Issue No. 2, Autumn 2012

Rothbart’s Swan
Ashley Parker Owens

Once upon a time, when the bitter cold wind froze the edges of the lake, luck fell into Rothbart’s mouth like a ripe cherry. A young maiden became his prized possession. Of all the peculiar possibilities, she was a swan during the day, and returned to her original maiden form at night. Folklore told that only a blood-line prince could break the wicked brilliant spell.

In the morning, when her skin returned to white down and feathers, leaden bracelets on her ankles ground her so she wouldn’t tire herself by flight. She was a queen dressed in white, feathers adorning her sweeping angel wings, long neck like a stretched out model. Her torso resembled Marilyn Monroe’s white dress blown wide around her hips. She freely spent her days on the lake, pure-white plumage against the snow. Ice on her wings glistened in the sun; each white feather outlined by an azure blue shadow.

At dusk when she became human, he met her with a feather robe to cover her nakedness. As a human, her white tender skin was smooth, her arms graceful and skinny as a swan’s neck. Feather boas adorned her wrists until she was safe and secure. At night, the sheen of her sweat on alabaster skin turned orangey from the fire. His mind trembled with glory; ownership filled his desires.

Each time he violated the swan, he licked her neck, salty with tears from the lake. He would remove a feather, rip it right from her hide. If she was in human form, he had to hide his discontent with only a single hair as a souvenir.

She cried in the beginning, pale little thing. After a few months, she just stared blankly like a broken doll, at last content in the security he provided.

They were so satisfied then. The changes at dusk and dawn satiated them.

When the prince discovered her location and came to save her, he never made it through the woods, choosing instead to bleed out in the snow.

Ashley Parker Owens lives in the hills of Kentucky, where the gnomes are. She has lived in San Francisco in an ashram, and in Chicago where she helped with the Second Underground Press Conference and was the editor of Global Mail. After the successful publication of Gnome Harvest by Double Dragon Publishing, Ashley is currently writing the next novels in the series.