Continuing Tales

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 23 of 29

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The castle hadn't seemed all that large to begin with. There were about fifteen guest rooms on the second floor. The large kitchen and storage room, dining room, ballroom, throne room and entryway dominating the first. The South Tower that had been put off limits until Helena could get the Prime Minister or Librarian out there to look through all the dangerous books and potions the Princess had up there. The North Tower was mostly empty now, but based on the newer chains put into the walls it had been the Princess' dungeon. Outside the castle itself were the garden and the barracks, which were currently unoccupied.

All in all, a lot of space, but was the castle a massive structure? Not quite.

Besides the castle, the only other large structure was Valentine's Tower, which they were both currently living in. Which made the fact that he'd been avoiding her completely for two days now all the more impressive.

If infuriating.

Any time she'd entered a room, he'd been just on the verge of leaving. Any time she'd finish a meal, he'd be on his way in to eat. Anyone watching just thought that their schedules were off, they were out of sync, but Helena knew better.

Once she'd figured out what he was doing, she wasn't able to spend much time wallowing in it. Their schedules were full and grew even fuller on the third morning.

Helena walked in, seeing that Valentine was already done with breakfast and on his way to clean up his plate. He didn't meet her eyes, despite that her gaze was probably burning a hole in his skin. Her mouth tingled with the memory of the other night and she felt her face heat up.

"…lena? Helena?" Mags repeated her name.

With a shake, Helena dragged her attention away from the juggler and glanced down at the soldier. "Yeah, sorry."

"A letter," she responded, handing it over. "From the Queen."

Helena forced a smile, "Thanks." She leaned against the wall and ripped it open. Within the first few lines, past the pleasantries and greetings, she knew that everyone would have to hear it. She called for everyone to stay where they were, stopping a white robed juggler at the door.

Helena skimmed the contents quickly. The others were watching her, with the painful exception of Valentine, who'd been doing everything in his power not to make eye contact with her.

"The Queen wants to have a party here," Helena said, putting the letter down and tapping her fingers on the table.

"A party?"


"Yeah. To prove that the Shadow Kingdom isn't all bad. So that means a lot of work. She's set the date for next week," Helena said.

"Next week?"

She nodded again, staring at the paper. They'd have to clean up all the remaining bedrooms, get enough settings for a large party, clean the ballroom and surrounding corridors, get enough tables and chairs, tidy up the gardens, and decorate all in a week. The Queen was providing the food, the chefs, the servers, the music, and the guests. Helena was organized and knew how to delegate. It came from helping to run a circus. This was doable.

"Right. So we're going to need cleaners for the castle," she said, opening up her notebook. About half the guards' hands went up. Helena wrote their names down. "I'll make something that will help you clean up a little faster...head to toe cleaning of everything, minus the South Tower. Then we'll need the outside group." The other hands went up, with Valentine still being conspicuously still. Helena thought about taking advantage of being in charge, but on second thought she realized she didn't want to force her company on him if he was so intent on staying away from her. "Valentine will lead you in cleaning up the gardens and harvesting what we've got available out there."

She looked at the paper to write all that down, feeling dark eyes on her head as she focused.

"What about the Bandersnatch?" Laurel asked.

Bandersnatch was the monster they trapped in the cage. Helena had given it the name from the old Alice in Wonderland stories she liked so much.

"I'll think about it," Helena said. She'd already thought about it and had a plan, but nobody was going to like it, so she kept it to herself.

"And you?" Mags asked.

"I've got making enough beds for everyone, chairs and tables, and decorations." She didn't mention the Bandersnatch. "Sound good?" she looked up, catching Valentine's eye before he headed out the door. Everyone murmured their own answers and Helena picked up her plate. "Then let's make this the best party the Shadow Kingdom has ever seen."

The next two days were a blur. Helena made brooms and dusters that attracted the dust, ensuring that a once through would pick up everything. Then she created basic plumbing for all the bathrooms. It was a bit more complicated than the plumbing for the tower, or the sinks she created in the kitchens, but she got it on her second try. Because of that, she was able to create hoses to clean out the corridors, with drains subtly placed to get rid of the water. Then she followed the cleaning crew around, creating beds and dressers for each of the bedrooms. With so many of them working on it, all the bedrooms were cleaned by day two, which meant they could start on the ballroom and the kitchen. Helena was just happy she wouldn't have to draw another bed for a while.

The pace that they kept at made them all exhausted. They ate in near silence and disappeared off to bed almost immediately after. They barely saw the outside crew, as they got up earlier to beat the sun and went to bed just as the inside crew was starting dinner. She barely saw them. And none of them made an effort to see her.

On the fourth day, after getting a good portion of the kitchens done and stocked with everything the garden crew was bringing in, Helena went outside to work on the hidden portion of her agenda. Dealing with the Bandersnatch.

She walked through the gardens and had to admit that she was very impressed. It was cleaned up without looking tamed. The path was easier to walk on now and Helena was able to follow it without any difficulty. There was still a bit to be done, but it was doable considering the time they had left.

Helena corrected her course to head towards the main gates. She had her notebook and pen tucked under her arm. When she got to the gate, she figured she was home free. She looked around and didn't see anyone following her. She picked up the pace and headed towards the future fruit grove. Helena looked around, keeping an eye out as she walked, but saw no sign of the outside crew.


The maze wasn't as terrifying now, without a terrifying monster stalking the grounds. It was actually quite beautiful out here. Peaceful, even. Helena smiled slightly as she walked towards the cage.

The Bandersnatch heard her approach and snarled, looking up at her without eyes. Helena opened her notebook to a black page and held it up. She'd hoped her shadow page would work as well as the shadow weapons. That was another upside of going alone – if it didn't work, she wouldn't have to worry about disappointing anyone. The only reason she hadn't tried this earlier was because almost every one of the shadows the Princess commanded was over a dead body. Saving the bodies wasn't as important.

But now she had a chance to save someone.

Helena got as close to the cage as she dared, the Bandersnatch snarling and pacing inside. Holding the notebook in front of her, she started towards the creature.

It snarled louder, hissing and backing away from her. Even more interesting, the shadows pulled off of the Bandersnatch's muzzle, leeching into the pages. When Helena closed the book, the Bandersnatch lay on its stomach in front of her, staring up at her with the brightest purple eyes she'd ever seen.

"Hullo," Helena said. The Bandersnatch didn't get up, but stared at her, staying completely still. Helena opened up to the page of the trap and said under her breath, "I hope you aren't still vicious..." Slowly, she erased one wall of the trap.

The Bandersnatch looked at the wall as it vanished and got to its feet, padding over to the opening. It slowly approached Helena, sitting down a few feet away from her and watching her.

It was a gray-green color and very thin. It had fur, though the horns that protruded from its shoulders were covered in scales. The six legs moved easily with one another, never getting in each other's way. The two pronged tail twitched, but it reminded Helena of a content cat rather than a predatory sign. Then again, she'd been bitten by several cats in her day, so maybe her judgment wasn't that spot on.

"My name's Helena," she said quietly, watched the pointed ears spin towards her when she spoke. "We've been calling you Bandersnatch, but I don't know if you have another name."

The Bandersnatch shook its head forcefully, then edged its paws forward until it was lying down. Helena took a seat and watched the Bandersnatch. "You really are quite handsome. I'm sorry you had those shadows on you."

It continued to watch her, a lot more understanding behind its eyes. It was like talking to the Monkeybirds.

"I hope you don't usually eat people. We've got some food back at the castle, but I can only bring you back if you promise not to hurt anyone," Helena said.

The Bandersnatch stretched forward until its paws brushed her leg. She knew that beneath that catlike paw lay claws as long as her fingers, but none of them appeared. Very lightly, Helena scratched the Bandersnatch behind the ears. It started to purr so deeply that she could feel it vibrating in her legs.

She smiled. "I didn't think you were bad. How about you come back with me and I'll get you something to eat and a comfier place to sleep?"

The Bandersnatch got to its feet and twined around her, nearly knocking her over. She laughed and got up, erasing the rest of the trap as she did so. "The others are going to flip when they see you. Just don't attack anyone, okay?"

The Bandersnatch purred again and followed Helena as she left the future fruit grove and headed back to the castle. They got through the gate without seeing anyone. It was about lunchtime for the outside crew, so she was hoping that they could get through without running into anyone, so she could at least explain before they saw the Bandersnatch. She could just imagine the reactions if someone were to see her walking with it-


She turned at the same time the Bandersnatch did. Only she wasn't snarling with hackles up.

Helena saw Valentine standing on the path, staring at her and the Bandersnatch. The Bandersnatch started forward, but Helena ran past it, getting in front of Valentine.

"No, wait," she told it, knowing it could understand her. It hissed, glaring at Valentine and starting to circle. Helena moved with it, keeping Valentine behind her. "Stop. He's a friend. Just like me. We're friends and no one is going to hurt you, okay?"

Valentine grabbed her arm, "Helena, what did you do?"

"It had the shadows on it, so I got rid of them. It's friendly," she said.

"Obviously," he muttered.

She huffed, stuck in the middle, "Look, he may not sound it, but he's a nice guy, most of the time." The Bandersnatch stopped circling, but it didn't stop the snarling. "He won't hurt you as long as you won't hurt him. And vice versa. So let's stop, and everyone calm down, okay?"

The snarling stopped and the Bandersnatch stared at her, its head lowering a little as if it was ashamed. Helena stepped away from Valentine, though he only reluctantly let go, and held her hand out to the Bandersnatch. It nudged underneath her palm, purring. Valentine took a step closer and the purring stopped, the purple eyes locking on the juggler. Helena heard the snarls start up again and quietly said, "Stop it."

Valentine stayed away from the Bandersnatch. "I don't like it."

Helena stepped back and the Bandersnatch stood up, keeping her between it and Valentine. "I think the feeling is mutual."

"Then why is it here?"

"Because it's hungry and alone," Helena said.

Valentine shook his head, "I can't believe you went and did that without telling anyone."

She shrugged, "Any of you would have tried to talk me out of it."

"For good reason! It was dangerous and stupid and you shouldn't have gone alone," he snapped.

"None of the rest of you would have gone with me," Helena said.

"I would have," he muttered. "Stupid, foolish, little-"

Helena felt her temper snap. "I'm sorry, but in order for me to ask you to come with me, you'd have to not be avoiding me. We'd have to actually be talking, which we haven't done in days now."

Valentine glanced at her, "I'm not avoiding you."

"You're just leaving the room any time I come in? Pretending not to hear me when I try to talk to you? Ignore me when I knock on your door? Yeah, that's not avoiding at all," she said sarcastically. The Bandersnatch growled next to her and she reached out to pet it, trying to soothe it or herself, she couldn't tell.

Valentine grabbed her hand and stopped them, "Helena, it's complicated."

"Not to me," she said quietly, glancing up at him. Usually she loved his mask, but right now she hated that she couldn't clearly see his eyes. She couldn't see what he was really thinking.

He stared at her and opened his mouth to say something, when -

"Is that the Bandersnatch?"

"Helena, did you catch it?"

"Look out!"

She pulled away from Valentine's hand and faced the others, explaining things again. When she looked back, Valentine was gone.

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 23 of 29

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