Chapter 53 = The past
“I said only what you can carry on your back, and you have made your choice, The girl fought, but to no avail. The woman wailed and screamed again, but her husband dragged her toward the exit. When she would not move, he slapped her. She fell on the ground and made it difficult for him to remove her from the room. He whipped her like a donkey until her pain forced to obey,” Rowan started to shake, but they feared to touch her in case they startled her; since she appeared caught in a waking dream.
“Once outside, he came to himself, and all he had left was a single gold coin for all his riches. His wife hit pummeled him with her fists and screamed at him that he was a fool. He choked her into silence.” Rowan blinked as if she were about to pass out, but her words didn’t stop.
“To think I chose my family over my riches, he screamed into her face while she gasped and cried. They slept on the cold dark road that evening and when they woke someone robbed them of all but the gold coin. The man left his wife beside the road and went to the nearest town to get drunk. The next morning he woke to find his wife oddly silent, and the coin back in his pocket,” Rowan’s nose bled again, but this time it wasn’t just a trickle.
“They say that no matter what he spent that coin on, he always woke with it tucked into one of his pockets. He was never again rich, but he lived well. When he died the coin disappeared, some say he swallowed it and that he had choked to death on it. Someone cut him open and found it lodged inside his heart with no explanation as to how it got there,” she said with a frown as if something bothered her.
“They stole it, but the next morning the coin had disappeared and the body too,” Rowan was sweating profusely, and she swayed before Marcus took her into his arms and held her. Her eyes slowly refocused.
Rowan shook as if she were freezing, her lips were blueish, but she only felt glad that shadowy other place had gone from her min. Her heart beat like a drum under Marcus’s hand, and she seemed almost human then.
“How do you know?” He asked, and Rowan leaned back into him, almost unable to sit upright on her own.
“I just do,” she admitted shakily, but something tore at her mind like nails over a chalkboard.
“The thing?” He asked sharply.
“No. It was like a memory of... some other me. Like a favorite story told to a child,” Rowan explained as her body returned to normal, but she still felt weak.
“A fable?” Marcus asked.
“A story Marcus, a simple stupid bedtime story,” Rowan snapped as she steadied herself and he let go of her with some reluctance. She seemed troubled and unsettled.
“A story someone maybe told you?” He asked, and her eyes settled on him with such sadness.
“No one ever told me stories,” Rowan admitted as she turned her back on him.
“The castle is real, was real. This Ferdinand owned it. It should be easy enough to verify with church records. Small towns keep records for centuries,” Rowan had steadied but seemed disconnected from them.
“Are you alright?” Alena insisted twice before Rowan pulled herself together and fully returned from the present. Marcus fetched the pigskin bag and steadied her hands when she almost dropped it. She took a few thirsty gulps before she could control herself, but the color was already returning to her face.
“I don’t know what that was, and as helpful as it may be, I hope it never happens again,” Alena said, and Marcus glanced at her. Whatever happened to Rowan affected her too, more than it affected him. Their bond was stronger than any sibling bond he ever witnessed before.
“It wasn’t just a dream. I was there, and I could even smell the fire in the great hearth. I could see everything around me, the people, the furniture, the rugs on the floor, and the dogs by the door. It was all so clear, so real, but he was out of focus. All I could see was his eyes, our eyes,” Rowan tried to clarify, but her words gave Alena, and Marcus a cause for concern.
“I didn’t see through his eyes, but the eyes of another, someone who was and wasn’t there. I think it was Helena, but it was as if she reached from the past to touch me,” Rowan continued, and the truth of her words lay in her eyes.
“She knew she wouldn’t be alive to give us her message, so she linked with us from the past, as did he. She wanted us to follow this path,” Alena agreed, and Marcus fetched his charts to plot their course. Alena helped Rowan to her feet, and she was unsteadier than she should have been.
Alena helped her to undress and put her to bed while Marcus found his mind more on the tale Rowan told than the course he had to plot. Something about it made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. Marcus sensed danger ahead of them that might be unavoidable.
He overcame his reluctance with great difficulty. Marcus wanted to steer them away from this danger, away from people who could reach out to them from the past but suspected he would fail. He had to place his hope in the fact that if he could not protect them, that they would be strong enough to defend themselves.