The Rose in Twelve Petals by Theodora Goss

In the Forest of Forgetting by Theodora GossThe recently re-released collection In the Forest of Forgetting begins with a lovely fairy tale called “The Rose in Twelve Petals”. It does, as you might guess, have something to do with a sleeping beauty, but it is not the “Sleeping Beauty” story you know. If you have never read any of the stories collected in In the Forest of Forgetting, this one sets the tone. It has not yet appeared online, so here it is, made freely available for you to experience a taste of this collection, which you can read more about right here.

The Rose in Twelve Petals
by Theodora Goss

I. The Witch

This rose has twelve petals. Let the first one fall: Madeleine taps the glass bottle, and out tumbles a bit of pink silk that clinks on the table–a chip of tinted glass–no, look closer, a crystallized rose petal. She lifts it into a saucer and crushes it with the back of a spoon until it is reduced to lumpy powder and a puff of fragrance.

She looks at the book again. “Petal of one rose crushed, dung of small bat soaked in vinegar.” Not enough light comes through the cottage’s small-paned windows, and besides she is growing nearsighted, although she is only thirty-two. She leans closer to the page. He should have given her spectacles rather than pearls. She wrinkles her forehead to focus her eyes, which
makes her look prematurely old, as in a few years she no doubt will be. Bat dung has a dank, uncomfortable smell, like earth in caves that has never seen sunlight.

Can she trust it, this book? Two pounds ten shillings it cost her, including postage. She remembers the notice in The Gentlewoman’s Companion: “Every lady her own magician. Confound your enemies, astonish your friends! As simple as a cookery manual.” It looks magical enough, with Compendium Magicarum stamped on its spine and gilt pentagrams on its red leather cover. But the back pages advertise “a most miraculous lotion, that will make any lady’s skin as smooth as an infant’s bottom” and the collected works of Scott.

Not easy to spare ten shillings, not to mention two pounds, now that the King has cut off her income. Rather lucky, this cottage coming so cheap, although it has no proper plumbing, just a privy out back among the honeysuckle…

Click here to read the rest of The Rose in Twelve Petals.