Saturday Storytime: Sleeping Beauty

This story from Ian McHugh is light and fluffy and exactly what I was looking for as a chance.

Late-1800s charcoal drawing of a young woman reading a page she's pulled out of a wooden desk. Circular vignette.
‘Look to your defences, monster!’ he cried, in what he hoped was an authoritative tone.

‘That’s really quite hurtful,’ she said, but declined to lift her club again. Which, he had to admit, was probably for the best. The ogress had sprung to her feet with alarming speed when he entered the dell, and her pocked hide looked as if a siege engine wouldn’t dent it.

There were a couple of shields propped next to the cave mouth. Juan tried not to imagine what had become of their owners.

‘What do you mean “I’m holding them wrong”?’

‘Your weapons,’ she said. ‘You hit me holding your sword like that, you’ll just jar your elbow. And your shield’s too low. It’ll trip you if you have to back up.’

‘I…’ Juan stopped, not sure what he had been about to say.

If he was going to attack the beast, he should just do so. The ogress had rather unfairly wrested control of the initiative, he felt. He should at least try to wrest it back. His feet didn’t seem to want to move, though, and the sword and shield were getting heavier by the second.

A painfully familiar hot dread crept across his skin. Seeking escape, his gaze darted about the sheltered dell outside the ogress’s cave. It really was idyllic. The sort of scene he would have enjoyed painting, with the trickling waterfall feeding a little pool, which in turn overflowed into a tiny brook, framed by wild raspberry bushes, the whole scene part-shaded by the wide branches of an oak, leaning out from the top of the bank.

Juan’s gaze alighted on a woven mat and rumpled blanket where the ogress had been sitting. An incense burner was set on the grass by the mat.

‘Were you meditating?’

The ogress roared and lunged. Juan backpedalled with a squawk. The bottom of his shield caught the top of his greave. He flailed wildly with his sword and by chance connected with the head of the ogress’s club. The impact reverberated painfully up his arm and he dropped the sword.

Juan sat down with a thud. His shield clipped him under the chin and for a moment he saw stars.

When his vision cleared, the ogress was watching him with an expression of mixed amusement and concern. ‘This really isn’t your thing, is it?’

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Saturday Storytime: Sleeping Beauty
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