JJ Bennett has a contest running over at her blog Jennifer J Bennett for the prequel (or sequel) to a Fairy Tale that she posted a couple of weeks ago.
My entry follows. On September 1st, the entries will be posted on her blog and readers will be allowed to vote for their favorite. Please, if you like my story, pop on over and give me your vote!
Here it is:
Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful orphan named Wilhelmina. She loved a farmer’s son named Purleon, whose one ambition was to become a knight. He was tall, handsome, and an excellent fighter. However, he lacked a suitable horse, and was too poor to buy one.
As the annual tournament approached, Purleon trained even harder. The tournament was his one chance to prove himself. He hoped that he would be taken into the service of a great lord. “When I am a knight,” he promised Wilhelmina, “I will marry you, and take you to my lord’s castle. You will live like a princess!” This made her laugh with love and happiness.
But he still lacked a horse. As the weeks went by, Wilhelmina racked her brains for some scheme by which she could help him obtain one, but could think of nothing. She supported herself by doing laundry and mending. She had very little money to lend her beloved.
A few days before the tournament, Wilhelmina was walking to the market in the next town, feeling very sad for Purleon. Suddenly she saw a thin, tired, homely-looking woman leading a magnificent charger down the road. “Where are you going with that horse?” Wilhelmina asked.
The woman looked at her sadly. “My husband died,” she said. “I have no more money to feed myself and my children. All that I have left is his horse. I am taking it to the market to sell it.”
“My young man needs a horse,” said Wilhelmina, “so that he can go to the tournament and become a knight. I want to buy your horse for him, but I have no money.”
The woman eyed her shrewdly. “Perhaps you can barter with me.”
“What could I possibly give you in exchange for something so valuable?” asked Wilhelmina.
“Your beauty,” said the woman. “If I were as beautiful as you, I could win another husband to take care of me and my children.”
Wilhelmina thought for a long moment. She was convinced that Purleon would love her whether she were beautiful or not, especially if she were able to give him this charger. She agreed.
The woman put her calloused hands on Wilhelmina’s face, and as she did so Wilhelmina saw the woman’s cheeks grow youthful again, her teeth become strong and white, her hair like flowing gold, her figure full and pleasing. She felt herself grow thin and worn in exchange. The woman put the reins into Wilhelmina’s hand, picked up her skirts, and ran down the road, rejoicing.
Wilhelmina was afraid that she had been tricked by some sorceress, but the horse was just as strong and handsome as ever. She took him to Purleon proudly. “Look, I have found a horse for you! Now you can enter the tournament.”
It was hard to determine whether Purleon was more astonished by the gift, or by the change in his beloved. “What happened to you?” he asked. She told him how she had met the woman on the road, and exchanged her beauty for the magnificent charger.
“You’ll still marry me and take me away with you, won’t you?” she asked.
“Of course I will!” he promised, but he did not take her in his arms.
The day of the tournament arrived. Although Purleon was not the champion, he fought so well that he did capture the attention of a rich lord. His head had been turned, however, by the many beautiful maidens who threw their scarves down to the contesting knights. He paid Wilhelmina for the horse out of his winnings, but he did not take her away with him.
Wilhelmina was heartbroken. All of the women who had been jealous of her beauty now mocked her, calling her “Princess Willa.” None of the young men would court her, or even go near her, because she was so ugly. For a year, she waited for Purleon to come back for her. She used the money he gave her to buy a beautiful gown, and wore it every day in the hope that he would see her in it and remember that he loved her.
Eventually, she realized that he wasn’t coming back. She went to the riverbank to drown herself. As she sat there sobbing, an enormous orange cat walked up to her and rubbed his head against her shoulder. “Go away!” she cried.
“There, there,” said the cat, rubbing more persistently and purring. “No use crying over spilt milk. The best thing to do is lick up as much as possible, and try to trip the milkmaid again.” He grinned.
In spite of herself, Willa laughed. The cat jumped into her lap and settled there. “I know your story, Willa. I am convinced that Fate will somehow reward you for your good deed. In one way, it already has.”
“What do you mean?”
“I happen to know that Purleon is miserable. He doesn’t like serving a great lord as much as he thought he would. He has married a pretty, selfish young woman. Neither he nor his wife think of anyone but themselves, which makes for an unhappy marriage, indeed.”
At this, Willa began to sob again and wanted to throw herself into the river. But the cat had fallen asleep in her lap, and was so heavy that she couldn’t remove him. So, she sat on the riverbank until he woke up again. The crisis past, she and the cat went home together.
So that is how the lovely Wilhelmina became Princess Willa and met her magical cat. Knowing that Purleon was married helped her set him free in her heart, and she became happy again. She withdrew from society, living in a cave and helping those who were more unfortunate than she. Secretly, however, she hoped that the cat was right, and she would be rewarded for her good deed.
Perhaps, she might even get her beauty back.
(c) Christine Hardy 2009