Recently I submitted an entry into The Lunar Chronicles Fan Fiction contest and I wanted to share it with all of you! The prompt was to write a 2000 word (or less) short story centered around an original Grimms’ fairy tale character interacting with characters from The Lunar Chronicles. Can you guess who which Grimms’ fairy tale I used? I hope you all enjoy the story, I had so much fun writing it!
The Beauty in the Briars
“And, in the very moment when she felt the prick, she fell down upon the bed that stood there, and lay in a deep sleep.”
Rory swiped at the strands of grimy brown hair that fell in her eyes with the back of a dirt-smeared hand. The sickly sweet smell of decay lay heavy on the stagnant air, coating her tongue with every breath. Sweat poured from her forehead, causing the plaster dust in the air to cling to her. She wore the filth like a second skin –what she wouldn’t give for a bath.
But at least the smell kept them at bay.
Tears of frustration welled in her eyes and she squeezed them shut. One rebellious tear streaked down her face cutting a dirty path through the plaster white, giving her the appearance of a sad clown. She scrubbed her face with her hands. It was only fitting, she thought, given that she was locked in the basement of an opera house. Fifteen years of running and hiding wasted, all because of one stupid mistake. She sucked in a breath and held it, refusing to give in to the despair that lurked just over her shoulder, waiting for the chance to devour her.
She waited until her lungs screamed with the desperate need for air before finally releasing the breath and opening her eyes. She welcomed the burning in her chest. It made her feel better; reminded her that she was still alive. Rory sat back, the cold concrete floor biting into her knees, and surveyed the wall in front of her. Once a dressing room, the deep color of the walls had been dulled by the soft patina of countless hands touching them over the years. Identical in every way, the walls were only broken by the cold metal bars fitted in the doorway. The cherry glow from the scanner mounted on the wall near the door painted the hallway outside in eerie shades of red.
Rory risked a glance over her shoulder at the hallway. She didn’t know where her beast of a guard went, but she didn’t care. Curling her fingers tight against the shard of metal, she once again went to work on the wall, chipping away at the plaster. If she could just break through this wall she could escape through the unused cell next to her. The scritch-scritch of the metal on plaster was enough to drive her crazy, but Rory couldn’t afford the luxury of crazy. If the Queen found her…..
A soft noise broke through Rory’s concentration and she froze, her hand poised in the air. She strained to hear the noise again and was rewarded with another sound.
Rory’s heart simultaneously leapt and dropped at the realization that someone was in the cell next to her. She was so sure it had been empty. A cold knot of fear lodged in her throat. If it was one of those things and they found out what she was doing…….
But if it was another prisoner?
A spark of hope flared within her.
Rory set down the piece of metal and explored the damage she had done with her fingers. Prying away the loose pieces of plaster, she was able to make a hole just large enough to see through. Rory pressed her eye against the hole and squinted in the murky light. There, against the far wall, she could make out the dim form of another person.
“Hello?” Rory called softly, not wanting to startle the prone figure. Her voice was scratchy from disuse and came out in a half-croak.
The figure turned its head toward the sound of her voice and uncurled from the shadows. It was a girl about her age with long, flame-colored hair and a red hooded sweatshirt that hugged her ample curves. Rory felt a flash of jealousy; she’d never have curves like that.
“Who’s there?” The girl whispered, clutching the drawstrings of her hood and pulling them tight. Fear and anger radiated off her body in waves and Rory felt her heart crack for the girl. Sure, she was a prisoner too, but she had been prepared for this day ever since her parents had shipped her to Earth to escape the Queen. Rory wondered what this poor girl had done to deserve a similar fate.
“My name is Aurora—Rory. What’s yours?”
“Scarlet,” the girl replied, creeping closer to their shared wall.
“Well Scarlet, I’d say it’s nice to meet you, but under the circumstances…”
Scarlet’s lips twitched into a half smile before falling into a determined line. Her eyes blazed and she launched herself towards the small hole between them.
“My Grand-mere,” she asked, desperation tingeing her voice. “Have you seen her?”
Rory’s heart sank. She had seen an old woman being hauled past her cell, but she hadn’t looked well. The woman had been covered in so many bandages that she looked like a battered first aid kit. Rory shuddered to think what those animals had done to the poor woman. She couldn’t imagine that she would still be alive.
“No, “ she lied, not wanting to give Scarlet false hope. “It’s just us down here.”
Scarlet deflated. Rory felt her stomach twist with guilt, but she knew she’d done the right thing. If she could just get them both out….
Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of footsteps in the hall. Rory could hear Scarlet stiffen on the other side of the wall.
“Shh, stay quiet,” she breathed as she dragged her mattress over and sat on it with her back against the wall, covering the hole. She didn’t trust the darkness of the cell to totally conceal her attempts to escape, not with the keen eyesight of these wolf men.
The footsteps turned into a sharp click-click that paused just outside her cell. An icy thread of fear crept its way down Rory’s spine. Wolf men didn’t wear high heels.
An elegantly dressed, waxen hair woman stepped into the doorway, her blue eyes flashing violet in the scanner’s red light. She turned her head as another woman joined her, this one dressed in the high-collared, long-sleeved coat that designated her as a Thaumaturge.
The first woman inclined her head towards Rory and asked, “Is this the one?”
The other woman gave a sharp nod, “Yes, my Queen.”
Rory’s gut clenched. Queen Levana. After everything her parents had sacrificed to keep her from this very woman, it would end like this, in a dark and dank basement. Shame burned Rory’s cheeks and she let her head fall to her chest. She had failed.
Her chin was jerked up and she felt herself being pulled to her feet. Against her will, she was being drawn to Levana. She dug her heels into the floor but it was no use. Rory glared at her traitorous feet as they took her closer and closer towards the snake in the Queen’s skin.
She heard a dry chuckle and lifted her eyes to see she now stood face to face with the woman who had stolen her life.
Levana took Rory’s chin in her fingers and turned her face from side to side, examining her. Anger surged and Rory wrenched backwards, but Levana’s fingers only tightened, pulling her closer until they were eye to eye.
“Your parents went to an awful lot of trouble to hide you from me, my dear,” Levana purred, the tips of her pointed nails cutting into Rory’s skin. Levana gave an extra squeeze then suddenly released her. Rory stumbled back a few steps and rubbed her chin.
Narrowing her eyes at the Queen she spat, “Only because you were going to kidnap me!”
Levana laughed, “Kidnap you? My dear, I was going to make you royalty!”
Rory trembled with anger. She had heard the story her entire life; her Earthen guardians making her repeat it countless times lest she forget and let her guard down. Her parents, Lord and Lady Briar had belonged to one of the oldest families of Luna. Married young, they yearned for a child, but as the years passed their hope became a fragile thing. Then one day Lady Briar had shown a kindness to an elderly fishmonger and was given a special herb; Damiana leaf. Nine months later Rory was born to her parents’ great delight. So enthralled by their tiny baby, her parents decided to hold a grand ball where they would present her as Lady Aurora Rose Briar to all of Luna. But in their jubilation, her parents forgot the most important invitation of all, that of Queen Levana’s.
All of Luna nobility had turned out for the lavish affair and bestowed gifts of wealth and beauty upon the small baby. Enraged by the slight, Levana too had attended the ball. Lord and Lady Briar realized their mistake immediately and did everything in their power to assuage the Queen’s anger, offering to make her the baby’s Godmother. But Levana declined, instead offering her own gift. She would take baby Aurora to the palace to live as her own and become heir to the throne of Luna.
Levana had given Rory’s parents fifteen days to make the necessary arrangements to transfer custody from themselves to her. But Rory’s parents used that time for a far different reason, securing safe passage from Luna to Earth for their infant daughter.
She hadn’t seen them since. And here, on her fifteenth birthday, it would all be for naught.
Rory could see the old anger still simmering in Levana’s calculating blue eyes.
A sneer twisted Rory’s lips as she looked upon the woman who had destroyed her family. She would avenge her parents before Levana killed her. Her fingers curved into claws and she threw herself at Levana, desiring nothing more than to scratch out the Queen’s eyes. But Rory was stopped cold, inches from the Queen.
Levana tilted her head at Rory suspended in the air and giggled, the sound filling Rory with fear. She felt her thirst for revenge drain away and knew Levana was manipulating her emotions again.
“Dear child,” whimpered the Queen, her face a mask of mock sympathy, “what lies you have been told. I wanted nothing more than to love and cherish you as my own.”
Rory grit her teeth against the impulse to run and embrace Levana. “I will never love you,” she hissed, “You destroyed my family!”
Levana looked at Rory with such pity and stroked her cheek. “Oh, but I’m your only family now. It is unfortunate that you won’t come willingly. I’ve been told this can be quite painful.” A mad smile slid onto the Queen’s face and Rory gaped at her. “Sybil, please ready my dear Aurora for transport, we’re going home!”
Rory was hit by waves of dizzying emotion. She could feel the prick of the Thaumaturge’s will snaking its way into her mind and she screamed in agony. Rory was defenseless against the onslaught, never developing her own Lunar gift. It had been thought that using her gift would make it too easy for Levana to find her.
But she tried anyway.
The edges of her vision grew fuzzy as darkness began to overtake her. The pain of the initial prick spread throughout her body and she knew she couldn’t hold out long, not against Sybil Mira. Gasping, Rory threw her mind against Sybil’s, but it was no use.
She willed Scarlet to stay silent in the next cell.
Just before she fell into a sleep like death, she heard Levana whisper, “You will love me.”