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

in #fiction6 years ago (edited)

This is the thirty-fifth 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, Thirty, Thirty-One, Thirty-Two, Thirty-Three and Thirty-Four.

“Why did you come back?”

They were sitting beside each other on the ruined grass of the ruined world. It hurt to speak with no teeth. Her chest hurt, her limbs hurt. Everything hurt.

But she was alive, even if the world wasn’t, and Anne was alive, even though up until fifteen minutes ago Matilda had thought her dead. There were certain blessings, she supposed, that deserved to be acknowledged.

“I wanted to see Necristo again. And you. I wanted to save you.”

Anne was sitting as meekly as a lamb, her legs folded together on the ashen ground - a strange sight, especially from one so fiery. There was a quiet, measured look in her eyes, as if she had aged seven years in just as many days. She was gazing out at the ruins of Necristo’s house.

Matilda laughed.

“And just why did you think I needed saving, girl?”

Anne turned, and her eyes were like emeralds in the star-streaked sky.

“Because I knew you wouldn’t be able to live without knowing what happened to me. I still have this, see.”

She took out the Seal of Summoning and placed it in Matilda’s bandaged hand.

“You didn’t even use it.” It was more an observation than anything.

“I had a feeling it wouldn’t work,” said Anne. “Not across planes.”

“Well, you can hold onto it, then,” smirked Matilda, her mouth stretching slack across her toothless gums. “Think of it as a memento.”

She dropped the square of parchment into her niece’s lap, stood, and brushed her leggings off.

“No,” said Anne. “You’re not leaving.”

“What else is there for me to do?” shrugged Matilda. “I had my revenge, however petty it may seem, and I’ve been rewarded in full. Don’t you fret, girl. I’ll live.”

“But Uncle Matt! And Necristo!”

“You may not believe this, but Yhaga’s most likely dead. It takes more knowledge than she has to change the Space Between, and what your Uncle Matthias did to save you was the work of a master. Catching that local planesgate the way he did was disgusting. It’s over for her.”

Anne sagged, as if a weight had been taken off her chest - then she sat up straight again.

“No, no, that’s not it! Uncle Matt came here to save you, Aunt Mattie! He was in love with you…”

“He was in love with your me,” said Matilda flatly, a hint of the old tartness stealing back into her slurred voice. “Whoever she was, I’m not her.”

“And I love you,” said Anne, “so you’re coming back with me, and that’s final.”

Matilda froze, staring at the girl with the steely jaw and incandescent eyes. The old tired ache in her heart began to throb even more, sending the memories right up like sludge.

“You don’t understand.”

Father’s tears, Lizzie’s cold blue eyes. The mob, howling and shouting. The sound of her own lips, spitting hexes, screaming wrath and rage.

“I’m not someone to love. I’m a witch, you understand? A hag. I -”

She was a witch,” came a new voice, a voice so fresh and strong that it was almost like she didn’t know it. “You are a wizardess, Matilda, and a very tenacious one at that. I’m almost inclined to forget you ever did anything to me.”

“Necristo!” screamed Anne, scrambling straight at him. He held up his hands to avoid being crushed, failed, and stood rather awkwardly in her life-destroying embrace.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “but I still don’t remember you.”

“He will,” came a gnarled voice, as if to immediately allay Anne’s devastated expression. “We have plans for that. Mattie…”

“It’s Matilda, cousin. I never really liked my version of you, so let’s not get overly familiar, shall we?”

“I would take that seriously,” grunted Matthias, “if you actually still had teeth. You sound like a jar of pickles.”

Matilda blinked, then stared at his completely deadpan face.

“You speak my language,” she said at last.

“What can I say?” shrugged Matthias. “We’re old. Anyway, give him your last knife. The one that grants wishes.”

“Wait,” piped up Anne, still endangering Necristo’s existence with her grasp, “how did you know…”

“I know the Teeth of the Kythiran Sybil when I see them,” said Matthias. “Not necessarily by name, but still. There’s barely a traveler who doesn’t. They’re in most of the treasure pamphlets.”

“Then you know that Woewarder grants one wish in return for your flesh,” said Matilda. “You’ll understand if I’m not enthused with…”

“One second,” said Necristo, raising a finger. “Miss Gentilberry, if you would…”

“I told you to stop calling me that,” pouted Anne. “Idiot. Then again, I guess you wouldn’t remember.”

“I am sorry,” said Necristo, in a tone of voice that patently indicated that he wasn’t. More confused, as a matter of fact.

“Well, then I guess I’ve got no choice then,” said Anne, before letting go and stomping very pointedly away. “I swear, that head of yours is as empty as mine.”

“Now there’s something she wouldn’t say before,” muttered Matilda, before realizing that she had teeth again.

“Is that enough for the knife?” asked Necristo.

Matilda touched her face, pursed her lips, and at last said:

"Just so you know, it won't work on me."

“Trust me,” said Necristo.

Matilda tutted, but she handed the broad knife over, taking special care not to so much as touch him with the edge.

“Hold it,” said Anne. "You aren't planning to stick yourself with that thing, are you?"

“As a matter of fact, Miss Gentilberry, I am.”

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