Just a little christmasy ficlet based off a german folktale. Minor frerard.
love love love xoxoxoxoxoxo
Once upon a time, many years ago, there lived a young count near the ancient city of Strasburg, on the river Rhine. The young count was named Gerard and there was no one more handsome to be found in the whole country. His skin was smooth and pale, his hair a raven black that shone in the light. His eyes were framed with thick black lashes and his iris’s sparkled with browns and hazels and greens and golds. He was a rich count, and powerful too, though not unkind. Many a fair maiden had tried to make advances at the count, but though the land was full of beautiful women the count never married, and people began to whisper behind his back, calling him “stone-heart”.
Our story begins on one faithful day, when the sun was low and the land frozen in winters caress. The date was December 24th, and all across the land people were excited for the coming of Christmas day. The handsome count looked from outside his castle at the surrounding woods and called for a hunt to take place within them for he and his guests.
So it became that the count and his brother and their many guests changed into their riding clothes and gathered their weapons, their horses were saddled and bridled and together they galloped into the woods with much laughter and shouting.
The hunt went on for most of the day, chasing down winding woodland tracks and through snow covered pine trees with much excitement. Count Gerard allowed his younger brother to lead the chase, while he himself brought up the rear. But as the excitement grew and their quarry came closer the count found himself falling away from the group.
Count Gerard slowed his horse and looked down from his mount to try and find the tracks of the group upon the ground to follow, but the cold mud was much too hard and there were no prints to be seen. Confused as to how he had managed to be left behind so easily, Gerard allowed his horse to trot at a steady pace through the trees in the hope of coming across the hunting group again soon.
Time seemed to drag for the count as he wandered through the trees, his ears straining for the sounds of his companions yet the trees were deadly silent. Eventually the count came across a blue, bubbling spring which he knew as the “fairy well”, a place children often came to in the summer.
The count smiled and dismounted from his horse, drawn to the bubbling water like a fly to honey and he rolled up his sleeves before plunging his hands into the icy blue liquid. But to his shock, despite the freezing weather, the water was pleasantly warm and seemed to caress his skin as he allowed it to flow through his fingers.
The count felt a strange, powerful joy soaring through his veins and he leant forward, pushing his hands deeper into the water so that it came right up to his elbows, and as he spread his fingers in the warm liquid he fancied that he felt a hand, soft and warm clasp his own, lacing their fingers.
With a gasp of surprise Gerard fell back, and as he did so he felt those gentle fingers sliding his gold ring off his own finger, but he had barely registered it was happening before he was lying on his back on the frozen ground.
For a long moment Gerard lay staring up at the branches above him before slowly sitting up. He tensed his arms and rolled his shoulders but found that he was quite unhurt. His hands and arms were dry as if he had never touched the spring, but when he looked down at his right hand he found that his golden ring was indeed gone.
Gerard stared with wonder at his hand for a long moment before slowly getting to his feet and walking over to the spring. He leaned forward and peered into the water but it was so beautifully blue that he could not see into its depth. He tipped his head from side to side, hoping to see a flash of gold in the light but there was no sign of his ring, and it was likely to have been carried downstream by the current by now.
With a soft sigh the count decided he would simply have his servants come and empty the spring in the morning in the hopes of finding his ring, though the gold was the last thing on his mind as he remounted his horse and began to make his way back to his castle. Could it be possible that he had merely imagined the hand that held his own, and removed his ring?
When count Gerard finally returned evening was setting in and his brother and guests had already sat down to eat. The deer they had caught had been cooked and carved and Gerard felt quite hurt that they hadn’t even noticed he wasn’t with them. When he sat down at the table they realised he had been absent, and only laughed when he explained he had become lost. He did not tell them about the spring, and no one remarked on his missing ring.
Gerard retired to his room early that evening, exhausted after his long day in the woods and he left his brother to entertain their guests for the night. He walked through his living chamber and into his sleeping chamber, kicking off his boots and collapsing, fully dressed as he was, onto his couch and fell asleep within an instant.
As he slept Gerard’s dreams were troubled by the mysterious happenings of the day and he tossed and turned upon his couch late into the night, clutching at the silk cushions and mewling quietly. From outside the watch dogs began to bark, and their hoarse baying woke the count from his restless sleep.
With a jolt Gerard sat up, feeling disorientated as the dogs suddenly fell silent and the creaking of the drawbridge reached his ears. Gerard raised his eyebrows and rubbed at his eyes, making sure he was fully awake before he swung his legs off the couch and sat very still, listening intently for the sounds of intruders.
After a short while there came the sound of many tiny people running lightly up the stairs from the ground floor and the count gasped, waiting to hear where they went and he sprung to his feet when he heard the footsteps enter the chamber attached to his room.
The count looked around for a weapon but paused when the sound of music filtered through into his room. The music was unlike anything Gerard had ever heard before, it was the most beautiful, delicious melody and he felt quite safe all of a sudden.
Turning to face the door Gerard saw that golden light was shining from beneath it, and as he took a step forward the door sprung open, inviting him into the next chamber where the beautiful music was coming from. Gerard eagerly rushed into the living chamber and gasped at what he saw.
All of the furniture had disappeared, leaving plenty of space for what was happening. There were countless numbers of beautiful people dancing to the music around a splendid pine tree, quite small considering some of the ones in the forest, but it stretched right up to the ceiling, and sparkling upon it were hundreds of beautiful items.
Strings of pearls hung from the branches, diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, all kinds of gems you could imagine twinkled from within the green pine needles. There were belts made of silk and embroidered with gold thread and oriental pearls wrapped in the gaps between the branches. Silver daggers mounted in diamond dangled from the branches, gold bracelets covered in rare stones hung about the boughs, and dotted all about the tree were tiny shafts of light, as if the stars from the night sky had been plucked right out of the velvety darkness and placed within this magnificent tree.
The figures that danced around it seemed to glow with a soft silver light, and they smiled and laughed as they moved, the tree swaying slightly perhaps from the weight off all there was upon it, but it looked to the count as if it were dancing too. The little people that danced to the gorgeous music had upon their backs some form of shimmering, pearlescent material, and it took the count a long moment to realise that they were wings pressed to their bodies as they bounded around.
My God! Gerard thought, staring in awe. They are fairies!
So stunned was Gerard that he could only stare at the beautiful figures, dancing and singing in robes of sparkling silk in every colour of the rainbow. It was such a beautiful sight to behold that the count could have watched them forever, but in no time at all the music grew quieter and the fairies all stopped and drew back to line the walls, smiling widely as another figure appeared.
If count Gerard thought he had seen beauty before, then it was nothing compared to what he saw now. Walking towards him from the centre of the room came a fairy of such dazzling beauty that he seemed to emit a golden glow that made everyone around him somehow more gorgeous, as if his beauty was shared with all about him.
The fairy wore long robes of ruby silk and cream velvet, and his hazel eyes twinkled with such light and colour they put Gerard’s own swirling iris’s to shame. Upon his dark, silky hair he wore a small, golden crown that sparkled like starlight.
“Dear count Gerard.” He smiled, holding his hands out to the stunned man and speaking in a soft, rich voice. “I am Frank, King of the Faeries, and I have come to repay your Christmas visit.” As he spoke he took Gerard’s hand in his, and as his soft, warm skin came into contact with the counts, Gerard realised it was he who had touched him in the fairy well.
“I have something to give to you.” Frank smiled, tenderly drawing Gerard into the room and beside the beautiful pine tree the fairy king reached into his robes and removed a small golden casket, encrusted with purple and red gems. “Here.” He beamed, handing it to Gerard who accepted it with shaking hands.
“Thank you. Thank you.” He whispered, staring in awe at the beautiful man before him and opening the casket with a dreamlike expression. Inside, nestled in purple velvet was his very own gold ring that he had lost in the spring that same day. “My ring...” He gasped, looking at Frank who smiled softly at him and took his hands once more.
“Come. Dance with me.” He invited gently and Gerard, overwhelmed with feeling for this mysterious, beautiful being readily agreed.
The music increased in volume and tempo and together count Gerard and King Frank danced to the delicious melody around the dazzling tree, the other fairies joining them. The chamber was full of light and music and Gerard laughed and sang with them all as they danced long into the night, his hands soon falling from Franks and instinctively slipping around his waist when he wrapped his own arms around Gerard’s neck.
As the music grew slower and the dance along with it Gerard and Frank’s embrace grew more intimate, the two men drawing closer to each other and sharing soft smiles as they moved to the music. Seeing this change the other fairies made a circle around the pair and dancing in their ring began to shimmer and waver, their voices echoing around the chamber for a second after they disappeared before that too faded into the night.
Once they had gone Gerard and Frank, drawn to each other though neither knew why, leaned into one another and shared a tender, sweet kiss. The count may have been known as stone heart, but any truth this may have held quickly disappeared as he embraced the gorgeous man and kissed him with all the love and tenderness he possessed.
Stood by the marvellous tree the two men kissed long into the night, until the sky began to lighten, bringing with it Christmas day. Franks lips were soft and warm, so tempting that Gerard could not bring himself to let him go.
“Count Gerard, I must leave.” Frank eventually whispered as the sun began to rise, and those five simple words almost tore the count in half. So overcome by grief was he that he fell to his knees at the fairy kings feet and clutched at his robes, begging shamelessly for him to stay. To marry him and stay with him forever.
Frank could not stand to see the count so pained, and his own heart felt as though it were breaking at the thought of leaving, and so eventually he pulled Gerard to his feet and softly kissed him, holding him tight to his heart. “Alright. Alright.” He consented, peppering the counts face in warm kisses. “I shall marry you. But on one condition.” He whispered and Gerard, his heart filling with warmth and joy nodded eagerly.
“Yes, anything. Anything!” He promised, clutching the fairy to him, Frank smiling and snuggling into his chest.
“You must never speak the word ‘death’ in front of me.” He whispered and Gerard, though confused by this seemingly simple condition, agreed without hesitation that he would never utter such a word in front of the fairy King, and together to the two men fell into another soft kiss, their fingers interlinked.
Count Gerard and King Frank’s wedding was celebrated with great cheer and splendour, the ostentatious event was celebrated by the whole town and it was clear that there was no happier, or more beautiful couple in the whole world.
For many years the count and his husband lived happily together, but alas it was not to be for ever after. As one day the wedded couple decided to go hunting in the woods surrounding the castle. The horses were saddled and bridled, and a hunting party assembled who then mounted their horses and waited at the edge of the woods for the Count and his King.
Gerard waited inside the entrance hall of the castle in his riding gear, pacing back and forth as he waited for Frank who was still in his chamber, preparing for the hunt. Gerard could not imagine what was taking him so long and he grew more and more impatient as he listened to the horses neighing outside.
After a good while Frank finally appeared, descending the stairs with the usual warm, loving smile he gave to his husband whenever he saw him. But Gerard was angry at having to wait and he turned to his love with an agitated expression.
“There you are!” He snapped, Frank pausing when he realised Gerard was mad at him, his face falling. “You have kept us waiting so long that you would make a good messenger to send for death!” Gerard scoffed, planting his hands on his hips before he gasped, realising with horror that he had just uttered the fatal word.
Franks eyes grew wide and his lips parted, the pain in his face making Gerard’s heart break. The count hurried forward, desperately trying to take the word back but it was too late, and his beautiful husband disappeared into thin air when he tried to embrace him.
Gerard was overcome with grief and remorse, and though he searched the entire land for his beloved there was no trace of him. For years Gerard grieved, and every Christmas eve he set up a lighted tree in the chamber where he and the fairy king had first met in the vain hope that he might return.
But Frank never came back.
In time Gerard died, still praying for his lost husband to return, and the castle soon fell into ruin. As centuries passed the count and his king were forgotten, but to this day one thing remains to remind us of their tragic tale.
And that, they say, is the origin of the Christmas tree.