The Mirror World
by Rosandra Davis
Boredom was her companion on a Saturday morning. Her parents were at work and her best friend out of town. She relieved herself with a sigh. So here she stood in front of Annie's Antiques. "Maybe I'll find some vintage Wonder Woman comic," she said as she entered the shop.
The bell on the door continued to clangor long after she stepped inside. The shop was dimly lit and the air was thick with an old musty smell.
"Good morning," said a petite old lady with white wiry hair.
"Morning," Taryn replied, trying not to choke on the musty smell. "I'm just looking," she managed to say with a smile.
"I'll be over here dusting if you see anything you like."
Walking around she saw stuff only old people would like, but then she saw the mirror. It had a dark brown oak finish with elves carved on it.
"How beautiful," she exclaimed. She smiled at her reflection; two tiny ditto marks appeared on her butterscotch cheeks. She reached out her hand to touch the carvings but, the mirror started to resemble a rippled pond. Taryn's eyes widened in astonishment. She moved her hand toward the ripple. Upon contact, an unseen force started pulling her hand. She tried to hold her ground but the force was too strong. And through the mirror she went.
Stranger from the sky
She landed on soft emerald grass. She rolled onto her back to see pink puffy clouds above her. They reminded her of cotton candy. She rose up to come face to face with a rabbit wearing a gray tweed jacket.
"I saw that," it said.
Taryn stared in disbelief. A rabbit was actually talking to her. Rabbits can't talk. She shook her head. "This can't be."
"Stranger from the sky, what's your name?"
"Taryn," she responded, still in disbelief.
"I'm Mr. Timbleweed."
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Timbleweed," she said politely, as she got to her feet. The rabbit eyed her every movement with his deep black eyes. She noticed the air smelled of sweet vanilla, not like that musty old shop. She closed her eyes and inhaled. The rabbit twitched a whisker.
"What is this place?"
"This is Ardnasor."
She saw nothing but soft plushy green. There were no other creatures except for a white butterfly fluttering around. Mr. Timbleweed hopped up and crushed the butterfly. Taryn gasped. She loved butterflies.
"You wretched little beast," she fumed.
"Its one of her spies," he replied. He grabbed hold of her hand.
"Don't touch me, you killer."
"We must leave before the centaurs come."
Mr. Timbleweed broke into a loping gait, with Taryn in tow. She struggled to break free, but the homicidal rabbit had a stronghold on her. Another butterfly fluttered by.
"Centaurs aren't real," she said, in between puffs.
"The centaurs are her guards. And they're on the way."
"There are no such things as centaurs." Her voice trailed off as hoof beats could be heard in the distance. The rabbit began to run faster. She looked over her shoulder to see horses galloping. No it wasn't horses, but men with squared jaws and muscular chests attached to the sleek body of a horse. "This has to be one big nightmare," Taryn thought as the rabbit pulled her into the green forest.
"Get away from me," the dwarf protested, as three leather-face henchmen encircled him.
"Pipe down or I'll gut you like a fish," the thin one snarled.
"I don't think the Queen would take kindly to that," the burly one added.
"You don't get paid to think. If you did you would be broke," the thin one retorted.
"Look," the short one said, pointing to a rabbit and a girl running downhill toward them.
"Help, help! I'm being oppressed," the dwarf shrieked.
Taryn and Mr. Timbleweed landed at the bottom of the hill. The thin one lurched toward Mr. Timbleweed, but the rabbit knocked him backwards with his hind legs. The dwarf bit the closest one to him. "Ow," he yelped.
The third one tried to run but Taryn tripped him.
They tied the henchmen to a big tree. "We'll get you," the thin one seethed.
"My name is Twink," the dwarf said, bowing to them.
"I'm Mr. Timbleweed and this is Karyn."
"Taryn," the girl corrected. If she didn't know any better, she would have thought the rabbit had cut his eyes at her.
"She fell from the sky," he said, sounding agitated that she corrected him.
"Really," Twink said, looking up at Taryn. She noticed he had orange eyes. The right one was twitchy. He looked like one of her mother's garden gnomes brought to life.
"There they are," shouted a thunderous voice.
Taryn looked up to see centaurs at the top of the hill.
"Get moving," Mr. Timbleweed instructed.
She couldn't believe her eyes. She stared into the eyes of the centaur. The dwarf grabbed her by the arm.
"Don't let them escape," the thunderous voice commanded as the centaurs advanced down the hill.
The Secret Place
Taryn's legs felt wobbly as she ran to keep up with the rabbit.
"Can we rest now?" she asked, in between huffs.
"We're almost to the secret place," he said, as he hopped onto a pile of leaves.
Taryn stopped abruptly and Twink bumped into her, falling on his bottom.
"Okay, are we going to cover ourselves with leaves," she said sarcastically.
"That sounds good to me," Twink chimed in.
Mr. Timbleweed scanned the forest. There was no sign of the centaurs or butterflies. "This leads to the secret place," he said, in a hush tone.
Taryn and Twink stood on the pile of leaves; Mr. Timbleweed took his left foot and went thump tap thump. Taryn felt the pile of leaves drop. She began to fall down fast. "If this really is a dream, I should wake up soon."
Taryn scrambled to her feet. She looked up from where she fell to see a wooden door.
"Mr. Timbleweed, you're back," said a low muffled voice. "And you're not alone."
"This is Twink and Taryn," he responded.
Taryn turned to see who was speaking. It looked exactly like a stuffed teddy bear, except he was wearing a polka dot tie.
"She's a hu-". Before he could speak another word, hoof beats could be heard from above. Splintering sounds were coming from the door.
"Get away from the door," shouted a girl whose voice sounded like wind chimes.
Taryn quickly moved from the door. Twink let out a squeal. "We're being infiltrated."
"Calm down and follow me," the girl commanded.
Taryn found herself following the slip of a girl, who had spiky purple hair with lavender skin and shimmering transparent wings that fluttered with every word she spoke.
"Hurry up before they get in," the girl shouted over her shoulder.
She followed the fairy through a doorway which led into a tunnel that had smooth dirt walls and hard dirt floors. The teddy bear creature handed her a lit candle. She took it without speaking. She was in shock, but the bear smiled and told her his name was Bartholomew. She gave a faint half smile.
In the tunnel the sound of hoof beats and wood splintering was not as loud. Like surround sound she could hear voices all around her.
"Are you sure the way is still open?" the purple fairy was asking someone in front of her.
"I'm positive. We check it regularly." This came from a raspy voice.
Taryn held up her candle to get a better look at the raspy voice. The creature was some shade of green and scaly. The creature swayed side to side which each step it took.
"What if there was a cave-in?" Mr. Timbleweed called from behind her.
"Well isn't he Mr. optimistic," Taryn thought to herself.
"Well, we must keep going. We'll never get past those centaurs," Bartholomew said.
"Why are we running from the centaurs?" Taryn asked, as she followed behind the purple fairy. "They don't seem that scary."
The fairy turned around and flew in Taryn's face. "Because they'll capture us, and then there won't be anyone left to stop her."
Taryn raised an eyebrow. "Who is this person?"
Mr. Timbleweed nudged her with his foot. "There's no time for questions now. Keep moving."
As they moved along the tunnel, nobody said a word. Taryn wanted to know who this "her" was. "How bad can she be," she thought silently.
"Can you help me with the door?" the purple fairy asked her, breaking the silence.
Taryn saw a door made of oak; she could recognize anything made from oak. The fairy was pushing against the door with her tiny body. With ease, Taryn was able to open the door that led to a room full of towering books and a disheveled owl wearing upside down spectacles.
"Ambrosia," his voice echoed when he spoke.
"Dunbar," she said sweetly.
"You weren't followed?"
Ambrosia shook her head.
"Do come in."
"Who are we hiding from?" Taryn asked, once inside the book filled room.
The owl ruffled his feathers at the sight and sound of Taryn. "A human? How did she get here?"
Taryn was about to answer him, when Mr. Timbleweed spoke. "She fell from the sky." He looked at her through his enormous eyeglasses. "You must have been brought here to help us."
Taryn took a step back, narrowly missing Twink's foot. "Help you how? round up a bunch of horsemen?"
"No. Rid us of her. Help us find the King and Queen," Ambrosia explained.
"How did all this happen?"
"It's a long story," she said, looking down at the moss-covered floor.
"We have time," Mr. Timbleweed said, twitching his whiskers.
Ambrosia took a deep breath and began to speak.
The Story of Before
Ambrosia stared at the moss-covered floor as she told of the story of before. "Ardnasor was a land of harmony and friendship."
"Those horsemen didn't seem like friends to me," Taryn remarked.
"They aren't," Ambrosia continued on."Ardnasor was ruled by the love and kindness of King Moonbeam and Queen Roseblossom."
"So the centaurs weren't always bad?"
"No, not until she came."
"Who is this 'she' you speak of?"
"She is the giantess Desmera."
"Giants are rare in Ardnasor," Twink pointed out.
"She isn't from here," Ambrosia said with an agitated tone. "Desmera and her henchmen came from the shantytown of Reinak, a fortnight ago; around the time the king and queen went missing."
Taryn wanted to ask what a fortnight was, but decided against it. "Then what happened?"
"She demanded we bow to her and call her queen.
The centaurs were the only Ardnasorians that agreed to do her bidding. Those of us who refused were put in thralldom and under her power."
"Power," Taryn mouthed with raised eyebrows."What kind of power could she possibly have?"
"The onyx talisman. It seems to put us under some kind of trance. We were the only ones able to hide and avoid the power of her influence."
"Well, how do you plan to stop her?" Taryn asked.
"With your help," Ambrosia replied fluttering her wings.
"You must have been sent here to help us," the dragon added.
"Cyan's right, your human presence must mean something."
Taryn's eyes scanned the room. They all were looking at her: the shimmering fairy, the owl, teddy bear creature, Mr. Timbleweed, Twink, and the dragon. Her head felt light, all her thoughts were escaping her now.
"No worries, we'll figure out a plan come morning," Ambrosia assured her.
That was the last thing she heard before collapsing to the floor.
Away in the Night
Everyone was asleep, except Twink. He couldn't sleep. He was a nervous ball of nervousness. He paced east and west. He counted every square inch on the moss carpet. "320," he muttered. He needed fresh air. He didn't like the smell of all those books. They smelled like old dwarves. "I must get out of here."
Taryn awoke to see Twink leaving, she decided to follow him. Quietly she got up. She looked around and saw that everyone was asleep. That dragon's snoring sure sounded like a tornado siren. She noticed Dunbar wasn't around. "Probably outside in a tree," she shrugged as she went upstairs.
Outside the air smelled like sweet vanilla. Twink was inhaling the sweetness and listening to the crickets' midnight symphony.
"I think we should spy on this Desmera," Taryn proposed.
Twink jumped. "What!"
"We should spy on her."
His right eye started twitching faster than a hummingbird's wings.
"That sounds dangerous."
"I just like to know what I'm up against."
The dwarf nodded his head. "We have to be careful not to get caught."
Through the darkened forest they went. All was quiet and still.
"Where are we going?"
"To the castle that once belonged to the king and queen," he sniffed.
They came to a bridge that was being guarded by a centaur. They quickly hid behind a tree. The centaur looked in their direction.
Twink fiddled with his hat. "We have to turn back. We'll surely be caught."
"No, we need to distract him." Taryn felt around on the ground for something to throw. "Ah." Her hand touched something smooth and hard. She threw it with all her might. Whatever it was let out a screech as it went through the vanilla-scented night. The centaur galloped away from the bridge to investigate the flying screeching object. "Go," she said in a hushed tone.
Across the bridge they ran until they got to the castle. They stood at the edge of the moat. Taryn looked at Twink. "How do we get in there?"
"Well, there is a secret passage," he said, pointing to the water.
While treading through the water, Taryn was glad she didn't wear her favorite jeans. "How much longer does this secret passage go on?" she asked.
"Not much longer. We're almost out."
Moments later, down the corridor of the castle Taryn walked in her water-soaked shoes.
"I hope we don't get captured. I've been through that already," Twink said.
She turned toward him with her finger to her lips. "Sssh. I hear voices coming from there. Get down." She crawled on her knees, till she was close enough to the voices. She peeked into the room to see Desmera sitting cross-legged on the throne twirling a strand of her coal-colored hair. The three henchmen were trembling before her.
"So you had the dwarf when the rabbit and girl came along," Desmera said. All three nodded. She raised her pencil-thin brow. "You're telling me this girl was one of the human kind?"
"Yes," the thin one responded.
"Yes, what?" she intoned.
"Yes, my queen. It was a human girl. Her skin was the color of dirt," the thin one explained.
She drummed her long slender fingers on her leg. "So you let this human girl get away," she said in between gritted teeth.
"We would have given chase, but we were tied up," the thin one said.
Desmera arose from her throne. In unison the henchmen took three steps back.
Taryn gasped at the sight of her towering stature.
"Great," Desmera said. "Not only do I have some of those nasty creatures hiding out. I have some human kid running about."
"Well, we wouldn't know where to find her," they said with forlorn faces.
"I know where you can find her," a familiar voice chimed in.
Taryn covered her mouth. Twink, who couldn't see a thing, asked, "who is it?"
She looked at him. "You need to see for yourself."
Twink saw with his own eyes that Dunbar was betraying them. "We need to warn the others," Twink said, with disappointment in his voice.
Treachery, Thy Name is Dunbar
Taryn and Twink ran as fast as they could from the castle. Taryn looked over her shoulder to see if they were being watched. But only the eyes of the night stared back at her. They managed to go undetected across the bridge, for the centaur was too engrossed in kicking the screeching object. Twink wanted to rest for a moment but she grabbed him by the arm. "We're almost there," she huffed. "Just a little further."
Soon,Taryn and Twink rushed through the door. "You won't believe what Dunbar has done."
"What has Dunbar done?" the owl asked with the most innocent look in his eyes.
"He gave away our hiding place," Twink chirped.
Everyone looked at him. Dunbar backed into the corner.
"Is this true?" Mr. Timbleweed asked, glaring at Dunbar.
Dunbar swallowed hard. "Yes, she told me she would set my wife free," he explained. "But she's only interested in the girl."
"How long do we have before they find us," Mr. Timbleweed asked.
"Not long," one henchmen answered.
Taryn turned around to face the leather-faced henchmen. He gave her a rotten-toothed grin and grabbed her by the arm. Cyan charged at him, knocking him on the mossy ground. The other two henchmen grabbed her arms. She kicked at the burly one. Ambrosia bit the ear of the short one. "Ow," he groaned.
Mr. Timbleweed bound the unconscious henchmen and Dunbar with twine.
"I'm sorry," Dunbar muttered with downcast eyes.
"So am I," Mr. Timbleweed said.
"What are we going to do now?" Taryn inquired.
Ambrosia touched her arm. "Don't worry, we'll think of a plan, to be rid of her once and for all."
"We should leave here now," Mr. Timbleweed instructed.
Outside, the centaurs were waiting for them.
"Don't try and fight us. We just want the girl."
Cyan whispered to her. "Jump on my back." She looked at him. His soft green eyes stared back. She felt a sense of trust come over her. Cyan spread his wings, casting a shadow over the centaurs' faces. "Now," he said. She jumped. And he began to fly.
A Good Heart
Taryn couldn't believe she was actually flying. She didn't mind except for the cold air slapping her face. As she looked down, she saw that the centaurs had Twink and the others surrounded. "What about the others?"
Cyan didn't respond.
"Where are you taking me now?"
Still no answer. Suddenly something darted past her ear. And then another one. This time she caught it. "They're shooting arrows at us," she shouted. At least a hundred more came toward them.
"Hold on," he called back to her as he tried to maneuver his body to miss the arrows.
Cyan's flying began to falter. "I need to land."
Taryn looked down to see where the centaurs were. They were galloping in the distance.
"I think I can make it over there." It was a huge grassy cliff. With his wings aching, Cyan glided toward the cliff.
Below, the river was green like the grass. Taryn saw Cyan's underbelly reflected in it.
Cyan landed on the cliff, narrowly missing the edge. Taryn got off his back. "Are you all right?" she asked him.
"My wing hurts," he winced.
She took hold of his wing; she saw a patch of red on his green iridescent scales. She touched it. "You're bleeding." She dressed his wound with a wad of bubblegum and a couple of leaves.
The dragon gave her a shy smile. "Can I ask you something?"
"How did a human girl like you end up in Ardnasor?"
"I'm not sure. I touched the surface of the mirror in that musty old shop. And then I landed here," she said, tugging at the grass.
The dragon raised his head. "You definitely must have been sent here."
"Why me? I don't think I can help you," she said, shaking her head. "I just want to go home." Her almond eyes filled with tears.
Cyan took his claw and caught her tears. "Don't fret Tear-rain. Once the king and queen are restored to the throne, they'll be able to send you back home."
"I'm just a kid. I can't singlehandedly defeat a giant wicked queen. You need somebody like Shaq," she said breathlessly, while making ribbons out of blades of grass.
Cyan looked up at the sky. "You know if they aren't returned to the throne soon, Ardnasor will become a very grim place."
"How can that be?" she asked, her voice slightly cracking.
"Ardnasor was ruled by a king and queen with good hearts. But evil is very powerful. Good can easily succumb to its influence. I believe you have just the right amount of goodness to triumph over evil."
"What makes you think that?"
"Because I can tell your heart is good and your thoughts are kind. And I believe you can do it," he said before an arrow struck him in the chest.
The centaurs approached with their arrows aimed. Taryn crouched near the wounded dragon. She glared at them through her teary eyes. "Get away," she spat.
"Come human," spoke the centaur with the blue pony tail.
"I'm not going anywhere. I have to tend to my friend," she said, with her voice raising several octaves.
"Go with them," Cyan breathed. "I'll be okay."
She looked into his green eyes. A lonely tear trickled down. She gently touched his cheek. "I'll come as long as you don't hurt my friend." She reluctantly moved toward the centaurs.
The pony-tailed centaurs looked at the others. One of them released an arrow, piercing Cyan's side.
"Nooooooo," screamed Taryn. She ran toward him but the centaur yanked her by the collar. "Let me go," she said thrashing in mid-air. The centaur threw her on his back.
"Quiet human, or we'll shoot a hundred more arrows into him."
Brave New Girl
Taryn remained quiet as she rode with the centaurs. They spoke among themselves. She didn't care what they were saying. She stared at the sky. The pink cotton candy clouds instantly turned ominous looking and gray. "Oh my word," she mouthed, as they approached the castle.
Once inside, she was taken by those hideous henchmen.
"To the dungeon with you," the thin one hissed.
"Have you ever heard of mouthwash," she retorted, scrunching up her pug nose.
"Don't trifle with me, girlie," the thin one snarled, as he grabbed her wrist.
She was led down a dark stairwell. A rat scurried across her shoe. She kicked it away.
"That's no way to treat your relatives," the burly one chuckled.
While the henchmen were having belly vibrations, Taryn gingerly took the keys hanging from one henchman's belt loop. With a thud and plop, she landed on the damp cobblestone floor.
"Make yourself comfortable, girlie," the thin one spat, as he slammed the door.
Taryn stayed on the floor until the henchmen's crackling and chuckling desisted.
"Good. They're gone," she breathed, scrambling to her feet. "Time to get out of here. Smells like a wet dog in here."
"Take me with you," a small faint voice cried out.
"What?" Taryn turned around. She squinted into the damp darkness. "Who's there?" She heard the rustling of feathers. She moved toward the sound. A diminutive grayish white owl was chained to the floor. She had the most forlorn look in her big dark eyes. Taryn's heart sank deeper than the Titanic. "Don't worry, I'll get you out of here."
The owl started flapping her wings. "Twila's most delighted. Twila misses Dunbar."
Taryn unlocked her shackles. "You know him?"
"Yes, yes," she said, stretching her wings. Twila is Dunbar's wife."
"Are you the only one here?"
"Twila's not sure. Most were fed to the crocs."
Taryn started searching all the cells. "Hello," she called to the darkness. There was no reply.
"Twila told you they're all croc food."
"Hello. You can come out now. I'm here to help you."
Twila swooped down. She started shaking her head. "Twila thinks you should pipe down. Before Desmera hears you."
Taryn put her hands upon her hips. "I'm not scared of her. I can't wait to see her face to face."
"You should be, pipsqueak." Desmera's tall lean figure stood over Taryn and Twila, who flew into the nearest cell.
Taryn stepped back a few paces. Desmera's deep obsidian-like eyes peered down at her. Taryn commanded her legs to run, but they remained stationary.
"You want to run but you can't," Desmera said, while stroking the onyx stone that hung against her pale pink chest. She placed a slender finger beneath Taryn's chin. "Little girl, don't try and fight me," she said in a hypnotic tone.
Chapters 13-17 (the end)