Monthly Archives: January 2014

Chapter Fourteen: My Return

     By the time I arrived back home, I really did fear Leon dead.  And I was embarrassed at the state I was in.  Of course, with a little money I was able to procure a new set of bags and a few new scraps of clothing, but still, I felt painfully aware of he state I was in.  I felt like a beggar.
     Instead of traveling the same way, my friend Raven had shown me, I decided to take a coach back, for my state of dishevelment was already too far advanced.
     At home, a bath was procured, and a proper breakfast.  Silence, golden silence, was mine now, not the horrid babble of foreign tongues or the unbearable climes of some Andarian-tainted land of Estampiel; not even the Rhennish country appealed to me now, rather I was appalled by my once innocent flights of fancy.  Just the knowledge that a part of my lineage descended from those evil ones sickened me outright.
     I split an orange after the bath to eat.  The clock ticked, ticked.  It was now late in the year, but not quite winter — the bees were disappearing and this was the last of the fruit of the tree.  A cold mist surrounded the land, and rain, soft rain, pattered the windowpane.
     Then, the door rattled. I jumped with a start, but my fears were extinguished.  It was the servant with a letter, written with tremulous quill.  It must have been important as he had forgotten to knock, so I forgave him, and took the letter . . . from Leon!  Oh!  It began . . .

“Dearest Elvira:

It pains me greatly at the suffering you must have encountered, and the shock of what you discovered.  Pray, I hope you are to be found well upon your arrival.

Meanwhile, do not fret about those wicked souls you were besieged by.  It is quite possible that they may follow you here, that in fact, they planned already to begin a new chapter in our world . . . perhaps it is easier here, to blend in, for as you said, the peoples of that arid Estampiel feared them already — and it would be much more amiable a place in our new world of sweet southern soil, to begin anew . . .

But do not trouble yourself dear.  You have done enough and all that you could.

As for my brother, I am afraid I have some unpleasant news. He was found, not too long ago, on the shores of our town.

I cannot bear to tell you this dreadful news, but, you must know, he is dead.

It appears that he heard of your leave taking.  How he found out, I truly do not know, but he left a letter, speaking of his search for you, that it was his fault, that . . . and according to some who recognised him, he took a ship, but, shortly after, it was reported by frightened passengers that he seemed to argue on deck one gusty night with an . . . invisible person . . . and, he seemed to grow frenzied and desperate, so much so that he then threw himself overboard.

He left that letter, that note, scrawled before his unfortunate death, a note scrawled and what appears to be a poem, a poem that sounds suspiciously like that of Paine’s from one of his long lost books of old shadowy tomes dedicated to a mysterious ‘L.d.R.’. :  Lynoria.

I do believe that in the very recesses of my already damned soul, that Paine had possessed my brother by the time — as if in some trance, some interconnection between he and Lenora, which had grown stronger with time. Her will, also stronger.

I beg of you dear Miss, do leave that house.  We are powerless to fight this evil.  Even your friend Raven you told me about, with his strong and practised magic, cannot untaint spoilt blood . . . or tame such a terrible curse.

Leave dear Elvira, and be forewarned that Lynoria is everywhere, and all-knowing. Her knowledge of the transmutation of life is greater than many magicians and sorcerers combined.

 Regretfully,

Leon.”


Chapter Thirteen: The Sea

     It seemed forever and a day that it took to embark back. Much travel had ensued, and I was supremely wary.
     Would this fatigue never end?
     Despite my complaints, I was rather grateful for my escape . . . I cannot bear to imagine the consequences had I been the victim of the foul creatures, things, I was unfortunately related to.
     And now, I slept to dream, the sea a gulf between myself and the horrid past.
     But would I escape it?
     From what it appeared, those horrible creatures, things, protected her tomb against me, almost as if she were to be guarded for their own safety.  Was she perhaps, their Queen?  Did she then, being so powerful — have the power as well to travel at will, to drift phantom-like, from sea to sea?
     I prayed then, that she was not on the same ship with us.  But then again, Lynoria always was.  She had always been here and already somehow cast a spell on my beloved, whom Leon had been searching for. I wondered now about him.  Leon would be waiting for me at the house as we agreed, and of course, Raven . . .
     I slumbered. The rolling waves eased me to sleep.  It was better to lie down than fight the nausea . . .


Chapter Twelve: The Rhennish River

     We traveled through the white-capped Albinis peaks, those cold fortresses that seemed to border and block the very heat of the dying sun.  I  was glad to leave and move onward.  As we passed architectural geometric puzzles of the Andari people, the mid-eastern remnants that dotted the valley, I sighed.  I was finally leaving this old home I never knew, and did not care to know.
     The hot sun of of my ancestral homeland was occluded now and I arrived in Swabilis, then the heart of the old Rhennish river and its dewy green mountains.  Meanwhile, I bought stationary and wrote to Leon of all I had seen.


     “Raven had said that Lynoria must be destroyed, but I have learned she is not the only one.  I was lured here by those vile creatures, who, I assume, knew something in the timing of the matter, knew that somehow Lynoria was being prepared to be revived fully — and I somehow have to play a part in it.  They know.  Those relations of mine are proof that such soulless creatures exist, and we are all in danger now.”
     I believe, no, I am convinced that they plan to cross to New Estampie, to claim some new ground . . . to destroy new peoples . . . I have seen it . . . in the eyes of envy and hatred that have been shown to me — they desire life, new life, to escape, as I now escape from their archaic world. They wish to become a part of  a ‘modern world’ and I am afraid they will come to us and destroy us all.”
     “As for their father, he is a gallant, a fop.  And dangerous.  No doubt all of their kind who worship evil will be looking for me now; already Lynoria haunts me; already she seeks my soul . . . to destroy . . .”

     I trailed off . . .told him I was now in the old Rhennish land, that I would visit the famous river and then seek return home via the Frochardian border where the ships sailed daily.
    “Please, do not leave me,” I added, fearful that he might be dead from the various drugs he was addicted to, or dead-drunk from his intoxicating elixirs — both the same.    needed him conscious, to be fully prepared for what was to come. I would not be able to fight this alone.
     I sealed the letter. I clutched the silver cross from one the dreary sisters back at the convent.  Soon, I would be returning home.  I could not but dream of it.
     The deep blue waters of the Rhennish River were as I had once dreamt.  We sailed across the river in a somber haze.  Old turrets, abandoned ruins, nestled out of green hills . . . the spires of a great cathedral caught the light, a beacon seemingly from heaven.
     As we drifted, I heard the old songs of a thousand years drift . . . the ghosts of the dead slept beneath us, the smooth glass of water, while sea maids, magical creatures, gazed out from between hair drenched with salty sea, tails fanning against their lily pads of stone and rock . . . and the old story goes that a bride died here long ago, and she still weeps . . . a woman who died young, tragically, like Lynoria.
     As if in a trance, I had visions . . . in he mirror of water I saw a knight and his sad bride.  Who were they?  The river broke and all seemed cold now.  The Rhennish was dark and shadowy.  Sea maids were predatory, and the spirits were unhappy, ignored for far too long now.
     I shivered.  Something was amiss.  A melancholy of unknown sources caused my spirit to plummet towards grim reality.  Where was I going? The sun would soon set and I must return home . . . home at last.  Tomorrow I would embark on that trip, and I hoped to God that Leon was still alive, that his brother had also been found.


Chapter Eleven: The Tomb of Lynoria

     And the next day, while they, my strange relations, seemed to be away momentarily (for Rosarios said they had gone for the day), I searched in vain as Raven instructed — for the tomb of Lynoria.
     I had traveled through various corridors, not knowing what to find, when a mist occluded my vision. I opened my eyes . . . still foggy . . . and felt . . .weak.  If I had known then, I would have already discerned danger, would have fled.
     I braced myself against the cold, stone walls . . . what could it have been?
     “Where are you going sweet cousin?” came a whisper.
     “Yes, where are you going?” came another, and I turned around to find both Lisbetta and Esmeralda there. They had cornered me . . .
     “Come to learn more about the family? Perhaps Lynoria as well?” came a taunt.
     I shivered, cold as ice their auras were, froze me.
     “No, I was just taking a walk.”
     “Oh . . . a . . . walk. A pleasant walk.” Said Lisbetta.
     “Yes, I can see that. I must imagine these walls, decorum-less and cold, must invite such idle fancies.”
     Both continued to corner me and then I heard a hard thud come from my own body.  I turned.  There, stood the haughty, irrepressible Josuel, his eyes fixed on me, unmoving.  He took me by the shoulders after I had stupidly walked right into him, not knowing he was there.  He studied my face, quietly.
     “Elvira,” is all he said, but I heard glass break in the presence of his voice and the candles extinguish.  I screamed and shoved him away. Making my way through both demoniacs, I ran down the hall into nowhere, it seemed.  My breast was tight with panic, and fear.  Now I had lost the supplies Raven had given me for the rite, and I was surely doomed!
     I ran, still seeing the broken glass in Josuel’s hand, and a smile that was more hostile than kind.  I ran, this way and that . . . ended up at some sort of spiral staircase that lead underground, and lit with dying flames.  But . . . how?
     Following the steps, I was made to duck lower, as the steps now spiraled deeper, closer to its centre.  I was in a dungeon.  But it grew so dark now I could not see . . .
     Distraught with fear, I reached out.  My foot kicked something hard that rolled against the wall.  I breathed hard, felt my way against the walls and knew I was walking amongst the corpses of the dead.
     I stumbled, made my way towards a pinprick of light that grew denser.  It was a hole in the old mortar!
     Quickly, I scrambled through the just big enough hole, a craggy circle, blessed by God.
     The night air bit, my feet were utmost sore, but I ran.  I ran as fast as I could, as far away as I could from the damned castle, and my vile relations . . . still not knowing the reason why I had been called there.  But I did not care to know anymore, I only wanted to leave, to escape, to get away as fast as possible and go back home.
     By the time I reached the nearest town, I collapsed in a heap.  I barely made it to the nearest church and fell upon my knees in the pew, eager for rest as well as assistance.  I would go back home, I would not stay!
     The strange looks I received were more than enough to provoke the realisation that I was not welcome here, nor safe.  This was a dangerous country obsessed with bloodshed for religion’s sake, and they knew something about my relatives — they knew.
     And what was it? I thought long and hard and remembered Josuel, his eyes gleaming, and I remembered.  I looked at my wrist, which he must have slashed at before I had realised it, for it was now bleeding through my gown.  And now I dared to recall why his smile had frightened me.  He had tasted my blood, and his lips had been red and gleaming.
     If the townspeople thought I was one of them . . .
     And then, as I crossed myself and dabbed water, holy water, on my skin, I heard a strange breathing.  Directly to my left side, a woman veiled in dull white, like stained ivory, caught my eye.
     She spoke in a serpent-like voice and turned towards me on a neck like palest, dead flesh.
     It was Lynoria, or else perhaps a hallucination. I crossed myself again, at the sight of the lifeless body; the unhallowed gaze . . . she lifted the veil . . .
     “No!” I shouted, and ran towards the mid-section of that Baroque cathedral, rushing past curious spectators who could only imagine what ensued.  I made m way through the mid-apex and out of the church’s exaggeratedly grotesque entrance doors.
     Where to now? I could only wonder.  Luckily, I still had some gold, in a fine silk pouch, hidden in my bosom.  I would take a train towards a far-away country, as far away from this hot southern soil as possible.  At least for now.
     I remembered the song of the Rhennish, and the weeping bride.  I would go there, to the Rhennish Land, rest there, and then write to Leon.  Tell him everything.  And then I would return to Raven.


Chapter Ten: Dinner at Eight

     Esteban was handsome, in a sensuous way.  He rolled fine-skinned cigars and drank all the right brandies and sherries, and red clarets.  His clothes had the sheen of richness, excess, and undue luxury.  His words were like honey.  Master Esteban was repellent.  Cool and haughty and repellent.
     Around the table, the distinguished family circled, like vultures, and I, their prey.
     “Such a curiosity, my little cousin,” spoke the cajoling Lisbetta, her lips sucking on a cherry, her eyes like Medusa’s, glowing green fires.
     “How sad, no? Why so sad my dear, do you miss home?” spoke the more open but still predatory Esmeralda.
     “Hmmm, I admit, we are a fiery race — are you sure you are even of the bloodline child?”
     Lisbetta’s eyes widened as she spoke the word bloodline, and bit the cherry off a stem, as if examining me.
     The boy, Josuel, said nothing. He only glowered, as if he could not wait to escape this maddening dinner.
     “But eat,” said my suave benefactor, “it is a good stew, of rabbit. We like to hunt them ourselves.”
     Yes, in that moment, I almost imagined it, with Lisbetta and Esmeralda in tow, nails (or talons) bared, and glum Josuel following, like demented, sick bloodhounds.
     I ate the stew. Felt sickened. Disgusted by the stew itself and my odious but not so inaccurate imagination.
     But hey were monsters! All of them!
     I ate fast, then excused myself out of fatigue again.  I asked if I may wander the grounds during daylight, but Esteban had wanted to talk to me about my purpose being here — why I had been called.
     “Home, they say, is where the heart is,” he said, “but we can discuss this later. If you are tired dear, then please, retire and we shall speak later on.  He seemed to smirk and then excuse himself, and I was gladly left alone.


Chapter Nine: The Castillo

     Taking leave of that somber abode and the even grimmer hosts, I left the convent and began my way up a wending road.  Three sisters I had spoken with told me I would find transport but a half mile from here.  A wagon they said, often crossed the path, and for a few coins its owner would be glad to take me; however, I noticed that when I mentioned where I was going, they all but fled.  One gave me her cross to wear. “Take this dear girl, and keep it close to your heart . . .”   They said or would say nothing more.
     The path to the clearing mentioned by the sisters was quite rocky, and hard.  The stones were rounded white pebbles and the air seemed heavier here, as if dripping with the salt of the sea.  Yes, heavy.
     I was about to take a rest from this journey when I heard a whistle. I thought that it sounded like my strange new friend, Raven, but no, it was sadly not so.
     A horse’s silhouette appeared against the sunlight, black, and a rider tipped his black hat to me.
     “Hello young lady, and may I inquire why do you travel alone, and to where?  You are dressed not like the smart but sassy women of our coast — you come from across the seas?  Have you far to go now?”
     He asked far too many questions, some which I did not care to answer.
     “My family lives beyond that mountain crag, or so I am told.  I am visiting.  I’ve a call.”
     He smiled, but the red glow of the sun on his brow seemed sinister now.
     “Your family?”
     “Yes. Their castle, I have heard, is not too far away. I may travel by foot, or . . .”
     The man’s dark eyes now swam in shadows, glimmered, blazed. He seemed . . . pensive.
     “Oh no, oh no, my young lady, you should not go up there . . . have you not heard?  Oh, you are not from here, how silly of me.”
     “What have I not . . . heard?”
     He did not smile this time.
     “Are you . . . you are one of them?  Oh no, no, it cannot be!”
     With this, he sped away on the gallant black steed, the sparks of flint against horseshoes leaving me to wonder if this was a joke; one would have though I’d just stepped into the most backward country of all time from the ridiculous reactions, the over dramatic reactions of these overly dramatic people who I assume drink far too much of red wine!
     And so, the young dandy left me there, and reminded me of the remnants of their superstitious past.  Hundreds of years could not change even that.
     I was left with nothing to do but walk on my own, for no wagon came, nor any horseman, or man, or woman, or even a child or beast of any kind.
     Only the wind seemed to whip the silks of my dress, now moist under the heat of the sun, as it did the pale rider who left me all alone.  And now I grew tired, weary, but I could no go back now — I’d come thus far.
     The mountains grew deeper and encircled me as a chamber now.  Vultures, not ravens, loomed here.  The air was stagnant, the earth red, as if teeming blood.
     The cries of a strange bird haunted me as I spotted the first grim towers of a great black castle.  Its windows were bolted shut.  Its doors framed by heavy ironwork.
     I did not know if I wanted to come nearer to this place now.  The gardens were overgrown with filth and leaves; weeds grew in place of a labyrinthine garden hedge that one must have been quite impressive.  Jagged spikes tore at the heavens and the sky seemed to answer with great thundering and a plummet of rain.  This was the home of this ancestral family — the great and the seemingly terrible and feared — this?  I shuddered.  The cold seeped into veins.
     Tentatively, I knocked, three times; held my own breath.  A pale servant with a thin white mustache bid me enter when I told him who I was. He seemed quietly uneasy, and led me to the main hallway from the once gallant staircase.  A room was there, to the right.  Dinner at eight.  They will surely be glad for this company, he mentioned, as company is so very rare these days.
     In my room I found many rich clothes that I could wear, despite some mottled with dust and moth-eaten.   must hurry, dinner at eight, he said. Are you hungry? “Yes,” I said, and how many will be attending dinner?”
     “Ah, there are but a few of the family left now but . . . they are so different from their predecessors . . .” he stopped then as if checking his own speech.
     “You may meet them if you wish; they are in the common room.”
     What I saw then unnerved me.
     First, I was introduced to Lisbetta. Her eyes betrayed some mockery I did not yet understand.  She petted a brightly-plumed peacock, the same bird that echoed the odd cry I had heard earlier.
     “Bartolemo, he is my pet” she said, and fanned herself with a fan made out of, what else, peacock feathers.
     A young man with pasty skin and extremely bright blue, narrowed eyes, sat on a balcony.  He seemed either to smirk or to be annoyed.  Josuel, he said, unsmiling, and went back to his stance.
     And laying in a chaise in a black dress, a woman with great dark eyes.
     “Esmeralda.  Pleased to meet you my dear.”  She puffed on a long hookah, the odours of an opium perfume clouding the air around her. Her black eyes smiled.
     “Would you like some?”
     I shook my head. She laughed.
     “I thought . . . not.”
     The servant, Rosarios, turned to me.
     “Master Esteban is gone right now, but he will be here.  Later.”
     “Rosarios, I . . . I think I would like to retire to my room for a while, as I feel greatly fatigued.”
     He nodded and led me back upstairs.
     “As you wish.”
     He stumbled a bit as he walked.  I did not notice until later he always wore an agony of expression that I mistook for nobility of manner; his words seemed literally forced . . . not his own.


Chapter Eight: The Black Turret

     The sea became black where once pale blue, and the sky full of rain and storm.  The swift vessel carried us forth to the isle where my family once came from — an ancient land I had never really known much of except through old tales and legends.  Echoes of a lost world seemed to haunt me, a world my family had long forgotten.
     Here at least, with my dark hair and pensive, downcast eyes, I would be less exotic, but this world still seemed exotic to me . . . as we neared the launching, I fought a chill . . . there on the banks, a great black tower.  It looked like a remnant from some ancient song, a song about a knight, his lover fair, and a dark tower.  Such things always seemed to haunt me and cause me much despair . . . and yet a strange solace.
     I felt the charm at my neck. It was still there.
     Beneath the veil of fog, our ship arrived.
     Tentatively, I stepped, a woman from the New World, seemingly entering the old. I looked for a coachman, for I thought one would be sent that could take me through to the mysterious home of my relations, but when I asked, in the tongue they spoke here (taught to me in my youth), I only received smiles, yet nothing more.
     “My lady, there are no coaches here; you must first walk a little, a mile maybe, then, you may stay with the Sisters of The Lamentable Blood.  You will see the convent henceforth a mile from here — keep on the eastern path.  They will help you out.  This place you see, is very wild and the paths do not have roads for a carriage.  You must ride.”
     Within an hour I did see the convent; it rose high, higher it seemed, than the cragged mountains that surrounded us.  When I knocked on the convent door, it slowly opened, as if by its own volition. Slowly, a figure appeared.
     Her extremely pale and thin white face shone in the moon’s light.  High-collared, almost haughty, she enquired who I was.
     When I explained that I would be staying with my relatives up north and only needed a place to stay the night, and perhaps also a mount, the grim nun eyed me suspiciously and ushered me inside.
     The smells of burning wax and incense invaded my senses.  I was led through a hallway of incandescent candles in amber votives and steel crosses.  The grim lady turned to me once before leaving me to my room and spoke in dreary monotone.
     “Pray to the Saviour, and the saints, and the God utmost high. Pray.  Be without sin, and beware.”
    With that cryptic admonition, I was left in my room.
     I went to sleep.  I felt so very far away from home.  That night, I cried, for the first in a while, more out of tiredness than anything else, although to be honest, a strange longing came over me that I could not explain.  Perhaps it was still the scent of the wildflowers I had picked.  The smell of the ocean.  And the sky, so blue and yet haunting despite all the beauty and joy around me, so much desolation.
     And I felt alone.
     But I put away all thoughts soon after and tried to get some proper rest, if that is what it could be called…