Maya straightened her rumpled bed covers and flopped onto her stomach. The negotiations had completed, and her part in the agreement was to leave in the morning before the wedding. She was peeved at father for agreeing, and peeved at Estan for requiring, and peeved at Uncle Duncan for supporting. She had done nothing wrong, yet her family was being punished. She was the price. She kicked her covers off.
She’d simply watched as Lenore vanished over the cliff edge.
Stupid, stupid girl. How did she fail to understand, dangerous cliffs, STAY AWAY. It was just as well she was gone. She wouldn’t be giving Maya’s brother Sten any stupid children. Lenore’s sister, who was now Sten’s betrothed, seemed a bit brighter.
Maya put her hands behind her head giving up on sleep. Getting married and leaving was part of her future, but leaving on her brother’s wedding? And as punishment for an event she did not cause? No.
She wanted to be on the cliffs now. She could walk out and just keep walking, the wind in her face, and all these idiots at her back. She could almost taste the salt air on her lips and feel her spirit expand into the open space.
She heard whispers. She sat up in bed and waited. She heard them again. Who was out in the hall? She slipped from bed and trod silently to her door and put her ear at the crack. The whispers were no louder. Odd. She opened her door and the hall was empty.
Could they be coming from her father’s chambers? She looked in that direction down the hall. No light leaked from under his door. She felt certain it must be coming from the other direction, perhaps the great hall.
As her feet trod the cold stones, Maya tried to make out what was being said. It was many voices speaking at once, each whispering a different word. She heard, “Sten,” whispered and stopped. Her brother’s name was not repeated. She continued.
Maya took an oil lamp from its hanger on the wall and walked down the set of stairs that led to the caves beneath the castle. The steps became slippery with moisture and chilled her bare feet.
The whispers did not get louder, but she began to hear words as walked through the caverns. “Sten,” was whispered frequently, and she heard, “Hildegard,” her mother’s name, once.
Soon she was in an alcove and heard her name whispered first from one corner then another, and another. She shivered and thought, “Running back to my room would be a good idea about now.”
“Stay,” one corner whispered.
“Run,” a whisper said from a dark nook.
“Fool,” another whisper said.
“Listen,” one said, and there was silence.
“Maya,” the whispers said. “We have what you want.”
“Of course you do.”
“Yes,” the whispers said, coming from all around her.
“This must be a dream, because things like this aren’t real. If it was real, I wouldn’t listen to a bunch of whispery shadows. Nothing good would come of it.”
Her longing for freedom and open spaces slammed into her and brought her to her knees.
“You,” one whisper said.
“called,” another said.
“us,” yet another said.
“No…” she said, struggling to her feet.
She started retracing her path.
“… give you…”
“… what you…”
“… desire most.”
“Hell no,” she said, and bolted for her room.