Chapter 24u

Through her shut eyelids she saw light. Desiree opened her eyes, not knowing what to expect. She wasn't dead. But how much time had passed from the moment she passed out in the fire to right now? Her eyes examined her surroundings. She was inside a strange hut she hadn't been in yet. A soft, fleecy blanket covered her body and she felt warm. The bed she was in was large and was squeezed into the corner of the room. In the other corner stood a beautiful old desk with a mirror behind it. On the desk was about a dozen bouquets of flowers.

She had a new outfit on, a simple white nightgown that fit comfortably. Her hands weren't burned, which surprised her. And around her neck, her necklace remained, but was on a new chain, a stronger and thicker one.

After examining her surroundings, her stomach turned and she coughed violently. Her lungs hurt and the fever was raging at full strength now. Desiree felt her eyelids pull shut again and she fell asleep.

The next time she was awake, she felt her stomach rumbling with hunger. She felt someone's presence in the room and turned to see Blake. He exclaimed:

" Desiree! You're awake!" Then, he ran to her and kneeled before her bed, looking as if he were ready to cry. " Desiree… I was so worried…"

" What happened? Who found me?" Desiree asked.

" The stove in the kitchen went on fire. We left it on, with a light fire inside, so that it would be warm inside. But it began to rage and while we were away, the stove burst into flame." Blake explained. " We found you outside, lying lifelessly in a large puddle of water, as if you were trying to douse the flames on your dress off."

" You found me outside?" Desiree wondered how she got there. Maybe her mother's spirit helped, after all? " I was inside, smashed against a wall, surrounded by flames." She coughed.

" That's strange. How did you get outside?" He touched his hand to her hair. " It's a bit singed…" He whispered.

" Am I burned… anywhere?" She asked.

" What's amazing is that no, you're not." Blake smiled. " Only your hair is a bit singed, making it look darker. But that's good, right?"

" I suppose. Where am I, anyhow?"

" We're in Doctor Wimpleton's house. He was very kind to let us in." Blake laughed. " Didn't you notice the medicine bottles on that desk over there?"

Now that Desiree looked, she realized a few bottles were lined around the rim of the desk. She laughed too, but ended up coughing.

" My, your cough's getting worse. I regret leaving you alone. Now we'll be delayed even more!" Blake groaned. " It seems its more bad luck then good to have that ribbon, at times."

" I say its good luck. I lived, haven't I? And not a single burn on my body!" She sneezed as she finished the sentence.

" Blake?" Doctor Wimpleton walked into the room. " Oh! Good day, my dear! I'm glad to see you're awake!"

" Doctor, how sick am I?" She coughed.

" Very sick." The doctor replied, shortly. " Blake, let's give the Queen a rest, shall we? She's had quite an adventure."

" I'll say." Blake smiled and stood up. " I'll come in a few hours. You sleep, Desiree."

" But I'm hungry!" She reminded herself, for the grumbling in her stomach had grown rather loud and intense.

" Ranuka's in the doctor's kitchen, making you some delicious chicken broth. For now you should rest." Blake said, and then left the room, the doctor following him.

Desiree slept, tired and worried. When she woke up, the smell of chicken soup nearly made her cry with desire. " Oh! I'm so hungry!" She wailed quietly as she saw Blake placing the bowl on a tray and then sliding it onto the covers. Her hand trembled as she lifted the warm spoon of delicious soup to her mouth, and then stopped right at her lips, savoring the moment before she swallowed.

" Is it good?" Blake asked.

" I've never tasted better!" Desiree smiled.

" No wonder. You're beginning to look rather famished." She searched Blake's face for a sign of joking but he looked rather serious. Desiree couldn't help but feel pleasure that Blake didn't think of her as overweight. But then, Blake had always been blind at first when he met people, always weighing the worthiness of them by soul, not by looks. Only when he could judge a person as beautiful inside would he focus on the exterior as well. And it rarely mattered to him even then.

She ate some more, trying to eat in a ladylike fashion. But hunger took its toll and she forgot the rules of polite eating and began to move the spoon up and down so fast it barely flickered in the sunlight that poured into the room before the darkness of her mouth enveloped around it.

" I helped make the soup, you know. I cut the carrots and helped pluck the chicken of its feathers." Blake boasted. " The more the pleasure to know its satisfying."

" Oh, trust me, it sure is satisfying." Desiree gushed, then coughed.

" The doctor's going to come in to examine you in a few minutes." Blake laughed. " He sure is a funny man, though. He has a strange way with words, that no matter what he says it can turn out funny."

" I've noticed." Desiree laughed too.

" Tonight I flipped through the doctor's books. I've found a few translations for that quote you mentioned. But I'm afraid it makes as much sense translated as the original words." Blake said.

" What does it mean?" Desiree asked.

" Well, the language is either Faerian, the language of the fairies, or Unthenarian, which is the secret language of the rebels of Mariolett many years ago. Both languages are very similar." Blake handed her a piece of paper. " Here's the translation in both languages."

Faerian - Anea thelit tnest; Ms to thest

Similar words – Aneis thellit tetst; Ms to tetst

Meaning – Truth Beauty Necklace; Magic are necklace

Unthenarian - Anea thelit tnest; Ms to thest

Similar words – Aneas thilliat Tenst; Mas to thest

Meaning – True Beautiful Neck ornament; Magical is powers

Desiree groaned. " This is pure nonsense! Though they might make some sense after a while, but I don't know…"

" Well, the translation might be all wrong. I found words similar to the ones that you mentioned. Are you sure those are the real words?" Blake glanced at the paper. " It makes sense that it says something about a neck ornament or necklace. I mean, it's written on one… but…"

" Hmm… tnest and thest are so similar you wrote them down as the same word for Faerian… meaning Necklace. What if it has a slightly different meaning? Like in Unthenarian?" Desiree said.

" I dunno." Blake grumbled. " It's too confusing to make out, anyhow."

Desiree looked up at him. He stood there, his arms crossed across his chest, which was covered by a thin, white linen shirt and a leather overcoat. His eyes seemed to be looking inwards, thinking heavily over something. An odd-shaped shape stuck out from his shirt pocket.

" What's that?" She asked.

" Oh!" Blake pulled it out. " I found this with you outside, after the fire. I… I don't know if it will startle you or not…" He unwrapped the shape, which was tightly concealed in newspaper.

From between folds, she saw a beautiful crystal swan. " Mother's swan!" She cried out, and took the figurine into her hands. Her fingertips grazed the smooth glass, and she whispered: " It used to stand on Mother's desk. She'd tell me about how the ugly duckling always becomes the prettiest swan. Of course, I'd always say I'm the ugly duckling and she'd laugh and tell me no, I'm a swan." Tears streaked down Desiree's face. " I can almost remember Mother's laugh as she'd bring the figurine up to the light, so that it shimmered like the stars at night!"

" Aw…" Blake looked upset. " I'm sorry if I brought back all these memories… But why in the world would you think of yourself as a… duckling? Of course you're a swan!"

" Please don't joke like that." She muttered. " I know what I see in the looking glass and I have learned to accept it."

" Desiree! Do you really think the outside is important?" His voice lowered: " I can't understand you! Do you think I'm handsome?"

Desiree nodded.

" Well, is that why you said yes when I asked for your hand?" Blake lifted his hand. He had made a little band for his hand as well, to show their little pact. "If I had ever doubted our joining because of looks, then I would have been unworthy of something as great as you."

" I'm sorry… I just sometimes feel…" Desiree stopped speaking for a strange noise filled the room, almost like a knock.

" What's that?" Blake asked.

" I don't know." She looked around the room, and then sneezed. "My, its dusty here." She managed to say, before she sneezed again.

The doctor burst into the doorway carrying a large bowl with a wooden cooking instrument inside. He had been grinding a variety of herbs and spices together with this instrument. The mixture was what was causing her to sneeze, and the grinding and clacking sound of the instrument in the bowl was what created that unusual sound.

" Are you ready for your medicine, Desiree?" The doctor asked. " I'm sorry if it smells but I had an accident."

" Pardon?" Blake asked, his eyes bulging to hold back laughter.

" Oh dear! That sounded quite the opposite of what I meant! The… the medicine smells since I accidentally poured in mint leaf and it mixed with the skunk weed to create a very stinky aroma." He chuckled. " Well, I suppose the air's clear with that one."

" The air's clear… alright." Desiree giggled and then coughed loudly. Her chest was hurting deep inside with each throbbing cough.

" My! I sure mess up a lot!" The doctor's laughter filled the room. "Aren't we having a jolly time! Say, Blake, help me administer the medicine to Desiree. Keep grinding this mix while I examine her throat for signs of serious illness." With that, the doctor pushed the bowl into Blake's arms and then leaned over to peek into Desiree's throat.

She waited patiently as the doctor thought and thought. Finally, he announced: "It seems your throat's very red inside and I see slight spots in the back. It could be the rare Fairy Disease. It's caught by one person in five hundred thousand. The odds are quite unlikely… but…" The doctor leaned closer. " Only humans with fairy blood can get this disease, though! Desiree, have you any fairy blood?"

" Nobody's ever told me of such a thing. So I presume that no, I don't." Desiree said, sounding rather odd for she was trying to speak without shutting her mouth so the doctor could examine her throat further.

" Your mother had quite a fondness for fairy items. Maybe she had fairy blood and passed it to you!" Blake suggested.

" Maybe." Desiree shrugged. " I just want to know how to cure it. I have limited time!"

" I've mixed up an old cure of mine that I had discovered. I bet you didn't know that stinkweed and wild green apples had healing quality to them!" The doctor took the bowl from Blake's hands and then took the wooden instrument and made a final crushing movement. Then, he told Desiree: " Dip your finger in this mix and then try to spread it around inside your mouth. Don't swallow yet, though!"

" Okay." Desiree put her finger into the mix and then tried to spread the mix inside of her mouth. It was rather smooth and velvety-like, and she could tell it tasted like almonds. But it was incredibly smelly and she held a sneeze back.

" Hold it in for a while, to reduce redness and any possible swelling." The doctor chanted, as he flipped through a little pocket book of medicinal information. " Ah! And when you do swallow, do so in short awkward gulps, not all at once."

Blake watched with slight amusement as Desiree's nose wrinkled from the urge to sneeze. She was breathing jaggedly and was trying to think of something other then sneezing.

About two minutes passed, and the doctor ordered: "You can try to slowly try to swallow…"

Desiree did. The almond-tasting mix was soon gone, and she finally got to sneeze. When she did, though, she felt her throat tighten sharply, and the pain was unbearable. " Goodness!" She exclaimed.

" What's wrong?" Blake reacted immediately.

" My throat felt as if it pulled closed when I swallowed!" Desiree swallowed again, and her throat tightened once again, though not so sharply this time. " And it does so every time I try to take a deep breath or swallow."

" That's odd. Perhaps the medicine - - ?" The doctor got lost in his thoughts.

" It was like this at times before. But it really is painful." Desiree sighed. " I wish to know the truth, doctor. How bad is it?"

" What do you mean?" The doctor tried to look startled.

" You know what I mean. Please don't lie to me just because you don't want to upset me." Desiree added, gravely: " I don't mean to use my power this way, but if it's the only way, then: I command you, as Queen, to tell me."

" My!" The doctor paled. " Where to begin? All the smoke inhalation must have done something horrible to your lungs. I have never seen this before… maybe…?" His eyes filled with worry. " You seem to show all the pre-symptoms of the Black Fairy Death."

" The what?" Desiree and Blake both shouted at the same time.

" Black Fairy Death. It is a series of symptoms that come one after another that lead to… well… death." The doctor explained: " You have had the fever, followed by the deep sleep, and then you had the cold feet and burning forehead… and now the feeling of tightening." He shook his head. " I'm afraid it all adds up to the Black Fairy Death."

" What are the last… events?" Desiree asked.

" Next will be coma, and then death. I'm afraid now is the time to go persuade the crowds of Joplin to move from Sir Questing, for…"

Desiree began to cry. Blake wrapped his arms around her. " It's all my fault!" He said. " I shouldn't have made you get into that cold water! And… now, with you sick, we've gotta go to Joplin and act!"

They left that day. Nobody stayed behind but Ranuka, for she would have only been a holdback. Morina and Lumin came along and Desiree was grateful. Lumin's knowledge could help them out a lot, and Morina and Lumin could easily get a bit closer.

Their pace was fast, and Desiree's breath was so short at times they'd stop; and this happened every twenty or thirty steps. Finally, Blake and Lumin exchanged knowing glances and devised a stretcher-like structure from sticks and Blake's leather overcoat. Desiree laid down on it and the men helped carry her. Her cheeks burned with an embarrassed flush, but Blake comforted her, saying:

" I remember when I was sick and couldn't work in the stables, you and your mother spent a whole day beside my bed being nurses. Don't think I won't repay for that favor!"

She remembered that day easily, but her mind softly moved away from her and she fell asleep.

" Wake up… time to eat." Lumin's voice pierced through her sleep. Desiree sat up to find Morina, Lumin and Blake gathered around a small fire with a large, plucked chicken hawk roasting over it, skewered with a stick.

Morina turned and said: " Come sit by me."

Desiree walked over and sat down on the ground beside Morina. The soft sand beneath her was covered with leaves, making a comfortable seat. Blake took out a pocket knife and cut off a bit of the chicken hawk. " Here, eat something."

She ate quietly, watching everyone else eat in silence as well. Finally, Lumin broke the silence by saying:

" How are we going to convince the citizens of Joplin about… you know."

Desiree cleared her throat and then replied: " I will convince them. My voice is recognizable among my people."

Blake disagreed: "We'll all try to convince them. The more support we show, the more others will believe."

" But there are women out there pretending to be you already!" Lumin tossed in, his eyes wandering to Morina's face. She looked a bit surprised by his meaningful and intent staring, and her eyes darted towards the fire so that she would draw her mind off of it.

" And I don't even look like myself!" Desiree cried out. " Look at me! I've lost weight, my hair looks frizzy, bleached, and limp, my clothing is horrid…"

" The more the reason people will believe your story. One look at you is proof enough of what happened to you." Blake's words were wise.

" I suppose." Desiree grasped at Blake's hands. " Your hands are cold." She said softly. " You must be worried."

" Of course I'm worried! I don't want you to die!"

Morina leaned over to Lumin and whispered: " Isn't this touching!" He felt his heartbeat quicken and nodded slowly. Morina, meanwhile, couldn't understand Lumin. He looked as if she had just bashed him over the head, as if he were cowering away from her, shyly.

" We should put the fire out before it scorches the meat." Lumin suggested before Morina could have taken a deeper notice of his peculiar shyness.

" I'll do it." Blake walked towards the smoldering fire and took the skewered bird off the two holders over the flames. He didn't know where to place it, so after some time, he took the holders (which were really just sticks with two segments branching off on top) and placed them a few feet away, then rested the skewer on them.

Once Blake sat back down beside Desiree, she turned to him and whispered: " Blake, I might have to die. It's impossible to cure this disease, you heard the doctor. I'm scared…"

She began to cry.

" No! You won't!" He refused to hear anymore of it. " You'll live and you'll live for a long time and we'll marry and… and…"

A silence fell upon them all, and four pairs of eyes looked upon the fire instead of continuing the conversation. The only sounds heard was Desiree's quiet crying and the angry, fast breathing of Blake's.

Chapter 25

Joplin stood before them, a huge city towering out over the mist. Desiree sat up on the stretcher that Blake and Lumin were carrying her on, and pointed.

" The castle! Oh, we're so close!"

Lumin smiled towards Morina. " Are you ready to do some convincing?"

" Sure am!" She stormed up towards the gate doors, shouting: " Gather around! I have your Queen here! She isn't dead! Gather around!"

People sure gathered around! Soon there were people pressed close to the stretcher, each with their own opinion on whether Desiree was the princess or not. Morina, with her loud voice and perky attitude, shouted above the clamor in the audience:

" Do you wish to hear the story of your Queen?"

" Yes!"

" No!"

" What?"

" What's going on?"

Voices replied, voices that Desiree had waited for many days to hear – the voices of her people, her rightful people.

Soon, the word spread, the story of Desiree's adventure became an anthem in many people's hearts…

And Desiree's trembling hand was held with Blake's strong one the whole time, as she grew sicker and sicker. By the time the rightful ruler was returned to the throne, she was too sick to rule the kingdom anyway. Giving the throne to her sister, Sarah, Desiree retired with Blake to a small cottage in the countryside, prepared to spend her last days there, battling a disease that was winning.

Late one night, as she spent another day in bed due to fatigue and weakness, she suddenly cried for Blake.

He appeared before her, asking what was wrong.

" Oh, Blake, I feel it…" She cried.

" Feel what? What is it?"

" Death…" Her voice came out strangled. " The time has come…"

" No!" He cried. " You can't leave me now! It's… you can't!"

" I'm sorry." She looked down at the necklace around her neck, and whispered: " Take the necklace."

" What?" He asked, unbelieving her words.

" Take it for I no longer need it in my grave. I love you." Her mouth suddenly shut and her eyes slowly pulled into slits. " Good bye, Blake. I'll… see you… in…"

Then, she seemed to pass away. Blake checked her pulse, then screamed for the doctors. They piled into the door and their judgement was: the coma. The coma that came before death…

Nobody knew what kept Blake going. He was going through an emotional breakdown, pacing around holding two lockets and crying out: " This can't be!"

Days drew nearer, as the coma grew prolonged. Desiree's cheeks were poking through her skin and her ribs were beginning to be visible. She withered away, only drinking what Blake managed to pass down through her tightly pressed lips.

Then, the day came where her heartbeat grew so slow the doctors knew it was her last hour.

Blake spent the time on his knees before her bed, clenching her hand with an odd smile, almost a crazed smile.

Suddenly, he looked down to see her hand twitch and one of her fingers seemed to point at the necklaces. Had he imagined it? Her hand twitched again, and this time he knew it was real. His hands grasped a locket in each and he tried to press the lockets together.

But unlike the burst of electricity that occurred last time, the lockets clasped together easily this time. And the letters, the strange letters appeared:

Anea thelit tnest; Ms to thest

But beneath it, a translation was written:

True beauty is what powers the necklace

' True beauty?' He thought. Then, he knew. Desiree had always thought she was ugly, but she was actually beautiful inside, and so was her love for him. And so it was the true beauty powering her necklace, after all. But, why show the message now?

A blinding light filled the room and the necklaces grew warmer and warmer until they were scalding hot. He gasped and tossed them down on the bedspread. Immediately, a ray of light crept along the bedspread and surrounded Desiree. And then, a miracle of miracles happened – her eyes opened, defeating death, rising to the realization of what true beauty was.

Morina and Lumin ran into the room, hearing Blake's surprised exclamations. When they saw that Desiree had been cured, though, Morina and Lumin leapt into each others arms and wept together, until they realized what had happened.

They exchanged embarrassed smiles, wondering if they should pull away, but both suddenly realized something: that they loved each other after all, and they continued their embrace.

And once again joy filled the kingdom of Joplin, a joy that promised to last forever. And maybe then more. The End.