The sound of a baby crying.
Ana stirred in her bed, turning from her left side to her right, but didn’t wake. Lying at the foot of the bed, the Felhound stirred also, when she did, ever protective of her, but he didn’t move more than to simply lift his head, and finding everything was alright, he laid his head back down again. Kaeth would glance over at her also, from his seat beside the window. He barely slept, and he was aware of her constant tossing and turning in her sleep as much as Ghaad was, most nights, but he left her alone. She was sleeping soundly for the most part, and safely, watched over by the two of them. Ghaad had attached himself to her from almost the first moment since she’d stepped foot inside the Stormblood house. He followed her around so closely, that she had to try not to trip over him sometimes, but she couldn’t scold the creature, and she never did, because it was comforting, his presence ever close by when his master was not, which was often.
The sound of the baby crying got a little louder and Ana stirred again, this time blinking her eyes open and closed a few times, roused by it, unable to sleep through the insistent sound of the little one crying out, sounding distressed now. She rubbed at her eyes and sat up slowly, slipping her legs off the side of the bed, her feet would touch floorboards before she stood up, but there weren’t floorboards underneath her bare feet, only stone, cold stone, and she frowned.
She fumbled around in the dark, looking for the candle she left on the nightstand before she slept every night, found it, and lighting it, she stood up, looking around. This room was … not her own. This room was not small and cosy, the moonlight seeping in through a small latticed window above her bed, but huge, cold and the moonlight didn’t seep through a small window but a huge, almost picture window that seemed to run almost the full length of the wall above her bed from one side of the room to the other. She frowned as she glanced at the bed and noticed the absence of the Felhound too. He simply wasn’t there. He wasn’t on the floor either, in the corner, where he sometimes lay if not on her bed. She was completely alone, and there was silence for a moment, dead silence, before the baby started howling again from an unknown location.
We don’t have a baby.
Pushing the heavy bedroom door open, it groaned loudly on it’s hinges and before her, Ana was faced with a hall, long, high and wide. A grand hall at that. And the infant, the ever increasing sounds of it’s crying were coming from somewhere down this hall in one of the rooms. Behind which door, she didn’t know, and there was only one way to find out, so she started down the hall, pushing each door open, one by one, slowly at first, and then her pace quickened to a fast walk, and then she was running to the next, and then the next and then the next, awarded with nothing for her efforts but empty rooms, and the child’s howling seemingly further away and more distressed with each door she opened, finding nothing.
Sliding her back down the wall, Ana sank down onto the cold stone floor of the hall, breathless, slapping the tiles with her palms and crying out in frustration, and the moment she did this, out of the corner of her eye, she saw a door that she hadn’t noticed, the last at the end of the long hall, in fact appearing where another hall had been but now wasn’t. There was simply a wall and a large door, and it cracked itself open, spilling light onto the stone tiles to the right of her legs, and she blinked, unmoving and in disbelief for a moment.
Oh Gods, I’m losing my mind again.
But she pushed herself to her feet. The infant was inside that room and the crying resounded now, throughout the room it apparently lay in, bouncing off the walls of the hall and it was screaming so loudly it was almost hoarse.
She was inside a child’s nursery. The walls papered a pale yellow, furnished with a bed, a sofa, a toy chest, stuffed animals and a huge ornate chandelier, and there, in a crib, draped with soft white curtains lay the cause of all of the noise, a tiny, red faced, howling baby, and it was only then that she stopped to think. Where had it come from? Whose child was this? And then he was there, Lord Stormblood, scooping the little creature from it’s bed, holding it in his arms, looking down at the tiny face, and then looking up at Ana, smiling, holding the bundled infant out to her.
“The child cries for it’s mother’s touch, Miss Blackcrest.”
Ghaad’s cold, leathery nose against her face startled her awake, and Ana sat up, disoriented, rubbing at her eyes, and then pushing the hair off her face. And Eyla was right there, her blind stare fixed on the woman’s face from beside the bed, her figure slumped a little, shoulders forward, and her voice, when she spoke, was filled with concern and sadness.
Ana patted at the space beside her on the bed, where Kaeth would be, were he still not sitting in his chair by the window, silently watching them. The little girl climbed up onto the bed and snuggled into her, curling her legs up and laying her head on her belly.
“I’ll always be your favorite, won’t I, Mommy?”
And as she pressed a kiss onto the top of the childs head, smoothing her hair with one hand as she looked over at the man, his attention now back out the window, she lay back down, still embracing the ghost of a child that she now called her daughter and wondered for the first time if it was now that she could or should consider adding to this strange family she’d found herself a part of, to have a child of her own, one of real flesh and blood.
“You’ll always be my favorite girl, Eyla, always.”