1 – The Chaos When Polly Returns

Lynn had not seen Polly for five years now. She had been nine when Polly disappeared back into her pond. She could scarcely remember the details, but she did remember having to move from her sub-urban cottage to some noisy place in the city, where the neighbors had loud music on at 3am in the morning and the old cleaning lady made faces at her. She had missed Polly then, but it had faded from her memory, as all pain does in time.

Now Polly was back.

She had not noticed the young horse at first, but as she walked more often in the castle gardens, she began to see many strange things. Most of the time Minerva would walk with her, silent and watchful. She fled at the sight of Polly, rising like an avenger from the surface of the shallow lake and galloping like the crash of waves on the shore. Long emerald mane flew wildly about as its jewelistic scales glimmered enticingly in the noon sun. It stopped before Lynn, jerking its head and issuing a polite whinny. She stared at the kelpie, eyes wide open and face contorted in delight.

"You came back!" she whispered softly to it, stroking its long braided mane and feeling the scent of the sea on its breath. Polly nudged her amiably, deep opal eyes afire.

It looked at her from its long horse face, as if saying, Where else could I go?

She ran pale fingers through the soft, almost ethereal mane and smooth yet gentle scales.

And so the chaos began.

Lynn and Polly went everywhere together. She tried to convince her aunt to let it have a stall of its own—uncle Fedrick was locked up in his tower room half the time—but aunt Maude refused on the basis that Polly did not exist. She had to stop it from trampling her aunt to dust. So Lynn made a smug face—not that it wasn't always smug—when crockery at the dinner table started falling off and breaking. The first few times, aunt Maude ignored it. Subsequently, she got disturbed and patiently told Lynn to stop hitting the plates off the table.

"Polly did that." She would reply tonelessly. "It's hungry."

One evening Maude got fed up and rose with a screech of the ancient high-backed chair. The two cousins stared at her as she flushed a nice peach shade.

"I don't know what's wrong with you, child, but Polly is not a real thing!" she screamed and marched from the dining hall.

That was when the real chaos began.

Lynn did warn her aunt, and she did try to stop Polly. Once or twice. But nothing stops a tried kelpie. That night a terrible storm blew up around Isbidynol Castle and took the roof off the shed where the gardening equipment was stored. Uncle Fedrick had to leave his tower and buy some new sickles and clippers. Another ugly rainfall set three rosebushes on fire, and struck down the ancient apple tree. The worst had to be when aunt Maude awoke one morning to find her entire collection of blue china cats shattered into so much dust on the castle floor.

She threatened to tie Lynn to a stake and burn her there and then. Lynn dared her to, and aunt Maude took one look at her and decided against such a rash action.

The venerable aunt then left Lynn and Polly alone—one set of broken treasures was more than enough for her. She tried to lodge a complaint to dear uncle Fedrick, but he only shouted from behind the tower door, "They were porcelain cats, woman, get over it!" and resumed whatever he was doing.

In any case, Lynn sent Polly back to the lake that night, simply because Polly was making her life much too eventful. She hated having to do something every few minutes. At long last, she could recoil in her bed and not worry about the kelpie causing more mischief.

She was not altogether too displeased about her room. It was a big room, with old tapestries of faerie queens and moonlit lakes lining the walls. The bed had comfy duvets and it was one of those real, solid four-posters with a sheet of silk hung over the top. The walls were cold granite, and blocked out the sounds from anywhere in the grounds. There was a small book shelf jammed with ancient books and a small table with a real oil lamp burning beside her bed. She had unloaded most of her clothes into the oaken walk-in wardrobe. All in all, Lynn was living in style.

Curious, really. She had been in Isbidynol Castle for close to a week now, and all the while she had only seen her uncle Fedrick once—when she had first arrived. He wasn't a very unpleasant looking man. Quite on the contrary, he had the sort of face that would have been good-looking and friendly at he same time, had he bothered to smile in the past decade. Lynn thought Fedrick was rather much younger than Maude, and ten times colder. He'd only come down from his tower to greet her briefly, and then retreated back up those spiraling stone steps once more. It would be a lie to say that this did not intrigue her. Even now she imagined all sorts of strange and magical things. Maybe uncle Fredrick was a wizard, really, and he couldn't let anyone know or he would lose his license.

"Sister Lynn, sister Lynn!"

Lynn turned to look at the little boy tugging at the sleeve of her sweater. His flaxen hair drifted into the cool grey of his eyes, and he brushed the strands away.

"Sister Lynn, there aren't any toys here." He complained.

Lynn ruffled his hair absent-mindedly and murmured, "I had no space for toys, love."

"But sister Lynn, I shall be so bored here. There's nothing to play with." He persisted.

Lynn sighed. "Run along to the gardens then. I'm sure you'll find something."

The boy muttered disappointedly as he trudged out the doorway and was lost in the shadows of the hallways. She sat down on the edge of her bed, the covers scarcely touched, and stared at the heavy tapestries. One was of the eerie faerie Queen leading a procession of warriors out to war. The Queen had a towering headdress dangling with enchantments and long flowing robes the colour of winter freeze. Lynn began to find herself greatly disliking the weaving.

A great crash nudged her back into the present, and she scowled fiercely as Polly came flying through her window, staggering to a stop just before knocking over her bedside table. The kelpie whinnied noisily and tossed its head.

"Polly! What are you doing here?" she whispered angrily. "Go back before Maude wakes up!"

The horse gave a defiant grunt and stamped turquoise hooves on the slabs of stone. Lynn shushed it annoyedly and paused, raising one hand to silence the creature. Polly obeyed her, for once. Footsteps pounded on the cold stone in the hallways outside, and she fell to her knees, pretending to say a prayer.

"Everything all right, miss Lynn?" a moment later, an orb of light bobbed in the doorway as a plump maid enquired politely. Lynn turned around and gave her a chilly smile.

"Quite well, thank you."

The young maid disappeared like all else, into the darkness beyond.

Lynn rose and folded her arms across her chest in a gesture that—she hoped—looked very displeased.

"You're going to get me killed, if you're not careful." She scolded Polly quietly. It just titled its long, sad face at her, as if it was trying to make sense of her words.

"Oh go away, you silly seahorse." She sighed and waved one hand aimlessly at the beast. The kelpie gave a dissatisfied grunt and proceeded to trot up to her bed, steal both of her pillows and gallop out of the room altogether. Lynn was left standing there, barely able to stop herself from shouting at Polly to return her pillows. She rolled her eyes.

"Why couldn't I get a pet monkey. At least it can't carry pillows." She muttered as she carefully took her oil lamp and made sure there was enough to sustain her. Then she herself stepped out into the darkness of the ancient corridor.

Lynn was not surprised to see that there were only a few, widely-spaced sconces on the wall, and not all of them were lit. Her lamp was like a little ball of light which wavered slightly as she walked down the endless, dark, corridors. She hoped that she could find Polly—the thought of pillows turning up mysteriously in the castle gardens was not very comforting. However, she decided that if she could not find the kelpie, she'd find one of the servants and ask for another pillow.

"Polly?" she rasped. It echoed like a shout, and Lynn was quite sure she shouldn't speak.

She walked quite some distance, turning a few corners and such. There was neither hide nor hair of Polly or her pillows anywhere. Once, she had been scared by a face in the wall which actually turned out to be a portrait of one of the past occupants—a lovely young female with gold braids. From then on, Lynn seemed to forget about her pillows. She admired the beautifully painted portraits hanging on the castle walls. Some were relatively small, others large enough to cover an entire wall. Some looked abstract and some were done purely in charcoal, others had so much detail it was staggering. Some were dull and lifeless and gloomy, others bright as a summer's day.

Lynn walked and walked, and she was suddenly not sure how far or long she had been doing so, and then she did not know why either. She just walked and shone her little lamp about, admiring coats of arms and swords hung on mantels.

Then she found it.

It was an abrupt little door, set in a tiny corner of the wall along which she was walking. She turned the knob, and surprisingly it sprung open into a gaping blackness beyond. The orb of her lamp seemed engulfed by the darkness. Lynn had long forgotten about her pillows, and her heart thumped expectantly at the adventure this little passageway could lead to.

She entered.

There were lights. They glimmered everywhere, a spectrum of colours and shades and little blinking stars. They hung like droplets from the ceiling, crystal chandeliers casting wonderful patterns on black marble. The great room was so huge, it made Lynn feel like she was but a tiny little spot in a sea of light and darkness. The huge columns supported and amazingly high vaulted ceiling, and seemed to go on and on into the distance. Voices echoed around the vast expanse, and the refined music of a small orchestra filled the place. An icy strain rang in the air, and people started filing in. well, they looked like people, but somehow Lynn knew they weren't. There was something ethereal about the way their bodies glowed like dim, white fire.

They danced. Stately women, beautiful and elegant in silken gowns and dashes of expensive jewels. Lovely gentlemen, crisp in all sorts of suits and hunting boots. Lynn stood, the seemingly unnoticed spectre in the middle of it all. A flash of crimson here, a dash of ochre there. Saffron, silk, cotton. Spruce and cerulean. Gleaming eyes, chilly smiles, graceful arches and swift side steps. They danced and danced around her, drawing her in, enrapturing her. She stood, alone and awed—spellbound by the wonderful figures as they pranced around her.

It was eerie, almost provocative. Lynn felt both afraid and curious as she was left in the cold, crisp air of the huge ballroom, surrounded by spinning people. She felt awkward and unworthy of such sights.

"What are you doing here?" a smooth, mildly annoyed voice broke through the music.

The spectacle began to fade away, eaten by darkness at the edges. The orchestra became muted and weak. Don't go! She almost shouted, as the ballroom receded into crumbling old nothingness once again. The oil lamp quivered in her hand as she turned around, putting on an expression of extreme distaste.

The lamp almost dropped from her fingers, as she faced the owner of that silky voice. A young man stood in the doorway, dressed in a linen nightshirt and ruffled pants. He was barefooted, and a great coat covered his shoulders. His brows were knitted gently, which gave his face a solemn look. He looked rather like a young hawk, standing there watching her. But Lynn knew that face, the glinting eyes. She had seen them every day of her life, for he had sat, painting her pictures and speaking of strange and wonderful things to her. The young man who stood before her looked exactly like her companion.

And she knew, she knew he didn't just look alike—he was.

"Sebastian," she whispered, completely perplexed. Her lips were slightly agape, and they refused to close.

He looked at her strangely. "I beg your pardon, miss, but you should not be here." He took her gently by the shoulders and steered Lynn through the door, shutting it tightly behind him. Before he had a moment to speak, she grabbed his shoulders and stared intently at him.

"It can't be." Lynn rasped. Everything sensible told her it was impossible. Everything else screamed that it was.

He looked at her with the look one would have if one saw a wild horse being tamed. Gently, he plied her fingers from his shoulders and threw the great coat around her shoulders.

"You're cold. You can catch a fever easily here." Said he.

Lynn was motionless. Sebastian! She called out mentally, as if it would do her any good. It was him. She knew it was him. It was such a grim certainty that she dared not question it.

He gave her a gentle push down the corridor. "Come, I'll walk you to your room." He said quietly and repeated, "You should not be here."

He walked off, hoping to lead by example. Lynn followed, feeling numb and suddenly very, very cold. She shuddered beneath the coat, but never once endeavoured to speak as she walked down the hall with the strange young man. She didn't even notice any of the paintings or weaponry. She stared at the floor, as if the answers were written on the carpet.

Lynn whispered at last, "You don't know me." It was more a statement than a question.

He shook his head. "I'm afraid I've never seen you before."

She sighed and replied, "I'm Fedrick's niece."

"Ah," he said, as if in full understanding. "I'm his apprentice. They call me Jude."

Lynn raised an eyebrow, regaining some of her old composure. "And what do you call yourself?"

Jude shrugged. "I don't know. When Fedrick found me I'd lost all my memory. I don't remember any more now than I did then."

He'd lost his memory, Lynn noted mentally. He was Sebastian after all. A smile spread across her face. An unpleasant sort of smile, the type a cat gets when it has caught its prey.

"Sorry to hear that." She didn't sound sorry at all. "Uncle Fedrick's always up in his tower. What exactly does he do there?"

Jude paled. "Why ask me?"

She frowned. "You're his apprentice."

"And I cannot tell you." He retorted icily. They had reached Lynn's room. She gave Jude a little bow. He bowed back, offering a smile to make up for his sudden change of demeanor.

"Good night, my lady." He said half jokingly.

Lynn just smiled her cattish smile, and wandered off to bed.

A/N: well, this isn't the re-written version. dies some people said it was okay, so I decided to post it first. Please review and tear it apart. Vote! Rewrite or no (: