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Second Braid

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This is the story of how I–wait a minute.

Ok, by this point you already know who I am as well as who my best friend is. Chances are you are familiar with our story. If not, I’d advise that you go right back to the first one because if you continue on, then everything will be spoiled and it will be all your fault for not listening to me.

Anyway...

So, you’d think that at the end of our last adventure, it was happily ever after for everyone–good triumphed over evil, Harold lost his powers and that long rainbow hair he had, but he got to reunite with his mom and sister, I got my name cleared and I got to reunite with mom and dad as a reward for helping to bring Harold back home, and the kids of Piqua didn’t have a bunch of adults being really harsh or too mean on them.

Well, unfortunately not quite. Because for one thing, a certain spell that I helped get casted on a certain child hating jerk still hadn’t been lifted. He’s still mad at me for that in case you were wondering. Yeah, no big surprise there.

As for another thing... well... Our troubles weren’t exactly over. Some were looming on the horizon or were starting up when neither of us were realizing it. There was one trouble in particular that began before either of us were born and it was going to rear its ugly head when neither of us were prepared for it. If I knew what was going to happen beforehand, then there would have been some things that would have been done a lot differently.

But before we get into that story, I need to tell you this story.

****Somewhere in the Kingdom of Piqua (nearly one entire decade ago...)****

Inside the castle chambers in the dead of night, a woman was carefully caressing the petals of a flower that was planted in a pot. This was no ordinary flower, for it had petals comprised of seven different colors, and as the woman hummed, it began to give off a strange glow.

“Flower gleam and glow, let your power shine,” She sang, causing the glow to brighten up and as she continued to sing she noticed that the small age spots on her hands were fading away. She stared in awe at her hand after she finished singing, but then shook her head. “As tempting as it is, I cannot allow myself a moment of selfishness.” She reached out for the flower when all of a sudden there was a loud ‘BANG!’ that forced her to turn around to see an intruder.

“You can’t do this!” The teenaged intruder threw the hood of her cloak back to reveal her short, vibrant green hair. “That flower has been sought after for centuries, and you’re going to waste it all on some dying queen who wants to hog it all to herself?!”

“Sarah?” The older woman was surprised, but then sighed. “Of course one of my own would try to stop me.”

“You’re a hypocrite!” Sarah snapped. “You told us the flower should be used to help others! That it would be a waste if it’s used up on one person! We should use it–we could do more with our powers if we use it to live longer! The world will no longer see us as threats to mankind!”

“The powers of both healing and creation are not meant for those of selfish hearts!” The woman snapped back.

“And not for us?! Not for your own apprentices?!” Sarah snarled as she readied her hands and flames of green magic came out. She sent out a trail of magical energy in the shape of a rope towards the flower, but the older woman was quick and summoned out a blade that sparkled with purple energy, which she used to sever the magical rope before sending a blast of magic at the apprentice, causing her to fall back with a scream.

“I warned you not to stop me.” The woman told Sarah as she scrambled up and held a hand to her face. “I know your true intentions. You are going to go down the same path as others did ages ago. I’ve seen it in your eyes and in your words. I’ve seen it in the ugliness of men’s hearts. You intend to abuse those powers for your own.”

“YOU STUPID HAG!” Sarah screamed as she made to lunge at the woman, but she quickly threw her hands out and the girl found herself falling though a dark abyss surrounded by a ring of purple energy. The woman quickly clapped her hands together and made the portal vanish as her apprentice’s screams faded out of existence.

“I’ll deal with you later.” The disappointed woman calmly went back to the flower. A bowl and some ingredients were waiting close by–she would need to make the potion that would heal the queen very soon. She tried to shake off what her apprentice said, but something was bothering her and she shut her eyes. “Only those who are good of heart should have these powers.” She reminded herself. “I can’t let them fall into the wrong hands.”

Ok, now we can get to how that day came back to haunt the queen. It started out normal enough for me and Harold.

****Present Day****

It was a surprisingly normal, peaceful day in the kingdom of Piqua–specifically the main town where the castle was also located. Summer was slowly approaching and while many of the children in town were still in school by this point, most of the adults went about their day to enjoy their time of child free peace.

That of course was only seen from a distance. Two children were roaming free out and about town on the back of a horse that was charging its way down the streets.

“LOOK OUT!”

A few townsfolk looked back and in a panic they dodged out of the way as a huge black and white draft horse crashed through some boxes without stopping. Others could see its two riders–one child with a dark complexion and a stripped neck tie as part of his clothes held onto the horse’s mane, and another with a wild blonde mess of hair who was holding onto the first boy’s sides for dear life.

“Sorry!” The blonde yelled an apology to the residents.

“YOU LITTLE TWERPS!” One of the castle guards tried to run after the horse. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THE CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD’S HORSE?!”

“Whoops!” The first boy heard this and kicked at the horse. “Come on, faster! Don’t let them catch us!”

Wherever the horse went, people watched on in confusion or else hurried out of the way (sometimes screaming their heads off in the process) before they could get run over. At one point, the horse raced towards a cart and, without stopping, leapt onto it before leaping off and nearly knocking her riders off.

“I can’t believe how easy it was to get her out of the stable!” The blonde laughed as he tightened his grip on his friend.

“Yeah, but now we got to get her back in! Hang on!” The first boy tugged at the horse’s mane to make her go in one direction, but she refused. “No, go the other way!” But the horse didn’t listen and galloped towards a ledge of one part of the street. Down below and next to the ledge was the roof of one house and the boys already knew what she would try to do.

“GEORGE STOP HER!”

“I CAN’T HAROLD! SHE’S GOING TO–!” But it was too late and the horse leapt off the ledge and right onto the roof. Miraculously she didn’t fall through, but she charged across the roof (knocking shingles off in the process) before leaping right off the house and into the street below as the boys screamed in horror.

Fortunately the boys survived and were able to stay on the horse when she landed, but they found themselves trembling on the rest of the ride back to the castle.

*****

Finally the horse skidded to a stop in the stables by some piles of hay, causing the boys to fall off and land into them.

“That was awesome!” Harold laughed as he sprang up from the hay and sent it flying everywhere. “We got to do that again!”

“Oh man I thought I’d never be this happy for hay!” George moaned as he slowly sat up.

“But you thought that was awesome, right?” Harold asked as he turned to George. “Her running around and leaping off roofs?!”

“You thought jumping from a window from a really high tower with a bed sheet for a parachute is a great idea... but yeah, that was awesome!” He admitted.

“What else haven’t we done yet today?”

“Well, you probably have some places we could mess around in the castle.” George grinned as he got up and Harold followed suit. As they did, they both noticed a sign on the stable walls that said ‘Remember to clean up stalls for the horses.’ “But first things first!”

Moments later, the two were laughing their heads off and left behind a sign that now said ‘I see a horse poop.’

As they hurried their way towards the castle, the two were watched by a girl about their age who was hiding in the shadows with her arms crossed in front of her chest. She chuckled and shook her head before starting to follow after them.

Within the next hour, there was a series of interesting events that occurred around the castle. First was that a huge snake got into the guards’ meeting room. A number of them ran out and screamed their heads off to the point that they didn’t hear the laughter of George and Harold as they watched them get the heck out of the building as fast as they could.

Next, a couple of maids who were passing down a hall with sheets in their arms were quick to realize that something was off and they yelped when they saw that all the suits of armor somehow had cloth underwear on them either around the waist, on their helmets, or even on both parts. They both hid their blushing faces into the sheets and ran off as the boys chuckled from around a corner.

Finally, a teacher who was taking a small group of children around the castle’s art gallery nearly had a heart attack when what she thought was an important painting behind a curtain turned out to have a huge piece of paper over it depicting a crude picture of a silly looking dragon with a ridiculous feathered hat on its head while barfing onto a bunch of knights and horses. The only ones who enjoyed the picture were the group of young five and six year olds who starting laughing and giggling.

“WE’RE KINGS OF THE WORLD!” George yelled in delight some time later as he and Harold stood at the topmost tower of the castle where they can see as much of the kingdom as far as the eyes could see, from the main town, the section of the town across the lake, the forests, and even mountains in the far distance.

“WHOO!” Harold hollered as he threw his fists into the air and joined George.

Neither of them saw the large dark figure hiding down below them in the shadows.

*****

“Careful, we don’t want to have too much! It won’t taste good!”

In the kitchens, the queen’s youngest child was carefully scooping up flour from a bag and adding it into a cup while a woman held the bag of flour to keep it from falling out. “Is this enough?” The girl of about six asked as she looked up and showed the cup that she held. Like her brother, she too had hair as yellow as a sunflower (though not as wild) which was currently held back with a band.

“Hmm,” The woman thoughtfully looked at the cup as the princess waited. In the girl’s opinion, the woman who had looked out for her brother for most of his life was really pretty, with freckles and the bluest eyes she had ever seen, and she too had her hair held back for the current task at hand. “I think that looks good enough to me.” She smiled. “You’re good at this, Heidi.”

Heidi beamed before dumping the flour into the bowl and watched as a cloud of it puffed up into the air. “This is fun! No one let me do this before!”

The woman chuckled as she handed a wooden spoon to Heidi. “Ready?” She asked.

“Yes Miss Edith!” The girl confirmed as she took the spoon.

“Oh sweetie, you know you can just call me Edith, remember?” She smiled as she held the bowl. “No one is around to tell you otherwise.”

“Oh yeah!” Heidi laughed as she began to stir as the adult held the bowl for her. After a few seconds, she looked at Edith when a thought struck her.

*****

“I guess being a queen and a mother isn’t easy.” A woman looked up from her book as she glanced to the kingdom’s ruler. “There’s more than just your own children to look after.”

“I try to balance everything out.” Queen Grace replied with a small smile. “It’s not easy–I’d imagine it would be like running a school and handling all the subjects at once.”

The woman laughed. “Thank god I can only handle teaching a few subjects and a handful of students who are interested in getting an education myself.”

“Speaking of which, Barbra.” Grace began. “I was trying to debate on whether my children should have a private tutor or be taught at the local school.”

“If your son is anything like George, I doubt a tutor would be willing to put up with him for too long.” Barbra admitted. “They both seem rather active and like to get into adventures–even if they cause some grief to your staff and subjects. There’s one–what’s his name again? He doesn’t seem to be too fond of them.”

Grace rolled her eyes. “Honestly, I don’t care about what he thinks. I want Harold to get to explore his true home and I want him to be happy.” She sighed as she stared out a window. “As long as I have both my children with me, there’s nothing more that I’d ask for. I made so many mistakes–” She stopped herself for a moment and shook her head free of thoughts she would never want to discuss with Barbra. She almost committed a serious wrongdoing against the woman that she wanted to forget about. “I want to do things right this time. If your son is happy being friends with my son, than I welcome whatever excitement is going to come down upon us. You just never know what to expect from those two.”

*****

George and Harold looked down at the long set of stairs with a huge red carpet that rolled down in the middle of them. They both held onto a circular shield that was large enough to hold them both. “This is going to be great!” George grinned. “We’ll make it so that walking down the steps will be a breeze!”

“I know! Walking is so boring sometimes!” Harold added. Once again, neither of them saw the girl watching them in amusement from the staircase above them.

“Ready?” George asked as he set the shield down on the ground.

“Yes!” Harold sat down on the shield and George followed suit. Pretty soon both boys pushed at the shield and down it went as it took them down the staircase.

Now let’s pause the story for a second reader, for you see the girl who observed them noticed the first few mistakes that the boys made. One was that they used the wrong kind of shield. Second was that they failed to test to see how fast this shield would go first, which was pretty fast. Third, they failed to make sure no one would walk right in the pathway of the shield.

The last mistake the girl was soon going to find out was this–they failed to check and be absolutely, certainly and very positively sure that the person who would get in their way was not the queen’s Captain of the Guard, who also had many, many, many reasons to despise the two, and not just because of their mischievous behavior.

“AHH!” George and Harold screamed in delight, while failing to see a certain adult in uniform–who was also rather large, overweight, and had a very fake looking mess of black hair on top of his head come walking into view. He only had one second to look up and let out a terrified scream of his own before the two boys crashed into him and sent him flying into the suit of armor that just so happened to be right behind him.

Seconds later, the boys struggled to get up off the floor while their unfortunate victim was still in the pile of the fallen and completely destroyed armor parts. “You know,” George began. “I’d say it worked, but we could have planned it better.”

“Yeah, that shield worked too well.” Harold admitted. “Also, we should have checked to see if someone was coming our way.”

“But hey, at least it worked!” George grinned. “What was the worst that could of happened?”

All of a sudden, there was a horrible sound, like a large, angry animal growling into metal. The boys turned their heads in alarm to see that the person they crashed into had a helmet stuck on their head and was making the sound. While it wasn’t alarming enough, it was when the very enraged adult slammed the visor up to reveal teeth bared in a huge scowl that almost took up most of his face, eyebrows angrily narrowed to the point that they could have been just one, and dark eyes that might as well of had fire in them as they burned at the sight of the two pranksters, that the two realized what horrible mistake they just made.

“Uh oh,” Harold gulped as he nervously stared back in horror.

“Oh hi!” George forced himself to smile despite the feeling of dread overwhelming him. “Sorry we didn’t see you there Krupp–!”

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!” The adult pretty much bellowed into their faces to the point that the two felt like they were going to fall over and it was loud enough that it was as if the entire castle could hear it.

It was what broke the silence when Edith and Heidi were putting the bread into one of many ovens and caused them to look up in alarm.

It was what was heard in the room Barbra and Grace occupied, though only Grace remained calm as she knew it was not something too concerning.

It was what was heard all the way in the stables as a stablehand tried to help the draft horse back into their stall while another laughed their head off at the changed sign. It was what was heard when the guards by the entrance to the castle doors let out a collective sigh together. “It was the boys again, wasn’t it?” One of them asked his friend.

“Judging by the volume and how much my throat is hurting just thinking about it, it’s got to be.” She replied.

“Oh shoot, run away!” George and Harold scampered up the stairs as the adult struggled to tear the helmet off of him.

“It’s ok, I got an idea!” Harold went to the nearest window and opened it. “And now–!” He made to reach behind him, only to grab nothing but the empty air.

“Oh dang, that’s right.” Harold sighed in dismay. “I don’t have all that hair anymore.” Within seconds, both boys found themselves getting yanked into the air by a pair of large hands.

Not even a minute later, the boys found themselves being carried under the arms of the angry adult to Harold’s room. The moment they were all inside, he dropped them right onto the floor without a second thought.

“It’s thanks to you two that I have to deal with a lot of the things you pulled off today! Including stealing my horse and causing havoc in the town!” He snapped at them as they got up. “And then you almost killed me with that stupid stunt!”

“No we didn’t.” George scoffed.

“Look we admit we made a mistake.” Harold added. “It isn’t our fault that we need to find ways to entertain ourselves sometimes.”

“I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO HAVE TWO TROUBLEMAKERS TO MAKE MY LIFE THIS HARD! IT WAS BAD ENOUGH WHEN IT WAS JUST ONE OF YOU! NOW I HAVE TO CONSTANTLY STRESS OUT EVERY DAY KNOWING YOU BOTH LIVE HERE!”

“Thank you for that by the way.” Harold merely smiled at Krupp.

“DON’T ‘THANK YOU,’ AT ME!” Krupp snapped at the boy. “And give me that!” He snatched an all too familiar looking satchel away from George (who let out a protesting “Hey!”) “I’m confiscating this and I better not see that you left this room or hear a word about a new stupid prank you clearly pulled off before I finish taking care of the damage that you did that I shouldn’t have take care of!” His voice increased in volume until he hurried out of the room and slammed the door shut.

Both boys sighed. “Aw man, he took the good stuff that we hadn’t used yet!” George moped as he looked around the room. The bedroom in question had light reddish brown walls and the curtains and bedding were varying shades of bright green. The bookshelf was filled with books, in addition to certain trinkets and memorable objects that Harold had collected upon his return back to his true home. The main part of the room was the round table where the two friends would draw and plan out stories together while their supplies were tucked away in a corner of the room. The room was normal enough, but there were indeed certain objects hidden away that were perfect for pranking or else needed to be away from the eyes of an adult.

“Yeah, he even took the slingshot I wanted to try out.” Harold grumbled. “I got one hiding somewhere, but it’s not in here. We need to go outside for it.”

“I bet he really regrets bringing you back to your mom.” George gave Harold a knowing smile. “You think he wishes that he let us run away when we didn’t know who you were?”

“Probably.” Harold laughed. “Besides, it wasn’t him that brought us back, remember? That was Ca–”

“Hi guys!”

The boys screamed at the sound of the new voice and turned around to see a girl standing by one of the windows, which was currently opened. She was around their age, yet she was noticeably taller than them, which was especially thanks to the curly dark hair that was pulled back with some help with a purple headband. “By the way, watching you guys was a lot of fun. Even if you made a few rookie mistakes here and there.”

“Erica?!” George gapped. “How did you–?!”

“This.” Erica moved her arm to reveal a crossbow with lots of rope and a hook on the end in her possession. “Sure, undergoing training under the guards wasn’t exactly sunshine and rainbows, what with most of them being too condescending towards a kid and all. But hey, whatever experience I can get in this world as the queen’s youngest honorary member of the guards helps and that includes knowing where to find the best tools around the castle.”

“Hey I had something like that before!” George gapped at the crossbow as Harold gave Erica a curious look. “But wouldn’t that make you a squire?” He asked.

“For one of those luggs?” Erica scoffed. “No way. Anyway,” She went over to the boys and handed the crossbow to George. “Here, you can have it.”

“Whoa!” Harold and George stared in amazement at the crossbow. “There’s enough rope to sneak out of here!” Harold realized. “We can still get the slingshot!”

“So much for keeping us shut in here!” George laughed. “We’d work on our stories, but since our creativity is at a low point today we need some inspiration! We can’t get it here!”

“Thanks Erica!” Harold turned to thank the girl, but to his great surprise, the girl had vanished. “Huh?” He looked around the room, as did George. “Where did she go?”

I don’t know.” George shrugged. “But I’m getting out of here!” He hurried over to the window where Erica came from.

*****

“Your Majesty?” One of the guards came into the room. “There’s a letter for you. Also, there’s someone who just came by. They said that they wanted to see you about something.”

“What?” Grace asked as she went over to take the purple envelope that contained the letter in question. She only briefly saw the seal before the guard added “What should I do about the visitor? She said that it was urgent.”

Grace stared at the seal which Barbra could barely see from where she stood. A suspicious frown crossed her face before looking at the guard. “I’ll see her.”

****

“I’m sorry, but I didn’t schedule a meeting with anyone around this time.” Grace faced the odd arrival from the seat of her throne.

“No offense, but I would say this meeting is long overdue.” The woman began as Grace tried to figure her out. She seemed normal enough, but there was a scar on one side of her face as if she had been burnt on one cheek. “I’ve been meaning to have a word with you about something important.”

“Such as?” Grace asked. “You came at the exact same time a letter bearing a certain seal came into my possession. I’m not going to open it until I know for sure that–”

“Oh that’s not from me. What I wanted to talk about was... Well... how about the fact that you had no clue what losses you caused in consuming the flower of creation all those years ago?”

The atmosphere in the room suddenly drew still. Barbra, and even a few guards shot a look of confusion at the woman as Grace tensed up in her throne–her nails digging into the arm rests. “I’m sorry, what?” Grace dropped her confusion as a quiet annoyance flooded her.

“Your illness lead to finding the flower, yet you were so selfish and wanted it to yourself. You ate all of it and you denied the magic folk access to powers beyond your understanding. We could of helped guide your kingdom to prosperity, and yet your lack of foresight ruined what you still have yet to grasp!” The woman’s voice grew to annoyance. “You denied the power of immortality and healing from us!”

“The only loss that was caused was the loss of my son!” Grace furiously stood up and growled at the woman. “I have no clue who you are or what you are trying to do, but how dare you accuse me of loss and selfishness when you know full well what I already suffered from!”

“Oh, I’m not here to accuse, Your Majesty.” The woman snarled as her hair slowly changed from brown to green. “I–Sarah–am here to claim what rightfully belongs to me and the others in exchange. I want what’s left of the flower inside of your child.”

*****

“See? I told you I had one hiding somewhere.” Harold grinned at George as he lifted a few stones out of the way and lifted up a tarp covered with dirt to reveal a hole in the earth hidden underneath. Within the hole lay a slingshot which was resting upon a bright red cloth with black dots upon it, among some other trinkets that were perfect for pranking.

“That’s a neat hiding spot.” George grinned back. “I thought it would be hard to find some good hiding spots around the castle, but I keep getting surprised.”

“Well, mom likes to garden a lot and I did a lot of it myself back at the tower.” Harold admitted as he looked around the small courtyard that had a water fountain smack dab in the center of it. There was mostly flowers and herbs, but there was some fruit that still had a ways to go before they could be picked. “Its a nice way to get to know her more, you know? And its a lot better being outside and getting to walk in the dirt.”

“You really don’t miss it now, do you?” George worried. “Being in the tower?”

“No way,” Harold shook his head. “I mean, it takes awhile to get used to how big the inside of this place is, and having more room to run around, but–”

“What are you doing?”

Both boys nearly screamed and Harold let go of the tarp as they turned around to see Heidi looking at them with a curious expression.

“Nothing!” George quickly denied.

“Nothing you’d be into!” Harold added.

“You’re hiding something.” Heidi made to move over to the tarp, but Harold shot up and blocked her way.

“Look, it’s just some pranking stuff, ok?” Harold told her. “Nothing special. Why are you here?”

“I wanted to try to make a flower crown for Edith.” Heidi admitted, which made Harold think.

“Well get the ones that mom can’t easily see, like the ones in the back of the bushes, ok? And try to make sure the stems are really long, but don’t pick too many. Also she likes all kinds of flowers, so you can choose any of them.”

Heidi’s eyes lit up and she smiled. “That sounds great! I’ll keep that in mind!” She waved and headed over to a bush tucked away in one corner of the small courtyard. George and Harold sighed in relief. “We need to make this quick.” George told Harold, who nodded and started to reach for the slingshot. There was some things they didn’t want anyone–not even the princess–to see that would lead to questions that they were not ready to answer. One of those things just so happened to be the red cloth with the black dots.

None of them saw the huge dark figure tucked away on the rooftops of the castle. It eyed one child in particular.

*****

“ARREST HER!” Grace snapped at the guards as she pointed to the woman. “Figures you’d go mama bear on me.” Sarah rolled her eyes as the guards scrambled to get their weapons out.

“I ALREADY LOST HAROLD! I’M NOT LOSING HIM AGAIN!”

“Ah, wait a minute!” Sarah held up her finger. “Now I do know he had the powers of the flower–!”

“NO! I AM THOUGH WITH THE HEARTACHE! HE IS NO LONGER A PART OF THIS ANYMORE!” Grace shot as her guards began to surround Sarah.

“GOD, WOULD YOU LET ME FINISH, WOMAN?! I DIDN’T SAY WHICH CHILD I WANTED YET!”

Grace’s fury momentarily turned into confusion. “What?”

*****

“Got enough stones?” Harold asked as George filled his pockets with just the right amount of rocks.

“Yup!” George gave Harold a thumb’s up. The blonde grinned as he grabbed the pocket of the slingshot and stretched it out and aimed for the sky. “Now all we got to do is–!”

“YOU!”

Harold almost dropped the slingshot in shock when he and George quickly turned around to see the last adult that they wanted to see glaring at them from the entrance. “I KNEW YOU’D TRY TO ESCAPE!” Krupp yelled and jabbed a finger them.

“How did he find us that fast?!” George gapped as Heidi stopped what she was doing and got up to watch the outburst while her hands still held a bunch of flowers.

“YOU KNOW WHAT?! THIS TIME I’LL PUT YOU SOMEWHERE WHERE I KNOW YOU CAN’T ESCAPE!” The angry adult stormed towards the two.

“No wait, don’t put them in a cell!” Heidi protested as she ran over in an attempt to stop the adult. At that exact moment, the thing in the shadows went over to quickly descend down towards the courtyard.

At the same moment, Harold turned his head in time to see a huge creature quickly approaching the little princess who was too distracted to realize what was about to happen to her. “HEIDI LOOK OUT!” Harold screamed as he ran towards Heidi.

“Huh?” Heidi turned her head in time to see the huge dark green figure that was blocking everything in her sight.

It all happened so fast that all the humor swiftly turned to horror as the air became filled with the terrified screaming of a child at the second the predator snatched up its tiny prey.

*****

The screams could be heard from inside the throne room.

“Well, looks like you can say that both your children had been kidnapped at some point in their lives!” Sarah laughed as Grace listened to the screams in horror.

Grace turned to Sarah, but it was too late as the witch was engulfed in a puff of green smoke, causing the guards to move away as fast as possible.

“No,” Grace shook her head. “No, no, no–no!” She grabbed her hair. No it couldn’t happen again! Not to another one of her own children! She couldn’t do this again!

“FIND HEIDI!” She screamed at her guards. “FIND WHERE THAT WITCH TOOK HER AND GET HER BACK TO ME!”

*****

“HELP!” Heidi screamed as what appeared to be a giant green bird took her up into the sky as the flowers she once held fell down to the ground.

Both of George and Harold were horrified for various reasons at what just happened. Even Krupp stopped his angry outburst and nearly had a heart attack over what just happened as he began to ask “WHAT THE HECK JUST–?!”

SNAP!

The brother of the kidnapped child had quickly turned around and snapped his fingers as a determined glare rose in his eyes. He already knew there was only one way to go after the bird and he didn’t have time to plan anything else in the moment his mother’s Captain of the Guard’s expression changed from horrified confusion into gleeful excitement as his eyes shone and a huge grin so bright that it would put the sun to shame graced his features.

*****

“Oh god, what do I do, what do I do?!” Grace panicked as she rocked back and forth in her throne as Barbra tried to comfort her. “They won’t get her in time!” She grabbed at her hair. “It’s going to happen all over again! I can’t live though this again! I can’t–what if it’s permanent this time?!”

Another sound broke though the chaos of her panic as her guards hurried outside. It was a familiar voice that reached through to her and responded to her concerns with a jubilant sounding–

“TRA-LA-LAA!”

Barbra shot her head up in surprise as Grace let go of her hair. In that moment, it felt as if a weight was gradually lifting off of her, even as the fear still gripped her heart. She knew instantly who it was that let that cry out.

*****

Heidi cried in fear as the giant bird flew her away from the castle. She was so high up in the air that she almost felt sick to her stomach and couldn’t bear to see how small the trees and water below her were. She was doing all that she could to hold on tight around the bird’s talons that were closed around her. She had wanted to be flown away from the castle for a long time, but not like this!

“What’s happening?!” She cried as she shut her eyes. She was scared out of her mind! She wanted someone to save her! She wanted this to all be a bad dream! She wanted her brother with her again! She wanted–!

“HEIDI!”

She opened her eyes at the unexpected sound of her brother’s voice and looked back.

She saw Harold frantically waving at her while George was beside him. Holding them both while flying through the air was a very familiar looking adult with no hair on his head and who only wore a bright red cape with black dots and a huge pair of underpants that reached so far up him that it covered up his navel.

“HI!” The adult happily called out to the little princess.

“CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS!” Heidi cried out in happy relief and waved at him.

“Ammo!” Harold demanded to George, who quickly took a rock out of his pocket and handed it over. He put the rock in the pouch of the slingshot and took aim as Captain Underpants moved increasingly closer towards the bird. He let go of the pouch and the rock soared, but unfortunately it missed.

“Come on, give me another one!” Harold tried again and though he managed to hit one of the bird’s wings, it looked back and noticed that it was being chased down.

“Wow you’re right, that is a giant bird!” Captain Underpants exclaimed as the creature narrowed its eyes at them. Without warning, it made a sharp left turn, causing its prey to cry out in alarm.

“DON’T LOSE IT!” George yelled at Captain Underpants, who obeyed the command.

“Come on, you stupid thing!” Harold was about to shoot another rock when all of a sudden the bird turned around and made to charge its sharp beak into the trio.

“NEVER MIND, DUCK!” George screamed at Captain Underpants.

“That doesn’t look like a duck to me!” Captain Underpants quickly observed. “I thought ducks were smaller–!”

“DUCK MEANS DODGE!”

“Oh!” The adult realized and did just that before the bird could harm him or the two boys.

“KEEP FOLLOWING IT!” Harold screamed as he readied his slingshot again. He had no clue what was going on, but he wasn’t going to let that thing take his sister away after only getting to know her for a short time!

Unfortunately the bird was now determined to attack Captain Underpants and after performing another sharp move towards a different direction, it let out a cry as it sped towards him.

“KEEP MOVING!” George yelled.

“NO, I GOT TO SHOOT IT!” Harold yelled.

“WE CAN STILL CHASE AFTER IT!”

“IT HAS MY SISTER!”

“Uh, guys, what do I do?!” Asked Captain Underpants. “I can’t fight it while I’m holding you!”

Harold let out a scream of frustration before taking aim. “JUST LET ME GET ONE HIT!” He took a deep breath as the bird came closer and closer to them.

He realized he knew where to hit to slow it down. He aimed for the eye–

–And released just when it got close enough.

The bird let out a terrible cry and would have dropped Heidi in the process if she wan’t already clutching at it for dear life. It did however get close enough to Captain Underpants to knock him away.

“AGH!” The boys screamed as the adult holding them began to plummet towards the ground. In the meantime the bird managed to get away and used its good eye to get away from the area and head towards its mistress as fast as possible.

“WHOAH!” Captain Underpants yelled in a panic as he held the two boys closer to him and was ready to absorb the full force of whatever he’d hit. Fortunately he regained his senses in time to come to a complete stop before he could even reach being around fifty feet from the ground.

“Oh man, oh man!” George panted as he tightened his grip on the adult’s arm. Harold looked up to see the bird flying away towards the mountains in the north. “We have to get her back!” Harold turned to George. “There’s no telling what’s going to happen to her!”

******

Up in the mountains was an old manor that was falling apart. It already lost much of its roofing and it was too dangerous to be renovated as the wood holding it up was rotting away in certain places. Inside the main room at the top of the staircase was the woman who had the princess abducted as well as the princess herself.

“Sorry kiddo, but this is all your mom’s fault.” Sarah told Heidi as she examined a clear, almost diamond like crystal in a strange device shaped like a crossbow. Meanwhile, the girl had a rope tied up around her so that her arms were pinned to her sides. The adult turned around to face Heidi, but the child was giving her a dark glare. If the circumstances were not in favor for the child’s safety, the expression would have been seen as adorable.

“You did a stupid thing.” Heidi flatly told her. “They’ll come to get me and you’ll regret it.”

“Who? Those idiots that are supposed to be protecting the kingdom?” Sarah scoffed. “Or are you talking about that lame excuse for a hero with the dumb sense of fashion? Look, you got to learn that in the end that not everything will end happily for everyone, and I can’t guarantee that this’ll be safe for you.” She waved the device for emphasis.

“You can’t scare me! I know they’re coming for me! My brother is going to come get me!” Heidi insisted. “Him, George, and especially–!”

There was a loud crash as something broke though the roofing and landed on the first floor near the old entrance door, causing the two to look in that direction.

“I made it!” Captain Underpants yelled out when the dust settled before letting go of George and Harold. “Your house must have a really nice view of the outside! You mind if I check it out later?!”

“I told you!” Heidi smirked at Sarah who could only stare at the bizarre arrival before her. “You’re going to be in a lot of trouble now!”

“Give Heidi back now!” Harold yelled at the woman.

“Well, it looks like I finally get to meet the brat that absorbed the flower’s magic while he was inside the queen.” Sarah smirked at Harold. “How’s life after being away from her for all of your childhood?”

“Look, just give Heidi back before we kick your butt!” George demanded.

“Well first off, I just need to get something out of her before I do that.” Sarah rested the crossbow on her shoulder. “A little something that you had up until now.”

“Wait a sec, what?” Harold was now confused, but then the woman let out a whistle and the giant bird from before came charging out through a wall.

“NOT AGAIN!” George shrieked before Captain Underpants shoved him and Harold out of the way in the nick of time.

“NO!” Heidi made to run towards them, but Sarah grabbed the ropes around her. “Oh no kid, you’re coming with me!”

“You stop the bird, we’ll get Heidi!” Harold commanded to Captain Underpants before he and George ran towards the stairs.

“But what do I do–WHOAH!” The adult was forced to go after the bird when it made to go after the boys. He was able to quickly fly up and grab it by one of its legs before he tried pulling it away in mid air.

“Let her go!” Harold yelled at Sarah as she kept pulling Heidi away at the same time the bird turned its head around and tried to peck at Captain Underpants. Heidi panicked before a thought struck her. She turned around to her captor, readied herself–

–And spat as hard as she could at her.

“What the–?!” Sarah freaked out and flinched at the moment the spit landed on her and she was grossed out enough to accidentally let go of the princess, who ran to the two boys.

“Don’t worry, we’ll get out of here soon!” Harold promised Heidi as he raced towards her.

“We just need to stop these guys first!” George promised at the exact moment the bird started to fling Captain Underpants back and forth by his cape, causing him to let out cries of protest.

“Oh no you don’t!” Sarah snapped her fingers. At the exact moment, a wall of green fire bursted forth and separated the pranksters from the princess.

“No!” Harold and George came to a stop as did Heidi before they could get burned.

The angry adult stormed up to Heidi before she could run away and roughly grabbed her by the ropes again before practically dragging her back to her intended destination, causing the child to cry out in protest, which only made her brother angrier.

“We got to do something, we can’t get past that fire!” Harold growled in frustration. George quickly turned around to try to find something that they could use before seeing that the giant bird was now pecking its peak into Captain Underpants’ head. “Ow! Hey! Cut it out!” The adult laying on the ground protested as he grabbed his head and winced with each hit.

“We’ll need Captain Underpants, but we got to get rid of the bird first!” George told Harold. “Hit it while its distracted!”

Harold nodded and quickly took the slingshot and a rock out. “Please work,” He pleaded before sending the rock flying.

The first rock managed to hit the bird in the neck. The second one struck it in the beak hard enough to knock it back and let Captain Underpants escape.

“Get us over the fire!” George frantically waved at him.

Before the bird could even react fast enough to recover, the hero was able to quickly speed off, scoop up the two boys in his arms, fly over the fire, and right through the doorway that Sarah and taken Heidi through.

“Phew, thanks guys!” Captain Underpants sighed in relief when he finally rested himself on the ground in the hallway they found themselves in.

“Uh, Captain Underpants?” George noticed something and his eyes widened in horror.

“Really, I thought that I was going to be that bird’s–!”

“You’re on fire!” Harold yelped and pointed to the cape that was indeed burning up with green flames at the bottom of it.

“Yeah, I’m on fire–! I’M ON FIRE!” Captain Underpants screamed in realization as he let go of the boys and tried to frantically waved as his cape. “I’M ON FIRE! I’M ON FIRE!” He grabbed a nearby ruined painting off the wall and tried fanning the flame with it, but it only made it worse. “MAKE IT STOP!” He let go of the painting, fell over, and began rolling around.

******

“Please don’t do this!” Heidi cried as Sarah readied the device. The princess’ ropes were hanging her up in the air by a candelabra and they were hurting her.

“Sorry kid, but I got to.” Sarah grinned as she aimed the device at the princess. The crystal in it began to turn white when she pressed the trigger on the device. “If anything else happens to you–well that’s too bad.”

She pressed a button and a beam of white light shot out at Heidi, causing her to scream.

*****

The boys’ blood froze when they heard the scream and even the hero–who finally got the fire out–was horrified by it.

“No,” Harold shook his head. “No, no, no–!”

There was a shriek from behind them and they all were forced so hurry away as the giant bird tried to poke its head through the doorway.

“COME ON!” George grabbed Harold’s hand and made a run for it while Captain Underpants found himself getting grabbed by his cape once again by the bird. The adult cried out when the bird tried to hurl him against the wall, but then a huge metal shield that just so happened to be conveniently hanging above the doorway finally fell over and knocked the creature hard on the head. It was enough to make it let go of Captain Underpants when it got completely knocked out.

*****

Heidi panted and her heart was beating wildly in her chest as she stared at the crossbow.

Sarah’s grin of triumph turned into a puzzled frown. “Wait a minute.” She looked at the device and examined the crystal. “Why isn’t it–?” She tapped the crystal but nothing happened. She aimed the crossbow at the princess, but still nothing happened. “I don’t understand! It worked the last time I saw you!” She glared at the princess. “It was reacting and everything! How is this possible?!”

“Wh-what is?!” Heidi stammered as Harold and George ran into the room.

“You were supposed to have the last of the flower’s magic inside of you!” Sarah angrily yelled at the girl, causing the two boys to come to a stop. “There’s another person in Piqua besides your brother who has it! Why isn’t it you?!”

“What?”

Sarah turned her head to see two very confused boys. Harold in particular was rather surprised. “There’s another who has–?”

“–The flower’s magic inside of them?” George finished.

“You!” Sarah growled at Harold. “You know who it is, don’t you?! Does your mother know?! This crystal went off on your sister–I thought it was supposed to be her!” She held the crossbow up for Harold to see the crystal within it. “And now it’s as if she’s just some boring, average child!”

“Hey!” George snapped in anger at the adult.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Harold shook his head. “This is all new to me!”

“You little liar!” Sarah held her hand up and readied her magic to create a green fireball, causing the boys to tense up and get ready to run for it. “I’ve been locked away for nearly a decade, so something must of happened when your mother had that potion and lived to have you! I’ll ask this one last time–who is the flower of creation’s last living container–?!”

Without warning a huge shield came spinning at Sarah and it crashed into her, knocking her across the room and into a wall while the crossbow fell to the ground with a crash and the crystal within it shattered into fragments.

“I didn’t know you could use a sled like that!” Captain Underpants entered the room as he dusted his hands off before hurrying over to Heidi.

“Oh thank gosh!” George sighed in relief and so did Harold while the adult carefully held Heidi in his grasp while snapping the ropes off of her before she was freed from them as well as the candelabra.

“You came!” Heidi gave a huge delighted smile to Captain Underpants before she threw her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly. “I knew you’d save me if something ever happened to me some day!”

Captain Underpants smiled and hugged the child back. “I would no matter what.” He reassured her. “It’s a good thing your brother let me know what happened in the nick of time.”

“Heidi!” Harold raced to the two as George followed him. Captain Underpants walked over to the two and carefully set Heidi on the ground before the girl could rush over and crash into her brother, who hugged her tightly.

“You came to rescue me too!” Heidi cried out in happiness and hugged Harold.

“Well you’re my sister, of course I had to come for you!” Harold told her as he smiled and hugged her back. He didn’t want to tell her how scared he actually was–afraid that he was going to lose someone very important to him all over again to forces beyond his control. Now it was due to something he thought was long behind him.

He was almost too caught up in his thoughts to hear George yell his name and within a few seconds, he found them all getting picked up by a huge pair of arms before getting flown across the room.

“I DON’T THINK SO!”

Captain Underpants was forced to come to a stop as a net of flames went over him and all three children in his grasp and formed a perfect dome around them. He looked around in panic, but there was no escape.

“I’m not letting the queen have her kids back until I get my answers!” Sarah angrily demanded as she stumbled towards the dome. There wasn’t enough space for the hero to fly through, but they could still see her through the gaps. “Hand them over!”

“No way!” Captain Underpants protested as he held the kids closer to him. In his grasp, George was hugging onto Harold, who was hugging Heidi, and all three kids were scared.

“Do you have any more rocks?” Harold asked George, who checked his pockets and shook his head. He also checked his pockets, but to his dismay they were all gone. There was no way to escape this time.

“They know who I’m looking for and I promise you’ll get really hurt if you don’t give them to me!” The dome slowly inched farther towards the hero.

“NO!” Captain Underpants’ hold on the kids tightened as he dropped to his knees in an attempt to get away from the fire which was inching closer towards them. “JUST LEAVE THEM ALONE ALREADY!” He demanded as Heidi whimpered and tightened her hold around Harold. No matter what would happen–even if it were to kill him–he’d never let any harm fall upon an innocent child! Especially the ones he cared about the most!

“LISTEN YOU STUPID FREAK! IF YOU DON’T LET GO, I’M GOING TO BURN YOU!” The woman yelled as the hero kept his hold on the scared children while trying to kneel away from the fire, but he could already feel the heat coming closer to the point that it was making his skin burn up from the hot air alone. He could only grit his teeth and tightly shut his eyes as he waited for the inevitable. “SO IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE–!”

“THAT IS ENOUGH!” Without warning, there was a flash of purple and Sarah let out a scream as something came after her. Whatever happened, it was enough to stop the spell and make the dome of flames vanish as the caster let out a storm of cursing at the owner of the unknown voice.“THIS IS EXACTLY WHY I HAD TO SEND YOU AWAY THE FIRST TIME!”

There was a bright, intense flash of purple magic that was enough to make them all shut their eyes.

Moments past before anyone could dare open their eyes to see that the former spell caster was gone. In her place was a figure who was in a magenta robe that covered them up to the point that you couldn’t make out who they were.

They let out a feminine sigh–revealing their identity to be a woman–and held her face in her hands. “I’m so sorry. I wouldn’t advise telling the queen about what almost happened here.” She slightly turned her head towards the small group. “If that device my former student created–” She stopped and shook her head. “Tell her that I locked her away in the old place. She’ll know what I mean.”

“Wait a second!” George and Harold recovered the quickest as the former shook his head. “Who are you?! Who was that?! And what did you mean by ‘student?!’”

The woman paused before she let out a sigh. “I would ignore whatever she told you and keep it to yourself. For everyone’s safety.”

“Hang on a sec, what’s going on?!” Harold demanded, but then the person vanished away in an explosion of purple sparks. When they faded away, it was as if she had never been there to begin with.

There was a long silence.

“Hey, that weird, mysterious person just exploded into a bunch of sparkles!” Captain Underpants excitedly pointed out as he let go of the kids.

“Yeah she did.” George let out a nervous laughter. “She did.” He repeated as Harold noticed the shattered crystal on the ground. “Hey Harold?” He asked as the boy walked up to the remains and grabbed as much as he could. “Hey we need to start heading back!” He ran up to him and tugged at his sleeve.

“Did you hear what she said earlier?” Harold whispered to George. “The woman who kidnapped Heidi–you don’t think–?”

“Let’s worry about it another time!” George whispered back to Harold. “Come on, I want to get out of here!” He didn’t feel reassured until Harold put the shards in his pocket and started heading back. Though the boys both had the same thing on their minds.

What was going on? Who was the woman who kidnapped Heidi? Who was that woman that saved them? Why would she tell them to keep what Heidi’s kidnapper told them to themselves?

*****

It was getting close to sunset and there was a peaceful, welcoming calm about that moment.

On one of the castle balconies, Grace sighed in relief as Captain Underpants carefully handed her daughter back to her while Harold and George stood beside him. All of her worries (even the ones caused by the letter from earlier) vanished from her mind upon the reunion.

“Mama!” Heidi cried with joy as she reached out and hugged Grace.

“Oh thank god!” Grace sighed as she kissed Heidi’s forehead as long as she could as she hugged her youngest child back. “Thank you so much.” She eventually smiled at the strange hero. “If you weren’t around, I don’t know what I’d do. I can’t lose another child again.” She tightened her hold on her daughter.

“Hey I was at the right place at the right time!” Captain Underpants grinned and shrugged. “These two were the ones who filled me in!” He gestured to George and Harold.

“Yeah, we all were there when it happened!” George admitted.

“We acted fast and we got him to help just like that!” Harold gave his mother a secretive grin as he snapped his fingers.

“I see.” Grace caught on and chuckled.

“I hope you see you again soon, Captain Underpants!” Heidi smiled and waved farewell at the hero.

“Same here!” Captain Underpants waved back with a huge smile of his own while unaware that someone was peering out of a window and down at him.

Edith smiled at the cute exchange between the adult and the child while feeling relieved that everyone came back safely. As she rested her chin in one hand and looked at the hero, she felt a pleasant warmth inside of her.

“Ok, we better get him going!” George tugged at Captain Underpants’ cape. “Come on, let’s go!”

*****

Harold stared at the crystal shards in his hand as George played with the surface of the water in the fountain back in the small courtyard. “You don’t think it could be true, could it?” he asked. “What that woman meant about another who has the flower’s magic?”

“Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised after everything we’ve gone through, but hey–don’t worry about it today.” George reassured Harold. “Let’s save it for tomorrow.”

“But if there really is someone out there who’s like me, they could be in trouble.” Harold pointed out. “I thought we put this behind us when Ribble was gone. You and I both know what happens when a bad person wants that magic that badly and it almost happened again! I don’t want to risk losing you or Heidi or anyone else–!”

“That’s not going to happen.” George faced Harold and grabbed his shoulders while giving him a determined look. “If you have to get caught up in this, then I’m coming in with you. You won’t be alone in it anymore. Best friends look out for each other, and I’ll never stop helping you whether you like it or not.”

Harold laughed and put the crystal shards back in his pocket. “You’re right. Thanks George.”

“Uh, guys? Why did you make me put this back on?” They turned around to see Captain Underpants back in Krupp’s uniform, though it was very disheveled and unorganized looking and even the toupee on his head was crooked. “Is it really that necessary?” He whined.

Both boys looked at each other and shared a smile as they prepared themselves to run. “See you next time, Captain!” George grinned before slapping the water in the fountain as hard as he could, causing it to splash out at the hero who was hit in the face with it.

“GAH!” The man yelled and flinched upon getting water to the face so hard that it actually made the toupee fly up a few inches and land perfectly on the top of his head. “WHAT ARE YOU–?!” He turned his confused head towards the two boys who shared the same mischievous grin.

“Sorry but we had to barrow Captain Underpants!” George quickly confessed.

“Yeah my sister’s safe and everything, so all is good!” Harold waved and grabbed George by the wrist before they ran away as fast as they could. The adult’s expression changed from confusion and back into a familiar angry scowl.

“GET BACK HERE, I’M NOT THROUGH WITH YOU TWO!” Krupp roared as he chased after the boys who laughed their heads off and embraced the usual routine in order to forget about the past events with much enthusiasm.