"Are you hurt?" I demand, pulling away to examine her. She is paler than usual, her pasty skin making the pink, teardrop shaped birthmark under her left eye stand out more than usual. But despite being pale and freezing, she looks unharmed.

"I'm okay... Talia, I'm fine, I promise." She pulls away, pointedly ignoring my incredulous look."Help me get Father inside."

I watch in disbelief as she turns away, focusing on Father. She is acting like nothing had happened, intentionally avoiding looking me in the eye.  But looking at Father's prone form, I can't bring myself to push her for answers while he just lies there. Later then; later I'll demand answers.

After a few minutes of struggling and a near drop or two, we manage to get Father in the house and settled in a chair next to the fireplace. It feels pointless with the windows destroyed but I need to keep my hands busy so I get a fire started, the gentle blaze chasing away the chill that lingers.

Willow settles down next to me, kicking shards of glass out of the way. I wait for her to start talking but as the silence stretches out, I can't hold back.

"So I'm trying really hard not to lose my temper right now but I really need you to start giving me some answers." I pause, expecting her to jump in but she just stares into the fire, tugging nervously at the sleeve of her nightgown.

"Gods above Willow!" I explode. "I was attacked by something evil last night and I'm pretty sure it would have gladly killed me if you hadn't shown up! Father and I almost died because something came here for you!"

She finally opens her mouth but I cut her off angrily.

"Don't you dare deny it; I heard what it said and I'm not an idiot . Since I nearly died, the least you can do is give me some sort of an explanation. You're going to tell me what that thing was, why it was here, and how you made it vanish without killing us all. And what he meant about your magic being tainted."

I can feel my eye twitching and a vein throbbing in my head. I'm shoving down the guilt that surges up after I yell at her, but it's still there. I refuse to apologize though. I risk myself every single day that I hide her and protect her, clean up her messes and make excuses. If anyone ever found out, they'd kill her for witchcraft and probably me and Father too, just for good measure.

I do it though, and will continue doing it until I can't anymore because she's my sister and I love her. But gods, that doesn't mean I'm not allowed to get mad as hell at her. And I'm pretty sure last night qualifies as something that I'm allowed to get angry about. Or at the very least, terrified out of my mind.

I'm taking it out on her, I realize, the guilt pushing against my wall of determination a little more. The fear, the helplessness. It's eating away at me, making me snap at her. It's not like she knew this would happen.

Willow is quiet for long enough that I think she isn't going to speak. But when she finally looks at me, I can see that she doesn't have any answers for me. Helplessness flooded her face, tears welling up in her blue eyes.

"I don't know. I don't know any of it. Something in me just... took over. It was like something inside me knew what to do and did it. I felt like I was watching through someone else's eyes. I... I don't know if it was even me."

She whispers that last part and my heart aches.

I can't pretend to understand what she is going through, can't imagine how it feels to have something inside of you that you can't control. Since she was young, it was apparent that there was something special about Willow. Mother always said that she was a gift from the gods, but she was careful to teach us to keep it hidden. When it's heavily emphasized by the priests and devout that only the gods can have powers and magic, people finding out that Willow had a gift could potentially cause all sorts of problems. Like being burned alive.

So we were careful to never speak of it in public, and Mother taught me to always keep a close eye on Willow. While she taught me to be Willow's guardian and protector, she tried her best to teach Willow self control.

She had infinite patience when it came to Willow, spending long hours with her, something I envied Willow for as a child, and even more now with Mother gone.

Mother had been a beautiful, quiet woman, often wandering through the forest around us for flowers, or sitting by the window with a book in hand. Her presence was warm and calming, like sitting in the sun on a clear day.

Or so everyone tells me.

It's hard for me to remember Mother. I can tell you what she was like, what I'm supposed to say when people ask, but specific things, like the color of hair in the sun or her scent, they've vanished. I can barely remember what she looks like. Trying to think about it is like wading through fog in my mind. It's like grasping at flickering sparks coming off of a fire before they fade into the night sky. Occasionally I manage to catch one, just a sharp flash of a memory, followed by a sting of pain.

But the one thing that I know is that since Mother died, Willow and I have been lost and struggling. It is like her death opened up some part of Willow and she doesn't know how to close it. She struggles constantly with blocking the flow of magic and the things that come with it. Her sleep is fleeting and filled with dreams that make her toss and turn, calling out into the night. She is constantly distracted during the day, listening to the voices only she can hear. Her magic manifests itself in random bursts, making taking her to town and being around people immensely stressful and risky. What little control she'd seemed to have is slipping.

I knew things were bad, but I had no idea they were this bad. Having something else in her completely take over is something that I can't even remotely begin to know how to handle.

"It's okay," I whisper, pulling her into my arms as she sniffles. I smooth back her silky hair, trying to keep my hand from shaking. "We'll figure this out, just like we figure everything out. It's okay. We're okay."

I wonder if saying it enough times will make it true.

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