The steps of his horse was the only thing Rahar could hear reflecting out of the mists. He could hardly see anything and the cold dawn seemed to arrive in a hurry. Why did he accept an inheritance of someone whom he never had heard about before? A will written in riddles of someone professing that Rahar were a member of his family, a connection from ancient times. And this stranger who passed away in an unknown country wanted him to be the owner of the long forgotten and neglected ancestral estate, a country house in the eastern fields which belonged to that place and so to Rahar now.
„Don´t go there,“ his youngest sister said, „maybe it´s dangerous. You´ll be alone out there.“
„I´m used to it,“ Rahar answered. „ And so I will keep it that way.“
„But you are no warrior, you only know the field from playing chess!“
„ What do you know about that? Just because I denied war you think I can´t fight?“ Rahar laughed out in a bitter way. „They sent me away for education to learn alone, for work to sweat alone and then they wanted to send me to die, alone. Now I go to face my destiny, alone. What´s wrong about that?“
His sister bowed her head knowing that he was right somehow. When she looked up, Rahar had alread mounted his horse Pash and was galloping down the way east.
Rahar made a cut. He has always been the black sheep of the family without really knowing why. He was good at everything he was tought and only had his own ways to handle it. He didn´t hunt, didn´t marry and didn´t go to war, didn´t bring trophies to his family, no honour, as they said.
Now he made his way alone by own decision, leaving them behind with mixed feelings of pride, hope, anxiety and sorrow.
Pash snorted. They have been on the road since the early morning. Darkness was around now and they would never have found the way out of the mists if there wasn´t that light shining in the distance. Carefully Pash carried his master through the night till they reached the front door of that old manor which was supposed to be Rahar´s now, who was wondering about its size cause to both sides the mist was covering any sight.
He also wondered about the burning torch over the door. Didn´t the testament say that this was a long forgotten place? Not really knowing if he was disappointed or happy to be not alone in this house Rahar used the doorknocker.
A servant opened the door and bowed respectfully. „Welcome, Lord Rahar, may I bring your horse to the stable? Please, wait here for a moment. Someone will come to lead you to the prepared dining room.“
Rahar nodded and smiled. He expected to find an old rotten cottage waiting for hard work all day and night to survive, not to be treated like a prince by staff. So there also must be some estate to pay them, came in his mind.
Then he heard steps again. Another servant came to lead him into a large room with a fireplace and a long table. Rahar sat down and several waiters and maids put best meal in front of him. He didn´t know where to begin.
But this was a soluble problem, and he ate till he got tired. Suddenly Rahar felt a bit dizzy and close to fall asleep. It seemed as if the mists entered the house. The servants disappeared and in the silence again there were steps coming closer.
With his cheek on the table Rahar realised with half closed eyes that two human shapes took place at the other side of the table. They were dressed in long black cloaks. Then he heard the clear voice of a woman.
„Welcome Rahar. I´m so glad that you came here to be the new master of Koldaya. I have to excuse for the uncomfortable daze we have to give you at the moment. But I want to get sure about you at first if you really want to agree with that way and if you are able to stand the truth right now.“
„What truth?“ Rahar asked more thinking than speaking. „Who are you?“
„I am the guardian of the gates.“
Rahar didn´t understand. But the female gestalt got up from her seat and came closer while explaining.
„Every human soul has to learn and every great soul has to understand before leaving this manor and its secrets. To be here does not only bring comfort but some unique quests. This is no common place, Rahar. Since a long time we have no Lord of Koldaya. All the other descendants failed to pass the tests. So poverty and war came over all the country, constantly on its way to doom, cause souls don´t come to this place anymore to find their destiny. If you can solve the riddles and find out about the secrets of the four houses, you will be the new Lord of Koldaya or you will have chosen about your own destiny as well, forever.“
The dark Lady laid her hand on Rahar´s shoulder and he slowly got back a clear head still wondering about those strange worlds he just had to listen to.
„And if I don´t want to go that way?“ he asked looking into a beautiful but even odd seeming face.
„If you don´t do it, you will have to get back to the place you came from. You won´t remember our conversation or this house and you won´t find it again. I hope you will be able to get out of the mists at least before the wolves will fetch you. Beside your disappearance nothing will change. Not in Koldaya and not in this world. But if you take the challenge you can pass the gates and come and go just as you please, being the Master of this place. What is your decision?“ ***
Rahar still felt a bit dizzy and unreal but he also felt that nothing would be like it had been before. And beside his fear towards this mystical situation he also felt a tremendous power rising inside. His excitement and his will awoke. He suddenly wanted nothing more than taking this challenge even if that meant to use his sword. And while he looked closer at that Lady he knew that he would not have to fight against an enemy of flesh and blood.
„Yes, I will do it. I want to go that path.“
The woman smiled and nodded to the guise still at the other end of the table. He got up, bowed and disappeared behind a door.
„Get some rest now. Your rooms will be prepared in a few minutes. My name is D´na Paro. My caretaker Selinar will bring you to your rooms. He will be at your command all the time, just ring the bell. Tomorrow morning we will meet again, Rahar. Sleep well.“
Rahar nodded and D´na Paro also disappeared. What kind of place was that? And what kind of riddles and quests did he have to expect? And was all this really responsible for those long years of fights and greed around life those days? Whatever it was, it was strong enough to wake up his energies and self-confidence. And this proud Lady seemed to be nice even though her voice was tough. Her eyes were warm and mild.
Before Rahar could reflect on his host any longer Selinar, the tall guy from the end of the table came to fetch him. He followed the caretaker who held a lantern to lighten the way up the wide stairs. This house really seemed to be huge like a castle. And Rahar´s rooms looked as if he was already the Lord of Koldaya, the place where souls find their way. At home with his family they only had a small chamber for him and there were only servants for his parents and his oldest brother, who also had a larger room even though he was in the battlefields most of the time. Rahars rooms now were much bigger than those of his brother Ashilon. He fell on his bed and reflected about the events of this day full of changes and strange events he never dared to dream about before even though he dreamt a lot. Maybe all his childish imaginations about adventures in unknown lands with dragon treasures and magical giants made him react quite reasonable towards those weird things happening right now.
Maybe one day Rahar could return to his village as a rich and honoured man to visit his family and show his mother and father that he had found his way.
And when he fell asleep this night he was smiling with anticipation.
After a few hours of dreamless sleep Rahar woke up again. He listened into the dark and then thought he heard something. It sounded as if someone was weeping or laughing, he couldn´t tell. He sat up and tried to listen more closely. Should he take the candle and go out on the corridor to know what it was? ***
Rahar got up and quickly dressed. Then he took the light and opened the door of his chamber. He was glad that it wasn´t locked. When he got out into the long corridor the voice sobbed again. And Rahar thought that it must be a weeping child. So he went along the hall to hear where the voice came from.
It led him into another long and dark corridor, then downstairs. Rahar found himself in some kind of inner courtyard and a bowl of fire was placed in the middle. Again a louder sobbing from the left side. Rahar turned around and walked towards a huge dark wooden door with lots of ornaments. The voice came from behind that portal. When Rahar tried to open it he needed both hands to push the valve, so he put his candle into a little socket beside. With all his powers he moved the door but when it had opened an ell it suddenly lost all its heaviness and drag that Rahar fell forward, lost balance and fell to the gorund. Behind him the door closed with a loud roar.
When Rahar looked up, he found himself in a dusky hall. Slowly his eyes got used to the poorly lit surrounding. He got up and then shook his head. No, he would not try to open the door now to get out. All the dramatic scenery wasn´t made for making it that easy for him. And he didn´t get in here to find out that for now. He wanted to know about the source of that sad sobbing. He listened and at the same moment hearing another snivel Rahar discovered the little boy in the middle of the room sitting on the floor and his arms wrapped around his knees.
„Hey little man. Don´t be afraid. What are you doing here? Why are you here alone and weeping?“
The boy didn´t look up back and said: „I´m all alone here and there is no one who cares. They all forgot me and left me behind.“
Rahar got closer to the child. „Where are your parents? Do they know that you are here?“
„I don´t know. They don´t care. They never care.“
„How long are you here now? Are you a prisoner?“
„I don´t know. I wait and sometimes someone comes to bring me to eat and to drink. And they go away again. And leave me alone.“
„Wait a minute, did you ever check if the door is really closed up?“
„No.“ The child laid his forehead on his knees. Rahar stood up again and went back to the door. „Let us check it. Just for fun. I know that it is not easy at first.“ Rahar tried to pull the wing of the door open, but it didn´t move. He tried harder, nothing. He stopped and got back to the boy.
„Look, I got in here and so I have to be able to get out. If I don´t get out there must be a riddle to solve or a hidden lever or maybe a magic word. And this word won´t be ´alone`.“ Rahar walked along the walls of the room that seemed to glow in a way as if they were alive. He explored ever corner and edge but couldn´t find any hint what to do.
Then he remarked „Hey, young man, you stopped weeping. That´s good.“
„You are here now. And I´m not so alone as usual. That´s good too.“
Rahar turned to the boy again and sat down beside him.
„I´m also alone somehow. And I felt like you do now for a long time. But then I realised that being alone is not always dependent on others. We can try to find people, maybe friends or at least interesting places, secrets. This palace here is amazing. And the Lady D´na Paro is beautiful. Did you meet her?“
„No. I didn´t meet anyone. Only people who bring me food. But they don´t stay. They don´t care.“
„I have an idea“ Rahar said. „Let us find a way out of here together. Maybe you can see something that I am blind for. You never tried this before, did you?“ The boy agreed. „And do you remember how you got in here?“
„No, I don´t.“
„So come on and let us examine the door. Tell me what you see. I need your help.“
The boy got up and Rahar took his hand to get through the dim light. „And when we are out there, we will have a nice meal together with the Lady D´na Paro and I will teach you playing some chess.“
„Really?“ The boy´s voice cleared up and got strong. „That sounds great!“
And Rahar laughed and felt his heart rising like a phoenix from the ashes.
„And if you want, stay with me.“ And as he said so, suddenly the room got bright in daylight, the closed gate dissolved, and when Rahar turned his face to the child in amazement he again was stunned by what he saw. The face of the child was his own when he was a little boy. Taken by surprise and realising the unbelievable the light grew brighter and brighter till all senses were overwhelmed and lost consciousness…
Then Rahar woke up in his bed. Selinar stood at the door of his Chamber.
„The Lady D´na Paro awaits you for breakfast, Rahar. Did you sleep comfortably?“
Should Rahar tell his hosts about the events of last night? Or was that only a dream? No, dream. The candle was not there anymore. So should he talk about it? ***
Rahar followed Selinar to the room where breakfast was prepared. Lady D´na Paro aleady sat there waiting for her guest. She looked at Rahar with bright eyes and a silent smile.
„Come and sit down next to me, Rahar. I hope you had a comfortable night and some rest.“
Rahar sat down and waited till Selinar had disappeared.
„My Lady D´na Paro, I had a strange experience last night and maybe you can explain to me why it happened to me. I heard a voice weeping and left my room to see what it was. In a mystical room I found a boy who was kept there alone and when I took him away, he looked like myself when I was a child. And then I found myself back in my bed.“
The Lady smiled. „An interesting dream you might have had.“
„No dream. When I woke up, my candle wasn´t at its place. Someone must have taken it away or the event must have been real somehow. I took it with me when I went out to the child. Tell me, please, why that happened. I know that you know about it.“
„Rahar, you have faced your first challenge.“ The Lady got closer. „Please, tell me how you got out of the house?“
„I don´t know really. I just told that little myself that we needn´t to be alone and that he could come out with me and stay with me.“
„And did you believe in your own words when you said so?“
Rahar thought a while. „I have to admit that it was the first time in my life that I thought about loneliness as something which is not unlucky fate. And I only said so to the boy to give him solace, I didn´t think of the meaning of my words till I saw the reaction of him, who seemed to be happy suddenly. I know now that my own loneliness made others feeling alone as well. And when I saw the boy´s face as my own – oh, heaven – I wanted to cry, realising how much I myself have missed those words being a child and still did. And my words got important and true. I felt it in my heart.“
The Lady was watching Rahar with great attention. Then she aked: „Rahar, where is that boy right now?“
He lifted his head. A bit confused he looked around and then felt what D´na Paro wanted to say. He felt it inside, in his heart and the first time smiled back to her. Rahar recognised his inner child.
„Take good care for him“, said D´na Paro. „Those who can pass the gate of The House of Loneliness by accepting the inner child will always know responsibility for themselves and others, alone or not.“
„But that was so easy that I didn´t recognise it being a challenge.“
„Rahar, so many people have chosen different ways. Yours is the one that makes you qualified to go on. You may become the Lord of Koldaya.“
„And what have I got to do next?“ Rahar was very curious about the other quests and riddles.
„Don´t you want to take a rest during the day? I may show you some parts of the manor and the gardens?“
Rahar looked at D´na Paro and was torn between an interesting and lovely walk with the Lady and his next challenge. So should he ask for the next gate or take the offer to have a relaxing time and know more about Koldaya and D´na Paro? ***
Once he was tought that it is good to collect informations before taking a challenge. He has not been prepared for the first, so it could be wise to know more about this place and the Lady.
„I feel honoured to be invited, dear Lady D´na Paro. Of course I like to have some time at ease and to see more of Koldaya in your company.“
She smiled again and got up. „So follow me please.“
Rahar and D´na Paro went along a hall with paintings of portraits and events from history of Koldaya on the walls. „Here you can see some of your ancestors who have been Lords of Koldaya.“
Rahar could take a short look at the images while passing them. His guide didn´t stop or explain much and just went along with the view somewhere else.
„In this wing of the manor the Lords were having their residence. And this is the private living room of the Lord.“ The Lady opened a door and they came to a huge room with two fire places, comfortable seats around, a big table in the middle and a small one with two chairs near a fire place. The small table looked a bit peculiar and Rahar got closer to examine it. He realised that the table had the pattern of a chessfield. But the chessfield seemed to have no clear contures. All four sides faded out into nothing. „What is that?“ Rahar asked into the room. „It looks like an endless chessfield. That doesn´t make sense.“
„Why not?“ D´na Paro ask, „You can arrange the rules yourself. If you want to be limited on sixty four squares you can play this way. But that´s a one-sided strategy while possibilities are endless. And it might be a further challenge for your memory when both parties have the same colour.“
„But…“ Rahar thought a moment and then shook his head. D´na Paro laughed. „This is a magical place. And so the chess is a magical as well. It is a magical move for example to make all colours same on the field for a while. Imagine, we call it ´Daya D´na Paro´. So gratefully my name is magical bliss.“
„I like that name,“ Rahar mentioned. „This place is so overwhelming. I´m not sure if I really fit in. But I want to take the challenge nevertheless. I know I have to. Even if I don´t become Lord of Koldaya this all gives more life to me than anything ever before.“
D´na Paro led Rahar through a door at the back of the Lord´s living room and they got to a garden with fruit trees. Birds were flying around. All smelled like sweetness in lively colours. A mild wind blew through the trees and it seemed to be the most beautiful peace of nature. But D´na Paro explained that since being without a Lord of Koldaya there are only very few fruits and birds do not sing. „Too often the smell of blood blows over here and poisens the air. We are lucky that hope for us refreshes this place a bit.“
„My Lady may I ask you how you came here to Koldaya? Are you born here? And are you here with your family? What exactly is your task here? Excuse me that I ask.“
„Yes, I´m born at this place. I always stayed here with the family and servants of Koldaya. My tasks are endless like those chessfield possibilities.“
„And what do you do when you can take some time off?“
„For example I take a walk in the garden with a nice visitor.“ D´na Paro smiled, but got back serious at once turning her face to the door in the wall they reached on the other side of the garden. She opened it with a key and they found themselves in the inner courtyard where Rahar found the entry to his inner child. Still the fire bolw was burning in the middle of the yard. Rahar ran to the gate where he had been and recognised his candle still in the holder where he put it last night. And again he was astonished; the flame was still alive but the candle didn´t burn down. It still had same length than before.
He turned around to show and ask D´na Paro, but the Lady had disappeared.
Why did she leave him now? He looked around and now at daylight he saw three other tall gates and buildings around him, one on the other side of the yard and two left and right. Should he open another gate now? And which one?***
Rahar felt his will again, took the candle as an instinctive impulse and went towards the gate on the other side of the yard. It nearly seemed to him that he was called to come there. He tried to open the wing and it was not that difficult or tricky like the first gate. The room he came in was dark and he was lucky that he took the candle with him. Rahar´s eyes slowly got used to the darkness and the little light. He could recognise some funiture standing around. He carefully went to some kind of cupboard and his heart made a jump when he realised that it was the same that they had in the kitchen at home far away. The sudden memory gave him an unexpected rush of feelings and when he put down the candle to open the top door of the locker, he had to breathe out in cheerful emotions. He found his old plate and cup he used to eat and drink from so many years when he was a little boy. There was a picture of a bear and a horse on it. And he remembered those fairy tales his mother told him about bear and horse searching for the land where apples and honey came from. And Rahar remembered the day when Pash was born and when his father gave him this horse as a present. He opened another door and he found a ribbon made of dried flowers. And his heart got pierced by a striking pain cause this ribbon was once made for him by his first and long beloved girl. She winded this ribbon around his wrist and said: „ I will never let you again.“ But this was a lie. A few years later she married the rich son of the weaponsmith, a tradesman. And she went away with him. He kept this ribbon all the time hidden in the cupboard and never forgot it. And now it made him hurt again. How she had changed trying to change him and to let him fall to the ground. Rahar still felt the scars but he could not put back the ribbon. He looked at the dry flowers and his inner eye saw the bright and lovely face of Sashina, he saw her dancing for him, smiling, playing with the ribbon in her fingers. How much he felt that love again inside and then the pain. His hand cramped around the flowers. Again he turned to the cupboad and tried to put it back. But something in him didn´t want to close it up again. And again he saw her dancing. And it felt as if she was dancing right on his heart with shoes like having knives for heels. Rahar pressed and beated his fist with the ribbon agaist his heart and cried out: „Go away!!“ But she danced, she danced in front of him through the room. There suddenly was a fireplace lighting the room. Her body shone through the veils of her dress. There was music, she smiled. And every step hit his heart.
„Leave me alone!! Go!!“ Then Rahar tried to get to the fire. In pain he struggled to get there, took the ribbon and said: „Please, Sashina, be free and happy. But stop and let me be that as well.“ The sweet music got louder. Rahar took a last look at her and said „Good bye.“ Then he threw the ribbon into the fire. It burned away like an explosion. Sashina had disappeared and so the music. Rahar felt released and empty at the same time. He looked around and saw some more things he remembered to have been important to him once and now. He touched the armrest of his father´s chair, his golden cup, the coat of his mother and then he saw his little sister, he smiled. Yes, he missed them all but that would not change his future. The future was to come with a different face however Koldaya was going decide about its own destiny. Rahar turned around and tried to discover something which did not belong to his past. But he didn´t find it. He looked around again, bowed before his parents seats and then turned to the gate again. Before he went out he fetched the candle from the cupboard. He had no doubt that the gate would open for him again. He felt free. And when he came to open it, again that strong light dissolved the exit, got brighter and brighter. When Rahar opened his eyes. He was in his bed again, the candle beside him. And still it had same length like before. Whe he reflected if all this about the gates might have been a dream before he aked himself where D´na Paro was now? And if she was a dream as well? Should he look for her? And if, where could he find her? ***
Rahar went down to the hall and walked along the corridor of the Lords of Koldaya. Again he passed the paintings on the walls of all those ancestors who ruled the land. There were scenes of war and some of delight and pleasure. The he suddenly recognised that one of those women on the paintings looked like D´na Paro. He watched the picture story. There was something like a magical ceremony of incantation and D´na Paro stepped out of some kind of portal. Then the portal got disturbed and D´na Paro could not get back where she came from. All got sealed by magic and she had to work as a court magician to protect Koldaya against attacks from other kingdoms. And when there was no war she made the gardens like a feast in paradise. But then there was a traitor who killed the Lord of Koldaya and D´na Paro tried to save the rest of the family, helped them to escape and hide away.
D´na Paro could not go with them; the spell chains held her at that place now as the Lord was dead. She never accepted the intruder as the new Lord and didn´t help him. She seemed to have lost all her magical powers, was captured in jail, tortured, but she refused to cooperate. The servants secretly gave her food and blankets. Koldaya became dark, grey and rotten. Then the traitor died. D´na Paro was set free and people of Koldaya wanted her to become the Lady of Koldaya. But she didn´t want that. A descendant of the real Lord had to be here again and she sent out people to look for those. And Rahar understood that only the real Lord of Koldaya could open the mysterious portal again by releasing the seals.
Rahar went throught the private room of the Lord to the garden. Bu the garden was in late autumn now. Leaves fell down, no flowers were blooming and mists lay on the ground. Then he saw D´na Paro leaving the garden through the backdoor to the yard. Rahar ran behind her. Also the yard was covered by mists and the sky was dawning. Then he heard a gate open and shut. It came from the other side of the yard.
When Rahar got through the gate he suddenly found himself in front of a battlefield in a huge hall. Two groups of soldiers and kights fought against each other. The blue and white ones against the green and golden ones. All was crowded by crying, bleeding and beating people, metal on metal and metal on flesh. Rahar looked around if he could see D´na Paro somewhere in this terrible mess and was worried but then he saw her disappearing through a gate on the other side of the scenery. But how could he follow her? How could he get through those madly fighting people and survive. What could he do? Should he fight and beat a way through those people? Should he try to leave? But somehow he knew that the gate would be closed now. Was there another solution? ***
Rahar tried to open the gate again and to his surprise it really opened. He ran over the yard running through the manor to look for D´na Paro. But he couldn´t see anybody. The whole place seemed dark, cold and empty. No fireplace was burning anymore and Rahar started to struggle to find his way through the halls. Finally he got to his room. And he really felt some kind of relief when he saw his candle still shining beside his bed as if it has been waiting for him all the time. He put it in a socket and carefully carried it out, slowly went back to the yard and the gate where the terrible war still was going on. Rahar got closer to the fighting soldiers. They didn´t really notice him, but they also didn´t stop fighing each other. And when someone fell down to die it seemed that he disappeared but those warriors never got less people than they were. Rahar tried to pick up a young man got slain in front of his eyes, but when he bowed down the knight faded away like a ghost. And then with the candle light closer to the floor he realised that the ground had a special pattern. All was a huge chess field. Rahar remembered the chess table in the living room of the Lords of Koldaya. He tried to remember what D´na Paro mentioned about the table while the fight around him got heavier, an elbow hit the side of his head that he nearly lost balance. Half of his head felt blocked and like mud. Rahar tried to concentrate on his candle light, knowing that there had to be something like magic to stop this madness and to find the Lady. Nearly losing consciousness he stumbled. What could he do now? ***
Rahar tried to concentrate again. I have to find D´na Paro, he thought. And he felt something that made him worry and angry at the same time. What was this riddle all about. A battle on a chessfield, a game. Was she just playing a game with him? And could he really die in this? What could he do? Rahar was struggeling to get the situation under control. He called her name over the field. But it couldn´t get through. And what if that was no game? Was there real danger? All wars going on in those kingdoms were really going on. Was all this a magical mirror? And all that war things made D´na Paro being bound to her fate. Koldaya is a magical place. Magic. What kind of magic could help to get through and to stop that fight? He suddenly knew that D´na Paro needed him. He had to be successful to open the next seal that she would be free again. Rahar was confused but didn´t want to think about the consequences. He felt undecisive, felt the battle around him, the danger and didn´t know what kind of danger D´na Paro would actually let him get into. But how to get out of this one first? „Stop fighting!!“ he cried. No reaction. He got pushed by beats and bodies. There should be peace. What made them fighting? They think to be different. So they should all be the same. Suddenly Rahar remembered. And he shouted out: „Daya D`na Paro!“
A flash lighted up the hall and suddenly all colours were the same. A colour that hardly could be described. It was not green, not red, not grey. It was… the same. No uniform could be identified as a different one now. The chessfields on the ground was gone, all in same. The flags same. The soldiers stood confused, stopped fighting, looking around without orientation. And also the clothes of Rahar were same. So he could walk through the crowd of disoriented knights with his candle still burning and got through to the gate on the other side where D´na Paro had disappeared before. Rahar felt good again. He started to like that magic. And even though he still had no idea what kind of creature D´na Paro actually was, he wanted to know what would happen if he tried to find out and if he really could and would become Lord of Koldaya. For sure he had to make up his mind how to go on now. What would he do or say finding D´na Paro behind that gate?***
(to be continued…)
***This is an interactive fantasy story inspyred by @leglessfett so I wait for a decision.