Status: Updates every Sunday

Twisted Tales

A Sheep in Wolf's Clothing

Erik froze.

"Pants? Don't be ridicu—oh." He spotted them too: a rather fine pair of red velvet pants, trimmed with yellow embroidery and held in place over the wolf's shoulder by a pair of matching suspenders.

He stopped trying to pry my arms from around his bicep, and took a really good look at the wolf that was currently dusting itself off in a disturbingly anthropomorphic way.

"Jack, pin it, keep it down!" he shouted anyway.

It was obvious Jack didn't know what to do, and that he certainly didn't want to do that, but the wolf began to push itself up from where it laid sprawled in the dirt, and he obeyed. Jack leaped forward and placed his boot on the creature's neck, pushing down hard and forcing it back to the ground. It went down with a little oof and began scrabbling in the dirt, but Jack pressed all his weight down to keep it from getting up again.

"Now kill it, Jack, while you have the chance!" Erik ordered him.

"Jack, it's wearing PANTS!" I protested.

"Yes, it will look very fashionable while it's tearing us limb from limb!" he shouted. "Kill the damn thing, Jack!"

"I—I don't think I can, Erik," said Jack, looking a little green around the gills just at the thought.

Erik bared his teeth, and tried to surge forwards, as if he was going to yank the knife out of Jack's hand and do it himself; but I dug my feet into the dirt to keep him from going anywhere. He cried out in wordless anger, dropping his arrow and putting his free hand to my forehead, trying to push me off his arm that way.

"It's only a damn wolf. A pest." He spat the word. "It's probably killed countless people—humans, Jack, children. It's vermin, kill it!"

"Erik, you're freaking out, it's not even doing anything—" I try to argue with him, make him see sense.

"Freaking out? I'm freaking out?!" he repeated, his voice going abnormally high and tight. "I've seen what these monsters can do! And so have you!"

"It's got a sign," I snarled, pointing to the picket white picket sign that had fallen into the dirt beside the wolf. "Jack, I think you've better let it up."

Jack looked from me, to the wolf, to Erik.

When it was clear that Erik was too busy gaping open mouthed at the sign to argue, Jack slowly and cautiously lifted his boot from the wolf's neck.

As soon as the pressure was lifted, the wolf began to cough and splutter. It unsteadily picked itself up off the ground, standing on its hind legs like a human and wiping the dirt from its trousers with its paws. "Well, I never!" it said indignantly, stooping down to retrieve its dropped sign. "This has turned out to be one fine day indeed!" It turned to Jack, who jumped back by a couple of feet and pointed the short dagger at it. "And I'd very much appreciate it, sir, if you would point that thing somewhere else. Honestly."

Jack, too shocked to do much else, obeyed.

Erik apparently found his voice again. "It talks. I hate it when they talk." His lips pulled back in a snarl. "They always plead for their lives, the devils."

"It's not eating us!" I shouted over him. I released his arm just for a second, grabbing him by the shirt collar instead, and I shook him vigorously, as if I could physically shake understanding into him. "It's not eating us! Wouldn't it have attacked us already if it wanted to?"

"Eat you?" said the wolf, an offended expression plastered all over its furry face. "Of course I'm not going to eat you! That is exactly the sort of thing I am fighting against! It would be detrimental to my cause if I went and ate you, I'd lose all credibility. Even if you did attack me for no reason."

"For no reason?" Erik laughed, a little wildly. "You're a wolf! A vicious, murderous, ravening wolf! You leapt out of the bushes and tried to attack us!"

The wolf spluttered, and his chest swelled with indigence. "I most certainly did not! I was being harassed by a terrible girl, and she chased me off the road! I was trying to make my way back when I stumbled over the roots of those bushes and tripped into the road, where you promptly attacked me!"

"A girl?" Erik snorted. "You were being chased by a little girl? That's real likely!"

"I didn't say it was a little girl, and she was armed!"

"A girl? What girl?" I asked.

The wolf threw his arms—legs? Front legs? Whatever—into the air in exasperation. "I don't know who she was! She just came round the bend in the road, saw me coming the other way, and rushed at me while waving about this enormous kitchen knife, shouting something about a cloak!"

I blinked. "A what now?"

"You said something about a cause?" Jack asked, frowning at the writing on the wolf's sign, clearly trying to read them with is limited ability. "What cause it that?"

"Stop talking to it!" Erik wailed.

The wolf drew itself up importantly and lifted the sign into the air for us to read. In slightly clumsy hand-lettering were the words: DON'T BLOW DOWN OUR RIGHTS. Underneath that, it said...

"The... Big Bad Wolf Liberation Front?" I read aloud.

It nodded. "Indeed! The B.B.W.L.F. for short. You see, us wolves have suffered no end of oppression and Speciesism for centuries, simply because of what we are. Because of a few bad eggs in the bunch—the occasional granny eating here, of the terrorizing of a family of pigs there—the entire wolf image has been damaged beyond repair. Nowadays, every time someone sees a wolf, they say to each other, 'Oh no! Watch out, it's going to eat the children!' Or some other silly poppycock like that, without even bothering to get to know the wolf in question first. You would find that if people would just sit down and talk their differences out, a lot of this stereotypical nonsense could be completely avoided. Not all wolves are Big or Bad, you know."

"I... oh, really?" I managed after a moment, not sure what else to say.

"Really," the wolf insisted vehemently. "Many of us don't even like eating people. Too stringy. So I, along with a few others of my kind, decided to petition for us Wolves's rights to be recognized. Now I'm not being unreasonable here," he added hastily, pressing his ears flat against his head almost apologetically. "I know that there are plenty of nasty, bad tempered wolves out there. But I believe that with thorough background checks and a three-strike system, that—"

"I can't take this anymore," Erik broke in, his face an expressionless mask. He spun on his heel and marched to the far end of the road, and sank to the ground with his back against a tree, his face buried in his hands.

The wolf blinked. "What's his problem?" it huffed.

"Erm, his family was eaten by... wolves." I explained, glancing worriedly at Erik.

The wolf made a sympathetic noise in the back of its throat. "Pity. You see, this is exactly why a panel of jurors composed of ordinary citizens to determine guilt and hold accountability over law-breaking wolves would be so beneficial to—"

I left the Wolf to rant to Jack, who actually seemed rather interested in what the creature had to say, and hastened across the road to Erik's side. He was sitting motionless on the ground, his face hidden. "Erik?" I asked softly.

He didn't reply.

I sank to the ground beside him. "Look, I know this is more than a little weird, and probably incredibly uncomfortable for you, but—"

"Really?" Erik cut me off abruptly, jerking his head up and fixing me with a red-rimmed glare. "Do you really know? Do you have any idea? What's like to be preached at by the thing that... that..." He hissed in a breath through his teeth, unable to go on.

"I..." I stopped, swallowed, and went on anyway. "No, you're right, I don't." Before I could think better of it, I reached out and wrapped him in a stiff, awkward hug. It was strange, to be sitting like this—me, comforting a beaten down Erik for once instead of the other way around. But I owed him, for when we were in the dungeons in Kingsbury, and he had told me everything was going to be okay, when he couldn't do anything else.

"Erik, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I know it hurts—believe me, I know it does, even though I can't ever know exactly what it's like for you. My parents are dead too, you know."

Erik's eyes narrowed, and he pulled away from me. "I never told you—"

"A drunk driver killed them both in a car accident about two years ago." I knew he had no idea what that meant, but the details weren't important. "And I know what it's like to need somebody to blame, and what it feels like to hate everyone, absolutely everyone, who ever fell into the same category as the man that took my parents from me. But Erik—this isn't the wolf that hurt your family. You can't blame this wolf. It sounds like he's trying to stop that sort of thing, he's fighting the same fight you are. He probably understands better than anyone. You don't have to let it go—God knows you don't have to forgive anyone for what happened. But you can't blame the innocent. You can't let your anger hurt more innocent people."

There was a moment of silence. I could hear the wolf and Jack still discussing the details of the Big Bad Wolf Liberation Front under Erik's heavy breathing. Finally he closed his eyes as he tried to steady his breathing. "I hate it when you do that," he said hoarsely. "Do what?" I asked, watching him closely. "Say something that makes sense." He raised a hand to wipe his dry eyes. "I don't think I've said more than a dozen words to anyone in years before you showed up on my doorstep. Then you had to come and make me forget who I was trying to be."

"Are you mad at me?" I asked, not sure if I wanted him to answer. "...No." He said after a moment, leaning his head back against the tree trunk without breaking eye contact with me. "In fact," his voice dropped low, to a hoarse whisper, and I leaned in closer ever so slightly, "I think—"

"Hey guys, guess what!" Jack's voice suddenly cut in, slicing through mine and Erik's conversation like a hot knife through butter.

With an effort will, I avoided calling Jack a very rude name. "What, what is it?" It came out more snappish than I had intended, but Jack didn't seem to notice.

Jack and the wolf came over to where we were stilling sitting on the side of the road. "Mr. Wolf here," Jack began.

"Alfred," the wolf cut in helpfully.

"Alfred, that is; says he's on his way to Lorcastle as well! He's planning on petitioning before the king."

"Oh?" I said with a raised eyebrow, vaguely interested but not following why this was so important to tell us.

"So," Jack said as if it should be obvious, "he can get us there quicker, with less danger! Not many things will be likely to try to attack us if we're traveling with a wolf—even a pacifist one."

I considered this.

"Have you ever met any of the giant spiders in the forest?" I asked the wolf—Alfred, that is.

He shuddered, his hackles raising. "Ah, yes. I loathe spiders."

"Do they try to attack you?"

"Not often; they are solitary creatures, and know that we wolves usually run in packs. They have the tendency to suspect that where there is one, there may be many, and would rather not take that risk."

"Well that settles it." I stood up, and reached out a hand to shake Alfred's paw. "I agree with Jack." Then I stopped guiltily, and turned back to face Erik, who was still on the ground. "Unless—"

Erik pushed his sandy hair back from his face with one hand, and released a deep breath through his nose. You could practically see him straining to swallow his pride and years of pent up pain. "I can see I'm outnumbered here. I'll... I won't stop you if you choose to accompany us. As long as you really are what you claim to be, and give me no reason to think that you might pose a threat to the safety of anyone in this party."

I winced. It wasn't exactly the most gracious invitation, and it was impossible to know how the wolf would react.

Alfred surveyed Erik for a long moment, as if trying to decide himself how to respond to that little declaration. But after a moment, he inclined his head. "It would be my pleasure," he said, his great white teeth clicking together disconcertingly.

"It would be my pleasure," he said, his great white teeth clicking together disconcertingly
The dictionary's definition of 'awkward': pronounced (ˈȯ-kwərd), an adjective. Meaning: to be lacking in dexterity or skill, or showing a lack of expertise.

My definition of 'awkward': pronounced (mī-ev'ree-way-king-mō-mənt), can be anything from an adjective to a swear word. Meaning: my current situation—in any given place or time, and at almost any randomly chosen moment of my life.

Take now, for example. Though nobody was screaming death threats any more, our little group was still a long way off from, say, chatting pleasantly over a nice cup of tea about how lovely the weather has been lately. Sure, anything was an improvement and I definitely wasn't complaining, but Erik could have at least pretending he wasn't still one off-color comment away from putting an arrow into our new guest, and Alfred's long winded spiel about what exactly he was going to say to the kind when he was granted an audience had been going on for a painfully long time, and he never seemed to stop for breath, so it was impossible to get a word in edgewise.

If the rest of the trip was going to be like this, I didn't think I was gonna make it.

"Alright," I finally said, giving up and interrupting Alfred's speech. "Alright, so we'd probably prepare for this thing, huh? I mean, we have no idea what we're going up against, so..." I waved my hands uselessly in the air, without any idea whatsoever of where to get started preparing to rescue a princess.

"Prepare for what?" Alfred asked, curiously.

"None of your business," Erik snapped.

"To rescue a princess," I answered.

"Rescue a princess?" Alfred repeated, wrinkling his snout. "I thought that as a prince's job. Or a worthy soldier, or tailor, or some such fellow."

"It would seem that they are all a little busy at the moment, so that task has fell upon us," I replied, grimly.

Alfred mulled this over. "What princess?" he asked after a moment. "I don't think there are any princesses in Lorcastle. There's a three-day ball being held at the castle by the king, you know, and that's the whole reason why: to find the prince a wife."

"Yeah, I know," I sighed.

"What? I didn't," Erik snapped, looking hard at me.

"Yeah, that book or yours didn't say anything about a ball," added Jack.

I groaned. I kept forgetting that I was the only one completely in the know about all this stuff. I made a mental note to catch the boys up on all the stories of the four princesses at some point. "There is a girl who's supposed to become his wife, but if we don't go... save her or something, it won't happen." I tried to explain. Seeing as how I barely knew what we were doing myself, I had the funny feeling I wasn't doing too good of a job.

"What's this girl's name?" Alfred asked.

"Cinderella is the one she's known as nowadays." I replied. "I don't know what her real name is."

The wolf's furry eyebrows shot up. "Cinderella, you say?"

"Yeah." I gave him a sidelong look. "Why?"

"I've heard of her before. Apparently she's friends with some of the local wildlife." He waved a paw in the air dismissively. "But she's no princess. Just the unfortunate daughter of a merchant."

"She'll become a princess when she marries the prince, won't she?"

"Hm. I suppose she will," Alfred said thoughtfully after a moment.

"Exactly. And seeing how we've messed up the original story—"

"How you've messed up the original story," Erik corrected me.

I glared at him.

"Story? What do you mean by story?" Jack asked, looking at Erik and me blankly.

I groaned. "Fate, story, whatever," I said with a wave of my hand. Trying to explain everything to Jack right now was not how I wanted to spend the next few hours, so once again, for about the hundredth time, I brushed his inquiry off. "Either way, since we—"

"You," Ezu cut in swiftly.

"Since I," I amended with a sharp glare, "screwed everything up big time, she won't get to be a princess unless we... unless we... er..." I trailed off, suddenly all to aware that I had no idea what we were going to do. I didn't know how to save Cinderella—I didn't even know what her problem was yet. And if a magical fairy godmother couldn't make everything all bippity boppity boo, what were we—a rag tag team of hopeless ne'er-do-wells like us—going to be able to do?


It was all I was really able to say at the moment.

"Why don't you check the book?" Erik suggested, raising one of his eyebrows at me.

"The Book?" I repeated, mistrustfully. To be honest, the less I had to do with that dratted thing, the happier I would feel.

"Yeah. Doesn't it have all the... the events and stuff in it?" Erik went on, frowning slightly.

"Yeah..." I admitted with a grimace of my own. I pulled my backpack off and opened it, more roughly than was strictly necessary. "Oh, all right." I conceded, rummaging around in the pack for the leather monstrosity. "I suppose we can't ignore it forever. And it might have something useful in it." After a moment, I grabbed it and pulled it out into the light.

Somehow, it looked different than before.

I couldn't quite place what is was exactly, but there was definitely something off. It looked... thicker, somehow, almost swollen for once thing. And there was an underlying brightness to its dusty, dark brown covers. Almost as if it were glowing from within, by its own, otherworldly light.

"I swear to God, if you turn me into a toad or anything like that, I'll have you burned," I threatened under my breath, so only the Book could hear me. It, as books are wont to do, remained silent and motionless.

"What, that old thing?" Alfred asked, looking at the raggedy piece of witchery incredulously.

"Yes, 'this old thing'." I replied, holding it to my chest defensively. Just because I hated it didn't mean anybody else could pick on it. Sort of like a sibling. I glanced down non-too-fondly at its delicately worked leather cover. It just sat there, looking innocent and inanimate. I flipped it off.

"What does a book have to do with anything?" Alfred went on, ignoring my all-too-obvious animosity with the piece of literature.

"I guess you could say it's sort of like a crystal ball," I replied vaguely. It wasn't the whole truth, but it wasn't exactly a lie either. Or so I told myself.

"That thing?" The wolf glanced at the Book in disbelief.

"Like a crystal ball; I said like. More or less. Sort of. In a way. What does it even matter? It's going to help us, and that's the point." I huffed, flustered. "You hear that, Book?" I said down to the Book in my hands, not bothering to lower my voice. "You're going to behave yourself, got that? You got me into this mess, now you're gonna get me out of it."

"Is she perhaps a little... off?" Alfred whispered sidelong to Erik.

"I heard that!" I snapped at him, glaring as fiercely as I could.

"Yes. Yes she is," Erik answered, looking me dead in the eyes.

I tried to think of a facial expression immature and spiteful enough to throw at him, but failed. I settled for sticking my tongue out at him, and then turned my attention back to the Book. "All right, come on," I muttered under my breath. I opened it and found through to the table of contents. I scanned the list. "Cinderella! Page 59." I flipped through the loose pages to page 59. On the top of the page, 'Cinderella' had been written in fading ink, intricately scribed in almost illegible calligraphy.


There once was a rich man whose wife lay sick, and when she felt her end drawing near she called to her only daughter to come near her bed, and said—
There once was a rich man whose wife lay sick, and when she felt her end drawing near she called to her only daughter to come near her bed, and said—

I became abruptly aware that Alfred, Jack, and Erik had all stopped walking, and were crowded around me, staring down at the pages of the Book with blatant curiosity.

"...What are you all doing?" I asked after moment. All three of them jumped guiltily and took a step back. It seemed almost choreographed.

"Er... we were curious." Jack said, more than a little abashed.

Ah, that was right, Jack could barely read, and Erik's literary skills were largely limited to whatever words could be found on a "wanted" poster.

"I'll read it out loud, so you all don't have to hover over my shoulder like that," I suggested.

I started from the top, aloud this time.

"There once was a rich man whose wife lay sick, and when she felt her end drawing near she called to her only daughter to come near her bed, and said, 'Dear child, be good and pious, and God will always take care of you, and I will look down upon you from heaven, and will be with you.'

And then she closed her eyes and died. The maiden went every day to her mother's grave and wept, and was always pious and good. When the winter came the snow covered the grave with a white covering, and when the sun came in the early spring and melted it away, the man took himself another wife.

The wife brought two daughters home with her, and they were beautiful and fair in appearance, but at heart were black and ugly. And then began very evil times for the poor step-daughter.

"Is the stupid creature to sit in the same room with us?" said they; "those who eat food must earn it. She is nothing but a kitchen maid!"

They took away her pretty dresses, and put on her an old grey kirtle, and gave her wooden shoes to wear.

"Just look now at the proud princess, how she is decked out!" cried they laughing, and then they sent her into the kitchen. There she was obliged to do heavy work from morning to night, get up early in the morning, draw water, make the fires, cook, and wash. Besides that, the sisters did their utmost to torment her—mocking her, and strewing peas and lentils among the ashes, and setting her to pick them up. In the evenings, when she was quite tired out with her hard day's work, she had no beds to lie on, but was obliged to rest on the hearth among the cinders. And because she always looked dusty and dirty, as if she had slept in the cinders, they named her Cinderella.

"Wow," Jack said, wide eyed. "Did all of that really happen to that poor girl?"

I gazed down at the little black words on the ancient paper, spelling out poor Cinderella's fate. "I guess so." I replied. She was real, wasn't she? If Jack and Erik were real—and they most certainly were, there was no doubt about that—then Cinderella must be real too, and so was all the suffering she had experienced in the story. I suddenly felt very bad for the girl.

"What happens next?" Erik asked.

I scanned the page. "Um... nothing important. The girls ask for present when their father goes to a fair; the step sisters want jewels and dresses, but Cinderella wants the first spring plant that he sees on his travels. It turns out to be a branch of a hazel tree, so he brings that to her. She plants it by her mother's grave, and it grows into a huge tree. Oh, and here's the ball scene!"

It was right there, less than halfway down the first page. "The king is throwing a ball that will last for three days, and when Cinderella hears her sisters talking about it, she asks her stepmother if she can go. After she begs and begs, the stepmother consents, if Cinderella can pick up all the lentils she has thrown in the ashes. Cinderella gets some birds to help her do it, and asks her stepmother again if she can go. After she cries and pleads, the stepmother tells her is she can pick up two dishes of lentils out of the ashes, she can go. So Cinderella gets the birds to come help her again. But when she shows her stepmother, she just tells her that she would be too embarrassing to take to the ball, and leaves the house with the stepsisters. Then she cries on her mother's grave, under the birds come back with a beautiful dress. She puts it on and goes the the ball—wait a second," I stopped, mid-sentence, peering down at the Book.

"This isn't right..."

"What?" Alfred asked curiously as he peered over me shoulder as well, his furry muzzle tickling the side of my face. I brushed him away, and re-read the next sentence in the story.

What should happen next is that she goes to the ball for the second night, runs away home that night, and the whole thing repeats on the third and final evening of the ball, but the prince manages to get her shoes by spreading pitch on the steps when she flees for the third time. No maiden but Cinderella can fit in the shoe, even though the step sisters try to cut off their toes and heels to do it, and the prince and Cinderella live happily ever after. But...

"But that's not what it says here," I muttered under my breath, a horrible. It was what had happened with the story of Rapunzel, all over again.

"What? What does it say?" Erik asked quickly, noticing my expression.

I tried to speak, but had to stop and clear my throat to stop my voice from shaking, and then I began again.

"On the second evening, when the parents and the step children had set off, Cinderella went again to her mother's grave beneath the hazel tree, and said to the headstone, 'Little tree, little tree, shake over me, that silver and gold may come down and cover me.'

Then the birds cast down a dress much more splendid than the one from the previous day had been.

But little did poor Cinderella know, not all of the household had set out for the ball. The stepmother, having heard that the prince had twice chased the beautiful maiden from the ball to her own house, began to suspect her stepdaughter of trickery. So she remained behind while her daughters and husband set out for the ball, and instead followed Cinderella in secrecy.

Now, dear readers, just a few days before, the estate of of a mysterious, stooped old man by the name of Rumpelstiltskin was sold off upon his sudden and violent death. Cinderella's father and stepmother had been going to a nearby fair at the time, much the same as on the day he brought back the hazel twig for his dear daughter. They passed by the estate sale and paused to look at the wares, finding many beautiful and precious objects among the old man's collection. One of these objects was a long ebony bough, straight as an arrow, black as pitch. It was a terrible thing, but a thing of great beauty, and the stepmother could not take her eyes from it.

'Oh, buy that wand for me, dear husband,' she cried, 'I so desire it!'

He did not understand why she should want such a plain and useless thing, but he was accustomed to giving in to her every whim, and so he consented.

The first day it was in her possession, she remained in her bedchamber, and stared down at it enraptured, for hours and hours.

The second day, she was compelled to engage in her duties as mistress of the household, but she could not bear to be without the wand, so she tucked it into her skirts, and kept it on her. It seemed to give her strength, and she did not even feel disgust when she looked upon the dirty little face of her stepdaughter.

On the third day, she had grown so dependent upon the wand that she slept with it under her pillow, and took it everywhere she went during her waking hours.

She had it, in fact, that evening when she followed poor Cinderella into the graveyard, so spy on the girl.

When she saw the birds cast the beautiful dress upon Cinderella, she immediately recognized her stepdaughter as the beautiful maiden the prince had danced with. In a fit of anger, she leapt out of her hiding place, and pointed an accusing finger at the frightened Cinderella.

'Wicked girl!' cried she, 'deceitful girl! You are but a dirty little kitchen maid, too homely and foul to dance with a prince! How dare you?'

'Please, stepmother!' Cinderella cried, but it was no use.

Acting without truly knowing why, the stepmother pulled the ebony wand out of the waistband of her skirt and pointed it at the girl. 'You are a blight upon my family! Your mother is dead, and I am the mistress of this household now! I will not stand for you taking the prince from my daughters! Know your place!'

And before Cinderella could do anything else, she was struck by magic from the ebony wand in her stepmother's hand. The girl felt her bare feet begin to root into the ground, her toes spreading far and digging deep, deep into the soft earth. Her legs knit together and her skin turned hard and grey and unyielding. Her torso stretched thin and tall, her arms up in the air as she reached for the sky, reached for the branches of her mother's tree, until her fingers became branches and leaves sprouted from her pores. Her cry of terror was cut short as wood and bark filled her mouth, and her face sank away into the smooth tree trunk, leaving her dumb, deaf, and blind.

The stepmother watched all this unfold, horrified at what she had done. The wand was magic, she saw that now. And now there stood two hazel trees side by side over the old grave, one old and strong, the other just a little thing, hiding under the sweeping boughs of the first, its leaves trembling in the wind.

"What...?" Jack whispered, as if he wasn't sure whether to believe what he had just heard.

"What in the world is this?" I hissed to myself. Roughly, I flipped back to the front of the book, back to the Table of Contents.

It was blank.

"What?" I said again, flipping through the blank pages. Blank, blank, blank. Every single one of them, even Rumpelstiltskin.

"Wait!" Erik cried suddenly, reaching out a hand and stopping my furious page turning. "There!" He pointed to the single line, the only written words still left on the table of contents.

The Little Hazel Tree. Page 59.

"Oh no..." I groaned. I flipped back to page 59, just the same as it had been a moment ago.

"What's that?" Alfred asked after a moment.

I was about to snap at him, but then a noticed a faint glimmer on the page, after the final sentence. Even as we watched, another phrase was being written.

"The stepmother was frightened by what she had done at first, but then realized that like this, her own lovely daughters would stand a chance at marrying the handsome prince themselves. So she gathered her skirts about her, and leaving poor Cinderella, now a little hazel sapling, on her mother's grave, the stepmother left for the ball."

"Oh no," I hissed.

"It's not done yet..." Erik said.

"Tomorrow evening is the final night of the prince's ball. Unless Rikki and her Knights can break the spell upon Cinderella before then, a little hazel tree forever she shall remain."

"...You've got to be fucking kidding me."

"My dear lady!" Alfred gasped, appalled at my language.

"Well," Erik said grimly, stepping quickly away from the Book and looking as if he wanted to murder something. "I guess we'd better start running then."

I slammed the book shut. "I hate my life."
♠ ♠ ♠
So... I disappeared for a while.
Sorry about that. I've been slacking off lately, and struggling with motivation. My main novel hasn't been getting ANY bites from the agents I've sent it to, not even a request to see the full manuscript, so I think I just have to face the fact that it isn't good enough to publish. That means I have to focus on writing something new, something publishable, but that's obviously takes a lot of time and effort. And then I'm supposed to be editing at least one chapter of this a week, and narrating one chapter a week, and I technically haven't even finished putting my main novel into manuscript format yet because I guess in my heart I always suspected it wasn't going to get picked up by an agent so why even bother?

So instead of actually DOING all that stuff, I just sat around and stressed out about having to do all that stuff, and none of it got done. But I'm going to try to get my act together since it's the new year and all. I don't really have any excuses, I just have to buckle down at do it.

Anyway, did you know that this was chapter 42 in the original story? Chapter freaking 42! I had THAT much useless filler clogging up this damn story! I could have been a writer for Dragon Ball Z, I'm telling you. And do you know how long I'd been writing this story by the time I reached this chapter the first time around? Three years, apparently, which I know because of my old author notes. It took me then three years to reach where we are now. And it was crap. You guys have no idea how lucky you are.


Anyway, I hope ya'll enjoy this chapter, dear readers. Have a lovely time period between now and the next chapter.

Oh, also, I have a Tumblr now! I'll be posting story prompts, writing quotes from famous authors, pieces of microfiction, a few short stories, and general writing tips and tricks that I read about and like.

-J. Brenton