The Queen with the Four Thrones
The widowed queen had three daughters and four thrones. The red throne constructed of rubies by mountain trolls consumed the northern corner of the throne room. The queen looked down from the high throne when subjects came with complaints and requests. The people looked up to the maternal monarch.
The queen’s second throne in the southern corner was fashioned of emeralds by forest fairies. The queen could greet fellow nobility, consult with courtiers and supervise kitchen staff at eye level no matter what their height. Her eyes met others at an equal level.
A purple chair was hidden in the western corner. The queen’s mother (who had not been a queen) had stuffed the chair. The queen rested here when her neck tired of looking down from the red throne or from swiveling to meet gazes from the green throne. Even the princesses did not disturb their mother when she sat in the purple throne.
Very few had heard of the fourth throne. The wicker rocker was covered with a golden quilt made by the Old Weaver. It was set in the royal nursery. The queen used it to sing lullabies and tell bedtime stories.
In the year the princesses turned twenty, twenty-one and twenty-two, the queen became ill. Each day she spent more time resting in her purple chair. Minutes turned to hours turned to days. After a week of silence, the courtiers and servants begged the princesses to help their mother.
The oldest princess needed the queen no matter what color her chair. She wanted a new sword to fight beastly sea dragons. When she entered the throne room, her mother sat frozen in the chair. She glimpsed her mother’s face in the dim light. One eye was crying and one eye was laughing. The girl ran away in fear.
The middle princess needed a faster horse to ride and catch the silver hares that ran through the great forests of the world. She tiptoed across tiles careful not to step on a single crack. Her mother’s feet were jiggling and bejeweled hands twitching. The girl saw one eye laughing and the other eye crying. The queen lifted her arm threatening to strike the girl who ran from the room.
The youngest princess spent her mornings spinning thread, her afternoons gathering wildflowers and her evenings composing ballads and sonnets. She left her mother to heal in the purple chair. She approached after nineteen days.
She sang out, “Mother, you are not the same, Mother can I heal your pain?”
The princess walked across the mosaic of tiles revealing the history of her mother’s courtship, her father’s untimely death and two decades of peaceful maternal rule. When she touched her mother, the queen reached into her sash where every queen keeps her dagger. She swung as if to strike the girl who did not flinch.
The queen pulled back her weapon, “Why didn’t you run like the others?”
“I know you’ll never hurt me even when you’re in pain.”
“One eye is crying because I can’t be healed without sacrifice. One eye is laughing because you are my daughter.”
The youngest princess searched manuscripts and scrolls in the library for a cure. Although a unicorn’s horn could heal any sickness, unicorns were extinct. The princess asked everyone in the palace. The old cook recommended hot soup. The Old Weaver did not respond to her query. When she tried to ask her sisters, she learned they’d left the castle and found a note: Our godmother needs us, come quickly.
She joined them at their godmother’s cottage in the forest. Her bedside was lit by a single candle.
Their godmother asked each of them, “As I am dying, which would you prefer, my money or my blessing?”
The two older girls chose money and the youngest girl chose the blessing. After they buried their godmother, the oldest princess purchased a silver sword to battle the beastly sea dragons. The second sister bought a horse to hunt the silver hares. The youngest princess remained in the palace spinning in the morning, gathering wildflowers in the afternoon and composing her tales in the evening. The queen suffered in the purple chair unable to move her neck.
The servants would not serve the sickened queen so the youngest princess prepared meals. She spoon-fed the old queen. The queen would not sit in her red throne, greet subjects and grant their pleas for assistance. Without the queen’s protection, the villagers, townspeople and farmers moved away. The queen and youngest daughter ate dandelion soup. The princess traded finely spun thread for firewood.
Realizing they needed more food, the princess traded the thread for potatoes and chopped furniture to burn. The queen was free from pain only in the final hour each night when the princess sang the ballads and sonnets she’d written that day. The voice of the youngest princess comforted her mother to sleep. They survived for seven years until her sisters returned home.
The oldest princess wore a necklace of dragon’s teeth and the middle princess had a cape of silver tails from the hares she had captured. They brought gold and jewels. The oldest princess put on the red crown and sat in the red throne. Because the money returned, the people returned. The subjects paid tribute to the new queen. The middle princess took their mother’s green mace and sat in the green throne to manage the servants and the courtiers, greet visiting nobility. The youngest princess left to wander the world with her lute and stories.
Traveling through the world, she listened to tales in addition to sharing her own. Everyone knows storytellers are the best listeners. After seven years, she learned the cure for her mother’s illness and returned home. She gathered her sisters at the next full moon to brew the healing tea.
Storytellers have forgotten most of the ingredients. I know the oldest princess ground up the necklace of dragon teeth and the middle princess burned her cape to kindle the flame. The healing song composed by the youngest sister was sung in three-part harmony. After drinking the broth, the queen moved her neck freely. She carried her purple chair out of the throne room.
They lived happily ever after with four queens on four thrones. The oldest princess became the Red Queen ruling from the red throne. Her husband, the Red King, listened to requests and entreaties when she was busy battling dragons. The middle princess managed the castle from the green throne. Her husband, the Green King, sat in when she chased hares in the Great Forest. The youngest princess occupied the golden rocking throne telling stories to her nieces and nephews. The old queen sat in the purple throne in the nursery watching her grandchildren and nodding her head with every word of the stories.
Author’s Statement on Beauty
As a seventeen-year cancer survivor, I tell my family and friends I love them every day. I’m also eager to notice and comment on the beauty in the world whether in nature or in the people that I see. We are all beautiful. I have lost two hundred pounds and I am active in a social media site for people losing weight. Some members share their ‘before/after’ photos. They receive compliments about their transformations. I like to remind people they are beautiful ‘before’ as well as ‘after.’ As an artist, I choose to embrace my own beauty and see beauty around me and illuminate it for my audience. Noticing and appreciating beauty will bring you joy.
Laura Beasley, the Grandmother who Tells Stories, lives in California. More than twenty of her short stories have been published.