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Book One of “Whispers from the Past”
Written by Catherine LaCroix
Artwork by Marlena Mozgawa
Copyright 2016 Catherine LaCroix
-- All Characters Depicted are Over 18 --
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It was an inconsequential evening that changed the entire course of my life. I couldn’t say the day or the time, but I remember it was snowing. I was restless, inconsolable, and suffered from the curiosities of childhood. I’m sure my mother knew of my late night escapes, but never said a word. The moon washed over the snow in a gleam that would draw envy from the sun as I padded my way over the white landscape. It was late; far later than any eight-year-old should have wandered from their room, but I couldn’t sleep and nothing in my home ever helped with my fits of insomnia.
I wandered, the powdered streets of Lorelyn abandoned at such an hour. The chill air sometimes calmed the thoughts that rushed through my head- thoughts that should have never weighed me down to begin with. That’s when I saw you.
Dark hair succumbed to the wills of the breeze, bright eyes sparkled in time with the stars; you perched beneath an old oak tree, staring intently at the Isten Mountains. With the wisdom and courage of a child, I approached, taking a seat next to you.
“What are you looking at?” I asked, oblivious to the social anxieties I would learn later.
“I’m…wondering what’s past the Istens,” you replied with the graces of one a few years older than I.
With the all-encompassing dreams of someone who hasn’t been told that there are things that simply don’t exist, I told you with outright confidence, “There’s dragons out there.”
You laughed and my tenacity shattered. I poked at a few pebbles in the snow, avoiding your beautiful gaze and hiding my embarrassment. I wasn’t yet to be bested.
“Well, you don’t know. What if there are?”
“What if there are?” you replied, nodding, hiding your giggles. “What’s your name?”
“Cyprus Reyner,” I announced proudly, as my parents had taught me. Never fear who you are. “And yours?”
“Victoria d’Audrieu,” you declared easily, your name rolling off of your tongue like a melody. “Well met.”
“Well…met.” I responded slowly, unassociated with the phrase. “What’s out there for you?”
“Hmm,” you contemplated my question with more credence than it was worth, “a prince to save me, a world to see, cities far larger than this…”
“I’ll take the dragons.” I responded with distaste, familiar with the fairy tales mothers told their daughters.
“Would you fight them, Cyprus?” you asked without missing a beat.
“Of course!” I responded with the fervor of a brave knight.
And, my love, that’s where you had me. Why? For fame? For glory?
“I…well, someone would have to lead you to your prince, right?”
You laughed and it was the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard in short existence. I shivered and you positioned yourself so your cloak covered us both. Your skin warmed mine, your laugh warmed mine- everything about you warmed my entire being.
“My parents…they’ve always told me to stay away from Whispers,” you remarked, while you pulled me closer to you. I knew what I was; everyone knew what I was. But you so freely commented on something I’d never been ashamed to be a part of. For a few span of seconds, I wondered if I should be.
“I don’t know,” you said, pushing back a strand of hair that fell across my eyes. “You’re quite sweet.”
“Can we be friends, Victoria?” My hope peaked as I leaned into you.
“I’d like that very much,” you smiled- it made the snow jealous. We watched the moon disappear over the Istens. Together.
After a few sleepless evenings of meeting Victoria beneath what I’d come to know as “our tree,” I couldn’t hide my exhaustion. One morning, after my father made his way to work, my mother sat down with me at our small dining table and passed me a mug.
“It’s hot, make sure you sip it,” she cradled her own cup between her hands.
“Hot chocolate?” No amount of sleep deprivation could hide my excitement. We only had hot chocolate on special occasions- the price was outrageous.
“That it is, dearest,” she smiled, deepening the lines in the corners of her eyes and mouth. Guinevere Reyner loved with all her heart and laughed without inhibition. “I know you’ve been out the past few nights.”
I had the decency to look guilty. “I…um…”
“I know you have a hard time sleeping sometimes. Your mother is just worried, is all.”
“I made a friend.” I admitted, sipping on my rare treat.
“You did?” Her identical blue eyes sparkled. I wasn’t known for my social circle. “And who would that be?”
“Her name’s Victoria! Victoria d’Au…d’Aut? Well…anyway, she’s eleven. She has a cat named Solonie—”
“Ice cream?” she laughed.
“Yeah! She said he’s white all over and he loves to play in the snow. She loves the spring and books. She…doesn’t believe in dragons, though…”
“You don’t believe in fairies,” she countered, tipping her mug towards me.
“That’s because fairies are impossible. Tiny humans with wings that grant wishes?”
“Mmhmm,” the answer that drove me mad to argue. But I knew she was baiting me and I was too excited to take it.
“Victoria wants to learn Alavei. I…was wondering if…if she came here and we were really careful—”
“I’m sure your father would be alright with you learning from his books. But you have to promise to never take them from the house.”