Chapter 12

The Fogs of Agnoia

Astrid stepped back from the obelisk with raised hands. Ceres Mendoza, slight perhaps to the point of malnutrition, no doubt thanks to her diet of leaves and berries, did not look like someone who could do much damage with a knife, but the Donara had their ways, both subtle and secret. Provoking them was never a good idea.

Not that Elizabeth cared. She replied to the witch’s threat with a low growl. Astrid placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. At least, if a fight broke out, they had Vesperia.

“What’s the matter?” asked Ceres, “You scared? Typical Sophist.”

Astrid could feel the frustration rumbling through Elizabeth’s body. If she didn’t say anything soon, it would explode. Thankfully for her, Astrid was a Guirlande. She drew herself up to her full height — a good head above Ceres — and channelled the authority of her family’s ancient name. “You are trespassing in a restricted area,” she said. “I would advise you leave at once.”

Ceres lifted her chin, but it was obvious that the Donara never taught its daughters even the most basic noble etiquette. “This ‘restricted area’ is a place of spiritual importance,” she said, trying to force a dignified accent. “Not that you Sophists would know about that sort of thing.”

Before Astrid could reply, Elizabeth stepped forward. Astrid prayed she had her emotions under control.

“This place,” she began through clenched teeth, “is cursed, and you hylics would spread that curse across the whole town if you could. But we won’t let you. We won’t let anyone else die because of your evil!”

Evil?” Ceres struggled to keep a straight face. “Is that something mummy and daddy beat into you?”

“MY MOTHER IS DEAD!” The words swamped the Scar, filled its every crevice with Elizabeth’s rage. Astrid readied herself as Ceres clasped her knife.

“How terrible,” she replied, the hard line of her lips twisting to a scowl. “So’s mine. Ever hear what your people did to her?”

Terrible?” Elizabeth tried to lash out, but her friends caught her the instant she moved. “I watched my mother burn because of what your people did to her! I hope they took yours and—and defiled her before they—”

It happened too fast for Astrid. One moment the girls were arguing, the next Vesperia was between them, catching Ceres’s wrist as she lashed out with her knife. The blade clattered to the ground as Vesperia’s fist swung for the witch’s face — but the Donara had another, hidden knife in her free hand…

Princess verses Princess.