The World of Stories and Fables Chapter 4

Katy Abbe, Columnist

Zander was quiet as he led me around the castle. I tried to ask him questions to get him to open up, but he refused to answer in anything other than single sentences. After a bit, I gave up and we continued on in silence.

The hallways he took me through were extravagant. The tiles held a golden, reflective shine, and the marble walls glinted like crystals. Sometimes we passed windows with golden curtains that could have been made by Rumpelstiltskin, and I was able to get a glimpse of the gardens.

“Will I get to see Arthur again?” I asked suddenly after we passed a window with a lovely view of a fountain surrounded by bushes of flowers.

“Of course,” Zander replied, looking down at me curiously. “I’m sure Arthur will be well enough to walk soon, I wouldn’t be surprised if he came looking for you at any moment.” He paused, looking ahead to the end of the hall. I wanted to ask him why he was so sure of that, feeling my cheeks flush as I opened my mouth, but he pointed forwards and added before I could interject anything, “That’s my workshop.”

“It’s a little far away from everything, don’t you think?” I raised an eyebrow.

“It is,” he agreed, a slight smile coming onto his face. “And that’s how I like it.”

Once we reached the door, the smell of mildew and moist soil filled my nose. I glanced down at a puddle of water that was seeping from underneath the damp door and collecting in a slight valley made by a misshapen tile. I wrinkled my nose at the small green bits floating around in the puddle and fought the urge to gag.

“Don’t worry about that, my lady.” Zander said as he pulled a chain of rusty old keys out of one of his pockets. He fluidly slipped a copper and turquoise key into the lock and turned it with a click. “That puddle was from a poorly executed charm.” He explained as he returned his keys to his pocket. “I was trying to create a way to bring clean water to the kitchen, but instead I unearthed an underground spring under my door.” He gave the door a push and held it open for me. “Don’t worry about the green stuff, it won’t harm you. I think…” I gave him a pointed look, and he grinned at me. With a sigh, I peered into the dimly lit room and jumped over the puddle.

The workshop was cold, frightfully cold. I quickly wrapped my arms around my middle and hugged myself tightly. I rubbed my arms and glanced around the room. As my eyes slowly adjusted to the dark, I heard Zander snap and a bright light filled the room. I let out a squeak of pain as the white flash burned my eyes.

“A little warning next time?”  I asked, blinking in an effort to rehydrate my eyes.

“Sorry, my dear, but we are in a bit of a hurry.” He called from the other side of the room. Once I could see again, I scanned the messy stone room and found Zander shuffling through papers on his desk. I made my way over to him, stepping over piles of papers and books that lay strewn across the floor. The room was cone-shaped, with a spiraling staircase that followed its perimeter. I craned my neck to get a better look at the top of the stairs, but was unable to, for they continued on to the dark heights of the room. There was a tap on the desk and I met Zander’s gaze.

“Are you ready, Lady Artemis?” He asked, raising an eyebrow as he gathered a few papers and straightened them out.

“Yes.” I jogged over to his desk, quickly taking in all the glass figures on the desk and the papers. One paper especially caught my eye; it had a spell that could supposedly turn anything to glass. Underneath the spell was a few scribbles of blue ink; some corrected the spell while the rest were notes on how to make glass slippers that were as soft as clouds.

Zander cleared his throat and I whipped my head up. He placed his papers down over the spell for the glass slipper, and picked up a glass flower.

“What was that spell for?” I asked, my gaze flickering from the pile to his dark eyes. He avoided my gaze with a sigh, and shook his head.

“It was a present I made for a dear friend of mine.” He exhaled, his eyes swimming with pain. “I wanted to give her a night to remember…”

“Did you?” I tilted my head, curious. Zander chuckled, rather spitefully and like he was full of regret.

“Yes, I sure did.” He met my gaze, his eyes flashing with determination. “But that night has long since ended. We have work to do.” He held out the flower towards me, and I took it with a frown. “Now, close your eyes and think about the earliest memory you can, and then think behind that.” He instructed as he made his way to the bookcase on the other side of the room. He pulled down a dusty book and started flipping through the thick pages. “Even though you cannot reach your memories, they’re still there. I won’t be able to help you reach them yourself, but the glass forget-me-not can record a few of your memories and hopefully give me enough to work with.”

“Were you in love with her?” I asked, completely ignoring his explanation. He looked up with surprise and I clarified. “Were you in love with the girl with a glass slipper?” Something in his eyes shifted and I could feel his heart drop to his stomach.

“I still do.” He said hoarsely, his voice thick and raw. He cleared it and sent me a glare. “Now, do you want me to help you or not? Because if you’re just going to be asking me questions, we’re going to have a problem.” I nodded, satisfied for the moment by his answer.

I observed the flower in my hand. It was small and frail with such a vibrant hue. The petals were so delicately crafted, together, they formed a five point star. The middle was shaped like a mini sun.

I moved the flower gently in my palms, and closed my eyes. I inhaled through the nose and exhaled through the mouth. I thought back to the void. I recalled the dark and emptiness that left me feeling like claws made of ice were gripping at my heart. I winced at the memory, feeling a wave of fear rush over me. I screamed as the claws closed in around me. I thought I heard a voice calling out to me, like they needed me, but I was helpless, unable to make it to them. There was another voice, trying to reach me. The claws tightened, making it hard for me to breathe. I tried to yell, my voice burning in my throat, but I doubted anyone could hear me.

“Artemis!” A new voice called. I felt warm hands on my shoulders and I kicked in fear.

“No! Leave me alone! Leave my friends alone!” I screamed.

“Artemis, it’s me, it’s Zander!” the voice argued as the hands held me still. The ice at my heart ripped away and I opened my eyes with a gasp. Instead of finding myself in the cold dark, I was looking into Zander’s worried pupils. He brushed the hair from my eyes gently and held me steady. “Lady Artemis?” He asked slowly, looking concerned. “Are you alright?” I nodded, realizing how erratic my breathing was. I tried to steady my breath as I responded.

“I- I was in this darkness.” I explained, my voice thin and weak. “Someone needed me, but something was tearing into my chest. There was another too, I think they were trying to help me.” Zander was nodding as I spoke. He slowly slipped his hand into mine and pulled the flower out of my grasp. He then led me to his desk and hand me sit down in his large, cushioned chair.

“Zander, I don’t want that to be a memory, it was just a dream, right?” I continued as he walked towards his books. “It was just a nightmare- a horrible nightmare?”

“We’ll see soon enough.” Zander said softly, looking from his book to the glittering glass flower. “Just take a moment to compose yourself, Artemis, you’re as pale as the moon.” I nodded, leaning back in the chair. My heart was drumming and I felt sick from fright. To distract myself from the fear, I looked at the books and papers on Zander’s desk. My heart rate slowed as I preoccupied myself with all the glass figurines scattered about the papers. For some reason, I comforted myself by thinking that he had made the figurines for the girl with the glass slipper. Unlikely, but it did help me to relax.

Suddenly, a knock came at the door, and Zander called for them to come in without looking up from his work. I watched the door squeak open and felt my heart stop with surprise as Arthur jumped into the room, who was eying the green slime wearily.

“Arthur, good to see you,” Zander mumbled without looking up as the knight entered the room. Arthur was wearing a bloodied bandage around his arm, and a few of his scrapes were covered. The dried blood had been washed off, and he seemed cleaner and more alert, his bright blue eyes darting to mine with energy to spare. “Why don’t you go see Lady Artemis, she could use a bit of comfort.” Zander added.

“Are you alright?” Arthur asked me, wandering over the books and papers. I nodded, feeling my cheeks heat up.

“Yeah, I’m ok.” I forced out with a smile. “How are you feeling?”

“Perfectly fine.” He smiled gently. “All thanks to you.” I grinned, feeling the warmth from his smile wash over me.

“So, what have we found out about you so far?” He asked, leaning against the desk with his arms crossed. I told him about the flower and how it was supposed to track my memories, and how Zander was looking at it already. I left out my nightmare and asked him if Kay had gotten back with his horse. Arthur said that he had and that Kay was already back on his patrol, and that his horse was healing in the stables. I was about to ask him if he had seen Chase when Zander let out a frustrated noise.

“Oh God. Artemis, Arthur,” he called, his voice agitated. “You both need to come see this.”