I had no idea how I got where I was, but I had a strange feeling that I knew where I might be. I was lying on my side, my arms and legs sprawled out before me. The tiles beneath me were cold and the air was chilled. It was dark; I could just barely make out the patterns of the stones on the walls. Large white rocks were built into the black brick walls. Each wall had a circle of five stones in the center, and each stone of the circle was engraved with a different mark, only one of which I recognized. It was the one at the top. I had seen it on someone before, years ago. By years ago, I mean a much longer time ago then you are likely assuming.
The mark was in the shape of a teardrop, but it did not represent tears or water. Within that teardrop was an eye. The other marks were foreign to me. I was able to conclude who they might belong to, not specifically who, but the kind of people that they were. I knew what role they played in this. I wondered if I should be worried, but I felt strangely content. For the first time in awhile, I felt strong. I had no burning, no hunger, no dizziness or need to feed. The realization that I must have recently fed had me worried. I had no memory of it, so I had no idea as to how it happened. It was all to likely that I was here because I lost control and did something I shouldn’t have. Not only that, but I must have been seen.
I rolled over and stood up. I found a door behind me and walked over to it. To my surprise, it turned out to be unlocked. I wasn’t sure why. It was possible that my captor just forgot to lock me in, in which case, walking out would likely make it seem that I was trying to escape. Running away wasn’t the best plan of action. These people would find me and running could upset them. My best bet was finding the one woman that I knew I could reason with. If I could explain to her what happened, she might let me go. The only question was, why was she here, and how had she managed to find a place with these people?
I decided to wait. I took a seat on the ground in the back corner of the room, as far from the door as I could get. There weren’t going to be many options for me when someone finally showed up, but keeping the distance would help me feel a bit safer. It was a long wait.
When the door finally opened, a hooded man stepped in. In a coarse voice, he spoke.
“They’re waiting for you.”
Without asking who they were, I stood and made my way to the door silently. I could have asked the man if he could explain the situation, but if my assumptions were correct, silence was most certainly golden. He led me away from my chamber and down the stone corridor. The air was chilled to he point that the hairs along my arms were standing on end. Or, perhaps I was really more nervous than I would ever like to admit.
The chamber ended at an open spiraling staircase made up of the same gray stones found in both the walls and the floor. I followed the cloaked stranger up the spiraling stairs, careful not to tread to close to him. He could likely sense any uncontrolled emotion that I may have been experiencing. Above the staircase was a much grander room. It was very large, open, and somewhat intimidating. The floor was covered in granite slabs, the walls were painted a rich green, and chandeliers hung down from multiple points of the ceiling. Each chandelier consisted of crystals beaded along hanging strings that curved from the outside into the center. Candles lined the outer circles, and a massive orbs glowed in the centers.
The man leading the way did not give me a chance to take in any of the intricate decorations, but instead, kept walking. He lead me across the enormous room and to the double doors in the center of the furthest wall. The doors were much too high to be considered necessary. The dark wood stood out boldly against the green walls and the golden door knobs shimmered. The unnamed man opened the doors, and inside I saw nothing at all. It was very dark, but my eyes quickly adjusted. Even so, I could only make out a single silhouette. The silhouette gave me very little to work with. It was only a single hooded woman nearing the doorway.
“It’s been a long time, sister,” the familiar voice spoke.
I became both elated and distressed at the very same instant. It must have shown on my face, because my old friend seemed to respond to my thoughts.
“You need not worry,” she said in a hushed tone.
The man beside me shifted, uncomfortable. The cloaked woman sent him off with a tilt of her head. He rushed off with a quick, “Goodnight, my lady.” I was slightly alarmed by the show of respect. I never would have thought that my old friend would reach any sort of status. But to see her mark among those of the Pure Divines proved that she had made her way up in life. I could see that she wore the same necklace as she did years ago. It hung above her cloak, visible to anyone that stood before her. The only difference was that it now hung on a gold chain rather than a shoe lace. Still, it was the very same carved stone, shaped into a drop.
“It has indeed been a long time, Evening Drop,” I agreed, referring to her by the name that she always preferred. When we were children, I would have stuck to her real name, Sandra, but she always insisted on Evening Drop. Here, I knew that she would go by that name rather than the one she was born to. It held more representation of what she was.
“Please, come in,” she ushered. “It’s dark, but you’ll adjust quickly enough, I’m sure. The Divines prefer to avoid light as often as possible.”
“That’s understandable,” I thought aloud. “I could only wish that I could hide away from the light at all parts of the day. I would keep my own home bare of light sources, but that would give a strange impression.”
I stepped into the dark room.
“Do you receive many guests?” Sandra asked me. Her tone was curious, but also a tad disbelieving.
I was a little put off by the question. My confusion was immediately distracted by the creak of the doors closing behind me.
“You were never one to mingle among a crowd, sister,” Sandra went on.
It was true, but there were many matters that pulled me far from my own comfort. It was a part of my life now. I had to make a living in a new world, and I had to do so through the expectations of the new age. I could not hide away and simply do as I pleased. I needed to keep busy, and I never did like a living that did not make a mark. I wanted to do something for others, whether they knew of it or not. I needed to make amends for the sins I still made, and still cannot hide from.
“Not many guests,” I explained. “Most visitations are strictly work related.”
“Well, I cannot hide from the world at all times.”
“That is a truth I cannot deny,” Sandra admitted.
After that, she turned around and began walking to the other side of the room. I followed her. My vision began to sharpen. I could see, at the very end of the room, five chairs, four of them seating cloaked figures. The empty chair, Sandra’s, was at the right hand side of that in the center. I was not sure if I should feel pride or concern. I could not imagine it possible for anyone who started with next to nothing gaining a spot at the right hand side of the Divine’s leader.
“What keeps you, Evening?” the man in the center seat asked. His voice was enchanting, powerful.
“She is a friend,” Sandra explained.
“A friend I don’t know of?” the man asked. There was a level of suspicion in his tone, but even more interesting, I thought I noticed some jealousy.
“I knew her as a child,” Sandra told the Divine.
“I cannot recall you ever bringing up a Lily to me before,” the man went on. He already knew who I was. “It is quite a simple name for someone of our own nature.”
I flinched at the thought of his comment. Someone of our nature—of his nature. I didn’t like the reminder that I was the same as him. I knew that it was a truth that I couldn’t deny, but I had spent much of my life avoiding what I was. Lying to myself. Containing myself. Even starving myself. He, on the other hand, was one of the Pure Divines. Nobody accepted their true nature as fully as the Pure Divines. They reveled in their own monstrosity.
“Her true name is Fading Lilies,” Sandra told the others.
My heart clenched at the sound of my own name. I haven’t gone by that name in years. Few knew it. Sandra was one of those few, but I was surprised to hear her speak it. She knew full well that I was not fond of it, and that I never wanted to be known by that name. It was not my real name, but the name given to me by those that I spent my youth with, one of those youth being Sandra. Years ago, I decided that I did not want to be known by that name any longer, and I never wanted to hear the name again. It was to representational of my deepest hatred for myself and was a symbol for death.
“Well now,” the hooded stranger went on again. “That is more appropriate.”
He clearly took notice. “Are you feeling ill?”
I shook my head. “No.”
“Then what has you concerned?”
“I’m just wondering why it is that I am here,” Lily answered.
The hooded stranger chuckled and leaned forward. “We sent someone over to your home for some simple questioning, but when he found you, you were unconscious.”
“You should consider yourself lucky you were found by us rather than someone else,” Sandra stated.
“I see,”Lily said under her breath. I knew she was right.
“Which brings us to a new concern,” the man at the center brought up. “We sent someone out under the impression that something was going on. We assumed that everything we heard was nothing but rumor. Your district has been quiet for many years now. The thought that you were overindulging or even careless did not strike us as a likely case, but when our man returned, he brought more than just you. He brought back news that something was definitely amiss down in Hollowville.”
“I assure you that I have everyth-”
“Quiet!” a woman from the strangers left spoke.
Lily continued, “Do you really think that I-”
“No,” Sandra answered before Lily could finish. “We know that couldn’t be the case. If it were that simple, we would not have found you in the situation that you were in.”
The leader of the Divines spoke again. “You seem to have a competitor in your district, Fading Lilies.”