This is the prologue of my 'ghost' story - see if you think I've set it up as a mystery.
New Orleans, Louisiana, 1815
"They say you cast spells, old woman."
A carriage rattled by, churning a pall of choking dust.
The cloaked and hooded figure swiftly glanced at the street behind him. He withdrew further into the concealment of his disguise, the silk of his cravat rustling. "If not, I'll take my gold elsewhere." A suggestive shake of his fist made coins chink against each other, a heavy sound of greed and passion.
The old woman squatting in the doorway slowly looked up, pausing at the gloved hand still outthrust with its enticement, then continuing upwards to study the face partially hidden behind a feathered-and-bejeweled mask. She noted the richness of the material, the gleam of gemstones, the signs of "Quality" barely disguised behind the all encompassing cloak. She smiled.
"Well, can you or not?" He spat the words through dry lips, his voice accompanied by the glitter of eyes nearly insane from an unknown wanting. "They say you are the best, the only one who really knows how, ‘though you are a damned English witch." He leaned closer, until their faces almost touched. "It must be done," he growled, his breath a miasma of greed. "Tonight!"
A hot wind picked up dirt and cast it across the road as the old woman stared into the face so close to her own.
Something she saw in his expression finally decided her.
"'Twill cost ye much, m'lord," she muttered, not really caring whether the man heard or not. "Ye don't realize how much now, but ye will anon."
Rising, she pushed the door of her shack open and allowed him to pass through. The door swung shut behind them, swallowing them up as if they had never existed.
Here's the first little bit of my Medieval historical:
Lord Barak’s Lady Chapter One England, 1214 A.D.
The coldness of the stone floor seeped through her cloak and thin wool tunic and froze her very soul. Damia fought against the panic that soured her stomach as she tucked her knees against her chest. What would Lord Norbourne do to her if her carefully thought out plan did not work, if he didn’t want her? Would he kill her? Or would he send her back to her father to face her fate? Voices echoed from the tower door and a scrape of iron against stone signaled the approach of the castle guards. Damia shrank against the hard wall, wishing she could take back the bargain she’d made with the devil. If only she could start this day, this week, this life, over once again. A rough hand grabbed her arm, hoisting her to her feet. Too late. She was committed now. “Come, girlie. The lord will be ready for you as soon as he finishes discussin’ the morrow’s training plans w’ the captain.” The man held out a torch to light her way. Or so she thought. He thrust it almost into her face, the stench of burning pitch making her insides roil. “Here, how 'bout a kiss? Lord Barak won’t mind if I gets first chance, not one bit.” Damia jerked her head back, fearful that the fire from the torch would singe her clothing or her hair. “I shall tell him you said so.” She almost smiled at the speed with which the man released her arm. She knew the difference between his speech and hers showed how much her status was above his. Then, she frowned. She truly was no different than any other woman the man would find waiting on his lord. Waiting to warm his bed. The guardsman fell onto his knees in front of her and gazed upward imploringly. “No! 'ave mercy, my lady! Do not tell the lord!” Damia nodded, willing to give him the tiny bit of peace he wanted. She wouldn’t tell Lord Barak anything about the incident, even if the man had touched her. She had enough problems of her own. The doorway into the tower spilled a beckoning light. She turned in that direction, pulled forward by a fatalistic inevitability. Holding her skirts up with fingers that felt like frozen blocks, she walked toward the light. Echoes of her father’s last words rang in her mind. Ye will lay with and marry whom I say, when I say it. If ye refuse, I will bind and gag ye and give yer vows myself. Ye will obey me in this. Then yer next husband will deal with yer disobedient, willful ways. Damia shivered. She wouldn’t allow it to come to that. Anything, even selling her body, would be better than being forced into marriage with Lord Henry of Drumlanton. The brilliant reds and blues of the tapestries, the cold breeze from arrow slits, the bright, enticing firelight in the room before her whirled in a macabre dance of sensation, sucking her into the eye of the storm. Voices swirled with the rest, muffled by her raging thoughts. Suddenly, the words became clear. “And on your way out, send the wench in.” Foreboding shivered down Damia’s spine. She was ‘the wench.’ She was the evening’s entertainment. She was the sacrifice for her own foolishness. But soon, even if she must give her body to a stranger, she would finally have a say in her life.
And here is the prologue of my current WIP
I woke as I usually did from the dream: my face and pillow soaked with my tears, my fingers bleeding from the bite of my teeth to force my silence, to keep Madame from sweeping into the harem to punish the noise maker, the one who has awoken the room with her cries of despair.
The dream is always the same. And, once again, I wondered. Was the dream just that – a dream of happiness and innocence never to be found again? Or was it a true memory of the place from which I’d been stolen as was whispered by the other girls when I walked by? For I knew that I had not been born here as they had.
I have memories of trees that are not carefully trimmed so as to not outgrow the small enclosure, of birds that flew high in the sky instead of being locked in a cage with bars similar to the ones that blocked our windows. I know I have seen the sun turn the sky pink and golden with its dawning and the moon rise round and orange like a ball from the place where the earth meets the sky. None of these things can be seen from the tiny garden where a fountain trickles an eternal stream of water or from the barred windows that face it.
The others think I dream of these things: the sun rising and the birds flying high and that is why I cry out in the night – that the bad genies pour these thoughts into my head like a pitcher pours water into a basin because it isn’t possible that these things exist. But I know better, at least in the darkness of the night when I, once again, find myself weeping into the pillow of my sleeping mat.
I don’t dream of places and things. I dream of my home and my family.
I dream of the night my life was shattered forever.