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Author's note: I wrote this based on "Beauty and the Beast". I did the article about it first. I have kept my promise about writing a longer version with a complete and happy ending. Well, enjoy!
Sadira returned to her room with fresh bruises. She wasn’t badly hurt physically, but the pain was mostly on the inside. Uther had done this to her again, as he had for as long as she had been here. She had lost count of the days she had lived in this strange castle. She didn’t care now, but she felt like she’d been here for eternity. She was almost certain she was never going to see her papa or her friends ever again. She collapsed on her bed and thought back to that awful day it all began.
She and her father were outside pulling the weeds when he excused himself from the garden. Sadira thought that this was strange since her father was usually a hard worker. She worried about him while she pulled the rest of the weeds. She could barely concentrate, but she didn’t stop until the garden was as good as new. After she did her work, she rushed inside to see what the matter was. Her heart dropped when she saw her papa weeping on the table, something he had not done since her mother died.
This raised 15-year-old Sadira’s curiosity and her worry as she rushed to her papa’s side. “Papa,” she asked, “what’s wrong? I haven’t seen you like this since Mama died.” “Oh, my little flower,” he choked, “I have done something terrible when you were just an infant.” She was confused, so she asked, “Papa, what could have you possibly done that would have been so terrible?” “A long time ago,” he sighed, “I was a gardener, and I was employed by a mysterious being that lived in an extravagant castle. Extravagant, but foreboding at the same time.”
“Did a person of royalty live there?” Sadira asked. Her father shook his head, “I do not think so. I think that whoever owned the castle was very wealthy and powerful. Very powerful. I swear, if you heard his voice, it could chase away storm clouds.” Sadira chose not to believe that, but she continued to ask, “What was he like?”
Her father shuddered, “He had the demeanor of a lion. This made him fearsome and tall. I dared not cross him, so I did everything I could to please him. He had the most ravishing garden, though. It was as large as a jungle and filled with exotic plants from places you’ve never seen before. Some even got lost in his garden for a matter of days, even weeks.
“I was newly married to your mother when I was working with the Lion, our nickname for our employer. He let me take some of the flowers home to her as long as there was more than one of each in the garden. I was able to surprise your mother with gifts from the garden. Then, you were born and that made my work all the while. When you were six months old, however, I was so distracted that I accidentally clipped off one of the Lion’s most prized flowers.
“I had seen what happened if he was angered: he would punish the poor soul who crossed him and execute them. I pleaded for my life and accidentally blurted about you. The Lion spared my life, but with a cost. We made a deal in which you would come live with him and marry him when you’re 16. After the bargain was made, I had lost my job and was warned never to come back. While you grew up, I hoped and I prayed that somehow he would die or forget all about you. But alas, all those hopes were dashed when this arrived yesterday.”
He pulled out an envelope with a cream-colored envelope and a gold-colored stamp carrying the emblem of a lion. Sadira took it and opened it up. She read the elegant yet scrawled handwriting that read:
My former employee,
The time has come for you to deliver your end of the bargain. You remember that I have chosen to spare your life in exchange for your daughter’s hand in marriage when she turned sixteen. I have decided to let her live with me before then to see if she is suitable enough to wed. Bring her to the castle within three days or I shall come after you and take your daughter by force. I hope you have agreed to cooperate with me.
Sadira was in shock and decided to go to the castle in order to keep her father safe. It took some hours before her father agreed to take her to the castle and risk losing her altogether. Before the appointed time was up, Sadira and her father rode to the castle where a servant was waiting for them. Sadira and her father said their goodbyes and separated. Her father rode back home in regret, for he thought he might never see her again.
Sadira was in regret, too, about agreeing to come to the place she now regarded as her prison. Not too long after she arrived, she met Uther, an anthropomorphic lion! She was very terrified of his appearance, but still, she kept a very stone face. Uther gave her specific instructions about everything and just as her father had warned her, Sadira dared not cross him. Uther also gave her the benefit of a doubt about marrying at 16 and let her choose whether or not to marry him when that time came. She did everything she could to please him, but he did almost nothing to please her.
One night during dinner, Uther was displeased with a servant and beat her. Sadira was appalled with this and decided to do something. But after dinner, the injured servant came to her room and begged her not to pick a fight with Uther. It was only after a few times did Sadira begin to stand up for her own self and others. Alas, those efforts were usually met with arguments and beatings. By then, Sadira was almost convinced that he was a brutal creature.
Sadira was only half right that he was only a brute. Uther’s very nature was that of a lion because he truly was a lion. Years ago, he was just a mammal of the lower rank of sentiency but on the highest rank of the food chain. He was practically king of the beasts, or was going to. He was almost a full-grown lion when he was taken by a witch who wanted a husband. He was transformed into a human and was very confused. The witch explained everything to him and he got his first taste of humanity and civilization.
He still retained his personality and grew to be too much for the witch after a few days. She decided to turn him back to his true form, but she could only remember half of the spell. This, unfortunately, left Uther as a half-human and half-lion. He kept his original appearance and had human abilities. It wasn’t until a good fairy came and helped him. Although he was stuck being half and half of who he was, she offered a solution: if he found love in either form, he would turn into that form as well. Since he felt he had no place with the lions anymore, he decided to find his place among to the humans.
He liked being a human for a few days, so he was determined to keep his identity hidden and yet make a name for himself. First, he actually had to find a name to call himself. Cloaked, he searched through many books to learn about more about the human world and find a suitable name. From those stories and events he read about, he was now wiser and came up with the name Uther di Leo. Now the only thing he needed to do was to find a way to make his mark in the world…without totally revealing himself.
He came across a traveling puppet show and decided to be a part of it. He fibbed that he was wearing a lion’s mask that he can control at will. This convinced the group and allowed him to join him. For years, they traveled the globe and entertained many people. The one they loved most of all was Uther, or Lioni, his stage name.
One time, he found love with a young woman. Uther thought for sure that she was the one to turn him into a human. But on the night he was to confess his secret, his lover was arrested for a crime and killed. This made Uther heartbroken and bitter, so he quit show business and went back to where he started. Now that he was known as Lioni, Uther insisted to be called by the name he gave himself. He also wanted to leave his “mask” on for he feinted that it hid his deformed face.
He found some work in the mines and used his lion senses to smell and dig out ore. One day, though, he discovered a strange new smell. It wasn’t like anything he smelled before, so he decided to check it out. He found the source of the smell and dug it out. He was met with a blinding flash. Before he got his sight back, someone had shouted out, “Gold!” By then, Uther knew what gold was because he had earned it on his travels doing the puppet show.
After finding more gold, Uther became rich and became a supervisor of the mines. He sniffed out which ones were wet with precious minerals and metals and which ones were not. Soon after much success, Uther became wealthy enough to travel the world and potentially find more exports to get rich from. For a while, he thought the money made him happy. But after acquiring many riches, he felt empty inside His depression didn’t last long, for he found something else to have interest in.
In one of his treks in the jungle, he found beauty and magnificence in the native flowers. He was determined to take them back to the mainland. He bought some land to build his castle and planted many of the plants he brought back. Some of them thrived, but others did not. During the time the castle was built, Uther sent his team to find some samples, bring them back for testing on soil, and bring back some more of the ones that thrived. Soon, Uther created his massive garden and built his magnificent castle. He felt as if his life was complete, except something was missing: a wife.
But after all the heartbreak Uther had been through with the woman who was tried and put to death, he didn’t have the will to find and socialize with the women. All he had was his garden, castle, and servants. For a very long time, he stayed in his castle and minded his garden. Life was slow for him for many years until something new popped up: trade. Uther found himself in the trading business and made a fortune doing so. But as busy as he was, he didn’t find the time to tend to his garden and it slowly began to die. Uther had to take quick action and hired gardeners to take care of it.
The garden meant everything to Uther because it reminded him of his many travels. If something was wrong with any part of it, the gardener/s responsible would be punished most severely, often resulting in death. Over the years, Uther became ruthless, brutal, and hard. He still remained kind under calm circumstances, but now, he had no time for love. Of this, he was certain he wouldn’t find love ever again. That was, until the day he hired Sadira’s father.
Shortly after Sadira arrived, Uther had growing faith that she was going to be his wife, but he himself made it extremely hard for the both of them. When Sadira voiced that she didn’t approve of the cruel things he did, he lost his temper often and maimed her many times. He was blind to what he was doing to her and treated her coldly sometime after she stood up to him. There were some times in which he was good to her, even sharing a favorite puppet of his from the traveling puppet show. It was easy to forget those times as often as how cold Uther was. There was little certainty that Uther had a good side at all.
The day after she received her new bruises, Sadira recovered and she felt like she couldn’t take any more of it. This time, she thought, I’m telling Uther either he needs to stop treating me like this or I’m leaving! As always since she moved into the castle, she went downstairs to eat her breakfast. She expected Uther to be there; however, he wasn’t at the table today. She was met by Uther’s head servant, who said, “Oh, Uther will not be dining with you until dinner. In the meantime, you can enjoy the day any way you like it.”
Sadira nodded, “Today, I’m going to tell Uther how I feel about the way he’s treating me.” The servant gasped, “Oh, you mustn’t do that! He’ll get very angry with you!” “I don’t care if I know what’s good for me.” Sadira explained. “Uther has hurt all of us too many times, so I’m taking my chances. Besides, you said that I could spend my day any way I like. If he decides to kill me, I’ll have spent this day like it was my last.”
This time, the servant dared not to oppose her. She complied with Sadira’s wishes and left it at that. But know, the servant thought about her, that you are risking yourself terribly. You may be on the path from which you cannot return. Be safe, young one. Be safe.
Sadira spent the entire day doing what she wanted to do and thinking about what she was going to say. Finally, just before dinnertime, she thought of the right words to say to Uther. By the time she was called to dine with the master of the castle, she had memorized her entire speech. Yet all the while she mustered her courage and confidence, she couldn’t help but brace herself for what more harm Uther might do to her. She realized that this might be her final moment of glory, so she decided to try to make the best of it.
At the table, Uther and Sadira dined in silence until the moment seemed right for the topic to come up. “Sir,” Sadira said in a gentle tone. “Yes?” he replied gruffly. “It had occurred to me that there must be something more when you harm people…like me, specifically,” she continued slowly. The light of anger flickered in Uther’s eyes, making him seem ready to attack. “And just where are you getting at, my dear?” he gritted his teeth, though not furiously yet. She gulped, and then said, “Your recent actions lately have made me a bit doubtful of your hospitality.”
This enraged Uther, but it wasn’t enough to make him strike yet. “Why would you think that?” he responded angrily. “Isn’t it good enough that I have provided you with all of this? Aren’t you grateful enough?! What else do you want?! What else could you want?! You have everything you could possibly need!”
“And I’m grateful for everything you have done!” Sadira said. “It’s just that you need to take other people’s feelings into account.” Uther rose from his seat and said, “Well, then, how’s this?” He moved so fast that Sadira didn’t know what was going to happen next until she felt a powerful grip around her throat. She could barely even breathe when she was pinned to the wall.
“Now, you listen to me, girl,” Uther growled. “I’m the one who decides what to do around here, and neither you nor anybody else will do so. Do I make myself clear?” Sadira had almost run out of breath, so she nodded. “Good,” he said before he threw her to the floor. Sadira had caught her breath and was coughing when he said, “Go to your room and don’t come out until your punishment is over.” When Sadira retreated to her room, she wasn’t even sure she wanted to come out.
When she returned to her room, Sadira felt like she had been broken. The last of her strength had left her and made her feel powerless. Right now, she was fairly certain that Uther was someone to hate, not to love. All she could do now was fall on her bed and succumb to despair. She was ready to wave the white flag of surrender, for she was Uther’s prisoner and would always be.
Just then, there was a knock at the door. She feared it would be Uther, so she called out, “Yes?” “It’s me, ma’am,” a familiar voice replied. Sadira smiled, “Come in, Kirstie.” Her favorite servant entered the room with some tea bags and a kettle of hot water.
Sadira sighed, “Oh, I’m so glad you came. I’ve just about had enough of this place…or Uther.” Kirstie shushed, “You don’t want him to hear you.” “Don’t worry,” she reassured her, “he rarely comes by my room.” “Well, just to be safe…” Kirstie said as she shut the door.
Uther was coming to Sadira’s bedroom, all cool and calm. He was going to tell her that her punishment was over. Then, he heard the muffled voices of Sadira and his head servant Kirstie. He could tell she was venting her rage about him. He was about to enter her room to interrupt them, but he heard her say, “I wish he’s the feral creature he was meant to be!”
This stopped Uther in his tracks and stood still for a moment. She continued from inside, “He’s no more than what he should be, whether an animal or something!” This prompted him to barge in her room and defend himself, but before he could do so, Sadira had said something that really hurt him. “I don’t care if he’s rat, a lion, or what?! He’s a monster, simple as that!” she shouted. Of all that Uther considered himself to be, he had never known himself to be a monster. It was always anything but.
His heart was now broken into pieces. All he could do now was retreat to his room until his heart had become even more stone, like it did when his first love died.
That night, Sadira could hardly get to sleep, not after all she had been just through. She confessed to Kirstie her feelings about Uther, all the hate for him she had concealed for so long. One way or another, she had to let it out. She couldn’t take much more of the treatment Uther had been giving her. Right now, she didn’t find the will to go on living like this…or here. She just wanted to die.
Suddenly, she heard rustling. She sat up and looked around to find the source of the noise. It was coming from outside the tower, so Sadira got up and walked over to investigate. She let out a shriek when she saw a cloaked old woman on the vines. “Goodness, girl!” she cried. “You nearly made me fall!” “Who-who are you?” Sadira stammered.
“Forgive me,” the old peddler replied, “but I think I’d be much better at introductions if my life wasn’t dangling by a thread. Or should I say vine?” “Should I give any reason to enter my room?” Sadira asked suspiciously. “Because I have something that may solve all your problems,” she answered. This enticed Sadira to help the old lady climb up and enter her room. She was interested in what the peddler had to offer.
“All right, what can you give that could possibly help me?” Sadira asked. “Maybe I could offer you this,” the lady pulled out a green, crystal vial with a long neck and round bottom. It was filled with a dark liquid that Sadira couldn’t make out what it was. “What is it?” Sadira inquired. “It is a slow poison that will enable the drinker to die within a matter of days,” she explained. “That is, if the proper amount is consumed.”
“Are you asking me to give it to Uther?” Sadira asked with a tone of unease in her voice. “No, no, my dear,” she shook her head. “It’s for you.” “Me?” Sadira gulped. “Yes, you want so desperately to not live in this place,” the peddler seduced her with her petty tone, “especially not with him.”
Sadira took that into consideration and remembered all those times he had assaulted and abused her and the servants. “I suppose that’s true,” she agreed. “I thought so,” the woman chuckled. “So, what do you say, seeing as how you just don’t have the will to live anymore? You can stop at anytime before you consume the whole potion. But don’t drink too much at once, because you might die. And once you’re dead…you’re dead.”
This made Sadira a little concerned, but she was too consumed by despair and desperation to get away from Uther, even if it meant dying. She knew there was no other way out, so she extended her hand and said, “All right, you’ve got yourself a deal.” As she shook hands with the peddler woman, Sadira mentioned, “Do I have to pay you or something?” The woman chuckled, “Oh, no. Consider my gift to you in your hour of need.” She gave Sadira the bottle and made her farewell before disappearing out of the window. Before Sadira could thank her, the peddler seemingly had vanished into thin air.
Now with the incredible power of the potion in her hands, Sadira wondered what to do with it. Then, she knew what to do: for every time Uther had hurt her, physically or emotionally, she would drink a small amount of the potion. She decided to start with tonight. She opened the vial, poured the purple liquid into the cap, and drank it. A few moments later, she started feeling a bit weird, just a little slower than usual. She now knew that she was heading down a road from which she may never return from.
The next morning, Uther wanted to make up for his bad behavior the previous night. He wanted to treat her to something, even if it meant punishing her the next day. He grabbed some exotic flowers from his garden and went to her room. He knocked on her door and asked, “Sadira?” Since she drank the potion last night, Sadira had some difficulty getting up. By the time the knocks were becoming more insistent, Sadira called out, “All right, all right! I’m coming.”
She was surprised when she opened the door and gasped, “Uther! What an unexpected surprise.” “What took you so long?” he said irked. “I had trouble getting up this morning,” Sadira explained. “It was a long night.”
“I see,” Uther nodded his head, but kept a confused expression on his face. He cleared his throat and said, “Uh, look, what don’t I take you around the castle today? That would possibly make up for what happened last night.” “That’s very considerate of you,” Sadira thanked him. “However, I must apologize to you first.” Though she wasn’t truly sorry for the events at dinner, she had learned that apologizing would please Uther. “I am sorry for trying to anger you and I hope you can forgive me,” Sadira apologized as she bowed.
She knew that she did it correctly because Uther extended his arm as an invitation to walk with him. She accepted it and took his arm. Since she was a little bit weaker, she had to keep up with Uther. After what he just did, she wanted to do anything but provoke him. She knew that she would be long dead after Uther did enough damage to her.
He took her around the castle and showed her all the wonders, even the ones she hadn’t seen yet. Uther got a little irritated that Sadira was slower than usual, but that pretty much went away once she gave a “good reason”. Sadira knew that the pleased mood Uther was in wouldn’t last and that he would start abusing her again like always. But then again, she couldn’t help but open her heart to him a little. She was careful, though, because she thought she knew who he really was: a vicious creature. She sought to prove her theory by taking the potion that would eventually cause her to die. She knew she would start taking it again once Uther went back to his bad ways the next day.
She was right; Uther punished her for standing up to herself at the dinner a couple nights before. Instead of the normal punishment of being sent to her room, Sadira was clawed in her upper right arm. She retreated to her room and could barely move her arm to reach for the potion. She though as she drank the proper amount, Well, that’s another one for the count. Again, she became slightly weaker, but this time, the pain in her arm seemed to numb a bit. Sadira thought for sure that her senses would be the first thing to go.
In the following days, Uther continued to abuse her and Sadira still drank the potion. Before long, she needed the walls to guide her way because her eyesight was dulling and she could hardly feel her legs. One of the servants saw this and thought it was the result of her recent injuries. Because of that, Sadira was given a cane and she thanked the soul who helped her. Uther was blind to this and thought she was trying to gain pity from it. He scoffed and told her it was going to work. All of that would change one particular night.
Sadira had difficulty getting to the dining room, so Uther sent a few of his servants to help get her there faster. When he finally saw her, she was being carried by the servants. This agitated Uther and he said annoyingly, “You can cut the act, Sadira. You are not really hurt.” Sadira made up an excuse and said slowly, “I am sorry, sir. I think I may be coming down with something.” Her voice was deeper than usual, but Uther didn’t seem to notice.
“Well, you must get better quickly,” Uther ordered. “I don’t know how much more of this I can take.” Finally, one of the servants couldn’t take any more of his master’s ignorance, she he voiced out, “You’re one to talk.” Uther turned his head in confusion and budding anger. “What about poor Sadira?” the servant continued. “For all we know, all the injuries you gave her might’ve given her an infection.”
Sadira sensed trouble in the air, so she put out her hand and said, “Now, gentlemen…” But before she could finish, Uther growled, “Are you saying I made her sick? That the most preposterous idea I ever heard!” This made another servant angry, so she said, “No, I think he’s right! I mean, look at what you’ve done to all of us! Isn’t it enough that we stay here only to take the pain from you?!”
Uther leaped out of his seat and pinned the two servants on the floor by their necks. He roared, “You will not be talking to me that way! I am the master of this castle, and you are nothing but basic scum!” This infuriated Sadira long enough, so she rose from her seat to defend the servants. Even with her dulled senses and slowed voice, she still spoke out loud and clear, “No! You listen! You may be the master here, but you do not treat people like this!”
Uther got up and walked slowly towards her. He rumbled in a threatening tone, “How dare you speak to me like that?” Sadira continued, “They were right all along! I was right all along! You are nothing but a monster, a cad, a cruel and vicious animal! That’s all you are and ever will be!”
Before she could move, Uther lunged at her and gave her his most beating ever. He took her and threw her to the wall repeatedly. He bit her many times and clawed at almost every body part below the head. He could’ve totally destroyed her, but he wanted to make her suffer for her misdeeds. When he was done, Sadira could hardly move and barely had the strength to even lift her head.
“Go,” he rumbled. “After you’ve recovered, you will be sent to the dungeon for the rest of your life. Enjoy the last moments of luxury while you can, because you will never the light of day ever again. Now, go.” Sadira was now in tears and didn’t notice the amount of pain she was in when she got up. The only pain that seemed to hurt worst was inside her heart.
As if she had been miraculously be given the strength of Samson, she began to run to her room. Too blinded by emotional pain, she sought the only way to end all of her misery forever. She opened the door and took the potion in her hand. She poured out the proper amount into the cap and drank it. But she felt it wasn’t enough, so she drank straight from the vial itself.
Suddenly, she felt time stand still. It was as if everything had ceased and stopped working. She felt her innards freeze over and she was at her weakest yet. She could do nothing except fall into the darkness that was now overcoming her. She dropped the bottle and heard the muffled shatter before everything went black.
Uther was seething in anger when he heard a distant shatter and thud. At first, he thought it was Sadira either venting her rage or falling onto the bed to recover from her injuries. Suddenly, he smelled something he hadn’t smelled before. It was something venomous and foul like…poison. Then, Uther knew something had to be wrong. Very wrong.
He rushed up to her quarters and pulled on the barely-open door with one arm. He was in shock at what he found: Sadira limply lying on the couch all pale and still. Next to her was a shattered vial with purple liquid spilling from it. Uther tried to revive her in a desperate attempt, but to no avail. Fearing she might be dead, he shouted to his unharmed servants, “Fetch the medicine man before it is too late, or I shall have your heads!” This prompted the servants as they zipped from the bedroom to carry out their task. The whole situation made Uther wonder if maybe he was the cause of it all.
The servants came back with the medicine man closest to the castle. He was Sage, a magician as well as a healer. He knew all types of magic just by looking at something or someone. He was expected to go at anytime, but he still considered himself spry and energetic as ever. He had traveled all over the world and knew just about everything. All he lacked was a companion. He claimed that having someone on a journey was burdensome unless he was the one accompanying the one taking the journey.
Just as Uther was pacing back and forth in front of Sadira’s room, the servants proclaimed, “Here he is, Master! The one you requested.” Sage merely waved them off and said, “It’s all right. I know how to make an entrance for myself.” Uther grabbed him by the wrist and said hurriedly, “You must come and heal her!”
He rushed him into the bedroom and Sage, still gathering his senses back, said, “How rude.” But Uther didn’t take notice of that, for he pointed at Sadira, now on the bed. “Here,” he commanded Sage. “Heal her.” Sage went to her bedside and waved his hand over her. “Hmm,” he said thoughtfully, “poison.” Uther was in quite a state before the medicine man asked him, “Do you still have the source?”
For the first time, Uther complied to do what he was told to do and grabbed the broken vial that now contained very little of the potion. He forcefully gave it to Sage, who yelped, “Hey, you don’t want to poison me now, do you?” Uther growled, “Just hurry so you can make Sadira better.” Sage didn’t snap back and went to work with analyzing Sadira and her condition. He took notice of the scars and bruises on her person and pointed out, “Whoa, looks like she was attacked by a wild animal.” This sent Uther’s nerves on edge, but he merely said, “Yes, I taught her a lesson for angering me at dinner.”
This caused Sage concern and he asked, “By unleashing a wild animal at the dinner table?” Uther replied, “Not necessarily. I’m part-lion, so I did it myself…for her own good.” Sage remained silent for a few seconds, and then he said, “I could tell you were half and half. You have an incomplete transformation spell on you.” Uther was astounded, but he said no more as Sage continued to analyze Sadira.
Finally, Sage sat back and sighed, “Well, the injuries are not the only factors in this. She consumed a slow poison that will kill the drinker within days. She had been drinking it for the last week or so. Did you know anything about it?” Uther shook his head, “No, I didn’t, but it would certainly explain a lot for what has happened all this time. Is there any way to reverse this at all?”
“Well, there is an antidote that can help,” Sage replied. “But you’re going to need my help in retrieving the ingredients needed. It’s going to be especially hard.” Uther found this hard to believe, but he said, “I…understand. But why do you need me along? Why can’t you do it yourself?”
“I need a young and healthy soul to assist me in getting all the ingredients,” Sage explained. “But I’m…” Uther begged to differ. “Your exterior doesn’t matter,” Sage pointed to his chest, “but what is in here counts.” Now, Uther wasn’t sure what he was on the inside anymore, be it a true lion or a superficial human. He had to figure it out for himself, so he agreed, “All right. I’ll go with you.”
Uther packed up and set out on his quest with Sage to find the ingredients essential to saving Sadira’s life. For the first time, he felt worried about her, yet he also wanted an explanation of why she did this to him. If she did this just to scare me, she’s got another thing coming, he thought. However, he was worried that he may lose the only true companion he had known for a while. He wasn’t prepared to lose another lady who was willing to come close to him. He wanted to do everything he could to save her…or endure many more years of despair and bitterness.
This first item on their list was a special type of rose that grew in a marsh. When they first saw it, though, it was stationed in the middle of a bog. “That looks so far to cross,” Uther remarked. “I know,” Sage said. “That’s where I’m going to need your help. Are you willing?”
Uther stood in silence, hesitating and unsure. “Very well,” Sage shrugged. “I guess I’ll have to retrieve the plant myself.” But just as he stepped into the bog, he sank at waist-level. “Help me!” he cried. “I can’t get out!” “Oh, fine, I’ll do it, you big baby!” Sage growled as he grabbed Sage and pulled him out of the bog.
Sage cleaned himself off and remarked, “What a nice young…half being you are.” Uther only snarled at him. Sage leaned back in wariness and said, “I was trying to praise you. Can’t you take any compliments?” Uther then realized what he did wrong and apologized, “I am sorry, my good man. It’s been so long since I’ve ever heard such a thing.”
Sage asked, “Just what do you do at your place anyway?” Uther thought long and hard about it and finally answered, “I don’t know, really. I found my wealth in finding valuable objects to trade with others. But before all of that, I entertained in a puppet show.”
Sage gasped, “You wouldn’t happen to be Lioni, would you? The lion puppet that came to life?” Uther dismissed him, “That’s not important right now. We need to reach the rose at the middle of the bog.” He looked around and suddenly saw a moss-covered hollow log. This gave Uther an idea as he continued, “And I think I know just how to do that.”
He grabbed the log and used his lion strength to pull it free. He rolled it to the edge of the bog, and then he set it upright so he could push it to the middle of the bog. Sage cried, “Ingenious!” Uther struggled to hold it steady, and when he did, he commanded Sage, “Hold the log for me while I walk across to retrieve the flower.” But Sage only said, “What do you say when you want something done?” Uther growled in exasperation, “I don’t have time for your games! Just help me get across!”
Sage repeated, “What do you say?” Uther knew what he meant, but he didn’t want to say it. Finally, his patience had run and he was forced to do it. He sighed with a paw over his eyes and said, “Please help me by holding the log steady.” “That’s better,” Sage complied. “Thank you.”
“Don’t expect this kind of thing too often,” Uther mentioned. “I’m only doing this for Sadira.” Sage held the log very steady and said, “Whenever you’re ready, Mr. di Leo. I hope you like watery liquids and such.” Uther laughed sarcastically, “Ha, ha, ha. Very funny.”
Uther was very careful to keep his balance when he walked on all fours. Finally, he grabbed the rose and was making his way back to the other end. Just then, he lost his balance and fell into the murky water. “Ooh! Barely made it that time!” Sage chortled. When he got out with the rose barely dirty, Uther just growled at him and handed him the flower. Sage thanked him, “Why, thank you, my good being.”
Uther just grumbled with his head in one paw, “Don’t mention it.”
On the trail, Uther mentioned to Sage, “If you weren’t essential in saving Sadira’s life, I might kill you by now.” Sage put his hands up and cried, “Whoa, whoa, easy! You don’t want to kill the only medicine man in this entire region. If you did, then everyone would want your head, and I’m not joking.” Uther groaned, “I suppose you’re right. I have to spare you; let’s put it that way.” Sage sighed in relief and had something else he wanted to say, but they had already reached their next destination.
“There?!” Uther cried. They were at the edge of a forest that was apparently on fire. “Yep,” Sage answered. “The Forest of Fire. And it’s not a wildfire, that’s for sure. It’s the location of the next ingredient on our list: a rare sunstone.”
Uther stammered, “Isn’t there another way we can retrieve the sunstone without ACTUALLY GETTING BURNED?!” “Aww…Is the big pussycat afraid to get his mane singed?” Sage taunted. Uther took a swipe at him, but he dodged him. Sage chastised, “Hey, no swiping at people. It’s not nice.”
“There’s no WAY you’re getting me to go in there!” Uther protested. “I’ve been through enough as it is.” “Oh, really?” Sage challenged him. “What about losing Sadira if you don’t do this?” This froze Uther and then prompted him to go in the forest and risk getting burned…all for Sadira. He growled, “Fine. But I’m doing this for Sadira.”
When Uther wasn’t looking, Sage rolled his eyes and thought, Yeah, right.
Uther entered the fiery woods cautiously and trying not to get burned. He was surprised to find that the path was cooler than the rest of the forest. “Remember,” Sage called out to him, “do not step on the stones that are red hot!” “Yeah,” Uther replied. “That part I pretty much got.”
Uther eyed the stones on the path and very carefully made his way through the burning wood. Flashbacks were suddenly popping in his head as he saw himself as Lioni once more. The caravan was on fire and he raced inside to save the beloved toys. What he didn’t count on was being burned in the process. He spent much time in his makeshift tent to recover, but he knew that it was worth saving the show.
Just then, he felt a burst of courage rage through his body as he saw a glowing object. He walked faster and avoided the hot stones. When he reached his destination, he felt something he hadn’t in a long time: a sense of true pride. It felt different than the pride he was feeling for many years. What he thought he felt as pride in him for achieving so much was actually false pride. This particular pride that Uther was now feeling within himself was the true pride.
But just after he grabbed the sunstone, he felt the ground shake beneath him. He turned and saw bursts of air pushing up from the path. He thought in alarm, Geysers! I should’ve known it was booby-trapped! He was actually frightened to cross the trail now laden with geysers, but he readied himself to run as fast as he could.
Balancing between careful and speedy, Uther used his lion agility to evade the geysers and hop over the scorching stone that were ready to explode. He saw Sage at the edge of the forest and told himself he was going to make it. But suddenly, as Uther was getting ready to leap into safety, a burst of air exploded and everything went black.
“Uther?” a voice asked faintly. “Uther?” Uther barely opened his bleary eyes to Sage, who was leaning over him. His voice sounded muffled when he asked again, “Uther, are you alright?” Even with the newfound weakness and stiffness of his body, Uther still was able to give the sunstone to Sage as he said, “Here…is the sunstone…you oh-so require.” Sage grabbed it as he was saying, “Huh. I thought you hated to get into danger.”
Uther glared at him, “Just so you know…I did this for Sadira.” Sage looked at him inquisitively, “For Sadira, or just to prove your worth?” Uther lifted himself on his arms and rasped, “What’s that supposed to mean?” “I think you know as much as I do what I mean,” Sage replied. Uther thought as he stood up, No, actually, I don’t.
“Still a bit hot after retrieving the sunstone?” Sage asked. “Truth be told, my feet are feeling a bit burned,” Uther replied. “Well, I hope you’re ready to face the opposite end of the temperature scale,” Sage said, “because there’s where you’ll find the next ingredient.” He pointed up to a snowy mountain, where a snowstorm was happening. Uther felt his heart drop at the height of the mountain.
“Are you afraid of heights?” Sage asked him. “Ha,” Uther scoffed. “I’ve been at heights higher than this. This should be a cinch.” “I hope you can land on your feet like they say cats do,” Sage said wittingly. Uther just ignored him and dug his claws into the side of the mountain.
Before he climbed upwards, he turned to Sage and asked, “What must I do?” Sage replied, “Up there, you’ll find a weather-hardy plant that grows a purple fruit. Virtually, it’s impossible to reach such a plant, but since you’re half-lion, this shouldn’t be too hard, will it?” “I suppose not,” Uther said. “Good,” Sage smiled while giving Uther a pat in the back. “Make sure to be back here before the storm worsens up there.” “I won’t fail you,” Uther rumbled as he began to climb.
Uther hadn’t seen or climbed mountains for as long as forever. That was partially because no one had lived very long like him. Still, it felt nice to get used to the surface of the mountain and its incredible challenge it offered to only those brave enough to conquer it. Oh, how the feel of the mountain brought memories back to him. He and the puppet show caravan crossed many mountains to get to their destinations without giving up. How Uther followed that same principle when he was searching for riches. When he remembered all of that, he felt as if his memories were from a past life.
“Uther…” an unearthly yet seductive voice called to him. Uther turned to see who it was. The storm was getting worse as he climbed, so he saw no one. A small, unsettling creep jumped in his heart when he thought, That voice, it’s familiar. No, it couldn’t be.
Just when the top of the mountain was in view, the snow was blinding Uther as if it wanted to prevent him from going on. But he was persistent, so he didn’t let the snow stop him…or that eerie glow next to something small. Uther thought, That must be the plant, but what’s that next to it? Out of curiosity and perseverance, he continued upwards to the top of the mountain. When the plant was in view, the glow began to take shape into something familiar. Uther gave a gasp and almost lost his grip once he saw that it was his first lover!
“Hello, gorgeous,” she said accompanied with an inhuman echo. “Where have you been?” “Ro-Rosilia?” Uther stammered with his heart being overwhelmed by emotion. “I thought you had died.” “A minor setback,” she replied. “But I’m here now and I’m not leaving you again.”
Uther didn’t like the sounds of that, but he was happy to see her again. “I was so devastated when you died, and I decided to quit the show after that,” he confessed. “Oh, Uther,” Rosilia’s spirit resonated. “So, why are you here?” “I came to get an ingredient to heal Sadira because she’s consumed a poison,” he explained. His heart began to tighten and he was writhing in pain.
“Sadira?” she scoffed. “But you have me now. Isn’t that enough?” “You’re dead, but I can still save her,” Uther grunted. “Forget Sadira,” Rosilia said in a seductive tone. “Let’s spend the rest of eternity together.”
She proceeded to wrap her ghostly arms around Uther, but he felt an unsettling and cold air about her. His human senses have left him blind for long before his lion nature emerged to tell him that something was wrong. Uther felt as if this Rosilia ghost was not real. He tried to fight it, but his heart tightened even more painfully. “You’re not the Rosilia I knew,” Uther groaned as he climbed towards the plant.
It was now emanating an ethereal glow. “And I bet that this is your source of power,” he continued. He grabbed the plant and said, “So I bid you, adieu!” He pulled the plant as powerfully as he could and the ghost shrieked, “NOOOOOOOOOO!!!” Just then, the ghost exploded in a mass of light and Uther fell from the highest point of the mountain.
Sage was waiting for Uther at the bottom of the mountain. He was beginning to get worried about him when suddenly, a giant snowball rolled down the face of the mountain. Snow exploded when it hit a wedged rock. Sage looked up to see Uther covered in snow on the rock. He was barely conscious, but just enough to give the medicine man the plant.
“Wow,” Sage remarked as he grabbed the plant. “You’re remarkable. And judging by that arrival, you’d make quite the avalanche.” Uther grumbled, “Very original. It’s a wonder I still tolerate you for this long.” “Eh, you’ll learn to grow on me,” Sage teased. “I seriously doubt that,” Uther snarled.
“The Point of Shadows, huh?” Uther said. “That’s what the top of the mountain is called?” “You got it,” Sage nodded. “I see, and why did you fail to tell me that?” Uther asked in an accused tone. “I don’t know,” Sage shrugged. “Maybe you neglected to tell me about whether or not you were involved in that puppet show.”
“Does this answer your question?” Uther stopped him in a harsh tone. “Yes, I was Lioni, and I quit after a long time doing it!” Sage chortled, “I knew it!” “What?” Uther said in a confused tone. “What does that have to do with anything?” “I was a little boy when I first saw you,” Sage answered.
“That’s funny,” Uther scratched his head. “I don’t recall seeing you there.” “Figures,” Sage waved his hand dismissively. “You entertained for many children that I was just another face in the crowd.” Before Uther could say anything, Sage continued, “You may’ve not known me, but I knew you.” Uther pondered at this, and then Sage broke his train of thought by crying, “Look out!”
This stopped Uther in his tracks and nearly gave him a heart attack. He was about to yell at Sage when the latter pointed downwards at him. Uther looked down to see a briar vine, and he followed his sights forwards to a whole bramble of them! They were covering a rock and surrounded it as well. Uther thought it was impossible to get the next ingredient without getting thorns on one’s person.
“We’re going up there,” Sage said. “What?” Uther said. “Through these briars? I don’t think so.” Sage disagreed, “Uther, we’ve come this far. We can’t give up now! You’ve done so much to help me…and Sadira.
“You want to quit on her? Fine. Then I’ll do it myself.” Uther rushed to stop him and said, “Now, just a moment! I’m not letting you do this alone because I won’t give up on Sadira.” Sage smiled, “That’s all I needed to hear.”
Using his lion claws and sense of caution, Uther cut down the briar vines to clear a path for both he and Sage. Finally, they reached the rock. Uther was about to cut the branches on it when Sage cried out, “No, stop! We need those for our climb up.” Hard as it was to believe, Uther was ready for climbing the thorny vines.
Uther was careful not to get pricked by thorns and held on only to the stems in between them. It wasn’t an easy task, but once he reached the top, it was worth it. There was a beautiful briar flower that was crucial as the next ingredient. But just as Uther was grabbing it, Sage called out, “Uther, no!” It was already too late, for when Uther broke the branch with the flower, the rest of the branch suddenly withdrew itself. It was also the same branch that Sage was holding on to, so he gave a scream when he fell to the ground below.
Uther heard a thud and turned his head to see Sage lying on the ground. He cried out, “Sage! No!” He scrambled down the rock and kneeled over him. He panicked and said in a worried tone, “Sage, don’t you die on me! You’re my only hope for Sadira’s recovery! I need you!”
Uther jumped when he heard Sage chortling. “I got you good!” Sage laughed. Uther became so angry, that he slapped him on one cheek. “Ow!” Sage cried out. Uther retorted, “You idiot! I thought you died! Don’t do that to me next time!”
“You have my word,” Sage said while rubbing his cheek. “Eesh.”
Uther and Sage resumed their journey for their next ingredient. Not more than ten yards from Briar Rock, Sage bandaged himself and starting moaning. It wasn’t until a half hour of being on the trail did Uther get fed up with Sage’s act. “Oh, cut it out!” Uther snapped. “You’re not that hurt!” “Maybe not physically,” Sage replied, “but most of the damage is internal. You see, my feelings are hurt.” “Yeah, so?” Uther asked nonchalantly.
Sage continued, “I wouldn’t be surprised if Sadira felt this way about you.” This enraged Uther, and he turned to face Sage. He pointed to him and roared, “Now listen, you…” But before he could finish, they heard a distant wailing. It was an unearthly wailing that sent their nerves on edge. “Is that…?” Uther asked in a wary tone. “I’m almost afraid to say,” Sage replied in the same tone.
They cautiously went forward to find out the source of the strange noise. When they arrived, they both gasped until Sage broke the silence. He said in a solemn tone, “I think this is where you’ll find your next ingredient.” They were looking down at a ghostly blue pool that seemed to be swirling down as if it was going down a drain. The water was full with glowing spheres that caused some more of the wailing heard earlier. “This is the Pool of Lost Hopes,” Sage explained.
“How can you tell?” Uther asked. Sage answered, “I recognize this place one too many times. I’ve seen many people here try to retrieve what they need, and often, they failed.” “Ooh,” Uther looked sideways in an unsteady tone. “So, what is it I’m looking for?” “You’ll know when you find it,” Sage said. “Just promise me you won’t fail me.”
“I will,” Uther promised. “And that you’ll come back alive?” Sage asked again. This disturbed Uther, so he asked, “Wait, what?” But before he could say anything else, he gave a shout as he was pushed into the pool. “Whoops!” Sage said playfully. “Did I do that?”
Uther didn’t have time to take a breath so he attempted to reach the surface. However, something was pulling him down to prevent that from happening. Finally, Uther couldn’t hold his breath anymore, so he took in…a breath. He couldn’t understand what just happened. He thought in confusion, Did I just breathe? He inhaled again and found that he could breathe underwater!
Just then, he heard Sage’s muffled voice from the surface. He tried to swim up, but it was now impenetrable. Uther searched for something that enabled Sage’s voice to come in loud and clear. He found a conch shell and surfaced the widest part. Uther held the smaller end to his ear as he heard Sage tell him, “You have five minutes to get the next ingredient and come back up. If you fail to do so, you’ll drown. Now, go!”
Uther complied and looked around for anything he might’ve been looking for. His fur stood up when he heard another familiar voice saying, “Well, it’s been a long time!” He found that it belonged to the witch who transformed him a very long time ago! “You again?!” Uther cried out with a tone that was a mixture of shock and anger. She chuckled, “I always knew you were getting yourself in trouble.” He swiped at her, but to no avail.
He snapped at her, “What do you want, you ugly old hag?!” “Well, I haven’t changed as much as you,” she replied, “so ‘old’ would be putting it mildly.” “Go away!” Uther roared. “I’m trying to complete my mission!” “And what would that be?” the witch teased. “Trying to change you back to your true nature, a beast?”
“You made me this way!” Uther shouted. “Oh,” she said in a tricky tone. “So I did.” Uther just ignored her and resumed swimming downwards. But the witch continued, “I know what you are doing here. You’re doing it for her. Or trying to save her, by the looks of it.”
“What’s it to you?” Uther asked while looking ahead. “I know what you’re trying to do, and it’s not going to work,” she said. “Why do you say that?” Uther gloated. “Of course I’m going to succeed.” “No,” she denied. “Once you bring her back, she’ll die.”
This stopped Uther and he asked in an anxious tone, “What do you mean?” “I mean she’ll never ever want to live with seeing your face again,” she answered. “You lie!” Uther roared, denying her. She sighed, “Must I draw you a picture? Look, it’s simple: she recovers, she doesn’t want to live with you any more, and so…” She made a slashing motion across her neck. “…she kills herself.”
Uther looked at her in disbelief and fear. He didn’t know whether to believe her when she continued, “I was the one who sold her that vial of slow poison. I wanted to make you suffer just as I have.” Suddenly, a gleam caught Uther’s eye and he looked down to see a sphere with Sadira’s face on it. Uther looked up at the witch with newfound confidence.
“No!” he said to her. “You tricked her! You made her believe that she didn’t want to live with me anymore!” He was swimming down when the witch denied, “That’s not true! She did want to kill herself! I felt it!”
Uther ignored her and reached for the ball when the witch grabbed him and cried, “No! I won’t let you succeed!” Uther summoned up every bit of strength he had before he had reached the ball. He put it up to the witch and shouted, “Get away from me!” She shrieked before dissipating with the flash. Uther heard traces of her voice telling him, “She’s not going to come back…” Uther thought to himself, Oh, yes, she will.
I’ll make certain of that.
Just then, Uther heard Sage shouting above him, and he knew he was almost out of time. He swam up as fast as he could before he saw the rim begin to darken into a barrier. Before it could even cover the center, Uther broke through, thus breaking the effect. He swam to the edge of the pool where he heard Sage jumping and laughing gleefully, “Well done, Uther! A magnificent job! I knew I could count on you!”
As Sage grabbed the glowing sphere, Uther asked, “Was it all a test?” “No,” Sage dismissed him. “I’m just so glad you made it out alive. You, sir, are one of the lucky few.” This alarmed Uther as he said, “Lucky fe…” At the realization of that, he passed out and began to slip back in the pool.
Luckily, Sage saw and caught Uther before he was submerged. “Whoops!” he chuckled. “Did I say that?”
When Uther came to, they made their way back to the castle. Everything was as it had been before they left. Uther was relieved that nothing had changed…not even Sadira’s condition. He was worried that she’d die while he was gone. Now with the reassurance that nothing happened to her, Uther became more focused on what he was going to do to Sadira once she recovered. He brushed off the witch’s warning and told himself that he was still going to punish Sadira, only less harshly.
Uther allowed Sage to use the kitchen pot to mix in the ingredients. Uther waited in Sadira’s room by her side until Sage entered. Uther stood up and asked, “Well, is it ready?” Sage shook his head, “Not quite yet.” Uther spoke in a raised voice, “What? What do you mean? Do we actually have to go back out there again and retrieve more ingredients?”
Sage calmed him down, “No, no. We need just one more ingredient. And to get that, I have to peer into Sadira’s mind to find out why she was drinking the poison.” Uther said in a confused tone, “I don’t understand.” Sage explained, “You see, I have the power to get into one’s memories and emotions. If I were to gain access to that, then I might find what the problem was.” “Well, I hope she did it for a rational reason,” Uther said.
Sage commenced with putting his hands on Sadira’s head and a magical glow surrounded them. His eyes rolled back to the inside of his head as he entered a trance. Sage scrolled through each of Sadira’s memories involving Uther. As he watched them, he understood everything that had been going on, right to the moment everything went black for her. He regained consciousness and was wiser to her motives.
Uther asked him, “Well? What is it? Did you find out why Sadira did this?” Sage shook his head and turned to Uther with a sad look on his face. He said to Uther in a solemn tone, “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you did this to her.”
Uther was shocked and doubtful. He whispered, “What? Why?” He found it hard to believe so he lunged at Sage and grabbed his throat. He growled, “You better be lying!”
Sage choked, “No lie. You were harming her for a long time now. She didn’t want to be with you anymore because of all you were doing to her. Just like you are doing to me now!” Uther wanted to tighten his grip on the medicine man, but something about Sage convinced him he was telling the truth. Uther let Sage go and thought back to what Sadira and the witch said to him. If he truly was a monster like Sadira said, then she would never want to live with him again.
Uther couldn’t bear to have Sadira die on him again, not after he realized what he done to her that brought them all to this moment. But he didn’t want to admit it, so he denied, “I don’t believe you.” “Then take a look,” the medicine man said as he took out a crystal ball. He waved his hand over it and images from Sadira’s memories appeared in it. Uther saw the night he sent her to her room play out in Sadira’s point of view. He also saw the pivotal moments up to when she met the peddler. Uther gave a gasp when he saw that the peddler was the witch. He realized what the witch said to him and thought, She wasn’t lying.
He saw it all through the crystal ball, right to the moment Sadira consumed more of the poison and succumbed to unconsciousness. Uther saw the error of his ways when the crystal ball became once again clear. “Do you see the truth?” Sage asked. Uther felt as if the whole castle fell on him and whispered, “It’s all my fault. I didn’t realize what I was doing to her. I’ve been selfish, arrogant, and cruel so much that…”
Tears began to fill Uther’s eyes, something that didn’t happen for a very long time. He choked, “…I’m going to lose her. She was right. She was right all along. I am a monster! I’ve been a fool not to listen to her. Now, I’ve paid the price.”
He sat down in defeat and heartbreak and sobbed, “What have I done?” He was so saddened that he didn’t notice Sage collecting the tears that fell from his eyes. Even after Sage had collected all the tears he needed, Uther still wept. Sage smiled in content and whispered, “The final ingredient: tears of true remorse. And I got Uther to repent from his rough ways, so a double bonus for me.”
Sage managed to heal Sadira, but Uther had left the room when she woke up. Uther had his heart broken again, but this time, it didn’t turn back into stone. He was too full of regret to even see her, for he feared she might kill herself at the sight of him. He didn’t want to take any risks, but he did ask for updates on Sadira’s recovery. He also had nightmares about her and cried for her at times. Uther then decided that when she was well enough, he would let her go whenever she wished.
Sadira recovered in peace and was even curious why Uther didn’t come to see her. Kirstie explained that he didn’t want to disturb her while she was recovering. Sadira thought that this was out of Uther’s character not to barge in and order her to get well faster. Still, there was a glimmer of hope in her that maybe Uther realized that she wanted to be left alone. Sadira knew that this was not the case, for Uther was not one of sympathy and would return to his old ways soon enough. But now, unaware to her, she was completely wrong.
When she had almost recovered, she received the unexpected news that Uther was releasing her and letting her go back to her father. Sadira found this hard to believe and asked for something that would serve as confirmation of what he said. Uther complied and indirectly gave her a ring he once wore as Lioni. Sadira knew her release to be true once the servant told her that it was a prized object of Uther’s. She was so happy, yet she was cautious as yet she thought Uther might go back on his word.
After she fully recovered, Sadira didn’t get to see Uther at all and took advantage of her newfound freedom. She was prepared to leave a few days later and toured the castle one last time. She thought about seeing Uther before she left, but he gave her strict orders through a servant never to see him again. Sadira was confused, yet she was still wary that Uther might harm her should she disobey him again. She said good-bye to most everyone in the castle and thanked them for everything they had done for her. She extended her farewell to Uther via a servant and he cried once it was relayed. Even though he was going to be alone with his servants, he knew it meant Sadira’s happiness and that’s what he wanted for her.
She got packed up the day before she was due to leave. Just before she could pack up the last of her items, there was a knock on her door. “Come in,” Sadira said, fearing it might be Uther. She was relieved when the door opened to reveal Kirstie. “Milady?” Kirstie asked. “Yes? What is it?” Sadira inquired.
“I was just wondering,” Kirstie said dug her foot in the ground, “if you’re leaving because of the master.” Sadira replied, “That is mostly true. I mean, he had been cruel to me and now he’s offering me this opportunity to go home.” “But this had been your home for months now!” Kirstie begged to differ. “Yes,” Sadira nodded, “but when I lived here, it felt so different because we were all mistreated by Uther. I didn’t think I could bear living here for another day. And now, I am free to go, and I’m not letting this go pass me.”
“Hadn’t it occurred to you that maybe Uther changed for you and now only wants your happiness?” Kirstie asked, trying not to get agitated. “What makes you say that?” Sadira said, sounding still unsure about Uther’s change of heart. This time, Kirstie got confident and told her, “He told me everything that happened while you were unconscious. He went with Sage to get the ingredients needed to make the antidote for you. He was willing to tolerate him out of care for you. He braved past fears just to save you. And when Sage showed him what he saw from your mind, Uther realized what wrong he did to us and changed.”
Sadira was a bit astonished with what Kirstie told her, but the only question she could come up with was, “How did Sage gain access to my mind?” Kirstie put a hand up and said, “That’s not important right now. The point is that Uther is not the cruel animal he once was and made amends. All for you.”
Sadira remained silent and Kirstie took this as a sign that she wasn’t going to change her mind. She stood up and marched towards the door saying, “Fine. Don’t believe me, ask him yourself. But don’t know what you’re missing out on.” After Kirstie closed the door, Sadira thought, Should I believe Kirstie about Uther? I have to go see him myself and risk being harmed again. But if what Kirstie said is true, then I must see this for myself.
Uther was sitting alone in his room, depressed at the fact that Sadira was leaving the next day. He was beginning to hope that Sadira would change her mind and not leave for a while. When he heard a knock at the door, his heart fluttered and he hoped that it was Sadira. But when he opened it, he found that it was only Kirstie. “Oh, Kirstie,” he said in a crestfallen tone. “It’s you.”
“I’m sorry if I’ve disappointed you, my lord,” Kirstie apologized. “But I did try to talk to her, honest. She just wouldn’t listen.” Uther sighed as he sat on the foot of his bed, “I knew this would happen. After all I’ve done to her, how I treated her, she would still leave.” “I know,” Kirstie nodded. “I’m sorry.”
After she left the room, Uther couldn’t help but think, She’s not coming back…ever. No matter. This was to be my fate, to be alone whether or not she died. I’m going to lose her because of me. I should say that my biggest regret is…I never got her to love me. At the thought of that, he started crying again.
Sadira was making her way up to Uther’s chambers, where she had rarely been to during her stay. Suddenly, she heard the most peculiar sound. She couldn’t but think that it might be someone crying. She went to comfort whoever was weeping when she found that the source was coming from Uther’s room. She thought that he was harming someone again and rushed in to stop the torture. Sadira was very surprised when she opened the door to find it was Uther himself!
She was very careful when she said to him, “Uther?” Uther gasped and turned around to see her. “Sadira!” he cried. He then stammered, “What do you want?” “Are you okay?” Sadira asked. Uther found his emotions swelling up again, so he turned away from her as to not show weakness when he said, “No, I’m not. You’re leaving, and it’s because of me.”
Sadira begged to differ, but he stopped her. He continued, “I know what I did was wrong and now that I’ve offered for you to go, you’re willing to go. I don’t blame you after all you’ve been through. I was hoping you’d change your mind and give me a second chance, but…” Tears welled up in his eyes once more as he said, “…you’re not. The reason I didn’t want to see you is because I was afraid you’d die if you saw me again. Trust me, that’s the last thing I wanted to do to you.”
Sadira realized that he was telling the truth and was trying to be considerate. She said to him softly, “I am grateful for all the good you have done for before…well, and I thank you for letting me see my father again.” This just about broke Uther when he choked, “No, I’ve never been grateful to you or the servants! Don’t thank me; I’ve been horrible to you and I’m a cruel animal and always will be!” He broke down again and cried harder than he did minutes ago.
This gained Sadira’s pity for him and she now believed what Kirstie said about him. She put her hand on his shoulder in an attempt to calm him and said, “Look at you. You’re not acting like a cruel animal now, are you?” Uther looked up at her in confusion and teary eyes. “You’re giving me the chance to go free,” Sadira continued, “and I am. But I’m not leaving.” Uther asked, “What?”
She nodded, “Kirstie said that this was my home for quite some time, and I’m not leaving until I teach you everything moral.” Uther was puzzled and asked, “Meaning…?” “You are kind, noble, and strong,” Sadira pointed out. Uther said with his spirits lifted, “Really? You’ll teach me?” She affirmed, “Until every fiber of you is good inside and out.”
He grabbed her and spun her around joyfully. He laughed, “Oh, I will! I will! I won’t let you down! I’ll be everything you want me to be!” He put her down and Sadira smiled, “I have no doubt that you will.”
Almost up to her 16th birthday, Sadira taught Uther everything about goodness and kindness. They hit some rough points, but it was nothing too big to drive them apart. Eventually, they told each other about themselves, including a very shocking fact from Uther. “120 years old?” Sadira cried. “You’ve lived for a very long time.” “Well, the spell did keep me from aging for as long as it is on me,” Uther explained. “That is, if someone in either form would kiss me into what they are.”
“Be it a lioness or a human?” Sadira asked. “Yes,” he answered. “Someone like…me?” she pointed to herself. “Well, maybe,” he shrugged, “but you do come to mind.” “We’ll see,” she said. By that time, Uther had learned to be patient and knew that he’d rather wait for the relationship to grow before he can make a move on her. Right now, he didn’t want to ruin the moment.
Near her 16th birthday, she expressed her wish to see her father again. No one other than Uther knew how to make her wish come true. For as long as they hung out with each other, Uther took her out of the castle for a few dates. On the eve of her birthday, he told her he was taking her to someplace special. She was told to close her eyes when they were getting close to their destination. When Uther told her to open her eyes again, she was ecstatic that she was back home!
Father and daughter were happily reunited and never having actually seen Uther, Sadira’s father thought that he met Lioni. He assumed that Sadira escaped with Lioni’s help, but once she explained everything, he understood. He was hesitant at first, but he became more open and friendly with Uther. They spent Sadira’s 16th birthday all together and she was proud to say that it was the happiest birthday she ever had. It became even better when something incredible happened.
Uther took her out to her garden and told her that he loved her. When she returned his affections, he tested her by saying, “Would you love me in either form?” She answered, “I would.” He asked again, “Would you love me if I’m not entirely who you want me to be, even though would try to make you happy?” She affirmed it, and he asked one more time, “Will you please consider marrying me?” This made Sadira delighted that Uther was asking for her hand in marriage, and on her own will, too. She replied positively and kissed him.
Suddenly, something magical was happening. Magic sparkles and glows surrounded Uther and lifted him from the ground. Before long, there was a blinding flash and Sadira had to cover her eyes. When it was okay to see again, she found a sight that was very astonishing. Uther had transformed into a full human! He was very buff with golden hair and striking blue eyes. Best of all, he became a 20-year-old!
Sadira was amazed, but she didn’t care what Uther was as long as he was true to himself and he cared for her. When they told her father the news, he decided to host the wedding. He blessed Uther and Sadira’s love for each other and they were very content. The couple stayed for an additional week to make plans for their wedding. Before long, Uther and Sadira returned to their castle. But something was bothering Uther when they got home.
“What’s the matter?” Sadira asked. “Don’t you like your new body?” “I do,” Uther replied, “but I haven’t been like this for so long, and it feels so awkward.” “You’ll get used to it,” she assured. “But I know you’ll always stay true to yourself.” “That’s what I like best about you,” he smiled. “You’re always so honest.”
At the wedding a few months later, Sadira and Uther neither have felt happier in their lives until that day. In the vows he made for her, Uther told her, “Whether I’m difficult or not, I always want you to be happy. And for that, your happiness is mine.” From that time on, they lived happily and Sadira accepted him as who he was. Whether he was a lion or a human, she would always love him no matter what. But Uther was happier, for he now knew love again because of her.