Home > Crystal Mask (Fairy Tales with a Bite #3)

Crystal Mask (Fairy Tales with a Bite #3)
Author: Anna Santos

Chapter ONE

 

 

Cindy woke up with a start, and beads of sweat rolled down her forehead. Her skin was damp, and she threw back the blankets to get up. The soft light of the moonlight entered her window as she inhaled sharply to chase away the last shreds of her memories. Dreaming about the time she was abandoned to her luck in the Black Forest was still terrifying. Her stepmother was a vicious creature who feasted on other people’s pain and fear.

Those days of servitude and dismay were gone. Her closest family was also gone. She never met her mother. Her father said she died shortly after giving birth to her. Then he remarried, and Cindy’s life became a nightmare. Sometimes, she wondered if he had ever loved her mother.

Once that woman and her daughters entered their house, her father changed. He became oblivious to Cindy’s presence and showered his new wife with presents and attention. He ignored all of Cindy’s complaints about them stealing her mom’s belongings and burning her clothes in a fire. They occupied Cindy’s bedroom and moved her to sleep in the attic. It wasn’t long until they made her a maid.

Her father stayed away longer on business while the stepmother spent their money on expensive clothes and fancy parties to win over the noble families of their kingdom. People, who once treated her well, now didn’t even look at her twice. They also laughed when her stepmother pointed at her with an evil smirk.

Cindy didn’t know what evil jocose allusions she would say, but the other nobles seemed to forget Cindy was the rightful lady of that house.

Then it came to the point that she stopped caring and simply longed to run away from them. She begged her father to travel with him and learn the business, but his trade wasn’t something a woman could do.

Soon after Cindy turned eighteen, news arrived of her father’s demise. Despite the pain, she thought her nightmare would be over as soon as the will was read. She could finally be free and remove the outsiders of her property, but Fate wouldn’t be so kind.

The family had to go to the mainland to recover her father’s body before the will was read. Her father had died at the Treasure Citadel, and they had to go and identify his remains and bring them for a proper burial.

Cindy had never left the Sheltered Bones Kingdom. She had traveled around the island when she was younger, but the Fayland Continent was only known through images on the books she read. The young lady had no idea that the trip her stepmother promptly arranged was the last move to get rid of Cindy and take over all her fortune.

Left behind at the Black Forest to be eaten by the beasts, Cindy felt like an idiot. She felt powerless and enraged by the fact that evil people always get away with it.

Her stepsisters never loved her; her stepmother only cared about money and status. Cindy’s life was going to end before it started. If she managed to survive the beasts, she would probably starve to death.

She endured two days before falling asleep, exhausted, and crying for her mother. If she were alive, Cindy’s life would have been better. Her father wouldn’t have remarried and wouldn’t die so young from overworking.

Alone and scared, she wished she had never been born.

 

 

Chapter TWO

 

 

Three years ago

 

Streams of sunlight kissed her closed eyes as she moved her tired body and felt the hunger gnawing at her stomach. She didn’t want to wake up. It felt warmer inside her dream. Wandering around the forest while starving was her only destination. She wondered where the beasts that were supposed to eat her were hidden. So far, she didn’t encounter one, but the howling at night was terrifying.

During the day, she had tried to follow the road to get back to the Citadel, but she soon understood it was more dangerous than the forest due to all the thieves and ruthless killers.

“Are you that tired that you don’t want to eat?”

The sound of an older woman’s voice reached her ears, and she opened her eyes to look for its owner.

A faint scent of boiled water with roots reached her nostrils. Sitting up, Cindy faced the woman with gray hair, peeking out of the brown hood, which covered her frail body. Despite the wrinkles, her eye color was of a deep and vibrant blue, and her smile was kind. In front of her, the woman stirred a small pot over the fire.

Cindy hugged her belly and swallowed dry.

“Come closer, little one. It’s almost done,” the older woman instructed.

“W-who are you?”

“Just a traveler.”

“We’re far from the road.”

“The road isn’t safe.” Squinting, she asked, “Are you more curious than hungry?” Without waiting for Cindy’s reply, she grabbed a bowl and into it poured a generous ladle of soup. “It isn’t much, but it will fill your belly and restore your strength.”

Cindy moved closer to the woman and received the bowl with eager eyes.

The woman continued to babble. “I’m too old to hunt, but if you know where to look, you can find edible roots, mushrooms, and herbs to make a soup.” Offering Cindy a smaller wooden spoon, she smiled. “Eat, but be careful because it’s hot.”

Cindy nodded.

The woman poured the soup into another bowl, and for a moment, they ate in silence.

Cindy ate two bowls and was going to repeat, but a dark thought crossed her mind.

“What’s wrong, little one?” the woman asked, as if she had noticed her reluctance.

“I’m just delaying my death for a few more days. I’m lost, and I don’t know anyone here. I was abandoned with only the clothes on my body. I don’t know how to set up a trap to hunt, and I know nothing about herbs and how to find edible roots.”

Sipping her soup, the woman presented her with a faint smile before questioning, “Do you want to learn?”

Cindy swallowed hard and looked around. The forest had a few clearings and grass that were suited to rest more comfortably while looking at the stars in the sky. She had found that place when trying to run from the howling sounds. Exhaustion took the best of her, and she gave up. She had no idea if she was going to wake up, but she was tired, hungry, and feeling miserable. Now, the sun was shining, the birds chirping, and this woman showed up and fed her.

Where did the woman come from? How could she trust her? The forest was known for its magical creatures and ruthless beasts. Was she even human?

“Are you suspicious of me? Even so, you’ve eaten my food,” the woman reminded her.

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