The Huntsman and His Swan

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This piece was written in response to a fairy tale-rewrite prompt. It is my take on Swan Lake, under 1000 words.

Part of the Under a Grand Cap collection: Shorts and writing prompt exercises under 1000 words.

Submitted: October 13, 2018

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Submitted: October 13, 2018

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Once upon a time, there was a young huntsman.
 
He lived with his old mother in a little cottage by a hill near a forest.
 
One day, he set out to hunt a swan for the young prince of his kingdom for there was going to be a ball that evening and the prince wished to have a roasted swan for his guests to eat.
 
So the huntsman went out into the forest, with his shotgun slung around his shoulder and his thick woollen coat on his back, for it was a chilly autumn morning.
 
Dry leaves crunched beneath his heavy boots and the air smelled of earth and pine cones. He breathed it in deeply, letting it fill his lungs and then exhaled in a puff of white clouds.
 
He knew, that most swans were gone, leaving their homes behind and had flown to warmer places to spend the winter. They wouldn't return until the warmer weather of spring.
 
But, he also knew that there was a little lake, deep in the forest, hidden behind thick bushes, where a colony of swans resided throughout the whole year, seemingly unfazed by the colder temperatures, the autumn winds, snow, and ice.
 
And that was where he was headed.
 
As the huntsman walked, his eyes peeled for the thick brush, the sunlight beamed down onto the frosted path and brought the huntsman's attention to the suddenly thickening fog.
 
The bushes ahead, off the path, sparkled with an eerie ice, perfectly undisturbed. The only thing in sight in the denser-growing fog, the blue-green bushes drew the huntsman off the path, as if by some bewtiching call.
 
Quietly, the huntsman crept through them.
 
There they were, the swans, majestic, floating on the stillest lake the huntsman had ever seen. The water did not so much as ripple, and there was a stillness in the air that made it feel as though time itself had halted, just here.
 
The huntsman raised his shotgun and took aim at the nearest bird. He fired and hit. Swiftly and simply.
 
The air remained still, but the other birds scattered in surprise as the huntsman leapt out of the bushes and sloshed through the lake waters to retrieve his prize. As he touched the bird, beaming with pride, a bright light from above the lake suddenly shone down onto him.
 
"You have slain a pure bird of my lake, ripped a piece of my heart from the waters," a booming voice called. "I have sacrificed what is sacred, and so you must. You have destroyed a symbol of my devotion, a keeper of this timeless pond, and so will be destroyed your ability to love."
 
Clutching his swan, the huntsman felt a chill encase him, and the water below his knees rippled as the bright light dimmed and the fog around the lake dissipated. He knew he had made a grave mistake, for he now carried a curse - the worst of curses' kinds.
 
He did not tell his mother of the lake or his bane. And yet his day seemed to go on just the same. His partial taste to his mother's sweet cakes and his admiration of the colours of the forest wavered none. His hands remained patient as he helped his old mother bundle the swan. 'What,' he thought, 'does it mean to not love?'
 
Afternoon came, and when the pale sun reached its peak in the sky, the huntsman set off from the cottage in which he and his mother lived. He slung his pack over his shoulder, the pack bulging from the bundled swan, and he slipped a kerchief into his coat pocket.
 
The prince's castle was just abroad the town, sat up on a hill. The huntsman carried his prize with equal pride and disquiet. 'The evil do not love.' He recalled his mother's words, back from when he listened to her folk stories as a young child. 'If I cannot love, then my evil could harm the prince,' he thought, halting in his tracks just halfway up the castle hill.
 
But the huntsman would never harm the prince. He happily followed the prince's royal orders. He was proud to work to bring food to the table. He was good to his old mother, caring for her as her age slowed her. He admired the beauty of the country.
 
None of this had changed since the huntsman had been cursed. He chose to devote himself to others, to be good, to love. But if he could not feel it, and yet he was still good (and not evil), then had he never felt love at all?
 
Hollow resonating bells chimed for two hours past midday. A carriage bumped the huntsman's pack as it rattled along next to him, up the hill, and the huntsman was startled out of his thoughts. He began to climb the hill again, clutching his pack.
 
The huntsman received twenty gold pieces for his troubles, one of which he handed to the beggar at the town outskirts. As he handed the coin over to him, the old beggar clapped his shoulder and beamed a wide smile.
 
"You have shown great piety, young lad," he said in a raspy voice. "You must hold a lot of love in your heart."
 
The huntsman stiffened, his thoughts changing again to the timeless lake of swans. He shook his head. "My ability to love was destroyed," he said.
 
The old beggar's eyes twinkled and he smiled a knowing smile. "An unbroken heart does not a saint make," he said, before ambling away down a nearby alleyway.
 
And so the huntsman returned to his mother in their warm cottage by the forest, and the prince enjoyed a wonderful ball with a heavenly roasted swan.
 
The huntsman never again found the thick blue-green bushes that led to the enchanted swan lake. Cursed also he was; he never felt love again.
 
But, the people of the country and the huntsman carried on.
 
The End.


© Copyright 2018 R. Tally. All rights reserved.

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