A/N: Thank you Goddess-Minerva and empath89, I'm really glad you like this story too!
Chapter 2: Lady in Blue
Light pierced my eyes, right through the thin skin of the lids. Red and orange was all I saw, it was the color of my skin. No, I didn't want to wake up, it was too early. Sleep was what I craved more than life its self. Groaning, I rolled over, trying to escape that incessant and burning light. All around me, I felt dust rise and resettle their little maddening particles on my being. They resettled themselves on the sensitive skin of my face and my slightly slacked mouth as well. Those damn flecks of hell found their cursed way down my throat with no problem. Spontaneously, I underwent a coughing fit, bolting straight up and sitting on the edge of the bed, I doubled over, coughing. I tried to fight, tried to hold it back, but it would prove as fruitless as trying to hold a vicious animal back without your hands. My movement stirred up more dust around and off the bed covers, which was not much of a help. Dust seemed to cling to me as if I was a magnet to their iron. They seemed particularly fond of my face, trying to help the sun blind me. The coughing became only more relentless as I began to sneeze from the gathering filth. Sometime after I doubled over again onto my knees with one hand over my mouth and the other holding my stomach, I think I ran out of that room like a crying child, only I was coughing and sneezing with red eyes as I ran out. One of the servants, a middle aged man found me sitting with my back against the wall several feet from my room as I tried to defeat this violent cough while my body convulsed vehemently. He knelt before me, trying not to appear horrified and fearful, and asked me if I wanted him to fetch one of the local healers. Shaking my head, I tried to say No, I was fine. The servant nodded, saying he would be back in a few moments to acquire a flagon of water for me. Yes, I must have told him. As soon as the dust was gone, I would be well again. No doubt I woke the entire house hold, or at least who ever was still asleep. There would be no doubting that Mother would come soon and so would my younger new acquainted brother, Alexander. As for Elena, I would be lucky if she even inquired about my hale after this unlucky incident. Was that tears I felt welling up in my eyes? Gods, I hated tears from the incapability to breathe.
After what seemed to be an eternity of time and a thousand fits of coughing and convulsing, the servant returned with my flagon of water. I grabbed the water as viciously as I had grabbed the key from the woman yesterday. Hastily, I unscrewed the cap and poured the contents down my aching throat. My hands shook, sending water to do more than just dribbling down my chin and over my clothes, which I had not bother to change last night. The tunic, white shirt and black slacks seemed to have take new shades of gray. I must have looked like a mess with my old wrinkled clothes and disheveled chestnut hair with dust and filth covering my entire body. I'm surprised the servant didn't take me for a beggar of some sort. The water flowed down, washing away the flecks and giving my throat life again. Water never tasted sweeter. I leaned my head against the wall and polished off the rest of the flagon to its last drops before I gave it back to the servant and signaled him to leave me. He hurried away, thankful to go. Knuckling the tears from my eyes, I relaxed, knowing I should get up and go change out of these despicable clothes, which raised an interesting question. Where was all of my belongings that I had brought from the school? They were not in my rooms, as far as I could tell. Where did Mother order the servants to bring my possessions?
I looked up and groaned. It was my mother with her normal look of anxiety. If I never saw her wear that expression at least once a day, then I would start to worry. Poor Mother, she should be living the rest of her few years free of burden and woe. Let Jayson assume the burden of the mansion and Father's lands and live your life the way you want to. I remember long ago my mother said she wanted to see the ocean for one last time before she died. You see, my mother was born a daughter of a coastal lord. My father's lands are in the medial part of Terithiea and my mother never saw the ocean again after she married my father. Sometimes I wonder if she had any doubts or second thoughts about marrying my father even though she loved him dearly, even then. But sometimes I just wonder if she would have been happier as a wife of another coastal lord.
Still she wore that distressed look that broke my heart every time I saw her. Even as a child, I hated to see my mother wallow in her sorrow. I always thought she deserved better. My lazy father left many of his responsibilities to her for my mother to complete. But never once did I ever hear her complain.
I waved off her concern for me with a wave of the hand. "I'm fine, Mother. Really, I am. Just a bit of morning dust, that's all." I nearly laughed at the sound of my voice, hoarse and rasped. It sounded like morning dust was as common as the rising sun.
"I'm so sorry Damien. I should have had that room dusted long ago, but I-I just thought that you would be sleeping in the guest room for a couple days, so you could settle in."
Settle in? She thought I was staying too? Left over dust was suddenly caught up in my nose, making me sneeze violently. Then I remembered how undignified I must look sitting here on the floor like a commoner. I rose to my feet and fairly towered over her by a good six inches, maybe more. I backed away slightly from her, knowing she hated filth. I didn't want to cover her white dress in dust from my now gray tunic, cotton shirt and ashen slacks. I think she knew I wanted to change my clothes and bathe even before I ask. I must have inherited the intolerance for filth from her.
She lead me away from my room and took me past old routes I vaguely remembered around the mansion. Eventually she halted in front of one of the guest rooms. There were very few of them, maybe five of them, just as I remembered. We never really expected much guests here in the middle of now where. Have I told you the name of my father's lands? I don't think I have. Well, it is called Haveral and the mansion is just the Dé Wolfe, our last name. Yes, my full name is Damien Déwolfe, without the spacing in the last name, in case you need some clarification, though I highly doubt you needed that. I think it means "of the wolf". Our family crest is of a wolf and double crossed swords under the wolf's body on a dark red background.
When I entered the room, I saw my belongings I had acquired over the years of my studies. Most of them were arcane books that held the secrets of the past that scholars allowed me to take. They said it was incomprehensible to them. The language was in vague and in hazy words. It was if the book was dipped in water and then dried. There were a few names that would pop up every now and then that I could read. One was the name "Aeolyn" and the other was "Mikhail." I think it was a reference to the events that supposedly took place long ago. But I never really learn that story, on account that no one knows the truth from myth. But now, I wanted to learn the truth in the story of Adelaide and her two lovers. Legends say that long ago the world was guarded by winged beings called Immortals who lived in great structure immense in size called Holds. Adelaide was said to have fallen in love with one Immortal man name Damic. But there was another Immortal who loved Adelaide too, and this Immortal was Raiden. Somewhere along the line, Raiden lost faith in the gods and goddesses and became a Demon and so on and so one. That story is rather irrelevant to mine.
The door closed behind me, and I heard my mother's footsteps fade down the hall on the flagstone. At once, I began to take account of my belongings, ensuring that every book was accounted for and every leaf of paper I had written on was here. My life, at the time, revolved around my studies. Once that was finished, I took in my surroundings. There was a comely warm bed in the corner and a mahogany nightstand beside it; there was an unlighted candle on its flat surface. There was a desk against the wall a few feet from the bed with a nice well-worn chair. A large circular red rug covered the white flagstone. At the foot of the bed was an obsolete chest one might place his or her clothes and across from the chest was an empty vertical wardrobe trunk that was as tall as I was. It opened like a door on the wall and not like an ordinary clothing trunk. I had one in my bedroom. Along the walls, a few sconces were lighted by dying fires as morning came. Adjacent to the desk and chair was a large window with a view of the terrace out back. Tapestries hung from the stone and thick wooden walls depiction intricate designs and pictures of winged beings, the Immortals. The tapestry that covered the table near the door portrayed the Goddess Lilith of the Night. Her blue-black hair fell shaped her face in it's great waves. Her skin was an unearthly pale and contrasted her pink full lips. Her eyes, colorless as the night, looked down, melancholy. There was something about her eyes, as they seemed to come to life. Tears edged her beautiful eyes. Around the picture of her crestfallen face was an intricate embroidering pattern of nightflowers and black roses. Goddess of night and ruler of the other goddesses. She was the taker of life, though she has the power to bestow life to those who are on the brink of death through her human pawns. It is said Lilith bestowed her gift of life to one of the figures of history. I can't remember if it was the girl Adelaide or Aeolyn.
There are actually seven major gods in our pagan religion. Lilith, ruler of the goddesses, night, death and women; Darme, goddess of dreams, choice and fate; Amora, goddess of love and beauty; Runa, goddess of time; Mithro, ruler of all gods, the day, sun, men, life and fire; Vidarian, god of weather; Joven, god of the earth and it's creatures. There are a few more gods and goddesses, but these are known as the Seven. The major gods. This is what I was brought up to believe in. And don't get me wrong, I still believe in these gods, however silly it may seen to you.
The water room door, to the right of the enterance, was shut tightly and took quiet and effort to open it. I wondered if any of the guests who stayed in this room ever complained because I certainly would have. Who wants to break a sweat just by opening a jammed door? The water room itself consisted of the normal privy that off to the side of water room in a small closet like room. The water room its self was not very large in size, consisting of a small tub that could be filled with heated or cool water from the pipe lines that ran around the mansion. One lever would emit steaming water from a pipe in to the tub while another emitted icy cold water. The warm water was heated in the basements of the mansion by boiling large quantities of water. The cool water was probably just melted snow, no doubt. The room itself was tiled with special white flagstones on the floor and tiles on the walls that would be easily cleared of moister. The ceiling was much like the walls. A small window was built in the upper right hand corner of the room so steam could be vented out. A full length mirror hung near the door with incorporated racks that held clean downy towels and there were empty racks and horizontal poles to hold one's clothes. A tray of soap was built on the tub too. After filling the tub with water, which took quiet some time given that I couldn't adjust the temperature to be just right, I stripped off my filthy and dusty clothes and plunged into the water. Gods, it felt good to be clean. I hadn't bathed since I was at the university nearly a week ago. I never trusted the bathing rooms they had at the inns. Who knows what could be in those waters, and besides, there is only two large rooms to bathe in. One for males, the other for females. I can't stand the idea of bathing in the same waters as every other man, common or not. And there are others there in the room with you! Sorry, but I like my water clean and my privacy kept.
Once I finished and changed into a clean pair of my normal black slacks and cream colored shirt, I found it impossible to find any of the tunics I had brought with me. So instead, I wore the vest that was mysteriously placed on my bed along with other fine clothes that I was most certainly not use to. Common garb was good enough for me on average. And besides, I never really had the money to purchase clothes of such fine material. These clothes on my bed must have been brought in by my mother when I was in the water room. Now why would I need to wear such fine clothes around family? But I decided to change into the clothes laid out for me anyways since there must be a reason. By the wardrobe, I found another mirror. I was shocked at how striking I actually looked. With my wet, not quiet shoulder length chestnut hair, coming down either side of my face in its normal curls and my deep blue eyes narrowed ever so slightly, flabbergasted that this person might actually be me. My face was flushed in the least from the shower, giving some color to the rather tan skin. The clothes fitted perfectly, showing my build in the slightest. My brothers had been jealous of my strong build since they were slender like both Mother and Father. Sometimes I wonder how I came about. I remember my father telling me I would make a perfect knight of the land but that wasn't what I wanted. I was an intellect from the start. The sleeves of the jacket were cut slightly longer than they should have been and the tail was just the same. But I loved it. I never really wore finer clothes, only secondhand clothes from my brothers.
A sudden knock on the door scared my witless for a second. I walked toward the door, my boots resounding on the flagstones. Opening the door a few inches, I saw my mother standing there, looking lovelier than she had been earlier. She was looking at me expectantly as I opened the door wider allowing her to come in if she chooses to come. She merely shook her head so I walked out of the room and shut the door behind me. She was appraising the clothes on me, no doubt, ensuring that everything fits.
"You gave me these clothes, didn't you?" I asked, when she nodded, pleased with the clothes.
She looked up at me. "Yes I did. I must say, I thought my measurements might have been off by a few inches, but everything fits perfectly. I can't have my son running around my home in commoner clothes with your father's very close friend coming this very morning."
I stared at her. Yes, I knew there was a reason for the clothes. "Now?" I exclaimed incredulously. I wasn't ready to meet even more people, nobles. I wanted to get out of here now! There was no way I could stay in this hellhole, not even for my mother. It was then when it dawned on me that she wanted me hear for my father's death, that I should be here to greet the people who had come to see my father in his last hours. I would be surrounded by so many people, aristocrats at that too. And undoubtedly, they would have known that I was his absent son. Oh why was I cursed?
My mother nodded. "Lord Adelbert has arrive here already, along with his wife Delaney. His daughters Greta and Angela are to arrive any moment now by carriage. Their cousin, Eladari, is accompanying them on their journey. I would like you to greet the ladies as they come into our home. Elena and Alexander are with our guests at the moment."
Angela. That name rang a bell. Was she the girl I was to marry? But I didn't want to marry yet.
I nodded to my mother and turned to leave when my mother called down to me. I turned.
"Please treat their cousin with care. Young Eladari recently married to a late lord and is now a widow. Her husband died when he and his men were assaulted on their way home not a few days after the marriage," she called to me.
I nodded, reassuring her that I would take care of the ladies as soon as they arrived. But what I would do with them, I had no idea. I never played host before, especially with three young women of high status and one to be my supposed bride. I slowed my steps deliberately, feeling a pang of hunger in my stomach. I remembered my last meal was yesterday afternoon. Maybe I could persuade these three to have breakfast with me. I have no idea if that would be ungentlemanly or not. Oh well, maybe the girl wouldn't want to marry me after she sees my odd behavior. Along the my way to the front hall, I passed the kitchen and paused, poking my head in the servant's door. Everyone there was busy working, conjuring up ingredients from places my eyes could not follow. One of the servants saw me, an elderly woman. She smiled at me and came up to me. I fought the urge to run away like a child after being caught prying. She looked at me for a good several seconds before grinning more broadly. She seemed to have seen something in my eyes. Oh gods, what was wrong with my eyes? Did I look that guilty?
She cocked her head to the side. "I knew you'd come back one day or another," she said kindly, wiping her food covered hands on her apron front.
Was I suppose to know this servant? I felt horrible know that I had no idea who this woman was. Yet there was some vague memory of my childhood. Yes, I remember coming to the kitchens to steal food because I had been sent to my room for the night without dinner. And yes!-I knew this woman. She was the kind cook who used to slip me loaves of left over bread when I came into the kitchen, starved. I can't believe she still remembered me. The look on my face sent a hearty laugh through Celina, the Head Cook.
"So you do remember! I was beginning to worry for a second," Celina said in her peasant accent, faintly skipping over her Rs. "What's it been? Twelve years?"
I smiled. "Yes it has and I do remember you Celina, you always gave me a loaf of bread every time I was sent to my room without dinner. Did I ever tell you how grateful I was for every scrap of food you managed to salve for me?"
Celina nodded. "Yes, yes you told me day after day. Why, if it hadn't been for all that food I salved for you, you mightn't have ended up the way you are," she exclaimed, gesturing to my tall build.
I laughed, waving off all the compliments she sent my way. I noticed more than half of the servants stopped every so often to watch the young lordling converse with a common cook. It really must have been an odd sight at that. All of the servants were undeniably listening in on us, wondering who this mysterious lordling was. Their glances reminded me why I was really here. Like usual. Celina caught me eyes the food that was being prepared beyond her. Somewhere on the counter were fresh loaves of bread and a few rolls being cooled so that petty lords would not burn their little fingers and tongues.
"You are so predictable," she laughed, walking over for a counter and picking up two rolls and placed them into a handkerchief. Over her shoulder, she shout for the rest of the servants to get back to work as she ambled back to me, handing me the rolls in the cloth. "I'm wagering this is the reason you came to the kitchens."
I felt me face grow hot, flushing. Yes, caught once again. I nodded, taking the rolls gratefully and with thanks. Suddenly someone in the background of the kitchen cried out for Celina. Apparently they had placed too much eggs in the batter. Celina rolled her eyes before she bade me farewell and extracted a promise from me that I would come back later to visit her.
I strolled away from the kitchen now, thankful that I had stopped by. Opening the cloth, I inhaled the congenial smell of newly baked bread. Oh how good it smelled and the taste was even better, added with the great spice of hunger. The inside was white and chewy while the outer crust was just right, a golden brown and crispy. Yes, this was why I used to sneak into the kitchens for the most sweet of the breads. In the end, I found myself brushing crumbs from my shirt and jacket front and I handed the cloth a passing servant, telling him that the cloth belonged in the kitchen. Oh, and tell Celina the Head Cook Damien says thank you from the bottom of his heart.
I looked out the front window, peaking from behind the drapes, satisfied with the food in my stomach. The snow swathed the entire landscape like a snug blanket and the gray clouds encased the land with its foreboding pall of eternal sorrow. It was really quite a sight given that there was not a scrap of color, for even the trees looked dead, gray in death. The tall pines were covered in their white shrouds like angels in white from head to toe. Snow fell here and there from the roof, falling like little pieces of the divine realms itself. Something moved, catching my eye. It was a small box towed by four horses. The carriage of three women. So I hadn't arrived before they had. I felt relief course through me like blood. I walked up to stand several feet from the door so when they entered, I would be the first thing they saw.
A few minutes later, the doors flew wide open. For a second, I was blinded by the glare of pure white snow but when my vision cleared, I gasped. The most beautiful woman was all I saw. Her red cloak drew my eyes to her comely body first, swathed in a deep red dress. She was tall, yet not too tall. Maybe 5"6? Her long white blond hair flowed freely as the wind pulled it back from her face. Her eyes, violet as an amethyst jewel shimmered with magnificence and intelligence under fine blond eyebrows. Her pale face turned toward me, with her full red lips. I felt my heart skipping and threatening to break the cage of bones as I watched the lady in blue. She held my gaze and smiled.