Friday, March 10, 2017

Beauty and the Beast (Part 2)

After a period of uncomfortable silence, a quiet man stepped around the screen. His clothes were more costly than those of the man who sat in the chair to my right. The pale yellow of the doublet looked to be something like the silk that my father had purchased from the East, reflecting the light with a sheen that looked almost golden. The thin man stood at his lord's right hand at a stance reflecting attentiveness. His pale blond hair was plaited into a braid that rested upon his shoulder, with a bow of the same color as his doublet at the end. He would have seemed a dandy except for the solemn expression on his face.

"Auguste," the lord of Winterwood said, "Bring this young woman to her quarters. See that a maid is provided for her, one who is close to her age. You know what must be done." Auguste gave a half bow to my captor and then turned his pale blue eyes upon me as he straightened. Something like pity was in them as he stepped up to me and offered his arm.

"Please, come with me," he said. I looked down at the unfinished cup of wine and then around me, uncertain where to place it. Auguste took the cup from my hand and set it upon the table. I started to take the blanket off of my lap when he returned and lifted it. With a deft hand, he quickly folded the woolen thing and set it back upon the chair where it began. He then took my hand and helped me to my feet.

As he lead me away from the taciturn man sitting at the fire, he seemed to become less tense the farther away we went. We were half way down a corridor when Auguste spoke. "Once a year, he demands tribute. It is not wealth he seeks, but a wife," he said very quietly, "A woman comes for a fortnight and then is sent back to her family. This usually happens in the spring. Winter is a black season for him." I wanted to ask him to explain but his hold upon my right hand hardened. "He is a man of unusual tastes. I only knew of one like him when I was a young man in my homeland. None have managed to ... bring him peace," Auguste continued in his quiet, cautious tone, "Be cautious, Miss. His mood is fickle this time of year. His hungers are stronger because of it."

We stopped before a door that was heavily ornamented. Auguste let go of my hand and took a key out from his pocket. He unlocked the door and lit a lantern within. I walked in and found myself in what seemed an elegant antechamber of sorts. A chaise lounge was before a window that had shutters closed and dark red velvet curtains drawn. Gold trim was heavy upon them, making it all but impossible for a draft to move them. A small desk with a chair sat across the room from it with a painting hung over it. A cloth hung over it. As I approached it, Auguste quickly stepped before me. He lightly set a hand on my shoulder to stay me. "Do not move the curtain," he said, "Never touch it. It is forbidden. As are other things, which Rochelle will explain to you. Abide by the rules and remain as ... quiet as you can, and I expect your liberty will be returned to you with out any harm."

"It is cold in here," I said to him and he nodded.

"I will light a fire in the next room. You can wait for Rochelle there. I will have a brazier brought so that this room will be warmed as well." As he opened the door to the next room, I looked over at the covered painting. Auguste called to me as he lit a fire in the fireplace of the next room, "Unlike the others, you have an excellent chance of his kindness. Even during this dark time of the year. Remember to be careful what you say, though. If he thinks you are inclined towards him, he may not let you go for a very long time."

"Why are you telling me all of this?" I asked as I walked into a spacious bedroom. He straightened as the tinder caught and the fire began to snap merrily. His expression as he looked down at the growing flames was filled with something that looked like regret.

"I can not spare you from this fate," he said, very quietly, "I can, however, help you to move through this with as little trouble as possible." He then briskly moved away from the fireplace and began lighting lamps.

I walked towards him. "This doesn't tell me why, sir," I said. Auguste looked over at me, his face seemed older in the light of the fire and the lit lamps.

"There is a monster here," Auguste said, "You have not yet seen his face. Once, there was one who could tame him. She is no more and he seeks another to stand in her place. Others have broken under that weight. I tried to help them. I do not wish to see him suffer but it is far worse to see those innocent souls endure what she did. Remember, Miss. Do not touch the curtain or disturb it in anyway."

He took his lamp with him as he left. When the door into the hallway was shut, I heard the key in the lock. I looked around the bedroom. It was richly appointed. Though it was a comfortable room and far finer than what my father owned before his fortunes turned ill, I knew this room was still a prison. A gilded cage was still a cage.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Untitled # 2

I am at a loss for words. So much has happened so quickly. I feel as though I am stumbling around. They see me. They know what I am going through. And they bid me speak. But how does one put this into the narrow confines of words? Written words, no less.

World-Breaker laughs. It is a beautiful laugh. He simply laughs as I flail about in this queer mixture of terror and elation. I find myself filled with joy for his laughter and shame for my terror and elation. I am so confused, but he just laughs. I would ask him for answers, but he has made clear to me that not all things have answers and not all answers are for me. So I struggle and find myself timid over some of the oddest things.

Ingvi... Ah, Freyr, your laugh is equally lovely. If his laughter is the snapping of a bonfire on a chilly night, full of merry brightness, then yours is the warmth that beckons me to draw closer and set aside the cares of the day. But, you also have been reluctant to answer the questions that arise. You simply smile and tell me that I already know what they are. I am so twisted up that I find myself struggling to tell what direction I am facing. And you just chuckle as I reel and try to find my bearings.

The world about me grows more distressing, but it seems a paltry thing compared to the prospect of utterly abandoning past identities. But, I am not allowed my masks. If World-Breaker is not taking them from my hands and shattering them upon the ground, you are slipping them off my face and pushing me before a mirror to see what I truly look like. And it bleeds into everything.

I can not shunt aside this gnawing terror that I am inheirently wrong on the basis of the fact that I continue to draw breath. And you laugh at this as it is pure nonsense. Where you had been angry, now, you laugh. You both tell me that I am clinging to vestiges of who I was as you chuckle.

And yet, here I am, looking at myself asking is this who I am? A part of me says I should simply let myself fall into this place of respite and comfort. Another part of me quails saying that some one, somewhere is going to punish me for not keeping the masks and clever denials all at hand. But yet, you take my hands and draw me farther along this path.

How is it that I am liberated when I place myself into your hands? How is it that I am stronger when I let myself fall apart under your watchful eyes? How is it that you all know exactly what is happening within me when I say nothing of it? Am I so easy to read?

You tell me that I am more than what I have felt and insisted I am. Now, as you hold up this mirror, I am terrified by what I see. I don't even know why I am so frightened.

And yet, as you both laugh, he sees me. He sees deep into who I am. And he embraces me, and it feels like fire whipping through me. Flame and heat coming together to scald me even as it warms that ice inside me.

What is it that I have become? Why do I fear freedom?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


The book laid open upon the desk. The poems of Catullus were printed in stark text upon white pages, latin upon the left page and english upon the right. One in particular was set out for me to view.

"Odi et amo. quare id faciam fortasse requiris?
nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.'" 
I hate and I love. Why I do this, perhaps you ask?
I do not know, but I feel it happening and I am tortured.[1]

I looked at the elegaic couplet and found myself caught in a strange mix of confusion and distress. A warm hand settled at the small of my back. His voice was quiet as he said, "Behold thyself within the mirror of antiquity. Observe the torment such as the poet felt within his own heart. Doth thou not know this agony, sweetling?" I looked away from the book.

A slender finger captured a lock of hair that fell from my temple and ensnared itself within, tugging lightly and pulling my face back to look on the book. The hand at my back moved around to sit at my stomach as he embraced me. I took in a slow breath, I could nearly taste the coppery scent of heat that came from him. It was something I always associated with heated metal, though I was never quite sure why. His lips brushed against my ear as I looked back at the book. Softly he said, "Thine heart, so full of hate towards such a pitied child. Eyes gazing upon her with such hard anger. And yet, love deep as the river hurling to the ocean overwhelms thee. That girl with eyes like the sky and moods of the ocean hates herself but loves herself. Such confusion. Such pain. How shall we heal her?"

"I don't know," I answered. My heart hurt. My eyes ached with the promise of weeping. "Let me be," I said weakly, "There is no hope for me." The hand that was twined in my hair settled against my cheek. I closed my eyes and struggled with the urge to nuzzle the warmth of that touch.

"Would you know more?" he asked me.

I felt the urge to step away, to flee from him and the feelings that were stirred. I could not, though, because he held me firmly against himself and the desk was before me. "Go away," I whimpered, "Just go. I'm ... I'm not worth this."

He chuckled. "That is not a 'no', dear heart," he said, "I know your lies as my own. I shall tell you the truth, however, because it is what you need." Tears found their way out beneath my lowered eyelids. "All chains shall be broken," he purred in my ear, "All truths shall be revealed. You shall be free, sweetling. You shall be yourself, as you were born to be. And that is good. And worthy. Worthy of far more than me."

Quietly I wept. Terror flooded my veins, but still he held me. His lips pressed softly against my cheek. "Truth shall free you, dear," he whispered against my cheek. I shivered but could say nothing.