In the grand throne room of a towering white castle lined with ivy, Queen Lillian cradled her daughter, Princess Aurora in her arms. The room had high ceilings and octagonal windows, and three long, oak tables neatly covered in gold plates and chalices over a white table cloth. The scent of roasted crane wafted through the room as grapes, bread, and chestnuts were arranged with care. The King and Queen sat in comfy velvet chairs.
“Isn’t she perfect Shiloh?” Lillian asked her husband.
“I’m sure she’ll grow up to be just as sophisticated and beautiful as her mother.” He said with pride, tenderly patting his wife’s shoulder. Lillian smiled. Servants paused a second to admire the happy couple, then resumed hanging up flowers all over the walls until the room smelled sweet. Soon a lively party commenced, with nobles and peasants all waltzing around in well-trained circles. After an extravagant feast, the guests began presenting presents to their beloved princess. Shiloh and Lillian thanked all the guests for the gifts, whether they were gold or apples, with the same gratitude. As the party wound down, three noble vampires kneeled before the King and Queen.
“Your Majesties,” The first vampire said, bowing. His blonde hair was parted in the middle, he was tall and pale, and in his advanced age, had helped Shiloh’s great-grandfather found the Kingdom. Shiloh smiled at him.
“Wynton, you’ve been such a good friend to me for so long. What is your gift for my dear daughter?” Wynton smiled and opened the silver present box he held in his arms.
“Your Majesties, I present Princess Aurora with this fine cape of silk.” It was red and glinted in the light.
“Thank you Wynton, surely Princess Aurora will look dapper in it when she comes of age.” Shiloh said. The second vampire, Corbett, pushed Wynton out of the way. His hair was long and dark brown, and his eyes were bright green.
“Me next! Me next!” He chanted. Wynton scowled at his lack of manners. Corbett wasn’t fazed; he reached into a long box and pulled out a gleaming sword, holding it up in a victorious pose. “I present Princess Aurora with this sword!” Lillian and Shiloh exchanged a look of mild disturbance for a moment.
“That’s…lovely.” Lillian said. “Thank you for your gift. We’ll start Aurora on her sword training when she’s older…much older.” Corbett bowed deeply and moved away from the throne as the third vampire, Grady approached. He ran his hand through his short black hair nervously and held out a small purple box for Lillian.
“My gift is…” He started, but then the door to the throne flew open with a resounding crash against the wall. A woman with long magenta hair and dark black clothes raced into the room.
“I am The Great Sorcerous, Marian! Why was I not invited to this royal party for the princess?” Shiloh couldn’t keep the deep frown off his face.
“Obviously you weren’t invited because you put curses on people.” He said. Marian clenched her fists.
“You make me so mad, you deserve to be punished! Here’s my gift to your baby: Princess Aurora will die when she pricks her finger on a spindle on her sixteenth birthday!” Lillian handed Aurora to her husband and marched up to Marian, a look of anger and madness so intent in her eyes, that Marian took a step back. When she was a few feet away from the sorcerous, Lillian yelled,
“You plan to harm my baby? I will destroy you.” Marian put up her arms in defense, fearful of Lillian’s shaking fist. She suddenly rethought her plan. She imagined that the Queen could have every catapult and knight in town positioned at her doorstep in no time, and thinking of this, she pleaded.
“Wait, I revise my spell. Princess Aurora will just fall asleep and be awoken by true love’s kiss!” With that, she dashed out of the castle. The guests stood frozen in shock, spare for the handful who kept eating bread as though nothing had happened-after all, sorceresses and their curses weren’t all that uncommon in the Kingdom. Lillian looked to the third vampire in anger.
“So, what did you get my daughter?” Grady opened the box and lifted up his gift.
“I just got her socks.” Lillian half-smiled, though she was weary from stress.
“Thank you for your gift.” She said, and then Shiloh handed baby Aurora to his wife, stood up and proceeded to walk away from the throne room.
“Well, that was an awful party. I’m going to order all the spindles in the Kingdom to be burned. I don’t know how the people will go about making clothes for the next sixteen years. Maybe we can go back to draping ourselves with animal skins. At least it’ll be good for the hunting business, so our economy won’t sink entirely.” After a few weeks and lots of effort, Shiloh gathered every spindle in the Kingdom and threw them on a pile, setting them on fire in a clearing in the forest. Many seamstresses cried that day, and all the tapestry businesses went under.
“It’s like watching money burn.” Shiloh said, while patting a crying seamstress on the shoulder. Meanwhile in the castle, Lillian handed an awake and giggling Aurora to the three vampires.
“The castle guards were so incompetent that an evil sorcerous got in here. So you three should take Princess Aurora so she can live with you until she’s sixteen; you can protect her with your vampire strength. We’ll build you a cottage in the woods.” The vampires nodded seriously.
“We’d be honored to protect the princess!” Wynton said, with his vampire friends nodding in agreement. Lillian summoned a discreet band of brick masons to put together a small cottage deep in the woods for Aurora to live in. While they laid the brick, Lillian looked to the three vampires. Wynton was cradling Aurora while Grady sang her a lullaby and Corbett held Aurora’s tiny hand. It touched Lillian’s heart, and she knew her dear child would grow up well-loved.
Years passed and Princess Aurora’s sixteenth birthday arrived. “I’m going outside to refine my swordsmanship, I’ll be back by dinner!” Aurora said. She wore a red shirt and pants, with Wynton’s fine red cape upon her back. Her golden hair had been cut short around her ears, as to not get in her way. Corbett smiled at her.
“Remember to avoid the poison ivy this time!” He warned. Aurora turned to the woods,
“I will.” She replied. When she’d left the room, Grady looked happily to Corbett.
“Aurora’s almost our age now! I mean, she looks to be our age.” Corbett nodded.
“Yeah, one of us should turn her into a vampire now so she can stay sixteen forever!” Wynton wagged his finger disapprovingly.
“Now, now, think of how much of a burden that would be to Princess Aurora. Surely her subjects would find it weird to have a blood-drinking Queen one day. Also, Queen Lillian would come after us if we did.” Grady shrugged.
“I guess you’re right. Hey, let’s make her a birthday cake! We should celebrate!” Corbett brandished a whisk as though it were a sword.
“I’ve never baked before, but how hard can it be?” A few minutes passed before the kitchen was on fire.
“How did you manage to burn the whole kitchen?” Grady asked, stunned.
“It’s too bad. I thought our cooking skills were improving. Perhaps baking was too much. Maybe we should just frost a piece of bread and call it cake instead.” Corbett mused.
“At least it’s not as bad as the time we tried to teach Aurora to hunt like us. She bit that one girl who was roaming the forest. I mean, Aurora was just six at the time and didn’t know any better, but I can’t help but think it’s what made her so wary to seek out new friends. Oh well, at least putting out this fire will be less complicated than explaining the biting to that girl’s mother.” Corbett nodded in agreement.
“Let’s put out the fire before Princess Aurora returns!” Meanwhile, Princess Aurora was chopping down dead trees with her sharp sword, swiftly severing the trunks in two gracefully, before turning to the next one. She cut down trees to build her strength, but always avoided ones with bird’s nests. The forest was filled with many oak and maple trees that covered much of the sky above her, causing the sunlight to break through in dappled patterns on the moist earth.
She heard a noise coming from behind her, too loud to be squirrels hopping through the grass. She looked towards the noise, holding up her sword. She was trembling; she rarely heard other people in the forest. She caught sight of a woman with long magenta hair. Aurora remembered Wynton telling her of a magenta haired sorcerous from her past. She clutched her sword and looked at the sorcerous suspiciously. The woman smiled.
“I know it’s you Princess-I am Marian. I bet you don’t remember me.” The woman said. “I have come to fulfil my curse upon you.” She raised up her hands, curling her fingers like claws. Princess Aurora held up her sword.
“The vampires told me about you. You want me to prick my finger on a spinning wheel’s needle and fall asleep? Forever?” Marian smirked.
“I always make good on my promises.” She raised up her hands and magically manifested a net. Marian threw the net at Aurora and she slashed it in two. Marian glared, waving her wand and an axe appeared. She clasped it in her hands.
“Do you really want to do this the hard way?” She said and lunged at Aurora, swinging her axe. Pushing back her fear, Aurora raced to get closer to Marian, cutting the axe head off its wooden handle, causing it to thud against the forest floor. Marian glared and hit Aurora in the shoulder with the wooden handle, and she stumbled into a tree. Aurora winced and swung her sword towards Marian. Thinking quickly, Marian produced a large metal shield that covered her whole body, but Aurora stabbed it with such strength that Marian fell to the ground, curling under the shield. She pushed back with all her power, using her magic to turn the shield into a flock of doves that frantically fluttered towards Aurora.
Aurora lowered her sword right away, unwilling to hurt them. That’s when Marian turned into a dragon, one that towered over Aurora, taller than all the trees in the forest. It roared and spit fire into the air. Aurora shook with fear, but looked down at the beast’s foot, which was right before her, and plunged her sword into it. The dragon roared and took to the sky, shaking its foot, trying to dislodge the sword. It flew in circles, attempting to disorientate Aurora. But she held tightly to her sword, climbing the beast’s foot, and clinging to its wide scales until she was upon the beast’s head. She dug a hand into the dragon’s nostril to hold on, and at that point, Marian the dragon breathed fire. Aurora screamed, feeling the heat burn against her legs as she kneeled on the dragon’s head. She took a deep breath, gathering her strength to plunge her sword into the dragon’s nostril. She connected with some cartilage, and the dragon lost altitude, careening into several trees until crashing into a mountain that halted her momentum. Aurora leaped off her back.
Marian returned to human form, groaning in pain and rubbing her bleeding nose. Aurora wobbled a few steps before sliding to the ground, breathing hard and assessing her burnt legs. Marian and Aurora exchanged a pained glance before Aurora raised up her sword. Marian got up quickly, looking around for an exit.
“Get out.” Aurora told Marian, voice only trembling slightly. Marian nodded, slowly stepping back from Aurora and her sword.
“Fine. I’ll just tell everyone I kidnapped you, and I’ll find someone else to fulfil the curse in your place!” Aurora gasped and chased after Marian.
“Don’t you dare put someone else in danger!” Marian ran with whatever strength she had left.
“I can’t let my reputation as a sorceress go soft!” Aurora pursued Marian for as long as she could, but finally had to stop to catch her breath, and lost Marian in the woods. Aurora climbed a tall tree, ignoring the pain in her burnt legs, and looked in all directions until she spotted the Sorceresses’ dark castle in the distance. Aurora made it to the ground again and started the long walk to the castle.
The rumors Marian created about a princess she’d trapped spread quickly through the land, and in a few hours, a brave and handsome prince, Prince Milford, rode up on his white horse. His orange hair was long and shaggy from weeks of travel, since he was lost in the woods for a while before he found the castle. He looked up at the structure in confusion. It was black and had two towers sprouting from it, but the stone masons had managed to build one tower that zig-zagged, and another that was straight, making the whole place appear mismatched.
He had a stick in his hair and a feather, but ignored these things as he rode his panting and trembling horse. As soon as he stopped riding, his horse laid down in the dirt.
“Oh no. Are you okay Nutmeg?” The horse whinnied and gasped. Milford looked all around, but didn’t see a water source. He patted Nutmeg on the forehead before leaping through the trees, running until he found a stream. He used his sword to slash a path through the foliage, and gently led Nutmeg to water. It drank until it started to flip its tail in contentment. Milford patted Nutmeg’s mane.
“You stay here, girl. I have a princess to save. And probably marry! Isn’t that exciting?” Nutmeg snorted. Milford ran through the trees until he came to the castle’s door again, it was tall and purple, with a handle built awkwardly high and adjacent to his head. He slicked his hair back in a more presentable fashion and picked bark and dirt off his clothes. He then adjusted his cape, took a deep breath, and burst through the castle doors. “Princess! I, your Prince, have come to rescue you from peril!” He had expected to see a beautiful princess, an evil witch, and possibly a pit of lava or a dragon. But all he saw in the castle’s foyer was a staircase and a spinning wheel. He looked up at the marbled walls and the high ceiling, but no one seemed to be awaiting his arrival. He peered at the spinning wheel, in fact, he couldn’t take his eyes off it.
“It’s so beautiful.” He walked up to the wheel, giving it a spin by hand and staring in fascination at it. He had never seen one before, since King Shiloh had burned so many of them, even Milford’s territory was affected. Then he saw the needle. He couldn’t look away. It glinted in the light, as though it were made of pure silver. Dust covered the rest of the spinning wheel, but not the needle; it was pristine, as though it had been taken care of. He found himself reaching out to it. In the back of his mind, he knew it would hurt to touch it, but he just couldn’t pull his finger away from inching closer and closer to it. His finger made contact, and a tiny drop of blood formed on it.
“So sleepy…” he said, and fell backwards onto the floor, his cape covering him like a blanket. Marian walked down the stairs, looking at the unconscious boy on the floor.
“This is not what I intended at all!” She said, glaring, her hands on her hips. She realized in hindsight she shouldn’t have enchanted the needle to put anyone who touched it to sleep. Back at the cottage, Grady was bandaging Aurora’s burns.
“I can’t believe you fought a dragon!” Grady said in admiration. Wynton was pulling at his hair, pacing in a circle.
“My horror is outweighing my pride right now. What were you thinking Princess? Do you know what your parents would do to us if we told them you got killed by a dragon? They’d put us in the dungeon or worse!” Corbett grabbed Wynton by the shoulders and lightly shook him.
“Hey, calm down already! Your pacing is making me nervous! Princess Aurora did very well in battle, I couldn’t be more proud of her! The fact that she even made it out of that forest when faced with a dragon: I think she could handle anything.” Corbett smiled at Aurora and she smiled back. The vampires all hugged Aurora. Wynton then said,
“But do try and be safer next time, okay Princess? We love you too much for you to get taken away by some dragon lady.” Aurora hugged them back.
“I’ll try to be more careful next time, I promise. But we have another problem on our hands now. Marian threatened to kidnap someone else and have her fulfil the curse in my place-I couldn’t even sleep thinking there’s some other girl who’d have to wait in Marian’s castle-maybe forever-waiting for her true love to kiss her. That would be awful! Come on, let’s go rescue her!” Wynton carried Aurora through the woods-since his vampire speed outpaced her human speed-and they arrived at the castle in no time. A white horse stood at the doorway, putting his hoof to the door impatiently.
“Somebody lost their horse.” Grady observed.
“Who cares? We have a rescue mission to complete.” Corbett said. Aurora petted the horse and guided it away from the door, then proceeded to kick the door open. Marian was standing by a spindle, staring down at an orange-haired boy on the floor. She looked up at Aurora with contempt.
“There you are. You’re the one I wanted to put to sleep. But no, it couldn’t have been that simple. Now this prince is out cold until he gets kissed. He took the curse in your place. Are you happy?” Aurora crouched down to get a better look at the boy. He snored louder than a stampede of wild horses. But he seemed no older than her, and his faced was boyish.
“You poor thing.” She said with pity. She bent down and kissed him on the cheek. He woke up, startled, and wiping drool off his lips.
“Where am I?” He asked.
“Sorceress’s castle.” Aurora replied.
“Oh.” He said, then he looked over at Marian, who was tapping her foot restlessly. He sat up and clung to Aurora in fear. Aurora stood up, taking the prince with her. She began to leave when Marion yelled.
“Where do you think you’re going?” And she turned into a dragon, roaring loud enough to make the walls shake. The vampires sprang into action, biting into its legs and arm, while Aurora stabbed the other. Marian breathed fire, but the vampires leaped out of the way, dragging Aurora with them, and Marian only succeeded in burning her own limbs. She returned to human form and patted the flames out in a hurry, gasping for breath. Promptly afterwards, the vampires grabbed her and dragged her to the castle’s dungeon.
While they were occupied with her, Aurora hopped on Nutmeg and shoved the boy over the back of the horse, gently trotting through the woods. He was still disorientated from sleep and a near death experience. They had travelled through the forest for a while before he spoke up.
“We haven’t been properly introduced. I’m Prince Milford.” Aurora nodded.
“I’m Princess Aurora.” He raised an eyebrow.
“Wow! You’re King Shiloh and Queen Lilian’s daughter! I never thought I’d get to meet you! Thank you for saving me. I don’t know how long I might have slept if you hadn’t awoken me.” She turned and smiled at him.
“Glad to help.” Princess Aurora rode on until they made it to the cottage where Wynton, Grady, and Corbett were waiting for her, having replaced the destroyed oven, and trying once more to bake Princess Aurora a cake, this time, they very carefully observed the oven to make sure nothing burned. Grady placed the cake on the table while Wynton, Corbett and Milford stood on either side of Aurora.
“Happy birthday!” They said, and she blew out her candles.