Challenge #2, “Rainy Days”

A crowd huddled under their large umbrellas near the taxi stand, trying to avoid the torrential downpour that soaked London’s cobblestone streets as they waited for the next hansom cab to arrive. “Beasts!” one lady murmured to her husband as muddy water splashed by street urchins threatened to sully her fine velvet dress.  On the fringe of the crowd stood a careworn young woman, dressed a heavy wool peasant cloak that covered her from neck to feet, tired head bowed under the heavy rain.
The muffled clop of soggy hooves finally made themselves audible over the pounding rain, and the people gathered ‘round the taxi stand surged forward slightly, peering through the damp, foggy night, attempting to see the arriving cab.  As the hansom slowed to a stop, a young, self-important young man pushed through the crowd.  “Coming through chaps!” the young man yelled, pushing the young woman aside and knocking her into a mud puddle.  He glanced at her, then laughed as he continued to force his way through the tightly packed crowd.  The cab rolled to a stop as he swung himself up onto the carriage block and slid in to the dry interior.  Around him, the gathered crowd cried out, but the young man stuck his umbrella out the open cab window, shook it off, and then waved as the hansom driver flicked his whip at the carriage horses, setting them in motion again.
“Ridiculous,” the young woman heard as she struggled out of the deep puddle, “he does this every time it rains.  Someone needs to do something about this!”

You’re LATE!” her father roared as the young woman managed to drag herself through a massive wooden door, dripping muddy water all over the fine rugs in the castle’s entranceway.
Erminaguilda, princess of the Dark Elves, bowed to her father Gwendimalivous, King of the Dark Elves.  As she eased up out of her bow, the cloak swung open to reveal a fine red satin dress, ruined from the mud and the rain.  “I’m sorry, Father,” she said softly, rising up out of the bow. Gwendimalivous looked her up and down, taking in her damp and disheveled state.
“What in the nine kingdoms happened to you?” he bellowed, pacing forward to push her damp red-gold curls out of her face. “You look like you’ve been swimming in Blackwood Pond! Never mind, I’ll never get a straight answer out of you, my daughter.” King Father clapped his hands and called for his mirror. A page slunk out of a side passage, staggering under the weight of a heavily framed hand mirror.
“Mirror, mirror, by my hand,” he said, bending closer to the page as the young boy held out to him, “Show me what has happened in this land.” The mirror clouded, then slowly revealed the scene. Gwendimalivous watched in silence as he watched the event at the taxi stand.
“Daughter,” he boomed, “why did you not take that young man to task?” he asked
“It all happened so fast, Father,” Erminaguilda said angrily. “He was in the cab and gone before I realized what had happened.”
“Well, then, we’ll just have to teach him a lesson, won’t we?” Gwendimalivous said, smiling broadly and showing off sharp, pointed teeth. Erminaguilda answered the smile with one of her own, green eyes glinting maliciously. “Yes, we shall.”

The following day, Erminaguilda stood regally at the taxi stand, garbed in a green brocade dress, kept dry by several umbrellas held by attentive pages.  Her father had made sure that today was equally as wet as the previous day.  She tapped a well-shod foot in impatience as she waited for her prey.
Hoof beats sounded in the distance, and as before, the pompous young man from yesterday ran into view and began to push his way to the front of the taxi stand.  As he was about to open the door of the hansom cab, Erminaguilda threw out a satin-gloved hand and commanded, “STOP!”  The young man stopped with his hand outstretched, an inch from the carriage door.  A puzzled expression washed over his face as he struggled to grab the handle of the hansom cab, but was unable move.
Erminaguilda strode forward, pages trailing behind.  The crowd parted before her, until she was standing at the foot of the carriage steps, looking up disdainfully at the young man.  “Sir, what do you think you are doing?” she asked scorn dripping from the words.
“I am taking this cab,” he said haughtily, and then took another look at the beautiful young lady staring up at him.  “Unless you’d like to take it, my lady.”  The young man’s smug expression morphed into one of instant infatuation.  Erminaguilda let a small smile play around her lips as the young man almost tripped over himself offering her the carriage, his home, his wealth.
“Yesterday, you laughed as you knocked me into a puddle,” Erminaguilda said, “and today you offer me the carriage?  What has changed?  I’m still the same person, just wearing my finery exposed this day.”  The young man’s face fell, and he spluttered apologies and asked for forgiveness.
“I think not,” Erminaguilda said.  “I think instead, I shall give you this gift:  From today, and until the day you learn to treat all people with respect, you will be unable to dry off.  You will walk around in your own perpetual rain cloud.”  As Erminaguilda finished her curse, the clouds covering the London sky broke open, and the sun shone through, except for the patch of sky above the hapless young man.  The crowed cheered as he ran down the stairs, the patch of rain following his every step.  “A fitting punishment,” Erminaguilda heard someone from the crowd murmur, and she smiled.  Someday the young man might learn his lesson and the curse would be lifted, but Erminaguilda was certain it would take a long, long time.

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Published in: on July 30, 2009 at 5:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

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