How long had it been since the last time Alara had ridden through the gates of the Ebonlynx estate? A grandiose mansion house that was nestled nicely into the splendor of Silvermoon City, complete with spires and animated objects of its own, swirling about the front lawns. And emblazoned on the entrance was painted a large black cat reared up on its back legs. It was an impressive home, larger than a mansion had any right to be, with its glinting windows that caught the light of the morning sun, the stone steps that lead up to the doors, and the carefully etched columns which lined the long porch. And even though it had been a very long time since Alara had stepped foot in this place, she still remembered every brick and cornerstone.
Alara’s hawkstrider approached the marble patterned steps that lead to the heavy wooden doors. Guards were posted outside the gate and the front entrance along with footmen ready to assist her off her mount. Not a thing had changed about the Ebonlynx posterity since she had been away. You could not lift a finger without a servant helping you to do it. With less than a sentence spoken between all of them, Alara’s luggage was whisked away and she was lead inside of the house.
“I trust that you can find everything on your own, Lady Alara?” her cloaked traveling companion asked, walking diagonally two steps behind her.
She nodded, “I am sure that my memory of this place will return. If you don’t mind, I would like to have some time to myself before the gathering gets underway.”
The elf nodded and melded away into the rest of the busy worker bees who were flitting about the estate halls, making last minute additions and preparations. Alara pulled the scarf down around her neck and made her way down the long, empty corridors. Nothing had changed. Nothing at all. The color of the curtains, the style of the rugs, the placement of the candelabras. This place had remained frozen in time. Frozen in that moment where she had walked away from it all.
Down one of the many hallways, in this maze of a house, hung a number of oil painted portraits. These portraits, which Alara had been forced to memorized, spanned from one end to the other. The heads of this branch of House Ebonlynx from generations past lined these walls, giving the feeling that; even in death; they held this House in their firm grips. The very last portrait was that of her father. The painting was a striking likeness. It even had the stern glint that was every present in his glance. But now there was something different. Her father’s portrait was longer last in the hall. An empty space was now adjacent to his portrait with an empty frame. For all the years she had been part of this family, her father had always been the head. But now she could not muster up enough interest to make herself wonder why her father was being replaced and by whom.
Another person was in the hallway, looking at the paintings that lined the opposite wall with the air of someone who had never seen them before. Alara did not speak. Instead she took a few steps closer. This elven girl looked entirely out of place, standing amidst the lavish décor and extravagance. She was dressed in beaten up leathers that had seen better days. Her corn silk hair hung straight and plain on her shoulders. Her boots were scuffed and caked in numerous layers of dirt, the buckles probably never had been shined even once. She stood there, staring at the portraits, eyes tracing over every small nuance. Alara was doing the same with this young woman. The hair. The clothes. The lanky body shape. Alara could feel her heart plummeting into her stomach.
Alara wanted that figure to continue looking at the family portraits. She wanted this woman to ignore the name she had just called out. However, her fears became reality as the blonde head turned around and looked at her.
Alara’s heart continued the fall from her stomach to floor. She ran over to her daughter and grabbed her by the shoulders, shaking Cixi as she spoke, “Why?! Why are you here?!”
This wasn’t supposed to be happening. Cixi was never to see the inside of these walls. That was the deal she had made. Cixi was supposed to be kept away from this place. So why was her daughter standing here? Now of all times.
The panic strickened face of her mother made Cixi a bit frightened. While she had expected her mother to be surprised to see her, Cixi had not expected her mother to react in this manner. Cixi winced as her mother’s fingers dug into her shoulders.
“A man in brown robes showed up at the Silvacce estate and left a letter for me,” Cixi explained, trying to pry herself loose from her mother’s grip, “I recognized your family name. It said that you were sent an invitation as well. I thought it was best if I came too.”
They invited her?, Alara thought to herself, They wouldn’t. They couldn’t do this. Why wasn’t I told?
A quiet cough interrupted the two. Cixi and Alara both looked up to see a group of young servant women who were standing behind them.
“Sorry to interrupt your conversation, Mi’lady. But we have been sent to tend to Young Lady Cixithara. Would you like for us to wait for a while before taking her to her quarters?”
Alara shook her head and let go of her daughter’s shoulders, “No, we can talk at length later on.”
She turned her attention to the servant women that were about to take her daughter away, “Could you tell me where my brother is?”
“Lord Jaias is in your father’s study," they answered. "He is preparing for the rest of your family to arrive. He has made it a point that he have no interruptions until later in the day.”
“He will see me.”