Wicked Tales: Rumple’s GamebyRedHairedandFriendly©
Author's Note: This is my take on the story Rumpelstiltskin. I do hope you enjoy this spin on the old fairy tale. There are several more twisted tales, both under the title "Wicked Tales" and under the title "Fairy Tale Fantasy". I enjoy your comments, please feel free to leave them and toss me a vote, if you are so inclined, most of all, I do hope you like the tale I've twisted. ~ Thanks, Red.
Astrid listened to the crowd's muttering. He too had read the declaration concerning King Hedwig's desire to wed. What he couldn't believe was that the royal was willing to take a bride from his own lands and she did not have to be of royal blood. That meant any girl in the area was eligible. Why had Hedwig decided to do this was beyond Astrid's thinking, but what wasn't lost to him was the fact that he had a daughter. Now how to make her more special than any other in the land was Astrid's next thought. He picked himself up from the bench he'd been sitting on and untethered his mule. With thoughts of gold and riches floating about in his head, Astrid made his way back to the forest and down the path that would eventually lead to his home.
As he trod across the dusty ground that surrounded his house, he heard the sound of Caitlinn's sing song voice coming from the upper rooms of their small home. He smiled as her words transported him back to a time when his wife, Addie, was still alive. He missed Addie and it was during these times of reflection that he thought of the promise he'd made her so many years ago. She'd been ill for so long and knew her time was coming. She'd begged him to keep their daughter instead of fostering her out to another family. He agreed and swore to her that Caitlinn would lack for nothing. Sadly, though he'd not lived up to the second promise, or so he thought.
The sound of her singing stopped when he closed the door on their tiny home. He smiled as he heard her footsteps above him making their way across the floor and then down the narrow stairway. Astrid looked up and smiled a toothy grin. "I heard your mother's voice again," he told her and opened his arms to accept the welcome home hug she gave him. Astrid stepped free of her embrace and looked down on her diminutive frame. "You look so much like her," he said and swept a few strands of her curly yellow locks from her eyes. "Right down to the silver speck in your blue eyes."
Caitlinn smiled back at her father. "I wish I had known her longer," she said, "but I have you," she added. "How did you fare in the village?" she asked, moving away from her father and heading instead toward the small room that served as their kitchen.
"I fared as well as I thought I would. The crops were meager this year and though we are the only mill in the area, even I can't sell what others can't reap in," Astrid commented as he followed her into the tiny and yet clutter free space. He took a seat at the hard worn table and watched Caitlinn serve him a mug of ale. He thanked her for it and drank deep before sharing more of his trip with her.
"It is good I chose this day to go into the village. The King's man, Chancellor Guifford put up a parchment this morning. A decree from the King himself."
"Oh?" Caitlinn asked, claiming a seat across from her father. "What was this decree?"
Astrid grinned, rested his hands on his stomach and leaned back in his chair. "Well my dear, our King is looking for a bride. . .and not just any bride, but a special bride." He watched Caitlinn's face, hoping to catch every reaction to his pending news. "This bride however does not have to be of royal blood, nor does she have to be a noble woman either."
Caitlinn's brow rose in curiosity. "What does he require of this bride? Surely King Hedwig would look for a woman that would give him lands and wealth."
"No, that is not the case. Hedwig looks for one from his own lands as well as neighboring lands. Any woman is eligible and is to be brought to the King and Guifford for inspection." Astrid's lips were raised high in an upwards grin. "Any girl, Caitlinn... you know what this means!" He stared at her for several seconds before his excitement forced him to jump up, grab her, and then spin her around. "You Caitlinn. Our King will chose you!"
He felt Caitlinn's body tense up as he held her close. Immediately his grip slackened and he stared down at her. "Caitlinn, what is wrong?" he asked as he took in her pale features. "Do you doubt he'll choose you? Don't my child. You are the most lovely in our village. You have the voice of an angel and you are a loving, compassionate woman. Our King would be a fool to choose another over you."
"Father," Caitlinn said, pushing at his chest and freeing herself from his overzealous hold. "I do not wish to be King Hedwig's wife. I do not wish to be a Queen. What do I know of Queenly things?"
"Caitlinn, you'll learn. The Chancellor will teach you, guide you. This would fulfill the promise I made to your mother so long ago. You would lack for nothing."
"I already lack for nothing."
Astrid frowned. "How can you say that? How many meals have you missed in your lifetime? Your clothes are worn and your shoes too small. I know you suffer greatly from the pinching of your toes. Being the King's bride would solve all our problems. We would never lack for food, for clothing and you my sweet Caitlinn, you would be garbed in jewels. Men and women would honor you, bow to you, and offer you their loyalty."
Caitlinn shook her head and stepped over to the stove. She stirred the stew that had been simmering all day. "Father, I do not wish for all those things. I am happy here, tending you and our home. I will not be going to this 'inspection'."
Astrid frowned and moved back to her side. He took her hand from the wooden spoon and clenched it tight. "Daughter, it is a decree by our King and therefore you will go. You will be selected and you will wed Hedwig. It is your mother's dying wish."
"It was not!" Caitlinn hissed, jerking her hand away. "It is your wish to see me richly dressed. Mother just wanted me to stay here with you."
"She would have wanted this too. Imagine her joy at seeing her daughter wed to the King!" Astrid grabbed his daughter's hand again and pulled her from the kitchen and toward his bedroom. "There is a dress in here, one that your mother wore on special occasions. You will tailor it to fit you and wear it on the morrow. We will travel to the village. You will sing for the Chancellor and you will be chosen. I know it. I feel it. It will happen!"
Caitlinn remained quiet as her father went to the end of his bed and opened the large trunk that sat there. He pulled out a blue dress and waved it vigorously. Dust flew to and fro, causing both he and Caitlinn to cough. "You shall get started on this immediately following our supper. You are smaller than Addie was, but your coloring is identical," he proclaimed as he held the dress up to himself as if he were the one dressing for the King.
Caitlinn sighed as she took in her father's excited features. She'd only been six when her mother had passed away. She had heard the whispered request of her dying parent and knew that her only wish was that Caitlinn remain at her father's side. That was what Caitlinn insisted on doing and had done so for fourteen years. The thought of traipsing off to marry the King was not what she desired. The idea of being paraded around like a brood mare wasn't appealing either. "You really want me to do this?"
His smile, if at all possible, grew larger. Caitlinn's shoulders dropped as she walked across the room and took the old dress from her father. "I will do this for you, but Father. . .I am not a Queen. I am just a Miller's daughter, nothing more, nothing less. The King is a wise man and will choose a wise woman to serve at his side. Please do not put all your faith in my wee voice and mediocre looks."
"You will be the Queen," Astrid said matter-a-factly. He left Caitlinn and returned to the kitchen to take over the meal's preparations. Caitlinn followed soon afterward, the dress left to drape over the edge of one of their rickety chairs. She said nothing else to her father as they dined on bread and stew. She kept her thoughts to herself, choosing instead to focus on the upcoming morning and what chores she would have to hurry through since some of her time would be stolen by Chancellor Guifford and King Hedwig.
The following morning Caitlinn awoke to the sound of someone in her kitchen. She frowned and hurriedly pulled on her robe over her sleeping gown. Once downstairs she shook her head at her father's crouched figure pulling bread from their stove. "Father, what are you doing?" she asked.
"I wanted you to look your best, with a full night's sleep under your belt. So I let you sleep in and have made you a big breakfast. Eat up girl and then ready yourself for your presentation to your people."
Caitlinn sighed as she took her seat and was served up several eggs, toast and a large jar of milk. "Father, this is too much. We need to conserve."
"Conserve? Why? You are about to be crowned Queen. We can eat all we have in our stores if we could fit it in our bellies," Astrid told her as he helped himself to a much larger than normal breakfast. "Dig in girl. There is still your bath to ready. I have the water heating as we speak."
Caitlinn closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she opened her eyes again it was with a determined glance that she caste toward her father. "I will act the part of a happy daughter and I will sing for the Chancellor and the King, but Father, you must accept that there is a strong and I do mean a strong possibility that I will just be Caitlinn, the Miller's daughter and nothing more."
Astrid filled his mouth with egg and stared defiantly back at his child. He continued to eat, never once acknowledging her request. Caitlinn growled and pushed herself from the table, stormed off to the visiting room and dragged the large tub from the corner. Her father's footsteps traveled behind her and she watched him pour two buckets of water into the wooden tub. The steam from the first rolled up and coiled about the roof, it soon however disappeared by the cooling temperature of the second bucket. Astrid nodded his head, turned and left the house, allowing Caitlinn her privacy.
She took several minutes to herself, soaking in the heated liquid and keeping her anger in check. Her father was staking everything on how well she was accepted by the King. She told herself she was not special. She simply was what she was. A small woman who had curly hair that often hung in tangles more than wavy strands like some of the women of the village. Her body was small; her breasts were barely mounds and her hips were narrow. She knew had her life been different... full of rich foods and healthy drink, then her body would have matured differently, but it hadn't and now her father expected his stick of a girl to land the King!
Caitlinn ducked her whole body under the water and it splashed over the rim. She came back up and proceeded to wash away the morning tension and the grime from the day before. After her bath, she emerged freshly scrubbed and ready to put on the dress, tailored to fit her tiny frame. She made her way upstairs and donned the antique gown. Caitlinn admired her figure in the cracked and warbled mirror that was in her bedroom. It only showed a small part of her, but it was enough for her to be pleased with her appearance. She slid on her too small shoes and headed down the stairs to find her father.
His smile told her that he too was pleased and she felt her own lips rise in a grin. "You look just like your mother did the first time I saw her in this dress."
"I had to take it in quite a bit," Caitlinn admitted.
"That's my fault. Had I been a better provider you would have filled out more... just like her. But I failed you." Astrid shook his head and straightened his back. "That's going to change after today though. Today you will be chosen to lead our people!"
"Father. . ."
"No, no more words. Let us go. I want you at the front of the line!"
Caitlinn sighed, dropped her shoulders, but agreed to her father's demand. She walked with him through their yard, then into the woods and down the path that would take them to the village. When they reached the edge of the village both stood in shock at the number of eligible maidens that had come to be inspected by the Chancellor. Caitlinn glanced at her father and opened her mouth to speak. He lifted his hand and her words remained unspoken.
Astrid took hold of his daughter's arm and pushed his way through the crowd, pulling Caitlinn along. They reached a place in line that was more orderly and Astrid shoved his child in front of him. Several men and women gazed at them, some made faces, some made whispered comments behind upraised palms. The line moved slowly and Caitlinn grew more frustrated with the idea of being on display for any man, let alone the King and his most trusted advisor. "Father, really let us go home," she whispered.
"Child, do not fret. You'll be the chosen one."
Caitlinn turned to face the owner of the unknown voice. "I don't wish to be the chosen one," she muttered and turned away. The old man grinned and winked at Astrid, before disappearing into the crowd.
Again Caitlinn's attentions were brought forth by the voice of another stranger. She faced the owner and then curtsied as she came face to face with Chancellor Guifford. "Your High Excellency," she said and then lifted herself back up.
"Your stats, girl."
Caitlinn frowned and glanced at her father. He stepped forward and spoke. "Caitlinn Depock. She's twenty summers and sings like an angel."
"Chaste?" Guifford asked and then grabbed Caitlinn's chin. He turned her features to the left then right, clucking at her as his gaze floated over her face. Caitlinn growled and jerked her head free of his strong grip. "Hold girl!" Guifford demanded. She faced Guifford with a haughty expression and waited for his exploration of her to continue. In her mind she was screaming obscenities and telling herself that her father would have salty stew for the next month.
Caitlinn tried to look around the Chancellor and implore the King to stop this parade of flesh. She could not however see her liege and so she was forced to continue being a part of it.
"Your daughter, Miller Depock, is she chaste? Virginal? Or has she sores?"
Caitlinn gasped and if it wasn't for her father's hand holding her's, she would have struck the snobby Nobleman's face. "Yes, she's virginal, Your High Excellency. May you strike me dead if I am lying."
"Don't worry. We will," Guifford said. "What is special about your daughter?"
Astrid grinned. "She sings like an angel."
"You mentioned that. But so do all those girls." Guifford's hand swept over to a group of giggling debutantes that were adorned in clothing much finer than anything Caitlinn had ever wore. "King Hedwig doesn't need another singer. He has entertainers for that. What else does your daughter offer our Lord?"
Caitlinn sighed a happy sigh as she heard the Chancellor's words. She would be allowed to go home and continue her simple life. She'd come to the village, donned her mother's dress, and even had agreed to sing. But, here she stood and she was not even going to have to do that. "But Your High Excellency, her voice is unlike any other. If you would but listen to her, your soul would be captured."
Guifford snorted and waved the couple away. Caitlinn smiled and began to back away. Just as she turned to push her way back through the crowd, her footsteps faltered. "She spins straw into gold," her father's voice silenced everyone around her. Caitlinn froze as all eyes rested on her. Her features grew pale as the crowd stepped away from her.
"Gold?" someone whispered.
"Did he say gold?" another villager gasped.
"No, he said spinning. She spins straw into gold."
Caitlinn felt a strong grip on her elbow and she was spun around. She fell into the Chancellor's chest and squeaked at the look on his face. "Is this true?" Guifford asked. His grip was tight and Caitlinn winced as she tried to twist her arm free. "Or has your father forfeited his life for his lies?"
She blinked through the haze of disbelief. Guifford actually believed her father's crazy proclamation and if she denied it he would execute her parent! She looked to Astrid and saw the look of fear clearly etched on his face. Her attentions were brought back to Guifford as he jerked her toward the tent that had been erected for King Hedwig. "Our King will definitely want you in his bed," Guifford said as he leered down at Caitlinn.
She was taken back by his now sudden interest in her person. She knew it was not her physical attributes he was seeing, but the supposed wealth she would bring the Kingdom. If only she could do such a thing. Was the Chancellor so stupid as to really believe that she possessed such a skill? If she had, would she not have used it long ago to provide a more comfortable life for her and her father?
"Wait here," Guifford told Astrid. He lifted the tent's flap and pushed Caitlinn inside. "Kneel before your King."
Immediately, Caitlinn dropped to her knees and waited for permission to rise. The soft command was issued and Guifford helped her back to her feet. "Your Highness, I present to you Caitlinn Depock, Miller Astrid Depock's daughter and only living heir. She has a talent Sire that is unmatched."
Caitlinn chewed nervously on her lower lip as she stared at the feet of her King. She'd never set eyes on their liege. Hedwig was a good leader, but most of his proclamations were done through Guifford and the King remained in his castle. Caitlinn also rarely ventured to the village with her father, choosing instead to remain at home.
"It is a pleasure to meet you Lady Depock."
"It is an honor to meet you, Your Highness," Caitlinn curtsied again and then looked upon her King's face. She openly stared at Hedwig and felt his gaze travel swiftly over her. He rose from the chair he'd been sitting on; her pulse quickened as he approached her.
"Lady Depock, the Miller's daughter. I have not had the pleasure of meeting your father." Hedwig turned to Guifford. "Where is her father?" he asked.
"Outside my Lord. But that is not the point. Her talent... it is unlike any of the other girls. She spins straw into gold!" Guifford exclaimed.
Hedwig's brows rose up and his gaze flew back to Caitlinn. "Is this true?" he asked.
Guifford stepped forward. "Of course it is true, Your Highness. The Miller knows he faces death if he lies to his Liege Lord."
Caitlinn trembled at Guifford's words and she glanced away from Hedwig. "Yes," she whispered, condemning herself to death once everyone learned the truth.
Guifford squealed in delight and clapped his hands together. "Your Highness, she is also stunning, don't you agree. A perfect mate for you and for your people. She'll bring us wealth, endless amounts of it. All we have to do is give her straw to spin."
Hedwig touched Caitlinn's face. Instantly she turned away, her skin growing warm under the minuscule caress. "Caitlinn," Hedwig whispered and lifted her chin up. He gazed down into her eyes and waited for her to acknowledge him. "You can do this?" he asked her again.
Caitlinn thought of her father. She glanced nervously toward Guifford, who stood off to the side with a menacing smile. She knew that telling the truth would force the King's hand and end both their lives. She thought for a moment and knew she needed more time to think of a way out of the situation her kind-hearted, but somewhat greedy father had created. "Yes, Your Highness, but I can only do it at night."