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Renewed: Final Promise
The torchlight flickered eerily in the chamber, illuminating the dancing shadows that beckoned her ever closer. That sense of purpose drew her closer…it was there, tantalizingly out of reach. Anticipation burned her lungs in lieu of oxygen as she outstretched her hand…
She jolted awake, beads of sweat glistening on her face. The gauzy curtains draping around her bed obscured the man who, just moments before, had swung the bedroom door open. For a moment, Deraphine experienced that inexplicable pang of emptiness and longing—so close, so tantalizingly close – before burying it away and refocusing her attention on the pageboy shifting anxiously before her, clearing uncomfortable by her presence.
“Your mother is calling for you.”
All other thoughts vanished. Not bothering to grab a cloak, Deraphine rushed out of the room and down the long, winding corridors, ignoring the almost pitying gaze of her old nursemaid as she pushed Azaleah aside at the entrance of her mother’s chambers.
The room was heavy with the sleepy aroma of cheffield incense, meant to ease the dying into the realm of Eternal Lights. Over the bed, a cloaked and hooded man cast charms over a sweating form, sweeping his hands about and manipulating the golden light like a snake before its charmer.
Deraphine raced to her mother’s side; the man frowned at her beneath his hood, disapproval etched across his hard chiseled face. “Take the child away; she will only aggravate the spirits of Everlasting Sleep.”
“Can’t you do anything?” Deraphine demanded angrily. “You know magic, why aren’t you saving her?”
“As powerful as I am,” he pronounced loftily, as though this was the true predicament, “I cannot undo the will of the gods. You are too young to comprehend—”
“Let her be. She will have time to understand,” whispered the woman on the bed in a rasping voice. The priest turned away with a sneer, retreating to corner. Deraphine’s mother outstretched a pale hand to her; Deraphine took it, scowling as tears leaked down her face. “My beautiful Dera…I remember you as a baby. So small, but fierce… Now look at you; you are a mirror of me.” She traced her daughter’s face lovingly. “Same prominent cheekbones, stubborn chin, framed with the long waves of black velvet hair that your father swears is what caught him, so many years ago. Except your eyes… you have your father’s eyes.” She smiled up at her daughter, now shaking her head furiously.
“You can’t die,” Deraphine insisted fiercely. “I won’t let you die. I have magic, the Gift. I can stop this. I had that dream again and I almost found it, that secret that would save you.”
Her mother held up a hand. “You are strong, Dera, but no one cannot stop what is meant to be, not even you.”
Tears streaked silver upon Deraphine’s pale face. “I will, one day, I promise you.”
A frown creased the dying mother’s face. “Don’t—”
The door swung open to reveal a sopping wet Belisarius, who, after receiving a disapproving frown from the hooded priest in the corner, went to the side of his wife and child. “Evangeline…” His voice was constricted with grief and Evangeline smiled up at him.
“So here we are, the last parting that husbands and wives dread the most: leaving one of them the survivor.” Her breath hitched at the last syllable and her body wracked in violent coughs. Deraphine watched her father, saw the pain sunk into every crease his face, memorizing the agony he experienced as he grabbed both of her mother’s hands in a final desperation to hold onto her.
Once her coughs subsided, Evangeline offered her husband and daughter a strange, almost dreamy smile, gazing into their twin amethyst eyes with unadulterated affection. “Here I am, drowning in violets…” Her voice trailed away and she stared blindly up at them, the ghost of her last smile.
“No…no…no!” Deraphine leapt back, startled as her usually contained father flung himself upon his wife’s body and began shaking it violently. He began tearing at his clothes, clawing at his face, almost ferine. Two men seized him under the arms, dragging away the still howling Belisarius from the room.
“Get him out of here,” snapped the priest authoritatively, taking long strides to the bedside of the dead woman and her crying child.
The girl looked up at his shadowed face; he betrayed no emotion, as unfeeling and unaffected as a statue. “Your father,” continued the high priest, “has always been a particularly…sentimental man. I have witnessed his powers, felt the prowess he has which he refuses to use to the fullest.” He paused, gazing down at Deraphine with condescension. “Do you know why he abstained from fulfilling the full potential of his Gift?”
She shook her head, too numb-shocked to respond any other way.
“You, you and your mother. Magic is connected to our being, flowing through our veins, and allows us to…connect with other beings in an almost empathetic way, making us prone to weakness.” He sneered in disgust at these words.
“My father,” Deraphine said, through gritted teeth, “is not weak. He is the best sorcerer, more powerful than you’ll ever be.”
A flash of anger flamed in his eyes, before he returned to a sneering façade. “Emotion clouds his judgment, just as it will cloud yours, his spawn. You will fail one day, just as he did.” He glanced at Evangeline. And with that, he swept from the room.
Fury swelled in Deraphine’s chest. “You just watch!” she shrieked, a gust of wind causing her hair to rise like flickering flames, an blazing bonfire at standby awaiting the opportunity to crescendo into inferno. “You just watch me!”
And then it died, and she collapsed, her body shaking with silent sobs. After a couple minutes, Deraphine reached up to her mother’s face, closing her eyelids and kissing her forehead. “I promise you,” she whispered, “my final gift to you, I will never stop. You will never have to worry about me; my magic will save millions."