Continuing Tales

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 14 of 29

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Helena and Laurel lay in their tent, both of them awake and staring at the canvas above them, but not saying anything for several minutes.

"Are you scared?" Laurel asked quietly.

Helena thought back to the past week. From the moment the Queen had ordered them to prepare, that's exactly what they had done. Practice, training, planning, reviewing, then doing it all over again. The plan was actually very simple and straightforward. It was just the execution that was going to make it difficult. Tracing the scar on her hand, and feeling the faint shift of the shadows just beneath her skin, Helena answered. "Yes. But this needs to end."

"What about Valentine?" Laurel questioned.

Helena closed her eyes with a frown and remembered the conversation she had only a day before.

"He'll need to be tried," the Librarian told her.

"But he's helping," Helena argued.

The Prime Minister cut in, his voice sympathetic, but his words filled with logic, "He's helping now, Helena. But before this, he was the prime suspect in abductions, thefts, even murder."

"He wouldn't-"

"He did," Drag said stubbornly.

"You don't know that," she argued.

"And you don't know him." Drag continued on, "Not anymore."

She started to her feet, but the Prime Minister put his hand on her shoulder. "Whether you like it or not, he's been working with the Princess. We don't know why," he cut across her argument, "and there may be a wonderful reason that absolves him of everything. But until we know, he will be treated as a prisoner of war."

She settled back into her chair.

"He'll get a fair trial," Mags told her. "If he cooperates." The smaller woman walked around the table as the Prime Minister returned to his position. "Choose your battles," she whispered in Helena's ear.

Helena nodded.

"Let's go over this again," Drag said, meeting Helena's eyes to be sure that this part of the conversation was over. "The metallics and half of us will create a diversion on the west side of the castle, near the gate. Mags will lead the other half to the east side, where intel says there is a smaller gate. It will undoubtedly be guarded, but it's the best chance we have. Our map leads us to believe that the throne room is the most likely place to keep the Mask. With Helena's new found abilities and the shadow dagger shards, we should be able to get in at both sides, have her get in, find the Mask and finish this off."

Her new ability. Helena poked the shadow in her palm again, hating and grateful for the Princess at the same time. When they had discovered it, it had been an accident.

"So this is what was in me, huh?" she asked, still feeling the faint ache in her palm from the dagger.

"Yup." Laurel crossed her arms as Nodd went to pick it up. "Careful."

"It's cold," he exclaimed, tossing it from hand to hand.

"It's a shadow," Laurel said, taking it from him. "What'd you expect? Anyway, I wanted you to see it before Drag had it cut down and molded it to our weapons." Part of the grand scheme was to place bits of the shadow on as many weapons as they could. Shadows couldn't withstand attacks from other shadows. They would just dissipate.

She handed it to Helena, who automatically reached out with her dominant, and injured, hand.

The dagger clattered to the ground.

"What the hell…?" Nodd whispered.

"You aren't that clumsy," Laurel added.

Helena picked it up with her other hand and held the cold shadow. Carefully, she passed it to the other one.

The shadow vanished around her palm, then reformed as it fell.

"Of course," Laurel said. "Shadows can't fight shadows and with it in your hand…"

"You can fight the shadows," Nodd finished.

Heart racing, Helena clenched her wounded hand into a fist. She could fight back against the shadows.

"Are you going to try to save him?" Laurel whispered, when Helena didn't answer her first question.

Helena rolled onto her side, knowing that even if she kept her eyes open all night long, she would still see only one face in her mind.

Taking on an army to save the world was a huge responsibility. Helena couldn't work like that. She needed a smaller goal. She couldn't save the world.

But maybe, she could save her best friend.


The Princess had used this past week to retreat back to her castle. While she had maintained the look as if she were winning, fact was, the explosion had damaged the portal she had created and Helena's wound, while it didn't look bad, was still grieving her greatly.

Valentine knew this.

The Army of Light was marching on the castle and would be here by the next day. This would be the biggest battle of the war and it would determine who exactly would be walking away as the victor.

Valentine knew this.

He had been shoved into his cell of a room once again. By the end of tomorrow, it was likely that he'd be dead or in jail. If the Princess won, he would attempt to kill her. That was a fact. But if he failed, he would take himself out of the equation. And if the Princess lost, he would be put into prison for all the horrible things he had done in the past three years.

Valentine knew this.

He knew all these important, life-changing things were about to happen in the next day or two.

But all he could wonder is what Helena was doing.

Was she all right?

Had she recovered?

Was it as bad as it looked?

Was she not sleeping anymore?

Had she told the army about him?

Was she wondering what he was doing, too?

He rolled over for the umpteenth time that night, wishing for his bed back in his Tower. At least he felt more at home there, even though he was still a prisoner.

He hadn't dreamed about her or her mother. He hadn't even been to the Pool of Dreams once this week. He had a feeling that it wasn't going to happen for him again.

He closed his eyes and willed himself to sleep, though he knew it wouldn't do anything.

"I promise," he'd said.


His eyes opened, but he didn't move from his bed.

"I just wanted to make things clear for tomorrow," she said from his doorway. There hadn't been much interaction since she had torn into him. "You will stay here. Guards will be posted. I'm going to be very busy and I don't want you throwing a wrench into my plans, as you are so inclined to do."

"Piss off," he said to the wall.

"Everything's going to change tomorrow, Val. I'd be on my best behavior if I were you," she warned him.

Valentine breathed a sigh of relief as she exited his room, shutting the door behind her.

He'd promised to protect Helena. To look after her. Obviously the Princess was the biggest danger.

Rolling onto his back, he stared blankly at the ceiling, the roiling pit in his stomach making clear what he had been trying to avoid thinking.

There wasn't really anyone else besides the Princess that Helena had to be protected form. Except for one. A man who was a criminal, a murderer, and a traitor. A man who'd sacrificed Helena's safety, even knowing how clever the Princess could be, just to spend time with her in his dreams. An awful, awful man.

Valentine knew this.

He had no doubt that tomorrow Helena would at some point burst through the doors. She would come in, eyes blazing, and do her damnedest to put a stop to this war.

And he'd be there to help her, no matter what she thought of him. No matter what the Princess would do. No matter what he thought of himself. No matter what happened.

Because he promised.

No matter what.

By the time Laurel woke up, Helena was already awake and dressed, her sword at her hip and a boom-stick across her lap.

"Did you sleep at all?" Laurel asked, getting changed.

"Not really," she admitted, rubbing her palm to make sure she could still swing her sword.

"Ready for the big day?" Laurel tried to smile.

"Yeah, I gu-"

"Up and at 'em," Drag ordered through the canvas. "Ten minutes 'til formation."

He stomped away, yelling at other tents to wake up. Helena jumped to her feet and ran after him.

Today would end with one death or another. It wouldn't do to go out with a grudge.

"Drag!" she shouted, chasing after him. "Drag, wait a minute."

He stopped and turned to face her.

"I'm sorry," Helena said quietly. "For everything."

The soldier could never be accused of appearing gentle, but his face softened. Just a little. "Don't be."

Helena scoffed at that and his mouth quirked up.

"You did what you thought was right," Drag said. "I can respect that, even if I don't agree."

"But I never...I didn't want to disappoint you," Helena told him.

Drag touched her arm. "You never could, Creator."

"No matter what happens today," she said, "I'm really glad that you're my friend."

"And I've never met a hero quite like you."

"Ha," she laughed.

"I mean it." He paused, letting go of her arm. "And if Valentine allows us, I'll do my best to ensure that he gets a fair trial."

She knew that he wasn't certain that Valentine was innocent. But she appreciated the gesture. "Thank you."

"We'll get through this, Helena. One way or another."

"Yeah," she said, eyeing the Shadow Castle.

One way or another.

"This is insane…" Laurel whispered.

Nodd hissed from the other side of her, "You're just realizing this now?"

Helena smiled and hushed both of them. They were hunkered down about three hundred feet from the Shadow Castle's walls, listening as the sound of battle raged from the castle's western edge.

Mags glanced over her shoulder at them. "Hush up."

The trio grinned but fell quiet.

"We need to wait until we know the gates have fallen. Then she'll be too distracted over there to focus on the eastern edge," Mags told them.

Helena was familiar with the plan. It had been rehashed again and again during the past few days. The squads that crouched behind them knew the plan as well. Which, when broken down, was quite simple.

Get inside the walls. Get inside the castle. Get Helena to the Mask.

Clear cut. Easy to remember.

Perhaps not as easy to execute, but they were doing the best they could.

An explosion rang out and Helena heard a horn cut through the daylight.

"Now!" Mags shouted, jumping to her feet. "For the Light!"

"For the Queen!" shouted other soldiers.

For Valentine, Helena's head whispered.

The half of the army behind her jumped up and joined her in her full-tilt run to the walls of the castle. The few guards at the gate had only a moment to react, but they were cut down within a breath.

Helena pulled her sword out of the shadow guard, relieved that their shadow coated blades worked so well. Then she stepped inside the walls and tried to remember how to breathe.

The battle was raging inside the walls. The shadows were mostly concerned with the huge force that was shoving its way through the gates, but Mags' army had their fair share to worry about as well.

They moved in a triangle formation directly for the front doors, only cutting down those who got in their way. It was a whirl of movement and blades and shadow.

Looking for anyone she would know, Helena saw Drag from across the field of battle and watched a sword catch him across the ribs.

"Drag!" she shouted, taking a step out of formation.

A hard hand grabbed her wrist and yanked her back into position. "Stay with the group, soldier!" Mags ordered.

"But Drag-"

"I know," Mags said, her voice breaking slightly. "But this isn't about him. It's about all of us. We can't stop for one man."

The warning and reprimand were clear.

Helena nodded, smoothing her face and continuing on her mission.

Valentine heard the sounds of battle raging from his tower. He paced back and forth, wishing he had a way to know what was happening.

His door wasn't locked, never was, in order to make him feel more helpless, but the two guards outside had been warned against him and his behavior. He would never be able to get out if he didn't have a-


"Ouch!" Valentine shouted, holding the side of his head. "What gives?!"

A Very Useful Book fluttered around at his feet.

A thud at his door was followed by, "Quiet down, in there."

Valentine's eyes flickered from the Book to the door and back again. He smiled. "You clever little book. I need a hand. Or a spine, as it is."

"Get down!" Helena screamed.

Laurel and Mags dropped to their stomachs, avoiding the arms of the monstrous shadow-birds that swooped above them. One landed almost on top of her and she stumbled back, her finger fumbling on the trigger of the boom-stick.

She swung it up in the bird's face, her finger on the trigger and-

"...Bob?" she whispered.

The shadows clung to what left of its skin and feathers, filling in the desiccation that had occurred. His eyes were gone, replaced with thick shadows that swirled and focused on her. She focused on him as well, so much so that she missed the Monkeybird's arm swinging out and catching her across the mouth.

Helena fell, knocking Nodd down as she did. Bob's arm slammed down to the ground and Helena rolled, dragging a disoriented Nodd with her. When the next blow came, Nodd was lying across her legs and she couldn't roll them again. Helena held her hand above her head in a futile effort to block the blow.

When the Monkeybird made contact with her skin, Helena nearly screamed.

Instead, the Monkeybird did.

It clutched what was left of its arm, squealing in pain, scrambling away from her.

"Kill it!" Nodd shouted, finally getting off of her.

Helena rolled and shot the boom-stick point blank.

The Monkeybird shuddered and fell to the ground, the shadows slithering off of it. Helena stared at the corpse of her old friend. Long dead before she'd ever gotten to it. She touched the poor thing's shoulder and choked back her tears.

"Helena!" Mags shouted. She looked up and saw the others had gotten to their feet and were fighting away the rest of the Monkeybirds. "We'll hold them off. Take Laurel and Nodd and get inside! Find it!"

Laurel and Nodd were at her shoulders and the three of them ran towards the door. "Got the map?" she asked Laurel.

"Got it. Got your hand?"

Helena wiggled her fingers and forced a laugh.

"Then let's go get a Princess," Nodd finished off.

Valentine heard the yelling and slamming against his door and smiled grimly. He stepped out into the hallway and jogged down it. His door wouldn't hold them forever, but it would buy him some time. Stopping at the fork in the corridor, he listened carefully for anyone.

"...pull them out of the south hallway. The Queen wants her to go to the throne room."

"Isn't that where the Mask is?"

"Are you questioning the Queen's commands?" the soldier snapped.

"N-No, sir. No."

"Good. And the Mask is no longer there. It's in the south tower. She's set a trap for the Creator in the throne room. Now go to your post."

"Sir, it certain that she'll come?"

"She's already here."

Valentine waited until the footsteps retreated, then hurried out of the hallway and down towards the front doors. He had to warn her.

So intent on his movement, he didn't think to look where he was going.

He collided head first with a soldier, both of them falling back from the other.

" should be in your cell," the soldier stammered.

"Right, about that…" Valentine started. His fist slammed out and caught the soldier under the jaw, knocking him to the ground. "I think I've outgrown that."

"But you're...she's…you're a prisoner," he spat out, moving backwards on the ground away from him.

Valentine stepped on his wrist and pulled the sword out of his fingers. "False."

He spun the sword in his hands, hefting the weapon and getting familiar with the weight once more. With a cold smile, he pointed the sword at the soldier on the ground.

"I'm a juggler."

Helena ducked under Laurel's sword, catching the other soldier coming at her in the chest and driving him to the ground. They both landed with a huff and Helena slammed the butt of her boom-stick against his head, knocking him unconscious.

"These guys just keep coming, don't they?" Nodd puffed, helping her to her feet.

"Yeah," Helena said, glancing at the map Laurel had handed off to her. "This is going to take forever."

"We're never going to get there," Laurel commented, striking down another and waiting for the next two to catch up.

"There's a passage up ahead. It's a bit roundabout, but it looks like it might pass right by the throne room," Nodd said, glancing at the map over Helena's shoulder.

"Right," Laurel said, raising her chin. "Here's the new plan. We get to that passage, then bottleneck these dead suckers, while Helena heads on alone."

"She can't go alone," Nodd argued.

Glancing at him, Helena commented, "At this rate, none of us are going to go anywhere. It's the best chance, Nodd."

He gritted his teeth and Helena touched his shoulder. "Come on."

They hurried down the hall, making it to the passage before the guards got to them. Helena gave both of them a brief hug, no goodbyes, and said, "See you on the other side of this."

"Good luck," Laurel told her.

Nodd added, "We've got your back."

She nodded and smiled at her friends, then continued on alone.

The halls weren't nearly as crowded over here. Only one soldier since leaving her friends behind and he ran rather than fight her. Picking up the pace, Helena jogged, hoping that maybe by saving some time, she would also save lives.

The battle still raged outside, she caught glimpses of it as she ran through the corridors. There were screams, not all from the shadows. Clenching her jaw, Helena pushed herself even further.

She ran through the castle, barely looking at where she was going. She just followed the map, taking one corner after another as quickly as she could. She spun around a corner and slammed into something that gave. And yelped.

Helena pushed her hair off of her face and looked at what she'd run into. Familiar and foreign black dots stared back at her. She scrambled back from him, though he just remained frozen on the ground.

"Helena?" Valentine whispered, dropping the sword he'd been holding. His hand reached up like he wanted to touch her.

She got to her feet and took off running. This wasn't about one man. This was about all of them. She couldn't wait. She couldn't risk anyone else being hurt because she couldn't handle him. She knew she'd have to deal with Valentine eventually, but she had a mission to accomplish. And she wasn't ready.

"Helena, wait!"

She heard him get to his feet and start after her. "Stop!"

If he didn't stop yelling, she'd never make it to the throne room. She stopped and raised her boom-stick at the chest of her old friend.

He stopped in the hallway, one hand raised but the other holding his sword. "Helena, just stop, wait a second. I-"

"No," she said, turning her back on him and continuing on her way.

"Helena," he hissed, grabbing her arm and pulling her back. "Listen to me, you-"

"No," Helena repeated, shoving him off of her. "I can't listen to you."

"You did before," he said, grabbing her wrist again.

"That was a dream," she snapped, pulling her arm free and aiming the boom-stick at her old friend. "This isn't."

Valentine swore and dodged, Helena pulled the trigger, though it was nowhere near him. Before it could recharge, he was in her face. He grabbed either edge of the boom-stick and shoved her back. Helena didn't let go, even when she felt her back hit the wall. She tried to kick him, but he twisted away. "Listen to me," he ordered.

"No!" She shoved back at him.

He pressed her into the wall. "I don't have time for this. The Mask is in the south tower, not in the throne room. The throne room is a trap. She's got it with her in the tower."

"Why should I trust you?" she demanded.

"Oh, you definitely shouldn't. But I'm telling the truth about this."

"You're a self-"

"Selfish bastard. Yes, you're right," he agreed. He smirked, "Very selfish. Can't help it. A Valentine thing, I suppose." Before she knew what he was doing, he had bent down and pressed his mouth to hers. It wasn't gentle; she felt her teeth click against his and her head bumped against the wall. She was all too aware of the iron boom-stick between them, his chest keeping her pinned against the wall. Her heart was pounding so hard in her chest that – no, wait, that was his heart pounding, not hers. The feel, the taste, the heat...almost overwhelming. It was over faster than she could react and Valentine backed away from her to the other side of the hallway. Helena covered her mouth.

"I'm sorry," he breathed.

"What…?" she said between her fingers. He was apologizing? Valentines don't apologize. Was he sorry for the kiss? For betraying her? For something else?

"South tower," he repeated. "You should hurry. The guards will be here soon."

She could definitely hear the sounds of footsteps in the halls getting closer. More than two. More than one man should have to face alone. She hesitated and Valentine smiled frostily, "Don't worry. I can hold them off. I am a very important man, after all." The statement helped, but the sword in his hands made her feel a little bit better.

She smiled and his vanished, "Go on."

"I'll see you after," she told him. "You have a lot of explaining to do."

Helena took off running, but paused just before she turned the corner. She might die here. The Princess might win and take everything. He might not make it.

"Valentine," she said, her palm resting on the stone.

He had stood and was standing in the middle of the hall like a sentinel, watching her back whether she believed him or not. He glanced over his shoulder at her and Helena felt her breath draw in at the image he made. He waited for her to speak again.

"I missed you," she admitted.

Valentine met her eyes. "And I missed you, Helena-na. Go on, stop the apocalypse or whatever you do best."

She grinned and took off in the direction he told her to go. She trusted the juggler once and he had come through for her in the end. She'd trust him now.

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 14 of 29

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