I hope you all enjoy this short story!
The snow was falling lightly in the village. As the girl looked out through the small window she smiled and listened for the waves of the sea below. Her grandfather was cooking stew in the kitchen for lunch to warm them on the cold day. The feeling of safety and peace filled the cabin. This feeling is what she loved about being home.
“Caterina, come from the window. The food is ready.” He stirred it a few more times to see if it was just right.
“Yes, grandfather.” Caterina’s steps were quick as she moved to get the bowls down from the shelf near the opposite windows for them. As she was making her way back to the table the village bell began to ring bringing the warning of soldiers doing searches. Her grandfather dropped the full pot of stew and grabbed her hand pulling her out the door. He left her no time to grab more than her shawl and he a blanket. They raced barefoot through the snow down the path to the water.
“Grandfather where are we going?”
“Hush child.” He pulled on her hand harder to make sure he didn’t lose her. The waves crashed in occasionally tossing some sea water up at her only making her feel the cold more drastically. When they made their way down far enough the path curved into a cave opening just big enough for them to fit in to. Her grandfather took his middle and pointer finger drawing an infinity symbol of sparks that remained as he put his hand back down. He looked down at Caterina and nodded. Caterina closed her eyes and took a deep breath in. She bent her arm at the elbow holding her hand like a claw up at her shoulder facing the symbol. Caterina focused as she slowly opened her hand and pushed the symbol into the wall. Her smile lit up more radiantly than when she was staring out the window as the wall began to light up. Her grandfather touched the center of the symbol and it was as if a door had opened for them.
“What is this place?” He looked down and smiled at her with love and adoration.
“This place, is where we come from.” Caterina tilted her head in grand confusion.
“I thought you said we come from another land?”
“This is it. This is that other land.” Her brows knit together tightly at this.
“Why have we been living in a cold place where we have to run and hide or fight for food when we could be living in a place where everything is green, and it feels alive?” Her grandfather chuckled.
“Time moves differently here. You will see. If we stay too long then what we go back for will not be there any longer.”
“Are my parents here?” Her grandfather felt the pain and anguish rolling off of her. He shook his head and debated how to explain things just right to her.
“This place wasn’t always like this. This was a world much like the other. We had a war of our own to fight to protect this land. It is why it had to be hidden. We lived peacefully with the people above for a long time. They enjoyed what our magics could give them. Our people were happy to help them with whatever they needed. Your father was one, but your mother, my daughter, she was one of us. She had the powers, and she loved giving them away to the children and the visitors. She had called it sharing. One day she got a little careless and one of the creatures that had escaped attacked your father. I was at home, in the cabin, with you when I heard her scream. She was distraught. I had never seen any change the way she did. Her bright beautiful hair turned dark, her skin lost all color, her dress of bright blue turned black almost as if to touch it would make one bleed, and her eyes, her beautiful bright purple eyes they went gray. After that she left your father there and the village, they blamed us for the damage it had caused. The time before they had praised us for stopping it. Not this time. They lost their leader. They lost a good man. When they lost him we lost her.She turned into a wall of snow and ice that none had ever seen, but she never came back to us.” Caterina caught the tear that was rolling down her grandfather’s cheek and wiped it away.
“Will she ever come back?” His head dropped.
“For our sakes and those in the village I hope not.” A creaking noise could be heard, and her grandfather stood as tall and proud as he could. The trees seemed to be opening each with its own symbol of light. People were emerging. They reminded her of her grandfather and herself more than the villagers. A few gasps could be heard.
“Caius. How did you get back here?” He took his hand and gestured to his granddaughter with great pride.
“And who is this?” A tall woman with long bright red hair was staring trying to get the answer without words.
“This would be my granddaughter. She goes by Caterina.” The people watched the interaction almost unsure of how to react. “One would think you all remembered how to greet the high king, or have our people forgotten our ways?” The tall woman gave a curtsey and the others bowed behind her.
“You have been gone for some time. We thought you had passed on.” He gave a hearty laugh. He seemed to be getting younger the longer they were in this place.
“No, you didn’t. There are signs of the high king’s death and I see nothing but peace and prosperity here.” The woman looked around and gave an amused smirk.
“You are right.” The woman looked at Caterina and held an arm for her to take. Caterina glared feeling a sense of protectiveness over her grandfather. When the woman figured out she wasn’t going to take the bait she cleared her throat and looked back to the king. “So, did you find her?”
“Tarre, if I did would I have only brought my granddaughter home?” She pulled back a little with his biting response.
“I am sorry,” she seemed to grit her teeth and have some trouble saying what she needed to, “your majesty.”
“Take us home.” Caterina’s first words startled everyone around them. She held herself up and tried to make herself as fierce as she had ever allowed to be.
“As you wish princess.” The one called Tarre clapped her hands and a younger man approached. “Teil, take our royal majesties to the palace. They must be tired and in need of food.” He looked much like her so one could only assume he belonged to her.
“Yes.” He withheld a royal title and she looked irate. The lines were drawn in that moment. Tarre on one side and Caterina and Caius on the other. The took a slow walk away from where they had entered before Caterina found Teil watching her.
“Is there something you need?” He smirked and shook his head as Caius walked behind them watching the interaction.
“We just thought you were all gone. Mother was not expecting a surprise like this in our lifetime.” Caius cleared his throat and stopped walking.
“I bet she didn’t. Has she made many changes?” He looked directly into Teil’s eyes when asking.
“She made new law that any who lose their way need to be banished to the other. That is why they kept finding their way to you. They were lost here. They didn’t fit here any longer. At least not in Tarre’s eyes.” The castle looked the same to Caius as they approached. “I have something to tell you your majesty.” Caius froze and turned. Teil seemed to lose all the words he had wanted to say.
“I couldn’t make it to you in time to warn you of the creature leaving our realm. I couldn’t leave here. I tried to warn you.” Caius didn’t understand why it was such a large deal to this young man.
“It is okay. There were other guards there who should have come to warn me and my family. This was not your fault.” Teilcleared his throat and looked around ready to run. “I am missing something?”
“Mother sent it. She has… changed. Many ways have been for the worse. None for the better I am sad to say. You were all gone, but she was here. The power she held… it was here.” Caterina stepped between the men now and looked Teil directly in the eyes.
“Why are you selling out your mother to my grandfather?” Teil looked into her eyes and knew she had no knowledge of what her future in this life would have been.
“He is betrothed to the rightful heir to the throne. He doesn’t want to take part in being her puppet.” Caius spoke softly. “He was trying to protect his family. The family he was meant to have, and he couldn’t.” Teil nodded. “Our arrangement still stands. Tell your mother I have called upon her. Give her no warning that we know of her deceit.” Teil took off as quickly as possible leaving Caterina and Caius in front of the castle. She finally got a good look at it for the first time before she turned back to him.
“We could have been here this entire time?” Her grandfather laughed. “I loved the cabin and all, but this was our home too?” She walked right through the doors that had swung open at her presence. “I can get used to that.” Caius just watched her figure everything out with wonder. In the other she couldn’t use her powers anywhere other than the cabin, but her she realized she was free. She felt it coursing through her.
A few hours had passed before Tarre and Teil made their appearance in the grand hall. Caius looked young and regal and Caterina seemed to feel as if she was glowing in this new life. Tarre gave a curtsey and Teil bowed. They both said, “Your majesties”, and waited for a response. Caterina stood at her grandfather’s side as he sat in his throne.
“I see you have recovered from your time in the other.” Tarre was trying to make light conversation. She was digging.
“Indeed, we did. Teil you can join your betrothed if you would like.” Teil walked up to Caterina and moved to stand behind her. The king was showing his power over Tarre.
“When we thought you were gone I had drawn up other plans for my son, and so you see your majesty-” Caius held up a hand to silence her.
“Your deals do not stand anymore. Your words have no meaning in this realm, or any.” Tarre showed her teeth as she growled in frustration. “I know what you did. We know what you did, and for that you owe your life.” Tarre turned to walk out and a second later she had turned back with a dagger tossing it towards Caterina. Teil held his hand up and knocked it out of the path it had been on. Caius stood tall and proud over Tarre. “I had wondered for many years who had betrayed Alea. Out of all the people who came to mind her closest friend was not one of them.”
“Is that why you came back to try to condemn me to a fate I do not deserve?” Teil moved in front of Caterina. “No one will believe you. The king who ran from his people.”
“I did not run. I was cursed to the other side. Just as you had cursed people here, but I had her.” Caius gestured to his granddaughter who was confused as could be.
“She couldn’t have.” Tarre’s eyes went wide.
“Yet she did mother.” Tarre’s eyes fell on her son.
“You betrayed me?” Tarre moved back but was greeted by guards. “No!”
“Tarre, I sentence you to a cursed life in the other.” She screamed that she would find a way back over and over until she got to the door and grandfather held a hand up for them to hold her still. “I am sending a creature with you, so you better move faster than you do here. Wouldn’t want time to catch up with you much more quickly than you’d like.”
Caterina watched as the woman was dragged from the hall before turning to Teil and nodding in gratitude. Her grandfather sat back into the throne and closed his eyes. “Now we know what happened.”
“Can we get her back?” Caius looked to Caterina.
“Your mother will come home when she is ready.”