Chapter Twenty One: Meeting by the Fireplace
Immortal Rose's Journal
For how long I slept within the silent music hall, I was not certain. Yet the marked silence was not meant to remain. A swelling of music reached my ears, and my body bolted from it's spot as I spun to locate the source of this impromptu wake up call. My mind's rising was a slow process, labored with attempts to shake off the last of sleep's shackles which still threatened to bind me to faded dreams. I managed however to adjust my eyes from the blur of rest, and discern the object's surrounding me. The hall was dark, yet my eyes were accustomed to this and I was able to see clearly with the aid of gleaming moonlight from the high windows reflected by the polished instruments. There was something about the incoming light that I could not place at the moment, nor did I attempt to in my recently awakened state. Seated next to the instruments was the composer Crux Karayan. He did not turn to regard me, simply lowered the music to a near imperceptible volume as he spoke.
"Ah, you have awakened. The Lord will be pleased. He is awaiting your company in the Grand Ballroom. It would be best to seek him immediately, for he does not like to be kept waiting."
Without waiting for my response, he raised the pitch of the melody once more to a fortissimo. Even if I had attempted to speak here, it would do no good. I found my way quickly to the double doors that marked the room's entrance and made my way to the corridor outside. Slumped down in a seat beside the door, I found Tuomas. He looked nearly as fatigued as I still felt, and I did not wish to disturb him. Surely the ballroom was situated close to the music hall. Still, a faint shiver ran through me at the remembrance of my last wanderings of the castle, and I hesitated to begin my journey. I may not have even began at all, save that Sir Karayan's words still echoed in my mind.
'It would be best to seek him immediately, for he does not like to be kept waiting.'
With a heavy sigh, I started off.
The end of the corridor opened into a great elongated hall, the silent moon following me even here, and spilling across the richly carpeted floors before bouncing off mounted shields and solemn suits of armor. I hurried past these, and through an open alcove before mounting a flight of steps to another floor. Here I was encouraged by a warm golden light flooding out from beneath a nearby set of heavy wooden doors. I paused at these, listening for any telltale signs of life, or unlife as it were from the opposite side. Hearing a single set of staccato steps echoed from a tile floor, I tried the doors and found with delight that they yielded readily. I paused at the top of a grand staircase to drink in the sight of the room before me. Lofty marble walls housed a large room with inlaid tile flooring, golden ornaments and brilliant chandeliers beneath a vaulted ceiling. A large fireplace was set in the far left wall, filling the room with a soft glow and relaxing warmth. Before this fire, I saw the black outline of Lord Bloodthorne. He had turned at my entrance, and even though his back was to the fire, his eyes still seemed to hold it's glow as he appraised me. He did not speak, yet drew to the side, gesturing that I should join him. I did so, quietly descending to the tile floor and bowing before him.
"I was told that you wished to see me?"
He nodded, turning back to the fire.
"Do you remember, Miss Rose, when you first came to this land? You were given one purpose. Examine the blood and rid the land of it's curse. This was all I had asked of you."
I nodded, remembering the first visit to the room of crystal and blood, as well as my fear at his anger. It may be that this remembrance caused an involuntary shudder, or perhaps my sudden shift from the icy gloom of the castle's halls to the warmth of the ballroom caused a tremor to course through me. Regardless, the Lord drew me close to him in a gentle motion, attempting to alleviate this trembling. This was helpful only in the kindness of the gesture alone, for his form was ice, cold as the grave. I did not show my discomfort, remembering that he was still waiting for my answer. Hurriedly I made my response.
"Yes, I remember. I will not forget my vow, and will do all in my power to see that your land is restored."
A chiding laughter rumbled through him, one that I could feel as he stepped back to guide me across the floor to the opposite side of the large room.
"You do not understand, my dear. Please, see for yourself."
The side opposite of the ornate fireplace was a wall composed of full length windows overlooking a balcony and the castle's courtyard beyond this. The reflection of the roaring fire and my own form made it difficult to peer out into the night, yet as I looked closer, I could see the strange phenomenon of the light that had so puzzled me in the music hall. Gone was the crimson glow that I had become so familiar with. The moon high above was that of the purest white. I looked at this innocent orb in awe before directing my gaze out across the ground. Shades of green made almost ethereal by the moonlight danced on the wind, and I realized that it was grass. Fresh grass where once was sand and death. Trees, branches, leaves, and flowers too! Hundreds of them! I could hardly believe my eyes. It was as though all had been a dream, and I was waking to the true world for the first time.
The Lord's voice sounded close to my ear, and I turned to see him gazing out at the sight as well.
"This...this is my home. This is how it was meant to be. Alive, beautiful. A paradise of night. A land my eyes have not gazed upon for centuries, yet now I can remember. Would you like for me to show you?"
I frowned, unsure of his meaning as his eyes caught mine and held firm. I felt suddenly very strange, as though caught in a whirlwind of sounds and colors. I saw the castle changing before my very eyes. No longer a darkened shell of cold stone and ancient artifacts, but a glittering gem of a home. Laughter, merriment, memory and life. I blinked once, and it was gone.
A wistful sort of smile stole over his features, but was replaced quickly by an expression that I could not comprehend as he turned away to take his place once more at the fireplace. I hesitated, not sure whether or not to follow as he spoke once again.
"You have fulfilled your purpose. It is your blood that has allowed my home to be reborn anew. For that, I am eternally grateful. A celebration shall take place here in my kingdom, and then..."
Hesitation here? I am not sure. I would say a pause for breath perhaps, yet I know better.
"...and then you are free to return to your home."
He glanced back to me when saying this, as though looking for something in my expression. He may well have searched longer for it, yet a noise at the top of the stairs, and the opening of the wooden doors attracted both our attentions. The physician Tuomas appeared in the entryway, relief clear on his face as he observed us. I wryly remembered letting him rest as I ventured off, fairly positive that this was the reasoning behind his frantic look. The Lord nodded to him, turning back to the fire.
"Tuomas, the gala preparations are to be made in haste. Inform the others and see to it that Miss Rose is made presentable. She is the guest of honor, and must look the part."
The servant nodded, gesturing that I follow him. I did this hesitantly, looking back once more at the figure of Lord Bloodthorne and his shadow dancing in the light of the fire before the solid doors closed once more.
- Immortal Rose
Lord Bloodthorne's Thoughts
Ah! My perfect opportunity missed! Tuomas may be an excellent physician, and he has served me well over the years, yet there are times where I wish nothing more than to rend his spine from his body. Such was the feeling that coursed through me at that moment. Miss Rose stood before me, the golden flames of the kindled fire glinting off of those deep set crimson eyes and giving a rich luster to her pale skin. The gossamer hair also held this glimmer, making the whole of her appearance all the more lovely to behold. Indeed, even as I drank this all in I could feel my tongue loosen, and the secrets in my heart's innermost chambers ready to burst forth from their lodgings. They might have done just that, if not for the timing of Toumas arrival. Damn him to the very pit!
All this anger, and yet it is in vain. The moment is passed and it may be best if it never came again.
I have given instructions as to the nature of this celebratory gala. It will take place soon enough in this very room. Already the invitations have been sent, and many others from various kingdoms have promised attendance. I have also taking the liberty of ordering as many guards as can be spared to be present at each door. I will not allow for any misfortune to occur. There have been more than enough of these incidents during Miss Rose's stay here, and I wish for her remaining time to be spent in merrier circumstances. The night will be a joyous one, and then...then she will be gone.