Passage of Shadows – Chasity Bowlin

DİAMONDS SPARKLED beneath the brilliantly glittering chandeliers. The elegant figures of some of the most admired and envied women in the world were draped in gowns of the finest silk and the most luxurious velvets. Music swelled from the finely tuned instruments of the orchestra and champagne flowed freely. It was a party like so many other parties amongst the creme de la creme of New York society. She could hear her mother’s voice, but it was as if from a great distance. Adelaide whirled, looking about the room for familiar faces, but found none. Everyone appeared off somehow. They looked similar to people she had known in her life, but not quite right. The faces were indistinct, shifting, ever changing. The laughter and music grew louder and louder, the sound soaring to the point of being deafening. In the middle of that crowded ballroom, Adelaide clapped her hands over hear ears and tried to drown out the noise. Many pointed and laughed even louder, others still whispered behind their gloved hands as they pointed with their bejeweled fans. All of them scoffed and taunted, however. SHE’S NOT LİKE US, you know. She’s like her mother.

They warned him not to marry her. I heard her family practiced the old ways. They’re both odd! So very, very odd. She’ll never make a match. Not with that figure and her mother’s oddness about her. They should never have encouraged her to be a reformer. Look how dark her hair and eyes are. Do you suppose she’s a gypsy as they say? He’ll have to buy her a husband in Europe. No one in New York will have her. Maybe he can get her a title to make up for all of her strangeness? Just another dollar princess to be shipped off! THE WHİSPERS CAME one right after another.

While the shifting faces were unrecognizable to her, the words were those she had heard again and again during her time as an outcast on the periphery of the Knickerbocker Set. Adelaide had heard them in one variation or another from her childhood. Never pretty enough, never witty or charming enough. Too plump for some, too short for others, too dark for many of them with her dark hair and dark eyes—ethnic, one woman had whispered. Gypsy others had whispered still, as if it were the dirtiest of words that could ever be said of a woman. In that horrible moment, totally alone amongst the elite who detested her, Adelaide wanted to shout. But she could only kneel on the floor and hold her hands over her ears to block out the sounds. But then she saw her. Her mother. Distant, floating about the edge of the room, weaving between the other guests.

It was almost as if she wanted to be seen but not necessarily noticed. There was something very furtive and surreptitious about her movements. Struggling to her feet, Adelaide fled. Following the example of her mother, she did so without any real direction. Up the stairs she climbed, down one twisted hall after another. It seemed almost as if the rabbit warren of Cysgod Lys were imposing itself over the memory of her childhood home. But at last, she found herself outside her mother’s chamber. Throwing the door open, she rushed inside. Seated at her dressing table, wearing a gown of sea-foam silk and ecru lace, her mother looked exactly as she had the last time Adelaide had been permitted to see her, before her illness had become such that her father refused to let her near her mother. It had ravaged her body, robbed her of the beauty that had been such a point of pride.

As alway, the suspicion reared its ugly head that perhaps Miriam had somehow had a hand in hastening her mother’s death. But it wasn’t time to think of Miriam and her wickedness. There was something about that moment, an overwhelming sense of just how fleeting it was. It was an opportunity that she could not and would not squander. “Mother,” Adelaide cried out softly. “I’ve missed you so!” “Be quiet, child,” her mother said softly. And before Adelaide could question what she was doing, her mother rose and grasped her hands, tugging her toward the small sitting room just off her bedchamber. It had always been off limits to her, forbidden. A magical, mystical retreat—a place where her mother had spent so much time sequestered that Adelaide had resented that space as a child. “I can’t go in there.

It isn’t allowed,” Adelaide said. “It wasn’t allowed. But you are not a child, now. And ou must,” her mother insisted. “It’s the only way. You must know the truth… the truth that I hid from you for so very long.” Adelaide opened her mouth but her mother shushed her, the sound so like what she’d heard as a girl she could only obey it. The sitting room door opened and she was pulled inside. There were no chairs, only brightly colored cushions littering the intricately woven carpet. It was all vivid hues and lush fabrics.

There was something feminine and exotic about the space with its low tables and carved trunks with brass hardware that surrounded the room. “What is all of this?” Adelaide asked, glancing around at items that she couldn’t name but that were decidedly mystical in nature. She could feel the power of them, she thought. “Things from my travels when I was a girl,” her mother said. “I spent a great deal of time in India with my father.” “But these things do not look Indian,” Adelaide said. “They are not… not all of them. Some of them are from my mother’s people. She was a gypsy. Some would say she was more than a gypsy.

Some would call her a witch.” It was a rumor that had dogged them all of their lives and one that had always been staunchly denied. “We have gypsy blood?” “We do. Or at least you and I do. It’s that very blood which led you back to the land from whence we first came… to the very place where our blood was first cursed,” her mother said ominously. “Igrida.” The word escaped her lips in a whisper of dread. Her mother’s eyes widened with terror. “Shh. You mustn’t speak her name here.

In this place, even in your dreams, you are protected here, but she is very powerful. Remember that, Adelaide. If you ever need this place, if you ever need to know you are safe, you have only to think of this place and your heart will lead you here!” Adelaide’s heart was pounding. She could feel sweat beading on her skin. It was as if she was being pulled from her dream, pulled from the safety of that chamber. “Yes, mother… Can you tell me how to defeat her?” “You know how, my darling. You’ve already puzzled that out yourself….clever as you are. Do not speak of it here. Just in case.

But see your plan through and free yourself and your husband from her hold.” Adelaide glanced up then. “You know him? You know Eldren?” “My dear, I will always be near you… I will always watch over you as best I can. But my power within her sphere is limited. If you seek me, do so at the ocean where it is safe from her. She grows impatient, Adelaide. You must wake and face her,” her mother warned. Abruptly, Adelaide’s eyes opened. She was no longer in the home of her childhood, no longer in the safe cocoon of her mother’s secret room. She was in her own bed, her husband sleeping beside her.

And above her, loomed a dark and ominous shadow. Even as the scream threatened, burgeoning in her throat, the dark figure raised long and bony hands, blackness dripping from those elongated fingertips thick and dark as pitch. It splashed upon Adelaide’s forehead and the scream broke free. The sound of it split the darkness and echoed off the stone walls of Cysgod Lys. She’d woken from a dream to a living nightmare. 1 FOR MOST MEN, it was not a daily occurrence to be awakened by his wife screaming like a banshee in the night. But most men did not live at Cysgod Lys and were not faced with the kinds of otherworldly horrors they dealt with on a daily basis. Eldren sighed. Had it really been only two short months since he’d convinced himself he could ignore the oddities of his ancestral home? “Are you certain it wasn’t simply a dream? A vision that spilled over from you sleep?” Madame Leola asked with concern. It was clear she was worried for Adelaide and for the toll this most recent attack had taken on her.

“I saw it, Madame Leola,” Eldren said. “And I do not possess any of your unusual abilities to peer into another’s dreams or commune with the spirit world!” “Her,” Adelaide corrected him. “You saw her standing over me.” “I cannot attest to the sex of the entity, only that I have never seen anything so wretchedly foul in my life,” Eldren admitted. Thin, with unnaturally elongated limbs and all of it coated in a black, oozing muck that had reeked to the heavens—he’d been horrified by it. “Can you explain to me how she has advanced from being a mere shadow to being this, Madame Leola?” It was as if she was no longer simply manipulating the physical world but was now a part of it. “It is only a theory,” the mystic said. “But I believe that every death that has occurred within these walls, and whatever rituals that had been undertaken with Mrs. Llewellyn to bring her fully back into the realm of the flesh have initiated a metamorphosis, as it were, albeit a very unpleasant one.” “Heaven forbid she manages to slay another person or have some fool do her bidding,” Lord Mortimer interjected.

“I can’t help but think this will only make her more dangerous.” “She is trapped somewhere between the world of the living and the dead now,” Madame Leola postulated. “In a kind of limbo that does indeed make her very dangerous, but also vulnerable, I think. If we could uncover a method—.” The statement went unfinished as the wind picked up outside, howling to the point that the doors of the morning room were forced open. Of course the mystic’s reticence was an act. Madame Leola knew the plan, and she knew it only because of her psychic connection to Adelaide. Only Lord Mortimer remained in the dark about their great scheme to hide enough explosives in the house to level it to naught but ash and rubble. It was a radical scheme, with only Adelaide’s newly discovered skills and instincts to guide them. It was a difficult thing to trust.

And yet she had been correct about so many things. Her sense of knowing, of inviting what was happening in the house and the nature of the evil they were dealing with had only grown sharper and more acute with every passing day. The only feasible explanation was that something about Cysgod Lys had unlocked her capabilities. The presence of Madame Leola had somehow honed them to a precision which left him staggered. It was not without cost to her though. He’d seen how it tormented her. Waking up to the terrible sight of that dark shadowy thing standing above her had left him, possibly, more shaken than even she was. He was a man, after all. It was his duty to protect his wife against anyone or anything that would harm her and yet he was incapable. It was beyond his ability to do so.

And yet as terrifying as it was, he found himself more entranced by her daily. Whatever gifts or curses she possessed, he wanted to share them with her, to help her bear up under the weight of such an awesome burden. As if she’d somehow ciphered the nature of his thoughts, of his terrible doubts, Adelaide reached out her hand toward him. Unable to resist any opportunity to touch her, he accepted it gratefully. Even that innocent touch stirred him. His need for her was something he had never experienced in his life, something he’d never anticipated. And yet he could not imagine his life without her now. “Is that why she is emboldened now?” Eldren asked. “Because she now has one foot in the world of both the living and the dear? But if, as you say, it also renders her vulnerable, it seems that would encourage her to be a bit more circumspect.” “Perhaps,” Madame Leola replied.

“Perhaps she is emboldened by her nearness to her goal, or perhaps she isn’t emboldened at all. Perhaps she is lashing out from fear. Regardless, if becoming flesh again is her goal, as we suspect, then having come so close might well spur her to greater and more terrible action. What were you dreaming before this, Lady Montkeith? Perhaps she wished to interrupt one of your visions, for lack of a better word.” “All she interrupted was a deep, satisfying and far too short lived dream. I’ve no wish to talk about this anymore,” Adelaide said, but a look passed between her and the mystic, a look that indicated there was much left unsaid. “I awoke. She was standing there, her form clearly different than any previous incarnation we have seen of her. But that means nothing. She has the ability to manipulate the physical world, to manipulate our senses.

Nothing she shows us can be trusted.” “Then what can we trust if not our own senses?” Lord Mortimer demanded. “We must have faith, Lord Mortimer,” Adelaide continued. “We must trust that some divine presence is guiding us… and that we have the wisdom to ascertain which is which.” The elder nobleman threw his hands up in the air as he paced. “I have little enough of such a refined feeling, Lady Montkeith. Under the circumstances, singled out as surely you have been by this fiendish entity, I cannot understand your calm demeanor.” “Because she wants me to fear her. She wants to see me terrified and cowed… and while I may have been startled by tonight’s events, I refuse to be broken by them,” Adelaide replied firmly. “But I am very tired.

I think, for the moment, the best option is for all of us to seek our beds. And Leola, we will take our scheduled constitutional in the morning. I find that a good long walk in the brisk air does more to soothe my jangled nerves than anything else.” “Indeed, my dearest friend. With the coming wedding, we have many details to discuss,” the psychic agreed. When the couple had gone and they were alone once more, Eldren spared a more knowing glance at his wife. “You are not so unmoved by tonight’s experiences as you would have them believe.” “I would not mar their new found happiness with it unless it is of absolute necessity. Besides, there is little they can do to provide protection against such evil and even less they can do to soothe my well founded fear of it,” Adelaide answered. “Just as there is little you can do on either front.

” “I wish I had never brought you here!” Eldren said gruffly, rising from his seat next to her to pace the width of the room. “You surely do not mean that!”

.

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