She wandered through the halls of the empty manor, the portraits of the past gazing down at her, following her. They were beautiful and ghastly, the women in the portraits. And she avoided looking at them. At their paleness. It was not the soft paleness of life. It was the unsettling paleness of dying. She had never noticed it before. It was a paleness she shared. She dragged the burden of her longing and anticipation and dread and hope as if they were heavy chains on her back and shoulders. She was close to achieving what she wanted. At last, after an eon and an age.

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