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   Chapter 6 The storm

The Curse of Kalaan By Linda Saint Jalmes Characters: 17114

Updated: 2018-05-18 10:15

Isle of Croz, northern Brittany coast — night of January 10th 1829

"Come mother, we cannot sleep and there is little else to do; perhaps it is time to open Kal's letter." Isabelle of Croz, Kalaan's younger sister, sounded annoyed.

"Isabelle, " sighed Amélie, the dowager countess. "I do not have the heart."

"Come mother! Your son is a good for nothing self-centered man, who arrives in Paris one day laying down his law, turning the household topsy-turvy and leaves the following day. We had no news for months. Don't you agree? But of course we love him in spite of his behavior."

"That will be enough, Isabelle! Please hold your tongue. There's no reason to put our family's problems on display before our guest!"

"Come mother, you exaggerate! Virginie is not just a guest. She is a sister to me and like a second daughter to you, right Ginny?"

Ginny nodded, barely hiding a yawn. Her fatigue brought tears to her eyes, which she managed to brush away discreetly. She sat up straight in the Empire style mahogany wing chair where she had been sitting for the past hour. Amélie was on her right, facing the fireplace sitting on a banquette. Isabelle was seated across from Virginie in the other wing chair. The ladies were only separated by a small low table. Virginie was the only one who seemed uncomfortable. Isabelle and her mother continued to gently squabble, while Virginie gripped the arms of her chair to keep herself from slipping, once again. She was beginning to get cramps in her arms and hands.

Why on earth did I accept to borrow this silk dressing gown! She scolded herself. The delicate fabric was uncomfortable and did not protect her from drafts. If only she could lie across the chair with her legs over the arms, or at least be rid of the cursed gown! She managed to restrain herself, for she was not at home in Paris, and above all, she was not alone.

The young woman left Paris three months ago after giving in to Isabelle who implored her to spend winter with them on the Isle of Croz. She did have her own reasons for leaving Paris, but she could not tell anyone, not even Isabelle, for she was fleeing from a man.

When they arrived on the isle, things were not very easy. It was mainly Kalaan's domain, while Amélie and Isabelle had spent the last two years living in Paris. Croz Castle had been sorely neglected, as well as all the out buildings. Everything needed to be cleaned from top to bottom and put back into working condition as well as possible, with only the women of the nearby village to help. There was a prevailing smell of mold in all the rooms due to lack of heat and ventilation; the rooms had been closed off for so long. The roof, in a sorry state of disrepair, had many leaks. Carpenters and workmen were called in the renovation was well under way. However it was always cold in the old 16th century fortress despite the periodic remodeling it had undergone throughout the ages.

On this night of January 10th, 1829 the drafts were particularly strong and the women were suffering. The rain and wind beat down on the castle roof and walls. No one could sleep with the raging storm and so, in search of heat, Amélie, Isabelle and Virginie found themselves together in the drawing room. As far as Amélie could remember, this was the worst storm they had experienced in over twenty years.

Isabelle rekindled the dying fire and then went in search of warm drinks. She returned with a tray heavy with steaming bowls and slices of bread and cheese. There was no one to ask for this service. The steward and housekeeper were housed at the presbytery attached to the chapel, with the valets and the female servants. This was only a temporary situation; once their rooms were renovated, they would be moving into the house.

The tick tock of a clock caught Virginie's attention. To her left, on the mantle of the fireplace, was an unusual clock, in the shape of a boat. It was almost six in the morning and a funny little sailor was about to pop out, straddling a cannon. He would pop in and out the little door shouting 'ho, ho' six times. Keeping her eye on the clock, Virginie tried to concentrate on her hostess' conversation. They were still quibbling about whether or not they would open Kalaan's letter.

She smiled tenderly while observing the women. It was the first time she had ever seen Amélie in her nightclothes with her long hair down. She looked much less stern than usual, and it was very becoming for she was a lovely, sweet woman. Although in her fifties, Amélie's dark chestnut hair hardly had any gray and her face only had a few wrinkles around her mouth and at the corners of her blue eyes. She was a beautiful woman and Isabelle looked so much like her mother, they were like two peas in a pod. Isabelle however was thirty years younger and her eyes were a sparkling amber-green. There was another difference between mother and daughter. As much as Amélie was reserved, Isabelle was a live wire, always speaking her mind, always in movement.

Virginie felt she was the complete opposite to her friend but only in appearance. Virgin

iles in the family! Besides, we have only come across three coming up the Nile to Tell el-Amarna. And I would not have you, my dear Isabelle, be the cause of the reptiles' extinction in Egypt. You can stop muttering now; it was only a little humor, right Mother?"

"How could he know I would mutter?"

"Because he knows you so well, my dear, " replied Amélie with a knowing smile.

"Let me come back to the scenery. No, I will return to that later. Something wonderful has happened. The man I was hoping to meet here, Jean-Fran?ois Champollion, has arrived! He will help me with the translation of a few hieroglyphs. With these words I will take your leave. We will see each other very soon in Paris. Your loving son and brother, Kal."

Virginie opened her eyes when the letter suddenly ended. Only seconds before she had been sitting on the golden sand of the Egyptian desert, lifting her eyes up to Kalaan, the Kalaan she remembered from the last time they saw each other in Paris, when he was twenty-four. Virginie was staying with her father, the Marquis de Macy and she was still a fifteen-year-old butterball. Kalaan did not seem to notice that she was losing weight and hardly even looked at her when he came to call.

She had come to greet him at the entrance, but soon ran off to her rooms in tears. Virginie did not exist in Kalaan's eyes, whereas he was in all her dreams, and always had been, ever since…

Oh God, too long, she sighed to herself. It had to stop, and she thought it had. But she had to admit she still thought of him often. However it was over. She was an adult of twenty-one and Kalaan a thirty-year-old rake. Never would she let another man break her heart!

A deafening explosion shook Virginie from her bitter reminiscing. She jumped in her chair, letting a little scream escape from her lips, as she sat up straight in her chair, eyeing the clock with suspicion. Amélie and Isabelle sat up just as straight.

"It's not the clock!" cried Isabelle, seeing the young woman look at the strange contraption. She turned her head to the tall windows where the shutters were closed. Yet another explosion made them jump and Virginie could not hold back another scream.

"It's the cannons!" Amélie jumped up and starting turning in circles. "My coat, my boots, where are they? He...he..."

"Are we under attack?" Virginie was wringing her fingers with worry, but Isabelle was acting like her mother. What on earth were they doing?

"No, we are not under attack, " Amélie said, laughing. "Those are the cannons of Ar sorserez, Kalaan's frigate!"A third explosion; much louder and closer interrupted Amélie.

"Yes!" Isabelle shouted with joy and ran out of the room after throwing a small lap rug over her shoulders.

"But I…don't... understand." Poor Virginie was completely disconcerted by whatever was happening.

Amélie smiled at her radiantly. "It's Kalaan... he has returned! My son is the only captain capable of braving such a storm to keep his promise!"

The next minute Virginie found herself alone and confused. Kalaan... the cannon fire... Ar sorserez...

"Oh my God, " she gasped, as she sank back into the chair and then on to the floor, which she didn't seem to notice.

The cursed silk dressing gown no longer affected her. She was petrified at the thought of seeing Kalaan again. She should never have accepted to come to the Isle of Croz. Never!

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