The Heart of Sorrow’s Keep
By Brenna Hanson
Date: August 22, 2018
Ch. 99

Months passed with days that were nearly identical. The only differences being the weather I walked through to get water or eggs from the coop.
Marcus, for I would not call him Grandfather again until he used my own name to address me, gave up the stance he held on his apprentice cooking when it became apparent my skills at the stove would never produce anything more than moderately palatable fair. I made up for this lacking with my love for study and aptitude in the more practical arts of magic.
We found a balance to our days.
Word came from Stonewood Castle from time to time. Mostly it was carried by tinkers who were unable to get close enough to provide news. Occasionally we would be visited by hunters who made it through the caves to the forest surrounding Sorrow’s Keep with a message from Harold. The war raged on. The siege still held although the route I had taken to escape and the arrival of spring provided the blessing of more time if not a true end of hunger. To the great luck of all, disease had not yet come to claim the overcrowded castle.
I wept when news of Prince Edmont’s death in battle arrived. I wept again to hear that Prince Col and two of my other brothers had fallen shortly after to dysentery. I imagined poor Harold sitting on the throne hoping that Father would somehow come home to reclaim it. I wept for him as well.
At the end of summer, three days before my birthday, the monotony of my new life rewarded me with unexpected and troubling information about the locket I held so dear.
“You knew!” I said when I entered Marcus’ study. “All this time, you let me believe this locket holds only a likeness of my mother. That it was just stuck closed with a broken latch. You let me treasure it as I would have treasured any small token she could have left for me. You knew all these months that she had merely been holding it for me. That it had most likely never even graced her neck. And worse, that you had given it to her to hold. You! You sent it with her to the castle to ensure her firstborn daughter received it upon her sixteenth birthday. Her cursed firstborn daughter! Me! You let me treasure my own doom!”
“The locket holds a prophecy,” he said without meeting my eyes. “Not all prophecies are curses. Some are quite pleasant when all is said and done.”
“The book distinctly said curse,” I said.
“That would be because I was in a particularly foul mood when I wrote the book,” he answered.
“This whole time…” I shook my head, hands on hips, and full of disgusted anger. “This whole time searching and not only did you know the answer but you wrote the very book it was hidden in.”
“You needed time,” he said.
“Time for what?” I shouted. “Time to be your slave here? To mix your potions and cook your porridge?”
“Time to grow into the young woman you will need to be when that locket opens,” he said. “Time to learn how to survive what will be required of you.”
“Well, evidently I have three more days for you to teach me any vital thing you might have missed,” I said. “Unless you want to speed things along and just tell me what it says now.”
“The prophecy is not mine to speak,” he said. “I only know of it at all because your grandmother charged me with the locket’s safekeeping and delivery on her deathbed. I know you will need to be able to take care of yourself and hold your own through the future that was laid out for you. I have no other details.”
“And you called me useless,” I said and stormed out of the room.

The locket opened as the sun rose on the sixteenth anniversary of my birth. Marcus found me surrounded by pecking hens in the yard just before the catch sprang. I ignored him as I had been doing since that day in his study.
The image of a woman appeared before me. She had my mother’s bright green eyes and delicate cheekbones but her hair was gray and her smile sad. Mother’s raven tresses had framed a carefree grin.
“Amber,” Marcus gasp at the sight.
The image bowed her head slightly and then looked directly at me. Her gaze saw deep into me and my heart thudded in fear that she might find me lacking. Then she nodded once more.
“Remember this well, child of my child,” she said. “Remember, for you are the only hope for the future.
Forgive them for the violence that drove you to this time and place. It was necessary just as birth pains are necessary for all new life to come.
He will await you on the eve of the death of two mighty kings. You must go to him clad only in birdsong and twilight for he will wrap you in the robes of his people that you may become one with them. You will be the bridge between lands; the hope of nations; the mother of the future.
But only if you give your heart freely to the task.
Reach first for his ashen hand and you will prevail. Draw away and all shall turn to dust and bone.
Remember, child of my child. Remember.”
Then she was gone.
When I looked at the locket in my hand I found her face staring sadly up at me. Beside it was the face of my mother.
I turned on my heel and walked back into Sorrow’s Keep leaving Marcus with the hens.

Font size
Font color
Line spacing
Background color