Casper struggled to get the chest open. In it lay the only chance to get back to her world, her time. Oh, why had she made the dumb wish? And played into the faerie’s hand? She’d only wanted to visit a fairytale for a little while, not be stuck in one, her life on the line. She could hear the guards pounding on the stone floors of the palace, searching for her.
If the Queen found her—
Well Alice in Wonderland would have a better chance.
She could hear the royal bellow of the woman who was more a dragon in a human’s body. They were getting closer. And all the magic in the world wouldn’t save her if they caught her. Not that she herself possessed any magic—just the will not to die. She’d take back her wicked stepfather, her two step-brothers, if only to escape this fantasy.
The little mouse she’d made friends with when she let it free of its cage, scurried up the trunk and unlocked the key with its tail. She stroked its small body with her finger in appreciation and peered inside the wooden box. All the secrets of the kingdom were said to be in here. Surely there was one—
Her fingers closed around the hourglass just as the Queen turned down the hallway she crouched in.
Now, how to work this thing?
She shook it, turned it upside down, no use.
And then she saw it.
With its lilac-colored stones and inlaid gold.
It was a wish key, a key to unlock the doors.
She grasped it and rushed for the one in the wall beside her.
The Queen brought her staff down and the floor cracked before her.
One more step, two—
“Casper. Where the devil are you?” Her stepfather called from inside the bedroom she fought to get back to.
She screamed his name, pounded on the door, but he left the room to look for her elsewhere.
The Queen closed in.
She settled the key to the lock and turned it, praying all the while.
A hand wrapped around her throat, pulled her backward as the door back to freedom creaked open.
She fought to shake loose but the Queen held her firm.
A yellow gaze stared into her own.
“Too long you have escaped my clutches, rag girl. No more.” She spun to the guards. “Tonight we feast.”
But she had forgotten the Prince.
He burst out of the shadows and pierced the Queen’s side with his sword.
While she lay dying, her guards switched loyalty to him.
The Prince clutched Casper’s hand. “There’s something you should know before you leave.”
This is where it happened. He would announce his love for her.
“By degree of the faeries of the land, and myself as King, you are hereby pronounced Queen of the lands. To share the throne, to sustain the people, and to walk as a dragon among us, until the next rag girl shall arrive.”
I jerked free of him and ran for the door just as it barred entry to me.
The Prince laughed. “To step into a fairytale is to become part of the story forevermore. Until your death. Do not worry, another girl shall make a wish to come here. Until then, your body now shares the soul of a dragon, as well as the hunger for human flesh.” He pivoted to the guards. “Bring her the first meal.”
The mouse was brought forward, held by its pink tail. As it lowered before her, it changed into one of her step-brothers.
“See there, Casper, we’ll make it a family affair.”