And the next day, while they, my strange relations, seemed to be away momentarily (for Rosario said they had gone for the day), I searched in vain as Raven instructed -- for the tomb of Lenora.
I had traveled through various corridors, not knowing what to find, when a mist occluded my vision. I opened my eyes . . . still foggy . . . and felt . . .weak. If I had known then, I would have already discerned danger, would have fled.
I braced myself against the cold, stone walls . . . what could it have been?
"Where are you going sweet cousin?" came a whisper.
"Yes, where are you going?" came another, and I turned around to find both Lisbetta and Esmeralda there. They had cornered me . . .
"Come to learn more about the family? Perhaps Lenora as well?" came a taunt.
I shivered, cold as ice their auras were, froze me.
"No, I was just taking a walk."
"Oh . . . a . . . walk. A pleasant walk." Said Lisbetta.
"Yes, I can see that. I must imagine these walls, decorum-less and cold, must invite such idle fancies."
Both continued to corner me and then I heard a hard thud come from my own body. I turned. There, stood the haughty, irrepressible Jose, his eyes fixed on me, unmoving. He took me by the shoulders after I had stupidly walked right into him, not knowing he was there. He studied my face, quietly.
"Elvira," is all he said, but I heard glass break in the presence of his voice and the candles extinguish. I screamed and shoved him away. Making my way through both demoniacs, I ran down the hall into nowhere, it seemed. My breast was tight with panic, and fear. Now I had lost he supplies Raven had given me for the rite, and I was surely doomed!
I ran, still seeing the broken glass in Jose's hand, and a smile that was more hostile than kind. I ran, this way and that . . . ended up at some sort of spiral staircase that leading underground, and lit with dying flames. But . . . how?
Following the steps, I was made to duck lower, as the steps now spiraled deeper, closer to its centre. I was in a dungeon. But it grew so dark now I could not see . . .
Distraught with fear, I reached out. My foot kicked something hard that rolled against the wall. I breathed hard, felt my way against the walls and knew I was walking amongst the corpses of the dead.
I stumbled, made my way towards a pinprick of light that grew denser. It was a hole in the old mortar!
Quickly, I scrambled through the just big enough hole, a craggy circle, blessed by God.
The night air bit, my feet were utmost sore, but I ran. I ran as fast as I could, as far away as I could from the damned castle, and my vile relations . . . still not knowing the reason why I had been called there. But I did not care to know anymore, I only wanted to leave, to escape, to get away as fast as possible and go back home.
By the time I reached the nearest town, I collapsed in a heap. I barely made it to the nearest church and fell upon my knees in the pew, eager for rest as well as assistance. I would go back home, I would not stay!
The strange looks I received were more than enough to provoke the realisation that I was not welcome here, nor safe. This was a dangerous country obsessed with bloodshed for religion's sake, and they knew something about my relatives -- they knew.
And what was it? I thought long and hard and remembered Jose, his eyes gleaming, and I remembered. I looked at my wrist, which he must have slashed at before I had realised it, for it was now bleeding through my gown. And now I dared to recall why his smile had frightened me. He had tasted my blood, and his lips had been red and gleaming.
If the townspeople thought I was one of them . . .
And then, as I crossed myself and dabbed water, holy water, on my skin, I heard a strange breathing. Directly to my left side, a woman veiled in dull white, like stained ivory, caught my eye.
She spoke in a serpent-like voice and turned towards me on a neck like palest, dead flesh.
It was Lenora, or else perhaps a hallucination. I crossed myself again, at the right of the lifeless body; the unhallowed gaze . . . she lifted the veil . . .
"No!" I shouted, and ran towards the mid-section of that Baroque cathedral, rushing past curious spectators who could only imagine what ensued. I made m way through the mid-apex and out of the church's exaggeratedly grotesque entrance doors.
Where to now? I could only wonder. Luckily, I still had some gold, in a fine silk pouch, hidden in my bosom. I would take a train towards a far-away country, as far away from this hot southern soil as possible. At least for now.
I remembered the song of the Rhennish, and the weeping bride. I would go there, to the Rhennish Land, rest there, and then write to Leo. Tell him everything. And then I would return to Raven.