12.14.2010

Painted Birds (Part Two)

Before I post the rest of my story, I just wanted to remind you that tomorrow is the last day of my contest :) I'll probably be picking the winners when I get home from school so be looking through your inbox! You won't get the book if you don't reply to the email I send out so be sure to do that! Here's the rest of the story:



The journey from the farmhouse to the capital was two days. During those two days the girl and the caged bird became great friends. The girl told the bird the most wonderful stories and in return the bird would sing the most beautiful songs.


When they arrived in the capital, the little girl was awed at the size of the castle dominating the landscape. She had never seen anything so large or so grand. There were many people crowding the streets of the city, all of them trying to catch a glimpse of the girl they had heard so much about, who was so talented that their queen had summoned her.

The queen herself was waiting to meet the girl on the steps of the castle. “Hello child,” she said cheerfully when the carriage the girl was riding in came to a halt. “You are the painter?”

The little girl stood and curtsied like her mother taught her. “Yes your majesty,” she replied in a small voice. The queen smiled. “Excellent. Well come on. Come paint me a picture.”

And with that, the queen turned and began climbing the steps. The girl held back for a moment before following the queen into the castle, birdcage in hand. The girl couldn’t help but let her mouth drop when she walked through the doors. The doors led into a great, wide hall. The floor was made of carefully cut tiles arranged in the image of a blooming rose, the ceiling was high and rounded, and the walls were adorned with beautifully embroidered cloths.

She followed the queen to the far side of the hall where sat a rich purple throne. Beside it a blank canvas and a set of paints awaited. The queen sat herself upon the throne then gestured to the blank canvas. “Paint me a picture,” she repeated.

The girl gave a small curtsy once more then proceeded to the canvas. She held the provided brush in her hand, hesitating as she felt the unfamiliar handle and weight. She wondered what she should paint, then with a small smile, she dipped the brush into the bottle that held the vibrant green paint. The queen watched her intently, marveling at the image that seemed to flow from the girl’s brush. The blank edges of the canvas were filled within minutes. The girl stood back and admired her work, then stood aside and turned to the queen. The queen silently observed the painting then smiled. “What is your name my dear?” she asked.

“Madelyn,” the girl replied in a quiet voice.

“Lovely.”

The queen rang a bell, calling a maid to her side. “Show Madelyn to her room,” She ordered.

And so the days passed. Every morning Madelyn was summoned from her room and required to paint for the queen. Every day after she painted she would be sent back to her room. She wasn’t sure what the queen did with the finished paintings; not that it mattered anyway. Every night after the queen dismissed her, she sat by the window and told the bird in the cage about her day and about how much she missed her home, and the bird would then sing her to sleep. The monotony continued for three long months before the girl decided she wanted to send for her brother.

In the middle of the night when Madelyn was sure everyone in the castle and the city outside, she crept to the window and silently slid it open. The cool night air gently caressed her face as she unfastened the latch on the door of the birdcage. The small bird inside rustled its wings, anxious to be off. The door opened and the bird hopped out onto the windowsill and launched into flight after pecking the girl affectionately on her smallest finger. Madelyn watched her friend disappear into the night, then tip-toed her way back to her bed.

Madelyn eagerly awaited the arrival of her brother and did little to hide her excitement. She painted pictures of birds in flight, and of the little farmhouse she hoped she would soon see again.

A day passed, then turned into a week, which turned into a month and no sign of the bird or the girl’s brother was seen. What she didn’t know was that the queen knew of the girl’s plan and did not want to lose her painter. She set a guard outside the city walls to catch the bird and ensure that it never reached the recipient.

As the months began to pass, Madelyn began to realize that something had happened, that her brother wasn’t coming.

A year passed, and then another, and still no sign of the bird. Madelyn took to painting birds, lost in the clouds, perched in strange trees. The queen, who had never particularly liked birds, quickly grew tired of the endless hoards of them springing into existence from the paintbrush wielded by the girl. After what seemed like the hundredth bird, the queen had had enough. “Paint me something else,” she demanded, but try as she might, Madelyn couldn’t seem to paint anything but birds. The queen glared at the painting and sent her away without speaking.

The next morning when the girl was summoned the queen was sitting in her throne with a satisfied sort of look. She had something covered with a cloth on her lap. Madelyn curtsied as usual but instead of waving her to the blank canvas like she normally did, the queen beckoned her closer. “Come here dear,” she said, “I have something to show you.”

Curious as to what that might me, Madelyn walked up to the queen’s throne. The queen gestured for the girl to look at thing covered by the cloth. With a flourish, the queen pulled the cloth off. Madelyn’s eyes grew impossibly wide at what she saw. It was a birdcage, ugly and plain, and inside it was a little bird, her little friend. She looked up at the queen in shock. “I’ve had enough with your wretched birds,” the queen said, her voice deadly quiet. “I will give you six days to paint me something that is not a bird. If I see another bird, this one dies.”

The queen then dismissed her and she stumbled back to her room in a daze. Almost mechanically she went about her room, pulling out paints and canvases without really paying attention to what she was doing. Finally she knew why her brother hadn’t come, and she felt an odd sort of relief, knowing that nothing had happened to him. But at the same time she was engulfed with dread. She didn’t want her little friend to die, and if it did die there was a good chance she would never go back to the farmhouse that was her home.

With that thought, she began to paint. She painted and painted until the room was dark and she could no longer see what she was doing. She sat by the window and rested her head against the cool glass. Not one of the paintings she had painted today was without a bird. She decided she would have to do something.

When the castle was dark an all were asleep, she crept from her room and made her way to the queen’s chambers. She pushed open the door, wincing when it creaked. On a table beside the queen’s enormous bed was the birdcage, once again covered by a cloth. Madelyn darted to the table and snatched the cage then sprang from the room like a fleeing rabbit.

The moment she entered her room, she went to the window and flung it open. She yanked the door of the cage open. “Go. Go fetch my brother,” she whispered to the bird. It sprang from the cage and into the night. Madelyn said a silent pray that the bird would reach her brother.

Madelyn spent the next three days in her room, painting birds. Her room was nearly full of them. On the third day she heard a little tapping noise at the window. She went to investigate and saw her little bird. She smiled. Her brother would be here soon.

The next day was the eve of the day Madelyn was supposed to present her painting to the queen and she still hadn’t managed to paint anything other than birds. After a few attempts, she abandoned the hope that she would create something new and retired to her bed.

Early the next morning, before the sun had risen, she was woken by the sound of tapping at the window, though not the gentle tapping of the bird. She found herself once again flinging the window open. She stuck her head out into the crisp morning air and saw, standing below her, her brother with a handful of small stones. She watched him scale the wall then pulled him through her window. Once he had caught his breath she flung her arms around him. “I knew you’d come for me,” she said.

“Of course,” he replied with a small smile. “But tell me, why didn’t you send for me earlier?”

She told him how she had released the bird and then waited and waited for him to come. She told him about all the bird paintings and how the queen showed her the caged bird and told her the bird would die if she didn’t paint something new. A twinkle appeared in her brother’s eye as he examined the room full of painted birds. “Come,” he said quietly, taking a few of the paintings in hand then walking out the door. She took one of her own and followed him.

“Where is the queen’s chamber?” he whispered. Madelyn led him down the hall and showed him the big door. “Here,” she said.

He pushed the door open with ease then beckoned her to follow once more. He took the painted birds and arranged them around the sleeping queen. One more trip back to Madelyn’s room and the queen was surrounded. He closed and barred the door once he and his sister were safely on the other side. He chuckled to himself as they walked back down the hall and climbed out the window. “I reckon she won’t be bothering you anymore,” he said. Madelyn laughed quietly in response then smiled as her little friend flew out the window after them.

Read part one here.
Thanks for reading and good luck to everyone!

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