[P] the villain in my own eyes
#1
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Word Count → ??? :: hello my little robin





It had taken the Quartermaster some time to sort through their revenue after the return of the caravan from Portland. Their journey had taken longer than anticipated, though perhaps this was a predictable thing - after the sourness of the weather, it was lucky the traders had been able to ford the winter landscape at all. Though a landbridge had formed to the south of the grey loch, that way was lined with other Pensinula packs. It gave the Mafiosi reason to look a the waters that hemmed their terra with greater interest, wondering - not for the first time - whether the installation of some barge might be of benefit to winter trade.


So many possibilities awaited them, willing to spring to life at a whisper of command. Elphaba's covetous desire for the brightness of tomorrow led her to believe it inevitable. They would succeed where others had failed. They would overcome the greatness of all yesterdays.


Fortune favored her. The signs had been there all along, and she need only believe.


The girl was one such sign. That she had been found, so near to death and so easily plucked from the outside world, was clear providence. Elphaba still kept the locket in her trunk, sealed away where prying fingers could not reach it. Sometimes, when Odalis was not in the tower, she would press it between her palms until the coils of the crowned serpent left an imprint on her skin.


So many secrets yet to be unraveled. Thankfully, all they had was time.


She collected her parcel from where Helena had stored it and carried it with her, tucked under one arm, though the Ruins proper. The sun set early this time of year, and even now it sank in repose toward the bleak horizon, offering a splendid death as night stole in. One by one the domiciles tucked into the knolls of the old castle flickered to life. Each lit hearth glowed warm and gold, a twinkling star set in the cold ground, trapped within stone and little rectangular windows.


The tower was cold and dark when she arrived. Elphaba frowned. The girl should have known by now that it was her duty to stoke the fire before night fell - Having done it herself for so long, the Boss had come to enjoy the idea of it waiting for her, the flames already dancing. Even worse, the girl was nowhere to be found.


She wouldn't have gone far, not weak of mind and muscle as she was. The young queen set the parcel beside her on the cobbled floor, and took up a long iron poker to prod the coals back into life. It was a wicked looking thing in her hand, long and sharp and pock-marked with rust and age.

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#2
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The days passed slower than she expected – but Odalis relished in the fact that she was given her freedom. It was a word she had never considered or thought of before as it had always been so freely given; in Onuba she had been daughter to the Duchesa, and in the Court allowed to do as she pleased. Even as a wanderer she had been afforded a set of rules that travellers abided by – the rules of shared fires and wayward fables.

In Salsola there was a new set of rules that she did not yet understand.

There were ranks and bloodlines, customs and factions.

Here she had a so-called Master. A woman who ruled over Salsola proper and over her. She slept beneath her roof, curled tightly amongst the patchwork of furs that lay in her corner. Odalis did as she was told – and managed to navigate the strange new world despite the fog that had settled permanently over her mind. The tea she drank muddled her in a way that she was not used to and gave her dreams that were swirled with emerald and crimson.

Sometimes she forgot her place in the world completely.

The morning had come and gone and the shadows had grown too long – and she had allowed herself to get lost in the clearing outside of the tower.

She wasn’t sure how she had gotten there, but the snow beneath her feet brought her to wakefulness too late and as the darkness came.

<”… The fire.”> Odalis whispered the word and clutched her shoulders, inspecting the basket that hung from one thin elbow. There was nothing here to harvest save for the tiny pieces of kindling that she had gathered. The dog made a keening sound and trotted back toward the Tower, her head bowed apologetically as she shoved the door open and dropped the basket to the floor.

Elphaba sat crouched next to the empty hearth, her breath hanging like a mist before her pale face. The tower was unusually cold, as if the life had been sucked from it by force, and Odalis stood upon the threshold naked and dumb as the day she’d been born. The tattered cloak fell from her shoulders silently to pile upon the floor, and for what felt like an eternity the Amaranthe girl felt herself trapped in the womans vermilion gaze.

The poker looked formidable in her dark hands, the curved end cruel and sharp.

”Hi.” She finally managed, clutching her elbows as she crept across the smooth stones, ”I lost track of time…” The tea had her losing everything, ”Please let me get that for you.” Odalis held out her hand to take the poker from Elphaba’s hand.




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#3
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Footsteps broke the hush, rising in crescendo as they neared the tower door. A heavy bead of silence cracked as it swung open, and gasping for breath, the girl arrived.


Elphaba did not look up right away. She was studying the glowing coals, coaxing gold to rise beneath the ash, feeding a thin stick to the blistering heat until it hissed and gave way to the smallest of flames. The Boss leaned forward and blew, her breath draconic smoke that washed over the hearth and brought it to life.


The little flame grew into a fire, and only when the glow of it colored one side of her face did she turn to look at the girl. As her eyes made contact the redhead faltered, wicker basket dropping to the floor and scattering small sticks between them.


"You're late," The whip-crack of her voice splintered against the stone, drawing silence from Odalis' scrambling attempts to appease. A frown marred the loveliness of Elphaba's pale face. Her eyes roved the girl's expression heatedly, pursuing a lie if it was to be found; Finding nothing, it flicked to the pale hand outstretched toward her, begging for the responsibility that should have been hers to begin with.


The young queen's stare narrowed, and her black lips twisted to one side. "No," She held the iron stave threateningly for a moment, before setting it back on its hook beside the wall. "I've already done it. Where were you? Were you with someone?" Accusatory and demanding, she took up the parcel and rose from her crouch by the fire to stand tall.


The light threw her shadow long across the floor, till dark tendrils of it curled about Odalis' feet.

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#4
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Odalis could feel herself trembling beneath the weight of Elphaba’s gaze. It was strange, the fear that clung to her pelt. Odalis was not one who gave way to fear casually – she had lived a life of being standoffish and haughty – confident and care-free. The expression that lay now across the pale face which gazed upon her was twisted with checked anger, the perfect brows of Elphabas face pulled down over narrowed eyes.

How had she been reduced to so little?

She thought of Solomon and realized that it was better than being reduced to nothing at all.

The chores kept her docile – kept her carefully confined to the Tower and its hearth. They were tasks that kept her hands and mind busy - though lately there was room for nothing in the swirling mess of her mind. She brewed tea and collected wood – made sure that the Queens bed was made and prepared.

But the fire! She had forgotten the fire.

Her teeth chattered and she hissed between her teeth – stumbling over the kindling as she groveled before the newly borne flames. ”I didn’t mean-“ Elphabas words caught like tinder and she flinched as if she’d been struck, ignoring the way her fur crackled and spat along her shoulders. Odalis was reminded of Ciprian, of the possessive way that he had claimed her. There had been ritual there too – in the greasy visits that he had afforded her, the slithering of his tongue whispering to her between the bars of her prison.

It caused something deep down to catch fire – and despite the shame she felt there was anger too. It lashed out in the tone of her voice - and it was an arc of brightness in the din.

”Who was I with?” She wanted to laugh, but bit her lip instead, ”I have no one Elphaba.”

”I went to collect wood for the fire and lost track of who-“ She coughed, wiping the cold from her cheeks, ”-where I was.” She dropped to her knees and collected the fallen kindling, ”See, here, take it-“ She offered the sticks and crept closer still, ”See?”





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#5
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Word Count → ??? :: ---





The fire at her back made her feel larger than life. Her bones were the stone of the tower; Her blood the crackling flames, arcing up to lick at the darkness of nightfall. It was easy to fall into this persona, this penultimate wielder of power. The crown had made a monster out of her.


Odalis should have been quiet, but she didn't know her place yet. Outsiders took some time to learn the ways of this place. Well - they learned, or they were never heard from again. Betrayed by the thought, Elphaba's expression faltered and for a moment her eyes shot to the pile of furs and the little silver ring of the hatch handle beneath them. It was only for a second. Each day that passed made it easier to forget.


Still she would not go down into the cellar.


The girl fell to her knees and was swallowed by Elphaba's shadow. Even this could not smother her hair. Catching gold spun from the fire it was brilliant, a hue the queen had never seen before or since, utterly unique. Defiant in the somber greyness of the tower, she was bright like a summer that had not yet arrived.


Elphaba's hands flexed, the knuckles popping in relief. She looked down her nose as Odalis' raw fingers scrabbled against the cold floor, pushing the bundles of twigs toward her with frantic energy. Her black lips parted to show a gleam of pearl teeth in a sneer, but the flame of anger had gone out in her chest, and it was an empty sort of threat that fell to simple irritation.


"Fine - Fine! Be more careful next time," She bend down and for a moment her hands hovered over the girl's as though to hold them still - But withdrew jarringly. "Pick these up, stupid girl, or must I do everything around here?" Ornery, she shoved the nearest stick with one toe, and turned away to let the girl compose herself.


An uneasy silence returned. With her face turned away from Odalis, Elphaba's expression turned strange, the frown shifting like shadows in deep ocean water. She ran her tongue over her lips in a quick motion to wet them, and shut her eyes tightly for a moment.


When she turned back to look at the girl, her face was under control again. "I didn't mean to yell," She said shortly - hardly an apology - and sighed in a heavy way, "But I was worried something had happened to you. I expect you to be back here by nightfall always. Do you understand, Robin?"

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#6
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It was the first relationship in her life that didn’t make sense. Elphaba towered over her, the shadows rippling cruelly off of her sharp angles and tendrils of rippling hair. She wielded the poker like a weapon, the end glowing brightly as she prodded it again into the white-hot coals. Each time she made the gesture Odalis felt her ribs tighten – the bands of bone constricting around her too-fast beating heart.

It was if the space between them took a breath – and both women were uncertain and testing. Elphaba made Odalis suffer in silence until she was finally prepared to speak again – the flames licking at the dark which rose all around her. She was beautiful like this, with the amber glowing at her feet – but it made her eyes flash cruelly and caught in her teeth.

Stupid girl.

Odalis growled softly, and finally allowed herself to cast the remnants of her stick collection into the flames. As Elphaba turned Odalis gathered herself up and brushed her arms free of dust and debris. The cold nipped at her here, and without her cloak she could feel her teeth begin to chatter. Odalis fanned her hands to the flame and ignored the shadow cast by Salsolas Queen until it turned to once again gaze down upon her.

She could feel the weight of that gaze – and so turned to gaze up at her with her one good eye. The glow of the fire rippling over her scar and causing it to stand out against the caramel of her fur.

"Your will be done." Her lips twitched, and she gazed vacantly into the fire. She had heard slaves say the words to the Arenas of her homeland. It seemed right. Sounded right.

”Yes, I understand.” The bite in her tone surprised her, ”But what could happen to me? I thought Salsola was safe?” With her fur still bristling she set about collecting the kettle and hanging it upon the hearth. She also gathered the scattered basket and set it in its rightful place with a huff, drawing the fallen cloak and wrapping it around her shoulders like a blanket.

Robin. The name settled like a bird upon her shoulder, "What should I call you?"





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#7
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Word Count → ??? :: ---





There was still too much defiance in the girl, much more than was proper for a servant of the crown. A good hard cuff around the ears might have resolved it, but for some reason the thought of hitting that scarred face made Elphaba's stomach tighten, and she resented the strangeness of her instinctual response. Her violence was very rarely of the flesh, after all; She had many others to do her dirty work for her, and even after honing her body like a weapon she still preferred combat of the mind.


That wasn't to say that she couldn't be vicious in the flesh when the situation begged it.


These hands had seen enough blood to stain the whole tower red.


As Odalis set the room to rights behind her, Elphaba concentrated on the parcel in her grasp. It had been wrapped in a square of fine graded leather to protect it from the snow, tied neatly with coarse gut-string twine. She hadn't seen the item inside herself yet, but her instructions had been very specific, and the Quartermaster was a woman known for her precision and keen ability to follow orders.


"It is safe," She replied haughtily, and went to sit on a small wooden chair by the fire, "Safe from Outsiders and enemies, from men who want to hurt us. But the land is still treacherous. It's winter out. Anything can happen." The Ominous words tasted sour on her tongue, and Elphaba stubbornly shrugged off the feeling of malaise. Her eyes followed the girl as she moved about the room, putting on the kettle and collecting her garment and tidying the mess she had made.


For a drawn out while it seemed as though she wouldn't answer the girl's other question, but in the end she asked, "What would you like to call me?"


Her fingers fiddled with the tie on the parcel, almost nervously.

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#8
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Anything can happen.

It rang like the peel of a warning bell, soft and cruel between them. It was a mantra that Odalis had never considered before being kidnapped and scarred for life – but here she was in the Queen of Salsolas home, safe and warm… but forced into a servitude that toed the line of something else. It was different to quell the emotions that roiled inside of her, for beyond anything else she was filled with an insatiable anger.

She despised the position that life had afforded her, despite Ciprian Tenebriso.

Her teeth clicked, and as the room came together, she glanced at the pale faced woman. She stood now with an object in her hands, and like a child Odalis immediately became curious. She did not doubt that there was cruelty in Salsola – there were likely members of the Queens realm who would be keen to knock down her slave, her Robin. There were always pawns when it came to power.

The haughty tone of voice bade Odalis creep closer, kneeling next to the stool so that she could tend to the kettle but also gaze up to the Revlis-Daughter. Her good eye picked up the firelight and flashed blue in the dark.

Winter was treacherous. She had almost died a quiet death cast like a forgotten thing against the snow.

She did owe the woman her life. Sometimes she forgot this most simple of debts.

Her low ears twitched, ”What’s that?”

She clasped her hands before her in her lap, ”I would call you Elphaba.” Odalis allowed a slow smile to creep across her features and it was bashful and sweet. She raised one hand to place it upon the Queens exposed knee. ”Or perhaps a bird as you call me. A crow – dark, like your hair.”




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#9
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Some nights were for wandering, for conjuring, for wicked things that speak in tongues and paint eyes against the bark of trees. Some nights were for passion, for limbs entangled and sharp breath and hot blood. Some nights - like tonight, Elphaba thought, as she looked down at the girl who knelt by her chair - were quiet and pensive, for seeing the truth of things, for reflecting on what had been and what was yet to come.


In spite of herself, she smiled, and the expression made her look younger as though the two girls were of the same age. "Crow?" She echoed incredulously, and lifted one hand to her mouth to push the sharp sound of laughter back in. "You are bold! I could have your tongue for calling me Crow," Though the words were Salsolan, the tone was Elphaba's alone - warm and sinuous, and clearly un-offended in spite of her act.


Perhaps it was the fire that warmed her, or perhaps it was the girl. Nonetheless she seemed much softer now than she had moments before.


"I got you something," Her nose twitched, and she wore a purposefully nonchalant expression, "I thought it might help make sure that none of my people give you any trouble. If they see it, they'll know that you're -" That you're mine; She was a hair's breadth from saying it, from feeling it in the utmost of her being, but held herself back at the last moment, "That your debt is held by me, and they won't bother you unnecessarily."


Attempting to maintain a casual air, she held out the parcel in a disaffected sort of way, though she watched her Robin very intently from the corner of her slanted eyes.

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#10
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A crow. As Odalis gazed up at the woman from her perch upon the hearth, she shrank beneath the weight of the Queens expression. Elphaba Revlis was tumultuous like the sea, a powerful force that the indentured servant was uncertain of. She had experienced power before – her Grandmother had been rife with it, but now it was different – she had been placed into a station that left her with nothing. She had a name yet no title – a bloodline yet no family.

A chuckle snuck from her lips as Elphaba smiled – and as the flames grow so did the warmth that crept along her back.

”You got me something?” The surprise was evident in the sudden widening of her eyes, and the way she leaned closer in an effort to see what lay between the woman’s long-clawed fingers. It was a package wrapped in brown paper and crudely tied with twine, the top curled into a lopsided bow which ached to be pulled apart. As Elphaba deposited the package into her hands she hefted its weight and rocked back on her heels, her warm hand peeling away from the woman’s knee to pull the gift into her lap.

Odalis said nothing as she pulled upon the twine, curling it around her hand only to place it in a neat little pile next to her on the stones.

Her long ears bowed into her face as she used her claws to gently tear through the paper. She peeled it open like a slow blooming flower, and when the item at its centre was finally exposed she hissed quietly through her teeth.

”I-“

She didn’t know what to say.

It was a thick leather collar with two large loops of silver towards its front. The sides were impeccably stitched and had swirls of dark embroidery that followed the dark hide. It took everything in her power not to toss it into the fire – and so instead she gently fingered its edge, hiding the soft and sad expression which brewed in her eyes.

Her scar twinged and she winced, finally turning to regard Elphaba with what she hoped was a genuine enough smile.

”What is it for?”

Anything can happen.



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#11
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The problem stemmed from the fact that Odalis Amaranthe was not a very good liar. Or - at least - not to the standards of the Salsolan court, which had made an artform from falsity long before its current queen had even been a spark in her treasonous father's eye.


Because she was looking for it, Elphaba saw the disconcerted expression slide across the girl's face when it came. Her stomach tightened uncomfortably, and in spite of herself the young ruler felt foolish, as though she had allowed herself to be tricked by her own wants and desires.


And she had.


"Do you like it?" She asked, more sharply than intended, her lips pressed tightly into a thin line. Without answering the girl's question she reached out and carefully took the collar from her lap. She held it aloft for inspection. The dark leather was well-worked, soft and supple, the creation of a master tanner. The tarnished metal loops gleamed nonetheless, fragmented where they had been beaten into shape by crude hammers. It was a very simple piece, but as with all things Elphaba owned, the quality was unmistakable.


She smiled, and perhaps if Odalis was paying attention, she would notice a ghost of something dark in that smile, glinting in warning.


"Here, let me show you."


She moved slowly so as not to scare the girl. Even though the tea helped to sooth her Odalis was jumpy, and since her arrival Elphaba had been careful with her, careful not to push on her overmuch. Still, she could grant only so much clemency without getting what she wanted. Leaning forward until their heads were almost touching, she slowly brushed the girl's unruly auburn curls back from the sweet curve of her pale throat.


If her fingers lingered now, soft and barely-there, could she be blamed for it?


Sweet breath unfurled, feathery and light, against the girl's ear. Dark fingers looped the leather smoothly around her throat, settling the metal rings in the pretty dip where her collarbone met. "Almost," She murmured, swollen pupils deep as black ice with a fine ring of vermilion.


The final touch was a small metal lock. In spite of its diminutive size it was heavy in Elphaba's palm as she slid it home through the rings, and closed it with a click.


Running her tongue over her lips again, she leaned back to take the measure of her work, allowing Odalis' curls to fall back into place. "There - Perfect."

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#12
She wasn't sure what she had expected but the collar that lay between them seemed to be an answer to a question that Odalis had been too afraid to ask. There was a finality to the hammered loops that had the girl reminded of a noose - and without thinking she raised a pale hand to gently stroked the base of her throat. The Salsolans were a proud people, and Odalis wondered if the collar would protect her from the other servants or simply draw attention to her lowly station in this new life.

She had not drank her tea, and so her mind was sharper than usual when she answered.

"Y-Yes." What else could she say?

Elphaba held the thing between them as if it were a medal to be bestowed upon a loyal soldier, and Odalis watched blankly as the woman's face twisted with thoughts that she did not understand.

She was a Robin caged here - coveted keenly like a shiny coin in the nest of a crow.

Odalis flinched as Elphabas hands brushed her shoulders, her long fingers pushing aside the flame of her hair. She looped the leather so that it sat firmly against the nape of her neck, the silver rings gathered together where the hollow at her throat laid bare.

Once she had had a necklace - an amulet with a crowned serpant etched in gold.

More questions brewed within her but were forgotten as the woman's grip tightened - forcing her forward. Odalis felt her teeth click as the woman threaded the padlock through the collar, and all at once the weight of her new life lay firmly against her chest.

She raised her fingers to toy with the edges and pulled at the loops as if to test their strength. It held fast and so she dropped her hands back to the crumpled paper that still lay dejectedly in her lap.

Elphaba preened - proud of the display that marked Odalis as her own.

Odalis attempted warmth, attempted to hold her head high when all she wanted was to curl up in her furs and slip away into nothingness.

"Thank you."

The kettle bubbled over and broke the spell between them. Odalis instinctively rose to tend to it and prepare for supper. She glanced over her shoulder, the collar jingling as she spoke. "...Am I to get you something too?"
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#13
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Sometimes, when her head was turned just-so, it was easy for Elphaba to imagine the girl as she had been. Intact. Looking at her in this way one might never see the jagged scar that tore through her other eye and splintered the soft cheek below, ruining what might have been real, rare beauty.


The illusion was jarred by the way Odalis' lips trembled, the way her fingers pulled at the leather as though already testing its parameters. Elphaba's eyes followed the motion, transfixed, watching the tendon in the girl's neck as it tensed, watching the line of her throat swallow with emotion. Having returned to her lap, the young queen's fingers twitched, clenching tightly together.


Perfect. She should look perfect, like a doll. Someone ruined it for me.


A shame, a shame, a shame. We can't always have what we want.


Both young women jolted from their separate miseries as the kettle hissed loudly, spitting bubbles of water from the lip. The room returned around them, the tower tall and unyielding, the stone cold. Elphaba forced her hands to relax, and rubbed her face wearily with one, smoothing out the intensity of her expression.


Her gaze fell to the fire, and she did not look at Odalis again for a long while.


"If you want to," Mild, her tone was flat over the soft metallic jangle of the lock as it rattled against the girl's throat. "Though your time will be better spent serving to pay off your debt than dallying about, finding gifts. You can thank me by behaving." That seemed reasonable, like something she should say. Elphaba sniffed petulantly, and pulled a wool blanket over her legs, scooting closer to warm her icy fingers against the glow of the hearth.

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#14
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Time spent serving.

The thought had Odalis gazing into her hands as she waited for the tea to steep – the rich scent of the leaves reminding her of spring. She remembered Elphaba explaining to her that now that she had been rescued that there was a debt that she would owe to The Kingdom, her Kingdom – and once it was paid, she would be given the freedom to wander back home. Odalis checked the water and began to pour it into bowls, ignoring the seeping heat that rose against her body as steam wafted through the air.

Odalis carried a bowl to her Master and set it upon the stone hearth with a dip of her head.

With the collar her moves seemed more pronounced – each dip and bow punctuated by a delicate jingle. The pad-lock was still cool against the hollow of her throat, a weight that seemed to hold her in place while she glanced at Elphaba’s pale expression. ”I will try my best.” It was all anyone could ask for – and as she turned to collect her own tea she wondered what her best really was. The servants she had seen in her lifetime had been brutal lifeless things – their bodies covered in arcs of scars that told horrible stories of their pasts and futures.

She refused to be one of them – though each time she saw her reflection she found it difficult to recognize that that was her.

Odalis was changed; she was alone.

She hugged the warm mug between her hands and watched as the leaves swirled endlessly around and around.

Finally she whispered softly as she hugged her knees – the flames twitching behind her like an omen.

”I will behave.” She sighed, ”For you.”




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