Once upon a time, in a mystical place where hills rolled all around, covered in thick grasses. Six young children stood, engaged in a debate.
“He must marry a princess,” Kafele reasoned. He was a king, of course, and garbed in splendid robes of every color.
His companions nodded exaggeratedly, attempting to understand what their leader was leading to.
“I am a Princess,” Offered Cassidy. Her golden curls bounced around her shoulders, beautifully accented by a frilly blue dress.
“You are far too young to be married,” King Kafele rejected. “Night must find his true love, after all, if he wants to be married.”
“What if Nighty doesn’t love a princess?” Katen asked. She had on a red and white checkered dress that was not nearly as frilly as Cassidy’s. She had jet black hair that was done up into pig tails.
“You’re right, Katen, that would be a problem. How about Night will be a prince, so any girl he wants to marry will become a princess when they get married.” The King sorted out the problem.
“But Illys has to be the witch,” Minoru claimed, rather harshly.
She frowned at the remark but made no argument on it.
“I wanna be a Princess like Cassy; can I please be a Princess like Cassy?” Katen begged.
All the while Midnight stood by his friends, watching them argue and sort things out. He was never a very talkative child. It was more of his style to let things get figured out before joining.
“You should be nicer to Illys, Minoru.” Cassidy, or rather Princess Cassidy, scolded. She clung onto Kafele’s arm, hoping to gain her brother’s support on the matter.
“Illys can be whatever she wants to be,” King Kafele commanded. Earning an annoyed glare from Minoru.
“It is her fault Night has to go away,” Katen offered.
“She can choose!” The King bellowed. Needless to say no one argued further on the matter.
Midnight shuddered at the sound, nearly causing the small crown on his head to topple off. He understood that even though Minoru was being rude, he was only being protective. Katen flung her arms around him unexpectedly.
“You will marry me, wont you, Prince Night?” She implored into his bright blue orbs. “We can stay together forever.”
He stared back at her blankly, slowly he shook his head.
“Nighty doesn’t wanna marry.” Katen stated to their other companions.
“Nonsense,” Princess Cassidy scoffed. “He didn’t even say anything.”
“He doesn’t have to speak, I can understand him.” Katen argued.
“Well, then, Prince Night must discover his own path. He can decide what ever he wants. Now, let us go back to the castle, my children.” King Kafele called. Cassidy still clung to his arm on the way over the hill. The Prince, Midnight, trailed behind them contently.
“So, Night, how are you doing?” King Kafele inquired as they strolled through his orchard.
“Alright, sir.” He muttered in response.
“Everyone in the kingdom loves you, Knight. I think it’s time for you to discover that for yourself, and find your own place in the kingdom. Are you ready for that?”
“I don’t know, sir.” Midnight shrugged.
King Kafele clasped his shoulders. “Well, it’s time for that now. I’m sorry if you don’t feel ready, Night, but this is something that needs done.”
The two remained silent afterwards, as they walked beneath the brilliantly colored trees. Prince Night bowed his head, prefering to watch his feet. This being merely a habitual posture of his. King Kafele was quite a bit taller than the Prince, contrastingly his movement held an air of freedom and pride. Eventually they meandered their way back to the castle.
The three members of the castle; King Kafele, Princess Cassidy, and Prince Night ate a feast of many delicous things. They had roasted duck, brazed ham, stuffings, pies, cobblers, and many more things. They ate until their stomachs were ready to explode, and the halls rang with merriment. Then the King Kafele gave his prince a sword, light of weight but as sharp as a dragons tooth. The Princess Cassidy gave the prince a beautiful shield with an inlaid ruby that formed a heart in the middle.
They flourished him with love and hugs, wishing him good luck on his quest. At last it came time for Prince Night to leave. He strapped the new shield and sword on his back, meekly waved good-bye, and set off on foot across the great rolling hills.
A light wind blew across the grass and ruffled his hair. The sun was growing noticably lower, and the sky was turning into a tie-dye or reds, oranges, and purples. Standing in the middle of the field with the weight of metal clinging to his back, he felt alone. It was not a feeling he was fond of at all. Midnight did not feel like a very brave prince at all. He knew it was something that Kafele had commanded, and he respected his king more than anyone in the world. However he could not stop himself from trembling.
As the air grew colder and the sun crawled closer to the peaks of the distant mountains, Prince Night scoured the infinite landescape for shelter. In the distance he could see a large crag that crawled up the face of a mountain. If he could find wood for a fire, he figured, the cavern would make a good shelter. It was of course not the most idealistic place to spend the night, but it was the kind of place a prince on a quest might find good shelter in.
The sun was already hidden behind mountains, only giving the sky a faint glow, by the time he got to the cave. Prince Night approached cautiously, it was so much darker in this large crag than it was outside. His heart pounded with terrible harshness, staring into the darkness. Somehow he hadn’t realized how frightened he would be when he arrived at this point, somehow he’d managed not to remember how horribly darkness frightened him. He was faced with two very dark places, one way or the other he was going to have to face his fears.
Sleeping the open wasn’t safe, he reasoned. It was more reasonable to sleep in the cave as long as a bear wasn’t in there…
After much inward debate, the Prince Night scoured around until he found a few sticks and then returned to the mouth of the cavern.
“Hello?” He called out, his voice ricochet through the thick darkness. “Is anyone there?”
There was no response. Midnight made himself sit down, just a few inches into the enterance of the cave. He twiddled with the sticks he’d gather, trying to create a fire from stricking them together.
After over an hour of trying and some kindling, Midnight managed to create a little crackling fire that alit the cave. With the light he could see that the walls of the cave were stripped with the most beautiful colors. There were reds and oranges, purples and browns. The Prince Night had never seen anything that struck him with so much beauty. On the ground there were many crystals and gems that held more shades of color than the walls did.
“This is such a beautiful place,” Midnight said. “I am glad I decided to spend the night in here, even though it was so dark that it frightened me!”
With all the brilliant colors and his crackling fire, Prince Night felt safe in the cave. It was not long before he had fallen fast asleep atop the floor of exquisit stones.
Boom! The gems clattered and the floor shook. Midnight awoke with a start, he found himself staring into the yellow eyes of a great, scaley beast. Not being the bravest prince in the world, he scurried backwards across the floor.
A large, red tail slid behind him; preventing any further escape.
“I am Minoru, the Great and Powerful Dragon of the East. How dare a lowly human take rest in my cavern?!” The crimson dragon lowered its long neck in order to glare straight into the prince’s eyes.
“I’m sorry!” Prince Night cried, “I didn’t know this was your cave!”
“Did you not see my collect of gems and rare stones that cover the floor?” It growled.
“I didn’t know that they were yours. I swear I didn’t know, I haven’t taken any of your jewels! I just needed some place to spend the night!”
The dragon stared at him, deciding wheither or not to believe to filthy human intruder. “What has a Prince set out to do that means for him to sleep on the floor of dark caves?”
“M-my King… King Kafele, sent me to discover my place in the kingdom,” Prince Night attempted to explained.
“Your place in the kingdom?” Minoru scoffed. “What does he mean by that?”
“Marriage, or… something like that, I suppose. I haven’t quite figured it out yet.”
“Such foolishness, incredible foolishness!” The dragon grumbled. “I ought to eat you up right now.”
Midnight scampered across the floor of gems and swiped up his sheild from the ground. The shield was so large, and the boy so afraid, that he cowarded under the great shield. Minoru roared ferociously, and swirled his great body around the circumference of the cave inorder to get a better angle on the prince.
The cave shuddered with a tremendous purring. An enormous, clawed finger lightly traced the edge of the shield.
“Human, I am betoken by the beauty of this stone. I must have it,” The dragon stated. “It is so beautiful and has been carved ever so carefully. I must have it for my collection.”
“Th-then… if you want it, you must help me on my quest.” Prince Night attempted to be brave.
Minoru hissed. “Help a filthy human? I would never help a filthy human! I would rather take the jewel myself.”
“You can’t!” Prince Night rejected. “You can’t, because there is magic… on the shield. The magic makes it so that only I can remove the stone.”
“Surely you jest?” The dragon asked. “Humans aren’t versed in such kinds of magic.”
“Then try it for yourself.”
Minoru did, he tried very hard for an hour and a half to ply the stone from the shield. But low and behold, it was indeed impossible for him to remove it. The dragon growled it terrible anger for he wanted to just be done with it all but he could not give up that pefect, heart-shaped ruby.
“Very well then, filthy human! I will assist you on this quest of yours in trade for your ruby.” The dragon grumbled at last, laying his great big head down in defeat. “What is it you would have me to assist you with?”
“Would you take me somewhere, maybe?” Prince Night requested.
“Take you where?”
“Well,” He started nervously. “I don’t really know. Do you know maybe somewhere that would help me on my quest?”
“I know of a Princess who lives alone in a tower,” Minoru suggested. “The tower is locked up, and she awaits the day someone brave comes to save her. Surely that is something that you can do on your quest, human.”
“Yes… that does sound like a Prince kind of thing to do. Is she really trapped? She can’t get out?”Midnight asked.
“No, she cannot. Only another human is able to release her.” Minoru explained. “The castle is on the other side of a place where the Earth has cracked apart. There is no bridge, but I can fly you over the sputtering lava.”
“That would be great, thank you, Dragon.”
Minoru scoffed. “Don’t thank me, I’m helping you for the jewel, not out of kindness. Now, climb aboard, if we leave now I can get there by day break.”
So Midnight cautiously clambered up onto the great dragon’s back. The scales were slippery and it felt scary trying to balance with the heavy sword and shield on his back, but Midnight held on as tight as he could. Minoru carefully manuveured his long body out of the cave. Midnight had to dig his knees into the scally skin in order to not fall off as the dragon’s body rose and fell like the ocean. The air burst around him, nearly throwing him off, as it’s freed wings beat at the ground to begin their ascent.
Midnight had his eyes pinched tight, clinging on dearly. He didn’t realize that they were climbing up higher and higher into the sky. The the turbulance of the air ceased, he dared to crack his eyes open. An ocean of cloud rolled around them, glowing from the brilliance of the stars above.
“This is amazing!” He shouted to the Minoru.
The great dragon merely chuckled at the comment.
The two flew for many long hours, the Prince even managed to doze off a handful of times. At last the two dove down into the puff white pillows, towards the black ground beneath.
Minoru could see the larged, jagged crack that went as far as he could see in either direction. Within all he could see was a deep darkness, the bottom, if exsistent, was not visible from a bird’s eye view. On the side of the crevice they were heading was a smallish, black castle. At least it was smallish compared to the Prince’s castle. But, supposedly, it was quite an average size for a castle.
“This is where the Princess lives?” Midnight inquired.
“Yes, it is, human. The castle is protected by a powerful magic that I am unable to break. Only a human may enter the castle.” The dragon explained, as the set down on the black ground.
With caution, the Prince slid off. “I will give you the jewel after I’ve rescued the Princess, I’m afraid if you took of now we’d both be trapped over here.”
Minoru rested his head down on the ground, as though commiting to his spot. But the Prince could see impatience burning in the beasts eyes.
Not wishing to be devoured least he stay there a second too long, Midnight set off towards the castle’s doors. There was a great, wooden door to the castle, it looked as though it had been a very nice door, but now it was covered in soot.
The Prince Night touched the knob, and with a click the whole door swung open. Darkness again. The inside was so terrible dark, he felt the fear claw at his stomach savagely. There was no choice though, he had to enter. It should be easier by now, after going into that cave. But the fear had not nearly left him.
Midnight closed his eyes. He reasoned that with his eyes closed, he could not tell if it was light inside or not. He could pretend that there were lights on inside. He could pretend that closing his eyes was merely a game for merriment.
“Hello!” He called, stepping through the frame. “Is anybody there?”
There was no response.
Midnight felt along the wall until he found a staircase, going up the stairs with his eyes pinched shut was a tedious process. The sickening feeling in his stomach grew and grew the higher he climbed, and he couldn’t explain why.
“Hello?” He asked again.
The darkness gave no answer.
His brain swam, and dizziness took over him.
“Hello?” He asked, weakly. “Please, answer.” The issue was he was alone, in the dark. He was no longer able to ignore that fact, and it was a very terrifying fact. Carefully, Midnight sunk unto his knees, curling into a ball at the top of the stairs.
It’s okay, he told himself, you’re going to be okay. He counted backwards from ten, in order to stop the incesent shaking of his hands, and made himself stand up again.
“Is anybody here?!” This time he shouted as loud as he could manage. “I am the Prince Night, and I have come to rescue you!”
Faking bravery he almost managed to convice himself he was brave. With a click, the insides of his eyelid alight an orange color. He dared to open them, their was a light on in the hall before him. At the end was a young girl with straight, black hair stairing at him curiously.
“Good Morning, sir? Pardon my rudeness, I was still sleeping.” She said politely,
“Oh, no…” The Prince quickly tried to regain his dignity. “Uh… I am the Prince Night, and I have come to rescue you from this castle.”
“Well, that’s very kind of you, Prince Night. May I ask how you managed to get over the Crag?” She inquired.
“A dragon carried me over, he’s waiting to carry us back.” The Prince replied.
“How very grand!” She exclaimed
“I’m sorry, but I don’t think I got your name?”
“Oh, how terribly rude of me! My name is Katen,” She curtsied in her little, checkered gown.
“Well, Princess Katen, shall we go?”
“Oh, yes, please!”
The Prince Night took her hand and led her back downstairs to the door. The moment they were out, Princess Katen released his hands and tore across the black stand. She just about slammed into the bulk of the red dragon, she wrapped her arms around its snout and flourished it with kisses. All the scales across it’s body shuddered violently before they broke off of the creature entirely. All of these deep, red scale unfolded midair into large butterflies. Where the dragon had stood was no a young boy with short, black hair.
“Minoru, my brother!” Princess Katen cried, still hugging him. “I have waited for this day for so long! I have missed you dearly.”
“I missed you, too, my dear little Katen.” Minoru sniffed, tears streaming from his eyes.
Midnight watched in amazement at the site before him, the embrace siblings surrounded by a whirlwind of thousands of butterflies. While Katen finally dared to release Minoru, many of the butterflies landed upon his naked body, and formed together into red, satin clothes.
“It has been many years, yet you haven’t changed a bit.” The boy, who had been a feroucious beast mere moments ago, smiled.
“Yes, I fear there is not much to be changed by all alone in a castle.” His sister laughed.
Hand in hand the two slowly strolled up to where the Prince Night stood in awe.
“A long time ago,” Minoru began to explain. “A witch grew jealous of us, I am not sure why, but it grew so deep that one day she took my little sister, Katen, from me and locked her here in this castle. She put a spell on the castle so that Katen could not leave the castle by herself. But I found where she had put the castle and went to save my Katen, but the witch angry and moved the castle here so that I could not reach it. Again I found it, and I worked for weeks until I constructed a way across the Crag. But that made the witch even angier. The brother, she reasoned, should not be allowed to rescue a Princess. But I refused to step down, and so the witch turned me into a dragon so that I would not be able to enter the castle nor would I be able to bring my Katen out. I have lived for many years as a dragon, and I have never found a human brave enough to be around me. I tried so desperately at first, but all the humans thought I was lying in order to get close enough to goble them up. Eventually, and hopelessly, I fell into my insticts. I apologize if I’d frightened you, and I owe you so much for what you have done to me.”
“No… no, not at all,” Midnight swiftly sputtered. “But, now that you aren’t a dragon how can we get back across the Crag?”
“I can take care of that,” Minoru grinned. He flicked his free hand towards the Crag and all of the red butterflies stopped their movement. As a group they flew and spread across the distance of the crevice. With a flick or two more of their wings the butterflies became solid bricks, creating a bridge across.
“That was amazing!” The Prince exclaimed.
“Thank you, you’re very kind.” The other boy chuckled.
Together the three crossed the bridge, but when they got safely to the other side a black tornade spun down from the clouds above! It hit the ground and all the dark, twirling wind spun down and formed into a girl. Although she was obviously a girl, she look less like a girl than any the Prince Night had ever seen. Her blonde hair was cut short, like a boys and the way she held her self also seemed more like a boy to him than a girl. Regardless, she wore a simple, black dress.
“So Minoru, you’ve finally broken through my spell. Is this the one who did it? Who are you?” She asked roughly.
“I am the Prince Night, son of King Kafele, and heir to the throne of this kingdom.” Midnight proclaimed more bravely than he ever would have dared. “And who are you, that dare to block my path?”
“I am Illys, from the Kuromori Forest. You are out of your kingdom, little Prince. This land that you stand on is ruled by King Yamaguchi, it is not yours to tread upon.” Illys warned.
“Then I will answer to the King Yamaguchi, not a girl from the forest.” Midnight moved protectively between his new friends and the witch that had cursed them. “Remove yourself from our path, and we will be on our way.”
“I will not,” She growled. Dark wind blew from around her and twisted around the other children. As it swirled around each of them it solidified into black chains. No matter how much the wriggled, they could not break free.
“The curse was not supposed to be broken,” Illys explained to the struggling royalty. She smiled a bit wistfully, and a passing sorrow glazed her eyes. “Well, let’s go then.”
She raised her hand to the sky and a great tornado dipped down and scopped them all up.
It was late again now, all three were in some dusty old room. The chains were gone but the door was locked and windows were barred.
“Are you two King Yamaguchi’s children?” Midnight asked, curiously.
Minoru sat in the corner, tapping his foot in boredom. “Yeah, that’s right.”
“Father doesn’t know, though,” Katen piped in. “About what happened to us.”
Midnight frowned at this. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
“After Katen was taken, I should have told him before I took off on my own… but I didn’t. I tried to approach Father, as a dragon, but received nothing but fury. He was terribly grief stricken, and I would love so much to ease that, if I could.”
“Then we must get out of here,” Prince Night claimed.
The other two nodded vigorously in agreement, but neither made a move to do anything. So Prince Night climbed to his feet and began scouring every inch of the small room, in hope of finding some secret door or bit of metal he could use to pick the door lock. But nothing but dust balls and spiders were to be found in the corners and across the floor boards.
He was about to give up his search when the lock in the door clicked and the Witch entered. She stood and stared at the three of them with an unreadable expression.
“I want that one, ” The witch stated, rather adruptly, pointing to Prince Night.
“Will you let them go?” Prince Night asked quickly. The others began to object but they were cut off.
“If you will stay with me forever and for always,” The Witch said. “Then, I will let these two go back to their father.”
“Then I will stay,” Prince Midnight said.
“No!” The two Yamaguchi children protested.
“King Kafele will understand that I’ve found my place, but your father grieves for you and you yearn to return hom. It is clearly more important that you should go home.” The Prince Night told them.
“I disagree,” Minoru said. “You’ve saved us both and we owe you more than to allow you to sacrifice for us again. We’ll get out of this all, together.”
The Prince Night looked at him with an intense gaze, “You guys can’t come with. You’ve got to stay with your family. Let them go, Illys, right now please.”
“Very well,” She snapped her fingers and the two were swallowed up by the floor in mere seconds. “They’ll be left on hour walk from their castle. Can I trust you’ll stay here with me?”
“Of course,” Midnight answered.
“If you try to leave I will recapture them. I’m sure you understand I could accomplish that very quickly, you’d have no chance of getting there before me.”
“Of course,” He replied.
“Then you may come out of this room. I am making supper, it will be ready shortly.” The Witch of the Kuromori forest turned away and left him alone in the dusty room.
Midnight took a moment to collect his thoughts before he followed after her. The house actually was rather small, he passed two bedrooms and a bathroom before he found himself in the kitchen area. Many savory smells were wafting through the air. The kitchen had a low roof, dark wooden cabinets, and a fire with a large cast-iron cauldron bubbling above it. There was a small, round table outside of the kitchen that was already set.
The Witch was busy chopping some mushrooms.
“You told,” Midnight stated.
She looked up at him, “Yes, I did.”
“That’s why you want me to stay so badly?” He asked.
“It’s why I’m the Witch, isn’t it?” She muttered, turning around to scrap the mushrooms into the cauldron.
“You’re not evil,” Midnight stated. The Witch’s movements halted, but she didn’t turn around.
“I’m not angry at you, or anything like that,” He continued. “I know that you didn’t tell because you wanted to be mean. .. I love you, Illys, and I’ll miss you so much. I know that you just wanted to protect me, so thank you for that.
Illys the Witch finally turned around, and there were tears steaming from her eyes. “On, Night!” She cried, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.”
The Prince Night wrapped his arms around her and hugged her tightly. “I’ll be alright, Illys, I’ll be alright. “
Everyone froze as the rumbling of a car carried through the air towards them. All six children turned to look at the new, blue car rolling across the pavement towards their group of houses. This area they lived in was so rural that an unknown car could only be the social worker pulling up.
“I guess it’s time for me to go home,” Midnight stated, not as frightened about it as he had been before.
“We can stay here,” Kafele suggest, he sat watching on a nearby rock. “If we never went back then they wouldn’t have to take you away.”
“I would stay,” Minoru added, bravely. “We could all run away.”
“No,” Midnight said, finally releasing Illys. “We have families that would be very sad if we never came home, like how King Yamaguchi must’ve felt when his children disappeared.”
“Yeah, that’s right,” Cassidy agreed from the grass beside where her big brother sat.
“…Except for Nighty.” Katen muttered, sorrowfully. She and Minoru stood hand-in-hand.
“I’ll be alright,” Midnight told them. “I really will. Would you all walk back with me.”
“Of course we will,” Illys grinned through the tears still sliding down her cheeks.
Slowly the six children returned to the group of their houses, even knowing that their friend was to be taken away from them. They flourished him with their affection, and wished him a good life. They all promised to meet again in the future, when they were older.