Status: Updates every Sunday

Twisted Tales

Up, Up, and Away

Jack wasn’t kidding when he said he was a good climber—he scaled the beanstalk fast, and made it look easy the whole way. That made sense, I suppose. He was literally made to do this, I suppose. That didn’t keep me from feeling bitter and resentful as I struggled the whole way up though, especially considering the fact that we were playing for pretty high stakes here.

I started off pretty strong, making it up the first fifteen feet in good time and with relative ease.

I started to slow down a little after that, and by about twenty five feet up, my arms were starting to hurt from pulling my weight.

At thirty feet, I made the mistake of looking down.

I’d always enjoy climbing rock walls. I used to do it every time I came across one, and even briefly experimented with real rock climbing out in the mountains when I’d joined a climbing club in college, before my class load got too heavy and I ducked out. So I wasn’t scared of heights, exactly, but I suddenly realized in that moment that there is a very big difference between being thirty feet off the ground while strapped in a harness with half a dozen different safety features keeping you safely suspending in the air, and being thirty feet in the air with nothing between you and the unforgiving ground but the strength of your own arms. And now that my strength was starting to fail, I was suddenly realizing exactly how precarious of a position I had put myself in.

I clung to the beanstalk, gripping the base of one enormous leaf so tightly with both hands that my fingers started to go numb.

Erik was coming up below me at a much slower pace, and it took a while for him to catch up and realize I’d stopped moving. He stopped right underneath me, his head next to my foot.

“What are you doing, Rikki? We’re not even halfway yet, keep going,” he grunted.

“I can’t,” I replied, my voice high and tight.

“What, is there no handhold that you can reach form there?”

“No—that’s not it. I just… I can’t. I can’t keep going.”

“Yes you can, you just have to do it—don’t think about it, just do it.”

“No, I mean I literally can’t. I can’t let go, my hands have seized up. I looked down, Erik. I shouldn’t have looked down.”

Erik made an exasperated sound, and then started to shuffle over to the side so he was on my right rather than directly below me. He climbed up higher until he was beside me and our heads were level. Despite the fog of terror that had suddenly clouded my head, I noticed that he was breathing heavily, though he seemed to be trying to conceal the fact.

“Rikki,” he said, his voice low and serious. “You can’t stop now. We’re nearly halfway, you literally can’t stop now. You either have to keep going up, or you’ll have to climb back down. If you stay here without going anywhere, you’ll only exhaust yourself. You’ll become too weak to climb at all, and then you really will fall. This isn’t negotiable, you have to make a choice, and you have to make it now. Up, or down?”

“This is a terrible pep talk,” I squeaked, screwing my eyes shut tight, as if the distance to the ground would just melt away if I couldn’t see it.

“If I had time to gently walk you through this, I would. But this is a serious situation, and you’re going to have to act to get out of it, not wait around for me to say nice things until you get control of yourself. You came this far. If you keep going, you’ll be at the top in just a few minutes. And after that, this part will all be over. You can make it a few minutes, can’t you? You can be afraid for a few minutes. You can be brave anyway for a few minutes. You can climb for a few minutes. But you have to do it, because doing nothing will only get you hurt, do you understand me?”

I swallowed hard. He was right. I’d already come this far, I could go a little farther. It didn’t matter if I was afraid or not, I had to do something. Somehow I managed to pry my eyes open again, and I looked at Erik’s grim face, pale in the weak moonlight. He had one arm hooked around a vine, and the other hung awkwardly at his side.

“Erik—what’s wrong with your arm?”

He grimaced. “Nothing.”

“No, seriously, what’s wrong? What happened? Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.”

“Is it from when the giant hurt you? Is it still hurt?”

“It was better before, it wasn’t hurt that bad.”

“It looks like it hurts now though!”

Erik ground his teeth in frustration, but I got the sense that it was frustration with himself, not with me. “…Yes, it hurts now. This climb hasn’t been easy on it. And hanging around here waiting for you to get a grip on yourself isn’t helping either. So please, let’s just go and get to the top of this damn tower already.”

“Go ahead of me,” I told him.


“Go on, I’ll just slow you down! Go ahead, I’ll catch up.”

No. I’m not moving until you go first.”

My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking, but I had no choice. He clearly wasn’t going to go anywhere until I started moving again myself, and with his hurt arm, the longer I remained frozen with anxiety, the more difficult the climb would be for him. It was the push I needed to force me to unclench my death grip on the leaf stem and reach for the next one above my head, pulling myself up another foot.

Hand over hand, foot by foot, I continued to climb, focusing on the dark silhouette of Jack above me, and the faint light shining through the shuttered tower window like a lighthouse beacon. Below me, I heard Erik’s labored breathing as he too continued the seemingly endless climb.

Somehow, I made it. With an enormous effort of will, I heaved myself up the last two feet of beanstalk until I drew level with Jack, the shuttered window set in the top of the tallest tower so close, we could reach out and touch it.

It took almost two minutes for Erik to catch up, and when he finally did, I saw that he was pale and sweating. His bad arm, the one wounded in the giant attack, shook badly anytime he put any of his weight on it.

“Hurry up,” he grunted, slightly breathlessly, and jerked his head towards the window. “What are you waiting for, an invitation?”

“Are you okay?” Jack asked, his brow furrowing at the sight of Erik’s obvious distress.

“I’m fine,” Erik snarled through his teeth, “just go already.”

“Are the shutters fastened?” I asked Jack, who was closer to the window and could see it better in the weak moonlight.

“I can’t tell; if they are, it would be from the inside,” he replied.

“Kick the damn things in if you have to,” Erik snarled.

Jack didn’t kick them in, but he did stretch out one long, lanky leg to give them a push with his boot. They rattled, but didn’t open.

“I think they’re unfastened, but they open outwards, not inwards,” he said. “I’ll have to grab them to pull them open, but…” he glanced down at the eighty foot drop into blackness below us, and the three foot gap that was between the beanstalk where we clung and the wall of the tower. It was slightly too far out of reach for him to be able to reach the window ledge without having to take both his hands off the beanstalk. It could be done, but I certainly didn’t blame him for being hesitant to try it.

“If you can’t open them yourself,” Erik said, grimacing as he tried shifting his weight and letting his bad arm fall to his side with a wince, “then knock.”

Jack looked at me with raised eyebrows, and I shrugged. “Knock,” I said.

Jack reached out with his foot again, and lightly tapped the window shutters three times with the toe of his boot.

Several seconds passed, and nothing happened. Jack was just stretching out his leg to rap again when there was a shuffling sound, a loud sniff, and the shutters were pushed open. A young woman stood there, illuminated from behind by the soft orange glow of firelight. Her expression was one of utter confusion at first, clearly wondering who, or what, on earth could possibly be knocking on a window that was eighty feet above the ground. When she saw the three of us there, hanging in space as we clung to the side of a monstrous vegetable plant and all staring right at her, she gave a little cry of surprise and staggered back into the room.

Jack didn’t waste any time on niceties. He stuck out his leg again, rested one foot on the window ledge, and pushed off of the beanstalk with the other. He grabbed the edges of the window as he went, using his own momentum to throw himself right into the tower room. I went next, copying Jack’s movements exactly before my brain had time to freak out at what I was about to attempt. I sailed right through the open window, Jack reaching out to grab me by the outstretched arms and haul me inside as I went, just in case I didn’t quite make it on my own. I collapsed into him, my heart pounding and my hands shaking, and once I realized that both my feet were once again planted firmly on solid ground, a slightly hysterical laugh bubbled up to my lips.

I cleared my throat and quickly struggled to pull myself together before relief and adrenaline turned me into a gibbering mess. We weren’t done just yet. I turned back to the window, and saw Erik struggling to shuffle around the beanstalk, so he was positioned in front of the open window. He turned his body as much as he could and crouched, getting ready to make the jump, but his hurt arm was still dangling uselessly. Both Jack and I rushed to the window just as he pushed off. Jack, the tallest of the three of us, reached the window first and leaned halfway out of it, grabbing Erik by hand that was outstretched to grab the window sill. I was there a second later, snatching Erik by the shirt as he flew threw the air towards us, and I hauled backwards as hard as I could, yanking him into the room.

It was lucky I did, because the moment that Erik’s foot landed on the window ledge—his bad foot, the one he had sprained during his run in with the giant—it gave out on him and slipped right off the sill. He went down hard and fast, but because Jack and I had managed to pull him halfway into the window, his chest hit the sill and he was able to cling on instead of falling to his death. Jack and I yanked him the rest of the way in and he fell to the floor, panting and swearing.

“Damn it,” he hissed through clenched teeth. “I think I twisted it again.”

Crap. Well, we’d have the cross that bridge when we came to it. For now, I turned to face the room.

It was full of straw—literally filled, almost floor to ceiling, so that there was hardly any room to move, aside from a narrow path that led to the only door, and a small empty space for a spindle and a stool. This meant that there was no where for the miller’s daughter to go, despite the fact that she was obviously extremely alarmed at our unexpected appearance, and she just stood with her back pressed up against one of the towering piles of straw, watching us with wary eyes.

It was obvious she had recently been crying, but even red, puffy eyes and a runny nose couldn’t detract from her beauty. Her hair was the color of melted chocolate, hanging long and loose in untamed waves. Her red-rimmed eyes were wide and green as grass, made even brighter by the tears still sparkling in them. Her mouth, with its perfect cupid’s bow lips, was open in surprise at our sudden appearance. Despite her beauty, however, it was plain she was in fact just the daughter of a poor miller--her dress was plain, undyed, and heavily patched. It also happened to be rather wet along the hem, where she had evidently been wiping her eyes as she cried.

There was a moment of stunned silence. The woman—girl? She seemed so young, younger than me—just stared at us in shock and confusion. Erik and Jack were looking at me, evidently expecting me to take the reigns now that we were finally here. It was my quest, after all. I cleared my throat.

“Um, hi. We’re here to rescue you.” No point beating around the bush.

“Rescue me?” the miller’s daughter repeated, looking rather doubtful.

“Yes, we heard about your predicament, and being good Samaritans, decided to help get you out of it,” I hastily explained.

Erik gave strangled cough from the floor that sounded suspiciously like “Liar”. I ignored him.

“The point is,” I continued, a little louder, “Is that if the King comes to check on you in the morning and finds that you haven’t spun all this straw into gold, you’ll be executed. So we’re here to get you out of here before that can happen. Do you follow?”

“I… suppose?” she said, but she still seemed far from convinced. “I’m sorry—I still don’t really understand who you are.”

“We’re your fairy godparents; your knights in shining armor; the three enchanted animals you have to encounter in order to prove your worthiness. Does it really matter? We’re hear to save your neck, we can hash out the details later. I appreciate your curiosity, but there is a thousand foot tall beanstalk outside and I think someone is going to notice sooner or later. So let’s get going while we still have the chance, yeah?” I jerked a thumb towards the open window, and tried to put on my best winning smile.

“A beanstalk?” the miller’s daughter repeated, looking at me as if I’d just sprouted one out of the top of my head.

I groaned. “Yes, a beanstalk. That’s how we got up here, and that’s how we’re getting back down.”

The girl edged past us, trying not to turn her back on any one of the three of us as if she thought we might try to attack her or something once her back was turned, and she glanced out the window at the dark shape of the beanstalk. She tilted her head back, then tilted it a little further, and a little further, aaaand a little further; following it up, up, up until it disappeared into the darkened sky above. Then she looked down, and down some more, to the courtyard eighty feet below.

“I’m not climbing down that,” she declared, her tone about as yielding as granite.

“It’s not like there are any other options,” I told her.

“I can’t climb down that, I’ll fall and I’ll die!”

“Actually, there is one other option,” Erik cut in, “Stay here, let the king find out you can’t spin straw into gold, and die anyway.”

“It’s actually not as difficult as it looks,” Jack tried to assure her. “We all were able to get up here without too much trouble. It’s really quite safe.”

Safe isn’t exactly the word I would have used, but I wasn’t about to contradict him now.

“Look,” I said, actively pleading now. “I want to help you, I really really do. Is this an ideal solution? No, but this is what we have. If you want out of here, we have to go now, okay? This beanstalk isn’t going to escape notice for long.”

The girl looked from me, to Jack, to Erik, and then to the room full of straw all around her. She swallowed hard, then nodded.

“Okay. I’ll try. I suppose I have to try.”

I heaved a sigh of immense relief. “Great. Wonderful. Come on then.” I hurried back to the window, the miller’s daughter right behind me. I glanced down at Erik, where he was still sitting slumped against the wall. That was going to be a problem.

“Okay, Jack, you’ll have to go first, to lead the way down. You’ll follow him, okay?” I said to the miller’s daughter. “Jack is an excellent climber, just follow the path he takes, and you’ll get down safely. Erik and I will follow after.”

Jack was looking at Erik too, as his expression echoed all the things I was thinking. “But-”

“We’ll be fine,” I told him firmly. “Just get the miller’s daughter down in once piece, okay?”

“Anne,” the girl said.


“Anne, my name is Anne.”

“Oh. Huh. Nice to meet you, Anne. Now get your ass moving, before we’re all dead meat.”

Jack gave Erik one last worried glance, but climbed up onto the window sill and let himself fall forward until he was able to grab the beanstalk with both his arms. Then his feet followed, and in a few moments he was climbing effortlessly down the beanstalk.

“Okay,” I said, giving the miller’s daughter a little push in the small of her back. “Your turn.”

She took one step forward, then stopped abruptly. “Actually, I don’t think I can do this,” she said, shaking her head hard.

I grit my teeth together so hard, I swear I forced one loose. I knew it wasn’t fair to be getting frustrated with her, since I’d completely frozen up with fear myself on the way up the beanstalk, but being so close to home free and grinding to a dead halt like this was agonizing. I was painfully aware that with every passing moment, the risk of someone looking out a window or a guard patrolling the castle grounds and spotting the beanstalk increased tenfold.

“Look, I empathize with how you feel, believe me, I really do—but if you don’t climb out that window in the next minute, I’ll have to push you out it.”

She turned to look at me with an expression of horror, and I realized I was coming across more villain than hero at the moment. I forced myself to unclench, and tried to smile reassuringly. “Just a joke, sorry. I will not push you out of any windows. But seriously, it’s time to go. You’ll be fine, it’s not really as bad as it looks, and you’ll be on the ground and safe before you know it. Look,” I said, leaning partially out the window to point at Jack, who had already reached the ground and was looking up expectantly at us from far, far below. “Jack’s already reached the bottom, that had to have taken him less than two minutes, tops—”

I was cut off mid-sentence as my next words died in my throat. A sudden movement in the darkness caught my eye, and I looked up to the castle wall to see a guard, yawning and stretching, ambling out of one of the guard post towers built into the corner of the wall. He didn’t get more than three or four steps, and my stomach didn’t even have time to finish dropping to the soles of my shoes, before he looked over, bleary eyed, and spotted not only the mind-bogglingly enormous beanstalk, but me, leaning halfway out the window with my mouth hanging wide open in guilty shock.

The guard staggered backwards, pulled out a horn that hung on his hip, put it to his lips, and began to blow a warning that rang through the silent castle grounds like a klaxon.

Lights immediately began to illuminate the dark windows of the guard tower, with those in the castle following only a few moments later. The sound of several other horns added to the first guard’s alarm, and I knew we were done for.

I looked back down the length of the beanstalk, and saw that Jack had started climbing back up it the moment our cover had been blown. I frantically waved at him, urging him to retreat. He paused for a second, confused.

“Go back, go back!” I half shouted, half whispered, only loudly enough for him to be able to just barely hear me. “Get out of here, don’t get caught with us! Get away while you still can!” And then, a sudden thought striking me, I pulled off my backpack and threw it out the window. He had to dodge to the side to avoid getting hit by it. If we all got away, I’d get it, and The Book inside of it, back later. If Erik and I were captured, I’d rather not have The Book falling into the wrong hands.

I didn’t have the chance to see if he obeyed and fled, because the next moment, someone yanked me back into the tower room.

I screamed and flailed at my attacker, but it was only Erik, and since he was still sitting on the ground, my flinging arms went sailing uselessly over his head.

“What are you doing, get back in here!” he snapped, and he tried to pull himself into a standing position using my skirt. I grabbed his hands and helped haul him to his feet. He staggered alarmingly the instant he tried to put any weight on his wounded ankle, and we both nearly went toppling over.

“Damn it!” he swore, and looked as if he wanted to punch something. “You have to get out of here,” he said to me. “Take the girl, and go. Just run, head towards the rear of the castle—that’ll be where the kitchens are. You might still be able to get out that way. Go as quickly as you can, and hide whenever possible.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” I said, and I slung his arm over my shoulder so I could help support him. “I’m not leaving you here, are you insane? You’ll probably be executed if they find you here!”

Erik shook me off, and actually shoved me away from him, towards the window. “Don’t be an idiot—I won’t be able to keep up. I’ll only slow you down, and you’ll never make it out of here. Either you leave me here and the two of you make it out of this, or all three of us die together.”

I stood there, halfway between our only way out and Erik, the miller’s daughter looking from me to him and back again, clearly on the edge of full blown panic.

I was trying to figure out how I could force him to come with us—blackmail? Bribery?—when the decision was suddenly taken out of my hands.

There was the sound of clattering footsteps outside the tower door, as if many feet, some of them in full, clanking armor by the sound of it, were running up the tower steps.

I rushed at Erik and grabbed him by the collar of his shirt. “Hit me,” I demanded.


“Hit me! Right in the mouth, right now!”

Erik pushed me away, looking at me as if I had completely lost my mind. “I’m not going to—what the hell are you talking about? Rikki, we’re about to be caught and probably sentenced for treason-”

“And we might get out of this if you punch me in the mouth, and make it good one!”

“Oh, for God’s sake!” Anne, the miller’s daughter, shouted, and she grabbed me by the shoulder, whirled me around, and socked me right in the mouth.

I swore and dropped to my knees, clutching my bloody mouth. Erik cried out in alarm, Anne cried out in pain, her knuckles sliced open on my teeth, the lock on the other side of the tower door clicked, and the door was wrenched open.
♠ ♠ ♠
Hello again, dear readers!

Just another chapter, for all... one of you who are reading this. I am not having any success with this story, on any of the four different writing sites I'm on. I can't say I'm 100% surprised, since I know this story is fairly laid back, a little silly, with an extra helping of cheesiness. I still like it though, and I'm going to keep posting until the end. I'm hoping I have at least a little more luck with "Breaking Magic", though honestly, who knows?

I think one of my problems may be that the romance aspects of my stories always start very late, so people who like romances get bored quickly and lose interest. "Breaking Magic" is a romance first, fantasy novel second, whereas Twisted Tales is a fantasy novel first, romance second. But even so, the romance doesn't get started until chapter 27 in Breaking Magic!

To be fair, a lot of those chapters are quite short. I'm wondering if updating chapters twice a week is better than once a week... once a week feels like such a long time between updates, but if I post chapters twice a week, I'll blow through the story so fast. And I'm such a slow writer, I just won't be able to keep up.

Maybe if Breaking Magic ends up being more than 50 chapters (at 29 right now), I'll post twice a week, Wednesdays and Saturdays, or Mondays and Fridays. That's still six months worth of chapters. That seems okay, right?

I could probably be updating this story too twice a week, if only I had more written. Perhaps once I get to the end of the next major plot arc I'll start a twice a week updating schedule. Editing will become far easier after that, since I won't need to do any major rewrites. We'll see.

Anyways, I've rambled enough. Until next week, dear reader(s)!