“How long does this curse last?” Tafel asked as she poke Yella’s belly with her feather.
Yella stuck her tongue out. “Not telling,” she said as she crossed her arms. Rella and Bella stared at her.
“Three months?” Tafel asked. “I’m going to have a headache.” She sighed.
“Serves you right!” Bella said while pouting. She turned to Yella. “Your curse is terrible. You made her a mind reader.”
Yella laughed. “Don’t worry,” she said, “she’s a princess right? Everyone’s probably spouting nonsense praise for things she doesn’t deserve. Just wait til she hears what they really think.” Yella nodded. “I bet she’ll break down and cry.”
“Oh. That’s evil,” Rella said while covering her mouth with her hand. She grinned. “I like it. Too bad I can’t redo my curse. I should’ve made something better.” She sighed.
Tafel tickled her with the feather.
“No more, no more. Please,” Rella said as she wriggled on the bananerry bush. “I’m sorry!”
“Yeah, it’s too bad you can only curse me once,” Tafel said as she moved the feather faster.
“You and your stupid curse!” Rella shouted at Yella with tears streaming down her cheeks.
Vur yawned and stretched. “I’m running out of mana,” he said towards Tafel.
The fairies cheered. “Even freaks run out of mana, huh?” Bella said.
Tafel rummaged through her sweater and pulled out a bottle with blue liquid in it.
“Mana potion?” she asked as she offered it to Vur. The fairies wailed.
Vur shook his head. “Tastes bad,” he said.
“Yeah! It’s disgusting,” Bella said and clasped her hands together, “don’t drink it.”
“Maybe we should trap them in a cage…” Tafel muttered.
The fairies eyes grew wide. “You can’t do that!” Rella said as she tried to squirm away from the feather.
“We’re bad luck, you wouldn’t want us,” Bella said. Tears sprang to her eyes.
“Yeah,” Yella said and nodded, “we’ve met you twice now! That’s worse than getting struck by lightning seven times. Think of what’ll happen if you take us with you.”
Tafel frowned and her body shook. She stopped tickling Rella.
“I’m sorry,” she said and shifted her eyes away from the fairies. She faced Vur. “You should let them go.”
Vur nodded and his eyes stopped glowing. The fairies tilted their eyebrows and looked at each other. They shrugged and flew into the branches of a nearby tree.
“Why’d she let us go?” Bella asked as the trio stared at Tafel and Vur.
“It was probably my curse,” Yella said and nodded. Bella nudged her off the branch.
“Rude!” Yella said as she flit back up. “Don’t be jealous you couldn’t think of a better one.”
“Ssshh,” Rella said and put her finger to her lips, “they’re talking.”
Tafel sat next to Vur and held his arm. “Are demons evil?” she asked. She turned her head towards his face. “Am I evil?”
Vur tilted his head. “You’re not a bad person,” he said. Tafel squeezed his hand and leaned her head against his shoulder.
Tafel sniffed. “But demons imprisoned the fairy queen and took the fairies’ home away from them,” she said. “When I said ‘cage,’ they became so scared. I, I feel so bad for them.” Tafel’s eyes grew wet.
Vur frowned. Tafel shook her head. “They were terrified of me,” she said. “Their thoughts felt like mine after you left for a year. A lot worse than mine.” Her body shook and she buried her face into Vur’s shoulder.
“Wow,” Rella said and turned to Yella, “your curse really does work.”
Bella nodded. “I almost feel bad for her. You made a little girl cry.”
“Don’t look at me like that!” Yella said as she stared back at her two sisters. “You cursed her too!”
“Yeah, but our curses only annoy her.”
“Uh huh, your curse is going to destroy her mentally.”
Yella pouted. “Serves her right. You two seem to have forgotten she made us cry for two hours.”
“Monster,” Rella said. “She’s just a kid.”
“Heartless,” Bella said and nodded while crossing her arms.
Yella sighed and lowered her head. “Fine,” she said, “I’ll go apologize.” She flew down from the tree and hovered in front of Tafel’s face.
She reached forward and flicked Tafel’s forehead. “Stop moping,” Yella said. “It’s not your fault the demons took our home and trapped our mother. I definitely don’t blame you or anything.”
Tafel blinked her eyes and stared at Yella.
“What?” Yella asked. “If you really feel bad, then go and free our mother.”
“It’s just…” Tafel said, “really weird. Your mouth opens, but the wrong words come out and they’re out of sync.”
Yella puffed her chest out. “Of course,” she said, “I’m good at cursing.”
Tafel smiled and wiped her tears with her sleeves. She turned towards Vur.
“Want to make a trip to Niffle?” she asked.
“Imprisoning your allies. Is this really the approach you want to take?” Zollstock asked. He was in a cell with blue shackles binding his arms and legs. Black markings encircled his neck. There was a bed in the corner and a tray of food was left untouched on the floor. Mina was in the cell opposite of Zollstock. She sat on the bed eating her food, with her hands and legs unfettered.
“Orders are orders,” a voice said. “Personally, I don’t care what happens to you two, but the corrupted one told me to watch over you until she woke up.” Juliana sat outside the corridor of cells with her legs crossed and a book in her lap. Her skin was pale and tinted with green and her body was covered with leaves that merged with her skin. Her hair was brown with thorny green vines snaking through them.
“And why does a dryad follow the word of the undead?” Zollstock asked. “Aren’t your people diametrically opposed to them?
“That’s none of your business,” Juliana said and turned to the next page.
“So there’s no chance to convince you to let us go, huh?” he asked.
Juliana ignored him.
Zollstock sighed. “Mina,” he said and turned his head towards his wife.
She ignored him and bit into her sandwich.
“You know there’s no turning back from what you’ve done,” Zollstock said. “Free us and I can overlook this incident. What would your family think if they found out you assaulted the demon lord?” He smiled.
Mina paused for a moment before continuing to eat her food.
“Hm, no reaction, huh?” Zollstock said. “Ah, I wonder what Dustin would think.” Zollstock shook his head and sighed.
Mina glared at Zollstock and her horns glowed with a faint red light.
Zollstock smiled. “That’s right,” he said, “do your worst.”
Mina raised her hand and electricity crackled.
Juliana raised an eyebrow and looked into the corridor.
A burnt sandwich flew between the cells and hit Zollstock’s face. It slid off and left a streak of ash. Zollstock glared at Mina and she turned away.
“Why doesn’t she need to be bound?” Zollstock asked Juliana.
“She behaved,” Juliana said and shrugged.
“You call tha-“
“Curse: silence,” Juliana said and pointed a finger at Zollstock. A second ring of black runes encircled his neck. “You’re too noisy. It’s no wonder why you woke her up.” She continued to read her book.
Three hours later, Lindyss walked down the stairs and nodded at Juliana. Juliana closed her book and left the cellar.
Lindyss pulled the chair that Juliana was sitting on to the space in front of Mina and Zollstock’s cells. She looked at Zollstock’s ash covered face and turned around to face Mina.
“Explain,” she said.
“I threw a sandwich at him,” Mina said.
“You destroyed one of my buildings by throwing a sandwich at him?” Lindyss asked with her eyebrow raised.
Mina frowned. “I don’t think we’re talking about the same thing,” she said, “and you destroyed your own building.”
“No, I would never do something like that,” she said. “I do expect to be compensated for the repair costs.” She turned towards Zollstock and dispelled the curse on his neck.
“I invited you inside my kingdom to discuss peace. I let your men bathe, fed them, and sheltered them,” she said. “You repaid me by casting destructive magic inside closed quarters and destroyed my favorite dining room. What do you have to say for yourself?”
“She started it,” Zollstock said.
“What are you?” Lindyss asked. “A child?”
“He’s a freak,” Mina said and glared at Zollstock.
“Explain,” Lindyss said.
“You don’t get to be the demon lord by being stupid and nice,” Mina said. “He acts like an idiot, but he’s ruthless and cold blooded. He’ll sacrifice anything for strength.”
“But why bring your domestic disputes to my kingdom?” Lindyss asked.
“You’re the only person left who can help,” Mina said and lowered her eyes. “I admit I came here to take Tafel back, but you can take much better care of her than I ever could.”
“You could’ve let her come with us a long time ago,” Lindyss said and raised an eyebrow. “What changed?”
Mina smiled and turned her head away. “I saw her with Vur the other day and I realized it then. Do you know how many years it’s been since I’ve seen her smile?”
Lindyss snorted. “That’s really not my problem,” she said. Mina’s chest tightened.
“But I’ll take care of her,” Lindyss said, “if only for Vur.”
“Thank you,” Mina whispered and wiped her face with her blanket.
“As for you,” Lindyss said and turned around to face Zollstock, “pay up.” She stuck her hand out and motioned towards herself.
“You already stripped our entire army of its equipment,” Zollstock said as his face cramped, “isn’t that enough?”
“No, no,” Lindyss said and smiled, “that was just compensation for using our baths. You still have to pay for their room and board. And of course the cost of repairing damaged buildings.”