Koralia tore around another bushy corner, her eyes wide with fear. She could feel the adrenaline spreading even as she tried not to panic, running blindly through the maze and doing her best not to trip in the unfamiliar heels and dress. WHY had that stupid god-mother spell had that magic limitation set into it? Of course, Luna had chosen it as it stopped Kia undoing it and going to bed the minute she'd transformed her...But now she couldn't even defend herself from the stupid compulsion spell that was she risked a quick backwards glance- Yep, still following her.
Kakk! She dived down another three lanes in quick succession, throwing herself around corners recklessly to shake it off her tail.
Out-running a spell was hard work and a few minutes later she stumbled, panting for breath. Looking around warily, she couldn't see it anywhere...Had she beaten it? Probably it had finally dispersed after not being cast on anyone. She breathed a sigh of relief and took a handful of the long skirt, walking away at a much more sedate pace than before. Now to get out of the hedge maze.
The compulsion spell slammed into her back, hard enough to push her off her feet and knock her forwards. "Luh-" she gasped out before cutting herself off, Luna would not hear her here. As she hit the ground again she stumbled forward, around one last corner, into what must be the centre of the hedge maze. She caught her breath, one gloved hand touching her collarbone as if it would calm her racing heart. She was still moving, the stumble turning into a reflexive walk and her brisk pace was in danger of bringing her straight into one of the hedge walls. She managed to stop just short of it, dropping the handful of skirt she'd been clutching and looking up as if hopeful she could see over something nearly twice her height.
Koralia shook her head and turned around quickly to cross to the other wall; it was probably a good thing she'd ended up here. She didn't have a chance of finding her way out of the maze until the compulsion spell had worn off and there was no-one here to see her acting stupid.
Just then, a small noise made her turn her head to the back wall. She'd tempted fate, there WAS somebody else here.
The centre was actually set at the side of the maze, which occupied a whole quarter of the lawn and engulfed one side of the well set in the middle of the quad. The conjured bushes had solidly grown around it, making the half-seen well seem like some bizarre fireplace in a living green wall...
And someone was sitting on the lip of it.
A specialist by the look of it, wearing some sort of...Prince costume? It had a cloak, and the requisite puffed shoulders set into the sleeves, even if he wasn't wearing a crown above what looked like a reasonably simple wrap-around mask. It certainly wasn't Cameron. There was a high likelihood he really was a prince though, if she thought about how many royals were attending Red Fountain this year. It even looked like he might have raided a historical museum on his planet to find the perfect costume for tonight. The thought made her smile. But now she was no longer alone, it was probably a better plan to get out of the maze and get Luna to un-spell her.
Suddenly Alfea's clock began striking midnight and Koralia froze.
With a burst of panic, she realised the compulsion spell hadn't been focused specifically on Cameron...Just on her kissing someone, anyone, at midnight. The spell took hold of her, turning her around and seizing immediate control of her feet, walking her through the darkness towards him. She fought, but her muscles wouldn't even tense from her mental effort to break free of it, walking her smoothly over the ground to him without a single hint of stiffness that could have indicated she was unwillingly spelled. Kia swallowed hard with nerves and considering apologising in advance but found she couldn't speak either...She was standing in front of him now. He'd slipped off the well as she'd approached, maybe he thought she was about to speak to him, or that she'd got lost...His face was turned towards her, but with the mask and the dark of the night, he was barely more than a silhouette, which she was thankful for. Hopefully he wouldn't have a clue who she was either, she really didn't want anyone tracking her down after this mortifying- Her thoughts cut off, realizing the spell had reached out with her gloved hands and slipped them over his shoulders, to the back of his neck, pulling him to her...
Their lips met.
Kia's heart jumped unexpectedly. Closing her eyes against it, she felt his arms hesitantly slip to her waist and rest there for a brief moment.
As the last strike of midnight ended, so did the spell's control and Koralia suddenly began trembling. All at once, knowing she could move away felt overwhelming, like there was some other force keeping her here, with her mouth softly pressed against this stranger's. It had only been a second's length
Then his hands moved to her arms and gently, but firmly, he pushed her away.
Koralia stumbled backwards at once, hands flying to her mouth as her embarrassment came rushing back. "I-I'm sorry! I thought you were..." Breathless from running, the lie came out oddly high-pitched, not sounding like her voice at all. But that was perfect, she realised. She didn't look or sound like herself tonight, her hands were now covering the only bit of her face not hidden by the mask and even letting her words trail off like that made it seem like she was just some girl, who had mistaken him for someone else, a boyfriend or something...She could have been any one of Alfea's students. All of that, on top of it being dark already in the hedge maze would be enough to stop ANY specialist from figuring out who had kissed them.
He stepped forward, one hand half-stretched towards her, questioningly. Koralia knew it was time to go and instantly turned and ran away. No-one could ever prove it was her, this had never happened!
Nearly twenty minutes of dead ends and wrong turns later, Koralia stumbled back out of the maze in her nightgown. Luna's godmother spell had, traditionally, only lasted for five minutes after midnight, leaving Kia traipsing through the maze in bare feet. She had abandoned the one real part of what she'd been wearing, the mask, at one of the many forks she passed. The maze hadn't looked this big from the outside. It must have been spelled to fit in the space...She had considered transforming and flying out but the last thing she wanted was that specialist to spot her fairy form leaving and put two and two together.
Aly and Luna were waiting anxiously outside. Luna must have explained what was going on, as Aly immediately grabbed her into a hug and whispered "Sorry Kia! I did not know was you, or that was a spell..."
Koralia hugged her back "It'll be alright. I just waited for it to wear off
" She answered to both their worried expressions. Another lie, but she didn't want to talk about the kiss at all; she had a nasty feeling Luna would insist on tracking the mystery specialist down, regardless of anything Koralia felt about it. She was secretly terrified Luna might just do this all over again, using spells to force her do things just because she thought she needed 'pushing in the right direction'. Kia sighed, knowing she was being super-paranoid thinking it, but after this evening, she was afraid that given the slightest hint that things had gone her way, the love fairy would take it as an encouraging success, rather than the fiasco it was.
Kia couldn't let that happen, Luna had to recognise that you didn't manipulate your friends like that. Not if you wanted to keep them
Luna had not meant it this time, she'd dropped the thing...It had been Aly who set the spell off, quite by accident, but Kia would not be able to stand being made a puppet twice.
"How we explain this?" Aly asked, bringing her back to the present by waving her hand at Kia's dishevelled nightclothes and unravelling plaits. Among the fancily dressed specialists and fairies, she'd stick out like a frog in a fruitbowl as she left to go back to the dormitories. Especially without a mask.
If anyone notices...We'll say you got me out of bed and put me in the maze for a prank. Don't tell anyone I've been here all night." Kia made up for them, giving Luna a quick smile. She didn't really want to get her in trouble for the compulsion spell, or the borrowed fairy godmother manual... Luna hadn't meant for the second spell to actually get cast. Hopefully she had learned her lesson and Kia knew nothing really terrible had happened to her...The kiss in the maze had been humiliating, but not truly harmful. And her tracks were more than covered now. 'My friends dragged me out of bed and got me lost in the maze' would be a pretty bullet-proof alibi, considering she did look like she'd wandered around a hedge maze for half the night, Kia in her nightie looked nothing like some mystery midnight-kiss girl in a ballgown and ringlets. She hoped. She shook her head wearily. She'd done all she could to dissociate herself with whoever was in the maze, now please would she stop thinking about it? She wasn't even discussing it with Aly later, she was going to just forget it had happened.
"Right!" Luna added briskly "And, we didn't mean for you to actually get lost, so now we're very sorry and we're taking you right back to the dorm." She extrapolated and Kia nodded in agreement. That was likely the only apology she was going to get from her, but in the long run it was more important that Luna understood that throwing controlling spells at her was totally crossing the line.
Aly looked at them both like they were being very silly. "OR..." she stated, and with that waved her hands in the air above Kia, or, as above-Kia as five-foot nothing Aly could manage. For the second time that night, Koralia felt a spell envelope her, although it didn't seem to do anything to her appearance. "An Illusion?" It had to be, knowing Aly.
"Yes!" The red-head nodded "No-one will look at you if you don't do anything but walk."
That was absolutely perfect "Thank you." Kia breathed.
The three of them weaved their way through the crowd, gathering a few curious glances. Through sheer luck they managed to avoid all of their friends and Aly's spell kept those glances off Kia...Finally she found herself back at the door to her dorm. It had all passed like a blur, since getting out of the maze. She sighed "Thanks for walking me up here
I'm going to bed now." Aly and Luna waved and trailed off back to the ball. Luna still looked a little guilty
Good. As long as she wouldn't do anything like this ever again
A quick shower later and Kia was tucked into her bed in a fresh nightdress. Slipping under the covers, she used her magic to turn off the lights. She fell asleep quickly, barely aware of the ghostly trace she could still feel; of hands at her waist, and those lips against hers