Deathlike Sleep

Sixth form stories

by Caitlin Hasson

I’m sixteen years old and doing an English Literature and Language combined A-level at Cirencester college.

Edward has lost his prince, his family, and his friends and now wants to take revenge in this reimagining of the Sleeping Beauty story.

It was raining. It hadn’t stopped raining for three days. The battle had started three days ago, and it hadn’t stopped raining. The ground was slick with mud, dark with blood, and bodies littered the floor, dead.

   There was no sign of stopping, the fight raging on through the night, constant and loud. It was a weary time for all, though time was slow. The sun barely rose over the horizon before clouds blacked out the light. Still the battle raged on.

Hands, bloody and shaking, held on to a sword. Eyes, alight with determination, stared, unblinking. Edward staggered forwards. His opposition, in red tunic, red hose, red helmet, snarled. He moved awkwardly, like a puppet on a string.

All enemies must be killed.

Around him few were still standing and fewer were fighting. The dragon lay dead before the castle. Its mighty wings sprawled across the wasteland that was once the city. It was felled by the prince three days ago, starting the battle.

At the dragon’s head lay the prince. The princess stood over him, looking out across the fields towards Edward. She wrenched her sword from his stomach. Her blonde hair was streaked with red and her night gown was ripped.

Just weeks ago, Princess Briar had been comatose. Since she had been woken by the prince, the real personality behind the sweet face had emerged. As the army faced her, Edward began to wonder if the dragon-witch had the right idea. Maybe the kingdom was doomed from the start.

Edward had been raised in the castle, raised to defend the prince. Now the prince, his friend, was dead, and Edward was the only one left to take revenge.  The prince might’ve loved the princess, but Edward did not.

He swung his sword at the boy in front of him, a boy named Richard who had once been a friend, too. Richard’s puppet-like movements couldn’t defend himself. He fell in an arc of blood and Edward stepped over the fallen body. The rain washed away the blood on his chin and the tears that had slipped down his cheeks.

Briar stood before him. He could feel the power, the same sort of power that the witch that had cursed her.

‘Hello, Edward.’ Briar stood and curtsied, like it wasn’t a battlefield, like the prince wasn’t dead.

 He couldn’t force words from his throat, couldn’t push them through his teeth and tell her how much he hated her, how much he wished to kill her, for this wasn’t her kingdom. Not anymore. Instead he asked her, ‘Why?’

In her other hand was the staff of the witch, a gnarled black thing with a green gem. Briar stared, transfixed by the gem.

‘Did you know,’ she said, ‘that the witch of this staff was my godmother. She was jealous of my beauty, you see. Called me spoiled and bitter, and continuing down that path would only lead to destruction.’ She spun the staff like a sword. ‘I told her that she was wrong. But she wasn’t.’

She held the staff in front of her. A green light blinded him, and his body twisted out of his control into agonisingly painful contortions.

He woke up.

The forest where he lay was dark in colour and in atmosphere. No plants grew beneath the trees here. The sky was black and there were no stars to guide him. Edward didn’t know where he was. He was lost.

He walked slowly, not knowing whether he was walking towards, or away from his home. Dead leaves crunched under foot. Each step was a dull ache, and his head was thick and fuzzy, full of the murky green light he’d last seen.

Edward grew weary quicker than he expected and had to stop and rest. When he closed his eyes and listened to everything but himself, he could hear the distant clang of metal on metal and the wind that carried the battle to him. But the battle was over.

Edward wandered day and night through the blackened woods. He could not rest. Every time he closed his eyes he saw the friends he had been unable to save.

He saw Briar sometimes, laughing, running through the leaves, the staff leaving a trail of terrible green light behind her. Often he saw Philip standing just ahead in a light that did not exist. He beckoned him sometimes, growing further away the more Edward walked. Sometimes he just stood and cried.

The ghosts of battle grew louder in their cries and Edward knew he was taking the right path. He no longer felt hunger in his stomach or the ache in his bones, all he felt was the earnest desire for revenge.

The trees whispered half-truths in the wind; words of betrayal and heartbreak.

The wind was silent. The battle fell still.

Through the dense trunks of the trees, Edward saw a light. Exhaustion finally caught up to him, and Edward had to drag his body to the line. Weakness over came him and he finally slept.

Briar sat upon her throne. The halls were dark, twisting cracks winding up into shadows. The halls were quiet, servants lost in time and place, sleeping still on the ground. Battle over and Briar victorious, she sat upon her throne and frowned.

Lying beside her, green light illuminating the room, was the staff. It had called to her as a child, when it was still with her Godmother, whispered deeds that she wouldn’t have dared commit then. She’s committed them all now. The staff had called her the true queen, and had let the remaining castle court sleep, as they did not deserve her.

On top her blonde hair still streaked with blood was a twisted crown of thorns. Black in colour and just as cruel as the staff. Briar sat upon her throne and frowned.

Everything in her life had worked up to this moment. Every painstaking step she took to ensure there were no suspicions had worked. She had pictured this moment, yet it still did not seem right.

Consort, the jewel whispered.

Briar nodded. In all her dreams, her night-time fantasies, she had had a consort. A man just as strong and proud as she. There were no such men.

She remembered Philip. Her beautiful Philip, lovely and golden. She had killed him, run him through. His blood was still on her hands, dry and flaky. There was a difference between taking the life of an enemy and the life of a friend.

You weren’t friends, the jewel said. He just wanted the throne.

There was a fluttering outside and the faeries of Vescafo forest blew in. They were short, stumpy, petty things, with powerful magic. They bowed deeply to her, voices twittering. The three of them had raised her in those woods with the rest of the court and Briar knew when something was wrong.

‘What is it?’ she barked at them, unhappily.

They all twitched and stood. The first, swathed in bluebells and snowdrops, dropped to her knees and said, ‘My Queen, there is a man at the edge of the woods.’

‘A man?’ she asked, delighted. There hadn’t been any new men here for weeks. They had all fled or been killed. It had just been Briar, alone, in the castle. ‘Take me to him.’

The landscape was bland and barren as the journeyed to the forest’s edge. The rest of the faerie court was gathered around a body, waving their arms and flapping their wings.

The second faerie with a dress made of rose petals let out a series of clicks and twitters. Dressed in tulips, one of them hoisted the man up by magic. Briar leant forward to get a better look.

He was vaguely familiar with his blood streaked skin and shadowed eyes. His hair was damp when she stroked it. This was Edward, her Philip’s closest advisor. Briar found that if she squinted her eyes a bit he looked like Philip.

‘He will do,’ she declared to the surrounding area. In her hand, the staff glowed bright.

Edward woke up in the dark, cold and tired. No light entered, yet he knew where he was. The dungeons of the castle were as unforgiving from the inside as they were from the outside. Something touched his hand, and he lay still while it walked across.

Three lights appeared: red, blue and green. Three fae faces peered at him from the shadows, eyes sharp and faces curious.

‘He can’t be the one,’ one chirped.

Another pulled the hand back. ‘Don’t touch him, the queen wishes for us to bring him to her unharmed.’

The first scoffed. ‘I wasn’t going to hurt him. I wanted to make sure he was worthy of her.’

The last fae unlocked the cell door. Edward stumbled to his feet; his bones were aching still, and he didn’t think he could move anymore. That didn’t stop the fae. They dragged him up and along the corridor. Despite their size, their grips were bruising and the pace fierce.

Clouds of cold breath fogged up in front of him. Sleeping servants littered the corridor, breathing regularly.

‘Did they not wake up?’ he asked, stumbling over someone’s head.

They didn’t answer and instead pushed him roughly into the throne room. Upon the throne, swathed in black and green, blonde hair standing out, was Briar. She moved with grace that only an elven princess should have. Her cloak was long and thin, more for show than warmth.

Hands pulled and pushed him until he was maneuvered into a bow. Briar tipped his head up. Her eyes were dark, evil. Her hands cold against his skin. She was wicked and cruel, nothing like the princess that Philip used to sigh about; but she was a queen, cold like the women who’s staff she wielded.

‘Hello, my dear,’ she said. Hands skimmed his cheeks wandering to his hair, where she yanked his head back until he heard his neck crack. ‘Lovely to see you again.’

Briar dragged him up by the hair until he was kneeling before her.

 ‘I didn’t mean to leave you alive,’ she told him, stroking his hair. ‘But I’m glad I did.’

Everyone was either asleep or dead. It was just him. Briar patted him one last time before signalling something to the fae. He was wrenched to his feet and dragged from the room. Briar was still looking at him, as the doors closed, and stroking her staff.

The dungeon was still dark and cold, grazing his hand until they bled as he was thrown to the floor. The faeries twittered and shot off in a flurry of bright sparks.

There was no time to waste He gripped two of the rough brown bars and tried to twist them.  The flakes of rusting metal bit into his hands, but they both twisted. He wrapped his cloak around his hands and tried again, this time twisting and shaking, each effort making progress until, by concentrating on one he, could tear first one, then the other, loose through the crumbling stone housing. Edward slipped through the gap and reached out until his hands brushed the wall. Keeping one hand on the surface as all times he made his way forward in the dark, other hand reaching out and searching.

He tripped and stumbled over the slumbering bodies on the floor. They never woke.

His sword had been taken from him. He didn’t know where it would be stored, but something was pulling him forwards.

He clambered up steep stone steps that circled round and round and then came a short corridor and a door at the end. He opened it slowly and blinked at the light.

There, in the centre of the room, was his sword. The blade shone against the light and when Edward held it he had never felt so powerful.

It was time to kill a queen.

Her kingdom was beautiful. Briar could see the villages from her window. The sun had barely skimmed the horizon and the valley in which the castle lay was already glowing.

The village was in disrepair. Nobody was maintain it, which made things look untidy. It disturbed her, but the villagers were all dead. Everyone was dead.

Her staff was leaning against her throne and being away from it for so long was making her restless. She turned back to the window.

The kingdom was darker than it had been under the prince. It was swallowed by endless cloud.

Glowing green, the staff began to vibrate, letting out a high-pitched whistle. Briar ran forward and gripped it in her hands. The magic inside was coursing furiously and straining for release.

The door flung open.

Briar stared, the staff limp in her grasp. It was pulsing.

‘Edward?’ she said.

Edward stalked forward, hoisting his sword up until it was pointing at her chest.

She gripped the staff and started to chant under her breath. Edward couldn’t let her finish, swinging his sword in an arc.

Briar ducked and lashed out with her staff, catching him in the chest and throwing him back. She was on top of him before he could react and pulled a knife from her sleeves. She stabbed downwards, but he grabbed her wrists hovering above his chest.

She squirmed, and screamed, more savage than queen. The staff was twisted out of her hand and landed next to him. He let go of her with one hand to grab it, and her dagger lurched closer. He swung the staff and smacked into the side of her head.

The magic ran up his hands. He felt powerful. He could rule the world.

With one mighty effort, he stood and snapped the staff. The jewel smached against the ground.

Briar stood, wobbling. She staggered towards the broken staff.

‘What have you done?’

She pulled out a longer blade from the back of the throne.

‘You can’t win this,’ she said, parrying his shot quickly.

‘Neither can you.’ He ducked her swing and clashed their swords.

He had a view of the forest from his position and could see faeries streaming towards them. He had to finish this quickly.

The crown was crooked in her hair as Briar was pushed back, falling off completely as she craned her head back to avoid decapitation. It clattered to the floor and Edward took the advantage when her eyes followed it.

He thrust his blade forward sharply and felt his arm slow as the blade reached her and sank deep inside. Her hands scrabbled against the blade as he pushed it into her chest, just like she had done to Philip.

The faerie court burst through the door and froze when they saw their fallen queen. They crowded towards him and he was forced back towards the window, and then the ground began to give way beneath them. He grabbed at the throne as the castle began to crumble around them. The faeries fled.

As the roof to throne room came down, Edward regarded the fallen queen with a curious gaze. He couldn’t see how she could ever have been Sleeping Beauty.