As you know, I am working on a retelling of a fairy tale told in a science fiction setting. I chose the story of Bas Celik, I don’t know why, but it resonated with me. It is a Serbian/Croation folk tale. I thought I’d share the original story with you.
Once upon a time there lived an emperor who had three sons and three daughters. When the time came for him to die he told his sons to marry their sisters to the first men who proposed to them, so they wouldn’t be cursed. One night somebody started knocking on the door, making a terrible noise. Only the youngest emperor’s son dared to open the door. As soon as the door had opened, a creature came into the castle. But nobody could see it clearly because of the flame that was all around it. The creature said that it had come to propose to their oldest sister. The oldest and the middle brother were against it but the youngest one remembered their father’s last words. So he let the creature take the girl away. The next two nights the same thing happened again. Some creatures surrounded by fire came to propose to the middle and the youngest sisters. Again, only the youngest brother let his sisters go. A lot of time had passed and the brothers didn’t know anything about their sisters. They decided to try to find them. So they set off on a long journey.
Soon they came to a lake and decided to stay overnight. They agreed that the eldest brother should be on guard. That night the surface of the lake started stirring and a dragon came out of it. It attacked the prince, but soon the dragon was killed by the young man. He cut off the dragon’s ears and threw the rest of the dragon’s body into the lake. Then the three brothers continued their journey. On the second night the middle brother kept the guard. Just like the first time, a dragon got out of the lake but this one had two heads. However, the prince knew how to deal with it. He cut off its ears and threw away the body. In the morning he didn’t tell anything to his brothers. On the third night of their trip they stopped by a lake. The king’s youngest son was getting ready to guard. Later that night a dragon with three heads got out of the lake and attacked the prince. He defended himself and cut off the dragon’s ears. But when he threw its body back to the lake the water splashed and put out the campfire. Since his brothers were asleep, he decided not to wake them up. Instead, he decided to go alone and find something that would set the fire again. While he was searching for it, he came across a cave. Some giants were sitting in there. There was a smell of roasting meat. They were eating human flesh. The prince got scared, but having no other choice, he approached them. They welcomed him nicely and told him they would treat him as one of them if he did everything they told him to do. So the young man joined them and sat down pretending to eat. After they had finished eating, they decided to go hunting and take the prince with them. Then they reached the town where they usually chased people. They told the prince to go there first and climb a tree which led to the town. He did so. Soon the giants started climbing the tree one after another but each time one of them reached the place where the prince was standing he would kill them.
When he killed all of them, he went to the town but it was completely deserted. There were no people. He was wandering around when he saw a tower. He came in and soon he was in a room which was decorated with silk and gold. There was a bed too. A pretty girl was sleeping in it. All of a sudden he spotted a snake going towards the girl’s head. Before the snake had time to bite her, the prince took out his knife and killed the snake. Then he went back to the cave, took some fire and joined his brothers. They were still sleeping when he arrived. When they woke up the youngest brother didn’t mention anything. Then they continued their journey. They arrived in the town that had been saved by the prince. Having seen the dead giants, the town mayor ordered his men to find the man who had done that. One of his servants met the three brothers. Each brother told him what had happened while they were on guard. When the servant heard the youngest brother’s story, he immediately told his master. He invited the princes to his castle and gave a lot of treasure to the eldest and the middle brother. He gave his daughter to the youngest prince to be his wife. The prince stayed in his father-in-law’s castle and lived there. The two elder brothers went home. One day his father-in-law went hunting. Before he left, he gave nine keys to the prince telling him that he could open the first eight doors in the castle but not the ninth one. But the prince opened all the doors out of curiosity. Then he came to the ninth door and opened it. Inside there was a man who was completely shackled with heavy chains. There was a golden fountain in front of him but he couldn’t reach the water. When the prince stepped into the room the man started begging him for a little water in exchange for his life. The prince gave him some water. The prince asked him what his name was and the man said that his name was Bash Chelik. Just as the prince was getting ready to leave, the man asked him again for some water in exchange for one more life. When the prince again turned to leave, the man offered him the third life if the prince spilt the water over him.
As soon as the prince did it, all the chains broke. Bash Chelik got free grabbed the prince’s wife and flew away. When the girl’s father came back to the castle, the prince told him everything that had happened. He promised to find his wife and set her free. He went on a long journey. He wanted to find Bash Chelik. Travelling along he came across a castle. There was a girl who was calling him from the castle. When he came closer, he recognized his eldest sister. She brought him into the castle and told him how she got married to the dragons’ emperor. When her husband arrived she hid her brother. During the dinner she asked him what he would do if her brothers came to visit her. He responded that he would kill her eldest and her middle aged brother, but he wouldn’t do anything to her youngest brother. Then she brought her brother. The young prince told the dragons’ emperor everything that happened to him. Although the dragon tried to dissuade him from further pursuit, the young prince didn’t change his mind. As he didn’t succeed in his efforts, the emperor gave him a feather, and told him if he ever needed any help, he only had to burn it, and he would come to help him with all his army. Then he continued his journey. Soon he came across another castle. His middle-aged sister, who got married the emperor of falcons, lived there. Like her elder sister she hid her brother first. When her husband returned she asked if he would hurt her brothers if they decided to visit her one day. The emperor of falcons responded the same as the emperor of dragons. Then she brought her brother. Since they greeted each other, the young prince told him his story. Although the emperor tried to stop him in his intention to go on, the prince didn’t give in. The emperor gave him another feather, telling him to burn it if he needed help.
As he was going further, he came across the third castle. The youngest sister was calling him from it. She told him that she got married to the emperor of eagles. She had hidden her brother before her husband returned. During the dinner she asked him what he would do if her brothers came to visit her. He answered that he would only spare the life of the youngest brother. Then she brought her brother. After they greeted each other, the prince told the emperor that he went to save his wife from Bash Chelic. Even the eagles’ emperor didn’t succeed to dissuade him. So he gave him ones more feather, and told him to burn it he would get trouble. Travelling from town to town the young prince found his wife in one cave. He tried to escape with her, but Bash Chelic caught him. Since he promised three lives to the young prince, he didn’t kill him; he just took his wife and came back to the cave. In spite of Bash Chelic’s threats, the young prince tried to save his wife two more times. But the third time, after he has lost all his lives, Bash Chelic cut him. However, before he died, he succeeded to light all three feathers which were given to him by his brothers-in-law. When the emperors came and saw the young prince dead, they sent one of the dragons to the River Jordan to bring some water. As they poured the water over him, the young prince revived. The young princes tried to prevent him to return for his wife, but he didn’t listen. Finally they told him to force his wife to find out where the power of Bash Chelic was. So he did it. As she was asking him many times, finally Bash Chelic said to her that there was a bird in the heart and in the bird there was a power. She told that to the young prince, the prince told that to his brothers-in-law. The three of them together with their armies went on the trip to find the fox. When they reached the mountain they let the eagles go to catch her but she escaped into a lake. The falcons started for her, but she had flown away.
Then the dragons started for her but she has landed again. But the rest of the army waited and caught her there. They made the fire and took out the heart from the fox, and then they took out the bird from the heart and threw it into the fire. When the bird was burnt, Bash Chelic died. The young prince took his wife then, and they returned home together.
The title of my story is Head of Steel. I’ll share with you just a little part of it. It is still in the rough stage, so forgive any errors.
“My sons,” Father said, “My time is coming to an end. I have fought in many battles. My body is bruised and torn. You three were my promise and hope. You have fought by my side since you were young boys. Now, you must do one more thing for me.”
My father had always been a brave and powerful man. As a young man, he had been driven from his planet by the Dragon Clan. The thought of them made the bile rise in me. He had come to this planet and met our mother. I never knew her, but the stories I have heard could fill volumes.
Her father had been the Emperor of the Harriers. She was his only daughter and Father had to fight to many battles to win her. On his death bed my grandfather had made my mother Empress. She had ruled during the most peaceful era on Cinera.
My mother died while giving birth to me. I was the youngest of six, three boys and three girls. I am Least of Three. My name does not matter. When mother died she named Father Emperor. This did not sit well with some nobility of Cinera. Up until last year, Father had fought many wars to maintain his rule. He had defeated the last claimant to the throne, but in doing so, had been wounded. The wound had never healed properly, and that led us to this point.
“We will do anything for you Father. You have but to name it.” my eldest brother Eyles said.
“There must be no fighting over your sisters. The first person who comes and asks for your sisters hand, is the person she will marry. Is this clear?”
“Yes Father. We will do as you say.” I said. Getting looks from my older brothers to keep my mouth shut.
“The things I had to do to win your mothers hand haunt me to this day. I will not have that done for my daughters hands” he paused, trying to gain his breath, “You are good boys. Stay with me until my time ends.”
We sat by my fathers side for just a few hours longer. He kept a picture of my mother held tight to his chest until the end. My sisters came in and waited with us. He looked at each of us, taking our hands, and smiled.
When he got to me he said, “You are Least of Three, but you are a mighty man of honor.”
His hand fell from mine and my Father died.