WhenAlina woke the next morning, she was surprised to find that she was well-rested. The dark stranger had not come for her in her dreams and she wondered if what she’d seen in the castle window had in fact been another fantasy. Something conjured up by her overactive imagination and weary mind.
She sat up slowly from her perch near the window and stretched her muscles as she glanced around the shack. The greyish blue light of dawn was just beginning to wash into the one-room residence and as usual the soft rays on her skin had prompted her into wakefulness. She spotted Corina still fast asleep on their cot, her gray hair tousled slightly, strands even escaping the long braid that rested over her chest. Alina was about to move from the window and wake her companion when she remembered the castle. A shiver vibrated down her spine as she slowly craned her head to peer at it once more.
The lights were all out! The flutter of hope that the previous night was nothing more than a terrible nightmare had barely taken flight within her when she spotted the large and ornate black carriage that waited at the steps that led to the castle’s huge doors. Four huge black stallions, their nostrils flared and puffing great clouds of steam, hoofed at the stone drive. They were eager to set out, anticipating the race down from the mountain. Somehow Alina knew that the carriage was no conveyance away
from the village.
When she turned from the sight in fear, disgusted with herself for being so easily frightened, she found Corina awake and staring at her. The old woman’s eyes were wide, the irises dilated as she surveyed Alina’s face.
“I’ve run out of time,” she said in a hushed rasp, her papery thin voice barely audible over the sounds of the morning coming to life. Birds chirping, animals scurrying out of their nightly burrows. The estate would soon be buzzing with life as everyone readied for a new day. A truly new day with an unknown outcome.
“Corina?” Alina questioned as she moved to sit on the cot next to her. She placed her hand on the woman’s forehead checking for fever. When she found none, she set her baffled gaze on Corina’s great brown eyes. “Are you well?”
Instead of answering, she sat up further and pushed herself to the end of the cot, throwing herself into a standing position. Alina winced at the popping sounds Corina’s joints made as she set about pacing their small home. “I thought I’d have more time to teach you.” Corina’s eyes were haunted. “To warn you.”
Alarm slammed into her. “Warn me?” Alina nearly squeaked. Her bright eyes, once aquamarine and then violet as panic suffused through her, were wild with fear.
“It’s too late,” Corina whispered as she stopped pacing before the window. Her back was to Alina as she gazed in horrified wonder at the castle and the carriage that waited. “He comes.”
She turned back to Alina and added grimly, “For you.”
Alina swallowed but her throat was dry and she nearly choked on the air she breathed. “Who is he? What can he possibly want of me?”
But Corina wasn’t listening to her. Her eyes had a faraway look about them, as though she were remembering something from a time long past. “It is said that he will not know you by sight, only by touch or taste. He doesn’t know who you are or what you look like, only that you’re close.” She gave a sob, “Iliana entrusted me to protect you. ‘Guard the bloodline,’
she said. ‘Protect the Blood Throne’s heir!’
I have failed in this!” She muttered frantically. “May the gods preserve my worthless soul.”
“Corina, you’re scaring me. What’s going on? What has this to do with my mother?” Alina was struggling for composure and calm, fighting not to launch into full-blown panic.
The old woman turned to her then, but her eyes widened in surprise when she looked at Alina. “Forgive me,” she said as tears began to fall down her wrinkled cheeks. “Kulpa vitni est me volo, Mia Reglia!”
The language Corina spoke was old, one that Alina had never heard her or anyone else speak, but she understood the words: “Forgive my fault in this, My Queen!”
“I beseech thee!” Corina sobbed, crying harder by the minute.
A chill like none Alina had ever felt filled the shack. She could see her breath and stared in stunned shock as the tears on Corina’s face began to freeze.
“Corina?” Alina was frantic now.
The old woman shook her head violently. “No! You cannot take me now! Do not leave her to this fate alone! Not now! Not after all I have done to keep her safe. ‘Twould be for naught!” She was looking at Alina, speaking as though she we were talking to Alina, but she wasn’t. She was speaking to someone else…to something else.
Something that stood in front of Alina, and though Alina could not see this being, she knew that it was there with its back to her all the same.
And then she heard its voice. A soft, melodious voice so feminine and graceful that Alina wanted to weep at the sound of it. It too spoke the old language but again Alina understood. “Fate has its plan, Corina. You cannot stop the tide from ebbing or crashing in and you cannot change fate. Not even one such as I has that kind of power. You have done well in this. I seek only to reward you now. Come, Corina. Follow me into the Ether and leave my daughter to her fate. To her destiny.”
Alina felt it then. Felt this being – her mother – turn to face her and for a split moment she gazed upon a woman who was the picture of beauty. Her mother was a sight to behold with flowing blond curls so like her own and eyes that shone in varying shades of aqua and violet and rimmed by thick dark lashes. The delicate bow of her mouth was fuller in the middle of her lips, lending to them the same pout that adorned Alina’s face. They could have been sisters.
Just as Alina was registering that this was the face of her mother, the woman began to fade away. But the touch of a smile was on her lips. “So proud of you, Mi Flaura,”
the woman whispered as reached forward to touch Alina’s face. At the feeling of the feather-light frozen touch, Alina’s mind snapped. The room grew dim and she crumpled to the floor.
When she awoke, the noon-day sun was pouring in through the window and both Corina and her mother were gone. She sat up and promptly gripped her head, struggling to control its pounding. Then, she realized too late that the pounding wasn’t coming from inside her head.
It came from the other side of the door.
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<a href="http://www.lushstories.com/stories/supernatural/the-sanguine-chronicles-ch-2.aspx">The Sanguine Chronicles Ch. 2</a>