Cinderella Dressed in Ashes ( Book #2 in the Grimm Diaries ) (10 page)

BOOK: Cinderella Dressed in Ashes ( Book #2 in the Grimm Diaries )
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“All of them are beautiful,” Shew said. “Who are they?”

“The Sleepers,” Cerené said matter-of-factly. “They keep the Field of Dreams alive.”

“How is that possible? They’re sleeping and they look almost dead.”

“That’s because each one of them is enchanted to sleep for a hundred years,” Cerené explained.

“How so? And Why?”

“They are girl that had been killed by Carmilla,” Cerené explained. “Someone, probably the Sandman himself, brought them here. That’s why you’d notice they have bruises and wounds underneath their dresses. Some of them have bite marks on their throats.”

“Why did the Sandman bring them here?” Shew was curious.

“To resurrect them,” Cerené said. “The Field of Dream is a magical place of Art. It can resurrect the unrightfully killed.”

“But they are sleeping, Cerené,” Shew noted.

“Remember when I told you magic has a price?” Cerené said. “In order for them to live again, they have to sleep in the cornfield for a hundred years. They pay their price by feeding the field, and they wake up a hundred years later and get a second life. Until then, they are safe here,” Cerené looked at the Field in Between which was encircled by the Wall of Thorns from all sides.

She followed her gaze, spotting the part where the Wall of Thorns had been burned, “What will happen to the gab in the Wall of Thorns?” she said.

“I think it will grow back on its own once we leave,” Cerené said. “Come, let me show you what these girls are doing here,” she pulled Shew down to kneel beside her.

“You mean the price they pay for a hundred years until they wake up?” Shew wondered.

“You see the urns on both sides, one filled with water, the other with sand?” Cerené pointed.

“Yes.”

“The Sleepers are all dreaming. Think of them as plants in the Field of Dreams. They feed the Field of Dreams with their
dreams
. When they dream, they have either good dreams or nightmares. Those who have nightmares cry and produce the Tears of Beauty. Those who dream happily produce grit in their eyes, the way we all do when we’re asleep. The sand is called the Sands of Beauty.”

“What’s the use for the sand and the tears?”

“When the urns are full of water, the water spills over, seeps into the earth and helps the corn grow,” Cerené said.

“And the grit in their eyes—I mean the sand,” Shew inquired.

Cerené grabbed a fistful of grit in the urn and showed it to Shew, “this no ordinary sand. It’s the third ingredient of the Heart element,” she poured a big amount of it in her glass urn. “The element of the Heart has been completed.”

“This seems very strange, Cerené,” Shew said. “I mean the Field of Dreams, the girls, and the sand from their eyes.”

“It’s not strange. It’s beautiful,” Cerené said. “This sand belongs to the Sandman himself. He owns this field.”

“You told me about that.”

“You know the Sandman who came into our rooms when we were just kids and poured sand in our eyes while we slept so we could dream? Where do you think he gets his sand? Here, from the Field of Dreams.”

“Is the Sandman around now?“ Shew whispered curiously. “I mean I’d like to see him.”

“Grow up, Joy,” Cerené said. “He is the Sandman. We can’t see him. It would spoil the point of his existence.”

Shew thought the story was promising considering she lived in a world where Snow White was a vampire and traveling between dreams was possible, however, she didn’t remember hearing anything like that when she was a child. The idea that the Sandman saved the girls her mother slaughtered seemed noble, but she thought feeding the field for a hundred years was a long price to pay.

Think of it, Shew. The girls will be given a second life. They wouldn’t mind sleeping for a hundred years.

She decided the Sleepers weren’t her priority. Cerené was. What worried her most was how Cerené knew about evil Rapunzel plants, the Fields of Dreams, and the Sandman.

“Listen to me, Cerené,” Shew held her by the shoulders. “I have never met someone who knew about these things. I need to ask you how you know all this.”

“I told you I read a lot of books in the school’s library,” Cerené answered casually. “Did you know its real name is Bedtime Stoories?” she snickered. “The two ‘o’ letters in the middle represent the secret pair of eyes that stare back at you from the bookshelves. They belong to a blind man called the Skeliman.”

“I am sorry, Cerené, but I don’t believe you learned this from Bedtime Stoories,” Shew said, not paying attention to any of the fluffy details mentioned. She wanted to know how Cerené got her precious knowledge. “If the secrets you know were so easy to find, I am sure I’d have met someone in my family who knew about them. I’m the Princess of Sorrow, remember? My family created this kingdom. I am sorry but I dare call you a liar because I am sure you didn’t learn any of this from the books in the library.”

Cerené rubbed the rim of her urn while avoiding Shew’s eyes. Shew lifted her chin gently to face her.

“All right,” Cerené sighed. “I learned all this from Bianca,” she said with an undertone that implied shame, as if Bianca was bad.

“Who is Bianca?” Shew needed to confirm her suspicions.

“My mother,” Cerené titled her head and her lips twitched again.

Be careful when her lips twitch, Shew, or she will lose it again.

“I thought you were an orphan.”

“I am,” Cerené said. “You wouldn’t understand.”

“I will understand. All you have to do is trust me like I trusted you in passing the Wall of Thorns,” Shew didn’t comment on the fact that she shouldn’t have trusted her, but she knew that Cerené had meant no harm.

“My mother is dead!” Cerené stood up, sparkles of anger floating in her eyes again.

“So she taught you all of this when you were younger?” Shew stood up. She had to pressure her to learn more about her.

“No,” Cerené stomped her feet. “I told you that you wouldn’t understand. Bianca died a long time ago, when I was about three years old.”

“This doesn’t make any sense, Cerené.”

Cerené said nothing.

“If Bianca died that long ago, how did she tell you all of this?”

“In my dreams,” Cerené said, her back still facing Shew.

“I see,” Shew nodded, although this wasn’t a satisfying conclusion at all. Was her mother a ghost, another Dreamhunter, maybe? “Do you have an idea what Bianca’s last name is, or what she did for a living?”

“She…” Cerené started shuddering. “She…”

Shew knew she had pressed her too much, but she wouldn’t stop now.

“People said she was some kind of a witch!” Cerené turned back, on the verge of exploding. The ghostly breeze chilled the cornfield and lightning struck somewhere in the distance, illuminating the ashes hanging in the air. “Are you satisfied? She burned things, many things. She even burned towns. They burned her back by the stake! They way they had burned a humiliated so many witches. Burn! Burn! Burn!” Cerené, hugging her urn, ran away toward the Wall of Thorns, her red dress fluttering over the yellow corn and beneath the ashes.

“Great job, Shew,” Snow White mumbled, angry with herself. She shouldn’t have pressed her
that
hard. She should have been careful since Cerené had run away last time when She asked too many questions.

Watching Cerené run, crying, shattered her heart.

Frozen in place, Shew watched her disappear behind the gap in the Field of Thorns. There was no point in running after her this time. Cerené was hurt and she doubted she could help her.

The ghostly wind spiraled again around her feet, and she felt unsafe, alone in the field among the sleeping beauties. With Cerené gone, Shew had the feeling  she was being watched. Something other than the girls hid in the cornfield, maybe in the Wall of Thorns itself. Shew began walking slowly toward the gap, wondering if it was Bianca.

Each of her steps echoed in a dreamy sort of way. She dared not look back but was sure someone was following her. She swallowed hard.

Her steps quickened.

Who’s behind me?

She began running, the footsteps behind her following her.

Shew stumbled over one of the sleeping beauties.  In that moment it occurred to her that whoever was behind her wasn’t chasing her, they were following her.

On her feet, she turned around to face whoever it was.

Remember you’re the Dhampir. You shouldn’t be scared.

Shew saw nothing but yellow corn, ashen skies, and blurry thorn bushes afar.

“Loki!” Shew screamed from the top of her lungs, thinking he was the one after her, “what are you waiting for? I’m here!”

Nothing.

No one called back, no evil Huntsman.  Shew let out a sigh and turned around. She walked slowly toward the gap in the Wall of Thorns.

She could hear the steps behind her again.

Running, she passed through the gap in the Wall of Thorns—the gab was large and the nearest thorns weren’t close enough to slash at her. It occurred to her that she could have passed through the wall if she’d ran through with a fast horse.

Finally, Shew entered the Black Forest. She managed to look back briefly and finally saw someone in a black cloak in the distance. Whoever it was, they were not riding a unicorn, but followed her on foot and stopped once she looked back. From such a distance, recognizing this mysterious person was impossible.

Silently, they stood watching, expecting and waiting. Their silence crept across Shew’s skin, giving her Goosebumps.

She turned and ran as fast as she could, hoping she could remember the way back to the Schloss.

Fifty strides later, she tripped over a log, bumped her head and fell unconscious. Her pursuer approached.

 

10

The Girl with One Glass Shoe

 

 Shew opened her eyes, not to the person following her in the black cloak, but to the Queen of Sorrow.

Shew understood immediately that she had awaken in another time because Carmilla had her favorite mirror next to her, which meant she’d met Bloody Mary already.

All other mirrors in Shew’s room had been covered with white blankets so they wouldn’t reflect Carmilla’s true nature. Shew watched her check out her crown and her braided hair in her beloved mirror. Bloody Mary wasn’t present.

 “We need to talk,” Carmilla said, sitting by the edge of Shew’s huge bed.

Shew sat straight up without uttering a word. She thought she’d better listen to what Carmilla had to say first.

“I know you’re lonely, Shew,” Carmilla said. “Because you’re part vampire we have been forced to separate you from everyone for your own good. Soon you are going to be cured. You just need to be patient.”

Shew was a Dhampir who needed to feed, but Carmilla was a vicious murderer of young girls.  Shew was ready to scream at her and tell her that her situation was nothing compared to the queens, but held back.

“However, this doesn’t mean I will allow you to be friends with that Slave Maiden. What was her name again, Tabula?” Carmilla clicked her gloved fingers without looking at her.

“Chi-re-ney,” Tabula answered, her hands rested upon each other in front of her, her chin almost touching her chest.

“Yes, Cerené, what kind of name is that?” the Queen rolled her eyes. For some reason, Shew thought the Queen knew Cerené, but was pretending otherwise. It was that devious sparkle in her eyes.

Uncomfortable by Shew’s suspicious stare, the Queen’s face changed, now acting as if the name rang a bell in her mind. “Isn’t that an Italian name?” she said with a smirk.

Italian?
Shew grimaced.
Cerené is Italian?

“You ever heard of the Roman Empire, Tabula?” Carmilla said.

“I heard the king mentioning it,” Tabula said. “He said it ended up being something called Italy. What does it mean my majesty?”

“Italy is a shoe-looking island,” Carmilla brushed something off Shew’s mattress with the tips of her fingers. “There is a myth that says the Creators of the World shaped Italy after a glass shoe. A rather romantic notion, some would argue.”

Shew didn’t understand why Carmilla was glaring at her. It seemed like she wanted Shew to read between the lines she spoke.

Why does she know such things about a Slave Maiden, and what is so special about a foreign land shaped like a shoe?

“But why did the Creators of the World shape it like that?” Tabula asked. “That’s rather strange, shaping a kingdom after a shoe, not romantic at all.

Shew knew Tabula was an immigrant from exquisite lands in the Eastern Realm of the world where raising a shoe in someone’s face was considered an insult.

“Wrong question, Tabula,” Carmilla said. She was checking her fingernails, breaking her gaze with Shew. “The Creators are always right. They always have a reason for everything that happens, even our suffering.”

“Then what is the
right
question, if I may ask my majesty?” Tabula said.

“Why one shoe, not two, would be a good start,” Carmilla’s lips waved into a slow smile. “Didn’t you ever notice that most important things in life come in pairs?”

“What do you mean my majesty?” Tabula questioned cautiously, a little worried why the Queen was having an actual conversation with her. Carmilla rarely talked to her servants. Even today, she wasn’t actually conversing with Tabula. She was sending Shew a message
through
Tabula.

“Most things in life come in pairs,” Carmilla repeated. “Shoes, couples, eyes, night and day, sun and moon, and even good and evil come in pairs. I guess it is the universe’s mysterious way of trying to create balance. Why only one shoe then? Don’t you agree,
Shew
?” she gazed back at the Princess of Sorrow.

Shew said nothing. She quietly wished the Queen would leave so she could investigate this dream further, but no one had ever dared to leave when Carmilla was speaking.

“I’ll tell you why,” the Queen finally said. “There is an old story I was told when I was a kid in my father’s castle in Styria. It was a story of a poor girl who lived with her stepmother and stepsisters. Of course, like any other boring fairy tale, her stepsisters were evil and the poor girl was naïve,” Carmilla rolled her eyes. “One day, the poor girl wanted to attend a ball to see a cute prince she had a crush on—remember the yummy prince, Shew?“ However, the evil stepmother and the two nasty sisters didn’t let her attend the ball. Do you know why? Because the poor girl was much more beautiful than her sisters were. The villainous stepsisters feared she would catch the attention of the prince, so they trapped her in a small, cramped room covered with cinders of its fireplace, and went to attend the ball. It’s no secret that the rest of the story is agonizingly predictable,” she sighed with one gloved hand on her heart. “A Godmother—there’s always a Godmother—” she leaned forward, whispering and winking at Shew, “the Godmother appeared and helped the poor girl with her dress and a coach so she could attend the ball.  Of course, the prince fell madly in love with her without even asking her name. Love at first sight, you know. The girl had to get back home before midnight; afraid her stepmother would punish her and lock her inside the ash-covered room in their home again. And finally, we come to the most important part when she leaves a single shoe behind,” Carmilla’s eyes glittered, talking slower, and examining Shew’s face.

BOOK: Cinderella Dressed in Ashes ( Book #2 in the Grimm Diaries )
12.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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