In the middle of an empty chamber, an enchanted golden staff stood upright, regal and tall. A rainbow of lights shot from its tip, illuminating the white room in a multicolored glow.
Drucilla's gaze remained fixed on the staff of Merlin. She lowered herself to the cold marble floor and sat, her ankles tucked neatly beneath the magical gown of creamy silk. With a loving caress, the smooth material settled around her legs, its warm energy giving her comfort, as if she was not alone in this place of illusion.
But she was alone.
Alone in a hidden palace within Mount Suilven, and supported only by the power of the wizard's ancient staff. Without it, Drucilla would have no shelter or provisions. She would be trapped in the dark mountain until the day she died.
Drucilla sighed with longing. A stilled silence filled the chamber.
She looked up at the array of lights shooting toward the open roof of the chamber. High above her head, the black inner cavern of the mountain reminded her of the darkness beyond the palace walls.
She wondered what it would be like to go outside the mountain. To talk to people, walk through a market on a rainy day or see the blue ocean waters. These were experiences she could only read about and imagine in her library.
However, as much as she longed to experience these things, she would gladly give them all up for the gentle sensation of a man's kiss. She touched her lips, her gaze drifting upward.
Being the daughter of the devil's mistress, her knowledge of males was limited. Well, perhaps limited would not be the right word. She had never met a man before. Growing up in purgatory was not the ideal environment to seek companionship. Even there, her mother had sequestered her away from the other tortured souls.
When the day came that Mother brought her to earth's surface, she thought at last she would have ordinary people to talk to, but she was mistaken. Mount Suilven held her imprisoned. Even if escape were possible, she would die the moment she reached the world of the living, unlike her mother--the devil's mistress could come and go as she pleased.
What would it be like to have a family? To know who her father was or to have a surname?
"This is foolish," she said with agitation, her voice echoing in the chamber. Pushing to her feet, she stood. "I must not waste my time on watching Merlin's staff. It only makes me want something I could never have."
Turning around, she jolted to find a silver unicorn watching her.
"Silas, you scared me."
She ran her hand down his velvety nose. The tall unicorn swished his black tail back and forth. His black-tipped ears twitched, and his pearl horn glistened with millions of stars.
"How is it you can steal behind me without making a sound?"
Silas snorted and shook his head.
"I am glad you are here, my friend." Drucilla grabbed the mane and lifted herself onto the unicorn.
"Take me to our special place. I am in need of the healing waters of Suilven's springs."
She was about to ride through the empty halls of the palace when the white walls darkened with a smoky hue, covering the sunny luster.
The unicorn's head jerked up along with her own.
"Mother is home," she said, her heart leaping with excitement.
Sinking her heels into Silas' flanks, she raced along the halls to the wide marble stairway. The unicorn pounced into the air and flew over the stairs; its hooves floated above the gray steps.
Drucilla tightened her grasp on the mane, jolting forward when Silas skidded along the smooth floor of the entrance hall.
Regaining his balance, he turned and cantered toward the outside solar. Like her, Silas could sense her mother's dark presence.
A cloying scent of old jasmine, subtle at first, became stronger as they neared.
Drucilla found her mother standing in the solar. A false sun beamed brightly through the glass roof, bathing her youthful appearance in splendid light.
The snug red gown she had made for her mother clung to her slender back and small waist. The magical velvet material fell to the floor, a long train splayed behind, giving her a regal appeal.
Drucilla rarely used her powers, but she did love to enchant her gowns with life. The one her mother wore was a perfect fit for her dominant temperament. Its deep color accented her smooth raven hair and pale skin. Drucilla felt not for the first time, a pang of jealously. She wished her own brittle and thick hair were as silky and straight--to be as beautiful as her mother.
Swinging her leg over, she dropped down from her unicorn and lowered into a curtsey.
"Mother, 'tis a pleasure to see you."
"I told you not to call me that. My name is Torella."
"I know, I know. I cannot help it. Though you look as young as me, I still see you as my mother."
"Well, try to remember, darling." She gave Drucilla a half smile. "I have a gift for you."
Drucilla's lips parted in surprise.
"I know you have been restless of late and I do hate that you must stay within the mountain, so I thought this might bring you happiness." Torella placed her arm around Drucilla and turned her toward the corner of the room.
Waving her hand in an arc, her mother commanded, "Reveal."
Upon a bed with lacy black curtains, a man of fifty winters appeared to be sleeping, his arms crossed over his chest.
Drucilla walked around the bed, studying his every feature. Even in the books she had read, no man ever looked so angelic on the pages. Wavy blond hair and slight winkles gave him a peaceful, kind face. His body was wrapped in blue and green plaid.
This was the first man she had ever seen in real life. Although much older than herself, he was pleasant to look upon.
"Who ... who is he?" she asked.
Her mother glided around the other side of the bed and leaned over to kiss him on the lips.
He remained undisturbed.
"This is Laird Phillip Roberts." Her mother glanced up, her green eyes shining. "Your father."