Clark Gillian

The Devious Dragon and the Fall of the Emperor


Chapter 11.
Better safe than sorry.

High atop the palace, within the confines of the highest tower, the Empress remained utterly oblivious to the turmoil gripping her empire. Months had morphed into an eternity since her imprisonment, yet the window remained her sole solace.

"At least I have this," she'd murmur to herself, staring out at the vast expanse. Memories flickered - banquets that blurred into one another, lavish ceremonies that lost their charm, all overshadowed by the constant, gnawing fear: her daughter, alive and hidden.

Now, confined to a bare room with only a rickety chair, a makeshift bed, and the scribblings of her quill, a strange peace had settled in her heart. Witnessing her daughter, vibrant and defiant, had unearthed a tranquility unknown for years.

One afternoon, as she meticulously rendered a pomegranate on paper, deep black lines mirroring its split halves, a familiar buzz filled the air. Bumblebees, nestled outside her window, hummed their cheerful tune. A smile graced the Empress' lips as she leaned out, greeting her winged friends.

"Thankfully, I still have this," she whispered, her gaze sweeping across the landscape. "And you, my buzzing companions."

A harsh knock shattered the serenity. A hefty key turned in the ancient lock, and a soldier barged in, devoid of courtesy or even a fleeting glance at the imprisoned queen.

"Chamber pot," he barked, already spotting the vessel in the corner.

The Empress pointed to the corner, but the soldier, already locating the offending pot, brushed past her. "Ugh, foul stench!" he gagged, pinching his nose.

"It's a chamber pot," the Empress said wryly. "What else would it be?"

Ignoring her, the soldier snatched the pot, his grimace deepening. "Why me?" he grumbled under his breath.

"I'd gladly do it myself," the Empress offered.

"Like you'd enjoy that, huh?" he spat, his tone cruel.

Suddenly, his gaze darted, spotting a bumblebee near the window. Panic seized him. He flailed wildly, shrieking, "Wasp! Get it away!"

"It's a bumblebee," the Empress cried. "They're harmless, gentle creatures."

But the terrorized soldier continued his frantic dance, swatting at the air. The startled bumblebee, drawn too close, met its end in a splash of foul-smelling liquid as the soldier, in a clumsy panic, hurled the pot.

The Empress and the soldier recoiled, splattered and reeking. The bumblebee lay still, a tiny victim of misplaced fear.

"They're harmless!" the Empress shouted, fury rising above her shock. "What possessed you?"

"Couldn't tell!" the soldier sputtered, fear replaced by defensiveness. "Had to be sure!"

"It wasn't a wasp..." the Empress started, voice trembling, then slumped back in her chair, defeated. "Just a bumblebee."

The soldier scurried out. The Empress surveyed the wreckage. Even the vibrant hues of the pomegranate on the table had been muted by the stench-laden grime. Hunger gnawed at her, but the thought of food repulsed her in her current state.

With a sigh, she slipped off her soiled robe. Using the lone straw discarded on the floor, she made a valiant attempt to scrub the filth from her face and hair. The remaining dregs of her drinking water provided a meager rinse, leaving her feeling more exposed than clean.

But amidst the humiliation, a spark of defiance flickered. The indignity, the fear, the loss of the innocent bumblebee - they fueled a quiet rage within her. The Empress, stripped bare and broken, yet unbowed, stared out the window. The wind carried her silent vow: they would not break her.


A sound shattered the serene melody of the fairy paradise - a heartbreaking scream that pierced the valley, echoed across the water, and startled every being within its reach. Elves peeked from hidden glades, nymphs paused their dances, fae peeked from cloud palaces, salamanders froze on sun-warmed rocks, and even the stoic gnomes in their subterranean homes twitched their ears. Such a cry, raw and anguished, hadn't resonated through the land in memory.

The source? The Princess, lured by the serpent's whispers, stood on the shores of the Seer's island. This island, shrouded in an eerie purple mist, boasted a mountain carved from obsidian and crowned by a still pool said to reflect all truths. "From the coffin, one cannot see the coffin," the Princess had murmured, a cryptic phrase clinging to her like a shroud.

"Indeed," the serpent had responded, its voice laced with deceptive boredom. "But there's more. As queen, your power far surpasses your current confinement. This, I want you to see, for reasons you cannot yet fathom."

Compelled by an unseen force, the Princess sought the air spirits, creatures woven from wind and cloud who ferried souls across the sky. "You carry a heavy burden," they whispered, their voices rustling like autumn leaves.

And so, bathed in the otherworldly glow of three suns, she stood before the Seer. The pool of mirrored water lay dormant, reflecting only the storm brewing within the Princess.

"You return," the Seer's voice boomed, echoing through the cavernous space. "But your purpose this time..."

"I wish to see alone," the Princess interrupted, her voice surprisingly firm. "What I seek lies hidden within, and its reflection is meant for my eyes alone."

The Seer's gaze held hers for a long, silent moment. Finally, a slow nod. "As you wish."

he mirroring waters held the same oppressive stillness as a breath held too long in darkness. Then, a vision unfurled before the Princess: the Empress, her mother, stripped bare and humiliated in the chamber, the echo of the bumblebee's death ringing in the air. It was too much. A scream, raw and anguished, ripped from her throat, shattering the silence and echoing across the island.

Tears blurring her vision, she turned away from the Seer, who watched with a frown that creased deeper than the lines on her ancient face. The Seer saw not just the Princess's reflection, but the darkness coiled within the serpent's words.

Sobbing, the Princess stumbled back to the serpent, her voice thick with accusation. "Why? Why did you show me that?"

"Terrible, isn't it?" the serpent purred, its forked tongue flickering. "But now you understand, don't you? As Queen, your power could free your mother, restore your father, bring hope to so many. It's a heavy burden, I know, but how else would you see just how deeply I care?"

Fresh tears streamed down her face. "It's...wrong too. So terribly wrong."

The serpent watched with satisfaction as the Princess grappled with his twisted logic. "Go then," it hissed, "collect your other half. He will be no jester in the human world, but a knight, a king! Your king."

Her voice barely a whisper, the Princess choked out, "Yes."


The Seer sought out the Enchanted Deer, her steps echoing in the hushed grove. She found him by the whispering stream, moonlight etching his antlers in silver. With a gentle hand, she stroked his muzzle, the silence heavy with unspoken anxieties.

"Speak freely, dear Deer," the Seer finally murmured. "Your wisdom guides my steps, even when clouded by uncertainty."

The Deer tilted his head, sensing the turmoil within her. "Fear not," he boomed, his voice like rustling leaves. "Unburden your heart, for I am steadfast, and your truth carries no sting."

The Seer sighed, her voice laced with sorrow. "I fear... my design may not have yielded the fruit we sought. At least, not fully."

"Speak of the Fool and the Princess," the Deer prompted, his gaze steady.

"Their souls, divided, have formed separate tethers to the human world, independent of one another."

"And the Princess's bond remains strong," the Deer concluded, a wistful sigh escaping his nostrils.

The Seer nodded solemnly. "Her eyes have witnessed hardship, and within it, a seed of defiance has sprouted. What blooms next...only time shall tell."

"Then we wait," the Deer declared, his voice resonating with quiet power. "Let fate unfold, its tapestry woven with threads of choice and consequence. We shall witness the final pattern, ready to act when the hour of need arrives."

"As you wish," the Seer acquiesced, her shoulders relaxing with acceptance.


Grief-stricken, the Fool found the Princess on the familiar beach, tears staining her cheeks. Without a word, he offered silent comfort, his hand resting gently on her shoulder.

"My mother," she choked out, her voice thick with anguish. "They're...they're abusing her."

The Fool sat beside her, pulling her into a warm embrace. His heart ached, mirroring her pain.

"We have to go back," the Princess declared, her voice hardening with resolve.

"Wait!" the Fool cried, startled. "Why?"

"She isn't fighting back...doesn't even try. She's given up! And it's because of me!" Her voice trembled with guilt. "She wouldn't treat others like that, but she lets them treat her that way. It's wrong! Unbearable!"

"What do you mean, because of you?" The Fool's brow furrowed in confusion.

"Knowing I'm safe here, she has no reason to resist. It's as if my happiness gives them free rein. But that's not who she is! And I won't allow it!"

"What do you plan to do?" The Fool stammered, unsure of her plan's logic.

She took a deep breath, wiping away the tears that streamed down her face. Explanations were over. With a determined grip on his wrist, she pulled him to his feet.

"Where are we going?" he stumbled, trying to keep up. "Are you going challenge the entire empire alone?"

"So much is happening in the human world," she said, her voice rising with desperation. "And we're here, frozen in paradise, doing nothing!"

"But isn't this paradise?" he asked, genuinely confused.

"A paradise bought with my mother's suffering? Never!" she cried, her eyes blazing with newfound fervor. "As King and Queen, we have the power to change things."

A cold dread gripped the Fool's heart. "King and Queen?" he whispered, his voice barely audible. " did this..."

The Princess didn't answer, her grip tightening on his wrist as she dragged him onward.

"A kingdom can never hold the magic of this place, can it?" he pleaded, desperate to make sense of their sudden departure.

"And how will we convince anyone if we can't even speak to them?" she countered, frustration lacing her voice. "I can't stay here idly by! I won't!"

High above, the Elves of the Cloud wept, witnessing the echoes of a repeated tragedy unfold. Rain poured from their celestial home, mirroring the tempest brewing within the Princess.

Her hand remained locked on his, pulling him forward against his will.

"Where are you taking me?" he asked, his voice cracking with despair.

"Home," she whispered, her gaze resolute. "This is where I belong. Where I must face my destiny. The serpent was right – staying here stagnates us. The human world holds the key to growth, to understanding."

"But what's the point of being smart?" he mumbled, lost in the whirlwind of her emotions.

She offered no answer, her focus solely on the path ahead.

"The fairies...they whispered of a way back," she explained, her voice hushed. "A path through the veil, the Elven Gate. We can return, leave, whenever we choose. Just like them."

The Fool remained silent, a torrent of doubts swirling within him.

From the shadows, the serpent watched, a malicious smile spreading across his face. His web of deceit seemed to be working flawlessly.

But then, the ground trembled as the Enchanted Deer appeared before them. His towering form radiated an unsettling presence, silence echoing in his wake.

The Princess broke the silence. "Thank you for bringing us here," she said, her voice strained. "But I must return."

The Deer remained impassive, his gaze unwavering.

Emboldened, she continued, "We are destined to be King and Queen. We can learn, do good in the human world. I have the chance to make things right."

Silence stretched, heavy and oppressive. 

The Fool stuttered, unable to find his voice.

"But if we stay here, we'll be dumb forever," the Princess insisted, echoing the serpent's words.

A suffocating silence descended. Suddenly, the air crackled with tension. The Fool, breaking free from his stupor, roared, "Who told you that?!"

Thunder rumbled overhead, mirroring the storm raging within him. Fearsome air spirits circled, and the Fae watched in horror from their ships built of storm clouds. The Princess trembled. "The serpent," she confessed, her voice barely a whisper.

The moment her words left her lips, a chasm opened between them, a void filled with unspoken doubts and conflicting desires. In that vast emptiness, the Fool and the Princess felt themselves pulled apart, their connection severed.

As two separate entities, they were yanked through the guarded Elven Gate, the vibrant colors of the fairy paradise dissolving into the familiar green hues of the human realm. They landed with a thud on the damp forest floor, reality crashing down around them like a physical weight.

Disoriented and alone, the Princess stared at the Fool, a stranger once more. The weight of her decision, fueled by the serpent's manipulations, settled heavily on her chest. Had she chosen the right path? Or was this merely another step in the serpent's twisted game?

Meanwhile, the storm raged on, a reflection of the turmoil within them. The air crackled with unspoken questions, doubts gnawing at their hearts. As they emerged from the forest, the sight that greeted them shattered any remaining hope.

Their once-proud kingdom lay in ruins, smoke rising from smoldering buildings. The cries of their people pierced the air, a cacophony of pain and despair. The serpent's words echoed in their minds, his promise of power to fix everything ringing hollow in the face of this devastation.

Grief and anger warred within them. The Princess, her eyes blazing with newfound purpose, turned to the Fool. "We have to help them," she declared, her voice trembling with conviction. "Whatever the cost, we have to make things right."

The Fool, no longer the carefree jester, met her gaze with a newfound determination. "Together," he vowed, his voice low but firm.