The Black Stair - a short story by CL Stegall
The Black Stair – a short story by CL Stegall

A modern take on the fairy tale of Rapunzel.

(originally published in the anthology, Twice Upon A Time: Fairytale, Folklore, & Myth Reimagined & Remastered by Bearded Scribe Press)

Locked alone in an isolated tower for over thirteen years, Sage is being punished for a crime she does not remember. Sage is dangerous. Even more dangerous, though, is what happens when a young girl’s eyes are opened to love and possibility for the first time.

Sometimes desire can be tainted by darkness.

And darkness always comes with a price.

The Black Stair


C.L. Stegall


In a single reflexive moment, at the tender age of four, Sage lost her mother. From that moment on, the girl’s world devolved into a series of surreal moments. Her parents were warned by the witch, Juniper; yet, her father had refused to believe what was right before his eyes.

Then, he lost his wife to dangers he could never understand. Less than a year later, Sage was handed over to the witch. The little girl was locked away. Her father fell into a great depression and, when unable to contact the witch to locate his abandoned daughter, his regret turned inward. In the end, he departed this world for, hopefully, a better existence beyond the grief.

* * * * *

Devin Demarco tramped through the forest like an elephant on PCP. He knocked aside branches, lashing out at defenseless bushes. Stomping on innocent flowers. He kicked at a tree, then cursed at the pain he received in payment. He drew back his fist to pummel the affronting oak but froze in mid-attack as the song reached his ears.

It was familiar, the tune. He’d heard it before. A moment of recognition. He remembered the words but this melody was different. More lilting and ethereal, contrasting with the song’s original soulful sound. Easy. The Commodores. This was not the original whiny voice, though. This was the most beautiful voice he had ever heard.

His pent-up anger drifted away on the breeze even as the warmth of the tune took its place.

Devin had been through this part of the forest before. Several times. It was part of the Mark Twain National Forest. Though, it was a section rarely visited. Deep undergrowth and thick, closely-set trees left it all but immune to the harsh presence of man. He scanned the woods surrounding him. Nothing more than the empty timberland he expected. So, where was the voice coming from? He closed his eyes, trying to zero in on the direction of the sound.

Devin scrambled his way through the thicket a mile or so southwest of Sugar Creek. This was far enough off the beaten path that there was almost no one ever in the area but him. One of the reasons he had allowed himself the outward display of emotion.

He arrived at a slight clearing that wasn’t so much a clearing as a paddock. Layers of blossoming sage surrounded what looked to be the largest damned tree he’d ever seen. He questioned his own eyes. It wasn’t a tree at all. The singing had led him to a hidden stone tower some thirty feet in height. Virginia Creeper had taken solid root over the decades in the nooks and crevices of the stones. This transformed the tower into what appeared to be a humongous tree. Devin circled the edifice, more than thirty-five feet in circumference. He could locate no entrance to the tower. Indeed, there was but one entrance. A single window. Twenty feet straight up.

The woods were thick for miles surrounding the tower. He could only imagine how long it had been there. Alongside the tower were the expansive beds of common sage. The lavender-blue of the flowers pointed skyward in all their late-spring glory. The air was laced with the scent of that sage and the occasional hum of bees. A multitude of colorful butterflies bounced about on the warm breeze. It was as if they danced to the tune that wafted from the window far above. Devin’s eyes lifted to rest upon the window. What the hell? he thought to himself.

In a momentary lull in the song, Devin heard the distinct sounds of someone nearby. They were making their way through the undergrowth. Growing closer. Without thinking, he leapt for cover on the far side of a thick scarlet oak. With the foliage so thick here, Devin sat down behind the tree and peered toward the tower, curious to see who else knew about this place.

From the far side of the paddock, a woman appeared. She was average height, older. Likely in her fifties. Still, Devin thought, she’s doable. The woman was quite fit, long dark auburn hair pulled back in a loose braid. She carried a small backpack and a messenger bag looped across her shoulder. With distinct purpose, the woman stepped up to the edge of the tower beneath the high window.

The woman called out to whomever resided within. “Let down the Black Stair.” She then began whistling a sad, melancholy tune. A frown creased his face as he wondered to himself what the hell was going on. The beautiful voice that had emanated from the window faded away and a face poked out from the window.

Devin held his breath upon seeing the girl in the window. She could very well have been a model on the cover of any high-end women’s magazine in the world. Perfect bone structure and what looked to be a flawless complexion. Dark hair enveloped that gorgeous face until it fell all around her. He forced himself to take a slow breath, as what he observed seemed impossible to grasp. Thick tufts of ebony hair became heavy strands that then worked themselves together to form a heavy rope. All of it appeared to be the young girl’s own hair.

He was imagining things. He must be. Then the older woman tucked the end of the hair under her arms, around her back and began to climb the side of the tower. She disappeared into the window.

Devin stared wide-eyed at the ridiculous display. This was absurd. Some girl, locked away in the tower with hair that had to have been almost thirty feet long. A woman lifted into the high window of the tower by the same hair. Devin was certain he hadn’t smoked any funky weed in at least a week. He didn’t drink. So, what gave? For long moments he wondered what he should do next. The Black Stair? That was what the older woman had called for and then the girl threw down her hair. A hidden tower in the middle of nowhere. None of it made any sense.

He sat silent for almost a half an hour. Hearing no further singing or even any sign of the two people in the tower, Devin decided to mark the spot. He would retrace his steps and return tomorrow. After some sleep and some follow-up verification, it would be simpler to know if he was going crazy or not.

* * * * *

Not until the third day did his attempts to find the tower result in him finally stumbling upon it once again. This was due, in no small part, to the singing he heard once he got close. Using the sound, he found the sage paddock and the tower. He kept his distance, at first, uncertain if the older woman were present or not. He took stock. How could he have missed this place during the past two days’ attempts. He remembered the spot vividly. In fact, he was certain that only yesterday he had come within fifty feet of where he was standing now. He passed it by as if it had never been there.

Today it was much later than it had been the first day he’d arrived. The sun was about to set and shadows enveloped the forest as if the shades in an office room were being brought down. Devin did not miss the office. His father would be pissed that he’d taken as much leave as he had. Still, after the debacle with Kathryn he wasn’t taking any chances. Distance fed forgetfulness. Hopefully, it would have all blown over by the time he got back.

In the meantime, he sat silent by the huge oak tree and pondered his next moves. He did not wait long until he heard the same melancholy tune. It whistled from high up in the window. Sure enough, in mere moments he saw the woman with the back pack. She was lowered by the thick, black ribbons of hair as she continued the whistle the whole way down.

Upon being set upon the ground, her whistling ceased and she waved to the girl in the high window. Devin was awestruck by the girl. He had rarely seen such a natural beauty. His thoughts of the girl and the tune wriggled their way through his head. He snapped back to himself when he caught sight of the hair flowing back out of the window. It was with quite a shock that he realized he was whistling the same tune the woman had whistled. He halted, taking in a breath at the sudden understanding that the hair presented.

It was the tune.

The tune caused the hair to come down to retrieve the woman and lift her into the window and back down again. He was not crazy. His eyes were not lying to him. Nor were his ears. The tune was now solidified in his mind. A dark smile crept into the corners of his narrow-set lips. A plan formed in his head. Time to make preparations and see where this adventure went.

* * * * *

The following day Devin arrived at approximately the same time he had the day before. He would have to wait and see if his timing was correct. He had gone over his plan a dozen times when he heard the whistling begin. Devin crouched even lower behind the oak and waited for the woman to reach the ground and leave. He waited another half hour before stepping away from the tree and edging through the sage up to the tower wall.

He had noted that the woman continued the whistling even as she was drawn through the window. In preparation, he decided it better to be safe than sorry. He had recorded himself whistling the tune into his cellphone’s recorder app and now he set it on repeat. There was no telling what he might encounter upon reaching the window. If this attempt even worked in the first place.

As always, the hair streamed through the window and down the height of the tower. He held his breath a little as the hair encircled his waist, tightening to a firm grip but not cutting off his breath. He rose, walking his way up the tower wall toward the window.

“Did you forget something, Aunt Juniper?” The lovely voice could only belong to the girl he’d seen and heard earlier. As he stepped through the window, he saw her, hand over her mouth, stepping backward at the sight of him. In reaction, he held up his hands palms out. “Who are you?” she asked.

“I’m not here to hurt you,” he said. “I promise. I only wanted to meet the girl with the beautiful voice.” Although his presence caught her by surprise, she dropped her hands and looked him over. From head to foot and back again.

“You shouldn’t be here,” she said, her voice even and soft. Her eyes narrowed and she moved her head from one side to the other. “Where is that sound coming from?”

Devin glanced down at his phone. He still had the player going on his phone. He retrieved it from his pocket and tapped the pause button. The next few seconds were a blur. Even as the final note faded, Devin was gripped tighter than ever by the thick strands of hair. He jerked forward and then he slammed against the inner wall of the tower, his shoes more than two feet off the floor. He saw stars from the force of the actions.

“I said, who are you?” the girl said, strolling closer to him, not an ounce of fear visible.

Devin took a moment or two to drink in the vision. The girl was late teens, perhaps twenty years old. She had piercing green eyes shadowed by the thick, billowing waves of jet-black hair. Her hair wrapped over her shoulders like a cloak, along the floor and, then, up and around him. It held him fast to the wall. Her pale skin and delicate features contrasted against the fearlessness he saw in her eyes.

“My name is Devin,” he said. “I just wanted to meet you. I heard you singing the other day. Your voice is just… Oh, it is just beautiful.” Her eyes widened. Then, her expression softened. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I didn’t mean to frighten you. I didn’t know any other way to get up here.”

“There is no other way. How did you…?”

“I saw the lady, yesterday,” he lied. “I heard the whistle and, well, I tried to mimic it. I wasn’t sure what would happen, actually.” He kept his voice low and even and added a touch of uncertainty for effect. “I’m not sure why.”


“Or, stupid,” he added, his eyes falling from hers to the rough concrete floor at her feet. He felt the pressure of the hair loosen, then set him gently upon the floor.

“If Aunt Juniper found you in here…” the girl said, leaving the rest to his imagination.

“I only wanted to meet you.”

“You should not have even found me.” Her statement was one of undeniable truth. It was fact that she believed without doubt. Devin wondered for the millionth time what this girl was doing locked up here in some hidden tower.

“I don’t understand,” he said, placing his hands behind him in a show of respect. “What on earth are you doing out here in the middle of nowhere, all alone?”

“I’m not alone,” she said, turning to retrieve a chair from the single table on one side of the room. The room was circular. It covered the entire breadth of the tower and had a separate, upper level where he noticed the edge of a bed. When she indicated the other chair at the table, Devin eased across the room and took the seat.

“What’s your name?” he asked.


“Like all the flowers outside,” he said. She nodded as her hair, seemingly of its own accord, slithered back behind her and thickened around her as if it were an ebony cloak. “That’s amazing,” he said, his eyes fixed on her vibrant tresses. That earned him a smile. Her face changed, lightened by the shift in features. He saw that she was even more beautiful than he had first believed.

“Have you always been able to sing like that?” he asked. She nodded, her hands clasped together in her lap, eyes directed at his chest rather than his own eyes. “It is an amazing gift.” He leaned back in his chair to show his comfort and mimicked her hand position. “How long have you been here?”

Sage hesitated and glanced out the window. Devin waited with great patience as she opened and closed her mouth a few times before deciding to speak. “Thirteen years.”

Devin, unable to respond to that, held his tongue, hoping for more information. Sage squirmed in her chair, finally settling in and staring at Devin.

“So, how did you find me? Devin.” She spoke his name with something akin to reverence.

“I was just rambling around the forest. I do that on occasion to get away from everything. To find some peace.”

“Peace from what?”

“Oh, you know. Parents. Responsibility. People, in general, sometimes. It all gets to be too much. The forest helps me find myself. Lets me think.” Devin found himself surprised at his own honesty. Still, it was not without borders, this unwarranted honesty.

“But there have been others who’ve wandered through here. Not one of them has ever seen me or my tower.”

“Yeah,” he said, leaning forward. “What’s that all about?”


“You think someone will hurt you? Is someone after you?”

“No,” she said, a tiny giggle lilting up from her core. So cute that Devin could barely contain himself. “Aunt Juniper takes great care of me. She’s taught me, kept me informed, but kept me safely tucked away here. It’s better this way.”

“Oh, God. Why? You like being out here all by yourself?”

“I do. For the most part.” She paused and then cocked her head a little. “What do you do, Devin? Do you have a job?”

“Sort of,” he said. Now he turned to stare out the window, into the green distance. “I’m supposed to take over the family business. I’ve recently gotten my business degree, so it won’t be long before my father drags me full-bore into the mud.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t understand.” Sage smiled. Devin had seen his mother give that smile to small children and the help. When they were being obtuse. For a moment, an all-too-familiar heat warmed his skin and his knuckles began to whiten. He forced himself to face the fact that this girl had no clue about the real world. Locked away here, she would have no idea of the pressures he faced on a daily basis. She was like some fairy tale princess. Not without some irony, he wondered what his role in this story might be.

“Let’s just say that I have a lot on my plate. I will soon be required to take my place at my father’s side. To be a man and a leader. I’m not all that ready for such crap.” This last elicited a genuine smile from Sage.

They talked about several subjects over the following hour or two. Finally, Devin noted that he needed to be going. He promised to visit Sage again if she would want him to. He milked it for all it was worth, all smiles and bows. She admitted she’d like that.

He tapped the play button on his phone. Sage’s hair drifted toward him, easing him out the window, and down the side of the tower. It was the strangest experience he’d ever had and he wanted desperately to broach the subject with her. Still, his experience provided him significant insight into the ways of women. He would need to give this one time. He could do that. Little doubt that it would be worth it in the end.

* * * * *

Over the next few days, Devin made his evening trips to Sage’s tower. His father would want him back by the end of the week and this left him little time to work his magic. He used all his charm and wiles on Sage. He even caught himself honestly laughing along with her on occasion. The solitary girl, hidden away from the world elicited an unfamiliar tug on his insides. This, he found, irritated him to no end.

On the fourth day, he decided to go for it and sneaked in a comment at the end of one of her adorable laughs.

“I’m almost ashamed to admit how much I’d like to kiss you, Sage.” He spoke with a lower register to his voice, keeping it just above a whisper. He captured her eyes with his and then looked away. He made a little show of fiddling with his fingers.

“I’ve never kissed anyone,” Sage replied just as softly. “Other than a peck on the cheek for Aunt Juniper.”

“Oh, I would never presume—” he began.

“I would,” she blurted out, giggled for a second and looked down at her own hands. They were each sitting on their chairs, opposite one another. As they had since the first time he’d entered the tower.

Devin slid his chair forward. The sound of its wooden legs scraping across the stone floor alleviated some of the tension. Both of them smiled as he pulled himself face to face with her. He took her hands and held them, drawing her in with her own curiosity and hormonal drive. This was his game. His arena. Here, he was master and commander. He lifted his eyes from her hands to her face and waited for her inevitable gaze. He did not wait long.

She leaned in, her curiosity and building desire now driving her actions. Devin allowed her lips to touch his briefly before placing one of his hands lightly against her cheek. He heard and felt her intake of breath as the significance of her first real kiss threatened to drown her in her own emotion. At just the right instant, he pulled away, watching as her eyes remained closed, lost in that moment.

“Wow,” she said with a single heavy breath. Devin knew he owned her.

* * * * *

Much of the following day he spent in the arms of the lovely Sage. It took all his patience and skill to keep his own lust in check. He played his game, drawing her in more and more, releasing her, and pulling her back in. Kiss after kiss, giggle after breathy giggle. By the end of the day, he knew that tomorrow she would do whatever he wanted. Without question.

* * * * *

Devin arrived and remained silent behind the tree. He spied Aunt Juniper lowered to the soft earth outside the tower. He gave it a few minutes after she left before he stalked up to the tower and whistled the tune he now knew so well.

Moments later, Sage leaped into his arms. Her lips found his and the scent and warmth of her fed his desire to the point of no return. His movements were slow, practiced. His hand upon her breast drew an instant sigh from her. She made no move against him. She was his.

With only two days remaining before he would have to return to his father’s business, Devin put all his skills to the test. A word here, a soft and gentle touch there. Several times, he paused and asked, “Are you sure?” His own perceived hesitancy laid the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak. Sage gave in to his every whim and suggestion.

With whispered words of love and longing, he led Sage into womanhood through his deceit and manipulation. She was far more intense than he expected, once they were underway. The girl’s innocence failed to outweigh her ravenous wont for human intimacy. If he was honest with himself, he would have to admit he was shocked. More so the fact that her hair seemed to be participating in its own manner as well. It was strangely exciting, and he caught himself lost in the rapture more than once. Despite this being the result of his own influence.

“Why do you stay here, Sage?” he found himself asking. He wasn’t certain why he’d even spoken.

“What do you mean?” Her voice came out hushed, breathy. Incredibly sexy.

“I’m certain you could leave if you wished. Yes?”

Sage fell quiet, her head lying against his chest, face toward the foot of the simple bed. Everything here was simple. Except, Devin thought, this strange girl herself.

“It’s safer,” she said. He waited for some further explanation, yet none came.

“I only have one more day,” he said, changing the subject. No sense getting too deeply involved. He’d accomplished exactly what he set out to accomplish. End of story. “I’ve really enjoyed being with you. But it may be a while before I am able to return.” They spoke at length about his responsibilities to his father. For what it was worth, she appeared to understand.

“That was incredible,” Sage said, shifting the subject. Her smile shone with vibrancy and life. She pulled her face up to gaze at him and she ran her fingers through his dark, thick hair. Her own hair coiled about them and settled into a peaceful rest itself, like a python after a grand meal. Her smile shifted to something more…hungry. She peered into his eyes. “Can we do it again?”

Afterward, exhausted and satiated, Devin took his leave of her. Too tired to maintain the required tune, he played the somber whistling from his phone as the Black Stair lowered him to the forest floor.

* * * * *

Devin returned the following day. His last day for a long while. He would enjoy the fruits of his labor for one last time before his necessary departure. With any luck, it could work to his benefit, building in her the desire to wait for him in eager abandon.

His music played. Down came the Black Stair. Even as the hair drew him into the room, Devin saw the glaring change in the situation. Sage ran to him, wrapping her arms around him in a fierce hug as Aunt Juniper glared at him, hands on her hips, fury in her eyes.

“Idiot,” the woman spat. “What have you done?”

“I told her,” Sage whispered to him. “And I told her that I wanted to leave with you.”

Devin held his breath, thoughts whirling about his mind. His fling had taken an unexpected turn. He slipped up. Careless not to check for the woman first. He certainly didn’t want to have Sage want to leave the tower with him. Still, something else darkened the woman’s eyes like a secret held in check. It struck him as odd but he couldn’t decipher Juniper’s expression. It was almost as if the fact that he had deflowered this girl was far from the issue at hand.

“I’m sorry, Juniper,” he said, bowing his head while attempting to come up with some viable excuse or explanation. Sadly, nothing came to mind. Nothing that sounded worthwhile, anyway.

“She cannot leave with you.” The woman spoke direct to Devin with authority and complete dominance. Although he respected her stance, the order grated on the inside of his skull and he fought to maintain his calm demeanor. Thankfully, Juniper turned her attention to the girl. “You know you can’t. It isn’t safe.”

“It’s different now,” Sage said. The way she spoke the words, the weight of the undertone drew Devin’s eyes to the girl by his side with the determined stare and thirty feet of hair. “I’m fine. I’m an adult. It is my decision.”

“It’s dangerous and you know it,” Juniper said. She pointed to Devin. “Just allowing him up here is dangerous. The boy is clueless. He has no idea of what he’s gotten himself into.”

“Shut up!” Sage’s words erupted, surprising both Devin and Juniper, as well. Juniper’s eyes widened and then narrowed in quick succession. The strength of Sage’s outburst seemed so much more than the tiny young lady should have been capable of.

“What the hell is going on here?” Devin said before he could stop himself. “Why can’t she leave if she wants to?” He felt like slapping himself. Why the hell did he say that? He didn’t give a shit whether the girl left or not. Certainly not with him. That was the last thing he wanted.

“Shut up, Devin,” the woman ordered.

“How do you know my name?” he said, taking an automatic step forward.

“I know all about you, boy. I have my ways. You are no different from any other male. Worse even. How many women have you bedded through your lies and manipulation? Dozens? A hundred?”

“Devin?” Sage’s voice sounded so small compared to her previous outburst.

“She doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” Devin said. His arm snaked around Sage’s waist and he pulled her close to him. “She just doesn’t want us to be together.”

“Oh, good God. You are a little shit, aren’t you, boy?” Juniper crossed her arms and stared at Devin with obvious insolence.

“Shut up, bitch.” Devin regretted the words as soon as they fell from his lips.

“Devin?” Sage turned toward him, his arm still holding her close. “You love me, don’t you? You said you love me.”

“That boy doesn’t even know what the word means,” Juniper said. Like a flash of black lightning, thick strands of Sage’s hair struck out and flicked at Juniper’s crossed arms, leaving a thick welt along the length of one. The woman cried out in pain, grasping her wounded arm.

“What the hell?” Devin said, glaring at the hair as it retreated back to surround both him and Sage.

“She’s dangerous! See?” Juniper begged her ward. “He has no idea.”

“Seriously,” Devin said. “What in the hell is going on here?” He couldn’t correlate his suspicion to what he understood to be reality.

“You know this has been for the good of everyone,” Juniper said to Sage. Her hand disappeared into the purse hanging at her side. “You and your sister could never survive out there. Things are complicated enough already.”

“Wait,” Devin said. “What sister?” Confusion reigned in his mind. Juniper pointed to the length of jet-black tresses encircling them. Several moments passed before Devin’s thoughts could congeal. “That’s not possible.”

“Really?” Juniper said. “And, the fact that that same hair lifted and lowered you from this tower is not at all out of the ordinary?”

“I told you, things are different now!” Sage repeated, as if not hearing any of the ongoing conversation.

Several thoughts rippled through Devin’s mind, one after the other. His eyes noted Juniper’s hand in her purse, possibly going for a gun. He removed his hand from Sage’s back and caressed her hair. He whispered a few words, uncertain if this plan made any sense whatsoever. It took only a second to find out.

“No!” Sage screamed. Her hair writhed and snaked toward Juniper after he whispered that the woman was the only thing keeping the three of them from being together. Sage stared at Devin with new eyes and he knew that he had destroyed everything built with her up to this point.

The hair circled Juniper, who withdrew a large pair of scissors from her purse. The next few moments were but a blur. A flurry of motion as the Black Stair closed upon Juniper, pulling her arms tight to her side. Juniper rose from the floor and flew with great force at the solitary window, the scissors skittering across the floor to the wall. Her head bounced off the stones framing the portal. The sound of her skull cracking echoed by the sharp snap of her twisted neck. The woman fell to the forest floor like a discarded rag doll, broken and unwanted.

Devin watched as Sage crumpled to the floor in tears, sobs wracking her small frame. The Black Stair, her parasitic twin, wrapped itself around her like a blanket. For long moments, he stood in silence, uncertain of what might come next. A myriad of options flooded his brain. He could try and keep this whole situation in check by professing his love for them both. He could play one against the other, which made a more perverse sense toward the outcome he preferred. Whatever decision he would have made, it was too late.

“She didn’t mean to,” Sage said, her sobs easing. On those words, her speech hesitated but then it grew steadier. Husky and worn, the girl’s voice began to resonate with solidity. “She never meant to kill our mother. She had no idea. Mother thought it was only hair. If she hadn’t tried to trim it, everything would’ve been fine.”

Devin clamped down on his words, trying to decipher what she meant. The past. Sage was talking about the past. He now understood. Sage’s mom had tried to cut the little girl’s hair and the hair—Sage’s absorbed twin sister—fought back, struck back in the only way it knew how. That was why Sage remained here. It wasn’t for her own safety. That was what she meant when she said it wasn’t safe out there. She meant the danger to others.

“We thought we loved you,” Sage said, her eyes finding Devin’s. In a flash, he knew he’d made too many mistakes. The worst being stepping into this tower in the first place. His legs moved of their own accord, his back brushing up against the stone wall.

“Sage,” he said. “Please. I do love you.” He didn’t believe his own words and neither did Sage. Or, the Black Stair.

“So many lies,” she said. She stood and faced him, anger replacing the hurt in her eyes. “We’ve had enough.”

Devin reacted, squatting and quickly retrieving the scissors that now lay at his feet. He held them out, pointing them at Sage. “I don’t want this,” he said. “I only wanted you.”

“Well, you can’t have us,” Sage replied. She spread her arms and Devin saw that the two sisters were in perfect sync now.

The Black Stair flowed out to either side of him and he danced over thick strands to escape to his right. He waved the scissors about, but he knew in an instant that his only hope was to get to Sage, to take her out. He was no match for the Black Stair. His leg muscles bunched and he leaped, scissors outstretched and aimed for the girl’s heart. He made it less than five feet.

In a flash of black silken fury, the Black Stair bound itself around Devin’s waist while a cable-thick strand worked itself in the opposite direction around his head and face. He did not even have time to try and scream before the two separated at lightning speed, twisting and tearing his head from his body.

Sage collapsed to the floor, the pain and anger of betrayal drawing the cries from her anguished soul. The Black Stair began to wrap itself about her sister, caressing her, consoling her. Waiting.

When Sage could cry no more, her hair writhed across the floor to the window, anchoring itself to the hook near the inner edge. It was from this hook that they had lifted and lowered Aunt Juniper innumerable times. And, Devin.

Now, it was their turn.

With gentle ease, Sage lowered to the forest floor. There, surrounded by the flowers whose name she bore, prepared herself for the world at hand. The Black Stair manipulated and wove itself into the perfect imitation of a solid black cloak, draped over Sage’s head, shoulders, and down her back. In silence and determination, they set off to find their future.


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