The Backstreet Nutcracker

It was a calm, cold evening of Christmas Eve. Everyone around was excited about the coming day and was celebrating with parties. Especially the Carters. Their home held many family members. Uncles, Aunts, cousins, and grandparents. The head of the household was Robert with his wife Jane. They had two children. Kari was sixteen and Aaron was thirteen. All of them were dressed in their very best. The men in suits and the women in their finest evening gowns.

"Mother, has everyone arrived yet?" asked Aaron, eyeing the presents below the tree.

"I'm not sure dear. Robert, has everyone come yet?" Jane asked her husband. Robert thought for a moment. He then snapped his fingers as if to remember.

"Of course not. The favorite of the parties has not arrived yet. You'll just have to wait until then son." he laughed. Kari knew exactly who they were talking about. It was their great uncle Kevinmeyer. Kari loved him most of all because of his jokes and magic tricks.

"But Father! He is always late!" Aaron whined as they entered the grand living room. Everyone around them was chatting and the children were playing games. In the middle was a 9 foot tall tree with ornaments and candles on it's branches. On the very top was a beautiful gold star. Beneath it were piles of gifts for all.

"Oh pipe down." Kari hissed. Suddenly, the doors flew open and many of the candles blew out in the wind.

"What in the world?" one of the guest replied. In the doorway was a tall, caped figure. He was wearing a top hat and appeared to be carrying something. Kari knew who it was immediately.

"Uncle Kevinmeyer!" she yelled with glee as she ran to give him a hug. Robert also ran over to close the doors. Uncle Kevinmeyer gave a great smile.

"Merry Christmas my dear Kari." he said. He looked around at the guests that had returned to their chatter.

"Yea! Now that he is here, we can open our gifts!" Aaron cried. Before anyone could stop him, he rushed under the tree and began to rummage through the gifts.

"Aaron! Uncle Kevinmeyer hasn't even taken off his cloak yet! How can you be so rude?" Jane said with disgust. Aaron didn't even slow down. Jane just let out a sigh and took Uncle Kevinmeyers cloak to go hang it up.

"I'm sorry for my brothers rudeness Uncle." Kari said. Uncle Kevinmeyer just shook his head.

"Boys will be boys my dear Kari. Let him do this while he is still young." he laughed. Soon, everyone had a gift in their hands. Aaron had already torn through his. He had gotten some toy soldiers. Kari opened hers more slowly and saw she had gotten a dress and hair supplies. Aaron looked under the tree to check if he missed anything.

"Darn! Nothing else." he said. Uncle Kevinmeyer laughed.

"Not quite." he said. He reached into his overcoat and pulled out two more gifts. A long box for Kari, and a fat one for Aaron. Aaron snatched his and ripped it open in less than sixty seconds. It was a special case to keep all of his soldiers.

"Thank you Uncle." he said, looking at is in awe. He then set it down and looked up at Kari. "Opens yours now." he smiled. Kari sat down and began to carefully take the paper off.

"Really Uncle, you didn't need to get them anything." Robert said. Uncle Kevinmeyer held up his hand.

"I wanted too. I thought it would be a nice gesture." he answered. Kari finally got the paper off only to find a box. She took the cover off and gasped at what she saw.

"It's, it's beautiful Uncle Kevinmeyer!" she smiled. Inside was a wooden nutcracker. With the legs painted black and the torso painted red and gold. It's wooden hair was a light blond color and was very short. On his head was a blue hat. What amazed Kari most was his face. It had the painted features, a beard and mustache, and it's eyes were a light blue. Kari loved this gift most off all.

"Well, isn't that charming?" Jane said. Kari took it out of the box and looked it over. Not one single flaw. Not even any paint missing.

"You like it?" Uncle Kevinmeyer asked. Kari couldn't speak, just nodded. She couldn't stop starring at it. She had never gotten anything so beautiful. Finally, she looked up.

"Thank you Uncle. It is a wonderful gift." she said, giving him a hug.

"I knew you'd like it Kari. A very special gift for a special young lady." he whispered. Suddenly, Aaron grabbed it out of her hands. Kari tried to get it back but Aaron ran with it.

"Give that back! It was given to me!" she said with anger. Aaron just stuck his tongue out and ran behind their cousin Bethanie.

"What's going on?" she asked. Kari watched Aaron taunt her.

"Grab him Beth! Before he can do any damage!" she yelled, but it was too late. Aaron had taken the left arm of the nutcracker and pulled it clean off. He then threw it too the floor and ran away laughing.

"Aaron! How could you?" Jane said. Kari ran over and picked up the pieces of her broken nutcracker. Bethanie tried to console her but it was no help. This was the first great gift in a long time, and her brother had to go and break it.

"Oh Uncle, i'm so sorry." she cried. She hugged the pieces of the nutcracker close, as if to protect the wooden doll.

"There there my dear. It is an easy fix. We'll just place the arm back in, no problem. We'll even place some cloth around it. It will be as good as new." said Robert. He took the doll from Kari and walked into the kitchen area. She was so angry at Aaron, but there was nothing she could do. Her one true gift was ruined.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Later that night, all of the guests had retired and gone home. Kari and Aaron had been sent to bed and the last guest was about to leave. Kari still hadn't forgiven Aaron for what he did. She ahd to leave the poor injured nutcracker under the tree, his arm in a sling.

"Stupid brother of mine." she whispered as she drifted off to sleep. Suddenly, she was awake by a soft clattering noise in the living room. Kari sat up and looked at her clock. It was almost midnight. She had been asleep for almost two hours.

"What could that be?" she whispered. She tried to get back to sleep, but she heard it again. That's when she pulled herself out of bed, put on her slippers and began to walk downstairs.

"There is nothing down there. You are making a fool out of yourself." she said to herself. She then heard the noise again, but louder. Can no one else hear it? She slowly waked down the stairs and into the living room that was still lit by the tree.

"See, nothing. I must be very tired." she said. She turned to go, when she heard it again. This time it was follow by the sound of little feet moving across the floor. She turned around again to find nothing.

"Mice. That's what it is. Mice." she reassured herself. She turned to leave again when she gasped at a tall figure before her. It was her Uncle Kevinmeyer.

"Uncle, I thought you left." she said, holding a hand over her heart. Uncle Kevinmeyer said nothing. He just pointed at the grandfather clock in the corner of the room just as it tolled midnight.

"'Tis the night" he said. Before Kari could ask him anymore, he had disappeared right in front of her eyes. Now, she was even more frightened than before. The sound had returned, only it was louder and didn't stop.

"What is going on here?" she yelled. But no one heard her. Suddenly, it seemed the millions of glowing eyes looked at her. She looked around to see that she had been right about the mice, but these mice looked different. They looked like little soldiers and had been surrounding the tree. That is when a huge, ugly rat stepped out into the middle. He was wearing a crown with a bit of fur sticking out and was holding a septar.

"This is too weird." Kari said. Suddenly, the rat held up the septar and appeared to be saying something. It was too soft to make out.

"That's it, i'm out of here." Kari whispered. She took one step before stopping again. The world around her seemed to grow larger and larger around her. She looked down to see the floor coming at her. Her body was shrinking in size. It soon stopped and she turned around. The rat that she had seen was now taller that she was and was very ugly. It sneered at her.

"Welcome to our world, girl. I hope you like it." It said. Kari was astonished. A rat was speaking to her.

"What is going on?" she asked. The rat was about to answer when he got this very angry look on his face. Kari turned around to see someone else was there. Her nutcracker had come to life! Behind it was the army of toy soldiers Aaron had gotten. All of them were very much alive.

"You! I thought you were dead!" the rat bellowed. The nutcracker just smiled back.

"You thought wrong. Release the girl and you won't suffer a gruesome fate." he said with a strong voice. The rat kings army was ready for battle, as well as the toy soldiers. The rat pulled out his sword.

"Never! Charge!" it yelled. The army of mice rat forward. The nutcracker drew his sword and charged his army as well. Kari ran for her life and hid behind one of the packages under the tree.

"This is just a dream. A horrible, horrible dream." she kept repeating. The fighting that she could see was brutal. Mice were being thrown about, toy soldiers ripped apart. In the middle, Kari could see the rat king and the nutcracker in battle.

"You've sunk to a new low rat! Kidnapping an innocent girl." the nutcracker said before dodging the sword.

"That boy should have torn you limb from limb!" the rat hissed. Kari could see that the nutcracker's arm was still in the little sling. Suddenly, the rat gave a mighty swing and the nutcracker's sword went flying. It landed just in front of Kari. The rat king kicked the nutcracker down and held the sword to his neck.

"It ends tonight Nutcracker!" he laughed. Kari knew what she had to do. She grabbed the sword and ran at the rat king. He looked up just in time to see the butt of the sword before it smacked him in the head. He was knocked out cold and he fell to the ground.

"Take that." Kari said, dropping the sword and crossing her arms. The fighting was over. The mice quickly ran over and grabbed their king. They then pulled him across the floor and into a small hole in the wall. The room was empty. The nutcracker soon pulled himself up and placed the sword back into his belt.

"Thank you." he said. Kari blushed a bit.

"Would you mind explaining to me what is going on?" she asked. The nutcracker didn't answer. he just began to walk toward the hole the mice left through. "Excuse me!" she said again. The nutcracker turned to her.

"We have follow them. Once there, I will explain everything." he said. He turned again, but Kari stopped him.

"Wait a second. What do you mean 'we'?" she asked. The nutcracker sighed.

"The only way to change you back is to destroy the septar. Now come on." he said. He began to walk again. Before he entered the hole, he turned back again to see she hadn't followed. "Do you want to be this size forever?" he asked. Kari looked down.

"Of course not. I'm coming." she answered. She ran to his side, and together they entered the black hole.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

After what seemed like forever, they left the hole into bright daylight. Kari had to block the sun from her eyes.

"Where are we? It can't be morning already." she asked.

"This is my home. The days and nights are different here than in your home. But the kingdom has been thrusted into a dark period for a while now." he said. Kari suddenly became very curious.

"And why is that?" she asked. The Nutcracker was pleased by her questions.

"The evil king you saw in your home just now was the Evil Justin. He killed the real king and took over. No one in the kingdom likes him except for the other rodents around here. He has four other spies for him. Christopher, Lancen, J.C., and Joseph. Together, they keep the people in terror." he explained.

"Didn't the king have anyone to help him?" Kari asked.

"He did. A son by the name of Prince Brian. Rumor has it that he ran the second the rats struck. he hasn't been seen in the kingdom ever since." he said. Kari had no choice but to believe every word he said. This night had already been very weird.

"Well, lets go. My Uncle said something to me. Something like, 'Tis the night. Maybe it means that I have to help you fight for the kingdom." she said, hopefully. The nutcracker looked at her.

"I hope you are right. Now come, we have much walking to do to reach the kingdom." he said. They began to walk along a snowy path that lead past a few houses. Soon, Kari's feet were frozen beyond reason. Remember, all she was wearing was her slippers. Up ahead, the nutcracker stopped. Kari looked to see that there were three teenage boys having a snowball fight.

"Get down!" The nutcracker whispered. He pulled Kari behind a snow bank.

"Why are we hiding?" she asked.

"I don't want to be spotted. How would you react to a nutcracker walking around and talking?" he asked her.

"I was a little scared, but don't you think they are use to strange things happening? I mean, you have rat as your king." she replied. The nutcracker thought for a moment.

"Excellent point." he said. He stood up and then helped Kari to her feet. Right when they stepped out from behind the snow bank, a snowball came flying at them and knocked the nutcrackers hat off. The three teenage boys came running up.

"Sorry about that." the long haired one said. He bent down and picked the hat up. He then handed it to the nutcracker.

"That's alright. Someone has very good aim." he smiled, place it back onto his head. The older boy stuck out his hand. The nutcracker shook it.

"I'm Howard, but my friends call me Howie. These two behind me are Alexander James and Nick." he introduced. Kari just smiled at them.

"Please to meet you all, but we are on a mission. We have to vanquish the king in order to change Kari back to normal." the nutcracker said.

"You are? That is wonderful! It is about time someone came to get rid of that king. He has taken all of our parents into the prisons. This wouldn't have happened if Prince Brian would have fought for his kingdom." sneered Alexander James. The other two agreed with him.

"That Prince is nothing but a coward!" said Howie. The nutcracker cleared his throat.

"That is all very nice, but we best be going." said Kari. She began to walk again, but almost fell on her frozen feet. Nick caught her before she hit the ground.

"Whoa there! You can't travel like that! Come with me. We have a few horses you can use." said Alexander James. They all followed him to a stable in the back. Inside were three horses.

"You two can take the white one and the tawny one. They are very friendly and are good with strangers." said Howie. Him and Nick lead the two horses to Kari and the nutcracker. The nutcracker climbed on while Kari was helped by Alexander James.

"Clarence and Tiko know the way." said Nick.

"That will be just fine. Tell me, how many hours until sunset?" asked the nutcracker. Howie looked to the sky.

"Maybe about two hours. Don't worry though, there is an abandoned cottage one the way. You can stop there for the night. Also, if anything happens, there is a doorway to a room next to the fireplace. It is hidden in the wall." he answered.

"That will be just fine. We best be going now, thank you for your kindness." said the nutcracker. Off the two went down the path, with the three boys waving at them from behind.

"I can't believe people hate the Prince so much." Kari said as they crossed a bridge.

"There are many things great that the Prince did do, but now with the rat king in rule, they can't see them anymore." he answered.

"How do you know the Prince so well?" she asked. The nutcracker didn't answer. They rode on for about an hour and a half more before coming to the cottage the boys had talked about. They tied the horses up outside and walked in. Inside Kari built a fire, but nutcracker made sure not to get to close. Fire isn't that good when you are made of wood. As night fell, the nutcracker was strangely silent. Kari got up and sat next to him.

"Are you alright?" she asked. He gave a little nod.

"I'm fine. I just have many things on my mind." he whispered.

"That is very understandable for you......Prince Brian." she said. The nutcracker looked up to see her smiling back at him. He let out a sigh.

"So you figured it out. Yes, I am the so called traitor of the kingdom." he said.

"It isn't your fault! Why haven't you told anyone?" she said with a raised tone.

"I was put under this spell and then froze in time. I couldn't do anything. I haven't had the chance to tell anyone. Either way, they wouldn't believe me." he said, with tears in his eyes. Kari moved in closer to him.

"I believe you." she said. Prince Brian looked at her. Nothing else was said between them, but outside someone did say something. It was The evil king Justin's spy Christopher. He laughed in a high pitch tone.

"Wait until the king hears this! Prince Brian has returned!" he cackled. And with that, he was gone.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

In the castle of the evil rat king Justin, the king was tending to the wound the young girl inflicted on him during battle.

"How could I, the most powerful figure in the land, be defeated by a girl?" he asked his servant Lancen. Lancen continued putting a bandage on the kings head.

"It really wasn't her that defeated you Sire. It was the nutcrackers sword....I mean, Prince Brian's sword." he answered. The king was ready to punch him.

"And how did the Prince escape into the world? He was suppose to be burned along with the rest of them." he hissed. Lancen backed up a bit.

"It was all Joseph's fault my lord! He went chasing after something and the Prince got away." he squeaked. The King suddenly changed his mind when Christopher came rushing in.

"Sire! News from the far country!" he exclaimed. King Justin just drummed his claws on the table next to him.

"What is it?" he barked. Christopher stopped to catch his breathe for a second before straightening up.

"Prince Brian has returned Sire! He has brought the girl with him! He is on his way to fight and defeat you, my lord!" he babbled. King Justin let out a growl.

"Oh, they are, are they? We'll just see about that. Tell me, where are they hiding?" he asked.

"In the abandoned cottage on the outskirts Sire! They are resting there before setting off on their two horses." Christopher said. King Justin smiled evilly and let out a laugh.

"Excellent. Guards!" he yelled. Several mice ran into the throne room with swords and spears. King Justin cleared his throat. "All of you will go to the old cottage in the woods. The nutcracker is there and you shall seize him. Make sure you get the girl too." he ordered. With that, the mice marched out in search of the innocent nutcracker and the girl.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It was still a bit dark when the nutcracker looked out of the window to see the troops coming at them. He let out a gasp.

"Kari, you have to go now!" he said, turning to her. She had a look of shock on her face.

"Why? What's going on now?" she asked. The nutcracker pointed out of the window. Kari could see the troops marching closer. "Oh dear!" she exclaimed. The nutcracker grabbed her arm and pulled her away from the window. He then proceeded next to the fireplace and hit the wall. Sure enough, a piece of the wood popped up and a door knob appeared.

"You will be safe in here." he said as he pulled the door open. He guided Kari in.

"Wait, what about you?" she said with concern.

"Don't worry about me. I'll be fine." he answered. Before she could say another word, he shut the door. There she sat, waiting the in dark.

"Uncle Kevinmeyer gave me this nutcracker for a reason. He had to have known he was Prince Brian." she thought to herself. Suddenly, she could hear the front door being thrown open and several footsteps inside. It didn't sound like the nutcracker was putting up much of a fight.

"I will go willingly if you promise that you will cease looking for the girl." she could hear him say. She stifled a gasp. He was risking his own life to save hers.

"No! Prince Brian, please don't!" she screamed inside of her head, but did nothing. She was frozen in her spot. She stayed there even after she heard the door open once again, the footsteps go out and the door shut once more. Finally, she peaked out to find herself alone.

"He saved my life, I need to do the same for him!" she declared. She ran outside to where the horses were tied. Each was still there. She untied them both and climbed on top of the tawny one.

"Let's go!" she ordered the horse. As if he was sensing her urgency, he began to run in the direction of the kingdom, and where the Prince was being held.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Kari stopped just before reaching the castle. Getting into it was going to be hard enough. She left the tawny horse and began to walk through the town. Careful, as not to be seen by any of the guards. She could see several of the mice chatting with each other, as if nothing was wrong. When she saw one coming toward her, she quickly dodged behind a fruit cart. The mouse stopped just in front of it, to talk to another guard.

"Did you hear the news?" it said. Kari listened very carefully to get the full details.

"Yes, the nutcracker has been caught. The king has excellent plans for him." the other one answered. Both of them let out a laugh.

"Oh really? Did you hear what they might be?" The first one asked.

"They are bring all of the townspeople in to witness it's burning. It should be much fun." the second one said. Kari's eyes went wide. Soon, the two mice went off together.

"Oh no! Burning!" Kari whispered to herself. She was about to come out of the hiding spot, when she heard some more voices coming her way. She dropped down again. This time, the guards had returned with several people from the village. All of them marched along unhappily. Suddenly, Kari saw three familiar faces.

"This should be much fun, being stuck in a line to watch something or other!" she could hear Nick grumbled. She then saw the Alexander James was much closer to her.

"Pssst! Alexander!" she whispered. Alexander James looked around, but did not see her. "I'm down here!" she hissed. He turned to just see the top of her head behind the fruit cart. He looked around to make sure no one was coming and walked over to where she was.

"What are you doing here? You are suppose to be at the cottage!" he whispered.

"I know I am. The nutcracker was taken prisoner! You all are being taken to watch his burning!" she answered. Alexander James had a look of shock on his face.

"We have to do something!" he exclaimed. He was about to stand up when Kari pulled him back down.

"I already have that planned. I just need a way into the castle." she said. Alexander had a puzzled look on his face. Then, an idea dawned on him. He pulled off his long, wool cloak and threw is on her.

"You can hide under this. I know the castle well, so I can tell you when it is safe. Should I tell Nick and Howie?" he asked. Kari shook her head as she pulled the cloak on and put the hood over her head.

"No, it's too dangerous." she answered. Alexander James then helped Kari up and they rejoined the group. Nick and Howie turned to see he had returned.

"Where have you been? And where is your cloak?" Howie demanded. Alexander James didn't even look at Kari.

"Nevermind that, we are almost there." he said. Kari looked up to see the drawbridge of the castle being lowered over the moat. They soon were crossing it when Alexander James leaned into her.

"Once we pass the gate, there is a clear area. Follow the hall and duck down when you reach the center area. Just keep going straight and you'll find the prison." he explained. Kari just nodded. Nick couldn't help noticing this.

"Who are you talking to?" he asked. Alexander James didn't answer him. He kept his head forward and a stern look on his face. The second they passed the gate area, he pushed Kari to the side. It was her time to go it alone.

"Remember what I told you. Save his life." he whispered quickly before walking away.

"Thank you." she said under her breath. She was sure he had not heard her. She began to walk down the hallway in the direction she was told. A few times she had to duck into the shadows to avoid being seen. She soon reached what she thought was the center area. She took the cloak off and laid in on the ground. She then looked out into the sunlit area. It turned out that she was on the second floor, so she could clearly see the giant bonfire in the middle. She could also see the townspeople around it, getting ready to watch.

"Keep going." she urged herself. She got down really low and began to walk along the rail line. She could see Alexander James, Nick, and Howie standing together at the farthest point. She wished she could thank them for their help, but kept going. She soon reached the end straightened up.

"Come on, where are you?" she mumbled. She continued down the long hallway until she reached a door. There was no one guarding it. Kari peered inside to see a torch on the far wall, and someone standing in the corner.

"Prince Brian!" she hissed. The nutcracker looked up and smiled.

"I knew you would come for me." he said. He ran over to the doorway and placed his hands on the bars. "The key is hidden in the wall. If you try, your hand will go right through it." he explained. Kari began to feel along the wall.

"Are you sure?" she asked. He nodded. She continued to look until her hand touched an area that didn't feel like anything was there.

"That's it!" he yelled. Kari pushed her hand through and came back out with the key. She quickly unlocked the door and the nutcracker came out.

"They have gathered all of the townspeople into the center area to witness a burning!" she cried. The nutcrackers eyebrows went down.

"And i'll bet I know what the firewood will be. Come on, time to get revenge." he said through his teeth. He began to run down the hallway, with Kari at his heels. When they reached the center area, the fire was burning very hot and the king was smiling.

"Today is the day you all will remember! Now say it!" he yelled. Several mice poked the people with swords and spears.

"All hail King Justin!" they yelled with no enthusiasm.

"Sing it you slaves! King Justin is your ruler forever!" the one named J.C. proclaimed.

"Not today!" the nutcracker bellowed. All of them looked up at him. Will his sword drawn, the nutcracker jumped down from the second story with Kari in his other arm. He looked madder than he ever was.

"Ah, looks like the firewood has arrived!" King Justin laughed. He raised up his septar and was ready to strike when the nutcracker lunged. They began to fight back and forth, the sword and septar clanging. "You cannot win foolish boy!" the King screamed.

"We can't just stand here!" yelled Howie. "Attack!" all the townspeople began to charge. King Justin pushed the nutcracker away and raise the septar again.

"Freeze!" he cried. All of the townspeople stopped where they were. They could not move an inch. They were frozen solid. The king turned back to the nutcracker. The nutcracker was badly beaten, but didn't give up.

"I won't let you win. You killed my father, now I shall do the same to you!" he growled. With all of his strength, he ran at the king. Yet, it was no use. King Justin let loose a powerful streak of light, hitting the nutcracker at full speed. He was thrown backwards and landed next to the fire. His hands so close, they burned.

"No! Get away from him!" Kari yelled. She then picked up a rock and threw it at the king. It hit him in the spot she had hit before. He turned around, growling.

"Looks to me I didn't make you small enough! Smaller, I say, smaller!" he cried at the top of his lungs. Quickly, Kari grabbed the nutcrackers sword and held it in front of her. Instead of the light hitting her, it hit the sword and bounced off. The king let out a scream as it hit him and made the septar shatter, unfreezing the people.

"No!" he bellowed. Kari watched him shrink away to almost nothing. When it stopped, he looked up at Kari and let out a scream. He then ran to the nearest sewer and jumped down, never to be seen again. The townspeople just laughed at this.

"Back where he belongs!" a young boy yelled out. Kari then ran to the fallen nutcracker. His hands were so badly burnt and soot covered his face.

"We won." she whispered to him and began to cry. He looked up at her with half closed eyes and placed a hand on her cheek.

"Why do you cry for me? I am, after all, just a wooden doll your Uncle gave you." his voice quivered. Kari let out a small sob.

"You are more than that. You are the bravest, most wonderful person I know. You will do anything for your kingdom. Even die for it. You are Prince Brian! The one I love!" she answered. With that, she kissed him on the cheek. The crowd looked on.

"Prince Brian? He has returned?" she could hear people say. Suddenly, the Prince's body was engulfed in a bright, white light. At first Kari thought the fire had spread and the Prince was gone forever. But on a second look, she could see the light was changing him. Finally, the light went away, leaving the very handsome prince behind. Kari approached him with caution.

"Prince Brian?" she asked. He turned toward her.

"Yes Kari. It is really me." he smiled. She almost screamed as she ran into his arms. This time she was crying out of shear joy. When they pulled away, they remembered that others were watching.

"You were Prince Brian the whole time? Why didn't you tell us?" Nick yelled out.

"To tell you the truth, I was having a hard time dealing with myself at that point." Prince Brian answered. He turned back to Kari.

"I guess you can rule your kingdom now." she said with a heavy sigh.

"I guess so." He turned back to the crowd. "If my people will except me back." he smiled. the crowd was silent for about a minute. Then Alexander James, Nick, and Howie stepped forward.

"Long live King Brian!" they yelled together. The crowd began to cheer loudly and chanting: "Long live the king, long live the king!" Prince Brian was very pleased by this. Kari was a little saddened.

"I guess they do want you. That's means i'll probably never see you again." she said as she lowered her head. Prince Brian put a hand under her chin and lift her head.

"Every kingdom needs a Queen. That is the place I wish for you." he said softly. Kari's jaw dropped, she couldn't believe it.

"Really?" she asked. The prince nodded. Suddenly, the ground began to feel like there was an earthquake.

"Kari, wake up! Kari, Kari!" King Brian kept repeating. Suddenly, Kari's eyes jumped open. She could see Brian standing above her, shaking her from her sleep.

"Stop! I'm awake!" she yelled. He stopped, but didn't stop smiling at her.

"Merry Christmas." he laughed. Kari was about ready to kill him. She pulled herself up and a book fell off of her chest. Brian bent down and picked it up.

"The Nutcracker huh?" he said. Kari took it from him.

"Yeah, my mom would read this to me every Christmas Eve. I guess I missed it a little bit." she said.

"Well, then it must have been a good thing that I woke you up! You might have missed everything else!" he smiled.

"Man! I was in the middle of such a great dream too!" She grumbled. Brian hit her with one of her pillows.

"Oh yeah? What was it about?" he asked. Kari opened her mouth to talk, but then closed it again. I was best that he not know that she was dreaming about him falling in love with her.

"Oh, nothing. I don't even remember anymore." she sighed. Brian got up from her bed and began to cross the room.

"Well, come on. Nick just started a killed snowball fight!" he snickered. Kari raised one eyebrow.

"How the heck did he do that? It's almost seventy-five degrees out there? Did he forget we live in Tampa Bay?" she asked, a little skeptical.

"No, he didn't forget. It's amazing what you can do if you buy a slushy machine from an old warehouse!" he answered. He left the room. Kari was about to put the book away when she noticed a page had fallen out. She bent down and picked it up, noticing that there was something different about it. It was the part where Clara and the Prince go riding off into the twilight. Only this time, it looked exactly like her and Brian in her dream.

"It can't be! That couldn't have been real! It just can't!" she gasped. She then heard footsteps at the bottom of the stairs.

"Hey Kari! Are you coming?" she heard Aaron yelled. She put the picture down.

"Coming!" she replied. She ran out the room in a hurry. The whole thing had to have been a dream for her. It couldn't possibly be real. Could it?

THE END