Sunday, November 15, 2009

Chapter Sixty-One

A raven flies clumsily over the forest of tangled thorns. It is missing one of its main feathers, so it dips and falls erratically. But it speeds ever faster toward the castle atop the Forbidden Mountain.

Here is the home of the uninvited enchantress. Here the Queen will find her answer.

After an eternity of walking, it takes her only moments to reach the castle, dark and cold.

Its many windows are pristinely colored and depict images from long, long ago. The glass, were it not made from magic, would have been an extravagant fortune.

Quickly, she circles the countless towers and turrets. Precious time is wasted looking for an entrance - the spell, devoid of blood or flesh, will not last long - but perhaps a dark force looks out for the Queen, or perhaps the castle wants her inside, for she finally finds an open window and flies in toward her destiny.

Surprisingly, it is not dark within the castle. Torches pulse faintly with an otherworldly glow. Fairy lights, they call them, and they are said to lead travelers toward their doom.

She flies as best she can, bumping against the ceiling numerous times, but it is better than being snatched down by an errant claw. Who knows how many of the creatures are trapped in here? And she feels fortunate, though ever more cautious, that there are no closed doors - they have all been smashed down.

And so the Queen flies, searching for items of magic. They are everywhere in this castle, for everything has been created by the Dark Fairy, but they are as worthless to her cause as the torches.

Rooms of torture. Rooms of pleasure. Rooms filled with the skins of monsters, stuffed into fearful poses. A gallery of stone figures - would-be heroes caught cowering or standing defiant, all dead. A pastoral garden, indoors, the plants still plump and smiling, despite no water or sunlight.

And at last, a room of blackness, dark and dreary, except for a large red book. It glows and pulses with a strange heartbeat. It is alive, and waits to be read once more.

Its power causes the Queen to break into a sweat, though she doesn’t know birds could do such a thing. Without realizing it, her enchantment has worn off, snuffed out by the power of the Grimoire.

Trembling, she dares not touch it, for it is open to a spell... the final spell cast by the Dark Fairy. Its pages glow and thrum. Blood flows through them. The letters glisten and squirm - they were written in something more ageless than ink.

And though the language is none spoken on this mortal realm, the Queen reads it with practiced eyes. She unconsciously mouths the words with an unknowable hunger. Her lungs fill with the breath of magic.

This is the Curse of Living Death, the spell that gave life to that which is dead, a spell of creation, a spell of oblivion, a spell of destruction.

The Queen could never know why the Dark Fairy cast it, whether it was some minor spite for a forgotten festival invitation, or the scorned affections of a pure-hearted mortal, or whether she merely wanted to corrupt death itself. But she did something that none could do, that none should do, and the worlds fell.

Enchanted by the aroma of power, the Queen takes hold of the pages. In this Grimoire are so many spells, one must surely hold the answer. It is not of human creation - it comes from beyond time.

She barely notices the blood draining from her hands as she touches the pages. It is a small and worthwhile sacrifice, her blood for the Grimoire’s knowledge.

And the Queen is nothing compared to these spells. She, a mere mortal, who fancied herself a sorceress. And her own spellbook, priceless and unique in the world, is nothing compared to what the Grimoire contains.

The rapture of knowledge, the beauty of the sacrifice, the words that can change the world - she thanks the dark forces for choosing her to see such truths.

Instantly, she knows the Dwarf lied to her - that his bite wasn’t cursed, that she herself was never dying. But it doesn’t matter.

And for the first time in her life, the Queen feels humbled that she was chosen. Her half-mad companion, for all her inbred idiocy, was something inhuman, something from the realms of magic and so deserved this sight more than the Queen.

But she fell, and it was the Queen who was chosen.

Such spells, so many ways to change this world, which is nothing, really. Nor even the worlds beyond. They are nothing, they are pages to be written upon, or clay to be sculpted - such power these beings have!

The plague of death is nothing. It isn’t life from a corpse, it is a living puppet, it is a cough in the night, it can be fixed and changed as surely as she can make an image disappear from a mirror by covering it with a cloth.

The power courses through the Queen’s soul. The Grimoire drinks thirstily from her fingertips, and she finally listens with her ears, her weak, useless ears, nothing compared to a rabbit’s or a dog’s, but she hears the scratchings on the floor.

And she finally realizes she is not alone.

She turns, and while touching the Book she can see everything – the chamber is as brightest day, and she sees through the great and mighty dragon for what it truly is: the Uninvited Enchantress.

And the Dark Fairy is long dead, her insides chewed, the scales eaten through. An act of childbirth that brought her death. She is the mother from whom the dead first found life. And yet she is alive, she is a plaything of the Spell, she is one of the cursed.

When the Spell went wrong, and the Spell must have gone wrong, her final act had been to transform into this creature. Trapping herself in the Room of Magic, she fought her children, her creations. And inevitably, she died.

To wait, hungry and patient, and, without knowing it, to protect the Grimoire from any interruption.

And now comes an insect, weaker than a dog or rabbit, already her soul is being fed to the Grimoire, but the Dragon, the Enchantress, may feed upon the flesh.

Too late, the Queen sees how the Grimoire protects itself, and still she will not let go, she wants to sacrifice herself, she wants it to drink her blood, she wants the wisdom of death, and it never bothers her, it’s such a paltry little thought, that her body is already dead.


Disney Zombies will conclude with Part III on Sunday, January 3, 2010.