Monthly Archives: December 2013

Chapter Seven: Flowers in The Forest

     I slept fitfully that night.  The wood-dwelling stranger’s home was rough and rustic.  Moonbeams shone through the dust floor and cobwebs.  I dreamed of fields, fields of red . . . Leon . . . in a field of red flowers . . . and Stephane . . . he turned to me, as if blind, but said nothing . . . then Lenora’s portrait, and a corpse like form gliding slowly downstairs . . .
     I woke to find the soft sun breaking on my face.  Raven smiled at me.  He said it was time to leave and whistled for his twin pets, who greeted me, this time, with anxious sniffs . . .
     We traveled far; past marsh and swamp; past dark clumps of dead trees; past shanties; past cities; he pointed, “Look . . .”
     “We will stay here tonight.”
     It was a forest, full of flowers, their fragrance unlike anything I had ever known.
     “You can almost smell the sea from here . . . we must cross a steep mountain first though.”
     That night, he explained to me what I must do.
     “In my father’s time, this ancestor of ours would be called in our tongue the equivalent of a wraith, but much more dangerous — our people would say a S’ath’anit — a restless corpse.  Yes, she is more than that; she is also demonic and cannot be stopped unless you go to where the body is and burn it.  Also, these herbs and potions, you must need to use them first, must take the heart of this thing and anoint it. Then, taking the heart, put it into the ground.  Her heart must be in the ground.”
     “And where must it be buried?”
     He pointed at the moon as we reclined against a grassy knoll.
     “An evil man took her from her home . . . she died on the shores across the seas, that is all I know, for I have also seen the same visions as the Seer.  Lenora choked on the blue waters trying to escape him, or so they thought, but he put her, while still alive, into the tomb of your family there –“
     He pointed across the sea.
     “Your family, do you know by the way the reasoning for this summons?  It could be that they are aware of Lenora’s presence and intend to help her grow stronger.”
     “All that I know is their family name: Murcilagos.  They still live there, on the coast, but there might be a vault there if I remember the stories correctly.  A family vault.”
     “When you find it, do as I say, but, no one must find you.  Then, as you asked, the heart, which should still be intact, for all demons’ hearts do not rot, it needs to be put into that very earth of her native soil, for that is where she came from, across the seas.  Her curse will end when she is at rest.  I have the feeling that much dark magics were used by these very family members you will be visiting in order to raise her spirit — so be forewarned.  They do not have friendly intentions and I feel much darkness around their very family name and the land where they live — is said to also be cursed because the peoples there have refused to give up their evil.”
     He told me much about folklore and magic and that, until we were both tired and the skies changed colours from blue, to red, to black.
     But I swore I would never forget the wild beauty of this place, nor the field of flowers.
     We headed for shore the next morning, the sun strong on our face.  I felt free, there in the rugged range.  My heart, for once, free.  Raven’s twin wolves circled us in protection the entire way, and, once or twice he looked back to check on me as I rambled to pick a wild flower here and there.
     As we neared the shipyard, he looked at me with deep, troubled eyes and procured a golden locket on a chain and just looked silently. He spoke.
     “Put this on child.  It is mine — it will offer some protection against the evils you will face.  Please.”
     And he gently slid the roped chain around my neck and clasped it.  As he did so I felt a strange lightness about me, almost as if I had become as air — I felt, strangely attuned to everything around me, the sea, the sky, the very breath of life.
     “You will feel its power every so often, and, the charm itself is a link to me — if you open it, once every day, it will link my spirit to yours.”
     He pleaded with me to be careful, and, as the ship was about to depart, he held my hand once and then let go . . . his eyes seemed lost. I remembered the money I had to pay and offered it to him but he shrugged and pushed it away.
     “No, it’s quite alright.  I will wait until your safe return.  Take care child.”
     He led me to the ship, and I watched as his smooth face reflected the sheen of the water — melting into a sad expression that mirrored my own.  The sea parted us from between water to land, and I watched his form disappear among the banks as we traveled faster, among the fields of flowers that I would never forget, their fragrance still in my memory.
     That memory would remain, forever.
     We traveled faster, and he was gone.  Gone into that forest of flowers and evergreen trees.


Chapter Six: A Dark Anima

     The room was warm and lightless.  Madame L’Enfer sat, face down, a deep red cowl covering her head.
     “I knew you would return, dear one.”
     “You have seen Stephane again, have you not?  Yes.  But . . . now you fear, you are haunted . . .”
     I nodded.  
     “I would like assistance Madame, I need to break this hex that was started by my ancestor.”
     The seer sighed.
     “Her death, was tragic.  No matter what kind of woman she was, she herself is haunted.”
     The seer’s eyes seemed to seep tears . .  . 
     “She has come to me too.  Has told me many things.  She is not who she once was, for now she is a dark anima, a dark soul blotted out by the sun, eternally tormented.”
     “What must I do to bring her the peace she needs — to leave us be?  . . .”
     The mystic cocked her head.  
     “You must retrace her steps . . . you must go to her resting place.”
      “But I do not know where she really died.  Her husband claimed he buried her but we do not know for sure.”
     “Ah, but I do know.  You are going to see your relations overseas?  There is a link there.  Their calling to you, a link, a piece of the mystery.  And there, you will find the clues.  They are not so well-hidden as you imagine.”
     “So she did not really die on the ship?  I do not understand.”
     “I will help you, send someone with you, but, you must be careful because it will be very dangerous, this place you are going, and you must be wary.”
     With that, she rose and held out her hand.  I procured seven gold lariattes, then was led outside.  She pointed to the moon.
      “Over there, dear, beyond these woods, is a young hunter known as Raven.  He can help you.  He also knows much about his own familiar magics.”
     I left Madame, and, with great trepidation, encountered the woods.
     Suddenly, I felt as if I were in a different world.  The huge forest frightened me.  Owls, with giant flapping wings lurched out and the moss was slippery.  I followed a seemingly rough-hewn trail in the woods that seemed to wind further and further into obscurity; and then, I saw something, or rather, him.
     He was leaning over, his eyes focused . . . on some thing.  Two dogs, two very large dogs, surrounded him.  He seemed to hear me and turned.  His hair was parted and longer — he had eyes as dark as night itself, yet, he looked strange to me somehow . . . was he one of the people we referred to as the D’elrainni?  His eyes certainly were like black pools . . . and looked through me.
     “Who do you seek?”  he said, in a strange, accented tongue.  “You seek answers to something?  Ah, yes no doubt she sent you.”
     His words were gently spoken and he seemed to reach out to me.
     “I know who you are,  No need for introductions.  You know as well, she sent you to me.  Do not be afraid, we D’elrainni have been spoken of rather negatively for many generations but I assure you there is nothing to fear.”
     “I am sorry, I do not know anything of you or your kind — I do not hold any preconceptions I can assure you.”
     He only smiled.
     “So, tell me what you are going to do, and what you need?”
     “Well, I was summoned by my family overseas, and Madame said I may find clues there as to how to stop a family curse.”
     “You are going to cross the sea, but not only that child, but cross into a different world, I can assure you of that.  What you seek is an answer from a grave, and there you will find it.  I can take you there as a companion, but I must be paid up-front and we must leave early, for already I feel a possession that has taken hold.  Your very soul may be in danger.”
      I do not know why he called me a child, but perhaps he was old.  They say the D’elrainni do not age like we do — we of human blood.  He may have been at least several decades old, but appeared no more nor less than around late twenties, early thirties . . .
     (I touched my face.  Did Lynoria attempt to possess me now?)
     “You know everything?”
     He nodded and smiled.
     “I am called Raven’s Eye, but just call me Raven, please.  These are my pets . . . do not fear them.”
     The snarling . . . wolves, for that is what they were, seemed to calm under his command.
     “Do’sanir.  Calm.”
     “My father used to be a guide, and his before . . . this was long ago, before your people, before any of the others who came here.  From the first, we learned how to lie; from the second, blood was spilled; but from the third, much mingling of blood and mingling of magics between my people, yours, and every other race and clan; some of your slaves’ procurements proved much more to our liking.”
     “My mother, after my father was killed, loved a great one of these mighty and proud people kept in chains — the Salamanti.  He taught us many things, how to combat darkness; how to curse an enemy; how to undo witchery . . . But, come, let us go and prepare then child.”
     I took out the velvet bag of coins.
     He looked at me.
     “You need not pay me now, do not worry.  We can talk about that later.”
     He led the way through the wood and paused now and then to speak to his pets, Chanticle and Chantteer.
     “Tomorrow, there is a ship sailing across the seas.  She shines bright, the ‘Solemn’ — have you heard of her?”
     “No.  I’ve never been on a ship before.”
     “You will tell them that I am your guide, and I will escort you and protect you, but, I shall leave you once you are at the abode of your family.  You must proceed alone then.  But do not fear, I sense great intelligence and common sense in you, and I think you will be fine.  Have you anything you need to bring?  Pack quickly child, and I will take you to the ship tomorrow.  I will also give you some amulets and charms that I have made myself, to wear around your neck, your fingers.”
     He looked gently at me.
     “And I will tell you what you must do.”


Chapter Five: Sir Thorvin Molton Paine

     The sky was blue. I saw Stephane’s eyes.  The sky.  Or was it the seas?
     I explained later to Leon that I read the journal, well, part of it, but I did not understand it.
     “The journal belonged to Sir Thorvin Molton Paine.  He was an painter, from grey and misty Northern Umbriar.  He was also a poet. He was Lynoria’s lover.  Did you read to the part about . . . what happened . . . to Lynoria?”
     “No, not yet.”
     He spoke quickly now, in hushed tones.
     “Keep reading the journal.”
     “But, how did you find it anyhow?”
     “At an auction. A series of Odalisques by the doomed Thorvin Paine, artist and poet, lost to madness and the decays of . . . addiction.”  Here, Leon stopped and looked downwards.  “That is how I know.  And that is how I recognised Lynoria in his paintings.”
     Who was this Lynoria I’ve often wondered. What was her secret?
     He would tell me no more.  He said I must pack soon, leave, leave the estate and country, as I had been summoned from distant relations across the seas.  And as for Stephane —
     “But, I don’t want to leave yet; I’ve so wanted to find your brother.”
     “I will find him again and when I do I will send you a message.”
     “Is there any more you can glean from these works of Paine and how they relate to Lynoria and all of us as well?  Please, tell me . . .”
     “I became interested in his works after reading a poem of his in an obscure tome of literary works put together by an occultist.  I also learned that Lynoria was a part of his occult society; she, in fact, was a high priestess . . . she studied vague magicks from a world that is said to reside in an old lake — a world called Nimbuec Eruum, I’m sure you have heard the legends, as I did, as a child.”
     “I do recall some of that, yes . . .”
     “In some circles, Lynoria was known as a despot; she never really fit in anywhere; she was descended from the families Andalus and Frochardian, both of the old land across the seas; with no allegiance to anyone or anything; however, she was known for her particularly peculiar allegiances with various lovers. She was quite a bold and odd woman for her time, and a character indeed . . .”
     With that, Leon began to read specific excerpts from Paine’s diary to me, every so often taking a sip of some vile elixir he kept in a brown but clear apothecary glass:

 Last night, she came to me again.  The first time I was frightened.  She slipped down the steps ever so slowly.  I could hear the rustle of crinoline.  I was already half-dead, my body gouged with bullets, my bones broken . . . the war had already done enough damage and now . . . she came . . . I watched with great horror, but I could not move though my broken body wished to.  Her hair seemed long and green, or was it something in the long strands?  For they . . . glistened like a living thing does . . . her very physical self seemed to reek atop those stairs to waft towards me like death; yes, like death itself.  Now and then she stumbled.  She seemed inanimate yet strangely animated, from within; atop her head she wore a stained veil . . . it was long and dirty and trailed webs.  When she finally reached the landing, she bid me to rise.  I did what she said.  Somehow she spoke to me with her thoughts.  Without thinking, I lifted the veil . . . she looked at me . . . her face, it was pale and rotted!  She had no eyes! In place, a light emanated from them — from he hollow orbs that had housed them — and a terrible light, a lightning, emanated and struck me, penetrated me.  I could not think, I could not breathe; I was speechless . . .”

      Leon stopped reading.
     “The last entry ends there . . .”
     “How strange.” I said.
     He nodded.
     “Paine claimed that Lynoria’s husband found out about their affair, that he tied Lynoria to the mast of one of his ships and sailed across the sea . . . and most likely, having tied her up, bound her legs and feet to one another and threw her over into the sea itself. . . Paine was convinced of it but nobody listened to him by then for he was thought mad by this time.  He kept repeating that she would not die, that she could not die . . .”
     “And . . . what happened to him ultimately?”
     “Well, ultimately, he did go mad.  He was confined at the Wodebrite Sanatorium.”
     “Was Lynoria ever found?”
     “Buried.  Or so her husband claimed.  Paine suspected him of poisoning a trollop and burying her in Lynoria’s place, a crypt; but the body was never examined nor exhumed.  According to the mad seaman, she drowned herself.”
     “And what do you think?”
     Leon paused.
     “I think most likely, that Paine was half-right.  I think Lynoria really did drown, but it was suicide . . . she threw herself off a ship sailing to the old world, to escape her murderous husband . . . she threw herself into the sea rather than suffer any longer . . .”
      “And what has all this to do with us, with you?”
     “Because Paine is my ancestor.  Because Lynoria is your ancestor.  My brother saw her in that mirror, in place of your reflection; she haunted him, as she now haunts me . . .”
     “What can we do?”
     “I do not know. Perhaps . . .” He looked half hopeful and shook his head.
     “Leon, I do swear, I saw him that night at the music hall — he looked right at me, or through me, as if in a dream.”
     “He may have mistaken you for Lynoria.”
“But we wouldn’t want to confuse a dream for real life, would we, Leon?  
And at least we know he is alive, but, do you know where he might be?”
     “No, no, unfortunately not; I cannot find my poor brother.  I am sorry I do no even know where he is dear.  You say that you saw him at the music hall?  Perhaps you too saw only a ghost.  I have not seen him in years since he was dismissed by your family after demanding to speak to your father about a union . . . with you, as I told you before . . .”
     I asked Leon then if I could borrow the journal to take to a mystic friend.  I would help, as best I could. I would do my best, my utmost, to assuage the sins of my own ancestor, or else die trying, for Stephane’s sake; for Leon’s sake.  For all of us.

Chapter Four: The Odalisque

     Dear Reader I do not know . . . cannot conceal the roots of this . . . madness any longer.  For she haunts me.  The Odalisque is a riddle, a haunting riddle. I do not know the answer, but I fear it will be my end.
     Tonight as I wandered the halls restlessly, pacing the halls that do not go anywhere, the Odalisque turned to blood.  It was there, on the walls, that the blood began to colour the skin of Lynoria; and her eyes!  Her eyes began to veritably glow, gelid green in the portrait!
     It is all too horrible, but I fear my isolation has bred madness, and so now I wander, and I only wander the upper floors, or the garden, overgrown with myrtle and weeds.
     And I think of last night and how he smiled.  No, I do not think he knew . . . and yet . . . I long to find him.
     I asked the driver last night if he knew what had become of the composer and pianist Stephane G., and he said, well, not much did he say except that once (he was not obliged to say so for the sake of propriety, but . . .), he told me some interesting information about one of his brothers, a Leon, and where he could perhaps be found.
     “But it’s not place for a lady,” he added.
     But why? (The driver did not say more.) What was all this mystery?
     That night, before the grim apparition of Lynoria, I slept. I slept, but fitfully.  Lynoria . . . she rose from a grave of water, pointing her finger at me, pointing a bone-white finger at Stephane, who kneeled before her.  I screamed. He could not hear me.  I screamed his name aloud and he looked up, maybe once, but with blind eyes.
     I woke up cold and in tears. What could this mean?
     It was after this the Odalisque haunted my brain. I never forgot its image . . .
     That very same day I called for the ancient coach, asked the driver to take me into town. I needed air. I needed and wanted to escape. He nodded.
     “Such a beautiful young lady cooped up in a big house . . .” he smiled and bowed.
     I smiled faintly, and ordered him to take me out, anywhere, anywhere, be it just a few moments or hours on end.
     “Let us go,” I whispered.
     And so it was I began a new adventure. I learned to appreciate some semblance of life again, and began to wonder as well, if I should see Stephane again, among my travels.
     “Cylois,” I said, gently, “I want to ask you something, I must beg of you a favour, but it must remain unspoken of.”
     “Pardon, Miss Elvira.”
     “I would like you to drop me off at the next corner and come back at midnight . . .”
     “But Miss, that is so dangerous, a dangerous . . . such an unsafe location, I cannot let . . .”
     “It is my request. Let me out, please.”
     Hesitantly, he opened the carriage door and bowed reluctantly. Hesitantly, and quite puzzled, he whipped Ahab and Amar and left me standing there.
     I do not listen to warning bells.
     I took a few steps, slowly. One, then two . . . three . . . slow as a careful cat.  Like the black cat pictured on the poster of this old tavern — Chat Noir.  The House of the Black Cat.  A shiver ran through me.  A man there tipped his hat, but his smile was malicious, and he looked at me, ever – so – oddly.
     Smoky air seemed to hide most of the faces there, and, what faces they were.  Reclined, or on a scarlet chaise, the women glared at me between their seeming conversations; one turned and laughed openly while she patted an ugly little man on the head who walked with a cane.  A dark-skinned pianist, with great white eyes, played sensuously, a strange new music with a discordant beat.  He seemed not to see anything and only played, his eyes rolled up in their sockets.
     I looked around.
     There were women in gilded dresses like cages.  Like lost exotic birds.  I turned around as a man glanced at me wickedly.  He had sharp teeth and pale blue eyes, like the colour of faded topaz.  As he stared at me, I stumbled and looked away.  Nobody seemed to notice.  I made my way up a silver Rococo balustrade, to where a great curtain was.  Parting it, I heard murmurs behind the walls. A small black cat meowed and hissed at me.
     Some of the rooms were open.  It was very near improper of me, even in this place, but I looked.  A great beauty with locks of red hair glanced lazily at me while a handsome man sat next to her.  His eyes were closed and the fumes of some noxious toxin permeated the air, made me dizzy. Next room, twins with black hair, caressing a young man and kissing him.
     I moved on . . .
     First, there was the plume of smoke, then the glow of a strange green and phosphorescent fluid in an elegant flacon.  He seemed to be laying down, but his head was covered in his hands.  I went in.  I closed the door.  Closed it tight behind me.  This man, reached to me with one arm — outstretched his hand.
     “I have been waiting for you.”
     I swallowed. But what did he mean?
     He took my hand and pulled me down.  He pulled me to him and I looked into eyes rimmed with a strange look, the sleepy, dazed and dark-rimmed gaze of the narcotic.  I blushed, felt a strange horror at this.  Did he even know who I was?  Darkness enveloped us, and I felt myself falling into a dream, but a dream like death. I felt myself in the grip of a fever now, but only fire, hot, like an iron, not pleasure, something unholy . . .
     The young man seemed to look right at me, and he crossed himself and backed away.
     “No, I do not want that sort of pain thank you,” he murmured, weakly hiding his face in his hands.
     “But, what, why — what are you doing here? And what is it you speak of? I came only to find your brother, sir, do you not recognise me?”
     I tried to conceal myself with my long hair now, suddenly feeling cold. Why did he move from me like that? He seemed frightened of something.  He laughed strangely in return.
     “The damnable one,” he laughed again softly.
     “I do not understand . . .”
     “Why did you come here Miss d’Ravnosil, to find him? Yes, I know who you are, but you look so like . . . so like her, you see? It caught me off guard.”
     “You mean . . .”
     “She!” he exclaimed, and seemed to fight with invisible demons with a sword.
     “She did this, you know — is that why you seek him? Do you wish to poison another with her malice?  She destroyed my brother, as she now destroys me.”
     I listened, completely unable to speak.
     “It was she who took his life! Destroyed his talents, his love, and ground them to the dust . . .”  As he said the word ‘love’ he looked at me.
     “She looks like you, but you are not her. You seek Stephane, do you not?”
     “What sir, do you mean to say that –”
     “Lynoria, Lynoria . . .”  He smiled, painfully.
     “I am so sorry you had to find me this way.  But you must know.  Since you were a child, Stephane loved you, but he knew he could never marry you.  I learned this myself when I asked your family on his behalf.  Musicians and composers, not suitable for the daughters of such an old family.  Nor poets.”
     He laughed and closed his eyes.
     “He then married a girl named Rosamundis; you may have heard of her.  A girl with fingers on white ivory, ivory teeth for biting,” he laughed, “and Rosamundis took a piece out of my brother, including whatever money he had, cleaned him right out and left.  But at the end he did not really love her anyway. She left my brother for one of the crazy sea men from the West Isles.  All these years, Stephane could not forget you, and yet, he also dreamt of her, Lynoria.  Since the days when he would visit your grand estate, he told me.”
      “As I have. She has a strong presence . . .” I began.
     “Leave!” he shouted, “Get away from that house!  The mirror across the spinet, Stephane told me he used to see her in that very mirror, but he only would come, to see you!  Look, read these!”
     He stumbled up now for something, gave me a book.
     “A journal.  It belongs to someone you have not heard of because she too destroyed him . . . a diary, by Paine, read it through.”
     “What is all this?”  I looked at the dusty tome.  “Who is this Paine?”
     He stopped, put a finger to his mouth . . . hushed me.
     “I can explain this to you.  Come, meet me tomorrow at the Inn by the Swallow’s Nest tomorrow afternoon.  I will tell you.”
     He whispered in my ear as to the details of the time to meet, and looked away, as if in pain.  I brushed his temple with my hand and thought that I heard music . . . music from one-thousand years ago it seemed, I heard my voice fall, falter . . .
     He took me by the hand.
     “Let us leave this place. It is not for you. I shall take you back home, for now.”
     I explained that a carriage would come but he escorted me to the spot where it would appear.
     I turned as I entered the carriage.  He never faded from view until we were far past the street corner.  The journal was tucked in my bodice.  I felt it there and touched it.  I glanced back at him.
     Leon Grevayne, brother of Stephen Grevayne.  What had become of both brothers, I wondered.  It was all too much for one night. I went to sleep but did not dream of her.

Chapter Three: A Strange Reconnaissance

     I have been having strange dreams again.  Sometimes, it seems I swallow green sea-water, the seaweed in my hair.  Sometimes I dream of music, and of a most beautiful angel, all in white.  At other times I dream of a droning sound, strange music, that penetrates my senses, and a blue knight.  I hardly know what this all means, yet the dreams recur, night after night.
     Today of all days, a few days before my departure for Esradis, I read in the Gazette that there is to be a pianoforte concerto in the city. It has been so long since I have been to the city, and so long since I have heard the sound of the pianoforte, the harpsichord, for I dare not play myself, lest it wake the spirits, her spirit, from its slumber.
     And I have seen her too, Lynoria, in the grand mirror, a reflection of her at the old spinet . . . whether in my nightmares or by candlelight, I do not remember, but I am afraid to sit at the spinet now, even as this great house falls into ruins and could crush me beneath its weight, still, I fear the dead.  I fear their intensity of purpose . . .
     So today, I will go. Arrayed in deep lilac chiffon; hair perfumed with honeysuckle; a locket of amber around my neck.   long to see the world, if at least for once in the gloomy midst of my younger years.
     The coach is fast.  It arrives well before its time.  The coachman heralds me in . . . a strange expression on his face . . . I wonder, do the people talk of me now, this forlorn daughter of the d’Ravnosil?  I banish any inquiring gazes, look outside my window . . .
     Dappled greys and blue-black roans take us to the hall. The whip brought faster, the reins loosen now. Like the horses, I feel a sense of urgent freedom, but am still bridled . . . I feel an unknown fear, then a tinge of joy.  Perhaps it is not as bad as it seems, perhaps I will survive this after all.  I fan myself.  Giant willows droop to meet me like fine gentlemen.
     I enter.
     Not a sound . . .
     Crowds and crowds of fancy people, so busy I am not even noticed.  I enjoy this anonymity.  Rushing through, I find my place at a comfortable distance.  No one even notices that I am alone, it is as if I do not even exist.  In my private box, I pull out the pamphlet; inspect it.  The list begins with several Sonatas by Dauphine, a dark Sonata simple known as “The Melancholy”; following this, a sprinkling of art songs by Kaulrottingen and Flamensci; such works of grandeur, none finer to be found on any coast, either in New Esradis or her predecessor.
     As the music began, I felt myself drift — the sounds spoke directly to my soul in fits of sadness, rage, indignity, retreat; softly pattering like rain with a sprinkling of beauty and sadness. The sonata was my favourite. It seemed to speak of the infinite and the wild, the forlorn; a great weight lifted as the final passage resounded — it was as unfettered and uncaring as I was now, loosened of life’s trifles, perfectly eloquent.
     The lieder that followed, though pretty, were mere little jewels to fit in an ear compared to the masterpiece of The Melancholy . . . and I had an ear that understood . . . His music, Renaulte Dauphine’s music, spoke of black birch woods and doves now, the final crescendo of the summer morning, with flowers in a forest; then depressive winter, frozen fields, a lonely hawk; and a boat, traveling down the blue river, a bride weeping there . . . a bride in white . . .As I listened, I saw something, in the mirror.  I turned all of a sudden and a flash of white, a woman, her veil being lifted.  This the mirror revealed.  Who was it?  Her deep breathing seemed only too real.  I looked away now and next I knew, she was gone.
     By now the concert was over, yet I had not even noticed when or where . . . I lost track somehow; I felt a bit unsteady, and the flash of white of the bride’s veil still in my vision.  I walked carefully; the crowds now converged, and I panicked . . . this way or that?  I could not fathom.  I steadied myself on a railing.  Down below, down below I thought I saw someone look up at me.  I made my way there, my gloves against the marble balustrade, feeling faint now.
     Down, down . . . I steadied myself again, felt a strange deja vu . . . the words of the mystic reverberating . . . “like the Angelus . . .”
     Yes, and so it was.  The Angelus.
     What I felt was absolutely chilling, like the ice of an underground dungeon, it froze my blood cold.
     There, in black, there, with eyes like the Angelus, just as was foretold, I though it could not be, that he could not still live.  No!
     Had he seen me then? Had he not recognised me since then? He did not seem to, but even unconsciously, acknowledged something, an invisible exchange . . . and as I moved with the crowd we were soon parted.
     The entire trip home I thought about this. I thought about Stephane Dauterive, a flood of memories it unentombed.  Tonight, I hoped to have dreams of a better kind, and hoped, again, to find him, for in a few days I would leave for Old Esradis and then all would be lost, forever.

Chapter Two: A Brief History of Nothing

      My family, I have not seen in ages.  After my father was whisked away by death, I had no immediate family left and was sent to stay with distant relations in the older region of Esradis that lays across a deep blue sea.  When I was old enough to choose, I decided to come back here again, to my home in New Esradis, a tiny island bordered by water and an expanse of lonely lands.  The old estate of my family.
     Here, in this cruel tomb called home I look out the mosaic windows onto another world.  On the south I am surrounded by the blue lakes of Serrania; the east leads to a path of snow-capped mountains spoken of often but seldom seen by any living creature; the solemn Correadinn plains to the west are dry and dusty; and finally, the north, full of wet woodlands and mountainous region — I have heard it meets up with the paths of Correadinn to become one. A world of ice and snow.
     At night I wander hallways, haunted by shadows in a grim wasteland of birch, stone, mortar . . . I sleep fitfully here, if hardly at all. Since everyone has died I have not ever been myself.  Depressive spirits, trap me in a fog of nothingness.  I was not always so, but it seems our family always had a predisposition to this unusual melancholia; hardly difficult to encourage or assuage.
     My life, as I noted, was not always bleak; once, the house was redolent and alive.  At times I attempt to recreate the once-known bliss . . . I sit at the harpsichord, a Rigaudon at my fingertips, or a Pavane, but as I do, as I follow through, the spirits wake . . .
      I have told you about the portrait of my ancestor, Lynoria.  She looks down coolly at me.  Often I hear her voice.  Do I imagine such things?  What does she say?
     The servants used to tell stories that they saw her, often wandering the halls aimlessly.  It was said she had a tragic life, having drowned at sea.  A portrait of her graces the hall, as well as a peculiar part of the castle that leads to nowhere . . . it is an Odalisque . . . I do not know who painted her, but the picture both enthralls and terrifies me. Lynoria . . . lying supine on scarlet silks, her eyes wild, with that green tint and pale face like snow. (Her eyes like mine.)  Often they are almost black, pond-like, dark hazel . . . but, according to mood, even the weather, they can turn from black to a seemingly glowing gaze of almost phosphorescent jade — even now, the portrait seems alive.
     And, like such opalescent treasures, Lynoria’s life seemed both blessed and cursed with them.  Her husband, a rich man, was also a cruel one.  He was well-known for such cruelty with his wife, and on the ships.  A wealthy merchant he was, and soon absconded to the rude and violent life of a brigand and pirate after taking to the ale for much too long.  They said he went mad.
     As for others in my bloodline, well, they are just as well-known; for notoriety, no, we are hardly anything at all like that; except for Lynoria and the scoundrel she married, the d’Ravnosil are a relatively quiet and reserved old family. yet, something holds us back.  Something always made others wary of us. Perhaps it was the streak of gloom, dark as raven’s wing, that overshadowed us.  Well, whatever it was, it would end with me now, for I was the last of my family, as far as I knew . . .
     And as far as I do know, that is it . . . a brief history of nothing. I’ve nothing to learn or to know, and the halls are always empty.

Chapter One: Lynoria

     Lynoria.  The name is a rhyme, her life a riddle.  For it was many years ago that Lynoria d’Ravnosil lived and breathed among the elements (or did she?) . . .  My reflection, bespeckled with blood red lips; eyes, almost black, pond-like, that turn from such a seemingly glowing green; my hair, long and dark; all hers.  I have a stain of ages marked upon me, you can often see it in my eyes . . .  they change lights as I said, when the passions are aroused.  The bloody hue of my mouth is that often used in old paintings, like the passions of Saturn, always gloating in hunger, this blood-red shade.  And yet, that was not I.
     I have been struck by the various similarities between her portrait and myself, from the dark and gloomy gaze to the hidden fires of her curved smile; in addition, a peculiarly winsome yet sharp look of pain, or sorrow, one can see it in the depths of Lynoria’s eyes.  Who is she? Who was this Lynoria?  Even now I wonder, I marvel, that such a likeness is real.
     But it rains, and candles flicker.  Best to put ink and quill to rest.  Night seeps into consciousness like a poison nectar.  Like music in a deep dark cave, music of the soul and of the night . . . Dream time.
     When I was young there was much music in this house.  The leaves danced to the trills and arpeggios, and the slow oceanic pulse of the sea moved to the rollicking and roiling tempos; such beauty permeated the rooms like a perfume or bouquet of Heliotrope.  It was then that I remember, that I once was happy. Once . . .
      Amidst the rooms hung with oil paintings of ancestors and other pretty faces (young girls in forlorn repose; a broken pitcher; eyes turned up to heaven); amber candlelights and gaslights; a palace of art; a reverie of sights and sounds and then . . . his black coat sharply cutting into the incense of gauzy baroque shades — a black coat with a high, white collar.  Stephane Grevayne. He looked at me and said nothing, only smiled.  Mesmeric eyes, obliging me to be reminded of the sea, the sky, only gazed at me.
     Where was I going? I lost myself in that long hall of portraits; felt a strange sensation, a numbness of spirit; something light, like laughter. The scent of the Heliotrope . . . a bouquet of laughter.
     “Miss d’Ravnosil . . .” a nod and a smile, again.  I ran in my long dress of crinoline, down, down the hall.  I looked back towards the voice’s procurer, a glittering halo of stars in the sky, surrounding him in a backdrop of balustrade.
     I was young, but I understood.
     Many years passed like this.  Always polite, always proper, the quiet pianist.  Year after year, at least every December, he stood in the hallway, always like that.
     One summer’s evening I never saw him again.  How many summers ago?  I do not know.  But the last time I did, he returned a smile, then said nothing more.
      Some say that he married a young pianist named Rosamundis, and that she left him for a wild, mad sailor.  Others say that he became enamoured of a faerie instead, her name, La Fee Verte, with wings of death.  His brother Leon (the poet), was an infamous drunk and carouser, and often spied in places of shady repute.
     Sometimes the sea air reaches me and I can hear sonorous bells and wild birds and wind; sometimes there is the scent of exotic amber and ocean . . . and he comes back to me on a wave, as that slowly hovering passage of a piece he once wrote, he comes back like a temple of magic and beauty to me and hovers round me, covers me.  A temple of love, mystic fire, built on the shores of the sea over a land of dead souls — over the graves of the dead.  Stephane, why did you leave.  And I did not know what would become of all of this, for we both also seemed dead, to ourselves, to that clamouring world.