Chapter XXXI

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When I looked better at her, I noticed that it wasn't just her skin that changed, but her whole body as well, transforming itself with every second. Slowly and right in front of me, my friend was turning into a snake-like humanoid with big eyes, scales covering her whole being and with serpents for hair. She crushed both of Wiese's parents, now turned into stone, with her claws and drew runes that burned all of the citizen that were still attacking us.

Both Wiese and Gail kept their eyes shut and their face buried in me, only listening to the disaster, and despite I wanted to do something, react and try to stop it all, I was totally frozen. I always knew there will be a time when Pandora could develop some kind of wild, unknown power, but it never occurred to me that it would mean to look at her the way she was, an almost monstrous creature with little left of the friend I trusted so much.

"I'm scared, mommy, I'm scared," Wiese mumbled between tears. Their voice, their tone, and that sole word, only that word, was enough to make me wake up from the paralysis. I raised my head, hoping my witch was still inside that humanoid creature that kept incinerating people with her runes.

"Pandora," I didn't know where it was coming from, but my voice had a strange sense of power, "stop it. Stop it already." She did, only for a second, looking at me with green eyes, partly confused, partly angry. Not sure how, I spoke again and let the words come out of my lips as water. "You're scaring them. You're scaring me."

Just as suddenly as she had transformed, Pandora returned to her natural state, completely terrified. She ran up to me, but I instinctively pulled Wiese and Gail away from her, pulling away with my arms. "First you have to tell me what was that."

"They were going to hurt us, kill us if they could, Alynne." I noticed that we were alone now, with no one else to be seen. "I did what I had to do to protect us, and most importantly, to protect you."

"You scared them more than the worst shadow we've seen, Pandora." I kept my eyes on her, doubting for the first time the words of the one who many times had saved my life. She knelt and looked me in the eyes.

"I never meant to do it, I swear, but it was this or letting them kill us. I'd rather be dead if I ever allow that to happen."

"I know, I know, but you have to mark a limit, now, and I mean it." I caressed both Wiese and Gail, who were now just sobbing, trying to calm them down. it was an improvement, but I still wanted them to forget what they just saw. It killed me inside to know I will never be able to.

"I promise, I swear I will, but I also swear to protect you above anything else."

Then she did what I thought she wasn't capable of doing. She was crying. I always thought the myth was just that, a myth, but I had it right in front of me. Witches really cried black tears.

"No need to cry, honey, just try to control yourself next time, please." I felt my own tears trying to go out. A couple of deep breaths were everything I needed to keep them inside.

Pandora hugged us in that moment, and we remained like that, trying to understand everything that was happening and why it was happening to us. My parents always prayed that there were Gods that looked upon us all, but it seemed like They had forgotten about us, that They didn't care about us. Maybe They even liked, loved to see us like that, wretched and miserable. My mind told me otherwise, that I had to keep believing. However, it was easier said than done.

"We need to move," I said after a short time, remembering where we were. "We need to get out of here."

"Let Wiese say their goodbyes first," said Pandora, breaking the hug.

"No," was everything they said.

"Huh?" I looked at them, confused.

"I have no one to miss in her, Alynne." Wiese did the same as me and kept their tears inside. "You, Pandora and Gail are my family, more than those who brought me to life."

"Wiese..." I was totally speechless.

"Still, you owe them at least a final word. Don't let yourself regret this in the future, trust me." It was Pandora who broke the silence, with a hurt in her eyes I knew perfectly well.

"Do I have to?" They looked at us, confused, not sure of what to do next, and reached for Gail's hand, who remained in silence.

"Not at all," continued Pandora, "but it will be better to do it now that you can and not wanting to in the future It is now or never, and you have to close this cycle." 

She caressed their cheek while speaking, and I saw that it helped them to calm down. Wiese let go off Gail's hand and, saying nothing, walked to what they had left of their parents, mere pieces of stone, giving their back to us. We were unable to listen to what they said, only their quiet sobs, until they came back to us.

"I'm ready to leave now, there's nothing left for me in here." They said looking at the ground.

"Wouldn't you want to see your home one last time?" Pandora asked, taking their hands in hers.

"It collapsed many years ago, we have lived in ruins since then, and I will not miss it. I really want to leave, Pandora."

"Then there is nothing more to say." She kissed their cheek, stood up and extended her hand to me, but what happened next prevented me from taking it. Her book of magic started to shine in a white light, opened itself right in its middle.

Pandora put an arm in front of us, defensively, when a sphere of light came out of the pages and went to the ground, enlarging and transforming shapes, turning into a crosier with , ironically, the figure of serpents on one of its ends.

"I guess that that one is for me."

"I agree." Was all I could say.

Pandora walked to the object and took it with both hands, carefully, although it didn't seem very heavy because of the ease with which she moved it. If not for the recent events, I would have found it especially attractive, but I couldn't help but swallow thick when I saw the realism of that thing.

My friend came back to us, with the book floating around her again, not quite sure of what to say, so I decided to take the hands of Wiese and Gail, look at them to make sure they were not as terrified as before, and we set out on the road in silence. This time, the destination was uncertain, and I was almost thankful of that.

 This time, the destination was uncertain, and I was almost thankful of that

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