1702 - RAESE
Thicker than thieves those two. The closest of friends with no secrets between them. Few of us even knew how they met. That was just one of their carefully kept secrets.
They never bothered to spare one another’s’ feelings but was always there to pick the other up if they were knocked down.
You could see when they looked at each other that they’d cross any obstacle to get to the other. Nothing could stand between them. No man. No woman. No level of evil.
I always envied them. But now I must wonder if the time that cuts them apart can succeed where nothing else could?
Just the thought makes me grow yet more bitter.
From the Journal of Chavias Derenoe.
1702 Farthington Hall, Paladines (lost for a year)
Tonight, found Raese at Lady Farthington’s infamous summer gala. He shouldn’t have been surprised when he looked around trying to spot Rodger Barnes, peering through the cluster of ladies and noticed one face refusing to lower. One bereft of cloying fan…Her.
Unmoving in the throng of people.
He couldn’t recall when he’d started having the visions of the wraith. Only that he’d done so as long as he could remember. But the sight of her as a hazy shadow in the crowd was far from startling. More a tantalizing flicker of a memory.
If a man must be haunted, I couldn’t have dreamt up a lovelier woman. Ebony tresses framed a heart-shaped face, dominated by one large violet eye peering through her hair. Lips the shade of raspberries, whispered words he couldn’t hear.
I can’t hear you.
She met his gaze unblinkingly and questioningly cocked her head.
A plump tear slid down her angelic face. His heart thudded heavily. He found himself reaching out, in an inexplicable desire to offer comfort.
She triggers immense loneliness or loss in me…But always indefinable frustration.
His hand was abruptly caught in a firm handshake. The man blocking his vision yanked him close to give pat his back. “Whiting, good Lord man! I began to think I was the only man I knew dolt enough to attend.” He gestured. Only pausing to study his friend. “Whiting? You feel awry?”
Raese shook his head to clear his thoughts. “I’m quite well, Rodger. Now that you’re here. What persuaded you to come?”
Rodger laughed roughly and shared a look.
Of course…for our mistresses. For Lady Farthington’s notorious diversions. Raese noticed Leslie crossing in his direction. Materializing as he’d thought of her.
“Ray Ray!” She called to him.
He winced. Damn it. There still may be time to vanish into the crowd. He looked longingly to his right.
“Who loves the shameful intrigue of Lady Farthington’s guests more than our young widows, yes?” Rodger chuckled. Catching Raese’s shoulders to turn him to face Leslie as she descended on them.
Too late. Raese willed himself patience.
Leslie’s eyes locked on him like a starved hound. “Ray Ray!” She beamed.
He realized the great similarity of the blonde to molasses he couldn’t’ wash away. Once it poured over him, there was no shaking it. He sighed as she clutched his forearm.
I can’t even remember how we met.
Much less why I liked you. His shoulders slumped.
The time drew near. Torches were lit, and doors closed. After only half an hour, the rustle of skirts began, the covert trod of booted feet and whispering sounds of lovers filling the corridor. Creaking doors were the portent that a few grew impatient.
Sounds drowned out by the soft pleasurable pants of the woman with Raese. In moments he was rolling off his lover, sated and sweating.
Leslie’s warm body nestled against his. She leaned over his shoulder, her hair sliding across his back as she lightly caressed his face with her palm. Somehow, the touch seemed awkward and rehearsed. He inadvertently turned his face away.
I wish she’d go.
Her lilting voice was soft near his ear. “Ray Ray, you know there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to make you happy...If you’d but let me. Let me in, let me close to you. You know how much I-”
Don’t say that.
“Leslie, I think it’s time for you to go, it’ll be daylight soon.” His voice was sharper than he’d intended it.
I don’t want to hear it.
He heard her draw a heavy breath and felt the hand leaving his hair shake slightly before she rose, drawing her wrap about her. Soon, he heard the door creaking closed.
She’s gone. He slumped to the linens in relief. It’s more of a strain then a pleasure to be with her.
He felt the sharp bite of his conscience. Leslie isn’t a bad woman.
If I refuse to love her, shouldn’t someone else get the chance?
He rested awhile. Eyes open as he let his mind clear and waiting. Waiting for her.
If I wait long enough, maybe she’ll come. I’ll get to see her again.
Somehow the sight of his wraith was more thrilling then dallying with his mistress.
Finally, he gave in to exhaustion and closed his eyes. The moment he did, he felt the small cold palm cupping his, laying on the pillow so near him. The weight of another body in his bed. Smelling like trees, rain and moss. Wild. Exotic.
And the chilly breath across his cheek was somehow comforting. He lifted his hand and parted his fingers until he felt the cold weight winding between them to know a small hand rested in his.
He sighed. If I open my eyes…
He knew the truth, the truth of ebony curls pouring across the pillows, a sensual soft body he’d never be able to touch. Which would be clothed in a filmy summer gown. Sparking violet eyes watched him intently and should so much as one of his eyelashes flutter, she’d vanish and wouldn’t return tonight. He wondered if even now, a tear to follow the last chased down a porcelain cheek.
I wish I knew how to stop your tears.
He dared not open his eyes and chase her off. Just stay. He willed.
Soon, he fell into slumber and this time when a soft palm and small fingertips drew tenderly across his face, he sighed and tilted a cheek into the small, chilled hand...
He’d come to dread waking. Whatever bed he woke in was deathly cold. He sat up, teeth clattering. He pulled on his breeches and rubbed his palms over well-muscled biceps to warm himself as he sought his shirt and cravat.
Leslie, Eloise, and Rodger welcomed him to eggs, smoked meats and cheeses. Serving himself, he took a chair near Leslie, despite last night’s decision. A large mirror hung on the wall across from them.
I look more tired than I feel-if possible. He appeared pale and shadowed. Hollow.
Shaking his head at the image, he focused on his bite of smoked pork and speared a hunk of egg.
Straightening he choked. The reflection in the mirror now shattered his composure.
His wraith dominated the glass. Crying out, mouth opened wide, but no sound emerged. Her arms reached out for him. One hand melting through the glass to jut into the room.
Coughing he hammered his chest in an attempt to dislodge breakfast. Glancing to both sides of the table he saw no one witnessing the hand outstretched for his.
What’d happen if I took it?
“Please!” She cried out. Desperation apparent on her face. And this time he heard her. Though it came like an echo over a great distance.
Leslie gave him a hard swat on his back. Sending his chunk of food shooting out to land in an unappealing lump on the marbled floor. A light-colored Great Dane appeared from nowhere to hastily gobble down the slimy treat. Watching the animal devour his pre-tasted meat was hard on his newly fragile stomach. Gagging again he promptly stood to steady himself. His spine stung where his kind mistress had delivered him sound blows.
Was that necessity or punishment for his callousness last night? His doubts were banished when she pierced a piece of greasy bacon dripping in egg yolk and suggested the bite might settle him.
Staring at the morsel a moment...He fled the room.
As of late there was no place safe from his dream weaver. Even as he lay in the chamber, thinking such thoughts, the room wobbled. There was grinding like the stone coming apart.
Sitting up, he looked around the shadowy chamber. In the darkest depths of the far corner, he saw the white glow of her flesh crouched in the corner; head bowed to her drawn knees. The glistening fall of black tresses poured over her legs and shoulders. Her image blurred.
He blinked hard trying to focus.
Suddenly she lifted her head, face concentrated but impassive. She blurred again and this time her silhouette became only a mass of shining silver flakes. Filling the room with the smell of damp grass and earth. A smell that sent his heart racing.
She’s leaving again. Just when he thought he’d lost her, she appeared again. With outstretched arms and... wings. Watery translucent things soundlessly spanning the room. Blurring what lay beyond them. Her head threw back and the wings beat furiously as she tried to get to him. Sending sparkling droplets of water across the room. They dissipated before reaching him.
Red rose petals fell, one-by-one from the ceiling. The whole room was in motion.
But her corner was different. Like she’s somewhere else.
The only sound in the room was the beating of his heart and his rapid breaths. He was frozen.
Her feet lifted off the floor. Wings beating furiously against an invisible wall. He tried to touch a passing wing but found it was two-dimensional. His hands passing through it. Never feeling it. Only the sensation of movement touched him. Her violet eyes burned like blue firelight.
She wants to tell me something. An unspoken message he couldn’t comprehend.
The air in his chamber became liquid, rippling around her hand as she reached through it. A pool of glowing green formed in her palm rising into an orb. Which she offered him.
She wants me to take it? He moved across his bed to get closer to her, studying the shimmery silver hand holding it out. She seeped thick droplets of water which clanged like glass on the floor.
Is it even possible to touch a creature like her?
He read the desperation in her eyes and snatched it from her.
The shadow of her wings still pounded around him, but the air was as motionless as a calm pool.
Raese’s eyes moved from the orb to the woman. Her words floated from far away, musical and beautiful. “Bring me back”
It was an echoing plea.
“Calisto...” She interjected. Her voice cut off and her image flickered then snapped out like a blown flame.
Calisto. It fit her. Like the strange exotic creature, she was.
His eyes fell to his palms where he’d cradled the green orb but there was nothing there. It had gone with her.
But the message she’d worked so hard to convey lingered.
Bring me back.
Even as he stared at it the orb disintegrated. An illusion. Something she was trying to show me…
“The library.” It was another hollow plea. Waking him to thoughts of the Farthington family library.
For what, damn it!
There was a cold in the chamber, freezing him to the bone.
Her presence is still here.
Pulling on his breeches, his feet met cold stone. Making him hiss an indrawn breath.
He was driven to go downstairs. As if she was in his ear. Urging him to hurry.
Getting past the servants was easier than he expected since the sun had not yet fully risen. They were busy going about their early morning duties.
The library was ominous. Like the great mouth of a dark cavern swallowing him. No light to be had this early. The candles had long since gone out.
But I never have a problem seeing in the dark.
He pulled the door closed quietly behind him. Making his way to the window to draw open the drapes. That meager light helped him feel like he wasn’t so much intruding. Dust flakes danced in the light, stirred by the curtains. He coughed against the dust before heading down the first aisle.
Raese peered at the bindings. After a long hour, he was certain.
It’s not here. Sighing heavily, he rounded the shelf to enter the next section. Feeling like he would recognize the book he sought when he saw it.
A thread of movement caught his eye. For a moment it appeared someone rounded the end of the aisle into the next.
Striding after the figure he went to pass the third aisle which appeared empty but save for the slightest movement there. Drawing him to a stop. As he took a step back to get full view of the opposite end he gasped.
His wraith stood motionless there. The glow of her white form illuminated the darkness. Her skirts swirling in an unseen breeze.
Where’s her feet?
Ebony curls poured down her back, the only color aside from those penetrating eyes.
Her stillness is from another realm…Or Dread magic. His eyes narrowed on her.
Everyone in Grier Country knew of the dark magic of the Dreads. Magic disobeying all laws of Ardae. Known to be dangerous…
But I’ve never seen anything half here, half somewhere else.
Looking at her made him swallow. Soul-deep pain searing through him. Pain he could not explain.
Her soulful eyes damp with unshed emotion, pleading for understanding. She lifted a quaking hand and pointed to a high shelf.
He swallowed hard.
The visions of last night haunted his mind’s eye. Great black wings splaying from her petite form. She is mesmerizing. Tiny and beautiful.
What a lovely being she must have been as a woman.Men would have fallen at her feet.
What crime could she have committed that would doom her to an eternity of aimless whispering, able to see but never touch this life.
He realized he could not recall the last time he had taken a breath. He stared at her as she met his long study and then slowly lifted a hazy finger toward a top shelf.
Compulsively, he reached for the book she directed him to.
He lifted the skin volume from the shelf and found it shockingly heavy. As he folded open the binding, he found the worn parchment stating it was the lore of the revenants. The Original Immortals.
Pulling it down slowly he twisted to ask her but found only black silence.
“Come back…” He whispered.
He sensed her presence reaching for him. But a full turn in the library revealed nothing.
It’s too late.
Moments later, Raese caught another flash of movement but when he glanced up, he saw only what looked like a black whip vanishing behind the aisles.
The book slipped and when it landed, he saw a bit of ribbon slip to peer from the top. Gripping it in his fingertips he followed to its pages and found a particularly intriguing story.
An orange-eyed creature peered from around the bottom of one bookshelf, watching quietly as Raese lifted the book. Viewing the page which had opened for him. Speaking of a tale of a particular immortal.
Someone people in the UpperLands had called Merlin.
Someone…whose stories felt hauntingly familiar to Raese Whiting.
Raese, my brother, if you are out there, I understand why you may have stayed away from us all this time. Why you might have chosen a different life for yourself.
I can see all the reasons you could turn your back on us…
But how could you ever turn your back on her? She searches for you. Every moment of every day…Even now…
From the Journal of Sebastian Bodane.