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  1. #21
    Isobel



    "The dances at a ball are typically not a performance," Isobel explained. "It is a social occasion where one dances with a series of partners. I wouldn't suppose that we would be expected to join the dancing, though. I assume our role there will simply be to gather information."

    There was a hint of sadness in her voice when she added, "Surely Lord Pino is aware that not everyone would be able to dance."

    She didn't just mean Kalona, although he likely wouldn't know the steps - he was from so far away, and Isobel was sure the dances were different in his part of the world, since the customary dance selections varied even in different regions within the relatively small kingdom of Azure.

    Isobel herself could not dance either. Not anymore. She had loved dancing, once. It was a skill required of a noblewoman, and she had been born with a natural grace and lightness of foot; Isobel had excelled at every style of dance she had ever tried. When she danced, she'd felt a freedom that had been very rare in her constrained aristocratic life. She missed the joy that dancing had brought her. It was a particularly cruel irony of the torture Blanche and Aden had devised for her, and she was sure that had been intentional.

    She would not dance tonight, and likely never again. The damage to her feet was bad enough that she was lucky to be able to walk, and even that was painful and difficult. Dancing on those ruined feet was simply out of the question. Pino knew so much about them, it seemed - surely he would realize that, and would see why dancing at the ball could not be a required task.

    Catching her tone, Carrie gave her a sympathetic look, but Isobel replied with a small shrug and smile, and shook off the momentary regret and nostalgia. This was her life now, and she was lucky she was still alive at all. She had Carrie to thank for that, and she was far from ungrateful. Isobel couldn't spend forever looking back. Life went on. But it stung that this was one more thing Blanche and her prince had taken from her.
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 09-15-2017 at 08:04 PM.
    "Sleep to dream, and we dream to live..." -Great Big Sea

  2. #22
    Blanche and Willard



    Meanwhile, at Castle Florian...


    For years, Blanche had been teaching herself to use enchanted mirrors as her stepmother did. It frustrated her that she had to work so hard to use a skill that seemed to come as easily to Isobel as breathing - and it infuriated her even more that try as she might, no mirror would confirm the fate of her stepmother for her. Isobel's mirror didn't respond to Blanche at all, and never had, but that was to be expected; it knew that Blanche wasn't its mistress, and now the enchanted glass was locked away in the closet of the now-unoccupied room that used to be Isobel's. Blanche had bought her own mirror, and had used it to try to search for Isobel's corpse... and was disappointed that it showed merely thick grey fog whenever she made that particular request.

    Aden was sure she was just confusing the mirror by asking about someone who was already dead. Blanche wasn't sure, though. Surely the mirror would be capable of showing Isobel's body, or at least her final resting place in the swamp if decay and scavengers had left little behind. There was an increasing nagging thought in the back of her mind that somehow Isobel had survived. Aden assured Blanche that couldn't be true. Isobel had surely died of her injuries, or of the resulting shock. Blanche wasn't fully confident, though. She now felt they should have made absolutely certain. She should have watched Isobel breathe her last breaths, instead of setting her aside for the wedding festivities even if death was the certain outcome.

    Then one day, the image changed.

    "Mirror mirror in my hand, I seek my stepmother throughout the land," Blanche said absently, having repeated this process and variations on the rhyme countless times - and she almost dropped the mirror in surprise when the image cleared and she saw another castle, an old one she didn't recognize. Isobel was standing in front of another mirror... standing! after what they did to her feet!... and there were others in the room. Blanche ignored two of them, because their demeanor toward Isobel indicated they were strangers.

    There was one woman Blanche stared at, though - the country bumpkin in the homemade dress who looked so out of place among the finery. The woman was standing too close to Isobel, her attention too fixed on her, and the way Isobel kept looking at her questioningly seeking an opinion...

    It was unacceptable. Isobel couldn't be alive. If she was, she couldn't be allowed to stay that way. Nor was anyone allowed to come to her aid. This other woman would learn the price to be paid for helping an evil queen.

    Blanche summoned Willard to her chambers, and she could tell the huntsman was discomfited by the news as well.

    "Begging your pardon, your majesty, but you should have just had her beheaded as I advised you to," Willard said a bit too bluntly. "I realize it may not have been so... personally satisfying... to you, my queen. But you could still have made a spectacle of her execution, and you would have been sure."

    Blanche shrugged off his belated objection. He had voiced it only weakly at the time, and he was right, it would not have satisfied Blanche to give her stepmother the mercy of a clean death. Officially, she wanted to deter anyone else who might think to harm the royal family. Privately, she was unashamed to admit she had relished the idea of maximizing the former queen's suffering.

    "Find her!" Blanche commanded him. "Take some of the soldiers with you and bring her back to me." She paused for a moment to think, then tilted the mirror toward Willard to show him the unidentified woman who had just drawn her ire. "And I want Isobel's new friend, too. Any loyalty to my stepmother is treason, and I will see this brainless cow punished most severely for it."

    If this bothered Willard, he didn't show it. He merely bowed and said, "Your wish is my command, my queen."
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 09-20-2017 at 05:45 PM.

  3. #23
    Maleficent



    For Maleficent producing a book was like child's play. She had turned herself into a dragon before, so manifesting a simple book took very little energy. Although only she and Diaval would appreciate the irony of the book she had created for Kalona. She nodded her head to Kalona.

    "Of course."

    She handed him the book and told him.

    "Keep it, if you want. Do remember that history is written by the victors."

    History was a victor's story of the truth. And that wasn't always the true story. She knew what King Stefan and his people said about her. That she was evil. They left out the part of what Stefan had done to her home, to her people. Just thinking about it made her angry. She took a deep breath and told herself that perhaps helping find the book that Lord Pino wanted would be a good thing. Obviously, what she was doing wasn't working. If it had, Aurora would still be in her death like coma.

    She listened to Isobel explain what she thought the ball would entitle, Maleficent nodded her head.

    "I'm sure you're right. I have no interest in dancing."

    She didn't care much for parties anymore. Not since she had lost the Moors and everyone she had held dear. She caught that Isobel appeared a little sad about dancing. Although she didn't know her well enough to ask. The old her, when she was still Mallie, would have inquired why. But Maleficent had closed herself off to others long ago. She had spent so much of her life focused on revenge and that made it a lonely life.

    "We have time before ten, shall we begin our search?"

    Maleficent asked her companions.

  4. #24
    Isobel and Carrie



    Isobel nodded and led the way through the door that had opened up for them. It led down a long hallway, draped with heavy red velvet curtains and with candles burning merrily in sconces at intervals, but otherwise featureless. There were no doors that Isobel could see, but there was a full-length mirror at what appeared to be the dead end of the corridor. It didn't take a genius to guess that this was almost certainly another magic mirror. Otherwise, what would be the point?

    "Mirror mirror on the wall..." Isobel said, hoping inspiration would strike. She wasn't even sure what to ask. Their goal here was so ill-defined that she didn't know what a productive question would be. Apparently it didn't matter, because the mirror began speaking of its own accord.

    "I show the face you try to mask.
    To reveal the truth is my sworn task.
    If you wish to pass by me
    Your secret self is for all to see.
    "

    Carrie peered into the glass, curious, and said, "I don't get it. It's just a regular mirror."

    She pointed, and it was true, only her usual image was reflected back. When Isobel stepped beside her to take a look, though, her own reflection was quite different. Isobel gasped as she saw herself as she had been the day of the wedding. In her mirror image, she was dressed in a rough shift that was muddy and soaked with swamp water, and her hair was tangled with leaves and burrs as she staggered toward the mirror's surface. Isobel tried not to let her gaze shift to the image's feet, but she couldn't quite keep her eyes away. They were bloodied and mangled, the skin charred and blistered. Tear stains left strange clean streaks on the mirror image's dirty face.

    Isobel hoped that no one else would be able to see this scene of her degradation and pain... but no, that was too much to wish for. She could see Carrie's reflection - though for some reason it hadn't changed - so it stood to reason that hers too would be visible also to whomever stepped up to the mirror.

    "This is twisted. It's... it's sick..." Isobel said, her voice rising in pitch and volume with her panic. "Who would create such a thing?"

    But regardless of the answer to that question, they would all need to gaze on their true selves to continue their quest.
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 09-20-2017 at 06:50 PM.

  5. #25
    Kalona

    Kalona frowned. This mirror-thing showed one woman as she was, and the other... very differently. What could this mean? He strode up to the thing to look more carefully.

    Kalona appeared in the mirror... but then his daughter, Koa'iki, came into the mirror, too. They stood on the practice field back home....

    "My daughter!" the Kalona in the mirror called out eagerly, "Are you ready to admit your marriage is an error, and return home?"

    "No, I have come to ask for your help for me and my husband, Kawelo. He goes back to his father's kingdom on Kaua'i to liberate it from the chief who took it from his father years ago."

    "I care nothing for your husband. You should leave the callow youth."

    "You could give us weapons from your stores."

    Kalona frowned at the ground.

    "Even one weapon would help father."

    Kalona turned away.

    "Even a bow and arrow to shoot the rats that eat our supplies would help."

    "Is your husband such a poor provider, he shoots rats? He shoots rats and takes food from others to give you. You should leave him!" Kalona said angrily.

    "No, father. Kawelo is a fine provider. He's a good husband to me, and a good son to his parents, who he prepares to free from oppression. If you cannot spare a weapon, how about an adze to build canoes with?"

    "Your husband builds a canoe to go away, leaving you behind? You should leave him for deserting you!"

    "No, father, Kawelo gathers many warriors to his cause. He'll take me with him because he knows how good I am with the snaring stones and the spear. I will fight by his side because he needs and wants me there. But we face a great and powerful foe Would you teach my husband your secret stroke with the war club? He'd surely defeat his foe with that!"

    Kalona turned on his daughter angrily. "Teach him my secret stroke? You need a rock-steady stance and muscular arms to pull it off! Your husbands' arms and legs are so spindly, he'd never pull it off!"

    Koa'iki looked furious for a moment before turning away. Kalona turned his back on her, unable to watch.

    All behind him was silence. He waited for his daughter to plead more. She didn't. He finally turned... to see his daughter leaving the compound.


    In the present, Kalona bowed his head. He'd thought he'd lost his daughter the day that upstart Kawelo asked him for her hand in marriage, and she accepted. No... he'd lost her much more permanently this day, the day he'd first refused to help her and her husband.
    Last edited by Anne Elizabeth Baldwin; 09-24-2017 at 11:20 PM.

  6. #26
    Maleficent



    Maleficent followed Isobel through that the door and didn't see much of interest. They were in a long hallway with curtains and candles. Nothing exciting, no doors. Just another magic mirror. Apparently the Kingdom of Azure had a thing for those, she thought. When the mirror began to speak, she rolled her eyes.

    "No thanks."

    She had no interest in looking at it. She'd find another way out of the hallway, she figured. She didn't want to see what the mirror would show her. While Isobel, Carrie, and Kalona all looked at the mirror, she moved the red velvet curtains, trying to find a secret exit. There was none. All that was in this damn hallway was the magic mirror.

    Diaval cawed at her. She would have to look at the mirror. She glared at him.

    "I could just use my magic and go home. Forget this 'quest'."

    She grumbled at her raven. She didn't have to be here. She didn't owe Lord Pino anything. She didn't need him. She could ruin Aurora's wedding on her own. She could just cast another curse on Stefan and his family. She could-

    Diaval cawed at her again, to get her attention. This time he was in front of the mirror.

    "What?"

    She said and was taken aback when she saw his reflection in the mirror. He wasn't a raven in the mirror. But instead his reflection was his true self. How he had looked before King Stefan had taken everything from her.

    "Oh...Diaval."

    She said, feeling her eyes welling up with tears. His reflection was even more handsome then she remembered how he had looked. She hadn't seen him in his human form in so many years. Her eyes turned her towards her own reflection as she walked up to the mirror. In it, she wasn't Maleficent. But Mallie of the Moors. She was wearing a strapless bright pink dress, with a turquoise trim. Her skirt was light, like a ballerina's. Her hair had pink and turquoise flowers in it. She hadn't dressed like that in so long. Not since Stefan had taken her home.

    What made her want to cry even more was seeing her wings again. They had looked so fragile, like a dragonfly's. But they weren't, they had been strong, powerful wings. She had been able to soar up to the clouds with them. She reached up to touch her shoulder, where her wings no longer were. Stefan had taken them from her. Like he had taken everything else.

    It was surprising to herself like this. She was so used to the darkness. It was odd to herself wearing bright, happy clothes. She used to be happy. Years ago. She blinked her eyes, trying to fight back tears. Maleficent, the Mistress of Evil, did not cry. When she blinked, she saw Stefan behind her. Not how Stefan looked now. No, this was the young Stefan. When he wasn't a king but a peasant. A peasant who made himself a king at her expense.

    He had a look of hate on his face and a sword in his hand. He had it raised and Maleficent closed her eyes tightly. Remembering how it felt to have that sword go through her gut. She grabbed her stomach in the memory. When she opened her eyes, their reflections had changed. Diaval was bloodied and bruised. How he had looked at death's door. When she had to turn him into a raven to save his life. She was bloodied and bruised too. Her wings were gone. She looked.....broken. That's how Stefan had made her. He had broken her the day she was forced to surrender her home to him.

    Anger filled Maleficent when she saw how she had to have looked on that day. A day that felt like yesterday, even though it was years ago. She flicked her wrist and tried to cover the mirror with a black cloth.

    "I don't like this mirror."

    She said out loud. She wished she had never laid her eyes on it.
    Last edited by Sojourn; 09-25-2017 at 06:19 AM.

  7. #27
    Isobel and Carrie



    When all had stood before the mirror, the wall upon which it was mounted swung away, granting further access to the passage.

    Isobel glanced back and forth between her companions. Much had been revealed about them, in a most unexpected way. The bird was really a man, it seemed, and Kalona had denied his daughter in her time of greatest need. This information was interesting - but neither of those facts had been what struck Isobel the most strongly.

    No, it was the fate that had befallen Maleficent. It made sense now, the hard and brittle shell. Isobel knew she herself wore such a shell too. How could one not, in the face of such pain deliberately inflicted? This had been no accident or twist of fate. Not even a killing blow to finish off an enemy. No, these wounds had no purpose but to cause suffering. To injure the mind and soul, as well as the body. Isobel knew she would never be the same again... and it seemed Maleficent wouldn't either.

    Isobel didn't quite know what to say. "I'm sorry," she finally told Maleficent softly. "I think I understand. To the extent it's possible to understand the experiences of another."

    She assumed Maleficent would know why, after seeing Isobel's agony laid bare too. Isobel then cast a half-apologetic, half-questioning look at Kalona, wondering how he was reacting to these revelations. Was he alright? And was he now judging his companions, that they had been unable to prevent such cruelties from being done to them?

    Carrie, meanwhile, crouched so she was eye-level with Diaval. "Hello," she said to the bird. "I'm sure you understand my words. I'm a shapeshifter too. Maybe I can help you."
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 09-24-2017 at 06:47 PM.

  8. #28
    Kalona

    Kalona shifted uneasily. His companions... had been greatly wronged, while he... had caused his own misery with his own foolish pride. He'd been so angry at his daughter for turning from him... he'd felt betrayed when she turned her back on all the training he'd given her, to become a wife to a young upstart. Yes, her husband had her fight beside him when he went to battle, but that was no way for his daughter to gain glory. Not the kind of glory Kalona had wanted for her. Not the kind of glory that could reflect well on him, too.

    With these thoughts whirling in his head, he didn't know what to say to the others. So he just stepped into the now-open passage.
    Last edited by Anne Elizabeth Baldwin; 09-24-2017 at 11:20 PM.

  9. #29
    Maleficent



    Maleficent watched the passage open with a mixture of feelings. She was angry. She didn't like the mirror had forced her to show her companions her true self. The broken fairy queen that couldn't stop an ambitious peasant from getting a throne. She hated how seeing herself in the mirror made her feel. She remembered that day so well. The feelings of failure, of guilt. That she should have died instead of retreating. She had thought she had buried them long ago. When she had began to dress in all black and call herself Maleficent. The damn mirror made them all rush back to her. And she didn't like it at all.

    She also realized she wasn't the only one someone had to tried to broke. Carrie was just Carrie. Kalona had denied his daughter. But Isobel...People had tried to break her too. Someone had inflicted great pain on Isobel, like Stefan had to her. For once, Maleficent didn't feel so alone. She wasn't sure what to think of that. She wasn't used to anyone showing her compassion. To not call her evil. Since her downfall, only Diaval had been kind to her. As kind as he could be in his cursed form.

    When Isobel said she was sorry, Maleficent looked down at the floor.

    "I...Thank you."

    She found herself blinking again, damn tears. No one had every said they were sorry for what happened to her. The people of Perrault and their allies all said she had gotten what she deserved. That she was cruel, evil. That she should be dead. That Stefan and now Phillip were heroes. She was the villain of their tales.

    "You're the first person who has ever told me that. The rest, except Diaval, think I'm evil and I let them."

    They called her evil and she had embraced the title. Even if she didn't commit truly evil acts. She could have easily killed Princess Aurora when she was an infant but she hadn't. She had left a loophole in her curse. Sure, she had killed people. But those people had also been trying to kill her as well. It was kill or be killed in those situations. She looked at Isobel and added.

    "I'm sorry for what they did to you too."

    She had seen how Isobel had been forced to dress in the mirror. What they, whoever they were, had done to her feet. That was cruel, no matter what crimes she might have committed against them.

    Diaval looked at Carrie in great interest. Although he could only caw to speak, he did understand what people said. That much was clear from how he and Maleficent communicated with each other. He nodded his head that he would like that.

  10. #30
    King Stefan & Prince Phillip



    Kingdom of Perrault

    Since Prince Phillip of Ulstead had defeated the evil Maleficent and awakened the Sleeping Beauty, the Kingdom of Perrault was rejoicing. After all, while their princess slept, so had they. Now they had more joyous things to look forward too. A Royal Wedding! Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip were to be married and their kingdoms would be united.

    King Stefan had almost ordered the wedding to be right away but Queen Leah suggested that Aurora should get to know Phillip for a few months before they married. Although true love's kiss had awakened their daughter, so of course, she'd be happy with the prince. But Stefan usually gave his queen about anything she wanted. He decided that after four years of slumber, they needed to fix the kingdom up anyway before having a grand celebration anyway.

    Aurora's would be saviors that had fallen to the Mistress of Evil were given a proper burial. Everyone in Perrault and Ulstead seemed very excited for the wedding. Stefan was too, except....She was still out there. He was sure of it. Maleficent's body had not been found. It had been two months and no one had found her body. Knowing Maleficent, she probably slithered away, like a snake. Like she had when he had defeated her to take the Moors. He had sent out search parties, but his men came back empty handed. No one knew what happened to Perrault's villain. And that did not please its king.

    Stefan was pacing around his throne room when he heard Phillip's voice.

    "You summoned me, your Majesty?"

    Phillip asked and Stefan nodded his head and motioned the younger man to enter.

    "I did. But there is no need for formalities. Soon you will be married to my daughter and we will be family. Instead of calling me 'your Majesty', you may call me 'Father' instead."

    Stefan said with a smile that Phillip returned. He nodded his head and said.

    "Very well then, Father."

    He waited patiently for his soon to be father in law to tell him why he had summoned. He doubted it was just so he knew to not use formalities with him. Stefan didn't make him wait long.

    "My boy, tell me, on the day you saved my kingdom, are you certain Maleficent was dead?"

    Phillip was surprised about the line of questioning. He had told his story many a time. How Maleficent battled him as a fearsome dragon and how he slayed her with his father's sword. A sword that had been enchanted with good fairy magic.

    "Once my sword ran through her, her dark powers faded. She was no longer a dragon, but a woman again."

    He had no idea that Maleficent had actually once been a fairy. That she had once been the Queen of the Moors, the very land that the castle they were in was built on. The land that Stefan had cruelly conquered to become a king. King Henry and King Stefan had left out some details in the story that they told people.

    "But was she dead?"

    Stefan asked and Phillip replied.

    "I believe that she was. She was covered in blood and not breathing."

    Stefan's mouth tightened.

    "Did you make sure she was dead? Did you chop off her head?!"

    Phillip shook his head. Not liking the line of questioning from Stefan or his clear hatred towards Maleficent.

    "No....my father, King William, told me not to add insult to injury to my enemy. I defeated her and I entered the castle to find Aurora."

    Stefan ran his hand through his graying hair.

    "King William, rest his soul, was a good man. But...I would have chopped off her bloody head. That's the only way to make sure a snake like her stays dead."

    Phillip frowned and asked.

    "Are you worried that she'll return and try to harm Aurora again?"

    Stefan sighed in frustration.

    "If is she is not dead, then she'll come back. She always does. She won't allow me or my family to be happy."

    "Why does she hate you so?"

    Phillip asked and Stefan gave the same answer to the prince that he gave everyone.

    "Because she's evil. What other reason does she need?"

    But unlike the others, Prince Phillip didn't just buy that reasoning. He had heard the stories of Maleficent. The Mistress of Evil they called her. But they didn't all add up to him. If she was so evil, then why did she curse Aurora instead of just killing her? Why didn't she attack the other kingdoms? Why was all her hatred focused on Perrault? Phillip had a lot of questions but he knew Stefan would not answer them. If he wanted answers, he'd have to find them on his own.

    He nodded his head to King Stefan.

    "You're right, she needs none."

    He replied, but decided he wanted to know Maleficent's reasons. He'd just do it quietly, so his new 'father' didn't think he was against him.

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