Continuing Tales

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 6 of 29

<< Previous     Home     Next >>
Untitled Document

She was here.

Valentine was still frozen in the armchair in his Tower's living room, the heavy hand of the dead guard staying on his shoulder to keep him in place. His fingers were gripping the arms of the chair so tightly he knew he heard the material rip at least once.

She was here.

An unwilling partner in this venture, Valentine had been hustled into his Tower earlier in the day, the trip here barely taking any time at all. It had been the waiting that wore on him. The incessant pacing of the Princess. The breathless - and he did mean without breath - silence of the guards. He hated waiting. But the glare he'd gotten from the Princess when he pulling out his juggling balls had warned him against any more movement. He ended up sitting in the windowsill, staring out of the only window he had that didn't have bars on it. Then the Princess had made her move, gone against the nature of his Tower and demanded that it land on other buildings. He'd felt the mortar and stonework of his Tower tremble is response, unused to such violent landings, but there wasn't anything that either one of them could do about it.

Valentine left the windowsill when they'd landed, dropping into his armchair, grateful that the Princess hadn't demanded that he come with her outside. He didn't want to face the people he'd known and see the anger and betrayal. He'd be able to handle it, since Valentine's could handle everything, but he wouldn't like it.

He listened to the Princess demand their surrender, heard the painful silence when no one spoke up. He knew what sort of demands that the Princess would make. Homes and money were the least of them. Lives would be demanded and even if they were given, more would be taken away.

He let his head sink back into the armchair, glad that his mask hid most of his face. No one would see the pain as he heard his true Queen surrender to a monster like the Princess. Because she would be one of the lives the Princess demanded, and the Queen would give it freely to protect her people. No one would stand up to the Princess. Not even-

"I'm the one standing up to you. And here, I'm more infamous for not wearing a mask."

He'd tried to stand when he heard her voice, the same kind of voice he'd been hearing for the past three years, but this one was filled with emotion. He knew she was trying to be calm, but he heard the depth and color behind it. A depth that the cold voice of the Princess could never reach. The guard had stopped him from going anywhere, let alone near the window to see her. He'd barely heard the words that she'd been saying, but as the door slammed shut behind the Princess, his ears caught up with his brain.

"A cowardly, manipulative brat."

Valentine had nearly laughed, his words echoed by Helena, before he'd realized the repercussions of her words.

Helena just started a war with the Princess. The Princess he'd seen single-handedly murder dozens upon dozens of different people and creatures. And Helena just stood up to her and made herself a target for the most murderous person he'd ever met.

But she was here.

The guard had relaxed when the door closed behind the Princess, Valentine took the moment to stand up and rush to the window, but they were already too far away for him to see anyone. He stayed there for a moment, ignoring the sound of the Princess walking up behind him.

She waited until he finally turned around, her arms crossed. The guards had left the room already, standing in the Tower's kitchen. Valentine leaned against the sill, the desire to see if he could survive landing from his moving Tower stifled.

"Happy, are you?" the Princess asked.

He shrugged, but he could feel the smirk pulling at the corners of his lips. Yes, he was happy.


He couldn't help it, he had to get in one jab at least. "About as happy as your mother was."

"That has nothing to do with-"

"She told me, you know. Helena told me that your mother knew Helena wasn't the right daughter. But Helena was such an improvement that she didn't want you back. Not even your mother would take you when she had the choice. At least your mother and I could agree upon something," he told her.

The Princess didn't seem as affected as he'd hoped she would be. In fact, she seemed to be smiling. "You think your life is about to get better. You don't even see the joke, Val."

She smiled her weird, empty smile. "The one thing you actually care about, even more than your own life, was just handed to me."

He didn't show it through the mask, but he knew his knuckles got whiter against the sill.

"She doesn't have the Mask, Val. I do. The one thing that could keep her safe, you handed over to me. Do you know how easy it would be for me to snap her neck, even from here?"

The Princess walked over to him and raised her hand between them. "It wouldn't take more than a thought. A few shadows, a single snap," she snapped her fingers and it took everything for Valentine not to flinch at the sound, "and your little Helena is dead."

He had to bluff, he couldn't let her leave knowing that she was completely right. He prayed to whoever was listening and asked, "Then why don't you just do it?"

"Because seeing you like this," she gestured at his white knuckles and defensive stance in the sill, "this is worth putting up with her for a little while longer." She stepped back and laughed, "Don't you see, Val? I own you more now with her here than if I had sent you to the Choir! Your life isn't about to get better, it's about to get so much worse."

The Princess walked out, leaving Valentine alone in the window. He looked out of it again, the scenery whipping past them.

She was here.

The words didn't sound as victorious this time. They sounded like a eulogy. Helena was here, in this hell-hole of his life and she was about to be used by the Princess to get at Valentine.

He stared at the sill, the desire to step through it resurfacing once more.

But still, she was here...

He moved back from the window, promising himself that if had to make the decision, he would. But he still had a chance now. He wasn't going to waste it.

The Librarian was livid. "What have you done?!"

"She stood up to a tyrant, which is more than you!"

"Second, back down," Drag ordered.

"Shut up and don't tell me that this wasn't what you wanted!"

"It isn't my decision or about what I want, it's about the fact that she just started a war!"

"A war that wasn't going to be avoided anyway. A war that would have decimated us whether or not we fought back," the Prime Minister said calmly.

"Now we'll all die, instead of some of us."

"Enough," the Queen said, quieting the rabble in her council room. Helena had never felt so small in her life. She kept her shoulders straight though, not giving into the urge that said to hunch them in and become as small as she possibly could.

The Queen looked around at her council, "Did you want to surrender to the Princess?"


"Of course not, but there had to be another alternative. A treaty, perhaps that-"

"A treaty?" Mags scoffed, "With that brat? Unlikely."

"Second," Drag reprimanded.

"There must have been another way, rather than beginning a war!"

"What other way?" the Queen asked calmly.


Sighing, the Queen rubbed her eyes, "There is no negotiating with the Princess. There is no treaty or settlement that she would accept without loss of life. Everyone in this room, in addition to any military forces that we have would have to be eliminated in some way. I do not believe that our army would choose becoming a shadow over the chance for fighting back. War is not the preferred option, but it's the only one we had. We cannot go back and change things, so we should continue forward and figure out what our strategy will be."

"Evacuate the elderly, women, and children," the Prime Minister said immediately.

Drag nodded, "We'll need to reinstate the militiamen in addition to your current army."

The Queen nodded and the Librarian was taking notes.

"I recommend you get out of the castle," the Judge said. "That is most likely the Princess' first target."

"Or Helena," Mags muttered.

Helena glanced at the little guard, giving her a faint smile. She liked the brash, blunt woman.

"The Princess will not enjoy having someone alive who stands up to her," Drag added, in faint agreement with his sister.

"Can you even die?" the Librarian asked.

Helena was a little startled, "I've never tried. But I feel pretty mortal, so I'd rather not test it."

Mags chuckled and the Prime Minister shook his head.

"First things first. Evacuate the civilians to Wesleyton, have them start preparing for the caravan. Next, mobilize the army and the militiamen. The Princess said one day, but I doubt she'll adhere to the timeline. Librarian, collect any possible materials that will aid in our fight or that will help us understand the MirrorMask. Judge, please make sure all those awaiting trials join the evacuation. Anyone wishing to join the militiamen will be given a parole officer and a shortened sentence. Helena and I, along with the rest of the council and any necessary staff will be moved to the Seraph Tavern," the Queen said, sounding completely in control. "We will meet in the main room at sundown, with everyone having completed their preparations."

They all started moving and Helena rose from her seat, unsure of where she was going. "You are with me, Helena," the Queen said, heading out the door. When she went to put on her mask, the Queen stopped her, "I think that, considering the circumstances, it would be better for you to leave it off."

Helena put the mask on the table and followed to Queen for what was to become one of the longest days of her life.

Valentine stared at the wall, watching the sun move across the plaster of his Tower. They hadn't returned to the City of Shadows, but to a valley just west of the City of Light. He'd been stunned to see the entire army waiting patiently. She'd already moved out her forces, without him even being aware of it. The sheer number of shadowed soldiers overwhelmed him and he wondered if the City of Light had this many people, let alone fighters.

The Princess had left him with a guard for several hours, which is why he found the wall so entertaining. He couldn't really pull out A Really Useful Book, unless he wanted it confiscated. The book was hurtful and irritating, but it was the closest thing he had to a friend here and he wasn't about to lose it.

The sun had just set, leaving Valentine's eyes with no light to chase. He turned his gaze to his window and was startled to see the army straightening up and getting into a very thin formation.

"What's this about?" he asked the guard.

All he got in response was a faint gurgling. Valentine still didn't care for the dead guards, but their constant presence meant they didn't upset him as much as they did at first.

Standing up, Valentine moved towards the window, watching the rest of the army line up. The Princess was walking towards the head of the column, a bag over her shoulder.

Suddenly the door burst open and two living guards entered. "Let's go."

"Go where?" Valentine asked, feeling the concern begin to rise.

They ignored his question, typical, and he was herded past the column to join the Princess up front. She barely glanced at him, more concerned with the large mirror being set up on the field. In the center was one of the windowpanes that she had demanded he retrieve for her. He couldn't remember if it was the one from Mrs. Bagwell's, from the back of the Library, or from the center square.

"What are you doing?" he asked the Princess. He hated being the one to initiate the conversation with her, but he needed to know.

"Hold him," she told the guards blandly. Turning, he saw the MirrorMask in her hands. Oh, no.

They grabbed his arms tightly, holding his face straight. "Get off me!"

"Don't be so irritating," she drawled, lifting the Mask to his face.

He tried to move his face away, but the guards held him fast until the MirrorMask rested on his skin and over his real mask. He hated the feel of the cold metal encasing him. He couldn't breathe, barely see, he felt trapped and-

The Princess pulled it away. "Done."

Valentine calmed his heart rate as the guards released him. "What're you playing at?" he asked.

"I'm making sure I have the advantage," she told him. She turned and placed the Mask on the mirror. The surface rippled and quivered, distorting her reflection. When it smoothed out, Valentine didn't see the Princess. He saw the City of Light, just outside the Library. "Let's move," she ordered her army.

"You said they had a day!" Valentine shouted, held back by the guards once more.

"I lied." The Princess was smiling as her armies started stepping through the mirror and right into the City of Light. The Queen would never expect an attack from within, how could she?

"You can't do this."

She laughed, "Funny, because it appears I am. Take him back to his Tower and make sure he doesn't leave until we return. If he tries to run or move his Tower, kill him." Valentine's guards hastened to obey. The Princess pointed at one of the dead guards walking past her and ordered, "You, come here."

Glaring at the direction of his Tower, Valentine fumed and panicked and hated and plotted and was coming up with nothing. How could she so blatantly break her word like that? How many lives were going to be lost because of her lie? The army was vanishing through the mirror and soon there was silence. He hadn't noticed the faint humming sound until it stopped.

He glanced back at the Princess, wishing that he could stop her and-

Valentine saw himself standing next to the Princess.

He stopped in his tracks, managing to halt the guards for a breath with sheer stubbornness.

The Princess met his eyes and smiled her empty smile, patting the other Valentine on the shoulder.

"I'm making sure I have the advantage."

He didn't know much, but he knew that this fake Valentine would not do what he would. He knew that the sight of a friend would cause certain people to hesitate. People with big hearts and who tended to forgive and who knew he was an awful, awful man but gave him second chances anyway.

"No!" he shouted, somehow dragging his guards a few steps back towards the Princess. "Don't do this!"

She laughed at him and stepped into the pile of shadows at her feet, the fake Valentine vanishing with her.

The valley was empty except for a now dark mirror, Valentine, and his two guards. There was no way to go after her. No way to warn anyone what was coming for them.

He barely noticed as he was shuffled towards his Tower and shoved into the armchair. He stared at the wall, feeling the edges of A Really Helpful Book digging into his chest, but unable to open it up to find any wisdom. Glancing at the clock, he realized it'd only been six minutes since the army, the Princess, and the fake Valentine had left.

This had to be the longest night of his life.

They were late.

Helena was hot on the Queen's heels as they traversed the silent and winding streets of the City of Light. The evacuation had been completed, but they had to check every corner of the castle for stragglers before the Queen consented to leave. Helena ended up yelling at Taffy and her older sister when they claimed that there was no safer place for them than the castle. They two servants had burst into tears and then it was up to the Queen to console them before they could leave. Right now, they jogged behind Helena and the Queen, their tiny legs taking more effort to keep up.

Because of the delay, the sun had already gone down by the time they left. The Queen hadn't seemed upset, but Helena was biting her lip to keep from screaming at all of them to go faster.

When she heard panting, Helena turned back to see Taffy's sister...Talia? nearly doubled over as she ran. Helena stopped and pulled Talia over her shoulders in a piggyback, ignoring the girl's squeal. "No, Miss Helena this is most improp-"

"Don't care. We need to get the Queen to safety as fast as possible," Helena grumbled.

"We're almost there," the Queen said, barely sounding put out. "We just need to get past the Library and-"

The Queen froze and broke off, throwing out her arm to keep Helena and Taffy from going on. Helena glanced over the Queen's shoulder and couldn't believe her eyes.

She knew that the Princess wasn't going to wait. That's why she was so concerned now. But she hadn't expected them to be coming out through a window in the Library! Soldier after soldier filed out of the window, following the already long line of men in a roundabout route towards the City gate.

"They're going to surprise our troops," the Queen breathed. "Drag must be warned. He won't expect an attack from within."

Three weeks had left Helena with a basic understand of the City's layout. Enough to know that the tavern was much closer than the wall. "You need to go to the tavern and warn the other council members. Is there another way out of the City?"

"Well, yes, but-"

"Then you need to go. I'll go to the wall and warn Drag."

"We can't risk you-"

"You don't have a choice," Helena said, putting Talia on the ground. "Tell me how to get to the wall and-"

"I'll take you," Taffy whispered, pale but resolute. "I know a way to avoid the Princess' army."

"Are you sure?" Helena asked.


Helena glanced at the Queen, who sighed, but nodded. "Fine. I'll meet you in Wesleyton."

The Queen stopped her when Helena moved to leave, "Be careful."

"Of course," Helena said. She even managed a grin, though her hands were shaking. "Come on, Taffy."

The little woman led the way with Helena right behind her. The army was still pouring out of the window. She didn't notice the tiny paces when she was more focused on keeping as silent as possible. If the Princess' men though they'd been discovered, they might break ranks and go after anyone in reach, like Taffy, or Talia and the Queen.

Once they were far enough away from the army's entry point, Taffy broke into a run. She seemed to know exactly what routes would parallel, but not join up with the army's route. Helena was grateful for her guidance, as she would have been lost in the back alley mazes. Ten minutes of completely silent, heart-pounding running and Helena saw the wall up ahead. There were no shadow soldiers in sight.

Taffy took Helena the opposite direction from the gate, to one of the mostly hidden staircases up to the wall. It was guarded, but one look at Helena's face the guards stepped aside. "Where's Drag?" she asked.

"Just to the left."

Helena climbed up the stairs as quickly as possible, amazed at the restraint of Drag's men. They were all silent, creating no light or noise to draw their attention away. Helena found her blue-haired companion in moments. He looked startled to see her there, which is more of a reaction than she had ever gotten.

"Helena, what-"

"They're already in the City," Helena interrupted, her voice hushed.

The silent guards around them became, if possible, even quieter.

"How?" Drag asked. No nonsense about how she could know that or disbelief or anything. Just straight to business.

"Through a window in the Library. I have no idea how, but there's a lot of them and they're heading this way."

"The Queen?"

"On her way to the Seraph to warn the others. She said there was another way out."

"Indeed there is." Drag turned to the guard next to him. "Seal the gates, keep them in the City to allow the evacuation to finish." The command flew through the ranks of soldiers and it was only seconds before Helena heard the sound of the crank to seal the gates.

"It's too dangerous for us to move you through the City," Drag said to her, only sparing a glance for Taffy. "You'll have to wait until they've been driven back."

"Okay," Helena said, the adrenaline already pumping through her.

"Get her mail. And a sword," Drag ordered.

The items were quickly presented to Helena, who slipped the heavy links over her head and held the unfamiliar weapon. "I've never used a sword."

"No time for a real lesson," Drag said. "I'll send you down to Mags, she'll look out for you."

Things were happening so quickly that Helena felt nine steps behind. She was being shuffled along the wall with Taffy right behind her.

"Helena," Drag called out, his voice carrying. She turned back to him.

"Stab them with the pointy end," he suggested.

Helena smiled and nodded. She followed her guides until she caught sight of another blue-haired companion. Mags just smiled when she saw her. "I thought you'd end up here."

"Wasn't my intention," Helena said, helping Taffy into the faint shelter of an alcove. "The Princess' army-"

"Is inside the City. I know." She shrugged when Helena gave her a startled look. "My brother may be irritating, but his regiments are the most finely tuned soldiers you'll ever meet."

Helena agreed with that and looked around. "What happens now?"

"The worst part. Waiting. They'll be here soon. Faster once they realize the gate is closed."

"And what do I do?"

"Stay back and try not to get killed," Mags said.

"Awesome," Helena muttered.

Turns out, they weren't waiting that long. The soldiers poured out of the nearby houses and alleys so quietly that Helena thought she was imagining it until she heard Drag yell. It was a huge sound, clear even from this distance. "For the Light!"

Mags echoed it, making Helena's ear ring. Arrows shot off of the wall, dropping soldiers in droves. But some of them got back up. Then they found the stairs and were on the wall and it was pure chaos.

As an afterthought, Helena wasn't sure that with Mags was the best place for her to be. Mags liked being in the middle of the action, someplace that Helena had no right being in. She found herself face to face with black-eyed soldiers who wanted to kill her.

Desperation saved her too many times to count. A lunge, a stab, a shove. Helena didn't think she actually killed anyone, but shoving them over the wall and down to the soldiers waiting below proved very effective. She made sure that she was always at Mags' side and in front of Taffy, the poor girl crunched up into a corner, terrified out of her mind.

A sound from the side made Helena spin, her sword easily blocked by Drag. He exchanged no pleasantries. "We've pushed them back enough. The others are clear. Let's get out."

"But the City-" Mags protested.

"The City is not the concern," Drag told her. "People are. Go."

With a single, curt nod, Mags led Helena and Taffy alongside the soldiers and militiamen. Parts of the City were already utterly decimated and Helena was glad that the citizens managed to get out before now. They kept up a fast pace, the sounds of fighting getting rarer and rarer the farther they got from the gate. They were just passing the burning remnants of the Seraph Tavern when a sudden pulse made them pause. The soldiers shifted, looking for the enemy, nearly silent except for faint murmured questions. Helena peered into the darkness around her, something shifting so slightly that she barely saw it.

The light from the remains of the tavern revealed the tendrils, sneaking along the ground, near invisible in the dark.

"Shadows!" Helena yelled. "Run!"

The soldiers took off, forcing Taffy and Helena to keep pace in the center of their squadron. Everyone knew that they couldn't fight the shadows, only run.

A man screamed behind Helena and she flinched, grabbing Taffy's arm to keep her moving forward. More screams burst through the air as the shadows caught up and took out the soldiers one by one. She didn't dare look back, terrified to see the wall of darkness engulfing her.

Mags and Drag were neck and neck ahead of her, their boots pounding in unison. They led the way unerringly, cutting between two shops via a tiny alley. As they turned a corner, Helena pushed to keep up, when a wall of shadows cut her off. She backed up, pulling Taffy into the store next to her, shoving their way through aisles and shelves to reach another door. It to a staircase and Helena didn't stop to think that it might be a worthless route. She pounded up the stairs, half-carrying Taffy.

They got to the roof and Helena immediately saw that the building they were on was completely surrounded by shadows. They were leeching up the sides of the walls so soon only the roof would be safe. Then, not even that. The building next to them had a fire escape off the roof and down into an alley that was still clear of shadows for the moment. Helena saw all of this and yet didn't make a move.

On top of the other roof stood a familiar figure, draped in white and motioning for her to jump.

"Miss?" Taffy asked, staring at the juggler.

"I don't know," Helena mumbled. He was supposed to be the villain, but he looked so much like she remembered him. So much like her best friend.

"We don't have many other options," the little woman said under her breath.

"He might hurt you."

"Well, these shadows definitely will."

"Helena!" he shouted, the accented voice piercing straight to her core. "Hurry!"

She bit the proverbial bullet and climbed onto the roof's ledge, pulling Taffy onto her back. Before she could explain why this was a horrible idea, she jumped across the alley and landed painfully on the opposing roof.

He came closer and Helena forced herself to her feet, still wary.

"I'm not going to hurt you," he said. "but we'd best be moving on before these shadows do."

"What are you doing here?" she asked him. "What are you doing with the Princess?"

"It's all an act. I didn't want to help, I promise."

Helena was suspicious, but she so wanted to believe him.

He walked forward, holding out his hand to Taffy, who was still on the ground, shaken from their flight. Keeping his dark eyes trained on Helena, he helped Taffy to her feet, "I'm sorry, Helena."

No. "No!"

Helena jumped forward, screaming and grasping for Taffy as he swung the small girl out over the roof's ledge and shoved her into the clouds of shadows below. Helena heard something shatter on the stones and knew that Taffy was gone.

"Bastard," Helena whispered, blinking back tears.

He moved forward, his hands reaching out for her. Helena brought her sword up, slicing along his robes and into his chest. She felt the blade hit, but there was no red smear on his robes or her sword. Nothing to prove that she had wounded him.

Helena stumbled back, unsure what she was facing. What had the Princess done to him? He kept advancing and Helena panicked, shoving the blade up and releasing it.

He stood there, silent, the sword protruding from his chest. She stared in shock as he grabbed the hilt and pulled the sword out of his rib cage. It was still completely clean. Her nerve broken, Helena ran to the fire escape, hearing feet pounding behind her. She reached the ladder and had just decided to take her chances and jump-

-a line of fire exploded along her back and into her chest, stopping her breath. Helena turned, seeing his empty hands and cold eyes. Then she fell.

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 6 of 29

<< Previous     Home     Next >>