I’m not one of those people who always claims the book is better than the movie. They’re a story translated into two very different mediums. Some things have to change—books have more action than can be fit into one film, so cuts happen. Some adjustments might be an issue of budget; others preserve a certain rating.

Though I’m not one hundred percent behind Disney’s fairy tales, I understand how children don’t need to see Ariel kill herself to save her prince after he marries another woman, Cinderella’s stepsisters mutilate their feet to fit into the glass slipper, or Snow White’s stepmother eat (what she believes is) her stepdaughter’s heart.

Fairy tales have so many versions, anyway. In Witch of Atlas’ sequel, I wrote about a Sleeping Beauty curse. I couldn’t put that here without giving away a bunch, though. I almost scrapped this blog when I had one of those rare moments of inspiration… These characters have so much detail that I hope I can write more about them someday.

* *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

“Looks like someone forgot their weed-whacker,” Melanie craned her neck to study the house, which stood out from the cookie-cutter subdivision because of the vines swarming the yard and house.

“I don’t think that’s the problem,” Tom said, poking at the yard with his carved wood cane with a dragon slithering up its sides. Vines wrapped around the base of the cane, recoiling when Tom sent a shock of magical fire along its length.

“They don’t look too tough,” Melanie said.

“They grow stronger when you approach the center,” Tom replied, scorching the vine reaching for his ankle, half-hidden by a drift of dead leaves.

“What’s the center?” Melanie turned toward her partner, a lanky dark-skinned man with short graying black hair, who looked like he’d slept in his khakis and white t-shirt. The tweed coat with elbow patches fit his image as an absentminded professor, which went over better with clients than her fondness for black and blue jeans.

He stopped poking at the greenery with his cane, and limped away from the yard. “I thought you’d recognize it, what with your penchant for fairy-tales.”

Melanie fought down a blush—her mother had insisted on showing him pictures of her princess phase, which hadn’t looked as good on her short, stocky frame as she’d thought at the time.

“What do overgrown vines have to do with-” Melanie broke off, whirling to look at the house. “No. There won’t be a dragon, will there? Or a prince on a white horse?”

“That’s in the stories,” Tom waved dismissively. “People romanticize. The vines are the only guardian necessary.” He patted down his pants pockets, and his jacket before pulling out a crumpled notepad, and squinting to make out his handwriting. “These have likely killed three people. Tyler Emerson was reported missing two days ago, Nicholas Ramos yesterday. Today Joshua and Madison Palmer were out walking, when Joshua decided to take a picture of the lawn for the homeowner’s association. His wife reported that the vines pulled him off his feet and yanked him into the house.”

Melanie studied the peaceful, if tangled, lawn, and spotted only a few flecks of dark rusty red on the edge of the driveway. “There’s no blood on the plants.”

“Well, no, they would have consumed it with the life force. When we find their bodies, they’ll appear mummified.”

Melanie shivered. “Let’s go rescue Sleeping Beauty before anyone else dies.”

Tom rested his hand on her head, easy to do since she was five foot four inches in her black boots with wide three-inch heels, and he was six and a half feet in his battered loafers. “Wait.”

“Quit that!” She swatted his hand away, smoothing her honey brown hair. “What?”

“I just wanted to ensure you use fire spells. Anything else, the curse will leech energy from you, so be careful, we don’t want to feed the vines.”

“Don’t end up plant food, either.” Melanie strode up the driveway, Tom at her side. She was the battle witch, and he worked back up most days, though as a lift witch he was a decent fighter.

The vines lay quiet until she set foot on the porch, and then attacked from several angles, sliding along the weathered boards, dropping from above, and stabbing at her back. Shedding the pretense of normality, the plants unfolded razor-edged, dagger-pointed thorns. Melanie hacked into the vines, slashing with blue flames, while Tom sniped at key points as they shuffled closer. The door swung open as they reached it.

“That’s not creepy at all,” Melanie muttered, ducking in and slicing at the huge vine that immediately swiped brown-black thorns at her eyes. “The audience’s screaming ‘Don’t go into the house!’ We go in anyway, and the monster eats us for being stupid.”

“Mel! Watch out!”

Looking down, she saw vines pressed against the bottom edge of her shield, energy shimmering along them as they drained her emerald shield glyph. Melanie swore, and sent waves of turquoise fire in increasing strength until the clinging plants finally fell away.

“I didn’t know they could do that,” she said, feeling light-headed as she shored up her shield and pressed forward.

“They don’t want to be stopped,” Tom moved to overlap his shield with hers. “Go cautiously.”

“I thought I was,” Melanie muttered. “Murderin’ vampire plants. The shrubbery ain’t supposed t’be smarter than you.”

“Your roots are showing,” Tom said.

Calling him a few choice names, Melanie chopped into the vines before she ran out of energy and they both became fertilizer. Tom stepped into the bedroom, leaned his cane against the bed, and reached out to the curse. Unlike in the stories, the woman wasn’t lying on her back, hands neatly folded, but sprawled on her side and emitting a wheezing snore.

“Hurry it up,” Melanie snapped, attacking to draw attention away from her partner while he unraveled the spell. The curse started cracking under Tom’s attention, and the vines’ swipes became less well targeted. Which didn’t mean the vines weren’t dangerous, and as her shield weakened, the thorns inflicted shallow cuts before she destroyed the vines. Melanie bit back a high-pitched scream when a large vine broke through her shield at the side of her neck.

She threw up a hasty mini-shield, deflecting the blow so the vine bit into her back instead. Gritting her teeth to keep from distracting Tom, Melanie swiped the vine away, and patched her shield, which now had several weak seams shimmering through it. Another vine broke through, wrapped around her left ankle, and began drawing energy. She grabbed Tom’s cane, and battered at the vine, sending weak pulses of fire down the surface.

The vine loosened, but refused to let go, and a larger, thorny vine tried to break through the same weak spot. If it got through, she’d be finished, so she had to pause to fend off the larger threat. Shield flickering but holding, Melanie slid the cane between her leg and the cursed plant, and poured as much energy into the wood. She winced as she burned herself, but the vine stopped drawing on her. She pried the vine away, burning herself a few more times in the process, filling the air with the scent of scorched denim and flesh.

Her shield flickering in the final stages of failure, Melanie heard Tom yell as the curse died. The vines fell away, shriveling and growing brittle. Melanie stomped on a few of the nearby thorns, snapping them under her boots.

“Miss?” Tom asked, gently shaking the shoulder of the sleeping woman, who’d likely be groggy, stiff, and starving after three days asleep. The curse kept the Sleeping Beauty lure alive and un-aging, but in similar shape to a well cared-for coma patient.

Melanie leaned Tom’s cane against the nightstand, and staggered outside, boots scraping the floor. With multiple singed spots on her leg, and bloody slices all over her body, she just wasn’t up to making nice with the cursed woman.

“I need a bath and aspirin. And some band-aids. And a nap,” Melanie decided, heading toward the subway station. People threw edged away from her, averting their eyes. “I saved a life today,” she told a seated teenage boy. “If you don’t give me your seat I’ll bleed on you.”

“Whatever, lady,” he said, but scrambled away, as did the two people nearest him. Melanie flopped down, and concentrated on healing the worst of her cuts as the car lurched into motion.

About Caitlin Stern

I have a MA in English, and have so many fantasy/urban fantasy WIPs it's not even funny. I'm an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, biography, fiction, and anything else that catches my interest. I collect books, and bookmarks I find that are visually appealing and useful.

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  1. […] also posted several related stories (all under the Witch of Atlas category),  including a story about two witches fighting a deadly curse, and one about a non-magically talented human who ends up […]

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