Asteria's 'study' was more like a curiosity shop, strange objects lined shelves and bookcases. Pyramid shaped objects with strange symbols carved into them, statuettes in various poses, obscure glass vases, lots of small animals made from all sorts of material, wood, bronze, even marble. Trinkets so amazingly unusual, I had to try really hard to suppress the urge to touch everything. One of the bookshelves held only books, thick, ancient looking books in leather binding, most of the titles were in foreign languages. Old tapestries hung on the walls, some clearly older than others. Near the far wall was a huge oak desk, on top of which were more peculiar objects. But the most eye-catching thing in the room was the massive stained glass window on the wall behind the desk.
The window showed a woman with her back to us, she wore a long purple skirt that was blown as if she were standing in a storm. Her long dark hair was blowing wildly around her and she held a scroll in her right hand. Her left hand was empty, fingers outstretched and looked to have whitish-blue light emanating from it. Above her head was a dark sky, with a white crescent moon and several stars, some of which appeared to be shooting stars. Beside here right foot were a set of scales, above that there was something that looked like a zodiac wheel, with a clock face in the centre of it. By her left foot was a sword laying flat with a cup on top that had a stick and coin inside it. The earth was shown above the cup, tiny details absolutely perfect. It was breath-taking and sort of unnerving. The bright sun shone through the glass, casting purple and blue lights into the room.
I automatically went to sit at the chair facing the desk when Asteria stopped me. “Lets not be to formal about this. It’s much cosier over here”. She was standing beside a red chaise and pouring herself a drink. I took a seat on the chaise and she perched herself at the end of it. “So, what is going to happen to me now?”, I asked her again. Her beautiful face was again full of warmth, “what you do now is your own choice. You’re not a prisoner here, but know that Marius is more than likely to come looking for you again”. Marius. I shivered.".I thought you said he would be dealt with?".
"His punishment, Accalia, is depending on what crimes he committed, and you are the only one who can tell us the extent of those".
"Wh... What do you mean?", I stuttered.
"Accalia you need to tell me everything that went on when you were with Marius. What happened when he took you away, how he treated you, people you met. I need to know everything".
"I thought you already knew everything?", I said, feeling sceptical. She placed a hand on my lap and I instinctively drew away. "Stop trying to play games with me, I know what you're doing", I snapped. "Marius told me about your kind, your manipulating, trying to confuse me. I just don't know why you're trying to do it!".
Slowly, Asteria rose to her feet, her eyes lingered on me before she turned and walked to her desk, and taking a seat there. Her hurt expression made me instantly feel guilty for my outburst, but despite my feelings I still sat with my arms crossed and a scowl on my face. "Can you just tell me what Marius told you about your parents?". Her voice was soft. I remained stubborn and silent. "Were you there when he killed them?".
"What?! Marius didn't kill my parents. They died in the house fire, he saved my life!". The first time I had said it out loud. "Oh Accalia, I thought you knew", Asteria said as she shook her head and right then I did know, maybe I always knew and just refused to believe it. But Marius did kill my parents.
“I have something for you", she told me as she dipped into a drawer in the desk. She placed a black, shoe-sized box on top of the desk, fiddled with a lock until it clicked, and lifted the lid. From the box she lifted out something, closed it and returned it to the drawer. I noticed that she never took her eyes off the item, and from where I was I couldn't quite see what it was. "I know you don't trust us, and I know you've been through a lot. But I really do need your cooperation and I believe that these should stay with you", she crossed the room and crouched down in front of me. It was a photograph. She placed it on my lap, on top of it she put down a ring. It was a silver ring, a band of entwined rope and fancy knots. A Celtic ring. It wasn't silver, it was white gold. I knew that ring.
I glanced up at Asteria's face. She wasn't looking at me. I looked back at the items on my lap. "What is this?". But I already had knew. My hand trembled as I went to pick up the ring. I clasped it tight in my palm until it hurt. I only realised I was crying when I saw tears splash on to the down-turned photograph.
"Where did you get this?", I sobbed. It was my mother's ring, there was no mistaking it, as a child it had mesmerised me. I used to try draw the interweaving pattern, it had been the first gift my father had ever given to my mother. Now Asteria was beside me, her arm was around my shoulders. "When we heard about the fire we sent someone to investigate. Everyone said you had died in the fire, but I knew you hadn't, I knew you got out but I just didn't know how or where you had gone. So I got these kept for you in case you turned up one day. I'm sorry we couldn't have got anything more for you, not much survived the fire". I slowly turned the photo up, my parent's happy faces smiled up at me. It was a copy of the only family portrait we had ever gotten taken, I remember how my dad had moaned about the extortionate price and my mum scalding him for it. I was sat between them, I was seven at the time and had insisted on wearing a purple cow girl dress, complete with fringes and by the age of ten had regretted it as it was 'so not cool'. I clutched it tight to my chest.
After a good half hour or so, I was able to look at the photograph without crying. I looked at Asteria, who had sat patiently the whole time, patting and rubbing my back. "He took me when the fire had already started, he told me he was there to save me. He let me watch the house burn". I went on to tell her the details of what happened since then, right up to arriving here. My eyes had stayed on the picture until this point, now I looked up again at Asteria, who's hand was covering her mouth and had tears streaming from her eyes. "Why me?". Unexpectedly she pulled me close to her, warmth seemed to pass from her touch and right through to my core and I slowly felt myself calm and my body stopped trembling. "It wasn't random. It was you he needed Accalia, and I will do everything in my power to see that he burns for what he done to you".