Within the Archives: The Dancing Curse: Part One
On her tiptoes, Elleri the Royal Blumaroo could barely see out the frosted window panes. This particular window was created from an array of red and purple panes meant to take the form of some rose from a novel Hark was fond of. Elleri was sure he’d had it commissioned after finally digging his way into the Romance archive in Brightvale’s library.
Right now she was sure the world was nothing but lazily drifting snowflakes and cold winds. She was glad she’d decided to wear thick boots and a heavy cloak. Even with the fireplace lit in the sitting area, the rest of the library was cold. She could make out Hark huddled several shelves in, no doubt pouring over some tattered collection of papers that he’d eventually turn back into a marvelous book.
She walked loudly to keep from startling him as she came around the shelf before him.
"I don't suppose you'd like some apple cider with me?"
Hark looked up from the book he'd been skimming, and looked down his long nose at Elleri as she swayed from side to side slowly.
"I suppose not." He said, the Werelupe earning a considerable sigh from his friend.
"Come on, Hark. The books won't fly away if you leave for one cup."
She reached up and delicately tilted his book down. She was careful not to fold any pages, which he was thankful for.
Hark was the Master Librarian in King Hagan of Brightvale's private library. He was always surrounded by books, and took great comfort in his profession. But going out? That was uncommon for him.
He had just barely allowed Elleri to light a fire in the old fireplace near the entrance of the library. He was so paranoid of a stray ember touching one of the books or scrolls that he'd had King Hagan's master wizard come in to place a containment spell over the flames.
Elleri was less cautious. As a dignitary from Meridell, she didn't understand how rare and valuable some of these manuscripts were! They shouldn’t catch fire, and who knows? Maybe they would fly away!
He watched her gently take the book from his hand and set it aside on the correct stack.
Well. Maybe she understood after all.
"I promise I won't keep you long. One drink, maybe something covered in cinnamon, then you're free to return."
Hark shrugged his massive shoulders and stood, having to duck to avoid a beam as they wove around the library's many shelves to head to the front.
"Why the sudden interest in leaving the palace?" He asked, holding the door for them as they exited out into the bright hallways of the castle.
All around them the halls were decked with hanging garlands and gleaming gold ornaments in all shapes and sizes. Hark hadn't even noticed that a wreath had been hung on the library's door.
"What is all this?" He asked, locking the thick wooden library door and tucking the key away in his pocket. He patted the pocket twice to make sure it had settled into its usual place.
"It's for the month of Celebrating, of course." Elleri said. "The Day of Giving is tomorrow, you know."
Hark rubbed the back of his neck, feeling embarrassed.
"I did not, actually."
"Oh. Well, don't worry. You know now."
They walked in silence a ways, until they came to the main hall which was truly alive with activity. It resembled a Buzzer hive Hark had read about once.
In the center of the hall stood Dame Losena, a lovely mutant Shoyru, who conducted the activity with a stern eye, and grand flourishes with her wings.
"Ahh. Master Hark. So good to see you out and about finally."
"I'm no shut in, ma'am. The library simply keeps me busy."
She smiled and crossed her scaly hands in front of her belly.
"No offense intended." She nodded to Elleri. "Where are you two off to?"
Elleri beamed. "Going for a mug of apple cider down at Brightvale Fruits."
Losena nodded. "How festive. Do feel free to order some for the ball this evening. I'm sure warm cider will cheer the arriving nobility."
"The ball?" Elleri said, a look of surprise on her face.
During their chit chat Hark's mind began to drift. His gaze was resting on the ceiling, reading many of the quotes and inscriptions carved into the wooden panels above them. The panels had been commissioned by King Hagan’s great Uncle, Prince Airleas, who was fond of secretive sayings, and stern oaths-
"Hark, what do you say?" Elleri asked, pulling the Werelupe's attention back to the conversation.
He thought she was once again referring to the cider. Goodness, she was persistent.
"Yes, that sounds lovely."
Elleri clapped her hands, grinning from ear to ear.
"Wonderful! We'll go order some barrels and be right back up for the ball." She took Hark's hand in hers and began to lead him from the hall.
"Yes, we shall." Hark started, and as he bent to get out the door, the cold and snow hitting his nose with a bite, he realized what she'd said. He pulled his cloak closer around his shoulders with his free hand.
"Wait, a ball?" He pulled back slightly on his hand and almost brought the Royal Blumaroo crashing back into him. "I'm sorry. We're attending?"
Elleri released his hand and placed her fists on her hips, the points of her elbows underneath her cape making her look like a Korbat.
"Aye. You just said yes." She scoffed. "You even called my invitation lovely."
"I thought we were discussing apple cider once more."
"No. Weren't you paying attention?"
Elleri raised her hand to cut him off. "Well now we're committed. Dame Losena said seeing us there would be good for the King. Skarl and Hagan's master scholars getting along, in one another’s company. And at a ball no less."
She sighed dreamily. Hark simply shook his head.
"I have nothing to wear, Ell." He was beginning to feel some embarrassment and she waved her hand impatiently.
"That's not an excuse. You work for the king. He has tailors."
Hark groaned louder. “I have no idea how to dance.”
Elleri once again waved him off. She was making her way down from the main doors of the palace to the moat. There the two guards waved them on, and they were out of the castle walls in minutes.
“I promise I’ll lead.”
Hark scoffed. “I’m four feet taller than you.”
Elleri giggled. “We’ll definitely stand out.”- - -
“Ouch!” Elleri pulled away and lifted her foot so that she could rub her toe.
“I’m sorry.” Hark said, clutching the front of his robes with a look of concern.
“Ergh. It’s not hard.” Elleri said, putting her foot down and straightening back up, which took some effort. “You just let me lead.”
“Well you don’t know what you’re doing.” Elleri snapped, finding a chair and plopping down.
The Brightvale Fruits Store was serving the best cup of apple cider in the kingdom, and other than their private corner, the rest of the shop was full of Neopets of every size and color. Hark easily stood above them, and it was his intimidating size that afforded them so much space. They eyed him warily, much to the Blumaroo’s chagrin.
Hark hadn’t seemed to mind, but Elleri had been making passive aggressive remarks towards the rest of the crowd for the past hour.
“I’m sorry.” Hark said again, sitting down across from her, taking up two chairs in the process.
“Oh, no. You’re fine.” She remarked, propping her foot up on a chair. “We’ll get it. I’m just. I don’t know.”
“You’re amazing.” Hark said sincerely before blushing. “At- at being a teacher.”
“Thank you. But I’m not doing as well as I thought I would.”
Hark shrugged. “I am a man of books, not dance.”
Elleri waved her hand, as if pushing his comments away from the table.
“I’m a woman of many talents. Books, dance, art, beauty.” She sighed dramatically. “We all have many gifts.”
Hark smiled. “I have many books.”
Elleri stood and stamped her boots. She unclasped her cloak and threw it on her chair. She swirled back onto their expanse of floor and wiggled her fingers at him again.
“Alright. My toe isn’t throbbing. Again.”
Hark stood, banged his head accidentally on the low ceiling, and stooped to take her hand.- - -
He adjusted the collar once more. It was incredibly uncomfortable. He was about to say so when she came up behind him and touched her chin thoughtfully as she examined him in the mirror.
“You look so stiff.” She placed her hand under his elbow and lifted. He tried to curl his arm back into his chest.
“Relax, Hark. You really look handsome.”
Of course the palace tailors had jumped at the chance to dress him. Hark wore the same tattered robes every day. The robes poorly made then given to him during his apprenticeship many years ago.
But these… were elegant and fancy, and form fitting without being tight and unyielding. The trim was gold, and the buttons gold and the shirt… poufy.
He picked at it with his claws, wondering what flimsy material they’d used. Probably some sort of linen. Made from the fibers of the flax plant-
“Are you going to wear the jacket?”
He looked up and through the mirror as she looked down and gently touched the fancy jacket on the bed.
“Elleri.” He started, turning.
She met him with an arched eyebrow.
He fidgeted. “I don’t know how to dance.”
She nodded, trying to bite her tongue.
“I know. But at least we can go and have some punch and talk together.”
He felt taken aback, not having expected her answer.
“Oh. So you’re not mad?” He asked.
She smiled. “Of course not. I want you to be comfortable.” She held up the immense jacket and he slowly pulled it on and buttoned the front. He looked kingly, towering in the center of the room and so sharply dressed.
“Thank you, my friend.” He said.
Elleri continued to smile as she turned to the door.
“Now if you’ll excuse me, I must get ready myself!”
She hurried from the room as he continued to examine himself in the mirror, the library key she’d stolen from his pocket held tight against her stomach… - - -
“Where is it?” Elleri hissed, the long skirts of her green gown brushing the gleaming floors of Brightvale’s library as she worked her way through the shelves. She held a lit candle high, desperate to find the scroll she’d been thinking of and get out of there.
She was deep, deep in the archives. So far from the safe tomes kept in the front of the library that she could no longer see the tiny dot of light the fireplace cast.
The section she was in bordered on the forbidden- only Hark and Hagan’s wizards knew what rested on these shelves. But she was no fool, and she quickly found the scroll she’d been looking for. It was simple brown parchment, tied with a purple ribbon.
She took the scroll back through the maze of shelves to the front to the long table were the manuscripts she’d been analyzing rested. She pushed her pile aside, undid the ribbon, and unraveled the scroll.
It glided open, smooth and perfect like a waltz. As she bent over it, she noticed the hum of magic coming from the spell inside caused the ink designs along the border to slowly sway. She closed her eyes for a moment, caught up in the magic, able to hear a faint song from deep within the ink.
“Bah!” The Blumaroo cried, pulling back and smoothing her sweaty hands down the sides of her dress.
“By Fyora, if this doesn’t work, I don’t know what will.”
She focused this time, as she bent forward once more, and began to read the words.
“Mela, mela, don la, toe le, toe la, toe le. Mela, tone la, fae to la le.” She smiled, thinking the words rolling off her tongue felt like a ballerina tiptoeing through a recital. The air around Elleri grew heavier, it began to sway and move. Her skirts spun as if she were dancing, and she suddenly found herself lifting the scroll high to spin it around.
The music was growing, taking over the room. It was so beautiful.
A voice whispered into her ear, melodic and soft.
‘Finish the words…’
“Mela fae, mela fae, don ti to la!”
She let out a surprised cry as the scroll ripped in half! The two pieces floated to the ground and instantly caught on fire. The blames burned a bright purple.
“Oh no!” Elleri cried, but the flames created twin columns of swirling smoke, and she stepped back as two feminine figures stepped away from them.
“Oh no, no, no.”
Standing before her were two dark faeries, each one wearing long, sparkling ribbons in their hair and donning party dresses and dancing slippers, decked out in holiday bells and bits of red berries and green leaves. They were lithe creatures, much younger than any faerie Elleri had seen before.
“Oh goodness.” The one on the right spoke, her hands clasped together and tucked under her chin.
“What a lovely Day of Giving dress you have!”
“Are you going to a dance?” The other chimed, both of them possessing soft, and melodious voices.
“I- I was. I thought this was a dancing spell…” Elleri said, watching as the faeries picked up their halves of the scroll and tucked them away in their dresses.
“Oh it is!” The one on the left sang, coming forward and reaching her needle like fingers out to touch the curls at the end of Elleri’s hair.
“We’ll make sure everyone dances and has a marvelous time.”
“A magical time.” The other whispered, circling the Royal Blumaroo with her sister.
“I meant for the spell to be for Hark. Not for everyone.” The anxiety was building in Elleri’s stomach. The sisters danced away from her, graceful as a Kazeriu on the breeze.
“Oh, but not everyone will be as good as him. It’s not fair.”
“Not fair at all.”
The faeries came together, their hands touching as dots of purple light began to dance in the air.
“We’ll make sure everyone dances, and dances well.”
“Oh yes. Forever.”
“Wait, forever? What do you mean?” Elleri said anxiously, her fingers twisting at the lace of her bodice.
The sisters laughed.
“Forever and ever. As long as the music is good!”
“No. Wait. You can’t do that!” Elleri raced forward, her instincts telling her she needed to separate their hands, but she was too far away and too slow.
Something sparked and a blast of violet light erupted from the girls and through the walls and through the halls and across the ceilings.
The whole castle felt the effects of the spell. Elleri was flung back and against the fireplace’s mantle, and laid still on the floor as she tried to get her bearings.
She stood after a moment, unable to keep the room from spinning.
After several moments she realized the room wasn’t spinning… she was! She was dancing in the darkness of the library, gasping as she tried to calm her stomach and ignore the throb in her shoulders where she’d hit the mantle.
She tried to find the sisters as she leapt and twirled across the room, but they were gone.
To be continued…