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Pandora chuckled and traipsed down the trail, a lightly worn path, but it did lead to a well. Using the wooden bucket there, she drew up water and poured it into her tea kettle. The metal reflected better than the wood, and she saw her own face with brown curls framing it. There was a flash and she saw someone somewhere else. Blinking, she took stock of her magic. There was the barest trickle escaping her, not enough to scry. Yet, she could see a young man, a very handsome man, in ragged clothing.
Curious, she looked at the image periodically on her way back to the cottage. Her mother and Tabitha would know.
The two were cackling next to the fire. The noise was familiar from Tabitha, but Pandora would never guess her mother's laughter sounded so sinister.
“Mother, Tabitha, look at this.” She set the kettle down between them and pointed at the reflection.
“That's him, then?” Mother asked. “There is one thing to be said in favour of princes, they are easy on the eyes.”
Pandora stepped back. “That's him?” She took it back. He wasn't handsome. He was ugly, horrid.
“Yes. Where did you drop him?” Tabitha asked, grinning. “I don't recognize that village.”
Pandora blushed a little. “I might have overdone it. I just wanted him as far away as possible.”
Helen cackled. “And you succeeded. He won't find you again this year. It will take him months just to get home.”
“Please tell me I'm not going to see him in every cup of tea,” she begged.
Tabitha stroked her back. “No, dear. It is taking some of your magic, if only the tiniest trickle. Close it off.”
She took a few breaths, focusing on building walls around her heart, holding in her magic. She had studied this, but never practised much. She would be working on it a lot, it seemed. Once certain she had all her magic contained, she peeked into the kettle and saw only herself.
She let out a sigh and the water flashed. Relief had wiped out her wall. She didn't care. She put a lid on the hateful prince and hung it on the fire.
“That was oddly satisfying,” she told the women.
They both cackled again and she joined, though hers was still a girl's giggle.
“So, Mother, you needed Tabitha's help with Bianca?” There were only two stools, but the large bed was part of the same room and Pandora sat on that.
“Yes. Although I know how to brew death-sleep, Tabitha has much more experience, and I didn't want to risk killing the girl.”
“And now she's hiding from a prince, just like I was.”
“Not exactly the same,” Tabitha told her. “Bianca will sleep until we find a way to teach her.”
“Why not the way you taught me?”
“I tried that,” Helen said, frustration hardening her lilting voice. “She thought I was trying to kill her or curse her father, or any other foolhardy thing her father led her to believe. I sent word to Tabitha when it finally dawned on me to use that fear to drive her out of the kingdom. I let her think I was going to kill her, that I had hired an assassin. That got her moving, made her use some of the magic to get far enough, find people to trust.”
“I thought the evil queen was chasing her.”
The women cackled. “Precisely.”