I walked past the rigid security guard towards my new home. The smell of wood and paint, quite prominent.
Anita, the real estate manager, kept on pestering me with the same question, "Are you perfectly sure you want to live here, Ailith? Not that it's a bad place, but are you positive? No one has lived here ever since the Victorian era, probably. Plus, this place does not receive much sunlight either, then there is the issue of the draught. There are a lot of stories revolving around this particular mansion too you know, especially about a cold queen who caused all this and the-".
I cut off her incessant rambling by saying, "Anita, stop. All these 'stories' about this house are hogwash. You should know better than to believe them. Now, I want you to hire people for housekeeping. Chop chop. We don't have the whole day. I surely wouldn't be able to bother myself for the upkeep of this mansion."
Call me a cold-hearted she-devil but I did what I had to.
The manager simply stared at me and gave a slight nod after a second, the tapping sound of her platform heels against the wood slowly fading as she headed towards her vehicle.
A faint beeping of my cell phone was brought to my attention. My mother was continuously spamming me with text messages, inviting me to my half-sister's bachelorette party. But I had no interest in such mindless activities with people I couldn't bring myself to care about anymore.
Deciding to get work done, I started inspecting the rooms and the halls, looking for any left nooks and crooks that might have to be fixed.
One of the main reasons I picked this house out of all that I had seen because of its great attention to art. The architecture, especially of the walls and ceiling, was very enrapturing, the details carved so very precisely.
One particular painting in the ceiling caught my eye. The composition of the painting was curious. My eyes, moving from place to place, unable to decide what the focus of the piece is. The art was reflecting the chaos inside the artist. The colors were vivid, almost to the point of garish. The stroke lines bold and the images from out of this world. It was both stunning and head-ache inducing, like a novel condensed onto a single page.
The painting extended into another room. My curiosity aroused, I couldn't help but follow its trail.
It led to a room I hadn't quite noticed properly before. The huge teakwood doors had intricate carvings on them. Above the doorknob was a slightly embedded painting of a beautiful silver dagger with emeralds jutted in it. Every inch of this mansion was inspected carefully by me, yet for some reason, I'd unknowingly missed this room.
It felt as if some unknown force was summoning me to the room. The mansion suddenly seemed a bit too quiet. Not the peaceful kind of quietness but the eerie kind of silence, the one which makes you shudder and sends a chill down your spine.
I was probably being paranoid. Maybe those old folklores were starting to get to me. Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was the cabbage juice I unwillingly drank this morning.
The door opened with a creak. I winced at the harsh noise. I would have to tell Anita to do something about it. She usually isn't expected to take care of matters as such but a little bit of money can do wonders in this world.
The room was really large. Abnormally large to be even considered a 'room'. It was more like a hall. Or maybe even a medieval king's court...
There were several huge gold chairs aligned side by side. The one in the center was the grandest. Tall and covered in a sheet of silver, diamonds embedded on the edges of the armrest. Even though the room was very dusty, it couldn't conceal the beauty of the room. I gasped as I saw the huge chandelier above me, covered by moths and bugs of all sorts. But, the strangest thing was that the candles of the chandelier were lit. The wick of those candles glowed uncannily.
I slowly backed away to reach the door of the room, when my body made contact with a huge cloaked figure. I let out a blood-curling scream as I stared at his bony, mouth-less face. Its eyes were pitch-black vertical thin slits. It reached out its hand to touch my face. My heart was pounding rapidly in my chest. I was then falling through a rabbit hole, like Alice. Except, I didn't know whether it would lead to an adventure or my demise.
After a few seconds, which felt like eons to me, we reached someplace when a voice spoke out.
"The verdict is in your hands, your majesty."
I turned around to see a pair of familiar dark black eyes staring at my eyes.
I looked around to see I was in the middle of a court, sitting on a raised platform and everyone was looking right at me.
"Sentence him to a hanging. This is what happens to thieves in my kingdom."
A powerful yet cold voice commanded.
A thin lanky man, wearing tattered and torn clothes started pleading, "Please, your highness. I have a family back home. I had to provide them with grub. It wasn't a good harvest this year. I beg you, your majesty. Please give me other chance. I am the only bread-winner in my family. I won't steal ever again. Please. I beg of you."
The same voice said again, "Take the peasant away. I have no time to waste on people of low class. "
Two built men holding sharp swords grabbed the peasant roughly and started pushing him away to the exit. The poor man was in hysterics.
Everyone looked at me in disgust, hatred, and disappointing looks. Or...were they all looking at someone behind me?...
I turned around and gasped to see a lady, who appeared to be no more than her mid-twenties. The shocking part was that she shared the same features as mine. The same jet black hair, olive skin, and deep grey eyes resembling a storm of rage, fury, and anger. With her calculative steps, she seemed to walk right through him. As if I were a hologram.
I raised my hands to see completely through them. I couldn't even feel myself. It was as if I were a ghost. My hands were shaking and my lips trembling. I screamed out loud when a voice whispered in my ear, "Watch."
The cloaked figure was right beside me. I avoided looking at its face to prevent my throat from going dry from all the screaming I have been doing.
The lady who shared an uncanny resemblance to me was no longer in the court.
It looked exactly like the one in that strange room of the mansion! Except it was clean, maintained, and looked majestical. The gold-plated chairs were sparkling in the light of the candles. I looked at the man, who asked her majesty about her verdict. He was conversing with another aged man. I debated on eavesdropping.
I gulped and headed towards them, the mysterious figure trailing behind me.
"-too much. We must do something about it, Chancellor. Our subjects will start protesting. She does not deserve the throne. My son is much more capable of this position. It's high time or else-", the aged man was cut off by the man with dark black eyes, the Chancellor.
"She is young, Commander. She was setting an example. Leniency has no place in a kingdom like ours. However,- "
"Nonsense! If it's money you desire, you shall have it. But if you shan't do something, I will take the matters into my own hand. Good day, Chancellor."
The commander let out a breath and started speed-walking towards another hallway. This one was dimly lit, a few candles flickering because of the light summer breeze.
The scene then suddenly changed to us in a huge room, not that extravagant but still enough to give the vibe of a 'royal' room.
The queen was sitting gazing out the window.
The chancellor stated, "Your majesty, perhaps you should re-think your decision. People aren't satisfied with the new laws you have passed either. Most are unhappy and-"
"Are they? Yet no one was brave enough to voice it. My decision still stands."
It seemed as if the temperature in the dropped by a degree whenever she spoke. She then walked up to the dressing table near the window, which seemed very familiar. It looked exactly like the one I had in my room in the mansion.
A sudden realization hit me. This was the main manor of the kingdom. And it had an uncanny resemblance to my mansion. This was my mansion! In just a different era...
What was I doing here? I seemed pretty calm for a person who had just traveled back in time with a strange creature with me.
"Your mother is upset with you disregarding her invitation for a ball." The chancellor continued.
"I told her I have other matters that need my attention. I can't attend some no-good ball anytime soon."
"Einar, don't do this.", he whispered softly.
"I would have to ask you to leave, Chancellor Darius. " she said, her tone still void of any emotion.
The cloaked figure was looking at me all this while as if it were making a note of all my emotions.
The scene soon shifted to that in a temple. There were engravings and murals on the walls of the inner temple, depicting old mythological stories. The walls were high, decorated with exquisite art. Gold sculptures on every corner of the wall illuminated the temple. There was a golden tint in every part of this temple, which made it appear revered and god-like.
The queen was praying in front of a huge statue of an unknown deity. The statue had to be above fifteen feet at least, decorated with the most magnificent jewels.
The old commander, along with a few temple priests, was a few feet away from her. There was an evil glint in the commander's eyes. And somehow I knew what was going to happen.
"Move!", I yelled out to the queen.
But all my shouts and screams fell into deaf ears.
"They can neither see nor hear you." The cloaked figure hissed.
Such a great help.
The commander swished out a very familiar dagger and threw it at the queen.
Chancellor Darius was right there. But he didn't do anything. He didn't even bat an eyelash. Just stood there, staring at her as she turned around, gave the commander and the chancellor a menacing smile as she uttered the words, "May you feel pain twice as much as I did on the twelfth full moon. May you burn in the depths of hell. I curse you."
She looked at Chancellor Darius and gave him a sad smile, "You promised me."
Darius whispered, "I had no choice. I warned you. Ein-"
"You always have a choice. Always...I loved you. God be with ye, Darius."
The queen uttered, her eyes slowly fluttered shut as she fell onto the ground.
It seemed even nature sensed the death of the queen. The weather had a slight chill to it. The trees were swaying with the howling wind as it mourned her loss. Nature was the cocoon before birth and it was the nest even after death.
I was back in the dusty room of the present time mansion.
Gasping for breath, I leaned against one of the pillars, my eyes were watery.
The cloaked figure was still beside me, staring at me. I still hadn't gotten used to him and my heart was palpitating.
"Einar.", he hissed. I assumed it was a 'he'.
"I am not Einar. My name is Ailith.", I said.
"Einar. In a different form. Fix your mistakes. One chance.", he hissed.
I squinted my eyes, "Who are you?"
Upon my asking of this question, it seemed as if his eyes turned even more black.
"You will know. But for now, remember the twelfth night. You will get only one chance.", he hissed.
"One chance for what?! Who are you?! Tell me now, or I swear to god I will...I will...do something bad."
The cloaked figure hissed even more. God, was he a snake? His bony hands touched my face once more and I was falling. Again.
"Your majesty? Your majesty, are you all right?" I looked up to see the old Commander. Except, he wasn't that old now. His hair was silvering only at the roots, unlike the previous time I saw him. But, he had the same permanent frown etched on his face.
Figuring I was a hologram this time as well, I started backing away. But his eyes seemed to follow me.
"Do you need a medic, your majesty?", he asked again, looking for any visible scars on my body.
Oh my God. Please don't tell me it is what I think it is.
I raised my hands to see them completely solid. Flesh and bone. I looked at my attire to see I was wearing the attire of a royal. The queen's attire.
Darkness engulfed me and I fell limp on the ground.
'That damned cloaked creature was going to have to give me some answers the next time I saw him.'
If only I had known that this wasn't the end of it. My destiny was far greater than I could ever imagine.
Meanwhile, in the present time, the queen was having trouble understanding the happenings of the modern world.
To be continued...