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Chapter Fourteen

"… Kessah’s death brought much sorrow,

and Samandia’s condition was less than stable.

Only Sidhe knew that worse things were ahead—

things that could destroy everything she had strived to create.

In a tragedy such as this, even the word of a drunk meant more

than the word of a woman …"

—The Pasegean Scrolls

As Riann Sheperd hurried away up the hill, struggling to see through the thick sheet of snow that was now falling, he saw a strange wispy figure appear before him. He peered at the ghostlike form, with long black hair and eyes golden-green. Her face smiled shyly at him, and Riann’s heart beat a little faster than usual. He stared at her face, before whispering softly, "Collete? Is that you, my love?"

Her smile turned to a snarl. "Coll-eh-ette? Is that you-oo, my lo-ve?" she mimicked cruelly. Riann’s expression turned to one of terror, but Sidhe’s beauty held his gaze. She floated closer towards him, until she was right in front of him, staring into his eyes with her own reflecting her cruel mood. "How about I make you a little proposition, Mr. Sheperd?" She moved closer, causing him to stumble backwards and crash into the side of the barn. "Sit down!" Sidhe barked, and he fell, startled, onto the wooden bench nearby that was half-covered in snow.

"W-w-w—" he stuttered, his chin trembling in fear.

Sidhe rolled her eyes at him, then started to speak. "How about this, Mr. Sheperd—you forget about Samandia’s involvement tonight, and I’ll let you live past today … or, I can kill you right now. Which would you prefer?"

Riann nodded shakily. "Y-yes, yes, whatever you want."

"I shall appear to you every night at ten o’clock, and then you will swear on your soul that you have not told anyone about Samandia Darvosten. And, since I will be watching you continuously, Mr. Sheperd, I advise not to lie to me." She began to float away, before she turned around and smirked at him. "By the way, my name’s Sidhe. Mistress Sidhe. Be sure to always address me as such."

"Of c-course, Mistress … S-Sidhe."

She pointed at him with her wispy finger and Riann found himself sitting at his kitchen table, wondering how in the world he had gotten there. As he heard the clock in the next room strike six, he felt a feeling of dread in his stomach for what he had promised that ghostly spectre, who was probably a figment of his imagination anyway, and worriedly questioning whether he had made the right decision.


Samandia collapsed in the snow, dizzy from spinning around so much and giggling from the euphoria of it. She lay there for a moment, until she heard a loud scream from behind her. She sat up quickly, and stared back and saw the Fernan’s scullery maid rush out of the barn and up to the homestead, screeching as she went.

Curious, Samandia stood and walked over to the barn, and when she got to the door, she heard sobbing from within. Pushing the door open slowly, she entered.

Kessah was lying dead on the floor, a pool of blood surrounding her. Banudi sat weeping on a hay bale nearby, his back to Samandia. Memories rushed back to her, and she saw herself standing there, the blood-stained dagger in her hand, dropping the knife to the ground, sobbing at the realisation she had killed her sister, running away from the crime … she walked a little bit closer to the body, and she felt something cold through her worn shoes. She looked down and saw it—the knife! she thought, I’ve got to get rid of the knife! She moved her foot away from the dagger, then crouched down as close to it as possible, nearly losing her balance as she did so. Grasping it in her right hand, she went to hide it inside the cloak she wore and gasped with pain. Her right index finger had a large cut along it, and Samandia guessed it was from the dagger, although she could not remember anything that had happened after the clock at her home had struck midnight up until just before dawn, when she had found herself looking down at her sister’s bloodied corpse and herself wielding the murder weapon.

Banudi, on hearing her gasp, turned quickly around. Luckily for Samandia he did not notice as she shoved the dagger into her belt, under her cloak. "Samandia … how did you get here so fast?"

Samandia looked at him with feigned distress. "Is … is Kessah …?"

He nodded sorrowfully. "Yes, she … she’s …" he began to sob uncontrollably, and Samandia rushed to his side to comfort him. As she stroked his hair, he began to speak again, although his words were accompanied by heartfelt noises of grief. "She—she said we’d never be a-apart, Samandia," he wept, sniffling as he went. "Said she’d never leave. Well, what of that? What of that?!" He slid off the bale and stared lovingly into Kessah’s terrified eyes. His tears mixed with the dry blood on her face, causing rivulets of pale skin to reappear. He closed his eyes and lay his head down next to Kessah’s, kissing her blood-stained cheeks and whispering to her as if he still believed that she was alive, only sleeping, and that it was his quest to awaken his beloved.

Suddenly the scullery maid burst back into the barn, chattering wildly, with Mayor Fernan and several tall, muscular farmhands. They all were startled by Samandia’s presence. Mayor Fernan raised his eyebrows at her. "My dear, how did you arrive so quickly? I only just sent my son, Tyrus, to your father’s home with the saddening news … are your parents with you?"

Samandia shook her head. "No, sir. I went to the forest before dawn to gather a bouquet as a present for my sister … my sister …" Samandia turned her face away, feigning to weep, knowing that although her grief was spent if she did not show some form of anguish that the Mayor would become suspicious. She took a deep breath, and pretended to regain her composure. "I am sorry, sir," she apologised, "but I am much distressed by this occurrence."

"Understandably so, my child. What happened after you gathered the bouquet?" Mayor Fernan had a look of fatherly concern on his face, and Samandia smiled weakly at him, thankful that he had believed her story.

"I left the forest and saw that it was beginning to snow. I began to cross the field to the barn but I heard a terrible scream from inside and raced to hide in the shrubbery nearby. Your maid—" she nodded towards the now-quiet girl, "raced from the barn and up to the homestead. Curious, I entered the barn and found … I found the scene that is before you now." Samandia patted her cloak inconspicuously, Thank Keori that I got here first and retrieved father’s tanning knife! She sighed thankfully, and the maid stared at her strangely.

The maid poked Mayor Fernan and whispered to him behind her hand. He nodded. "Ah … Miss. Darvosten? My maid here, Eowynne, wonders what became of the bouquet?"

Eowynne smirked at her, but Samandia only smiled. "Of course. The bouquet." She tapped the knife on her belt and muttered under her breath, "Laurel-shift" and then reached into her cloak, pulling out a rather crumpled bouquet of flowers, the majority of them silver, but a small portion of them coloured a dark brown.

The entire group stared at them strangely. "Why, what unusual flowers, Miss. Darvosten! Wherever did you find them?" Mayor Fernan was enraptured by the garland, while Eowynne was merely startled.

"Uh …" Samandia knew she had to think quickly, "… they come from a clearing out in the woods that my sister and I used to visit when we were children …" Samandia glanced back at her sister, and Banudi who had composed himself and was sitting atop the bale of hay again. "… I thought that she might never get the chance to see them again, if she was to live in Tream …" This time real tears sprung to her eyes at the thought of her sister never again seeing any type of flower, even at her funeral, since the frost was sure to kill the flowers all through Menilan. "… especially since they only bloom just before the New Year snow—"

Shortly afterwards Bo and Angelyn Darvosten arrived, both distressed by the news Tyrus had brought to them in the frosty dawn. Eowynne got to tell her story, of how Kessah had asked for an applecake to present to Lady Tream as a gift the night before, and that Mayor Fernan’s cook, Myrarre, had sent Eowynne out to get apples from the loft that morning so it might be made as to Kessah’s wishes.

As Mayor Fernan’s farmhands carried Kessah Darvosten’s body out of the barn and to the homestead, and the Darvosten’s followed along with Banudi, a huge crowd of villagers had gathered in the yard, waiting for news of Kessah. When Tierna and Catalina, who had been comforting each other, spotted Samandia emerging from the barn they rushed over to her and put their arms around her, trying to console her as she continued to weep.

And, in the crowd of people, Riann Sheperd also stood, watching as his own daughter talked to the girl he knew had murdered her own sister—and realised that due to his own cowardice, there was nothing he could do about it.


Copyright 2000 M. Lees

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