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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6. Stranger

Emily and Nathaniel managed to escape. How they escaped was beyond them. The guards searched the area, finding no trace of where they've gone to.

Sir Gold-Digger was taken into the commander's office. The two guards stood on either side of him as the Commander fitted his gloves, "A girl in armour, and the Mage, has gotten away. How did they manage to kill my megalodon, and break into the tower with many traps I set up, and still somehow managed to disappear without a trace!?" He said, clenching his fist.

He remained silent. The Commander looked to one of his men and gave them a nod. The guard pulled off the gold helmet where Sir Gold-Digger was facing the floor.

He smacked a fist into his right cheek, his head turned by the force of his punch. The Commander crouched as he said, "I know you know something, knight." He gripped onto his chin as he continued, "Tell me what it is! Who's the girl?!"

With another hit of the Commander's fist, Sir Gold-Digger spits blood and shakes his head. He still refused to talk. No matter what he would do to punish him? He fought hard to protect his friends at any cost.

Emily could see it all in her mind, the talk between them. Nathaniel had no clue, however. They walked through the halls of the palace with no guard in sight. It felt as if they've been walking for hours. How big is this place, really?

He looked down at her and said, "Maybe it's best if we split up."

She clenched her fist, "No. There's a chance you'll be captured. I don't want to go through all that again just to get to you. I'd rather you-" she paused and stepped back around the corner. A guard patrolled left and right in the next hall.

He peeked over. The guard stopped at the end and turned to march back. She sat up against the wall, how are they going to get passed without getting caught, again?

Her pouch moved around. She opened it to see the pocket mirror glowing green. As he watched the guard, he whispered down, "I think I have a plan to get us out of this."

As she didn't respond, he looked down at her. She was holding the mirror in her hands as he whispered again, "What are you doing?"

The upside-down head appeared in the reflection, "There is a way out of this one, if you look more closely. There is a quill beside a crown of gold." And just like that, the head faded away.

He slid down on one knee, "What's he talking about?"

She didn't know for sure either. Looking around the hall for clues, she whispered to herself, "A quill beside a crown of gold?"

She let out a sigh and held up the mirror to ask. He would at least hint out something. And when she took up the mirror in her hands again, she stopped.

The reflection seemed to have magnified. She couldn't see herself, but a painting of a man holding a quill. He was writing on a parchment.

Where is the crown of gold? This can't be it. She lowered the mirror and looked closely, like he said. There is something in the background next to the quill. It's hardly noticeable.

Taking up the mirror again, the reflection showed a flash of gold. It's the crown. Nathaniel whispered, "What now?"

A thought came to mind. She reached her hand in the painting. It blended in with the light and dark tones, becoming part of the picture. Everything around her flickered like candlelight. Her whole body entered the painting.

She looked back to see the hall outside the painting. Nathaniel joined with her. As they wandered through, the man had not moved. He remained still.

The ink dropped from his quill. He hadn't written a thing on the parchment. It was blank until the ink hit it.

Nathaniel put a hand on his shoulder, and then the man suddenly awoken like he's been in a trance the whole time, "Right! I'll get it done. Don't worry!" He said, already writing into the parchment.

Emily walked around on the opposite side, "Excuse me, sir?" She tapped him on the shoulder. He continued writing, "Yes, yes, hold on! I still have worked to do!"

She looked to Nathaniel and Nathaniel looked to her. What are they going to do to get his attention? Maybe he isn't what they're looking for, because the head said to look for a crown, right?

She looked to the back of the room, the gold crown still shined, sitting there on top of the mirror over the desk. She looked to Nathaniel and pointed down to the man and mouthed, 'Watch him.'

He gave a nod, as she left to claim the crown. The man dipped the quill in the inkwell and continued to write until he finished, "Done, and done!" He said, and then turned to Nathaniel, "I'm sorry, how you got into my chambers? I have not seen you before."

Nathaniel had to make up something, "I...I..." He couldn't think of what to say. The man just came to realise and said, "Oh! You must be my new assistant! I am deeply sorry." He shook his hand, "I am Master Kendrick!"

Nathaniel turned his eyes to Emily, waiting on her to hurry. She took the crown off the mirror, carefully not to make a sound.

Master Kendrick folded the parchment into an envelope and sealed it with wax, "I need you to take this to the King of Curiou." He handed it over to him as he said, "Can you do that for me?"

He took it and said, "Uh, sure-I mean, yes sir." He bowed his head. Master Kendrick clapped, "Splendid!"

Emily continued to look at the crown, she had to find something. She found a message engraved inside. The message was in random letters that didn't make up anything. It rearranged with different letters when she looked again.

Nathaniel was being shown the way out. Master Kendrick hurried him to leave his chambers to send that letter to the King.

She took the crown and went to sneak out the door as he sat back down at his desk. And then she stopped and looked back, Master Kendrick was with another blank parchment and the quill didn't move.

She looked around to see he still remained in his position like he had been before. The ink didn't drip this time. As he remained frozen, she carried on out the door.

Nathaniel had been standing outside waiting for her, "How long does it take to steal a crown?" He whispered. Emily held it out to him and said, "There's a message engraved, but I can't read it."

He took a look inside and looked to her, smiling as he asked, "Has anyone ever taught you how to read?"

He had to be joking. She took it back and looked again. The letters are still jumbled up. Why is it she can't read it and he can? He said, "It reads; carry me to the door where I'll be the key. It's in English, don't look so surprised."

She scoffed and said, "I am not." He took the crown from her hands and said, "According to the message, the crown is the key to getting us out of here, obviously. But the thing is what door does it speak of?" He wondered.

Emily had no clue. She walked away from the door and looked to the hall they were in. There is no other door. No other way of leaving than the way they came in. Nathaniel approached the chamber door, taking a close look at it.

He placed the crown into the circle and turned it. Emily heard clanging and looked back to see the door rumble and stop at the sound of steam. He took back the crown from the door and opened it.

She stood by his side to see the room had changed. Master Kendrick is gone but they saw the hall on the outside, it lead down to a door. They must've appeared in another painting.

Together, they reached their hand outside the painting. The candlelight flicker returned them back into the world. They hurried to get to the door.

Once they ran through the hall, the walls melted down. They stopped and looked, "What's going on!?" She said in panic.

The floor moved in a way that they fell and a vibration so loud that they covered their ears. The hall formed into a room.

They sat on the floor of white and blue checkers. Looking up to the never ending ceiling, tarot cards about their size were flying down.

They got to their feet. The cards shuffled in a deck and spread out along in front of her. He looked down and said, "You have to pick three."

She looked back to him and asked, "Why?"

"It will determine your fate."

Looking over the cards, she made a decision. She pointed, "That one." The card flew and the deck shuffled and spread again. She walked along and picked another. The desk shuffled one more time. She picked her final card.

The three cards she has chosen came up front, hovering off the ground. She asked, "What do I do now?"

He said, "Now you choose from left to right. The first card is your past, the middle card is your present, and the last card is your future."

She pointed to the first one and it flipped over as the Three of Swords, "It means that in your past you've felt heartbreak, grief, rejection, painful separation." He said.

She looked down. Her mother died and that caused her so much. But rejection isn't something she felt. Maybe it's her rejection on others. She doesn't know what the cards are supposed to mean. How is this helping her?

She chose the card in the middle. It flipped over to reveal Death upside-down. Again, he said, "In reverse it means that you are resistant to change, unable to move on."

Again, true. She couldn't move on from the past. It carried on inside her. She's afraid of what her future holds. Does she dare choose the last card?

Standing in front of the card, she did nothing. Nathaniel walked up behind her, "I know you're scared Emily." He said, "Who knows, the future may not be as bad as you think."

She closed her eyes; her blood ran as she touched the card. It flipped over. He said, "Open your eyes Emily." She couldn't. He took her by the hand and whispered, "Just look."

She sucked in her breath and opened her eyes. The card showed The Wheel of Fortune, "What does it mean?" She asked. He said, "Good luck, karma, life cycles, destiny, a turning point, nothing bad at all."

The cards flew away back to the ceiling. She turned to him. Soon they were back in the hall like nothing happened. He still held onto her hand.

She stepped away and said, "We are...back here?" She held her head. All these random trips are making her dizzy. He said, "We've been here the whole time. I held your hand because you were freaking out."

She took it back and looked to the door, "We have to keep going. Sir Gold-Digger needs us." The door wouldn't open, "Oh come on!" She kicked the door. There isn't even a keyhole.

Nathaniel tried, "Something may be blocking it from the other side. If we kick it enough, we may get through."

Together, they kicked at the door until they broke through. What was blocking it on the other side was a small bookcase. They crawled on top of it and jumped off.

As it turns out, they were in a large library full of books. Emily looked around, "I hope we are getting closer to finding him. It's a shame we don't have a map for inside the palace." She said.

This whole palace is a maze itself. There are many doors and many secret passages. It's impossible to know if they're getting close in finding Sir Gold-Digger. Nathaniel wasn't that far out of reach. Why would they hide him further? To make it more difficult so they'd be able to catch them?

She found a window and looked down. They're only three stories high off the ground. He looked around the statue on the desk and pulled back the head. A bookcase opened as a door. She walked over and said, "Another way through the palace unseen?" He nodded in response.

It was dark in the tunnel. He picked up a candleholder with four of the candles already lit. She went on ahead first as he followed up behind. The bookcase closed.

They came to a spiral of stairs going up. Upon entering the tower, they found Sir Gold-Digger. He was cuffed and chained against the wall. They stripped off his armour to torture him. He bled from cuts and bruises. He was pretty messed up.

Emily couldn't look. This is her fault. If she hadn't put them into trouble like this, they wouldn't have to go through so much pain.

Sir Gold-Digger protected them. He told the Commander nothing, and for that, they've beaten him almost to death.

Nathaniel looked under to see his face and said, "Sir Gold-Digger?" Only blood dripped from his lips, he didn't move his head but open his eyes and blink.

She had her back turned, covering her mouth. She was sickened by what they did to him, and cried. He turned his head, her shoulders shook.

He came up from behind and hugged. She sniffled in his arm. He pulled away and said, "You have to be strong for me. He's still alive. We can get him out of here."

She nodded, taking a breath to hold back the tears, "Ok." She sighed.

They pulled the nail out of the cuffs from his ankles and wrists, and unchained him. As he fell forward, they held onto him and put an arm over their shoulder.

As they go to escape back down stairs, the wall behind them clicked. Nathaniel froze and whispered, "Don't move." She lowered her head, keeping herself still.

Something big wandered the room with a thud of each step. It sniffed. As the monster came to view next to her, she saw the creature is blind. Its eyes were stitched but had a snout for sniffing. It has moss growing on its furry white skin, too.

The creature has three claws and six toes. The ears are long and sticks up like a bat. This big monster just looks like a mix of a troll and a vampire bat.

As the bat troll sniffed again, it growled. Nathaniel whispered, "On my signal." He looked to the stairs, "One...two..."

Emily tried to ready herself, but the bat troll threw a fit, "Now!" Nathaniel shouted. They ran. The bat troll charged down after them. They tripped and rolled to the bottom of the stairs.

The beast roared and screeched. Emily got up on her feet and pulled out her sword. Nathaniel rolled over and crawled to Sir Gold-Digger.

As she swung her sword, it cut into the creature's arm. Green blood oozed out and dripped onto the floor. Its acid burned a hole in it. Nathaniel carried him and called, "Come on!"

The beast screeched sonic sound. The waves forced her back off her feet. The sword flew out from her hand.

She crawled and took up the sword. The bat troll thumped over. She continued to slash at it. The acid blood dripped onto her armour as it stopped on top of her and screeched again. She could feel its sonic vibration shake the floor.

Its face came up close to hers with its drool dripping from its mouth. Its long tongue hung out to lick her face. As she was pinned down, she could not move her arms.

Nathaniel whistled from the tunnel. The creature stopped and looked. He whistled again. The beast left her to sniff around.

She rolled over. The bat troll stuck its head in the tunnel. She snuck over and stuck the sword into its side. The beast screeched and hit its head as more acid blood dripped on the floor. As the tunnel tumbled down, she backed away.

The creature collapsed with its head buried inside. After the dust cleared up, she hurried to the blocked entry and called, "Nathaniel!"

Sheathing her sword, she picked up one stone at a time until she could fit her body through. Dust filled the air but she didn't feel the need to cough. The beast had stone bricks fallen on its head. But the rest of the tunnel had not collapsed.

She called in the dark, "Nathaniel?" Coming out into view, a little pink orb floated. It circled her and then flew back through the tunnel and disappeared. She came to a staircase. It's strange because this wasn't part of the tunnel.

As pink light flickered ahead, she followed down the stairs until it was gone. She opened the door and stepped out into the ballroom of the palace. People danced.

Nathaniel and Sir Gold-Digger were dressed fancy like all the others. As she went to approach them she stopped and turned to the overly sized mirrors on the wall.

The armour she wore had disappeared with a ball gown in its place. It was white with gold flowery patterns. Her hair was pulled back into a bun with a thick braid over the top of her head. She wore white gloves which stopped at her elbows.

Turning back to Nathaniel and Sir Gold-Digger dancing along with a lady, she looked back again in hope this was just another hallucination.

And when she did, she saw the others in the background. The ladies and gentlemen were not what they seemed. In the mirror, they were decomposing.

Her blood rushed in fear. She looked back from the mirror to see that they were all fine. No one was dead. But looking again, they were in their reflection.

She had to take Nathaniel and Sir Gold-Digger out of here. This place isn't right. Holding the skirt of her dress, she hurried.

Tapping onto his shoulder, she said, "Nathaniel, we have-" as soon as he turned around, his face flaked away in grey dead skin. His eyes rolled back.

She backed up, crying, "No..."

Everyone else gathered around her, decomposing. She turned to the mirror and saw herself the same. Her face flaked away.

The lights flickered on and off. Her face was back to normal, but everyone else in the room had disappeared. She looked around and picked up her skirt. Running out from the ballroom, she saw she was back into the tunnel.

What are these tricks? Are they to confuse her, to make this mission harder? Or is it really in her head?

A hand gripped onto her shoulder and she jumped away startled. It was Nathaniel. He had Sir Gold-Digger with him. She sighed with relief, they're ok.

He said, "We better get going." She agreed. They walked back up the spiral stairs, since there's no way back out through the tunnel because the way to open the door is on the other side.

The wall where the bat troll came through was still opened. They entered that way and came to a stop. The Commander stood there with the guards, "I have waited for you." He said, "The girl in the armour."

The guards took a hold of them. As the Commander approached her, he took the helmet off her head and lifted a finger under her chin to look at her in the eyes.

He muttered, "It's you..."

She didn't quite understand what he meant, "You are the girl that roams this land, the one we caught, and you, somehow, manage to escape so easily." He said, "What power do you possess?"

Unable to answer because she doesn't know it herself, he lost patience, "Answer me!" He took his finger off her chin, "Right. If you won't, then I'll make you." He said, and nodded to the guards.

They brought Nathaniel over. He fitted his gloves and turned to him and said, "Last chance." She answered, "I don't know."

He smirked and pulled out his sword, "Let's try again. If you won't tell me, your friends here will be more than injured. It'll be blood on your hands."

Emily had enough loved ones die. But she doesn't know what he is even talking about, like the vampire who tried to hypnotise her. What is this power in which they speak of?

She's just a girl with hallucinations. There's nothing special about her.

He pointed the tip of his sword under Nathaniel's chin, "Tic-toc." He said. She bit at her lower lip and said, "I don't know what you mean! If you ought to punish anyone, do so to me!"

He walked back to her, holding the sword downward, "That's thing you see. I can't punish you. It's against my orders to harm you. The King asked of me to only hurt," he pointed the tip side by side as he continued, "those two."

She asked, "Why spare me?"

He said as he lined the blade along his finger, "He isn't sparing you, my dear. He wants you all to himself." He swung the blade under her chin, "He wants to put an end to you."

He smirked, "Here we thought you were a witch, but your power is far more different. It's something unexplainable." He looked to the guards, "Take this girl away. Leave me to have some fun with her friends." He said.

They dragged her out as she screamed and struggled, "No! Let me go!" She forced her body around to face the Commander, "You will not touch them!" She shouted.

He turned to her holding the blade as he said, "I think I might." He grinned, and then turned to Nathaniel and Sir Gold-Digger. He lowered the blade Nathaniel's throat.

The guards forced her out the door as she screamed, "Nathaniel! Sir Gold-Digger!"

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