C3 A Brewing Storm on the Horizon
Later that night...
A sudden, severe thunderstorm is pummeling the county. Strong winds are driving an already heavy downpour to wreak more damage; causing flash flooding … powerful enough to uproot small trees and shrubbery; and, tear away chunks of asphalt from the roads … in some areas; while also downing telephone and power lines.
An incessant wave of reverberating, booming thunderclaps and sharp, static-sounding crackling resonate throughout the air; as the otherwise pitch blackness of this stormy night is frequently lit up by continuous streaks of lightning bolts cutting across the sky.
Katie has taken on her usual ritual … sitting upright in bed, with her arms folded across her lap; while rhythmically rocking back and forth. And, as the storm rages on outside; it doesn't seem to be affecting the severely autistic, eight-year-old … not that much, anyway. The only noticeable effect seems to be that the shorter the intermittent between the thunderclaps become; the faster she rocks.
Katie's in her typical trance-like state, intensely gazing up in the direction of her most prized possession hovering over her bed; catching a glimpse of it every time the darkened room becomes illuminated by a brilliantly luminous flash of lightning. She continues rocking; entranced by that mystical mobile.
Soon; that 'thousand yard stare' appears within her glazed over, brown, doe-like eyes … and, Katie drifts off; as she's whisked away to her alternate world...
The Wiel Shire is a small, provincial territory that abuts a portion of Autisia's southeastern border. It is one of the little over a dozen neighboring, smaller territories aligned with … and; under the protection of … the Autisia Realm.
The young lady had been frolicking about the grounds for a good portion of the day; and, is now taking a leisurely stroll through the estate's expansive knot garden. She's admiring the vibrant colors of all the various perennials blooming; while basking in the pleasantly soothing warmth of a radiant afternoon sun. But, then; all of a sudden...
Continual gusts of gale-like wind sweep across the garden; chilling the young lady to the bone … causing her to incessantly shiver. And; after the wind starts blowing … heavy banks of drearily gray clouds roll in, and converge overhead; darkening the entire sky above. Then, shortly after that; the clouds burst open, and release a deluge of rainfall and hail … and; the torrential downpour begins to rapidly saturate the entire area.
The young lady is drenched within seconds; and, she makes a mad dash for the closest cover available … a small, raised pavilion that's located in the center of the knot garden.
The wind gusts steadily increase in intensity; and, the the young lady's exposed skin is painfully stinging from the pelting of raindrops and hail pellets being forcefully driven by them. And, now; a barrage of deadly bolts of lightning are ominously streaking across the sky … with an occasional bolt striking down to the ground.
She laboriously runs against the now hurricane-like wind; while her feet splash down onto the already submerged gravel walkway leading to the pavilion, with every plodding stride. And; as she's about to pass under the last berceau before the pavilion … a bolt of lightning strikes the arched trellis structure; causing it to nearly collapse upon the young lady. Luckily she manages to dodge the falling debris.
The young lady makes a last, full-out charge for the pavilion; then, dives onto its floor … finally able to take refuge from the raging storm. Unfortunately, this shelter is quickly taken away … the young lady just barely catches her breath … when another bolt of lightning strikes the pavilion's roof; and, instantly sets it ablaze. She has no choice but to flee to the next closest cover available … a large, multi-purpose structure comprising the barn and stable area; carriage house; and, groundskeepers' storage.
Once again, the young lady laboriously races against the fierce wind; while being mercilessly pelted by the hammering rain and hail … occasionally finding it necessary to dodge a ground-striking bolt of lightning. … She's starting to think … as crazy as it may seem … that this storm is somehow targeting her specifically.
As she approaches the structure, she notices several of the stable hands and groundskeepers waving her on to hurry inside; and, the young lady frantically charges towards the open barn doors … avoiding several near-miss, ground-striking bolts of lightning. The last ground-striking bolt nearly hits her … streaking by only a mere few inches away from her feet … as she leaps into the barn. … In fact; it was so close, that she received an indirect shock from that deadly bolt's emanating raw, unbridled electricity.
Greatly worried about her current condition; they all rush over, and closely huddle around the supine eight-year-old child … who's on the ground convulsively twitching from the electrical shock. But, this episode only lasts for a brief moment; and then, she struggles to get up onto her feet on her own.
The young lady's clothes are sopping wet … soaked through and through … clinging onto her petite frame. Her shoulder-length, chestnut brown is equally soaked … heavily matted down, and in a disheveled state … and, her typically fair, milky white skin now has a raw-looking, reddish color to it; after having been exposed to the blustery wind and frigid rain and hail. She wearily stands in the center of the concerned servants; incessantly shivering, with her teeth chattering.
“Are you alright, Lady Katherine?” The stable's farrier barks out, “Boy; don't just stand there like a bump on a log … quickly; get a blanket for Lady Katherine!”
The youngest stable hand immediately breaks away from the group to retrieve a blanket.
Lady Katherine … Katie Williams' alter-self in this medieval-like, magical world.
Shortly … the stable hand returns with a blanket, and hands it over to the farrier; who then wraps it around the soaked young lady. He looks back to the stable hand...
“Boy; quickly … go saddle up a horse, and ride over to the manor. Inform the Master and Madame that Lady Katherine is safe and sound in the stable. Surely with this storm kicking up out there they must be worried about her whereabouts; and, hoping that she has proper shelter from it.”
Once again, the stable hand leaves to carry out the farrier's instructions. And, when the farrier turns to look back at the young lady; he observes her sniffing the blanket … along with the frowning expression on her countenance.
“Is something wrong, Lady Katherine?”
“This blanket smells like a horse … which means I'll probably end up smelling like a wet horse.”
The farrier belts out a hearty guffaw; then, replies...
“Well; my apologies for that, Lady Katherine … but; this is a stable, after all. Besides … I truly believe it would better for you to smell like a wet horse now; than be sick as a dog later.”
A smile emerges across her still bluish lips, as she titters; then, quips...
“That's true. … And; I suppose it could be worse. At least I don't smell like a wet dog.”
The stable hand returns; now accompanied by Lady Katherine's governess … who has brought dry clothes for the young lady to change into; and, will remain at the stable to care for Lady Katherine until the storm ceases.
After changing and warming up a bit; a bored … and fidgety … Lady Katherine decided to kill some time by ambling about the structure. She's currently up in the loft of the groundskeepers' storage area; rummaging through an overflow of forgotten, stored away items that there was no room for at the manor.
Lady Katherine comes across an oil painting of a portrait of her as an infant, being held by a girl around her age now; who slightly resembles her. A quizzical expression overtakes her face, as she heavily ponders over who the girl in the painting is; because, she can't seem to recall ever seeing this person before in her life. She finally asks her governess; who's been caring for her her entire life...
“Sylvia … I know that the baby in this painting is me; but, who is the girl holding me? Do I know her … I can't seem to remember who she is. Do you know who she is?”
Sylvia knows very well who the girl is; but, is reluctant about letting her young ward know the mystery girl's identity. She feels that this is something Lady Katherine's parents should reveal to her. Still; Sylvia knows that this is something that she can't flat-out deny … being how she's been with the young lady since the day she was born … so; she ambiguously answers...
“Yes, my young lady; we both know her … she was someone who was very close with your family, at one time. But, due to some unfortunate circumstances; she has lost contact with the family. This happened when you were very young; so, it's only natural that you wouldn't be able to remember her.”
“So; then … who is she?”
Sylvia's momentarily silent; as she averts her eyes down to the floor. Then; she sheepishly replies...
“I'm sorry, my young lady … but; I feel that that is something for your parents to discuss with you.”
Although her curiosity is piqued … Lady Katherine realizes that since Sylvia said that this was something to be talked about with her parents; there was no point in pushing the issue any further.
Meanwhile … over in the Dark Realm...
Despite being hundreds of miles away; Hilgara can sense the raging storm that's severely ravaging the Wiel Shire … with most of its destructive force being inflicted upon Lady Katherine's family's estate. A sinister smirk slowly emerges upon the old hag's countenance...
“I see the Dark forces are already at work. My Master is clearly sending Lady Katherine and her family a warning … whether they realize this, or not; we shall have to wait and see.”
Hilgara exits her house, and walks halfway down her yard's walkway … which is comprised of crushed, bone fragments … then; looks up and stares at the barely visible stars up above. Even though there's only a slight variation in their position from a few days ago; Hilgara quickly notices it...
“It won't be long before the stars fall into place, and the Aqua Moon rises; so, the prophecy has most likely begun … for the signs are beginning to reveal themselves. … Soon … very soon the sisters will reunite.”
Another sinister smirk etches its way across Hilgara's thin, pale lips...
“That's when things will start to become interesting … and; when the real fun begins.”
The sudden, severe thunderstorm continues to pummel the county.
Over at the Williams' residence...
A booming thunderclap abruptly awakens the slumbering teen. She groggily sits up, and dazedly looks about her room; which is sporadically lit up by the beaming lightning flashes.
A few minutes pass … she languidly gets out of bed; then, heads over to her desk. She opens the bottom drawer, and slowly digs through the drawer's contents; then, pulls out an old photograph from the bottom of the piled items shoved in there.
The photograph is similar to that of the oil painting … though the clothes and furniture are from modern day times.
The teen nostalgically stares at the photograph for a brief moment; then, sullenly mutters under her breath...
“I guess I'll see you tomorrow; Katie.”