Authors: Cameron Jace
“You could say that,” Shew wasn’t sure what the prince meant to her. She remembered she’d fed on his blood many times after the birthday incident, but nothing more—and he hadn’t appeared in this dream so far. Shew wondered if staying trapped in the Schloss for a hundred years made her forget a big portion of her past.
“You want to know a secret?” Cerené leaned forward over Oddly Tune’s grave. “There is someone else other than the prince that I
“Oh,” Snow White’s eyes widened. She wasn’t faking it. “Is he also rich and famous?”
“Not really,” Cerené said. “But he is strong and everyone fears him.”
“Is that why you like him, because everyone fears him?”
“Yes,” Cerené nodded twice and bit her bottom lip. “But I don’t want to tell you who he is.”
“I just don’t. Do you like a boy?” Cerené asked.
“Yes, but I don’t want to talk about it,” Shew stuck out her tongue. “You know what I really wish? I wish you could be my friend,” although Shew knew this was a dream, she felt right about this moment. She felt these were the emotions she’d experience when she was a child toward Cerené—if she had really met her. She’d always thought she had never made friends in that period, but there was something so real about this dream.
“Friends?” Cerené shrieked, dropping the broom, her voice a little too loud. “Really? Me and you, my princess?”
When Cerené smiled
like that, the freckles in her face shone through the ashes, tiny happy oranges shining out through a dark garden of cinders.
“Yes, me and you,” Snow White smiled. Cerené’s happiness was contagious.
“But—” Cerené’s face changed, looking at her feet again. “But this can’t be. I never have friends. And when someone asks me to be friends with them I usually end up crying next to the fire in my room, with cinders all around me.”
“Cinders?” Snow White grimaced, taking a step forward. This was the second time she mentioned that room.
“I told you not to ask about what’s none of your concern,” she snapped again, her freckles buried beneath the ashes.
“Of course, I shouldn’t ask,” Shew said.
“I believe you,” Cerené calmed down. “But what will we do. I don’t think a princess has a lot in common with a Slave Maiden.”
Snow White gazed down at Oddly Tune’s grave and lifted and eyebrow, “I think we already have a
Cerené laughed, “You’re not planning on biting someone else are you? I’m not going to
up after you all the time,” she winked.
“Let’s do something,” Shew suggested. “What do you do when you have had your bread, your work is finished, and you have a few hours for yourself?”
“I can’t tell you that.” Cerené said. This time, it wasn’t a change of mood. She actually wanted to tell Snow White about what she did when she was alone, but preferred not to for some reason.
“Why not?” Snow White said cheerfully. “We’re friends now.”
“Promise not to tell anyone?” Cerené brought her head closer, whispering.
“I promise,” Shew said.
“I make magic;” Cerené’s eyes darted to the left and to the right.
“Shhh,” Cerené put her hand on Shew’s mouth. “You have to promise me that you will never tell anyone.”
“I won’t,” Shew nodded. “What kind of magic is it?”
“I can show you,” Cerené said. “But only if you’re patient enough to prepare it with me.”
“Why prepare it? I thought magic was a gift,” Shew said.
“No. Magic is an Art. Many different kinds of arts,” Cerené explained. “I know a special kind of magic that people don’t want each other to know about. It’s a Forbidden Art.”
Snow White grimaced.
“See? That’s why you can’t tell anyone about it. My magic is taboo. It’s thought of as witchcraft created by the devil, but it really isn’t,” Cerené’s heart raced as she talked about it.
“That sounds fabulous. I’d love to see it,” Shew said. “What do I have to do to see you perform the Art?” she hoped this Art Cerené was talking about was what this dream was really about. She doubted Loki was coming to kill her at all.
“First, I have to warn you that every Art has its price. But don’t worry. I’m going to perform it. You could be my assistant if you like.”
“I am so curious,” Shew said. “Please tell me what I have to do.”
“We need to collect the elements needed to accomplish the Art,” Cerené answered.
“Alright. Where could we get those elements?”
“It’s going to be a long journey,” Cerené said. “But we’ll end up in a very special place that very few people have ever laid eyes on.”
“Does this place have a name?” Snow White asked.
“Ever heard about a place called Rainbow’s End?”
The Heart of the Art
Shew followed Cerené into the Black Forest to collect the elements needed to create what she called the Forbidden Art.
Under normal circumstances, Shew would have opted out of entering the Black Forest, particularly in a dream like this where the imminent dangers were obviously lurking somewhere between the ears of the Dreamer—she couldn’t forget the fact that she was staked by the boy she loved in the Waking World. Cerené’s story was a great distraction.
Watching the ash-smeared girl, who reminded her of the young girl in Le Miserable’s, run away with that kind of happiness was irresistible.
Cerené climbed a small hill on all fours as if she were an ape. Shew followed the tiny blonde-haired girl with the fiery aura.
“Every magic in this world has rules,” Cerené explained, panting.
“Rules? I thought the whole point about magic was that it broke all the rules. It’s
!” Shew said, trying to keep up with Cerené’s pace.
“They aren’t strict rules,” Cerené said. “They’re more like guidelines. Whoever has the gift can enhance or add their own flavor to the Art.”
“Why do you insist calling your magic the Art?”
“I feel it’s more of an art. Art can’t be judged. It’s pure. It is what it is. It’s the artist’s—thus the magician’s— creation. It flows like blood through the pores of our souls then manifests itself out onto the world. Think of a painting, a song, or a poem. There is no right or wrong in art, but there are a few rules. Do you understand?” She stopped atop of the hill with her hands on her waist, acting as if she’d won a race.
“I do,” Shew nodded, catching her breath. She didn’t quite understand what Cerené had just said, but she was curious about her and the Art so she decided to comply with every word unless she needed essential clarifications. “So why are we here in the middle of the forest?”
“To create my Art, I need to obtain three elements.”
“Like fire, earth, water, and air?”
“Those were used in the old way to create magic,” Cerené said. “The elements I need are three types of ingredients, two kinds of tools, and one talent. Think of it as a recipe for a special meal,” she counted on her fingers. “We call them Heart, Brain, and Soul respectively.”
“I meant ‘I’,” Cerené lied. She wasn’t going to tell Shew who the ‘we’ were. “The Heart is the material the magic is made of.”
“I am listening.”
“The Brain is the tool that mixes and influences the Heart,” Cerené said. “That’s rather easy to explain. If we don’t consult our brains, the heart will lose its way.”
“And the soul?”
“The soul,” Cerené closed her eyes and inhaled the crisp autumn air. “Oh, boy. The soul is the part that can’t be explained, nor can it be described in words. It’s the part that you know exists while there’s no evidence it does. The only way to prove it is when you see the results of the Art with your own eyes. Am I confusing you?”
“Not really,” Shew said. “But I thought you were going to show me magic. The Rainbow’s End, remember?”
“I will get to that, but first, look!” Cerené pointed at a tower in the distance, which they couldn’t have seen if they hadn’t climbed the hill.
“What about it?”
“Each element in my Art is divided into smaller ingredients that help you create the element. The Heart needs three ingredients to be completed,” Cerené said. “The three ingredients are ashes, sands, and lime.”
“Earthly elements,” Shew nodded. She had spent some time reading about magic from books she’d collected from her victims in the Schloss.
“Right,” Cerené said, panting again, not from climbing the hill, but from excitement. “Ashes are easy to get,” Shew offered. “We could burn anything,” she did her best not to mention the ashes covering Cerené’s skin.
“No,” Cerené insisted. “My ashes are special. They are cold ‘soda ashes’ or ‘sodium carbonate.’”
“How do you know stuff like that?”
Cerené discarded the question. “These special ashes can only be obtained from drying and burning certain plants like Saltwort and Glasswort, but we don’t have those here,” she said then darted down the hill like a maniac, toward the tower.
“Wait!” Shew said and followed her. “Where are you going?”
“To get the plant that makes ashes from the tower of Rudaba,” Cerené yelled. “It’s called Rapunzel,” she said and disappeared in the dark.
Shew walked cautiously, calling for her, afraid she’d trip. The earth was muddy underneath her. The tower itself was creepy and dark, shooting aimlessly into the night sky like someone’s mistake.
“Shhh,” Cerené appeared out of nowhere, patting Shew and urging her to kneel. “Here it is. The Rapunzel plant,” she pointed at an orange plant that looked like a sunflower among many of its kind, scattered in an uneven circle around the tower. The plants swung slowly to a slight breeze. They also looked as if they were alive. Their tiny petals acted as if they were arms.
“Why don’t we just get one?” Shew whispered.
“You will see why,” Cerené giggled. “This is no ordinary plant.”
The two girls waited until a frog hopped by happily in front of one of the Rapunzel plants—reminding Shew how Loki hated frogs. In a flash, one of the once-peaceful plants grew sharp teeth between its petals, snatched the poor frog from midair with its wavy arms and swallowed it.
The plant chewed on the frog and swallowed it down its green throat, as if it was a snake, all the way down to feed the belly of the earth. When other plants sneaked toward it to try to get a piece of the frog, it snarled at them. Once it finished its meal, it spat out the frog’s legs and plastered a merry sunflower smile on its face again.
Shew fidgeted a little, not only because of the Rapunzel plant, but also because of Cerené’s giggles.
“Is this the plant you want to burn down to ashes,” Shew wondered.
“There is no other way. Magic comes with a price, remember?” Cerené said. “Believe me, I love plants and animals, but this one is vicious. If we come near it, it will eat one of our toes. It has a thing for them.”
“So how are you planning to get one?”
“With this,” Cerené pulled out a golden coin from her dirty dress.
“Where did you get a golden coin from?” Shew said.
“I stole it from the Queen of Sorrow,” she smiled, looking at the trophy in her hand. “I am sorry, but you said you wanted to do something, and this is all I do when I have time.”
“I don’t care about you stealing from my mother. And although I’m not comfortable with it, I wonder why a girl like you wouldn’t buy herself something with that large amount of money?”
“Buy?” Cerené looked confused as if someone had hit her with a rock. “I never thought about it. I only stole the coin to practice my magic.”
“You never thought of buying yourself a new dress, or a good meal?”
Cerené looked dazed. Shew was worried but she also sympathized with her. The poor girl had lived a life down low and got so used to it that when she had a golden coin in her hand she never thought of spending it wisely.
Maybe her passion for the Art was just much greater than all the money in the world. What if she bought herself a nice dress, how would she explain how she got one? She is a Slave Maiden. No one in this damned kingdom will let her shine. They like to see the way she is, ashen, lost, and miserable. In order for the riches to exist, the rags have to exist, too.
“I guess next time I will buy myself something to eat. Great idea,” Cerené patted Shew on the back. “But for now, I’m going to use it to get that plant and practice my magic.”
“Alright,” Shew sighed. “How is this coin going to help?”
“It’s the plant’s weakness,” Cerené explained. “Myth has it that this plant was seeded by an evil sorcerer who craved gold more than anything in the world. The Rapunzel plant is poisonous, and is also cursed with an insane hunger for gold; the same hunger its creator had.
Only one girl, ironically named Rapunzel after the plant, has power over it.”
“Where could we find this girl?”
“I have no idea,” Cerené said. “She isn’t the solution to getting the Rapunzel plant though. This coin in my hand is how I’ll get it.”
“Tell me about it,” Shew demanded.
“Once the plant sees a golden coin in my hand, it will want it so bad that it will rip its roots apart trying to get it,” Cerené explained.
“Did you say rip its roots out?” Shew said. “Which means it will kill itself?”
“I told you it’s a crazy plant,” Cerené said. “You want to know what’s really crazy about it? If you plant it back to the earth after its dead, it grows back alive in an instance. Now let me do what I have to do,” Cerené stood up and ran toward the plant impulsively. She stretched her arm and showed the gold coin the someone would tempt a horse with a cube of sugar.
The Rapunzel plants went crazy, arching their bodies and stretching out their petal arms, wailing like creepy ghosts. The plant closest to Cerené was losing its mind.
“Give me that coin, you filthy ashen slave!” the plant wailed, almost ripping itself apart.
“Say please,” Cerené teased it, avoiding another one sneaking up behind her, trying to eat her toe, but failed. Thanks to Cerené’s unusual slippers.
“I won’t say please to you, daughter of Bianca!” the plant screamed.
“You nasty witch!” another plant screamed in high-pitched tones. “You always come here and take one of us! You make us kill ourselves.”