Roland and Rosedew By Rebecca Russell
It was a truly lovely day as Prince Roland, perched regally atop his magnificent steed, ambled along an old trail through the Forgotten Forest. Though he was alone, and hopelessly lost, the Prince's countenance still carried the haughty mark of his royal station: the chin firmly squared and angled so the tip of his impressively shaped nose always pointed precisely between his horse's ear tips; finely shaped lips pursed ever so slightly so as to hide any hint of real emotion; and velvet brown eyes carefully narrowed as they peered down the sides of the afore ascribed nose. A particular source of vanity, his long flaxen hair flowed in elegant waves to a precise length just below his shoulder blades, the multitude of blond and light brown tones shimmering each time the strands stirred.
As he'd been taught from birth, the Prince was very careful to always retain his regal bearing. After all, one never knew when a peasant might suddenly appear and, fairies forbid! What if said peasant discovered that he be as human as they?
The day being a fine one indeed, the Prince felt himself to be roasting slowly within his royal velvet trappings. The feather than had once perched jauntily atop his cap now hung drunkenly to one side. Worse, the moisture rolling form his brow (princes never sweat) was causing his hair to become damp and stringy. He was very much afraid his royal essence might completely melt away in the heat!
So caught up was he in himself and his miseries, Prince Roland failed to see the beauty of the forest around him. Blossoms of every hue and shape abounded amongst many shades of green. Trees, large and small, swayed in the breeze, stirring the scent of the flowers to perfume the air. On the forest floor, soft young grass grew in a thick carpet alongside the old trail and was dotted by tiny stars of pink and lavender flowers. Birdsong rang merrily as deer and small creatures watched curiously from afar.
As he rode along, the Prince soon spied a bright flash on a tree limb just ahead. As he drew nearer, he found a large chrysalis, half the size of his palm, hanging like a silken pearl among the leaves of a dogwood. Protected from the sun, morning's dew still beaded like diamonds on its gossamer surface.
"What manner of magic is this?" he wondered and reached to gently cup the odd cocoon in his hand. Suddenly, the chrysalis jerked and he felt a tiny thud against his sensitive royal skin.
"Go away!" a tinkling voice ordered, "I said go away! I've had enough of your mischief, Tweek, I have!"
Startled, the Prince drew back so violently on his reins that his horse reared, unseating him before thundering off down the trail amid snorts and neighs. The Prince made a mad grab at the tree limb before falling in a most undignified heap upon the ground, the chrysalis landing beside him. As he sluggishly opened his eyes, he was amazed to discover the piquant face of an irritated sprite glaring at him with large azure blue eyes from a crack in the gossamer shell.
For a moment they stared disbelievingly at each other before the disgruntled sprite busied itself with escaping its ruined cocoon, mumbling to itself in an odd language punctuated with the name "Tweek."
"I am dreaming," Roland tried to assure himself, closing his eyes again, "I have only hit my head overhard and am having hallucinations or nightmares."
"A nightmare am I?" The sprite, finally freed of its captivity, stood with legs spread and hands braced on its hips, insult radiating from every millimeter of its person. From its back silken wings glowed illuminescently as they fluttered in pique. "You can make no claim to bonnie yourself, Human. I have known misshapen trolls who were easier on these eyes than you!"
Hesitantly opening one eye a crack, the Prince was dismayed to find the tiny creature hovering above his face, arms akimbo.
"Pray tell," he begged, "what manner of monster are you?"
"Monster? What is this 'monster'?" The sprite's expression turned to exasperation, "Mayhap you have struck your head overhard. A monster is a hideous thing, yes? A frightening thing? Tell me how one so small as I can be hideous and frightening to one so huge as you? Hmm? Am I not beautiful?"
The Prince remained silent , his eyes crossing as the sprite preened and paced through the air before his nose, its tinkling voice like tiny bells in his ears.
"Still, it is you who has rescued me from Tweek's mischief so I shall forgive you for your stupidity. " The sprite paused, one tiny hand rising to her breast, "I am Rosedew. What do they call you, Human?"
The Prince felt his confidence return as he announced his identity, "I am Roland, first born son and heir of King Tiberus of Dolincia and his queen, Ranara."
"A prince then. Why am I not surprised? Mayhap because the highborn no longer believe in that they cannot see and are blinded by the clouds of their high mortal position?" The sprite gently alighted atop his chest and struck a questioning pose, "Tell me, Human, what do you see before you?"
Roland frowned anew, "I do not understand what you ask."
"A simple enough question for an ordinary human, but perhaps too much for a royal prince?" The sprite laughed merrily as his frown deepened, "I make sport of you, Prince Roland. Do you not know how to play? No? It is a sad thing to believe only in what you can see for when you see something new for the first time you doubt your own eyes. Your eyes do see me, Human. Come, tell me what they see."
"I fear a pestilence."
The sprite's laughter tinkled as she hunkered cross legged atop his chest, "'Tis true, I admit, for me own da often called me his wee bit of a pest. Still, am I not a beautiful pest?"
Royal pride demanded that he not admit that he did, indeed, find her the most enchanting creature he had ever seen, "To what would I compare you?"
"Oh, whatever you like. But mind you, we of the fairy kingdom do not take lightly to lies and liars."
The Prince smiled nastily, "Ah, but if I am to describe what my eyes see, how can you declare me a liar if you do not see through them also?"
Rosedew grinned appreciatively.
"I am impressed, Human. Not many of your kind understand this wisdom. Precious few, in fact. So we will agree that I am beautiful to me own eyes and mayhap different to your own. Do you want to know what I see?"
"I am sure I do not."
"Yes, you do. Humans are both curious and vain."
Ignoring his scowl as he finally sat up, the sprite fanned her wings and hovered inches from his face.
"I see a man of great vision and promise, and a man whose heart is hidden even from himself. I think your arrogance is but a shield to protect the dreamer you were meant to be."
Greatly disturbed by her words, Roland growled menacingly as he searched for his cap in the grass, "You know nothing of what you say."
Rosedew's azure eyes watched him somberly as he avoided looking at her, "I know much Prince Roland. There is a maiden who waits for you, does she not? Who loves you purely? Why do you avoid her?"
The Prince stared at the sprite in surprise before rising quickly to his feet, "Be done with me before I swat you like a fly!"
The sprite merely giggled then buzzed impertinently near his ear, "Oh, I think not, Human. You have not the---"
She narrowly missed his swinging hand, then laughed as he cuffed himself instead. Truly she was growing quite fond of him. Mayhap she should forgive Tweek for leaving her in that cocoon for so long.
"Oh, Human, how you do amuse me!"
Flying alongside, she followed him as he sat out down the trail in pursuit of his horse. They found the beast grazing contentedly hours later alongside a small stream. The sun had begun to set and Prince Roland wondered where he would make his bed this night. As if reading his thoughts, Rosedew beckoned him toward a tall spruce.
"There is a bed made of moss and grass beneath the boughs," she told him, "It will be most comfortable for you to sleep on with your velvet to keep you warm."
Too tired to make a comment the Prince crawled beneath the boughs and lay upon the simple bed. Within moments he fell into a deep sleep and dreamed that he was home…
The palace was alight in its entire splendor. Noblemen and their ladies were attending a ball to welcome him home from his travels. He saw himself, resplendent in satin and ermine, sitting on a throne between his parents as their subjects danced beneath blazing crystal chandeliers. Many young maidens were brought before him, each with pedigrees and dowries befitting the potential bride of a prince; but each was much like the other and he rapidly grew bored. Was there not one with a streak of uniqueness about her? Must he wed someone who would forever simper about inane, mundane things? The mere thought of spending his life bound to such a woman, devoid of brain and spirit, made his royal skin crawl. He imagined himself trying to stoke her feminine fires while she worried over wallcoverings. Would he have to repaper the walls to win her affections and secure an heir?
Finding the huge room stuffy and overcrowded, he begged his parents' pardon and left them for the Queen's garden. There he found the night air soft, redolent with the scent of roses, and himself blessedly alone. Removing the heavy cloak and crown of his station, he set them on a nearby bench and wandered further until he came to a small fountain. To his surprise he found a young woman sitting beside the pool, watching his mother's koi with a smile of pleasure upon her face.
She was dressed finely though not as fine as those who danced within the palace. She was small in stature yet well-built and her manner denoted good breeding. When she glanced up to find him watching her, he felt his heart still as he gazed upon the beauty of her face. No classic beauty had she, but a beauty born of gentleness and honesty. And deep within her lovely emerald eyes he found the intelligence and fire for which he searched.
She did not know him and so greeted him simply with a shy and welcoming smile, commenting softly on the fineness of the night. Neither shared their name with the other but they spoke as if they had known one another all their lives. And as they talked, he discovered her to be well informed, quick witted, and delightfully opinionated. Secretly he wondered how free she would be in her arguments if she but knew with whom she debated so passionately.
Time passed and he forgot everything but the woman before him. For the first time in his life, Roland the Man was freed from the confines of Roland the Prince, and he resolutely refused to return to that role for however long he had with her. Eventually, however, a guard was sent by his parents. Find the cloak and crown the guard followed the couple's laughter to where they sat close together on the fountain's edge. After clearing his throat, he had relayed the King's summons and Roland had watched the surprise on her face give way to embarrassment and betrayal, then to anger quickly screened. Rising to his fee, his heart aching, he had reluctantly donned his princely persona as she executed a very proper curtsy and begged his forgiveness for her ignorance. With the guard at hand, he could do little else than accept her apology and offer to escort her inside. With barely concealed bitterness she confessed that she was but a poor relation to a minor earl and therefore in attendance at the palace only as a maid to the earl's wife, not as a guest of the king.
Entrapped by the rules of their society, he had thanked her for keeping him entertained and dismissed her from the garden. Only as she disappeared from sight did he remember he had never learned her name.
In his dream, Rosedew appeared from within a blooming bush and approached with a gentle smile upon her face.
"Her name is Kathleen, Human, and her lineage is far more ancient and royal than your own. Her people were once the rulers of Eire, long before the coming of mortal man, and were of great and noble blood. She is a grand-daughter of Ireland's past and her hand and heart are not honors bestowed lightly. Think well before you dismiss her to choose another. Few others will prove her equal."
The dream remained with him the following morning. He could not forget the time spent with the young woman by the fountain and the aching of his heart had not dimmed in the weeks following the ball. He had finally escaped the palace and confining structure of his station on the unconscious search for Truth, and peace of heart.
As he knelt and washed his face in the cold running stream, the tiny sprite hovered beside him. Strange how he had come to accept her presence. He had always been told that such creatures did not exist, yet here she was, his own pestilent proof, and in less than a day she had restructured a lifetime of conditioning. Truth, through this unexpected messenger, was making itself known.
"Sleep well, Human?"
"Well enough." He wiped the water from his face and rose to his feet," Which way should I go to leave this forest?"
"Any way will take you where you want to go."
"Is it?" The sprite grinned then tugged playfully at his hair. "'Twould serve you right if I filled your hair full of fairy knots, but I wouldn't want to scare Kathleen away from ya now, would I?"
Roland's eyes narrowed as Rosedew danced in the air about him, "It was a dream, nothing more."
"If you choose to believe that then you are a fool, Prince Roland of Dolincia." She hovered, her impertinent face all smile and azure eyes, "But however hard you try you are not truly a fool, are you?"
"It, our love, cannot be then. It is an impossible dream."
"Oooo!" Gossamer wings fanning angrily, the sprite flew to within an inch of his nose, "Have you learned nothing, Human? Dreams are only impossible if you believe them to be! Yesterday you did not believe I could exist yet here I am. Open your heart as well as your eyes and you will see much more than you ever believed possible."
The Prince sighed, "But I am a prince."
"Yes, but you are a man first! A fine man worthy of Kathleen, are you not?"
He sighed again and admitted his deepest fear, "I do not know."
"Go to her and she will convince you." Rosedew grinned cheekily. "Or if you prefer, I can introduce you to me brother, Tweek. Now there's a pestilence for you!"
Hanging his head, Roland seemed to consider her words then nodded decisively before hurrying to his horse. Flying alongside him Rosedew watched as he rapidly saddled his horse, asking endless, nagging questions about whatever entered her head. When he was finally mounted, the once arrogant prince smiled fondly as he gathered the reins into his hands.
"However irritating you may be, Rosedew, you are indeed a most beautiful creature." His smile became a grin as she preened predictably beneath his praise. "And I am a most fortunate man to have known you this short time."
With a finger to his cap and a cluck of his tongue he took his leave, the urgency of which left divots of sod to mark the path he'd chosen.
Later, the little sprite hovered over a certain pool of water and watched the events unfold outside the Forgotten Forest. To her great amusement she witnessed the lively courtship antics of Prince Roland and his beloved Kathleen, who did not at first appreciate the advances of her charming, if incorrigibly arrogant suitor. The wedding of the royal couple was followed the year after by the first of their three charmingly arrogant sons, and the year after that by their winsome, mischievous daughter named Rosemary. Then to her misty-eyed satisfaction, Rosedew watched them live out their years, happily ever after.