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  1. #1
    Chapter One: The Ball

    Chapter One: The Ball

    What makes a hero? What makes a villain? What if all that separates the two is your perspective...?

    The old tales call them evil. Wicked. Villains. But is there more to the story?

    Those who were chosen have received an anonymous letter inviting them to a ball. The sender is mysterious. The purpose is unknown. And where does the story go from here? That will be up to the misfits who answer the summons.
    "Sleep to dream, and we dream to live..." -Great Big Sea

  2. #2
    Two Months Ago

    She lay face-up in the swamp, staring toward the sky, but she couldn't see any stars. It wouldn't occur to her till later that clouds and tall trees had been blocking her view; she wasn't thinking clearly enough for that. She didn't know exactly how she had ended up here. Everything following the wedding had been a frightening whirl of pain and confusion. In her blurred memories, her presence in the swamp had coincided with the steady diminishing of the sounds of shouting and merrymaking, so perhaps it had been some instinct to run away, even if she hadn't been capable of a conscious plan.

    Isobel knew she was going to die. She neither welcomed that nor feared it. She was just numb. Broken.

    The once-queen shivered in the cold night air. Only a thin shift covered her, and she had plunged her feet into the dirty, icy water of the swamp. Anything to ease the agony of the iron shoes. The chill was nothing compared to that, even if the swamp water provided only slight relief.

    Isobel closed her eyes, and sank into darkness.


    ***

    When she woke, she was no longer in the swamp, though she couldn't immediately place where she was. Inside somewhere. She felt a bed beneath her, no longer the marshy turf where she had slipped from consciousness. Her vision was blurred and her senses felt dulled; she was only aware of her immediate surroundings, and even that seemed vague and dream-like.

    She wasn't cold anymore. Someone had wrapped a warm shawl around her. Probably the same person now crouched by her feet, mixing some sort of potion in a jar. The stranger was dark-haired, short, curvy and full-figured, clothed in a simple homespun dress. Isobel tried to recognize the face, but was fairly sure she had never seen the woman before. That was a good thing. Isobel hoped she never saw any of the wedding guests again.

    The woman began applying her salve to Isobel's burned feet, then wrapping them in clean bandages. Though her hands were infinitely gentle, the flesh she touched was so raw and ruined that Isobel winced. The woman startled, clearly surprised that Isobel was awake, then moved closer and held a cup to Isobel's lips.

    "Drink, my queen," the woman said. "It will help you sleep, and ease the pain."

    Isobel drank without question.
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 08-26-2017 at 12:13 PM.

  3. #3
    Isobel and Carrie



    Two months had passed since the wedding and the iron shoes. Isobel could stand and walk again - not entirely without pain, but it was still a vast improvement. She suspected that without the healing magic, her recovery would have been even more arduous. She still could not tolerate wearing any type of shoe, so her mangled feet were bare beneath her long skirt.

    She had learned her rescuer's name. Carrie. And it had taken awhile, but she had eventually convinced Carrie to call her Isobel, rather than "my queen" or "your majesty." Carrie had been hesitant about this, but to Isobel it seemed foolish for an unexpected houseguest to put on royal airs to the person who had unequivocally saved her life.

    Not only had Carrie pulled her out of the swamp, tended her wounded feet and prevented the shock she was going into from becoming fatal - she had allowed Isobel to become a resident of her cozy cottage home. Carrie had gently avoided bringing up the obvious fact that Isobel had nowhere else to go and the whole kingdom was hostile to her. Instead she had just assumed Isobel was staying. What had been the guest room was now "Isobel's room." Cottage life now included a second person, with not so much as a hint that Isobel was ever expected to move on. So she stayed, and clung to the feeling of safety that had been so lacking for so long.

    Today, though, something had happened that disturbed Isobel's fragile equilibrium. A bird had landed on the porch railing bearing a letter for the former queen. Isobel had read the simple message three times, and each time her heart had pounded in her chest.


    "To Isobel, Queen of Azure:

    You are cordially invited to a ball which will be held at Castle Riordan on the Northern Coast. An anonymous benefactor has taken note of your plight, and offers you the opportunity to right the wrongs which have been done to you, save your kingdom from tyrants, and perhaps even regain your throne. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will never be offered to you again. If you choose to accept, speak the words 'To Castle Riordan!' over the symbol on the back of this page, and it will open a portal for you. Choose wisely."



    The letter was unsigned, and a complicated symbol that looked like an eye was scrawled on the back of the parchment.

    Isobel didn't know quite what to do. Selfishly, she wanted to do nothing - to hide in this cottage and stay within the bubble of contentment it represented. But would her conscience allow that? Isobel had no desire to sit on the throne again... but she knew what the current rulers were capable of. What they had done, and what they were still doing. With them in power, was anywhere in Azure truly safe? Even in the depths of the woods? And could Isobel truly turn her back on her people, even though they had so callously turned their backs on her?

    She sat in silence for awhile, then Carrie came out and joined her. Isobel passed her the note, and then Carrie was silent too. After a few minutes she asked, "Are you going?"

    "I don't know," Isobel said. "Maybe. I don't want to, but... it seems right. I still have a responsibility. Don't I?"

    Carrie was thoughtful for a moment. "Do you want me to go with you?" she asked.

    Isobel nodded, then hastily looked away, afraid her face would betray just how desperately she needed the support.

    "Alright," Carrie said. "We'll go together. Whatever we find there - whatever boon or trick - you won't have to face it alone."

    "Thank you," Isobel said, almost whispering.

    A short time later, the forest witch was now in the shape of a mouse and was tucked in the lining of Isobel's sleeve. "Take me to Castle Riordan!" Isobel said with as much confidence as she could muster.
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 10-21-2017 at 12:28 PM.

  4. #4
    Maleficent



    A raven's caw woke her.

    "Diaval?"

    Maleficent said weakly, the battle....It had drained her so. She had used so much of her magic and the prince, he-

    Maleficent felt her chest and felt blood. She lifted her hand up and saw it was covered in blood. She felt so weak...She hadn't felt this weak since King Stefan had taken her wings. She heard the caw again and saw Diaval. Her beloved raven sitting next to her. He had look of concern in his eyes.

    "It's okay, Diaval. I'm alive...I think."

    She said and grunted in pain. Yes, she had to be alive. Being dead could not hurt this much.

    Suddenly she heard cheering and turned and saw the thorns of the castle of Perrault were crumbling to the ground. The prince he must have-

    "No...Not again....NO!"

    She exclaimed, once again the Royal Family of Perrault had won! The foreign prince had bested her and broken her curse. He had awakened the Sleeping Beauty. Diaval cawed and gestured with his head they should leave.

    "You're right. Once they are done rejoicing, they'll come to see if Prince Phillip killed me."

    And she was content for letting him and his beloved's family think that he had. Although it was painful to get to her feet, she did it. Diaval flew ahead of her, leading a path to safety.

  5. #5
    Maleficent



    Maleficent and Diaval retreated to Grimm Hall. It was once home to a grand lord but was abandoned for many years. The Royal Family of Perrault did not use it and it made a good hiding spot for the fallen fairy. No one would look for her here. She spent two months healing from the wounds that Prince Phillip of Ulstead had caused her. If his sword had only been a few inches to the left, he would have stabbed her through the heart. She was very lucky to be alive.

    Or was she? She had lost so much in the years since King Henry had decided to create his own legacy. She had lost her home, her friends, her lover. Well, in a way, Diaval was still with her. But he was a raven now, but not a human. Maleficent did not remember the spell she had used to turn him into a raven. She wasn't sure how to reverse it.

    This was such a lonely life, she thought. Diaval kept watch. Even as a raven, his love for her had not ended. He knew she had turned him to save his life and was not angry that she couldn't reverse the spell. He knew she would if she could. At least she had been able to heal in peace.

    Diaval flew into Perrault with ease. Ravens were a common bird and no one paid him much mind. He brought Maleficent back a flyer he had found. It was announcing the marriage of Princess Aurora to Prince Phillip. The prince was viewed as the savior of Perrault. The slayer of Maleficent. Of course he would be given their princess' hand. She scoffed at it.

    "Of course, they'll live happily ever after."

    She said, angry that her curse on the girl had been broken. Before she could think of a way to ruin the marriage, another bird chirped. Maleficent frowned and asked Diaval.

    "Did you make a new friend?"

    The raven shook his head and Maleficent saw this black bird had a letter with it. She took it. It read:

    To Maleficent, Queen of the Moors:

    You are cordially invited to a ball which will be held at Castle Riordan on the Northern Coast of Azure. An anonymous benefactor has taken note of your plight, and offers you the opportunity to right the wrongs which have been done to you. Avenge your people and perhaps even restore your kingdom. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will never be offered to you again. If you choose to accept, speak the words 'To Castle Riordan!' over the symbol on the back of this page, and it will open a portal for you. Choose wisely.


    The letter wasn't signed and she did not recognize the eye symbol on the back of it.

    Maleficent gave Diaval a look.

    "Do you think I should go?"

    Diaval looked like he almost shrugged his wings. The choice had to be hers and he wasn't sure what would be the right call. She had been unsuccessful on her attempts of the Royal Family of Perrault. Maybe this person could help her. She thought a moment and said.

    "Let's go."

    She said it with determination, having made up her mind. Diaval flew onto her shoulder as she said.

    "Take me to Castle Riordan!"
    Last edited by Sojourn; 08-29-2017 at 08:58 PM.

  6. #6
    Kalona

    Kalona stretched, and got up from his sleeping mat. He put on a fresh loincloth, and went outside, nodding to his son, who was sitting outside his own hut in Kalona's training complex. He went past the practice ring, and towards the Men's Eating House. Thru long habit, he avoided looking at the hut where his daughter had lived until she left to marry that young upstart.

    A large, black bird - an 'alala, or Hawaiian crow - swooped down and landed on a post right in front of Kalona with a loud caw, and formally bowed his head four times.

    Kalona stopped, surprised at the bird's behavior.

    Seeing Kalona looking at him, the bird raised his head, and spoke:

    To Kalona, Armsmaster of O'ahu:

    You are cordially invited to a ball which will be held at Castle Riordan on the Northern Coast of Azure. An anonymous benefactor has taken note of your plight, and offers you the opportunity to right the wrongs which have been done to you. Win back your daughter and her affections. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will never be offered to you again. If you choose to accept, speak the words 'To Castle Riordan!' over the symbol on the back of this page, and it will open a portal for you. Choose wisely.


    Kalona barely thought before saying "To Castle Riordan!"

  7. #7
    Isobel



    Isobel had never been to Castle Riordan before; it had been abandoned since before her late husband's time. Because it had theoretically been sitting empty so long, Isobel expected it to be decrepit, but when the portal rematerialized her in an elaborately adorned entry hall, she was surprised to find that it was in nearly as good shape as any occupied royal family palace. The carpet was perhaps a little threadbare, and the drapery a touch faded in spots, but it was far from a ruined castle. Candles burned merrily in the wall sconces - Isobel could not tell whether by magic or human hands. Someone had to be around here somewhere, she thought. She did not see a speck of dust anywhere.

    Whoever resided here, though, so far remained a mystery. No living soul was there to greet her. Though it was certainly spacious enough to acommodate a crowd, there were no other people in the entry hall. When Isobel tried the doors that presumably led to other parts of the castle, they were all locked.

    Since there wasn't anyone else present to find fault with her decision to bring along an uninvited guest, Isobel removed Carrie-As-Mouse from her sleeve to let her take a look around too. Carrie wouldn't be able to offer any input just yet - she was not able to produce human speech in animal form - but Isobel felt better just knowing she was there too.

    Isobel had tried to avoid looking at the mirror that hung in a place of prominence at the front of the hall, but running out of other options to get out of the locked room, she eventually went over and examined it. As she had expected, it was an enchanted mirror. She shivered; she had not used a magic mirror since her own had told her that Blanche was alive. It had to be done, though. She held up the invitation she had received.

    "Mirror mirror on the wall, what was the purpose of this call?"

    The surface of the mirror began to shimmer, and fog seemed to roll in its depths.

    "The barefoot exile may awaken me, but I speak only to all three."

    Isobel found this answer incredibly unhelpful - all three what? - and the reference to her feet made her uncomfortable. She reflexively adjusted her skirt to ensure they were out of sight.

    'All three' was explained quickly enough when another person materialized through the portal, followed closely by a third.

    "Hello," Isobel said to the newcomers, slipping Carrie back into the safety of her sleeve.

  8. #8
    Maleficent



    Maleficent had never been to the Kingdom of Azure before. But most of her life had been spent battling the Royal Family of Perrault. First it was King Henry, then it was King Stefan. Eventually, it would be Aurora and Phillip. Because she wasn't going to allow Stefan's family to get a happily ever after. Not after what Stefan had taken from her. He nor his family deserved happiness. Prince Phillip had won, for now.

    Right now, she'd try to figure out why someone would summon her to this castle. It was a nice place, she thought, as she and Diaval entered through the portal.

    "How odd, there's no servants."

    Maleficent remarked quietly to Diaval, who nodded his raven head in agreement. A place like this was too large for one person to take care of. Unless, they had a lot of magic. Clearly the person who summoned her here had magic. How else did she get here just by saying a few words? She overheard Isobel speaking to a mirror on the wall when she arrived. A magic mirror. She had heard tales of them.

    "Hello, I'm Maleficent. And you are?"

    She asked the barefooted woman. Unlike Carrie, Diaval made no effort to hide himself. He kept his perch on Maleficent's shoulder.
    Last edited by Sojourn; 08-29-2017 at 08:59 PM.

  9. #9
    Kalona

    Kalona stepped forward into a place more strange and magnificent than he'd ever imagined. He was in a room that was as large as an eating house. The ceiling was high, and both it and the walls were too smooth to be thatch. And there was a door across the room that seemed to lead, not outside like doors do, but to another room. Amazing. He'd never seen anything like it.

    Then he noticed the other people. Women unless he missed his guess, but their... odd attire covered so much of their bodies, it was a little hard to be certain. It was made out of... he wasn't sure what, but it certainly wasn't the fine bark cloth his own loincloth and cloak were made of. He straightened his cloak, cleared his throat, and spoke with the confidence he'd learned to address the greenest recruits with, even before he was certain they were up to the task of learning what he had to teach.

    "Hello. I am Kalona, Arms Master of the Kingdom of O'ahu."
    Last edited by Anne Elizabeth Baldwin; 08-29-2017 at 11:20 PM.

  10. #10
    Isobel



    Isobel couldn't help feeling a bit nervous about meeting strangers. She hadn't seen many people since the wedding, and these two seemed a bit intimidating. Kalona was dressed in a manner she had never seen before and hailed from a place she had never heard of, and Maleficent... well, you couldn't judge a book by its cover, but the name...

    But what of it? Isobel could be intimidating too. She held her head high, and projected confidence. That was something she'd done often as a queen, and she found it easy to slip back into that persona.

    "I'm Isobel," she said.

    Her hand brushed her sleeve briefly, ensuring that Carrie was indeed tucked safely away. It was something she had promised herself - that no matter what happened, Carrie would always remain safe. Her survival was non-negotiable. Carrie was a genuinely good person, and Isobel's world ate genuinely good people alive. Isobel didn't intend for that to happen to Carrie through association with her.

    Isobel had decided that the first time they had actually discussed what happened the night Carrie rescued her. Before hearing the full story, Isobel had assumed that Carrie had simply stumbled across her by chance in the swamp and decided to do a good deed for a stranger. It turned out that was not the case. Carrie had been trading in the nearest village the day of the wedding, and had found out from the local gossip what had happened in the city. Carrie had considered it unbearably cruel, and when the villagers told her that the evil queen had crawled off into the swamp to die, the forest witch had spent hours scouring the marshlands to find her. Find her and save her life, if possible, and if not, to make sure she had some peace at the very end and spare her from dying alone.

    Someone who would do that deserved a long, happy life - at least in Isobel's book. To the extent it was in her power, Isobel planned to give it to her. At the moment, that meant ensuring these strangers didn't have hostile intentions.

    "I assume you received letters like this?" Isobel confirmed, holding up her own. "What do you make of it?"
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 08-30-2017 at 08:22 PM.

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