And moving right along…the chapter image for Chapter 2 in THE WELL OF WISHES LOST ~
Chapter 2: Catrain De Liz
As my work in progress is getting closer and closer to getting done, I thought it might be fun to start posting the chapter images as little teasers…
So, on that note – here’s the first one!
Hope you like ’em 🙂
Chapter 1: 81 Ratclif Circle from The Well of Wishes Lost
One Daughter A Sparrow, The Other A Vipont
Here’s another chapter from my work in progress ~ The Well Of Wishes Lost. I made it past the half-way point so it should be smooth sailing from here 🙂 Hoping to have a release date set within the next few weeks….
One Daughter A Sparrow, The Other A Vipont
The remainder of the week passed without incident. Since school was almost out for the year, the work load was light. Well, the school work load was light. At home things were a little bit different. Faith was keeping Bryze and Sara busy every afternoon with cleaning and de-cluttering around the manor. Neither of them minded much since there was a great deal of unique collectibles hidden all around the large house that made the cleaning feel more like a treasure hunt of sorts. If it hadn’t been for the fact that Kimerical and the wishing well still weighed heavily on each of their minds, they might have even loved the tasks Faith was assigning them day after day. As it was, Bryze and Sara hadn’t managed to make it back to the arbor since they had spent the afternoon at Maronne’s tree house over tea and sticky buns.
It wasn’t until Saturday rolled around that Faith finally let up, having finally reached a level of cleanliness she was semi-comfortable with. Bryze didn’t waste any time getting out of the house out of fear her mother might change her mind and stick her with another project given the opportunity.
Sara was already waiting for Bryze in the woods when she and Ava arrived. Jasper was riding along, comfortably tucked into the pocket of Bryze’s t-shirt.
“I was starting to think your mom roped you into some crazy chore again,” Sara said when she saw the trio approach.
“I’m sure she would have, given the chance,” Bryze said.
Side by side the girls walked up to the arbor before walking through it one after the other. Almost half expecting to find someone waiting for them on the other side, Bryze was surprised to find the valley empty upon their arrival this time. Sara seemed to have the same reaction.
“What? No welcome committee this time?” she asked dryly.
“So…where do we go?”
Bryze stared out into the Valley and the surrounding silver slate mountains with their snow covered peaks. She felt a strange pull from those mountains. Like something was out there for her, waiting for her to come. She shook her head. The idea was ridiculous. Or was it?
Bryze let out a deep sigh of submission as she turned her head to face the forest.
“It’s probably best if we head back to Maronne’s,” she said.
“Absolutely!” Jasper chimed in for the first time since leaving the manor.
Bryze grimaced, knowing the mouse wouldn’t be able to see from where he was nestled in her shirt, and they all began to walk toward the trees.
A short hike later they were standing face to face with the grand tree that held Maronne’s cottage within its knotty old branches. While there was no sign on Maronne from the outside, she seemed to be expecting them. Sara and Bryze were both mid step when they were summoned by the Godmother’s magic and found themselves mysteriously transplanted on her front porch. Much to Bryze’s delight, Maronne had brought Ava up as well this time.
“Hello Parsnips!” Maronne called from inside.
The door was already open in anticipation of her guests. It took a moment for the lightheaded feeling from being physically shifted from one place to another to pass. Bryze squeezed her eyes shut tightly in hopes that the blackness would drown the dizziness. When she opened her eyes again, she was ready to walk in to the cottage. Sara followed just a few steps behind. Meanwhile, Ava was already busy sweeping every inch of the place with her cold wet nose.
“I hope you haven’t had breakfast?” Maronne said. She was busily buzzing around the small kitchen area, zapping pots and pans with her wand, causing bacon to sizzle up in one and eggs to boil in another.
“Um no,” Bryze mumbled, fascinated with the scene in front of her. Sara was too engulfed in the phenomenon to even manage that. She just stood beside Bryze with her jaw hanging down to her chest, watching as Maronne moved on to swirling up a batch of her delicious cinnamon rolls in midair, using the tip of her wand to guide the snake-like dough in circles until it was completely wound up like the shell of a snail.
“Wonderful,” Maronne beamed. “Well, have a seat then and pour yourselves some tea. The rest will be ready in a spell or two.”
Without taking their eyes off of Maronne and her wand, the girls fumbled their way to the chairs around the small table and sat down. Once Bryze was settled, Jasper jumped from her pocket out onto the table. Standing on his hind legs, he lifted his nose to the air and inhaled. A dreamy expression drifted over his face as the scents of breakfast came wafting through the air.
“Oh, Jasper dear, I didn’t even see you there.”
As soon as she said it, Maronne sent a small tea saucer flying over to land on the table in front of the little mouse with a mere flick of the wrist. Immediately after, she spun back around to oversee her pots and pans.
It wasn’t long before everyone was settled around a fabulous setting of bacon and eggs, fresh toast and cinnamon rolls. Even Ava had scored a platter of bacon, which she was happily devouring just a few feet away from Bryze’s chair.
There was a comfortable silence all throughout the meal. Except for the occasional “Mmm” or “Oh, that’s good!” there was little to be said. It wasn’t until they finished and sat leaning back into their chairs, stretching their full stomachs out in an effort to be more comfortable, that Maronne began.
“Did you girls have anything special planned for the day?” she asked as she wiped her mouth with her napkin.
“Just spending it here in Kimerical,” Bryze replied. She had the distinct feeling they were about to get assigned a more specific task. Maronne’s expression much resembled the one her mother usually had right before asking Bryze for a favor.
“Then perhaps you won’t mind accompanying me? I have a few errands to run and I would sure love the company. And, it would give me a chance to show you girls around bit…introduce you to some people in town,” Maronne said. She lifted her tea cup to her mouth and took a sip. Bryze thought she saw the signs of a smirk on her lips. Before she could be sure, the rim of the cup had completely covered Maronne’s mouth and hidden any trace of it.
“Sure, sounds interesting,” said Bryze. She nodded slowly while her thoughts raced a mile a minute trying to gain a glimpse into what Maronne’s ulterior motive might be. Sara on the other hand was practically buzzing with excitement of the thought of meeting more Kimericas. The fact that she would be walking amongst them, seeing where they lived, how they lived, was almost enough to drive her over the edge.
“You mean there’s an actual town…with buildings and stores and everything? Are there roads? Wait, do you have cars here? How do you get around? Are you going to be doing that thing where we disappear and then re-appear somewhere else?” Suddenly Sara’s face became a little panic stricken as she continued, “Because to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I’ll be able to do that much more often without getting motion sickness…”
Maronne’s eyes had locked onto Sara during her rambling. Now that she had finished, the Godmother let out a delighted laugh.
“Oh no dear! Not to worry. Since we’ll be traveling in a group today I think it be best to go by carriage. That way you’ll be able to see everything along the way,” Maronne explained as Sara exhaled loudly in relief. Bryze however, was already racking her brain trying to figure out where Maronne was keeping this elusive carriage they would be traveling in. She certainly hadn’t seen it on any of her previous visits, although she supposed it was entirely possible that the trunk of the tree they were sitting in opened up to reveal a garage of sorts. Of course, that still begged the question: Where did she keep the horses?
After all of them had finished the last of their tea, Jasper trailed the length of Bryze’s arm up the shoulder where he happily perched himself. He lurched forward when Bryze abruptly rose from her seat, causing him to grab a hold of her long hair to keep from falling.
“Ouch!” Bryze exclaimed. She shot a disgruntled look at the little mouse who was still trying to regain his balance.
“My apologies. It may be helpful to announce ahead of time when you plan to make sudden movements,” Jasper replied, equally discontented.
“If you can’t hold on somewhere other than my hair, it may be helpful for you to return to your spot in my pocket!” Bryze retorted. Jasper chose not to respond this time.
Back at ground level, Sara and Bryze were looking around curiously in search of the carriage Maronne had talked about. There was still no sign of it anywhere. The girls searched all around and landed back on the Godmother as they came full circle. She was busy digging around for something in the deep pockets of her long robes. Bryze was about to ask what she was doing when Maronne’s arm shot up triumphantly. Her hand was sealed in a fist so there was no way of knowing what she was holing inside it.
“There you are!” Maronne said. She shook her hand in satisfaction. As her hand swung back and forth, she released her fist, tossing something small into the air. Bryze strained to make out the small walnut just as it began to grow and distort itself. By the time it touched the ground it had transformed into a full size carriage, large enough to carry all of them.
“Whoa,” Bryze heard Sara whisper.
Maronne was already pulling the little wooden door open to the cabin when she called back to the girls, “Come along. We don’t want to waste any time. We have a lot to do today.”
Following orders, Bryze and Sara hurriedly climbed on board.
“Load up Ava,” Bryze said. She patted her knee repeatedly to coax her dog into the walnut carriage. It only took the large dog one attempt as she used her long legs to lunge up. Once inside, she settled in between Bryze’s feet, steadying herself against her legs while looking out through the window to her right and panting happily as the ride began. Ava always loved riding in cars. She didn’t care if they were old station wagons or giant walnuts. It was all the same to her.
For a while the trip was peaceful as the carriage rolled itself through the forest, moving easily in and out of the trees and over the large roots protruding through the moss covered dirt. It wasn’t until the woods began to clear and rooftops became visible that the sounds of civilization rang through the air and brought with it a wonderful disruption to the voiceless quiet that had surrounded them throughout their trip.
“Welcome to Dalyngridge, Turnips,” Maronne announced. Instantly Bryze and Sara’s heads turned to the opposite window to get a better look. They were nearly to the edge of the forest now. From there a grass clearing spread down to a small creek that seemed to run its course along a wall, or perhaps they were rows of houses, Bryze couldn’t say for sure. The wall consisted of large white boulders that had been piled one on top of the other in some sort of a majestic puzzle. The effect was quite dazzling as the bright rocks were reflected in the clear teal waters that streamed at rapid speeds through the narrow creek. As far as Bryze could tell there were no windows to speak of, however, the random rooftops that seemed to stretch from one odd shape and height to the next and flowed over the rim of the sizeable wall, suggested that there was certainly more to it than what could be seen from the outside.
Their carriage cleared the final tree trunks and steered itself toward the cobblestone path that lead into the town. There was a small lurch in the cabin as they hit the edge of the curb to get onto the road. Curious to see where the road led, Bryze turned her head away from the walls of Dalyngridge and followed the path into the opposite direction. It seemed to bypass the Forest altogether, traveling parallel to the tree line only for a short distance before turning off and disappearing over a hill. Bryze couldn’t help but wonder what lie beyond it. How much was left to discover about this new world?
When Bryze turned back around she saw that they were approaching a small bridge. Once over the creek, it led directly into town through the most sublime archway she had ever seen. It matched the walls entirely, with its white washed boulders and intricate composition. Even in spite of its age, which Bryze could only guess at, it had held up impeccably, possibly even gotten more beautiful in time as the wind and weather had painted the stone and molded it into perfection.
There were no signs anywhere, but then Bryze didn’t imagine there were too many visitors that didn’t already know where they were going in Kimerical. After all, as far as Bryze knew, Sara was the first Kalloe to ever enter through the arbor.
Both girls watched in awe as the carriage strolled down the small street. The outer wall had in fact been only a small part of a much grander structure. As soon as they had entered the town they had seen two more roads split off from the one they were traveling on, one leading to the right and one to the left of them. Both bending as they mimicked the outline of the outer wall and both lined with rows of houses. Even though they were all built from the same starting
point and connected on each side, where they went from there in size and design varied greatly. Bryze wished the carriage had turned, allowing her a better look, but it continued, locked on its path, facing straight ahead. Once Bryze managed to pry her eyes from the scenery behind her to look at what was still to come, she quickly forgot about the row houses on the outskirts of town. There were more houses to be seen and while these were not built into a giant barrier that encircled the town, they were just as interesting as they had been built to accommodate the roads rather than the other way around. These buildings all shared multiple outer walls as well, connecting multiple houses in huge chunks, some with multiple points as they led all the way into the corners of the intersections, and some with wide rounded rims as they leaned into the curves of the turning roads. All of them built from the same elegant white rock making Dalyngridge a true sight to behold.
The only thing more fascinating than the brilliant architecture of the houses, were their inhabitants. The signs of life were everywhere, radiating from the open windows and doors. Sounds of enthusiastic talking and jubilant laughter filled the air and only increased as the trio traveled further into town.
Bryze could tell they were leaving behind the residential part of Dalyngridge and reaching the center of town. The sidewalks were slowly beginning to fill with people and the faces of the buildings were starting to change. Where there had been homey front doors with sparkly white gravel walkways and welcoming flower pots, there were now large store windows and heavy swinging doors, most of which boasted bright lettering displaying the name of each shop. Many also advertised their merchandise on broad wooden signs that were so solid and heavy they remained steady hanging from their high beams even in the breeze. Like Delvkanesh & Vavassour to Bryze’s right, a hardware store of sorts from what she could tell. She could smell the bakery across the street before she even red the bright red sign: Bolbec’s Breads and Baked Delicacies. Bryze’s mouth began to water just breathing in the sweet smells that came drifting out of the bakery into their carriage where it remained trapped it seemed, and with no other option but to torture them with un-satisfiable cravings.
When they arrived at place simply named Godfrey’s the carriage suddenly came to a stop. Both girls had been so engulfed in their new surroundings that the abrupt ending of their trip came rather unexpected, causing both of them to nearly slide from their seats and onto the floor.
“Are you two alright?” Maronne asked.
“Oh, sure,” Bryze replied as she slid herself back up against the wall while Sara answered with a meek, “Yes, Mam,” still trying to shift back into a more upright position.
“Excellent. There’s just one more thing before we get out of the carriage.”
“Your clothes.” Maronne was already spinning the tip of her wand in tiny circles, making it erupt in miniature fireworks from the sheer anticipation of the impending spell.
“What’s wrong with our clothes?” Bryze asked, feeling suddenly a bit uneasy.
“They simply won’t do!”
Neither Bryze nor Sara had a chance to put up much of a fight. Maronne’s wand spun so rapidly casting its brilliant sparks all over them, they could hardly see through the bright inferno that they left behind. By the time their eyes re-adjusted, it was already too late. Their clothes had vanished and been replaced with ensembles Bryze would never have chosen to wear in a million years.
“These are dresses!” she cried with unbridled disgust.
“Naturally. Don’t you like them, Parsnip? Is it the color? I could change the color if you like,” Maronne offered. Clearly she couldn’t see the problem.
“The color is fine…it’s the dress that’s the issue. Don’t you have anything with pant legs?” Bryze asked although an uncomfortable truth had already begun to sink in. As Bryze’s eyes traveled back to the window and the passersby on the sidewalks, she couldn’t help but notice everyone’s attire. She had been so distracted by the scenery she hadn’t even noticed. Until now. It seemed the fashions of Kimerical were somewhat dated. Medieval times dated.
She looked down the front of her dress once more. Perhaps it wasn’t so bad. Actually, on someone else, she probably would have thought it was beautiful with its flawless seems, deep blue tones and silver beading. It was in all likelihood breathtaking. Albeit, a bit much for the occasion. The long sleeves flared at the end, hanging down several inches beyond her wrists. The front of the dress was cinched up with dark blue ribbon at her waist and the skirt below it flowed freely all the way down to her toes, covering her shoes entirely. Bryze was too afraid to even take a peek at them. Whatever they looked like, at least they were comfortable. From what she could tell her long wild hair had been tamed as much as was possible in a long thick braid that lay draped over her left shoulder. Bryze was actually quite pleased with the effect and made a mental note to ask Maronne about the braiding. It was unlike any normal ponytail she had ever attempted but she held out hope that it could be achieved even in lieu of magic. Bryze took a final breath in, accepting her current situation and then turned to see Sara’s dress. It was similar to her own with the same hanging sleeves and embroidered details. The only differences Bryze could see were in the cinching at the waist and the colors. While hers was tied at the front, Sara’s was laced up on both sides. In contrast to Bryze’s deep blue, the light emerald green of Sara’s dress really popped and her hair had been twisted into a lovely up do which Maronne had thought to embellish with dainty little white flowers. Sara looked beautiful as she beamed at Bryze, clearly more taken by their new looks than she had been.
“Marvelous, just marvelous!” Maronne exclaimed, clapping her hands together with delight. Without saying anything more, she opened the door and stepped outside onto the sidewalk. While Jasper and Ava settled in content to stay behind, the girls followed suit with Bryze nearly stumbling over her long dress as she put her foot out in search of the step down. She just barely caught herself, managing a semi-dignified exit rather than simply spilling from the carriage.
“What is this place?” Sara asked looking up at the sign curiously.
“This is Godfrey’s. Oh, you’ll just love it! Come along now.” Maronne was nearly at the door already, stopping only briefly to nod at a couple of elderly women as they walked by before walking in. Bryze and Sara hurried to catch up with her, managing to catch the door just as it was falling shut again. It took both of them to pry it open again as it was much heavier than it appeared to be. Once on the other side, they found themselves inside the most magnificent book store they had ever seen. Books, books and more books. They lined the entire store from the floor to the ceiling. Shelving had been built out of the most unlikely of objects and the size of the store stretched back further than either of them could see. Slowly they took one step after the other, entering further into this wonderland of literature, their eyes traveling over the book spines absorbing each of their beautiful and eccentric titles and never recognizing any of them.
When Bryze reached a collection of old wagon wheels that had been attached and made to stand upright, she stopped suddenly. Their spokes were now housing a colorful array of books, dividing them neatly as they spun around the hub. A gold plate had been nailed to one of the wheels and the words ‘The Works of Macedonius Godfrey’ had been embossed on it.
“Macedonius wrote these?” she asked.
“Do you know about Macedonius, turnip?” Maronne turned and took a few steps back to face Bryze.
“Not exactly…there’s a painting of him at the manor,” Bryze mumbled not really wanting to go into any more detail just then.
Bryze got the distinct feeling that Maronne was surprised by the news. However, if she felt it was odd for Celestine to have taken the portrait of Macedonius Godfrey, she didn’t elaborate on it. Instead she scrolled the many books sitting in the wagon wheels with her index finger. When she settled on what was probably the largest one in the bunch, she grabbed a hold of it using the same finger and her thumb and gently pulled it out without disrupting the remaining collection.
“Macedonius Godfrey was the greatest scribe of his time. Perhaps, the greatest there ever was. He truly understood the power of words and mastered the art of arranging them in the most beautiful of ways.” Then Maronne handed the book she was holding to Bryze.
“Read it, you’ll understand.” She smiled brightly and carried on through the store, apparently in search of something or someone.
Sara peered over Bryze’s shoulder, trying to get a better look.
“What is it?” she asked.
“From Words To Wonders by Macedonius Godfrey,” Bryze replied. Both girls shrugged their shoulders and moved on, the heavy book tucked safely under Bryze’s arm. It didn’t take them long to catch up to Maronne who was eagerly talking to an older gentlemen. The man had short bushy hair that encircled his primarily bald head like a wreath. What he was lacking in hair on the top of his head, he made up for with the hair on his face, wearing a full beard nearly all the way down to his chest. It was so white and fluffy that all Bryze could do was imagine the man sticking his entire face into a bag of cotton balls and retrieving it with half the bag’s contents still attached. In the midst of all the fluff, near the tip of his nose, sat a set of round spectacles. The man repeatedly tapped the rim of his glasses to move them back into place as they kept teetering on the edge. From the neck down he was dressed in various shades of brown and multiple layers of shirts over a pair of pants that he wore tucked into his boots which reached to just below his knees. To Bryze he looked like some character that had just walked out of a Robin Hood movie, but then, so did she.
“There you two are. Come here, I want you to meet my dear friend Albert Godfrey,” Maronne said, waving the girls over to join them.
Albert Godfrey only took one look at Bryze before he blinked multiple times and dropped his jaw in befuddlement.
“Why, it can’t be! Maronne…you’ve found her!”
“Actually, she rather found me, Albert,” Maronne said smiling.
Bryze walked up uncomfortably, not sure whether she was expected to extend her hand for him to shake or kiss. It was odd, this sense of novelty that people immediately applied to her upon realizing who she was. Or, to be more precise – whom she was related to.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Mr. Godfrey. You have a lovely store here,” Bryze said.
“No, dear girl, the pleasure is mine!” Albert Godfrey replied, nodding his head enthusiastically. Much to Bryze’s relief, his hands were already otherwise occupied with five or six books he was balancing between his arms and his belly, making her quandary about what to do regarding a handshake a mute-point.
“Well then, you must be here about the books!” he suddenly burst out. Before Bryze could ask what books he was referring to, Albert Godfrey was already moving away, dropping the load he was carrying on a nearby wheel barrow that had been cut in half and was now fitted with three sets of shelves to hold more of the store’s written treasures and then disappearing down a long aisle that led deeper into his labyrinth of literature. When he returned a few short moments later, he was holding three large books. All were bound in red velvet covers with elegant golden trims. The lettering on the front was made from actual gold medal and the delicate letters had been attached with tiny golden nails. Bryze had never seen anything like it.
“Here we are my dear. Catrain De Liz, The Family Tree – from roots to blossoms and of course, Et Calceum.” He handed all three of the books to Bryze who struggled not to drop them, already having her hands full with Macedonius’ Words into Wonders. She couldn’t help but wonder if it wouldn’t be easier to simply ask him what the book was about the next time she saw him. She was just about to hand it back to Maronne to lighten her load, when Sara came to her rescue, taking the two top books off of her growing stack.
“What does Et Calceum mean?” she asked eyeing the fancy cover curiously.
“It means – the shoe,” Albert Godfrey explained. He was beaming with pride. Apparently being the keeper of books was a pretty important job in Kimerical.
“As in the shoe? Cinder-I mean, Catrain’s slipper?” Bryze bit her lip, strangely ashamed of the slip.
Albert seemed unaware of Bryze’s mistake.
“Why yes, of course. It’s really a remarkable book written by a famous Godfrey naturally.”
“Oh, did Macedonius write this one as well?”
“No, but it was written by his great granddaughter – Belia Godfrey, an equally talented scribe in my opinion.”
“Yes, indeed. Belia always did have a beautiful way with words,” Maronne agreed, then she turned to Albert and said, “I’m afraid we really must get going Albert. We have several stops in town still to make, but I do so appreciate the care you’ve given the De Liz Omnibus.”
“It was an honor, Maronne. A true honor to have been entrusted with them all these years. I’m just grateful that I didn’t disappoint.”
“Never Albert.” Maronne smiled warmly at the wiry old man and he returned the gesture in kind.
As Maronne began to shuttle the girls back toward the front of the store, Bryze was hit with a sudden realization.
“Maronne, wait! I haven’t paid for these.”
“Don’t be silly turnip. You don’t have to pay for books that already belong to you.”
“But what about From Words To Wonders? That’s not a family book, is it?” Bryze said as she held out the book for Maronne to see.
“Oh my, I nearly forgot. You better take that back up to Albert along with your coin purse.”
“My coin purse?” Bryze was perplexed.
“Check your pocket,” Maronne said, gesturing at the right side of Bryze’s skirt.
Bryze reached in with her free hand. Stunned, she pulled out a dainty little pouch in champagne colors with rose stained strings. When she opened it up she was even more surprised to find that it was filled with large golden coins.
“You should have plenty there,” Maronne said taking ahold of Bryze’s shoulders and gently turning her around to head back to the part of the store Albert was in.
Back outside on the side walk the bright sun was shining down on them and a light breeze was caressing their faces, carelessly blowing the loose wisps of their hair around. It was entirely enjoyable.
“I don’t suppose we’ll be needing this then,” Maronne said. With one smooth flick of her wand the carriage standing before them shrunk right back to its regular walnut size. Once it was done, Maronne gave her wand another wave sending the little nut right back into her pocket.
“Wait!” cried Bryze. “Ava and Jasper are still inside!”
Maronne shook her head and chuckled.
“Not to worry. I sent them back to Oak Cottage ages ago. It was getting hot out and I didn’t want them to roast out here while we were busy inside.”
“I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to that,” Sara mumbled as the three began their walk down the sidewalk.
“Where are we headed to next?” Bryze asked, silently contemplating whether or not it would be appropriate for her to ask her fairy Godmother to turn the heavy books she and Sara were now lugging around town into something small like an acorn of sorts that could neatly fit into one of her pockets as well. She decided against it.
“We are going to see the King. It is imperative that he know of your return,” Maronne said as she marched forward at a speed that was quite a bit faster than either of the girls had expected.
“King Balen? But Kai said he was…well somewhat incapacitated for lack of a better word,” Bryze said, breathing heavily as she ran to keep up. Maronne stopped and spun back around almost instantly.
“King Balen may not be well, but he is still King of Kimerical. It is important that he is shown the proper respect under all circumstances,” the Godmother scolded. “You just never mind what Kai says. His anger blinds him to some things that still have a need for being seen. He may not approve of the way things are done, but he is in no position to do them differently. Not now anyway.”
“You mean because there can’t be a tournament to determine a new king,” said Bryze quietly. Meanwhile, Sara was standing beside the two, staring at the ground uncomfortably.
“Yes, that’s one of the reasons. Now come along. I don’t wish to discuss this any further out on the streets. You’re welcome to bring it up again another time.”
Bryze felt a surge of rebellion bubble up within her and she had to fight the urge to declare that she wanted to talk about it more now rather than later. Then she saw the relief on Sara’s face when Maronne turned around and began to walk again, easing the tension that had settled around them previously. Reluctantly, Bryze bit her tongue and continued walking.
They walked in silence until they reached a bend in the road. It took a few paces to clear the curve and when they did, a glorious castle revealed itself on the other side. It was bigger and more beautiful than any castle Bryze had ever seen in fairy tale books or otherwise. The entire structure seemed to glisten and glitter as the sun poured its bountiful golden rays upon it. It was as though the whole castle had been encrusted in diamonds the way it gleamed and sparkled, it was almost painful to look at and Bryze couldn’t tell if the tears welling up in her eyes were from the stinging of the bright lights or the overwhelming emotions that had assaulted her the moment she stood face to face with the castle. She couldn’t explain it, but she felt a deep connection to the castle; a sense of homecoming. At least that’s what she thought it was. It wasn’t something she had ever actually experienced before now.
When she looked over her shoulder at Sara, she saw that the same expression of awe had etched itself onto her friend’s face as well.
“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” Sara whispered breathlessly. She never even took her eyes off of the castle.
Turning back to face the castle herself, Bryze observed the most astonishing thing. Depending on the angle at which the sun hit and the castle was being viewed, the colors changed. She slowly swayed her head back and forth and watched as a rainbow effect illuminated the entire palace. It was mesmerizing.
The sound of Maronne’s voice brought the girls out of their temporary trance.
“I forget how impressive it looks. It’s a shame really, to see something so magnificent and become complacent about it.” Maronne sighed. The she smiled impishly and said, “Wait until you see the inside!”
Suddenly giddy with excitement, neither of the girls struggled to keep up with Maronne this time as she hurried down the sidewalk, weaving in and out of the other pedestrians. They were nearly to the gates of the castle when a tall woman with jet black hair wearing a maroon colored dress and a hunter green cloak over it stepped in the midst of their path, bringing the trio to an immediate halt.
“My, my…what do we have here?” the woman snarled. There was a strange squareness about her, with ever line of her body drawn at a perfect ninety degree angle. Even her face, which lacked a certain sense of femininity, was carved out of stern lines imparting on her a pointy nose and heavy jawline that protruded out farther than the rest of her face. Above her small narrow eyes rested a faint yet distinct uni-brow. And her black hair was pulled back into a bun so tightly, Bryze wondered if it accounted for the fact that her actual hairline sat several inches back from edge of her brows, or brow for that matter. Standing beside her was a teenage boy. He had the same dark hair and similarly jagged lines that carried on through his expression, which was displayed in his thin lips forming a perfectly straight band as he pressed them together and a furrowed brow, causing his normally separate eyebrows to match the single one on the woman’s face. Although he was quite a bit taller, he appeared to be the same age as Bryze.
“Cecily,” Maronne addressed the woman coldly.
“That’ll be Madam Vipont to you, Maronne.” The woman turned her nose down at them haughtily. “Perhaps you would like to share with us what these trespassers are doing here?”
Maronne puffed out her chest and pulled her shoulders up as high as they would go, attempting to elongate her otherwise short statue.
“Madam Vipont,” Maronne began, “Who I travel with is none of your concern. Perhaps I should be asking you why it is that your son’s inexplicable visits to the palace seem to be increasing. Surely it’s not the company of King Balen he seeks?”
“I’m not going to explain myself to the likes of you! Who do you think you are?!” Cecily Vipont spat.
While Maronne and Madame Vipont continued to argue, her son took it upon himself to engage with Bryze and Sara.
“So it’s true then. You’re Kalloes,” he said. He didn’t bother to hide the disgust in his voice.
Sara swallowed hard. “I’m a Kalloe. Bryze is not. She’s one of you, she’s-” But Bryze cut her off before she could finish.
“What’s it to you?”
“How dare you question me? Don’t you know who I am?” The boy looked suddenly outraged.
“Whoever you are, you’re obviously not nearly as important as you think you are. Otherwise Maronne would have thought it fit to introduce us, which she clearly has not done. Maybe you would care to handle that. What’s your name anyway? Or would you prefer to be addressed as Mister Vipont?” Bryze finished by mocking his name much like Maronne had done while talking to the boy’s mother.
“That would certainly be appropriate, but since you don’t seem to know a thing about propriety, my name is Japhet. Japhet Vipont. And we are indeed important. Our longstanding invitation to afternoon tea with his royal highness should prove that much.” Japhet straightened himself out and pressed his shoulders back in an attempt to regain his dignity.
“Oh yeah? Tell me, did the king invite you before or after the Jester sucked out his soul and left behind a human shell?”
Japhet’s face distorted in horror at the sound of Bryze’s words. She doubted he had ever been spoken to the way she just had. She grinned, satisfied with her results.
Having left Japhet speechless, Bryze returned her attention to the conversation between Maronne and his mother. She tuned in just in time to hear Maronne share a pretty disconcerting piece of information.
“That’s right Cecily, Catrain’s descendant has returned. I really would think you’d be happy about that. I mean, after all, you are family.” She said the last bit with such sweetness that there was no denying it had been said with a malicious intent and not out of kindness.
Bryze burst in between the two women to face her Godmother.
“What do you mean, we’re family? I thought I was the only one left. I can’t be related to these people!”
“You’re not!” Cecily declared loudly. A cold finality rang through her voice. “Our families may have been bound by marriage, but never by blood!”
“And therein lies the problem, doesn’t it Cecily. You and every generation that came before you has always envied the royal birthright Catrain’s descendants are granted, when your bloodline offers them no such glory. Raised by the same parents, in the same home and yet, one daughter was a Sparrow while the other was a Vipont.”
“Catrain manipulated everyone she ever met. She stole that crown! It should have been Comitessa! It would have been Comitessa De Liz if Catrain hadn’t come along and spoiled it all. I don’t care what you say Maronne. My family has always known the truth. You mark my words: Someday all of Kimerical will know it, too. And then no one will be able to protect your precious Catrain or any of her Kalloe descendants.” It was as clear a threat as Bryze had ever heard one and it sent shivers of uncertainty down her spine.
“You’re a fool if you really believe that Cecily. A fool.” Maronne shook her head at the woman who had just ranted at them like a raving lunatic. Cecily saw the pity in her eyes and reacted by spouting off once more.
“It’s Madam Vipont to you!” Then she pulled Japhet over by the shoulder of his overcoat and said, “Come along. We don’t want to be seen talking to these…these outsiders! Wouldn’t want people to get the wrong impression.” She shot them one last look over her shoulder before hastily walking out of sight.
The Well Of Wishes Lost
“Say Jasper…have you ever heard of Kimerical having a wishing well?”
“Certainly. I don’t suppose there’s anyone who hasn’t heard of the well of wishes lost. Why do you ask?”
~ The Well Of Wishes Lost
New Friends And Old Alliances
Kai reached for the door handle preparing to open it and walk in.
“Wait! Shouldn’t we knock or something to announce ourselves before just bursting in on them?” Bryze hissed.
“You don’t know very much about wizards and godmothers do you?” he said as he pulled at the handle and walked in.
The People Of Astoria
Well, I’m afraid I’m still holed up in my writing cave… and without much else to offer the Blogging Universe I present to you all another section of my WIP ~
P.S. ~ Feel free to give feedback in the comments section below…this is just a draft and there’s always room for improvement!!
“You better hurry, Bry or you’ll be late,” her mother said, handing her a couple of dollar bills for lunch and nodding at the backpack sitting on the floor by the doorway.
Bryze shoved the last bite of her pop tart into her mouth, grabbed the cash and made her way to the door, swooping down briefly to pick up her schoolbag as she went by.
“You’re sure you don’t want me to take you on your first day?” Faith called after her.
Bryze didn’t even turn around; she just kept walking toward the exit as she yelled back, “I’m sure.”
The bus stop was just two houses down from them. On top of that, it was easy to spot given the small pool of students that had collected there. Bryze took a deep breath and marched onward preparing to face the new crowd. Since it was close and she could see their driveway from the stop, she allowed Ava to tag along. Bryze knew she’d find her way back home when it was time.
Bryze looked up to see who had said it. It was a girl, probably the same age as herself. She had a set of blonde pigtails that hung down her shoulders in long braids along with big blue eyes that seemed just the slightest bit magnified by the bright green glasses she was wearing.
“Thanks, her name is Ava. You can pet her if you like.”
The girl smiled back and reached out to pet Ava’s thick coat.
“Wow, she’s so soft!” she exclaimed, clearly surprised by its smooth texture.
“I know. You’d never know it to look at it.”
The girls grinned at each other, both petting Ava as she happily basked in their affections.
“I’m Sara by the way. I live just a few houses that way,” she said, pointing to her left, the opposite direction from where Bryze had just come.
“I’m Bryze. We just moved into the big red house at the end.”
Bryze had barely finished her sentence when an older boy who hadn’t paid them much attention before now, turned around and interrupted their conversation.
“You live in Maniacal Manor?!” he demanded, his words drenched in disbelief.
“I don’t know…is that what you call the house?”
“The big red manor, house number 81? Yeah, that’s what I call it. That’s what everyone calls it!” the boy ranted at Bryze, who still didn’t really understand what he was talking about.
“Why? I mean, I know it’s an old house and it obviously needs a ton of work but…”
“Oh it needs a ton of work alright! Along with an exorcism or two! That place is cursed. Haunted by the poor souls that died there…after they went completely insane just from living in that house. Only an idiot would willingly live there,” the boy said, shaking his head at Bryze.
She just looked at him for a moment trying to figure out if he was really serious about what he was saying. He certainly seemed to be. However, the longer Bryze let everything he had just said to sink in, the more ridiculous it all began to sound. She couldn’t help but laugh out loud. Everyone around looked at her utterly bewildered. This was not the reaction they had anticipated, least of all the boy who had issued the warning.
“That’s crazy! You really think the house is haunted? Please! Sure, it’s got some weird stuff in it, but none of it’s evil…just old and busted. That’s a good story though. You should save it for people who haven’t been inside the house and don’t know any better.”
Bryze chuckled again and returned her attention to Sara.
“I don’t suppose you believe all that stuff about the house, too?” Bryze asked when she saw the worried look on Sara’s face.
“Well…it’s just. I’ve seen it.”
“Seen what?” Sara twisted her fingers uncomfortably, not wanting to upset Bryze.
“The ghost,” she finally whispered.
Bryze’s eyes grew wide.
“You have? What did it look like?”
“I don’t know…I couldn’t see a person or anything…just a light…in the tower.”
Bryze thought about what she had heard for a moment and shrugged.
“Hm, that would explain why all the bulbs needed to be replaced,” she replied, half joking hoping it would break the awkward tension that had set in. Bryze had been fully prepared for being the new girl. She had even anticipated that someone would have some joke prepared for the dilapidated shack she now called home, but being the girl living in the haunted house everyone called Maniacal Manor – that she had not had the foresight to plan for. For a moment she wondered how freaked out they’d all be if she told them she was related to the supposed loons who not only built the place, but then apparently did God knows what to garner reputations as haunted inhabitants who seemed more suited for a mental ward than a home on quiet little Ratcliff Circle. Bryze was still deep in thought with a sly smirk resting on her lips when the bus pulled up.
She turned her attention away from the kids who were already climbing on the bus and leaned down to talk to Ava.
“Alright girl. Time to go home. Go on now. I’ll see you in a little bit.”
She gave her one last pat and then watched as Ava trotted down the sidewalk and up their driveway. When she was sure that her dog had made it home safely, she went and boarded the school bus as well.
She had barely made the steps when she heard the doors shut behind her and the bus began to move. A bit jolted from the sudden movement, Bryze gripped onto the back of the first row of seats to steady herself. As soon as she regained her footing, she scanned the length of the bus in search of an empty seat. She was relieved to see that Sara had decided to save her a spot and was now waving Bryze over to join her. She swiftly moved her way through the narrow isle and plopped down beside Sara who was now thoughtfully glancing out of the window. Bryze looked up just in time to see what had caught her eye. They were passing right by her home at that very moment. Maniacal Manor, she thought, I guess I can see it…
Just then Sara noticed that Bryze had seen her stare. Embarrassed, she began to ramble, “So, where did you move from?”
Bryze welcomed the distraction.
“California? Did you ever see any movie stars?”
“I did actually. There was this one time I saw Charlie Sheen at a gas station,” Bryze recalled.
“Really? What was he doing?” Sara’s eyes were wide from excitement.
Bryze paused a moment before slowly answering, “He was getting gas…”
Sara shook her head and laughed out loud.
“Of course he was! Ha, I can’t believe I asked that. Anyway, did you talk to him?”
“Nah, my mother did though. They made all kinds of small talk while they were pumping gas just a few feet from one another. She didn’t know who he was the entire time. I had to tell her when she got back in the car. By then Charlie was long gone,” Bryze grinned at the memory. Her mother had ranted the whole way home that she couldn’t believe she had been talking to Mr. Sheen and didn’t even recognize him. In her Mom’s defense, even Bryze had gotten so accustomed to seeing the man in a bowling shirt, shorts and loafers he was a bit harder to spot when he was actually dressed like a normal person.
As the ride continued, Sara filled Bryze in on everything she felt was noteworthy about Astoria. For starters, the boy who had been so affronted at the mention of Bryze’s residence was Timothy Clayton. He was a junior, one of the only ones still riding the bus. Sara explained that while he had received his license some months ago, his father had instantly revoked those rights when Timothy was caught tearing up the football field of a rival school in his Jeep Wrangler. Apparently, Mr. Clayton was mortified by the event, although some rumored it was the getting caught part that upset him more so than the action itself. The Clayton’s were a well-respected family in the community, with both Mr. and Mrs. being esteemed members of various boards and committees, including the school board. Timothy was their shining star, always excelling at school and in sports. He was sure to be team captain of the football team next term, in spite of the poor showmanship he had shown by destroying the other team’s field after losing the game to them earlier that afternoon.
As Bryze listened to Sara talk about Timothy, her head automatically turned around in search of him. He was sitting all the way in the back, surrounded by several other boys, all wearing the same letterman jackets. Bryze had never quite understood why people took such pride in being labeled. She found it even less appealing that they all strived to be identical, wearing matching clothes and talking about all the same stuff. The last thing Bryze ever wanted, was to be like everybody else. Mostly because she was never that impressed by the kids she met to consider it a compliment to be compared to them. It went both ways really. The other kids never seemed to have much use for her either. Bryze had gotten used to being an outsider. She was comfortable with herself and had even learned how to laugh at herself when others made jokes at her expense. She didn’t care what they thought of her. The only opinion that mattered to Bryze was Ava’s. Ava was her true friend. She had shown a long time ago that her love was unconditional and that her loyalty was unwavering. Nothing else mattered.
Silence set in as Sara finished her story, and Bryze turned back to look at her. Maybe things would be different this time. From the looks of it, Sara was a bit of an outsider herself. Bryze couldn’t put her finger on what it was exactly that made her stand out from the crowd. She was definitely rocking her inner nerd, but even those guys usually ran in packs. Sara was different.
“What?” Sara asked when she noticed Bryze staring.
“Nothing. I was just wondering why you didn’t sit with all the other kids from our stop, I guess,” Bryze said, shrugging her shoulders.
“Sit with those guys? Yeah, right,” Sara mumbled as she peered over at the boys and girls from their street. They were clearly considered the cool kids. Something Bryze had never been considered, nor had she ever wanted to be. Who wants to be a sheep? That’s what her mother always said. Which was funny really, because there was no doubt in Bryze’s mind that Faith had absolutely been one of the cool kids in her time.
“So, you guys don’t get along?” Bryze asked, trying to feel out the situation a little more.
Sara shook her head, “Not exactly. Most of the kids at school say I’m fable minded…they think it’s a really clever play on words since they think I’m stupid and they like to make fun of the fact that I still believe in fairy tales.”
Bryze glanced over at her out of the corner of her eye. Had she just heard her right?
“What do you mean, you still believe in fairy tales?”
“I just find them fascinating. The magic, the adventures…and I suppose it appeals to me that it’s usually the least likely person who swoops in and saves the day.”
Bryze smirked. She thought back at her treasured book resting on its brand new shelf and then looked back at Sara. Astoria was turning out to be alright. Maybe she had finally found a place where she belonged. Even if the majority still leaned toward being sheep, at least she now had Sara to keep her company amongst the herd.
She took one last look at the crowd around Timothy Clayton and then turned back to Sara. She stretched out her legs, revealing two colorful mismatched socks at her feet and laughed, “Yeah, I wouldn’t want to sit with them either. They seem weird.”
Sara saw Bryze’s socks and began to snicker. Then she unzipped the hoody she was wearing and proudly displayed a bright purple and pink tie dye shirt underneath.
“Totally,” she agreed, exaggerating her tone. A second later, both girls erupted into fits of giggles that didn’t let up until they arrived at the school and had to compose themselves enough to get off of the bus.
Catrain De Liz
“You see, Catrain De Liz was born a mere peasant in her time…but she died a noble woman. Her story can’t be found in any history books, but after you’ve spent some time becoming more acquainted with her and the long line of descendants that led to you, I believe you’ll find that it has been told many times over. Most likely, it’s a story you already know.”
81 Ratclif Circle
It seems like forever since I’ve written anything on here…I’ve been so engulfed in my current project I haven’t really been in the frame of mind to write much else. That part hasn’t really changed much, so since I can’t seem to form enough sentences to write anything other than my WIP, I may as well share some of that instead…
So, here is a little sample of what I’ve been working on. Mind you, there has been very limited editing, this is pretty much just how it flows from my brain and out through my finger tips, so be forewarned – there will be mistakes 🙂
81 Ratclif Circle was by far the largest house on the cul-de-sac. It was also the ugliest. While Bryze was certain that it must have been a gem in its time, what remained of it now was decrepit and appeared to be slowly disintegrating. The dark red paint was chipped and faded most everywhere. Where it remained solid, there were dark yellow and brown streaks running in a downward motion, most likely from an extensive leak in the rain gutters, if not the roof itself. The long and narrow windows displayed shreds of deep green curtains, when they had any window treatment at all and were encased by shutters of warped wood and flecks of white paint that had somehow managed to remain attached in spite of the fact that the splinters of wood appeared to be barely holding on to each other and were likely to crumble at the slightest touch or breeze. Which likely explained the fact that the majority of windows had only one shutter left, or worse yet, pieces of shutters, neither of which would do much good in the event of a storm. To top it off, the mansion had the distinct feeling of one that was haunted with a sadness that seemed to seep out through each of its weathered imperfections.
Bryze was about to insist that her mother shift into reverse and abandon this place of deprivation when she noticed an undeniable highlight amidst the rubble and despair. On the back left corner of the battered structure craned a tower, reaching higher up than even the tallest peak in the roof. At the very top, situated only feet below the rim of the dome, was a window. My room, Bryze thought as tingles shot down her spine in excitement. She was about to point it out to her mother when they were interrupted by a tap on the driver’s side window.
Everyone in the station wagon had been glued to the sight in front of them and not a one of them had taken notice when the dark silver Cadillac Seville pulled up beside them. Nor had they seen the tall, slender man who had gotten out of the vehicle and approached theirs.
Startled by the man’s sudden appearance, Faith struggled for a moment to roll down the window. Finally she was able to grab a hold of the lever to manually lower the glass in their old station wagon.
“Mister Galahad?” she asked with a shy smile.
He bowed his head slightly.
“Yes, indeed, but please, you must call me Percy. After all, we’re practically neighbors now.”
“Alright then, Percy it is,” Faith agreed as she nodded at the children to get out of the car.
Percy took a step back as she opened the car door and exited as well. A moment later, he was leading the way up the long walkway up to the wrought iron gates that led into the courtyard and eventually up to the front door. Along the way, Percy briefly inquired about their trip before moving on to telling Faith everything she needed to know about the house. The list of problems far surpassed the issues they had been able to see from the driveway, and Faith was busy making mental notes of all the things that would need to be handled immediately.
Moving at a much slower pace and following several feet behind the adults were Bryze and her little brother and sister, along with Ava, their dog. Once inside the courtyard, the two smaller children happily began to run around, thrilled to be able to stretch their muscles as well as their vocal chords. Even though Bryze was eager to get inside the house to look around, she chose to sit down on the edge an old claw foot bathtub that sat alongside the outer walls of the courtyard. As she pondered the events that had led to the bathtub’s relocation to the courtyard, she leaned back against the wall and watched Garret and Shelby as they chased each other around, winding in and out of the pillars that lined the front of the house and hiding behind the various pieces of random furniture that had been left behind in addition to the tub. They weren’t the only ones enjoying themselves. Ava was having a field day taking in every scent imaginable as her nose inched its way across the ground. Bryze smiled at the site of her old friend and relished in the fact that Ava would no longer be limited by the dog park or the gravel covered back patio they had lived with back in the city.
Bryze heard the sound of footsteps echoing over tile coming from the foyer and her attention returned to the man who had set everything in motion and brought them here. Percy Galahad was possibly the tallest man she had ever met. He towered over their mother, who wasn’t exactly short herself at 5’8. Everything from his face to his fingers was long and slender, so much so, it made his appearance nearly comical if one focused for too long on those attributes. Judging from his mannerisms and the ease in which he moved, he couldn’t be nearly as old as his deep wrinkles and white hair would suggest. His round sunken in eyes, were so dark Bryze had been unable to determine their color, but what she had noticed was the way he looked at things with such an inquisitive nature it had almost made her uncomfortable as his curious stare bored into her upon their arrival. Thankfully, it had been brief and he had returned his attention back to her mother almost instantly.
Percy’s demeanor was friendly and jovial in a way that seemed second nature to him and yet, Bryze couldn’t help but feel that there was something just slightly off in his behavior. It was almost too natural like it had been rehearsed and now he was simply going through the motions following a routine he knew inside and out because he had done it a hundred times before.
The sound of Shelby crying yanked Bryze from her thoughts of Mister Galahad and she quickly ran to her sister’s side to see what the problem was.
“What happened?” she asked as she strategically examined first the little girls face and head prior to moving her way down to the hands and knees while she waited for an answer.
“I falled,” Shelby wept as she lifted her chubby little finger to point at something just a few feet away.
Certain that the only thing bruised was her sister’s pride, Bryze kissed her forehead and helped her back to her feet. Then she stood up herself and walked over to the unidentifiable object that had caused the upset in the first place. When she squatted down beside it and flipped it right side up, she was surprised to see that it was a steel gauntlet. The metal was tarnished and two of the fingers had been crushed, but it was a gauntlet nonetheless.
Stunned, Bryze held the glove in her hands and stared down at it. I don’t know why I find this so hard to believe, she thought shaking her head. I was perched on the rim of a bathtub not two minutes ago, for Pete’s sake! Curious, she glanced all around the courtyard in search of the remains of the knight in armor from which the hand had come. There was no sign of him anywhere in the courtyard, so Bryze proceeded into the house, the heavy gauntlet still in hand.
Once inside, she came to the grim realization that the power had not been turned on yet. The thought of spending the night in this house was already a bit unnerving, but doing so without electricity and the gift of light was downright frightening. All of the curtains were still drawn and what little daylight was left was meekly hovering around the open entry way, unable to shine any further than the red and gold semicircle tile inlay at the foot of the door. Determined to uncover the mystery of her partial coat of arms, Bryze pulled her cell phone out of her pocket. She had hardly had any use for it since her mother had given it to her a few months ago. Even though most of her friends at school had been toting phones around with them for quite some time, Bryze had never expected to get one for herself. She was old enough to understand that their family struggled to make ends meet most months, and adding any extra expenses, especially for something as trivial as a cell phone was out of the question. However, when Bryze and Ava wandered off one evening and lost track of time after spending the afternoon at the dog park, Faith decided peace of mind was worth the additional ten dollars a month it cost to add a second line to the plan she already had. Bryze had happily accepted the phone, but hadn’t bothered with it much since receiving it. In fact, even now, the only number in her contact list was the one from her mother’s phone. The only time she had really found it handy was on nights she couldn’t sleep and wanted to do some late night reading without waking her little sister. For such a small screen, it gave off a remarkable amount of light. Light that she now made use of once more as she began to examine her surroundings. The foyer was as grand as she had expected, although she had to admit that the tall ceilings reaching up to the roof and exposing the halls on the second floor were somewhat daunting as the black emptiness of the room came down upon her where she stood. At the center of the entrance hall were dual stair cases, each curling their way along the high walls and up to the second story. What lay beyond them remained hidden by the darkness that had swallowed the house from the inside out.
Bryze took a few steps further into the shadows and held her phone up to the wall. It was covered some type of a blue and silver wallpaper. She reached up and let her fingertips scroll over the design. It was textured. She couldn’t be sure, but the silver markings, while matted down and worn over time, were still soft like velvet to her touch. The light blue background had been faded from years of sunlight that presumably once shone through the tall windows that scaled the front side of the house and the paper had bubbled and begun to peel in sections. In spite of all the wear and tear it had endured, somehow it had managed to maintain its beauty. Bryze’s finger affectionately traced the swirls of the design traveling upward until she reached the bottom side of a wooden frame. It was so big that Bryze had to take a step back to get a better look at it, while still trying to stay within a suitable distance for using the dim glow of her phone for lighting. There was no way of viewing the painting in its entirety with the little light she had, so she did it in sections. Starting at the bottom and slowly working her way up. The higher her gaze reached, the more her body tensed. The little hairs on her back began to stand on end and an involuntary quiver shot up her spine and through her body. The painting she was standing in front of was a portrait. Or, at least it had been at one point. Now, the image that remained was nothing more than a mutilated corpse that had not only been beheaded, but had been brutally rid of his upper limbs by the same sharp blade that had been used to cut out his face. There was no telling who the man had been, or why he had been so dismembered, but whoever had done it, had done so passionately, slashing the canvas brutally as they went.
Horrified, Bryze stood frozen in place with her eyes glued to the disturbing scene before her. As much as she wanted to erase the image from her mind, she simply couldn’t bring herself to look away, until she heard the booming voice of Mr. Percy as he and her mother came strolling in from the corridor to her left.
“I see you’ve found the poor fellow who lost his head over a woman. Not the first man to do so, I must say,” Percy called over to Bryze in his strange joking manner.
“Excuse me?” she muttered, unable to make sense of his words and how they tied to the massacred painting.
“He’s quite a sight to behold isn’t he?! Ah yes, you know what they say…hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”
He was standing right beside her now, with her mother following close behind. Bryze heard a sharp intake of air as her mother came close enough to view the portrait for herself.
“Oh dear, what happened? Some sort of vandalism?” Faith asked.
Percy shook his head, smiling strangely.
“’Fraid not. It’s an entertaining story though, if you don’t mind my telling it.”
“No, of course not, please do!” Faith encouraged the man, eager for an explanation that wouldn’t make her stomach turn and her skin break out in a nervous rash.
“Well, as you probably already know, the last people to live in this house were your great grandparents miss Bryze, one Mr. and Mrs. Picard. Eleanor and Arden Picard to be more precise, and I do believe these are poor old Arden’s remains we are standing in front of. You see, Arden was a rather friendly old dog, if you catch my meaning, and while Eleanor devoted her life to raising a family and making a home for them, Arden was busy entertaining himself elsewhere. Well, as you can imagine, Eleanor wasn’t too pleased when she found out. She packed up their four children and left him behind in this big old house, but not before destroying everything that he held dear, including the portrait he had had painted of himself on his fortieth birthday. Rumor has it, the woman who painted it was one of his many mistresses. Whether or not Eleanor was aware of that I don’t know, but I think it adds to the story, don’t you?” He turned to look at Bryze as he finished.
Realizing that he expected some form of response, she gave into a nod. Before she had a chance to verbalize her thoughts, her mother broke in.
“Well, that is quite the story! However, I don’t think it will be suitable for the other two, so perhaps if we could just take the whole thing down before they see it…”
“Yes, I believe that would be best.”
Percy immediately lifted his long arms above his head and reached for the frame, carefully lowering it from the wall. He looked around the room for a moment in search of a place to store. When he recognized a coat closet near the front door, he ventured over to it, painting in hand. Seconds later, the morbid image of Cheating Arden Picard was stored away out of sight, if not out of mind.
The light from Bryze’s phone went out. Her eyes had grown so accustomed to the glow that it took a moment for her to be able to see again in the dark of the room. Apparently she wasn’t the only one having a problem.
“Percy, I think maybe now would be a good time for us to check that breaker in the power box,” Faith suggested as she carefully maneuvered her way closer to the door.
“Yes, of course. Follow me, it’s right out here.”
Bryze watched as the two dark figures left the foyer and disappeared in the dusk of the courtyard. She heard her mother call to the other two, and in turn heard their disgruntled responses as they unwillingly followed her orders to fall in line behind her. Meanwhile, Ava had exhausted her sense of smell on the exterior of the house and had wandered in through the front door in search of Bryze.
“There you are bubba. Have fun out there? Yeah, I bet you did,” Bryze chuckled as she knelt down to rub Ava’s floppy ears. The large dog licked her face appreciatively.
“You up for another adventure? I still haven’t found the rest of this guy,” Bryze said thoughtfully as she felt the weight of the heavy steel glove still resting in her hand.
“Although, I’m starting to think that may be a pattern around here,” she added grimly as she scrolled her index finger over the screen of her phone to reactivate the light. With Ava at her side, she slowly moved from room to room. Arden’s portrait hadn’t been the only one displayed in the house. Painted images of faces, Men, Women and children, lined the walls in every room she entered. A strange sensation of recognition simmered on her conscious mind, and yet she knew she had never seen any one of the people depicted in the portraits before. They were complete strangers who felt oddly familiar. Bryze did her best to ignore these feelings and shove them to the back of her mind where they wouldn’t bother her, but her efforts were futile.
When she took her last step on the staircase leading to the second floor and entered onto the platform that followed, she found herself at the beginning of yet another long dark hall. Slowly she moved forward, willing herself not think about the possibility of Arden’s beheaded ghost coming flying out at her through one of the many doors that lined the hall. As she approached the end, Bryze felt a sudden glimmer of hope. It was slightly tinged with anxiety and fear, but given that Ava hadn’t run for the hills yet, Bryze locked in on her goal and kept going. There, only a few feet away, was an outline of an upright object that stood at least six feet tall. The closer she got, the more certain she grew, that it had the stature of a man, a coat of arms to be more specific, and as long as it didn’t suddenly move, Bryze would be close enough to determine whether or not this was the knight who had lost his right hand.
Bryze fumbled with her phone to try to cast more light on the statue in front of her. Before she had a chance to get a closer look, the entire house lit up. Almost simultaneously, a loud clang erupted from the second floor where Bryze had dropped the gauntlet on the tile floor. In the darkness the portrait had been hidden from her, but now the bright lighting streaming from every lamp in the house made it perfectly clear. The face staring back at Bryze from the canvas was identical to her own.