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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2. The Mage

In a similar -- but completely different world, where the sky is pink and the grass is green for once, she followed yet another green brick road. The gates she approaches are locked shut, "It looks like I may have to find some other way."

She follows the road back to the nearby hedges, entering the archway to a house made of candy. With curiosity, she snaps off a piece, "Gingerbread?" She took a bite, "Mmm..." Amazed of how good it tastes, she continued to eat it. The door opens unexpectedly. She stops and wanders in.

She finds an old woman stirring a pot with her back to her, "You have such an unusual home." She said. The woman didn't even bother to respond. She tried again, "I need help with something, if that's all right with you?"

As she continued to stir the pot, she said, "Only if you can help me. I'm hungry...so hungry..." She turns, revealing a horrendous face, "You will do!" She reached out. Emily stumbles into a cage with the door closing down.

The old woman cackles like a witch, "You will eat, and eat, and eat!" She turned to the bench to cook up some sweets. She sat on the ground, and then her hand touched something. She screamed and jumped back, it was a purple rat.

As the old witch bakes, she remembers the pin and takes it from her dress pocket. She watches the witch to make sure she isn't looking. Hoping for it to work this time, she rattled it around until it popped open the lock. Again, she watches the witch, taking it easy.

She swipes the knife off the bench and walks up behind her. As she rolls the dough out, she holds the knife ready.

The witch sees her reflection in the pot, and then turns with a much more shocking appearance. She falls back, dropping the knife beside her. The witch takes a step, "I think I will eat you now!" She roared, taking a butcher knife.

Emily felt around her side for the knife and then took it by the handle. At the same time as the witch went to chop her, she swung the knife across her throat.

Dropping the butcher knife, her throat bled, choking on it, before she fell to the floor. Emily got to her feet, feeling a rush through her body from how close it came. The witch's body dispersed into black smoke, and a gold key hovered in her place.

Leaving unscathed, she watches the gingerbread house make a rumbling squeaky sound before it crumbled. She returns to the gates, and with a key, it's sure to unlock now. As soon as she takes off the lock, it returns back onto the gates again, "Hey!" She whined. Trying again, the lock returned just as it did before, "What!?"

From the other side, there was a young man dressed in a navy blue robe holding a staff tied on with a purple crystal. He chuckled, "You can't enter it that way."

She growled, "Then what way should I enter it?"

He dropped from the tree to approach the gate, "First of all, it's a trick lock. You have to recite the words before you try."

"Ok, what words then?"

He thought about it, "Try booger-snot." She raised an eyebrow of how ridiculous it sounded, but tried it anyway, "Booger-snot?" She turned the key. The lock still returned to the gates, "Oh! You fell for it!" He rolled on the ground, laughing.

She groaned, "I haven't got time for your jokes! Just tell me!" He took a minute to breathe before using the magic of his staff to make the lock disappear. Her expression turned blank as she said, "That's it?"

He nodded, "Yep."

"Then what was the key even for if I didn't need it?"

He looks to the key in her hand, "Oh, that? That's a skeleton key." She holds it up to find it actually is shaped like a skeleton.

As she pulled open the gate, he gave her a hand, "I got it." She said, but he took her by the hand anyway, "No you haven't." She looked to him, puzzled, "What?"

He points to the ground between them; a trench of black smoke from one end of the path to the other. She looks below, and purple tentacles reach out.

Pulling away in panic, she backs up onto the gate, "What is that!?" She yelled, wide eyed. He put a finger to his lips, "Shhh, don't scream." He whispered.

She blinked, "Why not? Is that thing, whatever it is, going to attack me!?" He shook his head, "Not if you're quiet. Come on, I got you." He reached for her hand.

She sucked up and reached for his. He pulled her across the trench carefully as her foot stepped over the other side.

The tentacles pulled back in and the trench sealed. She looked down at where it was and tapped her foot there, nothing happened, "Strange." She said.

Looking back, she paused; he had pulled the hood off his head. His brown hair stuck up in a mess. He looked back, "What?"

He looked exactly like her brother Nate, it's so weird. She blinked out of it, "Nothing. You just..." she paused, trying to find the right word, "I just..?" He waved for her to continue, but she just shrugged and said, "It's not important."

He bowed, "The name's Nathaniel, and you?" He looked up, she curtsied, "Emily." He shook her hand with a smile, "A pleasure to meet you, Emily."

They walked along the path for an hour, "It's getting dark." He said, looking across the dim red sky, "So what now?" She asked. He scans the environment and stops at a dreary castle up ahead, "This way!" He pointed.

They walked to the gates. Gargoyles sat on the pillars that surrounded the property. It looked as if they were watching with their beady little eyes, which made her feel uneasy.

He cleared his throat and said, "Well, uh...this nice...the décor." He rubbed his thumbs in circles on the handle of his staff with his eyes closed, humming.

She watched in curiosity, "What are you going to do?" He opened his eyes, "Uh...we could try..." he looks up springing an idea, "...flying over the gates?"

She looked up as well. With sharp points on the bars, there's no way anyone would be able to climb over this. The purple crystal glows with sparkles of dust swirling in motion by the wave of his staff.

Their feet rise off the ground. He so easily makes it over as she has trouble flying with her body only just floating in the air.

He points and laughs, she's kicking and pushing out her arms like she's swimming. She grunts, "You could at least help me!"

He flies over and takes her by the hand, "That is not how you fly." He turns her around, "You push like this." He gives an example, he holds his arms close to his body with his knees up and then pushes downwards, forcing his body to move ahead. She gives it a try, he nodded, "Good. Now try it over this." He flies over the gates.

She gives it a try, her dress rips on the sharp tips of the bars as she makes it across. He points to the tear in the lace, "Looks like you damaged it more." He said. She looked down and groaned, "Great..."

By the wave of his staff, they floated down. The surrounding dust covering their bodies, fade as their feet touch the ground.

As they walk toward the castle, the eyes of the gargoyles followed. She whispered, "Are they watching us?" He continued on straight ahead, "It's an illusion. It only looks like their eyes are following you."

They stop at the doors. Holding the door knocker in the shape of a gold crescent moon, he knocked. A sky blue raven lands on top of the nearest gargoyle and meows like a cat. She looks back and sees the bird continue to meow, "Strange..."

He looks back, "What is?" She raised an eyebrow, asking, "Can ravens...make animal noises?" He shrugged and said, "They're intelligent birds. They can mimic sound."

The door opened, "Good evening, we have been waiting for you." The butler stepped aside. They looked and then walked in, "You've been waiting for us?" She asked as the butler led the way, "Indeed we have." He gestured, "This way."

They walked through the halls. Nathaniel grew nervous; his thumbs circled the staff again. She put a hand on his shoulder and whispered, "Nate-uh-thaniel, are you all right?" He blinked, "Yes, but...did you just mess up my name?" The butler cut in, "We're here."

He creaks open the door, there was such much light and life inside this very room compared to the entirety of the castle that just appeared dead cold, dusty and old. Everyone danced freely, high-classed ladies and gentlemen.

As they walked in, everyone stared. Nathaniel tugged at his collar, "It appears I'm too overdressed." She looks down at herself; she was too underdressed and worn. The dress has been through enough already, especially her crazed up nest of hair.

The man sitting on the throne with his leg over the armrest, waves his hand, "You two, up here." Everyone made a path for them. As they walked stop at the throne, he looked down at her and pointed, "You, turn." She looked to Nathaniel, and then back to him, turning around just as he said, "Yes...you'll do nicely."

He looks to both of them, "A Mage and a pretty strange girl, makes it over my gates. The party has only just begun." He grinned with his eyes of gold. Everyone else grew fur, growling. They backed up, "We just arrived in a party of...of..." He gulped.

Shifting with claws and sharp teeth, they howled by the full moon outside the window. They made a run for it, "This is the last we're trusting creepy castles!" He panted. She looks to him, "So now what genius!?"

The butler stands in the way, "You know it is rude to leave without saying goodbye." He said. He grew twice his size with fur bursting out, "This way!" Nathaniel pulls her by the arm.

They head upstairs to a random room. He uses the magic of his staff to block the door, "Out the window!" He said, zapping the glass to create a hole.

She stepped over and looked below, "No way, we won't make that jump!" He shoves her out, "Yes we will!" He jumped out after her.

She screams and rolls down the hill. He floats down and then turns to the window, using magic to seal the hole and create a shield.

The door thumps and breaks open. They stop at the window, one of them crashes into it, flying back by a zap of purple lightning off the shielded window. The lead werewolf looks out, the Mage disappeared downhill.

~|~

A raven meowed in her waking face, "Ah!" She flailed and the bird flew away. Holding the back of her head, she groaned, "Whoa, what happened?"

He washed his face in the gooey green river, "We were almost eaten alive by werewolves." He reminded. She blinked, "Oh yeah..."

Standing with his staff by his side, he pulled the hood back over his head, "Well, we better get going then."

She got to her feet, "Wait, why are we travelling together? You only needed to unlock the gates for me."

He looked to her and said, "After observing how you handle things, you won't survive long on your own." He's got a point. She would've fallen in the trench of tentacles, and might have been eaten by werewolves if she took that route.

They walked on, "You have magic, and you didn't even bother to use it against them?" She said, pointing at his staff.

He lowered his head, "Magic has its limits. Besides, I wouldn't have been able to take them all down at once." She looked down, "Sorry..." He gave a half smile and said, "It's fine."

Upon entering a village with giant colourful mushrooms growing over little houses, they came to a stop. The green brick road spiraled in the centre. Looking around at the deserted village, she asked, "Are we the only ones here?" He peeked through the round crooked windows, "I assume so."

Something's not right here...

She wandered the site, seeking a trace of anything that may be a clue to their whereabouts. Where he went looking also, he found a ripped piece of black and grey plaid stuck on a thorn in a green rose bush. Taking it off, he waved it and called, "I found something!"

She examined the piece of clothing and asked, "Do you think something happened here?" He shrugged, "Maybe, but we don't know what. Not unless we look further into this."

She looks over the rose bush, only the woods surrounded the place. She took a guess, "Maybe they were chased out by some wild animal? What if-what if the werewolves got them?"

Her theory may just be possible, "You could be right, but if you're wrong?" He asked, she walked around the bush, "We'll just see what took them, no matter if I'm right or not."

He followed, "All right, but just be careful where you step. There are some traps around here." She stopped, wide eyed, "Traps?" He pointed and said, "Yeah, like that one." A plant snapped its jaws right near her feet. She jumped back, "Gah!"

He chuckled, "Relax, that's only a baby. It's the mother you need to worry about." He walked on as she quivered, "The-the-the-the mother?"

He waved, "Come on, don't worry. I'll make sure you don't step on any. And the mother won't hurt you as long as you keep still. Not many know that."

Scanning the ground, making sure if there were any in her way, she froze at a much larger shadow, "Emily, don't move!" He said, and she gulped.

The giant plant had many teeth like that of a shark, where tentacle-like petals whipped around its mouth, with thousands of eyes.

It looked back at the frozen girl as it made clicking sounds. Its petals wrapped around her waist. Her heart thumped heavy, "Stay calm." He said, "Just stay calm." He takes up his staff, and the crystal glows bright. He blasts it at the mother plant.

The petals pull away as it wails in pain. Turning to him, the plant's many eyes frown. It whips its tentacles, disarming him. His staff rolls away out of reach, and then the tentacles wrap around him next. As he's being pulled into its mouth, she hurries for his staff. Its eyes turn on her.

Taking a leap forward, she grabs the staff before the tentacle whipped around her leg and dragged her up. As she hung upside-down, she held up the staff and blasted. The purple glow zapped inside its mouth, and then the plant exploded.

They drop out of the air with a thud, Oof! She fell facedown. He, amazed and shocked, looked back at the yellow goo oozing out of the roots, "You...you destroyed it..."

Turning to where he was looking, she asked, "Is it bad of me to?" He shook his head, "No, you did the right thing. Just wish that I could've handled it better, but it seems I have failed to do so. These things are dangerous, yes, but they can be tamed."

He dusted himself off, "Well now that's over." She looked down, realising she still had the staff, "Sorry." She gives it back to him, and he smiles, "There's nothing to be sorry for. You did what you had to." He sighed, grasping it in both hands, "Time to move on, I suppose."

They left deep into the woods, and the further they went, the more trees there were. It seemed to go on forever. She halts at a tree, "What are these?" She pointed to the blue triangle shapes painted on the yellow bark.

He took a close look, "Well, these triangles are making a circle with each corner touching, and the paint is quite fresh."

"No, what does it mean?"

"Oh! Uh...it means, turn the other way because we don't like strangers."

She raised an eyebrow, "Does it really mean that?" He scratched his head, "Well I know for a fact that these people don't strangers around."

A whirling sound came from the tree. She stepped away, "Ok, what's that?" The triangles shift open. He gasped and stood in the way. Arrows shot out of the holes. With the wave of his staff, he created a purple transparent shield to deflect them.

More triangles higher and lower in other trees fired arrows in their direction, he waved his staff to form a bubble. After the arrows stopped shooting, he looked around to be sure there aren't any more surprises.

Heart thumping from almost getting shot, she said, "Why didn't you tell me this happens!?" He looked around, and said, "I didn't think you'd trigger their trap."

"Didn't think!?"

He shushed her, "Don't yell, there may be more that's sound activated." Spotting a figure disappear behind a tree ahead, he took up his staff, "Stay behind me."

As they drew closer, she stopped. That squeaking sound! She turned to find the mouse with the scroll, scurry away. She forgot all about it!

Running to catch it, she stopped at large bare feet and looked up. Someone much larger than her, caught the mouse in their grasp. She backed up nervously, "Uh..." The large man spoke, "Mouse mine now!" He said in a deep voice. Nathaniel stood between them with his staff ready, "Stay back, ogre!"

The ogre snarled, "Just who are you to tell me!?" The mouse in his big hand squirmed, "What's this we have 'ere?" He snatched the scroll and examined it.

With great concern of him revealing it, she couldn't just stand there and let him. She pushed passed, "It's a very important scroll, and I'm sure you're a nice ogre. I'd really appreciate it if you can hand it over."

He just laughed, snorting like a pig as he did so, "Really?" Just as he pinched the ribbon ready about to pull it off, he was zapped by purple light. His body shocked into the air where he floated. The mouse was out from his grasp, as well as the scroll.

She was such relief that Nathaniel had stopped him, "Go on. Take it." He said, she looked to the scroll in the purple electrical bubble. Her hand eased in, grasping it at long last. Just as she pulled it out, the ogre growled.

As he continues to hold the staff to keep him trapped inside, he said, "There are people missing from a village not far from here. You don't happen to know anything about it, would you?"

The ogre shook his head, "I know not of anything, I swear! We never disturb the peace of another's land!" Stepping out from the trees, ogres gathered up behind them. He turned his head, and then the ogre glaring down at him, growled.

They were surrounded. He released the ogre and turned the staff on them, guarding Emily. One of them asked, "Are you all right?" The ogre he trapped tried to regain his strength as he nodded in response.

The one standing in their way, pounded his fist in his hand, "It's time we teach you two a lesson." He zapped him with his staff. The orb hit his belly and he chuckled, "Is that all you've got?"

The ogre charged in. He traps him into a bubble and flies him over their heads where he crashed into a tree. The others charged in at once.

He swung his staff as he said, "Get down!" She ducked. Purple electrical light zips across, trapping all the ogres inside a bubble. They struggled growling in a fit of rage that their pale grey skin turned red.

The one ogre that crashed into a tree got up and charged over. She saw him coming, "Nathaniel!"

He released them all and zapped up, the tree he crashed into, twisted from the strike in half, and then fell on top of him. The others were getting to their feet.

He took her by the hand, "Time to go!" They ran. More trees opened, firing arrows in their direction. One hit into his leg, and he cried out in agony.

He stopped for a minute. She couldn't let him die right there as more arrows were flying. Hurrying to his reach, she took his staff and held it up high, creating a bubble to shield them.

He looked up at her and said, "It's not going to hold for long. Arrows are just going to keep flying at us in this pit. Not like...like..." He grew weak that he couldn't continue. She has to think of something before they're both dead.

Maybe she can close them off somehow, but has to be fast enough not to get hit. Looking down at him, she said, "I'm dropping the shield. I'm going to try something."

He rested on his back with his forehead sweating, "You're going to get yourself killed..."

She shook her head, "It's not like we'll get out of this alive anyway if we don't try." And with that, as he watched with weak eyes, she closed hers. The shield sucked back inside the crystal.

She fired the staff at the closest tree, and the triangles closed up. Bringing the shield up again to block the arrows, she continued to bring it down to fire at the other trees. She continued to do so until there were none left to stop.

Panting in exhaustion, she dropped to her knees. His skin was paler than normal. She snapped the end of the arrow and pulled up his pants to see the damage. Of course there was blood, but there were bright green veins running through the wound, "Venom...they use from...woodland snakes..." He coughed.

She asked, "How can I heal this, do I use your staff, or..?" He shook his head, "Herbs...they...look like...starfish..." He coughed again. He's getting weaker, and if she doesn't stop this soon, he'll die.

He pulled out a pouch, "Here...take this...find...find...mermaids...the pond..." He turned his head. She looked to the pond over where he looked. Hurrying to it, she looked below, "What do I do with this?" She looked in the pouch, "Shells?"

He groaned, "Throw one in!" She nodded, "Ok." Taking a shell, she did what he asked. Bubbles rose from under the water, popping to the surface.

A mermaid rose from the pond, "I need your help," she began, looking back at him, "he's..." the mermaid looked to him and then back at her before diving back under water.

He sighed, and she waited. The mermaid returned, handing over blue seaweed. It was wrapped, holding something inside.

She opened it up to find the herbs and said, "Thank you." The mermaid smiled a bit and then disappeared back under water.

Keeping his leg still, he pushed himself to sit, "Give it here..." He said, she handed him the herbs. He shoved them into his mouth and chewed before resting again, "That is so much better..."

The leg healed as the green veins faded. He pulled out the arrow with a grunt, and then the wound disappeared. Surprised, she said, "I had no idea it could do that."

He was finally able to walk again, "Only mermaids and mages like me know." He said as he got up on his feet, taking a breath, "You just saved my life, and risked your own to close off those arrows. You're braver than anyone I know, and for that I thank you."

She smiled, and then stopped, "I'm not really that brave, but...you're welcome." He shook his head, "No, you are, even if you don't think so yourself. No one would ever do what you just did."

She gave a sad expression, "Not even you?" He shook his head again, "I wouldn't have thought to do that, even if I did, I'd decide against it and find another way to get us both out of harm's way."

They looked to the trees at the sound of thumping, "The ogres are still coming." He said, "We better start moving now." Taking the staff back, he smiled, "You're becoming quite the Mage yourself, you know that?" She never thought it that way.

The times she used the staff when he couldn't, she didn't know how it worked, but she just did it. It comes naturally to her as playing the piano. As a child, she never was taught how play, but inside, she knew. Her parents thought of her as simply gifted in music.

As they walked after a mile of running, he asked, "So that very important scroll, what is for?" She pulled it out from her dress pocket, "Well...a talking mirror needs it. He warned me to never read it aloud."

He pushed a branch back to get through, "A talking mirror, you say? Like the one above the clouds?" The branch nearly whipped her in the face if she didn't duck, "Yes." He took a different turn this time, "I know a quicker way to get there. Follow me."

She sighed, "I have been following you, all this time, and wherever we go, it leads to danger." He stopped and said, "I never intended for those things to happen. Not every place is safe, but that doesn't mean there is no safe place."

They continued on until they reached a much larger tree. Its eyes opened, "Great...another riddle." She muttered, he cleared his throat, "Great tree, may you let us pass through!?"

It shook its branches, calling in a deep voice, "Password!?"

He called back, "Password!"

The tree opened its mouth wide, and he walked on ahead, "Come on." She followed him in, uncertain. The mouth closed from behind. They stood in darkness. The floor dropped, and their feet fell through.

They landed up the ceiling, and back down in loops to the floor. Sitting on a checkered floor of green and yellow, they rubbed their heads, "What a ride." He said, she looked to him and asked, "Where do we go now?"

The blue door with a curvy body, opened. They looked over to see someone stand in the warm yellow light.

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