Fire and Ice Young Adult and New Adult Books

An End of Ever After Novel

Lies of Golden Straw

by E. L. Tenenbaum



"Lies of Golden Straw" by E. L. Tenenbaum In a kingdom where magic is highly prized, the king cannot ignore rumors of a girl who claims she can spin straw into gold.

When the king locks Millie alone in a room with spindle and straw, she's certain she's about to pay a fatal price for her father's lie. Just when she thinks all hope is lost, a mysterious little man appears and offers to complete the task for a small price. Desperate, Millie agrees to the simple, but odd, deal. So begins Millie's dazzling rise from simple miller's daughter to the queen her kingdom celebrates.

Years later, Millie’s deal with the mysterious little man is all but forgotten, until the birth of her first child brings his return. Now, Millie must scramble to find a way out of her deal before the king discovers the truth and she loses her son, and the new life that she’s built, forever.

Lies of Golden Straw is the second installment in the End of Ever After companion series that rewrites classic tales of happily ever after.


 

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Teens / New Adult


End of Ever After

 

Once upon a time, I was naught but the miller’s daughter. That time is over and no one will ever call me such again. I have a new name now, a name I took the day I left my past at the mill and agreed to a future with the king.

Since then, I have seen much of the world, not just the lives of my citizens, but of the kingdoms across the realms. I have met queens and princesses far more beautiful than I, met men with tales far taller than the ones Father used to tell, and I have seen magic far greater than any a young magical I once knew could yield.

Was it worth it?

When once the glint of my future was only bright enough to light the forest around the mill, the present shine is dazzling enough to illuminate an entire kingdom. I don’t think much on the life that could have been, of the possibilities I refused the day I stepped into my new name. Yet there is a man, once a boy with a bright, lavender gaze that lit up when he saw me, who would say the cost was not worth the gain, no matter that jewels instead of straw now adorn my hair. No matter that the price for such riches was but a few simple words to shade the truth.

For the story of how I came here unfolded in ways that prove truth is much stranger, much more dizzying, much more dangerous than fiction. For unlike others, I wasn’t made queen for my beauty, my courage, my wisdom, or my lands and title. Rather, ludicrous as it may seem, I became queen because of my magical ability to spin straw into gold.

Except I can’t.

I became queen on a lie, and it wasn’t even the biggest, or grandest one ever told. It was simply the one that changed my life for good.

 

Violet Tinted Years

 

Everyone knew my father was a liar. Everyone, that is, except for the young king, who really couldn’t be expected to know such details about each of his subjects. Even if he was a better king than the decent one he was agreed to be, it’s highly unlikely His Majesty would ever bother with a lying miller and his daughter tucked into some dusty, unremarkable village of his wide kingdom. It’s something I wouldn’t either bother thinking about until it was too late.

However, the people in my village could be bothered, so when they called me Miller’s Daughter, I was never certain that name didn’t also warn of the type of person I could be. I knew very well what any mention of my father awoke in people’s minds. Still, I lived eighteen peaceful, sheltered years in that little village, and there was never any cause to think the rest of them would be lived otherwise.

All things considered, my life was simple, but good enough. There were the necessary craftsmen in our area—the butcher, the blacksmith, the baker, the cobbler—and enough people and farmers about to give us the trade we needed to live a comfortable village life. We didn’t want, but we didn’t have much to spare either. Like any girl, I dreamed of a life wherein I could afford more and worry less, but never did I actually believe it would come true.

We were the only mill around, and perhaps, because some had to travel days to reach us, created a sense of import which gave free rein to my father’s imagination. As nothing significant ever had nor ever would happen to him, to us, to the village, it seemed his only recourse was to change that, if only in words.

“Oh, oh!” he came moaning into the house one night after it was too dark to work anymore.

“What is it, Father?” I cried, rushing in from another room.

“Oh, oh,” he continued to sigh, clutching his heart, his knee, his back, his head.

“Tell me, Father,” I pleaded. “Tell me what happened.”

Father carried on until I fetched him a tall glass of ale. He took a deep, appreciative slurp before plunging forward.

“You’ll not believe what be happening on me way home tonight, Dear,” he began, a mischievous glint in his eye.

“What happened, Father?” I dutifully questioned, wondering what adventure he could have possibly had in the short time it took him to exit the mill and climb the single flight of steps up to our cottage.

“I was attacked, that’s what!” he exclaimed. “That be why me back’s so sore.”

I couldn’t hold back a horrified gasp. “Attacked! By whom?”

“By whom?” Father echoed. “By what, dear girl!”

“By what, Father?”

“A giant!”

“A giant!”

“Aye!” Father confirmed. “A man so big, the trees be bushes beneath his thundering feet. A man so big, the full moon be but a sliver in the sky behind his enormous head. A man so big—”

“But, Father?”

“Yes, Dear?”

In the lull, Father took another sip of ale to calm the nerves he’d worked up to tell his story.

“How can so big a man see little you?” I inquired. “And what would he want from you if he could?”

“Well, I, ah—”

A pause. Expectant glances.

“It may be a goose of his I took away with me.”

“A goose?” I doubted.

“A goose,” he repeated. “But I’ll not be taking just any old goose. Aye, this be a goose that be laying golden eggs.”

Another pause, this one caused by my hesitance to respond and encourage his ludicrous tale.

“What would we do with golden eggs?” I wanted to know.

“We be selling them, to be sure,” he replied.

“And won’t people want to know from where we got our golden eggs?” I pressed. “Wouldn’t word get back around to the giant?”

“Well, I, ah—”

“Let’s have some dinner then.”

When I was young enough not to know any better, I loved traveling the lengths of my father’s imagination, eager and excited to explore the worlds he built only for me. But when the truth is hidden long enough, often enough, it quickly enough becomes a glistening oasis to the thirsting man lost in a desert of empty words. After years of listening, I could almost always catch Father in his lies, could always detect their approach well before they began to hatch. My love for traveling with him waned as I grew older, yet irony would be sure I wasn’t fast enough to stop the words that would throw my life into disarray.

“Watch the back, Dear,” Father cautioned, as I helped him to the table.

Even with the story dismissed for the fable it was, Father insisted on keeping up the act he could never, would never, let go. Did he lie to himself in thinking I was still an enchanted little girl too naïve to know that nothing he said was true?

“Will it be chicken tonight?” he asked, eyeing the softly simmering pot in the hearth.

“Oh no, we’re having dragon eggs,” I replied easily. “Gathered them from the hills myself.”

“Dragon eggs!” Father played along, delighted my tongue was unfortunately becoming as quick as his. “Take care they not be overcooked, Daughter, or they be hatching in that pot.”

Daughter.

Dear.

That’s all he ever called me.

I didn’t have a name for a long while, odd as that may be considering the significance of names in my story. My mother died before she could name me and, being the only other person in the house, Father never saw cause to give me one. I’d like to think that perhaps my mother hadn’t given me a name, not because she didn’t have time left, but because she wanted me to know that I could be anyone, that I wasn’t tied to one persona. However, like a ship riding the waves without tether, without mooring, without anchor, a nameless anyone is most usually a no one. Without a core to turn to, to rely upon when the world around me changed, I became amorphous, undefined. So it was that I became the person who answered to the names others gave me.

Father, for example, never gave me a name but “Daughter” and “Dear,” and he never thought to do otherwise because I always answered when he called. Father, however, never envisioned the first day of school, that first day when I would be one among several children whom the teacher would look upon and inquire, “What’s your name, dear?”

She mistook my hesitation for shyness, but of course it wasn’t that. It was only that she had asked the same question of three other dears before me and each had replied with something else. It was the first time I realized “Dear” might not be my actual name. Even at so young an age, I highly doubted “Miller’s Daughter” was a suitable answer.

“Go on,” the teacher encouraged, perhaps thinking I was ashamed of the name I’d been given. “You’re amongst friends here.”

That was a lie, but I wasn’t brave enough then to stand up and say so. I met the teacher’s gaze and said nothing.

“Do you know your letters? Will you spell it for me?” the teacher kindly suggested.

Still nothing from me.

I simply had nothing to give her. I had never known a name could be so important until I was the only one without one.

With so long a wait to so simple a question, snickers soon began to fill the room. The other students’ grins, once curious and inviting, turned condescending and mocking. I thought the teacher should have corrected the lie that called them friends, but she didn’t. She actually seemed rather unconcerned by it, intent instead on finding the label that would identify me among others.

Before any cruel child had the chance to give me a name I’d never want or be rid of, a confident boy stood up by his seat and called out, “Millie! Her name is Millie.”

“Thank you, Merlin,” the teacher said. She smiled warmly at me. “Millie?”

I nodded silently in response. It seemed all right to me.

“Well, that’s a very nice name,” the teacher said, the tone of her voice chiding me for withholding it, before moving on to the next kid.

I later caught up to Merlin when the school day was over and asked about the name he’d given me.

Merlin turned his rare, deep purple eyes upon me and smiled in a way that made me wish for a glimpse of the world through them. “It just fit,” he said easily. “Or do you prefer ‘Miller’s Daughter?’”

I shook my head. It was the first time anyone had bothered to call me by a name that was mine alone, and I rather liked it. I still treasure the Millie I became because of it.

So it was Merlin, my soon-to-be best friend, who gave me my first name, and I easily fell into the role of the name he’d given me. I would be his Millie for the next twelve years, good years at that, before a different name would find me and turn me into someone else.