Rosie watched the gears that made up the flower in her hand spin and pause, the soft glow from the Spelling Rose the only thing that held back the all encompassing darkness.
“I.’.M. .S.O. .S.O.R.R.Y.” Betty’s message clicked out letter by letter from the flower. “I. .D.I.D.N.’.T. .M.E.A.N. .T.O. .R.U.I.N. .E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.”
From the shadows that surrounded her, Rosie heard the sound of chewing. Heavy chewing, like wet and massive creatures were making a meal out of a few tons of earth and sticks. Running away seemed like the best idea imaginable, except for the part where she couldn’t run at all, and she had no idea where to go even if she could.
“Can you describe where you are?” Betty asked via the Spelling Rose, the flower gaining speed and clarity as it attuned to the two girls.
“I don’t know,” Rosie said. “I can’t see anything.”
“What about smells?” Betty asked. “And texture? What does the ground feel like?”
Betty breathed in as she ran her hands along the earth she was sitting on.
“It smells…weird,” Rosie said. “Like fresh topsoil and a flower bed but with a kind of metallic tang too. The ground sort of feels like that too. The earth is soft, but not muddy.”
A long moment passed with no response following that. Rosie watched the flower and tried to shut out the noises around her.
It was her own fault that she was going to get eaten. She knew that just as strongly as she knew that she couldn’t let anything bad happen to Betty. The goblin girl had been the perfect partner for each of the delicate stages of discovery that Rosie had gone through in learning to exercise the magic she could work. Betty deserved better than to be blown to the far corners of the Earth because she’d been willing to trust Rosie with a working that was much harder than anything the enchanter should have been attempting.
Rosie knew the Spelling Roses were a difficult device given her level of control and skill, but with Betty helping her, it had seemed like she could accomplish almost anything. Where Rosie struggled to make abstract intuitions connect, Betty was able to come up with concrete examples that made them startling clear.
The help Betty gave her went much deeper than that though.
For all her outward strength, there were days when Rosie felt anything but strong. She tried to keep her dark times private, mostly because she hated the idea of Penny or her other friends feeling bad for her. She knew Penny would move heaven and earth to make her feel better, but she didn’t want their relationship to become one where Penny had to rescue her from the misery that was always lurking somewhere in the background. They’d been equals since they were old enough to fight over a sippy cup at daycare, and that Rosie’s accident hadn’t changed their dynamic was one of the things that helped her get through her worst days.
With Betty, Rosie had developed a different relationship though. Where Penny would go to great lengths to cheer Rosie up, Betty was willing to let Rosie be as unhappy and grouchy as she wanted to be. That was unexpectedly comforting.
With Betty, Rosie never felt like she had to be happy. Betty was content to spend time with her even when Rosie wasn’t in the mood for conversation. They could work for hours together, silently, just tinkering on the implementation of some new idea that Rosie was trying to grasp or investigating a theory that Betty dreamed up.
Those silent hours, inevitably turned to hours of chatter though, conversations arising from nowhere and wandering through long tracts of topics, often carrying Rosie’s mind away from the things that were getting her down and leaving her in a buoyant mood.
Rosie relied on those visits, and her time together with Betty, as her world reshaped itself yet again with the discovery of the magic that carried inside herself. Part of the reason why was that Betty had answers for a lot of new questions that confronted Rosie. Things like “if other worlds are real, then can I stumble into one that’s lethal to me?” (The answer being ‘Yes, but it’s extraordinarily difficult due to a number of natural factors and intentionally placed barriers’).
If she was being honest with herself, Rosie had to admit that she valued Betty for more than just the answers the goblin girl possessed. That was what led to the Spelling Rose. Rosie felt comfortable and happy with Betty and working on a challenging project seemed like the perfect excuse to spend as much time as they could together.
Rosie shook her head, thinking of how nervous Betty had been. She’d been so concerned that her goblin heritage would sabotage things but if anything it had probably saved them.
Dropping a Spelling Rose should have resulted in a slightly dented magical flower, at worst. An explosion that blasted them to another world, and Rosie was pretty sure she wasn’t on her usual Earth anymore, could only have happened if the enchantment on the Spelling Rose had been badly miscast.
The continuing silence from the magical flower worried Rosie and she was just about to speak into again when it began twisting out a message once more.
“Sorry, just a few technical difficulties here,” Betty said via the Spelling Rose.
“What’s wrong?” Rosie asked.
“Nothing much,” Betty said. “Slight case of being chased by a monster horde.”
“What?” Rosie asked. “What’s chasing you?”
“Spiders,” Betty said. “But they’re smaller than a bus, so it’s ok.”
“No it’s not!” Rosie said.
“I’ll be ok,” Betty said. “And don’t worry, I’m going to come and get you!”
Rosie wrinkled her nose as the ornery streak she inherited from her grandmother surged to the foreground. She’d gotten herself into this mess, she was not going to let it be someone else’s problem to get her out of it.
Without saying a word, she turned the Spelling Rose over in her hand and started to work on it. She didn’t have many magical tools to draw on, but if the one she was carrying liked to explode, then she’d find a way to put that to good use.