Today’s story is a modern version of Grimm’s Fairytale “The White Snake.” You don’t have to be familiar with the original tale to appreciate this version. It was my first attempt at recreating a classic fairytale of sorts, and I’d love your feedback on the story. If you enjoy the storyline, please let me know, and I will share more episodes in the upcoming weeks.
The Sallow Serpent
The bloated Baron burped, expelling foul odors into the autumnal air. As the master of the house, his improprieties were instantly pardoned.
“Bring me my last course.” He raised his goblet, took a sip of mead, letting a bit dribble through his bronze beard before slamming the stem onto the table for added emphasis. The river drizzled forward in the background as a chill crept along the edges of the veranda. Nocturnal creatures the Baron had no desire to mingle with stirred around the edges of his garden.
The Baroness and their five children had already given him tepid kisses, excused themselves from the table and made their way back into the safety of the manor house. It was customary for the Baron to dine on his last course alone.
The same command each evening, and Mayra stepped out of the shadows to retrieve the gold-domed serving dish. Master would know if there was a delay. No knowledge was hidden as it seemed the wind whispered to him the secrets of all those around him.
Never had the faithful scullery maid peeked inside the partition, and never had she asked her master what was under the brassy dome that had to be his nightly feast’s finale, but she imagined it to be a delicacy so rare that the sight of it would make her instantly salivate.
This particular evening, as the maid lifted the dish from the kitchen countertop, she heard a rattling sound. Losing her balance, she almost dropped the dish on the dusty tiles. Could it be that the Baron’s supper was still alive?
Steadying herself and the precious dish, she pressed her ear to the brass drum and waited. The kitchen was a cave now that the cooks and fellow house servants were all dining next door on the leftovers of the feast. Below the murmur of staff gossip, she held her breath and waited, not wanting to miss it. Then, out from the dome came a long hiss like the sound of great steam releasing.
She placed the haunted dish down on the counter. In all honesty, she would be doing her master wrong if she didn’t check this dish herself for possible dangers. At least, this is what she told herself as she lifted the lid slightly to peek at what was inside. A fishy smell hit her square in the face causing her to shield her nose. Inside the dome, sat an ornate silver dish decorated with a crisp green garnish. Beside it, a coiled carcass of white, scaly skin.
While the youngster was tempted to close the lid and forget what she saw, forget the rattling that drove her to open the dome in the first place, she hesitated. When would she again have the opportunity to taste such a rare delicacy? Taking the coil in her hand she was amazed at the weight of the snake. Just a tiny bite, she told herself, tearing a bit of the flesh with her fingers. Surely there could be no harm in a nibble.
“Don’t just stand there, stupid child. Bring me my final course.” Mayra was frozen in fear on the veranda steps. Around her, sparrows gossiped of unused grain and broken promises. She could hear further in the forest other creatures carrying on all manners of quiet conversation. Black birds twittered nearby whispering of crumbs in hushed tones. “Wait for it,” they murmured, reminding each other of the feast that would follow the Baron’s exit.
“Done in by a woman’s trinket?” one of the elder crows alighted on the railing just by the edge of the patio. “Surely, one of these useless servants can find the sapphire and set it right. They seem to be getting into all manner of things these days.”
The Baron’s face flushed, he seized the dish from Mayra, impatient to have his last course. “What’s this?” In all the excitement, Mayra hadn’t noticed the lid was slightly awry. “Who has disturbed my dish?
“Sir, I heard rattling.” The Baron threw open the lid, spotted the nibbled-on coil of white and narrowed his eyes.
“How dare you, you wretch.” He tossed the dome at Mayra barely missing her apron. “Do you even know what you’ve done? You’ve taken that which is not yours and now you are cursed.” The Baron seized his silverware ready to finish what the girl had started. “Find a way to earn my forgiveness,” he lifted his first piece into the air, “or I will finish you by morning.”
The old crow cawed from his post. “Finish her? Are you not the one who’s finished?” The crow flew up to the balcony to look down with derision on all that occurred below.
“Nonsense.” The Baron shooed with his hands. “Away, I say. Away with both of you. Enough incessant jabbering for one evening.” At this, the forest stood still. The river was the only thing that moved, as the creatures underfoot and in the trees paused, petrified of what would happen should they be overheard.
The Baron cut his serpentine delicacy into tiny pieces. He enjoyed the texture and chewed without pause. Sure, he’d removed Minnie’s stockings many times inside the manor house, but never when the Baroness was home. That would be most improper.
Now there was this missing sapphire earring. If the lady of the house were to find it, she would most assuredly assume the worst. There would be nothing but headaches and indigestion for weeks. At this, the Baron swallowed his last bite, wiping morsels of meat from his beard.
After sucking on the remaining scales of the white snake, the Baron spoke, “Now, who’s seen my whore’s trinket?” But there were only more caws as a murder of crows circled overhead.
Such a simple task, the Baron thought taking the last swigs of his mead. Such an easy thing. Why couldn’t any of these blathering idiots locate it?
To Be Continued?
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