A good fairytale should begin with once upon a time, but this story begins with “damn that cursed book!”. Let me preface this story by saying that this story is as real, or as make-believe, as you allow it to be. Now, on to the tale.
Deep in a dark grove of trees, beyond the borders of a small village, was a single orange pumpkin growing in the roots of a tall cypress tree. Despite the poverty and hunger that plagued the village, not one villager dared to pluck the lonely pumpkin from its home within the shadow of the tree. One day a stranger rode into the village and stopped at the Apothecary’s storefront.
“Ho, stranger!” the Apothecary called with relative good nature. “Good travels to thee.”
“And thee,” the stranger replied. He proceeded to walk among the wares until he paused in front of a dusty glass case. “What lies here?”
“Trouble,” the Apothecary warned, stroking his beard thoughtfully. “For naught but the kindest and most gentle of hearts.”
The stranger laughed. “Tis not I,” he declared. “But perhaps I know to whom the tome belongs.” He stared hard at the heavy leather-bound book beneath the glass.
“Take it and thy life is forfeit.” The Apothecary held out the key. “I’ve not want of it any longer. That damned book has brought nothing but trouble to me and mine.”
The stranger unlocked the case and removed the dusty book. He did not open its pages or stare over-long at the markings on the cover. The Apothecary watched him with rheumy eyes and an approving grin. This young man knew the ways of ancient magic.
“To whom dost this tome belong?” the Apothecary wondered as the young man paid him in heavy gold coin. Enough to buy meat and grain for his family for a fortnight.
“A maiden fair,” the stranger assured him. Then he took leave of the shop and the town, heading for the dark grove of trees, book in hand.
At the edge of the village the young man stared at the small pumpkin nestled in the branches of the tree.
“I’ve gathered what you require!” he called out, holding up the book. “Come out and show yourself, witch.”
What came from beneath the shadows was not a witch, but a serpent of emerald scales and silent, slithering beauty. “AAAAAlllllooorrriaaan,” she hissed, her forked tongue darting between her lips. “Aaaattt lassst.”
“What you sought lay but a hundred yards in that direction,” he told the beast as he shook the book. “I’ve searched the kingdom and all the lands beyond for something right under our noses!”
“Ppppatttiiiennncee, young mage.” The serpent wound herself around the tree, her body cradling the small pumpkin. “I’ve kkkeeeppp her sssafe for yooouuu.”
“Undo your cursed spell, creature, and let me be gone from here with my love!” Alorian demanded. “I’ve done as our bargain entailed. I have the damned book.”
“Whhatt good is a book without the ability to turn the pagessss?” the wily creature asked. She coiled more tightly around the fragile pumpkin as Alorian cried out in rage.
“Leave me be, devil! Shall I read your spell at last?”
“Yessssss!” the creature cried, moving quickly to hover before him in excitement. “Nooooow. I have waited too long.”
“Very well. One last boon.” Alorian opened the book and scanned the pages before he began to read.
Allhana mobis dignositi. Verum absolum verifiendieum.
“Alorian!” the creature’s scream was pleasure and pain; rapture and torture. “The final words!” she cried.
There was a blinding flash of light and Alorian dropped the book to shield his eyes. The trees in the grove bent sideways with the force of the wind. When Alorian could see again, he blinked in stunned surprise.
A beautiful woman with raven hair and pale skin stood where the serpent creature had been. It was a face he knew, and loved well.
“Yes, my darling. It is I! You have broken the spell and set me free.”
“But, I don’t understand…” Alorian stared at the tome that lay in the mud at his feet.
“Cursed, was I, to walk this world alone, a beast in the night. Until a champion came to rescue me from my doom, and set me free!”
“But the pumpkin. I sought to free you from the spell of the pumpkin.”
“A mere ruse, dearheart. Would you have helped me had you known my true nature?”
“The nature of a wily beast?” Alorian looked at the woman who had tricked him. The woman who had stolen his heart. “Never. I have seen the destruction you have wrought upon this kingdom.”
Her smile died. “All in fun, darling.”
“Fun?” he cried, aghast. He picked up the book, and hastily turned the pages, looking for a way to undo what he had done.
“No, no,” Pollux scolded, pulling the book from his hands. “It cannot be undone.”
Alorian reached for his sword, and Pollux waved a hand, engulfing him in flames. “Tsk, tsk, my champion,” she murmured. “What might have been.”
From the flames the only sound to be heard was the unearthly scream of the strange mage, and his cry rang through the village. “Damn that cursed book!”