by Olivia Knight
Enchanted is the final collection in Black Lace's novella books before we return (for a while) to short stories. Lust Bites was vampires, Possession was shape-shifting and invading spirits, Magic and Desire was fantasy, and Enchanted is fairy tales: be careful what you wish for...
Last Friday, in Fairytale feminists, I whisked through the origins of fairy tales and prostrated myself before the three wise women who opened the floodgates for us. The origins of my novella, The Three Riddles, are about as multitudinous, but two of the snippets that shaped the premise are...
On a languid, lazy day, I passed one of Oxford's most charming narrow roads and had an impulse to turn down it. It was barely a detour, but not my usual route, so I kept walking - then stopped. What was I doing, ignoring this impulse? Silencing the voice of my intuition? I turned back and strolled down it. Halfway down, a stone cottage bursting with lavendar and wisteria had a 'For Sale' sign outside. I stared. I yearned. I envied. I whipped out my phone, dialled the number on the sign, spoke to the estage agent, and...
...discovered I could sell all my internal organs on the black market and still not be able to afford it. Following the delicate promptions of intuition does not, in the real world, work especially well. But in the imaginary worlds I inhabit most of the day, it could - and should.
The other snippet was a game I played with my students when I used to teach - the third conditional negatives game: "If that hadn't happened, that wouldn't have happened..." We usually use that for regrets, but it's more fun to play with something wonderful in your life. Pick something you're thrilled about. Why did it happen? And what did that thing depend on? And what did that depend on...? How far does it go back and what tiny, insignificant thing does it all rest on? A purely ficticious example:
If I hadn't gone to his house, I wouldn't have met him.
If I hadn't been with my friend, I wouldn't have gone to his house.
If I hadn't lived in that shared house, I wouldn't have been with my friend.
If I hadn't bumped into an old friend, I wouldn't have lived in that shared house.
If I hadn't caught the bus, I wouldn't have bumped into that old friend.
If I hadn't been late sewing on that button, I wouldn't have caught the bus.
If the button hadn't broken off, I wouldn't have been late sewing it on.
In short: If a button hadn't broken off, I would never have met him.
How would you know not to fix the loose button? In fantasy, a character might have magical abilities to feel their way through the interconnected threads of causality - in fairy tales, things are plainer and more tangible. You know because the elves tell you. And thus The Three Riddles was born:
The elves, they say, know the secrets of events. How you tie your scarf can change the world. The elves, they say, are the guardians of fate, and so the people obey a dozen different whims a day, most of which make no apparent difference. If the elves really wanted to guide the country, thinks the queen, they might have an occasional word with its ruler.
She has envoys to appease, war brewing between Cantaland and Udia, trade negotiations with Tarpash, and no time for superstitions – so she deserts her childhood love, Sir Thomas of Minotha, for a diplomatic engagement with a foreign duke. Now the alliance between Kwestria and Minotha is failing, their enemies are gathering, the people are suffering, and Sir Thomas has vanished. She wants to believe she should find her lost love, but how can a queen risk her country on a whim?
The elves communicate in riddles, which the queen must learn to interpret and follow if she's going to right the wreck she makes of things. The three riddles in the story are below, for you to decipher.
Whoever writes the most accurate - or entertaining! - explanation of any of the three riddles will win a copy of Magic and Desire, which also features both me and Janine Ashbless. There's an excerpt on my website which will help with the first riddle...
The Three RiddlesThe first riddle
|May the gold & the white, the green & the blue,|
Receive in their bed a new lease.
May the union seal forever the two
In loyalty, conquest and peace.
May she always be vain of the colours of home
Before she is vain of her own.
May he always forgive and his pride never roam
In anger, away and alone.
Of course, they dismiss superstition, things go awry, and the elves are forced to supply a second riddle.
|Return to the path you lost.|
Give up what you love and seek
Alone and before the frost.
Then look for the craftsman swift,
Protect the defenceless weak,
And honour the humble gift.
If all you can find’s a dearth
Of hope and the sky turns bleak,
Then follow the tangled path.
The elves, understandably, are starting to get pissed off. The final riddle becomes more curt:
|You will follow the path of the setting sun|
To the eye where the waters will never run,
To your grief succumbing, protecting none.
Don't forget: you can find an excerpt on my website; write your explanation of any of the three riddles to win a copy of Magic and Desire.
:: buy Enchanted from Amazon.co.uk :: pre-order from Amazon.com ::