Part 7: Most of the rest of the story I didn't really witness. Various people told it to me afterwards. You see, a lot of it I wasn't there for, but it was all my friends plotting to save me from whatever trouble I had landed myself in. Because they knew I had landed myself in trouble. (I mean, I usually don't use such idiotic phrases, but duh.)

The first inkling of it came to Isabelle and Emil, who had awoken in the Sardonian dungeon. Emil demanded that Griselda set him and his true love free, but no such luck. Griselda drove a hard bargain. She had already taken all his gold and silver, and his nice monogrammed cloak, and everything on him pretty much, and had clothed him in rags, which wasn't at all to his taste. And she asked that he give her twenty thousand gold pieces for his freedom.

Well, she allowed him to write to his father, who was up in arms about the sudden disappearance of the foreign princess, his son, the princess's serving girl, and the not-executed royal hunter. He had nearly sent an army over to Oricon to kill my stepmother, not knowing she had turned south toward her old kingdom, Sardo. So Emil wrote to him asking for twenty thousand gold pieces so he and Isabelle could be released. After a few days, I guess while I was running away from Cotumo and looking for somewhere to stay, King Kendrick sent the requested twenty thousand gold pieces. Griselda promptly put this into her "safe place" and kept the horses that had brought it, but she said that she still wanted more. Many exchanges took place after that, and everything from cooking utensils to crowbars to peacocks ended up in the Sardonian palace. Griselda had insatiable greed.

After a while, Isabelle and Emil learned that she had brought her mirror with her and was looking into it everyday. She began to bring it down to the dungeon to gloat with them about how she was going to find me. All it said, day after day, was, "Alas, fair queen, you're lovely, 'tis true, but Eira is far more beautiful than you. She runs and runs, she needs a hand, but is still the fairest in all the land." That's when they figured out I needed help.

And then one day, it said something different. "Alas, fair queen, you're lovely, 'tis true, but Eira is far more beautiful than you. Across the glade, across the fen, she dwells in a house with seven little men."

And that's when Griselda had me.

She spent some time, while I was scrubbing and cleaning for the dwarves, I guess, trying to figure out a way to kill me. She came up with three ways, each more deadly than the last. Isabelle and Emil overheard her discussing them with Rondon as they prepared to set off to find me. When at last they left, the two of them discussed what they should do. Isabelle, obviously, had the first idea.

"The crowbars," she said finally.

"What?" Emil asked.

"The crowbars she asked for from your father! We can pry ourselves out of here! You know, since there's no keyhole or anything."

"But how do we get them? They're all the way in the courtyard!"

Isabelle hadn't thought of this. They sat in silence for a few days, Emil occasionally giving her a heartening kiss or putting his arm around her waist.

Then Devon was brought in.

Griselda and Rondon had found him on their way to the dwarves' house. He had escaped from the mob of angry townsfolk, and had been traveling by night and sleeping by day. At the time, he had been getting some shut-eye in some horrible poison ivy. He had been so exhausted that he had just collapsed there, not planning for the rude awakening he would get just hours later.

As Isabelle told me later, he looked horrible. They had mistreated him over and over and over again on their way back, and he was itching and had terrible red bumps, not unlike the ones I had gotten from the BIOFs, all over him from the poison ivy. He looked a mess, and now he had lost his freedom too.

"Any ideas?" he asked Isabelle and Emil after Griselda threw him in the dungeon with them and left again.

"None," they replied.

He wasn't technically in the cell; he had been chained to the wall just outside of it. He could still talk to them about any sort of escape plans, but he couldn't reach them.

"Well, there are crowbars in the courtyard," Isabelle told him, "but we obviously can't reach those."

"Right," he agreed.

Things looked pretty bleak at that point to them. I can imagine. I shudder to think about it, even now.

A few days later, one of the servants who kept the keys to Devon's manacles came in to give them food. He had to hand-feed Devon, since obviously Devon couldn't use his hands, and feet were pretty useless to the eating process. On his way out, he dropped a bag from his pocket, which released a bunch of safety pins all over the floor. He scrambled to pick them up, but in a flurry forgot one. I can imagine the look on all three faces as he left.

"Get it, Devon!" Isabelle hissed.

"All right…hold on…" Devon reached out with his foot. He stretched and stretched.

"Almost there…" Emil breathed.

"Shh," said Devon, turning white. He stretched further and—stepped on it! Then he slid it over toward him. "All right," he said breathlessly, sweat beads forming on his forehead. "How do I get it from down there—" (here he motioned to the pin with his head) "—to up here?"

Isabelle became silent in thought. Then, finally, she said, "Can you get it between your feet?"

Devon looked at her as though she had asked him to swallow it. "What?"

"If you get it between your feet, since you're shackled to the wall, you can hang and bring it up to your hand."

"Am I a monkey or something? That's impossible!" he said.

"Our next best chance is to wait for it to rain crowbars in here," said Emil.

"Fine," Devon grunted. He moved the pin carefully between his feet and then slowly began to turn himself upside down. I can't even imagine him doing this. I would never be able to do it. But he did. He moved his feet to the right so his right hand caught the pin before he flipped back over and stood there loosely, panting for breath.

"Go on, open it," Emil said, his breath heavy with anticipation.

Now Devon twisted and turned his hand around so the pin was next to the lock and he plunged it in. They could all feel the excitement, worry, and tension hanging in the air. Then, with a small click, the manacle broke open and Devon's arm flopped out.

"You did it!" Isabelle cried.

"I did it!" said Devon. He proceeded to unlock his other hand, and then he was completely free. "That sure is a relief," he told the other two, scratching his body where the poison ivy had affected it.

"That's good. Could you get us out?" Isabelle bellowed.

Maybe it was hearing Isabelle screaming, which she had never done before in his presence. Whatever it was, he scurried off to the courtyard, dodging servants and ladies-in-waiting, until he came to the courtyard and picked up a crowbar. When he turned around, however, there was a manservant waiting for him.

"'Ere, you're that lad from the dungeons! SEIZE HIM!"

And Devon took off, running as fast as his weak legs would carry him. Other servants joined the chase and pretty soon it was one big mob chasing after one sixteen-year-old boy, who was limping across the parlors and chambers as if he was a wounded rabbit. Finally he reached the stairwell and didn't bother with formalities. He just threw himself down. He landed in a heap at the bottom, followed by the thunderous footfalls of the mob behind him.

"Hurry!" Isabelle squealed.

He got up, rushed to their cell, and began—crowing or barring or whatever it is you do with a crowbar. Anyway, he managed to get them out just as the mob thundered down.

"GET THEM!" they yelled.

And the ex-hunter, the ex-servant, and the soon-to-be-ex-prince (if they didn't hurry up) sped out of there like they were on fire. They took the back exit, since none of them had any idea how to stop an angry mob. And the angry mob kept chasing them. The three teenagers ran until they were out of breath. Once or twice, Isabelle tripped over her rags and Emil helped her up.

"Come on!" Devon kept urging. "Faster!"

They kept running until they reached an old abandoned stable. Then they rushed inside and hid, hardly daring to breath. They heard the group of angry servants skid to a halt just outside the doors they so depended on.

"Where'd they go?"

"I don't know!"

"You let them escape!"

"No, I didn't!"

"Yes, you did!"

"You did, you dolt!"

"I did not!"

"You did too!"

"He did! He led us the wrong way!"

"How dare you!"

And the mob began to bicker amongst themselves until they had started hitting and punching and screaming and pulling at each other, and then they thudded away into the distance. Devon, Isabelle, and Emil each breathed sighs of relief.

"Well, we have nothing and we don't know where Eira is," said Devon hopelessly. "What are we going to do?"

"We know Eira is in a house with seven men," Isabelle said.

Devon paled.

"Not like that, you big dolt. And it's across a glade and a fen."

"And I wouldn't exactly say we have nothing," said Emil. He held up a canvas sack. Isabelle and Devon peered inside. It was all of Emil's exquisite clothing.

"How'd you get that?" Isabelle asked in wonder.

"I snatched it up when we ran away," said Emil. "I figured we'd need it."

Isabelle stole a quick kiss, which made Emil smile even wider.

"So, what's the plan?" Devon asked. Isabelle later said she presumed that when she kissed Emil, he was thinking of me, and that's why he was so eager to change the subject back onto me. "We have to save Eira."

"You have to find Eira," Isabelle told him. "The only way to break the last way she's going to kill her with is for her true love to kiss her."

"What is it?" Devon asked, horrified.

"It's a poisoned apple."

He clenched his jaw. "That's terrible."

"But first, she's going to choke her with a lace and put a poisoned comb in her hair. If those don't work…" Isabelle grimaced. "It's only you who can save her."

Devon gulped. "So," he repeated, "what's the plan?"

Isabelle and Emil looked at him. "We were sort of hoping you'd have one," Emil said, a weak smile on his face.

Devon sighed.

They ended up at the dwarves' house five days later. By this time, I was already dead. (Yes, I know, this sounds strange, but…that's kind of how it happened.) They had nearly been trampled to death by Griselda's horses, but luckily Devon had pulled them into the dense bracket surrounding the path as they stampeded past. Then they snuck out and onto the path toward the tiny little house.

"Surely it's bigger than that," Emil said as they neared it. "Maybe it's bigger on the inside?"

"Emil, they're dwarves," Isabelle said. "They're not going to need that much space."

Still, Emil looked shocked that anyone could live in so small of a hovel.

They snuck around to the back, where Devon nearly fainted when he saw me, encased in a glass box. The dwarves had surrounded me and were apparently trying to decide what to do with me.

"I think we should bury her," said one.

"Well, I say we toss her over that cliff over there into the ocean," said another, pointing to a distant place. All three of my rescuers gasped in horror.

"Naw, we can't do that, we have to cremate her!" said yet another.

"Devon!" Isabelle hissed at him. "Go get her!"

Devon swallowed dryly and stood. He said later his legs felt like jelly. Then he stepped out of the leaves and into the clearing. Instantly, the dwarves were on their guard. One held up a deadly looking pickax. Devon nearly backed off when he saw that, but he stood his ground.

"Um…" he said, swallowing again. "You…have…Eira."

"Yes, we know that," said one of them. "Who are you?"

"I'm…" He tried to calm his nerves. "I'm Devon. I'm…in love with her."

Behind the cover of the leaves, Isabelle silently cheered, "Yea, Devon!"

But the dwarves obviously weren't as impressed as she was. "And?" the biggest one said, looking menacing. He may have been a foot and a half shorter than Devon, but he was at least a foot and a half wider. "What's it to us?"

"I've got to…to kiss her."

They looked around at each other for a minute and then burst out laughing. Emil later said he swore he heard Devon's knees knocking. "Leave this place, lad, before you get hurt," said a dwarf, and they all started up again with fresh laughter.

Devon knew he couldn't leave. I was lying there, just a few yards from him, and yet he couldn't get to me. So he plunged back into the trees and discussed with Isabelle and Emil what to do next.

"They're never going to let you in," said Emil.

"I have to make them," Devon said. "But how?"

"Well, if I was trying to save her," said Emil, "I could order them to let me kiss her. But of course, you're the one trying to save her."

Devon went silent for a moment. Then he said, "Emil?"


"Do you mind if I borrow…your clothes?"

Maybe an hour later, Devon was ready. He was all dressed up like Emil from head to toe. He had to be, or else the dwarves would know it was the same person trying to get at me. The hat was pulled just a bit low over his eyes, and the ruff on his neck was pulled up a little higher than was comfortable. "I can't breathe," Devon said. "How am I supposed to kiss her?"

"Just get over to her and then take off the costume," Isabelle instructed, sprucing up his ruff a little more. "You'll be all right by that time."

"I hope," Devon said nervously.

"Go!" said Isabelle and Emil, and they shoved him out of the forest.

The dwarves noticed immediately. "Who are you?" they demanded of him, all eyes narrowed his way in intense dislike.

"I—" He struggled for a minute to readjust the ruff so he could talk and not be muffled by all the fluffy lace. "I am Prince Emil of Cotumo."

They all looked panic-stricken.

"We're sorry, Your Highness!"

"We're sorry!"

"We didn't mean to forget to pay the tax collector!"

"The little fiends!" Emil said from behind the brush. Isabelle shushed him.

"Um…well…yes, that's why I'm here, of course," Devon gibbered. "So…let me through to the girl."

If this sounded strange to the dwarves, they didn't show it. They just backed away, leaving Devon a clear path straight to my glass tomb. He reached it in about two long steps and thrust off the hat and the ruff.

"Hey! It's that boy from before!" one of the dwarves exclaimed. But Devon didn't hear him. He just whipped off the glass case lid, which flew to the side and shattered on the cold, hard ground, and plunged his mouth onto mine.

That's when I woke up.

My breath came from Devon for the first few minutes of my reawakened life in short, gasping, shuddering breaths. It was like I had been underwater for two days and suddenly someone had decided to pull me out. His breath was sweet and precious—I couldn't figure out why I was lying on my back—and his hair—I ran my fingers through it, and they got tangled in the mess of the last few days—I knew I couldn't breath on my own—Devon wasn't going to let me go now and I knew I wanted it that way—

And suddenly he pulled away and I could see his face for the first time in days. I was alive. He had saved me.

He kissed me again, and again, and pulled me to my feet. I was happier than I had ever been before I died. (I really can't think of any other phrase to describe it.) But regardless, he embraced me like a friend. A best friend, one who had been lost for years. I sobbed with happiness and tension and more happiness onto his shoulder, and onto his lips. I knew this was exactly where I wanted to be for the rest of my life. And so did he.

The dwarves looked on, stunned that anyone would love their serving-girl as much as Devon did. Isabelle and Emil were cheering in the background, but their voices were hazy in the back of my head. I clung to Devon for support and knew that I could do that, that that was reason he had come to save me, so he could make me laugh and never ignore me, like I had told Isabelle countless times so long ago, it seemed. Maybe it had only been a couple of months. Or maybe it had been a lifetime ago. I don't know if I'll ever figure it out.

To cut a long story short, I'll sum up what happened to everybody really quickly, so the story won't lose its…what's the word? Magic. Life. Vitality. No, I think life would be the term. Or magic. Yes, Magic with a capital M.

As far as anyone knows, the dwarves went back to their uneventful existence after I left. Princess Madison eventually went on to marry some ugly brute she'd met down at the taverns, had five kids and lived in a hovel smaller than the one the dwarves lived in, and she had seven people living in there too. King Kendrick and Queen Thea eventually passed the throne down to their son, Prince Emil, and his bride, Isabelle, the former servant of Queen Griselda. They (Emil and Isabelle) lived in the castle until the end of their days and had a girl, whom they named Eira. And Isabelle got the husband she always wanted, one who could provide for her. Isabelle's mother, Melanie, lived with them, doing the cooking and sewing for her daughter, granddaughter, and son-in-law, occasionally using her magic for good. Griselda, along with her faithful Yvette and that dreadful hunter Rondon, were thrown in the Sardonian dungeon, and no one was allowed to bring safety pins or crowbars in there, ever. My father remained blissfully single to the end of his days.

And Devon and I got married as well, just days after Emil and Isabelle set the example, and rode off into the sunset like I had imagined, only this time it was Devon on the front, not Emil, and me clinging to his waist. And occasionally he would turn around and kiss me. And I think, for those few seconds each time, a bit of my heart floated into the clouds, and I kissed him back.

And we lived happily ever after. The End.