Chapter Four: Soon after stealing the brooch, Ada begins having dreams about a beautiful young girl and what happens in her life. They start out as lovely dreams, and start again the longing for knowledge of her early life. As her friendship with Lora grows a bit stronger, Ada also begins to confide a bit with her about her strange malady (not remembering her past).
Morald pushed his men hard the next day, and by the time the caravan stopped for the night, the cliff face to their right had fallen away. The path they followed had brought them up into the mountains a ways, and the plain now stretched out below them. The marshes that Morald had spoken of the night before were clearly visible, blanketed by a thick gray fog. The sight of the fog, stretching on for leagues, had silenced Goran’s grumbling long ago, and he now walked subdued behind the other raiders.
The path through the mountains was steep, and provided little shelter. A wide ledge of rock served for a camp, and a fire was lit at the westward edge, the smoke blown in thin shreds from the wind off the swamps to the south and east. Again, Ada and Lora were left outside the warm glow, huddled together over their meal of coarse bread, their backs to the wind. As they sat, Ada pulled the brooch out of her pocket and turned it over in her hand. The sky was cloudless and windy, and the moon combined with the light that reached them from the fire provided just enough light for the two girls to make out the features of the object.
Thick and oval, the brooch was light, as though it were hollow inside. The golden edges were daintily scalloped, and light reflected off the clear glass that covered the center. Behind the glass was a small portrait. Black eyes stared from the brooch into Ada’s own, wide and warm. Thick lashes and richly arched brows gave a sense of regal beauty to the likeness. Black hair, glossy and thick, framed the small face, and a carefree smile played over the red lips. A young girl looked out of the brooch, lovely and innocent.
Ada slid closer to the backs of the raiders around the fire, letting the light play over the picture. The image confused her, and she turned to Lora as though asking her opinion. Lora took the brooch from Ada and examined the picture as well. As she turned the object over, her fingers slipped on a small catch on the back, hidden behind the pin that would fasten the brooch to a collar or shawl. Nudging Ada, Lora pointed it out. “Look. I bet it opens…maybe there is something inside it! Maybe that’s why the brooch is so thick,” Lora whispered, almost excited.
Ada took the golden thing back, and carefully slid back the catch. The back of the brooch fell off in her hand, revealing a small space backed by the reverse side of the portrait. Slipping a finger into the small hole, Ada pulled out a tiny bundle. It was a scrap of cloth that appeared blue in the dim light. Unwrapping it slowly, Ada was surprised by what it contained. A tiny lock of hair, tied with a silken ribbon, lay inside the scrap of cloth. The light from the fire caught at it, making the lock glow with a glossy light.
Lora, hanging over Ada’s shoulder and trying to watch and block the view of the raiders, should they turn, almost gasped aloud in surprise. “That was the last thing I expected…” she whispered, staring at the hair.
Ada nodded, perplexed, and wrapped it again in the bit of cloth, placing it back inside the brooch. Slipping the back cover on again, she slid the catch back with a soft click. Moving back as far away from the raiders as Lora’s chain would allow, so that their rough voices would drown the sound of their whispers, Ada settled on the ground, ducking beneath the cold wind. Lora huddled beside her, and the girls began to wonder aloud to each other about the brooch.
“So…how come you were so obsessed with it, Ada? It’s just a piece of jewelry. And it’s nothing out of the ordinary…except for the secret chamber inside. And the hair. I don’t get it, why would someone put hair in a brooch?” Lora asked, her chin in her hands and her eyes shining with the mystery.
“I don’t know…and what about the picture?” Ada mused, turning the brooch over again in her hand before placing it safely out of sight in her pocket. “Who is the little girl? She looked…happy. And beautiful. I wonder who she was?”
“Yea. Who knows where the raiders got that thing…probably from some rich family’s house they sacked. I wonder who used to wear it? Was there anything else in the bag you got it from, besides coins?”
Ada nodded slowly. “Yes, there was…there was a comb, like fancy ladies wear in their hair…I’ve seen them in the towns we’ve gone through before. And a necklace with a teardrop pendant. They looked beautiful, all studded with jewels.”
“Mm,” Lora paused, then said, “you do realize how stupid you were to take that brooch, though, don’t you? If it wasn’t so dangerous, and if the packs were closer, I’d tell you to put it back.”
Ada smiled slightly at the young child. “I wouldn’t do it anyway, so it does not matter how far away the packs are,” she said. “I just wish I knew who the girl in the picture was…I wonder what her name is. And where she comes from…who was her mother? Why is her picture in the brooch, and why do the raiders have it? I wish I knew…” Ada trailed off.
A long silence passed, each girl lost in her own thoughts. Ada’s mind traveled away from the brooch in her pocket and back to the mist in her past. Where had she been when she was the age of the child in the brooch? Who had her mother been? Why did the raiders have her? Questions piled themselves in her mind, ringing against each other, but always coming back to the girl in the brooch. As her eyes closed tiredly, her thoughts continued to fly, and her sleep was filled with dreams.
~ ~ ~
A young girl, only ten or eleven years old, ran through Ada’s dreams. Ada followed, trying to catch a glimpse of her face. But she could not catch up. She ran after the child, trying to catch hold of her and spin her around. With each step she took, the girl before her seemed to grow farther and farther away, until she disappeared around a bend in the path she followed. Ada continued on, gasping for breath. She must catch the child! Something was going to happen. She had to warn her! There was an urgency in the air. Ada rounded the bend of the path where the child had disappeared. Suddenly everything grew dark, and Ada fell through cold blackness for what seemed like hours, held immobile by the curling grip of the darkness. At last, with a jolt, she stopped, and the blackness evaporated.
An inn stood before her, large and well kept. A stable was situated on higher ground to the left, and at the well in the courtyard before the inn stood the little girl. Her whole figure was shadowy, unclear as though seen through a thick fog or a clouded glass. Ada opened her mouth to call out to her and ask her name, but the shadow child turned and ran into the inn, young laughter floating behind her. Ada followed her again, feeling the urgency in the air increase. She followed the child into the inn, through the large front door and into a lavish common room. A bright fire blazed on the hearth, and a gilt-edged mirror hung above the mantle. The child passed before the mirror…but there was no reflection.
As Ada turned to follow the child into the kitchen, she heard a loud noise from the courtyard outside. Turning to a window, she saw a caravan, lead by a man dressed in lavish robes of purple silk. A young boy, clothed in a thin mantle of shadow, bowed before him, motioning to the stable and taking the horse’s reins. As the man dismounted, the young boy led the string of horses away towards the stable, followed by the other men in the caravan. Ada turned back to the kitchen, hoping for a clearer glimpse of the child.
The scene that met her eyes caused her heart to squeeze with pain. A woman stood there, also hidden in fog, caressing the child and laughing at her young chatter. A man stood framed in a doorway that seemed to lead out into a small yard behind the kitchen. A thicker fog covered his figure than that blanketing the woman and child. Ada turned away, the warmth and love that filled the scene almost unbearable. She could never have what that child had…
Suddenly the darkness closed over her again, and scene after scene of happiness flashed by her as she fell. The stable loft, filled with hay and dust motes. The young girl playing with a kitten on the kitchen step with the young stable boy laughing beside her. His face was the clearest of all, and she could just make out his snapping blue eyes and thatch of golden brown hair. Before she could examine him closer, however, a new scene pushed that one away. A wide green field rolling away into the distance spread across her vision, and the family in the kitchen sat upon a blanket, picnicking in the summer sun. A dark night studded with stars, the young girl laughing as the shadowy man pointed them out to her. The common room of the inn filled to bursting and the woman singing in the kitchen. Every scene spoke of love, family, happiness, and peace…and yet with each passing moment, Ada felt desperation, urgency, and alarm growing in the air.
Ada struggled as she fell, and the scenes ended, snapped off by darkness again. She opened her mouth to scream, and crashed through a glass wall of darkness.
~ ~ ~
Ada awoke with a start. Lora was shaking her, whispering her name. The sky had not yet begun to grow light with dawn.
“Ada. Ada, wake up. What’s wrong?” Lora asked, her face troubled.
Ada sat up, shaking her head in confusion. “What…what do you mean? Why did you wake me?”
“You were thrashing around. Were you dreaming? What was it?” Lora looked genuinely worried.
Ada stood up and began to pace slowly, talking quietly. “I dreamed about a little girl. But I couldn’t see her. She was all in shadow. And there was a woman, and an inn. A…a field and a kitten…I don’t remember…It was strange. It was happy. But it wasn’t either…I don’t know!” she sighed, sitting down.
“So…was it a good dream? It didn’t look like it, from my perspective,” Lora said, with a half-smile.
“Kind of. I guess. But it made me think…Lora, can I tell you something?” Ada asked. Her blank eyes sparkled with hesitation.
Lora nodded, and Ada continued. “When you first…were captured. You asked me who I was. Remember…I said I didn’t know. I really don’t know who I am, Lora…I don’t know who my family was, or anything. I am not even sure how I know my own name, only I know it is Ada…I don’t know how.”
“So? Lots of people never know their families these days. It’s kind of sad, really…but think about all the cities. You ask anyone you see on the streets. I bet most of them can’t say who their father was…and probably not their mother either.” Lora answered.
“No, that isn’t what I mean…I mean, there’s nothing. It’s all blank. I can’t remember anything. I know I have a family somewhere…but there is a wall in my mind, and I can’t remember it. My first memories are with the raiders. Not that long ago. I know I’ve not been here forever, but I don’t know who I was before. Do you know…what I mean? And I don’t like it. It scares me,” Ada shivered.
“That’s weird. But it doesn’t matter now, does it?” Lora asked, bitterness creeping into her voice. “It isn’t like memories of your mother will get us out of here…and I can tell you where your family is. They are dead. Thanks to them,” she motioned at the raiders, who were beginning to wake. Standing up, Lora turned her back on Ada, watching the sun slip slowly above the plains to the east. A shoulder of the mountains nearly blocked the sight, and the half-dawn light illuminated Lora’s small form.
Ada sighed, feeling the cold weight of the brooch in her pocket, her thoughts already draw back to her unknown past.