It started as a rainy day attic raid, years after the last one.
As a little girl, Reina loved to look through the boxes and trunks with old fashioned locks that lay in her attic, covered in dust. They’d belonged to Gran, who had died when she was six. The whole house had, but when Mom and Daddy had divorced the next year, Daddy had moved into the sprawling house with the huge attic, and Mom hadn’t been there to tell Reina that playing in dusty attics would get her dresses dirty. Reina knew that anyway, but she’d found a costume her first trip up, a long red shirt that she belted at the waist. It was soft and warm, and felt like an embrace. So she wore that and got dust in her hair and eyes, searching out small treasures.
Once, she found old books, but the writing was in strange marks she couldn’t read. They weren’t Japanese, like how Daddy’s dad had used to write, but they weren’t in English either. So Reina put them aside. Books were boring, anyway. She loved the dresses in cloth wrappings, silks and velvets in different colors. She loved the jewelry, but after dad caught her wearing a shiny gold necklace that looked like the sun, he said she should wait till she was older.
She loved the paintings best, little ones, big ones, on wood and on canvas. The colors were faded, and blurred, and all felt—odd. Like someone painting from a faded memory, the colors blurring at the edges.
There were forests, mountains, a lake that shone with sunlight on the surface. There was a castle.
Reina remembered the castle, tall and proud, and carrying with it the feeling of home.
She remembered it when Dad’s work started taking him on long trips around the world, and she’s had to start living full time with mom.
It because her focus when the attacks started, the despair taking root in her heart. She focused on the serenity, the longing, that the painter had captured. When she was Manic, she drew it, over and over until the image was gouged into her desk and her mind.
When she was 17, she found herself on the quest of a lifetime, something out of fairy tales and the fantasy stories she’d never liked reading. She’d gone to another world, another life. She’d gotten dust in her eyes and hair, had fought bandits and wicked kings, had worn a red dress melted at the waist. But it had not been in her attic, a daydream of a bored child. This had been real. She had been someone, more than just a disappointing daughter, more than just herself. And that—that had felt right. She had felt home in the trees of Celravoc. Returning had not felt like returning. It had felt like leaving something behind.
She’d been grounded after that—disappearing for a month has consequences, above nightmares. And the rain had cut the power, so she’d gone back to the attic. She did not need a flashlight, not with a globe of light in her hand.
The castle was dimmer than she remembered, as if the painter had seen it through glass fogged over by rain. She had forgotten that turret, the color of the roof tiles, the way it sat over the lake. And seeing it reminded her again of home. She knew the castle now. She would not let if fade in her mind again.
She was a year older when she returned. They had Promised, and kept their word, not like mom, not like dad. She’d gone back, her glaive in her hand, her friends at her side.
And on this quest, this journey, she had finally understood.
Because just beyond the Linagard mountains, past the forests of Stars and standing watch over the town of Linina, Reina saw a stone house, like a mother watching over her children.
It was her Castle.
She was Home.