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The Journey for the Thousand-Year Berry
Wind blew through the countryside. It moved the leaves, the branches, and the flowers. Torry stepped out of her bakery through the back door and out of the heat. The view from the back was beautiful. She had always loved living out in the rolling hills of Stemit. It was a small town, but she loved it all the same. She had moved there with her grandfather, who had taught her everything that she knew about baking.
Pierre Paul Roux was his full name. He was a highly skilled French baker. He lived in France for the first thirty years of his life, but when his wife, daughter, and son-in-law were killed during the war, he moved to this small town in England.
“Victoria! Where are you?” He called.
She didn’t answer. Lately he was working her nonstop. She had to bake for three weddings, two of which were in town and the next door over. Then the simple bread orders, which came in eight times a day. Not to mention the daily chores, petit fours, and grocery shopping that had to be done.
“Victoria! Are you outside?” Barked the old man.
“Oui, grand-père,” she said with a sigh.
“Child, why are you so distracted these last few days?” He asked as he walked out to where Torry was standing.
“Je ne sais pas,” whispered Torry.
“So I guess you just want to give up on your dreams and quit. Just forget all that I taught you,” her grandfather muttered.
“Pas de tout!” exclaimed Torry. “I want to be the best!”
“Well, ma cherie, I would have to say that you need to keep working and stop messing around. You have amazing talent, and I’m proud of you for coming this far,” the old man said with a loving smile.
Torry looked at her grandfather. Tears raced down her face, which was already red from blushing. She gently wiped them away, making eye contact again. They both smiled, and Torry went to hug him, but just then they heard a series of noises…
Crash! Smack! Thud!
Both Torry and her grandfather stepped back. These sounds came from the kitchen. It couldn’t be a customer because the shop closed thirty minutes earlier, and it couldn’t be a pet or family since they had none other than each other. Confused, they both stepped towards the door which was slightly ajar. It was dark inside, because someone- or something- had knocked out the candles. The embers of the oven glowed softly as Torry tried to walk in. Her grandfather pulled her back protectively, putting himself first. He took out a match and lit it, illuminating the whole kitchen. Strangely enough, nothing was different. Baffled, Torry grabbed a candle and lit it. She walked farther into the room, and moved towards the island in the middle. The sound of rustling cloth came from the other side. Curious, she bent over the island. As she was about to see what was on the other side, a young man popped up which made her jump back in surprise. He was tall, thin, and had odd black circles around his eyes. The three people in the room fell silent as Torry stood face-to-face with the newcomer. Oddly enough, she had a feeling that she knew him.
Who is this man? she thought. She had never seen anyone so young that had a beard that went well past his feet. The man took the black circles off, looked Torry straight in the eye, and smiled. She would know that smile anywhere.
“Nathaniel!” she screamed. “Is that really you?!”
“My fair Victoria, it is,” he said with a low bow and a kiss on her hand.
She blushed at this, not only because he called her ‘my fair’ but because he had kissed her hand while her grandfather while still in the room. Nathaniel could see that Torry didn’t feel comfortable. He straightened up, still with a smile on his face, and strode over to Pierre. They stood face-to-face, and Torry tensed up- she didn’t know how this would go. Thirty seconds went by without an exchange of words. Then without warning the two men started to laugh, and she let out a sigh of relief. The men embraced each other as good friends would, and after releasing their holds, they looked around the kitchen. Nathaniel had knocked over all of the pots and pans hanging from the ceiling, pushed three wooden bowls onto the floor, and tipped over a container of flour.
Pierre sighed before speaking. “How about you clean this up, Nathaniel, before Torry has to.” Torry had started to collect the pots and pans, but then stopped when she heard her grandfather. Pierre gave Nathaniel a quick look, then mumbled “what an odd young man you are. Well, we have an extra room that you can stay in.”
“Sir,” Nathaniel said with a grin. “I thank you for the room, and I will clean this up as soon as I can.”
“Mm-hmm. Now get to bed soon,” Pierre ordered as he walked up the creaky old stairs in the kitchen that led to second story rooms in which they lived.
As soon as they heard the door to his room close and the creaking stop, once they could only hear the clock ticking and the crickets chirping, they looked at each other with huge grins on their faces, and hugged each other. As the embrace came to an end, Nathaniel placed a kiss on Torry’s forehead. Yet another blush crept into her cheeks.
“What was that for?” She asked, acting as if she didn’t want it.
“Well, not seeing you for three years made me do a lot of crazy things- that being the smallest one.”
Curious and without asking, Torry suddenly yanked on something hanging from Nathaniel’s head.
“Ouch!” exclaimed Nathaniel.
Fast as lightning, Torry covered her mouth and looked up towards the stairs, expecting her grandfather to come down them. She heard nothing, so she turned back to Nathaniel.
Rubbing where she hurt him, he muttered “What was that for?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know what that thing was. I still don’t,” she said apologetically, reaching out to touch it again. In doing so, she took in what he now looked like. He was wearing the strangest things. His robe was smooth and shiny, his hair hung from his head like ropes, and he had odd black and brown shapes on his arm. “What is all of this? Where have you been?” She asked. Suddenly she gasped. “Did you go across the ocean?”
“Haha,” he chuckled. “Yes, I did. Here, I’ll tell you everything you want to know.” He turned to grab a chair, but stopped and surveyed the mess that he had made earlier. Putting the chair back, he took a cherry wood wand out of his pocket. With a flick of his fingers and a twist of his wand, the pots on the floor flew up to where they were supposed to be, the bowls somersaulted back onto the island, and the flour container leapt upright. What flour had been spilled out was blown out of the open window. Satisfied with his work, he pulled out a chair for Torry and then sat down himself.
“Looks like you even learned something for once,” teased Torry.
“Well, how could I travel the world and not? A young wizard like myself can do that easily. But how I got here was a different story.”
“Hey,” Torry said in a puzzled tone. “How did you get here, anyway?”
“I used the door trick,” Nathaniel started. “That’s where you have to find a huge boulder or stone wall and draw a door on it with your wand. Then as you put you put your hand on the doorknob, you think and picture where you want to go as hard as you can. Then turn the knob and walk in.” He grinned at his accomplishment.
“Well, you’re just a genius,” Torry said and winked at him. “So now tell me everything! I want to hear of your journeys.”
“Well, right after I left Stemit, I just visited each town I came across. I asked to see the town wizard, and talked to him or her for a day or two. I would then leave for the next town. I was gathering skills and techniques as I traveled. However, one place called Tran is where I stayed the longest. I met an odd wizard there named Cy-Peg. This man taught me everything. There was one point in my trip where I felt as if I couldn’t go on with my life and my futile powers. He really saved me, and showed me that there was so much more to being a wizard than what I had previously thought.”
A little embarrassed, he looked up at Torry. She knew that he had problems with himself and his powers. When he was younger, his powers were hard for him to control and many people feared him. Because of this, his parents had abandoned him when he was seven. Not knowing what to do with him, they brought him to Stemit. He had never left his town before, so he had no idea how to get back. They just left him all alone, not having any idea about what had happened.
Thinking about this made Torry’s eyes swell up with tears. The pain in his words- “I couldn’t go on…” It was too much for her, and she was unable to hold back her tears.
“Torry…” whispered Nathaniel. He touched her face gently. “Are you okay? Why are you crying?”
“It’s nothing,” she replied. “I was… just thinking about how you came to this town.”
“Oh,” he said. “The day you found me was a major turning point in my life. I’m glad you did, because if you hadn’t I wouldn’t be the person I am today and I wouldn’t be here with you.”
They both smiled sheepishly at each other. The fact that he had said that made Torry’s heart flutter. She broke eye contact and laughed softly.
“So, tell me where you went next,” she said suddenly.
He thought for a moment, then looked down at his feet and smiled. “Well, see my shoes? I got these slippers when I went to China. After that, I went to Japan and got this robe. Note the little dragons on the sleeves.” He offered out his arm to her so she could see, and winked at her. “My hair was done in Africa. I had the most amazing time there! I danced with the tribes and studied their voodoo. Near the end of my journey, right before I came here, I went to India. That is where I got these tattoos. The brown is henna and will fade away with time, but the black will stay forever.” He pulled up his sleeve to show Torry all of the markings. The black and brown made roots to a tree and intertwined up his arm until they got to the branches. Torry knew what this was from. It was the tree of life.
“This is beautiful,” breathed Torry. “How did you get this done?”
Nathaniel yawned, then turned around to face the window. It was very late in the night. He could sense the wildlife outside moving in the dark, and knew that in a couple of hours it would be light out. Torry was waiting expectantly for his answer, but she was almost falling asleep in her seat. Nathaniel walked over to her and picked her up.
“It’s time for bed. I’ll tell you more at breakfast.”
“Okay,” she said in a tiny voice.
They both moved up the stairs to their rooms. Two doors opened and closed, two sets of bed sheets rustled, and then the whole building was silent.
The sun danced through the curtains and over Torry’s face. She opened her eyes and sat up, taking time to stretch her whole body. She stood up, made her bed, and put on her work clothes. She took the morning casually, moving at her usual pace, until she remembered that Nathaniel was back. Now she hurried to get ready. She wanted to make him breakfast then show him what he had missed while he was gone. She bounced down the stairs two at a time. When she reached the bottom, she began to open the door but paused because she could hear whispering.
Nathaniel spoke. “Do you think it’s a good idea, Pierre? It could be really hard on her.”
“She would be fine,” her grandfather said. “During those three years without you here to protect her, she really toughened up.”
“Okay, then I’ll ask her,” Nathaniel said confidently.
A flood of ideas splashed through Torry’s mind. What could they be talking about? Nathaniel wanted to ask her something, but he didn’t know how she would react to it. She decided that there was only one way to find out.
“Good morning!” Torry said cheerily, bounding into the room. “What would you guys like to eat?” She asked as she danced through the kitchen.
“Child, how about I make it today,” offered her grandfather.
“But you never want to do it!” She and Nathaniel laughed.
“Come on Torry, let him make it. I want to see if his cooking is as good as it used to be,” grinned Nathaniel.
“Oh, you know I’m still on top of my game.” Pierre smiled and took out a crêpe pan and a tart dish.
As the food was cooking, Torry listened intently as Nathaniel talked endlessly about his trips. He had fantastic stories about people he had met, places you could only dream of visiting, and beasts that he had seen and tamed. He also showed more about what he had been wearing last night.
“These little glasses help me see in the dark. When I used the door spell, I knew it would be dark here so I put them on. It’s just a simple copycat spell on some old glasses,” he explained to her.
“What did you copy?” She asked.
“I took an owl and a cat, and just combined their visions and it gave me perfect sight.” Nathaniel said.
“That’s amazing!” Torry exclaimed, examining the glasses a little closer.
Just then, Pierre came to the table, carrying two plates. “Food!” Nathaniel yelled in a boyish tone. This made Torry and Pierre laugh.
Before Nathaniel had a chance to start eating, Pierre spoke. “Son, this beard you have… how did you get it?”
“Oh, it’s not real. It’s just a joke spell. I sometimes do it for fun.” He chuckled as he took off the spell, leaving only smooth skin.
Torry had already began eating, when she looked over at Nathaniel and saw him with a clean face, holding a beard in his hands. Before she could swallow, she burst out laughing. Pierre and Nathaniel laughed too, and then began to wolf up their food.
As she ate, Torry thought about the conversation that she had heard between Nathaniel and her grandfather earlier. “Umm…” She mumbled. “What were you two talking about just before I came into the room?”
Both men finished eating their meals before answering her. Pierre began clearing the table as Nathaniel handed her a letter. She took her time reading it. “So…” She said. “You’re asking me to go with you?”
“Yes!” Exclaimed Nathaniel. “Oh, umm… I would really like it if you did. All of the best wizards from England are being called to the Castle of Snider. The king’s twin children are terribly sick and everyone is worried about what will become of the castle. I’m not fully sure what we’ll have to do, but I think we can probably help them. If we succeed, we will be rich and we can get this bakery remade with all of the best things…”
“Haha, calm down. Yes, I’ll go with you. I’m not so sure what I’m needed for, but I’ll go.” Torry said excitedly.
“So when do you have to leave?” Pierre piped up.
“In two days. There are many things I need to get, and Torry will need to pack for the journey,” Nathaniel said.
For the rest of the day, the three of the talked about where they were going. They picked the fastest routes and towns they should stop in to get the best supplies. Torry was so excited for the trip. She could finally see the land that she had heard so much about. She was also looking forward to all of the time that she would get to spend with Nathaniel.
* * * * *
It was early morning the next day, and the sun had just risen. Torry made breakfast for herself and Nathaniel. They ate silently, and when they were done they made sure that they had everything for the trip. Once everything was in order, the two of them said goodbye to Pierre and headed out west.
For two weeks Torry and Nathaniel traveled over many rolling hills and grassy plains. Nathaniel taught Torry how to trade and which money worked in each town. They moved across the land, alternating between way of foot and horse. Finally, one morning they strolled out of a forest and came across the King’s wall. This structure was eight feet tall and three feet thick, and ran all the way around his kingdom. They stopped in front of it, and Nathaniel slid off of his horse. He motioned for Torry to follow, so she got down as well. Taking out his wand, he put it up against the wall. Slowly, he began to move it in a circular motion. After about seven times around, a thin groove began to appear, and he kept tracing it. Once he thought it was enough, he stopped and stepped back. He raised his wand and then thrust it into the center of the circle. From the engraved ring a shining light burst forth, and no stone was left; in its place was a gaping hole. Nathaniel stepped through.
“Torry, leave the horses and grab our things!” he called.
“But isn’t there a gate or a door or anything?” she asked timidly.
“No. This is the only way in until the King changes his mind. Now hurry up before it closes.”
Slowly but surely, Torry could see the circle beginning to shrink. Hurriedly, she gathered all of their things and went through just as it closed up completely. A fantastic sight met her eyes when she looked up. A magnificent stone castle stood before her, its walls made of a glimmering stone. The gardens in front of the castle were greener and more lush than any she had ever seen. There were flowers that she had never seen before- not even in books. The statues were carved so beautifully that it left her breathless. As she took this all in, she began to notice people surrounding her and Nathaniel. Cautiously, he pushed Torry behind himself.
A thin pink line zoomed towards the two of them. Both ducked, so neither of them was hurt. Worry swept like a wave across Torry’s mind. She looked before her, and saw that Nathaniel wasn’t moving other than his normal sway. He stood there, doing nothing. He wasn’t here for a fight, he was here on behalf of the King. More colors and flashes of light came near them, yet never hit them.
“Stop!” yelled a man walking out of the castle. “Ah, the great Nathaniel. What a pleasure to finally meet you!” The man continued forward until he was about five feet away from Nathaniel and Torry. He was tall, around the same height as Torry. His head was covered with white-blond hair that was brushed back. He took out a black wand from his jacket, and slowly drew an X in the air. As he did this, the most horrible sound came forth. Once done, he made a punching movement where he had been drawing in the air. The sound of shattering glass surrounded Nathaniel and Torry. Sparkling bits of nothing fell around them, and then disappeared.
“I see you didn’t need a wand for that force field. Very impressive. No wonder the king called on you,” he said, looking Nathaniel up and down. It seemed as if he was searching for flaws, when suddenly he glanced at Torry. “My my,” he cooed. “Who is this beauty?” Torry stood up straight, no longer feeling fearful of this man. However, Nathaniel wouldn’t let Torry move out from behind him. For what seemed like a lifetime, they stood there, not talking to this unknown man.
“Neill, shouldn’t you be taking me to the king?” spat Nathaniel.
“If you wish,” Neill said with a soft voice. He motioned for the other lesser wizards to leave, then he began to walk away. “Follow me,” he told Nathaniel and Torry. The two started walking after him, but kept their distance. They were soon out of the gardens and away from the stone wall. Neill took them down two different long hallways before they finally reached the room in which King Keith was staying in. The doors proceeded to open themselves and Neill strolled in.
“Your Highness,” he said. “At your request, we have here the wizard they call Nathaniel, along with a young female.”
“Nathaniel,” the king boomed. “I have called you here because you are the most talented wizard in all the lands. My twin children, Prince Rogers and Princess Donna, have become gravely ill. My wife- their mother- recently passed away, and that’s when this all began. If anything was to happen to me and they didn’t live, the Snider Kingdom legacy would end. Then Neill here, my cousin, would rule under a new name, Redins. However, we want to keep the Snider name living long and strong. So I would like it if you would take a look at my children. No doctor or other wizard so far has been able to tell me what is wrong with them. If you can help them, you will be given riches beyond belief.”
“Your Highness, I will gladly help you and your family. Please take me to the children,” Nathaniel said in a caring tone.
The king began walking down the hall towards where his children were. He rapped on the door, and an elderly nurse draped in white robes opened it on the second knock. She waved them in, and King Keith stopped in the doorway. He didn’t want to contract whatever it was that the twins had. Nathaniel and Torry went up to the young prince. A gasp escaped Torry’s mouth, and she turned away; however, she couldn’t help but see the girl too. You couldn’t even tell they were children. Their skin was as shriveled as dried fruit, and white hair adorned their heads. They were so weak they could barely move, and their voices were gone. No longer could they laugh or tell their father that they loved him. All of this proved to be too much for Torry, and she ran from the room in tears.
Sometime later, Nathaniel, Neill, and King Keith left the room. In the hall, Nathaniel grabbed Torry’s hand and helped her to her feet and off the ground where she was sitting.
She immediately began apologizing. “Your Majesty, I’m very sorry about what happened. That was very dis-”
“Young lady,” the king interrupted. “You were not the first to respond that way. There is no need to ask for forgiveness.”
* * * * *
That night, the king asked Nathaniel and Torry to join him for dinner. While eating, Nathaniel and the king discussed many things. Torry had no input, so she sat quietly. She admired the food. It had wonderful tastes and flavors, and was made with the best ingredients. She wished that her grandfather could try some, because she knew that he would love it.
“So,” the king said to Nathaniel. “Is this young lady your bride?”
Since she wasn’t in the conversation, Torry didn’t respond or even hear. Nathaniel, on the other hand, choked on his soup and dropped his spoon. “N-no,” he stuttered. “She’s just a childhood friend. I’ve known her since I was seven.”
The king looked confused. “Well, if she’s not your bride, then why did you bring her?”
“I brought her to help me and to keep me company,” Nathaniel said quietly.
“I see…” the king said, rubbing his chin. He turned to Torry then. “Young lady, please tell me about yourself.”
Torry looked startled at the sudden change of attentions towards her, but answered the command. “I’m Victoria Rae. I have no family through blood, but a man who I have called Grandfather has raised me since I was four. He’s from France, but moved here fifteen years ago. For the fifteen years that I have lived with him, I have been learning how to be a master baker.”
“Well, you have lived a good life I can see. What happened to your real family?” the king asked.
She took in a quick breath, her chest tightening. She didn’t know, and she never really had bothered to ask about it. “I really have no idea,” she said. “I was too young to remember anything, but my grandfather told me that he found me in a field one day with no one around for miles, so he took me home.”
“Victoria Rae, you seem very content with the life you are living. After my children are better and have recovered, you should come and bake for them,” the king said, smiling.
“I would love to!” grinned Torry.
After dinner, Nathaniel and Torry were taken to their rooms, and went to bed.
* * * * *
For the next two weeks, Torry and Nathaniel looked through every book that they could find. All medical books were useless because nothing matched what the children had. They looked through history books to see if this had happened before, but again, nothing could be found. Every day the children aged more and more.
“Curse this!” Torry yelled one morning while they were working in the library. “These poor kids are cursed to age faster than normal.”
“Cursed…” murmured Nathaniel. That’s when it hit him; this was more than a natural sickness, this was an aging curse. This while time they had been looking in all of the wrong places. He sprang up from his seat, and sprinted off. He startled Torry, and she dropped her book. She bent down to pink it up, and as she straightened up, Neill appeared.
“Where did he run off to?” he asked as he walked to Torry’s side.
“Ah… umm, I-I’m not really sure. He seemed really happy so he must have found out something good.” She replied. There was a short paused before she asked “Neill, I see you’re a strong wizard, but why are you not helping these children?”
“My powers are mostly limited to battle enchantments and the sort,” he answered.
“Oh, I see,” Torry said. “So do you know a lot about dark…” She wasn’t able to finish, because into the room burst a boy.
“Master Neill, his majesty wants to see you as soon as possible!” he yelled.
Not saying a word to the boy or letting Torry finish her question, Neill suddenly spun in place and disappeared into a cloud of black smoke.
Torry turned to the boy. “Take me to the king,” she demanded. She didn’t like what she had just seen. Once she got to the king’s room, she could hear three men talking. All of a sudden, shouts from both Neill and Nathaniel were heard. Twenty minutes went by until Neill slammed open the doors. He saw Torry, but kept going. Nathaniel walked out and began to talk to Torry.
“I know what we need to do,” he said quietly. “The children are under an aging curse. I only know of one thing that will help them. It’s called the Thousand Year Berry, and is made with one thousand years’ worth of happiness and love. Only three are made at a time, and it is going to take some time to get to where they grow.”
“Are you sure it will help?” asked Torry.
“Yes, I am sure. Do you think that you will be able to handle this journey? It will test both your heart and your mind,” Nathaniel said worriedly.
Torry nodded. “To help those children, I would do anything.”
That night, the king ordered his men to get horses ready for travel and to get everything that the two young adventurers would need for their trip.
* * * * *
The next day, Torry and Nathaniel set off to search for the Thousand Year Berry. They passed over miles and miles of land. They waded through rivers and streams, and wandered through forests. At night, they camped out under the stars. They did this for two weeks, until finally, they reached an open field.
“This is what I’ve been waiting to see!” Nathaniel said excitedly.
Torry looked puzzled. “Why?”
“Because this is the Tausend field!” he exclaimed. “Past this is the Mille River, and just past that is a cave where we will find the Thousand Year Berry.”
They looked at each other with huge smiles, and started off across the fields.
* * * * *
Overhead, a crow circled them and then flew off in the opposite direction that they were now traveling. A couple of miles behind them, followed Neill. The crow caught up with him.
“So they got there faster then I thought they would,” Neill purred to the crow. “With all of the sadness in Nathaniel’s heart, I would have guessed it would take them four weeks instead of two. Well, I’ll just have to get that Torry out of the picture.”
He turned his horse, and galloped into the forest that Torry and Nathaniel would ride through on their way back.
* * * * *
Torry and Nathaniel had been able to cross the massive field in no more than a few hours. Next, they had to go over the Mille River, which was wide and moved swiftly.
“Nathaniel, how are we going to get across this?” Torry asked worriedly. She looked at the river. It splashed up and down, and the mist from it hit her in the face. She felt fear wrap around her mind. She thought of the children, and of the little time that they had, and came to a sudden decision. She turned her horse and went back about twenty feet. Zoom! Her horse went as fast as it could go, its feet pounding on the ground. They were almost to the river, and kept getting closer and closer. Finally, they reached the edge, and she could feel her horse’s feet leave the ground. They were flying through the air. They soared over the river, and a rush of adrenaline shot through her body. Everything seemed to slow down, until they touched down on the ground. The horse landed fine, but Torry flew off and hit the ground.
“Torry!” yelled Nathaniel.
She lay on the ground, not moving or speaking. Not caring about himself, Nathaniel copied Torry’s jump and made it safely across. Immediately, he leapt off of his horse and rushed over to Torry.
“Torry, can you hear me?!” Nathaniel bawled.
“Yeah,” coughed Torry. “I just got the wind knocked out of me.”
They both got up, and Torry brushed the dirt off of her clothes. She turned to Nathaniel, and saw that he was crying.
“Nathaniel…?” she said.
“I thought I had lost you…” he whispered, tears running down his cheeks. “You were just lying there motionless, and I didn’t know what to do.”
Torry walked over and hugged him. “I’m so sorry that happened,” she said.
Once they were both calmed down, they made a plan of how they would cross the river when they were coming back. Later, they continued onward on their journey for the Thousand Year Berry. They went for three days without seeing anything special besides endless miles and miles of land. They wanted to give up, but they kept going. The worst day of their travel was when they finally came to the cave. With the wind and the rain pushing against them, they struggled to get into the cave. Once inside, they lit a torch and began to walk deeper into it. Down and down, farther into the cave they went. It was all downhill and then eventually began to flatten out. Where there had previously been rocks, there were now plants. Everything started to be green and full of life.
At last they came to three trees. The first was full of pink blossoms and blue fruit, the second had brown leaves and fruit that was purple and orange, and the third was a small but strong tree that had ugly dark blue fruit. Nathaniel walked over to the first and began to pick the fruit. He did the same for each one.
“Do you know which one is right?” Torry wondered aloud.
“No,” Nathaniel replied, “but an old story helps me narrow it down. It goes
Take from each tree
Only what you need.
Brown leaves with purple and orange
Will bring an early grave.
But between two blues, one will help
And the other will do nothing.”
“That doesn’t really sound like a song…” Torry said.
“Well,” said Nathaniel, putting the three berries into their own bags. “I never said it was very good.”
After this, the two made their ways up and out of the cave. They rode back through the storm and over the river in a safer way. They went across the field one last time without having any problems. However, they were unaware of the trap that Neill had set for them. As Torry and Nathaniel rode through the forest, an odd feeling came over them. The deeper they went into the trees, the more confused and lost they became. Soon they didn’t know why there were there or where they were going. Riding in circles, they got nowhere.
* * * * *
Neill cackled evilly as he watched Torry and Nathaniel wander aimlessly throughout the forest.
“Good, good,” he said to his crow. “Soon the children will die from my curse, and I will be king!”
The crow squawked happily and Neill stroked it. He and the crow stood watching the two through a basin of silvery water. Neill moved the water with his finger and an image of the two aging children shimmered in the water. He moved the water again, and it went back to Torry and Nathaniel.
“How about a little wind?” Neill murmured as he blew over the water.
* * * * *
As Torry and Nathaniel rode through the forests, the wind began to pick up. It started as a light breeze and then turned into a strong gust. This wind was so strong, it began ripping branches off of trees and stripping the leaves off of the ones that stayed on. Still too confused to get out of the wind, the two of them kept going. The next huge blast of wind brought down a branch that flew straight into Torry’s face. With its great force, it pushed her off of her horse. She was knocked out immediately.
As she lay there, her mind kept working. A series of memories played out in her head. The journey to the king, seeing his children, the day that they set out for the Thousand Year Berry, and the most recent memory of her and Nathaniel traveling back.
When Torry woke up, she was no longer confused. Neill’s spell had worn off of her. She stood up, and saw that Nathaniel had been sitting next to her. She pulled him up, and told him to follow her and not ask any questions. In no time, she had pushed past the wind and gotten out of the forest. Slowly, Nathaniel’s mind cleared up and he could finally think normally. For fear of losing more time, they got onto their horses and rode off as fast as they could.
* * * * *
Right when Neill saw this, he yelled with so much fury that it shook the entire earth.
“Too stubborn, I see,” he mumbled. “Well, let’s see you get past my crows.”
* * * * *
Night had started to fall when Torry and Nathaniel decided to make camp. As they made a fire, a couple of crows flew overhead. Within minutes, more began to flock over them. One by one, they dove down from the sky, pecking and slashing at the two humans. Nathaniel pulled out his wand and conjured a shield, then began to fight back. Every which way he could, he sent out some random defensive spell. After killing about thirty crows, Neill appeared before them in a cloud of black smoke. The crows stopped and so did Nathaniel.
“I will not let you survive this!” yelled Neill as he shot spells at Nathaniel.
Diving of the way, he managed to dodge every shot. Like a cat, he moved closer and closer to Neill, nimbly avoiding every attack. Like an ogre, Neill used his force instead of his wit. When he was close enough, Nathaniel went in for the attack. Somehow, Neill pushed past him, and was able to pin him to the ground. Neill’s wand pressed against the Nathaniel’s face and glowed red hot.
“No…” murmured Neill, letting up a bit. “I won’t kill you now. I’m going to torture you first. Starting with your love.” Moving off of Nathaniel, he began to walk to Torry. As Neill got closer to her, anger began to build within Nathaniel. As he struggled to get up, roots twisted around his wrists and ankles.
Torry was petrified with fear. The closer that Neill got, the more she wanted to run. But what would happen if she did? Finally, Neill got to her. He tapped his wand against her cheek, and each time he did it left a bleeding cut across her face. Soon her shirt was soaked with blood and blood continued to ooze from every cut.
Suddenly, Neill spun around to face Nathaniel. “Have you had enough?” he spat. “Or should I cut her face a little more?”
Nathaniel stopped trying to free himself from the roots. “What do you want, Neill?”
“I want you to give me the berries,” Neill replied.
“Fine,” Nathaniel sighed. “The third pocket is where they’re at. If you eat them, your power will double.”
Neill slithered over to the bag, and took out a plump purple and orange berry. About to take a bite, he suddenly stopped and looked at it suspiciously.
“If this is really the Thousand Berry, then Torry wouldn’t mind eating it,” he grinned.
“It would be my pleasure,” she said slyly. Grabbing the berry from him, she swallowed it whole.
Nathaniel, still unable to move, remained on the ground, speechless. Torry had just committed suicide by eating that berry. Neill glanced at her, then snatched another berry and shoved it into his mouth. He began to chew, but suddenly, a strangled look flashed across his face and he collapsed to his knees. He made an odd gagging noise, and toppled over. He was dead or at least appeared to be. The hoards of crows vanished, as did the roots holding Nathaniel down. He got up and ran over to Torry.
“Why did you eat that?!” he said, grabbing her shoulders.
“I didn’t,” she smiled, spitting the berry out from under her tongue. “Simple trick.”
* * * * *
“Your Highness! Your Highness! The wizard and the baker are back! They’re back!” cried the patrol boy at the north wall.
The king’s head shot up. “Let them in!” he bellowed.
Through the wall, down the halls, and into the king’s room walked Torry and Nathaniel. Together, they dragged Neill along with them.
“Your Highness, I have brought the Thousand Year Berry,” Nathaniel said. “I’ve also brought back your cousin Neill. He tried to kill us and your children. He’s on the verge of death, and I ask you to let me deal with him after I save your children.”
“Agreed!” the king said eagerly.
Neill was thrown into the dungeon as Nathaniel began to work with the berries. Three long hours passed as Nathaniel mixed potions together. Mix after mix he made, until he found just the right one. However, it was still too potent for the children. Just a sip would still be enough to kill them.
“What if we make it into bread for them to eat?” suggested Torry.
“Brilliant!” Nathaniel ran over to Torry and kissed her. Then quickly, he pulled her into the kitchen. As fast as they could, they made the Thousand Year Berry potion into Thousand Year Berry bread. Once it was done, they took it to the prince and princess. Within days of eating the bread, their bodies turned back to normal. After so long of being cursed they could finally move, play, and hug their father.
* * * * *
“King Keith, I have come up with a punishment that is fitting for Neill,” said Nathaniel one morning.
“And what would that be?” the king asked.
“I want to seal him up in this seed,” Nathaniel said.
Confused, the king couldn’t see why he would want to do that. However, he trusted him and let him do whatever he wanted. That night, at sunset, Nathaniel sealed Neill away into a seed. That next morning, Nathaniel and Torry left the king’s castle and headed home to Stemit.
* * * * *
“Mom, I’m going to get some strawberries out of the garden!” yelled Sam.
“Okay, thank you darling,” his mom said lovingly.
Sam Ennis was a normal boy, but today his life would change forever. He skipped out to his mother’s garden in the farthest corner of his backyard. As he was picking up every strawberry he could find, he suddenly grabbed the biggest and reddest of all of them. “You look like the bestest strawberry ever! I’m gonna eat you up right now!” he yelled. As he was about to bite into it, he stopped. “OOPS I better take off this green part!” he announced. As he popped off the green top, a small man fluttered out of the strawberry.
“You have freed me from thousands of years of being trapped!” the small man said in a small voice. But without thinking, Sam ate the small man with the strawberry.
Looks like his life didn’t change forever after all.