The Keeper's FlameBy: Barbara Kloss
(A Pandoran Novel, #2)
Voices in the Night
“Lady!” whispered a little voice.
My eyes fluttered open to the dark.
“Lady, wake up!” said the little voice again, more frantic this time.
Small, yet firm hands gripped my shoulder and shook it. With a soft moan, I rolled to my side and the hands let go. I could just make out his slight silhouette in the dark. I reached out and grabbed his little hand. Poor thing; he was trembling.
“Bad dreams again?” I yawned.
Fleck shook his head.
“No?” I propped myself up on my elbow. My eyes were beginning to adjust and I could now see two glittering eyes. I squeezed his hand. “What is it then?”
He gulped. “I…hear voices.”
“In the hall?”
He shook his head again and his bottom lip trembled.
“Where?” I asked.
He answered with an exaggerated nod. Fleck had been having nightmares ever since we’d arrived here, but I’d never seen him so shaken by them before.
“Want to get the light?” I asked, but before the words were even out of my mouth, a flame materialized on my bedside candle.
Fleck was whiter than my sheets and his hair was matted to his forehead. I brushed his hair back; he was burning up. “Hmm,” I said, “let’s go have a look.”
I wrapped my robe around myself, slipped into my slippers, and we stepped out into a dark corridor.
It was sometime between the hours when the day is in limbo, waiting for tomorrow. Everyone, and everything, was sleeping. Even the torches were nodding off, flames struggling to burn. The castle was menacing at night, like a great tomb, hiding centuries of secrets that felt safe to come forth once the living were asleep. And the secrets in this world, I’d come to realize, were never of the fortuitous kind.
Fleck’s little hand was sweaty in mine as we padded down the cold, dark hall. His room was in a tower not far from me, but nearer to the heart of the castle. My grandfather, the king, liked to keep him close.
Right before the door to Stefan’s room, we turned down a narrow corridor, wound up the spiral stone staircase, and reached his small, wooden door.
I turned to face Fleck, crouching beside him. His eyes were huge and frightened and his knobby legs were shaking so badly that I was surprised he could still stand. “Would you like to wait out here?” I asked.
He bit his lip and shook his head.
I held his gaze a moment before pressing my hand on the door. It opened with a loud creeeeeak, and the light from our candle diffused into the room.
Fleck’s room was always tidy, not because he kept it so, but because he didn’t own much to clutter it. He had a simple wooden desk and a simple wooden dresser, but his simple wooden bed was a disaster. The blankets were in a tangled heap on the floor, and the pillows were lying at odd angles on the opposite end of his bed. The window beside his bed hung open, his curtains fluttering in the gentle breeze. Directly across from his bed, on the opposite wall, was the door to his closet.
I looked back at Fleck, who gulped loudly. “Wait here,” I said.
He shook his head and squeezed my hand. He was trying so hard not to be afraid.
I squeezed his hand back. “Please? I need someone to stand guard and make sure no one’s coming.”
Fleck hesitated a moment and finally nodded. I smiled. “Thanks. Now, let’s see what dares disturb your slumber.” I dropped my voice low, and Fleck grinned. Some of the color was already coming back into his white cheeks.
The boards creaked beneath my feet as I crossed the room. I placed my hand on the doorknob—felt a rush of Fleck’s anxiety—and jerked the door open.
Just a small, empty square with two little cloaks hanging side by side. I scoured the floorboards, pressed my hand along the walls, patted down the cloaks, and once I’d searched every inch of the closet, I turned around and dusted my hands. “Whatever it was, I think you scared it away. They probably forgot whose room this was.” I grinned.
Fleck seemed to expand a little and took a shaky step into the room. His eyes watched the closet as if at any moment it would spring to life, and, when he was thus satisfied, he looked up at me and grinned his toothy grin.