The dark queen raised her hand as if to caress the bottle, but stopped just short of touching it. Her eyes gleamed with a crafty look. “That is not the only apple you have in your possession, I believe.”
Kya blinked and put the apple back into the pouch. “No.”
“The apple is for you?”
“No.” Stronger this time as the certainty that the dark queen meant to trap her somehow grew with each beat of her heart.
A secret smile deepened the corners of the Moon Queen’s lips. “Do you know for whom the last apple is intended?”
The ‘No’ pressed against Kya’s lips, but she couldn’t speak the lie. It was true that she didn’t know the name of the princess she was to give the apple to, but in an odd slantwise way, she knew exactly who to give it to.
“I see,” the queen said as though Kya had spoken her thoughts aloud. “In that case, you will need my assistance.” She gestured to the table. “Choose one, but choose wisely. They will all betray you in their own way, but they will each remain true to the purpose they have been crafted for.”
Kya frowned. “I don’t want something that will betray me.”
“Silly child,” the Moon Queen murmured, “everyone and everything will betray you at least once in the end. If you choose wisely, the hurt shall be but a small moment. Choose wrongly and . . .” She tilted her head to the side and shrugged.
“Never refuse an offer of aid,” Hearthorne whispered as though to herself. She cleared her throat and straightened her stem. “Whatever you do, don’t choose the cake.”
Even if she did follow Hearthorne’s suggestion, Kya didn’t like having to choose knowing that neither the key nor the bottle were meant only to help her.
She stepped closer to the table to examine the objects. The cake was perfectly square and big enough to fit in her cupped hands, but there was something about the sugary scent gusting off the sugar dusted sweet that brought to mind stories filled with gingerbread houses and witches. The key gleamed copper-bright where it wasn’t tarnished with verdigris, but there was something so obvious about it that Kya found herself moving past it without a second thought.
“The bottle,” she said, eyeing the inky liquid that filled it halfway. In a way she couldn’t quite define, the bottle eyed her back.
“An interesting choice,” the dark queen said. She plucked up the bottle and gave it to Kya, turning as she did to reveal the pale queen. “One I would not have expected.”
The glass of the bottle was colder than winter and didn’t fit easily in her hand. Kya placed the bottle in a small pouch on her belt she hadn’t noticed before, glad she didn’t have to hold it any longer. The bottle didn’t feel evil, but it was uncomfortably like growing a new type of root that wasn’t at all what it was supposed to be.
. . . TO BE CONTINUED . . .
© 2014 by Danyelle Leafty. All rights reserved. Originally published in Curiosities of the Moon.
I hope you’re enjoying the journey so far. Can you feel the call of another quest coming shortly? One more week before The Curious Leaf embarks on a new journey to a strange new land. Join me next Monday as we bid farewell to the moon–it seems like we’ve only just got here–and aim the prow toward the next adventure!
Come back tomorrow to journey with Gwyn as she fights her way through the Garden in The Faerie Thief.