“Please state your name and purpose for exiting the castle.” The guard’s empty eyes stared into mine, as he patiently waited for an answer. Ever since our castle had hired guards, it had been a deal harder to leave the castle unnoticed.
“My name is Danny. I’m going to explore the forest,” I replied.
“This late at night?”
“It’s the time when all the wild animals are sleeping.”
That was the same answer I gave every night, and every time, the guards believed it. It was a few days after the “Cafeteria Incident” (that was what everyone called it), and I decided to go out into the forest again and attempt to find the Night Witch one more time.
I walked into the shady forest and searched the area until there was nowhere left to look. I was ready – ready for the dark, unnatural smoke and the swishing of leaves – but it never came. Well, it was worth a try. She wasn’t here, and I didn’t expect her to be. She usually visited me when I would least expect it, not when I was the one searching for her. I returned to the castle, deciding to enter from the same place where I had exited. Two guards blocked the entrance, refusing to let me in until they received a reply to their annoying request.
“Please state your name and purpose for entering the castle.” It was a wonder how the guards did not know my name, after the hundreds of times I’ve told them.
“I’m Danny, and I’m returning to the castle to sleep,” I said, with clear annoyance. The guards took a step back, allowing me into the castle. I walked to my room, pushing the door open slowly, just in case the Night Witch was already inside. But she wasn’t. Feeling very drowsy, I hopped onto my bed and fell asleep the moment my head hit the pillow.
The next day, I remembered that Penny’s fourteenth birthday was coming up in a week. I started to think of possible gifts to give her for her birthday, but nothing seemed to fit. I thought of giving her a bag of gold, but gold was pretty lame and not creative enough. Perhaps I could buy her a high quality bow and a new set of arrows. I knew how much she enjoyed archery, but she already seemed quite happy with her current bow and arrows. Maybe I could buy her a pet dog, Sparky, I think her name was. It seemed like a good idea at first, but when I checked with Channary about getting her Sparky, she told me that Sparky was actually a lightning blaster, not a dog. Well, scratch that idea.
Soon, I did come up with a decent birthday gift, one that was a little harder to obtain however. What if I was able to persuade King James to allow Penny to join the Battle Team? It was hard, but that wasn’t going to stop me from trying. I needed to wait for the right moment to ask him, when he was in a happy mood, of course. I needed to sound very convincing, a little desperate maybe, so that King James could not possibly resist saying yes. I needed him to understand the favor he would be doing for me, by easily allowing Penny to be part of the Battle Team. I started rehearsing the scene in my mind, replaying again and again the words I was going to say.
I decided to give it a try one day later, so I went to the Main Hall, hoping that King James would allow a word with me. Of course, I was interrupted by two very, very annoying Guards. Once, they had even asked me to provide a reason for entering the Cafeteria. TO EAT, DUH.
I just noticed that all the newcomers in the castle were as annoying as swarms of flies. At first, I was expecting the other two Musketeers to be kind and chill like Violet, but they were the exact opposite. They, Cameron and Lyssa I believe, were sassy, spoiled brats who wore seven pounds of makeup, and the only thing they seemed to care about was their hair and nails. As for Logan, Tyler, and Jayden, I’m pretty sure that’s self-explanatory.
Sorry for my sidetrack, let’s return to the current scene.
“Please state your name and purpose for visiting the king.”
I groaned. “I’m Danny, and I’m here to -”
“Hey! Guards, give Danny some space and go annoy someone else with your time.” King James motioned for the Guards to leave, and with a disappointed look on their faces, they reluctantly obeyed. “I only asked for those Guards to protect the entrance of the castle, but clearly, they took it way too far. Anyways, Danny, what do you wish to say?”
I cleared my throat and tried my best not to appear nervous. “Oh, King James, to call you great would be an insult. Your most powerful Highness, it would really please -”
“Hate to interrupt, but can you skip to the request already? Thanks.”
“Alright, sir. You see, Penelope the Archer will be having her birthday in a little less than a week. I was hoping to give her a special surprise on that day, and if it pleases you, I would like to request that she joins the Battle Team.”
King James thought about it for a second and tapped his finger on the table repeatedly. “Well, I’ll think about it. I’m not sure whether she will join the actual Battle Team, but for sure, I can allow her to participate in as many Friendly Battles as she wishes.”
“Thank you, sir. I really appreciate this,” I said, bowing my head and leaving the Main Hall.
I waited and waited, and finally, the day came. It was Penny’s birthday today, and a few of her friends had planned a small party to celebrate. I was hoping that Ashley would visit for her sister’s birthday, but then I remembered that the other castle members did not think the most highly of her, after she murdered Luna. No, it wasn’t Ashley. It was Percy.
Penny was certainly delighted to hear that she was able to participate in some Friendly Royale Battles, and I was overjoyed when King James had put us on the same Team. I got to battle in Legendary Arena, with the large statues of Hog Riders decorating the place. I couldn’t help but imagine that I was actually in the Legendary Arena, that it was where we belonged. We only won about three-fourths of the battles, but it didn’t matter if we had lost, because we already knew we weren’t going to lose any trophies. We returned to the party room for some food, and I especially enjoyed the chocolate cake.
“Penny, can I talk to you in private?” I decided to meet with her when the party was nearly over. I wanted to tell her how I truly felt about her, how I would always get a little nervous whenever she was around, and I wanted to know what she thought of me too. Surely, she knew I didn’t only see her as a friend? And this was one of the main reasons why I was different from all the other Cannons. I could actually feel love. It was an extraordinary feeling, a powerful one too.
“Sure,” she said. Together, we walked away from the center of the room and towards a corner where no one else could hear us. “What’s new?”
“Well, I just wanted to say that… that… so um… Iwantedtowishyouahappybirthday,” I said in one breath. I was a silly, little chicken; I just couldn’t tell her my true feelings.
Penny raised an eyebrow, as if she could see right through me. I was as transparent as glass. She already knew that I had liked her – loved her, and she had probably known for months now. “Thank you, Danny,” she answered. “I really enjoyed the battles, by the way.” I tried to convince myself that she had no idea about my feelings for her, but it was too obvious. She knew very well that I loved her, and she was only pretending to be clueless so that I wouldn’t lose hope.
For the first time in my entire life, I had a small desire to become a normal Cannon. I did enjoy having the features of a human, but being a Cannon would make things much simpler. I would only aim for one thing, and that would be reaching Legendary Arena. I knew that normal Cannons couldn’t even make goals at all, but if they were to, they would obviously want to be the best they can be. Some may say that being able to have a mind of my own would be a privilege, but it was killing me. Killing me. I was better off without a brain, so that I wouldn’t have to suffer the pain of knowing that I could never truly have a relationship with Penny. Cannons and humans simply don’t belong together.
The Night Witch made her appearance to me three days later. I had battled earlier today, totalling five wins and four losses. Not much, but at least we were making progress and gaining those precious trophies. It was nighttime, and Raven decided to meet me in my room again. I wasn’t as startled as I was last time, but I was still a little shocked.
“Please state your name and purpose for entering your dormitory.” I was stopped again by the most annoying castle member alive. Sometimes, I wish that Scarlet was here with me, because the guards have been avoiding her recently ever since she… you could probably guess what happened to the poor guards.
“PLEASE STATE YOUR NAME AND PURPOSE FOR GUARDING THE ENTRANCE TO MY ROOM!!” The guard was frightened by my outburst, and he quickly left my sight. Seeing that he was gone, I opened the door and saw the Night Witch sitting on my bed. She stood up when she noticed me and shut the door with a wave of her staff. My heart was beating faster and faster, about to pop out of my chest. If there was some way for her to give me a previous notice of when she was going to arrive, I would not be so frightened each time. But something told me that even if I was prepared, I would still be filled with fear. This Night Witch was powerful. Powerful enough to kill me if she ever wanted to.
“Hello, Danny,” her ghostly voice filled my ears. “We meet again.”
“Raven! I’ve been waiting for you to come for weeks!”
“Yes, Danny, I know.”
“Then why couldn’t you visit earlier?”
Raven looked around the room and then back at me. “I could have. I just didn’t feel like it.”
That was a stupid answer. “You’re… selfish,” I said, then immediately hoping that I could shove those words back into my mouth.
“Thank you. I’m glad you noticed.”
“You’re welcome,” I snapped back at her.
“You want to know why you’re different from all the other Cannons, right?” the Night Witch asked, changing the subject.
“Yes,” I replied, “I do.”
“Good. Because you weren’t always a Cannon.”
Impossible. “Then what was I?”
“Human,” she replied, as if it were that obvious. All of a sudden, I felt hope. If I had been a human at first, then I should be able to turn back into one. There would be nothing wrong with falling in love with Penny, if only I was a human too.
“Can you turn me back into one?”
“Then do it.”
“No.” I felt the hope drain from my body, all of it turning into an imagination, a fantasy.
“Because… I don’t want to,” she said. “Why do you want to be human?”
There was no point in lying to her. She would be able to search through my thoughts anyway. “I’m in love with a girl, and I can’t really be with her unless I’m a human,” I answered. “Please?”
Raven laughed coldly and hit the floor with her staff, spawning two identical bats who acted like her shields, protecting her if any danger were to come. “If that’s the case… too bad then.”
Questions came to my mind, questions that deserved answers. How did the Night Witch even know that I was once a human? If she knew, Ashley would probably have known also. She was alive then too, and surely, one of the castle members turning into a Cannon must have stood out to her. So why did Ashley seem completely unaware of this? Raven must have been the only one there, witnessing my transformation. She was the only person I knew who was even capable of turning one thing to another, which could only mean one thing.
“You were behind all this, weren’t you? You’re the one who turned me into a Cannon.” She didn’t bother denying it, so I assumed that my claim was right. She didn’t even care that I knew the truth, and if she did care, she didn’t show it. “Why?” I asked, “Why did you do this to me… why can’t I remember anything? And… why are you even telling me any of this?”
“You’ll find out everything the next time we meet. Sweet dreams.” At those last words, the Night Witch left me here to figure out the rest by myself. There must have been a reason why she didn’t tell me everything at once, and instead part by part. If Raven’s story and my claims were true, then I knew what I needed to find out next – what had driven her to become who she was now.