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The beast woke up before Margaret. It was nearing the day’s end and in the horizon far away the sun, shinning bright reddish orange, was halfway set.

The first thing he notices was his unfamiliar environments. As if sensing him awake, Red entered the room. It didn’t take long for the beast to figure out the one in front of him held magic. A witch, he thought and his eyes hardened although he maintained his composure sitting upright and holding the edges of the bed tightly. It didn’t escape his mind that she held a tray. It didn’t take a genius to figure what was in it for him. She knew his curse and he knew that from just a look.

“Who are you?” The beast all but stopped himself from bellowing.

The second thing that got his attention was the lack of a certain travelling companion. The episode of the day before came rushing to his mind. He had all but been defeated at the paws of the Guardian wolves of the forest. Any thing he thought about his strength was shatter there and then when the wolves over took him in matter of minutes.

Why? Why couldn’t he overtake them? He was helpless anyway. Why did the world have to make him feel more helpless? Three week and he would die, he knew that and yet he was sent here unprepared with a small beacon of hope. Hope, it’s such a terrible word. Maybe it gives a little joy, a tiny bit of joy that just brings a hundred time more sadness. Hope is like a carrot in front of a donkey to keep the donkey walking. The donkey looks at it like an idiot hoping that if only he could step a little more that tasting carrot would be his to eat only he doesn’t know that someone else was pulling the strings and no matter how further he went he wouldn’t be able to grab it. And all the while he would only think what could I have done to grab it?

“Fret not young one.” The witch said as she saw the beast looking around suddenly, utterly distracted. “She is safe, fed and Sleeping next door. Although you shouldn’t wake her for a while.”

The way not waking up was said was enough to make it clear to the beast that he had no choice in the matter. Without much argument knowing that she may not be in good health herself the beast went to the next best thing. The witch was yet to answer.

“Who are you? ” he questioned again.

“My name, dear prince, is Red. ” The witch said handing him the goblet she held on a tray.

“How do you..? ” The beast looked at her and as he had guessed the goblet was indeed that of blood.

“The curse. When I touched you I got a glimpse of its nature. Knowing the rest is not difficult when you have been a witch for an long as I have been. ” Red said taking a seat on the cream and purple coloured chair nearby.

The beast hadn’t realized how parched he felt. The goblet was big and he couldn’t wait to drink. Unfortunately, he couldn’t. A thought lingered in his mind. Was it drugged? If it were the case they could have had him when he was resting. Do they have a superior motive?

“Your face says it all my Prince, fear not, the drink is safe. If you doubt it, I could have it tested. ” The beast looked the witch in the eye. Red was it? He remembered hearing the name somewhere but could not recall. But from the power she gave off and the low self esteem he had at the moment he could not think more. Grabbing the goblet firmly, he put his mouth on the wide edge of the vessel and surped down the thick red metallic content in one go until the last drop.

“Now if you like, you can take a bath, and I fix get you something to eat.” Again, the beast had no choice in the matter. Margaret would have laughed had she seen the beast in such a manner, so docile. However inside the beast was a tornado. All he was thinking was the past, the present, the future and death. The helplessness he felt as he could not stand against the wolves even though the curse gives him power. The helplessness he felt having to live inside this rose petal filled hourglass that has him caged and on a run to find something, someone, somewhere without much proof of its existence. The beast had been caged for a long time. But this was one of the times he truly felt caged.

Margaret woke up a short while after the Prince. She stretched her limbs and turned around the comfortable bed and snuggled against the pillow a little while longer. It was one of the best sleeps she had had in a while and felt truly refreshed. Mustering up the will, she stepped out of the bed and out to the see Red and the prince. She had no idea how long she slept but she knew that time was of essence and she needed to leave. The person she came across first was Ben, a shy person from what she had gathered about him.

“Hey Ben,” Margaret called out hoping to get his attention. He seemed to be headed somewhere around the house.
“Margaret,” Ben said jumping a little. He seemed to have something on his mind and in his hands.

“So you know where Red is?” Meg questioned looking around the house. A beautiful painting hung on the wall besides her and she wondered how the artists came up with ideas for such paintings.

“The kitchen I presume. Your friend woke up and she wanted to fix something up for you and him.” Ben said looking uncomfortable. He shifted from one foot to another, the colour red constant in his cheeks.

“Why didn’t she wake me up? I should go help her. ” Margaret didn’t mind helping around the house. If anything she was good at it. Red had been such a kind person, it seemed like a terrible idea to sit by and do nothing as she feds them and gives them shelter.

“I doubt she would let you even if you insisted. ” Ben spoke softly. Then suddenly as if remembering something he excused himself. “I will bring your friend to you when he is done bathing. Till then why don’t you enjoy my brothers company? They are all together somewhere I think. ”

Margaret nodded and watched Ben go out of sight. Against Ben’s advice, she stopped by at the kitchen. She didn’t feel good letting Red do everything for her.

“Hey Red.” Izabell said entering the kitchen. Red seemed to have changed our of her morning clothes and had an apron tied to her waist.

“When did you wake up?” Red questioned turning around to look at her with a smile, “Had a good sleep?”

“Probably one of the best. ” Margaret spoke returning the smile. The smell in the air made her mouth water. Red truly was an amazing cook.

“That means the herbs in the tea worked. I could see you needed to relax your body when I met you in the morning. ” Red went back to stirring. It was some kind of curry but Margaret knew not of what.

“Thank you for it. I really feel rejuvenated. Oh I forgot. I didn’t come here to chatter. Tell me how should I help you. I feel terrible just having you help without returns.” Margaretfelt guilty seeing Red labor away in the kitchen for her. She looked around to see anything she could help with.

“Relax, it’s just nice to have guests once in a while. Especially a girl.” Red said with a small smile and held one of Margaret’s hand to calm her down.

“We will have to leave as soon as the sun sets and my companion is up for travel.” Margaret said looking at her hand. A huge round purple ring with a silver band adorned the witch’s hand. Margaret could have sworn it sparkled for a moment.

“Of course, although tell me when you have to leave. I will make a small tunnel out of the forest for you. That way no one would be able to hinder you journey out of the woods.” Margaret half heard the words of her host and didn’t move her eyes from the ring. It seemed to have enchanted her. She had seen such a ring before but where?

“You truly have done a lot for us.” Meg peered her eyes away from the ring and said thankfully.

“It’s nothing much really. If anything I should say it’s because I pity the man for his curse. You are truly a nice person to help him.” Red said, her body turning back to focus on the cooking. Margaret didn’t reply. She wasn’t really out for the beast. It was more selfish than that.

Her thoughts didn’t turn into words. Margaret watched the flames burn away as her thoughts went to Eliana, that girl was truly selfless.

“Run along now, to the dinning table. I would tell you to go talk with the boys but they must be leaving any moment now. ” Red said as she gave her dish a last stir and put it to the side. With a new cutlery she started working on other prepped items kept on the counter.

“Leaving after dark?” Margaret voiced out her thoughts.

“Job requirements. I can do nothing about it.” Red didn’t elaborate any further and Margaret didn’t ponder. She did however wonder what the men did.

As Margaret turned to leave a figure made way to the kitchen.

“Your friend’s waiting Meg, ” Loke said passing by her. He made his way straight to Red and gave her a hug as she continued working away with a laugh on her lips. Margaret took the moment to exit and make her way to the dinning table. All the way Margaret admired the various things hung around the house and the showpieces. The love for such decoration was visible on every corner.

“You are finally here. ” Margaret heard a voice she had become accustomed to. The prince sat on one end of the dinning table. His aura dominating as ever.

“Are you well? ” Margaret asked. Surely the confrontation must have not been easy for him.

“Yes. ” The prince said without a second thought. Margaret found it hard to believe but didn’t pursue the matter.

“When can we leave?” Asked the Prince looking around. Margaret could see he was not really comfortable sitting in the house for some reason.

“As soon as we are done eating. Red would make us a path so that the animals wouldn’t be a problem again. ” Margaret replied and heard light footsteps. The prince nodded. It seemed like he couldn’t wait to get out of there.

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