A tale of triumph and heartbreak, of perseverance and retribution, of love and revenge, the Tale of Tatiana is a story to warm the hearts of the kind and warn the souls of the cruel.
And it all started three thousand years ago, in a magnificent realm located deep within the northeastern region of the Kingdom of Vahalia, which called the wetlands their home.
In the Navarre Palace – with its walls and floors of white marble and its tapestry of rich silk – lived Lord Olaf Navarre. No one could deny that the old lord was a kind man. Foolish, perhaps. Naive, most definitely. But cruel? Never. He had built orphanages and hospitals for the poor. He would rather exile a man than put him on the block. He would send out his most trusted men to deliver food and herbs to the sick and elderly.
Yes. Lord Olaf Navarre was a kind man.
And his beloved wife, Princess Anne of House Silverstone, was a kind woman.
But on a cold night in December, Lady Anne committed her kindest of acts, laying down her life on the battlefield of the birthing bed to give life to her most prized possession.
Her dearest daughter, Princess Tatiana.
“Promise me”, whispered Lady Anne to Lord Olaf. More blood was slipping from her lady’s wound. “Promise me.”
“Anything”, Lord Olaf swore to his beloved wife. “Name it and it’s yours.”
“Make our daughter a Lady.” Lady Anne’s eyes begin to drift shut. “Make her a Lady of Silk.”
“I will”, declared Lord Olaf. “I promise, my love.”
And Lady Anne closed her eyes.
The next eight years passed in peace. Lord Olaf Navarre remarried again – this time to a Diagon Princess – and Princess Tatiana was declared heir of the Navarre Realm. Despite her sex, Lord Olaf made a noble decree, declaring that his beloved daughter shall be placed ahead of any sons that he may conceive in the line of succession.
All of the people of Navarre rejoiced for the decree. For they loved Princess Tatiana – who carried the beauty of her mother’s red hair and her father’s green eyes and her mother’s wit and her father’s kindness and the Silverstone fierceness and the Navarre courage – and rejoiced in the thought of having the beloved princess as their Lady.
But not everyone rejoiced.
Lord Olaf’s new wife, Lady Lucrezia of House Diagon – a woman who’s soul was as dark as she was beautiful – and her brother, Lorenzo, cursed the idea of a Diagon prince or princess being placed behind a Silverstone pup.
And so, when Lady Lucrezia felt a babe kick within her womb, she and her brother devised a plan.
A most cruel plan.
“Play cards with my husband”, Lucrezia tells Lorenzo. She places a small vial in his hand and kissed his knuckles closed. “Pour this in his drink and put him to bed.”
“What of the girl?” asked Lorenzo.
“Worry not, my brother.” Lucrezia pulls her lips into a wicked smile. “Leave the girl to me. I have a most trusted friend. He shall take her to the woods and make the river her tomb.”
The next day, the tower bells rang loud and sorrowfully, signifying the deaths of Lord Olaf Navarre and Princess Tatiana.
Alas, Princess Tatiana did not perish in the icy river, for Lady Lucrezia’s friend took pity on the princess. She was too beautiful to kill. She was too kind to slain. She was too precious to end.
The friend gave the princess a dagger and his fur cloak. He placed her in a wooden basin and pushed the basin downstream. He told her to keep her head down and to think kind thoughts.
“Don’t get out of the river until your reach the heart of the wetlands”, the man warned Princess Tatiana. “You are safest in the river for now, but there are monsters in the rivers of the wetlands. Small dragons that swim. They will devour you whole. Do you understand me, princess?”
“Yes”, Princess Tatiana tells the man. “I understand you, good sir. And I forgive you with all my heart.”
And so, the friend of Lady Lucrezia pushed the princess down the river, where he followed her on foot for as long as he could, watching as the basin disappeared into the darkness of the night and into the deepness of the wetlands.
For three days, Princess Tatiana sat in that basin, only peeking her head out at night to see where she is. On the fifth day – when she was mighty hungry and oh so tired – the princess peeked her head out once more and came upon the most unusual of sights.
Ogres and pixies were standing in the river. The ogres were washing clothes and linens in the water and the pixies were hanging them up to dry on the tree branches. It was an unusual sight, for Ogres and pixies have never been one to get along. The pixies claim the ogres are too big and dumb and the ogres claim the pixies are too small and hyper.
Yes, it was the most unusual sight. So much so, that the princess fainted at the sight.
“What’s that?” asked an ogre, who wore purple breeches.
A pixie with white hair asks, “What? I don’t see anything.”
“There. Over there.” The ogre points a thick green finger. “That thing floating.”
Another pixie – one with short purple hair and yellow eyes – shakes her head.
“You’re seeing things, Cleston.”
But Cleston the Ogre doesn’t listen to his friends. Tossing the linens that he was holding to his brother, Claston, the ogre walks deeper into the river and grabs a large basin, pulling it back to the others and onto land.
The ogres and pixies peak inside.
“It’s a girl!” gasped Amaryllis, the youngest of the pixies.
Her mother, Lily, shakes her head.
“It’s not just a girl”, said the older pixie. “It’s an original girl.”
Claston asks, “Can we keep her?”
“She’s not a pet”, Cleston admonishes his brother, looking down at the girl. “Though she is trembling like a pup.”
Taking pity on the girl, the family of ogres and pixies take the sleeping princess to their cottage, where they tuck her into bed and place slippers on her little feet. But the slippers are too big for the princess and they keep slipping off. Not wanting the girl to have cold feet, Cleston sits at the foot of the bed and hold the slippers to her feet.
“Cold feet are just the worst”, he tells his brother. “Your toes can fall off, you know?”
Back in the Navarre Castle, Lady Lucrezia has declared herself the ruler of the Navarre Realm and has given birth to a son, Prince Gian Marco, who carries the black hair and coal eyes of House Diagon. As her first order as Lady Navarre, Lady Lucrezia made a decree that all portraits of Lady Anne of House Silverstone and Princess Tatiana shall be burned. For the cruel Lady Lucrezia did not want to gaze upon the two women, knowing that their portraits may curse her and her dear Prince Gian Marco. Next, Lady Navarre announced an alliance between House Navarre and House Diagon, declaring that her son shall marry his cousin, Princess Valentina.
Princess Tatiana awakes with a loud yawn and warm feet.
“Where am I?” she asked, looking around the small cottage. It’s a nice cottage, she decides. Warm and cozy. There’s a nice fire and a lot of comfortable looking beds and chairs. It smells of cinnamon and she can hear wind chimes. Yes, she decides. A very nice cottage, indeed. “Hello?”
A plump pixie with yellow hair flies over and sits on her lap.
“Oh dear”, said the pixie. “I’m sorry, dearest. We stepped out to make supper. You’ve been asleep for a while now and we didn’t think you’d wake up during the hour we were gone. How are you feeling, dearest?”
“I feel well, thank you –“
“Oh!” said the plump pixie. “I’m Azalea. Are you hungry?”
The princess’s stomach growls.
Azalea laughs. “Well, that’s answer enough for me. Come! Come! Let’s get you something to eat. You can meet the other too. They’ve been wanting to meet you – “
“Tatiana”, said the princess. She jumps out of bed and follows the pixie outside. “Princess Tatiana.”
Azalea stops flying and turns to the girl.
“Did you say princess?” asked the pixie. She places a finger to her chin. “Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear. How did a princess get into these parts? And in a basin, no less? Nevermind, dearest. Come along. Let’s get some food in your stomach and you shall tell the others your story.”
And tell them her story she did.
Told them about her kind father. Told them about her stepmother. Told them about the man who saved her. The princess told the kind ogres and pixies everything.
“Well then”, said Claston. “You must live with us.”
Everyone agreed and, for the next decade, Tatiana lived with the ogres and pixies in their warm cottage.
There was a lot of warmth in that cottage. A lot of love and a lot of harmony and a lot of care.
One day, a group of men – bloody and wounded and weak – stumbled upon their warm cottage, begging for help.
And pixies and ogres – kind as they are – invited the men inside to warm themselves by the fires and fill their bellies with food. The pixies stitched their wounds closed and the ogres made tonics to heal their pain. It’s been so long since the men experienced kindness and they wept from their relief.
But then, when their swollen red eyes landed on Tatiana – whose red hair hung low in a white braid and her green eyes glowing against the flames of the fireplace – the men stand and bow to her.
“Let my eyes not deceive me in death”, said one of the men, who had grey hair and one green eye. “It is you.”
Tatiana kindly looks at the man. “And who am I?”
It’s another man who answers. A young and handsome man. A man most familiar.
“You are Princess Tatiana”, he declares. “It’s you, Ana.”
Tatiana gasps. “William?”
It’s been years since she has seen this boy – this man. He had been her playmate during their youth in the Navarre Castle. It’s been so long. How can he remember her when she had all but forgotten him?
“This is glorious news”, said the one-eyed man. “You must come with us, my lady. You must claim what is yours.”
Tatiana takes a step back and looks at her family of ogres and pixies.
“I can’t”, she tells the men. “This is my home. I left Princess Tatiana behind a long time ago.”
“You don’t understand”, said William. He takes a step towards her. “The realm needs you. The Lady Lucrezia is cruel and evil. She burns all those who oppose her at the stake. She slaughters child as a warning to their parents. She has closed all of the hospitals and orphanages. People are fleeing for their lives, Ana. We need you. Please, you mustn’t abandon us. Not now.”
“But I can’t –“
“Yes you can”, interrupted Cleston. The ogre – the man who treated her like a daughter for all these years – steps towards her. “If you wish to take back your throne, then we shall stand behind you. We’re family. Family stands together.”
Tatiana smiles and hugs her ogre father before turning back to the men.
“Do you have a plan?”
“Actually, dearest”, said Azalea. “Perhaps you should leave that to us.”
The princess and the pixies smile.
“Burn the wife and bloody the daughter”, ordered Lady Lucrezia. She sat on the Navarre throne with her son by her side. “What do you think, my sweet? Should we burn the daughter too?”
Prince Gian Marco laughs. “Burn her!”
Alas, just as the guard is about to throw the flaming torch onto the pile of hay that surrounds the wife and daughter, the doors of the grand hall burst open in an explosion of wood and marble.
“What is the meaning of this?” screamed Lady Navarre. “Guards! Guards! Get them! I want them in chains.”
But the guards do nothing of the sort.
As though under a spell, the guards unsheathe their swords and turn towards the evil Lady Lucrezia, beginning to march towards her.
“What are you doing?” screamed Lady Lucrezia, clutching her son. “Attack them! Not me! I’m your lady! I’ll burn you all!”
And then, in a wild sea of black uniforms and blades, the guards attack Lady Lucrezia and the prince, leaving behind nothing but two bloody crowns.
That night, after Tatiana was declared Lady Navarre, she and William sat by the fireplace in her bedchamber.
“How did you do it?” he asked her.
Lady Tatiana Navarre smiles.
“Didn’t you know, Will?” she asked her oldest friend. “Pixies are masters in magic.”
And for the next sixty years, the Navarre Realm lived in peace and harmony, telling their children the Tale of Tatiana.