Chapter Seven: Blanca

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He was screaming again. Blanca tried to block out his voice by cupping her hands over her ears, but his voice always managed to worm its way through, invading her mind. Usually, Lyra could appease him, but it was increasingly difficult. Ever since baby Rose had been born, he had become more and more aggressive, often throwing things. The time he spent with the king was almost every day; he was only ever home to hurt them.

He had a new gift from the king, too; a mirror. But it wasn't an ordinary mirror, for Blanca had heard it talk to her father on more than one occasion. It was magic, and her father was obsessed with it.

"Blanca?" The soft whisper almost went unnoticed through the screaming. She opened her eyes slowly, Lyra's pensive face coming into focus. "I need you to take Rose outside for a walk. Your father . . . " Lyra's voice trembled. "He's worse than usual. I'm afraid of what he might do to the two of you. I need you to pack a satchel of clothing and necessities and leave. Don't come back unless you see a bouquet of bitteroot in the archway of the manor. Is that understood? I've set aside some coin as well; spend it sparingly. But you're a smart young woman, I'm sure you'll do perfectly fine." She handed the rosy-cheeked infant to Blanca, along with a purse of coins.

Leave? As in run away? Blanca closed her eyes, exhaling softly. "Why don't you join us? We could escape together and never come back. He wouldn't be able to find us." Blanca's throat was bone-dry with fear, her stomach trying to squirm its way up and out of her mouth. Her father was a monster and she would be overjoyed to never have to look into his cruel eyes for the rest of her days.

Lyra sighed, tears forming in her eyes and winding their way down her cheeks. "It's complicated. According to the law set in place by King Jore, I'm not legally allowed to leave your father's home, unless we can definitively prove his abuse towards us. We would have to petition to the king, and even then your father would argue in his defense, so he would probably win the king's decision. You know how close he and the king are. If I sneak you two away and remain myself, I can appease your father. I want to comfort you and say that somewhere deep inside him he loves us, but we both know the truth. He loves only his money and title."

Blanca understood, as much as it tore at her heart. She was seventeen now and knew all too well how horrific her home had grown. The law would indeed rule in favor of her father, and they'd only end up provoking him further. Lyra was making a sacrifice, and Blanca needed to make sure Rose would be safe. "I understand. We must protect Rose. I wish there was a way to keep in touch, but you're right, it's too dangerous. Be safe, Lyra. You know how he can be. He will take his anger out on you, you know this, right?"

Lyra nodded slowly, trembling, though she tried to conceal it. "I do know, but as long you two escape, I will be happy. I will try to find a way to keep in touch without your father finding out--perhaps a trustworthy servant? But no matter, you must hurry! He will be searching for me presently. Go!" She shoved them along towards Blanca's bedroom.

Blanca stumbled, but quickly caught herself, grabbing what she needed and stuffing them in a satchel. "Goodbye, Lyra. Please be safe." She kissed her warmly on the cheek, embracing a few more precious seconds. Lyra was the closest thing she had to a true family. It crushed her to have to leave her.

But the thought of her father taking his anger out on Rose--as he had on Blanca and Lyra--steeled her resolve. She would protect her from that pain.

"Goodbye, darling." Lyra held her close before releasing her to snuggle her baby one last time. "Goodbye, my Rosebud." She kissed the baby's plump, dark cheek before returning her to Blanca's arms. "Be safe, and remember, I love you both dearly."

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