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Blair: The Sleeping Daughter

 

 

Blair:[
**]The Sleeping Daughter

April Klasen

 

Independently Published

2015

 

Copyright © 2015 by April Klasen

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or scholarly journal.

First published: 2015

ISBN 978-0-9944659-1-7

April Klasen

www.aprilklasenauthor.com
[email protected]

Hello,
I’m an indie author.
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Enjoy reading,
April 

April Klasen is an independently published author, a blogger, and an expert on finding new hiding places to read uninterrupted. For more stories by April visit www.aprilklasenauthor.com

 

Also by April Klasen

Blair: Salem’s Daughter

Blair: The Sleeping Daughter

Blair: The Same Daughter

The Annual

Beta

Pure PopAsia
Summertime Madness

Acknowledgements

Thank you Nanowrimo.

Thank you Brothers Grimm.

Thank you Bek.

Thank you editor B.

Thank you Mum and Dad.

Thank you Readers. You’re amazing!

 

Before

Once upon a time there was a girl who lived a quiet life. But this was not always true. When she was fifteen, she went on an unusual quest to restore the sword and break the blood curse by unknowingly sacrificing herself.

On the quest she discovered a dormant talent; she was a spirit witch, and powerful.

As time passed, the girl grew older in her world and waited excitedly for the time she could return to the fantasy land and her true love.

Only months passed in the other land, but the king and his advisors, the five wizards of Alizaria, worried greatly over the girl’s strength in spirit. If what she had accomplished in her quest was just the beginning, then perhaps her powers would increase as she aged. Perhaps she was an enemy of Alizaria.

The girl, just seventeen, was lured back into the other world where she was ambushed. The wizards bound her spirit to her body, preventing her reincarnation. But this was not a solution. If she was as strong as they suspected, then she could resurrect herself and lead an army of un-dead against the king and his people.

They placed a sleeping curse upon the girl; she was not dead, merely unable to live. She was buried in a place to be forgotten and never to be woken.

Her love married another and had a family.

On the other side of the gate, eight years passed, and her parents lost hope of finding their missing child.

In the fantasy land where time moves differently, faster or slower but never the same as the girl’s home, one thousand years had passed when the daughter of Salem was suddenly woken.

 

“Salem’s Daughter,
spirit of Alizaria and blood of another land,
a daughter of two worlds:
She will be loved by an heir.
She will sleep till Alizaria needs her.
She will bring fire and flood.
She will be the greatest queen for a thousand years.
She will be alone.”

Chapter One: The Same

Blair screamed. “No… wait… stop!” She opened her eyes to a murky darkness. The air was stale, but she gasped it desperately, and wriggled around till her arms and legs hit walls. Narrow walls. She raised her hands. “Please, no.” Above her there was nothing. She snapped upright.

The room was small and carved into the walls with small alcoves for glowing crystals. They struggled to push the darkness back, like a torch with dying batteries.

Panic rose high, clamping down her chest, squeezing out her breath. “What happened?” Her ears echoed with the rasped sound in the silence. Quickly she climbed out of the box and stumbled away from it. A lid lay crooked to the side.

“Oh, hell no.” She stumbled to a wall and bent over at the waist, gagging. Nothing came up from her empty stomach. She shook all over. Blair slid down the wall and sat as a jumble of limbs, like her body couldn’t remember how to position itself to sit.

Think carefully; what happened? She didn’t speak; the sound didn’t belong in this silence. Vague images flashed through her head. Wizards! She felt her face frown. Fucking wizards!

But what had they done?

She rolled over onto her knees and slipped. The dress she wore was tangled through her legs. Cold stone pushed against her belly. She yelped and hurried to stand.

Blair reached a hand out to a crystal. She wrapped her cold fingers around it and pulled it from the wall. Like she had been taught, she blew on it and it brightened.

She squinted against the sudden light. “Ow.”

Her “room” was carved stone with flecks of orange throughout it. She waved the crystal around and the flecks glittered. In the centre of the room was the box with the lid. The word squatted on her tongue; coffin.

But it wasn’t like any she had seen on TV. This one was also stone with flecks, and carved into the room, never to be removed. She took a step forward. The inside was padded with a mattress and pillow. She recoiled.

No… wait… stop!” She tried to scream but it stuck in her throat. The last thing she saw as her eyes closed was five old wizards, hands raised and eyes closed, lost in their chanting. And then nothing.

Blair pushed the images back.

Nope. Not now. Not ever.

She had to focus on everything else, but that. Not what they had done to her.

But how did she wake up?

She was alone, so it wasn’t like a fairy tale with Prince Charming rescuing her.

Prince.

“Dathan,” Blair gasped. Where was he? Did Cassius and those fucking wizards try something with Dathan?

She heard herself hiss.

What the…? Did she really just hiss like a cat? Blair blinked and forced herself to relax. Deep breath. Exhale. Everything is alright. But her body twitched. It knew that it wanted to move. She allowed it to. She walked around the coffin, sticking close to the walls of the room till she found the darkened doorway.

She stepped out into the dark and waved the crystal around.

The door was a solid block of stone. It was lying on the floor, knocked down. She stepped over it and just stared. What had happened? Why was she awake now?

The panic returned. She waited for an answer, but couldn’t think of any. She shrank away from the darkness and pushed her back against the wall. She squeezed her eyes closed.

“I want light,” she whispered.

There was a shift, and suddenly her eyelids changed from black to a red. She opened them. The hallway blazed with light now. Just like her “room”, there were small crystals placed in carved niches in the walls.

So she still had her magic.

This made her straighten her back and force the panic down. “Everything is going to be alright, just as soon as I get out of here.”

She didn’t dare call “here” what she thought it was. “Here” could very well be her last resting place if she let her imagination put the facts together, so she blanked her mind and took tentative steps to the left. She stopped and started back to the right. Then stopped.

Either way, the hallway stretched beyond her sight.

She started hyperventilating. This was not good. She leaned her back against the cold stone and focused on a spot on the opposite wall. She just stared at it. Her breathing slowed to normal.

She allowed her eyes to look over the walls. There seemed to be another door, the stone set in place. Above, carved into the lintel, were a name and a date.

She frowned and moved to that side of the hall and looked above her door. No name, but a date just a little earlier than the other.

It happened. She laughed a sick and twisted laugh. She always knew that if she had died at home then she would have been easily forgotten, her headstone left to be terrorised by time and weather till the lettering was all gone. But this was Alizaria. She was meant to be remembered, for restoring the sword and, if she had had it her way, for being Dathan’s queen.

Yet she was in an unmarked crypt.

Her skin crawled and the laughter died.

For two years she wrote to Dathan on that magic paper. She told him everything; all the mundane days at school, her extracurricular activities like horseback riding, archery and fencing, funny stories of learning to drive. In his time, just a few months in Alizaria, he wrote her about the rebels and Lucy, stories about his youth, and just one important sentence.

~

Blair never kept a journal. It was too dangerous with her nosy mother to write down her feelings. What she did instead was a crazy type of strange. The things that she could never tell Emily or Dathan in their daily, almost hourly writings, she kept bottled till the next storm. Then she would lie outside, staring at the gathering storms, and whisper it all to the sky.

In some way, she was telling Lucy.

This is what kept her sane. She would be about ready to lose control and just start screaming out the truth in the middle of class or while watching television with her parents, and then a storm would be developing.

She told the clouds everything, rationalised her feelings for certain things, and whispered her deepest hopes and desires.

The answering thunder gave her hope that someone else was listening, and understanding exactly where she was coming from.

~

Blair looked down at her feet.

The floor was covered in a heavy sheeting of dust. How much time had passed? She noticed something absolutely bizarre. Footsteps had cleared away patches of the dust. New footprints. She traced them with her eyes; Converse shoes.

She looked at her bare feet.

Someone else had been here, in particular, someone from home… from her time.

The footsteps went one way only, heading from the inside of her crypt and to the right. For all she knew, this could be leading her to a trap. Another one. Leading her down, further into the earth. But what other choice was there?

She started off, her prints smudging over the others.

~

Blair stood in front of the mirror, brushing the length of her hair. She sighed. It had been easier when it was short and it dried almost instantly. Now, it was hard labour. Washing, drying, styling.

People would comment about her hair. The lovely red colour. How long it was.

She would flush and murmur a thank you. She didn’t really care what people thought about it.

After all, she was growing it out for other reasons.

Blair plaited it, the strands slipping through her fingers. At least now, no one mistook her for a boy.

~

She came to a set of stairs heading up. Well, she was heading the right way.

She climbed, gripping the hand rail.

As she came to the top, she found she was at the start of a new darkened hallway, and the prints led into it. She took a step forward.

She still had the crystal from her crypt clutched in her palm.

But it wasn’t needed. As soon as she touched a foot to the floor, the other crystals flickered and lit the way. She saw that the prints led to midway down the hall and then stopped.

She ran to them.

They had changed direction, turning to the right again. She looked and saw the hallway branching off. She stood at a T-intersection.

With a shrug, she started down this new path.

~

Blair,” the guidance counsellor crossed his legs and leaned back into the chair. They sat in the “informal” seats, facing each other instead of at his desk where there was a solid lump of wood between them. “We really need to focus on what you want to achieve after school.”

She tried hard to resist rolling her eyes.

Do you want to go to university? Travel? Enter an apprenticeship?”

She shrugged.

He sighed heavily. “Really, this is your future; you have to think about it. I know you’re just a kid and only want to have fun right now, but if you don’t start thinking seriously about what you want now, then no one here can help you get to that.” He uncrossed his legs and leaned his forearms on his thighs.

She leaned back further.

Do you want to end up unemployed and still living with your parents, doing nothing while your friends are off to uni, travelling the world, and making a start on their careers? Is that what you want?”

She tilted her head to the side. “You wouldn’t understand.”

He didn’t resist rolling his eyes. “Just because I’m an adult doesn’t mean I wasn’t like you, confused about what I wanted out of life.”

Great, so if I don’t hurry up, I’ll be just like you, trying to talk kids down the right path away from the disaster of not being a real educator but a guidance counsellor. Don’t worry. I have it all figured out. I’m working towards total world domination.”

The counsellor stood and left the room.

~

She’d turned five times on this one level and still hadn’t come to another set of stairs. The steps of the footprints were evenly measured, like whoever it was had been taking a long stroll to stretch their legs and have a look around.

Blair carefully tried to place a foot on top of one, just to see the size. Her tiny size-sevens were no match. Definitely too big to be anyone she knew from home.

Dust swirled around her ankles and under her skirt.

She tried not to look at the dress they had put her in. She remembered wearing her favourite shirt and shorts. That meant they had stripped her and thrown them away.

She shuddered. God, please tell me those wizards were not the ones who stripped me. Knowing her luck, it probably was some skinny servant girls who talked later on, comparing themselves to her.

“Why am I even thinking about this stuff?” She tossed her head hard from side to side to empty it of thoughts.

The dates caught her eye as she did.

This level was ten years after the one below. “What? How long have I been down here?” She lifted her hands to her face and ran her fingers around her eyes. Slight lines, not wrinkles. But ten years would make her twenty-seven.

She continued watching the dates as she walked.

One name caught her attention. Thirteen years after her burial, Cassius had died.

A slight panic rose up but she stuffed it back down with one thought; Dathan must be king now.

It didn’t sound quite right, though. Dathan king, with Cassius dead? Something was wrong.

~

Brodie snuggled up to her on the lounge. She scratched his ear briefly before going back to her notebook.

Her mother stuck her head in through the door. “Blair, your father is going into town for a bit if you want to go with him and drive.”

Blair shook her head. “I’ve got an assignment to do.”

You sure? You won’t get any of your hours up if you don’t go.”

And I will never pass year ten if I don’t do my homework.”

She narrowed her eyes. Her mother knew she was lying; what child ever preferred doing homework to getting out of the house and driving a vehicle? She didn’t push it, just left her alone.

Blair looked back down at the paper tucked inside the notebook. She smiled. Dathan had written back.

~

She ran down three other hallways and climbed countless steps.

No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No.

The dates kept going.

Fifty years. Sixty. Seventy-five. Eighty. One hundred. Two. Three. Five. Eight.

She was panting hard, but pushed, forcing her feet on. She had to get out. Now!

Panic seized her, gripping her chest, slinking along her skin till it tingled all over with fear. She tripped, her feet unable to keep up. The cold stone soaked into her skin. It tried to calm her and slow her heart. It wasn’t used to life running through it, running from the lower halls to the top. No one has ever done that before.

She rolled over onto her back and screamed.

Tears prickled and spilled.

She sobbed. Mucus filled her nose and mouth. It flicked out as she gasped air.

No. This is impossible.

But not in Alizaria, a voice deep in the back of her mind whispered. You know this; you should’ve been ready for something, for anything.

The voice was deep, like an old man’s. She refused to liken it to Roy’s.

~

Emily swung high on the swing set beside Blair.

The night was cold. Their breath puffed in the air like smoke. Blair giggled. It was like she was a dragon that coughed up smoke.

Emily laughed for other reasons. “Man, this is awesome. I wish it was always like this.”

Yeah,” Blair felt her head loll to the side and rest on the rope. The alcohol dampened her mind so that she only felt. She let the swing slow and just rock a little. The motion was rather comforting.

The house glowed with light and noise.

When do your parents get home?”

Emily, on a downward swing, screamed out, “Monday!”

~

Eight hundred years. She stared at the date as she sobbed. Eight hundred years had gone. Everyone she had ever known would be gone as well. How much time would have passed back home? Months or years?

She could feel it pushing down on her, the cold surrounding her body and gripping it. It had been so long since she had felt any warmth. Her cheeks burned from the hot tears and the angry red flush.

How much longer was she going to stay down here?

The name above the door meant nothing to her, but she would always remember it. Queen Theodora. Whose descendant was she? Cassius or Dathan’s? Or was there a new royal family that had been forgotten as well?

One last tear pooled and fell from her left eye. Her heart was broken. It ached inside her chest.

With cold fingers, she rubbed at it.

A slight weight lifted and she took a deep breath for the first time since waking.

Wizards.

The weight returned only now it felt different, somehow. Not tight around her, but heavy and filling inside. She rolled over onto her side.

“Lucy,” she whispered. “What happened?”

Dathan is…

She gritted her teeth hard. No. Now was not the time for this. She took some of the cold from the stone and slowed her heart.

She sat up, straightened her hair, re-pinning what had come out from the elaborate bun. She was a little shocked to feel it like that. She hadn’t noticed before. She stood and smacked off the dust. The long white gown fluttered.

Blair started to walk again. This time she didn’t watch the prints or the dates, just stared ahead down the stretch of the hall.

~

All that she ever wanted was to do something important. Her friends were making plans to become doctors, solicitors, builders, aged care workers. Important jobs.

But not for Blair. She wanted to go back to Alizaria.

When Dathan had first said that one day she could return, her heart skipped in her chest and it took everything not to jump up and down and whoop loudly, her whole body tingling with joy.

He had kept her up to date on things.

But not enough of the important news. She had no idea of what Cassius and the wizards had been planning.

~

Suddenly Blair looked down and saw no prints. She stumbled to a stop. How stupid could she be? She should’ve just followed the footprints to the end, not charge blindly on her own.

She climbed the stairs and came to another hallway. This one had no doors, just rows on top of rows of small plaques. Now it was nine-hundred and fifty years.

She took a random turn and found herself standing in front of a massive man. “Shit!” No, it was only a statue of a man dressed in armour, staring sadly at her.

Flowers were placed at his feet.

Fresh flowers.

People still come here.

She stumbled back out and looked at the dates again. One thousand years, and then no more. She ran down the hall to the wooden door. It squealed as she pulled it open, and slammed on its own behind her.

The silence was broken now. She could hear muffled noises above her head. Nothing distinctive, but sound nonetheless. She relaxed a little.

No longer was she with only the dead.

There was warmth in the room, sliding along her flesh. She was still holding the cold from the stone, but could feel the warmth surrounding her.

The room was a large lobby-style in the shape of a pentangle. The walls were carved with scenes of everyday life; working the fields, going to war, a happy family at home, and mourners around a dead body. The last picture she skipped.

Five doors on five walls. Four were plain wood with words carved above. The one she had come through had a range of dates and cremation. Others were earlier date ranges. Another cremation room and one burial and a room called the dining room. She shivered.

Do people really come here to eat with the dead?

The floor was covered in smudged footprints, but coming from the other burial door she saw the Converse prints. They led to the double doors.

‘Exit’ was carved above it.

But her eyes kept going back to the dining room. Something strange was in there, and it wasn’t just the fact that people wanted to dine one more time with their deceased family members.

“Magic,” tumbled out without her thinking.

Different to spirit, but it was magic there. She knew it.

She crossed to the door and pushed.

 

Chapter Two: Reckoning

The kitchen sink was filled with plates. Steam snaked from the water and into her eyes, making her blink hard and look up.

The kitchen window looked out over the back garden. It had always been her mother’s favourite window; she could be inside doing housework and still be able to keep an eye on Blair as she went on her adventures, always making sure that Blair behaved and stayed away from the gate.

Blair frowned.

The faint reflection in the glass wasn’t her.

It was Dathan, staring out.

She stumbled and flicked her eyelids a couple of times. The dead dining room came back into focus.

What was that?

She started to wheeze. Could her mind be playing tricks on her? Showing her what could’ve been, what she had wanted?

The room was carved out of plain stone. There was a large table that ran the length of it, able to seat more than forty people comfortably. The walls were covered in paintings of ornate people. She wasn’t sure if they were of dead people or possibly of gods.

As she focused on the room, everything inside her calmed down. She pushed the… vision… to the very back of her mind.

Food was laid out on the table.

She moved to it, her belly grumbling. The hunger pang clenched her empty stomach hard, causing her to double over. “Ugh!” she panted.

She poked the meat with a finger. It was cold.

Right then, Blair was so hungry she felt sick, like she would throw up anything that she ate. The apples looked fresh.

She snatched one and bit down into the striped red flesh. It crunched loudly with her moans. Tart sweetness flooded her mouth. She ate another two before filling a goblet with wine and drinking it fast.

Flowers decorated the centre of the table and were hanging from the ceiling in chains. Only one side of the table was set out with plates and cutlery. She looked closer at the food. Why would someone, lots of people, prepare all of this food and bring it here and not eat it? Was it like an offering? There was so much of it that it couldn’t be a sustainable regular thing.

“Day of the Dead? Halloween?”

All around the world people honour their ancestors in some way on a particular day of the year.

She swallowed her gulp of wine and placed the goblet back on the table in its original position. Yep, Blair had just pilfered the offerings to the dead. But, in one way, she had a right; after all, she was buried here with the dead.

A sick thought, but true.

She picked up another apple and started to walk down the length of the table, just wandering and looking at things.

The paintings varied between portraits and scenes much like those in the lobby area. There were small figurines, standing guard beside plates and large statues tucked away in the alcoves.

Wait…

She leapt back, crashing into the table and knocking bowls to the floor. They shattered.

No. No. Fuck, no.

One wizard, head bent and covered in cobwebs, sat there.

Without taking her eyes off of him, she moved down the line to the next alcove. Another one. Thick grey robes. Next alcove. Next wizard. Again. And again. They were evenly spaced along the wall. She stared at the last wizard.

They looked exactly the same; old faces stretched long, with deep dark hollows for eyes and cheeks. Death. That was all they were for Blair. They had killed her and everything that she had loved.

Yes, she understood that it really was just time passing that had taken away her loved ones, but the wizards had stopped her from joining them. So she blamed them.

Blair stared at the wizards for a long time. She was afraid they would open their eyes and see her, know that she had woken up and put her back in the coffin, stone lid sealing her in again and the footprints swept away.

She clenched her jaw. No way was she going back. Not to that… nothing.

~

The gate had been wide open when she went outside. The summer heat was heavy in the air, waiting for the storm to come.

She had run.

Yes, finally, it’s now.

A wide smile had broken across her face.

She didn’t think about leaving her family and friends behind or the things she should take with her. She only wanted to get to the other side.

Idiot.

She ran down the path, the gate slamming behind her.

Then they were there.

Where are Dathan and Lucy?”

The wizards looked between each other, surprised. She was just a kid.

It didn’t click for Blair till after the first had spoken. “Blair Fitzpatrick, daughter of Salem, we’ve come to stop you.”

The smile slowly slipped. “Who are you?”

We are the wizards of Alizaria.”

And what are you stopping me from doing?”

Again they looked surprised, like they hadn’t expected her to question them. “From destroying Alizaria, of course.”

She laughed at the idea. “Who sent you? Cassius?”

They nodded.

Right. And just how am I meant to destroy this place? Hurricane? A supernova? Or just PMS? Really, I’m curious about this.” They didn’t answer. “Say something!”

They began to murmur amongst themselves. “She’s so young.” “She doesn’t know what she will do.” “Stop sympathising with it.” “It’s a monster, no matter what it looks like.”

I can hear you, and I don’t like the way this is going. So hurry up with this.” She feigned boredom to cover the shake of fear.

Do it now.”

One wizard pushed back his cloak and lifted the bow and arrow.

You have got to be kidding me.” She readied herself to deflect with her spirit, just knock it to the side. Then she would squash these so-called wizards with her real magic.

The shift started, but nothing happened to the arrow.

It sailed through the air to her chest. “What…”

We tempered it so nothing could stop it. Not even hope.”

She dropped to her knees. Her hands surrounded the shaft; cold metal zapped her. It wasn’t like her magic. It felt different, wrong. Like it was never meant to have been made. Ignoring the zaps, she yanked it free. “Aahh.”

The wizards surrounded her, chanting in a strange language.

What are you bastards saying? Ugh. What did you do to that thing?” Darkness appeared on the outside of her vision. It crowded forward till she saw nothing. “I’ll kill you all,” she hissed.

Then she blacked out.

Blair awoke sometime later. The room was dark. She was lying on the floor, surrounded by the only light. Candles were around her in a tight circumference.

She reached a hand up to her chest. There was a dull throbbing, but no gaping hole in her skin. Just in her favourite shirt. Damn it.

She let her head loll to the side.

Her body felt heavy; it took so much just to move a little.

The darkness was annoying her. She willed her magic to work. It moved sluggishly but nothing happened, like it was tied up.

Stop trying.”

She rolled her head to the other side as fast as she could. “Who’s there?”

I said stop trying to break free.”

Are you one of the wizards? You asshole, you’ve ruined my favourite shirt.” And I’m scared. She kept the last bit to herself.

I’m an apprentice to the wizards. Now stop it.”

No.”

The voice sighed.

Blair licked her lips and asked, “What are you going to do to me? Are you going to kill me?”

There was a pause. “You’ll only just be sleeping.”

Bullshit; that’s what you say when a pet is going to be put to sleep. You’re going to kill me.” She couldn’t stop it. A sob broke from her chest. “Why? What have I done? I’m just a kid.”

No, you’re not. You are the one who is going to kill us all and burn Alizaria. ‘Fire and flood’.”

What?”

It’s the prophecy.”

What prophecy.” Blair demanded.

No response.

Answer me.”

Still nothing.

She screamed out. “God damn it! Answer me! You’re going to kill me; I at least deserve to know why.”

You really don’t know.” There was shock.

Duh.” Even then she couldn’t stop her sarcasm.

But she never did find out what the prophecy was. A door opened and a shaft of light stabbed the darkness and then was gone. She heard the same voices of the wizards.

She kept trying to use her magic, force it out at least a little. It thrashed inside. Nothing happened outside.

The wizards surrounded her. They flicked water over her body, reciting something like a prayer. She yelled, spat, and cursed. One wizard walked around her body, sprinkling salt onto the floor. It separated her from them.

Then the chanting grew louder. It bounced in her head. “No… stop it… please just shut up! What… this isn’t right… I’m going to kill you all… help… Lucy! Dath! Someone… why…?” Her heart pounded. She could’ve sworn the lub-dub filled the room, like the beat to a song.

This magic pushed down on her. She thrashed her head side to side and forced her arms up to push. But there was nothing there.

Panic. Fear. Anger. Hatred. Regret. Everything swirled inside of her and mixed into a bitter cocktail.

Somehow, under all of the noise, she heard the whisper of the voice. “This is the best for everyone. Just close your eyes and dream happy thoughts.”

Through clenched teeth she screamed, “Fuck you!” Spit flicked out.

There was a strangled scream as the room was suddenly flooded with light. It had come from her, though she missed the feeling of it. The wizards’ magic grabbed onto her own now, and forced it from her chest and into her heart. It burned.

No… wait… stop!” She tried to scream but it stuck in her throat. The last thing she saw as her eyes closed were five old wizards, hands raised and eyes closed, lost in their chanting. And then nothing.

~

The giggle built till she was chuckling. “Well, well, well. I guess it’s my turn to repay the favour and stop you from doing whatever it is you’re going to do. Even if you have no idea what that is. Oh, and it’s payback for the shirt.”

She made her magic shift, just to check that it was still there.

Funny; it felt normal. Her heart still ached but her magic wasn’t inside of it. She considered for a moment the possibility then ignored it.

Possible. A broken heart could’ve broken a curse.

“Now, for work.”

~

She was smiling.

It had taken no time to do what she had done with her magical abilities. All five of the wizards were now laid out in the lobby, bang smack in the middle, leaning against each other but not facing the same direction. She had each one facing a different door.

While still in the dining room, Blair had placed her own curse on them. They would never be able to move again, but they could feel everything.

That and she also took five apples and stuck each one into a mouth.

She took a crunching bite from her own apple and stared at these men. What were they exactly? Their magic was strange, unnatural almost. What was it?

Then it struck her. “Boiled magic. Ha! You have nothing, no ability.” She chewed. “Yep, just a bunch of ordinary little boys who could cook. And what potion did you mix to sleep this long, I wonder.”

Sick of hearing only her own voice, Blair snapped her fingers.

They woke.

None of them could lift their heads; only roll their eyes around in the sockets. Guttural sounds came out instead of words. The grunts became more hurried and forceful.

“Oh, just shut up.”

They did.

She strolled around them, crouching beside their heads so they could see her. As soon as they did, they tried again to speak.

“Now, what did I say, boys? Quiet.” She used her magic this time to shut them up. “Do you know this feeling now? Unable to move or fight?”

She started to run round and round, running her hand along the walls. Her dress dragged behind her. She laughed. She screamed. She sang very terribly.

“See this? I can do anything I want now. Anything. You lot didn’t put me to sleep for the night like a small child. You put me down like an animal. There was NOTHING!” She gasped for more air. “NOTHING FOR ONE THOUSAND YEARS! NO LIGHT, NO SOUND, NO FEELING. I didn’t even dream.”

She placed her mouth next one wizard’s ear. “What kind of monster would do that to a kid?”

She moved to the next one. “Now, for the real question. What kind of monster has awakened?”

To prove her point, she walked into the dining room and out again with the cold meat of some type of bird. She placed it on the ground and made it get up on its own. It danced around the wizards.

She watched their chests. They heaved with wheezing gasps.

The bird fell to the floor, cooked meat once more.

“My magic is normal again. But I still don’t know how I woke up. Was it divine powers that just shook me awake, or did your spell just wear off?”

With a jerk, she pulled back from the wizards.

They looked like old men, skin pulled taut over their skulls. She felt a little guilty for her intentions. Only marginally. It wasn’t like she was planning on killing them or anything.

“I really do hope that you have used enough of your magic potion that you can keep living this way.” She spat out the words ‘magic potion’ like it was a dirty fly that had darted into her mouth, trying to get to the food trapped in her molars.

She went back into the room and again dragged out more things: One of the chairs the wizards had been sitting on, the wine, a goblet, and the bowl of apples. She started to nest, the goblet sitting on the arm of the chair, the bowl cradled in her lap, and she kicked her feet up onto the head of a wizard.

He tried to grunt.

She dug her heels into his scalp and leaned back on the chair. “Ahhh. This is the life.” She shined the apple’s flesh. “We can wait for a bit; just till I’m finished eating. I do have to say I really am craving a cheeseburger. Oh, and chocolate. Ice-cream.” She whispered these things wistfully. “I wonder if I could make some magically appear. Would they taste the same? Probably not. You cannot replicate the taste of an underpaid non-working teenager flipping meat patties. Or maybe it’s the gherkin that makes it that way. No matter how quickly you get that thing off of the burger, it always leaves a taste behind.”

She breathed in deeply then started humming some random song.

“I just can’t seem to stop eating. This better not make me fat; I was just happy with my figure.” As she finished each apple, she threw the apple cores at the wizards. She watched their eyes flinch. At first they tried to make noises but then they gave up.

The wine was making her tipsy. “Apples are no good for drunk food. I need starches.”

With the bowl empty and the wine gone, she stood up. She looked at them carefully before selecting one. She crouched in front of him.

“Before we get on with things, I want a couple of questions answered.” She pulled the apple from his mouth and gave him back movement in his jaw as well as his voice. He opened it. “Uh, no. You only answer when I ask a question. Anything else and I might think of some really terrible ending for you. Trust me, I liked my horror movies.”

He closed his mouth.

“What was the prophecy?”

“A daughter of two realms, blood of earth and soul of Alizaria will be the greatest queen of a thousand years. She will bring fire and flood to the world. Alone.” He answered.

“And that was meant to be me?”

“Yes.”

“Who came up with this prophecy?” She asked.

He looked at her like she was stupid. “The oracle, of course.”

“Why a sleeping curse?”

“Just hurry up with…”

“Answer me. Why a sleeping curse? Am I meant to be Snow White or something?” Blair demanded.

“We bound your spirit to your heart so you could never reincarnate. But…”

“But?”

“If you were as powerful as we feared, you could have reanimated.”

“Like a zombie.” She clarified.

“Sleeping, but not dead. It was the perfect way for keeping you locked up.”

“And you five have been here watching over the dead, just to make sure I never was woken. One thing, though… I did wake up.” She slapped his face. “What happened afterwards? What happened to Dathan and the rebels?”

“Dathan,” a sneer pulled thin lips. “He was no problem. He had other concerns.”

“What concerns?”

“Why, he had his new bride and baby.”

She stood up. The wizard cackled. She felt the others doing the same. Laughing at her.

She clenched her jaw.

Three doors flew off their hinges and slammed onto the floor. They didn’t stop laughing, even as she used her magic to send them down the halls, through the dark labyrinth and to her crypt. She could still feel them.

She slammed the stone door up and into place and sealed them inside.

“Stop it! I said stop LAUGHING!” Her skin crawled.

~

A new bride.

A baby.

She stared at the double doors. Her legs gave out on her and she sank to the floor beside the chair.

Her heart didn’t break again, it couldn’t. It just felt hollow.

She never wanted to move again.

~

Blair,” Emily hissed into Blair’s ear.

Hmm?”

He just asked you out.”

No, he didn’t. I was there and he never said ‘do you want to go out’. He asked if I was going to the disco.”

You idiot, he’s a boy. That’s how they do it or they get the best friend to. He had guts asking you.”

Blair stared at her blankly.

You really are stupid.”

Hey!”

What are you waiting for? Prince Charming?”

She flushed.

Oh, my god, you are.” Emily shook her head. “How about this theory? Dating boys now would just be practice for when Charming comes a calling. That way, you know when you’re being asked out and how to react.”

Blair looked over her shoulder at the boy. “I don’t think I could practice with him.” She looked at the other boys. “Or any of the other animals here.”

Then, hello spinster.”

~

Blair rubbed her hands over her face, scrubbing hard, dragging the tips of her fingers back and forth. The scream built. It echoed in the room and down the halls and into the earth.

~

It happened one thousand years ago. He wrote “I love you” at the end of a conversation.

It was strange that the feeling had grown over such distance and time. But he had known when they were children.

She never got the chance to write it back. She didn’t know for real if she loved him or just wanted some connection with Alizaria. Yes, she thought he was attractive and interesting.

Somehow she knew she loved him, always.

 

 

Chapter Three: Break

The voice in her head was back again. What are you doing? Get up.

She remained as she was; a broken doll left to be forgotten.

Stop being so melodramatic and get up. Dathan is dead and gone, and so are his bride and child. Everyone you know is dead.

“Then what’s the point?”

There is no point to life. You just keep going.

“But I’m meant to already be dead. This isn’t my time anymore.”

Lucy.

“Oh.” She finally remembered that Lucy was impossible to kill; after all, she was a vampyre. She smiled a little. She wouldn’t be alone. Lucy would be here and she could help Blair… find her purpose. Hell, she really needed a friendly face.

Home seemed like an impossible place to return to; she had no idea how much time had passed there and no logical explanation for her disappearance. And, her heart clenched, what if her parents were no longer… there? What had she put them through all these years?

Here, other than Lucy, there was nothing for her. No friends or Dathan. Nothing for her.

Blair climbed to her feet.

“This place is creeping me out.” The walls felt like they were calling to her, whispering commands. Lie down, just relax, come back to us.

The back of her neck crawled. She spun round. No one was behind her, but she could feel eyes.

Her feet shuffled her body towards the double doors.

Don’t run. Stay here, where you belong.

She froze.

That’s a good girl. Now just find a place and-

“No.” It echoed over the walls.

The whispering stopped. The howling began.

Blair yelped and ran out the door and started to climb the stairs. She squinted her eyes, tears began falling. The sun burned from the open door way above.

Not far now. Keep going. Hurry up.

She caught her toe on the stone steps. “Fuck! Ugh.” She kept pushing, whimpering as she placed any weight onto the throbbing toe.

Finally.

Blair tumbled through the door and onto the ground, tearing the hem of her dress as she did and scraping the hell out of her shoulder. She looked at the ground. It was concrete.

“This isn’t right.”

But one thousand years had passed. A new world? Roads? Cars?

~

She hobbled along the path, heading away from the crypt as fast as she could go. The soles of her feet burned from the hot concrete.

The sunlight was making her dizzy. She felt herself rock back and forth a few times. It blinded her. She peered through slitted eyes and raised her palm to shield her face.

Either side of the path was lined with trees that reached high and over, their branches intertwining and creating a canopy. But their leaves had fallen, leaving behind skeleton fingers.

The path curved, making it impossible to see the end.

“Ugh, not another maze. Who the hell designed this place?” Blair was thankful there was only one path to take.

It led her round and round, spiralling outward from the crypt in the centre to a set of waist-high gates. They rolled open as she approached. Then closed after her. Attached to the post she saw a box.

“Lucy,” Blair whispered. Her mind drew up Lucy’s long soft blonde hair and blue eyes. She was angelically beautiful, even when covered in blood. She always had some sort of smile; while she was teasing or in the middle of a fight. That’s how Blair remembered her.

Then, carefully, she drew out some of her magic and sent it away.

“Where are you, Lucy? I need you.”

Just as she said this, her magic was volleyed back, slamming into her chest and knocking her to the ground. “Ow. What the hell was that?”

Something had stopped her in her search. In fact, it had kicked her off her feet and into the dirt.

She tried again.

She was thumped back, but had gotten closer.

She tried again, pushing further. The force of the returning magic skidded her along her back on the ground.

Again.

Again.

Again.

On the final try, a message ricocheted with her magic throughout her head. “Enough.” Her head ached and she blacked out, lying in the mid-day sun, surrounded by air.

~

Blair scrubbed at her face with her fist and stretched her back, ignoring any aches. The sun’s warmth surrounded her. But it didn’t penetrate the cold inside of her.

Slowly she started to remember. The tomb with the stone coffin. The labyrinth of last resting places for the people of Alizaria for one thousand years. The footprints. Of course, the wizards were foremost in her memory. Cackling.

She opened her eyes and stared at the blue sky.

It had been nice, dreaming again.

Home. That little house on a hill, enclosed by trees. So far away from any prying eyes and a place where Blair had been able to roam without fear of strangers.

She had dreamed of her parents.

“Nope.” Blair sat up and covered her face with her hands. “Not now, not yet.”

She changed the path of her thoughts quickly; Lucy. Where was she? She was a vampyre after all, so it wasn’t like she had met her maker. Was she in trouble?

But then what was stopping Lucy from finding her? Who could have that sort of magic?

Naturally her thoughts wandered from Lucy to Dathan. Why did she have to continue torturing herself?

He had a family, had loved another and shared his life with her. That kicked her hard in the stomach, winding her of breath worse than her returning magic.

Knowing that he was dead was one thing. But… wasn’t he in love with her? He had told her so. Or had that just been a general “love you” amongst friends, like the love she had for Emily, her best friend?

Why?

Every fairy-tale, film, book, love song had lied. True love was a myth because, in truth, anyone could fall in love and it was all the same.

“Aaahhh! Stop it, get out of my head!” She sobbed hard. Seeing him in her memory; tall and dark, scar running across his jaw. This was killing her, wrenching her heart from her chest and tossing it casually up and down in the air.

She felt a tug to the right. She took her hands down from her face and looked, expecting someone to be there. She was alone.

The tug continued pulling her skin.

Blair stood and started to follow it, not sure where she was going or what was drawing her to it. She just did, feeling like it was the best thing to do. “It beats sitting around a cemetery.”

She came to a dirt road. It was empty.

She walked down the centre of it, not too worried about the possibility of a vehicle hurtling down it and taking her out. She should hear something approaching long before any impact.

The road was lined with trees that started to thin and turned into open paddocks. She started to laugh. They were farming wind with huge turbines that whooshed in their rotations. The farms became smaller and more traditional, with animals and orchards, until they too, vanished and were replaced with houses and then shops.

People.

She felt her face flush hot red as she stared back at them.

People. Other human beings who were alive.

A pair of teen girls pointed and started to laugh. Blair looked at her funeral dress. It was no longer pristine white. She looked back at the girls and their tights and tunics. A couple of older women wore dresses, but they were simple house dresses.

She looked like Cinderella heading back from the ball after her coach had broken down and she had to walk the rest of the way. Utterly out of place. She dipped her head and just let the tugging pull her along to her destination.

All the way, the tug had not changed. It became neither stronger nor faster, just the same. She would have to look up as someone would step in front of her or as horses (so much for cars) would make their presence known.

She side-stepped some horse shit and crashed into a man. “Oops; I’m sorry.”

“Well, maybe you should be looking at where you’re going and not watching the ground,” he snapped at her.

She opened her mouth, ready to tell him off. What a rude male of the species! But that got stuck in her throat.

“No,” was all she could manage.

“What? Are you all there mentally?” He didn’t wait for a confirmation or a denial, just turned and started walking. Blair stared after him. This was impossible, or just plain cruel.

Blair felt the tug pull her after him. She planted her feet, refusing to chase after the rude man. One thousand years and a mixture of other blood should have altered him, but it hadn’t.

“Dathan?”

No, she listened to the voice in her head. Dathan is dead. That is his descendant.

~

She could picture a small child with dark red hair and a cheeky grin. As she aged the child in her mind, it grew as tall as Dathan. That was what her child would look like.

She grinned and rolled over and buried her head in the pillow, giggling.

~

Blair jumped back from the road and leaned against a wall of a shop.

An older lady, who had just watched them, came beside Blair and touched her arm. “Are you alright, sweetie?”

Blair stared at her.

“Umm, hello?”

“Sorry. Yes, hi, I’m fine, just a little… shocked. That’s all. Thanks for asking. That was really nice of you.” She realised she was babbling, but her mouth was moving faster than her brain was able to at the time.

“You look at little shell-shocked. Maybe you should go home to your mother and rest.” Her eyes flicked down. “And get changed.”

“What’s wrong with my dress?” Blair felt her defences rise up. Go home to her mother? Was this woman insane? It didn’t cross Blair’s mind that her problems were not famous, and that they had just been innocent remarks.

“Well, it’s a little old-fashioned and formal. Where ever did you get it from?”

Blair didn’t think. What was there to hide from?

“I was buried in this dress one thousand years ago. It’s vintage.”

The woman looked at her like she was the one insane. “Right.”

“Don’t sass me.”

“Excuse me, child, but I am your elder and I deserve respect.” She threw her hands up into the air. “Ugh, teenagers! This is what I have to look forward to. And three of them.”

“Look, I don’t know or care what your problems are. I just need to know, who was that man?”

“The one you were speaking to before?”

Blair nodded, unable to speak.

“That was the high and mighty, arrogant little shit of a boy, Declan.” The woman’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “He is meant to be descended from royal blood. I think he’s just too lazy to find a job.”

Blair tuned out after that. Declan, descendant of Dathan. She had been drawn to him because of Dathan’s blood. He could’ve been one of mine.

She shook her head violently. Now was not the time to think about what could’ve been. However, her eyes followed him around as he moved down the street, talking with everybody. He swaggered, shoulders back and chest thrust forward. Cocky. That was the only way to describe him.

The woman all but poked Blair in the arm to get her attention. She sighed and walked away. “You can only help them so far and then the rest is up to them to figure out.”

Blair suddenly realised she was alone on the street.

“Now what?”

The sun had moved from high overhead and now was setting. Blues melded into oranges, the setting light illuminating ghosts in the clouds. White hot plumes from a firebird. The swish of the bushy tail of a fox. The fall of leaves from a growing tree.

Minutes fell away.

The sun dipped further bellow the horizon and the sky dulled. The ghosts were restored to being just clouds. The smog haze returned.

She wanted desperately to follow the sun, chase it over the horizon, and stay in its warmth.

Blair started to shiver, the cold inside of her reaching out to the cool air, inviting it inside of her body. “I need some place to stay.” She had no money and nothing to sell. It seemed that, though they took care to bury her in a lovely dress and in a proper way, they hadn’t wasted anything else on her. She didn’t even have shoes.

That night she would have to be dependent on the kindness of a stranger.

She looked at the stragglers on the street. They hurried on their way, barely glancing at her. Then she was alone.

“What is going on here? Is there like a curfew or something?” She moved away from her building and stood in the centre of the street, turning on her toes as she looked at the darkening town. Empty of life. She saw the windows lit up from inside.

She couldn’t just knock on any door and ask for sanctuary. Most likely the people inside would slam their doors on her, and rightly so. They owed her nothing, and she had nothing to pay them with.

She thought back to Roy, the old bastard. Even now her hatred for him was the same; after all, he had tried to kill her twice. Blood may be thicker than water, but it stretched only so far in the forgiveness department.

“Thank God he’s dead.” Just to be sure, she called to his blood with her own. Nothing. She smiled. “The guardians must have killed him. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.”

Now for the reason she had the thought of Roy pop into her brain; he had asked for sanctuary in her home. He had spoken to her in a strange language she had never spoken before, yet she understood perfectly and allowed him to enter.

She wasn’t entirely sure if this was a common practice amongst all spirit witches and that they could all naturally understand the same language. But she had no other choice.

Using her spirit, she called out to like. There was one nearby. She felt it flicker in return, acknowledging another.

Blair allowed her feet to carry her down and around corners till she came to the edge of town, up a small path to a door. She knocked, and instantly it was opened.

“Hello,” She smiled brightly and openly. “I’m sorry to be so rude and arrive at night.”

The woman was middle-aged, tall, and starting to grow round in her waist. It bulged out, making the hem of her tunic sit in a wide circle. She returned the smile, only with a little less openness. “Hello.”

“Blair Fitzpatrick, at your service. May I beg sanctuary from you?” she asked in the strange tongue. This was going to be the real test.

The woman returned in the same language with ease. “Yes, Blair Fitzpatrick, my home is open to you. Please enter,” she opened the door wider and stepped back. “Please hurry inside, before anyone sees.”

Blair scrambled through the doorway, flicking her skirt just out of the way of the slamming door. The woman bolted it with three heavy locks and drew a symbol across the wood. Blair gasped as she saw it glow fiery red and extinguish, leaving only an indent on the surface.

Uh oh, what kind of house have I entered? Every stranger-danger story filled her mind. She imagined all sorts of ways that she could be murdered and chopped up and buried, eaten, or left out in the back garden for her bones to be picked clean, and then for them to be displayed inside the house.

Even if this woman was pregnant she could do it, or maybe her partner would be arriving home any time now and do the deed.

The woman turned to Blair. “Please don’t look so worried; this is only to protect us from what is outside, not to keep you here against your will.”

Blair nodded dumbly.

“I’m Idras.” She stuck out her hand.

Blair slipped her own hand into it. It radiated heat that pushed back the cold inside. Idras pulled away first.

“If you hadn’t been a witch, I wouldn’t have opened that door. Come into the kitchen.” She led the way. “I think you need to explain a few things before we go too much further.”

“Yes,” Blair sighed. “I just don’t know where to begin exactly.”

“The beginning?”

“That’ll take too long. And I’m not in the mood to remember all of that; I can’t deal with any of it right now.”

Idras hustled around the kitchen.

It was different from the ones from one thousand years ago. There were no candles or fires. It could’ve been mistaken for a kitchen from home, with technology lining the counters.

When she looked back to Idras, she saw her holding a knife, her face blank.

Blair laughed. She laughed hard.

Idras blinked. “I will do what I have to in order to protect myself.” One hand slipped to her belly.

“Even after you have agreed to give me sanctuary? That doesn’t seem very hospitable.”

“Well, you are still a stranger to me; I have every right to be wary. Who are you? Are you one of them?”

“Them, who? Look, I don’t know what the go is about this place; I sort of have been sleeping through it all.” Blair blinked.

“Who are you?”

“I’m Blair Fitzpatrick. I’m from another place and a long, long time ago. I’ve spent the last thousand years sleeping in a sepulchre. I don’t know how or who helped me, but I woke up today and broke out.”

Idras placed the knife down. “I thought there was something funny about you.”

“You could tell that by a handshake?”

“That and the way you spoke.”

“I thought that was some witchy thing that we can speak the same language and just know.”

“Yes, but that was banned three generations ago. Witches are not allowed to associate with each other.”

“What do you mean by that? Alizaria is… what?”

“Alizaria?”

“Yes… this land is…”

“No, this land may have been Alizaria one thousand years ago, but not now. We’re in the Marchlands, on the boarder of no-man’s-land.”

“Oh. I think I need a sugar hit. No, wait, I think I might just be sick instead.” Idras shoved a bowl under Blair’s head just as the first surge arrived. All of the apples and wine came out, and left her empty again. “Ugh, I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t worry too much; I was the same not long ago.”

“Yes, but you’re pregnant. I’m not. I don’t know what is wrong with me.”

Idras gave her a glass of water and took the bowl away.

“Why do you just believe me?” Blair asked.

“What do you mean? You are telling the truth; I can read it in your face.”

“But, don’t you think it’s an unlikely story? Girl cursed to sleep for one thousand years and wakes up suddenly. Even I think that’s stupid and it’s me. I’m just not sure if… of anything, actually.”

Idras pulled out a seat and lowered herself into it. “I believe mostly because of the stories. I know you, Blair, daughter of Salem. You restored the sword and then just disappeared.”

“Who told you that?”

“My mother and her grandmother and then her mother and her mother; it was passed down a long way from my ancestor who was a witch as well. She never met you, but you did pull her magic and use it to fix the sword. A part of the stories was a rumour that you went into a deep slumber, only to be woken when needed again.”

Chapter Four: Descendant

Blair spent two days with Idras, helping her around the house and preparing for the baby. “It’s a couple of months away, but I just want to be ready.”

“And you don’t know when next some slave labour will appear.”

They laughed.

Idras was a widow. Her husband had gone off to fight in no-man’s-land. He didn’t make it out of the Marchlands; soldiers shot him on suspicion of helping the rebels, which he had been about to do.

“What has happened? Where is the king?”

“We have a Queen and she does nothing. In fact, she thinks that the invaders are doing good for the country.”

“Who are the invaders?”

“Every country that borders ours. This part fell first because we’re a gateway through. The City was already theirs, and they have been taking the rest by force ever since. Many around here work for the adversaries because it’s how we survive.”

“And what do you do?”

“What I have to.” She left it at that.

Only once did they go into town together to go to market. People openly gawked and whispered. They kept repeating “crazy” and “witch”. Blair at first cast down her eyes and just kept moving. That didn’t stop it, however. Fuck it, she thought and raised her chin high and met every stare head-on.

Now they turned away. Mothers would shield their children’s eyes and moved them out of sight.

But they still whispered.

“What are they saying?”

Idras ignored her, only allowing Blair to play pack-horse. She pretended that the shopkeeper wasn’t staring or that people weren’t asking what she was doing with the crazy witch.

Blair almost snorted. No one knew Idras was a spirit witch.

She stared at Declan as they crossed paths. He, too, looked at her with curiosity like everyone else. She flushed red and turned away.

As soon as they got back inside the house, Idras turned to her with thunder in her eyes. “Who else did you tell before coming here? Who did you tell your little tale of woe to? Who?”

“Some nice lady who asked if I was alright.”

“You idiot. Never trust anyone in this town, or anywhere else for that matter!” she screamed, and stamped her feet.

Blair sighed. She carried the groceries to the kitchen and placed them on the counter. Idras followed her in. “I have a reputation to uphold. I cannot be associated with a thousand-year-old witch who desecrates our ancestors’ crypts.”

“I never told anyone about the wizards.”

“Wizards? I’m talking about the offerings of food to the dead and the broken doors. Visitors found it like that and, coupled with you telling someone about how you have just woken up, wearing a funeral gown, they jumped to the conclusion. You’re a witch, bad company to keep.”

“I’m sorry; I forgot about the rules of talking to strangers.”

“I want you out of this house by morning.”

“What? I have nowhere else to go.”

“I cannot keep you. You are not my child and so not my responsibility. I will do you one favour, and that is not call the soldiers to come get you.”

“What would the soldiers want with me?”

“Ha. You are the infamous Blair Fitzpatrick, Salem’s daughter. There’ll be a reward for you. I am not the only one to know the stories.”

Dinner was a silent time.

~

Blair returned the clothes and left the house only in her funeral dress, and with no money and no idea where to go. Again, her thoughts turned to Dathan.

Every night she thought about him and felt the tug towards his blood. This Declan must be his only living descendant.

She had no idea what Cassius had looked like; she never had the pleasure of meeting him. So she couldn’t call out to his blood line to see if it ran through the family.

She started to wonder. Why hadn’t Declan taken the throne and restored Alizaria to its former glory? He was the descendant of royalty; it was in his blood to rule. Or maybe he was like Dathan, unsure if it was the right thing to do and not willing to upset the peace.

But were the adversaries really that terrible? What had they really done to the land and the people?

Perhaps she could talk to Declan. Her heart started a thundering race. Could she really do that, knowing who he was? And just how would she explain herself? “Hi, I’m Blair. I’m in love with your dead ancestor, Dathan. We go way back, one thousand years, in fact.”

She was crazy.

And that was her only plan.

All her life she had wanted to do something important, to help and be remembered for Good. Now that she couldn’t be with Dathan and become queen, maybe the next best thing was to help Dathan’s blood line.

And once that was done, she would think of her future.

She started off down the path after standing in the middle of Idras’s front garden for several long minutes, internally debating her next step. She looked back and saw the curtain draw shut.

“Thanks,” she whispered. “I wish you and your baby well.”

~

Blair looked up at the pub. It stood six stories high and was made from dark timber. She swallowed. That was where the pull of Dathan’s blood ended, in that building, up high.

She pushed open the door and stepped inside.

It looked like the type of old bar in the movies; dark and cramped, odd stains on the floor and walls, and a heavy layer of smoke in the air.

A few looked at her strangely.

Everyone in the town knew the rumours about her. Witch, grave destroyer, cougar (after all, she was one thousand years old).

Most ignored her, enjoying their early beers with a hot breakfast.

She stepped up to the bar and tapped on the old, scarred wood. The bartender turned to her. “Aren’t you a little young to be in here?” He looked her up and down and then just stared. Realisation dawned on his face.

It seemed that, though it was impossible, people really did believe she was one thousand and seventeen years old.

“Which room is Declan staying in?”

The pub was silent, forks stilled on plates, no one breathed.

“What do you want with him?”

“Just to talk.”

The bartender pointed a finger up to the ceiling. “Top floor, second door on the right.”

“Thanks.”

They watched as she floated by in her gown, like she was some creature that had stumbled free from the woods and wanted to join them in living like a normal person.

She climbed six sets of stairs, huffing the whole way. When she got to the top, she found Declan lounging against the wall outside his open door. He wore a lazy grin. “Well, to what do I owe the pleasure? Normally I have to chase girls, not the other way around. But you’re not a normal girl, are you?”

She raised her chin. She felt nervy to be this close and talking. It wasn’t like she was attracted to him; he just reminded her so much of Dathan in appearance. This would be the closest to Dathan she would ever be again.

“Hello to you, too. Did your mother forget to teach you manners, or is it a male thing?” She walked past him and into the small room. The room was dominated by a bed in the centre and very little else. It was unmade.

“Hello, then. And may I comment on your lack of manners; barging into a man’s bedroom without waiting for me to direct you to my study.”

“You live on the top floor?”

“My mother’s family owns this building. I like being up high.”

Blair swallowed. She wasn’t about to let any of this affect her.

“So… what do you want? A fun time, because I’m into freaky, but nothing witchy. You keep that stuff to yourself.” He stepped forward and brushed back a strand of her hair. “I’ve never rooted a witch before.”

“Get the fuck away from me.” She slapped his hand away, fighting down the urge to run. No, this was Dathan’s heir, he couldn’t be this vile if Dathan’s blood was in him… could he? She stalked over to the window and looked out over the town. “I assume you have heard the rumours.”

She heard him sigh and the bed creak. She refused to turn to him, though a peek to see him reclining across the sheets didn’t count.

“Yes. One thousand years old, woke up in a coffin, and have come to this mundane town. You must have been a very naughty girl to end up here of all places.”

“I knew your ancestor, Dathan. His brother, Cassius, is the one to blame for this.”

“So?”

“You’re not shocked to find that I knew Dathan?”

“There had to be some reason you were drawn to me, other than my dangerously hot looks. So it must be my blood. What do you want with it?”

Her jaw went slack. “Have any stories been passed down in your family?”

“Nope.”

Now that was a shock. Idras had an ancestor who never knew Blair, but thought it was prudent to pass the story down her line. Here was a descendant of the man she loved, and his family had no idea who she was. She guessed this was how the “other woman” felt when sneaking into the back of a funeral for the man she had loved, when his widow and family were up the front.

“Dathan and I were…” [_ What? Special friends? Wanna-be lovers? Or had that all been one- sided? _] “I… um…”

“You loved him?”

She nodded.

“But you never got together.”

“How do you know?”

“Because I know my family history, and Dathan, the idiot who allowed his brother to kick him off the throne, was married to Amanda. They had two children.”

“I don’t know why I was woken from the curse. I want to think it was because I could help Alizaria.”

“And just how do you plan to do that?”

“By helping you.”

“Oh, you will be in… say, an hour.”

“I’m not going to sleep with you.”

“That’s alright, because, as you were climbing the stairs, Mark called me and I told him to call the guards. They won’t be too far away.”

Her face didn’t move. “Why would you do that?”

“You were imprisoned for a reason; I’m helping to protect the community by turning you in. And think how the reward for your capture could help; paying wages of the pub carries over to the beer supplier, to the market, and the families. You’re helping.”

“You’re an arsehole. I came here to help you take the throne.”

Declan laughed. He rolled over onto his back and shook the whole bed frame with shudders from his body.

“Stop it.” Her hair flicked out with the force of her anger. Her magic was reacting with her.

The power reached out to Declan and he stopped. “You are very powerful, aren’t you? Why would I take the throne?”

“Because you are of royal blood, and it is your duty to… what are you doing?” She backed into the window frame, away from him.

He stood up and started to slowly swagger towards her. “Just how strong is your magic?” He touched the side of her face. “It is the middle of summer and yet you’re cold. Is that somehow part of your gift?”

She pulled back. “Please be serious for a moment.”

“No. This is fascinating. Now I think I understand some of the attraction my ancestor must have felt. Show me some of your power.”

“No. Get away from me.” She moved away from him, closer to the door. He jerked her to a stop. “Let go.”

“Come on, just a little bit.”

Fear coursed through her, making her whole body vibrate with energy. She had to get out of the pub and away from the town. This had been a mistake. Declan was like a twelve-year-old boy; everything was a novelty to be played with.

“Come downstairs and show everyone what you can do. Maybe then they will rally behind me. Once they see what a strong witch I have leading my rebels, anything is possible.” His cackle made her stomach drop.

He strong-armed her out of the bedroom and dragged her behind him to the top step. She kicked and screamed and did everything other than use her magic. But he was so much stronger and larger than she was.

She twisted hard threw her elbow low and into his groin.

He bellowed and let her go.

Blair raced down the hallway. A few more steps and there would be a door between them. She slapped her hand on the door frame, her body moved into the other room, the study.

He gripped her hand and pulled her to a stop.

“Let me go!”

“No.”

She bit down on his hand, causing blood to fill her mouth. With a grimace, he shoved her away.

She stumbled into the wall, but quickly stood tall, moving to place a desk between them. “As you have said, it is not your concern.”

He rolled his eyes.

“But Alizaria is in turmoil.”

He shrugged.

“Alizaria is…”

“This is the Marchlands now. No-man’s-land.”

“Call it what you may; this will always be Alizaria, and her people need a leader. They deserve a king.”

“Kings died out long ago.”

“No, Dathan…”

“Is dead. My ancestor isn’t here to be your hero anymore.”

Blair blinked. Hard. She struggled not to tremble in front of Declan. “I loved Dathan. It is a shame his blood line has become so weak.”

He got right into her face, hot beer breath blowing back her hair, flecks of spittle slapping her cheeks. “If my ancestor had really loved you, then maybe you would have been part of my heritage. But he had a family with another woman. You are nothing but a silly school girl with a stupid crush. Pathetic.”

She raised her hand. He caught it easily and squeezed hard, bruising the skin. If he continued, the bones would break. Blair took a breath and used her magic. She threw him back, forcing him to let her go.

“Pathetic? What’s pathetic is how you dared to use your strength against me.” She threw him against the wall and allowed him to slide to the floor. “Pathetic is how your mother didn’t kill you at birth. She should have just swallowed instead.” This time she threw him to the opposite wall and through the glass of the window. She held him there, half in and half out of the room.

Quietly, she added, “Pathetic is what is bred from laziness.”

He screamed, flailing his arms about, searching for something to grasp. “Don’t do this! Don’t be stupid, you bitch!”

Blair turned away, tears now slipping down her face. “Stupid is to love what is gone,” she mouthed, not making a sound.

Everything from before is gone. Nothing’s the same. No one is alive.

She clenched her jaw and turned back around. “Now it’s your turn to grow a pair. To be king of Alizaria.”

He tried to spit at her and only hit his gut. “Get fucked. You’re crazy, and I’m going to enjoy watching you burn.”

Blair raised an eyebrow. “Really? Good luck with that.”

With a blink, she pulled her magic back into herself and let the boy go…

… out of the window and down six stories, to the concrete walkway.

“Did you like my punch line?” she quipped at the empty space.

~

Calmly, Blair walked down the stairs and across to the bar. She heard raised voices outside. The bartender was behind the bar, calling for help.

“I guess you have already found him, huh?” She picked up an abandoned glass and downed it. “I wouldn’t bother calling for a healer, he hit pretty hard. Went splat!” She pushed some of the food on the plate around with her finger. It was cold.

The bartender just stared at her, his lips moving in a silent prayer.

She stared back at him; tall, gangly and a little funny-looking. They stayed like that for two long minutes.

“What are you going to do to me?” he asked.

She watched his Adam’s apple bob up and down. “Nothing. Why would I do anything to you?”

“B-because you’re a witch.”

“Yes, well, not all of us are terrible beings, some are even normal like you. It’s sort of a family thing for me, or maybe it’s just that time of the month. God knows I’m overdue.”

With a clip of her heels, she turned away and left the poor boy standing, phone in one hand and his jaw hanging. She giggled. “Have a nice day.”

~

Blair felt nothing now. Declan had been the last straw in this horrible episode. The wizards, the curse, the whispers… they had all helped her to this moment where she lost control and just let things go. Literally.

She had just killed off Dathan’s line, but there was no remorse inside of her. Not a twinge of guilt. Actually, she felt rather empty, like she could watch the screaming murder of an innocent and she would only shrug. Just like a zombie.

People on the street ran into any open doorway to slam it shut, while others outside beat on the door, leaving those who were too slow or shocked to do anything. Word seemed to have spread fast.

She headed straight through, following the only road in and out.

Blair was at least half a day away from the town. She spun round and round on the open road, her face turned up to the sky. The sun burned her skin. She whispered one word and then lowered her face and kept walking.

Chapter Five: Jade

It was exactly like the last time. Blair moved away from the road and into the woods. She felt relief. No matter what was happening outside in the world, nature would always continue, dependably. Growing and changing, living and dying, yet always there.

She soon became frustrated. The skirt of her gown caught on everything, tugging and tearing, or holding her back. Her hands gripped it and tore it free from a bush. The hem was covered in dirt. Her feet were the same, filthy and aching.

While she was watching the ground for anything sharp, her head bumped into branches and spider webs. So she would look up, then step on every sharp stone.

She was so distracted she didn’t notice that she had stumbled upon a small gathering of people in the middle of an old unused track.

Five sets of eyes looked up suddenly at her.

“Oh, sorry. I… umm. What are you doing?” Blair frowned. Four were normal people, but one with flickering eyes looked familiar. She gasped and stepped back. “You have a Lord Drake with you,” she hissed.

“Please, calm down.” A woman with limp brown hair stepped forward, palms outstretched to Blair. She spoke softly, “We are no threat.”

“No, but that thing is.” Blair stirred her magic. The air sizzled, the cloaks of the strangers rose up, and the Lord Drake became all that Blair could see.

It was female, tall and rounded. Fear shimmered in one eye, but the other answered her with glowing anger.

“What are you? Exactly?”

The Drake woman snarled.

“Answer me, beast.”

The woman with limp brown hair stepped in front of the Drake. “Stop this. I will not allow you to hurt her.”

“So you claim this beast.”

“I claim the girl. Her name is Jade. I am Leslie, and these other three are our friends.”

Blair tilted her head to the side and saw the others, who had all stepped back into the trees with their hands to hips, ready to draw out pirate pistols and blades. Her eyes only glimpsed them; they were always drawn back to the danger of the Lord Drake.

“What’s your name?”

Blair laughed. She’d expected a fight or, at the very least, some screaming and running, not a polite conversation. She drew back her magic, only just to the very outside of her body. “I wouldn’t trust it, if I were you. They have no manners.”

“Like you, I guess.” The Drake girl slapped a hand over her mouth and looked shocked.

Blair studied her closer. “What have you got inside of yourself? Is there another person in there?” The eyes were different, one blue and one green, and both showing something different. Her actions didn’t match her words, and when Blair reached her magic towards her she felt two souls. “Are you pregnant or possessed?”

Leslie giggled at that. “Sorry, I sort of compared my own pregnancy with the spawn of the devil once. Never mind me.” She waved them off.

Jade smiled sweetly. “A spirit witch.”

The strangers gasped.

“How nice to see one… and so old.” Jade shook her head, her blonde curls bouncing around her face. “Who are you?”

“My name is Blair Fitzpatrick. And you are right, I am quite old. I have been asleep for one thousand years, but I am not senile. I still remember my first encounter with the beasts. However, it is unusual to be seeing a girl on her own. What I was led to believe was that your type would imprison the women and use them only for breeding; something to do with your species dying out and the purity of blood.”

This didn’t get her the desired reaction. Jade just smiled back. “Yes, well, my father was a Lord Drake, not my mother, and as for the matter of who is inside of me… that’s none of your business.”

“Yet I still want to know.” Blair pushed her magic out and forced it inside of the girl.

She screamed two screams; one a high-pitched squeal and the other a deeper cry. “Stop it! Get out!”

The two souls tried to push free.

12th of the 1st month of harvest, of the year of Empress Nisha’s jubilee

The powerful Lord Drake, Jayden Gem, a fire-wielder, sighed contently as he laced his breeches as far as he could and allowed the robe to drape over what his gnarled fingers had left loose. He moved from the wet patch against the tree and hobbled back into the village’s hub.

Everything was in an uproar of drudgery, preparing for the celebration to come in a few hours’ time. People rushed in each direction; tables were set up, weighed down with freshly harvested goods; trees glittered with lights; and any person of no use was chased away by the working. Glares were thrown at Jayden. He ignored them and went to the centre of the organisation.

A decorative plinth, upon which sat the centre piece of the celebration and the one thing no one but Jayden could activate.

The Drake’s eye.

It was a crystal the size of a baby’s skull. When triggered, it would broadcast the celebration to all of the villages in the realm. Attendance was mandatory; numbers were compared to the yearly census and the departments of certifications: births, marriages and deaths.

Ok,” he rubbed his hands together. With a flick of his wrists, the Drake’s eye clouded over and then cleared to an image of another, younger Lord Drake. “Greetings, Master Gem.” He bowed his head in respect.

Greetings, young Shreveport. How goes it in your life?”

Shreveport smiled. “My partner has given birth to a male babe. He’s healthy and magical.”

Good for you.”

Is your village prepared for today?” There was a slight quiver in his voice. In the background, Jayden noticed a shadow move.

Of course. In two hours’ time we will be waiting to cheer in honour of our Lady Empress, Nisha.” He lifted his arm as straight as his limb allowed, pointing his fingers. Shreveport mimicked him.

We shall see you then.” He paused, and, as if on an afterthought, added, “Powers above guard you.”

The Drake’s eye clouded once more.

Satisfied the link was established, Jayden wandered off to find entertainment in a bottle for the remaining time.

Welcome to the Jubilee of Empress Nisha.” The Drake’s eye projected the image of a well-dressed woman standing at a podium. “The merriment tonight will be filled with good wishes to Her Majesty, good food and company, and, of course, a new and surprising entertainment. But first, raise your glasses, people of this realm, and wish Empress Nisha a merry jubilee.”

As told, the people raised the glasses in front of them and sang out ‘for Nisha, our fearless leader’. The image flickered to the leader herself, seated and smiling with a slight sneer.

Now for the surprise entertainment,” the woman reappeared, bubbling over with excitement. “For the first time, we are holding a blood sacrifice of an entire village.”

Collectively the people gasped in horror.

One unsuspecting village in the realm will be immortalised in this copyrighted act of entertainment, beginning first with blood murders. A raid upon their village will result in the weak being murdered in the bloodiest fashion, leaving the strongest of the people to fight to the death in a blood gorge. If more than one is left, a real surprise will occur: a blood indulgence. But this is unlikely. So to open the festivities, I declare amusement initiated.”

Wild cries came from everywhere. Jayden could barely determine if they were from the Drake’s eye, the petrified people, or worse, the tree line.

Of course, luck for this village had always sucked.

Bloodied men crashed into the village, carrying swords, bows, and maces. Some were armed only with fists.

A boy was shot with an arrow. An elderly woman was thrown to the ground and bludgeoned. A protective mother was waled on with fists.

People screamed. They ran. Some of the villagers dodged the weapons, but could not escape the magical boundary activated by the men’s entry. They were the less fortunate.

The rest moved too slowly, and so were beaten to death, shot, or run through. The weak fell.

Jayden stumbled away. He warmed his hands, clicking his fingers, creating sparks.

A sword met his belly.

On his next step he was falling, the sparks dying out. “Well, shit.” Blood sputtered from his lips. “Damn this old age crap; it’s going to be the death of me.” Excruciating pain roared through his flesh. His hands uselessly lifted to the wound. Nothing stemmed the flow.

From the corner of his eye, he saw something kneeling.

Master Gem? Sir, what is… help. We need help!” The girl screamed. Her own hands moved to his belly as she leaned down and pressed an ear to his flapping lips. “What?”

Kiss me, girl. Don’t deny a dying man that last pleasure.” His lips rasped against her and left a smear of blood on her ear.

She looked down at him with a shudder. What harm could come from this? He was dying, and she would be soon. The blood murders had ended and whoever was left was being herded back to the tables. Closing her eyes, she leaned in.

Thin, blood-stained lips opened under her soft, docile ones. He breathed into her.

They fainted, her body collapsing on top of his stilled corpse.

Moments later…

A groan came from Jayden. He lifted his head away from the stench of death directly under his nose. Bruising pain radiated all over. The pain burned inside his head, a head that had long, flowing blonde curls spilling into his vision.

It had worked.

This isn’t an ideal body to escape in.” His voice was light. Well, not his voice-the girl’s.

He had stolen her body, transferring his soul into her healthy (well, healthier than his) body. Two souls inside one body; not the ideal form of escape, but this could work.

He pushed the body up into a standing position and looked about.

What did you do, you wicked bitch?

Jayden was quiet, shocked by the voice. “I’m going to save us both.”

You’re in my body. Leave!

He shook his head. “I will die then, and so will you. I can get us out of this, just cooperate.”

Silence.

Taking that as an indication of willingness, Jayden moved. “Wow. Everything really does jiggle.” He looked down at the dress’s bodice, and gasped.

Pervert.

He chuckled. All he had to do now was survive the blood gorge, escape the magical boundary, and find another body. A simple plan. He rubbed his hands together and clicked his fingers out of habit.

Surprisingly enough, there was a spark. “You have magic in this body?”

So? It’s not enough to do anything.

Maybe. With mine, we could escape right now.” He changed direction, but was stopped. The body wouldn’t move.

We have to help the others. Get them out. Think of someone else other than yourself for once.

Jayden spent long moments trying to force the body to move. “Fine. I’ll try but, if I can’t, then we run. Deal?” She released the body. “Thank you.”

~

Blair pulled free from their minds. “Oh,” she raised a hand to her pounding head. Everything was spinning around and around. She dropped to her knees. “What was that?” Nothing like that had ever happened before. She’d never been inside somebody’s head or seen what they have seen in the past. She expected something completely different.

Leslie was beside her then.

Jade answered her with a grimace. “That was the truth, and the first attack from the adversaries. After that, many more towns were destroyed; people were killed or taken into slavery. The adversaries have taken the abandoned homes and started to live their lives there.”

“But that doesn’t make you any less guilty, Jayden. You have taken the body of a girl.”

“A willing girl.” Then. “What was that?”

Blair snapped her head to the left just in time to see them.

“Soldiers. Run!” The other three dashed away; soon enough, their screams were heard.

Leslie pulled Blair up and hoisted her arm over her shoulder. Blair wobbled. That had been intense. “Come on.”

“There is no way we can get away!” Jade screamed as the first of the soldiers reached them. They were surrounded in no time.

“Don’t get caught,” Leslie said. She let Blair go, who dropped to the ground, and withdrew two antique pistols. She started to shoot. Jade moved to her back and started firing with her own weapons.

“Ugh, children playing. That noise is giving me a headache. Allow me,” she threw back the soldiers with her magic, leaving Jade and Leslie standing untouched. Blair passed out from exhaustion.

~

There was something squatting on her chest, holding down her magic again. Blair opened her eyes and looked at the two soldiers. “Oh… it wasn’t me, officers, I swear… well, ok, it was. I confess, I did a horrible thing and wore animal-print tights. But it was only once.”

One rolled his eyes. “This is supposed to be the girl?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Are you positive? She seems to be more of an idiot than anything else.”

“Hey, I’m your elder. Now shut it, little boy,” she muttered.

“She fits the description of the murderer, and, sir…”

“What is it?”

“She was the one to wake up from the… coffin.”

The leader stared at her, analysing her body and face. She pulled at the ties around her wrist and wriggled across the floor to get away. “There is no point in trying. You cannot use your magic in here.”

“What are you talking about?” She tried, but couldn’t push away what was sitting on top of her. “What is this room?”

“A replica of the same room in the palace; one the five wizards built one thousand years ago… for you, I believe, Miss Blair Fitzpatrick.”

She raised her brows. “My reputation precedes me. But yours doesn’t. Who the hell are you?”

He smiled thinly. “Just another soldier away from home. But you are not the one who will be asking questions; that will be my job.” He moved to a table and picked up a wicked-looking blade. “Shall we begin?”

“I’m singing right now. What do you want to know?” She eyeballed the knife. “Seriously, there’s no need to get bloody.”

“Oh, but there is… I think this is going to be fun.”

~

Blair pulled back into herself as he pulled away to wipe the blade. Her arm hummed with pain.

She couldn’t hear him anymore; nothing made it past the ringing in her ears. Her throat was scratched dry and her face streaked with tears. Of course, she hadn’t told him anything; she knew nothing anyway. He asked about the rebels, why she was awake, where she was going. Not once did he mention Declan. Clearly he was just another casualty, and not that important.

I need to get out of here. I have to do something other than cry. Come on, Fitzpatrick! Think!

Her magic wriggled. If there was just some way to get out, just for a second, she could call out for help.

But who would come? That voice was back again. No witches would willingly help you, Lucy isn’t coming, and everyone else is dead.

She ignored the voice. There had to be someone out there in the dark, or something. Her magic found the tiniest crack in the room and pushed free. Whoever had built this replica had done an exceptional job, but they were not the wizards. It was miniscule. She sent out a beacon to the darkness.

Help me.

The soldier turned back to her with a smile.

She sighed and drew back her magic. If anything had heard and did come to help her, it would be pointless. What would come would die, because of the soldiers, and she and the others would still be imprisoned, awaiting their end.

She didn’t really want to, but she saw no other way out. She stopped struggling and just laid there. The one gift of her own that could have helped was the one thing she couldn’t use. She was back to being just another helpless girl, waiting for Prince Charming to come rescue her. Like always.

She turned her head away from the soldier. “Do what you want,” she rasped.

“Sir.”

“What is it?” He moved to the window and saw what the other had. “What? How is that possible? Get out of here, now.”

“But, sir.”

“Go. Get outside now!” he roared.

So Blair was left with one soldier. She lifted her head. “What’s happening?” She pushed down the flutter of hope in her chest. No, not if there is nothing there. But there is, I know.

The soldier’s gaze burned into her. “I don’t know how you did it, but this is despicable. What did you do? How?” He bent down and lifted her by her shoulders. “The dead are walking around out there. What did you do, witch?” He shook her.

The soldier threw her down and charged for the door. She tilted her head back and saw him slam it on a corpse.

However much he pushed on it, trying to hold it shut, he was no match for the undead flesh. The last thing he heard was Blair laughing.

She had done it, gotten her magic through, and here was her army of dead. Bodies filled with nightmares. They set her free and continued on their terrifying way.

As soon as she left the room, the weight was lifted from about her magic, and she took a deep breath. The scent of blood filled the air. She started to stroll down the hallway. Where had the others been stored?

She called out to the Drake girl’s magic; different to her own, it was still magical ability. Blair stepped out of the building and looked around. Six buildings of various shapes and sizes sat around a central courtyard.

Leslie and Jade were in the centre, fighting back the zombies.

Blair frowned. Why would the zombies be attacking them? She had called them to help her escape from the soldiers. The girls were… well, she wasn’t positive if they weren’t threats or not just yet.

She started to run towards them.

Leslie yelled out something and waved her arms just before Jade sent out a blast of fire. The zombies squealed and started to run unpredictably. Blair dodged them. The stench of burning flesh was overpowering, making her eyes water.

“What did you do that for?”

Jade narrowed her eyes. “Why did you raise them? It was you; no one else could.”

“They came to help; it doesn’t mean you can start setting them on fire.” Blair turned round and raised her arms. She felt a little stupid doing so. She called to the nightmares, pulled them from the bodies, and let them go back to the darkness. They hissed and cursed. No one had expected the fire.

When the last had gone, Blair tuned back to Jade.

Bodies dropped all around them.

Jade lowered her eyes, muttering something under her breath. Leslie smiled a little. She pointed at Blair’s arm who put it behind her back and shook her head. “Where do we go now?”

Jade clenched her jaw.

“We go and join the rebels. They will want to know about you and your magic.” Leslie grabbed her arm and brought it forward. She winced at it. “They’ll have medicine.”

Chapter Six: Legend

Just outside of the safe house they pulled off the side of the entrance, Leslie pulling on her arm. “This way first. The guards will want to check you.”

Jade bounced on her toes in front of the guards, spewing out words. Suddenly she stopped and looked down. Jayden must have taken control. The guards gave her a sword; she clipped the belt to her hip and stepped back.

Leslie took the bag they gave her. She asked the guard about his mother and acted like she was really interested about it. “Let me know if you need anything.”

The guards patted Blair down, surprised she had nothing on her. She cocked an eyebrow. “Anything else, boys?”

“You’ll need to talk with the elders,” the guard ignored her, speaking to Leslie.

She nodded. “I know; we’re heading that way.”

Through the front door and straight to the back and into a walled garden, the three disappeared down a hole, into another underground maze. Blair felt the walls pressing in on her. She tried to roll her shoulders.

Nope, the place still felt like the crypt. Creepy. The walls pressed down on her and she struggled to continue forward.

They had tried to make it civilised; the walls were lined in patterned timber panels, and they had electricity. But the cold of the stone floor rose into her toes and joined the cold inside of her.

Jade led the way, with Leslie behind Blair, caging her in so she couldn’t wander off without meeting the elders first. Leslie pointed out several corridors leading to different places. “The families live down that way near the school room. Down that way is the single men’s dorm, and a bit further on is the women’s. That way is the mess hall.”

Blair read over an old door ‘Library’. “That one’s obvious.” She forced her voice to stay steady even as she was feeling like she was being buried alive. Again.

“That’s storage. The books are outdated. No one uses it.”

They led her past the smell of cooking meat. She felt the stab of hunger as her belly clenched around nothing. She would have to find her way back there soon.

“This way,” Jade pushed open the door and stepped through. She let the door go. Blair slapped her hand on the wood and followed.

Leslie moved forward and nodded to the elders. Five men sat at a dining table, eating their rations. Blair almost snorted at them; even though they were eating the same as everyone else, they had to be served separately and at an ornate table.

They looked up at her; old eyes ran up and down her body.

“Can we hurry this up? I’m rather hungry.” And wanting to get out of here ASAP.

They were taken aback by her rudeness. “What is your name?”

That was strange, their lips didn’t move and the voice came from inside Blair’s mind. “Blair Fitzpatrick. And you?”

“That is not important… The real question is what you are doing here.” They spoke again inside of her head.

She shrugged.

Leslie answered, “We came across Blair on our way here. We were caught by the adversaries together, and then separated.” She took a deep breath. Was she traumatised by the event? “She broke free and came to find us.”

“How did she break free?”

“Magic.”

There was a pause, brief but obvious.

“What sort of magic?”

Blair rolled her eyes. “I’m a spirit witch. And that seems to be amazing to everyone.”

The five men rose together and moved to a side door. “This way, please,” one waved to them.

A girl came to the table and started to collect the left-behind meal. Blair watched her as she started to follow Leslie. She fixated on her. Who had she lost to get here?

When she turned back around, she found they had entered a richly decorated study with lounges, carpets, and curtains framing paintings. A few people already were inside. They lounged on the chairs, talking to each other.

One man caught her attention.

“You have got to be kidding me!” Blair snatched the sword from Jade and pointed it at the man. Everyone started to scream, except for Blair and Roy.

He smiled. “Hello, Blair. How are you?”

“How?”

“Don’t you remember? Anything is possible in Alizaria.”

“You should be dead. The guardians should’ve killed you.”

“Blair… put down the sword.” Jade stepped between them. “It’s fine. Roy is a friend.”

“Ha! He’s evil. At the last “family reunion”, he tried to kill me. Twice.” She moved around Jade, not taking her eyes off of Roy.

“Well, you certainly hold a grudge for a long time.”

She placed the tip to his throat. “One thousand years have passed and everyone is dead. How is it that you’re not? Where did you scamper off to hide?”

“Scamper; nice implication, my dear.” He shrugged. “Time moves differently back home. Which… shouldn’t you be heading that way?”

She hesitated. No one had asked her, and she hadn’t considered why she was still on this side of the gate. “I’m doing my part for Alizaria.”

“Dathan would be so pleased and proud.”

Blair swore and stormed from the room, swinging the sword into the door frame and leaving it stuck in its notch.

~

Leslie found Blair sitting by herself, pulling a roll apart and methodically eating. “Are you alright?”

“You must have had an idea of who I am. Right?” She looked Leslie in the eye and saw it clearly. “So what has granddaddy been saying? What fun stories did he recount about the first couple of times he tried to kill me?”

“He told some truth, I’m sure. But mostly he has said nothing about you, just mentioned in passing that you would be coming this way soon.”

She shook her head. “This is so fucked up. How come I couldn’t sense him? I tried out of pure morbid curiosity. Even now I don’t feel the pull. What happened to him?” She focused on the memory of him reclining in that room. He had watched her without a care and… without magic. How did that happen? She asked herself.

Leslie pulled out a packet of sweets from her pocket and popped one in her mouth, offering Blair one. “Sugar is good for shock.”

“Thanks.”

~

They were kicked out of the mess hall after sitting silently for half an hour, just chewing their sweets and lost in their own thoughts.

They stood together. “What now?”

Leslie motioned down a corridor. “This way. You need to have your arm looked at.” She reached for it to see the wounds from the knife. She let go of Blair’s arm and stepped back.

People moving about watched with interest.

“Where is it?”

Blair shrugged. “I heal fast.”

“Is that a gift?”

The people started to give a wider gap around the two women.

“Umm no. This is something new.” She had first realised when she was lying outside of the tomb, staring at the blue sky. She remembered cutting her foot on a shard from the broken bowl, but it wasn’t there under the smear of blood. She had used a stone to break open her skin. It healed and there was nothing there.

Now the cuts from the knife had disappeared and only left bloody lines. It had taken a while to heal, though. Blair frowned and wondered why.

“Well,” Leslie swallowed. She moved back to Blair but didn’t touch her. “You need new clothes and then a place to sleep. Tomorrow we’ll deal with the rest.”

Blair was to share a room with Jade. Jade had yelled at Leslie for it. Why her? She was at risk here. Yadayadayada. Blair sat on the empty bed and started yawning. “Don’t worry, little Drake girl. I’m too tired to do anything tonight.” She lay down, and rolled so her back was to Jade and Leslie, ignoring a look from Leslie.

“Please try not to kill each other. I’m going back to Herrick for the night.” The door closed softly.

Jade hissed, “Don’t try anything, witch, or you’ll burn.”

“You’re not the first one to promise me that.” She stayed still as Jade moved around the room, and long after the light had gone out and Jade had started to snore.

Sleep. Blair pushed herself up and swung her legs over the edge. Blair didn’t want to sleep. That was when she was most vulnerable.

She slipped out of the room and padded softly down to the corridor the library branched from. Blair was shocked that she had some freedom. If she was one of the elders facing someone whose loyalties they were unsure of, she would have that someone under guard and kept away from the others until more was known.

Leslie must have said something. Jade obviously shared Blair’s hatred; she wouldn’t have been singing any praise. That left only Roy.

Yes, the lying son of a bitch who wouldn’t die had mentioned a few things. He would’ve said something probably along the lines of how powerful she was and what use they could have for her.

Blair rolled her eyes. This had been a stupid idea, coming to the safe house. What could she do? What did she want to do?

There was no one here for her to be with in any particular way. She had no friends and really no loyalties. She grimaced. Roy was the only one, and that was not a friendship she wanted.

The books were covered in layers of dust. In among the rows of bookshelves, boxes were piled high, the only sign of any activity the footprints through the door and back over the top.

She picked her way down to the back and found an old lounge covered in a dusty sheet. Dust flew into the air as she pulled it off. The lounge was ancient and uncomfortable as she plopped onto it.

Wriggling about, she finally found a comfortable position lying across it. Lucky she was so short.

She dozed for a little bit.

Someone poked her in the side. She shot up and grabbed the arm of the offender. She relaxed her grip then threw the arm away from her and pulled far back into the corner of the lounge.

“What do you want, Roy?”

He shrugged and settled in where her feet had been. “I thought we could talk.”

“I’d rather not.”

“Really? I would’ve thought you had lots of questions that needed answering. Then maybe you could answer a few of mine.”

“And what makes you think I want to talk to you, of all people? You tried to kill me more than once. That isn’t accidental. That is psycho murderer-style.”

He sighed. “Will you please forget that? A lot of time has passed, and I have paid for my sins.”

“Hell no, will I forget…” she wrung her fingers in her lap. “Why are you helping the rebels?”

“Because I can. What about you? Are you planning on taking up their cause and fighting with them?”

“I thought I did, but…”

“The adversaries kill most and enslave others. Anyone who is left, those undesirables, like the weak, elderly or overly-educated, are murdered in front of the others.”

“Why are you telling me this? “

“The decision isn’t really that difficult. Kill the bad men and save the good people of Alizaria. That sort of thing is good for the soul.”

“Like atonement?” She felt some of the guilt rising up from Declan. Maybe if she helped enough people she wouldn’t feel… dirty. Before it had been pushed to the back of her mind, Declan had just been another low-life dickhead, nothing like Dathan. Surely it was a good thing to have one less waste of space person.

But he had been a person and she had just murdered him. Yes, justly so, as he had called the soldiers. She felt nothing about killing them. Or so she thought.

Think of something different, don’t cry.

“What happened?” She swiped at a rogue tear drop. “To Alizaria, I mean.”

“History.”

“Lucy? Where is she?” Vampyres were immortal; if anyone should still be alive it should’ve been Lucy.

“That little witch! She stole my magic,” Roy snarled. “All of the Fallen are gone, ascending back to the heavens.”

She said nothing.

“Are you going to ask about him? Dathan?”

“I’m tired. Goodnight.”

Blair exited the library with a stiff back. Once she made it to a dark stretch of hallway, she collapsed against the wall and gasped. Her heart squeezed and she felt like throwing up. Tears poured out. Dathan was gone. He moved on and had forgotten the time he had written “I love you”. She felt the heat of anger build. Her tears stopped. Dathan had loved someone else, he had a family, and Blair was nothing.

She had killed his descendant.

Dathan would never be hers.

~

“This is Herrick,” Leslie had her arms draped over the shoulders of a small boy. “Herrick, this is Blair Fitzpatrick. She found Jade and I yesterday, and helped us escape the soldiers.”

The little boy twisted his head up to watch his mother as she spoke, and then fixed his hazel eyes back on Blair.

She waved awkwardly. “Hi.”

Blair had been lucky throughout her teen life; she lived too far out of town to have been called upon to babysit any of the annoying children she had to encounter because the adults were friends of the family. Unfortunately, that also meant she was awkward around them.

Leslie walked the three of them around the room and introduced children, who came running up and leaped into her arms. Most looked at Blair like she was a scary animal. She wondered if the parents were already warning them about her.

“This is where we all train, the new recruits more than anyone else. But during breaks, the children spend their time here, playing.”

It was a large room with no furniture. The floor was covered in padded mats and there were racks lining the walls filled with practice weapons.

“Why don’t the kids play outside?”

“They draw too much attention. Right now no one knows that anyone is here; the town nearby thinks this place is abandoned.”

“Who owns it?”

“One of the elders.”

“Do they even have names?”

“No.”

“Oh… that’s really strange.”

Leslie lifted a shoulder and continued around the room. She stripped off her jacket and turned to face Blair. “Hands up.”

“What? No, I’m not going to fight you.”

“You need to learn to defend yourself without the use of magic. This is just in case.”

“In case of what? Look, I can already fight.”

“Good, then show me. No one is allowed to join the cause unless they can defend themselves.”

Blair put her hands up.

Leslie threw her to the ground, but Blair pulled her feet from under her and wrestled her underneath.

“Good, but I would have you bleeding now.”

Blair looked down at the knife, still in its sheath, tucked between their bodies. She laughed. “Yes, Jedi Master. I think I may be a little rusty.”

“Sleeping for one thousand years will do that.”

“My Gods… did you just make a joke?” Blair gasped.

“Just shut up and get off me.”

They practiced for half an hour, the children circling them. They yelled out, clapped when one of them hit the ground, and even joined in. A man appeared in the doorway and called them away. He waved at Leslie with a secret smile, and left.

“Who was that?”

“Jonathan. He’s the teacher for the time being.”

“And… what?”

Leslie tilted her head and stared at Blair.

“I thought there was something else there… like maybe you and him…”

“No.”

“Husband?”

“Dead.”

They moved from hand-to-hand combat towards the racks of weapons. “Take your pick.”

“Are you going to tell me your story?”

“Nothing much to tell. My husband died, his brother was a rebel from the start and got me in. Herrick and I have been here for a long time.”

“What about the brother?”

“Other side of the country. He was rebel before the adversaries invaded, back when the queen first took the throne.”

Blair pulled down a fencing sword; she weighed it in her hand. “You know; I haven’t said that I will help the rebels. I really just needed a place to stay when I found you.”

“You will,” she took down the sword’s partner. “I can tell.”

~

Jade found them in the mess hall, eating lunch with everyone else who watched Blair carefully like she was a bomb that had no timer and should’ve gone off already. But they tried to be nice, for Leslie.

Jade plopped down on the other side of Leslie and tore into her food.

When Leslie left, Jade took her seat and leaned into Blair. “We’ve been talking with Leslie.”

“Yeah? So what?”

“Well… if you don’t try to kill us, we will do the same for you.” The eyes shifted from blue to green and green to blue before settling back to one of either colour. “We didn’t know about the legend. But that doesn’t mean we trust you, just that we trust Leslie.”

“What legend?”

One green eye rolled and the other stayed focused on her. “The sword. Asleep for one thousand years. Fire and flood. All alone.”

“How did you know about the prophecy?” She clenched her hands in her tunic, so as not to grab Jade and shake the answer out.

“Leslie. Which must have come from Roy originally. But just so you know…” she leaned in close, the smell of milk wafting into Blair’s face. “We don’t think you would make a very good queen.”

She picked up her roll. A couple of people seated near them had heard the entire conversation.

Blair felt their gazes; previously irritating, and now violating. She stood up, took a deep breath, and made herself walk normally from the mess hall and back to the surface entrance. The guards didn’t stop her from leaving.

“Hey, don’t go too far or draw any attention,” one mentioned as she passed him. She nodded in answer.

Free. She blinked at the sudden natural light and shuddered. It felt too much like when she had left the crypt.

The fresh air washed away some of the filth. She breathed deeply and moved further away from the house, and into the woods. She found a spot and just sat down. The house couldn’t be seen, and the sound of people moving about couldn’t be heard. She relaxed her shoulders.

“What are you doing, Fitzpatrick?” She whispered to herself. “In all honesty, this isn’t your fight. You should just go home and do something there. But people will stare there, as well; time might not be as advanced, and people you know may yet be alive.”

She looked up at the sky through the trees.

“They don’t trust me or even like me. I hate it here… I can’t just leave them if I can help somehow. I know I can’t.”

She was silent for a long time, just staring off into space. The sun dipped low. “What is Roy up to now?”

Roy. He was the last person Blair had thought she would ever see again. Out of everyone he should have died by someone’s hand or time should’ve taken him. So there was some reason he was still alive and not just alive, playing whatever this little game the Elders were playing with the rest of Alizaria.

But, it wasn’t really her problem. She could always just get up and walk back to her home.

The thought of doing that made her double over. Her chest clenched, liked she had been shot with an arrow. “Ahh, what the hell? I’ll stay.” The pain disappeared.

Straightening, Blair rubbed a hand over her sternum. What had caused that reaction? Her magic flared up.

~

That night, she followed Leslie into the elders’ rooms again. She stayed on the periphery as they talked, not drawing attention to herself, or trying. Being who she was, everyone felt they had to watch her.

She didn’t care right then. All she wanted to do was get inside of one person’s head.

She thought back to the time inside Jade’s head. It had taken a lot of energy to do that. She hoped to repeat it. She focused on Roy.

Slipping into his mind, she sorted through his memories till she found one. She felt him snap to awareness but she forced the memory to play. He stilled, just like Jade did the first time.

You need to get rid of her, Roy.” The elders spoke as one person inside of Roy’s mind. They had done something long ago to become like this and kept the secret even from Roy’s keen love of intrigue.

She is very powerful and can be of great use to the cause. I know what she can do and what she can be… will be.”

No. There was a reason the wizards imprisoned her.”

Roy rolled his eyes. Damn old, conservative farts. “Then we continue fighting the same way and keep on killing every last rebel till you five are the last. Think for one moment as to how many lives could be saved if she…”

No, you think how many will die if the prophecy is fulfilled. We will not risk it. Even as a child, she couldn’t be contained, not even by you.”

Then how about you use her and then do what was done before? Or make her an offer. One she cannot refuse.” His eyes twinkled. He loved this banter, the possible risk of losing it all or winning and watching everything end one way or the other. “Just think about it.”

The five looked to each other and conversed silently. “We have decided.”

What if she proves herself?”

Five smirks. “It will be taken into consideration.”

Blair blinked hard as she came back into her own head. She didn’t hear the silence till she felt the grip on her arm.

Roy jerked her from her seat and tossed her out into the hallway, slamming the door closed after them.

“What the hell was that?”

“A new trick. Did you like it, Grandpa?”

“Very well done, my dear. But don’t ever fucking do that to me again. My thoughts are my own. You hear?”

“They don’t trust me,” she jerked her chin towards the closed door.

“Why should they?”

“But you want to use me to end this invasion.”

“You have the talent.”

“I noticed you don’t anymore.” She started to feel the wobbles. She leaned against the wall and tried to look like a bored teenager.

Roy just smiled and left her alone.

“Prove myself… the only way to do that quickly… is to go to the source.” She looked at the ceiling, thinking of what was above. Surely news of her activities had reached the city by now.

~

Blair packed a bag, stuffing it mostly with food. She looked over at the perfectly made bed and then down at the mess of clothes and shoes that Jade had left from the day before. She smiled a little.

Rubbing her tongue along her teeth, she frowned. “What was that?” She hadn’t eaten breakfast, and the kitchen hadn’t been open when she had snuck in. But she had the strange taste of burnt toast in her mouth. She gagged. “Coffee?”

~

Again, the guards let her pass through without a fuss. She waved to them, knowing they would just ignore her. But she happily strolled down and away from the safe house, just allowing her feet to take her.

She turned around. “Why are you following me?”

Roy smiled cheerily. “It isn’t very proper for a young lady to go off on her own. Not that you need the protection.”

“Of course not. Look, I’m not going for a walk, in fact, there is the possibility I won’t be coming back.”

“Excellent. Let’s get going; we have a lot of ground to cover before the end of the day.”

She knew it would be pointless to argue. Instead, she turned and led the way. She also knew that this was one of the only times she could ever turn her back on Roy. He needed her. Nothing would happen while she was useful.

They made it into a town; she walked to the nearest store and asked to use the phone. She tried to look sad and pitiful. It worked. The operator asked how to direct the call. It was a little odd having to explain what she wanted done, so she made up a story. “I need to report a crime of treason to the palace.”

“Please hold.”

She was connected to someone in the lower bowels of the palace. “And what is about to happen?”

“The assassination of the queen.”

“Do you know who will do it?”

“Yep, me. Blair Fitzpatrick.” Then she hung up, thanked the shopkeeper, and went outside to wait.

Roy looked at her funny. That annoyed her; he was acting like everyone else. “What?”

“Why did you just do that? Now we lose the element of surprise.”

She laughed. “I never wanted to be a surprise for the queen, and I never would’ve been. And why would we drive there when we can catch a lift?”

Soldiers arrived soon enough. Blair held out her hands, palms open. “Take me to your leader.”

Chapter Seven: Queen

Roy was smiling the entire trip; he chattered away to the soldiers who shared the cart with them. Blair still couldn’t believe that they had so many technological advances, and yet they had no cars on the roads and still used animals to draw carts.

But it was a short trip to the trains. Now she was impressed.

They were not once left unattended, going from platform to train, cart to cart, train to platform, and into another carriage. The entire time, they had soldiers with them.

Blair didn’t speak once; she left that to Roy. But they noticed the change in her stride as they left the carriage and entered the palace. She bounced.

Another guard patted them down; they looked at them strangely for coming empty-handed. The pack was left behind. They waved them through. Roy garbled on about the architecture and the artistry in the painted ceilings and the stained windows. Blair kept looking down the corridors and through open doors.

They headed up.

Once they reached the desired room, the soldiers positioned themselves beside the door and closed it behind Roy and Blair.

Automatically she felt the weight on her chest. “Not again.”

“What was that?”

“Oh, um. I’ve been in this room before and one just like it elsewhere. You really don’t feel it?”

He ignored the comments and headed over to the small table and four chairs. High tea was set out, ready and waiting for the guests.

Blair looked around the room. Now that there was light, she could see the high windows and the thick drapes on either side of them. It was airy. The floor was tiled in intricate mosaic patterns that made her head spin as she tried to follow them. She looked away and felt better. Overhead, the same designs had been painted.

She squinted and looked at the walls and windows. Everywhere the same designs, but this time it was white on white for the walls and scratched into the glass.

She looked back and saw Roy comfortably seated and scoffing down sandwiches and gulping tea. “You honestly have no manners.” She took a seat beside him.

“I am an honoured guest; I get to eat and drink when I like.” He looked about. “It has been a long time since I was last in the palace. This room is new, though.”

“They built it for me, actually.”

“That explains it.”

The only door to the room opened, and a woman in a long gown entered, followed by a man dressed in tights and a loose-fitting shirt that opened at the neck. Blair stopped herself from laughing. Music from “The Pirates of Penzance” slipped into her head. She started to hum and then stopped herself before anyone other than Roy heard. He smiled.

Neither of them stood.

The queen gracefully sat, her chair pushed in by the man.

She looked at Blair with curiosity, but she wasn’t the one to break the silence.

The man nodded his head. “It is a pleasure to meet the legendary Miss Blair Fitzpatrick, daughter of Salem.”

She tilted her head in his direction. “May I ask who you are?”

“I am Colin Leialoha, ambassador for the neighbouring countries. We are honoured to have you visit us. To what do we owe the pleasure?”

“I thought it was pretty obvious when I called.” She poured herself some tea and added a teaspoon of sugar. She topped up Roy’s first. “Oh, I’m being so rude as well. This is my kin, Roy.”

Roy grinned and bowed his head to the queen. “Nice meeting you all. I see the palace has changed a bit since the last time I was here.”

“Yes, that must have been a long time ago… Sandwich?” Colin offered.

Blair declined. She watched as Colin poured a cup from the same pot and drank it straight. The queen made no movement. They sat silent for a long while.

This time it was the queen who spoke. “There is a warning that has been passed down, that if a witch should ever come to the palace then I should meet her only in this room…the Blessed Room.”

“Yes, smart idea. I did recognise the room, though the last time I was here it was dark and I had other concerns.” She smiled as she sipped the tea. “So I’m just curious as to what has been happening in the last decade or so. Since when has Alizaria been at war with the allies?”

Colin widened his eyes and placed his cup back on the saucer with a clatter. “War? What do you possibly mean by that?”

“Well, there are rebels, the people are scared, and I hear lots of stories of killing and enslavement. That normally means an invasion.”

“You are poorly informed. The allies are uniting with Alizaria to create a more harmonious country, with more opportunities for people and greater access to all services. The statistics that I have seen indicate that health and education has improved and people are more than happy with the changes.”

“Huh.”

Roy happily munched away, flicking his eyes between Blair and Colin, the only sign that he was unnerved by the situation.

“So, the soldiers who tortured me and I then had to kill in order to be released, were what? Checking my reflexes? Taking the census?”

“That must’ve been a mistake…” He watched her closely. “But, then again, there has been some unrest amongst the locals. They do not agree with our vision.”

“And whose vision is that?”

“Why the queen’s and the allies.”

She narrowed her eyes.

“I have recently been informed of your particular talents, Miss Blair. The historians of the palace have been telling me about your unusual quest to reunite the broken sword. An amazing thing for a little girl to have done.”

“She wasn’t alone,” Roy added.

“Yes, and your… contributions to the efforts were mentioned as well.” He focused back on Blair. “The king of old and the wizards feared you, and did something terrible, with no justification. For that I would like to apologise.”

“That happened a long time ago.”

“But not that long for you. You were snatched away from everything you loved and had this fate thrust upon you. But you can change all of that.”

“Beg pardon?”

“Well, I wish you to consider a particular role in our… please stop laughing.”

“I can’t… ha… how did this go from an assassination tea party to a job interview?” She rolled her head back and laughed at the marks on the ceiling. “This is way too good.”

“You could be vital in stopping the resistance. From the reports of the past few days, you have already started to carve out a fearful reputation.”

She shut up quickly.

“It was you who killed a young man in the Marchlands, then decimated the squadron with an army of walking dead. I’m sure the rebels you have been staying with are not… friendly with you.”

“That doesn’t mean anything.” Blair snapped.

“You know it does. People avoid being left alone with you because of what you have done and what you can do and most likely will. I am offering you the opportunity to use your gifts in a way that shows the people that the past is dead.”

“I think I’m a living contradiction in that manner. So far you have only mentioned what I can do for you, not what you are offering me.” Blair challenged.

“Respect. Purpose. The chance to right wrongs.”

She had come all this way to see what it was like on the other side. So far she had seen nothing real. They wanted to use her like Roy did, which was a little better than the fate the elders wished for her. Everything Colin offered was dead-on what she desired, except for one thing…

“What makes you think that I want only that?”

Colin waited.

“Don’t you worry that after I clean up Alizaria I would go for a promotion? After all, I would no longer have a purpose if there was peace.”

“What sort of promotion?”

“The one job that I am destined to have, it says so in the prophecy.” From the corner of her eye she saw the queen flinch.

“Prophecy? I’m sorry, I haven’t heard this.” He flicked his eyes to the queen, who refused to meet them. “What is she talking about?” he mumbled to her.

“I’ll answer that; I’m meant to be queen.” Blair said.

Silence echoed.

“That may have been your wish when you were younger and in love with… the um… what was his name?”

“Dathan,” she answered without emotion.

“Yes, the usurped prince. You may have dreamed of marrying him and taking the throne. But that will not be happening now.”

“Because you need someone you can trust.”

He gulped down the last of the tea. Sweat pushed through his skin and soaked his shirt. “I’m sorry, but that is true. We prefer those of lineage also. They have some quality about them that makes them… leaders.”

“Or easily led.” Blair crossed her legs and leaned forward. “I decline your earlier offer.”

“Then you understand what is to happen next.”

“Of course. I’m a danger; uncontrollable and unpredictable. Are we going to get to the killing already?”

“So eager to die, are we?” he patronised.

“That’s swell.”

“What is?”

“You said we; I assume that means you and the silent queen. It’s nice to see that you understand the circumstances. What will it be?”

“There are thousands of armed guards. You wouldn’t dare.”

“Uncontrollable and unpredictable.”

The queen laughed.

“Poison? Beheading? Exploding internal organs? Or do you want a mystery?”

“If you are that powerful, then why has nothing happened?” Colin leaned back in his seat, full of attitude. He understood that nothing could happen to them if they remained in the room, and this little girl and old man were no match for the guards who would storm in when called.

“I was conflicted. But, seeing how things are here, I have no issue now.”

“Killing either of us will do nothing. Your Alizaria is no more. My people own this land now.” Colin threw down his napkin and stood up.

Roy paused with the last sandwich halfway to his lips. “This should be interesting.”

“Hardly. She has no power in here.”

The saucer smashed against his jaw, breaking skin and causing blood to spurt forward and splatter the crisp white shirt. Roy lifted his cup and pushed the chair back from the table, just in time. The table was kicked into Colin, knocking the wind out of him and making him double over. He swore.

Blair came at him with a butter knife. She raised it high, ready to pierce the back of his neck and dig into the spinal column when her feet were swept from under her.

“What the fuck?”

The queen stood high above her, boot lifted. Down it came, Blair rolling out just as it connected with a resounding thud to the floor. She snatched at the queen’s ankle and tugged her down.

They started to wrestle.

The queen’s gown hid thick muscles and leathery protection. She was much stronger than Blair, and had her pinned.

Blair lost the knife quickly, she deflected the blows as best she could. Her arms ached, her face bled. She kicked and bucked. The queen weighed more than Leslie.

They were vaguely aware of Colin running to the door and throwing them open to the guards.

Roy stood up, pitching the tea cup into Colin’s head and knocking him forward. “Now!” The room shook with the thunder of Roy’s voice.

She snatched at the queen’s hair and ripped hard to the side. The queen screamed and followed the direction of Blair’s fist. Balling up her free hand Blair threw a hook into the queen’s cheek and knocked her off kilter.

It was enough for Blair to scramble out of reach.

Roy hauled Blair up by the scruff of her neck. “Hurry up. We have to get out of here.” They ran to the door, leaping over the fallen Colin. As soon as she was through, the weight disappeared and she used everything she had, knocking down the guards. They climbed over their adversaries.

She restricted herself to knocking down, not killing… for now.

Roy led the way; they ran down hallways, windows, portraits and doors flicking past. Roy would dodge to the side and collide with a wall when guards would appear ahead. This gave Blair room to drop them before they shot at them.

Servants screamed.

Blair shoved them out of the way and kept going.

Even though they were in need of haste, Blair’s mind wandered away from the task. She could see herself running down that hall, walking into that room. She saw small dark-haired children running to her and throwing their arms around her waist.

And she could see Dathan standing with his arms behind his back, staring through a window; he would turn to her and smile.

But that future was gone completely. All her hope was really gone. What was left was to free herself. She took a deep breath and shoved the images out.

The possibility of any of that happening was marginal at best back then. Yes, he had written “I love you” but that was a long way off from “Marry me” and taking the throne from Cassius. She realised that now.

She snapped back into reality as she heard the first shot and saw it fly into Roy. He grunted but kept moving. “Not him! Aim lower!” Colin’s voice rang out from behind them.

“Hurry, Roy.”

They turned a corner and barrelled down through the open doors of the throne room. Blair spun round and slammed the doors shut with her magic.

Chapter Eight: Amber

“Now what?” Roy asked.

Blair walked up the aisle to the throne. “Don’t bother asking me; I’m making this up as we go.” She turned back to Roy, one foot on the steps up to the seat itself. “Why did you come?”

“I knew that whatever you did would be something amazing and I wanted to watch it. I’m so proud of you, my dear.”

“Save it. I don’t care what you think of me.”

“Well, that honestly doesn’t matter because I will always be proud of you. You have grown up to be a beautiful, powerful spirit witch. Now keep up the good work. Here come the reinforcements,” he stepped out to the side, leaned against the wall, and crossed his arms.

Funny that he should say such things right then. Blair straightened up. It was nice to have someone say they were proud, even when she felt mostly nothing about what she did, only the odd pinch of guilt and landslide of filth.

The doors were thrown open and soldiers poured in, firing guns at her. She stopped the bullets in mid-air and sent them back to their owners. They screamed out and fell to the ground. Another wave flowed in and tried again. She repeated her actions.

Colin poked his head around the corner and then pulled back before anything else could happen.

“Come on in, Colin,” she called out sweetly. “Let’s have some fun.”

“You don’t exactly play fair,” he said as he walked into the room.

“Really? I thought I was playing by the rules of the game; you were the one to call in your friends to die for you. Now that was unfair. I really was looking forward to playing.” She watched as he slowly picked his way over the bodies. During the escape he had changed into armour. It shined horribly. Blair squinted. “Nice outfit. Haven’t heard of bullet-proof vests yet?”

He ignored the comment and kept on walking down the aisle, now free from the bodies. “What will any of this achieve, Blair?”

“World peace?”

“Ha. The queen is a minor character and easily replaced with another just like her. The only way you could change everything would be to kill one of my masters, and I have never met one. They are well-protected.”

“You still don’t understand, do you? I only want Alizaria. The queen is one piece that must be removed and then the rest is easy.” Maybe, I hope. She didn’t let any of it show, not her complete lack of plan or her fear. “But I’m not going to be able to let you live.”

“I understand,” he bowed his head. “It is such a shame that we couldn’t have found a way to work together. It would have been an interesting partnership.”

Her eyes flicked down to his armour. It was buffed and polish to such a high sheen that the light through the windows reflected and bounced into her eyes, at exactly the right angle to where he stopped. It moved as he did, making her dizzy.

Roy, the bastard, said nothing. He watched from the sidelines, like it was a reality TV show and couldn’t wait for the next episode.

Blair heard the clunk and felt her head snap forward and reel back. She lifted a hand to the back and found it warm and wet. “Blood.” She took a couple of wobbly steps forward before turning and seeing the queen, club in hand.

“This will not be a quick, painless death. You will die slowly, and by my hand only.” She raised the club high.

Blair panicked. Her magic flew out and shoved the queen, Colin, and Roy back into walls in a sudden pulse. She dropped to her knees and focused on not blacking out. Don’t black out, don’t black out, don’t black out.

She almost screamed. The skin on the back of her head started to pull tight and knit together in seconds. Her head throbbed. The worst kind of headache.

She glared at the floor. “Damn, that hurts.”

Suddenly she realised the noises of others stumbling to their feet and shaking off the last attack.

She felt drained. Healing took a lot out of her; she would have to depend on other talents instead of using her magic.

Colin was the furthest away; she forgot him for a moment and looked at the queen standing by the throne, gripping the armrest, the club dangling from her other hand.

Blair took steps towards her.

The club was swung out wide, left to right and back. Blair dodged back. Each step forward made the queen lash out. She could see the club getting heavy.

Blair gritted her teeth. She stepped forward and back, the club swung. Quickly, she ducked forward, grabbing the club with one hand as it started back, and the queen’s hair in the other. She yanked hard, throwing the queen down the carpeted steps.

The queen cried out, “You bitch!”

Blair didn’t let go of the hair.

The queen’s hands clutched at the strands, trying to ease the pressure from her scalp. She let Blair take the club from her. Blair dragged her down the steps and to the centre of the room.

By now, Colin had stepped forward. He backhanded Blair, who hit the floor, pulling the queen’s hair and a squeal from her.

There was a commotion at the door as guards appeared again.

Roy slammed the doors and locked them. He leaned against them and watched Blair, “Hurry up, my dear.”

She kicked out at Colin, her boot heel connecting with his knee. It jerked backwards with a sickening crack.

Blair let go of the queen’s hair; she stood quickly, giving the queen a quick kick to the stomach on her way so she would stay where she was.

Blair lifted the club and brought it down on Colin. He dodged to the side and took the brunt of the force on his shoulder. More bones snapped and crumbled under the force. He lashed out at Blair, grabbing hold of her tunic’s front and tugging her forward.

She stumbled and crashed into Colin, knocking them both over. Her toppled onto his back and cursed as she landed on his shoulder.

Blair sat up quickly and butted Coin in the throat with the club.

He started to choke. She rolled off of him and away from the wriggling mass of limbs. Colin struggled to take in air past a broken windpipe. His eyes bulged out and his face began to turn blue. Blair watched for a moment before having to look away. She moved to his head and lined it up.

The club conked him on the side of the head, and he stopped moving.

She lowered the club from her follow-through and leaned heavily against it.

The queen was standing now, eyeing Blair. “Why are you doing this? This isn’t your country or your time. Why take on the problem?”

Blair blinked a couple of times. “I don’t know, but I feel Alizaria is my country and I was hoping to spend the rest of my life here… with Dathan.”

“I’ve heard about that. He loved you when you were children. There are records of him saying that his bride would be the prophecy girl. A daughter of two worlds.” The queen raised her chin. “But he never made it to the throne and you never made it to him.” She laughed at the tears springing into Blair’s eyes. “What is it, dear? Is it all too much suddenly? Have you lost your heart after you have killed so many to get to me?”

Blair shook her head. “I have to say I’m a little disappointed.”

“And why is that?”

“Well, knowing your lineage and actually being a victim of your ancestor, Cassius, I did have higher expectations.”

The banging on the door echoed in the silence. The guards were trying, but they couldn’t open any of the doors.

“I’m sorry to have disappointed. But, then again, I did expect someone different to you. From a young age, I was taught to be fearful of the monster to come. They knew you would wake up.”

Blair swallowed. What was she going to do now? She was exhausted, aching all over and covered in blood, literally and metaphorically. The queen was maybe in a little better shape, but not by much.

“Can I tell you something? I don’t think I could ever go back to my old life. I’m doing things here in Alizaria that I could never have imagined doing back home.” She laughed at herself. “Not that I never loved my parents or the childhood they gave me, but could anyone blame me for not wanting to go back to that life when I could be leading armies and ruling as queen?”

The queen lowered her head as she listened.

“When I remembered Dathan for the first time, it was like an electric shock. I think I loved him when I was little, but I forgot and it was only through our letters that I knew again.”

“Will you please stop it?”

“What?”

The queen raised a dagger and stepped forward, balancing on the balls of her feet.

“Let me return the query to you, Nisha. Why have you given up on your country?”

The queen stood in front of Blair, pressing the blade against Blair’s chest. The fabric of the tunic broke and it started to pierce the thin skin above her breast. Blair let her be.

“It took everything from me,” Nisha answered.

The doors burst open suddenly.

Blair directed her magic to Nisha and made her explode.

Blair closed her eyes, unable to watch, and avoiding gore landing in her eyes. Warm blood covered her and slipped down the neckline of her tunic in thick dribbles. She shivered.

Opening her eyes, Blair saw the strange marks across the walls made from blood and scraps of flesh. It was like a rippling effect, the majority of blood was where Blair was standing and where Nisha once did, beyond that was chunks of skin and muscles, this thinned to only minute splatters at the furthest reaches of the room.

A couple of drops touched the first soldier in the door.

The soldiers had shoved the suddenly compliant doors open just in time to see their leader die.

Blair turned to them now.

They stepped back from the dripping, blood-red faced Blair. This was not meant to be. The queen and her advisor had ordered them to remain outside and only to enter when needed. Their queen had been insistent that she be the one to kill the witch, even as the advisor had told her how foolish it would be. She had gone in anyway.

Blair lifted a hand and tried to wipe some of the blood from her face, but it only smeared with the rest. She didn’t bother trying to wipe her hands on her clothes.

Roy wandered forward, not bothering to look down and make sure he didn’t step onto bits and pieces of the late queen. “Very well done, my dear.”

She glared at him. “You were no use. Couldn’t you have warned me when she came up behind me?”

“That would’ve defeated the purpose of my attending this spectacle.”

“And just what was your purpose?” She paused for a second. What was ever his purpose? To that day, she still had no idea what he was collecting magical power for when he attempted to steal the sword in her early days in Alizaria. “Actually, we can talk about that later. I really need a bath.”

Roy leaned in close to her and whispered mockingly into her ear. “Well, I would normally agree but, seeing as the audience that has gathered looks more likely to kill us than applaud, I think we should run instead.”

Blair looked back at the soldiers. They were slowly making their way into the room and losing their shocked faces. One voice rose high above the mumbles. “The queen is dead. The witch killed her. Kill the witch. Kill her now. There will be a reward for whoever brings back her head.”

Soon the crowd was filled with similar yells.

Blair stepped backwards. Killing Nisha and Colin had taken a lot of her energy. She dared not think about what this made her; murderer. The word flashed into her head on its own. Just the same as Roy-Samuel, blood becomes you, my dear.

She shook her head.

Surviving the mob and getting out without killing anyone else was going to be almost too much.

Maybe I should just let them take me. At least now the rebels have a chance of taking back the country. There would be no one to mourn me; everyone I love has already died.

Even if she knew that sounded completely self-pitying, she still continued to think that maybe it would be for the best. After all, she had committed a crime. No matter how she tried to portray it, she had murdered people; it didn’t matter if they had been cruel people or that she was doing a community service. Blair Fitzpatrick was a murderer.

Her soul would forever carry the stain of blood. She felt the weight settling onto her already.

Roy grabbed her arm and started to pull her backwards towards the throne. They slipped and fell into the pool of blood.

The bullets whizzed overhead.

Blair came back into her body and realised the crowd was firing at them, shouting out profanities and jeering at each other. This was becoming a sport.

One brave soldier ran towards them, sword raised. Roy scrambled back and started towards the throne. Blair only stared at the raised blade till it came swooping down to her.

She rolled to the side.

Yes, she felt guilty, but not enough to lie there and die.

The sword made contact with the bloody floor.

She fell back as he swung again, flicking up blood as they moved. She used the heel of her boot to send him tumbling backwards.

Now others were coming to her, and threatened to surround her completely and kill her. She looked behind her and saw Roy quickly shoving a curtain out of the way and opening a secret door.

She ran.

Again Roy led the way, twisting and winding through corridors. Only this time he took the servants’ way down and out through the kitchens.

The palace was so large that many hadn’t heard about the assassination, and had continued on with their daily work. However, when they saw the blood-soaked girl chasing after the blood- smeared old man, they stopped and stared in disbelief.

Soldiers followed close behind. They kept on tripping over as each one tried to move to the front of the line down the narrow hall, just so they could be the first to Blair and have the glory in killing her. They were no longer listening to any orders.

The blood was drying in the heat of the day like a second skin over her body. It started to crack as she moved.

There was no way of disappearing into a crowd once they broke free of the palace and entered the city; they stood out too much. But, unlike the servants, the crowds joined the soldiers in their chase. They listened to the cries of the soldiers and wanted to try as well.

Children tried to trip them, women hurled food at them, and a few men stepped forward and attempted to grab Blair.

She struggled when one caught her around the waist and lifted her off the ground. She kicked and screamed and wriggled. “Let me go!”

Even though she was so tired, her stomach ached from stitches, her legs wanted to give out and the use of her healing magic was draining, she summoned another burst of magic.

This was going to be a powerful spell and could very well knock her unconscious. She pulsed out her tiredness in a sleeping spell. It would be nothing like the one the wizards placed on her; instead, it would make the people surrounding them very sleepy and they would just lay their heads on tables or curl up on the street and go to sleep for a little while.

She fought back the blackout. No.

The man let her go and collapsed on the ground; he was too close to the initial blast to fall asleep gently. He blacked out. All around her, Blair saw them do as she wanted. The soldiers stopped in their pursuit and curled up on the ground next to each other and slept.

She stumbled over the collapsed bodies and started to run again, catching up with Roy, who had stopped and watched them fall. He had moved far enough ahead that the spell had no effect upon him, or the other city people ahead.

But this time the people drew back from them and allowed them through.

Roy led them to the gates leading in and out of the city. Once the keepers saw them, they began to close the gates. Blair pushed hard but they were too late.

They backed back from the gates and took off down an alleyway, now with the gate guards on their tail. “Where now?” Blair screamed at Roy.

For an old guy, he was going quite well; red in the face and bathed in sweat, he still kept ahead of Blair. “I don’t know any other way.”

Blair tried to remember where Lucy had led her when she had first tried to kill Roy after the second time he tried to kill her. It had been near the wall as well. Please remember.

She blinked. As she opened her eyes, the air sizzled with colour. She stumbled in shock. A mist of blue filled the air ahead of them, but turned at the next intersection.

She didn’t question how it had happened. She only screamed to Roy to follow her and took the lead.

Around the many twists and turns they became lost, and so did the guards. They could hear them shouting out to each other and asking where the old man and little girl had gone, or what the hell had happened at the palace.

Blair brought them to the old building and took the steps inside and down to the secret passage out. She hated to be showing this to Roy, but what other choice did she have?

“Where are we, Blair? Have you gotten us lost?”

She turned around, shaking her head. The colour in the air disappeared, and everything went back to normal again. “This,” she shoved aside the rubbish and pushed into the entrance, “is a secret passageway. The same one Lucy and I used… back then. Just shut up and follow me.”

They stepped into the darkness.

~

News reached far out into Alizaria. The queen was dead. Blair Fitzpatrick was the killer. The legend of the sleeping girl who had had an amazing adventure long ago and now has woken was retold to children, at the pub, in passing on the street. The rumour was true; she would wake when they needed her again.

 

Chapter Nine: Rebels

The elders looked at Blair carefully. She tried to slip into their heads to hear what they silently said to each other, but couldn’t. They knew she was trying.

She looked to the ceiling. How far underground were they? Her skin crawled. It felt too much like a tomb, and it would become one if the roof caved in. She felt her knees bend and feet shift; her body wanted to get out and into the open world.

Roy lounged on a chair, trying to look like he didn’t care and failing. His face showed the excitement of the past couple of days and for what was to come. The assassination had been the first time Roy had been out and doing something for the cause.

He misses that sort of thing.

It had taken them three days of running and hiding to make it back to the rebels’ safe house. They were careful not to be followed. Even then the rebels were on high alert, ready for an attack.

Along the way people helped them. They were fed, and given clean clothes and hiding places.

The legend was spreading which made Blair feel exhilarated, on top of the anxiety she felt knowing that soldiers increased in numbers, and attacks became more frequent and violent.

Yet people fought back.

And more people died.

“I would like to help in any way I can,” Blair finally told the elders; she was tired of standing still while they said nothing.

“This requires great deliberation,” one elder responded.

Don’t roll your eyes, don’t roll your eyes, don’t roll your eyes.

“Will the consequences of my actions be taken into consideration, or just the actions themselves?”

“Explain that.”

“Well, the consequence of running away and killing the queen and her advisor has been the… what?”

“Yes. Those consequences have been taken into our deliberation, along with your talents and lack of respect and inability to follow simple instructions.”

“I was given no orders.”

“That, in itself, is an instruction. When you are told nothing, then you do nothing.” All five elders nodded in agreement. “We have no place for rogue volunteers. Each step that we make together brings us closer to taking back the country, but every time someone like you thinks and acts without instruction, we are thrown backwards.”

Blair gritted her teeth. “I did what had to be done, and I gave everyone hope.”

The elders looked away from her again and silently talked. One tilted his head to the side, but soon moved it back to mimic the others.

Roy coughed loudly and stood up. “Gentlemen, I don’t think we are considering this in the correct light. Now that the queen is gone, the government is left in a shambles. They need someone to reassure the people. This is the perfect time to rise up. People are looking to the rebels now for stability, and they will fight if we give them the instruction.” He paused for effect. “But we also need someone to be the face of the rebels, someone who has proven themselves and has been imbedded in our history for… heroic acts.”

Blair now rolled her eyes. He over-sold it.

“That,” the elder pointed at her, catching her in the act. “That is the reason we don’t have a place for you in our organisation.”

“Why, because I have a brain and I use it?”

“That is debatable,” Roy murmured. She sent him a glare.

“We don’t know what you will do next or if you might even turn on us. You have too much power.” All five laid their hands on the table and said nothing else.

Through clenched teeth, Blair let out a strangled scream, stamped her foot, and stormed out of the room. She used her magic to slam the door behind her. The sound reverberated down the hall heard by everyone.

She had to get out.

At the entrance to the surface, the guards stopped her. “Sorry, Miss Blair. No one goes out without the elders’ permission.”

“That is all well and good for you rebels, but I am not one of you. The elders have made that clear to me. Therefore, they have no rights to detain me.” She side-stepped the guard.

He moved in front and placed a hand on her shoulder. “No one is allowed. This is for the safety of all of us.”

Leslie came down from the top and saw the anger on Blair’s face just as the guard touched her. “Aidan, it’s okay. Let Blair through.”

“Are you sure?”

She nodded. “I need to speak to her above ground.” She turned around, knowing that Aidan would do as she asked.

Blair didn’t look at him as she passed.

~

Leslie leaned against the tree, her arms folded, and just listened as Blair fidgeted and paced back and forth.

“Why won’t the elders change their minds?”

Leslie finally spoke. “There is the prophecy, of course. One day you will be queen, and they don’t know if you can be trusted.”

Blair scrubbed at her face with her hands before allowing her head to fall back, and she growled at the leaves above. “But how can I trust them?”

Leslie remained silent.

“Honestly, how can anyone trust the elders? They have done something to themselves to make them into this… united thing in their heads. They have mutilated themselves.”

“That is something that we will never know about.”

“Why do you trust them?”

Leslie shrugged. When Blair was not satisfied with the vague response, she sighed. “I don’t. But they are the only ones in Alizaria who I could depend upon. They took Herrick and I in.”

Blair considered for a second. “I just wish that I could do something more. I thought that by eliminating Nisha I could prove my loyalty to the cause and that I wanted to help.”

They stood in silence, each in their own thoughts.

Leslie took a deep breath. “Tomorrow there is a small group of us going to join an ambush.” She flicked her eyes to the side. “It would be nice to have someone see us off.”

Blair began to frown then stopped and started to laugh a little. “Thank you.”

“If you can show that you listen to me…”

“I am then trust worthy.” Blair rolled her shoulders. “Why do you trust me?”

“I won’t say that you remind me of myself when I was younger, because I never had that determination.”

“But I’ve never done anything to show you I am worthy.” Damn, that sounded rather lame.

Leslie changed the course of the conversation with a strange question. “You trust me, right?”

“Yes.” In all truth she did. She had something Blair and everyone else lacked – an ability to see all sides and act reasonably and intelligently.

“Well I’m hoping that if I give you the chance you need you will make it better for my Herrick.”

~

Jade nodded to the guards as they passed through, saying a happy hello to Aidan in particular. Blair followed closely behind. She murmured, “Morning”.

“Not a morning person, Miss Blair?” Aidan’s companion asked with a little smile.

She shook her head. “It’s always too bright in the morning.”

They laughed and didn’t stop her from surfacing. She let go of the breath she had been holding, surprised to find that she had been.

Leslie waved to them, Jade tugging on her sleeve.

Blair shook her head to clear it and moved towards Leslie and the other seven people. A couple looked at her strangely. What is she coming for? Are we going to be needed now? The questions were whispered but Blair heard them clearly.

As did Leslie. “Blair is joining us on the journey.” That was her only comment on the subject. She launched into the travel details and what was to be expected once they arrived.

Blair fell into line behind Jade, the third from the end. It was going to be a long hike; her heels could sense it.

~

The silence of the trip was killing Blair; not the blisters or the speed they moved at, but the silence. She understood perfectly that they had to not speak or even hum.

So she was left alone inside of her head. Thinking was not the best thing for her to be doing right then. Every time she wandered down the path to Nisha, Colin, or Declan, she could feel the guilt bubbling inside of her. Moving away from that towards a different path, she would find herself facing Lucy or Dathan and their past. Nope, that was another thing she couldn’t deal with just yet.

One tear fell free.

She blinked hard.

Roy-Samuel…that was a path she could wander down and, in fact, she should be thinking about him. He was too interested in seeing her accepted by the elders. What did he want to use her for? Could anything he was doing now connect to his old plans one thousand years ago with the sword?

Blair frowned. What had made that noise!? She looked up and around, taking in the surrounding trees. No, it wasn’t so much a noise; it was more like a feeling of noise. Where was it coming from?

Up ahead, someone screamed and dropped to the ground.

Blair stepped backwards blindly, without thought. A bullet flew by her face and buried itself in the tree, kicking out bark.

“Take cover!” Leslie yelled.

Blair ducked behind the injured tree. Shots filled the air, along with another couple of screams and sounds of thudding bodies. She looked about and saw two on the ground.

Everyone else had drawn their weapons and were returning fire. Blair was the only one empty-handed.

She concentrated hard on the space where the shots had come from, but couldn’t see anything. They were firing into nothing. She pulled her magic out and searched for the bullet in the tree.

Jade yelled something.

The bullet pulled free, she sent it hurtling back the way it had come. It hit one of the shooters. Screams and curses filled the space.

“Blair.” Leslie was beside Jade, reloading her gun. “Cover us.”

She nodded and created a big bubble all the way around the huddling rebels. The bullets bounced of the outside and went back into the attackers’ midst. Leslie stepped out from behind the tree and ran to one of the wounded back on their track. Jade followed a step behind.

The others watched. What were they doing? They ducked their heads at the sound of shots but, when neither Leslie nor Jade was hit and the shot didn’t bury itself in a tree, they began to creep forward.

One rebel boy looked back at Blair.

They carried the other two wounded to the first.

By then the shots had stopped. The attackers had figured out that nothing was getting through. They charged forward. Jade panicked and fired into the face of a soldier.

Blair took a breath and sent the soldiers back, slamming them into the trees.

This time every rebel looked at her. There was no mistaking the source of the power now.

~

They made it to the gathering of other rebels making their way to the planned ambush. The wounded were rushed to a doctor.

Blair stuck close to Jade and Leslie.

No one seemed to really care that she was there. Some sat silently waiting for the orders, and others were talking quietly with each other about anything other than the ambush. All of them looked like hell.

Everyone knew Leslie; they called out to her, faces broke into smiles, and people relaxed.

~

Leslie led Jade and Blair to a table in the middle of the gathering. It was a little strange for them to be out in the open, like someone had forgotten that there were no walls. It was a nice change to be able to access easily the people making the decisions and organising the event.

They looked up as the three approached. Leslie introduced Blair.

They stopped talking and stared at her.

She shuffled her feet and awkwardly waved her hand in a hello. “Just tell me what to do.”

~

The ambush was another two kilometres away on the train track. The rebels were going to stop the next train, which was carrying food out to the soldiers in Marchland. That food was going to be handed out to the people.

It was dangerous and a little exciting, and most were dreading it. Apparently this wasn’t their first attempt.

Silently they moved into position alongside the tracks. The train chugged along, unaware of what lay waiting

Someone counted; three, two, one.

The track exploded.

Another person started to count; one, two, three.

The train rushed onto the destroyed track and came off. The wheels squealed but it was too late; the engine tipped and took the other carriages with it in a massive crash.

The rebels surged forward. Blair stayed where she was, like she had been told.

The train guards were injured. Rebels pulled them and the driver out and to the doctor while the carriages were looted. Carts were backed up to the wreck and loaded high with sacks of food.

Quickly they tore away, headed to safe houses, carrying some rebels with them.

Leslie and Jade came running back towards Blair, waving at her to hurry up. She followed them. “Why are we running like this? Why didn’t we just hop onto one of those nice carts?”

“Because the soldiers will be arriving and if we head this way, hopefully we will run into them. Duh.” Jade puffed. Then in a different tone she added, “You will be needed for this next part, little witch.”

Blair could feel her magic wriggling around, ready to be used.

Sure enough, the small group came running up on the soldiers. They first stared at the blatant attack and then raised their guns. But their bullets stopped in the air and fell to the earth.

Blair smirked.

The rebels were good at hand-to-hand combat and took the soldiers head-on.

Blair snatched the sword from a fallen soldier and swung it round, slicing into the nearest soldier. She moved through the crowd, fighting and killing as she went. Lost in the thrill, she laughed and grinned.

Jade spun around, setting the soldiers a-light. Blair leapt back and sent a blast of ice-cold wind down Jade’s neck.

She shrugged in return.

~

Afterward Blair felt the weight of tiredness. All she wanted to do was go back home… she rolled her eyes at herself. She was now thinking of that safe house as home? What next? Were the elders to be doting grandfathers?

Now it took longer to get back. Everyone was exhausted, and they had to be extra careful by doubling back and going in crazy directions. They were not followed.

When they arrived back at the safe house, Roy was above-ground, smoking a cigarette. It shocked Blair a little; she never knew he smoked. When he spotted them, he dropped it and ground it under his heel.

Blair stumbled to a stop in front of him. His face… thunder passed over it, but he didn’t speak to her.

Roy turned to Leslie. “The elders want to see you both this instant. You really fucked up this time.” Then he looked at Blair, shaking his head and saying nothing.

She felt some shame. But why? Why should she want to make him proud? Had she completely forgotten the sword and the attempted murder? She straightened her back and walked by him, and followed Leslie down into the earth.

~

The speaking elder screamed at them, “What did you think you were doing? We gave no authorisation for Blair to leave. This is the very reason we do not trust you Blair; you are unpredictable and ignorant! Leslie, we did trust you. Why did you do this?”

Both Leslie and Blair stood silent, knowing that the questions were rhetorical and, if they tried to defend their actions, it would be worse.

The elders fell silent.

~

Blair leaned against the wall in the hall, her shoulders drooped and her head ached. There was a tightness squeezing her brain over the top of her eyes. She looked up at the ceiling. All she wanted was to see the sky. The air was stale inside.

Leslie sighed heavily. “That was not ideal.”

“You’re shitting me, right? That was fucking horrible.” She tugged at the ends of her hair and struggled not to yell. “They are banishing me to the valley just to keep me out of the way, so I don’t fuck up their special plan. Fuck.”

Leslie watched Blair, and Blair watched her, guessing what was going through Leslie’s head. Was she on the wrong side? Blair was little more than a kid; maybe the pressure was too much for her. Even if she won this war and took the throne, could she handle it?

Blair took a deep breath and straightened her shoulders. She pushed away from the wall and started to walk. When Leslie stayed where she was, Blair stopped. “Les?”

“Hmmm. What are you doing, Blair?”

“I’m going to pack what little I have and go.”

“Go where?” Leslie swallowed hard. Was she leaving them to fight for themselves?

Blair looked at her funny. “The valley.”

One heartbeat later and Leslie made a promise. “I’m going with you. Jade and I will follow you to the valley.”

“What? Why?”

“Because,” she started to walk, “in all honesty, those old men know nothing… And it would be what my husband would’ve done,” she added. She overtook Blair and headed to the school room.

Blair stared after the crazy woman.

Why? Leslie has Herrick to look after and Jade doesn’t even like me. So why would they leave the safe house and go to the valley? She thought to herself.

It sounded so sinister, the valley. It was like the farm or the cabin in a horror film. Why not just say the creepy murder place? The only thing the elders had said about the place was that it was far out of the way. What did they do there?

Roy walked out of a door just down the hall; he looked both ways before moving forward. He stopped in front of her. “So, it seems we are travelling together again.”

Blair groaned.

Chapter Ten: Valley

I’ve been this way before. Maybe. She spun around in the middle of the path, interrupting the others. They moved around her and stopped just a couple of steps away. “What are you doing, Blair?” Leslie asked.

She waited for the memory to come through better.

Warm sun scattered through leaves. The smell of the earth because it had just rained and the dirt was sticking to her shoes, making her another couple of inches taller. They had walked the other way, heading back to the gate. That time it had only been Blair, Lucy, and Brodie.

No travel instructions.

“Sorry. I think I’ve been down this way before…well, heading the other way.” She looked back down the way they had come. It was different, the path cut off at a funny angle and the trees were thicker. Could people really still be using a thousand-year-old path? The closer she looked at the ground, the more she saw life. Wild grasses and flowers, bugs and droppings from animals. But no trees had taken root.

Maybe the ground was too compacted from thousands of feet beating down on it. Or maybe… this had been kept clear.

She shook her head and started to walk again, falling in behind Jade.

That would imply that someone was looking out for her, but it was a stupid idea. Why keep a path like that just for the chance she would follow? There was only one name she thought of when she realised and started speculating.

Lucy.

She was an angel again; maybe she had been giving Blair a hand. She lost the last bit of hope. It wasn’t likely. Blair was on her own in Alizaria. Nothing was watching over her. She had no guardian angel.

But you still don’t know why or how you woke up. Or who left the footprints.

Her feet slapped the ground in a harsh shuffle. She was getting tired.

The others showed no sign of slowing down.

Lucky, she muttered inside her head.

~

The sun was still high; she had no idea how much time had passed. Nothing was registering inside her head except for the heat.

The heat was old and familiar, the sort that arrived before a summer storm. It made her sleepy and stupid. She felt her eyelids drooping.

Was it possible for her brain to be turning into a melted mess that would leak out through her ears, nose, and eyes? The headache she’d had for the last couple of days stayed only as a dull throb.

Slowly, she blinked. The next time she opened her eyes, the path was gone.

Blair was staring up at the sky, interrupted by trees reaching to embrace each other over the top of her. The sky was covered in layers of grey that shifted and blended and parted.

Under her back was thick grass. The blades pressed sharp against her bare shoulders and calves. Her back itched as the grass poked through her shirt to the untouched skin.

She sat up and looked down.

“What am I wearing?” The strapless red polka-dot dress hugged her boobs tight, the skirt flared out like an old fifties’ dress over her knees. Her feet were bare.

“There you are,” a voice called out from behind her. The grass crunched under footsteps.

She turned around and looked at Lucy. She was wearing a pure white strapless dress with a balloon skirt well above her knees.

Blair felt her eyes bulge out. “Where am I?” She looked beyond Lucy and saw the back veranda of her house. She turned the other way and saw the gate. The trees and bushes that had been allowed to grow wild and hide the gate were gone. The gate now stood proudly in the open.

“When did Dad do that?”

Lucy dropped down on the grass beside Blair, her long legs arranging themselves to be left straight out with one ankle crossing over the other. She had on a pair of thongs. Actually they were Blair’s old pair.

“What’s going on, Lucy?”

Lucy lifted her shoulder and then let it drop.

“Where are you, then? I tried to find you, but… well…. I don’t know. I couldn’t.”

“You know this is the first time I could get to you, Blair. You need to rest more.”

“I rest plenty, Mother.” Blair stressed the final word.

“You need to sleep.”

“I can’t.”

“Then you’re going to burn out.” Lucy lowered herself back on her elbows and tilted her chin up.

Blair lay back down again. “I’m never going to see you again.”

“Only in your dreams.” She turned her smile to Blair. “But no.”

They were silent, just staring up at the gathering storm. Blair felt the usual excitement. “I’ve always loved storms, even before everything.”

Lucy lay fully on her back and she kicked off the thongs and lifted her legs so she made a right angle with her body. Blair bent her knees and rested her heels close to her bottom. The skirt pooled over her stomach.

“What is Roy up to?” Lucy asked.

“I’m not sure. He’s way too nice to me and everyone else.”

“He has a plan.”

“What was he trying to do the last time, when he stole the sword?” Blair asked.

“We don’t know.”

Blair licked her lips and swallowed hard. “I’m not really sure what to do. I do want to be queen and make things better.”

“And having access to all those shoes and all the chocolate you like has nothing to do with it?” There was a laugh in Lucy’s voice.

“Nothing,” she returned the same laugh and placed her hand over heart to swear it. “But how do I do that? Make things better, I mean. It isn’t like I can wave a magic wand and the world is healed, the people fed and happy, and the invaders on the other side of the borders.”

“Work and patience and good people.”

“Like Leslie.” She savoured the thought for a moment. “She would make a good leader.” Blair didn’t use the word ‘queen’, which had other meanings to it. Leaders were strong and took the best path for the people. They cared.

“What happened to Nisha?” Blair asked.

“Well, you should know; you were the one to make her explode.”

“So I am the same as Roy. I’ve murdered.”

“In a way.”

“Come on.”

Lucy sighed. “Yes. You have done the same thing he did and used your spirit to kill.”

“What will happen to me, then? Will you take my magic and get rid of my tainted soul?” The words tasted bitter, the anger rising up.

Lucy didn’t answer.

“Well? I am, after all, just like Roy, and I have blood on my hands and soul. Or because you and I are… were friends and you don’t want me hating you, you won’t say.” Hot tears ran out from the corners of her eyes and wet her hairline. She lifted a hand to rub at them. “Why did you leave me there?”

The cold of the tomb was still in her body. She may feel the sun on her skin and sweat from the heat of a fire but the cold pushed the heat back, constantly making itself known.

When Lucy stayed silent, Blair turned her head.

Lucy had a smile on her face as she reached a hand out to the clouds. “Dathan says hello.”

~

Blair stumbled and came back into her head with a jolt. The headache renewed its efforts to destroy her brain.

Leslie lead the way, then Roy, followed by Jade, and Blair left alone at the back of the line. No one had noticed her spacing out.

She looked down at her feet and started to count the steps; one, two, three, four, five… twenty-six.

Leslie gasped. Roy swore and Jade stopped suddenly, Blair crashing into her back.

Blair looked up. “Is that the valley?”

No one answered her.

The valley was an empty clearing, charred remains of buildings and a group of soldiers adding to a pile and dousing it. Blair looked away as they set it afire. The soldiers left, their voices and laughter just noticeable in the silence.

Leslie stood silent.

It was all too much for Jade, who dropped to her knees and started to cry. “There are too few of us and too many of them. There’s nothing else to be done!” Jade started to scream.

The soldiers never heard; they disappeared from sight.

Blair stared over the empty valley at the mountain. “Isn’t that Nessebit?”

Roy coughed uncomfortably. “Uh, yes.”

“Is the sword still there?”

“Oh, don’t be stupid,” Jade snapped.

Her brow furrowed. One thousand years had passed, but that didn’t mean no one would remember what happened. “What happened to it?”

“No one has ever seen the sword. It’s a stupid myth!” Jade resumed screaming.

“Not since you, Blair.” Leslie was watching her carefully.

Blair tilted her head to the side. She knew which memory she wanted, but couldn’t concentrate. Not with the screaming. “Shut up. Jesus, Jayden, get her to shut up.”

Roy looked sharply at Blair and then at Jade. His old eyes traced over the girl’s body and stopped to watch her face change. It smoothed out and her eyes did change colour. He knew she had Lord Drake blood in her, but what was this? He watched fascinated as Jade/Jayden talked to each other. Her face changed so rapidly; stern to crying and vice versa.

Blair couldn’t work out why he was so shocked and honestly she didn’t care. She looked to Leslie. “What do we do now? Do we have to tell someone what’s happened?”

“I’m not sure…” she was frowning at a strange thought. “But we have to get out of here, find some place for the night and then we can decide what to do.”

~

Leslie led them down into the valley. Jade sobbed, but kept most of it to herself. Roy looked about briefly then focused on the ground.

How could she hear it? Blair tried to calm her racing brain. How could she hear the screams? Girls and boys cried, adults begged, they all screamed.

The stench of burning flesh invaded her mouth and nose.

Her head ached; the throbbing became… something else. She started to cry.

“Blair?” Leslie turned around.

Blair had stopped; her feet planted on the black earth, and began to scream. The words were not her own. The fear, hatred, anger, despair, sadness filled her heart and begged her.

She breathed the smoke in deep and held it. Tilting back her chin, she opened her mouth and screamed, letting the smoke out in a plume to be carried away on the gust of wind.

Silence.

Blair collapsed to her hands and knees; she stared at the black just centimetres away from her nose, and cried. Her tears dropped into the black.

She felt empty.

~

“What’s wrong, Blair? Blair? Come on. Get up.”

Hands touched her back.

“We have to move. Please get up.”

“Leslie,” there was a pause, “what’s happening?”

“Jade, calm down and help me get Blair up.”

They tugged Blair up and slung her arms over their shoulders. Blair’s head slumped forward, chin buried in her chest.

“Seriously, Les, what is going on here? Why won’t she move?”

The air stirred. “What is that?”

“Leslie… can we hurry up?”

The gust of wind that had taken the smoke filled with screams and their fear howled through the valley and tore at the girls. Hair whipped into their faces.

Then it was gone.

~

As soon as they touched outside of the valley, Blair blinked and lifted her head. “What’s happening?”

Jade slipped out from under her arm and stared at Blair. “You went crazy out there in the valley.”

Blair looked at Leslie.

Leslie let Blair go and stood back. She watched Blair carefully. “What happened out there?”

She shook her head. “I don’t know… it just felt… umm… can we please keep moving? I don’t want to be near this valley anymore.”

~

Jade followed behind Blair now. It really irritated Blair how they didn’t think she could handle herself.

What had happed back there?

The dead were reaching out to you, the voice answered. Something magical had bound their souls to the valley, trapping them in the stale air. They had been screaming for days.

But I didn’t feel my magic.

They didn’t need it to be freed.

One last tear slipped down her cheek. No others followed.

~

“Where are we going, Les?”

Leslie turned her head and grinned at the following three. “I’m taking you to my home town.”

Blair was shocked. First, Leslie had actually given a real smile and, secondly, she had used the word ‘home’. Blair could hear the warmth and longing for the place in her voice.

It stung.

Leslie could return home at any time. She wasn’t alone; she had her son and brother-in-law, and she just knew what she was going to do next.

So unlike Blair.

They slowed down. She started to ask what was wrong, but stopped when Leslie lifted her hand to signal her to shut up.

Leslie crept forward, keeping close to the edge of the path. The path disappeared, and they had to dodge trees and shove aside bushes.

They came to the edge of the village and peered through the leaves.

Leslie smiled.

“What are we doing?” Blair whispered.

“We can’t be seen. This place was taken by the adversaries soon after I left. I know they use this place as a base.”

“Then what are we going to do here?” She watched Leslie’s eyes. “Do you want to start a fight? With the soldiers, I mean.”

Leslie shook her head. “Over on the other side was where Herrick and I lived. Before leaving, I hid some things; we could use them now.” Without telling them to follow, she stood and started to walk around the village, staying hidden in the trees.

Soldiers walked the perimeter. But they were too busy talking to each other to be paying close enough attention to the creeping humans. Blair guessed that no one had tried to attack in a long time.

The more she thought about the valley being so close to this village, the more she wondered why. How did they stay secret for so long? Or was the valley something different, not a rebel base as she had first thought it to be?

Then why would the elders send me this way?

They didn’t trust her and wanted her gone, out of the way. Did they send her… to the enemy?

They came round to a small house, the last one on the very outer edge of the village. Blair tapped Jade on the arm. “What was the valley exactly?” she whispered. “What kind of rebels were there?”

Jade shook her head. “No rebels. It was a place for everyday people to live and work.”

They had banished her to the one place she would be found by the soldiers quickly and taken away to be dealt with by the enemy. Her anger flared.

Leslie motioned for them to stay. She ducked out from the cover of the trees and walked quickly across the gap to the side of the house. She then disappeared from their sight.

Roy turned to the girls and smiled. “Well…”

Blair gave him a look and he shut up before he even started.

They waited patiently. Leslie came back around the corner of the last house, a bag slung over her shoulders. She made a quick dash back to the others.

Her eyes were shiny. “What?” Blair touched her arm.

Leslie pulled back. “Most of the soldiers are in the centre of the village. Celebrating. They… they have… a head on a stick.” She shook her head. “It’s disgusting in there, but I don’t think anyone is going to notice us.”

Roy coughed. “That may be so, but I think we should definitely get as far away from this place as possible…just in case they have four extra sticks they want to decorate.” He stood quickly and motioned for them to hurry up.

Jade scurried ahead of him.

Blair and Leslie followed after.

“Are you alright?”

Leslie nodded; she swiped a hand under her eyes and quietly sobbed. “I just didn’t expect it.” She lifted the bag higher on her shoulders. “We really do need to get away from here. Far, far away, before we stop for the night.”

“What is in the bag?”

“Provisions. I had a funny thought before I joined the rebels; I thought I would be back here and would need a blanket.”

“No food?”

“No, just warm clothes and blankets and a few family things.”

“Why didn’t you just take the family things with you originally?”

She shrugged. “I didn’t want to risk losing them… it was a silly thing.”

Blair was silent for a bit. There was something else in that bag, something she wasn’t sharing. “Well… where are we going to stop? The sun will be setting in an hour or two.”

“We should keep heading towards the river.”

Blair fell in behind Leslie.

~

“Wait.” Blair stood in front of the cliff face in complete amazement. Could it really be?

The other three came back and looked up at the cliff. “We are not going to climb that, Blair,” Jade flicked her hair over her shoulder. “No way. It’s getting late and I’m tired. Let’s keep going a little further.”

“No, I think I’ve been to this place before.” She took a deep breath. Please work and don’t make me look like an idiot. “Open sesame.”

The cliff stayed still.

Roy chuckled. “Well, Aladdin… I don’t think that was the right password.”

Blair felt her cheeks heat up and her spirits crash back down to earth. Maybe this was the wrong place, or too much time had passed for it to work.

She fell in behind Leslie again and stayed quiet.

~

They stayed close to the cliff and found a quiet place carved into the stone surrounded by trees. A veil of vines fell over the opening. When they pushed it aside, it was clear that the cave had been used once, but long ago.

Blair stayed close to the entrance. She took an offered blanket, wrapped it around herself, and leaned against the wall. The others made beds further in and went to sleep instantly. Everyone was tired; they felt that it was safe enough for them all to sleep at once.

She closed her eyes and dozed.

The sound of Roy snoring woke Blair. She gasped and blinked at the darkness. “What… oh.” She smiled and laughed inside so as not to wake anyone. The snoring was coming from both Roy and Jade.

She tilted her head to the side; Roy was sleeping close to Jade.

She shook the idea from her mind that was too gross to consider. “Think of something else,” she commanded herself.

The cliff popped up. When she had first come to Alizaria, the rebels had taken her to the cove on the other side of a cliff face just by saying a magic password and walking through the opened cliff. She was disappointed that it hadn’t worked this time.

She tilted her head back so her skull felt the cold of the stone. The cold there spoke to the one inside of her and made her shiver.

A fire would have been nice… maybe not. After the valley, she didn’t want to smell smoke again. Her hair was stained with the smell. She shoved it back from her face roughly.

Her hand smacked into the wall and scratched back some skin. She winced then forgot it all. One word jumped into her head, completely unrelated.

“Dragons.”

 

Chapter Eleven: Luce

Blair hated to sleep. She’d spent too long unconscious and not existing. Throughout the days, Blair would nap, snatching at sleep but always pulling back before she fell.

She waited another hour till she was sure that it would be dark enough outside and that no one would wake.

She had no plan. Blair slipped from the others and started to walk to Mount Nessebit.

The problem, however, was that nothing looked the same.

How would she find the cave once she got there?

She closed her eyes, squatted, and touched her open palms to the earth. She forced her magic into the ground and shared her memories. The earth pushed back into her, filling her with calm. The taste of dirt settled heavily inside her mouth.

Blair opened her eyes and smiled. The stones glowed in pale blues, greens, oranges, violets, and yellows along her way.

She hurried along. Their glow wouldn’t last in the sun.

If she was right, then the sword should still be there and they could end the invasion quickly. She smiled. Of course, there would be the issue of who withdraws the sword and uses it, and keeping Roy away from it. But they would deal with that when the time came. Right then, she had to reassure herself.

She had been walking for a while, following the glowing stones. The crescent moon was high in the sky; soon it would be slipping towards the horizon, being chased after by the sun.

The darkness felt nice around her; it agreed with her thoughts and encouraged her to follow. But it also hid the source of the noise behind.

She veered away from the glowing path quickly and ducked behind a tree. Seconds later she leapt at the follower.

“Blair, get off of me.”

“Les? What the fuck?”

They stared at each other in the dim light, not able to clearly make out what the other was thinking. Blair was the first to turn her face aside.

“Why are you following me? Are you babysitting?”

“No. I just wanted to know where you were going and to help if possible.”

“I thought everyone was asleep.”

“I’m a light sleeper, ever since Herrick was born. Everything wakes me up in the middle of the night.”

Blair stared at a blue glowing stone. “I don’t require help for this part. You can go back to the others.”

“What are you doing?” No response. “Blair, talk to me. We all need help sometimes, even when we are determined to do it on our own and be independent.”

“Is that what you tell your kid?”

“Yes.”

“You shouldn’t. People only help when it suits them and they are getting something back in return.”

“Then what do you get for helping the rebels?”

Blair bit her bottom lip hard; she nicked the skin and the taste of blood touched her tongue. How do you start to explain when you are so unsure yourself? “I feel I have to.”

“To atone?”

Blair didn’t answer. Was that what she was doing? Trying to make up for Declan, Colin, and Nisha? Could she do that and prove she was nothing like Roy? She coughed to hide her thoughts and countered with another question. “Will you laugh, and think I’m old and stupid if I’m wrong?”

“You’re going to find the sword.” It was a statement; she already knew absolutely what Blair was planning. “Then… no. Anyway, you look too young to be called old.”

“I’m old enough to be a cougar for every man alive today, from nineteen to ninety. Hell, I must be a sabre tooth tiger, I am that old.” She tried for a laugh.

“Shall we?” Leslie nodded to the path.

Blair hesitated. She had wanted to go on her own, but that wasn’t going to happen now. She sighed and started back on her path, now with Leslie falling into step beside her.

~

They climbed the side of the mountain in silence, concentrating on not slipping in the dim light and falling to their deaths. Blair could feel her heart beating faster and faster the closer they got. She twitched. Her fingers clenched the rocks with surprising strength. Deep breath. She smiled for no real reason.

Dawn slowly started to burst into day.

Leslie huffed and puffed. “How much further, Blair?”

She replied through clenched teeth, “Not far. It’s just another twenty metres or so.”

They crested the ledge and looked into the dark depths of the cave. The glowing stones outside had lost their glow in the sunlight; however, inside the darkness of the cave they pulsed brightly.

Leslie started towards the entrance. Blair snatched at her hand and jerked her backwards. “Wait. You can’t just go walking in there.” She licked her dry lips. She wished she had brought some water with her. “The mountain is protected by the guardians.”

“So… what now?”

“Umm.”

“Really?” She closed her eyes and shook her head. “You have got to be kidding me, Blair.”

“Look, I never said I had a plan, just a… well, an idea.” She scrunched up her face at the way it all sounded.

Blair took tentative steps towards the opening, stopping just outside of the darkness. Her toes touched the tip of it. Deep breath in, she opened her mouth. “Guardians.” She echoed into the dark. “Umm… please come forth.”

She turned her head to look at Leslie, who bit her lip and tried not to laugh. Blair glared at her.

The ground under their feet rocked as a guardian jumped into the opening. It rose tall, taking up the room of the darkness. Some light touched the carved face and cast it into deep-cut shadows.

Blair stood firm. “Guardian, I am an old friend.”

It stayed still, making no response.

“I am Blair Fitzpatrick; I returned the broken sword one thousand years ago.”

Leslie made a noise behind her. She didn’t turn to see if she was laughing or had tripped over the edge; right then Leslie didn’t matter.

“I need the sword.”

The Guardian nodded his head; the light fully touched its carved head and she could see the ravages of time clearly. The stone was worn; there were cracks and chunks missing from his face and shoulders.

She nodded her head in return. As she looked up, he stepped back into the shadows and the glowing stones were back in sight.

Now she turned back to Leslie. She held out her hand. “Come on.”

Leslie took it and followed Blair into the dark. “You feel so cold.”

“I know.”

~

They followed the stones deeper and deeper into the mountain. “I am always amazed that this is a dragon.”

Leslie snorted. “Do you really believe those fairy tales?”

“Of course. This is Alizaria; anything is possible.”

“Yes, but a sleeping dragon? The dragons have been mined and chipped away over time, and not once have they woken up to kill those doing it. And think about all of the natural things growing over them.”

“You seem to be awfully talkative.”

Leslie was self-consciously quiet for a moment. “I feel like I have to talk in here.”

“Are you afraid of the dark?”

“No… Just, this place is too cold and quiet.”

“That’s because it’s a sleeping dragon,” Blair smiled into the darkness. “But don’t worry, as long as we keep following the stones and don’t take any detours, we will be ok.”

“Have you thought about the stones disappearing?”

“What?”

“Look behind.”

Blair turned her head and saw that, two stones away, the darkness was back, the stones extinguished. She gasped and turned back to the lit path ahead. “Oh, shit.”

Leslie gripped her hand tighter. “It’s only in the cave; back outside they stayed glowing the entire time.”

“We… we’ll just deal with it… later.” Nothing came to mind as to how they would get out. The Guardians, maybe? Or should they be leaving bread crumbs to follow on the floor? She squeezed Leslie’s hand, thankful to have someone there with her even if there was a possibility they would become lost and die in there. At least for Blair, she had no one. Leslie had a family and people among the rebels who loved her.

Another lost life to be blamed on her.

She started to fill the silence with nonsense chatter as well, anything to stop thinking.

The last stone was in the round sword room. It went out as they stepped in, their journey completed.

Blair inhaled sharply.

The darkness and cold surrounded them and filled in the gaps, pushed into their open mouths and rode inside on a breath. The only warmth was from their joined hands.

“Blair?”

“I’m here, Leslie.”

They didn’t have to say it.

Blair exhaled and begged silently for some light. The glowing started again, but was different this time.

This time it came from close to the wall and was pure white. Blair took a step forward. Her arm stretched back to Leslie, who clung to her. “Blair? What is that?”

“I think I’m going crazy, because I think this light has been here since the last time I was here.”

I bent down and placed the crystal on the floor. With both hands, I gripped the hilt.

I slid the sword hilt into the crack. The memory played out clearly in her head. It had to be the same.

“Is that possible?”

Leslie didn’t answer, she slowly let Blair go. Blair walked across the room and bent down to pick up the crystal. She blew on it and it flared.

Please, please, please, please, please, please, please.

She turned to the crack in the wall, breath stuck in her throat. Hope. All of the hope inside her heart, what was left anyway, bubbled up in her chest. This was her silver lining.

Nothing.

The crack was there, but nothing protruded from it. She moved the crystal closer, just to make sure that the blade wasn’t broken inside again. Nothing.

~

Blair flinched away from Leslie. The stone was smooth under her hands and knees, the air freezing as she gulped it down her raw throat. Burning tears stained her cheeks and splattered to the floor.

She clenched her jaw.

The silence pressed down on her. Why wasn’t there an answer?

“Blair,” Leslie crouched beside her and rubbed her back, soothing her as if she were a small child having a tantrum. “It’s alright. Everything is alright.”

Blair sobbed.

How could she have been so wrong? The sword should be there; this was the room, and that was her crystal on the floor. Why wasn’t anything where it should be?

“Who is Lucy?”

Blair looked up at Leslie in shock. Hadn’t she told anyone about her? Roy knew… but no one else did. Would they think her crazy if she said her friend had been a fallen angel, drank blood like a vampire, and then ascended back to the heavens with the rest of the fallen?

She licked her dry lips. “Lucy is… was… a friend. She is an angel now.”

Leslie made no reply.

“She was the fallen angel I travelled with the first time, to return the sword.”

The hand was warm and the pressure firm and even as it rubbed in broad circles. The motions well practiced.

“I’m so sorry. God, I’m sorry to have come here.” Blair swiped at the escaping tears and tried to give a slight laugh to combat them. Now wasn’t the time.

“You scared me with the screaming.”

“Did you think I had finally gone insane?”

“A little.” Leslie wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her up first to her knees and then fully to stand. “I think we should get going now.”

“But what are we going to do?”

“Find the others.”

“No, I mean… with the valley destroyed, and the elders wanting me out of the way, and there being no sword. What are we going to do about all of that?”

Leslie continued rubbing Blair’s shoulder and sighed. “We’ll think of something. Perhaps we just have to play things out the way the elders want us to.”

Blair pulled away from her, the cold quickly claiming her shoulder and back. She frowned at Leslie. “Are you fucking dim? Has someone totally forgotten to change the light bulb in your head, or are you just slow to switch on?”

Leslie rolled her eyes. “Don’t be like this.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You’re acting exactly like the elders said you would. Blair, even though you have been alive for a thousand years, you’re still a child. Children should respect their elders and learn to listen and take criticism. You’re too emotional.”

A muscle above her right eye twitched. “Then what the hell are you doing following me?”

Leslie studied the floor with sudden interest.

“Well? Are you too afraid to admit you were wrong?”

“Oh… shut up, Blair!”

“No. Look at me and tell me that I’m a screw-up and so are you. You left a kid behind on his own, with strangers, to follow a different kid with delusions.”

Leslie lashed out at Blair, slapping her across the cheek. It echoed; the snap left Blair stumbling back, her skin reddening quickly. “Don’t you dare imply that I am a bad mother! Don’t you dare bring him into this!”

Blair looked at her. The cold moved into the hot cheek and stole the red heat. She felt nothing. She bent at the waist and picked up the crystal, blowing on it one more time so that it flared brightly. She threw it in the air for Leslie to catch. “I would really like you to leave now.”

“But… I don’t know the way out.”

She made the stones glow again. “Follow them and get… out… now.”

Leslie hesitated. “I’m not leaving you here.”

“Ha! Don’t you get it? I don’t want you in here anymore.”

“This isn’t your room; you can’t throw me out like some moody teenager.”

The still air swirled, lifting hair and slapping faces, billowing tunics.

“Stop it, Blair. You are just like Roy if you do that.”

She closed her eyes and drew her magic back inside herself. “Leave,” she whispered this time.

“I’m going.”

The light fled after Leslie, stones going out as she passed them. Blair heard her steps change from a slow measured pace to a jog and finally running. Then there was silence. She stood still in the dark, letting the cold talk to each other.

This was somehow comforting. She swallowed. How was it that she could always find the most repulsive places and situations the most attractive and… homely? She sank to the floor, curled onto her side, and wrapped her arms over her chest.

“Lucy?”

She closed her eyes to the dark.

~

“Blair? What happened?”

The sun glared down on them as they lay on the grass. She was back in her garden again, but this time, things were different. Blair stood and walked to the chair facing the gate. It was one from the dining room. Her mother would be pissed.

“Where are my parents?”

She wore her funeral gown again, but this time it was clean and perfect and crimson-red. It looked lovely. She looked down on the open face of Lucy, her golden curls spilling over the green grass. She wore something similar in a vibrant sky-blue.

“Why do we meet here? With that?” She pointed at the gate. “Is this meant to be a reminder? Or a taunt? And why is there a chair? Who sits in it?”

Lucy pushed herself up. “Blair, this place is only a… different dimension… of sorts. Don’t worry about that right now. What happened in the cave?”

She started to pace; the grass pricked at the soles of her feet. “The sword wasn’t there anymore. It was gone. Missing. Up and left with the other slut.”

She stopped herself from making the connection there. But Lucy wasn’t as kind. “Just like Dathan and me, I assume.”

“Shut up. I’m sick of people thinking they know what is going on inside my head. You all know nothing, because I feel nothing. All I want is to fight and for things to be normal.”

Lucy stood up; she stepped in front of Blair and forced her to stand still. “The sword is only for those in need.”

“Then what am I?”

“Think… you have gifts. Not just your magic; other things. You are able to move mountains.”

Blair shook her head violently. “This is stupid. Why can’t you just send me home? You’re an angel; you can do miracles.”

“Sorry… I can’t do what you can.” She placed a hand on Blair’s forehead and shoved her backwards. Blair fell.

~

She landed back in her body, lying in the darkness. “Ugh. You stupid vampyre.”

Now what? She asked the question again and came up with nothing. On a sigh, she sat up, dusting off some of the dirt from her shoulder before standing.

She brought the stones alive again. They were dimmer than before. “Sorry,” she whispered to them. “I promise this will be the last time I ask you to help me out of here.”

They brightened.

She could hear the shifting of the Guardians in the walls; it made her quicken her steps. What were they doing? Soon she was running.

She burst through the opening and into the bright light. It blinded her. She had to stop suddenly and collapse to the ground so she didn’t accidentally go over the edge and get to the bottom the quick way.

She blinked fast till the light became bearable.

A Guardian stood watching her in the doorway.

“Aahh!” She fell back onto her elbows, cursing as skin was ripped away.

The Guardian threw a stone at her. It thudded against her chest and dropped into her lap.

“What? Yes, I’m going. There is no need to get rude,” she scoffed. Her eyes looked down at the stone in her lap. She felt the aching pull to touch it, run her fingers along all its sides and grip it in a tight fist. “It’s warm!” She looked back at the Guardian.

Not surprisingly, it hadn’t changed its expression.

“This… is this part of the dragon?”

The Guardian stepped back into the darkness.

“Wait! What am I meant to do with it?” She gripped it in one hand and brought it up close to her chest. Her magic was tugged to it.

She moved the stone away from her; the tug was still there, just a little less insistent.

The voice spoke inside her head. Don’t do anything with it. This will result in only terrible things. Think… it’s part of the dragon and it wants to take your magic.

“Good,” she smiled in return.

No! Not good, you dim-witted chick! Remember the prophecy “fire and flood”.

“But I could end all of this.” She lifted the stone to her lips and kissed it. “Just like Lucy said.”

~

Blair tilted the candle to the side and watched the wax drip. She dipped a finger into the melted drop and pulled back. Buried in the wax now was her fingerprint. She scraped it off of the desk and dropped it onto the flame.

Dathan hadn’t written back in days. Had time changed?

She sighed and pulled out her English homework. Might as well do something constructive for the time being.

~

She felt the stone pulling at her hand, telling her to follow it. She started to climb higher, more to the left, till she was high above the original entrance and sat on another ledge, this one thinner. It pulled her hand to the wall and bounced back off a hole, knocking her hand into her chest.

“Ok.”

 

Chapter Twelve: Dragons

It was a relief in one instant and then a complete violation the next. She felt empty. Normal, like the way she felt when she was a kid and had forgotten all about Alizaria. But it was different still. It felt like some doctor had amputated her arm, even though there was nothing wrong with it.

She climbed down the mountain and raced back to the others.

All she could do now was hide and wait.

“Blair?” Jade looked up and spotted her first.

The three of them were outside of the cave, sitting on the ground, having a picnic.

Leslie had her back to her. She turned her head over her shoulder and said, “Don’t worry; we weren’t going to leave you here.” She was still pissed.

Blair tried to yell.

A plume of fire burst into the air.

In shock, Blair stumbled and fell to the ground. “Get back inside now!” She scrambled upright.

“What?” Leslie leapt to her feet and watched the fireball.

Blair grabbed Leslie’s arm and shoved her towards the cave. “Get in!” She kicked at Roy and hauled Jade to her feet. “Hurry!”

“Where is the fire coming from?” Feet digging into the ground, Leslie demanded to know what was happening. “Is there a bushfire?”

“There will be soon.”

“Then we have to get as far away as possible, head towards water, and not trap ourselves here.”

Blair shook her head and tried to pull Leslie to the opening. The others had stopped as well. Why wasn’t anyone listening to her? Exasperatedly she told them, “It’s from the dragons.”

Jade looked at her with one sympathetic eye and one of disbelief.

“Dragons aren’t real. They died out long, long ago.” Leslie reached a hand out to Blair. She knocked it away. Why did she want to act like her mother now? She already had one and didn’t need another.

“The mountains are… were sleeping dragons.”

Roy watched her with pride and admiration glowing in his eyes. This was an interesting development.

Realisation dawned on Leslie and she stepped back from Blair. “The prophecy; ‘fire and flood’. Please, tell me you didn’t wake them? Please, Blair.” No response was needed. Leslie dropped to her knees and started to cry. “You have not warned anyone. Do you know what you have woken? Dragons were hunted for a reason.”

Blair lifted her chin. “Get up! We need to find a hiding place.”

Leslie realised that she had to help; quickly, she stood. “Follow me. Grab the packs.”

They fell in behind Leslie, rushing to keep up with her running feet. She took them to the river. Blair stopped as she saw it. “I told you, it won’t just be fire; Nessebit will flood the land.”

Leslie shot her a look. “Hurry up.” She dove in, grabbed hold of a floating log, and let the flow carry her. Jade followed without hesitation, as did Roy. All three dangled from the log.

If she didn’t decide quickly, Blair would lose them and be left to find her own shelter.

In seconds she was in the icy cold water, sputtering out mouthfuls and kicking hard. The others were ahead of her.

She bobbed up and down under the water.

Somehow the river rushed her closer to her friends. Leslie threw out a hand.

~

They came to the ocean.

Blair rolled over onto her back, sand sticking to her wet clothes and skin. She hated to imagine what would have happened to her if Leslie hadn’t reached out in the river or missed her hand completely.

Jade spewed out water. Roy had moved beside her and was tapping her on the back.

The sky was covered in a thick haze of smoke. The scent of burning wood filled the air. Smoke clouds funnelled across the blue and hid the sun, turning the world into a blurred limbo.

She turned to her side and looked at Leslie. She was also on her back, chest heaving.

Neither spoke. There were no more words to be said.

Blair turned onto her back once more and waited for it all to be over.

~

Roy leaned forward, his arms supporting his upper body weight and stopping him from toppling into the sand. “The Guardians told you?”

Blair nodded. She felt the twitching in her arms and legs; she had to move soon. But the others wanted clear explanations. Leslie sat quiet. She hadn’t spoken to Blair since the river.

There was no need to.

“This is amazing… is that all?”

She was never telling Roy that she had been seeing Lucy. Anyone around them would first think her insane, and Roy, he would figure out a way to use it to his advantage. Maybe get her to ask innocent-seeming questions that would somehow help him.

“It is a shame about the sword, though. Especially after all that we did for it.”

“You mean all that I did in returning it and paying your debt.”

“We each had our parts to play. Look at it this way; you would never have remembered you had magic if I hadn’t attempted to borrow the sword.”

“Steal.”

He ignored the dig and turned to Jade.

~

Blair walked down the beach. The smoke was thick. Whatever food she had nibbled at came rushing back up and landed in the sand. She gripped her knees and was determined to stay up.

She felt strange.

Every time she moved to do something with her magic, like drying their clothes, nothing happened and it rushed back to her.

The emptiness inside her echoed.

She had not bargained with the dragons; maybe she had just given away the one thing that made her unique and complete. Forever.

She had not been paying attention to her path. After all, she was on a straight line of the beach and could still see the others… she looked back and saw no one. The sand disappeared, curving inwards. She realised that the beach wasn’t straight, and she may have been walking for a long time already.

Not once did she think of the fire killing people.

Nope.

She focused on other things instead. Once everything was done, then she would deal with… the consequences.

Looking around, she saw the land beside the beach rise up sharply into cliffs. Rocks separated her from a patch of sand, and then another set of rocks and the rest of the beach.

It was low tide. She jumped across, slipping once to her knee, cursing as it hurt and not really caring about getting wet anymore.

She came to the secluded beach. The cliffs bent around, the beach reached a little in, and the rest was a green haven. She dismissed an idea.

She turned back.

Before she left she looked over at the beach on the other side. People and animals were gathering. She saw the smoke blowing at them from the tree line.

The wind tore the smoke out over the water. The crash of the waves blocked out any of the cries, but their faces were distorted. She hurried away, keeping her back to them.

~

The sun set at the end of the beach. The haze turned it from a warm yellow ball to a fiery red glow. Then it was dark. She curled up with the others.

Roy and Jade slept closer to each other. Leslie had a distance, but was lying near them, and on the other side Blair was there. She watched the dark rolls of the waves, blanking out everything from her mind.

She dozed a little, her body demanding some time to sleep, even though she hated it.

Images flicked through her head. Night sky. Cool wind gliding over her skin and sending a tingling down her spine. Air roared past her ears. Smoke, a pleasant smell and taste.

Then she was deep under water. Calm. Silent. The river was filled with junk thrown away, things she didn’t recognise. There was an excitement in her.

She started awake. Her body relented in its demand for unconscious sleep and allowed her to be awake. In one way she wished she wasn’t afraid to sleep. But what if the curse somehow started to work again and she never woke up? She understood that she was being paranoid. But sleep wasn’t something she could control; there were the dreams.

She would never tell anyone, but the nightmares would wake her in the middle of the night. Sometimes she would scream or gasp desperately for air, and the ones she woke from caused her to cry uncontrollably. They scared her.

Everything was scary.

A little bit later she dozed off again, her eyelids heavy.

This time she was back in the dining room of the crypt. It was covered in food. She was sitting on the one side laid out with plates and cutlery, somewhere in the middle.

She was wearing her red gown again, hair pulled into an elaborate knot, and she was wearing makeup. All dressed up for a party.

Strange… she was tied to the chair. Her wrists were rubbed raw; blood oozed through the broken skin and dripped from the arm of the chair to the puddle at the feet.

The weird thing was that she was smiling and waiting… for it all to end.

Blair snapped her eyes open.

She rocked back and forth, her arms wrapped around her. It was just a dream, she whispered in her head. Just a dream, just a dream, just a dream.

The tremor remained. She shook violently, knowing that it wasn’t just a dream.

~

The others woke slowly. Blair watched them from the corner of her eye.

The waves lapped softly onto the shore. Dawn broke to their left, struggling to shine through the haze of smoke.

Leslie yawned, stretching her arms high. She was up and moving quickly, nudging the others awake as she moved to their packs.

Blair passed her the bottle of water. Neither spoke.

~

“What are we doing now?” Jade said through a mouthful. Her gaze flicked from Blair to Leslie, she watched them both carefully.

Blair rubbed at her eyes and stared at the sand for a long time.

It looked like no one was going to answer when suddenly they both started. Leslie closed her mouth.

“Up along the beach, there were people and animals coming out of the woods. We should go and see what we can do to help.”

Roy chewed his mouthful thoughtfully. “Yesterday was fire. Does that mean that today will be flood?”

“Yes,” Blair answered without hesitation.

Leslie frowned at her.

“How do you know?” Jade asked.

She didn’t… did she? Last night in the dream she had felt the desire to swim through water. She just knew that the dragons would be switching dominance.

“I just do… shall we?”

They followed her down the beach.

The tide was rising. They hurried. Blair broke into a run, the others yelling after her. “What’s wrong?” “Why are you running?” “Stop, Blair!”

Suddenly, hearing Leslie’s voice, she stumbled to a halt. It was too late anyway. The tide had risen, covering the rocks that led to the other beaches. “We’re too late.”

The others came and stood beside her, and looked at the groups of people and animals on the beach. A couple saw them and waved.

Blair raised a hand.

In the group, some were working; building shelters, stoking a fire, and cooking. Others were lounging about, watching the work. Finally, some were mourning. Their wails stabbed Blair in the chest and made tears pool in her own eyes. She felt the aching hollowness.

Leslie tapped her on the shoulder and pointed.

She followed the line of her finger and saw a swollen river. “What is that?”

“Another river; one that normally trickles from a nearby dam when it’s overflowing.” Leslie paused. “I think the flood has already started.”

They could do nothing but watch as a small child playing at the edges stepped too close and fell in. Distance and the crash of the waves blocked out their screams.

“What will happen to the river if it continues to flood? Will the beach be submerged?”

“I don’t know.”

~

Blair walked to the cliff and looked up high. A single raindrop fell and splattered against her cheek. Thunder cracked, making her leap. Her heart hammered in her chest. There had been no lightning. Another two crashes of thunder.

They vibrated through her.

Not thunder, she thought. The dragons.

The sky opened and the rain started.

By now the tide was beginning to recede. It dragged out the extra water from the rivers, swallowing deeply. Blair led them into the cove. They moved to the back and saw ancient stairs that had been carved into the cliff side

Blair left the others to look for shelter on the ground, and climbed.

The steps were uneven, some shallow, and others so deeply carved she had to take to leaps to get up them. Her shoes slipped on the stone. Bruises were forming all over her knees.

She came to a platform.

There was another cave facing out over the ocean. It was damp but bearable.

She leaned out over the ledge and yelled till she caught the attention of the others. She waved at them to follow the stairs.

It was tight inside the cave, so they sat closer together, creating more body heat.

And Blair began to pay more attention to how close Jade and Roy had become.

What were they up to? There was no way Jade had any feelings of attraction for the ancient man, and having Jayden inside of her acting like a chaperone at all times ruled that out completely. So what, then?

It nagged at her.

Why were they all of a sudden close and friendly? She had originally thought that Jade distrusted him, like Leslie did. So why was she acting like this?

Leslie tucked the water bottle into her loose fingers. “Drink.”

Blair turned her thoughts away from the snuggling girl and old man on her right, and turned to Leslie on her left. “Thanks.”

She wished things hadn’t changed between them. It had been lovely to have a friend in Alizaria, one she could depend upon. But sometime inside the mountain, when Blair had found the sword missing and Leslie was trying to think practically, they had fought.

Then Blair woke the dragons.

Oh, well…

She dozed for a bit, her body catching some more sleep. Slowly she moved from the silence inside her head, conscious of others pressed around her, to unconscious with her head filled with the muffled underwater sounds.

She realised then that this was what the dragons were seeing. How this connection was occurring without her magic, she wasn’t sure. Was it her magic inside the dragons calling out to her?

The fires were drowning in the downpour from the sky. The dying flames sizzled and hissed. Tendrils of smoke softly floated up, dodging drops as best they could.

One dragon was hunched over, watching from high. Sitting and waiting. Once the fires were extinguished, then they could leave; he had promised her a long time ago they could. So she sat and waited.

The other slid through the rivers, leapt onto the land and rolled through the mud, carving out new channels from the river, the flowing water hurrying to keep up to him.

Water creatures frolicked. Other animals hid away, some climbing surviving trees and holding on till it all stopped.

~

Blair blinked her eyes and looked around. “What time is it?”

“Around mid-afternoon, I guess.” Leslie wriggled as best she could. “Where has all of this rain come from?”

“The dragons, my dear,” Roy answered. “They have great powers of their own, not just the ability to breathe fire. Remember, the Lord Drakes are descendants of a shape-shifting dragon; so one that can control the weather shouldn’t be that unusual. I’m finding it fascinating.”

Alarm bells rang inside of her head. She turned to Leslie to see if she also recognised the danger in the innocent-sounding statement. Nope. She was staring at the floor, making drawings in the dust with her finger.

Blair rolled her eyes. Was she the only one to think that when Roy was fascinated bad things were to follow? It seemed so.

Quickly she tried to think of what he could do with the dragons. If he had something to give them or a way to control their will, then he would have a terrible weapon… but he had nothing, no magic. He could still talk to them.

Then again, if she remembered correctly, the dragons were highly intelligent taking appropriate actions when needed, like killing and taking what they wanted

So, in the tragic end, Roy would still not have what he wanted and quite possibly would be dead.

She still chewed on the thought a little more.

~

The rain eased but the sky was still dark. Thunder grumbled and roared so suddenly Blair would leap and swear, and Leslie would then place a hand on her back and rub. She said nothing, and Blair would pretend nothing had happened.

~

Through the night, Blair napped a couple of times. She caught glimpses of the dragons and what they were doing. A sense of freedom and happiness filled her. Every time she woke, she was still smiling.

But the closeness of everyone was suffocating.

She slipped out onto the ledge.

The sky was now clear of all clouds, and the moon hung low over everything, a huge disc she felt she could reach out and touch.

She climbed the rest of the steps up to the top of the cliff, tripping once.

Out in the open, above everything, the feeling returned. Freedom. She started to giggle. “Yes!” she threw her arms out wide and spun round and round.

Something rustled behind her. She stopped and looked.

Two dragons sat on the top of the cliff and watched her.

A blush painted her face and heated it. The cold was shoved back. She lifted her chin and met their glowing amber eyes.

Then she was flat on her back. It had slammed back into her like a punch.

It was back. The hollow was filled and she felt complete again. She felt stronger. The past couple of days without her magic had been torturous, and she had missed it with a deep passion.

Now the grin on her face was full of relief and happiness.

Blair.

A new voice entered her head. She leapt up and looked at the dragons and tried to tone down her excitement.

“Yes?”

We would like to thank you.

“Oh, um, ok.”

One of the dragons, the smaller one, stepped forward and bumped its head into Blair gently. Blair stroked its head. Heat filled her hand and rushed through her body, sizzling the cold inside of her and making it evaporate and disappear.

She sighed and sagged against the dragon. “Oh… wow.”

You have a dark path to follow. Don’t let the cold in again.

“Why? It was so easy to.”

The dragon she leaned against tossed its head and knocked her back. It snorted in disgust.

“Hey,” she protested, but then stopped. “Thank you for what you did, and for giving back my magic.”

They both bowed their heads and then took off, leaping into the air and flying away.

She felt a pull, like a string was attached to her, and the dragons being pulled taut and dragging at her hands. It wasn’t strong enough to move her but she was now aware of wherever they were.

Chapter Thirteen: After

Leslie called out her name, a note of panic rising in her voice.

Blair moved to the edge and looked down. She hadn’t realised how far she had climbed in the dark. The moon showed Leslie standing on the platform, looking about frantically.

“Up here.”

Leslie whipped her head up and back till she saw Blair. “What are you doing up there?”

“Just getting some fresh air.” She started down the steps. “I think it’s all over now.”

“Come down here before you slip and fall.”

Blair did as she was told. Once she stood in front of Leslie, she blurted out everything.

Leslie said nothing. She turned back to the cave and gently woke the others, encouraging them to move. Blair waited. Nothing was mentioned.

They climbed down the steps; the tide was low and they crossed over to the other beach and walked. Some people were still awake, either standing guard or too nervous to shut their eyes. There were tents pitched all over. Only the organised had them, as some were sleeping on the sand. Lucky for them it was a warm night.

Blair started to fall back behind the others, but Leslie grabbed her arm and propelled her to the front. “Come on. They need a strong leader,” she whispered in her ear.

One seemed to recognise Blair and started to hiss into someone else’s ear. They sat up straight and knocked another to the other side to attention. This proceeded around the small group till the last one ran to wake more people.

The first one stood, a little shaky on his feet. “Uh, hello? Are you Blair Fitzpatrick?” His eyes glimmered. Blair recognised the magic inside of him.

She nodded.

“Oh… well,” he cleared his throat. “I mean, hello. My name is Elijah. And welcome to you all.”

“Sit down, Elijah.” A man came hurrying from the other side of the camp. “I am Ash, the leader of this camp. Can I help you? If you are seeking shelter, then you need not ask; we have very little to give.”

Leslie nudged her in the back. Say something.

Blair took a deep breath. “It is nice to meet you, Elijah and Ash. My name is Blair.” The old man’s eyes bulged. “We are not seeking shelter, but have come to tell you that it is over. The dragons have finished.”

“Dragons? But there was a bush fire and then lots of rain.” Ash looked at her funny.

“Plus, dragons are extinct,” someone added before they were shushed.

Blair smoothed out her face. “The dragons Nessebit and his sister are the last survivors of their race, only because they went into a deep sleep.” She licked her lips. Why was her mouth so suddenly dry? “I… I woke them.”

Silence.

“How many people are here?”

Ash was jolted from his shock. “One hundred. Many have died.”

“Take them back and… start again.” She turned away. That was enough. She had nothing else to say; could not handle anything else.

Leslie stepped forward; she seemed to be able to read Blair’s thoughts and started to talk with the men.

Blair didn’t know the details of the talk. She walked through the camp, looking at those still sleeping and those who had woken and were staring at her; just like the Marchlands mothers grabbed their curious children and hid them away from her.

As she walked, the whispers moved fast ahead of her.

She turned around and came back to Leslie and the men. “Where did you come from?”

Ash ignored her. She used her magic to turn his head to her. Fear filled his eyes, and he stared at her open mouth. “How many soldiers came with you?”

“Uh… none? I’m not sure; I have not spoken to everyone in the camp… is that why?”

She nodded and released him.

Roy had sat with the men and was chatting away, Jade beside him, looking every man up and down with interest and then disgust.

Ash didn’t let the subject go easily. “You mean that the rebels have resorted to using magic?” He spat at her feet.

Elijah ducked his head.

“You have killed thousands and destroyed this land.”

Calmly, Blair stepped close to him. “You should be more fearful; maybe then you won’t get hurt,” her hot breath blew into his ear and made him shiver and step back. “Alizaria is free of the adversaries because She is guarded.”

Elijah yelled out. “Yes! Hail Queen Blair!” He dropped to his knee. His friends mimicked him. Leslie dropped to her knee.

It got around. Others cried out “Queen Blair” but most just bowed down in silence.

Roy laughed. “I taught her everything she knows. She’s an old chip off this ancient block.”

~

“Where are we going?” Leslie leaned against the tree, catching her breath.

The giant glowing eyes of the dragons haunted her; they were judging her as she moved. “Amber city; to the palace.”

“So you really are going to take the throne?” Jade gulped down some water.

“Of course she is.” Without a doubt Roy was pleased with the outcome. “She has rid the country of our enemies and has sent a strong message to them. She has to be crowned queen.”

Blair quickly looked to Leslie. This time they shared the same thought; Roy was up to something. “Are you going back to the safe house?” She changed the subject. They would worry about Roy later.

Leslie shook her head. “Only after everything has been settled.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“Ok, then. We’re off to see the wizard.”

Jade looked confused. “What wizard?”

~

Amber city was a burnt shell, though life continued. Buildings were being demolished, while people were selling goods. They stopped what they were doing to stare at the newcomers. Some recognised Blair and Roy from the assassination.

All stepped out of their way.

News of what had happened had reached them. They knew some of the truths, and a lot purer rumour.

Blair ignored all of that. She walked through the streets, looking each willing person in the eye. Up, up, up they climbed to the gates of the palace.

It had lost its lustre; black scorch marks covered the walls, windows were broken, and there were piles of the dead.

They entered the palace.

Crowds of curious people followed in their wake. They chattered.

One man stepped forward. “Halt! Just what do you think you are doing here? I know who you are, and you have no right to come here after what you have done.” He puffed up his chest.

She side stepped him in a breeze and continued up the stairs.

The throne room. It had been cleaned. She wondered briefly what happened to the exploded queen. Did they collect the pieces and bury them in the crypt with her ancestors, or was she thrown away, nothing to be salvaged?

Behind her, the room began to fill.

Leslie touched her arm and leaned in. “Hurry up. They’re becoming restless, and we don’t need a riot.”

She nodded.

Quickly she ran up the steps and stood one down from the throne.

A hush came over the crowd.

A man stood front and centre, just apart from the crowd, arms folded.

Blair began, “When I first woke up, I found Alizaria a very different place. Her allies had become enemies and invaders, taking people as slaves and keeping their land. The rebels were trying to fight back. But, with so few against so many, they were losing.

“I am not a native of Alizaria, but I love this country and wanted to help. I killed the silent queen who allowed this destruction. I aided the rebels. Finally, I released the dragons from their sleep and they purged this land of our enemies. Those who are left do not have long to live if they do not leave.

“Alizaria is defended. Anyone with treasonous intentions has twenty-four hours to leave and never return.”

Leslie cried out. “Hail Queen Blair!” She dropped to her knee, just like at the beach. Roy and Jade did the same. The crowd followed. All except one man.

“This is ridiculous. Do you seriously think that you can take the throne?”

Someone in the crowd jeered at him. They accused him of working for the enemy.

“Nonsense. I was born here. I’m just not stupid enough to follow a murderer.” He jabbed a finger in Blair’s direction. “There was a reason she was sleeping for one thousand years: she’s a witch.”

“So?” A girl pushed her way to the front. Her eyes shifted from brown to gold, flickering and exploding. “The story says that Blair would wake only when Alizaria needed her again. We did.”

The crowd cheered, and that man was forced to leave.

~

Blair paced in the library. It was empty except for the librarian, but she kept to the front. The back, behind rows of shelves, gave Blair some privacy.

She had just done that. Wow. It was hard to believe that things had changed so fast; the enemies were leaving. They had heard about her speech and those holding on were now going.

The leaders of the adversaries had attempted to contact her. She had refused. Maybe that was a stupid thing. Could things get worse if she screwed up the relationship with them? Then again, they had invaded, so a strained relation was kind of expected.

Roy had reassured her they would try again later.

Then Roy and Jade had disappeared, leaving Blair and Leslie alone. That had not gone well.

“What?”

Leslie shrugged and continued looking out of the window. “The clean-up is going to take a long time. I wonder how we’re going to pay for it.”

“Stop dodging it.”

“I’m not dodging. I have said that I will stand with you and help rebuild.” Leslie replied.

“But you’re still not happy.”

“What is there to be happy about? People are dead and there is going to be a famine. A lot of farm land had been destroyed by your stunt.”

Blair rubbed at the back of her neck. “We will manage as best we can. But until all of that becomes an issue, shouldn’t we be happy for one second? It’s over; no more soldiers or spies, no more hiding.”

Leslie finally turned to her. “Are you really going to be one of those queens?”

“What?”

“What?” she mimicked. “Stop asking stupid questions, and start listening and taking things seriously. Yes, we will try to manage, but it already is an issue, not something that is coming. We have to think ahead. Right now we are weak and a perfect target.”

“Then I’ll…”

“No!” It echoed amongst the books.

“Then advise me.” Blair begged.

She shook from anger. Her face reddened, and her breathing became short and ragged. “What you did… it was murder.”

“It had to be done.”

“No, there were other ways. You should never have woken the dragons.”

“Like the rebels were getting anywhere with their little attacks. This has given us a chance.”

“My people were out there as well.”

They fell silent. What was there left to say? ‘I’m sorry’ wouldn’t cover it now, and breaking down and crying wouldn’t help. Blair turned her head to the side as Leslie left. Once she had her back to Blair, Blair turned and watched her leave.

She knew she wouldn’t be leaving for good. As she had said, her people were out there. They needed help and Leslie was determined to give it, even if that meant working with a murderer.

“Oh, God.” Panic rose; it gripped her chest and squeezed. “What have I done?”

She sobbed. Tears poured down her cheeks. She dipped her head to her chest and let the front of her tunic soak them up. She bit her fist, desperate for it all to end.

Wailing, she pulled her fist out. A string of spit clung to her knuckle and connected it to her front teeth.

She collapsed to the wooden floor and rocked back and forth.

~

As she lay on the floor, the tears dried up. She had nothing more to give to the people she had killed and the loved ones left behind. The sun moved across her. Warmth spread from her shoulder, down to her waist, her thigh, and finally her feet. Then the sun was gone. The light dimmed.

A set of weary steps sounded, a door opened and closed, and finally she was completely alone.

This time she fell into sleep, thankfully.

~

“Lucy.” She reached a hand out to her. She sat with her back to her, watching the gate from the dining room chair. She wore her old clothes of breeches and a tunic. Who knew that she was ahead of her time in fashion? Blair’s hand burned as she made contact. She pulled back and swore.

“You did it. Congratulations, Blair, you are now queen.”

“Not quite yet. There has to be a coronation.”

“But it will happen soon.”

“The prophecy will be fulfilled. I know that.”

“But…”

She took a shaky breath. She wasn’t able to really say it out loud when she was awake; surely, though, she could say it here. The words were burning her tongue. “I want to go home.” It was barely over a whisper.

“You have responsibilities now, and this is what you’ve always wanted. Or is it too hard already for you?” The words stung worse with the sugar-sweet tone.

Blair hitched her chin high.

A breeze ruffled her white funeral gown.

“You wanted the truth and I just told you, so you can call me a coward. Thanks,” her voice dripped with sarcasm. “Look… I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve killed, not just three but hundreds, maybe even thousands… I don’t think…”

“That’s correct; you never think, Blair. You just react.”

“I followed what the prophecy said and what the Guardians wanted me to do.”

“So you blindly put your trust in those with their own agendas. Prophecies are only guidelines; the future is not set and some predictions should be avoided. At all costs. But you charged blindly ahead and followed someone else’s plans.”

Blair screamed her frustration. Her fists balled up and she went rigid. “You fucking bitch!”

Lucy stood and turned to her. All around her mouth was stained with blood. She held a knife in her hand.

Blair stepped backwards and shut up.

“You have to decide what happens, Blair. Some things will happen because of Fate, but the rest is up to you, and you have to learn to think.”

Blair closed her eyes and started to shake her head. “No… I can’t take the blame alone… please don’t make me.” There was no reply. She opened her eyes and found that Lucy had disappeared.

~

She woke suddenly and found herself in a bed. The curtains were wide open, and bright sunlight filled the room. Jade slipped into the room and yelped. “Oh, you’re awake.”

Blair pushed herself into a sitting position and groaned, as it hurt. “Of course I am. Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Well, we thought that maybe the curse had started again, and you were… you know.”

“Yeah.” She looked around the room with curiosity. It smelled of flowers and smoke. “Where am I?”

“This is the queen’s bedroom. Since you’re the queen, it was logical to bring you here.”

She tried not to shiver at the thought, Nisha had lain on these sheets. “How long have I been asleep?”

“Two weeks.”

“WHAT?!”

“Leslie has been taking care of things. She was the only one stopping everyone from taking you back to the crypt.” She wrung her hands. “When they found you, no one could wake you up. The doctors couldn’t explain it, and neither could the other spirit witches. Everyone just started to assume it was the curse again.”

Blair felt the shock hit hard. “I was just… really tired.”

“Well, I’ll go tell Leslie. She’s going to be really happy. Oh, and Herrick is here, too. Just so you know.”

Blair felt the thought bubble up through the fog in her head. She was so different today. “Jade, come here, please.”

Jade crossed from the door to the left side of the bed. “Are you alright? It was my turn to watch over you.”

Blue eyes. No green, no flicking from one to the other, and definitely no one else inside. “What did you do? Jade, where is Jayden?”

She cast her eyes down, but couldn’t keep the smile off of her face. She grinned. “He left.”

“What do you mean, left? Explain it clearly, please.”

Swallowing, she looked everywhere but at Blair. “Well, we Lord Drakes have a special talent that very few know about. The reason we come across as erratic and with dual personalities is because we have the ability to take other souls inside of ourselves, as you saw with Jayden and me. Normally it’s only the men who do this and only the leaders, to take on the past leaders. Preservation of lives.”

“You people really are sick… does that mean there was another Lord Drake?”

She shook her head. “You… probably won’t be very happy with this. Some people can handle other souls inside of them, even if they are not Lord Drakes.”

“Who?”

Please, no. Please don’t let it be him. Gods, please, no.

“Roy.”

Blair didn’t hear the name over the rushing noise in her ears, but she saw Jade’s pink lips form the name. The fucking idiot. “Oh, you have got to be kidding me!” She slumped back into the piles of pillows.

“I know that you’re not happy with this, but,” she inhaled deeply and opened her arms wide, “this is amazing. I feel so free.” A cloud passed over her shining face. “I’ll miss him.”

“I’m sure.”

Jade realised quickly that Blair wasn’t sharing her enthusiasm. “I’ll go get Leslie.”

“Just one more thing. Where is Roy?”

Jade opened the door and made sure she was through it before answering. “He left… no one has seen or heard from him.” Quickly she closed the door.

Blair screamed and smashed the room, breaking glass, exploding pillows, and throwing everything into the walls in one strong pulse of magic.

She sat in the sudden stillness, feathers floating down.

~

Leslie opened the door and slipped in quietly. She found Blair staring into space. “Blair?” She looked around the wrecked room. “What happened?”

Blair rolled her eyes to Leslie and narrowed them.

“Jade told you.”

She nodded slowly.

“There was nothing we could do; I didn’t have an idea till it had already been done.”

“Someone should’ve stopped it.”

“How could we, when we knew nothing about it?” Settling on the edge of the bed, Leslie folded her hands in her lap. “We will deal with Roy when the time comes.”

Blair turned her head to the side.

“What I want to know is what happened to you? I’ve had to stop every palace employee from taking your body back to the crypt.”

“So I heard.” She looked back at her with a smile this time. “I was just really tired and needed a nap.”

Chapter Fourteen: Crowning

One finger spun the stone, flicking it when it slowed. Round and round on the desk it spun next to the stack of papers. Blair stared at the document in front of her. She had exactly thirteen hours to read it before she would have to execute each word carefully.

The stone stopped.

She lifted her hands to her hair and pulled at it. Pins struggled free and softly clattered to the floor, strands of hair ripped from her head, everything tumbling down to her shoulders in a cloud of perfumed curls.

She took apart in five minutes what had taken two servant girls an hour to create.

Slowly she stood and moved to the wash stand. The dramatic make up disappeared and reappeared onto a cloth in abstract shapes.

She toed off the slippers.

The gown was difficult and took the longest time. She had to reach behind to undo the lacings, her fingers slipping over the tight knots. Sleeves squeezed her arms and didn’t want to let her go. She shoved, rolled, and tugged, but they held her tight, binding her forearms in front of her.

She stumbled over the lowered hem, back to the desk. Snip, snip, snip, rip. Rip. Rip.

She dropped the gown to the floor and stepped away from it.

Petticoats, chest bindings, and stockings all followed and were kicked on top of the gown. She shoved off her underwear and stood in the middle of the room, naked.

The clothes were not her own.

No one had the time to create an entire wardrobe for her before the crowning ceremony. She shivered. At least now her skin wasn’t itching any more.

~

You look beautiful,” Sara said as she slid in the last pin.

Nora only nodded and jabbed in her final pin, quickly looking at Blair in the mirror when she realised she had winced with pain.

It is a good thing that you are so small… or close to the same size… all that I’ve had to do was raise the hem a few inches.”

Blair stared at the expanse of exposed chest that popped over the top; the seams in the arms dug into her shoulders when she moved. She couldn’t lift her arms.

Sara continued praising her as she moved to doing her makeup.

Nora straightened the pillows on the bed. When there was nothing else for her to do, she stood awkwardly behind Blair, waiting.

Sara looked at her. She smiled as she said, “You can go now, Nora. Find something useful to do in the kitchen if there is nothing else.”

In the mirror, Blair saw the red flush contrast with relief. Nora bobbed a curtsy and left the room, closing the door quickly behind.

Sara fussed over Blair for another hour. “Wow, are those the instructions for this afternoon?”

Blair nodded, turning the page.

I wasn’t here for the last ceremony; I was too young to work at the palace. This is all so new and exciting. Are you nervous?”

Blair looked at the girl carefully. Not once through the morning had she been friendly to the girls, yet this one was trying so hard, she could see it in the nervous lick of her lips and the gaps between jumps of conversation.

No… Have you finished?”

Sara blinked in surprise. “Umm… I guess so, if you have nothing else for me to do.”

The contradiction of wants pulled her face into an odd shape with a tight smile. To please and serve, then the desire to get away from the awkwardness took over. She gave Blair the same bobbed curtsy Nora had and walked across the room to the door.

Pausing, she checked again that Blair had no further need of her.

~

Blair picked up the stone and squeezed it hard. When she had woken, it had been on the bedside table. Leslie had said that it was found inside Blair’s pack.

She had no memory of taking it with her from the Marchlands. In fact, she thought it had been something the soldiers had kept.

Nevertheless, it was a crystal from inside the crypt.

Walking over to the window, she placed the stone on the sill and looked out over the courtyard. Leslie was down there, talking to people.

She did that so well.

Herrick came running from the steps. Leslie turned at his yell and opened her arms. He crashed into her chest.

Blair couldn’t tell if he was crying and in need of comforting or if he was grinning, just enjoying the warmth of his mother’s arms. All she could see was the way that neither let the other go for a long time.

Reluctantly, Blair moved away from the scene before seeing who loosened their grip first. She really wanted her own mother.

How long had passed on the other side? More than easily explained?

Once she had woken in the queen’s room, Leslie had helped her to get dressed and down the stairs to the giant front entrance.

At first, Blair’s head swam as she stood upright.

Her knees were weak, but she felt the all-consuming need to move and use her joints.

She had held onto the handrail in private but, as soon as she got to the grand staircase, she straightened her shoulders and walked down the centre. Leslie followed her.

People had seen her walking from her room to that point and had followed them both in curiosity.

Blair reached the bottom of the staircase. One brave official stepped forward; he reluctantly bowed his head before speaking. His eyes narrowed. “Miss Blair, it is surprising to see you well. We had feared for the worse.”

She smiled and didn’t look at him as she spoke, too curious to have her eyes focused for very long. Everything was bright, and so many things were happening; servants cleaning, people passing through, guards standing still, and a small boy racing in through the front door with others chasing after him.

“Everything is fine now; I just needed to have a nap.” She looked at him now and noticed the twitch in his jaw. “I trust that Leslie had everything under control in my absence.” This was a statement, not a query of his judgement. She turned away from him before he could misinterpret it.

Herrick had been caught by his mother, who was embarrassing him in front of his new friends. Hugs and kisses and making him promise to be careful and to stay inside of the palace and only where he had been shown to play, no exploring.

He pulled away from his mother, ducked back in for a quick hug, and chased after his friends. He looked back once before Leslie had turned to watch him go.

He glared directly at Blair.

Now she had no idea what she had done to wrong the boy… but it was refreshing, just like the way his mother treated her.

Blair walked to the wardrobe and pulled out her funeral gown. Someone had fixed it. Quickly she slipped on her plain underclothes and the funeral gown. It was a little more than just morbid to be doing this, but it was the only thing she had that fitted and didn’t make her skin crawl.

She moved back to the mirror and pulled her long hair back and up into a pony tail.

She stayed barefoot.

~

There was a tap at the door. It opened without waiting for a response and Leslie stepped inside. She was dressed also in an ill-fitting gown; obviously there had been no time at all for the new-comers to the palace.

“What are you wearing?”

Blair shrugged. She grabbed the document from the desk and turned to Leslie. “The other dress didn’t fit.”

Leslie nodded to Blair’s rubbed red face and messy hair. “What happened? Didn’t the girls come up and help you?”

“Um. Yes, they did… I just didn’t like it.” She shook her head, the ends of her pony tail sharply striking her bare neck. “It doesn’t matter.”

Leslie looked at her strange. “This is not the time to become an eccentric royal… not yet. The people need to see that you are in control. At any moment there could be an uprising.”

Blair tossed her head again. “I’m not being anything but myself.”

“That’s a problem. Don’t you see it?”

Deep breath, you can and will go through with this, Fitzpatrick. “I see it… how long do I have to do my hair again?”

“Not long; let me help.”

Blair sat in front of the mirror and shook out the frizzy mess. Leslie brushed it. It was a little surprising. “You seem very confident with that brush for someone with only a son.”

Leslie pointed to her own head. “I did, once upon a time, do something more with my hair every day.” She threaded her fingers through Blair’s mass and started to pull and tug. She ignored any yelps from Blair. “Sit still.”

~

They had argued over the gown. But Blair walked down the stairs dressed in her funeral gown after Leslie had found the arms destroyed on the other. There were no other appropriate gowns in the wardrobe.

Leslie led the way. In her hands she carried the document; she hadn’t thought to check that Blair had understood each phrase. They came to the back entrance of the throne room.

An official took the document and ducked inside the room to place it on the writing slope next to the quill and ink. He left it opened to the final page.

Leslie turned to Blair and took her hands in her cool, calm grip. “Remember what I said.”

“I know,” she restrained her eye roll. “Don’t be eccentric. Oh, and don’t fuck up.” Blair leaned into Leslie and pecked her right cheek. Quickly, Blair whispered “Good luck” into her ear and pulled back.

They followed the official around to the front entrance.

Nora was hurrying along the hallway when she saw the gown. She stared in horror.

Inside, the room was filled. Only those who had arrived early had received a seat inside. The late-comers were expected to be outside in the courtyard beneath the windows.

“I guess we’re really doing this.” Blair took in a deep breath and stepped up to the door as it slid open. Suddenly she shrank back from all of the eyes. But Leslie was right behind her.

“Don’t freak out… just move forward, up to the throne. Remember, this has always been your dream; just focus on the chair and it will all been finished soon.” Her warm hands gave her a shove forward.

Blair stumbled but kept moving. Was she really doing this?

She had waited for this for so long and was about to…

Down the aisle and up the stairs to the platform she focused as Leslie had told her to, not looking at anyone standing on either side as she walked, head held high. Finally, she turned and saw it all.

Wow, I’m really going to do this.

Leslie stood to the side on a lower step. The official stood on the floor with the audience and began his speech.

Blair heard nothing; her eyes were drawn to the top of Leslie’s head.

Oh what the hell, I’m not going to wait.

Suddenly she walked down the stairs. The official stumbled over his words and watched her with soundless moving lips. The crowd erupted into gasps and mumbles.

Leslie stepped down one and touched her arm. “What are you doing?”

She shrugged her off. Soon it would be pretty damn clear what she was doing, as she plucked the crown from the stand and dashed back up the steps, stopping on the same level as Leslie.

“I can’t do this… I’m not meant to be queen, and no one in this country needs another queen. But they need a good leader.” Blair raised the crown high over Leslie’s head and lowered it.

Leslie said nothing; her eyes were wide, mouth opened in a silent ‘O’, and she shook ever so slightly.

Blair leaned in and quickly kissed Leslie’s cheek. “Good luck. I know you will do what is right.”

~

The sun was warm on her back as she swayed side to side in the saddle. She had appropriated a horse from the shocked stable-hands.

After she pulled her little stunt, she walked down the stairs and aisle, out the door and out of the palace, not stopping till she reached the royal stables and chose a horse. Or, rather, been chosen.

All of the others had stayed to the back of their stalls except for the silky black horse. He had stepped forward and lowered his nose over the door and nudged her as she started to move past. His eyes had pleaded with her. Take me. I want to go with you. Let me be the one.

She had opened the door and taken him, as if he had always been her own.

Slowly the image of Leslie’s expression changing played inside of her head; smooth indifference, horror, and shock.

No matter what, she wouldn’t regret her decision. Leslie was the best choice for the country. Blair was nothing more than a weapon; she had no skills of compassion. Maybe… when she was older and more experienced then she would be ready… maybe.

“Home.”

That was all she wanted; it had been too long, even if she had slept through most of it. Now she felt more like a kid than any other time. After everything, she just wanted to go home and see her family, eat chocolate, and dream.

~

One thousand years and she still remembered the way and the careful instructions. She was alert and suspicious of everything. She never made a fire when she and the horse, yet unnamed, stopped for the night.

But they did rely on some unknown kindness of farmers; unknown because the farmers were not aware of the girl jumping their fences and climbing the trees to pick fruit.

Silly girl; she had left with nothing other than the horse.

When she came to the well, she stopped and waited, hoping that the sisters would still be alive. No one came.

She didn’t drink from the well.

She moved to the side and leaned over to see down. The roof was gone and there was no bucket. If she was very quiet and held her breath, she could hear… some whispers.

People were trapped down there; they called out for anyone to hear them. It had been so long since someone had been near, and they had been screaming all that time. Little by little they lost their strength, and one by one fell silent till the last hopeful continued to quietly pray for help.

Blair braced herself with her hands on the edges and leaned in so the light was behind her, and she could only see the darkness and smell the deathly mould.

She breathed in. The voices started to talk loudly all at once, the sounds rushing up to her till her ears began to ring.

The souls rushed up on her breath and entered her.

Inside her head was a riot of sounds and emotions and visions; screams, begging, a haunted lullaby. Fear, anger, grief.

It made her vision blur as she saw the tiny patch of blue surrounded by the dark, fuzzy memories of chasing a small giggling child through the forest.

She rocked forward and almost let her breath out back into the well.

No! Shut up and let me…

Quickly she shoved herself backwards and landed hard. Her head hit the earth and she opened her mouth. The souls rushed out and up to the open sky.

There was silence inside of her head now.

All but one left her. It hovered above her body, a vague blur of colour that looked like smoke. It had no face or distinguishable shape.

Her head was swimming; the world rolled from side to side.

She didn’t hear the horse panic and take off, charging away from the spirits as they floated in the sun. Light flickered through the souls like water, refracting it in odd scenes of memories on the ground. They soon were gone.

The one above Blair whispered a secret lullaby before leaning down and kissing her lips. The cold was back again for a second. The fire from the dragons still protected her, even from the chasteness of coldness.

This last one floated away as well, and Blair was alone.

She closed her eyes and fell into sleep.

~

Sometime after the sun had disappeared, Blair woke roughly. Panic rose and tightened her chest. Slowly she remembered where she was and what she had done.

She cried. Her nose became blocked and she started to gasp painfully through her raw throat.

Everything the souls had felt crashed onto her and squatted. Everything was heavy and too hard to move, so she stayed where she was, hot tears running into her hair and tickling her temple as they did.

“Why… am…I… crying…” she gasped and struggled to hold onto herself. What was she doing?

The fire inside of her flickered and flared to life. She forced herself to sit up. The weight pushing down onto her eased and soon was gone.

That was when she realised she was crying the unknown tears of the souls from the well, the missing people who had lost everything and no one had come looking for.

She swiped her hand under her nose, lifted her dirty skirt, and wiped away her tears. She stood and just walked. The further away from the well, the fewer things hurt and the more she straightened her back.

But the memory of the souls tucked itself in the back of her mind as a reminder.

The trees crowded around her and the night noises startled her, bringing out a yelp. Her heart would jump and start running; thump, thump, thump.

She felt herself hurrying, running. The skin on the back of her neck and shoulders tingled as if a cool breeze had crossed over her. But the night was still.

Funny that she should be scared.

She gritted her teeth and stopped. Her body tried to rebel and make her keep running. She stood firm and looked into the dark. The trees she could see a little, but nothing clearly. Leaves rustled. Sticks broke. Things shifted in the night.

Thump, thump, thump.

She reached into her bra and brought out the stone. The light shoved back the dark. Nothing there. Still she hurried along the path.

Her feet stung from the stones and sticks in her way. She missed that horse more than anything, he was good company.

Off to her right she saw the warm glow of a fire and heard the sweet sounds of music. “Fucking fairies.” She ignored them and continued on.

Soon the path began to change. Her breathing became gasps and her legs burned as she headed up-hill. She hurried; she was so close now.

Finally, she crested the hill and saw it.

Chapter Fifteen: Ever

The gate stood alone at the end of the path.

There were no trees or bushes crowding around it and blocking it from view. The rust was gone; someone had spent time cleaning it and painting it some dark colour. She couldn’t tell in the dim light.

What she could tell was that the gate was closed.

She stopped in front of it. What would happen if she just walked around it? Would she be back home? Smack into an invisible wall? Or still be in Alizaria?

“What am I thinking?” She shook her head and just pushed on the gate.

It opened.

“Uh, that was easy.” She walked through and closed the gate after her.

It was still dark; the house was silent. It had been painted recently, a slightly different shade of white, with blue trim instead of the burgundy.

She didn’t want to wake anyone or explain any of it just yet. Blair dropped to the grass and closed her eyes. Sleep greeted her happily.

Slowly she came back to the warm sensation of sun kissing her face, taking her time to get ready to open her eyes. She stretched and rolled her shoulders into the grass.

Then the sun was gone.

She looked up and saw a man standing over her, face thrown into shadow. “Huh?” she climbed to her feet and still looked up at the man. Realisation slapped her across the face. “Dathan?”

He smiled at her. “Blair… finally you’re back.” He stepped forward with arms open and ready to take her in.

But she stepped away and slapped him.

His head reeled. “What?”

“You’re meant to be dead. What the hell are you doing here? One thousand fucking years… you’re not meant to be… why… how… who the fuck do you think you are? Alizaria needed you. You got married and had a baby and then just left them? What the mother fucking hell?” She had been slapping him with all of her strength as she yelled. He flinched, a little surprised by first her strength and then her anger.

She stepped back and threw a punch into his gut. He winced.

“What have you done?” Gasping, Blair grabbed his chin and brought his face closer. “Your eyes… you have magic?”

He carefully removed her fingers and nodded. “Come inside to the kitchen. We need to talk.”

“Damn right.”

She stormed past him and into the house. She moved to the kettle, grabbed a cup, and opened the cupboard. There were no teabags.

“What?”

Dathan moved to the table and sat in front of his coffee. “What are you looking for?”

“Tea… why has it been moved?” She looked over her shoulder. “Where are my parents? Why are you in our house?”

He looked down into the coffee cup. “Tea is over there… and Blair, your parents have left.”

“Left? Where have they gone?”

He shrugged. “When I first came through, they were desperate to get away, needing space from the memories here. They sold the house to me.”

“How much time has passed?” Her voice was flat. She moved without thinking, just following some memorised steps. Tea bag, water, steep, remove tea bag, milk, stir, sit at table.

“Eight years.”

“Brodie?”

He shook his head.

Tears fell, even though she didn’t feel them.

It was unbelievable. Dathan was alive and sitting in her kitchen.

“Lucy told me somethings, not much though… do you want to talk about any of it?” Dathan said.

“Lucy comes here?”

“In my dreams.”

Blair swiped at the tears. “Tell me how you’re here and why you have magic.” It felt familiar. Then it slotted into place. “That’s Roy’s magic, isn’t it?”

“Yes.” He sipped his coffee and leaned on the table top. “Lucy hadn’t ascended yet when she told me to go through the gate and wait. Cassius and the wizards were looking for me. It had been a couple of years…”

“You got married sometime then.”

He looked surprised. “How did you know?”

“Stories, and I met your descendant. Keep going… I want to know.”

“Lucy sent me through and set me up for a life here. I bought the house and started to wait. She told me what the wizards had done and about the prophecy. When she came back, she gave me Roy’s magic and sent Roy to train me. He was doing it for some sort of bargain that he made: help, and he would receive clemency.”

On a strange thought Blair tipped to the side and looked under the table. “It was you.” Converse shoes. “In the crypt, you woke me up and left a path.”

“I helped to wake you. Every witch and magical being helped. Lucy did that.”

“How did you?”

He shrugged. “The same way Lucy comes to us, in our dreams.”

~

The house had the same furniture, but everything was different. Things placed in the wrong spot, new things, family pictures missing. Her room had stayed fairly the same. She sat on the bed and looked around.

Dathan lounged against the door jam. “Will you talk to me about Alizaria?”

“What do you want to know? At the moment, Leslie is the leader…” she trailed off as he shook his head.

“What happened to you… you seem different.”

She looked at the curtains, the hard wood floor, and the books on the shelves. “Have you been reading my books? They’re out of order.”

“Talk to me, Blair.”

“I am. Now answer me.”

He sighed. “Yes. I wanted to know more about you… so I looked through this room, read your books. You left very little of yourself behind, or maybe that was the one thing your parents did take. You have no journal. Your school books were filled with class work and no scribbles of thoughts.”

She felt very violated. “You went through my things?”

“I wanted to get to know the real you better… stupid, huh?” There was a loud, obnoxious ringing. He pulled out the latest phone and answered it. “Hi, sorry, I can’t come in today… some family stuff… yep, tomorrow should be good. Thanks.” He pocketed the phone.

She stood and moved to the wardrobe. Her old clothes were there. “I need a shower.”

He left her alone.

Every now and then they would bump into each other. Lunch, afternoon tea, dinner. Times when she was just wandering or he was checking on her. They didn’t talk, just watched each other till someone was the first to look away.

She was lost in a sort of haze. It was real. She was back home, Dathan was here, her parents had run away, Brodie… and she felt the desperate need to go back. With Dathan, it was bizarre; she felt alright with him but that was it. Did she love him anymore?

~

She woke to a strong smell of coffee. It made her gag. She rolled out of bed and stumbled down to the kitchen. “Ugh, do you really drink that?”

He nodded. “Are you always this groggy when you wake up? Do you want a coffee, too?”

“No, and I’m only like this on this side of the gate…”

He looked at her, expecting her to elaborate. When she didn’t, he changed the subject. “Do you want something?”

“Tea, please. Just milk, and I like it strong.”

“So I noticed.”

After her second tea and his third coffee, he left her for the day. Time now was her enemy. What the hell was she meant to do?

Her mind kept returning to Alizaria. She had no fear as to Leslie’s ability to lead. But she feared being called back… and not ever returning. She wanted to remember everything, then didn’t, because of what she had done and the consequences.

Finally, she spent the day lying flat on her back in the grass. She was down the side of the house away from the gate. A sketch pad was resting on her stomach and the pencil loosely gripped between her fingers. She drew the clouds.

Dathan came home. He saw her there but let her be; instead he went inside and, with a sigh and frown, started on dinner.

~

Dathan was gone for the day again. She wandered about the place, looking at things that were from her childhood and the things he had added.

Standing in the kitchen, she looked out the window. That was the one thing she hated most. He had revealed the gate.

She turned away. “I need something to do…” so as not to think. She moved to the fridge; it was empty of anything interestingly sweet. “Cake. I want to bake a cake.”

Dathan returned home to find an iced chocolate cake on the table, a batch of biscuits, and a cheesecake…all with chunks taken out of them. “Hey, I’m home.”

“Hey,” she looked over her shoulder. The cake was making her sugar-happy.

Dathan looked at the pile of washing up.

“Want some?” She waved an extra fork in the air.

He took it but pointed the tines towards the sink. She looked over at it and shrugged. “I’ll get to that soon.”

“I’ll help.”

~

Weeks passed and they fell into a routine. He would have coffee in the morning and have her tea ready when she stumbled down the hall. He would go and work and she would stay at home… cleaning, cooking, watching daytime television, anything. But in the end she would be sitting on the back steps staring at the gate, then on the grass, and finally she stood in front of it.

In the evening he would cook and they would sit around talking.

But as soon as the conversation turned to Alizaria and her time there, she shut her mouth and walked away.

And then they would sleep.

~

Shopping for new clothes had not entered her head for a long time. She sat in the passenger seat. “Um… what’s happened in the world while I’ve been gone?”

He shrugged. He looked so comfortable just driving along, with one hand on the steering wheel, the other hanging out of the window and his hair ruffling in the wind. “The usual; bickering politicians, blockbuster films with terrible acting, and taxes.”

Blair leaned forward and fiddled with the radio. The music had changed.

As they drove into the shopping centre’s parking, she looked at the girls and what they were wearing. Had things really changed that much? She felt outdated as she walked past the girls in their stylish clothes.

Dathan led her directly to a boutique shop. It was small, and crowded with racks of bras and underwear and beautiful dresses and skirts. The music was soft and sensuous, and there was some sort of floral smell floating in the air.

The shop assistant pounced right away. “Hi, Dathan. What are you doing here today?” She pouted her red lips. Fish lips, Blair thought.

“Hi, Lenka. We’re just shopping today. Blair needs some new clothes.”

Lenka turned her attention to Blair and looked her up and down. Blair tried not to fidget at the assessment. “I think we can help. Follow me.”

She led Blair to the back of the shop and pushed her into a changing room. “Get naked; I’ll start bringing things for you to try.”

Skirts, silky tops, dresses, lace bras, and bustiers. They hugged her body, showing off things she hadn’t considered back in Alizaria. I don’t look like me. Tears sprang to her eyes. She blinked hard and got back into her own clothes. When she looked again in the mirror, it was her again, but this time she felt inferior to the pile of clothes.

She came out of the cubicle to find Lenka leaning up to whisper, and Dathan leaning down, offering his ear to her and smiling. He had his hand on her lower back.

It struck Blair up the backside of her head. They were more than acquaintances or just friends. They had benefits.

The tears returned. She left the shop silently. Since there was no door for her to slam on the cubicle, only a curtain, and the carpeted floor softened her steps, they didn’t hear her.

She didn’t stop till she found herself in front of McDonalds.

Dathan found her after she had demolished her Happy Meal. “Hey, what was wrong?” He sat across from her in the food court.

“I didn’t like the clothes… you’ve slept with Lenka.”

He grimaced but nodded.

“And other girls?”

“Yes… Blair, don’t be upset. Eight years is a long time to wait, and I had no real idea if you were ever going to come back.”

“Ha. I think I will always win on waiting time.” She stood. “Come on. I want to have a look in other shops; the ones where you haven’t screwed the shop assistant.”

He rolled his eyes but followed her.

~

Home was quiet as they moved around each other that evening.

Why is it that boys always think with their penises and girls just wait? She brushed her hair with fierce strokes.

He stuck his head into her bedroom. “Can I come in?” He brought forward the cup of tea. “I come bearing a peace offering.”

She raised her brows. “That is not a peace offering; you’d need something a little stronger if that was the case.” He was hesitating at the door. “Come in,” she relented.

He placed the tea on her desk and sat on the bed. “I’m sorry. This entire time I have been living so far removed from Alizaria I don’t really remember it much… but I want you to know one thing. I love you. I have always loved you, all the way back to when we were children I have loved you. If you think I have been unfaithful because I have slept with other girls, I’m sorry. But they were just a little fun while I was waiting. I never felt anything for them.”

“What about your wife? You had a baby together.”

“I liked her…” He frowned.

Suddenly, Blair raised her hands and shushed him. “Look,” she took a deep breath. “You don’t have to explain. I thought you were dead…” she was being generous and he knew it.

“Do you want some ice-cream?”

She smiled. “Sure.”

~

Blair stared out the window at the gate. The water in the sink was getting cold. What if I just went back through? Maybe only a few months had passed and she could go back to the palace and see Leslie and Jade and Herrick again. Possibly she could start looking for Roy.

Dathan’s footsteps came up behind her. “Hey, what’s for dinner?”

She looked over her shoulder with a sneer. Was he being serious? Oh, yes, he was; he expected dinner, and from the look on his face he was confused as to why there was none and disappointed that he had to ask.

She sighed and turned back to the washing up. “Cake, I guess.”

He groaned. “You made another?” Quickly he backtracked as her shoulders stiffened and she mumbled swear words. “No, its fine. I like cake… just not really for dinner… I was expecting something else.”

She washed the last spoon and emptied the sink. Turning around, she smoothed out her face; no need to show him how much she hated having him in her house. No, wait, it was his house now. He had bought it from her parents.

She grabbed a fork and sat in front of the cake on the table. “If you want something different, you will have to fend for yourself tonight.” Sweet chocolate exploded in her mouth. A warm smile spread across her face and she hummed in enjoyment.

Dathan watched, fascinated. He snapped out of it and got himself a fork.

They ate silently for a while.

“How was your day?” she asked once she was full.

He was still eating. “Good.”

“What do you do all day?”

“I’m working with a gardener in town. It’s good work and I like being outdoors.”

Blair stared at him. “Is that how you pay for things?”

“Some… I had some help from Lucy when I first came through. She helped me exchange some things from Alizaria for money here.” He started to frown again.

“What do you do for things like identification and paying taxes? You don’t exist in this world. Or did Lucy fake some birth certificates and school diplomas?”

He swallowed and put down the fork. “The appropriate items were acquired.” He tilted his head to the side. “If you’re alright with asking questions does that mean you will answer mine now?”

She looked down at the table, rubbing a finger along a scratch.

“What happened to you in Alizaria?”

She leaned back in her chair. “Stuff.”

“What sort of stuff? I can’t help you if you don’t tell me.”

“And just how exactly can you help? Huh?”

“By listening to you… understanding the stuff you went through…”

“But you will never understand because you weren’t there; you were here, living a safe life inside my house, screwing any available vagina, and burying my cat. How can you understand? I can’t understand how you lived here!”

“I came through that gate because of you.”

She rolled her eyes. “Yes, I’ve heard the prediction that you would fall in love with the girl of two worlds… but that doesn’t mean that you have to or can possibly do it.”

With a groan he told her, “I want to love you… it’s just hard right now.”

She stood up. “I’m going to bed.” She flapped a hand at Dathan. She was far from ready to talk to him about anything.

He watched her go, wearing a frown that had almost become permanent.

~

Blair looked at the sky… it had turned an unusual shade of green. Huh? She rolled her head to the side and saw Lucy standing nearby in her flowing gown. “What is it?”

Lucy dropped to her knees. Leaning forward, her hair cascaded down and around her face and Blair’s, creating a curtain.

She kissed Blair.

It wasn’t right. Blair tried to shove her off and wriggle away, but Lucy only pressed down harder, knocking their teeth together and grabbed hold of her wrists.

It was yanked out of her. She screamed in the back of her throat, thrashing about. Tears sprang forth. What? What was happening? What was she taking?

Finally, Lucy lifted her head and moved away from Blair.

Blair rolled on to her side and cried. She shook violently. It was gone. Her magic was gone. She was empty.

The dragons’ fire flared, and her anger made her shoot to her feet and charge at Lucy. She knocked her to the ground. Lucy yelped in surprise. They wrestled, rolling around in the scratchy grass, their gowns tangling around legs.

Lucy broke away and climbed to her feet.

Blair made it to her hands and knees, panting. “Give it back! I want it back now!” She stumbled to her feet and stood tall. “What did you do to me?!”

Lucy stepped forward. “I’m making it better.” She placed a hand on Blair’s chest and pushed.

~

Blair woke, screaming. What happened? It’s not possible, is it?

She tried to move the glass on the bedside with her magic, but there was nothing inside her. She was empty.

“No!”

Blair surged out of the bed and rushed to the kitchen. She stumbled into the table. “Dathan! Look at me!”

His shoulders lifted and sagged with a sigh. It felt like forever as he turned slowly with a grimace.

She couldn’t see anything in his eyes. They were normal. “Where is it? What did she do?”

She doubled over and threw up dinner.

Heave.

Heave.

The floor tilted slightly. She dropped to her hands and knees.

“Lucy came to me as well and took back…”

“It wasn’t hers to take!” She yelled at him. There was nothing inside her now. Her skin crawled. Lucy had taken the one thing she couldn’t live without. It had made her unique. “Lucy! Come back, you BITCH!” she screamed.

Blair would never forgive her. She reeled back from Dathan’s touch. “Don’t.”

He left the house and didn’t come back till dinner time.

~

There was no moon in the sky. Blair lay in bed, sheets kicked down to the foot of her mattress, staring at the darkness. She allowed no thought to enter her mind.

Numb. She had to feel nothing… if she did allow it, then everything would fall apart. Memories would kill her.

One thought did weasel its way into her brain.

She launched herself out of the bed, tripping in the dark. Flicking the light on, she moved to her desk. Pulling apart the draws, she found a stack of blank notebooks. They were meant to be used for school, her senior year, but that wasn’t going to happen any time soon.

She opened the first book, picked up a pen, and started with Long ago I didn’t feel much like moving….

~

It was becoming normal. Blair would wake to the smell of coffee. It was her alarm clock. She wasn’t sure if she would ever find the smell appealing or get used to it, but it was a comforting part to her routine.

She shuffled from the bathroom into the kitchen.

Dathan had just poured the milk into her tea cup. He turned away from her and threw something into the bin then came back to serve her tea. “Morning, Blair.”

She ignored him.

“Late night?” He waited for an answer and she shrugged. He turned his back, snatched his cup, and moved to the table.

She fidgeted. Could she do it? Sighing, she stood from the table and left, returning seconds later with several notebooks. She dropped them on the table with a thump. “This is what I was doing last night and all of the other nights this week.”

Dathan pulled the top one to him and looked at the cover. In scrawled handwriting she had written ‘Book One’.

“What is this?”

“All of my memories. You asked what happened to me… there it is; everything about Alizaria and I.” She sank onto the seat, her legs no longer able to support her.

Dathan flipped the first book open just as Blair lifted her tea cup to her lips. He suddenly looked up and gasped.

She sipped, and then… nothing.

She blacked out.

~

I woke up slowly. Hmm, it was nice to sleep in. I stretched as far as the tangled sheets would allow me. Funny, I don’t remember what time I went to bed.

I spent the day lounging around at home. Cleaned a little (very little), baked a cake, and grabbed a book and headed outside for the afternoon.

I curled up on a chair on the veranda. Summer was definitely there. I left sweaty fingerprints on the pages.

My skin tingled. I looked up and spotted the strange man walking up the driveway. Idiot, the driveway was steep, that was why I always demanded being driven up hill… by someone. My head hurt a little.

I focused on him waving, and it eased.

Looking at him blankly, I called out, “Who are you?” I know I was being rude. There was something about him that was familiar. I tried to drag the memory forward but it was blurry, like a photo taken while moving. My head started to hurt again.

He was very attractive.

Funny, he covered disappointment with an open smile. I relaxed.

“Hi, I’m Dathan.”

“I’m Blair. Nice to meet you.”

 

Hello again,
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed Blair.
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April 

Blair: Salem’s Daughter
Blair: The Sleeping Daughter

Blair: The Same Daughter

 

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Extract from Blair: The Same Daughter

Once upon a time Blair Fitzpatrick came home after eight years and forgot about Alizaria. She no longer had magic.

The police were confused and interrogated her. She had no memory.

The doctors were amazed and did test after test. She had not aged.

Mr and Mrs Fitzpatrick were ecstatic their little girl was home and bought a new house in town. She lived with her family, finished her HSC and they were happy.

But Blair found herself constantly drawn ‘home’ and to the man who had found her. Little by little, Blair and Dathan fell in love.

Again.

 

 

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Blair: The Sleeping Daughter

Blair Fitzpatrick has woken up after being cursed to sleep for a thousand years and is not happy. The angels have ascended, everyone she knows and loves in Alizaria is dead, except for Roy, and now she is the most wanted enemy of the state. All Blair wants is to go home. If she can... “See this? I can do anything I want now. Anything. You lot didn’t put me to sleep for the night like a small child. You put me down like an animal. There was NOTHING!” She gasped for more air. “NOTHING FOR ONE THOUSAND YEARS! NO LIGHT, NO SOUND, NO FEELING. I didn’t even dream.” She placed her mouth next one wizard’s ear. “What kind of monster would do that to a kid?” She moved to the next one. “Now, for the real question. What kind of monster has awakened?”

  • ISBN: 9780994465917
  • Author: April Klasen
  • Published: 2016-07-18 07:05:16
  • Words: 49989
Blair: The Sleeping Daughter Blair: The Sleeping Daughter