Cora lived in an abandoned basement of one of the oldest hotels in France. She was just over twelve years old and she lived with her mother. Together they were hardly surviving with only having a single piece of bread for their week’s rations. Just after Cora was born her father abandoned her mother, leaving nothing but a small cloth bag. The bag was now Cora’s only possession and she carried it everywhere she went. Today, as Cora came back from the bakery, she passed a small fortune telling hut.

Cora often wondered about her father and who he was and when she saw the hut, she felt as though the answers she longed for could be inside waiting for her. So, with the little money Cora had, she entered the hut. Inside, she found an old woman sitting on a stool playing a flute. The lady paused, turned around and smiled.

“Welcome, take a seat.” She he gestured to a stool beside her. Cora silently took a seat and took a small coin out of her pocket, but the lady stopped her and softly said, “keep it“ you need it more than I do.” Then she went on, “what is it you were after?” Cora shifted in her seat. “I would like to see my father.” Cora expected the woman to fetch her crystal ball, but instead, she told Cora to close her eyes while she played the flute.

After that, the world faded, and Cora fell into a deep slumber. Cora fell through the sky at an alarming pace. Massive, gleaming snow-capped mountains stood before her eyes. Bright blue sky spread above her and white, fluffy clouds floated in the distance. Cora spotted glistening crystals on the snowy mountains and thought of all the riches she could make some day. But before she could end that thought, she landed hard on the ground, bruising her backside, and regaining her senses. An icy wind chilled Cora to her bones.

She looked frantically around for somewhere warm but found herself walking in circles. Knowing nothing about her surroundings, Cora sat down on the powdery fresh snow and gazed up at the peaceful, snowy scene around her. Soon enough, she found her eyes closing and her body collapsing into the thick, wet snow. What seemed to be hours later, a hand softly tugged at Cora’s shoulder. She opened her eyes and turned her tangled body to face the man above her. The first thing she knew just by looking at him was that he was a hunter. A quiver was slung over his shoulder and he held a bow and arrow in his hands.

“You should not be out here all alone, it is very dangerous,” the man said seriously. Cora stood up and introduced herself. “I’m Cora.” The man nodded and walked off. Cora adjusted her cloth bag on her shoulder and followed him, bewildered by his actions. After a while, the man turned back and asked Cora to stay very close to him from now on. Cora noticed the fear in his voice and warily eyed her surroundings, checking for any possible danger. A dense forest stood before them, sending a shiver down her spine. As they wandered closer, Cora noticed a stone path leading inwards. Large trees stood before them, covered in vines and moss.

The forest floor sparkled with frost and a thick layer of mist prevented Cora from seeing what lay beyond. Cautiously, Cora followed the man as he stepped onto the path. They trudged through fog for minutes, the stones crunching beneath their feet. Suddenly, the man stopped. Reaching to grasp Cora’s arm, he whirled around and began to hurry back down the path. Confused, Cora looked behind her. Her eyes widened, and her mouth dropped. Just a few meters behind them was a single white tiger staring at them from within the bushes. Cora shrieked and the man strung his bow. Just as he aimed his arrow, the tiger lounged at them.

Unable to put up any kind of defense, they bolted. “Keep running!” the man yelled. Cora didn’t need to be told twice, she raced on, ignoring the scratches and bruises she was receiving. The more they ran, the bigger and thicker the trees got. Suddenly the man shouted, “MOVE!” But it was too late, the ground under Cora’s feet became soft and she sunk through the ground. A bright light surrounded Cora as she floated through the air – somehow, she had gone through the ground and entered some sort of maze. With a bump, Cora was lowered to the ground. Utterly confused and frightened, she glanced around her, seeing nothing but hedges and gloom. The hairs on her arms and legs rose, the eerie silence making her shiver.

Then a growl came from behind her and a bright shield of light blazed before her eyes. Cora gasped as she recognized the tiger from the jungle, who was currently being lowered to the ground in a ball of light. Cora realized this was how she had traveled from the forest to the hedge maze. When the tiger hit the ground, Cora quickly got up. She ran into the maze with the tiger at her heels. Cora twisted and turned through the maze.

When she came across dead ends, she had no choice but to make her way through the hedge wall, and soon enough, she was covered in nasty scratches. After she had been running for a while, Cora looked back and, to her relief, she had lost the tiger somewhere in the maze. She walked on, allowing the maze to guide her through its walls. When she could go no further, Cora realized she had reached the very center of the maze.

Noticing a small tunnel in the ground, Cora decided that it was best if she got away from this place, aware that the tiger was still roaming within the hedge walls. She crawled down the tunnel into darkness, smelling hints of smoke and ash. Shadows creeped on the walls but Cora held her chin high and kept crawling, not turning back. Soon Cora came to an underground chamber. Polished pine wood covered the walls, which were engraved with flowers and musical notes. Hovering in the air was a flute. Suddenly a massive urge to touch it flowed through Cora’s body. A growl came from behind her and she looked straight ahead.

Cora ran forward and touched the flute just as the tiger pounced. Cora woke to the sound of a flute. Her eyes flickered open as she took in her surroundings. She was back inside the Fortune Tellers Hut. The old woman was softly playing the flute. “What happened?” asked Cora, still completely stunned. “You, my dear, just met your father,” the lady replied, receiving a gasp from Cora.

“That was him, just before he tragically was killed by the tiger.” Cora was speechless – she was saddened but also confused. She still had so many questions left unanswered, and yet, she had found out who her father was and wasn’t that what she had always wanted? “Come back tomorrow,” the lady said, her eyes twinkling.