CHAPTER ONE / EPILOGUE / SHADOW OF THE MANOR

I lay there empty. There was a long stifling echo in my head that told I need to get up from I lie. There was something within these walls I am in right now that sends me down stiff on the floor on which I have taken to as my bed. I look around and the cracked ceilings where a painting of a great war lay hung over me like a looming cloud. I examined it, since I saw that there is no more that I can do but stare at it and everything else, I saw the missing bits and pieces of the ceiling stood as a reminder that even the greatest of wars and even the greatest of men can be forgotten as easily as this chipped and scratched painting on the ceiling.

I have spent my days mindlessly trotting among these walls and its memories and the sounds of the cannons are no more but the silent beating of a band drum. I brought myself from where I stood and reached for the door that led to the Grand Hall where all of the other heirlooms and paintings and memories and dreams and nightmares lay still in their places and haunt me for my years.

"Milan, save me." Cried the first portrait

"Milan, give me life." Cried the other.

All of them are useless cries. They bellow every night with every spec of life they can possibly have in their dried paint. I yield not to their cries but though I honestly want to, but their cries wane from me sight.

It is not a dream, these voices, for I have been around here for more than what a peasant would call eternal in their own sense, but for us, it is only a day that a decade can bring and what I hear are not dream whispers, but they are whispers nonetheless. Not from the living but not from the dead, it is from those whom in their passing seek salvation that they hunt within me. These portraits were drawn by the silkiest of brushes and of the finest paint, but they lay bare of life.

"Milan, do not scorn me." Begged the image that I had placed my hand on, it felt too real, but that is why I like them and this is my favorite one, the portrait of a timid woman. Her long brown lay on her shoulders like the soft waterfall. Her eyes were of the softest blue and they kept in their orbs the life that she once had, but I'd like to believe though that she still has that life even in this position. Her round lips lay bare in the red and her cheeks were full of blushing.

"How can I my love?" I answered caressing its seemingly unexciting skin, "You are one of the best that I have. It is pure delirium if I let go of this masterpiece."

The canvass did not answer; she only looked her ways to the abyss that lay behind me. Like the dead drawing that she was.

Why am I here? I have promised myself to not let his fate befall me, but his pretense which he has come to call his 'worldly way of thinking' has influenced me more than his painful bite. I've come to realize that he was right, I need more of what he showed me and these are the results of that want and those needs.

I moved myself to the next landscape, a work of art which immortalized the crystalline waters of Cold Page Creek, the silver string that ran through the Wilburn estate's rose garden towards its mighty manor of stone, wood, steel and glass. The very place where the destinies of its inhibitors are all laid out for them. It was a towering figure. It looked more of a castle than a manor with its hidden towers on each four points of the natural directions. The stained glass which showed the location of the grand ballroom and the other garden which the mistress tends to is on the roof. I both love and abhor this picture. The memories it brings are all to clear and the disaster that place has summed up to me is still lingering in my veins, but never can I destroy that heritage. I can only look out for it, until the end of my days, and that is when the trumpets will blow and I see the dancing rainbow in the sky.

I held a hand up in front of the painting. I felt heat seeping from ever tree, as if the sun was still there shining in its glory. I moved my fingers as if I was stroking a gentle infant's face. The heat and what seemed to be light that was coming out of the painting was inviting me to touch it and I did. I pressed my hand on it letting the warmth envelope my hand and slowly to my body. I shut my eyes and almost did I see his face once again. That soft brunette hair that led me to desire and his deep hazel eyes watched me ghastly as they did before. The smirk on his face was still there, even in my unwanted imagination. His lips curved to what seemed to be the want that he portrayed long ago and hid behind them the seemingly protruding canines that I feared to see at first. I opened my eyes as quickly as I could, like they were running away from his glares. Even up to now I still shiver in both ecstasy and fright about him.

"And still you sway me…" I said to myself under my breath. I turned away from the painting and walked down the Grand Hall towards the only door that was there at the edge. The mighty pillars of the Grand Hall loom over me like eyes that I could never see. My footsteps sounded like heavy mallets falling onto slabs of stone by some worker, the emptiness's fault. I reached the door and twisted its knob, the hinges of the door creaked as I slowly opened it to peer into what's inside. Although, that gesture did not mean I didn't know what was in there, I did, I just formed a habit to peer into things. I went in and the lit candles of the room made the temperature warmer inside the room. I walked through array of candles; the presence of the flames was more felt by my eyes rather than my skin. Their heat scorched my pupils like the sun in broad daylight, something I was and forever will be deprived off. I narrowed my eyes for a bit and shuddered like there was a chill.

"And still this room is of no importance to me." I cussed. I scanned the room, "No need to do so." I reminded myself, "Nothing will change, not until he's back." I walked towards the window where it overlooked the once beautiful rose garden of the manor that I am now encased in.

"I'll never see what I have to…" I thought deliriously. I picked up a book with covers of leather. The papers were old and almost crisp in time. The color was of musky coffee. I unhooked the lock and opened the pages. The writings were familiar. They were mine.