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I stepped forward and looked at my reflection in the waters surrounding the Crocodile Bush and realized that I was looking through Arabella's eyes. I was momentarily freaked out but decided to go with it. I've been thrown in the past before and nothing had happened.
"Arabella, it is time to go," a woman I recognized as Lethe said.
"I don't want to go Aunt Lethe. Why should I leave my home just because father wants me gone!"
"Now, Arabella. It isn't that simple. You know this."
"If we board that ship at the Port, I'll never see the Castle again. This is as much my home as it is his! I was born here. I was raised here," I said, my voice becoming more shrill.
"I know Arabella but.." Lethe started but her words were interrupted as I/Arabella cast a spell on her. She turned to stone holding the Stone Bowl in her outstretched arms.
"I know we are leaving for you as much as for me. There are no guarantees that you will survive if we leave. This way you can survive until I can find a cure. I will cure you Aunt Lethe, I promise," she/I said as tears slipped down her/my cheeks, "I won't lose you. You are the only one I have."
The years passed as she studied all types of witchcraft. I watched through her eyes as her life played out. The harsh words between her and her father. The day she meet Diego and the day her world crumbled. Through it all she kept practicing and learning, crowing more powerful. I did learn that Diego was an Elvyn prince and the blood on his sword she took. I saw her fall for the Snow Imp, Lucius and the argument that lead to him becoming the Ice Monster. She once again took a drop of blood. The courting of her and Hamish was fast and swift and even though I knew it was doomed, I also felt how much she loved him. The blow when he told her he loved another crushed her and also hardened her. I had though that Hamish was mortal but he was a fire wizard and I was not at all surprised when she took a drop of his blood.
The moment she met Kestril, a bard and a banshee, her heart went out to him. They were happy for a time however his death did not happen as the Ice Monster said. Yes, he did find out about Arabella being a witch and he did run. However not away from her but to stop the figure all in black who was behind Arabella. He shouted assassin and the figure fled. Kestril took off after him and met with an untimely end at Ice Rock. Arabella cried her eyes red but she still took a drop of blood from him. While she was grieving for Kestril she devoted herself more and more to her craft. She took to visiting the Gnomes and learning forge craft from them. There she met Jorg, a Knight in the Kings Guard and a master forge crafter. I watched as she sent him away through a veil of tears but not before extracting a drop of blood.
All through the years her one constant companion was a girl her age, Anabel. They talked, shared secrets and became close friends. That all changed when the Iron Knight started to show promise and the fact that he was a werewolf. He was taken with Arabella and he didn't hide the fact. Arabella and Anabel fought for Anabel had always been in love with the Iron Knight. Lethe had it wrong, Arabella did not trick Anabel into drinking the Blood Flow Potion. I saw through Arabella's eyes as Anabel gulped down the potion on her own and smiled coldly at Arabella.
"I will have him now," Anabel laughed, "No matter what you do, he will be mine!"
"Anabel," Arabella called after the retreating Anabel. I felt her collapse and cry bitter tears over losing her best friend.
"Don't go," she cried over and over until her throat was sore. It felt as if the whole Castle was weeping with her.
I felt a tug and knew I was being pulled forward to the present.
"So, you see, I'm not all bad," Arabella said as I was jolted back into the present.
"I saw, I felt but you took their blood."
"Well, yes. They were each powerful and I figured if I could harness their power through their blood that would help me. There are dark forces at work, I've felt it for years," she explained, "I want to be ready when they come a calling."
"I'm sure you do. I," she sighed and sat down, "I just want something constant in my life. You know how many husbands I've went through. I don't really care for the Iron Knight so I figured if we married nothing would happen to him. I didn't know Anabel loved him, she never said. I did think about backing off but then the Iron Knight changed. He suddenly loved Anabel and it made me curious. I never cast anything on him, I promise you that. After a few weeks he would come back to me, professing his love and then a few days poof! Off he would run to Anabel!"
"Does Anabel have any magic in her blood?"
"No! Well, I'm not sure. I would sometimes catch a hint of something but then it would be gone. She seemed almost child like most of the times and sometimes she would be wise beyond her years. I caught her several times pouring over my books but I didn't think much of it."
"Nothing is ever what it seems in this place," I stated with an exasperated sigh and sat down beside the witch.
"No," she said looking over at me, "it never is."
"If you don't love the Iron Knight, why not just let him go?"
"I would, if I thought he truly cared for Anabel. I don't want to see either of them hurt. Besides he already gave me a drop of his blood, freely. So it's not like I need to marry nor do I want him dead if I am cursed."
"Arabella, speaking of curses about Jorg.. I promised him I wouldn't say anything but do you know the punishment for divorce in Gnome culture?"
"No," she said with a shake of her head.
"It's constantly pulling a heavy sack that never comes up. It's really odd," I explained, "but he can never leave his post."
"Oh that's horrible," she cried, "I'll go over and fix that as soon as I can!"
"Good, I always felt sorry for the poor guy," I said with a grimace.
"I can see that. I'll set it right. That isn't fair since he didn't want a divorce. I'll go explain my reasoning and hopefully they will let him off."
I nodded and stood up, "Thank you, Arabella."
"No, thank you," she said sticking out her hand. I took the offered hand and felt the prick of a needle.
"What did you do that for?"
She shrugged, "I collect blood from all the powerful beings in the Castle. There is something about you that is very powerful. Hopefully all the blood I have collected will be enough when that dark force arrives."
"I'm not powerful. I'm not even mystical. I'm just human!"
"Human, no but I have no clue what you are. Won't it be exciting to find out," she smiled.
"Uh, yeah. Sure," I muttered and decided it was time to leave. I dashed through the Dark Tower, passed the Town and stumbled into my small home. I slammed the door and slumped against it.
I'm nothing more than human, I thought. I don't feel powerful. I'm just me! I looked around my house and confirmed that I was just ordinary. I wasn't powerful, was I? Did Arabella sense something? Is that why I was being targeted? Was is it not something I had but what I was? Always more questions! Why can't I just find the blasted answers for once? I'd give anything for just one answer to fall from the sky and into my lap!
"Ahhhhhh," I screamed into the empty house. I was hoping to release all of my frustrations with that one scream but all it did was hurt my throat. Great!
The Tale of the Five Sisters
I was tired from lack of sleep, my finger still hurt from Arabella's little pinprick and my head hurt from all the questions rolling around in my brain. I wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed after drinking a vat a pear cider. That was not to be as I noticed presents sitting under my tree.
"Funny," I said looking around, "Christmas Eve is tomorrow. What are these doing here?"
"Delivery from someone," Elle stated, "They fell from the sky while you were gone."
"Plop, plop, PLOP," Gnolio said while jumping, "Open, open OPEN!"
"Okay," I sighed and proceeded to open the brightly wrapped presents.
The first one was wrapped all in blue and held a few pet medallions. The second was wrapped all in red and held 100 coins. The third was polka dotted and had a zebra stripped ribbon. It held 4 diamonds and a Beast Scratch. The fourth was psychedelic in its wrapping job and held a Bemusing Potion, a Headache, a Celestial Hunter and a Flying Dutchman. NICE! The last package was pink with a blue bow and was rather heavy. I opened it to find a book.
The Five Elemental Sisters by Gary R.R. Martin.
"Uh huh! If he is any relations to other Martin, I'll guess everyone dies and we wait FOREVER for the next book," I said with a grimace.
"Read it to us," Elle suggested.
"Okay," I said and got up to walk over to my over sized chair. I sat down and poured myself a glass of berry cider. My pets all gathered around the chair and watched me expectantly. I took of sip of berry cider and started the book.
"It was a dark and stormy night...."
"No! If it's scary I don't want to listen," Flutter yelled, covering her head with her wings.
"It was a dark and stormy night..." I started again, glaring at the butterfly.
The storm was raging outside as the woman in the small cottage was giving birth. The midwife was worried for the woman was early. She had two more months before she was due. However, like most things birth was unpredictable. The wind roared over the woman's screams as if trying to conceal the fact of what was going on. The steadily pounding rain was dripping through the thatched roof. There wasn't even the light of the moon to work by. It was soft candlelight and warm glow of the fireplace. The midwife feared that soon that would be put out by the rain. She sent her daughter who was working with her out to get her satchel. She knew she would need everything she could get her hands on. It was going to be a long night! A long night, indeed!
The midwife stood back from her work. Her back was stiff and her hands covered in blood. She looked at the mother and knew she would never see her baby girls. The price of giving birth to the beautiful quintuplets was her life. The midwife decided that she would give these girls to her sister. Her sister couldn't have children and always wanted them so this was her chance. There was no one that knew what had went on this night on the outskirts of the Elvyn Forest, just her and her daughter. She was sure her daughter would go along with the plan. The daughter nodded at the mother's explanation agreeing to the whole plot. So they carried the girls over to Rocksville, a small budding town close to the Elvyn Forest but far enough away.
The midwife knocked on her sister's door and presented the girls. The woman, Dionne was overjoyed. Her husband had recently left her for a younger woman but now she had a purpose. These poor orphans were hers and hers alone. She realized that they were almost identical but not quite. There were subtle differences and more showed up over time. She named them Flora, Grace, Haizea, Phoebe and Tamara.
The five sisters grew up happy and healthy on the edge of the Rocksville forest. Flora had brown and green eyes. She loved the forest, plants and the animals there in. Grace had golden hair and brown eyes with golden flecks. She loved to dance and dance but she also loved the water. Haizea had white hair and pale blue eyes. She loved when the wind blew through forest. She said it sounded like singing and so she would sing back. Phoebe had auburn hair and eyes of a storm tossed sky. She was pure and best behaved out of all the sisters. She would sit at the fireplace for hours watching the flames dance. Finally, Tamara! She had hair that was never one color but all and eyes of hazel. She was mischievous, always getting into everything. She loved puzzles, riddles and the endless quests her sisters would send her on.
The day came when they turned eighteen and unbeknownst to them a man in Town had noticed them. He approached Dionne and asked for them all in marriage. Dionne was shocked and refused. The girls came in while she yelling at the man to get out and he swore he would have them all one way or another. Dionne finally had to sit the girls down and tell them the truth. They were all understanding but also refused the offer the man had made. They decided to flee that night but unfortunately didn't get far. The man who wanted them was a powerful wizard and he wanted the elemental powers the girls would wield on the their twenty-first birthday. He saw this all in his Crystal Ball. The future and just how much power they or rather he could have.
Upon seeing the wizard on his horse carrying his magic staff, Dionne told the sisters to flee.
"Run as fast as you can and go in different directions," she yelled!
The girls split but one by one the wizard hunted them down. He found Flora just outside the Elvyn Forest and turned her into the Forest Fairy. He came upon Grace before she could board the airship in Cloud City and turned her into Refined Proportions. He smiled as Haizea came to him at the Dark Tower and turned her into Wind Dance. The lovely Phoebe stumbled upon him at the Castle where she was working as a Chambermaid. He turned her into Feminine Purity. The wizard smiled at his almost complete set. He had three statues and a stone, all he needed was the final sister.
Tamara had stumbled upon a great tree where the City Cemetery is now located. She sat there for years waiting for her sisters. She felt when her sisters were taken for their power had transferred to her. She knew that with the last gone, as she could no longer feel them, that she couldn't stay in this realm. She opened a rift in the tree and headed through it, entering another realm. This realm was so unfamiliar. It had carriages of plastic and steel and little devices that people held to their ears that buzzed, beeped and other strange sounds. It was so unfamiliar to her so she placed a spell on herself to make her forget. She didn't want to, it pained her her to do so. She didn't want to forget her mother, her sister or the little cottage in the woods but she also didn't want the wizard to get his hands on their combined power. So she forgot and waited. She waited and she longed for adventure. She longed for adventure and set out on a journey. She set out on a journey and found her goal. She loved to quest, so she did. She loved to explore, so she did. She traveled all over the foreign world she found herself in that it became her world.
"The only world she remembered," I read from the pages, "until the call of the other realm would pull her back. The end."
I closed the book and realized that all my pets had fallen asleep. I guess it was a rather boring tale to them me. I stifled a yawn. I guess it was pretty boring to me to. Although curiosity got the better of and new I had each of the items listed in my backpack. If there were truly people trapped inside, could I free them? I pulled the items and set them on my table. I turned the Feminine Purity over and over but nothing seemed off. I inspected the Wind Dance, Refined Proportions and the Forest Fairy. They were all beautiful statues but nothing special. It dawned on my that these were probably just replicas and not the originals at all. Ah well, that story was long ago and I would have no clue where to look for the originals. I yawned again and made my way towards the my cot. Tomorrow was another day and I really needed sleep.
Was that tale real or just some made up hooey? What would happen if the five sisters were reunited? Would the lone sister have hold all of their combined power forever? Bleh! Really, why should I care? It was just a story. Right? It was just a story.
I woke up feeling refreshed, rubbed the sleep from eyes and threw back the covers. There was a lot to do today. I wanted to visit all of the markets Nimie had listed. Plus, I had some last minute Christmas gathering to do for my pets and friends. I dressed in hurry, throwing the black hooded cloak over myself and snagged my backpack on the way out of the door.
I made my way down to the Dungeon of the Cursed and pulled the arm of the statue. The hidden door slid open and stepped through. I blinked my eyes several times to let them adjust to the dimness and secured the hood in place with a few hairpins I had found in the Stone Bowl. I wandered around the market finding a few hard to earn trinkets. I picked up several Bracelets of Seeing (only cost me 1k a piece), a few Mortuary Wreaths and a rare Reindeer egg for the Consortium. The Consortium was a helpful lot, they gave out hard to acquire items to those who didn't have the time to sneak into the Castle often. They also helped newcomers to the Castle. I figured the least I could do was send off a few eggs, cards, snowflakes and medallions. I did trade one frail looking fellow a Wreath of Spring for 100 Iris'. Those were hard to come by as well.
I saw Bella walking around the market. She was smiles and she even waved at me before turning to talk to another figure in a black cloak. I didn't think too much about as I had a lot to do today to prepare for tonight. I wanted to make sure I had all of my friends a gift under their tree. I noticed a man skin the color of rich coffee with a small scar on his face. He carried a pistol at his side but his stall was filled with pink gift boxes. I cursed under my breath as I realized I would be a bit short for Christmas Eve tonight.
"How much," I asked, fingering the blue ribbon of one of the boxes.
"I give you 100 for 100,000 gold," he said with a heavy accent I couldn't place.
I cocked my head to the side and glared at him, "That is highway robbery."
"Yes but it beats trying to find them all over the Castle."
"How do you find them?"
"If I revealed my methods, no one would come looking for me," he said with a smirk.
"Fine," I sighed. I handed over the 100k and gave me a sack full of pink boxes.
"These are special. I give only the best boxes," the man said with a wiggle of his eyebrow.
I nodded and hauled the sack over my shoulder. I knew I was going to have to make a pit stop at home before I hit up the other markets.