Chapter 1 The Journey and the End Result

Part 1: The Journey and The End Result

Chapter 1

I got off the plane and tried to appreciate the fact that I was now in Belgium instead of Illinois but couldn’t. Jet lag mixed with a small fight before the flight -as well as a man who insisted on jamming his feet under my seat- and you have one unhappy young lady.

Wait, scratch that, I was pissed. I valued sleep and personal space too much to be anything less in this sort of situation. Even being the daughter of the man and woman that had created the spell that used magic instead of electricity to run the plane didn’t mean much when your parents insisted you take business class like normal people. I was just glad that they let me take a magic flight over electric; those things took twice as long.

Mom and Dad were very strict about making me and the boys take trips the way the average teenager did so they tended to make me save up my own money to afford it. This trip had been fully funded by Mom, though, but only because of the promise she made and my fights with Dad. He and I didn’t agree on much and we were very vocal about it no matter what. He was even the one that I had gotten into a fight with before my flight. I couldn’t remember it well thanks to being groggy, but I thought it had something to do with the clothing I was bringing.

Mom had let me come on this trip only because she’d promised to if I graduated. If I’d been forced to repeat the year -which is what they thought I would actually do- I wouldn’t have been allowed to visit my aunt and uncle. Michelle, who I called Micky, also went to my school as it was considered one of the best places to learn magic; she was just visiting her parents while on break as she still had two more years to go.

My relatives were waiting for my cousin and me when we got off the plane. Even as angry as I was I couldn’t help but grin; both my aunt and uncle looked so worried as to be almost comical.

“Oh my dear!” my aunt exclaimed, “It’s so good to see you both! You look so grown up!”

My cousin and I exchanged weary grins before being engulfed in her hug.

“Thanks Aunt Chris,” I replied as Michelle replied, “Thanks Mom.”

“Actually Ellie,” My Uncle Thom came forward, “if I hadn’t been looking for my daughter I never would’ve recognized you.” He tugged on a tendril of hair that had escaped my loose bun, “Your hair looks gray from far away, did you know? Pretty early for that, even in this family, huh?”

I shared a grin with him and tried to stifle some more of the annoyance that flared up when he mentioned that. It was strange that dirty blonde hair could look gray but somehow that is what my hair was like. That was one of the reasons I had wanted to come here.

“Actually Dad,” Michelle said, slinging an arm around my waist because she was too short to reach my shoulder, “we were hoping you guys would let us dye it while she’s here. I told Ellie we could try for a light blonde and see how it looks. Please?” She widened her eyes as far as she could and tried to look as cutesy as possible. My anger faded as I laughed right along with Chris and Thom.

“Of course, honey,” Aunt Chris replied for the both of them. “Now let’s get your bags before Eleanor falls asleep.”

Even as she said that I could feel myself drifting away mentally. I clapped my hands together briskly and tried to stay alert for a little while longer.

            “Hey Micky,” I said, “where’s the baggage claim?”        

My cousin grinned at me and pointed at a sign.

I let out a sigh much akin to a groan and retorted, “Hey, give me a break. I’m jet-lagged for goodness sake.”

She grinned and we went and got our very obvious bags. The claim was easy to use and our bags were just as easy to find. All we had to do was describe the bags to one of the people that worked that area and our bags would appear thanks to a nifty little spell. Dad had actually helped develop it and it worked very fast. It worked even faster when your bags looked like ours; Micky’s was neon pink and mine was covered in books.

We followed her parents back to where they had parked the car and quickly settled in for a bit of a drive. Looking out the window in my sleep deprived state, I could almost convince myself we were coming back from Chicago, except for the little fact that the signs were in another language.

My brain drifted as I closed my eyes and suddenly I was surrounded by roses. For some reason as I looked around, I could feel two different emotions welling up; fear and wonder.

My cousin woke me by tapping me on the shoulder.

“We’re here, cuz,” she said, before noticing I had tears in my eyes. “What’s wrong?”

I shook my head vehemently as I tried to let the dream fade; everything had been too vivid and real for me. However, no matter how hard I tried, the dream stayed with me and made a repeat performance when my head hit the pillow in my new bedroom. I didn’t wake until dinner time.

I walked down a pathway in a garden and on either side of me ran a tall hedge. I began to run, trying to find my way out, no wait, I was trying to find the center, why?

Whatever the reason, I was running. I reached the center and was completely surrounded by roses. Bushes, vines and any type imaginable swayed in a gentle breeze and leaned towards me as if to welcome me. I continued forward but at a slower pace knowing that I was almost to my destination.

There was a gazebo adorned with pale pink roses in the center of the maze; this I knew instinctively. And standing in the middle of the gazebo was a little old lady. When she spotted me coming, she grinned in relief, displaying what was left of her teeth.

“Finally!” She exclaimed in a surprisingly strong voice, “It took you long enough to get here!”

            I was confused to say the least.        

“I’m …sorry?”

“You should be,” she scowled, pointing at me, “all these years and you probably don’t remember our promise, do you?”

“Promise?” I asked, “Lady, I don’t even ‘remember’ you! How am I supposed to remember some promise you seem to think I made with you?”

She screamed at me for that, but our conversation was cut short thanks to one of my cousin’s dogs and his attempt to lick me to death.

“Luke!” I exclaimed around the licking, “Luke, get off of me!”

I shoved the German Shepherd away from me and tried to wake up the rest of the way. The lady’s chatter circled in my head and I tried to figure things out but couldn’t. I was still groggy but able to say another “hello” to my aunt and uncle before eating a bit.  

I mulled over the dream as I ate but couldn’t make sense of it. Even if that hadn’t been a normal dream, it still made no sense for me to have had it; I was no oracle. The dream had that quality to it which suggested a spell was verging on the edges of my existence.

Micky had crashed when I did and was still out for the count. When I finished eating I went back to my room and fell asleep again.

I awoke around seven o’clock in the morning -their time- and felt a little more like myself. This was partly thanks to all of the sleep and also thanks to the fact that the dream hadn’t returned.

I didn’t mention the weird dream to my relatives, and as time passed I decided they didn’t need to know. Micky was very peppy and ready to show me around. I ignored the peppiness and joined her in the car, ready for a tour. Having just gotten her license, she was more than happy drive as well as narrate where we went; Chris made sure to give us a Safe Travel Charm, to ensure we wouldn’t end up in any major trouble, before giving us permission to leave.

We drove around for the next two days, just seeing the beauty of the country and its scenery. Cobblestone streets were one of the few indications we were no longer in America. Otherwise it looked almost identical, although the “antique” detailing on the houses tended to be far more original then at home. A castle visitation was a must, as that was what tourists did when they got to Europe, and Chris and Thom joined us to show us their favorite spots.

After one of those days we both decided to get our hair dyed at a beauty parlor; Micky got red hair and I got blonde.

On the third day we had to go to a family get-together. I secretly plotted my escape although I was willing to at least show up for a bit. Micky agreed to leave with me if the reunion was less than agreeable.

For the next hour or so we were introduced to countless people, many of the older ones speaking in very broken English. The get-together itself was actually mainly older people standing around and gossiping in a language that I only knew a handful of words in. The younger people tended to disappear after a time and never return, which left Micky and me on our own. We tried to remain as long as possible but it was very hard to stay when everyone around us could speak in English just as much as I could speak in Flemish.

After a small brunch, we decided to call it a day and go exploring some more.

This time she took a road that she didn’t recognize.

“Time for a little adventure,” she told me, but I got this strange feeling that we were headed towards something unexpected.

All the old buildings I was getting used to seeing everywhere had been left behind. Cobblestone and brick gave way to dirt and wildlife, and civilization faded from view. Micky was cheerfully optimistic about where this road would take us and we whiled away some of the time singing along to a few of her CD’s.

But as time passed and we found ourselves in a dark forest with no signs of human habitation, she began to get worried. Now it was my turn to be optimistic.

“C’mon Micky,” I said. “Don’t worry. We’ll come across somebody soon. If all else fails, we can always just turn around and go back. I mean, we did go in a straight line, didn’t we?”

She sniffled, “Yeah, but that’s only because there was no other road!”

            “Alright,” I said, “pull over.”                        

            She pulled off to the side of the road.        

“First,” I began, “it’s going to be all right, so calm down. Second, it isn’t as though you’re alone, I’m here and we’ll figure out what to do. And third, did you know that your hair is pink?”

She didn’t believe me until she looked in the mirror. Then she screeched and her hair turned the most astonishing shade of bright red I had ever seen. I checked the mirror to see if mine had changed and noted that it looked more white gold than I remembered.

“What’s up with this hair dye?” Micky exclaimed, tugging at her fire-engine red locks, “I thought this stuff was permanent, not crazy!”

I thought about it for a second before answering.

“I know it’s supposed to be permanent but doesn’t that type of dye have a spell on it to ensure it lasts?”

Dumbstruck, she nodded so I continued.

“And don’t those spells mutate if they come into contact with someone who has magic in their blood, as we do?”

Again she nodded.

“So then why are you surprised it’s doing something ‘unexpected’?”

She shrugged and there was silence as I thought.

            “So now what?”        

I sighed and ran a hand through hair that looked like burnished gold.

“Well for starters,” I said, “we could turn the car around. After that I think the best approach would be to just drive back and chalk this up as a good reason not to go adventuring without someone who knows the ropes really well.”

Micky laughed and agreed. So we turned around and headed back.

A half hour later, we were off to the side of the road again.        

“What the hell is going on?” Micky demanded.

We stared at a fork in the road we both thought wasn’t there the first time. I got out and walked over to the fork, noticing a short sign post in between the roads. I knelt down -it was the height of my knees- and studied it.

         “Hey, do you read Flemish or German?” I called to her.


We shared a moment of silence before I continued, “Nope what? You’ve lived here off and on since you were nine! You mean to tell me you don’t know how to read Flemish?”

            She shrugged nonchalantly, “Never found the need.”        

I pushed the matter aside for the moment.

“Well do you know a lot of the names of the cities at least?”

She shrugged again, “Some of them, but I don’t know them all, why?”

I swallowed my annoyance and gestured for her to join me. “Take a look at this. Do you recognize either of these names? They look German to me, but I know Flemish is pretty similar.”

She read the names once, then twice, and then a third time before shrugging.

“I don’t know either of these names. Could we be in Germany? I didn’t see a sign saying we had left Belgium.”

I shrugged, “Beats the hell out of me.”

I settled down to a sitting position and tried to think. Micky returned to the car to make sure we weren’t wasting gas.

The fact that neither of us remembered this fork meant that something was amiss. I studied the sign again but still didn’t recognize either of the names. I heard Micky return and sit next to me.

“Which way?” She asked me and I shrugged.

“What say we go left and drive for a bit,” I suggested, “since I know there weren’t any roads leading off somewhere on my side. If we don’t recognize anything within twenty minutes we can turn around and return to this point to go right instead.”

“Sounds good.”

Twenty minutes later we were driving down a road that she recognized, which was strange. We hadn’t taken a road we had known when leaving, but now on our return we did. Micky’s phone rang five minutes after we figured out where we were; it was Chris wondering where we were for the party.

To say we were confused was an understatement. Apparently the party that we had left almost two hours ago had yet to happen. We managed to find our way back in time for something unexpected to happen.

Unlike the first time, we were not left alone once introductions had been made. Chris insisted we be acquainted with everyone there again, but this time she emphasized the names of all the single young men who were friends of the family. After an hour or so of trying to handle this sort of thing peacefully, I slipped out the door and took a walk down the street. I made sure I was headed in a straight line before I zoned out.

I was rather engrossed in my thoughts regarding what had just happened. Why was there a sense of déjà vu, and why did we seem to be the only two who remembered the previous party? For we did remember it vividly and yet no one else did. Was this connected to those dreams I had? If so, how? And what was this spell that felt as though it was weaving itself into my life?

A tap on my shoulder shocked me so badly that I almost tried to knock out the person before I checked the feeling. Luckily I stopped myself just in time and turned to face whoever had just interrupted my musings. It was one of the young men I had been introduced to; Gavin was his name I believe.

“Eleanor,” he spoke with a fairly strong accent and sounded out of breath, “you know you walk fast, yes?”

I grinned in apology. “Sorry, my mind was elsewhere.”

There was an awkward silence for a moment before I continued.

            “Yes? Can I help you with something?”        

            He grinned.        

“I would like to escort you back to the party,” he replied, “Ms. Chris is looking for you. You will come, yes?”

            I sighed and nodded, “Yes.”        

I was led by the arm back to the party where Micky had started a card game tournament with the other guys. I was more than a little bit sure that she would’ve tried Strip Poker had there not been any adults there. Whatever the case may be, I was strongly encouraged to join in by Gavin and decided it was easier than trying to fight a group of people. So I jumped in and proceeded to trounce the lot of them.

Chris saved the group from further embarrassment by calling me over to help myself to some food as I had not eaten in quite a while. Micky joined me soon after and we then set about trying to demolish enough food to feed four of us.

When we’d finished, a round of Uno was suggested by me and agreed upon. For two hours about twenty people played a game of Uno; one single game. It ended with Micky and me saying, “Screw this!” and throwing our cards on the table.

The guys laughed at us but we were sick of playing at this point.

Micky and I slipped out the proverbial back door and headed back home for some much needed rest. Both of us were just antisocial enough that the party we had just vacated made us both wish for some major alone time. Plus we were both still mildly jetlagged; add to that the fact that we apparently stepped outside of the time-stream for a while and it was understandable why we needed some “me” time.

During the drive I kept feeling this odd tugging between my shoulder-blades and a pressure on my forehead. I tried to ignore it but it continued to pester me all the way back. When we got back I locked myself in my room and conked out no more than five minutes later.


“Elleanorre!” The old lady exclaimed as I found myself back in the gazebo again. “I’m really losing my patience. I set up a road to take you right here and you turn around. What’s the matter with you?”

“Wait,” I cut her off before she could continue to berate me. “My name is Eleanor, get it right. Second, I still don’t know you or your damn promise. And third, did you just say that you’re the reason my cousin and I got lost?”

“It is not just Eleanor,” she stated, “it is Elleanorre, and you know it. Second, you do know it, you just don’t remember. Come here and I will help you and third, yes. Yes, I made you get lost but I needed you to get here. The promise must be fulfilled.”

            I stared at her for a moment.                

“Damn it.” Finally my mind settled on one thing. “Well, tell me what the promise was.”

She sighed, “I can’t because part of the promise was to not tell it to anyone after the first time it was mentioned, no matter who it was. Sorry child, although I could try to fill in some blanks. First, we made this promise before America was discovered. Second, you were supposed to be reincarnated almost two hundred years ago. Third our magic is very strong and it is a reason a spell is in place, or rather a curse that was cast on someone close to us. And fourth, you really need to come here to help. Now wake up so you can try to find me.”

I woke up annoyed at the fact that I hadn’t been able to respond. I knew that it was the next day but I didn’t know quite how early or late it was. I headed downstairs and found the remains of coffee, tea and toast on the table, leading me to believe it was morning still.

“Cuz,” Micky called to me as she entered the room, “man, you were gone last night. You missed breakfast and lunch, by the way.”

            “You had tea and toast for lunch?” I was skeptical. I already knew she wasn’t a coffee drinker.        

She grinned, “Can’t pull a fast one on you, can I? You’re right, it’s only ten. We just finished so if you want some it won’t be horribly cold or anything.”

I nodded and did just that. All through breakfast I tried to think up a reason to try to find the road once again and had finally decided to go for it when Micky surprised me.

“Hey,” she said, sitting down across from me, “can we go on another road trip? I want another adventure.”

“What happened to never going to down the path less taken ever again?” I teased and she glared.

“That was when we needed to get back soon. Today we’re completely free to do as we like.”

I grinned broadly and shook my head at her ridiculousness. Talking to Chris and Thom was easy enough and they were okay with us leaving, having been about to leave themselves. We left the house not even ten minutes later for I was as eager as she to get on the road.

For two hours we searched and found nothing. Finally I told her to stop the car.

“Look,” I explained, “we’re getting nowhere in the car so I suggest we take a nature walk to cool our heads. That sound good to you?”

“Yeah,” she replied, “but I’m not going to plunge into random wilderness without a path of same kind.”

I grinned, “Well you’re in luck, cuz.”

            “And why’s that?”                

I pointed to a very worn looking trail that I had spotted right before telling her to stop. She laughed wryly as if she should’ve known and I forged ahead of her on the trail. She seemed content to take the rear, although I had to pause and wait for her as she went back to lock up the car.

            We soon came across a clearing with apple trees in it.        

“Oh, those look yummy,” she said, “I think I’ll pick one.”

            I grabbed her arm and stopped her.         

“Are apples indigenous to this region?” She shrugged, “Then leave them alone.”

She whined for the next ten minutes or so until I shoved a piece of gum into her hand.

Then I was unable to hear anything above her loud chewing and snapping. Five minutes passed; then ten. She continued to chew loudly.

I turned around to berate her and she overpowered any complaints I had by exclaiming, “Oh my gosh! Look at that!”

She pointed at something behind me and I turned around, not really expecting anything. But I was soon too shocked to even remember I had a cousin. A castle rose above the treetops in a way that made me wonder why neither of us had spotted it before. A shroud hung over it, similar to a mist, only this one sparkled and was bubblegum pink.

I must’ve blanked out for the next time I was aware of anything, I was just outside the gates leading to the castle grounds. Micky was running to catch up and seemed out of breath when she skidded to a stop beside me.

            “Geez, Ellie,” she gasped, “you move fast.”        

“Sorry, Micky,” I said, offering her my hand. She rested hers in mine and all of the weariness melted away as though she hadn’t just run after me. I, on the other hand, was now mildly out of breath. This was my only gift from our family’s magic; the ability to take things from people and put them on myself. Micky could see things and do magic when she really concentrated but in our family both of us were considered weak.

My parents were both accomplished at casting big spells and curses as well as creating potions. This meant that they’d gone to the best school for learning magic, unlike someone like me who had barely any, and they could now speak circles around any normal person. Both of my brothers had followed in their footsteps and were making names for themselves in the magical community. Micky’s parents were good at certain types of charms, mostly to do with protection of some kind.

            A moment passed and then another. My breathing returned to normal.         

I peered up at the archway above the gates and read the inscription aloud as I knew Micky couldn’t read the magical language; her parents didn’t need to know it to make charms.

“Abandon dreams, all ye who enter here,” I spoke. “For though thoust heart may be true, thine soul surely isn’t.”

I glanced over at Micky once finished and we shared a long pause filled with dubious looks.

“This seems pretty ominous,” I commented, to which she agreed.        

“Yeah, especially for such a pretty place.”

I nodded vaguely and took in the sight now that it wasn’t obscured by trees and foliage. The castle loomed above and beyond the gates, towering over us as if it was some sort of old-fashioned skyscraper. It was the clichéd design, pearly white walls covered in green leafy vines with a dark roof. Towers shot up at uneven intervals and the windows glittered in the sunlight.

The gates were made of a dark gray metal in the shape of the same sort of vines that adorned the castle. There were also shields attached to them embellished with a “B” on each gate.

I stepped forward and touched the spot where the two gates met; they swung open silently as soon as my fingertips brushed the metal. I felt the coolness of it still as Micky pushed past and stepped onto the gravel pathway. The rocks that made it up looked to be chunks of marble and they glittered in the sunlight like precious gems.

It made me laugh to see that Micky’s hair had turned a very pale red and glowed in the sunlight; I was sure mine was just as pale.

Sculpted trees and short flowerbeds lined the path. Silence sat upon us in a heavy way and I felt not the presence of other people. Micky strode on ahead of me and my fast walk slowed to a crawl as I strove to take in all the sights. The greenery was glorious and full, as though the gardeners were truly diligent. I caught up with Micky before she could enter the castle.

“Wait,” I told her, “Let’s not just yet, shall we?”

She gave me a bemused look, “Fine.”

We wandered the grounds for what felt like hours before coming across a hedge wall. It towered above, well over eight feet, and seemed to stretch far and away from us forever.

Neither of us moved for a moment, completely awestruck at the sight. Then, without a word, we both started along the wall.

Ten minutes later, the entrance still eluded us.        

“Where the hell’s the damn entrance?” Micky exclaimed. I shrugged.

“Have no idea.” Then I had a thought. “Wait, maybe it’s like an optical illusion. We can’t see the entrance but it’s there anyway.”

“Okay, sounds like a good idea but how do we see the entrance?”

I grinned and pointed at the hedge wall, which had suddenly stopped looking like a wall and a lot more like a door. She looked at it and groaned.

“You know,” she told me as we entered, “for someone without a lot of magical ability you sure do act like you do.”

I laughed, “Blame it on my parents. If they didn’t act this way then I’m sure I wouldn’t either.”

She joined in but we both stopped when the path split into five different directions.

“Which way, d’you think?” I asked Micky.

Shrugging apparently seemed the best response. I let out a sigh, picked up a rock from the pathway, marked it, and tossed it as straight up as I could.

“Whichever path that lands closest to will be the one we choose,” I explained and Micky nodded in agreement.

Instead of almost hitting me in the forehead -as I expected it to- it landed thirty feet away or so at the entrance of a path. I coughed lightly as I tried not to freak out by the extreme behavior of an inanimate object. Micky didn’t seem to notice and we headed down the path with nary a word.

Chapter 2

Time passed and we continued to find our way using pebbles.

It seemed like an eternity and yet no time at all before we found our way to the roses.

They surrounded us and invaded our senses; the aroma filled our noses, mouths, and minds. My feet strode forward faster of their own accord and I reached the gazebo well before Micky did.

It was octagonal with a cushion-covered bench lining the walls except for the three spaces needed for doorways. There were plush looking pillows littering the floor and the only light that I could see was from the entrances and what little filtered through the vines encasing the gazebo. Rich carvings of plants made up the supports and roof of it.

            The whole thing was very picturesque.        

I stood on the threshold taking it in and was still doing so when Micky finally caught up. She let out a gasp and took a running leap on her side onto the bench almost directly opposite us. It took me a moment to figure out what it was she had exclaimed, “BED!”

I shook my head at her and expected for her to turn to me and try to persuade me to join her for a rest; it never happened.

After waiting for it for a little while, I approached her prone form. I carefully turned her and found that my cousin was deeply asleep.

Something began to tug at me and I straightened up and left through one of the back doorways. It led up to the castle. The walk seemed much shorter than I would’ve expected as we were supposedly in the middle of the hedge maze.

Before I knew it, I stood at the entrance facing two massive doors. Carvings covered them of animals and vines which bore a strong similarity to the rose vines that covered the gazebo. I approached them and they opened on their own when I got close enough.

The hallway behind the doors seemed to stretch past where I could see, dark and silent. I entered as though in a trance and could immediately tell that there was something wrong.

In the presence of true old-fashioned curses or charms, my cheekbone would begin to tingle enough to itch.

Not just that but my fingertips tingling as well as though I had lain on both arms long enough for them to fall asleep, which was incredibly unusual. The only time they tingled was when I entered a house that had been horrifically cursed from a battle between two powerful sorcerers. That thought worried me but thanks to the spell it only worried me for a moment before my mind pushed it aside.

The hall seemed so long and yet it seemed like no time at all before I stood in front of the set of doors at the end.

The air was heavy with the scent of roses and something else; a glamour. I batted at the mist in front of my eyes and tried to see clearly to no avail. The person waiting for me on the other side of the door was more prolific at spells to persuade than I.

They compelled me to open the door and I complied right up until the moment before I touched the handle. My brain caught up and allowed me to freeze my hand. I paused and thought for a brief millisecond and in that millisecond I realized something; I was actually mentally stronger than this person. They were quite weak-willed; I just couldn’t control my powers properly to make full use of this strength. They could tap into all of their abilities and I couldn’t. I let out a sigh and allowed them to take control again. The door opened silently and behind it was nothing but darkness.

A fire lit in the fireplace as I looked and showed me all but the furthest reaches of the room. It was fitted like a sitting room with one difference; there was a tall overstuffed armchair set next to the fireplace. All I saw was the back but I knew -somehow- that it was occupied nonetheless.

I approached it and was unsurprised when a smaller chair pulled up beside it. I was clearly meant to join whoever it was. I did as was inferred and took the proffered seat. I had yet to look at the who that sat across from me.

“Won’t you at least look at your host?” A deep voice -much akin to a growl- erupted from the opposite chair.

It startled me but I knew the only way to finish this was to look. I peeked up and studied my host.

He was covered all in fur with tusks protruding from his mouth. He actually looked like a mixture between a wolf and boar. I let out a sigh as I recognized the taint of curse that this amalgamation gave off.

“So that’s how it is, huh?” I said, “You pissed off some big bad sorcerer and ended up like this? What’s the way to end it then?”

A rumble that I took to be a chuckle slipped past his lips before he replied, “I should’ve known you’d understand as much so quickly.”

I waited for him to continue but he didn’t.

“Yes I figured it out,” I finally spoke, “now tell me what it is that can break the curse.”

He did something that caused his entire upper torso to shift. My brain told me it was a shrug for some reason.

“Did-Did you just shrug?”I demanded.

“Yes,” He replied, “I have no idea how to break the curse. We’ve tried just about everything and nothing has worked.”

I gaped before asking the obvious question.

“So they didn’t tell you how to break it when they cursed you?”

He shrugged again, “If they told me I’ve forgotten it.”

I was pointedly staring at him at that moment.

“So how’re you supposed to break it?” I exclaimed, “Sheer luck?”

Another chuckle slipped past his lips.

“No,” came the reply, “I have only one option. Find a person who is capable of lifting a curse.”

That was when it occurred to me what it was that he was talking about; my ability to take ailments from other people.

I snorted, “I don’t know you well enough to do that for you, dude.”

He let out a sigh, “Of course not. Shall we walk for a bit? We can get to know each other better.”

I laughed and agreed because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to leave anyway, not if that pink bubble that surrounded the grounds had anything to do with the curse.

We walked throughout the house and like always in a new building, I had no need to be given a tour; I already knew it as though I had lived there all my life. It was the same way with any building I entered; I always seemed to know the layout of it without having been shown it first. My grandmother said that it was the only useful gift that my ability gave me. It was as though I lifted the floor plans from the places I entered.

We talked about many things, such as his loneliness and the vast emptiness of this place. Being the prince, he wore accoutrements that suggested wealth, even though there was little enough he could fit over the oversized bulk he now had. I also knew that he had a companion as there was no way he could imitate an old lady nor did he have any magic of his own but I knew not how to go about asking him. First-born sons of royal houses never had magical abilities and he was no exception, judging by my cheekbone’s tingling fading with every moment I spent with him.

After walking through much of the house, we took to the gardens. I strolled down the pathways next to his hulking form as he walked on all fours.

Time passed and it was soon dinnertime. He assured me that Micky would be fine where she was thanks to the enchantment but he and I adjourned to a table that would allow us to eat. When I asked further, he explained that it was a sleeping enchantment, meant to hold but not injure.

We ate in silence -his claws were surprisingly nimble as were his lips- and once finished, the food floated away through a swinging door that led to the kitchen, as did the other dinner implements.

“Please,” he said, fouling the quiet atmosphere with noise, “won’t you help me?”

            I let out a sigh, “I can’t.”        

I couldn’t take the curse from him because I didn’t know how to break it and when I took it from him, it would fall on me. My gift would only allow me to get over it if I completed that which was required.

“Why?!” he cried. I slouched low in my seat.

“Because I can’t break it any easier than you could,” I explained, knowing it sounded petty, “which means I have no idea what could bring me to take that from you. You don’t know how to break the curse but I can’t do what you want me to, I just can’t.” Silence met my answer for a moment.

“Leave my sight, if you please,” he growled and I could hear the anger that was begging to be set free in his voice. “Kindly go to the East Wing and choose a bedroom from there. Stay in that room the rest of the night, please. I’m afraid that I can’t stay civil for much longer.”

I nodded and stood before I asked one more question, “May I be allowed to wander about the floor that my room is on in the East Wing? I promise not to leave that area.”

He growled in affirmation and I left as quickly as I could so that he could rage in peace.

I knew that to arrive here and dangle my ability right under his nose before taking it back was selfish and cruel. But I also knew that he needed to take my side into consideration as well.

I couldn’t take his curse just to end up stuck here or wherever I got sent and be forced to live out eternity in much the same manner as he was currently. However, I also couldn’t walk out and leave him like this without at least trying to help. I needed to think this through which is why I had asked permission to wander the floor. There was a gallery there that should give me some answers. At least, my internal map told me there was, I had no real way of knowing until I checked. I heard a distant howling and crashing noise and hastened my steps.

Each of the wings were separated from the main hall by a dual set of enormous doors, much like the ones that graced the entrance. The only difference was the carvings.

The carvings portrayed palace life the way it must’ve been before the curse. People worked in the garden and waved at each other.

I rubbed my eyes and checked again; the carvings were moving!        

I stayed where I was and watched it unfold.

The gardeners conversed with peasants who were coming in and they all seemed in high spirits. There were men at the doors to open them for even the lowliest of people.

It was then that I spotted the sorcerer who cursed the prince. I could not tell gender but the power pulsed from their every being even through the carving. They were shrouded in a cloak that covered all distinguishing features and billowed in a weak breeze.

Anyone who noticed the sorcerer shrank away in fear and the sky darkened as the person approached. The guards at the entrance -who had been friendly and congenial to all who had come before- now shook visibly and told the spellmaster something very stiffly.

The sorcerer didn’t take too kindly to what was said to them and the sky grew darker and they seemed to grow taller. The guards stiffened with fright but refused to budge.

              I was quite impressed with the guard’s loyalty.        

Finally the person grew weary of waiting and twisted something resembling a spell at them. The guards were shoved aside by an invisible force and the person entered.

I waited for what happened next but the doors froze on the scene at that point and creaked open.

My disappointment at not having seen more was lessened by the fact that I still had the gallery to see.

              Ten minutes later I was irrevocably lost.        

My internal map had told me where to go after entering and so I had but now I didn’t even recognize the wall that surrounded me, let alone my internal maps and their directions. They were trying to tell me that I was where I needed to be but I didn’t believe it. For one thing, the walls were a different type of material than that which made up the walls of the castle; they looked like they were made of granite instead of marble. I spotted a door off to the left and took it because my map told me that I should.

A moment later I was cursing my mental map at the top of my lungs as I fell into darkness.

               I blanked out before I landed.                

“Elleanorre!” The old lady was back and so were the roses.

“Why would you not let him be saved?” she demanded, “That’s why you’re here!”

I groaned, “Look, do you have any idea what that’ll do to me? You don’t know what happened any more than he does! And I know that I’m not a reincarnation otherwise I’d be remembering things I-” My fingers and toes were tingling again, almost painfully so and my cheekbone felt like I drizzled itching powder on it.

              She grinned at me coldly.        

I was standing in the throne room, looking at the events unfolding.

“Elleanorre!” A voice exclaimed, “Come here this instant!”

I ran to where my mother stood. Or at least, my brain said it was my mother. I also knew her to be a lady-in-waiting to the Crown Princess.

The King had taken off that day so that his son could learn to be king for he was far sicker than most of the court knew; I only was aware of it because my mother had told me.

The prince was a handsome sort and could be just as kingly as his father but there were many rumors regarding his being a womanizer. There were countless girls in the palace that had to leave thanks to either his banishing them because he lost interest or they got pregnant.

Mother grabbed me and held me close as I turned to see why she was so scared.

A cloaked figure approached the throne and all who saw it drew back.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I recognized this as the continuance of what I saw on the castle doors.

The hood was thrown back when the figure had drawn close enough to the throne and the ones who saw the face beneath it gasped.

It was the face of a beautiful young lady framed by ebony locks of hair. Her lips were ruby red and her eyes -although green- seemed to spark with an unearthly light.

Mother tried to hold me tighter but I somehow slipped free of her grasp and stood some distance away.

“You have insulted me to the furthest extent I have ever had the displeasure to experience,” her voice filled the room with power that none could duplicate.

The prince shifted before responding as though he needed to regain his composure.

“Milady Sorceress,” he began, “I know not what you are referring to at this time. If you could but explain, I would strive to help resolve the matter that seems to trouble you so greatly.”

Instead of growing angry or saddened by the statement, she laughed. The laugh was a musical, lilting laugh that I noticed seemed to cause the prince pain.

“You are a fool,” she said, “for putting on such a farce. For this is precisely how you insult me. You who loved me many moons ago, who swore to never forget me. And yet, here I find you on your throne acting as though the time spent never happened. You have fathered my child,” a gasp rose for that was quite an illegal thing for him to have done, “and yet pretend as though nothing happened.”

Silence fell over the crowd and I knew I was the only one who thought to question an aspect of her story; so question it I did.

I walked up to her, bold as brass, and asked her, “Please, m’lady, where is your child?”

I had clutched a piece of her cloak without thinking and the sorceress took my hand in hers as she knelt down to my level.

“My mother killed it when she realized it was the offspring of a prince.”

A gasp of horror swept through the room. My eyes filled with tears and I replied, “That’s terrible!”

She gave me a sad smile, “And so it is.”

The prince stood up and began to make his way to her; I stayed by her side as though she hadn’t enough strength to face him herself. She stood and faced him, keeping my hand in hers and turning me to face him as well; based off of how much her hand was shaking, my staying with wasn’t unappreciated.

The prince reached out as though to caress her face and her eyes closed to accept it. My young mind told me that I shouldn’t allow this, so I stood as tall as I could and slapped his hand away. When I received a shocked look from not only those two but the entire room, I felt I should try to explain.

“You don’t “know her” so you can’t touch her,” I said protectively.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw my mother trying to get me to come back to her but I ignored her and stared down the prince. The sorceress seemed to snap out of her revelry and she prodded him in the chest with an index finger.

“You left me even though I was willing to forfeit my magic for you,” she hissed, “and thanks to that you’ve left me ostracized by my family; an outcast. You deserve to be punished.”

“Yes you do,” I said, knowing enough about magic to know that it needs to be confirmed before it can go on. However, it was then that she surprised me, for she said, “But I am not the one to do it. I give up my magic to anyone who wishes to curse you for I love you far too much.”

“Oh it shouldn’t take all of your magic, Madam Sorceress,” A booming voice sounded the approach of the king. “All I should need to do is use a smidgen to curse him to look like what his personality portrays himself as; the beast within.”

The prince collapsed in pain and she knelt down immediately beside him. When she looked up, she had tears in her eyes.

“Why would you –of all people- do this to him? He’s your son!”

“And he is nothing short of a hoodlum.” The king replied, “For that he deserves nothing less.” A thoughtful look was angled at her for a moment, “You’ve shown amazing loyalty towards a man who left you ruined. I think that you should join him and enjoy the enchantment together.”

She let out a cry of anguish as the spell complied with his wishes and attached her to him.

The prince still writhed in pain and no one else had moved since the king had spoken. I was still beside her and she seemed to finally realize it.

“Your Majesty,” she spoke, spinning so smoothly and quick that I felt breathless, “may I name the terms of the counter-curse?”

The king considered her offer for a moment before replying.

“Yes you may,” she smiled at him in such a way that all the sources of light in the room seemed to dim. Before she could speak, however, he held up his hand to add to his conditions, “but know this. My anger is too great to be settled by something petty and that means that I don’t want either of you to know how to break it. Choose a person from this room to tell it to, but after you do you shall forget what you said as surely as though you had never spoken.”

Chapter 3


My head ached almost as much as the rest of my body.

I couldn’t tell what -if any- of my bones were broken and I lay there for a few seconds trying to see if the pain would ease.

After time had passed I tried to sit up. It took four tries and far too much effort to get to a sitting position. I leaned against something made of stone and had to twist my head in order to see what it was; a staircase led up to the door I had entered through. The reason for my falling was clear; it was thanks to a very small landing before the stairs led off sharply to the right. It was a wonder I hadn’t cracked my skull open but I knew that the magic of the place was helping me as the pain had eased considerably since I woke.

It still angered me quite a bit that they had built such a ridiculous staircase without including a railing or warning. Yet I was willing to ignore that for the time being thanks to the little fact of my finally being in the gallery.

I struggled to stand only to worry about how I was to get around when I could barely stay up.

Within a moment of thinking that, my body told me it was again time to sleep. I slumped down against the stairs and did as instructed.

“Milord,” the sorceress exclaimed; it was as though I had never left, “how can we break this curse if we don’t remember what the counter-curse is?”

He grinned coldly, “You’ll just have to find whoever it is you told once you remember who it was.”

“And how long do you expect that to take?”

The grin broadened, “Longer than I am alive.”

She stood up and looked him in the eye; the curse was starting to take into effect for she swayed where she was. The air around her darkened as her anger grew.

The spell took shape in front of her before she did anything more than take a breath.

“No! Don’t!” I cried as she shot the spell at the king, killing him instantly. I moved to rush to his side and try to help but she grabbed my shoulder and held it in an iron grip.

“No, my child,” she said, “you cannot help him now. But,” she knelt to my level, “you can help me.”

I met her eyes with ones filled with tears, “How?”

I was helpless to move and cared not why she would choose me over all else.

“I need to complete the curse.”

I sat up with a jolt. My head ached something fierce but the rest of me felt fine thanks to the additional sleep. I knew not whether these dreams were my own memories or someone else’s but I knew I would hear the counter-curse the next time I dreamt; it was only a matter of time before I knew whether or not I could help him and his partner.

I stood and pressed a hand to my temple as I started on my way down the gallery.        

Torches lit at my approach and I was able to glimpse the faces initially hidden in shadows that adorned the walls.

Proud Nobility permeated through every brush stroke of each painting. Or at least, all the way down to the second to last. Someone had originally painted a very handsome picture of the prince but after his transformation they must’ve been told to cover it up.

Half of him was still quite fetching but the other half was that of a monster. The Beast half seemed to come alive as I watched and it reached for me. A claw scraped against my neck before I snapped free of whatever had held me and slapped away his hand. When I connected with it, the painting went back to being inanimate.

My cheekbone was tingling once more as I went to check out the last painting in the gallery.

It was of a lesser man than the previous painting and he clearly knew it from his timid eyes and trembling mouth.

I scratched at my cheekbone to try to get the tingling to ease but as I did I half-thought I felt silky fur along my arm and hand.

I quickly checked my hands and found them looking quite normal but that feeling of fur had completely unnerved me and I continually glanced at my hands as I studied the painting. That is, of course, until I noticed something strange.

Behind the young man stood a shadow that looked hooded. I stared at the painting and tried to concentrate on it; I was trying to convince it to show me something.

And show me something it did.

“Are you sure it worked?” the young man asked the hooded shadow. The shadow moved into the light and proved to be an older man who had enough power to wear it like a cloak and have plenty left over.

“It worked, Rupert,” was the reply, “otherwise how else would you be given the crown? Trust me, my liege, my daughter and your brother are doomed to live out the rest of their lives cursed.”

“Are you sure?” The prince whined, “I don’t want to gain the throne only to have it taken from me when he lifts it.”

The older man laughed, “He cannot possibly break the curse as he is now. Neither he nor my daughter will remember what the counter-curse is thanks to me. The only one who can help is a small mortal child who will soon die of the same plague as much of the castle.”

I came back to myself soon enough to hear laughter.

I slumped against the wall and looked off to my right in the direction of the noise.

There stood a young man laughing at me and what I had just done.

“I’ve seen clumsy magic before but you take the cake. How in the world did you actually manage to get it to do all that you wanted using your magic so heavy-handedly? I would’ve never expected it to actually work.”

“And you are who? Exactly?” I asked wearily.

There stood before me a young man who seemed to be half-there. I could see a resemblance between him and the family that adorned the walls.

I let out a sigh, “Oh you must be the youngest prince. Wasn’t your name Lance?”

He nodded, “So you’ve gained some memories by these little trips even though you were never truly there. Yes, I am the one who was once called Lance. I was to be either a clergyman or sorcerer so I chose sorcerer.” He gestured at his clothes, which was the proper garb of one.

“I was gifted at spell-work and could do high-level spells with ease, but I’m certain that it was thanks to that that I was killed. Rupert murdered me to keep me from helping my older brother once he was cursed. You see,” he slid down beside me and nudged my shoulder with his own before pointing at his eldest brother, “the moment I heard of my brother’s curse and my father’s death I rushed for home. My other brother was waiting for me with his traitorous friend, the court magic-user, and greeted me with a poisonous drink. I was surprised when I found myself dying but was a proficient enough spell-caster that I was able to charm those two with my last breath. They wished to rule but could not do so without a kingdom to govern.”

I gave him a curious look and he responded, “I attached my spell to my brother’s and made it so that the only way to rule would be to break the curse.” He laughed at this point, “Unfortunately for those two, they had killed the only person who knew the counter-curse in order to make sure Rupert stayed king.” He shook his head at the memory, “They were such fools.”

A silence fell over us before I thought of a question.

“So what happened to them if the kingdom was no longer there?”

He grinned maliciously, “They were forced to live as beggars and died destitute on the streets.”

I shook my head at the thought and we stayed there for some time.

“I think it best that I call it a night,” I said, scrambling to my feet, “so good night.”

He smiled and refrained from comment. I was doing well until I reached the bottom of the stairs; there I stale-mated thanks to lack of strength.

Lance reappeared by my side as I leaned against the wall.        

“Good night is a difficult thing to say when you are incapable of managing on your own.”

I laughed weakly, “There is some truth in what you say but how can I get help from a ghost? You shouldn’t even be able to touch me.”

“Yes well,” he replied, “that is why you are very lucky. You see, sorcerers become ghosts that can touch physical beings and -in certain instances- carry them.”

I stared at him, “You must be joking.”        

He shook his head at me, “I do not have time to argue with you so I’ll just pick you up and ignore any complaints you might have.”

He lifted me up quickly before I had time to complain and seemed to hold my weight easily enough. I grabbed his shoulder and wrapped an arm around his neck to brace myself against him.

A ripple of power moved through me; it made me feel slightly queasy.

Then my power sapped away from me and something else took its place; it was something that made me feel cold.

“What the-” I heard Lance exclaim. I could feel myself start to drift off but he shook me awake at the top of the stairs. I revived myself enough to realize he had set me down against a railing that was now in existence. The bars pressed against my back.

“Hey!” He exclaimed, shaking me to keep me from drifting off, “How did you do that? You gave me more strength and you even made me feel more alive. How did you do that?”

I shrugged helplessly and grinned, “I have no idea. My ability is to alleviate problems that people have so maybe my magic was trying to lift your illness?”

“Illness?” he seemed confused, which was a nice turn of events for me.

“Yeah, death is considered an illness to my powers.”

I closed my eyes again and this time he let me slip away.

I stared at the sorceress.

“Are you sure?”

She nodded.

“You must listen and listen carefully,” she told me, “for I shall depend upon your help once this curse has been completed.”

I swallowed all the remaining emotions standing in the way of my helping, “Very well, what is the counter-curse?”

“Find the Sword that Time forgot,” she whispered in my ear, “and present it to the One whose heart Love never found. Take them to the Forest Lost to the Ages and Prove to them that have disappeared into Legend that Love is strongest over all.”

We stared at each other and I felt the spell drift over me and sink into my skin. The counter-spell was now engraved in my mind and I could never lose it no matter how I tried.

It was peaceful when I woke. I lay there for a moment, reveling in the feeling of quiet.

The moment passed and I realized I was in a bed.

I sat up and looked at my surroundings. The bedroom loomed over me, draped in shadow. Three tall windows with the curtains closed stood opposite me and the bed. The doors that clearly led to the rest of the palace were off to my left and a smaller door -perhaps to a closet or something similar- off to my right. In between one window and the next stood shelves of some kind but thanks to the shadows I couldn’t tell what they held.

“Man,” I whispered, “this is strange.”

The quiet and the shadows mixed so that they felt velvety against my skin.

“Have a nice rest?” A voice slipped through the silence easily.

I sat bolt upright and looked beside me to find Lance sitting in a chair pulled up near the bed.

I grinned, “Well enough.”

The silence settled back over us and I felt so comfortable that I never wanted this to end, but I knew it had to so I asked.

“How did I get here? Did you really carry me all that way?”

He nodded, “Whatever your powers did to me, it gave me enough energy to carry you here and have some left over. That’s a wonderful gift you have there.”

I laughed mirthlessly, “Not at my end it isn’t. And the rest of my family didn’t think so,” my smile soured as I remembered, “they thought it weak.” The word, “weak” was venomous on my tongue.

“Then it’s your family that’s weak,” he replied simply, “for that is a very strong ability, if it can allow you to free a spirit of the special constraints it had been so used to for hundreds of years.” I looked at him and he nodded, “Yes I could not leave the gallery until you touched me. Also, your gift is clearly strong if you can force magic to show you the past so heavy-handedly.”

His eyes were twinkling mischievously.

I slid over to the side and dropped my legs over the edge to brush at the floor with my toes.

“That was something I wanted to ask you about last night,” I said, “what do you mean heavy-handedly? I can barely nudge anything to do something for me, let alone bend it to my will, so how could I do as you say?”

His eyes stopped twinkling.

“You mean to tell me that you’ve no idea how to control your magic because you think you have so little?” Apparently my confused look answered his question for he explained, “Your magic surrounds objects and makes them do what you want. For some strange reason, you are only aware of a small portion of it, that much is clear. The amount of magic that slammed that painting when you saw the past was enough to put most sorcerers I’ve met to shame.”

I stared at my hands in shock, suddenly feeling as though they no longer belonged to me.

“Plus,” he continued, “from what I’ve heard so far, your gift isn’t exactly normal and as such, your family thinks it pitiful because they do not know.”

I hated being as confused as I was right then.

“In my time, anyone who could affect the energies of the people around them were considered some of the strongest magic-users. We would have revered you back when I was alive. Rightly so, if I’m not mistaken.”

I was becoming upset and tears started to form in my eyes; I rubbed them away irritably.

“How can it be that this place is so different from my world? In my world, I can only lift weariness from people or even take pain or illness, and yet you tell me that I have so much power that it surrounds the object of my intent. How can this be when I struggle to do what little I do?”

I waved my arms about as I talked, not expecting anything to happen; I had half a thought that I would like the windows cleared but I didn’t attempt to get up to do so.

Lance thought about what I said but it was only seconds before all of the curtains slammed open.

We both stared at them.

“The enchantments of this place must be giving you a wider capability where you hadn’t the chance before.” Lance replied, “Otherwise how else would you explain your magic opening the curtains a moment ago?”

I let out a sigh as I tried to stifle the panic that was rising.

“Could you please leave me?” I asked him, still staring at the windows, “I should like very much to change clothes and I can’t do that with you here as well.”

He laughed, “As though I could do anything.”

I didn’t join in on his laughter. I just turned my head so I could look him in the eye and said, “You are more able to do things now than before thanks to me.” The jolliness died and I sighed, “If you please, Lance? I really wouldn’t feel comfortable with you in here.”

He had already stood, “I am aware of that. I was just teasing you but I can tell that all that you have learned thus far is already taking its toll on you. I shall stand guard outside your door and be your escort down to breakfast.”

That cajoled a smile and grateful giggle out of me and we parted for a time in high spirits.

I ransacked the closet for an outfit and finally managed to find a pair of pants I could wear since mine had disappeared. It seemed that when I was put to bed I somehow got changed into a nightgown. This meant that all of my clothing was now missing. As such, I was forced to settle with whatever had been left to me in the closet.

A pair of pants that appeared to be riding pants, a loose blouse and a vest were the articles of clothing I chose to wear. A pair of boots completed the outfit and on my way out I grabbed an overcoat that made it look as though I actually wore a skirt. I opened the door with one hand and ran the other through my hair.

Lance turned and gave me a look-over.

“Well? Am I appropriate?” I asked him.

He grinned, “More than. You have a very lovely sense of style for someone who is clearly uncomfortable with wearing skirts or dresses.”

I grinned, “Thanks Lance. Shall we then?”

He nodded and offered me his arm.

We drifted in the general direction of the Main Hall and somehow made it to the first floor without encountering a single staircase.

“As long as you only have a vague notion as to where you’re going,” he whispered in my ear, “this place will take you there easily enough. It’s when you’re concentrating that you have to go the long way. It’s a defensive magic that’s been in place since my father’s father was a small child. It made it harder for any attacker to get to where they wanted to go. The castle will actually make people lost if it senses murderous intent towards a member of royalty unless it’s from another member. It’s helpless then, which is why I wasn’t saved or even helped.”

I felt the helpless sadness that he felt at the unfairness of this, but he smiled at my tears.

“Don’t cry, I’ve learned to be at peace with it after all this time.”

I smiled weakly, “Yes but it still doesn’t make it right.”

At the entrance of the Dining Hall, I paused. My fingers, toes and cheekbone had started to tingle. A tremor moved through me and I collapsed. My stomach was all in knots and my fingers were now burning. The tingling had crept up my arms and legs and was making its way to my heart. Even with the burning, my body was going numb. I let out a gasp and heard a roar in its place. The world was over-bright and my eyes kept focusing enormously close to things far away. It hurt to see things so clearly and my eyes began tearing up.

I looked up at Lance and saw that he was giving me a horrified look.

“Oh god,” he gasped, “what has my brother done to you?”

He vanished in a puff of vapor that was tinged scarlet. When it cleared, his brother stood over me hand-in-hand with someone very familiar; the sorceress. The strange thing was that the prince was himself without the beast to hide his face.

Which meant that I-

“No!” I cried, despairing when all I heard was a roar. The prince was smiling down at me in contempt, much in the same manner as the sorceress.

“Took you long enough.” Was all he said before he walked away. The sorceress tried to look sorry at my circumstance but failed miserably.

I did not pay them any mind; I just stayed where I was and tried to understand what had just happened to me.

They had used my powers against me, knowing that the abilities would help him whether or not I wanted them to. The only way to be free of this would be to find the counter-curse’s objects and do as was instructed.

But first things first. Once I knew that the prince was no longer on the estate -with my cousin thinking he was related to her- I stood and made my way over to a mirror.

I was a beast all right. Claws adorned my fingers instead of nails and fine fur lay on me as a second skin; I even had a tail and my ears were positioned higher in the same shape as a cat’s. Truth be told, I thought that I was a much more attractive beast than the prince as I seemed more feline than anything, but that was just my opinion.

“You look very um, seductive,” Lance had returned.

I turned and smiled at him, showing him my fangs.

“Yes, if you’re into that sort of thing.”

He laughed at my weak attempt to joke and shooed me on to the breakfast table.

To say that breakfast was a disaster would be considered an understatement to the extreme. Because I was unused to my newfound state, I was incapable of properly holding and using eating utensils.

The only reason I was actually mildly full when I left the room was because there was finger food that my claws had no issue grabbing and the cups were metal and not glass or crystal; I would’ve surely broken them otherwise.

And the reason I was not already prepared to burn down the castle -possibly with me inside- was all thanks to Lance. His sense of humor coupled with my innate timing of clumsy happenings kept us both in far better spirits than we -perhaps- should have been. I was willing to try for a chipper mood at any costs thanks to the alternatives being either hysteria or depression.

For if I were to give in to those feelings I would surely not be able to last long.

My thoughts were more and more subdued the further we got from the breakfast table. At the entrance of the castle, I stopped and marveled at the scenic view. It was so beautiful and now all mine; suddenly I hated it. For all it stood for in my life.

The picturesque view, of trees and greenery so full of life and perfectly complimenting the castle’s stone protrusions, soured as my thoughts turned dour.

The beauty of it was lost to me now and forever until I broke this curse or passed it to someone else.

I saw this castle for what it truly was; a gilded cage.

And I was trapped.