The Tale of an Exceedingly Handsome Doorknocker, a Ruthless Villain, and Rose

by

Aidan Coulter


Once upon a time, about a hundred years before our story starts, there was a hooded man. This man was named Black. He wanted to rule the world. But he needed a device to rule it with, and to help him gain power. He asked three magicians, Althazar, Elchorin, and Zraspar to make this device that he had dreamed up: A sword, powerful beyond measure. But when the magicians heard what Black wanted it for, they used their magic to take it away from him and as it was too powerful to destroy, they hid it under the town square of a little town called Green and protected it with magic spells so that only one who was worthy and good enough to own it could find it. Still afraid that a magician more powerful than them would come along and take it, they made the town fall into ruins and magically moved the population and a copy of the old town to another place and none of the townspeople knew a thing about what had happened. After several uneventful years of guarding the sword from the passageway under the town square in the old town, one of the magicians named Althazar decided that he wasn't needed any more and went up to abandon his magical powers, have a family, and write a diary that could only be read by the right person as a guide to help them in their journey. After a long time and a good life, Althazar died because he had given up magic, but his spirit lives on to help whoever is destined for the sword.

Chapter 1

About a hundred years after these incidents there is an eleven-year-old girl named Rose, who, although she does not know it, is the great-great-great-granddaughter of Althazar. At the time which our story starts, Rose is riding in the back of her father's wagon with her dog named Pearl, thinking about the circumstances which had brought them there. Her mother, Vivian, had died of an illness and they had to sell their little house in the country and move to the city of Green. Rose wished her mother was back. But she knew her mum was dead and there was nothing anyone could do about it. Thinking about her mother was painful, but how could she not? Every time she began to feel better she would look outside and see the strange paved roads and the tall Guard-towers lining the road, and she would think, how different this road is to the road leading to our little house on the moor. Then she would remember that it was her family's no longer. It was Penelope Dime and her five daughters'; Olemony, Tang, In, My and Mouth. They were the town's rich people and the thought of her lovely little house in the hands of those slobs would lead to a whole menagerie of thoughts about her mother, her horse, the garden, the nice old man next door, and then her mother again until tears formed in her eyes and she was just as sad as when they started their journey to Green.


Rose's sad thoughts are interrupted when the wagon comes to an abrupt halt. "We can't possibly be there yet, we've got at least a mile to go by the look of the map. Why are we stopping?" Rose thinks, so she sticks her head out to see what's going on. She sees two guards standing by the front of the wagon, and they are asking her father Christopher if he had seen the notorious bandit Black on his way.

Her father says "No, I've not seen the ruffian, but if I do see him, I'll tell you." and the rough-looking men nod and let them pass. After another bumpy half-hour in the wagon, Rose spots their destination. The tall gates looked very imposing, and there are more houses packed in blocks along the river's edge than Rose had seen together in her life. There are hints of a mountain range in the hilly distance, and although the river looks mucky where Green surrounds it, it grows clearer once it's banks are green instead of brown.

The wagon comes up in front of a little brick house, almost like their old one, but without all the pretty flowers and green things growing up around it, and the yard is bare and brown, and much smaller than the wonderful wooded lot that Rose's family had owned before. Disappointed, Rose asks her father "Do we really have to live here? Did we really have to move at all?" "Yes, dear. I'm afraid it's the cheapest place, and it's not so bad after all, I'm sure we can get this yard looking beautiful in no time, I brought lots of seeds. And you know that with your mother gone, her spinning was the main thing that kept us able to keep the house, my garden and orchard weren't as profitable as they would have had to be for us to stay. I'll get a new job here in the city that'll pay twice as much as my garden, and we can have a lovely garden here as well." A few days later, Rose and her father have settled in fairly well, even if the house was nowhere near as nice as their old one, and Rose decides to explore the woods that began along the river not far from her new house on the outskirts of Green. She wanders for quite a while along the bank of the river, and when she comes to a big old willow Rose climbs it, and being tired out from walking so far, she falls asleep. For a little while, she dreams ordinary dreams, of her mother, of their old house and their wonderful garden, but then, all of a sudden, Rose is dreaming that she has woken up, and there is an old man sitting beside her on the branch to her right. He is wearing a brown hooded cloak covering a deep purple robe covered with silvery astrological symbols. His tousled white hair is partially covered with the hood, and his beard stretches down to his waist in a neat braid. He smiles kindly at Rose, and then says, "Sorry to disturb you from whatever wonderful, or not-so-wonderful, ordinary dreams you may have been having, but this is a matter of utmost importance. I, Althazar, Wizard Extraordinaire – that's the title, you see, that I got for passing my Wizarding Tests – I am your great-great-great-grandfather, but you can just call me, well, anything you want.....because now that I'm a ghost, it doesn't matter what I'm called anymore." he then stares off absently into the middle distance for several moments, until Rose gathers her courage and says, "But how can you be a ghost? You look completely solid!" at this, Althazar gives a little jerk, and looks back at Rose, "Why, that's because I'm in your dream, and being transparent might have scared you. If you want, I can go all flickery, like this," here, he fades slowly away until there isn't much left of him but a whitish blur, and then he steadily comes back to normal, saying as he does so, "but I would much prefer to stay looking like my own – rather handsome, if I do say so myself – self. Anyways, down to business. I didn't mean that the important matter was that I'm your great-great-great-grandfather, if that's what you thought. The important matter is that prince Poripeltorius, or as you would know him, the notorious villain Black, wants this amazing, invincible sword that has been hidden in the old town of Green – but wait, it'll be much easier to show you..." Althazar makes a pass with his hands, and after a few moments in which the wizard mutters "It should work!", all of a sudden, BAM, their surroundings blur and then sharpen to reveal a large stone chamber with three people in it, and Rose knows that one is a younger version of Althazar, and the others are his friends and co-advisors to the king of the land, Elchorin and Zraspar. The door bangs open and a tall, dark-haired young man with a prominent nose and chin and a long dark scar running from his right ear to below his mouth walks in haughtily. Rose knows that he is the three wizards' apprentice, and is also Poripeltorius, or Black. The young man asks the wizards to make a wonderful, powerful sword for him so that he can learn the joys of white magic and using the weapon for the good of the people. Of course, he adds, it would be destroyed after being used for it's purpose. The wizards obviously cannot resist the challenge, and Rose sees them at work in their study planning and making the sword, and hammering all sorts of magical ingredients into its metal. Next, Rose is shown by Althazar a scene in which the three wizards are holding the finished sword, marveling at its power, and the haughty prince stalks once more into the room. This time, his skin is paler, coming into sharp relief with the scar, his eyes are slightly bloodshot, and he is dressed completely in black. "Now, wizards, give me the sword!" he commands, but the wizards can suddenly see all too clearly that he has delved into the black magic arts, and realize what a mistake it had been to create the sword. They disappear in a swirl of colour: crimson, emerald, and purple. As Rose stares at the angry, demented prince, her surroundings blur and sharpen again, and she is back in the tree with Althazar. He suddenly looks tired and older, but he continues the story, "From there, I and my friends went to the small town of Green, a crossing place of the old magic-roads, which made it a very magical place, and we created a copy of the village and moved it, along with the people to a place that would be safer for the town's citizens. We then created a magical maze, with many traps and pitfalls in it, so that only the brave and true of heart, with white magic in their blood, would be able to pass through it safely." he pauses, and then continues slightly cautiously, "Now, Poripeltorius, who is roaming the countryside under the name of Black looking for the maze so as to get at the sword and finally rise to power – just so you know, black magic makes those who practice it very long-lived – and now he is drawing near to finding it." Althazar coughs nervously, then keeps talking, "And you, my dear, are the only one who might have a chance of getting through the maze before Black and getting it to a safer place, or destroying it or Black, which would be even more satisfactory. Unfortunately," he hurries on, "I can't tell you how not to spring the traps or how to get past the pitfalls – Rule 42 of the Constitution For Those Who Are Dead And Must Remain On Earth To Fulfill Their Purpose, Part C. Cheerio!" With that, he taps her on the head so hard that it hurt a little, and Rose wakes up properly. As she gets up, Rose wonders whether to believe the dream or not, but then she sees that it must have been real after all, and Althazar must have had enough magic to transport her to the entrance of the maze, because she is now in the middle of an abandoned town that must be Green. There are tumbledown houses all around her, and Rose thinks that she must be completely alone, until she hears a voice. "Quit gazing around dumbstruck, girl. Are you or are you not going to enter the maze and get the Sword of Green before Black, huh? Ooh, did I say too much?" prattles a squeaky voice that Rose sees belongs to a gargoyle head on a decorative doorknob. Suddenly feeling brave, Rose speaks down at the doorknob and says, "Well, what if I don't want to get this magical sword?"


"Because if you don't, you'll soon be ruled by the tyrant Mr. Evil Silly Name, which, I can tell you, is not a very nice prospect. So there!" The doorknocker pouts at Rose, who is still skeptical,

"How do I know you're saying the truth?"

"Well I'm real, aren't I? And usually, when your great-great-great grandfather who's a wizard comes to you in a dream and tells you to do something and then the magical talking doorknocker confirms that you should do that or risk being ruled by a horrible tyrant, I would listen to them and skedaddle on my way to get that sword!"

The door creaks open and Rose reluctantly steps through the doorway and into a normal-looking rundown front room. As soon as both of Rose's feet are firmly inside the room, however, the door slams shut, everything gets bigger, and Rose is in a large stone cavern. Along the walls are many doors, every one a different colour, and none give any hints about what could lie behind them. At random, Rose chooses a door and opens it.

Behind this door is a seemingly endless dense forest of tropical-looking trees and hot sand. A huge snake appears and winds its way towards her. It opens its mouth and speaks to Rose in a slow, hypnotic, inviting voice, "Hello, young friend, come and ssstay awhile. It is warm and ssafe here, and the sssword'ss fate need not trouble you anymore."

Rose blinks and shakes her head, she's suddenly drowsy, but tries to keep her senses about her. "But what about Black?" she protests, "If he gets the sword, he'll be able to rule the world and my father will miss me if I stay here too long!"

The snake shakes its head slowly, back and forth, back and forth, "There never wasss a Black, there iss no ssword, you have no other family than me. Thiss iss the only place."

Rose starts to repeat the snake's words and moves slowly towards him, but when she gets to saying that she has no family, she jolts away. "That's not true! I won't listen to your lies!" And Rose runs for her life towards the door, the snake following close behind her hissing more temptations. She sticks her fingers in her ears and quickly shuts the door behind her as soon as she's back in the cavern. The stone walls are eerily silent, but the snake's words are still ringing in Rose's mind.

Panting hard and afraid of what might lie behind the next door, but knowing that the sword could be hidden behind any one, Rose tentatively opens a beautiful sea-blue door. The room is dark, but when Rose steps inside a swirl of glowing colours appears and through it, Rose sees her mother!

Vivian is weaving a blue silk scarf, but she looks up at her daughter with a sad smile. "Hello dearest. I'm sorry, but you can't follow me yet. Remember that the future is always brighter than it looks, and I will always be with you." Rose starts to cry

"Don't go away again, please!" But it's too late, and the colours swirl away into blackness again. Rose leaves the now empty room with a heavy heart and tears are still streaming down her face.

The next door is a dark grey colour, almost like the stone itself, or fog on a winter's eve. Past the door is swirling mist and Rose can hear singing, the words intelligible and sounding as ancient as the hills. Slowly, the mist seems to solidify, and four stone knights step into view, surrounding Rose on all sides and blocking off the exit back to the main cavern. A low chanting grows in volume, and Rose realizes that it's coming from the statues.

"W-What do you want?" she stutters, wondering what the stone men are.

As one, they answer, "Oh child of the air and earth, child of the seas from whence came the first magic, you must answer us one question before you leave to defeat the evil of the Many Worlds. Tell us this, what is the brightest of all things?"

"Well, my mother told me that the future is brighter than it looks, and I don't know of anything else that's brighter than that?" Rose says hesitantly. Three of the knights vanish into the mists, and the fourth steps forward and holds out a stone arm.

"You have answered correctly. Do not forget that bravery is a good thing, and take this key to help you find your way." In its hand the statue dangles a golden key on a chain. Rose carefully takes the key and steps once more back into the main cavern.

However, this time, something is different. In the middle of the cavern stands a glowing white door that was certainly not there before. Rose gasps and drops the key. The door winks out like a candle flame, but then comes back the moment Rose picks the key back up.

"That's strange." Rose says to herself, and it echoes back at her: strange...range...ange "Not that nothing else has been strange either." She continues. Then she steps towards the white door and pulls it open.

Something brightly pure white rushes towards her, but then it stops and skitters sideways, and Rose realizes that it's a unicorn! With a pearly horn and a goat's beard and cloven hooves, it is the most beautiful thing Rose has ever seen, until she looks past it and sees a dais, and on it is something that can only be the Sword of Green, lying on a red velvet cushion on a marble pedestal.

On either side of the pedestal stand two beings, frozen from time. One is in a crimson robe, licked and danced on by fire that doesn't seem to harm him, and Rose recognizes from the vision that Althazar showed her that he is Elchior. The other, in an emerald robe that looks to be the mossy bark of a tree, is Zraspar, and his wand appears to have grown small branches. Rose leaves the unicorn's side and approaches the pedestal reverently. As she leans over the sword, marveling that something so dangerous could be such a thing of beauty, she hears a shrill whinny, and whirls around.

Black, his face just as scarred as before, steps out of the shadows, an ogre and a small dragon by his side, and says, "Thank you so very much, Carnation. You have led us right to where we needed to be! Now give me the sword like a good little girl."

His voice hardens and pierces Rose's heart like a shard of ice. The unicorn whinnies again, the ogre advancing towards it menacingly, and suddenly the wizards spring into action.

Elchior aims a blast of fire at Black, but the dragon just moves in the way and swallows the fire with a small burp.

Zraspar makes vines crawl across the floor to trip Black up, but the ogre stomps on them and Black walks calmly towards Rose. With the wizards engaged in fighting Black's sidekicks, Rose gulps hard, and grabs the sword. She expects it to be heavy, but instead it balances perfectly in her hand, and she points it at Black. He laughs.

"Do you really want to fight me?" He asks, and draws a long, blackened saber from his belt.

Rose's voice trembles and her throat is dry, but she manages to speak, "I don't want you to hurt anyone."

"So give me the sword, then, little girl, and all will be fine." Black's voice is louder, but Rose realizes that with every step towards her his face looks older and his steps become more laboured. His dark magic must be fading from the sword's power.

"I don't believe you!" Rose yells at him, but before she can do anything, he swipes at her, and she sees that his saber is much longer than the Sword of Green.

Rose ducks, and then tries to have a stab at Black, but he parries easily and laughs again. Rose can't help but notice that his laugh sounds old and cracked.

Suddenly, before Rose realizes what she's doing, her arm has darted over Black's saber and then his hands are lying on the floor. Rose stares and backs away, and she feels like throwing up. Black's eyes widen, and he starts to disintegrate, his skin falling away into flecks of ash.

"There was so much left that I wanted to do!" He says as he disappears and what remains of him is blown away on an invisible wind.

Rose stares, disgusted, at the spot where Black had been. Suddenly exhausted, and dehydrated from all the excitement, her vision starts to go fuzzy. Just before everything goes dark, she hears, as if from a long distance away, the voice of Althazar, "Should we do it?"

One of the other wizards replies, "Yes, it will be best for her if she thinks it all a dream."

Rose opens her eyes. The sun is bright, the birds are chirping, and it looks as if only a few minutes have passed since she fell asleep. What a strange dream! Rose thought to herself, climbing down the tree and setting off back towards the new house. But if only she had looked behind her, she would have seen three strangely dressed wizards disappearing in a cloud of mist.

When Rose gets back to the house, she sees something on the newly-painted door that startles her. There is a doorknocker shaped like the head of a gargoyle, its face twisted into a cheeky grin. Rose almost expects it to greet her as she opens the door, but it remains stone-still and silent. Wondering about the strangeness of the knocker, she yells through the open doorway into the kitchen, from which she can hear her father klutzing about. "Father, where did you get that new doorknocker? It's just like something in a dream I had about Black being some prince!"

Her father yells back good-naturedly, "There was this dealer selling antiques and things, and I though some of his stuff might brighten up the house a bit! That's a strange coincidence about you having a dream, I also got a painting entitled, 'Carnation defeats Prince Poripeltorius', and I thought that Carnation looked a little like you!"

This goes way beyond coincidence, Rose thinks, entering the house. Out of the corner of her eye, it almost looks as if the gargoyle is winking.


LPH Writing Class stories 2013-2014