Welcome to the Realms of Imagination
Official website of Science Fiction and Fantasy Author Carol Hightshoe
How many times have I come here? I can no longer count the days, months or years. The passage of time has no effect on me. I remember when I would come to greet the rising sun. Dawn reflecting hope in the brightening sky and warming earth. Now, I am banished to the nadir of night; when all is dark, and hope only a dream.
It was a year ago, perhaps two, when the priests came and laid their blessing on this place. This small valley was sanctified and made anathema to me, or rather to what I have become. Despite this, I am still compelled to come. Each night I sit beside this stone marker and sing of my sorrow. The moon and stars listening to the pain in my soul as I tell them about the loss of my beloved Adairia. I take some comfort in the silence of the night. A silence that only listens and does not judge.
My song awakens the priests and they stand at their small windows saying prayers for protection. I shake my head at the sharp, bittersweet smell of their fear and hatred.
Tonight, as I sit here and raise my gaze to the moon, I feel a stirring in the air. Something is happening. Nothing like this has ever occurred before. My spine tingles. The hair along my neck rises. My claws grasp at the dirt. I whine softly. Looking closely, I see a shimmering before me. A shape is forming. It is wispy. Not wholly there. My nose only detects the dustiness of the earth and the biting scent of the trees surrounding this area. The shape begins to solidify. Suddenly, the perfume of heather fills the air. I inhale deeply. Heather was always her favorite flower.
It is her! I have not seen her since that horrific night--so long ago. The night the curse struck and she vanished from my life.
She is much as I remember her: Tall, with dark eyes and dark hair. Her delicate features highlighted by the glow surrounding her as she stands next to the stone bearing her name. Her eyes meet my own and there is a deep sadness reflected in them.
A soft creak comes from the door of the small church. I see one of the priests step outside. Startled I rise and turn to flee. She begins to fade.
“Wait,” he calls. “Please stay. I am Father Gregory, I mean you no harm.”
I glance up at her and she nods slowly, so I sit back down and look at the approaching priest. He is an old man whose eyes, even in this darkness glow with an inner light. Despite the hesitation in his steps, there is a confidence in his stance. As he approaches, he holds out both hands to show he is carrying nothing. I smell his fear, but it is accompanied by something else. A fragrance both soft and strong, the smell of flowers in a meadow, of rain, of a sunrise; the scent of love, compassion and hope.
Father Gregory glances at her, then at the stone marker with its single word scratched into its surface. “Adairia?” he asks.
She nods. Glancing at me, Adairia smiles that small wistful smile I have not seen in so long.
I nod my understanding of her unspoken request. Closing my eyes, I concentrate on triggering a change I have not experienced since that day.
The change comes slowly, and I whimper as I feel my limbs lengthen and my nose flatten. I find myself stretched out on the ground as my senses return. Slowly, I push myself into a sitting position; every joint in my body feels as if it is on fire. I had forgotten the pain involved.
The night air is chill against my bare skin as I stand, and I shiver. Father Gregory hands me his cloak and I wrap myself in its warmth. I look at my hands and frown. The smoothness of the skin is strange after all these years. Sniffing the air around me, I can no longer discern as many different smells as before, yet the scent of heather lingers in the air.
I see Father Gregory watching me closely, his right hand holding the cross on the chain around his neck. Smiling, I extend my hand to him. “I am Leathan.”
He takes my hand in a strong clasp and returns the smile.
Gathering the borrowed cloak around me, I sit on the damp ground. Adairia sits beside me and lays a hand on mine. There is warmth in the contact. Looking at her, I see color in her face. I reach up and caress her cheek, she smiles. We look at each other for several minutes, savoring the feel of flesh on flesh.
“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned,” she says, turning back to the priest. “It has been too many years since my last confession.”
“It was this sin which condemned you to remain here?” Father Gregory asks, his voice non-judgmental as he looks from her to me.
“Yes.” She sighs softly. “It condemned Leathan, also.”