I had already decided to write something like this before I saw The Daily Post’s prompt for today, and the prompt just popped into place. This story is based on a dream I had last night.
The strange man in the black coat knelt just inside the door and held out a small wooden box. “I expect you would like to see the jewel that led you to me,” he said. He looked at the taller of the two children as he said this and waved a hand at the serving-man standing behind him. “Give me the mallet.”
Juliet looked down at her brother Wolf. His blank look mirrored her own. The man ignored them both. Slowly, almost lovingly, he took the mallet and tapped each nail in the lid of the box once. As soon as he had hit the last one, the lid clicked. He removed the lid and tilted the box for them to see.
“I thought it was red,” said the boy in an empty voice.
“Just wait,” replied the man.
They waited. At first, only a cloud of faintest pink washed over the surface of the diamond. In seconds the pink had been swallowed by a cloud of ruby red that swooped in and swallowed the whole surface. “It senses you,” the man told them, his gaze fixed on the precious jewel nestled in velvet. “This is why you are here, orphans. Because of this lovely gem.” He pronounced the last three words with hushed reverence.
“Where are we to sleep?” asked the boy, then cringed at the echo of his own voice in the huge hall.
“I will show you. Give Argus your coats.” He turned his back and strode toward the staircase. The children handed their coats to the tall man standing at the head of the row of servants. His silver hair was tied back in a neat swathe at the nape of his neck. His pale eyes examined them as he took their coats in his gloved hands.
Up and up they climbed, up the staircase that never seemed to end.