Despite the tragedy and heartbreak over the last few weeks I am so thrilled to be working on this story again and I know Melissa is as well. The pieces are starting to fall into place and I’m dreaming of the characters once more (and c’mon, who doesn’t want a man like Sordel in their dreams!). It’s going to be a wild ride, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Hope you enjoy it!
Saurimonde placed the journal down as the words swam in front of her eyes, while she tried to wrap herself around the shock of what she read. She already felt intrusive enough reading someone else’s diary. She reached forward touching the hem of her damp powder blue dress hanging over the edge of the fire. There wasn’t much left of it, only wisps of cotton and lace still tacked together. It wouldn’t last through another wearing. Shivering, she wrapped the blanket a little tighter around herself against the bite of the morning air. She wasn’t exactly cold, but the night’s events had chilled her to the bone. She was sore from head to toe and her muscles protested every little move she made. She was most definitely back in her body again, but she didn’t feel quite whole. It was like dancing a waltz and always being a couple of beats behind the rhythm as memories and emotions collided awkwardly with each other. The light was starting to spill cold blue from the windows. The panes of glass were smudged with soot and threw shadows across the floor. She could almost discern a pattern. It looked like beetles crawling, coming ever closer. A tiny insect army ready to attack and take her down.
Elazki’s cottage had a certain charm in daylight. Bundles of drying herbs hung from the ceiling mixed with talismans and other things she didn’t want to look at too closely. A stuffed fox on top of a sort of shrine bristled from the center of the room. It was obviously well loved to have such a place of importance. She glanced at it a couple times out of the corner of her eye, half-convinced it was watching her. It was hard to believe she’d never been inside this place before, although she really had never given it’s owner, Elazki, the time of day, and now she owed her life to the woman. Now she knew more about the wise woman’s life than she’d have ever thought possible. In her mind’s eye she saw the raven-haired woman staring at her as ferociously as a blood moon. The events of last night seemed like a million years ago. She’d been trying to put the pieces together, but every time she got the sequence wrong. There were too many gaps in her memory.
Her husband Gilles and Elazki had been together many years ago and he’d used and abused her affections. But soon after there had been a child which was not named in the diary, but if she did the math then… Stop it, Saurimonde thought as she pursed her lips and furrowed her brow, trying in vain to organize her thoughts and quell the rising panic inside of her. It couldn’t be true. It just couldn’t be! And how could she tell Sordel? She needed time to figure out whether it could be possible or not. She… She never finished that thought as the sound of a man clearing his throat from the shadowy recesses of the bedroom doorway startled her.
“Sorry. Didn’t mean to scare you.”
The timbre of his voice sent a shiver down her spine. It was rough and smooth at the same time, like a fine piece of driftwood, inviting you to run your hand over its surface. Greenish gold jungle eyes stared out of the gloom and she could see the vague outlines of a very lithe, well muscled chest. Feeling her breath catch in her throat, she didn’t dare let her eyes drop any lower.
“No… I…” her voice tailed off. How could she explain?
“Did you get any sleep?”
Had she slept? She wasn’t sure. “I think so,” she answered tentatively
Sordel moved across the room, stoked the fire with a few quick jabs and put the kettle on. He settled himself into the chair across from her. They stared at each other for a minute as she reflexively tightened the old blanket around her.
“I don’t know how I can ever thank you.”
“It’s not necessary.”
There was another uncomfortable pause, longer this time. His eyes flickered to the journal lying on the table. There were a thousand questions he wanted to ask, but wasn’t certain he was ready to hear the answers. The water started to boil and Sordel got up moving the kettle to the counter. He added a handful of herbs, stirring them slowly as the smell of mint and Valerian filled the cottage. He sneaked a quick peek at Saurimonde. She was more fragile looking in the daylight. Her large dark eyes had a wounded quality and the bluish circles underneath them only added to the effect. The morning light turned her hair into molten gold as it tumbled riotously down her shoulders and back. She was still lovely, though. Maybe even more so than before. He stifled the urge to gather her in his arms and tell her everything was going to be all right. That would be a lie. Everything was definitely not going to be all right. Elazki…
Sordel dropped the metal stirrer with a clatter. Grumbling under his breath he pushed it out of the way and grabbed a couple of mugs.
As if reading his mind she quietly asked, “What are we going to do?”
Dark waves of hair fell across his handsome face. Irritatedly he pulled it back and tied it in a knot at the nape of his neck. He glanced at the steaming mugs remembering when he bought them for his aunt. He must have been about twelve and was so excited by the look of genuine surprise on her face.
“I have to find her. No matter what it takes,” he answered.
“You don’t know what you’re against.” Her eyes widen and a world of confusion seemed to swim within them.
It broke his heart to see, but not his resolve. “No. But that won’t stop me. She’s my aunt. My only family, and the person nearest and dearest to me.”
Saurimonde smiled at him sadly. “You’re a hero. It’s commendable. But even a hero may not save the day in this situation.
He shook his head. “I’m not a hero.”
“You are. At least to me, but we have to be rational here. If you go storming off to the river there’s a chance you won’t find her. And even if you do, there’s no telling what she might do to you. She’s not the woman you know any more.”
“That’s bullshit. She would never hurt me.”
“Listen to me. She would and it wouldn’t be her fault. I know better than anyone. You wouldn’t believe the things I’ve done…” A tear slipped down her cheek. She moved to brush it away and then stopped, her hand frozen in mid-air. She had promised herself she would never cry again. She wasn’t the same victim as before and, if there was one thing the experience of being possessed had taught her, it was she was going to have to be a whole lot tougher to survive it. Tensing her muscles and taking a deep breath, she wiped the tear away, pushing all her emotions down deep inside farther than she could follow. Her face frozen and mask-like as she managed to do so. It was the only way to keep her sanity.
“There’s nothing else to say. I have to save her.”
She stared at him. “Yes, I know. But to have any kind of chance to do so we’re going to have to put the pieces together and that could take some time.” She sighed, “you can run to her rescue and there’s nothing I would do to stop you. Nor would I blame you for doing so, but I wish you would listen to what I’m saying first.”
He took a deep breath as her words settled over him. She might be right, but it went against his nature to do nothing. None of it made sense. He’d watched in slow motion as Elazki stabbed Saurimonde clean through with his sword. She should have been dead. And when she started breathing again apparently unharmed, he’d forgotten everything else around him. Then he’d heard Elazki humming to herself a distance away. She had the strangest look on her face as she stared at him and then, crazily enough, she dove into the river. He’d scanned the water again and again, but she never surfaced. He should have dove in after her, but something inside of him warned him to get Saurimonde and himself out of there as quickly as possible. He wanted to protect her from the sight of Gilles’ mutilated body lying by the shore. There was no way he was miraculously coming back to life again. He felt a chill as he remembered Saurimonde’s black eyes flashing as she demoniacally gorged the flesh from her husband’s body. Sordel closed his eyes not wanting to remember more. He rubbed his temples against the dull thud of a coming headache while saying, “There’s a lot we have to talk about, but this isn’t the time or the place.”
She answered him softly, “I know, it’s all too fresh. I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”
He handed her a steaming mug and she took it gratefully, setting it down on the small wooden table in front of her. She bit her lip trying to decide whether or not it was wise to tell him what she’d discovered. Sordel settled back into the chair and she did her best not to stare open-mouthed at his chest.
The steam from the tea chased away the last vestiges of sleep as he calmly asked, “What are you going to do?”
“Go back,” she answered a little more harshly than she would have wished.
“Go back where?” He frowned, raising his eyebrows in disbelief.
“To the manor house.”
“Why? You can stay here with me.”
The last thing she wants to do is make him angry, but she has to be practical, otherwise she will be doomed. She may have already been doomed for all she knew, but she would survive this. “I know,” she said, “but I have to make an appearance and make things look as normal as possible. Besides, sooner or later someone would know I was here and there would be more trouble. And I’m going to have to explain why Gilles and that girl are suddenly missing.”
“Her name was Mariel. She was your niece. Gilles said she ran off.”
“She…” Her lip began to quiver, but she knew this was one of the things she must face.
“She’s gone wherever Gilles has gone.”
“So she’s dead.” He nodded grimly at this. “And Elazki?”
“I think I know where she’s gone, but it isn’t somewhere we can go. At least not now.”
“Then she’s not dead.”
“No, I would know if she were dead. But soon she’ll wish she was.” Saurimonde’s voice faltered. “There’s something else I need to tell you about your aunt.”
Sordel’s stomach dropped. Intuitively he knew this was going to be ugly.
She took a sip of the hot tea. It scalded her mouth, but it gave her the courage to say what needed to be said. “I read part of her diary after you gave it to me last night. I know you promised her never to read it, but…” She paused, then the words came in a rush. “She had an affair with someone who treated her very badly a long time ago. There was a child.”
“Elazki never had a child.”
“It says in her diary she did. She had a son about 24 years ago.”
Sordel’s face started to pale at this revelation. He was 24-years-old and he had very little memory of his mother, Elazki’s sister. She had died when he was two. Elazki had never said anything to him before about having a child.
Saurimonde continued on knowing if she stopped now, she’d never be able to tell him. “It sounds like she had a very bad experience so she sent the child away and…” He stared at her in disbelief while she said, “Gilles’ name is mentioned.”
The words hung in the air. There was no way to take them back now. It was too horrible a notion to comprehend. Sordel’s mind glitched, and then it hit him. Holy fuck, Gilles might have been his father. He clutched the table feeling faint for a moment, knocking over the tea. Saurimonde jumped out of the chair, backing away. He stared right through her as a rush of connections in his mind suddenly made a sort of sick sense. His stomach lurched.
“Sordel…” Saurimonde said as gently as possible.
He finally focused in on her, but his eyes were wild and a vein throbbed on his forehead. Without a word he turned and strode out the door, slamming it so hard the windows rattled.
“Wait! I could be wrong…” she called after him. But it was too late. He was gone.
“Damn it all to hell!” she shouted in exasperation, throwing down the blanket. The mouldering fox in the middle of the room stared at her and she could have sworn she saw it smile. Suddenly feeling naked, she grabbed her damp dress and covered herself as best as possible. Could it really get any worse…?
Much love from where the worlds touch,