One mustn't ask apple trees for oranges, France for sun, women for love, life for happiness.
~Gustave FlaubertA king anxiously wanted his only son to marry. One day, the prince cut his finger; his blood fell on white cheese, and he declared that he would marry only a woman as white as the cheese and as red as the blood. He set out to find her. He wandered until he came to the Island of Ogresses, where two little old women each told him he could find what he sought here, if he went on, and the third gave him three citrons, with a warning not to cut them until he came to a fountain. A fairy would fly out of each, and he had to give her water at once.
He returned home, and by the fountain, he was not quick enough for the first two, but was for the third. The woman was red and white, and the prince wanted to fetch her home properly, with suitable clothing and servants. He had her hid in a tree. A slave, coming to fetch water, saw her reflection in the water, and thought it was her own and that she was too pretty to fetch water. So she refused, and her mistress beat her until she fled. The fairy laughed at this, and the slave found her. The slave asked the fairy to tell her story and on hearing it, offered to arrange her hair for the prince. When the fairy agreed, the spiteful slave stuck a pin into her head, and the fairy only escaped by turning into a bird. When the prince returned, the slave claimed that wicked magic had transformed her.
The prince and his parents prepared for a grand wedding. The bird flew to the kitchen and asked after the cooking. The lady ordered it be cooked, and it was caught and cooked, but the cook threw the water it had been scalded in, into the garden, where a citron tree grew in three days. The prince saw the citrons, took them to his room, and dealt with them as the last three, getting back his bride. She told him what had happened. He brought her to a feast and demanded of everyone what should be done to anyone who would harm her.
When it was her turn, the slave said she should be burned -- and so the prince had the slave burned.
Val sat in a little orchard, reading this tale; and when she reached up to pluck an orange of her own, it dwindled in her hand, becoming only a sweet-smelling blossom. Before she could fully grasp this, it fractured apart, dissolving into pixels, into atoms, and flew in all directions. She gasped, horrified all out of proportion to the incident.
And she jolted awake, just in time to realize that another had been lost.
She frowned, glancing around the room. How many had been lost? She couldn't even remember, couldn't organize her thoughts long enough to work it out. But the situation was increasingly desperate, that much was clear. They could not make any more mistakes.
," she said, quietly, still frowning. If they were wrong again... but she must not think that way. That way lay madness, and she was near enough to that as it was, she suspected.