Wildrose-Prologue Part 5
Here is the next part of the prologue. If you’re confused by the Mirella part, I just felt like enhancing her character and highlighting her beliefs. Constructive criticism welcome, if you want me to tag, just ask:
Steel is forged in fire.
It begins as iron, soft, malleable, and ductile. Iron is easily bent, twisted, and warped out of shape. Like a weakling. When a stronger will is imposed upon it, it will bend as desired without too much resistance.
However, when put through the flames of the searing furnace, it becomes one of the strongest metals on earth, able to withstand almost anything.
Some might call fire destructive and harmful. A dangerous burning curse that hurts whatever it touches. Mirella disagreed. To her, fire was healing. Purifying. It burned past fears and insecurities to the strength, resilience, and power that lay buried underneath. Unless there was nothing. In which case, the fire would destroy you. Burn you from within, annihilate you, so that your only choice was to either crumble to ashes or become one with the destructive flames.
Of course, the kind of fire she was thinking about, it took different forms. Yet it would reach everyone and everything, eventually. Some people entered the flames the moment they were born, while others were lucky enough to wait a little bit. Yet whenever the fire gets to you, it will inevitably pass, however long it remains. Yet while the flames burn, the one on the pyre is faced with a choice. And when the remains are found, depending on what the burnt chose, there will either be steel or ashes.
“How is she doing?” he asked the doctor nervously, as the woman he thought was his destiny lay slowly dying before him.
“Not good.” was the doctor’s reply. “When she wakes up, she’ll have about half a day to tell you the rest of her sad story. Which reminds me, my king, I wanted to ask you a question, and I mean no insubordination or disrespect when asking you this, but-”
“Spit it out, Alexander.”
“Your Majesty, what do you intend to do with her? If what I heard is correct, you wanted to marry Queen Cateline, but as you can clearly see, this will be impossible. In particular, I wanted to ask about the daughter. At your request, the girl was bathed, fed, clothed, and given the utmost care in the royal nursery. However, once her mother dies, she’ll be an orphan. What will you do then?”
The king paused. He’d never considered that. “I’ll ask Cate what she wants.” he said after a few minutes of silence. “And offer to adopt her.”
“That’s the other thing.” Alexander said. “I have been made aware of the prophecy concerning the Wildrose Queen.”
His heart sank. Though Chase greatly respected Sir Alexander for both his medical and military expertise, and appreciated his loyalty to the throne and his father, in this particular instance, his pragmatism was more of a hindrance. “What did you want to discuss?” he said dully.
“I understand why you and your father may have valued this ‘Queen’.” Sir Alexander began. “Truly, after the shameful events of the Conquest of the Snake, and your great aunt, the late Queen’s role in it, restoring the honor of the royal house is of utmost importance. And after your divorce with Princess Alazne, Maidenvale lacks a queen to rally itself behind. However, restoration of this honor and of the position of queen can be done more effectively without diverting too much of our attention to this prophecy.”
“Sir Alexander, with all due respect-”
“In addition, the baby ought to be sent to the local orphanage, to avoid disapproval from the rest of the royal circles. The stigma already associated with this house will only deepen if you follow your plan, and-”
“Alexander.” the king snapped, and the old knight paused. “You don’t understand the full importance of this prophecy like I do. And I will not send the baby to an orphanage. I love Cateline, even if it is impossible for her to love me back. So stop questioning me with your partial knowledge of the matter. And besides, it was by valuing our position in the royal circles that our family got our sad reputation in the first place. I think I can attend to her from here.”
A hurt expression flashed across the liege’s face, and Chase felt a pang of regret. Alexander had been like an uncle to him, and had served as his guide during difficult times. As Sir Alexander exited the room, he decided he would apologize later. Right now, his first priority was hearing the rest of her story.
“Where was I?” she murmured, grimacing at the periodic bursts of intense pain in her abdomen.
“Your lover, Mirella, had just manipulated you into using her as a human sacrifice so that you could escape those witches.” he reminded Cateline.
“Right. Mirella immediately fell unconscious into my arms, and fearful that the sorceresses might wake up at any moment, I dragged her cold, limp body to a cave a few miles away, and tried to figure out what was wrong with her. Though there was still a pulse, her hands were as cold as ice. I started a fire and reluctantly left her in the cave while I headed to a nearby village in the hopes of finding a healer.”
“When I arrived at the town, the first thing I did was ask a young girl where I could find a healer. ‘Healer?’ she said. ‘I’m sorry, but there are no Healers here.’”
“‘Not even one?’ I said. ‘Please? It’s really urgent-my friend’s life is at stake.’”
“‘Well, I suppose you could try Mistress Ravenna.’ she said after a long silence. ‘You’ll find her in the tavern.’”
“I thanked the girl for her information and headed for the tall, sprawling stone tavern, a little warm ball of hope in my chest.”
“The interior of the tavern was fairly interesting, especially for one who had been brought up as a princess like me. I entered a dim, smokey chamber. The wood panelling on the walls and floors were faded and scuffed, clearly centuries old. Long counters and benches ran down the sides of the room, and at the front was an impressive bar, where patrons were served oily beers, stale, dry, bread, and hot, greasy hunks of mutton for the price of twelve coppers a meal. The only light came from the fireplace in the far corner, the cracked leaded-glass windows, and three monstrous looking wood and iron chandeliers with dying candles. The decoration was sparse; it consisted of an ancient looking marble fireplace, somewhat ***** red muslin curtains, a threadbare blue-gray carpet, and *****, garish portraits of voluptuous females. What was more intriguing than the tavern were the people who were in it. Apart from the slim barmaids, with their tight dresses and heavy makeup, it was mostly men. I was somewhat impressed by the enormous class diversity-wealthy young scions who were visiting from the local boarding school, clean-shaven teenage village boys who were enjoying themselves after a long day of farmwork, old bearded miners, knights in full armor, and even a hooded figure who may have been an assassin. Most were preoccupied with a dancing trio of beautiful Blade Dancers in the center of the chamber, who were being egged on enthusiastically with cheers and wolf-whistles to the music of a few minstrels. A fight had broken out at one end of the room. Apart from the sporadic bursts of jovial music, the room was filled with the dull roar of conversation, laughter, jokes, insults, and threats. All of this hit me like a wall in the first few minutes of my arrival.”
“Overwhelmed, I headed up to the bar, where a rosy-cheeked, straw haired, ***** young man flirted with the girl at the table, and much to my disgust and consternation, she was perfectly open to it. Only after I walked up did she stop paying attention to him.”
“‘Hello, m’lady.’ she said in a bored voice. ‘What d’you want?’”
“‘Um, actually, I have a question.’ I said. ‘Do you know where Mistress Ravenna is?’”
“Suddenly, the whole tavern fell silent, and it was as though the temperature had dropped a few degrees. ‘Why,’ asked the girl, in a voice as cold as ice, ‘Do you want to see that vile witch?’”
“‘Vile witch?!’ I exclaimed. ‘But I was told she was a doctor.’”
“‘Did you not hear, m’lady, what she did to the Sisters. Performed some horrific spell on them and then froze them to ice. And we thought she was a hero!”
“I decided not to mention that in reality it was Mirella and I who had done that. ‘I don’t understand.’ I said. ‘Why would you think she did that?’”
“‘Because she’s a Pure Earth Mage. The last in her family. The people of this town once tolerated her, for her medical expertise, but no longer. The moment the inspectors from King Ezran arrive, we’ll turn her in and beg for forgiveness. We’ve already taken the first step and detained her upstairs.”
“‘Are you sure I can’t see her?’ I inquired, feeling horribly aware that everyone was staring at me. ‘Please, I’m begging you, it’s urgent. My friend’s life is at stake, and I need a healer.’”
“‘Very well.’ A young knight, no older than 18 or 19, stood up. ‘I’ll escort you to the witch’s chamber.’ he declared. ‘After all,’ he added with a glance at my silk dress, ‘A lady should not be in the presence of such danger without male accompaniment.’”
“‘I tried not to roll my eyes as I followed him upstairs. The upper levels were far more clean and opulent than the ground floor. ‘So, my lady,’ he said conversationally as we walked through the halls, ‘What exactly is your story?’”
“‘What’s yours?’ I replied.”
“‘I’m a knight, a Knight of Alambaera. Or at least, I was supposed to be. Yet the current king is too weak to knight me, and King Ezran has no interest in a boy of my class being his knight.’”
“‘What do you mean?’ I asked.”
“I’m a bast.ard child, who was taken in at a young age. Given my ancestry, becoming a knight was always unlikely. However, while the current King of Alambaera has always chosen to prioritize honor and merit over bloodlines, King Ezran is different, and when he assumes the throne…”
“‘I’ve had experience with King Ezran too.’ I admitted. ‘You’re right; he’ll probably have you executed the moment he assumes the Alambaera throne, just as he’ll have me. Your best bet would be to run as far as you can away from his castle and avoid him.’”
“‘But if I do that, I wouldn’t be a knight, would I?’ he said nervously.”
“‘But if you don’t do that, you won’t be alive.’ I responded.”
“‘Look, how would some strange young woman demanding to see a witch know the king anyway?’ he said impatiently.”
“‘I can’t tell you.’ I said. ‘You wouldn’t understand.’”
“We arrived at the room. I thought of telling him to go, but I decided not to. I don’t know why I chose to trust him that day…perhaps it was something in his face that told me exactly where his loyalties lay. The bedroom was elegantly decorated, yet windowless, providing no opportunity for escape. As the young knight, whose name I’d later learn was Gestapo, locked the door behind us, I walked up to the old woman on the bed.”
“Her white hair was wispy and translucent, as was her scrawny frame and ghostly skin. Only in her eyes, which were a brilliant, shining forest green, did she seem truly alive. ‘Tell me, my queen,’ she said in a delicate voice that was barely above a whisper, like a blade of grass trembling in the wind, ‘Why did you deign to visit a vile Earth sorceress such as myself?’”
“‘Queen?’ Gestapo said in alarm. ‘Hold on, there’s only one Queen in the Thirteen Kingdoms…’ His eyes widened with shocked betrayal. ‘You’re King Ezran’s wife?’”
“‘Unfortunately.’ I snapped. ‘And I’m just as likely to die as you are, so don’t even think about telling anyone.’”
“‘Of course I wouldn’t.’ he said. ‘It’s just, that would mean you’re also the Crown Princess of Alambaera, so…’”
“‘So what?’ I said, confused.”
“‘So you can knight me for helping you!’ he exclaimed.”
“I didn’t know what to think. After all, I was quite relieved that he wasn’t going to rat me out to the Guard or Sisterhood. And conducting a simple ceremony would be an easy thing to exchange if it meant an ally in the cold, awful world that Wyrna was. The only issue was that I had no idea how to do it properly, and from what I could tell of Gestapo, he was committed to royal tradition. I supposed I could simply figure it out. ‘Okay.’ I agreed. ‘But right now I need this Pure Mage’s assistance in saving the life of my friend.’”
“‘You claim to be a traitor to King Ezran?’ the sorceress said, with alarm and suspicion.”
“‘Yes. I ran away from him. It’s a long story I can tell you later. But from what I heard, you were a Healer?’”
“‘One of the few who operate out of the Sisterhood’s domain. This meant that I could provide the villagers with life saving treatments without forcing them into a lifetime of debt. I thought this would give me a shield against persecution, but evidently I was wrong.’”
“‘Why would you be persecuted?’ Gestapo asked. ‘I mean, you’re a Mage. Your people have held status and power for centuries.’”
“‘That was before the High Sorceress entered the picture. Twisted Magic was presented as the only true form of spellcasting, and all of the old ways were degraded, considered barbaric witchcraft. We were then hunted down, our teachings banned with punishment of death, purportedly to prevent young sorcerers from diverting from the so-called True Path. Of course, there was a way out of this; accepting Twisted Magic and joining the Sisterhood. Now, for all I know, I’m the last Pure Earth Mage, or maybe even the last Pure Mage left.’ Madame Ravenna’s voice grew choked with emotion. In a calmer, more even tone, she asked me what I needed her help with.”
“I hesitated. If I was to get Mirella proper help, then I needed to tell the truth. But at the same time, that meant admitting that it was our fault she was in this sad situation. ‘What is it?’ Ravenna said.”
“I decided to confess. ‘You know why you’re in this room? You were accused of witchcraft, right. Well, maybe it was kind of our fault all those Sisters died. Yeah. Sorry.’”
“‘You and your friend destroyed nearly 1,000 Sisters?’ Ravenna said in utter shock. ‘How?’”
“‘Well, we didn’t really destroy them. We just refused to cooperate with them, and then they started a kind of…transformation. Into these demon-things that attempted to kill us. Then Mirella froze them with a spell, but the thing is, since it was a twisted spell, it required her to sacrifice her life to perform, and she’s dying right now! But if you could somehow heal her, then we can continue trying to evade Ezran.’”
“‘I’m sorry.’ Ravenna said. ‘But I don’t know if I can save this Mirella girl. A magical sickness is very different from a normal disease…whereas the latter can be cured and studied through simple science, the former operates under rather different laws and codes, and is fraught with contradictions and anomalies that defy logic. I’ll see what I can do. But first, you two need to break me out of here.’”
“Long story short, within ten minutes a trio that passerby would assume was an old noblewoman, her maid, and her personal guard had exited the tavern. We hurried through the town before our ruse could be discovered, and after a short hike the three of us entered the cave.”
“‘Cateline?’ Mirella murmured. ‘Is that you, love?’”
“‘Yes.’ I replied. ‘I’ve brought help; a Healer and a Knight. Mistress Ravenna, what should we do?’”
“‘Time is short.’ the mage whispered. ‘I’m sorry, but I’m an Earth Mage. The magic she used upon the sorceresses was cold. Only fire can melt the ice.’”
“‘There has to be something you can do!’ I cried. ‘Please, I’m begging you.’”
“‘I don’t know!’ Mistress Ravenna snapped. ‘I was what, 14 or 15 when the Sisters destroyed the School of Earth Magic?! My expertise isn’t at that level yet. The most I can do is give your friend a little more time.’”
\ “‘Cate, it’s okay. I knew what I was doing. At least you’ll be alive.’ Mirella said gently.”
“‘No! I won’t accept this!’ I screamed.”
“Eventually, after a few more minutes, I reluctantly accepted the plan-as Mistress Ravenna and Gestapo left to find the necessary herbs and plants, I tended to Mirella.”
“‘Finally, it’s just me and you.’ she mumbled, after the other two had left. ‘Listen Cate, there’s something I need to tell you. The real reason I ran off was because I found out that my mother…she is…’ Mirella burst into a fit of coughs. ‘Berengaria is not my mother, or at least, not my biological mother. You see, my real mother is…’ She began coughing violently again.”
“‘Sleep.’ I said softly. ‘Please.’”
“After a few hours, Mistress Ravenna and Gestapo came back with the ingredients and began brewing a potion. Though it smelled foul and according to Mirella, tasted even fouler, it at least brought a little bit of color back into her cheeks. I left the cave only once, to gather a few more roots for the potion, and though the rain was pouring and the wind was howling, it was nothing compared to the storm inside. According to the old sorceress, she had less than an hour at most. How could it all have gone so wrong?”
“‘Mirella, I’m so, so, sorry.’ I confessed. ‘If I hadn’t agreed to meet with you that first night, none of this would have happened.’”
“‘Don’t be an idiot.’ she snapped. Her gaze softened. ‘I don’t want you blaming yourself for my decisions. Let’s just…talk.’”
“‘Fine.’ I relented. ‘So, you mentioned your mother. What was she like?’”
“‘She was one of the most amazing people in Wyrna. I know other people saw her as a nasty old witch, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.’ Mirella smiled softly. But then her face darkened. ‘Cateline, there’s something I need to tell you. You cannot stay in Wyrna. It isn’t in your blood. I’ve told you, haven’t I, about other worlds? The reason I ran away, and brought you with me, is because the time has come for us to leave these worlds. Tell me, have you ever read a fairytale?’”
“Now, in our world, fairytales come from the Scribes, a mystic, ancestral order that predated the kingdoms. Every year, they would receive storybooks, which they would then copy and distribute across all of Wyrna. Though only the Scribes, the High Sorceress, and King Ezran knew where the books came from, after the rise of the Sisterhood they had begun to be suppressed. Still, I had gotten my hands on a few copies from time to time. ‘Of course!’ I replied. ‘But what does that have to do with anything?’”
“‘I am a Sader. You probably have no idea what that means, and you never will. However, during the past few months, I have managed to undergo…training. Everything I am about to tell you is completely true. Where do I begin…?’”
“‘All of the fairytales you have ever read take place in the same world, a world known to those who live in it as the Endless Woods. This world is real, and the stories that you’ve read occured in it and are a part of its history. Once upon a time, Wyrna was a part of this world. However, due to the crimes of our ancestors, we were cast out, our only link being the stories you read.’”
“Although what she was claiming seemed utterly preposterous, I decided to play along. ‘What crimes?’ I asked.”
“‘Those tales are written by a pen they call the Storian. For centuries, there had been debate about who controlled whom. The people of Wyrna were proud, strong, and independent. They were not content to live humbly under the Pen’s rule. So the Three Seers, in anger over our defiance and rebellion, and fear that our attitude would corrupt the rest of the Woods, had us exiled to a far off realm, where us Wyrnians would dwell until we learned our lesson. In order to aid in that, the Scribes were put in place, so that we could learn of the latest fairy tales in the Woods, which would hopefully educate us on the laws of Good and Evil. However, the time for the reunion of our worlds is close.’”
“‘How close?’ Mistress Ravenna had returned with Gestapo, and she was gazing at Mirella with chilling intensity, as though she truly believed what she was saying.”
“‘After nearly 2000 years apart, a couple more decades is not too long of a wait. Though we are separated by nearly insurmountable boundaries erected by the Seers, the bond of our common fairytale blood makes it possible to cross over. That is what you must do.’”
“‘But how?’ I cried. ‘How am I supposed to go find this mystery world?’”
“Mirella’s face clouded over with doubt. ‘I don’t know. I need more time.’”
“‘Time?’ Ravenna lambasted with surprising passion. ‘What time? You’re dying, the king is hunting down your girlfriend, Gestapo and I will most likely be hung for our crimes…you don’t have time!’”
“‘I don’t understand.’ Mirella murmured. ‘I was supposed to have time. The spell isn’t going to kill me.’”
“‘You know how much it hurts me to say this,’ I replied, ‘But Mirella, you’re going to die. There’s just no way we can save you!’”
“‘But there is a way.’ she insisted. ‘You save me.’”
“‘How do I save you though? Can you at least tell me that?’ I yelled.”
“‘You know everything you need to know. I told you everything you need to know.’”
“I exhaled slowly. Why not entertain this? What other hope did Mirella have? How was knowledge of fairytale ancestry going to help anyone though?”
“It was during what would have been Mirella’s last moments that it hit me. Within 3 seconds, I had broken the spell and cured Mirella.”
“What did you do?” King Chase asked in confusion.
Princess Cateline smiled softly. She remembered it all now. The thrill of realization, the delighted relief, the sheer joy as she leaned in…
“You say you have grown up in a world of fairytales, Chase. So it will probably be easier for you to figure out. Let me give you a little hint. What do Briar Rose, Snow White, and Beauty and the Beast have in common?”
I love your opening pharagraph.. Your story is beautiful and thrilling and puts me on the edge of my seat. Your writing is absolutely amazing! I love how each part reveals more answers but more questions too! Please write more!
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