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After The Quest

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She woke up screaming. It happened often these days.

 

Her grandfather tried to help. He had asked, back then, when he had greeted her back and hugged her like she was going to disappear again. He had asked what happened, and she had told him what she thought was important.

 

“I got a new dress!” she had beamed, proud because she had worked hard to get it, and Cindy had really done an amazing job.

 

He had frowned, she remembered, and asked gently if there was anything else she wanted to talk about.

 

“It's okay. It's over now.” But it wasn't, not really.

 

The nightmares had started a few days after, and she had screamed and cried, screamed after Winfriede and Hans and the Devil why, why, it was not her fault not her Wyrd she did not deserve this-

 

“Why?” she had cried in her grandfather's arms. He had not answered.

 

The next moring, she laid under the sun to forget how cold the dungeons felt, and breathed deep the scent of flowers. It helped, but she still was scared of looking through the lock. She was afraid that the Devil would stare back.

 

It got better, after a while. On good days she looked at trees and waited for a spirit to drop a dress, or at the sky and expected a red dragon to come down. On better days she made fruits fall from the trees in the field, and laughed with her grandfather.

 

On bad days though, it was hard. She tensed every time a branch cracked, half-expecting the witch to take her away and chain her in her house, like she had once done, except that this time she would end up like Joringel, like Jorinde, like Hans.

 

She didn't dare to go near the lake anymore. It was not Wunderhorn's lake, but Hans's warnings, his sad smile and the Weisse Frauen's sweet voices haunted her mind, and she feared that once near she would never be back. She was afraid to drown, like Hans and so many before had.

 

She remembered how uncomfortable she felt when walking around in her pink dress and asked her grandfather for pants. He looked sad and resigned, but Anna felt her chest lighten when she wore them, because it meant that if it happened again she would be ready.

 

She trained her telekinesis under her grandfather's watchful eyes. Unbeknown to him, she kept a small knife in her pocket, just in case. It was Ashley who suggested it back in Wunderhorn, and she hadn't listened at that time. But she was right. It could be useful.

 

When she had come back from her quest, Anna had only felt proud and sad and so relieved. But as she grew older, she started to feel angry.

 

She felt angry at Mrs Voigt, who had never tried to understand her daughter and had believed a stranger's word over her own child's. She felt angry at Hans, who had tried too hard and had payed a too heavy price. She felt angry at the Mill Witch, who had eaten so many children and left behind grieving parents. She felt angry at Winfriede, who had murdered and done so many horrible things. She felt angry at her grandfather, who had lied about her parents and her power. She felt angry at the guards, at the King, at everything and everyone.

 

She felt angry at the Devil, who started everything.

 

Anna didn't see Ben again. He wrote, asked her if everything was okay and other things, but he never came and she knew why. Ben never left the castle because he was afraid that a witch would snatch him away. Or maybe he was afraid that he would forget again. She wasn't sure, and she wasn't going to ask.

 

He asked her to come though, and she refused. She too feared that, if she left again, everything would went wrong again. But it wasn't only for that : she was afraid of this castle and the memories it brought back. Winfriede's screams as she fell were still haunting her dreams.

 

But Reynard did visit. The first time he came, Anna had cried and hugged him until she felt like she wouldn't break at the reminder of everything. They played and talked for hours, and neither spoke of witches and curses. They wouldn't for a long time. Her grandfather had watched from the house as they played in the field. He had looked old.

 

You will die. The Devil had told her, and sometimes Anna wondered if he had been right. A part of her had died when she saw Winfriede fall to her death, or maybe it had died in the witch's house, whe she first bended the spoon with her mind.

 

Anna grew up. The pink dress didn't fit anymore, but she couldn't bring herself to get rid of it. It held too many memories, and even if most were bad, some were good, and both were hers.

 

She asked her grandfather to come with her to the lake. There were no Weisse Frauen in the water, and she still didn't touch it, but she was there, and that was a start.

 

She wondered if she should go to Wunderhorn, just to visit, but the idea made her feel ill. There was no one waiting for her in this town.

 

She thought of the Mirror in Winfriede's cave, and she sometimes felt guilty to never try and visit. But it wasn't enough to bring her back in her kidnapper's house.

 

It's going to be okay, Anna decided one day, looking at the her reflection. It will take time, and it's going to be hard and I'll never forget, but it will be okay. This is my happy ending.

 

Wasn't it?

 

The nightmares never left, but they came less and less, and walking through the forest felt less like walking to her end. Reynard walked beside her, eyes wary and alert, and she breathed. There was someone watching her back. It was more than she ever had back then.

 

Ben wrote, and so did Cindy, and the Magician, and she breathed the scent of ink and love. She breathed in and out, looked at her grandfather's soft eyes and at Reynard's sly smile.

 

She was not alone. This was her happy ending.