"Hurry up Riyah," Oliver called. Riyah did her best to follow her older cousins, but their longer legs unhindered by heavy skirts allowed them to travel faster than her. Her skirt was constantly being snagged by branches and thorns. Aunt Beatrice was surely going to be displeased.
"Oliver! Arthur! Slow down," Riyah cried. A tree branch cut along her cheek and she winced. She could hear the boys laughing a few lengths ahead.
"Are you sure it's this way, Arthur?" Oliver questioned. He paused looking around the unfamiliar woods.
"That's what Julias said," Arthur replied. Julias was the twins' older brother. A grown man of eighteen with no time to play childish games, but still made time to tell his young brothers wild stories. Even Riyah was enchanted by Julias' stories. She would linger in the doorway of her cousins' bedroom as Julias told them vivid tales of his explorations of the woods behind Rembrooke Manor.
"Once I traveled deep into the forest. Deeper than I'd ever been. There is a large bolder, white as snow, that's at least the height of two tall men. It's split down the middle as if a giant came and hit it with a pickaxe. If you go around it you'll see nothing but more woods, but if you go through it you will see a tent."
"A tent!" Arthur had interrupted, unimpressed. Riyah wished she could have shushed him, but she knew if she made a single peep they would shoo her away.
"Who would camp out in the middle of woods like that, brother," Oliver asked. Julias smiled and waited for tension to build. The twins leaned in waiting for his answer.
"A witch," Julias whispered. Luckily the boys' gasps drowned out Riyah's. A witch camped out behind Rembrooke Manor? Impossible.
"She lives by herself and enjoys her privacy, but they say if you sneak into her tent and steal her prized possession she'll barter you a wish to get it back." The boys' eyes sparkled with intrigue. Riyah frowned. This was starting to sound more like a fairytale and at seven years old she was far too jaded to believe in such nonsense. There was no such thing as wishes and if there were they certainly didn't come true. If they did then she would be at home with two loving parents rather than the pest under her Aunt's care.
"You must be careful though," Julias continued, "If you get caught by her then you will instead be cursed like I was."
"Cursed?" Oliver repeated, a little perturbed.
"What were you cursed with, brother," Arthur asked. Julias sighed dramatically and feign sorrow.
"I was cursed with two of the brattiest little brothers a person could ask for." Julias cracked a smile and the boys threw up their hands and started to beat his chest. Julias only laughed. Their ten-year-old fists couldn't hurt him. He looked past them and noticed Riyah there. She jumped when their eyes made contact. She expected a reprimand, but he only offered a soft smile. Still, though, she retreated to her own room.
"But that was just a made-up story," Oliver said, "Wasn't it?" Riyah finally caught up to them as they tried to find their bearings.
"We should go back," Riyah said as she tried to catch her breath.
"Who said you could even come," Arthur spat.
"But teacher said that we shouldn't go far because we have lessons this afternoon," Riyah argued. In truth, she was scared of the woods. There were some parts so dense that not even sunlight could break through the thick branches. Who knew what hid in the dark.
"But teacher said blah blah blah," Arthur mocked, "If you're so concerned you can go back without us."
"But-" Riyah started.
"Don't be such a baby, Riyah," Oliver turned to his brother, "Which way?"
"Julias said to keep going east which is…" Arthur looked up at the sky and squinted at what sun he could see, "... that way." He pointed towards a shadowy part of the forest. They both eagerly continue, but Riyah hesitated.
"Keep up or we'll leave you behind," Arthur threatened. His words were enough to push her forward.
"What about bears or jag- jag… panthers," Riyah whimpered, frustrated that her fear wouldn't let her say the word jaguars.
"Panthers and bears are only in the circus," Oliver said.
"But I read a story about a girl who went into the woods and came across a family of bears and when she disturb their home they ate her," Riyah argued.
"Don't be dumb, Riyah," Arthur admonished, "Your baby stories aren't real life. There are no bears in these woods!" Riyah wasn't convinced. She desperately wanted to hold their hands as the sun started to be blotted out, but she knew that her touch was unwanted. Though they were considered family, they never welcomed her presence.
Riyah had come to live with her father's sister, Aunt Beatrice after the death of her parents. Aunt Beatrice never paid her any mind unless it was to scold her. She always mumbled something about never wanting a useless girl in her house. Aunt Beatrice's husband Duke Rembrooke ignored her existence entirely, but as a man who detested children, he tended to ignore the twins as well. Arthur and Oliver treated her like their personal toy. Arthur pinched and hit her when he was displeased. He tripped and pushed her to the ground and laughed when she was scolded by the maids for dirtying her clothes. Oliver wasn't as cruel, but he never stepped in when his brother bullied her cruelly. He just watched silently. But as apathetic and cruel as they were the twins were her only playmates.
Julias was the only one who showed Riyah any compassion. He scolded Arthur when he was too rough or slipped her a piece of candy after particularly bad scoldings from her aunt. He even once wiped her tears when he came across her crying alone in the gardens not long after her parents had died. Riyah had to pray to God for forgiveness every night because every day she wished that her uncle would die so that Julias would become the new duke and maybe, just maybe, she would be treated better.
"Oliver! Oliver! Look!" Arthur suddenly shouted.
"It's real!" Oliver shouted in disbelief. The two boys broke out into a run. Riyah did her best to pick up her skirts and run after them, but just as they ran, they abruptly stopped causing her to run into their backs and be sent tumbling to the leaf-covered ground. She stood up with a groan and did her best to dust off the sappy leaves sticking to her bum. She looked around the two boys and her mouth dropped open, matching the surprised look on her cousins' faces. There before them stood a large white boulder as tall as two fully grown men with a large crack down the middle as if split open by a giant.
Riyah looked at the boys. Arthur still looked utterly shocked. Despite their willingness to believe Julias all three of them had known that the story he told was just a tall tale. Oliver had moved past surprise and started looking concerned. Riyah was beginning to become scared. Not only was this part of the woods dark but it was also deathly quiet. No birds or insects could be heard. Not even wind rustled the leaves. It was silent and that silence seemed unnatural.
"Do you really think there's a witch on the other side?" Oliver questioned. Arthur walked to the left of the bolder and looked off into the seemingly endless woods and then repeated the same action to the right of the boulder.
"Riyah," Arthur suddenly ordered, "Go through the split in the boulder and tell us if there's a tent on the other side."
Riyah squeaked, "Why me?"
"Because I said so," Arthur taunted.
"But you two are older," Riyah argued.
"And if the witch catches us we would be missed. You on the other hand…" Arthur let his words hang in the air. Tears started to well up in her eyes. She wanted to go back to the manor. She'd much rather have teacher punish her with a ruler to the back of her legs than to stay there in the dark quiet woods a minute longer.
"If you find the witch's treasure then you'll get a wish, remember?" Oliver reminded her.
"That's right," Arthur encouraged, "You could wish for anything you want."
"Maybe you could even wish for your parents back," Oliver suggested. Riyah's chest squeezed. If she could wish for her parents back she could feel love again. She could feel their warm embrace and kind words. She could hear her father talk about all the great things she could do and feel her mother run her fingers through her hair. She could hear the words I love you. How she missed being loved.
"Go on then," Arthur said almost encouragingly. Riyah straightened her back. The truth to Julias' story could end there at the boulder, in which case she had nothing to fear. Or it could continue. There really could be a witch and a treasure and a wish…
Riyah hitched up her skirts again and walked toward the boulder. She climbed up to the crack. Looking through it, all she saw was more woods. She looked behind her at the boys. They both smiled at her, but neither smiled out of kindness. They never smiled at her out of kindness. As always Arthur's smile held well-masked cruelty and Oliver's held poorly masked guilt. Riyah took a deep breath and made her way through the split in the boulder. It was troublesome. The rock beneath her feet wasn't flat so her feet were sloped at an awkward angle. She could barely fit through the two pieces, jagged edges scrapping her shoulders as she moved forward. When she poked her head out the other side she looked around. At first, all she saw was more woods. She dropped out from the boulder and landed a little harshly in the dirt.
"There's nothing here," Riyah called. There was a beat of silence. She walked around the boulder to find her cousins, but there wasn't anyone there.
"Oliver!" she called out, "Arthur?" She walked over to where they had been standing. There weren't even any footprints showing that they were once there. Riyah's eyes flitted to every tree. Where were they? Or rather where was she? She went back to the other side of the boulder with the intent of climbing back through its split.
Suddenly the air in front of her shimmered. Like a mirage, a form appeared before her eyes. She squinted until it slowly focused and sharpened. Her stomach dropped. It was a tent.
The silence somehow became even more apparent. It smelled stale as if she were in a long-forgotten attic rather than outside. She should be able to smell grass and leaves and moss, but all she could smell was dust.
Riyah took a deep unsatisfying breath and walked slowly toward the tent. It looked to be made of pieces of canvas varying in size and color. It looked poorly built, only held up by sticks and twine. The opening flap fluttered in wind that Riyah herself could not feel. It didn't look like anyone was inside. She stepped in and gasped. The inside looked nothing like the shabbiness of the outside. Thick plush carpet covered the ground. Drapes and ornate screens separated the living spaces. To the left were pots and pans, a stove oven and fire pit, and a seemingly endless amount of jars filled with lord knows what. To the right were a table and chairs. The table was laden with thick old books. One glance and Riyah knew that none of those books were in a language she could read. She wandered in deeper. Further back there was a sitting area with luxurious pillows and a bed with a warm-looking down blanket. But Riyah walked right past the sitting area. The back of the tent glimmered and shined. There were piles of riches. Gold and jewels were scattered about like confetti. Did this tent really belong to a witch?
Riyah turned to examine the tent again. There wasn't a soul to be seen. She turned back to the treasure before her. Which one of these did the witch favor the most? She skimmed her hands over a pearl necklace and then traced over a pair of emerald earrings. She picked up a tiara adorned with rubies and diamonds. It was the prettiest thing she'd ever seen. She placed it on her head and walked over to the dirty looking-glass by the bed. She suppressed a smile as she gazed at herself. She looked like a princess. What did a witch need with such things?
Something sparkling in the glass caught Riyah's attention. It was coming from behind her. She turned. There was a small glass box sitting on a vanity table amongst several beauty supplies that seemed strange for a witch to use. She wandered over to the table after abandoning the tiara on the bed absent-mindedly. Ribbons and powders and glosses were scattered about. Riyah wondered what the witch looked like. Her vanity table looked much like her aunt's. She lifted the glass box's lid. Inside was a rusted silver chain with a dull sapphire bauble attached. Riyah lifted it and held it in front of her face for better inspection. It looked like only costume jewelry. She glanced back at the pile of treasure. It was important enough to keep separate. Some place where she would see it every day. It was clearly beloved. Was this the witch's prized possession? Had she found it?
Riyah set it back in the box and closed the lid. It was time for her to leave. She felt guilty for rifling through someone's things. She would go back through the split in the boulder where hopefully her cousins were still waiting and tell them there was nothing there. She quickly retraced her steps and left the tent. Uneasiness quickly settled in her stomach as she breathed in the stale air again. Suddenly the boulder seemed farther away than it was when she entered the tent. She had the urge to run, but fear kept her at a brisk walk.
Wind suddenly howled through the trees, breaking the deafening silence and causing Riyah to yelp in fright. Her legs were moving, but she was getting no closer to the boulder. Finally, she lifted her skirts and ran. She threw any sense of bravery to the wind and let animalistic fear take over. The hair on the back of her neck stood on end as if someone were chasing her. Was someone chasing her? She was too scared to look over her shoulder to be sure. Instead, she pushed herself to run faster, vowing that should she make it to the boulder unharmed then she would be a good girl and never complain about her situation again.
Riyah reached the boulder after what seemed like several minutes of running even though it could only have possibly been a few seconds She touched the boulder to reassure herself, it's rough texture easing her nerves a bit. She chanced a look behind herself. The wind had died and it was silent again. Even the tent stood still only a few feet away.
"You touched my things," someone whispered in her ear. A scream ripped out of Riyah's throat as she turned to see a woman standing where she wasn't before. Riyah scrambled up the boulder to reach its opening, but the woman grabbed the back of her dress and wrenched her down. She fell flat on her back. Before she could get up a heavy hand gripped her throat. The witch hovered above. Her body was completely parallel to her own.
Riyah squeezed her eyes shut as she trembled.
"Look at me," the witch said. Riyah obeyed her demands. The witch wasn't quite what she expected. She wasn't ugly with leathery skin and warts like how witches were often portrayed in her storybooks. This witch had smooth unblemished skin with only the slightest of wrinkles around her ruby-red eyes. Her lashes and eyebrows were as black as obsidian, but her hair which was loose and billowing around her face and shoulders had streaks of grey. She had a soft yet stern look on her face almost as if she were disappointed in a naughty child.
"What were you doing in my home?" she questioned. Even her voice sounded more matronly rather than demonic.
"I'm sorry," Riyah shouted despite the hand gripping her throat, "Please let me go."
"Did you take anything?" the witch asked.
"I took nothing, I promise," Riyah begged. She clawed at the witch's wrist to no avail.
"Why not?" the witch looked at her curiously.
"S-stealing is w-wrong," Riyah stuttered. The witch touched a finger to her lip as if to ponder something. She floated back, taking Riyah with her so both stood vertically. She let Riyah go but gave her a pointed look to warn her not to move. The witch wore pure white robes that billowed just like her hair as if she were falling rather than standing completely still.
"Please, let me go," Riyah begged.
"You seemed to enjoy the tiara," the witch mused.
"It was very p-pretty, but it is not mine," Riyah said, though she suspected the tiara didn't belong to the witch either. She fisted her hands into her skirt as the witch started to circle her like a wolf its prey.
"You are the smallest person I have encountered trying to steal from me," she stated.
"I didn't steal-" Riyah started to protest, but she quickly cut herself off when the witch raised her hand.
"The last person was small too, but not as small as you. He stole a ring from me, but I caught him." A ring? Julias always wore a ring on a chain around his neck. Arthur and Oliver asked him about it, but Julias always told them that he found it in the woods one day and that the rest was a secret. Had the story Julias told them really been true? Had he stolen the witch's prized possession?
"Do you know what I did to him?" the witch asked with a teasing smile. Riyah shook her head.
"I let him keep the ring, but in return, I took something from him," she answered.
"What did you take?" Riyah found herself asking.
"His love and compassion," the witch shrugged, "I cursed him to never feel such things for another living thing for the rest of his days. Though he didn't have much within his heart to begin with." It couldn't be Julias. Julias was the kindest soul in Rembrooke manor.
"I'm sure you know the boy," the witch said, "The gate to my home can only be accessed on Rembrooke grounds. He was the young lord." The blood in Riyah's veins went icy.
"Word of warning dear, stay away from that boy. I'm sure he must be a young man now. He's probably grown to become a very good actor. He'd have to be, to hide his cruelty. Wouldn't you agree?"
"Please let me go," Riyah whimpered.
"You know the rules," the witch said, "I caught you." She held up her hand in a fist. Riyah flinched away almost expecting the witch to punch her, but instead, she opened her hand and something fell out. A sapphire bauble hung by it's chain in front of her face.
"I can tell by the look in your eyes that you know what this is," the witch's tone had suddenly gone flat, "I will tell you the story behind this necklace." Riyah gasped as the witch shimmered and melted into a different version of herself. The streaks in her hair disappeared as well as the wrinkles. Her cheeks grew rosier and her eyes faded from red to brown. Even her robes magically changed into a maid's uniform.
"I was once a normal girl who only wished to live a normal life with the people I loved. I was a maid at Rembrooke manor long before you or even the current lord was born. I was in love with a stable boy. He was handsome and strong and loved me very much." She rubbed her thumb over the sapphire which now shone more brilliantly than before.
"He gave me this as a present. Maids weren't allowed to wear jewelry so he used this to propose to me and I wore it under my uniform. I had never been so content in my life." She smiled briefly, before her smile turned wistful and then fell altogether.
"A plague broke out. The Rembrooke's hired the best doctors and herbalists for themselves. But us servants had to make do with our own remedies, which did nothing to treat such a sickness. If you caught the disease then you had best say your goodbyes quickly because you would not last long after. My beloved… He fell sick one day. I knew he didn't have long. I was desperate. There were whispers of a witch in town. I went to see her and begged her for any way to save him. She said nothing could change the will of God. Not even magic. I didn't accept that answer so when she wasn't looking I stole her grimoire. I found a ritual that would allow us to be together, but to enact it I had to make a terrible sacrifice. I did a terrible thing." The witch's face crumbled and red tears flowed down her cheeks. Riyah jumped back when a ring of fire erupted around her. Her eyes started to glow as red as the flames.
"But I did it for him and he got healthy again. It was a miracle!" she smiled even though bloody tears still ran down her face, "Once the plague was over the manor had lost over half its staff and more were hired. My beloved's head was turned to another. I was abandoned. Forgotten. But I had power now. I tried to use magic to turn his eyes back toward me, but the other maid caught on and exposed me. I was forced to flee the manor and I never saw my beloved again." As soon as her story was finished, the witch's image melted back to her older self.
"What your beloved did was cruel," Riyah said quietly, "But please let me go back home.
"You are a clever girl," the witch mumbled, "But your deeds must have consequences."
"I did not steal," Riyah argued. In a swift motion, the witch looped the necklace over Riyah's head. She leaned down so she could be at her eye level and smiled at her softly.
"Your curse won't be as bad as the boy's," she assured her, "Your curse is to live among the forgotten." The witch took Riyah's face into her hands.
"Do not fret too much," she whispered, "Unlike that boy and unlike me, you will know happiness, friendship, and love. For that is what the winds whisper to me," Riyah squeezed her eyes shut as the witch pressed a kiss to her brow. When nothing else happened, she opened her eyes. The witch was gone. Nothing but woods surrounded her. She looked behind her to see the boulder. She was on the other side again. But it was growing dark and her cousins were nowhere to be found. She had only been gone for at most an hour. Where did the day go?
Cold wind urged her to start walking. She had to get out of the woods before dark. Luckily she made her way out easily as if led by an unseen force. Rembrooke manor sat backlit by the setting sun. She wondered if Aunt Beatrice would be angry? Surely they sent some of the knights out to search for her when she failed to rejoin Arthur and Oliver. But the house seemed quiet. Riyah slipped in and walked in through the back foyer. There wasn't anyone there. She removed her shoes and jacket and left them by the door where usually a maid stood to take them from her. She walked toward the dining room where she wondered if they were eating without her. When she walked in she saw servants clearing away dirty dishes.
"Did the family already dine?" Riyah asked. The servants stopped and all stared at her blankly.
"Who are you?" one of the maids asked.
"R-riyah," she said confused.
"How did you get in here?" a butler demanded.
"I live here," Riyah said, alarmed. Why were they acting like they didn't know who she was?
"Beth, could you-" a woman walked into the dining room but stopped dead in her tracks when she saw Riyah. It was her aunt. Beatrice, Duchess of Rembrooke, was a beautiful woman. She had soft skin with no signs of wrinkles yet though she was deep into middle-aged. She was plump with a round figure of the filthy rich. She had black hair peppered with white that made her look distinguished rather than old. And her eyes were the same steel blue as Riyah's. It was the only thing that she inherited from her father, Beatrice's younger brother. Riyah had never been so happy to see Aunt Beatrice in her life. But she looked at Riyah as if her name was just on the tip of her tongue, but she could not remember it.
"Aunt Beatrice," Riyah said with a lump in her throat, "It's me. Riyah. Your niece." After a moment recognition finally entered her eyes.
"Robert's child," she mumbled before shaking her head and putting on a stern expression, "It's getting late. Why are you in here bothering the servants? Go to your room." Riyah was shocked that her aunt made no mention of her missing dinner. It was almost as if she had momentarily forgotten Riyah's existence.
Aunt Beatrice gave Riyah a stern look so Riyah scurried away. She climbed up the back staircase. The main staircase was grand and covered in lush ornate carpet. The banister was carved oak with gold appliques. It intimidated Riyah. Her legs were short and the steps were quite large. She would get so tired that she would climb halfway up and then start to crawl the rest of the way. The back stairs were normally used by servants, but Riyah found them easier to climb. There was hardly any light, but she was never a child who was scared of the dark.
She reached the third floor where her room was. She heard bickering voices coming from the hallway. She turned the corner to see Arthur and Oliver with a book being tugged back and forth between them.
"This is my favorite book," Arthur whined.
"That's because it's the only book you know how to read," Oliver snapped.
Riyah stepped up to them and snatched the book away. They both glared at her.
"Why did you leave me in the woods," she demanded.
"What are you talking about, Riyah," Oliver questioned, "We were never in the woods with you."
"Why would we go anywhere with you," Arthur demanded. They didn't seem to be lying. They truly didn't remember being in the woods with her that afternoon. But at least they seemed to know who she was. Riyah sighed and handed the book over to Oliver. Before Oliver could take it Arthur pushed her aside and snatched the book away from both of them. Riyah landed harshly on the ground.
"Arthur, give it back!" Oliver cried.
"What is with all this noise," a voice suddenly called. Just past the boys, Julias was walking down the hallway. Julias was young and very handsome, but he was growing to be just as regal and commanding as the duke. All of the men of Rembrooke had sandy blonde hair and amber eyes that shined like fire in the sun. This included the twins. Sometimes Riyah wondered had she looked more like them or even more like her aunt would the twins like her more?
"Arthur won't give me my book back," Oliver whined.
"I wasn't finished reading it," Arthur hugged the book to himself.
"That's going to take years," Oliver sneered. Riyah was astonished. Oliver was usually so gentile.
"Oliver! Arthur! That is enough. The two of you should be getting ready for bed," Julias lectured. The boys hung their heads.
"Okay brother," they said in unison. Julias smiled and plucked the book from Arthur's grasp.
"Go now and I will come read the book to you in a little while," he told them. Arthur and Oliver smiled up at him and then sprung into action, running past him down the hall and into their room. Riyah still sat on the ground. She looked up at Julias, wondering if he would by chance remember her or if he would fail to recognize her like Aunt Beatrice.
Julias watched the boys go. As they disappeared into their room, his face dropped. Julias always had a gentle smile on his face. A smile that reached his eyes and managed to soften them. Riyah gasped as she saw his face change. His smile dropped and his eyes were suddenly cold and dead. His face was hard and his jaw tightened as his lips settled into a sneer.
Riyah's soft gasp called Julias's attention. In the blink of an eye, the softness in Julias's eyes and his easy smile returned. It was so quick Riyah questioned whether his face had truly changed in the first place.
"I apologize, cousin," Julias said in a sweeter tone than he used on the boys, "I didn't see you. Would you like me to escort you to your room? I can read you a story as well." Riyah didn't need an escort. They had actually been standing in front of Riyah's room the entire time. She guessed he didn't remember where her room was.
"No thank you," Riyah shook her head. A flash of cruelty entered his eyes, but his smile stayed in place as he stared down at her. He held at out a hand.
"Let me help you up," he said. Riyah knew not to offend him by rejecting his offer so she put her small hand into his. He lifted her to her feet.
"That's a pretty bauble you have there," he said keeping a grip on her hand. Riyah looked down at the necklace that rested against her sternum. She had forgotten that the witch had placed it around her neck. She should have hidden it under her dress. Everyone knew she had no jewels. Riyah tried to pull her hand away, but Julias held it tight.
"Where did you get it," he asked.
"I found it," Riyah lied.
"Where?" Julias prompted.
"I don't remember," Riyah pulled on her hand harder, but she was no match to an almost fully grown man as a seven-year-old.
"I found a piece of jewelry once," Julias said. Riyah's eyes fell on the ring that hung around Julias's neck.
"So you know which one I'm talking about," Julias said following her gaze. Riyah tore her eyes from the ring and looked back to his face. His eyes, his smile, his soft features. They were all a lie. How did she not notice until now? His kindness was a mask. So what was his real nature? Riyah was afraid to find out.
"I am very tired and would like to go to bed now," she squeaked out. Julias squeezed her hand so tight she hissed in pain, all with that sickeningly sweet smile on his face. Just as tears started flooding her eyes he released her hand.
"Good night dear cousin," he said before turning away from her and disappearing into the boys' bedroom. The hair on the back of Riyah's neck stood up and her heart thudded in her chest as the witch's warning rang through her head. …stay away from that boy. He's probably grown to become a very good actor. He'd have to be, to hide his cruelty.
Riyah quickly opened the door to her bedroom and dived in. She closed the door behind her wishing she could lock it. She quickly changed into her nightgown and got into bed, burying herself under her covers. She hoped Julias didn't decide to come in to read her a story. She kept her covers over her head until she became uncomfortable. Her room was pitch black. It was the only bedroom without a window so not even the moon and stars provided light for her at night. She heard footsteps outside her door. She squeezed her eyes closed and waited. The steps stopped outside her door and she heard the latch open. She strained to hear anything else, but it was silent. Then the door closed again. Riyah opened her eyes, but of course, she saw nothing. She couldn't hear anything over the blood pounding through her head as her heart beat erratically against her rib cage. Was there someone in her room?
Riyah tried to take deep steady breaths, feigning sleep. Soon her breathing really did slow and her heart beat steady. She listened carefully, but there was nothing in her room as far as she could tell. It was probably Julias or a servant checking that she was in bed. That or something really did come into her room but was content with watching her from the darkness. Riyah stayed still for hours, listening to the silence. She heard footsteps walk past her door, but none stopped like the first set. Every once in a while she heard soft voices too low for her to tell what they were saying. Eventually, she heard nothing. Even the servants were probably in bed.
The silence lulled Riyah to sleep. She was no longer able to pay attention to her surroundings. She was unable to sense the shadow that watched over her from the corner of her room.