Battle may never end, for there chaos thrives;
And only in chaos can we live our lives.

After Snow takes the Assassin's curse, she leaves to rebuild the Four Kingdoms. But she finds the Beast impossible to control and will do anything to get rid of it and spare her kingdom carnage. Enter Rumplestiltskin, one of seven equally enigmatic and long-named dwarves. Their requirement for breaking the curse? Snow must live with them for a year. She leaves a serving girl in her place, who must lie to--and fall for--an unwitting Huntsman.

But curses can never be broken. Evil can never be killed. And Snow can never stop fighting.


15. Chapter 4

Rumplestiltskin hadn't been lying when he told me that magic was more complicated than I had assumed. My only experiences with magic had been that of Malif's doing. Her sleeping curse, which I had never fully rectified, and her spells that hounded me constantly. 

"But there's so much more," Tandemore promised me when I told him I only knew of a few curses and spells. "There are seven types of magic. Well... eight, but that's extremely complicated." 

We were outside, standing in the grass while a sharp sea wind bit at our skin. Tandemore leaned over a worn patch of ground where the grass was gone, leaving only a patch of mud. He drew three circles, then one larger circle surrounded by dashes. 

"This is our symbol for alchemy," he said. "Oklaflay, in the old language. This magic is created by the careful mixture of nonmagical things." 

"Like a witch's potion." My mind flashed to the tales of Baba Yaga. 

"That would be one form," said Tandemore with a nod. "Oklaflay's opposite would be Crospaltine, as we call it. Crospaltine focuses on... charms, you might say." 

Beside the symbol for Alchemy, Tandemore made another circle with dashes around it. "These items are already magical, passing the properties to someone or something in its proximity," Tandemore said. 

"And every type of magic has an opposite?" I asked. 

Tandemore nodded. "Positive or negative, push or pull, give or take. In this case, Oklaflay is the positive, Crospaltine the negative. One creates new magic, one gives it away. Their relationship is different from other opposites. They require one another for either's magic to work, but that is more complex." 

He sketched three more symbols. One was a circle, one a starburst, and one a dashed circle. 

"Curse," he said. "As you call it, or Rumplestiltskin, as we do. A semi-permanent spell is the best explanation. Never truly broken." 

I ignored the feelings of panic that the sentence caused. 

"If it's the positive, then its negative would be..." I thought back to the conversation inside the cottage. "Necromancy. Talminage." I could recall the purple dwarf. 

Tandemore nodded, smiling. He sketched a new string of symbols into the mud. It was a dashed circle, a plain circle, and then a starburst. "Necromancy, or Talminage, is taking the magic out of something, leaving it plain, to use the magic elsewhere." 

Tandemore looked up at me. "Relocating, so to speak. It is the best bet for removing your curse," he added. "Once you know how the original curse was cast, you can know how to relocate it." 

I shook my head. "This curse must go away permanently. I will be it's last holder." 

He nodded, almost grimly. 

"And the next part?" I asked, clearing away the mud for more symbols. 

Tandemore drew a circle, then a dashed circle, connected with a dashed string. "Bandeleck. You would call it a spell. A temporary infliction of magic. It requires concentration, knowledge. But as soon as it is uncast, the magic redirects itself back to the caster, unlike with a curse. With curses, the person loses more magic each time." 

"The negative?" I asked. Tandemore drew the opposite of the spell symbol, with a plain line connected the dashed circle to the normal circle. 

"You might call it a hex, but we say Tandemore. My own gift. It is like a spell, temporarily numbing the effects of magic. But like Bandeleck, we have a wider range of abilities to make up for it's temporality. I can numb the effects of almost any magic for a short period of time, but the magic will return to that thing soon." 

"Those are the three simple pairs," I said. "What are the seventh and eighth types of magic?" 

Tandemore grew sober as he wiped the mud smooth. "The most ancient magic. Raw, but powerful. Conjuration, or as we say, Grimdelwaller, is the positive. Grim can create magic." 

"Isn't' that what Oklaflay does? Or any of the other positive?" 

Tandemore shook his head. "no, no. They cannel the magic already created according to their gifts. Magic itself, the source, is an art all its own." He drew a simple starburst in the mud. 

Beside it, I drew the circle. "Then the negative must destroy magic." 

Tandemore seemed pale, though I wanted to blame the cold sea-wind. 

"Banishment, as irony would have it. Dedenfell could destroy magic. He and Grim kept balance, cleaned our messes when we got in over our beards. But Dedenfell wanted power, and decimation can only bring so much. He had us, particularly Bandeleck, help him in creation. But... well, it is not my story alone to tell. Suffice to say that Dedenfell was, in the end, banished himself." 

I looked at Tandemore. "He could utterly destroy magic. The very root of any charm or spell-" But the dwarf interrupted me. 

"Or curse. But Dedenfell would not help us, and you can trust him less than one of Rumple's famed deals. No, we must find a different path to tame your beast." 

I grimaced. I should have known such a thing was too good. 

"What will Rumplestiltskin try to do, then?" 

Tandemore gave a low, easy laugh. "Rumplestiltskin will not do much. He brings the customers, and one of us helps them." 

I was surprised. "It isn't him in all those tales?" 

Tandemore shook his head. "Oklaflay spun that gold. Rumplestiltskin tried to put a curse on the wheel, but it would only spit out hay." 

"And did you truly take the miller's daughter's first child/" I asked. 

Tandemore shrugged. "She would have been at terrible mother." With that, the dwarf went back into the cottage, blue robes trailing in the mud. 

"Wait!" I called, suddenly curious. "What happened to the baby?" Tandemore turned, surprised. 

"The girl? She left for the Red Kingdom. We haven't heard from her since. But she was always Rumplestiltskin's little girl. She was determined to learn curses, even though she was far better suited for Bandeleck's trade." He sighed. "We wanted her to stay, but ever since Bandeleck was foolish enough to tell her how she came here, she became obsessed with becoming Red royalty like her mother." 

I looked down at the grass. Malif was Rumplestiltskin's doing. An entire life of hell, of war and struggle and death and curses... it was because of a greedy miller's daughter, a crafty dwarf, and an obsessed little girl. 

The information could have no true effect on my life. Malif was dead, and only her legacy and broken hearts remained. 

Sobered at the thoughts, I followed Tandemore into the cottage. But the cold bitterness oft the sea remained, pricking at my ears and eating at my stomach. 

For all their collectedness and serenity, the dwarves never seemed to be still. They were moving and mixing and reading well into the night. I noted I had been up for longer than there were hours int he day, and I was still dressed in a ball gown and jewels. I wanted nothing more than a ed and perhaps supper. 

Even the voices appeared to be tired, describing the dwarves' hurried movements languidly, never stretching their descriptions past the lower room of the house. Perhaps magic was to blame, but I was too tired to contemplate it. 

Deciding against supper, I curled up in one of the chairs beside the stove, drawing up my considerable amount of skirts as a covering and pillow. To the rhythmic sound of the dwarves' work, I fell asleep into the never-silent dreams of the Beast. 


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