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The Cursed Maiden

by Mage


The Cursed Maiden

After his most recent brief glimpses of her, he had come to the conclusion that the fairest in the land was also the most miserable. The days that he had seen her had been as beautiful as she was, yet she walked through the market with an incredibly dismal expression on her face.

He couldn't understand how such a feat was possible. Her dresses looked as if they belonged to royalty, and her hair was always styled in the latest fashions. Her skin was free of blemishes. She was so beautiful that at least five different princes had proposed to her, yet she always looked as if she was on the verge of tears.

These thoughts ran through his head as he knocked on the door to her quaint little cottage. He hoped that she wouldn't turn him down; her house was the only one in the near vicinity and there was a steady downpour outside of the overhang.

“Hello,” he hurriedly said. The sight of her lit fireplace taunted him as he continued to speak. “I was out for a walk when the storm started. Your cottage is the only one nearby. Is it alright if I stay through the storm?”

She looked him over with her miserable blue eyes, her gaze lingering on the puddle forming underneath his feet. “You can stay here,” she informed him. She stepped to the side and allowed him to enter. To his surprise, she jumped into the puddle moments after he had come inside.

The muddy water splashed onto her dress, but the stains disappeared almost as quickly as they had formed. With a brief and bitter sigh, she returned to the shelter her cottage provided.

He glanced down at his clothes as she led him over to the fireplace. He was tempted to sit down on one of the chairs, but knew doing so would mean getting it dirty.

She eyed the chair for several seconds before saying, “Sit down.”

“But I'll get your furniture dirty,” he protested. She was kind enough to let him stay in her house. Defiling her belongings by covering them in mud and water was a terrible way to show his gratitude.

She shook her head. “It's not like my clothes can get dirty if I sit in it.”

Rather reluctantly, he sat down.

As the two of them sat in silence, she ruffled her hair. He watched her do so with a mixture of confusion and interest. She repeated this action several times, but it always ended the same way. She would give him a triumphant grin when it remained messy, only for the grin to suddenly disappear when the hair quickly returned to how neat it had been before.

“Why are you doing that?” he finally questioned. “Why do you keep trying to get dirty? Aren't you grateful for the gift that witch gave you?”

The laugh she gave was as bitter as her sigh had been. “Gift? It was a curse two years ago and it still is to this day.” She leaned down and tried to tear her dress.

“She made it so you were the most beautiful woman in the entire world, Cora,” he said, exasperated. “If that's not a gift, then I don't know what is.”

The dress fixed itself as she returned to a normal sitting position. The eyes that were watching him were no longer miserable; they were filled with disbelief. She looked as if she had just awoken from a dream and was trying to comprehend the reality she suddenly had to adjust to.

“What if you were in my shoes?” she quietly questioned.

“Then I would be happy because I had been given clothes I would have never been able to afford.”

She shook her head. “I mean in the literal sense. What if you were the one wearing this dress? What if it was your hair that was in this bun, and what if it was your face that was covered with blush? What if every time you tried to get your dress dirty, it cleaned itself? What if every time you tried to undo that bun, it returned to how it had been moments before? What if every time you tried to clean off that blush, you would look into the mirror and see that it was still there?”

The thought of being forced to look like that terrified him; it was an unpleasant reality that he never wanted to live through. “I would demand that the witch change me back to normal,” he replied, despite his mouth feeling dry as he did so.

She crossed her arms and leaned back in her chair. “It doesn't work like that, Anselm. You're stuck like that for the rest of your life because that witch thinks you like it. She thinks it's a good way to pay you back for saving her life.”

“But I'm a man,” he protested.

“You don't get to play that card. She still thinks you'll be happier if you're dressed like some sort of princess.” Sunlight had begun to shine through the windows, but neither of them made any move to get up. “You know me better than anyone. We were best friends for years. You know that I feel uncomfortable wearing dresses.”

He shook his head. “But you're a woman! Women are supposed to wear dresses. Did you expect her to make you look like a prince instead?”

Her grip on the arms of her chair tightened, and a fierce anger flashed in her eyes as she watched him with a piercing stare. “Is there some sort of law that says women have to wear dresses?” She spoke in the same slow and careful way that one would speak if they were trying to explain something to a child.

“...No.”

“Then why am I forced to wear one?”

He sighed. “I don't know, Cora. Can't you just deal with it? I deal with it when I have to wear something nice-”

He was interrupted by the sound of her getting out of her chair. Before he could even ask what she was doing, she grabbed him by the arm and pulled him out of his. She was silent as she brought him to the door. After opening it, she threw him into the mud.

“What was that for?” he angrily demanded, rushing to get back to his feet.

She slammed the door in his face.

Glaring at the door, he yelled, “If you're going to be a spoiled brat, then I guess I won't ever visit you!”

“That's fine with me! I don't need the company of an ignorant farmer who can't understand his childhood best friend!”

He turned his back to the house and stormed back over to muddy path.

----------------

When she rode past his house on her horse, she was not surprised to see that the windows were dark. The last person to have seen him claimed that he had left town the day after their argument.

She couldn't understand why he had done so. When they were kids, he had always been afraid of leaving the town. She had given him many toys and treats in order to get him to explore the nearby forest with her. Even though that fear had mostly subsided as they grew older, he would never travel unless he had to.

But he's changed, she reminded herself. He would have understood her when they were younger; he would have comforted her and told her that things would turn out alright. Even if it had only been an empty promise, it would have been more than the cruel denial he had given her.

It still hurt. She had believed that he would be there for her. He always had been. With her parents gone, he was the only person she could go to. She had shown him the part of her heart that no one else had seen, only for him to turn her away.

“Cora!” a voice suddenly called out from behind her. She glanced over her shoulder to see who had yelled her name.

A very bedraggled man was running towards her horse. His clothing was old and torn, and his skin was littered with fresh cuts and bruises. The hazel eyes that watched her had bags underneath him. His dark brown hair, which went down past his shoulders, was messy and had several twigs in it.

She almost rode away.

But then he removed a glass bottle from the bag that she had made years ago; it was the same bag that she had given Anselm on his fifteenth birthday.

She dismounted her horse.

Upon reaching her, he took several large gulps of air. He looked as if he had been running from quite some time. “I'm sorry,” he apologized in between breaths. “I should have understood that it wasn't my place to be making judgment on what you want to wear. That's all up to you.”

Relief flooded her. Even though she was in the same unfortunate situation as before, she at least had Anselm to count on. “I'm glad you understand. I don't like being mad at you.”

“I don't like being mad at you either.”

She gestured at her bag. “Do you need some water? You look like you're out of breath.”

He shook his head. “There's more important things to deal with.”

“Like what?” she asked, crossing her arms and raising an eyebrow. She couldn't possibly think of what could be more important at the moment.

He held out the glass bottle. Now that she was closer, she saw that it was filled with a light blue liquid that fizzed and bubbled inside of the container. “After I realized how much of an idiot I was, I went to find the witch. I explained things to her. Once she realized that you were unhappy, she made me this.”

She grabbed it, her hands trembling in excitement. “Will it get me out of this dress?”

He shook his head. The joy that she had felt died away as she stared down at the bottle. “It will break the spell that makes you look like that no matter what you try putting on.” He removed several articles of clothing from his bag. “But that does mean you can change into these.”

They were clothes exactly like his own.

The smile she gave him was one that hadn't seen the light of day for more than two years.


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8 Reviews


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Wed Jun 21, 2017 12:56 pm
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Danni88 says...



I love this story! It is actually quite moving. My favourite character is Cora.




Mage says...


Thanks! I'm glad that you enjoyed reading it.



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Sun Jun 18, 2017 3:46 am
outvaders wrote a review...



Hey Mage, it's that guy outvaders again. I saw some short stories around, which is nice to review. Let's get right into the news.

Hoo, this story got four stars one day in. This must be good, right? I'm not too sure about that though. Because this story has good grammar and mechanics, it would seem solid to the ordinary reader. However, the goodness of this story's writing becomes superficial once you actually read it and compare it to other works, because the writing feels devoid of personality. It's drier than the Philippines in the El Niño season, and, being nearer the equator, it was already at the mercy of the sun's hottest rays to begin with!

The thing that your story lacks the most is mood. I'm reading Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and the thing that makes it so good is how he can set the atmosphere of the scene. Whenever Guy Montag is stressed, he makes us feel it. He would use unpleasant metaphors that reach out and seep into the crevices of the subconscious of the reader, then he would repeat words and repeat words like this, pounding in, pounding in, pounding in, pounding in how Montag felt as deep and disturbing thoughts streamed into his mind like a raging waterfall. Then there would be Montag and his wife, screaming at each other over the noise of the engine. It was madness, pure madness. Keep it down to the minimum! he would shout. What? his wife would shout back. Suddenly the car lurched forward, before accelerating to blinding speeds. All he saw were blinds and blurs as he held on for dear life. His writing style, diction, sentence structure and all become even more chaotic, even more distressed, even more unconventional to reflect the state of mind of the main character.

Your story, on the other hand, don't really have much going for mood. Your writing feels plain and boring like factual recount. You know that scene where she tried to mess up her hair? Its brevity does little to make me feel the mood of frustration. Hasn't she been dealing with this crap for two years?

That scene where she ex how inconveniencing how it was to live like she did. On top of trying to undo the effects of the curse a few moments prior, she is explaining its implications to a thick-headed guy who actually thinks it's cool to be this flawless all the time. I don't feel any underlying irritation. The dialogue came off as a little unfeeling.

That scene where he realized how much it sucked to be this flawless all the time. It simply said "the thought of being forced to look like that terrified him." However, I don't feel his terror. I did not see the "unpleasant reality" that he imagined.

It just doesn't feel emotional. There's simply little mood in your writing.

While we're still on the topic of dry writing, I want to point out how unimaginative your descriptions are. When you described the titular "Cursed Maiden," you said that "her dresses looked as if they belonged to royalty," and that "her hair was always styled in the latest fashions," among other generic descriptions. The effect of using these is the reader imagining a half-baked Marie Antoinette-looking thing, or whatever stereotypes he has about royalty. It doesn't help grind in how beautiful she is.

Had you made the descriptions richer, the reader would have imagined something more exquisite. Maybe a sky blue dress that had little diamonds in between the frills, or a face that was as smooth and white as milk, or a tight bun that always remained pristine and dandruff-free, despite the environment she lived in. That would way more fun and imagination-stimulating than those boring descriptions you used. It doesn't necessarily have to be long, but it has to establish the beauty the main character possesses.

If you lose your way, just remember this pro tip: art is all about eliciting an emotional response. Determine what you want the reader to feel about this scene, then manipulate words to make them feel that way.

I've pretty much been desensitized by this story's dryness, so I'm not gonna bother with whatever message you have, or anything else about the story. Actually, I've still got to rant about the unnatural exposition in dialogue. In paragraph 14, she says that her beauty was "a curse two years ago" after her friend asked why she keeps trying to dirty herself. Doesn't he know about this already? I mean, he knows about the witch, so it's unlikely he doesn't know when she became cursed. On top of that, word tends to spread fast in the country.

Please don't have the characters tell each other things that they already know as a form of exposition. It breaks the immersion and it often comes off as lazy. Some lines came dangerously close (like the one she said when he was kicked out), but I found them justified and natural. I still felt that "exposition dump" vibe though, so I thought I'd let you know about this, kind of like a little reminder to be careful.

There's one last thing I want to talk about, and that is your drawings for your novel characters. Though it ain't related, it's bugging me. I apologize if I come off as harsh, but I'm going to keep this short: they're bad. They look like they were made by the hands of a third-grader. If all of that was just a farce, then I think you did a good job. If not, then you might want to get a little better.

Anyways, that's the end of it. I hope I was able to articulate how I felt about this story very well. If not, don't hesitate to tell me. I want to be as clear as possible so that you know what to improve on and stuff like that. There's nothing left to say, so I'm signing out.

Have a good day, wherever you are.

-outvaders




Persistence says...


Hello. Your comments about Mage's drawings are uncalled for. You're entitled to your opinion about their writing, but their drawings have nothing to do with this story, and little to do with writing in general.

If they're "buggging" you, just unfollow Mage and don't look at them. If you've got "pro" tips about their drawing as well, I'm sure they would be welcome. But saying things like the "third-grader" thing isn't helping anyone. "You review like a third-grader; you might want to get a little better." I might think that of you, but is saying it (especially on something unrelated) helpful?

That was a rhetorical question. Goodbye.



KaraStevens says...


Wow outvaders. That comment really WAS uncalled for. I'm on my phone and I'm sneaking it so I don't want to make a long comment but I want to see YOU draw one of your characters and post it on YOUR wall. A little positivity please. I remember the comment you put on Hospital for the Traumatized. I didn't tell you this but I went into a corner and cried. It's because you are SO harsh when reviewing and SO harsh in your commentary that you make people feel bad. So I say this: you review like a rude third grader. A little positivity and examples for any bad grammar would help for one. For another, you could just not say any rude comments about someone's artwork. Or any rude comments at all.

I'm disappointed in that comment that you said there. Very disappointed. I thought you were a nicer guy than that review that you gave me. I guess I was wrong.--

Kara



Mage says...


Hello, outvaders.

I want to start this reply off by informing you that I appreciate how much time and effort that you put into this review. However, that I appreciate about it. As others have said before me, you are certainly entitled to your own opinions about the work of others.

But this was a review of my short story, not of my ability to draw a picture. If you had wanted to help me improve my art, you could have sent me a PM or left a reply to one of my posts where I had a picture.

That's only touching on the lack of relevance to this review. Telling me that I draw like a third grader is both unhelpful and very, very hurtful. Though I doubt this was your intention, I felt horrible this entire morning because of the way you worded your uncalled for critique. I was unable to draw or write - both of which were things that you were trying to help me improve. I also gained nothing from that comment. You only told me that I essentially sucked. You didn't offer a single word of advice.

In the future, please remember the effect that your words - whether they be about someone's art or their story - can have on a person. As a writer, you should understand the power that you have.

Never abuse it.

Use it to help others in a positive way.



outvaders says...


Ayy, thanks very much for your dissents. I appreciate it, and I've been thinking about it all day.

I've got a lot to say, but time is of essence right now, so I'll get straight to the point. I'm sorry, Mage, Kara and Persistence, if my poor expression of myself caused you unnecessary hurt. I hope you can forgive me for that.



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Sat Jun 17, 2017 2:11 pm
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PrincessInk wrote a review...



Hey Mage! I'm just leaving a review on your piece.

So I enjoyed the way the story took a spin on "beauty". Especially the "what if a woman HAD to be impeccably dressed and beautiful all the time"? That was a fascinating idea and the end was nice too--it's not like you can quite break the spell, but you can be happy anyway. What interested me most was about the unique aspect on beauty--it made me think of it in a new way!

What I want to talk about most is the characters. I really like Anselm. Even though he's a bit sexist, that's part of his character arc--at first, he thought "Women HAVE to wear dresses" and the end "Cora, wear some clothes like mine". He's also a bit tactless but then he's the one saving Cora from her misery. His character arc is SO strong--yet I feel a little touch of recklessness still in him.

But I was a bit disappointed with Cora. I feel like...she's doing not much things. This reminds me a bit of the "damsel in distress" trope. While I'm not saying that the plot should subvert the trope and have Cora get Anselm out of some trouble, is there anything Cora can do while waiting? I see her jumping into the mud puddle, ruffling her hair over and over again. Maybe she could go to desperate lengths. Maybe she could try to give herself an ugly haircut or something like that.

At the end, it's Anselm who does the thing--goes to the witch and begs her to do something about Cora's curse. And because of that, I don't feel Cora's desperation to rid herself of the curse as much as I should. Did she run to the witch and plead for the witch to lift the curse? Or do something along the lines of that?

The first line of your story is a great hook. The fact that the loveliest is ALSO very miserable was something really fascinating that kept me reading. Just another sentence-by-sentence level comment here:

He was interrupted by the sound of her getting out of her chair. Before he could even ask what she was doing, she grabbed him by the arm and pulled him out of his. She was silent as she brought him to the door. After opening it, she threw him into the mud.


This can be shortened quite a bit too:

Cora rose up from her chair and yanked him out. She was silent as she pulled him over to the door, flung it open, and threw him out into the mud.


Well, I believe that's all I've got to say here! Hope this helped, and feel free to ask questions if you have any!

Image




Mage says...


Hi, PrincessInk! Thanks for the review!

I didn't think of the damsel in distress part, but I definitely see it now that you've brought it up. I tried alluding to how she did try asking the witch to return her to normal, but I'll make it more clear in my revisions. Would having Anselm say that hearing another person say how bad it was helped the witch change her mind on the situation?

Thanks again for the review!



PrincessInk says...


I think so! I can easily imagine the witch being horrified once she understands what are the consequences of her "gift" :)



Mage says...


That's good! This whole conversation made me realize I have the perfect opportunity to tie this story into the short story I'm currently working on. I don't think I'll mention the connection in the story, but I'll definitely talk about it outside of the story!

Thanks again for everything.



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Fri Jun 16, 2017 8:48 pm
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Elijah wrote a review...



Hello there!Eli here! Pretty much my first review from such a long break and I can tell I will need more time until school finishes and all so I get more time to spend here if that is possible of course. The first that popped up in front of me when I opened the window was your piece so I decided to give it a try and you gave a short but wonderful and fulfiling story that I did not expect. It is around midnight so excuse me if I make no sense. I still will say what I love in this piece. Most of this review will be chit chat.

I want to now say that I might have not understood some parts the way you have wanted me to but I do not think it matters so much as understanding something from the story overall.

We start the sweet story with simple sentence of a beautiful lady in a small town. You greatly describe how her looks oppose what is actually hiding within her. Sad but wonderful description of a two sided story, blessing for some and curse for others, her included.

One main thing that I noticed which is good is that you have not forgotten to show the reader when a certain time of the story starts and ends. It is important to part your story to small scenes let's say so we can climb up the storyline and actually understand what is happening when, which event is after or before which other event. This helps a lot to also imagine and time the whole situation. In your story, it is not that bad if you did not part them I guess because in your second part after the sectioning you mention when it is happening compared to the previous scene. But that does not make it unneeded.

One other thing I want to praise about is, sorry this whole review is only positives but what to do heh, is that you also do not crash two million lines in one whole long as heck paragraph. I will speak for my own self but I am sure I am not the only person that feels that way. I think that the reader would rather read a long story in small sections than in one handful paragraph. I might be wrong about this one. But it also looks so much better, it is not forced in one full thing. It is sectioned and everything has place. Big perfectionist I guess I am.


“But I'll get your furniture dirty,” he protested.
“I would demand that the witch change me back to normal,”


Pretty much the only thing that I want to ask about. Maybe something I am not familiar with, pretty possible! The comma in the end of the speech bubble much means that you will be continuing this character's words. They will say something after that, after an event, an action, but they will go on. Maybe after a pause. Something happens and stops them from talking. Anyways, I made sure to track and those two and example of places when the comma is not needed in my opinion. There was one more place but I do not find it needed to add it here, if you want to correct it, you can find it easily!

I loved the slightly sad but realistic side of the male character, the pretty sexist part about the dresses being for woman and them needing to wear them even when they do not feel like it. It showed how some men really thing, and it seemed to be more old century story so it suits the time of it as well. Strong female mains are never bad!

The ending was very sweet, I love ending sentences. Simple and short but they always have that meaningful thought hidden in them.

Keep on writing!




Mage says...


Hi, Eli! Thanks so much for the review! I'm really glad that you enjoyed reading my short story. And I think your midnight review is really good!

From what I've read of your review - I skimmed over it when I first got the notification - it looks like you understood the parts the way that I was hoping you would!

I love broken up paragraphs too, so I don't think you're alone!

Thanks for pointing that out! From what I've read about correct dialogue, you are right when there is more dialogue after the dialogue tag. But if the action has to do with speaking - like "she shouted" or "he exclaimed", then you can put the comma at the end of the dialogue if it should end in a period! But I'm not a hundred percent sure on that, so I suggest checking it out! ^_^

I'm glad that you liked the characters! Some of the people I know have given the same responses that Anselm does to Cora's points.

I love them too!

Thanks for your review again!



Elijah says...


You are welcome!!




Once you have read a book you care about, some part of it is always with you.
— Louis L'Amour