Sunday, November 8, 2009

Chapter Fifty-Nine

The Lion does not speak. He merely pads away, dignified and slow, from the forlorn castle. Though the windows are full of staring eyes, he refuses to look back. It’s best to remain gracious in defeat, lest he lose control.

“Why wouldn’t they come with us?” asks Pinocchio. He keeps glancing behind and waving.

“The Master is hurt,” says the Clock. It daintily picks its legs through the fallen branches and leaves. “And it’s their duty to remain by his side.”

“Oh,” says the puppet. “But don’t they want to bring your friend back to life?”

“Of course they do,” says the Candelabra. “But... your plan is a hard thing to believe in, you must understand. We’ve witnessed her die. Twice.”

“And hope is a fragile thing,” says the Clock. Its voice takes on a poetic lilt. “Fragile as a rose in the winter.”

“I believe you’re speaking of love,” says the Candelabra.

“No, love would be the sun in this particular metaphor...”

The Lion suppresses the urge to scream.

His plan has failed miserably. Only two agreed to follow him.

A clownish brigade of three soldiers - this is the bloodless army he’s dreamed of leading? A fine enough trio, he thinks with utmost sarcasm, to find his food and protect him from the dead.

And out of this merry band of four, despite being the strongest, the smartest, the master of tooth and claw, he is the only one who is vulnerable.

His thoughts are interrupted by the baritone voice of the Candelabra.

“Monsieur Lion,” it says. “Tell us, how exactly do you intend to revive the Mademoiselle?”

“Yes,” adds the Clock. “You were a bit vague about that part of the plan.”

The Lion remains silent. Being in front, his face remains hidden from the others, so they cannot see his scar darken. He hasn’t yet come up with a suitable lie for this particular question.

“My father can do it,” Pinocchio pipes up suddenly, and once again, the Enchanted Mirror flashes to life with a vision of Gepetto.

“He can?” says the Candelabra. It peeks into the Mirror, and looks less than hopeful at the skinny old man.

“Oh, I know he can!” says Pinocchio. “He brought me to life, didn’t he? He can ask the Blue Fairy, easy, and she’ll help us all. Why, she’ll probably fix everyone!”

The Clock appears unconvinced. “If that’s the case, why hasn’t she done so already?”

Pinocchio considers for a moment. “Maybe she hasn’t thought to. We just have to ask her, and she’ll do it. Why, that must be it! She only helped Father because he wished for it, wished with all his heart.”

The Lion turns to stare at the puppet for a moment. He decides this lie is as good as any, and smiles warmly. “Of course, that’s exactly what I was thinking. Well done, my friend.”

“Now,” says the Candelabra, “we just have to find him.”

“But he could be anywhere,” complains the Clock.

The Lion continues to smile. He is thinking the exact same thing. He can take them anywhere – anywhere he wants - in the search for Gepetto.

“I think I know where he is,” says Pinocchio. “Look.”

He holds up the Enchanted Mirror. It depicts the old man fighting off one of the undead. He smashes a heavy stave upon a crawling, trampled woman.

For a moment, the Lion wonders what the boy is seeing - was she the victim of an elephant stampede? The wounds are familiar, but harder to understand when they are on Man rather than on beast. Is the old man living in the Wildlands?

“Sacre bleu,” says the Candelabra.

And then the Lion sees it. It isn’t how the corpse was killed, it’s why she is crawling.

She has no legs.

Or, rather, in place of legs, she has the tail of a fish.