"Oh, just give it up!" Rose yelled, collapsing into her own chair in the mirror. Krystel continued pacing in front of the mirror. "We can't curse her! She's too perfect."
"No, that's not the word," Krystel shook her head, thinking. "She isn't perfect, she just doesn't have the life experience to make any serious mistakes. Her soul is still practically white."
"Half of her soul is white," Rose pointed out. "The other half, the part I'm supposed to be in control of, is black. But it doesn't do anything, doesn't affect her in any way whatsoever."
Krystel ignored her. There had to be a way to curse Alessandra. There had to be. Finally she sighed, and sat in her chair. She leaned over and rested her head on her hand. "We could just break her rib to break her heart and then you can do your... thing," she suggested unenthusiastically for the hundredth time, knowing the response by heart. She spoke along with Rose.
"I don't know how you made that work the first time, but it isn't going to work again." Rose glared at Krystel. "If you already know what I'm going to say, why do you keep suggesting it?"
"Because I'm trying to fill the silent void of ideas that will never work." Krystel sighed and stood up, pacing again. "Look, we both know what the actual issue with this is. It's just that neither of us wants to speak it out loud." Rose stayed silent. Krystel was correct, of course. They both knew the issue, and they both knew how to solve it. But neither girl nor soul wanted to dare think about the procedure. It was far too dangerous, even for them.
The issue, of course, was that Krystel had never let Alessandra outside of the castle, and Alessandra had never once thought of escaping for herself. All her days had been spent inside the black emerald walls. She had made mistakes, yes, but they were nothing close to the soul–blackening kind, and Krystel was always right there to help her fix them. In fact, the only person Alessandra knew was Krystel. She had never experienced any of the violent emotions that came with life, or that would lead to getting cursed.
The solution was to let Alessandra go. But this could prove dangerous, as she had never been outside. She would have no idea how to survive on her own, and would possibly fall to robbers hidden on the roads or simply get attacked by a wild animal and get killed. Either way, the chances of Alessandra making it back to the castle were slim. Letting her go couldn't be an option.
That was what had led to seventeen years of night–long debates on how to curse someone as pure as Alessandra without letting her leave their sight.
"We will not let her go," Krystel said firmly. "We've waited too long for her; we can't risk it now."
Rose nodded. "I agree. There has to be another way to pass the curse along to her." The two went back to thinking and debating.
There was a clumsy knock on the door, and Alessandra stumbled into the room. "Oh, um, I'm just, uh, saying good night," she said. "I lost track of time writing. I haven't disturbed you, have I?"
Krystel smiled and shook her head, the reflection followed each movement perfectly. "No, of course not, dear. I myself didn't realize it was this late. Good night."
Alessandra gave a small, unsure smile. "Good night." She closed the door as she exited.
"Do you think she heard anything?" Rose asked, looking at the door.
"I'm not sure," Krystel said quietly, thinking. "I know she's clumsy, but it's not usually that bad. Perhaps she's just tired."
"Yes," Rose said, still skeptical. "Perhaps."
* * *
Alessandra leaned against the closed door, breathing heavily, and eyes wide. She had heard all of it. She had indeed lost track of time while writing – just another little dream of the sun – and went to say goodnight to Krystel as she always had. Her door was cracked open a few inches. Alessandra went to knock on it, but heard a voice that wasn't Krystel's. In a place where there was only two people, she was confused. She listened for a second, and decided maybe it was Krystel's and she had just heard it wrong. She went to knock again, but heard Krystel's voice answer back. This caught her attention.
"...to make any serious mistakes. Her soul is still practically white."
"Half her soul is white," the new voice corrected. "The other half, the part I'm supposed to be in control of, is black. But it doesn't do anything, doesn't affect her in any way whatsoever." Alessandra leaned against the fully closed door, listening in shock.
She heard someone sigh, then Krystel's voice again. "We could just break her rib to break her heart and then you can do your... thing." Alessandra's eyes went wide at the suggestion. Then the two voices merged together.
"I don't know how you made it work the first time, but it isn't going to work again." The new voice spoke alone then, sounding frustrated. "If you already know what I'm going to say, why do you keep suggesting it?"
"Because I'm trying to fill the silent void of ideas that will never work," Krystel answered. Another sigh. "Look, we both know what the actual issue with this is. It's just that neither of us wants to speak it out loud." They were silent for minutes after that. It gave Alessandra a chance to think about what was going on.
And what was going on? There was a strange woman Krystel's room, and they were discussing something about Alessandra's 'issue'; Krystel had offered to kill her and then let the woman do whatever to her to solve the issue. It sounded as if the two were scared of Alessandra. Nothing about it made sense. Finally, Krystel's voice spoke up.
"We will not let her go," she said firmly. "We've waited too long for her; we can't risk it now."
"I agree," the other one agreed. "There has to be another way to pass the curse along to her."
Alessandra had heard enough. She stood upright and knocked on the door too quickly, then opened and entered, stumbling. Crystal was the only one in the room. She was standing in front of her wall–sized mirror. "Oh, um, I'm just, uh, saying good night," Alessandra said, confused. "I lost track of time writing. I haven't disturbed you, have I?"
Krystel smiled and shook her head. "No, of course not, dear. I myself didn't realize it was this late. Good night."
Alessandra gave a small, unsure smile. "Good night." She closed the door as she exited. She leaned against it, breathing heavily, and eyes wide. Questions were flying around her head, the most prominent being 'what curse?'
She pushed herself off the door and tried walking to her bedroom, but the more she thought about what she had heard the quicker she got. She arrived at her room in almost a full sprint. She closed and locked the doors behind her, then leaned against it. She slid down to the floor. "What curse?" she whispered to herself. "What was Krystel talking about? Who was she talking to? Why can't they risk letting me leave? And why am I getting cursed?" She pushed herself off the floor and went to her bed, collapsing onto the soft mattress. She closed her eyes. In the very back of her mind, a seed had been planted. A seed that said, "I'm in danger here."
* * *
Alessandra awoke a few hours later. She rubbed her eyes and rolled over, stretching. She sat up and tried to remember what had happened, her hand on her head. The events of the previous night were a blur. She could remember Krystel and someone else talking about her, and something about a curse. She remembered being terrified of whatever they were discussing; running back to her bedroom. Alessandra looked around at her large room, and the dark bleakness of it all. Overnight, the seed had grown into a full plant.
"I'm in danger here."
She shook her head. She wanted it to have been a dream, something brought upon by staying up too late. Alessandra didn't want to think that Krystel might have been planning on hurting her. It was so out of character for her; Krystel had always shown Alessandra love and kindness, but last night... She climbed out of bed and changed her clothes. A small plan was forming in her mind. Check the library, she thought. Maybe there will be something of use there.
The library Krystel had built was huge. Shelves of books lined the tall walls; there were two separate staircases and some ladders to help reach for the higher–up books. Krystel had created a collection that would put any scholar to shame. Alessandra was hoping that in that collection somewhere would be information about whatever Krystel had been talking about last night.
The only problem was that Krystel had horrific organization skills when it came to books. Alessandra sometimes spent weeks at a time simply organizing one set of shelves. If there was anything useful, she had no idea how long it would take for her to find it in the mess.
Krystel found Alessandra later in the day. She walked into the library with some lunch, only to discover Alessandra flying through book after book, some floating mid–air, others being tossed onto neat piles on the floor as she finished with them. Krystel smiled. "Have you decided to try and organize this mess again?" she teased.
Alessandra was caught off–guard. She spun around with a gasp, her eyes locked onto her once–trusted caretaker.
"Relax," Krystel told her, walking down to meet her. "It's just me. I didn't mean to startle you."
Alessandra forced a smile on her face. "No, you're fine. I was just so absorbed I didn't notice you had come in." She looked around at the piles. "Yes, I am trying to once again organize the mess you keep making," she teased back.
Krystel held up her hands in mock surrender. "I brought you some lunch. It's important to keep your strength up."
Alessandra nodded. "Yes, I suppose you're right." She took the food and took a bite, then set it aside and continued her work.
"I'll leave you be then," Krystel said. She waited just a moment more, then left, closing the doors.
Alessandra was in the library for the rest of the day, and a large part of the night. Despite all her searching, nothing had come up yet. Part of her issue was that she wasn't entirely sure exactly what she was looking for. A little hint would do her wonders at this point. She thought back to the night before. Maybe Krystel will be talking to that person again, she thought. I can get more information there.
Alessandra went up to Krystel's room silently. Both her doors were closed this time. She stood outside them for a moment, before carefully putting her ear up against the door. With a little magick, she could make out the muffled words.
"She's got to be suspicious, at least," she could hear Krystel saying. "She was in the library all day. She probably fell asleep in there."
"As if she'll find anything in the library," the other voice scoffed. "Although congratulations on remembering to close the door, just in case."
"I don't know what's down there! There's probably something written in some, some ancient history book."
"The keyword there is ancient history. Alessandra's smart, but even she'll be looking for something more current than a few thousand years." There was silence, and Alessandra could hear the click–clack of Krystel's shoes. She must be pacing again. The other voice continued. "The last thing to be written about us must have been Beaudale's burning. Her Royal Highness covered up James's death beautifully."
"So the Black Rose Witch has become nothing more than a legend," Krystel snapped. "But still. Anything could be down there. She'd stumble across it and we'd never know."
Alessandra pulled away, and quietly ran to her room. She had enough information for now, and she didn't want to get caught again. She slipped beneath the covers of her bed, and fell asleep.
The next morning came with a new hope. Alessandra went back into the library, now having a better clue as to what she was looking for. She had learned about Beaudale briefly during her studies: it was burned down around two thousand years ago. That's where she would look first. Anything about Beaudale, and anything about the Black Rose Witch.
Krystel had never mentioned the Witch to her. Even now, Alessandra thought it sounded more like the legend Krystel had stated she was. It didn't make much sense, but then again not much did anymore. Alessandra found her first answer in a scroll yellow from age. "The burning of Beaudale: in the third part of the hot season of the third year of the reign of King Johnathan and Queen Annaleasia, the Black Rose Witch was reincarnated and unleashed her destruction upon the peaceful town. The last Seer of Beaudale, Xenia, explained that a young woman––resident of the town––had lost her love prior to the burning. The young woman's name was Krystel."
Alessandra looked at the name for a long time. She didn't want to believe that Krystel––her Krystel––could do such a thing. After a few minutes, she read on. "Krystel had met the Black Rose Witch with a broken heart after the traditional ceremony for the dead. Krystel returned to her home normally a few hours later, then quickly lost control to the Black Soul inside of her. The city of Beaudale was engulfed in flames. There were only two survivors: Xenia––previously mentioned––and a young girl who will remain anonymous."
Alessandra put the scroll down on her lap. Krystel had been the one to burn Beaudale down. She remembered back to when Krystel had told her about it; there was this odd look in her eyes, like she was happy and sad about it. Alessandra didn't understand it, but didn't bring it up either.
She jumped up and began her search again, this time looking for anything older than the scroll. Most seemed to stop there. There was one more account from around that time period: an invitation from King Johnathan to attend his son's christening. It was lying flat on the shelf beneath other scrolls. Time had weathered it down. Alessandra gently ran her thumb over the seal. "Please come peacefully. We wish to speak about our deal."
"Why would King Johnathan invite Krystel?" she asked herself quietly. "And what kind of deal did they have?"
Alessandra placed the invitation back, then blew out in frustration. She was getting few answers to her growing pile of questions. All the records Krystel owned stopped here; there wasn't anything else she could look up. The next option was to ask Krystel herself, but that could prove to be dangerous. Alessandra reached for the invitation again. Maybe saying she had found it while organizing––not a total lie––wouldn't make Krystel suspicious. Just wondering if you'd lost it, she thought, or if there's somewhere specific I should put it.
Alessandra held it firmly, and went off to find Krystel. Around this time of day, she was generally in the kitchen, making sure Alessandra didn't starve. The door was open; she knocked on the frame. Krystel looked up from her work. "Are you hungry enough to come to me this time?" she teased.
Alessandra gave a small smile that didn't last long. She held the old paper out to Krystel. "I, uh, found this. It's addressed to you, and has the royal seal."
Krystel's eyes went wide at the sight. She simply stared at for a long time. "Um," she finally tried, "uh, yes, that... that was mine. A very long time ago."
"Is there a certain place I should put it?" Alessandra asked carefully. She tried not to stare at Krystel.
The question snapped Krystel out of her trance. She looked at Alessandra. "Back where you found it will do," she said, forcing a smile.
Alessandra turned it so she could look at it again. "Why does it look so old?" she asked, trying to make her voice sound as if she were simply curious and not looking for specific information.
"Well," Krystel swallowed. "I lost it, many years ago. If it was in the library, it probably got weathered away a bit faster than most things would. That library, and the castle for that matter, are hundreds of years old." She turned away and smirked. "The previous owners certainly did a fantastic job of keeping everything neat, and creating such a collection."
The smirk didn't escape Alessandra's notice. Still, she didn't say anything about it. Instead she smiled, and took part of the food Krystel had prepared for her. "Yes, they did," she agreed. "Although they must have your organization skills, since everything's still scattered about."
Krystel laughed. "I suppose you're right." She turned back to Alessandra, who was leaving. "Try not to stay up too late tonight," she warned. "Sleep is just as important as food."
"Alright!" Alessandra called from the hallway. She took a bite and hurried back to the library to sort out this new information.
Krystel had lied to her. Once, when she was younger, Alessandra had asked how old the castle was. Krystel had told her it was just over two thousand years old. Beaudale had been destroyed two thousand years ago as well, and that's when King Johnathan had ruled.
The invitation was Krystel's. Krystel had been the one to burn Beaudale down. Krystel was the current Black Rose Witch––whatever that meant, though Alessandra was sure it wasn't anything good. Krystel was over two thousand years old. She and Johnathan had made some sort of deal. Everything connected, but Alessandra couldn't figure out what they connected to, or how it all connected to her.
She searched around the library for anything containing the Witch, but that was even scarcer. Alessandra could only find her mentioned in things that contained myths and legends, other than the scroll. Soon Alessandra retired to bed, but not before stopping outside Krystel's room again.
"She's getting too close," the other voice said urgently. "We need to do something. Now."
"Doing something drastic will only make things worse," Krystel insisted.
"How much do you think she's already pieced together simply by finding that one invitation?"
"You know, I'm kind of surprised she hasn't found the others," Krystel said absently, thinking back to their talk in the kitchen. "I mean, the royal family has been inviting me to their children's christenings and coronations since Johnathan."
"We need to do it." She sounded angry.
"Have you figured out a way how to?" Krystel challenged. "Because we can't do anything until someone or something breaks her heart."
There was silence. Alessandra was listening closely, piecing tiny things together. Finally the voice spoke up.
"Why not just tell her?"
"What?" Krystel asked, confused.
"Tell her," she repeated. "Tell Alessandra what we've always planned on doing with her. Tell her that she's never been more than our little stand–in. It'll break her."
Tears welled up in Alessandra's eyes, but she continued to listen. "Would that work?" Krystel questioned. "I mean, with as much as she's already figured out..."
"She wants to believe that you're not this evil person," she explained. "She wants to believe that I don't exist. Finding out that not only is she right, but that you're going to kill her, will be the exact push we need to actually be able to kill her."
Alessandra's eyes went wide. She pulled away from the door, looking at it in shock. She had been expecting something cruel from them, but didn't think they had been planning on killing her. Alessandra rushed into her bedroom, closing and locking the door. She leaned against it, blinking rapidly. She was trying her hardest not to cry, telling herself that she knew this was going to happen. Alessandra slid down the door, and wrapped her arms around her legs.
It still hurt. She had pieced together enough that she knew, but it still hurt. She felt this actual physical pain in her chest from it. Quietly, she bent her head down and sobbed in the dark.