It was dark in the castle, but she didn’t care. This was a place of extreme power. Here the wizards, warlocks, witches, and sorceresses of ancient times had come to revive their strength. It was more than ten years since she’d taken the plunge from that window in Carrock. She stared around in the darkness and slowly sat up. Why had it taken her so long to pull out of the dream voyage? Was it the blackness that she could almost touch? She rose from the cold, hard altar of stone and clapped her hands. In an instant a strange blue light surrounded the four torches at the corners of the altar and then they burst into flame. She reached down and picked up a black robe that she’d dropped on the ground before starting her dream voyage. Now she wrapped it around her tall, slender form, almost vanishing into the folds. It had been days since she’d eaten last, but she knew where she could find food. She reached up, took one of the torches into her hand, and then left the large hall.
Up many steps and around many more bends she found the small room that she’d taken as her own. There she lit the candles in the large iron chandelier and opened the windows to welcome the coming night. They faced east and she looked very pale in the failing light of day. Her brown eyes had sunken into her still youthful face. Her once black hair was gray now, streaked with white, but she still looked more like thirty than her seventy-some years of age. She leaned one slender hand on the window sill and hungrily looked towards the east, towards the land of Carrock. That was where the object of her revenge lay. The Lord Dylan. He’d humiliated her when he banned her from Carrock with his father. He’d won over her and Alick in the Battle of the Wolf, forcing her to flee from the lands. Worst of all, he’d stolen the maiden Alisande from her power. That was something she would not — could not forgive.
“Revenge,” she hissed to herself. “Soon it will be mine.” Her plans were laid, her intrigues set. She’d found willing servants and there was only one more who would submit to her power. That one was the center of her scheme. It would — must work. She would have her revenge and perhaps she would also get something that she hadn’t considered before but now longed for with all her heart — the throne of Carrock.
Late afternoon was settling over the lands of Carrock. This was Dylan’s favorite time of the day, when most of his work of state was done and he could come out to the small meadow just below the castle and think. Often Kyle and Asha would come with him and play in the grass. He wished that Tabea would finally get well enough to come out here again. His brow furrowed as he thought of his beloved wife. It was a year since she’d caught the same strange illness that had killed his mother. The doctors were stumped and Savoy was away somewhere. The only thing that seemed to help was the cool, dark room in the tower. The lord was certain it was some kind of sorcery, but couldn’t put his finger on how he knew it. It was just a stirring of the power inside him that alerted him to that fact every time he entered the room. Who was behind this?
Still, she had been better today, praise the Word, and perhaps tomorrow he’d take her out to the meadow with the children. Then they could be together like before. He sighed to himself and remembered the night that Roanna had jumped out of the window. They’d never found the body and then, a few years ago, the rumors of someone having been seen on the pinnacles of Damrok, the castle of the sorcerers. She had to be alive and it was probably her fault that Tabea was dying. He remembered what his wife had told him about Roanna enchanting his father. It must have been Alick who sent the sickness on his mother. She’d just wasted away slowly for six years before dying. I don’t want Tabea to go through that, he thought. She was much younger than his mother had been and sometimes was almost well, but that lingering look in her eyes... He shook his head. No, she wouldn’t get well on her own, he knew that. There was a spell on her and perhaps Savoy could break it.
“Daddy, Daddy!” The calls of his daughter broke his melancholy reverie. Asha was charging up the slight hill, her brown hair flying in the wind, blue eyes shining with delight. She grabbed her father’s hands and pulled on them.
“Look, it’s Uncle Stev and Aunt Alisande,” she cried. He got to his feet and let her drag him across the grass to where the horses of his friends were standing. Alisande rose from embracing Kyle as he approached. Stev came forward and enthusiastically pumped the lord’s free hand.
“How are you, Dylan?” he asked with a laugh.
“I am quite well, but Tabea isn’t.”
“Yes, we heard,” Alisande chimed in, her pretty smile now vanishing. She reached out and hugged him gently.
“Thank you, little sister,” he said. She nodded, stepping back beside her husband.
“We found out when she first got it,” Stev explained, “but business kept me at Enfurt until now. Savoy was there for a short time, too, and he has agreed to come as soon as possible.” Dylan breathed a sigh of relief.
“So, he’s coming after all.”
“Is Mom going to get better?” Kyle butted in.
“I hope so, son,” his father answered, putting a hand on his golden-brown head.
“Well,” the lord prompted, finally coming out of his melancholy attitude, “you two have come a long way and it’s getting quite late. Supper is waiting for us at the castle and I’m quite certain that my dear wife will want to see you both.” With that the five of them turned and walked up the hill to the large citadell, the capital of Carrock.
For once the windows in Tabea’s room were open, letting the light evening breeze in. She sat up, staring at the moonrise. Her fingers lightly strummed the guitar in her hands. The tune was sad, just like her attitude. The fever had left her again and she was feeling better, but not strong. She hadn’t felt strong for about a year, ever since that sickness had started. It was headaches and bouts with fever, but worst of all it kept her weak, unable to go outside. She didn’t want to hear about the doctors anymore, all she wanted was Savoy to come and tell her the cure.
There was a light rapping on the door. She straightened, pushed one hand through her long, golden-brown hair and then called out.
“Come in!” It was Dylan.
“Hello, lady love,” he greeted her with a smile, sitting down beside her. “How are you feeling?” She put the instrument down on the floor.
“Better,” she sighed, “but not too well yet.” She searched his green eyes gently and could see that he was bearing the pain with her.
“Are you well enough to recieve guests?” She raised her eyebrows.
“You’ll see.” His smile was secretive.
“Well, if they’re not too wild, I think so.” Her husband nodded and went to open the door. First of all Kyle and Asha bounded in and jumped up on the wide bed, hugging and kissing their mother.
“Now, that’s enough, you two rascals,” she laughed. “If you jump on me too much, I won’t get up tomorrow!” The boy nodded and backed off, but the little girl curled up at her mother’s side. Then the beautiful lady of Carrock turned to see who had come in.
“Alisande! Stev!” she laughed with delight. Her glassy blue eyes flamed with joy and it seemed that she’d gotten a whole lot better in one instant. Her friends came over to the bed and greeted her happily. There was quite some chatting and finally the lady announced that she would be going to dinner tonight. At the mention of that all the men hurried out of the room to let Tabea rise and get dressed. Dylan smiled to himself. So all that his wife really needed was some dear company. Still, he wanted Savoy to take a look at her. The Scholar was the only one who would really know what to do.
He walked down the stairs and out into the small center courtyard. He looked around and sniffed the fresh scent of flowers. He did not notice a bent figure sitting on the ground behind him. He left the courtyard and the figure rose silently. It was a very old woman it seemed, bent and battered, dressed in multi-colored rags. She looked towards the tower where she knew the lady of the castle was. She smiled and displayed two rows of white, perfectly even teeth — the teeth of a young woman. Let Tabea be well for the next few days. She would fall ill again soon enough — when the plan began to work!