Clark Gillian

The Devious Dragon and the Fall of the Emperor


Chapter 3.
Heaven on earth.

Shattered crystal still lay in the center of the ballroom, remnants of that fateful night that had crumbled the empire.

Where waltzes and laughter once spun, betrayal hung heavy, a shroud over the overthrown Emperor and Empress. The empire under their reign, where freedom to be and explore thrived, had morphed into the hidden serpent's iron fist, where obedience was the only currency.

The Princess, reunited with her long-lost other half, the Fool, soared through the tapestry of space and time. Elven whispers, carried on moonbeams, had guided them, leading the Fool to snatch the Princess from the clutches of false accusations - accusations of witchcraft, before it was too late. They had escaped the dungeons, where now the Emperor was locked up.

Now, it seemed, hand in hand, they danced amongst constellations, the Fool's touch a steady anchor against the dizzying swirl of their escape. Their true home lay beyond the veil, in the fabled Fairy Paradise, a land the Fool had sought all his life, the whispered promise hidden within the elusive chase he had given the Enchanted Deer.

"Nothingness," Master Deer murmured to them, voice echoing through the shimmering mist, "holds the mirror reflecting all existence."

Here, memories unfurl like a tapestry woven from starlight, every joy and sorrow a thread illuminating the intricate design. The Fool and Princess stand at the precipice, witnesses to the grand play of life, past and present swirling at their feet.

"Where form dissolves and essence intertwines," the Seer whispers, her voice like windchimes kissed by moonlight, "everything dances in the space between, becoming more through shared being."

A rainbow bridge, shimmering with impossible hues, arches across the swirling void. Beyond, the Elven Gate glistens, a portal to realms unseen. Master Deer lowers his head, antlers aglow with celestial fire. "Take this," he offers, a blanket woven from starlight, each thread infused with the whispers of elves and fairies. "We, your guides, bound to the mortal world, walk beside you until the very threshold."

The Fool, fear and hope battling within him, extends a hand to the Princess. Her touch, once laced with anger's fire, now holds the warmth of dawning acceptance. Together, they step onto the bridge, the starlight blanket enveloping them, a comforting cocoon against the unknown.

The Fool, no longer a shadow cast by loneliness, stood tall, his hand intertwined with the Princess's. Yet, her eyes, though no longer blazing with anger, shimmered with unshed tears. Memories, sharp as thorns, clung to her: her father, stripped of his crown, her mother's voice echoing down a cold hallway, the sting of accusations. The blanket of starlight, soft as spun feathers, couldn't quite erase the ache.

"The more you let go," whispered a fairy, flitting around them like a dandelion seed, "the faster we fly."

But letting go felt like surrendering, and surrender wasn't in the Princess's vocabulary. The image of her parents, their faces etched with despair, flared in her mind. Could she forget their pain, even for a moment?

An elf with eyes like moonlit pools knelt before her. "Princess," she said, her voice gentle as rustling leaves, "the hurt is yours to carry, but it doesn't have to define you. You are stronger than the storm that raged within you. Be the Princess who rose above the ashes, not the one bound by them."

Her words sank in, each a pebble smoothing the turbulent sea within. The Princess closed her eyes, picturing her parents, not as prisoners, but as proud figures, their love a beacon guiding her onward. A sob escaped her lips, but this time, it wasn't just sorrow, but a release. Like a sandcastle succumbing to the tide, the walls she'd built around her heart crumbled away.

Hand in hand, the Fool and the Princess stepped through the shimmering veil, two halves made whole, ready to face whatever awaited them, together.

The Elven world now burst into their vision, a kaleidoscope of colors more vibrant than any they'd ever seen. Emerald waterfalls cascaded down mountains of amethyst, sapphire butterflies danced in sunbeams filtering through crystalline trees, and the air hummed with melodies played by invisible wind instruments. The Fool and Princess gasped, their hands instinctively reaching out to touch the shimmering air.

Yet, amidst the beauty, shadows lingered. Empty streets, overgrown with luminous flowers, led to crumbling architecture, once grand but now eerily silent. Laughter echoed faintly from a distant meadow, but no figures were in sight. The Princess shivered, a touch of unease replacing her initial awe.

Suddenly, the Enchanted Deer and Seer materialized beside them, their silver eyes reflecting the sunset's fire. "Welcome," the Seer murmured, her voice as soothing as a summer breeze. "This was once the heart of our world, where humans and elves lived in harmony."

The words hung heavy in the air, sparking a thousand questions. What caused this paradise to fall? Was it connected to the darkness brewing in the human world? The Princess saw a flicker of sadness in the Deer's gaze, his antlers drooping slightly. "Did humans forget the way back here?" she asked, her voice barely a whisper.

The Deer tilted his head, a melancholic smile gracing his features. "Perhaps," he replied, his voice like rustling leaves. "But sometimes, forgetting isn't the problem. It's choosing to go along... instead of following a different path."

The Seer's laughter danced through the air, light and carefree. But the Enchanted Deer remained stoic, his antlers twitching in agitation. "Easy for you to say," he grumbled, his voice heavy with disapproval.

"It is easy!" the Seer chirped, her eyes twinkling. "To live, one needs only to exist. To simply be."

The Princess, with her experience as a Witch, understood the Seer's perspective instantly. The Fool, however, still bore the scars of his tanner upbringing, where hard work and "laziness" were constantly at odds. "It's not easy at all," he countered, his voice firm.

"Easy or not," the Seer insisted, her smile unwavering, "being requires no effort. It's the very essence of existence."

Her words resonated deeply with the Fool, sending him spiraling inward. The concept of "being" held such weight, such depth, it threatened to pull him into the same void as the Elven Gate. He felt the Princess merge closer, their shared experience forming an even stronger bond.

The Deer shook his head, frustration etched on his noble features. "I still don't grasp it," he confessed. "What do you mean, people aren't allowed to simply be?"

The Princess, her thoughts drifting back to the Witch's Tower and the freedom found in pumpkins, spoke up. "Sometimes, just existing is forbidden."

The Fool mirrored her thought, recalling his father's accusations of laziness and the burden of expectation. "Just being," he sighed, "isn't always an option."

The Deer's brow furrowed. "Since when has this become an issue? Surely, existence is a right, not a privilege."

"But what if refusing to conform, even if it's harder for you, disrupts the very fabric of this 'thing'?" The Princess challenged, a hint of humor in her voice.

"This 'thing' you speak of," the Deer rumbled, perplexed, "what is it?"

"You know," the Princess replied, feigning exasperation, "the way everything works!"

The Deer stared at them as they stepped onto the magnificent boardwalk, its polished wood glowing under the ethereal light. The splendor of Fairy Paradise stretched before them, a breathtaking panorama of wonder.

"And how exactly does this 'thing' work?" the Deer pressed, his gaze unwavering.

The Fool, feeling a sense of vindication, added, "One must... earn their place."

He felt a weight lift from his shoulders, as if finally articulating the unspoken struggle of his past. But the Deer remained unimpressed, his gaze a silent condemnation of the human world's twisted ways.

"Why strive to earn what you already own? Being isn't a prize,child," the Enchanted Deer rumbled,his voice seasoned with ancient wisdom.

"It's the essence of your existence,the very breath that animates your spirit."