Home > The School for Good and Evil #6 : One True King

The School for Good and Evil #6 : One True King
Author: Soman Chainani



Bad Candy

Some stories are spoiled from the very beginning.

Some stories are rotten to the core.

Like the one that killed her mother, Hester thought, as she hustled through the dark forest. Her mother was minding her own business in her candied house, when two young vandals ate through her roof. Alone in her crib, Hester had woken from a nap and stared into the faces of two ogreish children, fat cheeks slathered in candy and crumbs. They’d taken one look at the baby they’d just orphaned and fled like cowards, leaving a family and home broken. And they’d been rewarded for it, hailed as heroes and legends, while her mother burned in an oven. Ever since that day, whenever Hester sensed an injustice, a story gone wrong, she smelled the sick, sour rot of candy.


Just as she smelled it now.

The story in question was a short one, a statement of simple fact, but Hester’s whole body bristled, like a cat amongst snakes. She didn’t know how long it had been up there, high over the Endless Woods. But after days of traveling underground from Gnomeland, Lionsmane’s message was waiting when she’d resurfaced.

The wedding of King Rhian and Princess Sophie will take place as scheduled, this Saturday, at sundown, at Camelot castle. All citizens of the Woods are invited to attend.

It was penned in gold like King Rhian’s other messages, set against the clouds. Rhian was a proven liar and every one of his screeds a trap. But this message had none of the pomp of his others. This was stark and simple . . . yet slithery in a way she couldn’t put a finger on. . . .

A shadow appeared at her side.

“This is stupid, Hester. We need to turn back now,” said Anadil in a black hood that shadowed her white hair and red eyes. “Sophie’s betrayed us. She’s marrying Rhian at sundown. Tonight. That’s what the message says. And the sun’s going fast. Either we get back to Camelot and stop this wedding or we all die.”

Hester ignored her, spotting the lights of Borna Coric ahead. Once she and her friends entered this new kingdom, they’d need to be careful. Like all citizens of the Woods, those of Borna Coric would be hunting students from the School for Good and Evil.

A second shadow flanked her—

“Ani’s right,” said Dot, also hooded in black. “Plus, there’s no way we’ll get inside those caves: it’s impossible. But if we turn back now, we can sneak onto a Flowerground train from Ravenbow. It can take us back to Camelot in time to stop the wedding—”

“And leave Merlin?” Hester said. “That was the assignment Reaper gave us. Rescue the wizard from the Caves of Contempo. Rescue our best weapon. A wedding is not our mission. Sophie is not our mission. Merlin is our mission. And if there’s one thing our coven abides by, it’s doing as we promised.”

She powered forward, but Anadil blocked her path.

“Our promise is pointless if Rhian becomes the One True King!” said the pale witch. “He needs two things. Make all hundred kingdoms burn their rings. And marry Sophie as his queen. Do both and he claims the Storian’s powers. If the wedding is at sundown, that means all the rings are already gone! Rhian marrying Sophie is the last step. That’s what Sophie told us in Gnomeland. Once she’s Rhian’s queen, Lionsmane will become the new Storian. Rhian can write anything he wants and make it come true! He can erase kingdoms, kill our friends, kill us with a penstroke! Our story will be over—”

“All the rings can’t be gone because Nottingham still has a ring. Dot’s father has a ring,” Hester noted coldly. “And the Sheriff wouldn’t burn his ring for King Rhian. Hates him more than we do. Even if the Sheriff were to die, his ring would go to Dot. And we’ll go to the ends of the earth to protect Dot and that ring. Just like we’re going to do for Merlin.” Hester shoved past them, pulling her hood tighter.

“Don’t you get it? Sophie’s marrying him!” Anadil said. “Either to save herself or to be Camelot’s queen—”

“You really think Sophie would marry Rhian?” Hester challenged. “After helping us escape him?”

“That’s what Rhian wrote!” Dot argued. “That’s what his story says!”

“His story,” said Hester, glaring at the sky. “There’s something fishy about that message. And until I figure out what it is, we’re sticking to our plan. Besides, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Sophie, it’s that she’s a better witch than all of us. I’m sure she has the king right where she wants him.”

“Hester, the sun will set within the hour—” Anadil hounded.

“More reason to find Merlin fast. He’s our best chance to defeat Rhian. That’s why Rhian trapped him in the caves.”

“Then why didn’t he just kill Merlin? For all we know Merlin’s already dead or used his Wizard Wish and this is a wild goose chase to get us killed too.”

“Wizard Wish?” said Dot. “Is that the wish you make in Aladdin’s cave?”

“That’s a Genie’s Wish, you idiot. No wonder you failed Lesso’s class,” said Anadil. “Wizards all have one wish. They use their Wizard Wish to choose how and when to die—”

“And no way Merlin would have used his wish while we’re still in danger,” Hester scorned, approaching the gates of Borna Coric. “Merlin’s out there. And he needs our help.”

“You’re not thinking, Hester. Let’s say he is in those caves,” Anadil granted. “Caves of Contempo are time traps. Even a few seconds inside and you come out years older. Merlin’s been in there for weeks.”

“Go back without me, then,” Hester dared, crossing through the gates—

She stopped short.

So did Anadil and Dot.

The forest floor had disappeared, replaced by the sky instead. No longer were the witches on a dirt path: they were standing on the sunset, a canvas of purple and pink. Lionsmane’s message had moved from high above to down by their feet, paving the way ahead. Each gold letter was the size of a house, carved into the horizon beneath their boots, the announcement of King Rhian’s wedding become the new path. As the witches inched across it, confused into silence, Hester smelled bad candy again, her eyes cast downwards, searching Rhian’s words for the rot at their core. . . .

“Hester?” Dot said, gaping upwards.

Hester blinked.

It wasn’t just the sky that had turned upside down.

The whole kingdom of Borna Coric was upside down.

She’d known of this topsy-turvy land, where the world swung on its head, but it was quite another thing to see it in real life. Here, the earth was high up in the sky, a ceiling of dirt, and the sky was anchored where the ground should be. Purple beanstalks sprouted downwards from this roof of earth, stretching towards the flat floor of clouds.

Capsized cottages nestled along the beanstalks, the dwellers inside also inverted, together with their furniture and belongings, freed from the laws of gravity. Purple vine ladders and pulleys connected the beanstalks like roads, with a toppled bridge of flowers linking the village to the main square. The witches moved towards this busy arena with levels of overturned shops built between huge upside-down statues. Royal statues, Hester saw now, the stone heads of Borna Coric’s king and queen and their children moored to the skyfloor, the statues’ feet reaching high over the kingdom. Up close, Hester noticed the king’s and queen’s sculpted faces looked oddly young. Almost as young as their children.

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