Note: The Twilight Realm story belongs to LadyLeaf, and this short story is about my OC, Sara. If anyone sees any errors (whether grammatical or story-wise), don't hesitate to let me know. Anyway, I hope all of you enjoy this story and I look forward to hearing what you think!
Alinna, Išūl, Marcellus, and Joel belong to LadyLeaf
Anna Karnstein belongs to White_Queen94
Fatine belongs to DuskyAsianRose
Sara, Jean-Pierre, Asuriel/Constance, Ejulita, and Cyrus belong to me
I was told to keep this journal a long time ago but I never wrote more than a few entries on a few scrap pieces of paper lost years ago. I simply thought I would always have someone to relate my life to in person. The naïve sentiments of a child, I suppose. Of course, even as a child I had little substance to my life. I have spent its entirety in this same ancient castle, buried in the midst of a mountain range in Slovakia. Everything I have learned comes from the old books and the words of wisdom spoken to me by my guardian. She insisted that I never call her “Mother” because we were not related. Though, I wasn’t Slovak and neither was she so that often confused me. She used to resent me as a child, I believe, but over time she came to care for me more than she would ever admit. She had owed my true parents a debt, she claimed. She had promised to care for me and keep me safe. I, of course, never knew from what or whom she was keeping me safe. I still have yet to find out. That is beside the point, however. She died yesterday, my dearest guardian. She was called Constance, and with that name came the promise that she would always be around to teach me and to guide me. A ( )oken promise, clearly; she took ill in the winter and died within just a few days. She refused to let me call for a doctor, and even if he had been able to find his way to this nearly inaccessible castle I doubt he would have been able to cure her. So now I find myself in this musty old castle, alone with the fine-spun cobwebs and golden dust that often accompanies an old house. She did so much for me, Constance. She ( )ought food and water and blood from the village. She never drank the blood herself but she said that it was essential that I drank so that I might stay alive. I suppose I shall stay here as long as supplies last me, but after that I know not where I shall go.
Time passes so slowly for me. I hardly want to bother to put dates on these entries simply because all of the days seem to run together. Since the last time I wrote I’ve managed to sneak out into the village at night on a few occasions to pilfer some necessities. Well, I suppose it isn’t pilfering if I leave coins on the counter to pay for what I’ve taken. I would go by day but sunlight seems to disagree with my skin. Every time I stand in its rays for more than just a few minutes I receive terrible burns. Those were the least pleasant experiences in my childhood. Constance warned me not to go outside during the day but as the foolish girl I was I snuck out on a few occasions only to run inside with red and purple ( )uises running all along my bare skin.
Someone managed to find me only a few days ago. I was sketching some old roses propped up in a vase that I had collected from the garden the previous night when a knock came at the door. I paused in my work, my pulse spiking as I wondered who could possibly have made it all the way up here. I rose and smoothed out the folds of my favorite rich purple gown with the rose trim, walking out of the room and coming hesitantly into the atrium. As all of the windows were tightly shut with curtains drawn over them, the entire castle was extremely dark. Constance always had a difficult time seeing in the darkness, but I suppose since I have been raised in the dark my eyes have learned to adjust. I can see in the darkness much better than I can in the light.
As I reached for the door handle I wished that Constance had thought to put a small window in the door so I could see this stranger before I opened my door to him. Still, I opened the door and I found myself face-to-face with an elaborately decorated man. He wore rich crimson velvet like nobility and a hat was tilted rakishly on his head. He swept the hat from his head and bowed, speaking in nearly perfect Slovak. “My name is James Fawcett, my lady. I was passing through this land and I heard of a mysterious castle perched in the hills, inhabited by an old woman and her ward, a beautiful young lady who was never seen out of doors. I, of course, felt the irresistible impulse to discover the truth of the legend myself. I must say that you are far more beautiful than described.”
My skin prickled uncomfortably. James Fawcett was not a name for a Slovak; rather, for an Englishman. What an Englishman was doing in Eastern Europe at this time was beyond me, but I doubted that it was for any good purpose that he was searching the hills for a mystery lady. “Well, good sir, you have seen for yourself that the legend is true,” I said, attempting to be polite and cool at the same time. “Now I must ask that you leave me to my business.”
“And what is your business, pray tell? You are all alone in this castle with no one to keep you company.”
“I can manage on my own.”
“Perhaps so, but I am certain that you could use some company for even just a few hours, no? You could show me around this lovely castle of yours and tell me of its history. I’m a bit of an enthusiast when it comes to the arcane and unusual, and something tells me that this place has quite the unusual history.”
“I’m sorry,” I continued firmly, beginning to close the door, “but you are a perfect stranger and I a respectable young woman. I would never in good conscience let you into my home.”
I shut the door on Mr. Fawcett–if that was who he was–and turned slowly away. If this man, a stranger to the land, had discovered this place, surely it was time for me to leave. So that is precisely what I did. I ran throughout the house and grabbed up my few belongings and waited for the cover of night to leave. As I was prepared to leave I heard the faintest sound of the front door swinging open with a click and muffled footsteps making their way through the atrium. Panic raced through my veins and I pulled open the nearest window. It wasn’t a far drop, but as I landed on the ground I felt a sharp pain run up my ankle. The pain dissipated in a few minutes as I knew it would and I ran off down the mountainside. This is how I live now, I suppose, ever running through the night. I hardly know where I am going but if my knowledge of geography is correct I should be moving in the general direction of Norway. I expect it shall take me a substantial amount of time to reach my destination, but with several pouches full of gold and all the time in the world I should be alright. I shall continue to tell myself that until I believe it.
Eighty-five years since I last wrote? It feels like yesterday. Why does everyone waste away while I simply continue to live? I have watched generations of villagers grow up and die. Of course, I have had to do so at a distance because I am beginning to understand why Constance kept me away from all other civilization. She knew somehow that I would be this way, that I would be 108 years old and appear to be around twenty-five years of age. There is something wrong with me, I am sure of it. After all, what other humans do I know that stay young for decades, see better in the dark than in the light, and can repair their own ( )oken bones in a matter of hours? And yet, in all the time Constance was up( )aiding me for stuffing my head with fantasy stories from the li( )ary she never asked why I read them at all. I knew that I was different, even though I had only met one other human in my life, and somehow reading faery stories made me feel at ease. Constance never told me what it was that made me different, but I am certain now that it is this illness, this disease that prevents me from aging and ailing like a normal human being. I wouldn’t have minded it so much if I had remained in my isolated castle; however, now that I ventured into small, barely populated villages I realize that my longevity is a curse. I have watched small children grow tall and strong, then sicken and die as old men and women. They are like roses, blooming one day and withering the next. If that is true then I must be an oak tree, forever doomed to watch its lesser fellows turn to dust. Perhaps I ought to seek out more populated areas. Try to make a normal life for myself. At least for a time, until I have to disappear and show up again fifty years later so as not to draw suspicion to my youth. I have a gift for song; perhaps that could earn me some money as well as ( )ing me happiness.
I am afraid that I have been as devoted to this journal as I originally thought I would be, which is to say, not at all. I found myself a home in Paris only last week, and it is a good thing that I am a master of French as everyone seems to solely speak French. It’s a quaint apartment in Les Batignolles so I am far enough away from the city center not to draw too much attention to myself. Still, I hear the neighborhood is fashionable and one of the Parisians’ most beloved artists apparently lives nearby. I have been popping into various bars and restaurants around Paris to sing, which has earned me quite a lot of money in addition to that which remains in my possession from my flight from Slovakia. My voice has a way of inducing people to a certain emotion and I could reduce my audience to tears of sorrow or joy by my songs. People have begun to request that I sing regularly at their place for a consistent salary but I think I shall continue to switch locations before I make a final decision. Still, I thought I ought to confide in my journal not only when things are horrible and I am questioning my purpose in life. I have decided that I must appreciate the world for what it is, not how I would like it to be. There is so much beauty here in Paris, more warmth and greenery than I have seen in my life. In my spare time, which is quite a lot considering I really only work in the evenings, I wander the Bois de Boulogne. I invested in a sun parasol so that I can wander the park during the day, even though the sun still blinds my eyes. It is such a magical place with the canopy of papery leaves above and the springy turf of moss and grass beneath. Golden fern spores float amongst the trees and mingle with their plum-colored shadows and more than once I have spotted a stray deer or fox wandering the woods. I do hope that I never have to leave, but I suppose I shall see.
What with Paris’s obsession with fashion and outward image I have had to purchase myself an actual mirror so I can make certain my hair is not out of sorts before being told so by a passerby. I have owned a mirror before–or rather, Constance did–but I was told never to spend too much time before it because it would only add to my vanity. But by now I have learned that there was always a deeper motive with Constance. Perhaps it is just my imagination, perhaps it is part of my curse, but it seems to me that there is another world lurking behind the mirror. It is one of purple mist and towering mountains, of majestic forests and mysterious ruins. I ought to see a doctor. Constance always made a point of me never seeing the doctor when I was sick, but I have heard that they have revolutionized medicine since the 1700s so perhaps I ought to try one out. Still, I doubt that they could help me with my curse and if I told them about it I would likely be locked up. With the way I have seen humans from around the world on exhibit in certain places around Paris I imagine I would make a lovely addition should anyone discover my longevity.
There is truly nothing like cele( )ating one’s two hundredth birthday alone on the rarest day of the year. Yes, I should have mentioned that I was born on Fe( )uary 29, 1680. Perhaps that is why I am cursed.
30 November 1886
It was the night of one of many operas, one which I myself had been invited to perform at. I had declined, not wanting to draw attention to myself, but given the generous invitation I decided to attend as part of the audience. I arrived in a dress of my usual purple-pink shimmering hue with black and silver accents. Some were surprised that I came alone–a lady must always be attended by an escort–while others had learned by now that I travelled alone.
The electric lights flashed above me and I hoped that these new inventions would not have the same adverse effect as sunlight did. I pulled out my fan all the same and tried to block some of the piercingly white light. It was then that I nearly ran into a familiar man.
“Vous ne semblez pas plus agée que le jour quand je vous ai rencontré,” Monsieur Favreau said. You don’t seem any older than the day I first met you. He was the Marseillaise owner of one of the local bars I frequented.
“Vous êtes trop gentils,” I replied. You are too kind.
“I am surprised that you decided not to perform tonight. Your voice would truly add a magical charm to this place,” the man continued. In French, obviously. I simply don’t feel like translating for myself though it is good practice. I’ve almost mastered the accent but reading phrases aloud to myself repeatedly helps.
I politely excused myself and continued further into the building. I was not overly fond of all the people with their glamour and swank but I supposed that all of this would be over in less than a few hours and it would pass into distant memory as the twentieth century rolled around. I can hardly believe that I have will have lived through four centuries by 1900.
I turned, starting a bit, and came face-to-face with a dark-haired man in an equally dark suit. He had the shadow of a beard on his jawline and ( )ight green eyes like the leaves of the trees in the Bois de Boulogne. He took my gloved hand to lightly kiss the top of it and I nodded politely in greeting.
“I couldn’t help but single out your unearthly pale appearance and dark locks,” he said in French. “Did you come here on your own?”
“I did,” I replied. “I am Sara Pútniková.”
“You must be a fairy come to bewitch me, then,” the man remarked, his eyes alight. “You have a perfect French accent and yet I know that your last name is from eastern Europe.”
“I have been studying French for nearly my whole life. As to my last name, I am originally from Slovakia.”
That wasn’t entirely true, and I had invented the last name to reflect my occupation: wanderer. Still, the man gave me an interested smile. “Your story becomes more curious by the minute. But I must ask you to excuse me, for I have not even introduced myself.” The stranger bowed slightly. “Jean-Pierre Chatain.”
“Enchanted to meet you.”
“And more so I am enchanted to meet you,” M. Chatain said. “I look forward to speaking with you again once this performance is through. To be honest,” he added in a confiding tone, “I could do without this theatrical sort of event but I was invited here by a good friend and it would be a shame to disappoint him.”
“I feel the same. I was supposed to perform as a singer myself but I restrict myself to less flamboyant outlets.”
And as we were ushered through the doors and we parted ways, I began to think of ways to evade this charming stranger out of instinct. True, I did not feel as I had many years ago that this particular stranger was hiding some dangerous ulterior motive, but still I was uneasy becoming too close to any one person. In what would seem to be only a few years, he would be dead.
I found a convenient excuse to leave early with my sensitivity to ( )ight lights and loud noises, so it turned out that I did not meet M. Chatain later in the evening at all. I returned to my apartment in the comfort of darkness and now I wonder if I will ever run into M. Chatain again. He did seem to be a genuinely good-natured gentlemen and I have had centuries of experience to determine a person’s character based on first impressions.
31 November 1886
It would seem that I have either very good or very bad luck. In either case, I was drawn from my dim inner chambers this morning to the unfamiliar sound of the bell ringing. I answered the door to find M. Chatain standing there looking just as glamourous as he had the night before. “You disappeared into the night before we had the chance for a proper conversation,” he began. “Luckily I have many connections through the city and they were able to point me in the direction of your apartment. Of course, I will not trouble you with a house visit but if you would take a turn with me around one of the nearby parks I would be most honored.”
I considered for a moment. “Fortunately for you, you also speak with the words of a gentleman. I accept and suggest that we walk in the Bois de Boulogne. Of course, with my complexion it is unlikely I will be able to walk for any long duration of time but it should be enough to have what you call a proper conversation.”
M. Chatain agreed to this and we strolled down the streets to reach the park and there I learned more about this man. He was born and raised in Paris but he had travelled to many places around the world, including India and China and the United States of America. He had been raised in a wealthy Parisian family who had tutored him thoroughly and sent him to Oxford University. As such, he knew English well and though I admitted I had yet to master the language we spoke a little in other languages. He knew German, Spanish, and Italian and I knew Slovak, Sami, German, and a bit of Italian.
“You speak with such elegant, antiquated words,” M. Chatain remarked as we walked. “And your clothing, too, seems to be from another age or another world.”
“I do enjoy a conglomeration of styles,” I said with a smile. “Something old, something new. I’m particularly interested in this Victorian style from England.”
M. Chatain laughed. “Only you would be a Parisian interested in English fashion. Normally it’s the other way around; Paris is the fashion capital of the world.”
“It’s all a bit too flashy for me.”
We discussed interests and I learned that M. Chatain was an accomplished businessman and a musician as well. I ( )iefly explained that I enjoy drawing, singing, and gardening (a fairly new hobby in honor of Constance). After that he asked when and why I had left Slovakia for Paris and I tried to be as vague as possible. “I’m a bit of a wanderer, really,” I said. “I have spent much of my life travelling from place to place, none of them quite as exotic as the places you have been.”
“I have never met another lady such as yourself,” M. Chatain said, his eyes fixed on me with an inquisitive sort of appearance to them. “As soon as I saw your tumbling waterfall of chocolate curls and your eyes of an otherworldly pale violet hue, I knew that you must have come from some distant fairy world. Most likely it was one enshrouded in the twilight shades you clothe yourself in and I imagine that it has the most wondrous, wild terrain.”
A smile played about my lips. “Though you seem transfixed by me you may be astonished to hear that no other man has spoken to me as you have. You surprise me.”
“All other men who have met you are blind, then, but I suppose this means that it truly was Fate that drew us together.”
“We’ve only just met,” I reminded him.
“I know,” M. Chatain said quickly. “I apologize for being so improperly forward. What would they say in England?”
“We are Parisians, so it matters not what they say,” I replied with a sort of smirk. “Still, perhaps you ought to save your speeches of affection for later. We could perhaps meet again for dinner sometime.”
“Tomorrow evening, say,” M. Chatain suggested. “I do not think I could wait much longer than that.”
So I suppose I must have very good luck indeed.
20 June 1887
They’ve begun work on this new building for the Exposition Universelle called the Eiffel Tower. It seems impractical to me but Jean-Pierre thinks it will become an excellent landmark. After all, he pointed out, you can see it from nearly every point in Paris. We’ve been unofficially courting these past few months but I doubt it will really go anywhere with my unfortunate nature and his constant travelling. Pierre also finds it strange that I refuse to go out during the day but he hasn’t asked too many questions about that. I’ve been trying to confine myself to the house because despite the sun parasol I can still receive burns. Last night we took a trip back to the Bois de Boulogne and walked around the park in the darkness. I am not entirely sure we were allowed out there so late but we had a picnic dinner amongst the fireflies and then he pulled out his handsome mandolin with the black to gold gradient coloring. I had laughed at the instrument when I first saw it but it truly made a beautiful sound. So that night I listened with an open mind and when he had finished, Pierre gave me a sly sort of look. “I still have yet to hear that voice of yours,” he said. “You’ve had job offers all around Paris to sing but you have turned all of them down.”
“I prefer not to become too attached to one place,” I replied. Or person, but I suppose that has changed.
“So you believe you will move, then. At some point.”
I shrugged. “I suppose that depends on if there is someone here worth staying for.”
Pierre’s green eyes gazed at me intensely. “And is there?”
“You tell me.”
Pierre blushed slightly in the darkness but he thought I could not see. “I would marry you here and now if you wished it to be so.”
“I am waiting for the right time. I still feel that we have a lot to learn about each other.”
“That is true.”
“But perhaps you could start by finally showing off your voice.”
I smiled slightly and acquiesced, clearing my throat and thinking of a song. A few verses came to mind, and I tried to form an impromptu sort of song but I don’t know how well it turned out.
Though far I have come
And long I have wandered
Here I will stay
In this glass-covered bay
For where there is you
And where there is me
No happier place
Twixt land, sky, and sea
I could find
Though two lost souls are we
Tell me, will you stay?
For you are the sun
And I am the moon
And somehow I think
I would fade without you...
Pierre ( )ushed something away from his eye that he hoped I wouldn’t notice. “You truly are a talented siren,” he said. “While you were singing it was as though I wanted to do nothing but follow you for the rest of my life. The effects don’t seem to have worn off yet. I suppose they never will.”
“I will take that as a compliment,” I said, gazing up at the moon.
“I would stay with you though,” Pierre continued seriously, taking my hands. “Forever.”
Not forever, though. I forgot about that in the moment. For in that moment, I felt that both of us would be together, eternally dancing through shadows and twilight. “You should, then,” I hinted with raised eye( )ows.
“I’m not proposing to you yet!” Pierre protested. “I’m going to do it when you least expect it.”
Now I wait.
6 May 1889
Perhaps it is the blood that makes me how I am. I had thought of that before but it seemed a strange theory. I should try keeping away from doctors’ blood storages for a time and see how I feel. It does seem a bit unnatural that I out of so many feel the need to taste human blood–it’s rather barbaric, actually–but if it is essential for me to live then I suppose I shall have to continue. At least for a while.
On a better note, things finally came to a resolution between me and Pierre. We visited the Exposition Universelle together earlier today and though we did not spend much time at most of the exhibits there was one thing both of us were interested in seeing: the Eiffel Tower. We had glimpsed it here and there in passing but we had tried not to look at it properly so as to be surprised when we actually went to go see it. I must admit that even though I thought it was a ridiculous folly (like so many other creations of this period), I had begun to look forward to it because Pierre was so excited. As soon as we arrived he had our picture taken, the first picture I had ever had taken of myself. We simply stood before the tower for the longest time, taking in the details of the architecture. Then, Pierre took my arm and we climbed the steps upward. They were going to have lifts installed, they told us, but they weren’t quite ready yet. So, we made the climb to the second floor where we looked out over the railing.
“You can see all of Paris from here,” I ( )eathed.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been this high before,” Pierre agreed.
“I thought you’d been in a hot air balloon,” I remarked.
Pierre laughed into the cold, open air which whipped across our faces. “You remember everything, don’t you? That wasn’t quite a true story, actually. I was quite young and in the end I was too frightened to get on.”
I gave him a sly smirk. “So you were just trying to impress me.”
“Well, it worked, didn’t it?”
“You should let me draw your portrait sometime,” I said, examining Pierre’s elegantly sculpted features. “You have such lovely eyes.”
“No, mine are just green,” Pierre replied dismissively. “Green is such a common color. Yours are like hyacinth or amethyst. Though, I do have quite a good nose. Yours is like a little button or a fairy’s nose.”
“How rude of you to insult a lady’s nose,” I exclaimed in mock offense. “Shame on you. Though really,” I added, “does my nose look like a button mushroom? I always thought it did.”
In response, Pierre leaned in a placed a light kiss on my nose. “It’s lovely.”
“Don’t do that in public!” I hissed, glancing around at the bustling crowd of strangers. “We’re not even married.”
“Well, then, I suppose I’ll have to marry you,” Pierre said.
I suppose this is the story I will tell my children someday. Children. Will they be cursed too? Should I have refused his offer and retreated into hiding again? He will wither and die, but I will just keep...going...
6 May 1890
I don’t believe I have need of this journal any longer. I only used it to jot down my thoughts and since I’ve decided to live as a normal human being for as long as possible I should confide all of my thoughts in Pierre. We married today, wanting to have the wedding on the anniversary of our engagement. I’m Sara Chatain now, and here ends the story of a wanderer. I’ve found my home at last.
10 May 1890
I cannot fool myself. If I share this curse with Pierre he will cast me out. I also cannot bear to starve myself of blood any longer; it’s been four days and I feel as if I will faint. Hopefully Pierre will continue to believe that it is red wine in my cup.
11 May 1890
Pierre finds it strange that I keep all of the curtains closed in our new house but he understands. Still, what will our visitors think? We do get quite a few of them with Pierre’s social status. Pierre wants me to sing at a dinner party next week but I am not entirely sure I want to do it. My voice seems to have a hypnotic effect on people and it doesn’t seem quite natural. Though, what is natural about me?
12 March 1891
Pierre and I have been trying to have children for months now and we finally went into the doctor to see what the problem was. It’s not Pierre, of course. It’s me. The doctor took dozens of blood samples and he came back to tell me that I am entirely sterile. We will never have children, Pierre and I. I think Pierre wept longer than I did when we returned home, but I suppose we will have to move on. I must be satisfied with the happiness that I have. And yet, while I should be dwelling on the fact that I will never hold an infant in my arms and watch my child grow to become a strong young man or woman I am too busy thinking about what else the doctor told me to consider the implications of my sterility. My blood, apparently, has very unusual qualities and a remarkable healing rate. The doctor now wants me to come in for more withdrawals so he can study my blood and send a sample off to several scientific institutes. I think I will decline.
31 May 1897
I am shivering as I write these words, not because I am cold but because of horror. Not long ago, a book by a certain Irishman was published called Dracula. It was recommended to me by a friend of Pierre’s and though it is not my style of book (I prefer an artistic, philosophical book or a good fantasy story) I decided to read it anyway. In its pages I discovered that though the country believes the story to be fictional, there is more stunning truth in those pages than I had ever thought. The creature–no, the monster–depicted in the story is one of darkness and blood. The sharp teeth, the pain of sunlight on the skin, the immortal youth, the need to drink blood as water...all of these match qualities of my own. Does this mean that the Irishman knew of this vampire creature and wrote a story to warn others of its danger, or was it a coincidence? I doubt it. But that must mean others like myself exist. No. No, I cannot believe that I am like that murderous man from the book. It must be a mistake. Perhaps I should consult Pierre. I fear that he would think me insane.
4 June 1897
I should have believed my first instinct. I should never have told Pierre anything. I simply couldn’t help myself, and now I feel that Pierre will lock me up in a mad house any day now. He gives me these sorrowful, pitying looks and I know he thinks that I have lost my mind. He attributes it to my inability to have children. I am packing my bags now; I cannot stay here any longer. I made a grave mistake in becoming attached and in a matter of time Pierre will be dust in the ground, an old memory in my ( )ain from a golden age long dead. I know it will ( )eak Pierre’s heart but he will never understand that it is I who feel the ( )unt of the pain. I will live with my decisions for eternity, it would seem, and when death takes him he will not have to trouble himself with me any longer. I can no longer pretend to be someone I am not. I am a wanderer, and I always will be.
I couldn’t help but stop over in Paris again for one last visit as the Exposition Universelle returned. I had already destroyed all records of me from that town, so now I walked the streets as a stranger. I did pick up whispers of a woman who had gone missing three years ago, one who had reportedly gone mad. I marveled at the new inventions and the ( )illiantly fascinating Ferris wheel; I couldn’t help but wonder what Pierre would have thought of that if he were with me. He was probably there, actually, wandering the exhibits. I never saw him.
Another war amongst my petty fellow mankind, and yet this one covers the face of the earth. I’m hiding in Greenland until everything passes, as I know it will eventually. I’ve also begun writing a very historically accurate account of the places I have stayed. I might as well.
I hate this new style in clothing.
I can’t seem to keep away from Paris for long. This time, however, I believe I will not be returning. I asked around for Jean-Pierre Chatain and finally one of the bar owners informed me that he had been admitted to the hospital several weeks ago. With trembling hands and a nervously beating heart I made my way to the hospital and asked to see Jean-Pierre. When they asked who I was, I gave them the honest answer: Sara Chatain. They assumed I was a niece and let me in to see the man. I walked down the chilled hallway that smelled of chemicals and death and came into a room with the curtains drawn over the window to the outside world. Pierre was lying in the cot, ( )eathing heavily with wrinkles splayed across his alabaster ( )ow and by his dim, bleary green eyes. His dark hair had turned white and sparse, bald in several places. I came to stand by his bed and he looked up at me.
“Sara?” he said, coughing a bit. “Is this a dream?”
I shook my head. “It’s me.”
“I must be hallucinating.”
“You’re not,” I insisted, pressing his hand into mine. “I’m flesh and blood.”
Pierre’s eyes filled with tears. “Then what you said...it was all true.”
I nodded. “You were going to lock me up. I had to run away.”
“Lock you up?” Pierre said incredulously, attempting to sit up a bit but finding he had no strength. “Never. I thought that you had been stretched a bit too thin. I was planning a vacation to India for you to clear your head. You’d always wanted to go there. I couldn’t decide if you were telling the truth or not and I thought we could talk it over on holiday.”
It was my turn to let tears fall down my cheeks. I couldn’t speak for several long minutes, and when I finally could my voice came out choked and strained. “I’m sorry. I was such a fool. I should have stayed.”
“You did the right thing, I think,” Pierre sighed. “I love you more than anything else in the world. I never married again after you left. I would have spent my whole life with you, but I would have wasted away and you would have had to watch that. You spared yourself a great deal of pain.”
“So selfish of me,” I said, shaking my head and trying to maintain my composure. “I’m always worried about my own well-being, never thinking about the other side of the story.”
“That doesn’t matter now. Your choices are in the past, and so are mine. And though my life is coming to an end, I think, you still have so much left.” Pierre sighed, gazing up at the ceiling. “Life must be so long for you. It has been for me.”
“It can become tiresome, yes.”
“When were you born, then? I assume it wasn’t 1869 like you said.”
I smiled sadly to myself. “No. I was born Fe( )uary 29th, 1680.”
“1680?” Pierre nearly shouted, his head whirling about so he could fix me with a more alert stare. “You have come a long way. To think, I married a woman over two hundred years old.” He sighed again. “Do you know why this happened to you?”
I shook my head. “I doubt I ever will. I will keep searching, but out of all the years of my life I have never discovered the reason. It doesn’t matter, though. Whatever has happened is obviously irreversible and I simply have to deal with the consequences as they are.”
“You should destroy your records,” Pierre advised. “If anyone else discovered this, particularly in the scientific field, they would come after you.”
“I already did. I’m very good at sneaking into places without being caught.”
“My enigmatic siren,” Pierre said quietly, gazing up at me with eyes filled with a lifetime of knowledge. “You never cease to surprise me.” He paused, and his eyes shone unnaturally ( )ight. “Promise me that you will never forget me.”
“I will not,” I said firmly. “There has never been anyone like you and there never will be again.”
“Don’t live a lonely life because of this,” Pierre continued, gathering his strength. “You must continue to live, to be happy, to explore the corners of the earth. Take this,” he said, handing me a small wooden box. “Take this, my darling, and remember me.”
I took the box and Pierre sank back onto his pillows, closing his eyes and focusing on ( )eathing. I squeezed his hand lightly. “I will.”
I stayed with Pierre until his last ( )eath. It wasn’t a sudden, dramatic death as one might read in a book, but a slow, quiet exit from the world. When the room became silent and just slightly colder, I left the hospital with the box cradled in my hands. I strolled along the familiar streets filled with unfamiliar young faces until I came to the Bois de Boulogne. I hadn’t been consciously aiming to end there but it just happened that way. An old habit, I suppose. There I took a seat on one of the benches and opened the box. On top was a charcoal sketch I had done of Pierre. It was unfinished but Pierre’s eyes were still as penetrating and intense as they had been in life. A small locket was curled up inside, one that Pierre had given to me as a gift when we were engaged. I instinctively fastened the necklace around my neck and picked up the last item inside: the photo of the two of us standing before the Eiffel Tower. It was a bit worn and faded but in nearly perfect condition all the same. There was Pierre, grinning boldly in the face of the uncertain future. And me, smiling a bit shyly with my hand on Pierre’s arm and my hair tumbling about my waist. A very improper fashion for the time, I remarked to myself as I returned the photo to its place in the box. And by now all the young women had cut their hair short and were wearing them in tight curls. Long gone were the trailing skirts and inconvenient bustles, now replaced by fitted skirts and soft blouses. Rouge was acceptable in makeup now and red lipstick was becoming more and more popular. I remember a time when these women would have easily been considered prostitutes. I suppose I must look a bit ridiculous with my high neckline and long, old-fashioned skirt but I can’t seem to let go of the past like these women can.
Ah, look at me. Getting off track so easily. My mind is so full of random thoughts that are trying to overshadow the obvious one: Pierre is dead. My beloved Pierre, turned to dust just as I knew he would one day. And life goes on for me, a never-ending uphill battle against time and Death himself.
Despair has gripped me for these past three years and I have been trying to pull myself out of this pit of darkness in vain. I could not see the point in living, so I tried various means to stop. Blood is essential to me as water is to a normal human being so I attempted to deprive myself of that but even in my darkest time I could not suppress the survival instinct for long. So I stole cyanide along with the blood. It would seem that I cannot be poisoned, or at least for long, for I found myself lying on the floor of my hidden home only several minutes later. I had thought of more drastic means of removing myself from this world but when I was moping about one afternoon I had a revelation. If I died, I would be reunited with Pierre. Yes. But Pierre would not have wanted me to kill myself to reach the end. I must live, and remember him. I believe that I am on this earth for a purpose. With qualities such as mine I am certain that my purpose is something unusual but I must have one nonetheless. I have all of eternity to discover what my purpose is, whereas others only have about a century. I suppose that I am lucky in this way. I’m going to India to clear my head. Hopefully it will give me some perspective and remind me of the beauty of the world. Pierre would be glad to know that I am finally going, though I wish he could come along.
What strange times I live in now. Things have evolved so quickly over the past thirty years or so, ever since the second Great War. I remember learning to use the first telephone and now they are mobile. I can take this device with me wherever I go! Human ingenuity never ceases to amaze me, and though I have never enjoyed the areas of mathematics and science I have been studying how computers are assembled and how they operate. I have heard the occasional rumor over the years that they will invent flying cars someday, though if they haven’t done it by now I doubt that they ever will. Television and film have been skyrocketing in complexity; I remember when Pierre took me to see one of the first films which was simply a short scene of a train pulling into a station. I had grabbed Pierre’s arm because I was afraid the train would come straight through the screen, which seems ridiculous now. I suppose some of the inventions I am amazed by now I will think are ridiculous in a few years’ time.
Three hundred years old today. I wish Pierre were here to cele( )ate with me. I’m watching the Star Wars movie tonight–one of my favorites–and taking another trip to India tomorrow. I’m living in America now, specifically in Rhode Island. There have been a few men I have gotten to know better but none of them will ever come close to Pierre. I doubt I will ever court anyone again (oh, excuse me, it’s called “dating” now), much less marry. I still wear my ring and call myself Sara Chatain but I do also consider myself to be a widow. People often ask me how I can be a widow when I look so young and I tell them that my husband was in the army. There’s always a war going on so it’s an easy excuse to make. Pierre was a soldier, actually, so I suppose that bit was true.
People keep saying that the world is going to end in 2000. That the clocks are going to simply stop working. I don’t believe it, of course, but it is interesting how people can get these bizarre ideas in their heads. I’ve started researching vampires, speaking of bizarre ideas. They’re referred to in mythology and folklore as strictly fictional but I must say that they resemble me quite closely. I wish Constance had told me more about my parents. Well, I wish Constance had told me more of anything, really, but she never did like me much so I suppose it was good enough of her not to abandon me. Anyway, there must be more people out there like me if they exist in these old accounts. The only thing that makes no sense to me is how barbaric these vampires are depicted in old stories. Am I part of some ancient, monstrous race? I certainly don’t want to be. Yes, perhaps I have felt the urge to bite someone when I’m peckish and perhaps in the past I have bitten a few people in their sleep but the carefully preserved vats of blood from doctors’ storages are perfectly fine. They do make me a bit sick if they’re too old, though, so I will have to avoid that in the future. But, back to the point, I don’t believe that I am a monster.
Well, the world didn’t end. How about that? It just kept going, as I have kept going. I just picked up what is called an iPhone today at the store and it’s quite an incredible device. It’s a bit tricky to figure out but I’m sure I’ll get it eventually. Oh, and it has been a while since I’ve last written so I should note that vampire stories are increasing in popularity and ridiculousness. The Twilight book was just about the worst of those I have read, and I’m beginning to wonder how much truth some of the older stories have to them if these modern ones are so off. Yes, they do match me in some cases but in other ways they are entirely wrong. I’m certainly not a vampire. It does make me wonder, though, what I am. Am I human? Am I not?
Do you really think that there are vampire hunters out there? Well, like I’ve said before, I’m not a vampire. But whatever I am, are there people out there who would hunt me? On another note, I’m getting a bit tired of all of this thawed blood from doctors’ storages and it doesn’t always agree with me. I thought of transferring this journal to my new iPhone but it doesn’t seem right. I’ve had this journal for centuries. Sorry. My thoughts are a bit scattered today. I just met this young man at coffee shop I frequent and he reminded me of Pierre in a way. Not the same, obviously, just...similar. Maybe he will come again. Anyway, I’m back to living in Paris somewhat near the Charles de Gaulle station and unfortunately I’ve had to entirely forego my Victorian styled clothing. It’s in the back of my closet for special occasions and comic cons (I do love those) but instead I wear more modern attire in the same colors. It just doesn’t seem quite right to wear anything but black, purple, and silver with the way Pierre loved them as he did. In other news, my old money is running out quickly so I have picked up a few odd jobs in the art and music industries. My artwork has been selling for quite a bit of money, actually, so I am hoping to live off of that money for a time. I’ve also published the series of history books I have been working on and they have been selling well. No one questions that I am anything but native to France now, which amuses me, and I have had time to master Arabic, Russian, and German. The future may not be as ( )ight as I once thought it to be but it comes whether I like it or not. I must, as my late husband once said, simply continue to live, to be happy, and to explore the corners of the earth. So with Pierre’s locket around my neck and the old photograph tucked in my coat pocket I will do just that.
P.S. A few things:
Though even I don't know Constance's entire backstory, she would have no qualms about taking blood from people to help Sara survive even if they weren't related. I think Constance cared for Sara more than she would admit, considering Sara her own daughter in the end.
James Fawcett was probably some kind of Hunter that was exploring the area...and his name is probably not actually James Fawcett either.
According to old traditions, May is an unlucky month in which to be married.
Accounts of Louis Bonnaire and his encounters with a woman most unusual
I am sending this account to the Yeladiim order and I must ask that these words not fall into any other hands. I am going to war with the rest of the world and I fear that I will never return; therefore, let this request be the last of a dying man. That sort of request you must respect, have you any honor. ~Louis Bonnaire
I was born in 1866 in Paris to a family of new wealth. We lived in a neighborhood amongst old families of repute and the house nearest us was inhabited by the Chatain family. Their wealth came from a long line of inheritances, and as such they did not overly respect my family for their new money. When the Chatains learned that we were also sympathetic with the recently dissolved Commune, they cut us off entirely from their social circles. Still, the Chatains had a boy around my age by the name of Jean-Pierre and we quickly became friends despite our families’ differences. Two young boys often will. As we grew up together we found ourselves in all sorts of trouble as typical mischievous children but as neither of us had siblings we stuck together like ( )others despite our parents’ attempts to pull us apart. I only include this because Jean-Pierre was as a ( )other to me, and because of this I knew him better than anyone else.
Between the two of us, I was the quieter and more studious. I received high marks in school and attended to my studies in my free time. Jean-Pierre, meanwhile, attempted to learn the mandolin to impress a girl in his class. He was often dragging me about on his adventures, pulling me away from my studies and to the opera or yet another party. Even when we grew older he still had to coax me to join him on social calls. He was never one for propriety and many people considered him a disgrace to the family name. “Such improper behavior is a sign of ill-( )eeding,” they agreed.
It was the 30th of November, 1886, when I met the young woman in question. Jean-Pierre and I were attending the opera after a long day at work and I admitted that I was quite looking forward to the ( )eak. The ( )illiance of the electric lights danced around us and I marveled once again at the crimson beauty of the opera house. “Look there,” Jean-Pierre said, and I noticed a familiar note to my friend’s voice. “Have you ever seen such a lovely young woman?”
I sighed and turned to see who exactly he was referring to. A young woman was standing nearby, speaking with an older man with grizzled grey hair. She certainly had an aura to her that was ethereal and ( )eathtaking, as if she were a creature from another world entirely. At the same time, her rippling chestnut hair and pale violet eyes were a bit unnerving and I gave Jean-Pierre a hesitant glance. “You ought to leave her alone. You have been courting Marie for several weeks and moving on so quickly would be seen as highly improper.”
Jean-Pierre ignored me, as he often does, and strode off smoothly to speak with the stranger. That was the beginning of everything, and though I was skeptical at first it was obvious that this woman was different from the others he had met–he was completely smitten with her from their first conversation. She was called Sara Pútniková, who was apparently a native to Slovakia but had moved to France when she was young. Over time I gathered that she was the heiress of a substantial sum of money from her deceased parents and was living in the eighth arrondissement of Paris, not too far from where Jean-Pierre lived himself. He visited her the very next day and I watched as the two of them drew closer over the weeks. They attended a party thrown by my family and there I was able to see the two of them together after all of the time they had spent out. Sara seemed quite unsure of herself as she stepped into the bustling crowd of guests in their dark, gleaming coats and swirling satin gowns. She and Jean-Pierre were partners for the first dance, as is custom for ladies and their escorts. After that, however, I had the privilege of dancing with Sara myself.
“Good evening, Mlle Pútniková. I trust you are well.”
“Indeed, I am,” Sara agreed. “And how is your mother?”
“Better, thank you. She is recovering well from her illness.”
“That is good news. How was your trip to London?”
“Well, as business trips go, this one was not entirely uneventful. I attended a sort of ball there and became acquainted with a young woman by the name of Charlotte Harris.”
“Will you see her again?” Sara inquired with a glimmer in her eyes.
“I believe so, yes. And how is Pierre? He seems to spend far more time with you than his old friend these days.”
“Oh, I must apologize for that,” Sara said hastily with a slight blush. “Pierre is a charming young man but he does not seem to care for the laws of society much. He should be spending far less time with me, I agree. He calls nearly every afternoon after work. If I had parents, they would certainly be horrified with his manners.”
“I expect him to propose to you any day now,” I added.
“We’ve hardly known one another for that long,” Sara replied in mild surprise.
The dance ended and Sara retreated to the corner of the chamber, the silver accents on her rich purple and black dress glimmering in the crystalline light of the chandeliers. She was almost immediately asked to dance by another young gentleman. It seemed to me that everyone noticed her strange aura, one that is both attractive and disconcerting. When Jean-Pierre laughingly said that she was from the fae world I could not help but agree.
I saw Jean-Pierre a bit more often after that. Evidently Sara did not want either of them to gain a questionable reputation from spending too much time together. Both of them attended my wedding to Charlotte next spring and though I had expected them to marry soon themselves they held off for another three years after that. In the meantime, I went about my own business and found myself less a ( )other to Pierre and more a close friend.
The wedding took place in May, a quiet affair which only I and a few other close friends and family members were allowed to attend. The stone chapel was small and quiet, filled with an ancient reverence that would last forever. This was the best sort of place to make a lifelong commitment, I remarked to myself. As Pierre’s groomsman, I had been placed in charge of most of the affairs of the wedding. I stood next to Pierre as Sara emerged at the end of the room accompanied by Jean-Pierre’s father as Sara had no living relatives. She appeared as some otherworldly angel or fairy queen with pearls and diamonds cascading down the white satin of her dress and delicate purple flowers tucked in her hair and sash. I must admit that in that moment the radiance of Sara caused my own wife to pale in comparison.
After Sara and Pierre were married, I saw more of the two of them. They bought a house next to my own and it was as it had been in the days of our childhood. I visited nearly every day, with or without Charlotte, and learned a few peculiarities about the new Chatain couple. Sara had such delicate skin that exposure to the sun even for a few minutes proved damaging. As such, Sara kept most of the curtains in their house drawn at all hours of the day. They held a few parties in the evening, but for the most part, Sara seemed quite reclusive and Pierre respected her reserved nature. It made me glad to see that he had finally found the right woman for him.
One afternoon, as I was seated in the parlour at the new Chatain home, Sara and Pierre were called away for an urgent matter with Pierre’s parents. I would have left at that moment as well but the Chatains asked me if I wouldn’t mind watching over their house while they were gone for a few hours. I promised them that I would.
I had been strolling around the halls of the house for quite some time when something caught my eye in the ladies’ drawing room. I expected that it was really Sara’s personal retreat as they rarely had guests over and it felt a bit rude to intrude into her private space but the ancient book lying on the desk was too intriguing to ignore. As a sort of scholar, I guessed that it was at least two hundred years old and I wondered how the Chatains might have come about a book that age. I picked up the book and turned it over in my hands. The book was quite thick but surprisingly light, a dark crimson color with faded gold accents. Curiosity overcame me and I let the book fall open to the middle. The pages there were blank, but as I flipped backward I came across paragraphs of darkly inked words. The entries were hand-written in a small, elegant hand that I recognized as Sara’s, but the words I did not recognize. They must have been in Slovak, her native language. The last entry was from the eleventh of some month in 1890–that much I could read–but it seemed to me that she did not write often. I should have stopped reading immediately when I ascertained that the book was her private journal, but the book intrigued me and I could not read the words anyway. I turned to the first page to see when she had first written. 1701. That could not possibly be correct. My eyes drifted down the page to see if the handwriting was the same. It was, but I thought perhaps that one of Sara’s ancestors had shared similar handwriting with her. At that moment, I heard the front doors open again and the familiar sound of Pierre’s voice drifting up the marble staircase. I hastily flipped the book shut and replaced it on the desk, hurrying down the stairs and coming to greet Sara and Jean-Pierre. “My father just had a bit of a scare, that’s all,” Pierre explained quickly as I approached. From the concern on Sara’s pale face, however, I could tell that it was something serious. I kept glancing at Sara until I left. Something about the idea of her being about two hundred years old made sense; it would certainly explain the unearthly air to her.
After that day, I spent weeks researching anything I could think of related to Sara’s condition. I had never been one for the occult but I had to admit that some of these old stories of legendary scale had doses of truth to them as well. By delving through history to the roots of Akkadian mythology I was able to discover a long line of individuals who seemed to span across centuries, usually killed in the end. All the while I was telling myself that this must be ridiculous, but the facts were that Sara was not quite a natural human being.
March of 1891 came with heart( )eaking news of a very sensitive nature. When I arrived at Jean-Pierre’s home his eyes were red and he seemed quite distraught. I could not see Sara from where I stood in the entrance hall but I could hear her crying quietly nearby. “I’m terribly sorry,” I said, hastily backing toward the door again. “I will leave the two of you alone.”
“No, it’s alright,” Pierre replied. “To be honest, I need someone to speak with right now.” My friend gestured for me to follow him and I obeyed, coming further into the house and stepping into the salon. We both sat and Pierre ran a hand across his face and through his dark hair. “We can’t have children.”
At first, I wasn’t certain how to reply. I simply stared at Pierre in a slightly shocked silence. “I’m so sorry, Pierre. Is it you, or...”
“Sara,” Pierre replied, shaking his head. “I know this is not the sort of thing people talk about, but you are a ( )other to me.”
“No, of course.”
“It’s tearing her apart. She believes that she’s failed me in some way, which is entirely untrue.”
“I don’t know what to say,” I replied slowly. “All I can do is offer my sincerest condolences and my help, in any way that I can help.”
Sara and Jean-Pierre were a bit out of sorts for the next several months but after that it seemed that they had returned to a normal life. Sara still seemed distantly sad in a way only those closest to her could explain.
Six years passed, and it seemed that everything in the Chatains’ life had been resolved. They came over to my house to visit my family and over dinner I recommended a new book to Sara. It was called Dracula, a fantastical book about a vampire which terrorizes a small town. From my research on vampiric creatures I had to admit that some of the details were a bit off but overall the idea was right. If Sara truly is a creature such as this, she should react to the book in some way or another that would allow me to tell. Sara spent the evening playing with my children and Jean-Pierre joined in ( )iefly as well. “I can tell that she is still disappointed about not having children,” he remarked to me later. “As am I, of course, but we must move on with our lives together.” I agreed but as I watched the two of them leave I remarked to myself that Pierre might be better off without Sara at his side.
Only a few days later, Pierre arrived on my doorstep appearing more distraught than I had ever seen him, even when he had learned of his wife’s barrenness. “She’s gone, Louis,” he said, his hair wild and his eyes wide. “She’s just disappeared.”
“Why might she do that?”
“I don’t know,” Jean-Pierre replied, coming through the door and pacing around the chamber. “I think Sara has been under a lot of emotional strain over the past few years and she’s finally snapped. Seeing your children those few days ago ( )ought back a few conversations I thought we had finished discussing. And some new, more unusual conversations. After that...well, I thought it would be a nice surprise to take her to India. You know that she’s always wanted to go. I thought it might lift her spirits and give her some time to relax and collect her thoughts.”
“What did she say to you?”
“Oh, nothing of importance, really,” Pierre answered, a bit too hastily.
“You know that you can tell me.”
Pierre shook his head. “Truly, it was nothing.”
I suggested to Pierre that we search for Sara. If she had said something too strange, then perhaps she feared Pierre would lock her in an insane asylum. That wasn’t uncommon for this time. Pierre agreed but though we searched the city thoroughly with the help of the police force we found nothing. Pierre sank into misery and I took to spending as much time with him as I could to prevent him from doing something foolish or self-destructive. While he sat in the parlour, staring at Sara’s favorite chair, I ventured to the ladies’ drawing room. The journal was gone. I should have expected that; Sara would not leave such a precious item behind even in haste.
Eventually, I stumbled across a unique source of information which was able to tell me that there is truthfully a race of vampiric creatures known as Lylthians which come from another world. They appear in mythology under other names, but they are the same. They are dangerous people with a thirst for blood and several other orders were apparently established to combat them. That is why I send this account to the Yelaadim now. I hope I am not too late.
(end of record)
This account was recovered from the wreckage of an ancient castle in the White Carapathians of Slovakia, likely placed there by Louis Bonnaire himself. I believe that he did not send the account to us directly because he did not know how to find us but expected we would trace Lylthian magic to its source eventually. Louis himself was killed in the Battle of Verdun in 1916 at the age of 50. It is clear that this Sara Chatain is a Lylthian and must be dealt with as soon as possible. ~Asuriel
Look, I finally figured out how Constance fits into the story! :D Hope it's alright...
A young woman gazed up at the fortress in front of her, the child cradled in her arms. None of this was supposed to happen. She should be back at home. Or, at least, she should get rid of this impure child. But, looking down into the girl’s pale face with her wide violet eyes gazing innocently up at her, the woman could not ( )ing herself to believe that the child was something to be destroyed. Besides, she owed it to the girl’s parents to care for her. They had saved her life more than once. However, the girl could never know who she was. That would ruin everything and she would be found immediately. The young woman placed a hand on the girl’s forehead and murmured a spell of concealment over the child. Her aura would be difficult to detect even for a Fae now.
The child came to know her young guardian as Constance, though that was not her true name. Though Constance had unnaturally pale blonde hair and otherworldly blue eyes, it seemed to Sara that her guardian was entirely human. Of course, she thought herself human as well since Constance never told her otherwise.
“Don’t go outside during daylight,” Constance snapped to the child as she peered out of the window.
“It will burn your skin.”
Sara ignored this warning and snuck out while Constance was away one afternoon, returning with severe burns all across her ivory skin. Constance wearily set aside the jars filled with a thick red substance and set to work curing the girl’s wounds. It was a good thing that Constance had relatively powerful magic. Tears ran down Sara’s cheeks. “It hurts,” she whimpered as Constance placed a hand on her arm.
“Then perhaps you shouldn’t have gone outside as I instructed you not to.”
After that, Sara stuck to the rules that Constance set out for her carefully and obediently. And though Constance was perhaps a bit distant and seemingly unloving at times, Sara came to consider Constance as a kind of mother. Constance, too, seemed to have a soft spot for the child. Perhaps the reason she never admitted this sentiment was because she could not rid herself of the feeling that she was going against everything her people believed in. They would surely think she was dead now. Still, Constance had been taught since childhood that Lylthians were enemies, purveyors of chaos. That was an idea quite difficult to shake.
Constance felt that she was always criticizing the girl or giving her advice. Don’t forget to drink blood with every meal, only go outside after dark, and stop reading those fantasy novels! Fill your head with something more useful. Constance ensured that Sara thought she was an ordinary human and would continue to think so after Constance had gone. Sara could never come looking for her. Constance worked a bit more of her magic to cause it to appear that she was aging. As Sara grew into a young woman with all of the ethereal qualities of a Lylthian, Constance aged and wrinkles spread across her face. While exploring the house when she was young, Sara had come across an old trunk filled with her mother’s clothing. It was of fantastical style, highly unusual for the time period. While Sara laughed at its strange appearance Constance remarked to herself that Sara’s mother must have spent a great deal of time in the Twilight Realm. Now, Sara tried on the short purple dress and elaborately patterned black coat and spun before Constance. “How do I look?” she asked with a laugh.
Like a Lylthian, Constance thought to herself. “Ridiculous. I don’t know where your mother was from but she had abysmal style.”
From there, Constance seemed to take a turn for the worse in her health. In truth, Constance felt that Sara was more or less ready for reality, the eternal journey that spread before her. Sara would be facing so much pain in the future, especially as one who did not know her own heritage. That was unfortunate but unavoidable. Hopefully, someday she would be found by her own kind. Perhaps even the fabled half-blood princess would lead her home. Even though Constance had been highly reluctant to care for Sara at first, she now felt as though Sara truly was her own child. She had watched the girl grow up and now it was time to let her go.
Constance feigned a serious illness and refused to let Sara go fetch the doctor, claiming that it was too late and it was her time to go. There would be a lot of this in Sara’s future, Constance thought as Sara stood close to the bed. People she cared about would grow old and die, withering as quickly as cut flowers. Constance’s heartbeat slowed and Sara was left to bury her beloved guardian on her own under the cover of the softly gleaming moon.
Constance returned to the ( )otherhood of the Yelaadim and attempted to answer the infinite questions of her peers with the story she had invented for herself. Finally, they accepted her tale and welcomed her back with a name she had not heard in decades: Asuriel. Asuriel was quick to adopt the ways of the Yelaadim and became well-known as one of the stricter, perhaps more extreme members of the high ranking Yelaadim. She never saw Sara after that, but she knew that Sara would have had to move from the castle long ago in order to sustain herself. The castle, she learned, was mostly destroyed in a war. Finally, one of the other Yelaadim remarked that there was a certain aura that lingered over the castle in the White Carapathians and Asuriel insisted upon investigating herself. Asuriel picked her way through the pale stones that had once made up her home with Sara and couldn’t help but feel a powerful surge of regret. Perhaps she should have just stayed with Sara in that castle. The two of them could have lived there for at least a few hundred years, until Asuriel actually died. She could have spared Sara from a few centuries’ worth of pain.
Asuriel found Louis Bonnaire’s account there and knew that Sara was running out of time. How could a mortal civilian–not even a Hunter–have discovered Sara’s secret while no one else had? Asuriel returned to the Yelaadim and immediately claimed that she was going to have a Dāmian track down the Lylthian she had detected in the castle. Sara was going to be discovered soon; the most Asuriel could do was keep the situation under her control. She would find a young, inexperienced Dāmian, one who was eager of proving himself to the Legion. When Asuriel discovered Lieutenant Cyrus, she knew she had found the perfect candidate. She informed him that there was a Lylthian wandering in the general region of Paris. Little did Asuriel know that Sara was actually located in Paris at the time. As Asuriel watched Cyrus depart with blood in his eyes she hoped that Sara would be safe. There was no way Asuriel could seek out Sara herself–Asuriel’s charm concealed Sara well, even from Asuriel herself. She could, however, follow Cyrus and ensure he never reached Sara.
Asuriel followed Cyrus to Paris and as soon as she overheard Cyrus’s conversation with a young woman by the name of Sara Chatain, Asuriel recognized the voice and knew it was her Sara. Well, fortune was certainly not on her side. This plan was turning out to be woefully disastrous. Asuriel would have to come up with a way to get Cyrus away from Paris.
Only a few days later, Sara moved to a different neighborhood in Paris. Asuriel followed her there and hoped that this would keep Cyrus off of her trail. The Dāmian didn’t quite seem to realize yet that she was a Lylthian, though he would soon.
Then, fate turned its favor to Asuriel. She received a notice from Cyrus which informed her that he was switching targets. Instead, he would be going after the princess herself. Alinna was here? In Paris? This was good news. The princess could easily hold her own against a Dāmian–or at least, Asuriel certainly hoped so–and she could remove Sara from the dangerous situation she had unwittingly found herself landed in. It was time for Asuriel to take a step back. Before she left, Asuriel dropped off something for Sara while she was away: her mother’s coat. Sara might be needing it where she was going.
I Am a Human: Sara's story continued
Note: If anything needs to be edited/changed, let me know. This is the first time I've really delved into Sara's thought process; I hope it's not too chaotic. This is also the first time I've shown how angry and cynical Sara can get. ~Gwenn
That pair of hungry crimson eyes, a strong icy grip around my waist, a sharp fingernail drawing blood from my neck…
My heartbeat races suddenly and my eyes fly open. I hadn’t been asleep, just thinking. My thoughts kept spinning in circles, always coming back to the same questions. Who were all of those people? Had all of this happened because I met that Sangverus man, or this Lady Alinna? What have I gotten herself into? I have this feeling that I’ve stumbled into something much deeper than I originally anticipated. An ancient war between two groups of people, and I was thrown into the midst of it.
As I rub my hands over my eyes I see the flash of the silver dagger in that man’s hands. Death wouldn’t have been such a bad thing. I could have seen him again.
A rush of hot anger wells up in my chest again and I clench my fists. I had just been putting my life back together. They had thought me something to be exploited. Oh, wait. Who doesn’t love being kidnapped, threatened by psychopathic blonde clones, and nearly murdered? I’ve managed to survive 336 years without many incidents before now. I could have gone without all of that. And if these people had lived for hundreds and perhaps thousands of years before me, why hadn’t they bothered to tell me what I am?
No, don’t say that. I am human. I must be human. I’ve spent my entire life trying to be as human as possible. Jean-Pierre was the only person that made me feel truly human, and when he died it reminded me that perhaps I am not as human as I thought. I am not human if I cannot love, if I cannot die. And since I can do neither thing very well, maybe it is time I accepted the fact that I am not what I thought I was. I’d already begun to accept that last night.
I glance back at the man standing uneasily by the door. Išūl, wasn’t that his name? He was supposed to be able to answer my questions. But would he answer truthfully? It seems to me that these people are well trained to deal in lies. I want to run as far away from them as I can, return to my life before any of this happened. Stop. Give him a calm, polite smile and ask what you need to know. I might be furious but I don’t have to be unreasonable.
I couldn’t manage the smile, and my words come out calm but rather cold. “What am I?”
The man with hair like the feathers of a raven simply looked at me for a moment, surprised that I had said anything at all since resentful silence was all I had given him for the past few hours. He tries to think of where to begin. “You are a Lylthian, an Innuda.”
“A night child,” I repeat quietly. I then realize that he spoke in that strange language I did not recognize but I could still understand. “What does that mean? Why can I understand those words?” I stop myself before more questions can spill from my lips.”
“You are part of a race that lives forever; their tongue resides in your mind though you have never heard it.”
My heart begins to beat faster and my eyelids flutter as I try to calm myself. “I guess no one could have told me this sooner,” I remark in a voice laced with deadly ice, a tone I’ve never heard myself use. “They couldn’t have spared me the pain of three hundred years of miserable, half-lived life. They couldn’t have saved my heard being torn from my chest and ripped into a thousand pieces in front of my eyes. No, you had to wait until last night when I was about to be murdered to reveal yourselves. And then you don’t even care about the destruction you leave behind.”
I can see something shifting in the man’s eyes and I know my voice is doing its work. The stronger the emotion I feel, the more powerful my voice seems to become. “My queen did not know–”
“The less I know about you and your people, the better,” I interrupt. “All I wanted to know is who I am, and now I know. I won’t bother you any further.” I step up to the door and fix the man with my eyes. My voice quivers with the slightest melody as I speak next. My voice is stronger with song. “Let me be.”
I pass through the door without resistance as whatever power resides in my voice takes hold of the man and keeps him standing in place. I take a few steps into the cold starlight before I ( )eak out into a sprint, letting my feet and the winds carry me as far as I can manage to go.
I am alone. I know that now. This is who I am and I can’t do anything about it. There are others out there like me, yes, but I would rather walk through hell than get near them ever again. I’ll never see Jean-Pierre now. Even if I manage to die, I think I will have changed so much by then that he wouldn’t recognize me. I am alone. Once I held out the hope that I might find other companions who would endure my truly insufferable nature, but now I see that I will forever be on my own. I’m not Sara Chatain, I don’t deserve that name. I am Pútniková, the wanderer. The wanderer without a place to call home. The woman they called “the queen” said she has a place she calls home. Well, good for her. I won’t come along. I have my own life and I was perfectly fine being left alone. I’m sure I’m being too hard on all of them and it’s really my fault all of this happened but for now I’m too angry to consider anything but my innocence.
Run. That’s all I can do. That’s all I’ve ever done.
So maybe I am weak.
But no one can save me, not really.
I find myself standing inside an empty, dark cathedral, the ceilings arching over me in their hauteur and their splendor. Night child. I guess that explains why I can see so well at night and I have always shunned the day. A few swallows chirp angrily from the rafters where they had managed to sneak in. A mirror lies ( )oken on the ground–how it got there is beyond me–shards of its silvery surface scattered everywhere. I pick up one of the pieces and see my violet eyes reflected in it. Since when were they so dim and cold, void of hope and joy? I clutch the shard more tightly in my hand as throbbing pain rises in my chest, suffocating me. I feel the sharp edge draw blood on my palm and I throw the piece of mirror aside, letting a scream escape my lips. It is a cry of deepest anguish, of fury and sorrow so great that it cannot remain within. It echoes around the chapel and I wind my hands in my hair, my head bowed as my lips press tightly together again. I hear a few soft thuds behind me and I turn to see the swallows lying on the ground, their wings outstretched. In my mind I recalled a time when I had felled a hawk from the sky after screaming my anger at Jean-Pierre’s death.
They spent all those years being silent before they rampaged into my life, ( )eaking any semblance of normalcy and using me as a pawn, as bait, in their personal fight. And yet I am one of them. I’m not a human. A bitter taste rises in my mouth.
As I sit in the dark and the quiet, my heart calms a few beats. I should be kinder to them. I’m sure there’s another side to the story I don’t know. Yes, because they’re obviously insistent on keeping everything from me until they need to use me. At least they had helped me escape from that terrifying situation. Well, I’m no use to them if I’m dead, am I? Stop being so cynical, Sara. But I was just beginning to accept myself as I was, moving on and taking the challenge. If they’d left me alone for so long, they could have continued that way and I wouldn’t have regretted anything in the least. I wouldn’t have ever found out who I was, a question I had asked myself since Constance had died. No, I think I knew who I was a long time ago and I just refused to admit it.
I suddenly feel a hand on my shoulder and I tense, ruby eyes flashing in my mind’s eye. “Are you finished?”
I look up into the pale, silvery eyes of Išūl. “Yes,” I say, just above a whisper. I probably didn’t even affect him with my voice; he’s not human, so I imagine not. I avoid Išūl’s gaze. Of course these people scare me. I’d be crazy if they didn’t. I stand up and twist my hands together, following Išūl out of the cathedral and back down the moonlit streets to the Grey Moth. I never thought I would feel imprisoned in my beloved city, but somehow these people had managed it.
Fatine watches me and my silent escort enter the room like a cat watches its prey, reclining against the wall with the slightest smirk spreading across her lips. I ascend the stairs and approach the room I’d been given for however long I was supposed to stay here before turning to face Išūl again. “Where is this place Lady Alinna talked about? The place she calls home?”
Išūl hesitated. “The Twilight Realm.”
That name was familiar somehow, like something from a dream. “And what about my parents? What happened to them?”
“That, I do not know.”
My expression hardened and I entered the room, closing the door behind me. What was it she had said? “There is a place, far from here that many of us have called home, and maybe, just maybe, you can call it home one day, if you are willing to come with me.”
I already have a home. Or I did, anyway, until they came and turned my life upside down. Now I’m a prisoner in my own home and this city is no longer safe. I’ll never be able to live here again freely, will I? I fold my arms and my fingernails dig into my skin. I’m so stupid. I shouldn’t have fallen for any of this, especially not the events of last night, if I had any common sense at all. I was just trying to be polite. Well, that’s where courtesy gets you, Sara.
A knock comes at the door and I try to force happy thoughts into my head. “Come in,” I say, though as the door opens I am surprised to find Fatine slinking around the frame. Her sparkling wings drift lazily behind her and she gives me a feline smile.
“I would ask how you are doing but I think I already know the answer.”
“Well, thank you for almost asking anyway,” I sigh with what I hoped was an amused smile.
“I’d be furious too, with dreams like yours.”
“What does that mean?”
“You dream of him, mostly. A normal life with your beloved Jean-Pierre, one in which you have a child and you grow old together before you die in each other’s arms. Interesting, that your greatest dream is death.”
My fingernails bite into my palms at Fatine’s words and I look away at a vague point on the ground. “I’ve watched too many people die. Friends, family…it’s enough to make anyone hope for death. And yet,” I add, looking up defiantly into Fatine’s keen eyes, “I was moving past all of that. I love this city more than anything else, what with it holding the few remnants of the best years of my life. I’ve been learning, trying to make this city a better place and take care of it as it once took care of me. They took the last thing I held dear away from me.” I sigh heavily. “Maybe I’m overreacting.”
“Maybe,” Fatine shrugs.
“But I don’t think I am,” I protest, more to myself than anyone else.
“You’ve been dreaming of a normal life for centuries, and yet you’ve been living a lie. You know that now. Did you ever consider that your normal life has presented itself, just waiting for you to accept it?”
“I don’t trust Lady Alinna,” I shoot back immediately. “Or any of her associates.”
“I wouldn’t either. But the best part is, you don’t have to. You just have to trust yourself. Do you think you can manage that?”
Honestly, no, I don’t think I can. I’ve often felt like a stranger in my own mind, my own body, and today that feeling is amplified a thousand times over.
“Give it some time,” Fatine replies, noticing the hesitation in my eyes, “and you will.”
The Moon is Nearly Full Again
I am standing in the dark, in the middle of an empty and silent forest. My feet are bare and I am wearing a simple black lace dress which comes down to my knees. Why does my mind mark these details? The forest smells of dead leaves and clear water, of silver and plum mingled into one soft, misty scent. It reminds me of all the years I spent wandering alone before I came to rest in Paris, travelling the moors and mountains of the north. But something is off. Someone is here, I can feel it.
My voice seems to echo, as if I am surrounded by rock instead of velvety leaves. Almost metallic. I turn and take in my ( )eath sharply as I see a man standing half in the shadows, half in the starlight. That one, the one with the ashen hair and the uncomfortably soft red eyes that make my heart race in panic. I take a step backward and I hear a faint rustling behind me. I whirl around and see Cyrus, one hand clasping a dagger and the other held stiffly behind his back. He looks at me with no pity in his eyes. Something appears in the corner of my eye and I turn to see yet another of them–hadn’t they called him Marcellus? The one with the eyes so red that the color spilled out from his irises. The three men step forward and transform into hundreds of ravens. The birds caw stridently, their wings flapping around my face and their eyes flashing in fury. I threw my arms up over my head and tried to block their claws from scratching my face. The birds cawed more loudly until I couldn’t hear a thing and their wings blocked my vision. I squeezed my eyes shut and knelt on the ground, fear shooting through my veins. I then felt fingers ( )ush across my cheek and I tense up, stumbling backward and expecting to see a pair of crimson eyes inches from mine. No, not red. Gentle and green, like the lawns in the Bois de Boulogne.
“It’s alright, they’re gone.”
I ( )eathe a sigh of relief, sunlit joy rushing into my heart. “Pierre,” I exclaim, reaching out and pulling him into a tight em( )ace. We both knelt there on the forest floor for a moment and I ( )eathed in that warm scent of Jean-Pierre’s jacket. “This isn’t real.”
“No,” Pierre agreed, giving me a wan smile as we ( )oke apart. “It’s not. But you’ll be alright, you know. You’ve been alright for a while now.”
“I shouldn’t have fallen in love with you in the first place. I could have spared you a lot of pain.”
“We’ve been through this, Sara. It’s not just your fault. I made mistakes. They made mistakes. And yes, you made a few mistakes too. Maybe you’re more human than you thought.”
I smile hesitantly and examine Pierre’s hands in mine. “Everything is so dark, and it’s just getting darker. I warned you. I told you I would fade.”
“But look,” Pierre said, pointing up at the sky. I follow his gesture and see the gibbous moon hanging amidst the stars. “The moon disappears for a time, but it always returns, more radiant than ever.” Pierre ( )ushed my hair back from my face. “And see, the moon is nearly full again. Something great is waiting for you, ma chère.”
Pierre begins to rise but I hold tightly onto his hand. “Don’t leave,” I plead, even though I know it’s just a dream. “Please. Just stay a bit longer.”
Pierre leaned in and kissed my forehead. “Sara, you know I have to go. You were always destined for a much longer path than me. Don’t forget to live, Sara. Don’t dwell on your past so much that you forget about your future.”
My eyes flick open and I sigh. I’ll try, Jean-Pierre. Though, I’ve failed so many times that I don’t know what success looks like anymore.
Fatine and Išūl must find me silent nearly all the time, only ( )eaking this trend when I ask a question. The truth is, my mind is much louder and I cannot say everything I am thinking. Now that I know that I am not a human I can stop pretending I don’t already know, which I suppose is a good thing. But what exactly is a Lylthian? Where do they come from and why haven’t I heard of them before?
When I finally feel like eating something I find that, somehow, blood has been procured for me. I don’t ask where it came from or who was the one that found it in the first place but simply take a sip as I watch Fatine flounce around the room. My eyes widen as an unexpectedly sweet and delectable taste lingers on my tongue from the drink. Oh, ( )illiant. It must be fresh. I set the cup aside and pass my fingers through my hair. I’m a monster.
No, this might be a good thing too. Now that I know all of this, I can adapt my lifestyle. I won’t have much contact with humans anymore, and I can finally sleep during the day like I always want to and stay up at night. I assume Lylthians must be somewhat nocturnal; anyway, my vision is awful during the day and despite going to the eye doctor on several occasions I have not found a pair of glasses that will improve my vision. The doctor says I am just overly sensitive to light and that I ought to wear sunglasses to prevent burns in my eyes. Well, I suppose I won’t have to worry about that much longer. I’ll leave Paris and start over on my own. I won’t forget Jean-Pierre…but maybe I can move on. He helped me feel human; I guess I don’t need that anymore. And maybe I’ll even find someone else someday. Fatine was right: maybe the normal life I’ve been looking for is right in front of me, even if it’s not my definition of normal. I just don’t think anyone else will see me like Pierre did.
“So,” I begin, ( )eaking the silence as Fatine reclines on a couch nearby, “who were those people who tried to kill me, anyway? Cyrus and his…friends.”
“Ah, those would be the Dāmians, the Legion of Blood,” Fatine replies. “Not the friendliest, let’s just say that. They’ve had it out for the Lylthians for ages.”
“So they’re not Lylthians too?”
“Not exactly, no.”
“And why do they hate Lady Alinna so much?”
Fatine glances at Išūl, who took over from there. “Perhaps it would be better for my queen to explain it to you herself.”
I raise an eye( )ow. “Okay. Then…who were the others with Lady Alinna? The young man with the camera and the German woman with the red hair.”
A sly smile creeps over Fatine’s lips. “Joel Haddson,” she purrs. “Mr. Haddson is a human…associate of Lady Alinna’s. The other you saw was undoubtedly Magistrix Anna Karnstein, a Hunter.”
“Yes. Protectors of mankind. Hunters can have a variety of targets, including Lylthians.”
“But she tried to help us.”
“It’s a complicated relationship.”
I nod slowly and shift the cup between my hands. I can feel Fatine watching my mind work. “You should keep up your strength,” she suggested. “I can imagine you’re feeling faint by now.”
“To be honest, I’m not feeling much of anything right now,” I remark. I shake my head and smile. “Sorry. You’re probably right.” I take another small sip of the drink.
I wish I were more than just a pretty face. It would be nice to have a ( )ain and some courage, too. I’m still jumpy every time I think I hear someone walk into the room and I keep thinking I feel a cold blade against my throat. Oh, foolish me.
You know, Išūl might not know about my family but someone must. My parents must have some relations, perhaps dead as well, but also friends. Someone is bound to know who they were. And maybe I could finally discover the story behind Constance’s vague statements of how she owed Sara’s parents a favor of sorts. Constance must have known I wasn’t a human. She gave me blood and told me never to go out in the sun. Why didn’t she say anything? I have this feeling that there is a lot that no one is telling me, a complex tale lying just beneath the surface of these simple answers I have been given. Why else would no one have told me what I am before now?
Am I dangerous?
Sometimes I feel that way. Moments of intense anger, cold and pure like ice. And other times I’m simply terrified. The two tend to go hand and hand, fear and anger. One thing I know for sure is that I never want to be in a situation like that night again. I’m easy prey, a weak and skittish house cat. They are wolves. And Lady Alinna is a lion.
None of them would have any trouble tearing me apart.
Fatine gave some sound advice. I could test the waters and see how I feel about this potential life, all the while keeping my distance from these people I doubt I will ever fully trust. Yes, it’s a good plan. I’ll stick to that for now.
“Thank you for doing all of this for me,” I say then, smiling politely at Fatine and Išūl. Even if I didn’t want any of it. “I must apologize for being such a bother. I’m afraid that I’m not pleasant company at the moment.”
“No worries,” Fatine assured me with that predatory smile of hers. She rose gracefully to her feet and sashayed seductively past Išūl, who seemed rather unfazed by her curving movements and flirtatious looks. I sigh and occupy myself by gazing around at the ornately decorated room with all of its rich colors and intricate patterns. The place reminded me slightly of my visit to India, though without the political upheaval I had run into during my time there. Hm, I seem to be gaining a cynical sense of humor. Just keep it to yourself and it won’t harm anyone. That’s my philosophy on most things.
I wonder how long I will have to stay here. Honestly, if I believed I was capable of sneaking out without these two noticing I would. Unfortunately, I am woefully outmatched in the arena of magic or whatever it is that they possess. I have a nice voice, if that counts for anything. Sometimes I wish I were less delicate, this glass dancer meant for nothing else but ornamentation. A nightingale in a gold cage. We are all gifted in different ways, I suppose.
I keep wondering if I’m simply being kept here to be used later in some other grand plan. No, that’s thinking the worst of these people. They seem nice enough. Well, Cyrus did as well. There was something about him that put me off, but I ignored that and assumed the best in him. It’s unfortunate that people do not tend to live up to my assumptions. Still, I don’t trust Fatine’s sly, almost dangerous look about her and neither do I trust Išūl with his unwavering devotion to the lady I trust the least in this affair.
I’m trying to look to the future, Pierre, but all I can see is misty and indistinct darkness.
Jean-Pierre's story: Because he deserves it
Once upon a time, I met a fairy girl with stars in her eyes. She was a light dancing in the dark and a phoenix song that would lift any grieving heart. And then, as mysteriously as she came, she was gone again. Dancing away to haunt another lucky soul, no doubt.
The real story began on November 30, 1886, but I like to think that part of it began before then. I was born into a respectable family in Paris, and because of that they were constantly reprimanding me for my behavior. “You’ll tarnish the family name with your manners,” my grandmother loved to say. Well, I liked to think of myself as a kind of progressive man. I could tell that a time was coming when all of these events with their etiquette and formality would become obsolete and perhaps I jumped the gun a bit. Louis was my best friend and reluctant partner in crime. Together we invested in new businesses and even formulated ideas for inventions ourselves, though none of them ever went anywhere. I liked to think of myself as an adventurer or an explorer. I had a fascination for new ideas, people, and cultures and I was determined to learn as much as I could.
I could never slow down. That was never on my radar. While all of my friends and colleagues would settle–Louis had even married–I would flirt a bit before running off to find the next new and exciting person or thing. Every day was something different; a trip to India, a day experimenting with flight, a day in the hospital after experimenting with flight, another trip out of the country. My parents were terrified that I would spend all of my allowance before I turned twenty.
Time stopped for the first time on November 30, 1886. I had decided to attend an opera with Louis and was quite looking forward to it, though I had no idea what I was about to enter into.
My eyes wandered around the atrium packed with people and rested on a woman standing a few feet away. The electric lights danced on her dark curls which fell to her waist and even in the dim light I could tell that her eyes were a ( )illiant violet shade. With such a silken, airy appearance I would have believed her if she had said she was from another world. A world of elves and fairies, probably.
“Have you ever seen such a lovely young woman?” I murmured to Louis.
Louis sighed in mild frustration. “You ought to leave her alone. You have been courting Marie for several weeks and moving on so quickly would be seen as highly improper.”
His words were distant in my ears and I strode forward to greet the woman as she finished her conversation with an older man.
“Excuse me,” I began as politely as I could muster, hoping I sounded less baffled than I felt. I took the woman’s hand and kissed the top of her glove. At least I remembered some of my manners, grand-mêre.
“Bonsoir, monsieur,” the woman replied with a nod. Her voice was sweet and poignant, delicate and yet rich.
“I couldn’t help but notice your lovely elven locks,” I said. That sounded forward, didn’t it? I ought to stop talking but I doubt I could even if I tried. “Did you come here on your own?”
“I did,” the woman replied. “I am Sara Pútniková.”
Sara. That name would come to haunt my dreams. “You must be a fairy come to bewitch me, then. You have a perfect French accent and yet I recognize that your last name is from eastern Europe.”
“I have been studying French for nearly my whole life. As to my last name, I am originally from Slovakia.”
“Your story becomes more curious by the minute. But I must ask you to excuse me, for I have not even introduced myself.” I bowed. “Jean-Pierre Chatain.”
“Enchanted to meet you.”
“And more so I am enchanted to meet you.”
We parted ways to find our seats at the opera, and though I searched for Sara after the performance I found that she had evaded me. Not for the last time. But I wouldn’t give up so easily. I scoured the city for any whisper of the name Pútniková and my searches were not in vain. I showed up at her door the next day and found that she was at home, although all of her curtains were drawn tightly shut and she seemed somewhat fatigued and disoriented upon answering the door. I invited her to come to dinner with me the very next evening, an invitation which she fortunately accepted.
The next few months I tried to keep my distance from Sara as much as possible but found that it was nearly impossible. I didn’t want to scare her off, but I’d never been this committed to one person before in my life and I didn’t plan on losing interest like I usually did. There was something very different about Sara, something beautiful and strange and utterly fascinating. The more time I spent with her, the less I seemed to know about her.
My fingers plucked the strings of my mandolin and I gave Sara a sideways glance. She was gazing up at the stars, leaning back on her palms with her legs tucked neatly beneath her as we sat together on the blanket.
“You said once that you were invited to sing at the opera,” I said, ( )eaking the sacred silence. “You must have a beautiful voice.”
“Hardly,” Sara replied with a smile that was tainted with a hint of sadness. All of her smiles seemed sad rather than happy, I had noticed.
“I hope to hear it someday anyway,” I continued, the whisper of a melody floating across my instrument.
“I…” Sara began, so quietly that I thought I had imagined it at first, “I think I’m in love with you.”
My fingers froze. “Really?”
“I’ve never been in love before. I don’t know the feeling.”
“In any case,” I say, considering my words. “I know I’m in love with you.”
I steal another glance at Sara and find that a tear is tracing its way down Sara’s cheek, gleaming silver in the moonlight. Is she sad that she loves me? Or have I missed something entirely?
I only ever seemed to learn facts about Sara. She was born in Slovakia to a wealthy family and moved to France after they died to be raised by an elderly relative who also died soon after, leaving Sara with a great amount of money. Sara dislikes going out by day and always keeps the curtains of her windows closed–she tells me it is because her skin burns easily but to me she just seems more nocturnal than the average person. When I finally convinced Sara to sing, I learned that her voice is the most beautiful sound I have ever heard and I immediately understood people’s desire to have her sing at their various events. My enigmatic siren, my lady of shadows and twilight. And yet, I learned very little about her heart. She seemed to keep those inner thoughts and feelings very close. Time would ( )eak down the barrier between us, I was certain.
By the time I married Sara, four years had transpired since we first met. It had taken quite some time for Sara to convince herself that she was attached to me, it seemed. With the way so many people in her life had died, I supposed I could understand her fear of becoming attached. At the same time, I was a young and healthy man and I expected to live quite a long time. She wouldn’t have to fear losing me. We would spend our lives together.
The day of the wedding was one that seemed separate from the rest of history and outside the confines of time. I know I will never forget it, and I doubt Sara will either no matter how long she lives. As my best man, Louis helped prepare the wedding though there was little to prepare for. Only a few of my family members would attend, and since none of Sara’s relatives were still alive my father would accompany her on the aisle.
When Sara appeared and stood by my side, I could hardly do anything else but stare into her face. Her eyes were radiant with starlight, ( )ighter than I had ever seen them. Her lips were gently curved into a soft smile, a genuine smile with no sadness to corrupt it. Was this the first day of her life that she had felt so happy that she forgot her sadness? It seemed that way to me, and I couldn’t help but smile myself. The rest of the people in the chapel faded away and Sara and I stood in the chapel with our hands clasped tightly together. Hope danced in our eyes. A future together stretched before us.
“What is that?” I asked as I leaned against the doorframe of the parlour. Sara was seated on a chair with an ancient book in her hands.
Sara’s eyes widened slightly. “My private journal,” she replied, rising and setting the book aside. “My grandmother gave it to me.”
“So, what do you think of the place?” I inquired as Sara approached, tucking a curl behind her ear.
Sara tilted her head and beamed. “It’s wonderful, Pierre. Really. Thank you for all of this.”
“I can see you’ve already settled into your parlour. Lots of books.”
“Yes, I do love them. I wish I could have ( )ought my entire collection from Slovakia but I was in a hurry.”
“Louis is coming over later; I hope you don’t mind.”
“Of course not,” Sara replied.
I knew that Sara was a very private person, but up until we were married I thought that I knew nearly everything about Sara. And yet, sometimes I would come home quietly enough to hear Sara crying softly to herself in another room. I once came into the room and asked what was wrong, but Sara ( )ushed it off by saying that she had been thinking about her parents. Somehow I did not think that was all she was crying about. “I just feel so guilty,” Sara sobbed into my shoulder. “I should never have…I’m sorry. I need some air.”
A week later, we held a dinner party at our house. I had asked Sara if she might consider singing for our guests, but she had declined. The party itself was quite small, just including Louis and a few of my other friends and their families. Once dinner had been served and eaten, the party withdrew to one of the parlours. Sara didn’t speak much, as she usually preferred to listen to others’ stories than to tell her own. I told everyone that we were thinking of taking a trip around Europe over the summer months and Sara ( )ightened up a bit at that. She informed me that she had never been to Ireland and had always wanted to go. “It’s a lovely country,” Louis’s wife said.
“Not to everyone’s taste,” Louis added a bit sharply. I had noticed that he had not been getting along well with his wife lately. He had been spending a lot of time at our house instead and I felt that he was envious of what we had.
I reached over to take my cup of wine from the table. “Oh, sorry, that’s mine,” Sara said hastily, snatching up the glass and handing me my own. I gave her a somewhat quizzical look. “I think I’m coming down with something and I wouldn’t want you to catch what I have.” She took a sip from her glass and wrinkled her nose a bit.
“Is the wine not to your liking?” Louis inquired. He had ( )ought us a bottle that evening.
“No, no, it must be this cold. Addles the taste, you know?”
“Ah, yes,” Louis said slowly. I didn’t like the way he looked at Sara then, with this cold and analytical stare. It was as if he was certain there was something wrong with her and he wanted to find out what.
Both Sara and I desperately wanted to have children. At least one. Amongst other things, I hoped that a child might cheer Sara up a bit. It seemed that fate was against us, however. We sought out one of the best doctors on the subject and learned after a myriad of tests that Sara was somehow sterile. The doctor wasn’t entirely certain how, he just knew that she was. Very peculiar blood, the doctor remarked. That I didn’t care about. Sara had been talking about how exciting it would be to have a child for a long time. I felt the same way. Sara and I returned home and I buried my face in my hands as I heard Sara cry quietly in the parlour.
“Something is very wrong with me,” Sara remarked, standing in the doorway.
I jumped to my feet and wrapped my arms around Sara. She felt so frail, limp and ( )oken in my em( )ace. “No, nothing is wrong with you.”
“I can’t fool myself any longer,” Sara whispered. “I can’t. You have no idea, Pierre. You don’t deserve this. You deserve so much better than me.”
I ( )oke away and shook my head, my eyes fixed on Sara’s dim ones. “Is that really what you think? Sara, if anything, I deserve much worse than you. I probably would have ended up bankrupt and living recklessly if you hadn’t come along. I didn’t know when to stop.”
Six years passed and I think all of this is over. At first, Sara was distant and sad. I could understand that. When she finally returned, however, I could tell that something that changed. Although she insisted to me that we could be happy just the two of us, I saw guilt in her eyes. I could understand doubt, but guilt? What was there to be guilty about?
One week, Sara came home with a book that Louis had recommended and read through it with the speed of wildfire. What happened next I thought was unrelated to the book, but looking back I can see that it was the catalyst for the events.
It was nearly ten o’clock at night and I was reading in bed when Sara entered the room with confliction and fear written in her nearly grey eyes. I sat up. “What’s wrong?”
Sara hesitated, trying to find the right words. “I need to tell you something,” she said quietly, her voice quivering slightly.
“Anything,” I responded, taking Sara’s hand as she came to sit on the edge of the bed. Was this The Secret? The secret I had come to accept she would never tell me? I hated to admit it, but here had always seemed to be something about her that she didn’t want to tell me even after everything. Something she had never trusted me with.
Sara pressed her eyes closed and took in a ( )eath. “I…I should have told you this a long time ago.” She sounded as if she were about to burst into tears at any moment. “And I know you’ll hate me for it…or think that I’m crazy…and that’s fine. At least I had some small portion of happiness in my cursed life.”
Now I was beginning to feel concern prickling in the corners of my mind. “What are you talking about?”
Sara searched for the words. “I’m not…I can’t die. At least, I don’t think I can. I was born in 1680 and I haven’t aged much, much less died. I should be dead. Long dead,” she whispered. “Dust like the rest of them. And yet, here I am. I shouldn’t have fallen for you. If I could go back to the day we met I would have warned myself to get out of the country. It’s my fault…I should have said something, I should have done something.”
I had no idea what to think. Was she serious? Had her mind bent out of shape? “Why didn’t you tell me before?” I asked.
Tears began to run down Sara’s cheeks. “I was afraid,” she said. She pressed her hands over her eyes. “Fear has always driven me, Pierre–I’m always afraid of something. I wish I could stop being afraid but nothing has changed and I doubt it ever will.” Sara leapt to her feet. “I’m human, I promise,” she added, protesting more to herself than anyone else. “There is something terribly wrong with me, I told you. I’m trapped in my own body with no escape. Trapped for eternity. I’m…afraid of what I am. And you…you made me forget my curse. You made me feel human. For once, I thought maybe I could live a normal life. I could move on and be with you and just ignore the fact that I will outlive you by centuries. Who knows? Maybe I even thought I would ( )eak the curse by falling in love, like some fairy tale.” Sara buried her face in her hands again, spitting out her next words. “Like a story in a book.” She looked up and her eyes were red and puffy. “Don’t you see now what you’ve wedded, Pierre? A beautiful, undying monster with no sense in her head? I’m so sorry that this happened to you. I could have spared you so much pain. You could have been happy. Now both of us will live ruined lives.”
“Sara, wait!” I called as my wife bolted out of the door. I leapt out of bed and into the hall, finding Sara kneeling on the carpet and weeping openly. I approached and knelt next to Sara, wrapping my arms around her shoulders and feeling her tremble beneath my touch as she sobbed quietly. “It’s alright.”
“I should have run,” Sara murmured resentfully. “I should have run like I always do, running like a coward away from all of my problems.” Sara glanced up at me, eyes shining with tears. “You were the only one who cared about me for…who I am. The rest of them loved my face or my voice, but you…you saw me as a human with a mind and a soul. How could I not fall in love with you, my darling Jean-Pierre?” Sara reached out to ( )ush a hand across my face. “I’ll never meet another man like you, I’m sure of it.” Sara ( )oke into a fresh sob. “I’m so sorry.”
I could think of nothing to say for the first time in my life, so I simply held Sara and let her tears soak through my nightshirt.
The next morning, I began to think as I went about my work. Sara could be telling the truth, or she could be finally ( )eaking from all of the stress she had put herself through. I decided that we ought to go somewhere. India, yes. We had talked about going to India many times. She would enjoy that, and perhaps she would be able to find some peace and we could talk rationally. I didn’t want to believe that she was telling the truth, that she was suffering from some mysterious curse which prevented her from dying. But if she was, I was prepared to search for solutions. I was determined to keep us together for as long as possible, even if that only meant for my lifetime.
But even that was not meant to be.
A few days later, I woke up and went to work as usual, leaving a gloomy and restless Sara behind at home. When I returned, however, I found that Sara had gone. She never went out during the day, especially without me. My heart began to race and I bolted upstairs. Her trunks were gone, along with half of her belongings. It seemed she had packed in a hurry, some of her less personally valuable possessions scattered across the floor of our bedroom. She’d left the necklace I gave her. I picked up the thin silver chain and pressed it to my heart. She was gone. She’d run away, just like she said she should. I grit my teeth and felt hot tears rising in my eyes. I pushed them aside, panic and anger mingling in my chest. Why would she go? I paced around the room and slammed my fist into the wall. Why had she not trusted me? It was my fault she had gone, I was certain. I should have said something to reassure her that she should stay, and yet I had said nothing. With the way Sara’s mind tended to over-analyze every situation I should have known that she would take my silence as rejection. And yet I said nothing. Curse you, Jean-Pierre, for your stupidity. You’ve lost her.
Then let’s find her again. You owe her that much.
The first person I sought out was Louis. I was certain that my closest friend would sympathize, and yet when I told him Sara had gone, he was more interested in knowing why than asking how he could help me get her back. I left and contacted the police, informing them that my wife had gone missing. They searched for weeks and found nothing. I even went to look for any documents that might be on record, but it seemed that Sara did not exist in any public records. The last time anyone had seen her, even a stranger, was the day she ran off. The witnesses agreed that she seemed to be in a hurry but she was not bothering to call some kind of transport. Instead, she walked at a ( )isk pace to the north with no intention of changing course or stopping. If Sara had gone north, then so would I.
I pulled together a large sum of money, for a holiday I told my parents and anyone else who asked. They nodded sympathetically and patted my arm, telling me to enjoy myself and to feel better. I would feel better once I knew Sara was safe and happy.
In every town I stopped at, I asked as many people as I could if they had seen a woman with dark hair and eyes like amethyst stars. None of them had seen her. I moved on to the next town. There was too much ground for me to cover by myself, I knew that. I just didn’t want to accept it.
I spent two and a half years searching for Sara with no results. Not even a whisper or a shadow. The elusive fairy had disappeared entirely. I returned to Paris, hoping that Sara might make an appearance at the Exposition Universelle. She did have a fascination for those events. So did I. It was a long shot but my parents were wondering why I had been gone for so long and I had to admit I was beginning to feel my search was a lost cause.
No luck there either. I caught a glimpse of a purple and black dress but when I went rushing toward the woman like a madman I quickly realized that I had made a mistake. People were beginning to think I was losing my mind. I was beginning to agree with them. My friends tried to help me move on, introducing me to various women around Paris. They didn’t seem to realize that I would never meet another woman so singularly unique as Sara.
Then the war began. Louis and I joined the army but all I could think about as we raced around the muddy, corpse-littered battlefield with weapons in hand was Sara, again. Was she safe? Was she dead? Body after mutilated body passed before my eyes and I hoped that all of this would be worth it in the end. Then the Battle of Verdun came, the longest of the battles I fought. Louis and I were side by side, battered but still alive. Then a bullet came out of thin air and planted itself between Louis’s eyes. He fell backward and I stumbled back to ease him onto the ground. No medics nearby. Even if there had been, it wouldn’t have mattered. He was already dead, dead before he hit the ground. A neat hole in his skull. At least it had been a quick death, a clean one as well. My closest friend, gone in a moment. In the midst of the fire and the chaos everything became still and quiet. Dust, she had said. And one day I would be in the same place.
I sat in my home after the war was over, the curtains still drawn tightly over the windows. Sara’s favorite chair, her pens…her writing. I stumbled across a notebook filled with Sara’s handwriting. She had written fairy tales, song lyrics, and poems on the thin pages. I read them over and over until the words were printed on my heart. Here I was, alive and back in this place. The world torn to shreds. I could keep searching for Sara, but it was clear that she did not want to be found.
Life wore on and lost its color. The world became desperate to forget and put on flashy clothing and jazzy music, but I mourned the loss of class and civility. I had once been so eager to leave it behind. And just when I thought everything had settled, the second world war began. This time, I was far too old to fight so I hid from the invading German army at a relative’s house to the south. The Chatain line will die out with me but I do have several relatives on my mother’s side still. It was a miracle I survived that second war, merely because I had inherited my father’s heart troubles and my old war wounds had left deep scars. Still, I clung on to life and hobbled around the countryside to take in its soft ( )eezes and gentle ways. Then my heart condition flared and I was ( )ought back to Paris to be admitted to a hospital there. With the war finished by two years and the German occupation ended, the beds were all nearly empty but I could picture the ward flooded with bleeding and dying soldiers, the scent of death and putrid decay in the air. Bombs send bits of flesh through the air, gas floats across the wasteland battlefields as deadly fog. Louis, face pale and surprised, sees no more as blood trickles down his temples.
Enough of that now. Here I am, lying in a crisp white bed and waiting for death to claim me. Any day now, I expect. Life has been much longer than I thought, and far emptier and filled with such intense sorrow and loneliness. Someone comes to stand at my side and I look up, expecting to see the starkly uniformed nurse or doctor.
Dark, curling hair. Softly carved marble face, like velvet cream or pearly silk. Lavender eyes, filled with stars and the essence of life itself.
“Sara?” I manage to ( )eathe. My voice is hoarse and I cough, feeling the familiar pain shoot through my heart. “Is this a dream?”
The woman shakes her head. “It’s me,” she said with the slightest smile. That sad, lovely smile.
This can’t be real. “I must be hallucinating.”
“You’re not.” Sara takes a hold of my hand. “I’m flesh and blood.”
She looks not a day older than when we had first met. “Then what you said…it was all true.” Oh, foolish me. I should have never doubted her–when she chooses to reveal something she claims is the truth, it is always the truth. I feel tears rising in my eyes.
“Yes,” Sara says softly. “I…I had to run. You were going to lock me up. I’m sorry.”
“Lock you up?” I exclaim, straightening a bit despite my weakness. “Never. I was just hoping we could talk. I thought you were either telling the truth, or that you had been stretched too thin and needed a ( )eak. I was even thinking of a trip to India to clear your head. Just the two of us.” My voice ( )eaks and I can’t say another word.
Sara bites her lip and looks down at her hands, tears running down her cheeks. “I’m…I’m so sorry. It’s always me, isn’t it? Misreading the situation…missed communication…I was such a fool. I should have stayed.”
“Sara, I love you more than anything else in the world. I never found anyone else who could come close to you. But if you had stayed, I would have wasted away and you would have had to watch that. I would have spent my whole life with you, but you could never spend your whole life with me. You spared yourself a great deal of pain. I’ve always wanted you to be happy.”
“And I wanted you to be happy!” Sara protests. “But I see now that I’ve made everything so much worse. I’m so selfish,” she says, disgusted with herself. “At the first sign of trouble for myself, I run. I didn’t even stop to consider that perhaps you would believe me. That you would accept me even when you realized what I am. And of course you would have. I didn’t trust you enough…and now I’ve ruined everything. I’ve ruined your life. The very last thing I wanted.”
No, don’t blame yourself. It was both of us. I should have made myself clearer. I could have prevented all of this from happening. Say something now, Pierre. Make it right. “That doesn’t matter now. Your choices are in the past, and so are mine. And though my life is coming to an end, I think, you still have so much left.” I sigh. “Life must be so long for you. It has been for me.”
“Far too long,” Sara whispered. I can feel the agony in her voice and my heart falls.
“When were you born, then? Not 1867 like you said, surely.”
Sara laughs softly. “No. I was born Fe( )uary 29th, 1680.”
My eyes widen. “1680? You have lived such a long time. To think, I married a woman over two hundred years old.” I sigh again, more heavily. Perhaps she was cursed, a curse destined to keep us apart. “Do you know why this happened to you?”
Sara shakes her head. “I doubt I ever will. I will keep searching for an answer, but if I have found nothing yet I don’t think anything new will surface. It doesn’t matter, though. Whatever has happened is obviously irreversible and I simply have to deal with the consequences as they are. I can’t run from myself. I’m trapped.”
Don’t despair. “You should destroy your records,” I say. I know people well enough to say that there would be those who be glad to get a hold of Sara and her unique qualities. “If anyone discovered this, especially in the scientific field, they would come for you.”
Sara nods. “I already did. I’m very good at sneaking into places without being caught.”
I smile. “My enigmatic siren. You never cease to surprise me.” Look at her, she hasn’t changed at all. She had lived two hundred years before ever meeting me. How long would it take for her to move on? “Promise me that you will never forget me.”
“I won’t,” Sara agrees. “You’ve been the best part of my life so far and I can’t believe that I threw so many years away. There has never been anyone like you and there never will be again, that I’m sure of.”
Wait, that’s not what I meant. “Don’t live a lonely life because of this,” I say firmly. “Don’t hide away and forget what it means to be happy. Live and explore. If you never let yourself become attached to anything, you will live the rest of your life alone and isolated. I know you–that would drain the starlight from your eyes and you would drown in sorrow and self-pity. You see the light in this dark and deplorable world. Think about the good you could do with a gift like that.” Without waiting for Sara to reply, I reach over to the bedside table and pick up the small wooden box that is placed there. I hand it to Sara. “Take this, my darling, and remember me. Remember what I said.”
My heart is beating erratically and I focus on ( )eathing. “I will,” Sara promises softly.
I can feel her at my side until my very last ( )eath, which I am thankful for more than anything else. This is how I always imagined my death. Sara would be right there, beside me, having lived a full life with me. Yes, we would have been happy for a time. But I know that as soon as I began to age Sara would have grown sadder and sadder. She always told me that she hated the endings of books, and now I knew why. She had seen far too many of them.
I slip out of the world, praying that Sara will find what she is looking for. I know I did.
February 10, 2017 update
Twilight drifts in on the horizon, purple clouds scudding over the ruddy embers of the sunset. A lone figure glides through the lengthening shadows of the mossy gravestones, a woman wearing black with soft cocoa curls pouring down her back. She had been to this cemetery many times before, that much was clear. A casual visitor might wander through the stones, and even a family member looking for a lost loved one might take a few minutes to locate the right spot. But this woman knew precisely where she needed to go; after all, she had been here precisely seventy times now.
The first time was certainly the worst. She stood in this same graveyard, though the headstones were sparser and spread further apart. The sun shone bright and sought to burn the woman’s skin, but she made sure to keep herself covered from head to foot in black garments and held a parasol over her head. A strange sight for 1947, yes, but she had always been a bit out of place.
“You knew him?”
The woman had been staring at the headstone and the freshly dug grave, her eyes dull and filled with tears. She shook herself out of her reverie and glanced at the man standing beside her. She nodded. “Very well.”
“I’ve never seen you before.”
“No,” the woman whispered, lowering her gaze. “You wouldn’t have.”
The writing on the headstone is nearly as clear and bold as the day it was printed: “Jean-Pierre Chatain”, followed by the dates of his birth and death. The epitaph underneath reads: “As I fly free now, so shall you one day and we will be together once more.”
How wrong he was. The woman glances down at the roses in her hand. Purple, of course. She sets them down on the grave and whispers something so softly underneath her breath that its meaning is lost on the evening breeze. The wind sweeps over the cemetery and rushes up to the silhouette standing uncertainly under the shadow of a tree. Silver-blonde hair, a flash of eyes the color of blood…it is clear that this figure does not belong here. He stands out like a lightning bolt in a tranquil field. He shifts his weight from one foot to the other, uncomfortable and unsure. He should talk to her, but he knows what she will say. It’s a miracle that she is alone. The man instinctively looks around again, his eyes searching for the shape of a raven in the sky or perched amongst the branches of a nearby tree. Perhaps this is a trap.
The man turns away. He could deal with this by himself; he didn’t need her help. As he takes a step forward, however, the man stops and clenches his fists. She helped him remember something…something different from what he remembered before. Things were not as they should be, and he was determined to set his mind right. Asuriel had told him some…unsettling information and it was time he figured out the truth. Perhaps he would discover the source of the guilt lurking in the back of his mind that he does not understand. The man rubs his left arm where he knows the mark lies and turns back and to find that she is looking straight at him, her wide eyes shining violet in the dusk.
“You,” she whispers, thrills of horror running over her skin. Her feet seem to be rooted to the ground and she wavers on the spot, trying to pull herself away.
The man panics and takes a few steps toward the woman. “Sara, I–”
“Leave me alone!” Sara cries, looking wildly around for the other crimson figures that must inevitably hide in the shadows.
“I’m not here to hurt you.”
“Why should I believe anything you say?” Sara snaps, and the cold anger in her words forces guilt into Cyrus’s throat. He sees what she sees–a dark manor filled with men and women consumed by their determination to win back the throne.
“You can’t,” Cyrus sighs, casting his gaze at the ground. For how could he possibly explain his actions? “But I–”
He looks up again to find Sara sprinting off through the gravestones. He could imagine wings on her feet, her speed was so great. “I just need your help!” Cyrus calls into the misty night.
Sara freezes on the spot, several hundred feet away from the Dāmian. He isn’t wearing his uniform, she notices, but a simple loose shirt and trousers. He still wears his gloves. A call for help is something she can never refuse. She should, though. She should just turn around and keep running. Nothing good could come of this, especially when she had been fooled once before by this man. He was seeking to prey on her naivety again, it would seem. She curls her fingers over into fists and hesitates.
“You might have taken advantage of me before, Ensil Cyrus,” Sara says coldly, using the name she had heard them use, “but I will not be taken in so easily a second time.”
“I know that you have no reason to trust me,” Cyrus continues, gaining courage as he approaches the trembling Lylthian, “but know that I speak the truth when I say that I am alone and I do not intend to do you harm. I…I am not entirely sure who I am anymore. I thought my memories were true until you sang and shattered some of them. I cannot trust my mind and I feel that something has been hidden, something terrible in my past that I have somehow forgotten. Or perhaps someone made me forget.”
Sara’s heart flutters anxiously. “What makes you think I can help you remember? My songs have no real power to them.” That is a lie, she knows that. For centuries she has known the effect her voice has on some.
“You are a Lylthian. You know of your dark gift, and I believe that I know it as well.”
“In truth, I did not know until quite recently that I was such a being,” Sara says, fingernails biting deeper into her palms. Cyrus is surprised to hear the note of cynical sarcasm in her voice when she speaks next. “You shattered my reality, dear lieutenant. All of you did.”
“If you believed yourself to be human all this time, you are truly a fool,” Cyrus remarks, lip curling.
“You forget that it is you who are asking for my help, not the other way around,” Sara replies stiffly. “Rudeness will only damage your case.”
Cyrus presses his eyes shut and takes in a deep breath. “I apologize.”
Sara nods. “Now, what are you trying to remember?”
Flashes of blood and war rage through Cyrus’s head. Tell her as little as possible. “I lost my family ages ago to Lady Alinna and her people. My family was human, so they would have crumbled into dust anyway, but I was human at the time as well. My father was already dead–or, at least, I think he was dead–but the rest of them were killed apart from my brother. I never found his body. He’s long gone by now, of course, but I still wish to know what happened to him.”
“At least you had a family,” Sara says dismally with a quiet, bitter laugh. She shakes her head to clear it of the dark thoughts crowding inside. She sighs heavily. “I will do my best to help you.”
If this man is lying, she will certainly die. But if he is not? If he is truly a soul suffering in perpetual silence? Well, Sara could not turn him away in that case. She casts her mind around in search of a song, something that could bring remembrance back to them both. There. Just after he died, she came up with this one. Perhaps this would help Cyrus remember some of what he has lost as well. She clears her throat and avoids Cyrus’s gaze, instead looking out to the moon hanging low over the horizon with stars sewn into the sky around it. Then, she opens her mouth and her voice drifts over the cemetery, strong and sweet.
“Through morning and night
I wait for the stars
Oh, where have they gone?
I search for their light
Lies have brought me here
Lies shan’t take me back
I fear I killed you
Quenched your light, my dear
Our dreams were the same
The timing was wrong
You crumbled to dust
Life wasted in pain
Wounded heart, sing now
Save me from myself
Drowning in dark seas
I make my last vow.”
Armies charged through the peaceful village tucked into the heart of the purple mountains. They looked for a woman they called “queen,” but there was no queen of this country. And they seemed more like monsters out of a storybook than soldiers, eyes bleeding and teeth hungering. The houses were on fire and people screamed…but it was only after the chaos had subsided that Cyrus realized exactly how much carnage had been wrought on his home. All of them were dead, lying near each other with blood spilling from their lifeless human bodies. It was Cyrus’s turn to scream, to weep and promise vengeance. He found the red riders before they could fly off and trample another village into ashes, dragging a sword alongside him which was far too heavy for such young arms. His vision red and focused only on the enemy, Cyrus yelled his rage and swung the sword wildly. They would pay, they would feel the sting of his sword! But the riders merely laughed at the sight of such a young boy trying to wield a weapon too powerful for him. Their commander was intrigued by the boy’s rage, however, and approached Cyrus. He told the child that they had believed this town to be sheltering a dangerous criminal, a woman who tried to call herself queen but had no right. He–
“Are you alright?”
Cyrus feels a gentle hand on his shoulder and looks up into the soft lavender eyes of Sara. He had collapsed and sat curled up on the ground, hands over his eyes. Sara stopped her song and flew up to him in panic, though now she quickly draws her hand away as she looks into the depths of his steely red eyes. Cyrus feels a strange pang of some dark emotion which makes him wish Sara were not so disconcerted by him.
“Yes, I think so,” he says quietly. They had been right. He hadn’t wanted to believe them because his memories contradicted their stories, but it seems…they were right. At least he could feel some relief that betraying his Legion had not been for nothing. True, they were not the only ones at fault. Lady Alinna and the Legion were both the culprits for the destruction of his home and family. Cyrus tries to shift the focus away from himself; he does not like the way Sara is looking at him. “Who was that song for?”
“What do you mean?” Sara asks, a bit too quickly.
“You’ve lost someone, too. You must have, to sing with such feeling.”
“I’m very good at that,” Sara says, though Cyrus can see a flush creeping into her cheeks and her voice trembles slightly. “You would be surprised at how many people I have fooled over the years.”
Cyrus jerks his head toward the gravestone decorated with Sara’s roses. “You were in this graveyard for a reason. She told me you would be here.”
“She?” Sara begins, confused. Realization seems to dawn on her and she scowls. “If Constance had so much time to spy on me, why did she never speak to me?” She looks up to the moon again and folds her arms. “I fell in love with a human. Of course, I thought I was human. And you’re right about something–I was a fool to believe that.” Sara straightens to her feet abruptly and folds her arms. “If that’s all, I should be getting back.”
“You come when they call, do you?” Cyrus scoffs, immediately regretting the words as they come out of his mouth.
“I could say the same of you.”
“I’m a free man.”
“Are you? You say that your memories aren’t your own. How can you be sure?” Sara turns her back to Cyrus. “Perhaps there will be some explanation in your mind for your attempt on my life, for I do not want to believe that you were acting of your own accord.”
Cyrus freezes, conscious of his heart beating a little faster in his chest. He could tell her everything now, explain to her that she was right to believe in him…but really, was there any goodness in him for her to cling to? Cyrus rubs his forearm again and can almost feel the brand burning beneath his fingers. Here he had been chasing down the killers of his family for centuries, when perhaps he should have been looking at himself. No, he refuses to believe that he is responsible. There must be an explanation. That is the real reason why he came here, no? One mystery left unsolved could perhaps be answered by this woman, this delicate and enigmatic woman whom Cyrus had felt concern for in spite of his ideals. He must not become attached, must not follow his emotions…for those were the two weaknesses of his youth that resulted in so much pain. He scowls at his thoughts but Sara takes it for a response to her words. She closes her eyes and sings more quietly this time, a tune that is not her own which she recalls from long ago.
“How the tide rushes in
And covers footprints in the sand
As my hope’s erased and carried out of my hands
How the tides ebb and flow
As driftwood tossed upon the shore
And my heart’s cast aside
And lost ever more
Yet, though the ocean with waves unending
Covers the earth, yet is there loss after all
For whate’er drifts from one place
Is with the tide to another brought
And there’s naught lost beyond recall
Which cannot be found if sought…”
Sara smiles faintly to herself and she glances at the headstone of her deceased husband not far away. Songs should mean something, and before the pink sugar pop songs of jumbled nonsense, most of them did. This song, hopefully, would ring true for Sara someday. She turns slowly, feeling a prickling on her back, and finds that Cyrus stands about two feet away from her. His face has gone ashen white, even paler than its usual bloodless shade, and his dulled red eyes seem to look past Sara.
“What’s wrong?” Sara whispers, her voice coming out softer and hoarser than expected. She clears her throat and repeats the question more clearly. “Cyrus?”
“I killed him.”
The temperature of Sara’s blood drops a few degrees. “What?”
Cyrus throws his hands up over his face and falls to his knees, breathing heavily. Sara kneels before him, sensing his anguish and wondering how she could help. Cyrus felt the world spinning and bobbing, the sparks in his brain gathering into full flame. He had taken the life of his own brother. Of course he had asked Marcellus to change his memories. This truth…it was too much to bear. Someone was yelling in the distance. Wait, no–that was Cyrus. “Dearest brother,” Cyrus whispers, seeing the shock in his brother’s half-dead eyes as they realized at the same moment what had been done. How Cyrus had wept, even though he wished he had not. He had not been strong enough, nor will he ever be. Motivated by fear and anger, how could he be?
Her voice like lavender honey drifted into his ears again. “Cyrus, you can tell me. I can’t help if you refuse to say anything. Who…who did you kill?”
Cyrus looks up at Sara through the blonde strands that have fallen in his eyes. “No wonder you flinch at the sight of the Dāmians,” he mutters. “I am a monster.”
“I used to think so,” Sara says quietly. “I’m not sure I believe that anymore.”
“I killed my own brother!” Cyrus roars. “You have no idea! You–you have…no idea,” he repeats, clenching his teeth. “I should have known,” he spits finally. He whips up the left sleeve of his shirt, revealing a black mark of twisted snakes scorched into his skin. “I wear the Mark of Cain; who else would I have killed in my family?”
“It seems that I am not the only fool,” Sara remarks with the slightest smile. “We believe what we want to, yes?”
“And I joined the Legion thinking they could help me! They are to blame for all of this. Them and Lady Alinna.”
“The Lylthians and Dāmians are not so different, after all,” Sara says, scooting closer to Cyrus. She tries to think of the right words to reassure him. It is simply in her nature to turn away sadness in others, even if she fails to do so in herself. “They used both of us rather poorly, wouldn’t you say? Our lives don’t matter to them, so they use us as pawns.”
Cyrus shakes his head slowly. “More than you know.”
“What do you mean?” Sara asks, brow furrowing.
Something cold and heavy drops into the depths of Cyrus’s stomach. Had Lady Alinna told Sara nothing? Did she not know of the war and why it began…and why it ended? Sara’s existence could be the perfect excuse to rekindle the flames of war, and here she sits, unaware of the incredible danger. When Cyrus doesn’t respond, Sara presses on. “You may have had the wrong story in your head, but I never had any answers to my questions. If you know something…maybe you could help me, too.”
Cyrus avoids Sara’s soul-searching gaze. He must go, yes. It is time he disappeared. Rising swiftly, Cyrus begins to hurry off through the headstones. Sara jumps to her feet and scowls. “So that’s it, then? I help you and you run off without telling me anything?”
“Yes, precisely!” Cyrus growls, stalking away faster. His fatal mistake was glancing back over his shoulder and seeing Sara standing alone in the night, the wind tugging at her hair. Cyrus hesitates. He doesn’t want Sara to get the wrong idea that he cares what happens to her–because he certainly does not–but the gnawing sensation of guilt tells him to stick to some kind of code of honor. She did help him restore his true memories. But those were memories he never wanted to have in the first place! Cyrus turns and deliberates. “I’m not sure I’m the right person.”
“You’re the only person,” Sara practically pleads. “The only one who I know will tell the truth, anyway.”
“What makes you say that?” Cyrus replies, a dangerously icy edge to his voice. “I’m your enemy.”
Sara tilts her head to one side and folds her arms. “The more you say it, the more I think you’re not. You have no reason to lie to me. Not anymore.”
“You assume too much.”
“You can’t just go back to the people who manipulated you like that!” Sara protests as Cyrus begins to walk away again.
“Really? Aren’t you doing the same thing?”
“I–” Sara falters and falls silent. An owl hoots mournfully in the distance and the moon comes out from behind a patch of clouds, shedding its silver light over the graveyard.
“Goodbye, Sara,” Cyrus says quietly, knowing that he will regret his cowardice once he is gone. He absently wonders where the nearest bar is that would sell quality whiskey. Well, the quality matters little if the only objective is to lose sobriety and responsibility for a time. He gives Sara one last glance and tries to freeze the image in his head, even if her eyes are sad. “I doubt we’ll meet again.”