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There lived a king on a distant planet who treasured two things above all else: his three children, and a tree which bore fruit of gold.

It happened one night that a thief came and stole a fruit from the golden tree, unseen by the palace guards. The king, fearing as much for his life and that of his children as for his precious fruit, proclaimed that the thief must be caught at once: and whosoever brought them before him would win his planet’s throne.

The king’s sons were eager to please him, and all the more eager for the promise of kingship. They guarded the golden tree by turns: but each night the weight of sleep closed their eyes at last, and each night the thief came and went without any trace of their passing. At last the youngest prince cut a wound into his arm and rubbed it with salt, and the pain of it kept his eyes open through the night: and so, at last, he saw who it was that came to steal his father’s fruit.

But the thief, he saw, was not human. It had wings of starlight, and its body was like sun-flares, like the magnet-lights of the north and south: bright and burning, and flowing with the colours of prisms and nebulae.

Awestruck, the prince forgot the stunner in his hand. Only when it began to fly, again, did he think to shoot: and all he struck was a feather from its tail, which flickered and glowed as it drifted into his hand.

He ran after the shimmering star-bird as it flew from the palace garden, out into the wilderness far from his home, until the bird flew up into the sky and was lost among the stars.

The ships of his father could sail among the stars, but the trail of the bird was lost to him; nor did he remember the way home to his father’s palace. So the prince walked on through the wilderness sighing with despair, with the feather in his hand his only light.

Then there came a voice from the darkness: “I know what you seek, fair prince, and for the love of you I pledge myself to your aid. Come and take my hand, and I’ll bring you to the garden of cages.”

There in the shadows stood a stardancer: one of those cold dark creatures who travel from one world to the next without need for ships or air-suits, whose claws are long and whose teeth are sharp and many; but the prince had no fear, and took the stardancer’s hand.

In the blink of an eye the stardancer took him away to a world of flowers and trees. “There is the garden,” said the stardancer: “you must enter it alone. In a cage at its centre you’ll find the bird you seek. But take care, and touch nothing else you see!”

Through the gate the prince went, and there was the star-bird glimmering in a cage of gold. But all around it were a thousand thousand other cages, and a thousand thousand other birds, each of them as beautiful as the last, and he could not stay his hand from reaching for a second once he had the star-bird in hand.

At once a shrill cry went up through the garden, and a dozen guards with stunners drawn came to take him before their king.

“Please,” said the prince to him, “I am a king’s son as you are a king; have mercy, and do not kill me.”

“I’ll give you your life and the star-bird with it,” the king answered, “if you find for me the star-bladed knife, sharpest among all blades.” And the prince agreed to do as the king asked.

“Did I not tell you to touch nothing?” said the stardancer when he returned. “Yet for the love of you I shall help you once again. Come and take my hand!”

In the blink of an eye the prince found himself before a castle on a gleaming silver plain. “There in the armoury you’ll find the knife,” said the stardancer, “but you must enter the castle alone. Take care, and touch nothing, and none will be the wiser.”

Into the castle the prince went, and no one saw nor questioned him. In the armoury he found the star-bladed knife, which shimmered and glittered like wheeling galaxies, and was so sharp that his wit faltered before it. All round it were a hundred hundred weapons and tools, sickles and scalpels and axes, some forged of light and some of diamond: and he could not stay his hand from reaching for them.

At once a shrill cry went up through the castle, and a dozen angry guards came to take him before their queen.

“Please,” said the prince, “I am a queen’s son as you are a queen; have mercy, and do not kill me.”

“I’ll give you your life and the star-bladed knife with it,” answered the queen, “if you bring for me the maiden of the furthest planet’s moon.” And the prince agreed to do as she asked.

“Did I not tell you to touch nothing?” said the stardancer when he returned. “And has the maiden no say? Still: for the love of you, I shall help you once more. Come and take my hand, and I’ll take you to the furthest planet’s moon.”

There they found the maiden, and she was as beautiful as a hundred moons, a thousand stars. To see her was to love her, and love her they both did: and happily she loved them in return.

“I’ll not be the queen’s,” she said, “but I’d gladly be yours – if you both would have me.”

The greed in the prince’s heart gave way to love, then, and he said: “Let my father’s throne go to my brothers. What need have I of a star-bird, of a star-bladed knife?”

And the stardancer answered: “Come, and take my hands.”
Written for Flash Fiction Month 2018, day 16. This year I'm also fulfilling a challenge by an anonymous contributor - every character must be queer - as well as one by Teague-Drydan: At least half of the month needs to be fairy tale re-writes. Bonus if they aren't well known fairy tales. Fairy tale count: 9/16.

I've also been wrangled into taking on another challenge by joe-wright:
The All-Star challenge.
Over the course of FFM, your oeuvre must address the following items:
  • -Something somebody once told you
  • -The sharpest tool
  • -A finger and a thumb
  • -The shape of an L
  • -What does it mean to be 'fed to the rules'?
  • -A smart brain and a dumb head
  • -"You'll never shine if you don't glow"
  • -Definitive proof that all that glitters is in fact gold
  • -A shooting star that breaks the mold
  • -The meteor men, and the hole in the satellite picture
  • -Skating on thin ice
  • -The world on fire
  • -"Can you spare some change for gas?"
  • -An all-star, getting their game on, and going to play, or alternatively and perhaps easier, a rock star, getting the show on, and getting paid.
  • -Shrek
This is a retelling of the story found in "Tsarevitch Ivan, the Firebird and the Gray Wolf", "The Golden Bird", and "The Bird of the Golden Feather" (Syrian; found in Arab Folktales, translated by Inea Bushnaq). IN SPACE.

The rest of today's stories can be found here.

Edit 16.08.2018: Several minor changes, most importantly adding a phrase at the end to highlight the prince's choosing love over possessions and give some more weight to the ending. Thanks to those who pointed out the flaws, especially camelopardalisinblue and TheWarOfTheRing.

Wordcount: 1000.

If you've enjoyed this story, you may be interested in the collection of all my FFM stories this year: Beyond Dreams. You may also enjoy my FFM collections from the previous four years: Borrowed Strength, Ephemeron, Palalgia, and Changeling.
Add a Comment:
 
:iconjessamar:
JessaMar Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
What a delight... I love the ending.
Reply
:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2018   Writer
Thank you! :D
Reply
:iconinksoaked:
inksoaked Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
Oh, this is so lovely. Kindness. Goodness. Polyness. 
Reply
:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jul 18, 2018   Writer
These month-long challenges are conspiring to make me write the most wholesomest of all stories. :lol:
Reply
:iconinksoaked:
inksoaked Featured By Owner Jul 18, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
Wholesome is nice, imo.
Reply
:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jul 18, 2018   Writer
It is!
Reply
:iconscfrankles:
SCFrankles Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
It's such an inspired new setting for the story - echoing the applause for your use of description ^^"

Looking at the original story, the maiden seems to be almost equated with the horse and bird as treasure, rather than treated as a human being. Your ending is so touching - it's a charming new way for the prince and maiden to get together. The fact there's three of them in the relationship only goes to emphasise that she can't 'belong' to the prince - she chooses both of them entirely freely. 
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jul 18, 2018   Writer
The princesses-as-prizes thing is so common in fairy tales - I'm trying my best not to feed into that. I'm very glad to hear that the fact that there are three of them worked out that way here! Honestly, though, the biggest reason for it was that the fox/wolf/ghoul/stardancer's actions just make so much more sense if there's a being-in-love-with-the-prince motivation there. :lol:
Reply
:iconteague-drydan:
Teague-Drydan Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2018  Student Writer
Nice update.  As someone said, the end does feel a little rushed, but that happens in fairy tales: "Oh, hey, the kid's basically asleep, now's my chance--and the story ends.....THUSLY."
Reply
:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2018   Writer
This is true. :XD:
Reply
:iconteague-drydan:
Teague-Drydan Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2018  Student Writer
:lol:
Reply
:iconilyilaice:
ilyilaice Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2018
This thing is TEEMING with amazing bits of description, but this is my favorite part: It had wings of starlight, and its body was like sun-flares, like the magnet-lights of the north and south: bright and burning, and flowing with the colours of prisms and nebulae.

I love the ending as well. :heart: :heart: :heart:
Reply
:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2018   Writer
Thank you! :heart: This one was an amazing opportunity to play around with space fantasy descriptions.
Reply
:iconcamelopardalisinblue:
camelopardalisinblue Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
The end feels a smidge rushed, but all up I love this. :heart:
Reply
:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2018   Writer
The ending was definitely a bit rushed, partly because it was past two-thirty in the morning by the time I was finishing this, but largely because I ran out of words. I'll have to see if I can't smooth it out a bit before the month is out. I'm glad you enjoyed this overall, though!
Reply
:iconcamelopardalisinblue:
camelopardalisinblue Featured By Owner Jul 18, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
That's definitely a good reason for a rushed ending. On both parts!
Reply
:iconjoe-wright:
joe-wright Featured By Owner Edited Jul 16, 2018   General Artist
Oh my stars this is my absolute jam
Reply
:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2018   Writer
Fairy tale descriptions of space things are one of the best things in the world.
Reply
:iconnamelessshe:
NamelessShe Featured By Owner Jul 16, 2018
Oh prince, stop with the touching.

I love this so much.
Reply
:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2018   Writer
Under no circumstances should this prince be allowed into a room with a big red doomsday button that says DO NOT TOUCH.

Thank you!
Reply
:iconthewarofthering:
TheWarOfTheRing Featured By Owner Jul 16, 2018  Student Writer
Fabulous :D

Also goddammit prince, keep your greedy hands under control! At least he got what he really wanted in the end, though.
Reply
:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2018   Writer
Come to think of it, he learned a valuable lesson about greed by the end, what with giving up the other treasures and the throne and all. I might have to go back and highlight that a bit more strongly.
Reply
:iconthewarofthering:
TheWarOfTheRing Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2018  Student Writer
That'd be cool. People/love > power/treasure, it's a good angle. Most fairy tale protagonists just get both (the princess and the throne), unless it's an explicit parable about the dangers of greed.
Reply
:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jul 18, 2018   Writer
:nod:
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