He carried me back to the house, neither of us speaking. I was exhausted but I owed him a lot of answers. When we got to the house, I climbed the stairs carefully and held my arms down so that he could swing himself up like he did the first time. I took his hand and walked over to the middle of the circle. I had him sit down and we faced each other, crossing our legs.
"My great-great grandmother was born in this house," I said, running a hand through my hair. "She... she drew this circle not because she thought she survived. This is what sparked my visions. The minute I stepped in this circle, I was shown what happened to the village. It was awful, Cian."
"What happened?" he whispered.
I put my head in my hands. "It was the start of some war. I don't know what the war was about. A bunch of soldiers heard about a special orb that could give someone everlasting life. They got greedy and ran down here. They ransacked the village. A priest knew what they were looking for and tried to hide it. He died before he could. The mayor of the town found it. The general of the arm said that, if the may would use it, he would spare his wife.
"The mayor refused to, though, so the general did it himself. When the mutations started, they killed the general and buried him right behind the church, hoping his body would be burned by God's holy fire for what he did. They put the orb on a necklace around the general's neck.
"Everyone began to mutate, starting with the children. First their minds changed. They would have moments of clarity and then their mind would go blank. They'd wake up in the jailhouse with claims that they had done terrible things. Some people murdered each other, some committed suicide. Then their skin turned grey. Their noses disappeared but they could still smell. The grey flesh grew over their eyes, making them go blind. Then their bodies elongated and their humanity was lost completely.
"The mayor realized what happened and set fire to the town. He ran to the graveyard just as his body started to mutate and tried to dig the orb out."
"What did the lake have to do with any of this?" he asked when I fell silent.
I shut my eyes tightly and started to shake. He put his arms around me from behind and I leaned into him, pressing my cheek to his chest. He put his head on top of mine.
"When people first started to mutate, the mayor got desperate. He ordered for them to be drowned. It didn't work. It only worked on people who hadn't started so he... he ordered for people to be drowned. The people that did the drowning were mutating and went back to the village. When the mayor burned the village down, he was stopping anyone from leaving."
"If your ancestor was from here but everyone died, then how did she know someone would come?"
"I think she escaped before it all happened."
We both fell into silence, reflecting on the story. I felt sick to my stomach but I was too tired to do anything. I leaned more into him.
"Do you want to sleep?" he asked and I nodded. "Okay. Hold on."
Like the last two nights, he got behind me and put his arms around me. It was different this time. It felt more... tender. I closed my eyes and hoped the nightmares wouldn't come back.
"Cian! Viveka! Where are you!?"
We both woke with a start and Cian must have forgotten about the stairs because he went crashing through them.
"Damn it," he snapped. "You'll have to jump, Viveka."
"I'm not jumping," I said in a high pitched voice.
He rolled his eyes. "Just jump."
I groaned but did so. He caught me and we hurried outside. Daray and Dany were running in with ten men, all carrying shovels. I could tell they hadn't rested on their way back.
"Hey everyone," Cian sighed. "Did Daray and Dany tell you were the bodies are?" They nodded grimly. "Five of you go around the back. You'll find...." He sighed. "You'll find more bodies. Set aside the bodies of Brone, Clemente, and Abel, though. We'll take them back with us," he added to the twins and I.
"I want to help," I said but Cian shook his head.
"No. You need to sleep some more."
I sighed. "We've been sleeping for two days."
He shook his head again. "I can tell you're still tired, Viveka," he said sternly.
I rubbed my eyes. "All right. Where do you want me to sleep, though? I can't reach the deck again."
"Not in this village, that's for certain," Cian said, running his hand through his hair.
"You guys go back," Dany said. "We'll oversee everything here. Take Ashling back."
"Are you sure?" Cian asked.
"Yeah, we've got it. We'll be back at the palace as soon as we can."
Cian shook the twins' hands. "When you get back, expect a knighthood."
Dany smiled. "I'll hold you to that, Lord Cian."
Cian shook his head. "We're equals. Call me Cian."
Dany smiled again and kissed my hand. "Go rest, Viveka."
Cian helped me over to Ashling. The horse was relieved to see him and bumped her head against his. He chuckled and mounted her. He held his arm down and lifted me effortlessly. He had me sit in front of him.
"Sleep the best you can," he said. "Ashling is different. She doesn't need to rest like the others do."
I yawned. "Okay," I mumbled. "Hey, Cian?"
"Not letting me go."
He chuckled. "Sleep, my minx."
We arrived at the palace twelve hours later. Viveka was still asleep and I didn't want to wake her. I carried her in and smiled a little. Her mother and Chester looked like they hadn't slept, either. They rushed to her but I shook my head.
"No. She needs to keep sleeping," I said. "I'll tell you all everything, I swear. I need to get her somewhere quiet, though."
They stared as I walked up the stairs. I knew why. A lot had changed over this trip. As I put her in my bed and she shifted in her sleep, it wasn't just my manners that had changed.
I closed the door and used the special key I had to lock it. I went back downstairs and led the four of them into the tea room. We all sat down and I accepted the tea from a maid.
"Well, I guess it starts with your ancestor, Mary," I said.