Chapter 3: Stained glass.
“Tell me again why I let you convince me to come in the middle of the night to the creepiest place in the manor?” Damian mocked a whine again. We’d sneaked out of the party a little before midnight when everyone was too drunk or too busy making out to care. I was impatient to get to the crypt and find out what Lady Lancaster meant whit her statement but after ten minutes of walking through the forest in high heels I was starting to regret not waiting until morning.
“Because you were as bored as I and this is an adventure” I replied, fighting a low branch that had stuck in my dress “Argh, are you for real? Why does every bush, branch and stone hate me right now?” I huffed.
I heard him sight right before my feet lost the ground and then I was in his arms. “You are such a crybaby” he huffed, making me jump a little to get a better hold of me.
“I’ll gladly exchange attire and see if you can handle mother nature better in a fluffy night gown” I crossed my harms to my chest and sticked out my tongue, mocking a tantrum and earning a laugh from him.
We continued bickering and joking for another ten minutes. He was obviously strong, carrying me for so long without getting tired, his strides were long and powerful and his voice reverberated in the forest. I looked up at his face and found myself admiring his beauty; if he weren’t so damn annoying, I might have found him attractive.
“The show’s over, we’re here” I blushed when I noticed he caught me ogling at him again, but my embarrassment was short lived because he dropped me to the ground and landed with a loud thud.
“What a gentleman” I huffed getting on my feet and rubbing my pained ass. I looked at the crypt and shivered. I’d come here many times before but it had a different vibe at night, it was ancient and a bit scary. “After you”.
He rolled his eyes but grabbed a torch from the entrance and stepped in without hesitation. Damian doesn’t believe in ghosts; we have people with powers and sorceresses who predict fate but the man doesn’t believe in ghosts. I hurry behind him, grabbing a torch for myself and look around.
The crypt is big, it holds ten generations of Lancaster and has room for ten more. The inside is very luxurious with marble floors and onyx walls shining with the gold of the names written. The celling has a big mural made of colorful broken mosaics; it tells a story but I can’t get it.
“Now that I think about it, you never told me why you wanted to come here so urgently” Damian’s voice broke the holly silence in the crypt.
“You’d better ask first next time” I shrugged it off and ignored him for a few minutes to annoy him before giving him an answer. “The location of the Forest Region Sorceress, that’s what we are looking for. Lady Martha told me that some things are hidden on plain sight”
I heard him gasp and turned around to see what had startled him. Damian was standing in front of the opposite wall a few feet away facing me with panic in his eyes. “Why do you want to find a sorceress?” he breathed, his voice cracking a little at the end. I mentally face palmed myself. The man didn’t fear ghosts but was afraid of a sorceress miles away gods know where.
“The awakening” I answered him firmly and cocking my brow amused by his reaction “I’ve spent the last couple of years reading every single book and scroll of the library, deciphering paintings, songs and legends; I can have it too, I just need to find their temple but I’m running out of time. So… Will you help me?” I pleaded.
He gave me a funny look but nodded and turned around to keep looking. I sighted in relief and turned as well. We continued searching for what seemed like hours in absolute silence until he spoke once more.
“Why do you want to be awakened?” He asked cautiously without taking his eyes from the painting he was examining “Whatever they tell you or do to you will happen anyways, you know?”
“I do” He had a point, those who had powers developed them over time even without the ceremony and the ones whose fate was reveled followed their destiny in the end. “Maybe I’m naive but an elder told me about an orphan girl who found out about their parents during the ceremony. It seems the ceremony works differently in people like me, and even though I’m grateful with your family I want to know who I am, where I came from and why.” I said fighting the tears that were pooling in my eyes.
He didn’t say anything and I was grateful, my parents were a sore subject and he knew it. I had been picked on a lot when I was younger, sometimes he’d been the abuser but when we got older, he broke a couple noses to protect me and I know he understands.
The sun was already rising and there were no signs of the bloody map to the sorceress. We had searched both inside and outside of the crypt and were seating with a defeated expression against the back wall of the crypt.
“Maybe my mother didn’t mean the crypt but something on the way here” Damian spoke with faked optimism.
“Don’t bother, we both know there is nothing but trees and killer bushes in the way here” I shrugged. I would lie if I said I wasn’t disappointed, more like heartbroken, but now I had to accept I failed and was in need of another plan. I got up and headed to the exit.
“Are you really giving up?” Damian asked angrily without getting up. The blood boiled in my veins, that jerk was accusing me of giving up when I’d been searching for years; my birthday was the next day, it was over.
“I have until midnight to get there and I have no idea how. It’s over, Damian” I whispered yelled turning around with anger but I froze. Right above Damian I could see a shining thing that wasn’t there before.
I ran to the wall and grabbed him to clear the space in order to get a better look. The sunlight entered through the stained glass of the entrance, fragmenting the light and reveling a set of crystals hidden in the wall that traced a path in the craved map of the region.
“This is it” I muffled a sob, following the path with my fingers, the crystals unnoticeable under my touch “She’s here” I said, touching the end of the line. It wasn’t so far away, maybe an hour or two by horse, if my calculations were right.
“Well, we’d better hurry if we want to get there on time” I turned to see Damian and he had the biggest smile I’d seen since he got back. “Did you think I would let you go alone? You are wrong missy, now hurry and get ready, we leave after breakfast”
I rolled my eyes with amusement at his bossy tone. “You’re always thinking about food”
“What? A man must have his priorities straight”
The sun was setting behind us when we arrived to the last village in our path. Damian paid for two rooms at an inn in the borders so that I could get ready for the ceremony. I was wearing a light white dress of lace and sheer fabric which was almost see-through, it had a very modest v neckline and thick straps on my shoulders. My hair was braided in a fish tail and fell down my left shoulder and my face was bare as per tradition. I used a black cape to cover my exposed body and headed to the stables to meet with Damian, we still had some riding to do before reaching the sorceress.
Damian was waiting for me next to the horses, Lady Martha lend hers to me without questions but I’m sure she’s more aware of what happens around that what she lets show. He helped me up and with a nod I lead the way, he was with me out of fraternity but this crusade was mine.
We rode slowly for about half an hour until I saw it. The entrance to the temple is a stone door engraved in the hill of a mountain, barely noticeable if you are not looking for it, shining brightly with the midnight moonlight. I get down the horse and tie the reins in a close tree, my hands shaking in anticipation. I approach the double doors slowly and touch them with my fingertips, barely a brush, and they open without a noise. I step inside while taking off my cape, revealing the light dress which flows around me with the breeze.
I hear Damian gasp behind me, I had forgotten he was there, and we continue to move into the cave. It must be enchanted because the torches light up when we approach. We walk for what seem to be hours but were probably just a few minutes, until we reach a pond with crystal clear water.
“Welcome, Damian son of Martha and Enid daughter of Zagan.” An eerie voice spoke, revealing a woman standing in the back border of the pond. She was wearing a black tunic with golden and silver embroidery of runes I’d seen in one of the scrolls from the library “We were waiting for you”
I blinked surprised for everything she’d said. She not only knew our names but my father’s name and that we were coming. I stepped forward with confidence, it was as if I knew what I had to do.
“Great sorceress, today is my twenty-first birthday. As you may know I don’t have anyone to guide me through the awakening, so I’ve come here to ask for your guidance” I bowed deeply, almost pleading she wouldn’t reject me for the sorceresses only performed ceremonies for those they deemed worthy.
A cold finger lifts my chin and I’m faced with silver orbs instead of eyes. The sorceress is a beautiful woman, her face doesn’t look a day after thirty but the way she moves and speaks tell she must be ancient. She’s grins and let go of my chin, motioning me to get closer to the edge of the pond.
“Come my child, we have a lot of things to show you” I shudder at her statement right before I submerge into the cold and peaceful waters.
I thought of uploading three chapters instead of one to celebrate the publishing of my first story. I don't know if anyone will ever read it, but for those who will: I hope you enjoy it.