"Do you know the sound of a pig being slaughtered?", Frey asked and scooped the soup into his mouth. "I think I head one tonight. Couldn't sleep because of the squealing."
Some heads nodded approvingly.
Frey hopefully made puppy-eyes at the girl by his side "C'mon, Lady Kathrine, let's look for the corpse. It might still be out there!" He always had the weirdest hobbies. Or maybe he just used every possible way out of boredom.
Katherine raised her head, her face uneasy, but serious. "I'm sorry, it is too dangerous. I can't let you into the forest"
Into the forest into the forest, the leaves whispered back.
There was a clearing with a creek flowing between the weed. It was a hot summer day and birds flocked in the higher Branches of the trees all around, singing mourning melodies.
A little girl in a white summer dress played the flute to accompany them. She sat on a stone near the water, her black hair swaying softly with the wind.
Intrigued, Katherine inched closer. Why were they playing such a sad melody? Furthermore: was this girl her? It looked like it. Playing the flute had been a strain for her in her younger years. She hated keeping still while repeating the same piece over and over.
Originally, she had a rather good memory, but music made her restless, and so she made errors even if she played the tune for the nth time. Tapping her foot to the beat, she wanted to dance instead, forget all the notes and strict conventions. Not that dancing had any less strict conventions for aristocrats.
As Katherine reached the girls' side, she looked at her face and gasped. How...?
It was her, unmistakably, but the little Katherine had blood flowing down her cheeks, the eyes an unseeing red. The blood-tears dropped from her cheeks but instead of hitting the white dress, they kept floating in the air, scattering like pearls without a line. It was as astonishing as it was creepy.
Slowly the pearls swirled around the two girls, getting faster and faster as the tune rose. The small hands fluttered like a bird's wings on the flute, white and celestial.
I was never this elegant, Katherine thought. Somehow this younger her seemed so fragile and so sad. The eerie feeling as she first heard the mourning song slowly vanished in their common sadness.
Not sure, if she could touch her and comfort her - would she even notice? - Katherine reached out to the girl.
As her fingertips brushed her shoulder, there was a sudden cold squeak in the air like chalk on the blackboard. At the same time, the flute and singing birds stilled, and the pearls of blood dropped into the creek like a dark red rain.
Katherine covered her ears, kneeling down until the ugly sound stopped. When it did, eerie silence replaced it. All sounds were gone, swallowed by a white mist.
Yes, the clearing was covered in mist now, restricting to the sight. Katherine couldn't even see the treetops anymore. As if it mattered, because all her senses were fixed on the small creek and the droplets of blood mixing with the water. She felt something approaching. Something that made her heart beat faster in anxiety.
More and more mist drifted up from the river, collecting in the air above and as the blood combined with it, it slowly formed a human shape. Katherine lifted a trembling hand to her mouth, holding her breath.
A whimper broke the silence, pulling her heartstrings. It came from the shade. "Where are you? It's so cold in here... big sis, I'm freezing."
Katherine's lips moved, but she couldn't speak. She knew this one, heard the fear in her small voice.
The shadow moved closer. "Why didn't you come, why did you leave me? Don't you want me anymore?"
Hearing her sorrow, Katherine couldn't sit still anymore. "I-I didn't want to go! I really wanted to help you. You need to believe me! Lily!"
In the instant the first shade nodded, a second shadow climbed out of the river. A cold voice rang in Katherine's ears. "Don't believe her, Lily. She never wanted to come back. She betrayed us and left us to die!"
Katherine's frame shook, tears gathered in her eyes. Their accusations hit her right in the heart. It hurt like hell. "No, I didn't! I... I wanted to help you, but he - "
"Lies!", yet another one screamed. "We don't need your dirty lies! Weren't you on his side? Didn't you follow his orders? You locked us up in that hut more than once with your own two hands!"
"It was for your safety!", Katherine cried out and the tears spilled. "There were wolfs out there! Without guards to protect you, you would have died!"
"At least wolfs don't play before killing. We trusted you, but all you did was heal the mouse before putting it back for the cat to play with.", the cold voice made it clear.
Lilly started to wail. "Help me, sis. I don't want to die! Help me!"
Frantic, Katherine held her hands out to the little shade, wanted to comfort her, but there was nothing to touch, only air and the wailing sound, getting louder and louder, multiplying. It wasn't one voice anymore, but two, five, seven.
"You killed us.", the cold one said. "You killed us, because you loved a monster."
"I didn't love him!" Katherine denied fiercely. "I didn't! But ... he was family. My very own family. How could I have helped you without..." Katherine's voice nearly broke. She tried to take a deep breath, calming herself. It didn't work. Then she realized the truth. They were right. Maybe she really could have saved them, if only they had been her first priority. Their wailing noises together with that realization drove her to the brink of breakdown.
Slowly she admitted: "I wanted to save you, but I didn't want to loose him. I was so very, very selfish... The most egoistic, naive kid there ever was! I didn't want to recognize the monster right in front of me. Sorry! I'm so, so sorry!"
With that, she started wailing, too. She knew her wrongs, but she couldn't go back and correct them. She couldn't make them live again, no matter how much she wanted to. All she could do was beg for forgiveness, while knowing she didn't deserve even the slightest bit of mercy.
"I'm sorry! I shouldn't have left you, I should have opposed him sooner, I should have found a way to save you... I should have admitted to myself, what a monster he is! Please, please forgive me, for I really loved him too much!"
Only silence answered. Katherine buried her tear stained face in the cushions and wailed loudly. It didn't take long for Hazel to come in, fl.u.s.tered by her lady's outbreak in the middle of the night.
After hesitating shortly, she pulled Katherine and the blanket she'd wrapped around herself in a tight and warm embrace.
"It's okay now. Don't cry, milady, don't cry. It was only a dream."
Sadly that made Katherine cry even harder for, no, it wasn't only a dream. She really had betrayed them. She couldn't let go of of her false believe, didn't want to lift the cover to let reality flow in. Her refusal had killed them.
"I killed them, Hazel. I killed them!"
Hazel didn't know what to do in this kind of situation. She didn't believe her lady could kill someone. Patting Katherine's back, she repeated helplessly: "It was a dream, milady. You didn't kill anyone."
Hearing her denial, Katherine's body got stiff. Slowly, she freed herself and looked up at her trustful maid, seeing her old self. The one who didn't want to believe someone near to her could be a monster. Her hands cupped Hazels' cheek and lifted her chin. Shyly, Hazel tried to dodge her lady's eyes. She felt already that she'd done something wrong, but couldn't find the error in her actions.
"Look at me!", Katherine commanded harshly.
Hazels' body shook, but she complied reluctantly. Katherine's face was cold, her swollen eyes pools of nothingness. It was already the second time that Hazel thought her new lady had a really frightening side to her. There was so much darkness in her eyes.
Katherine didn't mind the fear of the older girl. She wanted to teach her a lesson, so hopefully Hazel would turn out differently from her. "If you stay as good as you are, you will only be used until there is nothing left. I don't need such a wimpy maid! Change!"
With that, she let go of her and turned around before sinking back into the pillows.
Hazel stood there like a stature, confused and depressed. What had she done wrong? She just wanted to comfort her lady, yet she got such hurtful words in return. Didn't the lady like her personality? Didn't she do everything her lady asked her to?
Seeing Katherine already asleep again, she left silently. Afterwards, regardless how little she understood it, the empty look in her lady's eyes and this single word didn't go out of her head as if there was some profound meaning to be deciphered. Change. What was it her lady wanted to change in her? What wimpy behavior?
In her bed, Katherine opened her eyes again, wide awake. "Sorry, Hazel. I'm too selfish.", she whispered. "If you want to be my maid, my friend, you can't stay innocent and stainless. Otherwise, I can't trust you completely. And you will only get hurt."