Chapter 11

The walk back was silent. It was hard to focus and make conversation with everything that had happened to me today. Excitement about my memories regain lead me to wonder when the next one would come. Would it be a good memory? Would I see my little Lamb again? Mother? Father?

"Why aren't you depressed?" I asked, turning to Ovid.

"What are you talking about?"

"I mean," I looked down, trying to figure out how to say what I wanted without sounding rude. "You spend day after day, thinking and looking for the girl you love. Why aren't you depressed that you haven't found her yet?"

"Do I look like the type who'd get depressed?" Ovid said. I shook my head and muttered no. I couldn't imagine it. Ovid the proud and arrogant. That was a stupid question. "Do you know where tomorrow comes from?"

I blinked. Was this a riddle?

I hummed and closed my eyes. "It comes when the sun goes up."

"No stupid." Ovid knocked my head with his fist. I puffed my cheeks out.

"Why are you always insulting me?"

"It's not an insult. It's the truth."

I raised my eyebrow. "Well, what's the answer then? Where does tomorrow come from?"

"It comes from hope," Ovid said. We stopped walking, but Ovid didn't let go of my hand. "I'm not depressed, nor am I truly alone, because I always have hope. Hope that I'd find my girl." We started walking again, the pace slower as if we were taking a stroll around a garden. I just listened. I couldn't believe it. I learned something new; every time I talk to Ovid, I learn something new about him. Ovid continued, his voice soft. "And you know, without hope, you'd never really reach tomorrow. Even if the days go by, to you, tomorrow won't ever come, because the day you start to lose hope, it would drag on endlessly."

I laughed. "You're so poetic. Who knew?"

"Me, I knew," Ovid smirked.

"And the Stryders," I said. "I'm sure they knew you were a good guy, so that was why they took you in."

"No," his voice softened. "They are just good people."

I squeezed his hand and then let go. I crossed my arms. "I don't smell forest anymore. We're back in the village?"

"Yeah, we're back." Strange. He sounded confused.

I shook my head. "Okay, let's go back. Stryder must be done visiting his girlfriend." I chuckled. "I wonder what kind of girl she is. I would like to meet her."

I began to walk, awkward. I couldn't believe the way we were talking and behaving earlier; I would never have imagined we would talk as if we were friends. But before I could walk away in complete embarrassment, Ovid pulled me back by my elbow. I lunged back. "What's wrong?"

"You don't feel it?"

"Feel what?" I said, annoyed.

"It's quiet," Ovid said, as if it explained everything to me.

"Yeah? Well, it's almost night. We were gone for a while. Everyone must be asleep." I started to walk again, but it was pointless. This time, Ovid grabbed me from behind, holding my waist. I turned, ready to yell when he hushed me.

"We have to go. Now." He grabbed my wrist and started to run. I tripped over my feet, trying to catch up.

"What's going on?" I yelled. Behind me, there was an explosion. I turned around just in time to feel the heat. "Fi-air?"

"Alida!" There was a tug of my arm. I flinched; the urgency in his voice scared me. "We have to go."

I nodded and again, we were running, my mind racing. There was an explosion. The village was on fire. I didn't understand. What was going on?

Ovid banged a door open. He let go of my hand, leaving me in the frostbitten snow, shivering, wondering what was going on. I could hear him yelling and I repeated with my voice hoarse.

"Stryder?" I yelled. I looked around, trying to hear for any movement. For anyone answering back. "Sophia? Mother?"

Ovid grabbed my shoulder. "They're not home."

"Maybe they didn't leave Stryder's girlfriend's house yet?" I squeaked.

There was a moment of pause and I could hear Ovid leaving me behind, running off somewhere. I wanted to rush after him, but I didn't know where Stryder's girlfriend lived. And Ovid, he ran too fast. He didn't even tell me where he was going, even though I had a strong idea. I didn't want to be alone.

I knelt, head in between my knees, my hands covering the backside of my neck. Deep breaths. Everything would be okay.

What was going on?

There was an intense heat next to me. I lifted my head and faced where it was coming from. Wasn't that where Stryder's home was? Heat licked my face. I reached forward but then snatched my fingers away. Hot. Hot.


I was in a black room. It was so tiny. I could barely move. My elbows touched the side and my bangs were brushed back whenever the clothes hanging from the rack would slide. I could hear people screaming, yelling in agony on the other side of the door. The door. It hurt my palms. I kept banging on the door. Let me out. Let me out.

"Alida!" A voice snapped me out of my trance. My arms were in the air, digging, scratching an invisible wall. I stopped and stared. Why couldn't I see?


I scratched my face. Near my eyes. Nose.

Where was it? Where was the blindfold? Why couldn't I take it off?

"Take it off!" I screamed, sitting on the snow ground. No. Not snow. I was home. I was playing with Father. We were playing a game of hide and seek. But he couldn't find me. I waited for over 200 seconds waiting for him. But he didn't come. I wasn't in the closet room anymore. I was out. Screaming. Someone was with me. There was laughter. And the fire. The fire. "Take it off!"

Strong arms wrapped around me, holding me close, cradling me. My whole body shook. "Take it off! Take it off!"

"I don't know what's going on, but calm down," the voice said, like a thing coming from a dream. But his voice was so strict, so commanding, all at once I stopped. My shoulders relaxed. But I could still feel it. I just wanted to die. Let it stop. It hurt. It burned.

"Lamb?" I opened my eyes. A boy was in front of me, looking down with worried eyes. The vision blurred. I closed my eyes. "It's Neci, isn't it?"

"Neci?" The voice asked. "Alida…wake up. Wake up!"

No…that wasn't right. Who was Alida? I was…

"Ovid?" I sat up, hitting my head against something hard. I looked around, trying to remember what happened. I couldn't remember. It felt like something important was going to appear…but I lost it. I couldn't remember. I grab Ovid's shirt. "Did you find the Stryders?"

"No," his voice was hard and cold. A chill went down my spine. No? Did he really just say no? Then where were they? They couldn't have just disappeared! "We have to get out of here. Now."

"What about Stryder?" I said. Ovid pulled me up, helping me balance myself. "What about Sophia?"

"I don't know. But the village is on fire. We have to leave. We'll find them later."

I shook my head and clawed at him. "We- we can't! We can't leave them! What if they're stuck? What if they are in the fire?"

"What if it's Neci?" Ovid yelled. I stopped moving, my body hanging, propelled by my hold onto Ovid's arm.


"If the witch found you, then others have found you too."

"I don't get it. I haven't done anything wrong. Is the village on fire because of me?" I dug my nails into Ovid's arm.

"I don't know. Are you sure you don't remember who you are?"

I shook my head. I stuttered, "I don't know. I don't. I remember only a little bit. But not enough. I don't know why I would have caused this!"

I held my breath. Not true. I once lived in a tower. A tower I ended up escaping. Wasn't that Neci's Tower? Didn't Ovid just say Neci's name?

Leave. But I'll find you. I'll take care of you. Mark my words.

I shook. Blood dripped from my bitten lip.

How could I have forgotten? Neci was looking for me. While I was busy trying to find my memories, trying to find Adrian…the witch was finding me. She found me.

"Tower," I stuttered. My grip around Ovid tightened. "We have to get away from the tower."

Ovid grunted and he picked me up, bridal style. I gasped, surprised, but before I could say anything he said, "It'll be easier than having to stop every time you trip."

I nodded and wrapped my arms around his neck. I could feel movement. He was running. Long and hard, I don't know when we finally stopped. It was abrupt. I grunted and he put me down. I could only feel the faint whispers of the fire's heat. We must have been close to the edge of the village.

"Tan..." Ovid whispered. I looked up at him and tried to figure out where he was looking. But I couldn't figure it out. He ran away from me, before I could ask him to point Stryder out.

I could hear a patting noise and the nervous, glad laughter coming from Ovid's mouth. I just stood there, my feet shuffling. Shouldn't we be running?

But Stryder... he was right there. In front of us. Except, he wasn't laughing with Ovid.

"What's wrong?" Ovid said, asking the same question I was just thinking.

"Her," Stryder said. I gulped. His voice was silver and monotone. It didn't fit. I couldn't imagine that it was Stryder.

Ovid chuckled. "Hey, didn't Mother tell you pointing is rude?"

Stryder grunted and Ovid was back next to me. He hissed as if something hurt. I grabbed Ovid's arm, eyes wide. Did Stryder…push him?

"W-what's wrong?" I said. I tried to find Stryder, but I couldn't. I clicked my tongue to the roof of my mouth, remembering what Walter said. I should practice. I wanted to see him. "Why is the village on fire, Stryder?"

Click. Click.

Why couldn't I see anything?

"Ovid," Stryder said. I could feel Ovid's body relax, relieved that Stryder was talking to him. I sighed and smiled; Stryder sounded a bit more like himself.

"Stryder, we should leave," I said, my voice rushed. It felt like the fire was creeping up on us. Slowly. Slowly. Surely. "Where's Sophia? Mother?"

"Where are they?" Ovid said.

"Around," Stryder said, shrugging off the questions. "Hey, Ovid, do you want to do something for me?"

"Anything," Ovid said, almost sounding eager to please. "We're family."

"Kill her."

One heart beat. Two. Three.


I wasn't sure if it was Ovid or if I said it. My face felt slacked and I couldn't move.

"You heard what I said." Stryder's voice was low, almost to a growl. All my senses were attuned to him alone – his footsteps loud even through the slush of the snow underneath. My breathing shallowed.

I couldn't breath. I couldn't breath. My heart.

"I don't understand," Ovid said. He yanked my hand away from his arm. It wasn't that hard to do; I had no strength. Ovid probably didn't understood, but I did. Stryder must have put it together. He knew. He must know. I was the witch's pet. And now, Stryder wanted me dead. "This is Alida. The girl you wanted to save. Why do you want to kill her now? That doesn't make sense. What's going on?" His voice got louder. "What's wrong with you!"

My shoulders ached; it wanted to stop moving, to rest, but it couldn't. It shivered, never stopping. My whole body was cold. How long did he know? How did Stryder found out?

Then the thought occurred to me: did Tan Stryder start the fire, just to smoke me out?

"You know, I was always wondering something," Stryder's voice was distant, relaxed. As if he was talking about the weather. "Why was it that ever since we found Alida, I haven't seen my girlfriend in a while? When before, I would go visit her every day but then…just once in a while."

"Because," I started but my voice cracked. I shook my head and looked down. No…I don't know why. Why did he? Why did he ignore her and came to me?

No one seemed to realize I said anything, Ovid's voice overlapping my thoughts, "No one forced you to take care of Alida. It was your own choice. Because you're kind."

Stryder laughter was chilled. "I thought so too. But it didn't make sense. Especially when I started to notice things. Strange things. I thought it was because I was too coped up, that I was going slightly insane, but that couldn't be it. But what else could it be? When my eyes, greenish-blue, start turning into a tunnel of black?"

"Are you…" Ovid voice was loud, alarmed. He sounded like he wanted to rush at Stryder and shake him, but he stood his ground. He was shaking. "Are you bewitched?"

"So you came to that conclusion too," Stryder said. He was relieved. I could tell by the way he breathed it out like a sigh. "I can't stop it. Bewitched. Magic forced on me."


The name popped in my head.

Was it her? Did she do this to Stryder?

"So kill her," Stryder said. I could feel his glare on me. I shrunk back, behind Ovid. Reaching out, I pinched Ovid's shirt between my fingers, trying to calm the quick shakes.

"You think Alida is the reason you're under a spell," Ovid said, stressing each word as if not wanting to get the meaning across wrong. There was warmth of an arm to the side of me, pushing me further behind Ovid, protecting me from the potential on slaughter. "You think she will cause harm to us."

"Don't you see?" I couldn't recognize it. Stryder's voice was so high pitch like a nail against a blackboard. I wanted to cover my ears but I didn't dare take my hands away from Ovid's back. "She's the girl who was hidden in that witch's tower. She has to be. She's the witch's pet. She'll kill all of us when we're not looking, tricking us to think fondly of her, before the kill!"

"So you want to kill her?" Ovid yelled. I shook my head, reaching up from behind, wanting to touch his face. Don't yell. Don't yell at your family.

"Better kill her than have her kill the rest of us," Stryder said. I could feel his presence coming closer. Ovid took a step back, taking me with him.

"Snap out of it," Ovid said. "This isn't like you. Alida wouldn't hurt anyone."

"It's a trick!" Stryder said, desperate. He really wanted Ovid to understand; one could hear it in his voice. So anxious. "She is the witch's pet. She has no feelings."

"So you think she's a really good actress," Ovid laughed. "Stryder, this is insane. If she wanted to kill us, she would have done it when I was gone, away, with one less person to go against her."

Stryder was quiet. I held my breath, waiting for his reaction. Did what Ovid said make sense to him? Would he stop harming us? Ovid was right; I would never hurt any one of the villagers! Not even one strand of their hair. Couldn't Stryder see that after so many months of staying with him and his family, under the same roof?

Or was everything boiled down to the type of past I had?

"Let's go," Ovid said, almost pleading. "Grab Sophia and Mother. We'll meet in the next village over. The village is too burned down; we have to leave now. We have to get them and leave."

"Stryder…" I creaked. I stepped away from behind Ovid. "You're the kindest person I know. Come with us."

I wasn't sure why I did it. Perhaps it was because of the silence, and it hurt hearing the nothingness between the words. I wouldn't to know; to know more that the words and the meaning behind them. I wanted to see the hidden thoughts only visible on a face.

I licked the roof of my mouth until my tongue rolled. My eyes twitched and I could feel my throat go raw.


The image came in a rush.

Everything was white, the complete opposite of the clear darkness I was always veiled with. White, white. Falling from the night sky in sharp tiny daggers. I could have stared at it all day, trying to make out the exact designs of the snowflakes, things I'd never seen in such a long time. It surrounded a tall man who stood in front of me, not far away but not close enough to make out the tiny details. All I could note was his blond hair in disarray, smoked with ash. His startled eyes, staring back, his lips turned down in a quivering frown. I just stared at him, not blinking.

He was holding a knife pointed out at me, gleaming against his black shirt.

His mouth opened, as if the image was slightly ahead of the audio.

The figure faltered and turned black, but the lingering memory of the scene remained and finally, the image and audio was in sync.

"So you're on her side," Stryder said. "The witch."

The lump I felt in my chest fell. I thought it would free fall, never hitting something, confused by the words Stryder said to me, but it did. Worst. It felt bad. It made me want to puke.

The thing I just saw was Tan Stryder. The man with the angelic blond hair and small face that didn't look used to an angry expression, he was Tan Stryder.

I wish I hadn't seen that.

Hearing the words targeted at me was cutting enough. But now to put a face to it…

Ovid screamed. His body fell on me, his arms pulling me to his chest. I couldn't breathed, my mouth and nose muffled against his shoulder. My fingers skittered against his back.

"N-Nemo? Nemo!" I screamed. Something wet, slick, ran down his back. My fingers inched up, trying to find what the source was. Something was sticking out from his shoulder. My eyes widen and I tried to push him off me. To try and take the knife out.

Stryder's presence took a hesitant step back and fell to the ground. He sounded confused, "Ovid?"

I yanked the knife out and threw it to the side. Ovid grunted. I sighed, glad he was still conscious. I reached down, my fingers fumbling with the hem of my skirt.

I needed to tear it off. Use it as a wrap for Ovid.

A hand touched my face and I stopped moving. The rough fingers slid down, closing my eyes. My breathing slowed.

"Don't worry. Light wound," Ovid whispered. He pushed himself off me and stood up, yanking my arm for me to do so also. I stumbled forward. He smoothed out my hair, his hand lingering on my cheek before pushing me behind him again.

I could smell his blood.

"Stryder!" Ovid said. Nothing. "Stryder!"

Ovid stepped forward. I tried to pull him back – I didn't want him to get hurt again – but he was soon back at my side, his arms weighing down my shoulders. His head rested near my ear, his breathing loud and deep.

"He's gone," Ovid said. I gasped and wrapped my arms around him. "Stryder ran off. Probably back to the village. I don't know."

"I-it's okay," I said. I shook my head. "H-he's safe. He just didn't want to hurt you."

"I think he's pissed because I shielded you."

"Then why did you?" I whispered. It didn't make sense. Why would Ovid jump in front of the blade for me? Or did he not notice what Stryder was doing, what he had in his hand? Compared to the Stryder Family, I was just a little bird among the mix to Ovid.

"Because…" he groaned and pulled away from me. I reached to hold him up; it must have been hard for him to keep standing when he was losing blood, but he didn't take my offer. "It's stupid, but you remind me of someone."

I wanted to ask him more, but he didn't seem incline to continue. Who did I remind him of? I was itching with curiosity. But…another time, I thought. I needed to think of the now.

"What about Stryder?" I whispered. Ovid was on the ground, his hard breathing uneven.

"They'll go to the next village. I'm sure they will be there. We'll meet them there."

I nodded but a part of me knew that wasn't true. We won't ever see them again. Not after Stryder tried to murder me. Not after he injured Ovid, who was like a brother to him. Tan…he wouldn't have the courage to come near us again.

And, if what Stryder said was true, it was because someone placed a curse on him. Bewitching him to do all this.

"Why did you say Neci's name?" I said.

There was a moment of pause before Ovid said in a low voice, "You said it first."

I looked down at him, my body relaxing now that I was far away from the village. The village that was on fire. Where my family, my family I made after so many years of isolation, was perhaps burning alive. Stryder burning with guilt. It got cold. "I did?"

A looming presence was over me. "You don't remember?"

"Remember what?"

It felt as if he was glaring down at me. Was he blaming me?

He sighed and I couldn't feel his presence so close to me anymore. "Never mind. It was probably nothing. Just hearing things, maybe."

I was confused. Things were happening too fast. I couldn't keep up. "Is the village really on fire? Or were we just in a bad location?"

"It's really on fire. Once we go to the next village, it'll be confirmed."

I nodded. So we're traveling. Just like that. I looked down and licked my lip. The blood dried as the realization kicked in: I lost my home and there was nothing I could do to stop that.