by Amanda Cast
The sun was warm and pleasant on Pandora’s skin. She was laying in the grass with Topaz curled up against her side. He was wearing his gold chain around his neck and she was toying with it idly. He was humming a song, soft and sweet. It sounded like Oola’s song. She could hear Oola’s voice.
She heard knocking and went to open the door. It was Oola, but she was still knocking on the door. Pandora frowned and told her to stop, but the knocking got louder and more obnoxious. Finally she woke up.
“Who is that the door?” Serene groaned and rolled over.
Pandora slid out of the bed and the cold floor was a shock after the dream of sunshine and warmth. The knocking was still happening. Before bed Serene finally pointed out the time piece on the wall. She looked at it now. It was half passed three in the morning.
Pandora opened the door and saw Chloe standing there. She rubbed some of the sleep out of her eyes and frowned. “What do you want Chloe?”
“I had to tell you something,” she said in an almost maniacal voice.
“What can’t wait until breakfast?” Pandora asked.
Chloe’s eyes were freshly enchanted. Pandora could tell because they shined with extra magic. It reached out at Pandora with sticky fingers. She wanted to brush it away but had no idea how to. Her hair was green this morning.
“I had to tell you. I had to tell you!” she said and laughed loudly.
Pandora sighed. If Chloe decided to go crazy and attack her it was better done without the hatchlings getting involved. She stepped outside and shut the door behind her. “Don’t wake the hatchlings.”
“Like I care about your stupid little hatchling shits,” she jeered and then laughed more. She almost collapsed. Pandora reached to steady her instinctively but Chloe stumbled back and swatted her hands away. “I don’t need you.”
“Is that all you wanted to say?” Pandora asked.
“No!” Chloe said and licked her lips. They were pale, almost white. Skin was flaking off of them.
“Then hurry up and say it,” Pandora ordered.
“Fuck you,” she said and reached up and tangled her fingers into her hair. “Fuck you, fuck you.”
“You shouldn’t be saying that,” Pandora said crossly. “It’s rude. It’s rude to do this anyway. Say what you want to say or go back to bed.”
“You’re not better than me, Pandora. I just want you to know that. You’ll never be better than me.” She cackled and tugged at her hair.
“Why are you acting like this? Stop it.”
“I’m going to kill her. I’m going to kill her! I’m going to kill that filthy half-breed cousin of yours.”
“Stop talking crazy,” Pandora ordered. The magic was making her uncomfortable. It was reaching and pulling and pushing. It made her whole insides feel gross. It was as if something was crawling inside of her flesh.
“I’ve never been more sane,” she said. “Never, never.”
Pandora contemplated slapping the insane girl. “Look, I don’t care about your mental instabilities, Chloe. If you attack Serene or try and harm her in anyway—I’ll harm you. Count on that.” Pandora rotated her body so that she could wave her hand in front of the door, but so that her back wouldn’t be to Chloe. “Go back to bed.”
“I never went to bed,” she said. “I never went.”
“Whatever,” Pandora said and stepped back into her room and closed the door. She wanted to slam it, but knew that it would disturb the hatchlings and Serene. They did not need to know what she had just witnessed. It would just rile everyone up and make them act crazy.
She whispered to the door that they did not want to be disturbed just in case Chloe decided to abuse the door some more and then went back to bed. She could not fall back asleep though. There was no escape back into the world of sunshine, green grass, and behaving hatchlings with gold collars.
It felt like an eternity that Pandora lay there thinking about what could be and what might happen. She did not like the thought that Chloe would try and kill her cousin. She imagined the many ways she could hurt Chloe and the many ways she could neutralize her without bringing much harm to her.
The feeling of magic still stuck to her. Her uncle’s magic never felt like this.
“So what was that all about?” Serene asked when they were waiting for the hatchlings to finish with the privy.
Pandora shrugged. “It was just Chloe being crazy. I don’t think it’s anything to worry about.”
“You don’t?” Serene asked skeptically.
“I’m going to go talk to one of the healers about her. I think something is wrong with her.” Pandora became very interested in the dirt under her nails. “Other than that it’s nothing to worry about.” I hope.
“Well, if you say so,” Serene said as though she had heard Pandora’s thoughts. “What are your plans for the day?”
“I have a lot of classes today. I have to go to alchemy. That should be fun.” Pandora finished with her nails.
“Oh, I have alchemy too. What time is your class?”
Pandora bit her lip and tried to remember. “One.”
Serene’s face drooped. “Oh.”
“What time is yours?” Pandora asked because it seemed appropriate.
“I’m at noon. Terabeth has that class though, I think. You two might be able to get to know each other better,” she said, hopeful once more.
Pandora shifted uncomfortably. “I don’t know. Anyway, I think the hatchlings are ready. We’d better go before they start tearing more stuff up.”
“They are quiet this morning aren’t they?”
“That crazy lady disturbed us,” Rubio said grumpily.
“Yes! How rude!” Star said with a delicate sniff. Pandora had no idea where she learned about sniffing like that, but it was starting to become less amusing.
Emerald tentatively rubbed her cheek against Pandora’s calf. Pandora kneeled down and stroked along her neck before rubbing her eyes and then the group filed out of the room and into the hallway.
“What was that?” Serene asked and started rubbing down her arms and trying to get something imaginary off of her hands.
“I don’t know… what does it feel like?”
“It feels icky and sticky. It’s almost like spider’s webs but they’re trying to get inside me.” She made a face and started scratching at her neck.
“I know that feeling,” Pandora said. “I get that feeling when mages are probing me.”
“You too? It’s vile, isn’t it? That never happened with Daddy.”
“Maybe it’s because they’re so intrusive and unfeeling,” Pandora offered. “What your father did was out of love and there was never much to worry about. The only time I felt that way was with the barriers.”
“I’ve never tried walking through one.”
“You?” Pandora asked. “That’s strange.”
Serene grinned at her cousin and they stepped through the mirrors.
“I almost got tired of waiting,” a voice said ominously. Pandora couldn’t recognize it. She turned her head and saw Chloe standing there with her arms and lips moving. A sphere of black and red flew out of her hands and struck Serene in the chest. Pandora turned to her cousin in an attempt to protect her from another sphere. She was clutching at her chest and looked stricken.
Topaz barreled passed Pandora straight for Chloe with a roar that shook the mirrors.
“Stop him,” Serene pleaded. “I’m fine.”
Pandora turned and saw that Topaz was suspended over Chloe, but he was clawing and biting at the shield she created in front of her herself. Before Pandora could tell him to back down he made contact. Her soft human skin was no match for his ripping claws. Her arms were torn and shredded from trying to protect her neck from his searching mouth.
“Stop it, Topaz,” she ordered, but he ignored her. She ran toward him as fast as she could. Hoping that she would have the momentum to make him move she tackled him off of Chloe. They flew through the air for a distance and slid even longer along the cobblestone style floor.
Topaz struggled to get back to the bleeding heap that was Chloe, but Pandora gripped him around the middle as tightly as she could and threw him farther away. She heard something crack and Topaz cry out in pain. The other dragons were making a protective circle around Serene. She had firm control over their actions, but her efforts couldn’t be diverted.
Pandora ran over and threw herself down to Chloe’s side. “Chloe,” she said firmly, “Look at me Chloe.” The enchantments on her eyes were fading back into her body. She looked frightened. “Look at me,” she said again and took a deep breath and closed her eyes.
I don’t know what I’m doing, she thought and then focused all of her energy into Chloe. She imagined muscle and flesh rejoining. Heal, she pleaded. Heal. She felt her strength leaving out of her finger tips. She opened her eyes and started to push the tattered skin and muscle back together. Her fingers were slick and wet with blood.
Chloe had no strength to cry out in pain with. She just winced weakly and her head rolled as if she were about to pass out. Pandora used some of her energy to keep her away. She was afraid that if Chloe slept she would not wake up.
“Heal,” she said out loud and forced out the energy with a mental push. She watched as the muscle and tendons started to meld back together. She hoped that the organs resituated themselves correctly.
Her strength was slipping and she could no longer focus any of her energy on keeping Chloe awake. She slapped Chloe across the face with decent enough strength, but it felt weak and unfelt. “Stay awake,” she ordered.
She heard something beating around her. She looked up and saw Topaz clawing at something invisible around her with yellow eyes and bare, bloody teeth. His right wing was hanging limply. Pandora frowned and collapsed in Chloe’s blood. “Don’t die,” she ordered before her eyes closed.