The Princess, The Tiger & The Pear

Chapter 6

She had been dreaming, that she was in a place other than the deep, dark dungeon of the ogre. It had been another room of darkness, but of a gentler kind.

Then there had been a light.

Geometric lines and edges, that were soft.

A sweet hum, melodic.

Then her eyes opened.

She took in her surroundings; the first thing she saw was a spacious ceiling made of clean stone, painted white with the black points of many tiny stars.

She blinked a few times, moving her sore neck to her left and right.

She had awoken in a fine, restful bed with silken sheets, comfortable pillows and blankets. More than that, she was in a cozy room with walls painted in gentle blues and other lulling colors. Next to her bed on the opposite wall was a tall window, which overlooked to an expansive forest and clear sky.

Maybe her dream hadn’t been a dream at all.

She pulled the blankets off of her and stiffly stood up. As she moved her blonde waves, she saw that she was wearing a long, silken night gown. She gently moved to the window and looked out and saw besides a forest, a small town, bustling in the afternoon light. People were strolling between stalls, carrying goods, dressed in simple clothes and busily talking to each other and the merchants they encountered.

Truth.

Truth, it wasn’t a dream!

“Wooh!” Aline cried, throwing her arms in the air and jumping up in excitement. She went back to her bed and rolled around on top of it, clutching the pillow and laughing hysterically. Tears of happiness were welling up in her eyes. For the first time in a long time, she was smiling and so, so happy.

She was free!

She slowed her excitement though and stopped rolling on the bed as she started putting her memories back together.

Wait, where was she and how had she gotten here?

She remembered running from the burning house and-

Aline’s senses were suddenly alerted as she heard the door to this room suddenly open. She quickly turned her head and saw an older woman, dressed in the outfit of an attendant staring in at her.

“Oh my goodness!” the lady cried while Aline jumped out of her bed. “Don’t be afraid, cherie!” said the attendant.

“Who are you?” Aline asked.

“I am Henriette, handmaid to King Grande and his son, Prince Beau, the young man you rescued. Do you remember?” The woman’s voice was as sweet as rose petals dipped in honey.

Aline calmed herself, but still looked at the woman warily. Then she remembered her run through the forest, a deep pool and a young boy at it’s bottom. She remembered diving in cold water and seeing nothing but dark depths and the distant shape of the boy.

That was it.

“I… I remember some.”

“Good, good. Now, stay where you are, the prince would like to see you very much.” Henriette gave a big, sweet smile, while moving a gray bang from her eye. “Don’t worry dear, you are safe here. Oh, and there are fresh clothes for you in that cabinet there. We’ll knock before we come in.” And with that, Henriette closed the door, and Aline heard a few shuffled footsteps of the old lady walking away.

Aline stood there for a moment, swaying. She turned her head and saw a mirror, and saw that she was still in her sleeping gown. Next to the mirror was a large dresser, which after she opened revealed many fine clothes. She grabbed a turqoise dress, an additional cloak and fixed her hair before sitting on an adjacent chair.

Yes, she remembered much now.

She remembered her encounter with the tiger and the promise of her rage for a way out.

She remembered the ogre exploding in a wreathe of fire before her.

And she remembered carrying with her the chest that held her mother Aurore’s heart.

Immediately, she began furiously searching the room for the chest. She had carried nothing else with her during her escape, but had the prince left the chest back in the forest?

“Are you looking for this, cherie?”

Aline, who had been looking under the pillows she had just been sleeping on, turned her head to the doorway. There before her was the boy from the forest that she had saved from drowning, dry and dressed in fine accoutrements. And in his hands was the chest. Behind him was an exasperated Henriette.

Aline eyed him carefully. He was handsome, with dark hair that fell in fine bangs. He had somewhat small eyes, and his cheekbones were well shaped. Once she was sure of him, she remembered some of Aurore’s points on civility. Aline smiled and gave a tiny curtsy.

“Um, bonjour my dear. My name is Beau.”

“The prince of these lands,” chimed Henriette spoke behind him. Beau looked back at his handmaid, cheeks slightly blushed. “Yes, Henriette, I just didn’t want that to be the first thing I said.”

Henriette swatted the young man’s ears, causing him to flinch in pain. “Prince Beau, your cheeks should be redder than that! Cherie, I’m so sorry, I told you we would knock first but this young man was so excited to see you that he barged right in!” Henriette’s frown at the young man was scarier than the kindness of her face would have led you to believe.

Aline giggled, for she found this exchange humorous and a relief compared to what she had just been through.

“It’s fine, sweet Henriette, I had already changed. Then, Aline’s gaze became strong and her attitude serious. “Prince,” she began while clearing her throat. “May I take my chest back?”

“Oh, of course,” said Beau, as he actually stepped towards Aline and placed the chest before her. Aline took it and as she did so, Beau reached into his pocket and gave her a familiar dark key. Aline took both, walking back and putting them under her pillows. That would have to do for now. After this, she looked at Beau.

“Did you?,” and as she spoke, she motioned to the spot that hid the treasures. Beau shook his head.

“No, of course not, and I kept chest and key with me at all times. No one else but me and Henriette know of it.” Aline’s shoulders dropped in relief, deeply exhaling.

“Merci beaucoup,” was all she could say.

There was a moment’s pause.

Beau stepped forward. “My good friend, what is your name?” Aline blinked, then gasped as she realized she had not introduced herself yet to anyone here. She immediately stepped forward, taking the prince’s hand and looking him in his dark eyes.

“Je m’appelle Aline,” she said, her naturally melodic voice sounding lyrical as she spoke her name. Behind her eyes, she thought about how long it had been since she had heard, let alone spoken her name.

Aline.

The prince looked into her eyes, then squeezed her hand. “My pleasure,” he whispered.

They barely had a moment to say anything more before loud, angry footsteps could be heard. Aline and Beau turned around to see a tall, broad-shouldered man dressed in splendid garments suddenly in the doorway. He had long, dark hair, a long beard and the same eyes as Beau. Aline could immediately tell that this man was Beau’s father. But whereas Beau’s light eyes held a gentle incandescent shine to them, his father’s eyes radiated fury.

“Boy!” he roared like a wyrm. “Why are you here right now? Why aren’t you hunting right now?”

“Grande, please,” Henriette began before the king looked down at her, swords of impatience stinging into her vision. Henriette, now forcibly humbled, then meekly silenced herself. Beau then stepped forward.

“Father, please, I was just coming to check on the girl who saved me. Remember? I had my guards bring her up here. Her name is Aline.”

The king huffily regarded Aline, but he managed to take a single, calming breath, his cheeks losing only a hint of their red sheen.

“Yes. Yes, thank you. Sincerely, I thank you. Please, come to dinner tonight.” He didn’t necessarily sound sincere, but Aline graciously nodded in acceptance. The king immediately returned his attention to his son.

“As I said, you should have been hunting by now! Our handmaids would have taken care of this vagabonde, and you could have met her in the evening once you were done.”

“Father, I couldn’t wait until then, I owe her too much. And as I’ve told you before I-”

“You what?” the king growled menacingly, interrupting his son. Beau suddenly stopped any action. Gulping, he quickly flicked his head to look at Aline before returning his attention to the king, straightening himself.

“I hate hunting!”

With a surge of speed, the king stepped forward and slapped Beau across his face. The smack was loud and Beau immediately clutched the cheek that had received the blow. He stared at the ground, trying to fight back the sting he felt before it brought on his tears.

“My prince!” Henriette yelled as she rushed over and gently reached down to inspect the spot. Aline walked to Beau, resting a hand on his shoulder, squeezing it to let him know he was all right.

“Go down, get your musket and make up for the time you’ve lost,” the king hissed. “No son of mine will be allowed to be weak,” he said before turning around, his robes trailing behind him like a lizard’s tail. But as he walked away, Aline turned her attention to, stabbing at his back with her coldest, iciest stare.

“King Grande!” she roared a challenge with so much bravada, the king did stop and turn to face her, his visage belying a crease of open surprise. Though he was much bigger than her, Aline walked forward with no fear felt at all to impede her steps. How dare this man strike his own family! She stepped to him, to let him know this fact. But when she had summoned the breath-

Nothing.

She felt nothing.

Aline gasped, suddenly short for air as a cold rush crashed across her spine, chest and forehead. A sliding feeling was felt in her gut, for in her mind, she had reached forth from there to pull out her own fury. But where there should have been a fire, a heat, there was an emptiness that brought a feeling of weightlessness to her entire frame.

The consternation of the tiger prince.

She stumbled, and the king’s gaze regained it’s edge. Aline looked up at him, and he now seemed immensely intimidating to her. And his blooming rage felt as though a hot desert wind had blasted her in the face, causing her to stumble back.

“I said you were invited to dinner. Don’t make me take my invitation back,” the king spoke, grabbing and ruffling the hem of his robes. “Boy, follow me.”

Aline could only wobbily stand there, as she felt Beau walk past her. She saw he was still clutching his face. But he briefly turned to look at her. Somehow, he was smiling.

“Let’s talk later,” he managed to quietly squeak out before he followed his father out and down the hall.

Aline was still weak, but she felt the kind grip of Henriette lead her to sit at the edge of the bed, touching Aline’s forehead to check her temperature, wiping away beads of cold sweat. So distraught was Aline, and in a cold daze, she didn’t even hear Henriette say she would come back with some cold water for her to drink.

The Princess, The Tiger & The Pear

Chapter 5

The ogre’s lair was nothing but ashes.

The orchards, a smoldering ruin.

The barrier that had hid this foul estate for many years, dissipated, burned away by the fires of Aline’s rage. All of this had been burned away by her rage. The rage of a young woman seeking freedom, collecting the light of one who loved her so much.

And overhead in the clouds, a raven, somber and as dark as rotted licorice, quickly flew by. It was scanning the area, looking for details and drawn to this site by some unhearable calling. Now, it seemed to be hunting for a scent.

It’s curiosity had brought it firstly to the remnants of the ogre’s shack. From the air, it payed attention to the way the soft breeze that was rushing through this place was rustling the thick layer of ashes that lined where poorly made floorboards had once been. With it’s sharp eyes, it soon spotted the outline of Aline’s deep prison.

Yes, yes! Something powerful resided here, yes!

It then caught an updraft that lifted it up smoothly, without it having to make the exertion of having to flap it’s wings. From there, it’s head seemed to take notice of an invisible trail that meandered through the burnt branches of the orchard. It then hurriedly proceeded to follow that trail.

Then, it ran through here. Whatever it was, it ran through here!

The trail took it out of the husk of an orchard and into the deep forest. Through the leagues of deciduous shade it darted, flying through the thick expanse with skill and speed that only a predator is capable of. It was getting closer, it knew, for the trail was thickening, congealing into a more solid form.

The trail brought the bird to a certain calm forest pool, it’s surface pleasantly littered with petals and leaves. There on the shore, it landed with a sickening pitter and a patter. On the ground, it hopped around like a large bug as it’s eyes followed and traced traced a lingering outline, an impression that was left in the moist dirt.

A person-no, a girl-person lay here. I can tell, it was a girl-person!

Then, it fluttered and hopped, cawing in shrill excitement. It had spotted the flat and square impression of where a small and heavy chest had been. From this spot was a brilliant glare, and the raven was turning it’s head as if having to protect it’s dark eyes.

Yes, yes! The power, the power! The power had been here, yes!

It then flew with renewed energy straight up to a spot high in the darkening, twilight sky. Refocusing it’s gaze, it followed the trail which was now more powerful than it had ever been before. For many miles it followed this invisible yet hotly blazing path. For in the raven’s eyes, the trail wasn’t invisible, but dotted with the pulsing sparks of a powerful magic. The raven was cawing in a way that sounded like pain inducing laughter; it was going to find the treasure, tonight and for sure!

Then, it stopped.

In it’s tracks, between the cool of a lingering cloud.

For though the path was clear, where it was taking the raven, it had not expected. For there, not too far in the distance, was a settlement. There were many simple houses, those that belonged to villagers, many of whom the raven could see were retiring for the night, calling in their little ones and closing their doors. Some were making final checks on their livestock, and a few of the houses had smoke pluming forth from there chimneys. A few young men and women were making their way back from the village tavern, from which loud accordions could be heard when the door opened. Additionally, from the taverns halls, bawdy and cheerful laughter could also be heard-which seemed to be painful to the raven.

The beastie turned it’s attention away from the village and to a grander sight. Up on a nearby hill, overlooking them all, was a tall and mighty chateau. Its towers and windows were high, outlined with a blue frame. It was large and it’s craftsmanship spoke of finery, it’s tiled roof the sort built to keep warmth in despite the bleakest cold. But above all else, its ramparts and walls said that it was capable of strength and military defense. And patrolling its walls, carrying small lanterns, guards could be seen patrolling, carrying swords and muskets. Despite the setting sun, their eyes were bright with alertness.

The raven screamed and fluttered in piercing aggravation.

No, no! I was so close! There will be too many guards for me!

The raven was thrashing about, swatting at the clouds, lashing and viciously stirring at the air with it’s small but sharp talons. Eventually though, its fit had ceased. Its chest began to not puff out so much.

Still, still. I know where the power is. Yes, yes. I know where it is!

The raven’s eyes suddenly glowed an eerie brightness, a color indescribable and that spoke to mischief most vile. And then, a spiraling flame spewed from it’s beak with a shuttering cough, flying before it in the air. At first, the flame was a chaotic mess. But it then formed into the shape of a window, all the while glowing the same strange light as the raven’s eyes had but a moment ago. A window whose purview bespoke of a place frought with ill intentions and wickedness.

Oh, Matthieu will be most pleased with me! Yes, yes he will.

The raven then flew into this portal, disappearing suddenly. The flames quickly dissolved, as if neither flame nor bird had ever been there to begin with, leaving only the wisps of clouds to bear any witness.

The Princess, The Tiger & The Pear

Chapter 3

She was trying to think.

She was trying to think about the moment and not what it would soon be like to be free of the hell she had lived in for a year.

She was trying to think about what she would say to try and get the wicked ogre to eat the fruit that would spell his ultimate doom.

But most of all she was focusing on being calm and being natural, trying to harness whatever rage still flowed in her veins into this, her final mission, if she was not careful. And as she walked into the entrance, holding the pear behind her in her hands, she felt the disgusting cool of the wooden cabin welcome her like a vulture’s claws wrapping themselves around a mouse. And of course, there was that ugly ogre, Brute, sitting by his gross living-room table on his chair, looking smugly expectant as rivers of anger flowed through the squelches in his brow.

Aline tilted her head down, looking at him with unflinching intensity, breathing with hard anger.

For a moment, neither said anything.

“Don’t just stand there girl!,” Brute roared, clearly uncomfortable with the vicious stare Aline was destroying him with. “Get over here now!”

But Aline stood as still as as the mountain; only a slight breeze rustled her hair.

Brute blinked in stupid confusion; ‘did this scrawny human girl just disobey me?’ But that was impossible, he would kill her immediately if she disobeyed him.

He immediately stood up, hoping that his eight-foot height and bulky frame would scare her back to her senses but this too was ineffective. So he began walking towards her, raising his hand to strike her across her stubborn face. But before he could, she raised her right hand in front of her, holding the red pear in front of her.

“Un moment, monsieur,” she said aloud and Brute did stop for a brief moment to eye the oddity in her hand, only to smack it out of her grasp. The moment was fast but she saw the pear fly across the air and hit the nearby wall.

No!, she thought to herself as she focused her gaze back on Brute who had now wrapped his ugly claws on her shoulders and was shaking her with great, angry strength. Aline heard inconsolable and unintelligible anger in his voice as she saw her hair whipping all around her. She was being shaken so hard and with such force that she thought that if she didn’t keep her neck straight she thought it might break, before he forcefully threw her hard on the ground, causing her to hit her forehead against the floor.

“Ugh!,” Aline coughed in pain as she began massaging her forehead, all the while Brute roared so hard, dust in the air was pushed all around him. Aline didn’t pay attention to him for she knew that he was just blabbering on about how she could never disobey him like that without punishment. And yet, in that moment, the only thing she found herself doing was being angry; not at the ogre but instead at Aurore, of all people. How is it that her mother, the most beautiful and gentle woman Aline had ever met had not just let herself become shattered but had also left her daughter in the dregs of a hideous, unstoppable, offensive beast like this monster?

Aurore.

Why?

How could you do this? How could you do this to yourself and to your daughter?

“Hate,” Aline whispered to herself, spitting a tiny bit of blood onto the floor in front of her while trying to get up. “I hate you, Aurore.”

Pardon?,” came the deep voice of Brute, confusion swathing through his anger. Aline looked back up at him.

“How did my mother shatter? How is it that I am here, and have only memories of living with my mother and then suddenly being here?

“I have no idea why I’m here right now.”

There was a moment’s pause from Brute before he made a quiet chuckle which of course quickly turned into a belly grabbing, full forced laughter.

“Who the hell are you?,” she demanded.

“Stupid girl, it looks like I shook you into idiocy,” he said, while looking down at her coyly. “But as I told you once before, your mother lost a bet with the king of the goblins.”

“What bet?”

“The bet that she could not fall in love with him or else she would turn into diamonds. But Matthieu, the king of the goblins is shrewd and cunning; he courted her the way all men who want a woman only for the sake of a game court them.

“Do you know how men court women only for the sake of a game?”

Aline shook her head and Brute smiled smugly.

“Some find those with little self-confidence and force themselves into their lives by way of sweet blessings. Others find those who have a little more confidence and let them think they are in charge of the relationship and the situation, even when they are clearly not. But your mother, well, she was not either of those types of women. She is the strong and mystical type, the type of woman that is the hardest and most satisfying to conquer. To conquer strong women like Aurore is hard.

“But Matthieu is patient. And so, by using his charms, his magics, his cleverness and his vernacular she could not help but fall in love with him. And when she did, in a gasp, she turned into diamond; all according to his plan, his plan to steal her magic.

“But,” said Brute, looking disgruntled and angry, stopping himself. His already angry brow suddenly became more intense.“But the queen of the fairies was watching over your mother. And when Aurore fell into pieces, she shattered her to protect her from falling into his clutches.

“Yet, fortunately, I was lucky enough to have claimed Aurore’s heart. Even now, Matthieu looks all across the kingdom for me.”

Aline listened intently, while memories of Aurore flooded her vision, cold goosebumps creeping across her arms. Looking up at Brute, she asked him plainly, “Why am I in your clutches then?”

And for the first time, Brute looked at her with but the slightest hint of something other than cruelty and malice. It was a look of condescension tinged with a small balance of respect, as if this is something his young prisoner should know herself. And yet, even this was laced with sarcasm and credulence. Still, his answer was honest.

“Because you are closest to her heart,” he replied.

For a moment, he kept looking down at her while Aline, dirty and calloused, covered her mouth with her hand and let out a small tear. Any sympathy Brute may have had had quickly left his senses. But he turned around to where the red pear had landed, went over and picked it up. It was small in his massive claw.

“A red pear?,” he asked the air. “And it is warm with the softness of a slight magic.” Looking over to her, he said, “Once I eat it, you will go back to work immediately.” Aline then looked up to see Brute, without anymore hesitation, throw the fruit into his mouth and swallow it with a loud, juicy crunch.

Then, nothing.

“What a strange flavor,” Brute said. “Hot, with an Earthy flavor. Like a heavier, darker cinnamon flavor.”

Aline watched expectantly from her corner on the floor. Had the magic failed?

Then, Brute went to say something when he suddenly stopped, a horrified expression on his face. He made a few puzzled, painful gasps as tears began to flow from his eyes and smoke began to pour from his mouth in lengthy plumes.

“Aaaah!,” he loudly screamed, clutching his throat and falling onto the floor. Aline stood up, watching in horror as Brute’s entire body soon began smoking and sparking, his dirty clothes quickly catching fire while he rolled in agony and futility.

What have you done to me?!!,” he roared as the fire consuming his body from the inside began to fume from his bubbling skin and start igniting the entire cabin on fire. He was in such pain, he was destroying the floor with his bare hands as he pounded them in painful vain.

In but a moment, Aline was beginning to find herself in an inferno.

But still, she was paying attention.

Brute, who was writhing on his back, quickly turned onto his gut and was trying to crawl out to the back porch door when Aline saw her opportunity finally before her. She ran over to the struggling ogre and while his back pocket was undefended, she pulled the iron key from his pocket, surprisingly cool in her hand.

Without a moment to lose, she ran up the stairs to Brute’s room and let herself in to the poorly maintained room that consisted of a lone mattress in the corner, several piles of trash and next to a little stand, the ornate box that held her mother’s diamond heart.

She had just grabbed the box when she heard the heavy stomps of the ogre coming up the stairs. Knowing that he was in a rage and no longer had any patience for her to be alive, she noticed his long window, the one he had used to watch her work in his orchard with for several months.

“That has to be it,” she told herself. Looking around the room that also had smoke breaking through the cracks in it’s walls, she put the heart’s box on the ground, grabbed Brute’s little nightstand and threw it against the glass of the window, shattering it. She picked the heart’s box again and noticed a clear bottle that messily read ‘alcool‘ next to the nightstand when the door to the room opened and Brute came in, practically nothing more than a flaming, angry skeleton.

“Give me back your mother’s heart!,” he roared with fury, running over to where Aline stood. With few options left, Aline picked up the bottle, pulled out the cork that sealed it and threw it against the monster that had enslaved her for a year of her life. At the same time, she picked up the massive pillow Brute slept with, a hard and disgusting thing. And with the ornate box still underneath her arm, she leapt out the window with the pillow underneath her while the explosion that once was Brute followed behind her like a shadow.

Of fire.

 

The Princess, The Tiger & The Pear

Chapter 2

“What is this, grand tigre?,” Aline asked the great beast, her strong voice laced with twirling rivers of confusion and anger while her hair pranced in the wind like many wild horses. She was still staring at the strange, white, magical pear, while the voice of Xavier informed her of it’s purpose. “It is an aspect of power that comes to those who are gifted with the sight of compassion and the hearth of fury, to accomplish a great task.

“Pluck it, than whisper unto it’s skein the mission you seek to complete and gift it with a kiss. Then give the fruit to the being you wish to have eat it and with but a single bite, they will have all of that emotion forced into their being, like the venom of a million vipers suddenly crashing in their veins. They will not only feel the emotion, they will also feel the hammer of the memories that crafted those feelings. All of this will slam into them, and the element associated with the emotion will wrack their body, fully. But be warned, for there is a price to be payed”

Aline’s gaze then immediately centered themselves and dived into the oceans of power that constituted the former prince’s grand eyes. For a moment, mortal and genii, female and male, determined and reserved stared into each other, their soul’s dueling in the divide between them. In the warm air, Aline searched for unpronounced truth hidden in the labyrinth of Xavier’s formidable, regal stare.

But she could only find cool honesty.

“And what is this price?,” she asked.

“The pear will absorb all of the emotion you put into it, an emotion you will never feel again. An emotion that will be as gone as the wind that now whispers across your palms will be in the next three minutes when you decide with finality the course of your predetermined, fatalistic, rouge destiny. And yet still, in this case, only your rage can defeat the ogre.”

Aline listened to Xavier explain the magic and to her slight surprise, she found she accepted the nature of the spell rather easily, for here she was talking to him to begin with. The magic was evident, but that didn’t mean she didn’t comprehend the possible severity of the action that must be done without any less realization as to it’s possible consequences. “I must sacrifice my rage,” she whispered to herself as she lowered her head and wondered what it would be like in the future to never feel anger again.

Would she be less different?

Would she not be as powerful.

Had it not been her anger that had helped her survive in the ogre’s prison for as long as she had? Had told her to never, ever treat him with respect even when he stamped his lumbering feet and demanded it of her?

Had rage really been her saving grace?

She closed her eyes and contemplated this for a second that was scraping at the lashes of eternity before she regained her focus and returned her attention to the tiger prince. “Not only is the life of me and my mother at stake but so are potentially more innocent lives, lives that do not deserve to end by way of the ogre’s violence. Lives full of their own miracles, tribulations, contributions and softer romances that must be felt by the meridians and leylines of this world. So do not lecture me on prices, prince, for I seek to do that which is gracious. And graciousness should never have a price.

“Or, so Aurore once told me,” Aline whispered. She briefly winced at the pain of thinking about her mother, before she once again gazed into the eyes of the tiger. All tears were gone.

“Than go and pick the white pear,” the tiger whispered sternly before he said with great force “and know that I will return to you in the future.” As he said this, a hard breeze rustled through where they stood and as it reached Xavier, he dissipated into a swirl of red pear blossom petals that became a hurricane that stormed the entire clearing. Across the prairies of this strange domain, the petals chased invisible spectres, shooing them away to the fits from whence they came, retreating from the power that surged through the tall grass of the meadows and threatened to destroy them.

Aline walked with renewed strength and confidence to the low branch where the pear hung calmly, past the reach of where Xavier rested while the red blossoms magically circled around her. She then plucked the white fruit and brought it to her lips, so that her breath graced it softly while she spoke. “I wish to kill the ogre.”

Then she kissed it; immediately, there was a flash of blinding light, and Aline again found herself in the beautiful pear orchard where she worked. At first, it seemed as if nothing had changed; the sun was still out and birds were still singing in the brisk April air. She looked around before she realized that she must have simply had a strange reverie; she had not been transported to the dimension of a tiger prince, not at all.

“Pas possible,” she said to herself.

But as she readjusted herself to her everyday surroundings, she became aware that she was holding something in her chill palms. She then looked at her hands and saw that in her grasp she was holding a pear that glimmered with the fading mystery of a spell most consequential. Certainly, this was the same pear that Xavier had given her but there was a difference; no longer fresh snow white, the pear was now a deep crimson, like blood coated iron. It even pulsed with slight warmth that felt not unlike an ember’s shade, the warmth Aline knew came from her fine, royal rage.

For a moment she did nothing but stare at this lovely ruby crafted from sweet flesh while the songs of sparrows were replaced by the mellow caws of distant ravens.

Then, terrible, shrill shrieking interrupted the brief moment of contemplation. “Girl! I see you have a fruit in your hands! Come here now and face the consequences of your dim, reckless decision!”

Aline snapped back into reality, having zoned off. But though she had regained her senses, it was almost as if her feet were walking on their own accord as she strolled to Brute’s cabin, time seeming to have slowed, not unlike ice sliding across the grass of a meadow. And then she opened the door and let herself in to the ogre’s foul home.

Frankish Vision I: Luitgard

Against my brow, upon ground now long hallowed

My heart beats in tandem with the drinks of wine bottles so shallowed

I hear calls from beyond bar door frames yelling “hall’o!”

Yet on this dark road I, myself shall not allow

For instead I feel hollow upon ground long lay fallow

By constricting knives of asphalt and concrete

I know deep beneath lie ancient seeds to flowers sweet

Of a land where life is good and love is as strong mead

But instead I carry on to my abode, alone

I tarry to kitchen, alone, to couch, alone, to bed, so alone

“This does not bode well,” I intone in my temple

Once upon a time, I remember a friend, with laugh fair and smile gentle

Who held my hand in hers-but now she is gone and my heart doth tremble

Yet no one is to blame, just the passing of re’membrance

Remove the ghostly hands to forget thine distant embrace

Run my hands through my locks and against my face

As I sit at my wine stained table and close my eyes

I close my eyes and comfort myself in dimming shroud

My breath slows and the cars and random club songs become not so loud

A darkening cloth of rest, conscious, no longer at test

The melting of the walls and bookshelves

As the walls to my mansion erase themselves

And replace, with forests mighty and castles great

I stand up and partake in the sights of ancient length

Not far is a glowing ocean, vast, and adroit, a gold tower of sublime make

Upon a mountain, towering with mist, rain and fortitude

Towards it I go, with no intention of intrude

With confidence, I walk with sword, shoes, and cloak of blue

With intense, I fight and defeat routiers and wolves

And without incensed, I pass time with elks but not with drunken fools

As I ascend, walking past mud and stone

To the shining door, I reach, alone-always alone

And into a hall, long and made with diamond

Around me, sweet sounding, bells that are chiming

Lily and rose petals start falling as I begin climbing

Distant memories of love, endless, unbounding

Begin resounding in an empty hearth where my heart’s

Fire was lit, rebounding light to tear the darkness apart

And reforge the shards of my quintessence

I remember my mother’s guiding lessons

My mind is calm, prepared for any and all repentence

As I push open a final, silver door-lavender scents

Fill the air, as there, not far and against a window

Stands a maiden fair overlooking the crescending meadows

She is tall, her hair bright like a spindle

Especially in the midnight moon’s light

Her hair falls down the span of her pale back

In artisan-like, royal elegance-braided with excellence and delight

I approach, slowly and cautiously, no retrack

When at last I am by her side, I announce my gentle tidings

And to my surprise, she turns and wraps her arms around me in kindness

Shock gives way to tears in my eyes

As she calmly reassures me that all will be well,

To trust and love with God, and the loneliness in my soul will not dwell

Undo the bindings of resentment entrenched in my matter, get up from where you fell

Live life as the story you wish to tell

And to make no sell of character that would unseam

And I embrace her tightly, this forgiving queen

In this palace room, grand and clean

And to be in the arms of a woman again, fills my heart with joy

And to hold her in mine fills my marrow with joy

And for a moment we sway in the calm breeze, not alone

Like the meeting of the Isere and Rhone

Holding each other, feeling sincere, not alone

I hold her dear

But then I turn to gaze at her features

And I find that I cannot see the grace of her features

Even in fine starlight I cannot find her face

This shining, immaculate place

“My love, why can I not see you clearly,” I ask

And she told me, “My love, your heart is kind and can make the task,

But how can you profess to call me love

When you have yet to know that which is?”

This universe that exists spans the bredth of that which will make you burn

You will be taught to unlearn

I yearn for that which I must learn

To god I go, sword in hand, to Carolingian graves, to make me turn

Amen