Disclaimer: I do not own Firefly or the movie Serenity, and I make no money from playing with Joss Whedon's characters.
Author's Note: Simon's been practically jumping up and down (in a very refined, Core-trained doctor kind of way, of course!) demanding his turn to tell a version of the story of River and Jayne, so I'm finally going to let him have his say – may heaven help me!
I'm imagining an older and much more laid-back Simon telling this (extremely brief) tale years after the events of the BDM – though he probably won't be able to resist the occasional little dig at Jayne, even so (but that's a brother-in-law's prerogative, after all!). Readers, you've been fairly warned!
"River and the Man-Ape Curse: A Bedtime Story" by Simon Tam*
*As Told to RevDorothyL
Once upon a time there was a moderately good-looking young prince who had a problem controlling his temper. In a fleeting moment of anger, he offended a powerful witch whom he was attempting to woo for his wife.
(Yes, children: a witch like 'Saffron the Psychotic' . . . only much more powerful and - of course! – a lot less psychotic than Saffron!)
As punishment for his offense, this not-so-psychotic-but-at-least-semi-evil witch (we'll call her 'Vera the Vain') cursed the prince to assume the form and manner of an untrained Man-Ape, and in this guise he was forced to become a wanderer among the stars, working as a thug for hire and unable to return home until he found some way to break the curse.
Of course, in keeping with the time-honored custom of wicked witches and magical curses, the witch was deliberately vague about the conditions necessary for breaking the curse. All the former-prince-turned-Man-Ape knew was that the curse would continue until "a River of Blood" stood between the Man-Ape and his past.
Although the former prince had never been truly vicious in his human form (just impatient, ill-tempered, and possibly semi-illiterate), as the cursed Man-Ape he forced himself to become a ruthless hunter and killer, tracking down men and women as easily as animals, and executing his prey by knife or bullet without remorse. With each human life he took to save his own life or earn his pay, he hoped that he'd come closer to making a 'river of blood' to end his curse and regain his home.
But the curse continued, no matter how much blood he spilled. Eventually, the Man-Ape lost hope that the curse would ever be broken, and he tried to forget that he'd ever been anything other than the heartless, mercenary killer he now seemed.
And so he continued in this miserable (and frequently ill-groomed) estate for many years, until one day – apparently by chance! – his path joined that of a princess named River Tam.
Now, Princess River had some experience with magical transformations. Her own brilliant and highly accomplished older brother had once been turned into a pet hamster, in fact (but that's a different story for another night!). So River was able to see that there was more to the Man-Ape than his crude exterior and manners suggested, and she took every opportunity to poke and prod at him, trying to provoke him into revealing his true nature. However, nothing she tried seemed to work.
(It didn't help, of course, that River herself had been cursed as a child by a coven of evil warlocks, and so she was forced to speak always in riddles, and – like the ancient seer Cassandra – to have her truth-telling perpetually misunderstood and ignored by those around her!)
Finally, one day, after much pain and suffering and many trials, River was able to break through her own curse and begin to be understood by her travelling companions. In order to avenge a great wrong that River had discovered, and to prevent that wrong from ever being repeated against more innocents, River and her companions – including the cursed Man-Ape – had to fight their way through a terrible gauntlet of human-shaped monsters and a misguided army.
There came a time during the final battle when it seemed they might all be lost, when the forces arrayed against the companions were simply too great and their own strength and ammunition was all but spent. Then it was that the Princess River threw herself into the fray, and fought as never before for the lives of her companions, who had become her friends and family.
At last, when the Man-Ape and the others of her companions who'd survived surveyed the field of battle, only River was left standing – standing in and covered with the blood of slain monsters.
It was then that the Man-Ape finally understood that his curse had been broken – that the princess was the 'River of Blood' who, by standing between him and all his enemies past and present, had set him free of Vera's curse. At that moment, the Man-Ape began to fade away, and in his place was left the no-longer-young but still (some would say) reasonably good-looking Prince Jayne.
And that, my dears, is how River broke the curse of the Man-Ape.
Afterward, the newly freed Prince Jayne and the Princess River became partners in fighting for the forces of Right and Truth (and a fair and reasonable Profit, of course!), and had many other adventures. But those are stories for another night. Now, it is time for all of you to be in bed!