Notes from the Studio

The Queen of Summer’s Twight, Chapter Twenty-Six.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Twenty-Six       In the long journey afterward, Janet became certain that when its long-forgotten architect had finally looked upon his bitter construction of darkness and endless twisting passages, he must have been pleased by the success of his cruel art.        Because it was their only hope to find safe passage through the labyrinth, Janet gave herself over and over again to The Queen. Each time, no matter how brief, left her weaker than the last. Only Tom’s arm, circled tightly around her waist, lent support to Janet’s weakened body, allowing her to stay on her feet.        Without The Queen’s advice, though, she was certain that they would have wandered endlessly through an infinite number of silent rooms and long passageways until, their strength depleted, they would have lain down where they stood and slept a long, final sleep.        *********       Warily placing her trust in The Queen’s all-consuming desire to be whole once more, Janet eventually found herself standing outside a tall arched doorway that opened into the chamber where the monstrous Willow tree reared from its pool of black water. In a tangle of hoary roots, Janet saw her mother asleep, nestled in the dark, honey-colored arms of the moon-mad Queen.        Instinctively, Janet rushed forward. Her only desire was to gather her mother in her arms, but sensing another presence in that chamber, she stopped and looked cautiously around.        The wizened bottle witch, Mother Hainter was balanced on a long, low-lying limb of the great Willow just above the sleeping figures, staring inquisitively back at her. Scattered across the root-floor at her feet were a multitude of small bottles, some blue, some green and some a dusky amber color. She squinted her good eye, looking past Janet and spoke, “Ah, it’s you, is it, Thomas. You

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapter Twenty-Five.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Twenty-Five       Far away, down long silent corridors, Janet tossed in her sleep. Abruptly, her eyes blinked open as two soft tongues began to lick her face. In the total darkness of the cell, she was unable to see whatever impossible thing it was, but from either side of her head, she heard soft panting. Small paws pushed at her arms, and soft fur brushed her face. Janet whispered into the utter darkness, “Who…What…what are you?”       “Well, then….” The first voice intoned.       “you are awake…” Another voice emphatically added.       “at last.”        “Perhaps you were having…       “such lovely dreams…       “that you wished…       “to stay amongst them forever?       “But your story…”       “will never…”       “find…”       “its proper ending…”       “if you do.”       “Trust…       “us…”       “now.”       “And…       “close…       “your eyes so that you may see.”       Hesitantly, Janet did as the voices asked, and suddenly she saw a vision of two sleek silver foxes staring up at her, their eyes lit with avid curiosity. Janet rubbed her eyes and muttered, “Are you just more damned nightmares come to haunt me in this horrible place?”       Ignoring the girl’s doubts, one fox creature spoke. “Janet…”       Followed quickly by the second, “why do you bide here…        And then both joined together in chorus, “still?”       Janet wrapped both her arms protectively over her chest, “Bloody hell, you think I want to stay here?”       As the two silver foxes turned to casually look at one another. The air around them seemed to shimmer, as if a second reality slipped softly over the first. Now there were two small, elegant women standing before her, one inches taller than the other with slanted eyes, both a matching green. Their hair was long and silvery, held back from their brows by simple circlets made of brightest gold. Both solemnly considered

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapter Twenty-Four.

© Charles Vess Chapter Twenty-Four       Exhausted, Janet brought the Vincent to a stop and cut the motor. Instantly, she was aware of the dreadful silence of the land that surrounded her, only the whistling of the wind past the red brick towers above her could be heard.        She reached up to wipe the sweat from her brow and looked again at the immense wall that stretched endlessly before her.“Bloody hell. How can I even try to rescue them if I can’t get inside this damned castle?”        Without warning a hand in a shining black leather glove clasped her shoulder and a sibilant voice spoke in her ear, “Perhaps my lady, I may escort you within?” Terrified, she jerked away, to see The Huntsman, his face split with a smile of awful satisfaction.        Janet desperately twisted the gas throttle to start the motorcycle. But before the engine could turn over, she and the machine were thrown to the ground, her right leg trapped under the weight of the cycle. Crouched above her, taloned paws putting its full weight on the machine and spitting down into Janet’s face was one of The Huntsman’s beasts. Its mouth was so close that she can smell the rotting meat that clung to its long, razor-sharp teeth.       Casually, the elegant leather-clad figure looked down at Janet. “It is a good day for hunting, for now all my birds are caught at last.”       Leaning close to her haggard face, The Huntsman whispered, “There is no need to struggle, for I will certainly gift you with your heart’s desire. Your lover… and your mother as well, await the pleasure of your company within my master’s house.       “Come, I will take you to them.” ************       Seated on his great throne of teeth and bone, The Dark Lord was more

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