All of a sudden, I was back in the setting of Fairest. I could faintly hear Briar, who was once Blanche, singing in the distant. Garnet was sitting next to Quartz in from of their cottage. The two of them listened to her song.
Garnet's sad memories of trying to get their girl back, once she was cursed and lying in a coffin inspired the rest of this freebie story, along with the rage he once felt toward Oriana...
Every once in a while, I think I can hear her singing in the Forest of Tears.
My hearing isn’t as good as yours was. You’d stop in the middle of your whittling to grumble.
“It’s hot. We’re sweating. The air is too dry. What’s she got to sing about in the middle of the summer any way?”
The corners of your lips would creep up into a smile. Don’t think your beard hid it, Quartz.
“If I were to sing, I’d voice a protest against that blasted sun, making us all sweat. Convince it to hide its face under a cloud, I would. Instead that girl is singing her thanks for light and warmth.”
You’d shake your head, but I saw the moisture at the corner of your eye. I pretended I didn’t. Who’d believe you? All that grumbling, yet that human girl you brought in never failed to make you smile. Not even you could keep complaining. Once you said your piece, you’d stop.
The two of us would sit there, listening to her song. Something about her voice, distant and it was, made my ears and whiskers tingle with the presence of an etheral world, born of sound and air.
Creatures of rock and stone like us weren’t supposed to intrude on that world. It rippled in waves around us, brought by her song.
For a moment, I wondered what it would be like to be a creature of wind and air.
Did you ever wonder, Quartz? It was so easy for you to be one with the rocks in the mines where we worked, to commune with them in an almost intimate way. Your face would grow slack when you touched your name stone, becoming still as death.
It would be so like you to be in that state now. Not stone dead in a coffin.
That cursed apple. If only she hadn’t accepted it from that witch Oriana.
Greedy cow. She couldn’t handle our girl finding even a little happiness away from her. You’d think it would have been enough to steal her throne and her heart. No, that Oriana had to take our princess’s life as well.
“There are magical plants growing in the Forest of Tears.” Contrite, lowering her head, she wrung her hands, not meeting our eyes. “If we gather enough of them, I could make a special salve to apply to my lips, turning my kiss into something even more magical.”
“How nice for you.” You looked her up and down. “You’re a queen, aren’t you? I imagine you’ve got countless servants who could obtain the plant for you. Why do you need us?”
“My servants are too afraid to come into the Forest of Tears. Besides, none of them love Blanche the way we do.” She raised her tear stained face. “Please, Quartz. This is a task I can only ask of you and your brothers.”
“What about you?” I demanded, unable to keep silent. “She was devoted to you. Shouldn’t you take part in gathering this plant?”
“Blanche won’t awaken for me.” Oriana fixed her liquid blue eyes upon you. “She might awaken for you.” She tightened her slender hands into fists. Calluses roughened each digit, an unexpected sign of hard labor. “Do you think it’s easy to me to admit this? My love, which drove me to do dark deeds, including curse her, can’t even undo what I inflicted!”
“Maybe that’s why!” Once again, I was unable to keep silent. “You betrayed her, put her in a state of sleeping death with no idea of how to release her! Maybe your love was never true!”
“Garnet.” There was no real reproach in the way you said my name. Just a silent anguish which all seven of us brothers shared.
You in particular.
“I’m only too well aware of that.” For the first time, Oriana looked at me.
How piteous her hollow eyes looked in her pale face. Poor Oriana. If she stir the sympathy of those who detested her, what effect would her beseeching gaze have upon one who loved her?
I could almost hear what this witch had said to our girl.
“Please. Take this apple. I want you to have it. In memory of the love which once lay between us, take a bite and forgive me.”
Rage curdled into our pity. Our girl wouldn’t have had a chance against her pleas. Not with her kind, broken heart.
“Is this how you get people to do what you want?” My mouth had a will of its own. It couldn’t stay closed. “The king, your subjects, her, and now us, trying to move us to your will. You’re a witch! Can’t you do anything yourself?”
“Garnet.” You laid a hand upon my shoulder. “We’ll look for the plant. Not for this witch. For our Fairest.”
“Fairest?” Oriana recoiled a little from both of us. “Are you speaking of Princess Blanche?”
“She detested the name Blanche.” You offered the witch one of your stern, measuring looks. Not exactly accusing, just reflecting back everything you saw like a mirror caught within your namestone. “We gave her another. Fairest is our name for her. Not yours.”
“I suppose I deserved that.” Oriana lowered her head, tears running down her cheeks. “If only I’d never…how could I have done that to her?” She started to sob.
I refused to pity her. Not while our girl lay in that coffin, trapped under her spell.
In the end, we did as you said. We went out and searched for the ridiculous magical plant with its purple leaves and speckled petals. It bloomed only in the summer, so we toiled in the hot sun, gathering enough flowers for the witch’s potion.
At times I thought I heard her, singing on the wind, like she had in a summer past. I wondered if I was imagining things.
You raised your head, stopped where you stood. For a moment, our eyes met.
Only she didn’t come out of the forest, smiling with flushed cheeks as she had long ago. All we had was the faint hint of song which might have been the wind.
Oriana took the petals, crushing them in a pestle, which she added a sticky sap to. The mess turned into a purple paste.
First she applied it ot her own lips. The witch went to the coffin and kissed our princess’s unresponsive lips over and over.
No, it wasn’t until you applied the paste to your own lips, getting your beard all sticky that the magic happened. You went to our sleeping Fairest and deposited a chaste peck on her cheek.
This was when her eyes opened.
Wind stirred, blowing through her dark hair and your beard. You backed away, clutching your chest. I’m not sure if you were looking at her or something else.
All of the rest of us watched her rise into the air. Darkness swam in her eyes, a terrifying night which none of us dared look at for long.
When she floated in the air, arms spread wide, while you staggered and fell to the ground, everything changed.
None of us had the courage to face what our Fairest had become. None of us know what to do with ourselves without her…or you.
Now you lay in the coffin, only there’s no chance of awakening you.
It’s not right. You shouldn’t be there. The only thing you did wrong was get attached to a human girl. Every one of us brothers is guilty of that. Why should you alone be struck down for this?
If only there was someone to awaken you. If only someone could bring you back to us.
We miss you, brother.