There was a sense of unease as she stood in the doorway; a vague disquiet floating through her veins.

"I didn't request these rooms be built."

She said, half turning her head, auburn curls spilling over one shoulder. The goblins, ever finicky when they felt they displeased their lady, wriggled anxious fingers and bowed hairless heads. None of them had hair- anywhere. She'd always found that peculiar. Always.

"Does as it pleasesss."

One of the elder goblins hissed, quite unable to hold reign on his syllables in his nervousness. He placed his wrinkled hands (bright, ridiculous blue) against his lips to hold in the sound of his chattering teeth. The woman had learned long ago not to be bothered by their neurotic displays. She thought of how she must look now, swathed in fine gold silk, staring at the trembling creatures before her with cut-glass eyes.

They were like that now, her eyes. Cool, detached...from the time spent without a heart, she believed.

"The bricks,"

Squeaked one of the smallest, fuchsia if he were a shade at all. His tiny knees knocked and he stumbled forward, aided by other little hands. He quavered before her, bowing his head while his eyes darted from her feet to the crown on her head.

That was their doing. They insisted she wear it.

"We only lay them- they fall as they please."

His speech was quick and garbled and it took a few moments for her mind to make sense of it. But finally, she lay her hand against the painted doorway and nodded, staring blankly across the expanse of cream carpet.

Her other hand she waved, absently, and the goblins rightly took it for dismissal.

The palace had been rebuilt ages ago, it seemed (probably literally as well), yet she still hadn't explored all of it. The goblins told her members of the High Family could spend their entire lives within its walls and yet never tread along some hallways. It was that vast, that labyrinthine in design. She tapped her nails against the wooden frame.

The sacred family, the royal family- the High Family. Keepers of an ancient council, rulers of fantasy itself. Gone without so much as a whisper. All that had been left was the babeling Prince- now King, now vanished as well.

She kept watch over the castle now, over the lands surrounding. There were other families, scattered across the globe. Hidden in pockets that defied all that was real and sensible, little nooks where things magical and mysterious were nurtured and cared for.

They stopped in from time to time. They called her Queen. She found this all kinds of ridiculous. She was no Queen. She was simply a women doing what she felt she must, and since when had anybody been handed a crown for that?

Her heart sighed, whispered something indiscernible. This frightened her. Its speech had become unintelligible, as of late. She was losing touch with it. She didn't know how to stop this, she wasn't even sure why it came about.

But she could clearly feel it pulling her toward that room; that lavishly furnished and dreadful room. There wasn't a visual aspect to send her into this silent state of alarm, no suspicious splatters or wide-eyed idols lining the mantel. There was just...a sense of utterly wrong. She hesitated at the door a moment, silently deliberating.

Her heart gave a meek cry and she relented. When she stepped into the room and heard the distinct sound of frost crunching beneath her slippered feet, she knew herself to be lost. The doorway spun out behind her and then faded into nothing, in its place a limitless, cream-carpeted hallway.

She saw the reason for the fur-lined cloak now, draped surreptitiously over a cushioned chair. The room was cold, the carpet covered over with invisible frost. She took a step toward the chair, away from the hall. She wouldn't be going back that way, somehow certain it would lead her only to this room, if anywhere at all.

The room, like she, was shaded in resplendent gold. It was decorated in sumptuous Victorian style- complete with unnecessary tassels and unnecessary gilt framework. She would have marveled at it, once. Would have thought the room "whimsical" and other imaginative words.

It was strange how quiet the dreamer in her had become since ruling a land of dreams. There flitted a thought, half formed, about forgetting the language of her own heart without someone to love- but that she simply pushed away. There was no need to think on it at all.

Her breath came and went in foggy puffs as she walked about the room, rubbing her bare arms. She didn't want to pick up the cloak. Even if it looked like it could have come from her own closet (she had no idea half of what was in there- goblins stocked everything and had a thousand odd requirements), she wanted nothing to do with the thing.

But it was cold. So she wrapped it around herself in an almost resigned manner.

Then of course, she noticed another door. She had a sneaking suspicion it had only just made itself known, now that she'd satisfied its cloak requirement. But with nothing better to do and really, no where else to go, she strode forward and reached for the handle.

The door swung open, revealing complete darkness, before her fingers so much as brushed the handles golden surface. The woman stood there for a moment in thought, burrowing her face in the cloaks fur-lining. Should she follow this door, there was no telling where it would lead. She may disappear as the last High King had, leaving the goblins without leadership. And though they basically ruled themselves- they always fell to pieces without a figurehead.

And yet if she remained here, in this gilt golden room, she may never be found anyway. She hadn't much of a choice, really. With a shrug she moved through doorway and into dark so thick it was tangible. She felt it all around her, wisps of it were tangling in her hair, fingers of it snaked through her cloak to lay their chill touch against her bare flesh.

The door behind her vanished beneath tendrils of darkness absolute, though the woman hadn't bothered to glance over her shoulder. She knew the entryways would shut down as soon as she wandered through them. Such was the way of things. So said one of the fables she'd read, anyway, and those were what decided things.

Her heart shivered and cried for reasons unknown- and the woman lay a soft hand to her chest. It pained the little organ to tread this path. She didn't think on why or even what might be done to comfort it; she only sought to quiet it.

..at least try...

Echoed the silence. The woman paused, looked around her. The darkness neither shifted nor abated, simply heaved a great sigh. It was lonely here, she realized. Trapped with nothing save the clawing darkness, her shaking heart, and her mildly frantic thoughts. She pulled the cloak closer about her, fingertips relishing the feel of soft fur.

She always lost her composure when her heart began to stir, as it did so very rarely these days.

But now...it was fairly screaming in her chest. Begging her to be away from this wretched, wretched place. Only the woman had no idea where to turn. The darkness was absolute, all encompassing, no matter where she stumbled it simply drew closer around her. Her mind grasped about for tales and stories about darkness utter and complete and terrifying, but found nothing. There was no mention of it in the histories written by the High Families archivist, no fables or legends to light her path.

Those were truth in the hidden pockets of fantasy, those were what dictated reality within. Fables and legends. These were lands built on dreams, and so only dreamers tales would they abide.

She supposed the nightmares had to be stored somewhere. This must be one, and she must figure out its secrets on her own. Feeling slightly more resolute, the woman tilted her crowned head up. The stance made her feel braver, somehow.

There!

Shrieked silence. Rage without anger, a voice that wasn't a voice at all. An imitation. A wind tore through the darkness, whirling shadow and violently ruffling the silks she wore. She clung tight to the cloak, bowed her head and clutched her crown.

Then it died away and the woman was left shaking as blackness curled like smoke around her calves, whispering against thighs and sending chills of revulsion through her.

She feared for her heart, poor weak and wounded thing, shivering like a frightened dove. She feared for her heart and she was suddenly tired. So the woman sat, golden skirts pooling soundlessly about her, and cradled the space on her chest. How quickly she lost her composure when it cried. She'd never forgiven it that.

Her chest felt sore, bruised. There was a scar there, deep and sometimes ugly, from when the High King saved her. She would lay awake for hours some nights, tracing her fingers over the raised, red skin and wondering whatever became of him. She still had his heart.

It was in her pocket, morbidly enough. She carried it with her everywhere- she wanted to be ready, she supposed. Ready to convince him to take the thing back and be whole again, hurt and all. He was the High King, after all; he shouldn't be allowed such cowardice. He should be forced to bear the burdens she bore, should have the decency to try.

She'd been cowardly to reject hers, even with the ill it brought her. Some days she was still sick and abed, feverish and dreaming madly.

As if in response, her heart sobbed and wrenched painfully, and the woman winced and wondered if it ever really hurt any less. If time and common sense applied at all.

She laughed then, though it was a bitter thing that made her heart quiver all the more. What a silly thought, that such sensible things as time and logic would apply to a heart. Hearts belonged in those dream kingdoms, were of them; only fairy tale rules applied.

So it made perfect sense for her heart to keen over the Piper's Son, or even the High King himself from time to time. Though she no longer had any romantic affiliation with either and desired none- her heart could still ache for them.

You want me to swallow that filthy thing?

The woman started, clutched her hands ever closer to her heart. The sound reverberated, bouncing along the floor then faded to nothing. She sat in the ensuing silence, listening and waiting. The voice terrified her- toneless, colorless. Devoid of emotion. A voice that wasn't a voice at all and yet was hauntingly familiar.

You're selfish, you know. Horribly selfish.

She stood now, stumbled forward. Or backward, she couldn't tell in the blackness. That too was utterly lacking in color or tone, the words falling flatly. Skittered along the floor like spilled marbles and then gone without another whisper. She groped around blindly, one hand pressed to her chest the other feeling desperately before her. She had an idea now of where she was. A horrible notion of why her heart screamed so fearfully and in such desperate pain.

Of why it felt so lonely in this shadowy place.

She reached a wall. She dusted the dark aside, like shadowy cobwebs, and pressed herself against it. Glass. Clear and smooth and cool.

She saw the High King's old bedroom, and a face she hadn't seen in what may rightly have been ages. The womans eyes went wide and her lips vaguely mumbled;

"It might-"

...kill me.

The world tilted, heaved, and she was thrown backward. She heard herself crying in purest misery outside the jar, and suddenly it was gone. She fell from the wispy embrace of darkness and into a snowbank.

It hovered in the air, a black cloud- and was rent apart by a northern wind. The woman sat in the snow, panting, as her heart screamed.

"I'm sorry."

She managed to whisper, one hand still clutched to her chest, even through the fall.

"I'm sorry I put you there for so long."

They'd become separate beings in their time apart. It irritated her, her heart, pulling and sighing at certain words or images; and it had needs she couldn't remember how to meet. She felt like a mother, in some perverse sense. A mother with a child she did not want and had no idea how to raise. And it knew, in the way such unwanted children always seem to know. It cried for it. It shivered and sobbed and wrenched in apology, but it only hurt the both of them.

"But you need to stop this. I have to keep moving."

The woman took a deep breath and got to her feet, dusting snow from her skirts and backside. Her heart could tremble and quake all it liked- she would continue on. On to what she wasn't quite sure, but there was something.

She knew with strange certainty she was being pulled along through another story. That was their biggest role, the fairy tale royalty; living their own tales. Fairy tale royalty she supposed she truly was now, having two tales all her own.

The Pipers Son and the Prince (that's all he was then, not King, not even High Prince, simply the Prince) were minor characters. She was the heroine.

But that was years ago. She thought all that was done with.

"Oh not so, not so at all!"

This was a true voice, and the woman glanced about while adjusting the cloak. The fur tickled her chin as she fastened the clasp and let her hands fall to her sides.

"No no far from done, good Queen. Haven't even found the problem yet."

Came the voice again. Then a man wandered into view, absurdly small spectacles balanced on the tip of his nose, open book in hand.

"I suppose you know what it is."

She ventured, and he jumped, nearly dropping the book. He made a mad scramble to catch it and seemed quite relieved to succeed. For a moment, they stood in silence amidst snowy winter woods. It was the man who ventured to speak first.

"I uh, that is to say no, dear. I haven't read that far."

His eyes were dark and as he smiled, they seemed to fill with light. A memory sparked and burned in her minds eye, clear and bright. Eyes like that she'd seen before, eyes like that she knew; eyes like that made her heart shiver and sigh.

The woman was not moved.

"You're of the High Family."

Was all she said. The man closed the book and held it to his chest, then gave a low, courtly bow.

"Indeed I am. And you are the new High Queen."

His look was polite, if not coy, as he straightened and removed his glasses. She scoffed, and when his face remained (somehow) cheerfully neutral, she began to laugh.

"I will accept being a Queen,"

Said the woman with great dignity,

"But High Queen is simply too far."

The man placed a gloved hand to his chest and inclined his head in acceptance.

"As her Highness decrees, I suppose. Though I'm sure the High King will be most displeased with your decision upon his return."

This raised her dark brows a fraction, but she remained mostly impassive. A slight twitching of her bare fingers and a hardening of the mouth as her heart sang a gleeful note.

The silly thing must learn to be quiet- surely the man would hear if it were but a hair louder.

"You know where he is?"

She asked, wondering when she'd adopted such an imperial nature. Perhaps it was too much time with the goblins. They responded so horridly to simple compliments she'd learned to drop them completely. She simply asked and expected her will to be done.

He was laughing, cleaning the lenses of his glasses. He held them to the winters sun, inspecting for any more smudges, then placed them back on the tip of his nose.

"Of course not. That's your quest. Find the High King."

Showing some of her girlhood stubbornness, the woman crossed her arms and raised and irritated brow.

"Wouldn't that be the problem as well, then. And whatever is your name."

Uhh what's your name?

The womans face went immediately neutral as her own voice- stripped of years and the tribulations of a heart twice broken- rang through her head. Even her speech had changed in her time below ground.

The man seemed unperturbed, strode quite confidently toward her and linked his free arm in one of hers, then began leading her down a pathway in the snow.

One that most definitely had not been there before.

"I am the Archivist, my lady Queen."

Suddenly the woman was not quite so agitated by the High Noble's company- as she'd wanted to meet the illustrious Archivist for a rather long time.