Continuing Tales

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 12 of 29

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"You lying, sneaking, bastard!" the Princess screamed.

Valentine wiped the flour off his robe, still smirking. He'd known that if Helena's dream had been that bad, things were about to get worse. He'd locked his guard in the closet and ran to the flour storage, grabbing a cart and bringing as much as he could to the portal. He'd been able to stick his head through, and nearly choked when he saw the Princess advancing on Helena. However, he'd lit the flour kegs and given Helena the time she needed.

The Princess stalked towards him and he didn't blink. "You knew she was alive!"

He just smiled.

She turned and he saw the gash that Helena had made in her side. It wasn't as bad as it had been just minutes ago – the shadows were stitching her together again - and certainly not fatal. But it proved what some people had begun to question - the Princess was mortal.

"I'll send out the copy again. She fell for it once-"

"She won't fall for it again," Valentine assured her. "She learns fast."

The Princess turned on him, her eyes blazing, "Then I'll drag you to the Choir and send out your empty shell!"

"And you still won't kill her."

The Princess clenched her fist and the spider around his wrist tightened painfully. He didn't cry out, but he clutched the screaming limb to his chest.

Moving her other hand down, she forced Valentine to kneel. He had to, he couldn't fight against the shadows, but he didn't drop his gaze or cry out, even when the spider squeezed harder.

"You cost me today, Val," she whispered. "I don't take kindly to people sabotaging my plans."

He didn't say anything. He knew going in that he would have to pay for his actions. So when the Princess started in on him, Valentine closed his eyes. Instead of feeling the shadows, he felt Helena's hands on his chest. Instead of the sound of the Princess swearing and snarling at him, he heard Helena's laughter. And when he wasn't able to keep from crying out, he remembered the way Helena felt in his arms, the way she had let him touch her, he way she had looked just seconds before she'd been taken away.

In the end, the Princess tired before he ran out of dreams to relive. When he woke up, he was alone in the Tower, three guards now assigned to guard him. He cleaned himself up as best he could, changed back into his regular clothes, and retired to his chair. Four broken fingers, a wrenched shoulder, and a handful of broken ribs weren't bad, all things considered. Quite a few cuts and bruises, one bad slice along his back. He'd had worse.

Valentine stared out the window, unable to keep a smile from his face.

He did his best to stay awake the next few nights, sleeping during the day when he knew Helena would be up and about. The Princess was lingering around him more, keeping an eye on him. Valentine didn't want to risk her finding out his secret.

One late afternoon, after a short nap, he wandering down to the kitchen and saw a book on the table. The Princess's latest read. Looking around, Valentine saw the Princess through his window, along with the guards assigned to him. Taking the chance, he slid out of the view of the window and flipped the book open, the crackle of the fire in his hearth disguising the sound.

Most of the pages were covered with the Princess's notes and underlines. A lot of it repeated what he had read before – the copies, the illusions… He flipped to a clean page, free of the Princess's marks and made to move on when something caught his eye.

When the two held the Mask…

Valentine paused and looked up, making sure the Princess was still engaged before bending down to read more.

Having given her copy freedom, the first Prime Minister did not know that it would be her undoing. After the first Shadow Wars, the first Minister tracked down her copy and sought to undo her. The copy did not desire this and a great battle broke out. After blood had been spilt on both sides, the Prime Minister reached for the Mask the same time her copy did. When the two held the Mask at the same moment, an imbalance occurred.

Two cannot exist when there should only be one and they certainly cannot bear the Mask at the same time. The weaker was undone, the stronger survived. The first Minister was destroyed, and that was the beginning of the first Shadow Queen.

Valentine didn't breathe as he reread the passage. The weaker was undone, the stronger survived. That was it. That was how to defeat the Princess.

He ripped the page out of the book and shut it, stepping away as the door opened. The Princess glared at him as he rummaged through his cupboard, trying to feign hunger as he hid the paper in his palm.

"Finally awake, Val?" she asked him archly.

"No, obviously I'm still upstairs asleep," he answered, grabbing a commaquat and biting into it.

She rolled her eyes and grabbed the book off the table, handing it to one of Valentine's guards. "Take this to my tent. I'll be along shortly."

The guard nodded and stumbled off, the other two taking their positions outside the Tower doors.

The Princess advanced on him and poked his chest, right where his broken ribs grated together. "Feeling better?"

He couldn't help but wince, "Absolutely."

She trailed her fingers up his arm, "You know, Val, this could be much easier. If you just behaved and did as you were told, I wouldn't have to hurt you. I don't enjoy it, Val, if I'm being completely honest. We could be friends."

The image of what she expected from him in her tent flashed through his mind. "Rather have the pain, if we're being honest."

She scraped her nails down his face, leaving welts in her wake. Valentine took the minor pain without comment as she turned on her heel and walked out of his Tower. Valentine, hunching over his pained ribs, hurried over to the hearth and threw the page inside the flames, making sure it burnt before he went upstairs.

He needed to get some sleep tonight.

Helena dreamed about Valentine that night. He didn't appear right away and when he did, he seemed startled. He looked away, staring at the Pool.

"Hey," Helena said, stepping forward.

"Hi," he said, sounding distracted.

"Everything okay?" she asked him.

"Yes, Helena, we need to talk." He didn't seem to want to look at her. She ignored that. Helena walked over and grabbed his shoulder, forcing him to turn around.

When he did, she almost wished she hadn't.

Helena reached up and touched his chin, tilting his face down. "Valentine...what happened?"

He took a step back, just out of her reach. "Not important."

"Did she do this to you?" Helena asked. She could now see the way he handled his shoulder and arm - luckily not the one she had pulled on. The bruises spread down below his mask, visible through his darker skin, and there were scuffs on it that weren't there before. A few of his fingers were skewed unnaturally.

He didn't answer her, apparently finding that the answer was obvious.

"Why did she hurt you?" Helena asked. He wouldn't let her near him, so she sat down on the edge of the pool, hoping he would do so as well.

"I pissed her off. More so than usual." He took a seat and made to lean forward before wincing. When he straightened up, Helena recognized the way he was holding himself.

"Broken rib?" she questioned.

"Multiple, I should think." He smirked when she looked at him. "I went above and beyond."

"Do you want me to wrap it for you?"

"We're in a dream. It won't help."

"Then why does it still hurt you?"

"Because it still hurts when I'm sleeping. Which just seems incredibly unfair."

Helena smiled, but it faded when she saw his bruises again. "How did you piss her off?"

He shook his head, "Don't worry about it. What you should worry about is something I read."

"What do you mean?"

"She's been collecting these books. All these things about the Mask and how to use it. But I think she missed something."


"There was a small part of one of the books, one of the last ones she got. That one told her about making additional copies of people and things. That page was all scribbled in - she's got no respect for books at all."

Helena recalled the first time she'd seen Valentine with a book - yelling at it and throwing it to the ground - and smiled. He seemed to remember it as well and stopped, glancing down for a moment.

"Near the end, there was a paragraph about the copies, mixed in with one of the Shadow Wars. I don't think she saw it, but I read something there. If two copies hold onto the MirrorMask at the same time, the weaker copy will be destroyed. They'll dissolve."

Helena swallowed, staring at her hands. "So if the Princess and I were to both hold onto the of us would vanish? The weaker one?"

"The Princess."



Helena scoffed, glancing at him. "Look, it's been a while. You don't know me like you did."

"I didn't really know you to begin with."

She looked back at her hands, unable to argue. He was right. They hadn't really gotten to know one another. But Helena still felt like she knew him. And she had thought that he had felt the same, at one point in his life. But she realized that she was wrong, about this and about a lot of other-

"-and I still know that it'll be her."

She shook her head. "How can you possibly know that?"

He shrugged (and then grimaced). "I do. She puts on a show. She's psychotic. And vicious. But not strong."

Helena rubbed her face, feeling exhausted even in her sleep. "So, now all I have to do is defeat a shadow army, get into the castle, find the Princess, get her to give me the Mask while holding onto it, all while not being murdered by her shadows or whatever minions she's got stashed away in there."

Valentine said, "Simple, really."

"And what side will you be on, Valentine?" she asked him quietly.

He glanced at her. "Well, I think we can clearly see I'm not on her side."

"Yeah, but my side thinks you're a murderer, a thief, and a traitor. They wanted to arrest you."

He chuckled, "Good thing they've already killed me, then."


"You don't need me. You can do this."

She leaned over and brushed his face with the back of her fingers. "What about you? How many more of these are you going to get before I can get there?"

"Depends on how well I keep my mouth shut." He thought and cocked his head. "So, I wouldn't dally if I were you."

"But, I-"

"By the way," he said, catching her fingers. "I think you owe me something."

How could she concentrate on that when he looked like this? "But-"

"I won, fair and square, like you said," he cut in, turning her palm over in his hands.

She smiled unintentionally and he smirked at her.

A wind came up, blowing Helena's hair in her face. She turned into it with a frown. "What is that?"

Valentine jumped up, pulling her with him, "No, no…no-no-no, she couldn't. She can't. This is my dream."

"Valentine?" Helena asked, pulling on his arm. "What is it?"

The wind picked up higher, creating tiny cyclones of dirt that stung and bit at their faces. Valentine still stared into the wind, his eyes squinting behind the mask. "It's her."

He turned and grabbed her arms, "Wake up."

She stuttered, "I-I can't just wake up, I-"

"She's not even supposed to be here. I don't know what she could do to you. Wake up," he ordered, his grip on her arms stinging, even through the fuzziness of the dream.

Helena shook her head, "Valentine-"

He pushed her, like he had before, and Helena fell backwards and-

-hit the ground. Helena met Valentine's panicked eyes, feeling her own control beginning to crack. She got on her feet, refusing to meet the Princess on the ground.

Shadows crept up around them and Valentine pulled at his hair, "No. No! You can't be here!"

Helena grabbed his arms, "Valentine…" She would never let the Princess see her frightened, and she doubted Valentine would want that either.

He calmed as the shadows started rising. A new look settled over his face – stubborn, angry, cold. The only thing that reminded Helena of her friend was the hand wrapped around hers.

"I told you, Val…" the voice echoed from the darkness.

Helena felt Valentine tense slightly as the Princess stepped out from the shadows.

"There's nowhere you can go that I can't follow."

The Princess looked as she always did, no wound from where Helena had hit her. No concern, or anger. Just a cold, calculating, and merciless face. Valentine let go of Helena's hand and stepped forward, leaving her alone.

"Nice trick, invading my dreams, Princess," Valentine sneered. Helena remembered that tone from the time that they'd fought and hated that it was back.

"I couldn't help it," the Princess said, crossing over to Valentine. She patted his face and the juggler flinched away. "You were being so secretive."

"Wonder why," Valentine answered.

"You know I'll have to punish you."

"'Cause everything else so far has just been fun for me?"

"You're overstepping your boundaries, Val."

"And you're overstuffing your ego, Princess."

The Princess laughed, then clenched her fist. Valentine's face contorted and he grabbed his wrist, holding it to his chest, but never making a sound. Well, he didn't make a sound of pain, but Helena heard curses spilling out of his mouth like breath.

"Hush," the Princess said, stepping over him. "I'm being rude to our guest."

Helena didn't flinch as the Princess approached her, taking a cue from Valentine. "I couldn't tell the difference."

The Princess just smiled. "You think you're so clever."

"Only compared to some."

Valentine barked out a laugh, getting a glare from the Princess.

His laughter broke off as the Princess twisted her hand. Valentine's wrist rotated and this time, he did cry out.

"Leave him alone!" Helena shouted.

"What's the matter, Hel?" the Princess asked, ignoring the juggler as he dropped to his knees. "Can't take a little competition?"

"Is that what you think this war is?" Helena asked. "A competition?"

The Princess tapped her lips, "Oh, you silly little girl."

Helena refused to answer, not wanting to look foolish.

"Not that I blame you," the Princess continued. "He is quite a lot of fun to be around, even when he's not trying to be."

Helena involuntarily glanced over to Valentine, who had managed to rise, hunched over his arm.

"And though I expected it to be good," the Princess whispered, "I wasn't quite prepared for how fun he was in bed, too."

Valentine's head snapped up, even though his face was pasty with pain. "You bitc-"

"Quiet," she said, snapping her fingers. Shadows sprung up around Valentine, wrapping around his ankles. Helena saw him bite his tongue, reaching for his wrist again and took a step towards him, but the wall of shadows rose up, swaying before her.

"No, no," the Princess said. "Stay where you are."

Helena pinched her arm, trying to wake up.

The Princess laughed, "You're stuck here, my dear. Let's have some fun."

It was a dream. She knew that. There was a dullness behind the pain, but that didn't make it any less. Pins and blades of shadows dug beneath her skin, her nails, into her mouth and ears. She started out silent, though she wasn't sure she continued that way. The Princess systematically marched every iota of pain across her body, until she couldn't keep track of where it hurt, because everything hurt. All she was aware of was the pain.

And the laughter of the Princess.

And the silence of the juggler.

Closing her eyes, Helena succumbed to the pain and knew that she was no longer able to hold back. Her cries echoed off of the water and the stone, doing nothing to stop it from happening.

Then it was over.

Helena was on her hands and knees, her throat scraped raw and her limbs weaker than noodles. She looked up between the sweat-soaked strands of her hair and saw the Princess seated on the edge of the pool and yawning.

"Amazingly, not quite as satisfying as I thought," she commented.

"H-hate to be a disappointment," Helena mumbled, her head sagging.

"Oh, but you are," the Princess said. "Here I thought you were this grand adversary, but it turns out you're nothing more than a stupid little girl."

Helena stared at the ground, unable to muster the courage or ability to speak up.

"And I've outgrown you," the Princess murmured, standing up. "It's time to end this." The shadows that had brought her pain for the past few hours started to congeal into one large, sharp blade.

Helena tried to get up, but her legs wouldn't support her.

"Stop," shouted Valentine.

"Please, Val," said the Princess. "Nothing you can say would stop this."

The shadows rose up above Helena's head.

"Fine, if you want people to believe it was an accident!"

The shadow stopped.

"What was that?" the Princess asked, turning on Valentine.

"The Creator dies in the middle of the night, with no evidence or clues? Must be an accident." Valentine's eyes never flickered towards Helena, but stayed locked on the Shadow Princess.

"I will make an announcement that-"

"Because you've always been honest about everything you do and say," he interrupted. "Everyone's bound to believe you."

"So I suppose you want me to let her live?" she asked condescendingly.

"You want to want to let her live," retorted Valentine quickly. "So when you meet her again, you can kill her in public."

"You don't want me to kill her at all," the Princess snapped.

"That hardly matters. Kill her now and take the easy way out. Kill her later and get the fame," he answered easily.

Helena was glad that she was looking at the ground. She knew what he was trying to do, but it didn't help that he was talking of her death in such a cavalier way.

When she looked up, the Princess was eyeing her in such a manner that it was clear Valentine's words hadn't quite gotten through. She had a crazy idea, but the worst it would do was get her killed...

Forcing a smile past her already broken lips, Helena laughed, "Don't be stupid, Valentine. She's too scared for that."

"Excuse me?" the Princess icy voice rolled over her shoulders.

"You're scared to face me in a real fight. So you'll take the easy way out and kill me now, just like the coward you are," Helena spat out.

"I am the Shadow Queen," she said, stalking over to Helena. "Nothing scares me."

"Then why did you wait until I was unconscious to come after me?" Helena asked, forcing herself to her knees. She was dizzy and could see the edges of her vision starting to grow dark, but as long as the Princess didn't know that... "You'll just do it now, when you know for sure you'll win, because in the real world, on the real battlefields, you're not certain, are you?"

The Princess's face contorted, "Spoiled little, brat!"

"Says the terrified little girl," shot back the Creator.

The Princess flew at Helena, knocking the exhausted girl to the ground. A searing pain went through Helena's hand and she couldn't help but scream. When she looked over, her hand was pierced through with a shard of shadow magic, pinning her to the ground. She couldn't feel her fingers. She couldn't pull it out of the ground.

"I'll let you live tonight," the Princess panted as she rose, "and I'll take it out of his hide."

Helena looked up in time to see Valentine and the Princess vanish.

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 12 of 29

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