Chapter Thirteen

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Dawn had not quite broken when Cornelia found herself in the southern woods, and neither was it as near to daybreak as the woman would have liked.

It was an odd thing though: the warp she'd just experienced. Instantaneous magic. She'd only had to grasp onto everything she owned, and then the sorcerer, Severienus, had raised his hand in front of her. Instinctually, she had looked at his palm, and as soon as she had, the scenery around her changed. It was rather disorienting. If she'd not known it was going to happen, it might have driven her to madness. At one moment, she was in an impressive and brightly-lit room, and the next she was standing in the dark within a cluster of trees, staring off toward a shadowy structure that was just a short walk away.

As far as she could tell, the structure appeared to be a tower of some sort, made of crumbled stone. It did not reach very far into the sky, perhaps a remnant of some ancient lord's estate. The woman only knew one thing about it, and that was the sure fact that the enchantress Narestra had stopped here. The map had told her so. Her heart thudded heavily. Her enemy was so close now that all her time of study and search finally seemed worth the effort. The sorceress had moved on from this place, but Cornelia was only one step behind. The feeling was invigorating, though maddening, but the woman could not lose herself to it.

Cornelia listened closely to the sounds of the night, and when she did not hear anything other than gentle wind and preying birds of the dark, she relit her torch with a spark and moved toward the tower.

When she'd come closer, she saw that there was a bit of crumbling wall jutting off from the tower at a sharp angle, but it fell away to nothing shortly after it began. The tower itself was not whole any longer. The stairwell that led up to it had been equally exposed to the elements, resulting in many missing stones. There was a room at the top, and it was fully enclosed, save for part of the roof that had caved in or burnt away. The sorceress had stopped here for some length of time—perhaps a day or two—so certainly she had left some trace of herself behind or some clue that would aid Cornelia further in her quest.

The air was moist here, she noticed, and the moon was dim. Perhaps it would rain. Torchlight illuminated the cracks in the stone as she approached the tower stairs. She listened, she was cautious, but she was unafraid. Her hood shielded her head from a few drops of water that fell from the stone overhead, and she carefully began to make her way up the winding stairs.

The passage was narrow, and she decided that perhaps this remnant had once been a storage chamber or a guard's tower. When she had reached the top, after anticipating so much that the stairs had seemed endless, the door that greeted her was open, warped so much that it would not close. She glanced into the circular room before her, noticing at first the large, singular window that was in her direct line of sight. It was low to the floor, and there was no glass set in it. The flat base of its domed shape was crumbling. Pulling her eyes from that without much effort, she noticed the blood on the floor. It wasn't a great amount, but immediately her thoughts shot back to Severienus, and she wondered if Narestra saw the need to remove her eyes on some days. There was still much she didn't know about the sorceress' habits. Still, the amount of blood could have easily come from an animal, and the creature could have been used for food for all Cornelia knew.

She stepped into the room, investigating it further, and she noticed rather quickly that things had been moved. She knew this because there were discolorations on the floor from where the room's few objects had been resting, undisturbed for years. A rickety chair was pulled near the window, and a table with cobwebs entwining its legs was placed near it. These things were interesting, but somehow held nothing of great importance to her. What drew her interest was a warped chest that had been pulled away from the wall and brought into the center of the room.

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