Thunder rumbles the glass door as Lyra flips the shop sign to Closed. Outside, thirsty Pinkietoads hop down the crumbling street. The drought, widespread in Faerfolk Queendom, hit her village especially hard. Unfortunately, thunder doesn’t always mean rain. She hopes it does this time, for the humans, the animals and fantastical creatures of the land.
She locks the door, turns off the ‘Alice’s Hat Shop’ sign, and runs her hand over the silky surface of a top hat she passes as she walks to the back of the shop. She flicks off the lights and heads to the storeroom.
“I’m positively parched, sitting under that spotlight all day,” the top hat says. He rocks on his pedestal, building up enough momentum to shuffle off, landing in a cloud of dust on the floor.
“Nigel, I too ‘ave suffered zee effects of zee spotlight,” Isabella, a powder blue beret, says from her perch atop a mannequin’s head, before she joins him on the floor.
Nigel sniffs, “Trolls aren’t meant to be…accessories, it’s positively degrading. As are these bloody accents. I don’t even know what kind of creature I’m imitating.”
“Mon ami, zee Queen come back tonight. We be trolls again, or a pile of ash.”
The storeroom door opens and they turn, expecting to see Alice. Instead, it’s her daughter Lyra, resting a finger on the light switch.
“Is someone in here?” she asks, regarding the two hats on the floor.
Finally Nigel speaks, “salutations, we’re Alice’s friends. I’m Nigel, this is Isabella.”
Lyra’s green eyes narrow. “More talking hats, what kind of magic is this?”
“Eets a long story. But you’re Alice’s daughter, yes?”
“Ah cheri, will Alice be ‘ere soon?”
“I’ll get her.”
Lyra leaves the showroom for the crowded storeroom lined with shelves and boxes and furniture covered in sheets. Sitting on a wooden chair near the door, a white cowboy hat asks, “Didya lock up, pardner?”
“Yes, Mom,” Lyra sighs, “you have visitors.”
Lyra enters the showroom, placing the Alice-hat on the countertop. Nigel-hat and Isabella-hat gasp.
“Zat is truly grotesque!”
“A-right, a-right, a-right, keep your powder dry,” Alice-hat says, “we got bigger fish to fry.”
“Indeed. We have only a few hours to prepare before the Queen returns,” Nigel says. “We must get the mirror ready.”
“What mirror?” asks Lyra.
“Zee magic mirror. Eet reverses zee curses.”
“Well I’ll be hog-tied. Do ya know who cursed us? I was takin’ inventory in the stockroom and then, BAM, I’m a ten-gallon hat.”
“The wretched Queen Thalia tracked us here, demanded that we give up the names of the other rebel leaders,” Nigel says, “and when we refused, she cast a spell turning us all into…hats.”
“Zen ‘ow did Lyra escape?”
“I was at school. When I got back, my Mom was a…,” Lyra waves at the Alice-hat.
“A-right, we’re burnin’ daylight. The mirror’s in the storeroom, Lyra.”
“You must keep zee enchanted sheet on it, zat way zee Queen cannot detect it, yes?”
Lyra looks from the Alice-hat to troll hats and asks, “What does the mirror do, exactly?”
“It reflects the curse-energy directed at it,” Nigel replies, “weakening the caster’s energy, breaking any other spells they have cast. We’ll use it on the Queen tonight, when she comes back for the names of the resistance fighters. When we refuse, she'll try to burn us, and most likely, the village, alive. We'll use the mirror, at just the right moment, to capture her curse."
“Please, Lyra, we need your ‘elp,” Isabella says.
“But what can I do? I’m thirteen, and human. I don’t have any special powers.”
“You’re bright as penny,” Alice-hat says, “an’ brave to boot.”
“I don’t think I’m that brave,” Lyra says, taking a deep breath, “but I’ll try.”
Lyra finds the mirror in the storeroom and drags it into the shop, ensuring the enchanted sheet stays on it.
“Good job, pardner. When the Queen gits here you high-tail, fast as greased lightnin’, as far as you can git.”
Lyra nods, and sits on the floor, exhausted. She soon falls into a restless sleep. Black wraiths chase her. An elvish Queen flourishes a silver spoon, the edge razor sharp. “I’ll have your emerald eyesss, little one,” she hisses. “So pretty, I’ll scoop them out and make lovely earringsss.” The wraiths hold her down as the Queen nears. The cold sharp edge of the spoon slices into…
“Nooooo!” Lyra screams, waking, covered in sweat and breathing fast.
“It’s okay Lyra, a bad dream, yes?” Isabella says.
“The Queen, she…” Lyra begins, but a commotion draws their attention. Seven strong, sweaty ogres pulling Queen Thalia’s golden carriage stop in front of the store. The Queen emerges, her silver skin shimmers in the moonlight. Atop her fine platinum hair sits a golden crown, embedded with the sharp teeth of trolls and the sorrowful eyes of Pinkietoads. In one pale hand she holds a crystal sceptre, and in the other, a sharp-edged spoon.
Lyra stumbles and runs out the back door.
Glass shatters as an ogre punches through the front. Thalia’s shoes crunch on the shards as she crosses the threshold. The cursed hats sit before the shrouded mirror.
Thalia hisses, “treacherous traitorsss. Your time is up. Give me the names of the othersss and I’ll remove the curse.”
“Never! Viva La Resistance!” Isabella-hat yells.
“As you wish,” Thalia says raising the crystal sceptre.
The orb pulses red as she chants, glowing blindingly bright as she nears a crescendo.
“Now!” Isabella urges. Nigel and Alice tilt on their sides and roll toward the mirror, entangling themselves in the sheet, trying to pull it off. But an ogre grabs them.
The Queen points the sceptre at the hats.
“Stop!” Lyra shouts as she steps into the room.
“A human? Ha!” Thalia laughs, “a scrawny thing, but such pretty eyesss.”
Lyra freezes as Thalia brandishes the silver spoon.
“Hold her while I deal with these traitorsss,” Thalia says.
Another ogre grabs Lyra’s arm, but she stomps on his foot and leaps toward the sheet, pulling it from the mirror as red flames shoot from the sceptre.
The mirror attracts and absorbs the fire. The room is deathly quiet before the curse rebounds, blue flames arcing toward the Queen, engulfing her. She screams and tries to run, but turns to ash, along with the ogres.
When the Queen dies, her curse is broken, Alice and the trolls return to the human and troll forms.
Outside, raindrops kick up dust in the street. The sweet creaking of Pinkietoads drifts on the air.
Lyra hugs her Mom fiercely, then steps back and speaks to the trolls. “If you ever need help again, I’ll try.”
“That’s all any of us can do,” Isabella says, as she and Nigel disappear into the rain.