Medley of Souls

The Aegean Immortals Series Book Two

Late morning sunlight filtered dangerously into the halls of Anowen Castle. Despite the sensitivity of the castle’s occupants to the sun, its windows were large, filling the exterior walls from floor to ceiling — almost as wide as a man was tall. Only four feet of wall space divided one window from the next; its stonework and wood paneling heavily decorated with gilded molding, alcoves, paintings and fine sculptures.

Heavy drapery did much to protect the halls from the sun; but the light stubbornly found its way through the gaps in the fabric. Triumphant, it flung itself across the decorations and scattered dappled sunshine like a thousand gold coins through the polished halls.

Sunshine that carried with it the power to burn the skin.

It was the reason the youngest member of Anowen’s family currently crept through the shadows.

At one hundred and sixty-two years old, Joanna LeClair Holt was no child by mortal standards. She was pleasing enough to look at and possessed of average height and a slender figure. Golden curls sprung free of a simple, woven braid to frame a heart-shaped face. With large, green eyes and thick lashes, she was passing fair among the mortals.

But she did not live among mortals.

When matched against the perfected beauty of the Immortal family who had stolen her, Joanna’s appearance fell short by leagues. The coven — when they had cause to remember her presence — sometimes noted that she was almost humanlike in her appearance.

Even so, Joanna was no human, and of all the castle’s inhabitants, she alone was too young to sneak between the daylight shadows without risk.

Such was the price of the curse forced upon her.

She took her respite, where she could, in the quiet hours of the early morning when most of the family slept. There was no escaping them, otherwise. With every heartbeat, the muted symphony of the entire coven sang through her veins; the empathetic weave bound her to the family that had once stolen, then rejected her.

When her song had ceased to give them life, they had settled into the quiet monotony of a dull forever, and she had done her best to remain forgotten.

A sudden, sharp pain caught her wrist, startling her from her thoughts.

With a gasp, the woman dropped the box she had been carrying, scattering writing supplies and tools across the floorboards.

The queen stepped back from the mess and turned her wrist over for inspection. The white sheen of a burn greeted her, and with a soft curse in French, Joanna lifted her gaze.

A statue of a golden nymph captured mid-dance glittered in the sunlight. The queen followed the path of the light from the figure to where she had been walking and frowned.

She had been inattentive.

Her fingers brushed across the blistering burn. It would heal — slower than she had grown accustomed to — but it was not her first injury from the sun. When the pain began to fade, the queen crouched to gather her supplies.

She had hardly shuffled the parchment together when the sound of a flute grew louder in her blood. It was a flute she recognized. With a wince, Joanna began scooping the mess into the box with far less care.

The taps of footfall were upon her quicker than Joanna could move.

“What a mess, little Froggie,” her Immortal sister’s voice, honey sweet, sighed. “I thought I heard something crash. Would you like some help?”

In silence, Joanna continued to drag her belongings into her collection, her head down.

As she grabbed for a fallen hammer, Joanna heard a curtain shift and then sensed the spill of light behind her. With a gasp, the queen scrambled forward into the safety of the shadows. A scattering of the nails that littered the floor dug into her knees.

Joanna pulled her dress out from beneath her. Before she could stand, a flutter of red fabric around her marked her sister’s progress toward a second window.

Angelica threw it open.

Sunlight blazed into the corridor, trapping Joanna between two long rectangles of light. Dancing reflections from nearby decorations swam across her sanctuary of shadow, forcing her against the wall.

“Oh, dear,” her sister giggled. “But it does improve the hallway, doesn’t it, pet? Look how the gold glistens from the light. You can certainly see better to clean, now, can’t you?”

Her tormentor had barely been of age at the time of her rebirth, while Joanna had been in her mid-twenties. Even so, Angelica was a senior in their curse by nearly a century.

The other queen stood in the sunlight without damage, its beams glittering from the ruby pins that adorned her black curls. The sweetness of her smile made for a poor match to the coldness in her eyes or the flatness of her song.

“Good luck with your mess, pet.” Angelica lifted a hand to wave. “I believe I’m off to bed. Try not to stay up too late in the day. You really ought not to be out of your room when the sun is up. You might get burnt.”

Pivoting on her heel, the queen in red departed down the hall, leaving Joanna alone to her prison bars.

The blonde exhaled, her shoulders slumping as if she had deflated with her release of breath. Curling her legs beneath her, the queen moved her box closer, and began to remove its contents. Flipped upside down, it served the purpose of a writing desk; though she did not manage so much as a word as the hours passed.

A servant  eventually found her and pulled the drapes closed. With a bow of her head and quiet thanks, Joanna gathered her belongings and slipped back into the darkness of the castle.

Alone.

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