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Legends of the Hallows

Chapter One

Trumpets sound in the distance, heralding the annual arrival of Charming and his perpetual, yet fruitless, search for a mysterious woman with tiny feet and zero taste in shoes.

I slam my eyes closed as dust sprinkles onto my face from the ceiling of our hut.

“Who is the fairest in all the land?” a scratchy voice shouts. The family of mice curled up on my blanket squeak their displeasure as I roll onto my side.

I peer over the edge of the bunk bed and eye the full-length mirror propped against the wall. Once upon a time, that mirror had been a finely crafted shiny piece of furniture, with a shiny reflective face and shiny decorative edges painted in silver. Now, the paintwork was flaking onto the floor, much like the walls, and the once pristine surface was cracked down the center, much like the man that lived in there.

“Dude, when you declare anyone and everyone as the fairest, you stop being credible. Pick a person and commit to it.”

The shadowy face ripples on the mirror with a frown. “But you are the fairest in all of Far, Far Away, Daisy.”


“Who?” As I said, cracked.

I groan as the door bursts open and Gwyneth, my best friend, half-sister, and hut mate, flies into the room. Her skirts swish around her ankles, showing her worn leather boots. “Wakey, wakey, Daphne, another glorious diurnal has arisen in the land of Far, Far Away and The Duke has commanded all maidens to appear at the town hall to prepare for Charming’s arrival.”

“I’m no maiden.” A fumble with Hansel behind the gingerbread house saw to that. It was uneventful, but there were yummy snacks afterward. I’d also decided sex was overrated, misrepresented, and geared toward the pleasure of men.

Gwyneth’s blonde head disappears into the single wardrobe that serves us both. She pulls out my best dress, a white and blue affair with lace trim. It had been worn once, to my nineteenth name day celebration. I’d garnered the attention of the wolf, but also the three little pigs, Pinky, Porky, and Pete. We’d been getting along fine until the middle pig, Porky, tripped into the fire, causing the wolf to salivate, and soon, friends became snacks.

Okay, so Porky didn’t trip. I may have been the one who tripped and pushed the pig into the fire. But I’m getting off point.

“I will not be missed. You attend and tell me which female he takes to his bed this evening while he figures out if they are the one.” I air quote the end because the perpetual bachelor is not on my to do list.

“Are you between eighteen and twenty-five annuses?”

“No, I’m an old crone in disguise.”

“But you are the fairest,” the mirror declares.

“Dude, timing.”

“Don’t make me come up there, Daphne Stone.” Oh boy, she’s using her no nonsense tone. The tone that makes grown men stand to attention, the tone that makes half of Far, Far Away shrink away. I roll off the top bunk and land on the threadbare rug, which does nothing to soften the ground. My ankle twists and Gwyneth catches my arms.

“See, I don’t need a Prince Charming,” I say with a grin. “I have you to save me.”

She rolls her eyes. “You got this?”

“Standing and gravity?” I check. “Yup, I’m making them my slave this diurnal.”

She eyeballs my brown nightgown fashioned out of potato sacks. “What happened to the sleep dress I traded with the wolf?”

Not to be confused with Mr. Wolf, the pig tormenting fiend. This one ate grannies and terrorized little girls dressed in red, carrying baskets of baked goods.

I always thought red was an odd choice for a hunted female. You could not blend in with the woods when cloaked in the color of blood and rage. Perhaps if she swapped it for a nice brown number, like my sack, she would have better luck.

I wrinkle my nose. “It smelled of old woman.” I spin to the small kitchen and place the kettle on the stove. I reach for the matches and Gwyneth slaps my hands away.

“What have I told you about fire?”

I stand taller, towering over her five foot two frame by six inches. “Under no circumstances am I to touch anything that can be set alight.”

“Correct,” she mutters, lighting the flame with ease and setting the kettle to boil. Damn the coordinated. “Where is the sleep dress?”

I glance at the family of white mice gathered at the edge of the bed and scratch the back of my head. “I lost it.”

Gwyneth props her hands on her hips and scowls at the mice. They disappear under my blankets, no doubt leaving me poop presents for later. “If you encourage those mice, they aren’t ever going to leave.”

“How am I encouraging them?” I am encouraging them. I don’t want them to leave. They don’t judge my chaos.

She thrusts the dress at me. “You gave them your sleep dress.”

I whip the potato sacks off and grab the dress, sliding it over my head with a grimace. It’s tight and itchy. My boobs are pushed up to my chin, creating a plate for stray crumbs come meal time. I guess that’s a blessing. She pushes me in front of the mirror, snatches a wooden comb from the table, and begins dragging it through my stubborn dark curls.

The mirror man eyeballs my appearance. “Don’t say it,” I warn.

He holds his hands up. “Fair Delia,” he starts.

I roll my eyes and wave at him. “Daphne. Make yourself useful and move. I need to see how I look.”

“You are the fairest in all of Far, Far Away and the most delightful creature to grace this most joyous annus.”

That isn’t much of an achievement. Far, Far Away is a small step away from the wasteland of So Far Away where the scariest of monsters spend their miserable lives waiting for the annus that will end their existence. Then what? We aren’t part of the glorious Hallowed, so our next life doesn’t entail the possibility of resurrection in Idylican, where the precious few ascend, or even an eternal life in Blazes, where the Hallowed are punished for their misdeeds. The most Burghers, like me, can hope for is to spend this life in servitude to the Hallowed. Broken and malfunctioning fairy tale creatures named The Burghers litter the land of Far, Far Away, while our perfect counterparts, The Hallowed, spend their blissful diurnals in their various castles and rich lands.

“I can’t believe we traded Betsy for this thing,” I mumble with a wince as Gwyneth tugs through a stubborn tangled curl. The man in the mirror moves, revealing my dirty face. My big blue eyes are as clear as the cloudless sky stretching over the land.

“Betsy was a liability.”

“She was a great goat.”

“She bleated throughout the diurnal and sundown. She also kicked anyone who tried to get near her.”

Gwyneth tames my hair into two long braids, tightening the skin on my face and making my scalp ache.

“How long until Charming is here?” I ask, already wanting to swap my dress for pants and a shirt.

“Ten tempos.”

The kettle whistles as she ties a blue ribbon into the bottom of the braids. Gwyneth spins around and pours the heated water into a bowl. She dips a worn but clean rag into it, spins me to face her, and wipes the smudges of dirt from my face. Only the best for the blessed Hallowed.

She nods once at my appearance with a sigh and pinches my cheeks.


“You are too pale.”

“I have no interest in making an impression, so keep your attraction techniques to yourself,” I grumble as I pour the remaining water from the bowl into a chipped gray cup and dunk a crude nasty-smelling tea bag in it. Rothel the witch promised it would help my clumsiness, but then again, she was a rejected witch for a reason. Hopefully, I wouldn’t sprout facial hair, which takes more than a few diurnals to wear off.

“You can’t drink that. I just washed your face in it.”

“And I’m going to drink it with my face,” I point out. “So, what’s the problem? It’s not like I washed my floof in there. Now that, I wouldn’t drink.”

She wrinkles her delicate nose at me. “Don’t call it that.”

I take a sip of the tea and stick my tongue out. “What would you have me call it?” I wonder.

“Vagina,” she snaps. “If you are old enough to use it, you are old enough to say it.” She grasps the cup and plucks it from my hands. I let it go, because damn, my face tastes disgusting. Plus, she has an unnatural strength for a person of short stature.

“Five tempos,” she mutters, maneuvering me toward the entrance. I grab the handle and pull open the creaky wooden oval door. A gust of warm air rushes in to greet me, encouraging me to step out into the bright sunshine.

“Ribbit,” something croaks. I glance down, finding a line of six large, slimy, green frogs.

“I told you kissing that frog at the waterhole would have consequences,” Gwyneth says.

I shrug. “It was dare or defy, and I wasn’t telling Jack and Jill where my stash of gold is.”

“You don’t have a stash of gold.”

“No, but they don’t know that.”

“You are peculiar, Daphne.”

I smile. “Thank you.”

“And now you have a line of frogs wanting a kiss from you, thinking they are the next prince.”

“Everyone knows it only works if I’m a princess, which I am not.”

“But you are the fairest in all of Far, Far Away,” the mirror shouts as we slam the door closed and step over the frogs.

Gwyneth links her arm in mine and steers us toward the town hall. Fairy folk dart all over, busy with their dreary tasks and making the best of their lives. Girls of age fall into step in front and behind us, a train of maidens being offered to Charming like a feast of feet. I wrinkle my nose, because ew—feet.

“I don’t get the big hang up on the glass shoe,” I mutter to Gwyneth. “I’m certain if Cinderella wanted to be found, she’d have turned up to one of Charming’s hunting occasions.”

A twin set of redheads glare at me over their shoulders. I wiggle my fingers at them. They blanch and move forward quicker, creating distance. The townsfolk believed my clumsiness was gifted by a wicked witch in retaliation for my father and his wayward breeches. In reality, it’s a birthright my mother bestowed upon me—maybe as a result of the moonshine she drank while pregnant. 

I had finished school at the tender age of fifteen, having learned very little. Luckily, Gwyneth paid attention for the both of us. After being booted from my family home the same diurnal we graduated, we moved into the empty hut behind the crumbling tower Rapunzel had long since abandoned for a dreamy life with The Hallowed. She was one of the lucky and the few that made it out of Far, Far Away.

“Perhaps her wicked parents are keeping her captive?” Gwyneth offers.

“So, putting on a public event is going to persuade them to free her?” I shoot back. “I heard a rumor.”

“Oh Idylican,” she grumbles.

“Mary tells me his nickname at the palace is Prince Crueling.”

“Mary, the lamb lady?”

“Yes, her choice of pets is beside the point. Cinders isn’t being hidden, she’s in hiding,” I say.

We join the line leading up the steps to the brick rectangular building. “So he’s stalking her?” I nod as we inch forward. “Damn crazy prince. Just keep your head down, shove your foot in the tiny shoe and leave. Don’t look him in the eyes.”

“Why? Will he turn me to stone?” Maybe this prince is a descendant of the mythological Medusa. I don’t want to turn into stone. I imagine it’s a mundane existence watching everyone else go about their diurnal with moving limbs while you are trapped inside a casing.

“Don’t be ridiculous. How do you even come up with these things?”

My brain is a crazy place. I see the realm differently than others, and I’m not apologetic about it. We shuffle into the spacious room with wooden floors etched with the castle logo of The Hallowed. Just the blessed reminding us what we’ll never have. I sigh and keep my arm linked with Gwyneth.

The Duke catches my eyes with a pointed glare. Yeah, yeah, don’t embarrass the town. Did he think me an idiot? It’s not like I try to be clumsy.

“You go first,” I mutter to Gwyneth. That way, I can just mirror what she does.

She drops onto a chair in a row with ten other girls. There’s one more chair for me at the end. I sit on it and breathe a sigh of relief. What could go wrong now? I’m sitting down, for Blazes’ sake. Not even I could cause chaos sitting down.

The prince struts into the room carrying a goblet and wearing a daring grin. He thrusts the goblet at a royal guard, snatches the prized glass shoe off a deep purple velvet cushion, and kneels at the feet of the first maiden. It doesn’t fit—shocker. He works along the row, bypassing Gretel’s feet altogether with his lips turned up in a sneer at her grotesque appendages. Hate to break it to him, but feet are gross, period. If he was searching for the magical unicorn of attractive feet, he would be sorely disappointed by the offerings in Far, Far Away.

He shoves the glass shoe onto the feet of the eyelash fluttering females one after the other. None of them fit, they never do. This current Prince Charming went through the motions every annus to keep his meddling parents in check, when all he wanted to do was spread his mythical princely seed amongst the unsuspecting maidens across the lands. Is there a castle set aside for the mini Prince Charmings that resulted from his efforts?

He reaches Gwyneth and his hand curls around her ankle as he lifts it. He gently pushes it on to her foot and it slips on without issue.

“My princess,” he whispers. What he means is, your floof is going to get the royal treatment tonight while I figure out you aren’t my Cinderella.

“What the Hallows?” I snap. “We have been here for the last two annuses and it has never fit.”

His head snaps to me and crystal blue eyes pin me in place. He’s a fine specimen of a male with toned muscles and an air of authority as he glares at me down his pointy nose. “Are you questioning the will of The Hallowed?”

The Duke rushes forward, his pot belly peeking out from under his white shirt. “Of course not. Daphne is a little slow.”

I blink at the little poopfloof. Slow? “I see,” the prince says, nodding. He pats me on my head. I jerk back.

“Don’t touch her,” Gwyneth mutters. A hush falls over the room.

“You will require a lady’s maid. Is she your chosen, or will you be bringing a less slow maiden?”

Gwyneth side-eyes me and nibbles her lip. “She’s my sister. We don’t have any other family.” We do, but we don’t like them. “So she will be accompanying me.”

“Sister?” He looks me up and down with more interest, his gaze lingering on my breasts. Damn stupid dress. Oh no, Charming, that is not going to ever happen. Not for all the cheese in Deerwick. They had a lot of cheese, and I love cheese, so this was a big deal. “Well, you and your slow sister must come to The Hallows.”

“I don’t think so,” I mutter, grabbing Gwyneth’s arm. There is one thing that’s for sure. These maidens never return once they disappear into The Hallows. I had my suspicions about what happens to them, none of which end in a happily ever after.

The prince throws his head back and laughs. It’s a cold, heartless sound that raises the hair on my arms. I’m sure The Duke would feel it too if he had any hair. He does, however, raise his ink worm squashed eyebrows. The edge of the left one cracks and falls to the floor.

“I’ll give you thirty tempos to collect your belongings, then we will ride to the palace,” the prince hollers for all the room to hear. His calculating gaze lands on mine and his lips tip up in a smirk. “Don’t test my patience. I’m doing you a boon giving you extra time to gather your things. I’m sure you could pack everything you own in less than five tempos.”

I narrow my gaze. My eyes flick to the sword at his side. I doubt he is a competent fighter. It’s a showpiece. I could snatch it from his side and stab him through his chest before anyone knew what was happening. My fingers twitch.

Gwyneth grabs my hand and yanks me up before pulling me towards the doors.

“Thirty tempos,” the prince shouts. “Then I come hunting for you.”

I dart a look over my shoulder and Gwyneth pinches my arm.

“Ow,” I grumble. “What was that for?”

“To banish the murderous thoughts you have for the prince,” she utters as we spill from the doors of the town hall and start towards the hut.

“We need to run,” I tell her. There’s a deep pit in my stomach that is telling me something bad is going to happen. Then again, it could be the lack of food. It’s been a diurnal since I last ate.

She freezes and spins to face me. “There’s nowhere to hide, Daph. He would set the entire kingdom on our trail if we ran.”

“But he’s going to want to fluff your floof.”

She squeezes her eyes closed and sighs. “There are worse things. See it as a new adventure. You always wanted to see the palaces of The Hallows. Here’s your chance.”

I sidestep the gathering frogs, follow her into our hut, and flop down on her mattress as she grabs the potato sacks from the floor and begins stuffing them with our clothing. “See, you couldn’t do that with your sleep dress,” I point out. “My clothing is multi-purpose.”

She waves her hand at the tiny kitchen. “Anything you want to bring?”

“And where might the fairest in the land be visiting?” the mirror demands.

I cock my head. “Gwyneth is the missing Cinderella. We are off to the palace for a new and fruitful life of riches and wonders.”

She snorts a laugh because we both know it’s a joke. Not that she couldn’t be a princess—Gwyneth is more put together than the whole of Far, Far Away—but she is not a damsel in distress who ran out of a party early only to get caught without a ride home.

“I see, and might the faithful mirror be accompanying you on this new adventure?”

I quirk a brow at his forlorn face. “You want to come to The Hallows?”

“It is without a doubt the most glorious place,” he says, glancing at the top of the mirror like he’s imagining it. “I would be honored, oh most fair one of the land.”

Gwyneth frowns at him. “It’s not like you fit into a sack.”

“He is a people pleaser,” I point out. “I’m sure Charming has enough room on the back of his carriage for him. It would be cruel to leave him here alone. Blazes knows who will move in once we don’t return. He could be forced to declare Gretel as the most fair.”

The mirror man pulls a face.

She sighs. “Fine, wrap him in a sheet to protect him.”

“I don’t like the dark,” the mirror supplies. I shouldn’t be surprised I get a magic mirror who is afraid of the dark.

“Fine, but no commentary on the village people as we depart.”

“I promise,” he says with a salute.

She throws the sack full of clothing next to me then places her hands on her hips, eyeing the pots and pans with pursed lips. “You don’t think they have kitchen pots at the castle?” I ask.

She frowns, then reaches for my hands, kneeling in front of me. Her chocolate brown eyes harden with worry. “You must promise me not to try to kill the prince, Daphne.”

I scowl at her. “But—”

“I can handle myself,” she says with a slice of her hand through the air. “It’s you I’m worried about. If your murderous attitude doesn’t get you killed, your clumsiness might. What’s our motto?” she says with a smile.

“If it’s pointy, don’t disappoint me?”

“The other one.”

“If it’s hot, leave it to rot?”

“The other other one.”

“Sisters forever?”

She plants a kiss on my forehead, and that pit in my stomach opens up into a chasm. “That’s the one.”

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