The final installment to the prologue to The Keepers…
M’thair sat on the edge of the wall surrounding the large family estate, afraid to take the final steps that would take her over the stones that were supposed to confine her. She watched the light of the sun turn the sky rosy and the last stars disappear. She shivered as her thoughts wandered back to the cave where Edzel lay, presumably waiting for her. She looked at her hands and felt her face. She was young again. She knew that she needed to make up her mind.
A lean shadow moved beneath her.
“Are you coming down?” the shadow asked.
M’thair mumbled something under her breath.
“Sorry, dear, what did you say?” the shadow retorted mockingly. She knew he had heard her. He shifted to look up at her. His eyes glinted with surprise. “By Orn! You’ve done it!” Reaching a hand out to her, he touched her foot. M’thair jumped to her feet and would have taken a step back if she could.
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” she said, trying to hide the fear the was once again resurfacing.
“But you do, little sister.” The man tugged at her feet. “Come down. You and I need to have a little discussion.”
“I didn’t do it,” M’thair protested. But she knew it was a lie. She could feel it in her bones and very soul. She had finally crossed the line.
“You stole much more than youth,” M’thair’s brother cooed. “After all your lectures about that sort of magic.”
“I won’t be lectured by you!”
“No? Well I suppose not. But tell me dear sister, how does it feel? Yes, I can see it in your eyes. The blood lust has turned to something darker. You can feel the life in you and you are young…far younger than you really are. Oh, don’t play coy. You enjoy the feeling of life and vitality. Tell me, who did you steal if from? A girl or a boy? No, a young man? Do you have a lover? Heh, heh.”
“I hate you,” M’thair said coldly.
“Hate is a powerful binding and you know that I prefer your hatred to any simpering words of love. But come now, tell me. This youth, is he handsome? You didn’t fall for some village simpleton? No, he had to be strong. I can see the strength of his spirit in your eyes. Oh, dear one, if you could just see your eyes, they are on fire with the life you stole! So rare and beautiful…you were always so rare.” Again he reached out to her, as if wanting to caress her face.
A tear fell down M’thair’s face. “How long will it last?”
“Much longer than your silly moon rites do, longer if you don’t practice any of the arts,”
M’thair cursed and wiped the tear away.
“I don’t practice those arts!” The man gave her a knowing look. “Well, not like you. I haven’t…not like…you…” M’thiar cursed again. I didn’t, I wouldn’t, she thought. But she knew that neither of those statements were true.
“What? You what? Stopped?” the man chuckled again. “Please, don’t lie to me. You never were good at it.”
“And you are vain.”
They stared at each other in cold silence. M’thiar thought of a hundred retorts, but she kept her tongue. Anything she said would only be returned with words twice as bitter. He was better at hurting her than she him. The sun rose up past the trees and shone fully in her face. Her heart fluttered once again with the thrill of life, life that wasn’t entirely her own. She took a deep breath and took in her surroundings again. The wall enclosed a large estate, which included a manor house, stables, pastures, and several buildings, the use of which she had never quite figured out. There was a guard house at the main gate, but she couldn’t see that from her perch on the wall, only the outline of the house and rolling hills of the pastures.
Involuntarily, she turned her attention back to her brother. Her brother’s face was still hidden in shadow, like the large manor, his features indistinguishable. But she knew his eyes were heavy lidded and a pale green like the sea. He was staring at her…intently.
“Come down, M’thair,” all mirth was gone from his voice.
“No,” M’thair said wearily, stepping along the wall away from her brother.
“M’Thair,” he growled her name and made a snatch at her legs.
“Don’t fight me,” Thane snapped and in a single bound he jumped onto the wall. “I always win.”
“Don’t make me…” M’thair said, trying to stay calm.
“What? Little sister, will you use the arts against me?” Thane moved towards her. She stumbled back. “I taught you. You will not betray me.”
“I will not help you either.”
“No?” Thane drawled.
Playing, M’thair thought disgustedly, always playing. She was done with that. She shook her head. No, she had come back knowing in part what Thane would do.
“Tell me, little sister, how is it that you, using your dark archaic ways, were able to capture a piece of a soul? I have tried…failed more times than you could possibly imagine…” Thane paused. M’thair watched as something of fear and then loathing crossed his face. “You WILL tell me.”
His face darkened. Quicker than M’thair could react, he grabbed her and tossed her down inside the wall. She struggled to her feet as he jumped lightly down beside her. “You came back…you always come back.” He reminded her gently. He reached out a hand to her again and she took it. “We are family. You and I have lived far too long to squabble now.”
“I didn’t ask for it,” M’thair replied sharply.
Thane smirked. “No, but now you do, because you think you need it. You fear death more than Father did.”
“But not as much as you do.”