If I paid too much attention, the present began to blur around the edges, mingling with the past and becoming confusing. I focused instead on the hulking mass of cut stone and red tile roof before me.
The shops and ristorantes around me were bustling, locals rolling their eyes at camera-toting tourists who tripped over their giant camera and cobblestones in the narrow streets. I sidestepped a couple taking a selfie in front of a fountain, keeping my eyes down. If you made eye contact, they always wanted you to take their picture and listen to the obligatory story about their amazing trip. Not that I begrudged them the travel. Just that I didn't want to listen to it. Not today, anyway.
I had other things on my mind.
The door to the castle was visible at the back end of an alley next to a tiny cafe with amazing smells wafting from the door. I ignored the growling in my stomach and continued toward the wooden door. Iron swirled over the planks in patterns that were both beautiful and slightly chilling. The wood itself was dark and stained in strange places.
I didn't want to think about what kinds of things might stain the door.
No signs were tacked outside, no bits of paper marred the surface. No tourists even spared it a passing glance. But they wouldn't.
They couldn't even see it.
I looked down at the alleyway beneath my feet. The cobbles were smooth, worn by centuries of foot traffic. They honey-gold and inviting. But they turned to something else a mere hands-breath from my toes. Those cobbles were sharp and dark, wetness glistened in the deep cracks between them.
The couple from the fountain passed by, giving me a strange look as they clasped hands and breathed the scent of pastries and coffee.
To them, I'm sure I looked deranged, staring into an empty wall.
I blocked them out, all of them, took a deep breath and turned around one last time. My eyes memorized the contours and spikes of the roof lines around me and the sounds and smells. I couldn't be sure this would be the last time I'd see them.
As I stepped backwards, I saw a glimpse of Aron, but his face was quickly erased as I crossed the threshold between this world and the one where my castle stood.
The one I belonged to, whether I liked it or not.