TITLE: The Black Keep
Alone on the Keep’s parapet, the young woman stalled for time, walking her fingers on the dark stones like a child avoiding her chores. The wind stung her bare fingers and cold seeped through her layers of thin clothing. She was used to it though and paid it no mind. Gazing out over the tundra at the last vestige of the sinking sun, apprehension coiled in her stomach. She turned to greet the luminous orb that peeked over the mountaintops.
“Hello again,” she whispered. “I guess it’s time.”
Her platinum hair danced above her head, twisting in the breeze, as she turned to descend the stairs. Hugging her arms to her chest, she couldn’t melt the ice that settled on her heart. Through the winding hallways of the stronghold she padded, finally climbing narrow steps to the small chamber perched in the highest tower for the second time that day. Previously, she had brought up the supplies Father would need for the ritual to come. The girl paused in the doorway, reluctant to enter. She wasn’t afraid of what was to come, but the burden of duty weighed her down.
A stone altar dominated the center of the room, but she gave the blood-rimmed manacles no thought; he had never used them on her. Inscriptions in the stone floor surrounded the altar with a ring of esoteric markings. She had placed lit candles at each mark on the ring, matching colors to symbols the way she had been taught.