The Sacrifice

Fiona is compelled to stay with her eccentric uncle in the dreary city of London following the death of her beloved father. However, her short stay allows her to see into a world beyond her dreams and nightmares and it seems that her uncle was showing a little more than kindness allowing her to stay. He has a plan and she is part of it.
But what if the plan takes an unexpected twist? Who will walk away unfounded?

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1. Chapter One

I didn't know what to expect. England had sounded dull and dreary with the constant bad humoured weather and illnesses sweeping away half the population every so often. But mother would often wistfully recall her happy childhood days that went by there. She would wouldn't she? She was the only reason I had been bundled off into this foreign land, destined to live with strange people while she was mourning for my father, following the call of God.
Yet I've never been so glad to be proved wrong. Sitting in the wobbly train that constantly lurched back and forth, greased with oil to maximise the shininess of the cheap plastic that the seats were made from (it looked ancient and was falling apart despite all the efforts anyway). I peered out of my half shut window. The sight of beautiful, healthy trees and open meadows with cows and sheep grazing on the empty land- was the sight that met my eyes. Everything was cloaked in a magical cloud of mist that made my heart settle in peace. Maybe this trip won't be so bad after all, I consoled myself.
Yet, I was particularly depressed by the whole idea of shifting from home, but what choice did I have? Especially when my own mother chose to selfishly abandon me. My stomach sank as I relived the accounts of that day.
_____
It had been quite an ordinary day- except for the fact that the following events would throw our world into turmoil. I was perched in front of my typewriting, enthusiastically typing away a letter addressed to our local High Council to complain out the service that we need to replace the leaky taps in the kitchen. I was utterly wrapped up in the solace of clack-clack of my keyboard, letting the keys fill up the comfortably quiet room. Mother was knitting away a scarf- an early gift for the oncoming winter which at that time, seemed ages away. She looked at peace, concentrating in the sunny light in the front porch. Our whole life was inundated with the bright golden glow of the sun. It was a warm afternoon; just like any other time.
Except, it was the day after my father's death.
A flustered young man hastily clambered the gate open and bounded up the stairs leading to to porch. My mother gently placed her pointed needles on the nearby teapoy and after smoothing the creases on her powdered-blue skirt, she stood up and enquired after him. I continued to type away my letter, my back facing mother but as I leaned back to see what the young man had to tell her, I saw her face slacken and she collapsed onto the floor.
"Mama!" I cried, rushing out of my chair as quickly as I could- ignoring the scraping on the wooden leg against the marble floor. I couldn't catch her, neither could the alarmed young man, but I sat by her and cradled her head on my lap.
"Mama? Mama! Wake up!" Submerged in panic and concern, I repeatedly called out to her in some vain hope she would wake up. Mother had always been faint-hearted and soft, but never had she fainted at anything. Apart from when father left her.
"Who are you? What did you tell her?" I snapped at the young man.
He looked even more awkward and alarmed and I felt a momentary sense of pity towards him. "I ...I am a messenger from ..the Brotherhood ma'am," he stuttered. My face must have darkened because fear flittered across his face. Mentally cursing my father for always being the one to inflict pain on mother, I braced myself for news of his latest selfish deeds.
"Well, pray to The Lord, what has Tobias Beckenwood done for us to deserve a Brotherhood messenger on our doorstep?" I was rather certain that the Brotherhood would not waste the services of a messenger if it didn't have something to do with their loyal disciple: my runaway father.
I occupied my hands by emptying a nearby vase, dumping fresh lilies onto the floor, pouring the water inside the vase into my cupped hands, then sprinkling it onto my mother's face. Her eyebrows stirred and eyelids fluttered as I called out, "Mama! Mama wake up. It's Fiona, mama."
Mother passively opened her eyes, it was obvious that the simple act required a lot of effort. Quickly, tears filled up and her voice wavered as she moaned, "Fiona, my dear child, oh Fiona." Breaking down into chopped up sobs, she lay her head on my chest and I wrapped my arms around her.
"Hush mama, you must rest, I'll see you to your bed chamber." I tried to heave mother up, giving the messenger a glare to say 'help me then, considering this is partially your fault.'
Thankfully, he caught onto the pragmatic message and wordlessly, he helped mother up by her arm. Together, we lead her to her large room and lay her down on her simple cot. Tucking mother inside who was still muttering incoherently, we excused ourselves and stepped outside into the living room.
I once again, rekindled my previous question, "What brings you here?" Although I remained complacent, my heart was beating rapidly against my ribcage. He remained mute, too afraid to meet my eyes.
"I beg you to release the burden of your message, whatever it may be, just tell me," I spat out irritably. I knew it was hardly un-ladylike but I'd long shed that personality when I was forced to take upon different roles after my father's betrayal.
"Please don't faint," he pleased naïvely, I almost smiled.
"I assure you, I won't. Now tell me," I said gently.
He inhaled deeply, as if he were mustering up all of his courage; I waited patiently, unable to take of my eyes him.
"I bring you the sad news of his death, ma'am,"
_____
The memory dissipated as I clambered out of the rattling train. Hordes of passengers swept past me ungracefully with their large briefcases, almost knocking me off my feet. I muttered dark words under my breath and hailed myself onto the platform.
“Fiona!” I spun around instinctively to my name and my eyes met with a pair of blue icy ones. I was almost startled to see my father’s eyes, then I realised that this must be my uncle. He was wearing a dark blue suit with a jacket that hung past his knees, with a red bowtie and brightly green slippers. The first thing that came to my mind was; how unusual! Shiny blond hair sprung from his head dominated the grey patches that also seemed to exist and I noticed the bags under his eyes which he tried to fight off with a smile. His unshaved chin meant that spikes of light hair forbade any skin contact.
I walked towards him, feeling uncomfortable about this whole reunion. Should I hug this man whom I call uncle? Or would that be too un-ladylike? Hands by my hips then? I felt more uncertain with every step closer.
“My, my, you have grown so tall!” He exclaimed with a clap. ‘Obviously,’ I thought, ’the last time you bothered to visit me, I was asleep in my cradle.’ I bit back my retort and pressed a smile at him. Then he paused, drinking in my features, looking almost disappointed? Distasteful? I couldn’t suppress a twinge of annoyance and hurt, was I really that ugly?
“You look more like your mother than Toby,” he said accusingly, “but you’ll have to do, you have his blood anyway. Come along now, the carriage is waiting. And leave your bags, the porters will take care of that.”
I frowned. What did he mean? Why should I look like my father? Before I could ask him what he meant, he has glided away. With a heavy sigh, I followed him.
The carriage rode through –what it seemed to me- an idyllic English village; bustling with people. Men with shovels or riding on horseback, women carrying hay of their shoulders or gossiping in a coffee ship, children running around playing and singing ‘Ringa Ringa Roses..’. That song brought an involuntary shudder and out of the corner of my eye, I saw my uncle glaring with his lips pursed. I looked away, and toyed with the material of my embroidered skirt. Why was everything so confusing? I couldn’t place the reason for my uncle’s anger; I know, the plague is a truly terrible disease that claimed the lives of many loved ones, including my father. Perhaps it was my father’s death that triggered such a response to the children’s song. None of us wanted to be reminded really.
When we finally came to a halt, I couldn’t believe my eyes. We couldn’t possibly be living here, it was far too grand, even for the King himself. It was far bigger than our old house in America, it was the size of a cluster of glass palaces surrounded by a vast stretch of land that disappeared with the horizon. The beauty of the carvings on the silver walls stole my breath, the pillars each stood straight in all its glory. However, it gave the aura of a forbidden place. Somehow, it shifted in my eyes from a wonderful building to the castle of nightmares, I couldn’t explain the feeling; it just felt wrong. Silver couldn’t be so translucently cold and ice couldn’t be so opaque, they gave off an illuminated aura of mysteriousness. I couldn’t help but think longingly of my home back in Palm Springs with its lovely weather and my cosy home. I even missed my mother and the warmth of her presence as though it were an invisible shelter. Now, I felt exposed and vulnerable. Alone.
“Welcome to my humble abode, I call her Donum Deī” uncle grinned, offering his hand to help me out of carriage. I accepted and clambered out, hardly able to stop staring at the magnificent architecture.
“It’s..it’s beautiful,” I croaked, lost for words. It was hardly humble- the building demanded attention but foreboding entrance at the same time.
“Yes it is, got it off an old Nyjeshulla, only they can produce the best demon silver. Look at the way it shines!” He took joined me, gazing admirably. I felt puzzled, “Ngeshulla? That’s a strange name uncle; and what’s demon silver?” The pleasant look dropped from his face and was replaced but a tight look, masking fear and anger. Honestly, could this day get no weirder? I thoroughly feared that my mother has made a very bad decision in permitting my residence with this madman.
“Not yet Fiona. Argh, I hate the trickery of my tongue at times. Ignore me child, your uncle is just a little crazy at the moment.” He gave me another smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes which made it look clearly forced. I took his word for it. He was indeed strange but his words didn’t put my mind at rest. ‘He must be crazy, mother has always complained so,’ I told myself, ‘Then why did she ship me to him?’
“Come inside, it’s nearly dinner time. You must be hungry, let’s dine first, then talk about the plans.”
“The plans?”
“Shhh, food first,” he silenced me, tugging my arm with him, leading the way. I was appalled by his manner but too nervous to express my dissatisfaction.
The heavy wooden double doors-thrice my height- opened up automatically in front of us and I could only stare in wonder. What on Earth? He pulled me through a maze of rooms, larger than the size of my entire house in America. Each was decorated with the finest plush seats and a range of china and gleaming silvers. We stopped at the dining room, large enough to accommodate a hundred hungry people. The smell of delicious food tempted my taste buds and soon, I was sitting down with uncle, trying not to eat too quickly. He would smile and inquire casually about my life in America but his disinterest was obvious.
The food was incredibly delicious, far too good so that my suspicions began to arise once my dire hunger was satisfied. What exactly were the ingredients? The large lump of green meat left a lump in my throat, it was like nothing I had eaten before.
Once dinner was over, he bid me goodnight and ordered a smartly dressed butler to show me to my room.
“And Fiona, try to stay away from the passage. Don’t want to give you nightmares on the first day do I?” I chucked nervously at his feeble joke and followed the butler into my room. By then I was far too tired and had grown to the grandness of this place to notice the splendour of my room. The heavy red drapes that hung by the window and the rectangular mahogany table by the dresser all merged together and I could only focus on the wooden four poster bed that has never looked more inviting before. I collapsed onto the bed after dismissing the butler-John, and shut my eyes, not bothering to undress into my nightgown.
I had a dream, for the first time since his death, I dreamt of my father. Strangely enough, he was happy and alive, singing me songs whilst I tried to sleep with my head against his shoulder. Then I had to remind him I wasn’t a little child anymore to be sung to sleep. “That’s right,” he said, his voice strangely distorted, ”you’re old enough now.” Claws sprung from his hands and he aimed them at me, snarling.
I woke up screaming with cold sweat running from my forehead. A strange noise escaped through the door. It sounded like scratching at first, then the sound of bells being rung repeatedly. A sweet tune began to dance and held as much sadness as the howl of a lone wolf cut away from its pack. Moonlight shone through the French windows, it was full moon and somewhere, a wolf howled. Then I realised my room had five doors. I grabbed a half burnt candle from the candelabra padded towards the clawing noise hesitantly. I pressed my ear against the strong wooden door, too scared to breathe. My palm rested on the cool handle and finally, curiosity dominated the inner conflict and I pulled the handle.
I gasped, unable to contain my horror. The candle slipped from my fingers and landed silently on the floor, its little light flooding the room then abruptly burning out due to the impact of the drop. Even in the little light the room provided, I knew I was not wrong. There was no denial of what lay ahead of me- no mistake, a face I could easily recognise half-asleep, a face so significant in my life that I could never be free of its haunting memories.
There lay the frozen corpse of my father.

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