Coming of Age Romance Fantasy

Once there was a queer little village where curses went backward—well, some of the time. Occasionally they went sideways or upside down. The point is, a few turned out to be blessings. Some were twists of fate. Others were just plain curses. None were the same. 

Take Tyson, for example. He was the first of six brothers. They descended from a purebred line of blacksmiths and were exceptionally strong. It was a sight to go to the smithy with, say, a horse that needed shoeing. They would all drop their work and come running. Tyson would lift the beast up, and four brothers would take a leg each. The horse would be shod in less time than it took to eat an apple. The only problem with this arrangement was which four got to do the shoeing—it always left one brother out. More often than not, this resulted in fistfights.

But one day, Tyson went too near the forest. He came home with small hands at the end of his thick wrists. His brothers shared his horror of his delicate fingers. The next time a villager came by with a horse, Tyson had to stand by and watch while his closest brother learned how to pick up a horse. The rest of the work was divided evenly and done easily. 

No message had come with the curse—they rarely did. Tyson eventually turned his smithing knowledge to other areas and became their first official silversmith. No finer jewelry was to be found in the whole village. 

Brenna was a seamstress. She had an extraordinary head of thick black hair that she used instead of thread. She liked to embroider, but the villagers loved how durable her stitching was and demanded hunting clothes. Everyone in the village owned at least one outfit from her hands. 

But one night, when she had drawn the lot to be part of the hunting team, she ventured too near the forest. Suddenly the hunting party were lit up and the animals were scared away—every stitch in their clothes was glowing vibrant gold. The brightest light came from Brenna herself. Her hair was too bright to look at. They came home unsuccessful and had to eat only vegetables and grains the next day. The hunters the next night had to find clothes that were not made by Brenna’s hands. This was difficult, because the glowing only started after sundown. Several hunting trips were ruined by the sun sinking and someone’s stitching revealing their location to the animals. 

Brenna was now exempt from hunting duty, and occasionally took a shift in the night guard. Children would gather around her instead of the fire. Visitors from other villages beyond the forest regarded her with awe. She started sewing clothes covered in embroidery, designed for dancing around the fire. Her hair started to grow streaks of other colours, and she could sew murals in fuchsia and cerulean as well as gold. Other, more contented seamstresses were glad to pick up the work of hunting clothes. 

Gaston was exceedingly loud and vain. No one knew his parents, but they knew everything else about him, for he loved to boast. They knew of his skill with the bow, his hatred of reading, and his love of attention. 

He went into the forest on purpose, to slay a beast someone had told him of. He was gone for three days before a beast returned to the village. Brenna was on guard duty, and her glowing hair revealed the bits of tattered clothing Gaston had been wearing when he left—otherwise he might very well have been shot dead upon sight. He walked like Gaston, spat at the bookseller’s door like Gaston, and even tried to enter the tavern, but of course they couldn’t let him in to shed hair over all the chairs. The only major difference was that the beast was dumb. Gaston had lost his voice.

The villagers built a nice hut for him, and included him in hunting, and cleaned his claws afterward, and made sure he always had clean straw to sleep on. They all agreed (at a safe distance where he couldn’t hear them) that this Gaston was a great improvement over the other one. There was hope for him now of becoming a decent fellow. 

Dinae was different than those. Her family was not originally from that village. They moved there when she was seven—and passed through the forest to get there. Her mother, father, and younger sister came out unscathed, but Dinae became the youngest the village had ever known to be cursed. 

When asked how she liked dinner, she would smile, nod, and say she hated it. When another child knocked her down at school, she would get up, knock them down in return, and tell them she wished them a long and happy life. Her written work was beautifully clear and precise, but orally she spouted nonsense. 

The adults understood that it was a curse, but she was difficult to understand, so they smiled and nodded whenever she spoke and just tried to stay out of her way. Her peers found her odd. Babies liked her, until they grew old enough to understand what she was saying. Then they avoided her too. 

But her family loved and knew her, and she remained happy. Once she finished school (which only took a few years there), she took part in the cooking, hunting, and farming rotations just like all the other young people. She settled on herding. She loved taking the sheep out to graze on the plains outside the village, loved climbing the endless hills, loved watching the sky in all its colours and moods. But loneliness can strike the happiest of hearts, and one day it visited her.

“I know exactly what I’m doing,” she sobbed to her mother that day, in a moment of weakness. “Like, I hate you guys so much, and yet I never want to have a home of my own.”

Her mother smiled and rubbed her shoulder. “Darling, I know. This is how life goes.”

“But I’m so normal! Everyone can understand me! I have so many options!”

“You weren’t given this curse for no reason. You are beautiful, my daughter. Perhaps it was given as a protection to you.”

“That makes perfect sense.”

“Don’t worry, darling. It will. Until then, focus on what you do have.”

Dinae hugged her mother gratefully. “I really don’t like you.”

“I love you too.”

Now, of course, what she desired came to pass, and this is how it happened.

Wellim was new to the village—as new as that afternoon. He had heard tales of a village deep in the forest, filled with strange wonders, and had come in search of them. He was not prepared for the sight of Gaston—but when he asked a peddler what had happened to what was obviously once a man, the peddler simply said, “He entered the forest.”

Wellim had frowned. “You mean the very forest I travelled through all of yesterday, camped in last night, and exited this morning?”

The peddler looked him up and down. “Have you noticed anything odd about yourself lately?”

“No, I’m perfectly normal.”

“Huh. Strange. Like as not, something’ll come about. You’ll sprout donkey’s ears, or fall in love with a strange girl, or sing every time you open your mouth. Or something else. You never can know what’ll happen.” The peddler held up a necklace with a moonstone pendant, curiously attached with swirling wires that looked like crawling vines. “This will protect you from any real mischief, though. Only two gold pieces. It’s genuine Tyson work, too. Only slightly used.” 

The chain had been torn and knotted together, but the moonstone sparkled invitingly. “I’ll take it.” Wellim handed over the pieces, tucked the necklace into his pocket, and continued through the village. The tavern had no rooms available, so he asked around until one man told him he could stay with his family while he built his own place. 

Wellim was delighted with an offer to come for supper, and more delighted when he saw the man’s family. His wife and two daughters shared the same kind smile. The younger girl was talkative, but the older one did nothing but smile, nod, or shake her head. 

They informed him of the nightly dances, and he accompanied them to the fire in the centre of the village. He helped stack the wood and sat back to watch the dancers. By far the most gracious one was Dinae, the older daughter of the man he was staying with. She smiled and laughed and whooped, but not a single word exited her lips until after a particularly invigorating dance. Everyone was moving rapidly when one of the young men tripped, and they all tumbled over each other in a giggling heap. Dinae extracted herself and came running over to her little sister, who happened to be near Wellim. 

Her face was glowing with the exercise—cheeks flushed and eyes sparkling. The embroidery on her dress had started glittering when the sun went down. She was laughing, too, and had Wellim’s full attention. 

“Oh, Anna,” she exclaimed, grabbing her sister’s hands. “I hope you never get old enough to join us! It is such a terrible time.”

Wellim was shocked. She appeared happy. Her sister, too, looked excited. He was completely baffled. He turned to find the peddler near him, clapping to the next rhythm, and tapped his shoulder. “Has she been through the forest, too?”

“Oh, yes. Poor girl. Happened to her nigh on ten years ago.”

“So she doesn’t mean what she says?”

“Kinda. She means exactly opposite of what she says. So she can’t really lie.”

Wellim pondered this. He stayed with the family for a few weeks, gathering supplies for his house by day and coming back to food and fellowship in the evening. Every night Dinae danced, and every night he watched her. One night, on their way home, he complimented her dancing. “How long did it take you to learn?”

The compliment made her smiled and the question was asked so naturally that she replied, in a happy, humble voice. “Not long at all. I’m way faster at learning than anyone else.” She immediately covered her mouth, horrified. Her wide eyes filled with tears before she blinked them away and walked faster. 

Wellim wanted to chase her, but her family was right there, so he let her go and went to bed that night dissatisfied. The mystery was solved, but how was it to be overcome?

The next day, Dinae was out with her sheep on the hills again. The pale blue skies were overcast with a sheer veil that created mock suns, and she was entranced by them when Wellim approached from behind. She did not notice him till he cleared his throat—then she jumped. When she recognized him, she gave a sad smile and turned back toward the sky. 

He came closer. “Dinae?”

Her mouth pinched, and she did not look at him. 

The mock suns sharpened into curved lines of colour, almost encircling the sun. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

She nodded. 

“Please, Dinae. Speak to me. Tell me you hate it. Tell me the colours make you feel tame and dead. Tell me you never want someone to share the view with.”

Her attention was snagged. She looked at him, confused, then back at the sky. The mock suns were fading, and she sighed. 

He waited until the sky was simple again before drawing the repaired moonstone necklace from his pocket. “Tell me how this will make you forget this moment every time you look at it.”

She gasped, her eyes filled with wonder. “Oh—it’s hideous.” As soon as she had spoken, she backed up, shaking her head and cleaning her jaw. Her chest heaved. 

Wellim followed her. She ran, but he chased her to the cliff’s edge and cornered her on a promontory. She stood two feet from the edge. The sea lapped against the rocks far below, and the breeze played with her hair. He held out the necklace again. “Take it, Dinae. Take it and speak to me.” 

She turned from him and gazed at the horizon. “I’d hate to have the wings of a bird,” she whispered. 

He nodded. “Me too.” 

Dinae smiled. Wellim reached for her hand and drew her away from the edge, to his side. They watched the sun until it neared the sea. Then she stirred and whistled for her dog to round up the sheep. 

He stopped her and brushed her hair from her neck, then clasped the necklace around her throat. The moonstone glittered like it belonged there. His eyes met hers, and he could restrain himself no longer. “I love you.” 

She stared at him in awe.

“I want you to share my home with me. I want you to be with me always. I want to see every sky you see, and to see it by your side. I love you, Dinae. Speak to me.”

“Oh, Wellim,” she whispered, melting in his embrace, “I utterly despise you.”

February 04, 2023 04:10

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


13:39 Dec 29, 2023

Aw. That was beautiful. Gaston made me think of Beauty and the Beast (Love that fairytale), it serves him right for being so horrible. Poor girl, but the ending was so perfect - perfect for her, perfect for us. ❤️


Keri Dyck
18:08 Dec 29, 2023

Thank you!


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Georgie D
20:35 Mar 14, 2023

What a wonderful read this was. The name Gaston made me wonder if this story is placed in the Beauty and the Beast universe. Regardless, you created a very interesting setting. Props to you!


Keri Dyck
01:41 Apr 06, 2023

Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it :) And yes, that was a tip of the hat to one of my favourite fairy tales :P


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Hallie Blatz
21:11 Feb 04, 2023

This was beautiful!! I loved the whole thing!


Show 0 replies
RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.