Athanasios & Ava discover far more about themselves via a letter than they thought possible.
Previously: 22: Finding The Missing 21: The Hunt
Caring For Her
I awake on a soft bed to find Athanasios smiling at me. As I try to sit up, the room spins and I groan, making me flop back onto the bed like a helpless kitten.
“Careful, you expended a lot of magical energy. It would help if you had sustenance,” he tells me and lifts a silver cloche from a plate to reveal a plate of chicken, corn and fries. My stomach rumbles loudly and the smile on his face is broad. “Come, let me help you,” he tells me as he leans down and picks me up.
“I need the bathroom first,” I admit and he nods, then carries me into the bathroom and sets me down near the toilet. He backs away and lets me do what I need to do. A few moments later, I emerge, leaning heavily on the walls and door frame, still barely able to stand. In seconds, he’s supporting me, guiding me to a small table he’s had set for us both as if I weigh nothing.
“Did you know you could do that?” he asks as I sit. I grab a chicken leg and shake my head as I bite into the tender meat. He laughs and motions for me to carry on. “We’ll talk when you’ve eaten,” he smiles at me. I’m glad, for I could almost eat a horse right now.
Two plates of food later, including a quarter of a chicken, a very good steak and bread, I finally feel full and more human.
“To answer your question,” I begin, “no. I had tried raising two shields during my training, but never could. Not many can in the early stages and I’m surprised I can so soon after arriving here.”
Athanasios nods and smiles. “I contacted your aunt; it seems it might be linked to a family connection here. She says a letter appeared on her desk this morning.”
“My only connection to here is you.” I sip the fruity water that has been provided with the meal; I’ve already drunk one-half of a huge jug.
My husband smiles at me, knowingly as he gently shakes his head. “I believe that is inaccurate, and you do, a magical one. Are you steady enough for a walk, do you think?” He asks and I nod. He tidies up, then he holds his hand out for me.
Slowly, he guides me through the mansion. It’s too new for me to map out, but in the foyer, he guides me to a corridor and leads me down it. I see Aeolus trying to follow, but he can’t. Neither can Eleni and I throw my husband a quizzical look.
“We shall explain in a moment,” he tells me as he guides me around another bend.
The Witches Lair
“We?” I ask and he nods. In silence, he brings me to a wooden door with a carved, ornate tree. Around the door are runes; ones I recognise instantly.
“Do you understand what they’re telling you?” he asks. I look at the words, but they’re out of any sort of order.
“I can, but the sentence doesn’t make sense.” Taking a few steps back until my back is against a wall, I look over the outline of the carved tree. The top branches hold a sentence, as fractured as the runes are. “There are six runes that are separate words. The trick,” I say, smiling, “is to get them into the right order.” Cora appears and holds out a notepad and pen.
“I thought you might need these?” she offers. She’s always smelled of the ocean but today, it’s stronger. For a brief second, our fingers touch and I’m suddenly overwhelmed with information, scenes, conversations and moments of her life that somehow, involve me. When I blink next, Athanasios is holding me and Cora is wringing her hands.
“Ómorfi, what happened?”
“You…” I look at Cora, understanding more than I did this morning. “They do not know, do they?” I ask and she meekly shakes her head.
Athanasios growls but I lay a hand on him. “She’s not a threat. She was…sent, I think? To help. But, why?”
“I promise to tell all; inside,” she says, motioning to the door I still need to open. Smiling at her, I look at the runes, seeing what the order should be in a heartbeat. I hadn’t seen it before, so somehow, Cora and I are linked. Or her kind and I are.
I arrange the runes across the top to read; Protection, Life, Health, Light, Wisdom, and Knowledge. In moments, the door opens and Athanasios gasps as another room is revealed. One I think he didn’t know about, if the look of astonishment on his face is anything to go by.
Inside, it’s laid out as it would be back home: a Witches lair. There’s an empty apothecary cupboard, bookcases that need dusting, and a cauldron that’s cold and empty above a fire that has never been lit.
“Oh my!” The whole room takes my breath away, it’s just like my aunt’s back home; though hers is stocked and this is not. There’s a pad of handmade paper that’s old, perfect for letter writing; or journalling
“Ava, look,” Cora calls to me at the set of French doors. We unbolt them and walk out into a courtyard garden. With raised beds that are empty of plants, I rake my fingers through the poor, dry soil.
I pull in a breath and pause as I see shadows from the past play out scenes before me. A woman who looks similar to me, is working away, writing something, a letter perhaps? A man is there, holding her, hugging her then taking her away from the room. Their clothes are not from this time and the room is much smaller than it is now, as if the time period I’m looking at is when the mansion is just being constructed.
Blast From The Past
In moments, I see things change, get added, children, then, suddenly, it’s all packed up and the woman who looks like me is crying, holding her very pregnant belly and hugging two other children. I see her write a note and place it in the brickwork of the fireplace before she cleans and builds the fire. She turns and someone who looks very much like Cora, smiles at me and guides the lady out, grabbing a pile of letters on the way. I know in an instant that what I saw, are past versions of us as we are now. Ancestors.
I suck in a breath as the images before me fade, revealing Athanasios and Cora looking at me quite concerned.
“We have been here before…at the very start,” I smile at Cora. “Your kind, they swore to protect the witches of this guild, it was your ancestors that helped mine to leave.” I stand and wobble, making me aware that to see what I did, cost me magically. With an assured smile to my husband, I retrieve the letter from the fireplace, breaking the spell placed upon it. Two spells later, the cauldron has water and the fire is lit.
I read the letter, or I try to. I hand it to Athanasios and he reads it out for Cora and me.
“My dear descendant, my name is Agafya Zina Ariti, and I can see you looking in from the empty garden. Your clothes are very different from what I wear, making me believe you and I are connected through time. My husband and I serve the Dragon Shifter, Athanasios. At his request, I made his kind go to sleep. The bad magic he fought against, is gone, for now, but he does not want to stay awake, the pain of not having a fated mate he says is too much. When the Vrykolakas begin to return, they’ll start to awaken and I hope that you find this information, and him this time, before they do.
I will travel north to a country named Alba. With me, I take the blades we forged in the caverns beneath our feet. One day, these blades will return. One day, you’ll be here with your fated mate; Athanasios Orion Zephyr Draganos. Until then, I have much to learn, to pass on, to share and to experience. Brew this for Athanasios when you return; he will need the memories.”
It is the recipe for a tea of a specific herbal blend, none of which I can make up right now and probably won’t be able to for months. This room has no stock. I show the letter to Athanasios, who furrows his brow.
“Why did I want to forget?” he asks. “I do not believe I have a gap in my memories,” he states.
“I do not know,” I exhale. “But, when you saw me, you knew me. I could be a descendant of Agafya,” I offer, “which is why I seem familiar to you, even after all this time,” and he smiles. He holds his hands out for me, pulling me into an embrace so tight, I’m sure even Agafya can feel it through time.
“Vrykolakas,” he hisses after a moment or two.
“What are they?” I ask though I have my suspicions upon hearing the word.
Athanasios squeezes me as he whispers the one being I never thought would walk this Earth again: Vampire.