Chapter Seventeen: Lost & Found
Immortal Rose's Journal
My recent cup of tea and small pastry had renewed my energies slightly, and I could not quell the rising curiosity that now presented itself to me. I could still hear the din coming from within the warm kitchen nearby, and from the sound of their preparations, dinner was still quite a ways off. Rising up, I started off with full intent to merely peek around the closest of the rooms, possibly explore the other corridors as well and return back without causing any alarm as to my absence. I now see that was complete folly on my part.
I should have known better and accounted for the strange nature of this castle. My path led me down one corridor, and up a few flights of stairs before I had become completely and utterly lost. Attempting to right myself and retrace a path backwards proved also to be of little avail. Where I once could have sworn stood the wide descending staircase onto a smooth stone landing below; was now a locked pair of cavernous doors. In the same manner did an overhanging balcony change into a staircase spiraling up into the gloomy darkness, and a small alcove into a series of inlaid windows. Truly this castle must be the source of many frustrations and possible fatalities to the unwise traveler. Oh, how I should have been patient. I highly doubt Tuomas has passed these halls once with a single issue.
I paused at one of the nearby windows to desperately attempt making a crude path by memory when a dark shadow blotted out the crimson moonlight overhead. When I glanced up, for who would not in such a situation, I scrambled back at the sight that greeted me. Perched gracefully at the outer window sill was the silhouette of a young winged man. Unlike the other residents thus far his garments were tattered, hair tousled and marked with a single black feather over his ear. His peridot eyes watched me, obviously pleased by the scare he had given. With a curved grin, he chuckled.
"Well, well, well... what have we here? Such a beauty! Are you lost, my pet?"
The window seemed substance less, so easily he passed through it to stand before me. Perhaps it had been open all along, and he simply stepped inside. I glanced back to ascertain this, yet the glass in the casing was as solid as the stone walls opposite me. He must have mistaken my observations for fright, as he continued.
"My, the poor dear seems to have lost not only her way, but her tongue as well. I can't have frightened you that badly, have I? No need to be shy. Come now, let me hear that pretty voice of yours."
The nature of this stranger, and the aura that he exuded made me instantly ill at ease. I bowed low.
"Forgive me, sir. I really must be on my way. Th-the others are expecting me, and I would very much hate to keep them waiting."
With this, I turned to where I knew was a staircase behind me. Even if it did lead upward, there would surely be one to lead back down. Possibly on the other side of the castle. I am not sure if shadows played tricks on me, or if he was quicker, yet by the time I had turned to face the stairs, he was blocking them.
"Leaving so soon? They can wait a few minutes longer, can't they? After all, there should be plenty to go around."
I cringed as he flicked his tongue over a pair of sharp teeth, moving backward into the light of the windows. My worries were short lived, for a darker shadow appeared over the stranger, and a familiar voice called out.
"Malphas.... you couldn't possibly be scheming some ill-conceived indecency against my personal guest, could you?"
I never thought I would feel relief at this particular voice before now, yet I could not now help the feeling of calm and safety as it rang out through the darkness.
The blonde-haired man before me visibly started, shrinking from the voice and it's owner.
"Ah! L-Lord Katsuto! How good to see you. I was merely helping your little guest here find her way back." He gave a nervous laugh, running a trembling hand over his already ruffled hair. "G-good thing you went looking for her. This isn't exactly the best place to lose your way."
The Lord emerged from the shadows, fixing the other with a stern glare.
"Indeed. You are excused Malphas. I do believe I can guide her back from this point. Dinner preparations are nearly completed."
The boy, Malphas as the Lord had called him, gave a hurried bow as well as a muttered phrase or two under his breath before spreading a pair of feathered black wings as wide as the stone hallway would allow, and bolting into the darkness of the night. I gave an audible sigh of relief, bowing appreciatively toward my rescuer.
"F-Forgive me, and my foolishness. I had only wished to explore. I did not think that I-"
My voice failed me under his stern look of reproach, and I held my tongue. He opened a nearby door, revealing a stone staircase descending back to the main floor.
"Come. The others are waiting, and dinner is near ready. And, Miss Rose?"
I paused, looking up to his question.
"This castle is home to a number of different beings. It would be in your very best interest to not wander off without an escort. Now, let us return."
I lowered my head, following him back to the dining hall.
- Immortal Rose