This story is part silliness, part parody, part rant. I have long played around with the idea of a crossover fic comparing the books to the movie. This is the first I've attempted. It may be the last. No promises either way. :)
If you are a fan of the film, you may or may not enjoy this, depending on your sense of humor. I hope most people will. Remember that Eilonwy's own opinions are just that, and there is no need to be offended at the opinions of a fictional character. Part of the humor here is her blindness to her own character flaws.
If you like the movie and have never read the books on which it is based, you owe it to yourself to seek them out. They are vastly superior - this is fact, not opinion, though people's preferences may vary. You can like twinkies better than raw brocolli, but nobody argues which is better quality.
I have placed this in The Black Cauldron section as it mostly takes place in the world of the film. All my other Prydain fic resides in the Lloyd Alexander section, which has many wonderful stories. Please visit it, or my profile, for more!
She woke without remembering how she came to be asleep.
But...was she really awake? The world seemed...wrong, somehow; too flat, the colors muddled. She was standing in a dungeon cell that looked like it was trying to be familiar, yet she was certain she'd never seen it before. No cell in Spiral Castle had been as big as this, for one thing.
A boy crouched on the flagstones - just where he should be - but it was the wrong boy. His clothes and hair were different, and he was too young...it was a few years ago, of course, but she was sure he was too young.
He huddled against the wall, weeping, and her heart went out to him, but before she could say anything, a stone moved in the floor and a round glowing thing bobbed up through it, floating of its own accord. It zig-zagged around the cell, throwing light about in a dizzying fashion. A head appeared through the hole in the floor, followed by the body of a young girl.
Another stranger. She was lithe and delicate, almost dainty, with a long sweep of blonde hair, a tiny upturned nose and a prim mouth. She looked harmless enough, but for no explainable reason, Eilonwy disliked her on sight.
The boy, noticing the bobbing light, looked up in surprise, as the girl looked around. "I thought I heard a noise in here," she announced to no one in particular, then noticed the boy. "Oh! Was that you?"
He was standing now, mouth agape. Well, that looked familiar, at any rate. "Er...yes. Yes. I-"
"You're being held a prisoner, aren't you?" the girl observed.
Eilonwy could no longer contain herself, and burst out in annoyance. "Well, of course he's being held prisoner! Why else would he be in a dungeon? You might as well ask if he's breathing while you're at it!"
Both of them turned to her in stupefied amazement. "Who are you?" the blonde girl asked indignantly.
"I am Eilonwy of the House of Llyr. Where -" She hesitated as the other girl registered shock.
"But I'm Eilonwy. Princess Eilonwy, that is. What's 'house of llyr'? I never heard of that."
An irrational desire to commit great violence shook her for a moment and she clenched her fists into her skirts to control it. "Never heard of Llyr? What is your lineage, then? Where did you come from?"
"I..." the girl looked blank, round eyes empty as drained saucers. "I don't know. I can't remember."
This was, perhaps, something with which she ought to sympathize, but she couldn't find the mercy anywhere within herself just now. The boy, watching them both as one might watch two cats circling one another, cleared his throat hesitantly. "Er...can we get on with the script, now?"
The girl sniffed. "Yes, by all means. We're wasting frames and we're already over budget."
Eilonwy crossed her arms over her chest indignantly. "What on earth does all that mean?"
The girl only sniffed again, and turned away to fluff out her impeccable skirts. The boy shrugged apologetically. "We're in the middle of a film, you see. I'm not sure exactly how you got here - I don't remember anyone else in this scene - but perhaps it would be best if you just...um...just followed along, until we figure it out. We're supposed to be escaping from the dungeon in a moment, so we can show you the way out."
It seemed the only reasonable plan. She swallowed her annoyance and confusion with effort, and nodded shortly.
"All right," the boy sighed, obviously relieved, and turned back to the other girl. "Where were we? Perhaps we should start...oh, hullo." The bobbing light had whirled around him a few times, as though impatient. He reached out to touch it and it flashed, and scooted away from him. "It lights up!"
"Of course," the girl giggled, "it's magic!"
Oh, Belin. It was them...or supposed to be...but it was all wrong. Eilonwy sank against the cold stone wall, trying to quell a rising sense of nausea.
"I hate this place," the girl continued. "I do hope there aren't any rats in here. Oh, not that I really mind them, you know. But they do jump out at one so."
I never said that. I've never in my life been frightened by a rat.
"I'm Princess Eilonwy. Are you a lord, or a warrior?"
"No," the boy stammered. "I'm...an Assistant Pig-Keeper."
Eilonwy suppressed a scream with great effort. No. No no no nonono.
"Oh, what a pity," the girl sighed.
That's not what I said.
"I was so hoping to find someone who could help me escape," she went on.
It was too much. "Help you escape!" Eilonwy groaned aloud, yanking her own hair in frustration. "What are you talking about? You're supposed to help him escape! Don't you know the way out of this castle?"
The girl looked at her in annoyance. "Are you going to keep interrupting? How would I know the way out? I'm a prisoner, too."
"The Horned King's, of course," the girl retorted, with some heat. "Haven't you been watching?"
"The Horned Ki-" Words failed her. "I've got to be dreaming. This is a nightmare. Why can't I wake up?" She dug her fingernails into her own arms painfully, but nothing happened.
"If you'll excuse us," the girl said, turning back to the hole in the floor. She addressed the boy again. "Oh, well. If you want to come with me, you may."
He perked up. "Can I?"
She frowned at him a little. "Yes. I said you could."
Their voices faded as both disappeared through the hole and into the tunnel that, she guessed, ran beneath. The glowing light - is that supposed to be my bauble? - flitted through the hole after them, plunging the cell into semi-darkness. She pulled out her own golden sphere - the real thing , -lit it, and crept down the hole after them, after forcing her breath to slow for a few moments, composing herself. Losing her temper wasn't very helpful, after all. Even if the whole business was enough to make her want to claw out someone's eyes. Never mind whose. Was it murder, or suicide, if you killed your own counterpart in some strange magic parallel dimension?
Following their muffled voices, she crept down a filthy tunnel, and found them peering through a hole in a stone wall. The girl was leaning over the boy's shoulder, saying something about a king's burial chamber. Well, that at least was correct.
There was a crash as the stones gave way, tumbling down in a cloud of dust. When it cleared the boy was sprawling in the rubble.
"Are you all right?" the girl asked, without appearing to care much either way. The boy scowled at her as she stepped past him. "Well, come on. Help me look around."
Eilonwy picked through the fallen stone and held out a hand to help him up, which he gratefully accepted. She watched, dubious, as he approached the dais where the dead king slept. The girl was off in a different corner of the room, poking about, and if the silly fool didn't notice Dyrnwyn, she was prepared to take it herself.
But the boy reached for the sword instead, brushing away the cobwebs. He lifted it gingerly from the skeletal hands. "What are you doing?" she hissed at him in a whisper.
He glanced up in surprise. "It's all right. I'm supposed to take the sword."
"But-" she glared across the chamber at the girl, who was peeking through an opening at some commotion going on outside it, having not even approached the dais. "Oh, fine. Everything else is wrong. Why not this? At least someone's taking it."
He lifted the sword, which was a gaudy-looking thing with a great red jewel in the hilt, and they hurriedly joined the girl. Whatever she had seen through the opening had made her edgy. "Let's get out of here before they come back," she whispered.
"They who?" Eilonwy demanded, and the girl scowled at her, shaking her head for silence, before noticing the sword the boy carried.
"Where did you get that?" she asked.
"Just back there." He jerked his head toward the dais.
"You mean-" her nose wrinkled, as though the notion offended her sensibilities.
Eilonwy, tried beyond endurance, huffed at her. "Good Llyr...he's not going to need it anymore!"
The boy looked at her with annoyance. "That was my line."
She opened her mouth to retort, but a voice shouting from somewhere overhead silenced them all. It was a man's voice, rather frail, babbling in distress.
The three of them made their way toward it, Eilonwy lagging dubiously behind the other two. The bobbing light, she noted, was now blue instead of gold, for no apparent reason.
They found their way into another cell, and she watched from the shadows as the boy and girl approached a pot-bellied, paunchy, oldish man who was roped to the wall, shouting of injustice and ill-treatment. She could not place him at all, but finally noticed a small, oddly-shaped harp hanging from a strap around his neck.
No. Oh, no, they didn't.
"Hullo," said the girl, interrupting a long howl on the man's part. "We'll have you untied in a moment.
"I'm Princess Eilonwy," she added - Eilonwy grit her teeth - "And you're in bad trouble, aren't you?"
She was masterful at inanely stating the obvious, this creature.
She was also useless, standing with her hands demurely behind her back while the boy struggled with the ropes upon one bony wrist. Eilonwy shoved past her angrily and worked at the other. The old man gaped at her.
"Great Belin," he gasped. "Who are you?"
"Never mind," she muttered. "I couldn't explain it if I tried."
Shouts from the corridors outside. "We've been discovered!" the boy sputtered in horror. The girl panted, backing away.
"Run!" the harper shouted, and to her horrified amazement, they obeyed, clattering away and out the nearest door, leaving him still tied to the wall. She rounded on him in furious disbelief.
"They left you!"
He was writhing in terror, working at his bound wrist with his free hand. "It's what the script says. I must free myself!"
"Rubbish," she spat, pulling the small dagger she carried out of her boot and slicing at the ropes. "Whatever the 'script' is, they can't get anything right. Not you, not me, and now not Taran either. Even when he was that young and foolish, he would never have left a companion in danger. Never." She was seething, almost weeping with rage...it was even worse, now. Her own counterpart was merely vapid and irritating; but this Taran was a coward, and it cut her to the core. How dare they dishonor him so?
Freed, the old man chafed at his wrists and stared at her. "Well, I...I don't know what this is all about, but I thank you, my dear. That was much less painful than the direction called for." He cocked his head quizzically. "You seem...a bit familiar. Have we ever met? Though I'm sure I'd remember that hair."
"I'm not sure of anything," she growled, "except that I want out of this place, wherever it is."
"Ah, well, I'm supposed to have a vicious hound chasing me out in a few minutes," he said, bouncing on his heels as if to ready himself. "So you're welcome to join me, and we'll meet the others at the castle gates. We get a bit of a breather now, while Taran learns to use the sword."
Eilonwy looked up in dismay. "He what?!"
The old man hesitated, surprised. "Uses the sword. You know, discovers its magic."
"Oh, no." She gasped, and turned to sprint down the corridor, his cries of wait, stop following her.
Stupid, stupid boy; how many times would she have to save him from himself? And it wasn't even him, not really, not this strange un-Taran who left his friends behind. But even so, she couldn't let him kill himself trying to draw Dyrnwyn. That idiot girl wouldn't stop him; wouldn't know a magic sword if it landed on her head.
The castle was on alert, guards running from every direction; she followed the commotion and finally found herself in the courtyard, where the boy and girl were cornered against the gate. The girl was crouched behind him, shouting at him to do something, and he was standing there with the naked sword in his hand.
Eilonwy stopped short, staring. How?
He hacked at the gate chain and sparks flew; the sword shone with flames like rainbows. It wasn't Dyrnwyn at all. Like everything else in this horrid world, it was something entirely wrong.
The drawbridge crashed to the ground. From behind her, the old bard came rushing madly, with a hound tearing at his trousers. He grabbed her wrist as he went past, yanking her along. She was dimly aware of passing a strange, squat, green creature that gibbered, glaring at her with one bulbous eye as they flew by - what was that?
Oh, what did it matter. She set her teeth, dug in her toes, and sprinted across the bridge just as the grate came crashing behind them.
Running, she found herself gasping for breath. The world spun. Trees seemed to crash together in front of her and overhead. Suddenly the ground opened up at her feet and she was tumbling, falling, without enough breath to scream...
She sat up straight, suddenly, stifling a scream, and saw round walls, the interior of her dilapidated chamber at Caer Colur, where a single still flame illuminated a white face in the darkness. Achren.
She glared at the older woman with loathing, but Achren's face was as maddeningly placid as usual.
"What was that?" Eilonwy demanded angrily. "You did that, didn't you?"
"You said you'd love to see a world without me in it," the queen murmured demurely, with an elegant lift of one sculpted eyebrow. "I was only giving you a taste."
"How..?" the girl shook her head, trying to rid herself of the memories.
"There are many worlds." Achren rose, taking the candle in her sinuous hand and moving toward the door. "I have servants in all of them. Once you accept that fact and submit to me, you'll be so much more content."
For answer Eilonwy grabbed the nearest object to hand - a marble inkwell - and threw it at the queen's back. It smashed against the door as Achren slipped through. The queen's laugh mocked her from the corridor.