Curiosity: a fairy tale in two parts (2)

This is the second part of Curiosity: a fairy tale in two parts. To read part one, click here.

* * * * *

Sera scrubbed a yellow stain in a corner of the tavern’s great room and sighed.

“This is bloody ridiculous,” she muttered.

“What was that?” her mother asked. She was scattering straw on the places Sera had cleaned.

“Nothing,” Sera replied.

Sera usually kept her disdain to herself, so it could fester and roil to a crescendo of contempt that would carry her through the wretched holiday. Every year, the kingdom celebrated the anniversary of Prince Alan and Princess Ella’s wedding. It wasn’t that she was opposed to parties, or costumes, or dancing; she simply had the bad fortune to be the child of a tavern owner, so on the biggest feast day in the kingdom, she worked while everyone else had a grand old time. It wasn’t fair.

“That spot isn’t getting any cleaner, dear,” her mother said. “Why don’t you try the lime?”

“Don’t need it, mum, thanks,” Sera called back over her shoulder, redoubling her efforts. A sly smile crossed her face. “Mum, what time is it?”

“Half past nine,” her mother answered quickly.

That was easy enough, Sera thought. Maybe something less simple…

“Hey, mum?”

“Hay is for horses, dear heart.”

“Mum,” Sera continued. “Why do I have to get the floor so clean if we’re just going to cover it with straw?”

Her mother’s mouth moved almost before the question was finished. “It keeps the bugs away so we don’t get infested like that godsawful Crusader’s Stein tavern down the road.”

“Oh.” That made sense. Why couldn’t her mother have said that the last time she asked?

“Here, now, young lady,” her mother said, frowning. “I’ll thank you to finish your work and keep silly questions to yourself.”

Sera smiled and said nothing.

Allie, Sera’s older sister, danced in from the kitchen. “Away, away, you coal-black smith, would you do me this wrong…”

“For to think to have my maidenhead that I have kept so long?” her mother continued.

“I’d rather I was dead and cold, and my body laid in the grave, than a husky, dusky, coal-black smith my maidenhead should have,” they finished together, chuckling.

Sera cleared her throat. It was time for the real test. “Mum, what’s a maidenhead?”

“A girl’s virginity,” her mother responded.

Before she could be interrupted, Sera asked, “So that song’s about some blacksmith trying to take a girl’s virginity?”


“Why do you like to sing it, then?”

Her mother’s hands flew up to cover her mouth but it was no use. “Because it reminds me of when your father and I were first courting.”

Sera stuck out her tongue. “Gross!”

And just like that, Sera found herself locked in her room.

“You can come out when you’ve got a civil tongue in your head,” her mother said. “Or when we need you to help with the serving.”

She only spent a few hours leafing through her book of fairy tales before she was called to help clear tables and wash dishes. Eventually it was so busy that she was stuck serving while her younger siblings did all the cleaning. She managed to stay quiet and let the patrons bark orders until at last she forgot and slipped up.

“What would you like, sir?” she asked a quiet older fellow with a big bushy mustache. He spent several minutes enumerating things he would like, starting with new boots and underclothes, and Sera learned far more about him than she ever cared to know.

“What would you like to drink, sir?” she finally interjected in desperation.

“Water!” he exclaimed, gasping for breath. The patrons around him had moved away as much as possible, perhaps thinking he was already in his cups.

Sera darted off, her stomach doing a nervous jig. This was supposed to be a little spell? All she wanted was for people to give her straight answers, but if she asked the wrong questions… Sure, she could find out whether her little brother had nicked her dolls, or where her older sister was sneaking off to some nights, but this was so much bigger. Ye gods, she could ask a killer whether he had done it and he’d confess like a shot.

That was it. Sera had to get out and find that dwarf. The spell had only cost a few of her tears, though what he would do with them was anyone’s guess; maybe she could barter more to have the spell broken…

She slipped out the back door and tiptoed toward the crowded streets before realizing that no one would hear her. She took off at a run, dodging between women bustling about trying to look interesting, and men shopping for trinkets to give their sweethearts, and children playing with tiny popping fireworks that made a loud noise but didn’t burn. Food vendors danced to and fro, hardly needing to cry their wares with all the hungry people on every side.

But where the dwarf’s shop had been, squeezed between other buildings, there was nothing. Not empty space, but no space, the shops fitting snugly together. She even ran her hands over the walls to be sure.

“You can’t be serious,” she muttered.

Someone grabbed her shoulder and spun her around. She found herself staring at a boy about her age, with a halo of absurdly curly blond hair and dark brown eyes. He looked about as confused as she felt.

“Are you a princess, then?” he asked.

“No,” she sputtered. “Who do you think you are?”

His eyes widened as his lips moved of their own accord. “Crown Prince Wilford Otha Delmer Sebastian of Eastford and Greater Gramontis.”

Sera gasped. In seconds, she was pressed against the wall with a hand over her mouth.

“I was very much keeping that a secret,” the prince whispered into her ear. “So how, may I ask, did you do that?” He moved his hand enough to let her answer.

“I’m under a spell,” she said.

His eyes flicked to the wall. “The dwarf?”

She nodded, her nose turning red from impending tears.

“And the spell was?”

“To make people answer my questions,” she muttered.

His cheek twitched. “Better than the one I got, I think. Why are you here?”

Part of her noted ruefully that she was answering all of his questions, no spell needed. “I wanted him to take it off. I can’t live like this.”

“And your name?”

“Sera. Sera Innskeep.”

“Well, Sera Innskeep,” he said. “First, we’re going to nick some food. Then, horses.” She could almost see his thoughts flying around in his head.

“And then?” she asked, dazed.

“We find that dwarf.”

And that is the story of how Sera met the Crown Prince. How the two set off to break her peculiar spell and what befell them on their journeys is another story, and shall be told at another time.

17 Responses to “Curiosity: a fairy tale in two parts (2)”

  1. Oh, UNKIND, Valerie — leaving us with a bunch more story questions to be answered and NOT ANSWERING THEM! Very devilish!

    Great tale, though! Well-told. 🙂

  2. Valerie says:

    Hey, I did a survey! This was the possible ending that won, even if people were not entirely sure what they voted for. 😛

  3. Amalia T says:

    hahaha! is that how you decided where to end it? Well played, Quoth. well played!

  4. Mari Juniper says:

    Not fair!

    More, more, more, more, more, more, more, more, more!!!

  5. Marisa Birns says:

    Of course, I’m going to be polite and ask for more nicely. Not like Mari!

    Really wonderful fairy tale.

  6. John Wiswell says:

    Democracy delivered this ending. We drove ourselves off the cliffhanger, as it were. I don’t blame you…

  7. That was a charming tale. I, of course, want to hear about their adventures, but what you have here is a fun read. And I think she learned quite well that straight answers are not always best.

  8. Sam says:

    More, more! Right now, y’hear? ;-D

    Loved this tale (both parts) and hope we don’t have to wait too long for more adventures of Sera and the Crown Prince.

  9. Steve Green says:

    Nicely told second helping, but now I’m waiting for the third. Oooh, you tease. 🙂

    I think too that getting truthful answers all the time could be a very sharp double edged sword, some things are best left unknown.

  10. Gracie says:

    I just read both parts, and this is one of the most delightful tales I’ve read in a while. But Valerie, my dear… I hope you decide to do more with this one day.

    It just sings like Hans Christian Andersen, who’s my favorite fairy tale teller.

    Love it!

  11. Icy Sedgwick says:

    You could really go places with this idea…such as after the dwarf!

  12. Kari Fay says:

    Really do want to read more of this!

  13. OH I have to have more. this has to be three parts at least not two!! LOL I really need to know more!

  14. Aidan Fritz says:

    “Hmm… somehow I missed the survey,” he declaims. “I decry my unsuitable representation that voted this ending.”

    Actually, I liked the ending. It reminded me of the Neverending Story. I liked how it slowly dawned on her the horror of everyone answering her questions. I was curious what happened to the prince.

  15. Valerie says:

    Thanks for the comments, all! Sorry for those who didn’t get to vote, heh. More will come eventually, but too many plates are spinning at the tops of tall poles at the moment.

  16. Tricksy, Valerie, very tricksy. “Two parts, but two parts of what?” the reader should have asked. It’s all in the right question, after all! 😉

  17. Dad says:

    just a small spell, another example of the butterfly effect…

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