Hey there! It's been quite a while since I've written anything here since I've been working on original fiction, but thought it would be fun to put something out there again. Plus, I need an excuse to write every day while I'm editing my book. I hope you like it!

Rating/Warning(s)/Note(s): M, New story!
Disclaimer: All copyrights, trademarked items, or recognizable characters, plots, etc. mentioned herein belong to their respective owners. No copying or reproduction of this work is permitted without their express written authorization.
Prompt: Fade, Shade, Trade

New Orleans

August, 1780

"My lord?" Alice asked. I opened my eyes to see her kneeling beside the bed. Her dark hair was almost grey from the fog of whatever it was she was burning. The smell, acrid and foul, set me to coughing. She moved to arrange the pillows behind my head to help me breathe easier, almost having to climb onto the bed in order to reach across me.

"I insist you banish this witch from the room!" I looked over and saw the priest, the smoke of incense rising from a censer added to the fog. His robes were faded and sweat dripped from his heavy jowls in the heat while I shivered under the blankets.

I shook my head. "No, she stays." It was a whisper of sound that barely moved the smoke billowing around the room.

"You need last rites," the priest sputtered, "and they can't be performed in front of a witch."

"She was baptized," I whispered.

"But what she's doing…" he said, trailing off as he pointed to the brazier next to the bed.

"Helps. Breathe easier." I leveled a glare at him. "She stays."

He crossed himself and then began chanting in Latin. So, today I would die. The consumption would finally take me. For four years I tried to battle the disease, lasting longer than most. Surely it was due to Alice's ministrations, but now even she hung her head in prayer.

A tear slipped from her eye. I reached out to brush it from her cheek, my hand bone thin and grey as if death had already claimed me. "Is there nothing more you can do?" I asked her.

She glanced at the priest, then out the window. Alice's grandmother stood in the shade of a tree, bones and feathers pinned to her dress, blood on her hands and forehead. "Maman thinks we can do something, but first you must die."

I laughed. It quickly turned to a cough that felt it might break my ribs. "Wasn't the purpose to prevent my death?" I asked as soon as I could draw an even breath.

"She knows a ceremony that must be performed at the moment of your death. It will send you to another time, another place." Alice glanced over to the priest. "It is black magic," she whispered. The priest stumbled in his litany.

"Where? When?" I asked.

"I don't know, but I would follow you." She tilted her head to the side. "Or at least my descendants would find you."

"Do I need to trade my soul to the devil?" The priest gasped and crossed himself.

Alice laughed, the sound high and trilling, out of place in this room of death, as she shook her head. "I would never want that for you, Lord Edward."

"Brother," I said, reaching out again. She understood the gesture and took my hand.

"Not in the eyes of the law or God." The warmth of her small hands sank into my bones. "I am a bastard."

"But still my sister." I closed my eyes, exhausted, and listened to the end of the rites. Holy water dripped on my eyes, my lips. Finally he finished. "Father, in my desk, my will."

I heard him walk across the room, his footsteps heavy and his breathing almost as labored as my own. Papers rustled, followed by a gasp. "You leave everything to the witch?"

"My sister," I said, making my voice as emphatic as possible. "It is my will, I am of sound mind." I opened my eyes to look at him and almost smiled at the vivid shade of red his face had turned. "I am not leaving it to the church."

"Then may your soul burn in hell."

"You cannot take back last rites, father." I took a deep breath. Too deep. Pain racked my chest as I tried to keep in any of the air I drew in between coughs.

When I settled back against the pillows again he was gone and Alice's grandmother stood beside me. She reached out her hand, the dried blood dark against her light coffee-colored skin. Alice may be my sister, but she was also descended from slaves. My father had kept her mother in another home. I insisted she be freed from the only life that being a child of that union could provide and took her into my own home after my father died. Her skin was white enough to pass with few knowing her true ancestry, or at least most looked the other way.

"Sleep, Edward," Maman said as she traced a pattern on my forehead. "When you wake the world will be a different place."

"When?" I asked again.

"When your love finds you," she said.

I felt my heart constrict in my chest. It felt as if my blood suddenly was too thick to pump. A new pain, sharp and demanding shot out from it and traveled down my left arm. I tried to take another breath, but it never came.

Thanks for reading!