I was bound by invisible ropes holding my arms at my sides on the top of a hill overlooking swamps in every direction. The stench of mold, bacteria and fungus assaulted my senses, making me squeezy. My feet were as if I was part of the ground itself, only being able to move my head. In the distance everything was covered in dark grey mist. A voice rose out of the haze on all sides, not coming from one place but from everywhere.
“Morgan come to me. I have waited a long time to see you. I need you by my side and together we will be a power not to be dismissed by simple humans. We will reign together as it was always meant to be. With our combined power we will bring Tir na Nog to its knees wiping out the Fae fools. This is your prophesy to rule by my side.”
The female voice echoed as if but a wisp of air across the murky green waters reaching out long fingers through the mist, to stroke my face. I couldn’t see who belong to the voice there was no mistake in the way I felt the entity though, it was pure evil.
“I will never rule with you, I will never come to you. I know who you are, Aoife. You are the evil one, you will never overcome humans or get entry into Tir na Nog if I can help it. You have killed so many and for what? Revenge? You’re just a sick and twisted bitch that needs to be brought to an end.”
Suddenly it felt as if I had been struck across the face with a knife, feeling the sting and blood running down my face. There was no one standing in front of me, no one within distance to have made the strike. Yet I had been cut.
“You will come to me when I take everyone you love that matters to you. Then you will beg to join me as you should have done in the beginning.”
I laughed and shook my head. “Dream on demon. I will make you a promise though. I will see to the end of you and send you back to the fiery pits of Hell you crawled out of.”
“You will come to me my daughter where your meant to be.”
“Daughter, ha, you are delusional. I know who my mother was, and it certainly wasn’t you.”
“Come to me.” The voice called. “Come to me.”
I lay in the bed rubbing the side of my face thinking something was there, a cut or a scratch, there was nothing. As the sun began to rise sending gentle streams of light through the window, I felt more tired than when I went to sleep.
Ghostly sounds and shapes had plagued my sleep, I just couldn’t remember what I had dreamed about, only the words ‘come to me’ left echoing in the back of my mind. They sounded like a woman’s voice but the more I tried to think about the words the more they twinked out like stars in the sky.
I dressed and made my way to the dining room. Solai was laying the table with platters of fruit, nuts and fresh bread.
“How did you sleep Bella?”
“Not very well.” I yawned.
“Do you remember anything?”
“No, it was just ghosts in a fog, words saying come to me.” The more I scoured my brain trying to remember the dream the more it slunk out of reach. “I don’t remember who said them though.” Leonardo came into the room with a warm smile.
Patting my shoulder, he looked at the bruise and lump still on my forehead, although it was more like he was studying a moth pinned to a board. “Your head has improved faster than I expected. Give it time Bella. I’m sure you will eventually remember. Did nothing in your dreams feel familiar?”
“No not really. Other than someone wanted me to go to them.”
Solai leaned over the table with eyes narrowed. “Could that have been a husband or such, maybe it was your enemy and they are trying to find you.” He could be right, but it could have been anything, even my mind playing tricks on me.
“Solai!” Leonardo barked. “Do not frighten her. The mind is a complicated tool often not everything is as it seems.”
I tried to dig into my mind again, nothing. “I think that it was a woman calling me, my inner feeling is that she wasn’t a friend, I don’t know who it was though.”
Solai huffed. “Well I think someone was chasing her and they might want to cause her harm.”
“Regardless we will keep Bella here for a while and if anyone comes looking for her, we will be discrete.” Leonardo said buttering a piece of bread then putting it on my plate.
“You would lie Maestro?” Solai said with disbelief.
Leonardo gave Solai an exasperated look. “No, we just won’t say anything. It is not a lie, it’s just not a disclosure.”
Solai huffed loading his plate with fruit and bread. “It’s still a lie.” He mumbled.
“Considering you have difficulty maintaining the truth I hardly think you can be so hypocritical.”
An evil smirk crossed Solai’s face as his eyes raised up to Leonardo. “Yes, but you still love me.” Leonardo blushed. So maybe they didn’t have a relationship of a father and son. Not a place I wanted to venture.
“What do you too have planned today?” I ask changing the subject helping myself to some fruit.
Leonardo took a drink from his cup. “I have a meeting most of the day Bella.”
“I have to go to the market today we need some supplies.” Solai said pouring me a cup of milk without me asking for it.
“Oh, can I come with you, please I would really like to look around.”
I can see Leonardo from his frown that he is not happy to let me go but Solai assured him he would look after me.
“Make sure you do Solai, and Bella you will need to wear a cloak and keep your face covered. I am not sure as I have discussed with Solai what your accent is, but your mannerisms and some of the words you speak are well…different. I think it best you not say too much while you are out, it would only draw undue attention.”
I was taken back by Leonardo’s statement but promised to do so. I thought I sounded the same as they did, obviously I don’t.
“Also, Solai Lucia will be here today to tidy up please make sure you leave her some coins on the table.
After Leonardo left Solai continued to sit at the table with me.
“Bella you must take great care when you are out today.”
“I will Solai, are you worried?”
“Perhaps. There is a war going on, political and religious and it is only going to get worse. The French are preparing to march on us. Pope Alexander VI has his holy agents everywhere, not to mention the daily peccadillo and the transgressions of his son Cesare Borgia.” He glanced at the door as if he is expecting someone there and lowered his voice. “There is also Girolamo Savonarola, the friar and his piagnoni and at this moment they are here in Milan preaching for republican freedom and religious reform. They may be religious, but they are very dangerous.”
I was shocked not realizing the situation was as bad as he was saying, but one thing stuck in my mind. “The Pope has a son?”
Solai raised his brows as if I just asked him a ridiculous question. “Yes, the Pope has three children, Juan, Lucrecia and Cesare, there could be more, no one really knows, not even the Pope himself.” He shrugged leaning further across the table. “What I am trying to say Bella is that this is a very dangerous time, so we must be careful, and you must be extremely prudent.”
“I understand Solai I heard you the first time.” I did appreciate what he was saying, with so much unrest it is not surprising if anyone was safe, if his words were anything to go by.
“Bella, what I have told you does not take into account who it is that is looking for you.” I wasn’t sure if anyone was, but that could be my only conclusion from the dark shadows and screaming in my nightmares.
Solai redid my hair and then retrieves a long dark blue cloak with a large hood and helped me on with it tying the ribbons under my chin.
“Bella make sure you keep the hood well over your face, just in case whoever is looking for you doesn’t see you. I will protect you and I have a few friends out there that will come at the blare of my whistle.”
“Friends, you are a resourceful person, full of surprises. I understand what you are saying though, I will be careful.”
He grinned at me. “Told you I had a good brain, I always have friends to help out, it’s logical do you not think?”
“Ok settle down Einstein, I’ll do as you say no need to rub it in.”
“Einstein? You seem to have quite a lot of names for me.” He shook his head chuckling to himself. “I don’t know any of them.”
“Yeah well neither do I so that makes two of us.”
“Come we need to go.” Solai said retrieving a basket from a low cupboard. He reached into his pocket and took some coins out leaving them for the woman who was coming to clean today.
We left the room quietly taking a hallway on the left to a door that lead to a loggia bridge with beautifully architecture columns running down its length. Solai nudged me to a staircase with two guards standing on either side. I pull my hood just a little further over my face seeing one of the guards dip his head slightly trying to look.
“So, who’s the lady little thief, perhaps I should search you both?” The guard on the left asks sounding somewhat amused.
“My Maestro would not take too kindly for your persecution.” Solai spat out. Well no love lost here, Solai apparently had no liking for the guards, or t hey for him.
“You think I am afraid of your maestro?” The guard sniggered.
“Well you should be he is a personal friend to our Lord Sforza.”
Without lifting my hood and keeping my face well under I say. “I was not informed by my Lord Ludovico Sforza this morning, that a lowly guard would see fit to intervene in my visit here today. I think I will go to him this minute and discuss your behavior with him. I’m sure he would be happy to spare a moment of his time to come and converse with you in regard to your attitude concerning his guests.” I am not sure how Solai has reacted to my statement as he is standing at my side and I can’t see him from under my hood.
I bit my lip worrying if I had overstepped my bounds. Another situation where I had no idea what was the right thing to say.
The guard grumbled. “I’m sorry Signora no need to disturb Lord Sforza’s day. Stand up straight Mario.” He snapped at the other guard their feet shuffling and stamping together.
The guard named Mario moved aside for us to pass. “Have a pleasant day Signora.” I gave him no answer.
We descended to a large grassy quadrangle with people in a variety of costumes some quite handsome, others comical, walking and talking heading in innumerable directions. I lift my hood slightly to take in the red bricked castle. Solai noticing my gaze of awe put a hand to the small of my back.
“That there.” He said pointing to a tower. “Is the Torre della Corte, the north tower and that one is the Torre del Tesoro, the west tower. That wall is the Ghirland, it protects a ditch filled with water. We will leave the castle by using the runway and the Porta della Ghirland gate.”