The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle

I was browsing Pinterest a while back, and I came across someone lamenting the lack of reverse-gender Beauty and the Beast type fairy tales. There actually are a few, and it made me remember one of my very favorite stories, The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle. Anyway, I kept planning on making a post about the story, but I never got around to it, as usual. But here I am! With a post. Let us begin.

Arthur and his knights have gone on a hunting trip in Inglewood Forest. They see a large hart, and Arthur separates from his knights to chase it, going off alone. Arthur finally manages to kill it, but right after, a knight he does not know comes up to him. The knight tells him that Arthur has wronged him for many years, for Arthur has given his land to Sir Gawain. He also threatens to kill Arthur, which is nice. What better way of resolving your legal disputes than to throw the kingdom into peril, am I right? Arthur asks for his name, and the knight replies that his name is Sir Gromer-Somer Joure.

I have to ask how that’s pronounced. Like. Does it rhyme. It sounds hard to say.

Anyway, Arthur suggests that they settle this like normal people, but since no one in Arthuriana is normal, Sir Gromer refuses, claiming that if he does, the king will only “defy me another time,” or some nonsense like that. Arthur points out that it would be dishonourable to kill him while he’s without armor, and the knight replies that he doesn’t want land or gold. (Why are you making an issue of this, then.) Instead, because everyone in these stories is an idiot besides Guinevere, the knight says that King Arthur has to meet him at this place in twelve-months time and tell him what it is that all women love best. If King Arthur can’t answer, he’ll kill him.

You know. Because every woman thinks the exact same way. It makes sense.

Also, I don’t believe this guy actually had his land stolen. Call me skeptical.

Later that evening, Gawain asks him what is wrong, because Arthur isn’t exactly hiding it well. Arthur says that he vowed to keep it a secret, but Gawain says he would never tell anyone, so Arthur confides the issue to him. Gawain suggests that they both ride out over the country, both going separate ways, and ask every man and woman for their answer to the riddle, and they would record the answers in a book. So basically, a survey! Not a bad idea.

They get many different answers; some say that what women want most is pretty clothes, some say that they want to be courted, some say that what women love most is to make out. By the time Gawain gets back to court, his book has been almost filled up. He and Arthur pool their answers, and Gawain is confident that the right answer is in there somewhere. Arthur is not so sure, however, and he decides to go back out into Inglewood Forest.

There, he meets a very ugly lady.

I can’t really beat the description from the translation of the ballad that I found, so: ” Her face was red and covered with snot, her mouth huge, and all her teeth yellow, hanging over her lips. Her bleary eyes were greater than a ball, and her cheeks were as broad as women’s hips.  She had a hump on her back, her neck was long and thick, and her hair clotted into a heap. She was made like a barrel, with shoulders a yard wide and hanging breasts that were large enough to be a horse’s load. No tongue can tell of the foulness and ugliness of that lady. “

I told you. I couldn’t beat that description.

She sits on a fine horse adorned with gold, and she rides up to Arthur, telling him that she knows his secret and how to save him–only if she saves him, she gets to marry Sir Gawain.

Arthur points out that he can’t force Gawain to marry her, which goes a long way towards getting Arthur on my good side. But he says that he will tell Sir Gawain. “He will be loath to refuse my request,” says the king, “but I would regret causing Gawain to wed the foulest lady I have ever seen. I don’t know what to do.” She replies that even an owl may choose its mate, and that her name is Dame Ragnelle, “who has never yet beguiled man.”

Gawain, when he hears of it, says that he would wed her if she looked like Beelzebub, as long as it saved his king. Aww.

When Arthur goes to give Sir Gromer-Somer Joure his answer, Dame Ragnelle meets him along the way. “Sir, you will now know, without digression, what women of all degrees want most,” Dame Ragnelle responds. “Some men say we desire to be beautiful and that we want to consort with diverse strange men; also we love lust in bed and often wish to wed. Thus men misunderstand women. Another idea they have is that we want to be seen as young and fresh, not old, and that women can be won through flattery and clever ploys. In truth, you act foolishly. The one thing that we desire of men above all else is to have complete sovereignty, so that all is ours. We use our skill to gain mastery over the most fierce, victorious and manly of knights.  So go on your way and tell this to the knight, who will be angry and curse the one who taught it to you, for his labour is lost. I assure you that your life is now safe, and remember your promise.”

So King Arthur goes to the knight and gives him the book to look through. I just caught that he is stalling for Gawain’s sake. Aww. Is this the most functional this family has ever been?

Anyway, the answers in the book do not satisfy Sir Gromer, and he makes ready to kill him. Arthur finally tells him that the answer is sovereignty. Sir Gromer literally says that he wants Ragnelle to die in a fire. And he also says that Ragnelle is his sister. I see that they’re functional. He laments that he’ll never have Arthur at such a point again, and Arthur assures him that he’ll make sure of that. Arthur turns his horse and leaves, and on his way back, he meets Dame Ragnelle at the same place she was before.

Ragnelle tells Arthur that she fulfilled her end of the bargain, and now it’s Arthur’s turn. He says he will and asks her to follow his advice, but she knows what he’s about to say and cuts him off.

“No, Sir King, I will not do so,” she says. “I will be married openly before I part from you, or you will be shamed! You ride ahead of me and I will follow you to your court. Remember how I have saved your life; therefore you should cause me no strife, which would be blameworthy.”

They go to Arthur’s court at Carlisle (a city, not to be confused with Carlisle, the vampire). Ragnelle insists on a large wedding. Guinevere asks her to have a private ceremony, for the sake of Sir Gawain, but Ragnelle tells her that she will be married publicly. And she is, in a red gown even more beautiful than the queen’s. At the feast after the wedding, she eats enough for six men, tearing apart the food with her three-inch long nails. I like the visual very much.

After the feast, Gawain and Ragnelle go to their bedchamber. She asks him to kiss her. “I will do more than kiss you, and before God!” Gawain says. When he turns to her, instead of a hag, he sees a beautiful woman.

Ragnelle explains that he has a choice; he can either choose that she look beautiful in the day and ugly at night, or beautiful at night and ugly during the day.* Gawain says he doesn’t know which would be better, and tells her that the choice is up to her, because Gawain is a wonderful person who understands that it really is Ragnelle’s choice, anyway.

*I had to proofread this sentence so many times. You didn’t ask to know this, but now you know.

It turns out that this is the right thing to do to break the curse, and now Ragnelle will be beautiful both day and night. She explains that her stepmother laid a curse on her, and Gawain broke it by giving her her sovereignty.

And they were very happy till morning. 😉

Arthur and Guinevere were grateful to Ragnelle after they found out about the curse. King Arthur forgave Ragnelle’s brother, even though Arthur and her brother still didn’t get along very well after that, and Ragnelle lived happily with Gawain for the rest of her life–although, unfortunately, her life wasn’t very long. She lived with him five years before dying of an illness, because this story is determined to rip out my heart.

Anyway, this is a wonderful story with an amazing message. Happy (late) Valentine’s day, and may you find a partner like Gawain or Ragnelle. Or, if you plan on being single (*high-fives you*), may you live it up like Dinadan did. Courtly love kills people and is overrated anyway.

Also, I have over fifty followers now! Thank you so much! I can’t believe over fifty people wanted to listen to me ramble about different things here. 🙂

Also, I found the story here, if you want to give it a read.

Fairy Tale Blog Tag

Fairy Tale Central has created a tag! It’s all about fairy tales, so of course I couldn’t be more excited to do it. The tag might as well have been tailor-made for me or something. I love it.

1. What’s an obscure fairy tale you love?

Noooo. There are too many obscure fairy tales I love for me to list them all here. But I love Kate Crackernuts, Tam Lin, Samba the Coward, Ivan and the Princess Blue-Eyes, The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle, Tatterhood, and…

I like a lot of fairy tales.

2. If you got to choose Disney’s next animated princess movie, what fairy tale would you choose to be adapted?

I remember talking to Weez a long time ago about how I wanted a Disney movie retelling Gawain and the Green Knight, featuring a very confused Gringolet. (Gringolet, in case you don’t know, is the horse.) And I still stand by that. It would be 2D animation, of course. And I’d want it to be faithful to the original story. Which essentially means that this is a pipe dream.

I also would like Disney movies for some more Greek myths, like Eros and Psyche or Perseus and Andromeda. (I’m pretty sure Andromeda was also black*, so…you know. Maybe Disney could finally have more than one black princess? Just saying?)

(Tiana is the only black princess, right? I don’t want to falsely criticize even Disney.)

*Okay, so I looked it up and it sounds like Greek writers would sometimes give Andromeda different ethnicities, but she’s usually described as being from Aethiopia and is sometimes described as black. Go for it, Disney.

Also, it would be nice to have some more movies retelling Arabian Nights tales. I just…I want. I want so bad.

Or they could make a movie about Gareth and Lynet!! Featuring sisters, enchantresses, and dumb knights galore! I want the Disney movie!

I would also love Disney to retell any Indian fairy tale, I’m not picky. It’s about time you finally set a movie in India, Disney.

Then again, maybe I should ask for a company that has more artistic integrity than Disney to do these. Disney is very good for what they are, but they don’t seem to like breaking very much new ground or doing anything a little different. That might scare off consumers! We can’t have that.

3. What is the first fairy tale you remember hearing when you were a child?

I have a memory of my mom telling me the story of Beauty and the Beast. It’s one of my favorite fairy tales, and I wonder if that’s why–it really may have been the first one I heard.

4. If you were to embark on a fairy tale quest, what necessities would you pack in your bag?

Food, of course. Also a magic comb, a handkerchief, and whatever else I need to get the witch off my tail. And, since I’m presuming I can take whatever I want, I would like a helpful talking raven who can give me advice on how to handle each magical situation. I would make a very good traveling companion! I, unlike stupid heroes, would try my hardest to not ignore every piece of advice I am given.

I would also bring a tent. I wouldn’t want to sleep in the rain.

5. What’s your favorite fairy tale trope?

I have a lot I like ( 😮 no one saw this answer coming!). I like witches who singlehandedly cause apocalypses. I like sisters who stand up for each other, especially when the fairy tale trope would ordinarily have them hating each other (Tatterhood! Kate Crackernuts! Fairy tale girls don’t always hate their sisters just because their sister conforms to the beauty standard and they don’t!). But most of all, I love clever, resourceful heroines. I love powerful women, and I love women who are content to stay in the background. I love villainous women who reach out and take the things they want, and I love women who keep their morality even when everyone around them treats them horribly.

Just. I love the women in these stories. You can find so many awesome heroines if you look for them.

6. If you could be any fairy tale character archetype (the princess, the soldier, fairy godmother, talking animal, mischievous imp, wise old woman, evil stepmother/sister, etc.), who would you want to be and why?

I guess I’d like to be a witch like Baba Yaga. Extremely morally ambiguous granny who knows how to have fun and who has a really cool house. I’d like that. She’s awesome. And yes, I’m aware that she’s a character rather than an archetype, but whatever. I want to be her.

7. What animal/mythical creature would be your sidekick for fairy tale adventures? 

Well, I mentioned a helpful talking raven up there, so we’ll go with that. If not, though, I’d like to take one of my kitties.

8. What is your favorite historical era, and what fairy tale would you love to see in that setting?

Ahh! There are so many. Let’s make a list.

  1. Song Dynasty China. I tried setting a Beauty and the Beast story here, but unfortunately, I didn’t finish it. I wish I had.
  2. Joseon dynasty Korea! Goryeo Korea! Any Korea! I would honestly be fine with any fairy tale set here. Snow White? Beauty and the Beast? Rapunzel? I’ll take it. (Unfortunately, I haven’t read as much Korean folklore. I want to get into it more. Anyone have any fairy tale recs?)
  3. Safavid Persia. Or any Persia, actually. I would love to see some Arabian Nights retellings here, along with anything else. I really want some Arabian Nights retellings, though.
  4. I’m ashamed to admit I don’t know much about Morocco’s history, but Morocco has a BLUE. CITY. It also just seems like a really nice place for a setting. It sounds like such a beautiful place! I would like a Puss in Boots retelling set here.
  5. Medieval Europe (especially Ireland and Scotland, but also England or France or anywhere like that). Yes, I know what you’re thinking. This is already the most overused place for fantasy. But tell me this. How many people have presented medieval Europe in a compelling and/or accurate way? In my experience, not…not enough people. I kind of love dealing with older periods, both because of how different the cultures can be from the present day and also because it’s so interesting to me to have people accept magic as a rule of life. (Someone give me a Tam Lin retelling!)
  6. 18th and 19th century Britain (or France, or any other place in Europe, it doesn’t really matter). The clothes are so pretty! The social changes are so interesting to explore! You can discuss the early forms of feminism! (RESEARCH MANDATORY.) You can throw in your Jane Austen and your Pamela references! There’s just so much!
  7. Merie just discussed a version of Snow White set in Russia, and now I would LOVE to see a retelling.

9. If you could change a fairy tale’s villain into a hero, who would you choose and why?

Ooh. I like this question. I’m not sure Baba Yaga technically counts, since she’s more of an antihero anyway, but I love her and would enjoy seeing her as a protagonist very much. I’m currently writing a story with Mordred as the protagonist, and I’m enjoying that very much. (I have not written in this story in a while. I am an impostor. A fake writer.)

Also Clytemnestra! I find her really sympathetic, and I totally get wanting to kill Agamemnon. Anyone would want to kill Agamemnon. No one else had the guts to do it.

I just know there’s going to be a villain from a myth or fairy tale that I remember as soon as I’m done with this.

10. Do you prefer fairy tales with happy endings or sad/tragic endings? why or why not?

I like both. The ending should be right for the story. A tragic ending that fits the story is the most satisfying thing in the world. A tragic ending tacked on ‘just because’ feels pointless (@ HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSON). There are some stories that shouldn’t end happily. There are some stories that shouldn’t end tragically. So I guess you could say that I prefer satisfying endings.

I had so much fun with this tag! Absolutely feel free to join in if you want! There’s a linkup on Fairy Tale Central for this tag that runs until the end of February, if you want to add a post to it. I love talking about fairy tales so much. I’m sure you couldn’t tell.

Le Morte D'Arthur, book 1, part 22

Man, I cannot believe I’m on chapter 22. I also cannot believe that I am on chapter 22 and am NOWHERE NEAR FINISHING. NOT A BIT. NADA. I’m almost done with this section, though. Le Morte D’Arthur is separated into 21 ‘books’, in case you were wondering. 21 long sections. This is going to take forever, and I, for one, am extremely happy about this.

Oh! And I wanted to say that apparently, from the cursory research I did, Arthur’s sword breaking in the middle of a battle isn’t that unusual or unrealistic. My doubts were without reason. It is something that could potentially happen.

Anyway, previously on Le Morte D’Arthur: People from…Rome of all places want England to pay tribute to them, despite Rome being very embroiled in its own problems in King Arthur’s actual time.* Arthur goes out to deal with Pellinore, that knight who keeps fighting everyone, and he almost gets himself killed. Will Arthur be alright? Is Pellinore as much as much of a weirdo as he seems? Yeah, pretty much, whatever this book tries to tell you Will we ever find out what Merlin’s deal is? Find out in this installment!

(I lied. We will never know what Merlin’s deal is.)

*Does this make any sense at all, history nerds who know more about this time period than I do? From my knowledge, I’m pretty sure it makes no sense, but I always could be mistaken.

Then Merlin came and said, ‘knight, stay your hand. For if you slay that knight, you do this realm a great evil. [I changed the structure of this sentence quite a bit, but I’m not sure I can keep a similar sentence structure and keep it comprehensible. As a side note, does it ever blow your mind how much languages develop?] For this knight is a man of more worship than you know.’

‘Why? Who is he?’ asked the knight.

‘He is King Arthur.’

Then the knight would have slain him for fear of his wrath, and raised up his sword, but Merlin cast an enchantment on the knight so that he fell to the earth in a great sleep. [How is killing a king supposed to help get you out of trouble for fighting a king? I do not get the logic.] Then Merlin took up King Arthur and rode forth on the knight’s horse.

‘Alas,’ said Arthur. ‘What have you done, Merlin? Have you slain this good knight by your crafts? There lies not so worshipful a knight as he was. [ARE YOU SURE.] I had liefer than the stint of my land a year that he were alive. [Is he saying that he likes Pellinore more than taxes? Do I have my definitions right, because I’m pretty sure that’s what he’s saying. I don’t…I don’t know. I could be wrong.]

‘Do not worry,’ said Merlin, ‘for he is healthier than you. He is only asleep, and he will wake within three hours. I told you what a knight he was. Here you would have been slain if I had not been here. There is not a mightier knight than him; and he shall hereafter do you good service, and his name is Pellinore. [Wait. Do you think Arthur gets his habit of bringing somewhat…questionable people into the Round Table (‘Surely Mordred is just a sweet boy, right?’) from Merlin? Because I would never, ever hire this man, and I don’t know why Merlin wants to.] He shall have two sons that shall be passing good men. Except for one knight, they shall have no equal in prowess and good living. [My guess is that this one knight’s name starts with ‘Lance’ and ends with ‘lot’. That’s usually how this goes.] Their names shall be Percival of Wales and Lamorak of Wales, and he shall tell you the name of your own son, begotten of your sister, who shall be the destruction of all the realm.’ [I assume ‘he’ refers to Pellinore, but the way this is worded is so unclear. But I’m pretty sure this refers to Pellinore.

Does this statement ever become relevant later in the story? I don’t think it does? There’s a lot of stuff in this that’s thrown out there with no followup.]

In conclusion, Arthur needs both better standards for hiring people (I’m sorry Mordred and Agravaine I love you guys but), and he also needs a better mentor. Arthur needs a better mentor very much.

Muse of Nightmares; a review, in which bad decisions Were Made (by me, I made all the bad decisions here)

Trigger warning for brief discussion of sexual assault and harassment

This book was…rather infuriating.

There, I said it. I am aware that this is entirely my fault. No, I should not have read this. Yes, I should have known better. Yes, I am an idiot and tried to read it anyway.

*sobs* Why am I so stupid, I honestly thought this book would be better than the first one and have better pacing and writing and stuff I’m a MORON

Anyway. Anyway, even though I am a moron, please do allow me to discuss this book, because I have Thoughts. OH MAN do I have thoughts. But before I write this review, I kind of want to talk about a few things I would change in my review of the previous book insofar as my wording, because…no, that wasn’t a very good review. Allow me to list two things:

  • I hope it didn’t come across like this, but I really didn’t mean to imply that the thing that’s unrealistic about Lazlo is that he’s poor and accomplished, or that he’s been abused and is a nice person. I absolutely don’t think either of those things would have been unrealistic. My main problem is that Lazlo is so young and has no training, and we’ve never seen him discuss how he learned these skills or what set him on the path to become a historian/philologist, but he has accomplished so, so much. That is what broke my suspension of disbelief. Likewise, I didn’t understand how Lazlo could be abused and show so very few signs of trauma. He never even mentioned mental health as a thing he had to work through. The abuse kind of felt tacked on for tragedy points (though I’m sure the author didn’t mean to do that).
  • Secondly, in my review of Strange the Dreamer, I said Ruby was ‘making out’ with the ghost slaves without their consent, but I’m pretty sure she was raping them. I was scared to say it back then just in case I had misinterpreted what was being said, but from everything I remember, it was rape. Someone else mentioned this too, and man is the quote creepier than I remembered. I think I actually flinched when I read that.

Yeah, I haven’t even started the review yet and I’m already going on and on. I am longwinded, but I am also bitter and have sat through this long book just so I could write this review, so I think some longwindedness is deserved. And yes, my bitterness is absolutely my fault! I should not have tricked myself into thinking that I liked the first book, and I should not have tricked myself into thinking that the second would be better. It…certainly was not better. In fact, I liked it much less.

Anyway, onto the review.

I honestly gave Thyon waay too much credit in my review of the previous book. Why did I fall for the classist jerk? He’s kind of a moron. Also, HE DIDN’T NEED TO STEAL LAZLO’S BOOKS. HE COULD HAVE ASKED FOR THE FREAKING PRIMARY SOURCES, WHICH PROBABLY WOULD HAVE BEEN EASIER TO SIFT THROUGH THAN SOME COLLEGE STUDENT’S DERANGED SCRIBBLINGS. Anyway, I was way too nice to h–

Strange, a god? Through all his musing, Thyon had not allowed those words to scrape against each other. “That’s absurd,” he said tightly.

Calixte agreed, though for a different reason. Thyon objected to the notion that Lazlo could be divine, powerful.

Oh. OH. I remember why I love him now. It also really doesn’t help that he’s the only character who gets called out for his bad behavior. The others, who sometimes do horrific things, do not. Yeah, it’s possible I wouldn’t have liked him in a better book, but I like him in comparison to the others. Okay. Yeah, we’re already getting off to a good start, book.

There were still a couple of things I liked. Eril-Fane was definitely the high point of this story. He’s a person who has suffered, but who is still going to step up and do the right thing, even if he doesn’t always know the right thing is. He’s such a brave person, and he should have been the main character. He was ten times more interesting than everyone else combined. There, I said it. He’s amazing. I do have a problem with his character arc, though, specifically in regards to how the arc handles trauma-induced fear of touching people. Why does fiction treat this like some deal-breaking thing in a relationship? I have a huge problem with Azareen saying that he’s not exactly her husband. HE LITERALLY KILLED A GOD FOR YOU, AZAREEN. I’M PRETTY SURE HE LOVES YOU. Sometimes your husband goes through horrible trauma and can’t touch you anymore, and you have to live with them and love them anyway. It happens. Aside from that, I’m pretty happy with Eril-Fane’s arc, though. That was an annoying note, but the rest of his arc was really good.

I thought the pacing in this book was better! That’s not saying much, though, considering the pacing of the first book, and there were still parts in this that dragged. But stuff happened, and the periods of time where stuff did not happen were not as common as before. I think the writing was also better; the placement of adjectives was more careful, and there weren’t nearly as many places where I had to slow down to try to figure out what the author was trying to say. In fact, there were scenes in this that really gripped me. I LOVED the scenes with Nova. Nova was amazing and also would have been a better contender for the role of main character than Lazlo Strange.

(In fact, I have a list of characters who would have made better main characters than Lazlo Strange. I’ll let you guess everyone on that list. I think I’ve made my opinions clear.)

Lazlo and Sarai, as in the previous book, were incredibly boring. It certainly didn’t change in this book. I don’t understand why on earth anyone would fall for someone just because he has nice dreams. I have nice dreams sometimes, Sarai. Are you going to make a value judgement on me based off of that? The foundation of their relationship is incredibly flimsy, so when Lazlo considers risking an entire city for her, it’s painful to watch. Especially since they’ve only known each other for what, three weeks? Also, don’t…Please don’t make out in the room where Sarai’s mother raped people for two hundred years. That’s like making out in fantasy Auschwitz.* It’s gross.

*Do note that I do not lightly compare things to Auschwitz. I just can’t think of another place with as bad a connotation as the room in the story would have in the setting.

And Thyon’s character arc. Oh my goodness. It kind of felt like…Like I guess if the author tried to make me a cake, but she didn’t know which kind of cake I liked, so then she made me a coconut cake and coconut cake makes me gag. So now I’m left with a cake I can’t eat and a feeling of vague discomfort.

Tell me if this sounds like a good idea, okay? Let’s take a character. He’ll be a rich aristocrat and the vehicle we use to talk about classism, xenophobia, and sexism. But wait! He’ll also be gay, mentally ill, and an abuse survivor! There’s no way this can go wrong!

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that cute romantic bickering should never, ever consist of Ruza telling Thyon, ‘Hey, last time we spoke you seemed vaguely xenophobic, and why are you cutting yourself, lol that’s so weird.’ It makes both Ruza and Thyon look terrible. The whole scene seems so ableist! It is bad, bad writing. Also? Also, if Ruza lists several very good reasons as to why he dislikes Thyon and follows it up with, ‘and he’s so pretty he doesn’t look real, what a loser,’* it’s not cute, okay? It gives off the impression that Ruza is only into Thyon for Thyon’s looks (which was the impression I was getting throughout the novel, tbh, because I can’t think why else Ruza would be into him). And I don’t actually care if you’re deriding someone for being too ugly or too pretty. Negative comments on someone’s personal appearance ain’t cute, Ruza. Don’t do it.

*All dialogue in this paragraph is paraphrased. Obviously.

(Also, allow me to say that if Ruza really loved Thyon, he would have gotten him gloves when they worked with rope. True love doesn’t bandage your hands after the fact. True love gets you gloves.)

Oh, and remember how I liked Calixte in the last book? Yeah, I don’t…Why on earth did she ask Thyon if he was a virgin and if he was gay? Actually, I know why. She did it in order to get under his skin. That’s scummy. It’s especially unforgivable to me since Thyon comes from a homophobic society. I just…don’t like how Calixte handled any of this, and she never had a moment where she sat down and realized that she might have been unkind. Ruza also never sat down and discussed Thyon cutting himself and apologized for not taking it more seriously. Come to think of it, I’m not sure if Thyon apologized for how he treated Ruza, either?? At least the narrative treated Thyon’s wrongdoings as horrible, though, and he had actual consequences. Ruza and Calixte never got even that.

Also, I just…do not remember any of Thyon’s alleged xenophobia from the previous book? It’s possible I just missed it. It was a long book and I tended to ignore out-of-character actions anyway. I don’t have a copy on hand, so I can’t check, but if it was not mentioned in the previous book, then just…Yeah. Okay. Racism is a wonderful trait to give a character last minute, especially right before you get him together with the brown character. And I certainly never noticed Thyon being weird to Ruza in this book (please correct me if I was an idiot and missed something), so…why was this in there? The only thing the ableism and racism do for the story is to make the romance uncomfortable and awkward. Both characters deserve better.

I also love how Sarai criticizes Thyon for having nightmares. He probably has nightmares because he has PTSD, Sarai. Why on earth would you…I don’t know anymore. I don’t know why someone would be like this. She’s seen the effects of PTSD before! She has no right to judge someone for having nightmares! I guess if the trauma isn’t caused by her parents, it doesn’t matter? I don’t know. It’s a bad book.

Yeah, I don’t…I don’t really like Sarai. Is she just mad at Thyon because he interrupted her makeout scene with Lazlo in the last book? That’s the only thing that makes sense. I love Thyon for that, by the way. He may be a problematic fave, but he’s my problematic fave who saved me from the terrible makeout session.

I HATED that Minya was given a redemption arc. She’s an abuser and a slaver. She gaslights Sarai, she took away Sarai’s medicine in the first book, and she threatens to kill Sarai for good. And she’s literally enslaved hundreds of people. This isn’t a character you redeem. There’s a reason why some villains are only redeemed in death, okay? The things they have done are so awful that the narrative CAN’T let them live. They can’t feasibly make their way back into society. Also, was it just me, or did the narrative extend more sympathy to her than to Thyon? You…You know, the mentally ill queer abuse survivor who has not enslaved anyone? It was…uncomfortable.

Ruby and Feral were AWFUL, as they were in the previous book. Ruby gets upset at Feral at one point for not spying on her in the bath without her consent. Ruby also spies on Feral without his consent and Feral claims to be…happy about it. That wasn’t creepy at all. (It was that point when I knew I was never DNFing this book. I was going to see this to the bitter end so I could scream my rage into the void that was the internet.) Ruby and Feral are…fifteen. Honestly, Ruby is so weird that I’d almost think that it’s intentionally set up to show that Ruby has no morals and has been raised by wolves, basically. That would have been fine. The problem is that people from the outside do not seem to view her general behavior as odd. That is a big problem.

Apart from the creepy consent issues (and that’s a pretty big thing to ignore), I just…don’t really want to read about a fifteen-year-old exploring her sexuality? I’m pretty sure most fifteen-year-olds don’t want to read that, either? Am I wrong?

Also, just something personal that bothered me: Why are a bunch of characters in what I assume is a vaguely pan-central Asian setting referencing purgatory? Isn’t that a very specifically Catholic concept?

As for the stuff I liked…Well, as mentioned, I loved Eril-Fane and Nova, and I thought the scenes we saw from Thyon’s point of view were interesting, even though I hated how some of the issues were handled. Honestly, some of Thyon’s thought patterns got me. The way his anxiety was portrayed was realistic, even though I didn’t like how the other characters reacted to it. I think I would have liked it a lot better if Thyon could have come to his own personal realizations away from the main friend group, both for his sake and for Ruza’s. I did think that the scenes where Thyon learned humility were really powerful, despite my issues with the arc. And there were moments where I got lost in the story! Some scenes, particularly the ones with Nova, were enthralling. Overall, though, I think a lot of this story could have been better thought through, and a lot of it could have been made more interesting. I get why other people like it. I just…couldn’t get behind it.

You know what infuriates me the most, though? When I first started Strange the Dreamer, I thought Lazlo/Thyon was going to be a thing. Thyon really was introduced like a love interest! But as I kept reading, it soon became clear that Lazlo/Thyon was not, in fact, going to be a thing. Essentially, I was cheated out of two Renaissance era gay scholars–an alchemist and a historian–teaming up to save an ancient city in the enemies-to-lovers romance of the century. I was CHEATED of that, and no, I am not over this. I will never be over this.

[Edit: My sister was reading aloud a Lazlo/Sarai makeout scene and laughing at it, and apparently…Sarai’s…hearts and veins…started glowing? Anyway, I leave you with this:

(Source)
You know, if Sarai had actually been some Eldritch abomination, I would have liked it a lot better.

]

[Edit no. 2: Can I just say the way slavery was handled in this was HORRIBLE? Minya’s slaves were such an afterthought. Only three of Minya’s slaves were named. One had no lines, and the other two were villainized. Sarai briefly mentions that they really ought to free the slaves, and Lazlo hastens to reassure her that the slavery is not her fault. However, I never noticed her fighting very hard for the slaves’ freedom in either book, and she certainly wasn’t willing to sacrifice herself for them. I also notice that Nova, the woman who has freed many slaves, is villainized, while Sarai and her friends, who own slaves, are not. Essentially, what with Minya’s slavery and Ruby’s sexual assault, both characters are doing the same thing their parents did while everyone else looks the other way. It is GROSS.]

Please do note that I do not blame the author for any of the stuff that bugged me. I don’t think anyone sets out to write a mentally ill queer character or a brown character with the intention of portraying them in an offensive or off-putting way (except for a few people, but let’s not go there). I don’t know the author personally, and it’s possible she’s a perfectly lovely person who just wrote something that annoyed me. It’s also certainly possible that some mentally ill queer people out there did enjoy the book! I just had problems with it, but my problems are with the book, not her.

I did get some fanfic out of this endeavour, because I did lowkey like the first book, so reading this duology wasn’t entirely pointless! Overall, though, it wasn’t really for me, and I should have known.

(As an addendum, since Eril-Fane is kind of a King Arthur figure–both characters are war heroes who killed thirty babies, and I’m pretty sure that was an intentional reference–can you IMAGINE how amazing Sarai would have been as a Mordred figure? I want Sarai who is an actual antiheroine instead of being ‘sympathetic’ and vaguely unpleasant. Also, I refuse to acknowledge Minya as a nod to Mordred, even though that’s a possibility, because for all Mordred’s flaws, he never enslaved anyone. Mordred is a good boy. Minya is not.)

Also, I am living in fear of the day the author announces that it was not, in fact, a duology and she’s writing a third book and then my stupid brain won’t let me leave the series unfinished, but hopefully that won’t happen (sorry, fans of this book)

My Various Unasked For Thoughts on Different Arthurian Characters, Because I Can

Yeah, so…I just wanted to list the different Arthurian characters and my different thoughts and opinions about them. Why? I don’t know. I thought it would be fun. I’m not going to cover all the characters here at all, only a couple of the most well-known ones, because otherwise that would be loong.

So, in order of popularity (sort of):

Arthur

  • Probably the one character I don’t have super strong opinions about, to be honest.
  • I don’t really care how you play him, so long as he’s not boring.
  • I do personally happen to like stories that include the ‘he tried to murder his infant son and failed’ aspect, though, because ANGST.
  • I guess I kind of like stories that portray Arthur as a more complex character? One that makes a lot of mistakes, even though he may still be a noble man. I don’t like stories that portray him as perfect, and I don’t like stories that railroad his character for the sake of it. That’s me and every Arthuriana character, though.
  • I honestly have no idea what that whole ‘he ordered that Guinevere be burned at the stake when he found out she committed adultery’ thing was about. Like. It doesn’t make sense from a logical perspective? Of course Lancelot is going to try to rescue her and that’s going to make the whole political situation worse. I don’t get why Arthur did it. Were the noblemen demanding it?

Guinevere

  • I love this character.
  • So, while I don’t have anything personal against retellings that portray Guinevere as some type of warrior queen, I still don’t really like it. Guinevere can have power in a political way and not on the battlefield! Honestly, I could be wrong, but it seems like I don’t run into a lot of stories that have a girl be a competent political leader. I’m just…a liiittle bit tired of warrior girls. I love warrior queens, until that becomes all people are willing to write.
  • I just love Chretien’s portrayal of Guinevere as someone people listen to and respect. That was kind of amazing.
  • I’m okay with someone writing villainous!Guinevere, but it seems like people never do it in ways I can get behind. The few times I’ve seen it done, she’s just a stereotypical, unpleasant, meddling woman rather than a respected enemy. Can some people not write villainous powerful women without tripping into a bunch of stereotypes?
  • While we’re on this topic, my Arthurian OTP is Mordred/Guinevere. I love the ship so much. I’ve yet to come across a (remotely good) novel that’s about this relationship, and the ship has…maybe six fanfics on AO3? Why are all my favorite ships so obscure?
  • Guinevere just has so much potential as a character. She’s been portrayed so many different ways, from medieval literature to today, and she’s such a flexible and enigmatic character. I love her, but she’s also really freaking hard for me to write
  • She’s just such a powerful character when she’s written well.
  • Anyway, if anyone knows of any good Mordred/Guinevere fanfics or novels, let me know.

Merlin

  • I will admit, I have NO idea why Merlin is as popular as he is. He assisted in a rape and just screwed everyone over. I get a fairly unhealthy vibe from his relationship with Arthur, which is only cemented by the fact that Merlin convinced him to attempt to murder Arthur’s own infant son. Why do people stan?

Lancelot

  • He’s a disaster bi and no one can make me change my mind
  • I took a quiz once for ‘which Arthurian character are you’ and I got Lancelot. I guess it makes sense. I’m also a disaster over-achiever who is probably going to end up accidentally betraying king and country one of these days. (I am, however, much less good at time management than Lancelot apparently is, so I am not very good at fighting things or other useful talents.) I think I’m more like Gawain, tho
  • I think almost everybody interprets Lancelot as a Type A over-achiever and I like it.
  • One thing I wish more people would explore is Lancelot’s relationship with the Lady of the Lake. Didn’t she raise him?
  • You know, Lancelot and Guinevere is okay, sure, but you know what’s better? Lancelot in basically any slash ship. Lancelot/Galehaut is AMAZING, okay? (Galehaut is not at ALL to be confused with Galahad. Galehaut, if you don’t know, is some guy who waged a war against Arthur until he found out that Lancelot was super cute and called it off. That really happened.) And I love Lancelot/Gawain possibly even more, because apparently there was a scene in some medieval story–I think it was in the Vulgate Cycle–where Gawain told Lancelot that he wished that he were a beautiful girl, under the condition that Lancelot would love him more than any other. ADORABLE.
  • Basically, literally everyone in Camelot is wildly in love with Lancelot, and that’s not my opinion, that’s fact.
  • Some Arthuriana fans tend to hate/strongly dislike Lancelot for some reason, but I don’t. He’s definitely done a lot of bad things, some of which don’t get called out because of the genre conventions or the social outlooks of the time, but I think he also has potential to be a really, really morally complex and interesting and noble character. Just because not everyone writes the character well doesn’t mean that he’s a bad character.
  • We love and support Lancelot in this house (along with Guinevere, and Mordred, and Gawain, and pretty much everyone except Pelleas he can choke)

Mordred

  • MY BOY. The character who got me into Arthurian legends. Just.
  • I am completely not interested in Pure Evil versions of this character, outside of the actual legends of course. You’ve been given so much tragic villain potential and you are NOT going to waste this. I just think Mordred works so much better as a tragic villain.
  • Morded is kind of…an inverse chosen one. Yes, he’s the center of some important prophecy, but the prophecy is that he’s going to destroy a kingdom. (Anakin, basically. He’s Anakin.) And I highkey love that twist on the trope.
  • I think I’m just drawn to characters like this, I’m sorry. I love Loki, Anakin, Seonho, and Mordred. I definitely have a Type.
  • You’d kind of expect Mordred to have a bigger role in Le Morte D’Arthur, but from what I remember, he’s kind of a background character until the end. It’s kind of an odd structure.
  • I find Mordred’s friendship with his brother Agravaine kind of cute, and I think any retelling from Mordred’s point of view is obligated to feature this.
  • In fact, I just love all the Orkney brothers. They are all collectively my favorite and no one can change my mind.
  • Anyway, I just love characters who plot with queens and topple dynasties

Gawain

  • Like Lancelot, Gawain is also a disaster bi! Aside from that whole bit with Lancelot I talked about up there, Gawain also has this whole long poem that’s all about the story of how he got to make out with the Green Knight. And also about how he learned the true meaning of honor I guess, but we all know what the important part of the poem is. I haven’t read Gawain and the Green Knight yet, but I want to.
  • My sister, who has actually read the poem, claims that the important part of the poem is how he learned the true meaning of honor but I think she’s lying
  • He also has a really cute marriage with this woman named Ragnelle, and I swear I’ll cover that eventually in its own post because it’s an amazing story (no seriously I almost have the post written up I just need to finish it).
  • I think Gawain is the sort of person who loves animals, which is confirmed by the fact that he once tried to kill a man for mistreating a dog.
  • Doesn’t he also love his horse Gringolet? Gawain’s just adorable okay
  • He also stuck up for Guinevere when she was accused of adultery.
  • YES he may be an idiot who kills people but a) so is Lancelot and ninety percent of the rest of Camelot and b) aside from that, he’s really nice! Stop being mean to him, French authors
  • In all seriousness, though, I think I might be the only person who is fine with both more redneck/slightly trashy portrayals of Gawain and the paragon of knighthood portrayals of Gawain. I like both, okay? I’m not down for anything that completely makes Gawain into a jerk, but I’m okay with Gawain screwing up and being an idiot occasionally.
  • There’s this whole segment in one of Chretien’s stories where Gawain makes out with this girl only to find out that I think he killed her father or something and the girl’s fine with it, but her brother tries to kill him and then Gawain and the lady end up having to fight their way out with a chess set. This is the idiot content I subscribed for.
  • I love Gawain. So much. He and Lancelot are both such lovable idiots and I ship them. I don’t really want to pick a favorite Arthurian character, but if I had to, I’d say it tends to shift between Gawain, Guinevere, and Mordred?

So please do tell me your Arthurian headcanons, favorite ships, favorite retellings/fanfics, etc., and I’m sorry for making you sit through all this. I’m still writing it and posting it anyway. 😉 I may make a part two of this, but I already feel cringy enough posting this one post. I do want to cover the rest of the Orkney brothers, though. So I guess we’ll see.

Le Morte D'Arthur, book 1, part 21

Previously on Le Morte D’Arthur: Griflet has been knighted and has gone out to stop the knight who has parked himself in front of a fountain in order to challenge random people to a fight. Unfortunately, Griflet has only gotten himself injured while trying to defeat him. Will Griflet be alright? Will diplomacy and sanity win the day? No. No it never will in this book Find out in this installment!

Then the knight saw Griflet lie so on the ground, and he alighted and was passing heavyhearted, for he thought he had slain him. [Who would have guessed that running at each other at top speed on horseback with spears was dangerous, am I right?] He unlaced Griflet’s helmet to give him air. And so with the fragment of the spear the knight set him on the horse and so betook him to God, and said that Griflet had a mighty heart, and if he might live, he would prove a passing good knight.

And so Sir Griflet rode to the court, where great sorrow was made for him. [This author only knows one conjunction and that is ‘and so’] But through good physicians he was healed and saved.

Right so twelve knights came into the court, and they were aged men. They came from the emperor of Rome, and they asked of Arthur truage for this realm, or else the emperor would destroy him and his land. [I have a question. Why on earth does Arthur end up fighting the emperor of Rome? Like…that’s so ahistorical. And I know complaining about Arthuriana of all things being ahistorical is extremely silly, but this just kind of comes out of nowhere, but it’s in all these stories, and it’s weird.] [Also, ‘truage’ means ‘tribute.’] ‘Well,’ said King Arthur, ‘you are messengers. Therefore you may say what you will; or else you should die therefore. But this is mine answer. I owe the emperor no truage, nor none will I hold him, but on a fair field I shall give him my truage with a sharp spear or a sharp sword. And that shall not be long, by my father Uther Pendragon’s soul.’ [I like this quote? A lot?]

And therewith the messengers departed, passingly wroth, and King Arthur was as wroth as they were; for they came in an evil time, for the king was already passingly wroth because of the injury of Sir Griflet. [Firstly, yes, people like this ALWAYS come in the absolute worst time possible. That is extremely realistic. Secondly, how many times can we fit the word ‘wroth’ into a sentence?] And so he commanded a privy man of his chamber that before day, his best horse and armor, with all that belonged unto his person, should be outside the city before tomorrow. Right so, before the next day, he met with his man and his horse. And so he mounted up and took his shield and his spear, and bade his chamberlain tarry there till he came again.

Arthur rode at a slow pace till it was day, and then he saw three churls chasing Merlin who would have slain him. [Why does Merlin always get into weird situations like this?] Then the king rode unto them, and bade them, ‘flee, churls!’ Then they were afraid when they saw a knight, and they fled.

‘O Merlin,’ said Arthur. ‘Here, for all your crafts, you would have been slain had I not been here.’ [GUYS it’s me whenever my mom makes a mistake. It’s me. Although, obviously, my mom is a much, MUCH nicer person than Merlin. We stan my mom. We do not stan Merlin in this house.]

‘Nay,’ said Merlin. ‘Not so, for I could save myself and I would; and you are nearer your death than I am, for you go deathward and God be not your friend.’ [Way to turn the conversation to something depressing, Merlin. We all know you’re just upset that someone else saw you in an embarrassing situation.]

So as they went thus talking, they came to the fountain, and the rich pavilion there by it. Then King Arthur was aware that an armed knight sat there in a chair. ‘Sir knight,’ said Arthur. ‘For what cause do you abide here that no knight may ride this way unless he jousts with you? I order you to leave that custom.’ [THANK YOU, Arthur.]

‘This custom,’ said the knight, ‘I have used and will use, despite whoever disagrees. And whoever is grieved with my custom, let him amend it who will.’

‘I will amend it,’ said Arthur.

‘I shall defend myself against you,’ said the knight. He armed himself and took his horse, his shield, and his spear, and they struck each other’s shields so hard that both of them splintered their spears. [I love how Arthur gets out his frustration at a potential upcoming war by just beating up some random jerk knight in the woods.] Then Arthur pulled out his sword.

‘Nay, not so,’ said the knight. ‘It is fairer that we both run together with sharp spears. [Okay, that’s nice that you want to be fair, random knight! But you know what’s better? NOT DOING THIS AT ALL.]

‘I would,’ said Arthur, ‘if I had any more spears.’

‘I have enough,’ said the knight. So there came a squire who brought in good spears, and Arthur chose one and the knight another. Then they spurred their horses and came together with all their might, so that both broke their spears in their hands. Arthur set hand on his sword.

‘Nay,’ said the knight. ‘You shall do better. You are as passing good a jouster as any I ever met, and once for the love of the high order of knighthood, let us joust once again.’ [For love of the high order of sanity, maybe not though?]

‘I assent,’ said Arthur. At once there were brought two great spears, and each knight took a spear, and therewith they ran together, and Arthur’s spear shattered. But the other knight hit him so hard in the middle of the shield that horse and man fell to the earth. [I feel like falling down while jousting would be really hard on the horse? Be nice to your horses, guys, we talked about this.] And then Arthur was eager and pulled out his sword, and said, ‘I will assay you, Sir Knight, on foot, for I have lost the honour on horseback.’ [is honor spelled with a ‘u’ or not]

‘I will be on horseback,’ said the knight.

Then Arthur was wroth and dressed his shield toward him with his sword drawn. [No, I do not know what it means to dress your shield toward someone. If you know, please tell me.] When the knight saw that, he alighted, for he thought it would be dishonourable to have a knight at such at such avail, for himself to be on horseback and the other knight on foot. [It’s nice that, even though he’s willing to pointlessly battle someone to the near-death over nothing, he’s still polite about it!]

So he alighted and dressed his shield unto Arthur, and there began a strong battle with many great strokes. And they so hewed with their swords that the cantels flew in the fields, and much blood they both bled, so that all the place there as they fought was overbled with blood, and thus they fought long, and then rested themselves. [Okay, so firstly, I think that a ‘cantel’ means the corners of a shield? Also, I love the over-the-top battles in these types of stories.] And then they went to battle again, and so hurtled together like two rams that either fell to the earth. So at the last, they smote together so both of their swords met even together. [smote] [no seriously why is this the most overused word in the book? I seriously wish I had kept count.] But the sword of the knight smote King Arthur’s sword into two pieces, wherefore he was heavyhearted. [Arthur’s equipment always gives out on him when he needs it the most. First his sword here, then later his helmet. The guy just has a lot of tough luck.] [Is medieval armor and weaponry giving out like this realistic at all? Just curious.]

Then said the knight unto Arthur, ‘you are in my power now whether I desire to save you or kill you, and unless you yield as overcome and recreant, you shall die.’

‘As for death,’ said King Arthur, ‘welcome be it when it comes, but I had rather die than to be so shamed as to yield unto you as defeated.’ [Arthur does kind of have a stubborn streak in this book, doesn’t he? I kind of like it.]

And then the king leapt unto Pellinore [OF COURSE THE WEIRDO IN THE WOODS WAS PELLINORE] and took him by the middle, threw him down, and pulled off his helmet. When the knight felt that, he was afraid, for he was a passing big man of might, and anon he brought Arthur under him, took off his helm, and would have smitten off his head.

Does anyone else kind of get imposter syndrome when it comes to blogging? I know my blog is really messy, but apparently people still read it and presumably enjoy it, and that makes me anxious. But I guess I should chill and learn to be okay with not being one hundred percent wonderful all the time. I don’t know, how do you deal with this?

But I hope at least one person finds this blog informative or entertaining, and I guess if I can do that, I’ve set out for what I wanted to do.

A Kiss and a Candle–a Snow Queen short story

So, I love The Snow Queen. I love it I love it. The only reason why I haven’t covered the fairy tale here on this blog yet is because the story is looong (seriously, I’m pretty sure it’s told in five parts), but it’s a wonderful fairy tale and you should read it if you haven’t already.

So, what’s this all about? Well, the blog Fairy Tale Central is recapping the fairy tale this month, and so Arielle has posted a Snow Queen-related prompt on her personal blog.

Isn’t the prompt wonderful? Of course I had to write something for it. I love the characters in The Snow Queen so much, from lonely, bitter Kay to bright and resourceful Gerda to the mysterious and enigmatic Snow Queen. (and the Snow Queen is not necessarily evil I will fight you on this. You may ask me more on this point, but be prepared for a fifty page essay if you do). (Kidding I can’t even write a fifty page story without collapsing. It’ll probably be like three sentences that barely explain my point.)

Anyway. I wrote a story and will proceed to unleash the monster I created onto the world, along with the pinterest board

I made Kay, the main character, non-binary, which is why I refer to them with the singular ‘they’. The character didn’t really come into my head with a specific gender, so then I decided that I might as well keep them that way? I also got to make Kay Orthodox Christian, since the setting is vaguely Russian-inspired! Orthodoxy, if you don’t know, is the denomination of Christianity that I belong to. This may be the very first time I’ve had an Orthodox character?

Btw, the story is kind of a metaphor for death and depression and suicidal ideation. It’s not a direct metaphor, obviously, but it’s still very much there, and while I don’t know if reading the story would trigger anyone, I feel like I should mention it just in case.

A million stars speckled the night sky. Kay sunk to the ground, their knees hitting the freezing stone of the palace courtyard. It was Nativity, and surely Grandmother must be praying in the small stone church at home, the oil lamps lit in front of the icons. Kay would never pray there anymore. Kay had left their home long ago to follow some elusive woman from the forest with hair white as snow and a crown made of bone, and they would never see the old church again.

Kay did not weep. They did not even feel anything particularly heartwrenching. They never had, since the Snow Queen had taken them away.

Kay’s umber brown hand clenched in their lap. They could barely remember the past. Those memories had faded, along with everything else, as soon as they kissed the cold lips of the Queen that one night long ago. But they had not forgotten everything. Kay did not know who, exactly, the clear brown eyes and sharp-lined face in their memory belonged to, but they remembered the sense of place and steadiness the person brought. They had not forgotten their grandmother’s soft voice singing the prayers, nor the smell of the candles in church. The ice could not quite take everything from them.

The words tumbled out of Kay’s mouth without them being quite aware what they were singing. “Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, and the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable…The Unapproachable One…” Kay’s voice faltered, and the rest of the tune slipped from their memory. They stared at the snow as the sheer overwhelming futility of it all overcame them.

“Kay,” a clear voice said. Kay nearly jumped out of their skin.

They stood and turned to see a woman in a tattered white robe and a crown made of bone and antler. A soft smile hung on her lips, but it did not reach her eyes. There was not a trace of humanity in her eyes, and though Kay had searched for it over the many years they had been here, they had never found anything in her eyes except the cold echoey expanses of a snow-capped mountain.

Her eyes were such a soft shade of green, though.

“You are frightened of me,” she said. “You did not used to be.”

Kay let out a breath, the mist trailing upwards to the sky. “Only a fool would not be frightened of you, my lady,” they said. “I was a fool when I first met you, and I am still a fool now.” Kay’s hand slipped into hers.

The queen took their hand with a satisfied smile and pulled Kay closer. “If you are a fool,” the Snow Queen asked, “then will you kiss me?”

Kay nearly jerked their hand out of her grip.

The queen’s eyes were horribly earnest. “I cannot and will not make you,” she said. She paused, waiting for an answer. “Well? Will you kiss me, or will you not?”

Kay might have agreed, when they first met her that night on their eighteenth birthday. “Your Majesty,” they said. “You said that kissing me would kill me.” They swallowed. “I happen to value my life right now.” That was a lie. They did not value anything much, anymore.

But something bitter and stubborn inside them would not agree to it. Kay had lost so much with the first kiss they had given her. They’d lost half of themself. Why should they lose the rest?

The queen breathed out. “It would not be truly dying,” she whispered. “You would simply become like me. Am I alive?”

Kay looked down. A dust of snow began to coat the courtyard. “You say you used to be human,” they said. They could never bring themself to believe it.

“I was once as you are,” she agreed. “Though no one ever had to convince me to make any rash decisions. I have always been very good at doing that by myself.” She laughed a little. “The people of my village were never kind to me, to say the least. So I went on a journey to meet the fabled queen in the north, and I kissed her on the agreement that I would never hurt again.” A twisted smile made its way across her face, and something almost like sorrow shone in her eyes. It was not quite sorrow. “She told me the truth. I do not hurt anymore. I am not quite sure it was worth it.”

The queen had never told them before why she had chosen this. Kay very easily could have done the same as she did at several points in their life, and that knowledge felt a little strange.

“What will happen to you?” Kay asked. “If I should take your place?” That was what stopped them, always. Sometimes Kay forgot themself. Sometimes the thought of kissing her ice-cold lips and losing everything was the most tempting prospect imaginable. But what would truly happen?

“Me?” A laugh tumbled from her lips. “You would think about me. I will pass on, into the wind and snow. But when have I truly been here?”

The resolution came back into Kay’s voice. “Then I will not. I will never kiss you.”

The laugh shook her slight frame, and her eyes shone with something like admiration. “You are truly a fool,” she said, her voice hoarse. “I have not loved anyone in a thousand years, but I half love you.”

“But I feel the same,” Kay whispered, as if they could ever have had the same experiences. “I will not let you go away from me.” So they did not quite feel the same.

The queen pulled them into a hug. “You are truly a delight, Kay,” she said. “But you cannot save the both of us from ourselves. We were not the sort of people destined to live.”

Kay had often found themself thinking the same. But it was not true. Who knew how they were both destined to die? “I will make you live,” they said. “As much as I am able.”

She sighed and leaned her head into their shoulder. “Kay,” she said. They thought she would say more. She did not. She just said their name.

Kay had been walking the cliff’s edge for a very long time, and they got closer and closer to falling over the edge each day. But they had not fallen yet. They would not. They made a conscious choice to keep living each day, even when living felt futile. They would not kiss the queen, they would not give themself over to the snow, and they would not let her die.

Kay was not sure if they would hold out forever. But right now, they felt a burning determination course through their bones, something that they had not felt for a very long time. They could almost feel…hopeful. Kay would not kiss her. Neither of them were destined to die that way.

I feel like the story wasn’t very good, but I’ll still post it. I honestly might do something more with this story, or else I’ll just let it rot in the vaults of my memory for eternity. We’ll see. 😉