20. The Pen and the Sword
As the pen formed, we heard fluttering from near the door. Two grey stones came alive and took off in flight out of the grand room.
“What was that?” asked Soy.
“I think we’re going to find out,” answered Deli.
With a great swooping noise, the low purple light from the lake was blocked by an enormous figure. The huge shiny talons on Ream's feet clinked on the ground as he landed. Ducking below the archway, he approached the three of us. He was flanked on both sides by dozens and dozens of fairies.
These fairies looked similar in shape to the ones in Pavidale, but not in appearance. They had no color, only greyness, and moved like they were made of stone. When their wings flapped, they left a trail of grey chalk. These fairies were not bright or friendly like the ones in Pavidale.
“Cal,” bellowed Ream, “it seems that you’ve finally lived up to your story.”
“How did you get here?” demanded Deli.
Ream slowly circled us as he spoke.
“Oh, it wasn’t hard once you showed me the right door. I see now that it was under my claws the whole time. To think how many fairies I wasted on those other doors. Oh, well,” he said leaning in closer, “they were only fairies after all.”
Deli was angry.
“How dare you!” she shouted.
“Hush now, Deli. There are more important things to worry about. Like how I will roast your new little friend if he doesn’t hand over the pen.”
“Don’t you dare!” shouted a voice from behind Ream.
The moment I heard it, I knew that it was the voice of the one fairy who might be able to get us out of this mess.
“Tryt!” I yelled.
Tryt came flying in straight past Ream and settled in front of us.
“I followed you here to make sure that nothing went wrong,” he said.
“Well, thank goodness you did,” said Deli. “Ream was about to turn us into a meal.”
Tryt turned with a smile and said, “Oh, he wouldn’t do that. I gave him strict orders not to damage the pen.”
The words cut me as they settled in.
“You… gave him orders?” said Deli.
“That’s right, Delilah," Tryt declared. "Ream has been a valuable ally.”
Ream let out a fiery laugh.
“Didn’t you ever wonder how I was able to steal your fairy friends? Or how I knew you’d be in the dark cloud before you even got there?” Ream said with amusement.
“Yes," Tryt responded, "I sent them straight to you, Ream, so that you could get rid of Deli and this buffoon of a guide, but you didn’t did you?”
Ream’s toothy smile faded.
“No matter, there’s nothing they can do to help now, anyway,” said Tryt.
“You betrayed your friends! How could you?” screamed Deli.
“Fairies don’t matter. The Author Pen is all that matters,” said Tryt.
Suddenly it clicked.
“You’re the fairy from the story, the one who told the king about the wells,” I said.
“I thought he was the one who was hiding like a tiny baby?” remarked Soy.
“I was both of them, you fool. And I wasn’t hiding!” shouted Tryt. “I was following those dwarves. I needed the king and the dwarves to help me find the wells. But once they did, I couldn’t convince them to give me the pen. At least not the one that showed the wells’ true power. The pen meant for a king! Instead, they gave me this.” Tryt pulled out the pen he had used to write my story. “The pen of a servant.”
“And… Ream?” Deli asked sadly.
“A means to an end. When I learned there was a dragon powerful enough to enslave elves, I knew he was my best chance. So, I warned him of your impending attack all those years ago, and he was able to escape.”
“You did what?” Deli leapt forward. A handful of fairies flew up and intercepted her before she could reach Tryt.
“You see the advantage of an army," Tryt said. “You freed the elves but Ream kept his rile. That meant he could build a new army, for me. An army made for one purpose: to find the Author Pen. I thought an army of fairies would be perfect for the task, but it turns out they were even better than I imagined. When he started stealing fairies, he threatened the existence of fairytales, and your hero was chosen. Dire need, as they say. I had hoped Ream would be able to get here without Cal, but the dwarves were craftier than I expected. Still, here we are. And now the Author Pen is within my grasp, thanks to all of you.”
The pen burned in my hand. I had done exactly what they had wanted me to do. I had led Ream and Tryt and their army of fairies right to the most powerful tool in the world.
“It was a brilliant plan, wouldn’t you say?” asked Tryt boastfully.
“People don’t like it when you call your own ideas brilliant,” Soy interrupted.
Deli and I turned to face him.
“What? I’m just saying, I’ve been told that a lot,” he said softly.
“What’s in it for you, then?” I asked, turning to Ream, desperate for a way out of all this.
“Oh, not much, just domain over all humans,” he said with a grin that crawled under my skin.
“With just one swipe of a pen, I will make it so. I have little use for them,” said Tryt.
Deli tried to jump free, but to no avail. Soy looked at me and motioned with his eyes that he was ready to charge Tryt. I shook my head slightly.
“That’s cute,” said Tryt, “but I'm afraid you won’t be a match for an army of fairies and the most powerful dragon ever known. Now hand the pen over, and I will consider letting you leave here in one piece, Cal. I will keep Soy as my own personal servant, however, and teach him some manners… the hard way.”
This wasn’t right. None of it was right. I had promised Soy that I’d get him out of this trouble- that I’d get us all out of this. But at that moment, I didn’t see how. I quickly thought back to the poem. I scrolled through it in my mind, looking for anything that I might have missed. And there it was. The second stanza:
The safest place to hide creation:
Hands that lack imagination.
It was the only verse that hadn’t made sense yet. If the answer I needed wasn’t in those words, then I was lost. I started with the first line. If creation meant the Author Pen, then we had already found where it was hidden. Hadn’t we? But we had found it at the bottom of the Well of Rile. That didn’t sound much like a hand to me. And as far as I could tell imagination didn’t play much of a part. I was out of ideas, and I was out of time. Tryt stepped in front of me, with Ream at his back.
“The pen. Give it to me now,” he said.
Tryt reached out his palm towards me. I stared at the pink hand… and then it hit me.
I understood the riddle.
“I’ll trade you,” I offered.
“What?” Ream asked. Everyone looked at me in disbelief.
“Give me the Fairytale Pen, and I will give you mine,” I said.
“Silly child, why would I give you any…” started Tryt, but before he could finish, I held the pen out over the Well of Rile.
“Because if you don’t, I’ll drop the pen. Do you know what happens when a magic pen is dropped into a well of rile? Because I don’t,” I said.
“If you do, I will roast every last one of you!” shouted Ream.
Tryt raised his hand to silence the dragon, thought for a moment, then told him, “No need, my fiery friend. He can have the Fairytale Pen. It seems fitting for him to be the one to write down the tales of woe to come. Here,” Tryt said, as he tossed the Fairytale Pen to me. “Now hand over the pen before I get angry.”
“Don’t do it!” shouted Soy.
But I did. I threw the pen in my left hand at Tryt, and he caught it with a flutter.
“I don’t believe it. It’s finally mine!” he exclaimed. “Send in the book!”
More grey fairies flew into the room carrying the Book of Lore that I had seen back in Pavidale, when things seemed so different, and Tryt was still on our side. Tryt flew off to the corner of the room and set to work on the book.
“Shall I finish the frog off?” asked Ream.
“Not yet, I want her to see this,” answered Tryt as he opened the book to my fairytale. I realized now why Tryt hadn’t wanted us to see more of what had been written in the book. He didn’t want us to read about the terrible things he had done.
Deli looked at me with sad eyes.
“Oh, Cal. We’ve failed," she sobbed.
I shook my head and told her, “Nobody writes my story but me.”
From the corner of the room, I heard a clamor.
“It’s not working! Why isn’t it working!” Tryt screamed.