“We all carry, inside us, people who came before us.” ― Liam Callanan, The Cloud Atlas
Alexandra studied Cezar in muted admiration. His hair and beard were immaculately trimmed and lay in obedient waves on his tanned face and noble head. He wore a formal black uniform fashioned to fit his physique. The jacket covered a starched white shirt and shiny black bowtie. His proud chest was a garden of colorful medals, ribbons, sashes, golden colored cords, and adorned epaulets. The handsome Viscount and the dual wolves on the coat of arms electrified Alexandra. The wolves, she thought. Our connection is the wolves but what do they mean? She had only questions and no answers.
A manicured hand captured the Lady Alexandra’s arm and led her toward the far door, and they began to stroll down the hall. Footsteps and polite voices carried on echoes as in dreams, a mesmerizing susurration to the ears. Such a foreign discourse of noble speak was a drug to Alexandra’s nervous heart. Dari allowed the couple to move ahead two paces and she took up her position to the rear and right in a trained procession of softly spoken sub rosa.
“Please allow me to tell you a bit about Castle Răzvan and those people of my family tied to its history,” Cezar said to his silent captive.
Alexandra struggled not to croak out her acceptance through the tension she felt in her throat. Breath, she thought. It’s a performance, girl. You’re no stranger to this. She nodded her approval, and the Viscount launched into his tour.
They stopped at the first painted panel above a massive mirror bordered by two tall gilded candelabras. There, in an outdoor scene was a king clothed in a bear fur cape with his queen at his side. “Here is the first Dacian King of what is now Romania. My forefather was the first to attempt to unite the Thracian tribes against the invaders, but pride and duplicitous allegiances left the many tribes weak to conquest. They fell to the invaders one by one. The king was mortally wounded in one of those battles. His queen went on to lead the tribe to several victories until she too was killed.”
Alexandra stood spellbound looking at the painting she felt such an affinity for, but more gripping was, her and Cezar’s reflection in the mirror. She saw how they fit together and felt a deep sensation of belonging.
They continued down the line. “Here in this painting is the Răzvan family. Brothers and uncles have come together with strong allies across the land and formed the Society of Wolves. We united to fight the Romans as they sought to make us slaves giving our lives and fealty to Rome. We could not allow it and did not for 300 years until finally, Rome overpowered us.”
“Is this Society of Wolves the symbolism from your coat of arms?” Alexandra asked.
“Yes, it is. The wolf lived free on these lands before men came to settle it. They are still free though we struggle with too many weaknesses and disunity to live like the wolves in a society of cooperation.” Cezar replied his voice softer, more personal.
“Do you keep wolves here at the castle?” Alexandra asked, hoping to get an explanation of what she saw that night with the hooded woman and the two wolves.
“Perhaps you’ve seen them. We don’t keep the wolves. They are free to come and go as they please, but we do feed them, and they have become faithful friends.” Cezar answered with a touch of pride in his voice.
“I have always had a love for wolves. They are my spirit animal. That’s why I got the two tattoos on my back. It gave me strength and inspiration to master my trade.” Alexandra explained as she watched for a hint of understanding in the Viscount’s eyes.
And, there it was. The look Alexandra desired, the acceptance she wanted all of her life. Cezar’s deep voice filled her attentive ears as his hand brushed up her back to her shoulder where he squeezed her arm in a silent affirmation. The millimeters of space between them disappeared in a tender hug before the distance was regained out of respect for the lady, of course. Dari had averted her face and now checked timidly to discover the kiss had not occurred as she anticipated. She wondered how she could hurry this subtle seduction along.
“Perhaps down here in this panel, you will find further reasons for your attachment to our wolves.” Cezar escorted Alexandra to the end of the hall, stopped, and looked up. He regarded the panel with admiration, looked at Alexandra, and explained. “This is the Duke and his wife, the Duchess Drăgana.” Alexandra looked on at the scene of the royal couple. The woman was an older version of herself. She could see the likeness. There sat a young boy and girl in the foreground with a forward-looking wolf of immense size.
“Is, is the Duchess from my family?” Alexandra asked.
“Your great-grandfather’s family, My Lady,” Cezar replied.
“Who are the children?” Alexandra began to feel her emotions breach the surface of her struggle to hold herself together. The welling up of the lost years of her life ran through her mind.
“They are your grandfather and his sister, Alexandra,” Cezar said as Dari came up to her side.
The dam broke.
Image Source: King Carol of Romania. National Archives of Romania. Bucharest Collection.