Longing for Shadows IV

**Continued from Part III**

When she had said the final word, the magic words echoed through Rowan’s mind. She could hardly believe that she had said all of them, but they had rolled off her tongue with such ease. She’d never said anything like that before. The room darkened around her, as though the candles had gone out, yet she could see their light right in front of her. They were like anchors, while the rest of her drifted off, as though to another realm.

She began to realize that perhaps that was the very intent of the spell. She was trying to contact the dead, after all, and what better way to do that than to visit their world? She felt wrapped in shadows, caught up in their embrace, a feeling at once velvety and cold. It frightened her as much as it comforted her.

As she looked up from the candlelight, she had a very strong sense that she was somewhere that she oughtn’t to be. All she could do was remind herself that she wasn’t trying to intrude, that all she wanted to do was talk to her friend one more time.

“Karabala….” she whispered, her voice trembling, both from the cold and from the vastness of the darkness that surrounded her.  “Please be kind to me.”

“A could place like this doesn’t understand kindness.”

This– the voice that boomed as though from the deepest of places– nearly made Rowan scream.  She covered her mouth just to keep herself quiet.

“You’re not dead,” the voice went on.  At first, it had sounded like it was all around her.  Now, it seemed to come from one direction: right in front of her, and getting closer.  “What are you doing here?”

If a voice could cross its arms, surely this one just had.  Rowan dared not refuse to answer it.

“I- I’m just here to see my friend,” she stammered out.

“Is she playing around with black magic, too?” the voice demanded.  It was far worse than her parents yelling at her.

“N-no…”  She hesitated, wondering whether she should be saying ‘sir’ whenever she spoke.  “She died recently, you see.”

“There are more dead every day,” the voice replied.  “That’s the thing about the Necropolis: the dead just keep coming.  In Life, you’re born, and then you die.”

“None of the dead move on?” she asked it, for a moment forgetting her fear.

“It depends,” the voice replied.  Rowan had the distinct feeling that he had shrugged.  “I’m more curious about why you thought coming here would be a good idea.”

“I just want to see my friend,” Rowan repeated.

At last, the figure that encompassed that voice, that terribly deep voice, stepped out of the shadows.  His frame was immense; he stood at least six feet tall, and his arms were more muscle than anything else.  He stared down at her with arms shrouded in darkness, only the faintest hint of green shining through. Rowan could hardly tell his hair from the darkness, the way it was so black and so long.

He watched her for a long moment, making her wonder whether he was glaring at her or just looking her over.

Then she gasped, realization coming over her like a flood.

“Peter…” She gasped, her voice hardly more than a whisper.

**Continued in Part V**

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Longing for Shadows III

**Continued from Part II**

Rowan was out of Johnny’s house within thirty minutes.  She hurried down the street, her new candles and book safely tucked into her messenger bag, and took the steps up to her porch as quickly as she could.  She opened the front door and was greeted with the smell of garlic and tomatoes.  She knew immediately that she had taken too long, that dinner was ready, and she was late.

“I’m home,” Rowan called as she dropped her bag on the couch and hurried across the house to the kitchen. She entered just as her mother was pulling a loaf of garlic bread out of the oven.  “I’m sorry I’m late.”

Her mother looked over at her as she set the pan on the counter.  “It’s all right, Rowan.  Your brother set the table.”  She began to transfer the bread to a serving plate as she added, “I hope you had a nice time at your friend’s house.”

Rowan nodded earnestly.  “Yes, mom,” she replied.  “Thank you for saying that I could go.  Do you want any help, mom?  I could carry the spaghetti…”

“You’re such a sweet girl,” her mother said.  “Don’t worry about a thing, darling.  Just wash your hands and meet us in the dining room.”

Her mother was already walking away with the platter, leaving her standing there, unsure what to say.  It took her a moment to get over the fact that she was not in trouble, that her mother was still being overly lenient with her, but once that wore off, she shook her head and hurried over to the sink.

The rest of dinner was uneventful.  It was one of her favorites, with salad and grilled vegetables– and lots of pasta.  Her older brother and little cleared the table afterwards, and Rowan was free to head to her room.  It was strange to not have her mother checking in on her homework, or insisting that she get to bed early, or any of the myriad of other things that her mother usually did to ensure that she was a top-notch student.

It had been like that ever since the news came that Komala had only a couple of days left Rowan wondered whether he mother really knew how to react to someone so young dying.   Maybe she’d lost a friend in a similar way, maybe it was because she worried about Rowan, but nobody knew; She wouldn’t talk about it.

Rowan didn’t like the candles that night.  She couldn’t really.  Instead, she put in the next Type O Negative album that Johnny had lent her, hurried through her math and social studies homework, and then laid on her bed to read The Book of Samhain and Spirits. She fell asleep with the book on her chest.

Her dream that night was of the wind.  It blew the autumn leaves around her, and ran through her hair like fingers reaching out from the darkness.  As eerie as that should have felt it was comforting to her.  The rest of her dream was her walking down a long, winding path at night, light only by an occasional light. dim and soft and just barely in the periphery of her vision.  She would look up now and then, and sometimes find herself in the city, sometimes in a wooded area, and sometimes on a sprawling grassy hill.  The one constant was the wind, ever blowing, and cool but not quite cold.

She woke up to droplets on her cheeks and realized that they were her own tears.  The last few moments of her dream were quickly fading away, and the more she grasped at them, the more slippery they became.  Had a voice come been calling her name, or was that just the moaning of the wind?

Rowan wiped the tears away, and pushed herself to sit up.  The book tumbled down to rest beside her, and she stared at the cover.  It looked at though Johnny head read it very closely, even several times.

“‘Samhain…'” she whispered, reading the word again.  Then she sighed heavily.  “Oh Komala… Why did this happen in October, of all months?”

It was another minute before she was able to push herself out of the bed and walk out of her room.  By the time she returned, she could hardly remember how she had managed to get through her morning routine.  Auto-pilot seemed to take over whenever the pangs of sadness returned to her heart, and she rarely remembered making it through some moments.

Rowan packed the book and CDs back into her bag, but pulled out the candles and placed them in a safe drawer of her dresser.  Downstairs, her parents greeted her warmly.  They seemed surprised every morning that she made it down, as though they never expected her to carry on after losing her friend.  Still, when she insisted that she was fine to go to school, she was given breakfast, and was off on her way in no time at all.

The crisp autumn air was her favorite way of clearing her mind and starting the day off fresh.  She walked all on her own, enjoying the quiet, not being fussed over, not being interrupted from her thoughts.

Johnny was waiting for her by her locker.  She replied to his wide grin with a weak smile.

“Are you going to be here every morning from now on?” she asked him as she turned the knob on her locker.

“Well…” he began, his smile fading as his mind rushed to decipher what she had just said.  “Not if you don’t want me to.”

Rowan realized that she must have sounded annoyed, and quickly softened her tone. “Sorry,” she told him as she pulled out the things that she would need her her first two classes. “I’m just not used to this, I guess.”

“That’s okay. So how was the book?”

“It’s pretty interesting,” she replied, closing her locker and spinning the knob. “I think it will be a while before I try anything goes in it, though.”

“That’s probably a good idea,” he agreed as they began walking.

He walked with her all the way to her first class, and rushed off to his own as soon as the first bell rang. They didn’t see each other again until lunch, when she was invited by Johnny to sit with his friends and get to know them. As infinitely shy as she felt, she was glad to be so welcomed into their group.

Her next few days passed in a sort of haze. She read into the night, falling asleep with the book time and again (and with a Type O Negative CD playing in the background), and spending her days listening to Johnny and his friends talk about music, movies, and math homework.

It was late October before she finally felt ready to try out what she had been studying in. She’d had to collect a few more items in order to truly be prepared, and it wasn’t until the 30th that she was able to find just the right candle holders.

Her mother was out that night, a special date for her and Rowan’s father, her siblings at various friends houses, so she ended up having the house to herself. Rowan made a brief phone call to Johnny comma and he wished her the best of luck.

With the sun now down, she stepped into her room and knelt down before the altar she had made on her small coffee table. The book laid open to the special word that she would read. Smell the incense that she had been burning from the moment that she’d been alone in the house. Taking a deep breath, suddenly shaking with nervousness, Rowan lit a match and held it up to the first black candle.

**Continued in Part IV**

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Longing for Shadows II

**Continued from Part I**

She listened to it that night.  She couldn’t listen to it right away, of course; she’d stopped by Komala’s house to visit her parents, and then there was homework to get caught up on; she didn’t want to get too far behind, even if the teachers were offering to exempt her from the work.  Before she knew it, dinner was ready, and she was always glad to eat with her family.  So she was not able to put the CD in until quite late.

The album ended up being the most beautiful this she had heard.  So was in love with the lead singer’s voice, the way it soothed her and reassured her.  Rowan listened to the first half of it with the lights turned down low, while she curled up in her armchair.  Halfway through “Die With Me,” however, she got up and opened her laptop, letting the lyrics drift through her room while she looked up information about the band.  She was fascinated right from the first article she found.

Rowan slept with the album playing on repeat that night.  It comforted her in a way that she could not explain, but she knew that she could not stop listening.  When she woke up, she moved the disc to her portable CD player, and listened to it on her headphones as she walked to school.

Johnny walked up to her while she was getting a book from her locker.

“You like it, don’t you?”

When Rowan looked up, she found him grinning.  “I thought you didn’t smile,” she told him as she pulled out one headphone.

“Usually I don’t have reason to,” he replied with a shrug.  “Which song was your favorite?”

“I…”  Rowan paused and looked at her watch.  “I’m sorry, but I can’t be late.”

Johnny shrugged again.  “I get it.  I’ll see you at lunch, then.”

Rowan tried to reply, but he took off before she could get another word out.  She sat through her next three classes as nervous as she was excited. What would they talk about?

By lunchtime, she could hardly decide whether she was starving or had lost her appetite.  She took a lunch tray anyway. When she walked over to the tale where she usually sat, Johnny was already there, waiting for her. He gained when he saw her.

“Hey, Rowan!”

She sat down slowly, smiling back at him. “Hi,” she finally said.

He smirked. “No reason to be shy,” he reassured her as he took a lunch sack from his backpack. “I kept meaning to talk to you before… well… anyway, I never got the chance.”

Rowan nodded and looked down at her lunch tray.

“You really don’t talk much,” Johnny noted as he pulled a sandwich out of the bag.

“I guess I don’t really know what to say,” Rowan admitted.

“But you liked the music?”

“Of course I did,” she assured him.  “It was sad… but also beautiful.”

“I figured Peter would have that effect on you,” Johnny said, grinning as though very satisfied with himself.

“I looked up information about the band,” Rowan added.  “Peter died about a year and a half ago.”

“Yeah.  It’s pretty sad, all that talent being gone.”  Johnny worked on his sandwich for a couple minutes before speaking again.  “But at least he made some great music while he was around.”

Rowan was halfway through her own plate by then.  “Do you have other albums by the band?”

“You bet!” Johnny replied.  “They’re my favorite.  Did you want to listen to one in particular?”

His question brought a smile to Rowan’s face.  She ended up accepting an invitation to Johnny’s house after school, and spending part of her lunch with his friends.  They were not as crude and unprincipled as she had feared they would be, and she was relieved to have given them a chance.

Johnny’s house was only a couple blocks away from the school, although in the opposite direction from her own home.  It was a nice enough house, and his mother was very welcoming of all of his guests.  His room wasn’t as clean as she kept her own, but at least it also wasn’t a disastrous mess.  he had the family’s old couch against one wall, so that all of his friends could sit comfortably.  They chatted for a while, and even played some Castlevania, until friends started to say that it was time that they departed.

By about 5 P.M., it was just Johnny and Rowan.  When he excused himself to the bathroom, she began to look around his room curiously.  He had several posters for his favorite bands– half of them Type O Negative– One that looked like the sorcerer in a D&D handbook, and couple that were medieval-themed.  The most curious thing that she noticed was an assemblage of items on a low bookshelf.  There was a mammalian small laying on a carved wooden box, an oval mirror in a black iron frame, an incense burner, and even a bundle of partially-burned sage in a clay bowl.  She was kneeling down to look over over the book titles when he came back.

“Oh, you found the altar,” he said as he stepped up beside her.

Rowan stood up quickly, feeling the heat growing in her cheeks.  “I- I’m sorry, I didn’t realize…”

“It’s all right,” he shrugged.  “You couldn’t do any harm just by looking.”

She gave him a grateful smile, then looked back to the shelf.  “I didn’t know you were into stuff like that.”

“I wouldn’t call it something that I’m ‘into,'” he replied.  “I believe in it, yeah, but it’s not a fad or anything, you know what I mean?”

She nodded, and he went on.  “You’ve always seemed pretty open-minded to me.”

“Yeah…” she agreed.

He sat down on the floor in front of the shelf, and Rowan followed suit.  “Listen, I want to know if I can give you something,” Johnny said, a certain unease filling his voice.  “I’m not sure what you’re going to think about it, though, so just don’t get mad at me, okay?”

“Ummmm… yeah, okay,” Rowan replied.

Johnny rubbed the back of his head before speaking.  “So… I know it’s really hard to lose someone you care about.  My dad passed away a few years back–”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Rowan replied, the emotion in her face changing, gloom coming to the forefront.

“Thanks.  But this is the important part: I’ve spent the past few months looking for a way to contact him, and I’ve finally got it working.”

“You can contact the dead?”  Her brow raised as he brain sped through reasons to believe him– or not.

Johnny nodded earnestly.  “I talk to him every few days, and let him know how I’m doing. So I was wondering… maybe you’d like to contact Komala…”

Rowan stared at him for a long time, her mouth agape.

“Please don’t be angry,” Johnny said when he could bear the silence no longer.  “I’m not trying to be weird or anything.”

He opened a box on the shelf, and pulled out three black candles, the wax smelling fresh, but not something that came from a factory.  He pressed then into her hands and met her eyes.

“I can give you the candles, and the book…”

“Johnny,” Rowan whispered, staring back at him.

“Yeah?” he replied, looking all the more worried.

“Are you sure it will work?” she asked.  “Komala’s family believes in reincarnation.”

“The book explains what you need to know,” Johnny assured her.  “I’m that you still have time… Look, just take these, and at least tell me you’ll try?”

Rowan stared at him for a long time before giving him a slow nod.  She couldn’t explain why, but it seemed to her that she could trust him.  At the very worst, she would only be wasting her time, and a few of his candles.  It seemed like an easy trade for one more chance to be able to speak with Komala.

***To be continued in Part Three***

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Mikawayama

My NaNoWriMo book this year is called Mikawayama: The Mountain of the Three Rivers.  It is a historical fiction that takes place in Heian-era Japan.

Synopsis

In the midst of the Heian period, on the southern isle of Shikoku, the Shyouhana family thought that they were safe from the affairs in Kyoto.  Their distant mountain village had been serene for generations, but that serenity, is soon to be lost.  As the summer solstice approaches, unrest fills the forest and rivers surrounding Odashizen Village.

The family decides that Sachiko, the eldest daughter of Natsuko and Mokuran Shyouhana, to venture out into the world to find the cause of the unrest, and to restore balance to Sankawayama.  Whom will she meet along the way, and will she be able to endure all of the challenges wrought upon the world by the Fujiwara Clan?

Excerpt

The kudan had given a warning about dark times to come.  The Shyouhana clan, while they did not doubt the kudan’s words, had no idea just how bad things would get.  The moryo of the forest and the three rivers of Mt. Tairyuji had become restless, leaving the inhabitants of Odashizen Village to wonder what the kami and yokai had in store for them that summer.

 

You can follow my writing adventures here!

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Longing for Shadows

Rowan had been dying her hair black for as long as she could remember.  For her, the earliest age that she had been able to convince her mother to let her do so was thirteen.  Seventh grade held a lot of fond memories for her, in fact.  A lot of sad ones too, without a doubt, but she had found such a particular comfort in that time that it was as much a part of her as anything could be.

Seventh grade was when her closest friend had passed away.  She had known Komala ever since preschool, and had always known that she was different.  The thing was, Komala had always been delicate.  She couldn’t roughhouse with the other children, so Rowan would always sit with her in the shade beside the playground and look at picture books with her.  In kindergarten, they would practice their letters together.  Their friendship was so special that the teachers at Willow Springs Elementary School agreed that they should always be together.  Rowan looked after Komala, and it was something that both their mothers found very endearing.

Rowan didn’t understand until part way through fifth grade what made Komala so delicate.  Her easy bruising, her mother’s constant urging that she be careful, even the way that her skin looked so other-worldly, were all because of vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.  Komala had been born with it, but Rowan did not know much about it. She had only begun to research it for junior high science, but by then it felt like it was too late.

What she read made her terrified. Rowan didn’t want to lose her friend to pain and trauma; she didn’t want her to suffer. Komala was starting to be absent from school more often. She was excused from P.E. classes, but even that felt like it wasn’t enough.  Rowan wished that she could do more than just visit her friend after school on the days that she was absent.

When the day came that Komala’s parents called to say that her condition was worsening, Rowan rushed over to her house. Her extended family had also come over, and seeing all of them fathered around Komala’s bed made her heart sink.

They had only a few hours to talk, share stories, and tell each other how much they cared. The family shared their stories and prayers, too, and kept Komala as calm and comfortable as they could.  She grew weaker the more time went on.

Rowan was thankful that Komala’s death had not been painful, but losing her only meant more pain for herself. The thing was, Rowan had only ever had Komala as a friend. She was a bit of an outcast herself. Her new loneliness was a kind of hurt that she did not know how to deal with. Her mother had allowed her dye her hair black a couple days after the funeral– before she had to return to school– and she appreciated being able to grieve in her own way.  It felt partly strange to her, but in a way right.  It wasn’t meant as a way to fit in; more of a means of expressing how she felt inside without her best friend.

That was why it came as such a surprise when somebody walked up to her at the lunch tables when she returned to school and couple days after Komala’s funeral. He was one of the boys whose parents let him grow his hair out and wear a lot of silver jewelry.  He had his hair tied back, and  wore a leather jacket, too. Other kids avoided him, so Rowan wasn’t sure what to think of him sitting next to her.

“Hey,” he said, even though she was looking right at him.

“Uhh… hi,” Rowan replied.

“I heard about your friend,” he went on. “That sucks.”

Rowan nodded, not sure what to say to him.

“She was never mean to anybody,” he added. “So listen… I know it’s hard when this stuff happens.”

Rowan said nothing, afraid to tear up in front to of him. She only nodded stiffly.

The boy reached into his jacket, and Rowan was immediately worried about what he planned to pull out of it. She was relieved to see the light reflecting off of a CD case. He set it down next to her lunch tray with a light click.

“You should listen to this,” he told her. “It helps me get through the tough times.”

Looking down at the CD case, Rowan could see a lot of black and green. The orange letting that wrapped around the corners read ‘Type Of Negative.’

“October Rust?” she asked, looking up at him skeptically.

“You’ll like it,” he reassured her.

“But… this is your original.”

The boy shrugged. “I have more than one. Besides, I’m not going to go around making copies.”

Rowan might have commented on him being such an upstanding digital citizen, but it seemed so out of context that she could only shake her head.

From somewhere down the sidewalk, some other teenagers called out. “Hey, Johnny! Let’s go!”

The boy scoffed and shook his head. “Just promise you’ll listen to it?” he went on, looking straight into Rowan’s eyes.

Rowan nodded. “Yeah… um, sure.”

Johnny gave her half a grin.  “You’ll be glad you did.  Look, I gotta go, but later…  Let me know how you like it, yeah?  We can talk.”

“Okay,” Rowan croaked, her voice breaking on the word.  She did not know what else to say to him.  Besides, he was already walking away.

Rowan quickly slipped the CD into her knapsack, and turned back to her lunch tray.

 

**Continued in part two.**

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The Castle Tower, part two

Part one can be found here.

When the enemy army was approaching, panic befell the castle and all of its people.

The princess was escorted by her knight up to the tower in the southern wing of the castle. How he had not heard that they were to leave the castle, nobody knows, but he did not make his way outside. Many tellings of the tale say that the invading forces gave them no choice but to flee up to the tower; a few suggested that he meant her ill will. Whatever the truth was, they never left the tower again.
In all the chaos, the tower was blocked off, and the last few to leave insisted that it was empty. Its doors were barricaded, and nobody went near it. Even when the search was on to find the princess, nobody had any idea that she might be in the tower.
The truth– which nobody else but the princess and her knight know– was that he had put her into a room at the top, and closed the door. He then engaged in battle with several invading warriors. Bravely though he fought, there were many if them, and in the end he perished. His body, heavy with all of its armor, was left laying against the old wooden door to the room which he had been guarding. The invaders, not knowing about the process inside– for she had hidden herself well and quietly– left the tower, and were glad that they had defeated an enemy knight so strong.
When the princess heard the men leaving she crept out of her hiding place. It was quiet in the Hall, and called out to her knight. The longer she called his name, only to hear no response from him, the more her panic grew.  She began to pound on the door.  When she tried to open it, it would not budge; she realized that she was trapped inside.  Her calls became screams, but they were never answered.

Years passed, and the princess was all but forgotten.  A new ruler took the castle, and set about restoring it so that it might live in glory once again. As the masons, architects, and other workers finished up other parts of the castle, patching up whatever needed the most work in order for it to be livable, curiosity grew about the southern tower.  Servants were sent there now and again to get the place cleaned up, and masons went to inspect the various floors and rooms to see what needed changing and updating. The higher they got in there in the tower as they worked, the more often they heard strange noises.

The king had no interest in hearing about what anyone had heard.  He was certain that they had been nothing but evidence that the tower was in need of repair; a broken window, a creaking stair, perhaps a missing brick that let small animals through.  All he cared about was having the tower cleaned and repaired, so that people could live in it once again.  He sent in soldiers to help with the removal of the suits of armor that laid about, and gave ordered that nobody was to bother him about the noises in the tower.

After that, each time a suit armor, various remains rattling around inside inside of it, was carried away, they could hear a distant pounding.  When the dust that had caked the floor over the centuries was disturbed by a broom, faint voices, as though from far away, drifted through the halls.  Most of the time, the maids and masons and soldiers shook their heads and assumed that it was nothing more than their imaginations.  They remembered the king’s words, that the noise was probably from one of the rooms that needed repair, and as such was nothing to worry about or put much thought into it.

Another floor higher, and the voice grew louder, the pounding more insistent. Another suit of armor gone, and more noise. Another floor cleared, and there it was again. Time went on, and the workers in the tower started to swear that they could hear a young lady’s voice, a soft voice, but a desperate one.  It seemed as though some door was rattling with the pounding that they could hear, but still they could not place where it was coming from.

They assumed that it was someone among the crew playing a cruel trick.  Nobody had been in that tower for ages aside from that crew; it was impossible for it to be anything else.  Besides that, every now and then, one of them– sometimes a maid, sometimes a soldier, other– would abandon their work.  They could be found nowhere, and the others assumed that whoever was missing had been causing the ruckus just to scare them.

Eventually, the work was delayed enough, and morale so disrupted, that the captains decided that the crews working in the tower should all be put to different tasks, and a new crew brought in. These new soldiers and servants found out all too soon about the strange noises echoing through the tower. There were still plenty of suits of armor to removes, and floor that needed dusting, and the pounding and calling voice only became more frequent, more insistent.

They got to the top floor at last, but not without rumors of what was going on spreading here and there. Theories that it was one of the old crew members sneaking in to cause a ruckus, and then stories of ghosts. They knew from the amount of armor that they were removing but there had once been a battle here. They had heard about the time that the castle of been attacked, and recognized the armor of the once-enemy kingdom. In the spirit of the peace that the realms had enjoyed for generations now, They thought it best to melt down the armor and forget it into something new.

What they did not expect to find was the suit of armor bearing the crest of the ancient royal family, along with the insignia for the highest-ranking order of knights. The weak points in the armor has been pierced by various weapons, and although there was no flesh left to speak of underneath all of the metal, the workers and the soldiers knew that whichever night this had been, he have been very important to the royal family.

Strangest of all, as soon as anyone touched the armor, a horrible banging began on the door on which the armor leaned. When the crew backed away, the noise stopped. When they stepped close again, and shifted the suit, there was the banging again, the door rattling as though beaten by a pair of terrified fists. This time, when the armor shifted, it fell over on its side, and they heard screaming. A voice was calling out, desperate to be heard.

“Let me out!” they heard the voice cry.

One of the maids nearly fainted.  The soldiers did their best to feign bravery.  That had been a young lady’s voice.  Yet… how could anyone possibly be in that room?

“What is going on here?” one of the soldiers demanded to know.

The terrible pounding on the doors resumed.  “Please!” the young lady’s voice called again, this time more desperate than ever.  “Sir Gavin, you cannot leave me here!”

The crew looked to one another; none of them went by the name Gavin.  They glanced down at the suit of armor, which now held nothing but bones.  The door rattled with the pounding.

“Make it stop!” one of the maids cried, covering her ears.  “Just open the door!”

The soldiers looked to one another.  The suit of armor was not particularly heavy; they could work together to move it and find out what was on the other side of the door…

“One shoulder each, then,” one suggested.

The other nodded, though he seemed nervous about disturbing the body.

Together, they dragged the suit of armor, skeleton and all, over to an adjacent wall.  A sword clattered to the floor.

“Sir Gavin!” the voice called out again.  “Do not abandon me now.  You have been my only comfort all this time…”

“Just a moment,” one of the soldiers replied.

He stepped over to the door, and turned the handle.  As it creaked, the voice grew fainter, and the pounding subsided.  It took him a few twists back and forth to get the knob to really turn, but eventually it gave way with an echoing click.  He pulled opened the door, and gasped at the sight before him.

There, in the middle of the opposite wall, stood a four-poster bed.  Unlike everything else in the tower, it was clean, free from the layers of dust that coated everything else.  on the bed there was a solitary figure, laid out like a sleeping girl from an age-old fairy tale.  The soldier approached, his breaths ragged.  Even the flowing of his blood seemed loud, now that the creaming and the pounding had stopped.

The figure wore a silken gown of a bright and festive color, as well as a jeweled necklace.  on her head rested a thin silver circlet, a treasure lost by the royal family long ago.  The soldier could say nothing; he could only stare at the other people in the room with him.

Here, after centuries of searching and wondering, laid the skeleton of the lost princess of their kingdom.

 

 

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The ceremony

“It is normal to feel this way at this point,” the nurse told her. “This is the moment when so many others have felt the last burden of their sadness, the one last time that it worsens before it gets better.”

“I would have wanted it,” she whispered again.

She felt Endan’s arms go around her. He remembered the way she had wailed when he had told her the truth in that medical room back on Station 2-4-6. They both remembered how she had lost control.

“I know,” he whispered into her ear, close, so that nobody else could hear. “I would have wanted it, too.”

Those in line behind her were patient, understanding her sadness, the weakness that it brought. Citlally steadied herself, looking up into the eyes of the priestess waiting for her. She felt the peace around her, the calmness, as though the waiting could have gone on forever and nobody would have minded. Then, at last, she pulled in a long breath and steadied herself.

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