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Once Upon A Time...
Author's note: Inspired by my beautiful imagination ;) and the brothers grimm collection or fairytales Hope you people enjoy it!
Fake. Fake. Fake. Fake! All of them! I bit back a groan as yet another girl came up to me, laughing at anything I said even I it wasn’t anywhere near funny. None of these girls were real. None of them acted normal around me. All they wanted was for me to choose them as my wife. Yeah, right.
I looked around the ballroom, not wanting to look at the girl in front of me for the mole on her nose was too distracting. Thank gods that chatter of the room drowned out her incredibly high and annoying voice. I was 100% sure that if she spoke like she normally would, I would actually want to listen.
The ballroom was probably the most decorated, expensive, and beautiful of all of the palace with the exception of the throne room, and to me, the kitchen. With towering ceilings painted by the most skilled artist in all of Lynivar and tall glass windows that was currently letting in the beautiful moon and starlight as the grand, purple drapes were cast aside, there was no doubt in mine or anyone else’s, that this room in itself would amount up to the standers of even gods homes. Balconies lined the wall of the room avoiding the windows as to not ruin the dramatic effect, allowing more guests to mingle and chatter as the railing wrapped around the room, meeting at the end and twisting into the rail of shining stone stairs, parting to each side in the most elegant of ways. At the opposite side of the stairway, the main doors stood tall, guards standing emotionless on either side, more then ready to assist if it need be. The door itself was made of imported wood from Avvidina with gold and iron enforcing it’s strength as it was met by short and long, curved stairs, radiating from the doors ends in a wide semi-circle for guests to make their theatrical entrance. A similar set of stairs awaited on the outside of those doors as well.
But, honestly, who cares about the stairs. I was too busy gaping at the arresting girl that had entered, capturing my heart and everyone else’s at just the sight of her. She wore a sky blue floor length dress that seemed to shine silver as she walked into the light. Her long golden hair was set in twists and curls and yet, it still managed to reach her waist. How long her hair is when straightened? I have could only imagine. She wore a mask that matched her dress, the blue fading into a shining silver over her left eye but I could still tell she must be around my age, 18 or 19. The mask covered most of her face with the exception of her eyes, ending in a beck shape for her nose.
The girl seemed startled to see the many people watching her and she at first, stepped back as if the leave the ball though it was only 9. She seemed to think better of it, standing a little taller with her shoulders set back, her chin held high as she grabbed a bunch of her skirt, lifting it as she descended the stairs. I caught sight of silver, almost clear slippers. Her steps echoed in the room and I had realized that even the band stopped playing just to marvel at the new guest.
I felt a smile coming on as I noticed she was heading in my direction.
“Prince Phineas,” she greeted me with a slight nod as she came closer and I caught sight of electric green eye that seemed to look right through me.
Even with my golden mask on, anyone was supposed to recognize me since I wore the royal insignia on my coat, a golden lion and a silver serpent in battle. It was the most important emblem that has ever existed and the one I wear now could be worth as much as a small fortune.
“Madame,” I started with my best smile and bent deep into a bow, “it would be my honor if-” I stopped talking as I realized the girl was no longer with me.
I search around and caught sight of her, laughing. With another man. I felt an unpleasant feeling bubble in my stomach I took a deep breath, calming myself as much as possible and completely forgot about the first girl talking to me, leaving her as I smoothly and slightly calmly, walked up to the mystery girl. The man she was talking to abruptly stopped the conversation and glared at me through his mask. I ignored them and turned my attention to the girl.
“May I have this dance?” She looked me up and down with those rapturing green eyes and eventually met my gaze.
“With all apologies, you Highness,” She seemed to spit out the word as if it were acid, “but how can we dance if there is no music?”
I felt my face heat up slightly as I realized the band still had not started up again. I turned to them, waving my arm and they stumbled over each other to get in their proper positions and soon, the music once again filled the room.
I turned back around with a smirk that instantly fell away as I saw the girl was gone. Again. I groaned in frustration and later felt like ripping my hair out as a girl, not the one I so desperately wanted to speak to, slithered in front of me with a suggestive smile. This is going to be one heck of a night.
Music? Check. Hair? Check. Tied shoes? Check. Anything in my teeth?
I looked over into a silver platter, running my tongue across my white, flawless teeth.
Check. Ok, she can’t deny me now, I thought to myself as I had my gaze set one the girl across the ballroom, divulged in what must be a very interesting conversation is she I still standing there with that dunce and not here with me.
In the past hour I have approached and been rejected by the untouchable maiden, not once, not twice, but five times! She criticized my hair, my teeth, anything to distract me enough to just slip away.
Nooo. Not this time sweetheart. You will dance with me tonight.
I looked up at the giant diamond embezzled clock that hung above the stair way as it rang 10 times loud and clear, catching the attention of many others in the room as well.
That’s my cue.
I quickly strolled over to the girl and she look very unsurprised to see me again.
“The night’s awastin’. Shall we?” I said, sweeping my hand towards to dance floor without my sight never leaving her.
“You’re shoes’ untied, I’m afraid. I would not like to be the cause of your injury,” she said with that innocent smile that tugged down at the corners as I returned it with a smirk.
“Not this time. Come on.”
Before she could say anything else, I grabbed her by the wrist and dragged her to the empty dance floor. Yes, it was improper touching her without her consent and I was sure to get a beating from the queen later on, but my only goal at the moment was to get her to dance with me.
I wrapped my arm around her waist and pulled her closer, holding her hand in mine as she placed her other on my shoulder. She frowned at me but didn’t say anything.
“Might I have the honor of asking your name?” She hesitated for a second.
“Gwyneira. I like it. I’ll call you Gwen.”
“Only my friends call me Gwen,” she spit out and she seemed as surprised as I was. She recovered quickly and tried to change the subject. “Well if your name is Phineas, then I’ll call you Finn.”
“It would only be fair.” I grinned at her and returned it with a small, almost reluctant smile.
I wondered who she was, why she would avoid questions of herself and only speak questions to me. She seemed interested in who I was, what I did during the day, and who I talked to. I didn’t mind much though, as long as she was talking to me the way she does without faking her entire personality, I would answer any question she asks me.
I told her about my step-mother, the queen, and how awful she could be at times though she was a very good queen. My step-brothers hated me, mostly because they were older and yet, I was still next in line for the throne. Deverell and Anastasius once tried to make me pick lentils out of our fireplace and it ended up with them face first in the ashes. Ever after we had finished dancing, we still continued our talk and I felt more and more certain, that if I had to choose someone to marry, it will be her.
Our conversation went boring and I glanced at the clock. 10:55. Now has to be the time to ask.
“Yeah?” She looked at me expectantly with those beautiful green eyes and suddenly, I felt as if everyone within a 50 foot radius could hear me.
“Will you meet me upstairs in my room in 5 minutes? I have something really important to ask you.”
She looked at me with curious eyes and her smile twitched a little for reasons unknowns. She nodded and I breathed a sigh of relief. I gave her a warm smile and left her to head upstairs and wait for her.
As soon as I stepped in the carriage, I ripped off the clear slippers and chunked them on the floor, growling as their harmlessly bounced off. What, you think their made of glass? Only in fairytales. No, these cured things were made of plastic and not the comfortable kind if there is such thing. I slumped on the cushion and hissed slightly as I pulled out a pin in my hair, yanking out a bit due to my hast. Al looked at me with a raised eye and sighed, holding some golden scissors.
“Are you sure about this, Gwen?” he asked once more and I stroked my loose, golden hair.
Now that I had let it loose, it was tumbling around my shoulders and cascading down onto the floor with length to spare. I loved my hair, as much of a pain it could be. It was useful at times, like the one time a green dragon escaped at carried me off to it’s nest, my hair proved to be a handy rope for me to wrap around the twigs of the nest and lower myself down. My scalp was hurting for weeks but at least I wasn’t baby dragon food. I had already made this decision long before we came to the ball but now, I wasn’t so sure. I heaved a breath, knowing that if I didn’t then the prince would recognize me for sure.
“I’m taking one for the team, Al. This has to be done.”
“Alright then let’s get started.”
I winced as I heard the snips and clicks, watching as locks of hair fell away and slowly darkened into a brown color. My hair will never be it’s same golden color again.
I recalled the time when our camp was invaded by a swarm of pesky pixies and our band of 8 was forced to run and find shelter. I was separated from my 7 little dwarf companions at some point and found myself entering a clearing where a dilapidated house stood, that being the home of a witch who had not seen me and was currently hunched over on a stump and muttering in incoherent words. If I was greeted with the same situation today, I would have simply walked away like anyone else would only, at the time, I was still a feeble minded 6 year old who thought everyone was my friend.
Now, had this witch been sane, I would have most likely been killed but luck was at my side and this witch was probably the loser of a battle I hear goes on between witches and sorcerers, so to state it simply, she was crazy.
I had walked up to her, asking where I was and if she could help me and she started shrieking, laughing, and going through the most abrupt and insane mood changes in the history of Lynivar. One second she was laughing at nothing (giving poor 6 year old me a fright, might I add) and the next, she was murmuring something about honey, gold, and sunshine.
With a snap of her fingers, her nature magic did their job and volia! You got yourself a scarred, petrified, alarmed little girl with the most beautiful golden hair the world has ever seen.
A scare I must have giving my friend when they walked in the clearing to me blond and crying on the ground and a crazy witch muttering about donkeys tasting good with butter on the side.
I hated the color and we tried dyeing it but nothing would change to color. After a while, when it grew long, we tried cutting it every scissor broke trying to break even a strand. So we let it grow out to it’s crazy length and I grew to love my hair. And now, it is finally disappearing with the help of the golden scissors Fairy Candace created for this very purpose.
After what seemed like hours, which was only a few minutes, Al set the undamaged scissors down and handed me a mirror. I gasped at the change. Every trance on golden hair was gone, replaced with the original chocolate brown color I was born with. I marveled at the maneuverability I had now that my hair reached just below my shoulders. Me green eyes looked back at me, as wide as saucers and I put on a bright smile, remembering how much I had loved my brown hair as much as I did my blond.
“Thanks, Al. I’ll meet you and the others outside of the wall. Did Bash take out the guards yet?”
“Yup. I’m gonna go wake up Slug.”
“He fell asleep again?”
“Well could you blame him? I would have to if I had to sit outside on a carriage for 2 hours. By the way, how did you manage to get the prince to go to his room?”
“I didn’t. He did it to himself, the idiot. He was expecting me to meet him at 11 although I’m sure he’ll wait a little long.”
Al snickered and exited the carriage, giving me privacy to change out of the dress and into something more comfortable. I slipped on a pair of trousers and a shirt and sneaked out the carriage so that guards didn’t see a lady running around in men’s clothes. That will definitely raise suspicion.
I hid in the shadows and wrapped my cloak tighter around me, pulling the hood up. I was now just a faceless ghost passing right next to people with skilled silence, so perfected that I could stand next to them and they would not notice until I spoke or made any sudden movements. I slipped past the first rank of guards surrounding the castle with ease and caught sight of Grog, hiding a group of bushes. I grinned and slipped right next to him, tapping him on the shoulder and laughing as he jumped in fear with drew is short sword. He nearly tackled my until I pulled my hood down.
“Jeez, Gwen! I almost sliced, diced, and deep fried you! Stop sneaking up on me like that!”
“Wow, Grog. If didn’t know you were a chef. Maybe you could start making your own meals.”
“Oh put a sock in it. Come on. The pollen is up and Pig is this close to giving us away.”
I smiled and pulled the hood back up, following silently behind him and soon, I saw Pig, Slug, Snig, Dour, Bash, and Al, all waiting patiently by the palace wall with 3 guards knocked out and tied up behind them, each of them only wearing their undergarments. I shook my head at the dwarves humor.
“Uh oh. Guys? It’s coming again,” Pig panicked.
Instantly, everyone dove at him and pinched his nose. Pig huffed in rapidly, squinting his eyes shut as a sneeze came on. When it didn’t come and Pig could open his eyes again, we breathed out a sigh of relief and stepped away.
“Gosh, Pig. This is why we never bring you on these kinds of missions!” Dour scowled.
“Hey! You need me if you’re going to get up to that balcony!”
I rolled my eyes at their playful banter and looked up at our target, some 50 feet in the air. The stone wall was luckily build with round edged blocks, providing us with crevasses and foot holds to scale the wall up to the balcony above us. Seeing the my 7 companions didn’t have the reach and were not fond of heights, I was the only one up for the task. Shame, I could have used my hair as a rope to lift up the others once I was at the top but since I had no longer had that advantage, a rope would work the same.
I secured my hood and took a running start, leaping high onto the wall and concentrated on my feet and hands. Then I reached that part where the next secure handhold is too high. I glance around the wall, sighing as I knew going sideways won’t help either.
“I’m going to have to jump!” I shouted down the them.
“Be careful Gwen! You still owe me 10 copper coins!”
I rolled my eyes. Leave it the the Snig to lighten the situation. I took a deep breath, settling my shaking leg and situated myself to get a better reach on the next handhold. I leaned back a little and launched myself high, almost missed it but catching it just in time to not fall to my doom. I smiled and let out a breath, calling out to the others that I was all right. The rest of the way was a breeze and I found myself even with the balcony railing and pulling myself over.
I unraveled the rope and tossed it down over the side, glancing at the doorway into the prince’s room just to see if he had heard me. When no one came through, I looked back over the balcony and saw Bash and Dour making their way up quiet easily. Years of mining has really paid off only, now their talents are used for a better cause.
The clock struck 12, the bangs of bells from the clock echoing through doors and windows and out so the whole town could hear it.
Wow. Kidnapping the prince will be easier then I thought.
That was my last thought before I felt the point of a sword against my back.
Where is she!
I ran my hand though my hair again and at this point, it must be sticking up in all directions.
She should have been here minutes ago!
I looked at my clock that hung on the wall, a miniature version of the grander one downstairs. It read 11:30. 30 minutes late. Could something have happened? Was she in trouble? Did she know what I was going to ask and ran off? Should I go downstairs to wait for her? After debating over it, I decided to giver her 30 more minutes, and then I will go in search for her. Perhaps I can convince the queen to give me an extension on my decision.
To make the time pass, I humored myself with the safe. It was the last thing my father gave me before he passed away a few years back. No key, combination, nothing. Just a note saying, I will open to you one day. The lands greatest lock smiths have come and used every technique there is to open it and none of them left even a scratch. I don’t know why but half of the lock smiths say it magic. And half of the time, I believe them.
That also, is probably my dad’s fault. Ever since I was a little kid, he shared storied with me, about common people turning into princesses and princes with the help of fairy godmothers. Since at first, he only shared tales like Snow White and Repunzel, I hated them and thought they were girly and childish. But I never asked him to stop telling them. Some of them like Rumpelstiltzkin and Robin Hood really caught my attention. I hadn’t thought about those tales since my dad passed away, I realized. I guess all thoughts of father was packed away in the deepest corners of my mind.
I jerked up and looked at my doorway, hearing the echoes of 12 bells going off, one after another. It’s midnight. And she still isn’t hear. I sighed and stood up, heading towards the door when I heard a rustle just outside on the balcony. I paused, turned around and grabbed my sword before pushing aside the fabric that acted as a doorway.
There, leaning over the railing, was a figure in a dark, blood red cloak that reached just above the floor. The hood was thrown up and I went on attack mode, pressing the tip of my swords against his back. He noticeably tensed and his grip on the railing tightened, only making me dig the tip of the sword deeper in his back.
“Who are you?” I hissed.
The figure seemed to c*** his head to the side as if in thought and slowly turned around to face me. The hood shadows his face, making it impossible for me to see him.
“Why, dear Phineas, I’m your worse nightmare.”
Suddenly, two pint sized men jumped over the railing and one of them charged at me with his own sword, it being much shorter then mine though. I parried, and switched from offense to defense, dodging and ducking blow after blow without having to raise my blade.
“Hold still will ya!” He growled and I backed up into my room.
I deflected against a swing and knocked him back a little, just in time for me turn only to find the door blocked by the other little man. I turned back just in time to parry another swipe and this time, swung my leg out and tripped him onto the floor. I raised my sword for the final blow when something knocked me over onto my side. I fell into my wardrobe tipping it over and crashing onto the ground with me along side it. I turned over onto my back and saw yet another small person, this one wielding two short daggers. Before I could raise my sword, he ducking inside my guard faster then I thought possible and had the knives ready to kill at each side of my neck. I glanced behind him out the door and saw 4 more short people climbing over the balcony. What was going on?
“Pig. Don’t kill the poor boy.”
The sword was kicked out of my hands and I saw the man standing above me. He pulled back the hood and I was shocked to see this him was a her. She had brown hair ended just below her shoulders and green eyes, exactly the same color as Gwen’s. But, no. This couldn’t possibly be Gwen! This women in front of me was wearing trousers of all things! Men’s clothes! This couldn’t be the same Gwen I danced with, the one not trying to kill me. Right?
“I’m won’t. Don’t you worry. Grog! Do you have the sack?”
“Aw jeez Grog! We put you in charge of one thing!” Another man yelled.
“Boys! Be quiet or you’ll have the guards coming up here!”
That’s right! The guards! I immediately began shouted at the top of my lungs, calling for help. It didn’t last long. Instantly, I felt my mouth being stuff with my bed sheets as the small men and girl glared at me furiously.
“It’s ok, Dour. I brought the sack. How are we going to get him down, Al?” The girl asked. She seemed to be leading this little band of misfits.
Another midget, who must be named Al answered, “Bash is the strongest. We strap the prince to his back and we can lower them down from the top so Bash doesn’t have to climb his way down.”
“Either that or we can always through him off the balcony. You think he can survive that, Al?”
“I doubt that, Snig.”
“That was supposed to be a joke.”
“Everything is supposed to be a joke with you,” Dour said with a frown.
“Lighten up, Dour! You’re always so grumpy!”
That’s when everything clicked.
“The seven dwarves from Snow White and the Red Rose!”
“You know of us? I always knew we were famous in some way!” Snig said with a smile.
“And you! You must be Snow White!” I shouted, pointing at the girl.
“Snow White? Please! Like I would be anything like that little spoiled brat!” she snapped, startling me quiet a bit and I almost cut myself on the daggers Pig still held against my neck.
“Yeah! That good for nothing backstabber! And after all we did for her! Gave her a home, a place to stay and as soon as she finds her prince, what happens to us? Dumped. Like last weeks garbage. Well I say good-riddance! She couldn’t even clean the house properly anyway!” The dwarves all chimed in.
Well this certainly is a turn of events. I noticed the still unnamed girl roll her eyes and pull a sack out of her cloak. She gave me a strangely familiar smile and yanked the sack over my head. I could hear grunting and cursing as something valuable was knocked over and broke on the floor.
“Whoops. Sorry your royalyness. Hope that wasn’t expensive,” a voice called.
I was yanked up into a sitting position and I felt rope being tied around my wrists and ankles, one of my shoes slipping off in the process. Shortly after, I was tossed over the shoulder or someone I suspected to be Bash. I could feel it as Bash was being lowered down, detecting a jolt as he hit the ground. After that, I wasn’t sure what was going on. I knew I was being tossed around and, at one point, was thrown into some mode of transportation, most likely a carriage since I heard a horse whinny.
The whole way I was just trying to wrap my mind around the whole thing.
I’ve been kidnapped.
Queen Clara stomped swiftly down the empty hallway. It was 1 o’clock in the morning and she was furious. Her step-son was supposed to announce his wife an hour ago! Clara could not believe he’s been staying in his room the whole time when he should be downstairs in the ballroom where many young women waited for him.
She passed many nobles and lords, all of them looking at her with lust and want. How could they not? The Queen’s beauty was like no other. Her skin was white as snow, hair as black as ebony, and lips and red as blood. It was her beauty that drew the attention of the widowed king and thus, taking her as his own.
The Queen lifted her golden dress up, slightly, carefully walking up the spiral staircase up the tower to Prince Phineas’s room. She entered a single hallway where two guards where stationed, quickly scurrying out of her way as soon as they saw her.
Clara knocked on the door, calling out Phineas’s name and when there was no response, she tried once more, quickly becoming impatient with her good for nothing step-son. When he still didn’t answer, she decided to let herself in.
“Phineas! What are-”
She stopped her yammer immediately as she saw the state of the room. The wardrobe was knocked over on it’s side, it’s contents spilled all over the floor. The rope that held up the grand tarp over the bed was gone, leaving the tarp twisted and tangled in a bed, bare of it’s sheets. The mirror was shattered, it’s shards left behind on the floor and the door to the balcony was blowing in the wind, giving the whole scene and ominous look.
“GARRET!” the Queen screamed as soon as she over came the shock of the situation.
In a matter of seconds, the tall, burly head guard was there, awaiting his Majesty’s orders. He took in the state of the room and in a matter of seconds, reached the same conclusion the Queen had.
“Send out a search party immediately! Give a reward of 10,000 gold coins! We will find Prince Phineas!”
Garret nodded and hurried out of the room to carry out the order. The Queen looked around the room and there, her gaze fell on what seemed to be the only thing left behind of the missing Prince. His shoe.
Slug pulled the horses to a complete stop and I hopped of the seat I shared with Slug and Pig. I held the door open as Bash came out, smiling as the sun hit his face and he would look quiet normal if Finn wasn’t strung over his shoulder. Out follow Snig and Dour. Grog and Al had road ahead to make sure we didn’t encounter any trouble on the way here although I didn’t see the use of it since our camp was in the middle of nowhere and we quickly met back up with them, preparing to make the last stretch of the journey on foot.
There was no need to keep the sack over Finn’s head now that we’re already here, so I yanked in off, only to find that the prince was asleep. Snig and I shared a look and we burst out laughing. I’m pretty sure this is the first captive we’ve had that fall asleep rather than fight back although it was 4 in the morning. I was feeling a bit fatigued myself.
“Well, less trouble for us!” Pig commented.
“Do I still have to carry him? It’s not that he’s heavy it’s just, well this boy’s a giant!”
“No. You’re just a dwarf.”
“I still can’t believe he didn’t recognize you. I mean, I thought the eyes would surely give you away,” Al commented and I shrugged.
“He’ll figure it out soon enough. It’s not like I can hid my name forever.”
I pulled out a bag of provisions we had brought out of the carriage and set it aside aside to push the carriage, with Dour’s help, behind some bushes and trees where it will be out of sight from any wandering travelers, not that many came down this abandoned road anyway. Better safe than sorry.
I pulled my red cloak tighter around me as the chill began to come in on this cold fall night and nodded to the rest, taking the lead into the so-called ‘demented forest.’ Funny how just a few tricks and stunts on passer-bys can make the rest of the world stay away. Every once and a while, some idiot ventures into our forest and we are forced to let the ogre loose, chasing them away and spread the tale once again of, and I quote, ‘A giant beast, feasting off those who dare wander into the demented forest. But if the monster doesn’t getcha, then ay, I promise you, the forest itself will.’ I should know. I spread some of these rumors myself. It’s a fun pass time.
I paused for a second on the trail, which was visible only to those with a trained eye and who have traveled it before, glancing in the northern direction. I lifted my hand, motioning the others to stop and stay silent. There! Another rustle came from the bush and I drew my thin, strong, and light sword, hearing the others do the same with their weapons.
I heard a twang in the exact second I dropped hard to the ground, missing an arrow by centimeter that hit the tree behind me instead of my head.
“Dang it, Robin! You almost hit me!”
I stood up and brushed the dirt off my cloak, sheathing my sword as a man in his early 20s reveled himself from the tree, laughing of course. He was a short man, not nearly as small as the dwarves but the same hight as me, making him shorter then most of the other men. His brown hair was messy as always, curling a little at the ends and was in desperate need of a hair cut as he continuously pushed it out of his brown and warm eyes. He grinned at me and I saw the stubble growing a little along his chin and upper lip. He wore the usual, brown pants and a shirt with his quiver strapped around his shoulder and bow in hand, not at all like the green tights and ridiculous hat many people envisioned Robin Hood to look like. If anyone even brought up the idea of tights, you would most likely find an arrow in your chest before you can even finish the sentence.
“Trust me, Gwen. If I wanted to kill you, you would already be dead.”
“Oh yeah? Without that bow you know I can kill you, easy.”
“Why do you think I never put the bow down?”
I rolled my eyes and he grinned. His smile faded into curiously as he looked over my shoulder and caught sight of Finn, currently asleep and looking odd as he was string between Bash and Dour.
“Aren’t you going to introduce me to your boyfriend? It is, after all, my job as your brother to make sure every man treats you well. Your so delicate,” he said as he patted my hand. I swatted him away with a growl.
Yes, Robin Hood is my brother. Not my real one, of course, but he came pretty darn close. I met him a few years after the seven dwarves took me in as an abandoned baby. If you haven’t noticed, these guys aren’t very good mothers. They have left me alone countless times and even I’m surprised I’m still alive. So of course, I met Robin when I was 8, running around outside alone of course seeing that I was lost. Robin was only 12 at the time and he was just earning his title Robin of the Wood, which of course, over time, transformed into Robin Hood. He mistaken me as a deer due to the fact that I was wearing brown clothes and I was laying on the forest floor, looking a butterfly that caught my eye. He shot me. But again, he was just earning the Robin of the Wood title and thankfully, missed my heart. He only grazed my hip and once he realized I was no deer, he took care of me until I was well again. Ever since then, he always thought of me as his little sister.
“One: He’s not my boyfriend. Even you know I wouldn’t stoop that low. And two: this is Prince Phineas of Lynivar,” I said with a smug smile, enjoying his shock as his eyes grew as wide as saucers.
“Yup,” I grinned, popping the ‘p.’
“Oh gosh. Hurry! We have to get him to camp! The Queen would have already sent out a search party for him!”
I was surprised by his hast but didn’t question, following closely behind as we soon entered a clearing, roughly 3 acres all around, just as the sun began to rise. Thousands of tents were pitches, women, children, and men were playing, cooking, working. Many small fires were burning, giving the whole camp a smell of smoke and cooking food that mixed well with the natural scent of pine from the woods around us.
Along the way, Finn must have woke up because he was currently marveling at our camp we had built from the ground up. Here, supposed fairy tale creatures lived in peace and harmony, living off the resources given from the forest with the exception of the supplies we need from the outside world, which is why we must steal and take from unsuspecting travelers. We mean no harm and it has been years since we ever had to kill anyone, that being the exception seeing that they almost killed one of us. We take small things most of the time, little things here and there that all add up to a steady supply. But times are desperate now. The game in our forest are slowly depleting, leaving many of us hungry and our thievery has been increasing sadly.
“What is this place?” Finn asked, his feet no longer bound like this hands so he was walking on his own, next to me at the moment.
“I suspect you know all the fairy tales, right?” He nodded. “Well those stories you’ve heard, aren’t just that. This is where all those, so-called ‘fairy tales creatures’ live. Every tale you’ve heard was based off of the people living here.”
“Where are the Princesses and Princes? Shouldn’t they be living in grand palaces, and not in the middle of nowhere?”
“Not all fairy tales have princesses. In fact, most of the stories with princesses turn out to be a writer wanting to spice up the tale by throwing them in. Cinderella? A lie. Snow White was real, but, well, we don’t like to talk about her. Sleeping Beauty? Another lie although the 13 Wise Women is no myth and instead, there are only 3. I’m sure their around here somewhere... Anyway! The Frog Prince, although is very real. He and his princess are the grandparents of King Randal of Avvidina. They passed away but still, they were very much real. Other then Snow White, The Frog Prince, and a few select others, there are not many fairy tale princes and princesses in this land anymore.”
He nodded and continued to look around the camp in wonder and I got a better look at him. Without his mask, I realized he was quiet handsome. He had black hair with a slight curl at the ends and it was very messy but thats understood since Bash is not one to handle carefully. He had starling blue eyes of all things, a solid ice blue that could catch anyone off guard. He stood a few inches higher then me, something I didn’t appreciate that much and I sympathized with the dwarves. He was well defined, not to bulky but not too skinny. He has muscles in all the right places, the effect for years of wrestling, swords play, and horses back riding.
I realized I was staring and averted my gaze to something else. Through a crowd of little children running around and giggling, I caught sight of Fairy Candace and waved her over.
“Fairy Candace!” I shouted and couldn’t help but let a big smile break through.
I jumped up and wrapped her in a big hug. When most people think of fairy godmothers, they usually think of an old, kind lady with white hair, a sweet smile, and a long robe. Fairy Candace was nothing like that. If she wasn’t so dang nice and innocent, she could wrap every king and prince (maybe some princesses) around her finger in a snap without the use of magic. She had fiery red hair that put other shades of red to shame, definitely giving her character and her eyes were a rare amber color. She was incredibly tall at a whopping 6 feet and 6 inches and had that perfect hour-glass figure not to mention perfect smile, perfect teeth, perfect face. And to only add on to her beauty, she was the epitome of kindness, virtue, purity. If you say ‘nobodies perfect’ then you have clearly not met Fairy Candace.
Candace was also the one who taught me to at least act like a lady. If it wasn’t for her, I would have fallen head over heels at the ball. Literally. She was also the one who gave me the dress. I hate dresses. And make up. And those atrocious shoes. As I thought of it, I made a silent promise to never go to a ball again.
She gave me a warm smile and twisted a lock of my hair around her finger.
“I see the scissors worked.”
“They did. The spell broke and I am official a brunette.”
“Excellent.” She saw Finn staring at her in awe and gave him a smile as well before turning back to me. “And you’re trip was successful. How do you suppose the Council with react?”
I gave an awkward laugh before saying, “I have no idea. I’m sure we can work something out.”
“Council?” I turned and saw Finn looking at us in confusion. “What are you planning to do with me?” I shrugged.
“There’s a lot of things we could do. Kill you. Place you under a spell or a curse. Which ever you prefer although I doubt it will be your choice anyways. Oh! Gunther has been very hungry lately. A good option I believe.”
“Our ogre,” I said simply and turned away so he wouldn’t see me silently laugh to myself.
“Oh, Gwen. Stop torturing the poor boy.” Candace said with a disapproving frown. Finn jerked his head up and stared at me in amazement.
“Oops. Was I not supposed to say that?” Candace asked and I cursed under my breath, shaking my head.
“No, it’s fine. He would have found out at some point anyways.” I turned to see an open mouthed prince, staring at me as if I had grown a second head, which around here is possible. “Yes. It’s me.”
“Me,” I said in a bored tone, already knowing how this was going to go down.
“Know any other words?”
“That’s my name. Don’t wear it out.” I casually examined my nails, giving him some time to process the information.
Finn looked at me in disbelief for a few more seconds until his expression changed into a blank stare. I awaited for the jabber of words but he allowed for an awkward silence to fall between us. Candace and I shared a look and she shrugged, not knowing what to say and hurried away as the opportunity arose when someone called for her.
“Uhh, Slug? Why don’t you show Finn where he’s staying. There’s an extra bed in the house. He can stay there.”
Slug nodded, gripping Finn tightly by the ropes that still bound his hands and yanked him away.
I was left there, still wondering what just happened.
Slug dragged me along my the rope that bound me, chafing my wrists but my thoughts were too muddled to even realize it.
It is Gwen! How did I not see it before! I should have been able to recognize those eyes anywhere! How did her hair turn it’s brown color? Did she dye her hair? When did she even have time to cut it? How is it possible that the kind, quiet girl I danced with is the same as this fiery women who isn’t afraid to put a knife to my neck?
The questioned didn’t stop at just Gwen, but of the whole camp as well. I didn’t think it was possible for a whole community like this to live out here without the world knowing.
I was yanked out of my thoughts when I almost toppled over Slug, who had suddenly stopped at a giant stump, rising 25 feet above me. Years of eroding has whisked away the dirt under the stump, leaving it suspended in the air from the strong and sturdy roots that held it up high and strong. The roots were connected together with planks of wood nailed across them all around, giving it a wooden hut sort of look.
Slug pulled the heavy wooden door open and I had to duck a little to get inside. The inside of the house was even bigger then it looked on the inside. The stump was hollowed out, giving the roof and giant hole just above an open fire,t he hole used as a vent for smoke. I could make out a hatch on the roof to close up the hole in case of rain or any other disturbance that could come through the roof.
The hut was separated into 5 rooms. We were currently in the middle of the first one which served as a family room and kitchen judging by the cabinets holding spices, herbs, and other foods along with a rack nailed to the wall, holding furs or meats to dry off. Around the fire were stools, one taller then the others and everything seemed covered in soft animal furs. It is winter after all.
The next room I saw must have been the dwarves room. It only had the seven usual beds, a wide mirror in the corner, and 3 separate chests to hold personal belonging. Gwen’s room was similar only with a bigger bed and she had more hooks of the walls to hold more feminine clothing articles thought most of the clothes I saw where trousers and shirts. I did, however, catch sight of the dress Gwen wore last night. My room was roughly the same size as the others with a bed and chest in the corner. It was empty and I suspected this was used sometimes, seeing how the bed was unmade and the mirror had a crack along it.
I wonder what the 5th room was, seeing the closed door on the way here but didn’t bother to question. I looked down in surprise and saw Slug cutting loose the ropes. He twisted the sharp of the knife under that last length that held my writs fast and paused, looking up at me dead in the eye.
“Try and run and you will be dead before the first 3 steps. Understood?” I gulped at the threat, detecting the seriousness behind his words and nodded. He wasn’t kidding.
He sighed as if he didn’t believe me but cut the rope regardless.
“Get some sleep. You’ll see the court around noon. That should give you plenty of time to rest up and gather your strength. Trust me, you’ll need it.”
And with that, he left me alone in my room and I heard a clicking sound from the door. I shook my head, pressing my lips tightly together. Even if I say I won’t run, they still lock the door. I walked over to my bed, thankful for the furs as a morning cill began to bit through my coat that was now stained with dirt and dust. I sunk deeper into the pillow and let sleep take over.
I jumped out of bed in a frantic, hitting my head hard against something else and collided my head back into the pillow. Bleary eyed, I looked up to see Gwen glaring at me, rubbing her forehead in the same manner I was.
“Lords, Gwen! Did you have to scream? A simple ‘wake up’ would have been sufficient,” I said, returning her glare with equal force.
“I did try that! Plus poking, prodding, slapping, wet willying.”
“What’s a wet willy?” She just laugh and shook her head.
“Come on. The Council is held on the far side. Let’s hope we don’t run into any...unpleasant villagers.”
I held back the question, figuring I didn’t want to know. Gwen tossed me a pair of trousers, a loose shirt, and a pair of boots. She left the room for me to dress and I do admit. I would look good as a commoner. I grinned at myself in the mirror and I heard sigh from behind me. I saw Gwen in the mirror, leaning against the doorway with a raised eyebrow, shaking her head.
“And to think you couldn’t be any more vain. Come on.”
I followed her outside, seeing it was around noon and everyone was bustling to make or eat lunch. The tents were left vacant by this point, everyone chatting and laughing with gave the camp an all around good feel. I noticed that nearly every person greeted Gwen with a warm smile, and stared curiously at me, making me squirm under their gazes.
A cloud smoke appeared directly in front of me and I could hear Gwen curse beside me in between coughs. A small man emerged from the vanishing smoke and when I say small, I mean small in every way. He was as tall as the dwarves (well, as short as the dwarves) with thin arms and legs and a very lean and slightly hunched body. His orange hair was sticking in all directions as if he had been struck my lighting and his eyes stared at me with a crazed look. He pointed a boney finger at me with a mad and twisted grin.
“Quick! What’s my name!”
“Uhh...” I racked my brain. Where have I heard of this before? “ Your Rumpelstiltskin!”
“Wrong! My name is Muffi-Jo!” He cackled and skipped circles around me chanting, “Muffi-Jo! Had a crow! Who wants a fro! Woohoo!” I gave Gwen and bewildered look and she just rolled her eyes, a small smile twitching at the corners of her mouth.
“Ol’ Rumpel’s been like this ever since someone figured out his name. He doesn’t do much harm, just runs around and asks people for his name. We’re lucky the poor guy didn’t rip himself apart, he was so angry when they figured out his name.”
“Oh Billy Bob. Oh Billy Bob! My name is Grinch Ver Shish Kabob!”
I let a small laugh escape form my lips as the Rumpelstiltskin pumped his fist in the air and scuttled away to pester the other villagers, who reacted kindly to him. Not one of them uttered a single harsh word.
We made it through the camp without another run in with some poor crazy fairy tale creature much to Gwen’s relief and arrived at what looked to be the biggest tent here. It stood as tall as the dwarves hut, a flag planted at the top and the entire thing was stained red.
“Hey. Isn’t this the tent that was stolen a few years back?” I questioned Gwen who went red in the face and denied it no matter how much I insisted it was.
Not a single bit of space was wasted on the inside. A curved, horseshoes shaped table was curved along in the inside, the opening facing the tent entrance and 13 chairs were placed behind it. 5 of the chairs placed at the center of the table stood out against the rest, the back rising higher then the others and was carved with designs with 4 more lesser chairs on each side.
In the chairs sat 3 old women who seemed to be triplets, the only difference being one wore blue, the other wore green, and the last wore red. I recognized Fairy Candace from earlier and she looked as stunning as usual, calmly looking around and the many people arguing and debating. The last women was just as tall as Candace sitting down at least, and seemed to be made of snow itself. She glittered in what light there was, looking as if an ice and snow sculpture carved by skilled hands had come to life. A glittering ice crown was placed atop her head and blue eyes shined as they fell upon him. Those years his father told him of tales finally became useful as he remembered perfectly who this women was. The Snow Queen.
“Order!” The Snow Queen shouted, her voice filled with authority and power.
The chatted slowly but surly died down as they all realized that I was here. Gwen grabbed my by the forearm and pulled me to a chair that sat in the middle of the horseshoe, putting me on display so the 13 Council members could all get a good look at me.
“Gwen? Dear? What exactly have you dragged in this time?” The fairy in blue asked with sarcasm.
“Merryweather, there’s no need for doubt. This is Phineas,” she said, gesturing to me.
“I see... Well, any proposals as to what we should to with him?”
It was as if someone cut the rope that bound the chatter, letting it all loose as every single person was engaged in some sort of debate. I heard bits and pieces of words here and there but none of them made any clear sense.
“Hello? Hello!” I heard a tiny, drowned out voice to my left and saw a very tiny girl, only a few inches tall stomping and looking very angry and no one payed attention to her. Maybe I could earn her favor?
“Hey!” I shouted and everyone fell silent, looking at me in surprise. They probably didn’t expect me to speak. “She wants to speak.” I said, pointing at the little girl. The Snow Queen narrowed her eyes before turning to the inch tall girl.
“Go ahead Thumbelina.”
“Thank you!” she said with a sweet voice and patted down her tiny skirt before giving me a wicked grin. “I say we kill him!”
And the chatter instantly broke out again. So much for that plan.
“Stop!” All heads turned to Gwen who was pinching the bridge of her nose, her arms crossed and she looked very annoyed. “I kidnapped him for a reason. We need food and the only place we can get it is from the outside world.” Gasps all around that died done as Gwen raised her silencing hand. “I’m not sure if any of you have figured it out but this is Prince Phineas of Lynivar. He would definitely be worth a lot of money. So my suggestion is this: use him for ransom money.”
This time, people only spoke in low mummers of agreements. There was a lot nodding, some shaking of the heads but in the end, the majority agreed. Heads turned at the door flap whisked open and a man strode in, holding a rolled up piece of parchment and a very grim expression.
“Robin? What happened?” Gwen questioned with concern.
Robin’s response was unrolling the parchment, revealing my face painted on the tinted paper. My eyes widened at the sight.
“This is ridiculous!” I shouted and snatched it from Robin’s hands, looking it over and over again.
“For once. I agree with him,” Gwen said as she looked over my shoulder at the paper.
“I know! They gave me a unibrow!” Everyone fell silent and looked at me in mockery.
“Uhh, besides that. There’s a reward for the prince. 10,000 gold coins.”
I could feel in excitement in the air. All but one agreed. They were going to turn me in for the reward. Well, it’s better then being eaten by an ogre named Gunther.
“Wait. How do you know I won’t tell the Queen about you guys?”
“Easy. I already have a batch of Forget-About-It! stew! You’ll forget everything about this place and think that, for instance, you got lost in this forest, barely made it out with your life, and Gwen will pose as a girl who found you wandering the border line and collect the reward,” Candace answered with a soft smile. Anything she says sounds gentle and easy.
After a few more debates on other matters inside the camp, the Snow Queen dismissed us and Gwen took me back to the hut. She, of course, locked the door leaving me to rot until the time came to take me back, telling me to rest, but I could not. My thoughts prevented me from falling asleep. I wondered if there was a way I could avoid the Forget-About-It! stew and tell the Queen about this place. Sure the Queen was an awful women at times, but at the beginning, when she was first marrying my father, she was the most gentle creature I’ve ever met. I’m sure that person is still in there. Could she possibly give these people food and water, the supplies they need to live? Maybe their own homes in the kingdom?
But did these people even deserve it? They did kidnap me after all and steal from my people. They were thieves by law, criminals that needed to be punished. They seemed harmonious but could it all be just an act? Is it just a trick? Would it matter in the end?
In the end, I just confused myself. I would figure something out. Somehow.
I stopped in my tracks, startled as I heard banging and stumbling inside of Fairy Candace’s hut. Curiosity won and I suddenly found myself standing in the doorway of her home, looking in astonishment at her mess. Ok, so maybe I take back my comment about Candace. She’s not perfect. I was surprised she could even find anything in here.
“Are you ok?” I asked, disconcerting her. She jumped and hit her head on a hanging pot, groaning and rubbing the back of her neck.
“Yes, yes. I’m fine. I seemed to have...misplaced the Forget-About-It! stew.”
“I’m surprised you haven’t misplaced everything in here,” I muttered but she heard it and let out an shaky laugh.
“I like to think of it as organized chaos. I’m afraid we’ll have to send the prince back later then expected.”
“How long until you can make more?”
“Hehe. Yes, well, it may take me a few months...”
“Months! Candace we can’t keep him here that long!”
“Spring’s just around the corner! I’m sure I have have something cooked up by the beginning of summer, maybe a few weeks before if I work nights.”
“Can’t we just hold him for ransom?”
“And risk exposer? I believe not. Until the stew is ready, I’m afraid he’s going to have to stay here. Maybe you could teach him a trick or two, show him the ropes. He could help provide for camp. We could always use and extra hand.”
“No! I refuse to babysit some spoiled prince!”
“Gwen. Please? It’s only for a little while and you know these woods better then anyone else! For me?” Even as an adult, she could get away with the puppy eyes.
“Fine,” I grumbled and stormed out the hut, ignoring her frantic call for me to return.
Why must I have to teach Finn how to hunt and fight? Doesn’t that make him more of an apprentice then a hostage?
I sighed, shaking my thoughts away as I ducked into my home, closing the door and silencing the chatters of 7 certain people. I didn’t say anything to them, just made my way to the kitchen area and began to mix in flour and yeast for bread. We have been running low.
I could feel their stares at the back of my neck, making me shift uncomfortably. I threw a glance over my shoulder, glaring at them with a raised eye brow as my signal for them to say what’s on their mind. When they just looked at me like I had grown a second head (which did happen once. Don’t ask) I grew frustrated and threw the dough down on the counter, turning to face them.
“What! What’s going on!”
That’s when they burst out laughing, pointing and falling over onto the ground though it wasn’t a long fall. It was my turn to stare at them, bewildered, but when my cold hard glare that usually silences everyone didn’t, I gave up and resorted to picking Slug up by the collar and tossing him onto the couch, starling him into a silent surprise until he realized where he was and shifted into a comfortable position for a nap. When the others saw me walking towards them with an evil grin and my hands outstretched, they quickly clamored out of my reach and the laughter subdued. I smirked victoriously and crossed my arms.
“Now will someone tell me what’s going on?”
“Uh, guys?” I looked and saw Finn standing by his door, looking like he just woke up for a nap. How did he get out? “Why does Gwen have a hand growing out of her head?”
My jaw dropped and Finn looked confused, rubbing his eyes over and over and pinching himself even. Snig was the first to break, bursting out in a fit of laugher and was shortly followed by everyone else. I groaned, touching my head and seeing that he was right. I had a third hand.
“Candace!” I screeched, and almost instantly, she appeared in front of me with a sorry expression.
“Ok, ok. I can explain. Maybe when you walked in my hut, you could have bumped into my Handy-Hand elixir.”
Now even Finn was laughing. At least he had the decency to try and muffle it. I sighed and felt my the hand rub my temple, surprising even me. I looked at Candace in desperation.
“Fix this. Now.”
“Ok, ok. I think I have a Countermand potion that might fix it. It might take me while. Hurry, come.”
Candace grabbed my head hand and I felt a tingle along my skin and saw white smoke all around and together we transported back to her home to fix this mess.
Gwen and Candace disappeared in a cloud of smoke and left me alone with the 7 dwarves. One of them (I get them mixed up) stood up from his tiny stool and brushed his hands on his pants, afterwards reaching out to shake my hand.
“Names Albert E. but people call me Big E,” he said with a grin, fixing a pair of glasses firmly on his nose after shaking my hand.
Another scoffed, rolling his eyes and shaking his head at Big E. Which brings me to another thought. Big E? Really?
“Al, no one calls you Big E,” he said, then turning to me. “Just call him Al. He’s sort of the nerd of our bunch. You know, brainy, smart, know-it-all, the list goes on. I’m Pig by the way.”
“Why do they call you Pig?”
On cue, he sniffled, squeezing his eyes shut and letting loose a giant sneeze, answering my question as I compared it to a pig snort.
“That and you should see his appetite. He’s always eating all of my corn! I’m Dour. That idiot over there who just passed out is Slug,” he growled pointing at the dwarf sleeping on the couch with his arm draped over his eyes and I heard a faint snore escaped from him.
“I’m Snig. If you don’t recognize me as the awesome one, then you’re probably more confused then Grog.”
“Huh?” The dwarf I suspected was Grog asked with a dazed kinda look. “You said my name?” Snig ignored him, used to him being lost in these kind of situations and continued.
“And that’s Bash. His name pretty much says it all.”
We all (with the exception of Slug) turned and looked at the biggest and burliest of the bunch. He definitely looked like her could Bash in my head, despite his small stature. He gave me a mischievous grin, like he was imagining his fist smashed into my face. I made a mental note to not anger him.
“Well, it was nice meeting you all. When will I be shipped out of here?”
“Don’t know. Could be a few days to plan it out. Come on, I’ll show you around. Not like you’ll remember anyways,” Al grinned, waving me over to the door.
I obliged and followed him out the short door, watching at the light slowly fade as dusk began to settle in. Fires were lit and surrounded by people laughing and eating their dinners with joy and happiness. You never see this out by the castle. I heard Al shout out to someone, waving them over and saw the man that came into the tent earlier with the parchment. What was his name? Robin, that’s it. I wonder if it’s Robin Hood?
“Rob! Did you hear about Gwen?” Al asked, launching a conversation.
Robin chuckled and said, “Yeah I saw her sneaking out the back of Candace’s house to her magic workshop. I swear, I almost mistook her for a giant spider, she had so many limbs!”
“It was quiet funny when she walked in the house. She had no idea there was a hand growing out of her head!”
“I wish I was there,” Robin sighed wistfully before looking at me with narrowed eyes. “Robin of the Wood or Robin Hood as I prefer. I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure,” he said, sticking out his hand and sounded polite, but I could sense the sarcasm behind it.
“Prince Phineas,” I said, clasping his hand and giving a firm shake. “But call me Finn. Phineas just seemed too...”
“Nerdy?” Robin filled in with a cocky grin.
“W-Well I was going to say ‘formal’ but sure, I guess...”
Robin scoffed and a look of distain crossed his face, confusing me. I shot Al a look and he just shook his head at me in disappointment. That confused me even more. Robin punched me in the arm, harder then I expect and I nearly toppled over.
“Just as I thought. A push over,” Robin said with a glare and walked away. I threw my hands in the air in disbelief, looking at Al.
“What was that about!”
“Eh don’t worry about it. He’ll come around. He just thinks you have it out for Gwen. He’s very protective of her you know and believes that all princes are womanizers.” I nodded in apprehension and frowned in the direction Robin left. “But he is right. You princes are all the same.”
I jerked my gaze over to Al, who was casually examining a rounded rock, rolling it between his fingers and had a look of thought on his face.
“What do you mean ‘You princes are all the same?’ You think I take advantage of any girl that comes my way?”
“Pretty much, yeah. Everyone does really.”
My jaw dropped. Seriously? That’s what they think I do in my pass time? What, am I supposed to be some stuck-up low-life who parties, get drunk, and have a different girl on my arm every other day? I closed my jaw, and shook my head in disgust.
“Forget it,” I forced out and turned away, weaving through the crowd of people who were making their ways to their homes and tents.
The sun was completely gone and the only source of light I had now was the dimming fires and torches placed all around the camp. That and the half-moon that broke through the tree tops, illuminating the path before me.
At first, I wandered around the emptying camp, watching as people escaped into their homes with yawns, but after a while, I began to follow a trail leading into the woods, decided to take a midnight stroll. The trees all looked the same and I was sure I would have gotten lost if not for the clearly marked path, twisting and turning in all sorts of directions. After minutes, maybe an hour past, I turned and made my way back to the camp. Problem: The trail was no longer there.
I stared at the trees in front of me in horror and looked back to where I was following the path. That too was replaced by a bundle for trees. What was going on? It was right there!
I cursed under my breath and trudged on through the brambles, determined to find my way back to the camp. Although I think I was heading in the wrong direction.
I jumped when I heard a rustle come from the woods and I recalled the many tales about this forest, the horrible things that happened in here told by a few people who claimed to just escape with their lives. Gwen already told me what a big sham it was, but I couldn’t help but picture myself being eaten alive my an ugly ogre or baked into a pie by some cranky witch.
A loud snap of a twig caught my attention once again and I reached for my sword, hissed profanities as I remembered I no longer had it. I grabbed a decent sized branch and held it high behind my head, waiting for whatever was coming my way and not bothering to be quiet about it. My back pressed against a tree and I waited as a ominous silence filled the air. A sudden footfall to my left startled me and I swung blindly at whatever was here.
The figure ducked and tripped me, sending the world into a blur as my head cracked against a tree root. Everything went blurry and I felt something grab my leg. Shaking my head to clear it (it didn’t work) I kicked out at the person, satisfied when I heard a whoosh of air knock out of my attackers lungs. The person quickly retaliated, knocking the branch out of my head and pining me to the ground.
I opened my eyes, wincing as my head exploded in a burst of pain and felt the figure get off me.
“Jeez, Finn! You’re bleeding you idiot!” Was that Gwen? What was she doing here?
“Gwen? Is that you?”
“How many fingers am I holding up?”
I saw her hold up a hand but everything was swaying from side to side. I couldn’t tell how many fingers there were and figured that that wasn’t a good thing.
“That’s not good. Come on you twit.”
“Twit? That’s new.”
I felt her sling my arm around her shoulder and help me up from the ground. My head burst into another swirl and I nearly lost my balance, almost bringing Gwen down with me but she luckily pulled me up before we both when home in injuries.
“Easy, moron! What are you doing out here anyways?”
“You tend to insult people a lot when your mad.” When she didn’t respond, I suspected she was glaring at me and smiled, just to make her angry. “And I was here to clear my mind.”
“Oh. N-Nothing. It’s nothing really.”
“Well if it was nothing you would have had a clear enough mind to not be an idiot and come waltzing into the woods without a weapon, a map, or telling anyone none the less! What is it?”
“Honestly, I have no idea. I don’t think Robin likes me very much.”
I noticed that my vision was clearing up. Now I was able to see about a foot in front off me and I could see Gwen’s face too. At least it won’t feel like I’m talking to myself now. And I also noticed that she was no free of the head-hand.
“Oh so you met Robin? Don’t worry about it. He hates everyone that knows me for the first few weeks.”
“Well, good thing I won’t be here that long.”
Gwen shifted uncomfortably under my arm, repositioning me so that we were both more comfortable and trudged on.
“Didn’t I tell you? Candace lost the Forget-About-It! stew and has to make a new batch. You’re not going anywhere for a while,” she said and I pulled her to a stop.
“What do you mean? I’m staying here? How long?”
“Six months tops. We’re already halfway through winter so probably around the beginning of summer, end of spring.”
“Well, what am I supposed to do until then?”
“You’ll be with me of course. Robin and I will teach to you hunt so you can provide for the camp just like everyone else. We won’t have you around as just another mouth to feed.”
Our conversation ended there as we made it back to the opening safe and sound. And alive. By now, my sight had cleared up quiet well but the pain did not subside as much as I hoped. Also, I could now feel the drying blood stick to the back of my head and winced when Gwen pulled me up a little to abrupt. She muttered a sorry and dragged my along.
I just watched as we walked around some tents until Gwen came to a stop in front of a big one, almost the size of the Council tent. It was big, white, and had the symbol meaning ‘heal’ painted in red on the side and above the entrance.
We entered and Gwen set me down in one of the beds next to another sickly patient and talked in hushed whispers to another women before glancing over at me and leaving the tent. The women walked over to me with a sweet and gentle smile.
“I’m afraid, my dear, that you have a minor concussion and will have to remain here for the rest of the night. You have only a small cut on the back of you head but head wounds tend to bleed a lot. You’ll be just fine.” I nodded and felt my eyes begin to droop. “Get some sleep, Finn. Gwen said she will be back tomorrow round 5 in the morning to retrieve you. Also she-”
I didn’t hear the rest. I had fallen asleep.
The idiot. Did he really think he could walk into the forest and find his way back, easy as pie?
After I disappeared with Candace, I snuck out of the back of her house and into the forest to find her Countermand potion in her magic workshop. It took a few minutes but the results were excellent and I walked out of her workshop thinking that this day will end well, not dragging a bleeding moron out of the forest. The moron is Finn by the way if you still have’t figured that out.
I walked through the empty camp after dropping Finn off at the infirmary with Ms. Sano. She’ll have him healthy in no time. He’ll have to be if he’s going to deal with mine and Robin’s training.
I crawled through the small window in my room as to not disturb the guys and collapsed in bed, letting sleep take me instantly.
Even falling asleep at such a late hour, my internal clock did it’s job and woke me up at 5 in the morning, just like it always did. I dragged myself from bed and stumbled into the kitchen/living room, knowing that now that I’m awake, I won’t be able to fall back asleep.
Moving into the guy’s room, I poked and prodded at them until all of them were awake only they weren’t as tired as I was.
“You look like you’ve been hit by unicorn,” Stig commented when he saw my droopy eyes.
“Feel like one too,” I muttered and grabbed a bucket of water outside.
Winter was definitely here judging my the think layer of ice that coated the water. Everyone’s lips were blue now that they were away from their warm beds and into the frost bitten living area. Al went to work lighting a small log with the other went out to get more as I started breakfast. It was our usual routine for a cold day like this but in the back of my mind, I felt like I was forgetting something. My mind was muddled and I wasn’t thinking straight.
I shrugged it off and punched through the ice and tossed some water in my face. That woke me up and I smiled, the air suddenly feeling warm on my face. And yet, I still felt like I had forgotten something.
The guys quickly returned, eager to get out of the cold and threw some of the freshly chopped onto the small, kindling fire. I had finished up breakfast, consisting of eggs, porridge, and a loaf of bread and gathered around our low table. I didn’t have a chair and instead, knelt whenever we had our meals.
“Hey,” Pig pipped up with him mouth full of bread. “Where’s Finn?”
Finn! I gasped and jumped up, banging my knee against the table and sending out cups shaking, threatening to topple over.
“Oh jeez. I was supposed to pick him up at 5!”
I groaned, looking at the clock. 6 o’clock. I was an hour late. Ms. Sano does not like having to care for a patient overtime. She has too many patients to tolerate that. Once, when Snig’s big mouth got him into some trouble (meaning he broke his nose) I was supposed to pick him up 7 since Ms. Sano doesn’t like patients leaving by themselves. I was 4 hours late and when I remembered and went to pick him up, she was so mad I was surprised that I didn’t end up in the infirmary myself.
I rushed out of the house, hoping that I wouldn’t find an angry Ms. Sano with a needle ready to jab at me.
“Ms. Sano! I’m so sorry! I completely fo-”
I stopped in the doorway, surprised to see Finn and Ms. Sano, doubled over with their mouths open in laughter though no sound came so they sat there looking like retarded clapping seals. They sucked in some breath and went into another fit of laughter, only add the sounds this time.
“Gwen! You’re here! I didn’t even know it was time!” She breathed another chuckle and fail to smother it. “Finn and I were just talking about-”
“Shh!” Finn hissed with a grin. “You can’t tell anyone!”
“Oh, right. Oops,” she said with one finger over her smiling lips, looking like a little girl caught painting on the walls and not regretting it one bit.
And then she giggled. Ms. Sano giggled!
“What in the name of all that’s good in this forsaken world is going on!”
“Quiet! The patients are sleeping!” Ms. Sano hissed, sounding more like herself before turning back to Finn with a smile. “Now Finn, make sure you take care of that bump on you head. Tell me if it gets infected or just drop by anytime you want. You’re always welcome here.”
Finn smiled and nodded, standing from the bed and gave me a smug look before brushing past me and out the tent, standing tall in all of his egotistic glory.
“Cocky, good-for-nothing, ogre kissing, troll herder...” I trailed off under my breath before nodding to Ms. Sano and following Finn out the door.
We walked in silence, which mostly consisted of me glaring at the back of Finn’s head. I was not very appreciative of this new smug air he had around him. It was annoying the heck out of me. We walked back in the house and I was grateful that the guys remembered to save some food for Finn and I. The left the house whistling with some axes, setting out too chop wood for the camp. That was their job around here while I usually hunted for food.
I took another bite of my egg thoughtfully, chewing slowly as I thought of how I was going to teach Finn to hunt. My gaze drifted over to him and I watched as he dove into the porridge like he hadn’t eaten in days. He has some muscles, not to bulgy but just the right size for him. He could possibly pull back a bow string though it might take some time to get use to the resistance of my long bow. Perhaps a sling shot would work better? I could borrow Al’s since he had insisted on using one instead of swords or axes like the other dwarves you. What can I say? He’s the nerd of us bunch. But he’s also the smartest.
Finn suddenly looked up and met my gaze and I realized I had been staring.
“Oh uh...” I felt a blush creep onto my face as my mind drew a blank. Since when did I blush? “Nothing. Hurry up and finish. We have to meet up with Robin at 9 to start your training.”
I stood and cleaned my plate, picking up the dwarves’ plates as well and cleaned them all while I was at it. I placed the slightly wet dished back into the cabinet and dried off my hands with a rag, turning around saw Finn stand and shove the dirty dish into my hands. He didn’t give me a second glance before walking back into his room to dress into something more suitable for the woods. I looked down at the plate in disgust.
What do I look like? A maid?
I looked at the pile of dishes I just washed for the dwarves and frowned. I guess I did. I sighed and washed the dish, still feeling slightly annoyed with Finn for making such an assumption.
“You know, I never pegged you for the housewife type,” I heard Finn say behind me.
I turned and growled at him and he held his hands up, giving me the universal sign for ‘I surrender.’ I frowned and turned away from him, drying off the dish and putting it away. I didn’t say a word to him as I walked into my room and pulled on some trousers and a tight, comfortable shirt with a vest over it. I grabbed my bow and quiver, walking out of the house with Finn close behind me.
“Are you mad at me?” Finn asked out of the blue, jogging up to keep pace with me.
“Oh,” was his only response and I became annoyed with him all over again.
It seemed like everything Finn does now irritates me. He wasn’t even going to apologize or as what was wrong.
I rolled my eyes and tried to push it out of my head as I saw a path through the forest open up to me. That was the thing about this place. Everything here usually had something to do with magic. This was an enchanted forest and either liked you or hated you. Thankfully, it recognized me as a tree hugger (well, thats what Candace said) and often opened pathways to places I needed to go. I suspected it wasn’t familiar with Finn last night and choose to confuse him. Only time will tell if the forest accepts him.
I took light, cautious steps as I spotted Robin through the trees and felt a grin tup my the corners of my lips. I motioned for Finn to stop and silently set an arrow on the string, tugging it back with precision and aiming for the tip of Robin’s hat. He knew something was here, judging from the way, he scanned the forest with narrowed eyes. Just before he could move, I released the arrow, smiling as the string hit the arm guard around my wrist and the arrow sailed true, cutting straight through Robin’s hat and pinning it to the tree behind him.
I laughed and walked out of the trees with a proud smile on my face.
“You’re getting old, Robin. Your senses are muddled.”
“You be quiet. We have other matters to focus on, right Finn?” he asked, turing to Finn expectantly but with a distant look of distaste.
Robin picked up beginners recurve bow and tossed it to Finn.
“Shoot it. Come on. You mean too tell me that with all the fancy service and high cost trainers you got that they never taught you how to shoot a bow?” I nodded in agreement. He had a point.
“W-Well I have it’s just that our bows were more-”
“M-More advanced?” he said it more like a question, hesitant to eve say it at all.
I frowned at Finn and grabbed him my the front of his shirt, watching the forest open into a new path as it already knew where I wanted to go. Finn struggled against me for a while but finally gave in though I still didn’t loosen my grip on him. The forest faded into an open field full of green meadows and a lake over the far corner. Robin and I found this place a while back and figured out that it was the heart of the forest. It was surrounded by trees on all sides and was full of life. Many animals wandered here fro the water in the lake and streams we use for fishing. It’s also a great place for target practice.
“Now Finn. Tell me, your archers. Their used for you military, right?”
“Yes. Are furthest shot ever was 400 yards,” he said with a proud smile.
Robin and I looked at each other and burst out laughing, wiping the grin off of Finn’s face. Robin smiled and held his bow up high, letting loose an arrow like he normally would. And it reached 600 yards. Finn saw the distance and his jaw dropped.
“You see Finn. Our bows are not below standards. They are in perfect condition and this is after all Robin Hood. Don’t think that we don’t know what we’re doing.” Finn swallowed and nodded, picking up the recurve bow.
“Now, try and hit that tree 40 yards away.”
He bit his lip and strapped on the armguard. Slowly and carefully, he pulled the arrow back, his thump touching the corner of his mouth. His stance was good, he wasn’t gripping the bow too tightly. Maybe those fancy archery trainers aren’t that bad after all. He released the arrow and it sailed true, thunking hard into the tree with ease.
“Alright. So you seem to know a little about what you’re doing. Lets try 100 yards.”
This time, he only scraped the trunk of the tree on it’s right side.
“Ok so your comfort zone is probably around the 80 yard line. That can easily win us a few bucks and doe. But look,” Robin advised, striding up next to him. “you’re allowing the bowstring to hit you, not only on your wrist, but on your shoulder too.”
Robin pulled on the sleeve of Finn’s shirt and revealed a circular cut forming in his shoulder. That will definitely bruise.
“Don’t think you can hid that from me. You’re locking you arm. Don’t do that. Bend it a little and release the string naturally. The arrow will sail smoother and faster without all the bruising.”
And thats how our day went. We stayed in the field most of the day, pushing Finn to his limits. He seemed to have skill with archery and after a while, when Robin deemed him fit to hunt, we moved on the swords play and I was proud to say I defeated Finn. Three times. He wasn’t very happy after that.
The sun began to set and we all went home, worn and tired. I was hot and sweaty and the cold just made my clothes stick to my body. Robin and I said goodbye and agreed to meet back up tomorrow for Finn’s first hunt before heading back home, welcomed by the guys. Pig, since he was the only one that could cook besides me, had already made a delicious stew over the fire. I eat my filling, smiling as it warmed me to the core.
I said goodnight and headed to my room, stripping my clothes and slipping on my night gown, pulling my hair up. I hit the bed hard and immediately, sleep found me once more.
“I got it!” Finn cheered and pumped his fist in the air.
“Shh! You’ll scare the rest way!” I scowled him but I couldn’t hold back a smile.
Finn had finally killed his first deer. It was an impressive sized buck, the first we’d seen in the past few days. It’s been a week since Robin and I brought Finn out to his first hunt and he did well, shooting 3 birds while Robin and I shot 5 though 2 weren’t eatable. The whole time, we had had only seen one other deer but Robin shot it. The camp was really low and we couldn’t afford to miss this one. And now, Finn’s time to shine as come and he did it.
We walked up to the dying buck, his breath labored and raspy.
“Ohh man! I did it! I shot it! Did you see that? That was some serious archery back there! I can probably out-shoot you now! Yes!”
“Easy now boy. We’re not done yet. And I doubt you can beat me when it comes to archery.”
I slipped my saxe knife out and ended the deers knife, killing it quickly and ending its pain. I guided Finn through the steps of gutting the deer, taking out the internals and tied ropes around his legs to drag the corpse back to camp. Robin will be happy to see this. He couldn’t join us today, saying something about a Council meeting.
Smiles spread all around when we entered camp with the deer dragged behind us. Some even began to cheer which I was sure inflated Finn’s ego to the size of a giant.
“Trolls!” Someone screamed and I instinctively jumped into action.
I grabbed Finn’s hand and dragged him to the house.
“Stay here and do not come out. No matter who you see. No matter what they say!”
“What? No! I’m coming with you!”
He strapped on his sword (we gave it back to him) but I instantly pushed him back down.
“No! You don’t know what you’re up against. Stay here and don’t get in the way.”
I closed the door before he could say anything and locked it, running out with my own sword and quickly found Robin amongst the chaos.
“There’s a troll that’s been spotted wandering the east side of the forest, heading this way. He’s pretty big. I think Gunther will be perfect for the job.”
“I’ll let him loose.”
I ran through the camp, dodging the people that were franticly trying to get inside. I stopped at the edge of the camp where it met the forest line. There, chained to a heavy, old oak stood a 10 feet tall ogre. Fairytales were surprisingly accurate when it can to describing an ogre. Green, ugly monsters with yellow teeth and a saggy cleft chin. His eyes were small and squinty with big nostrils to match his meaty hands a feet. He had a bald head with only a few whips of greasy hair and ears that were extended and flopped slightly downwards. He wore no shirt, revealing a rotund stomach, scars, and big arms. The only piece of clothing he wore was a scraggly piece of cloth that acted as some old worn pants.
“Gunther!” I shouted and he gave me a toothy grin.
He may be big and ugly but deep down, Gunther was a real softy. We developed a friendship when I was on animal duty and he and I have been friends ever since. Me along with the Snow Queen and Pig are the only ones who can calm him down when he’s on a rampage.
“Come on Gunth, we have a big bad troll that needs a whooping!”
“Troll?” his asked, cocking his head to the side until a look of comprehension crossed over his face. “Troll!”
He stepped over the fence that was created to keep him in (doesn’t work to well) and grabbed me with his meaty hands. When he first did that, I was afraid he would squash me but, surprisingly, he was really gentle. Gunther picked me up and placed me on his shoulder. We grinned at each other and I pulled out my bow, setting an arrow in the string in preparation.
Gunther roared and stumbled forward, heading towards the east forest. People stood and marveled at Gunther until, of course, they scrambled out of the way to avoid being smashed. Robin spotted us and we grinned at each other.
“Follow Robin, Gunther!” I shouted in his head.
He growled in comprehension and trudged on in the forest, knocking down a few trees along the way. The sound on a tree snapping brought my attention to my right. Since Gunther relies on hearing and smell, he heard it as well and sniffed the air.
He turned, completely forgetting about Robin and stomped into a clearing where a troll stood, scratching it head and staring at a screaming child with confusion. Trolls were known to be notoriously dumb and their senses are dulled, especially eye sight. Trolls and ogres are surprisingly similar, the only difference being trolls aren’t green, their feet are really small making them uncoordinated, an unlike ogres, who like to use their hands for bashing and smashing, trolls use things like giant branches or logs.
Gunther growled, his sights never leaving the troll as he plucked me off his shoulder and set me down the ground, nudging me away from him. The troll turned and caught sight of the ogre and instantly recognized him as an enemy. The troll left the child to scurry into the woods and grabbed a log, slamming it hard on the ground as a warning to stay away. He even added a deafening roar for emphasis. Gunther didn’t even pay attention to that and went straight into the bashing. He lunged forward and put all his weight into knocking the troll into the ground. The troll quickly tried to pick himself up but Gunther had him in a headlock as soon as he was steady. He grappled at the winning ogre and growled in frustration until he grabbed Gunther’s hands and jerked his whole body forward, flipping Gunther over his back and hard on the ground. The troll bellowed, stretching the neck muscles and I saw some veins pop in anger. The troll clenched his fists and slammed them hard on the ground, sending the whole forest into a tremble.
“Robin!” I shrieked.
Roots and plants sprouted from the ground and entangled Gunther, strapping him to the ground. I watched in horror as the scene unfolded. I have heard of trolls using magic but I have never witnessed it myself. I know ogres are completely incapable of using magic and right now, he was caught in a death trap.
I acted quickly (and without thinking it through) and fired an arrow with blinding speed. I hit the target, right in the ugly trolls eye. Poor guy would probably be blind forever now in that eye. He howled, and clutched his eyes and I watched as the blood spurred everywhere as he ripped the arrow out.
He spotted me cowering behind a tree with another arrow ready to pierce his other eye when a vine suddenly, grabbed my hand knocking the bow string back. I shouted in surprise and quickly cut it away until another knocked my saxe knife away, grabbing my wrist and pinning me to the ground. More roots and plants snaked over me, strapping me down the same way Gunther was, who was currently, shouting in anger. He let loose a slew of words I didn’t even know he knew.
The troll stomped up to me with a wicked grin, half his face covered in blood and his eye now gone. I heard a shout from the corner of the woods and out came a darting figure, plunging a sword deep into the trolls leg and knocking him hard to the ground. Finn hurried to me and cut away the plants, giving me a hand up with a satisfied grin.
“What are you doing here!” I scowled him and his smirk shifted into a growl.
“I just saved your life! Is it so hard to be appreciated?”
I rolled my eyes and watched as Robin came running into the clearing in a frantic, taking stock of the scene. The troll tried to get up but I sent an arrow into his other foot, keeping him down. It may seem cruel but those wounds will heal in days although his eye might be another case.
“Where were you!” I shouted at him. “Here I was about to be eaten alive by some angry troll while Gunther was helpless and you-” I gasped in realization. “Gunther!”
I turned quickly and picked up my saxe knife, running over to Gunther who was still struggling against the roots. When he spotted me, he instantly relaxed and let me cut him loose without any difficulty. I instantly, gave him a tight hug.
“Are you ok Gunther? Did he hurt you?”
“Gunther fine,” he responded with an unattractive smile.
“I think Gwen is hormonal today,” I heard one of the guys whisper and I turned on them.
“Shut up! It’s your fault for not paying attention,” I pointed at Robin, “and it’s your fault for not listening to me! Gunther is the only one who does any good!”
“I saved you life, Gwen! Show some appreciation!”
Finn turned away before I could say anything else and stomped away into the forest, leaving behind an air filled with tension and anger. I was about to follow him and give him a piece of my mind until Robin placed a hand on my shoulder, holding me back.
“Gwen.” I already knew a lecture was coming on. “He’s right. He saved your life and all you’re doing is yelling at him. You’re just tense from the fight, that’s all. Troll magic can wear anyone out. What you need to do is go home and rest, let Finn simmer down. I’ll see you in the morning when you thinking straight.”
I wanted to argue but Robin wouldn’t let me, turning to Gunther and instructing him to take me home. Gunther scooped me up and in only minutes, he was dropping me through the hole in the roof of our house, surprising the dwarves.
“It’s alright guys. Robin took care of the troll and I’m going to sleep. Night.”
I closed the door to my room before they could question and dropped down in my bed, kicking off only my boots. I guess Robin was right. I was just worn out from the fight and let my anger get the best of me. Finn was only helping. I sighed and knew I was going to have to apologize at some point. Not now though. I was already drifting off into a deep sleep.
King Randal was furious by now, his face red with concentration as he tried his best to not scream and shout at Queen Clara, who was composed and calm as she knew she had won.
“2 more months, Clara! That’s all you get!”
His tacky cape billowed as he turned and left the throne room in a huff, escorted by two of the palace guards. As soon as he left, banging the door shut with a loud boom, Queen Clara dropped the act and dropped her head in her hands, massaging her temples.
2 months, she thought. 2 months to find that little brat and bring him home.
It’s been a week since he disappeared and now, Clara was knocked out of her comfort zone as she began to worry.
What if he really is gone? What if someone killed him and he will never come home like I suspected he would?
Of course, the Queen was not worried for Finn’s sake, but for her own. She had made a deal with King Randal of Avvidina, a deal that could cost her her throne, her country, her fortune. She had promised that Finn would take Randal’s daughter, the disfigured Princess Susandra, as his wife. Not only would she have the satisfaction that her step-son would be married to an ugly, marred princess of such low standers, but she would have also doubled the size of her kingdom. Given, she would have to kill Finn and Susandra before the coronation but there was nothing complicated about that.
And now, Finn is gone and her plans are in jeopardy. She must find Finn quick or it could all crumble to pieces before her every eyes. Unless...
Clara eyed her son, Anastasius, who was teasing a squire in the corner of the room. Perhaps if Finn is not found before the 6th month, he would do well as a substitute. She was sure the King would not mind, as long as his daughter has a suitor in the end. Even he knows that, with her looks, she will never find any other chance at a husband.
The doors blew open and an awkward, stumbling soldier tumbled in, tripping over his own feet. Already, Queen Clara doubted that this was worth her time.
“Finn has just been spotted!” he gushed out and leaned over, panting as he rested on his knees.
Clara’s eyes slightly widened and she felt a grin coming on and the strange need to cackle. But that would be improper for a Queen so instead, she forced a smile and nodded for the soldier to go on. Being a kind and sweet Queen is tiring.
“Around the edges of the Demented Forest! He was seen wandering around, looking angry and upset. The soldier tried chasing after him but Finn had already slipped back into the woods and we all know not to venture in there. It would be suicide!”
Demented Forest? Where have I heard that?
She shook herself out of her thoughts and dismissed the soldier, asking him if he could send in Garret. After a few minutes, Garret walked in and Clara gave him a smile.
“Garret. I have a job for you.”
“Stupid Gwen. Stupid troll. Stupid Gunther.”
I aimlessly stumbled around the forest, muttering angry words to myself. I suspected that the forest finally accepted me since whenever it shows me trails, it brought me where I want to go and not to some dragon cave. But now, I was following a random one, not really caring where I was going at the moment.
I found Gwen to be extremely annoying lately. She gets upset over the smallest things and I don’t know what to do.
I came to halt the same moment I noticed the trees did and looked up in surprise. The forest came to sudden halt and I saw myself staring at the palace. I didn’t even know I was so close to home.
I checked behind me to see if anyone was looking and when I found and heard no one, I knew I was alone.
I looked back at the grand castle I grew up in, reminiscing about the times I spent with my father. Those seemed like the only good ones since, after he died, the rest were boring and dull. When the King died, Queen Clara lost her soft and gentle touch. She became cold and malicious, not at all like the step-mother that actually cared for others before herself.
Home. It was right there. Only a few miles away. I smiled a little and took a step forward, one step closer to home and one away from Gwen and Robin and Gunther and the dwarves and-
I stopped walking.
Do I want to leave them all? Is home really worth it? Does it even deserve to be called home now?
I looked at the place, standing tall in all it’s glory as the roofs glistened in the shining sun. I grew up here. I knew it’s secrets and hidden passageways. I was taught to fight here, how to cook, clean, everything by either Clara, my dad, or the staff. That was 12 years ago, before dad died. Now, it’s just a place where I am forced into political meeting when Clara doesn’t want to. Now, it’s just a place where my step-brothers taunt me into doing things I shouldn’t and blame things they did on me. Now, it’s where I will have to choose a wife when, dang it, I don’t want to!
Then, the camp. Or more importantly, the people living there. They only want me for the reward that comes with me. They only keep me so they can live. But why is it that I have befriended my kidnappers?
The dwarves. All of them are so different but so alike at the same time. Sure they’re a bit rough on me but they all care, even Dour who, honestly, doesn’t seem to care about anyone.
Robin. He still hates me, that I am sure of. Especially when I talk to Gwen, he gets this evil protective look in his eye. And yet, he and I have shared laughs like the time we shot the apple Gwen was eating right out of her hand. And that other time when I accidentally snared Grog in a trap and Robin and I only watched him out of humor as he swung upside-down in a tree.
Gwen. She is...something. I don’t know what to think of her. She goes off like a short fuse and drives me insane. But (there’s always a but) at the same time, even though it’s only been a few days, I already feel like she’s my best friend. She is sweet, smart, and tough, nothing like the girls at the castle. She’s different. And I like that.
I laughed to myself and shook my head. How could I choose the palace over what I have here? I turned around and walked back to the forest when I thought I heard someone call my name. I turned and when I saw no one, shrugged and headed back to the camp. I think I owe an apology to Gwen.
“She’s asleep, Finn,” Bash whispered to me. “She seemed a little upset when she came home.”
I pulled my hand away from the door knob into Gwen’s room and nodded to Bash. I’ll see her in the morning. I made my way to my room without a word and closed the door with a click. My bed looked so welcoming, like a shield from the cold weather and I was tempted to hid under the warm furs but I knew that, with everything on my mind, I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep.
So instead, I climbed out the window, wanting to avoid Bash or anyone else’s questions about where I was going. I used a few stacked logs to climb up onto the roof, gripping the bark as to not slid off. I laid down on my back, looking up through the tangle of trees at the stars that began to appear. The sun was setting and everyone didn’t pay me any heed as they all retreated to their homes.
I heard a snap and looked up to see Robin scowling at a broke branch at his feet.
“I’m only 22 and I already forgot how to sneak around. I think I’m sick or something. Yeah, that’s it.”
He spoke more to himself as if he was trying to convince himself more then me. He glanced up from the stick and met my gaze as I questioned him with a silent raise of the eyebrow.
“Did you talk to Gwen yet?”
“Ah. Good thing to. She was worn out. Troll fighting only ages you.” I nodded, letting a pregnant silent form in the air..
“Why do you hate me? I mean, is it really because you think I’m some player of a prince who does nothing but use girls or is it something else?”
Robin eyed me for a second before frowning and turning away from me.
“You really don’t do those things, huh?”
“Duh.” He turned to me.
“Then what do you want with Gwen?”
“What are you talking about? I don’t want to do anything to Gwen.”
“Doubt it. I see the way you look at her. Lucky, she’s too blind to realize it.”
“That you like her! What else?”
I looked at him in surprise. Where did he get this from?
“Gwen? No, no, no. I don’t like her that way, more as a friend then anything else.”
“You’re only fooling yourself, Finn. One day, you’re gonna realize I was right and I’ll still be there to kick your butt back to the castle so you can stay away from Gwen.”
He stood up and walked away, jumping off the roof and strolling past the houses until he turned a corner and disappeared from sight, leaving me alone with my thoughts.
He thought I liked Gwen? Did I?
I shook the thought away as soon as it occurred. She kidnapped me for goodness sakes. Falling in love is a big no no. Wouldn’t matter anyway since I’ll be out of here in a few months only, I’m beginning to wonder: Do I really want to go?
17 hours. It took 17 hours for Garret to complete the job and even the Queen was impressed. With the rouges reputation, she was sure it would have taken much longer to catch them. But Garret proved her wrong and she wasn’t sure if she liked that.
There before her with their heads bowed and their hands chained behind their backs, linked together, kneeled the two most notorious thieves in all of Lynivar. They were known for succeeding in stealing priceless artifacts when all others failed and had the ability to escape and disappear from civilization like a ghost that was never there. No one could ever catch them and if they did, they would always escape within the next 24 hours. And now that they are in Clara’s grasp she knew she must get the information out of them fast before they evaporate once again.
One of the thieves was quiet beautiful, with a mane of curly black, untamable hair that reached to her waist. It was restrained by three separate bands, wrapped tightly around the areas where he hair tried to break free. A glittering headband wrapped around the top of her head, adorn with gold and other shimmering jewels. Her face was hidden from me as she looked down at the floor but the Queen could tell she must be beautiful, not nearly as beautiful as she but beautiful none the less.
The man shared the same dark tan as the woman, showing how much time they spent outside. His hair was black to match the girls but it was tousled and stuck out in all directions. Both of them were caked with dirk and mud to match Garret. They must have been though some fight.
Queen Clara dismissed Garret and everyone else in the room. There must be no witnesses to what she has to say.
“Aladdin,” she purred and the boy lifted his head and smirked.
“That’s my name. Don’t wear it out.”
Aladdin stood up, bringing Jasmine up with him and they both looked at the Queen with disinterest. But the Queen was smart. She knew that they were calculating how to escape and were probably picking the locks of the chains this second.
“You two are the best at stealing.”
“Yeah, tell me something I don’t know,” Jasmine said with a look of distaste.
“I need you help.”
“Of course you do! Everyone needs our help!” Aladdin exclaimed with a proud smile and spread his hands out to the sides, puffing out his chest.
The Queen narrowed her eyes and Aladdin looked at his freed hands while Jasmine just rolled her eyes, muttering something under her breath that sounded painfully similar to ‘idiot.’
“Oops,” Aladdin said, not meaning it one bit.
He wandered around the throne room in fascination, not attempting to run and the Queen groaned at the thought of how much money was already in his pocket. Jasmine was freed too and gasped as she looked at her reflection in the Queen’s crown, set gently on a purple pillow. The Queen quickly grabbed that, knowing better then allowing her to touch it.
“I’ve heard of your story. A genie in a lamp. That is the price for you release.”
Aladdin and Jasmine looked at each other before bursting out laughing, hugging their sides and leaning on each other with only infuriated the Queen even more.
“You-You think we’d give that to you? Are you crazy?” Aladdin chuckled again. “We can get out of here any time we want, you know. The lamp is useless to us now but to others, it is very valuable. You’ll have to cough up more then,” he laughed again, “our freedom, if you want it so badly.”
The Queen thought for a moment, angry that the peasant was right. And she really needed that lamp.
“Fine. If you give me the lamp and I succeed in what I will set out to accomplish, the you can keep all the things you have already stolen from this room, a 5 year pass that will keep you out of prison as long as it is valid, and the reward for Finn’s finding, 10,000 gold coins. Deal?”
Aladdin’s eyes sparked with interest and he and Jasmine, huddled together, talking in hushed whispers. After a while, they broke apart and looked at the Queen with serious eyes. They weren’t joking anymore.
“We agree to your terms but know this: once you have the lamp, there is no refunds, going back on your word, and no loop hole to get out of it. You cannot and will not arrest us until our 5 years are up and you will have to deal with the lamp on your own which means no giving to to anyone else but us when the 5 years are up. We warn you that the genie inside is very crafty, even for our case. She’s the reason we’re living this way as thieves. We had it all! And she took it away by bending our wishes. Do you understand what you’re up against?”
“Then you wouldn’t mind have a blood bond?”
The Queen frowned at the proposal but agreed anyways. Aladdin took a golden knife that hung on the wall and cut the side of his wrist, just missing the important veins. Judging by the other scars the Queen saw of his hands, he made plenty of these agreements. Clara took the knife and cut her own wrist as well, watching as the blood began to flow. They grasped each others forearms and their blood mixed as they looked at each other in the eye. Aladdin nodded before releasing her arm and protruding a dusty, beat up lamp. He gave it to Clara and she breathed a relieved sigh, turning to grab a towel of some sort and wrapped up her bleeding arm.
She turned back to dismiss them only to found then gone, the door hanging wide open. And she wasn’t surprised one bit. She put together a quick excuse about why she was bleeding and settled on them attacking her and hightailing it out of here. It would explain most of it.
The Queen stuff the lamp under the cushion of her throne before screaming and calling out to anyone. People rushed in, appalled by the sight of their ruler bleeding and crying. The called the doctors and someone ordered a search for the two thieves until the Queen demanded to leave them alone. She may be diabolical but she always keeps up her side of the deal.
A few hours past and the chaos settled down. Clara stopped bleeding with only a bandage wrapped around her wrist. For a while, she searched for where she placed her crown, remembering that she had put in on the armrest of the throne only now, it was gone.
After a quick search, she gave up and knew Jasmine took it. And that didn’t surprise her either.
“For the last time, there was no trick involved,” Selena said for the thousandth time, rubbing her temples.
Queen Clara narrowed her eyes at the genie, not believing a word she said.
It was obvious that Selena was not from around here. She had mocha colored skin with brown, wavy hair to match, puled back with a thick golden band. She wore a tight, dark magenta top if you could call it that. It only wrapped around her chest, outlined in gold to match her harem pants. She wore golden shoes and bracelets, clamped tight around her wrists reaching up to her elbows. She wore a bead on her forehead, looking to be implanted right in her skin. The Queen shivered at the thought. Selena’s eyes seemed to be the most starling, being a pale pink color that seemed to have no pupil.
“You are a genie. Aladdin warned me that you would try to pull some sort of trick every time I make a wish. So tell me, what’s the catch?” the Queen demanded and Selena threw her hands in the air in frustration.
“I didn’t pull any trick! You wished for a magic mirror that will answer any question and show you anyplace or anyone. The mirror can’t and won’t turn on you, it only activates on your command and it also looks very nice in your room,” she added, glancing around in approval before turing back. “And you know I’m telling the truth because everyone knows genies can’t lie.”
“Yes but they can avoid the complete truth,” Clara pointed out and Selena gave her a nasty glare.
“I’m going back in my lamp. You know the jingle to activate the mirror. Rub when you want your next wish.”
She vanished in a puff of pink smoke and her lamp clattered on the ground. Queen Clara picked it up, blowing a bit of dust off it and placed it back in the safe, located in the corner of her room. She turned and looked at the newest piece of furniture added to her grand bedroom.
A golden mirror hung on her wall between two candles and above a marble self. She looked in it a smiled, wondering if the genie didn’t add some sick twist in the wish. Only one way to find out.
“Mirror, mirror, on the wall,” she began with ease.
She lifted her hand and suddenly smacked the side of the mirror hard.
“WAKE UP!” she yelled and the whole thing rattled.
The mirror turned black in dark swirls and the whole thing seemed to collapse in itself, the only thing staying in place is the golden casing. Suddenly, a dark figure jumped out of the swirling darkness that quickly returned to normal.
It turned out to be an elf of some sort. He was only a few inches tall with a sharp head, crooked nose, and pointy ears too big for his head. He had beady eyes and wore an official looking gold suit. He looked at the Queen with a scowl.
“Look, just ‘cause I’m bound to you, does not mean you have to be rude when waking me up. A simple ‘Mirror, mirror, on the wall.’ would do just fine! People these days are so inconsiderate! I swear! You know I have a life too! I have-”
“Silence!” The Queen shouted and just the like, the elf’s mouth snapped shut but he didn’t look happy about it. “Now, you can answer any question, correct?”
The elf just gave her a smug smile, not saying anything at all. She frowned at him, knowing that this was the twist the genie use. A difficult mirror.
“Alright, fine. Ground rules: You will treat me with respect and answer any and every question I have, not matter what it is. You will do exactly as I say, no funny-business. At all. You will come as soon as I summon you. And you will not show yourself to anyone other then me. Are we clear?”
“Yes,” he growled and sat down on the marble shelf, leaning against the wall. “Kenton Gilmore, at your service. What can I do for you?”
“Show me Phineas Hart.”
Kenton nodded and placed his tiny hand on the mirror. It rippled like water when disturbed and cleared into a vivid image of Phineas crouching in the forest with another man next to him. They were both silent, looking at something outside of the mirror’s vision. Both had bows taunt and ready to go. Suddenly, the other man moved, whipping out and arrow and firing it with frightening speed. The sudden movement made the Queen jump. She’s never seen an archer move that quickly. Kenton removed his hand from the mirror and it returned to normal, showing the Queen looking back at herself with a thoughtful look.
So Phineas is indeed in the Demented Forest only, he didn’t seem forced to stay there. Could he have ran away? Was he hiding in the forest because he didn’t want to marry anyone?
The Queen wasn’t sure what to make of it but she was certain that the Demented Forest sounded and looked like a familiar place.
“Kenton, you can answer any question, right? Correctly?”
“Well, not me me specifically. I simple guide the mirror and it shows you the answer.”
“Good. Then tell me this: Why does the Demented Forest seem so familiar to me?”
Kenton cracked a grin and placed a hand on the mirror. It once again rippled and showed a small cottage where seven little men outside of, welding axes the Queen herself stood next to them, smiling as she kissed each one on the cheek.
“Be careful in the tunnels!”
“We know, Snow! Heh. I rhymed,” one of the little men cackled.
The Queen frowned as the mirror rippled again, showing her body dead in a glass casket. The seven little men were tear streaked as the held their hats to their chests, looking at the dead queen in remorse. The King suddenly appeared in the picture, sending waves of pain in the Queen’s heart as she watched the scene unfold. The King bent down and placed a simple kiss on her lips, waking her from her deadly sleep. The dwarves rejoiced while the King and Queen danced.
The scene shifted again, showing the seven dwarves frowning as the Queen shouted something.
“Come on, guys! I’m Queen now! I can give you guys a real home. You don’t have to live off small rations in the forest anymore! You can live in the palace with me!”
“Snow White, you don’t seem to understand. No one will accept us. To everyone else in the world, we are simply fairytales. We don’t belong in your world. Besides, you can always visit us in the forest!”
“No! If you won’t stay with me, then why should I go through the trouble of seeing you!”
“Snow!” The dwarves cried and the Queen stomped away from the cottage in anger.
The setting disappeared, replaced by the throne room that was filled with people, chatting and questioning about why they were here. The Queen stood up and the room went quiet, a silence so thick you could cut it with a knife.
“People of Lynivar! I bring you here today with news! For this day forth, a new breed of people shall be living among you! The breed of fairytale creatures!”
The Queen smiled as she waited for a response but the crowd seemed frozen, none of them moving a muscle, not even breathing. The doors flew open and a tall women with ruby red hair glided in, followed by the seven dwarves.
“Candace! What did you do to them!”
“I froze them in time. They cannot hear, see, or feel anything.”
“Why would you do that!”
“Because Snow, I think it’s time you forget.”
“Forget? No. No, no, no! You can’t do this to me! I don’t want to forget you guys!”
“We have no choice, Snow. You want to expose us. We can’t let that happen. It’ll be better for all of us if you just forgot.”
Before the Queen could say anything, Candace flashed a stick and the Queen passed out, falling unconscious into her arms.
“Quickly. Get the stew.”
One of the dwarves brought a small vile filled with a murky liquid. Candace opened it with a pop and dribbled the liquid into the Queens mouth. Once it was all down her throat, Candace laid her carefully onto the floor and nodded to the sad-looking dwarves. They exited, the people unfroze and the mirror rippled back to normal.
The Queen stared at her reflection in shock. She had trouble wrapping her mind around it. Without thinking she hastily grabbed the lamp and nearly dropped it as she rubbed the sides.
“Guess thats all? Good. You know where to find me,” Kenton said and disappeared back in the mirror.
Smoke emitted from the lamp spout and Selena appeared again, a scowl on you face.
“There was no trick! I won’t tell you aga-”
“I wish I remembered everything that was erased from my mind.”
The Queen cut her off and Selena raised a brow. She nodded and snapped her fingers, sparks flying from them. The sparks drifted towards the Queen and exploded around her.
It was like a bomb went off inside the Queen’s head. She screamed as thoughts and memories shoved their way in her brain. She grabbed bunches of her hair and fell to the ground with tears streaming down her face as vivid images, names, conversations ran into her mind. It felt like hours until the pain became less frequent and they reduced with a serious migraine.
But it was all worth it.
She remember everything.
I woke up much later then I expected, around 9 instead of 5 like I usually do. Everyone else was up and about and no one bothered to wake me. I didn’t say anything. I guess I did need the rest.
Pig had cooked up a nice breakfast, saving some for me and I didn’t mind to much that it went cold. Finn had already left with Robin to the woods and I planned to join them as I grabbed by bow, dressing into dark brown pants, a gray shirt, and a brown leather jacket with some boots.
A path opened up and I made my way through the tangle of trees, whistling as I walked. I even tried singing a few words from a old song I heard playing back in town when a growl pulled me to a complete stop, whipping out and arrow and knocking it with record speed. I left my sword at home and I prayed that it wouldn’t be a mistake.
A laugh reached my ears, cold and menacing. I watched with sharp eyes as a man, about Robin’s age, stepped out of the shadows and into a shred of light that worked through the tree tops. He was very handsome, dirty blond hair that shook in his piercing, golden/yellow eyes. He wore no shirt, showing off his muscular body and some torn up pants hung low on his hips. He was also very tall, something I absolutely hated. I recognized him right away and my hand shook for a moment from holding the bow string back too long.
“Savan,” I hissed. “What do you want?”
“Now, now, Gwen. That’s no way to treat you boyfriend.”
“Ex!” I shouted, hating the way he always brought it up. He clicked his tongue and shook his head in mock pity.
“Shame I was exiled. Now I wonder who’s fault was that.” He let loose a growl and his eyes flashed red.
I took a cautious step back, bitting my tongue to hold back the slew of insults I had prepared just for him. I don’t want him to get angry, for I feared he might shift and that would be bad for everyone. Savan is your classic werewolf or as he is more famously known as, the Big Bad Wolf. He is probably the most famous villain in most fairytales. He’s popped up in the 3 Little Pigs, Red Riding Hood, Peter and the Wolf, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, and many more. He was never really a bad guy, until, the day he was.
It’s the cliché tale of the boy next door. I was 16 and had fallen head over heels for Savan, who at the time, was a great guy. Little did I know that he liked me too. We dated for a while too, 4 months, and even better he was my first kiss. Great right?
Wrong. At some point, I just stopped liking him. As time went on, my feelings for him disappeared while his only grew. Then came the day I ended it and he did not take it well. He was beyond furious, grabbing and bruising my arms and demanded why. Robin fought his off but Savan only lashed out on the people around him and eventually, he shifted into his wolf. He killed 2 people that day. He should have been killed as his punishment but because of the great things he’s done for this camp, he was only exiled.
Savan hated me ever since. I’ve seen him around the forest a few times but we never exchange words. Subtle glares seemed to speak what words couldn’t.
“Savan, you need to get over that. It is not my fault you went on a wild rampage.”
“I’ll kill you, Gwen,” he darkly said.
By now, his eyes were a blood red and his was clenching and unclenching his fists. Never before has he threatened me like this. Sure he said a few profanities and hated me for life when I broke up with him, but he never directly threatened me. And from the look in his eyes he seemed to mean it too. It all screamed danger and right now, I’m not in the best position to fight a blood-thirsty werewolf.
The fear I began to feel must have shown. He gave me a nasty grin, stepping forward and I stepped back to keep the same amount of distance we had in the first place. I saw fur sprout on his hands as he took another step. By now, I was poised to shoot and run. I rose the bow, feeling as the taunt bowstring touched the corner of my mouth.
“Take another step and I’ll shoot you.”
“Oh I don’t doubt that. Don’t worry Gwen,” His hand snapped out and I jerked in surprise. He yanked on my hair (I knew I should have pulled it up) and some stands came loose. “I only wanted this.”
He dangled a hair strand and cackled, stuffing it in his pocket. His back cracked and he jumped high in the air, shifting into the wolf. His paws hit the ground with a soft thud and a giant black wolf with yellow eyes looked back at me.
“You’re gonna die, Gwen. Just you wait,” he growled at me, his voice husky.
And like that, he bounded into the forest, howling a cry that seemed to strike fear in my heart.
He took a piece of my hair. The only things that require hair strands are wands for witches, love spells, and...death curses.
The thought hit me with a force and I cried out, feeling panic and fear grip me. I turned in ran in any direction.
He’s going to kill me. He’s really going to kill me.
I hit something really hard, rebounding and falling flat on my back. I didn’t bother getting up, instead I just curled up and bit my tongue, refusing to cry.
“Gwen? What are you- Gwen are you ok?”
I looked up and saw Robin, looking at me with a confused expression until he saw the fear in my eyes.
“What happened! Did Finn do something? I swear if he laid one finger on you I’ll-”
“No, Robin. It’s not Finn. It’s Savan.” My voice broke, saying his name.
“H-He said he’s going to kill me.”
Robin knelt down next to me, wrapping his arms around me and pulling me into his chest. I felt a single tear roll down my cheek. I wanted to cry at the thought of crying.
“Gwen, that is nothing to cry about. I’m right here. No one’s going to get to you.”
“You don’t get it! He took my hair, Robin! My hair! He’s going to place a death curse on me!”
I think that was all the fight I had left in me. More tears broke free, streaming down my face and I looked up at Robin with helpless eyes. He turned noticeably pale and sucked in sharply.
“Come on, Gwen. We have to get out of here.”
He stood and motioned for me to get on his back. I jumped on, wrapping his legs around his waist and gripped his shirt tightly as he ran quickly back to the camp. Somewhere along the way, my tears ran dry and I felt like an empty rag doll, bumping along until we entered the camp. I felt everyone stare at me, but I didn’t care. Let them stare. I’ll only be here for a few more days anyway.
The thought brought a fresh wave of tears to my eyes and I could feel my face heating up. I coughed violently, hurting the back of my throat and deep in my chest.
Was this part of the curse? Could he have possibly placed it on my already? Am I dying of a fatal disease?
“Gwen! What happened?”
“Finn, get Fairy Candace here, quick.”
I looked up in time to see Finn turn and run away, quickly returning in a panic with Candace close behind. She placed a cool hand on my forehead and frowned.
“Bring her to the infirmary and tell me everything that happened,” she said to Robin but her voice seemed distant, like she was farther away then she really was.
Robin pulled me higher on his back and started jogging, rattling me around. I couldn’t focus on anything. My head began to hurt and my entire body felt like it was on fire. My eyes burned, producing scorching tears and I hurt all over. I felt myself being placed on a bed and felt my eyes fall shut. I fainted.
I paced the floor in front of the bed Gwen laid in, biting my fingers as Ms. Sano watched with with an amused look. My gaze was darting from Gwen to the floor to the clock until it stared all over again, only interrupted when I heard a cough and jerked in Gwen’s direction, thinking she was awake when it was only another patient in the clinic.
By the 30 minute line, I was on the verge to ripping my hair out until Ms. Sano got tired of my antics and pulled me to a stop. I was practically digging a trench the way I was pacing back and forth.
“Finn. Calm down will you? She’ll be fine.”
“She’s going to die! How can I be calm about that!”
“You heard Fairy Candace. There’s no curse on Gwen. She simple thought she did and thus, forced a fever on herself. A placebo.”
I forced myself to breath as I listened to her word.
She’s right. Gwen’s not dying today. She’ll be fine.
Repeating those words in my head didn’t seem to sooth the worry that gripped my heart. What was going on with me? Why was I freaking out like this?
“Go home, Finn. Go to bed and sleep. I’ll make sure someone gets you as soon as she wakes up.”
“No. I’m not leaving her.”
“No! I’m staying!”
She sighed and pressed her lips together in a thin line and bent her head. She peered up at me in thought through the strains of hair that shook into her eyes.
“Alright, fine. But if you cause me any trouble-”
“I promise I’ll be good.”
She nodded and wandered off to attend the other patients. I sighed and ran my hand through my hair, wondering what to do now. I wondering if I should start pacing again but decided against it, knowing it would only make me worry even more. It’s bad for my health.
I looked at Gwen again and pulled up a chair, sitting down and leaning on the side of her bed with my elbows. For a while, I just watched her breath. Every once and a while, I felt fear wash over me as the time between her inhale and exhale seemed too long, like at some point, she might breath out and never breath in again.
I was only making this harder on myself. I looked at her face, memorizing ever feature. She seemed so much softer when she slept, more open then when she’s awake. Her hair fell perfectly around her face and without thinking, I grabbed her hand, sighing a content as just to feel of her hand in mine, fitting perfectly like two pieces of a puzzle. I could even feel her heartbeat from her wrist and felt my eyes close as I focused on that feeling, a reminder that she was still here.
She’s right here.
My eyes snapped open and I jerked up in bed.
Where am I? What’s going on? How did I get here?
The world spun for a second before I could recognize this place as the infirmary.
Something shifted next to me and I saw a bleary eyed Finn rub his eyes that widened upon seeing me. My gaze shifted downwards and I spotted my hand in his, interlaced. Finn saw what I was looking at and pulled his hand away quickly, turing red as he rubbed the back of neck and sheepishly laughed. I opened my mouth to question when a loud voice boomed across the infirmary, loud enough to wake anyone in a coma or even dead.
“GWEN! WE THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD!” And I was tackled by seven little short men.
“Jeez, thanks guys,” I rolled my eyes but smiled at them. “What’s going on? I thought the curse...”
“Idiot, there is no curse!” Dour slapped my in the back of my head and I growled at him. “You let it get to your head and you got sick!”
“Whoa wait. I’m not cursed?”
“Not yet anyways,” Dour muttered and everyone glared at him. “What? It’s the truth.”
“Shut up, Dour. This is a time of joy and your sour mood is just tainting it.”
“So, in other words, party?” Snig asked hopefully and Al just rolled his eyes.
“You people just love twisting my words around. No, we should just be happy that Gwen isn’t dead.”
They bickered back and forth and I was feeling better already. Finn stayed quiet the whole time and since we were making such a ruckus, Ms. Sano gave me a quick check up and kicked us out as soon as she diagnosed that I was as healthy as a unicorn. I walked home in silent, listening with a smile and the dwarves started brawling and fighting over trivial matters.
“Hey! I thought you were dead!” I threw my hands up in the air as I turned on Robin.
“Why does everyone just assume that!”
“Hey, you did too! You’re such a worry-wart, freaking out at the thought of death.”
“I panicked, ok? Sorry for thinking my life was about to end.”
“Actually, I would still think that.”
I turned and saw a very upset looking Candace. She had her arms crossed and her blood shot eyes were framed with head eyelids and worry lines. The shock of seeing her like this literally made me take a step back. What happened to her?
“Come with me, Gwen. Finn, Robin, dwarves, you might want to come too. This isn’t good.”
We all shared a worried look when Candace turned to lead the way to the forest and followed her silently. A path opened and we made our way to her magic workshop. It was a decent place as far as forest shacks went. It was very small looking from the outside, only the size of an outhouse but like the rest of Fairy Candace’s things, this was enchanted. The inside was as close to infinite as it comes. She only used two or three rooms but if she wanted, she could have as much as millions of room, depending on her need. She was, after all, the greatest fairy in this millennia. Oh, didn’t I tell you? She’s 74,289 years old and she doesn’t look a day over 20.
She opened the door for us and lead us into her main room. This was nice and tidy, unlike her home, and shelved lined the walls, filled with powders of all colors I recognized as fairy dust. Mushrooms and other plants were placed in jars that were scattered everywhere and antique wands we lined up neatly on the walls.
Candace brought us to the table that was placed in the center made entirely of glass that was shining colors of the rainbow, shifting and mixing colors every second. Candace protruded a stick and tapped on the table top. The rainbow colors shifted and changed until it transformed into what looked like a map of Lynivar. I eyed Candace from the corner of my eye, wondering what she was up too since I had never seen this table before. This kind of magic, I was unaware of.
“Gwen, you’re in danger,” she began and I began to worry.
When Candace says danger, it’s not just danger like you will run into a tree and get knocked out, no, it’s danger as in a swarm of evil pixies riding hungry troll are coming to bring you to their black dragon queen where she will torture you in her dungeons with flaming phoenix feathers until you are nothing but bones and skin until she fattens you up to the point where you explode and feed you to her hungry baby dragons only after you are forced into the desert where crows wait for you to die and when they figure out you won’t choose to poke out your eyes instead. Nice image huh?
“Yesterday, after Robin told me about Savan, I did some diagnostics on you, which is how I figured out there was no curse, and decided to put a spell on you.”
She pulled out a necklace from her pocket and dangled in in front on me. It was a crystal, made of the same material the table was and seemed to change color every second, encased in silver and tied with a simple string.
“This represents your life.” That had me looking at it in a completely different way. “I have one just like it. Right now, it is clear so you are completely healthy and curse free. It changes colors depending on what’s happening. Yellow means your dying, black means your dead, red means your cursed, blue means your sick, green means your hurt, and clear means everything if fine. I want you too keep it. Now come see.”
I took the necklace and hung it around my neck, walking with her to the table map.
“I contacted up an old friend of mine, a Seer I met back a few centuries ago and had her find Savan. She did and helped me cast a Tracking spell on him. This here, is him.”
I looked at where she pointed and saw a red dot, moving slightly around on a random spot on the page. Turns out, that location isn’t as random as I thought.
“That’s where the palace is,” Finn chirped up.
“You don’t think...” Al began and the dwarves all shared a look.
“What? What’s wrong?”
“Finn,” I started out slowly, “do you know who your step-mom is? Who she really is?”
“The Queen of Lynivar also known as Queen Clara Hart.”
“No, I mean who was before she was Clara. Do you know where she came from, or how she and your father even met?”
“Well, no. I never really asked about that.”
“Finn, your step-mom is Snow White. From the fairytale.”
His face was blank, shifting from looks of confusion, betrayal, wonder, and bafflement. He didn’t know what to think and I wondered if tell him was the right choice.
I shook my head. Doesn’t matter, he’ll be forgetting all of this in a few months.
“Snow White? Clara is Snow White? How come she never told me? How come dad never told me?”
“We erased their memories. Now, Clara thinks she grew up on a simple farm in Karmintin and when the King was passing through one day, he spotted her and they instantly fell in love.”
“Well then if her memory is erased, then what’s the problem?”
“We erased her memory because she wanted to expose fairytale creatures to the world.”
A look of comprehension passed over his face as he pieced the puzzle together.
“You think she remembered and is trying to expose you guys again with Savan?”
“I believe so,” Candace replied, adding in a nod.
“Well then what about the strand of hair he stole from Gwen? How does that fit into the picture?”
“That’s what I’m trying to figure out. And if she did plan to expose us, she would have done it by now and there would be mobs of people stomping into our forest with pitchforks and torches. There’s something we’re missing.”
Candace furrowed her eye brows and stared long and hard at the map, as if it would suddenly give her the answer she needs. Everyone was thinking the same thing. What was happening inside the castle?
“Guys. New mission,” I finally decided after a moment of thoughtful silence. “Recon.”
The dwarves cracked a grin and nodded. Robin shook his head but smiled while Finn was expressionless. I think he was still digesting the Snow White bit.
I stretched my hand out to Candace and she gave me a soft smile, placing the wand in my hand. I tapped the table top with the stick and it changed again, zooming in to an out lay of the palace.
“Alright guys. We need a plan. There are 4 corners of the palace wall where Dour, Bash, Grog, and Al will keep an eye out. Pig, you’ll be waiting a walk away in the carriage so we make a quick get away. Snig, Slug, you’ll be coming with me while we stake out Clara. Questions?” Pig raised his hand. “Yes, Pig?”
“Are you putting me on carriage duty just because you’re afraid I’ll sneeze and give us away? “Cause I promise it won’t happen again! I mean I’ll-”
“No Pig. Now shush. Anymore questions?” They shook their heads and I smiled at my brave team. “Good. We leave at dusk.”
“Savan. You’re here.”
The Queen grinned as the handsome young man entered her room, a messenger bag slung around his shoulder.
“And I got what you wanted. You’re sure this will work?”
After the Queen made her second wish, she didn’t waste any time trying to sort her memories. They were all there and she knew exactly what she wanted to do. First, she demanded Kenton to show her what the dwarves were doing now and when she saw them laughing with a different girl, someone she didn’t know, she felt replaced. New memories comes with new emotions and right now, she didn’t like the emotions she felt at that moment. Who was that that girl? What was she doing taking her place in their household?
The next thing the Queen wanted to see was what Finn has been doing the past week. She saw him the night he was kidnapped, the day of his trial, and learning out to hunt. Mostly, she saw him and the girl together frequently and this only made her question the girl even more.
So the likely thing for her to do was do some research on her. And, boy, did she find some information. Gwen was abandoned as a baby, brought into the dwarves household only a few months after the Queen’s memory was erased. She made friends with that man called Robin Hood she saw earlier and quickly grew to be a good hunter, a quick thinker, and a smart girl as much as the Queen was reluctant to admit. For some reason, this only made her hate Gwen even more. Gwen had stolen from the Queen, she had defied her, taunted her in small ways. She was the girl Finn danced with. She was his kidnapper. And from the looks of it, she was the reason Finn did not want to return.
Naturally, it was easy to blame her as the reason Finn was not here, thus blaming her for the fact that she could loose her crown. It’s her fault she kidnapped Finn. It’s her fault he wants to stay. Her. Fault.
The last thing Clara asked to see was Savan, Gwen’s ex. She had seen him while she was digging up information at Gwen and the Queen saw this as her opportunity. An opportunity to get rid of her.
If there is no Gwen, then why should Finn stay? The Queen thought. It’s would be best to get rid of her, and once I go, the dwarves with come out into the open with me like I know they would.
The Queen still thought that they would live a better life here in the city. No more scrounging for food and water. No more hard labors under the beating sun. The dwarves can live a peaceful life. The Queen knew the dwarves wouldn’t like it at first, but once they see how great they have it, they would thank her, she was sure of that.
But let’s go back to step one. Getting rid of Gwen.
It wasn’t hard finding Savan. There had been reports of people dying from a wolf in a small town near the boarder of the Demented Forest. She immediately sent Garret to catch him and, just like he did with the Aladdin and Jasmine, he surprised her by coming back in only a few hours with the wolf in tow.
When Clara went on, explaining how she remember how she is Snow White, he shifted back into his human form and they went to planning. By this time, it was early in the morning, since the Queen stayed up most of the night with the mirror. Savan set out on a special mission and finally, he has returned. Successful.
“One strand of Gwen hair. You can check that off your demonic list. And you’re sure this spell won’t kill her, right? Just a simple revenge spell?”
The Queen was tempted to smirk. She could tell the poor boy was still in love with Gwen (a thought that made her scowl) and only wanted revenge. It was his closure. She wondered what his reaction would be when he found out that the spell would kill her. Slowly perhaps, depended on what curse entertained her the most. Queens get bored too, you know.
“Don’t worry. The spell will only frighten her, send her into a small depression or two. It won’t physically harm her. You didn’t happen to see Phineas while you were in the forest, did you?”
“Nope. Just Gwen. So what now? Do you need any other ingredients?”
“Not that I know of so far. You may leave.”
He nodded and exited the room, taking a secret passageway so that he remains unknown to the castle staff. That would only cause problems.
The Queen gripped the small bag holding the strand of brown hair. Laid out on the marble self under the mirror, sat the other ingredients she knew she would need. Phoenix feathers, mushrooms, herbs, and a vial of the Queen’s own blood. Now, all she needed was a full moon to cast the spell and Gwen would be good as gone.
The Queen smiled as she looked at her moon chart, drawing a circle around the moon tonight. The full moon. Dusk was falling and, already, she could see the moon outside her balcony, making it’s way towards the center of the sky.
Now, all she had to do was wait.
I couldn’t be more proud. With a simple plan like ours, that has absolutely no depth or plan Bs, the dwarves knew exactly what to do. We barely needed to talk as we snooped our way past the first line of guards, slipping a Dreamer’s Draught potion into their drinks as we passed them.
I squatted low in the grass, listening to the sound of footsteps as my eyes trained onto the guard walking back and forth on the wall. There were 4 sides, 3 to each wall, one to each corner.
Al and I shared a look and nodded. We knew what to do. I knocked an arrow in my bow as he set a decent sized rock into this sling shot. Since Al wasn’t as muscular are his brothers, he settles for a less physical weapon. The sling shot worked perfectly for him. And he was a great shot.
We both silently counted to 3, simultaneously standing as Al fired at the guard on the corner closet to us, knocking him out as my arrow flew up and over the edge of the tower that was now free of guards. The rope tied to the arrow stopped unraveling as the arrow fastened itself tight in the tower. I gave the rope a tug to make sure it was safe Al started climbing since he was the lightest.
He reached the top, tied the rope onto something more secure, and I climbed up after.
While I waited for the rest to come up, I sneaked up right behind the first guard and poised myself to knock him unconscious in the quietest way I know when the thick silence of the night was shattered.
Chatters filled the air and we pressed our backs against the wall, trying to make ourself as small as possible as waves of staff members swept out the huge entrance door through a flowering garden, and out the palace walls. It seemed as if the Queen’s entire staff was leaving.
I grabbed Al and pulled him closer to me, hiding him under my cloak as one of the servants came out the tower door, instructing the guards to leave the stations and go home for the night. They all look just as confused as I felt but didn’t question once the servant mentioned it was a direct order from the Queen.
“What’s happening?” Al questioned.
“I don’t know,” I whispered back and we watched as the last of the servants, maids, cooks, butlers, and more made their way out the portcullis.
The giant gate closed with a thunder that echoed into silence.
The rest of the guys made their way up and looked just as questionable as Al and I. By this time, I began to worry about this mission. What could be so important that the Queen has to send her entire staff home?
After a silent debate inside my head, I decided against aborting and instructed Grog, Al, Dour, Pig and Bash to watch the towers as we had originally planned.
Snig, Slug, and I climbed down the tower stairs into the court yard, still sticking to the shadows in fear of any stragglers remaining in the palace.
The doors opened again, releasing a spurge of light that only reached out so far into the darkness that had taken it’s hold on the night. The sound of heels of marble steps drew my sight to the Queen, wearing a black cloak with the hood down.
I nodded to Snig and Slug and cupped my hands together, blowing it and sending out a low call of the night owl. A signal to the others to watch what was going on down below them. The Queen jerked at the sound at first before continuing into garden, oblivious of us stalking her from the shadows.
I peeked through a bushel of roses (very beautiful, by the way), watching with a burning curiosity as Clara slipped a bag off her shoulders, rummaging through it before protruding a small pot and some other simple things. The filled the pot with what looked like blackened water, adding herbs and mushrooms and ground tree bark. Finally, she protruded a golden lamp from the bag and I watched as it glistened in the light of the full moon.
“You don’t think...” I heard Snig whisper.
“Yeah. That’s the lamp of legend. The genie’s lamp.”
The night suddenly buzzed with the electricity of magic as the Queen rubbed the lamp’s side and a purple smoke wafted from the spout. The smoke grew bigger, drifting a few inches off the ground. From the smoke emerged a beautiful women who I suspected was the genie.
“What do you want now?”
“Curses like this can only be performed by magical being, right?”
“So. My third wish would be for you to perform the Phoenix’s Curse.”
The genie’s eyes flashed in my direction and I sucked in sharply. She saw me. She saw me and now she’s going to expose me. I took a slow step backwards and was about to high-tail out of there when she casually continued the conversation like nothing happened. I know she saw me. Why wasn’t she saying anything.
“I can’t do it unless you say the magic words.”
“I wish you would perform the Phoenix’s curse on Gwyneira White the second the moon is directly above us at the stroke of midnight.”
I felt Snig and Slug tense at the mention of my name. I, on the other hand, didn’t respond. I had gone numb.
The genie’s lip twitched, almost unnoticeably but I caught it. She was hoping this would happen.
“You wish is my command. Master,” she said, putting an extra emphasis on the “master” part. “Oh and, just so you think I’m not tricking you in any way, I’ll be hanging around here. At least until the curse if fulfilled.”
The Queen nodded as was waved away as the genie plopped down in the grass, the small pot directly in front of her. She pulled one last object out of the bag, a small pouch only the size of my palm. The genie rummaged around it for a second before pulling out a strand of hair, my strand of hair, and held it high above the water, shutting her eyes with a small smile and she began chanting foreign words laced with black magic.
The genies eyes opened, reveling an empty eye, vacant of any color other than white. She was performing a ancient, dark spell, that much I knew.
Her skin was glowing black, reveling her dark aura. All eyes were on her as her grip on the hair loosened. This was a real death curse. This was my ending.
“Aliquando finis tuus est. Salutem ex manibus. Decet vos successerit, anima simul liberabit,” she finished, her eyes returning to normal and an evil smile spreading across her face.
The clock rang out, 12 vibrations shaking my entire being as the genie released my strand of hair, my life, into the pot.
A photo snapped, a photo that will forever be carved into my memory. Snig and Slug, gripping my arm tightly with paled faces. A darkened looks of Al, Grog, Dour, and Bash as I saw them watch from above, completely helpless. The moon, casting a bright, yet somehow dark, light on the garden, highlighting the Queen’s dangerously victorious smile, the genie’s focused, yet smug look, and my blank face as I unwillingly committed this scene to memory. The string of hair as it sat twisted and curved in the air, only inches away from the black water. Inches away from completing the curse.
The final ring of the midnight bell was the play button on the world, snapping everything back into motion. Including my string of hair. It was consumed by the water and I held my breath, waiting for something to happen. Anything.
But nothing happened.
“What’s going on? Why isn’t it working?” The Queen demanded.
“Relax. Now you can activate the spell at anytime by adding you blood. It will obey your command once you do so.”
“Very good. Now leave,” the Queen commanded rudely, earning a glare from the genie.
I felt Snig tug my cloak. They were ready to leave. We had seen enough.
I welcomed Gwen with a smile when she returned from her mission but it faded when I saw how stricken she was. Her face was pale and her eyes were red. She look tired and didn’t utter a single word, walking quickly into Candace’s camp. The dwarves were no better, not responding to any question I asked. It seemed like they were all in shock and Robin was just as curious as I was. Something happened at the palace. And whatever it was, it was big.
Since it was around 1 in the morning, Robin insisted that we all go to sleep and ask questions in the morning when Gwen is up for it, but no matter how much I tossed and turned, I couldn’t seem to sleep with Gwen and her strange behavior in the back of my mind.
I didn’t sleep a wink and hadn’t realized how much time had gone by until the sky showed the first hints of daytime.
I immediately hopped out of bed and dressed warm, since winter had not showed any signs of weakening. I checked Gwen’s room, only to find her bed empty and ran out to find Candace.
She opened her door even before I had the chance to knock and looked worn out. There were bags under her eyes and I peeked behind her, catching sight of Gwen passed out, her head buried in the crooks of her arm as she slumped over on the table.
“Finn. I was just about to get you,” Candace said, her voice slightly raspy.
“What’s wrong? What happened last night?”
She stepped aside, granting my entrance and I saw Robin, waiting patiently on the other side of the table across of Gwen. I took a seat between them and Gwen stirred slightly, blinking her eyes and squinted them as she looked at me. She just grunted before burying her head back in her arms.
“Gwen,” I whispered, placing a comforting hand on her forearm. “What’s going on?”
She just pointed in Candace’s direction, not even lifting her head to look at me.
“She was right, Finn. She’s cursed.”
A deathly silence followed as the reality of it sunk in. It was then when Gwen picked up her head and I saw the horrible state she was in. Her eyes were bloodshot and empty with dark rings under her them. Her hair was tousled and stuck out everywhere. I doubted that she for much sleep.
“There has to be a way to break it,” she muttered, her eyes pleading.
“I don’t know, Gwen. The spell wasn’t activated. I wouldn’t know how to break it even if there is a way. Most death spells are binding.”
Gwen got this distant look in her eyes as she stared blankly at the farthest wall.
“Phoenix’s curse,” she whispered, so softly I wasn’t sure I heard it at all.
“I’m sorry?” Candace asked.
“Phoenix’s curse. That was the name of the curse.”
Comprehension crossed her face and she ran out of the room, quickly returning with an old dusty box, foreign symbols scrawled on the top. She opened it in record time and pulled as an ancient book with a heavy lock on it. Candace pulled a necklace out of her shirt, a silver key that slid easily into the lock. Dust flew as she heaved the heavy leather cover open and waved us over to crowd around. She flipped through pages of parchment before stopping on a one that appeared random.
On the corner was a shadowy ink blot, shaped into a smudged silhouette of a man in flames, two red dots acting as eyes that looked straight at you. Calligraphy covered the page, leaving holes and spaces for gruesome images of the victims. I gulped and cursed my creative imagination for being able to imagine Gwen if she was ever in those exact situations. No, she will be in those exact situations.
“Yes! Gwen, Gwen! Look here!”
Hope sparked in her eyes as she tumbled over herself and looked to where Candace was pointing. Her eyes scanned the sentences, growing bigger by the second. She gasped and a huge smile broke out on her face.
She suddenly engulfed me in a hug and buried her face in my chest, surprising us all. She pulled away like nothing happened and I was shocked to find my face heating up.
“We have to find him!” she shouted and reread the paragraph.
I looked over her shoulder and read the paragraph for myself.
The bounty hunter is known for never leaving without a victim and never resting until the target is terminated. Only one man has ever escaped the Phoenix’s wrath, Julius Field, today more commonly known as Merlin. He has never been seen since, last sighted entering the White Forest north of Avvidina...
I stopped reading. I found all I needed to know. I watched Gwen with a small smile, nothing compared to the grin that seemed to brighten the entire room. I agreed with her 100%. We need to find Merlin.
“Can’t you just place a tracking spell on him like you did with Savan?”
The last four hours went by in a much similar way. Candace looked up thousands of ways of track down Merlin, but since this is one of the most famous, skilled and mysterious wizard that’s ever existed, it was understandable when she came up with nothing.
“You think we can just place a spell on Merlin of all people? If he doesn’t want to be found, then some Tracking spell won’t work. Not even the greatest seer would be able to find him.”
“Then what are we going to do!” Gwen exclaimed, her smile turned into a disapproving frown.
Candace’s eyebrows knitted together in thought as she stared long and hard at a page in another old and dusty book.
“You’re gonna have to find him without magic.”
“Without magic. You mean go out into the White Forest and look for Merlin. Without magic.” Candace nodded and Gwen sighed, clasping her hands together and giving her a doubtful look. “Candace, darling, in this world, you can’t do anything without the held of a little magic. Even those who don’t know of us have a little magic involved in their daily errands, whether they know it or not.”
Candace narrowed her eyes and her and whacked her shoulder.
“I know that. I mean we won’t be using magic to specifically find him. Here. Look at this.
Gwen, Robin, and I bent over the book to read the passage.
It was told that, after his disappearance, he left some messages behind, revealing only to those who were worthy, 5 to be exact. Hundreds of witches, wizards, fairytale creatures, even some humans exposed to the life of magic sought the letters out, hoping they would be the one to receive, possibly the worlds most important letter even created. All but 4 failed. A giant, a piper, a liar, and a baker are the 4 suspects believed to have the letters in their possession, hidden away and kept under lock and key. The 5th note has never been claimed. Some even believe it to be a myth. But in the labyrinth of magic, it shall forever remain a mystery.
Gwen and I simultaneously lifted out heads to give questioning looks at Gwen.
“Why have I never heard of this book?”
“Because it’s given only to witches and wizards and is not commonly known.” She did a double take and looked back at us. “Don’t tell anyone I showed this to you.”
I smiled a little and reread the passage.
“So I’m guessing all these people are related to a fairytale in some way?”
“I think so. The giant from Jack and the Beanstalk. The piper as the Pied Piper. The liar, I believe referring to Pinocchio. But the baker. He could be anyone. There are a lot of fairytale related bakers. I don’t know how we’ll find him,” Gwen said, then turning to Candace. “Do you think these people will know where Merlin is?”
“We can only-”
Her words lodged in her throat as she stared open-mouthed at Gwen, horror and fear written clearly on her face.
“Gwen,” she barely whispered. “Gwen, you’re necklace.”
She looked down to the crystal necklace Candace made for her and Robin gasped, ripping the thing off her neck with lightening sped. But the color didn’t fade. It glowed bright red, highlighting Robin’s features. We all knew what red meant. Danger. Warning. Cursed.
“Hurry! We have to get out of here!” Candace screamed, shoving us out the door in record time.
I grabbed Gwen’s hand and ran, not even sure what I was running from. But if someone like Candace was scared, we should be too. Something bad is about to happen.
I felt it again. Fear. The same kind that bored into my hear as I watched the genie place the spell. But this time, I was fighting it. I was fighting fear. I was fighting death. I grit my teeth together, focusing on placing one foot in front of the other, moving them in a blur as Finn only dragged me along faster. To where, I had yet to find out.
There was an ear-splitting roar, one that I had heard for the past 5 years of my life, one that I had become familiar with. I yanked Finn back to a startling stop, nearly toppling him over in the process as I turned the other way.
He shouted at me to stop, but I didn’t listen. I friend was in trouble. Never had I heard him sound so hurt. The stables came into sight, along with the looming fence that didn’t held in any way to keep Gunther in.
I bolted through the hole of the fence, stopping to take in the horror of the scene before me.
The hundreds of pictures Candace showed me proved to be more accurate then ever. There stood a shadow of a man who seemed to have no definite shape, the edges moving and twisting into tendrils that shockingly resembled flames emitted from his entire being. I watching as the shadow and it’s tentacles grew larger to match Gunther’s size and strength.
“Gunther!” I screamed as I caught sight of the giant gash on his cheek and shoulder, bleeding blue blood.
The shadow turned, revealing the only fixed thing about it: it’s blood red eyes that looked hungry for blood.
It had found it’s target and no longer needed Gunther. It lowered to the ground only a few feet away from me, the glint in it’s eye saying more than words can. It was laughing at me.
“Gwyneira White. I thought you would have put up a bigger fight, not run right into my grasps.” Nothing but the twisting flames moved, giving the appearance that it was speaking straight out of it’s thoughts. It leaned in closer and I shivered at an icy hot feeling against my skin, suffocating me in the cold to the point where in burned my skin. “You must be ready to die.”
My hand twitched for my bow, but I left it in Candace’s house. Now, I was defenseless against the thing that was handing me my death on a silver platter as a freezing tentacle twisted around my throat in a painfully show manner. I couldn’t breath. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t even move.
The feeling vanished as the tentacle flinched away as Gunther rammed his shoulder into the shadow, sending it flying a few feet away. It stood back up straight as if nothing happened and retaliated.
“Gwen! Come on! Gunther can handle him!”
I looked over to see Finn waving at me from the outside of the fence, his eyes pleading me to run.
I gave one look at Gunther, struggling to hold the tendrils away. I had just made it back over the fence when a crack echoed through the air. The birds and woodlands creatures even fell silent as I paused and turned to face a picture that will forever burn in the back of my mind.
Gunther laid flat on his face, his head turned over so it seemed as if he was looking directly at me, only his eyes were empty and dead. A flaring on black flames was burning from the shadow, half of them gripping Gunther’s neck tightly.
“The first to die for you, Gwen.”
He released Gunther’s cold dead body and vanished into the shades without a trace.
From then on, everything was a blur. Words faded into vague sounds. People tugged on me, but I remained planted firmly in place staring back at Gunther with a matching dull look.
He died protecting me. He died to save me. He died and it’s all my fault. I tasted the salty tears as they freely poured down my face. Time sped up and everything snapped into perception. I yanked my arm away from Finn and dashed to Gunther, letting the tears fall and drop onto his face like he was sharing my sorrow.
“Gwen, gods, I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry. But we have to go. That-that thing will be back soon and we have to get you away. Come on,” Finn spoke to me in soft tones gently tugging my arm.
This time, I let him pull me up, away from Gunther, away from my home, away from everything I’ve ever known. I gave Gunther one last sad look.
I’m sorry, Gunther.