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I wake up to the sound of my bag being picked through and the painful creak of rusty metal. First I see the metal bars of my cage, them a small glass bottle sails towards me. I flinch when it hits the ground but doesn’t break. Turning to the source of the noise, I see a shuddering, hunched body of dancing colors. All the color the darkness ate or the snow covered glimmered on the creature’s skin.

The moment I move, it’s eyes are on mine, dingy yellow and squinted at me in suspicion. “Where is it?”

“What?”

“What lead you here.” I think it’s a she. The wobbly voice sounds a bit like a girl. “I know Marsalla gave you something from the prince. Where is it?”

I feel the candy pulse under my coat. “I was just walking with my friends and we fell into your house.” I look around for Frog and Rabbit but only find Rabbit in a smaller cage hanging next to me. Everything in the room around me is flat, painted a furry gray except for puffs of white from my breathing and Rabbit’s. She looks at me before looking back to the skinny, bone woman.

“Liar.” She growls, and turns back to the mess she’s making.

I look down and there’s only a couple of inches between me and the floor but I don’t dare reach for the little glass bottle. Everytime I breathe, the metal cage creaks. I don’t know what the bone woman will do to me if I move more.

I feel a poke in my side and see Frog’s glittering eyes in my pocket. He gives me the froggy version of a thumbs up and I smile.

Bone Woman finds nothing useful to her in my bag and she skitters away in a huff, ragged clothes dragging on the ground. I think of Auntie telling me not to be seen looking raggedy. For a moment I miss her.

“Maybe hunger will loosen your tongue.” Bone woman rasps and a door slams somewhere in the gray mess around us.

I hold my breath. By the time my body forces me to gasp, Bone Woman hasn’t come back. Frog crawls out of my pocket and hops up to my knee, shivering in the cold room. “Don’t worry, Boot. I saw where she hid the key, I can get to it and we can get out of here.”

“Be careful!” I call after him as Frog jumps to the floor. I worry about him since he can’t warm himself but I am relieved when Frog is bouncing back to me with a tiny gold key. I pick him up to take it and put a grateful and proud little Frog back in my warm pocket.

I don’t hesitate once my door is open, running right to Rabbit to let her out. The candy jewel pulses happily as the three of us repack the bag and leave the cages behind.

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