Chapter OneThree Thousand Years Later
The snow fell softly onto the ground, little white flurries glittering like precious gem.
The mountains and forests are covered with it; yet it is melting as well. Spring was just around the bend, waiting to breathe new life into the ground and air. Rhinestone, a little field village, lay nestled in a basin surrounded by the great Twilight Forest and the mountains looming higher than any castle that has been built or will be created. The mountains, known as the Fangs of the Dragons, has been guarding this place for generations, protecting its people from outsiders who dare to intrude on their land.
The stories say that whoever enters the Twilight Forest was never seen again; even the villagers are afraid to travel near the dark trees where ogres were said to live and giant owls flew among the firs and pines. Yet the people were oddly content to stay in a place surrounded by these trees, knowing they were safe from harm.
The cottages were all made of rough gray stone with thatched roofs made of hay, all tied and fitted together with twine in multiple layers. The villagers were an array of colors, sizes, and voices.
Hugo Fortmé, the fifty-two year-old smithy, was a burly man with thick arms, heavily muscled from his years of making weapons, horseshoes, and wagon attachments. He was dark skinned with the green eyes most common of the village that showed mirth and warmth whenever he smiled; otherwise he had a permanent scowl from working in the forge all day. On good day, people would hear him whistle a merry tune.
Mr. and Mrs. Plum, the bakers, were both in their early forties with unusual blond hair and gray eyes. Both were plump around the middle. They had a daughter, Evangeline, sixteen years of age, and her little brother Tommy, who was ten, helped with selling the goods and bringing them to friends who were in need of food. Roth Fortmé, a black haired/green eyed man of twenty, was the smithy’s son, whose mother had died in childbirth. He had the full lips like his mother, but the similarities stopped there. He had high cheekbones like his father, along with the almost square jaw that had slight stubble and angled eyes which reminded people of a cat.
Felicity Dawnright was called ‘the classic beauty’ for her sensuous curves, flaring hips, arched brows, full lower lip, and full breasts. Almost every man wanted her, but she didn’t give them a single thought for her target was Roth. Being eighteen, the young lady thought she could have everything her heart desired since her father was mayor of their village; yet Roth never seemed to notice her.
She wanted to be married before she reached twenty and the smith’s son seemed like the perfect candidate. Felicity was determined to have him.
Her father, Frederick Dawnright, was entering his late forties, with thinning black hair, a thick moustache starting to gray, and was a little overweight.
Felicity’s mother, Simone, was the exact replica of her daughter, only with a harder attitude. She believed everything must go her way if their family was to get everything they wanted and dreamed for.
Everyone in the village had a different personality and features; but there was one who was oddest of all. Her long golden blond hair waved gently down her back with a few tendrils escaping her red bandana. Her irises were silver rimmed with the rest of the color being as blue as the far ocean and skin the color of peaches.
Her name was Silvianna Nightrose, nineteen years of age, with the figure of a woman fully grown. Silvianna was wearing a woolen dress that scratched her skin, but after wearing it for most of her life she was used to it. She was under a magnolia tree with a red cloak around her shoulders to keep the chill out, avoiding as much sun as possible.
She was reading a book her mistress let her have, believing young ladies deserved to know about the world outside their own. Silvianna loved reading and was happy to have a small bookcase in her room. There were not very many books around since the traders only come once a month, but what she did have she treasured. The book was just one thing; she also had a silver brush, which Mistress Harborne had bought for her the first time Silvianna had come to the village.
She stopped reading for a few minutes, thinking. She couldn’t remember where she originally came from; all the young woman remembered were some faint happy memories and then the screams of her parents as they were murdered when she was three. She also remembered a dark space and she thought it had been some kind of cabinet which her mother had hid her in.
Rosanna Nightrose and her husband, Gerick, had been brutally murdered in their home, her mistress once told her. They believed Rosanna had been a witch because of her healing abilities. She had had the power to help the injured and sick. Silvianna didn’t know if her mother had indeed been a witch and wanted to know more, but Harborne had warned her not to say anything.
Silvianna sighed and went back to her book. She wanted to know so much about her parents, but when Mistress Synthia Harborne warns people about something, she was usually right about the warning. How she did know was beyond Silvianna’s knowledge, but she loved her mistress and was happy to have her around.
As she continued her book, a shadow fell on her and a girl’s voice sneered, “Are you reading again, Silvi? Shouldn’t you be out milking the cows or something?”
Silvianna looked up and saw Felicity, looking every inch the mayor’s daughter. The two of them had been enemies since Silvianna came here and the girl was curious why Felicity hated her so much; Silvianna hadn’t done anything to earn that malice from the younger woman. Plus, she hated the way Felicity talked, as if the world should revolve around her when in reality it never would.
More than anything though, she was annoyed by the jokes and sneers the younger woman sent her way just because she looked and sounded different from the rest of the village. Silvianna suspected her hatred also stemmed from the fact that Roth was Silvianna’s best friend, who calls her Silvi; in fact, he was the one who came up the endearing name.
They’ve been inseparable since they had been kids. Unknown to everyone, she had secretly been harboring feelings for the young man. Growing up, when most of the males stayed away from her, Roth remained by her side through thick and thin. The older they got, the more her crush turned into something else, though she couldn’t put a name to it.
Her body would warm up whenever he looked into her eyes, feeling a bond that ran deeper than blood, and always wondered why he bothered with her when so many other young women had been vying for his attention. All she would think about was him nowadays and wondered why. Why was he always with her and not those whom he had known longer than her? What
made her different from the others that had caught his attention?
Felicity was one of the females who were trying to catch his attention, but so far nothing happened; it was almost like Roth wasn’t even aware of the others or her. Yet Silvianna knew she wouldn’t give up until the man was her husband so she could bear strong children. Felicity was used to getting what she wanted.
Silvianna sighed, though she tried to pleasant, at least a little. “Good morning to you, Felicity. I didn’t think you would be up this early; the sun hasn’t even reached its peak. To what do I owe this honor?”
She scoffed at Silvianna’s sarcasm. “Do not disrespect me, or I’ll make sure you never marry.” She flicked her long black hair over her shoulder for emphasis on her next statement. “Not that you would ever find a man that would take you. Nobody goes for the light-haired.”
She shrugged, despite feeling stung. “The bakers are fair-haired, in case you haven’t noticed.”
Felicity waved her hand dismissively. “They were born here and have lived here all their lives, so we accepted them. It’s the outsiders we don’t trust.” Silvianna heard the mocking in her words but didn’t react because she was used to it. A lot of the villagers believed she was a curse that will someday doom all of them. She stayed silent and Felicity smiled unpleasantly. “Anyway, other than that little bit of fun, I mainly came here because I need a favor.”
Silvianna raised an eyebrow. “I thought you didn’t trust outsiders,” she said lightly even though her heart hurt from the fact that she was an outsider in some way. She could never fit in with anyone accept for Roth who shared her passion to knowing about the outside world and a few young ladies back at the Nightwing home she was living in until she could think about what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.
She wanted to be a scholar, working in a library filled with knowledge of the past. Or maybe a traveling librarian would suit her best; anything that involved getting knowledge would be the best thing in the world. Well, besides having Roth as well, but she didn’t want to bother him with her feelings, especially when he didn’t feel what she did for him. Better to stay best friends rather than lose him.
Felicity crossed her arms. “I don’t, but you are, unfortunately, the only one can help without having the whole village knowing. I want your help in getting Roth to me.” There was a demanding note in her tone that raised Silvianna’s hackles, though she tried to keep her annoyance from being expressed on her face.
Rolling her eyes, Silvi said, “If you want to catch him, you have to do so yourself, not push others into doing it. It will boost confidence if the challenges are faced head on. That’s the only way you will get what you want.” This child will never learn if she keeps rejecting someone’s advice and that annoyed Silvianna so much more. Why couldn’t Felicity deal with problem on her own?
Snorting she answered, “That’s a lie; the only way to win is to cheat, as we all know.” She placed her hands on her perfect hips and thrust her chest out proudly. “Look, I’m the most beautiful woman in the whole village and it’s obvious that Roth is the most handsome man in these parts. He has to marry me in order to even get anywhere in life; money is everything, you see, and I intend to use that and my beauty to teach that.”
Silvianna rubbed her forehead, feeling the headache come on like it always does when Felicity was blabbering. “He’ll only go for you if you were nice, but all you’ve done is to try to be seductive. He likes natural girls; not princess wannabes. Besides, Roth knows what he wants to do; he wants to travel the world like me.”
Felicity yawned in boredom. “Interesting. You two are crazy if you think you can find out about the world beyond here; there’s nothing but trees and ruins.”
She gestured with her book. “Maybe if you read more, you would learn that the world is much bigger than that.”
Felicity looked disgusted. “Books,” she said scornfully. “That’s the problem; you and Roth are so far into your fantasies that you don’t think of the things that really matter. I’ll beat that out of him as soon as we’re married, which brings me back to the request. Will you help me win him or not?” It sounded more like a demand than a request, one she wasn’t going to give in to.
Silvianna shook her head, her decision firm in her mind. “I won’t; you’re on your own.”
Felicity looked shocked at the refusal but recovered and smiled sweetly even though it looked stiff. “That’s too bad; I was going to tell you something about your mother that I know of. Oh well, see you around, Silvi.” She left before Silvianna could say anything, feeling the shock on her face. What did Felicity know about her mother? No one knew who she was, not really. What could the young woman know about a virtual stranger?
Surprisingly she kept herself from calling the girl back. She wouldn’t use Roth like that, not even to know more about her mother and father. She took a deep breath while closing her book after saving the page and picked up the bucket that was by her. She was supposed to be milking their cow but had forgotten about it until Felicity showed up. Bucket in hand she went into the barn which was situated near the dark trees, right by the bakery.
She patted the black and white cow on its back. “Good morning, Mudpie.” The cow had gotten that name because she reminded Silvianna of mud on clean sheets. “How are you doing this morning?” Although she couldn’t read the animal’s mind, she could feel her emotions, and Mudpie was feeling content today. That was good; for some reason the milk always tasted sweeter the better the cow felt. She smiled. “Good. After I milk you, I’ll give an apple for your troubles.” The cow’s emotions went from content to happy. “I thought so.”
Placing the wooden bucket under the animal, Silvianna grabbed the stool and sat to start milking. As she did so, she talked of the book she was reading, knowing Mudpie would understand her words. She also talked of how Felicity had tried to get Silvianna to help her win Roth and they both shared their displeasure.
When the cow had a curious feeling, Silvianna told her the girls at home were doing well and that Martha, her other best friend, was getting married to the logger’s son. The marriage ceremony would be taking place in early spring.
After the bucket was filled and Silvianna had given her companion the apple, she walked out of the barn, but then stopped and looked at the woods. It always intrigued her, the soft twilit glow, the colors, even though the quiet sounds it emitted. It was like a whole other world.
Not knowing why she was doing this, Silvi placed the bucket down, walked over to the Twilight Forest’s edge and peered inside. Even though it was bright outside, the trees looked as if they were in twilight, which had given the forest its name. Silvianna was always drawn to it but had never entered it without the one path that cut through the trees and mountains.
She looked around and seeing no one in sight walked in, immediately feeling the cool shadows of the trees. Rather than being afraid, she felt content here as if she had been going through the woods all her life. This brought back a faint memory; she used to live somewhere similar to these woods. Although it was slightly dark, her eyes were immediately comforted by the darkness. It didn’t faze her as she walked farther in. If anything, she felt at home.
The call of a bird drew her attention to a branch right above her, making her eyes widen in wonder. On the tree’s limb sat the most beautiful bird she had ever seen. It had a silver beak and the body looked black, but when it moved the feathers shimmered with the colors from dawn to afternoon, to dusk, and finally to night.
It was about the size of her hands put together, with red eyes glittering with knowledge. Oh, how she wished she could understand animal’s thoughts; the stories this bird could tell.
Then it surprised her by answering what she was thinking. ‘I could tell you anything you would like to know about the forests and the world beyond.’
It had a light female voice that made it sound like singing. ‘I am Sonya, a Dayling of the Twilight Forest.'
The bird cocked her elegant head, studying Silvianna. 'I see I have surprised you.’
Silvianna blinked and stared in wonderment. “I’m sorry; it’s just that I have never spoken to an animal before. Please forgive my manners. My name is-“‘Silvianna Nightrose,’
the bird, Sonya, said.
Her mouth gaped like a fish’s. “How did you know that was my name?” she asked.
She heard soft laughter in her mind as Sonya fluttered down onto a lower branch. ‘I know all about you, dear. I used to watch you at night from when you were very young. I was also a servant and a friend to your mother, Rosanna.’
This time a gasp escaped. “You knew my mother?” When the Dayling nodded, that’s when the questions spilled out. “How did you know her? What was she like? Was she a witch like the rumors said? Did she love me?” That last threw her off guard, but she had to know either way.
Sonya ruffled her feathers. ‘Slow down, child,’
she said soothingly. ‘I will tell you all you want to know. Your mother was indeed a witch, but she was a gentle creature who had a heart. When we had been younger, she had saved me from a trap designed to catch Daylings because we have a very special value for our feathers. My wing had been broken at the time; she took me in and cared for me until I was better.
‘The thing was,’
she added as she cleaned her wing which Silvi suspected had been the broken one, ‘our bond was so strong that I could not leave. I didn’t want to either. We became close friends. Her powers were strong for someone so young. She was ten when she rescued me. You may not believe this, but even though she was a witch, she never used her powers for evil; only to help those who were in need. Her hair was as black as night, skin as white and clear as snow. You have her eyes, shape wise; but hers were fully silver as to where you only have the outline of the color. I know very well that she loved you very much, so much that she would do everything in her power to protect you from harm.’
Tears were streaming from her eyes at hearing about her mother. Now she was glad she had come here instead of allowing Felicity’s cruelty in. “So my mother was a witch after all.” She clasped her hands. “What of my father? Where did we live before I came here? I only remember it being in woods like these.”
She cooed in thought. ‘Gerick was an interesting mortal. Rosanna had come to a village about a weeks’ ride from here and they had met in the tavern called Hog’s Bones. Being her companion, I was with her the whole way, even during the day time. She had stayed there for a few months and they had fallen in love in that time. You have the same colored hair as him and the blue in your eyes resembled his. They went back to her home, which was somewhere in the Twilight Forest as well, where he learned of her witchcraft; yet he was not afraid or shunned her for what she was. He loved her, and when you were born, that made your parents the happiest people in the world.’
“What happened?” Silvianna asked after a few seconds. “Who killed my family and why am I still alive?”
The bird looked at her with deep sorrow and Silvi knew Sonya’s sadness was genuine. ‘Your mother knew danger would come when you reached the age of three. They, the villagers whom she had stayed with, were under the assumption that she was a witch, which was true. She had helped heal the dying while staying there. They had thought Gerick was brainwashed and decided it was too dangerous to have either on them around.'
Silvianna interrupted with a frown. “But if my mother knew we were in danger, why didn’t she try to leave? Why stay if she knew the outcome?”
'She and Gerick did not want to leave their home; they had hoped that they could handle the villagers because of Rosanna’s powers and his knowledge of the sword. However, what they did not know what that the people were cursed. The being that put the people under a spell has not been seen or heard of for thousands of years. Nobody knew about you, however, so your parents hid you inside a cupboard and told you to stay until it was safe. In the end, they were killed while you were saved. After that horrific night, Synthia Harborne found you on the edge of the wood here, nearly starved to death.’
Silvianna wiped her eyes. “She saved my life. She had nursed me back to health and took me in when no one else would. Why?”
‘I cannot answer that, my girl. Only time will allow you to know the truth.’
Suddenly she tensed and said urgently, ‘You must leave; it is not safe here for you, my child. It approaches. Run! Hide!’
She raised her hand beseechingly. “Wait! Who is coming? What truth? Where are you going?”
The bird hovered in the air, wings changing colors at every movement. ‘The servant of the Wolf Queen; it comes. You must leave before it takes you. Be careful child; we will meet again. Go!’
Sonya flew away before Silvianna could answer and she started running back home, panic and fear hitting her now, along with the branches on the trees as they tear into her dress. She didn’t run very far before the wolf jumped into her path, stopping her in her tracks with a gasp. The beast was the size of a horse, with thick, coarse fur.
On its forehead was a symbol she didn’t recognize; it had a triangle with a face of a snarling wolf with three dots outside the triangle. The creature’s fur was black and white, the colors perfectly balanced. Its eyes were solid black; no pupils or whites like a normal eye. It had two long fangs in either side of its mouth that reached an inch below its jaw. Silvianna didn’t want to know what those would feel like if they bit into her flesh.
Silvi looked left and right as she backed away from the pacing wolf but couldn’t find a way around it; even if she did, she doubted it would stay here as she tried to find a different way out. In her mind she said, ‘What do I do? What do I do?’
And Sonya surprised her yet again. ‘Make it leave, Silvianna.’
She felt some relief at her hearing the Dayling’s voice, but the panic was still there. ‘How do I do that? I can’t fight that thing!’
‘You can, my child,’
she answered soothingly. ‘You are stronger than you think. You can make it leave by-'
Before she could say what Silvianna should do, the beast lunged. Panic made her run, but trees blocked her now. Looking back, she saw the animal gaining on her, and Silvi raised her hands in a vain effort to protect herself.
What happened next made her watched in shock.
As the wolf neared, a flash of light came out her raised hands, striking it in the chest. It gave a yelp as it stopped in its spot, the smell of singed fur wafting the breeze. Looking down, she saw sparks fading from her fingertips. Was that…lightning?
Sonya’s voice seemed surprised yet gleeful. ‘You made magic! You are indeed Rosanna’s daughter.’
The beast seemed to have regained its balance and was pacing towards her again, wary. The Dayling continued. ‘You can make this creature leave, Silvi. Use your mind, put all of your emotion, past and present, into your internal voice. The wolf will not be able to resist a straight command as long as you are stronger. You can do it; I believe in you.’
Silvi swallowed and took a deep breath as the wolf paced closer. She let all of her feelings of past anger, panic, and happiness out as she yelled, ‘Go away! You don’t belong here, beast; this is my home and I will not let you keep me from it!’
The force from her mind stunned even her when it blasted into the wolf, pushing it back out of her way.
It stood and shook its fur before growling at her; then it went loping back into the woods, as silent as it had been when it appeared. Her heart was pounding by what she had done and what had almost happened to her as Silvianna ran back into her village, wondering what she had gotten herself into this time.