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Mabel's Fables


JCM
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For those of you who haven't read it yet, this is my Gravity Falls fanfic.

Chapter 1

It was another slow day at the Mystery Shack. Wendy had gone home early, so Stan left Soos, Dipper, and Mabel to watch over the gift shop. Dipper sat behind the counter, flicking through an issue of Wacky News in boredom, while Mabel played with a Magic 8-ball she found.

“Grunkle Stan told us not to touch anything, Mabel,” said Dipper.

“I just want to ask the Magic 8-ball a question,” said Mabel.

Dipper rolled his eyes. “Fine, but don’t blame me when you get in trouble.”

“Will Dipper ever loosen up?” Mabel asked the ball.

Mabel turned the ball around and looked through its tiny window as the answer revealed itself to her.

“Don’t count on it,” she read aloud.

Mabel giggled and put the magic 8-ball back where she got it, next to a stack of books, one of which caught her eye as she was returning the ball.

“Look at this! Fairy Tales and Other Stories for Children!” said Mabel.

Soos, who was sweeping up the floors, perked up at the sound of the book’s title.

“My grandma reads those to me all the time!” exclaimed Soos.

Dipper and Mabel looked at Soos with confused expressions.

“I mean used to. Used to read them to me,” corrected Soos, who then went back to sweeping the floors.

Mabel grabbed the book and blew the dust off of its back cover.

“Little Red Riding Hood? Hansel and Gretel? Snow White? These are some of my favorite stories!” gushed Mabel. “I can’t wait to read it!”

“Yeah, yeah, read your fairy tales. Meanwhile, I’ll be reading something intellectually stimulating,” said Dipper, reading a tabloid with the headline: “I Married a Unicorn”.

Mabel opened the book and put her finger on the first page. “Once upon a time…”

Suddenly, Mabel, Dipper, and Soos were in the forest.

“What the…” Dipper, who had been sitting, fell onto his back.

“Wow! We’re in the story!” said Mabel.

“Can you get us out of the story?” said Dipper, standing now and brushing dirt off his back.

“I don’t know how.”

“Wait, I’ve got an idea,” said Soos. “If we play out the fairy tale, we should be able to go home once we’re finished.”

“How are we supposed to play out the fairy tale?” asked Dipper. “I don’t see a wolf around.”

“Uh, Dipper…” Mabel pointed to patches of fur on the back of Dipper’s hands.

“What?” Dipper saw the patches and screamed. “No! This is not happening! This is not happening!”

A few seconds later, Dipper’s entire body was covered with fur.

“This is happening,” he sighed.

“I guess that means I’m the lumberjack,” said Soos. “See you guys later!”

Soos hurried off. Mabel noticed a basket of food in her hands, and Dipper, smelling it, licked his lips.

“Hey, Mabel, would you mind sharing some of that with me?” asked Dipper. “I’m starving.”

“Oh no, I can’t! It’s for my grandma!” said Mabel, winking before she ran off into the forest.

Dipper growled. He tried to chase Mabel, but his feet got too big for his shoes, making him trip.

“Stupid wolf feet!” said Dipper, who tried to pull his shoes off, but when he couldn’t, he used his sharp teeth to do it instead.

By the time he got both of his shoes off, Mabel was out of sight. Dipper wandered through the forest, occasionally putting a berry in his mouth and spitting it out due to the sour taste. When he could hardly bear his hunger anymore, he noticed a bunny hopping along. Without even thinking, Dipper lunged at the bunny and ate it whole.

“Hey! I saw him first!” said a voice behind Dipper.

Dipper turned around to find a bigger wolf with bigger teeth and bigger, yellow eyes looking down at him. Dipper tried to run, but the wolf grabbed him by the tail.

“Not so fast,” said the wolf. “I didn’t know there were others like me in this forest.”

“I’m not from here,” said Dipper.

“You aren’t?” The wolf raised an eyebrow.

“No, my stupid sister brought me here. Listen, I didn’t mean to go after your prey. I was just really hungry. Please let me go. I won’t do it again.”

“Of course. Anything for my fellow canine.”

The wolf let go of Dipper’s tail, and Dipper ran away as fast as he could. When he finally stopped, he noticed a log cabin in the distance.

“That must be grandma’s house,” he said. “Meaning it must be where Mabel is!”

Dipper ran to the cabin and pounded on its door. The old woman who lived in the cabin peeked at Dipper through a pair of logs.

“Let me in!” shouted Dipper.

“Not by the hair on my chinny chin chin!” said the woman.

“What?”

“You heard me!”

“If you don’t let me in, I’ll huff, and I’ll puff!”

Dipper took a deep breath and then blew at the cabin, causing it to collapse.

“Oh, no!” said Dipper. “What have I done? I killed grandma!”


Meanwhile, Mabel was skipping through the forest as a group of birds dropped a red riding hood over her.

“Thanks, guys!” she said.

As Mabel reached the end of the forest, she spotted what was left of the cabin, and she hurried to it.

“Grandma? Are you okay?” she asked.

Dipper popped out of the wreckage wearing the old woman’s clothes.

“Yes, dear! Nothing to see here!” said Dipper.

Mabel smiled. “Grandma! What big ears you have!”

“The better to hear you with, my child.”

“But what big eyes you have!”

“The better to see you with.”

“What big hands you have!”

“The better to hug you with.”

“And what a big mouth you have!”

“The better to eat your goodies with!”

Dipper jumped out of the woman’s clothes and grabbed Mabel’s basket with his big hands.

“I’m glad you’re getting the hang of this, Dipper!” said Mabel, taking her basket back.

“Gimme the basket!” said Dipper, pulling it his way.

“Sorry! Can’t do that!”

”I’m not fooling around!”

As Dipper and Mabel tugged the basket back and forth, Soos showed up wearing a lumberjack costume and holding an axe.

“Hey, dudes. Like the getup?” said Soos.

“Tell Mabel to let go of this thing!” said Dipper.

“You two shouldn’t be fighting,” said Soos.

Soos raised his axe and used it to cut the basket in two, spilling its contents on the ground.

“There. Now you can share it,” said Soos.

Before Dipper or Mabel could pick anything up, ants covered the food and left it as nothing but crumbs.

“Aww,” said Dipper.


A man in a large castle watched Dipper, Mabel, and Soos through a crystal ball. The wolf from earlier walked up beside the man.

“Sir, we have visitors,” said the wolf.

“I know,” said the man, rubbing the wolf’s head. “I know.”

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"“Yeah, yeah, read your fairy tales. Meanwhile, I’ll be reading something intellectually stimulating,” said Dipper, reading a tabloid with the headline: “I Married a Unicorn”. "

Ha ha ha, this was pretty good. You did a great job capturing the show's way of storytelling and sense of humor.

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Chapter 2

Mabel and Dipper were back in the middle of the forest. Dipper was no longer a wolf, and he and Mabel were now wearing German clothing.

“What the heck happened?” asked Dipper.

“We must have finished the first story. Ooh, you look good in lederhosen, Dipper!” teased Mabel.

Dipper clenched his fists. “Let’s just get this over with.”

“Alright, alright. Since I assume we’re Hansel and Gretel now, we just need to find the house made out of candy.”

“If we’re Hansel and Gretel, who’s Soos?”

“I’m not sure.”

Mabel looked around.

“I’m not even sure where Soos is,” she added.


Soos was walking through another part of the forest, looking for Dipper and Mabel.

“Dudes? Dudes, where are you?” shouted Soos.

Soos’ stomach rumbled, then he smelled freshly baked cookies not too far away.

“I don’t think they’ll mind if I stop for a little snack,” reasoned Soos.

Soos followed the scent to a house that was built from gingerbread with cakes all around it. He noticed that the windows were actually clear sugar. His mouth began to water.

“Oh, man! I can’t wait to show Mabel and Dipper this place!” said Soos.

The gingerbread house’s door opened, and a gingerbread man ran out.

“Run, run, run as fast as you can!” said the gingerbread man. “You can’t catch me! I’m th-“

Soos grabbed the gingerbread man and bit its head off.

“Oh, the humanity!” cried the gingerbread man as Soos threw the rest of it into his mouth.

“Yum. Just like granny makes them,” said Soos.

Soos walked into the gingerbread home and saw a woman stirring boiling water in a pot with a broom.

“Hi, ma’am,” said Soos. “Don’t want to intrude, but I just wanted to let you know that one of your cookies ran away.”

“That’s okay. There’s more,” said the woman, turning around. “My, my, my. You’re a very plump boy, aren’t you?”

“That’s a weird thing to say to somebody,” said Soos.

“You stay right there,” said the woman. “I have plenty more treats to fill you up.”

My brain’s telling me to go, but my stomach’s telling me to stay, thought Soos.

The woman took a platter of gingerbread cookies out of her oven.

Sorry, brain, thought Soos.


Mabel and Dipper reached the spot where they had heard Soos’ shouting.

“I’m pretty sure it came from here,” said Dipper.

“Hey, do you smell gingerbread?” asked Mabel.

“Yeah, I do,” said Dipper.

Mabel and Dipper followed the smell to the gingerbread house.

“There’s the candy house I was talking about!” exclaimed Mabel.

“Oh, no! Soos!” cried Dipper.

Mabel and Dipper ran into the house to find Soos in the woman’s pot of boiling water. Soos’ stomach was bloated, and he looked sick.

“I shouldn’t have eaten all those cookies,” mumbled Soos.

“Don’t worry, Soos! We’ll get you out of there!” said Dipper.

“Will you?” said the woman, who was now behind him.

Dipper screamed. “Stay back, witch!”

“You say ‘witch’ like it’s a bad thing,” said the witch. “Not all of us eat our fellow humans. Just I do.”

“Wait, you eat people? That’s messed up,” said Soos.

“Not only does she eat people, she’s about to eat you! Get out of there!” cried Dipper.

“You got it,” said Soos.

Soos tried to pull himself out of the pot, but he was stuck.

“There…might be a problem,” said Soos.

“You’re not getting out of here that easily!” cackled the witch as she used magic to bar the door with candy canes and wrap licorice around Mabel and Dipper.

“I can’t move!” said Mabel.

“Me neither!” said Dipper.

“I’ll eat you two after I’m done cooking him,” said the witch. “Oh, poo! I forgot my spices! You three stay right where you are! Not like you have a choice!”

The witch cackled again and left the gingerbread home.

“What do we do? What do we do?” panicked Dipper. “I’m too young to get eaten by a witch!”

“It’ll be fine. Just let me think,” said Mabel.

“This water actually feels really good,” said Soos. “Kind of like a hot bath that’s slowly killing me.”

“I’ve got it!” said Mabel. “This rope is made of licorice, right?”

“Right,” said Dipper.

“So all we have to do to free ourselves is eat through it!”

“But I hate licorice.”

“Do you want to get eaten?”

Dipper sighed. “I guess not.”
Mabel and Dipper chewed through the licorice that bound them, and once they were free, they pulled Soos out of the pot of boiling water.

“Thanks, dudes. I was starting to get clammy in there,” said Soos.

“Let’s get out of here,” said Dipper.

“Way ahead of you,” said Soos as he jumped through the window and landed hard on the ground outside. “Ow.”

Mabel and Dipper walked through the door.

“I really don’t know what to do with you sometimes,” said Dipper.

Soos chewed on a piece of the broken sugar window. “Totally worth it.” 

Mabel, Dipper, and Soos walked away from the gingerbread house. Soos noticed a hole in his shirt.

“Oh, no! I must have caught it in the window!” said Soos, putting a finger in his shirt through the hole.

“Be glad all you lost was a piece of your shirt,” said Dipper.

“Do you think she’ll come after us?” asked Soos.

“How will she know where to find us? We’ll be long gone by the time she gets home,” said Dipper.


The witch got to her gingerbread house several minutes after Mabel, Dipper, and Soos left it.

“No!” she screamed. “Now I’ll have to go hungry once again!”

“Perhaps not,” said a voice behind her.

The witch turned around and saw that the voice belonged to the Big Bad Wolf.

“What do you want?” growled the witch.

“The boss would like to speak to you,” said the wolf.

“Tell your ‘boss’ I’m not in the mood.”

“What if I told you I could you find one of your runaway snacks?”

The witch raised an eyebrow. “I’m listening.”

The wolf coughed up a piece of paper.

“On this sheet is a locator spell,” said the wolf. “All you need to perform it is something that belonged to whomever you’re looking for, like a trinket or an article of clothing.”

The witch noticed a piece of Soos’ shirt hanging from the window.

“An article of clothing, hmm?” said the witch.

The witch grabbed the piece of shirt and threw it into her pot of boiling water. She picked up the paper the wolf coughed up and read off of it. The water in the pot began to glow.

“What do I do now?” asked the witch.

“Take the garment back out,” said the wolf.

The witch did that, and the water in the pot stopped glowing.

“The brighter it is, the closer you are to him,” explained the wolf. “The dimmer it is, the farther you are. I hope you’re in the mood to talk to the king now.”

The witch smiled. “You bet I am.”

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Chapter 3

Mabel was in the middle of the forest again, this time alone.

"Dipper? Soos?" she cried out.

A dark figure appeared and raised an ax. Mabel turned around and screamed.

"Hey, hey! It's just me, Soos," said Soos.

Mabel breathed a sigh of relief.

"I think they made me the huntsman in this story," said Soos.

"Which must mean I'm Snow White!" said Mabel with excitement.

Mabel and Soos heard whistling in the distance.

"I wonder what that could be," said Mabel.

"You go find out. I have to find a heart to bring the queen," said Soos.

A squirrel passed by. Soos followed it.

"Hey, squirrel, mind loaning me your heart?" asked Soos. "It'll only hurt for a second."

The squirrel sped up.

"Alright, be that way," said Soos.


Mabel followed the sound of whistling to a group of dwarves. Despite his attempts to hide his face, she immediately spotted Dipper in the group.

"Hey, Dipper! You finally found a role that suits you!" teased Mabel.

"As if I wasn't insecure enough about my height," muttered Dipper.

"This is so great! Snow White is my favorite story!" said Mabel.

"Then you'll know exactly what to do to get us out of this stupid book," said Dipper.

"Which dwarf are you, anyway?" asked Mabel. "Let me guess: Grumpy?"

"I'm not talking to you."

"Nailed it!"

A dwarf with a beard climbed onto a large rock.

"All right! We have finished counting our haul, and we have reached today's quota!" said the dwarf.

The dwarves (minus Dipper) cheered.

"Are you Doc?" asked Mabel.

"Yeah, I am. Who are you?" asked Doc.

"I'm Snow White, stepdaughter of the evil queen!" Mabel replied.

The dwarves that weren't Dipper gasped.

"W-what do you want with us?" asked Doc.

"The queen wants to kill me, and I need a place to hide from her," said Mabel.

"You can stay with us!" said Doc. "Are the rest of you okay with that?"

"I sure am!" said Happy.

"I guess so," said Dipper.

"A-choo!" said Sneezy.

"What are we talking about?" asked Dopey.

Sleepy was asleep.

"I'll just assume everybody's for it," said Doc.

Mabel followed the seven dwarves to their cottage, where they set up a place for her to sleep.

"While you're here, you might as well have something to do," said Doc. "How about you gather berries for us while we're out working?"

"I can do that!" said Mabel.

"Hooray! More free time!" said Happy.

"Can I gather berries, too?" asked Dipper.

"No," said Doc.

The dwarves began to chatter after that, but then they heard a knock on the door and fell silent.

"Little dwarves, little dwarves, let me come in!" said a voice from outside.

"Little dwarves?" repeated Dipper. "Isn't that a bit redundant?"

Doc shushed him. "Don't you know who that is?"

"That voice does sound a little familiar," said Dipper.

Bashful let the owner of the voice in, and it was none other than the Big Bad Wolf.

"It can't be," whispered Dipper.

"Have you seen that wolf before?" asked Mabel.

"I'll tell you about it later," said Dipper.

The wolf looked at Dipper and Mabel and smirked. Doc brought him a bag of jewels, and he counted the jewels carefully.

"It's been wonderful doing business with you," said the wolf.

"You're just going to give him all the jewels you worked for and get nothing in return?" asked Mabel.

"I'm giving them their lives in return," said the wolf before departing.

"That's a nasty old wolf!" said Mabel.

"Be quiet! He could hear you!" said Doc.

"Why are you so afraid of him?" asked Mabel.

"There used to be eight of us," said Happy with an uncharacteristic frown.

Nobody else said anything. That night, Mabel and Dipper laid awake as the other dwarves slept.

"You think they know we're gone by now at the Mystery Shack?" asked Dipper.

"I hope not," said Mabel. "I don't want gruncle and Wendy to worry about us."

"I'm starting to worry about us."

"Why?"

"The way that wolf looked at us...I don't know, I feel like something bad's about to happen."

"It's just a dumb wolf. Don't worry. If we focus on finishing all the fairy tales, we'll be fine."

"What if we don't finish all the fairy tales? Could we be stuck here forever?"

"Don't think like that, Dipper! We've gotten out of bigger pickles than this. We just need to stick together."

"I hope you're right."


It was morning now. The dwarves had gone to work, and Mabel was looking for berries in the forest. While she rummaged through a bush, an old woman in a cloak approached her.

"I couldn't help but notice you working so hard, so I wanted to give you something for a little more energy," said the woman.

The woman revealed a shiny red apple from her cloak, and Mabel felt hypnotized looking at it.

"Thank you, miss. I really appreciate it," said Mabel, taking the apple.

The woman nodded and disappeared. Mabel stared at the apple for a long time.

"Here goes nothing," she finally said.

Mabel prepared to bite into the apple, but then an arrow knocked it out of her hand and pinned it to a tree. She turned around and saw a young man, probably two or three years older than her, holding the bow the arrow came from.

"Who are you?" inquired Mabel.

The man raised an eyebrow in confusion. "You don't know? I'm Charming."

"That you are."

"No, like Prince Charming. How do you not recognize me? Wait, I know. The queen's curse. It caused you to lose your memory, didn't it?"

Mabel, who didn't know how to respond, simply said, "Yep!"

"That explains why you nearly fell for her trick again. Don't worry, Snow White. Even if you don't know who you are, I still know you're the woman I love."

Mabel looked at the apple pinned to the tree, then she looked at Charming's dark green eyes and decided it wouldn't hurt if she played along.

"If that's true, then I'd like to get to know myself," she said with a smile.


The man in the large castle watched Mabel and Prince Charming in his crystal ball disapprovingly. The old woman from before walked in and transformed into a younger, prettier version of herself.

"That ball is such a waste of glass. Magic mirrors are where it's at," said the woman.

"Do you see this?" said the man. "Your 'stepdaughter' didn't do what she was supposed to do."

"Oh, her generation is so unpredictable. Will we have to try again now?"

"Of course, but this time we'll some extra motivation."

The Big Bag Wolf walked into the castle with the bag of jewels in his mouth.

"My accessories!" said the woman with delight.

The wolf spit the bag out and bowed his head. "King. Queen."

The queen flinched as she grabbed the bag. "I wish it wasn't always covered in wolf slobber. Still, you're not the worst pet we've had. Remember that dragon?"

The king laughed. "Oh, yes. A bag of jewels wouldn't have survived a trip in his mouth."

The queen took the bag with her to her room as the wolf crawled onto the king's lap and watched the crystal ball with him as he ran his fingers through the wolf's fur.

"We're not done with you yet, Mabel. Not by a long shot," the king said with a smile.

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Here's a doubleheader for y'all.

Chapter 4

Mabel and Prince Charming sat by a river in the middle of the forest with their feet in the water. They had been with each other for most of the day.

“What are you thinking about?” wondered Prince Charming aloud.

“Just life,” said Mabel.

“Ah, yes,” said Prince Charming. “Did I ever tell you about how you and I met?”

“Only twenty times now,” said Mabel, laughing.

“Make that twenty one times,” said Prince Charming, throwing a rock into the river.

It was three years earlier. Charming, a 12-year-old prince from a neighboring kingdom, was attending a ball celebrating the marriage of King Phillip and his new wife Evelyn. At the ball was Phillip’s daughter, Snow White, a 10-year-old girl with black hair and pale skin. Even at that young age, her beauty radiated around her, attracting the attention of many young princes and the hatred of all the other princesses. This led to her living a lonely life, as she wasn’t interested in any of the boys that tried to court her; at least, she wasn’t until Charming walked into her palace.

“May I have this dance?” asked Charming.

“No, you may not,” said Snow White.

Charming laughed. “What’s the point of going to a ball if you aren’t going to dance?”

“Not that it’s any of your business, but I really don’t want to be here. My dad just married a woman I hate, and now he expects me to smile and dance and act happy. Well, I’m not happy. I’m not happy, okay?”

“Family problems. I get it. My kingdom’s been at war since I was born, so my dad and older brother are never home, and my mom, well, she’s never been quite the same since my oldest brother died in the conflict five years ago. Always holed up in her room. I don’t feel like I have a family anymore.”

After a minute or two, Snow White asked him, “When will you have to enlist?”

“As soon as I turn 13, six months from now. I’m actually looking forward to it. It’ll give me something to do at least.”

“Aren’t you afraid of dying?”

“Nah. We all have to die eventually, and I figure if I’m going out, it might as well be for my kingdom.”

Snow White looked down.

“Do you still not want to dance?” asked Charming.

She shook her head.

“That’s okay. You’ll change your mind sooner or later.”

Snow White didn’t change her mind, and they spent the night watching the others dance as they stood in the corner, talking to each other, occasionally making fun of the awkward style of some of the dancers. When the night was over, Charming promised to come see her again, and he did and continued to do so over the next six months. Before he left, Snow White promised to give him that dance he had been waiting for if he came back alive. One year later, the war Charming’s kingdom was involved in ended in a stalemate, and the soldiers were allowed to come back home. As promised, Snow White and Charming danced at the ball celebrating their return, and they didn’t stop dancing for the rest of the night.


When Prince Charming finished his story, he saw that Mabel was crying.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Nothing. It’s just...it’s a beautiful story,” said Mabel. “I wish I remembered being part of it.”

“Don’t worry,” said Prince Charming, putting Mabel’s hand in both of his. “I’m sure there are many more stories for us to make.”

“Yeah,” said Mabel, wiping away a tear. “I’m sure there are.”


Dipper struggled to keep up with the rest of the dwarves as they trotted home. His forehead was drenched with sweat, and he could barely feel his arms after a long day of work.
                                
“What is Mabel doing? This story should be over by now,” he muttered.

When the dwarves entered their cottage, Mabel was nowhere to be found.

“Where’d she go?” said Doc.

“Aw, man. Does this mean we’ll have to go hungry again?” asked Sleepy. “I can’t sleep on an empty stomach.”

“A-choo!” said Sneezy.

“Guys, guys. I’ll go look for her,” said Dipper.

“You sure you don’t need any help?” said Happy.

“I’ll be fine,” said Dipper.

Dipper walked out of the cottage and headed into the forest. After almost an hour of walking, he prepared to give up and go back to the cottage, but then he noticed an apple pinned to a tree by an arrow.

“What the heck?” whispered Dipper.

“Don’t eat that!” screamed Mabel, running towards him.

“I wasn’t going to,” said Dipper. “Where have you been?”        

“I was having a walk with Prince Charming, He’s such an interesting person to be around.”

“Seriously? I’m out there breaking my back while you’re here making googly eyes with someone we need to finish this story!”

“Well, maybe I don’t want to finish this story!”

Dipper looked at Mabel with a horrified expression.

“I know it sounds bad,” said Mabel, “But during my walk with Prince Charming, he told me how he always felt abandoned by his family, how he never knew true love until he met me.”

“Until he met you or Snow White?” asked Dipper.

“What’s the difference?”

“There’s a huge difference! Snow White is the woman Prince Charming loves. You’re the girl who has a family back home who you can’t abandon for another one of your summer flings!”

“It isn’t that simple,” said Mabel. “He remembers this happening before. After he woke Snow White up from her coma, she disappeared, and he thought he’d lost her forever. The last thing I’d want to do is put him through that again.”

“Well, you’re going to have to,” said Dipper. “You’re not the only person stuck here, and besides, he’s not even real. It doesn’t matter what you do to him.”

“He might not be real, but the feelings I have for him are. I can’t hurt him.”

“Mabel, you’ve known him for a day. You’ll get over him just like you got over that merman.”

“I wasn’t over him until I met Charming.”

“And you’ll forget about Charming the next time you meet a cute boy, but if we don’t get out of here soon, there won’t be a next time.”

Suddenly, Prince Charming stopped by Dipper and Mabel on a horse.

“Hey! Charming! Have you met my friend Grumpy?” said a nervous Mabel.

“I have not,” replied Prince Charming. “Pleased to meet you.”

Dipper put on a fake smile as he shook hands with Prince Charming. “Likewise.”

“So, what are you doing here?” asked Mabel. “I thought you’d gone home already.”

“I just wanted to retrieve my arrow. Father always hates it when I lose them,” said Prince Charming.

Prince Charming pulled his arrow out of the tree, causing the apple to fall and roll to Mabel’s feet.

“Good thing I kept you from eating that again, huh?” said Prince Charming, slipping the arrow into his quiver and getting back onto his horse.

Suddenly, the queen appeared in a burst of dark energy.

“Queen Evelyn!” cried Prince Charming.

Evelyn began to walk towards Mabel, but then an arrow zipped in front of her. She turned her head and saw Prince Charming with his bow raised and an arrow pointed right at her.

“Stay away from her,” he said.

The king appeared in front of Prince Charming and waved his hand, causing the bow and all of Prince Charming’s arrows to disappear.

“I’m afraid I can’t let you do that,” said the king.

“Please don’t hurt her,” said Prince Charming.

Evelyn continued to walk towards Mabel, but then she leaned down, picked up the apple, and polished it with her dress.

“Good as new,” said Evelyn. “Now, let’s try this again.”

Mabel looked at Evelyn with terror.
“Oh, have I not introduced myself? I’m Queen Evelyn. You probably know me as the hag who offered you this apple the first time,” said Evelyn.

“I know who you are,” said Mabel.

“Then we’re all up to speed. Except the dwarf, but who cares about him?” said Evelyn, pointing to Dipper.

“Hey, I’m not a dwarf!” said Dipper. “I’m actually relatively tall for my age.”

“Keep telling yourself that,” said the king.

“And who are you?” asked Dipper.

“Since we’re all doing introductions, I might as well,” said the king. “Hello. I am King Merlin.”

“King Merlin?” Dipper stepped back.

“Oh, you have heard of me!” said Merlin. “Well, there isn’t any use in prolonging this. Time for you to eat the apple, little girl.”

“I will not!” said Mabel.

“She knows exactly what it does,” said Prince Charming. “I told her everything.”

“How do you even remember? My memory curse worked on those dwarves just fine. Unless your love for Snow White was too strong for my curse to have any effect on your memories of her. Love is such a pain to work around. Good thing it’ll be helping me instead of hurting me this time,” said Merlin.

“Mabel, I don’t want to agree with the bad guys, but we have to move on to the next story. You have to eat that apple,” whispered Dipper.

“Snow White, I can’t lose you again,” said Prince Charming. “I love you.”

Merlin waved his hand, and Prince Charming fell off his horse, unconscious.

“Prince Charming!” screamed Mabel.

“I’d love to tell him you aren’t really Snow White, but he has to love you for the story to work out like it’s supposed to, doesn’t he?” said Merlin.

Mabel was quiet.

“Now that he’s out of the way, there’s nothing keeping you from eating this apple,” said Evelyn.

“I’m not going to eat it,” said Mabel.

“Oh, I wish you hadn’t said that,” said Merlin.

Merlin waved his hand, and a bound and gagged Soos appeared in front of him.

“Soos!” cried Dipper.

“I found your fat friend chasing a squirrel,” said Merlin. “And if you don’t eat that apple right now, I’ll turn him into dust.”

Mabel covered her mouth, crying. But then she slowly lowered her hands and grabbed the apple.

“I’m sorry, Prince Charming,” she whispered as she bit into the apple. She fell to the ground seconds later.

“Alright, she did it!” said Dipper. “Now give us Soos back!”

“No. I’m holding onto him in case I need to use him as leverage again,” said Merlin.

“We made a deal!” shouted Dipper.

“The deal was if she did what she was supposed to, I wouldn’t kill him,” said Merlin. “And I won’t. I’ll give him a nice little home in my dungeon. Ta-ta!”

Merlin waved his hand, and he disappeared with Soos and Evelyn. Prince Charming woke up immediately after, finding Mabel on the ground with a half-eaten apple still in her hand.

“No,” he whispered.

Prince Charming ran to Mabel, felt her cold face, and cried. Dipper watched on contemplatively.

“You really love her, don’t you?” asked Dipper.

“I do,” said Prince Charming.

“Then I guess I’ll just leave you two alone,” said Dipper, shuffling away.

After looking at Mabel’s still body for what felt like an hour, Prince Charming tearfully kissed her, and before he knew it, she was gone.

“I swear,” said Prince Charming, clenching his fists. “I’ll find you, and we will be together again!”

“No you won’t,” said Merlin, who was now behind him.

Prince Charming jumped and turned around. “King Merlin! What are you doing here?”

“Just tying up some loose ends. I should kill you for how much trouble you’ve caused me, but if worst comes to worst and we have to go through this all over again, I’ll need you alive,” said Merlin.

“So what are you going to do to me?” asked Prince Charming.

“I’m sending you to my dungeon where you can’t meddle with my plans any further,” replied Merlin.

“No. You won’t get away with this!”

“Who’s going to stop me? I’m the most powerful magician in the land!”

Merlin cackled as he grabbed Prince Charming and they both disappeared.    Prince Charming ended up in the same dungeon as Soos.

“Hey, dude. Would you like some squirrel meat?” asked Soos.

“No, thank you,” said Prince Charming.

“Okay. More for me!”


Chapter 5

Mabel woke up in the middle of the forest. Her hair was now in golden pigtails.

“Charming,” she whispered.

Mabel heard a bear roar behind her, and she screamed.

“Wait! Stop! It’s me, Dipper,” said the bear.

Mabel turned around to find that the bear was as tall as she was, and the only thing remaining that was Dipper’s were his eyes.

“How are you feeling?” asked Dipper.

“Not good,” replied Mabel. “How is Soos?”

“I don’t know. Merlin disappeared with him.”

“No!” Mabel put her face in her hands. “So what I did...was for nothing?”

“Hey! At least we know he’s alive!”

Mabel looked up again. “How do we know that? How do we know Merlin is someone we can trust?”

Dipper paused. “I guess we don’t know.”

“We have to look for Soos and Charming.”

“Starting where? And even if we do manage to find out where they are, how do we expect to get past an all-powerful wizard?”

“We can’t do nothing.”

“There’s nothing we can do right now...”

“Son?” growled a voice in the distance.

“...except finish this fairy tale,” said Dipper, running after the voice.

“How can I pretend to be Goldilocks when my friends are in danger?” Mabel asked herself.

The smell of porridge immediately made Mabel forget her reservations, as she had eaten nothing but a piece of apple that day. She followed the smell to a brick house, with the sign “Do Not Enter” in front of it.

“Here goes nothing,” she said.

Mabel walked into the house and found three bowls of porridge on the kitchen table. She tasted the porridge in the first bowl.

“Too hot,” she said with no enthusiasm.

She tasted the porridge in the second bowl.

“Too cold.”

She tasted the porridge in the third bowl.

“Just right,” she said before drinking the rest of the porridge.

Next, she went into a room with three chairs. The first two chairs were too big for her, but the third chair fit her perfectly.

“Wait, isn’t this chair supposed to br-“

The chair broke, and Mabel hit her head as she fell to the floor, knocking her out.

Dipper found two larger bears, one male and one female, sniffing through bushes.

“There you are, Baby Bear!” said the male bear.

“I’d consider myself more of a Preteen Bear at this point,” said Dipper.

The female bear ran to Dipper and hugged him.

“I’m so glad you’re okay! I thought I’d have to maul somebody!” said the female bear.

“Yeah, we do not want that,” said Dipper uncomfortably.

“I haven’t been able to find anything to complement our porridge,” said the male bear. “We should probably start heading back before our porridge gets cold.”

The female bear shrugged. “I like my porridge cold.”

The male bear rolled his eyes. “I know.”

As the bears started heading back, Dipper scratched his sides for fleas.

“One thing I did not miss was having fur,” groaned Dipper.

“Man, don’t you love it out here? Nothing to worry about except the bare necessities,” said the male bear.

“Where have I heard that before?” wondered Dipper.

Back at the house, Merlin appeared next to Mabel’s unconscious body. He took out a small bag of powdery material and poured it on her face, causing her to wake up.

Mabel gasped. “Merlin!”

“Hello there,” said Merlin.

“What are you doing here?”

“You took a nap a little earlier than you were supposed to. You need to try out the beds first, silly!”

“What did you do with Soos and Charming?”

“They’re both safe in my dungeon, but they won’t stay safe if you ruin this story.”

“I don’t believe you. I want to see them.”

Merlin sighed. “Fine.”

A crystal ball appeared in Merlin’s right hand. Mabel looked into it, and she saw Soos and Prince Charming sitting across from each other in a dark, damp place with their ankles tied to the ground.

“They’re alive,” whispered Mabel, tears forming in her eyes.

“Yeah, yeah. They’re alive,” said Merlin. “Now go upstairs before the folks you’re trespassing on come back.”

Mabel ran upstairs, and Merlin disappeared. A minute later, the three bears walked into the house and into the kitchen.

“Someone’s been eating my porridge,” said the male bear, sniffing the spoon he planned to eat with.

“Someone’s been eating my porridge as well!” said the female bear.

“Someone’s been eating my porridge, and she didn’t leave any for me!” said Dipper, genuinely annoyed.

“How do you know it’s a she?” asked the male bear.
“Lucky guess,” said Dipper.

The bears went into the room with the chairs, and the male and female bears sniffed theirs.

“Someone’s been sitting in my chair,” said the male bear.

“Someone’s been sitting in my chair,” said the female bear.

“Someone’s been sitting in my chair, and now it’s in pieces!” said Dipper.

The male and female bears looked at each other then headed upstairs. Dipper followed them into their room.

“Someone’s been sleeping in my bed!” cried the two larger bears.

Dipper ran to his bed and found Mabel laying on it with her eyes closed. She winked.

“You couldn’t leave some porridge for me?” whispered Dipper.

“Sorry. I had to stay true to the story,” whispered Mabel.

“Who is that?” asked the male bear.

“Oh, uh, someone’s been sleeping in my bed, and there she is!” revealed Dipper.

“Let’s eat her!” said the male bear.

“She’d make a great complement to our porridge,” said the female bear.

“You might want to run,” whispered Dipper.

Mabel crawled out of the bed just as the female bear jumped onto it. The bed broke under the female bear’s weight.

“As if I didn’t have enough furniture get broken today,” said Dipper.

Mabel ran out of the room with the male and female bears right behind her. She slid down the staircase’s handrail and grabbed two pieces of the chair she broke. She threw the pieces at the bears as they ran towards her, and they fell to the ground dazed. She then sprinted out the front door as Merlin, in his castle, watched her through his crystal ball.

“Good. She’s finally playing along again,” said Merlin.

Evelyn walked into the room.

“You spend more time with that crystal ball than you spend with me,” complained Evelyn.

“We’ll have plenty of time to spend together after this is over, but I can’t risk something going wrong again,” said Merlin.

“Why is this scheme of yours so important, anyway?” asked Evelyn. “Why can’t you be happy with what you have?”

“Because I want more!” screamed Merlin. “I’ll never stop wanting more, and with the power I have, I shouldn’t stop.”

Merlin looked outside the window of his castle.

“This isn’t my destiny,” he continued. “I don’t deserve to live like a king. I deserve to live like a god.”

Merlin turned around.

“And nobody’s going to stop me from trying to do that,” he said.

Evelyn walked out of the room, saying nothing. Merlin turned back towards the window.

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Chapter 6

 Peter had just finished counting all his sheep, and he was sitting by his crook out of boredom. He had begun to hate the occupation of shepherding, which he got into when he turned 13, attracted to the promise of independence. However, even though he was independent, he was also lonely. He went into a nearby village every other day to trade, but most of the people there never gave him a second look. They never cared about him. Not until the first time he cried, “wolf!”

 He wasn’t really sure why he did it that first time. He said it without much thought, but the way the other villagers looked at him after that made him want to keep going. He made up a story about a wolf attacking his flock, and he claimed he needed help to scare it away and try to salvage whatever was left of his beloved sheep. He wasn’t sure why the villagers followed him. Maybe they pitied him. Maybe they hoped they’d come back with lots of free wool and sheep meat. Whatever the reason, almost the entire village followed Peter back to his field, showering him with condolences as they walked. Peter finally had something he didn’t have since he was 13: attention.

 The villagers eventually realized there was no wolf, and they scolded Peter for lying to them. Peter apologized and promised never to do it again. However, he did do it again a few weeks later. He knew it was wrong, but the feeling of being cared for was a feeling he wanted to have one more time.  Not as many villagers came back with him this time, but the ones who did wanted to believe that Peter had reformed and that he wouldn’t go to them unless his sheep were really in trouble. Of course, they weren’t, and once the villagers found that out, they were twice as angry as before. They spent an hour shouting at Peter, and they stormed back to their village leaving Peter feeling more alone than ever before.

 Peter fell asleep by his crook, but then the sound of howling woke him up.

 “Wh-who’s there?” asked Peter.

 Peter turned around and saw the Big Bad Wolf running towards him, knocking out any sheep that happen to be in his path.

 “No! It can’t be!” cried Peter.

 Peter ran as fast as he could, managing to stay ahead of the wolf as he entered the village.

 “Help! I’m being chased by a wolf! Help!” screamed Peter.

 It was nighttime, so many of the villagers were asleep. However, the ones that weren’t didn’t bother to leave their houses for what was probably another one of Peter’s lies. And if it wasn’t, he deserved it. Every window curtain stayed closed. Every lantern stayed off. Peter realized that the villagers no longer cared about him. His legs began to tire out, but the wolf’s didn’t, and before he knew it, the Big Bad Wolf was on top of him.
“Hello, Peter,” said the wolf. “Or should I say...Pinocchio?”

 “I...I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Peter, looking away.

 “It isn’t good to lie,” said the wolf. “You of all people should know that.”

 The wolf suddenly coughed up a feather.

 “Sorry,” said the wolf. “I ate a duck before coming here.”


 Dipper, who now had scaly skin and pointy ears, found Mabel in the part of the forest where she had first confronted Merlin. She was looking down at the apple she had bitten into.

 “Are you all right?” asked Dipper.

 “I am,” said Mabel. “It’s just...this is the last place I saw him.”

 “We’ll find them,” said Dipper. “And Soos. I promise, we’ll find them.”

 “How about I give you a head start?” said a voice from the bushes.

 “I know that voice,” said Dipper.

 The Big Bad Wolf walked out of the bushes and smiled.

 “Miss me?” said the wolf.

 Mabel lunged at the wolf, who easily avoided her.

 “Whoa, there! I was just going to show you to the king,” revealed the wolf.

 “King Merlin?” said Mabel.

 “The one and only,” said the wolf.

 “Do you work for him or something?” asked Dipper.

 “Yes, I do,” said the wolf.

 “Why? You don’t seem like someone who’d work for anybody,” said Dipper.

 “I owe a lot to Merlin. He took me in when my pack abandoned me,” said the wolf. “Now, are we going to meet the king or not?”

 Dipper and Mabel followed the wolf to the King Merlin’s castle. When they walked in, the jewels around them were so shiny they had to cover their eyes.

 “You can thank the dwarves for that,” said the wolf.

 Merlin walked down the stairs wearing nothing but a gold-encrusted robe.

 “There she is! The miller’s daughter with the ability to spin straw into gold!” said Merlin.

 “With the ability to what?” asked Mabel. “Wait a minute! This must be Rumpelstiltskin!”

 Mabel turned to Dipper.

 “You must be Rumpelstiltskin!” she said.

 “Great,” sighed Dipper. “More for me to do.”

 “Big Bad, check up on the prisoners,” said Merlin. “I’ll be escorting these two to their room.”

 The wolf nodded and headed towards the dungeon.

 “That must be where Soos and Charming are,” whispered Mabel.

 “It is indeed!” said Merlin. “And that’s where they’re staying until further notice!”

 Merlin waved his hand, and he appeared with Dipper and Mabel in a room on the top floor of the castle.

 “How do you like my guest room?” asked Merlin.

 “Where’s the door?” asked Dipper.

 “It doesn’t need one, since I’ll be the only one going in and out of it,” said Merlin.

 “So this is basically just another dungeon,” said Mabel.

 “Don’t think of it like that,” said Merlin. “You’ll be free again as soon as you turn this straw...”

 Merlin made a pile of straw appear.

 “...into gold,” Merlin continued. “And if you don’t, I’ll kill your friend Soos.”

 Merlin made a spinning wheel appear in front of the pile of straw.

 “If you’re such a powerful wizard, why don’t you turn that straw into gold yourself?” asked Dipper.

 “I can’t. That isn’t how the story works,” said Merlin.

 “Why do you want us to finish these stories so bad, anyway?” asked Mabel. “What do you get out of it?”

 “I’m sure you’d love to know that,” said Merlin. “Sadly, I can’t tell you.”

 “Can you tell us why you sent your wolf to get us instead of just poofing us here yourself?” asked Dipper.

 “I figured some walking would be good for you two,” said Merlin. “Plus, Big Bad really wanted to see you two again.”

 “Is Big Bad the name you gave him?” asked Dipper.

 “Yes. It used to be Small Sad, considering he was very small and very sad when I first found him. But, after I worked my magic on him, Big Bad was much more fitting. Still, he usually just goes by ‘the wolf’,” said Merlin.

 “What kind of magic did you work on him?” asked Mabel.

 “Made him bigger, stronger, made him able to talk. It may come as a surprise to you, but not all the wolves around here are able to talk,” said Merlin.

 “I figured that,” said Dipper.

 Merlin chuckled. “You know, the reason I took him in as my own is because, like him, I was ostracized as a child for something I couldn’t control, but I learned not to worry about the things I can’t control and to focus on the things I can. I assume you two have heard about King Arthur?”

 “Yeah,” said Mabel. “But you were a good guy in his stories.”

 “‘Good’ and ‘bad’ are subjective. As you get older, you’ll come to realize that,” said Merlin.

 “Is kidnaping people and holding them hostage considered ‘good’ to you?” asked Dipper.

 “Sometimes, you have to do bad things to get good results,” replied Merlin.

 “But is any result that comes out of bad things truly good?” asked Mabel.

 “I’ll leave it to the philosophers to answer that,” said Merlin. “But let me tell you my story.”

 


 

 Merlin had grown up in a a world that was distrustful of magic. Most believed that wizards and witches were spawns of the devil, and Merlin was no exception. At the age of 5, his powers began developing, and as soon as his parents discovered them, they turned him in to the royal guard, who simply chucked him into a river. Merlin used his powers to create a bubble of safety for himself, and after about an hour in the river, he was found by a witch. The witch became his mentor, teaching him spells and different techniques for casting those spells. When Merlin was old enough to go off on his own, he set up a cottage just outside of Camelot, the capital of Great Britain..

 One day, a young boy named Arthur walked into the cottage, looking for a missing sibling, and he found Merlin there instead. Unlike most of the people Merlin had encountered, Arthur wasn’t afraid of his magic at all, and in fact, he wanted to learn more about it. Merlin decided to make Arthur his apprentice, hoping that Arthur would become a bridge between magical and non-magical beings in the future. The opportunity to do just that came when the king, who had no heirs or any close relatives, died, leaving Britain without a leader. Merlin used a spell to bind a sword to a stone which only Arthur could pull out. He then ordered Arthur to place the stone in front of the castle and tell all the country’s messengers that the sword is a gift from God and that one true king can pull the sword out of it.

 Over the next few weeks, some of Britain’s strongest men came to the castle to pull the sword out of the stone, to increasingly large crowds. Every attempt ended in failure. 20 days after Merlin created the stone, Arthur visited his cottage.

 “It’s time,” said Merlin.

 Britain’s strongest man yet approached the stone in front of the largest crowd yet. He pulled the sword’s handle with all his might, but it seemed to feel tighter the more he pulled.

 “There isn’t a man in the world who can pull this sword out of this stone!” he said.

 Arthur walked out of the crowd.

 “I’ll try it,” said Arthur.

 The man laughed. “Someone as scrawny as you will pull his arms off!”

 “That’s a risk I’m willing to take,” said Arthur.

 The man got out of the way as Arthur approached the stone. He put both hands over the handle and pulled. The sword easily slid out, and Arthur raised it in the air in front of an astounded crowd.

 “All hail the king!” the people shouted.

 Arthur was crowned king the next day. Merlin became his second-in-command, and they started working together to ensure Britain would be a more welcoming place for those with magical abilities. However, Arthur lost interest in that goal after a couple of months, choosing to go on adventures with his Knights of the Round Table.as Merlin watched over Camelot in his absence. Merlin soon got tired of  
Arthur’s excursions, and he decided that once Arthur returned from his latest journey, he’d kill Arthur and take the crown for himself, integrating magic into British society by force if necessary.

 Once Arthur returned home, he found Merlin sitting in his room staring back at him blankly.

 “Hello, Arthur,” he said.

 Arthur started to back away.

 “No,” said Merlin. “Have a seat. I haven’t seen you in so very long.”

 “I have business with one of my knights,” said Arthur nervously..

 “No,” repeated Merlin. “You have business with me!”

 Merlin hands began to glow, and he shot a blast of energy at Arthur. Arthur jumped out of the way, whispered a quick spell, and shot a blast of energy back at Merlin. Merlin fell to the ground weakly.

 “What....what did you do to me?” asked Merlin.

 “I don’t know! It was spell I remembered reading in your book while I was your apprentice! It was the first one to come to mind!” said Arthur.

 “I’ll...kill...you,” said Merlin before passing out.


 “And I woke up here,” said Merlin, in the room with Dipper and Mabel.

 “Why did you tell us all that?” asked Dipper.

 “I always thought it was a very nice story, even if it didn’t have a happy ending for me. Sometimes stories don’t need happy endings. I doubt everybody in this room will get their happy ending, but I hope you enjoy the story anyway,” said Merlin.

 “What are you talking about?” asked Mabel.

 “Doesn’t matter,” said Merlin. “Just have that straw spun into gold by tomorrow morning or you’ll have forfeited Soos’ life.”

 “How are we supposed to do that?” asked Dipper. “I don’t have magical powers like you do.”

“Neither did Arthur,” said Merlin. “Or so I thought. Perhaps everyone has magic inside them. It took the threat of death to bring Arthur’s magic out, and it’ll take the threat of your friend’s death to bring your magic out.”
“And if it doesn’t?” said Dipper.

 “It will,” said Merlin.

 Merlin disappeared.

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Chapter 7

The Big Bad Wolf walked into the dungeon, where Peter now sat with Soos and Prince Charming.

“Have you three been getting acquainted?” asked the wolf.

Prince Charming spit at the wolf’s face, and the wolf lunged at him. Suddenly, Merlin appeared and grabbed the wolf’s tail before he could reach Prince Charming.

“Now, now, don’t let them get to you,” said Merlin. “We still need them alive.”

“Sorry, boss,” said the wolf.

“You’re lucky I was watching from my crystal ball,” Merlin said to the prince. “Otherwise, I’d be cleaning up whatever was left of you.”

“Why didn’t you come down here yourself?” asked Peter.

“I don’t particularly enjoy talking to regular humans,” said Merlin. “And while I have a talking wolf, I might as well put him to good use.”

“These humans should be grateful just to be alive,” snarled the wolf.

Prince Charming prepared to spit on the wolf again, but Merlin waved his hand, and Prince Charming was unable to open his mouth.

“What’s wrong?” asked Merlin. “Wizard got your tongue?”

The wolf laughed.

"I know you haven't been eating, so I doubt you'll miss that mouth of yours much, anyway," said Merlin.

Merlin turned to Soos and Peter.

"What about you two? Will you join this fool in starvation?" asked Merlin.

“Well,” said Soos, “I could use a little more of that squirrel meat.”

Merlin laughed and made a plate of squirrel meat appear in Soos’ lap.

“Enough for three,” said Merlin, right before he and his wolf disappeared.

“I thought you were going to join this hunger strike with us,” said Peter.

“I’m sorry,” said Soos. “My stomach does the thinking instead of my brain sometimes. I promise I won’t eat an ounce of this squirrel meat.”

An hour later, Soos had finished the entire plate. 

“You aren’t very good at hunger strikes,” said Peter.

“It doesn’t matter, anyway,” grumbled Prince Charming.

Peter and Soos looked at Prince Charming with surprise.

“You can talk again!” exclaimed Peter.

“Yeah,” said Prince Charming. “I’ve been able to since Merlin left. Just had a lot on my mind.”

“Why did you say it doesn’t matter?” asked Peter.

“Because once we’re on the verge of starvation, Merlin will just pop right down here and fill our bellies with magic. He’ll let us suffer until then, but while he needs us, we aren’t going anywhere,” said Prince Charming.

“Then why did you suggest the hunger strike in the first place?”

“Because I wanted to feel like I was doing something. I promised Snow White that I’d find her, and I won’t be able to find her until I get out of this dungeon.”

“Where do you think Snow White is?”

“I don’t know. This is a very large land. She could be anywhere.”

Several flights above them, Mabel watched her brother turn the spinning wheel absentmindedly, broken pieces of straw all around him.

“You okay?” asked Mabel.

“Soos is going to die tomorrow,” said Dipper. “And there’s nothing I can do to stop it.”

Mabel didn’t know what to say. She looked out the window. It had been dark for several hours.

“We should get some sleep.” she said. “There’s no point staying up all night dwelling on this.”

Dipper nodded. He then laid on the pile of straw with Mabel, and they slowly fell asleep.

A sudden, bright light woke them up just minutes later. The light dimmed to reveal a triangular one-eyed creature wearing a top hat and a bow tie.

Dipper gasped. “Bill Cipher?”

“The one and only!” said Bill. “How have you two been?”

“Well...” started Mabel.

“I’m just kidding. I don’t care,” said Bill.

“How did you get here?” asked Dipper.

“I’m an interdimensional being,” said Bill. “Coming here is no different than you going to your local coffee shop.”

“So we’re in another dimension?” asked Mabel.

“Yes you are!” said Bill. “And you’ve chosen quite an interesting dimension to go to.”

“We didn’t come here intentionally,” said Dipper, annoyed.

“Yes, you got here through a book,” said Bill. “I’ve been watching you ever since your first adventure in that forest. I heard Merlin’s spiel about ‘everyone having magic inside of them’, and I’m sorry to tell you that it simply isn’t true. Some people do have magic inside of them, but even in this dimension it’s super rare, and Arthur only got his because of the Holy Grail.”

Mabel got excited. “The Holy Grail can give people the ability to do magic?”

“Yeah, but only one person can drink out of it every hundred years,” said Bill. “And it’s been maybe a year in this realm since Arthur found the grail.”

“How do you know all this?” questioned Dipper.

“I know a lot of things,” said Bill. “Like the fact that there were two visitors before you, and one of those visitors found himself in the exact same situation you find yourself in right now.”

Dipper raised an eyebrow. “What was that visitor’s name?”

“His name was Walt Disney,” said Bill.

“Walt Disney? The movie guy? You’re crazy!” said Dipper.

“I am crazy, but I’m also telling the truth,” said Bill. “When he was 12 years old, he read from the same book Mabel did to come here, though he was with an older cousin. He never told anyone about it, but I saw it with my own eye.”

Dipper wasn’t sure whether to believe Bill, but he also wasn’t sure why Bill would lie.

“Why are you here? Really?” asked Dipper.

“Well, ol’ Walt needed outside help to get that straw sewn into gold, and you’re getting that same help,” said Bill.

“Who’s helping us?” asked Mabel.

“He doesn’t want you to know who he is yet. All you need to know is he wants to stop Merlin just like we do,” said Bill.

“What did Merlin ever do to you, anyway, to make you want to stop him?” asked Dipper.

“He’s trying to get to your dimension and take it over,” said Bill. “And I called dibs on your dimension.”

“How is he planning to get there?” asked Mabel.

“Once you finish the last story, you’ll find the book again, and it’ll take you back to your dimension. However, since three people came here through the book, only three people can return, and I’m pretty sure Merlin wants those people to be him, his wife, and the Big Bad Wolf,” explained Bill.

“Well, we’re not going to let that happen,” said Dipper.

“Yeah, Merlin’s going down!” said Mabel.

“And after we’re done with him, we’re taking you down, Bill!” said Dipper.

“You’re free to try,” said Bill. “But this is probably what will happen if you do.”

Bill snapped his fingers, and Dipper’s face melted. Mabel’s face did the same, and Bill laughed. Suddenly, Dipper and Mabel woke up, and the pile of straw they were sleeping on was now a pile of golden cloth.

“What the,” started Dipper.

“Somebody must have done this in our sleep,” said Mabel.

“Wait,” said Dipper. “Did you have the same dream I did?”

“If your dream ended with both our faces getting melted, then yeah.”

Dipper sighed. “At least Soos will be alive a little longer.”

Merlin appeared, and he smiled when he saw the cloth.

“I knew you could do it,” said Merlin.

Dipper clenched his fists. “We want Soos back.”

“You’re in no position to make demands,” said Merlin.

“You know I have magic in me,” said Dipper. “How do you know I won’t do to you what Arthur did to you?”

“Because you don’t have the nerve,” said Merlin.

Upon hearing that, Dipper’s fists loosened.

“Don’t miss me too much when you’re gone. You’ll be seeing me again soon enough,” said Merlin.

Dipper and Mabel were back in the forest seconds later. Dipper was wearing green clothes now. He had a bow in his hand and a quiver of arrows strapped to his back.

“You must be Robin Hood!” said Mabel.

“Well, at least I wasn’t turned into a fox or something,” said Dipper.

“Where do we go now?” wondered Mabel.

“There’s only one place we can go,” said Dipper. “Back to the castle.”

“Are you sure?” asked Mabel.

“As sure as I’ll ever be,” said Dipper. “Come on. Let’s get our friends back.”

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Chapter 8

Peter sat in the dungeon, watching Soos and Prince Charming sleep. He had been unable to sleep himself, even though he had been awake for almost 24 hours at that point. He didn't flinch when Merlin appeared out of thin air in front of him.

"Hello, Peter," said Merlin.

"What do you want?" Peter grumbled.

"It's time."

"Time for what?"

"Time to wish upon a star."

 

Dipper and Mabel were still in forest, struggling to find their way out.

"I'm pretty sure we've passed this tree before," said Mabel. "Are you sure you know where you're going?"

"Of course I am!" said Dipper.

Dipper didn't actually know where they were going, but he wasn't telling Mabel that. He wished for a miracle, a sign that would lead them to the castle.

Suddenly, a bright light appeared in the sky, illuminating Merlin's palace below it.

"There it is!" Dipper breathed a sigh of relief.

"Great! Let's go!" said Mabel.

Dipper and Mabel started walking towards the bright light. The light began to dim as they got closer.

"We better hurry up!" said Mabel.

"I hope whatever that light is coming from doesn't turn out to be as much of a pain as Merlin," said Dipper.

 

Peter swallowed as Merlin circled his wand around Peter's neck.

"Don't worry, boy," said Merlin. "It'll all be over soon."

Peter and Merlin were standing in front of a bright blue light. It got brighter and brighter, so bright that Peter had to squint at what was coming out of the bright blue light.

"Why did you call me?" asked a soft, feminine voice.

The voice belonged to the Blue Fairy, who only saw an outline of Peter and the man behind him until she floated near enough to see Merlin with his wand to Peter's throat.

The Blue Fairy gasped. "You again!"

“Did you really think it was over after last time?” said Merlin.

“No, but I hoped you’d come up with original material.”

The Blue Fairy pulled out her wand, which looked similar to Merlin’s, only it was glowing and had a star-shaped tip. Merlin pointed at the wand with his free hand, and it disappeared.

“I see you still use your hands like a barbarian,” said the Blue Fairy.

“It’s not as precise, but I still prefer them. Feels more natural,” said Merlin.

“You’re an embarrassment to magic,” spat the Blue Fairy.

“I don’t use my wand much, but I do still need it for spells that require more precision,” said Merlin. “Like the death spell.”

The Blue Fairy’s wand flew back into her hand, and she pointed it at Merlin.

“If you hurt Pinocchio…” she started.

“If you do what I tell you, Pinocchio will be just fine.”

“At least until the next time you kidnap him.”

“Whether my plan works or not, there won’t be a next time.”

The Blue Fairy’s wand began to shake.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“I mean that if my plan works, I’ll be gone, and you’ll never have to worry about me again. If it doesn’t work, I’ll give up on my plan entirely and cut my losses, meaning your little pet project will come to an end.”

The Blue Fairy saw Peter looking back at her with scared eyes. She sighed and lowered her wand.

“What do you want?” asked the Blue Fairy.

“Same as last time,” said Merlin. “I want you to help us finish our next story.”

“How do you even know this spell will work? It hasn’t been tried before.”

“It was tried before, and it would have been successful if you hadn’t betrayed me.”

“How do you know I won’t betray you again?”

“Because of this.”

Merlin pointed his wand at Peter’s mouth, and a ghost-like form came out of it. Peter collapsed.

“What did you just do?” screamed the Blue Fairy.

I tethered the boy’s life force to my wand. It’s a wonderful spell I just learned. Don’t worry. If my plan succeeds, I’ll return his life force, and you two can live happily ever after, as they say, However, if my plan fails, I’ll break the wand, wiping poor Pinocchio’s life force from existence.”

 “Please,” said the Blue Fairy. “He’s just a child. He doesn’t deserve this.”

“Which is why you’ll help ensure my plan succeeds.”

The Blue Fairy floated towards Peter’s body and waved her wand over it, hoping to detect any signs of life. When she didn’t, she shook her head and turned to Merlin..

“Okay,” she said. “I’ll help you.”

Merlin smiled. “I knew you would.”

 

By the time Dipper and Mabel reached the palace, the light had been gone for several minutes.

“Well, I’m glad that gate was still open,” said Dipper.

“It’s almost like he was expecting us,” said Mabel, thinking for a moment, then dismissing what she thought.

Dipper kicked open the door of the palace, bow and arrow raised.

“Hello?” shouted Dipper. The only response he got was his own echo.

“Wheres Merlin?” wondered Mabel.

“Whatever he’s up to, it can’t be good,” said Dipper.

As Dipper and Mabel walked around the palace, Merlin watched them through his crystal ball. Evelyn and the Big Bad Wolf were with him in his room.

“Why did you let them in our palace?” asked Evelyn.

“You’ll see,” responded Merlin.

Dipper led Mabel into the palace’s kitchen. There was a large table in the middle of the floor with several different cakes on it. On the wall adjacent to them was a painting of a Roman arch.

“Look at all those cakes!” said Mabel.

“We aren’t here for cakes,” said Dipper. “We’re here to find Soos and Prince Charming.”

“But do we have to do that on an empty stomach?”

“We have to find the dungeon before Merlin finds out we’re here.”

“How do you know the entrance to the dungeon is in here, though?”

“I remember the wolf coming here after being told to check up on the prisoners.”

“Maybe he just stopped here for a snack first.”

“Still, it doesn’t hurt to look.”

Mabel looked into the cabinets around the kitchen while Dipper looked under the table, hoping to find a lever, switch, or anything else that would help them find the dungeon. After looking through the last cabinet, Mabel leaned on the painting of the arch. Suddenly, she fell through. Dipper saw this as he got out from under the table.

“Mabel!” shouted Dipper.

 Dipper ran to the painting and realized that the inside of the painted arch was a magical doorway. He first put an arm through it then carefully let the rest of his body in. He ended up at the top of a dark stairwell.

“Mabel?” said Dipper shakily.

“I’m down here!” said Mabel.

Dipper breathed a sigh of relief before running down the stairs and reuniting with his sister, who was now with Soos and Prince Charming.

“Soos! I’m so glad you’re okay!” said Dipper.

“Thanks, Dipper,” said Soos. “Say, what are you, Peter Pan?”

“No, I’m Robin Hood,” said Dipper.

“Wait, isn’t that Batman’s sidekick?”

“It’s good to have you back, Soos.”

Mabel was rousing Prince Charming awake.

“Hey, Charming. It’s me, Charming. I’m back,” said Mabel.

Prince Charming woke up and looked at Mabel with confusion.

“I’m sorry,” said Prince Charming. “Do I know you?”

Mabel’s heart sank.

“Of course you know me,” she said. “It’s me, Ma…Snow White.”

“I’ve never heard that name before. Say, how did I end up here?” said Prince Charming.

Mabel and Dipper looked at one another. Suddenly, both of them were in Merlin’s room. They saw Soos and Prince Charming in the crystal ball and Merlin in the corner of the room with the pile of golden cloth from the last story.

“Ah, Robin Hood!” said Merlin. “You must be here to steal my gold.”

Dipper took out his bow and arrow, and Merlin waved a hand to make it disappear.

“You should know better by now than to think that silly little thing will hurt me,” said Merlin.

“What did you do to Prince Charming?” asked Mabel.

“I put a memory curse on him,” said Merlin. “Memory curses are really effective, but they take a few days to get working, so you see why I couldn’t have him roaming about.”

“Did you know we were here this entire time?” asked Dipper.

“Of course I did.”

“Why didn’t you stop us?” asked Mabel.

“Well, for one, I had to see if pretty boy’s love for you would affect my curse again, in which case I would have had to make it stronger, and for two, I just love seeing you and your brother sleuth around thinking I’m not one step ahead you every step you take.”

“Whatever game you’re playing, we don’t want any part of it,” said Dipper.

“You started playing my game as soon as you entered this world, and as long as you’re in this world, you’ll continue playing it. Don’t forget that Soos is still in the dungeon, and despite your best heroics, he’s not coming out until I say he can. Now, take this gold, leave my palace, and let us begin our next story. It’s a good one.”

Dipper sighed and took the golden cloth. Mabel helped him carry it down the stairs, and when she looked in the direction of the kitchen, she saw that the door was no longer there.

“Well, I guess we aren’t making a return visit to the dungeon,” said Mabel.

Merlin watched them leave the palace from his crystal ball. Evelyn and the wolf were in the room with him again.

“I can’t believe it’s almost over,” said Merlin. “Soon, we’ll be gods, all three of us.”

“I’ll admit that ‘Evelyn the Goddess’ has a nice ring to it,” said Evelyn. “But it’s a shame that going to the world the children came from will mean leaving the children here.”

“They’ll survive,” said Merlin.

“What about Pinocchio?” asked the wolf.

“I plan to destroy his life force in front of the Blue Fairy whether she helps me or not, just because I want to see the look on her face when it happens.”

The wolf smiled. “You always manage to find new ways to impress me.”

Merlin took his wand and threw it out the room.

“Hey, boy! Fetch!” said Merlin.

 “Your wish is my command,” said the wolf.

As the wolf ran after the wand, Merlin returned to his crystal ball and watched Dipper and Mabel begin their new adventure.

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Chapter 9

Mabel was in a cold room lit only by a fireplace.

“Where am I?” wondered Mabel. “Who am I?”

Suddenly, a pair of teenage girls barged into the room.

“Why aren’t you dressed, Cinderella?” asked one of the girls.

Cinderella, thought Mabel.

“The ball’s in an hour! You better get dressed if you don’t want us to leave you!” said the other girl.

“Assuming we don’t leave you, anyway,” said the first girl, laughing.

Mabel felt a sudden rush of anger. She told herself it was just a story.

“If you aren’t dressed by the time the carriage comes, we’re gone,” said the second girl.

The girls left the room. Mabel ran to a closet, picking out the prettiest dress that she could find and getting into it. When she left the room, the girls looked at her and started laughing.

“Did you really think we’d let you go to the ball with us?” said the first girl.

“Keep dreaming,” said the second girl.

“But, but, but,” stuttered Mabel.

“Oh look, our carriage!” said the first girl.

“Bye bye!” said the second girl.

Mabel watched as the girls walked out of the house and got into a carriage waiting for them outside. She told herself again that it was just a story, but that couldn’t keep the tears from falling. She didn’t know exactly why, but she really wanted to go to the ball.

“Hey, Mabel!” said a small, squeaky voice.

Mabel looked down and saw a mouse waving at her.

“It’s me, Dipper!” said the mouse.

“Oh! I totally forgot about you!” said Mabel.

“What?” said Dipper.

“Nothing.”

“Listen, you need to finish this story quick, because your stepsisters have a cat, and it is hungry!”

“Alright, alright,” said Mabel. “I just need to wait for my fairy godmother to appear.”

Suddenly, a bright blue glow appeared in front of Mabel, and once it disappeared, the Blue Fairy was standing there.

“Hello,” said the Blue Fairy. “I’m your fairy godmother.”

“How did you know to come here?” asked Mabel.

“I was summoned by your tears,” said the Blue Fairy. “Now, girl, why are you crying?”

Mabel sighed. “I wanted to go to the ball, but my stepsisters won’t let me.”

“That’s no good,” said the Blue Fairy. “I’ll make sure you go to the ball, and I’ll make sure you look hot doing it!”

The Blue Fairy touched Mabel with her wand, and Mabel’s dress became long, blue, and sparkling.

“Wow,” said Dipper.

“And don’t think I didn’t hear your problem,” said the Blue Fairy.

The Blue Fairy waved her wand, and a cat was dragged out of another room by an invisible force.

“Off with his head!” shouted Dipper.

Mabel looked at Dipper with surprise.

“Sorry. Got a little too into it,” said Dipper.

“I won’t chop off his head,” said the Blue Fairy. “But I will ensure that he can’t bother you.”

The Blue Fairy motioned down with her wand, and a cage dropped on the cat.

“I like her!” said Dipper.

“Well, you’ll like me even more after this,” said the Blue Fairy.

The Blue Fairy tapped each of Mabel’s feet, and glass slipper appeared on both.

“Wow!” said Mabel.

“And last but not least…” said the Blue Fairy before opening the door to reveal a pumpkin-shaped carriage waiting for her.

Mabel picked Dipper up and ran to the carriage. The Blue Fairy followed them. Once all three of them were in the carriage, the carriage rode itself to the palace where the ball was being held.

“Remember,” said the Blue Fairy. “You have to leave the palace by midnight, for that is when this spell will end.”

“Why don’t you just let this spell go on forever?” asked Dipper.

“Because shut up, that’s why,” said the Blue Fairy. “Now have fun.”

Mabel ran into the palace and immediately recognized one of the faces.

“Prince Charming?” she gasped.

Prince Charming was standing alone among the dancers, drinking wine. Once he saw Mabel run in, he went greet her.

“Hello,” said Prince Charming. “I’ve never seen you in my kingdom before. What’s your name?”

“Cinderella,” said Mabel, slightly sad that he still didn’t remember her.

“Well, Cinderella, I would hope you would grant me the honor of having this dance.”

As Mabel and Prince Charming danced, Dipper climbed a table, drawn to it by the smell of cheese. He found a tiny man sitting on the table eating cheese himself.

“W-who are you?” asked Dipper.

“The name’s Tom Thumb,” said the tiny man. “You don’t know who I am, but I know who you are.”

“You do?” said Dipper, shocked.

“Yeah, you started out as a big ol’ wolf, but now you’re as little as I am.”

“You’ve been following me this entire time?”

“Not just me. I’m sure you’re well-acquainted with Bill Cipher.”

“That’s one way to describe my relationship with him.”

“Well, we’ve been working together to stop Merlin.”

“How do you know Bill Cipher?”

“He showed up the last time we had a visitor.”

Dipper rolled his eyes. “Walt Disney, right?”

“Yes. I see Bill told you. Anyway, he showed up to me in a dream. Told me he wanted me to use my magical spinning power to help Walt finish a story.”

“Wait, magical spinning power? It was you who spun the straw into gold?”

Tom Thumb nodded. “I asked Bill not to tell you it was me while you were sleeping because I didn’t want to risk you mentioning anything about me after you woke up. Merlin is well aware that Bill stops by here every now and then, but I’ve managed to keep my presence a secret from him for this long, and I’d rather it stays that way.”

“Merlin doesn’t know you’re here? Where are you from?”

“I’m from Merlin’s world. I was King Arthur’s friend since childhood, and I overheard Merlin’s plans to kill him. I told Arthur as soon as he returned from his quest for the Holy Grail, and he seemed sad, though not surprised, to hear about it. After thinking for a while, he said that he was going to perform a spell on Merlin that would send him to another world, one not even he could escape from. He ordered me to hide in Merlin’s robe first, so that when did the spell, I could go with Merlin and protect him in his new world, or protect the world from Merlin, if necessary.”

“I imagine you wouldn’t be here talking to me right now if you didn’t think it was necessary.”

Tom Thumb finished his cheese and wiped his hands on his shirt.

“I had to make sure Merlin wasn’t watching us through his crystal ball first,” said Tom Thumb. “He’s currently having a meeting with the Blue Fairy. Should be a while. He told Evelyn to watch you and the girl while he was gone, but I know for a fact that when she’s supposedly monitoring you, she’s monitoring Merlin instead. She’s a very jealous queen.”

“So what did you come here to tell us?” asked Dipper.

“The story you’re currently in is the final one before you find the storybook that brought you here.”

“Really? Thank goodness. If I turned into another animal I’d go insane.”

“But you have to make sure Merlin isn’t around when you, your sister, and your friend have the storybook, or he’ll kill you all without thought.”

“That’s easier said than done.”

“Don’t worry. The Blue Fairy isn’t just helping you in this story. She’ll make sure you get home safe.”

“Didn’t you just say she was meeting with Merlin? What’s that about?”

“Let’s just say it’s about something from her past.”

Tom Thumb was looking at the grandfather clock next to them more and more often now.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “But I’ll have to be going now. Don’t tell your sister about this discussion we had just yet. Merlin will be watching her much more closely than he’ll be watching you, and he’ll be able to tell when something’s off. Goodbye!”

Tom Thumb jumped off the table.

“Wait!” said Dipper.

Dipper grabbed some cheese from the plate behind him then slid down the table with the cheese in his mouth.

“Tom?” cried Dipper after gulping down the cheese.

Dipper scurried through dancing feet until he was outside the palace. He saw the Blue Fairy floating above him.

“It’s almost time,” the Blue Fairy said. “Where is she?”

Mabel felt like she and Prince Charming were the only two people in the ballroom as they danced and laughed together. Suddenly, Mabel heard the donging of the midnight bell, and she ran off, making sure to leave one of her glass slippers where Prince Charming would find it.

“Cinderella!” said Prince Charming. “Where are you going?”

Mabel didn’t answer him. Once she was outside, Dipper and the Blue Fairy followed her to the carriage. As the carriage rode them to Cinderella’s house, Mabel continued to tell herself that it was just a story, but even as she was telling herself that, she knew it wasn’t true. Prince Charming, and the rest of the people she encountered in this world, weren’t storybook characters. They were actual people who Merlin manipulated for his own means. All she wanted to do was help them, but she didn’t know how. Ever since she was a little girl, she loved reading about magic and seeing it used in cartoons, but she never really thought about the dark side of it. Magic being used to take away people’s free will, it was sickening, and she was sickened by taking advantage of it, even though the love she felt for Prince Charming was real.

That night, Mabel lay awake in bed as the teenage girls returned home, clearly drunk. As they swore and stumbled about, they noticed their cat in a cage.

“Cinderella!” shouted the first girl. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Don’t worry, little munchkins,” said the second girl. “We’ll make sure she never touches you again.”

Dipper walked out of a hole in the wall.

“What’s all the commotion about?” he inquired.

“Aah! A rat!” said the first girl.

“I’m not a rat!” said Dipper indignantly. “How much wine did you two drink?”

The girls started running around, and Dipper shrugged and walked back into the hole. Mabel was still lying awake in bed, tuning everything around her out.

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Chapter 10

Mabel woke up the next afternoon. She didn’t know when she finally fell asleep, but it must have been late. She walked out of her room to find her stepsisters measuring each other’s dresses.

“Oh, Cinderella!” said the first stepsister. “It’s about time you woke up.”

“Yeah,” said the other stepsister. “We were worried for a moment that you’d died. It would have been very inconvenient for us. Neither of us looks very good in black.”

Mabel ignored the slight. “What are you two getting dressed up for?”

“Prince Charming issued a directive for all women who attended last night’s ball to return to his palace,” said the first stepsister.

“You’ll probably want to get dressed, too,” said the second stepsister. “Oh, wait! You weren’t at the ball last night!”

The stepsisters laughed as they walked out of the house and got into their carriage. Mabel walked out after them.

“Shows what you know,” muttered Mabel.

As the stepsisters’ carriage drove away, the Blue Fairy’s pumpkin-shaped carriage pulled up into its spot. The Blue Fairy materialized outside the carriage.

“Hello, Cinderella,” said the Blue Fairy. “I hope you slept well last night.”

“Unfortunately, I didn’t,” said Mabel.

“Why?”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

The Blue Fairy put a hand on Mabel’s shoulder. “I understand much more than you might think.”

Mabel looked at the Blue Fairy with a confused expression on her face.

“Enough of that, then,” said the Blue Fairy. “Ready for your return trip to the palace?”

“I guess so,” said Mabel.

The Blue Fairy tapped Mabel on the head with her wand, and Mabel’s nightgown turned back into the sparkling blue dress she wore the night before.

“I remember you still had your glass slippers on after the spell ended. Mind telling me what happened to them?” asked the Blue Fairy.

“I…uh…” Mabel knew what she did with one of the slippers, but she didn’t know what happened to the other one. “Give me a minute.”

Mabel ran back into the house, and she saw her glass slipper moving around the floor. Mabel picked the glass slipper up to reveal Dipper under it.

“Man, your feet are smelly!” said Dipper.

Mabel stuck her tongue out at Dipper as she put the slipper on. Dipper followed her as she went into the carriage, where the Blue Fairy was now waiting for her.

“Where’s the other slipper?” asked the Blue Fairy.

“It doesn’t matter!” said Mabel. “Let’s go!”

The Blue Fairy shrugged as the carriage started rolling.


Prince Charming surveyed the women who had come into his palace. None of them resembled the girl he had seen the night before, but perhaps the wine had simply altered her appearance. He took out the glass slipper he found after the girl left, and then he ordered the women to take off their shoes. He tried the slipper on them one by one, but it didn’t fit any of them. Just as he was about to give up in frustration, Mabel walked into the palace.

“Sorry I’m late,” said Mabel. “We were stopped by a couple of officers. They hadn’t seen a self-drawn carriage before.”

“It’s you!” said Prince Charming.

Prince Charming noticed Mabel’s bare foot and helped her put the other glass slipper on.

“Thanks,” said Mabel.

“Wait a minute,” said one of the stepsisters, who was with the women. “I know her!”

The other stepsister recognized Mabel, too.

“Of course!” she said. “How didn’t we see it?”

“Probably because we were drunk,” said the first stepsister.

“Yeah, that,” said the other.

“I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask the rest of you to leave,” said Prince Charming.

“What?” said the first stepsister. “You’ll take the maid over all of us?”

“Every time,” said Prince Charming.

The stepsisters grumbled as they left with the rest of the women.

“I’m so glad I found you,” said Prince Charming.

“I’m glad I found you, too,” said Mabel.

As Mabel and Prince Charming leaned in for a kiss, Mabel noticed a glow coming from another room.

“What’s that?” asked Mabel.

Prince Charming turned around. “It’s the library.”

Mabel and Prince Charming walked into the library, shielding their eyes from the glow, which coming from a book sitting on a table in the middle of the room.

“That wasn’t there before,” said Prince Charming.

“Wait a minute. I know that book!” said Mabel.

The glow disappeared as Mabel ran towards the book. On the cover were the words “Fairy Tales and Other Stories for Children”.

“We did it!” said Mabel.

“You did what?” asked Prince Charming.

Mabel jumped, not noticing that Prince Charming was now right behind her.

“Nothing!” said Mabel.

“What’s that book about?” asked Prince Charming.

“Nothing!”

“What are you hiding from me?”

Mabel sighed, and she opened the book to the last page, which contained an illustration of her and Prince Charming about to kiss. Under that illustration were the words: “And they lived happily ever after.”

“That’s me!” said Prince Charming. “That’s you!”

Prince Charming started to back away.

“How is that even possible?” he asked. “Are you a witch? Are you working with Merlin?”

“No, I’m not working with Merlin!” said Mabel. “Quite the opposite! I’m working against him.”

“I don’t believe you,” said Prince Charming. “I don’t believe anything you say.”

Prince Charming stormed out of the library. Seconds later, Merlin walked in with his wand held to Prince Charming’s neck.

“That was even easier than I thought it would be,” said Merlin.

“I know why you’re here!” said Mabel.

“Oh, do you?” said Merlin.

“Yeah, you want to use this book to go back to my world.”

 

“And I assume you’re going to try and stop me?”

Mabel watched as Prince Charming tried to break free of Merlin’s grip, to no avail. She felt a similar lack of power in this moment, as she knew that whatever she might try to do could lead to Prince Charming’s death, something she’d never forgive herself for.

“I’m not,” she finally whispered.

Merlin smiled. “Good. Evelyn and Big Bad should be on their way. There’s a broom outside waiting to take you to my palace, or rather, your palace now that I won’t have anything more to do with it. Consider it a gift for all your troubles.”

Mabel turned to the book, closed it, then hurled it at Merlin in a fit of rage. Merlin was able to stop it in midair, but then he fell to the ground as a blast of energy hit him in the back. He let go of Prince Charming, who immediately ran out of the palace, not even stopping when he saw Merlin’s attacker, the Blue Fairy.

“You were right when you said this wasn’t over,” said the Blue Fairy. “But when I’m done with you, it will be.”

Merlin laughed. “Betrayed once again! Why am I not surprised? At least this time, you’ll have something to lose from it.”

Merlin snapped his wand in two and threw it at the Blue Fairy’s feet. The Blue Fairy simply smiled.

“Oh, Pinocchio!” shouted the Blue Fairy.

Peter walked into the palace and waved at the dumbfounded Merlin.

“How did you bring him back to life?” asked Merlin.

“Simple. I got a friend of mine to switch your wand out with a decoy while you slept.”

“That’s impossible. Big Bad watches the wand while I sleep.”

“Big Bad is also unable to resist the smell of duck. Once we found that out about him, creating a diversion was easy.”

“Well, I might not have my wand, but I can still beat you into submission!”

Merlin shot a powerful blast of energy out of his hands, which the Blue Fairy dodged before pointing her wand at Merlin’s hands, freezing them.

“What the?” said Merlin, shaking his frozen hands.

“It’s something new I learned from the Snow Queen, said the Blue Fairy.

Merlin jumped into the air, and blasts of energy started shooting out of his feet. The Blue Fairy flew around each blast, getting close enough to Merlin to hit him with her wand, knocking him out. She then walked outside the palace and put Merlin on his broom. The broom flew away with the unconscious Merlin slouched over it. Peter and Mabel joined the Blue Fairy outside of the palace, Mabel holding the book of fairy tales.

“Oh, you have the book!” said the Blue Fairy. “Good! Grab the other people you came here with and get out as fast as you can!”

“Dipper?” cried Mabel.

“Down here,” said Dipper, who walked out of the palace with Tom Thumb, both of their mouths stained with cheese.

“I wish I could see the look on Merlin’s face again when he found out about the wands,” said Tom Thumb.

“Yes, that was a brilliant idea,” said the Blue Fairy. “I’m glad you could pull it off.”

“I’m sorry,” said Mabel. “Who are you?”

“Oh, right!” said Tom Thumb. “Greetings! I’m Tom Thumb!”

Tom Thumb extended a tiny arm, and Mabel giggled as she shook it.

“Alright, now let’s get Soos and get out of here,” said Dipper.

“Where’s this Soos at?” asked the Blue Fairy.

“Locked up in Merlin’s dungeon,” said Mabel.

“I’ll take you there,” said the Blue Fairy.

The Blue Fairy tapped Mabel, Dipper, and herself with her wand, and they appeared in Merlin’s dungeon, where Soos sat alone in the darkness.

“Soos, we just finished the last fairy tale,” said Mabel. “It’s time to go home.”

“Oh, that’s great!” said Soos. “I don’t know how much longer I could have handled it down here.”

“So how exactly do we do this?” asked Dipper.

“Just read what’s on the last page aloud,” said the Blue Fairy.

Mabel turned the last page with the picture of her and Prince Charming, and she choked the first time she tried to read it, remembering her last encounter with Prince Charming.

“Are you okay?” asked the Blue Fairy.

“Yes, I am,” said Mabel.

Mabel took a deep breath, and then she tried again.

“And they lived happily ever after,” she read.

Mabel blinked, and she was back in the Mystery Shack holding the book. She quickly closed the book and put it back where she got it from.

“Did you just go through the same thing I just went through?” asked Dipper, who was staring at his hands behind the counter.

“If you were just in a world of fairy tales, then yeah, we just went through the same thing,” said Mabel.

Dipper sighed. “I’m just glad to be back in my own body.”

“What about you, Soos? You’ve been more quiet than I thought you’d be right now,” said Mabel.

“Oh, I’ve just been thinking,” said Soos. “I’m going upstairs, if that’s okay with you two.”

“Of course,” said Dipper.

Soos walked up the stairs into the attic, looking back a few times to make sure he wasn’t being followed. He then closed his eyes, whispered a spell, and transformed into Merlin. Merlin opened his eyes and smiled.

“Finally,” said Merlin. “I’m here.”

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bringing this back for febracadabra

Chapter 11

Ever since she was a young girl, Evelyn had been fond of mirrors. She would spend 20 minutes, 30 minutes, even an hour some days in front of the large mirror in her bedroom, trying out different hairstyles or dresses or just thinking with her large, brown eyes staring back at her. It was a habit her mother scolded her for as being vain, but it was one she would never lose. The morning of the day she was supposed to join Merlin and the Big Bad Wolf on a journey to the “secret realm”, the only world out of thousands out there that couldn’t be viewed on Merlin’s crystal ball, she looked in the mirror like she did every other morning, but this time, something was different.

A single strand of white hair, a bold defector in an army of black, caught Evelyn’s attention. Merlin had used a spell on her that slowed her aging shortly after he captured the Kingdom of Germania, which he renamed New Britain. In the hundreds of years since then, looking into this same mirror every single day, she hadn’t seen one white or even gray hair. Not one until today.

It’s okay, Evelyn thought. It happens to everyone eventually.

It was something Evelyn hoped would never happen to her, however. Her youth, her beauty was all she had for so much of her life. It was what allowed her to escape the squalor of peasantry and marry a king, a king much older than she was whom she didn’t love, but a king nevertheless.

One of King Phillip’s first gifts to her and the one she prized more than any other was a magic mirror Phillip had purchased from a witch. Instead of simply looking in the mirror like before, Evelyn asked the all-knowing spirit trapped inside the magic mirror who the fairest in all the kingdom was, and every day since she first looked into the spirit’s dark and expressionless eyes, the answer from the spirit was the same:

“You, my majesty, are the fairest in these lands.”

Then, on a morning Evelyn could recall even hundreds of years later, she asked the spirit the usual question, and at first, the spirit hesitated. This time, its reply was:

“As beautiful as you are, my majesty, there’s a girl with skin as pale as snow I see. A girl who now, I’m afraid to say, is fairer even than thee.”

Evelyn’s face turned red, as she knew exactly who the magic mirror was talking about. Her stepdaughter was now more beautiful than she was, and soon other daughters would be more beautiful, and it was only a matter of time before the king left her to marry one of those younger, more beautiful women. The thought induced sadness at first, and then that sadness turned into rage. The magic mirror became a victim of that rage, as Evelyn grabbed a shoe and threw it into the mirror, shattering it. The outline of the spirit that was trapped inside the mirror appeared above what remained of it for a few seconds before fading away, letting out a scream that sent shivers down Evelyn’s spine.

King Phillip hurried into the room.

“Evelyn, are you okay?” asked Phillip.

“Yeah!” responded Evelyn.

“What happened to the mirror?”

“I-it broke!”

That was one of the last conversations she would have with Phillip, as Merlin would be brought to the palace by the royal guard later that day, and the king would die at Merlin’s hands just a few days later.


Evelyn made sure the white hair was out of view as she descended into the dungeon, where Soos lay on the ground with a bored expression on his face. Once he starting hearing footsteps, he sat up to get a better look at who was coming.

“Queen Evelyn? What do you want?” asked Soos.

“I just wanted to give you the good news: you’re free to go!” said Evelyn.

“Really? You don’t want me to do anything first?”

“No, the king has all he needs from those friends of yours.”

Evelyn and Soos climbed up the stairs of the dungeon together, and as they reached the top, Soos tripped, causing them both to tumble into Merlin’s kitchen.

“Watch where you’re going!” said Evelyn as she pushed Soos away from her.

As they both got up, Evelyn noticed that her white hair was now in plain sight, and she quickly turned away.

“What’s wrong?” asked Soos.

Evelyn didn’t bother to try to hide the white hair this time and turned again to face Soos.

“It’s this, okay? This white strand of hair! You must think it makes me ugly,” conceded Evelyn.

“I don’t think that,” said Soos. “I think you’re as pretty as before.”

Evelyn, who was holding back tears expecting a verbal berating like the ones her mother gave her whenever she did something improper, opened her mouth with surprise, not knowing how to respond. Before she could say something, Merlin rushed into the palace.

“Good! You’re still here!” said Merlin.

“What’s going on?” wondered Evelyn.

“There’s no time! They’ll be here any second!”

Merlin took a needle out from under his robe and pricked Soos in the arm with it.

“Ye-ouch!” screeched Soos.

Merlin squeezed two drops of blood from Soos’ arm into a small tube, and he ran into the dungeon with it.

“What’s his problem?” asked Soos.

Evelyn sighed. “I don’t know. Merlin told me and Big Bad to meet him at Charming’s castle after I let you go, but it seems he needs to do something with your blood in the dungeon first.”

“What do you think it is?”

Suddenly, the palace started to shake. The Big Bad Wolf ran into the kitchen, clearly terrified, and Evelyn grabbed him and rubbed his back to calm him down.

“It’s okay, Big Bad. It’s okay,” whispered Evelyn.

After the shaking stopped, the Blue Fairy appeared in front of the painting of the arch that led to the dungeon.

“You!” said Evelyn.

The Blue Fairy immediately recognized Soos.

“You!” cried the Blue Fairy.

“Me!” said Soos.

“How are you here?” said the Blue Fairy. “I just saw you leave with your friends in the dungeon. Unless…”

“That’s why he needed Soos’ blood!” said Evelyn.

“A transformation spell,” groaned the fairy. “I should have known. Merlin did it. He tricked me. He won.”

“And he...didn’t take me and the wolf with him,” realized Evelyn.

“He abandoned me...just like my pack,” said the wolf.

The Blue Fairy grabbed Soos’ shoulders.

“Boy, your world is in grave danger,” said the fairy. “If it’s true that there’s no magic where you live, Merlin could face little resistance on his quest to conquer your planet.”

“Wow, that sounds really bad!” said Soos. “Also, your hands hurt a lot!”

“Sorry,” said the fairy, letting go of Soos to reveal patches in his shirt where her hands were.

“How can we help?” asked Evelyn.

“You two?” exclaimed the fairy with surprise.

“Us two?” exclaimed the wolf with even more surprise.

“Come on, wolfie,” said Evelyn. “Wouldn’t you like to get revenge on the king for leaving us here? Going to that new world and messing up his plans would be the perfect way to do that!”

“No offense,” said the Blue Fairy. “But I don’t trust the two of you in the slightest.”

“Fair enough,” said Evelyn.

Soos felt a chill overcome him.

“Does anybody else feel that?” asked Soos.

“Feel what?” said the Blue Fairy.

The doors to the palace flew open, and Grimhilde, a witch from the nearby forest, walked in.

“Who are you?” asked the Blue Fairy.

Soos gasped. “That’s the crazy candy witch from the forest!”

“There you are, my little darling,” cooed Grimhilde. “I didn’t think you would be here. As soon as your garment led me to this palace, I believed Merlin was tricking me, but I’ve never been so happy to be wrong!”

“His garment? You used a locator spell on this boy?” said the Blue Fairy.

“Indeed. And in exchange for this spell, I taught Merlin a spell he coveted for a long time, one that would allow him to tether somebody’s life force to a wand.”

As soon as the Blue Fairy heard this, she charged at Grimhilde with rage. Grimhilde simply touched the Blue Fairy’s neck with her wand, and the Blue Fairy fell to the ground, the glow around her now flickering.

“That’s one thing I didn’t teach Merlin!” said Grimhilde, cackling. “You fairies are all so pretentious for what are essentially overgrown insects.”

Grimhilde turned to Soos.

“I see she did a number on your shirt as well,” said Grimhilde. “Here.”

Grimhilde threw a piece of Soos’ shirt to him. The shirt was glowing so brightly that Soos had to squint as he looked at it.

“Use that to keep yourself warm as we return to my house,” said Grimhilde.

“No,” said Soos. “I’m not going!”

“And why not?”

“Because once we get there, you’re going to eat me!”

“So?”

“So I don’t want to be eaten!”

Grimhilde shrugged.

“We all have to do things we don’t want to do sometimes,” she said. “I didn’t want to come to this dreadful palace to retrieve you, but here I am. Whether you want to be eaten or not, you shall be eaten.”

Soos looked down at the glowing piece of shirt he held, and before Grimhilde could react, he threw it at her eyes.

“Oh, you brat!” cried the witch. “Once I get my hands on you…”

Soos darted to a window, but just as he made it out, he felt a cold, wrinkly hand grab his ankle and pull him back in.

“No, no, no!” said Soos, trying his hardest to pull himself back out the window.

“Face it,” said Grimhilde. “You don’t have the Blue Fairy protecting you any longer. Your annoying little friends are nowhere to be found. There is only you and me now, and it isn’t even close to a fair fight.”

Soos felt his grip on the edges of the window loosen, and his eyes welled up as he no longer had the strength to hold on. Soos fell to the floor and turned around to find Grimhilde looking down at him with a large smile, the smile of a predator that has finally captured its prey. Soos closed his eyes, expecting Grimhilde to pick him up and take him to his death. When nothing happened for several seconds, Soos opened his eyes again to find that Grimhilde was now frowning and Evelyn was standing behind her with a knife lodged in Grimhilde’s back.

“It seems you forgot someone,” said Evelyn.

“Do you know...what you’ve done?” said Grimhilde, struggling to get every word out.

“Yes,” said Evelyn. “I’ve done something I should have done a long time ago but that my witch-sympathetic husband would never let me.”

“With me...and Merlin...gone...there will be...nothing...to stop others...from invading,” whispered Grimhilde.

“And how exactly will they find out?” asked Evelyn.

Grimhilde glanced at the window she pulled Soos out of. Evelyn looked at it too and saw there now was a raven sitting there.

“No,” said Evelyn, realizing that the raven had seen everything that had just occurred. “What will become of my kingdom?”

Said the raven, “nevermore.”

The raven then flew off, and Grimhilde, now with a satisfied expression on her face, collapsed to the ground as Soos got back up.

“Th-thanks for saving me,” said Soos.

“No, thank you,” said Evelyn. “I had forgotten what it was like to think about somebody other than me for a change.”

Evelyn watched as the raven disappeared into the sky.

“If only it hadn’t come at so great a cost,” she whispered.


Mabel and Dipper walked into the Mystery Shack’s parlor and stopped in front of the fireplace. Dipper glanced at Mabel, and then he glanced down at the book he was holding with “Fairy Tales and Other Stories for Children” etched into its cover. He took a deep breath, and then he chucked the book into the fireplace.

“Did we really have to destroy it?” asked Mabel.

“We can’t risk Merlin finding a way onto this world,” said Dipper. “If the book is ashes, we won’t have to worry about it anymore.”

“Yeah,” said Mabel. “But there were some good memories in there.”

“Yeah, for you,” said Dipper.

“You seemed to get along well with Mr. Thumb.”

“He’s a storybook character, just like everybody else we met. The relationships we formed, none of it was real. You need to understand that, Mabel. Everybody here: Grunkle Stan, Wendy, Soos, those people are real, and we can’t put them in danger.”

“Speaking of Soos, we haven’t heard from him in a while. You think he’s okay?”

“As okay as somebody who spent days being held hostage in a dungeon can be, I guess.”

“Where do you think Grunkle Stan is?”

“Looking for us, probably.”

Dipper sighed.

“I can’t imagine what he’s going through,” said Dipper. “I have my suspicions about him, but he does seem to care about us.”

Mabel nodded, then her eyes widened.

“Ohmygoshiforgotaboutwaddles!” shrieked Mabel.

“Huh?” said Dipper.

Mabel ran out of the parlor.

“Waddles? Waddles? Oh man, I hope Grunkle Stan fed him!” said Mabel.

Mabel heard a familiar oinking from the storage room. She went into it and found Waddles sniffing at a large cardboard box.

“I’m so sorry for leaving you, Waddles!” said Mabel.

Waddles oinked at Mabel and then oinked at the box.

“Oh, you want something from there?”

Mabel used a hairpin to open the box, and Waddles climbed into it before climbing back out with an already-half-eaten apple in his mouth.

“Don’t worry, Waddles! I’ll have you eating like, well...a pig as soon as I see what else is in this box.”

Mabel rummaged through the objects in the box before taking out a golden chest with a picture of a frog engraved into it and blue, green, and pink gems on top of it.

“Wow,” Mabel said. “It’s beautiful.”

Mabel opened the chest, and she felt a powerful energy enter her body, causing her immense pain. Waddles ran out of the room as Mabel started screaming. Dipper heard the screams in the parlor and hurried out, being careful not to trip over a frenzied Waddles as he went into the storage room. By the time Dipper was inside, however, Mabel and the chest were gone.

“Oh, no,” said Dipper.

Dipper ran up to the attic and looked around.

“Soos? I would have sworn I had seen Soos come up here,” said Dipper.

Dipper heard a door open and close downstairs. He then heard a familiar voice speak.

“I still can’t find them anywhere,” said the voice, which belonged to Stan. “I promised my niece I would keep them safe, and I couldn't even do that.”

Dipper heard Stan sigh before walking into the living room. He knew that he should go downstairs and let Stan know that at the very least he was okay even if he didn’t know if the same were true for Soos and Mabel, but a part of him wanted to stay in the attic instead of having that awkward conversation with his great-uncle. Eventually, his better judgment prevailed, and he went downstairs, walked into the living room, and cleared his throat. Stan, who was watching television, turned around, and his jaw dropped when he saw Dipper standing in front of the staircase entryway.

“D-dipper? You’re not a ghost, are you?” asked Stan.

Dipper shook his head, and Stan raced to him to hug him, not bothering to stop the flood of tears coming from his eyes.

“I’m so glad you’re safe!” said Stan. “Where’s Mabel? Where’s Soos?”

“Uh,” began Dipper. “You see, what happened…”

“We interrupt this program to bring you some breaking news!” said a reporter on the television. “A man dressed as a wizard has been causing havoc downtown and threatening to level the city unless he gets a meeting with the president!”

“Wow, you don’t see that everyday,” said Stan. “Now, you were saying?”

Dipper stared at the television screen, which featured Merlin shooting energy beams from his hands at cars and buildings, blowing them up. Dipper’s jaw had dropped this time, and Stan waved a hand in front of his face.

“Hello?” said Stan. “Did whoever you were with the last few days steal your brain?”

“You may want to sit down,” said Dipper.

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Chapter 12

Sheriff Blubs arrived to Main Street with Deputy Durland in their police car to find people running away in terror as Merlin destroyed everything in sight. Blubs came out of the police car with a megaphone.

"Hey, wizard guy!" said Blubs into the megaphone. "Cut that out!"

"Have you brought your leader with you?" asked Merlin.

"I'm the leader in these parts, and I'm telling you to take your behind home!" said Blubs.

"And what will you do if I don't, fat man?"

Blubs reddened. "Durland, get the tasers!"

Merlin laughed.

"Whatever those 'tasters' are, they're no match for…"

Before Merlin could finish the sentence, he felt two sharp objects puncture his neck. Electricity then pulsated through his body, and he fell to the ground shaking as Blubs and Durland approached him.

"What...kind of...dark magic...is this?" croaked Merlin.

"You can thank our old friend Thomas Edison for that!" said Durland.

"When...I find...this sorcerer Edison...I shall…"

Merlin again struggled to finish his sentence before passing out.


Dipper had just finished telling Stan what had happened while he, Mabel, and Soos were gone when Wendy entered the Mystery Shack.

"Dipper!" cried Wendy.

Wendy ran to Dipper and squeezed him in her arms. When she let him go after a few seconds, his face was red, and his legs were shaking like he was carrying something double his weight.

"Do you know what happened to Soos and Mabel?" asked Wendy.

"W-w-w-well, y-y-y-y-you s-s-s-s-s-see," stuttered Dipper.

"We don't know," said Stan.

"Dang," said Wendy. "I hope they're alright."

The door to the Mystery Shack opened again, and this time, Soos' grandmother, known to Gravity Falls' residents only as Abuelita, walked in.

"Oh, no!" said Stan. "It's her again!"

Stan hid under his chair as Abuelita entered the living room.

"Hi, Abuelita!" said Dipper, who had regained his composure enough to be able to talk normally again.

"Hello," said Abuelita. "Do you have any news about my grandson?"

"I don't," responded Dipper. "I'm sorry."

"Dios mio," muttered Abuelita. "My tibuelo Bruno warned me of this. Once again, I am unhappy to see him proven right."

Dipper raised an eyebrow.

"What exactly did he tell you?" asked Dipper.

"Oh, it was so long ago," said Abuelita.

Abuelita closed her eyes, and she felt something she couldn't explain, even in her native tongue. If she had to describe it, she was somehow feeling the color green. Once she opened her eyes, she had a much better memory of what her great uncle had predicted.

"He told me I would lose somebody dear to me," said Abuelita. "And to get him back, I would have to consult el padre de los ratones, the father of mice."

"Father of mice?" repeated Wendy. "What could that mean?"

"Sadly, I do not know," said Abuelita. "If you hear about Soos, please stop by mi casa and tell me. He's been gone for days without any of Abuelita's home cooking. He must be so skinny now!"

Before Abuelita left, she turned around.

"Tell Mr. Pines I said hello, as well," said Abuelita.

Wendy kicked Stan under the chair.

"Ow!" said Stan. "I mean, there's nobody under here! This is just your mind playing tricks on you!"

Abuelita smiled before leaving the Mystery Shack. A few seconds later, Stan crawled out from under his chair.

"What was that for?" asked Stan.

"What was what for?" said Wendy, playing dumb.

"You know what I'm talking about! That kick in the keister you gave me!"

"Are you sure that wasn't just your mind playing tricks on you?"

"Very funny!"

Stan wiped the dust off of his pants before sitting in the chair.

"Why didn't you want to talk to Abuelita?" asked Dipper.

"She's been here every day since Soos disappeared, asking me the same questions. And I get it! It's her grandson, but that doesn't make it any less annoying!" explained Stan.

"Do you have any idea who that 'father of mice' might be, at least?"

"It's no one! It's a crazy old woman making stuff up! You should just ignore it!"

Dipper sighed.

"You might be right," said Dipper. "But I need something, anything to help me bring back Soos and Mabel."

Wendy put a hand on Dipper's shoulder.

"It's okay," she said. "We'll find them. Every mess we've gotten in, we've managed to dig ourselves out of, haven't we?"

"Yeah," said Dipper. "But every time, I've had Mabel with me."

"I know what will cheer us up! Pizza!" said Stan.

"All right!" said Wendy.

Dipper shook his head.

"I'm not hungry," he said. "If it's alright with you two, I'll call it a night."

Dipper went back up the stairs to the attic, and he disappeared into his room.

"Poor guy," said Wendy.

"I wish I could tell him how much I understand what he's going through," said Stan.

"What do you mean?"

"Nothing."


It was late at night when Merlin finally regained consciousness. He was now in a jail cell, and he saw Deputy Durland sleeping in a chair across from it.

"Big mistake," whispered Merlin as he pointed two open palms at the bars of the jail cell.

The bars didn't move, so Merlin said a spell out loud in Latin while keeping his open palms pointed at them.

"Why isn't this working?" grumbled Merlin.

Merlin closed his eyes and said a transportation spell as carefully as he could. When he opened his eyes again and saw that he was still in the jail cell, he punched one of the walls out of frustration.

"Why don't my powers work anymore?" wondered Merlin.

Merlin stared at Deputy Durland in his chair.

"Whatever he did to me must have crippled my magic," said Merlin. "I can't believe I was defeated by such a pathetic excuse for a human!"

Deputy Durland woke up.

"Sorry, ma! Didn't mean to wet the bed again!" blurted Durland.

Durland then realized where he was.

"You...didn't hear that, did you?" said Durland.

"Oh, I heard every word," said Merlin.

Durland sighed before standing up.

"I'm happy you're alive, by the way," said Durland. "It was pretty touch-and-go there for a while. Sheriff Blubs bet you wouldn't make it, but I bet you would. Now that you're moving again, I get to cash out!"

As Durland started to leave, Merlin grabbed the cell bars.

"So, you're just going to leave me here?" said Merlin.

"Yep!" said Durland.

Durland thought for a moment, and then he grabbed a pack of cheese and crackers from his shirt pocket and threw it into Merlin's jail cell.

"In case you get hungry," said Durland. "Last thing I want is for you to starve to death before I can prove to Daryl you're alive. BRB!"

Durland went into the hallway, leaving Merlin alone in his prison cell. Merlin picked up the cheese and crackers and studied them.

"I've never seen anything like this," said Merlin.

Merlin licked the pack of cheese and crackers without taking the plastic wrapper off.

"Strange what people in these lands are willing to eat," said Merlin.

Merlin slid the cheese and crackers into a pocket inside his robe, and he sat on a bed in the corner of his jail call, thinking about everything that had led up to this, all of the loved ones he had betrayed just to wind up in this smelly dungeon without his powers on a world he knew nothing about.

He thought about Arthur.

He thought about Evelyn.

He thought about the Big Bad Wolf.

And he questioned whether all the pain he had inflicted on those he had once considered his friends and family would be worth it in the end.

It had to be.

Otherwise, he had become a monster for nothing.


Dipper lie awake in his bed at 2 in the morning. Every time he closed his eyes, he heard Mabel's screams, those horrible screams. He hoped that she was alive and that wherever she was, she was being taken care of, but it ate away at him that he didn't know. As her twin brother, losing Mabel felt like losing a part of himself, and he had no idea how to function without her. He scanned the toys by Mabel's bed, hoping that having something to talk to, even a stuffed animal, would make it easier for him to relax. One of the toys immediately caught his attention: a plushie of Minnie Mouse.

El padre de los ratones.

"That's it!" said Dipper. "Walt Disney!"

Dipper remembered the conversation he had with Bill Cipher while playing Rumpelstiltskin. Bill had told him that Disney visited the world of fairy tales long ago, which means if Bill was telling the truth, and Disney was still alive, and he knew how to get back to that world, they could bring back Soos. If they could back to that world, they could possibly find where Mabel is and bring her back, too. He knew it was unlikely, but it was the closest thing to a solution he had, and to his sleep-deprived brain, it made perfect sense. He turned off the lights, returned to his bed, and was asleep in seconds.


Merlin woke up to the sound of a tin cup jangling through the bars of his jail cell.

"Sorry," said Deputy Durland, who was holding the cup. "I've always wanted to do that."

"What do you want?" growled Merlin.

"You have a visitor. She says she's a big fan of yours."

"Really? Interesting."

Durland left, and a woman who appeared to be in her mid-thirties walked in.

"I...I can't believe it's you!" said the woman.

"Who are you?" said Merlin.

"Sorry," said the woman. "I'm Abigail Waybright, but everyone calls me Abby."

"Well, Abby, what do you want?"

"I wanted to know if you were really here. The police said you were being detained here, but I couldn't believe that after seeing those videos of you."

"Videos?"

"Yeah! That crazy stuff you did downtown is all over YouTube now! You're a viral sensation!"

"Viral sensation? That sounds painful!"

"Well, it isn't! It's great for you! I'm actually a part of a group, the Children of Merlin, that started online last night. We already have hundreds of members, and we're adding new ones every minute."

Merlin scratched his chin, intrigued by what he was hearing.

"These Children of Merlin, would you say that they worship me?" he asked.

"Of course!" said Abby. "We think somebody like you is exactly what this world needs, somebody powerful enough and ambitious enough to take complete control, end all of the stupid fighting we see between countries, and just focus on making the world a better place."

Merlin smiled.

"Yes," he said. "That's exactly what I want, and I can accomplish it with the help of you and the rest of these Children of Merlin."

"But, if you don't mind, can I ask why you're still in this jail cell? With what I know about your powers, it shouldn't be difficult for you to break out," said Abby.

"You're right. I can leave this bloody place whenever I want to," lied Merlin. "But I won't, because when it's time to attack, I want it to come by surprise."

"Of course!" said Abby. "I never should have doubted you."

"That's right. While I'm in here, though, can you ask somebody in your group to monitor two children from this area?"

"That shouldn't be hard. What are their names?"

"Dipper and Mabel Pines."


Dipper ran downstairs as soon as he woke up. Stan was showing customers around the gift shop while Wendy was behind the cash register.

"Guys! Guys! I know how we're bringing back Soos!" said Dipper.

"Alright, everyone out!" said Stan. "This is family business!"

The customers left the gift shop visibly irritated, and Stan joined Dipper in front of the counter opposite Wendy.

"So, you remember what Abuelita said about the father of mice?" said Dipper. "I think when she said that, she was referring to Walt Disney."

"The movie guy?" said Stan. "Even if it was possible that it was him, he's been dead for close to 50 years!"

"Wait a minute," said Wendy. "I have a friend who works at Disneyland, and she told me once about a rumor that Walt Disney never really died but was cryogenically frozen and stored in a secret chamber right under the Pirates of the Caribbean ride."

"So, let's start there," said Dipper. "If we can find Disney, we can find Soos, and who knows? Maybe he can help us find Mabel, too."

"This is nonsense! I've already had to run off my paying customers just to talk about this! I'm not closing down the Mystery Shack for days so you can look for a ghost under a pirate ride!" said an exasperated Stan.

"Please," said Dipper. "If there's even a small chance, one out of one hundred, one out of one million chance that this is how I bring Mabel and Soos back, I have to try it."

"No!" said Stan. "And that's final!"

"Hey, old man, can we talk for a sec?" said Wendy.

Stan and Wendy went into the living room while Dipper sat on a barrel beside the counter. Wendy made sure Dipper was out of earshot before she started speaking.

"Listen, dude, we both know what Dipper is saying is crazy, but he just lost his sister," said Wendy. "Can't we just entertain him for a bit? Whether Walt Disney is there or not, he'll still get to have fun at Disneyland, maybe meet a cute girl his own age, and start to accept that he doesn't have all of the answers, and that's okay."

Stan sighed.

"All right," he said. "I haven't taken a break from the Mystery Shack for years, so maybe some time off will be good for me, too."

Stan and Wendy returned to the gift shop to find Dipper still on the barrel, looking down at the floor dejected.

"Chin up, brat," said Stan. "We're going to Disneyland."

Dipper looked up at his great uncle with surprise.

"What made you change your mind?" said Dipper.

"You moping around here is bad for business," said Stan. "Just promise me that after we go to Disneyland, no matter what happens, you'll at least try to be more cheerful.

Dipper nodded.

"Also," said Dipper. "Can we bring Abuelita?"

"Absolutely not!" said Stan.

"She was told that she would be the one to talk to Disney about bringing back Soos. I want to make sure we do this right," said Dipper.

Stan clenched his fists for a moment, but then he released him.

"Fine," he said. "But she's driving in the back with you!"

"Woo-hoo!" said Dipper. "I know you won't regret it, Grunkle Stan! I just know it!"

As Dipper ran to the Stanmobile, Stan shook his head.

"How much I wish I could believe you, kid," he whispered.

Wendy followed Dipper to the car as Stan locked all of the doors around the Mystery Shack. Stan then turned on the Stanmobile and joined Wendy in the front seat.

"Remember," said Wendy. "Stay cool. For Dipper."

"Yeah," said Stan. "For Dipper."

Stan took one last look at the Mystery Shack in the rearview mirror before driving off.

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Chapter 13

Mabel woke up to find that she was now outside, laying between bushes with types of flowers that she had never seen before growing from them. She sat up and noticed a golden chest on her lap. She immediately recognized the chest, and she also recognized that the gems attached to the chest, which were blue, green, and pink when she last saw them, were now colorless. She took the chest with her down a rock road, and after several minutes of walking, she saw a large stone arch with the words "Stony Gulch" featured prominently at the top and a banner saying "Travelers Welcome" pinned to the arch right under the words. Under the banner, she saw what appeared to be large humanoid frogs, toads, and newts in a primitive city behind the arch.

"How is this possible?" Mabel asked herself.

Mabel walked into the city, and the first creature to notice her screamed aloud.

"Monster!" it said.

"Who, me?" asked Mabel.

Others screamed upon seeing Mabel, and to her confusion, they all ran into the building closest to them.

"Wait!" said Mabel. "I'm not a monster! I just…"

Mabel sighed as she realized everyone was now in hiding.

"I just wanted to know where I am," she said.

Mabel looked at the names of the stores around her, and she decided to go into one that had the name "Costume Shop" above its entrance.

"Hello?" said Mabel as she walked in.

"We're closed due to a monster attack," said a toad sitting behind the store's counter and reading a magazine titled Amphibia Weekly.

Mabel cleared her throat, and the toad nearly jumped out of its chair once it saw Mabel standing at the entrance.

"W-what do you want?" asked the toad.

"I just want to buy a costume," said Mabel. "One that will let me look more like everyone else."

"We sell costumes here, not miracles," said the toad.

"What's Amphibia?" said Mabel, noticing the title of the magazine.

"Gee, what a shame," said the toad. "You're ugly and stupid."

"Come on!" said Mabel, feeling embarrassed.

"Amphibia is everything you see around you. It's the land that we walk on, the air we breathe. I, like my parents and the parents of my parents, am an Amphibian. What, pray tell, are you?"

"I'm a human."

"I've never heard of a human before, but if they all look as horrifying as you do, I hope you're the last one I meet."

"Can you just let me buy a costume?"

"Sure, take a look around. Might as well make up for some of the business I'm losing by you coming here."

Mabel looked through the costumes on the wall, and she found a frog costume that fit her perfectly.

"I'll buy this one!" she told the toad.

"That will be seven coppers," said the toad.

Mabel took a small bag out from under her sweater. She opened the bag, took out seven pennies, and dropped them on the counter. The toad looked at the pennies through a pair of binoculars before shrugging.

"Good enough," he said.

Mabel left the store in the frog costume, and the citizens of Stony Gulch, no longer seeing the "monster" around, left their hiding places soon after. Mabel asked around about the chest, but nobody knew anything about it. As the stores began to close, locals went into their homes, and visitors either went into one of the town's hotels or left the city on a bird or snail. Mabel had used what was left of her money to buy an ice cream cone, and after spending 20 minutes taking bugs out of it, she cautiously ate it, and it tasted almost exactly like the ice cream on Earth, minus the unfortunate bug aftertaste. She approached the only store that was still open as she finished the ice cream cone.

"The Curiosity Hut," said Mabel, reading the store's name out loud.

Mabel entered The Curiosity Hut, and the only source of light inside the store was the glowing mushrooms used to highlight various creatures frozen in wax. One of them, a group of gnome-like creatures on a platform with the label "Fromes" on it, caused her to shiver.

"That's bringing back some traumatic memories," said Mabel.

"Who goes there?" said a familiar voice.

Mabel turned towards the voice, and she saw an outline of somebody she recognized in the darkness.

"Grunkle Stan?" she said.

"My name may be Stan…" the source of the voice began.

Mabel gasped as she saw who the voice really belonged to, an orange frog with an eyepatch, a maroon-colored fez, a suit, and a cane.

"...but I ain't nobody's Grunkle!" he finished.

"I'm sorry," said Mabel. "You reminded me of someone I know."

"That's all right!" he said. "Anyway, welcome to my Museum of Oddities! I go by many names, but you can call me 'The Curator'."

"A little on the nose, but okay," said Mabel.

"For the low, low price of 3 coppers, I can give you a tour of the museum," said The Curator.

"Actually, I don't have any money right now," admitted Mabel.

"No money! Then what are you doing here? What are you doing in Stony Gulch? Nobody comes around these parts unless they have money to spend!"

"That's the thing," said Mabel. "I'm not from here. I'm not from Amphibia. I was brought here from another world by this."

Mabel took the chest out of a bag she was keeping it in. The Curator's eye widened as he saw the chest.

"Where did you get that from?" asked The Curator.

"My Grunkle Stan, the guy I mentioned who looks exactly like you, was keeping it in a place kind of like this, but a little less creepy," said Mabel. "No offense."

"None taken," said The Curator. "How about we make a deal? You let me hold onto that for the night, and I'll let you spend the night in a room I have in my attic, free of charge!"

"You'd really do that for me?"

"Sure! I probably have seven, eight years left, so I'll need as many good deeds as possible before I depart from this rotten planet!"

"Oh, I'm sure you have more than that!"

The Curator laughed. "I love your optimism!"

The Curator took the chest from Mabel and headed towards another room. Mabel ran upstairs and found a room in the exact same location as her room in the Mystery Shack.

"Wild," said Mabel.

Mabel jumped onto a bed in the middle of the room, and large bed bugs crawled out from under it.

"Gross! Gross! Gross!" screeched Mabel, hitting the bed bugs with her pillow as they lunged at her.

After all of the bed bugs crawled out the window, Mabel sank in her bed, terrified of this world and wishing she was back home with her brother. As she tried to calm her nerves and go to sleep, Dipper wasn't the only person she thought of. She thought of Soos, Grunkle Stan, her parents...and she thought of Prince Charming. His face, his smile, the way she felt around him. Despite what Dipper told her, she couldn't believe it wasn't real. After everything she had seen in Gravity Falls, in that fairy tale world, and here in Amphibia, there wasn't anything she couldn't believe was real.


The Curator thumbed through the pages of a book in his study room.

"I know I saw it in here somewhere," he muttered.

He stopped on a page that had a drawing of an item that looked exactly like Mabel's chest on it.

"Jackpot!" he said.

He read through the page, which had "BEWARE!" in big, bold letters on it. On the adjacent page were the words "Calamity Box", detailed drawings of the pink, blue, and green gems on the chest when Mabel found it, and the word "DANGER!", also in big, bold letters.

"King Andrias is going to find this very interesting," said The Curator. "Very, very interesting indeed."

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Chapter 14

Octavian, King of Galacia, stood in his room, looking out the window of his palace as Livian, King of the Visigoths, approached it on a horse. The guards in front of the palace ordered him to drop his spear and swords before entering the palace, and he complied. Livian reached Octavian's room less than a minute later.

"Did you hear the news carried by the raven?" asked Livian.

Octavian pretended he didn't hear Livian at first, continuing to look out the window, but then he nodded.

"The wizard Merlin has left and the witch Grimhilde has died, meaning there is nobody in New Britain powerful enough to repel an invasion," said Octavian.

"With the combined strength of our armies, New Britain wouldn't stand a chance against us," said Livian.

"And why exactly would I want to work with you?" asked Octavian.

"I know about our history, brother, but right now, I'm focused on the same thing you are: getting Prince Charming out of there!"

Octavian finally turned around to face his brother Livian.

"I never should have let that monster take him from me," said Octavian. "I would love nothing more than to kill Merlin, but I suppose burning his kingdom to the ground and killing his wife will be good enough."

"And I'll make sure you get to do both those things," said Livian.

"Very well. I'll accept your help. But this doesn't change things between us."

"No, of course not. After I help you get your son back and take my share of the riches from plundering New Britain, I'll return to my lands and stay out of yours."

Octavian nodded again.

"I'll get my soldiers ready," he said. "We leave at dawn."


The first thing the Blue Fairy noticed as she regained consciousness was the smell of porridge in her nose. She looked up to find Evelyn stirring in a large pot with a wooden spoon.

"W-what happened?" said the Blue Fairy.

"You were defeated by Grimhilde," said Evelyn. "Then I killed her with a knife."

"You didn't need to do that," said the fairy.

"Well, I was quite tired of her going around and eating people, so I put a stop to it," said Evelyn. "You're welcome, by the way."

The Blue Fairy stood up and found Soos at the kitchen table with an empty bowl.

"Are you okay?" asked the fairy.

"I will be after I try whatever Evelyn's cooking!" said Soos.

Evelyn poured some of her porridge into Soos' bowl, and he finished it in seconds.

"I do appreciate you keeping the boy alive," said the fairy.

Evelyn poured porridge into a dog bowl then whistled. The Big Bad Wolf ran into the kitchen so quickly that he nearly sent the Blue Fairy back to the ground. Once he got to the dog bowl, he slurped up Evelyn's porridge.

"I still don't know if I can trust you two," said the fairy. "But I suppose we'll need all the help we can get stopping Merlin, and you two know him better than anyone else."

"That we do," said Evelyn. "But before we stop Merlin in his realm, we'll need to settle affairs in our own. Octavian and Livian have likely gotten word about Merlin and Grimhilde by now, so they'll be preparing their armies to invade New Britain, and without the magical defenses someone like you can provide, we'll lose."

"I'm sorry," said the fairy. "The Council prohibits us from getting involved in human conflicts. We're allowed to help individual mortals with their problems, like I've done with Pinocchio, but anything that may have wider consequences, and especially anything that would determine the outcome of a war, is off-limits for us."

"You don't understand," said Evelyn. "The Galacian and Visigothic kingdoms won't invade our lands seeking surrender. They'll be seeking to kill every man, woman, and child within these borders."

"Why do those guys hate you so much?" asked Soos.

"Octavian tried to invade once before, shortly after Merlin came to power. He lost, and to punish Octavian, Merlin kept his firstborn son, Prince Charming, as a prisoner."

Soos gasped.

"That's the dude I was with in the dungeon!" he said.

"Yes, and he's also the heir to the Galacian throne," said Evelyn.

"So, why don't you just give him his son back and call it even?" asked Soos.

"I can't just 'call it even'. He already coveted these lands, and kidnapping his child was a transgression he will not forgive. War is coming, and without the Blue Fairy's help, New Britain won't exist for much longer."

"Like I said, I can't help you," said the Blue Fairy. "You know what happened to the elves. I can't allow that to happen to my species."

"What happened to the elves?" asked Soos.

Evelyn sighed.

"Many centuries ago, there was a thriving population of elves in these lands," said Evelyn. "One of the ancestors of the king who came before Merlin wiped them out when they supported a peasant uprising that ultimately failed. It's one of the first stories I was told on the manor I grew up on."

"And it's why I cannot help you," said the fairy. "My recommendation is that you leave these lands before Octavian and Livian enter them."

"This is my home," said Evelyn. "And with Merlin gone, I'm its sole ruler. I cannot abandon New Britain in its greatest time of need."

Soos looked down at his empty bowl and saw a faint reflection of himself in it.

"I'll help," said Soos.

"What was that?" said Evelyn.

"I'll help you in your war."

"Why? You weren't born here. You were brought here by a madman, a madman I used to love, but a madman nevertheless."

"You saved my life, so I can't just leave you here to die. Let me fight for you."

"Have you ever even handled a sword?"

"I can learn!"

"This is crazy!" said the Blue Fairy. "Our focus needs to be on getting you back to where you came from. If the queen wants to die at the hands of hostile invaders, let her, but you don't need to get involved."

"All my life, I've wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself," said Soos. "Bigger even than the Mystery Shack. This is my chance."

Soos put his empty bowl on his head then knelt in front of Evelyn.

"My queen, what are your commands?" he said.

Evelyn blushed.

"Okay," she said. "You're officially a soldier in the Royal Army. I'll let General Shang give you your instructions once he gets here."

The Blue Fairy rolled her eyes.

"If you two want to discuss suicide, so be it, but I'll have no part in it," the fairy said.

The Blue Fairy disappeared, leaving nothing but blue specks of fairy dust behind.


General Li Shang was the top military commander in China before escaping during the fall of the Han dynasty. He had spent nearly a decade traveling the continent as a merchant before being summoned to New Britain by Merlin, whose wife had taken great interest in a rare artifact he carried: the frozen egg of a dragon. After buying the egg, Merlin offered Shang a high-ranking position in his own army, and Shang rejected the offer at first, preferring his life as a merchant over the chaotic, often dangerous life he had as a commander. Once he saw Queen Evelyn, the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, he changed his mind, and it didn't take him long to become the Royal Army's top general.

Merlin, who had constantly been away from the palace searching for ways to expand his kingdom, entrusted General Shang with his palace's protection while he was gone. The more time he spent with Evelyn, the closer they had become, and eventually, they started an affair. The dragon egg Merlin purchased from Shang was unfrozen and hatched, and the dragon grew quickly, becoming a cornerstone of the Royal Army in less than a decade. Barbarian invaders were turned to ashes within seconds by Excalibur, which Merlin named the dragon. This led to a long period of peace and prosperity within the kingdom, and while Merlin thought about expanding it eastward or even capturing Galacia and the Visigothic Kingdom to the west, his ambitions grew with Excalibur, and he knew he wanted to take his kingdom somewhere no man had ever taken a kingdom before.

As quickly as Excalibur grew, his death was just as sudden. Shang thought about it many times in the years since then. The dragons he heard legends about during his childhood were known to live for hundreds of years, and this dragon they had hatched and nurtured like a child of their own hadn't even lived for 20 years. Perhaps it had something to do with it being frozen in an egg for so long, or perhaps those legends he heard about were just legends and nothing more. Whatever the reason was for Excaliber's early demise, it caused Shang and Evelyn to drift apart, and he started having lower-ranking officers defend the palace when Merlin was gone instead of doing it himself. He suspected that Merlin knew about their affair but that the wizard king did not want to interfere with Evelyn's happiness, as when Shang informed him that he no longer wanted the castle guard duties, Merlin almost seemed relieved to hear it.

Shang now stood at the palace doors for the first time in years, and when he knocked, the doors flung open, and Evelyn, as beautiful as he remembered, was now standing in front of him.

"Hello, General Shang," she said.

"Hello, Queen," responded Shang, trying to sound as formal as he could.

Evelyn let Shang inside, and once they reached the kitchen, Shang noticed Soos, who was eating more of Evelyn's porridge. Soos looked up and waved with his mouth full. Shang hesitantly waved back.

"Who's he?" asked Shang.

"That's Soos, a visitor from another land," said Evelyn.

"He couldn't have picked a better time to visit," muttered Shang sarcastically.

Soos ran up to Shang and saluted.

"As the newest soldier of Her Majesty's Royal Army, I am prepared to receive orders from you, SIR!" said Soos.

"Really?" said Shang. "This is what I have to work with? You may as well offer my head to Octavian on a silver platter."

"Come on," said Evelyn. "Assuming the Galacian and Visigothic forces leave at dawn, they won't get here for four more days, giving you four days to train Soos up into a proper soldier."

"I'm a commander, not a magician," said Shang. "If we had our magicians, I wouldn't need to be here."

"Please, Mr. Shang! Just give me a chance!" said Soos.

Shang sighed.

"Alright," he said. "Have you ever used a sword before?"

"I have!" said Soos.

"You have?"

"Not!"

"Come on, man."

"I have used one of those fake lightsabers. Does that count?"

"I don't even know what that means!"

"Then no, I haven't."

"Alright, alright. Have you ever used a bow and arrow?"

"I have!"

"Not?"

"How did you know I was going to say 'not'?"

"Listen," said Shang. "You clearly don't have the agility to become a capable swordsman in the time I have to train you, but I can teach you to be an archer, even a good archer, if you listen to exactly what I tell you to do between now and the start of our first battle."

"You got it!" said Soos.

"Great. Let's depart, then," said Shang.

Shang and Soos left the palace, and Shang untied a pair of horses that had their reins connected.

"Get on. We don't have all week," said Shang.

"About that," said Soos. "I don't know how to ride a horse, either."

"You have to be kidding me," said Shang.

"We don't ride horses where I'm from!" explained Soos.

"I would never want to live somewhere as primitive as wherever you're from," said Shang. "Get on."

Shang tied the two horses together again, and he climbed onto a horse before helping Soos climb onto it behind him.

"I'll make a man out of you yet," said Shang as he pulled the reins of the horse and they were carried off at a speed that startled Soos so much he nearly fell off.

The sun began to set as Shang and Soos rode through the fields outside the castle, and Shang pulled the reigns tighter to ensure that they wouldn't have to spend too much time riding with only the stars lighting their path ahead. Shang knew that the next time the sun peeked out of the horizon, the armies of Galacia and the Visigoths would begin marching towards them, and while he had experienced fear many times during his military campaigns, he had never experienced a fear quite like this one. He didn't know what Evelyn saw in the kid riding with him, but he hoped that training him would help them get exactly what they would need to win this war: a miracle.

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Chapter 16

Lady Olivia waited with one of the king's guards outside of his throne room.

"So, you're the new royal advisor?" said the guard.

"Yes," said Olivia.

"Did you hear what happened to the advisor before you?"

"No, I wasn't made aware."

"He brought the king tea when he requested sparkling cider, so the king had him executed."

Olivia gulped.

"I'm sure you'll do fine, though!" said the guard.

The door to the throne room opened, and another guard came out of it. He nodded towards Olivia, who was now sweating, and the other guard stepped out of the way as she walked into the room. King Andrias, who ruled over all of Amphibia, was staring at a portrait of his ancestors as Olivia approached him, and he didn't turn around to greet her.

"Good morning, Lady Olivia," said Andrias after nearly a minute-long silence.

"G-good morning, king," said Olivia. "What did you want to discuss?"

"I'll be going on a trip to Stony Gulch, and I'll need to you look after the castle while I'm gone," said Andrias.

"Me? But I haven't even been your advisor for a day yet!" said Olivia.

"I trust you'll do a good job," said Andrias. "And if you don't…well, I'm sure one of my guards have told you what happened to the advisor before you by now."

Olivia's eyes filled with tears, and she looked down before taking a deep breath and looking up again.

"I'll make sure to keep your castle safe," she said.

Andrias put three fingers in his mouth, whistled, and waited for a large bird to fly into his room through the window. The bird startled Olivia, causing her to back away as Andrias climbed onto its back.

"See you soon, Lady Olivia!" he said before pulling the reins of the bird and flying out through the same window the bird had just come in through.


Mabel yawned as she walked down the stairs of the Curiosity Hut. She smelled pancakes and ran into the kitchen where The Curator was cooking them.

"You got here just in time!" said The Curator. "I thought I'd have to eat all of these myself!"

Mabel jumped into a chair and rubbed her hands together as The Curator put a plate with pancakes and syrup in front of her. Stuck to the syrup were various types of insects.

"Oh right," said Mabel, disappointed. "You guys put bugs in everything."

An orange frog walked into the kitchen.

"Oh man!" he said. "Am I late for pancakes?"

"Indeed, Bert," said The Curator. "Make sure to get here early next time."

Bert sighed and began to walk out.

"Wait! You can have mine!" said Mabel.

"No, I couldn't," said Bert. "You're a guest."

"I insist!" said Mabel.

Bert shrugged and turned back around.

"Okay, then," he said before extending his tongue to grab the pancakes from Mabel's plate and pull them into his mouth.

"You better not expect me to make you more food after giving yours to the help!" scolded The Curator.

"It's fine. I wasn't that hungry, anyway," said Mabel, ignoring her growling stomach.

The Curator ate his pancakes then left the kitchen. Bert sat down beside Mabel.

"So," said Bert. "What's with the costume?"

Mabel blushed.

"I'm sure you're fooling most of the other frogs around here, but not me," said Bert, wiping his mouth with a napkin.

"I got this from a costume shop because my regular self...scares people," said Mabel.

"Well, considering what I do for a job, it'll take a lot to scare me!" said Bert.

"What do you do?"

"All those creatures The Curator has frozen in wax in the museum? I caught them!"

"Really? That sounds super dangerous."

"It is! But the thrill of getting closer to these beasts than anyone before me makes it worth it!"

"How do you catch them?"

Bert took a small tranquilizer gun out of his pocket.

"With this!" he said. "By injecting my target with a Scorpileo stinger, I can subdue the animal enough to bring it here and let The Curator do his thing!"

Bert put the tranquilizer gun back into his pocket and stood up.

"It was nice talking to you...whoever you are," he said.

"Mabel. My name is Mabel."

"Frogbert Wharton, but everybody calls me Bert."

Mabel giggled.

"Good to meet you, Bert," she said, shaking his hand.

"Now I must be off. There was a sighting of a giant centipede around this time yesterday, and I think he would make a great addition to the Hut!" said Bert.

"Can I go with?" asked Mabel.

"I don't know," said Bert. "Can you run in that heavy thing? Cause you might need to if this goes sideways."

Mabel nodded excitedly, and Bert smiled.

"Alright, then," he said. "Mr. Ponds, I'm taking our guest with me on today's hunt!"

"If she dies, you're responsible for burying her!" The Curator said from another room.

"Don't worry," said Bert. "He's delightful once you get to know him."

"Really?" said Mabel.

"Nah," said Bert. "Let's go!"

Bert and Mabel left the Curiosity Hut and headed towards the forest.

"So," said Mabel. "Are you from here?"

"Nobody's from the Stony Gulch. It's just a big tourist trap," explained Bert.

"Then where are you from?"

"I'm from Swamp Shiro, a town in Frog Valley. I lived there until I decided I wanted to travel to Newtopia for a chance at a better life. It was hard at first. Most Newtopians think us frogs are just a bunch of dumb rednecks, and while a lot of us are, I wanted to prove to them I was different. I made great progress, even being the first frog ever admitted to Newtopia University, but fighting centuries of prejudice takes time. After I graduated, I was unable to find work in Newtopia, so I came here."

"You seem pretty smart to me. You could see through my disguise, anyway."

Bert laughed.

"It seems both of us know what it feels like to not belong," he said. "Is that why you left wherever it is you came from?"

"Actually, I kind of got here by accident," said Mabel.

"Well, I'm happy we met each other," said Bert. "Even if it was by accident."

Mabel smiled.

"Me too," she said.

Bert and Mabel were deep in the forest when they noticed a large creature pass behind them. They both turned around.

"Did you see that?" said Bert.

"I noticed something," said Mabel.

Bert took his tranquilizer gun out.

"It knows we're here," he said.

Bert picked up a rock and threw it as far as he could. After it landed, the ground shook, and Bert grabbed the arm of Mabel's costume with his free hand to keep them both steady.

"What happens now?" Mabel whispered.

The giant centipede shot out of the ground in front of them, revealing its huge body with hundreds of legs on each side. Bert backed away, pulling Mabel with him.

"This," he said.

Bert carefully pointed his tranquilizer gun at the centipede's underside, and once he was sure he had a straight shot, he pulled the trigger. A Scorpileo stinger flew from the gun towards the centipede as it turned around. The stinger hit the centipede's shell and shattered, causing the centipede to roar.

"Well, that never happened before," said a nervous Bert.

"Should we run now?" asked Mabel as the centipede barreled towards them.

"Definitely," said Bert.

Mabel and Bert ran in different directions as the centipede plunged into the area they were just standing in. Mabel stopped once she realized the centipede wasn't following her but Bert.

"Oh, no. Bert!" she said.

Mabel turned and ran towards the centipede, which was catching up to Bert quicker than he could run. Bert tripped over a root, and he cried as the centipede rose then descended on him with its mouth wide open. Bert closed his eyes, expecting these to be the final moments of his life, but when nothing happened after a minute, he opened them again. He gasped as Mabel floated above him, no longer wearing her costume and now with pink hair, green eyes, and a blue aura surrounding her. She was able to hold the centipede's mouth open with her bare hands, and as Bert watched in awe, she closed the creature's mouth, spun it around, and threw it to the ground, knocking the centipede unconscious.

"What are you?" said Bert, standing back up.

Mabel stared at her glowing blue hands with confusion as she floated to the ground.

"I thought I knew, but apparently, I don't," she said.

Mabel's hair and eyes returned to their normal colors, and the blue around her disappeared as she fell to her knees.

"I...don't know what's happening," she said.

"It's okay," said Bert. "We probably won't be able to fit that thing in the Hut, anyway. It's much bigger than I thought it would be."

Bert took off his jacket and threw it over a shivering Mabel. As he waited for her to regain her strength, a bird wearing armor with a familiar symbol engraved upon it flew over them.

"Is that...King Andrias?" said Bert.

"I think I'm feeling better now," said Mabel.

"You sure?"

"Yeah."

"Let's get back to the Hut, then."

Bert and Mabel returned to the Curiosity Hut and found royal guards standing in the wax museum.

"What's going on?" asked Mabel.

"Sorry, this store is closed to visitors," said the guard.

"We work here!" said Bert.

"The owner was very clear about allowing nobody through until the transaction was complete," said another guard.

"What does Mr. Ponds have that's so valuable the king is willing to come all the way here to get it from him?" wondered Bert.

"That's none of your business. And also, we don't know," said the first guard.

"Let us see him now!" said Bart.

"Or what?"

Bart punched the first guard so hard that he fell to the ground. Mabel and the second guard covered their mouths in surprise.

"How dare you!" said the second guard. "Do you know what the punishment for assaulting a royal officer is?"

Bart pointed his fist at the second guard.

"Do you want to be next?" he asked.

"No, sir! Go right through!" said the second guard.

Bert ran to the Curator's office, and Mabel followed him. Once inside, they found the Curator excitedly watching King Andrias bring in large bags through the window as he held Mabel's chest.

"What are you doing?" asked Mabel.

The Curator's eyes widened once he saw Mabel and Bert.

"Oh, my!" said the Curator. "This is awkward."

"Where did you get that chest from?" asked Bert.

"That weird-looking frog next to you brought it here! It's an ancient relic worth millions of coppers, which our king is graciously paying me right now. I'll never have to work again thanks to this thing!" said the Curator.

"That 'thing' is mine!" said Mabel.

"I don't see you holding it," said the Curator. "Stony Gulch has many rules, but one takes precedent over every other: Finder's Keepers!"

"But I'm the one who found it! I gave it to you! I trusted you!" said Mabel, on the verge of tears.

"Well, it seems your trust was misplaced," said the Curator.

Bert grabbed Mabel's arm.

"Come on," he said. "It isn't worth it. Mr. Ponds isn't worth it. Let him rot somewhere with all that money while we live our lives somewhere very far from here."

Mabel ripped her arm away from Bert.

"No," she said. "I want it back."

Mabel shook as her sadness turned to anger. Bert noticed that the few strands of hair sticking out of her costume were now pink.

"I want it back," she said. "Now!"

Suddenly, Mabel's costume ripped apart as the blue aura surrounded her once more. Her eyes became green again as she blinked away some tears, and she ran towards the Curator with lightning speed.

"What are you?" screamed the Curator.

"Somebody who wants what's hers," said Mabel.

Andrias watched Mabel with the same look of terror on his face the Curator had.

"Impossible," he said. "You have the power of all three gems! How are you still alive?"

Mabel took the chest from the Curator, who put up no resistance. Andrias pulled out the hilt of a sword, and a large, powerful blade of yellow energy popped out. He pointed the sword at Mabel.

"No matter," he said. "Unless you give me that box of yours, you won't be alive for much longer."

Mabel looked at the sword with surprise then left the room with Bart at the same lightning speed.

"Well," said Andrias. "That didn't work."

"I know it's a bad time," said the Curator. "But since you went to the trouble of bringing me all this money, how about letting me keep it?"

Andrias pointed his sword at the Curator, causing him to back away.

"Okay, okay, just a suggestion," said the Curator.


Mabel and Bert stopped right outside the entrance to the Curiosity Hut. Mabel seemed visibly tired, and she dropped the chest as her blue aura flickered.

"We have to get out of here," said Bert. "That thing you're holding...is that what sent you here?"

Mabel nodded.

"Well, try this...think about where you really want to be, and maybe the box will send us there," said Bert.

"I...I don't know if I have the energy," Mabel said weakly.

Bert took Mabel's hands in his own and squeezed them.

"If you need more energy, use mine," he said.

Mabel nodded again and closed her eyes. The gems on the chest began to glow, and the blue aura that surrounded Mabel now surrounded Bert, too. As Andrias stormed out of the Curiosity Hut, he was nearly blinded by the flash Mabel and Bert disappeared in.

"Wow," he said.

The royal guards came out of the building seconds later.

"We did everything we could to stop them!" said the first guard, who now had a black eye.

"It doesn't matter," said Andrias. "After a thousand years, I finally have confirmation that the box is still out there. The next time I see it...or one of those strange creatures with face bumps...I shall be prepared."

Andrias went back into the Curiosity Hut and found the Curator in his office struggling to push one of the Andrias' bags of money out the window.

"Hey," said the Curator. "Are you here to help?"

"Of course not," said Andrias. "I'm just here to remind you that if we're even one copper short when we bring that back to Newtopia, we'll return to give you a very public execution. It seems boring in this town, so I'm sure the citizens would love to see somebody's head chopped off."

The Curator gulped. As he pushed the final bag out the window, he watched it drop onto the back of the bird King Andrias flew into Stony Gulch on.

"It's been excellent doing business with you," said Andrias before leaving.

The Curator took a list of names and phone numbers out from one of the drawers of his desk. Since Bert wasn't likely to come back after today's events, he knew he had to seek a replacement, and one of the names on the list stuck out.

"Frog Soos," read The Curator out loud. "I guess it couldn't hurt to give him a call."

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Chapter 17

Soos carefully pointed his arrow at a target painted on a tree. He took a deep breath, pulled back the bowstring, and let the arrow fly. It sped right past the tree, disappearing into the darkness of the forest. Shang, who watched from behind Soos, shook his head.

“I’ve given you 30 arrows now, and you haven’t hit the tree once,” said Shang.

“That’s not true!” said Soos. “I hit the bottom of it that one time!”

“We’re days away from this war, and you aren’t even close to ready.”

Shang walked to the tree with the target painted onto it and pulled an arrow from its lower trunk.

“I have other men to train,” he said as he put the arrow into his quiver.

“Please!” said Soos. “Give me more time!”

“No!” said Shang. “If we’re to stand a chance against the combined forces of Galacia and the Visigoths, I’ll need soldiers. Real soldiers. I’m going back to the camp. Return to the castle where you’ll be safe.”

Shang began to walk away, and Soos was reminded of the last time his father left him at nine years old. Tears streamed down his face as he remembered his father kissing him on the forehead, promising he wouldn’t be gone long, and driving away, never to be seen or heard from again outside of the letters he had mailed Soos over the next four or five years, each with a new lame excuse for why he couldn’t return to take care of his son. Eventually, the letters stopped coming, either because his father could no longer be bothered to write to Soos anymore, or because his abuelita no longer wanted to show him his father’s newest batch of lies.

Abuelita tried to convince Soos that his father walking out on them wasn’t Soos’ fault, but even before he left, Soos could tell that his father didn’t respect him, that his father saw him as weak. He no longer blamed himself for what happened, but as Shang departed, all of the negative feelings surrounding his father’s abandonment returned, and out of desperation, Soos sprinted after Shang, tackling him and causing the arrow to fall out of Shang’s quiver.

“What are you doing?” said Shang, pushing Soos off.

“I want another chance!” said Soos. “Just one more! Please!”

Shang stood up and brushed dirt and leaves off his military uniform.

“Fine!” he said. “One more chance.”

Shang gave Soos the arrow and pointed to the target on the tree.

“You hit the target, dead center, and I’ll resume your training,” said Shang. “If you miss, you head to the castle or that arrow goes in you.”

Soos nodded.

“Understood,” he said.

Soos fitted the arrow into his bow, aimed it at the target, took another deep breath, this one deeper than all the ones, and steadied his feet, steadied his hands, steadied his mind. Soos closed his eyes and waited for nearly a minute as Shang watched him with intrigue. When Soos opened his eyes again, all he could see was the target. Now certain that he knew what he was doing, Soos released his grip.

---

Peter was asleep inside of a horse-drawn carriage when he was stirred by a bright light coming through his window.

“Huh?” muttered Peter, still half-asleep.

The Blue Fairy opened the door to Peter’s carriage.

“Hello, Pinocchio,” said the fairy.

“Am...am I here?” said Peter.

“Yes. Geppeto’s shop is right down that road.”

“Why couldn’t you just poof me here?” said Peter, stretching.

“I had to use a very dangerous, very rare type of magic to turn you into a boy,” said the fairy. “The type of magic that doesn’t work well with other spells. If I used a spell to send you here, it likely would have sent you here as wood, especially after that little number Merlin did on you.”

Peter looked down.

“I’m sorry for running away,” he said.

“I’m not the one you need to apologize to,” said the fairy.

“Do you think he’ll forgive me?”

The Blue Fairy helped Peter out of the carriage and put a hand on his shoulder as they walked toward the shop.

“I know he will,” she said.

Just as they reached the shop, they were startled as the carriage exploded and the horses that were pulling it let out frightened neighs before galloping in opposite directions. As the smoke from the explosion disappeared, it revealed an unconscious Bert and Mabel lying where the carriage was.

“Hey,” said Peter. “I know that girl! She was with us at Charming’s palace!”

“How did she return?” wondered the Blue Fairy.

“And who’s that giant frog with her?”

Bert was the first to awaken, and he gave Mabel a slight push.

“Hey, wake up!” said Bert. “Mabel?”

Bert felt Mabel’s pulse.

“She’s holding on, but barely,” said Bert.

The Blue Fairy approached them.

“Excuse me,” she said. “How did you and that girl get here?”

Bert looked around.

“I assume we’re not in Amphibia anymore,” he said.

“No, you’re in New Britain,” said the fairy.

“I’m from Amphibia, but Mabel…”

“She came from different lands, I know,” said the fairy. “That box...did it bring you here?”

Bert looked down at the chest, which was between him and Mabel.

“Yes,” he said. “It sent Mabel to Amphibia, too. Do you know about it?”

“I know those gems. Gems that looked exactly like those created the original blue, green, and pink fairies several millennia ago. They used to travel dimensions, acting as benevolent gods to every society they encountered, but the leader of one of those societies tricked the fairies, stealing the gems from them and banishing them to this dimension.”

The gems on the chest were colorless again, but as the Blue Fairy tapped one of the gems with her wand, it glowed blue.

“You think you can use that thing to heal Mabel?” said Bert.

“I’ll try,” said the fairy.

The Blue Fairy pointed her wand at Mabel’s chest, and the blue aura that Mabel had whenever her powers were activated flickered around her until the Blue Fairy lowered her wand again.

“She’s hurt pretty bad,” said the fairy. “I can heal her, but it will take some time.”

The Blue Fairy picked up Mabel and returned to Peter. She nodded to Peter, and he walked inside the shop, where an old Italian man was cleaning up.

“Papà?” said Peter.

The man raised his head at the sound of a familiar voice. He almost didn’t want to turn around, thinking it was a dream, but he eventually did, and as the man, Geppetto, found the boy he lovingly crafted out of the wood of enchanted forest tree standing in his doorway, not even his old legs could keep him from sprinting to Peter to hug him.

“I’m so sorry for running away, papà,” Peter said, crying into Geppetto’s worn white button-down shirt.

“It’s okay, son,” said Geppetto. “It’s just good to see you again.”

“I wish I could be better. I wish I could be that perfect son you wanted when you made me here so many years ago.”

Geppetto pulled back from their embrace and wiped the tears from Peter’s face.

“Pinocchio, the blue fairy didn’t turn you into a real boy because you were perfect,” said Geppetto. “Far from it. She did it because you knew you were flawed and committed to working on yourself. That’s what makes us human.”

The Blue Fairy carried Mabel into the shop with Bert following her.

“Thank you for bringing my son back,” said Geppetto.

“I was happy to,” said the fairy.

“Who are the other two visitors?”

“I’m Bert and that’s Mabel.” said Bert.

“They are here from foreign lands, and as you see, the travel had a very negative impact on the girl,” said the fairy. “I was hoping you could give her a bed for her to heal in.”

“Of course!” said Geppetto. “Take her to the room beside mine. Someone used to live there, but...she’s long gone.”

The Blue Fairy nodded and carried Mabel to the room.

“Oh!” said Geppetto. “There’s someone else here who has been missing you very much, Pinocchio.”

“Who?” said Peter.

Geppetto opened a drawer, and he poked something inside of it. Suddenly, a cricket hopped out and chirped in a way Peter immediately recognized.

“Jiminy Cricket!” said Peter with excitement.

“Pinocchio?” whispered Jiminy Cricket, wiping his eyes as they adjusted to the light.

Once Jiminy Cricket knew it was Peter he was talking to, he hopped as high as he could to greet his friend, but before he could reach Peter, he was wrapped by a long, slimy tongue and pulled into Bert’s mouth. Peter’s mouth opened with horror as he saw this, and then he started to cry.

“What did I do?” said Bert.

“You ate Pinocchio’s friend!” said Geppetto.

“Oh,” said Bert. “Well, Mr. Pinocchio, if it’s any consolation, your friend was delicious.”

Peter cried louder now, and Bert awkwardly whistled while walking to the room the Blue Fairy and Mabel were in.

“Hey, how long do you think it will be until she gets better?” inquired Bert.

“I can’t say,” responded the fairy. “Why?”

“I don’t think I’ll be welcome here much longer.”

“What did you do?”

“I saw a tasty snack in the air, so I did what any frog would do in that situation, but the boy apparently saw that cricket as more than food.”

“My gods! You ate Jiminy Cricket?”

“Obviously, I know I shouldn’t have done it now, but that doesn’t change that fact that I did it, and now we need to be somewhere else.”

“I’m sure Pinnocchio and Geppetto will forgive you.”

The was a knock on the door.

“Come in!” said the fairy.

Geppetto walked in with his hands behind his back.

“So, Pinocchio was very upset, but I managed to calm him down after assuring him Jiminy Cricket’s death was quick and painless,” said Geppetto.

“Thank you so much for doing that,” said the fairy.

“Does this mean I’m forgiven?” said Bert.

“Of course!” said Geppetto.

Bert sighed in relief as the Blue Fairy gave him a look that essentially said, “I told you so.”

“However,” continued Geppetto. “Just because you’re forgiven doesn’t mean you won’t be punished for your crime. I’m a strong believer in retributive justice, and the perfect retribution for what you’ve done, which Pinocchio agrees with, is for us to chop you up and eat you.”

Geppetto revealed that it was an axe behind him, and Bert shot the Blue Fairy a look that essentially said, “I told you so.”

The Blue Fairy rolled her eyes, grabbed Bert’s and Mabel’s hands, and disappeared with both of them moments later.

---

Shang and his soldiers reached the Rhine, a massive river that divided New Britain from Galacia, at sunset. The archers, including Soos, took their positions alongside the river, and they waited for the Galacian and Visigothic armies to cross. Hours later, it was pitch black outside of the stars in the sky, and Soos began to fall asleep. The archer to Soos’ left punched his arm and pointed to small lights in the distance, not much brighter than the stars above them first but slowly getting brighter and brighter until it was clear that they were coming from the lanterns of enemy soldiers on ships. The archers stood up, pulled back their bows, and let hundreds of arrows fly, many of them killing soldiers aboard the ships. They quickly replaced their arrows and shot even more at the ships, and while some of the lights dimmed and some of the ships slowed down, they continued sailing towards the British land.

Opposing archers returned fire once the ships were close enough, and Soos heard archers on both sides of him shriek in pain and fall to the ground. Soos focused on the enemy archers, and he was able to kill several of them and barely dodge an arrow headed for him. Shang and some of the knights pulled back dead archers and set up cannons in their now-vacant positions.

“Ready…” said Shang once the cannons were fully set up.

Soos tried his best to ignore what was happening around him and focus on shooting arrows while avoiding the arrows being shot at him. As the number of ships in the river increased, so did the number of arrows raining down on them. Soos used a shield tied to his elbow to deflect some of the arrows while continuing to shoot more out.

“Fire!” screamed Shang.

The ground shook with explosions as cannonballs went into the sky and sank many of the ships heading towards them.

“Ready...fire!”

More ships were taken down, but even more appeared. Soos got under his shield and reached for an arrow from his quiver before realizing he was out.

“General Li!” exclaimed Soos. “I’m out of arrows!”

Shang wordlessly grabbed a quiver of arrows from a dead archer and threw it to Soos. Soos struggled to catch it from under his shield. Once he got the quiver fitted to him, he turned back to the Rhine, squinting at the light coming from lanterns that were now brighter than ever before. He continued shooting arrows with the rest of the archers until the ships were so close that Shang had no choice but to order the archers to leave their posts.

“Remember that we’re fighting for New Britain,” said Shang as he directed the archers to the front line of the regiment with the top British knights.

The first ship hit the riverbank minutes later. More ships hit land as Soos and the rest of the archers shot their arrows at the soldiers coming out of the ships. The knights fought the soldiers who made it through the arrows, and for a while, the British forces had the advantage. As more of the enemy ships landed, however, it became obvious the defending soldiers were badly outnumbered, and the archers had to go deeper into their own territory as the knights who successfully held off the Galacians and Visigoths at first could no longer do so. Soos shot out his arrows at a rapid pace now, faster than all of the archers around him, even the ones who had decades of experiences, and most of the arrows he shot out hit their marks.

Octavian’s ship was the final one to land, and he walked off the platform with an archer in front of him and an archer behind him. He smiled as he saw the vast majority of the casualties now had British colors despite their early advantage. Octavian put a blowing horn to his lips, and he blew into it with such power that the sound could easily be heard over the sounds of clashing metal on the battlefield.

“I am Octavian, king of Galacia!” said Octavian. “And I come here with an offer!”

The soldiers stopped fighting and turned to Octavian. Shang, who was now on the battlefield with his knights, reluctantly did the same but made sure that he was close to Soos.

“You know you have no chance of winning tonight,” said Octavian. “Instead of dying for a lost cause, drop your weapons and surrender, and you shall be spared.”

“No,” said Shang. “No! Don’t listen to him! Remember what you’re fighting for! Remember this is for New Britain!”

The British soldiers looked at one another, their faces covered in blood, sweat, and tears, and over the next several minutes, all of them except Soos and Shang dropped their weapons. Shang grabbed Soos by the arm and returned with Soos to his horse.

“Let’s go,” said Shang. “These men have made it clear where their loyalties truly lie.”

As Shang rode off with Soos, the Galacian and Visigothic soldiers turned to the now-unarmed British soldiers and killed all of them. Soos used his shield to deflect the arrows now flying towards them until the enemy soldiers following them turned back.

“Where are we going now?” asked Soos.

“Back to the castle,” said a weary Shang. “This war is lost.”

----

Evelyn was cooking a deer for herself and the Big Bad Wolf when the Blue Fairy, Bert, and a still-unconscious Mabel appeared behind her, startling her.

“Don’t sneak up on people like that!” said Evelyn.

“Sorry,” said the fairy. “I didn’t know where else to go, so I just decided to bring them here.”

“Is that...no! Merlin sent that girl back to her world! How is she here again?”

The chest appeared in the Blue Fairy’s hands.

“This box sent her and that giant frog here,” said the fairy.

“This ‘giant frog’ has a name.” said Bert.

“I don’t particularly care,” said the fairy. “I’m going to the Council to see if they’ll allow the pink and green fairies to help me reactivate this box. If they do, we’ll be able to send the frog, the girl, and the boy home, assuming the boy hasn’t…”

“Hasn’t what?” said Evelyn.

“Perished,” said the fairy.

Evelyn took a deep breath and looked out the window.

“He’ll be back,” she said.

“How are you certain of that?” said the fairy.

“Because I trust Shang.”

“If Shang’s dead, too, it won’t matter.”

Evelyn’s face turned red with anger. She felt tempted to hit the fairy but knew that doing so would likely provoke the fairy into doing something even worse to her.

“Just get the box working again,” said Evelyn. “That’s the least we could do after the parts we played in Merlin’s scheme.”

The Blue Fairy nodded and disappeared with the chest. The Big Bad Wolf walked into the kitchen moments later.

“So...that’s what I smelled. I haven’t had frog in a long time,” said the wolf.

“Will I ever be in a world where everyone doesn’t want to eat me?” said Bert to himself.

“Don’t eat him. He’s a guest,” said Evelyn. “I’ll have your dinner ready soon.”

The wolf growled.

“Fine,” he said before walking out.

“Have you ever tried deer?” asked Evelyn.

“What’s a deer?” said Bert.

“Right,” said Evelyn. “You’re not from here. Well, perhaps you’ll like it.”

Evelyn helped Bert carry Mabel to a spare room, and they ate dinner shortly after that. A few hours after that, Mabel regained consciousness with Bert at her bedside.

“I’m...I’m sorry,” whispered Mabel.

Bert, who was starting to nod off himself, perked up when he heard Mabel’s voice.

“Mabel! Mabel, I’m so glad you’re okay!” said Bert.

“I’m sorry,” repeated Mabel.

“Sorry for what? You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“I’m sorry, Prince Charming.”

“Who’s Prince Charming?”

Mabel fell asleep again, and Bert sighed before finally going to sleep himself.

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