In celebration of the release of Jane Yolen’s THE SCARLET CIRCUS, Tachyon presents glimpses from the book that “is a charming bouquet of love stories from a heady array of fantastical viewpoints.” (Susan Palwick, author of All Worlds Are Real and Flying in Place)
There once was a prince called Sans Soleil, which is to say, Sunless. It had been prophesied at his birth that he would grow so handsome, his beauty would outshine the sun. That he might not be killed by the jealous star, he had to be kept in the dark, for it was said that he would die if ever a shaft of sunlight fell upon his brow.
So the very night he was born, his father, the king, had him carried away to a castle that was carved out of rock. And in that candlelit cave-castle, the young prince grew and flourished without ever seeing the sun.
Now, by the time Sans Soleil was twenty years old, the story of his strange beauty and of the evil prediction had been told at every hearth and hall in the kingdom. And every maiden of marrying age had heard his tragic tale.
But one in particular, Viga, the daughter of a duke, did not believe what she heard.
“Surely,” she said, tossing her raven-black hair from her face, “surely the king has hidden his son from the light because he is too monstrous to behold.”
Her father shook his head. “Nay,” he replied. “I have been to this cave-castle and have seen this prince. He is handsomer than the sun.”
But still Viga did not believe what her father told her. “The sun cannot harm anyone,” she said. ‘‘There is no sense in what you say.” And she took herself to the king dressed in her finest gown of silver and gold.
“Sire,” she said, “at court you have been taken in by lies. The sun is not harmful. It nourishes. It causes all things to grow. It will not kill the prince.”
The king was touched by the girl’s sincerity. He was moved by her beauty. He was awed by her strength of purpose, for it is no little thing to contradict a king. Still, he shook his head and said, “It was prophesied at his birth that he would die if ever a shaft of sunlight struck his brow.”
“Old wives and young babes believe such tales. They should not frighten you, sire. They do not frighten me,” Viga replied. ·
‘‘They do not frighten you because you are not the one who would die,” said the king, and at these words all the courtiers smiled and nodded their heads and murmured to one another. “Still, I will give the matter more thought.”
Viga gave a low curtsy. And as she rose, she said quietly, so that only the king could hear it, “It does seem strange that sun and son do sound the same.” Then she smiled brightly and departed.