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Chapter 20: Together

King Eli and the maid servant walked cautiously in the fog, anticipating the witch’s magic. Without knowing it, they were separated. It was as if they were each alone trekking through the heavy, seemingly endless, fog. The witch confused their senses and polluted their thoughts. If she wanted them to fail, her best option was to keep them apart. They could neither see nor hear the other. Calling out was of no use.

King Eli started hearing whispers,

“There is no Hope…” “Your Queen is dead…”

“Blood on your hands…”

The maid servant faced her own share of taunting,

“You have already failed…”

“Hope has failed you…” “You will die here, alone…”

The insults were accompanied by intimidating sounds such as multiple wings flapping endlessly all around as if attacking their heads, heavy huffs from a bull ready to gore them, and the sound of snakes. The witch’s magic was so crafty it gave them the sensation of snakes slithering up their legs the moment they heard them. They couldn’t see their own feet in the fog so the snakes were very real to them. In a panic, they each struck the ground with their swords over and over and did whatever they could to shake off the snakes they thought surrounded them.

The witch did not stop there. She forced them to see their biggest regrets and the shameful moments in their past projected within the fog all around. They saw the worst of themselves and the hurt they caused others. Their insecurities were teased and mocked.

Then suddenly, their hands were engulfed in flames before them. Both screamed in agony. They fell to their knees trying to put the fires out by slamming their hands on the ground.

“It is no use…”

“Only death awaits you…”

“Hope does not exist here…” “You cannot overcome with Hope…”

Although they were separated, they both had to endure the same kind of suffering. They knew this and drew strength from knowing they were in it together and, therefore, not alone.

Coming to this conviction, they stood up at the same time, hands still on fire, and in their own way overpowered their fear. They each defiantly spoke out against the witch in their own way, and made sure she understood she was wrong. It was not Hope giving them strength, nor was it Hope driving them to fight through their darkest moments, their deepest regrets. It was because of love they were there, for they knew nothing was more powerful than love. Only because of love were they willing to risk their lives. Hope may have helped them get there, but it would be love getting them through.

As they were talking, their voices began to slowly pierce through the fog so they were able to hear each other. The flames died down, the fog dissipated, and the pain subsided. There they stood, side by side, and they embraced in relief.

“Ah, the King and his servant here to die, here,” the old familiar voice said as the rest of the fog cleared to reveal their arrival.

A Mother’s Love

There she was. The witch was levitating behind a small fire with the beginning stages of a whirlwind rising from the flames. The Princess lay motionless, tied on top of a stone near the fire. She was half conscious, as if she was waking up from a deep sleep, not knowing if she was awake or still dreaming.

“Release her!” the King demanded.

“Now why would I do that, why?” the witch replied. “You may have found a way out of my fog, but your love has no affect on me.”

“My sword will have its affect on you!”

The King and maid servant charged forward, but they were no match for the witch’s power. Out of the whirlwind, lightning started shooting out all around the two which they deflected as best they could with their shields. Both were knocked to the ground by blasts of power and were quickly wrapped up in vines and roots as commanded by the witch. She laughed, as only she could. They were no match. Suddenly, one of the large stones nearby started shaking and cracked down on all sides. And there was a rock creature, standing on two legs, given life by the witch to smash her foes.

Elise, still in her daze, was unaware of what was happening. Her head was resting, turned to her right shoulder. Through tired eyes, she could see the blurred silhouette of a woman standing nearby. Time seemed to stand still for her, for this moment. Everything else slowed down. Elise questioned whether she had finally died and the woman was there to welcome her.

Eventually, her sight was restored and she could see the woman clearly. She was beautiful. The woman approached Elise and placed her hand on her. Feeling the woman’s touch, Elise knew immediately who the woman was. Her mother, the same woman from her dreams, was there. Her touch gave her peace and the same fleeting sensation she only felt with the woman in her dreams.

Queen Sarai looked into her daughter’s eyes, both now in tears, and with such kindness said,

“This is love, and you are loved.”

“I’ve dreamt about you,” Elise said.

“And I, you. You are more beautiful now than the first time I held you. And just like I knew then, you are strong, and so brave.”

“Am I going to die? I want to be with you.”

“Someday you will, but not today. There is darkness in the world and you must first be their light. But to do so, you must not hold on to the pain, the confusion. Any anger that lingers because of the life you have had to endure, you need to be willing to let it go.”

“I am willing,” the Princess replied.

Suddenly, the vines loosened and released their hold on Elise. The Princess had strength again and jumped off of the stone unbeknownst to the witch who was still fixated on the King and maid servant. Elise ignored the fight and made her way to the witch.

The witch, laughing as her rock creature was ready to kill the King, suddenly gasped in horror. She watched helplessly as her monster crumbled upon itself, the whirlwind in the fire dematerialized, and the King and maid servant were released from the roots and vines, no longer in danger. The witch’s power had been undone. She looked down to her left and saw Elise holding her cloak.

“Child, what have you done, what?” the witch cried out in terror.

“I forgive you.”

The witch fell to the ground in agony knowing she lost.

Both the King and maid servant stood in awe. Elise saw them and slowly approached, stopping ten feet from the King. Their eyes met for the first time and the King dropped to his knees, speechless. After eight years, he had thought of all the things he would tell her when this moment arrived. It was the moment he fought and nearly died for. Nothing could have prepared him for seeing her for the first time in so many years.

“Are you my father?” she asked.

The King was choked up, tears rolling down his cheeks. He couldn’t think of any words. All he could think of was how much she looked like her mother. It was a simple question requiring a simple answer. He nodded.

Elise, now crying too, was finally free. Eight years of torment, exhaustion, and sadness came out all at once and she ran to him for their first embrace.

“Oh, my sweet Elise,” he finally said.

King Eli didn’t need to understand what happened with the witch. He no longer needed the confrontation so he left her in her pitiful state. She was no longer a threat. They beat her. The maid servant stood by, giving them the moment eight years in the making; a family finally united.

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