It happens in the rarest of moments that a singular being has a chance to change the
universe. In these moments, everything hangs in the balance, everything stops as the
scale tips slowly forward and backward, and everything comes down to that key player. Then, the universe changes or it doesn’t.
In this particular moment, on this particular evening, it was dark and quiet, and the fire crackled softly as its glowing embers drifted lazily toward the sky. The Enchantress broke the gentle stillness of the night with her elegant, powerful feet as they propelled her forward and backward. Her mind was roaring, swirling with fear and desire. The Boy sat by the fire, his lanky legs folded under him and his face scrunched up in concentration. He was hunched over, his hands held out in front of him; they glowed orange with tiny sparks periodically rising from his skinny fingers. His calm determination snaked its way slowly toward her, tapping at her mind. He looked up as she drew near him, his eyes questioning, but she turned away before she could look into them, not daring to make the journey into his soul, to feel the wretched weakness she knew she would find there.
The weakness had followed her for her entire life. It came in many shapes and colors, but it was always there, taunting her. She felt it coming in waves from her father as he prepared for the duel that would take his life.
“Watch and learn,” he said. “This is what real strength looks like.” She had watched. She suppressed a shudder as the strength of his weakness touched upon her small and untrained mind. She learned, too. Her mother would speak softly to her, would tell her of the gift her father had left her, would promise that she would become powerful like him. But she had already learned from her father. She may have gotten her magic from him, but she would never be like him. She would never be weak.
Her mother had taught her a new form of weakness when she was struck down by
disease. The Enchantress met a new enemy, and resolved to strengthen a new part of herself.
And so it went. She observed the weaknesses of others, and with each new discovery, she struck a new weakness from herself. As the years passed, she transformed herself from a scrawny orphan girl to the most powerful being in the realm. Men and women bowed down to her when she passed. Some offered up their children, begging her to teach them. This was how she came upon the Boy.
His mother had tugged feebly on her robe as she passed, and spoke with a certain
“Please,” she begged. “My son—he has the gift. I can’t teach him. I can’t do anything
more for him. But you can help him.” The Enchantress looked down then,
gazed into the woman’s eyes, and read her soul. The mother had not lied—she was powerless and the care for her son was genuine. But the Enchantress would not take in her son; she would not take in any child offered to her, would not accept the extra burden.
But then the Boy emerged from behind his mother, and suddenly, she could
feel it pouring into her mind like a waterfall, could feel the very thing she had worked so hard to banish from her mind—the weakness, a new one. The Boy looked up at her, but she turned away, unable to stop herself. He struck a strange kind of fear in her that she hadn’t felt in years. But fear was a weakness too, one she learned to banish long ago. She would take in the Boy. She would find his weakness, the very last one, and she would banish it from herself.
So she took in the Boy, refusing the mother’s money—she had no use for it—and she studied him, watched him, even delved into his mind once, although she emerged shuddering in a way she hadn’t felt since the last time she saw her father. But she could never discover what it was. She spent countless nights lying awake as the elusive weakness hung over her mind.
It was on one of these nights that she came upon her quest. Her restlessness had driven her out of her bed, and she found herself walking through the streets of the city. She watched all the little people occupying their time in the most feeble and useless of ways and she assured herself of her own power and strength. As she walked, she passed by a tavern. The warm light spilled out through the open window followed by the voices of the people inside. They were talking about her. She stopped to listen, her back pressed up against the cold exterior of the tavern.
“More powerful than anyone I’ve ever heard of, and I’ve lived a long time.” The voice was that of an old man, and it was followed by soft murmurs of agreement. “You mark my words,” he continued. “That woman will conquer everything in her path until the only thing left that can defeat her is death!”
The Enchantress didn’t hear the rest of the conversation. She slid down the wall of the tavern, her mind swirling with new ideas. The old man was right; she was all-powerful. The only thing standing in the way of immortality was death itself. If she could conquer death, it wouldn’t matter what strange weakness the Boy was harboring. Nothing would be able to stop her. The life of every being in the realm would be solely in her hands.
She stood then, the determination solidifying in her mind, blocking out every other
thought. She fetched the Boy, and they began their journey.
And that’s what they were doing that fateful night, as they waited by the crackling fire. The Boy was still trying to emit a sustained burst of fire from his hands, and had been trying to do so since he failed once again to light the campfire. The Enchantress lit the fire herself, then stomped off in disgust, pacing back and forth in an attempt to calm her swirling mind. But each step added more fuel to her burning desire until she could not contain it. They were so close to the land of the dead. She was so close to wielding the ultimate power.
She could not wait until morning. With a wave of her hand, the fire went out, and The Boy raised his head, his face questioning. The Enchantress simply beckoned for him to follow her, and he did so obediently as they made their way into the dark and chilly night.
They walked in silence. With every step, The Enchantress could feel the ultimate power getting closer, wrapping itself around her like a protective cloak. But there was something else in the air, coming from the Boy in waves so strong that they assaulted all of her senses: unease. She gazed down at him. His expression had not changed; he showed no sign of the discomfort she could feel consuming him. It was just another weakness, more proof of his inferiority. He looked up as he sensed her gaze, but she turned away once again. She would not look into his soul, would not torture herself with The Boy’s incredible weakness when she was so close to her goal. They kept walking.
The moon was still high in the sky when they finally reached the land of the dead. Death was there, her tall, skinny form swallowed up in the blackness under her long dark robe, her face obscured by the thick hood. From her emanated a power that the Enchantress could feel swirling in the pit of her stomach. But Death hadn’t expected her arrival and had not prepared herself.
The Enchantress channeled all of her power into her hands, aimed them at Death,
catching her off guard. The dark figure vibrated violently, succumbing to the power of the desperate woman before her. The moment had arrived, the scale was tipping
dangerously from one side to the other. The next few seconds would determine the fate of the Universe.
But the Enchantress still had one last weakness. A burst of flame shot suddenly into the air, separating her and her unusual victim. She knew it could have only come from one place.
The Boy stood off to the side. His hands were raised, and his face showed none of the
unrestrained effort it had earlier by the fire, only a grim determination. And as the flames spewed from his fingertips, the Enchantress realized that she never discovered the source of the Boy’s weakness, that strange new weakness that eluded her all those months.
It never occurred to her that the Boy’s weakness was not his, but rather a mirror of her own. It never occurred to her that she still carried the one weakness she had felt in her father all those years ago.
The flames stopped, and the Enchantress found herself face to face with Death. This time, Death was prepared.
Her arms extended outward toward the Enchantress, her bony fingertips poking out of the wide sleeves of her robe. Every fiber of her being screamed the intense anger and fear she felt toward the woman who had almost ended her existence.
The Enchantress was lifted into the air, her arms splayed out, her hair floating in a halo around her head. A sudden scream ripped from her throat before it abruptly ended as she fell to the ground, limp, and the Universe seemed to let out the breath it was holding. Nothing would change today.
The Boy stood alone, examining the figure standing before him, taking in the soft,
flowing material of her cloak and her long graceful steps as she moved silently toward him. He looked up at her, and she removed her hood to do what the Enchantress had not dared to do.
He gazed into her soft comforting eyes, allowing her to gaze back as their souls
connected. They held only one question, simple but meaningful, and it filled his entire being.
The Boy needn’t even speak, his connection with the figure so strong that she
understood his meaning instantly. She drew out of his soul and stepped back in
acceptance. But before the Boy could make his way back out into the night, she extended a soft, elegant hand toward him. He considered it for a moment—but only for a moment—before he shook it. And he would never do so again until many years later when he would once again willingly take the hand of Death and follow her back to her realm for the last time.
Kassandra Haakman is a junior at Saint Stephen's Episcopal School. Writing has been her passion for as long as she can remember. She is also passionate about history, languages, philosophy, and science fiction, which she likes to incorporate in her stories. She is currently busy studying and collecting life experience so she can one day write her masterpiece.