Curiouser

Where Wonderland, Oz, and a range of fairytale elements inside a game-like universe are all in one!

Emily continues to relive a terrible memory of her mother's death. As she and her older brother Nate are invited to the king's birthday ball, she steps into another world she's never seen before!

It's an adventurous world full of magic, darkness, and strange things.

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4. Bound

~~They step onto shore, "We've arrived to the upper world." They walk to find a small village filled with people, "It seems that the King is having a ball wishing all fair maidens to be there." One of the ladies said.

Nathaniel nudges Emily, "The King may be able to help us." She looks to him, "How?" He gestured his hand and said, "He's the king. He knows things."

She looks down, feeling slightly disappointed, "Better than you?"

"In ways, I'm still just a young Mage."

She stopped to say, "You're more than just a young Mage. You're smarter than I am in both worlds." She wasn't talking about both the upper and lower world; she was talking about this one and the waking world.

He smiled, "You're the first to say that, considering you're the only dumbest person I've met." She isn't sure to take that as a compliment or an insult, but she just smiled anyway.

He led her away into a tent, "If we're to speak to the King, you're going to need a new dress."

Sir Gold-Digger sat, reading a poster. He swirls his staff and zaps her dress into a sparkling silvery gown, "Oh wow!" She looks in the mirror, "Nathaniel...it's beautiful."

He asked, "Are you crying?" She wiped her eyes, "No..." He smiled and took her by the hands, "You're always beautiful, especially in rags and messy hair." She smiled; it's the nicest thing anyone's ever said.

They left to the palace. She looks up, the palace is white and gold, not dark and grim like the two castles she came across.

He stretches out his bow tie, "Forgive me, it's my first time in a suit." She smiled and said, "You're forgiven." He held out his arm for her to hold. They linked arms and entered to where the ball was held.

The King yawned with everyone dancing. The two of them were a minute late. Sir Gold-Digger pigged out at the cakes on the buffet table. This is the second ball she's been to that looks very similar to the one back at home.

Nathaniel looked to the table, that's when she remembered the last thing she said to Nate, for him not to eat so much this time. Did he crave just as her brother did?

He took one slice of cake onto a plate and gave it to her, "Hungry?" Her eyes widen, this is actually a first to see her brother give her something from the buffet table, and well he's not exactly Nate, but still.

He's just a perfect version of Nate. He's almost everything he's not, except having a childish nature. That she hated. Nathaniel isn't always as childish as her brother, he's mostly just serious.

The King eyed the first girl that made his heart skip a beat. He came down his throne. The girls turned heads in hope it was them he was approaching.

He stops right up next to her, "Milady, may I have this dance?" He bowed. She turned to him surprised. Nathaniel turned his eyes for her to go on and do as he asked. Flattered by this request, she took his hand.

He led her away to the centre of the room where everyone crowded around. They danced together, "You are one true beauty." He said, and she blushed, "And you are a fairly young and handsome yourself, your majesty." He smiled, "I am very surprised for I have not seen you around."

"I only just arrived."

They stopped dancing, "Let me take you somewhere." He led her away to the garden upstairs. Nathaniel sighs at Sir Gold-Digger still snacking on cakes.

The dark sky waved in ripples of yellow. She looked up in amazement, "Wow!" They sat on a seat made of stone, just in the centre where green and blue orchids with a yellow stem were planted in a circle.

She looks down at them, curiously. They looked as if they danced, bopping from side-to-side with no wind to make them move. They just danced on their own like magic.

The King slicked back his short blue hair, "What do you think?" He asked, looking down at the flowers, and she smiled, "Impressive."

He gazed at the glow beaming off her skin, "You are so radiant." He said, softly. Her cheeks flushed red at his sweet words. He brushed her cheek, looking into her eyes. She hasn't noticed how purple his were 'till now.

A large clock appeared. The face opened and out popped a blue bird saying, "Cuckoo!"

She blinked, and the clock was gone. Just as he leans in and closed his eyes, the indigo coloured version of Big Ben not far from the palace, struck twelve. As their almost lips touch, he pulled back and asked, "Who are you?" He looked around, "What are we doing here?"

She raised an eyebrow, confused, "You don't remember?" He shook his head and got to his feet, "I remember seeing you. You put sort of spell on me!"

This isn't right, "No, you got it all wrong. I..." She stopped and thought maybe it was Nathaniel's magic. He summoned her that dress.

The King called for his guards, "Take this one away!" He ordered. They walked onto the path so they didn't step on the flowers. She, however, ran across. The orchids whined, "Ouch!"

She pushed open the doors and hurried down with the guards chasing from behind. Nathaniel took Sir Gold-Digger by the shoulder, "We got to go!"

They escaped out of the palace and into a maze that wasn't there before. One of the gold diamond slippers she wore fell off her foot.

She stops and looks back, "My shoe!" As the guards came in, it was already too late. She took off her other slipper, making it easier to run. One of the guards swiped the slipper she lost.

They came to the centre of the maze. With very exit blocked by guards, there's absolutely nowhere to run. She said at the moment of panic, "We're surrounded!"

They gather their backs, "What now?" Sir Gold-Digger asked, drawing out his sword. Nathaniel held his staff close to his chest and said, "I'm thinking."

She pitched an idea, "Can't we just fly over them?" He shook his head, "Not in this maze." This is crazy. The times they flew over the gates and reached a block further away, how can they not fly over the guards and out of the maze?

They drew their swords, marching in on them, "You three are coming with us," said the much taller one, with slightly different armour from the rest, "Drop it, Mage!"

Nathaniel looks up, having a tight grip on his staff. The tall guard must be some sort of captain. The way he is, is tough and demanding than the rest of them.

The armour they wore had shapes in the centre as a type of coat of arms; triangles, squares, circles, and stars. The circle was the centre where more of them continued on and on inside each other.

On the outside, triangles surrounded it in boxes of squares where stars sat in between them. The chainmail was a fluorescent colour of green, the rest of the armour was too, except blue and white.

The captain of the guard wasn't wearing a helmet, and he didn't wear revealing chainmail like they were. He was covered in metal plates of fluorescent green.

He closes his eyes and lets out a sigh. She watches, he's not doing anything to stop them. He lowers it to the ground. How can he give up so easily?

One of their swords pointed at Sir Gold-Digger's chin, "And you!" He dropped his sword and raised his hands. The Captain noticed the one slipper in her hand, "You too, missy."

The heel magically forms to a point before she decides to pitch it. At an excellent throw, the sharp end of the heel hits the guard to the right. Blood bursts out of his eye socket before shrivelling dead.

He came forward to teach her a lesson. Nathaniel tries to stop him, "Don't you hurt her!" The Captain punches him in the face where he swung and collapsed to the ground. As the guards took hold of her and Sir Gold-Digger, he kneed her in the stomach. She groaned ill.

He pulled her head up by the hair, "You mess with the King's men, and I'll have your head!" As he prepared himself to give her a good beating, he is shocked by an electrical zap of purple light.

They all turn to Nathaniel. He was holding himself up by the staff, mumbling over with a puffy eye. The guards went in to take him out, but as the crystal glowed, they distanced themselves in fear of what he'll do.

He got up on his feet with a chuckle, "Your magic is weak, little Mage. I bet you can't even poof you're way out of a tight situation."

The glow fades. He grunts, collapsing to his knees still holding on. The Captain shakes his head, "Just as I thought." He snatches the staff out of his hands and knocks him out by a kick to the face. He hands it to one his men and gives a nod, "Take them away to the chamber!"

A pair of guards carried Nathaniel's body, as more took Sir Gold-Digger and Emily by the arm, leading them out of the maze and back to the palace.

In an underground chamber, they were locked up in tight security. Their bodies tied by glowing gold rope, with their backs against a marble pillar, facing away from each other.

Nathaniel groans awake, "W-where am I?" He muttered. She turned her head, "Nathaniel?" He looked at his surroundings and took a guess, "Emily..?" He struggled to get up, "Why can't I move?"

"We're tied up. See the rope?"

He groaned, looking down at himself, "Oh...yeah...where are you, where's Sir Gold-Digger?" Sir Gold-Digger sung to himself quietly as she said, "He's tied up, too. We're sitting up against what looks to be a pillar. You're sitting at one end, and we're sitting at another."

He nodded, feeling cramped in the head, "I think I got it." He sighed, "I'm sorry." She turned her head, "For what?"

"For bringing trouble, I didn't think it would turn out this way. The King is a good man, he really is. I just have no idea what went wrong."

She looked down and said, "He thought I put some sort of spell on him. When the clock struck twelve, he lost his memory of me and what we were doing there in the garden."

He turned his head, feeling awful, "That was my fault. I thought you'd take his attention to talk to him. I didn't know how long it'd last for. I had no idea it would take his memory away either. I'm so sorry I put you through this." He lowered his head in shame.

She didn't know what to say. She's never been in a situation like this where her brother had to apologise, except when he pigged out on so much party food he got ill. She's never had any friends who went through tough times like this.

She let out a sigh, leaning her head back on the pillar. As the two were quiet, Sir Gold-Digger still mumbled to himself, "What's he doing?" Nathaniel asked.

She turns her head to where Sir Gold-Digger sat, hearing in on the mumble, "Three hundred and ninety three, three hundred and ninety four..." He seemed quite entertained just sitting there. It's strange of what he does, "Counting." She said.

He looked up at the ceiling with his vision still out of focus. She turns back with her head up against the pillar again, tired, bored, and out of ideas, "How do we get out of this?"

He shook his head, "You can't. This glowing rope binds anything, especially magic. Without my staff and mana to work a spell, I'm pretty much useless..."

She groaned in anger and said, "So that's it, we're stuck here!?" He nodded, "Yes, unless you have a better idea, I'm listening."

Sir Gold-Digger spots a red rat scattering through the chamber and squeals. He kicks his feet, "Scram!" It scampers away to Emily's side. She watches it crawl over her leg then notices something and leans her head, "Wait, what is that?" He quivered in reply, "A rat."

She rolled her eyes, obviously it was but she isn't talking about that, "I mean, what's that around its neck?" He blinked wide eyed, "Oh."

The rat stood on its feet, twitching its whiskers. There's something shiny and blue tied to a thick green thread around its neck, "Nathaniel, how do you get a rat to come your way?" She asked. He looked up, "Uh...what colour is it?"

"Red."

"Then they're attracted to anything red."

She remembered the red X in her dress pocket and attempts to shuffle her hand in to get it but the rope is too tight, so she pushes it up from the pocket instead. The red X dropped out next to her thigh and the rat heads right over.

She takes it by the shiny blue object. It struggles free from the thread and scampers away. Taking a look at what it was, she said, "It's a whistle, a shiny blue whistle." Nathaniel turns his head, "Blow on it!" She shakes her head, "I can't! The rope is on too tight!"

The red X drooped and melted. It slides up her hand, taking the whistle with it. She watches in curiosity. It continued up her arm and over the rope to her shoulder.

Little hands held onto the whistle, putting it to her lips. She blew into it, and the rope dropped free. The red muck slips down and forms back into an X.

They got to their feet as he said, "I thought you said you can't reach." She held the whistle in her hand, "I couldn't!" She said, "The red X," she picks it up, "It-it helped me!"

Sir Gold-Digger asked, "Let me see it." She handed it over. He held it up to take a look, "Yes...interesting." He said with a finger to his chin. She shrugged, "What is it?"

He handed it back, "This is no red X, my dear. It is a kind of shifter that takes a form of any letter in any colour, but not just a regular letter like you see here. It takes a creature-like form. This red X is merely a disguise. We call these, Letter-Shifters."

She looks down at the rat leading out of the chamber, "How do you think it got in, who would've given it the whistle?" He pointed up a finger, "We follow it!" He marched. She and Nathaniel look at each other, "All right then." He shrugged. As there is no other option, they follow to the sealed door.

The rat crawls out from the open slide. Sir Gold-Digger peeks through, there's no guard on patrol pacing through the hall for some reason. The rat wouldn't have gotten him to chase after it since the slider's left open, "There's no one out there." He said.

She took a turn to take a peek, "He's right, there isn't." Looking down at the lock, she takes skeleton key from her pocket. Nathaniel sighed, "There's no point unlocking it from the outside, your arm won't fit through."

She gave it her best shot anyway. Reaching her arm out, the opening was narrow but wide enough for her to squeeze through. She stands on her toes to see where to pop the key in. Holding it upright, she pushes it in the lock and twists.

The door makes a tapping sound before it opens. Surprised, Nathaniel said, "I had no idea your arms are that skinny." She looks to him, "The opening isn't even small, and my arms are not that skinny."

The rat scampered along the near the wall, "There it goes!" She pointed. Sir Gold-Digger went after it. She turned to Nathaniel, "What are you doing with that?" He rolled the rope over his shoulder, "I thought we could use it, you know, for emergencies?" It is a good idea to keep hold of it.

She kept the whistle in the pocket with the key and Letter-Shifter. They follow the rat to a stop. At the end of the hall, someone stood there in the shadows. The rat climbed up their hand to their shoulder. The shadow looked back to them with glowing eyes.

As it turned to leave, she took a step forward, "Wait!" The shadow stops as she continued, "Did you send the rat?" It turns its head back and speaks in a scratchy voice, "I did."

Nathaniel puts a hand on her shoulder and she turns her head, "There's no one there, Emily." She looks back at where the shadow stood, "But...someone was here! They took the rat with them!" Sir Gold-Digger shivers, "Rats." Nathaniel raised an eyebrow, "What rat?"

Are they seriously playing this game?

She scoffs and turns away, "How'd you think we got out of the chamber?" He scratched his head and said, "Oh, you mean that rat Sir Gold-Digger flinched about?"

"Yes! We chased it out here!"

He shook his head, "Are you sure, I don't really recall chasing a rat?" She turns to him, "What game are you two playing? Why is it something strange happens with me and not you?!"

He put a hand over her mouth and looked up at the ceiling listening to the sounds of footsteps, "Someone's coming." Sir Gold-Digger points to a room, "This way!" He whispered. They hurried in.

A guard paces the hall, checking in each chamber. He stops at the last one with the slider open. He peeks in to find the prisoners missing and the rope gone. He pulls out a green gem and scans the room with a blue laser, "Clear!" The gem said in a robotic voice.

He goes to report back upstairs. A shield hits him in the face, making his head spin knocking him out. Sir Gold-Digger turns and gives them a thumbs up. She and Nathaniel nod back. They leave the room dressed in armour and equipped with a sword and shield.

They leave up the stairs. They stop to walk as guards came patrolling through the hall, "Are you sure this'll work?" She whispered, "Positive." He whispered back. The plan is to sneak passed the guards by blending in to find the King and reason with him before he decides to take their heads. She isn't certain of this, but Nathaniel appears to be. Sir Gold-Digger's their backup if anything doesn't go as planned.

It took her a minute thinking, "Nathaniel, I'm sorry I caused you trouble, too. I threw that slipper, and you got injured for it. I shouldn't have done so."

He put a hand on her shoulder, "You tried something when I didn't. I should've done something right then and there when I had a chance, but the Captain's right, my magic is weak." He looked down.

Her expression saddened, "At least you tried when you did. You stopped him from hurting me." He sighed, smiling a little, "Yes, I did."

She remembered the time back with the ogres, "Why didn't you try that, trapped in a bubble, thing?"

His smile faded, "It wouldn't have worked because I can only use it when...it's complicated." She nodded, "Ok."

They entered the throne room where the Captain stood by the King, "Where'd you think they hid away your staff and Sir Gold-Digger's sword?" She whispered.

"Somewhere safe, I presume, especially my staff since it holds power." He whispered back.

The Captain looks down at them in no way suspecting a thing. They walked downstairs, "It's this way." He turned left, "How do you know?" She asked. He opened the door, "I feel its energy."

They came to the weapons room, and behind it, a sealed door. This one didn't have a lock to open.

He felt around the door, "Well, there's no way of getting passed without knowing how to open it." He sighed, taking a step back, "Perhaps its password activated."

She took notice of a shape in the door, "No, there's a different key. It fits a star, you see?" He tilts his head and sees the shape next to the door, "Do we know who could have it?" She asked. He looks to her, "I can take a guess."

The Captain walked the halls carrying a star shape on a key-ring connected to a strap where his sword is sheathed. They were hiding behind a wall, "Ok, I'll distract him while you take the key." She said, and he nodded.

She sweeps in, "Excuse me Captain, it seems that-" a guard cuts in, panting, "The prisoners have escaped!" The Captain growled, "What!?" He hurried to see. Nathaniel used a small spell to easily take the key-ring, "Got it." He dangled the star.

They left back downstairs to the room. He put the star in and waited. The door wouldn't budge. Did they miss something?

She examined it, "Maybe you're supposed to turn it?" She gave it a try, but the lock wouldn't move either.

A dangling sound came from behind them, "Looking for something?" The Captain held the real key, "I always kept a decoy on my belt in case a prisoner attempted to steal it. Always think smart."

Before Nathaniel could pull out the rope from his magic pouch, the Captain tossed one out like a lasso around them.

At a clang, he passed out on the floor by being hit by a shield from behind, "This is great, you should try it!" Sir Gold-Digger said with cheer, "I never thought we'd be so happy to see you!" The little red X popped out from her armour and threw him the whistle.

As he blows on it, the rope drops free, "The star is on his belt. Get it!" Nathaniel said to Sir Gold-Digger. He walked back to fetch it. Nathaniel takes the rope into his magic pouch, which can fit anything no matter the size.

He opens his hands, "Pass it!" Sir Gold-Digger tosses it over as he catches it. He turns to stick it in. The door makes a clicking sound before it opens. He takes the gold sheathed sword and hands it to him.

When he gets to the staff, it's bound by the glowing rope, "Sir Gold-Digger, the whistle!" He blew into it and the rope dropped, letting the staff tip over. He caught it in time.

She kept watch out the door, seeing guards coming in from the right, "We got to go! There's about eight of them coming!" She said.

Sir Gold-Digger draws his sword, "Let them come!" Nathaniel puts a hand on his shoulder, "I appreciate your bravery at this very moment, but you won't be able to take them all down, would you?" He gave it some thought and said, "No."

She turns to him, "Can't you do anything?"

Nathaniel shakes his head, "There's not much I can do because the staff has been bound by the rope. Its regeneration will be slow, so there's only little I can do. But I can try to stop them in their tracks."

She nodded and said, "It's good enough."

He steps out and works up a spell. The guards drew out their swords, charging in. The crystal glows purple.

He shuts his eyes, and the glow extends, pushing into the guards. He turns his head to her and Sir Gold-Digger, "Go!" They run.

The crystal fades and the guards proceed now that the staff no power left to hold them back. She stops and looks back, he was taken down.

Before she could call out his name, Sir Gold-Digger took her by the hand. Her voice echoed, "No!" They turn, running in slow motion. They jump through large window in front of them.

Shatters of glass float in the air with them. The ground breaks in cracks of light, falling away as they drop in.

A technological sound beats in a glitch, their bodies flicker along with it as they reach inside the light. Everything fades.

~|~

Sounds and voices travel fast through her mind as all she sees are images sliding by in a blur. She wakes up with a gasp and a purple Raven meows in her face, "Gah!" She flustered. It flies away. She looks to the person pouring gooey green water on their face.

No it can't be...

Walking over for a closer look, it was him, "Nathaniel?" He looks over, "Oh, you're up." He got to his feet. She gave a puzzled expression, "What happened?"

He said, "We escaped the werewolves. They won't be getting us now that it's daylight." She blinked, "That's...uh..." She shook her head, "I mean...you, you were..." He waited for her to finish, and she sighed and said, "Never mind."

He turned and said, "Come on, we better get going." He passed through a wave in the environment, not how she remembered it.

He disappeared in an invisible portal of a sort. She passed through it as well and woke up in bed back in her bedroom.

Checking the mirror, something was off. Her reflection is a tad different than how she really looks. The dress she wore is sunny yellow in white lace.

She had a ribbon tied in the back of her head, wearing white stockings and Mary Jane shoes. All this was what she wore as a child when her mother died.

Someone peeked in the door, "Emily?" She looked to him. It was Nate at aged twelve, "Are you ok?" She said, "Yes." Her voice sounded different, sweeter.

She looked back at her reflection; she was a child, too. The same age she was when her mother passed away.

Looking back to Nate, he came up to hug her and cried. She hugged back. Their father showed up and said, "Everything may seem hard now, but I promise, it gets better."

She and her father spoke at the same time, "The pain doesn't last forever..." At a blink of an eye, her father and brother disappeared.

She looks back at her odd reflection, an adult again. Nate fixed up his tie, "Are you ready?" He said. She looks to him; the both of them were dressed in black. It was the day of their father's funereal.

She looks back at her reflection. He walks in, worried, "Emily, are you ok?" She sighed, fighting back the tears, "I cannot stay here feeling sorry for myself. I'm in a loop and hurts over and over. I try to escape it, but I just can't." She looks to him, "You're not really here. You're just a memory."

She pushes her hand through the mirror like putting her hand in water. Her body travels out from the mirror of water and morphs her way up to the surface. A large clock opens its jaws, sending her back to the World of Shapes.

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