At first, we thought the black liquid was oil, that we'd struck it rich and that we'd be able to retire and live in leisure. We actually started writing down all the ways we'd spend the money. Our first choice was to spend it all on a huge house so that everyone could have their own room. The second choice was a trip to somewhere nice. We all added to the list. Josef wanted new shoes, Emeline a horse, Leofrick a feast, and so on.

But then we found out it wasn't oil. Not at all. Madeline touched it first and the moment she did, she was swallowed by it. There was nothing left of her. Most everyone stayed back but Gregory tried to find her in the black muck only to be pulled in himself. And then it grew bigger. We ran to the house and tried figuring out what to do.

"We need to save them!"

"What if they're already dead?"

"We can't touch it. It'll take us too."

"We should call a slayer."

"For a puddle?"

"A man-eating puddle."

And so we contacted a slayer. And she ignored us. So we called on another. They ignored us too until our summons became so great that an entire team was brought on. By then, the puddle was now a small pond in our backyard. We were beginning to lose hope for Madeline and Gregory. They had been lost to the black puddle for days now.

The soldiers were tense, waiting for something to happen – like it was a matter of when, not if. For our part, we did our best to steer clear of them, avoiding the main square, where a group of protestors were chanting about the queen. It was not going to be easy to get her out of there. Even with our plan so much could go wrong. I guess it was too late to worry now.

Soldiers were in the square but of course there were still guards at the palace gates.

"You're going back in the dirt, you bitch." With these words, Emeline ran towards the front gates. The guards got into a fighting stance, waiting for her to try and get past them. I couldn't stay to watch her kick their asses, we had to start making our way around the back. Her commotion caught the attention of more guards.

We went to the back gate and there were two guarding it. But they'd be just as easy as the ones out front.

"Josef, you're up."

Josed was big and brawny and it wasn't that long ago that he always got himself into fights. He still used his fists pretty often, but now he had another trick. He walked up to the two guards and they both got dopey looks on their faces. Josef didn't even say a word to either of them.

He just looked them in the eye, walked off, and they followed him like lovesick puppies.

"We're clear." I led the rest of our group past the gate and the distracted guards. Entering the castle was child's play after that. But it wasn't over yet and there was still so much that could backfire on us.