Ruby Red and Gentilberry Green - A Fantastical Romance: Part XXXI

in #fiction6 years ago (edited)

This is the thirty-first part of an ongoing serial. Here are Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, Seventeen, Eighteen, Nineteen, Twenty, Twenty-One, Twenty-Two, Twenty-Three, Twenty-Four, Twenty-Five, Twenty-Six, Twenty-Seven, Twenty-Eight, Twenty-Nine and Thirty.

Matthias Gentilberry was not a betting man. He had been, once upon a time. Almost entirely convinced that the world was ready to reward those who took it head-on with a laugh and a good joke, that the world was just. He was the son of farmers, wasn’t he? Magical farmers!

And then there was little mousy Mattie, who only half-smiled at his jokes, who hid behind her books whenever he came swaggering up to her, and who flat-out ran from Simon. Lizzie was her only comfort, despite the fact that Lizzie was a hellcat with forty claws and Mattie was more or less a chick.

Everyone in the family was convinced that the four would end up marrying each other at some point in time - they were, after all, first cousins, and two sets of siblings to boot.

“Oh, but our Lizzie would make a fine wife for our Matt, wouldn’t she? He’d joke the fangs right off her.”

“And our Mattie would fit just beautifully with our Simon. She needs a real slab of man, let me tell you.”

The brothers were completely adamant that this would not turn out to be the case. Lizzie was too crude. Mattie was delicate as a rose. No, but Mattie was stodgy! Lizzie was as exciting as a barn fire!

On the exact week Matt and Simon decided to switch their prospective partners with each other, Necristo came down in a whirlwind and took Mattie while she was riding, right off little Blinker’s back.

It was so natural to save her. So right, almost, the duty of any aspiring paramour. Hiding his fear, his abject terror, Matt strapped his pitchfork to his back and tied Howler to his hand and set off for the All-Shrine, jumping the fence by night.

Five years, then, of traveling the planes, of failure upon failure. If he’d perhaps stuck around to ask Pa, he would probably have learned of his ability to gatefind before things even started. As things were, he pieced his magic together with the acumen of an injured toddler. Slowly. Painfully. Step by step.

It was a miracle he didn’t die. Howler did. It was an even greater miracle that he found the sorcerer.

A sorcerer named…

“You deserve this, by the way,” said Matthias, the interworld walkway shuddering and shaking all around him. “All of this.”

The white face stared up at him, as open and scared as a child’s, leaking black blood from its nose and ruby-red eyes.


It wasn't meant to be like this. She wasn't meant to be here, face-down in an ashen field, the throes of a dying world shaking her whole body. She wasn't meant to have no teeth, to have all her muscles as useless as wet dough. She wasn’t meant to be fighting sorcery in the first place.

She'd told herself that she wanted justice, told herself that all she wanted was to right the wrongs done to her. But that thought had proved itself a lie almost from the beginning. All she'd ever wanted was revenge. From the day Father had told her she couldn't be a wizard to the day she found her own young corpse in a buzzing ditch.

Righting wrongs, after all, would require going home. And she’d put far too many worlds between her and home. Now she was old and leathery, with no idea if her Lizzie or her Pa were alive or dead, with nothing on her back save a magic cloak and ten thousand crusted memories.

Three knives. To take a man's heart and grant him his wish and excise his heart's desire...

Weren't those all things that only witches did?

They'd called her a hag in maiden's flesh.

“Kill me,” she mumbled, the words turning to mush in her empty mouth. “Get it over with.”

Yhaga laughed again, wildly. The ground rippled around her, bubbling like hot stew, chunks of ashen grass and earth floating in it. The whole world was falling apart around her.

”Kill you?” she howled. ”We’re not done here, Matilda!”

“Your son’s world is falling to pieces,” said Matilda, the hint of a hopeless smile on her shapeless face. “You don’t have the knowledge or the will to hold it together. He’s a dead man. That part’s taken care of. I’m dead anyway, so you might as well do it…”

Pain, indescribable pain, burst out in her chest. She screamed. It was like a spike had crushed her sternum, sending fragments into her lungs and heart.

”Necristo wanted to die anyway, you foolish wench,” leered Yhaga. ”If all you really wanted to do was take his heart, the only thing you had to do was ask.”

“That’s…” gurgled Matilda.

”No,” laughed Yhaga, ”but you wanted to save her. You wanted to protect your niece, get her off this world in one piece. And look how well that turned out!”

Yhaga shook her shriveled head and wagged her finger, hand on her hip. It was the gesture of a woman half her age, and it was utterly repulsive.

”You should really stop getting attached, darling. She’s not even your real niece. Not that it matters anymore, of course. She’s…”

A redheaded girl in a blue dress ran screaming in from nowhere and stuck Yhaga in the side with her rusty barbed knife.


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