CHAPTER XI: THE SECRET OF CHRYSTINE

A SANTHARIAN NARRATION

 
Darkling Abroad   
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Introduction. Rose finally gets her hands on Chrystine’s diary, and learns the truth about what has haunted the castle for so long.

 

ose did not sleep that night. She flipped through the pages of the diary, reading the entries written in the delicate hand of an adolescent girl. The more Rose, read, though, the more confused she became. Everyone she had talked to had portrayed Chrystine as a strong figure, a woman both beautiful and frightening, who had the charm and intelligence to deal with any situation. Yet, the writing of Chrystine revealed a young, frightened, shy little girl who did not wish to become powerful, who wanted no place in power or politics but would have rather spent her life worshipping Baveras.

Her entries were those of a simple girl, like Rose, and Rose, in reading these diary entries, grew more and more confused, until she read an entry that seemed to be the turning point in all she had read thus far.
 

"Dear Diary,
I am so frightened, Diary. I am so frightened. Please, someone help me. A darkness has come, and it lives inside me. I feel it, but it wasn’t there before. It makes me do and say things I don’t want to. It grows stronger, and it’s hard to fight, and I’m frightened, Diary. I have only the strength to fight it when no one is around, but whenever someone comes, it pushes through and I can’t control myself anymore. I’m scared - I am afraid it will make me do something horrible, but I can’t tell anyone of it. Someone help me! Save me!
- Chryssy"

Rose flipped another page.

"Diary,
Oh, Seyella, alter this fate. Someone help me. I have killed my mother and father. I could not stop myself. The darkness within has led me to kill them, the day after my marriage to Valfort. I am scared. Mother! Father! Please forgive me, I did not mean it! I can’t control this darkness within me! I can’t make it go away. It guides me to commit the most horrible things, things I can’t even dream of. I’m so scared. I want to die, but the darkness won’t let me. Someone help me. I’m so scared. I want to die. I want to die.
- Chryssy"

Rose read the entry in horror, running her fingers over the tears staining the page. The entries seemed to break her heart and terrify her at the same time. Carefully, Rose flipped to the last entry in the diary, made on the night before Chystine’s death.

"Diary,
I cannot be afraid anymore. This darkness has taken everything I have ever loved, and I am no longer afraid to die. It is now or never. I shall use the skills the darkness has used against it. I will rid this demon of me. Oh, Valfort, forgive that I must use you to rid the world of me, but I can’t stand this darkness. Whatever I make you do, it was I who made you do it. Let it never be a stain upon your conscience.
- Chrystine"

The next morning, Rose dressed herself and sent her maid away, and stayed in the library the whole day, refusing to see or speak to anyone. Most people, including Edmond, believed that Rose needed time alone to deal with the death of Fillona, though in truth, Rose sought more for an explanation. Edmond kept Durgen on guard at the entrance to the library, and was there in case Rose needed anything, but the duchess refused even to eat. Rose scoured over the books, turning the pages of demonology books until finally, that evening, she found what she had been searching for.

Rose left the library, flying past Durgen who had apparently fallen asleep on guard, and into Edmond’s study. The Duke was startled at the girl’s sudden entrance. “Rose, what are you doing here? What is it? Is something wrong?” He stood up from his chair to meet her.

“Edmond, I have something I must tell you, but not here. We must go someplace safe.” Rose took his hand and left the study, into the main hall, and out the door. Durgen never woke, but Ferka saw the two rushing out together, hand in hand, as she left the West Wing, Rose carrying Chrystine’s diary and another book under her arm, and something in Ferka snapped.

Edmond and Rose journeyed outside, into the cool night, and down the road a little until the castle was only a faint silhouette against the darkening sky. “Rose, what is it? Was it another attempt? Did something happen? Are you safe?”

“Edmond, you didn’t kill Chrystine!”

Edmond stared at Rose utterly confused. “What do you mean? It was my arrow that killed her.” He obviously had some difficulty talking about it.

“No, Edmond. Chrystine was possessed.” Rose lifted Chrystine’s diary. “She wanted to die. She used the skills in archery that the darkness inside her had given her to cause you to kill her. She knew that if she struck your arm, you would release the arrow to pierce her heart!” Edmond looked at her utterly confused. “Here, read here.” Rose opened the diary and pointed him to the entries.

Edmond read eagerly, and seemed almost doubtful at first, then read it again. He looked up at Rose. “How is this possible?”

“She was possessed, Edmond, by a mystran.” Rose opened the demonology book she had been holding.

“A mystran?”

Rose glanced down at her book and read, “‘Creature of the shadow and shape changing evil spirit. A mystran is seldom encountered directly but only in other creatures it possesses.’” Rose looked up. “A creature of darkness, one created long ago in Northern Sarvonia. Somehow this one made its way to Santharia and possessed Chrystine. She was a frightened little girl, and from the time before she was married to the time your arrow finally ended her life, it feasted on her fear.”

Edmond’s knees went weak, and he sat down against the base of a tree. “Then Chrystine…”

“…meant for you to kill her. She fought against the demon within her for so long, but in the end, could only be rid of it if she died.”

Edmond glanced at Rose. “Then who could be trying to murder you?”

Rose shook her head. “I don’t know, but--”

“Rose…” Edmond cut her off as his eyes stared past her to the castle. Rose turned around and saw that the castle was no longer silhouetted, but was aflame. Fire and smoke raged through the windows. Before Rose could say anything, Edmond had stood and grabbed Roses hand, and they both ran toward the castle. As they approached the path that wound toward the entrance, Edmond slowed down in disbelief, while Rose ran ahead.

She found Bethina staring up at the castle. “Bethina, what happened?”

The maid turned around and, with a sudden burst of relief, embraced her mistress. “Thank Seyella you’re safe! We thought you were still in the castle. Ferka’s gone mad. She was shouting ‘She will never replace my mistress!’ and ‘I should rather see the castle burn than see them happy here!.’ She is absolutely crazy.”

“Where is she, Bethina?”

Bethina pointed to the West Wing, where the stifled sound of screams echoed through the open window. The maid looked back at Rose. “Milady, no one has seen the Duke. We think he was trapped in his study. I’m sorry, Lady Rose.” Rose looked at the maid with confusion as she hurried off as one of the other maids shouted to her. No one had seen the Duke and her leave the castle.

Rose looked up as Ferka appeared, leaning out of the window of the West Wing, then suddenly a cloud of smoke hid her form and a bone-chilling shriek was heard as the stones in the ceiling of the castle, unable to remain stable under the intense heat, came toppling down, collapsing the West Wing. A dark cloud emerged from the West Wing and Rose knew instinctively what it was. It hovered a moment in the still, chilling air, then quickly floated down, toward the collection of servants that had gathered in front of the castle.

Rose ran up, past the servants, and met the dark cloud before it could reach the others. The mystran hovered there, facing Rose, who stared into the churning abyss of darkness. Her eyes never left it, looking at it with anger, with dedication, and with strength. The mystran paused and, seeing that there was no fear in her heart, shot off toward the north, and was never heard from again.

Rose turned around, and found Jaken. “Jaken, prepare the horses for the older servants of the house to carry them to the town inn. The rest will walk. Hurry now, before it gets too late!”

The servants did as she said, and Rose hurried to the shadows where Edmond had watched in disbelief. Rose smiled at Edmond, and he embraced her. “Oh, Rose, how brave you are!”

“It was nothing. Come now, before the night grows too much later.” Rose took Edmond’s hand, but he didn’t move. She looked up at him into his sad, soft eyes.

“Rose, you should know by now that I never wanted to be a Duke. I never wanted this power. Everyone thinks I’m dead, and I have the opportunity to, after all these years, follow the path I have always wanted to follow.”

Rose stared at Edmond with confusion. “But... but where will you go?”

“Perhaps… perhaps to Ximax first, to see my sister. It has been so long, and I miss her dearly. Then, to a temple of Nehtor. I never told you, Rose, but I have always wished to be a White Nehtorian, a Dalorin, to travel and heal and help those in need. That, Rose, is where I belong. You, my Rose… you are so strong. With a heart as tender and brave as yours, you deserve to be Duchess. You will get married again, have children, and lead the life you were meant to lead.”

Rose’s eyes had filled with tears. “But… I will miss you.”

“I will write to you, Rose. I promise you. Do not cry. You are so strong. You have freed me from the burden of guilt and from the cursed obligations I have had. You will carry on, and will be a far better ruler than I ever was.” Rose nodded and Edmond embraced her. “Thank you, Rose. I owe you all the happiness I possess.” He reached down and gently kissed her lips - the first kiss he had ever given her, and then he stole away into the night.

As she hurried away to catch up with her servant, she heard him whispering to her from the shadows, “You and I will meet again!”
 

EPILOGUE

Rose Valfort never rebuilt Chrynna Dabney Castle, and the tattered, half crumbled castle remains a place that only rogues, travellers, and beggars make use of, along with the occasional deer or rabbit. Instead, Rose built a new castle, which she named Fillona Chrystine. While it was being constructed, the servants were kept at the nearby inn where they worked in part to pay for lodgings. The small fortune recovered from the fire allowed everyone to live in relative ease, though Rose was rarely around.

She travelled often, and met other Dukes, Duchesses, and Thanes. She was invited to many parties and balls, and kept at many castles where she was always introduced to the eldest available male. However, it wasn’t until spring she was married after falling in love with the second son of the Thane who ruled over the province in which her duchy lay, and she then became Rose Avelair. The two had a long and happy marriage with three children: a boy and two girls.

Rose never told anyone the truth of what happened to Edmond, though many remarked about a certain Dalorin who would visit the castle from time to time, and of letters that came to her from a Nehtorian Temple just outside of Ximax.

When Rose died in 420 a.S. at the age of 74, the Duchy mourned greatly for their Duchess, who is remembered for her kindness, generosity, and strength. Her descendents still rule the duchy today.
 


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