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August 15, 2022

When Fairy Tales Come Alive 24

By Lydia Manx

Like all good ceremonies, there are bound to be a few glitches in the proceedings, but what happened that evening would long be remembered in most of the guests' nightmares.

The names were accepted. The death of the namer in front of the kingdom's finest would long be discussed, well-criticized ... and there was also a fear if the names were rejected, the king and queen wouldn't see the princes survive and rule together, defying the past. Time would reveal that they were partially correct, but that said, the princes had official names and darkly foretold futures yet to be.

The night of the naming ceremony, there were unknown storms that rapidly formed, and decimated the farms and crops in the kingdom and vast lands that surrounded that corner of the world. The crops that had been growing during the recent months, despite surviving the still oddly misaligned seasons, were lost. And lightning struck homes, resulting in fires and sadly, deaths of the true innocents.

The morning after the ill-fated event found the two princes wandering around while discussing their 'new' names. They'd slipped out early before any of the court woke from the evening's celebrations. The staff were distracted, gossiping with each other about what they'd seen, overheard or been involved with during the festivities, while half-heartedly pretending to be cleaning up the debris and garbage. The princes weren't even noticed as they departed from view.

"So 'Bob' what do you think?" The newly named 'Matt' teased his half-brother giving him a playful shove off the brick path.

Laughing the renamed Bob said, "Best we stick to the nicknames because the 'official' names really are awful." He smiled and the innocent boy was seen on his face.

Grinning Matt said, "Truly vile, brother Bob, I do have to agree."

They both continued to walk down the well-worn brick laid path to the edge of the forest that had slowly crept into the royal court. There weren't defined boundaries to keep people out, much less trees, shrubs and grasses invading the area, because the king was strong and nobody challenged foliage invading the royal space in the court. The center of the kingdom's courtyard was well-defined, but the outlying regions weren't overly groomed and shaped. Thus the forest slowly took advantage of this and had gradually pushed into the royal kingdom's space unnoticed by the gardeners. Had the late troll gardener been alive he would surely have noticed and promptly given the news to the king while working on solving the mystery. But alas that option wasn't available in the least.

The princes weren't actively aware of the boundary. When the bricks began to be less frequent along the walkway, they were unaware and they continued traveling along the smaller dirt pathway, each teasing the other as the canopy above them grew denser and the bricks soon completely disappeared. They were young and impervious to death, they thought, so the missing bricked walkway didn't register in their worldview in the least -- such was the comfort level they had in the lands that one day either or both would be ruling.

Their laughter at first drifted back to the kingdom's universe, but was lost once the forest grew more densely. They hadn't been seen by anyone nor did they realize how unprotected they were. Royal guards were still sleeping off their odd shifts and the medicine in the smoke cast by the demon's puppeteer. Everyone in the guards' quarters assumed someone was watching the princes, but nobody bothered to check.

Soon the princes came to a small cottage shaped dwelling. The house was not constructed of gingerbread and sweets but rather seemed a normal home. It wasn't until they stopped at the edge of an ill-defined yard that they both realized something wasn't quite right. There weren't any visible fences or boundaries that they could tell, just the house with some sparse grass growing and a few trees that looked to be somewhat tended. Once it registered completely to them, they both stopped on their walk without a word. Their royal troll blood combined with their somewhat fae-filled spirits knew that it wasn't right.

To their shock, the front door opened and a beautiful young woman came out, nearly dancing, with a soft smile and looking to be sweet and oh so very innocent. She was a long-haired lithe blonde and she was smiling through lush lips with pearly white teeth; it quickly disturbed both of them on a visceral level. They glanced automatically at their half-brother and back to the young woman standing in front of them. She appeared to be their age, but instinctively they both knew it was a false image. She was fae and sparkled in the corners of her disguise. That confirmed her standing as something different than the innocent looking young woman in front of them. They both knew fae loved their masques and illusions and she fit the mold quite nicely.

"Hello! Are you lovelies lost?" She purred with an older, sexy sounding voice and Matt and Bob both felt something odd surge into them, nudging at their minds and their very blood, and it made them want to run back to the court and not go a step closer to the vixen. They'd crossed a line and were lost. They knew it without having to ask aloud their brother.

"Thank you, fair maiden, we are quite well." Bob said with a flourishing bow, and he took a pace backward with his sweeping gesture without realizing that he'd done it. Matt had also moved back, but he was well aware of it. His eyes swept the small glade, finding nothing obviously menacing them; but that visceral feeling of wrong pulled at his gut, the discordant feeling making him uneasy. Without effort, he knew this creature wasn't interested in their safety, but was hungry for their troll blood. That they were now named princes hadn't even entered their minds as that was so new in their lives.

She tittered and a chill raced down both of their spines, and dread began to build inside them. They didn't need to look at each other to know the other one's thoughts. They'd made bad choices by leaving the court and by entering the clearing and had to proceed with caution. The fae creature laughed again for no apparent reason. The princes both took another step back towards the forest, out of the glade of the creature and found the forest had filled in the pathway.

The reason for her laughter was now readily apparent. They weren't going to be leaving any time soon.

"Boys, please join me." She didn't bother looking at them and simply went inside the cottage, but not before they both saw a hazy shape beneath her glamour that seemed to be taller, thinner and far more deadly than the blonde persona she'd been wearing. Reluctantly they trailed after her, not seeing where else they could go. The forest had wrapped completely around the space where the cottage was and without a machete they weren't going to easily be able to flee.

The cottage shimmered as they approached and Matt and Bob looked at their sibling and shrugged since as far as they could see they didn't have any other choice at the moment. The door closed behind the fae woman and for a second they both paused, faced with the enchanted threshold. With a quick glance they both knew they had to knock. So it was Matt who knocked, with a firm fist and a sly smirk. He still hadn't fully grasped how bad the situation was for them. Bob, on the other hand, was dismayed by the nasty turn of events. Having a whore for a mother had prepared Bob for more lies and deception than the more sheltered Matt.

The door was opened up and the blonde had been replaced by a young girl. She actually looked like she was roughly their ages and somehow very familiar. A nudge of knowing her tugged at the two princes, but they refrained from directly asking who she was, due to vigorous beatings given to them in their early years by the staff about proper manners for royalty. Matt hadn't been as viciously beaten as Bob had been, but that was a given since Bob was the concubine's child not the queen's. Both took it in stride because it wasn't out of the norm for boys to be beaten in the kingdom.

She had no such compulsion to keep her mouth shut, and she bit out, "What do you two idiots want?" Her snarl was laced with venom and knowledge. She did know them. It was obvious from her sneering tone and anger laced words. Puzzled they glanced at their brother and shrugged softly with confusion in their eyes.

"We, ahhh ..." Matt trailed off, faced with such a viper. Her hair was black, and her features and her lips were pinched; her eyes were sparking with anger.

Bob found his voice, having witnessed how women could change from nice to insane in a single heartbeat. His mother's position was raised, but her temperament and her acquaintances weren't. Many an evening he'd come back to his home in the court, and found his mother's friends literally tearing at the other woman's face, hair and clothing. It was entertaining and frightening at times.

"We were invited by the lady of the cottage," was his quick reply, glancing past her looking for the blonde.

"She's got no taste for sure," came the snippy reply, but the doorway was opened and they both walked inside, feeling another icy invisible finger run down their skin. Shuddering slightly, Bob went before Matt and brushed past the dark girl without a spare glance. Had they turned, they would have witnessed her gestures and hissing beneath her breath, and questioned why someone they didn't officially know was busy trying to curse them. The gestures would have been well known to the princes, as they'd been schooled in dark crafts along with the basics, living in a land full of fae, trolls, fairies, elves, ogres and others. Such knowledge wasn't simply school work but part of basic survival skills. A ring of energy surrounded the two, stopping them in their tracks. As one they turned, to see the girl pounding her foot on the ground and muttering vile threats to unseen creatures. It was then that they both recognized the waif from their childhood. She'd always been on the fringe of their court while they fought each other, and together fought mock battles with the royal guards. They never knew her name but simply knew she watched them at times.

Matt blurted out, "You're that kid from the court!" He didn't ever know her name so he wasn't able to add that to the mix, but she spun and cursed them aloud.

"Both of you are doomed. I curse you to your very spirits. Nothing so vile should walk the grounds of this precious world. Your births caused my family to fail. My mother deserved better than being associated with you both!" She dramatically fainted, and as if on cue, the blonde walked into the rather little room, in what had appeared to be a much larger cottage. "Oh, my! There she goes again. Such an interesting child. You remember Adrienne, do you not?" Neither of the princes ever had been told her name, but they nodded their heads to be civil.

The blonde wasn't buying it, and she laughed and said, "Oh, you don't! Let me formally introduce you." And with that she sketched mocking bows to them and said with a smirk, "Prince Mastema and Prince Barbatos, let me introduce you to the dark child known as Adrienne."

The glamour wrapping the creature faltered, and the princes kept their features frozen as the blonde flickered to an old crone with long gray hair and the features befitting one of advanced years and an ill-chosen path. Nothing at all like the pretty blonde who'd bewitched them.

Despite it being the middle of the morning, darkness fell. Time froze and just like that, the princes were stuck between the worlds.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2015-03-30
Image(s) © Lydia Manx and Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
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