“A Cold Spring” isn’t firmly rooted in one time or another. It moves from the present to the past and back again. The timey-wiminess of it appeals to me because I avoid anything normal.
To find previous episodes: follow this link to a pdf of Episodes 1-8.
Aunt Clarissa always called me her favorite, but that didn’t matter at this particular moment. She’d caught me conspiring with La Croixs. I’d heard stories of such things—remnants of the long and divisive feud between the two families. None of those stories ended well.
“Allium,” she said, eyeing me with a glittering green eye. “Which of these boys set Aunt Marzipan’s hair on fire? The poor thing is crying her eyes out from embarrassment in the drawing room.”
Wide-eyed and afraid, I pointed a trembling finger at him.
Maddock made a face like a thundercloud, but Aunt Clarissa was more intimidating by far. Wide eyed and afraid, I pointed a trembling finger at him.
Below us, all the guests were just starting dinner—Lucia and Avery’s first dinner as man and wife. I stood trembling in apprehension of my own punishment as Aunt Clarissa gave Maddock and the now subdued boys a thorough dressing down, unaware of the smudge of smoke spiraling from her own tall hairdo.
Midway through Aunt Clarissa’s tirade, a terrible roar erupted from the dining room. What began as an unearthly low moan rose to a high pitched scream. I stuffed my fingers in my ears but the wail continued. The castle shook from stone foundation to turrets. An avalanche of people poured from the dining room, and still the wail rose higher.
People clutched their throats and froze solid as I watched.
My arms prickled with sudden cold. Hoarfrost blossomed on the tile floor and crept up the wall and up the steps. The crystal chandelier shattered, showering shards of glass and ice on the running throng below. People clutched their throats and froze solid as I watched.
Aunt Clarissa snatched me up in a blinding flash, but I lost sight of Maddock in the confusion. Sometime later, I woke shivering on the musty, dank floor of a cavern. Before I could gather my wits, Aunt Clarissa, her clothing disheveled and her hair flying, pushed sweet smelling incense toward me, and I drifted again into a deep and enchanted sleep.
I awoke hours later to a world which bore little resemblance to the one I remembered. The steady drip, drip, drip of cold water from jagged rocks on the cavern roof roused me from a muddled dream. I lay snuggled in Aunt Clarissa’s ermine cloak on the musty floor of a cave. A warm fire crackled and the smell of broth set my mouth watering. I rubbed my eyes and tried to remember what happened.
Aunt Clarissa, ever composed, handed me a steaming bowl of broth, and matter-of-factly told the tale. She was never one to treat children like children. She saw no reason to mince words.
“Zander Darkmore made the mistake of seating Avery La Croix on his right side.” Aunt Clarissa pressed her lips together firmly. “Zander raised his glass to toast the marriage of his youngest daughter Lucia to the son of his oldest enemy, and Avery stabbed him in the heart. Lucia, drenched in our father’s blood, must have realized Avery planned this betrayal from the start.”
“But Avery and Lucia were married.” I wiped broth from my chin with the back of my hand, but Aunt Clarissa handed me a napkin.
They especially wanted control of our collection of time crystals.
“We will observe good manners no matter our present circumstances.” She snapped. “Yes, they were married and with the union, Avery and the La Croixs gained access to the Darkmore spells and plots. They especially wanted control of our collection of time crystals—something they’ve been after for a very long time. No doubt Avery thought Lucia’s love for him kept him safe from the vengeance of the Darkmores. He was always an arrogant little prick.”
Aunt Clarissa raised the bowl of hot broth to her lips. The steam enticed color into her pale cheeks, but to my young eyes she seemed to have aged a century since I’d watched her discipline Maddock in the upper hallway of Old Castle Highmore.
“Mother says prick is a bad word.” At the mention of my mother, tears welled in my eyes. I searched the shadows of the lonely cavern for any trace of my parents, but I already knew the truth.
“Your mother is . . . was correct. But at times, my dear, one must dispense with propriety in favor of truth. At any rate, Avery soon learned he had underestimated Lucia’s affection for our father. She conjured a freezing curse—one of her specialities. No doubt Avery died instantly but I hope he had time to realize his mistake.”
“Aunt Lucia killed him—her own husband?”
“Froze him where he stood, his dagger still dripping with Father’s blood. I think her heart froze as well or she went mad for she turned her wrath on the entire wedding party—La Croixs and Darkmores alike.”
“But we escaped. Surely others managed to get out. Perhaps Mother and Father . . .”
We’ll not call her Aunt Lucia anymore, Allium. My sister is gone.
Aunt Clarissa sat her bowl aside and pulled me close, patting my hair and squeezing me tight. “It was luck I was in the upper hallway when it happened. I managed to transport you and a few others. When I returned I found stragglers, badly injured, just outside the gates but the entire castle was encased in ice. As I gathered those scarred victims together, Lucia emerged on the tallest tower. She blasted the castle into a million sparkling shards of ice—along with everyone trapped inside.”
“What about Aunt Lucia?”
“We’ll not call her Aunt Lucia anymore, Allium. My sister is gone. One cannot do what she has done without consequence. Whether she is dead or not, I do not know.”
Next Week: Episodes 11 and 12, “Kinship Will Out” and “Lodestone.”