Death comes for us all. Sometimes, after a long, painful, drawn out journey, sometimes it takes you away while you go to your bed smiling and fulfilled, and sometimes, just sometimes, suddenly, when you least expect it, creeping through your hearth and home to take away the little happiness you find while you live your life quietly, in the fast, ever changing spectrum that is life.
No matter how death comes for you, though, you slip into the world beyond, and are no longer troubled by the sorrows, joys, toils, schemes and pains of the living. It is the living who toss and turn in their disturbed slumbers, the living who weep and mourn for their loved ones who lie cold in their graves….. It is the living who always lie in shadow….. and fear of when the sun rises on the horizon.
She wept, unrestrained as the priest eulogized Ebony’s better traits, her beauty, her strength of character and the achievements she had accomplished in her life. Andromeda Rhodes wept, but little did the few who had gathered for the funeral service know that she was not simply grieving for her aunt, but for everything she was burying with her.
Hopes of joy, hopes of peace, hopes of finally making a life for herself; shattered time and again. Another funeral to arrange, a time for weeping, a time for sorrow, a time for mourning, a time for loss….When would she ever be happy? When would she ever be free?
After the funeral, Dromy was quieter and more withdrawn, lost in the depths of her desolation. Even Warren’s comforting grasp on her shoulders did not move her. He thought it best to leave her to her grief, alone, and say goodbye to the few who had attended the ceremony.
A woman came up to Dromy and stood waiting patiently before her. Dromy ignored her for a time, but when she remained standing resolutely before her, she could ignore her no longer.
She looked up at her as if she’d noticed her for the first time and stood to greet her.
‘Hey, Andromeda. My name is Emma Hatch. I used to gym with your aunt, every Sunday. Boy, that woman had stamina!’ Dromy found herself smiling, despite herself, at the young woman’s exuberance and charm.
‘Hello, Ms. Hatch. It’s nice to meet you. Can I help you with something?’
‘Please, just Emma. And yes, actually you could. You see, I helped with the embalming of your aunt…’ Tears filled the young woman’s eyes. She steadied herself before continuing. ‘While changing her clothes, I found this in her pockets.’
Emma handed a small pile of dirty, crinkled papers to Dromy. ‘Out of love and respect for your aunt, I haven’t looked at what it was. I have to leave now, but do take care, and call me if you need anything, alright?’ With that, Emma gave Dromy her phone number and place of residence.
Dromy looked at the girl for a second, at the tenderness and love in her voice, and then she realized, with a start, that something about her reminded her of her sister. As she walked off, Dromy ran after her, and threw her arms around her.
Emma caught her with a start, and then both women began crying. They remained that way for awhile, until Emma felt someone watching them both. She turned to see a man with the deepest red eyes staring at them both. Something about him made her uneasy, and she let go of Dromy. They smiled at each other for a second, and then Emma muttered, ‘Keep in touch,’ before quietly melting away.
Before Warren came to Dromy, she tucked away the little package in her pocket; something told her that this was personal, and she would read it alone, or not at all.
With the last of the funeral party gone, Warren guided Andromeda to bed.
He kissed her gently as she smoothed her hair back around herself, and slept beside her for a time, holding her while she sobbed, making no sound, the tears gently streaming down her cheeks and into her tousled, unmade hair, until she fell asleep.
Then, he watched her while she tossed and turned in bed, neither peaceful, nor at ease with herself, nor with the world.
Andromeda was given the month off to focus on overcoming her grief and to help her cope with her loss.
The morning after the funeral found Warren preparing their breakfast. Dromy walked into the kitchen in quiet contemplation. ‘Good morning!,’ said Warren in a falsely loud, cheery voice. Did we sleep well last night?
The look that Dromy gave him was haunted, and the shadows under her eyes could not have been more pronounced. His smile froze on his lips, and they both looked away. After awhile, he placed the plate in front of her, but her hand did not move to touch the fork.
Warren sighed as he took his place beside her and put his hand on her’s.
‘This isn’t going to bring her back, my love. It’s just going to hurt you, instead. Come, be happy with me. Smile.’ Dromy gazed at him in incredulity; and then said roughly, ‘Let me mourn in peace.’ ‘Alright, then,’ he sighed. But it will do neither you nor her any good.’
‘I have to leave on some errands,’ he said a bit coldly. ‘I will be back in an hour or two.’
He kissed her lightly on the forehead, and she nodded as he departed. Andromeda lay as she was for a long time, until finally, the gnawing pangs of hunger forced her to eat her cold breakfast, after which he moved to the living room. As she sat down on her couch, she felt something in her pocket.
Slowly, she removed the messy bundle of papers given to her by Emma and placed it on the table beside her, trying to smoothen them out. Finally, she began to read:
In the year 1407, The Rhodenders family were greatly diminished in number; as most of the family daughters were lost to us in marriage, and the male line had become extinct. Our family had naught but one member amidst them; she was called Anastasia Rhodenders; and in the land of Simaria she dwelt.
Anastasia was not known for looks or beauty, yet she knew that she had to continue her family line at all costs. Her attempts to catch and have a man failed, and in desperation, (for she was fast leaving the prime of her life), she turned to the hidden paths of the occult to find a way to lure a man to her bed.
Along the way, as she plunged herself further into mysteries and powers ethereal and spiritual, she found and met a man…. A man who, despite her obvious lack of youth and beauty, fell in love with her. They quickly arranged to marry and Anastasia found herself at peace, realizing that she need not delve into hidden secrets and potions any further; for she knew that here was the man she sought.
Alas, tragedy struck the couple; for the day before their marriage, her betrothed ventured into the forest in search of wood to build their new house; and he was attacked and mauled by a pack of werewolves.
Grief stricken and forced into mourning, the woman turned, once again to the occult to fulfill the cusp of her family’s ambition, yet she chose not to let her grief remain hidden. Day by day, her power grew, until her services were called for by the king of Simaria, himself. She knew that this was her chance; and using one of her concoctions, she seduced the king to her bed.
Soon, she delivered in wedlock; unbeknown to anyone, but the king and herself, she gave birth to his son, through whom she intended to continue her family line. Now, her task done, her powers at their peak, she decided to end her life; but in the most productive way possible, to serve her cause.
First, she placed the babe in a cradle and sent it to the king, asking him to adopt the child as his own, but keep her family name as his own. Second, she drew on every inch of magical power that she wielded within herself to weave one, last spell which would affect mankind and the creatures of the night forever….
The spell gave every woman thence emerging from The Rhodendres family the gift of foresight and judgment; they would always be able to detect when a creature of the night, be it a werewolf or a vampire lay nearby. They would then feel the need to destroy them, and no power on earth could stop them from attempting this feat…..except one….
For you see, this barren woman had nothing in her life she held meaning to, not even her new born child…The only person she ever desired or wanted, she wanted for love, and it was for love that she now gave up her body, soul and spirit to concoct this spell and join him in the Halls of The Dead… So, it is love which is the only thing that can blind a Rhodendres woman to the creatures of the night….
The spell thus woven, Anastasia gave herself up willingly to join her lover in Whatever Lay Beyond….
More than 600 years later, many from within our family still believe that this was not myth and that the spell WAS truly woven, and even today, it is seen in the mildest of traces, as the magic that once flowed so strongly within our women now remains subdued, it forces itself out in the way of vomiting, illness, and instant hatred for any such creatures who roam and tread secretly amongst men…..
Nobody knows for sure where magic ends and science begins, and fact and fiction remain convoluted and misted in the murky depths of truth and time…..
Andromeda felt something, some remote thought niggling in the back of her mind. She suppressed it, yet suddenly, doubt crept in the back of her mind. This was clearly part of the book which her father had written on her family history. What did all this mean?
Did Ebony steal the pages from the book? And if so, what was the connection between this simple village tale and the greater mystery around the book? Why would her father, a reknown author, even write about such a thing in her family history when it was so obviously mythical?
Ebony stealing the book didn’t make much sense…. Why, then, would she be searching for the book in the first place? Something just didn’t add up….Where did the pages come from, and what did it all mean? Could it mean what she suspected?
She decided that it was time to go out and do a little digging up. She crept out of the house and stole to Ebony’s home at a run. Ebony’s house, dictated by the executors of her will, said that Andromeda was entitled to all the money and property amassed by Ebony in the course of her life.
Therefore, the house, and all it’s contents now belonged to her. Even so, she felt guilty that the purpose she now crept round the house was because she doubted her aunt’s sincerity, and she sought was the truth behind the bundle of papers, and why Ebony sought out the book when she had a small part of it in her keeping, and more importantly, where that part, in itself, came from.
After more than an hour of thoroughly combing every inch of the house, Dromy was forced to agree that neither the book nor any sort of evidence lay in it’s bowels, and she would have to look elsewhere for the truth on the meaning of the pages, and it’s contents.
In sudden fear, something pushed her to go to the theatre. Once there, she stared around, wondering what had brought her here in the first place. She watched the ticket vendor yawn, bored, chewing on a wad of gum, a young boy in his teens, at complete peace with his retro world. Suddenly, decided, she approached him, while he stared glumly at her without interest.
‘Hello. I was wondering, are there any movies that you know of in the past ten years or so that was produced by ‘Ravenheart Productions?,’ Dromy asked anxiously. ‘Naw, ma’am, none whatsoever,’ he yawned.
‘No…There must be some mistake. I don’t think you heard me clearly enough. Ravenheart Productions. You’ve never heard of them?,’ she asked again, her heart sinking. ‘Nope, not a whisper,’ he said cheerfully.
‘Hey, you ok?,’ demanded the pock-marked teenager as he saw her the colour drain from her cheeks as she swayed slightly from side to side.’ She grabbed onto the box and then shakily said, ‘I’m fine. Thank you.’ She took a deep breath and walked quickly onwards. Next stop: The library.
As she entered the building, the scents of fresh print and musty volumes met her, along with the quiet and serene sound of the low, steady turning of crinkling pages. She ignored these scents and sounds and walked up to the librarian. ‘Excuse me, where are all the books on production companies and family genealogies of Bridgeport?’
‘Over there,’ the old, withered woman muttered without glancing up from her computer screen. Dromy hurried over to pore over the books.
She delved into volume after volume, feverishly turning pages to search for just one trace, one hint of the truth in Warren’s story. She longed with all her heart to believe his story, she wanted, in all truth, not to doubt him. But not a single book showed any traces of a Ravenheart family or the same in the film industry.
It was almost midnight when she finally gave up and was half thrown out of the library. She walked quickly up the street to a very dodgy internet café.
This took her much lesser time to check up on. The name ‘Ravenheart’ brought up no searches anywhere- neither on Sunset Valley, nor in Bridgeport. There were no signs of a film production company with a name even slightly similar to that, either. Finally, the conclusion that she had been denying to herself and to her very being came to her mind: Warren had lied. Possible, Warren wasn’t even his real name.
Dromy drove home, thoughts cascading over each other, each idea seemingly more insensible than the last. What she did know was this: The love of her life, the first person she had ever trust above all others, the person she had given more importance to than her own family had betrayed her and lied to her, and she didn’t know what to do about it.
Who knew where he had come from, or what he truly wanted with her? What would he do with her when he found out, that she knew, and what was she going to do about it?
As she walked into her house, she also came to the conclusion that, once again, she was not safe. Whoever he was, and whatever he desired with her, the fact that he had to lie and cover up the truth showed that something was wrong here, and it was time for her to finally find out what.
Just one more chapter left guys! Take care, hope you're enjoying the read so far
The Observant Lefty.