A/N: I got this idea when I was reading a book of Grimm's fairy tales. When I read Cat-Skin for the first time, I thought the poor princess ended up with her father! But when I re-read it, I realised that she ran away to another kingdom, meaning that the king she got married to wasn't related to her. Boy, I felt stupid! Now enough about my idiocy, time to begin the story.
(Edit: If you feel that somehow, the first chapter is better than the second... it's probably because I edited a few parts to make it flow better. I have yet to edit the entire story properly but I think I'll do that when I finish this story)
Oh, but before I forget, I must say my disclaimer, as I've seen other authors do. I do not own Cat-Skin and all rights go to the Grimm Brothers. Now the story begins.
"Your Majesty! The King wishes to see you!" a desperate maid pleaded from behind the door.
"Tell him that I refuse to see his face for the rest of my life!"
The old maid was persistent though. I shoved my head under my pillow to block out her nagging voice.
This is all mother's fault! Why didn't she let him marry anybody he likes? She knew that nobody else in the kingdom had golden hair like hers!
Apart from me!
I let out an un-ladylike like groan escape from my mouth.
The maid grew tired of trying to convince me and walked away. When she was gone, I sat up and took out a mantle of furs from underneath my bed. I hugged it like as if it was a teddy.
Deep inside, I'm know that mother didn't know that father would go crazy like he did. She couldn't predict what was going to happen. I shouldn't go blaming her like this.
I love mother. Father too. Or rather loved. I loved Father better before he went cuckoo. I honestly did. But most certainly not in this way.
I sighed heavily and felt a wee bit of something lift off my shoulders.
"I suppose I'm just unlucky." I mused to myself.
I'm not sure when I fell asleep but I woke up feeling sore from my strange position. I stretched my body in an attempt to get rid of aches. I went to my basin of water and washed my face. I looked at my reflection in the mirror.
I saw the spitting image of my mother.
I tore my eyes away from the mirror and dressed into a simple grey dress. For a makeshift disguise, I tied my hair up in a bun and put on a brown hat.
I opened the door of my room and checked to see if anybody was there. Empty. Perfect!
Sneaking out of the castle wasn't a difficult task, because it was early and the defences were lower than usual. Still, there were the few hard-working early guards and servants. I got out successfully and I took a long, deep breath of the outside air. I knew I wouldn't be free for very long, but thought: Might as well enjoy myself.
I decided to take a stroll in the fields to try and relax myself. A few hours passed without me noticing. I glanced at the castle, not so far away from me now.
Everyone back at the castle must be so worried about me. A selfish little thought came barging in. But... I want to walk for a little longer...
So I continued to forget about the others and skipped along a path. Eventually the path led to a forest.
A forest huh? I haven't been in one for a while... I don't think I've been in this one either. I'll explore it! Even if I were to get lost it doesn't matter anyway!
And voila! I found myself very lost in that forest. Well at least it was a lovely forest to starve to death in. All those lush green trees. Soon I came across a glade with so many cheerful flowers! I could die peacefully here! Oh! There's a cute little toadstool there and a cute little fairy sitting on top of it...
Ah... a fairy.
Our eyes met and they held for a long time. The child-like fairy's eyes were quite difficult to see since she was so petite, but I could see that they were the colour of the crystals on my chandelier. She had on a blue petal gown and no shoes. She was a redhead (I would rather not say it was ginger) and had adorable little freckles on her nose. Her transparent wings shimmered in the sunlight.
I decided to break the silence. "Hello. My name is Joy. What's yours?" I said as I crouched down as low as I could get.
The pixie shifted awkwardly. I guess she's not used to strangers. Or maybe it was just humans.
"M-my name is Arryn. Um... You're a... human right?" Her voice was also very tiny but somehow, it echoed in my mind. Must be a fairy thing.
"Yes. And... You're a fairy right?"
The little fairy slowly nodded. Oh good, I got it right. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between pixies, fairies and sprites.
She stared at me, as if analysing my mind. Then she spoke. "You've been... Suffering haven't you?"
"Huh? What do you mean?" I asked, feeling genuinely confused.
"This forest... only appears in front of those who are sad. So... aren't you?"
My eyes widened slightly and I lowered my head.I probably have been feeling sad. No, not probably. I've definitely been sad.I sighed. "Yes..."
"Well... Can you tell me why? I-if you don't mind that is."
I sighed again. I don't see the harm in doing telling Arryn. I've wanted someone to talk to about this ever since it all began. "I don't mind. But it's a long story. Do you have the time?"
"Th-there isn't much do here and I have all eternity." Arryn looked at me, encouraging me to spill.
So I told her all about how my mother, as she was dying, made my father, the king, promise to only marry another woman who had hair as golden as hers. But there no such woman, so Father and the elders grew desperate because they couldn't have a king without a wife.
One day, Father asked if he could marry his daughter, me, because I was the only one who had hair like Mother's. Of course, me and the elders were utterly horrified about this. Eventually, his requests became demands. I told him that I would only marry him if he got me a gold dress that resembled the sun, a silver dress that resembled the moon, a dress that glittered like the stars and a cloak made of fur from every known animal. I thought that they were impossible to get but I should have known better. They were indeed very difficult to get but not too difficult for a king since he got his people to help him.
When he presented these items to me, I was troubled. So I initiated 'Plan B' and ran away from the castle taking three gold trinkets, the dresses and the cloak with me. I shoved all the items in a magic nut-shell and I covered my face and hands with soot. I put on the cloak of many furs and ran to a large wood. I fell asleep there. When morning came, I was woken up by a huntsman who was curious about the cloak. I lied and said I was an orphan with no money. He pitied me and took me to his house. I refused to tell him my name so he called me Cat-skin.
But at some point I felt terribly homesick even though I knew Father wouldn't be the same anymore. I somehow managed to get a job at the castle kitchen so I felt better knowing that I was at home and father wouldn't come to the kitchen. I was perfectly happy there for a while but I missed having authority over the people who were now telling me what to do.
One day, my father held a ball. I assumed the elders still had hope that there would be a perfect wife out there for father. But I didn't care about that. I thought Father would have calmed down by then, so I also attended the ball. I cleaned myself, opened up the magic nut-shell and put on the gold dress. Many people had recognised me as their dear missing princess, including Father. I was delighted to find that he had appeared to have regained his senses. But to be sure, I ran back to the kitchens after the ball and made sure that they did not find me.
I resumed my life as Cat-skin and the next morning, the cook instructed me to make the soup. He warned me not to drop a single hair in it and because I was feeling so rebellious, I dropped one of my gold trinkets in the soup. The king called to see Cat-skin and he showed me the trinket. He asked if it was mine and I shook my head. Then he dismissed me. I was lucky he didn't recognise the cloak. I figured he just wasn't bothered to look at it the first time.
Later, Father held another ball. It was obviously so that he could see me again but I didn't mind. I danced with him in the silver dress like we used to when Mother was still alive. I was beginning to feel that he was back to his old self again, but just to be cautious, I slipped away from the ball.
The cook asked me to make the soup again and – well, the same things repeated itself. Father held a third ball, and I danced with him in the glittery dress. I was just about to decide to stop running away and abandon my identity as Cat-skin when Father's façade slipped. He gripped on to my hand so tightly that he made a mark on it.
"I won't let you run away this time." he whispered.
I ripped my hand out of his and just barely escaped. So much time was wasted and my break from the kitchen was overdue. In a panic, I put on my disguise. I was told to make soup, and for once, I accidentally dropped my gold trinket in the soup. I was called to see the king again. I was absolutely terrified.
Father asked if I had seen the gold trinket that was in his hand, and I shook my head vigorously. He got up from his throne to stride towards me. His figure loomed before me. I shook with fear.
He forcibly grabbed my hand and to my horror, my hand was not completely covered with soot because it was put on so hurriedly. And it was the hand that my father had gripped onto so tightly. He inspected the mark and held it up higher for everyone to see.
"This woman shall be my bride!" he proclaimed. And the following day was our doomed wedding day. And nobody can undo marriage with a king...
As I finished telling Arryn of my unhappiness, I could not contain myself any longer and broke out into tears. I hated being so pitiful but I couldn't help it. Oh, what has become of me!?
Arryn floated up off the toadstool and pulled off my hat. In a snap, the band holding up my hair fell limp and was blown away by the breeze. My long golden hair was set free.
She smiled at me. "Princess, don't cry." Being called princess instead of queen somehow sounded so refreshing to me. My tears ceased falling.
Arryn closed her eyes and gathered up the tears that I shed, with her magic. My tears gathered up to form an actual flower in her hands.
A single snowdrop flower.
She offered the snowdrop to me. "You must have hope Joy. You're not meant to be sad. Your mother gave you that name for a reason. She wants you to always be joyful."
A drop of rainwater fell from a tree above us. As was falling in front of me, I swear I saw – not my reflection – but Mother's regretful face. She smiled at me as if she was telling me to cheer me up. Before I could fully register what I saw in my mind, the droplet passed, fell to the ground and smashed into a several fragments.
I silently took the flower from Arryn's hands, smiling to myself.