Drake smirked at Smitty, "I'm going to enjoy watching you die, brother."
Smitty snorted in derision, "What did he tell you Drake? Did he say you'd share the kingdom together?"
Drake's paled a bit as Smitty hit close to the mark. Smitty laughed humorlessly.
"What else did he say? That you'd have power? That you'd be able to finally beat your big brother? So you're going to sacrifice everyone just so that you can have the last word! You're such a loser."
"Shut up!" Drake roared as he smacked Smitty across the face.
Smitty spit out blood and continued, "Did that feel good? Is that what your whole life has been? You just want to finally win? What do you think will really happen once good old Gwyn defeats us all? Do you really think he's going to keep his end of the bargain? You do, don't you. You're really that gullible. You're really that stupid, aren't you?"
"Shut up!" Drake roared again drawing his sword to impale his brother with. "I'll kill you myself!"
"Enough!" King Gwyn thundered, bashing his fist on his throne. He pinched the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes shut. "Now look, you've given me a headache. Do stop being an idiot. I still need Smitty. How am I supposed to lure Queen Ursula here if you kill the boy?"
Drake lowered his sword and faced the king, breathing heavily. He screeched with frustration and flung his sword, "Fine! I suppose I can wait for a bit longer."
The king flopped into his throne and finally regarded Kerry again. He frowned a bit quizzically as something finally occurred to him. "Kerry, I realize that you have your charms, and your pipes are quite mesmerizing to mortals, children, and the weak minded, but my rock monsters that guard my entrances are impervious to any of your wiles. How did you manage to get by them unscathed?" The king's eyes narrowed suspiciously as he waited for the faun to answer.
Kerry swallowed nervously, and pasted on his dazzling grin, "Oh, well, that's simple… um… King Gwyn… you see the reason that I was able to get by the monsters was because… ah... because…"
"He had help," a disembodied voice stated regally.
With a shout the rescue party appeared and drew their swords menacingly. The pookas gathered around their king and drew daggers, their eyes flashing. One of the men in Ursula's entourage swung his blade before any sort of caution could be said and a heated battle began. Hooves, blades, fists flew and many on both sides fell injured. Calliope and Smitty found themselves pinned against the wall by their dragon friend who bravely shielded them from harm. Facing each other, they had no choice but to stare for the length of the seemingly endless battle into each other's eyes. Smitty's hazel gaze swam with the remorse and ever quickening love he had for her. He pulled at his lip with his teeth as he struggled to find some word that would make everything like it was. Calliope's eyes were a mixture of anger, hurt, and betrayal, but every now and again he thought he spied something else. He thought he spied a softening of her hatred there. Suddenly the battle ceased as the rescuers spotted King Gwyn pulling Violet to his side and taking a dagger from one of the pooka's.
He laid the blade against the child's throat. "Hello! Would everyone stop fighting and please pay attention? I'm still in control here, you know."
He smirked at Ursula as she drew off her ugly disguise and regarded him was by far the most beautiful woman that Calliope had ever seen. Blue-black hair fell in heavy waves to her slender waist. She was garbed in a lavender gown with silver trim that complemented her lavender-blue eyes. Her mouth was tightly imperious at the moment, but one could tell it could be lush and tender. She was quite tall and had excellent posture. When she moved, it was with a grace set to her own inner music. She seemed to float.
"Oh, Ursula, I think the other look was far more becoming of you. You shouldn't have changed!" the king chided in mock despair.
The queen smiled, "Oh, well, you know the old adage- It's a women's prerogative…."
"To changer her mind. Yes… this is true. So that means you're finally going to agree to my proposition?" the king's eyes glittered with triumph. The day might just turn out just fine after all.
"Well, for all intents and purposes, it appears I have no choice. You have my niece. You have my son."
The king nodded, gloating, "Yes I do! Isn't it lovely? I do love guests."
"Well, there is the matter of your lie," the queen chuckled.
"Oh, must we go on about that? Remember all the other things – the niece, the son – let's not focus on unimportant things."
Queen Ursula laughed, "Oh but you forgot that the penalty for lying about the death of a cherished animal like a dragon is death for yourself."
"Like your rules matter to me," Gwyn sneered.
Ursula raised her brows, "Oh, but they should!"
"Why should they?"
The queen sighed and tsked, shaking her head. "Oh, you've forgotten, haven't you? That's too bad. It meant a lot to you at the time."
King Gwyn tensed and stared down the queen, muttering tersely, "What do you mean?"
Ursula raised a brow, "Hasn't it seemed odd to you that I am calm in all this? Certainly, perhaps I am being cooperative because you have my niece in your dirty clutches, but could it be something more?. Don't you think it odd, that someone who obviously loves her little niece more than life itself would be conversing with you as though she were merely commenting on the weather?"
"Well, now that you mention it, it does seem a bit odd," the king replied. He pulled at his hair and then fumed, "Oh do get to the point."
Queen Ursula raised a hand, "Patience, I'm getting to it."
"Well, hurry. I'm getting bored. You know what happens when I get bored," he shot back as he tightened his grip on Ursula's niece to emphasize his position.
"Do you remember when we were four, Gwyn? You and I were such good friends! I always grieved for that day that all changed. Adults can be so stupid. I should know…" she grimaced at her own current behavior. "Anyway, Gwyn. Don't you remember what you said to me when we learned that we could never be friends again?"
The king paled, "Stop it. Don't say another word. Don't."
Ursula nodded, "Ah, you do remember. I know your full name. You could easily be in my power if I wished it. So what shall it be?
The king shook with anger, "Oh but I could easily kill this little girl before you even uttered the first syllable!"
Ursula nodded, her eyes glittering dangerously, "Yes, and then when I uttered them all, I would make sure you would pay for every drop of blood you shed from her. You would be the lowest of all creatures. I would make you eat mud and slither upon the ground like the snake you are. What would be the best treat of all, is that you'd do it willingly. And when you'd been brought to the lowest point you'd ever imagined, I would give you awareness, and watch with glee as your vanity drove you insane.
Gwyn screeched with frustration and then with a thrusting motion hurled Violet towards Ursula. She joyfully embraced her niece and gave her to one of her entourage to lead out to the forest and back to home. The child gratefully obeyed, looking forward to supper and a nice hot bath.
Aidan beat upon his own head with outrage and hollered, "What? Just like that? She says a bunch of fancy words and you give it all up just like that? You must be daft! I gave everything up for this? Robber! Bandit! I will rip you with my bare hands!"
Aidan rushed towards the king but he was conked on the head by one of the pookas and fell to the ground. Ursula wrinkled her nose in disgust, "Ugh, I must have been blind. What did I see in that man?" Waving her hand over him, she uttered "Aeflion Maesler Negratori." In a flash of light, Aidan shriveled to a wizened old man of about 3 feet tall. Ursula nodded, pleased, "Yes, he deserves to look on the outside as he is on the inside, a small, ugly man."
Gwyn finally found his voice again and questioned her glumly, "I never understood why you didn't pick me. You fell for that HUMAN. You should have married me. I gave everything I had to you, and you threw it all away."
Ursula gazed at him pityingly, "Is that what this whole thing is about? You went to all this trouble? You schemed, planned, turned my son against me, stole my niece, tried to kill my other son, because you were mad that I didn't marry you?"
"I think I had cause!"
"And that is exactly why I didn't!" she shouted. "You are so selfish! You think only of what Gwyn wants! It's always about you! I will never marry you! And with my knowledge, I never shall have to. I was a fool, allowing you to go about your way for so long. But I swear to you, Gwyndemear…"
"No! Don't say it!" Gwyn covered his ears.
The queen scoffed, "Oh relax." Then she added, "However, you have some payment for all the trouble you've caused. I have to think on what it should be."
She turned to Drake who was pressed up against a wall, sweating profusely as he realized that his fortunes had suddenly gone sour. "And you. What am I to do with you? It is apparent to me that you are no better than Gwyn."
She studied him for a long time, thinking of what should be a fitting punishment for his crime. "You are my own son, and I do not have the heart to kill you, but I do have one solution to your errant ways." She touched him and the glamour upon him dissipated, revealing a rather small faerie with mosquito wings. She sighed and nodded to two of the men that had accompanied her, "Seize him."
The two men caught the boy up in their grips and faced him towards the queen. She sighed sadly and pronounced, "Drake, for the crimes you have committed against all good faeries, you are hereby stripped of all magic.
She nodded to the two men, and one of them pulled out a sword and cut off Drake's wings. They released the boy and he fell to the ground in a heap, sobbing.
The queen spoke again, "If I could feel that your tears were honestly tears of remorse, I'd take mercy upon you. But, you are only sorrowful because of self-pity. You will leave us forever."
Drake lifted his tear-streaked face and screamed, "I will get you for this! I will! I hate you! I hate you! I will always hate you!"
Ursula nodded, "Yes, I know, and I'm sorry for my part in that."
Drake ran out of the throne room and through the entrance leading to the waterfall. Ursula turned towards Smitty and touched his cheek.
"I am also sorry that I let five years go by before I realized how badly I have treated my dear son."
Smitty smiled tenderly, "It's okay. I'm sorry I was such a rotten kid." He winced and struggled with his bonds, "Uh… think someone could untie me? I'm losing circulation in my hands…"
One of the women in the party untied Smitty and released the dragon and the others as well. The dragon rubbed at her snout, "Oh I hate when something that's fell asleep wakes up again – it's normally cranky!"
Everyone in the party laughed, and some of their tension was eased. Smitty turned towards Calliope and tried to think of something appropriate to say, but nothing seemed to come to mind. Ursula stepped towards the young woman and clasped her shoulder, "Calliope, I want to thank you for all that you've done for me and for this town. You have helped me see how silly I have been, and you have loved us. I am forever in your debt. As payment, I shall see you safely home. It will be done right away."
Calliope's expression belied her conflicting emotions just then. She was very angry about the reasons that she was led there, but, there was still the unresolved issue of her attraction to Smitty. She also knew that she was going to miss the town and everyone in it. She thought about her parents too, and her sister, and even her brother. She missed them. She wanted to see them. Finally she nodded, exhaling her breath.
Ursula took one last look at King Gwyn. The pookas stood around him, trying to comfort him, but he was paying no attention to them. He was slumped dejectedly in his throne, staring into nothing. Ursula turned with a sniff, and, along with her party, made her way back to the surface. There were no more obstacles to meet them on their pathway back. The entire knoll realized its defeat. All of the creatures that had been languishing in the dungeon had been freed and joyfully followed after the queen. The two silly faeries that were supposed to have been watching Violet wisely took this opportunity to also flee from the knoll, certain that they'd not live long if they didn't. Once they were outside they flew as quickly as they could away from the forest, and were never seen again.
The trip back through the forest and to the town was silent. The injured were helped by the strong, some carried on makeshift litters. Calliope's face was expressionless as they finally found the gravel path that led to the town square and to her little cottage. Smitty followed helplessly behind her, hoping that she'd say something, anything. Finally he had to speak.
"Calliope, please don't go," he pleaded.
Calliope turned around, sighing, "Smitty, don't do this. I need some time to think. I miss my family. They're probably worried sick about me. I was supposed to have met them three days ago. Instead I've been traipsing around in this delusion. I'm not even sure if anything is real here! For all I know I could be locked in some hospital in a nice white room. Let's not even get into the anger I have for you. Don't you see that I need to go home? Keeping me here wouldn't be good for either of us."
Smitty nodded, "Yes, I was an idiot. But what I said was true, I was going to keep you safe. You see, Calliope, I…well…I…"
Calliope crossed her arms, "You what?"
"I love you!" Smitty exclaimed quickly. "There it is, I've said it. I'm madly in love with you. If you leave, I think I will pine away to nothing."
Calliope's heart fluttered within her chest, but she said nothing of her feelings, "Smitty, I can't respond to that. I don't know how. I really just need to go, I'm sorry."
Smitty clenched his fists and tightened his jaw, but nodded, "Okay, very well. Do as you must."
Queen Ursula materialized in front of them and noted the grim despair of them both. She grimaced to herself and then cleared her throat. "Okay, Calliope, it's time for you to depart. I hope your stay away will not be too long. We will all miss you."
Calliope was going to say something in return, but suddenly she felt oddly sleepy. Her eyes drooped, and she dropped into a velvet cloud of slumber. She was gently being rocked by some sort of motion. A rhythmic clacking sounded in her ears. Suddenly she was nudged.
"Miss? We've come to your stop,' the conductor said softly as he continued nudging her.
Calliope sat up with a start and wiped the sleep out of her eyes. She was back on the train? Had she dreamed all of this? What was going on? The conductor smiled at her.
"Take your time, Miss," he said as he disappeared through the doors at the end of the car.
Smitty had his crossword on his lap and was looking at her, a tiny grin playing on his mouth, "Do you know you snore?" he asked.
"I do not snore!" Calliope denied vehemently. "Tell me what's going on? Am I going insane. I thought we left this train days ago. You took me to some town and then there was the dragon, and the evil king, and…"
Smitty laughed and said, "Whoa! You've had yourself quite a dream there. I must say that I'm flattered that you were dreaming of me."
Calliope frowned, "But it seemed so real…"
"Yeah, dreams can seem like that sometimes," Smitty replied, nodding. Calliope thought she saw a glimmer of sadness pass through his eyes.
On the platform of the station her family was waving to her through the window. She smiled and waved back. Shrugging, she turned back to Smitty, "Well, I'm not sure what happened to me, but, I guess this is the last I'll see of you."
Smitty smiled softly, "Only if you want it to be."
Calliope stared at him for a moment; the memories of her dream still fresh in her mind, "Uh, well I'm still not sure what's real at the moment. I think I would love to see you again, but…"
Smitty held up a hand, and nodded, "Yes I understand I think. Oh, but take this anyway. If you change your mind, you can contact me through it." He handed her a card, which she pocketed without looking at it.
"I'm sort of confused how I ended up in Butte, Montana. Wasn't I supposed to be going to Glenn Aisling?"
Smitty laughed, "Oh, wow, you ARE out of it. I'm the one going to Glenn Aisling. I live there, remember?"
Calliope nodded, "Oh right, I think I do." She laughed shakily and shook her head. "Okay, I think I must be getting sick or something. I'm going home and going to bed. See you sometime, maybe."
She saw that look of sadness pass quickly through his eyes again but he said cheerfully, "Yeah! See you! Hope everything works out with your family!"
Calliope stepped out of the platform and into the waiting arms of her mother who laughed and cried at the sight of her. Calliope turned her head to get one more look at Smitty, but to her surprise, he was gone. She felt a grand sense of loss, just then, but swallowed the emotion and laughed, hugging her mother as she carried on about how much she had missed her.
Her brother punched her on the shoulder awkwardly, "So how's it, Kid? We're glad you didn't get murdered in New York."
Calliope smiled wanly, "No, all in one piece."
Once Calliope's mother released her, her little sister, Aisling threw herself at her and hugged her for all she was worth. "I've missed you so! Are you going to stay a long time?" she asked hopefully.
Calliope laughed and cuddled her little sister, "Maybe, We'll see."
Aisling pouted, "That sounds like a no."
Calliope ruffled her sisters hair in response. Her mind was still haunted by dancing hazel eyes…