I flutter my eyes open to a blinding, brilliant light. I squint, trying to make out my surroundings. Vague outlines of leaves and branches peek out from underneath the sun's irrepressible rays. My head hurts and my limbs feel like lead. When did I get into such a state? Oh, right, the dragon.
Cool, soft fingers brush my forehead, and I barely manage to hear a voice say, "Rose, are you alright?"
The shapes around me slowly start to gain focus, and Magnus's worried face comes into view. "Where am I?" I croak, my voice barely a whisper.
"You are on a bench in the Royal Gardens. I found you lying here a couple minutes ago." He looks at me, eyebrows creased and eyes glued to mine, like nothing else ever existed, like they're all he can see.
I try to get up despite my muscles' protests and a searing pain in my stomach grips me. Magnus puts his arm around me to steady me. "Seriously, Rose, are you hurt?" He grabs my arm to see if it's injured, and I quickly pull it away from him.
"I'm fine," I lie, not wanting to burden him with my pain. My older brother, the heir to the throne, has much more pressing matters to be dealing with right now than with me burning out here in the heat during my afternoon nap.
He feels my forehead again, skeptical. "Are you sure you aren't suffering from a fever?"
"Of course not," I say, leaping up from the bench. "See, I'm just fine. Seriously, Magnus, stop nagging me about it. You do this everyday." As the world starts to tip over and my legs begin to wobble, I land in Magnus's arms. He gives me that worried look of his. "Really, I'm fine. Don't worry so much about me. You've got better priorities right now."
He stares at me, pleading, "But you are my sister. You are more important than my duties. If I left you when you were in dire need of my help, I would regret it for the rest of my life."
I step out of his arms and stare deep into his eyes. "Magnus." I pause, collecting my thoughts to say this in the best way possible. "You know how it is."
I give him my famous regal stare. Everyone knows that if I truly wanted to, I could take my brother's role as king instead. I've studied harder than him, fought better than him, and given better strategical advice than him. I've done everything I can to prove my non-magical self. I never wanted him to be jealous of me, I just had this uncanny desire to win at everything. Nowadays I just keep up my powerful reputation to protect him from my secret. If he knew, there'd be no ends to his jealousy. That's what Grandma tells me anyway.
"If I need help, I will let you know. Otherwise, please leave me alone," I say diplomatically.
He hesitates, but his sense of responsibility catches up to him. "As you wish. But promise me that you will immediately go to Doctor Nelsa if you are feeling even the slightest bit ill."
"Yes, so go fulfill your princely duties."
He hesitates, then walks away as usual.
I certainly don't blame my brother for thinking I'm hiding something and for worrying so much about me. It's just so annoying. If he wouldn't pry so much into my business, I would actually be able to get it done easier.
You see, there have been several sorcerers and sorceresses along my family tree. Still, we can't choose who gets the gene, and so far it seems to be like we've got about a 50% chance of inheriting it. Lucky me, but not really. I mean, it's great and all getting to make flowers bloom boldly in desert sand and being able to travel across the world in an instant. But the stress level? It's a bit much. Not only have I had to hide it from the rest of my family to protect them, but I also have to face demons, dragons, and other witches and come out of every battle alive, mostly uninjured, and not too frazzled.
I know what you're thinking: why would she lie to her family about being a witch? Is she being blackmailed? Well, I'm sure you'll be glad to hear it's nothing of the sort. It's rather a way to maintain every young heir's ego. However, only my grandmother and I know about it. You see, Grandmother also has the magic in her veins, and she's served as my role model this whole time. She never told anyone about the secret, just like her grandmother before her. Though the rest of our family thinks there's an equal chance to get it, it never was that way. It skips a generation and is only present in us females. And only one female gets the gene every two generations. It's like some sort of twisted, repeated destiny that my family passes on with it.
My parents named Magnus that in hopes that he would possess the magic gene. Not even they know of the gene's true nature. A long time ago Grandmother told me our family all knew the truth about our the royal magic pattern. But, as Grandma's story goes, the brother of one of the sorceresses got so jealous that he attempted to kill his own sister. After that, the sister put a forgetting spell on everyone and fed them with the equal-opportunity-for-magic-in-our-family lies. To keep our own covers, my Grandma and I always either morph our faces, wear hoods, or transfigure into a different animal before we go out to fight monsters so that no one else will find out our identity. On the way back, we change back into our normal forms and clothes.
I rub my temples. That certainly was a difficult fight. Facing full-size adult fire-breathing dragons can be quite taxing, you know. I'm lucky none of my clothing got singed from the flames because this dress fabric is hard to replicate. Not that I could get away without a few scratches, though. He got me on my left ankle and the inside of my right forearm. That's why when I lied down for my daily 10 minute nap on the bench, I made sure to keep the scratches out of view. The dragon also rammed into my stomach and left one nasty bruise.
After fights, I don't have enough energy to try to repair my wounds just yet, so I always take a quick nap instead, sort of sticking to my alibi of an afternoon nap, and just hope Magnus doesn't get extra suspicious that day.
So far I've been safe, but who knows how much longer I'll be able to keep it from him? I'm not like Grandmother. I'm sloppy and feel like one of these days I'm going to trip up and the whole world will come down on me for lying and being the special magical one they never could be.
I walk back to the palace, humming some lively classical music as I go. When I was younger, I had violin lessons, and my tutor would always give me complicated but inspirational pieces to listen to so that I would never lose sight of what I was aiming for. A few years ago, though, my violin teacher mysteriously went missing, and I couldn't imagine having to practice with anyone else. I was too swept up in grief to even try playing with and learning from a new teacher. These days I wonder what it would've been like if I had continued to play the instrument. Not that I'd have time what with my magic escapades anyway.
A blast of fire scorches the ground right in front of my feet, and I stumble backward, the classical song I was humming cut off. What? Another fire dragon? Here, on castle grounds, even with Grandmother's protective barrier? Wait, did this dragon just somehow get through it? Or is...is...is..Grandma dead?? My stomach contorts in horror, and I lose all capability to move.
The fiery beast lands before me, its fangs forming a demonic smile. It approaches me slowly, like it's hunting me. Like I'm the prey.
Before I know it, my reflexes kick in. Once its mouth opens to let another hot blast out, I've already chanted a personal barrier spell and started running towards the monster to freeze it. That's what I did with the other fire-breathing dragon I faced today, and I'm just hoping that this one is no different. Hopefully this will get done quickly and I'll be able to get back to the castle without anyone knowing my absence.
Avoiding what fireballs I can to prevent my personal barrier from sustaining too much damage, I stretch my hand out to freeze the beast. Unfortunately for me, it seems he's gotten quite tired of firing at me pointlessly, so he leaps into the air a second before I would have turned him into a popsicle stick.
I fall on my face, having lost my balance. I hear wings flapping behind me. A roar sounds, my signal that the dragon's probably going to fire at me soon. Just a guess, but usually roars signify anger and are followed up by an angry action such as trying to hurt your enemy for example. I roll over onto my back in the nick of time as a blast of fire whizzes past my ear. My ear stings with one of the acutest pains I've ever felt.
Before I know it, I've gotten distracted, and there's another fireball coming right at me. My personal barrier's already sustained a good bit of damage from me falling on my face and from the fireball that sideswiped my ear. In my last millisecond of hope, I wish to freeze everything, imagining covering everything in a blanket of white - frost covering vines and roses, icicles hanging from the fountain, and a wave of cold snow rippling out around me like a blizzard, carrying frosted petals in a swirling splendor of power.
I peek one eye open, then two. All I see is white - covering everything, hanging like a fog cloud over my eyes, like a thick, opaque veil of endless, listless white. Slowly, shapes start to form - rose petals covered in white, powdery frost. There's the dragon, dead, lying next to me, its maroon scales layered in snow so much now that it blends right in with the landscape. I sit up to find an exaggerated Winter Wonderland before my eyes - icicles the length of an arm, snow the height of a 1-story house, dark clouds in the sky, etc. And, in the distance, lies my family's royal castle, in the shape of a snow mound that lies just past the garden gate.
Horror strikes through me. What on Earth have I done? I look down at my hands. What on Earth did these magic hands of mine do? I look back at my frozen home. There's not a sign of anyone living, and if they are, they're probably frozen in the ice or wanting a serious explanation for all the trouble I just caused. Oh no! Not only will I have ruined my relationship with Magnus, but I also ruined his entire future castle. There's no way I'm going to be able to win back his trust.
I stand up and carve a path through the snow, too exhausted to do anything besides that simple magical task. I would love to never use magic again at this point, but I can't very well get through walls of snow 3 times my height too easily without magic, now can I?
I pass through the garden gate. I haven't seen anyone encapsulated in ice so far. Maybe I was just lucky and no one got hurt? I really hope that's the case.
Honestly, I wish I could have handled that dragon better. I mean, it was only my second fire-breathing dragon, and I did awful, causing more damage than the dragon probably would have. My reputation in the magic world is seriously going to go downhill after this one. Not that that's anywhere near how bad I'll look to my family and the rest of the world. I can see the headlines now: PRINCESS FEELS TOO WARM ONE DAY AND DECIDES TO FREEZE HER ENTIRE CASTLE. This is seriously bad.
I walk through the palace halls. Luckily, it doesn't seem too bad in here besides the temperature. I don't see much ice or snow or anything. It was mostly just on the outside. Still, it's as abandoned as the scenery outside.
A cough sounds faintly ahead of me and on my right. I run to it, looking for any sign of society. I don't care even if it's an ice block covering everything but their head or something. I've got to face what happened. I have to face what I've done. I have to face the consequences of lying to everyone.
I race down the hall and turn the corner. I spot a huddle of castle staff and, thank goodness, all of my family, Grandmother and Magnus included. I burst out crying at all the pain I've caused, all the suffering they had to endure because I hid the truth, because I denied the inevitable. "I'm sorry," I sob, tears streaking down my face.
They look at me with anger, with fear, with frustration, with sadness, with disgust, feeling betrayed, with loneliness, but in one of them, a little girl with soft brown hair and warm brown eyes, all I see is hope.
I may be a magical rose that has gorgeous, lovely petals, but in truth those petals are walls of lies to defend the truth I harbor within. But once my petals have been frozen by my own foolishness, all that's left are those frosted petals, a heap of white lies frozen into my memory forever, and me, the unwanted, brown, leafy bud at the top with nothing but a small stem of hope to hold me upright.