The clouds curl like spilt ink around the horizon, tiny threads of black stretching across the dusk. Thick purple mountains lunge from the ocean, the sun’s penetrating eye slipping beneath their peaks.
“Night has fallen,” The young girl says, dark wings cascading from her delicate back. She turns her head towards her mother, a dainty figure beneath heavy sheets.
“Vanese,” she whispers, long fingers extending towards her daughter. The girl runs her hand along the satin scarlet curtain hesitantly before drawing it to.
“Mother,” Vanese replies, stepping down from the window and taking seat beside the sickened woman. Lifeless wings spread like crimson blood across the bedspread. “How are you feeling?” She brushes her pale knuckles against her mother’s forehead.
“I’m fine, do not fear for my health,” The woman retorts, although her voice is drowned in defeat. Vanese’s brow furrows.
“I’m afraid to say I do. Would you like some hot wine?” Vanese runs her fingertip around the rim of an empty wine glass, bringing herself to her feet. A laugh stifles from her mother’s lips
“Good grief, no, I should think I have had enough.”
Dark eyes boring into her mother’s weakening figure, Vanese sighs and rests her head against the heavy stone walls.
The doors thrust open as if cast by a ferocious gust of wind, but tall armoured men follow through into the cottage. Drawing curved swords from their belts, they hold their weapons forth.
Vanese struggles for breath, her mother doing all she can to sit straight.
“My,” the old woman says, “What have we here?”
The men make no sound, making way for a tall, black winged man to enter through towards the bed.
“Mirline, darling,” he says, perching against the bed sheets. “It’s been too long.” He fingers the mask covering his eyes.
The woman eyes the man carefully. “What do you want Elrado?” She hisses. “I know it’s you.”
A flicker of a grin plays across the man’s lips.
“Oh how did you guess? Did you miss me, dear?”
Mirline breaks eye contact, staring down at her white hands. “Certainly not. And what business do you have being round here at this time of night anyhow?”
Elrado brushes his gloved fingertip across Mirline’s cheekbone, pale eyes staring intently into her own. “Oh, how rude of me. I should have let you know I was dropping by.”
Vanese grips her mother’s wrist.
“Who are you?” she bursts, the words slipping from her lips before she could catch them. Elrado plays sudden shock, as if he hadn’t noticed the girl sitting there all along.
“My my..look at you. The beautiful image of your mother.” His smile is sickening, the corners of his mouth drawn into a sly snarl. Anger spits inside the young girl’s blood.
“I asked you a question and I wish an answer,” She says firmly. The man shrugs, his cloak bouncing on his shoulders.
“My name is Elrado,” He begins, stroking the dark unshaven stubble poking out grimly from his chin, “And I have come to take back what was once mine.”
Vanese casts a glance at her mother expectantly, but Mirline’s eyes are elsewhere.
“What are you on about?” Vanese growls, her fingernails digging into the duvet. The corner of Elrado’s mouth twitches.
“I’m on about your mother.”