AN~ Day early because I'm leaving for Georgia tomorrow.
QotU: What's the best thing to have for Easter dinner? Or Passover or whatever you guys celebrate?
Old QotU Winner: emowriter. Totally emowriter. Lots of stuff on her spring to-do list.
Daphne had been in the cell for all of a day when Ms. White came to rescue her.
A day was plenty of time, to be honest. The cell was in the center of the mountain, so it had no windows. In fact, it didn't even technically have a door. The Magicians had hollowed out a place in the middle of their city and transported her there with magic. Magic was also keeping her from running out of air. She wondered what would happen if the spell failed, or if whoever had set it going died.
Daphne had never paid complete attention to this before, but almost all of the rooms in Magica connected to the others, little tunnels leading to the outside. It let in natural light and air, and also opened the place up. She noticed now, though, in the absence of these things. She was breathing stale air, now, and it smelled wet, musty, and like unwashed humans- or maybe that was her.
There was a small light floating near the center of the room, a white ball of glass that gave out a faint but steady glow that just showed her how small and jagged this cell was. It gave off no heat, and this room was full of the cold of something that has never known the sun. Daphne, in a lightweight gown meant for easy motion, not mountain survival, shivered constantly.
There were few other things in the room. One, a small bowl on one of the flatter of the uneven outcroppings in the room, would, three times a day, fill with some sort of soupy substance that tasted like nothing but was very filling and left her both nourished and with her thirst quenched. Another was a chamber pot that, like all others in Magica, emptied automatically after use. The last thing was a pile of moldy blankets. Daphne was just starting to get cold enough that she was willing to use them.
She was dwelling on everything that had gone wrong. She'd just wanted to learn magic. What was wrong with that? She wanted to be able to change things, to be powerful in a way her family wasn't. She'd only wanted to be good at something. And she'd trusted Pinocchio. She'd- by all things holy, she'd fancied him a little bit, and still did, to be honest. She fancied a traitorous not-a-friend who'd ruined everything. This had been her one chance to show she could be a useful sort of Sneak, and now she was stuck in a filthy hole in the center of a mountain for... well, forever, maybe. Sabrina would be so disappointed.
At least there weren't any rats.
... She didn't think there were, anyway. She supposed the Magicians might have teleported a few rats into the cell to make things worse. And there- a scratching noise in the wall off to her right, and oh goodness there were rats now what was she going to do? Those things were disgusting, and she didn't have anywhere she could go to escape them. She couldn't spend the rest of her life trapped in a hole in a rock with rats!
She climbed up onto a ledge at the back of the room, drawing herself into the smallest possible blob and searching for something she could use to smash anything that moved.
There wasn't anything. Unless she tried to smother the thing with a moldy blanket, of course.
The scratching was getting louder. Daphne whimpered and pulled herself even smaller as the noise got louder and louder and rats couldn't be that loud could they? She supposed they could, because that noise just got louder and bigger and closer until-
There was a crash, and a section of the top of the right wall fell into her room, clattering onto the floor and breaking.
"I knew they couldn't have completely gotten rid of the door to the oubliette," a familiar voice- one Daphne hadn't heard in a very long time- said.
Daphne gasped and sat up straight, uncurling in a blur of motion and hitting her head on another outcropping of rock in the process. She whimpered and climbed down more slowly, rubbing her head. She turned to the voice and asked, trembling, "Ms. White?"
Ms. White, who was indeed the person who'd just joined Daphne in the cell, climbed down into the room and smiled at the girl. "Oh, Daphne, I missed you."
Daphne ran over to her favorite teacher and wrapped her arms around her, asking a rush of questions.
"Slow down," Ms. White said. "I have to get you out of here before someone notices. I've got a cloaking spell on, but you haven't. And they're bound to know I broke through their wall."
"Okay," Daphne said, quieting.
Ms. White picked up a pickaxe she'd dropped on the ground when Daphne hugged her and used it to climb her way back up the wall into her tunnel, then she leaned down and pulled Daphne up after her. She turned and began to crawl through her small, mostly straight tunnel, into the dark.
The tunnel wasn't made of rock, Daphne noticed, pulling the split skirt of her dress apart so she could crawl more easily. It was thickly packed clay with rocks mixed in. That explained why Ms. White could work her way through it.
"How did you know where to find me?" Daphne asked. "How did you know I was even here? I only got tried an hour ago. How did you get here this fast?"
"We got an early warning," Snow said. "Another Magica refugee can see the future, and she told me what was going to happen. I left as soon as we found out."
"But how did you find me?" Daphne asked.
"I used to live in Magica City," Ms. White said. "This was the path to the oubliette- the cells we put people in to forget about them. My mother showed them to me. They filled in the visitor's path since I left. Not very well, though."
"I thought oubliettes were very deep pits with grates on top of them," Daphne said.
"Most are," Ms. White agreed. "But Magica likes to be different."
Daphne smiled a little sadly. "I like most of their different."
Ms. White's voice was sad, too, when she said, "So do I. Magica was a wonderful place when I was younger. But then the revolution happened and the little problems got worse, not better. Now everyone's afraid- and when people are afraid, they do things they'll end up regretting."
"Oh," Daphne said quietly, thinking of Pinocchio, and of everyone else she'd met; everyone she'd thought liked her; everyone who hadn't helped her, who'd let her be thrown in prison.
They crawled in silence for several minutes, through the dark, uneven tunnel, until Ms. White said, "We're almost to the end of the tunnel. Daphne- do you know how to do a cloaking spell?"
"No," Daphne said. "Pinocchio was going to teach me, but then-"
Ms. White said, "All right, then-" there was a rustling noise, and a small bag on a coarse string was shoved towards Daphne. "Wear this," Ms. White finished. "It'll keep anyone from seeing you magically. If they actually see you, though, you're in trouble."
"All right," Daphne agreed, pulling the string over her head. "Where are we going after this?"
"The safest way out is down a lot, through the monster hall," Ms. White said. "Nobody will look for us there."
"Why not?" Daphne asked.
"Because it's full of monsters," Ms. White responded.
Daphne stared at the spot of darkness Ms. White's voice was coming from. "And that's the safest way out?"
Ms. White said, "Yes. There are no guards there. With the monsters we have a chance. Any other way, we're dead."
"Oh," Daphne said softly. Then she sat up straight and asked, "But what about the people who came with me? How will they get out?"
"They're already on their way home," Ms. White said. "They didn't do anything wrong, so the Magicians don't want to risk keeping them here. This way they can declare war on Sneak without looking like they're the ones at fault."
"Oh," Daphne said softly. "This whole thing was a setup, wasn't it? They didn't really want a treaty. They just wanted an excuse to start a war."
"Yes," Ms. White agreed. "We should have seen it coming- whispers of war and then a request for a peace talk? It's just too conflicting. But your grandmother hoped-"
"And I messed it up," Daphne whispered, hating herself at that moment.
"No, Daphne, no," Ms. White assured her, putting a hand on her shoulder. "You didn't. You were just the excuse to start things. They'd have latched on to anything to get this going."
"Okay," Daphne said, not sure she agreed entirely. "Let's go, then."
Ms. White began crawling forward again, and Daphne followed, and suddenly she was crawling into a tapestry- how convenient, she thought to herself, wondering if Sneaks were the only people who automatically thought of tapestries as a hiding place, or if the Magicians might get suspicious as well. They certainly didn't seem suspicious of the space behind the hanging of a ship on the ocean, the words New Hope emblazoned on it in gold thread.
Daphne was going to say something, but she remembered just in time that they were supposed to be sneaking and clamped her mouth shut firmly, following Ms. White as silently as she could. She was all too aware that she wasn't a very good Sneak.
They wound their way down through the mountain, staying away from the light and hiding whenever they heard a noise- Magica City was a very easy place to hide, because the people were fond of putting knickknacks all over the place. Large knickknacks.
After several tense hours of walking, with more close calls than Daphne cared to think about, Ms. White led her to a familiar door.
Daphne gasped and shrank away. This explained so much.
"What is it?" Ms. White asked, her voice almost silent.
"This is Red's room," Daphne said, almost as quietly.
Ms. White nodded and said, "I know. I came in this way."
Daphne started to ask, "Who is-"
Ms. White cut her off, though, putting a finger to Daphne's lips. She pulled open the door and began walking, even more quietly and carefully, into the dark space Daphne had only been once before- the place she'd never wanted to go back to.
The inside of the place was as dark as it had been last time, if not more so, and though Daphne had to admit it wasn't as dark as the oubliette, it was far more frightening. The dark red curtains rustled, and try as she might, Daphne's footsteps joined the low background growls, their gentle thuds making the rumbling noises seem louder.
She twisted her head around as she walked, biting her lip and straining to see something- anything- making that noise, just so she could know what she was afraid of. She faced forward again on her way to look the other way, and stopped short- a smiling face was inches in front of her. She stifled a gasp and stumbled backwards.
"Hello," Red said, stepping forward, closer to Daphne. "You're supposed to be in prison. I watched them put you there. What are you doing out here? Have you come back to play with me?"
Daphne shook her head, still tripping her way backwards, her hands stretched out behind her, groping for anything that she could touch. There was nothing. She'd just come from there, and it was empty.
Except suddenly there was something: a big, leathery mass of lumps under her fingers. She stretched one hand down it and felt it end in long, narrow, smoothly tapered curves. She whimpered, hoping it was a very poorly chosen chair.
A large and slightly sticky mass of wetness fell on her head, splashing off and dripping down her face, and Daphne looked up, trembling because she already knew the thing behind her wasn't a chair, but she had to look anyway.
When she saw the thing, she had to stifle a scream. She wasn't sure what it was, but she knew it was a monster. Its teeth were at least as long as her arm, set in a drooling mouth that could fit a whole horse inside itself- a large horse. Its yellow eyes, the size of peacock eggs, had slit pupils and heavy, leathery lids. The thin neck led down to an equally narrow body, leading to the huge feet with their long claws, one of which she was half-leaning on.
Daphne let of a small whimper-like cry, taking her hand off the thing very slowly. She understood why they called it the monster hall, now.
"Don't be afraid of my kitty," Red said, still moving closer, that huge grin filling up her face. "He won't hurt you unless I tell him to."
Oh, that was some relief, right there. Daphne fought to keep her expression blank. Where was Ms. White? She should be here! Daphne was going to die, and she was off doing her own thing!
Oh, there was Ms. White. Thank goodness.
Red spun around, taking those piercing yellow-brown eyes off of Daphne and exclaiming, "Oh, your highness! I haven't seen you in... it must be years, now! How have you been? Are you here to play house with me? I have a mommy now, so you don't have to be my mommy anymore, but you can be my grandmother! I still need a grandmother. This girl was going to play house with me, but then she left. It wasn't very polite of her."
Your majesty? Daphne, who had just begun to relax a bit, edging away from the monster behind her, but when she head Red say that, she froze. She supposed Red could be making things up- she did that, didn't she?
But she'd sounded so serious, and Ms. White wasn't even blinking at Red's words.
"No, Red, I can't play right now," Ms. White said gently. "I'm glad you found a mother, though. May I see her?"
Red shifted from side to side and said doubtfully, "I'm not supposed to let anyone see my parents. It's part of the rules."
"What rules?" Ms. White asked. Her voice was carefully neutral the whole time she spoke, but Daphne saw the sharpness in her eyes. Ms. White thought there was something going on here, something that had to do with those parents.
"The rules that say I can keep my parents, silly!" Red said, giggling. "They were a present from the mirror-man, and he said I could keep them forever as long as I never showed them to anybody." She frowned. "They're not very good at playing house, though. They're always sleeping."
"Well, how can we play if we don't see your parents, though?" Daphne asked, getting an idea.
Ms. White and Red both looked over at her very quickly, as if they'd forgotten she was there. Ms. White's expression was slightly panicked, and she shook her head emphatically, motioning for Daphne to take it back. Red was surprised, a bit confused, and delighted.
"You're going to play house with me?" Red asked, clapping her hands. "Wonderful!" She paused. "But her majesty-" there it was again "-said that you didn't have time to play house." She smiled again. "Did you change your mind? Oh, wonderful!" She stopped again and said, "But I don't need a sister. Who can you be?"
"You said you needed a doggy, right?" Daphne asked, thinking back to the last time she'd been in this place. "I can be your doggy- just for pretend."
Ms. White was mouthing What are you doing? over Red's head, her eyes wide and terrified.
Daphne tried to smile reassuringly at her and continued to say to Red, "We'll play with you- Ms. White will be your grandmother, and I'll be your doggy- just for a bit, all right? Just for an hour or so, if you show us your mommy and daddy, we'll play with you."
Red thought about this for a little bit, then smiled brightly- most of the frightening part was gone- and said, "Okay! That sounds like a good idea!" Then she giggled. "Ms. White- that's a silly name for her majesty."
"You promise?" Ms. White asked, jumping back into the conversation. "We'll only be here for an hour, and then you won't get upset when we leave?"
Red nodded and said solemnly, "I promise."
"All right," Ms. White said, "Then let's play house."
Red grinned, skipping ahead of them and calling, "Come on, kitty! Let's show them the house! Oh, this is so exciting!"
The monster bounded after her, following the insane girl like he was some sort of bewitched kitten. Daphne went to follow, but Ms. White dragged her back, catching her by the elbow.
"What on earth were you thinking?" Ms. White hissed. "That was completely spontaneous and stupid- it was something I'd expect from your sister, not you!"
Daphne, unused to hearing something bad about Sabrina's plans as of late- the Queen of the Sneaks hadn't made any big stupid rash decisions since she turned thirteen- tried to reconcile Ms. White's anger with her own knowledge of her sister's past, and decided Ms. White had every right to use that accusation, even if Sabrina didn't do things like that anymore.
"I was thinking that you obviously wanted to know who those people were that she's pretending are her parents, and that I'd like to get on her good side so I don't get eaten by her monster," Daphne said. "Sorry."
Ms. White shook her head. "No, I'm sorry," she said, "It was a good plan. I overreacted- I was worried about you. But you handled her well."
Daphne grinned, glowing inside.
"Hey!" Red called back to them. "Doggies don't talk! Sh!"
Daphne clapped her lips shut, eyes widening. She hoped the girl didn't make her crawl around on her hands and knees- she'd done enough of that for one day.
"All right, grandmother," Red said, once Daphne and Ms. White had reached the wall where the curtains were. "We're going to have a tea party. I like tea parties, don't you?"
"Oh yes," Ms. White said, nodding. "Very much indeed."
Red led them to a set of chairs that seemed to appear out of nowhere, and she sat down. Ms. White sat down, too. Daphne sat down on the floor, though, Red's earlier admonishment about what dogs did and didn't do still ringing through her head.
Red served Ms. White imaginary tea and very real, very stale-looking biscuits, which Ms. White accepted graciously. The two ate, and Daphne decided she was glad she wasn't seated at the table. The biscuits looked kind of disgusting.
But she wished Red would let her talk.
Ms. White and Red were talking about nothing at all, and Daphne was sitting there on the floor waiting, trying to send mind-waves or something to get them to move it on, or at least pay attention to her a little bit. This was boring and uncomfortable.
And then the monster, the 'kitty,' came and sat right behind Red, wrapping itself around most of the table, its tail curling outside around Daphne, blocking her in the small ring the beast made around the table. It was watching her as Red and Ms. White talked, still drooling profusely out between those long, sharp fangs, its yellow eyes boring into her skull, making her skin crawl.
Now she wished even more that they would hurry up.
Finally, at last, Ms. White said pointedly, "And how are your parents, Red? I haven't seen them in so long."
"They're-" Red started, then she sat up straighter and said, "Oh! I completely forgot." She giggled that frightening giggle again and said, "Come on, I'll show them to you."
Red stood up and skipped her way to the left of the table, leading Ms. White and Daphne, who refused to walk on her hands and knees, much as the monster glared at her, toward a bed that appeared out of the shadows.
"Here they are!" Red said proudly, "My parents!"
Daphne gasped, and Ms. White put a hand on her shoulder. She couldn't believe what she saw in that bed.
Lying next to each other, eyes closed in a peaceful sleep, were Daphne's long-missing parents.
AN~ THAT was not how I planned this to go. But that's okay. Hope you guys like cliffhangers.
Feature: Bittersweet Ending by xXOnceUponADreamXx
Why have you not read this? You seriously need to have read this. Go do it. NOW. That is all. (Srsly guys this is amazing and you need to be reading it. It's got a PLOT and FLUFF and ADVENTURE and BRIAR COMES BACK TO LIVE and DRAGONS and stuff.)
Some Review Replies:
Guest 1: I don't think I could live in Canada if you guys are still getting snow. I mean, we're getting some snow, but it's melting the next day. Thanks!
Guest 2: We shall see next chapter Or in two chapters. ;)
Kingsvillereader: :) (I was a bit worried my Sneak description might seem a bit truncated compared to the Trickster stuff, but I thought I could get away with it because Puck isn't as detail-focused as Sabrina and because this story isn't really ABOUT the countries, so I'm glad you approve.) We shall see what Puck does and it maybe might follow the books just the tiniest bit ;)
LeeAndAnna: :) Your review made me very happy. QotU: Well, I just found somewhere I'm not moving. Puddle jumping sounds cool, though.
Meow: QotU: I like tulips and gardening, too. :) I would make an awful cheerleader, though. Yeah, I update once a week. The next chapter will probably be about Daphne, but I won't add much about Trickster because none of my narrators are there- all we'll get is secondhand. I'm not planning on adding any more chapters like the letter chapter. Everafters aren't in this universe. Just people who are weird in Magica or who WOULD be Everafters in the other countries. But nobody lives forever and they aren't from fairy tales here.
Nello Orella: QotU: It makes me sad thinking about that winter coming for you, but it's only because I'm tired of winter and ready for warm. Chapter: Well, at the risk of spoilers, they DO end up in Magica, but that's not how.
romancecries34: I'm glad you like it, and if you ever feel the need to point out the grammar mistakes, I'm going to be going back and editing this once it's complete, and any help would be wonderful. I'm not going to update faster, I update once a week- it's all I can really manage, with school and work and everything.