Monday, October 10, 2011

Three Stories, No Endings

Originally, I wrote these stories to be turned into typography/animation videos, but they were either too long or too convoluted to fit into a five minute video. I’ve arranged the videos in the order that I wrote them. The first story, The Storyteller’s Daughter, was more as a warm-up or brainstorming session than an actual story attempt. With the second story, I actually animated roughly a minute and a half of video with backgrounds, character models, and typography before stopping because I realized that it was too long. All of the pictures are hyper-linked to animation videos located at the bottom of the post. Anyway, here are three stories, two princesses, and no endings. Enjoy.

The Storyteller's Daughter

The storyteller used to tell happier tales. Long ago, he told the story of his daughter's first kiss.

In the cool autumn breeze, she sat with a boy along the edge of the forbidden forest. It was dark, but they could still see the flowers' faint hue from the lantern and abundance of fireflies. And although their parents anxiously awaiting their return, they could not resist basking in the moment. More than anything, the boy wanted to kiss the girl, almost as much as she wanted to be kissed, but he was afraid. As a young boy, he was not afraid of many things, but he suddenly became terrified of ruining the moment and wrecking the girl's first kiss.

"It would be my first kiss," the girl confessed as she picked up a small pebble, "but if you want me to put you at ease, I'll kiss this rock. It will be my first kiss, and I'll tell everyone that my first kiss was with a boy in the forest with its cool breeze and romantic fireflies."

The boy felt ashamed as she gently pecked the pebble with her lips.

"But I'll meet you here tomorrow night, and you can be my second kiss," she said as she started to walk away. "And you better hope that the fireflies come back."

The boy was shocked; he never thought that he'd every be so jealous of a pebble. But as he reached for the small stone, a gust of wind carried it across the boundaries and into the forbidden forest. Without a second thought, the boy followed.

Later, the storyteller wrote one of his most infamous tale and nailed it to the marker of the forbidden forest:

'Once upon a time, there was a young boy who walked into the forbidden forest. He was never seen or heard from again. There are spirits in the forest that can mimic your greatest fears, and they will feed off your terrors until you will die a most painful death. If you value your life in anyway, please stay away.'

It was an awful bedtime story, but it was widely told to every child in the village. And no one ever attempted to walk through the forbidden forest until the storyteller became fatally ill, and his daughter attempted to save him.

The Stone and the Princess (~1:20 min at the bottom of post)

From the moment the princess was born, she inherited a deadly curse.

Every fifth generation, a dragon would capture a princess and carry her to an empty tower in the depths of the forbidden forest. Legends say that he used the princess as bait to feast on waves of brave knights who tried to rescue the girl until he would finally eat the princess for dessert.

Regardless of the dragon's intentions, the king and queen were determined to keep their daughter as safe as possible. So throughout her life, the princess was rarely let out of her room and scarcely allowed to socialize with others. To ensure their daughter would live a happy, care-free life, everyone in the kingdom was forbidden to tell the princess her gruesome fate.

So for seventeen years, the princess remained safe. She was alive but hardly living. Until one day, she decided to do something that she should have done years ago. When all the servants were asleep, she snuck out of her room.

She felt a rush of pride invigorated by nervousness and excitement. She roamed the halls and sneaked past associates, and she walked farther than she's ever traveled. Within minutes, the princess decided that she would stay out for hours or maybe days to teach her parents a lesson.

It was the best night of her life, until she realized that she was lost. Her concern grew; she was convinced that her parents would be furious and that she may never find her way back. And she cried, pathetically in a corner of a room that she's never even been.

Suddenly, she heard footsteps. At first they were faint, but they steadily became louder. And a boy appeared; he was one of the many people who she only knew through passing glances.

Out of sheer shock, he blurted, "You're not allowed to be here ... your majesty."

They were mutually dumbfounded until the boy noticed that her sleeves were wet and her eyes were red. And he timidly sat next to her.

"I'm not supposed to here either," he said softly. "Don't tell anyone, okay?"

Her nose was clearly stuffed as she scoffed and murmured, "Okay."

The boy walked the princess back to her room. Along the way, she learned that the boy tended the stables and apprenticed as a blacksmith, but he dreamed of becoming a knight, and he reluctantly admitted that he trained during the night time.

When they reached her doorstep, he thought about telling her legend. They sat on the last step, neither of them wanted to leave immediately. And out of nowhere, he told the girl about her destiny.

"It might be hard to believe, but your parents have kept you in the tower for a good reason. Every fifth generation a dragon has come to take away princesses and eventually eat them. It will come for you, and you need to do whatever your parents tell you to do to be safe, even if that means staying alone in your room. You can't tell anyone that I’ve told you about this or I'll be banished from the kingdom, but if I were you, I'd want to know."

She stayed solemn through his speech, and by the end, the boy couldn't read her expression.

Finally, she firmly spoke, "Teach me to fight."


"If a dragon will come to kill me, I don't want to be a defenseless little princess who gets lost in her own kingdom. If it is my destiny, I want to be ready for my fate."

"Okay," he said. "We'll train in the stables tomorrow night."

For the next several weeks, they heavily trained in the darkness. The boy taught here a variety of weapons from swords to bows and arrows, and although the princess was weak and inexperienced, she was eager to improve. For once in her life, she was dealt with a task to prove herself, and she was determined succeed.

For her success, the princess wanted to learn everything about her enemy, and she extensively studied the dragon's lore. At the mere mention of the word dragon, she immediately knew that it would tower above her head with massive claws and razor sharp teeth. And without even reading a single book, she knew that she would be over-matched in every possible way; the dragon essentially had no physical weaknesses. Instead, she wanted to understand how the dragon thinks; she wanted to know about its history, and more importantly, its motives.

Surprisingly, the girl’s research led her to more questions. Past the fairytales and bedtimes stories, the first record of the fierce dragon was as a docile pet. Hundreds of years ago, the fifth kingdom had trained a dragon to protect their daughter, and by all accounts, he was her best friend. Like the current princess, the previous one had a tightly controlled life, and except for the dragon, she was fairly alone. All seemed well until the princesses’ eighteenth birthday. On that fateful night, the dragon appeared hysterical during the banquette. He hastily grabbed the princess and carried her away into the darkness. For decades the royal army has searched for the dragon in the forbidden forest but with little success. The fifth princess was never seen nor heard from again.

The princess was astounded, and her head swarmed with vexing questions. Why had the dragon snapped? Was it his innate dragon instincts? And if so, why did he wait eighteen years? Most importantly, the princess wondered how the dragon could do that to his best friend. It was chilling; the dragon was a heartless monster.

So the princess continued to train, and although she made great progress, her eighteenth birthday steadily loomed. On the night before her birthday, they decided to relax. In the confines of a nearby wheat field, they quietly gazed at the masses of twinkling stars. Everything seemed so finite; soon the night would end, the dragon would come, the princess would be taken, the fields would be tended, and maybe even someday, the stars would cease to exist.

“I’m going to die tomorrow,” her voice was as soft as a lullaby. “But I want you to know that our training wasn’t pointless. Along with the daggers and swords and arrows, you taught me about friendship; you taught me about companionship and loyalty and even love.” She spoke frankly, “I love you, and I can say all of these things because I’m going to die tomorrow. Maybe I should die every night.”

“It’s past midnight,” the boy digressed; he looked at her in the most deep and longing way, “Happy birthday, my princess.”

She provided a cold, stern look that would have drained all of happiness from every cheerful woodland creature in the entire forest.

“It’s just an expression,” he added, and she laughed. Steadily, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a simple necklace, it had a thin string of leather with a small, smooth stone attached to the braided end, “It’s your birthday present; the rock has been in my family for generations. It’s called a resurrection stone, and it’s said to enable the holder to communicate with the dead. You of all people know that they have never found the bodies of the princesses that the dragon has taken away. I want you to have the stone as a reminder that as long as you’re alive, I will be searching for you; as long as you’re alive, there is hope that I will find you.”

In most ways, he was already talking to the dead, a girl who was destitute by fate, but if she would be locked inside a tower until the dragon felt compelled to eat, the rock would remind her that there’s still hope. And it would remind the princess of the boy who helped her feel alive moments before she died.

Soon the night would fade, the sun would rise, and the princess would be taken away, but on that night, the two of them would quietly sit together until destiny could not wait any longer.

The Princess’ Tale

There were two versions of the same story.

In one version, two concerned parents consulted a fortune teller and asked how their newborn son would die. The mystic looked deep inside her crystal ball, and revealed that he would someday drown. So to avoid his fate, the boy was never allowed near water. When the boy grew older, the parents told him the premonition, and instead of cowering near water, he immediately wanted to learn how to swim. And years later, a flood came and washed away half the town, but the boy survived. He controlled his own fate.

In the other version, the boy died while trying to learn how to swim, it was his first and only attempt. Many said that his death was utterly preventable, but it was a sad reminder that you cannot escape your fate.

As the storyteller's apprentice, I've heard both versions, but usually children were only told one or the other. And although it was a simple tale, it would sometimes have profound effects. Children who heard the first version would face their fears, and the children who heard the second version would avoid them. It was my first insight into the effects of storytelling and its seemingly magical properties.

Once upon a time, there was a lonely princess. Her parents were told that a dragon was destined to capture the princess and take her away to a hidden tower in the forest. Throughout her life, the princess was never told her fate and scarcely allowed out of her room, but when she found out, she decided to escape.

Usually, people run with a purpose. They are either running away from something or toward something. In the case of the princess, it was both. She ran away from one captive to confront, and hopefully kill, another.

When I first met the princess, she was hardly defenseless. It had been years since she escaped the castle, and for the longest time, she had to learn to fend for herself.

The text is for another story idea (big surprise),
but I don't have a video of just the arrow shot

"I'm really glad you missed," I said. I was still a little startled.

"If I missed, we wouldn't be having this conversation." She was an unmistakable legend; as a child locked away in the castle, she was accustomed to solitude, but the years on her own made the princess hard. Still, she was young. Even with her cuts and bruises, she seemed in some ways frail.

"Pretend to be my guard," she offered. "My parents are still looking for me, and there's a reward for my return, but if I had a guard with my kingdom's crest, people would presume that you were escorting me back to the castle."

"Why me?" I asked.

"You're tall," she replied immediately. "And you know that I could kill you if you told anyone. Plus, I heard that you write stories. How could you resist chronicling the adventures of a princess fighting a dragon; I'd like someone to remember my fate."

And I couldn't resist. I made her a promise that night, "People will know your tale. Regardless of whether you live or die, I will make you immortal."

So we traveled through the vast land. Sometimes, we would meet villagers, and I would tell the children fairytales and she would buy the parents bread.

On one late night, she asked me why I thought stories were so important.

“Stories can have more influence than kings or generals. Someday, there won’t be any dragons or warlords. It’ll be a world without monsters and magic, but there will still be pain. There will still be suffering and chaos. In my stories, pain is endurable, love is obtainable, and good always triumphs over evil. It might not be true, but if anyone remembers anything from my tales, I hope it would be to never lose hope.”

“I knew it,” she said as we gazed at the twinkling stars. “I picked the right person to write my obituary.”

“No, I write fairytales,” I scoffed. “And in fairytales, the princess always survives.”

Test Animation:

About a minute and a half of test animation, enjoy?

Fight Scene

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