She had known something was different the moment she woke up that morning. The air was tinged with a scent of lilac and honey. It floated in from the seas, reminding her of the last days with her parents.
It reminded her of when the trees in the garden blossomed with enormous white flowers. The sound of her mother’s humming as she tended the foliage with love and affection.
That had been centuries ago.
Now those trees stood shriveled up and barren. The ground was cracked and swollen beneath them, like a beached whale, slowly rotting in the sun.
Even the stone walls of the fortress echoed over and over, the sounds of old as she trudged down them. Down . . . down . . . to the only place she truly felt content these days. As she pushed open the heavy wooden door, it groaned loudly. But she barely noticed.
What she did notice, was the scent that followed her down into the depths of this ancient castle. If people knew of its existence, no one ever bothered to visit. It sat on a long-since deserted island, in the middle of a sea that few knew how to navigate. She was safe here.
Safe and alone.
Though the last was because she chose it to be that way. She could have snapped her fingers, cast her spells and demanded that a whole village spring up around the fortress. But people would only cause her more trouble then they were worth. Being alone didn’t bother her. In fact, she quite relished in it. After several centuries of keeping to herself, a part of her—a part she didn’t quite acknowledge—had begun to crave the presence of another human.
She made her away across the chamber, the musty smells following her. Today, she didn’t mind it. She found it intriguing, that sweet floral scent, though faint down here, it still meandered about. Floating like particles of stars in a night sky.
The flames roared to life in the giant hearth and she turned back to the crude table, her eyes running over the assortment of glassware and concoctions. She picked one up, holding it to the light that flickered in through the slit of barred windows, set high in the stone. The sapphire hues swirled in misty array. She liked this one best, though it held no real powers. Not like some of the others.
Yet, she thought the colors were most brilliant. Something about it sparked familiarity in her. Perhaps her mother had once used it for devising her spells.
She sucked in another breath of the strange scent. It grew heavier now, settling in around her like a blanket. A comfortable, pleasant blanket. It didn’t smell like an enchantment, she would know.
A haunted melody wove its way to the forefront of her mind. She began to hum the tune quietly to herself. It was similar to ones her mother used to sing. Perhaps that was why it came to her now. Deep down, she sought the strength and wisdom that her mother had possessed.
Still rhythmically swirling the liquid in the glass and humming the melodies, something strange began to occur. Flecks of gold and silver sizzled within the sapphire, dancing to the cadence that she sang. Had she done it? After centuries of spells and potions, had she finally found one that would give her the answers she sought?
It all seemed too simple, yet the way the flecks burst into small flames with certain notes that she hummed, it made sense. Her mother never would have left her without clues. Though they had taken centuries to happen upon, all she needed was right there. Quickly, she placed the glassware down on the table and picked up the book, flipping a few pages until she found the one she needed.
Words that she had muttered so many times, now felt different . . . more meaningful. She spoke the words louder, careful to enunciate the ancient dialect. Fire burned in her with each repetition of the phrase. The flames grew thicker, larger in the glass, taking on the color of sapphire. It was beautiful. The most beautiful thing she had ever seen.
She knew it would work this time. The stars had aligned for her purpose. She had everything she needed now.
She focused her mind on what she sought. She followed the enchantments as they wove through the island, across the sea. She saw ships, some bearing the flags of honest traders, and others carrying the black skulls of the Tahlee. She saw flocks of birds, and breaching whales. Skimming along the coastline of Enenda and Crewe, she saw the bustling cities, and distant mountains.
And then the enchantment turned back to the sea, this time going south and east. The Isles of Devonshire. Excitement loomed inside of her. She felt the spell grow stronger yet, as it slowed near an island. Yes, she was close now.
Then, before the image could crystallize in front of her, the enchantments faded, growing hazy and unclear. She fought to hold on to the last of it, but only one word echoed in her mind. It echoed to the tune of the song her mother used to sing, and the sent of lilac began to smother her.