Chapter no 38 – Evangeline

A Curse for True Love

I would still prefer to personally torture Aurora,” said LaLa as she walked beside Evangeline on the path that would take them to the Hollow. The sun was slowly starting to rise, casting warm morning light on all the droplets of dew clinging to the grass that lined their path.

“I think I’d like to torture her as well,” said Evangeline. But it was mostly because saying something—anything—took her mind off the fact that Jacks was without a heart, and when he got it back, it might not be the same heart.

LaLa was a good distraction, suggesting setting Aurora’s hair on fire, pulling out her fingernails, and other things Evangeline couldn’t even bring herself to repeat.

“I just want to kiss him,” Evangeline said softly. “And . . . I don’t want to die.”

Before last night, she had never truly believed Jacks would kill her. The night they’d spent together at the crypt—she’d been afraid he would bite her and turn into a vampire, but she’d never been afraid she would die by his lips.

Until now.

LaLa turned to her then, with a particularly gentle smile. “I hope that someday you do get to kiss Jacks in front of Aurora. That would be the best sort of torture.”

“But I thought you believed Jacks’s kiss would kill me?”

LaLa shrugged. “What can I say? Revenge makes me hopeful.”

A few feet later they reached the sign that read: Welcome to the Hollow!

A little dragon dozed atop it, snoring tiny adorable sparks.

With a pang, Evangeline thought about the night that she and Jacks had spent here together.

Then she thought about how the Cursed Forest had brought Jacks back to the Hollow.

Could it be that the best day of Jacks’s life had been the one he’d spent

with Evangeline there? It felt like an awful lot to hope for, yet just the idea reignited some of the light in Evangeline. Maybe Jacks didn’t want a happily ever after, but she still refused to believe he didn’t want her. Although who knew what he would want once Aurora changed his heart?

“We should be close,” LaLa said. “If I remember correctly, Aurora had an evil lair hidden at the base of a tree. Her family always vacationed at the Hollow. I remember trying to play with her the first few years, but she always wanted to chase the boys.”

LaLa directed Evangeline off the path through a forest full of trees and velvet-capped mushrooms that went all the way up to their knees and thighs. There were more sleeping dragons atop them, filling the air with sparks of golden light. Then the mushrooms stopped and for several feet the ground was bare—no mushrooms, no grasses, not even a broken twig. There was just a large circle of untouched dirt, surrounding a tree with a carving in the center of a wolf wearing a flower crown.

“I should have brought an ax,” LaLa said as she stopped in front of the tree.

“I can probably just use my blood to open it.”

“Yes, but it would be much more fun to take an ax to that sigil of hers.” “We can come back after we find Jacks’s heart.”

Evangeline pulled out the dagger Jacks had given her, and for a second she felt a pang of something like regret. She knew it wasn’t her fault she had lost her memories. But she wished she had been able to get them back sooner. She wished that when Jacks had tossed her this knife she had remembered him.

Looking back now, it clearly hurt him that she had forgotten. If she had remembered sooner, maybe then she could have stopped all of this.

She cut her finger with the dagger and then pressed several drops of blood to the tree, willing it to open. After several long moments a door appeared in the wood. There were stairs on the other side. White, and covered in carved flowers. They must have been magical, for when Evangeline set foot on them, they started to glow.

“Where did Aurora get the magic to do all of this?” she asked.

“I have no idea,” LaLa said. “It’s believed that all the Valor children had magic, but no one ever knew what Aurora’s magic actually was.”

Evangeline counted twenty steps before she and LaLa reached the bottom. Like the stairs, the floors in this room glowed, lighting up walls entirely covered in shelves. On one side, there appeared to be mostly books

—pretty books in pastel colors like violet, pink, gold, and cream, all tied with neat little bows.

Evangeline hardly spared them a glance before turning to the other side, which was filled with jars and bottles. Some were bulbous and others were slim, sealed with melted wax or sparkling glass stoppers. And they had all manner of things inside them. Evangeline spied dried flowers, dead spiders, fingers—blech—gem-bright potions, a bottle that glittered like starlight. But there was nothing that looked like a heart, beating or otherwise.

Her eyes scanned the array of jars until they landed on a bottle full of a wine-red liquid that shimmered when she looked at it. She picked it up. Attached to the glass stopper was a ribbon with a small handwritten label that read: Dragon blood.

Evangeline cringed. She didn’t like the idea of bottled blood at all, but it seemed particularly cruel to drain it from little dragons.

Evangeline set the blood down and picked up a pretty jar full of sliver sparkles. The sparkles flinched as soon as she touched the glass. Then they all fell to the bottom of the jar in an ashen heap. This container didn’t have a label, but Evangeline didn’t think it contained Jacks’s second heart.

She would recognize Jacks’s heart—she knew Jacks’s heart. His heart was wounded like hers, but it was strong, it wouldn’t flinch or shy away from her. It would beat faster, harder, in concert with hers.

Evangeline closed her eyes and reached out a hand toward the shelves, letting her fingers graze the smooth glass bottles.

Please beat. Please beat, she quietly repeated, touching jar after jar after


Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Just cool glass and more cool glass and—

Her fingers touched something that was not a jar or a glass. It felt like leather against her skin. Evangeline opened her eyes to find a white leather book with gold embossing on the spine.

“I wonder,” she mused. “Could it be possible that Aurora cut out the center of one of these books and put the heart inside?”

“I suppose anything is possible,” said LaLa, who went to work yanking books from shelves. She untied their ribbons, shook them, and turned them upside down to see if anything fell out—Evangeline heard a few keys clatter to the ground. Then she watched a long brown wig fall from one volume before LaLa recklessly tossed it to the floor. “It’s not the same as taking an ax to the door, but it feels rather good,” LaLa said, throwing another book over her shoulder.

Evangeline was more careful as she took the white leather volume from the shelf. The cover had no words, just another image of a wolf’s head wearing a crown.

Evangeline didn’t know if Jacks’s heart was hidden in this volume, but there was clearly something inside it. She could sense an otherness as she tried to open the book, but it refused to budge. Magic.

Evangeline quickly pricked her finger and drew her blood along the pages of the book as she said, “Please open.”

The book immediately obeyed.

The words Aurora’s Book of Spells were written carefully on the first page.

“What do you have there?” asked LaLa, just before she tossed another book on the floor.

“It’s Aurora’s spell book.” Evangeline turned the page, hoping to find a table of contents. But this book appeared to be more of a journal.

The first entry had a date, followed by a line that said: I attempted my first spell today.

“I don’t think you’re going to find Jacks’s heart in there,” said LaLa.

“I know, but perhaps I’ll find the spell Aurora plans to use to change Jacks’s heart or give him another one.”

“Or maybe we could find a spell to use on her,” LaLa suggested brightly.

Evangeline kept turning pages. The paper was old and brittle underneath her fingers as she carefully looked at entry after entry.

Aurora was determined, Evangeline had to give her that. Most of her early spells had failed, but that hadn’t seemed to stop her. She resolutely

continued trying spells until at last she began to succeed.



“Of course he didn’t,” LaLa grumbled, reading over Evangeline’s shoulder.

Evangeline felt a brief flutter of something like happiness, but it quickly faded a few entries later.





“It’s not too late to torture her,” said LaLa.

“I never trusted her,” Evangeline muttered. “But it’s still hard to believe that she could be this terrible.”

Although Aurora hadn’t written what she’d done, Evangeline imagined she knew.

Jacks had once told Evangeline the story of how he’d become the Archer from The Ballad of the Archer and the Fox. How he’d been hired to hunt a fox, but then he’d found out the fox was actually a girl—a girl he’d started to fall in love with. He’d told the men who’d hired him, certain they’d made a mistake in asking him to hunt a girl, but instead of freeing Jacks from his contract, a spell was placed on him that forced him to not only hunt but to kill the fox girl. Jacks fought against the spell and didn’t shoot the girl—but then he kissed her and she died.

“Do you think this means Aurora put both curses on Jacks—the Archer’s curse, and the curse that made his kiss fatal?”

“I wouldn’t put it past her,” said LaLa. “Aurora took Jacks’s heart. I think that falls under the rule of If I can’t have him, then no one else can.

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