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In the Name

A Retelling of "Rumplesitiltskin"

By Brynne NelsonPublished 6 months ago 8 min read
3

“What do you mean, you ‘made a deal’? It sounds as though you bartered with my life, Mother!”

As a prince, Kinsik was raised better than to shout, especially at the queen. He was well-versed in diplomatic discussion and the art of arbitration. He had been taught to control every impulse, every idea. Kinsik was—ordinarily—articulate, reasoned, patient, and calm. Quite capable of inheriting the crown his mother bore—which was good, as he’d be coronated in a week’s time.

At the moment, however, he was hissing and spitting like his grandfather’s old mouser.

“Son,” Kinsik’s mother began softly. Kinsik winced; the queen’s shoulders were slumped, her tone choked, her face vaguely downcast. Yet she was sure that Prince Kinsik could see, in her golden-brown eyes, that glimmer of pride that so often motivated her to good deeds and strong rulings. The pride of the peasant girl who’d risen to rule the nation.

She could not quite bring herself to regret that.

“You always implied you lost the ability to spin straw into gold when you married Father. That you couldn’t understand it. That some curse, some evil, had taken your Gift. That never felt right to me, but—by all the Powers, Mother! It was a lie! A lie to me, a lie to Father—“

“I never lied,” the queen growled. “Not to you, and certainly not to your father.”

“…you told him you could spin straw into gold.”

“No, your grandfather did that.”

Prince Kinsik threw his hands upward, wild with rage and confusion and despair. Queen Emaline resisted a sneer at his lack of control.

“You think there is a difference? You are the person who taught me goodness! Everything I know about—about being gracious, about tempering justice with mercy, about living up to my royal name—it came from you! Don’t you feel sorry in the least?”

“Of course I—Kinsik, I never thought—“

“Obviously,” the prince snarled. “You never thought. Not of anything beyond your good, your power, your ascension. You’ve not only thrown away the life of your only son—to Powers only know what sinister end—but possibly the lives of every person in Rachovia. You spit on Father’s grave, and on my very being.” He glared for a long moment. “I am ashamed to have sprung from your womb, Majesty.”

As Kinsik turned on his heel, Queen Emaline dashed away the single tear that had formed in her eye.

***

“Highness,” the creature straightened, rising to all of three and a half feet. The energy which emanated from him, however, filled—or, rather, emptied—the room with its shadowed menace. Kinsik felt it, an overwhelming absence against his eardrums.

“You are… he?” The prince asked, realizing that his mother had not told him the creature’s name.

He—it—nodded, his wild blue dreadlocks bouncing with a cheer that didn’t fit their owner. His eyes, a stunning blue-violet, glittered with a malevolence that belied his peaceful smile, which sat under a something that might have been a nose, or possibly a dramatic scar. His skin looked powdery, as though he were made of beige dust.

“You may call me ‘Master,’” he said, and Kinsik felt a twitch in his tongue that promised a magical binding to the term. Any doubt that the prince had cherished of escaping his mother’s contract dissipated.

“And…” the prince swallowed, hoping he was not a fool to ask the question. “What would you have me do—” He tried to stop, and his final word leaped unbidden into the air: “—Master?”

“I’ll get back to you on that,” the creature said, an almost giggly tone to his voice. He vanished in a puff of silver smoke that stank of sulphur.

***

“I’ll buy him back from you,” Queen Emaline whispered. “The kingdom’s jewels, its gold—“

The thing laughed. Emaline shivered. Even before she’d known he was evil, she’d never liked the thing’s laugh. High. Girlish. Sinister.

Gold? Have you forgotten what landed you here, girl?”

“Please. Surely there is some way out. Some escape for my son.”

“There… is,” the thing said, an unwillingness in his face. “There is a way to save the boy.” Emaline straightened from her slouching despair.

“You summoned me by the power of your true name,” the thing said. He looked furious; he seemed compelled to speak, his tone growing rote and monotonous. “I can be released by the same Power.”

“By… your name?” Queen Emaline said. The thing regained his cruel grin, gazing up at her without blinking.

“Good luck,” he sneered, and rolled his eyes.

***

Kill,” the creature whispered. Kinsik fought, struggling against the magic. It was useless. He sunk his knife into the animal’s chest, listening to it whimper softly as it died.

“I am so sorry,” the prince muttered. His beloved dog was guilty of nothing in life, unless one counted making the queen sneeze. Kinsik whirled, ready to demand an explanation, his knife splattering blood. To his surprise, his Master looked almost regretful. Kinsik felt his eyebrows raise.

“You didn’t enjoy that,” Kinsik whispered. “You weren’t simply out to prove some wicked point.”

The creature glared scorchingly.

“Of course,” he snipped. “I hated that dog. Like you, he was simply a bad boy.”

Without any sort of warning, the creature slapped the prince, hard, across the face. Kinsik grabbed at his stinging cheek. The pain was real, but there was something strange in it. Something… something that wasn’t quite true, as though another Kinsik, another prince, in some other world, had been slapped instead.

***

Queen Emaline had never been so hopeless, and yet her face crumpled further on seeing her son—sweating, seething, speckled with… is that blood?—skidded into the room.

“He’s not what he appears.

Emaline stared at her son.

“What?”

“It’s like… like he’s defying his inner mercy. Like we’re connected by something deep down inside of us both. Like he wants to lo—“

Kinsik vanished, a cloud of brimstone-scented, sparkling smoke taking his place.

Emaline stared at the place where her son had disappeared. She blinked a few times, her brain whirring and working. The Powers were mysterious. Distant. Yet they belonged in the world. Even the darkest ones, as far as she understood, followed a sick sort of logic.

The thing had appeared in her moment of desperation; had fulfilled the impossible promise her father had made. It had saved her life, in a way. A ruthless, despicable, unnatural way.

Could it be…?

***

“Son!” The queen called. She’d been wandering the castle, the repeated word ringing and echoing across the halls.

“Mother?”

The prince knelt before his mother’s throne. The thing lounged across it, inspecting his own shriveled fingers. He glanced up and sneered at Emaline.

“Coronation day tomorrow, Majesty. Tomorrow, I take Rachovia. Become a ruler, as I was always meant to be.”

“I think not,” the queen said. The thing, the manifestation, made a scoffing sound.

“What, are you planning to tell your people your son is beholden to me? Or else refuse to give up the crown?” He giggled. “I’d love to watch either play out. Go ahead. Be imprisoned for insanity, or else executed for treason.”

“On the contrary,” Emaline said. “I will dismiss you. Perhaps even destroy you.”

“Oh?” He sneered.

“You see, I know your name.”

His laugh, for once, was almost masculine. Still high-pitched, but with a barking, choking sound.

“Impossible!”

“I am clever, am I not?” Emaline tipped her head, as though considering something new, but her eyes burned with confidence.

“Conniving, more like,” he sneered.

“And you—you match my conniving nature. But there’s more we have in common—isn’t there?.” Queen Emaline seemed to gain additional presence to her person as she took one step toward the thing.

“You are dishonest. Cruel. Fascinated by the concept of rising above what you were made for. All the things, in fact, that I have struggled against all my life,” she said. She took another step toward the thing, but her eyes shifted to the prince and back. The thing swallowed, searching the queen’s face with eyes full of rage.

“No,” the thing spat.

“And yet you mirror me. For every moment I have restrained my anger, you have shown it. When I keep calm, you laugh. When I—“

“—I am not merely some image of your—“ the thing was hissing. Seething. Behind him, the prince cautiously rose to his feet. The queen glanced at him again, praying she was correct, though the thought was agony.

“—and as long as you hate my son, I know I have not failed entirely. Even—“ she took a great, steadying breath. “Even if your cruelty, your dissatisfaction, your inability to find peace, is some piece of my mind.”

The prince looked from his mother to the creature.

“Mother?” The thing winced; then it moved toward the queen, and the prince shouted,

“Stay!”

To Emaline’s surprise, the creature stopped, statue-still. Silent.

“I know you. I know who you are,” the queen continued. “I know your name as well as I know my own. Even if you are the worst of me—even if you have fed all my life off of my anger, my disgust, my fear—I name you now.

Queen Emaline Adorai Rumplesitiltskin Bedarae of the kingdom of Rachovia. You are nothing more than the very worst impulses, the worst thoughts… the worst of me.

The thing screamed. Its shriek rose, filling the throne room—the castle—perhaps the kingdom itself. It raised its hands high—toward the whole and human queen. In a blur, it stretched toward her, and for a moment, neither shadow nor queen breathed. And then—too unnaturally to be anything short of the evilest of magics—it was torn away from Emaline, the two were divided as violently as if they had been ripped in two, and the thing melted away into the floor. A smell of sulphur surged; silver puffed. Then—

It was gone.

“…Mother?” Kinsik asked, his voice shaking.

“Yes,” Emaline said, though she could not bear to look at her son. “That is who I am. That is, at heart, who I truly am.”

Short StoryFantasyCONTENT WARNING
3

About the Creator

Brynne Nelson

I'm a writer. I'm a wife and a mom. I'm a human.

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Comments (2)

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  • Jenifer Nim6 months ago

    This was amazing! Beautifully written and a really interesting idea. Loved it :)

  • Clever&WTF6 months ago

    I really enjoyed the twist!

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