Matches, Ravens, and New Clothes: Prelude

Hello, I’ve returned.

I’ve decided to do a story series on Mondays, something for fun that I’ll do my best to keep up on.  The story I will be pursuing is a fairy tale mashup that originated in one of my high school classes.  I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to figure out, but just in case, they are:

  • The Emperor’s New Clothes
  • The Seven Ravens
  • The Little Match Girl

I’m going to play with the ideas, add my own, mash some together, anything that comes to mind really.  I don’t have a set length in mind–it will be as long as I need to tell the story properly.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Nevertheless, let’s get on to the story.  Enough of my writer’s preamble.

 

 

Matches, Ravens, and New Clothes

            The Little Match Girl was sent to the market by her parents with strict instructions.  She was not allowed to come home until she sold all the matches they gave her.  Her hands shook in fear, her lower lip trembled.  She was certain her parents had forgotten how unforgiving the other villagers could be to pesky children forcing wares onto the unsuspecting.

Her seven brothers, turned to ravens at her birth, followed her as soon as she was out the door and in their view.  They had been cursed by their father for their lack of interest in the newest member of the family.  Ironically, she was the only one that would give them the time of day.

“Shoo, pests!” she kicked a rock at them.  It wasn’t positive attention she offered, but at least it was human acknowledgement for the men that had been birds for too long.

They squawked at her in return, but it sounded closer to cruel laughter.  She rolled her eyes, pulling her satchel of matches closer to her body, remembering perfectly well what happened last time.  Collectively, all seven ravens had decided it would be entertaining to steal her matches.  She didn’t get to eat that night.

Stalking past them quickly ruffled the birds’ feathers.  They took to the skies to avoid her slipper clad feet.  The Little Match Girl smirked.

The market was the same as always when she arrived with the pests.  Bustling adults argued about prices in the dusty environment while the other children with less to worry about ran through the surrounding smoke.

The girl took up her usual spot—in the alley right beside the lantern merchant.  The merchant would chase her off as soon as he noticed her, he thought her ravens scared away the customers.  Until that moment came, it was the easiest way to sell matches.  She watched for people to sell the matches to, knowing that if she didn’t focus hard enough on the task at hand, she probably wasn’t going to go home.

*  *  *  *  *

            “Bah!” the Emperor exclaimed, throwing a small stack of papers onto the table he and his advisors currently occupied.  “What is the meaning of this?”

“Sire, the kingdoms do not feel you are wise enough,” said an older gentleman that had mentored the Emperor since the future ruler had been born.  “Many are withdrawing their support of your empire.”

The Emperor’s mouth set into a thin line.  “Don’t think I’m wise enough?”  The words left his mouth only to leave a dangerous, toxic tone in the suffocating tension between the people in the room.

“No, sire.”

After a sigh, “I see.”

After a pause, “What do you recommend I do?”

The eyes of the three advisors in the room shifted side to side to catch the others’ eyes.  They all wanted the other two to speak first.

Finally, after the silence had gone on long enough to make the lines of the Emperor’s face draw down into a fierce scowl, one of the advisors that had yet to speak voiced his opinion.

“Maybe … maybe you could get new clothes?”

“… What.”  It wasn’t a question, it was a statement.

“There is a seamstress who claims to sew clothing that only the wise can see and feel, and—”

“If you had a wardrobe of clothes she’s sewn” interrupted the third advisor, “The subsidiaries of your empire would respect you as the wise leader you truly are—”

The other two advisors began to speak over the third.  The Emperor eventually made them leave because their babbling over each other gave him a headache.

The Emperor leaned back into his chair, pondering what his advisors said.  It all seemed like it would work, as long as he could see the clothing.  Yet, if he couldn’t ….

*  *  *  *  *

            A few hours after the Little Match Girl had arrived at the market, she had been chased off from her top five spots for match selling success.  She sighed.  Most of the time, it was the seven ravens that caused the trouble.  They stole fruits and grains, flew into the faces of arguing customers and merchants, and squawked at young until mothers were forced to take the crying children home.  Overall, their immature and inconsiderate ways left over from humanity still remained in their tiny, raven hearts.

As the girl’s stomach rumbled with hunger, her mind began to wonder from where she sat shivering in an alley.  All around her, the ravens ate their stolen food.  The Little Match Girl was not offered any, but she wouldn’t have taken it anyways.  Though they were her brothers, she saw them more as villains than family.

She kept shivering, shaking.  Her thoughts came to rest on subjects too heavy for someone her age.  She thought about death mostly, not the kind where you end up six feet under, but the kind where everything you used to be would be ultimately ceased to exist and everything you hoped to become faded away into distant dreams lost by waking.  That was her waking—her death—selling matches.  Harsh realities of hunger and pain slowly overtook any remembrance of her dream, the typical little girl desire to become a princess.

The Little Match Girl let a faint laugh leave her at the thought of becoming royalty.  Since she knew she was already dead, she took her matches, the precious wares her parents made themselves.  A quick stroke against the rough brick of the building she leaned against set them ablaze.  It was the last resort to stay warm while the cold closed in.

*  *  *  *  *

            The Emperor paced nervously in the cloak he wore into the market.  The seamstress had refused to come to the castle, but rather insisted that the king come to her business.  Alone.  If the Emperor had been a fraction less desperate, he would have forgone the entire escapade.  Unfortunately, he knew that was not an option when he wanted respect.

“Your majesty,” a wrinkled woman approached the Emperor, “You requested my services?”  Her tone was mocking, sarcastic.  There was a blatant lack of respect for the man before her.

“Y-yes,” the Emperor stuttered, then yelled at himself in his head for the terror this woman inspired in him.  She reminded him of his grandmother, the one his father had put to death for disrespect.

“Follow.”  She turned as she barked her one word command.  Her back disappeared into the throng of people scurrying through the market.  The Emperor trailed after the woman who never turned around to see if he was still following behind her.

They reached what could only be described as a hut left to weather in the elements.  “Enter.”  The bag of wrinkles pointed at the door.

It took the Emperor a few seconds longer than it should have to open the door.  He wasn’t used to opening his own doors, especially not doors on falling apart shacks.

“Um,” the Emperor paused, “what do I call you?”

“It is irrelevant for the business we have,” the Seamstress retorted with impertinence.

The Emperor didn’t respond to her, just raised one eyebrow.  He removed his cloak to place it on the back of a chair by a small, burning fire.

The next hour was spent with measurements.  The Emperor was used to being measured for new clothing, but there was something … off about the way she went about it.  The entire thing almost seemed like an act.  The crone made no move to record what she measured.

“Alright,” the woman nodded, “You can go now.”

“When will it be done?” the Emperor asked her, but it sounded more like the aloof demand of a royal that wanted something done quickly, immediately.

The Seamstress was not impressed.  “Patience,” she snapped.

The Emperor didn’t move.

“Fine,” she rolled her eyes, “Come back tomorrow morning.”

The Emperor nodded, pleased with this answer.  He tossed a small sack of gold onto the table before leaving the crone to her tricks.

*  *  *  *  *

            The next morning, the Little Match Girl wakes up in a pile of straw.  Though confused as to how she survived the cold night, she doesn’t complain.  Instead she sets out to sell twice of many matches.  She ignores that twice of zero is still zero, just like she ignores the seven ravens following her.

 

 

 

If you liked this story, please return for more. ❤

Thank you for reading!

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