"And you are....?"
"Your deepest desire come alive. Are you sure you did not conjure me up yourself?", the man clad in black inquired.
"Uh...", the witch-princess sputtered. "What are you saying? I can't perform magic."
"And from where did you get that impression?", he asked in a mocking tone.
"I was exiled from my father's kingdom eons ago and my powers were snatched from me. I have tried and tried in vain to attempt even the simplest of spells, but not even the weakest of sparks have erupted from my finger."
There was dismay in her voice, and a sense of deep longing. Wishing with all her strength that what the stranger said was true, the princess twitched the index finger of her left hand and waited for something that signaled the return of her powers.
Her finger remained dull.
"I couldn't have conjured you up. Now tell me the truth. Who are you?"
The princess' eyes bemoaned the loss of the flickering hope and darkened to indigo. However, in the very next instant the darkness was replaced by a spark in her irises. A spark that the man recognized as anger and betrayal.
He suddenly stepped back a couple of paces and held up his arms in a gesture of surrender.
"I don't know how I came here. Last thing I remember is that I was sweeping the cemetery up in the north county when Her Highness, Queen Esmerelda, summoned me. And now, here I am. "
His reply rang no bells for the princess and her fury knew no bounds. Her mother was up to some mischief again. The princess looked at the towering man standing before her. A man that belonged in her dreams. A man that starred in her deepest, darkest desires. Did her mother know her that well? Or was it a figment of her imagination?
She stepped forward and reached out her hand to the stranger.
Her palm was captured in his strong clasp, his long, tapering fingers entrapping hers in a soft, yet unyielding manner. His hands and face were the only parts of his body that weren't covered in a swath of black color. Her eyes were drawn to the cleft in his chin and the way his brown eyes crinkled at their corners. His mouth was tight in a grimace, as if he was expecting something loathsome to happen to him.
She tried to move her hand out of his grasp, feeling uncomfortable under his skeptical gaze. As soon as she twitched her hand to pull it out of his, her witching finger emitted a low, red flame.
They both drew back, startled.
Her eyes were brimming with happiness. An emotion so alien to her that she could not come to terms with it. She looked up and sought the gaze of the man who had brought the magic back into her life. Her eyes met his. And the world seemed to stop for a moment.
His deep, brown eyes were glimmering with unshed tears and flooding memories, and his lips were tilted in a smile. This was the face from her dreams. The one that she always saw whenever she slept uneasily. The one that she always longed for when she awakened from her forced slumber. The one that she had chased for more than two centuries now.
His arms opened, as if inviting her into his embrace. His wind-tousled hair fell on his forehead and pleaded for her fingers to tangle in them. His stance was that of a lover, his face that of a friend.
She moved forward, her mind seeing herself already wrapped in his arms, her body still hesitant.
"Did my mother send you here? Did she create you for my ultimate destruction?", the princess asked the man in a tone that belied the venom in her words. She silently pleaded for him to deny her accusations and reassure her of his presence in her existence.
"I was sent here by your mother, but she did not create me. I am Lepidiscus, son of Zamora." His arms dropped back beside his body and a sudden tension filled the air.
"Your mother is on her death-bed. She never wishes to see you but could not bear for her legacy to die out with her death. She says that she forgives you and that after her demise you are free to return to your home."
"And you are her messenger. Why?"
"Because I am your benedict. I have been looking for you for half my existence. I have searched in the deepest of glades, above the highest of palisades, and beneath the most wicked tides of the seven seas. Your father perished in his solitude after your banishment and your mother removed your very essence from your land. She sent me on missives to far off lands in the hope that I would forget about you in the way that she had. Only she and your father knew that you were pledged to me ever since your birth was predicted and she feared that if I found you, her reign as the Queen would end and you would take over her throne."
His last words failed to have any impact on the princess because her mind refused to budge from the newly gleaned information that the man standing before her was her betrothed. Her dreams had connected her to him in ways that were too intrinsic to have been fleeting images of desire and longing. Suddenly it all made sense. Yet, there seemed to be a part of the puzzle missing.
"Why did my mother stop us from meeting? I was already banished and was never allowed to step foot beyond the Yarrow River. What threat could I have been to her throne?", the princess asked Lepidiscus.
"Because the murder that you were implicated with was actually committed at the command of your mother. Before you were born, the High Priest had foreseen you as the most glorified Queen of our lands and times. He had shared this joyous news with your mother alone, not knowing of the rage and jealousy that had filled her very being at that instant. She bore you with the sole intention of eradicating you once you acquired your celestial skills."
"But how...why...", the princess sputtered, her disbelief and anguish raw in her features. "How do you know of this if only my mother was privy to this prophecy?"
"Your mother summoned me, desperately, with the purpose of divulging her shame to me. Since your magic died out after your exile, she could not keep tabs on your whereabouts. She had no way of communicating with you other than depending on my interminable bond with your soul. We were connected since your birth, but we never chanced to meet. I had duties in my own kingdom and promises that kept me bound from meeting you. She confessed her sins to me and pleaded me to bring you back to your land. However, she bewitched me with a spell so that I could remember all of this only when I touched you. The real you and no one else. That was why I did not recall this sequence of events earlier."
Seeing the princess' brow bunched with worry, Lepidiscus further elaborated. "Your mother secretly commanded the leader of the Wizard Legion of her Army to destroy the child in your presence when you were honing your magical skills. She ordered him to make it appear as if you were deliberately sharpening your magic on the girl. Your sudden bursts of temper were a well-known fable by then and it only further fueled the speculation of the subjects that you had knowingly obliterated the child. Your mother achieved her desire and banishing you appeased the rankled subjects, as well as removed the threat to her throne."
His explanation slowly seeped into her numb brain and the dusty memories shook themselves alive. Her father, her maid, her childhood, the staircase she always swept down, her first tentative steps into witchcraft, and the abrupt snatching away of her most beloved gift. Suddenly, her life was exhibited before her from the beginning to the point where she had lost all purpose to live. She bemoaned her father's loss, and pitied her mother's vanity. But the emotion that overlay all others was the relief and the joy she felt in the present moment.
Her knight in shining armor had arrived. The man she had been dreaming of had come into her life and returned her to the land of the living.
She glided towards Lepidiscus and wrapped her arms around his neck.
"Will you have me now, my benedict?", she whispered in his ear.
He lowered his lips to hers and silently answered her query. Suddenly the first finger of her left hand emitted red and gold sparks that surrounded them both in a tight circle.
"And you are....", she smiled as their lips detached.
"I am your Magic", came the reply as he bent his head forward and kissed her, never to detach, never to diverge .