One hundred fourteen

One hundred fourteen

Jeanette was trying to hold the Queen of Hearts up, but she was tall and heavy and slippery with blood. She had already, first thing, pressed the embroidery on her dress to call for Queen Parise of Broceliande. Since they were in the immediate neighborhood it wasn’t absurd.

But were they? She had no idea where this Inverse Garden actually was in relation to Avalon proper. Was it merely a special place inside the palace, or somewhere in the forest nearby, or was it in a pocket universe somewhere completely beyond King Oberon’s power? She had gotten here by going through a mirror, and naturally there was nothing like a mirror to go back. Or was it maybe a trap, and that lunatic goat-jeweler really an evil mastermind?

It was clear, though, that she didn’t have time to fret about any of that: the Queen was slipping away. It didn’t matter that she wasn’t strictly speaking, real: a fellow toon who had become the discorporate spirit of an entire world, who had, on meeting Jeanette, started to craft her own incarnation. You lose this much blood, you die.

So the next thing she did was to place the healing jewel on her necklace. Immediately, she could feel the power going out of her, and the Queens body warm a little bit. But right away, she started feeling faint and nauseous: a major healing like this required more energy than a little girl could have. Even though it might crucially delay things, she had to know what was going on.

She shifted and pressed the center jewel on the necklace. She was in luck, more or less, that an image of the Queen of Hearts showed up. She might, after all, have been attacked somewhere else, and led her on a chase through the palace, all the time bleeding to death--however unlikely that might have been.) But she was standing in the garden, in a passionate embrace with a tall dark-haired man in black formal dress and a long red-lined cloak--a perfect Dracula, except he had medals and a sash, and he looked young and handsome.

As she watched, young Dracula pulled out a silver thing that covered his entire hand and had multiple blades, and slashed the Queen brutally, causing her eyes to open wide. He then ripped a jeweled pendant from her breast and swirled away into mist. She staggered to the seat where she now was, pulled out a second jewel, this one from her intricately-done hair, and breathed easier as the jewel began to glow.

Jeanette lifted her finger off the jewel. It was clear that she had been sitting there calmly because she thought she had healed herself, when it hadn’t worked as well as she thought it had. She didn’t, moreover, want to bother her little-girl friend with her own problems. Jeanette, letting the Queen slide just for a moment, patted around in the grass around them and found a stone that looked like a crescent moon. She grabbed onto the Queen again and squeezed the crescent in her white glove.

Dimly at first, then more strongly, the stone began to glow. She bumped the healing-stone on her necklace with her clenched fist. Though the faintness and nausea came again, it was less this time, and the Queen actually began to feel less inert.

Given the ultra-short period of time in which that had to have happened, Dracula had to be someone the Queen knew, and that she was not expecting to betray her. It also meant she had been lying to her, or at least partly lying, which didn’t make her happy, but didn’t stop her trying to keep the Queen of Hearts alive.

Things were getting awfully swirly by the time her friends showed up, including King Oberon and Queen Parise d’Avignon. Between the two of them they restored Jeanette and revived the Queen of Hearts. After expressions of concern and remarks that she, Jeanette, had shown amazing ability to get into serious trouble--new serious trouble--without leaving the palace, attention turned to the somber, contrite and grateful Queen of Hearts.

Although she tended to think of most adults as big and impressive, and although Parise D’Avignon had been a supportive and magical presence for her, the Queen of Hearts tended to make Patise look like a younger sister. Even crouched and seated she was magnificent

She began, “I was approached by him not long ago. He came to me in a dream: he was Valdemar Quiñones, the Duke of Twin Shadows, and in my pre-Exile stories, he was my main returning partner. In the dream he said that he had also been discorporate for long eons, and had despaired of the life of flesh and passion--and was astounded and delighted that I was solid enough to dream. Since we shared a passionate if not simple love, he awoke a longing in me beyond just simply returning to life. I told him about you, Jeanette, and he got excited and thought that your power could restore him as well--and have us both together.

When you used the world-jewel, he insisted we come to Avalon to seek you out. He had it all planned, which should have made me suspicious, meeting in the Inverse Garden and all. He guided me to him, and I went with eagerness, since this would be the first time we met since the Exile in the flesh. To commemorate that, I wore two of the Great Jewels that defined my power in the old stories: The Constant Moon, which gave me courage to go on even with a broken heart, and the Two Hearts, which tempered my cruel and vindictive nature. I had recreated them using the power of my world, and I wanted to meet him as I had been.

And he betrayed me, stole the Two Hearts, and killed me, or tried to. I thought I had saved myself with the Moon, but it was indeed fortunate that you had followed me so closely, or I would have died--and what would have become of me then, I don’t know.

Although the Count was capable of rascality and betrayal, or else out stories would have been quite boring, I now think that this was a far more evil being taking his shape, or at least that in his Exilic life he came under a terribly malign influence.”

It was Parise D’Avignon who spoke. “We shall find him, sister. I will confess that yours was a sort of story I never found to my taste, but that won’t affect our efforts in this.”

“I, on the other hand, doted on them,” said Senhor Capoeira Capybara.

King Oberon seemed to guide them back to the palace without any concern for mirrors, walls, or anything else. But as they approached the main hall, a voice rang out.

“Murder! Murder in the Halls of the King of Avalon!”


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