Today’s post is another story one. This one is one I wrote a while ago. It was actually one of the first few drafts of the novel I’m currently working on. I thought that the story would move in this direction, at the time, but as I kept writing it, I kept hitting a road block, I couldn’t quite understand why Demetria would simply up and leave, her situation, so I changed the story completely, but I’ve decided to share it, because, perhaps one day, I may use it. So, if you don’t already know, my novel is inspired by the film Labyrinth, there are several fanfictions I absolutely adore, their story (while most times gruesome) is just phenomenal, and I hope one day I can be an author of that level, of course, I have a long way to go before that happens. If you’d like to read them, the links are below, but I must warn you, these are rated M, so tread lightly (yeah, I read rated M fanfictions, but only the ones that have a good story, If I read the first paragraph of a story, and there are several grammatical or plot related mistakes, I immediately back out and look for another one).
The sun streamed through the green canopy of the forest, the serene tranquillity permeated the air, and all the little creatures basked in its warmth. It was summer. The birds of the trees each sang to their own melodies, their harmonies intertwining throughout the stillness. Small creatures bounded around the trees’ bases, chasing one another; squirrels clambered up the trunks, while rabbits and fox pups weaved their paths in and out of the great sentinels.
Everything was peaceful; just the way Tera wanted it. Her dark chocolate tresses were spread on the emerald grass, as she basked in the morning sunlight. Her lean arms supported her head as she looked up at the big blue sky. There was not a cloud in sight, and she smiled contentedly. It wouldn’t be long before sleep covered her. It’s inviting tendrils wound their way across her body, and she relaxed deeper into the earth. If she concentrated hard enough she’d be able to feel the earth as it moved. Each tree would be an extension of herself and she could feel the pitter-patter of tiny feet that ran across her surface. Feeling more and more relaxed, she let her mind wander as her eyes slowly drift shut.
Though her eyes were closed, she could still see the cathedral of trees that loomed above her, but it wasn’t the same. She could see the green and golden glow of the life they gave, stretching towards each other mingling with the nearest ones, and covering the ground as they fed life back into the earth beneath them. It was a dance and Tera never failed to marvel at the beauty of it, but it wasn’t this vision she was waiting for. She needed to go deeper. Sighing, she continued to focus. Just a little deeper and sleep would consume her. Ah yes, she was there, floating beyond time and space. The silence was deafening, and she had no way to tell how long she’d been there, simply floating in the nothingness. Suddenly her peace was disturbed, as it always was. A light beyond her twinkled and beckoned her forward. Unable to stop herself, she reached for it and its warmth engulfed her, as she found herself standing in the place she knew so well. The beauty of it took her breath away. This land, fit for dragons and fairies, this was her home. Stepping lightly onto the deep velvet green grass, she gazed in wonder at everything that surrounded her. Three large moons stood watch over the land, each the same pale lavender. Flowers of every kind and more covered the ground, and beyond the deceptively still lake stood mountains like the spires of a castle.
Looking down at herself, she noticed she no longer wore the worn rags of her uniform. Gone was the thick, stiff leather vest of a maid. Gone was the rough cloth of her dress. In its place was a soft silk gown that hung from her shoulders with golden chains. Its sleeves caressed her wrists delicately and her skirt whispered against her bare feet, which were decorated in delicate gold chains, with hanging drops of emeralds.
She took a deep breath and the fresh scent of peppermint filled her senses. To one side stood a small thatched cottage with smoke already wafting from the brick chimney. Curiosity guided her steps as she lightly made her way to the cosy building.
Slowly, she opened the small wooden door and peeked inside. It was small. A single cot stood under a small shuttered window to her left. At the back, a small kitchenette, fully equipped with a cooker and oven, was already boiling water in a large pot. Brown wooden cabinets, with black iron embellishments decorated the wall above it and in front of her was a small wooden door. As she inspected the single room, she found a fireplace, with a cauldron bubbling atop the fire, and two plush armchairs facing its heat. Light from the little windows streamed onto the soft patterned rug that lay between the chairs.
Overall the cottage was by no means a palace, but for Tera it was the grandest place she’d ever seen compared to the single cell of her room. She blinked. She didn’t want to think about the horrors waiting for her when she awoke. She would not think about them. She would simply enjoy what was given to her, here and now, for she knew they would soon disappear.
The sound of a flushing toilet drew her attention back to the door opposite her, and she waited with bated breath. When the door opened, a little old woman shuffled over to the kitchenette, acting as if Tera wasn’t even present. She wore a deep burgundy veil over the thin wisps of her tangerine hair, and her thick dress covered her wide frame, while a thick knitted shawl covered her arms. She wasn’t very tall, and only stood at Tera’s chest, but for some reason, the old hag seemed familiar.
As she lifted the lid of the pot, Tera’s senses were hit with the most delicious scent of carrot soup. Unconsciously her mouth began to water and her stomach growled. At the sound, the woman waved for Tera to enter deeper into the cottage.
“Shut the door dearie, you’re letting the heat out,” she croaked, taking a sip of her soup. Tera didn’t move, paralysed by fear. When she lifted her head from her cooking, she levelled Tera with a disapproving gaze. Her orange eyes shone with a light that most would only find in youth, “Yes dearie, I’m talking to you. Now shut the door and sit down. Soup’s almost ready.”
Blinking out of her stupor, Tera did as she was bid, warily. She shut the door and quickly made her way towards the warm fire. Sinking into the armchair, she waited patiently for the woman. It didn’t even occur to her to ask how the woman knew she would be visiting, let alone hungry.
After a few minutes, the woman reached up to her cabinets, pulling two bowls from the lowest shelf, and ladled a generous helping into each bowl. Once she placed spoons and bread on simple plates, she made her way to join the young woman. Gratefully Tera took the bowl proffered to her.
“Who are you?” Tera asked, as she laid the soup in her lap. The aroma invited her to taste, but she held off as long as she could. She didn’t want to be distracted.
As the woman slowly eased into the chair opposite, she gave a sigh of relief. Once settled, she answered Tera’s question, “Have you forgotten dearie?” She fixed Tera with a gentle stare, “Try again.”
Tera frowned, looking towards the fire. As the flames danced, memories came flooding back and she scolded herself for forgetting, “Oh of course, forgive me Ary, I forgot you were my teacher. I don’t know what came over me.”
Ary, chuckled, “That’s alright dear one. You always forget. Now eat your soup, you’ll need your strength.”
Tera continued to watch her friend and mentor, and continued to chide herself, as she ate her soup, “What will we be doing today?”
Breaking her bread roll and wolfing her soup down hungrily, Ary replied, “We won’t be doing anything today, but you will need to eat up.” Still confused, Tera waited for her mentor to continue and the old woman sighed, knowing her stubborn student wouldn’t back down, “My dear girl, there is simply no point in looking at me like that. You know as well as I that I can’t tell you. You’ll just have to wait and see.”
Tera’s eyes narrowed slightly as she measured the conviction of the woman’s words. When she didn’t budge, Tera sighed; it was hopeless. She returned to her soup and made quick work of it. She was hungrier than she had originally thought, and finished much more quickly than her eating companion.
She sat back and watched her friend as she slowly ate her soup. When Ary took her last sip, she finally asked, “Can you at least give me a hint?”
The old woman returned her gaze and gave her a small, sad smile. She couldn’t. Defeated, Tera looked into the fire and only thanked Ary when she took her bowl away. As the old woman continued to clean up the cottage, Tera simply stared into the fire. She couldn’t look at her friend, not when the woman knew something she didn’t, nor tell her what she knew. Finally Ary came up behind her, and placed a hand on her shoulder.
Tera looked up, and saw a seriousness she’d never seen in Ary’s eyes, “It’s time.”
She stood, unsure of what to make of her mentor’s emotions. Silently she followed Ary out the door and found herself in a grand room. It was grander than the mansion she worked at. Tera stood at the entrance of a throne room, but it was no ordinary throne room. She was inside a great tree; at least she thought she was. There were thick branches winding their way up the circular stonewalls. The paned windows were decorated with leaves and small white flowers that permeated the air with their sweet perfume. She stood on a platform covered in vines and bushes, and when she turned around, golden goliath doors stood shut behind her. In front of her, stone stairs led to a throne made of the very trunks that climbed the walls, with bushes lining its sides, and plush green velvet cushions for the seat. The arms were carved into the shape of a wolf’s head, its jaws open mid roar. The room itself both awed and intimidated Tera, and she had the deepest urge to run, but she remained rooted to the spot, determined to find out what was going on. She took small, tentative steps further into the room and the sparkle at the corner of her eyes drew her attention.
On the throne rested a golden diadem, which was decorated with curling vines and a large emerald teardrop that sat nestled in its centre. Transfixed, Tera made her way across the bridge of steps, towards the throne. Her eyes wide, she could not take her eyes off the crown. Once she stood before the throne, she reached down to touch it, only to hesitate when her own voice echoed throughout the room, “Are you sure you want to do that?”
She looked around, searching for the source of the voice, and frowned when she saw no one. She returned her attention to the crown, and the voice returned, “Remember, all your actions have consequences.”
Again Tera turned, and this time, there was movement. In the spot she once stood on, vines and branches began to gather. They intertwined to create a figure, and once completed, she stepped forth and Tera’s eyes widened further. Before her, stood the exact image of herself, her reflection, the same olive skin, the long dark chocolate hair, and eyes as green as the leaves around them. The only difference was the emotion that played within in the pools of emerald. What she saw scared Tera. In those eyes, she could see cold calculation and fury unlike anything she’d ever seen before. Her reflection sneered at her, knowing the thoughts that whirled within her head, “Poor little maid. Do your really think you are capable of becoming a queen?”
Gathering her courage, Tera replied, “What makes you think I want to?”
The laughter that rang out was a bitter one. When she returned a level stare at Tera, her eyes were full of excitement, “Come now little maid. Don’t tell me you’ve never thought about it. Not with all the stories you’ve heard.”
Tera clenched her jaw. She had a feeling her reflection was talking about the legends of Irenia. The long lost princess of the High Court, “They’re nothing but fairy tales, stories. The princess doesn’t exist.”
“Are you certain?” it mocked, the Cheshire cat smile widened as she watched Tera’s indecision flash across her face, “Well, then take the crown. If the princess doesn’t exist, someone has to rule. After all, the Empress of Cold can’t rule forever.” Its eyes flickered down to it for a brief moment, and its cunning smile spread as it watched indecision cloud Tera’s face. Thoughts whirling, she turned back to the crown. It seemed to call out to her, begging her to take it, “Go on,” came the cajoling voice of her double, “It won’t bite. Think about it, the glory, the power. You could have all Irenia bowing at your feet.”
The words that echoed throughout the room, snapped Tera out of her indecisive haze, and she turned back to her reflection, “No.” The woman drew back, surprised, as Tera continued, “I’m not that selfish.”
The lips of her reflection thinned, as anger began to boil to the surface, “So you’re telling me that the idea of being the queen of an entire world doesn’t appeal to you?”
Tera turned back to the crown, her mind made up, “It does, but you know as well as I do, that this crown doesn’t belong to me. So, I can’t take it.”
Its eyes hardened as it attempted to remain calm, “Oh, and who does it belong to?”
Tera stood taller, her certainty returning, “The one who owns this place.”
Her reflection folded its arms in front of its chest, and the cold stare became icy, “And who, pray tell, owns this place?”
Tera looked around once more, and the smile had passed to her. It was not cruel, nor was it kind. It was one of certainty and resolve, “The Guardian of Earth, the True Ruler of Irenia.” The pretty features of the reflection tensed; she knew of whom Tera was talking about and it seemed like she didn’t like it one bit. Emboldened by her reflection’s reaction, she took a step towards her and as she did so, her reflection stepped back, matching her pace, “You are not my reflection. You are a cold dream, a test. She knows you don’t belong on her planet.”
The sneer returned to her reflection’s lips, and the illusion melted to reveal the enchantress that turned everything to ice. Even her footsteps were cold, and everything in her path died at a mere touch, “You dare speak boldly to the Empress of Cold, little maid?”
Tera stood her ground as the pale woman advanced towards her. Her pale grey eyes grew stormy with the anger that roiled within her. Her platinum locks fluttered in the blizzard that swirled around her.
“I dare speak to the usurper of the crown. You are not fit to wear it. You are not Irenia’s guardian, and your reign will end. The rightful queen will return, and her powers will be greater than yours.” Tera didn’t quite understand where her courage came from, only that it was fuelled by room around her. She always felt more powerful surrounded by trees, and although this was a dream, she couldn’t have felt more alive. As Tera continued to advance towards the Empress of Cold, the tangle of wood and vine began to move. She didn’t notice as they towered behind her, as if defending her from the wicked creature before her, but she sensed something in the air change, as she watched the cruel expression fall from the face of the Empress of Cold. For a brief moment, fear coloured her face, but was soon replaced by stony resolve. Soon she began to grin, and a cruel laugh burst forth from her, “You are mistaken, little maid. Irenia will have no other ruler but me, and mine. Your precious guardian will fall by my hand.” She stepped back, wary of the towering claws that began to form behind her adversary, and bowed mockingly, “My regards to Avani. Although I highly doubt we’ll ever meet.”
In a whirl of snow and ice, the Empress of Cold disappeared. Throughout the encounter, Tera had remained tense. She knew not to let her guard down, and only relaxed once she no longer felt the icy presence of the witch. As quickly as they had appeared, the vines that towered over her disappeared, returning to their peaceful state clinging to the walls. Tera turned once more, to the crown on the throne, and simply stared at it. It no longer held the allure she had felt, when she first saw it. Taking a deep breath, she left the crown where it was, waiting for its rightful owner to take it. Determined, she left, feeling the pull of consciousness return as she made her way back to the entrance. For some inexplicable reason, Tera knew she had passed a test. She didn’t know why or how, but it was there, that sense of pride and excitement. Something was on the verge of beginning, and she would soon be part of it.
So, what do you guys think? Do you like it? Do you hate it? What would you do to improve it? Where would the story go, if you wrote the next part? Leave your tips in the jar below, and I’ll see you soon!
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