Friday, January 31, 2014

Rumpel Redux

This is more Flash Fiction based on another challenge at In this one we were to retell a fairy tale with a random sub-genre twist. The telling wasn't an issue. The 1,000 words was; I used the exercise to practice hitting a word count target and working on being more concise (I cut over 1,600 words!) Not entirely convinced that the end result is better, but it achieved a goal. Hope you enjoy.  

M y name is Peter.  I’m a private dick.  I used to work for the King’s brigade, the best of the best, but the damn bottle was my undoing.  Too much of the juice they said.  So now I freelance.

One day this blonde with legs up to her neck sidles in.  I just about choke on my drink when I realize it’s the Queen.  Sure enough, the King ambles in next.  I’m flustered, making with the bowing and such but he tells me to stand up.  

“I’ve heard you’re the best but have a fondness for the cups.”  A statement of fact I think.  He continues, “Can you stay out of the whiskey long enough to solve a case?”  Definitely a question.

“Word is I'm the best, so it would seem so.”  The Queen is watching me like a cat after a canary.

“I have a job for you.  A man has threatened to kidnap our son unless my wife can guess his name.”

“So you just need his name?”

“Oh no.  I shall have his tongue cut out and his head removed from his shoulders.”  Thus spaketh the Queen.  Apparently the cat had claws.

“My wife and I come from different worlds.  Her father is a Miller whom I met over a business transaction.  He told me of his beautiful daughter and though I knew many lovely women something he said caught my attention.  He claimed she could spin gold from straw.”

I look at the Queen.  “That’s some talent.”

She plays it cool, says nothing.

“When I saw her I was smitten.  She was dressed in ill-fitting, tattered rags, but was unmatched in beauty.  Still, I needed to know about the gold so I closed her in a room full of straw.  For three nights I left her and each morning I awoke to find myself in possession of a new spool of freshly spun gold.”

“Looks and skill,” I say. “What about this mug?  Where does he fit?"

“She first saw him lurking about when she came out after spinning.  She remembers specifically because he was short and odd-looking but also because she had felt sorry for him and given him some of her jewellery.  She's always so generous."  The King looks adoringly at his wife who favours him with a small smile and modest, downcast eyes.  “She didn't see him again until this morning when he made the threat."

“Surely you have people to deal with this sort of thing.  Why me?”

“I considered having an archer put an arrow in his ear the moment he appeared, but that's the rub.  He won't appear until his name is spoken aloud.  If we don’t say his name within three days he will someday return for my son."

"I shall bring you my findings tomorrow."

In the Queen’s childhood village I speak to the Blacksmith, the Tailor, the Baker and finally the Innkeeper who also runs the tavern.  Well, mostly I negotiate with him over my tab.  

I learn that the lass was the prettiest maid around and sharp besides.  The Miller is a proud grandfather who wonders aloud at the idea of someday being grandfather to the King, yearning for that time and the changes to come.  I also inquire about the little man, hoping for some thread of information.

The next day I call at the castle and am led into the throne room where the royal couple sits, raised on a dais above the room.

"Greetings.  I hope this day finds you well."

"Cut with the pleasantries.”  The Queen is impatient.

"His name is Magnus." I reply.  Presently, a small man walks into the room.

“Magnus Rumpel Stiltskin, at your service my King."  His path is blocked by two large guards.

"Seize him!  Cut out his tongue!" The Queen is up from her seat, pointing at the diminutive man.

“Easy, my Lady,” I respond, "Before you stands Magnus Rumpel Stiltskin, Tailor in the village where the Queen was raised and unwitting conspirator in a devious plot against the Crown.”

"This is preposterous," screams the Queen, who pounces off the dais like a wildcat.  With a nod from the King, a guard intercedes, holding the Queen lightly but firmly.

"Silence my love.  Continue sir."

"Mr. Stiltskin was here when you met your wife and accepted her jewellery.  I have here Mr. Stiltskin's business accounts which show the purchase of three large spools of gold yarn in exchange for a ring and necklace.  Mr. Stiltskin, may I have the ring please?  This signet ring bears the emblem of the Millers guild to which your father-in-law belongs.  My Lord, for you, such things are baubles but these were likely their most valuable possessions.  One would not part with them lightly.  Though she has spun quite the yarn, I do not think the Lady knows of what she speaks.  She spoke of a sewing machine.  A spinning wheel is used to to spin yarn, not a sewing machine.  You also indicated when you met, she was clothed in “ill-fitting rags”.  Surely a young woman with skill in spinning yarn would have tailored her clothes to fit properly.  That clue led me to Mr. Stiltskin.”

“But why?” he pleads.

“Power. My inquiries proved that the Queen’s father looked forward to the day his grandson took the throne quite eagerly.  I anticipated as much.  Mr. Stiltskin corroborated, explaining that he was asked to deliver the golden yarn to the palace.  The Miller and his daughter felt that if you believed she could create gold you would quickly marry her.  The natural progression would be an heir.  Further, the Queen’s insistence that Mr. Stiltskin’s tongue be cut out led me to believe that she felt he was a loose end.”

“But what of his threat to kidnap our son?” asks the King.

“There was no threat.  They needed you kill the one man who could undo their conspiracy.  Then they would kill you and rule through your son.”

The King nods and the guard drags the Queen away, snapping and spitting oaths at everyone in the room.

“I believe I owe you gentlemen a drink,” sighs the King.

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