Sunday, December 4, 2011

Chapter Four: Foretellings

Before tonight, I had never travelled by portal. It’s strange, but the sensation is both cold and warm. I feel suspended between worlds, weightless, as I am surrounded by swirling, brilliant color. It is over so suddenly, that I think if I had blinked, I would have missed the ride entirely.

I end up in the exact place I had envisioned—the place that had once been my home, beside the bed that Lothar and I had spent so many feverish nights in. I stare at my hands in relief that I have arrived here in one piece.
My relief dissolves into sorrow as I look around the modest hovel that I share with my mother. It seems so much smaller now, like a prison cell. I can only wonder how long this sentence of confinement will last. I know it won’t be forever, but even a night away from my Lothar seems too long.
My mother is curled up on her straw mattress, moaning in her sleep. Every night since I was a young child, she has taken a potion to help with her night terrors. It puts her in a slumber so deep, she is impossible to wake until the elixir wears off. That is how Lothar and I got away with acting on our passions so close to her. She must not have taken it tonight. 
“Mother?” I kneel down and lightly touch her elbow. Her eyes open instantly and she takes in a ragged breath.
“Corynne? You’re home?”
“I’m here, Mama.”
Slowly, she pulls herself into a sitting position. “I haven’t been able to sleep, Corynne,” she says.
“But your potion—”
“I haven’t touched it since you disappeared. I wanted to be able to hear you in case you came home. The Goddess must have heard my prayers for you and brought you back to me.”
I sigh heavily. “I’m sorry for the pain I’ve caused you.”
“You’re sorry?” My mother jumps to her feet. “Do you have any idea—any idea at all—of the torment I’ve gone through? You could not imagine the way it feels to wake up in the morning to find your only daughter missing. You could have been raped—you could have been dead for all I knew!” 
I open my mouth to speak but she silences me with a glance.

“I blamed myself the most," she continues. "If I hadn’t have taken that damned potion, I would have heard you go! Have I completely failed you as a mother? Have I taught you nothing? Keiry told me where you went and what you said. You would betray your sisters and me for a stinking male. You willingly shared the same roof with our greatest foe! And then you come sneaking back here in the middle of the night. How do expect the Witch Queen to let you stay? And then what am I to do if I may never see you again? Your foolish decisions have ruined both of our lives.”
“But mother, I… I love him,” I say meekly.
“Love?” she bellows and I cringe at her tone. “What does some teenage prick know about love? Or you for that matter? You won’t truly know that until you have your own daughter. Now all you know is lust, which is detestable.”
“You don’t know anything!” I cry. “Just because you’ve never been in love with a man doesn’t mean you can tell me how I feel! You don’t understand a thing about me.”
“Do you think I wasn’t a fool when I was your age?” she shouts. “I’ve been exactly where you are, Corynne. You will learn better, though, and it will hurt like nothing you would believe. I only wanted to spare you from making the same mistakes that I did.”
“So I was a mistake, then?”
At this, my mother does something that I cannot remember ever seeing her do. She bursts into tears.

“How could you say such a thing? You were the best thing that ever happened to me. You were the only happy thing in that dark part of my life. I don’t know what I would do if I lost you and when I thought that I had… well, it felt like I was dying.”
“I’m here now,” I say.
“Yes. You are here. And I will be grateful to Jyaell for the rest of my life that you are.” 

“Dammit, Corynne!” She lunges for me and for a moment I’m afraid she’s going to hit me, but instead, she wraps me in her arms. “I’d beat you senseless if I wasn’t so glad to see you.”

She pulls me closer and I bury my face in her pomegranate hair. “Oh my daughter, I will pray that the Witch Queen is lenient with you. Change out of those clothes and jewelry before you see her. It will go better for you that way.”
In the morning, the Witch Queen summons me to her counsel room. Her appearance has a stark difference from the painting of the Goddess Jyaell hanging above her. Even though she sits and I am standing, Galaea intimidates me.

Her tone is bone-chillingly cold as she says, “It seems that our missing little witch has returned to us. But all news is not happy news, I am afraid. I have heard a rumor that our very own sister has betrayed us to the evil one. What do you think of that, Corynne?”

“I have betrayed no one,” I answer as boldly as I can, hoping that she cannot see my knees buckling beneath my skirt.
“You abandoned your home and your loving mother, and spent your time away with the son of our enemy. You ate the king’s food and slept under his roof. Am I correct?”
 “You are, but I’m home again,” I say. “It was impossible for me to stay there… when I…” I force myself to say the words, “belong here. I humbly ask for you to let me come back.”
“You’re back now, are you not?” she says. “But as for the matter of whether I should let you stay… I am a woman with little patience for traitors, young lady. That withstanding, it would be cruel of me to send you away when your mother has already been through so much, the poor dear. So, what to do with you?”
She presses her gnarled fingers together and I hold my breath.

“You may stay, but until I am quite sure of your motives, you are not to be trusted. If you want to earn back some of that trust, you can start with confessing your sins and repenting before all of the witches. And one more thing—while you were away, your chores fell on the shoulders of your sisters. It would be a lovely gesture of gratitude if you repaid them by doing a portion of each of their labor."
“That is all. Now go.”
There are forty-four women and girls in our camp. A share of each of their work is immense. With all the chores I’ll be doing, I won’t have time for any treasonous acts. Overall, though, I suppose there are worse punishments.
I refuse to apologize, nevertheless. I have done nothing of which I should be ashamed. Galaea can make my life as miserable as she wants, because I know I won’t be here for long.
Soon, he will carry me to his castle (where I will stay, this time) and make me his bride. I envision a beautiful white wedding in the garden where Lothar has promised we will marry. I see a white dress and a crown upon my elaborately styled hair.
Thinking about my love causes my heart to ache. Already, I miss him terribly. As I tend to the crops and livestock, I alloy my daydreams to take me away.
I can only imagine the elation I will feel as we exchange our vows. At last, I will completely be his and he will be mine, unquestionably. And nobody in this world—neither witch nor queen—will be able to keep us apart…
But until then, here I am. And until I make my public repentance, Galaea has ordered all of the other witches not to talk to me, even my mother.
As I watch them from my solitary table in the dining hall, I realize how lonely one can feel in a crowded room. I feel more of an outcast than I did when I left.
I also miss Keiry, now more than when I was living at the castle. It is nearly unbearable being so close to her, and yet, unable to say a word.
As I am caught up in my self-pitying thoughts, I am vaguely aware of someone approaching.
“Ahem.” A voice that always makes me think of the sound a knife makes when it scrapes against a dinner plate. Goddess, no. Please not her. Not right now.
Ivaine. She is Galaea’s only daughter and although we are supposed to be all the same in the Sisterhood, she is more like the Witch Princess.

I never knew the reason, but Ivaine hated me from the moment my mother brought me to the Sisterhood of Witches. As I child I quickly learned that it was best for me to stay out of her way.
And that was not easy. I was her favorite playmate, but Ivaine’s idea of playing was chasing me breathless and then clawing me bloody. Her stamina was unbelievable; I could never outrun her.
When she didn't use her fingernails, she used her words to wound me. She often told me I was ugly and that no one really liked me and they when I was not around, all of the other witches laughed about how stupid I was and how bad I smelled. “There’s nothing you can do," she'd said more than once,  "‘cause my mama is the Witch Queen, and if you make me mad, then my mama will kill your mama and make you watch. Then she'll kill you, too.”

I was terrified of both Ivaine and her mother in  my younger days.
It did not help matters that I was such a sensitive child. No one could bring me to tears more quickly, and she loved it and I could tell. It was like she fed on them.
I am far less sensitive now when it comes to Ivaine. Sometimes I pretend that her  words are  only the wind howling through the trees.
“If it isn't our resident pariah," she greets me. "How does it feel to know that every woman in this room thinks of you as a whore now?"
It doesn’t make her company any more enjoyable, though. 
“What do you want?” I groan.
“You looked so lonely,” she says. “I thought I’d be a good sister and join you.”
“I don’t know if you’ve heard, but you’re not supposed to be talking to me.”
 “Yes, pity that,” she says. “You know my mother didn’t want to let you come back? Not that I blame her, really. If I was Witch Queen I’d never let you back in. If it weren’t for your idiot mother’s blubbering, you wouldn’t be sitting here at all.”
I heave a sigh but say nothing. I gave up trying to think of the best comeback to her nonsense long ago. Talking back only gets her started. In her case, it’s best to stay quiet until she gets bored and wanders away, perhaps in search of small animals to torture.
Knowing she’s not going to get the reaction she wants this way, Ivaine switches tactics. “So, a prince, huh? You must have used one of your mother’s potions to make him fuck you. I can’t imagine a man of sound mind bedding you willingly.”
My heart flutters for a moment of rage, but I put my face in my hands and keep my expression neutral. There is no point in getting angry. Ivaine is the last person who would understand what real love is, or what Lothar and I share.
“Why don’t you join your mother at her table?” I say. “You wouldn’t want to disappoint her by talking to such a lowly one as I.”
“For once, you’re right,” she says.
She brings her fingers to her nose and adds, “You stink of pig shit anyway. I’d hate for your smell to rub off on me.”
“Enjoy your solitude, whore-witch,” she says and saunters away.
Damn it. I rest my throbbing forehead in my hands. I always get the worst headaches when I am around that girl.
When night comes, my mind and body are so exhausted from the day that I quickly fall into a deep sleep. My dreams, however, are restless.
I am in the garden at Castle Veradel with Lothar once again. The longing I feel for him is so intense, so real.  At last, I can have him. We are finally free to finish what we started on that night. But alas, once Lothar is about to enter my body and unleash that torrent of unbridled ecstasy, the scene melts away and the dream changes…
It is no longer Lothar that holds me; it is him. The monster.
He is not welcome in this body but he forces his way in like a robber. My joy transforms to horror and I cannot help but to scream…
My body jerks upright and I struggle to catch my breath. I feel someone’s presence beside me and for a terrible moment, I am afraid that he is still with me, in my room, waiting to leap and attack.
But no. I am back in the witches’ camp, and the presence I felt is only Keiry.
“Keiry?” I demand, “What are you doing in here? You nearly scared me to death!”
My friend rises to her feet and makes a gesture of apology. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
“It’s all right,” I assure her, “but what made you sneak in through my window in the middle of the night?” If I did not know better, I would guess that she’s been learning from Lothar.
“I just… I had to see you,” she says sheepishly. “I couldn’t bear not being able to talk to you!”

“I’ve missed you too," I say. "I hated being so close to you and yet so far.”
She nods. “I know what you mean.”
“So?” Her demeanor suddenly changes and she puts her hands on her hips, looking at me as a mother would look upon her daughter as she demanded an explanation for a misdeed. “What happened? I thought you said you were never coming back.”

 I sigh more deeply at this and I cannot hide my disappointment. “It didn’t work out.”
“Oh,” she says softly. “Sorry.”
I can’t imagine how she would be, but she does seem genuinely sympathetic. 
Her face and tone brighten as she clasps her hands together and adds, “I can’t say I’m sorry that you’re here, though. I was afraid I’d never see you again.”
“You could have always seen me,” I tell her. “I would never turn you away.”
“I know, but things are more complicated than that… oh, but what does it matter? You’re here!”
At this notion, Keiry squeals in delight, but then quickly brings her hand to her mouth when she notices my sleeping mother.
“I’m sorry,” she whispers. “I don’t want to wake her.”

“No need to worry about that,” I say. “She’s taken her potion tonight. A stampede of cattle would not wake her.”
“Good, because I want to talk.” Keiry sits down on my bed and focuses her goldenrod gaze upon me, searching. “So are you going to tell me what happened? We tell each other everything.”
I sigh again and curl into a ball. “There is not much to tell,” I say, looking away from her. “Family problems. Issues with his mother…”
“She didn’t like you?”
I cannot help but to laugh. “To say the least! That woman hates me.” As soon as I say this, though, my heart sinks. I wonder if Lothar knows yet what happened to her. I wish more than anything that I could talk to him.
“Well, she’s certainly not our kind,” Keiry says.
“No,” I muse, “but she has more in common with us than you might think. She despises our kind just as much as the Witch Queen despises men. Two queens, equally filled with hate… it’s a pity for all of us.”
Keiry clears her throat and begins to fidget, clearly uncomfortable.
“So…” she says in an attempt to change the subject, “you and Prince What’s-his-name…”
“Right. Did the two of you…” Her eyes widen and she offers me an embarrassed smile. “You know…?”
“Have we performed the eve of summer ritual?”
She blushes and nods.
“Of course.” I shrug nonchalantly. “We’ve been doing that for months now.”
“Oh. So… if you don’t mind me asking… what’s it like to be with a man?”
Now it is my turn to blush. Not because I am embarrassed, but because I remember. I remember so vividly that I feel warm. “It’s like nothing else in this world,” I tell her. “There is no magic that can compare to it.” I close my eyes and I see him. It’s as if I am with him once again.
“Two bodies come together; connecting so close you can almost feel your souls touching. Your heart races and there’s heat… and wanting…
“And then when it feels like it’s just too much, like you’re about to die from pleasure… there’s a new feeling. Warmth. Calm. It’s more satisfying than any food you’ll ever eat and more restful than the best night’s sleep. And there’s joy.”
“Does it hurt?” she asks.

“Only for a moment, the first time. Oh, but it’s worth it.”
She giggles. “I guess I’ll just have to find out at the mating ceremony.”
Her words tear me away from my happy reverie.
“The mating ceremony?” Damn. I can’t believe I could have forgotten. I picked the worst possible time to return to the witches.
“Well, yes,” she confirms. “The eve of summer is drawing nigh.”
Now that Keiry and I are sixteen, we will be expected to perform in this summer’s ritual. If I did, I would be the only first-timer who was not a virgin.

“I won’t do it.”
"But… you have to,” Keiry says. “We all do. It’s our duty.”
“I don’t care. I’ve made a promise to Lothar and I won’t give myself to any other man. If I ever have any daughters, they will be his alone.”
Keiry exhales a long breath. “Corynne, if that is truly how you feel then…
…why are you here?”
This morning, Keiry and I attend to our chores. She milks our cow, Heralda, and I gather the eggs from the chickens. We are the only two with livestock duties right now, and for that I am grateful.
“I’ve told you everything,” I say. “As soon as they find the queen—or at least, find out what happened to her—and things calm down at the castle, I’m going to marry Lothar. I don’t see why I should make any long-term plans here.” It had not been my intention to give her the specific details of why I came back, but she pressed me until I surrendered. “But don’t worry, Keiry. I’ll invite you to the wedding and you can come see me as often as you want.”
“I don’t think that will go over too well with the witches,” Keiry answers.
“But they wouldn’t have to know.”
She sighs. “Corynne, I love you, but I think there’s going to come a time when you have to choose which life you want. I know you want a life with Lothar, but I’m part of this life here and I just don’t see how our worlds can coexist.”
“So you want me to choose between the love of my life and my best friend? Please don’t make me choose, Keiry.”
“I’m not making you do anything,” she insists. “But the choice is coming and life is going to make you decide.”
“That’s not fair!”
“Maybe not, but whoever said life was fair?”
“Hello, Ladies,” a piercing voice calls, as though answering to Keiry's words. “I hate to be the one to miss out on a good conversation, whatever were the two of you talking about?”
Ivaine bares her teeth in a cruel smile as she approaches the animal pens, and all the while her adopted sister grins at her as though she is the funniest person in all of Lyvenia. Actually, to her, Ivaine really might be. 
This lovely creature is Magrid. She is one year older than Ivaine, Keiry, and me, but she follows Ivaine around like a younger sister. She was adopted into our coven by the Witch Queen herself after someone abandoned her in the Alathean Forest as a small child. Somehow, she found her way to our gates filthy, half-starved, and half-delirious. Galaea had called it an unforgivable act to throw away a little girl—never mind, of course, that under her orders, the witches follow the same practice with their unwanted sons.
 When I was a child, I tried to befriend Magrid on many occasions. She was painfully shy at first, and she would always look at Ivaine in awe, as though she were a real princess living among us common wretches. Before long, Magrid discovered that the best way to get in Ivaine’s good graces was to join in her malevolent games, speaking and behaving in the same manner as her crimson-haired hero.
“The last time I checked, none of us were allowed to speak to the fallen one," Ivaine says. "Is that still true, Keiry, or did my mother’s command suddenly change without my knowing? Isn’t it funny, Magrid, how some people think they are above the rules? I’d hate to see our sister get in trouble.”
"I wouldn't," Magrid says. "It would serve her right. It's like she thinks she's better than us or something."
Ivaine steps toward the bucket of fresh milk that Keiry just placed on the ground and swings her foot back. 
“Oops!” she cries as her shoe connects with the bucket, spilling the milk out onto the grass and straw. “That was clumsy of me!” The rest of us, even Magrid, stare at her in stunned silence.
“Why would you do that?” Keiry cries. “I needed to bring that milk to breakfast.”
“So sorry, dear, but you really should have been more careful!” Ivaine gasps in mock-concern. “Just leaving that thing where anyone could trip over it—I’m lucky I didn’t break my neck!
“Oh well. There’s no use crying over it. You should learn to be more careful, though, and not just with your milk. It would be a shame if the Witch Queen found out about the type of company you’ve been keeping. Don’t want two pariahs in our camp, do we? I’ll see you at breakfast, dear.”
“I really hate that bitch,” Keiry says after Ivaine and Magrid have left. “She’s lucky I don’t break her neck.”
“Those girls will get what’s coming to them eventually,” I sigh. 

A guttural groan rises from Keiry’s throat and she balls her hands into fists in frustration. “Why don’t you just repent so I can talk to you?”
“You’re talking to me now, aren’t you?” I answer.
“Yes, but I want to be allowed to. You know Ivaine’s going to the Witch Queen as we speak, and they’ll both be watching me closely from now on. Just do it so that the time you have left here can at least be more comfortable. For both of us.”
“I won’t mean it,” I say. “Besides, I don’t want to give the Witch Queen some nonsense confession that I don’t believe.”
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe it,” Keiry says, “just as long as she does.”
“My sisters,” Galaea begins her evening sermon, “I stand before you this day with a message of most importance. Our Goddess, the Holy She who knows all things, has come to me and she has made her will known.
“It is my duty, as your leader, to share this will with all of you. Sisters, I received a divine vision of an all-female rule. Jyaell has promised to empower those women who will follow her wholeheartedly. She will exalt these women above all others and she will bring the man down to his rightful place—beneath the woman’s feet.”

From my lonely place in the back, I watch the witches nod and murmur in agreement. This is far from the first time that I have heard Galaea preach this ideology.
I wish I were sitting next to Keiry. I could be passing notes with her or whispering about something other than the Witch Queen’s hate-filled droning.
“A man rules with his fist,” Galaea says. “He rules with force and with violence. A woman rules with her mind.  She rules with equal parts cunning and compassion. Jyaell tires of the rule of man, and she has declared that the change is coming. The powers that be will meet their downfall and we shall rise victorious. As the Goddess has said it, let it come to pass!
“Be not deceived by the ways of man! He may seem inviting, but he is a spider lying in wait for the woman he catches in his web. Who among you is deceived?
“Choose now who you will follow. Only those faithful to the Goddess will receive the victory. Each of us must make our choice. Will you stand united with your sisters, putting your evil thoughts and desires behind you?
“Or will you abandon the path the Goddess has laid before us? If you choose to disobey all that Jyaell commands, then go now. Leave, wayward sister, and perish with the man!”
Galaea’s bellowing echoes from the rafters of the meeting hall and the witches are silent in response. I see several sets of eyes travel to the back of the room where I sit. I turn my own eyes down and study the dusty floor, feeling crushed under the weight of their judging stares.
“With that word of warning, I have glorious news for all of you!” Galaea’s tone suddenly turns from forboding to jubilant. “As the eve of summer approaches, the Goddess has made plans for the future of all witches. She declares that the first baby girl born in our camp will become the new Witch Queen.”
This catches most of the women in the room, including myself, off guard. I always thought that Ivaine would be Witch Queen after Galaea passes.
“Together, as a sisterhood, we will raise the child and nurture her magic and her mind,” Galaea continues. “I will train her in the ways of the Goddess, to know all that she must know to rule as your Witch Queen.”
“Not to worry, though,” she adds with a cackle, “I won’t be leaving you for a long time.”
When Galaea’s message is over, I reach my resolve. I’ll do it. For Keiry and for my mother, I will repent. It is the least I can do for them in my final days here.
I walk to the front of the room to Galaea, only to find her already occupied with a sobbing Magrid. “Please, Witch Mother,” Magrid cries, “could you beseech the Goddess on my behalf?”
“My dear,” Galaea answers, “the will of the Goddess is perfect. If what you request is meant to be, then it will be.”
“But… it didn’t happen last year…”
“Then it was not meant to be last year,” Galaea says. “If you faithfully perform your duty to the Goddess, then she will bless you in the way she sees you most fit to be blessed. You should want nothing other than the will of Jyaell to be done.”
“Yes, Witch Mother,” Magrid says resignedly.
“That’s a good girl.”
“Excuse me, Witch Queen,” I interject, “could I please have a word alone with you?”
A calculating smile spreads across her lips. “Of course.”
Magrid scowls at me for a moment, and then walks away.
I feel terribly small sitting across Galaea in her counsel room. “Thank you for allowing me to speak with you.” I feel that this is a good place to begin.
Her tawny eyes pierce me, as she demands without the gentleness she gave Magrid, “What did you come to me for? Speak.”
I wrap my arms around myself and try to look as guilty as possible. “Your message tonight really spoke to me. It made me realize that I was wrong.”
“Good, I was hoping it would speak to you,” she says. “In what ways were you wrong?”
“About men, about love, all of it,” I answer. “I was deceived. I… I thought he loved me.” I cringe inwardly as I say these words. Lying in this way feels like blasphemy. Not against the Goddess, but against my own heart.
Galaea throws her hands up. “Men are incapable of love! They only want one thing and they will tell any lie to get it. What a man calls love is a thing that is repulsive in the eyes of our Goddess.”
She sounds like my mother.
“I’m sorry, Witch Queen.” I bow my head and try to look contrite. “Will you please forgive my betrayal?”

Galaea looks thoughtful and, even more so, amused. “Corynne, everyone in this world has their own special gift—their magic. Do you know what yours is?”

I certainly wasn’t expecting that. “Of course,” I say. “I’m a potion-maker like my mother. She says I have natural talent.”
The Witch Queen barks out a laugh that I find even more unexpected than her previous question. “That is what your mother would have you think. Oh no, my dear, you may have talent at that but your magic is something else entirely.
“You captivate. Your magic lies in your beauty. The men-folk are drawn to it like moths to a flame. You could use it to have great power over them, but with a foolish head on your shoulders you could just as easily surrender that power and give it to men, allowing them to rule you in every way. That is why it is so important for you to stay on the good path.
“A woman’s true power comes from what is between her ears, not what is between her legs. Never forget that.”
A knock on the door interrupts our conversation. I am glad for the distraction. The last thing I ever wanted to discuss with the Witch Queen is my lady parts.
“Enter,” she commands.
Saleri, an older woman who is a seer, opens the door and steps inside. “Forgive my intrusion, Witch Queen, but I must share something with you at once.”
“You are always welcome in my presence, Saleri,” Galaea says. “Is something the matter?”
“I have had a vision that I think will be of great importance to you. What I have seen will affect all of us, I am certain.”
Galaea looks back at me. “Were you finished, dear?”
“Oh, yes,” I say. “I have nothing else.”
“Good,” she says. “You may go then. I will expect your public apology tomorrow morning in the meeting hall.”
I am glad that is over—and that she actually bought it. At least, I hope that she bought it.
I am not normally one to eavesdrop, but in this case, I just can’t resist. A vision that will affect us all? Seers have always fascinated me. If only I could look into the future. I wonder what she saw.
I slide down and press my ear against the door.
“The remaining days of King Lothe are few,” I hear Saleri say. “The old man will die soon and when he does, his middle son Lothar will take the throne.”
I can’t believe it! Lothar? King? I’d never thought about Lothar ruling the kingdom before, although of course, the king would need an heir—and thank goodness, it would not be Litham. It is so much to take in.
“And what does that have to do with us?” Galaea snaps.
“I have seen,” Saleri says, “when the old king passes and the new king takes his throne, peace will come between royalty and witches.”
“Peace?” Galaea says. “How could there possibly be peace between us?”
“The old ways must pass for the new way to come,” Saleri answers. “For when the new way comes, it will bring an end to war and a beginning to victory.”   
It is quiet behind the door for a moment, and then I hear Galaea speak softly. “What is the new way?”
To this, Salaeri says, “There will be peace among our peoples when the new king takes a witch to be his bride.”
My heart swells with this news. I would cry out for joy if it would not give me away. A queen… All of these days I have only aspired to be a princess, but now this…
“Are you sure you saw correctly?” Galaea asks.
“I am certain. The witches will gain their triumph when a witch sits on the throne.”
I don’t stay for a minute longer, for I’ve heard all that I need to know.  Even though Lothar warned me not to go to him, I must tell him what I have learned.
So I race through the darkness to my hovel. My mother is not here now, so it’s the perfect chance to leave. And I’ll be back before she even notices my absence. No one will have to know that I’m going, and when I return I’ll pretend that I don’t know a thing. I will give my apology in the morning, but tonight I have to see him.
Safely guarded inside the walls of my hovel, I put on the gatekey and think of Lothar, my mind overwhelmed with all that I plan to say to him.
In a flash of color and light, I am in his bedroom. It has only been two nights since I have seen him last, but it feels like so much longer. He gasps as I make my entrance.
“Corryne?” he asks, startled. “What are you doing here? You shouldn’t be here, it isn’t the right time.”
“I know,” I say as I take his hand. “I’m sorry, I know what you said but I couldn’t stay away from you. Not after what I have just found out.”

Unable to contain my excitement, I throw my arms around him. “Oh, my love, I have so much to tell you!”

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