Fae blinked and it came again, as sharp as a sword: I said, come here.

That tiny, tinny voice was accompanied by a sinking feeling; faint and horrid and weak, the feeling of bile and stomach acid crawling up one’s throat. Feeling that one might simply fall over, unconscious. Gooseflesh rose on Fae’s twig arms and her grip tightened on the intricate stone guard ways surrounding the garden. Her knees began to shake, bones knocking against bones. Her heart began a ten thousand mile long race, too many beats at one time, adrenaline shooting like a set of comets in her shriveled veins. She felt her face and body drain of all blood and everything was suddenly, dreadfully cold. Everything was void of life as the world turned from color to a depressing black and white. She felt ill, dreadfully ill, like she might simply die.

Then, thankfully, blessedly, the sickness faded and the world and its sounds returned. A breath later, she found herself turning away from the ocean and back to the tiny wedding; she watched it uneasily. Her new step-mother was kissing her sickly-looking father on his pallid mouth, her garish red lipstick staining his lips with an unnatural bit of color. The air grew extremely suffocating, like hands around Fae’s throat. She closed her eyes against the disturbing images -- that red stain on her father’s mouth, her step-mother’s schoolgirl giggle, her step-brother’s smirk and uncomforting gaze, her father holding onto Louise for dear life, attempting a smile. Fae stepped past the trio and darted away from the garden, Evan’s sharp voice calling her name.

Coming. I'm coming.

Her mind swam in a black ocean, thick as blood, as she walked on numb feet through the hallways and corridors, passing intricately done paintings – pointillism, her mind registered – of dead kings and their consorts, their children and cousins, priceless gold frames and crossed swords and china vases; they were melting, all of them, every single item, in a golden pile upon the floor, she realized, because of the scene she had just witnessed.

Through the murky darkness of her mind and the ever-present need to get to the voice that called to her, a thought spurred and exploded from the waters and prompted her to stop in the middle of the hallway, in front of a painting of her father’s father: Louise was killing her father. Slowly. Intimately.

She’d thought of it once, twice before, but it never dawned on her until moments ago. He was sick, extraordinarily sick, and Louise would easily take advantage of that and hasten the process to get her father’s money and his throne -- something that he'd acquired by God's love for her ancestors. Louise would be Queen, or she would proclaim Evan king and Fae's world would collapse further into itself.

“No,” she whispered and the last, desperate shot of adrenaline pushed her outside of the castle’s great doors and walls and corridors, toward the shoreline. The guards stationed outside only watched her with their dead eyes, and did not protest when she threw off her slippers and continued running down the shoreline.

There is was again, calling: Are you coming, my dear?

"Yes," she said aloud.

Then hurry.

Her breath came in ragged gasps and she slowed her pace. “Where are you?” she asked aloud, grossly aware of the feeling of blinding psychosis; was this real? Was this voice not a figment of her imagination, but indeed a ghostly presence that might assist her?

The slippery, syrupy voice came again: A little farther down, behind the rocks. Quickly, now.

As if possessed, Fae found the rocks farther down the shoreline, great black monsters jutting out from the sand in the deserted stretch of area on the land, and approached them cautiously, hoping to find something tame behind them. From far off, thunder began to roll in the faded sky.

“Hello?” she called, and received no reply. She took a few steps forward and looked, only to find nothing. There was nobody there, no connotation of a helpful stranger.

"Hello?" she called again. "Are you here?"

Silence. Nothing. Only the waves and the gulls replied in a language Fae could not understand.

At that moment, a sinking feeling arrowed itself into Fae’s heart. I’m imagining things, she reminded herself slowly, attempting to empty her mind and listen to the tiny lapping sound of the tide against those rocks, but instead, she found herself sinking into the damp sand, the gritty feeling pressing itself into the tiny crevices into the lace openings in her dress. She pressed her hands against her face and began to sob silently.

What else was there? There was nothing, and now, her father would only sicken further, and she was imagining angelic voices heralding her to help. This, all of it, was the worst form of torture.

The voice did not come again. Instead, she heard her name being sharply called again, echoing in the rising breeze. Her hands dropped from her face and she turned toward the sound, finding her step-brother standing over her, his hands on her hips. He looked as if he might strike her if she made the wrong move.

“What was that about?” he demanded.

“I needed some air,” Fae managed, wiping her eyes.

"You stupid, wretched child, not even standing by to offer congratulations," he sneered. "This is a happy occasion, and--" here, he gestured to her with disgust as if she were some wounded animal, "You're sobbing, feeling sorry for yourself."

"It's not about that," Fae said, even though the wedding -- and the imagined voice -- was the exact cause of her tears. She sighed. "Please go back to the wedding and kindly leave me be."

Without another word, he hauled her to feet and, as he held her shoulder with one hand, smacked her across her face with the other. The shock came a moment too late and Fae pressed her cold hand to her stinging face and pressed her teeth into her lower lip to keep from crying again.

“Learn to behave yourself, Fae,” Evan said, reaching out the hand he slapped her with and stroked her hair. Fae suppressed a shudder as her step-sibling said, “Things are going to change around here soon.” Then, he took her wrist and dragged her back to the castle.