It’s hard to pick, but I’m pretty sure my favorite fairy tale is The Two Princesses of Bamarre, by Gail Carson Levine. It has all the staples: sorcerers, dragons, fairies and ogres, as well as invisibility cloaks, magical ailments and epic poetry. There is a love story involved because any fairy tale worth its salt needs one. What I love about this book, though, is that the driving force is not the romance, but the love of two sisters. The male characters are not decorative, the absolutely add to the story. But what ultimately keeps the narrative moving is the bond between these two girls.
My sister and I read it together the summer before I went into eighth grade and it became our book. I have lost count of the number of time I’ve re-read it and I still tear up at the end (not surprising, given my earlier confessions). It was this shared love of fairy tales that prompted me to spend the week she was in Idaho, filling my sister’s inbox with Meki’s story. And now I shall share the next part of the tale with you.
Meki found herself standing alone in the frigid cold. The old man was gone.
She looked around and began to feel fear, as well as ice, sneak through her veins. There was no green. None at all. It was white as far as her eyes could see. White flurries drifted around her head. Snow. She recognized it. Not because it ever happened in Eternal Spring. No. But she heard stories of snow as a child and wanted so badly to see it. As the apprentice to an elderly sorceress, she had first learned a spell to make snow dance around in a glass ball. It was magical. This wasn't. This was terrifying. Where was the sun?
Meki began to shake uncontrollably. The old man had taken his layers with him, leaving her with only the short sleeved gown she pulled on earlier that day. Her gut told her to start moving, but she didn't know which way to go. It all looked the same.
Deciding that not moving was worse than going the wrong direction, Meki started to walk. After what felt like an eternity she saw a castle in the distance. Unable to move faster, as she could no longer feel her feet, she trudged forward at a slow pace. Eventually she made it to the bridge leading to the great stone expanse.
Meki saw some guards and ducked into the shadows. She did not know who she could trust. Or who might be in league with the man who brought her to this place. She was in great pain from the cold, every breath felt like a knife through her lungs. Still, she crouched towards the ground so as not to be seen. Sneaking past the guards was easier than expected. The two men were apparently not worried about intruders in this frosty isolation and were taking an afternoon nap.
Meki broke a window in the basement of the tower as quietly as she could. Once inside, she collapsed on herself, shaking with the cold. It took awhile, but eventually the icy burn subsided and she was able to take stock of her surrounding. A typical castle. Dark stones, drafty breezes. Then she heard the yelling. It sounded like a man and appeared to be coming from above her.
She moved towards the stairs, but her feet were still not fully healed from the walk. Pitching forward, Meki fell. She threw her arms out to brace herself and hit the small sphere at the base of the banister. It gave way.
There was a low groan and the wall behind her revealed a secret doorway. Meki did not hesitate before moving towards it.
Thanks for reading and Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!