In the Shadows

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Chapter 2

The wind has a slight chill as it tickles Iselora’s skin. The blood red dress does little to stop the coolness from sending a shiver down her spine. The sun had almost reached the horizon, showing that her last moments in the room she had lived in for years was coming to an end. The room itself was empty except for a few pieces of furniture. Through one of the large ornate windows, Iselora found herself looking out across the dense forest that houses average looking animals, taking in one of the only beautiful things in her life. The opposing side of the tower overlooked a sparkling sea. On occasion, dolphins and whales swam within view. Iselora pulls herself from the window and looks towards the full length mirror one last time, hoping that her appearance was acceptable. Today is when she would finally be free, by any means necessary. The Minders will be coming soon but all she had left to do was wait. The majority of the preparations involved correcting the hack job that had taken place on her hair. Iselora could not decide on what the best course of action would be. In the end, a close cut seemed to be the best option.

Iselora stared at her reflection, tears threatening to spill again as she reached a hand to her head. Her fingers graze the prickle of freshly cut hair. Time seemed to have been lost as Iselora continued to stand there. Iselora’s idle fingers trace the minor scabs from where the Minders nicked her head. Her hair used to be her favorite thing about her appearance. It was the one thing that Iselora was able to take great pride in. Hours were spent making sure it was beautiful and healthy. The ruby color would have complimented the dress beautifully but, the Minders had other plans for her. Iselora’s gaze travels to her body, thin athletic build with strong shoulders. The dress fits in size, but hangs where curves should be. The sheer shawl draped from the back of the collar flows elegantly to the floor. It reminded Iselora of a blood soaked wedding dress. She frowns at the thought. “Why was I given such a dress?” Iselora whispered to herself. Talking louder than a whisper would have been dangerous. As Iselora was looking at the back of the dress, she could not help but think of how her tattoo and dress were perfectly paired. The dress itself was primarily red with gold accents. The gold is what drew attention to the tattoo that was delicately etched into Iselora’s back. The tattoo as a whole spans from the base of her neck down to the end of her spine and wide enough to barely touch the sides of her breast. The lines of the tattoo itself were of a thin gold, connecting to form the shape of a pointed mandala. The center circle houses twelve points and the mandala as a whole having six layers branching out from the center. Each layer contains intricate details, some as thin as spider webs connecting the layer below it. Below the mandala, connected by a thin, decorative line, is an ever changing moon, reflecting the phase of the moon that inhabited the sky. The Minders used the center of the tattoo to perform Iselora’s purification rituals. They said it relieved pressure from the body.

Iselora raised her face to meet her own gaze and to study the face that stared back. Her once bright hazel eyes have dulled and sunken into her face giving off a soulless effect. Dark circles that hang under the eyelids transformed her features to give off a more solemn than they naturally did already. Her skin had taken on an unhealthy paleness that made her sick to her stomach. Walking away from the mirror took a lot of effort but Iselora found herself wandering over to the balcony facing the sea. The sun reflecting off of the water was blinding, sunset would be here any second. Iselora’s hands moved rest on the ledge as she lifted her face towards the sun, glad to feel the last warm rays fall on her skin. A sound behind Iselora caused her to turn quickly, but no one was there. “Hello”? she called out, but to no answer. Iselora thought that it must have been the wind or bird. She turned to face the sea again, looking down admiring the way the rocks stick out of the sea, accepting the abuse the waves inflict on them. Iselora never imagined that this is how her life would end up. Being careful not to trip, she climbed onto the ledge. As Iselora sat on the ledge a tear streaked across her cheek. She reached her hand up to feel the sudden wetness and held her hand away to stare at it. The glistening of her wet finger tips catches Iselora by surprise. This tear was not red like the ones before. “The girl cries Maude.” An old, gnarled voice calls from behind Iselora, causing her to jump. “Gillian, one tear does not mean crying. Perhaps something got in her eye”. Maude’s voice rang out with a shrill joy. Both women began a soft version of cackling that sent shivers through Iselora’s body. She was instantly afraid as she turned to see both women hovering just inside the window. “The dress is ugly Maude” Gillian stated in a flat tone. “It’s what he sent us though. We have to oblige.” Maude stated matter of fact like “Well, let’s get her presentable”. With that, both women grabbed Iselora by both arms and roughly pulled her backwards. Unable to catch herself, Iselora hit her head on the stone floor. Her vision went blurry for a few seconds as Maude and Gillian grabbed at her arms, loudly cackling. “You clumsy girl, stand up, we must get you presentable” Gillian said over Maude’s laughter. Iselora let them pull her to her feet and drag her to the mirror. Hair clumps still scattered around where she previously presided. Iselora stood there as the two hags got to work on the dress. “Stupid girl, you ripped the dress”. Gillian chastised as she stuck a pin into the dress causing Iselora to flinch, Gillian smiled. Maude pondered the rip and with a flick of her finger, the stitching seamlessly healed in the blink of an eye. “Child must be too fat.” Maude suggested as if Iselora were not standing there.

The Minders quickly finished preparing Iselora and began escorting her down the spiraling stairs. Iselora had only been on these stairs once before, but she was escorted the opposite direction. The staircase was dimly lit, casting large, dark shadows below. Iselora felt as if the darkness below would swallow her whole and she wished it would. The group of three finally reached the ground floor and Iselora hesitated. There were two doors at the bottom of the tower, one obviously led to the outside, the other clouded by a deeper darkness. “We are late child,” Maude and Gillian said at the same time, each grabbing one Iselora’s wrists and dragging her further into the darkness. Panic began to well up in Iselora’s throat, cutting off her scream. The door opened to reveal another set of spiraling stairs plunging into a pitch black abyss, Iselora could not contain her panic any further and attempted to pull her wrists away from the Minders. She wanted nothing more than to be back in the room she had called home. She at least felt safer there than here. Maude tightened her grip, breaking Iselora’s wrist in the process, a yelp of pain to escape her lips. Gillian glanced towards Maude, indicating for her to let go of the wrist she was crushing. Maude studied the situation before releasing Iselora into Gillian’s grip. The release of Iselora sparked Gillian to forcefully drag the broken girl down the stairs. It did not take long before Iselora lost her footing, but Gillian kept dragging her before throwing her forward to tumble down the last few stairs. Iselora tried to catch herself, only to land on her broken wrist. A cry of pain ignited cackling from the looming figures. The cruel desire in the Minder’s eyes terrified Iselora more than she had ever felt. Maude snapped her fingers and a large blue flame erupted in the middle of the room. It was odd, Iselora felt no warmth from the flames. “Stand child.” Maude said in an anger laced tone. Iselora stood quickly, cradling her injured wrist. “Stand here and do not scream.” Gillian said, pointing to a spot on the ground. Maude and Gillian stood away from Iselora, using their bodies to form a triangle that framed the sparkling blue spirit. Maude and Gillian held their hands out, and commanded the flame to teleport the three of them to the entrance of King Asmodeus Set’s Castle.

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