|Lightning streaked across the sky. A lone figure stood at a window watching the storm rage outside. When there was a break in the thunder the sound of quiet sobs could be heard.
“Sweetling,” a weak voice said, “Come back to my side.” The figure moved to the king size canopy bed and sat on the edge. “Light the candle, I want to see you.”
A candle flared to life and illuminated the tear stained face of a young woman.
“Sweetling don’t cry, everything will be all right, I promise. Bad things happened but I accept it. Please, accept it too.”
“Daddy it’s not ok!” The young woman sobbed. “It’s not fair! You’re not old enough to die!”
“Neither was your mother but sickness took her.”
“But you were shot! Some jealous man decided you shouldn’t live anymore!” She broke down into more tears and couldn’t speak.
Her father pulled her down to lie next to him and held her close.
“I know, I know. It isn’t fair but what’s done is done. I want you to listen to me now with what time I have left. I want you to be the person you want to be, no matter what your aunt Lucille or anyone else says. Your brothers will look after you. They did practically raise you as a boy after all. You won’t be alone, and that comforts me greatly. I know that nothing I say will keep you or your brothers from finding the man who shot me, so I give you my blessing. But please don’t let what happened to me take over your life. Do what you can for the good of others. Promise me Arina?”
Arina nodded. “I promise.”
“Now stop your tears, I’m not dead yet, I have a bit of spark left in me. So, how has the training of Akos been going?”
Father and daughter spoke of Arina’s falcon, Akos, and of her horses until very late. Arina eventually could not keep her eyes open any longer and fell asleep nestled against her father.
James Voldectu forced himself to stay conscious. He had to hold on until his sons arrived; he had final instructions for them also. The only good thing about the fatal wound he had received in the stomach was that the pain kept him alert. But every breath was starting to become more and more labored. He would not take laudanum because he wanted to be alert when the end came. He would meet death with open arms in welcome, and then he would demand that the son of a bitch take him to his wife. James coughed and winced at the sharp pain. He looked down at his sleeping daughter. She would be devastated when he died. James had always protected her from dangers, but he couldn’t save her from this pain. Silent tears ran down his face and he quickly wiped them away.
“I will still watch over you, I promise. I’m sorry that I have to go, my sweet one.”
The rain had stopped but he heard drumming again and thought the rain was once more coming down. He soon recognized the sound as hoof beats and sighed in relief. His sons had arrived. The three sons lived about an hour’s ride away from Voldectu manor. James figured that they had ridden their horses to the ground to get here. He listened for the change of sounds in his manor. Sure enough he heard a door slam and three sets of feet pounded their way to his room. The footsteps paused outside of his room, then the door slowly opened.
“I’m still here boys, do come in.”
He heard the collective sighs of relief that they had arrived on time. James motioned them to be quiet and pointed at their sister.
“She hasn’t been asleep long; it’s been a very hard day for her. Now I have some things to tell you.”
He told them to take care of Arina and to not devote their lives to avenging him, much of what he had told Arina. He also told them to help Arina be who she wanted to be and not let anyone else interfere, especially their aunt Lucille.
“Eric, as the oldest you would own the estate after I’m gone. But I want to give it to Arina. Each of you have your own estates now with your wives so I think you are all very well off. Eric, I ask you to live with her until she finds her own husband. Then you can discuss the estate with her.” His voice was getting weaker and the pain was getting worse. James let a few tears escape. “Wake her now; I don’t have the heart to.”
Eric picked her up off the bed and cuddled her in his lap. “Arina, wake up sweetheart.” He said gently into her ear.
Arina woke with a start and looked up confused at Eric. “Daddy?!” She said frantically.
“Still here, sweetling.” James said, his voice strained.
Arina wiggled out of Eric’s lap and sat next to James and took his hand. She kissed his cheek and rested her cheek against his. “I love you daddy.” She said, her voice cracking.
James wrapped an arm around her. “My sweet Arina, I love you. And my boys.” He held his hand out to them and they grasped his hands. His youngest son clasped his arm. “I was truly blessed with such a family.”
He drew one last pain filled breath, and died. Arina collapsed next to him and sobbed like she had never sobbed before. Eric collected her in his arms and cuddled her close. Their brothers, Dimitri and Christopher, sat on either sie of them and held each other. The brothers had tears in their eyes and their shoulders shook a little, but it was Arina’s heart wrenching sobs that truly broke their hearts.
Eric stood and motioned for his brothers to follow. He carried Arina to her room and they made a bed out of her many pillows on the floor, just as they had done when she was smaller. The other two brothers collected blankets and they all cuddled together. They felt no shame, grown adults cuddling together like children. They were brothers and sister, and they needed each other. Eric held Arina close until she exhausted herself from crying and fell into a deep sleep. Then Eric gave into his tears and the other two joined him.
“We’ll be happy again someday, little sister.” He sobbed into Arina’s hair. “I promise. I promise.”