Echoes of Midnight

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Four

When Greta woke up, no one was around.

Being alone felt foreign to her. She always found her way home with Hans - her fiancé for a year before he was caught in a crash. The grief ate what remained of her soul. Bereft and aching.

Greta rarely spent her time alone. A life with no one beside her? Unimaginable. One time when they were cuddling in a couch of their tiny apartment, he asked, “Do you ever feel like you don’t belong here sometimes?”

Greta didn’t laugh at him then, it was a cool question with no motive to seduce or insult her. “I don’t feel like myself at all sometimes, Hans. That’s why I love you, you keep me grounded with the things that really matter. You, me, and Tabitha. It’s not perfect but I love it so much, I can’t imagine where-“

Hans silenced her with a kiss. They both tried to stalk back to the bedroom when Tabitha, their feline companion, scowled at them for making weird noises. They both laughed and went outside the patio instead.

It's been a long time, Greta wondered, but for how long?

Her body ached everywhere - electrified and turned into a mush with no memory of what happened moments before she collapsed.

The only thing she remembered was a dark gaze. Then, realization dawned on her as she tried to compose herself before planning to see the haughty High Lord again.

The room where she was placed was still the same. An infirmary of some sort that reeked of things she don’t want to know about.

The room wrapped her with unforeseen danger. Her spiraling thoughts took a turn when she glimpsed a moving shadow passed by her periphery. Okay, stop imagining Greta and pull yourself together.

Curiosity won her still and tried to convince herself that the shadow might be the man she saw earlier.

But then again, another wisp of shadows swirled before her. It wasn’t dizziness for sure as her eyes widen. It was a man, but it was not the master she teased hours ago.

This one comported himself with darkness. He carried his body as if he was a prince who made a deal with the devil.

With eyes like burning rubies, he apprehended her with a hint of a smile on his face.

“What business do you have in this beautiful castle, my lady?”

Greta caught her breath before she saw the claws, sharp as needles, and the fur that covered him from shoulders to toes. If the master was threatening, this one screamed run and hide.

“Umm…”

Bereft of words, she could only stammer before the man spoke again.

“I'm asking about you, mortal. How did a beautiful lady get lost in my castle?”

“Wait! I was confused but there was also a man here earlier. He also claimed he’s the master of the castle. I’m supposed to visit Allafech but I don’t know which way to go and-“

“Ah, Allafech, those troublesome women are at it again. Tell me, have you seen women aside from that old crone of a servant?” the dark man asked enthusiastically.

When Greta did not nod, the man paced the room in agitated steps. Rocking back to and fro as if debating with himself.

“I do not understand how they can do this to me, betrayals are the worst kind you could do to your own kind. Tell me, my lady, have you ever been betrayed?”

Greta pondered for response but nothing conjured aside from the time her cat, Tabitha, tried to eat one of her favorite snacks while she was away from the table.

“None so far, I’m afraid I cannot go to Allafech as I have planned but providing that I can stay here for the night-“

“You are welcome here, my lady. Are you not afraid of me? With these hideous eyes and body that would make any maiden weep and hide?”

She looked further to the physical eccentricities of the man before her. Strange as it may seemed, Greta found it hard to be frightful. She knew she had no plans on how to escape the castle unscathed and alive.

“It is easy to be afraid, but what of kindness and compassion? People always seem to say wonderful things to wonderful people who are beautiful but deceitful. I am not a fool for looks but the heart always say what the face cannot do.”

The man seemed to ponder on her little soliloquy before he commandeered his robes. Then, raven wings flew before her as a bat perched at the shoulder of its master.

With marble-shaped eyes and a round nose, the bat leaned in to the man’s ears as he nodded his head intently.

Greta found it odd to stare at someone talking to a tiny winged creature. The man suddenly turned as he made a gesture to lock the door when Greta demanded, “What should I call you? No one offered their names since I arrived in this castle.”

The man whirled to Greta as the bat flew away through the windowsill of the smelly healer’s room.

“They call me Daemeon, my lady, and I am the true master of the Mudwick castle.”
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