CHARMING TALES COLLECTION
By Chante Dodd
Published by Chante Dodd at Shakespir
Copyright 2016 Chante Dodd
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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It was a warm night, a pleasant night, and a good time for merry-making. The guard was tired of watching his post, and a pretty girl was flirting with him. She had been drinking, and she grabbed him, teasing him. He followed her into the woods without a second thought. Nothing ever happened at the palace anyway – until tonight.
When he returned, sweaty and satisfied, a piece of parchment had been secured to the portcullis with a bloody dagger. He ripped the parchment off the blade; the words were written in blood.
The Princess will die.
The King was notified immediately, and the night guard swiftly lost his head for abandoning his post. He ordered that all entrances be guarded by no less than three guards at all times, on penalty of death to those who disobeyed.
The Princess went about her duties, unworried about the threat on her life. She was the kind of girl who thought her dress was of more concern than the outside world. She believed that nothing would happen to her. She was confident in the royal guards.
After all, who could get past the guards? She flipped her hair, admiring her own beauty in the mirror on her vanity.
The castle woke the next morning with a crude message carved onto a wall.
You cannot run. You cannot hide. I am already inside.
The King put the castle on high alert – no one was allowed in, or out. The palace was to be searched until the monster was found. The King assigned two guards to escort the Princess at all times. Again, the Princess was not concerned. The royal guards were the King’s best knights.
This man will surely be found. The Princess regaled her escorts with her beautiful voice during her singing lessons, enchanting them with her womanly charms.
The next evening the Princess went to mass to pray for the capture for the intruder, because she was told this was the proper thing to do. When she arrived at the castle’s small chapel, she was blocked from entering by a group of guards.
“Princess, we would advise you to return to your chambers at once,” the commanding officer said. The Princess was appalled – the guards couldn’t tell her what to do.
“Stand aside,” she commanded. She held her head high as she walked in the chapel, which made it easy to see how far her head fell when she read the message inside.
Pray for your life, dear Princess.
The Princess turned a ghastly shade of white. She returned to her chambers at once. When they arrived, she ordered her escorts to remain outside while she changed into a more comfortable gown. As it would be indecent, they obliged.
A while had passed, and the guards became concerned. They knocked on the door, but no one answered. Without hesitation, they broke down the door. They found the Princess on her bed with a single rose. It was a white rose that had been dyed red with the Princess’s own blood. The killer had used the rose to write one last message on the wall.
Sleep tight, sweet Princess.
The ship pitches as wave after wave crashes into the hull. The crow’s nest almost dips entirely into the water. The sailors hang on for dear life. Most of them only managing to stay aboard because they’ve tied themselves to the ship with long pieces of rope. Once the ship is back upright, sailors dash about, strapping down the sails, and tossing extraneous cargo overboard. Lightening cracks overhead, casting a ghostly silhouette against the stormy sky. The thunder follows just seconds behind, rumbling in our chests, striking terror in our hearts.
Below on the gun deck, a leak has sprung, filling the sleeping quarters with water. The ocean water is ice cold. The hatch to the main deck flings open. The hinges creak and rattle, threatening to fall apart at any moment. Blistering wind and rain whips inside, stinging our already raw skin like needles. The water is up to our ankles now. It won’t be long until it reaches our heads.
Women and children cling to each other, gripping whatever they can. Everything and everyone is drenched. Some of them stand on top of beds, trying to gain some ground above the water. Several are clinging to the ladder for support. Others, like me, cling to the weathered rope running along the wall, put there for occasions just like this one. One woman named Cornelia clutches an infant to her breast, while her other two children grip her dress with iron fists.
“We can’t stay here much longer,” I say, shouting for them to hear me over the roaring waves.
Cornelia glances at her three helpless children. They wail, crying in terror. Her wide eyes beg for help.
“What should we do?” she asks.
The truth is, I don’t know, but we’re going to die if we stay down here. One look in her terrified eyes tells me that I can’t say that out loud. I have to think fast.
“I’m going to find the captain,” I say.
“You can’t go out there! It’s too dangerous,” she says.
She’s right, but there’s no other option. He’s the only one who’ll know what to do. I have to find him. I can’t stand by and watch these people die. Plus, it’s the only way to save myself too.
“I’ll be fine. Just hang on until I get back,” I say. I gather up my skirt and wade through the water. It weighs a ton, soaked from the rain and ocean water. My arms are already tired from gripping the rope against the wall. The ship heaves, tossing me to the ground with a splash. I cough, spitting out a mouthful of salty water. Cornelia gasps again, grabbing me by the arm and pulling me up. I give her a reassuring look over my shoulder. “Relax,” I say. “It’s not like I went overboard.”
This time I only gather my skirt up with one hand so I can use the other to hold on to the boat as I wade through the water. I struggle to climb the ladder one-handed, but manage to reach the top. The hatch itself seems to be an entity to fight with. It swings wildly on its hinges, slamming open and shut at will. I thrust my hand out and steady it long enough to pull myself on deck.
A wave crashes over the side, sending a sailor overboard. Sailors dash around trying to save themselves and the ship. The sail is tattered and ripped to shreds.
One man runs straight into me, knocking me hard on my back.
“Get back inside,” he says, grabbing me by the arm and pulling me up to my feet. “Unless you want to go overboard.”
I rip my arm free of his grip, anger rising up my chest. “Where’s the captain?”
He points to the helm. The captain stands gloriously at the wheel up on the quarter deck. He grapples the wheel like it’s a bear, struggling to keep us on course. He barks out orders, his men obeying without hesitation.
I haul myself to the quarter deck, clinging to the ship for stability as another wave tosses it recklessly aside. Rain pelts down into my eyes, making it hard to see. I almost crash into the captain himself.
“Captain, the gun deck is taking on water,” I say. “We’ll drown soon if nothing is done.”
The Captain looks at me and then back over the ship. He hangs his head, defeated.
“If the gun deck is taking on water, then there’s nothing left to be done.”
“What do you mean, Captain?” I ask. The blood drains from my face, expecting the worst.
The captain takes in a deep breath, cupping his hands around his mouth.
A few startled sailors look at him dumbfounded, the rest simply couldn’t hear. It only takes a moment before the command registers. The sailors shout to the others, scurrying wildly about the ship. Sailors abandon their posts and do as the captain says.
“PREPARE THE LONGBOAT!”
“LOAD THE WOMEN AND CHILDREN!”
A few sailors retrieve the passengers from below. I hurry down there to help pull them from the watery coffin. I fall as the ship is tossed by another unruly wave, scraping my wrists along the wood grain of the deck. I crawl the last couple feet over to the hatch to lend a hand to the women coming up.
The first face I see looking up at me is Cornelia and her three children. She smiles at me as I watch the sailors help everyone over to the emergency boats, loading them and a few small provisions. I stay, making sure everyone safely leaves the gun deck safely, that no one gets left behind.
Once the last person emerges, the sailor turns to me and tells me it’s time to go. I nod, ready. I stand on shaky legs, when a deafening crack echoes across the sky. At first it sounds like lightening, but the creaking and cracking continues. I search for the source of the noise. Sailors shout, running in all directions away from the center of the boat.
The main mast tilts, falling in my direction. I stand there frozen for a moment too long. I dive out of the way, but some debris knocks me in the gut and sends me hurtling overboard. I fall like a ragdoll to the ocean, smacking the water below. It knocks the wind out of me, like falling on solid ground. The mast crashes into the water beside me, barely missing by just a few feet.
The weight of the mast sinking in the water creates a vacuum that sucks me down with it. The current twists me until I don’t know which way is up or down. I kick wildly, trying to find the surface. My lungs feel the pressure, squeezing inside my chest until I think they might burst if I don’t take a breath soon. My arms paddle as hard as I can manage, desperate for oxygen. My throat tightens, trying to keep what little air I have left in my lungs.
Black spots start to creep in the edges of my vision. My arms and legs slow their pace, tingling as they fall asleep, until finally they stop moving altogether. I exhale. A few small bubbles escape, making their way to the surface. Salty sea water fills my mouth in their place, rushing into my lungs, burning the whole way down. I try to cough it out, but it’s impossible. I surrender to my fate.
An electric pulse shocks my body. It starts at my heart and radiates outward. It jolts me back to consciousness. Another shock passes through. I can feel it down to my toes. A third wave passes through and then a fourth.
My muscles cramp and tighten. I curl myself up as tight as I can, trying to block out the pain.
This must be what it feels like to die.
My mouth taste like blood and salt. My neck tightens until it feels like it might break. I try to kick my legs, but they only move as one giant mass. One final jolt of electricity pulses through me forcing my eyes to snap open.
And I can see.
I have a tail. A beautiful, long, shimmery mermaid tale. I touch one of the scales. It’s slick with slime just like a fish. My hand looks different. I bring it up to my face to examine it. Webbing runs between each finger on both hands. I gasp. I graze my neck with the tips of my fingers. Fleshy slices of skin stick out from my neck. Gills.
I don’t understand how this could be happening.
I kick my new tail as best as I can in order to get back up to the surface so that I can get a bearing on everything that’s happened. I resurface to find the ship in pieces. Chunks of wood float past me as the ship sinks deeper in the water.
It looks like mostly everyone has made it to the emergency boats except one. The captain floats by on a hunk of wood. He’s still breathing. I grab him and pull him away from the wreckage towards the boats.
I’m not sure I want anyone to see me the way I am, but I have to get the captain to safety. I recognize a face on one of the boats – Cornelia. I drag the captain over to her, hiding myself behind the boat where no one can see me.
“It’s the captain!”
I make sure that they pull him aboard before I swim away to look for more survivors. I may not know what is happening to me or how I survived, but I will use this chance to save as many as I can.
“Class of ’16!”
Graduates cram together in the mini mansion, filling up a mixture of soda and liquor in their red plastic cups. The city acts as the perfect backdrop, twinkling like party lights.
A witch snaps her fingers, making a tiny umbrella appear in her drink. A few people clap for her. She raises her drink.
“To all us modern witches, wizards, mermaids, vampires, and werefolk living in the big city,” she says.
A small circle forms around her. A vampire goes into the center next. He focuses his energy, making a hard squinty face and turning bright red. Slowly, his feet rise up off the ground. First a few inches, then a few feet. He floats high over everyone’s heads, spreading his arms out wide like a bat. Everyone claps and cheers for him.
A couple of werewolf kids get excited and run over to the circle. Dray watches as they shove their way into the lineup. Together they show off their gruesome transformation. A few squeamish people turn away, but a couple cheer them on. Eyes bulge out of their heads as their noses grow into muzzles. Hair sprouts all over their faces as they hunch down on all fours. Their arms and legs transform with a sickening pop. Two wolves trot away from the center, biting at the clothes that they were wearing before.
“Come on, Dray! Show us a magic trick!”
All eyes in the circle fall on Drayona. Her short black-brown hair curtains her face, hiding her wide smile. Dray tilts her half-empty plastic red cup in a scaly webbed hand.
“If you don’t, then you have to take a shot,” Everly explains.
“I know how magic circles work,” Dray says, shooting her an irritated look.
Dray groans, a migraine sprouting in the back of her mind. She swallows hard, her tongue dry and sticky in her mouth.
“Would someone toss me a water bottle?” she asks.
“Oh, here,” Everly says, smacking a water bottle against her gut.
“Thanks,” she says. “I’m dying over here.”
She uncaps it and chugs the water down in big gulps.
“Woah,” says Everly. “You drink like a fish!”
“Duh,” she says, then points to herself for added emphasis. “Mermaid.”
Dray stops, an idea formulating in her brain.
“Alright, watch close or you’ll miss it,” she says. She pours a little water in the palm of her hands, cradling them together like she’s holding a baby.
Alright, my darling, time to wake up.
She nudges at the water with her mind. Pushing it around until she feels it come alive in her hands. Slowly, the water in her hands begin to rise up in a sphere. It spreads out, gaining some fins and a long flowing tail. It turns into a beautiful little fish that swims through the air.
Dray peeks at the small crowd around her. She loves to watch their faces as they watch it swim by. They’re always so mystified and awed by its crystal-like appearance. A huge smile spreads across her face, revealing a big toothy grin.
Dray would love nothing more than to practice magic every day for the rest of her life. Unfortunately, that will never happen. Being a mage is considered a low class job. There’s no prestige in it. Because of that, her family, her friends, and her boyfriend would never allow it.
Dray’s heart sinks at the thought. She brings the fish back from the crowd. It does a backflip into Dray’s hands, disappearing with a splash.
The crowd applauds.
“Yeah!” Amber cheers. “Thas mah bess fren.”
Amber stumbles over to Dray and hangs onto her shoulder with all her weight. Her silky long hair is now in a shaggy ponytail, and her shirt is still damp from where she spilled her beer.
“Jesus, Amber, how much did you drink?”
She starts counting on her fingers.
“I los count ‘round six, som’where.”
Dray rolls her eyes. Amber never used to be like this. She started drinking heavily when her parents got divorced last summer. She used to be a nerd, always studying, prepping for college. Now she just doesn’t care. It’s like nothing matters to her anymore.
“Come on,” Dray says. “Let’s go lie down.”
The garage door crashes open, pounding against the wall. Laughter and smoke pour in from outside. A pretty little red-head clings to the arm of a muscular boy. She giggles, flipping her hair and pushing out her breasts. The red-head stands up on her tippy-toes to whisper something in his ear. A stupid grin spreads across his face as the girl trips, making her boobs jiggle.
Dray narrows her eyes at them, anger swelling in her chest. She stomps over to them, dragging Amber with her.
“God, Jason! What the hell are you doing?”
Jason slides away from the red-head like a cat slinks from a crime scene.
“Oh, uh, hey babe,” he says.
Amber’s head perks up. “Jaaason!” she exclaims. She wrestles herself from Dray and throws her arms around him. “You know wha’? I wass lookin’ fer you!”
“Is she…?” Jason starts.
Jason rubs his bloodshot eyes. “Here, why don’t I take her to lie down?” he asks, slinging her arm over his shoulder.
Dray glares at him. “Better you than me, I guess,” she says, silently relieved.
Jason scoops Amber into his arms like she weighs nothing, carrying her up the spiral staircase into the room upstairs.
She turns on the red-head, still standing off to the side. Dray gets right up in her face. “You,” she says. “Stay away from my man.”
The red-head rolls her eyes. “Or what?” she asks. She goes back into the garage and slams the door shut behind her.
Everly jumps up from her chair and smacks Dray’s arm playfully. “Let me see the ring!” she says. “I can’t believe I almost forgot about it.”
Dray laughs, holding out her hand. A glittering diamond ring sparkles on her left ring finger.
“Wow,” she says. “I totally lost it when Jason proposed to you! He’s so romantic! Dropping to one knee in front of the entire school!” She clutches her hands over her heart, remembering that moment. It’s hard not to giggle at her sweet disposition. She’s like a puppy.
“I know, right,” Dray says, smiling. “We’ve been together since freshman year. He fed me some cheesy lines about spending the rest of our lives together… I guess it was pretty sweet though.”
“So where are you guys going to go to college?” she asks.
Everly’s eyes almost pop out of her head. Eamon University is one of the Nation’s most prestigious schools. It’s extremely hard to get into, but she and Jason were both accepted. Jason had always planned on going to Eamon, but Dray hadn’t until they started dating. She worked extremely hard to produce good enough grades to get in, but she was shocked when she received her acceptance letter. Not even the valedictorian at her school was accepted.
“Well, I’m going to The Mage Academy,” Everly says.
Now it was Dray’s turn to have her eyes bug out of her head. She had always wanted to go there. The Mage Academy was the top school for aspiring Mages. Dray had secretly applied there too. Her acceptance letter was hidden under her pillow.
She sighs. “Shouldn’t Jason be back already?” Dray asks. “I’m gonna go check on them and make sure everything’s alright.”
She pushes the thought of school out of her head. It only hurt when she thought about it. It wasn’t a big deal if she didn’t go to The Mage Academy. Whatever she studied at Eamon would be better anyways. At least, that’s what she told herself.
She shoves out of her seat, and climbs the stairs, which seems to tip and sway like a sail boat in the ocean. She growls at them. “Stop moving!” she demands. She kicks at them in frustration, but ends up hitting her shin against the edge. She hobbles the rest of the way up, rubbing the lump on her leg. The hallway at the top of the stairs is more forgiving.
Amber is sleeping in the bedroom at the top of the stairs on the left-hand side. The door is closed and there’s no light coming underneath. Dray knocks and pushes the door open, wondering if Jason is even in there. The door swings open smoothly, as if it were inviting Dray inside.
Dray stops dead in her tracks, barely breathing. The blood drains from her face. Her heart stops beating.
Jason is lying on top of Amber, her legs wrapped around his waist. Dray stands there, dumbfounded, until the light from the hallway spilling onto the bed sends them into a panic. Jason turns in a rage to yell at the intruder to get out.
Jason turns to find Drayona instead.
Dray staggers back. The shock is too much to bear. She falls against the wall and slumps down to the ground. Tears pour down her face. Jason rushes out of the room, Amber trailing behind him.
“How could you do this to me?” she asks, her voice barely above a whisper.
Jason kneels in front of her, rubbing her legs, trying to comfort her. He pauses, looking away. Dray knows that whatever comes out of his mouth next will be a lie.
“It was a mistake,” he says. “It just sort of happened.”
He struggles to find the words to say, anything to save their relationship from crumbling right in front of him.
“I thought you loved me,” she says. Dray’s mind is reeling. She’s barely able to find the words to express how she’s feeling. Jason proposed to her earlier today, but now he’s sleeping with her best friend. Something doesn’t make sense.
Who would do something like this?
“Of course I love you, but you know how Amber is. She practically threw herself at me.” Jason tries to brush her tears away, but she can’t bare his touch. She cringes away from his hand and wipes the tears away herself. Amber walks out of the room, her blouse unbuttoned all the way.
“Somehow, I seriously doubt that,” she says. She pushes herself up off the floor. Jason tries to put an arm around her but she pushes him away and faces Amber directly.
“Drayy, em so ssorry,” she says, still slurring.
A fresh burst of tears streams down her face. Her chest heaves up and down, her blood boiling. “How could you do this to me,” she says.
“I didn’ mean… em drun–”
Dray slaps her across the face. Amber stands there stunned, her hand pressing against her cheek. Dray slips the ring off her finger, turns around, and shoves it into Jason’s hand.
“I’m not gonna need this,” she says. “We’re through.”
“Wait,” Jason says. “What are you saying?” He grabs her hand, trying to keep her from walking away. He’s not ready to let go. His eyes plead with hers, asking for another chance.
“I’m done, Jason,” she says. “I’m done pretending to be someone I’m not. Did you know that I never wanted to go to Eamon? You didn’t, did you? You were too busy pushing it on me to even care about what I wanted.”
“That’s not true,” he says. He rubs her hand, imagining the ring back on her finger. “I care about you very much.”
“No, you don’t,” she says, pulling her hand away. “If you cared about me at all, you wouldn’t let every pretty girl hang off your arm, and you wouldn’t be sleeping with my best friend.”
“B-but there has to be something I can do to make this up to you,” he says. “Just tell me what you want.”
“What do I want?” she asks. “I want to go to the Mage Academy. I want to be a Magician. And I want you out of my life. For good.”
Dray walked away and slammed the door behind her, never looking back.
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Chante Dodd is a fantasy author, blogger, and (future) YouTuber. She is currently studying Creative Writing for Entertainment at Full Sail University, while also working a full-time job. In her spare time, Chante is also writing two fantasy novels titled The Pirate King and Love’s Deep Sleep. The first is a medieval fantasy adventure, while the latter is an urban fantasy romance. You can follow her writing journey by reading her blog en[chante]d at .
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The Charming Tales Collection begins with "The Naïve Princess." A threat from a mysterious stranger has everyone on guard – except the Princess. She must learn to take life seriously, or face the consequences. The second story, "Ship Wrecked," features a plucky young woman who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Traveling across the sea has never been more dangerous than when caught in a tempestuous storm. In order to survive, she must rely on her courage to see her through the storm. The final story, "Heartbreak," features a young woman on the cusp of adulthood. She and her fiancé have just graduated high school and are celebrating the end of one journey and the start of the next in this urban fantasy tale. This coming-of-age story highlights that heartbreak doesn’t have to be an end, but rather, a new beginning.