The room was warm and lightless. Madame L’Enfer sat, face down, a deep red cowl covering her head.
“I knew you would return, dear one.”
“You have seen Stephane again, have you not? Yes. But . . . now you fear, you are haunted . . .”
“I would like assistance Madame, I need to break this hex that was started by my ancestor.”
The seer sighed.
“Her death, was tragic. No matter what kind of woman she was, she herself is haunted.”
The seer’s eyes seemed to seep tears . . .
“She has come to me too. Has told me many things. She is not who she once was, for now she is a dark anima, a dark soul blotted out by the sun, eternally tormented.”
“What must I do to bring her the peace she needs — to leave us be? . . .”
The mystic cocked her head.
“You must retrace her steps . . . you must go to her resting place.”
“But I do not know where she really died. Her husband claimed he buried her but we do not know for sure.”
“Ah, but I do know. You are going to see your relations overseas? There is a link there. Their calling to you, a link, a piece of the mystery. And there, you will find the clues. They are not so well-hidden as you imagine.”
“So she did not really die on the ship? I do not understand.”
“I will help you, send someone with you, but, you must be careful because it will be very dangerous, this place you are going, and you must be wary.”
With that, she rose and held out her hand. I procured seven gold lariattes, then was led outside. She pointed to the moon.
“Over there, dear, beyond these woods, is a young hunter known as Raven. He can help you. He also knows much about his own familiar magics.”
I left Madame, and, with great trepidation, encountered the woods.
Suddenly, I felt as if I were in a different world. The huge forest frightened me. Owls, with giant flapping wings lurched out and the moss was slippery. I followed a seemingly rough-hewn trail in the woods that seemed to wind further and further into obscurity; and then, I saw something, or rather, him.
He was leaning over, his eyes focused . . . on some thing. Two dogs, two very large dogs, surrounded him. He seemed to hear me and turned. His hair was parted and longer — he had eyes as dark as night itself, yet, he looked strange to me somehow . . . was he one of the people we referred to as the D’elrainni? His eyes certainly were like black pools . . . and looked through me.
“Who do you seek?” he said, in a strange, accented tongue. “You seek answers to something? Ah, yes no doubt she sent you.”
His words were gently spoken and he seemed to reach out to me.
“I know who you are, No need for introductions. You know as well, she sent you to me. Do not be afraid, we D’elrainni have been spoken of rather negatively for many generations but I assure you there is nothing to fear.”
“I am sorry, I do not know anything of you or your kind — I do not hold any preconceptions I can assure you.”
He only smiled.
“So, tell me what you are going to do, and what you need?”
“Well, I was summoned by my family overseas, and Madame said I may find clues there as to how to stop a family curse.”
“You are going to cross the sea, but not only that child, but cross into a different world, I can assure you of that. What you seek is an answer from a grave, and there you will find it. I can take you there as a companion, but I must be paid up-front and we must leave early, for already I feel a possession that has taken hold. Your very soul may be in danger.”
I do not know why he called me a child, but perhaps he was old. They say the D’elrainni do not age like we do — we of human blood. He may have been at least several decades old, but appeared no more nor less than around late twenties, early thirties . . .
(I touched my face. Did Lynoria attempt to possess me now?)
“You know everything?”
He nodded and smiled.
“I am called Raven’s Eye, but just call me Raven, please. These are my pets . . . do not fear them.”
The snarling . . . wolves, for that is what they were, seemed to calm under his command.
“My father used to be a guide, and his before . . . this was long ago, before your people, before any of the others who came here. From the first, we learned how to lie; from the second, blood was spilled; but from the third, much mingling of blood and mingling of magics between my people, yours, and every other race and clan; some of your slaves’ procurements proved much more to our liking.”
“My mother, after my father was killed, loved a great one of these mighty and proud people kept in chains — the Salamanti. He taught us many things, how to combat darkness; how to curse an enemy; how to undo witchery . . . But, come, let us go and prepare then child.”
I took out the velvet bag of coins.
He looked at me.
“You need not pay me now, do not worry. We can talk about that later.”
He led the way through the wood and paused now and then to speak to his pets, Chanticle and Chantteer.
“Tomorrow, there is a ship sailing across the seas. She shines bright, the ‘Solemn’ — have you heard of her?”
“No. I’ve never been on a ship before.”
“You will tell them that I am your guide, and I will escort you and protect you, but, I shall leave you once you are at the abode of your family. You must proceed alone then. But do not fear, I sense great intelligence and common sense in you, and I think you will be fine. Have you anything you need to bring? Pack quickly child, and I will take you to the ship tomorrow. I will also give you some amulets and charms that I have made myself, to wear around your neck, your fingers.”
He looked gently at me.
“And I will tell you what you must do.”