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  1. #131
    Kalona, Kawelo, Koa'iki, and Meki Leaf

    Kalona leaned into the hold he was pinning Pino with, growling just slightly. Why had the Gods allowed this creature to live, he wondered.

    Koa'iki dashed to Mariel's side, calling to her. She clasped the girl's hand patting it, then her face, trying to rouse her.

    Meki Leaf started to join her, but felt a hand on his shoulder. He looked back, seeing his father holding his shoulder.

    Kawelo shook his head slowly. "Your mother can take care of Mariel. I need your help watching the room... and Mariel's attacker." Kawelo then gestured with chin and hand towards the left of Pino. He took a position to the right of Pino, keeping one eye on him, in case he escaped Kawelo's hold, and the other on the rest of the room, in case someone came to help him.

    Meki Leaf nodded. "You're right, Father." He took a similar position to the left. He scanned the room and watched Pino with equal care.
    Last edited by Anne Elizabeth Baldwin; 04-08-2019 at 01:54 PM.

  2. #132
    Isobel and Pino



    Isobel listened, and pondered. Finally she spoke.

    "I think we should do as he asks," she said. Knowing this would prompt surprise and possibly dismay from her comrades, she went on to explain herself. "If all he wants is what he says he does, and that spell is in the grimoire, what's the harm in it? We could go on fighting and trying to trick each other, and yes, we would eventually win. We have greater numbers, and I believe we have greater skill. But... I will be frank. Back in my former kingdom, a young woman is at risk of death, and that is - albeit indirectly - my fault. I plan to amend that error by saving her, and wasting more time here jeopardizes her life. You said your father wanted to teach you the value of cooperation, Pino. Are you willing to learn that lesson? If we turn you back into wood, and allow you to live undisturbed in this castle, can we consider the matter settled?"

    Pino scowled, and muttered, and scuffed his foot. He wanted the whole book to himself. But since that seemed increasingly unlikely, he realized he might be better off taking what he could get. "I... well, I suppose so," he said, sounding irritated but sincere.
    "Sleep to dream, and we dream to live..." -Great Big Sea

  3. #133
    Maleficent



    Maleficent was pretty fine with letting Pino suffer. She didn't like being a pawn. He was her enemy and she wanted her enemies to suffer. Isobel was kinder then her. When Isobel said they should give him what he wanted, she looked at her new friend like she had grown an extra head.

    "Really?"

    Was the first thing out of her mouth. She had been hurt by people long enough to not want to give them what they wanted. Especially people who tried to kill her. Although, she did listen to Isobel's reasoning and nodded her head.

    "You're right. He's not worth it, anyway."

    She pointed her finger at Pino.

    "If you try to double cross us, I'll set your body on fire."

  4. #134
    Isobel and Pino



    "I won't double cross you," Pino said. He sounded surly and unpleasant, like a frustrated child - and Isobel found that reassuring. If Pino had seemed too cooperative, it would have been very suspect. The fact that he was still treating them like he despised them was probably a good sign.

    "Let's go, then," Isobel replied. "And he should stay under guard. We need to work together for the time being, but that doesn't mean we trust him."

    The group led Pino back to the pedestal with the three hand print shaped indentations. Isobel hesitated before putting her hand in - she feared it would burn - but the metal surface was cool and smooth. It rippled like water when the three of them touched it as Pino and the others looked on, and then the surface shimmered away, leaving a book exposed.

    It looked so ordinary. Could this really be the grimoire they had heard so much about? That they had worked so hard for?

    Isobel cautiously turned the first page, and read aloud, "A spell to return flesh whence it came." Beneath that strange statement was an illustration of a broken tree branch.

    Apparently reading it aloud was all it took to active the spell, because Pino suddenly stiffed and groaned in pain. His features took on the appearance of a smooth wood grain. An instant later, his discomfort seemed to be over, and he smiled - looking genuine for the first time.

    "Thank you!" he said. "This is the first time I have felt..."

    The grimoire abruptly caught on fire. Carrie gasped, but only the first page with the first spell burned away, leaving the rest of the book undamaged. Having done its work, the fire extinguished itself.

    "So each spell can only be used once," Isobel murmured. "Interesting."

    The return of Pino to his wooden state had wrought other changes around the castle, too. The strange servants - his puppets - were no longer under his control. All over the palace grounds, they were regaining their free will. Yet they did not flee. They did not attack their former master. Instead, they accepted him now as an equal. A puppet among puppets, with no one pulling their strings.

    Above their heads, the ceiling began to pulsate with a cool white light. There was a sound of breaking stone and ripping fabric. Then an old man appeared before them.

    "Father..." Pino whispered.

    "My son," the old man said, and smiled. "You bound me in stone."

    "Father, forgive me..."

    The old man held up his hand, stilling Pino's apology. "And I bound you to this castle. We have both made mistakes, my son. Now we are even. Now we can live in peace." He turned to Maleficent, Kalona, and Isobel. "My name is Geppetto," he said. "A humble carver of wood, and an unwise enchanter. You have freed me, and saved my son. For that, I am forever grateful."

    Pino hung his head. He had never expected his father's forgiveness. He didn't deserve it. But now that he had it anyway, perhaps they could start anew.

    "We are grateful," Pino corrected quietly. "Take the grimoire. Use it with... with my blessing." It was hard for him to say, but he knew it was the right thing. With the grimoire in his grasp, he might be tempted to reverse the spell that had restored him - and the restoration was a one time offer, it seemed, with the spell burned away. Better not to take the risk. "Perhaps, we can avoid making the same mistakes in the future," he said. "We will... we will try."

  5. #135
    Maleficent, Princess Aurora, & Prince Phillip



    "It would be wise for you not to."

    Maleficent warned Pino when he said he wouldn't double cross them. She'd make him regret it if he did. She didn't trust him, however....Since he admitted why he wanted the grimoire, he seemed to be finally telling the truth. He didn't like his current state and he was a frustrated child that he couldn't have what he wanted. Frustrated children tended to act out. Phillip pointed his sword at Pino and told Isobel.

    "I'll watch him."

    He had their backs. Something that would no doubt give Aurora's father a heart attack if he could see them right now, Maleficent thought with a smirk. Stefan hated her and the feeling was mutual. She was sure he'd hate knowing that his daughter and soon to be son in law had entered an agreement with her. Phillip, with Aurora by his side, kept his eye on Pino while the trio that Pino had brought to the castle went up to the pedestal. Diaval sat on Carrie's shoulder to watch.

    Maleficent walked up to her place and sighed. Was this a good idea to give Pino what he wanted? Was he finally telling the truth? That he just wanted to be back to his true form? She looked at Isobel and watched her friend place her hand on the pedestal. She took a deep breath and placed her own hand on it. When Kalona placed his and the book was exposed, she was shocked. It had worked. Could this book really be all that Pino claimed was? Did it hold the spell to return him to his true form? Did it hold the key to giving her back the things she had lost?

    She watched Isobel read from it and watched in shock as Pino returned to a wooden puppet. It was a powerful spell and it surprised her to see the page burn away from the grimoire after it had been cast. A spell could only be used once, Maleficent thought. They would have to be careful with this book. Use the spells wisely.

    "You're welcome."

    Maleficent replied to Pino, actually meaning it. He seemed to be genuinely happy. She looked and watched as the castle changed as well. The illusions were gone and things were returning back to the way they should be. She listened to Pino reunite with his father and smile appeared on her face. Sometimes forgiveness was possible, even after doing bad things. She looked over at Phillip, who had relaxed his stance once Pino returned to his true form, and Aurora. She had told them she would answer their questions. But would they forgive her for all that she had done, when she told them what Stefan had done to her and the Moors? Would they even believe her? Or did the path she had walked mean she was too far gone? Either way she said she would answer their questions and she would accept whatever fate they gave her. They were the future rulers of their kingdoms and she was getting tired of fighting.

    Pino was full of surprises now, giving them the grimoire. She didn't expect him to give the book to them.

    "Thank you, Pino."

    Phillip said and Maleficent added.

    "Yes, thank you. I like you much better this way."

    Aurora agreed and turned to Isobel.

    "The girl from your kingdom, Phillip and I will help you free her."

    Phillip nodded his head. It was the least they could do after stupidly agreeing to work with Willard. There was no doubt that Maleficent would help as well. She looked at Mariel.

    "How long does your sister have?"

    She asked because she hadn't rested in a long time. Pino's quest had taken a lot of her energy. If she could, a few hour nap would help recharge her energies. Allow her to use more magic, something that might be needed where Dinah was being held.
    Last edited by Sojourn; 05-29-2019 at 08:51 AM.

  6. #136
    "Only two more days," Mariel said.

    Isobel nodded sympathetically, but said gently, "Two days gives us plenty of time if we travel by magic. It would be better if we're rested before we start the journey. We'll only get one chance at this, and we can't give it our all with everyone so depleted."

    Mariel wasn't thrilled with that - of course she wasn't - but she understood. She was exhausted too, and what they were likely to face in Azure would test them all.

    "Thank you for being willing to help," Isobel told the others. "It means a great deal to me."

    Pino regarded them with curiosity. "You're really going to travel halfway across the world and risk all your royal lives to save one servant girl?"

    "We are," Isobel said firmly.

    "Then godspeed," Pino replied. "I won't offer to join you - that isn't my way - but I can offer you a bit of help on your way. You may rest here as long as you wish. The rooms I prepared for you are still at your disposal. In the meantime, I will delay the huntsman and his soldiers as long as I can. I won't be able to keep them here forever. Even I only have a finite number of tricks up my sleeve. But I'll buy you a solid head start."

    Isobel silently agreed with Maleficent that this wooden version of Pinocchio really was much preferable to the human one.

    "Pino... thank you!" Isobel said, and meant it.

  7. #137
    Maleficent, Princess Aurora, & Prince Phillip



    Two days gave them some time, Maleficent thought. Pino's quest had left her feeling drained. Going to into Azure where the girl's sister was...She would need her energy. She could see Mariel wasn't thrilled about waiting but glad that she also understood. She smiled at Isobel.

    "That's what friends are for."

    Diaval cawed in agreement. It had been a long time since she had a friend. She hadn't a friend since she stopped calling herself Mallie, after Stefan had taken everything from her. She glanced at Aurora and remembered how she told the princess and her fiance that she'd answer their questions. She was certain Aurora would not like hearing what Maleficent had to say about her father.

    Phillip looked over at Pino and told him.

    "Of course, it's the right thing to do."

    He didn't know the girl but Dinah was in danger. She didn't deserve what was going to happen to her. And he'd do whatever he could to help her. Aurora smiled at him, one of the reasons she did love him was his sense of honor. He had battled Maleficent to free her of the sleeping curse, not because their parents had betrothed them as little kids, but because it had been the right thing to do. He told her he would have done it, even it his kiss hadn't been able to awaken her. He had did it because it was the right thing to do. Of course, he was thrilled it did work and that they were in love.

    Maleficent thought the prince was a curious man. Unlike Stefan, he had a sense of honor. When he was crowned king of Ulstead, he would surely be loved and respected by his people. She had seen enough kings to know that. He reminded her of the Good King Richard, not like King Henry who had started the war with her to create his own legacy. And he was definitely nothing like his future father-in-law. She, Aurora, and Phillip all thanked Pino for the offer and Maleficent told Aurora.

    "It's not too late to back out. If your father finds out about this...He won't like it."

    "No, he won't."

    Aurora agreed. She knew there was a great risk involved in helping rescue Dinah. She and Phillip had lied to her father and he would not be happy if he found out where she really was. Especially if he knew that they were working with his greatest enemy, not killing her. Aurora raised her chin up.

    "But Phillip's right, rescuing Dinah is the right thing to do. If he finds out...Let him be mad."

    Maleficent nodded her head but wondered how angry Aurora had ever truly seen her father. She knew he loved her, that's why Maleficent had used the princess against him but...Maleficent knew how cruel Stefan was and she doubted Aurora had no idea how cruel he could be. She just hoped Aurora wasn't going to regret this.

  8. #138
    Isobel and Carrie

    Isobel had a faint, gnawing feeling that something was wrong - something besides the obvious, that is - with the situation back in Azure's capital city, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it. Something was nagging at the back of her mind.

    For now, though, they really did all need rest. Isobel had done quite a bit of mirror magic, and she could scarcely walk after Willard stomped on her foot. Maybe there was a spell in the grimoire to fix her feet, she thought. It would be nice to live without pain.

    Isobel awkwardly lingered by the door when they had returned to their suites. She and Carrie needed to discuss this true love's kiss thing - and Isobel didn't want to sleep alone. Isobel wasn't quite sure how to bring up what she wanted, though. Aside from her disastrous marriage, she had never been in a romantic relationship; it hadn't been allowed for a daughter who was raised to be married off. And Nial would have laughed if she'd said to him what she wished she could say to Carrie - that she just wanted to be held and relax together, not to take it any further than that just yet.

    Somehow Carrie seemed to read her mind, though. "Do you want to stay with me?" she asked, and Isobel nodded. Carrie lay beside her, and held her... and didn't expect anything more. Isobel realized that she had expected to have to pay a price for affection, and there unexpectedly wasn't one.

    "Carrie, could this... do you think it could work?" Isobel said. "Because I really want it to. I'm... I'm happy with you."

    "I want that too," Carrie said. "And I'm happy with you. The only thing is... you're a queen, Isobel. I'm not even just a commoner - I'm the witch who haunts the local swamp. Your subjects will never accept me as your partner."

    And she didn't want to be just Isobel's little secret. She wanted a real relationship, not a lifetime of hiding.

    Isobel said cautiously, "Actually, I wanted to talk to you about that. Could you... do you think maybe... would you be able to love me if I wasn't a queen?"

    "Of course," Carrie said. "It's not your title I want. It's you. But Isobel, I don't want you to have to give that up for me."

    "I'm not," Isobel told her honestly. "I would. I'm not, though. I just don't want to go back, Carrie. I truly don't. I don't want to be their queen. I tried so hard and gave them so much, and they turned on me. Yes, it was Blanche who ordered the torture, but it was her subjects - my subjects - who laughed and mocked and jeered. I've given them enough. I don't want to give them anymore. I have nothing left for them. I don't want a throne again. Can we just... go back to your cottage and be swamp witches together instead?"

    Carrie grinned. "Of course we can!" she said, and gave Isobel a kiss.
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 05-30-2019 at 08:32 PM.

  9. #139
    Maleficent, Princess Aurora, & Prince Phillip



    Maleficent, Aurora, and Phillip wished the others good night and headed to the rooms that Pino had set up for them. Maleficent didn't care for her room, though, and used what magic she had left to change its appearance. She didn't want to be reminded of her old home in the Moors. She changed it to look like Grimm Hall. Not a very fun place to live but it had been her home for a long time. Not that she expected to sleep long, since Stefan took everything from her, she never slept much.

    Phillip and Aurora went to the room that looked like her room back in Perrault.

    "You want me to see if Pino and his father will set up another room for me?"

    He asked his fiancee. Back in Perrault, he had a separate room. King Stefan was protective of his only child and while they were engaged, they weren't sharing a room. He didn't want to make her uncomfortable since it was assumed they were already sharing a bed. Aurora shook her head.

    "No, it's fine. I trust you."

    She told him. They had agreed to wait until their wedding night for their first to make love, it didn't mean they couldn't share a room to just sleep. Phillip smiled back at her.

    "I'm glad. I trust you too."

    He gave her a kiss. He was happy that she trusted him to share a room with him. He would never hurt Aurora and he felt better that they would be in the same room. Phillip knew that Pino said he would do what he could to keep Willard and his soldiers at bay but...They couldn't be too careful. Showing up at Blanche's door, that would create more enemies. He'd rather stay with Aurora as much as he could to keep her safe. They settled down to get some sleep.

    ---------------

    Since Aurora woke up from her sleeping curse, she couldn't sleep long. She had missed four years of her life, sleeping wasn't as appealing to her anymore. She woke up and couldn't fall back to sleep. Phillip felt her stirring and woke up himself.

    "Aurora? Is something wrong?"

    He asked. She shook her head. She felt a little bad waking him up.

    "No, I just don't sleep much, Phillip. You can go back to sleep, though."

    "It's fine."

    He replied to her. He understood why she wouldn't be able to sleep. It made sense, she had been asleep for over four years.

    "I'm a little hungry, anyway. Let's see if Pino has some food around here."

    Phillip said and Aurora agreed. It had been a while since they had ate. They tried to be quiet, so not to wake the others. They were surprised to see Maleficent was awake as well. She was walking in the hall with Diaval on her shoulder. He rarely left her side.

    "What are you two doing up?"

    The Mistress of Evil asked the royal couple.

    "Well, since I spent the last four years of my life sleeping, I don't sleep that much now."

    Aurora replied to her and Maleficent have her a half smile.

    "I see, sorry about that."

    "What about you?"

    Phillip asked and Maleficent shrugged.

    "I'm not much of a heavy sleeper either."

    Not since she lost the Moors and everyone and everything she had ever held dear to her. There was a silence between the three for a moment, before she added.

    "I suppose now is as good of a time as any to answer your questions. Clear the air between us before we rescue that girl."

    Aurora and Phillip agreed. Maleficent wasn't sure how to start and Aurora asked.

    "What's the deal with Diaval?"

    She remembered that Maleficent had told her it was a long story.

    "He's my beloved, cursed in a raven form. Because of me."

    "Why?"

    Phillip asked and Maleficent replied with a sad smile.

    "Well....It all started when the Good King Richard died..."

    She, Aurora, and Phillip went into Aurora and Phillip's room to sit down and Maleficent told them her side of the story. How she was once a fairy and about the Moors. About King Henry and his thirst for a legacy. How he started a war with her to take her land. How she fought back, using the dark magic. How Stefan came...That part was hard for Aurora to hear. To prove she was not lying, Maleficent used her magic to make the magic mirror appear in the room. The one that she, Isobel, and Kalona had looked at her earlier and had showed Diaval in his true form and what she had looked like before the downfall of the Moors. Sometimes seeing was believing and she could see how upset it made Aurora to hear her father was not the hero that she always believed him to be. Phillip put his arm around her shoulders.

    "...And the sleeping curse?"

    Aurora asked, Maleficent looked down.

    "It was nothing personal against you. I wanted to hurt your father and...You were the best way to do it."

    Aurora nodded her head, it hurt knowing that she had been a pawn in Maleficent's revenge quest against her father. But it hurt more to know what he had done to Maleficent. He killed her people, took her home, Diaval would have been dead if he hadn't been turned into a raven. He had taken her wings, something very special to any fairy. Aurora wanted to cry when Maleficent showed her and Phillip the scars on her back where Stefan had cut off her wings. Both had seen her wings above his throne. He had kept them as a trophy. But he always said that Mallie was the Evil Fairy Queen. However, hearing Maleficent's side of the story, he was the villain, not her. She had been defending her home from invaders, while Stefan had conquered it because he wanted to become king.

    "Why would he lie to me...To my mother?"

    Aurora asked, she knew her mother didn't know any of this. Queen Leah thought her husband was a hero, like Aurora did. Phillip squeezed her shoulder.

    "Because he wanted you both to believe he was a hero. He probably believes he is a hero."

    "But what he did..."

    She looked up at Maleficent and told her.

    "I'm so sorry for what he did to you, Diaval, and the Moors. I...I don't...."

    "Thank you but you aren't responsible for his actions. And I'm sorry for what I did to you. It wasn't right to use you like that, but...Dark magic takes you down a dark road."

    Maleficent replied back. She knew now why her mother had hid the book, the magic was strong but it came with a price. She had sold a part of her soul for revenge. She added.

    "I'm tired of fighting. After we help Dinah....I'm willing to accept whatever fate you decide is worthy of me."

    She was a villain and she knew she had to pay for her crimes. Aurora surprised her when she said.

    "After what you told me...I think you've suffered enough. After we rescue Dinah...Will you help me confront my father? Perrault and my mother deserve to know the truth."

    "Yes, but...Aurora, he is not kind to his enemies. He does love you, in his own way..."

    The love Stefan had for Aurora was a selfish love, since he was selfish man. It wasn't like the love Queen Leah or Phillip had for her.

    "...but if you go against him..."

    "I know but he doesn't deserve to be Perrault's king."

    She had thought he was a good king but a good king...a good man would not have done what he had done. He never deserved the crown and her mother deserved to know the lie they were living. Phillip gave her a hug.

    "We'll confront him together and...We'll probably will need Mallie of the Moors to help us."

    'Mallie of the Moors'....That was a name she hadn't been called in a long time and yet...It sounded rather nice. Maleficent agreed to help them and they all decided they should try to get a little more sleep before they had to leave for their rescue mission.

  10. #140
    Isobel and Pino

    Isobel slept, but not well. Something was still nagging at the back of her mind - something that just didn't quite sit right about what they knew of Blanche. Somehow she could sense that this rescue mission would not be as easy as they might have wished, no matter how hard they tried to anticipate Blanche's next moves.

    When they returned to the hall, Pino was waiting. He hadn't slept; now that he had been returned to his wooden state, he no longer needed to. He had spent the evening in conversation with his father. There had been much to catch up on... and some of it hadn't been easy. Finally, though, his life was returning to normal. Well, at least as close to normal as his life had ever been.

    As he'd already warned them, Pino had no intention of coming along. He was not the type to leap heroically into battle, and people who did so baffled him. Still, he would keep his promise to help as he could without endangering himself. Willard and the knights were still wandering around in the mirror maze. That wouldn't last forever, but it would buy time. Pino had instructed the servants to provide a light breakfast for the group.

    When they had eaten, he offered to open a portal back to Azure... though he left it in Isobel's hands to decide where.

    After a moment's consideration, Isobel decided that while traveling directly to the castle had convenience appeal, it was simply too dangerous. Instead, she requested that the portal be opened in a small alley behind the castle's southern wall. They would risk exposure for a few seconds, which couldn't be helped, but then they would be able to take a secret passage to the dungeons from there; Isobel was confident she knew every nook and cranny of the castle, and that Blanche did not.

    "Thank you, Pino," Isobel said sincerely.

    "You're welcome," he replied with an expression halfway between a smile and a smirk. "Just don't waste all my hard work by getting yourselves killed."

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