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[personal profile] jauncourt
This is part of a larger story, inspired by this incredible glass spinning wheel I saw online several years ago. The larger story is not anywhere near complete, and even the names of the characters and the time I want to set it in are in flux. I have descended into research. As I quite like research, I tend to wallow in it and thus avoid the actual work of assembling anything from it.

It is set in a fictional town in Occitania, some time in a nearly 500 year period. Right now it's sitting in the early Renaissance. Kind of. Maybe it needs to be in a sort of dreamtime. I'm not sure. Right now all I really have is a mass of notes, historical, cultural and linguistic research, a small note I found about a spinning Madonna in Catalunya, a picture of the glass spinning wheel and this fragment. This is really a manufactured fairy tale with heavy Christian influences, befitting the location and time.

Story below the cut. Critique welcome, I'm kind of at an impasse.

It had been a hard winter, stores were lower than usual, and the sick had only grown sicker. Fights had broken out between respectable tradesmen in the guildhalls, even the mayor and the lord at the manor had felt the pinch of winter's thin fingers. Things were desperate enough that the celebrations of Carnaval, with necessarily parsimonious feasting, would merely bleed into the imposed hardships of Lent.

So Old Mari celebrated the holiday by telling stories to the girls of the town after mass. On the porch of the church, she told the story of the girl who spun tears into light and silver:

Once, young ladies, there was a young prince, the only living heir to the crown. His parents despaired of his marrying and giving them a grandchild before they died – for he was the last child of their old age, and his brothers were lost to war. So his mother prayed and prayed to the Madonna to give her son some guidance in choosing a wise, kind, level-headed girl from among the spoiled noblewomen the courtiers and ambassadors paraded before him in hopes only of gaining alliances.

The Madonna granted the prayer, but in an unexpected way – instead of the headstrong prince changing his ways and assenting to choose a bride, a wondrous spun glass spindle appeared in the court. The king ordered it moved to the solar, but it would not be. The Queen knew at once that the spindle was sent by the Mother of God to help, and had the best silk, flax, and finest wools brought and laid next to it, and a stool with the softest cushion set beside.

The Queen consulted with the King, and he declared that all the young prince's prospective brides must sit and spin for a while to prove that they had been properly trained in the womanly arts. The foreign princesses, young heiresses and ambitious merchant's daughters grumbled, but each submitted to the test. One would try each day.

The first, a quiet young noblewoman, took silk and spun it into plain dark wool. She ran crossed herself and ran weeping from the room. Her chaperone confided to the queen that the girl did not want to marry the prince anyway as she had always desired to become a nun.

The next, a wealthy merchant's daughter, took wool and made knotted leather, complaining all the time. She saw what she had made and stalked from the room. This girl, whispered an advisor, only wanted to have the power that might come with marriage to the prince.

A third, the daughter of a neighboring ruler, took flax and from her fingers flowed tangled wires. She leaped from the stool and screamed of treachery and poisonous will towards her. After she and her retainers left, it was rumored that the failed alliance was only to be used to conquer their small kingdom.

The fourth took up the silk and it rotted away in her hands. She cried out and died on the spot, and later the King's doctor declared that she had been ill for some time.

This continued on for six days. Finally, the remaining girls stepped back from the spindle and refused to try, fearing that what it produced would reveal terrible things about them. The basket of strick and roving and silk was carried away to the solar from whence it had come. The crystal spindle sat untouched for three days and nights, until one morning, at dawn, a lowly scullery maid crept in from the kitchen to see the wondrous, magical spindle that revealed the true heart of the spinner.

There it laid, next to the stool with its cushion, lit by a single beam of mingled moon and dawn light. It shone. It looked like a blessed thing, a miracle.

She wept at its beauty. She shyly sat upon the stool, and wiping her eyes, began to pretend to spin. To her amazement, a fine silk-and-silver thread strung with tiny pearls began to flow from her fingers, onto the spindle. She feared that this was only a dream, but her tears fell on her fingers, and the thread kept flowing. She spun and spun, until the spindle was full, and wound it off and began again.

It was as if she was enchanted, she could no more stop spinning than she could stop weeping. Finally, when the spindle was again nearly filled, she lifted her eyes from her task to discover the entire court standing around her, watching in awe of the beauty that her fingers produced. Even the prince, who preferred his hunting to the wedding negotiations, stood and watched, in silence. She dropped to her knees and immediately began stammering out an apology and begging for their forgiveness.

The Queen bade her continue, and she shyly resumed the stool. The girl finished the second skein, wound it off onto her hands, knotted it, and still weeping with joy at the miraculous spindle, began a third. At this moment, the prince said: “I will marry this one.”

The court fell into a frenzy of scandalized whispering. Surely he could see that this girl was not of noble birth? Surely he could see that she was perhaps of good heart, but it was not her place to marry a prince? The mutterings, shouts and exclamations went on for some time.

The King signaled to an attendant, who stood and called for silence. “I believe the Queen has something to say to all assembled.”

The Queen rose, and said, “I prayed to the Virgin for guidance for my headstrong son, my last living son, that he might choose a bride before we, his parents, are no longer here to guide him. The Madonna sent this glass spindle. It clearly spins not what you hold to it, but from what is in your innermost heart.”

She paused, stepped down from the dais, and laid her slender hand upon the girl's bowed head.

“This girl, a simple servant, has shown us that she is pure of heart and a pearl of virtue. She has taken the spindle and made a dowry worthy of any princess from her own tears of joy. How can she be anything other than the right bride for my son? And how can I tell him that the Virgin's choice is not worthy of him?”

So it came to pass that they were married, and she sat by his side and managed the household as the new King managed the kingdom, and they had many children and lived to a great age in good health. The spindle was placed in a reliquary, but it has since vanished, probably back to heaven from whence it came.

So, my girls, be true of heart and you will find that which you most desire, be faithful and you shall live long and well.

And with that, Old Mari went back to her work and the young girls made their own ways home to celebrate how they might until tomorrow.
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