“We should be safe here, at least for now. Let’s take a moment to regroup,” I panted, slowing to a stop. My companion came up to a stop beside me, nodding before she leaned against the wall and slid to the ground. I followed suit and we sat side by side, facing each other so we each faced a different end of the tunnel.
“Here, energy bar. You have your canteen?” she asked. I nodded, accepting the bar gratefully. We sat in silent for a moment, each contemplating our situation while we ate.
“We should be deep enough to be able to risk a small fire. Not magic, of course, but I brought matches.”
“A fire sounds wonderful. I can hardly see a thing.”
Silence descended again as I got the fire going. It was small, just large enough to cast light on the both of us. Her tired eyes met mine.
“We got rid of the horsemen, but until we take care of the house and the witch there is no way we are getting out of here,” she stated.
“If we can take out the witch, the house shouldn’t be a problem. We just have to take out the witch.”
“Oh, is that all?”
“So long as we stay out of the open and don’t try to leave the forest, we won’t attract the witch’s attention. That gives us time to plan.”
She cocked her head at me, eyes glinting mischievously. I felt the corner of my mouth twisting up.
“Have you found our way out of here?”
“Depends Gothel, how good is your rune work?”
It took longer than I had expected but after about an hour of searching, we finally found the house. It had started running the second we showed up and attacked the first horseman and, if the witch thought like I do, it had probably kept running all around the forest until after everything had gone quiet. That would certainly account for the large amount of gigantic chicken tracks everywhere. The sun had just risen when we launched our first attack. Now, it was about to set.
After finding the house my partner and I split off to circle the premise. I kept my bow at the ready, ever vigilant for any sign of the witch. Everything was silent aside from the sounds of nature and the occasional shifting of the giant chicken legs. I continued my circle, keeping to the edges without my eyes straying from the house. Everything went still and I didn’t even think.
I took off out of the forest towards the house and not a moment too soon.
A ball of fire engulfed the tree I was standing next to.
I continued, dodging projectiles until I came to one of the legs. Banking hard to the left I took cover behind it, trying to catch my breath.
I didn’t have very long.
I hit the ground and rolled, leaping to my feet as soon as I could, successfully avoiding the fleeing house and the following bolt of electricity.
I swerved around the nearest tree, drawing my bow and firing a few shots at the witch. The first one missed completely and the second bounced harmlessly off her flying mortar. She laughed and brandished her pestle, sending another bolt of something at me. I included a spell with my next arrow, and the two spells caused an explosion in midair.
I took advantage of the distraction to get to a new location and switch to my crossbow. It was smaller and more powerful. I fired a bolt and this time it got stuck in the mortar.
We need to take out the mortar and pestle if we want to get anywhere near this witch.
I knew of a way I could get up to her, but first I needed her eyes off of me…
Almost as if on cue the charge I planted on the opposite side of the clearing exploded. A series of projectiles began launching themselves at the witch, drawing her full attention. While she was distracted I loaded a special bolt into the crossbow and fired it. It created a sort of beam that I ran up, closing in on the witch. Right as I reached the edge of the mortar I could see that the witch was gone. There was a shuddering that went through the air and the flying mortar began to plummet as all the magic in the forest ceased working.
I launched myself off the mortar, pushing down on the edge so it would flip and land upside down. My cloak billowed out behind me, slowing my fall enough to where I wouldn’t hit the ground hard enough to shatter my legs. Once I hit, I rolled and stood up, reaching into my cloak for a weapon as I faced the witch. She was not very happy with me. In her hand was the pestle, which morphed and elongated into a quarterstaff. I drew mine as well and attacked.
We were evenly matched until I found an opening. I managed to tuck my staff under hers, leveraging my weight to wrench it from her grasp. As it flew away her hand shot out, the heel striking my wrist and catching me off guard. My staff joined hers on the ground a few feet away.
I snaked my hand under her arm, which was still outstretched, using the side of my arm to push it away so I could make a jab at her side. This went back and forth, neither of us able to land a blow until she backed me over a tree root. I lost my balance and had to duck under a high kick. I stabilized myself and swept my leg under hers. She jumped to avoid it and in that moment, I knew I had her.
I sprung up and before she could land I had my foot hooked around her leg, pulling it forward just as she landed. She went down…
My hand shot out and caught hers just before she could hit the ground. She smiled up at me and I helped her stand.
“How did you know the mortar wasn’t enchanted?” Baba Yaga asked.
“It was just a hunch, and when we tried to fly it earlier it didn’t work.”
“That still wouldn’t prove that it was run by my magic.”
“Yes, but even if it was enchanted the rune work Gothel set up to cancel out all of the magic did even the playing field.”
“I can’t believe that actually worked,” Gothel said, joining us. Once she had crossed into her circle the runes had stopped working.
“What would you have done if it the mortar had been enchanted? Then the runes wouldn’t have worked,” Yaga asked. There was a loud pop and the house reappeared, the chicken legs causing several woodland creatures to scurry off somewhere quieter.
“I always have a backup plan,” I replied, chuckling at the look of surprise on Baba Yaga’s face. The unmistakable sound of a clearing throat brought my attention to the fourth member of our party.
Maleficent watched us as we came to attention, her face perfectly stoic. I suddenly became even more nervous than I had been all day. This was it. I could feel Rapunzel fidgeting slightly beside me as we waited for her to speak.
“Your ceremony will be held at 7, please be in the main hall ready to go by no later than 6:30. There will be a celebration later. Tomorrow you will be in the Ranger Hall at 5 sharp to receive your first assignment,” she said.
“Yes, Grand Councilwoman,” we said, bowing low. The air shimmer and then she was gone, leaving just the three of us. I turned to face Baba Yaga, who was absolutely beaming.
“I am so proud of you. Both of you,” she said.
“What happens now? Will we be paired together or…?” Rapunzel’s voice trailed off, asking the question we were both wondering.
“I doubt it, but it is possible. Due to the range of your skills, you will likely be sent to different lands at first. Both of you will be finding out for certain in the morning.”
“But if you were to guess?” I prodded. She shot me a mischievous look.
“Based off of your abilities I would say that you, Gothel, will be working in Encantenlan reinforcing old runes, while Snow,” she put special emphasis on my name, “will be working in the Divided Lan with Councilwoman Aurora. You didn’t hear that from me.”
“The Grand Councilwoman’s daughter?” I asked incredulously.
“I believe it is time for us to head back. Shall we?” she asked, gesturing to the waterfall.
“You go on. I need to double check that I haven’t left anything.”
She nodded and vanished, leaving Rapunzel and I alone in the clearing.
“So, you’re taking a new name?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Snow White? I like it. Sounds like a fairy tale.”