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Pandora walked away, plucking plants and mushrooms along the way. She had no money, but she could sell them, and others she could eat. Although she had never spent a night sleeping outside before, she wasn't troubled by it.
She hadn't walked half a day and she felt another woman with magic. Powerful. Stopping, she turned toward it and barely spotted the cottage covered in vines and branches. The door was clear enough when she got close and she knocked.
The low whispering inside died. After more than minute, the door opened a crack to reveal a long pointed nose and chin.
“Tabitha!” Pandora shouted in glee, pulling away the door and hugging her teacher. When she had finished squealing, she saw the other woman sitting at a table. She wore rich fabrics and her golden hair hung in perfect curls. “Mother?”
“Wait. Why aren't you asleep?” Tabitha asked.
Pandora frowned and played with one of her dyed locks. “I was woken, by a prince.”
Both women gasped. “Did he?” Helen asked.
Pandora felt tears fill her eyes. “Yes. It was horrible, Mother. He was bathed in blood of my friends, and vile.”
“I thought I felt something,” Tabitha murmured.
Helen squeezed Pandora tighter. “I'm so sorry, sweet. Tabitha warned you, didn't she?”
Pandora hadn't thought about it. “You mean, he controls me now?” her voice became a squeak.
Tabitha took Pandora's chin in her hand, turning it to look at her. She squinted and then let go. “He only took you once. He doesn't control you yet. And it's weakened. Something happened during the act.”
Pandora wore a small smile as she remembered throwing him off her. “I used the pleasure magic.”
“Ha!” Helen let out a laugh before stroking Pandora's head. “That's my girl. You won't let a man win that easily. I only hope Bianca has as much backbone. Or that she isn't found. I think chasing her here is far enough. Don't you, Tabitha?”
“Yes. No one will be looking for a princess in that small alcove of dwarves.” She squinted again. “How did he know how to find you?”
Pandora thought for a moment. “He said something about our fathers.”
“That'll be it,” Helen said, her beautiful face shadowed by her sour expression. “Victor is bitter and never learned to give up.”
“Well, Helen, you can't be surprised at that, not with a name like Victor.”
Helen grumbled. “Never loses. We'll see about that.”
“You chased Bianca here?” Pandora asked.
Helen and Tabitha shared a look. “How do you know Bianca?”
“I followed one of the dwarves. He was marked with magic.”
Tabitha clapped her hands. “I knew that child could do it.”
“I was sure she would never touch it again after the last time I tried to teach her.” Helen poked the fire place and uncovered the banked coals. “Pandora, be a good girl and fetch water. The well is further into the wood, but there is a path.”
She didn't want to leave her mother and teacher, but it was obvious neither had plans to go anywhere. Her mother was busy opening canisters looking for tea.
“Ew. Tabitha! Why do you keep these?”