Her death was near.
Three small figures flitted around the wide, circular room dimly lit with a single chandelier. Soft fluttering of wings permeated the silence, which hung heavy over the room.
“We’ll have to do it,” one of the winged figures said. Though she was whispering, the determination in her voice was clear.
“It’s far too dangerous, Astraea!” a tinkling voice answered. She looked similar to the first, but was instead dressed in lavender, a colour which seemed a little too happy for the somber occasion. As the fairy flew back and forth the length of the room, she rubbed her twitching eye in frustration. “Even my eye knows it’s not going to be good,” she mumbled.
“Oh, dear, sweet Briar Rose,” another fairy said, her voice breaking as she flew over to a still form lying on a grand, framed bed. She wore a more suitable navy blue dress that complemented her hair, which was dark as midnight.
The bed was clearly the centrepiece of the room with its elaborate design. Two wooden arms stretched upward and curved forward from the head of the bed, bending and twisting into thin branches that bore small, delicate flowers carved with the precision of a woodworker. Translucent white drapes embroidered with gold hung from those wooden arms, creating a veil that gave the bed’s occupant a little privacy.
Astraea joined the dark haired fairy by the bedside, looking upon a young girl of no more than sixteen years. They knew that the princess was slipping away, looking more and more like the ghost she was soon to become. Her once beautiful skin was now dry and papery, her rosy red lips now drained of colour – an effect of the curse that was placed upon her when she was barely three days old. The girl’s cheeks were visibly sunken, her jawline more prominent than before. All of this was framed by dull, limp hair – an echo of what was once the radiant gold of the setting sun.
Her eyes were sealed shut as she lay unmoving; it was almost as if she was already dead. Only through the subtle rise and fall of her chest would one know that her heart was still beating. Astraea stroked Briar Rose’s golden locks, and was greeted with icy coolness as she touched the skin of her ashen face.
“If we were to save her, this is our only option right now,” Astraea urged. “It’s almost sundown, and we won’t have any chance once night falls!”
The two other fairies - Luna and Talia – looked at each other. The fairy in blue gave a slight nod and Talia sighed softly, her shoulders drooping and thin, teardrop wings shuddering. Even if she protested, the odds were against her.
Astraea’s plan wasn’t that big of a feat for the trio, who were the strongest of their kind. All was required of them was to open a portal large enough to send Briar Rose’s soul through time and into a vacant body, until it was safe for her to return. But it was the danger that made Talia so hesitant to agree – time wasn’t something to be tampered with, as even the slightest change would have effects that would last through all eternity. Should this power be in the wrong hands, the following disaster would be unimaginable.
“Let us proceed,” Astraea announced. The fairies joined hands at the foot of the bed, forming a moon-shaped arc around Briar Rose.
“You all know what to do?” Astraea glanced at her friends for affirmation, receiving nods in return. She then stretched out her free hand towards the princess, beginning the procession.
At first, there was no sound despite the fervent movement of Astraea’s lips. A few moments passed in silence before a soft tinkle began – so soft that a human’s untrained ears would not be able to pick up the sound. The gentle sound carried on, growing as Luna joined in, followed shortly by Talia. It was lovely and hypnotizing – as if you had arrived at Heaven and a choir of angels were greeting you at its glorious gates.
Talia’s eye twitched again, and her chant faltered slightly as the growing irritation she had managed to stuff to the back of her mind threatened to surge forth. Brows furrowing, she squeezed her eyes shut and continued her chant.
As the tinkling noise grew to a crest, Luna stretched out her free hand towards Briar Rose before a low, rumbling noise began. It sounded as if the earth was opening up, its previously undisturbed dirt cracking and turning. A breeze lifted the drapes, though only the three fairies knew where the wind was coming from. The room had no openings – stained glass windows sealed the holes that were previously windows, which looked out at fields of green and gold, and the only entrance to the room was closed, heavy doors in place with its locks charmed. Just an added measure of safety, Astraea had said.
The wind was no longer a breeze as a strange howling accompanied by gusts of wind swept through the room. Astraea’s hair began to loosen from its tight bun, escaped strands of hair whipping across her face. The bed frame creaked, its drapes billowing and flapping wildly. Despite all this, the fairies remained at the same positions as before, their concentration centred on Briar Rose.
A shower of sparks burst from Astraea and Luna’s outstretched hands, and the howling escalated as a small, dark cloud formed above Briar Rose’s body. Long, thin fingers of white light shot through the cloud, as if a miniscule lightning storm was about to begin above the princess’ body. The cloud stretched and lengthened, a perfect circle hovering above.
Talia opened her eyes and marvelled at the sight before her.
Blinding white light shot through the centre of the circular cloud, the howling giving way to a terrible mismatch of screaming and whining as the light widened. The sound would’ve hurt a human’s ears, but the fairies didn’t seem bothered it.
Astraea and Luna lowered their hands, and they all ceased their chanting as they moved forward and floated around the cloud and Briar Rose’s body. Then, they laid their hands above her closed ones and summoned from within the deepest reaches of the dying princess: her soul.
There seemed to be an invisible force pulling away from the fairies’ touch, the soul refusing to be taken away from its owner. It pulled hard, refusing to give in. Astraea whispered despite the loud screaming of the portal they had just created, gently telling Briar Rose that she was going to a better place. The force seemed to pull back even harder, but she simply continued to whisper.
Talia’s eye twitched once more, but it did little to irritate her as she focused on the princess’ face. Tears were welling up in her eyes, but she blinked them away quickly – now was not the time to let her emotions get the best of her.
That was when she noticed the single tendril of green snaking in from under the doors of the room. It curled and rolled like the tentacle of an octopus, though it looked less than solid to her. She frowned, her thoughts attempting to place the source of it. Her eyes widened as realization dawned on her:
“Carabosse,” she breathed, so softly that Luna had thought that it might have been a figment of her imagination. As the fairy in blue opened her mouth to question, a loud bang resounded from the door. Astraea jolted back in shock, and Luna gaped as she caught sight of the green smoke.
“Carabosse- it’s Carabosse. Carabosse is here,” Talia said, panic creeping into her voice. “Quickly, we need to send her through quickly!”
Grabbing on to Astraea and Luna’s hands, they concentrated on pulling the repelling force, coercing the very core of Briar Rose’s mind, heart and body out. A series of banging came from the door, and it sounded like wood was cracking – the door was going to give way. Talia muttered a short spell that appeared to tame the ferocious banging on the other side, but more tendrils of green snaked in through the crevices and bottom of the door.
There was a glowing beneath the other fairies’ hands, and as they removed it, a soft peach-coloured orb of light was revealed - the essence of Briar Rose's soul. Nestled in Astraea and Luna’s cupped hands, it resembled a lone pearl in an oyster. No time was spent admiring the beauty of it as they swiftly guided it towards the portal, the banging intensifying on the door.
The fairies only had seconds to hurriedly whisper their well wishes to the orb before lifting it up into the yawning white hole of the portal. As soon as it was through, they sealed it off with a chant, the wind and noise dying away. The banging on the door stopped abruptly and the fairies flew protectively over Briar Rose’s body, looking wearily at the door as they braced themselves for what was to come.
Splinters and shards of wood flew from the doorway as the double doors were blown from its hinges, but the fairies’ quick reflexes deflected the shrapnel and turned them to deep red rose petals, which fluttered harmlessly to the ground.
In the darkness of the corridor outside, two green eyes sparkled in delight.
“My, my, what a gathering we have here!”