The Black Rose Trilogy, Book One: The Curse

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Chapter Two

Emessa had always loved her older brother Airic. There was quite a few years of age between them, though he had never been cruel or bitter towards her. No, he had always been kind and gentle, and not just to her, but to all those whose paths he crossed. Airic was admirable; everyone thought so. He was generous, peaceful, and he was always smiling. Emessa knew just how lucky she was to have Airic as her older brother. Airic, in turn, loved his little sister. They had a special bond that not many could achieve in those days. Airic viewed Emessa as his little princess, and she saw him as her knight in shining armor. They did not mind spending time with each other, whether they were doing chores, running errands, or simply playing together. Together, with their parents, they lived a quiet life in a large cottage in Beaudale, closer to the forests than the shore. The family was well–liked in the community there. Everything seemed picture perfect.

Airic was out gathering items for supper that night, and Emessa had tagged along with him. She was twirling around ahead of him, humming and singing to herself – and anyone who stopped to listen. Airic had not been paying close attention to what he or his sister was doing. She spun towards him and stumbled, landing against him and using him as support. It did not work like she wanted it to, though. Emessa stayed upright, but Airic fell backwards and landed on another person. She held her hand over her mouth, trying to stifle her giggles while she watched her older brother fumble about.

"I apologize," Airic repeated several times while trying to stand back up without continuing to push down whoever he was on top of, "I am truly sorry." The person beneath him pushed him off, and he landed next to her on his side. She flipped her brown hair away from the ground and looked at him. Their eyes met, and the world seemed to stop. All Airic saw was a pair of crystal blue irises, embedded in a pale–skinned face and framed by long, thick locks of dark mahogany hair. The girl smiled at him, after what seemed like hours.

"'Tis alright," she told him. Her voice was smooth, and the calm of the sea. "I am sure it was an accident." She gave a little laugh, then pushed herself off the ground and began dusting herself off. Airic followed suit quickly, and looked at the rest of her. There was something about her that seemed, familiar. Airic cleared his throat in a feeble attempt to gain some courage.

"Again, I apologize, but do I know you?" he asked. Airic looked her up and down again. She was of average height, though a little slender. Her hair went down to her elbow, and it had a natural wave to it. Her skin was almost translucent. In her eyes shone a deep–set glint of mischief. He had the strangest feeling he knew who she was, but could not place from where.

Once more, she smiled, though this time it was strained and lacked anything resembling to happiness. "I would be surprised if you did not. Everyone here seems to know me." She tilted her head and looked at him. "Though perhaps..." She never finished her sentence. Instead a genuine smile lit up her features. "My name is Krystel," she said sweetly.

Airic returned the smile, and gave a little bow. "Airic," he replied, then motioned over to Emessa, who had remained suspiciously silent during the episode. "This is my little sister, Emessa. I believe she is the reason I fell on you."

Krystel looked over at the young child, who was still giggling and had a large smile on her own face. Emessa's gaze went back and forth between her brother and the new strange girl. The glint in Krystel's eyes was matched to the one in Emessa's. "So," Krystel started, a slow smirk growing on her face, "it was you." Emessa only giggled more and then ran to her brother, attaching herself to his side. "And what, pray tell, are you so amused by?" Krystel asked, a bit annoyed at the never–ending sound.

Emessa bit her lip before blurting out: "You two will be married someday! I just know it!" then proceeded into another giggling fit. The older two turned fifty shades of red at the girl's words. Airic spoke up quickly.

"Emessa, how about you go on home, okay?" he firmly suggested, pushing his sister in the direction of their cottage. "I will meet up with you in a few minutes." Emessa simply nodded and ran off, the smile never leaving her face. Krystel just stood there, looking at Airic in shock. He cleared his throat again, trying to move on from the extra embarrassment his darling little sister had brought him. "Please, just, uh, ignore her. Emessa lives in her own fairy–tale world," he explained, "though it usually does not get that extreme."

Krystel swallowed, finally finding her voice. "You have quite the little sister there," she complimented. "One must have an extensive imagination to live somewhere separate from reality."

"Yes, well," Airic trailed off. He looked down, hoping to find something else to talk about. He did not want his time with Krystel to be over just yet. He remembered what she had said earlier. "You said it would surprise you if I did not know who you are. Why is that?"

Krystel sighed. "Well, that is a rather long–"

"Krystel!" another voice called. "Krystal, come on!" Another girl came running up, stopping right next to Krystel. She looked to be about the same age as Krystel. She had blond, curly hair, the same length as Krystel's, and her eyes were almost just as blue.

"A–Aglaia, what–" Krystel started to ask what was going on, but her friend interrupted her again.

"Mother and Father say it is time for supper," Aglaia told Krystel, though kept her eyes entirely on Airic. "You need to come home now." Krystel continued to look at Airic as well, though with a slight sadness. She didn't want to leave him either.

Mother and Father, Airic thought. Perhaps they are sisters. They look alike enough. Airic bowed again. "It was a pleasure to meet you, Krystel," he smiled at her, "even if it was under such awkward circumstances."

Krystel ignored Aglaia's pulls. The mischief was back in her eyes. "Though we would not have met if they were not, would you not agree?" She offered him one last smirk and said, "I hope to see you around. You and your sister." Airic simply nodded. Krystel turned her attention onto Aglaia and began pushing the persistent girl away. "Yes, yes, I am coming. You can stop now." Airic stood and watched them walk away, though every few moments Aglaia would turn and look at him over her shoulder, then whisper something in Krystel's ear.

Airic shook his head. He needed to finish getting the last supplies for supper that night, and now he would have a story to tell with Emessa. He smiled and went on his way.

* * *

"Who was he?" Aglaia would not stop asking as the two walked to her cottage. Krystel gave her the same answer each time. "I don't know," she would say. "We just – met – and then talked for a bit. The end." But Aglaia was not having it. She know there was something else there, something hidden. She would get it out, no matter how long she would have to try.

Airic mistook the two for sisters. Aglaia and Krystel did share many physical qualities, but they were in no way related. Aglaia was the only child of a rich merchant. They lived off the coast of Beaudale. Krystel was also the only child in her home. When she was a young girl, her parents were killed out at sea. That was the rumor, anyway. Krystel's own theory was that her parents abandoned her, because they felt that a child was too much for either of them to handle. Krystel was soon passed around from house to house, family to family, becoming a burden to whoever had to deal with her.

She was never the same after they left. She caused trouble for the village, for the families that took her in, if only for a short time. People thought she was too difficult to keep under control. Krystel just thought differently than the rest, so she acted and reacted in other ways than normal people would. At first, some blamed it on her parents for not rearing her properly, even if they did just stay for a few years. But after years of this continued behavior, they all believed that Krystel was inherently evil, that her soul must be all black.

When it was Aglaia's family's turn to take Krystel in, they had already heard everything about the girl. Krystel's first day, Aglaia's parents sat down with her and talked about the past families she had stayed with, how she was treated there, what went on behind closed doors. They explained to her that they would treat her the same way they treated their own child, Aglaia, and if Krystel liked it there she could continue to stay with them.

Krystel met Aglaia next. Aglaia was the same age as Krystel, and loud, and a bit ridiculous. Both liked being in charge of the other one, and neither liked giving in. They couldn't find many things in common, and often started arguing. At first it seemed as though Krystel would move on again, until Aglaia came and talked to her the night before.

"Are you going to leave?" she asked anxiously from the doorframe. Krystel glanced at Aglaia from her loaned bed.

"Perhaps," the simple answer came. "I am not quite sure." Krystel looked out the window. "I did like it here, much better than any other homes I have been in and families I have stayed with."

"But we keep arguing with each other," Aglaia pointed out. She came fully into the room and sat on the edge of the bed. "Why do you think that is?"

Krystel shrugged, returning her gaze to the girl. "Maybe we think too much alike." Aglaia nodded in agreement.

"That would make sense," she said, looking away. She suddenly became fixated on a tiny speck on the floor. "I wish you would stay," she said quietly. Krystel was taken aback.

"What? Why?" she questioned. "No one ever wants me to stay with them."

"Well, I do like you, even though we fight too much. I cannot get along with many other children our age because they all think I am too bossy."

"You are too bossy!"

"Well so are you!" Aglaia smiled, and Krystel could not help herself from returning it. "Maybe, I think, we could learn to get along. Think of all the adventures we have not had yet!"

"Is that an invitation to get you in trouble?" Krystel teased, poking her friend's shoulder.

"Only if you are there with me. Partners in crime: that is what we will be." Aglaia moved closer to Krystel, her face turning serious. "But you have to promise to stay here, with us."

Krystel thought about it for a moment, then smiled widely. "Alright. I think I can manage that."

Aglaia squealed and clapped excitedly, then hugged Krystel around her shoulders.

The two girls were inseparable from then on. Many years had passed since that day. They still fought with each other often, though they had created a very special kind of bond. They had worked up quite the reputation in Beaudale. Krystel before had simply been a trouble maker, for the fact that she was often bored or treated poorly. Aglaia had her own sense of mischief, and a clever streak of not getting caught. The two teamed up together, as they had promised, and combined their trouble–making skills. Krystel became a little less noticeable, and she preferred to stay that way.

Now Aglaia was trying to discuss Krystel's accidental meeting with Airic. It was a bit surprising to Krystel that he had not recognized her; she had made quite the name for herself, and Beaudale was not particularly large. Then again, she hadn't known who he was either. Perhaps he and his family were a bit more recluse than Aglaia's was, though his sister – Emessa – was rather outgoing. Krystel inadvertedly smiled at the thought, the little girl's words echoing in her head. The gesture did not escape Aglaia's attention. "Did he say something to you?" she asked, her eyes wide and a smirk growing on her face. Her pace quickened from the excitement.

Krystel nodded, a coy smile of her own lighting up her face. "Yes," she stated slowly, "he apologized many times for falling on top of me."

"He did what?!" Aglaia yelled. She grabbed Krystel's shoulder and shook it. "Why did you not tell me?!"

"I apologize," Krystel said, not actually sorry. "I thought you were watching my every move," she teased. Aglaia rolled her eyes.

"Of course the one day I was not watching you is the day that something excitedly different happens." She shook her head. Her hands slipped from Krystel's shoulder to her elbow, interlocking their arms. They fell into the same walking pattern, their heads held high as they made their way through the city to their home. Krystel could not get her mind off the boy. Airic. He had the most beautiful green eyes she had ever seen. They were deep, and shined like emeralds. For a second she wondered if he was thinking of her as well.

* * *

Airic helped his mother prepare supper, while Emessa danced around the room. His mind had indeed been occupied by the strange girl he had met in the marketplace. Krystel. She was definitely a girl he would like to run into again. It seemed no matter what he did, her face would not leave his mind. She was more than beautiful; she was stunning. She seemed so confident, so sure of herself. Airic had never met another girl like that. If only her sister hadn't appeared... Perhaps he could have gotten to know Krystel better.

Although after what Emessa had said, maybe it would be smarter to not seek her out. His face turned red simply from thinking about it. He looked up from his work to watch Emessa spin and glide. She did indeed live in a separate reality from the rest of them, but it only seemed to add to her purity. Airic thought for a moment about what might cause her to say something so outrageous. Finally he decided to ask.

"Emessa?"

"Yes, Airic?" the child responded, still twirling about. Her short curly locks bounced with her movement.

"Why did you say that about Krystel and me earlier?"

Emessa stopped and looked at her older brother, who she so adored. Her head tilted as she thought about it. She didn't need long to think, however. After a moment she gave a small shrug. "Because it is true," she answered. "You two will marry each other someday."

"But how did you know that?" Airic pushed.

"I just, did," Emessa answered again, continuing her dance. "I just knew the second you two were on the ground that something big and wonderful was going to happen to you in the future."

"And you just assumed that it would be marriage?" Airic tried to keep the skepticism out of his voice. The girl's claim was beyond believable, and ridiculous. Surely no one could know of such things, expect the Seers. But even then their Sight was limited.

"Well, what other large, happy occasion would there be between a boy and a girl?" Emessa asked in return. Airic shook his head. He was about to continue his questioning, but Emessa spun her way into a different room, telling him that she was done with this conversation.

"She is an odd child," his mother said. Airic sighed, and went back to his work helping his mother. Emessa had happily told their parents every exciting detail of what had happened in the marketplace the second she got home. Airic came home an hour after she arrived and the teasing from his parents had begun almost immediately. "And though, while I do like the idea of you meeting a girl, I believe Emessa may have gone a bit far with the last bit." Airic nodded in agreement. "I think you should go and meet her again," his mother suggested, smiling. Airic turned red again.

"Mother, one does not simply walk up to a girl he met that day and say 'hey, I think my little sister is right'." His mother rolled her eyes at him. "It just is not done like that. Besides, I only got her first name."

"Beaudale is a small city, Airic. I doubt there are many other people who have her name here."

"What if she was visiting someone? A family member or something."

"Oh honestly, Airic, now you are just being ridiculous," his mother scolded him. "Why will you not at least try?"

"Because there is nothing to try for, Mother."

"You do not know that," she said hopefully. "This could be your one, darling. Even if she is just visiting, which I doubt, your only chance is now. Seize the day; is that not what Father tells you?"

Airic sighed again, giving into his mother's desires. "I suppose you are right."

"Airic, I am your mother," she stated with a smile, "I am always right." Airic smiled as well, and gave a lighthearted chuckle.

The pair worked in silence then. Airic continued to think about Krystel. Hopefully, he could run into her again, though maybe not knock her over.

Airic and Krystel did meet up again the next day, with both their tagalongs far away. Beaudale was shocked; no one thought Krystel could ever love, or be loved. Airic, of course, soon learned about Krystel's history with the city, but did not care for it. "That was in the past," he would say. "This is now." They were together for many years. Krystel became just as accepted in their home as she was in Aglaia's. Emessa came to adore Krystel as much as Airic, and the feelings were returned.

* * *

Mabella had been wandering the countryside, trying to find someone to pass the Soul along to. Word of the Witch had spread around, and people were obviously taking precautions. They knew she went after those who loved. "Well," she thought to herself, "if I can't find a broken heart, then I'll have to create one." She went to Beaudale, the closest city, and disguised herself. Into the city she went, looking, listening, for anything that might be helpful to her.

A group of old women were gossiping by a well, glancing at a couple with a child as they did. Mabella silently joined them. "Can you believe how far she has come?" one of them asked. "It is like she has become an entirely new person."

"I do not think she has changed at all," another whined, her voice old and scratchy. "She is just there to trick him, to use him and his family."

"I heard that they were talking about marriage!" The ladies gasped at that. "Yes! Yes!"

"Oh, he could do so much better than her," said one. Her gray hair was pulled up in a tight bun. "My granddaughter, for example."

"No, mine!" "Obviously mine would be best." "Yours is a pig."

And so the women continued on. Mabella became increasingly interested at this pair. She watched them closely. They were all smiles and giggles, and the child seemed to merrily roll on. Mabella touched the woman next to her. "Who is the child that is with them?" she asked quietly, as to not draw attention, the old woman did not pick up on the hint.

"His younger sister," she answered, her voice much louder than Mabella's.

"She is to be a bit, off," one mentioned. Mabella tilted her head in confusion. "She seems to live inside her head, in her own world, she says."

"One that's much better than here," another added. "Her parents ought to be more concerned about her."

Mabella stopped listening then, still watching the three. Her mind raced as she tried to think of a suitable plan. This girl would be next. But how? She thought of her own experience, a hundred years ago, of her own love. He had left her; she was sure that wasn't going to happen here, for her.

"What about death?" the voices in her head hissed. Mabella felt a devious smile spread across her face. Kill the boy? she thought. "Why stop there? Why not take out the family?" Hmm. She considered the idea. If the sister adores her, no doubt the rest of the family does as well. And more heartbreak is better.

A small laugh escaped her, though no one noticed. They were all too caught up in their gossip. Mabella walked away, and began making her way back to the forest where she could watch the pair without fear of getting caught. The smile stayed, and her eyes glistened with excitement. She perched herself up on a tree branch, able to see much of the town. Her eyes remained on the two, watching, waiting. "Soon," she said with the voices. "There will be blood tonight."

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