02 – The Sisters Three

The four young men look at each other and then back to the guards. William was reaching for his pocket-watch when Jakob shakes his head no. “You heard, father. No magic.”

“I did hear him plainly. But it seems we are in danger, and you mean to tell me we are going to just sit here while it approaches,” his irritation at his younger brother growled in his very rolling manner of speaking.

Jakob responds without hesitation, “I do. If they are looking for him specifically, they are not going to care about us.” Jakob learned at a young age that his father’s creations held to the very naive logic he had used to escape his captors in a place his father will only refer to as Lloegyr.

“Have you seen the storyteller?” The guard’s barking tone makes Hans jump and come close enough to falling off his stool that Wilhelm snorts his ale.

“Excuse me, good sir. But to which storyteller are you referring,” Jakob asks. His tone holds that austere, commanding ring of a person who neither jests, nor means to be ignored. “For, I believe the last time I looked, this is a room full of storytellers, should you fill the pint enough.”

The twinkle in his eye is enough to make Wilhelm snort his drink again. “Aye, and if you ask ol’ Hubbard she will tell ye e’ery man who pays her for her time has a sordid tale as to how he cannot take his progeny with him.”

There is a moment the guard looks at Wilhelm as if he is going to run him through with his shining rapier sheathed at his hip. The other gives him a tug and motions out of the bar.

“Let ‘em be. Just hooligans that are too drunk to know better. C’mon. I bet he went to the clock tower. The baker says he’s always there, trying something out of one his books. We’ll look for him there.” The angrier of the two guards stares for a long while at the four young men; all who provide their most innocent and charming faces. William’s eyes widen as he realizes there is a foggy gloss to his eyes, as if he could see, and not see, at the same time. That kind of magic is forbidden. The control of another’s body violates the laws of Nodd. No Noddian is a slave to another; his father vehemently denies this power and punishes anyone foolish enough to try it. Then the guards are gone again, leaving the four of them dumbfounded.

The clock chimes the sweet piping ring through the city, six chimes in all. It is about time for the sun to set and all the city’s inhabitants to find their way back to their homes. Though, the clouds of the impending storm block the sun from the sky. It is dark enough to require light. The twinkle of lanterns can be seen throughout. The street lanterns are being lit by the men on stilts. The shimmering buildings started to look like millions of stars mashed together. The Silver City never dulls. As if the entire sky disapproves of the existence of the sparkling city below, another clap of thunder can be heard. Boisterous and loud above head, causing people to peer upward. Another clap of thunder and the wind begins to howl. It cries the sound of a mournful woman whose soul is being torn apart.

In the heart of Silver City is a castle. Large and vast, it could easily be a city itself. A canal encircles it with the purest waters from the Neverland Seas. There are four bridges, one for each direction that leads to the castle. The walls glow with an opalescent sheen. Different from the city, but full of color and sparkling light. The ethereal power that holds this structure together, still awes the old man every time he sees it.

From a balcony hundreds of feet in the air, a young woman watches the sky in the West. Her green eyes are vibrant from the tears recently shed. Her unruly and untamed auburn hair rippling like a great banner behind her. Her skin is fair and flushed from the howling winds. To the unknowing soul, she looks frail and petite. Her features are delicate, innocent. To those that seek her virtues, she brings them new life. Hope, beginnings, happiness, peace, and most of all, love. Nimh, the name her father gave her, meaning maiden in Noddian tongue, stood quietly as if she could tame the coming storm with her very presence.

The youngest of the three, while hundreds of years old, is ever treated like a foolish child. Lowering her gaze a bit, fear is welling inside her. She has seen this storm before. It is how her garden came to be, a haven from the storm of her sister. Her sister conjured it in a fury over some petty slight. Nimh cannot even remember what slighted her sister. Even though her sister is the favored, beloved daughter who gave birth to an heir to the throne, she rages with a malevolence that not even the Grimms dare to rival her. Her sister would be crowned Empress of Nodd; why was she so full of fury?

“Do you really have to ask that question?” Titania gives Nimh a bemused look.

Looking inside the grand balcony doors, into a room filled with plush chaises, a harpsichord, intricate paintings, and every luxury a young woman could want when not allowed to hide among the peasants fills the space. Another woman, slightly older, but no less vibrant, chirps from her perch in the center of the room. Her eyes are a soft sapphire color, serene and warm, looking up with an ever-present smile at her youngest sister. Everything about her is pristine, refined. The epitome of grace and beauty with the wisdom and kindness age brings. Her voice has the soothing tone of a mother. Her tempered mind is keen and clever. She is the current deciding factor on wishes. Of course, she is wise enough to allow her sisters to decide with her; but her father specifically gave her the power to grant them. The ever-dutiful daughter, Titania, is watching Nimh with the schoolteacher’s reproachful gaze.

“Of course I do,” Nimh whines, sealed with a petulant look back into the room. “She has nothing to be furious about. Why can she not just be happy?”

“How was your dinner, last night?” The question appears to have nothing to do with why their sister would be furious. But she is smirking at her sister while she turns her gaze back down her to her embroidery. She knows full well that Nimh and the old storyteller have been spending many a night in Nimh’s garden. Whatever they have been doing, it has not been visible in the crystal balls, or through her father’s water mirrors. Their sister is a jealous beast, if not a powerful witch. Titania inhales slowly as the lightning flashes, then thunder claps loud enough to rattle the walls. Nimh is not capable of keeping a secret from her sisters. Which means the storyteller has been doing it. Not very appropriate for a man about to become the Emperor of Nodd. There is also a hint of bitterness in the posture. It was not so long ago that he whisked her off to fair Verona, and they counted the stars among the fairies there. Though she is positive, not a soul outside the two of them hold those memories.

“It was lovely!” Nimh, at first not getting the point of why she asked. “He talks of a place to the South of here. He wants to call it Oztrail. It lies beyond the Wonderland Empire and Aesopi Nation. There, they have all these wonderful marvels of metal and gears. Along with magic and flying monkeys!” Her enthusiasm bubbling up as her cheeks flush and she comes quickly to sit by her sister. Her clothing is much wilder and free moving than her sister’s elegant gown. “He held me so close and hummed to me. I have never felt that way before. His hands are a lot softer than they look. Did you know his eyes change colors?”

“Oh, Nimmy,” Titania sighs and pats her sister’s knee. “You are a fool. A lovely, naive fool. How would you react if your true love were spending time with your sister and not you?” While Titania is smiling and shaking her head, she has a foreboding knot in the pit of her stomach. She knew this day would come. The storyteller was too clever for Nimh, and not cautious enough for their sister. She pitied poor Nimh in this moment. “You should tell-,” A crack of lightning snaps across the sky close enough the ozone fills the scent of the room. The thunder roaring after. It causes Titania to drop her embroidery. “Fiddlesticks,” she mutters much to the gasp of Nimh who picks it up.

“Oh, this is so beautiful! Is this for the baby?” Nimh runs her fingers over the little drops of water and dragons on the cloth. The blues and silvers are as precious as any jewels the dwarves could mine.

“Tell me what,” hisses the woman who appears in the doorway. Her eyes are the darkest of starless nights and settle on Titania. Where Nimh is innocent and frail, Titania is regal and composed, the third sister is sinister, and wild. Her pale skin shadowed by the mess of loose ebony ringlets of hair that float and flare about her like ink in water. As she moves across the room, her gown makes the silky swishing sound of menaced promises. Before Titania can respond, Maab, settles herself on the other side of Nimh and pointedly twirls a lock of her auburn hair around her finger. The middle sister, in all her wildness, appears the eldest. When seen by the peasants, she is old, and decrepit. A cruel spell her father cast on them. He claimed it was for their protection. But Maab believes it is to keep them prisoner here until he decides their fate. If it were not for the storyteller, she likely would have become a crone before knowing true love’s kiss.

“Yes, dear sister,” her sickeningly sweet tone is anything but sincere, “Tell me why you felt the need to sleep with my true love and steal him from me.” Her fingers curl tighter on the locks of hair in her grasp; expecting Nimh to panic and attempt to bolt.

The rain begins to pour outside, in response to Nimh’s fear welling. Her entire body trembles and there is a humming noise in the air. Titania narrows her eyes and with a swift palm outward sends Maab flailing back from Nimh, releasing Nimh’s hair.

“You will not harm her, Maab,” she warns.

“Oh, and you, Fairy Queen, think you are powerful enough to stop me,” Maab snarls back.

“I am, and then some, you Toad Licker.” Titania hisses.

With that, both women are to their feet. Nimh following a few seconds behind and caught in the middle. The wind outside howls its way through the doors around the three women. This is normally the time when their father would intervene, but he has not been seen for weeks. Since the birth of his granddaughter, his daughters have been left to rule in his stead. His rules are strict, and he was adamant about how the world was to be run. They only know he traveled to the South.

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