Chapter 21

The day seems to pass in a blur, eyes never seem to leave me as I walk from one part of the palace to another and I had to pluck up the courage to face not only myself but the others as well, especially Nevan. Faye left me soon after we returned to my room, our conversation had ebbed away as we both avoided our problems. Feeling clean and fresh gave me a new incentive to at least begin with facing my problems, I sat for a while on my own as I attempted to sort through the blurred images of my time unconscious. Flashes of dark places, water, the overwhelming feeling of being confined and the last images of my mother I try to focus but the more I think about her, the more she and the rest of the images fade, left with the scariest of all I see Rafe's dead eyes and her laughter echoing in my ears.

I shiver as the image stays imprinted in my mind’s eye, standing and pacing around the room I shake and catch myself in the mirror, barely recognising myself as I realise I hadn't looked in a mirror since that fateful night when everything seemed to happen. My hair was still all its natural blonde tones and nostalgia hit as I miss my rebellious pink streak, I brush my hair away from my face realising for the first time the dark circles under my eyes that aren't caused by the flickering fireplace, my cheeks look slightly hollower than normal and my lips cracked and dry, as if all life has been drained from me.

I turn slightly disgusted and grab the closest thing I can to cover the mirror that shows me too much truth. Knocks on my door make me jump and I gather my senses, taking a deep breath I call out from where I stand "Hello? Who is it?" I pause waiting, my pulse banging in my ears, but no reply comes. I rock on my heels unsure of whether to answer or not when a note slides under the door, I walk slowly forward and bend down to read it.

'Dear Dahlia, if I even have the right to call you dear, I would hope that you would join me in my room sometime soon. It doesn't have to be today though sooner is better than later, we need to talk.

Yours truly sorrowful, Nevan, High Warlock (to the exiled of the Ice Plains)'

I hold the note tightly in my hand, unsure of how to feel, mixed emotions course through my veins and I throw the note in the fire with a cry of frustration. I bite my cracked lips, causing some blood to rise, as I wipe it away I sit on the arm of the chair watching the fire flicker in the tiny corner of mirror that is left uncovered by the sheet I threw merely minutes before. Sighing, I stand and go towards the armoire pulling open the doors I pull out my worn backpack and scuffed skinny jeans feeling the familiar fabric that I've missed even though it's only been a short while. I quickly change back into my familiar clothes, feeling the fit of comfort and home in my canvas shoes. I decide to finally leave the room, collecting my thoughts and questions and taking a deep breath I open the door to an eerily empty corridor, my breath freezes in front of me and it appears darker than its usual blue opalescence that glitters with activity.

Walking down the silent corridor, my footsteps echo and I feel the ice slightly more slippery beneath my feet than the usual magic that keeps me stable. Furrowing my brow I hold my arms out to steady my not so trusty balance. The corridor gets darker as I head around the twisting corners, now able to navigate myself with the brief knowledge of specific room locations, the further I go I still don't see or hear signs of anybody else. My stomach begins to twist with uncertainty as odd decorations have been left scattered across the floor a lone balloon bobbing along to its next destination and streamers clawing at the walls. I reach a fork in corridor, looking in both directions shows the same eerie darkness that seems to have plagued the palace my breath catches in my throat as I see a shadow out of the corner of my eye. I know that going right will lead me towards Nevan and this time I'm no longer hesitant as my breathing becomes faster, I prepare myself and run with all the energy and power I can muster, I run away from the shadow. I run away from myself.

I reach the door to Nevan's study, throwing my fists at the doors as the entity feels closer than ever and then I'm inside. Landing on the floor with a whoomp of breath, I scramble out of the door way and slam the heavy set door shut by throwing my body against it. I keep my eyes closed and try to steady my heaving chest, after a few seconds I squint up as a shadow crosses in front of me at first I flinch but then I recognise the kohl rimmed eyes and dark hair. "Dahlia, are you okay?" His eyes show concern and I nod my head mutely. I flip my hair from my face and stand up, the adrenaline now fading and I start to shake.

I find myself being guided to a plump chair, sinking into it I finally draw in a long shaky breath that I hadn't realised I'd needed, "I swear there was something following me." My voice quivers and I know from the look in Nevan's eye that my sanity is being questioned. Sighing he pats my shoulder, I frown at the dismissive contact, he heads towards the doors and I momentarily freeze as he cautiously draws open the doors to busy and bustling corridor. I hold myself back from crying out at the scene of normalcy before me, my hand covering my mouth as I begin to mutter and chant to myself. It did happen, it did... It did... Did it? My inner voice panics, on the outside I'm in a continuous hum "It did, it did, it did." Until the words blur together and all of a sudden I'm sobbing.

My dreams seem to be chasing me even when I'm awake. "Dahlia," I feel a hand on my cold shoulder, I flinch at the touch but recall Nevan's voice after a moment "Tell me what you saw, felt, just tell me everything and maybe I can explain." He sounds exasperated and I slowly start to shut down my over baring emotions. I tell him of how I arrived at his room, though it was only a five minute walk it felt like hours, I told him about the shiver inducing entity and the deadness of the palace. Finally, I look into his eyes ready to shout and defend myself if he told me it was nothing. Instead I see a spiral of emotion, mainly pity and sorrow but they are just the mask of the shock that flickers across his expression.

"What's happening to me?" the words leave my mouth in barely a whisper, I'm not even sure whether I'd thought it or said it until Nevan walks away from me, checks the door's locked and pulls a chair in front of me. He places a hand on my knee "Dahlia, you know what this is." He says it matter of factly and it's true, I just wished it wasn't, the powers of the Oracle are starting to emerge. I'd buried the fact that my birthday was fast approaching in the back of mind, ignored the fact that it could happen to me, even though it only happens to a rare few. I nod my head and rub my eyes suddenly exhausted "I think, well, I think that your heritage may be slightly more enhanced due to your parents." He looks as exhausted as I feel, a frown deep set on his face and I start to notice his signs of aging, the odd grey strand, a small crows foot in the corner of his eye from years of smiling and the worry lines only a couple but deep set.

I intake a deep breath ready for the truth at last. My earlier anger only a miniscule thought against the prominent sense of dread. “We met when we were only young. Pythia, your mother," his eyes and voice softens as he says her name. "She had just turned 18 and had run away from the fate of the convent. Her powers were only through her dreams and she hadn't been claimed as the next Oracle, she was too much of a free spirit to hold her silence and stay in the house of the Oracle for the rest of her life. So when she ran away, she found herself in the west." My eyes widen at the thought of my mother close to the vampire clans of the west, Nevan smiles at a long ago memory. “The treaties from the war were still in the euphoric joy and a festival celebrating the treaties were in full swing, your mother was dancing in the crowd, laughing with a nymph. I was watching from the side-lines, she captivated me with one look and you couldn't look away. She smiled at me and tried to pull me into the dance but I refused.

Your mother wouldn't take no for an answer, she danced and danced then pulled me into the circle that had formed. She laughed as I stood there, twirling and jumping around me. I was just gone 21 and had never been persuaded to dance in such a way, it was as if she had touched my aura and entwined it with mine, I couldn't stop thinking about her." I reposition myself the chair as he recollects the past, I'm ensnared in his tale as he continues...

"Soon enough your mother won, as she always did, and we were dancing to the musical flowers rained down around us. We were young and invincible! A few days after the festival we were still glued to one another, a moment without her was like living without my soul and she was the same. But gradually as our relationship blossomed and the council of Warlocks gained intelligence of our growing... intimacy, people began to talk. The Oracle found Pythia after six months of freedom, she fought hard to stay with me and reluctantly the Oracle agreed but only if we didn't marry." Nevan sighs, his eyes glazed as he relives it all, I almost picture myself there watching their beautiful yet tragic tale unfurl.

"A year later, we'd had moments of separation, I had to travel and learn more of my warlock duties, and she... She did whatever she pleased, though to keep the Oracle happy she went home for a few weeks. In this time, we both realised just how much we couldn't be apart and so by the winter solstice that year we had eloped. Much to the displeasure of the councils. We ran and hid in the wilder, darker sides of Wintrem we found a beautiful cottage and worked our ethereal magic over it, this was our home. Now all we needed was a family, we didn't care that we were breaking laws and endangering the 'stability' of the treaties.

Then a year later, you were born on possibly one of the coldest winter solstices to be witnessed. That's when the Oracle showed up and warned us of our behaviour and what it was bringing to the councils, Pythia shooed her away exclaiming that all we wanted was family and we meant no harm. Which of course was all well and true however soon enough a hunt for us was announced. We managed to stay in the cottage for quite some time... Nearing your fourth birthday was when they came knocking and I had to leave for the safety of you and your mother, I was able to draw them away for a little while...

I'll always remember your innocent crying as I left. I was captured and assured that Pythia was to be caught too, and subsequently she was to be executed on the spot. This broke my heart and a year later I heard of the death of your mother and there was no mention of a child and so I assumed the very worst..." He shifts uncomfortably in his chair and I subconsciously do the same, I wipe my eyes suddenly realising the growth of tears for both the mother I had lost and the life I could have had. Nevan clears his throat and smiles weakly as he's pulled back to present day, I struggle to find words and he shakes his head. There really are no words needed for such a tragic affair.

We sit in silence for a while gathering our collective thoughts when finally he speaks, "I'm sure I've spoken enough for the rest of the time you ever want to know me, but I thought you ought to know. When I met you less than 3 weeks ago I was stunned, you have such the look of your mother... Then I started to do some digging and I found out the Oracle had charms cast over your memories to ensure you forgot your early life. It angered me at first, how could she just rip away all of what you knew? But then I realised it was for this moment now." I feel my eyes widen in acute shock, thinking back to my earliest memory being the Oracle reading me a bed time story and also the dream of my mother, little things said over the years and just how I got here now... All the Oracles making, all what she's foreseen.

I find myself getting angry, as if it's the day she decided to kick me out again to let me find my own way, to lead me to this godforsaken place... I start to pace around the room unable to sit still for much longer, one thing I can't be mad at her about is meeting Rafe. I blush just at the thought of him and yet I don't even know what we are, my mind keeps flashing images of the dream sequences that I've experienced and I must have uttered some noise as Nevan jumps in his chair. I smile sheepishly in apology and return to my seat in front of him. "I have these dreams and they're so dark and..." I shiver just at the thought, Rafe's lifeless eyes haunting my vision "But what happened before, that felt so real and if these dreams are happening even when I'm awake... Well what if they come true, or what if, just what if-" he cuts me off with a look and I know I'm starting to panic again.

"You've been trained for this your whole life, as a descendent of the Oracle you know that sometimes dreams are just dreams. Yours may be more vivid because of your unique situation, having such powerful blood lines mixed will cause... flourishes in power and as we've witnessed you seem to have a protective shield." I chew my lip and nod my head knowing what he says is true, these dreams might not come true, I just hope they don't come true. I hadn't even considered the other things that had been happening to me, it all just seemed so cliché, what are the chances that a descendent of the Oracle and a warlock fall in love and have a child that just so happens to be born on the winter solstice. Fate? Coincidence? What's the difference anymore? 

I look out of the small palace window that frames one wall of Nevan's office, the day seems to have passed just as fast as it arrived as the sun's reddish glow begins to tint the white washed world on the other side of the walls. Nevan follows my gaze, we sit in silence for a moment "Do you think that this will all work out in the end?" I ask looking into his silvery eyes, we both know there's no answer that can be offered honestly, so we return to the pleasant silence. If I was told at the beginning of this unusual adventure that I'd find my father and have some unknown power and responsibility thrust upon me, I would probably laugh and plan a mischievous prank to get revenge for their stupidity. But now, now it seems that this is all really happening and not some unrealistically long dream or fantasy that I could cook up. 

As the sky gradually begins to turn from red to purple and the darkest blue quickly on the horizon and I stand up, "I think I better go." I say almost matter of factly and I realise that all anger I ever felt towards him has evaporated, though an awkwardness still poisons the atmosphere around us, there is an acceptance of the past and of the relationship that we could grow to have. He nods and stands from his chair, stretching like a cat after it’s had a long nap "Thank you for coming to see me."  He says genuinely happy that I came and I'm taken aback at first but finally I nod and smile, he walks me to the door and I tentatively peer out, just in case. Once I see that the hallways are still bustling with their usual and welcomed activity I turn and say goodbye, with a smile and a nod I slip into the stream of creatures. 

I reach the corridor to my room and a big grin spreads across my face, I quickly bend my head to let the hair fall over my face and try to stop grinning. Stood in the near distance, leaning against the wall next to my door, is Rafe in all his tall, dark and mysterious self. His hair is ruffled and fluffy falling in his crazy locks as if he's just got back from the washroom, and as I get closer I see his flushed cheeks from the heat of the water, he lifts his head in my direction and a small crooked smile begins to rise. Finally I'm in front of him, as life in the palace goes on around us, time seems to stop and I feel the butterflies growing wild in my stomach, my cheeks slowly redden as I meet his molten golden eyes. His eyes seem to look into my soul and I know that I'm seeing the real Rafe, not just the surface but all of him, heart and all. I'm silent in front of him, still appraising him in awe, I bite my lip and suddenly his hand is brushing my hair out of my eyes, I exhale loudly at his touch as the electricity runs from his touch  not even realising I'd been holding my breath. 

Suddenly we fall into my room, the door opening and closing as we reach the other side. Our arms clasped desperately at each other and our lips locked in equal hunger. His hands cup my face and mine clasp at the back of his shirt trying to draw him closer to me. When after what feels like only a brief moment yet an eternity all at once, our lips break apart. We don't move. We stay still locked together never wanting to let go until I attempt to stifle a yawn and he laughs at me pulling away, kissing my forehead and for the first time we speak "Well, now that was a lovely hello." he smirks and I blush. 

"Could you step outside for a moment?" I ask and his face drops slightly and I make sure to keep mine impassive. He purses his lips and nods, turning on one foot he walks to the door and leaves. Once the door shuts, I smile at the brief memory of his kiss and already I miss him, I change quickly into my pyjamas, throwing my clothes into the armoire. I make sure there's enough wood in the fire as I still feel the underlying chill from earlier on today, after making him wait longer than necessary I open the door. He's leaning on the door frame, when it opens his face lifts and for the first time that night I register his sweet, musty scent, inhaling deeply I smile and let him in. "You know, we were supposed to be sharing this room when we first got here." I say matter of factly as a smile plays on my lips, he raises an eyebrow questioningly and smirks at the two beds, one barely even touched, the other not even made. 

"Well a lot seems to happen to you and I never actually got the chance," his eyes darken briefly before they melt into the gold that I love, he seems to get distracted and looks over my shoulder “Dee… Why’s the mirror covered?” I blush and try to come up with excuses, nothing comes to mind as he chuckles at my quickly reddening face. He steps towards me and I can't catch my breath as he keeps coming closer, finally I take a step back, stumbling over the rug and landing awkwardly on the bed. I curse my lack of balance as he chuckles and still comes towards me, I manage to reposition myself on the bed getting comfy as he sits down on its edge, and his eyebrows raise waiting for permission to come closer.

I move so that there's space for him on the single bed and he squeezes on, making sure that he takes up most of the room. He smirks as I struggle to reposition, eventually he helps by pulling me against his body and I relax into his shoulder. We sit like this in contented silence and as my eyes begin to drift, he shuffles and brings the covers over us, stroking my hair he kisses the top of my head and I look up at him kissing his lips for barely a second before snuggling down into the warmth of his body. "Good night crazy Dee." I smile and drift into a world of fantasy, of dreams that could happen and others that are purely wishes. 

The End

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