The Emerald Angel of Vegoz, Chapter 13

“You!” Whitney ogled Heathrow, Lionel, and Nick in an outraged shock. “How did you get in here?”

“Through the door..” Heathrow gazed at her like she lot her marbles.

Whitney let out a noise of annoyance, and then Nick smirked as he asked her, “Surprised we outsmarted you, huh?”

After letting out a derisive laugh, Whitney answered, “Oh, please! You didn’t outsmart me! I saw the guards’ uniforms down the hall, and it dosn’t surprise me you could best those idiots! What I wanna know is how you found this place after I cast a confusion spell on you!”

“Oh, you were right, Nick!” Lionel lauded him.

“What? You’re not gonna tell me?” Whitney questioned.

Daphne responded, “Why would they do anything to help you?”

Heathrow concurred, “Yeah! Why would we help out a dirty, old witch?”

“Witch? No! I’m a fallen angel, you nitwit!” Whitney snapped.

“You’re real evil, you cast spells, and you fly through the sky… Why am I a nitwit for assuming she’s a witch?” Heathrow wondered.

Nick assured him, “You’re not! She’s just being mean ‘cause she knows she’s about to loe this battle!”

Whitney cackled at that concept, “You? I have supernatural powers, and you’re cornered! The odds are in my favor!”

“It sounds like some of that confusion spell blew back to you!” Daphne bantered.

“Ugh! That’s it! We’re finishing this now!” Whitney raised her hand to strike, and without hesitation, Lionel punched her in the forehead! While Whitney absorbed this pain, Daphne grabbed Lionel’s wrist and pulled him into the fire exit with the others.

As they descended the staircase, Lionel queried, “She doesn’t count as a woman, does she?”

Daphne commended him, “No, you can hit her! And you did hit her! Quite well too!”

“It felt great!” Lionel celebrated. “I’ve been so scared to get back into the boxing ring, but I-!”

“Let’s get done escaping before we start patting ourselves on the back!” Nick advised.

Daphne confidently stated, “I’m sure we’ll be fine! I didn’t see anyone guarding the emergency exits!” She opened the entryway to the outside, and she beheld a bunch of pigeons waiting for them! She slammed the door shut and then stated, “Nope! Not doing that again!”

Heathrow urged them, “Come on! Let’s go out the main way! We’ll be fine as long as-!”

“Attention, personnel!” Whitney’s voice boomed throughout the building. “We have a code orange! All hands on deck!”

“Oh, fudge!” Heathrow lamented.

The five travelers dashed through the residence, but when they espied a group of guards towards them, they bolted in another direction. More o them streamed in, so they ran upstairs. People started emerging from their domiciles, so they made a bid for the rooftop. That terrace had more birds, so they hurried tot he laundry room. There wasn’t anyone in there but there also wasn’t a route for their departure! They huddled in the corner, and Nick shakily articulated, “We’re gonna be alright! We can find a solution! It’s not totally hopeless!”

Lionel apprehensively eyeballed the guards that encompassed them, and he conjectured, “Maybe one of us will come back as an arc angel so our side can come back and kick her-!”

“Ah-ha! I’ve got you surrounded!” Whitney trumpeted.

“Yeah, duh!” Daphne shot back.

Whitney put her hands on her hips and probed, “Can we skip the whole heroic last-stand thing? I’ve got other stuff to do besides deal with you!” She pulled her cellphone from her pocket and groaned, “Drats! I’m gonna be late!”

Daphne scoffed, “Really? You could magick someone into oblivion simply for looking at you funny, and you’re worried about tardiness? Who is this you’re late for? Do you actually have a date?”

“I’m late to ambush someone heading home from work! You’re not the only enemies I have, you know!” Whitney folded her arms in a huff.

“I could see her getting dates…” Nick remarked.

Whitney approved of his assertion, “Thank you!”

Daphne reacted in startlement, “You can?”

“Yeah… she’d have to threaten them, but they’d do it!” Nick joked.

“Hey!” Whitney barked as her captives giggled.

Heathrow sincerely offered her solace, “Aw, it’s alright! I’ve gone through periods of time where I don’t have anyone who likes me too!”

Whitney became aghast at that statement. “Don’t put me on your level! I’m wealthy, admired, and very popular!”

“Uh, you only got one out of three right!” Lionel kidded, which made the others guffaw.

“Shut your traps!” Whitney roared.

Daphne interrogated her, “Is that why you killed your sister? People liked her better than you?”

Whitney growled, “That’s it! We end this claptrap now!” She grabbed a broom from a set of cleaning supplies close to her, and then she commanded “Nimmie, hand me your lighter!”

“I don’t have it, ma’am!” Nimmie came forward wearing a garbage bag and nothing else, which made even her colleagues snicker.

“What on Earth are you wearing?” Whitney incredulously inquired.

Nimmie irately replied, “Someone stole my clothes!”

Nick told her, “Don’t look at me! I had enough of seeing you clothesless! I’m the one who insisted on covering you up!”

Half amused, half bewildered, Daphne canvassed Nick, “You were two were an item, huh?”

“Unfortunately! But fortunately, I broke it off prior to her stint with the Ochre Angel!” He glanced over to Daphne and added, “Actually, I’m glad I broke it off period…”

“Nimmie, you said you dumped him!” Zeb asserted while he and Rak showed up in their underwear.

The entire room cracked up at this spectacle, and preceding Nimmie responding to that topic, Whitney regained control of the room, “Enough! You three, go home and change! Someone else who smokes hand me your lighter!”

Somebody enquired, “Can’t you just do a hex to produce a flame?”

“Who dared to utter such impertinence?” Whitney demanded to all of her employees. No one confessed, but someone else produced a set of matches. “Thank you!” She snatched them from their grasp, and as she lit a matchstick, she aimed one of her palms at a sprinkler head. Her jinx contained the water that flowed out close to the ceiling, and the crew murmured in understanding of her actions. “Now then, you’re about to get… fired!” Her staff cheered, so she yelled, “Not you!” Most of her employees emitted a very audible sigh of disappointment.

“Woah, careful where you point that!” Heathrow requested with very wide eyes. “I’m highly flammable, you know!”

Whitney wryly stated, “Sounds like I need to get you hot first!”

Heathrow declined, “Nah! I’d rather burn to death!”

After releasing a horrible howl, Whitney moed the broom towards Heathrow. Lionel and Nick shielded him, but Daphne spotted a janitorial bucket in the cleaning supplies, seized it, and hurled its contents at Whitney’s torch. There was a lot of water inside, and much of it landed on Whitney’s visage, which caused her to let out an ear-splitting screech! She dropped the broomstick, and Lionel immediately put it under the freely flowing sprinkler. Everyone else curiously peered at Whitney, who had her hands hiding her front…

“You cursed brat!” Whitney bellowed. “Do you see what you’ve done?”

“No! Can you show me?” Daphne entreated her.

She wailed, “I’m melting! Melting! Melting!” She sunk to the floor, and…

After a minute or two of watching her inactivity, the collective began to exchange whispers of leeriness. Eventually, Daphne broke the silence, “So, are fallen angels water soluble, or…?”

“She doesn’t seem like she is!” Heathrow attempted to moee one of her hands, but Whitney instantly snapped it back into place. “Why, you’re not melted at all!” Heathrow esteemed.

“You’re dead fo this!” Whitney snarled.

Heathrow chuckled, “Gosh! She’s all kinds of mixed up!”

Nick grabbed her arms, and she kept her hair low enough on her face to keep it concealed as he pulled a pair of manacles out of his pocket. “You carry around handcuffs on your off days?” Daphne catechized.

“Yeah!” Nick confirmed. “Just in case…”

“In case you have to arrest someone!” Heathrow finished his sentence.

With shifty eyes, Nick responded, “Sure…” Daphne blushed, Lionel grinned, and Heathrow appeared confused.

Lionel asserted, “Okay, I gotta know what she’s hiding!” He reached out to brush her hair back, and she tried to bite him! She wasn’t successful in her endeavo, and, in fact, she created worse circumstances for herself…

“What happened to your looks?” a male guard gasped.

“Wow! You wore a lot of makeup before!” a female guard observed.

The masses all caught a glimpse of her altered image and became overwhelmed in astonishment. The dark beauty she once possessed had vanished, and she now resembled a much different person! Her chin was sharper, her noe was lopsided, and her skin was overtly pop-marked! The color in her cheeks was gone, and she developed circles so dark that it nearly meatched her hair! The congregation hooted in amusement, and Whitney’s scowl became more and more pronounced. “Go ahead- have your fun!” she yelled. The mirth intensified after that statement, and she grumped, “Oh, come on! It isn’t that hilarious!”

Daphne affirmed, “Hey, so I was correct in guessing that you killed your sister ‘cause she’s prettier than you!”

“Oh, please!” Whitney disagreed. “Almira’s lucky she had a house covering her ugly mug when she died!”

“Whitney Hamilton, you’re under arrest!” Nick proudly proclaimed.

With a defiant expression, Whitney argued, “You think so, huh? You’re the ones who broke into my territory! I have a legal justification for what I do to trespassers onto my land! Plus, you assaulted me and destroyed some of my property!”

Lionel contended, “Woah, woah, woah! It’s not our fault you used such cheap material for their uniforms!”

“I doubt the courts will care about any petty misdemeanors when you committed a major felony!” Daphne articulated.

“Excuse me, I never admitted to any murders! You just keep bringing up that theory!” Whitney spat.

Daphne differed, “Uh, I was talking about kidnapping me!”

Whitney insolently claimed, “Those pigeons did that on their own!” Nobody in the lot shared her enthusiasm for that hypothesis.

“Oh my goodness! It sounds like she’ll be in prison for a long time!” Rak excitedly realized. “That means we’ll be free of her! Free! Free at last!” All of the guards burst into jubilation.

“Why don’t you call the police station now?” Nick suggested.

Daphne petitioned the gaggle, “Hold on! Can we grab her cellphone first?”

Zeb reached into Whitney’s pocket and handed her the device. “Please, take it with you! And no hard feelings about the whole hunting you down thing, right?” Nick and Nimmie gave each other sour side-eyes, so Zeb refined his sentence, “Well, at least not with most of us…”

“I don’t mind ‘cause I’m about to get a mind! Finally!” Heathrow clapped and hopped in delight.

“Oh, yeah! We can get our wishes now!” Lionel denoted.

Daphne verbalized, “Eventually! Before that, we gotta tell law enforcement our story. By the way, what is our story? We can’t give them the true reality or they’ll evaluate our sanity!”

Nick shrugged. “Let them! It’s not illegal to be crazy!” The whole space chortled at that quip. Nimmie dialed the number for the authorities, and Whitney severely glowered at their glee.

The Curse of Dregs Hollow, Chapter 21

As a baby, she remembered a younger, gaunter Reisseck setting her on the grass by the lake she frequented as an adult. He stood before her with his wand out and began to do a little jig. As he danced, an eerie glow seeped out of his wand like ribbon and flowed to her as he sang, “Tonight, tonight, my plans I make./ Tomorrow, tomorrow, your freedom I’ll take./ You will freeze when you go too far,/ and to remember this, I’ll give thee a star./ The rule will always stay the same/ until, three times, you say my name… Rumpelstiltskin! Rumpelstiltskin! Rumpelstiltskin!” He laughed manically as the star appeared on her infant hand.

Slowly, Cally became aware of her body in the present. Her chest emitted a great pain, and her eyes felt so heavy that she couldn’t open them. Sound was muffled for her, but she could sense an intense amount of anger in the cacophony made. Little by little, the noise became clearer and clearer, and she realized people were shouting. She recognized a male’s voice, it was her father’s. Henrick shouted, “… high treason!”

“You fools! No dungeon will hold me!” She knew that voice too, Reisseck. She corrected herself, his real name was Rumpelstiltskin. She remembered her mission and summoned all of her strength to tell the others, but her body would not budge.

“We’re not going to let you get away with this!”her mother raged. Cally could hear in her parents’ voice just how devastated they got to see her so gravely injured, and she so dearly wanted to tell them what she discovered! She could make her lips move, but she couldn’t talk or open her eyes at that point.

“Stand back!” Cally could hear Rumpelstiltskin brandish his wand threateningly. Her spirits buoyed a bit when she managed to lift her eyelids and see a bit.

“Your powers must be almost gone after killing another innocent person!” She saw Galena point her wand at him.

“Rump… Rump…el…” Cally’s words were hardly audible.

Rumpelstiltskin scoffed, “Actually, they’re…” He had a sudden realization, and he glanced towards Cally. His eyes didn’t linger though. Instead, he began backing away towards the exit. “I may have lost some of my ability, but I can still out match you! Do you really want to take that risk?”

“Rump… el… stilt… rump… el…” Cally’s voice grew stronger, but everyone had followed him, so no one could hear her.

“He’s bluffing!” Cally’s heart soared to hear Derrick alive and well. “Let’s cuff him and-.”

“I’m not going anywhere!” Rumpelstiltskin roared. “If I have to take the throne in another way, so be it!” Cally watched as Rumpelstiltskin pointed his wand at Derrick, and her blood boiled! Derrick moved his hand out of the way, but he struggled against his brute force to keep the wand away from being able to aim at him. Rumpelstiltskin shot off a spell that nicked Derrick in the shoulder…

Seeing blood trickle down Derrick’s body revitalized her senses, and her adrenaline gave her the strength she needed. She stood up, and her voice shook the entire room as she bellowed, “Rumpelstiltskin! Rumpelstiltskin! Rumpelstiltskin!”

A wind flew out of her body, racing up the walls and out of the room. When it blew past everyone near the foyer, Rumpelstiltskin cried out, “No!”

Cally could hardly believe it herself! She felt a s though it were over, but such a joyous feat felt more like a dream than a reality. She needed confirmation, and with her hands trembling, she looked to her left palm. The star had vanished! She quickly put her palm in the air so that Rumpelstiltskin could see it. His eyes widened, and he made a noise as if he were choking. Cally boldly exclaimed, “It’s over! You hear me? You don’t own me anymore! I’m free! I’m FREE!”

Rumpelstiltskin’s shock paralyzed him. Taking advantage of his astonishment, Galena pointed her wand at him, which caused him to freeze and fall down backwards. Nearby knights immediately put shackles around his wrists and ankles. Galena jumped onto his chest and looked him dead in the eyes. “I out matched you after all!” Rumpelstiltskin groaned. She happily hopped off as the knights took him away.

Avalyn, Henrick, and Derrick turned to Cally with totally stunned expressions on their faces. They stayed silent as if acknowledging this miraculous phenomenon would disturb the delicate balance that kept her standing. Avalyn timidly stepped forward. “Caliana? You’re alive?” Cally nodded, and when it really sunk into their heads, Avalyn and Henrick rapturously ran to her. They instantly wrapped their arms around her and squeezed her tightly, and all three of them were in tears. Derrick, Duke Ferrin, and Galena watched them with warm smiles on their faces.

After a moment, it dawned on Cally that she was holding her parents! She had gone her whole life with no family, and now they were here, right in front of her! It seemed incredible to her that they immediately accepted her and that she actually belonged somewhere! Rumpelstiltskin always had so much venom for the king and queen, but Cally thought that anyone that he he harbored that much hate for must be opposite of him and there fore a good person, so she secretly admired them this whole time. Still, it amazed her that she came from them! She broke apart from them so that she could make eye contact and verify this information. “Father?” Henrick nodded. “Mother?” Avalyn nodded. “Wow, I…” She wanted to express her appreciation for them entering into her life, but she got overwhelmed with emotion. Henrick and Avalyn seemed to have understood what she meant to say and gave her another hug.

Galena went up to them and commented, “Wow, you held on to my elixir all of these years?”

“Are you kidding? We couldn’t let it go after all it did for us!” Avalyn picked Galena up and gave her a hug.

Henrick addressed Galena, “We can’t thank you enough! Your role in this whole thing has been instrumental! I’d like to appoint you for a special task force to create new laws and procedures regarding magical crimes.”

“I accept!” Galena beamed with a sparkle in her eye.

“I’d like to help,” Duke Ferrin stated. “After fighting against a sorcerer, I have some ideas.”

“Of course!” Galena purred.

He told Cally, “I’d like to consult our new princess as well! After all, you did survive a powerful curse!”

Galena remarked, “That’s right! You sure did! Obviously, the healing elixir helped, but how did you survive the sword to the heart?”

Cally pulled out a blood-stained book with a huge gash down the middle out of her chest and turned to Derrick, who had watched them from a distance. “I guess your novel absorbed some of the impact! Sorry for returning it in such shape!”

Derrick tittered, but his mind fixated on another thought. “You brought my book with you on your wedding day? Why?”

“I wanted to keep you close to my heart,” Cally replied with more tears forming in her eyes. “You… I …!” Once again, Cally lost the right words to convey the passionate emotions she felt, but Derrick seemed to grasp the concept anyways. They ran to each other and wrapped their arms around one another. Their faces were close, and although Cally never kissed anyone in her life, her instincts guided her body on what to do. Their lips met, and Cally couldn’t remember feeling lighter or more peaceful than she did right then with him! A blissful excitement coursed through her body, and she never wanted to let him go!

Henrick, Avalyn, Galena, and Duke Ferrin gazed at them fondly until Cloris gave the knights a hard time as they tried to put shackles on her. “Let me go! You had no right to come here! We had every right to defend ourselves!”

Avalyn asked Cally, “Caliana, what do you think is the proper punishment for her?”

Cloris looked at Cally in horror. “You’re going to kill me as revenge for everything, aren’t you?”

Cally chuckled, “Why, is that what you would do? I wouldn’t. There’s been enough blood shed already! Take her to the dungeons for a while, and when she’s done, send her back to Dregs Hollow. I think having me rule over her is punishment enough!” Cloris glowered at her, which signaled to Cally that she had the correct line of thinking. “But living here shouldn’t be a punishment! I’d like to have a merit system to help the innocent citizens of this town!” Henrick and Avalyn looked to each other and nodded in agreement. Now that everything had wrapped up, Cally suddenly felt awkward still standing in the ceremony room of this town. She never felt like she belonged there, and she inwardly celebrated the fact that she no longer had to stay there! She recommended to them all, “Let’s go home!” For the first time in her life, home was somewhere she actually wanted to be! With a feverish glee, they all made their way out of there.

As they walked through the streets of Dregs Hollow, Cally gazed at the buildings with a certain fondness. She had survived so much in this village that being able to walk through it as a free woman felt like gazing upon a battle scar. She appreciated the fact that she had overcome such struggle, and it felt unreal that this part of her life was over. She would never forget where she came from, and although she was miserable in Dregs Hollow, she felt almost sad to say goodbye. Almost. She walked hand in hand with Derrick while Avalyn and Henrick strolled by their sides, and while she didn’t know what to expect in her new home, she would savor every bit of it, good times and bad, just remembering where she got started.

They came to a hitching post in the center of town, and Cally hadn’t realized until now that it even existed. Avalyn and Henrick each mounted their own horses, and Duke Ferrin put Galena into his saddlebag before he climbed onto his steed. Cally expected to ride behind Derrick, but instead, Derrick asserted, “I think you should learn to steer, my lady!” Cally felt stunned at his offer to teach her, but she gladly accepted it. After a quick lesson, they galloped off!

Cally’s heart skipped a beat as they raced through the gates of Dregs Hollow, but the reality of the situation still didn’t feel real to her since she was still on familiar grounds. They passed by Camellia’s Circus, and Cally felt eternally grateful that she never had to set foot in there again! She relished in the fact her new line of work had so much more meaning to it! When they got to the fork in the road by Bohemma, Cally almost felt as though she would freeze up again, and when she didn’t, the concept really cemented in her head- she was free!

Several years later, sitting below a painting of Derrick in a handsome tuxedo and Cally in a simple yet elegant wedding gown, Derrick and Cally held hands as they each read a book. A servant entered and bowed to them. “Your royal majesties of Lacoriandor-.”

“I told you,” Cally reminded him, “You don’t need to formally address me every time we speak! You can call me Cally!”

The servant looked quite nervous about the idea. “Uh, no, I don’t think I can! Lady Joanne and Lady Sasha are here. Your parents have already joined them.”

Derrick regarded him, “Thank you, Andel!” Andel half bowed as he exited the room. “He needs to loosen up!”

Cally laughed, and then she offered her arm. “Shall we?” He linked his arm with hers as they left the room.

The End

The Curse of Dregs Hollow, Chapter 20

Cally felt grateful for the interruption to the ceremony, but she now worried that these hooded figures would become more of an enemy than ally. Based on Reisseck’s expression, she could tell they weren’t invited guests. She hoped that these strange people would provide enough of a distraction so that she could slip out. She didn’t know how long she could evade Reisseck if she escaped, but she at least wanted to find Derrick and Galena to tell them what she just learned. She thought that maybe they could run to the library to find more books with unusual names in it, or perhaps she would write a letter to King Henrick and Queen Avalyn so they could use their royal powers to put a stop to this unholy union. At the very least, she wanted to see Derrick one last time before Reisseck forced her into this plan. She eyeballed the nearest exit to run out as soon as Reisseck’s attention ebbed.

“Who are you people?” Reisseck snarled. The hooded figures parted to create a path that one of them walked down, and when that person got to the most forward position amongst them, they took off their hood to reveal their face. “Duke Ferrin?” Reisseck’s concern seemed to vanish, and with a cocky swagger, he strolled closer to them with one hand on the pocket where he carried his wand. “Are you here to challenge me for the throne? Well, you’re too late! There was a time when I counted on you to take power and pass laws that would make my life easier, but then I found a better way to improve my circumstances! As soon as I marry her, I’ll become king and get everything I’ve ever dreamed of! You can try to stop this marriage if you dare, but mark my words, I can end you all with one swipe of my wand!”

The rest of the hooded figures began to circle the room, and Duke Ferrin calmly pointed out, “You could, but would you really be willing to put your own people at risk? The only souls who have stood by your side all of these years? Do you bear no honor or shame?”

Reisseck observed the position of the rest of the hooded figures, and he looked thoroughly miffed about their proximity to the inhabitants of Dregs Hollow. He didn’t address Duke Ferrin’s concern and instead asked a question of his own, “So, what do you want?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Duke Ferrin replied.

“You’re trying to stop me from marrying her so you can take the throne.” Reisseck drew out his wand, ready to fight back.

Duke Ferrin laughed derisively, which incensed Reisseck. “Up until this evening, I was ready to take over the crown as a duty to Lacorian law, but I discovered I don’t have the right to the throne, and neither do you!”

“I will when I marry Cally!” He pulled her close, which made her scowl. “She’s the heir to the crown, and when I marry the future queen, I’ll become the future king! It’s all perfectly legal!”

Duke Ferrin scoffed, “You kidnapped the princess and you have the gall to talk about legality?”

Reisseck threw Cally to the ground stepped towards Duke Ferrin menacingly. “What do you stand to gain from doing this?”

“A clean conscious.” Duke Ferrin drew his sword.

Reisseck sneered, “Do you really think you’re going to stop me?”

“No,” Duke Ferrin responded coolly. “They are!”

On cue, the hooded figures all revealed themselves. To Cally’s shock, she saw that Avalyn, Henrick, and Derrick had brought a group of knights with them! Reisseck’s guards drew their weapons, and the royal guards did the same. Reisseck coldly remarked, “So it begins!” He pointed his wand at Duke Ferrin, who used his sword to butt Reisseck’s wand out of his range. Reisseck’s men took that as their signal to advance on the royal guard, and the battle began!

Cally saw several Dregs Hollow citizens advance towards her, so she quickly picked herself up and ran to the decorative swords on the wall. She felt grateful that she was able to easily get one down, but she had a momentary flash of panic when she realized she hadn’t done any swordplay in her life! She didn’t know that so many of her former neighbors had weapons! She had no choice, she had to do her best to defend herself! She didn’t have combat experience, but she used several tools at Camellia’s Circus, which prompted her to swiftly strategize. She needed a tool to block attacks and to make some of her own if necessary, so with this in mind, she joined the battle.

Reisseck knocked Duke Ferrin to the ground, but before he could strike, a burst of light hit him in the arm! “No!” he cried out in dismay. He glanced over to the entrance and confirmed his fear, Galena had entered! Reisseck tried to use his wand to strike her, but Duke Ferrin kicked his hand, sending Reisseck’s wand flying! Reisseck lunged for it, but Duke Ferrin rose up and pushed him out of the way! Due to his massive size, Reisseck didn’t go far, but from his new point of view, he saw Cally struggling to fend people off, so he shouted, “Don’t hurt her! She’s mine!”

When they heard this, Reisseck’s loyalists still fought her out of a desire to get her to submit, but their skill seemed to have lessened since they couldn’t kill her. Cally used this to her advantage and moved around more freely. Reisseck’s words echoed in her head, and it really burned her up inside! She couldn’t believe he viewed a princess and future queen as his property! Her distraction gave someone the opportunity to get a hit on her, and that person sliced her hand! It hurt, but she rmanaged to ignore it and created a huge gash in her attacker’s arm! She felt thrilled at her success, but she had to keep fighting because other people were still coming after her. She caught a glimpse of her left hand and saw that the star that marked her binding curse had no mark on it! She realized that this was the reason Reisseck felt he could claim her. Furious, she slowly made her way towards him.

Cally got within earshot of Reisseck, and although she thought that her idea was a long shot, she decided to try it anyways. As she fought off attackers, she began spouting off names to him. Reisseck didn’t say anything since he was fighting off Duke Ferrin as well as a couple of knights, but Cally could see the look of irritation on his face, so she knew her ploy had the right effect. Duke Ferrin and the knights didn’t seem to understand why she was doing that, but they wanted to help, so they joined in. Slowly, Derrick, Henrick, Galena, and Avalyn joined in too. Cally secretly hoped one of them would guess Reisseck’s real name so that they could end this battle. She didn’t fully know what to expect after it finished, but she wanted to prevent as much destruction as possible.

Reisseck could tell his side was losing, and soon he was surrounded by people shouting names at him. More and more pressure grew on him, and he knew he had to act fast before it was too late. To his delight, Cloris tossed him his wand, and as he held it, he felt his sense of omnipotence return to his body. He knew the only way he could escape victoriously was to show the loathsome meddlers just what he was capable of! He saw the other decorative sword on the wall and pointed his wand…

Cally saw the sword budge, and she looked at Reisseck, who pointed his wand to Derrick. Her heart froze, but protective instincts flared up and took over her body. She ran to Derrick and used her body to shield his. Part of her thought Reisseck would stop the hex because he needed her to stay alive, but another part of her didn’t care what happened to her now. Nothing was worth seeng Derrick die!

Derrick didn’t realize what Cally was doing until it was too late! A sword magically hurled itself into the middle of her chest! “No!” he wailed in anguish. The whole room stopped what they were doing to watch blood seeping out of her chest as she fell towards the ground! Avalyn shrieked, and Henrick howled in horror. Derrick caught her as everyone in the royal guard ran towards her. None of the Dregs Hollow denizens seemed to care except for Reisseck, who looked shocked at what she made him do. With tears forming in his eyes, Derrick cried, “Cally! Why did you do that?”

Cally could feel her energy lessen, and it took more and more effort just to inhale and exhale. She breathily told Derrick, “I’d die for you!”

“Please don’t!” Derrick sobbed.

Though she trembled immensely, Avalyn dug into her pocket and took out a vial of potion. “I have a healing elixir!” she knelt down to Cally’s side and desperately stated, “This prevented me from dying, and it worked for your father too! It’s a family tradition, you see? You’re going to take this and be fine! You’ll see!” Cally couldn’t respond, but she accepted the potion into her mouth. Avalyn waited to see it take effect, and when Cally’s consciousness seemed to slip away, Avalyn exclaimed, “Why isn’t this working?”

Galena sadly explained, “It can’t repair tissue if it’s already dead. With the force a spell like that can muster, it may have taken her heart immediately.”

Henrick bolted up in fury, and he voraciously hollered, “Reisseck, you fiend! I’ll tear you up from ribs to rump!”

Cally saw Reisseck flinch at the word rump, and it stirred up a memory for her, which flashed before her eyes as she began to blackout…

The Curse of Dregs Hollow, Chapter 19

For a moment, the three of them sat in silence as they allowed their minds to absorb this realization. Derrick felt stunned to learn that Cally was the princess that the kingdom thought they lost forever, but he knew his astonishment couldn’t compare to what Henrick and Avalyn going through! He couldn’t imagine the effect it had on their hearts to find out the daughter that they thought got murdered thirty three years ago was actually alive! All of a sudden, Avalyn grabbed her napkin and began dabbing her eyes. “I knew it! I knew it! She’s alive!”

“It’s a miracle!” Henrick rejoiced. He went over to Avalyn, and they held each other as they wept. Suddenly, a thought occurred to Henrick. “Wait, our baby is about to get married to a murderous sorcerer!”

“No!” Avalyn cried. “She can’t!”

“And she won’t!” Derrick avowed. “It may not be too late! Let’s go!”

Avalyn and Derrick rose up, but Henrick commanded them, “Wait!” They looked at him with irritation, not comprehending Henrick’s hesitation. “I’m sure Reisseck is prepared for an ambush, so we can’t just rush in like that!” They knew he was completely right, so they begrudgingly sat back down. Henrick asserted, “Now, we’ll never be able to match his magical defenses, so we’ll have to outsmart him. We need a distraction, something that will catch him off guard so we can slip in unnoticed.”

They all mulled it over for a moment, and then Derrick declared, “I have an idea!”

Cally caught a glimpse of herself in the full length mirror that someone had set up in the living room. The wedding gown she wore had a gaudy design and an antique feel to it. The color had yellowed a bit, and she felt sure that Reisseck could have whipped up a potion to fix it if she requested it, but she didn’t care. This didn’t feel like a real wedding to her, so she could have cared less about what went on during the ceremony. As she stared at her reflection, a sickening feeling arose in the pit of her stomach. She turned away, but the view of their living room wasn’t much better. Reisseck packed away all of their belongings into boxes, and it only reminded her of her fate in the near future. The only solace she found was that while Duke Ferrin performed his royal duties, she could roam the castle freely, a privilege she intended to use to find out Reisseck’s true name and break the binding spell. She didn’t want to become the soon to be king’s queen, but once she got rid of the curse that bound her to Reisseck, she would use her royal powers to see that he got punished severely for all of the crimes he committed!

She went to the last remaining box that hadn’t yet been sealed with the intention of putting her red cloak in there. It felt weighty to her, and she remembered that she left a couple of things inside it. She found what was left of the transfiguring potion, and she tossed that to the side. She tried to comfort herself with the knowledge that she’d never have to use it again, but she just couldn’t enjoy that fact. She couldn’t say she wanted to go back to taking it regularly again, but she would miss the small bit of freedom she had from the opportunities she got when she left Dregs Hollow. Most people who took the throne would relish in freedom that they never had access to before, but as long as Reisseck was around, she would never be free! As he dragged her out of the woods, he taunted her with the forewarning that the only reason she would stay alive was so that she would produce an heir. She wondered how long it would take and how long she would last once it was done.

She couldn’t think about the that at this moment, so she shook it off and pulled out the other thing in her cloak pocket. It was the book that Derrick had lent her! Her heart shattered into pieces at the thought of him! It seemed so unfair and cruel to have found someone that she fell in love with right before she got forced into a detested marriage! She remembered his beautiful eyes, his warm smile, and the way she felt in his strong, firm arms, and she fell to her knees in tears. In her whole life, no one had made her feel so good about herself or gave her such a feeling of purpose until he came along. She couldn’t stand the thought that she would never get to see him again! She would try her hardest to break that spell so she could return to him, but she couldn’t guarantee when or if that would ever happen. She vehemently despised the fact that she had to marry someone who was him, but Reisseck told her that if she didn’t go through with it that he would kill him. She had to do it to save Derrick’s life, but it was pure agony to think they would be apart forever! She held the book to her heart, clutching it as if it were the only thing keeping her upright, and she sobbed mercilessly.

The sentries at the entrance of Dregs Hollow leaned against the tall, wooden fence and yawned. Suddenly, they felt the ground beneath them began to shake, and this prompted them to stand at attention. In the distance, they saw a dozen hooded figures charging towards them, so they drew up their spears in a ready position. When the hooded horsemen approached the sentries, one of them growled, “We’ve told you a dozen times that the royal guard isn’t allowed here unannounced! Stand aside!”

“We are not the royal guard!” The man at the head of the pack took of his hood to reveal a robust yet elegant man in his sixties.

“Duke Ferrin!” the other sentry responded in surprise. Both of them kneeled before him. “What are you doing here? You’re not trying to stop the wedding, are you?”

Duke Ferrin waved off this notion. “Not at all! In fact, I’d like to give Reisseck my blessings! But first, we must secure the area. I heard that he could use some reinforcements.”

The sentries nodded in agreement, and one of them inquired, “How did you know that?”

“I have my ways,” Duke Ferrin said with a wry grin. “Forgive my men for not removing their hoods. It’s a rather covert mission, not one I wish to spread around…”

“Right! Of course, we understand,” the other sentry assured him. “Please, come on in!” The gladly opened the gates for him.

“Thank you!” Duke Ferrin began to enter when he noticed that sentries on the inside stepped aside as well, which made him raise an eyebrow. “You keep people from leaving too?” The sentries looked at each other suspiciously before they nodded. Duke Ferrin shrugged it off. “Ah, I see. Carry on!” He put his hood back on and led the rest of the hooded figures inside.

Just as Cally had finished putting on her veil, Cloris entered with a mischievous smile on her face. Cally knew that she had to know what torture this moment was for her and did not give her the satisfaction of showing any emotion. Cloris leered, “It’s time!” She grabbed her arm and led her away from that home.

As Cloris practically dragged her to a cavern ceremony room, she noticed a number of Dregs Hollow denizens guarding the entrance with swords and spears ready to use if necessary. She found it odd because she didn’t think that anyone in their village could even afford a weapon! It seemed rather ominous to have such a battle-ready set of people as the first thing guests would see as they arrived, but she reminded herself that nothing about this occasion was traditional! Cloris left her in a small foyer and sneered, “Good luck!” Cally didn’t give her a reaction, but Cloris seemed to know what she was feeling snickered as she took her seat.

Awful pipe organ music began to play, and Cally’s heart thumped wildly in her chest. She couldn’t believe that this was really happening! She gazed at the altar, which was empty. She felt that was strange, but she didn’t dare to think that Duke Ferrin changed his mind. She thought perhaps that he intended to make an entrance, which sort of disgusted her. She didn’t think that he would actually enjoy this, and it revolted her to think that a person could enjoy taking away someone’s freedom like that! Reisseck stood up, and Cally cringed at the frilly, terribly old-fashioned tuxedo he was wearing. He impatiently motioned for her to come in, and Cally knew this was it! She figured she may as well get it over with, sighed, and entered the ceremony room.

She walked slowly and kept her eyes low. Reisseck could force her into this marriage, but he couldnt’ force her to enjoy it! The closer she got to the altar, the more her heart pounded. She didn’t want to do this, and every fiber in her being wanted to turn around and run away. When she got to the end of the aisle, she decided she shouldn’t show Duke Ferrin any fear. If he was willing to commit such a heinous act, she was going to force him to look into her angry, hate-filled eyes! When she looked up, she expected to see Duke Ferrin standing there, so she glared as hard as she could! To her astoundment, Duke Ferrin wasn’t there! Only Reisseck and the man performing the ceremony stood before her. Utterly confused now, Cally asked, “What’s going on? Where’s Duke Ferrin?”

“You’re not marrying Duke Ferrin!” Reisseck answered her. “You’re marrying me!” Cally didn’t believe him, she thought he had to be joking. “Your parents weren’t nobles who sold you to me to save your mother’s life! You’re the king and queen’s daughter, and I’m marrying you to become ruler of Lacoria!”

Cally found this claim too outrageous to be true! She became overwhelmed with bewilderment, not understanding why Reisseck would even say that! “No! The princess died a long time ago! She’s been gone since I was born!” It suddenly clicked for her, and she couldn’t believe she didn’t see it before! Reisseck kidnapped the princess, and just days later, he obtained a baby girl! Suddenly, Cally knew why Homer handed her that article before he died! He figured it out quicker than she did! The idea slowly trickled into her head, but she hadn’t quite accepted it yet. “I’m the missing princess?”

She didn’t know what to do; she was still too shocked to move. The master of ceremonies began the wedding, and her head scrambled with what she should do with this information. She couldn’t go ahead with the marriage knowing what she now knew! She couldn’t just let Reisseck become king! And she certainly didn’t want to conceive a child with him! She saw a couple of decorative swords hanging above them, and she wondered if she should use them. She saw Reisseck’s wand sticking out of his pocket and knew that idea wouldn’t work. She felt compelled to take action, but she had no clue what to do… Luckily, she didn’t have to figure it out since a dozen hooded figures entered the room…

The Curse of Dregs Hollow, Chapter 18

Henrick morosely walked down the halls of Barlock, and when he passed by the library, he noticed some movement out of the corner of his eye. He backtracked a little and spotted Derrick feverishly scanning through a large book and jotting down information at random. He asked him, “What are you-?”

“Names!” Derrick answered manically. “I’m going to get every name I can think of before the wedding! I’ll free her from the binding spell before she has to marry him! If she loses the curse, Reisseck will have no reason to force their union! His powers have been weakened, so he can’t perform the ritual again! It’s the only way to save her!”

Henrick looked utterly confused by his ramblings. He didn’t know how to respond, so he simply invited him, “Would you care to join me in-?”

“Oh no! I’m out of time, aren’t I?” He snatched up what little information he had gathered and ran up to Henrick. “Where are they doing it? The throne room?”

“Doing what?” Henrick replied, completely perplexed.

Derrick, who didn’t want to waste precious time, howled in frustration. “The dark sorcerer is going to force Cally to marry Duke Ferrin, and since he has a magical hold on her, he’ll have to join them in the castle. He’s using them to secretly take over Lacoria! The only way to break the spell is for Cally to say Reisseck’s true name three times! Now, where would Duke Ferrin most likely hold a wedding?”

“At his estate.” Henrick grabbed his arm before Derrick darted off. “Last I checked, Duke Ferrin was meeting with the royal guard. He talked about legal challenges, but he didn’t mention a wedding. I suppose if he had a shady deal with an evil criminal, he may not want to confide this to the head of state, but… Son, even if Duke Ferrin did sneak off to get married, you can’t just barge into this Reisseck fellow’s realm! He would hurt you for interfering with his plan!”

Derrick realized he had a point, but he didn’t want to give up so easily. “Well, then I’ll slip this list to her so she can guess his name before it’s too late!”

Henrick brought up, “How do you know it isn’t too late already?”

At this thought, Derrick’s heart completely plummeted. “It can’t be… I have to… She’s my…” He nearly fell to the ground as he started to sob uncontrollably.

Henrick caught him before he reached the floor. “Listen, why don’t we dine together and think of a strategy to face this sorcerer.” Derrick agreed, and Henrick led him to the meal room.

At a long, ornate dining table, Henrick sat at the head of the table while Derrick sat beside him. Neither of them seemed very interested in the food that a servant served them. When he put down a third plate, Derrick inquired, “Are you joining us?” He tried to convey politeness, but he didn’t want to discuss anything in front of someone he didn’t know. He had no idea who he could trust besides Henrick, Galena, and Cally; he didn’t want anyone to give Reisseck a heads up.

“No sir,” the servant responded cordially. “This plate is for Queen Avalyn.”

“She arrived back this morning,” Henrick filled Derrick in as the servant left a food trolley with a bottle of wine and a pot of tea on a silver tray.

A moment later, Avalyn entered the room, and Henrick and Derrick stood up out of courtesy. Derrick observed that she had sallow skin and deep circles under her eyes, and he almost forgot that they faced a stressful situation as well. Avalyn greeted Henrick, “Hello, my love. Oh, Derrick! How nice to see you!”

“Nice to see you as well.” Derrick wished he could offer her more comfort at a time like this, but he faced an overwhelming crisis of his own.

Avalyn’s eyes flickered between the two men, and she concluded, “You two look like you could use a drink!” She went to the food trolley and poured them each a glass.

After she handed them their drink, she went back to the food trolley to fix herself some tea. Henrick and Derrick looked at each other somewhat awkwardly as if they didn’t know where to begin in their discussion. Henrick suggested, “Shall we start with a toast?” He lifted his glass in the air. “To my beloved, Lacoria and the legacy my family will leave it!”

Just as Avalyn was finishing up her tea, Derrick lifted his glass and toasted, “To my beloved, Cally! No, for a more formal ceremony, we should use her proper name. To Caliana!”

As Henrick and Derrick clinked glasses, Avalyn dropped the silver tray and all of its contents! Henrick and Derrick glanced over to her and saw that she had a look of total shock on her face. Henrick tentatively questioned, “Avalyn? What is it?”

Practically shaking, Avalyn revealed, “The last time I saw my daughter, I named her Caliana!”

Derrick felt a little stunned, but Henrick seemed to have gotten thrown into a colossal denial. He reacted, “A mere coincidence!”

“Coincidence? I don’t think so!” Avalyn emphatically disagreed. “I told our baby out loud that I named her Caliana. No one else was in the room, and we know that the kidnapper came in through the window, so he must have been laying in wait when he heard me say that!”

Reisseck argued, “Why would he have kept her name the same? It would make it so easy to pinpoint the crime to him if he did that.”

“Maybe that was the point,” Derrick reasoned, “He wanted you to know what he did at the right time, when the question of who has sovereignty of the throne arose! If you had any other children besides the missing princess, they could have challenged Cally based on an illegitimate marriage. Since you had none…” He paused for a moment as his words really sunk into his head. “Sakes alive! He never intended her to marry Duke Ferrin so he could run the kingdom secretly! All along, he planned on marrying her so he could become king!” The thought of her marrying that heartless, vile excuse for a human being was too hard for him to accept. “No! No, that can’t be true! Maybe it was just a coincidence…”

“Our daughter is dead!” Henrick cried out. “You saw the blood! She couldn’t have survived if she lost that much blood!”

“And I’ve said all along that maybe the kidnapper put that blood there to make us think she was dead!” Avalyn countered. “Or he could have gotten injured in the process!”

Derrick remembered, “Reisseck does walk with a limp.”

Henrick opinionated, “Cally has her own parents though! I’m sure-.”

“Actually, we never did figure out who her parents were,” Derrick corrected him. “I always thought Reisseck made them disappear in some way, but we got so focused on finding Reisseck’s true identity in order to break the binding spell that we stopped looking for them.”

Henrick still seemed skeptical. “How could he have kept this secret from everyone? Our knights searched the entire country and couldn’t find a trace of her anywhere! Okay, maybe he could have fooled our initial investigation, but how could no one make the connection between the missing princess and this unmarried man suddenly attaining this baby? After thirty three years, no one suspected anything?”

“He made her take a transfiguring potion twice a day,” Derrick reported to them. “I’ve seen it! She’s not recognizable once it takes effect.”

Avalyn surmised, “And he had her go by the name Cally so I wouldn’t catch wind of her whereabouts.”

Henrick looked a little horrified as if the thought of his daughter possibly being alive was tantamount to seeing a ghost. “I don’t know. Maybe he figured out you guys were investigating him and is marrying her to really solidify that he can’t go anywhere. Or maybe he’s just trying to distract you so stop muckraking the issue.”

Avalyn clicked her tongue in frustration. “Why can’t you ever accept the possibility that our daughter could be alive? Do you like the idea of her getting murdered? Do you enjoy losing our kingdom to a terrible person?”

“Of course not!” Clearly these words stung Henrick at his core. “This matters so much that I can’t get my hopes up. If you’re wrong, I’ll lose her all over again! I couldn’t bear to go through that again! My heart already hurts even thinking about it!”

“You still don’t believe me though,” Avalyn stated. “I may have lost my daughter, but my instincts as a mother never went away! She’s still alive!” Henrick didn’t react, so she turned to Derrick. “You believe me, don’t you?”

“Well…” The truth was that while her theory seemed valid, he still made up his mind. He never thought their daughter could have survived until right then, and it just seemed too incredible to be true! Galena’s reasoning for sorcerers not wanting to bask in the glory of causing mass horror and oppression made sense to him, so it seemed odd to him now that he would attempt to become king. Cally did bear the name that Avalyn gave to her child, but Derrick thought that it would have been incredibly lucky on the kidnapper’s part to overhear her at that exact moment. The evidence they discussed earlier made it seemed plausible, but he still felt that something was missing to really make him believe that the orphan he fell in love with was actually the daughter of the king and queen. He didn’t want to shatter Avalyn’s spirits by his hesitation to make a judgment, so he intended to express this to her as gently as possible. He looked Avalyn in the eye, and his heart nearly exploded! “She has your eyes!” Henrick grew startled, and the vigor of the moment brought color back to Avalyn’s face. “Holy smokes!” Derrick exclaimed, “She is… Cally is the missing princess!”

The Curse of Dregs Hollow, Chapter 17

Cally had no concept of how long they walked through the trees, and she didn’t have a clue where in the forest they were traveling. The woods within the limits of her binding spell didn’t contain much more than just plants, which made her wonder where Galena thought they would end up. She thought perhaps she intended to get as far into the thick as they could and let the snowy weather and shadows of the environment conceal them. They put all of their concentration in navigating through the roots and brush, so no one spoke. The only sound she heard came from their feet. Cally felt relieved that their ploy kept Reisseck busy for a while, but she wondered how long it would last.

They couldn’t see too far ahead, but they were able to discern what laid in their path in the near distance. They got to a point where the space looked empty, and Cally felt like they would end up stopping in this clearing. To her surprise, they hadn’t come to an actual clearing but the lake she often visited! It looked different to her as she she watched the sun set on the icy banks, and it just didn’t give her the same comfort it had before. It used to be a refuge for her to go where she could be herself fully without judgment, and now Reisseck had violated the safety it once provided. She couldn’t enjoy it knowing at any moment he could ambush them! After a long period of making little to no noise, Derrick finally broke the quiet by noting, “We didn’t get any rope.”

“I can produce a spell to bind him,” Galena informed them. “However, I don’t know how long it will hold, and Reisseck could feign its hold to attack us at an opportunity he finds us off guard.”

Cally suggested, “We could take his wand away, but if the spell lifts, he would still pose a threat from his massive physicality.”

Derrick responded, “I don’t think we have much of a choice. We’ll have to take the chance unless we can come up with a new idea before he catches up to us.”

“We’ll have to remain as silent as possible so we can hear him coming,” Galena instructed. “After I do my magic, start reading and keep going until we see the slightest movement coming from him.”

Cally commented, “We need a way to defend ourselves in case he escapes from the effects of the hex. It’s not as though I couldn’t punch and kick if I needed to, but he’s an enormous brute, so I think we would need more than that to fend him off.”

Galena relented, “I’m willing to give up my powers to take him down if it comes down to it.”

“I don’t think that will be necessary.” Derrick pulled out his dagger. “I can do the deed if I have to. I don’t like the idea, but I will do what I have to in order to protect you two.”

Cally proposed, “Okay, after you…” she indicated to Galena, “magically bind him, I’ll read off the list of names while you…” she indicated to Derrick, “stand behind him with your dagger ready in case we don’t guess his name by the time the spell lifts.” She paused and then remarked, “It all sounds so simple!”

Derrick glanced at the sunset and inquired, “Do you think he’ll keep hunting us down after dark?”

Cally shook her head and shrugged. “Everything I thought I knew about him has gone out the window. I’d like to think he would grow weary pretty quickly and break until morning, but I just don’t know anymore.”

Derrck folded his arms and hunched over a bit in reaction to the cold wind taking over the area, so Galena offered, “I can create a small fire to keep us warm while we wait. If we huddle together, we can shield it from view on the path.” Derrick and Cally agreed to it and sat down on the frosted grass. Cally and Derrick gathered a bit of twigs that were nearby, and Galena pointed her tail at the kindling. The fire she created wasn’t very large, but the small flame did keep them toasty enough to camp out there comfortably. They didn’t speak much after that as they listened for Reisseck in the distance. Though no one said it out loud, they all wondered just how much time they had.

Nobody slept that night, but none of them even felt tempted to do so. Cally thought that under normal circumstances, she would have enjoyed laying in Derrick’s arms all night. While she found his presence comforting, she couldn’t relax. She didn’t want to let her guard down for a second! She wanted to be fully ready for when Reisseck showed up because if any of them slipped in their duties for this plan, then Reisseck’s victory would be guaranteed. The snow had stopped falling, and the Oreads forest had stood eerily still. Time seemed to pass so slowly, and yet as she saw the first light of dawn on the horizon, she felt as though time had passed insanely fast. After hours of silence, Galena whispered, “Does anyone want breakfast?”

“Breakfast?” Cally softly replied. “I can’t remember the last time I wanted food! I wonder if I ever will!”

“We can’t eat until we can leave this spot,” Derrick quietly remarked. “We can’t keep running from him. There’s only so far we can go, so eventually he’ll find us here, it’s only a matter of time. I didn’t think it would take this long, but we can’t let ourselves get distracted. Let’s stay here and finish this!”

Galena, in a hushed tone, informed them, “There’s some berries near us if you want some food.”

Cally, who grew tired of thumbing through the history book, decided to try one. She dusted off some snowflakes, and after she popped it into her mouth, Derrick whispered, “How is it?”

“It’s fine, not as good as a warm meal.” Cally sighed, “I wish we could visit Elif’s bakery one more time! I’m not suggesting we do that though. You’re right, we need to finish this! We have to stay here because there really isn’t any other way out of this situation.”

Derrick mulled it over for a moment and suddenly got struck with an idea, “What if I married you?”

“What?” Cally heard him, but it just didn’t seem real that a man she greatly admired would actually ask her that.

“Think about it,” Derrick quietly explained, “if I marry you, then you won’t be available to marry Duke Ferrin.”

Cally got a little disappointed to hear he wanted marry her just for the purpose of saving the kingdom from Reisseck’s interference. She considered the notion nonetheless, really pondering what Reisseck would do if he found out she got married, and she concluded, “If I defied him, he purposefully wouldn’t tell us his name as punishment. We would have to spend the rest of our lives staying within the boundaries of the binding spell.”

“I can handle that,” Derrick avowed.

Before Cally could give the idea further thought, Galena pointed out, “You’re assuming he would let you live. His magic would weaken, but he could still kill you in order to maintain power. If Cally became a widow, she would be free to marry Duke Ferrin.”

“She’s right,” Cally concurred. “We can’t spend the rest of our lives avoiding Reisseck in the far corner of Lacoria. You’re not close enough to Andor to rule that land from here, and they’re going to need their future king! Besides, I wouldn’t forgive myself if you got killed just because of me!”

Derrick quietly but passionately exclaimed, “So what? Cally, I’ll die for you!”

His proclamation absolutely stunned her. No one had ever cared about her enough to put their life one the on the line like that! She had always felt so insignificant to the world, and now she a prince who was willing to put her needs before his own! It never occurred to her that a man, especially one as smart, kind, and handsome as him would actually feel anything deeper than friendship, and it surprised her to think that he may have developed romantic feelings for her! The intense look in his eyes told her that he was serious, and when she thought about the possibility of Reisseck murdering him, her heart ached, and she realized that she had fallen for him too! She had only read about love, so she didn’t know what these feelings were until now. She couldn’t bear to have him suffer, so, in a hushed tone, she responded, “Please don’t!”

They were both near tears, but before anyone could say anything else, they felt Galena’s body stiffen. With a very alert look on her face, she whispered, “He’s here!”

She got off their laps, and they stood at the ready. Derrick asked, “What direction is he coming from?”

“The path,” Galena answered. They stood behind a nearby bush and watched for him to emerge from that area. Galena had her wand pointed and ready to go, and Cally wished she didn’t feel so uneasy about this process. Logically, she didn’t think that Reisseck could see them, and Galena could hex him before he even tried to attack, but she still had an inkling that something was off. She attributed this to her nerves, which were on fire at the moment. They had plenty of time to mentally prepare themselves for this happening, but she could feel the tension blaring off of all of their bodies. Her heart pounded wildly, and she had to keep her finger open to the first page of the book to remember that she was supposed to immediately begin as soon as he got subdued. They could hear the crunch of his footsteps approaching, and Cally had to focus all of her energy on what she had to do. She couldn’t let herself fail, not when it was this important! Her life, Derrick’s life, and even the future of her country were all at stake, and that thought pumped up her determination enough to give her the stamina to do this. She let her revulsion of all of the wicked deeds he did and all he intended to do in the future to fuel her adrenaline. She didn’t know if she truly felt ready, but she felt as prepared as she possibly could at that moment.

Suddenly, the footsteps stopped. Cally’s instincts didn’t fool her into thinking he gave up and left. Something was wrong! Before she could take a wild guess as to what the issue could possibly be, her body went numb! Her muscles stiffened up so much that she fell to the ground. Galena and Derrick followed suit. They couldn’t move their lips to communicate to the others, they couldn’t even move their eyes to check on one another. Cally’s heart shattered, and she inwardly panicked. She was helpless to do anything, none of them could stop him! Reisseck strolled over to them with an extremely smug grin on his face, and without saying a word to any of them, he grabbed Cally by the ankles and dragged her out of the woods!

The Curse of Dregs Hollow, Chapter 16

They ran out of the main entrance as a crowd of people began to flock inside to watch the blazing inferno light up the sky. Galena’s feline body had a much easier time weaving her way through the mass of onlookers, but Cally and Derrick had more trouble fighting the tide. They were mostly sure that Reisseck would get distracted enough trying to figure out if Cally had perished in the fire or not, but they felt intense pressure to move quickly. They didn’t dare to look behind them because they needed to get away from this place as fast as possible, but they both shared the same paranoia that he was not far behind them. When they got to Derrick’s horse, they had a chance to turn around scope out the scene for a moment. To their relief, Reisseck didn’t seem to be close by, but they had no idea how long that would last. The hitching post didn’t have a lot of traffic because people seemed to have abandoned their rides sporadically throughout the area as the emergency of the moment drew them inside rapidly. Derrick’s hands trembled as he tried to undo the knots of the steed’s reins, and he grew flustered at his nerves giving in to the pressure that didn’t allow him to do this simple task. Galena used her wand to do the trick, and he breathed a sigh of relief before he opened the saddlebag for Galena. After she jumped in, Derrick mounted the horse and helped Cally get up. They galloped away just as they heard firefighters arrive at the scene.

Once they got to the fork in the road that had the paths which led to Bohemma and Galena’s cottage, Derrick stopped the horse and asked, “Where do we go?”

“We can’t go far,” Cally answered regretfully. “I still have the binding curse on me.”

“We should go to Bohemma and gather what resources we can while we still can,” Galena suggested. Cally and Derrick nodded in agreement, and they took off towards the village.

When they got to Bohemma, Derrick slowed the horse to a trot and inquired, “Where in Bohemma are we going?”
“We’re going wherever we can supplies.” Cally mulled that over for a second and wondered, “Wait, supplies for what? What’s happening?” On some level, she thought she knew the answer, but everything happened so fast that she hadn’t quite processed it yet.

“We need to break that spell,” Galena stated. “We should go to the library and find his name.” Derrick and Cally agreed, and they headed in that direction.

When they entered into the building, they were thrown off by the quiet atmosphere it presented. After all of the chaos they just left, seeing such an organized and methodical environment felt almost unimaginable to them! They walked over to the counter and found the same clerk that had helped Cally and Derrick previously, who greeted them in a somewhat stiffly courteous manner, “How can I help you?”

Cally and Derrick noticed that she briefly glanced to a mirror standing on the counter pointing directly at her, and they found it odd enough that they figured Reisseck must have planted it there. Derrick thought about how to shrewdly make their request and very carefully told her, “We need your help to find the right book for our research.”

“What are you researching?” She did her best to paint a smile on her face, but she clearly conveyed to them that she hoped that they wouldn’t say anything that could get her into trouble.

Cally felt a dash of inspiration and fibbed, “My husband and I are expecting a child and want to name our future son something unique. Do you have anything to help us research this?”

“Right this way!” the library clerk obliged.

She led them to a large tome, and as she handed it to them, she whispered, “There’s a study room behind you if you want some privacy.” Galena winked at her, and she winked back before she left.

They went into the study room, and after Derrick shut the door behind them, they sat at the table to convince any onlookers that they were conducting a serious meeting. Cally saw that the title of the book she handed them read: “Notable Figures in Lacorian History,” and she felt that this could be a great resource for them. She had gotten so used to looking up names to use on Reisseck later that this process had basically become a habit, but she suddenly realized the last step of the process couldn’t get carried out anymore. “I can’t make up a story about what happened at work since he was there today, so what excuse am I going to give him now to list a bunch of names when I see him… Wait, I can’t go home! I can’t go home!” For the first time, reality had set in for her, and the weight of it overwhelmed her. She always fantasized about escaping Dregs Hollow, but she thought that when she got the chance to do so that she would have gotten rid of the binding spell and could go far away from there. Now, she had to fight just to survive! She didn’t know how they could possibly guess Reisseck’s name while trying to avoid capture! Or worse!

Derrick gently pat her hand. “Don’t worry, we’re going to find a way out of this!”

“Yes, but it just got a lot harder to do that!” Cally found Derrick quite comforting, but her mind wasn’t at ease yet. “So, what do we do now? Memorize that book and spout names at him while we run away?”
“We’re taking that book with us,” Galena put in. “We can’t stay here, he’ll look for you in Bohemma. Our only option really is to hide in the Oreads Forest, but we can’t run away forever! We’ll need to subdue him in such a way that he can’t access his wand but he can still speak to us. We can read off names until we guess the right one.”

Derrick noted, “So, we’ll need to get some rope then.”

Cally probed, “How long do you think we can hold him? If his name isn’t in the book, I don’t think we can keep him in the woods while we go get another one.”

Galena proposed, “We can bring him to Barlock. If we don’t guess his name by the time we get there, then we can use the castle resources to figure it out.”

“We certainly could.” Derrick considered this notion but came up doubtful. “I don’t know.. If he escapes his restraints, he could put all of Barlock in peril, including the king and queen. However, if we keep him bound in the woods, we could be risking our own lives. We need to figure what to do if he…” He noticed people suddenly ducking and hiding out of fear. “No!”

“We’re trapped in here!” Galena exclaimed. “Do you think the librarian set us up?”

Cally’s gut led her to believe that they could trust the library clerk, so she reasoned that she must have known that this eventuality could come to pass. “She put us in here for a reason…” Cally thought out loud. She scanned the room and spotted a piece of metal on the floor. Curious, she went over to examine it and made a discovery. “It’s a trap door!” She opened it, and after Derrick grabbed the book, they all descended down the ladder under the trap door.

They found themselves in a dark basement, and when Galena used her magic to light a torch on the wall, they saw a bunch of dusty, old boxes that filled up most of the space. They followed the only aisle way in the place, and when they got to the other side of the room, they saw an old, wooden staircase. They climbed up it and opened the old door at the top. To their relief, they didn’t come across anything ominous, just another staircase that led back to the streets of Bohemma. They ran to the front, and Galena used her magic to unhitch the horse. They quickly mounted it and galloped away.

Shortly after they took off, they heard the accelerated clip-clops of a horse behind them. “Reisseck has a horse?” Derrick queried.

“He probably stole it!” Cally surmised. She could see a faint figure in the snowy air, and although it was too far away to distinguish any features, she didn’t think anyone else would pursue them like that! “Turn here!” She pointed to a street ahead, and when Derrick turned left, she dearly hoped that they had lost him…

Derrick zigzagged down a few roads and then stopped the horse to see if they could still hear the other steed. To their dismay, they still could. Derrick declared, “I have an idea!” He dismounted the horse and indicated that Cally should do the same. He took the saddlebag off and pat the horse in a way that made it take off towards the south. He led them to a nearby trash bin, and they all hid behind it. They watched as Reisseck zoomed past them heading south because he could hear their horse going that way. When he got far enough away from them, they emerged from their hiding spot and ran north.

The snow came down in flurries, and while it didn’t stick to the ground, it made the air foggy. Cally didn’t know if it was the cold weather or her shaken nerves, but she began to shiver. Derrick stopped and pulled out her brown cloak from the saddlebag. “Thank you!” After she put it on and felt a little warmer, she looked around only saw white. “Where are we?”

“We headed north, so the Oreads Forest must be close,” Derrick replied.

Galena vociferated, “There’s some trees! We made it! Keep going until we find somewhere to stop.”

As they weaved their way through the trees, Cally questioned, “And then what?” No one had an answer to that.

The Curse of Dregs Hollow, Chapter 15

Cally trudged off towards Camellia’s Circus with an overwhelmingly glum demeanor. The last couple of days had been dangerous and stressful, but it had a lot more meaning than her normal routine! She enjoyed her new friendship with Galena, and she felt a deep connection brewing between her and Derrick. More importantly, she had more of a purpose. It was exciting to learn where she truly came from, and they still had so much left to discover! Besides what the knowledge meant to her personally, she also got a sense of satisfaction knowing that their mission would save the entire kingdom! If they could just solve their mystery before Duke Ferrin could take power, then they could save Lacoria from having a dark sorcerer secretly running their land. Helping the country seemed so much more important than helping customers get onto amusement rides! She had this feeling inside of her that they were running out of time, so she would have much rather have devoted the hours she would spend at work towards breaking the binding spell before they had to resort to more drastic measures. Going to work felt like a hindrance more than anything useful, and a part of her wanted to skip and sneak off to Bohemma to do more research, but she had to maintain her cover, so she knew she had no choice but to endure it a little longer.

When she got to the task list, Claude asked her, “Are you feeling better today?”

“Sure,” she answered hollowly.

“Great!” Claude responded. “I really need you to work Flying Horses today.”

Cally listlessly told him, “No problem.” As she headed to the ride, she cringed. She had already dreaded this day enough, and now she had to work on her least favorite ride. She sighed as she headed towards her assignment.

It had been long enough since she had worked at the Flying Horses that she struggled to push the column. One little boy complained, “Go faster!”

“I’m trying!” Cally said gruffly as she mustered all of her strength to work the ride as normal.

The mother of the child snapped, “Listen, you freak, if you yell at my son again, I’ll have you fired!”

Cally had forgotten the effects of the transfiguring potion were still in still in tact, and she notated another reason why she liked working on their plan to take down Reisseck so much more than doing this. Not only could she be herself for the first time, but she received so much more respect than she did here! She shrugged off the lady’s comments. “Oh, please do! You’d be doing me such a big favor!” Cally stopped the ride and opened up the exit. The mother stared at her peculiarly, which gave Cally a bit of lightheartedness. Not enough to make her want to stay here, but she needed to find positivity wherever she she could on a day like this.

Derrick tied his horse to the hitching post as quickly as he could. He had apprehension growing further and further since he learned the difficult news from Henrick last night, and he couldn’t wait to tell Cally. He didn’t know how fast the public would find out, but Cally needed to know this immediately. Galena jumped out of his saddlebag, and as she gazed at the amusement park, she noted, “This place is larger than I anticipated!”

“Should we split up to find her then?” Derrick queried.

“We should stick together,” Galena replied. “If something went wrong with one of us, how would we…” She stopped talking as people walked by her. Derrick nodded to convey that he understood her point, and they entered the visitors entrance of Camellia’s Circus.

A customer bellowed, “Why hasn’t this ride gotten a steam engine like the others?”

“That’s an excellent question!” Cally reacted coolly. “Ringmaster Claude keeps saying he’s going to get one for this ride and the roller coaster, but I don’t know an exact date yet.” The man rolled his eyes and shook his head as he got off the ride. He hadn’t been as rude as some of the other customers were earlier, so she reasoned that the transfiguring potion must have worn off. She got a little solace from showing her true form, but it wasn’t enough to raise her spirits as she got back to work.

Derrick and Galena were walking by the food tent area, and Derrick quietly commented to Galena, “She would be here. She told me that she never gets assigned to the easier tasks. Handing out already cooked food doesn’t seem so…” Galena suddenly stopped. “What? What is it?”

Derrick leaned in, and Galena whispered, “He’s here!”

“Who?” Derrick inquired. “Reisseck?” Galena nodded, and Derrick looked troubled as they quickened their gait.

As Cally helped customers off of the ride, she saw something out of the corner of her eye that almost didn’t register as unusual at first because she was so used to seeing this sight at home. After a moment, it really sunk in and she took a second look to confirm this. She indeed saw Reisseck with a determined look on his face, and her body went numb. Reisseck never visited her at work! At first, she thought that perhaps he came to check on her because of Cloris’s report, but something about the expression on his face told her his presence had a much more sinister purpose. Everything in her instincts told her to run, so she shed her easily recognizable red cloak and darted out of the ride. While he peered into a nearby game, Cally ran in a different direction.

She found herself in the food tent area, and she fretted about not having a clear path to the exit. She ran down the aisle with her head craned back to see behind, helping not to see Reisseck round the corner. Towards the halfway point, she saw him not only round the corner but carrying her red cloak! She knew he must have been highly suspicious now because she always wore her cloak in public to hide her disfigurements and to obey his direct order, and she shuddered to think how he would react to her defiance. She wouldn’t make it to the exit or even another aisle without him spotting her, so she had no choice but to hide. She hurried to the back of one of the food tents and hid among the boxes, praying that no one saw her go in there and that Reisseck wouldn’t think to search there.

Derrick and Galena saw Cally run and hide just in time to miss Reisseck, who asked one of her coworkers, “Where’s Cally?”

The Camellia’s Circus worker answered with trepidation in his voice, “Uh, she’s at the Flying Horses, I think!”

“She isn’t there!” Reisseck growled. “Where else would she be?”

“I, uh, I have no idea!” the worker sputtered. “Maybe she went on break.”

Reisseck got uncomfortably close to him and threatened, “If you see her, you better hand her over to me right away! We have a wedding to go to!” The worker looked confused by that last part, but he was intimidated enough to comply.

As Reisseck came closer to where Cally was hiding, Derrick’s eyes darted all over the place to find something to distract him. He spotted the Ferris wheel nearby, and he quietly questioned, “Is that made of wood?”

“I know where you’re going with this!” Galena winked. Derrick drew her wand out of his pocket, and she curled her tail around it and ran off.

Cally could sense him getting closer, and her body flooded with fear. As muc has she hated working at Camellia’s Circus, she would never be desperate enough to willingly marry Duke Ferrin! She heard Reisseck talk about going to a wedding, and it felt like a death sentence to her. She couldn’t stand idly by as Duke Ferrin’s reckless policies destroyed the kingdom! She could tell he was looming in, and she decided she had no choice but to fight back. She didn’t think she stood a chance of winning, but she had to at least try! She didn’t want to get carried away cowering in fear, she was going to go out kicking and screaming! Before Reisseck could approach her, she heard Derrick’s voice say, “Did I hear you say you’re looking for Cally?”

“Do you know her?” Reisseck gazed at his fine clothing and eyed him suspiciously.

To Cally’s relief, Derrick cleverly came up with, “Yeah, I came from the Ferris wheel and it just broke! The worker said some woman named Cally needed to fix it.”

“Oh, I suppose that’s why she left that other ride.” Reisseck considered this. “I wonder why she took her cloak off.”

“Perhaps the steam engines make it too hot to work with it on,” Derrick suggested.

Reisseck seemed mollified by this explanation. “Thank you! What’s your name?”

Derrick lied, “Gallahad.”

Cally knew that he threw that name out there in an attempt to guess Reisseck’s real name, and she would have been overjoyed if he had been successful, but unfortunately, Reisseck didn’t seem very deterred. “Thank you, Gallahad! I shall remember your kindness in the near future.”

After a moment of silence, Cally dared to peek to see if the coast was clear. Derrick watched Reisseck going toward the Ferris wheel, but he caught a glimpse of Cally from the corner of his eye. He subtly signaled for her to wait, and although she had no idea what he had planned, she trusted him and waited. For a minute, nothing seemed to be happening, and Cally grew curious about what he was up to. If his idea didn’t work, then she didn’t know what she would do. All of a sudden, she heard an explosion! She ran into the aisle and got a jolt of shock to see the Ferris wheel engulfed in flames! Derrick dashed by her, grabbed her hand, and urgently stated, “Time to go!” She ran alongside him, and shortly after, Galena led the way to the exit!

The Curse of Dregs Hollow, Chapter 14

Cally sighed, “I guess on some level I always knew he did it. I shouldn’t be so surprised. I never thought he was a good person, but until today, I never thought he was a criminal!”

Derrick shook his head sadly. “I would have him arrested and tried for murder, but I wouldn’t want to risk any constables lives. Even if we sent the knights, his curses could probably penetrate their armor.”

“He would lessen his powers greatly,” Galena informed them, “but he could wipe them out in a single blow!”

“Dregs Hollow is technically part of Lacoria, but it’s a self governing territory,” Cally educated them. “If anyone in Dregs Hollow is suspected of a wrongdoing in any other part of the land, they have to send the royal guard and document it as a national crime. Usually, the inhabitants of Dregs Hollow don’t leave the city let alone break any laws elsewhere, the outsider presence alone is enough to deter them. Reisseck’s behavior is pretty rare. I’m not sure if there’s any procedures for knights to face sorcerers, and I really can’t imagine any person who would be brave enough to even try!”

“I can’t accept that!” Derrick exclaimed. “No one should be above the law! We need to change this policy so that his victims see justice!”

Galena put in, “Yes, the laws do need to change. Typically, no one uses his or her magic like this because of most of our desire to fit in with society. If citizens of the country thought their leader had used their powers in a dark way like that, they may obey out of fear, but they’ll never have the full support of the people. This must be why Reisseck is going through so much trouble to get access to the castle! He doesn’t have a problem ruling over Bohemma in this way, but if he didn’t use an indirect approach to rule over the entire kingdom, a mutiny would arise! If the laws don’t change, he could set a dangerous precedent for our kind! But changing the rules takes time, we need to address the issue of Reisseck’s conduct immediately! The only choices we have to take him down is to break the binding spell or a more lethal alternative.”

Cally inquired, “Since you can still use your wand, do you feel you can match him in a magical combat?”

Galena sadly replied, “Unfortunately, my powers are very limited while I’m in this form. If I were to use them to harm him, they would get diminished even further.”

“So, that spell you cast at Homer’s house wouldn’t have hurt him?” Derrick asked.

“Oh no, that spell was only meant as a distraction,” Galena answered.

Cally suggested, “We could make some sort of potion to take him down.” After she said it, her insides churned in guilt. “Oh, but I don’t want to kill anyone! Even if he does deserve it!”

“Let’s keep trying to find his name,” Derrick directed. “It may come to a point where we’ll have no choice but to fight him, but we shouldn’t resort to violence unless absolutely necessary. In the meantime, we’ll keep trying to find out Reisseck’s real name to break the binding spell. Say, how do we we reverse your spell?” He indicated that last question to Galena.

Galena told him, “There is a counter spell, but only a powerful sorcerer or sorceress could do it.”

“It’s a pretty rare gift,” Cally noted. “A few people in Dregs Hollow can do magic, but they’re not very good at it. I see them try sometimes, and usually they go to Reisseck for help. There’s got to be another sorcerer or sorceress out there who can help us!”

Derrick offered, “I can take a look in Barlock’s records. I’ve been so focused on trying to find any mention of Reisseck that I didn’t think to look.”

“You should look for Cally’s name mentioned somewhere too,” Galena advised. “They may not have known Reisseck’s identity, but someone out there is missing a child!”

“If that is her real name,” Derrick pointed out. “I assumed that Reisseck would change it so no one would associate him with the crime.”

“Actually, he said my name is Caliana,” Cally revealed. “I always went by Cally though. It rolls off the tongue easier I guess.”

“Caliana huh?” Derrick contemplated this for a moment. “It’s worth a shot to look. I’ll let you know what I find after you get off work tomorrow.”

Cally cringed at the idea o going back to her mundane tasks at Camellia’s Circus after working on something so much more important. “I’ll keep trying to guess his name too.”

Galena added, “I’ll meet you there too. I still plan on doing my own research. We can evaluate our plan daily, and if we need to amend them, we can figure out ways to do that when the time comes.” They all agreed before they headed out.

As Cally walked down the streets of Dregs Hollow, she began to mull over their course of action. With the millions of names out there in the world, it could take forever for them to guess Reisseck’s true identity, but the alternative was too ghastly for her to wrap her head around. It just didn’t seem right to take a life, even a rotten one! Plus, they would become criminals themselves in the process. Then again, Reisseck already was a criminal, and keeping him alive may cost other innocent lives in the process. The legal system could take too long to figure out how to handle this case, and history may criticize them for not acting sooner. It almost did seem as though taking care of Reisseck themselves would prove to be the better option, but she dearly wished for a peaceful victory! As much as she loathed Reisseck for all that he did, she would have much rather seen him in prison than a casket. She had no idea how that could possibly happen, but she decided not to give up on her faith that they could find a better solution.

Suddenly, she found herself face to face with Cloris! Cloris confronted her, “You’re up to something, I know it! I went to Camellia’s Circus today and I didn’t see you anywhere!”

“Oh please!” Cally showed Cloris her palm with the star on it. “How far do you think I can go?”

“Then why didn’t I see you?” Cloris challenged.

“Did you see a broken ride?” Cally probed. Cloris nodded. “I was fixing it and had to keep my ride closed. The public can’t always see me when I do that.” Cloris didn’t seem sold, so Cally drew a coin out of her pocket. “If I didn’t go to work today, how did I earn this?” Cloris looked as though her gut knew she was right about Cally, but with the evidence in front of her, she couldn’t think of another argument. Cally shook her head and went about her way.

When Cally got home, she immediately got struck by an enormous amount of new items in their house. She saw lots of old trinkets that she could have sworn she had seen in Homer’s place, and when she saw several books and papers stacked in there as well, her stomach twisted in a knot! She didn’t need confirmation that Reisseck had murdered someone, and she definitely resented the constant reminders of such a horrific event, not to mention the nightmarish activity that may come to pass if they couldn’t break the binding spell! Reisseck hobbled out of his chambers and commented, “I got a great deal on a bunch of historical objects!” Cally made a revolted face, so Reisseck questioned, “What? I thought you’d be excited, especially with the new books.”

Cally hadn’t meant to convey such an honest face, so she had to hastily cover it with a fib, “I just had an awful day at work! First, Gideon didn’t show up, so Marcus and I had to clean the mess that Eagan did in the restrooms ourselves!” Cally tried to make her story to include as many male names as possible, but as she saw Reisseck’s attention ebbing, she felt as though her efforts were pointless. She realized that Reisseck must have a pretty rare name, rare enough that he didn’t worry about her saying it on accident. She made a mental note that when she saw Galena and Derrick the next day, she would suggest researching unusual names.

Derrick roamed the hallways of Barlock searching for Henrick. He finally found him in the nursery staring out of the window into the sky. Henrick didn’t acknowledge that Derrick had entered the room, but Derrick spoke anyways, “Sir, I wanted to talk to you about something. I told you yesterday about the evil sorcerer who held Cally captive. Well, we found evidence that he actually kidnapped her shortly after her birth. What’s worse, he bears the culpability for the missing apothecary from Bohemma as well as the murder of an innocent civilian! I know your knights have no procedure in dealing with an enemy who could utilize magic as a weapon, but I’d like to make that we need to establish a method on dealing with this so that his victims see justice. I propose we-.”

“Not now!” Henrick said with utter sadness in his voice.

“Sir, this is important!” Derrick insisted. “The safety of your kingdom…” At the mention of that last word, Henrick’s body slumped and he began to tear up. Derrick hadn’t noticed until then that Henrick had been holding a piece of parchment and an envelope. “Sir?”

“It’s Avalyn,” Henrick wept. “She saw a doctor while she was overseas, and she confirmed that Avalyn is no longer able to bear children! Our reign over Lacoria is coming to an end! Once this information goes public and Duke Ferrin learns we cannot produce an heir, he will challenge us for the throne!”

The Curse of Dregs Hollow, Chapter 13

He’s still here!” Cally declared.

“How do you know?” Derrick looked down to where she was staring and saw a river of blood!
Joanne and Sasha saw it too and shrieked. Derrick pulled back the curtains, and Cally, who was closest to the entry way, burst into the room first. She followed the trail of blood to find Homer on the ground with a sword sticking out of his chest! The four of them cautiously approached the body only to find he was still gasping for air! Sasha cried out, “I’m going to go get help!” She dashed out of the room and was quickly followed by Joanne.

Homer’s breath appeared very labored, and they could tell he didn’t have long. He reached a clenched hand towards Cally, and she assumed he wanted comfort in his final moments, but when his palm met hers, he slipped a crumpled piece of paper to her. As soon as she took it, his body went limp and he stopped breathing.

Before she could open the paper to see its contents, Joanne and Sasha returned with a constable. Joanne gasped, “Oh no! We’re too late!”

The constable checked the pulse in his neck to verify this. “He’s gone!” Joanne and Sasha held each other as they began to weep, and Cally became upset as well after watching him die. Derrick offered his arms, and she fell into them gratefully. She didn’t know Homer well, but it traumatized her to think he had suffered so greatly just for helping them! The constable questioned them all, “Did any of you see anything?”

Derrick replied, “No. We just came to visit and found him like that.”

“How do you know the victim?” The constable had asked them very routinely, but Cally and Derrick weren’t sure how to answer that. Before they could even try, another constable barged in. “Ah, Porter, we have a-.”

“Shh!” he hissed as he locked the door behind him. “Get down!” He shut the curtains as the other constable ushered them against the wall in order to stay out of sight. He then pulled the curtain in front of Homer’s chambers and joined them in cowering along the wall.

They heard the door open and heavy boots stomp in. The perpetrator shut the door behind them, and for a moment, they all hoped that whoever it was had left. A moment later, they heard Reisseck say, “Give it up, old man!” As he approached Homer’s chambers, everyone’s hearts beat rapidly, but none as hard as Cally’s did! She froze solid because she was now cornered, and although Galena had assurred them that his powers would get weakened if he killed someone, they were standing next to proof that this consequence didn’t deter him! They had no way out, so she put her hood over her face and prayed he would spare them. The constables drew their weapons as Reisseck pulled the curtain back…

Before he could see into the room, they saw a beam of light that narrowly missed him! Reisseck turned around, and when he saw who did it, he seethed, “You!” He drew out his wand and chased after whoever did it.

For a while, no one moved. The house sounded empty, but they used the utmost caution with this matter. The constables were the first to approach the entry way, and after they searched the area, Porter stated, “It’s clear in here. Prewitt, can you secure the streets?”

Prewitt kept his weapon out as he very alertly made his way out of the house, and when he got onto the street, he pointed his weapon as he surveyed it all. After a very thorough search, he called out to them, “Clear!”

Porter relaxed a little and put his weapon away. He addressed the other four, “You should get out of here in case he comes back. Contact us if you can think of anything relevant to the investigation.” They all agreed and hurried out of there.

Joanne and Sasha turned left towards their house, and Cally and Derrick turned right where they could see their horse tied to a hitching post in front of a nearby tavern. After they got to their ride, Derrick wondered, “Which way did they go? Which way do we go?”

Cally scanned the ground for footprints and found paw prints going towards the northern end of town. “Oh no! Galena!”

“She’ll be okay!” Derrick assurred her. “Cats are quick and nimble, and I don’t think Reisseck quite measures up!” Cally chuckled slightly as they took off towards the southern exit.

They rode out into a field which had lush, green grass, billowy shade trees, and wildflowers sprinkled all over. It seemed like it would provide an enjoyable ride for them, but as they began to get some distance from Bohemma, Cally felt a strong pull. “Stop!” she directed Derrick.

“What’s wrong?” Derrick responded swiftly.

“The binding spell.” She felt disappointed at this setback. Instead of a nice country ride, they would have to go back to the chaos that they just escaped from. She also worried about possibly facing Reisseck again, and that prompted her to come up with a realization. “Reisseck obviously isn’t in Bohemma anymore! He must be heading back to Dregs Hollow.”

“Then let’s go find Galena,” Derrick suggested. Cally nodded in agreement, and they headed back into the village.

As they trotted through Bohemma, they saw that people had resumed their normal activities, which Cally found kind of bizarre. She couldn’t believe that a menacing sorcerer could terrorize their town one minute and as soon as he left, they went about their day as if nothing happened. She supposed that they didn’t have a choice, but she didn’t think she could get over it so easily. She knew that none of them were worried about Galena like she was, and she figured that this fact may have spawned her critical thoughts. She couldn’t help it though, after all, she gave them so much help! Plus, she just saved six people’s lives, so she certainly didn’t want her to get killed over it! She really hoped to see a sign of her soon!

They passed by the street where Homer had lived, and they saw several constables investigating his murder now. “Why do they bother? It’s not like they’re even going to try to arrest him!” Cally muttered somewhat bitterly.

“It’s good they’re documenting it,” Derrick opinionated. “We can show this to Duke Ferrin if he becomes king and tries to enact laws too favorable to criminals like him.”

As they took off from that area, Cally remarked, “They should appoint a sorcerer or sorceress to head a law enforcement division devoted to these kinds of crimes!”

“That’s a good idea!” Derrick complimented. “You know, I think you’d make a good queen!”

Cally found herself blushing furiously, but before either of them could say more on the subject, they spotted paw prints heading out of the north end of town. They followed them as they created a trail leading up to the Oreads Forest path and into some brush by the lake that Cally had frequented. At first, the lake seemed empty, but once Galena realized that they were there, she hopped out from inside a bush with her tail wrapped around a wooden wand! “You’re okay!” Cally gushed.

Galena responded quite unabashedly, “He bested me once, you think I’m going to let him do it again? You should have seen the look on people’s faces when the big, scary sorcerer was chasing after a little kitty cat!” She laughed, and Derrick and Cally smiled. “Besides, his powers are a little weaker now since he killed someone.”

“He must have had some pretty important information against Reisseck for him to kill Homer,” Derrick observed.

“The piece of paper!” Cally recalled. She pulled the crumpled piece of paper out of her pocket. “Homer had this in his hand as he was lying on the floor. He must have died trying to protect it from Reisseck!”

“Either that or he found it as he was lying on the floor,” Galena theorized. “He definitely wanted to tell you something!”

Derrick put in, “Let’s hope he found Reisseck’s real name! Open it!”

Cally spotted drops of blood stained on it, but she tried not to think about it as she unraveled the small ball it had gotten squeezed into. As she unfolded it, she could tell that it came from a newspaper. Everyone’s nerves were high in anticipation as she revealed the article. It had a picture of Queen Avalyn and King Henrick with utterly distraught looks on their faces as they addressed a large crowd in front of Barlock, and the headline read: “Newly Born Princess Murdered Inside of Her Nursery.” Cally, Derrick, and Galena looked puzzled, and Cally said thoughtfully, “Well, we did ask about disappearances from thirty three years ago. We didn’t give him a lot of details about what we were looking for.”

Galena pointed out, “But when Reisseck entered into Homer’s house, he specifically told him to give something up. This story must be significant to Reisseck! I wonder why!”

Derrick scanned through the columns of the story. “Hmm, I don’t see any mention of Reisseck or even an evil sorcerer. We’re definitely missing something! What is it about this piece that would make Reisseck return to the crime scene to retrieve it?”

Cally studied the picture for a moment, and eventually she spotted something in the corner that looked familiar. Suddenly, it clicked for her! “He was there that day! Now it makes sense why he didn’t kill you, Galena. He had already planned to weaken his powers on someone else! He killed the princess!”