The first thing Blanca felt was cold. An icy cold that seeped into her bones. Opening her eyes slowly, she tried to take in her surroundings. Four walls . . . a room. A small one, at that. It was cluttered with jars, bottles, and such. An odd, sharp smell filled the air, almost like every herb had been crushed together.
Trying to sit up, Blanca realized that a bubble-like sphere was covering her face, siphoning off some green mist that seemed to emanate from her mouth into a glass jar nearby. Panic swelling, Blanca ripped it off, allowing it to slowly flutter to the ground.
"Hello?" She croaked, her throat feeling like it was being consumed by hot acid. A tendril of the green mist escaped her mouth again, winding its way through the air. Blanca clamped a hand over her mouth. What was happening? She shakily removed it once more, her labored breathing creating even more of the stuff.
A door opened, causing Blanca to jump, her nerves already wound tight.
A lone, elderly man entered, a similar bubble around his head. "Hello, m'dear. I'm quite relieved to see you awake; you've been asleep for quite some time." He sat himself down in a chair to her left, picking up the jar that still contained the green fog. "I must say you've made this room extremely toxic within the short time I left you unattended." His tone wasn't accusatory, instead, it was warm and pleasant, as if they were old friends.
"Who are you?" Blanca whispered, her mouth on fire. But, as she thought about it, she didn't even know who she was. If her heart was beating rapidly before, it most definitely was going to explode now. She closed her eyes, trying to bring to mind anyone . . . anything.
"I am Randule, one of the High Mages. And you, m'dear, are a very special person indeed." He smiled warmly and placed the jar back down. "Please don't be frightened if you're not able to recall much. Our experiment seems to have made certain memories disappear, but I have confidence they will return within the next few weeks."
Blanca's mind swam with questions and confusion. "Why did you take my memories? And what," she swallowed, "what is this mist?"
Randule's expression changed, the smile fading away. "Well, you see, I found you in a forest. And," his gaze fell from hers, finding the floor instead, "you were dead. I didn't learn of the poison until after you were brought back."
She had died? It was too much. Her head ached and her throat burned. Why couldn't her heart stop pounding? Blanca didn't realize she was falling off the edge of her bed until it was too late.
* * *
Blanca carefully opened her eyes, a sense of deja vu overwhelming her. Same room, same jars, same mist hovering around her face. Except it now had a name. Poison. A shudder swept through her, drawing the attention of a man sitting next to her. Randule. At least she knew that much.
"My apologies," he stated slowly. "I hadn't thought how the news might affect you, especially with no memories. This all must be too much."
What was she supposed to say? Her brain couldn't form a full thought or question without bringing on a headache. She could feel one coming on now.
Randule seemed to understand for his expression softened. "In pain? I can offer something for that. I wish I could offer some advice too, but bringing someone back from the dead . . . it is forbidden magic and extremely difficult to wield."
"Why did you do it then? If it is forbidden, then why disobey the king?" The king, Blanca remembered him. And Allegora, the land she lived in. But personal memories, why wouldn't those come back?
"The king?" He looked surprised. "You remember him? How odd. Well, King Jore has many flawed concepts of how a country should be run. I'm not overly fond of him, if you get my meaning. When I saw you alone in the forest, it reminded me of my own daughter. She's away studying in Berth, but I couldn't shake the feeling she would be disappointed in me if I didn't at least try to bring you back."
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"Have you ever heard Red Riding Hood howl at the moon?" When Cerise, Verre, Blanca, and Aura are captured and forced to complete a near impossible task, it seems certain that their loved ones' lives are as good as over. "Or seen Cinderella kill a m...