A/N: Well, here we go! I think many of you will be pleased with this chapter, as I finally begin to make sense! (I think at least...?) Also, any typos (in the previous chapters or this one) are only because I write these chapters in a notebook, and then quickly type them up. If I ever halt my life as a lazy sloth, maybe I'll re-upload the chapters. Until then, please bear with me, and enjoy this third chapter!!



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"Dirty whore!" a gruff voice came from one side of me, and civilization came into my life again.

"Dirty, thieving whore!" Before I could even turn around to see what was going on, a sweaty body rammed into me, bowling me to the ground.

"Stupid girl," a different voice-a husky female-hissed. I felt her hot hand grabbing the sleeve of my oversized sweater, practically yanking it off my shoulder, and she neatly dragged me behind her. I was on my feet, but couldn't keep up, and kept tripping as she continued to pull me forward. I must have slowed her progress, for multiple angry voices began to get steadily louder behind us. "Dumb girl," she huffed and in one jagged movement lifted me off my feet and flung me over her shoulder. My face pressed against her mop of flaming red hair and my arms dangled helplessly down her back.

She flew like a gazette despite the extra burden of my weight and finally dropped me with a thud upon the ground once she had deemed it safe. I squeezed my eyes closed tightly, willing everything to come into focus once I opened them again. The girl spoke profanities I had never heard before and felt my brow.

"You're sickly," she said, more annoyed than concerned. I finally opened my eyes, but her figure swam against my will. Her skin was pale, but lightly freckled, and her crystal blue eyes offset her vividly flaming hair which fell like tendrils about her face and shoulders. "What the hell were you doing anyway? Don't you know how to run?"

"I-" I suddenly realized that Dolly wasn't with me. "My doll!" I flew frantically back in the direction which I came, as the tempered woman grabbed at the back of my sweatshirt. "You don't understand!" I screeched, "She's the only thing I have left! She was going to help me!" I has utterly hysterical with fright at having lost my companion. "Let me go!"

"Stupid girl, a doll's no friend," she spat at the ground, but I sensed a chord of empathy in her voice. "Here..." she put her arm around me to keep my shoulders from shaking with my sobs, and I felt a small, soft body pressed against my chest. "I grabbed her when I grabbed you. She was in my belt."

"Oh!" My waterlogged eyes lit up and I pounced on her in a loving embrace. She stood unmoving, her arms at her sides as mine wrapped around her body tightly, squishing Dolly between us.

The flame-haired woman coughed slightly and I let go. "Who are you traveling with?" she asked, flushed as though she had never been hugged before.

"Dolly," I answered simply. "Just Dolly."

"Oh, brave wanderer," she teased. I curtsied slightly, going along with the joke. "No," she caught me by my skirts sternly, "Now I'm being dead serious, so you listen. This is no place for anyone-especially a little girl-to be alone."

"But you're alone," I thought I pointed out rather obviously.

She started to protest, but stopped and smiled. Her teeth were slightly yellowed with plaque, but I couldn't help but think that she had a lovely smile. "So I am..." she said and with feigned hottiness placed her hands on her hips. "Well, maybe we ought to continue on together then?" Her smile faded, and I questioned how sincere it had been. "My name's Tobaira," she said kindly enough, and I was content that she was a decent-hearted person.

"Mine's Ermangarde. Ermangarde Finley."

"Well, Ermangarde then, how does it happen that you have come this way all on your lonesome?" Another brief smile. "I mean, with Dolly and nobody else?"

I sat myself down on a small rock beside Tobaira. "My mother died a long time ago. My father had been a schoolteacher, but he never went to the schoolhouse... He said that nobody wanted an education anymore, that nobody cared. Chloe, my nursemaid, took care of me." I paused and closed my eyes for slightly longer than an average blinking. "One day while I was in the park, some of Lord Coratam's men came, and..." I stuttered, "Killed...every person across their path..."

Tobaira saved me from having to continue as my tears welled by interrupting. "Coratam?" she asked.

"Lord Coratam owns the largest portion of the Enaln region. He and Lord Magai have been at war over the Jenc territory."

"Damn, everybody's at war with everyone over everything!" Tobaira slammed her fist into the fallen leaves. I adjusted myself on my rock.

"Dolly and I ran away," I found I had managed to compose myself, "and are trying to find the last rose left on this planet."

"A rose?" A perturbed look crossed over Tobaira's face. "You're going to get yourself killed over...a rose?"

"Everything dies eventually anyway..." I whispered as a slight wind blew through both of our unkempt hair.

Tobaira remained silent, and I couldn't tell whether or not she understood. She slowly shook her head and helped to lift me off my rock. "This way," she motioned with her arm, and I obediently followed.