Chapter XII

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In the middle of so much darkness and black, I started to feel something again in my skin, a little touch that I almost confused with a mere trick of my not so conscious mind. The sensation grew bigger and stronger between my flesh and bones, like kind flames that tried to wake me up and bring me back to life.

The fire traveled and expanded to my whole body, making me a giant bonfire. That sole idea, far from terrifying me, made me feel comforted, protected and safe. I knew there could be something wrong with me, as random images of what happened started to flash in my head without any order, but the sensation was so addictive I tried to hold it close as long as I could.

Then, a distant sound made its way to what I thought were my ears. A voice, deformed and distorted, reached me, calling me by a name I barely recognized. Alynne. Alynne. Allyne Briar-Rose, wake up!

It all was as if a million chains traveled between the flames that surrounded me, took me by hands and legs, and got me out of it, puling faster and faster, leaving the darkness so far behind me I could barely see it. I was now in the real world, although my mind corrected that mistake immediately.

I woke up, surprised of what happened. My eyes had a hard time trying to deal with the sudden amount of light that surrounded me, the many shapes, colors and smells. A world I knew from before. When I saw Pandora's face, near to me, blocking the light that came from above, I reacted and fully came to my senses.

"How much time?" Was the first thing I said. Before I even finished the sentence, Pandora was already hugging me, taking the air out of my lungs. "That long?" I asked, worried but surprised to see that she cared about me.

"Three days," she simply said. I knew that she had been crying and that she was doing it again because of the cut tone in her voice.

"Where's Wiese?"

"Still sleeping," she said, separating her arms from me. "But they didn't want to, said they would wait until you woke up." After each word, she wiped away a tear. "I can't believed it yet, thought I... we, lost you for real."

"It takes more than that to get rid off of me, I already said it," I tried to joke, but Pandora was really worried and tightened her embrace. "Pandora, I'm fine, I swear."

"I know, I know, it's just that I expected one or two, not three days. I was about to use a spell from the book."

"Calm down, girl, I'm telling you I'm fine, just a little dizzy, that's all."

"Okay, Okay," she took a deep breath before speaking again. "Do you want something? Anything?"

"Just a little hungry..." After I spoke, I saw a strange circle around me, painted in the rock I was. "What is that?" I asked, curious and half afraid.

"It's the reason you did not die from malnutrition," I knew my eyes were as explicit as I wanted them to be, so she explained herself. "You kind of fed off the ground while you were in a coma, I draw the circle to keep you recovering, and I redrew it each time it was consumed."

"So I was like a plant?"

"Kind of," she said with a little smile. "So, hungry, I'll prepare you something." She stood up and walked away. My eyes could see clearly, but I thought there was a small fire with some things beside it, which I thought were meat and vegetables.

She was really worried, and even hunted for me. Pandora hated to kill if not for survival, but to only suspect she did it for me to eat, putting her own ideals beside... it was sweet, even more considering how much care she had taken for me.

Only then, I realized she had big eyes bags, as black as I'd never seen them before. I knew magic was demanding, but three days to keep me alive with non-stopping rituals and spells? I was lucky she was still alive. I sent those thoughts away closing my eyes tightly, there were more relevant things to focus.

I knew I wouldn't be able to stand up, my legs were still trying to wake up. Pandora's spells kept me alive, indeed, but my body wasn't completely recovered from the effect, so I just tried to calm my breathing which, had become faster and erratic. However, Wiese came to my side when I was about to close my eyes.

"Alynne..." They said, as if it was impossible for me to be awake. "Sorry." And then they hugged me.

"Why are you sorry?" I asked as I embraced them as well.

"I promised I'd be here when you woke up, sorry for breaking my promise." Because of their voice, I knew they was crying. Separating myself a little, I wiped away some of the tears. Like Pandora, Wiese had big eye bags, making me wonder why.

"It's okay, it was me who had to take care of you... and Gail." I admitted. "Can you tell me why it looks like you didn't sleep?" I changed the subject, as I wasn't ready to accept the fact that I was weak enough to let a shadow take one of my friends.

"Pandora was busy with the magic, and I, well," they sounded so afraid, but I couldn't see why, "she was protecting you, so I kind of protected them and you." Chills ran down my spine as I heard them.

"You didn't fight with a shadow, did you?" I was terrified of the response, but that didn't stop me from asking.

"It was a little one," they said in a hurry, "and Pandora, she conjured up like a million spells to help me. She was about to faint, but no one got hurt, I swear." The kid was so nervous they started to shake. "And I wasn't going to let her deal with both things, you and that thing, you've done a lot for me."

"Wiese," I interrupted them. "It was really brave, and I know you did it because it seemed to be the right thing, but think about what would have happened if that shadow had taken you."

"I know, I know, but still..."

"No buts, please, promise me you won't do it again. Please." I had to repeat it after I saw their eyes.

"Promise me you won't be hurt again then," they said as if joking, but I Wiese was serious, on their way.

"Okay, it's a deal." I took a deep breath and tried not to choke on my own tongue as I spoke again. "As soon as we discover what happened to Gail, we'll take you home and see what we can do for her."

"No way, I'm coming with you," said Wiese.

"What? No!"

"Pandora did a spell yesterday," they said, not paying me attention. "Gail is alive, but we have to cross something she called 'The Black Ocean,' and I'm going with you."

"I don't even know where that is, and I've been here for a while. We'll go first with your parents and then she and I will go for Gail." I tried to hide the fact that I was afraid to sound as serious as I could.

"Pandora said you will say the same, but she gave up. I'm going with you. I don't want to go home this soon."

Something told me that they was right, that there wasn't something their considered as a home, and that was something I could fight. Being friends with a witch made me know I needed to trust hunches and my instincts.

"We'll talk about this again, Wiese, I'm not letting you go with us, this could be dangerous."

"I'm not letting you not letting me go with you either, I promise to do what you and Pandora say, but I won't go home before we rescue Gail." Why does they have to be this stubborn? I thought. "And I can be worse than this," they said, answering me.

"What? Again?"

"Wiese, can you come please?" Pandora called them.

"I'll tell you after we save her. It's great to have you back, Alynne." They kissed my check and fled, running to Pandora. If I saw correctly, the kid had a smile on their face, and somehow that made me feel better.

 If I saw correctly, the kid had a smile on their face, and somehow that made me feel better

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