“Wakey – wakey,” said the Witch Queen, opening the door to Camille’s cell. It had only been a few hours but the Witch Queen looked far frailer than she had during their first encounter. Her voice was achier and she needed to pause between sentences to gather her breath. “There’s no time to waste,” she said, racing her tongue against the clock.
“You look terrible,” said Camille.
“Not for long,” replied the Witch Queen, showing a toothless smile.
Meanwhile, 5-Year-Old Con and Lord Doodle Head were on the edge of the tunnel that led from Fiddlewood into Undercrest. A cold breeze blew briskly from the tunnel begging the two travelers to turn back, but they did not allow their momentary shutters to deter them and entered the tunnel with stark determination on their faces. They clawed their way through gripping the roots for support and trying to place their feet as best they could to avoid twisting an ankle on the winding roots. Suddenly, when they were half way through the tunnel, their world quite literally turned upside down. The rapid change flipped 5-Year-Old Con upside down onto his head, but Lord Doodle Head was not so fortunate. Just as the world flipped upside down his foot slid between overlapping roots, locking his leg in place, so unlike 5-Year-Old Con, who fell on his head, Lord Doodle Head was left dangling from what was now the top of the tunnel. His garden dress draped past his face and his flowery bonnet fell onto what was now the floor of the tunnel. He chaotically swiped at his robes to get them off his face, murmuring all sorts of nonsense, but gravity proved too resilient. “I’m stuck,” declared Lord Doodle Head, as he let his arms fall helplessly to the floor. 5-Year-Old Con looked up to see the great wizard dangling from the, and not much to his surprise, Lord Doodle Head was wearing floral patterned undergarments. He rubbed the bump on his head, but the sight of his brother’s underwear persisted. “What happened?”
“It seems we’re in Undercrest,” said Lord Doodle Head, though his dress.
“Undercrest – underbelly – underarm – underappreciated – underachievement – underbrush – undergarments – undercurrent – underdog,” recited 5-Year-Old Con, through a rapid, unprecedented train of thought.
“What are you doing?” asked Lord Doodle Head.
“Thinking of how we can get you out of this mess,” replied 5-Year-Old Con, before he continued to analyze the situation, “Underneath – underground – undo!”
“You’re making no sense, and that’s coming from a wizard,” said Lord Doodle Head.
“Just be ready to catch yourself,” said 5-Year-Old Con. He walked back towards Fiddlewood causing gravity to change once again. “Should have been ready for that,” he murmured, as he rubbed away a second bump crowning his cranium. Blinking, he looked at Lord Doodle Head, whose world was still upside down, and began to tug at the root that extended from Fiddlewood into Undercrest, which was currently locking Lord Doodle Head’s leg in place. The earth cracked as the root dislodged from the hard dirt then gave way all at once. 5-Year-Old Con walked back into the realm of Undercrest to join Lord Doodle Head on the tunnel floor. “Bumps always come in three!” By the time 5-Year-Old Con and Lord Doodle Head exited the tunnel the Witch Queen was already working her magic on Camille, warming her heart so she could charm her with the dark magic that would steal away her beauty and the love in her heart.
“I think it’s your smile” – pausing to catch her breath – “that has lived on” – breathing – “from one existence to the next,” said the Witch Queen, to Camille from across a stone table. “That’s the only explanation” – breathing – “as to why it is so intoxicating.” Breathing heavily, she continued, “And your long, brown hair” – breathing – “I can see why you” – breathing – “attracted” – breathing – “so many suitors.”
“A wig and dentures won’t make you beautiful again,” said Camille, without looking the Witch Queen in the eyes.
“And your lover’s eyes,” continued the Witch Queen, “your heart must be so much warmer from them.”
“You’ll always have the cold black heart of a hag,” said Camille.
“How dare you, you brat!” screamed the Witch Queen, before coughing to catch her breath. “Once I take” – breathing heavily – “the love in your heart and the secrets from your brain” – stopping to cough and catch her breath – “you will be no more than a trophy on my crown.” Despite her best efforts to warm Camille’s heart for the ritual it was obvious that no amount of charm would make Camille feel differently about the Witch Queen and her situation, so she decided to proceed with the ceremony while her heart remained indifferent. She shouted a spell that bound Camille to the stone chair she was sitting on, locking her arms to the armrest and forcing her into an upright position. “We’ll start with that delicious heart of yours,” said the Witch Queen, before murmuring a hex that sparked a bright green flame on the tip of her finger. The spell that would suck away Camille’s happiness and deliver her charm to the Witch Queen to reinvigorate her deteriorating body with youthfulness inched closer and closer. “You will be no more than a shriveled corpse,” hailed the Witch Queen, as she touched her spellbound finger to Camille’s heart. She raised her head gloriously as she waited for the surge of energy to transform her tired body, but Camille’s charm remained constant and the Witch Queen’s body continued to deteriorate. “Give me your heart,” coughed the Witch Queen, pressing her burning fingernail into Camille’s chest until it broke the skin. “What’s so funny?” demanded the Witch Queen, towering over Camille’s sudden laughter.
“You’re just too senile to realize,” she laughed.
“To realize what?” said the Witch Queen, as she pushed the green flame deeper into Camille’s chest.
“That my heart doesn’t belong to me anymore, and you can’t take from me what isn’t mine to give,” said Camille, through the burning pain.
Frustration forced the Witch Queen’s hand across Camille’s face before shouting a violent spell that shot a red orb into the ceiling. Rubble rained from above and Camille smiled at the moon.
“Then tell me: who does your heart belong to? I’d surely like to meet him,” said the Witch Queen, through exhausted breaths. “Playing the quiet game I see . . . No matter, there’s always one way to find out,” continued the Witch Queen, stepping behind Camille and putting both palms on her head. “I assure you this won’t be pleasant.”
5-Year-Old Con and Lord Doodle head passed through a side door and into the main chamber just as the Witch Queen learned that she could not access the charm in Camille’s heart. They hid behind a giant pillar that held up the calcified tangle or roots that made up the roof, just in time to watch her blow a hole through it.
“What do we do?”
“You mean how do we stop her,” said Lord Doodle Head.
“That’s exactly what I mean,” said 5-Year-Old Con.
“I think I know a way,” said Lord Doodle Head, pulling the white moustache out of his pocket and whispering to it before placing it above his lip.
The Witch Queen raised her hands in the air and sparked another spell that colored her hands a deep blue. Camille’s secrets, the very essence of her uniqueness, would be stolen from her mind. Not even the memory of 5-Year-Old Con would remain.
“There’s no need for that,” said the other lover, as he stepped out from behind the pillar and into view. “Her heart belongs to me, and mine to her.”
The Witch Queen turned to face 5-Year-Old Con to address him directly, “What a convenience you are.” Coughing to catch her breath, “Why don’t you join us at the dinner table?”
“Why don’t you join us at the dinner table,” repeated 5-Year-Old Con, in a mocking tone.
“Stop that,” demanded the Witch Queen.
“Stop that,” repeated 5-Year-Old Con, with over emphasized gestures.
“It would be wise not to test me, boy,” said the Witch Queen, pointing an angry finger at him.
“It would be wise not to test me,” mocked 5-Year-Old Con.
“Run, Con!” yelled Camille, desperately.
The Witch Queen snapped around and pinched Camille’s lips between her pale fingers, screaming, “Never talk over me,” before flicking her face away. She turned around to confront 5-Year-Old Con again, but was instead greeted by his supple, white butt shaking back and forth.
“Disgusting!” roared the Witch Queen. She cast a spell at 5-Year-Old Con intent on petrifying him where he stood, but he ducked under the hex and proceeded to shake his butt to Camille’s delight. Her heart warmed at the sight of his goofy defiance, radiating with love and amusement. The Witch Queen continued to cast spell after spell without hitting her target, and the more spells she cast the wearier she became until her back was hunched over and her bones showed through her frail skin.
While the Witch Queen was distracted with 5-Year-Old Con, Lord Doodle Head snuck up to the dinner table and casually greeted Camille, “Hello again, silly goose.”
“You?” whispered Camille.
“Afraid so . . . now hold still,” said Lord Doodle Head. He gnawed at the Witch Queen’s magical bindings, which were holding Camille in place, until he broke through and she was free.
5-Year-Old Con continued to dodge the Witch Queen’s spells with uncanny flexibility, as if there were no bones in his body and his spine was made of putty. “Seems like you need some glasses,” said 5-Year-Old Con, as another spell missed him.
The Witch Queen was heaving with exhaustion and could not muster the energy to cast another spell, so in her desperation she called out to her insect guards to do the job. They flooded into the chamber hall through doors, loose tiles in the floors, cracks in the granite, and so on until they had surrounded 5-Year-Old Con, and just as they grabbed hold of him the Witch Queen detected a change in the atmosphere; it was warmer, as if the heart of a flower had brightened. The insects threw 5-Year-Old Con to her feet and stood by for their next order, but she was no longer interested in him and instead turned to face Camille and finally steal the essence of her beauty.
She creaked her head around to face Camille, the green flame already burning on the tip of her finger, and smiled a toothless smile at her prey. “Give me your heart, my pretty,” she said to Camille, who was still sitting in the stone chair.
5-Year-Old Con dramatically cried out for her to stop, like he had when he was on the insects’ dinner menu, which only made the Witch Queen hasten her ritual. She touched the green flame to Camille’s chest and it crackled with red sparks as the spell took effect. The Witch Queen glared at Camille, satisfied to watch her beauty drain away into nothingness, but that is not what happened. Instead Camille’s beauty remained constant and the red sparks lost their luster and died out into grey bubbles. The Witch Queen grew dizzy and retracted her finger from Camille’s heart. Blinking, she looked at her hands, which were aging drastically, then to Camille who pulled away her cardigan to reveal the white moustache cleverly placed over her heart. Lord Doodle Head popped up from behind Camille’s chair with his hand mirror facing forward to force the Witch Queen to watch her body fade away.
She stumbled back and fell to her knees. She opened her mouth to utter one last spell but nothing came out. Her vigor was replaced with the white moustache’s, which shrunk her body into that of a weary old man. Her powers faded, her eyes sunk into her head, and her skin dried out to reveal the skeleton beneath. The insects began to shrink and the castle began to crumble in response to the Witch Queen’s decay, her magical powers having maintained them for so long.
Camille stood from the chair and looked down upon the Witch Queen, as rubble began to fall from the ceiling. “We’ve got to go,” said 5-Year-Old Con, running to her side. Without a word Camille removed the Witch Queen’s crown and pulled the orb of the fallen star from its roots then cast it aside where it was immediately crushed by a falling cement block. A large column dislodged from the ceiling and fell towards the three of them, but just narrowly missed. As the dust settled it became clear that there was no escaping the crumbling castle.
“I love you,” said Camille.
“I love you too,” said 5-Year-Old Con.
Sobbing dramatically, Lord Doodle Head pulled the white moustache off of Camille’s shirt and said, “I love you, Mr. Moustache.”
They accepted their fate, and closed their eyes to die in peace.
The moon, however, did not accept their fate. Instead it wrapped its gravitational pull around them and pulled them out of the opening in the ceiling until they were out of Undercrest and in space. When they opened their eyes they were floating with the stars, the Moon at their side, overlooking the joint hemispheres of Fiddlewood and Undercrest.
“Are we dead?” asked 5-Year-Old Con.
“Yes,” said Lord Doodle Head, as he grabbed at his flowery bonnet before it floated away.
“Nonsense – we’re not dead,” said Camille. “The Moon saved us.”
“This is bizarre – even for a wizard,” said Lord Doodle Head.
“This is everlasting existence,” said Camille.
“This is true love,” said 5-Year-Old Con, as he swam towards Camille to kiss her.
“Exactly,” said Camille.
The three of them swam around the Moon for some time, floating in space and enjoying the company of the stars and their savior.
“What do we do now?” asked Lord Doodle Head.
Answering for them the stars spelled out the words “Explore the Universe – Return to Fiddlewood.”
“What do you think, pretty lady,” asked 5-Year-Old Con.
“I miss my moustaches,” said Lord Doodle Head, having already made up his mind.
Camille grabbed 5-Year-Old Con by both hands and looked into his lover’s eyes, “The happiest I’ve ever been in my billions of years is with you in Fiddlewood. I love our shenanigans. For me, that’s everlasting existence.”
They lingered with the Moon playing with its clouds of smoke until the Sun set and the Moon appeared over Fiddlewood. Before they left, however, Camille placed the orb of the fallen star by the Moon’s side, so he could have a star to call his own; a partner to shine with; a friend to share in the beauty of the universe. Then the three of them gently descended back home under the loving glow of the Moon and the fallen star, and came to rest in an orchid field that overflowed with purples, maroons, yellows, greens, and oranges.
Lord Doodle Head returned to his moustaches after a well deserved hug from Camille and 5-Year-Old Con, leaving the two lovers to look out on Fiddlewood and dream of a life of shenanigans together.
“There’s no time to waste, my love,” said Camille, her hand in 5-Year-Old Con’s.
And with that Camille learned that she had asked the right question to the right person at the right time. That the life of a flower is about finding true love, and a life of true love with a goofball is the start to a tale of fantastically glorious nonsense. So waste time they did not and immediately set out to explore Fiddlewood as only two lovers could.