Sordid Stories of the Soul

By: Betsy Granger

Writing Prompt: Yes

Date: 26th Jan 2022

“Fairytales are the worst stories to tell impressionable minds; a lot of these morons come into adulthood still believing they too will eventually reach their happy ending. Disney made it look so easy, didn’t they? All it takes is a little hard work and a touch of perseverance and a lot of good looks waiting to be revealed in a fabulous makeover. Bippity Boppity Bam, the clock strikes midnight and you’re still in the arms of your once upon a dream.

Right?

I remember when I believed that. Everyone wants to look in the mirror and believe themselves the perfect Princess or the dashing Prince Charming. Men see themselves as valiant knights in shining armor, racing toward the dragon guarded tower, and for what? Nine times out of ten, he’s just going to save a basic bitch who’s going to drain his soul as well as his resources. And ladies… Honestly, why would you rather emulate a damsel in distress who’s all bark and no bite? Most of the princesses you fucking idiots want to be like are misrepresented, pathetically helpless, and an absolute nuisance to everyone around them. Not once did I see one of you striving to be a warrior like Mulan, or an independent ruler like Merida; too many of you glitzy bitches want your balls, gowns, and crowns.

I’ve even seen some of the best villains of our generation getting lost in the idea of finding true love. It’s sickening, especially when they’re low enough to attempt to rewrite someone else’s story to serve theirs. Sadder still when it seems as though the so-called hero is willing to let the ending shift. We’re seeing Evil Queens moving in on so-called Prince Charming’s; who knew they may have been faithless, unworthy toads all along?

I dare you to prove me wrong. I love a good plot twist, but the rose tint has left my sight.

It’s cute that any of you still think you’re going to get your happily ever after.

I’m going to be the monster that drags you back into the nightmare of reality.”

*****

Stretching out widely as she yawns, Betsy Granger slowly sinks back into her pillow, still sleepy. The sun was rising over the water, which she had the perfect view of from her bedroom window in the palace. Sebastian was still asleep on the vanity next to the bed; Flounder was sure to be swimming anxiously in the shallow waters just outside. It was the perfect morning for a quaint breakfast with Prince James, when suddenly-

“Betsy!”

A familiar squawking voice interrupts the peaceful silence. Betsy’s friend, a seagull named Scuttle flies in a moment later. Landing next to her on the bed, he takes up her hand with his wings and shakes it profusely.

“I just heard the news; it’s spreading like wildfire all over the kingdom! Congratulation’s kiddo, I knew you could do it!”

Betsy stares at him in confusion as he pumps her hand nonstop. Still unable to speak from the sea witch’s spell, Betsy shakes her head in wide-eyed confusion. Sebastian, who had been startled awake by Scuttle’s loud arrival, stared up at him with surly expression.

“What are you talking about?”

“Don’t act like you don’t know, you scoundrel, the entire kingdom is absolutely buzzing over it this morning!”

“Buzzing over what?!” Sebastian asks snappishly.

“Prince James’ engagement, of course! I’ll admit, I’m a little hurt I had to hear it through the grapevine, but hey, I’m still thrilled for you, kid!” Scuttle rambles, squawking out the last rapturously.

Betsy and Sebastian exchange a surprised look before she finally realizes what Scuttle had just told her. Even though he hadn’t formally asked her, Betsy knew that something was definitely happening between her and the handsome Prince James. They had almost kissed, which would have allowed her to remain with him forever on land; but something had tipped over the canoe and sent them both into the waters of the romantic lagoon. Surely, he must have shared his intentions with his most loyal and trusted advisor; in turn, a servant may have overheard and told someone else. The province Prince James ruled over was modest, but as bountiful as it was beautiful.

Hopping quickly out of bed, Betsy looks at herself in the mirror, running her fingers quickly through her messy blonde hair. The pink nightgown she was in wasn’t the most flattering attire, but she hardly noticed as she ran down the hall on bare feet. She could hear voices floating from the guest room, one of them belonging to her beloved Prince James. Her heart beats faster as her eagerness to reach him reaches its peak. As she races down the stairs on silent feet, she can hear him speaking with Shawn, his advisor, and best friend. As she turns the corner to enter the room, she skids to a halt as the sight before her eyes cause her blood to run cold. She quickly dodges behind the door before anyone notices and carefully looks back around. What she sees causes her heart to drop to her toes.

Though his face is to her, Prince James’ advisor doesn’t seem to notice Betsy. Sir Peter looks confused as his eyes flicker between his Prince and the stunning brunette on his arm. Betsy hides again as the conversation continues, listening in horror.

“I don’t think I understand, James. You just met this woman last night, and you want to marry her? What happened to-“

“Betsy has received enough of my hospitality; it’s time she got back on her own two feet. Make sure she has enough pocket money to secure a home and anything she needs to fill it. Then make haste on our wedding arrangements, I wish to be married to Atara by sundown.” The words are spoken in a mechanical, deadpan tone that Sir Peter clearly doesn’t trust; nor does he like the dead look in his sovereigns’ eyes. He tips his head respectfully but doesn’t say another word.

Unable to hear anymore, Betsy moves quietly from the door as tears run down her face. As she backs away, Atara looks over James’ shoulder and grins wickedly. Her eyes matched the color of the sea just outside, her sun-kissed body clothed in a simple black dress. Betsy can only shake her head at the woman before turning away, head falling into her hands, and running back to her rooms. Collapsing over the side of the bed, Betsy sobs silently into the blanket, unable to believe that James would betray her like this. Sebastian and Scuttle, who had both witnessed what she had, stood at her side awkwardly, neither knowing what to do or say to comfort their friend.

“Poor, unfortunate Betsy… You were so sure you’d finally found the real thing and look how easily it was destroyed. A life built together reduced to nothing but tears and wistful memories of what could have been.” Betsy looks up at the voice full of malicious glee. An old hag has approached her, leaning heavily on a wooden walking stick. “Why cry over that sorry son of a bitch when you now have a golden opportunity to rewrite your own story?”

Betsy frantically tries to pantomime everything she wanted to say. The crone tries to follow along, but it doesn’t last very long; impatience gets the better of her and she throws a hand out towards Betsy. A flash of green smoke emits from her fingers, and Betsy feels as though something in her throat has cleared. Opening her mouth, she speaks in a hoarse whisper at first, but her voice grows stronger with each word.

“I can’t… OH!” Surprise spreads over her face, but she recovers quickly enough. “I thought he loved me… Last night, we almost… and the day leading up to it… I don’t understand.” Betsy says mournfully, her eyes filling with fresh tears.

The hag nods sympathetically, producing a handkerchief and offering it to Betsy. “What if I told you I could help you make it all better?”

Betsy turns her watery green eyes towards the hag, her face openly desperate. Concealing a sinister grin, the hag produces a silver dagger with rubies in the hilt. She holds it out carefully to Betsy. The Impossible Traveler inspects it with wide eyes. “What is this?”

“A rather special dagger, if I do say so myself. It was cursed centuries ago by my ancestors to become the ultimate assassin’s weapon. A hex on the tip provides a poison that never fails; one scratch and your victim’s fate is sealed.”

“I couldn’t…” Betsy gasps, holding the dagger back out to the hag.

“Keep it, dear. Trust me… you’re going to need it for what’s to come.” The hag replies, pushing it gently back towards Betsy.

Her fingers wrap around the hilt as Betsy holds it up in front of her and studies it again. Uncertainty floods through her as footsteps are heard approaching her room. Looking back to thank the hag, her words stop in her throat; the old woman had disappeared entirely. Still struggling to register everything that’s happened, she jumps when there is a loud knock at the door. A moment later, Prince James lets himself in, followed closely by the mysterious Atara. She’s still watching Betsy with a victoriously smug expression as Prince James gets right to business.

“Miss Granger, I do hope you’ve enjoyed your stay here at the palace, but I feel it’s time for you to get back on your own two feet. I’m happy to provide you compensation, as well as shelter and anything you need to keep you comfortable. I consider you a dear friend at this point and hope you consider the throne yours as well.”

“Your Highness…” Betsy says, earning a shocked look from both her offenders.

“You… can talk?” James says, his eyebrows shooting upwards.

“My voice was taken by someone as part of a deal… A deal which no longer exists, with your thrilling news.” Betsy says, her anger slowly building in her tone.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I’m extremely busy and really have no time for trifles. Sir Shawn will be assisting you from here on in; I do hope you manage to make something of yourself, Miss Granger. You’re a good egg.” His voice is still coldly detached.

He turns away, his face breaking out with joy as soon as his eyes land on Atara again. Taking her into his arms, unable to help himself, he leans in and kisses his bride to be fully on the lips. Betsy watches, seething now as Atara grabs the back of his head and deepens the kiss. Her fingers tighten over the dagger, which Betsy had forgotten was in her hand. The words of the hag echo through her mind once again, and when she looks back up, a new resolve fills her. Her eyes glitter like emeralds as she walks up to the couple; wasting no time, she grabs Atara by her hair and pulls her from Prince James’ grip. Shock fills his eyes, his lips still puckered from the kisses. Betsy looks him dead in the eye as she forces Atara’s head back by her hair; before he could move to stop her, Betsy slides the blade of the dagger cleanly across Atara’s neck.

James wails in grief as Betsy releases her hold and allows Atara’s body to crumble to the floor. James drops to his knees to grab her up, sobbing into her hair as Atara struggles to catch her breath. Lifting a hand, Atara tenderly strokes James’ face, a single tear falling from her eyes. As her breathing becomes more labored, a look of pain crosses her face; a moment later, a blood-curdling scream leaves her lips. She thrashes in James’ arms and he’s forced to let go. As soon as she hits the floor, Atara begins to go through a transformation. James and Betsy both step away instinctively as large, black tentacles grow where Atara’s ample bottom used to be. Her skin begins to turn a hideous shade of purple, her hair growing as white as snow. When she turns her terribly ugly face to Betsy, a pained, hateful expression is written all over it.

And then, with one last breathless scream, it was over.

Prince James stares down at the body of the sea witch in horror as Betsy continues to grip the dagger. Her gaze was cold and never left Prince James as he struggles to cope with what he’d just witnessed. Stepping carefully over and around the massive body of the sea witch she’d just slain, Betsy approaches James and caresses his face gently. He looks back at her with clear, but scared eyes and touches his hand over hers.

“Betsy?” He says, his voice back to normal.

She nods. “Good.” And proceeds to cut a small scratch into his arm with the dagger.

They both look down as small beads of blood form over the line made by the blade. When they both look up and into each other’s eyes, his confusion is clear. But it was soon resolved as a pained expression crosses his face and he falls to his knees. Betsy walks slowly towards the window of her room as James begins to roar in agony. She watches until she hears many hurried footsteps heading towards her room. He looks up and they make eye contact one more time before he gasps his final breath and falls face-first to the floor. As his servants enter the bedroom, Betsy slips out the window and sneaks away. A satisfied smile crosses her face as she slips off her nightgown, exposing her naked body underneath. She takes no notice of the villagers, who gape at her in disgust, covering the eyes of husbands and children alike.

At a run, she dashes down the pier, and without another look backward, she dives gracefully into the water. She only manages to swim a few feet when a devious laugh reverberates through her mind. A moment later, a large black hole of a portal opens in front of her. She screams for help as she’s pulled into the unknown abyss…

****

“True love… What a joke.”

****

Landing hard on the ground, Betsy looks around at the comedic nightmare before her eyes. A forest was full of flora she’d never seen surrounded her, reminding her very heavily of that one Beatles song about a chick named Lucy. As a matter of fact, she could hear humming coming from somewhere nearby; with nothing else to go on, Betsy gets to her feet and brushes off her pants before heading down a perfect dirt trail. Her head turns in every direction as she wanders deeper into the forest, fascinated by the brightly colored fruits and uniquely shaped trees. The singing gets louder with each step until finally, she comes to a field in a clearing that is filled with delightful little wildflowers… that all have faces.

And those faces were all pointed up towards the sun, singing happily.

“What the fuuuuuu-“ Betsy whispers, frozen to her spot at the edge of the woods.

At once, the flowers stop singing and turn in unison to where Betsy stood. Her heart hammers in her chest as the serene expressions grew angry and the humming became hissing. Stepping out from the shaded safety of the trees, Betsy allows herself to be seen fully by the flowers.

“Intruder… Invader… You are not wanted here!” They say eerily, speaking as one.

“Please… I was sucked through a portal and this is where I landed. If you could just-“

“Leave, stranger!” The flowers insist, cutting over her protests. “You don’t belong here, just go!”

“I just need to know where-“

Before she could argue her case any further, the flowers opened up their petals wide. Confused, Betsy remains frozen until in one single moment, the flowers release a large plume of pollen into the air. Immediately, Betsy feels her sinuses being invaded by the attack; covering her nose, she turns and stumbles away, back into the woods where she’d come from. Her eyes water as her nose explodes with a series of nonstop sneezes; the force of them gets intense enough for her to fall to her knees. It feels like hours to her before the effects of the pollen bomb finally subside. Weak and defeated, Betsy crawls over to the nearest tree and rests her back against the trunk as her eyes well up with tears again. Self-pity begins to claw its way into her heart until the sound of footsteps in the distance causes her to lift her head up.

“The time has come, the boss has said, to talk of violent things.” A male voice floats between the trees.

“Of tables, ladders, chairs, and tacks, and taking down the kings.” Another male voice piped in.

“I love it when you guys talk like that.” A female voice follows.

Wiping her eyes, Betsy gets to her feet and carefully picks her way through the forest, following the direction she heard the voices coming from. It takes some time, but she eventually comes to another clearing that is cut off by a large, stone wall. The pointed tips of a very old castle break through the clouds, banners of red and black waving in the breeze. As Betsy makes her way through the grassy borders of the stone wall, she finds the owners of the voices. The two men are rotund and merry, wearing belts shaped like islands around their bulging bellies. The female that was with them wore a simple blue dress; the tips of her blonde hair are stained with pink. She was looking adoringly at them as they danced around the entry gates. The guards that stood there looked ahead blankly, neither amused nor bothered by the antics of the clowns before them.

“What fresh hell is this?” Betsy asks, announcing herself to this odd trio.

They turn in unison to stare at her. The female’s face puckers up with distaste as soon as she lays eyes on Betsy. The fellows look her up and down curiously before exchanging a wary expression. Without words, they converse for a few moments before turning their attention back to Betsy.

“So, the interlopers have sent someone else to try and destroy us, have they?” The one with TweedleTwat written on his shirt steps forward, his painted face twisted with rage.

“Persistent mother fuckers, aren’t they?” TweedleTaint replies, both of them bearing down menacingly on Betsy.

“That dagger… I want those rubies.” Malice says greedily, licking her lips as she follows the guys. Her bright blue eyes were locked on the hilt that could be seen from Betsy’s belt.

“Hey, I don’t know who you think I am, but I’m just a lost traveler trying to find my way back home.” Betsy says, holding up her hands in supplication.

They ignore her as they circle around her, surrounding her as buzzards surround roadkill.

“You can’t just come in and claim our bounty; we got here first and we’ll kill you and anyone else we need to leave with what we came for.” TweedleTaint hisses threateningly.

“Bro…” Betsy says, her frustration coming through.

“We don’t have time for this… Just end her and let’s be on our way.” Malice says petulantly, still eyeing the rubies in the dagger.

“Quite right, babe,” TweedleTwat says, giving Malice a playful pat on the ass.

Giggling as she skips out of the way, both the Tweedles lunge forward to grab at Betsy. She manages to duck at the right moment, causing the brothers to crash into each other. Malice lets out an exasperated shriek as Betsy crawls away and the guys attempt to untangle themselves. The guards are stirred now at the outbreak of fighting and motion for the gatekeeper to lift the iron bars. As they slowly creak upward, the Tweedles manage to separate their limbs from one another and turn back towards Betsy with renewed resolve. TweedleTaint lunges again, only to be sent flying headfirst into the stone wall. He collapses to the ground, blood running down his neck from the gash in his head.

TweedleTwat shouts with rage and feints towards Betsy. Reacting, Betsy dodges; she doesn’t have a chance to realize she’s been tricked until she’s sent to the ground with a vicious spear. Malice screams in delight, the sound piercing through Betsy’s skull painfully. Without thinking, Betsy reaches for the dagger and turns; as TweedleTwat jumps for her in earnest, she thrusts her arm out and plunges the knife into his chest. For a moment, the two remain suspended, staring into each other’s eyes; then TweedleTwat falls to the ground, his breath leaving him in one long sigh. His eyes droop close as Malice falls to her feet before him.

Shaking her head, Betsy stands over the weeping woman, dagger still dripping with the blood of TweedleTwat. Leaning over, she whispers for only Malice to hear.

“Go ahead and join him, honey.”

And with one clean slice across her neck, Malice falls over top of the body of TweedleTwat and remains still.

The gate has finally risen enough for the guards to start rushing through. Now Betsy can see that they are the oddest set of castle guards she’d ever seen. All of them were shaped like oversized playing cards, each one bearing a number and suit… And rather sharp spears. Betsy backs away slowly at first, before turning and disappearing into the forest. As she races frantically through the trees, she can hear the shouts of the guards, ordering her to return and face their queen for justice. Their trampling footsteps force the ground to shake slightly, causing Betsy to stumble slightly. As she takes a shaky step forward, her foot sinks through a patch of loose, wet soil and she begins to fall into never-ending darkness…

****

“So, the way I look at it, Blood Money is an opportunity for me to get my hand on anyone and everyone I’d love to tear to pieces.

Jiggy.

There are a lot of folks in Fight that don’t like ol’ Betsy Granger, just because of her ties with New Status Quo… Or more recent, Chris Page and his entourage.

All of you judgy bitches need to calm the fuck down and let a girl live her life. None of you are innocent enough to cast the first stone, so take those pointed fingers of accusation and stick them back up your asses. You’ve come at us before and you’ve failed.

Well, some of you have managed to sneak a win or two on me. I’m looking at you, Sahara; my apologies in advance for the state I’m going to return your bride in, Thad. But she’s managed to slip victories over not once, but twice, and that’s a record I need to atone for. Perhaps Blood Money won’t clear my record of these flukes, but I can exact a measure of redemption when I throw from Space Mountain.

She’s not the only one turning over a new leaf lately.

Look at all the faces joining us within Fight and beyond; so many bodies to mangle and maim.

All of them will look exactly the same in the crowd as I make my way through them.

Blood Money isn’t just the night Betsy Granger puts the true power of her dominance on display; this is the night I finally come into the full potential of my being.

For too long, I’ve held back, afraid of the enemies I would make and the lines I would cross. I stepped timidly through landmines others walked through boldly. I watched as friends and enemies alike climbed to heights that I could only come to fingertips grasp of. None of them had any regard for the rules or who they hurt along the way. Even those closest to me took their shots when it mattered; a lesson I’ll not soon forget. All of it has molded, bent, and shaped what I’ve become and I’ll forever be grateful for the lessons they passed down. It’s just so unfortunate that many of them now have to taste what they’ve helped create.

But we’ll come to that in a bit.

First, I want to finish my love letter to those who would try and stop my ascent to greater heights. To the enemies with made-up slights and unwarranted grudges. To those who have made it their personal mission to stop me and the rest of the New Status Quo in our tracks.

You’re all doomed to fail. There is no stopping a force like ours; more to the point, you’ll have to get through me to get to them. You might have a need to exact some form of misconstrued revenge on one of my brethren, but I’m afraid you’ll have to wait your turn. For come Blood Money, the only one taking out the rest of New Status Quo is me.

You heard that right.

What, you thought the anyone outside of us was the competition I was looking for?

Enemies and tentative acquaintances are easy. Whether you are on the Fight payroll or coming in just for funsies, you’re all coming to Blood Money with the same mindset.

Eyes on the prize. Win at all costs.

That’s how I’m different from the rest of you. I’m not concerned with winning, because one way or another, I’m coming out the victor. And it has nothing to do with claiming whatever unknown prize management is saving for the winner.

My triumph will come in the body count I leave in my wake; the scattered remains of my opposition will be the mark I leave on this contest. None of you realize just what is coming after you that night.

It would be a pity if it wasn’t promising to be so bloody and glorious.”

*****

Falling… For how long, she didn’t know, but it felt like years. It had been pitch black at first, but soon, strange images started to light up the world around her. Faces and places she’d once known forced their way into her field of vision. She tried to turn her head, but there was nowhere to hide from the distorted memories that the fall was forcing her to relive. Happy and painful alike, Betsy watched as her life played out in front of her…

And just like that, she was no longer falling.

She lands on her bottom in front of a bench just outside a large mansion. She leaps to her feet, looking around wildly as she grabs at her head. It was now nighttime, the velvety black sky twinkling with diamond stars; the world around her was lit up by the gigantic, full moon shining brightly down on her. A breeze brushes her skin, and she looks down; her normal clothes had disappeared, and she now stood in the remains of a tattered pink dress. Deep sadness hits her all of a sudden, and she has no idea as to why. Betsy is even more shocked when she feels wetness on her face and with a touch of her fingertips, discovers tears rolling down her cheeks.

“What is this?” she mutters to herself, unaware that she’s being watched by many eyes hiding in the shadows.

As she continues to weep, balls of light begin to light up the world around her. In her unexplained grief, Betsy doesn’t notice as they begin to bunch together, forming a bigger ball of light. It soon blinds her, however, and she’s forced to shield her eyes as it burns brighter before her. Forgetting her sorrow for a moment, she watches in awe as from the light a figure emerges. She is tall, her skin a gorgeous shade of chocolate brown, matching eyes twinkling with life. Her blonde hair is styled neatly under a sharp blue cap, her flowing, sparkly robes matching it perfectly. In her hand was a glittering wand, the tip sparking with magical energy. Betsy takes a step forward, entranced by the fabulously magical being that had appeared from thin air.

“Who are you?” She asks, her voice thick with emotion.

“Sweetpea, I’m your Fairy Rockstar.” She replies with a comforting smile.

“Come again?” Betsy asks with a chuckle.

“You heard me, honey bunny. Your sadness called to me, so here I am to help you find you’re happily ever after.” Fairy Rockstar replies with gentle firmness.

“I honestly don’t even know what that is at this point if I’m being perfectly honest,” Betsy replies. “I thought I had already found my Prince Charming, but…” her voice cracks, and she allows her words to die out.

“Could it have anything to do with that?” Fairy Rockstar asks, pointing her wand towards something in the distance.

Betsy allows her gaze to follow and finally notices the castle lurking in the distance. Like the others, it was old, fashioned out of stone, and surrounded by a great stone wall. Tonight, it was all lit up and she could hear the faint music of the royal band playing in the night air. Nobles the size of ants and dressed in their finest wears were still parading in on a red carpet, being announced by the herald at the door.

And then it hit her in a flash.

“The ball! Stepmother said I could go, but when I came down to join them…” Her voice trails off again as she remembers her stepsisters tearing apart the gorgeous pink gown her animal friends had made for her as she labored away in her daily chores. “They destroyed it… Got my hopes up and then kicked me back into reality.”

Fairy Rockstar shakes her head sympathetically as tears leak from Betsy’s eyes again. Stepping forward, she places her hand on Betsy’s shoulder and squeezes it comfortingly. “Listen, you can sit here and feel sorry for yourself… Or we can do something about it.”

“Uh… What did you have in mind?” Betsy asks breathlessly.

“We’ll turn you into the finest belle of the ball; if the Genie could turn that street urchin into a prince, I can definitely make you a presentable Princess.” Fairy Rockstar purrs.

“Thanks?” Betsy says, confused by the backhanded compliment.

“That came out a bit harsh, didn’t it?” Fairy Rockstar says, her voice only mildly apologetic. “For what it’s worth, at least you aren’t a total scumbag like Genie’s guy was. Still don’t understand what he saw in him… MOVING ON!”

Betsy’s eyes grow wide as Fairy Rockstar steps back again and lifts her wand in the air. Crackling flashes of magic sweep through the air as it touches several things surrounding them. A large pumpkin on a vine begins to turn into a fancy stagecoach. Her animal friends, exposed by the magical light in the shadows, are drawn forward as they begin to grow and shape into humans.

Betsy watches this process with mingled terror and joy; her eyes eventually land on Fairy Rockstar and soon, the wand in her hand. After a few more minutes, Fairy Rockstar turns to Betsy and starts for a moment as she takes in the look on Betsy’s face.

“Are… You okay?” Fairy Rockstar asks.

A strange buzzing fills Betsy’s mind as she eyes the wand again. Her hand wanders down to the hilt of her dagger, fingers wrapping around the rubies as she slides it slowly from her belt. Fairy Rockstar’s eyes grow wide and she turns her wand on Betsy, but the Impossible Traveler was too quick. As Fairy Rockstar flung her arm out to repel Betsy, the ladder reaches out with the blade and manages to leave a scratch along Fairy Rockstar’s wrist. As the wand falls from her limp hand, Betsy catches it with easy grace and watches as the light around Fairy Rockstar begins to dim.

“Why?” Fairy Rockstar asks as she struggles for air.

“One could never have too much power… And why settle for some when I could have it all?” Betsy says as her eyes begin to glow a malignant shade of red.

A smile spreads across her lips as Fairy Rockstar takes her last breath and fades away. The newly humanized rodents look on in terror at their friend until she turns to face them. They all look away quickly and take up their spots as she steps forward, pointing the wand at herself. The tattered remains of her old gown disappear; in its place, a gorgeous, sparkling gown of black forms over her lean body. Strapless, the bodice is intricately designed with lace and gems; at the waist, a wide underskirt of crinoline billows out. Covering it is a skirt of silk and covering it is a glittering, decorative half-skirt of chiffon. Her blonde hair is swept in a fashionable beehive and held in place by a glittering headband. Around her neck is a black choker with a blood diamond hanging from the center.

She smirks as the terrified footman opens the door and helps her into the carriage. “To the castle.” Is all she says.

Watching out of the window as the carriage begins to move, Betsy gazes forward as the castle grows ever nearer…

****

All eyes are on her as she walks through the doors unannounced.

Looking around, Betsy realizes quickly that everyone’s attention has turned on her; she also quickly comes to notice that there are very distinct groups of people milling around the grand ballroom. Only a handful of couples dance on the wooden dancefloor in the center of the room. Even the Old King looked bored atop his throne, his son looking out with dead eyes on the crowd next to him. Both of them show signs of life as Betsy continues to move through the room, looking around at such splendor as she’d never witnessed before. Even the band had stopped playing in surprise, but this was remedied as the Old King snapped out of his moment of surprise and gestured for them to carry on.

The conversation started to rumble softly through the room as the guests carried on as if nothing had happened. Sighing to herself, Betsy snatches a glass of sparkling champagne from a passing servant and quickly rushes to a nearby balcony. Taking a healthy chug from the glass, she stares out at the night sky, wondering what exactly she was meant to do here.

“Fancy meeting you here, Bets.” A voice calls out to her from behind.

Dropping the glass as she twirls around, Betsy takes an instinctive defensive stance as she faces her unknown visitor. Smirking at her is one of her stepsisters, Sahelsa, who was betrothed to the king of Arendale and set to be their next queen. Her blond hair was in its usual side braid, her blue dress clinging tightly to her curvaceous body. Sahelsa gives her a slow once-over, an impressed whistle leaving her lips.

“How’d you manage this one up, sis?” Sahelsa asks in amusement.

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” Betsy mutters, trying to push past her bully of a stepsister.

“Try me.” Sahelsa challenges, blocking the way and shoving Betsy back onto the balcony.

Rage builds through her as Betsy begins to tremble. Sahelsa, mistaking this for the same fear she’d always instilled in Betsy, begins to laugh as she stalks her. Feeling her thighs meet the cool stone of the outer edges, Betsy realizes she’s trapped. Sahelsa, realizing this at the same time, grins wickedly as she moves in close.

“You were always a waste of space, anyway. I’m doing mother… and the rest of the world, a favor,” she whispers, preparing to push Betsy over the edge.

With a desperate gasp, Betsy manages to reach the dagger, hidden in the folds of her gown and plunges it into Sahelsa’s side. Her brown eyes grow wide as her mouth drops in surprise; stumbling back, she releases Betsy as she clutches at her wound. Rushing forward, Betsy twists the dagger brutally before pulling it out and kicking Sahelsa’s body to the ground. A sudden calm fills her as she cleans the blade off on Sahelsa’s gown; hiding it back in her dress, she checks herself for blood before screaming for help.

“Guards, GUARDS! Someone has attacked my stepsister and she’s badly wounded! The assailant tried to attack me, but I managed to fight him off; he ran over the balcony and is trying to escape!” And with that, she faints to the ground…

… A tapping on her cheek finally rouses her from her unconscious state. Her eyes fly open as she remembers what had happened and she cries out, brandishing her arms around. Whoever had been attempting to wake her backs away with a swear.

“Calm down, woman, you’re safe! The palace guards are searching for the attacker and His Majesty has you well guarded.”

Sitting up, Betsy realizes that she’s sitting on the stairs before the massive throne and ornate chairs on either side of it. The Old King is has taken his place back at the head of the room in his seat, but the Prince had gone with the guards to search for the assailant. Next to her, Prime Minister Warstein sat, looking at her with mild impatience and clear suspicion. They locked eyes, both narrowed as they attempted to take the measure of one another. The Old King, oblivious to all of it, slumped back into his chair and looks out into the ballroom. The guests are all gathered about nervously, many of them also looking at Betsy with suspicion. She gazes around at them with unnerving calm, looking each one in the eye, challenging them to speak their minds.

“Why do all of you stare at me with such heat?” Betsy asks, unable to hold her tongue any longer.

“It just seems funny, this whole story you told. How did a commoner like yourself get into a royal ball in the first place?” A brunette in a red gown asks, stepping forward. Betsy doesn’t miss the affectionate look Prime Minister Warstein shoots her way.

“My stepmother said if I were to complete my chores and make my own gown, I could join her and my stepsisters tonight.” Betsy says, her voice loud and clear. “But when it was time to meet their end of the bargain, they took exception and destroyed my dress instead. Luckily, I had an unexpected benefactor who provided my everything I needed to enjoy myself tonight.”

“Did you kill this benefactor as you killed my beloved?” A man asks, stepping out. Betsy glares at the angry young man who was set to take the throne of Arendale. Her eyes flash as he continues. “My lady acted as befits her station; you, miserable wench, should be whipped for you blatant disregard of status. You would kill my Lady out of some make-believe slight, you repulsive witch.”

“That is a bold accusation and one that holds no merit. They may have treated me like garbage, but I would never…”

“I saw her do it.” Another voice from the crowd pipes in. This one is familiar and causes Betsy’s blood to turn to ice. Stepping forward in her usual high-collar lace gown is her stepmother, Lady Drumaine. Flanking her is the Ladys’ other obnoxious daughter, Ranicka. She’s nodding emphatically as Lady Drumaine points a finger dramatically at Betsy. “Ungrateful swine of a girl; I gave her a home and food after her father left me with the burden of raising her and this is how she would repay my kindness? My daughter… My poor Sahelsa…”

“Oh, you are so full of-“ Betsy growls, moving towards the crying woman. The crowd gasps in shock and backs away in one sweep as Betsy approaches. This causes her to pause, an amused chortle escaping her unbidden. “Oh, come now…”

“Betsy Granger, by royal order, you are under arrest for the murder of Lady Sahelsa.” The Prince calls from the back of the crowd.

Everyone swivels around as Betsy stares straight ahead to the opposite end of the room. Prince Dane was making his way through the crowd, looking as dashing as ever. Two noble ladies catch his eye and he beckons for them to join him, a cheeky grin crossing his face. As he turns back to Betsy, his expression has returned to stone as he watches her carefully.

“What proof have you of my guilt?” Betsy demands of him, her hand slipping slowly to the dagger as she climbs off the stairs and meets him at the bottom.

“We searched all over and found no one; there’s no evidence of any kind that supports anyone else being on that balcony. You have all the motive in the world to do what you did and are the only one who was on the scene.” As Prince Dane drops the truth, the crowd begins to circle around her.

Betsy eyes as much of the crowd as she can as she feels the weight of their accusation closing in on her. “So, we’re just skipping a trial and going straight to the execution?” She asks, turning in a small circle to meet as many eyes as she can. “And it’s promising to be barbaric as well.”

“Ya brought this on yaself, mate.” Another man calls in an odd accent.

A gasp leaves her lips as the fancy gowns and suits begin to transition into ring gear and street fighting attire. The world around her begins to waver, becoming distorted and confusing. Betsy’s eyes pop out of her head as she struggles to grasp the situation, she’s in, but she’s all too aware of everyone closing in on her.

And all of them look ready to put her in the ground.

The entirety of the Fight roster was swarming, all of them licking their chops and ready to take their shot at her. As she attempted to stumble backward, strong hands grabbed her from either side. Chronic Chris Page and Aiden Reynolds were holding onto either arm as Bam Miller came up behind her and held her back still.

“What is this?” she gasps in genuine fear, her throat going bone dry.

Dickie Watson appears before her grinning as he holds out a stylish, French sword. “Justice. You’ll be an example to others of what happens when you try to topple the Status Quo.”

“What do you mean; we are the New Status Quo. We’re friends, Dickie!” she cries out breathlessly as Dickie lifts the sword into the air.

“We were never friends,” Dickie replies smoothly, waving the sword around expertly. “You were a means to an end, but your use has expired. The New Status Quo has no room for weak links.” The three holding on to her force her down to her knees over a block someone had kicked over. She struggles against them desperately as Dickie grins over at Anne Boleyn. “Good call on the sword, this’ll slice clean through.”

“You guys are my friends! Why are you doing this?” Betsy screams, panic-stricken. Her skin begins to glow as she struggles even harder, realizing what they intend to do.

“It’s for the best, babe.” She hears James call out to her. “You can try again in the next life.”

That was all it took.

The sting of this final betrayal caused her to scream out; as she did, white-hot energy exploded from her body, sending the three men restraining her flying into the stone walls. Getting to her feet, Betsy turns to the crowd slowly as they begin to scramble around in fear. With a howling scream of fury, Betsy blasts every window and door, creating a wall of unpassable plasma. Those who tried were disintegrated within seconds; the roster and its many guest stars swarm back to the center of the room, huddling in a mass of fear.

With a sadistic smile of triumph, Betsy lifts her hands in the air as energy radiates from her fingertips. The room becomes a blinding white blur as the screams of her victims fill her ears; the most serene melody she’d ever heard…

****

“Blood Money comes off as a veritable free-for-all when friendships are meant to dissolve for a night.

Sounds to me like a Battle Royale style event, created by management to stir the pot for some sick, twisted amusement.

I can get down with that.

It’s easy to stand off against my enemies and eliminate them one by one. But squaring off against my friends… That presents a new challenge, one that I never thought I’d be so eager to rise to.

I’ve always been one to go with the flow of fate, even if she takes me in directions I wasn’t expecting. Recent friendships, like those made among the Exiles, must stand the test of Blood Money. I know for a fact Chris Page is participating and I’m sure he wants to settle our score in some form or fashion. Come get some, big boy, you know where to find me. This also gives me a chance to feel the likes of Peter Vaughn and Bam Miller, both of whom have proven their mettle in the past. But neither have proven it against me directly and I think it would be fun to spar a bit…

As long as they realize I’m not pulling my punches.

Funny how my newest band of merry misfits has been a lot warmer and more welcoming of your girl than those she’s considered family for much longer.

I can’t be the only one who’s noticed all the tension building between NSQ lately, right? There’s no point denying it’s there, everyone can see the cracks forming. And if they don’t, then they just prove to be the idiot apes I figured them to be in the first place. Now mind you, I’ve brought my fair share of it to the table, but that’s how I know that it’s time for everyone to just… Blow off some steam. Maybe Blood Money is coming at exactly the right time for all of us. Too many of you are starting to get a little uppity for my like and I’m going to need you all to chill your asses out. As a unit, we are starting to act a bit off-kilter and I don’t like that. I get that we all have a bad day every once and a while, but when you begin to lash out on those who have stood faithfully by your side and allowed you to continue to prosper…

Well, it’s time to remind you just who the fuck you’re dealing with.

My loyalty and trust have always gone to those who have shown me they deserve it. Brother Dearest has always been a reliable source of family and strength… But even he gazes at me with a suspicious eye these days. That hurts worse than Dickie Watson allowing his paranoia to get the better of him, at least that’s par for the course. Kasey, bless her simple heart, just follows Shawns lead most of the time; what needs to be done is cruel, but necessary. And it’s nothing compared to what I have in store for James… The worst betrayer of them all. How easy it’s been for you, leaving me behind as you flaunt whatever this infatuation for Atara is. Too cowardly to send word of any kind, only ceaselessly flirting with the Harlot in an open forum and arousing suspicion.

And you want to lash out at the rest for making your life a spectator sport? You did it to yourself, darling, now you get to suffer the consequences of your faithlessness. Either way, I’m going to ensure you feel every ounce of pain and humiliation you’ve put me through this last month. Every ounce of love I still feel for you will flow in a river of crimson; my tears will burn against your flesh as they fall from my eyes. Only in the end, when it’s far too late to apologize and repent, you will look into my eyes and realize what you’ve done.

But I digress… 

That actually felt divine to get off my chest.

As I said, tension and frustration are brewing and it’s high time I allowed some of it to be released. With these trivial grievances out in the open, it’s time to address the issues at hand. Come Blood Money, we have two options.

We beat the ever-living hell out of one another until we feel better and a member of New Status Quo comes out on top. Preferably me, of course, but I suppose I could settle for any of the group. Either way, we can use Blood Money as a way to dissolve the tension and resolidify a dominant alliance and get back on track. All this mistrust and tension is unnecessary and hindering; I know we’re capable of rising above such squabbles.

And if not…

I destroy you all and take everything I want.

Who knew it was really that simple?

Looking forward to it, Fam.”

*****

“Interesting… I must say, Miss Granger, I’m quite impressed… I didn’t think you had it in you.”

A modulated voice calls to her from the shadows as Betsy comes to. The palace around her had disappeared; in its wake was the charred remains of a simulation room aboard an Imperial Starship. She was dressed in her typical battle gear, her hands still glowing with extra energy. Her green eyes narrow as Grand Admiral Thrawn emerges from the darkness, a rare smile on his lips.

“What have you done?” Betsy gasps, looking around the room. “How did I get here?”

“So it’s truly you right now?” the Grand Admiral looks genuinely surprised as he takes a step towards her.

“What trickery is this, Thrawn? Why am I here?” Betsy snarls, holdingup herhands defensively.

“Easy now, Miss Granger, let’s not forget that you came here of your own volition,” Thrawn says, closing the gap between them. His red eyes look down on her with undisguised glee.

Her words catch in her throat as she struggles to piece together her fuzzy memories. It had been so long since she had been in full control of her own…

Oh, no. It was already too late to stop it from happening.

“Ah, there He comes,” Thrawn says coolly.

Betsy’s eyes turn to obsidian orbs as He begins to resurface. He looks at His hands, reveling in the feeling of the energy still coming from them. Looking back up at Thrawn, a grin crosses His face as nods. “That was glorious. If only I could end them just as easily in reality… Though some of them still have their uses.”

“Have you figured out how to tap into the Granger girls’ powers yet or not?” Thrawn asks, the warmth he’d shown a moment before disappearing quickly.

“Oh yes… And so much more. Thank you, my friend.” He says, reaching out His hand to shake Thrawn’s.

Thrawn doesn’t reciprocate. “Did you figure out how to get into that ship yet?”

The friendly expression wrinkles into a hideous glare. “Unfortunately, no. She’s still managing to keep that one locked tightly away somehow.”

“Pity…” Thrawn says simply, turning to leave the room. “I’ll set course back to Earth; unlike that TARDIS of hers, the Chimaera doesn’t provide time travel.”

Silence falls between them as Grand Admiral Thrawn leads them to the main cabin of the large Starship. As they enter, all the officers stop what they are doing to salute their commanding officer. He smirks as He watches the pomp, turning to gaze at Thrawn again. “You know, I could use an ally like you. Cunning, ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.”

“It’s strange, hearing these words coming from Betsy Granger’s lips,” Thrawn says, unable to contain a grin. “I do wish it were truly her behind the sentiments.”

“Behind everything I say has an essence of Betsy in it.” He explains, capturing Thrawn’s attention. “I have my own motives, of course, and I will serve them first and foremost. But everything I do is mutually beneficial to Betsy Granger; as long as she remains my vessel, everything I say and do is coming from somewhere inside of her.”

“Is that so?” Thrawn asks, his curiosity fully piqued.

“We’re connected, she and I, body, mind, and soul. I can see and feel everything she can; the difference between us is that I’ll act on the feelings she’d suppress.” He says, growing silent so His words could sink into Thrawn’s mind.

“And with this theory in motion, you sought me out?” Thrawn asked, now eyeing Him suspiciously.

With a mysterious chuckle, He allows silence to grow between them. Settling into a chair by the window, He looks out into space as Thrawn stares at Him in quiet vexation. Realizing he wasn’t getting any more out of Him, Thrawn turns and orders his officers to begin the jump to hyperspace.

Grinning, He looks out, knowing what had to be done come Blood Money and beyond…

****

“Come and get me, mother fuckers.

This happily ever after is about to get messy.

Come bid your final farewell to the Impossible Traveler.

The rise of the Rogue Wanderer approaches.”