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I watched the two talk for some length of time before there was a loud crack that silenced the Throne Hall. The woman had slapped the fake monk and walked angrily from the room. I heard whispers go around the hall. This was Rowena and tomorrow was her wedding day to Lord Chamberlain. I felt my heart sink as I knew she would never make it to the Chapel. I tried to follow after but my footsteps took me in another direction. I was following behind the fake monk. Had Professor Pinfeathers somehow sent me back into the servant of the fake monk?
"She dares to insult me! I offer her the world, everything she could possibly want and still she prefers that weak pathetic Lord Chamberlain over me," the fake monk bellowed as he slammed up the stairs of the Forbidden Tower.
I didn't make a sound as I took in the room I had never seen before. It was filled with potions, herbs and very odd devices. It had a crystal ball set on one of the tables surrounded by crystals of various shapes.
"She'll never make it to the Grand Altar tomorrow. I have seen to that! As soon as she puts on that veil she is doomed. As for the Lord Chamberlain, I'll make sure he will live forever," the fake monk laughed, "I'll make him wish he had never seen Rowena of the Fae!"
I blinked in surprise, as the corpse in the crypt didn't look Fae but one could never be sure in the Castle. Sadly, the poor body I was inhabiting was the instrument in Lord Chamberlain being turned into a vampire. That night after the Castle feel silent I crept into Lord Chamberlain's room and slipped him a Blood Flow Potion. I tried to fight what the body was doing but I couldn't. You just can't change the past. I watched as the body poisoned the Ambassador and turned the Knight Lords at the Castle Gates to stone. Slowly, I watched as the once proud Castle became as I had once found it. I watched the beauty being drained from the Castle over night.
The next morning, I heard the screams coming from all over the Castle. The Lord Chamberlain was in despair and the Lady Rowena was dead. I wept over what I had done. Oh I did realize that I hadn't done it but the body I inhabited wept all the same. I curled into a ball on my cot in the Forbidden Tower and listened to the wails below. The door to the chambers I was in was thrown open and Lord Chamberlain strode in. The silky midnight hair he had once had was replaced by coarse white hair and the sparkling emerald eyes were red with fury.
"Where is your master? Where? Rowena never kept secrets from me. I know your master has been chasing after he for years! Tell me now and you may live!"
I tried to shrink back into the wall but solid mass can not go through stone. I found myself being dragged out, down the stairs without mercy.
"You will tell me how to reverse this," he commanded, "or I will see you caged forever!"
I couldn't tell him what I didn't know. I only followed my masters commands. There was nothing I could do for either of the. Those words did leave my mouth but he didn't like them. The laughing Lord Chamberlain was gone and in his place was an cold man. He locked me in the Prison Cell at the Castle Gates. I watched for days as workers came and went from my vantage point. I could see the work they were doing at the Castle Vicinity. I watched them build the Crypt and put Rowena's body there. I watched the Lord Chamberlain visit her every night for years. Slowly, my flesh faded away and I became nothing more than another skeleton in a pile them throughout the Castle. The Lady Rowena faded into the mist of time of legend. Lord Chamberlain was never the same. He schemed for years to have the Castle for his own. The potion and Rowena's death turning the once laughing man into nothing but a cold, stone faced man.
I came back to the present with another flap of Professor Pinfeather's wings.
"..and that is the story before Rowena. It's sad, isn't it? If only she had never tried on the veil the night before. If only she had went to her father and told him of the Gnome King's threats," Professor Pinfeather's finished.
"So the Gnome King was the fake monk?"
"The fake monk? I said nothing about a fake monk! Were you not listening," Professor Pinfeathers asked, adjusting his monocle.
"I guess I got a bit lost in time," I said with a shrug, wondering if it was really the Gnome King or if that part was just legend.
I thanked Professor Pinfeathers for the tale and made my way back to the Crypt. I took out a few Irises from my backpack and laid them at Rowena's feet. I swear I could hear a tinkling of laughter from the corpse. I saw Lord Chamberlain coming from the Castle so I hastily made my way into the Tavern. I nodded to the Innkeeper, played my round of dice with the Iron Knight and started wondering about the other skeletons of the Castle. I had learned of three, the Dead Ambassador, the Prison Cell and the Corpse in the Crypt. Was there more like this? Could this give me clues as the what all the Runes actually mean? If only I knew the right questions to ask! The only thing I got from this story was that Lord Chamberlain was once a very happy man. Although, now after many many years had passed he seems to have accepted the fact of being a vampire, embraced it even. All I knew was that he wasn't the purely evil person I had first thought.
"Ha, lost again," the Iron Knight said breaking my train of thought.
"Yes, well you can't win them all," I said and walked away before Canta and the Iron Knight lured me back with a promise of recouping my loses.
I made my way out of the Tavern and stopped short. There was Lord Chamberlain tapping his cane at the bridge. He nodded in my direction, walking towards me. I froze, my face draining of blood, my hands growing cold. The closer he got the more I wanted to flee. Yes, we bickered but it was just my way of dealing with my fear of him.
"Rahia, we should talk," was all he said as he passed me and enter the Tavern. I looked towards the door and the bridge. It was just a hop, skip and a jump to be home again. I could nestle down in my cot with all of notes or I could follow. I followed.
I reentered the Tavern and the Innkeeper just pointed up. So I made my way upstairs, for once the flirty Drunken Skeleton, Hamish, let me pass without a word. Lord Chamberlain was sitting at a table in the corner with Professor Pinfeathers. I didn't stop to wonder how or when that wily bird had shown up. I made my way over and pulled up a chair.
"I'm here, let's talk."
"You asked about Rowena?"
"Well, yes, you know I'm curious about everything in the Castle."
"You didn't think to ask me directly?"
"No," I sighed, knowing I looked as shocked as I sounded.
"I can see why. You fear me, yes?"
"I don't bite," he said with a ghost of a smile, "well not much."
Professor Pinfeathers snorted with laughter and even I had to smirk. I had so many questions for him swirling around in my head but he started talking before any could form on my lips.
"Rowena was the love of my life. She was my other half, the better half. The half that kept me sane and level," he explained and I noticed Professor Pinfeather's wings start to flap, "I had it in my head that the Castle belonged to me and in some sense it did. You know I am related to the Vesnik brothers. Oh, it's many times removed but I'm the real heir. However, I could never claim my inheritance because of the circumstances of my birth."
"Prof, before you flap me back in time let me listen," I glared at the bird. Professor Pinfeathers cleared his throat and settled his wings.
"My mother was a chambermaid in the Castle, a really long time ago. She fell in love with the only son of the Castle. Now this was way before either Vesnik brother was born. They weren't even a twinkle in their great great great-grandfathers eye yet. Anyway, she fell in love but he was betrothed to another. I'm sure my father loved her as well but time has dimmed my memories of what she told me before she passed."
He paused in his tale to take a sip of Blood Lotus Tea and I admit this was the most talkative he has ever been. I was literally on the edge of my seat.
"She was removed from the Castle , of course you couldn't have such a reminder hanging around the Castle. The wife then sent her brother after my mother but he was taken with her beauty. He decided to bite her instead, claiming me as his own. So I grew up in Town but I longed for the Castle. I met Rowena one night at the Chapel. We became friends and things quickly progressed from there. She was there when my mother passed ans she heard the words my mother whispered. You see, the bite didn't turn my mother and it didn't turn me. It just made me stronger, faster and wiser. She told me to actually reach my full power I would have to take the Blood Flow Potion which would unlock the Vampire part of me. I decided not to, for Rowena. Oh, the draw was there but I loved Rowena that much. When the manservant had spiked my tea with it, the choice was taken from me and I turned. It was quick and violent. My heart went to ashes when I learned what had happened to Rowena."
"I'm sorry to interrupt but how did you come to work at the Castle." I asked, praying he wouldn't yell.
"My biological father's wife never had any children so his sister inherited the Castle upon his death. She took pity on me and gave me the job," he said the ghost of a smile back on his lips, " Aunt Ashildr was sweet and loving. When she passed and her son took over, that's when thoughts of taking the Castle entered my mind. Satisfied?"
"Good," he said and waved to Professor Pinfeathers who rustled his wings, "Years started to fade and blend in to one another until I noticed someone leaving flowers on Rowena's grave. I knew all of her family had long since passed. So I became curious as to who it could be. One night I waited and met Discordia Scales..."
Lord Chamberlain's voice faded and for the seconded time today I was whisked into the past. I knew what to expect this time as I watched everything fade.
I took Arabella to the Underground Grotto and spent years with her. I realized that the Lord Chamberlain was right, she was all her mother. She didn't need potions and herbs as her mother before her, all she had to do was command and you would do her bidding. She was powerful. The day she turned sixteen I explained what had happened. She didn't thank me, no she turned me to stone and made me guardian of the Stone Bowl. I watched her grow more powerful and more like her mother. I cried tears of ash but no one paid me any attention. I tried to warn the men that came to court her but I must have been talking to the deaf. She did stay far away from the Blood Flow Potion, she was already immortal in her own right. She didn't need to become a vampire. I watched her trick Anabel into taking it one night but that is another story.
I blinked my eyes as I refocused on the present and Lord Chamberlains voice.
"..I'll never be able to forgive myself. I failed Rowena but I also failed Arabella," the Lord Chamberlain was in tears. I was shocked. No, I was beyond shocked!
"There, there. We can't change the past, old friend only try to repair the damages here and now," Professor Pinfeathers consoled.
"If I had only been there for her when she was younger, maybe she wouldn't persist in changing me into a bat at the drop of a hat!"
I giggled at this because he really did turn into a bat quite often and he was pink when he did so. So much for the fear I always felt when I saw him. He did glare at me at my giggle but I just kept on.
"I guess it is a tad funny. She's only tried to kill me once or has it been twice."
"It is nine times by my tally," Pinfeathers stated.
"That many," Lord Chamberlain smiled, "Well she is still young. Perhaps one day she shall succeed."
"I have a question."
"Yes, go ahead, Rahia."
"The runes in the Castle, what do they mean?"
"The Castle reveals its secrets over time. The more you try to uncover, the more that pop up. The Castle is one glorious mystery and there are always people lurking in the shadows," he said getting up to leave, "It is best to leave them alone until one is ready to reveal itself."
I nodded and watched to the two friends leave. I saw Lord Chamberlain in a different light. Sure, he had done some truly rotten stuff but he wasn't all bad.
I made my way downstairs were Hamish, the Drunken Skeleton sat. This time he grabbed my ankle as I passed.
"Spare a pint of cider for old Hamish," he asked.
"Sure," I replied and signaled the Innkeeper.
"Stay out of Arabella's way," Hamish said, "She'll have your skin if you don't."
"What do you mean," I asked but the cloaked figure was done talking as he focused on his cider.
I shook my head and made my way home. I learned more than I wanted today and my head was spinning. Unfortunately, none of it helped me with the runes but it did help me understand some of the inhabitants of the Castle just a little more. I settled on to my cot once I got home and stared up at the ceiling. Did Anabel's mother pass during childbirth? Was Lethe really the statue in the Stone Bowl? Is Arabella truly evil or more like Lord Chamberlain than either care to admit? Why do I always have more questions than answers when I come out of the Castle?
I opened my eyes the next morning to a sun already high in the sky. It was blazing down and I knew it was going to be another hot day. The weather in and near the Castle never made any sense so I shrugged it off and got ready for my day. I knew the Iron Knight would be waiting for our game at the dice table so I made my way towards the Tavern. I entered, signaled to the Innkeeper and glared at Canta.
"I can't wait for the hooded figure to be back," I said in way of greeting. He just laughed and handed me the cup of dice. The Iron Knight was relaxed as I rolled. I knew it was going to be a good day when I rolled my lucky 7. He left the Tavern muttering about loaded dice and how Canta had mixed them up. I just smiled and went to settle my bar tab.
"How much today." I asked the Innkeeper.
"On the house, if you listen to my story," he said leaning in close over the Bar Counter.
"Sure thing," I replied. It was the first time the Innkeeper had offered his story actually it was the first time he said anything more than 100 gold.
"Great. I heard you've been asking questions, trying to find a pattern in the Runes. I can't say I can help with the runes but the more you learn about the Castle and the people in it, the friendlier we will be," he smiled, sitting down the cup he was forever wiping down.
"I can see that but why now? I've been here for nearly a year and now everyone wants to play show and tell."
"You have to earn our trust," he said and leaned back against the counter, "You know my name is Jeronimo. I was born over in Rocksville. I was happy there. Oh this was before all the stores moved in back when it was still more of a farming village than a Town. I didn't mind farming but I always wanted more out of life and I fast learned that I was good with secrets. You have to be in this line of work."
He said all this with a smile and a distant look in his eyes. I knew he was reliving the past.
"I was delivering secrets to Count Vesnik, the old one not the current one when I spotted Arabella one day. She was out collecting mushrooms and herbs, not that she has any need of them but she loves the earthy smell they give off. I fell in love with her. I followed her every where and helped when I could. She, however didn't return my affections. I was fine with that, believe it or not. She helped me get the job here when the old Innkeeper decided to retire. I knew nothing of running a Tavern but it mattered not."