Hello Everyone. I hope you are staying safe and sane! I've decided to start posting my submission to the Babies at the Border compilation. It's a story I've worked with off and on for several years now. It's changed a lot since the first version, in fact it barely resembles my original story. The plot has finally taken its final form thanks to suggestions from EdwardsFirstKiss, Ipsita, and Alice's White Rabbit. The beautiful banner is another Ipsita original. I'm so thankful for her willingness to gift me with her awesome creations. Alice's White Rabbit (Sally) caught and corrected my mistakes. I probably added some when I tinkered with it, so any remaining belong to me. Look for updates on Fridays. Thanks again for reading. Please stay safe!
True Love: A Twilight Fairy Tale
Part One: In Which I Am Born
Many years before my birth, the ice mountain appeared in the valley where I would one day be born.
Consequently, on the day my small, misshapen form was pulled from my mother's dying body and I drew my first breath—even as she breathed her last—the mountain had been part of the lives of everyone I would come to know for a very long time, and I would spend all my 18 years under its malevolent influence.
So tall it blocked out the rising sun until late morning, and so wide it engulfed one whole side of the valley—including the only road leading into and out of our little town. Its arrival signaled years of cold, miserable suffering the people of our small settlement would have to endure unless the curse that caused its formation could somehow be broken.
According to the stories Old Nana told of her childhood, our town was once a thriving center of trade for all the farms and villages in the neighboring valleys. Known throughout the kingdom for the sweet peaches growing in our extensive orchards, our market days drew people from miles away who came to buy and sell their goods.
But the arrival of the ice mountain changed everything. The cold wind blowing across its icy face froze the land, making it impossible for most crops to grow and killing any blooms that managed to appear on those famous peach trees. Year after year, the cold deepened, forcing the people to forage for nuts and mushrooms, wild herbs and greens growing in the dense, dangerous, and seemingly endless forests surrounding the valley.
When all the livestock were consumed, hunts were organized to search for game in the form of rabbits and squirrels or, when luck favored the hunters, the occasional deer. Ice fishing in the lakes and streams was a daily chore for everyone who was physically able to do so. With access to the rest of the kingdom blocked by the mountain, there was no hope of outside help, and the people learned to rely upon themselves and each other.
The old and the very young died first, unable to withstand the combined effects of the cold and near starvation. Only the strong survived, and as conditions worsened, they, too, weakened, and no births occurred for many years.
There were, however, times when the cold lessened, when the winds would calm and the sun would warm the frozen earth. The peach trees would burst into full bloom, and the people hurried to plant the seeds they so carefully stored for just this occasion. Old Nana said they would drag great logs from the forest and carefully lay them around and between the rows of vegetables and fruit trees. Small holes were chipped into the logs and fires laid in those openings. The logs would burn for days, slowly releasing their heat into the air and keeping the fragile seedlings alive until they could grow and mature.
I was conceived after one such warm spell. The cold held off long enough for the harvest to be successful and the storehouses—although certainly not full or overflowing—held enough so the people could once again eat their fill.
There were two other children born the same year as I—a boy and a girl. Their mothers survived their births, and the village celebrated the arrival of two healthy babies and eagerly awaited my appearance. Three children in one year was considered a blessing indeed.
But my mother was not as healthy as Emmett's and Roselynn's mothers, and my birth meant her death, even as she struggled to stay alive long enough to hear my first cry. My father took one look at my twisted, deformed body and damned me for causing the death of the woman he loved. He left the same day to live in the forest surrounding our valley, returning from time to time with game he trapped or loads of wood he chopped. Old Nana took me in and raised me as her own. I grew up living under the shadow of the mountain that cursed our valley with its presence and caused so much suffering to my people.
It was not without beauty, of course. When the sun would win its way over the jagged tooth of its peak, the mountain sparkled with a cold luminescence in the weak sunshine, which brought little warmth to us. The sides were sheer—no handholds or crevices or trails to mar the slick, frozen perfection rising straight to its icy peak. To the casual eye, there was no indication of an entrance or an exit or any possible way of scaling to its summit. A closer examination would reveal a slight, door-sized indentation at the base.
It was from this indentation that a detachment of His Majesty's soldiers emerged once every ten years. Leading a line of wagons loaded with enough food and supplies to feed and clothe everyone in our village for many months, the captain of the guard would stop in the center of our village square. Facing the assembled townspeople, he announced he was seeking a fair maiden who was brave enough, strong enough, and wise enough to return with him to teach the young prince imprisoned within the mountain the secret of True Love.
I had lived only eight short years the first time I saw the soldiers. Peeking out from my hiding place behind Old Nana's long skirts, I watched in awe as the captain—hale, healthy, well-fed, and clothed in a warm, colorful uniform—promised to leave all the wagons and their contents in the village if just one young woman would accompany him back inside. He was met with sullen silence. After a time, the captain motioned to his men, and leaving only one wagon behind, they began the journey back to their icy home.
There were mutterings and whisperings as the soldiers left, and more than one shouted curse at their disappearing backs. For a moment, the captain turned toward our poor village. His gaze swept over the sorry state of the homes, our patched, ragged clothes, and the wan skin stretched over protruding cheekbones. There was pity in his gaze and overwhelming sorrow as though he, too, suffered along with us.
That night when I crawled into the bed I shared with Old Nana, I bombarded her with question after question about the soldiers. Who was the young prince imprisoned in the ice mountain? What was a "maiden fair", and why did he need her to teach him about love? I couldn't understand why someone from the village didn't just go back with the captain, talk to the prince, and then return with all those wagons full of food and warm clothing.
As we huddled together under a pile of blankets and quilts and watched the fire crackling in the grate, she explained to me that there were no maidens in our village because the women were all married or too old, and Roselynn and I were too young to be considered such.
Then, she told me the story of the ice mountain and the king and queen who once ruled the kingdom, which included our home. She wove a tale of a handsome prince, too vain and spoiled for his own good, and a queen from the great frozen North who cursed him for his cruel, cold heart.
As the fire died and the room grew colder, Old Nana explained how every young woman who volunteered to enter the ice mountain had never returned, for to set foot within those icy walls meant certain death. So terrible and hateful was the prince who lived there no one had been able to teach him the secret of True Love in all the years the mountain existed.
I listened to her words whispered into the cold night and knew I had ten years to learn the secrets of love. Although, I might not be considered "fair" when the soldiers came again, I would still a maiden be, and I vowed I would volunteer to go back with them into the ice mountain.
AN: I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who voted for La Sua Bella Mente in the 2019 Top Ten Fics at Twifanfictionrecs. My story came in 2nd for the year and I was just amazed and very gratified. I appreciate my readers and their support for all my stories. Thank you again. xoxoxo