The sigh made Kennedy spin around, expecting to find the former Queen, Charlotte, standing behind her. But there was nothing. Just a wall. There was something strangely unordinary about the wall. On first appearance it was blank, but it was a very interesting place for a wall when the castle extended far beyond.
“What are you doing?” Jard asked, interrupting her. Ori’s little babysitter for her. He was the one needed the damn baby sitter. Knocking over the knickknacks in Nodak’s library, study, or whatever this place was? Jard was a headache and a half. He needed to respect the former king’s getaway.
She shook her head. “Thought I heard something.”
He looked past her, behind him. “Nothing up here but us.”
“Obviously. Do you know what this room is?” She motioned to the entire room with her fingers.
Jard studied every corner, looking out of place. The man belonged outside of a club, telling everyone to stay out, not trailing after her. It wasn’t that he was a huge man like she’d seen that bear of a man, Nodak in her vision. It was Jard’s presence. He was fairly athletic, but reeked of unbridled strength. Also the fact that he was a veritable bull in this small room, knocking over things.
“I’d imagine a study, or library. Nodak was a real history buff. Most of the kings who lived here were. Important for them to stay up to date on the history, pass it down to all family members. Would’ve figured he’d lock it, but I imagine David may have had a hand in that.”
Behind Jard, the fireplace burst to life. He merely glanced at it. Kennedy wasn’t shocked either. Things like that happened in this castle from time-to-time. Charlotte may be behind it, but Kennedy was starting to think it could be anyone. After all, Mr. Giles had made it clear this castle was alive.
It wasn’t just Charlotte.
“Funny,” she mused, “I’m the only person in my family who cared about history. Or our history.”
Jard stared at her, but said nothing.
Kennedy pushed the papers around on the top of the desk. Lots of notes in the Sylphline language. Nothing she could clearly read or understand. She didn’t try either. Sure, she’d spoken some of the language when she needed help, but she did it without thought. Besides now wasn’t the time.
Why did you want me to come up here?
Charlotte pointed up here for a reason. At least Kennedy hoped there was a reason.
Next to the fireplace was a small reading nook with a lounge-worthy couch placed near the wall where two people could sit and relax, watching the fire and enjoying its warmth.
“That idiot brother and man you call your parents?” Jard disrupted her thoughts.
Why do all of you say stuff like that? It’s mean. Fine, her brother got this whole mess started – she was only trying to save her family when she agreed to marry David and blood bond with him. “Yes, my idiot brother.” Rather than argue, she’d agree with Jard.
If it wasn’t for her brother, admittedly, she wouldn’t be here now. But then because of her brother, she’d found out she had wings and a whole new world opened up to her. She’d come here, got stuck in the midst of this war between David and Ori, ended up as prisoner to Ori, but most of that was her damn fault, not her brother’s.
Same as ending up here in Nodak’s study or whatever it was in the attic. Charlotte had lured her here with yet another vision, but again, it was Kennedy’s choice to come, her choice to coerce Ori into letting her see what was important up here. Not her brother’s, not her father. Nobody but hers and hers alone.
He sneered at her. “They are human. You’re not. Why do you think you were born to them?”
“Do you ever shut up?” Kennedy snapped. She was weary of the implication of being adopted. The feeling of a presence behind her continued. With the barest of checks, she made sure nothing stood behind her.
Jard mentioned this room being Nodak’s and that David had entered, but hadn’t he remained out of the room and the castle all this time? Hadn’t he taken it upon himself to avoid coming into the castle as much as possible? It wasn’t David who opened the room. It must have been locked, but Charlotte let her in. Otherwise how would David get in—
A heavy thud sounded next to her foot. Jard pointed to the ground by her foot, making her look. “Knocked a book off.”
No, I didn’t.
The book had been sitting on the desk, near the edge. It lay in the angle of light cast by the window to the left. Deep brown leather binding. Golden lettering along the spine. The book lay open to a family tree. The barest of glows emanated from the tree itself on the paper as if made from foil.
Kennedy picked up the book and stared at the tree. She slid a finger over the tree. The letters and branches glowed. It led all the way down to Nodak and Charlotte, then a circle that connected the two of them, but no image. Their child.
Her vision blurred in and out, a child’s laughter in her ear. The room spun. Jard’s voice from far away. “Everything okay? You look pale.”
The book toppled out of her hands and onto the desk with a thud that drew Jard’s attention back to her. Jard came over just as she slumped into the seat Nodak once inhabited. Then everything spun around and out of sight. Jard’s hands on her arms steadied her so she didn’t fall from the chair, but she couldn’t gather herself up.
“We must protect her.” Charlotte said, sitting on the couch across the room. Her hand caressed her stomach, which like the earlier vision, didn’t show any semblance of a bump. “It will be a girl. She is our last chance. The boy didn’t survive, but she will. You know what will happen if she does.”
Jard’s face pressed close to hers. “Hello in there? I asked if you’re okay. I better go get Ori.” He snapped his fingers in her face. “Stay put. Got it?”
Kennedy was barely aware of nodding. “Yeah,” she whispered.
“Geluz, you look like you’re about to puke.”
“I think I might.”
Kennedy placed a palm against his face. She wasn’t entirely sure she was sitting in the chair anymore, or that Jard wasn’t the vision and Charlotte wasn’t the reality.
“If you move, you’re going to get us both into trouble. Stay here.”
“Water.” Jard rushed out of the room and she heard him tumbling down the stairs, probably jumping more than running. She meant what she said. She had no intention of moving. At least until she was one hundred percent sure she wouldn’t pass out.
“What happened?” she whispered, not expecting a reply. Not really wanting one. She said it more to comfort herself.
The vision of Charlotte left. She was once more alone. But that book. She reached over and turned it right-side up, then flipped through to find the family tree again.
They had a little girl, but what happened—
“Follow your instincts,” Charlotte said from behind her. The tone of her voice was stronger. So strong that it skittered through Kennedy’s nerves.
Kennedy leapt out of her skin, and the chair. She placed a hand against her heart, sure it would follow Jard down the stairs any minute.
She was there. There. Solid.
Kennedy stumbled back against the desk with a, “whozit?”
Bright as if she were alive. Strong and beautiful. The light from the window lit up the smile and her eyes, which were full of tears. Charlotte turned and placed her palm against the wood at waist high level. Her palm slid over the wall in a pattern which illuminated symbols like the ones on Kennedy’s arm. At the look on her face, the amount of love there, Kennedy’s own eyes watered.
Why do I feel so sad? Such longing?
As if she heard Kennedy’s words, she smiled. A tear made its silent path down her face before she disappeared.
“Wait!” Don’t go yet. Hastily she brushed the falling tears. She rushed over to the wall, hoping that as Charlotte mentioned, her instincts guided her to the next piece of Charlotte’s puzzle. She wanted to speak with Charlotte, wanted to know what was going on. Maybe she’d find Charlotte again. If she led her there, maybe it was to speak with her.
The momentary weakness and dizziness subsided. Kennedy placed her palm against the wall, doing the same as Charlotte. Symbols illuminated along the wall in an arch. One by one they brightened to a golden glow as the pattern developed down the wall to the floor, revealing a door. The entire door brightened and the wall slid open, revealing a stone passageway.
With a last check on the door to the room, she ducked into the passageway, hearing two doors slam shut behind her. Charlotte was locking the others out of the attic, study, or whatever it was. Securing her so that she was safe for the time being.
The instant she entered the passageway, total darkness met her. She gasped and went to turn and head back to the room if that was possible, but from behind her a torch flared to life. Kennedy cautiously took a few steps into the passageway, removing the torch and heading down into the darkness.
A passageway built of stone, near cave size, wound its way down through the castle. She tried to figure out where she was being taken, but it was difficult. It felt the passageway went out and around the walls of the castle, but then she began to descend and ascend, then descend again. Only it kept descending. Sometimes so sharply that she had to be careful with her steps so she didn’t slip and fall on her butt. There were many doors that led off the passageway, she assumed of which led to rooms in the castle or more passageways.
Many of the doors had a version of lock which seemed a little harder to open than with a key. Perhaps a very special touch as she’d done in Nodak’s study would be the way to go. Kennedy allowed her instincts to guide her in hopes of seeing Charlotte again to speak with her. She didn’t exit through any of the doors. Simply kept going to where she felt she needed to go. A set of stairs came upon her and she took them down, down, down.
When the torch flickered and threatened to go out, she slowed. The gloom grew colder and heavier, causing her to slow further.
The stone changed from a solid surface to pieces of rock and columns. It seemed the passageways grew larger as she went further down. A chill surrounded her the deeper she went and let her know she was heading down to the lowest levels of the castle, maybe lower. The passageway appeared to be made of the same walls the dungeon did, but her instincts—and the lack of doors that existed the further down she went—said she was going even deeper. Into the mountain itself.
Maybe Charlotte was guiding her out of the castle. As if in answer, she came to a giant slab of a door. She studied every inch, finding no way to open it, and almost turned back before she remembered the first door. Maybe this was something to do with those symbols again.
She slid her right hand along the door and felt nothing but the extreme arctic iron beneath her palm. Kennedy studied the door. Then she placed her palm against the door and tried again. Still nothing. With her right hand nearly frozen, she exchanged the torch and used her left hand.
This time when she attempted to slip her hand over the doorway, the symbols lit up one by one, though they were the color of the symbols along her arm too. And she noticed something strange happened with her hand.
The symbol over her finger glowed. She stared at the ring glowing in the flickering light cast by the torch and watched as the door slid open as if made of silk. Not a sound was heard from where she came, where she was headed.
There was nothing to be seen either, save for that unending darkness. Down here it was so deep it seemed . . . menacing. The entire trip through the castle she was nervous, but looking at that darkness made her entire body clench. Her breath caught in her throat, forcing her feet to freeze.
Charlotte’s voice was in her head. Follow your instincts.
My instincts are telling me to turn and run. She took a deep breath and shook her head. No, no they weren’t. Her instincts were pressing her forward, tugging her more like. For a moment she closed her eyes. It wasn’t lost on her that her ring glowing may have something to do with this being a place David came, or used. So it wasn’t Charlotte she’d find.
But then if it were a way out or she’d find answers to whatever haunted her and she didn’t know, she had to see. Didn’t she? Charlotte had gone to so much trouble to show her the book, bring her to the attic. She wanted to know what it was all about.
Even if it meant crossing into David’s lair.
He may or may not be around. There was a risk she came to a place where she would find him, but if it were part of the castle, wasn’t she safe?
With the torch held high over her head to cast back some of the darkness, allowing her to see more, Kennedy stepped through the doorway.
The torch flickered above her then the darkness swallowed her torchlight.
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Sylphline Realm – Royal Blood is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, stories, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2017 Kim Iverson
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