When Roesia opened her eyes, she found a brilliant world around her. The morning sun greeted her from above. It shown through the branches of the surrounding trees, casting a green glow upon the ground. At her feet were leaves of every color. It was as though both spring and autumn somehow coexisted here in harmony. As Roesia sat up, she noticed a rose bush. She walked over to it, completely transfixed by its beauty. Never before had she seen such huge blooming roses. The buds were a magnificent creation, for they were neither red nor pink, but something in between. Most extraordinary of all, Roesia somehow felt a connection to them. She felt herself gravitate toward them as though they called to her. She felt her body slightly tilt toward the plant as if she was going to smell it.
“I would not get too close if I were you.”
Startled, Roesia swiveled around. There before her was a man. He was tall and had long, dark gray hair. He had a beard that went down to his waist. She had never seen the man before, but he seemed strangely familiar, as though she knew him. He appeared to be as normal as any human, except he had an air about him that set him apart from the average person. She couldn’t exactly put her finger on what it was, but she could tell it was there.
The man walked closer, but stopped because he could to tell it made Roesia uncomfortable.
“Roses have thorns, you see. I wouldn’t want you to mark up your pretty face.” He smiled at her warmly. His voice was unlike anything she had ever heard before. It was as soft as butter, and warm like a fire on a winter’s morning. Yet, underneath the pleasant exterior, he had little patience and was calculating every move Roesia made. As much as she wanted to, her mother always taught her not to trust people. This most certainly include strange men who wander through the woods.
Roesia again felt the same courage that had coursed through her last night. She stood up straight and asked, “Who are you?”
The man didn’t look phased. “I could ask you the same question,” he shot back.
Roesia realized she was being rude. A stranger or not, he was still a man. That meant he had rank over her and thereby deserved her respect. She opened her mouth to say her name, but quickly shut it. She didn’t think it would be wise to give this man her real name. She had only just met him. Besides, her mother had disinherited her as her daughter. She was now free to be whoever she wanted to be.
“Elizabeth,” answered Roesia. Surely, the woodcutter’s daughter wouldn’t mind if she borrowed her name. It would only be for a little while. “And what would your name be?”
The man chuckled slightly. He voice was rough, “The name’s Alcazar,” He shrugged his shoulders. “So then, Elizabeth, what is it I can do for you?”
Roesia was caught off guard. “What do you mean? I don’t need anything from you,” she spoke slowly because she wasn’t sure what kind of response he was looking for.
“Of course you do. Everyone needs something. And when someone needs something, they find Old Alcazar,” he said.
Roesia just stood still and kept eye contact with him. This seemed to make him nervous.
“I’m kinda rusty, but I think I can help you out. Just say the word and I’ll do it.” Alcazar laughed. Normally people caught on by now, but then again, what did he know; people seldom entered his forest. The last time was so long ago.
“And what exactly do you do?” Roesia was suspicious. Nowadays, people don’t just go around doing good deeds. There had to be a catch. Everyone was always out for themselves.
“Well, I could turn you into a brunette,” he rambled on, “Did you know I had brown hair? Then all these grays came in. Speaking of which, I could postpone your aging process. You see I can’t stop it altogether, but I could keep you young longer. I could change your body, if you wanted. If you could be anyone else in the world for a day, who would it be? Hmmm?”
Roesia stared at him blankly. If she was leery before, now she was extremely apprehensive. Alcazar sighed. He would have to explain everything to this girl. She just wasn’t getting it.
“I’m a wizard, you see. I can do magic and all that,” he gestured with his hand to emphasize the ‘all that’.
Roesia blurted out, “But, I thought wizards were selfish. Why are you hiding here granting people’s wishes?”
Alcazar was annoyed. This girl had no right sticking her nose in his business. He continued haughtily, “That was not a very nice thing to say, Elizabeth. I could turn you into a frog for that.” He flicked his wrist. He was reassured when he saw her flinch away. He grinned quickly before he returned to the topic at hand.
“And for your information, I do not ‘grant wishes’. I solve problems. After all, I am a wizard, not a genie.”
Roesia had never heard of a genie, but decided to ask a more pressing question, “Then why are you hiding here if you’re so intent on helping people?”
“If you must know, the only way the Fairy Queen would let me live in this enchanted forest was if I solved one problem for each of the travelers who pass through here,” Alcazar snapped, “but, I can only help one time. After that, you and your family must never bother me again.”
“Or else what?” challenged Roesia.
“Or else you will be punished greatly,” warned the wizard.
“That must be why people say this place is haunted.” A thought occurred to Roesia. “And you do this for every person who comes through the forest?” she questioned.
“Yes, I do. Didn’t I just say that?” Alcazar really was getting irritated now. Couldn’t this girl pick her favor so he could be done with her?
Roesia knew now that she was right to have given a false name. Her father had once gone through these woods. When the wizard said there would be a punishment, he wasn’t kidding around. He father had never come out. She suddenly became aware of how much danger she truly was in.
“So, have you made up your mind yet? What is it you want?” the wizard demanded. He was quite impatient with her. The sooner he would be done with her, the better. He didn’t need to lose his temper, because then accidents could occur. Certainly, the Queen wouldn’t like that.
Roesia wondered to herself. What is it that she wanted? She wanted her father back, but she wouldn’t dare wish for that because it would expose her real identity. If only she hadn’t fought with her mother. It was her mother who had chased her into these woods. It was her fault she was in this mess.
“I know what I want,” Roesia declared, “I want my freedom. I’ve spent my entire life trapped in a tiny prison of a home. My own mother was my guard, never letting anything in, or allowing me out. I just wish she wouldn’t control me. I don’t want to be restrained anymore. I want to live my life the way I want to!”
“Well, well, well. You have mother issues I see. I do believe I can handle that,” Alcazar snickered darkly. Roesia could sense there was a double meaning to his words, but what was done was done. She couldn’t take back her words now.
Alcazar seemed lost in thought for a moment, but then peered back over at Roesia.
“You must leave now. Never return, or as I said before, you will be penalized,” repeated the old wizard, “Goodbye, Elizabeth.”
Roesia turned and left with Alcazar watching her go.