The Lost Castle
In the morning Arianwen was not the first to rise. Her mother was already awake and cooking the fish from yesterday, and Kiki was at the table looking wide-eyed and anxious when Arianwen climbed down the ladder from their loft, expecting to see magic. Arianwen raised a finger to her lips, suggesting Kiki not mention anything in front of their mother. Kiki was well aware of her mother's bias against magic, but often wondered why she didn't like it. The sisters always thought it had to do with living in a forest village where no one could use magic, in fact, no one had for decades, and everyone in these hills were skeptical of things they weren't accustomed to.
Arianwen and her father were the only ones who knew there was something wonderful about magic, and the two yearned to experience it. When her mother was young, her own parents hated sorcery, and that must have rubbed off on her, whereas Arianwen's father grew up with parents who had witnessed many magical events, and he was free to dream as he wished. Her mother's whole life had been spent in fear of magic. Like a religion forced upon a young child, sometimes it sticks with you, and sometimes you are not able to break free.
It was easy for Arianwen to avoid her mother this morning. Arianwen wouldn't dare speak to her mother until her father returned from the city, because they were both so stubborn that the only thing they could do when they disagreed would be to fight.
When Arianwen went out back to brush the horses, Kiki and Eira quietly snuck after her. At first they didn't reveal what they wanted from her and simply helped with the brushing, the three of them talking sweetly to the horses. But Arianwen noticed the frequent glances toward her, and even the horses started to catch on.
"They want me to practice my magic, Faye," she said to the horse, "and I should probably try."
"Please?" Kiki begged.
Arianwen put down the brush and took a few steps out into the yard. "Aries told me yesterday that the only way to find out if I was truly the Daughter of Luna, like the prophecy foretold, was to see if I could do magic for the first time in my life. So he had me hold my palm out, like this," she said, holding her hand up in front of her, "and to concentrate so much that I make all of my energy flow into the palm of my hand. I guess he had me start out with something very basic, so I'll see if I can elaborate on yesterday's magic."
"What happened yesterday?" asked Kiki.
Arianwen centered herself and relaxed, closing her eyes. "I'll show you." Then she repeated her act from the night before, forcing all her energy into her palm, and she blew air into it. Her sisters watched as the multi-colored speckles of light suddenly appeared in her palm and blew up into the air, spreading out like dust.
Eira was speechless, but Kiki gushed, "Oh! Wow! Aria!" They were all smiling now, and Kiki demanded, "Do something else now! Can you make a spell? I want to fall in love!"
"You're too young for romance, Kiki," said Arianwen. "Come to think of it, though, I don't know the first thing about spells."
"I told you we should go back," Eira reminded her.
"Go where?" Kiki asked curiously.
"A witch's cottage on the other side of the valley," Arianwen explained.
"Can I go, too?" Kiki asked.
"Only if Father agrees to it. But it's probably safer for you here."
Kiki was disappointed and pouted, but she agreed without complaint. "You're such a good girl, Kiki," said Arianwen. "I just don't want anything to happen to you."
"I understand," she said.
"But there is one place I can take you."
"Where?" she asked excitedly.
"Oh, Aria, if I knew we were really going I would have spent all morning getting ready!" proclaimed Eira, dashing into the house.
Kiki squealed with excitement and they followed her inside to get ready. Arianwen put on a simple short dress that reached the ground. It was a silky white with a red ribbon around her waist. She gave a similar dress, white with a blue bow, to Kiki, but saved the prettiest dress for Eira like she'd promised on the bridge. Eira's dress was pink and white, with think vertical stripes of satin down the length of it, and a purple bow forming an X on her back. She put amethyst stud earrings on to match it, then went downstairs to have her mother fix her hair. While Eira did that, Arianwen wrapped a blue bow around Kiki's wrist. Kiki's hair was too short to do anything with, and Arianwen kept her own hair undone, which young women were not supposed to do when they were going out in public.
The spring equinox fair was a little ways to the east in a large clearing between hills. They took Oberon and Faye, Kiki riding with Eira on Oberon, Arianwen taking Faye because she was smaller. When they arrived, it seemed like all eyes were on them, but Arianwen knew not all of the glances came from good people. She knew somewhere in the crowd was a pawn of black magic, and it impressed her that with this strange new power she possessed, she could feel other's magic around her.
The three of them tied their horses and Eira led them to their neighbor's booth, where their family sold jewelry. Their neighbors were a nice couple who had three handsome boys. Eira had taken a fancy to the middle son, who was now turning twenty. Her father repeatedly said he was too old for a seventeen year old, and much better suited to Arianwen, who was nineteen. But he always saw Arianwen's disinterest in the boy, and the overwhelming interest in Eira, so he often shut up about the matter. And Evan was a nice boy. Arianwen was sure he frequently turned admiring eyes on her sister.
They chatted with the family for a while before Kiki asked Arianwen to see the different booths. Arianwen took her sister's hand and led her through the crowd. They stopped where an old woman and her daughter were selling clothing, trying on many different outfits. Arianwen sighted the perfect outfit for herself in the collection: a floor length dress, slim fitting but simple, a rich light sand color with black embroidery. Hidden in the countless patterns of embroidery were rabbits and deer, barely noticeable. Arianwen changed into it there and smiled at herself in the mirror, then went to pay for it. Kiki liked it very much.
As they turned to continue through the row of stands, Arianwen bumped into someone, dropping her things. He bent over to help her pick them up, and then she saw his face. "Aries!" she gasped.
"Can I buy you a pair of shoes to go with your pretty new dress?" he asked, smiling wide at her.
"Aria, do you know him? He's handsome," observed Kiki.
"Yes, I met him yesterday. Aries, this is my sister Kiki."
They rose after collecting her things. He bent over and took Kiki's hand, kissing it very gentlemanly. "Please to meet you, little one. Where were the two of you off to?"
"How did you know I would be here?" Arianwen asked.
"I didn't, but I sensed you were here when I arrived," he answered. Arianwen studied him in his brown pants and loose white shirt, laced at the collar. He had the same hairstyle as the day before. "I was sent to pick up some herbs for Hattie. She's old and can barely leave her cottage, so her garden is weak."
"The witch?" asked Kiki. He nodded.
"Then you are staying with her?" asked Arianwen.
"Yes. We're anxiously waiting your return. Hattie has been working hard to find Ghors. She hopes to know its location before you arrive."
"The book…right. I…I have to…" she was becoming distracted by his eyes, "talk to my father when he returns tonight." Aries walked with them through the crowd, back towards Eira. "Aries, I don't know how to use spells. I would have tried, but I don't even know where to begin."
"You have to discover your power, deep within your soul. Since you weren't born with the capability to use magic, I'll have to find a way to teach you to summon power from within you and put meaning into every action for a spell to work. Once you've learned that, I can teach you the language every spell is written in."
Eira saw Aries walking with her sisters and became startled, straightening her back quickly. Evan noticed and looked in the same direction. "Eira, is that man courting your sister?" he asked.
"No," she hesitated.
"Wow, they're a perfect match," Evan thought.
Soon his whole family was curiously staring at them. Arianwen was rosy-cheeked and smiling as she spoke to Aries, and he carefully stood in front of her before someone bumped into them.
"Aries, tell me again," Arianwen asked. "Tell me what's going to happen to me. I'm not sure if I want this responsibility."
"When everything is over you'll realize why it all had to happen."
"Kiki, why don't you ask Eira to show you around the fair so I can talk to Aries for a little bit."
"Alright, Aria," said Kiki, and then she skipped over to Eira.
Arianwen looked up at Aries worriedly. "Last night I saw a demon creeping around in front of my home. It was there before we even got back."
He was surprised. "Already? You'll have to learn a protection spell for your house."
"I'll come to Hattie tomorrow. I thought it would be best to get my father's approval before seeing you again, but the thought of something harming my family and not being able to protect them scares me more than what my parents might do when they find out what happened last night." Arianwen saw her sisters and neighbors watching them.
"Arianwen," he said, regaining her attention. "You look beautiful today."
She blushed. "I…I should be getting back now."
He smiled and waved her goodbye. "I'll see you tomorrow," he said. When she next looked, he was gone.
The sisters spent most of the day at the fair and returned home before sunset for dinner. Their mother was in the kitchen busily cooking. She saw Arianwen and immediately frowned.
"Stop that," said Arianwen. Her mother said nothing.
Later that night their father returned. Arianwen went out to greet him. He said goodbye to the neighbors that had traveled with him and hugged his daughter. "How was your trip?" she asked.
"Business went very well. According to the gossip, the king is still fearful of thieves. I happened to see your aunt and she is doing well. And I brought you a present."
She smiled and took the small box from his hands. "Are your sisters in bed?" he asked.
"Yes. Mother, too." She opened the box and gasped. Inside was the tiniest white kitten. When light filtered into the box the kitten opened its eyes, revealing the biggest baby blue globes. "Father!"
"Now there's a bit I should tell you, first." Arianwen looked at him curiously. He continued, saying, "Let's just forget about how your mother is going to react. The important thing is that this isn't a normal kitten."
"Well of course not—look how beautiful she is."
"More than that, sweetheart." He picked up the kitten and handed it to his daughter. "When I went to the city something strange happened. I came across a young girl, very late at night, and she ran up to me with this kitten, begging me to take it and keep it safe. I asked why, but before she ran away the only information I could get out of her was that the kitten was magical."
"Magical?" The two of them brought the kitten inside. Arianwen went to pour a bowl of water for it.
"That's all I know. It could have just been a little girl talking, or the kitten could be special. Either way, I thought you'd like it."
"Father, I need to speak with you."
"I'm right here," he said with a smirk.
"Father, when Eira and I went fishing we heard an old woman scream. Someone had stolen something from her, so I chased after him." Her father looked very worried now, so she hurried the story. "He turned out to be a demon and attacked me. A young man saved me and we took the item back to the old woman. Last night I reheard the magical prophecy you told me as a little girl when you tucked me in at night. The old woman, who is really a witch, and the young man, who is really a sorcerer, told me I am the Daughter of Luna from that story."
He sat down at the kitchen table. "Aria, you've never lied to me before. Please tell me this is not the first time."
"It happened, father, and I can prove it. I can use magic." She closed her eyes and held her hands out toward him. A breeze started in the kitchen, and soon a ball of light formed in her hands. Her father's eyes widened. Her powers gave out, but she knew she'd accomplished something. "It was very hard to do that—I'm not sure what really happened—but that's my proof."
"I believe you." He stood and went to hug her. "It's all very hard to swallow, but how could I not believe you after seeing that?"
They sat at the table again and Arianwen pet the sleeping kitten on her lap. "What happens next?" asked her father.
"I have to go back to the witch."
"And this young man you spoke of?"
"He can be trusted."
"Then go. All I ask is that you don't worry us. Come back every night so that I know you're safe."
"Thank you, Father."
"You should know," he started, "when you were very small, you met a white kitten. It's why I brought this one home. You met the kitten in the forest, and came home saying such nonsense. At least I thought so at the time. You told me you'd met Mother Luna, and that she would come to you again."
"Mother Luna?" Arianwen asked, staring down at the kitten.
"I'm tired. You should rest, too," he said, standing. "Is that a new dress?"
"It suits you."
"Thank you. Goodnight, Father." Arianwen climbed to the loft with her new kitten. Once she settled in bed she stared at its sleeping face curiously. "Have I met you before?"