May 5th, 2015
Charlotte had given up chasing Lakvos through the upper halls, and was rolling a ball back and forth down the second floor hallway. Neither of her brothers would play with her today. Quinn was off in the woods as usual, and Rhys had gone out with Wyatt. Charlotte was bored, so when the ball rolled into Lask’s door, she ambled over to see if it was unlocked.
“Adar?” she called, but he was not in his chamber.
Charlotte tucked the ball under her arm and wandered into her father’s room. Light streamed through the stained glass on the opposite wall, casting splashes of color across the floor. Charlotte gave the ball an experimental bounce in a bright diamond of red on the stone.
It was a pleasant room, even when Lask wasn’t in it. Charlotte found she liked the remnants of his company, and took up bouncing her ball from yellow to red patches of light on the floor. On the fifth bounce, it got away from her, and rolled under the massive bed on the left side of the room.
Charlotte approached, kneeling to peer under. The ball had come to rest amid some trunks and boxes, so she flattened out on the floor and wiggled under to fetch it. As she pulled the ball back into the crook of her arm, she noticed it had stopped against a long wooden box with wrought iron hinges. There was a black lock on the front. She reached out and gave it a tug, not expecting much, but gasped as something bit her finger. The girl recoiled, finding a spot of blood beading on her index finger. She was too busy fretting over the puncture to notice the lock click open. It was only when it fell to the floor she looked back up.
On the back of the lock was a thin spike, designed to draw blood it seemed. Perhaps it was blood magic keeping it closed. For a moment, Charlotte considered leaving it, but… it was open now, why not?
Charlotte shimmied out from under the bed, pulling the box with her. It was as long as she was tall, and faintly casket-like, though Charlotte had never seen such a thing. When she was out into the open floor, she sat crosslegged and eagerly threw the lid back. She both marveled and cocked her head, puzzled at the content.
The box was full of feathers. The top layer was mostly black, some brushed with gold. They ranged in size from the length of her thumb to the size of her forearm. Charlotte picked them out, setting them on the floor from smallest to largest, until she had uncovered the brighter feathers beneath.
The bottom layer surprised her more. The feathers there were immense. She pulled tapered crimson feathers out as large she was. The ends were edged in gold, and she waved one as if it were huge palm frond, feeling the lift it created in the air. The girl admired each one, emptying the box to study each feather– there were 122 in all. It was the first time she’d had reason to count so high, and enjoyed the exercise. When she had determined how many there were, she picked up a smaller red one, and tucked it behind her ear. Glancing to the left, she spotted herself in the dressing mirror, and grinned at the brightness of the feather in her dark hair. She selected more, tucking them into her collar so they stuck up in a great fan about her head, and braiding the smaller ones into her hair. The feathers were soft and she wondered at the brilliant color–
She gasped, and spun to find her father standing in the door. Lask had stopped short at the sight of her, and stood agog in stricken horror. Feathers were strewn all over the bedroom, and in the center, Charlotte sat with a hesitant smile.
“Put those away,” Lask growled, sweeping into the room, gathering feathers into his hands without looking at her. “You have no business with them, and shouldn’t have been able to get to them.”
“I just found them,” she said. “The lock bit me and opened.” She showed him her pricked finger. “They’re beautiful, Adar. May I have some?”
“No. Back in the box, all of them.” Lask fumbled with the feathers. “You shouldn’t touch what doesn’t belong to you.”
“I’m sorry, Adar,” said Charlotte. She blinked at him, not knowing what to say; he was so rarely cross with her. She couldn’t remember a time she’d made him so agitated. “I didn’t know…”
“What is this?” He reached out and plucked handfuls of feathers from her clothes. “They’re not for wearing!”
“What are they for, Adar?”
“It’s no business of yours, child,” snapped Lask. “Go on. Find somewhere else to be.”
Charlotte hesitated a moment, watching him gather the scattered feathers with a clenched jaw and stormy brow. She bent down and picked up a few offering them to be placed in the box. Lask took them from her tucked them in without a word. He didn’t want her help, that was obvious.
“I’m sorry, Adar,” Charlotte murmured again, then started for the door. She paused in the hallway, and heard Lask’s breath catch behind her. It was the sound of hidden tears, and she wondered if she should go to him. The girl peered around the edge of the door again, and saw Lask on his knees in the floor, gathering the last of the feathers in a haste of both rage and dismay. He paused at the last one, slender and red, and looked at it with something like disgusted grief, then cast it into the box and slammed the lid closed.