Princess Fantaghirò - The Cave of the Golden Rose

This is the story of a movie series I used to watch as a child, directed by Lamberto Bava, starring Alessandra Martines and Kim Rossi Stuart. When King Romualdo decides that the war that has been going on for centuries, has been going on for too long he challenges an enemy warrior to a duel, and the winner will not only win the duel but the war. The neighbouring king seeks advice from his fortune tellers, and the white witch predicts that only his children will be able to win the duel, the king sends off his three daughters, Katharina, Karolina and Fantaghirò, disguised as men the Knight of Syria, Baron Levière and the Count of Walddorf.

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1. The Baby

 Once upon a time, for many many centuries ago, there was a war. However, it was not an ordinary war, because it lasted since unthinkable times. And no one knew anymore when it started, and why.

No one had ever heard the word 'peace' in either kingdom of the war. The meaning of this word was forgotten on the battlefield where the two sides fought valiantly. Year after year. Month after month. Day after day.

The king followed his soldiers down to the lake and rode after an enemy, sword high over his head, "mercy! Mercy!" Pleaded the soldier, and just as the king was about to strike a messenger called from the top of the hill,

"Your majesty! The big day has come!"

The king looked at the soldier, "you are in luck soldier, I shall spare your life. Thank the royal heir who will be born today."  And he rode proudly off, back to his castle. Through deserts, forests, and clearings until he reached the big stone building, with the red roof, that was his home. The castle. He rode into the throne room, where he jumped off the horse. A stable boy grabbed the rein, and a few other servants began removing his armour, "how long must I wait for my son?" Said the king, "so?" he said, as no one replied.

"It will be time any minute now, your majesty. It would have been disrespectful had he come to the world before your arrival." Said the royal advisor quickly

"What are the prophecies?" The king asked, "I'd rather hear them myself actually,"

"So be it." Replied the advisor, and a flame shot up towards the ceiling from a doorway in the corner of the room, and the royal fortune-tellers came through. The servants gasped. The first had short messy red hair, the second had curly red hair and wore a crown like headpiece, and the third had black hair, wore a big red hat and had a beard. The other two both had moustaches "what are the stones saying?" Said the king. The second fumbled at his waist for a bit and finally pulled brown leather satchel out. The first blew a flame from his mouth, and the other two screamed briefly. "For the love of god, speak!"

The second handed the third a few stones and they took turns at throwing a stone to the floor. They huddled over the stones and the second mumbled some kind of incantation. "And?" the king urged.

"A boy!" exclaimed the third fortune-teller. "Your child will be a boy! The stones never lie."

"You better hope you told the truth, otherwise..." the king stroked his finger across his throat in a threatening movement. "Pay them," said the king

"The truth has no price," said the second and smiled, the third looked at him and shoved him aside so he could get to the advisor who had already pulled out a black leather satchel from which came the sound of gold coins jingling.

"What are the flames saying?" asked the king. The first held his hands up to his mouth, and a flame shot out. "And? What are they saying? Speak!" the king jostled, but the first just shook his head, and then the second said, "The fire eater is mute, my lord! The fire has burnt his tongue to ash! However, the fire unequivocally showed the male colours, your majesty," and the first nodded strongly in agreement. "No doubt, would you like to see it again?"

"No, no," said the king, "where are the holy snakes?"

"Of course, your majesty, of course," said the second and hurried away, as the advisor paid the first.

The king paced a few steps and then said, "I want to see my daughters. My daughters are wished present!" he ordered, and the door opened, and one of the chambermaids came in, holding a hand of both the girls. The first had long braided dark hair, and dark brown eyes, she was thin and wore a light blue gown with a beautiful golden pattern. Katharina. The second had shoulder length curly blonde hair and bangs. Her eyes were as blue as the sea, and she wore a soft pink gown with a silver pattern. Karolina. The king lifted each of them up, and kissed their foreheads, as the second fortune-teller came back with a brown linen bag, of which he emptied the content out onto the floor. The two girls screamed as they saw the snakes, and the king soothed them. "Your majesty, the snakes are unambiguous." Said the second.

"You will finally have an heir, who is worthy of your name." Said the third.

"Did you hear that Katharina? You as well, Karolina? My so long expected heir is coming to the world. He will be your king and master, and you must bow humbly before him. And the one, who shall one day pride himself on being the glorified victor in this war, shall now see the light of the world. And then you two will have a brother-"

"A sister." He was interrupted by a voice, that echoed through the entire castle.

"Who was that?" The king snapped, "who has the audacity?"

"I, your majesty," said the voice, and a woman came walking up on the balcony, with a view down to the throne room. She wore a silver helmet, in which her chalk-white hair stuck out of in a ponytail. She wore a silver breastplate, with an elfish pattern on it. Under that, she wore a big white gown, with balloon-like sleeves. "The white witch!" A woman screamed.

"I cannot lie to and deceive you, your majesty." Said the white witch, and disappeared. And then her voice appeared again, "I don't want to lie to you." Everyone turned their heads, in search of where the voice came from. After a few seconds, the crowd spread building a kind of aisle from the main entrance, "for every lie would be futile." She walked up to the king, so she was only a few steps away from him. She raised her hand to her ear, "listen," she said. And they heard the vague cry of a baby. "Listen," she repeated gently, and the cry became louder, "it is a girl, your majesty. And you must love it and raise it, such as you did with the others."

"You white witch!" The king snapped, "drown in the river in which you were born! Disappear in the forest where the howling storm should give you, your ugly voice!" He began to walk towards her and only stopped when he stood millimetres away.  "Or jump from a tall mountain in the same black abyss in which your evil was hatched, roared and accelerated, before I-," the doors slammed open, and the same chambermaid from before came rushing in, with the newborn in her arms.

She bowed, "your majesty," said the chambermaid.

"There he is. The heir to my throne. His screaming his the signal of your ruin." The king smiled and walked pleased over to the screaming baby, and cooed at it. He carefully opened the baby blanket to see the witch had been right. He stared at the baby, "a girl," he whispered, then spun around and glared at the witch, his eyes lit up with resentment. "This is your work! This was you! You have cursed me! General!"

"At your service, your majesty," said the general, and took a step forward.

"Arrest her!" the king commanded

"Arrest her!" the general repeated, and the witch was surrounded by guards.

"I feel great sorrow for a king who cannot accept the truth," said the white witch, "however, I pity his people even more."

The king's face became red, and then all colour disappeared, "she is sentenced to death. Kill the witch!" Katharina grabbed her sister, and held her closely, as she cried. The white witch pressed her hands together and began spinning around.

"That was an order!" The general called, "kill her!" But the witch spun faster and faster, and then she turned into a little white mouse. The king stared in disbelief, as the mouse hurried away. "Seal the gates! She musn't escape!" The gates were shut immediately, however, the mouse just slipped right under.

"The cats! The cats!" Said the king, as a guard let out the cats, and the ran after her through the corridors, until they caught her in a corner. The white witch returned to her original shape.

"Shame on you!" Her voice echoed, "all of you against one," she looked down at the four cats in front of her, "away with you!" She stamped her foot on the floorboards, and the cats ran away.  She walked through the corridor, past all the candles, and as she reached the end, she once again disappeared.

 

The king opened the door into his bedchamber, and the chambermaid came up to him, and quietly said, "quietly, please, your majesty," and bowed. He walked past her up to the foot of the canopy bed, in which his wife lay, pale as a corpse. "How is she?" asked the king.

"I am terribly sorry, your majesty, her life is coming to an end." Said the chambermaid,

"And she? Does she know?"

"No your majesty, she doesn't know anything yet." Said the chambermaid, bowed and pulled aside. The king walked up to his wife and bent over her, and gently placed a hand on her stomach, "you will get well again soon, my love, and very soon." Said the king gently,

"Is my son beautiful and healthy, as you wished?" Asked the queen weakly.

He placed a finger on her lips and said, "do not speak my love, rest."

"Tell me who he looks like. Please. I don't have much time anymore, dearest." She pleaded weakly,

"From you, he has the beauty and is well-proportioned. And the strength, he has from me. He is exactly the heir I always wanted." The King lied.

"So in the end, I did manage to make you happy," she said weakly, and then she closed her eyes, and exhaled for what the king suspected would be her last time as her head fell to the side.

He carefully stroked a hair out of her sweaty face, "no...," he said weakly, "no...," he repeated, and shook her gently, in a failing attempt to get her back. "No!" he screamed, "The child. The child killed her. His mother won't survive this!" He exclaimed as the chambermaid began to cry, at the side of the bed.

 

"She has such cheerful eyes," said Katharina, "and look at how cute she is."

"Indeed, she's very cute," Karolina agreed, "but I was pretty. Prettier than her, right?" Karolina asked her older sister.

"As beautiful as you is no one." Said Katharina, as their father ripped the baby out of their arms. "No father please, don't take her from us!" Cried, Katharina. "Leave her here, father, please!" She begged, as her father climbed onto his horse and grabbed a sword. "Mercy please, father!" 

"Please father, please!" Karolina begged,

"Father! Father! Please don't hurt our sister!" Katharina cried, as she ran after him, closely followed by Karolina. And they said synchronised, "Leave our sister here, don't hurt her, please leave her here!" But the king ignored them, and rode through the forest to a cave, where he finally stopped.

 

"If my fears prove true, he is bringing this unfortunate child, in the cave of the golden rose," the chambermaid said to Katharina and Karolina, on the brink of tears. "May the good spirits protect her."

 

The king climbed the hill up to the opening of the cave, where he put the baby down on a pedestal. "Listen to me, evil spirits, after the mother, take only the daughter. That she was born, did not happen according to the will of the gods. She as a creature of the devil. Therefore I shall sacrifice her to the holy animal, which houses in this cave. If you do not wish to accept this sacrifice, you evil spirits, then give me a sign! A sign! Now or never!" He said his sword at the ready. And so the white witch appeared, hidden from his view. The king raised his sword high over his head, where he held it for a bit. And as he was about to strike, the white witch broke his sword in half with a lightning. The king fell to his knees next to the baby and soothed her. "The gods want you to live," he said gently, "I ask forgiveness for my horrible plans. From now on, no one in my kingdom shall mention the name of the cave of the golden rose, nor the one of the animal that lives therein. And you shall have a name."

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