The eastern door opened without the creaks and groans that the other doors had as if it was well oiled and well used
recently. That was not a fact that gave the princess any sense of comfort. But a quick scan of the room with her saucer
blue eyes quelled her fears for the moment, as the room appeared to be vacant of life.
This room was decorated as though a parlor might. The dusty couches, chairs, and dingy paintings on the walls
reminded her of the haunted mansion from earlier in the evening. What stood out here were the rolls of fabrics strewn
about the floor and across the musty furniture. Several wheeled racks filled the rest of the room creating an almost
mazelike feeling of corridors within the room. Several designs of tunics and trousers hung on the various racks, most
looked like they were for a short square-like man. Edgar? Others featured dark robes and gaudy looking dresses.
Rosella couldn’t help but make a face at Lolotte’s “taste” in fashion. The princess’s haughtiness got the better of her
when she rounded one of the corners of the racks to be startled by an old woman sitting at a table. The old woman’s
eyes were sewn shut. Rosella let out a scream that took both her hands clamped tight over her mouth to stop. The
clamp was tight, and her terrified breaths let out like steam from the seal of her hands at the speed of the pace of her
pounding heart. Never had her feelings that she was alone left her so wrong, and so startled.
“There-there, dear. I didn’t mean to startle you.” The old woman spoke to the panicked princess. Despite her
horrifying presentation, her voice was velvety and soothing. The smooth sound startled Rosella equally; still she fought
to pry her hands away from her gaping mouth. Her chin quivered, and two tiny tears threatened to drip from the corners
of her big blue eyes. Quickly she wiped the small tears away with the backs of her hands, and pursed her lips, fighting
for control of her breath again before she fainted. It would not have been the first time. With a little perseverance, she
got her wits under control, and forced herself to look at the old woman again. “I’ll admit, I’m not much to look at, what to
a beautiful young woman like yourself, but…”
“Who are you!?” interjected an impatient princess. Not because she was rude. On the contrary; Rosella had been
raised to the highest of etiquette. In manners, she was nothing short of a lady. It was her pounding heart calling the
shots. She feared if she did not speak at that very moment, she would not have the courage to speak at all.
“Who am I indeed? Dear child… you certainly know my daughter. This is her castle. Now I know that you don’t think
very highly of her. Often times I wonder myself what I should think, what with her leaving my poor eyes like this,”
indicating at her eyes sewn shut as they were. “But my daughter’s story is a long and unfortunate one, filled with
treachery, rage, and most of all, betrayal. Her quest for power…” Rosella listened while the old woman prattled on
about Lolotte’s tragic life, listened while this woman, claiming to be the mother of the most evil being in Tamir, tried to
paint a sympathetic tale. As she listened, her eyes wandered, to the ragged dress that adorned the frail old woman’s
body, the sewing table she sat behind, the needle in her bony fingers, and mysterious garment that she was threading
before Rosella arrived. What was it? The fabric was black. It was midnight satin. It was a dress, a long gown, off the
shoulders, with white lacy trim. But it was more than just a dress. There was something more, something strange,
something revolting in the beauty. And how did this blind woman know Rosella was a beautiful young woman? “Dear?
Is everything okay? I must be boring you with my old tale. I apologize for going on like that. I don’t get many visitors
here, though you sure are quiet for a girl your age.” There she said it again: a girl your age!
“Who is that dress for!?” demanded the princess authoritatively. She surprised herself at the command.
“Why… for you, Rosella. This dress belongs to you. It’s your wedding dress.”
The words hit the princess. They attacked her. They were a kick in her frail body that sent her reeling backwards. She
caught herself on the wheeled racks, grasping at the hanging garments to steady herself. Her lack of grace was to be
excused at the stupefying news. As she steadied herself, she forced her eyes back to the midnight gown. The words
were air-born. They were in her ears. It was mud in her veins. The proof was there. She looked again. The delicate
satin fabric was held gently in the old woman’s frail hands while she applied the final stitches to the undeniable midnight
masterpiece. But that wasn’t all. A bouquet of black roses hung from a dark ribbon on a rack behind the old woman.
Next to that was a pair of exquisitely sheer barely black pantyhose clipped to the rack. Finally a pair of black satin elbow
gloves and the wedding ensemble was complete. Rosella felt as though she might be sick. She gripped the racks for
“Don’t fret my dear. You’ll make a lovely bride.”
The soft tone in her words did nothing to sooth the panic in Rosella’s heart. A shiver convulsed her entire body. It was
all too much. The gown, the accessories, the midnight was consuming her sanity. Rosella turned without a word to the
old woman. She had to get out of this room. It felt as though she were being strangled.
As Rosella fled chaotically from the room, the old woman called out to her. “Dear, you would be wise to take that curtain
with you. It might just keep the winds of destiny from blowing out the frail flicker of life.” Her words barely punctured the
confusion surrounding the princess’s head. But there it was on the couch. A seemingly nondescript curtain lay folded
on the back of a musty chair off by itself. It was a heavy fabric, maybe velvet like her dress, but heavier. But what did
she mean by “preserving the flicker of life?” There was a door leading east, and one leading back the direction she
came. Grabbing the curtain, she headed…
Through the eastern door
Heading back west