A Month of Midnights

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Ziegler Reads

Chapter 7 (v.1) - VII

Submitted: January 06, 2018

Reads: 187

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Submitted: January 06, 2018

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“Stop freaking out,” Rudy poorly therapized. Though the world was completely ink black, and I could not see Rudy’s face, I still glared. His attempt to calm me only ignited my tense emotions even more.

“It’s not that easy. You can’t erase paranoia, Rudy,” I snapped. How could he possibly know what it’s like? I thought bitterly.

“You have nothing to be paranoid about. You’re fine,” he promised.

“Nothing to be paranoid about? Someone around here sought me out, not to mention they know my name? I know I’m not going crazy, you saw that thing speak to me,” I sputtered furiously. Since the night the strange dragon made of fire had spoken to me, a noxious feeling had tainted all logic and reason inside of me. I felt the fear of everything begin to collapse around me, and it was driving me to the edge of my insanity.

“If there is something out there looking for you, we’ll protect you. I….promise,” he struggled to say. I sighed morosely.

“Getting tired?” I asked softly.

“Yeah,” was the raspy reply. I pulled my hand away from the horse’s forehead, and the colors of the forest illuminated back into view. I had sent Upright and Minnie down the path a little farther to gather some wood for the fire. It had been a day since the fire incident, and the two still would not get along. Minnie promised that by tomorrow we would find the three Elder Faeries’ cottage, but my anxiety was beginning to convince me otherwise.

“Could you possibly hover any closer? Your magic is gonna make me sneeze!” Upright griped in the distance. I rolled my eyes.

“Are you always this negative?” Minnie exasperated.

“Yes! It’s my thing!” Upright hollered unnecessarily loud. I rubbed my temples; my stress induced headache would never leave as long as they were arguing.

“I guess sending them off alone didn’t work,” I commented with disappointment. Rudy snorted in agreement. The sound of twigs snapping and leaves crackling came closer, and soon Upright and Minnie reappeared with wood and kindling. A fire was set ablaze again, and Minnie generously created more food for us with her magic. I watched the faery and the dwarf scrupulously, seeing to it that they didn’t upset the other one and set off another magic spell. I sat farthest away from the fire in fear another creature would emerge and freeze me in place, using the magnetic evil in my blood to hold me prisoner in its gaze.

It was a particularly chilly night; the farther we traveled in this direction, the colder it became. I saw Minnie quivering in her thin, summer dress as she flew closer to the fire for warmth. I looked over to see Rudy was already asleep, and Upright had begun to snore softly with his stocking cap over his eyes.

“Minnie,” I called to her gently, “are you sure you aren’t to cold?”

“I’m f-f-fine,” she answered. I looked at her doubtfully. I held my cloak open and showed her one of the hidden pockets on its inside.

“Are you sure you wouldn’t be warmer over here?” I asked again. Minnie bit her lip and quickly flew inside the pocket.

“Much better,” she said contentedly. “I don’t suppose you could move closer to the fire?” Minnie saw my hesitation and quickly added, “I understand if you’d rather not.”

“No, no,” I insisted, “you need to warm up.” I awkwardly scooted closer to the calm, crackling fire. It looked less hostile tonight which gave me additional comfort. I cradled Minnie in my cupped hands.

“This trip has been so amazing. I can’t say it enough, Blyss,” thanked Minnie sincerely.

“Really?” I honestly was puzzled. In the two days she had been with us, Minnie had endured a fiery explosion and a stubborn dwarf. I certainly wouldn’t have considered that amazing.

“I know, I know,” said Minnie with a sigh. “It’s been a little crazy, and I’m partly to blame for that. But this has been one of the greatest opportunities a faery could have. Well, besides being chosen for a story.”

“Is it true what Upright said? About the pixies?” I couldn’t resist asking. I figured it was a sensitive subject for a faery, but Minnie seemed calmer, and my curiosity was beginning to get the best of me.

“The pixies have caused faeries trouble since the day we first were created. But I’m afraid Upright is correct which I’ll never admit in front of him,” Minnie laughed. “The pixies are a wild breed. Unlike faeries, pixies live on brewing trouble. They like to throw the wrenches in heroes’ plans. They give the bad guy a little push in their nasty plots. And they love, love, love to taunt faeries and sabotage us.”

“And they’re related to you?” I asked in disbelief. Minnie chuckled solemnly.

“Hardly seems like it, does it?” she agreed. “We’ve tried to reason with them, but it’s always been to no avail. And the worst part is, pixies always get to be in stories. That’s why when faeries are chosen, it’s such a privilege. But of course, nobody wants a faery my size,” she lamented. Though she was so small in my hands, I saw the minuscule tears begin to drip down her plump cheeks.

“Don’t cry, Minnie. I think how you look is perfect for you,” I said honestly.

“That’s what all the adults used to tell me. But when I was in school, all the other faeries would always tease me because of my weight and my name. I couldn’t even my lunch without someone giggling. If my own kind won’t accept me, then why should a story or its characters?” Minnie’s voice and body began to tremble, but it wasn’t due to the cold anymore.

“You know, Minnie,” I said, a new thought striking me, “you and Upright have something in common.”

“We do?” Minnie asked in unbelief. I nodded resolutely.

“He’s like you. He doesn’t think he’s, how do I put it, um, physically adequate.” Minnie looked at me with surprise.

“Really? Why is that?” she asked, her curiosity heightening. I leaned in closer and whispered quieter.

“He thinks the magic didn’t shorten him enough. He thinks he’s too tall to be dwarf,” I said with a hidden giggle. Minnie cupped her hands over her mouth.

“Well, that’s, that’s just-”

“Ridiculous?” I finished. Minnie nodded and chortled.

“I don’t understand,” said Minnie, “he looks fit a fiddle for a dwarf!”

“He looks just fine,” I agreed, “and so do you.” Minnie sighed and turned over on her side, facing the fire. Her tiny body felt so fragile and delicate in my hands.

“When I was a younger faery,” spoke Minnie in a new tone, a more softer, wistful tone, “I always flew away from home. My parents were always putting me on diets, making me do these just awful exercises, and I couldn’t take it. It wouldn’t be till later on that they realized eating and working out wouldn’t help me the way I needed it. One day in particular, I was maybe ten or twelve in your years, and Father had just finished screaming at me.”

I began to picture little Minnie, horrified and crying, as her father scolded her. As Minnie narrating each part of the story, the expression of her voice would change. It was this that shaped how I imagined her story, and how my heart saddened more and more as I heard it.

“Mother just stood there. She-she did nothing for me. So I sailed through the back door and darted into the forest. I traveled for hours, and I noticed the trees were taking on a darker, gloomier color. Even as a young faery, I knew I had entered the Forest of Temptations. I decided to fly above the trees. I thought maybe I could find my home. Instead, I found myself near the mountains that form the border of Istoria. I rose higher and higher until I was at the top of the mountains, and I looked over to see a wide stretch of land that I’d never seen before. This strange beacon, this beam of light, suddenly flashed up from its forests. I was so startled that I flew back down the mountain. Well, I flew to fast, and I crashed into one the trees and fell to the valley floor.”

Why is she telling me this? I shifted and continued to listen.

“When I came to, I saw this tiny, little man sort of waddle over to me. He scooped me up and looked at me with these weird eyes. He looked sort of amazed, as if he had never seen a faery before. He wore this strange brown mantle, almost like a wizard would wear. And then he spoke to me.”

“What did he say?” Upright interrupted, suddenly awake.

“Upright, how long have you been listening?” I questioned him as he sat up.

“Long enough to become semi-interested in this story. Now could you please just continue?” Upright said impatiently. Minnie gave me a look of surprise.

“Well, he said something like, ‘I can’t believe how well it works. Always amazed. You’re a long way from home, little faery. Why are you crying?’ And I told him about my parents and my weight, and he just smiled. He said the strangest thing to me.”

“What?” Upright and I pressed.

“He said, ‘My dear, do you doubt your fate?’ Those were his exact words, I never forgot.”

“Well, what in Istoria is that supposed to mean?” Upright complained.

“He didn’t stop there though. He said something along the lines of, ‘Do not doubt what you do. Live your life. If this problem continues, seek the Writer. He can help you far more than flying laps and or eating diet paff root.’ This man had the craziest smile about him. It wasn’t evil, but it was, well, it was as if he knew something I didn’t. He lifted up his hands and let me fly away. I went home and told my parents of the idea of going to the Writer. The rest is history.”

“Minnie, why did you tell us this story?” I finally asked.

“Because, I didn’t think about it until years later, but the man I met, I think he was the Writer. I think I’ve met the Writer before.” Minnie looked at me with absolute assurance.

“So you’re saying this Writer fellow is some short, weird little guy in a cape?” Upright asked crossing his arms.

“I think so. I mean, who else could he be? And we were so deep in the Forest of Temptations that it couldn’t be some quaint fairytale character,” Minnie reasoned.

“Well, the Forest of Temptations has its name for a reason. What if was he was dressed to seem like something he wasn’t just to make you believe?” I said playing devil’s advocate.

“I know, I know,” Minnie admitted, “but I just have this feeling, and it’s telling me that he was the Writer.”

“Well, I think your feeling is completely delusional,” humphed Upright as he turned away from us and stretched back down to sleep. Minnie sighed and curled up into an even tighter ball in my cloak pocket.

“Minnie,” I whispered, “I’m not saying I don’t believe you. When we reach the Writer, we’ll see for ourselves.”

“Okay,” she answered half-heartedly. I bit my lip, realizing ever since Minnie had join us, we’d been slowly dampening her sunny spirit.

Sleep taunted me that night as I faded in and out of consciousness. I dozed sitting up in fear that if I relaxed down, I might crush Minnie who slept tenderly in my hands. I watched as the fire’s burning hunger slowly receded, and it soon reduced to nothing but glowing coals and a few brave flames. I looked up and saw the panicking stars that were warning me of the nearing time. I forced the calm to stay within me. If I could bear the pain, I knew I could get through it faster. The light from the coals gradually grew brighter, and the heat spike rapidly. I strained my neck to see what was making it burn brighter.

“Careful,” the coals whispered, “wouldn’t want to get burned.” I gasped and leaned back. Minnie, Upright, and Rudy did not stir. Neither the coals nor I had awaken them.

“It’s you again,” I accused harshly in a whisper. The coals’ gleam augmented every time they spoke.

“Aren’t you the smart one,” they mused.

“How did you find me?” I asked as the paranoia seeped back in. The hairs on my arm stood up, and nervous electricity kept me still in shock. “Whose magic did you intercept this time?”

“Yours, darling,” laughed the coals. “You know what they say, ‘Evil finds evil.’”

“Wha-what do you mean?” I trembled. The coals chuckled.

“I sense you’re pushing it down. Why, are you ashamed? It’s not like you’re actually going to find the Writer anyways.”

“Yes, we are,” I said coldly.

“Oh, please. Your hope makes me sick. Look, darling, even if you could find the Writer, you can’t. One of things a villain like you needs to find the Writer is not available for the taking. And the sad thing is, no one, not even that imbecile Queen Golde, had the courage to tell you where to find the alternative,” the coals cruelly mocked.

“Alternative?” I asked.

“Here’s the thing, sugar. I’m feeling nice,” stated the coals.

“That must be difficult.”

“Hold your tongue!” The coals’ heat stung my skin. “If you really think you can make it to the Writer, then I don’t see why a fellow companion can’t help you out. And it’ll still be fun to watch you fail.”

“And just how do you plan to help me?” I asked folding my arms.

“Well, you’ll have to come to my place and-”

“Nice try. You’ll never get any of us to come. We’re not wasting time on something like you,” I retorted. The coals broke into an ungodly laughter, cackling like a possessed demon victorious over his lacerated victim.

“Something like me?” the coals asked. “Darling, you are me.” Everything inside me clicked blank. I couldn’t put any of my thoughts into a verbal response. The coals chuckled diabolically. “Yes, now she is silent. Good news is, I already sent some of my men to come get you. Please don’t try and resist when they get there. It’ll be embarrassing for the both of us.”

“No, you can’t-”

“Oh, and tell your obnoxious little faery friend to not try and pull some protection spell. It’ll make the whole process so much more complicated.”

“And if she does?” I tested. A coal in the center of the fire began to rattle and turned a brilliant yellow. It shooker harder and harder until it finally shattered into thousands of scorching shards that went flying into the forest.

“That will happen. Only, faeries are a lot harder to clean up,” the coals guffawed viciously.

“You will never get the best of us,” I promised with false confidence.

“Oh, I absolutely disagree. Ah, I see they are almost here. See you soon, darling, tata!” The coals extinguished, and as before, all four of us were left in total darkness.

“Rudy,” I whispered. “Rudy, get up.” I heard the shuffling and rustling as Rudy got on his legs. “Upright,” I called out next, “Upright, please get up.”

“What happened?” he asked. “Was there another dragon or something?”

“Sort of,” I answered. I roused Minnie gently in my arms. “Minnie? I need you to cast a protection spell. Quick, do it, before they come.”

“Who’s they?” she asked. I heard her wings flutter as she squirmed out of my pocket.

“Minnie, hurry!”

“But we’re not even in the Forest of Temptations yet, and the spell takes a lot of-”

“Minnie, for Golde’s sake, just cast the spell,” Upright inserted for me.

“Okay, okay,” Minnie said frantically. “As we enter a forest full of dangers, protect-”

“Not so fast,” said a new voice. All was silent, for each one of us knew that somewhere in the darkness among us was someone new and dangerous. I felt Minnie sink back into my hands.

“Ow! Hands off the beard!” Upright shouted somewhere. Rudy began to neigh wildly, and I felt an arm lock around my neck.

“Don’t move,” was the order.

“We got ‘em! Someone get a lantern on!” a man shouted. A match was struck, and a small light flickered in front of me. It illuminated a man with a sharply chiseled face wearing a blue coat with golden decale threaded into it. Under his coat was traditional village clothing with leather padding as armor; it was the perfect outfit for a silent attack. Slung around his waist was a long sheath with a gleaming sword handle protruding out of it. I noticed the other soldiers had swords of their own too. Some even had bows with arrows stored in quivers slung around their back. More lanterns began to flicker on, revealing dozens of other men prepared to fight. “Which one’s the new Maleficent?” one of the men called. The man with the blue coat smirked at me.

“I’m looking right at her,” he answered, “she’s even got the hair.”

“Captain, we’ve got the horse,” said another man. The blue coated man, who I now took to be the captain, looked at me one last time before walking over to where Rudy was being restrained by several men. He whimpered painfully as one of the men whipped him to stay still.

“Don’t touch my horse!” I screamed furiously.

“Shut her up!” ordered the captain. The man who had his arm locked around my neck took his other hand and covered my mouth. His fingers clenched my skin tightly, threatening to snap one of the bones in my face. Minnie slipped discreetly into my pocket, but her attempt to hide was only in vain.

“Captain, we can’t find the faery,” one of the soldiers announced. The captain turned back at me suspiciously. I prayed Minnie would keep still in my pocket. The captain moved to me and crouched.

“Let her talk,” he commanded the soldier who had me trapped. He moved his hand away from my mouth, and finally I could breath clean air. I kept my guard on as the captain leaned in closer.

“I’ll give you one chance,” he said in a gravelly voice. His breath smelled of sweet smoke and old whiskey. “Where’s your little faery friend?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said defiantly. The captain slapped me brutally.

“Where’s the faery?” he repeated even louder. I held my head high still.

“I will never tell you,” I swore. He slapped me again harder. I could feel my cheek swell up and redden.

“It’s not like we want to hurt her. We just want to make sure she doesn’t try anything funny. Now, where is she?” he asked again gritting his teeth. I curled my lip and and only glowered. The captain stood up and unsheathed his sword. In the light of the lanterns, the metal looked menacing and bewitched. I noticed bronze-red patches stained onto the sword, and I knew what it meant for me. Rudy bucked and whinnied in horror, and the men struggled to contain him again. I noticed Upright was being pinned down behind the captain, his mouth covered like mine had been. Only his eyes could show his emotion, and for the first time, he looked truly scared.

“For the last time, where is she?” the captain shouted.

I would not answer. The captain yelled like a banshee and charged forward with his sword. I flinched and waited for the blood to drip.

“I’m here, I’m here,” Minnie cried, flying from my pocket. She looked around her in awe as she beheld all the lanterns and the armed men. The captain snapped his fingers rigidly. A man with a miniature bird cage, like the ones I used to see in the gypsy carts, came forward and opened its door.

“Get in,” the captain barked to Minnie. She winced and did as she was told. The subordinate soldier slammed the cage door close and put a small lock on its latch. “So you’re aware,” spoke the captain to Minnie, “our boss has put a little black magic on your cage. Try to cast a spell, and we’ll know.” Minnie looked at me in horror. She cowered into a little ball and stayed curled up against the iron bars of the cage. The captain turned to the rest of the soldiers. “Let’s move out! We have a long way to go.” The soldiers grumbled under their breaths and obeyed. The man holding me captive hoisted me up on my feet. He tied my hands behind my back and gagged me with a cheap cloth. The same was done to Upright who put up more of a fight than I did. I watched crossly as a soldier mounted Rudy and whipped him to move forward. If I just knew how to use my magic, I swear I’d crush his skull in, I resolved as I watched the man force Rudy to ride ahead. For the first time since the Day of the Choosing, I didn’t even try to suppress my ill thoughts. I truly despised the soldier and was too enraged to keep my emotions in control.

The captain led us through the forest, and eventually we arrived at small, rocky trail. I was allowed to walk by myself, but several soldiers stood near me at all times. Upright walked just ahead of me next to the soldier who held Minnie’s cage. Behind me I could hear the sound of Rudy’s hooves as he clattered along bitterly down the trail. If any of us lagged or made the slightest sound, we were whipped, shoved, or smacked back into submission. We walked like this for a long and gruelling five days. At night we were given bread and water, and not a lot of it. Minnie slept in her cage, and Upright and I were forced to sleep still gagged and bound. It was enduring the midnights that made it almost impossible to survive.

The first two days the captain had us marching late into the night, and it would be after twelve before we ever stopped to camp. Midnight would come, and the heat of the evolving magic would swelter.  My arms, bound behind my back for an exhausting amount of time, ached unbearably when the magic traveled through it. It was hard to walk steadily when my legs wanted to constantly buckle forward. I couldn’t moan, I couldn’t breathe heavily, I couldn’t even grit my teeth without upsetting the soldiers and getting hit. Upright handled it worse than me. He refused to be silent, and I began to think he was being additionally loud in rebellion to the soldiers who had put him in this state. Upright wailed and howled, screaming curses at every living creature in our vicinity. Finally, the guards realized they’d have to punish him some other way to get him to stop. On the third night, as the captain and his men were making a fire, a few soldiers took the fussy dwarf and pushed him away from the campsite to somewhere deep in the forest. As I bit my lip to withstand my own anguish, I heard faint hollers and sobs that could only be from Upright. My lip was now gushing blood, and I had to quickly suck it in before it stained the cloth. Soon, the taste of blood began to leave my mouth, and Upright and the soldiers returned. I immediately saw the bruises and gashes surrounding Upright’s eyes and nose. Blood was sprinkled all over his shirt, and he walked with a limp as he returned to his spot next to me. I looked at him with distressed eyes, but he gave me no look in return. To this day, I’ll never be entirely sure of what the soldiers did to him in the forest, but it worked. Upright kept quiet at midnight and did as he was told. Near the end of our journey, the captain began to realize the magnitude of the impact each midnight had on us and began to stop for camp sooner. This, of course, only delayed and prolonged our journey to an inevitable destination that I was still unaware of.

It was on the late morning of the fifth day that Minnie finally uncurled from her little ball. The soldier who held her cage was fortunately standing next me as we traveled. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her slowly untuck her knees and expand her wings. She numbly crawled forward, her eyes squinting as though she had woken from a long nap. She grabbed the bars of the cage and poked her head outside. I watched as her eyes widened and her mouth opened wide in fright. Maybe she’s just yawning? I hopefully thought. She pulled her head out from the bars and crawled to the side of the bird cage closest to me.

“Blyss,” she whispered, “how long have the trees looked like this?”

“Shh!” snapped the soldier. He shook the cage, sending Minnie rocketing backwards and slamming into the bars. I looked at the trees around us. I hadn’t noticed it previously, but the colors of the leaves had darkened. It wasn’t a dark green color they had, no, it was black. The bark was an faded, ashy color. The ink black leaves drooped from their branches and curled in a sickly manner. Smokey purple moss crawled up the tree trunks and wrapped around the lower branches, choking the life out of the tree. The bushes and shrubs that occupied the forest floor on either side of the path had the same ghostly look about them. How could I have been so blind do not notice the trees before? Since Minnie had asked, I began to recall that the trees had looked like this soon after the soldiers had captured us. My best was guess was that it had been three days since the trees had changed their colors. I was able to catch Minnie’s attention and held up three fingers. She nodded and looked back at the withered vegetation. I knew what was going through the little faery’s mind. It was clear she knew we were in the Forest of the Temptations, and we were on our way to an awaiting evil.

It was at noon I was able to see the very top of the palace. Stormy green clouds swirled around the highest turret, mimicking the color of a witch’s brew. The castle was built on jagged stone spyres that wobbled dangerously above a bottomless canyon. As the trees began to part, I saw a long series of wobbly bridges sway between each spyre as it led up to the castle. The captain and the soldiers approached the first bridge and began crossing over it casually. I paused when I reached the beginning of it. I looked over the side and saw the large, dark mouth open up beneath the bridge. The bottom could not be seen from any angle, and a sinking feeling in my stomach ensured me that daylight would never seep through those clouds to reveal any bottom. The guard shoved me forward, and I stumbled onto the bridge. I looked behind me to see they were pulling Rudy onto the bridge as well. Though the boards of the swinging bridge creaked and protested, they held Rudy’s weight, and we continued on forward. We plodded up several bridges, each connected by a twisted, malicious spyre. As we came to the final bridge, I saw the ominous palace stand tall as its towers peaked up into the toxic green storm churning vigorously above. Finally, I stepped off the bridge and onto solid ground. Unlike Queen Golde’s castle, there were no guards posted at the main gate. However, when the captain drew near to it, the gate creaked upwards and grumbled open. I looked above but still saw no guard. Someone must’ve known we had arrived. The soldiers guarding Rudy led him to a flimsy trough inside the palace walls. They stayed there as the rest of us walked into the palace.

The first room we found ourselves in was completely bare. The walls were made with thick blocks of stone. Cobwebs decorated the wooden rafters of the ceilings whose leaks dripped down and formed pools of murky water. The place smelled sour and mouldy, and the atmosphere had a tangible moisture to it. A sudden shriek from above us sent all the guards and the captain jumping. A ebony raven soared down from the high ceiling and landed comfortably on the captain’s shoulder. It opened its oversized beak and cawed at the captain.

“Nice to see you too, Diablo,” said the captain through gritted teeth. Diablo cawed again.

“The throne room, you say?” asked the captain. Diablo nodded his head. It reminded me of Rudy, and I wondered if Diablo was a cursed human too. I took one look at the bird’s beady eyes and decided not.

Diablo leaped from the captain’s shoulder and flew forward into another part of the castle. The captain followed the raven and led us all after the bird. The castle interior was dimly lit by unevenly mounted torches along the wet stone walls. Upright hung his head as he walked, and Minnie cowered back into her little ball. I, however, looked around in extreme interest. The palace was absolutely horrifying to be in, but the same magnet feeling in my magic had returned. This place was special, maybe for a malevolent reason, but it was still connected to me. By the time we reached the throne room, I knew exactly who would be waiting for us.

We all shuffled into a large, open room. The floor and walls were austere and unadorned. At the other end of the room was a stone chair seated on a wide,  ten feet tall stone mount with stairs leading up to the top on either side. Diablo flew over and perched on the throne where a robed figure sat with a glistening scepter. Her black polished horns rose pronouncedly from her skull. Her skin was a pale green color, and her nose was as pointed as her long crimson fingernails. Her head and horns were wrapped tightly by a thin black fabric, concealing any natural hair. She flicked one of her bony fingers, and the doors behind us slammed shut. A sound of a click confirmed that she had locked them too. Maleficent gently rose from her throne of evil  and descended down the stairs, almost floating over each step.

“Thank you for bringing them,” she addressed the captain. “We won’t be needing you anymore.” With the snap of her fingers, every single soldier in the room dissipated into a puff of green smoke. Minnie’s cage clattered to the floor. “Don’t try to escape just because there are no guards,” she said eyeing Upright, “it’d be a shame to have to kill any of you.” Maleficent looked me over and smirked.

“Don’t look so troubled, darling,” she said beginning to ungag Upright and me. “Those guards weren’t even real. Simply magic. It is indeed a powerful thing, especially for people like us.”

“There is no us,” I hissed. Maleficent shrugged. She reached up and unwrapped the fabric around her head. Tumbles of long black hair with blood red tips fell past her shoulders.

“Be forewarned, the hair doesn’t go with anything. Invest in a headwrap like I did,” Maleficent advised. She placed her hand on my head and fingered through my hair.

“What are you doing?” I snapped. Maleficent pulled her hand away and put it under my chin. She looked at either side of my face.

“No horns or green skin yet, interesting. But the skin is paling nicely, the hair looks beautiful, and the magic, oh, I could smell it all the from here. Yes, the Writer chose well. You’ll be a very good Maleficent,” said the villain grinning deviously.

“I’ll never become you,” I said swatting away her hand.

“That’s exactly what I told the Maleficent before me,” she responded amusedly.

“What, you’re saying you didn’t want to accept your fate either?” I scoffed doubtfully. Maleficent turned away from me and strolled around the room.

“Like you, I thought the Writer made a mistake. I didn’t think evil could fester in someone like me. So I went into Istoria during the Month of the Midnights and thought I could change my fate. I ran out of time and ended up fully transforming in the middle of the Forest of Temptations. I never even found the Writer,” she said almost remorsefully. She looked at me with eyes that were lost in an unpleasant memory.

“Oh, I didn’t realize-”

“Of course, you didn’t,” Maleficent snarled. “And what else you don’t realize is that there’s a reason it’s harder for a villain to find the Writer. It’s harder to replace us. No one wants our ending. The Writer doesn’t want you to find him.”

“Doesn’t matter. We’ll find him,” I reaffirmed confidently. If only I could have actually believed myself. Maleficent chuckled.

“Not without me, you won’t,” she said.

“What do you mean?”

“You need the Sword of Truth, darling. As you can see, I’m not dead, which means this fairytale isn’t over yet. The current Prince Philip still needs it to kill me. There’s no way the three Elder Faeries are going to give it to you,” she explained.

“We’ll just wait until after they kill you,” Upright interrupted smugly. Maleficent glared daggers at him.

“In case you haven’t noticed, dwarf,” Upright winced at the word, “time likes to fly by in Istoria. If you wait for the Sword of Truth to become available, you’ll never have enough time to find the Writer. You need my help.”

“And why would a witch like you want to help us?” Upright retorted. Maleficent didn’t bother to look at him anymore and instead turned to me.

“Besides wanting to watch you fail, I’m giving you what the last Maleficent didn’t give me: a chance. I may be evil, but I am certainly not heartless,” she said with a boastful smile. I caught Upright rolling his eyes.

“If we can’t have the Sword of Truth, what are we supposed to bring?” I asked with a more open tone. If Maleficent truly was our best shot, I figured I could be better mannered. Maleficent clapped her hands excitedly.

“So glad you asked! All of you, come with me,” she said beginning to walk to the left staircase. Upright and I looked awkwardly at Minnie’s cage that still lay on the ground. Our hands were bound behind our backs, meaning neither of us could set Minnie free. Maleficent noticed we were not following her and came back to us. “What’s the trouble-oh, I see.” Maleficent snapped her fingers once, and the ropes around our wrists vanished. She snapped her fingers again, and the cage was gone. Minnie slowly fluttered up to our level and looked at Maleficent in horror.

“I’m helping you, faery, the least you could do is pretend like you haven’t just seen a ghost,” Maleficent growled. “Don’t forget my magic is stronger than yours, and I’m not afraid to kill.” Minnie darted around my shoulder. Maleficent smiled pleasantly at me before turning her back and walking ahead.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were going to become Maleficent?” Upright asked softly. I reddened in humiliation.

“I was ashamed.”

“Well, um, I’m, uh, I’m sorry I gave you a hard time,” Upright murmured into his beard. I smiled gratefully.

“Thanks, Upright,” I whispered.

“Yeah, enough with the mush,” he said already brushing it off. “Now is it me, or she only nice to you?”

I chuckled, “Well, it makes sense if you think about it.” Upright only grumbled in response. We reached the top of the steps and now overlooked the throne room from ten feet in the air. The lack of banister that could prevent a fatal fall forced us to hug against the wall and cluster near Maleficent’s chair.

Maleficent looked out at the vast room and said, “Several retellings ago, one of the three Elder Faeries actually lost the Sword of Truth. They only had a few days before Prince Philip would come to them for the Weapons of Righteousness. In a desperate act to make sure the story would finish correctly, they had to create another sword. Though the Sword of Truth could never be replicated, the faeries were able to create a sister sword, the Sword of Spoken Truth. The only thing that differentiated the two weapons was a simple rule. In order for the Sword of Spoken Truth to actually pierce Maleficent, the holder of the sword had to say, and confidently mind you, a piece of truth. Then the magic in the sword would activate and be able to kill Maleficent. Of course, that Prince Philip was a complete idiot and almost forgot to do that. Those blasted faeries saved him at the last minute.”

“What’s so hard about that? Just say a piece of truth? That’s almost too easy,” Upright taunted.

“The truth must be powerful enough to activate the sword. And sometimes, the most powerful truths are the hardest to speak,” said Maleficent, her tone darkening. A long moment of silence and glance exchanging fell upon us.

“What happened to this second sword?” I asked breaking the uncomfortableness.

Maleficent answered, “Eventually, the real Sword of Truth was found. It was decided that the sister sword should be stored somewhere for safe keeping, only to be used if the first one was misplaced again. For a while, the three Elder Faeries kept both swords, but after each Month of Midnights, the new faeries couldn’t tell the difference. They kept mixing the swords up, and over the years, several Prince Philips almost died in battle because they didn’t say a piece of truth. If Prince Philip ever died, the course of the story would be changed, and chaos would ensue on all of Istoria.  Finally, the faeries were smart enough and realized the Sword of Spoken Truth should be kept somewhere completely different to prevent a mixup. So they came to Maleficent.” I noticed Upright was about to open his mouth, probably to make some snooty comment. I kicked his foot and gave him a look of warning. He heeded it wisely.

“The three Elder Faeries asked Maleficent if she would store the Sword of Spoken Truth somewhere in her castle. They knew she would never do anything to the sword or its magic because it was fatal to her almost just by touch. The sword has been in this castle ever since,” Maleficent concluded.

“And, you’re going to let us use this sword to take to the Writer?” I asked optimistically. Maleficent nodded.

“As long as you return it, you may take it,” she said.

“Hold up, let’s not get too excited,” said Upright pessimistically. “How do we know the Writer will even accept this sister sword as a weapon that kills Maleficent?”

“Because it has, remember?” I said. “It was used in several times in the past.”

“And besides,” interjected Maleficent, “he’ll know just by seeing it that you went to my castle...and survived.”

“What is it with you and these ominous phrases?” Upright asked bluntly.

“Upright!” I scolded. Maleficent laughed.

“Don’t expect him to understand, Blyss. He’s not a villain,” she said beginning to play with strands of my hair. I yanked my head away.

“Neither am I,” I reminded her. “Now can we please have the sword?” Maleficent pulled away and turned to face her stone chair. She raised her hands in the air and muttered inaudible words as the chair began to rumble. A thin stone panel fell forward from the backrest of the chair, revealing a large hidden compartment. In the compartant, propped up diagonally, was a silver sword with a carved wooden handle. Sapphire gems encrusted the border of the handle and shined a brilliant blue even in the dreary light of the castle. I reached for the Sword of Spoken Truth when suddenly Maleficent put out her hand and stopped me.

“Not so fast, darling. Before I give this to you, I want you to do one thing for me,” she said with a wicked grin.

“And what would that be?” I asked suspiciously. Nothing she’d want could ever be good.

“It’s really very simple. I just want to see how strong your magic is. I want you to cast a self-levitating spell,” she said as if it were the simplest thing in the world.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t know how to do that, and besides my magic isn’t very-”

“Do it! Or you won’t get the sword,” she hissed sharply. Her eyes flashed red lightning bolts.

“Just do it, Blyss,” Upright whispered tugging on my cloak. Minnie darted next to Upright and watched from his shoulder as I stepped next to Maleficent. She nudged me forward to the edge of the mount. I looked down at the floor of the room and quivered as my heart palpitated uncontrollably.

“Put your hands up and envision your feet lifting off the ground,” Maleficent instructed curtly. I did so and nothing happened. I looked to her for help. “Close your eyes,” she continued, “and feel the magic running through your veins, from your toes to your head, lifting you up.” I closed my eyes and felt my skin vibrate. The heat I felt every midnight returned but it didn’t burn; it energized. My fingertips and toes began to buzz as sweat trickled down my cheek. Still, nothing happened. Maleficent spoke as my eyes were still closed, “Tap into your evil, Blyss. Don’t lock it away. Set it free. It will boost you, give you a push. You’ll feel so much better if you stop fighting.”

For a moment, I listened to her. For a moment, my feet lifted off the ground, and I was suspended in air. Fortunately, my common sense rang louder in my mind than the evil, and I dropped back down.

“Why’d you stop?” Maleficent asked angrily.

“I’m no fool, Maleficent. You tried to trick me into giving into my evil,” I said snatching the sword from the chair. “Well, it’s not going to work. Thank you, but we’re done.” Upright and Minnie had no problem keeping up with me as I stormed down the stairs.

“Come back!” Maleficent yelled. “You can’t have that! You didn’t finish the spell!”

“Too late!” Upright sneered. Maleficent screamed and thrusted a laser of magic from her scepter. It exploded a few inches from my head.

“Get them, Diablo!” I heard Maleficent command.

“Run!” I cried as we bolted for the doors. More blasts of magic whizzed by us narrowly. Minnie clung to Upright’s beard in order to keep up with us. I threw the main castle doors open and sprinted to Rudy who stood waiting alone. Upright let me toss him up onto Rudy’s back. Once I mounted, I handed the sword to Upright who locked it in his arms.

“Go, Rudy!” I ordered, and he took off galloping over the bridges. Diablo flew furiously toward us. The clouds above us rumbled anxiously as they watched the chase below them. About two bridges away from the Forest of Temptations, I noticed Diablo had disappeared behind us. Wait, where’d he-

Minnie shrieked as all of us jerked downwards. Rudy neighed frantically. I looked over and saw one of the boards had snapped, and Rudy’s back foot was dangling through the bridge.

“He’s stuck!” Upright announced the obvious.

“Stay here,” I ordered as I hopped down onto the wobbly bridge. I grasped the flimsy rope handling for balance. I crouched down and gently supported Rudy’s foot as he lifted it out. He set it safely down away from the hole. As I stood back up, I noticed Diablo rocketing straight toward us. Before any of us had time to react, the raven slammed into me, and I tumbled over the side of the bridge.

“Blyss!” Upright and Minnie cried together. Rudy whinnied in horror as he saw me plummet down into the shadowy canyon. I could see Diablo fly back to the castle, satisfied with his work.

I shut my eyes and let myself freefall into darkness.




 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 


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