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Alainn O’Brien awoke from a deep sleep to find herself floating, gliding effortlessly through the seemingly endless corridors of a castle she’d never seen before. She felt unusually light and free almost as though her body wasn’t actually her own. She considered this is what it might be like as a spirit. The startling thought entered her mind, that perhaps she was indeed a spirit.
Shylie and Diadra, the two spirits Alainn knew well, both moved in just such a fashion. Could she be a spirit? She tried to recall her last memories before she found herself in this long, narrow unrecognizable corridor, but they were merely muddled fragments. She brought to mind a vague recollection of a sound behind her, a trace of remembrance of the sudden terror of seeing from the corner of her eye an immense coach, and knowing there wasn’t time to move from its path even by employing her magic.
She remembered the immediate all-consuming pain in her ribs and her belly, and finally the torturous excruciation and disturbing sound as she fell and struck her head on the cobblestones. Then there had been simply darkness.
But now, there was not a hint of discomfort, entirely no semblance of pain and she was certainly ever thankful to be free of that brutal agony, yet the absence of pain and the lack of connection to her body could clearly only mean one thing. She was surely dead; she must have died from the severity of her injuries. The thought unnerved her, for if she was truly dead, then she would never be reunited with her one true love, her beloved husband, Killian…not in this life…not till he met with death as well.
Yet if she were actually a spirit would she continue to feel this deep heart-wrenching emotion, such utter despair at the thought of no longer sharing a life with her love? She would need to discover the truth of it. She must learn if she was dead…or soon would be.
She further decided she would use her present undetermined state, and the limited time she may have left to discover what might benefit Killian, for she only then recalled Killian was being held somewhere within the dreaded tower.
Danhoul, the young druid and one of her guardians, must be here as well for she remembered him calling to her after her unfortunate mishap, and perhaps even now somewhere far, far away through a thick, distant fog his voice echoed and beckoned her to come back.
But before she followed Danhoul’s voice, she vowed to become more aware of her surroundings and willed herself to float back to where she’d begun this unusual flight. She took note of each twist and turn in the numerous winding corridors. She purposely held to memory each hidden passageway, every alcove and stairwell. Even if she was a spirit or on the path to being a spirit, surely she would retain some of her magical abilities and be capable of finding a way to free the others.
She found a doorway which she intuitively recognized as leading to the tower…and somewhere in that tower was her cherished husband Killian. She would go to him and see how he was faring before she decided her next course of action. If she was actually dead she must see him again, she would stay with him…wait for him…even as a spirit ensure he was free to return to Ireland and not live out his time in the horrid tower. And then she would remain beside him always, she would not go to the beyond without her true love.
She floated through the stone wall as if it were mist. Although in life she was capable of moving through barriers by way of her supernatural abilities, this was entirely different, no unease…no resistance.
Killian was sitting upon the narrow bed in the dark chamber and evidently deep in thought. Her heart leapt at seeing him. She surmised she couldn’t actually be dead else she would not react so strongly to seeing her only love. Although she did recall Shylie and Diadra had both spoken of retaining emotions after death, therefore she was truly none the wiser to her present state.
Alainn remembered being in this chamber once before. She had magically come to Killian to tell him the joyful revelation that she carried his child…their daughter. Her hand went to her belly and she was immediately saddened for she knew the child was no more. She once more recalled being struck by the carriage wheel and falling to the ground. She felt as if she was reliving it now, the sharp pain in her belly, the sudden sensation of warmth, surely blood flowing between her thighs. Even then in her state of fright and alarm, as she was falling to the ground, she’d been well aware she was losing their unborn child…another lost child, gone to the beyond as was their wee newborn baby boy Cian who had died many months ago.
Alainn pulled from her sorrowful memories and glanced at Killian once more. It was unlikely he would know any of the happenings of her recent misfortune, the incident with the coach, the loss of the child, the possibility she was dead or even now dying. Unless Danhoul had managed to get word to Killian, he would have no inkling she had been harmed in any way. He would believe she was safely returned to Ireland for when he learned she was with child, he had insisted she journey homeward to protect herself and their unborn child from the uncertainties of life here in England with him held within the tower.
She now remembered a group of them had been on their way to the docks to board a ship to take her home to Ireland. Danhoul had seen to the arrangements. But another distinct memory came to her, they had missed the ship…firstly because she had been ailing both body and soul, heartsick at the consideration of leaving Killian behind, but she’d also been suffering the putrid stomach often associated with carrying a child. They had set out later than Danhoul would have desired and then Lily, the innkeepers’ daughter had further detained them…she had followed them and they had needed to ensure she was safely back with her parents.
Tiny fragments of memory were intermittently flooding back to her in bits and bursts. Alainn now clearly remembered standing waiting for Danhoul while he attempted to make alternate arrangements for their passage home to Ireland. She remembered she had paid little attention to the details for she was heavy-hearted at the consideration of journeying back to Ireland while Killian remained imprisoned in the king’s tower. She had been regretful she’d made that binding promise to him, but intent on remaining true to her word. She had distracted her melancholia by watching a small girl-child in the busy market area by the docks, and she’d smiled to herself because her magical abilities allowed her to know full-well she carried a girl-child of her own. She and Killian had created a precious daughter.
She recalled intently watching the lovely child in the bustling location. It was teeming with people, numerous stalls, horses, carts and by closer observation, clearly many untrustworthy sorts. She remembered thinking the woman who minded the child did not seem diligent in her duties in caring for her charge. Alainn then distinctly recalled being overtaken with the knowledge there was something sorely amiss. She knew by way of her supernatural abilities, the child was in immediate peril and she had instinctively started running toward her. She’d been horrified to see the woman guide the child toward the noisy street and purposely let go of her tiny hand. Alainn had instinctively known she needed to protect the small child from a large black horse and a rider with dark intentions…one surely allied with the very demon who had been pursuing Alainn for some time.
She had grabbed the child and pulled her out of the path of the horse and clear of the danger, but then she’d seen the coach. Just before the coach had been upon them she’d once more shoved the child to safety. She remembered hearing her crying loudly as she fell to her knees, but she had saved her. She had ensured she would live. It was bittersweet for it was at that point she had already realized her own unborn child would not. She vaguely recalled thinking she might die as well. And so it had come to pass. The girl-child she’d carried was lost, and perhaps now she was gone herself as well.
She temporarily left her despairing memories and went to Killian where he sat upon the bed, his back against the stone wall. He stared straight ahead clearly deep in thought. She knew without question his mind was on her…on how he might end his time in this tower and find his way back to her. She looked at his handsome face; his high cheekbones and strong jaw. She gazed into the intense green eyes she had always found undeniably enchanting. He seemed to be intent on his thoughts, yet he did not appear distraught or encumbered with grief or fretfulness. She reasoned he truly knew nothing of her plight.
She sat down upon the bed beside him and touched her hand to the stubble on his jaw. She smiled at the immediate overwhelming love she felt for him. If she was to die, or was even now dead, she would only be saddened their time together was cut short. She would perhaps be regretful that she had been headstrong and willfully difficult at times. She’d be sorrowful of the wasted time months ago when she had chosen to live apart, after they’d lost their baby boy and all between them had been strained and distressing. But her regrets would be few. She would never rue the time spent with Killian. She would treasure their friendship through the years together. Falling in love with him, marrying him and having Killian’s love and devotion was the greatest treasure she had known in her eight and ten years upon this earth. Even though they’d suffered hardship and tragedy, she would always be grateful for their time together.
She felt a tear slide down her face and her hand went to her cheek to find it was wet. She found herself curiously wondering if spirits actually maintained the ability to weep. She leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss upon Killian’s ever-appealing lips. He started, pulled away and placed his finger to his lips. She hadn’t expected him to be capable of feeling her kiss, but he reacted to it as surely as if she’d been there in true form. He looked toward her as though he might actually see her, or at the very least, sense that she was right there beside him. Was that further proof she was dead and now a spirit? Her heart ached for him, for she knew him well and he would undoubtedly pine for her, and even worse she was certain he would blame himself for her death.
He had brought her here to London even knowing there may be danger in store for them, but his intentions had been pure for he’d needed to ensure she was kept away from Ciara, the woman who had caused much discord for her and between she and Killian. Alainn believed Ciara possessed maleficent magical abilities. She was part of a dark coven of witches known to perform gruesome rituals and dangerous spells. They had surely killed Glynnis, the healer from their castle, and they had been coming to Alainn in her dreams, taunting and frightening her in her visions for some time now. Killian had been greatly disturbed by this and hoped to keep her close to him so that he would be capable of protecting her.
She would never think to place blame on him for anything that had happened to her while they’d been in England. She had longed to be here by his side, and she’d been keenly aware of the possible peril. The untimely incident that had enfolded could surely have happened anywhere if that was what fate had in store for her. She might have been struck down by a coach in any city even back in Ireland. If the demon had a part in it, then it would be unlikely it could have been prevented.
Aine, the Celtic fairy princess, her own great-grandmother had once warned her that it was often impossible to change fate, that a person with magical abilities may be capable of prolonging, possibly lessening or altering the events, but that often times if something was fated to be, there was little to be done about it.
But this would surely haunt Killian till the end of his days, to believe he caused or contributed to her demise. She would not permit him to live out his days wrought with guilt. If she had truly been killed she must find a way to somehow undo this. Perhaps she might go back in time, but would that even be possible if she was a spirit? First and foremost, she decided she must discover if she was alive, and if she had not yet died, she must find a way to ensure it remained so.
She heard Danhoul’s voice continuing to call to her, and with a tender gesture of love she caressed Killian’s cheek once more, gently pulled her fingers through his thick dark brown hair, touched her hand to the charmed pendant around his neck and watched it begin to glow in response to her touch. Alainn saw Killian stare down at the glowing amulet as well, and she whispered a hasty prayer that he would remain protected from harm, before she turned to follow the ever insistent voice of her friend and guardian to where it might lead her.
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