Today is the final showdown between our protagonist and the bullish Baron in my retelling of Grimm’s Fairytale, “The White Snake.” Be sure to read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this twisted tale first. I hope the ending of this story surprises you in a most disturbing way. I welcome any and all feedback on the story. Enjoy!
“There was only one way to escape death, girl, and it was not in this direction.” The Baron put two fingers in his mouth and whistled, waiting as two hawks alighted on his shoulders. Their stern faces aligned with their masters. “Do you desire to end the voices so soon? Come and let me cure you of your disease.”
She continued her steps through the field. “Cruelty will not keep you safe, Baron. You have slaughtered millions today right here in your own lawn, and yet you come to dine among your dead.”
The Baron folded his arms across his robes. “We are not the equals of insects. Now, to learn one of the oldest lessons of the animal kingdom the hard way.” In range, the Baron whistled again, as the hawks seized Mayra by her hair dangling her over a rocky bank of the river.
The Baron followed them down by the riverside, letting the hawks handle her above for some time before speaking. “Power, my dear, drives all creatures mad, and madness must be contained.” The Baron pushed his fingers through his whiskers and whistled a different tune, one that made the hawks release Mayra right above the surface of the shallow water.
She saw her own reflection, the scratches, the bloody entrails of Bessie flecked on her apron, all the carnage reflecting back at her for a second before the crash of cold water, her face colliding with the rocks jetting from the surface. Wading into the icy river, the Baron grabbed her head dunking her into the gurgling stream. A garbled sound of bubbles faded with each passing moment.
Cold in the shallows of the riverbed, the Baron contemplated his sogging Soufflé au poulet. Sadly, his luncheon would be cold by the time he ended all this unpleasantness. Just as he was imagining his first bite of the moist crust of his entrée, a shoal of tigerfish swarmed the sides of his hands. Their bodies packed tightly around him making any movements impossible.
“What’s all this?” The Baron’s shadow loomed large over the school, but the tigerfish did not respond, all too busy chomping on the Baron’s fingers. In under thirty seconds, they had eaten each digit past the knuckle, and Mayra’s face bobbed free on the surface of the river again.
“Pests! Imbeciles!” The Baron’s hands throbbed in agony, but he had to assert his dominance over these watery demons. “I’ll have you all netted for supper.” But the fish darted up out of the water pointing the Baron’s fingers like flags from their mouths.
“Finger foods are starters. Leave the girl alone or we’ll be after those plump calves next.” The fish swam upstream leaving the Baron to cool his gnawed-on hands in the river’s flow. Great, his souffle was surely ruined.
Mayra awoke to the Baron hauling her across the manicured lawn towards the woodpile. Her body squished more corpses of mosquitos as she made her way across the lawn. “Making friends, are we?” He flung her on the firewood, frantic to find flint and light this leech on fire. When he did find the stone, he was forced to spark it with his teeth against the ax.
“Wicked witch! If you won’t be drowned, I’ll have you burnt at the stake.” He moved towards her with the flint not noticing a flock of birds above the woodpile that moaned and murmured as he moved. Sparrows of all sizes alighted on the trees overhead giving off the appearance of a full harvest of apples. The flock defecated down onto the Baron’s burgundy robes.
“Tangled in turds, I see.” A sparrow dived down from the branches to find an unspoiled spot of cloth to cover. “You’ve outwitted us before, but we listened.” Floyd stood tall on the Baron’s head. “We’re here to teach a new lesson for free.” Floyd let out a series of cheeps, and a rainstorm of refuse fell onto the Baron’s head and shoulders.
The Baron went to blow his fingers and whistle for help but without his tips, he could make no sound. Covered in gooey guano, he could no longer light his own flint. Soon more birds landed on the slippery Baron covering him with talons, but it was a pair of Sparrows that took turns pecking the Baron’s eyes.
No living creatures answered the Baron’s screams for pain. Blinded, he searched for Mayra atop the woodpile. Weakened from her time underwater, she had yet to move. Discovering her leg, the Baron plopped down on top of her body, squishing her into the wood with all his weight. If he could not drown her or light her on fire, he would simply have to squish the life out of her with his sticky robes.
As he tightened the stinky, stained satin around her face, Mayra let out one last muffled squeal barely audible to humans, but the swarm of mosquitos that fled to the forest Mayra’s muffled sound was a battle cry. The insects charged from the edges of the estate.
In a matter of minutes, they covered the Baron’s face and arms with stings. “Buzz off, pests.” The Baron could not see to swat them away, and they covered his exposed skin sinking their teeth in two million tiny pricks. Drained, the Baron lay back on the woodpile. He looked up with his empty eye sockets to what he knew was a perfectly clear blue sky and that’s when he realized what he was hearing. This moment was the first time he had heard silence in four decades. But it was a peace that only lasted a few seconds. Barely conscious, in a tranquil state of solitude, he heard a familiar hiss.
“It cannot be? So far from the river rocks?”
But there among the flesh of the felled timber slithered an alabaster snake. He let his body writhe over the legs of the Baron, and then rise onto his plump torso, taking his time as this was a battle he had waited his whole existence to win.
Once astride the Baron, the snake waited to speak. “ You have eaten of my flesh as your father did, and today, I will eat of yours.” As soon as the snake reached the Baron’s ear, he sunk his poisonous fangs deep into the fleshy folds, vengeance at last for all his eaten kin. The Baron, readied with a log, bashed in the head of his ancient foe, but he was destined to die to the sounds of the creature’s victory hisses.
Mayra heard the creature’s screams as his poison entered the Baron’s ears.
“What’s this? The Baroness swished her skirts across the yard from the veranda where she had been patiently watching the entire episode unfold.
Mayra lay still in the woodpile, too weak to stand and curtsey. “My lady. The Baron made too many enemies. I tried to…”
“Shush, little one. I have seen all.” The Baroness whistled and a dappled horse came to her side. The creature knelt low enough for Mayra to grab the reigns, and with the help of the Baroness, Mayra hoisted herself up, steadying herself against its broadside.
“You’ve done us great service,” the steed snorted.
“You see, secrets aren’t possible in royal marriages.” The Baroness winked at Mayra picking up the flint before flinging her husband a nasty look. “Let me be the one to burn my husband’s bridges.” With those words, the Baroness struck the flint against the rock-lined barn before casting the flame into the woodpile. Both stood still while the flames grew bolder.
“This will do as a tyrant’s pyre.” She dusted her hands before raising her voice. “Don’t we all agree?” There was a loud chatter of animals of all kinds from all sides as the Baroness spoke.
After supper, the family buried the body of the sallow snake below the golden delicious apple tree. His knowledge being far more ancient than any of their own, they felt this ceremony was the least they could do.
In the morning, Mayra took her time boarding the Baron’s canoe. The river was little more than a trickle this far upstream, but she knew that it would widen and expand from rivulet to tributary to waterway before giving way to a wide ocean.
The Baroness waved goodbye, grateful for the girl, but also glad to see her go. While she was overjoyed to take control of the estate, she knew it would require careful planning to recuperate its crippled condition. She would need to be a caring commander, but without rivals, perhaps there was still time for wisdom to reign.
Floating down the banks of the river, Mayra spoke to one creature at a time. There was much to discuss, and she was determined to be a good listener.
Both women thought of harmony as they drifted apart from each other and towards what they each believed would be a most fulfilling destiny.