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Ever After High's Headmaster regretted, in part, the fact that he'd had to leave his students and faculty to their own devices for the majority of this emergency.

That part of him disliked the idea of so much happening without his inherent knowledge or approval, the very same which insisted that he needed to take a more active role if he wished for everything to go smoothly. The other, more rational part forced him to swallow his pride and fulfill his other duties-- namely, the paperwork and communications that assured the academic community and allowed their progress to continue unhindered.

Giles had always been the more bookish between them, anyways. Milton Grimm decided that he'd gone to work, at least, at a task that made full use of his own force of personality.

"Again, that was Faragonda Goodfairy's latest research on maintaining your shelter's wards with transdimensional decay in mind," the Headmaster reported in conference-call with the other stewards of various emergency shelters. "Thus far, we believe that rationing food and water will not be necessary, unless you no longer possess a magical water purification source. If you find that your wards have been penetrated or compromised, do not panic, and remember to activate the levitation function before you re-adjust your wards closer to solid ground. The next broadcast will be at 1300 hours; Headmaster Milton Grimm ending transmission."

With a weighty sigh, he ended that radio broadcast, buzzing in his next appointment with all due briskness.

"I've finished the MirrorChat with Wicked West... as you insisted," Baba Yaga looked nonplussed.

"She deserves to know if her son is missing," Milton Grimm justified. "Particularly when he ought to be at school."

"Well, contrary to your suspicions, she doesn't have the slightest idea where her child might have run off to," Baba Yaga frowned. "His actions are decidedly not on her orders, and as we have no reports of mishap or maliciousness, I can only presume that our student Celadon West hasn't suddenly run off to cause chaos... as his mother would have, back when she was his age."

"Madam Yaga, we have a student who is missing when all of Ever After is in a state of emergency," the Headmaster leveled. "Regardless of personal biases-- both yours and mine, I'm aware-- any path that can lead to his recovery must be considered and pursued."

"Well... I agree with the principle, if not the motivation," Baba Yaga crossed her arms, agreeing reluctantly.

Giles Grimm, then, pushed past the doors to his brother's office, his every step urgent. "Look beyond these walls of glass-- what ill portend has come to pass!"

"The Evil Queen!?" the Headmaster jolted into standing, alarmed by the first thing that came into his mind.

Baba Yaga, however, had interpreted correctly-- and so, she stood, looking aghast, "The window?"

"What is--" the Headmaster sputtered, for a moment, before at last turning to look. He blinked, hard, as if by willing it forcefully enough, the vision before him could be merely a mirage. "No. That cannot be... Professor Goodfairy's prediction--"

"Was incorrect, as Professor West's scrying proved weeks ago," Baba Yaga arched an eyebrow. "I did attempt to warn you."

"And now, there is little left of our realm," Giles Grimm pressed his hand to the glass, seeing before him the grounds of Ever After High, surrounded only with the emptiness of dark. "That small, shimmering landmass in the distance... with nothing left in-between, you can spy straight through to Snow White's castle. It is the same on the other side of the school, except the floating landmasses you espy are the emergency shelters which belong to Hood Hollow and Sherwood. It would appear that those, at least, seem attached to more than mere crumbles of land... well. It looks as if Ever After High truly is at the heart of the matter."

"Excuse me if I cannot leap for joy at the thought that my school is now a floating landmass," the Headmaster harrumphed.

"I hope you know what you're doing, Giles," Baba Yaga eyed him ominously. "Your trust in our students is admirable, but perhaps your efforts are best spent with the rest of the faculty in improving our wards."

"Perhaps that may be so, but I believe first and foremost in supporting our students in their goals, whatever they may be," Giles stroked his beard. "They have their eyes set on the most ambitious task of completing what we the academic community could not... repairing that which was sundered, and reversing that which was done."

"You may very well be attempting the impossible," Baba Yaga frowned.

"Well, then, I seem to be fortunate enough to have Miss Hatter taking my class," Giles Grimm chuckled. "The very student who's known for doing the impossible. And, of course, let us not forget Princess White and Miss Queen-- there are times where I think the sheer force of their will alone shall make them succeed. Now, then, I'd better return to rune translations... Humphrey Dumpty may be picking it up quickly, but even he cannot put a dozen translations back together again."

"Yes, well," the Headmaster straightened his tie, "Do not exhaust yourself. If you intend to assist the students, you must be at your best."

"I should advise you the same, brother mine," Giles chuckled, yawning faintly. "We could all use a little sleep after working well into the night. As for myself, I shall take a brief rest after proofreading my translators' work."

"I could curse you with eternal wakefulness," Baba Yaga offered. "Temporarily, of course."

"Perhaps I shall take you up on that offer after a nap," Giles chuckled, elbowing her faintly. "If I must be suspended in eternal wakefulness, I would rather be more refreshed."

"You are unusually tired," Baba Yaga looked shocked.

"Were my veins filled with coffee in lieu of blood," Giles sighed. "I will take my leave of you now."

"An ill portend, indeed," Baba Yaga frowned.

"For once," Headmaster Grimm stared out his window. "For once, we agree."

-----

"That's chapter thirty," Blondie passed off one of the approved stories, still yet in runic translation. "Do we have enough now?"

"Sorry," Raven winced, carrying the prism collector like a lifeline. "We've already acted out almost fifteen chapters... it's not halfway there yet."

"Our fairytale writers can't write any faster, and I definitely can't edit any faster," Blondie groaned. "This is so not just right!"

"Guys! You have to look outside!" Briar burst in, grabbing each of their arms.

Blondie looked visibly put-out, "I know you're big on making every minute count, but we really don't have the time--"

"Raven, Blondie!" Ashlynn hurried in a mere second behind. "Have you seen?"

"Seen what?" Raven shook away Briar's grip, but followed after her.

Almost certainly, the girls broke some sort of record as they crossed the school, running as quickly as they could. An enormous crowd of students gathered in the observatory near the top of the school, windows open to face all three-hundred sixty degrees.

Several students were panicking as they pressed their faces to the glass, utterly disbelieving the sight before their very faces. Apple stood there already, aghast-- Daring Charming had already fainted dead away onto the floor.

Humphrey swallowed, "Someone tell me that this is a prank... ha, ha, you sure got us all by painting the windows black..."

Chickadee Little, the daughter of Chicken Little, chose this time to squawk out that famous line of her father's: "The sky is falling, the sky is falling!"

And, unlike in her story, everyone glanced up at the sky to ascertain that truth. A chunk of the vast blue above fell, breaking itself on the school's wards and crumbling over the air above them like dust-- and in its wake, nothing but black remained.

"The sun is going," Maddie frowned, visibly perplexed. "Why, that seems like something it would do in Wonderland, not at all here at school!"

"That's because that's not something the sun should be doing!" Apple snapped out of her horror, panic filling her veins. "Not now, when it's still the afternoon!"

"So, Raven," Faybelle crossed her arms expectantly. "Where's that spell thing you were working on? Because if there's ever been a time where we needed it, it's now!"

"Look, guys," Raven tried to alleviate the pressure of dozens of eyes all turned in her direction. "We finished writing the spell--"

"Then why haven't you cast it?" hollered a distressed voice.

"It's not that simple... my magic alone isn't enough to cast it," Raven tried to explain. She lifted the prism collector, "We need to finish charging this device with the energy generated by stories..."

"That looks pretty close to charged to me," Briar remarked, indicating the dial placed at three-quarters of the way full.

"What?" Raven turned her face and squinted at it, disbelieving. "That wasn't even halfway full when we came up..."

"I cannot tell a lie," professed Cedar Wood. "But real stories, happening right now, have to be more powerful than ones that have just been acted-out... just like the truth will always beat out a lie!"

"That definitely makes sense," Blondie chewed her lip. "The only stories that really feel just-right are the ones that at least have part of the truth in them..."

"Then... maybe we've been going about this the wrong way," Raven murmured to herself, feeling guilty for having wasted so much time. She did her best to shake the self-doubt from her thoughts, and spoke again: "But true stories don't just happen out of nowhere. We'll have to go back to acting out chapters..."

"I don't think there's time," Apple pointed to the sky, her eyes wide. The faculty's wards flickered orange, a moment, threatening to collapse beneath the weight of the sky as it began falling out in clumps. "Someone, quick, the lights!"

The sun fell over Ever After, leaving their sky altogether. Save for the fairy-lights that illuminated the observatory, Ever After seemed suspended in nothing, merely nothing. If Apple squinted in the distance, she could see the land begin to fall away around Snow White's castle, the home of her childhood, and felt more than knew that her citizens were in danger-- not fairytale danger, but real, active danger.

Raven swallowed as she watched determination set into Apple's face. "There's still enough--"

"Raven," Apple took a deep breath and straightened her posture. "I think we both know that there isn't any time left. I think there aren't anymore options left... unless a real story just falls out of the sky--" and this was punctuated by another thump of blue against the school wards-- "I think we both know there's only one thing to do. The backup spell, Raven... I'm ready."

"I'm not!" Raven snapped, her patience at last worn thin by this matter. "I'm not ready to do this! How can I just let my friend face her doom as if it's her destiny?"

"It is my destiny," Apple stepped forth with the all command of her royal blood. "For better or worse, I chose my royal tradition. I still choose it."

"Wait!" Cerise Hood huffed and puffed, throwing herself in-between the two girls. "I don't know what this backup plan is, but if Raven hates the idea of it so much... then I've got a real story, right here. I'm living proof of a story."

"Cerise..." Raven hesitated. "Your secret--"

"-- won't matter anymore if we're all dead," Cerise answered, taking a deep breath. "That was what you said the other day, wasn't it? That going off-script was the only way we could save everyone? You guys have sacrificed enough to bring us where we are."

"What are you saying?" Apple furrowed her brow, visibly perplexed.

"What I'm saying is this," Cerise gripped the edge of her hood, hands shaking with the force of her clenched fists. "You guys need a story? Then I'mhappy to provide one."

Ramona Badwolf barked, her hair seeming to stand on end, "What are you doing?"

"Saving all of our tails," Cerise swallowed. She curled her lips into a smirk, "Big sis."

And so, straightening her posture, Cerise Hood lifted her chin. Her hood fell away from her face, and the student body seemed to collectively gasp at furred ears on either side of her head. She didn't say anything more. She didn't need to.

Raven's heart leaped into her throat, the secret at long last revealed, the story come full circle now. Legends, she prayed, please. Just enough to ignite the spell, that's all I need. Don't let this story have been told in vain.

And sure enough, in that moment, the prism collector released a soft ding! Full fairytale power had been achieved.

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