The Black Rose Trilogy, Book One: The Curse

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Chapter Seven

Johnathan and Annaleasia had two more children, both sons. When Aiden became of age, Krystel was invited to his coronation. She went, but stayed hidden, not wanting a repeat of his christening. She had been invited to the other's christenings as well, but declined. She only cared what happened to Aiden. After the ceremony there was to be a ball in his honor, the ideal place for him to find his wife and queen. Of course, that was just speculation. Annaleasia had been on a stroll the same time Johnathan had when they first met. Love happened anywhere, anyway, and as king, Aiden would have his choice.

Krystel and Rose watched the ball from the mirror. A part of Krystel wished she could go and dance the night away, but that part was ignored. During the coronation, she and Johnathan locked eyes. Aiden would soon know of his part of this deal, and would have to explain that to whoever was lucky enough to marry him.

Aiden found his bride, they married and she became queen. Soon she was with child. The two parts of the Witch waited earnestly, but it was another son in Johnathan's line. Krystel and Rose stood and watched as this patterned continued on and on, years passing by as if seconds for them.

Aritia grew in prosperity. Beaudale had been forgotten in its entirety. The Black Rose Witch became nothing more than a legend, as Krystel had once promised Johnathan. They lost track of how many rulers came to power, how many generations passed away. Each new ruler was told of the deal, of the one thing making it so that the land was safe. While the kings believed it to be true, even just to keep peace, their wives doubted. Surely, there was nothing to worry about. Not even the Seers were saying anything. The Seers knew there was no current harm, or any on its way soon. But no one could predict what was to happen.

Krystel threw herself onto her large bed, still in view of the mirror.

"So, what was that about not wanting to be stuck with me for a few thousand years?" Rose smirked. Her arms were crossed, and though she was just as annoyed, she was enjoying Krystel's annoyance more.

"How long does it take to make one baby girl?" she asked the ceiling.

"It's not like you can force two people to procreate. And we don't have power over life, only death."

Krystel rolled away from the mirror. Two thousand years. It had been two thousand years since Krystel was killed, since she had become the Black Rose Witch, and since she had made the deal with the long–dead King Johnathan and Queen Annaleasia for a peaceful land in exchange for their first daughter. And by an incredible amount of pure luck, all down their line for two thousand years, only sons had been born. The current rulers, James III and Caroline, were with their second child, who had decided to be born today. Demetrius had been their firstborn, and the next in line for the throne. Krystel and Rose were desperate for a princess to be born.

"You should have just listened to me," Rose said absently, examining her nails. "It's not like they actually remembered after the first hundred years had passed away."

"I don't break deals," Krystel replied, still looking away, "or promises. Much like Mabella and liars, I hold people up to the standard of honoring their word. And I do the same. Besides," she continued, sitting up on the bed, "Johnathan and Annaleasia were good people, much beloved by the land. They were the type to hold people to the same standard. When they didn't fulfill it, they told Aiden, who told his son, who told his son, who told his son, and now we're here at James III. You've watched it with me; they've all known about it. They've simply had the best of luck. It's––"

"Disgusting?" Rose interrupted."

"I was going to say ridiculous, but yes, that works too." Then came the fateful sound: a baby's cry. Krystel jumped up. "The child has been born."

"Yes," Rose said with fake enthusiasm, "let's stalk Celemore just to get disappointed again!"

Krystel rolled her eyes as she walked towards the edge of the mirror, placing her hand on the frame. "You know, maybe the issue is your pessimism." The mirror faded into the familiar image of Caroline's room. "You probably cursed Johnathan's line just to annoy me."

"I would've given that up by now," Rose responded.

Their attention was fully on what was happening inside the room. The physician was handing the tightly wrapped babe to Caroline. "Congratulations, Highness, on your new princess."

"YES!" Krystel and Rose screamed in unison. The image faded, and they looked at each other excitedly. "Yes," Krystel said again, relief filling her body.

"About time," Rose commented.

Krystel didn't respond. Her wicked smile was on her face. Her cloud of black threads was taking her to the room now. As she traveled, she listened to the conversation in the room. The physician had left the family to their new child.

"Oh, she is beautiful," Caroline said, breathing heavily. "Come, Demetrius. Meet your new sister: Alessandra."

They actually let him watch that? Krystel thought. Isn't he four?

James interrupted her thinking. "No!" he yelled. "No, she is not!" Krystel was close enough to see what was going on. James had snatched the squirming child and was holding her roughly in his hands.

"James, what are you doing?" Caroline asked, horrified. She tried lifting herself off the bed, but was still weak from giving birth moments before.

"The Black Rose Witch still exists!" he continued. He looked at Caroline pleadingly. "We have had thousands of years of peace because of a deal she made with my ancestors. If she discovers this child, this––this girl––all of that will end!" He turned his attention back to the babe, an evil glint in his eye. "But not if I end it first." James began squeezing the babe's tender rib cage. She was crying from the pain, and the sickening crack of the bones echoed against the large walls.

"James, stop!" Caroline cried, tears streaming down her face. Demetrius was in tears as well, but he was too scared to move.

Krystel materialized in the room as the new heartbeat ended. From the tiny body of the baby, Krystel watched her precious white soul slip out and start to float up. She caught the very end of it, managing to keep just a tiny piece. She held it firmly between her fingers.

"And what is going on here?" she demanded. James turned, still holding the baby, eyes wide. Caroline looked up from her hands and blinked away the tears. "Well?" Krystel asked again after a moment of silence. "Or does no one want to step up and take the blame for what you just did!" she ended screaming, and advanced towards the frightened king.

"N–no," he stuttered, "you–you cannot hurt any of us. The deal prevents you from–from doing so."

"If I get the first daughter," Krystel sneered, standing in front of him. "The child you just killed."

He stepped back, trying to put some distance between him and the Witch. "You kill all the time; it does not matter if it is women or children or elders. Why should it matter if I do?"

Krystel held up a finger, counting. "One: because you should care if you challenge me. It will be the mistake that ends your futile existence." She took a step, and held up another finger. "Two: because I don't kill for an illusion of peace, which you just ended, by the way." Another step, another finger. "Three: I've never killed my own child, as you just did." She was standing in front of him again, and his back was nearly against the wall. "And four: if there's one thing I truly hate, it's those who do not honor their word."

James gulped. "It was the word of someone who is long dead!"

"But passed on to you, the descendant of them who made it." Krystel pulled the body away from him, holding her tightly, the piece of soul still held in her fingers. "And now, King James III," she smiled, "you will die."

"Leave him be, please!" Caroline yelled, but it was too late. Krystel wrenched her free hand into the king's chest, and pulled out his still–beating heart. Blood splattered around the area, covering the two of them. She tried to keep it of the babe, but some spots still landed on her. Caroline and Demetrius cried louder. She turned away from the royal family and left.

Krystel took the babe back to her castle. She looked between the body and the tiny piece of soul she had left. It wouldn't be enough to bring her back, not alone. Krystel gently set her on the bed. "I need something more," she said quietly, trying to think. She softly touched the broken ribs. Most had punctured her lungs, but one––one very lucky one––had broken in the perfect spot to stab her heart. "A broken heart, and then death," she mused. Her smile grew slowly on her face.

She walked over to the mirror. Rose was fuming, the same way she had hundreds of years ago in the same mirror because Krystel had shown just how much power she still had over her body. "You can't––" she started to say, but Krystel interrupted her.

"But I am." Krystel shoved her hand into the mirror, into her reflection, too quickly for Rose to react. Her hand moved smoothly, as if she were pushing through water. She reached into Rose's torso, where her soul would be, then pulled out harshly. Krystel felt a ripping sensation through her own body as she yanked part of the Black Soul off. She held it up to the piece of white soul, and combined the two together. It was enough.

She went back to the babe. Carefully, Krystel slid the soul back into the body, then touched each of the broken ribs, using magick to heal them and the heart. Once they were back in place, she took a step back, watching. Waiting.

The heartbeat restarted. The baby opened her eyes and started crying, squirming in place on the bed. Krystel smiled widely, and gently picked her up. She waved her hand over her, replaced the blood–splattered blanket with a clean, navy blue one. She rocked back and forth, trying to soothe the child.

"Welcome back into the world," she said as she walked over to the mirror. "Alessandra."

Rose glared at Krystel, then at Alessandra. "You have no idea what you've just done," she said threateningly. Krystel shrugged.

"Neither do you."

Krystel took Alessandra across the hall, to her own bedroom. It was the same size as Krystel's, and had the same layout, but Krystel felt that is needed to be more like a nursery for the time being. She created a bassinet that matched everything else in the castle, and laid Alessandra down in it. She was wrapped up tightly in her new blanket, kept warm. Krystel stood over her for a moment, watching her.

Babies are much different from everyone else at any age. They only have one way of communicating what they want or need: crying. Neither Rose nor Krystel much enjoyed that. Alessandra didn't enjoy being put down. Krystel picked her up and rocked her some more, trying to get her to go to sleep. "We've both had a long day," she whispered. "You need to get some rest." Krystel put her back down, and started singing to her. It was an old lullaby; she remembered Airic sometimes singing it to Emessa when she couldn't sleep.

Slowly, the little one fell asleep. Krystel left her room, but left both Alessandra's doors and her own doors open. She looked at Rose. "Well, I think we've had enough excitement for one day, wouldn't you agree?" Rose continued to glare. "Oh, stop it," Krystel snapped. "So I give one tiny thing a bit of creative freedom. What's the worst that could happen?"

Rose slowly shook her head. "I have no idea what you've just done."

"I suppose we'll find out together then, won't we?" Krystel walked over and collapsed onto her bed. Her first kill in two thousand years, and then giving life back to an infant. Yes, the coming years were going to be very exciting. Like Alessandra, Krystel fell asleep very quickly that night.

* * *

A few years had passed. Alessandra had grown rather nicely. Krystel had taught her well: do this, don't do that, be kind and honest. Alessandra absorbed it all. She easily followed instructions, and never disobeyed Krystel. She was turning into the perfect weapon to destroy the Black Soul. Krystel was very proud.

Alessandra had even picked up magick. Rose explained that it was because part of her soul came from her, otherwise she wouldn't be able to do anything of the sort. Krystel had begun training her to use it. There was only one accident.

Alessandra was six. Krystel had just shown her how to make fire appear in her hand. Alessandra was generally very good at things like this, but with this one she struggled. "You can do it," Krystel urged her on. "Just like I told you." Alessandra kept trying, but to no avail. Finally, Krystel said they would be done for the day. "We'll try again tomorrow, alright?"

"Okay," Alessandra nodded, but she was very upset about this still. Krystel picked up on that very easily. She left the girl alone in her room. Alessandra kept trying. She was upset that she couldn't get a hold of it. It was very simple. A few more tries, and she had finally done it. A small flame flickered above her hand. She smiled, excited. "Krystel! Krystel!" she called. Her excitement added to the flame, making it grow bigger. Alessandra's smile grew wider.

Then she realized Krystel hadn't shown her how to get rid of the fire. It continued to grow, feeding off her feelings. Alessandra didn't know what to do. Out of fear, she threw it. It bounced around the room, occasionally knocking things over. Alessandra screamed, and started running out. The fireball hit the ceiling, then the door, and ran along Alessandra's arm, burning it. Again, she screamed, this time from pain.

Krystel had been in the kitchen making lunch for the two of them, and only heard Alessandra scream the first time. She arrived just after Alessandra was burnt, the ball still bouncing around. Krystel waved her hand in the air, calling the ball to her. It obeyed, and the second it touched her palm she closed her hand, extinguishing it. She turned her attention to the crying girl on the floor.

"Alessandra, sweetheart, are you alright?" she asked. Then she noticed the burn mark on the girls arm. "Oh, darling." Krystel sat down and pulled Alessandra into her lap, being careful of the burn. She looked at her arm, then slowly waved her hand up and down the length of it.

The burn wasn't very thick, but it went across the middle part of her forearm. Even with magick, Krystel couldn't keep it from scarring over, but she could heal it and take away the pain.

"Alessandra, what happened?" Krystel asked gently. She brushed away the tears, slowly rocking back and forth.

Alessandra sniffed. "I wanted to be able to do it," she explained, a sad look in her eyes. "So I kept trying. And I did it, but then it got big, and I got scared, so I threw it and it bounced all around and it hit me." She held back another round of tears. "I–I'm sorry."

Krystel smiled kindly. "It's okay. We just need to work a bit on your control, okay?" Alessandra nodded. Krystel took a deep breath. "I've got lunch ready. Would you like some?" She nodded again, then hurried off to the kitchen. Krystel stood, and glanced in Alessandra's mirror.

"Smooth," Rose mocked. "Nearly letting your only plan kill herself. Very professional." Krystel didn't respond. She simply left and tried to catch up with Alessandra.

After that, Alessandra was always careful, with everything. As she grew, Krystel would sometimes make fun of her for it. The two became very close as Alessandra grew up, though in the back of Krystel's mind she knew what was to become of her.

The only thing that perplexed Rose was Alessandra's soul. The two parts of the souls she had had grown together. Alessandra drew from the white half, though half of it was black. Even with the Black Soul inside her, Rose had no control over it. She couldn't tell where Alessandra was in the castle, or take control of her body. It had become part of her.

Krystel never told Alessandra about the Black Soul, nor of her true heritage. As far as Alessandra believe, Krystel was her guardian. She knew nothing of Rose, or of the reflections in the mirrors.

Finally, Alessandra was seventeen. She had grown into a beautiful young woman, exactly as Krystel had wanted her to. Her skin was pale; her cheeks were a bright rosy red. Her brown hair had grown out long and dark. She was a little tall for girls her age, but nothing extraordinary. She was also a little thinner than she should have been. Her eyes were the most stunning. They were a clear blue–gray, with tiny flecks of white here and there, like the sea on a stormy day, but had the depth of the ocean in them. Her personality was bright, like the sun. She was kind and loving, understanding, yet cautious; nearly the exact opposite of what the Black Rose Witch should be.

Late at night, long after Alessandra had gone off to bed, Krystel and Rose would discuss how to turn the white rose black. Rose, at this point, had partially figured out that Krystel planned on turning Alessandra into the next Witch, much like Mabella turned her; but Rose knew nothing of Krystel's theories on destroying the Black Soul altogether. Many thoughts, schemes, plans, and plots were suggested. Each was shot down by the other, with the simple phrase, "No, that will never work, not on her. She's too..." They never could fill in the right word.

Alessandra would often stay awake into the late hours of the night, imagining what the world was truly like outside her green–black bedroom. It had been the same one Krystel had originally given her, though it had a few changes over the years as Alessandra grew. She had a large closet she could walk into, a large bed all to herself, and large double–doors. The only difference was their balconies. Krystel's was large and went out a distance. Alessandra’s was much shorter, and had live red roses wrapped around it, rather than the iron black ones Krystel preferred.

Krystel had never let her outside the castle walls, and never would, she was certain. She dreamed of finding a place where the sun would never set and there would be no darkness. Krystel had told her time and again that the outside world was nothing fascinating, and quite often was rather treacherous. Alessandra could never believe that, however. There was more to the land than just the mundane and the dangerous. She wanted to know.

Alessandra was a person Krystel and Rose could never hope to understand. While they were cruel and sarcastic, she was kind and gentle. Where they enjoyed death, she cherished life. Turning her into a heartless witch would take more work than either had anticipated.

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