Mistletoe's Broken Heart
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Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7

Chapter One

Pale, silver drops of moonlight descended on the countryside as Mistletoe Lovechild cried her broken heart out in the tree hollow that was her home.
Uncontrollable sobs raked through her chubby cherub body as tears streamed down her puffy cheeks.
Suddenly there was a knock at the door. The cupid, for that was what Mistletoe was, sniffed and called in an unsteady voice, "Come in!"
The door creaked open, and a motherly cupid figure fluttered worriedly at the entrance. Tears shone in Mistletoe's eyes. "Oh Aunt Valentina!" she exclaimed bursting into a fresh round of sobs.
"There, there, honeypie," soothed Valentina in the common cupid terminology, putting her arm around her niece's shoulders. "Hush, hush, my little Mistletoe," Valentina clucked kindly. "Whatever's the matter dearie?"
The young cupid sniffed again, rubbed the tears from her eyes and tried to collect herself. "It's...it's my heart!" she stammered. "I...I think it's broken!"
The two stared at each other in silence for a moment.
"Broken?" her aunt repeated in a shocked whisper. "Surely not! No cupid in our clan has suffered a broken heart for generations. How could this have happened? Why, it's an embarrassment to the whole..." Valentina rambled on in a disorganised manner, an astonished and troubled expression never leaving her face.
"Oh, Aunt Valentina!" wailed Mistletoe. "Whatever shall I do?"
Valentina suddenly took control of the situation, becoming brisk and businesslike.
"There is but one thing for it!" she announced regally, like a queen in her court.
"What?" demanded Mistletoe eagerly.
"Your heart musty be mended immediately, child!"
"How, Aunt Valentina?" Mistletoe persisted. "How can it be put together again?"
Valentina pondered the matter at length before replying, "I shall take you to see Sir Romeo, President of the Cupid Community of the Western Realms. He'll know what to do."
"Are...are you sure, Aunt Valentina?"
"Why of course, honeypie. Haven't I always looked after you since your dear parents were killed in a mid-air collision with a fire-breathing dragon-fly?"
Mistletoe nodded meekly, remembering the tragic incident.
"Come in!" called a gruff, unfriendly voice from the other side of the door. Valentine and her ward complied and saw an elderly and overweight (even for a cupid) love creature smoking a pipe in a rocking chair by the crackling flames in the tree hollow within.
The female cupids curtsied respectfully in mid-flight and smiled bashfully at the wise old cupid. Sir Romeo was not only an acclaimed leader, but a successful dabbler in the art of magic as well.
"Ahem," the president cleared his throat impatiently when no one spoke. Sir Romeo was renowned for his fierce, uncontrollable temper, but since he was so well respected, this flaw in his personality was usually overlooked. "Well," he prompted, when his visitors made no move to explain their presence, "what do you charming ladies want?"
Mistletoe glanced around the famous cherub's home.
It was cluttered with books (mainly of a romantic nature) and heart-shaped boxes filled with delicious chocolates, (reserved for a special St. Valentine's day celebration.) Red balloons, advertising the fact that 'Love Lives Forever!' decorated Romeo Casanova's tree-top home. Love potions and herbs and the usual odds and ends one normally associates with day-to-day cupid life, were carelessly strewn about.
"Oh, it's Mistletoe!" Valentina blurted passionately. "The poor dear has a broken heart!"
If Sir Romeo was at all surprised, he concealed his astonishment remarkably well. The leader's face remained blank; his expression was stony and didn't betray his feelings. The elderly cupid carefully laid down his pipe, stroked his beard absently, then rose to flutter in the air before the attentive female cherubs. "Hmm," he murmured, knitting his brows meditatively. He then squinted thoughtfully at Mistletoe through beady grey eyes. The young cupid shifted uncomfortably beneath her elder's gaze.
"A broken heart, you say?" Sir Romeo enquired quietly.
Mistletoe nodded meekly.
"What prompted you to suspect this rare condition, young cherub?"
"Oh...oh," whimpered the orphan, "it's...it's because I...I can't stop bursting into tears!" And she did exactly that!
"This is disastrous. No cupid in my realm has been known to suffer this condition for uncountable revolutions of the world. 'Tis an outrage!" The cherub of the Casanova clan snorted in disgust. "Well," he declared, "the young 'un is most definitely suffering from the condition known as Heartus Brokena, commonly referred to as Broken Heart Syndrome."
"But...but how did such a friendly, polite and well-adjusted young cupid ever manage to contract this illness?" asked Valentina incredulously.
Sir Romeo pondered the matter at length. "Have you been overusing your arrows?" he fired sharply at the sobbing heap that was Mistletoe. For the second time that evening, the little Lovechild cupid sniffed and tried to control her streaming eyes.
"You...mean my...my love arrows? The ones that I shoot into unhappy people to cheer them up and make them kind and caring?" Mistletoe enquired innocently.
"The very same," Romeo replied shortly. "Well, have you been using them too often?" he demanded.
"Maybe a little bit," Mistletoe conceded meekly.
"Mistletoe!" Romeo and Valentina snapped sharply in unison.
"Okay, okay," the young cherub admitted. "I have been using my weapons of love a little too frequently. But when I see unhappy people, it distresses me so much..."
"There is no excuse, Miss Lovechild," the old cupid reprimanded the younger one reproachfully. "Hasn't anyone ever informed you of the cupid laws governing..."
"No...no, sir. My parents were tragically killed before they could teach me..."
"Ah, that's right," said the cupid leader, his expression softening. "Terrible misfortune that incident was," he murmured.
"Aunt Valentina has done all she can..." Mistletoe began.
"...but I can never replace her parents." Valentina finished.
"Quite so, Mrs. Sweetheart," agreed Casanova. "But that explains why the little lass is ignorant of the danger of cupids overusing their arrows. You see, theirs is an overload of love and affection in the atmosphere, resulting in a shattered heart for the unfortunate cherub involved."
"Oh," sighed Mistletoe, remembering the countless individuals who had benefited from her arrows of love. She finally understood her condition.
"Is...is there a...a solution to this terrible predicament?" Valentina enquired tentatively.
Romeo stroked his beard. "I do believe there is," he said slowly. "Alas, great cupid that I am, I have no knowledge of it."
"Oh," the female cupids sighed dejectedly as one.
"I do believe there is one who has knowledge of it," stated the cherub magician.
"Who?" the females eagerly demanded.
"She is the most powerful sorceress of all," Romeo, who was accustomed to shouting and commanding, whispered. His eyes misted over as he envisioned the beautiful mage. "Lady Moonamina," he breathed.
"Isn't that the sorceress who cured the young elf who was suffering from the rare, and usually fatal Goldenrod fever?" Mistletoe asked.
"The very same," Romeo confirmed dreamily.
Valentina had her suspicions that what the president of the cupid community felt for the fabled sorceress was more than professional admiration. Being the polite and tactful cupid that she was, she had the grace to refrain from bringing the matter up.
"I...I suppose I must journey to Her Ladyship's castle?" Mistletoe asked hesitantly.
"That is correct," replied the president, nodding affirmatively.
"It is such a long way for a mere child to travel..." objected the young cupid's guardian.
"There is no alternative!" Casanova snapped, his usual self once again. "Besides, Miss Lovechild is nearing the age of ninety, if my calculations are correct. She is reaching maturity. A journey of this nature will do her good; it will be character-building and a tremendous learning experience."
Mistletoe sighed, resigned to her fate.
"You must hurry to your destination, young lass," Sir Romeo advised, not unkindly. "A cupid cannot survive a state of depression as severe as yours for long. Your broken heart must be mended as soon as possible, before it is too late!"
On that ominous note, the female cherubs took their leave of the great leader, to make preparations for the long journey ahead.
Sir Romeo stared at the closed door through which his fellow cupids had just left. His harsh gaze melted into a small pitying smile. "Poor little lass," he sighed with sympathy.
Early the following morning, Valentina Sweetheart and Sir Romeo Casanova braved the chill winds to see Mistletoe Lovechild off on her life-saving quest.
The young cupid, still sniffing, and periodically bursting into sobs during miserable bouts of depression, was nervous at the thought of such a perilous quest. Mistletoe was convinced that butterflies were fluttering inside her stomach. The broken-hearted cherub was sure that this affliction had nothing whatsoever to do with the caterpillar stew which Aunt Valentina had served for dinner the previous evening.
As she hovered in the air before her well-meaning elders, young Mistletoe listened distractedly to their instructions for the long journey ahead.
"...so remember," Sir Romeo warned. He had supplied the broken-hearted love creature with a map, indicating the route she was to follow. "Every time you use your love arrows, your heart will break even further. A sorry state for a young cupid such as yourself to be in, Miss Lovechild."
Mistletoe nodded absent-mindedly. She was far too busy imagining and worrying about the dangers that lay ahead.
When it was time for the cupid child to take her leave, Mistletoe launched herself (rather unsteadily) heavenwards. She flew backwards for a few moments as she bid her elders adieu, waving her chubby little hand.
"Oh do be careful, sweetie!" cautioned Aunt Valentina worriedly. "We shall miss you!"
"May luck accompany you on your quest!" Sir Romeo blessed the cupid adventurer.
"Thank you," called Mistletoe, adding under her breath, "but I hope I shan't need it."
She took a long last look at the tree-top cupid village that was her home. "Farewell!" she called to the regally waving cherub president, who was supporting a tearful Valentina Sweetheart.
With that, Mistletoe completed a half-turn in mid-air and officially embarked on the quest for a cure for her broken heart.

Chapter Two

Chapter 1 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7
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On the first day of her journey, Mistletoe managed to cover a great distance for a cherub as young and inexperienced as she was. The depressed cupid was driven by a determination beyond her years: no sooner has she been implored to undertake this difficult journey than she resolved to complete it as soon as was cupidly possible.
As twilight lengthened the shadows, Mistletoe decided to rest her weary wings. She descended into the dense dark forest that stretched out over the land like fingers groping in the dark. She glided earthwards with surprising grace for one so indelicate in appearance. The exhausted cupid spotted a large, majestic oak tree, curled up between its roots and, ignoring the discomfort of the hard cold ground, fell almost instantly into the land of dreams. Mistletoe's subconscious mind threw strange ideas before her closed eyes, making her toss and turn restlessly.
A long gnarled finger gently tapped the slumbering cupid on the shoulder. "Excuse me," apologised the owner of the limb it was attached to. "You seem to be lying on my roots, causing them to suffer from pins and needles."
"Go 'way," muttered a sleepy Mistletoe grumpily. She mistook the creature who had just spoken for one of the many troubling characters in her disturbing dreams.
The creature, who incidentally was the magnificent oak that Mistletoe had chosen to rest under, was totally dissatisfied with this reply. His cramped roots were extremely uncomfortable under the weight of the cherub's body, and the lack of circulation was causing him to be rather bad-tempered. The oak shook the cupid awake roughly with its twisted, arthritic branches.
Mistletoe's eyes popped open when she felt the strange spidery twig fingers on her back. All her weariness suddenly left her and she sprang to her feet. She made as if to dart away, but another nearby tree suddenly sprouted limbs, as did his countless neighbours.
"Tutt, tutt, tutt," reprimanded the second tree, shaking the canopy of leaves that was his head. "Not so fast, young lady!" He spoke through an opening, a kind of mouth in his lower trunk, that, until a few moments ago, had been a harmless hollow.
"Yes," agreed a third tree, addressing Mistletoe. "Where do you think you're going?"
"I...I...er..." a petrified Mistletoe stuttered, completely taken aback at this strange turn of events. She was surrounded by an army of malicious enemy trees!
She started running, nimbly avoiding the groping branches and outstretched roots that threatened to capture or trip her.
Finally, the utterly exhausted cupid could run no more and collapsed on the bed of leaves that was the forest floor. The nearest tree, which happened to be a fir, effortlessly seized her and passes her to his neighbour. He, in turn, handed the prisoner to a fellow maple. This arrangement continued, until poor Mistletoe was once again in the clutches of the giant oak tree under whom she had the misfortune to doze. The young broken-hearted orphan deduced that her captor was the leader of the forest of trees. He confirmed this when he spoke, holding the wearily struggling cupid by the scruff of her neck, at arm's length.
"I am Acorn, King of the Forest!" he thundered. "Who dares to inconvenience me by slumbering on my delicate, rheumatic roots?"
"I...I'm dreadfully sorry for distressing you, Your Highness, but I..." Mistletoe began apologetically.
"Silence!" boomed the tree king.
"Who...who are you?" Mistletoe persisted bravely.
"A tree, of course," replied the oak, somewhat surprised at the question.
"Yes, I can see that," Mistletoe replied scornfully. "But you're alive!" Then, realising how foolish she sounded since all trees were alive anyway, she added lamely, "You're talking and moving..."
"Naturally," snorted King Acorn, equally as impatient. "So are you!"
Mistletoe could think of no suitable reply for this correct observation.
"Enough of this!" exploded the oak suddenly. "You have seriously offended the king, and for that, you shall be punished!"
He motioned to two sturdy beech trees by his side. "Guards!" he commanded. "Throw this disobedient young ruffian into the dungeon!"
He pointed to a large gaping hole in a deceased rowan's trunk. Mistletoe guessed that an uncomfortable prison awaited her in its depths.
"Maybe she didn't mean to..." an ancient, crippled willow valiantly argued on Mistletoe's behalf.
"Silence, you old fool!" His Majesty thundered as the willow tree cowered before him.
"Yes of...of course, Your Highness," trembled the crumpled tree who fell to his trunk-knees before the mighty ruler.
The tree guards seized the wildly struggling cupid as she frantically racked her brains. Here, Mistletoe judged it essential for calmness to prevail. Images of dashing through the woods in a daring escape attempt flashed through her mind. Mistletoe sensibly and realistically dismissed them, realising that such a foolhardy plan of action would only end in tragedy.
After contemplating various other means of freeing herself, Mistletoe remembered her arrows. Sir Romeo's persistent warnings about their use didn't even enter her head.
"They're perfect for this emergency!" Mistletoe thought confidently, her intense fear ebbing slightly.
The young cherub managed to free one arm from the beech's iron grip, delved into her quiver and withdrew a gleaming, heart-tipped arrow. Mistletoe realised that it would be impossible to use her love weapons on such an enormous army of trees, so she aimed her bow at their king.
As soon as the magical arrow had penetrated King Acorn's bark, his permanently fixed scowl was transformed into a warm, caring smile. "Guards!" he demanded from the beeches, "whatever are you doing with that adorable young cupid? Release her at once!"
The stupefied trees naturally obeyed their king instantly.
"Come, my child," Acorn invited her kindly. Mistletoe complied rather apprehensively. Had the arrow genuinely worked, or was this latest turn of events just another ploy to get her into the King's clutches again? When Mistletoe stood before him, His Majesty enquired of the cherub, "Why is such a lovely young cupid as yourself Miss...Miss..."
"Lovechild," supplied the owner of this name. "Mistletoe Lovechild."
"Miss Lovechild," continued the king, "why are you travelling by yourself during the dangerous dark hours?"
Mistletoe was reminded of her depressing condition and promptly burst into tears. Between sobs, the entire tale of her illness and the quest for its cure came tumbling out.
"Oh, you poor child," the forest monarch sympathised at its conclusion. Then a thought struck him. "Rest in my lovely forest during the remaining hours of the sun's absence," he invited. "I guarantee you safe passage through my kingdom as soon as the sun returns."
"Oh thank you, Your Majesty," Mistletoe gratefully accepted Acorn's proposition. "It's amazing what a love arrow can do!" she muttered under her breath.
"What was that, dear?" enquired the tree king.
"I...er...said that was most kind of you!" replied Mistletoe quickly. She flashed the king a guilty smile. The unsuspecting tree leader grinned back happily. "I think, young cherub, that it is time for you to rest," said the forest ruler protectively. "You shall have a busy day tomorrow, if you plan to continue on this quest of yours."
He arranged a soft cushioning layer of fallen pine needles on his roots and tucked Mistletoe in with large autumn leaves. The cupid curled up comfortably on the make-shift bed from which she had been chased just a short time ago. With a kingdom of trees looking on in absolute amazement at their respected King's unexplained change in temperament, Mistletoe drifted off for the second time that night to the mysterious world of dreams. Acorn stood guard protectively as young Mistletoe snored peacefully in her woodland bed.
This time Mistletoe's dreams were pleasant, peopled by Sir Romeo, her Aunt Valentina, her cherub friends and her dear parents, whom she missed dreadfully.
The early morning birds began to chirp, and the small woodland creatures began to bustle about as the sun spread its golden warmth across the sleepy world.
Mistletoe cautiously opened one eye and surveyed her surroundings with trepidation. Had her moonlight adventures been a fragment of what Aunt Valentina termed her 'overactive imagination?' The sight of the lightly dozing royal tree vigilantly protecting her from forest dangers convinced her that it was not.
The cupid prised her other eyelid open and gently tapped on the oak's bark. As His Majesty stirred himself awake, Mistletoe stared up at the highest branches of the regal tree, which stretched into the sky like fingers reaching for the stars. The cherub could just make out a small bejewelled golden crown resting lightly on King Acorn's topmost leaves.
"I'm afraid that I must continue on my journey," Mistletoe regretfully informed his majesty, who was sleepily rubbing his eyes.
"So soon?" enquired the king, who despite his numerous subjects, was rather lonely. "We've enjoyed your company, young cupid." He turned to the citizens of his kingdom. "Haven't we?" he demanded.
"Yes of course, Your Highness," his loyal servants quickly replied, fearful of arousing the monarch's volatile temper.
"You...you guaranteed me safe passage through your woods," Mistletoe tentatively reminded the forest leader, hoping fervently that he would honour their agreement.
"Of course, dear child," Acorn assured her. "If you wish to leave, you may depart with my blessing! No tree in this forest shall hinder you, or they will answer to me!"
Mistletoe smiled, thanked the king for his hospitality and impulsively reached up to kiss his royal highness lightly on the bark that was his cheek. The tree blushed to his roots as Mistletoe spread her small but sturdy wings and leapt into the sky.
"Goodbye!" the cherub called over her shoulder to the waving royal tree and his myriad of humble servants.

Chapter Three

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7
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Mistletoe glided through the air with experienced ease, reflecting on the beauty and tranquillity of the countryside below. She was so content that she almost forgot the reason for her being in her present predicament. Almost. When she did remember, an avalanche of tears cascaded down her rosy cheeks. She missed her cupid family and friends and wept bitterly as she thought of them.
Mistletoe suddenly chanced to glance upwards and the sight of a happily smiling angel on the ninth cloud, cheered her immensely. The cherub grinned at the regally waving heavenly messenger. (This friendly greeting between the two species was not uncommon, since cupids and angels are quite well acquainted and on extremely pleasant terms.)
Mistletoe continued her tiring journey, marvelling at the deep blue sky and the rich green fields which stretched like a thick plush carpet across the land. Refreshed from her rest in the tree kingdom the cupid, flew almost incessantly, stopping only for short periods during the dead of night when the darkness prevented her from continuing.
After travelling in this manner for over two rises of the sun and moon, Mistletoe could fly no more. Exhaustedly, she made the earthwards descent, gliding on the wind like a powerful eagle. She came to rest beside a hawthorn bush, and knowing that this shrub was effective in warding off evil incantations, she pocketed a few of its twigs. ("You never know when things like that come in handy," the cherub muttered.)
Suddenly, Mistletoe heard a plaintive yelp. She inspected nearby gorse and mulberry bushes, but it was only when she closely examined a neighbouring blackberry bush that the concerned orphan discovered the origin of the cry. Stretched between two blackberry thorns was the most enormous spider's web Mistletoe had seen in her ninety short years. Exactly in the centre of the intricately spun silk, the cupid saw a tiny figure securely tied to the web.
"Help! Please help me!" pleaded the minute prisoner who was no larger than ten centimetres tall.
From the creature's pointed ears, large angelic eyes and long golden hair, Mistletoe deduced that the tiny captive was a young elf. The little prisoner was unable to free her small frail wings from the sticky silk. (Contrary to popular belief, elves' wings, unlike those of cupids', are unable to carry their tiny owners into the sky. Experts believe that thousands of revolutions of the world ago, elves were most likely airborne. When their wings fell into disuse, the surrounding muscles became weak, thus enabling elves to manage only a slight flutter.)
At the present moment, Mistletoe could see that the small flightless creature before her was in dire trouble. If the owner of the web was to return unexpectedly, the results would be disastrous.
"Young cherub!" the elf called shakily. "I am an elfin princess. Aloe Cammomilia is my name. Please rescue me from this predicament. I have a little one at home and I don't know what she'd do if anything happened to me..."
"Of course, Your Highness," the kind-hearted cupid informed the second royal creature she encountered in as many days. "Naturally, I will assist you in any way that I can, Princess Aloe."
The elfin princess smiled through the tears she had shed. Suddenly the grin froze on her lips as a dark looming shadow was cast over the slightly trembling elfin princess. Mistletoe gasped in terror as the enormous owner of the silken web returned to his home.
"Please, please don't eat me," Aloe begged the spider. "I have a little one and..."
"Ah, but I will, fair maiden," replied the creature ominously. "I am Soxifrages, the Sinister Spider and no one deprives me of my dinner!"
"I will!" declared the normally mild mannered cupid defiantly.
When Soxifrages turned to enquire who had made this bold statement, Mistletoe had already aimed her bow and arrow. She gave no thought to the fact that by firing her love weapon once again, her heart would break even further. The only issue on the young cherub's mind was the release of the petrified elfin princess. She fired. The cupid felt a sharp stab of pain in her chest, but ignored it, concentrating on the present proceedings.
When the arrow pierced his thick skin, Soxifrages stood stock still for a moment, shook his head in bewilderment and blinked at length. He opened his eyes and Mistletoe observed hearts dancing in his pupils, giving the fearsome creature a kindly appearance. Soxifrages turned his confused gaze from the triumphantly grinning cupid to the fearfully cowering elf.
"Oh no!" he exclaimed despairingly when he saw the state that Aloe was in. "Whatever have I done?" The spider fumbled in his haste to release his tiny prisoner, who was still whimpering with fright. As soon as the newly reformed spider had completed his task, the elf used what wing power she could muster to flutter to Mistletoe's outstretched palm.
The cherub's love arrows were invisible to all but her own race. (This fact was due to a special clause in the contract between cupids and the Supreme Magician, which was drawn up at the beginning of time.) So the elfin princess was completely unaware of the cause of Soxifrage's literal 'change of heart.' Although she was extremely surprised at this extraordinary turn of events, she wasted no time in fleeing from her former captor's web, lest he should change his mind.
"I don't know how you negotiated my release with Mr. Soxifrages," Aloe told her saviour, "but I would like to express my sincere gratitude for rescuing me. If there is anything that I can do to repay you..."
"Nonsense, Your Highness," Mistletoe dismissed the princess's kind offer. "Witnessing your liberation has been enough of a reward."
"Oh please forgive me!" a suddenly depressed Soxifrages wailed. He was bent down on six of his eight legs, the other two clasped before him in a gesture of pleading. "I...I didn't mean any harm. I truly don't know what came over me!"
"That's quite all right, dear spider," conceded a very forgiving Aloe.
"As long as you stay away from elfin princesses and any other elves for that matter for the remainder of your life," Mistletoe negotiated firmly.
"Of course," agreed the spider eagerly. "I am prepared to do anything that you say. I am your willing slave for eternity."
"That's very generous of you," muttered the cherub impatiently, "but there's no need for you to go to that extreme."
Aloe shook her head disbelievingly. Was this really the same spider who had threatened to consume her just moments before?
"Well," said Mistletoe at present, "I must be on my way."
"On your way?" echoed the princess.
"Where are you going?" enquired a curious Soxifrages.
"I am on an important journey," the cupid revealed in hushed tones. "A mission."
She gave the elf and the spider a brief outline of her quest and the circumstances surrounding it. At the conclusion of her concise tale, tears welled in her baby blue eyes and streamed down her adorable chubby cheeks.
"Hush, young cherub," Aloe advised, putting a tiny comforting hand on the sobbing creature's shoulder. "I know what these quests are like," the elf sympathised. "Why, just recently, my uncle, the great wizard, Pompador Picklepoppy and I undertook a perilous journey to find an antidote for my little 'un who was desperately ill."
"Yes," sniffed Mistletoe, trying to calm herself. "I've heard about your exciting adventures. It seems that the entire kingdom is commending you for your courage and determination. News certainly travels fast on a magical grapevine!"
"Your efforts will be appreciated too when your journey is completed," the kind elf said encouragingly. "Many will sing your praises for a long time to come!"
Mistletoe smiled gratefully, but murmured rather doubtfully, "If my quest is ever completed."
On that note Mistletoe bid farewell to her new friends.
Aloe repeatedly thanked the cupid for saving her life and Soxifrages expressed his gratitude at being reformed. "I shall become a vegetarian, snacking only on wild nuts and berries and a good and worthwhile citizen," he pledged as the cherub launched herself into the sky.
As Mistletoe floated on a fluffy white cloud, all sharp chest pains which she had been ignoring until now resurfaced and the cupid lay half unconscious as she gasped for breath.
"My heart is really breaking," she wheezed, the reality of her condition hitting her for the first time.
This realisation was too much for the fragile cherub, and she plunged into the frightening world of unconsciousness.

Chapter Four

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7
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Some time later, Mistletoe opened her heavy eye-lids, yawned and gasped in astonishment when she found herself suspended in mid-air. (It was later explained to the cupid that she had been resting on an invisible bed.)
Presently, she observed through blurred vision a crowd of concerned faces observing her awakening worriedly. They each had china-doll complexions and long golden hair that cascaded over the white robes which covered their frail bodies. A thin golden band was magically suspended above each creature's head. Realising of who these concerned faces were, caused Mistletoe bolt upright and blink repeatedly, trying to clear her vision.
"Oh my goodness!" she exclaimed weakly. "Am I...am I...?"
"No, you're not dead," confirmed the nearest smiling face. Its owner clutched a small golden harp under her arm, and the cupid later learned that her name was Minstrelina.
"Where...where am I then?" enquired Mistletoe perplexedly.
"You are in the Garden of Angels," one of these beings named Snowamina (the angel whose job it was to distribute the right amount of snow to the world) informed the slightly apprehensive cupid. "In the Kingdom of Heaven."
"Then I am...dead," Mistletoe sighed forlornly.
"A third angel, Autumnina (responsible for the timing and conditions of this season) reassured the unhappy cherub. "You are merely visiting the Kingdom of the Afterlife."
"Oh." Mistletoe said, contemplating the meaning of this statement and wondering about her chances of leaving this strange community, (if she was 'merely visiting').
"You may leave the 'Garden' as soon as you are fit enough to do so," the angel whose profession involved the care of the summer season, answered her unvoiced questions.
"You were terribly ill," Snowamina told Mistletoe, who by this time was greatly reassured and was lying down once again.
"You slept for three rises of the sun and moon," Minstrelina related. "We were most concerned about your welfare and sent for the Heavenly Magician, who specialises in health care."
"He diagnosed your condition as Heartus Brokena, or Broken Heart Syndrome," Summerina stated gravely. "Did you know that you had been suffering from this ailment, young cupid?"
Mistletoe nodded meekly.
"Well, you are most unfortunate, cherub child," an angel by the name of Winterina who had just entered the heavenly chamber, informed Mistletoe. "Your illness had reached epic proportions in your chubby little body. It would most certainly have overwhelmed you if the Heavenly Magician had not have given you powerful healing herbs to ward off the syndrome."
"You...you mean I'm cured?" Mistletoe asked incredulously. "I don't have to continue on my journey in search of a solution?"
Springamina, who had entered the room with her winter counterpart, shook her head sadly. "The healing herbs will only be effective for a short time. Hopefully they will keep your illness in check until it can be treated. Our Heavenly Magician is unable to banish your syndrome permanently. He suggests that you consult Lady Moonamina, the most powerful sorceress in your world."
Mistletoe nodded. "I have already undertaken the long and dangerous journey to her castle," she revealed to the angels.
Minstrelina looked out through the window at the pale sliver of moon that was steadily rising over the fluffy white clouds of the Kingdom of Heaven.
"We must be on our way," she regretfully told Mistletoe, indicating her sisters. "We have to be in the Supreme Magician's presence before the moon has reached its peak in the sky."
"We regret that you are unable to join us, young cherub," Snowamina apologised as she ushered the other heavenly beings towards the door, "but only creatures of angel status or above are permitted to observe His Supremeness."
Mistletoe smiled understandingly and the angels promised that they would return as soon as their official business was completed.
When the cupid was alone she inspected her unusual surroundings. The white-washed walls were adorned in rich silken tapestries depicting scenes of heavenly life. Apart from her invisible bed, an equally unseeable chair and table (which Mistletoe had the misfortune of colliding with) furnished the chamber. As did an unnoticeable dressing table, whose visible mirror was the only evidence of its existence. Mistletoe examined her reflection. Her adorable baby face appeared drawn and tired, due to the trying circumstances of her quest. Her clear blue eyes which usually sparkled with happiness were red-rimmed from her almost incessant sobbing.
Mistletoe turned to the window, opened it and poked her head through it. She felt exhilarated by the wind which roughly, but playfully tickled her chin. Mistletoe was convinced that the moon, smiling kindly down on the world, gave her a mischievous wink. She waved in reply, calling out what a wonderful evening it was. Later, the cupid dozed fitfully and was uncertain of how long it was before the angels returned.
"We would like you to meet the other members of the Family of Heaven," Minstrelina suggested.
"Yes," agreed Winterina, "please join us in the Heavenly Hall for a meal."
"I would love to," Mistletoe responded graciously, smiling through the tears she had shed when she was alone.
Mistletoe greatly enjoyed her short, but entertaining time among the angels of heaven in the Great Hall. In an enormous white-washed room, carpeted with plush silver rugs, were rows of tables at which creatures, similar to the ones Mistletoe had already encountered during her short stay in Heaven, laughed and chatted cheerfully.
Mistletoe, a highly honoured guest, was shown to the table in the centre of the room, where the High Angel, sporting two golden halos and other important heavenly beings were in deep conversation. They welcomed the cupid into their midst, questioning her about her impressions of the Garden of Angels.
Mistletoe responded politely, thanking the saintly beings for their hospitality and good will.
"It is our pleasure to care for you," the High Angel assured the cherub, who was the centre of attention. "I knew your mother Venus, and your father Sagittarius, young Mistletoe. Their tragic deaths were such a dreadful shame. My belated condolences on your loss."
Mistletoe's nod of acknowledgment was so slight that it went almost unnoticed.
"Onto lighter topics!" suggested the mayor of the Garden of Angels cheerily. The conversation turned to the selection of a committee for the nine hundred and thirty fourth annual Angels' Ball.
A small horned creature, brandishing a tray crammed with bone china bowls, appeared at Mistletoe's elbow. She almost screamed in terror at the sight of the young devil, who was on work experience from the pits of hell. The cupid regained her composure and managed to gulp down the deliciously fluffy cream of cloud soup that the devilish creature set down before her. When this native of hell reappeared with plates of steaming lightly roasted peace dove in olive leaf sauce, Mistletoe even managed to engage him in pleasant conversation about his homeland. She was contentedly full and convinced that another bite would have disastrous consequences, when a mouthwatering snow and marshmallow mousse arrived. The cherub slowly devoured it, savouring each mouthful like a connoisseur of fine desserts. The pleasant evening continued. Minstrelina strummed a heavenly tune on her harp accompanying it with an angelic voice befitting the creature that she was.
Mistletoe was disappointed when the entertainment ended - she had so enjoyed this light-hearted evening after her days of misery and hardship. The cherub's angelic friends led her back to her luxurious chamber.
"Snowamina!" the cupid called as the angel and her companions were about to depart. "I think I should continue on my quest at the next sun's rise. I must find a cure for my shattered heart before it's too late..."
"Yes, I agree with you child," the angel in question responded. "I believe you should be on your way as soon as you have regained your strength."
"Oh, I have," Mistletoe assured her. "Thank you all for restoring me to health so that I am able to travel once again."
The angels smiled with pleasure at this compliment. As Mistletoe nodded to the land where the impossible is possible and the extraordinary is ordinary, they tiptoed out of Mistletoe's presence and retired to their own heavenly chambers.
The following morning, as the climbing sun cast its golden rays on the Garden of Angels, Mistletoe bid her new friends farewell and once again expressed her gratitude for the expert care she had received.
"It was our pleasure, dear cherub child," Summerina replied kindly.
"May luck bless your travels," Autumnina declared solemnly, then broke into a radiant smile.

Chapter Five

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7
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The young cupid fluttered through the fabled wrought golden gates of Heaven and into her own world beyond. Although she had enjoyed her stay in the kingdom of the Afterlife, Mistletoe was glad to return to her own environment. Unconsciously, she flew closer to her native world than to the one in the sky.
When the sun was at its zenith, Mistletoe halted her flight to picnic on a lunch of delicious wild nuts and berries. She made herself comfortable between the branches of an elderly silver birch tree (as a precautionary measure, she explained to it that she was acquainted with His Royal Highness, King Acorn, ruler of the Forest.) Mistletoe pleasantly conversed with its tenant, a cheeky little chipmunk named Cherokee. (Cupids are blessed with the gift of understanding the complex twittering, chirping, mooing, baaing and other common expressions of animal language.)
Suddenly, Mistletoe observed a loud commotion taking place amidst a nearby clump of pine trees. The blurred vision she had suffered from in the Kingdom of Heaven had cleared and she could just make out the shapes of small squabbling figures in the distance. Their arguing was punctuated by the distressed neighing and snorting of a powerful, but oppressed stallion. She sympathised with the snow white thoroughbred who was being beaten and tethered by what Mistletoe now saw to be those hateful creatures known as goblins!
Mistletoe distractedly muttered an apology to the understanding chipmunk for her hasty departure and sprang down from her perch. She stealthily crept towards the disturbing scene which was taking place nearby. Concealed behind some convenient foliage, Mistletoe carefully parted the leaves and unobtrusively observed the unfolding events. As the cupid looked on, she realised the stallion that the goblins were debating about was not in fact a true horse, but the magical and mystical unicorn! The winged beast sported a technicolour tail and mane which shimmered in the bright afternoon sun.
"I reckon we should extract his telepathic ability and all his other magical properties right here and now!" one goblin proclaimed.
"No, no Rockleberry," argued a second goblin stubbornly. "I believe we must transport the entire beast to our realm and let Stonecold, the Terrifyingly Ferocious King, handle the delicate extraction process."
"But then we'll have to trek all over the countryside with the beast in tow, Inkleberry," the first goblin complained irritably. "It would be far simpler to just take what we need from the creature and discard the empty shell."
"What if we were to make an error during the complicated procedure of magical extraction?" challenged a third creature. "Our ferocious king would be furious!"
While the ugly little monsters were debating the unicorn's fate, this unfortunate creature was desperately straining at his tether. His struggle was in vain. His captors had taken no chances and had tied the powerful creature securely to the largest and strongest pine tree in the area.
"Enough or this!" exclaimed the largest, ugliest and most powerful goblin of the group. "I and I alone shall decide what method we shall use to complete the task our wonderfully bad-tempered king has set us!"
"Yes of course, Lieutenant Mudcrack," chorused the small band of monsters.
Mistletoe sympathised with the terrified unicorn and was determined to aid his cause. She was angered by the goblins' attitude. As their leader was about to announce his decision on whether or not to transport the entire horselike creature, the courageous young cupid sprang into view.
"You rotten scoundrels!" she shrieked fiercely, drawing herself up to her full height and waving her forefinger accusingly at the astonished monsters. "How dare you treat this innocent beast with such cruelty? You ought to be ashamed of yourselves!" She followed this declaration with a string of abuse directed at the cruel and heartless little creatures. While Mistletoe was raving uncontrollably, Lieutenant Mudcrack came to his senses and ordered his troops to seize the enraged cupid. As they came towards her, the cherub realised that positive and decisive action was necessary. She ceased her torrent of angry words and without further concern for to her battered heart, withdrew a love shaft from her quiver. She knew that her supply was running low. She therefore decided to reform the goblin Lieutenant whose troops would follow his orders, however unlikely and changeable they were.
Mistletoe had observed the startling changes in her 'victims' countless times before, but the amazing transformations never ceased to amaze her. The leader of this unit of the goblin military force dramatically clutched his chest where the invisible heart-tipped love weapon had injected its powerful potion.
The lieutenant shook his head and blinked in confusion. He could feel bees buzzing inside his head, painfully stinging his brain. When this unpleasant, but totally harmless sensation had subsided, Mudcrack noticed that his triumphantly grinning troops had captured the struggling cupid, who was impatiently awaiting the effects of her potent weapon. The lieutenant was outraged. "Whatever forms of unnecessary torture are you heartless goblins inflicting on that poor defenceless little cupid child?" he demanded.
"Apprehending her, sir," Officer Inkleberry explained.
"As you commanded, Lieutenant," Private Rockleberry added.
"Apprehending?" exploded his superior. "As I commanded? What nonsense! Release her at once!"
His astonished soldiers almost dropped their prisoner in their haste to obey their respected leader.
Mistletoe collapsed. Not so much from fear, as from an unexpected attack of giggles. It was comical to see the goblins' confusion and bewilderment.
When kind, caring Mudcrack was satisfied that the cupid child was unharmed, he turned to the unhappy unicorn. The beast was scratching the ground with hooves of her front feet.
"Why ever is that beautiful thoroughbred tethered to those trees like a pig awaiting his slaughter?" the goblin leader thundered incredulously.
His subordinates, trained to obey their superiors by years of relentless army discipline, didn't dare mention that he had ordered the unicorn's capture. They were so much in awe of their lieutenant that they refrained from enquiring what their fearsome king would say about the release of a magical creature which goblins treasured more that gold itself. Instead, they hurriedly went about the business of liberating the thoroughbred, who was almost mad with the terror of constraint. The unicorn neighed and bucked in exhilaration at being a free spirit once again.
The cowardly goblin lieutenant and his equally uncourageous officers and privates were terrified that the stallion would retaliate. They hastily muttered nearly inaudible apologies to their former captives. Mistletoe accepted their pleas for forgiveness with an affirmative nod, and the goblins took the unicorn's snort of happiness as an indication that he too was willing to accept their sincere but rather inadequate apologies. As the steed galloped around the clearing to stretch his cramped legs, Lieutenant Mudcrack and his small band of followers marched regally into the distance. When they thought they were out of sight, they bolted like frightened hares and Mistletoe doubted that they stopped until they reached their kingdom and the wrath of their furious ruler.
"They certainly didn't stay around to chat, did they?" a rather out-ofbreath unicorn commented as he came to rest beside the cupid who still lay crumpled on the ground, recovering from her giggling fit. "You used your magical arrows to reform the goblins, didn't you?" the stallion asked, almost accusingly. Although, like all other creatures, he was unable to see Mistletoe's arrows, he was intelligent enough to conclude from his rather unorthodox liberation and the fact that his rescuer was a cupid that she had used some unusual means to secure his release.
Mistletoe nodded bashfully.
"By the way, my name is Frostbite Mooncracker," said the unicorn, politely extending a hoof.
"Delighted to meet you, I'm sure," responded the cherub, as she took his heavy hoof in both her hands and introduced herself. Mistletoe couldn't remove her gaze from the stallion's single sparkling horn in the centre of his forehead.
"What's the matter?" enquired the fabled beast lightly, "Haven't you ever seen a unicorn before?"
"Actually," replied the cherub, "I...I haven't."
The two mystical creatures joked and laughed for a while, until Mistletoe asked gravely, "Why in the world did those horrid goblins seize you?"
"They wanted to use a complicated spell to extract my magical properties and use them for their own evil gains," explained Frostbite. "It was fortunate that you foiled their plans before they wreaked havoc on the entire world! I would like to thank you from the bottom of my enchanted heart for..."
At the mention of this word, Mistletoe gave a wail of anguish and all the heartache she had felt when firing her love arrow and which she had mentally swept under the rug overwhelmed her.
"What troubles ye?" the unicorn of the Mooncracker clan enquired.
Between sobs and gasps for breath, Mistletoe's tragic tale unfolded. The unicorn was aghast that such a young frail child (although Mistletoe was by other creature's standards, she was rather underweight for the chubby cupid race) was undertaking such a perilous quest on her own.
"It's my only chance of a complete recovery from this crippling illness," Mistletoe sniffed.
Frostbite nodded gravely. "Your little wings must be almost in tatters after such long distances of air travel. It would sadden me greatly to see such a lovely young cupid continue on her journey alone. Alas, I cannot travel with you, child. I am unable to provide you with protection, transportation and companionship," the unicorn informed the cupid regretfully. "You see, I, like many magical creatures, including the manticora, the fire-breathing dragon-fly and the sphinx, am unable to venture from the vicinity of the land of my birth. If I do, according to a confusing clause in the Supreme Magician's Complete and Unabridged Laws of the Universe, I would lose my powers of telepathic vision, flight and all my numerous other magical properties." Frostbite sighed.
"That's quite all right, Mr. Mooncracker," the Lovechild cupid assured the kind unicorn graciously. "I have come this far, battled with terrifying creatures and found some wonderful friends. I shall manage to continue on my solo quest and succeed!"
The mystical stallion was surprised by the determined note in the love creature's voice. He admired her courage and undaunting optimism.
Mistletoe, now somewhat recovered from her fit of hysterics, was anxious to continue on her journey. She bid farewell to her compassionate new friend rather tearfully, as he reminded her kindly, "I am most grateful for your assistance in relieving me of an extremely undesirable fate. If I can ever be of service to you, just recite my full name, Frostbite Rainbow Star Golden Sunlight Mystic Horizon Mooncracker. And I will appear immediately."
Mistletoe was unable to repress a smile. " If I am able to recall your impressive title," she giggled, "I shall most certainly recite it in a time of dire need."

Chapter Six

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 7
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With that promise, she launched herself into the sky, happy to once again be shortening the distance between herself and Moonamina's fabled castle. Mistletoe basked in the ripe afternoon sun, playfully chasing a butterfly or gossiping with a sparrow and a robin. The cupid felt that as she approached the Castle of Armondine, the residence of the great Moonamina, the heavy burden of her syndrome was being lifted from her shoulders.
The cupid, who was reflecting on this point and admiring the abundant wildlife was totally unprepared for the butterfly net which was unexpectedly clamped over her head.
"Aha!" exclaimed a wicked voice gleefully. "You're trapped! You're trapped!"
A terrified cherub child glanced down fearfully. What terrible force had captured her so violently? What terrifying creature had she encountered now?
The body, attached to the hand which held the butterfly net was that of a small stooped elderly gentleman, shrouded in a black cape. What hair remained on his balding head was charcoal coloured and his unsightly face, a labyrinth of lines and wrinkles, was twisted into a permanent scowl. His dark birdlike eyes (describing them as beady would have been complimentary) darted about quickly, missing nothing.
He pulled his net, filled with a desperately struggling cupid, towards him. He muttered a few inaudible words, and the thrashing shrieking bundle that was the cherub froze, and was silenced.
"An evil sorcerer," thought Mistletoe miserably as she vainly tried to lift her motionless limbs and force a squeak out of her contracted throat. Her mind raced. What would a black magician want to do with her? The possibilities were endless, and the cupid preferred not to imagine the gruesome things an evil magician was capable of.
Mistletoe thought of the twig of hawthorn she had so carefully collected. She knew it would be a helpful tool in escaping from the wicked sorcerer, but she was unable to reach it.
Whistling cheerfully and triumphantly, the cruel magician unceremoniously stowed the limp cupid into a putrid, moulding sack. The little hunchbacked man slung the bundle over his shoulder, jolting poor Mistletoe and making her stomach perform acrobatic somersaults. He trudged through the forest, creating a miniature sandstorm with every step, as he disturbed the thick layer of dry, summer earth which carpeted the land. Presently, Mistletoe's captor arrived at a large forbidding structure.
"Mordrid," he muttered. "The Castle of Mordrid; home sweet home!"
Before he had even set foot on the drawbridge, the heavily studded front door, built to withstand even the most powerful attack, was flung open by two identically ugly ogre twins who served the magician.
"Good evening, sire," they greeted their master as one, as he pushed past them into the doorway. They bowed respectfully. "Welcome home Your Lordship."
"'Evening, Samnew and Cramnew," grumbled the bad- tempered sorcerer.
"Ooh, your magianship," they cooed together, eying their employer's sack. "Whatever have you captured?"
"Silence!" boomed the villain. "It is not your business to ask bothersome questions!"
"We are most dreadfully sorry, sire," the ogre twins muttered shamefacedly.
"See that everything I need to perform the Extraction Incantation is prepared in my study, you disobedient little monsters," the old man growled impatiently.
"Yes, of course, Your Worship, " replied his servants in unison. They snapped their fingers simultaneously and were transformed into a pair of large menacing crows, who fluttered about organising their master's workroom.
"It's so difficult to find good help these days!" murmured the evil mage irritably as his faithful servants disappeared to complete their tasks.
When the practitioner of black magic judged that his employees had received sufficient time to complete their assignment, he ventured into his laboratory. He dumped the foul-smelling, securely tied sack by the door and proceeded to inspect his workbench. His servants, now in ogre form once again, waited unobtrusively by the glassless window with baited breath. Had they performed their duties in a satisfactory manner? Would they be punished severely if they had not? They anxiously awaited their master's decision. He turned to them, flashed them an even worse scowl than usual and nodded. The ogre twins heaved a sigh of relief (simultaneously, of course) at this indication that their master was satisfied with their efforts.
"Release the prisoner from that yonder sack," he commanded gruffly, nodding towards the crumpled Mistletoe, "and tie her securely to a stool."
When the gruesome monsters had bound her (she was unable to even blanche at their sickening touch) to a hard wooden stool, the wicked magi banished his servants to the courtyard. He murmured an ancient incantation and Mistletoe regained control of her limbs and vocal chords. As soon as she realised this, the cherub strained at her bonds and shrieked abusive insults at her bemused captor. When Mistletoe realised that the small but deadly birdlike man was ignoring her vain attempts at escape, she ceased struggling and sat up rigidly in expectation.
"That is better," the sorcerer said calmly in a beguiling voice. "Now I suppose you are wondering why I have brought you here."
"Not at all," replied Mistletoe sarcastically.
"Now, now, we shall have no more spiteful talk," the hunchback reprimanded her quietly like an elderly schoolteacher disciplining his pupils. "Your hateful words hurt my feelings!" he wailed.
The cupid fumed inwardly. How dare this intolerable man play with her feelings like a game of hopscotch. "Yes," she managed to say politely. "I had begun to question your motives for capturing me."
"I am sure that you did." His magicianship toyed with the prisoner like a cat playing with a mouse before it pounces.
"Well?" demanded the cherub impatiently, when the sorcerer didn't break the silence between them. He sat on a stool opposite her, a deadly smile never leaving his lips.
"Well what?" he enquired with infuriating politeness.
"Are you going to tell me why I am your prisoner or not?" thundered the cupid. Under normal circumstances she was an example of perfect politeness.
"Oh, all right!" sighed the magus at length. "But I'll have you know that you've spoilt all my fun, and I hate it when that happens!"
"Get on with it!" Mistletoe breathed through clenched teeth.
The little man ignored this statement.
"First, let us get the formal introductions out of the way," he suggested. "I find it more polite to actually know who one is addressing." He rose and began to pace the room restlessly. "My name is Doctor Cornelious Owlbrow, Lord of Mordrid Castle," he announced. "You have heard of me, haven't you?" he enquired anxiously.
Mistletoe shook her head.
"Oh," the sorcerer sighed. "Who might you be?"
As Mistletoe answered his lordship's query, she came to the conclusion that the Master of the Castle had taken leave of his senses and was in dire need of psychiatric assistance.
"Now that we have tended to the formalities," said the Doctor, settling himself in an old weathered rocking chair by the crackling hearth, "let the tale begin! Once upon a time..." he began like a seasoned bard, "...not so many revolutions of the moon ago, my dear sister, the lovely sorceress, Raven, was cruelly banished from this world. The witchling who performed this unforgivable deed was none other than the apprentice to the powerful sorceress, Moonamina, Roseprim Sucklehoney, or was that Honeyrose Primsuckle? Oh, it doesn't matter. Where was I? Oh yes, this trouble making little varmint (no doubt sent by my sister's cruel and heartless arch enemy) destroyed my sibling's life. Now I, The great Owlbrow, Lord of this establishment am seeking revenge! I have taken over dear Raven's former castle and am using all its resources to find a spell so devastating to Moonamina that she will never practise sorcery again!"
Mistletoe was attempting to follow the psychopathic magician's tale, but his diverse ramblings resulted in her losing concentration periodically.
"How...how do you propose to accomplish this?" the cupid enquired tentatively. She had understood the main idea of Cornelious's plan.
"With your help!" he replied happily. "It was most fortunate that we happened to meet when we did."
"I'm not so sure," Mistletoe muttered under her breath.
"For you see, I have happened upon a delightful spell, perfect for this situation," explained Owlbrow. "However, I was most discouraged when I learned that its key ingredient is only possessed by the cupid race. When I was in the woods gathering herbs for my numerous other experiments and I spotted you dear child, my hope was restored. Now all I have to do is wait patiently for the next rise of the moon, which shall bring with it the first day of the new season. Such an occasion is the perfect time to perform the delicate procedure."
"What...what delicate procedure?" asked Mistletoe apprehensively.
"Why the extraction of your magical properties, of course cupid child," the magician informed the cherub impatiently. "It's all I need to rid the world of that tiresome Moonamina once and for all!"
"Extraction of my magical properties?" wondered Mistletoe silently. "Wasn't that what those hateful goblins had been attempting to do to my unicorn friend, Frostbite? And hadn't he described it as an extremely undesirable fate?"
"And don't even think of attempting a daring escape," the wicked magician warned her. "I shan't have my key ingredient disappearing on me at this crucial point in time!"
"I wouldn't dream of it," lied the cherub.
"Samnew! Cramnew!" Owlbrow called, completely ignoring his uncomfortable prisoner. His loyal unappreciated servants appeared almost as soon as their names rolled off their master's tongue.
"Imprison this child in the Tower Room, until she is of use to me," he ordered. The ogres saluted in military fashion, bound poor Mistletoe hand and foot, and together pushed the unfortunate cupid up a steep, spiralling stairway. When the small procession arrived before an impenetrable iron door (the metal used to craft it had been cruelly stolen from the mines of the hard-working dwarfs), the monster twins untied a bruised and battered cherub , unlocked the entrance to the tower room and apathetically tossed the cherub inside. As she staggered, her legs gave way beneath her and she sat down on the hard stone floor with an undignified plop.
Before she could even think of rushing to the door, she heard the bolts being slid home and the sneering promise of her jailers, "We'll be back for yer when the master's good 'n ready!"
With that reassurance, Owlbrow's underpaid servants retreated down the stairs to the safety of their employer's harsh tongue.
Mistletoe struggled to her feet, her large salty tears forming a pool of water around her ankles. She inspected the room's meagre furnishings - a far cry from her previous accommodation in a luxurious suite in the Kingdom of Heaven. A rough three-legged stool stood forlornly in a corner and a hard wooden plank supported by four heavy stones, represented a bed. Mistletoe found it to be as comfortable as reclining in a bramble bush. The cupid barely glanced at the small barred window - it offered her no chance of escape. The whimpering cupid miserably plonked down on the stool, held her head in her hands and let forth an avalanche of uncontrollable tears.
"It's hopeless!" she wailed despairingly. "I am doomed to die at the hands of this mad, sadistic doctor!"
Even if she perished, Mistletoe abhorred the idea of promoting Cornelious Owlbrow's plan to destroy the great Moonamina, who was loved and respected throughout the land.
"Whatever shall I do?" sobbed the cupid unhappily. "I shall share the same fate that Frostbite narrowly avoided..."
When she thought of her unicorn friend, an idea popped into her resourceful mind. "That's it!" she exclaimed with new found hope. "Frostbite can save me! Now all I have to do is remember his impressive title..."
This was no easy task. The unicorn's name was almost as long as The Comprehensive Intergalactic Magical Sorcerer's Directory.
"Frostbite...Rainbow Star...," Mistletoe struggled, reaching to the tips of her memory. "...Golden...Golden Sunlight...Mystic...Mystic..."
As the final part of the magical stallion's name evaded her, Mistletoe glanced through the barred window at the picturesque countryside, which stretched to the horizon...
"...Horizon! That's it! Mystic Horizon Mooncracker!" shouted the cherub joyfully.
"You called?" enquired an eloquent well-educated voice through the window.
An astonished Mistletoe heard the flutter of wings. She almost collapsed from surprise. Although she believed the unicorn's promise to assist her in a time of need, she had doubted the effectiveness of merely calling his name. Now, as she peered through the glassless window, all doubts were erased from her mind. There right before the window hovered the handsome milky white stallion. His multi-coloured tail and mane, shimmering in the rays of the dying sun, were whipped into a frenzy by the strong breeze. He was even more magnificent than Mistletoe remembered.
"Oh Frostbite!" the cupid cried gratefully. "Thank goodness you're here! You arrived just in time. You see this wicked doctor..."
"No time for explanations at present, my dear," interrupted the thoroughbred kindly. "Our priority is your liberation. There will be plenty of time for telling stories later."
"Steel bars lie between us," the cupid pointed out. "However shall you accomplish the feat of freeing me? We could never..."
"Observe!" the unicorn recommended mysteriously. He fixed his gaze on the closely placed metal bars, his intense concentration wrinkling his brow.
"Whatever are you do..." began Mistletoe.
"Silence!" hissed the horselike creature. "You are breaking my spell of concentration!"
As the cherub muttered an apology, the cold grey steel bars became the colour of dying embers in a hearth. Slowly they melted away, leaving nothing to obstruct Mistletoe's path to freedom.
"Quickly!" urged the stallion. "Climb onto my back!"
"But...but..." faltered Mistletoe, glancing back at her prison, "what about the wicked magician?"
"Don't even give him another thought," the mystical horse recommended.
"What about Lady Moonamina?" asked Mistletoe.
"Lady Moonamina?" echoed the thoroughbred. "What about her?"
"Doctor Owlbrow will destroy her!" the cupid exclaimed.
"Destroy Lady Moonamina?" The unicorn was dumbfounded. "Whatever are you babbling about?"
The cherub, now seated comfortably on Frostbite's back, launched into a hurried explanation of the mad doctor's plan.
"...and even though he's lost me, his main ingredient for the enchantment, I'm convinced he'll eventually find another means of rendering Her Ladyship's powerful magical abilities useless."
"Dazzling dandelions!" snorted the unicorn. "I shall put an end to this tomfoolery!"
"You?" Mistletoe had difficulty in disguising her astonishment. She was unable to picture the unicorn triumphant in a sorcerous battle with the sinister Cornelious Owlbrow.
"I know," the stallion of the Mooncracker clan sighed ruefully, "I am not the image of a magical genius. Yet I have performed some amazingly successful enchantments. Behold, and you shall witness another sorcerous achievement of mine!"
Mistletoe was more than slightly curious as her friend flapped his wings and flew a short distance from the castle. ("Just a precautionary measure," he explained to his passenger.) The cherub held her breath in anticipation when Frostbite turned towards Doctor Owlbrow's residence and uttered a complicated arrangement of mystical words in the rarely spoken Faerie tongue. He swished his brightly coloured tail in a gesture of enchantment. (An uninformed onlooker might have mistaken it for an attempt at fly- swatting.)
All of a sudden, the clear blue sky became a forbidding black, darker than a moonless night sky. A succession of lightning bolts - accompanied by peals of thunder - split the sky in two, sending nearby wildlife scurrying for their lives. In the blink of an eye, the Castle of Mordrid, its inhabitants and all traces of it vanished into oblivion!
Mistletoe breathed in a sigh of relief. "Bravo!" she congratulated her companion, clapping her chubby hands and patting the blushing unicorn.
"What...what happened?" enquired a slightly dazed cupid.
"I...I banished the entire establishment and its occupants to a far and distant realm," replied the unicorn, who, despite his boasting, was rather taken aback by his own success.
"Banished?" echoed Mistletoe. "Where to?"
"To the very same place Doctor Owlbrow's troublemaking sister now resides. Did you know she once transformed the entire world into an ice kingdom?"
Mistletoe shook her head.
"Oh," said the stallion, "it must have been before your time."
"Mmm," agreed the cupid. "By the way, I was hoping we could chat before I continued on my journey."
"I meant to discuss your quest with you, cherub child," Frostbite remarked, "but I am unable to hover in mid-air indefinitely. Although my wings are incredibly strong and the surrounding flesh remarkably muscular, they do become tired and numb after such a long and difficult journey."
Some time later, the two mystical creatures were resting comfortably in the shade of a conveniently situated weeping willow tree.
"You ventured from the boundaries of your native land, Frostbite," Mistletoe pointed out. "Won't the Supreme Magician be enraged?"
"I doubt it," replied the Mooncracker stallion. "I'm sure that His Supremeness will understand my reasons for breaking a magical law. After all, I risked my powers of sorcery to rescue a dear friend in dire need. Besides, I am still in possession of my magical abilities. If His Magicianship was furious with me, he'd have confiscated my sorcerous gifts by this time."
The two friends reflected on the luck of their initial chance encounter.
"You rescued me," reflected Frostbite, "then I returned the favour."
"That's true," agreed the cupid, puzzled by the unicorn's line of thought. "Now I really must continue on my quest; I feel another bout of depression advancing."
"That is what I wished to speak to you about," said the thoroughbred apprehensively. "Your quest."
Mistletoe nodded. "I'm listening."
"Well," began the stallion tentatively, "you've encountered many dangers and taken some frightening risks on this journey of yours. You've handled perilous situations with a maturity beyond your years. All in all, you've been most fortunate...until now. What if some situation arose that you were unable to handle?"
"I'd manage," retorted the cherub confidently.
"What if you couldn't?" persisted Frostbite.
"Well...er..." Mistletoe faltered.
"I'm not willing to let you chance your luck any more," decided the unicorn protectively. "Tempting the spirit of fate is somewhat unwise and you've done it often enough. I shall journey with you!"
The cupid was extremely indignant at the unicorn's proposal, but, after contemplating his reasons for a few moments, she realised he was acting out of concern for her welfare. She graciously accepted his kind offer.
"Your air speed shall double when you fly with me," Frostbite promised. "Not to mention the companionship."
So it was, that after a good night's rest - during which Mistletoe was greatly reassured by the thoroughbred's presence - the two mystical creatures could be seen, gliding across the sky. The smaller adventurer, seated on her companion's back, contributed her wing power to the main aerial force.
"I am looking forward to visiting Moonamina," the unicorn revealed to Mistletoe. "Why, I believe we haven't seen each other in a hundred odd years."
"It shall be an honour to meet her," agreed the Lovechild cupid, who had never had the pleasure of being in the great sorceress's presence. "Everyone speaks so highly of her; all the races of the world seem to adore her."

Chapter Seven

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6
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Thanks to this swift means of transportation, Mistletoe soon reached the Castle of Armondine, and to her relief, without much further misadventure.
As the adventurers, now travelling by land, rounded a bend on the dirt track they were following, Mistletoe set eyes on the magnificent white marble building for the first time.
"It's...it's..." gasped the cupid, speechless for the first time, since she learned to babble, eighty-nine odd years before.
"Beautiful?" supplied the stallion helpfully.
"Yes. Yes, that's it: beautiful!" agreed the cherub in awe.
The cupid tugged on Frostbite's mane. "D...do you really think that Lady Moonamina can mend my shattered heart?" she asked, all the heartache she had felt during her quest overwhelming her.
"If Moonamina can't solve your problem," the unicorn assured his little friend confidently, "than nobody can!"
"That was what I was afraid of," murmured Mistletoe.
The cherub's guardian trod carefully along the wooden planks that formed the weathered drawbridge to the fabled residence of Lady Moonamina. "Don't look down, you old warhorse," he warned himself, consciously ignoring the threatening grumbles and groans that emerged from the depths of the moat. Mistletoe dismounted, approached the impressive oaken door (she remembered her friend Acorn, the tree king), and banged the heavy iron knocker with all her might. She heard the resounding echo throughout the fortress's myriad of halls and chambers.
Presently, the door was cautiously opened (you never know whom you'll be facing when you answer a knock at the door of a castle) by a slight, ginger-haired, befreckled girl, who had a friendly, smiling face.
"Yes?" she enquired politely. "May I help you?"
Mistletoe nodded. "We wish to consult Her Ladyship, the great Moonamina, on a matter of great importance."
"Who should I say is calling?" the girl asked dutifully.
"Mistletoe, cupid of the Lovechild clan and her guardian, Frostbite Rainbow Star Golden Sunlight Mystic Horizon Mooncracker," said the owner of this title.
The girl smiled warmly. "I am Primrose Honeysuckle, her Ladyship's apprentice," she revealed modestly, despite her claim. "Please come this way."
She led the travel weary companions into the entrance hall.
"Maybe you should speak to the sorceress privately," suggested the unicorn. "I can meet with Moonamina later."
Mistletoe nodded. "If you think that is best," she consented. The cherub advised Primrose of their decision.
"Very well," said Miss Honeysuckle formally. "Fae!" she called loudly and a plump dark-haired girl appeared almost instantly. "This is my best friend, Fae Chrysanthemum," the sorceress's apprentice introduced. "She is employed in the castle as a stablehand." The newcomer smiled shyly. "Fae," Primrose addressed her friend, "please house Mr. Mooncracker in our most luxurious stall in the stable. You know, the one with silken bed sheets and marble bathing facilities." The horselover nodded and happily complied, as she chatted merrily to her charge.
Primrose turned to Mistletoe. "I shall enquire if her Ladyship is available," she offered formally.
When Mistletoe found herself alone in Armondine's extravagant entrance hall, she amused herself by inspecting the wonderful artefacts and perfectly detailed tapestries which were on display.
Presently, Primrose reappeared. "Her Sorceressness will see you now," she informed Mistletoe, in what the cupid believed to be a very good imitation of an official tone.
"Oh thank you!" gushed the cherub gratefully. For the first time since the onset of her illness, Mistletoe felt inwardly at peace. Her troubles would finally be over and she could resume her humdrum cupid life. Or could she? Maybe this was just the beginning; what if Moonamina was unable to...?
She stopped herself in mid thought. There was only one way to put her mind at rest! The cupid fluttered behind Primrose, who led her into the Castle's impressive Great Hall.
"Lady Moonamina, you have a client who is anxious to speak with you," she announced to a tall slender figure conscientiously bent over a long wooden workbench.
"Thank you, Primrose," replied the mistress of magic, without looking up from the enchantment she was studying. "I shall be with her in a moment."
The apprentice departed and Mistletoe found it rather unnerving to be alone in the great sorceress's presence. While she waited for Her Ladyship to address her, she observed a snow-coloured dove perched on Moonamina's shoulder. The sorceress stroked it absently. Mistletoe visually searched in the booklined, simply furnished room for a bird cage. When she found no evidence of one, she silently reprimanded herself: the good and kind Moonamina would never imprison a bird or freedom. This winged creature was liberated - permitted to come and go at its convenience. The cupid suddenly remembered the roast dove she had hungrily devoured in the Kingdom of Heaven. She was overcome with guilt.
Suddenly Moonamina spun around to face the slightly trembling cupid. Mistletoe gave an involuntary gasp. The sorceress's radiant beauty stunned her. The cherub could only compare Her Ladyship's long golden hair to moonbeams penetrating the darkest night and her twinkling blue eyes to dazzling stars on midsummer night's eve.
"Mistletoe Lovechild, isn't it?" enquired the practitioner of white magic in a voice as melodic as a harper's tune.
"Y...yes, Your Ladyship," stuttered the dazed cupid in awe.
"Lovechild," murmured Moonamina softly, almost to herself. "I was well acquainted with your dear mother. Venus and I were in elementary sorcery school together. She was so in love with your handsome father, Sagittarius. Your parents' passing was such a terrible tragedy. Please accept my sincere condolences."
Mistletoe nodded tearfully.
"Now, my dear," the sorceress said brightly, "why have you travelled so far to see me?"
Despite the cupid's vow to herself that she would remain composed in Moonamina's presence and explain her unfortunate circumstances calmly, Mistletoe burst into sobs that made her earlier tears look like raindrops in a stormy sea.
Between gasps for breath, Mistletoe described the symptoms of her tragic illness and her heroic quest. The kind enchantress drank in every detail, spellbound. When she realised that her client had informed her of all the facts of the case, she declared sympathetically, "My, you poor unfortunate little cherub. You have suffered so much for one so young."
"Do...do you believe I am suffering from Broken Heart Syndrome?" Mistletoe asked timidly.
"Your symptoms seem to indicate that you are," diagnosed the sorcerous doctor, who held a degree in enchanted healing from the prestigious Elderberry Academy of Magic.
"Is...is there a cure for my illness?" the cherub almost whispered.
"As yet," replied Her Ladyship, "no magical solution has been discovered for this condition..."
What fragments remained of the miserable love creature's heart sank to her chubby toes.
"Although I do know of another form of treatment for your condition," concluded the kind sorceress, giving her young client new hope.
"What is this potent spell?" the eager cherub, despite herself, almost demanded.
"The tonic for your syndrome is no spell," said Moonamina "but you are correct, my dear, it is extremely powerful."
The winged love creature almost burst with curiosity, as she leant forward expectantly.
"My faithful dwarf butler, Bundaberry Proudfoot, who is also my trusted, loyal friend and companion, is on long service leave," continued the mistress of spells.
"That is very interesting, but how does Mr. Proudfoot's vacation have any connection with the matter at hand?" the puzzled cherub wanted to know.
"His temporary replacement is a handsome young cupid from the Eastern Realms," Moonamina patiently explained. "He is suffering from symptoms nearly identical to the ones you so vividly described. I doubt that his condition was triggered by the overuse of his love arrows," the Lady of Armondine Castle revealed. "I believe that his heart shattered because he had been separated from his people, though another factor is also involved in the onset of his illness, the most damaging condition of all for a cupid: he was starved for love and affection."
Mistletoe found herself instantly sympathising with a fellow sufferer. Unfortunately, she failed to make the connection between this unfortunate cherub and the miracle cure she so desperately sought.
"For you see," continued Moonamina, sensing Mistletoe's puzzlement, "there is but a single way that a victim of this rare and crippling syndrome can be relieved of the symptoms and ultimately cured. The sufferer must fall in love with a fellow victim!"
"Of course!" thought Mistletoe, suddenly seeing the light. A smile, as broad as the curve in a half formed moon, appeared on her rosy face.
Moonamina remarked, "It is high time you found yourself a partner to share your life with, young Mistletoe. If my calculations are accurate, you are approaching the age of ninety and the sorority of womanhood!"
Suddenly, the cupid was downcast again. "What...what if this cupid from the Eastern Realms and I are incompatible?" she worried.
The poor cherub needn't have concerned herself. As soon as the matchmaking enchantress had uttered his name, a little male version of adorable Mistletoe fluttered into Moonamina's Great Hall. Before the sorceress could complete her introductions, Mistletoe reached for a love arrow, to ensure that this handsome cupid, whose name was Lovebug Tenderheart, would fall for her. Her battered heart almost stopped when she remembered that all her love weapons had been put to use during her perilous adventures. She was about to advise Moonamina of this depressing fact when she felt a familiar sensation: a heart tipped arrow penetrating her rosy skin! She raised her gaze and saw her betrothed, a bow poised in his chubby hands, smiling bashfully at her. They flew towards each other as if there were no tomorrow, laughing happily as neither of them had done as long as they could remember. Hand in hand, they turned to their matchmaker
"Lady Moonamina!" cried Mistletoe.
"How can we ever show our sincere gratitude for your services?" finished Lovebug.
The sorceress drew the happy couple towards her and gave each of them a congratulatory hug. "There is one way you could easily repay me," giggled Moonamina girlishly.
"How?" demanded the happy couple eagerly.
"By inviting me to the happy occasion, of course," she said simply, smiling mischievously at the puzzled looks on the cupids' glowing faces. "I would like to be matron of honour at the wedding of Lovebug Tenderheart and Mistletoe Lovechild!"

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Copyright 1990 Ilanit Tof, All Rights Reserved.