Authors: Kristal Lim
Tags: #romance, #love, #fantasy, #young adult, #dark fantasy, #fairy tale, #curse, #spell, #enchantment, #dark fairy tale
Before the Dawn
By Kristal Lim
Copyright 2012 Kristal Lim
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She found herself looking down at her feet.
She was wearing what sort of looked like ballet slippers, except
that they were a bit pointier at the end. She tried wriggling her
toes and she felt the soft scratch of fabric against her skin, and
she realized that the slippers were made of fine cloth. They were
covered with intricate-looking embroidery of multi-colored threads
and tiny jewels in a design that seemed completely chaotic at first
glance, but then gradually revealed itself to be an incredibly
detailed image of a garden. There were so many things that caught
her attention about that garden while she looked at the slippers,
and she could have stared at her feet for an eternity, admiring how
pretty the slippers were, if a sudden sharp crack hadn’t distracted
She now looked up and she saw there were
other people around her, all girls, who seemed younger than she was
in appearance. They were dressed in the most fantastic gowns that
resembled the gorgeous blossoms depicted on her embroidered
slippers, and when she twirled around slowly to get a better look
at all of them, she realized that she was dressed in the same rich
manner when her skirts rustled on the floor. These young girls,
there were eleven of them, all gazed at her expectantly like they
were watching to see what she would do, and she gazed back at them
without saying anything. They seemed familiar somehow, but she also
had the feeling that they looked wrong, like their faces were
nothing but mirages and weren’t really theirs. But she knew that
she knew them, and she knew that they were waiting for her to go
first, somewhere. Her gaze dropped back to her feet, and it was
then that she noticed a hole in the floor that was just a step away
from where she stood. As she looked at it, the hole became wider,
echoing and mysterious, and there were stairs leading down, down,
down to somewhere deep and dark, where the faintest strains of a
strange, sad tune invited her to descend into the darkness. Feeling
curiously compelled by the music, she moved closer to the hole.
"Sister, wait." She heard the voice as if it
was coming from beneath water. A small, delicate hand suddenly
clutched at her arm and a sweet, young face appeared before her
eyes. "I have the oddest feeling that we should not go to the ball
tonight. Having that soldier here frightens me."
She waved away the young girl’s words as
easily as she did her hand. "Don’t be a silly goose," she said to
the other girl with a tinkling laugh. "That blockhead drank all the
sleeping draught I gave him. Hear how loud he snores!" And, during
a long moment while everyone stood in complete stillness, the only
sound that came to their ears was the deep drone of a man caught
firmly in the grip of dreams. But the young girl still looked
frightened despite all sorts of assurances, and she saw that the
same fear was beginning to appear in the eyes of the others, too.
So she gestured for them to follow her to where the soldier slept.
"See?" she said to them. "He will not wake up no matter what may
happen around him." And to prove the truth of her words, she boldly
reached out and brushed away the dark, unkempt hair that had fallen
across the soldier’s closed eyes, the strands slipping through her
fingers with a whisper.
For an instant, she thought she saw the flash
of an intense green gaze and she quickly drew back, nervous. But
then she shook her head to clear her vision and she saw that the
soldier was fully asleep. She was surprised to note that he was
actually quite young, his face lined not by age but by the
hardships of the wars he had fought. He seemed familiar, too, like
the other girls around her. But, again, his features seemed wrong.
She frowned, struggling to remember something she knew was terribly
important. But the memory stubbornly stayed out of reach, so she
simply said to the others, "Come now. We must go." A sensation of
urgency had come over her now, and she knew that there was
somewhere else she had to be.
Then the scene flipped like the glittering
sides of a coin and she was going down a flight of stairs that
spiraled deep underground. She held a small lamp of crystal before
her and, when she turned to see who was following her lead, the
soft light cast dark twisting shadows that concealed the faces of
all but four of her young companions. She frowned and studied the
shadows for a moment and she thought that they seemed strange, like
there were too many of them moving on the walls for their little
company. But the music she had heard earlier caught her in its
thrall again, and she forgot about the odd shadows and continued to
descend into darkness until, suddenly, her eyes were filled with a
She could not see anything clearly for a
moment and she dropped the lamp she was holding. It shattered on
the ground and the light it provided was instantly snuffed out. She
closed her eyes involuntarily to shield them from the dazzling
brilliance then opened them again very slowly, and she beheld a
grove of trees unlike any she had ever seen before. Silver. The
trees, their leaves, and their fruits—all the marvelously beautiful
things in the grove—were made of cold, shiny silver. A small breeze
stirred and a tinkling sound that resembled tiny bells rang out.
She stared around her in wonder. Everything was all so lovely that
she wanted to stay there for as long as she could in order to
examine all the details of the incredible foliage. But, no. Another
memory teased her then vanished without revealing itself, but she
knew she could not stay. She had to go on. She had to be someplace
else. But before she could take another step, she heard another
crack, this time of something breaking, and the young girl trailing
close behind her became nervous once more. So she shushed the girl
and told her not to be so afraid. As they continued their journey,
she kept the young girl by her side and told her a story someone
had shared with her about the silver trees.
"They are magic," she said. "They provide
protection and light. If you keep one of their leaves with you, it
will make sure you are safe from enchantments. But you must
remember this: the power of the leaf will only stay true if you do
not become tempted to give in to the spell that seeks to trap
"How do you know this?" the young girl
wondered, distracted enough by the little story to forget about her
fears for the moment.
Until this question was asked, she had not
been able to recall who had told her about the silver trees, but
now she remembered. "The Prince," she smiled. "He told me of this
while we danced last night."
The girl sniffed. "How come your Prince tells
you of these things? My Prince just likes to tease me and argue
with me all the time."
Her smile grew wider at the other one’s
aggravated expression. "I believe it’s because you are still so
very young. You quite amuse him, and your Prince seems to be very
fond of being amused." She could not help but frown a little as the
memory of a dark figure flashed briefly across her mind. The
recollection of amber eyes and a knowing smirk caused her to feel a
But she was quickly distracted from these
thoughts by yet more wonders, and the conversation between her and
the young girl eventually ended when she ran out of stories to
tell. Soon, they came to another grove—and this one had trees and
plants made of warm, bright gold. The fruits on the trees glowed
with a soft light, tempting her to reach out a hand and pluck them.
But she resisted the urge for she knew they could not linger in the
golden grove either, and they kept walking until they arrived in a
place where the trees sparkled with little fires. When she touched
the trunk of one, she saw that it was made of something
crystalline. "Diamonds," she heard herself say out loud. "These are
diamonds grown from the bones of queens." By this time, she was so
enraptured by all the marvels she was seeing that she barely noted
the sounds of two other cracks as they passed through the different
groves. The only thought that consumed her now was how strange yet
how familiar everything seemed. But recognition still eluded her,
always dancing out of the way before she could grasp it.
And then the sound of slow waves lapping
gently against a shoreline caught her hearing, diamond trees
shifted and cleared a path before them, and they were standing
before a large dark lake. The black water seemed to call to her in
a voice that was almost comprehensible and she edged closer and
closer to it so she could understand what it was trying to tell
her. But two frantic pairs of hands pulled her back quite sharply
before a small ripple could touch the hem of her gown.
"Sister!" hissed a voice in her ear. She
tried to turn her head to see who had spoken but, for some reason,
she couldn’t quite manage to do it. "Remember the Prince’s warning
about the lake."
Another voice whispered urgently, "To fall
into these waters is to fall into oblivion. You must take
She wanted to ask the ones who had spoken
what they meant. However, the words stilled on her tongue when she
saw lights appear in the distance on the other side of the lake.
These lights twinkled to life one by one, and then grew steadily
bigger and brighter until they began to illuminate the outline of a
castle made of black stone with towers that soared high into the
night sky. Soon, the castle itself seemed to glow with the pale
ghostly aura of moonlight and her heart felt like it suddenly burst
into fire at the sight.
She knew this place. She knew it. She had
been here before.
Finally, she was here again.
With a sense of yearning and melancholy so
powerful that tears began to flow unbidden from her eyes, she
watched as the castle’s drawbridge began to lower, and small boats
of light glided through the dark water towards the shore where she
and the others waited.
I had the strangest dream last night. I found
myself drowning. The water was dark and cold, and as I got dragged
down deeper and deeper to the bottom, it felt like I was losing
everything I was. Images and feelings like memories spun away from
me and I could see their ghosts in the water. I tried to hang on to
them, to reach out and grab them with my hands, but I was too weak,
and I kept falling and falling down into the dark. I was scared and
I was so cold. The last thing I remember my dream self thinking
before I finally woke up was, "Forgive me."
"Hey, Ali! What’re you doing?"
Aline quickly saved what she had been typing
then closed her laptop. "Oh, nothing. Just putting some thoughts
down in my journal," she replied and smiled at Cassie. The other
girl was the tallest one in her little group of friends who had all
met up in kindergarten. They had been close to one another ever
since, like sisters, though they certainly didn't have similar
appearances. Cassie, for instance, had legs that the rest of them
would have happily killed for, as well as shiny blond hair and a
perpetual tan. They teasingly called her Malibu Barbie whenever she
annoyed them and she knew her friends well enough to recognize that
they actually meant the nickname as a compliment. She towered over
Aline now with a grin, looking excited.
"So, tomorrow’s the Halloween dance," Cassie
your big day! Happy sweet sixteenth in advance!"
She proudly held out an over-sized cupcake with pink frosting that
was so bright it glowed like neon.
"Uh, thanks." Aline took the cupcake and eyed
it a bit warily. "Do you expect me to eat this? I mean, it’s not
radioactive or anything, right?"
"Oh, haha." Cassie rolled her eyes and sat
down beside Aline. It was lunchtime and they were at their usual
table in the cafeteria. Their other friends hadn’t shown up yet so
the two girls killed some time by talking about the subject that
had pretty much obsessed everyone in their school for the past few
weeks: the Halloween dance and the after-party their gang was
planning to celebrate Aline’s birthday. "So, Sam just confirmed
that we got the limo we wanted," Cassie said. "It’ll pick her up
and Gracelyn first, then they’re gonna swing by my house and,
finally, we’re gonna come get you and Meran. We go to the dance,
hang around for a few hours, and leave by eleven. Then it’s off to
the Ballroom for your party and we wrap things up just before dawn.
Does that sound great or what?"