Hey again, just a small one shot from the perspective of Jess' mum, Elizabeth, when she's lured into the cavern. I had the idea when looking back through the book to search for something regarding To Riddle Alone, and saw the part where Jess hears her mother scream from the cave while Jess is in the cottage. Just playing around with the idea of this being a two-way thing.
Disclaimer: As ever, all characters, places etc belong to Christine Morton-Shaw, not me.
It was the flowers that woke me.
That cloying, heady, summer-meadow smell that was so wonderful it had to be monstrous.
I woke in a cavern, in a cave in the rock. The few scarce drips from the ledge above me suggested that water had once fell from it in a water fall.
I wasn't alone when I woke. That incarnation of beauty and lies, Yolandë, was there, holding out her killer's flowers. But I didn't fear her, then. She was the only comfort in a dark, scary place. She offered soothing words and reassurance, and the small light, as if from a candle, that shone in her hand bravely fought off the gloom. The only other light was my lamp, left on the middle stepping stone. When had I...?
Yolandë was not my only companion in the dark that, even without our respective lights, would not have been complete darkness, for the great void in the earth was lit by a faint silver cast; moonlight, though where from I don't know.
The small black bundle, half hidden behind Yolandë, was the third occupant of the cavern. By the faint light Yolandë gave off, I knew the shape was a body, swathed in black silk. So small, so fragile.
But I would not see her face of bone just then; Yolandë was speaking again. I would only see Mama's face later, with Jess, when my mind was cloudy and I had forgotten I had even seen her little body before.
Obedient in my fear, I looked back to the unfamiliar, devastating face. She was still smiling; utterly reassuring. That complete certainty that everything would turn out right both calmed me immeasurably and worried me immensely. How could she know, for certain? How could this beautiful woman, who held a flame-like light in her hand with no apparent electric or natural source, and who brought the scent of spring flowers and summer blossoms, how could even she know how this would end?
But she spoke anyway, in a voice that I could hear clearly, yet the words never quite resolved into something recognisable.
The cavern was cool; that subterranean chill that spoke of layers of the earth above you; pressing down in a tactile mass on your shoulders. Yet it seemed, to me, to get ever colder, in time to her words. Slowly, my senses seemed to drift away from me, leaving me with only a hazy concept of what was happening. Tired. I was tired. And cold, so, so cold. The floor was colder still, but I couldn't stay standing any longer.
It was Yolandë, saying my name gently; calling me to look at something in the last moments of wakefulness before sleep swamped me.
Struggling, I sat up, fighting the heaviness of my eyelids to look up at her angel's face.
And screamed. Sleep was at once driven from my mind and overwhelming me, chaining me down into oblivion as my conscious mind reeled and bucked and ran from that demon's face leering at me; horrific, shedding, monstrous in its delight.
My scream rang out at the same moment that the waterfall slammed back down into the lake; sealing me in my aquatic prison with a creature so far gone that nothing could redeem it.
Behind it, behind that face that made my throat try to crawl up out of itself and flee, was a shadow. A shadow of a man in a long, dark coat, with eyes that glinted with the changing faces of a rippling pool of water.
Sleep was already silencing me, dragging me back to the ground in a weak bundle, curled up to try and preserve some semblance of warmth. But faintly, so faintly, I could hear something that seemed to come from that shadow of a man, lingering just within sight, his pearlescent eyes so troubled but steady, as if knowing that they were the only thing in this icy hell that could keep my mind as steady as the rock I lay on.
I could hear Jess.
Not her voice, just her breathing, a rhythm that has become so familiar to me that it is as well known as my own heartbeat. She's breathing quickly, as if frightened, but even with that rapid fear, the sound soothes me more than Yolandë's false voice ever could have done, more even than the eyes of that calm, dark shadow.
Finally succumbing to sleep, I forget everything in that bewitched, cold sleep. I forget everything, until Jess drags me out of the cave, that half dream of swans, spirits and songs locked in stone only that; a hazy half-recollection. Yet that moment, before the sleep, I remember; that chilling face, the benevolent eyes, and the sound of my baby's breathing, lulling me to sleep.