8 Chapter Seven

It was around midnight when she stepped out of her chamber. Windows of the servants quarters behind her were not lit. Most were sound asleep. Fauglin walked out of the servant section and into the night. The air was cool, bringing the faint scent of sea by the coast behind the royal temple.

A few torches were lit when she got to the courtyard. She pulled her cloak tighter as she made her way to the back gate. Guards would not spot for she knew where they were stationed at during the time. Fauglin had been around the palace for as long as she could remember since her sister became the King's consort. But that was the past. Now her sister was gone, and the King married his concubine and named her queen.

Fauglin knocked on the gate twice. It was barely audible considering the thick material the door was made with, but it was nevertheless answered on the other side.

Fauglin quickly slipped out just as the door firmly shuts again. Outside of the gate were trees that shielded the eastern coast and across were buildings that served the public. Fauglin saw one particular big structure brightened up with red lights. The city's most famous brothel.

A man in plate armor waited for her at the gate. "As you instructed, my lady," he said. His face was shadowed by the helmet but Fauglin trusted his voice. He was the captain of a sectional troop whose duty is to keep vigil during the night. Behind him stood a brown mare watching the exchange between the two humans curiously.

Fauglin reached into her sleeve and withdrew something which she dropped into the man's palm. They jingled like coins. Then she swept up the saddle and set off.

The ride to the Grave Village did not take long. The mare, despite her shape, took the distance with galloping pace and midnight had just passed by.

Fauglin slowed the horse to a trot. Beyond her was a vast expense of the cemetery. Tombs after tombs sat up on the dirt like a gathering of rock children. No one was there. The trees shook with melancholy, shedding leaves upon the graves of those passed. Fauglin glided down the mare and walked her to a nearby tree before securing the reins around it. Then she walked into the graveyard.

It was very dark. This northern part of the coast was mostly deserted unless you went more to the west then there would be a harbor where many merchandise boats were docked. Nonetheless, nobody thought it would be entertaining to visit a grave in the middle of the night.

As for Fauglin, she was not afraid, because she knew things that were much dreadful than the dead. She wended through the tombs and into the shadows of the trees. The thing she was searching could be anywhere throughout the whole cemetery and anything. Sometimes it took shape of a formal compartment with gilded roof and expensive wood. Other times Fauglin would see a small worn hut with a vaulted roof and a small window, just like she did now.

She approached it, and that strange prickling feeling settled over her again. She reached for the doorknob and turned.

The hut was illuminated by a purple light further inside and it reflected on the objects that stuffed the room. She took reluctant steps toward the light, various scents wafting to her nostrils. On either side were woven baskets of herbs and jars of peculiar-looking items. On a cabinet rested several vials of colorful potions.

She stopped before a low table, where the purple light dangled from the ceiling. A glass globe lay within a small old cushion on the table, and around it were four stools worn my termites. Fauglin glanced into the darkness that stretched to the back. And soon she heard soft footsteps coming closer as a cloaked figure appeared.

"My child, what seek you this time?" asked a gnarled voice. The small figure stumbled into the light and settled upon one of the stools.

Fauglin sat across from her. Brightness shone on the woman's face, wrinkled with age and thin lips. "The time is near, Mother," Fauglin said. The woman wasn't her real mother, but Fauglin was just accustomed to calling her that. Her real name wasn't known to anyone. If taking into account about the right way to call her, Fauglin supposed her name would vary. Guardian of the dead, a mad old woman selling herbs in a graveyard, a fortune teller, an oracle.

A witch.

The woman raised her gnarled fingers and started counting. Then she asked Fauglin, "When is the festival?"

"Within a fortnight." Fauglin readjusted her position, a little impatient. "We've already tried Ruixue last time, and she wasn't compatible. Who else is there that is connected to my sister?"

"There is another one," the Teller said after seeming to have finished calculating.

"The King?" But Fauglin doubted that. She considered a moment longer, then added, "Meiyue."

The Teller gave her an approving look.

"But she is not my sister's daughter."

"Yet it is not impossible." The woman's eyes stayed locked on Fauglin, intent. "This sort of things do not follow the chain of logic, my child. You grasp whatever it is that is in front of you," she stated. "Or else you will never be free."

Fauglin did not respond right away. True were her words about this not obeying common sense. What she was trying to undo surpassed logic itself.

"I will take Meiyue's blood," Fauglin told her. "And I will bring it to you on the night of the festival."

"Good." The Teller put her hand on the globe. Then the globe glowed with an equally eerie light as the purple lamp. "This time it will work. I can sense it."

And this time, after fifteen years of trying, Fauglin dared to hope.

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