Audrey shuffled along contently, admiring her silky yellow, ball gown. She'd always dreamed of becoming a princess as a little child, and perhaps it was coming true. She wished she could simply stay in this magical dimension for as long as she wanted, leaving her mother, Norman, and Nicholas to themselves. Alas, the Queen had explained to them that they were only here to serve a purpose, and that they must return home when they weren't needed. Audrey gave a collective sigh, wondering if they were any nearer to their destination.
"Are we there yet?" Tristan called impatiently. It was the question Audrey had been itching to ask.
"Indeed, we are," the Queen replied. Audrey looked about, hoping to see something, but their surroundings appeared just the same as they had been for the past thirty minutes; endless stretches of trees, undergrowth, and foliage.
"Uh, I don't see anything," Audrey commented. She was a bit confused, but then again, she often was.
"It's hidden, my dears. The Book can not simply set in the open, can it?" the Queen implied. Audrey only understood that The Book held all fairytales ever written, but she was starting to gather that it was a very powerful object. If it was as important as the Queen had told them, then it was no wonder that Mr. Kane and Mr. Erebus were trying to tamper with it. It was no wonder either that it must be hidden, as so many evildoers in the past had tried to tamper with it too. Audrey's mind was filled with colliding facts and questions, which only made her more eager to see The Book.
"How do we get to it, then?" Maddie asked the Queen.
"You shall see," the Queen replied. She proceeded to unclasp her locket, and for a moment, Audrey thought that she was going to use it as a portal. Instead, the Queen tossed the necklace into the air, and with a grand, magical flourish, it was swept upwards. Audrey gasped as the locket flew towards a nearby pine tree, attaching itself to the tree's wide trunk.
"W-What's happening?" Audrey stuttered.
"Watch," the Queen replied simply. Audrey gulped, but returned her eyes to the large pine tree. The earth seemed to quake ever so slightly beneath their feet as the tree trunk seemed to split in half. With a resounding snap, the trunk settled, and a newly formed archway had formed.
"Follow me," the Queen gestured. Audrey's eyes grew wide as they shuffled through the archway, and even wider as she observed the room they'd just entered. The walls and domed ceiling were decorated with intricate golden designs and carvings, and The Book sat, glowing, on a pedestal perched in the very center of the room.
"I think I'm having hallucinations again," Maddie mumbled.
"Maddie, how many times must I tell you?" Tristan scolded as she patted Maddie's shoulder.
"Go ahead, then," the Queen urged. Audrey reluctantly stepped towards The Book, and finally mustered the bravery to open the heavy leather cover. As she lifted the cover, a blinding brightness filled the room.
"Lord, get me some sunglasses," Simone yelled.
"Wait a moment, girls, and the brightness shall reside. The Book will recognize you as the chosen five," the Queen informed them. Audrey slowly opened her eyes as the light dimmed and began to carefully turn the pages. The Book was indeed filled with every fairytale imaginable, along with illustrious illustrations that were seemingly alive. Audrey admired every page.
"Look, the original tale of Cinderella," Ella pointed to a page as Audrey continued to turn the delicate pages. The girls paused a moment to observe the illustration that accompanied the story. Cinderella, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl in a beautiful light, blue, ball gown, fluttered hastily down a flight of red-carpeted stairs, leaving one glass slipper twinkling in the moonlight. Audrey couldn't help but smile; the princess reminded her precisely of Ella.
"Girls, I'm afraid we must be leaving soon," the Queen intoned. Audrey turned a few more pages, letting her friends admire a few last pictures, before carefully shutting The Book's cover again. "Follow me, then," the Queen gestured.
The girls followed the Queen once again under the archway and into the darkness of the forest. Audrey watched, in awe again, as the Queen flicked her wrist and her locket, which had embedded itself into the tree's trunk, flew into her small outstretched hand. She clasped the necklace around her thin neck before continuing on.
"Queen, if your locket is the key to the entrance to The Book's hiding place, how are Mr. Kane and Mr. Erebus gaining access?" Ella asked as the girls walked on. Audrey hadn't given a thought to that, despite the many questions she was obtaining. She shrugged; problem solving was reserved for Ella and Madde.
"You know, I haven't quite figured that part out, my dear, although I have my theories," the Queen pursed her lips. She'd turned to face the girls, and stopped walking. "But, I think we'll be saving that for your next visit. In two days time, you will return."
"Are we leaving already?" Simone piped.
"Yes, girls," the Queen nodded.
"Oh, thank God. I really hate these dresses," Tristan murmured.
The Queen unclasped her necklace once again, pried the locket open, and threw it to the forest floor. A swirling portal appeared, just as it had yesterday. "Farewell," the Queen said. With that, Audrey took her friends' hands, closed her eyes tightly, and jumped.