Standing on her dais at the head of her dining hall Queen Celeste gazed out over her gathered guests, all of whom were staring respectfully waiting for her word to begin the feast. With an almost imperceptible nod from her regal head a stream of servants flowed from the back of the hall, laden with glittering dishes heaping with food. They deftly glided around candelabras and patrons to set the dishes on the table with a flourish. It was a fantastic display of wealth, and elegance that sent a shiver of pride up her spine.
Her gaze lingered over her subjects, lazily taking in their beauty and opulence. She sat signaling the beginning of the feast, and the patrons descended on the food. The air shifted as she raised the first bite to her delicate lips, growing heavy and oppressive. With a deft gesture, she brought her guards to attention. The hair rose on the back of her neck as the ground started to shiver, a wind kicked up; sending anything light enough flying in a swirling, dangerous dance of silverware and cutlery.
At the apex of the whirlwind a blue light appeared, growing larger as she stared, transfixed. Her guards surged around her, ready to die for their queen should the need arise. While the men in the dining hall did their best to shield the women from the glittering whirlwind.
A body fell from the pulsing vortex suspended above the dining room, landing on the end of the long dining table with a clatter. The women shrieked while the men drew whatever blades they had at hand, even if it was just the butter knife they held from the table.
As the vortex grew smaller, the wind died down. Napkins fluttered to the floor and it seemed as if the world itself exhaled. Holding its breath with bated anticipation for what would happen next.
The queens guard stood at the ready, acting as a living shield between their monarch and the strange newcomer. Obeying a curt order, one hesitantly advanced down the steps. As he drew closer he saw no monster, just a woman who let out a pained and confused groan. “It is a woman your majesty.”
“WITCH!!!” a shriek sounded from the back of the dining hall, and pandemonium broke loose once more.
Blurred images of shrieking, running women; warred with the confusion and pounding in Morrigan’s head. Feeling as if she might vomit, she slowly rose to her feet. Her mind whirling, and for a moment she thought she was a giant among men; towering above everyone around her. Only to realize she was standing on a table when an armored hand gripped her ankle.
The physical contact seemed to subdue the ringing in her ears, and steady the earth so that she no longer felt as if she would tip over into an unseen abyss. “What happened? Where am I?” she asked in barely a whisper. The man’s face took on a confused look, she did not understand his strange dialect as he responded.
It was as if they were the only two people in the world in that moment. While he tried, somewhat successfully to communicate with gestures. After what seemed like an eternity, she realized he was asking her to climb down from the table. She quickly obliged, at which point the room grew still and silent once again.
“She is no witch, just an answer to a Gods prayer.” At the sound of his smooth, rich voice; her head turned as if controlled by a will not her own. Morrigan had seen him before. Their eyes locked and she could not force herself to look away as dread and anticipation filled her very soul. He continued to speak soothingly to the crowd, though she no longer heard his words. their affect was clear.
The crowd calmed, clinging to his melodious words as if their very lives were depending on it. She heard nothing as the beating of her heart filled her ears with a deafening noise. Her mind flooding with memories from a dream.
The stark white hallway stretched on endlessly as she walked its length. Open doors on either side showed scenes of exotic celebrations. She sensed a presence beside her and knew he was there. Guiding her to a closed, plain wooden door on the left.
She opened the door as anticipation… and dread filled her.
Morrigan lie on her back in a plain bed that looked to belong in a dorm room. The luxurious gown she wore at odds with her dilapidated surroundings. He was there again, a pale, strong hand sliding up her thigh. The light fabric of her gown fell back as if it had a will of its own.
No, not with a will of its own… it was his will now that controlled it.
Her breath caught as he looked up into her eyes. He was the most beautiful man she had ever seen. His ice blue eyes lingered on her, made all the more fierce by his long jet black hair and pale skin. His clothing seemed to be from the late 1700’s. On anyone else it would have seemed out of place, but his high cheek bones, and sumptuous lips were only enhanced by his style.
“You will be mine.”
The dream ended with his voice, her new reality began with it. “Take her to collect her wits, no doubt the journey has exhausted her.”
He spoke in plain English, but the people in the room understood him. Why could they not understand her then? Her confusion only deepened as his voice sounded in her head. “I advise you to follow him and not to make a scene. All will be explained in time.” Then a guard took Morrigan by the arm and escorted her from the dining hall. The corridor without was dim compared to the room they just left, and a thin haze of smoke from the candelabras obscured the ceiling.
He led her down the hallway, their footsteps falling silent on the plush carpet that covered the heavy wooden floor. She barely registered the elaborate portraits trimmed with gold, or the statuettes cunningly placed in alcoves. And before she knew it, she was ushered into a small, but opulent room. With a plush bed in the center piled high with pillows. Servants quietly entered, drawing her a bath. She stood, watching it all in silent amazement. The servants stared awkwardly at her, blushing at her lack of inappropriate clothing. They could not understand why a woman would go against all modest customs, and insist on wearing pants!
So they busied themselves filling a copper tub that had been lugged in at some point, and laid out a clean nightgown that looked like something her grandmother would wear.
One servant, a shy girl of about 16 walked over. She motioned for Morrigan to undress, as the others left. A brief feeling of morbid embarrassment over came her. Surely, the girl was not going to stay…
As the girl just stood there, it became apparent that she had no intention of leaving, despite Morrigan’s desperate attempts to mime that she could bathe herself. After finally convincing the girl to turn her back, she hastily undressed and slipped into the tub. Concealing her nakedness beneath the ripples and soap.
After quickly and awkwardly bathing, she communicated to the servant to turn her back again, giving her the privacy to quickly dry and dress in the nightgown.
The servants returned to take the tub and left her to sleep. Sleep that would not come. She sat on the edge of the bed trying to make sense of everything that had just happened. Not three hours ago she was sitting in her small-town library, researching the signs and symptoms of lung cancer for her paper that was due the following day.
The computer fritzed out right before a blue vortex appeared above her, sucking her into its swirling depths and depositing her into this world. A world that had men and women dressed as if they were in the Renaissance... Did she time travel? How? Why? But most importantly, how would she get home?
She paced long into the night, emotions roiling within her like unpredictable ocean waves during a storm. Panic, confusion, paralyzing dread, and crippling sadness. Battering her from one direction to the next until she fell into a fretful sleep too exhausted to even pull the covers on.