I was walking. There in the distance was a man on a throne, old and twisted roots came up from the ground around him, the crown on his head was thorn like and blood dripped down his face in lines from the needlepoint pricks. His eyes were closed but his mouth moved almost sorrowfully, he seemed to have shadows of people around him not fully corporeal but they were there whispering muffled things that appeared to fill him with such sorrow.
I walked closer, walls grew in mass expanse around me as if they were only there for me, the floor lay itself with each step a new paving stone, charcoaled as much as the last. His hair weaved around his face making him look rugged and aged though his expression made him look only young. I was right next to him now and still his eyes were closed, it seemed he couldn't hear me though when I reached out cautiously and touched his face, he flinched away from my fingers as if they were to hurt him.
Taking in my surroundings properly now, I notice the shadows were almost shouting, so loud that their voices still couldn't be separated, the tortured king seemed to react differently to this, he stood eyes still tightly shut and ripped the crown from his bloody head cutting his fingers. He threw the crown down to the ground where it jangled and tinkled violently against the stone floor. A dirty and corroding mirror was to my left and I caught my reflection.
There I was dressed head to foot in an elaborate gown, simple in the way it hugged my waist and chest but flowed neatly to the floor the colour of ivory with black thorn like stitching reaching up the sides. My hair wasn't mine and neither was my face. I was black haired and had shallow eyes which looked almost drained and dead. My skin wasn't flushed and pale but shadowed and yellowed as if it was dying. I gasped and saw that this woman did not sound kind or feel it. She had power, so much that it buzzed around her and waved and weaved in her aura making it a brittle black. Ready to snap at any given moment.
She, I, followed him out of the room the shadows shivered and scrambled out of my foot path. "What do you want?" The voice was harsh making me jump yet the body didn't respond, it held itself regal and I seemed to be just a passenger in this mind, an audience for the scene that was starting to play out in front of me. "Surely, your highness you must understand that court is still in action." The cruel voice resounded around the quiet atrium.
"I'm sure it is your ladyship, but I don't wish to be there and so I won’t. They are cruel people and I am done with the crown of thorns being laid upon my head. Why don't you wear that treacherous thing and see if you can't despise those that set forth in this hell hole every damn day." The body bristled at the sorrowful monarch; his voice was bitter and spited the woman. His aura emanated ruby reds and black tried to twist itself through out, the red was resisting so far but you could see the weakening of his mind as he faltered to keep his royal demeanour. "Come Raphael it isn't so bad," She reached out to touch his face, he flinched backwards, her hand stayed there in suspension, and he looked from her eyes to the hand as if it could burn him to cinders. She scowled and removed her hand from the air "I don't quite think you get it, I am your queen and you will do what I say. Otherwise you'll end up like the rest of them."
She walked away from him, casting back one final look into those molten gold eyes.
Eyes still closed, body still asleep. Twice now, twice I'd fainted, fallen into the unconscious and twisted realm of my mind. I knew that I wouldn't wake from this for a while. My mind conscious but everything still not working, not waking. Again I hear the dulcet tones of people around me, distinguishing Rao from the rest of them and a female's mumbled replies.
My scream echoed around the room and a voice sounding slightly muffled asked in distress "What's wrong with her?" Footsteps approached hard and fast grabbing my hand in a clammy grasp. "She will be fine Rafe. Since when were you so attached to a single being? Ah but of course the curse, possibly a way to break it with that old prophecy you were once told? Hmm maybe yes." Rao's voice quietly calm floated over, I felt Rafe's hand tense in mine squeezing my fingers, my breathing and heart rate quickened taking in quick and shallow breaths blood pounded in my ears and I felt my already fevered temperature rise.
Rafe sensed the change in my body releasing my hand taking in equally quick breaths. "Raoul," the female voice chided, she sounded kind and motherly "there's no need for that, he is young in mind thus can fall for a girl if he wants. She will wake soon, the fever should reach its peak and then the salve and ointment will take into effect. Though it will be a troubling time when the fever grows, her body will become restless and her mind will wake though there is no connection. She is trapped within herself." A feminine hand, soft and sinewy rested on my cheek.
A breath exhaled next to me which must of been Rafe, I felt a brush of fur trail past my now dangling hand and hot dog breath moved my hair. "The Oracle shouldn't of let her go so young, her mother barely survived the enlightenment and I fear this child won't either." My mind reeled, to much to take in at once. My mother.
My body began to act of its own accord, convulsing in excruciating pain, sounds escaped my lips in whimpers and gasps. "Help her!" His hand was on mine again exasperated at my body’s movements and the uncontrolled sounds escaping my lips. My body felt beaten and on fire, all except my hand cooling from his touch, my breathing fast paced began to slow.
I began slowly to regain control, pins and needles spreading first from the hand he was holding, up my arm and round my body, a cooling pleasantly circulating reaching my head last. Finally I could flicker my eyelids and move my fingers, exhaling a sigh of relief my mind slept for a final time, I was willing this time and fell into a peaceful sleep.
Waking up was disorientating, I'd forgotten where I was for a moment and panic gasps escaped. But then it all came flooding back. The pain, confused, twisted images of a dream and my mother. Mother. Someone I'd never known not since I was young with palpable memories that soon faded. "Hello?" I called out, fed up of lying around and fainting all the time I struggled up and walked towards a closed off door.
Taking in my surroundings the room was wooden and leafy with little lights coming in through the dusty windows. I opened the door to silence though there lay Rao by a heated hearth, sleeping with gentle growls and dream whimpers escaping. Rafe was slumped forward in a chair, dozing looking young yet sorrowful in slumber. The woman, the healer I presume from earlier, was still awake knitting in an overstuffed chair.
She looked up and smiled at me patting a buffet that was next to her, I approached cautiously trying not to wake them, sitting down I noticed she was a wood nymph with a slightly brown hint to her skin and the occasional spruce like thing growing from her arms, she was beautiful in a motherly and magical way. Her hair was the colour of summer blossoms and her eyes the brightest green of the freshest leaf. "Good evening Dahlia, may I call you Dee?" I nod still in awe of her resounding presence that I can feel in my fingertips. "Yes, you're in my tree home it's where the heart of my power comes from. Beautiful isn't it? The boys, I should say men really," she laughs and it tinkles around the room quietly.
"They've been very agitated, you've been in a sleep for 2 days. Poor Rafe was beside himself he appears quite smitten with you." She looks from me to him pointedly and I blush "I don't know him that well, I only met him a few days ago!" I whisper embarrassed.
"Yes but love is blossoming and I should know about that!" She laughs again and Rafe stirs, I hold my breath wishing him not to wake but he just moves in his seat. "From that look in your eyes, Dee, I have a feeling you have some questions? Ah where are my manners, my name is Cherry-Blossom, people just call me Cherry." She smiles are motherly smile and I can't hold in my need to ask questions any longer.
"What's the enlightenment? How does Rao know my mother? What prophecy? Why me? What happened to my mother?" The questions continue to tumble until I ask a question that shocks me silent not knowing where it originated from "Why did I dream about Rafe in a shadow kingdom, is his name Raphael?" She looks sharply at me and I falter choking on my next apologising words, not knowing where that came from.
She smiles again lightening the mood. "You shocked me there sweetie. Hmm now yes Rafe is called Raphael though I can't tell you his past it’s his to tell plus not many people know it," her tinkling laugh gave me shivers and goose bumps. "Now enlightenment, that is your coming of age. A time when you see if you are the next Oracle or have adopted any family powers. Rao just knows everybody darling, hell he even knew my mother!" She tapped me on the leg and got up to make tea, a sense of dismissal waved over me, I don't think I'll be getting anymore questions answered.
Rafe was rousing from his slumber restlessly, his face looked pained and his hands clawed at his face and hair. I walked over to him and reached out cautiously, "Rafe?" I whisper and place my hand on his, little shocks run from my hand to his and his breathing steadies while mine increases. I kneel in front of him "Raphael?" I choke out and his head jerks up eyes wide and full of fear then hatred, molten gold eyes melting mine.
I fall back with an oomph and he snarls with twisted hatred, still thinking he's in the past, the look brings pitiful tears to my eyes. His demeanour changes suddenly as he looks around him and realises where he is. Looking down he notices me for the first time properly and intakes his breath. Throwing himself on the ground near me "I'm sorry." It’s all he can say and I nod, we sit there in silence while Cherry potters around the room, avoiding contact with us.