Genre: fantasy romance
Warnings: mild sexual scene, mention of violence
Word Count: 3,051
Summary: Spurned on by diaries from her forgotten youth, Ellie travels far and wide in search of someone who can help restore the memories she took from herself, and help her find her long-lost love.
Excerpt is from the start of the book, around chapter 3/4.
‘I found a spell that will reveal my soul mate to me; I’m going to try it tonight.
Oh my Gods…she’s amazing; funny, clever, and absolutely gorgeous. Her name is Angela and she is an angel.’
Ellie shivered and pulled her cloak tighter around herself as the fierce easterly wind dragged sheets of icy rain with it, pelting the side of her face and extinguishing any hope of sustaining a fire; without a flame she had no hope of creating a charm to keep herself warm. She had hoped to try and find a more sheltered place in which to make camp, but the wind and rain were getting worse, signalling an incoming storm. Sighing, Ellie scanned the area around her and managed to spy a small copse where she should be able to set up a shelter for her horse and anchor her caravan. She quickly directed her horse to the copse, and once there, worked as quickly and efficiently as possible to get a shelter up, set Milly up under it with a blanket and a bucket of oats once she’d been rubbed down, and then made her way inside her caravan. By the time she entered her small home she was soaked through; her teeth were chattering and her fingers felt numb and useless as she struggled to light her lantern. She could barely grip the flint properly, and she cursed as she failed to get a single spark. She angrily threw the flint on the table and slumped into the nearest seat, curling up and bringing her fingers to her lips so she could breathe warm air over them while rubbing them together. She started shaking, but eventually the strength returned to her fingers, and she hastily took up the flint again.
This time she was met with success and she soon had her lantern and the stove lit, their flames creating shadows that danced merrily around the caravan walls. Once the flames were strong enough, Ellie shed her wet clothes, closed her eyes and pulled what heat she could towards herself, wrapping it around her body like a blanket. The effect was immediate; her body instantly felt warm and the strength returned to her bones. She revelled in the heat for a while longer, and once her body had fully dried she grabbed a pair of undergarments, britches, and a loose tunic, and quickly dressed. She held the warmth around herself as she cooked and ate her dinner, and it wasn’t until she was buried under several layers of blankets that she finally let it go, extinguishing the fire in the stove and lantern in the process. She sighed and buried herself further under the blankets, closing her eyes in anticipation of a good night’s sleep.
Which was not meant to be.
After what seemed like an eternity of tossing and turning Ellie officially gave up on sleep and gave in to the thoughts and questions banging away in her brain. Luckily there was enough heat left in the embers of the stove to allow her to light the lantern from her bed, and once the caravan was once again basking in the glow of its flame, she reached under her mattress and pulled out the old, leather-bound book that was the cause of her journey. She opened it and read through the entries for what must have been the twentieth time, her heart still pounding at the now-familiar words. She couldn’t believe that it was all true; she’d long thought it all a dream, a fantastical fantasy, that she had experienced a love beyond anything she could have hoped for. But her diary, hidden for so long, told her otherwise, told her that it was true, that Angela was real. And that it was her fault she was gone. Tears welled up in Ellie’s eyes as she read over the last few entries.
“No one believes me when I tell them about Angela. I know it sounds fantastical, that I am in love with and am loved by an ethereal being, but surely it should be obvious, surely there should be some outward sign. I don’t know why it is only I that can see her and hear her and feel her; I wish more than anything that someone else was able to acknowledge her existence so I would be justified in my insistence that I have found the love of my life.”
“My parents think I am going mad. Maybe I am? If everyone else tells me that Angela is not real, then who is really right – I alone, or everyone else together?”
“They want to send me to the sanatorium. I cannot go, I WILL not go. There must be something I can do…”
“It…it is done…Oh Gods what have I done? My love…my Angela…I’m so sorry. I have ripped out my heart in doing what I have done…I cannot bear to remember it, so I will lock those memories away with my love. I pray that my future self never finds this diary. Ellie, if you do, do not go looking for Angela; you will not find her. There is no going back from what I have done.”
“You’re lying,” Ellie whispered into the pages as she pressed them against her face which was wet with tears. “I know she’s out there somewhere; I know I can find her. I just need the right spell.”
“Why don’t you just try summoning me again?” a familiar voice said huskily, and Ellie felt a delicious thrill run through her as an arm slipped around her waist and a body pressed against hers from behind.
“Because it doesn’t work Angela,” she replied, torn between wanting to relax against the other woman and push her away. “The best I can do is summon you, and you are a mere apparition.”
“How do you know I’m not the Angela from your youth?” the apparition purred into her ear, gently licking her neck.
“Because you’re not real,” Ellie said, stubbornly holding in a groan.
“I feel real though, don’t I?” ‘Angela’ ran her hand over Ellie’s body, raking her nails gently against the skin of her belly before cupping her breasts.
Ellie whined, her body instinctively arching into the touch.
“See? Just as good as you had it before.” ‘Angela’ tugged at Ellie until she had turned to face her, and then cupped her face in her hands, stroking her thumbs along her cheeks. “Come on Ellie; be with me. Please?” she whispered, before pulling Ellie in for a kiss.
Ellie whimpered and kissed her back, before suddenly stiffening and pushing ‘Angela’ away.
“No,” she gasped. “No you’re not her, I know you’re not her.”
“How do you know?” ‘Angela’ demanded, her face thunderous with anger as she sat up. “Why can’t you accept that I’m who you’ve been looking for this whole time? Why am I not good enough?”
“Because you are not her,” Ellie said gently, sitting up and facing her. “You’re something my mind created in a moment of desperate loneliness.”
“How do you know that that’s not what you did when you were younger? It would explain why only you could see me.”
“I just know.” Ellie shrugged and pulled her knees to her chest, hugging them lightly. “Reading those diary entries…it brought all these memories back. I remember Angela, I remember her and how real she was. You’re just…a pale imitation of her; an amalgamation of all the wonderful things about her without any of the depth. I want the real Angela, I need her.”
The apparition’s lip wobbled and a few tears rolled down her cheeks before she hastily wiped them away.
“I understand,” she said gruffly. “Then why am I here?”
“Because I’m lonely. Because I miss her, and you’re the closest thing I have right now,” Ellie admitted.
‘Angela’ snorted in derision and lay back down, turning her back on Ellie. Ellie stared at her for a long while, trying to fathom just what was going on with her magic and her mind when she summoned this apparition that seemed to feel so deeply, and wanted so badly to be the real Angela, or at least, to have Ellie accept her as the real Angela. There was a small part of herself that wanted to give in, to accept this version of Angela and scrape together some semblance of happiness, but the larger part of her knew that she would never be at peace until the real Angela was back in her arms again, regardless of the cost.
She sighed, put the diary back under her mattress and lay down on her back, staring up at the roof of the caravan.
“You still don’t remember what you did to cause Angela to go away do you?” the apparition muttered, still facing away.
“No I don’t,” Ellie sighed. “I must have either erased the memories or locked them away so deep I would never be able to find them.”
“Why do you think that is?” the apparition asked, turning around to stare at Ellie, her eyes glinting dangerously. “Why would you deliberately hide those memories from yourself unless they were bad? What if you did something to Angela? Something unforgivable?”
“Then I need to face those memories and deal with their consequences instead of hiding from them,” Ellie said firmly, and then added in a soft, miserable voice, “Even if they are terrible and unforgiveable.”
“Why? Wouldn’t it just be easier to stay here with me?” the apparition asked, reaching out to stroke Ellie’s cheek, her expression pleading.
“It would be easier, but that’s not what I want.”
The apparition scowled and pulled her hand away, curling in on herself.
“I’m sorry,” Ellie said sadly, reaching to take the apparition’s hand. “I wish I could just take the easier way out, I really do. But my heart will not allow it; I cannot be at peace until I find the real Angela, or I learn what it was that I did to her and make amends for it.”
“How are you going to do that if you can’t access your memories?”
“There’s a woman; a shaman that lives in these parts who’s rumoured to be skilled in mental magic. I had hoped to see her today…tomorrow is to be my day I guess.”
“I don’t know whether I want you to succeed or not,” the apparition admitted, squeezing Ellie’s hand.
Ellie scooted closer to her and raised her hand to kiss her fingertips. “Your support would be very much appreciated.”
The apparition snorted, but scooted towards Ellie; slowly the two women wrapped themselves around each other, hands clasped between their chests and legs intertwined. A sense of peace washed over Ellie and she quickly fell into a deep sleep.
She awoke the next morning alone as usual; the apparition only ever appeared at night, when she felt particularly lonely or heartsick for Angela. Thinking about Angela usually brought these feeling on; this morning however, they were tinged with a large dose of hope that finally she would be able to remember what had happened to her love, and would then be able to figure out how to get her back. Thinking about having Angela back in her life sent a fission of excitement through her belly, and she made haste to eat, tend to her horse, and set off for the nearby mountain range. She reached the base of the mountain by mid-morning, and as much as she was loathed to do it, she found a hidden area to leave her horse and caravan in; the journey to the shaman’s cave near the top of the mountain was too dangerous. She set food and water out for her horse, and then took her lantern, a bowl of water with a fish in it, and a plant out of the caravan and set them on the ground a little bit away from the horse and caravan. She linked the three different energies together and used them to set up a ward around her caravan and horse; it would last as long as the energies lasted, which would hopefully be long enough for her to seek out the shaman and then return.
Once everything was ready she set off up the mountain. Her pace was slow; there was no clear path to follow, and most of the time she was scrabbling over large boulders and inching her way along narrow stone ledges. Just what was it with wise people, shamans and other magical and mystical people hiding themselves in the middle of nowhere, in places that were near impossible to reach? Did they get a kick out of watching people struggle and suffer in their journey to seek help? Ellie huffed and puffed as she dragged herself further up the mountain, the top looking ever-elusive regardless of how much progress she made. It was late in the day when she finally reached the peak. The wind was howling around her, and a thick mist had settled, completely obscuring her vision. Ellie pulled the hood of her cloak over her head and wrapped her scarf around her mouth, in an attempt to fend off the freezing air. She squinted into the mist, but could see nothing. Her legs suddenly felt paralysed as a strange sort of terror settled over her, the terror that if she moved even an inch, she would step off the edge of the mountain and would tumble into nothingness. It was as though the mist had caused the peak of the mountain to shrink to only the immediate ground beneath her feet. Ellie tried to talk some sense into herself, tried to force her legs to move, but they were frozen fast. Panic bloomed hot and intense in her chest; if she didn’t get moving soon she would die at the top of this mountain, and her journey would have been for naught. She needed to move, she needed to get her damn body moving, needed to claw her way out of this pit her fear had carved within her…
“I think you’re looking for me,” a voice said, sounding both familiar and alien, and Ellie jumped as a fur-wrapped figure appeared in front of her.
“I seek a shaman; a woman that specialises in magics of the mind,” Ellie told her.
“Then it is I you are looking for,” the figure replied with a dry chuckle. She slowly waved a lantern, gesturing towards the mist. “Follow me.”
Ellie watched the figure as she slowly walked away, leaning heavily on a walking stick, barely able to lift the lantern above hip-height. The other woman started to disappear into the mist when Ellie’s legs finally unlocked and she was able to follow.
“Would you like me to carry your lantern for you?” she asked, holding out a hand.
The woman hesitated, but slowly held the lantern out with a gruff, “Thank you.”
They continued to walk together, and Ellie frowned at the sound of the woman’s harsh breathing, and the sight of her struggling to walk.
“Are you okay?”
“No,” the woman said shortly. “I am in pain.”
“Is there anything I can do? I have some knowledge of herbal remedies.”
“There is no remedy that can help me,” the woman told her gently. “My pain is my constant companion and burden to bear.”
“Oh. If you don’t mind me asking…why did you come up here? How did you get up here?”
The woman tapped the side of her head, and replied in a wry voice, “I made my mind ignore the pain.”
“Why don’t you do that all the time?”
“Because I cannot. And I would not want to; all magic comes at a cost; pushing it away for the present means it will come back for me stronger in the future. When I finally made it up here and allowed the pain back, I passed out for two days.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“There is nothing for you to be sorry for,” the woman said, patting her arm. “Ah, here we are; come in and get yourself settled.”
Ellie followed the woman into her home; numerous lanterns lit the main room and a fire crackled merrily to one side. Ellie put the lantern down on the table and removed her cloak and scarf, placing them on a chair before turning to the woman who had pulled her hood down, revealing long, curly, jet-black hair. Ellie frowned; from the way the woman spoke and acted, she had expected her to be an old crone. The woman removed her fur, revealing a plump body clothed in a simple dress, and when she turned around to Ellie with a, “So what can I help you with?” Ellie saw that she wasn’t an old crone at all, she was young, and beautiful and looked just like-
“Angela,” she breathed, feeling immediately dizzy and overcome by emotion. She took a step forward, pausing when the other woman flinched. “Angela is that really you?”
The other woman flicked her eyes over Ellie’s face. “Ellie?”
“Yes,” Ellie said, her chest heaving and tears rolling down her cheeks as she smiled widely. “Yes, oh my Gods Angela, is that really you?”
Angela turned, slowly hung her furs up, then took up her walking stick and made her way slowly towards Ellie. Ellie was torn between the feeling of elation over finally FINALLY finding her love, and concern over how fragile and broken she seemed to be; she had no memories of Angela being in chronic pain, and she wondered what had happened to the other woman to put her in this state.
Angela finally reached Ellie and stood in front of her, staring at her intently. Ellie stared back, drinking in the image of the woman in front of her; her light brown skin, her large brown eyes, her round nose and her soft full lips.
“Angela,” she whispered joyfully, reaching out to her.
She had barely lifted her hand when Angela raised her walking stick and swung it at her head with a savage cry. Ellie distantly registered the sound of the stick cracking against her head as white-hot pain lanced through her skull. Shock and pain flared briefly within her before everything went black.
‘Blue Caravan’ – Vienna Teng
‘Password’ – Ludovico Einaudi
‘You’re Gone’ – Marillion