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art by Seth Alan Bareiss

Fool's Gold

Melissa Mead lives in Upstate NY. You may have seen her stories in DSF before. She's a member of SFWA and Codex, and her Web page is carpelibris.wordpress.com.

"Of course it's fool's gold! You gave me dirty hay, not straw. What did you expect?"
Rumplestiltskin left his dissatisfied customer swearing at his pile of pyrite and started for home. Dirty hay had nothing to do with it, but it could be dangerous to say that the gold wouldn't spin for the Mayor because Hizzoner wanted it for no better reason than greed.
His mood lifted as his wife approached, a dear familiar bundle on her arm.
"We came to walk home with you, Rumple. Aura missed her Papa."
"And her Papa's glad to see both of you," he said, hugging his wife and kissing his daughter. I've had enough of the schemes of powerful... Oh no."
The young woman in the enveloping black cloak couldn't have been more conspicuous. She rushed up to Rumplestiltskin, sobbing.
"They said you'd torn yourself in two! But I can't... gold... "
"Your Majesty," he said, less coldly than he'd intended, "breathe. You're making a spectacle of yourself. Which, I suspect, is the last thing you want." His wife gave him a questioning look. He nodded.
The girl gasped. "But nobody must know I'm here!"
Rumplestiltskin sighed. "Your Majesty, if you'll follow my wife, we'll talk privately at my home."
The girl's mouth hung open in a most unqueenly fashion, but she followed.
"...so now he wants me to spin enough gold to refill the Royal Treasury, and I don't know how, so I came to... to ask you to renew our bargain."
"What, to give me your firstborn child if I spin gold for you?" Rumplestiltskin leaned over and tickled Aura's toes. "As you can see, I have my own now."
"I'm the Queen now. I could make you."
He stopped cold. "That would be... most unwise, Your Majesty."
No one moved, not even Aura. Then the Queen burst into sobs.
"He said he'd kill me and the baby! I know you hate me, but he's a baby!"
"The King would kill the Crown Prince?" Rumplestiltskin's wife asked.
"He would, my dear." Rumplestiltskin stood. "Your Majesty, I will not spin for you."
Both women gasped.
"But I will give you my spindle. You may spin as much gold as you wish."
"Oh, thank you!"
"My price," he went on, "is that you guard your child more dearly than any gold. Otherwise all you spin will be worthless." He handed over the spindle. She snatched it and ran out. Rumplestiltskin and his wife exchanged looks.
"Not a word of thanks. She hasn't changed a bit."
"But, Rumple, you said that spindle's spun nothing but fool's gold for months."
"I've spun for fools. If she's a fool who values nothing but gold, that's all she'll get. But if she values her child's life, or even her own, more than gold, then gold she'll get."
"The king doesn't value either of them. The poor wee boy."
"Why do you think I wanted to take him away from there? But at least they won't harm him as long as he's the source of their wealth."
"I don't envy them."
Rumplestiltskin put one arm around his wife and cradled his child with the other. "Neither do I."
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013
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