I was running late for my own funeral.
In truth, it was not even a real funeral. However, as I scanned the four people who stood before me, it would be hard to explain to passers by that it was not the case. Similar to a funeral, everyone stood together dressed in black. They wore the expression of grief on their faces as they braced the reality of saying their farewells.
Looking around the grassy hilltop, I saw that the colors of autumn was splashed everywhere. The tall grass were the color of muted brown while the trees wore cloaks of splendid red and gold. In a distance, the outline of a grey castle jutted from a flat expense of land. Its tall turrets clawing for the sky and its banners of gold and black flapped lazily in the breeze.
The wind blew, flickering the ring of fire that was burning on the ground, kicking up my dark veil and tugging a few rose petals loose from my crown. I closed my eyes and committed the landscape to memory - of home and familiar things close to my heart.
The court assigned witch who shall preside over the ceremony touched me lightly on my arm. “It is time. Say your farewells.”
Turning away from the sight of home, my gaze fell onto the group of people that had gathered to see me off. My heart twisted in pain at the sight of my parents who wore carefully maintained facade. My sister Vivienne was struggling not to succumb to tears.
I turned around to face my eldest brother Blake, who stood closest to me in a crisp black suit, his buttonhole adorned with a single white rose.
I threw my hand around Blake and he pulled me close. I closed my eyes and breathed in his cologne. Something about the familiar scent splintered my already broken heart and I heaved a broken sob.
“Shhh…" he whispered to my ears. “This is not goodbye, my sweet.”
I pulled back and looked into his eyes which was identical to my own. I tried to smile, trying to maintain a cool exterior. I rest one hand on the lapel of his jacket, my eyes pinned to the white flower in an effort to stave off tears.
“Of course not. What does a hundred years mean anyway?”
He nodded. “Precisely.”
Next, I said goodbye to my teary sister. We did not spoke while she held me in her arms. I was reminded of the hours we used to spend in each other company. Of the endless nights when we talked about anything and everything. Of sisterly companionship, both the good times and the bad. When we broke apart, she tucked a hair at the back of my ear and I was reaffirmed of the belief that, whatever distance that may tear us apart, I will always have her as my sister.
Next, I faced my parents. Mother reached and caressed my cheek. Her touch was light as a feather yet as cold as ice. Her gaze were steady. “He would be here,” she whispered, demanding my understanding, “he would be here, but it would kill him.”
“It would kill us.” I said. “I know that more than anyone, mother.”
I moved to face my sire. His cool blue eyes glistened ever so slightly, looking down on me with the same expression he had worn whenever I was sent to his study, after having caused some sort of trouble. He looked stern but his eyes betrayed his worries and more importantly, of his love.
He bent down, bestowed a kiss on my forehead. “Remember what I said.” he said softly. I nodded, looking down to hide my tears, now flowing down freely from the corners of my eyes. He reached into his breast pocket and produced a velvet pouch which he placed in my hand. A parting gift.
“It is time.” the witch called again, standing by the ring of fire that were burning on the ground. As i watched, the flames burned from red to purple to green, flickering each time a gust of stray wind blew. “It is time to go.”
My tears stained my cheeks red, silently I chided myself for succumbing to tears. Who knows what lies waiting for me on the other side and when my next feeding was going to be. I stepped into the centre of the ring of fire, directed by the witch.
Meanwhile, she had pulled a tiny vial containing a few drops of scarlet liquid, threw the content down her throat and started to chant.
Suddenly the gentle breeze gave way to a gathering gale, causing the fire to tremble and kicking up stray leaves to dance in the air. And slowly, the world was beginning to spin. It started gently at first, I felt as if the world outside the ring of fire began to sway sideways. For the last time my gaze latched on the faces of my loved ones: of tearful Vivienne, of Blake and my parents; who stood so close together, clutching one another.
Then suddenly a figure swathed in black appeared, running towards the top of the hill. My heart raced as I watch him approach.
“Raven.” I breathed. My heart was splintering and tears were running down freely. I called out his name in a despairing cry.
“Lily!” he screamed my name. His anguished scream was mingled with the howl of the rising wind.
Desperately I reached out my hand but it was too late, the world was reeling outside the ring of fire, colors were blending into each other until there was nothing but the rush of sounds, sending me away on my exile.