”

Destan nodded. “Thank you. Oh, and please hurry. Time is of the essence.”

 

***************

 

The prince rode through the village’s east entrance, followed by the two carriages that he’d requested. The villagers stopped what they were doing and bowed to him as he passed by on his while stallion, Adolfis. He paused in front of the large Christmas tree in the town square and held up his hand to halt the carriages behind him.

“Happy Christmas, good people of Gründorf,” he said, projecting his voice just like his grandfather had taught him. “I’ve come here to spread a bit of Christmas cheer. As you may or may not know, the palace has been a bit lonely ever since the former crown prince and princess passed away. But this Christmas Eve night, I want to end that loneliness and celebrate with all of you, my loyal, hardworking subjects. Thus, I would like to personally invite you all to the palace tonight for a grand Christmas Ball. There will be food, drink, and merriment, and I would be deeply honoured if you’d all join his majesty and me on this joyous day. The Festivities will begin at sundown, and I hope to see you all there!”

Some of the townspeople cheered, while others murmured between one another—perhaps they knew that this sort of behavior from him on Christmas was unusual. Disregarding the confused looks, Destan nodded his head, said a polite farewell, and headed further into town with the carriages following after him.

He arrived in front of a familiar bake shop and dismounted his horse. After telling the carriage drivers to wait there, he marched up the steps to the shop and knocked a few times on the door, hoping that everyone was there.

After a few seconds the door opened to Ida Rosamond. She blinked her hazel eyes, staring at Destan as if befuddled by the mere sight of him. “Y-your highness!” she said, curtseying to him.

Destan heard the sound of chairs sliding against the floor and a moment later, Hansel, Gretel, Evie, Herr and Frau Bachmeier, and Mother Mansrot appeared behind Ida. All of their eyes—except for Mother Mansrot’s—were wide with surprise.

“What are you doing here, Destan?” Gretel asked.

Destan smiled brightly. “I’ve come here to invite you all to the palace for the day.”

Hansel crossed his arms over his chest. “You do know what day it is, don’t you?”

“Of course,” Destan said. “It’s Christmas Eve, and I want to spend the entire day with my friends and their families.”

“Yes! We’ll go!” Dorothea said quickly.

Gerald shot her a stern look. “We will?”

Dorothea glared back just as sternly. “We will. I’ve never been to the palace before and I’m certainly not going to pass up this opportunity just because I have stubborn boys.”

Evie looked up at Ida. “Can we go too, Mother?”

Ida frowned as she straighten out her apron. “You can, darling. I have to stay here and prepare for tomorrow’s rush.”

Destan reached into his satchel and pulled out a sack of coins. “Nonsense! No one should have to work on Christmas Eve.” He took Ida’s hand and set the sack in it. “I think that should be enough to compensate for tomorrow’s pay.”

Ida’s jaw dropped. “And then some! This is too much, your highness, I cannot possibly accept this,” she insisted, trying to hand it back to him.

The prince waved his hands in front of him. “It’s yours now. After all the hard work you and your family do to keep this place running, you are more than deserving of this. Please take it, Frau Rosamond.”

Ida shook her head, but Mother Mansrot softly nudged her in the side before she could utter another word. “It’s a gift, Ida, dear. It’s bad manners to decline a gift on Christmas, especially if that gift is from a charming prince.”

Ida shut her eyes, a sweet smile building upon her face as she held the bag close to her chest. “In that case, thank you, your highness. I suppose we’ll all be able to come to the palace after all.”

“Just give us a few minutes to get ready, would you?” Dorothea said excitedly.

“Take as long as you need,” Destan replied.

Gretel grabbed Evie’s hand and pulled her back into the shop. “Come on! We’ve got to put on our very best dresses. I can’t believe we’re going to spend all of Christmas at the palace! It’s like a fairy tale!”

“It would be even more like a fairy tale if there was snow,” Hansel grumbled, looking accusingly toward the prince.

Destan chuckled. “I just can’t win with you, can I? Would it make you feel any better to know that I’ve brought carriages for you all to ride in?”

Hansel’s dark brown eyes lit up, smiling for a split second before clearing his throat and putting on his best frown once more. “It might…”

The prince grinned, knowing that that was the most positive response he would get out of Hansel just then. “Well, I’ll leave the carriages here for you, and you can come up to the palace when you’re all ready. A grand breakfast will be prepared in honour of you—my special guests.”

“Thanks, I guess,” Gerald grunted.

Dorothea jabbed her elbow into his side to which he groaned. “You can’t tell, but he’s very excited, your highness,” she said with an unwavering smile.

Destan turned to leave when Hansel called out, “You know, this doesn’t make up for you ignoring us yesterday!”

The prince glanced back over his shoulder, still in the best of spirits. “I know, but I’d say this is a very good start.” He mounted his horse and waved to them. “Farewell for now. I must be off to collect Finn, but I’ll see you at the palace!”

 

***************

 

The day went marvelously, and he was able to spend time with all the people that he cared about. It was by far the best Christmas Eve that he’d had in a very long time. Now, night had fallen and the ball was in full swing. Destan sat off to the side in the grand ballroom—as he normally did—but this time he smiled as he watched his friends, family, and subjects enjoy the festivities. No bitter or sorrowful feelings arose within him as he watched everyone chat and dance—it felt good to know that he had helped to create such happiness on this joyous day.

He sighed contently, leaned back in his seat, and shut his eyes—all of that planning had made him terribly drowsy. Just then, he felt a soft tap upon his shoulder. His eyes fluttered open and he saw that Evie stood before him with her hands behind her back. “You should go dance. The village girls want you to ask them, but they’re too shy to approach you.”

Destan laughed. “Why are they shy? I don’t bite.”

“I know that, but they don’t,” Evie said, nodding back to the group of giggling girls whose eyes were train on him.  Evie’s gaze suddenly fell to the ground and her cheeks flushed an attractive shade of pink. “But, before you ask them, there’s something I’d like to give you.”

Destan tilted his head. “You got a present for me?”

Evie’s full lips twitched to one side. “Well, no, not exactly…” She removed her hands from behind her back to reveal a pretty, light pink rose with a white, satin ribbon tied around it. “I-I know it’s not much, but I grow these roses myself. Mother says I must have some sort of magic touch because they grow all year round in the little pot I keep them in. I know you like roses, so I thought maybe you could put it in a vase in your room.”

Destan’s eyes widened upon realizing that the rose Evie now held in her hand looked exactly like the rose he had seen upon his stone casket. Had she been the one to leave it there? Destan’s features relaxed and he gingerly took the rose from Evie’s grasp. He couldn’t help but smile. He knew then that no matter what happened, Evie would always be there for him. It was a wonderful feeling to know that someone who didn’t have to care about him, genuinely did.

The prince stood up from his seat. “It’s a lovely present, Genevieve. I promise that I’ll take very good care of it.”

Evie clasped her hands in front of her, bouncing excitedly. “I’m so glad you like it! It was the prettiest one on the bush.”

He held out his free hand for hers, his smile softening. “I think I would like to dance now.”

“With me?” she asked, sounding mildly surprised.

“Well, I am offering my hand to you, so … yes,” Destan said with a laugh. “There’s no one else I’d rather dance with. Would you do me the honour, Fräulein Rosamond?”

Evie’s cheeks turned red as she nodded and took his outstretched hand. He led her to the middle of the ballroom and they waltzed together for much of the night, chatting and laughing like good friends do.

Destan would never take his friends, family, or Christmas for granted ever again—he made this solemn vow to himself. He would enjoy every Christmas he got to spend with his loved ones, and he would cherish the love and affection he was given forevermore, because that is what this holiday is about. Thanks to the spirits, he had been changed for the better, and he hoped this change within himself would ultimately lead him to his happily ever after.

 

PART 1 & PART 2

I hope you all enjoyed The Prince of Prophecy’s Christmas Carol! I had a great time writing it! If you liked this short story you should check out the books (the second book, The Prince of Prophecy Vol. II: Cursed, will be released in paperback and hardcover on the 27th–this coming Saturday)! I wish you all a very happy holiday season!

For new fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Artwork by: Enrica Eren Angiolini (my illustrator)

The Prince of Prophecy’s Christmas Carol: PART 2

the prince of prophecy contest version

Ding-dong!

The chime rang out through the darkness of Destan’s chambers, clear and sharp. Destan’s eyes shot open, his heart beating in his ears. It was one o’ clock. He shrunk down beneath the blankets and covered his head.

It wasn’t real. My father wasn’t here and there are no spirits coming for me. It was all just a dream. I’m still dreaming, he tried to convince himself. He was starting to believe these thoughts to be true … until he heard his bed drapes slide open.

A bright light seeped through his covers, banishing the darkness beneath his sheets where he was curled up in a little ball. He felt the bed trembled as something took a seat beside him. He felt a hand, touch his back, its warmth penetrated the many layers of coverings he hid beneath. That single touch soothed his frantic mind and he suddenly felt compelled to peek out from beneath his covers.

Destan pulled down his blankets and sat up to see the figure of a woman bathed in a calming blue light. The light she emitted was warm and gentle, and although he could not clearly see the woman’s features, he could feel that she was beautiful.

“I hope I didn’t frighten you, child,” she said, her voice was soft and sweet—he felt as if he had heard her voice before.

All the fear that remained within his being vanished when she set her hand upon his cheek. “I-I was a frightened, but not anymore,” he said, tilting his head. “Have we met somewhere before?”

“Perhaps. Perhaps not,” she replied evasively.

“Who are you?”

“Tonight I am the Ghost of Christmas Past,” the woman said, letting her hand fall from his cheek. “Walk with me, child. We have much to see and little time to do it in.”

“Walk with you? It’s the middle of the night, m’lady!” Despite his protested words, he scrambled out of bed and quickly pulled on his dressing gown. “Where are we going?”

The blue woman held out her hand for his. “Take my hand and you shall see.”

Destan reached out for her hand, but stopped himself short of taking it. He retreated slightly, his brow settling low over his eyes. “How do I know you aren’t planning to take me to some dreadful place?”

“You don’t.”

“Are you trying to trap me like the Queen Isole?” Destan said, studying the woman carefully. “I may have fallen for this sort of trick once, but I’m not so stupid as to—”

“Calm yourself. It is not my task to deceive you, child,” the woman said gently. “On the contrary, I am here to enlighten you. Trust me or don’t, however, I am your only hope if you wish to change the sad future that lies ahead of you. Now please, Destan, take my hand—our time grows short.”

The prince hesitated for only a moment longer before grasping the woman’s hand. As soon as he touched her, her light grew so bright that it blinding him for one terrifying moment. When the light finally died down, they were no longer standing in Destan’s darkened chambers, but in a ballroom filled with sparkling chandeliers, finely dressed people, and a Christmas tree so tall that it nearly touched the domed ceiling above. The ball goers laughed, danced, and everyone appeared to be having a grand time.

“Do you recognize this place, child?” the ghost asked.

Destan nodded. “Of course. This is Uncle Bastian’s annual Christmas party. I used to love his parties when I was younger.”

A smile became visible amidst the brightness of the spirit’s face. “Yes, it appears so,” she said motioning to the ballroom’s entrance. There, a little blonde boy stood, no older than six years old, holding a piece of mistletoe above his head. Beautiful women stooped down to give the boy a kiss on the cheek as they entered the ballroom. “You were a darling child, and you looked like you were having so much fun.”

Destan nodded, smiling fondly, not at his younger self but at a handsome looking couple who stood nearby. Klaus and Kristiane, his parents, were a perfect couple. Kristiane’s wavy brown hair was pinned atop her head that night, and her bright blue eyes sparkling like precious gems in the light of the chandeliers. Klaus, who looked as dashing as Destan remember him in his blue court outfit, was whispering something in her ear as he motioned to little Destan. Kristiane laughed and kissed Klaus’s cheek taking his hand in hers.

The prince’s smile dimmed now as he realized something. “I think … this is the last Christmas I ever spent with them…”

The woman nodded once. “Yes, it is.”

Destan felt that familiar ache in chest as he watched Klaus stoop down to pick up his son and spin him around. He could feel the happiness radiating off the family of three like beams of sunshine. They were all blissfully unaware that their time together would be just as fleeting as the Christmas season.

An angry heat welled up inside of him, mingling with the pain of this bittersweet scene. “Why have you shown me this, Spirit? Why do you torment me with such painful memories?”

“I have shown you this, not to torment you, but to remind you of a time when you embraced the spirit of Christmas whole heartedly,” the ghost said. “Your heart was open and unguarded—you used to look forward to this time of year, did you not?”

Destan shut his eyes tightly, turning away. “That was before they died. I‘m—I’m different now. There’s no reason for me to be cheerful anymore.”

“That’s not true. You still have your Grandfather, Uncle, and friends to share this joyous season with, don’t you?” the woman asked, but Destan got the feeling she already knew the answer. He stayed silent and she went on. “You have so much to be thankful for, yet you ignore it all in favour of nurturing your grief. As you are now, you will always mourn your parents, and your joy will eventually dwindle down to nothing.”

The prince clenched his fists and gritted his teeth. “Show me something else. I don’t wish to stay here any longer.”

Saying nothing, the ghost took his balled up hand in her gentle grasp and a blinding light surrounded them once more. Destan hoped that the spirit would take him home… When the light died down he saw that they were standing in a study. For a moment, he was relieved, for he recognized the parlor room as the one in the resident wing at Rosenstaat palace. He was home! However, when he turned around he saw a familiar blonde boy—no older than seven—seated beside the fire with his knees pulled up to his chest.

No. He wasn’t home—not exactly anyway. That boy in front of the fire was him from six years prior. He was still in the past.

Destan’s shoulders slumped forward. “Do you take pleasure in making me miserable? This memory is even more painful than the last.”

“You remember this Christmas?” the ghost asked as if she hadn’t heard him.

“Of course I do!” Destan hissed, failing to control his rising temper. “This is—this is the year my parents died. There was no celebrating that year—no ball, no tree … no family. Grandfather refused to come out of his room for two weeks straight after mother died.” Destan’s features softened as he looked at the boy in front of the fire and slowly approached him. “I had no friends, and my only family was mourning the death of my parents just as I was. It hurt so badly. I tried to pretend that my mother and father would be back—I tried to convince myself of it. I didn’t cry for a long time—I feared that if I did, I would be admitting that they were gone.”

“It left a gaping wound that has never healed,” the blue woman said, gliding after him.

Destan knelt down in front of his younger self, and stared into his listless blue irises. His blonde hair was disheveled and unkempt, and his eyes were dim, lacking the light children his age should have. He sat there beside the fire, still and silent, unblinkingly staring right through the present-day prince.

The little boy looked tired, and his cheeks were pale and slightly gaunt. I hadn’t been eating well. I didn’t have much of an appetite after… He sighed and shook the depressing thought from his head.

He was just about to demand that the spirit whisk him from this wretched place, when the parlor room door opened to reveal two familiar men: Emil Kohl and Arnold Fischer—two of King Gregory’s court advisors. Fischer wrung his boney hands as his worried gaze flickered from the little prince to his fellow advisor. Kohl motioned Fischer forward, but Fischer vigorously shook his balding head, grabbed Kohl’s arm, and shoved him ahead.

Kohl scowled but quickly composed himself, straightening out his coat and dark brown hair. After taking a deep breath, Kohl cleared his throat. “Your highness, supper is ready for you in the dining hall.”

The boy said nothing as he slowly shut his eyes and bowed his head. Fisher smiled nervously at Kohl and shrugged lightly before heading towards the door. Kohl rolled his eyes, grabbed Fischer by the collar and dragged him back into the room. Fischer winced as Kohl whispered harshly in his ear and lightly slapped his arm. Fischer frowned, rubbed his arm, and grudgingly trudged forward.

“H-hello your highness. Hofrat Kohl and I asked the cook to make you chocolate cake for dessert tonight,” Fischer said, twiddling with his long, spindly fingers. “We know it’s your favorite.”

Still, the little boy said nothing—he didn’t even twitch at the mention of his favorite dessert.

Kohl took a few cautious steps forward as if he were approaching an unstable pile of dynamite. “Hofrat Fischer and I got you a few presents as well. Don’t you want to open them?”

“Oh, yes! A boy should not be without presents on Christmas Eve,” Fischer said, his voice still tremulous with nerves. “The cook has made a lovely turkey dinner for you and his ma—”

Kohl elbowed Fischer in the side and gave him a stern look. “They’ve made it just for you, your highness,” Kohl clarified. “His majesty—well, he’s decided to take supper in his chambers.”

The little boy set his forehead upon his knees, not uttering a single word.

Kohl and Fischer glanced towards each other, the befuddled looks on their faces made it clear that they weren’t sure what to do next.

“Ah, there you are, Hofrat Kohl and Hofrat Fischer,” Florian said as he strolled into the room. “Hofrat Pfeil is looking for you about an urgent matter.”

Fischer began a strident march towards the door, seeming all but too happy to escape the discomfort of the scene. However, Kohl grabbed his arm before he could get very far. “We’re trying to convince his highness to have something to eat,” Kohl said. “We could not in good conscience leave his highness alone. It’s Christmas Eve, for goodness sake.”

Florian’s emerald eyes flickered towards the little prince, his cool expression softening. “Go attend to Herr Pfeil. I’ll see to it that his highness is fed.”

Although Kohl still looked reluctant, Fischer tugged on his arm. “You heard the man, Emil! Let’s go see what Herr Pfeil wants. The last thing we need is for him to get angry at us on today of all days.”

Kohl sighed and nodded. “I suppose you’re right, Arnold…” The two advisors then took their leave.

Now, Florian and the boy were alone—save for Destan and the spirit. Destan quickly stood up and moved away from the fireplace as Florian strolled over and took a seat in front of the little prince. The advisor crossed his legs, and studied the boy for a good, long while.

“What can I do to make you eat, hm?” Florian asked, tilting his head slightly. “Would you like a new book?”

The boy solemnly shook his head, his wavy, blonde hair swaying from side to side.

“How about a stuffed animal?”

The little prince shook his head again.

“A new saddle for Adolfis maybe?”

Little Destan shook his head once more. Florian sighed, leaning his cheek against his fist. “I figured it wouldn’t be that easy.”

The boy lifted his head only slightly, his big blue eyes peering up over his knees. “I’ll eat, but … you have to do something for me, Herr Florian.”

“What is it that you want, your highness?”

“I want you to call me Destan.”

Florian raised a single brow. “Alright. This is quite irregular, but ‘Destan’ it is.”

And I want you to read to me before bed,” the boy murmured.

“If that is what you—”

Every night until I’m too old,” he added quickly.

Florian’s lips twitched to the side. Destan could see that Florian—who was not even out of his teens yet—was hesitant about accepting these new terms. Taking care of a child probably wasn’t in his job description. However, the advisor straightened up and nodded. “As you wish, Destan. Is there anything else?”

The little prince’s expression brightened up a bit. “Can you be my friend, Herr Florian? I’ll eat if you say you’ll be my friend.”

The advisor’s eyes widened looking taken aback for second, before a warm smile spread across his handsome face. “It would be my honor, Prince Destan.”

The boy smiled, though there was still apprehension in his expression. “That means you must have tea with me sometimes, and play pretend with me, and … talk to me. You’ll talk to me, won’t you?”

Florian’s smile faltered. “Of course I’ll talk to you. We’re talking now, aren’t we?”

“Yes, but I want you to talk to me like I’m your friend,” little Destan said. “People treat me differently … like there’s something wrong with me … like I’m not normal.”

“But you’re not normal,” Florian said. “You’re a crown prince. You are very, very special, Destan.”

“I don’t want to be special. If I wasn’t, people would talk to me, and look at me, and…” the boy shut his eyes, his shoulders falling forward. “Please don’t treat me like I’m strange. Treat me like Mummy and Daddy do. Treat me like—like you care about me…”

Florian glanced away, his brows knitting together as if he was trying to fend off some sort of pain in his expression. However, after a moment, he composed himself and swallowed heavily. “I … I’ll try my best.”

The little prince set his forehead back on his knees once more and mumbled, “Okay. Can we stay here for a little longer?”

“Sure,” Florian said just as quietly. He lifted his hand, and, after a moment of indecision, set it on top of the boy’s blonde mane. Both the advisor and his charge were silent after that, the only sound being the crackling of the flames in the fireplace.

Destan watched the painful memory beside the ghost and his throat had become icy in the process. He knew he was on the verge of tears, but he held them back, not wanting to cry in front of a lady—even if it was a dead lady. “Take me home, Spirit,” Destan said, his voice brittle. “I don’t want to see anymore.”

The ghostly woman, slipped her warm hand into his and a bright light enveloped them once more. However, this time, the light did not fade away as it normally did.

“Do you understand, Destan?” The spirit spoke, though he could not see her in the midst of so much light. “There are people who care for you—people who want to see you happy. There are people who want to spend Christmas with you and they’d promise you the moon to see you smile again during this time of year. All is not lost, child. Don’t push away the people who love you—let them into your heart. You may well come to regret it if you do not.”

Destan shielded his eyes, trying to see through the light. “Do you know something that I don’t, Spirit?”

“Perhaps.”

“Then tell me what I must know to avoid the miserable fate you spoke of.”

“It is not my place to tell,” she replied, her voice growing distant. “If you must ask, then you still have much to learn.”

Before Destan could say anything more, the light faded and darkness overcame his senses.

 

*********************************

 

Ding-dong!

When Destan next opened his eyes, he was back in his warm, comfortable bed. The bright light of the Ghost of Christmas Past had vanished, and blackness surrounded him once more. It must have been a dream…

Ding-dong!

The bell tolled for the second time and Destan shot straight up. No, it wasn’t a dream. That chiming was real. It was two a.m.—did that mean the second spirit was coming? He listened carefully, but heard nothing. He looked for light seeping through the cracks of his bed drapes, but there was none. He felt no other presence in the room. Perhaps the ghosts have decided to give up on me? he thought a little too hopefully to himself.

He settled back down into his pillows and shut his eyes once more. He released a contented sigh and tried to go back to sleep. However, his relief came too soon, for a yellowish light flickered on from outside his bed drapes and voice—that he swore he recognized—called jovially, “I know you’re in there! Come out! Come out and know me better, man … boy—whatever!”

Destan scowled, feeling more irritated than frightened. What was he doing there in the prince’s room at two o’ clock in the morning? He flung back the curtains and his suspicions were confirmed. There, sitting on the couch amidst a sea of presents wrapped in brightly coloured paper and dressed with fancy gold and silver ribbons, was a man of average stature—no older than thirty—with dark blue eyes that were alight with pure joy and excitement. A holly wreath sat atop his head and a few stray strands his brown hair brushed against his brow—although, he did not seem to mind it. He wore a green robe—that looked suspiciously like a dressing gown—trimmed with brown fur and golden buttons. The man smiled brightly, jumped up from his seat, and placed his hands on his hips.

Destan frowned. “Wilhelm … does your brother know you’re here?”

The man who Destan thought to be Wilhelm Grimm, tilted his head to the side. “Wilhelm? Oh, no, no! You’re mistaking me for someone else, my dear boy. I am the Ghost of Christmas Present! Your mind has chosen this form me—I am what I am, do not blame me!” He laughed loudly, but suddenly paused to scratch his cheek. “Hm … I feel as if that wasn’t my line…”

Destan’s was in no mood for Wilhelm’s games. “Get out! Get out of my room this instant! If you want to visit with me, you can do so at a reasonable hour.” He grabbed the man’s arm and began tugging him towards the door.

The ‘spirit’ furrowed his brow. “But it is a reasonable hour. Two is my hour—it is the hour that each and every one of my 1815 brothers have appeared upon every Christmas Eve before this one.”

The prince rolled his eyes, continuing to pull him towards the door despite his resistance. “You don’t have that many brothers, Wilhelm,” Destan grumbled.

“Well, not now, no. They’ve all died—and my time draws near as well,” the ghost said, easily slipping his arm from Destan’s grasp and returning to the couch to stack a few presents. He took a red apple out of a large basket filled with fruit that Destan didn’t recall being there before. “Dawn in fast approaching, and we must arrive with the sun on this joyous day! Come and take my robe, boy!”

Destan crossed his arms over his chest, remaining where he was. “Let’s pretend for a moment that you are who you say. Why should I go with you? So that you may show me more painful memories from my past? No, thank you.”

“No, no, no, my dear boy! I deal only in the present,” the spirit said with a radiant smile. “Now take hold of my robe—we have much to see!”

Knowing that the spirit would not leave him alone until he did as he was told, Destan made his way over to the ghost and took hold of the furry cuff of his robe. As soon as he did, the presents, fruit baskets, cakes, pies, pudding, and delicious smelling turkeys disappeared along with his room, and a moment latter he and the spirit were standing amidst a bustling village that he knew well: Gründorf.

Wreaths hung on nearly every shop and dwelling door, and red and green decoration hung in the windows. There was a great tree in the town square that was decorated with pine cones, candles, and meticulously painted wooden ornaments. When people passed each other, they tipped their hats or curtsied, wishing their fellow villagers a ‘Happy Christmas’ with genuine smiles.

The ghost shut his eyes and breathed in deeply. “Do you smell that, boy?”

Destan sniffed the air. “You mean the pine and pastries?”

“No! The Christmas spirit! It is alive within these merry people,” the spirit cried flinging his arms out and nearly hitting Destan in the face—luckily he had the good sense to duck. “Does this happy scene not fill you with joy and excitement?”

Destan straightened back up, his lips twitching to one side. “Not particularly… They’ll all be back to their selfish ways tomorrow. That’s the way of the world. Pretending to be someone you’re not simply for the sake of the holiday is deceitful. December does not make me happy and I refuse to pretend that I am.”

“Then don’t pretend,” the spirit said. “These people are not trying to deceive anyone with their smiles—they are sincerely merry! Christmas is not a time to pretend to be something you are not, it is a time that brings out the very best in humanity. It is a time to spend with our friends and loved ones. It is a time to open our hearts and minds and welcome joy and good tidings into our lives!”

“I can do that any other time of the year,” Destan mumbled. “Why is Christmas so important? It’s not as if I never spend time with my friends and family.”

The ghost slung an arm around his shoulders, shaking him a little. “These bitter feelings you keep will only grow—and not only during the holiday season, but throughout the whole year. Mourning the loss of your parents can turn to resentment if you’re not careful. That is why cherishing Christmas is so important, my dear boy—embracing it will guide your heart in the right direction.” He patted Destan strongly on the back and strolled ahead of him.

The prince followed after the ghost, taking note that no one seemed to me paying them any mind at all. “Can no one see us, Spirit?”

“Not a soul! We are completely invisible to everyone around us,” the ghost cried. “Now, why don’t we visit your friend, yes?”

Destan rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, I don’t want to intrude…”

“They won’t be able to see you, so they won’t know you’re intruding!”

That didn’t exactly make Destan feel any better about it, but he followed the spirit further into town nonetheless. Soon, they arrived at a shop that Destan knew well: the Rosamond Bake Shoppe. Evie and her mother ran this place by themselves, and he very much admired them for that.

The spirit motioned him forward and Destan peered through the window to see that Evie and her mother were not alone. Mother Mansrot—Evie’s Grandmother—Hansel, Gretel, and a couple he didn’t recognize where there as well, sitting around a large table. They all appeared to be chatting happily whilst eating delicious looking chocolate croissants that made Destan’s mouth water.

“Come! Let’s go inside,” the spirit said, marching up the steps and passing right through the door as if it were made of mist.

Destan hurried after him, though he paused in front of the door. He leaned forward to try the knob, but his hand sunk through it. In his surprise, he stumbled right through the door just as the spirit had.

The spirit caught the prince by the scruff of his robe before he could fall to the ground and straightened him out. “It’s this wonderful?” the spirit asked with a broad grin. “Now we don’t have to guess what they’re saying!”

Destan felt the corners of his lips involuntarily turn down. “This is sort of like—no. This is eavesdropping. I’m not exactly sure if I feel comfortable with this.”

“But they’re talking about you! Don’t you want to hear?” the ghost asked, giving him a gentle push towards the table. The prince felt his cheeks heat up as he vigorously shook his head, but it was already too late to shut his ears.

“He’s so gloomy… It’s annoying,” Hansel said, swiping his messy light brown hair out of his freckled face. “Here we are, tripping over ourselves like idiots to spend time with him, and he completely ignores us! I had half a mind to kick down his door and drag him out.”

Evie’s pretty hazel eyes lowered to the table. “You shouldn’t be so hard on him. Especially not after what Hofrat Kohl and Hofrat Fischer said—this time of year makes him sad because it reminds him of his parents.”

Gretel crossed her arms over her chest, sighing softly. “It’s not that Hansel and I can’t sympathize with him. We just thought that maybe we could cheer him up, and he didn’t even give us the chance.” She brushed her light brown pigtails over her shoulder before going on. “I mean, what point is there in going to the palace today if he’s just going to mope around?”

A burly man who Destan did not recognize grunted lowly. “I say that you all stay here in the village. If that prince doesn’t appreciate the company of my children then I want them to spend the holiday with me.”

The unfamiliar woman who sat beside the man, patted his arm softly. “Oh, Gerald, have some sympathy, would you? You’ve got to spend every Christmas with Hansel and Gretel since they were born. We can give our crown prince one Christmas with them, can’t we?”

“Actually, I’m with Dad on this one, Mum,” Hansel said, just as gruffly as his father. “We saved his life and he can’t even act civilly towards on Christmas? To hell with him, I say!” Gretel and his mother both smacked his arm. “Ow!”

“You shouldn’t say such mean things, Hansel,” Evie said sternly, her pretty face becoming quite severe. “Destan is our friend. Despite the way he’s acting, we should be there to support him during this difficult time.”

Ida—Evie’s mother—nodded. “As much as I would like Genevieve to stay here with me tonight, I think it’s important that you three go to the palace and spread a little Christmas cheer.”

“What about our Christmas, Frau Rosamond?” Hansel asked. “We’re just supposed to have a miserable Christmas along with him?”

“Come now, dearie,” said Mother Mansrot with a kind smile. “If the tables were turned, I’m sure the prince would do the same for you. He seems like such a nice young man.”

“Well, he hasn’t been acting very nice, that’s for sure,” Gretel grumbled. “But, yes, I think you’re right, Mother Mansrot. Destan probably would do the same for any one of us. Despite him acting like a prat, we should still go to the palace.”

“No way!” Hansel shouted. “I’m staying in the village. You girls can go if you want, but yesterday was the last straw for me!”

“Hansel,” Evie said with a frown.

“Don’t you ‘Hansel’ me!” he said, shutting his eyes and lifting his chin. “Those big doe eyes aren’t going to sway me this time. I’m putting my foot down!”

Hansel’s father took a sip of his coffee before saying, “Well, if your brother’s not going, you aren’t either, Gretel. Two girls walking alone through the forest just isn’t safe.”

Gretel scowled. “That’s not fair! It’s not like Hansel would be much help if we were attacked even if he was with us! He’s a rubbish swordfighter and you know it.”

“Hey! I’m not that bad!” Hansel cried.

Gerald sighed and shook his head. “Don’t kid yourself, boy, you’re sister’s right. But even still, don’t feel comfortable letting you girls go alone.”

Hansel’s jaw hung open. “I can’t believe you just agreed with her, Dad… That hurts.”

His father shrugged. “It had to be said sometime. You’ve got your mother’s disillusionment.”

Hansel and Gretel’s mother narrowed her eyes. “And just what is that supposed to mean.”

“You can’t cook for crap, Dorothea.”

“How dare you? Yes I can!”

“See? Disillusionment.”

Before any more arguing could break out, Ida stood and set more delicious pastries on everyone’s plate. “Since Hansel and Gretel aren’t going, I can’t in good conscience let you go to the palace by yourself, Genevieve. You’ll have to stay in the village as well.”

Evie’s eyes widened as she sat forward. “But I promised Destan that I would be at the palace for Christmas.”

“I know, but the woods are dangerous. If I let you go alone and anything happened to you, I’d never be able to forgive myself,” Ida said, setting her hand upon Evie’s curly dark brown locks, taking her seat once more. “I would go with you, but I have a lot of work to do before tomorrow—I must stay here and so must you.”

Evie bowed her head. “I … I understand, Mother. I just—I feel so sorry for Destan.”

“Why?” Hansel asked between bites of his pastry. “He’s got his granddad, and Nachtdiener, and all the servants—it’s not like he’s going to be lonely without us. Besides, not being there will make him think twice about ignoring us in the future. Just because we’re commoners doesn’t mean we have to be at Herr Princey’s beck and call.”

Gretel pushed her pastry around the plate with a fork. “We’re not at his beck and call, Hans. We’re his friends. I know he’s been acting strange, but that doesn’t mean we should just abandon him.”

“Oh, but it’s alright to abandon your family, is it?” Gerald grumbled.

“Don’t act like a child,” Dorothea snapped at her husband. “In any case, you got your way, Gerald. The children are staying here, so there’s no sense in dwelling on things that aren’t even going to happen. Now, let’s all enjoy this delicious breakfast that Frau Rosamond so graciously prepared for us, and speak no more of Prince Destan.”

They went quiet, and Destan felt his heart sink into his stomach. “They … they gave up on me…” Destan said in a voice barely above a whisper.

“Well, what did you expect after the way you treated them yesterday?” the spirit asked.

Destan rubbed his arms, feeling a chill rise up from deep within him. “I-I didn’t think they’d give up so easily. But I guess I deserve it. I should have let them in, but I didn’t want them to see me in the miserable state I was in. I was trying to spare them!”

“Or perhaps you were trying to spare yourself by keeping them at a distance,” the ghost offered lightly. “Perhaps you’re afraid of losing them too, so you’re pulling away to save yourself from getting hurt again. After all, if you’re not so deeply attached to them, it’ll hurt less when they leave you—isn’t that right?”

Destan clenched his jaw, refusing to answer the spirit’s question.

“Tell me. Has pushing people away brought you joy, Destan?”

The prince took a deep breath through his nose. “No…” he mumbled.

“Then what would be the harm in letting others into your heart every once in a while?” the spirit asked.

Destan shut his eyes, swallowing the lump that had developed in his throat. “I don’t want to lose my friends, Spirit. I have too few as it is.”

“Then change,” the ghost replied. “There is still time, Destan. Embrace the Christmas spirit and share it with those whom you care about.”

When Destan looked up he saw that the scene around him was fading, and the spirit looked so much older. His hair had turned gray, his face was wrinkled, and his back was bent with age. “Wh-what’s happening to you?” Destan asked in a panic.

“My time on this earth is finished,” the spirit said with an unwavering smile.

“You can’t go yet! You haven’t told me how to change!” Destan cried grasping the spirit’s furry sleeve.

“That is not for me to tell,” the spirit chuckled, continuing to age before Destan’s eyes. “You still have one more spirit to meet. Go forth and know him better, boy!”

The scene around them completely faded away and the Ghost of Christmas Present burst into millions of golden shards that flitted off and disappeared into the darkness.

 

 

PART 1 & PART 3

Artwork by: Enrica Eren Angiolini (my illustrator)

The Prince of Prophecy’s Christmas Carol: PART 1

the prince of prophecy contest version

 ONE COULD BEGIN THIS STORY with a short but powerful sentence about a dead person, and could continue to emphasize that the certain person was, in fact, dead for two or three paragraphs henceforth. However, we shall start this story with an even more familiar phrase:

Once upon a time, there was a young prince named Destan Gustav Von Diederich. Destan had a very eventful year leading up to this point—a year full of adventure, new friends, and even new enemies. He couldn’t say that he had enjoyed every moment of the past year, but he had learned a lot and had managed to conquer many of his previous apprehensions.

Normally, Rosenstaat was covered in a sparkling blanket of white by this time—the 23rd of December. But—thanks to Destan (it’s a long story)—it was unseasonably warm and not a single flake of snow had fallen from the heavens since his return from Queen Isole’s palace. Although this pleased Destan very much, for he had never relished in the winter season, most of his friends did not share his sentiments.

He often heard Hansel and Gretel Bachmeier complain that it didn’t feel like Christmas without snow. Evie Rosamond—another of Destan’s friends—did not utter a single word of complaint, but he could tell by her occasional sighs and her discreet looks of disappointment that she too missed the frosty, winter weather. Despite his friends’ dissatisfaction, Destan was happy that he would not be subjected to the pain that always accompanied the snow; however, try as he may, he knew he could not escape the hurt of having to face another Christmas without his parents.

Klaus and Kristiane Eisenmann—his mother and father—had been dead for nearly seven years now. Although he knew he should be over it by now, December remained to be one of the most difficult times of year for him. It was true that this Christmas would be much less lonely than the previous years, as he had new friends to share this holiday season with. But, despite this, there was still a gaping hole in his heart that only his parents had been able to fill.

Simply put, Destan didn’t like Christmas. He despised the wretched holiday with its false merriment and supposed ‘good cheer’. It was just an excuse to give and receive presents from people who didn’t necessarily care about each other. Luckily, most of the people who would be celebrating Christmas with him this year were genuine friends and family that he loved. Thank goodness his Uncle Philipp, Aunt Gabriele, and cousin Nicholas had decided to spare them all the discomfort of their presence this December. However, Destan was a bit dismayed at the news that his Uncle Bastian along with his new wife and stepson had chosen to stay in Wulfbach that year—he and Bastian had always gotten along very well.

The only part of the guest list that made him cringe were the Gottschalks—the royal family of Östlichwald. King Lorenz, Queen Annemarie, and Princess Sophia, were not the problem—in fact, they had always been very cordial towards him. It was the youngest princess he couldn’t stand: Klara. Unfortunately Klara Gottschalks was also his betrothed—a fact that she never let him forget.

Unlike his other friends who complained of the lack of snow, Klara was taking full advantage of the fair weather. He often saw her sunning in the back garden wearing a pair of dark lensed spectacles and a summer hat, with a cup of tea in one hand and a fashion book in the other.

Now, as he sat beside a window in the library, he could see Klara lazily fanning herself as she and her older sister, Sophia, listened to the violin music played by one of the servants—Klara had no doubt demanded a performance from the poor man.

Destan would enjoy the sun later. Right now, he had to keep himself focused on his studies—if he didn’t, he ran the risk of that familiar pain taking hold of his heart. After Christmas, all would be well. After Christmas, he could breathe a little easier. After Christmas, it would hurt less…

He set his cheek on his fist as his bright blue eyes trailed away from the window and back to his work. The Latin words on the page seemed to run together into an incomprehensible jumble that was nearly impossible for his strained eyes to make sense of. How long had he been sitting at this table attempting to study? How many subjects had he gone through today? How much information had his desperate mind glossed over in attempts to fend off thoughts of his parents? Although he was well aware that this study time was unproductive, he continued at it—if nothing else, he was a very stubborn boy.

“Ah, there you are,” said a familiar, genteel voice.

Destan glanced up to see Florian Nachtdiener—his grandfather’s head court advisor—strolling towards him. Florian was a handsome man with olive skin—uncommon in those of German descent—and emerald green eyes that glimmered with perpetual amusement. His wavy, dark hair was held back with a ribbon which was tied at the base of his neck.

“Yes, here I am,” the prince mumbled, bowing his head over his work once more. “What is it?”

“Your friends from the village have been here for well over an hour. They wish to know what is keeping their prince,” Florian said, stopping a foot or so short of the table that Destan was seated at. The advisor tilted his head, studying him curiously. “I thought Herr Loewe gave you the week off from your studies. Has he changed his mind?”

Destan shook his head, his disheveled, golden blonde locks brushing against his cheeks. “No. I just thought it would be prudent of me to get a bit of extra work done now that I have the time.”

Florian sighed softly and took a seat across from him. “I thought this year would be different for you. There is no snow to remind you of your parents passing—you saw to that.”

Destan’s brow furrowed, though he did not look up to meet Florian’s gaze. “But there is still Christmas.”

“You mean to say that you would exile that as well?” Florian asked.

The prince’s features hardened as he set down his quill. “If it were in my power, yes. I’d pass over the whole blasted month of December if could. Perhaps next year I shall go somewhere where the people do not celebrate Christmas, then I can go on living as if December doesn’t even exist.”

“You really think that will ease your pain?” Florian said, his tone softening. “You should know better than most that pretending that your heartache is nonexistent, does not make it so. You can run from your pain all you’d like, but eventually it will catch up to you. December isn’t going anywhere, Destan, so I suggest you get used to it.”

Destan gritted his teeth. “I will do no such thing. My parents died during this cursed month and as long as that is true, and I cannot make merry. I will not dishonor them by doing such a callous thing. This month is a solemn time for me, Herr Florian, and that is the way I intend it to stay.”

“But what of Christmas?”

“What of Christmas?”

“Herr Farrell, Sir and Dame Bachmeier, and Dame Rosamond will be celebrating with us this year,” Florian said. “Surely you’ll see to it that your guests have a good time, won’t you?”

Destan’s expression softened at the mention of his friends. “I will do my best, but you well know that Grandfather invited them, not I.”

“Yes. He thought the inclusion of your new friends would lift your spirits a little,” Florian replied. “Though, I see now that his efforts may have been in vain.”

The prince’s eyes flickered up to meet Florian’s. “Oh, I see. Now I’m the difficult one, am I?”

“In a word, yes,” Florian said, the corners of his lips turning up only slightly. “Come now, your highness, are you not at all please by your friends presence? Aren’t you excited to see their faces when they open the gifts you’ve chosen for them?”

Destan crossed his arms over his chest. “Look, I have no intention of avoiding the festivities, if that’s what you’re concerned about.”

“That isn’t what I’m concerned about.”

“Then what is it?”

“It’s your attitude toward this holiday,” Florian said, any trace of a smile suddenly disappearing from his face. “You can’t despise Christmas forever just because it happens to be in the same month as your parents’ deaths. You should celebrate the friends and family that are still alive while remembering your parents fondly. You needn’t have a funeral in your mind every time December, or Christmas, or your birthday, or any holiday comes around. This solemn ritual must end, Destan.”

The prince narrowed his eyes, and glanced towards the window once more. “You keep Christmas in your way, and let me keep it in mine.”

“But that’s the point: you don’t keep it, your highness,” Florian said insistently.

“Then so be it!” Destan snapped, standing from his seat and hurriedly collecting his books and parchment. “How I feel about this blasted holiday is no one’s business but my own!”

Florian stood up as well. “Are you going to see your friends, then?”

“No. I’m going to my room where I can be left to study in peace and quiet!” Destan shouted before turning on his heel and stomping out of the library.

************************* 

“Come on, Herr princey, open up!” Hansel shouted from outside Destan’s door.

“You’ve been avoiding us all day. The least you can do is open up the door and let us see you,” Gretel huffed, sounding extremely irritated.

“I bet he got fat,” Hansel said a little too hopefully. “That’s probably why he doesn’t want us to see him. I knew all of the chocolate was going to do him in—it was just a matter of time.”

“You wish! We saw him just last week, idiot!” Gretel hissed. “Wipe that stupid smile off your face—he’s not fat.”

“Ha ha! You just can’t bear to think of your perfect prince with a chocolate gut on him!” Hansel laughed loudly.

“Come now you two, keep your voices down. Shouting at him is no way to get him to open the door,” Evie said, her voice much softer than the siblings’. “Destan? We would really like to see you. We’ve been here for most of the day and we’ll be returning home soon, so at least let us say goodbye.”

Destan was hunched over the desk at the back of his chambers, reviewing some overly complicated math problems—he hadn’t gotten very far as mathematics was not his forte. However, finally, after realizing that his friends would not leave without some sort of response from him, he sighed heavily and called back, “You’re coming back tomorrow, so I’ll see you then.”

Hansel groaned. “Look, I’m fine with that. Really, I am. It’s the girls that need to see you—ouch! That hurt, Gretel!

“Good!” his sister shouted. “Don’t make dumb assumptions. I just want to see him so I can yell at him to his face about ignoring us all day!”

“Gretel, please…” Evie begged softly. “Destan, we know what this is about. We just want you to know that we’re here for you if you need to talk about anything.”

“Gretel and Evie are better listeners than I am, just so you know…” Hansel mumbled.

“Be nice, idiot!” Gretel yelled.

Ow! Stop hitting me!” Hansel yelled back.

Evie shushed them before going on. “We’re your friends, Destan, and if you need us, we’re here for you, alright? And, if you ever feel like it, I’d love to hear about your parents. From what everyone has told us, they seemed like really lovely people. Sometimes it helps to talk fondly of the people we’ve lost—I know it helps to talk about what little I remember of my father.” There was silence for a moment as if she were waiting for Destan to respond. When he didn’t, she continued. “Just think about what I said, alright?”

Hansel exhaled noisily. “Do you have a pimple, Herr Princey? Is that it? I bet he’s got a huge pimple.”

Hansel,” Evie said sharply, much to Destan’s surprise. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. You know he’s hurting.”

“Don’t mind him,” Gretel said. “He’s jealous that you and I like Destan so much.”

“Am not!” Hansel protested vigorously. “Look, Destan, whatever the problem is, you better be over it by tomorrow. Evie and Gretel have been looking forward to Christmas all month, and if you ruin it for them by being all dark and brooding, I’ll be forced to knock some holiday cheer into you—got me?”

Hansel!” Gretel and Evie cried in unison.

“What? I’d say that’s as good a pep talk as any.”

“You can’t threaten a prince, stupid!” Gretel hissed.

“I can if said prince is being a sulky git,” Hansel said, the frustration clear in his gruff tone. “Besides, he deserves a kick in the trousers for avoiding us all day!”

Destan set his forehead on his desk with a soft thunk, blowing out a breath of air. “You all should leave before it gets any darker. You’ve got a long walk back to Gründorf.”

“Well, you could offer us a carriage back,” Hansel called through the door.

“Oh shut it, Hans,” Gretel grumbled. “You need a bit of exercise after all that food you ate at dinner—you act like you’ve never seen filet mignon before.”

I haven’t and neither have you, so get off your high horse, Greta. I saw you scarfing down those little tea cakes! If anyone needs the exercise, it’s you!”

Destan heard Evie sigh again—it must have been exhausting for her to deal with their bickering all the time. “We’ll see you tomorrow, Destan. I hope you feel better…”

After Evie said that, Destan heard the sound of three pairs of footsteps moving away from his door and down the marble tiled hallway, accompanied by Hansel and Gretel’s whispered bickering. Destan looked up at the clock on the wall above his desk and saw that it was nearly six o’ clock. Where had the day gone?

It was almost completely dark outside now, and Destan vaguely wondered if he should call his friends back and offer to let them stay the night. But then he would be obligated to spend time with them despite his bad mood… He didn’t want them to see him like this. If he let them go now, chances were that he would still have friends in the morning—he could not guarantee that if he asked them to stay.

They’ll be fine, he thought dully to himself as he picked up his quill and began to work on his assignment once more. Just one more day and I’ll be back to myself. One more day and I’ll be able to spend time with them like I normally do. I just don’t want them to see me like this. I don’t want to infect them with my misery…

In only six hours the dreaded day would be upon him: Christmas Eve. That was when he—along with the rest of Germany—traditionally celebrated the Christmas holiday. There was dancing, singing, tree lighting ceremonies, gift exchanges, and an overabundance of joy. For the past few years, Destan had chosen a quiet spot in which to sit and watch the festivities from afar. He preferred it that way. Perhaps things would be different if his parents were still alive—no. Things would be different if his parents were alive. Without Klaus and Kristiane, Christmas felt terribly lonely—it mattered not how many people had come to partake in the festivities at Rosenstaat palace.

Despite how grim the thought was, Destan knew that even if his friends were present this Christmas, his loneliness and sadness would remain. Nothing would change. No one could help him feel any differently. December would forever be marred by the tragic events of his past.

 *************************

Ding-dong!

Destan flinched at the harsh sound of the clock’s chime.

Ding-dong!

The clock sounded again and Destan’s eyes flickered open. He realized then that he’d fallen asleep at his desk. As he lifted his head, he felt a piece of paper sticking to his cheek. He peeled it off his face and stretched his arms above his head, reaching for the ceiling with a groan of discomfort.

Ding-dong!

The prince scowled upon hearing the sound of the clock chiming again. Since when did he have a chiming clock anyway?

Ding-dong!

He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and looked up at the wall clock. It was midnight on the dot—the 24th had arrived.

Ding-dong!

The clock struck again as he was staring at it, only then did he realize that the chiming hadn’t come from that clock at all. Now that he was slightly more awake, he realized that the chiming sound seemed to be coming from the room itself.

Ding-dong!

The prince stood up, his eyes flickering to every dark corner of his chambers as he tried to figure out where that blasted noise was coming from. Surely if he didn’t find the chiming’s source and stop it soon, it would wake the entire castle up.

Ding-dong!

It sounded even louder this time. Destan hurried through the darkness of his chambers, tripping over chairs, tables, and strewn aside clothing, desperately searching for whatever was making that terribly loud chiming.

Ding-dong!

Destan stubbed his toe on his bed post and cursed to himself beneath his breath. “Will you shut up already?” he grumbled between gritted teeth.

As if in reply, the phantom clock answered, “Ding-dong!

He stumbled over a chest and looked back towards the fireplace where a fire—that he didn’t start—already blazed. It was the only light in the room and he decided to move towards it to collect his bearings—the dark had a way of disorienting minds that were already discombobulated with drowsiness.

Ding-dong!

The clock sounded again just as he managed to stumble into the yellowish light of the fire. The light made his shadow long and gangly, like some sort of monster with arms and legs that looked as if they had been stretched too far. The air suddenly turned cold despite the flames that danced in the fireplace.

Ding-dong!

Destan covered his ears, trying to drown out the chime, the resonance from which made the entire room tremble. What was going on?

DING-DONG!

His hands did little to drown out the thunderous chime that surely woke up all the residents of the palace. The fire was suddenly extinguished and Destan was left to stand alone in the darkness of his room without even so much as a candle to comfort him.

He waited for another chime, but the room was silent and deathly still—it was disconcerting for the prince to say the very least. Slowly, he lowered his hands from his ears, his eyes straining to see through the darkness as his gaze darted about the dark masses of furniture that were spread out across his room. At least, he hoped those black masses were all just furniture.

He snatched up an iron poker from beside the fireplace and gripped it tightly in his sweaty palms. It was so cold—as cold as the winters in Rosenstaat used to be. Where had the draft come from?

Destan cautiously looked towards his drapes and saw that they were waving slightly in some phantom breeze. He had not opened the window, he was certain of that. Perhaps one of the servants lit the fire and opened the window while I was asleep. Yes. That must be it! Although his mind was confident that this had to be the case, his body trembled like a leaf in the wind. He had not been this frightened in quite a long time—not even the mirror shard spirit had frightened him to the point of shaking.

He swallowed the lump in his throat before calling out into the darkness, “Hello?”

“Hello, Destan,” came the sound of male voice. The voice was echoy and had a sort of distant quality to it, but it wasn’t unpleasant or frightening. On the contrary, the voice he’d heard was warm, unlike the icy air that now coursed through the room.

A smoky white figure materialized out of the darkness. It was the figure of a man who was young and strong. Although he was transparent, Destan could see clearly the handsome features of someone he knew very well.

The prince’s eyes widened and the iron poker slipped from his grasps, clattering to the wooden floor below. “Father…?”

Klaus smiled and nodded once. “Yes, Destan. It is I.”

The prince stared wide-eyed at his long dead father, before an uncertain chuckle escaped his lips. “Ah, I see. This is a dream…”

“Do you think so?” His father asked pleasantly.

“It must be! That’s the only way this scenario makes any sense at all,” Destan cried. “You’re in my head and I’m asleep. I was thinking about you before I nodded off, so it’s a perfectly reasonable explanation.”

It was Klaus’s turn to chuckle. “Oh, Destan, you of all people should know that things cannot always be explained away with logic and reason.”

“But you can!” Destan insisted. “You’re merely some food induced hallucination! That cheese I had earlier did taste a little funny now that I think of it…”

Klaus shrugged. “If you say so. And here I thought you’d be happy to see me again, though it seems you’re all but too ready to chalk my presence down to some bad cheese.”

Destan shivered, pulling his court coat more tightly around himself—he had yet to change into his pyjamas. He wanted to run to his father and embrace him, but from the translucent look of Klaus, he would probably fall right through him. Thus he stayed where he was, trembling from the bitter cold air. “Wh-what are you doing here?”

“I’ve come because you need my help—our help,” Klaus replied simply, taking a few steps forward, walking right through the couch. His copper coloured eyes sparkled dimly in the darkness and his expression was kind—not at all intimidating. “You have forsaken this happy holiday for too long, my son. If you do not change your way of thinking I fear that you will have a very lonely future. Christmas is not a time to mourn, but to celebrate life and cherish those whom we hold dear.”

Destan could not help but frown. “I would be heartless to celebrate on the anniversary of yours and mother’s death. I’ve dedicated this month to memorializing you!”

“And has that made you any happier?”

“Well, no, but that’s not the—”

“It is exactly the point, Destan,” Klaus said sternly. “What point is there in remembering those you’ve lost if you only dwell on the negative? The time for mourning has passed. Think of your mother and me fondly, but enjoy Christmas with your friends and family like a boy your age should.”

Destan shut his eyes and dismally shook his head. “I … I can’t. I don’t know how to let go of you and mother. The day of your funeral is permanently burned into my mind. There is no way I will ever be able to enjoy this month or Christmas ever again.”

Klaus lifted his chin, looking down upon his son with a strangely serious expression. “Then so be it. If you cannot see the chains you are creating for yourself, we will have to show you.”

Destan furrowed his brow, tilting his head to the side. “We? Who are you talking about?”

“You shall be visited by three spirits. Listen to what they say and learn from them, for if you do not, you may be doomed to a future full of misery and loneliness,” Klaus said in a gravely solemn tone.

Destan scoffed. “I’m being punished just because I don’t like Christmas? Father, even you must admit that this is nonsense! I don’t deserve to be haunted by one spirit let alone three.”

A grim smile spread across Klaus’s face. “Without these spirits, it is unlikely that you will change your sombre ways in time for you to improve your future. Change, Destan, or your misery will only grow.” His father’s image began to fade away. “Expect the first ghost when the bell tolls one!”

With those foreboding words hanging in the air the apparition disappeared completely. The fire reignited by itself, and instantly began eating away at the bitter cold. Destan’s heart beat wildly against his chest, and, for a moment, he was paralyzed in place.

After taking a deep, calming breath, Destan decided to forget what he had seen—or at least try to pretend it had merely been a waking dream. He’d been overworking himself with his studies, so he supposed the idea of a ‘day-dream’ was plausible.

He lit a few candles to put himself more at ease, pulled on his pyjamas, and climbed into bed. He shut all the bed drapes tightly and crawled beneath the covers, trying to rid his mind of any and all thoughts of ghosts. Soon his heavy lids shut over his eyes, and he fell into a restless sleep.

 

PART 2 & PART 3

Artwork by: Enrica Eren Angiolini (my illustrator)

Christmas is coming early, story lovers!

bigpreview_A Victorian Christmas Carol, Thomas Kinkade

Yes, yes, I know I missed posting all last week, but that’s just because I’ve been working on something special for you guys! That’s right! I’ve written a Christmas Prince of Prophecy short story (in the style of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”). I’ll be uploading it in three parts, the first part of which I will be uploading today (the second part will be uploaded on Saturday, and the final part will be uploaded on Christmas Eve)! This is an exclusive WordPress short story that takes place right after my first book The Prince of Prophecy Vol. I: Destined. If you haven’t read the book, don’t fret–this short story is a stand alone that everyone can enjoy!

On a slightly different note, my second book The Prince of Prophecy Vol. II: Cursed will be released in paperback and hardcover on December 27th–just in time to get your New Year’s read on! If you want to get the jump on this action packed sequel, the eBook is available for purchase right now on Amazon.com or B&N.com for the unbeatable prince of $2.99!

I hope you all have a happy holiday season (no matter what holiday you celebrate), and I hope you enjoy The Prince of Prophecy’s Christmas Carol!

 

For new fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s “The Princess in Disguise”

A KING once had a wife with golden hair who was so beautiful
that none on earth could be found equal to her. It happened that
she fell ill, and as soon as she knew she must die, she sent for the
King and said to him, “After my death I know you will marry
another wife; but you must promise me that, however beautiful she
may be, if she is not as beautiful as I am and has not golden hair
like mine you will not marry her.” The King had no sooner given
his promise than she closed her eyes and died.

 
For a long time he refused to be comforted, and thought it was
impossible he could ever take another wife. At length his
counselors came to him, and said, “A King should not remain
unmarried; we ought to have a Queen.” So he at last consented,
and then messengers were sent far and wide to find a bride whose
beauty should equal that of the dead Queen. But none was to be
found in the whole world; for even when equally beautiful they
had not golden hair. So the messengers returned without obtaining
what they sought.

 
Now, the King had a daughter who was quite as beautiful as her
dead mother, and had also golden hair. She had all this while been
growing up, and very soon the King noticed how exactly she
resembled her dead mother. So he sent for his counselors, and said
to them, “I will marry my daughter; she is the image of my dead
wife, and no other bride can be found to enable me to keep my
promise to her.” When the counselors heard this, they were
dreadfully shocked, and said, “It is forbidden for a father to marry
his daughter; nothing but evil could spring from such a sin, and
the kingdom will be ruined.” When the King’s daughter heard of
her father’s proposition she was greatly alarmed, the more so as
she saw how resolved he was to carry out his intention.

 
She hoped, however, to be able to save him and herself from such
ruin and disgrace, so she said to him, “Before I consent to your
wish I shall require three things- a dress as golden as the sun,
another as silvery as the moon, and a third as glittering as the stars;
and besides this, I shall require a mantle made of a thousand skins
of rough fur sewn together, and every animal in the kingdom must
give a piece of his skin toward it.” “Ah!” she thought, “I have
asked for impossibilities, and I hope I shall be able to make my
father give up his wicked intentions.” The King, however, was not
to be diverted from his purpose. All the most skilful young women
in the kingdom were employed to weave the three dresses, one to
be as golden as the sun, another as silvery as the moon, and the
third as glittering as the stars. He sent hunters into the forest to kill
the wild animals and bring home their skins, of which the mantle
was to be made; and at last when all was finished he brought them
and laid them before her, and then said, “Tomorrow our marriage
shall take place.”

 
Then the King’s daughter saw that there was no hope of changing
her father’s heart, so she determined to run away from the castle.
In the night, when every one slept, she rose and took from her
jewel-case a gold ring, a gold spinning-wheel, and a golden hook.
The three dresses of the sun, moon, and stars she folded in so small
a parcel that they were placed in a walnutshell; then she put on the
fur mantle, stained her face and hands black with walnut-juice, and
committing herself to the care of Heaven, she left her home.
After traveling the whole night she came at last to a large forest,
and feeling very tired she crept into a hollow tree and went to
sleep. The sun rose, but she still slept on, and did not awake till
nearly noon.

 
It happened on this very day that the King to whom the wood
belonged was hunting in the forest, and when his hounds came to
the tree they sniffed about, and ran round and round the tree
barking loudly. The King called to his hunters, and said, “Just go
and see what wild animal the dogs are barking at.” They obeyed,
and quickly returning told the King that in the hollow tree was a
most beautiful creature, such as they had never seen before, that
the skin was covered with a thousand different sorts of fur, and
that it was fast asleep.

 
“Then,” said the King, “go and see if you can capture it alive. Then
bind it on the wagon and bring it home.” While the hunters were
binding the maiden she awoke, and full of terror cried out to them,
“I am only a poor child, forsaken by my father and mother; take
pity on me, and take me with you!” “Well,” they replied, “you may
be useful to the cook, little Roughskin. Come with us; you can at
least sweep up the ashes.” So they seated her on the wagon and
took her home to the King’s castle. They showed her a little stable
under the steps, where no daylight ever came, and said,
“Roughskin, here you can live and sleep.” So the King’s daughter
was sent into the kitchen to fetch the wood, draw the water, stir the
fire, pluck the fowls, look after the vegetables, sweep the ashes,
and do all the hard work.

 
Poor Roughskin, as they called her, lived for a long time most
miserably, and the beautiful King’s daughter knew not when it
would end or how. It happened, however, after a time that a
festival was to take place in the castle, so she said to the cook, “May
I go out for a little while to see the company arrive? I will stand
outside the door.” “Yes, you may go,” he replied, “but in half an
hour I shall want you to sweep up the ashes and put the kitchen in
order.” Then she took her little oil-lamp, went into the stable,
threw off the fur coat, washed the nut-stains from her face and
hands, so that her full beauty appeared before the day. After this
she opened the nutshell and took out the dress that was golden as
the sun, and put it on. As soon as she was quite dressed she went
out and presented herself at the entrance of the castle as a visitor.

 
No one recognized her as Roughskin; they thought she was a
King’s daughter, and sent and told the King of her arrival. He went
to receive her, offered her his hand, and while they danced
together he thought in his heart, “My eyes have never seen any
maiden before so beautiful as this.”

 
As soon as the dance was over she bowed to the King, and before
he could look round she had vanished, no one knew where. The
sentinel at the castle gate was called and questioned, but he had
not seen any one pass.

 
But she had run to her stable, quickly removed her dress, stained
her face and hands, put on her fur coat, and was again Roughskin.
When she entered the kitchen and began to do her work and sweep
up the ashes, the cook said, “Leave that alone till tomorrow; I want
you to cook some soup for the King. I will also taste a little when it
is ready. But do not let one of your hairs fall in, or you will get
nothing to eat in future from me.” Then the cook went out, and
Roughskin made the King’s soup as nicely as she could, and cut
bread for it, and when it was ready she fetched from her little
stable her gold ring and laid it in the dish in which the soup was
prepared.

 
After the King had left the ball-room he called for the soup, and
while eating it thought he had never tasted better soup in his life.
But when the dish was nearly empty he saw to his surprise a gold
ring lying at the bottom, and could not imagine how it came there.
Then he ordered the cook to come to him, and he was in a terrible
fright when he heard the order. “You must certainly have let a hair
fall into the soup; if you have, I shall thrash you!” he said.

 
As soon as he appeared the King said, “Who cooked this soup?” “I
cooked it,” he replied. “That is not true,” said the King. “This soup
is made quite differently and much better than you ever made it.”
Then the cook was obliged to confess that Roughskin had made the
soup. “Go and send her to me,” said the King.

 
As soon as she appeared the King said to her, “Who art thou,
maiden?” She replied, “I am a poor child, without father or
mother.” He asked again, “Why are you in my castle?” “Because I
am trying to earn my bread by helping the cook,” she replied.
“How came this ring in the soup?” he said again. “I know nothing
about the ring!” she replied.

 
When the King found he could learn nothing from Roughskin, he
sent her away. A little time after this there was another festival,
and Roughskin had again permission from the cook to go and see
the visitors. “But,” he added, “come back in half an hour and cook
for the King the soup that he is so fond of.” She promised to return,
and ran quickly into her little stable, washed off the stains, and
took out of the nutshell her dress, silvery as the moon, and put it
on.

 
Then she appeared at the castle like a King’s daughter, and the
King came to receive her with great pleasure; he was so glad to see
her again, and while the dancing continued the King kept her as
his partner. When the ball ended she disappeared so quickly that
the King could not imagine what had become of her.
But she had rushed down to her stable, made herself again the
rough little creature that was called Roughskin, and went into the
kitchen to cook the soup.

 
While the cook was upstairs she fetched the golden spinning-wheel
and dropped it into the soup as soon as it was ready. The King
again ate it with great relish; it was as good as before, and when he
sent for the cook and asked who made it, he was obliged to own
that it was Roughskin. She was also ordered to appear before the
King, but he could get nothing out of her, excepting that she was a
poor child, and knew nothing of the golden spinning-wheel.

 
At the King’s third festival everything happened as before. But the
cook said, “I will let you go and see the dancing-room this time,
Roughskin; but I believe you are a witch, for although the soup is
good, and the King says it is better than I can make it, there is
always something dropped into it which I cannot understand.”

 
Roughskin did not stop to listen; she ran quickly to her little stable,
washed off the nut-stains, and this time dressed herself in the dress
that glittered like the stars. When the King came as before to
receive her in the hall, he thought he had never seen such a
beautiful woman in his life. While they were dancing he contrived,
without being noticed by the maiden, to slip a gold ring on her
finger, and he had given orders that the dancing should continue
longer than usual. When it ended, he wanted to hold her hand still,
but she pulled it away, and sprang so quickly among the people
that she vanished from his eyes.

 
She ran out of breath to her stable under the steps, for she knew
that she had remained longer away than half an hour, and there
was not time to take off her dress, so she threw on her fur cloak
over it, and in her haste she did not make her face black enough,
nor hide her golden hair properly; her hands also remained white.

 
However, when she entered the kitchen, the cook was still away, so
she prepared the King’s soup, and dropped into it the golden hook.
The King, when he found another trinket in his soup, sent
immediately for Roughskin, and as she entered the room he saw
the ring on her white finger which he had placed there. Instantly
he seized her hand and held her fast, but in her struggles to get
free the fur mantle opened and the star-glittering dress was plainly
seen. The King caught the mantle and tore it off, and as he did so
her golden hair fell over her shoulders, and she stood before him in
her full splendor, and felt that she could no longer conceal who she
was. Then she wiped the soot and stains from her face, and was
beautiful to the eyes of the King as any woman upon earth.

 
“You shall be my dear bride,” said the King, “and we will never be
parted again, although I know not who you are.” Then she told
him her past history, and all that had happened to her, and he
found that she was, as he thought, a King’s daughter. Soon after
the marriage was celebrated, and they lived happily till their death.

 

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Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Flying Trunk”

Flying_Trunk_01

THERE was once a merchant who was so rich that he could have paved the whole street with gold, and would even then have had enough for a small alley. But he did not do so; he knew the value of money better than to use it in this way. So clever was he, that every shilling he put out brought him a crown; and so he continued till he died. His son inherited his wealth, and he lived a merry life with it; he went to a masquerade every night, made kites out of five pound notes, and threw pieces of gold into the sea instead of stones, making ducks and drakes of them. In this manner he soon lost all his money. At last he had nothing left but a pair of slippers, an old dressing-gown, and four shillings. And now all his friends deserted him, they could not walk with him in the streets; but one of them, who was very good-natured, sent him an old trunk with this message, “Pack up!” “Yes,” he said, “it is all very well to say ‘pack up,’” but he had nothing left to pack up, therefore he seated himself in the trunk. It was a very wonderful trunk; no sooner did any one press on the lock than the trunk could fly. He shut the lid and pressed the lock, when away flew the trunk up the chimney with the merchant’s son in it, right up into the clouds. Whenever the bottom of the trunk cracked, he was in a great fright, for if the trunk fell to pieces he would have made a tremendous somerset over the trees. However, he got safely in his trunk to the land of Turkey. He hid the trunk in the wood under some dry leaves, and then went into the town: he could so this very well, for the Turks always go about dressed in dressing-gowns and slippers, as he was himself. He happened to meet a nurse with a little child. “I say, you Turkish nurse,” cried he, “what castle is that near the town, with the windows placed so high?”

“The king’s daughter lives there,” she replied; “it has been prophesied that she will be very unhappy about a lover, and therefore no one is allowed to visit her, unless the king and queen are present.”

“Thank you,” said the merchant’s son. So he went back to the wood, seated himself in his trunk, flew up to the roof of the castle, and crept through the window into the princess’s room. She lay on the sofa asleep, and she was so beautiful that the merchant’s son could not help kissing her. Then she awoke, and was very much frightened; but he told her he was a Turkish angel, who had come down through the air to see her, which pleased her very much. He sat down by her side and talked to her: he said her eyes were like beautiful dark lakes, in which the thoughts swam about like little mermaids, and he told her that her forehead was a snowy mountain, which contained splendid halls full of pictures. And then he related to her about the stork who brings the beautiful children from the rivers. These were delightful stories; and when he asked the princess if she would marry him, she consented immediately.

“But you must come on Saturday,” she said; “for then the king and queen will take tea with me. They will be very proud when they find that I am going to marry a Turkish angel; but you must think of some very pretty stories to tell them, for my parents like to hear stories better than anything. My mother prefers one that is deep and moral; but my father likes something funny, to make him laugh.”

“Very well,” he replied; “I shall bring you no other marriage portion than a story,” and so they parted. But the princess gave him a sword which was studded with gold coins, and these he could use.

Then he flew away to the town and bought a new dressing-gown, and afterwards returned to the wood, where he composed a story, so as to be ready for Saturday, which was no easy matter. It was ready however by Saturday, when he went to see the princess. The king, and queen, and the whole court, were at tea with the princess; and he was received with great politeness.

“Will you tell us a story?” said the queen,—“one that is instructive and full of deep learning.”

“Yes, but with something in it to laugh at,” said the king.

“Certainly,” he replied, and commenced at once, asking them to listen attentively. “There was once a bundle of matches that were exceedingly proud of their high descent. Their genealogical tree, that is, a large pine-tree from which they had been cut, was at one time a large, old tree in the wood. The matches now lay between a tinder-box and an old iron saucepan, and were talking about their youthful days. ‘Ah! then we grew on the green boughs, and were as green as they; every morning and evening we were fed with diamond drops of dew. Whenever the sun shone, we felt his warm rays, and the little birds would relate stories to us as they sung. We knew that we were rich, for the other trees only wore their green dress in summer, but our family were able to array themselves in green, summer and winter. But the wood-cutter came, like a great revolution, and our family fell under the axe. The head of the house obtained a situation as mainmast in a very fine ship, and can sail round the world when he will. The other branches of the family were taken to different places, and our office now is to kindle a light for common people. This is how such high-born people as we came to be in a kitchen.’

“‘Mine has been a very different fate,’ said the iron pot, which stood by the matches; ‘from my first entrance into the world I have been used to cooking and scouring. I am the first in this house, when anything solid or useful is required. My only pleasure is to be made clean and shining after dinner, and to sit in my place and have a little sensible conversation with my neighbors. All of us, excepting the water-bucket, which is sometimes taken into the courtyard, live here together within these four walls. We get our news from the market-basket, but he sometimes tells us very unpleasant things about the people and the government. Yes, and one day an old pot was so alarmed, that he fell down and was broken to pieces. He was a liberal, I can tell you.’

“‘You are talking too much,’ said the tinder-box, and the steel struck against the flint till some sparks flew out, crying, ‘We want a merry evening, don’t we?’

“‘Yes, of course,’ said the matches, ‘let us talk about those who are the highest born.’

“‘No, I don’t like to be always talking of what we are,’ remarked the saucepan; ‘let us think of some other amusement; I will begin. We will tell something that has happened to ourselves; that will be very easy, and interesting as well. On the Baltic Sea, near the Danish shore’—

“‘What a pretty commencement!’ said the plates; ‘we shall all like that story, I am sure.’

“‘Yes; well in my youth, I lived in a quiet family, where the furniture was polished, the floors scoured, and clean curtains put up every fortnight,’

“‘What an interesting way you have of relating a story,’ said the carpet-broom; ‘it is easy to perceive that you have been a great deal in women’s society, there is something so pure runs through what you say.’

“‘That is quite true,’ said the water-bucket; and he made a spring with joy, and splashed some water on the floor.

“Then the saucepan went on with his story, and the end was as good as the beginning.

“The plates rattled with pleasure, and the carpet-broom brought some green parsley out of the dust-hole and crowned the saucepan, for he knew it would vex the others; and he thought, ‘If I crown him to-day he will crown me to-morrow.’

“‘Now, let us have a dance,’ said the fire-tongs; and then how they danced and stuck up one leg in the air. The chair-cushion in the corner burst with laughter when she saw it.

“‘Shall I be crowned now?’ asked the fire-tongs; so the broom found another wreath for the tongs.

“‘They were only common people after all,’ thought the matches. The tea-urn was now asked to sing, but she said she had a cold, and could not sing without boiling heat. They all thought this was affectation, and because she did not wish to sing excepting in the parlor, when on the table with the grand people.

“In the window sat an old quill-pen, with which the maid generally wrote. There was nothing remarkable about the pen, excepting that it had been dipped too deeply in the ink, but it was proud of that.

“‘If the tea-urn won’t sing,’ said the pen, ‘she can leave it alone; there is a nightingale in a cage who can sing; she has not been taught much, certainly, but we need not say anything this evening about that.’

“‘I think it highly improper,’ said the tea-kettle, who was kitchen singer, and half-brother to the tea-urn, ‘that a rich foreign bird should be listened to here. Is it patriotic? Let the market-basket decide what is right.’

“‘I certainly am vexed,’ said the basket; ‘inwardly vexed, more than any one can imagine. Are we spending the evening properly? Would it not be more sensible to put the house in order? If each were in his own place I would lead a game; this would be quite another thing.’

“‘Let us act a play,’ said they all. At the same moment the door opened, and the maid came in. Then not one stirred; they all remained quite still; yet, at the same time, there was not a single pot amongst them who had not a high opinion of himself, and of what he could do if he chose.

“‘Yes, if we had chosen,’ they each thought, ‘we might have spent a very pleasant evening.’

“The maid took the matches and lighted them; dear me, how they sputtered and blazed up!

“‘Now then,’ they thought, ‘every one will see that we are the first. How we shine; what a light we give!’ Even while they spoke their light went out.

“What a capital story,” said the queen, “I feel as if I were really in the kitchen, and could see the matches; yes, you shall marry our daughter.”

“Certainly,” said the king, “thou shalt have our daughter.” The king said thou to him because he was going to be one of the family. The wedding-day was fixed, and, on the evening before, the whole city was illuminated. Cakes and sweetmeats were thrown among the people. The street boys stood on tiptoe and shouted “hurrah,” and whistled between their fingers; altogether it was a very splendid affair.

“I will give them another treat,” said the merchant’s son. So he went and bought rockets and crackers, and all sorts of fire-works that could be thought of, packed them in his trunk, and flew up with it into the air. What a whizzing and popping they made as they went off! The Turks, when they saw such a sight in the air, jumped so high that their slippers flew about their ears. It was easy to believe after this that the princess was really going to marry a Turkish angel.

As soon as the merchant’s son had come down in his flying trunk to the wood after the fireworks, he thought, “I will go back into the town now, and hear what they think of the entertainment.” It was very natural that he should wish to know. And what strange things people did say, to be sure! every one whom he questioned had a different tale to tell, though they all thought it very beautiful.

“ I saw the Turkish angel myself,” said one; “he had eyes like glittering stars, and a head like foaming water.”

“He flew in a mantle of fire,” cried another, “and lovely little cherubs peeped out from the folds.”

He heard many more fine things about himself, and that the next day he was to be married. After this he went back to the forest to rest himself in his trunk. It had disappeared! A spark from the fireworks which remained had set it on fire; it was burnt to ashes! So the merchant’s son could not fly any more, nor go to meet his bride. She stood all day on the roof waiting for him, and most likely she is waiting there still; while he wanders through the world telling fairy tales, but none of them so amusing as the one he related about the matches.

 

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