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Pandora wiped her face on her sleeve, drying away her tears and taking deep breaths. She couldn't stay here. Even though it was momentarily safe, she needed to find Tabitha. How far would she have gone? Pandora knew there was village nearby. She'd visited it once with Tabitha, more as instruction on how evil the world could be, how women were treated in it, and lessons on blending in.
Her dress was not going to help with that. At least it had gotten a bit dirty. She rubbed a little more dirt into it, removing the expensive sheen and turning it from blue to a pale grey, much better. Then she shook her hair and ran her fingers through it. Using a simple masking, she turned it from golden to mousy brown. Finally, she rubbed one dirty finger over her nose. Hopefully she looked like a downtrodden peasant and not a princess.
There was a faint trail leading away from the houses and down the mountain. Pandora opened her eyes with a sigh. She was gone.
“Can one of you help me? I've been trapped by a witch and have only just escaped. I need to return to my family.”
A woman was the first to risk leaving the safety of her home. She was older, with grey hair tucked under her bonnet. “I'll help you,” she said. “That witch just left here with a queen. They won't return soon. You are safe here.”
A queen? Had Tabitha found her mother already? It wasn't unlikely. What surprised her was knowing how close she had been to her mother without seeing her. Had Tabitha led her away intentionally? Did she want Pandora to stay in the death-sleep?
That wasn't fair. She knew her mother had called Tabitha to help her. They were on their way to do what was required. It was frustrating to know that she had been only a few miles from her mother. She hadn't seen the queen since she a child and barely remembered the beautiful woman. She had no memory at all of her father.