I couldn’t believe what I’d seen in my dream back at the ruin had actually come true. Brenden’s brothers had caught us. And it was all Brenden’s fault.
Arching an eyebrow, Brenden said, “I think it wise to give the girl and her friends to the queen without a moment’s hesitation, Duff. She’s been searching for the Wishcaster the moment we entered the realm. I’ve felt her.”
“Yes, little brother, I’m sure she has. The old wart infested hag always likes to keep the best treasures for herself. But I’ve been giving the matter a lot of thought and well, I like what I see. I think the girl would do well as one of my…pets.”
My insides flinched. Pets? What was he talking about?
Brenden raised one of his hands. “Not that it matters to me at all what you do, brother, but I must warn you…Queen Casteen has the ogres under her scepter. They do her bidding. I saw it for myself at Gilly’s Trap.” He shrugged. “If you don’t mind starting a war then be my guest.”
“Humph,” the king grumbled. Rising to his feet, he snapped his fingers and a strange force brought me to a standing position. I wanted to sit back down but it was as if my feet had been pasted to the floor. I glared as hard as I could at the evil elf.
“Brenden, you were always a worrier. But I’m not sure I can let such a prize go…especially when the queen won’t use her to her full potential.”
Duff strutted closer to me as my heart pounded. His beauty surpassed even Brenden’s, but his face was more angular and hard.
“A witch dragon. No one has ever seen the like in how many years? Well, I don’t believe there ever has been one. Think of the rarity.” Duff put his hand over his mouth in thought.
I wanted to scream, blow fire, anything to get away from him. Just being this close sent chills through me.
“That’s true, Duff,” Brenden agreed. “Think of not only the money the queen would reward you, but maybe you could come to terms on how she should finally leave our people alone. We could live in the realm without her meddling in our affairs at last.”
I couldn’t believe Brenden wanted the queen to capture me. But which was worse, I wondered. To be the queen’s who-knew-what or this king’s “pet”?
“Damn,” Duff cursed. “Why do you persistently have to make sense? I’ve always wanted to have something that no one on the planet could ever gain. But…you are right, of course. It wouldn’t be wise to upset the queen. And this witch dragon would be a nice bargaining chip.”
Brenden let out a sigh. “Now you’re talking sense, brother.”
A sly look swished over the king’s face. “And now, dear Brenden. What is it you want from all of this? Besides being given your rights back and the curse lifted, how may I reward you for using your gifting as a true Droor elf? Your cunning in this situation astounds me, I must say. I’m quite proud of you.”
“I only wish one thing. To have my alchemy chamber back. That is all.”
Before I knew what was happening, yellow kaleidoscope symbols glowed from the king’s hands as purple sparks shot toward me. Pain rocketed through my body.
Then a shroud of darkness overtook me.
When I woke up, my head pounded and my body felt like lead. I was in a strange bedroom.
“There, now, me lovely. You’ve had a mighty shock. Are ye feeling a wee bit better?”
My grandmother’s voice shook me but I was too woosy to move.
“Where am I?” I whispered. My body ached from the electric magic that had pierced through my body who knew how long ago.
Suddenly, a cool, soothing liquid seemed to rush through me and I no longer felt weak. My grandmother must have done something, but I was too angry at my situation to ask. Instead, I rose out of bed, surveying the room.
Everything glowed in reddish black luster like the blood red sunset in this godforsaken realm. Candelabras flickered around me, showering my grandmother’s cracked features with an eerie red tinge.
The expensive crimson drapes looked like they came right out of an evil Jane Austen movie. I spied a portrait of a strange ivory woman next to a wolf with haunting red eyes. Harpswing fairies flitted happily above her grasp. Her creepy look gave me shivers.
My grandmother never answered my question so I asked again only more forcefully, “Where am I?”
Gran smiled. “You’re in Queen Casteen’s palace. Oh, you’re in for such a treat! She’s coming to see you, me dearie.”
Eyes narrowing, I glared at her. “What have you done with my friends?”
She patted my hand. “No need to get your breeches in a snit. They’re just fine.”
She cocked her head. “As long as you listen to yer grandmother and not go off on some wild foolish notions. Wishcaster…” Clucking her tongue, she added, “You were not born for that lowly position. Why, you’d be no more than the fairy queen’s servant.
“No,” she added. “You were born for greatness!” Her eyes almost popped out on the last word, making her look like the witch she was. A knot formed in my throat, still mourning the loss of my wonderful sweet grandmother I thought I’d known.
I ordered, “I want to see my friends. Now. Or I’m not going to listen to you no matter what you say or threaten.”
Sighing, she shook her head. “This’ll not go well if you’re going to order me about. And that attitude will not sit well with the queen neither. If ye want yer friends alive, I’d suggest ye alter yer mood.”
“What does the queen want?” I asked, hoping there was some way I could escape all of this. If only I could channel the magic I knew I had inside me. But how?
“Well, I’ll allow the queen to talk more about it. Yer to see her soon. Any minute she’ll be sending in the sentry to fetch ye. Now, let’s sit and chat on how you’ll behave. Okay, sweetling?”
I was like a pot filled with water left to boil for too long. “Honestly, I’m in no mood to be on anyone’s good behavior list, Gran. Do you have any idea what’s been going on? Not only has my whole life been turned upside down, but I’ve been captured, three times by the way, lied to by people I thought I could trust, ripped apart to where I thought I was dying, shot at, starved half to death in the cold, and fought over like I was the last item at Simmart on Black Freaking Friday! Well, I’m not for sale. Got it, Gran? And if I don’t want to cooperate, the queen can just kiss my big blue…”
“Ooooh,” Gran cut in, “I knoo just the thing that’ll put ye in a better mood. I’ve made yer favorite cookies. Spiced shortbread!”
She tapped my knee then flounced out of the massive dark door.
My mouth watered at the thought of the cinnamon and sugar cookies. I hadn’t had anything good to eat in what seemed like months. How could my grandmother be so wicked and so nice all at the same time?
But I didn’t have time to think about it. I needed to get out of there and find my friends.
Stepping to the door, I tried to open it but of course, it was locked.
Noticing a mirror, I caught a glimpse of myself. Yeah, I knew I was blue, I mean, I saw my hands and arms every day, but gazing at my full witchy self actually horrified me.
Then I spotted a picture of an ugly witch right above it.
And she looked exactly like me!
Oh my GOD! Would this nightmare ever end?
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