I'm tickled to be chosen as second runner-up in Laurel Garver's Eleventy-One Celebration. I've won a critique from Laurel, which makes me go squee, but I'm also honored to be part of what she's doing.
Laurel named this contest after Bilbo Baggins' 111 birthday in order to celebrate a milestone of her own. Laurel always comes up with thoughtful and thought-provoking ideas, so for this contest she requested scenes that are dialogue-driven and feature persuasion and negotiation.
I sifted through my manuscripts and came up with a scene in a fractured fairytale I wrote called "Princess Charming."
Laurel and I are running the snippet simultaneously, but please visit Laurel's blog for her insights on craft, which are worth your time. And please return to read her other winners during this week. (Addendum: Oh, my. I just came back from reading what Laurel wrote about this piece, and I'm almost speechless. Thank you, Laurel!)
Alphonse Mucha's Princess Hyacinth seems to have an appropriate attitude to illustrate my scene. This is meant to be fun, so I hope you enjoy!
The princess entered the Grand Hall. This being a formal occasion she wore a multi-layered, buttercup-yellow silk gown, which she smoothed nervously.
All heads turned in her direction. She curtsied toward the far end of the hall where her father and mother sat on gilded thrones, wearing their gold-thread brocades and crowns inlaid with rubies and emeralds. In their private quarters, her father called her "Charms" and would pad about in warm slippers. But this was Court.
"Princess Charming, come forward," called King Ormond.
Charming wondered if she would've had to bow instead of curtsy if he'd commanded her to come in knight's armor. Thank goodness she didn't have to clank and clunk across the room.
At the foot of the dais, she curtsied again.
"Princess Charming, you soon turn seventeen and take on your destiny. We wish to give our royal blessings for undertaking the long and difficult journey ahead of you."
Charming's stomach lurched. "If you please, sire, I am not sure that particular destiny is really mine. It's such an ancient legend and probably just a tall tale. And, well, times change."
King Ormond scowled. "We've discussed this before, Princess. It's been reliably foretold that you will leave your home and find an enchanted castle hidden for two hundred years and break the curse upon it."
Charming looked to her mother and saw eyes filled with tears. But they did not fall. The Queen would never let loose a tear in public.
"But I've never gone beyond the local township and know nothing about lands afar. I might get lost."
"You should have paid more attention to your geography lessons. Ever since you could talk you've been told you have a destiny to fulfill. If you don't attend to your training, it's your own fault."
Charming tried a different approach. "Please, Father, don't send me into the wilds alone. What if I'm attacked by a bear? Or fall into any abyss?"
The queen sucked in her breath, barely audible but, still, a crack in the veneer. The king, on the other hand, jabbed his finger in Charming's direction. "I've spent a small fortune on you--trick riding, broadswords, jousting, close-encounter dagger fighting. By now, you should be prepared for anything."
"But it's all academic, isn't it? I've sparred with teachers and boys from court, not dragons or ogres or whatever."
"Enough!" King Ormond slapped a hand on the arm of his chair. "What is it you don't understand about destiny? It can not be argued with, ignored or circumvented. It will happen, no matter what you do to try to avoid it."
Charming's heart beat a rapid tapping in her chest. Her mouth was dry. She swayed, feeling a tad dizzy. He really meant to send her away!
The king's expression softened. "Only you can bring good fortune on us. After all, it was your great-great-great-etcetera-grandmother, on your mother's side, mind you, who was related to the witch-woman that caused this mess, putting a spell on a poor prince. So really, it is up to you to set it straight and remove this shadow from our realm. Go with our blessing."
"Huzzah! Princess Charming!" cheered the courtiers.
When she turned to acknowledge them, she saw through the open doors that servants were dancing in the corridor. It was one thing for it to be her destiny. But now it seemed she was responsible for the future well-being of all her people.
She had no argument for that.