The Thief of Hearts

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Summary

A blood-curdling scream echoed through the halls of Lady Matilda’s Manor.

Genre:
Romance / Adventure
Author:
James
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
17
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
16+

Prelude

A blood-curdling scream echoed through the halls of Lady Matilda’s Manor. Without a moment’s hesitation, and with slight regards to her own safety, Julianna jumped from her bed in her sleeping quarters and ran towards the door which separated her chamber from Lady Matilda’s room. Her fear of someone harming her benefactor pounded in Julianna’s heart as she grabbed her scimitar free from its’ scabbard and burst into the adjoining chamber.

As Julianna entered, she saw neither a foe to exterminate, nor an assassin in the night, only Lady Matilda, still in her large bed, trembling with fear. Blankets pulled up to her chin as she quivered in the semi-darkness. A single lamp lit the expansive room, and as her handmaiden entered from the far side of the chamber, Lady Matilda slowly appeared to regain her composure.

It was the handmaiden, Arietta, which broke the silence asking, “Another nightmare Milady?”

Nodding affirmatively, she drew in a deep breath. “The same as last night, what can it mean?”

“Perhaps you should summon a cleric or magus to interpret your dream, Milady,” Arietta suggested.

“No, if anyone were to find out they would deem it a weakness, and use it against me. You know the other Guild Masters would love to find a reason to take my position. Inviting anyone in would risk everything my late husband built.” Lady Matilda shook her head and sighed.

She missed her husband, particularly when confronted with such horrid dreams. Nearly two months had passed since his demise, and yet it seemed but moments ago. Especially since her nightmare nagged Matilda about her husband’s death. She looked over at Julianna, standing in nothing more than a nightshirt, with a sword in hand and prepared to kill for her. She stood so firm in comparison to herself, how she wished she had an ounce of Juliannas’ courage right now.

“Milady, I know a young man who may be able to help, and I am sure he would be discreet.” Arietta offered.

“Do you speak of Hamen?” Lady Matilda asked with a slight smile. She was well aware her handmaiden had been spending all of her free time with the young wizard.

Arietta blushed and meekly answered, “Yes Milady.”

“I do appreciate your offer Arietta, but I need to face my nightmares on my own.”

“Yes Milady, but if you told me your dream, I could tell Hamen it was my dream.”

Lady Matilda smiled, “And if I told you I dreamt of my late husband, how exactly could you speak to your dear Hamen?”

“Oh, I see, I am sorry Milady. I was just trying to bring you some peace.”

“If you want me to have some peace, go and bring me a glass of wine.” Lady Matilda instructed.

Once Arietta left, Lady Matilda turned to Julianna. “Do you believe I should seek help?”

Julianna, her crystal blue eyes considered her question for a moment. She ran her hand through her long blonde hair and answered. “I am not sure, without knowing your dream Milady.”

Lady Matilda sighed and leaned back into the numerous pillows. “I dream of Wilfred, I see him struggling with a demon, fighting with all of his vigor’s, but to no avail. He curses and clutches at his heart, and then lay still. The demon laughs and plunges his talon into Wilfred’s chest, ripping his heart out. Then I see a bright sparkling light, like a shimmering waterfall. I see the demon turn and look right at me as if it could stare straight into my soul and laugh maliciously. Then I awaken.”

“Perhaps your dream is a way for you to deal with Lord Wilfred’s death. Especially since he was such a young man to die the way he did.” Julianna suggested.

“I am not too confident Wilfred perished from a weak heart Julianna, I believe he was murdered. And I think my nightmare is proof. My dear Wilfred will never be at peace until he is avenged, so he haunts me in my dreams, begging me to find the culprit.”

“Murdered?” Julianna asked, “But when it transpired we found him in his study, behind locked doors.”

“Still, there are those who know how to kill without leaving a trace.”

“Are you suggesting an assassin managed to sneak past us and murder your husband?”

“I do not know.” Lady Matilda shook her flowing black hair and wiped the tears from her cheeks. She had not even realized she had started crying while telling Julianna about her dream. “Still, why would a demon appear in my dream? Wilfred dabbled with minor magic from time to time. But he only used minor spells, to chill his wine or levitate a scroll.” Looking to Julianna for answers she finished by asking, “Demons would not seek to hurt Wilfred, would they?”

“I know very little about demons, but perhaps a wizard summoned a demon to attack your husband,” Julianna offered, “Did Lord Wilfred have any business with wizards?”

Lady Matilda shook her head negatively. “No, I cannot remember Wilfred ever speaking of dealing with a wizard. However, I would not put it pass another Guild Master to employ such.”

“But what about the gem, The Heart of Silver Falls, it is whispered the gem may be cursed.”

“I sincerely hope you are mistaken. We have prospered greatly since Wilfred procured the jewel. So if it is cursed it is certainly a strange curse, one in which it bestows wealth upon its owner.”

Julianna glanced up as Arietta reentered, carrying a platter with a glass of red wine. “Milady, should we postpone the meeting with the other Guild Houses.”

“We cannot, if we show any sign of weakness they will move against us, and demand the King revoke my status as head of the Northern Trade Guild.” She took a large drink of wine and smiled weakly. “We will show them I am capable of running not only my house but my husbands’ guild as well.”

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