After the fourth group, when we were all tired, we found a door. Diamond peeked trough the slim edge.
"It's just a room with…ah; I can't tell…it looks like bombs or some kind of ticking artifacts." He informed.
"I'll throw something inside; if they react, we will go some other way. Yet, I think this is where we must pass through." Mused Prince Rough
"Here, let me." said Strong.
He took a shield and after pushing us out of the way, opened the door and threw it in. I closed my eyes and stuck my fingers in my ears, more scared than ever. But, when nothing happened, I opened them and looked inside.
The walls of the room where filled from top to bottom with clocks, watches and all contrivances to tell time. The shield lay innocently rocking in the middle, suffering no harm. All the room was ticking merrily, and not without precautions, we went inside, me in the middle of the group. There was nothing suspicious to me. I cranked my neck to see above their shoulders, standing on tiptoes.
"Stay close together, I think…no…let's go to that thing in the center." said Rough his eyes warily searching all the area. Diamond disappeared and inspected the center thing. It was something like a round desk, like an information table. He found nothing, so we stood by it. There was, just behind us, a big clock, some three meters in diameter. Bright and new-looking, it tick-tacked with nice precision.
"Ash, I feel I'm being watched again!" I complained. I was interrupted by clicking sounds, as they charged their arms.
"Where do I pull to charge this gun?" I whispered to Goal.
"Yours is automatic." He whispered back. So I placed my finger against the trigger. We were very still, poised for action. There was a terrible moment of suspense, waiting for something bad to happen.
Then it happened, the doors that we'd left to our backs were suddenly closed. So we whirled in that direction as we heard a powerful voice behind us.
"Drop every gun! Now! This instant." it bellowed. We dropped our guns as if they had burnt our hands. We just needed to obey that voice.
Only Goal's didn't fall. Robots appeared on every side, one of them gave a step towards him. Before he could react, the Erk's arm lengthened into a tube and knocked him flat on his back.
I fell on my knees immediately, and so were going to the others, but a stony stare from the robot froze their actions.
"Don't let him fall asleep." Grunted Sturdy, dissimulating his voice by squeaking his boots. I slapped his cheeks and brushed his curls off his face. His nose was bleeding and his eyes blinked slowly.
"Goal, Goal, listen to me, open your eyes!" I pled in a low voice.
The robots picked him up and placed him beside the Big Watch, keeping guard near him. A man emerged from a door.
"Ha, I see you at last. Hello, Rough! Strong? How do you do? So you decided to get yourself another girl, didn't you?" he taunted
"No…" began Chief Rough.
"Ok, Ok, still stubborn I can see. But let me tell you something. You have failed. Utterly failed! Listen!"
He had a scornful grin on his face.
I was watching the ugly man. He looked very red to me and his voice reminded me of the gellems we'd heard before; in fact, his legs were a little wobbly and very fat, a very gellemic-looking man he was. My gaze turned to chief. He had paled, and he was listening, for Soft´s voice was heard.
"No, I don't love Prince Rough, I was just using him to get close to you."
The chief was breathing hard through constricted lungs, his eyes began to fill.
"Rough, Rough, it's fake. You know your Soft. Truth is always stronger" reminded Strong quietly.
"You will die, I will kill you, and you have no escape. Oh, don't cry my boy! I won't be so hard with you!"
He sneered at Sturdy, for he was as pale as his ruddy cheeks could get.
"In one minute you'll de dead; dead as if you'd never been born. Yes, you may talk to yourselves; describe to each other how your death is going to be! Ha, Ha!" He croaked loudly, then he pointed to his wrist:
Butterflies began to fly in my head.
"Time…we have no time…" I stared at the many watches in the room.
"No time… what is time?…one minute, I can't hear the ticking…time is…is…nothing…nothing?
Yes! Time is nothing, that's it!" I looked at the watches again, they were gone. Only the big one remained.
"Guys, I have a clue."
The man continued talking, but we no longer heard him. I leaned to Rough's ear.
"Time is nothing"
His face brightened and his eyes cleared. "You will have to start."
I nodded and gulped.
"Don't forget Goal." I commented.
"Five seconds!" Cheered the bad man.
With a big, wild cry, I ran towards the clock, when I'd just reached it I took a header into it. I kind of expected to meet some resistance, but I felt nothing, just flew through it and landed with a summersault and then rolled to a stop. A circular tunnel, metallic.
"Out of the way, Princess!" screamed Sturdy falling near me. Strong appeared then, dragging Goal by the arm. Rock, Diamond and Rough jumped together. I tore to Goal's side and got out the brandy flask, which I held to his mouth. We were in a long tunnel, very similar to the one we'd left behind. Then we heard the marching again, metal with metal,
"Run, team!" shrieked Rough. I gave Goal a final slapping. We took hands and fled for dear life. We were unarmed and within shooting distance. I glanced back, again and again, seeing the robots getting closer by the minute.
"Why don't they shoot?" queried Diamond.
"Don't know. Don't know what's holding them." panted Rough.
"Do you recon we're ambushed?" gasped Strong.
"Maybe" puffed Sturdy
I turned and saw them still running but, blindly, as if dazzled. I looked at my companions; their candles were shining brightly, but not enough to dazzle me.
"Wait, fellows!" I squealed. They stopped in their tracks.
"Get Princess and Goal in the center!" ordered Rough.
"No, they're not attacking, look!" beamed Goal. The robots were starting to disappear, beginning by the closer ones.
"It's the power of the candle!" breathed Sturdy dreamily. We watched without a word. When all the noise was over we heard a voice: the man was left howling curses at us. The opening we'd gone through began to close, and the voice to fade. We turned and walked away.
"My heart is very warm; we must be nearing them," chuckled Rock.
That chuckle disappeared in an instant. Because our enemy had squeezed through the opening and was chasing us
"Let's beat him!" roared the chief. We hit the way again; but by legs were hurt and dead tired, so I began to lag.
"Get here, Rough, they are all mine! I have them! I want them!" he ranted "I'm better than you, I'm stronger and smarter! You're weak; you're sick and a coward! I'm number one, I'm the best!" he snarled so loud that my ears hurt
"I…I…" then he interrupted himself with a yelp of pain. He stumbled to the floor and began to convulsion.
The group halted and watched, mute and dumb. He began then to get very gellemic, twisting, and turning, he swelled and changed colors. As he moved about I noticed a faint glimmer in his chest.
"The candle!" I choked, "Help me! We can save him yet!" I urged hasting back.
"We can save him yet!" the gellem jeered in a high pitched voice.
"I'll pull your guts out and choke you with them!" he threatened unintelligibly as I neared him. I ignored his speech, totally concentrated in his candle. I dived to it and held tight to his clothes as he continued to shake. I held on, and blew softly at the candle, coaxing a little, weak flame to revive. The boys soon had him under control. Some holding his hands, others, his legs, head. I continued to blow very softly. It blazed finally, little by little. Our heat probably helped it. Agonizingly, he took again a human form. As his candle glowed brighter the more human he looked. He finally lay as if peacefully asleep. Rough shook his shoulder with a gentleness I'd never seen before.
"What has happened? Where am I?" he moaned.
"Forward, can you listen to me? asked chief.
"Yes, I can listen…" he paused, "are you…Rough? Rough?" he repeated
"Yes, it's me"
"And you have saved me!" he marveled.
He sort of waked up completely and deliberated aloud.
"I was there, and my candle must've almost snuffed out. Sorry old pal, you know it wasn't true, don't you? Soft is yours as rightfully as that hand at the end of your arm. Why did you save me?" he remonstrated, "could've served me right:"
"I didn't. Princess Cute Candle did."
"Pleased to make your acquaintance." He greeted me with a bow.
"Nice to meet you too, Mr. Forward. Now, can I have an explanation? Who are you? Are you dream like me? Why do you protect Goal and me? Why was he turning into a gellem? Why were you angry at ach other? Why…"
"Hollua! Hold on a minute, Princess!" interrupted Forward with a cry.
"I sure have something to explain. Let me start at the very beginning. When Rough and I were young, younger, we knew a nice young girl named Soft. She was the only daughter of a wise old man, whose wife had died at childbirth. We were good friends, the three of us. We grew up together and with time we discovered we both loved her. When we matured and knew that only one could have her, we made a promise; we would let her choose the one she loved, the other would hold no grudge and be a friend to the couple. We started courting her and Rough was the elected. At first I thought I didn't care. But when I saw them together, heard the father's blessing, and saw the preparations for the wedding, a small grudge began to grow inside of me. It grew quickly, as I watered it. I desesperatedly asked for advise, to my family and her father also. He said: Forward, my boy, you must not look so far away, look around you, here. Other princesses can be good for you. Let go this one, she has an owner now!" I listened with clenched fists and a tight jaw. It did me no good. Jealousy was suffocating my candle, I could feel it, but, instead of fighting it, I let it grow. Soon new thoughts sprung inside of me. So I couldn't have Soft, ah? eh? Oh no! Not Soft, so I should have the rest, couldn't I? All of them?
Imagine: Forward, the prince of many Princesses. So I made my plans and traveled here; the place of gellems and Erks. I was soon their chief and king, because I still had some human thinking, and my candle was smoldering a bit. So I convinced them and attacked. We surprised the city, and we outnumbered them two to one. I knew the entire city well, so I took all the girls but one, I didn't even wake her, just passed quietly by her bed, and snatched the maid away. We returned triumphantly to the castle and hid then securely. After some time, I heard by the scouts that the place had been filtered. So I increased the security measures, and doubled the guards and well! This is how you find the state of things."
"Well, where are they?" exclaimed Sturdy with a warm shine in his eyes. I remembered that he had a fiancé, Tender,
"I will be pleased to escort you to them." Forward said.
Now his candle shone brightly, so we were safe to follow him. He and Rough preceded the march, Goal and me behind. They started talking as if glad to be together again, chatting and laughing gaily from time to time.
Forward began to describe things around us, telling us how they were made and when.
"And, this is the secret short-cut" he added casually.
"Where does it start?"
Cut in Rough stopping so short that we all collided with him
"Oh, at Hollow Mountain, just before the big pit, the one with the rope."
"What!" I shrieked
"If we could've only have seen it!" I bewailed,
"Rock, wouldn't have gotten mauled!" I looked back at him and smiled as he rubbed his scars and scabs.
Then, a big, firm, and thick door appeared round the corner. Forward placed his hands flat on it then knocked three times.
"It detects my finger prints." He commented. It opened slowly, but there was another one behind it. By the third door, Sturdy and Strong were fuming and scolding.
"How many more doors?" interposed Sturdy impatiently.
"Only four more."
"Oh, the poor princesses in that prison!" sighted Goal compassionately. A thrill of emotion passed through us as we watched the seventh door swing open.
All the boys burst in like a pack of rabid wolves. The room was filled by young and old women, and at our noisy entrance, half of them fainted away with scared squeals.
"Teeendeeer!" bawled Sturdy dashing to one of the standing girls.
"Mama!" shouted Rock embracing one of the ladies on the floor.
There were many hugs, tears and kisses. I swallowed hard and rubbed my eyes to keep them from spilling. I was beginning to feel tired. I bended over and touched lightly my injured foot.
"Does it hurt, Princess?" asked Goal.
"No, well, yes a little, I think I'll sit." I blubbered.
"Let me get you a chair."
The people would come and bless me, the guys shook my hand and laughing faces surrounded me.
Goal appeared with the chair and I sat wearily. Then a woman came to shake our hand so I stood again. I had just settled again when Rock called me.
"Princes, I want you to meet my mom, Mom, this is princes Cute Candle; Princess, my mom." He beamed with a wide smile, his freckles redder than ever.
"Thank, you, my girl." She said. Then Rock made presentations with Goal. I slumped back again and Rock turned to go.
"Rock!" I ejaculated. He turned swiftly
"Your scars! Your wounds are gone! I don't see any blood, not even on you clothes! What happened?"
All the crowd went quiet, everyone was staring,
"What happened?" I repeated weakly.
Forward came and smiled broadly,
"Still many questions in your inquiring little mind, princess?"
"Well, that 'inquiring little mind', brought us here, saved you, and all the princesses." countered Sturdy a little hotly.
"Ah, my boy! Don't get ruffled! I'll try to explain. This castle was built in old, old ages. More than seven generations ago. It was abandoned, when the Great Spirit left us, and when the lights of the candles began to get invisible. It has been inhabited by gellems and Erks and all sorts of creatures that, by their own wickedness, their candles have gone out. When I first came here, I still had some good thinking. And I found a hidden room, a sort of library, old books and papers. I passed two years studying them.
"What were they about?" I asked, unable to wait even for a short pause.
"The castle's construction, story, and blueprints and maps, old legends of the walls and floors. There was a book that said something about finding solutions. If you find a new solution for your past problems or difficult situations, after you think about it, and realize that it could be done better or in an easier way, past is changed, by some mysterious means, and all consequences, good or bad are changed. Or if you really wish for some thing; something good, it'll happen naturally. As if these walls heard."
"So, did they hear me wishing that we could have seen the short-cut? And things changed as if Rock hadn't got caught by the gellems?"
"Oh, but how? In real life, you can't change past…how?"
Of course there was no answer, only smiles and mischievous glances.
"Then, if you wish for something good, it happens, ah? Well, I wish we'd remembered to bring food for the reencounter banquet, I don't think you have here things fit for a banquet." Sturdy said vehemently.
"Well, but I'm glad you thought of that! You'd better check your backpacks, for I smell something!" Forward pointed to all our equipment, at the side of the door with an amused countenance.
We checked eagerly and, to be sure, we found food in abundance. Chicken, bread, salad, fruit, beef, cheese and drinks. Sturdy was laughing and all the women helped to spread a big table cloth on the floor, because there was no big table. Everyone was exchanging wonder looks, and tested everything before eating, for we weren't sure if it was real. Forward and Rough chatted in such a way, that all heart was happy and all difficulty forgotten. I was sitting between Sturdy and Diamond who were telling me stories about their hometown. Goal was in front of me, and was nodding so funnily, I couldn't help laughing at him. He gave me an injured look but laughed out loud. It seemed this was a laughing room, even Rock was happy.
As we ate, there was a lull in the conversation, and everyone heard Rough sigh out
"There must have been a way to bring Soft."
Forward looked at him in the eyes steadily,
"My dear friend, she's inside your heart, you never really left her, see?"
His long arm pointed to the wall. We all turned to see when the wall opened in a door of a heart figure, it seemed that she had been pushing on it, for she fell right inside and rolled a bit. Rough sprung immediately to help her up but she, after a bewildered stare around, picked herself up, and made headway for Rough, her gaze never leaving his as they ran to each other,
The guys clapped and whistled and stomped their feet. The girls were "ahing" and "ohing" and I was charmed.
They enveloped each other in a long, reassuring hug.
A/N: OK there's only one more chappie to go!!! Yea! Well, at least for this first part. Second past is coming soon it's called: Time is nothing: The secret strength.
Thanks to all reviewers!!
Creepycrawlies: Hi! Yes, if she'd fainted she'd have returned to the real world. Thank you!
Miraclepopsicle: Well, there's Forward's explanation for you!!
Happy Miry: There's Princess Soft again!!
Deep Depp: Hello! Thanks for your message!!
The Crows: Oh, well, I don't drink much coffee, only when its cold…thank you anyways!
And all the kind readers that read... (hits herself over the head) this fiction and don't leave reviews... may they get a reviewing fit for a year and two days!!! Hahahah just kidding you know!! Bye! La Elfa