FOREVER KNIGHTS: #14 Broken Birds

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Nora's Unnerved

Slamming the book closed, Nora blew a heavy breath. Walking clumsily back to the tables across from the aisle she slumped into the chair opposite Anna. Her head dropping back against it.

The Widow Anna Valentine stared at her. A cup of creamed tea halfway to her mouth. A worried expression on her face.

Nora opened her mouth to explain but before she could she stiffened in her seat. The portrait across the room catching her eye. Dominating the wall, was the painting Anna and Mera had teased her about countless times over the years.

Rhyers followed her gaze. His mouth gaping as he recognized the piece of artwork. It was an image of Nora, but the gaze was defiant.

Anastacia’s face.

“No.” Nora murmured as she rose and numbly crossed the room her eyes fixated on the painting. Passing the tables with such a strange look that everyone watched her. When close enough she reached to touch the painting, dragging fingertips over the oiled canvas.

“Hey! You can’t touch that.” Mistress Avery, the Library Keeper, shouted to her. “It’s a priceless bit!”

But Nora was mesmerized. Gaze sliding to the corner despite her efforts to stop herself. Nora tilted her head to read the flourishing inscription there.

‘Portrait of a Wedding Night. Lord and Lady Black 1701’. Signed. Lucien Sabias. The same as the ancient article.

She rubbed her forehead until it reddened before roughly shoving her hair back.

Turning to leave, another painting caught her eye.

Rhyers tilted to see it. Another of Lucien’s.

Dragons filled the air in vivid shades. The angles of their bodies combined with their bared teeth, indicated they were attacking. The ground beneath them was littered with dark creatures scattering a battle-torn meadow. In the background, a green dragon was plummeting from the sky upside down. On the far right was a frail demon with a thin staff. Standing over a curled white dragon.

Raese and Chavias.

Running to the painting Nora twisted to see the corner. ‘The Great Battle’ by Lucien Sabias.

Did Deragan know they were here? Rhyers wondered. Watching her inspecting the painting. He must’ve.

“Nora Bishop! There’s no running in here.” Miss Avery stalked through the shelves to get to her but seeing Nora’s face, her voice softened. “Are you alright dear?”

Rhyers noted the color had completely drained from her face. No, she’s not.

Nora was staring around the library, the same as Rhyers, finding them littering the walls. Once across the room made her freeze.

The painting was called ’The Fallen.’

It was a scene from centuries ago. In the Upperlands.

A winged white creature fell between parted gray clouds. A mass of silver hair hid her face, her arms outstretched for the sky above her.

Below her, was a battalion of knights wearing white cloaks with the red iron cross declaring them Templar Knights in the Upperlands.

Among them was a man with helmet at his feet. Gazing up, his face calm. Waiting. Arms already raising as if to catch the creature.

But he didn’t. The Captain wasn’t able to get to her in time. Rhyers remembered.

At some point, Nora bit her lip so hard it now bled.

She’ll know this one too will be signed by Lucien.

Mistress Avery grabbed her upper arms and shook her. But she was invisible to Nora.

“Nora?” Anna Valentine said softly drawing her from her stupor.

Nora looked at her. Eyes glazed. Eventually she returned and sat across from Anna. Her gaze flicking back to the portrait.

Anna pointed to her teacup resting on the table. Giving Nora a long study. “I’ve put my creamed tea down.”

Understanding the severity of the situation Nora nodded. “I’ll tell you…”

What in Ardae are you going to tell her?

“What’s happening?” Ebony tugged on his sleeve. “What’s with the paintings?”

Sighing, his shoulders slumped. He turned his head until spotting what he suspected would be there.

Catching Ebony’s fine-boned hand he led her toward it. “What are we doing? Where are we going?”

Patience…

As they stopped before the painting, Ebony reared back in shock. Leaning back forward she read the corner. ‘The Tracker.’

“Is this you?” She was awestruck. “It’s very good. Do you know him?”

“Yes it is me. And yes I do.” He sighed and pointed to just above the name.

The portrait was dated 1490.

Time moves slower in Ardae. People age slower, live longer. But she’ll understand the impossibility of me looking exactly the same since then.

“Rhyers?” She asked. The first hint of fear tingeing her voice.

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