Friday, November 30, 2007
parts 29-30 - Luce (continued), Azal
        And so I am drawn into the room, and given a glass of... odd, I am not sure what it is. It has some alcoholic content, clearly, but it is not wine, nor any usual variant of spirits. I wonder... it is familiar to me, but I cannot name it, it tugs at some memory I have long ago hidden away. I shall not bother with it, a drink can do me no real harm - and though I have my quarrels with Philip, I do trust him where his arts are concerned. And I know he would do nothing to spoil Cerise, she has such promise, and is a far lovelier creature than the old man has welcomed into his home in years. Her laughter lets in a beam of sunlight to this dark and shrouded place, her fresh face recalls all the innocent splendor of youth to these motley souls, who have spent so long buried in their cultish studies. It has been some great time since they heard a child laugh, since they glimpsed frivolous joy. Ah, Cerise, do not go wholly from us! For we shall keep you young, we shall... oh I ought not deceive myself, I know she would soon grow old among us, for there is nothing within our midst that does not soon grow spoiled, with the darkness that seeps from us with every breath. And yet... and yet it would at least be a bittersweet aging, were she with us, and she would yet be beautiful, if melancholy. With such as these, she would only grow to be an old crone, and not think of her beauty until she was near death, when she would try in vain to conjure its return. With us, her beauty would be celebrated to its fullest before it fell away...
        I am aware of how my mind wanders from its surroundings - but I have long since stopped keeping it from doing so. When one has been so long in this world, missing a minute or two of its follies hardly seems a concern. I still hear and recognize every word that is said, but really, it is so rarely anywhere near as interesting as my own thoughts and analyses.
        When everyone has finished their drinks, Philip guides us all to sit at a round table in the center of the room. We do so, and Cerise finds her way back to my side - though on her other side is the old woman she has been talking with almost the entire night so far. Thus, she does not say anything to me, being still in conversation, but she smiles at me and slips her hand into mine, squeezing it briefly. She seems to be doing well, but I can sense the anxiety still in her, she is not yet entirely at ease. Although I suppose it is as much unease regarding the evening's activity as a social issue - she has not, so far as I know, witnessed any sort of summoning yet.
        It is not always a pleasant sight, a summoning. The spirit is not always willing, and is rarely cooperative. They are so often confused, or enraged at some slight (either by those who have conjured it, or those it knew in life), and rarely speak the same language as the conjurer. For the one called is not always the one that comes, and oh, there are all sorts of details which can alter the outcome. We designed the art this way of a purpose - oh, what fun it was! To let them think they had it all figured out, only to find that there was suddenly another rule that ought to be followed, another symbol that needed drawn. Oh how Azal delighted in it all... really, did the silly creatures think we would so easily hand over such vast powers? As if we could trust mere mortals to understand the entirety of the spiritual planes, as if they could comprehend a single tiny portion of that immensity which cannot be divided into portions.
        The very fact that they could not see what jests we made of them makes my case entirely for me.
        But Philip has always been a very cautious practitioner - even now, as his guests chatter idly among themselves, he completes a chalk drawing on the floor. Oh but not mere chalk, he uses only the finest materials, the purest substances, for there is no end to his care in these matters. He is making the marks of what I think is a particularly strong barrier of protection - I never paid these things much mind, there was no need to, but I do recall some of the general ideas... and so as before, I study his markings carefully, and I am now quite certain there is no warding away of evil, only of strength. He does not mind if what he brings into the room is not of particularly moral character, he only ensures that he will be able to control it. And of this I approve.
        I do wonder if... no, but there are no changes to be made in the preparations he makes, now that I am present. He does not know my origin - no human does, we learned the consequences of that mistake in short order. But I wonder if my presence will alter his spells? I do not know what changes have occurred in this most complex of arts since I stopped minding it... I would feel rather sorry to disappoint everyone so, if I should spoil it - oh but I cannot keep back a smile at the thought of Philip's face, were his attempts to fail! For in his great care, and vast knowledges, he has long since forgotten what it is like to be mistaken. I do think he could use a reminder every once in awhile.
        But there, again my thoughts have filled all the empty spaces in the action around me - Philip has finished his preparations, and now sits among us. Conversation slowly drops off, though in a leisurely manner, for most of the group are elderly souls, and they have not the haste of youth, they have learned to hold every moment for all that it is worth.
        What distasteful things mortals become when they grow old, I shall always prefer the company of the young. The old truly do fossilize, in all aspects of mind and body, and are entertaining only in brief encounters.
        When all have quieted and look toward him for leadership, he recites some words of welcome, in a tone that makes it clear it is a ritualistic greeting. He looks around the company, meeting the eyes of each. "You are all aware of the solemnity of tonight's undertaking, and so I hardly need ask these things of you, but I will ask all the same, for no precaution is too great in such matters. You absolutely must control yourselves, no matter what may happen. Any sudden motion, any burst of passions, will disrupt all the forces tangling in the air, and the results will be entirely unpredictable - which is exactly the opposite of what must happen if the spirit called is in any way dangerous. And you must remember, that no matter what form, any and every spirit is dangerous, no matter how sweet it may appear. Even the devils may walk in the guise of angels - there is no end to their deceptions. Never put complete faith in anything said - or, especially, in anything implied - by a spirit being called under duress. You must remember that they are rarely willing to come into this world and converse with us, and so they are angry as often as they are bewildered. You must let me be the only one to speak aloud - I must use all my energy to focus, and it would also disorient the spirit more than it will already be."
        He shifts his gaze to Cerise now, his eyes softening. "I promise, I have researched all of this with the greatest care - many of you helped in the effort, and for that, I give my unending gratitude. Unless something goes terribly, unbelievably wrong, all will be safe."
        He rises slowly, and an old woman sitting across from him rises as well. They pass slowly around the room, lighting candles of many colors, in a ring just inside the ring drawn on the floor:
        Candles of yellow, to aid in concentration and persuasion. Candles of red to wield strength and intense attractions - only a few of these, for Philip knows better than to trust himself entirely with what power he may obtain. Candles of magenta for energizing large amounts of power, candles of brown to provide a stable grounding and concentration. Candles of indigo, to increase spiritual abilities. Candles of black, to allow access to the further reaches of the spirit realm, and provide protection from physical harm. I chant their meanings to myself in almost childlike-rote, as one repeating a lesson. I believe such powers attributed to mere colors was Meres' idea, for there is a sort of beauty to the idea, a degree of romance to the thought that the purity of a hue grants it certain strengths.
        Cerise turns to me, slipping her hand again into mine. She is lightly biting the inside of her lip, and her eyes are filled with a terrified excitement. I smile, feeling strangely avuncular about this whole situation, as if I were a father watching his daughter at her first day of schooling. I stroke her hand soothingly, and my gaze is reassuring. I must admit, I am as eager to see the effect all of this has on her as she is to see the thing itself done. I do hope it is an encouragement to her, I should hate to see such native talent wasted... but no, I am uncertain still. For if she chooses this path to follow, she should have to hide it from the world, which would lead her quite naturally to nestle in among us and those who reside around us, and while I think we should find her presence a lovely balm, she is too intelligent, and I fear she should learn too much. There is a keenness in her glance that is both promising and terrifying, though it is yet too clouded by innocence to concern us much. Indeed, I have heard no-one speak of it, so I may be the only one to have noticed.
        Oh, but here, I have wandered into my thoughts again, and lost sight for a moment of the events around me. I really ought to discipline myself better than that, I wonder why I am so distracted in the midst of such novelty as this evening promises?
        I must wonder, is it fear, am I hiding from what---
        Oh certainly not, how ridiculous of me! Whatever do I have to fear - a mere waylaid spirit? Ha! I have subdued scores of them with a single word, I have nothing to fear of them. Indeed, I could master them still, though it has been long since I felt any interest in so doing.
        Philip is calling upon lower-level ones now himself, though clearly not everyone is aware of the exact object of the foreign words he murmurs in a low voice. The words have changed in the course of long years, but there are some I yet recognize, or can place as familiar, though it is a language I have not spoken in a hundred years or more. The group seated at the table gradually adopt various attitudes of meditation: one with his palms flat on the wooden table and eyes closed, one tracing her fingertips fixedly along a grain in the wood. One hums in the faintest of voices, one crosses his eyes but folds his hands as if in devout prayer. Cerise glances about her, uncertain, but gradually lets close her wide violet eyes, and chants silently, her lips moving in slow steady curves, her breathing quiet and shallow.
        I remain as I was before, quietly observing, thoughtful and amused. I do not doubt they shall conjure something, though I know not what... it has been some time since I had a direct contact with that realm, I wonder--- oh but of course I shall be known, how could I not be? I only hope the spirit is not foolish enough to say more of myself than I should like it to - but there, if it knows of me, it will know better than to cause me offense.
        The words Philip speaks are changing now, shifting from a gentle chant to a lower, more forceful tone. The phrases are growing more intricate now, patterns within patterns of sounds and meaning, until even I am lost in the labyrinth of them. Philip's eyes are open, and he begins drawing sigils and symbols upon the table itself, every line perfectly controlled, his drawings sure and clearly much-practiced. His skill has grown far greater in the time since I last met him than I had expected, he is quiet fluent in the most intricate of drawings now. I peer at the growing lace of line and space, but the patterns have grown too complex in the long years, and I recognize only the barest outlines of pentagrams and circular devices. He places words, too, along certain of the lines, making more specific his calls, words in Greek and Latin, Hebrew and Aramaic, Egyptian and languages much, much older...
        ...I begin to feel dizzy, whatever was it he gave us to drink? But no, it is not that, it is his chant, his words have slipped into languages I...I do not remember, I... what is he asking? I feel trapped, I have a sudden panic to throw back my chair and run from this room, but my muscles will not answer my screams, I... I am tied within some web, and I cannot see my way out of it, I feel something pulled from me and woven into the stuffy fabrics around me, and I cannot keep the threads from flowing.....

[end Luce]
- - -

        Ah, the delights of this girl! I am almost sorry I stole her out from under Veri - or, rather, on top of Veri, to recall the situation properly. But he had hoarded such treasure long enough, what foolishness to say that he needed her! It will serve him a much-needed lesson, to live a night without her, he depends on her far too much, however skilled a masseuse she might be. I can scarcely believe how long she said Luce has had her - and to think we had never met her! He is quite cruel when he so desires. But ah, this girl! She has brought me such delight this evening, and continues to do so. I have stolen her away to one of my favorite rooms, one which I have had decorated to mirror one in my desert palace, swathed all in rich colors and coquettish gauzes, the air heavy with the spices of incense and rose and jasmine. The jasmine twines around every object it might, and rare orchids peek from unexpected corners. An immense pot of amaranth stands in one corner, its long trails of rich burgundy falling nearly to the floor, while thousands of rose petals cover all the floor in fragrant silk.
        She lies naked beside me, her long and graceful fingers running wickedly over my skin, which has grown alert to the lightest of touches, such pleasure has it had. I shudder and lean up to kiss her, long and lingering, tangling my hand in her hair, which I have pulled free of its restraining pins and ties. It hangs so elegantly over her shoulders, its shimmering dark strands in lovely contrast to the paleness of her skin. Ah, she is beautiful! She could almost have been one of us, so lovely is she, and so self-possessed. "Ah, Sabine," I murmur softly, nibbling her exquisite jawline. "Every desire of mine you fulfill only makes me desirous of more..."
        She makes some soft answer, but I do not hear her, for my heart suddenly gives way within me. I pause, confused - whatever has unsettled me? She has done nothing wrong. Unless that is it, and I am troubled by my - admittedly ridiculous - thought that she could be almost our equal. Oh that must have been it, but I see now how silly it was, I shall forget the very thought.
        She is pushing me back into the deep mattress now, her mouth roaming hotly over my skin, and my body is rising to meet her advances. Ah, what a lovely creature! She seems aware of the response every inch of the body will give her, and knows how to play it to her best advantage.
        But again - I am drawn away from her by a sickening sense of misgiving within me. Away... something is telling me to leave this place, to leave...
        Oh if this is some petty trick of Veri's, I shall pay him back a hundredfold! What puerile simplicity if it is, he has no call to be so jealous, I want the girl only for the night! He is welcome to her after that, I was merely curious. She is skilled enough, of course, but I scarcely have Veri's obsessive need for her.
        I gasp aloud, unable to hold my pretenses longer. There is pain... there is pain, for I do not leave, and something... something bids me to go. No! I will not! Veri you fool let me have my fun as you have yours, you have no right to deny me my pleasures!
        The girl leans close, putting her arms around me. "Azal... are you alright? Is there something I can do, you are in pain?"
        I struggle for breath, and shake my head. "No, no, there is nothing you can... I do not know, I--- oh!" I am pulled, I am pulled by some force I cannot see, and I struggle against it, I will not be so forced away from my desires! But oh, it feels as though it should tear my spirit clear out of this wretched body, oh that it would! Oh to fly free again, and--- ah, and to be away from such pain! This body has withstood the most wretched of agony, but this... this is different, this is an all-consuming forceful ache, a solid thing, a thing which will tear me in two without the slightest visible sign.
        No, I will not go! I will do as I wish I will not go! I have made my life into a thing of my own decision, and I will continue to do so, I will listen to no-one! Who would dare bid me to obey their command, I, who defied God Himself! I, who chose to leave Heaven behind me, I who declared myself above God's commands!
        The girl continues to hold me, to try to soothe my writhing body, but I will have none of it the wretched little mortal creature. Veri must have set her about some trick, she must have worked my muscles in some strange way which bids them to force their own way, this must be some conspiracy between them. But I will not go! Oh but I do not want the girl, either, she is an irritation now, I shove her aside and she falls from the bed, crying out in pain as she lands. I do not care, I have concerns of my own, this pain this pain how am I to be rid of it? I will not go!
        Come to me... speak with me, and I shall allow you return in peace, I bid you no harm but you must come to me.
        I do not hear the voice but I hear it all the same. The words... I recognize the words, my mouth wraps itself around the ancient sounds as I hear them. The muscles feel strained, awkward, it has been so long since they were used in such way, these words are so old...
        I created these words.
        I created these words when Man was a mere infant, I crafted these words in the dryness of the desert, in the wastelands outside of Eden.
        There are none now living who know these words, the language has been dead a millennium and more, that--- I had to teach him, and that was nearly a thousand years ago in itself, his mouth could scarcely make the proper motions I--- there are none who knows this who speaks thus to me? Who commands me with such wretched strength, oh I will not go! I will not go to such a one, if it tears me in two to stay!
        Come to me, I bid you no harm but you must come to me... I hold the power of your Name, and with that power, I bid you come to me.
        My Name.
        My Name my Name my Name and those words I once created turned against me my Name! That is a power even we no longer hold, we... To hold a spirit's Name is to hold its very existence in your hand, he--- ah! Oh he holds it I know he must for I can feel the strength in his call, who bids me thus? Oh thou wretched thing let me go let me go! I will not be so commanded, I have denied all commandments and will take no more, I will not go do not hurt me more!
        I hear the girl whisper my name, her voice gone from her in terror, but she does not matter that is not my name only the one I made and have used all this time, it is tired and had no power to begin with. My Name! I cry out with the rapture and the terror of hearing it again, he cannot know it he cannot I will not go he cannot Call me!
        I call you, and you must answer my call. I hold the power of your Name, and with that power, I bid you come to me.
        I bid you come to me, Semjâzâ.
posted by Melissa at 8:43 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
part 28 - Luce
        "...and so it seems she has been to such a meeting several times now. Meres brought her to an older woman her knew of, one whose skills in navigating among spirits gone are quite renowned."
        My lips curl in that slightest of smiles which I so often wear, an expression of patronizing amusement. "Does she speak only to those who have ended a physical life, then? That is hardly indication of particular skill."
        Carey laughs, and takes another sip of his liquor. "Ah, but Luce, dear, you know as well as I how little they see of the immaterial which surrounds them."
        "There are those who see more."
        He raises an eyebrow at the calm confidence in my tone. "Do you know of any, then? In this city, at present?"
        "Cerise is one."
        "Oh! but I--- Luce you beast, do let me alone," he laughs, shaking his head at his own obvious misstep. "I meant, any other, who might aid in training her. It does sound as though she has a good deal of potential, and I am certain there are uses we could make of her."
        "I do hear she has grown particularly fond of Adir."
        He bristles, his jaw tensing. Oh. what petty things certain of us have become! So easily moved to jealousy, to frustration, to all those most limited and limiting attitudes. Carey, darling, do you not see your most obvious failings? Really, you have little more decorum than an uneducated housewife these days!
        He takes a slow breath to calm himself before he speaks. "Luce really, did you have to bring him in to this?"
        My only answer is a broad, wicked smile. He sighs tiredly and sinks back into his chair, returning his attentions to his glass.

        We sit thus in silence for a time, each conversing with his own thoughts. From the weary tension which emanates dully from my companion, I know that Carey thinks on whatever quarrels it is he lately has with Adir. I do not bother to keep up with the details, for there is always some dispute between them, they are so easily provoked. Their bickering bored me a century ago, though I yet find it amusing to add fuel to the flames from time to time.
        The relationship between Meres and Veri, on the other hand, I find much more interesting. At times it seems centered around a physicality, and that is certainly not unheard of among us. We all (with the apparent exception of Mephisto this last half century or so!) grow at times tired of the constant failings of mortals, and turn toward those of higher creation for our company.
        Yet there is clearly something beyond that between them, for such a liaison would have run its course long ago. There is a close companionship that I do not entirely understand... Veri has long needed devoted attentions, but there is really no reason some mortal - or group of them - could not perform such menial tasks as he requires. He seemed quite taken with my Sabine, and though she is quite skilled in her work she is scarcely more than a servant.
        Meres for his part seems to have some special... I could almost say affection, for Veri, as strange as it is to associate that word with such as us. One would expect -and indeed to a degree share - some amount of self-inflating pity, for he truly is a pitiable creature at times. I will admit his physical form seems to have grown weaker at a much quicker pace than anyone's... and yet I suspect it is from his own nurturing of such a condition as much as anything else. All men tend to become that which they pretend to be, and there are those of us who are no longer so very far from those limited little creatures.
        I am brought from my reverie by a sudden increase in warm light - a servant has entered the room, to put a fresh log of the fire, which I had not noticed was dying so low. But that is why one goes to the trouble of maintaining a staff about one's residences, so that one need not notice such slight discomforts before they are remedied. I want a low, soothing fire to be kept at all times in the drawing room, for it is a dim and dusky room (by design), and a fire is pleasant here. One never knows the hours one - or one's guests - might keep, and so consistency in household upkeep is an absolute necessity. I ensure my guests are always given the most perfect of accommodations, it would hardly do to be a poor host.
        "Carey, darling, do not be cross with me. Shall I have your glass refilled?"

        Late that evening, when Carey has long since gone his own way, and I have spent some hours in leisurely diversions around the house, I find myself desiring something new. The weather is not disagreeable, and so into the city streets I go, to see what I might find. It has been several days since I have done so, for I have been busy with one thing or another. There is to be quite a large gathering in several days, culminating with the first viewing of Claude's latest painting. I think it a lovely indication of things to come, that he and Mark should choose such a setting for its revealing. Oh, of course there will be a public "first" showing, but we are given the advance. I am sure the painting is lovely - Meres has raved about it nearly as much as Claude! - but really it is the personalities bound to it that capture my attention so.
        Oh but it is a lovely night, now that I turn my attention to it. The last shades of twilight are falling away into true darkness, the warmth of false light granting the only places of vision. There are few people outdoors, leaving the streets far more picturesque. There are several older boys, in a loosely-bound group, calling too-loudly to each other, delighting in the rudeness of their voices and volume and manner. There is a young couple, entirely encased within the slight space between their enraptured eyes. There is - why, there is Cerise, the dear child! What a wonderful chance. I contrive my approach to be a casual one, which proves a brief entertainment in itself, for she moves with purposeful directness, and at a fair pace besides. But I am capable of far more swiftness and secrecy than she could hope to detect.
        I meet her at an intersection, full of casual pleasure at the sight of her. She for her part is startled at the calling of her name, and relaxes only slightly when she sees it is I. There is an unusual anxiety about the girl tonight, a breathless anticipation, an edginess of nerves.
        "Darling, you really ought not walk alone at such an hour! May I have the pleasure of accompanying you?"
        She laughs quietly, and the anxiety in her rings clearly through the sound. "Oh, I must admit, I would be very glad of the company. For though - you must know this - I am rather intimidated by you, at least you are a... oh certainly not a known thing! But a..."
        "A familiar variety of disconcerting," I supply with a smile, offering her my arm.
        She smiles gratefully, taking my arm. "You truly are a dear, thank you."
        "Not at all, sweet child. I was out in search of diversion, and you are among the most pleasant I could hope to find." I am aware that Adir has been offering her profuse praises, and I am curious as to what I might do in a similar vein. If we lead her to believe she is important to us, I think we shall find her skills entirely at our disposal. Or, if perchance she finds my flattery of a more amenable sort than Adir's - well, there are all sorts of lovely devices I might employ. Really, he is far too easy to upset, he ought to learn some sense of perspective.
        Her step falters, she stumbles and I steady her, holding her arm solidly. "Are you all right, darling?"
        She pauses just a moment to recollect herself. "...yes. Yes, thank you, I'm fine. I was simply too distracted by my thoughts, and I neglected my surroundings." She laughs shyly, shaking her head. "I must learn not to do so, it is terribly inelegant of me."
        "You shall learn, dear, learn with scarcely a thought toward it. A body of such grace as yours possesses could not be kept forcibly from elegance of motion."
        She blushes charmingly. As we resume walking, I inquire as to her destination.
        "I... Luce, do you promise to keep this night our secret?"
        Oh what deliciously enticing words! And said with such earnestness! I have not been asked that in such a way for decades. "Darling, of course I shall, if you so wish it."
        "I do. I go tonight to a rather secret meeting - oh, but I might tell you after all!" She seems relieved to the point of elation by the sudden realization. "You see, Sarah--- oh but I will not bore you with the irrelevancies, it was Meres who introduced me to a few, who in turn introduced me to others, and all has come full circle now for one of them told me he knew you, and you knew him once, so all is well."
        Fortunately, her beauty is sufficient distraction from such babbling. "And this gentleman's name..?"
        "Oh! Oh Luce, I am sorry, I have forgotten it! But you shall meet him tonight - oh you must come with me! I should feel so much the better if you did, for I scarcely know these people and---"
        I cut her off with the loudness of my laughter. "Child, child! You still have not yet told me where it is that you go!"
        She flushes crimson, and her voice is suddenly sober. "I really must organize my thoughts better, I do that sort of thing far too often. Do forgive me, Luce. But I suppose I avoid the subject purposely, for it makes me as uneasy as it does excited."
        I remain silent, leaving her to speak in her own time - and also not wishing to unintentionally divert her attention yet again.
        "I have been learning to make use of my... gift, as I am sure you know. It is quite exhilarating, to finally embrace something I have had to hide for so long, to finally speak and be really, truly understood. But I have been exploring, and there are so many paths laid before me, I don't think I've seen the half of them yet. But I have been looking, and testing, and trying to learn where my heart leads me with this strange sight it has. So, tonight, I am going to another secret meeting, in some secluded apartment, with others like me... or perhaps not like me, I do not yet know, but at least people with talents similar to mine, there are far more of them than I would have expected!"
        "It is not something one readily admits to strangers met on the street, or to those with whom you attend dinner parties - though of course you know this."
        "Mmm... But Luce, I must admit, I am worried about tonight. Oh of course everyone I have met - and I have met several of those who will be there tonight, at least fleetingly - has been so wonderfully kind, and quite protective really, given my age and newness to everything and all. But tonight is a different sort of work than I have yet tried, which always makes me nervous, but---"
        "Dear, you do tend to ramble when you grow anxious. Stop fearing the things you will say to me - I have heard far stranger, and far more dangerous, and I have survived them all."
        "Luce... Luce I think they're going to summon something tonight. I mean, summon something stronger than the ghost of someone's dead husband. Something that's not - and never was - human."
        I raise an eyebrow, but do not let any more of my excitement show than that. Even I hadn't known there were those who specialized in such still in this city! Perhaps it is only one visiting, but still, I really ought to have heard. Apparently it is one whom I have met before, but I have heard no recent news of such a one...
        "I... Luce, I must admit, I am frightened."
        I smile tenderly at her, and place a hand warmly over hers. "Darling... if it will comfort you, I shall go with you. I have... dealt with such things before, I promise you shall be kept quite safe. I will not say it will not be frightening - it is entirely possible that it will be. But you do owe it to yourself to investigate all possible channels, as you have been doing. You well know, I am sure, the pain of a missed opportunity."
        "Oh! Oh Luce, thank you!" she cries out joyfully, and - the impetuous darling! - throws her arms around me, kissing my cheek happily. "Oh I feel so much better I can hardly believe it, thank you so very much..."
        I smile warmly, thinking of just how annoyed Adir will be when he hears of this evening.

        We ascend two flights of stairs in a nondescript tenant house. The stairwell is narrow and poorly lit, the wallpaper quite faded. I cannot help but wrinkle my nose a bit in distaste - there really is no excuse for even the poor to live in squalor, soap is certainly no great expense.
        Fortunately, the apartment into which we are admitted is kept in far better repair. It is decorated simply, filled with the cast-off furnishings that slowly accumulate in any rented place, simple things with scarcely any of the tapestry of memories and meanings which nearly always grow around someone's possessions. There is a barren feeling to the room, and I am quite disappointed.
        That is, until we pass into the next room, where the meeting is apparently to take place. The walls are hung with dark fabrics, as an Arab harem cast into shadow. Strange runes are painted here and there, some on lighter clothes which are hung over the dark ones, some painted directly onto the cloth covering the walls. ...but no, they are not all strange to me, there are some I recognize. Runes of protection, mostly, intricate symbols which grant one inside their bounds additional dominion over spirits... though interestingly enough, I see none of those which man has devised to ward off the supposed evil spirits. I take this as a sign of the openness of this user's explorations, which is a particularly rare and good thing.
        Cerise has been making introductions all this time, and I am responding as expected, while my thoughts are focused elsewhere. All of that is mere rote, I need not pay it any mind. But these symbols... the manner in which they are drawn tugs at some forgotten memory. Cerise is talking more confidentially with an older woman now; the rest are mingling idly, apparently awaiting the arrival of a few more persons. I take the opportunity to move closer to the wall, and investigate more thoroughly some of the drawings.
        Pentagrams and seals, crosses and intricate interlacings of line and form, which have no name which a common man should recognize. Their meanings, individual and as a whole, are as I had thought from my initial glances. But there is a book left open on a table near the wall, and glancing at it, I see symbols with different meanings entirely... again, some I recognize, some I do not, but this is of no concern, for this is not an area of study I have paid much mind in a century or so. Man is always forgetting and reinventing his ideas and expressions of them, and as verbal languages shift in time and over distance, so too do the languages of written symbols, where one writer's flourish is taken as a necessary stroke by a solitary student.
        But there is one here that draws my attenion, and I cannot help but study. It has the general form of an inverted triangle, with lines drawn from the interior sides to intersect above the downward point. The descending lines of the main triangle continue past their intersection, and curl into endings, with a "v" drawn in between them, crossing over them to form a small diamond below the main triangle... and as my eyes finish tracing the pattern, my back suddenly flares, and I remember where I have seen this sign before.
        It is burned into my back, the very pattern of it to be found in the scars I have born for millenia, the scars of - oh, the scars from my wings, which shall never heal, the scars which I have so long tried to forget, oh how they burn!
        There is a low chuckle behind me, and I whirl about, ready to tear the throat out of whoever might so mock me in my momentary distress---
        I know this man. Oh and I will not tear out his throat, though I should very much like to. "Oh Judas, dearest of friends," I murmur through clenched teeth. "However have you come to be here?"
        He laughs low in his throat. "Now, now, Lux my friend, none but you have ever called me by such a name. It is Philip, do you not remember?"
        "Of course I remember... I remember too much of you for my own comfort, I think. Ah, but Cerise is right to come to you, for you are quite masterful of your arts."
        He smiles, a little too smugly. "But of course. Meres would not have started her on the path toward me if I were not."
        "And Meres, of course, never errs?"
        I am answered with laughter, and he claps a heavy hand on my shoulder. I do not know how a conjurer acquired the hands of a farmer, but so they have always been, and they have only grown worse with his age. "Ahh, I have not seen Meres in many years, how does he fare?"
        "No differently than when last you saw him, I should think."
        "Mmm, you were always too secretive. Now! Do come into the room and pay proper attention, for you shall see wondrous things tonight, if I do not miss my guess."
posted by Melissa at 9:58 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
part 27 - Adir (continued)
        She is enchanted by the look of the gardens under the silver of moonlight and the gold of lamplight. "As though all were gilded by some delicate hand, or perhaps limned by the dance of hidden fairies." It seems my earlier rhapsody of the night has cast quiet a spell over her. Her motions have that slight drag to them, as though she moved under water, and her eyes are coated in delicate nebulae of stars - she must feel as though she has slipped into some other realm, some twilight place part dream and part fantasy.
        Good. Since she will not quite believe anything which happens around or to her to be real, she will be that much more open to suggestion, much more open to following the slight - and strongest - whims. So, I encourage the feeling of a dream:
        I walk her along a path paved with crushed marble, which captures the dim light and then refracts it into a thousand shimmering pieces. The path, so lit and so reflecting, seems to radiate a glow itself, glowing softly against the unending twilight, its light marred only by the gentle passage of our shadows.
        I point out to her a particularly lovely rose bush, its silken blossoms lined with tiny crystals of dew. The tender petals seem threaded with the smallest and brightest of diamonds, for even in this faint light the droplets shimmer, and seem all the brighter for the darkness around. The fragrance of the roses, so faint in daylight, seems all the more alluring in the subtle realm of after-day.
        I dance with her around the glistening fountain, waltzing in slow revolution around its thousand cascading stars. We are the only ones who exist, in this world of shimmering twilight, where all is a coruscating darkness. It is in her hair of glistening star's milk that she wears the bit of honeysuckle, and its fragrance permeates every breath, mixing with the chilly effervescence of the night air. Her short jacket does nothing to quell the motions of her flowing skirt, which floats through the air as a white cloud, only seen in motion faster than its normal trek through the sky, that the grace of its fluid motions may be seen clearly. Her eyes catch every drop of the shining light, and seem to cast a radiance all about them, casting all into sapphire light and amethyst shadow. And though her gaze drinks in all the ethereal beauty around her, it is always to my face that her eyes return, to my hand clasped around hers, to the graceful shadows we send along the ground to entwine with the rest. She looks to me, and I cannot help but be carried away for a moment in the dream she sees, I have cast it so beautifully!
        "Oh!" she gasps, her lips a blossoming rose beside her flushed cheeks. "Oh, Adrian, would that this dance would never end! But I must catch my breath, oh hateful frailty of body!"
        I smile tenderly and catch her up in my arms - she is so small and light! I cradle her sweetly just a moment longer than needed, then seat her gently on a bench opposite the fountain, that she may look upon its endless coruscations as she regains her breath.
        I reach to a nearby trellis, and pluck a bit of snowy jasmine, bowing as I present it to her. She smiles, and there is nearly a queenly ait to her, and for a moment I catch a glimpse of the woman she will one day become.
        "Do twine it into my hair for me, beside the honeysuckle?" she asks sweetly, her cheeks flushed, though I doubt it is still from the exercise.
        "Certainly, Cerise," I reply, my voice low and tender, caressing her name as I speak it. Her eyelashes flutter demurely, moving, I am sure, in echo of her heart's palpitations. I sit beside her, and there is a warm electricity in the slight space between us. Ah, that first thrilling rush of a fresh love! Her hair is as silken to the touch as it is to sight, and I let my fingers trail through it just a moment, as I carefully fix the jasmine beside the honeysuckle, entwining the vines and fragrances, now inhaling the subtle sweetness of her hair mingling behind the stronger scents of the flowers.
        "Adrian..." Her voice hushed, tender and tentative, yearning and afraid. I bring a hand slowly to her face and brush my fingertips over the smooth skin of her cheek. Oh, the fleeting beauties of youth! I, even I, find that freshness fading so slowly from me, fading now as a flower left too long in the sun... but no, I will not be drawn in to frivolous self-pity, not in a moment like this!
        She exhales slowly, closing her eyes a moment as her lips curve elegantly. When she opens again those violets of radiant hue, they are gazing into mine. "Adrian..."
        I expect now some profession of adoration, unless I have entirely missed my guess - which has not happened in nearly a century.
        "Adrian, you are too beautiful, so filled with grace that it hardly seems you belong to this world."
        Here I smile - apparently in answer to her praise, but truly because she hardly guesses the truth of her words. But she has not finished.
        "And you have so captivated me, that I begin to doubt my senses, such rapture of beauty are they saturated with this night... Adrian, I... I do not know if you were told this, so many at the party were, but I see... I see things that cannot be seen, I catch snatches of voices long gone from this world. My heart beats strange rhythms which do not align to those around me... Oh, Adrian, I saw this night such lovely wings, bursting in rapture from your back!"
        My heart stops - but I have so long kept a façade that it remains now in place without conscious thought.
        And so she continues, unaware of the terror and rage which flare within me. "Oh, such lovely, radiant wings, shining brighter than the stars, swirling in graceful motion in the currents left in the air by our dance, curling tenderly around us both... I, I do not know what it means, if it means anything at all. I have seen such wings only twice before, once at the party, and once.. again, with another of your set. Adrian, there is such a distant, heartbreaking sadness - no, more than sadness, despair - which clings to the shadows around all of you... Adrian, there is... there is not some death, hanging near to you?"
        She seeks to meet my eyes, in anxious concern I am sure but I can stand none of it, the smell of the honeysuckle suddenly sickens me.
        "...Adrian? Are you alright?"
        Oh how I hate that question and all that it implies! I have let my expression slip there is some prying mortal near me who thinks it can help one in a situation beyond its tiny range of comprehension I have allowed a moment of weakness and look as one of them!
        "Adrian!" she calls after me as I stalk rapidly away from her, away from this suddenly enraging creature, this failed scene. Whyever did I give her a name by which to call me, I hate the very sound of it.
        "Adrian!" She grabs my arm - she has run after me, the tiresome thing! I shake her hand free from me. She grabs at me again, and I snarl openly. Yet she will not be gone, she stands defiant and grasps my arm tightly, with all the (annoyingly great) strength of her will. "Adrian, what have I said to offend you? Surely that I see beyond does not---"
        "Child, you could not understand."
        She is stopped only a moment by the frigidity of my tone. "Adrian... I am not a child. My sight is not so limited as that of most. It is perfectly clear to me there is some great secret behind all of you, there is no use at all pretending otherwise."
        I merely stare at her in cold silence.
        She sighs, and squeezes my arm gently. "I will not pry it from you. Such is not my place, and I do not hope you will confide in me. Still..." Her voice is softening, regaining its childlike shyness. "Still, do not hide so far from me, I can see some scrap of your mystery, and I have not shied from it, have I? Do let me remain near, I have so enjoyed your company tonight..."
        I pause a moment and consider. I suppose I could feign a giving-in, a submission to her comfort, and grant her the illusion of having gained my trust, which will in turn make her feel closer to me, and thus potentially lead to pleasant ends. On the other hand... have I the energy for such? I become so exhausted from such flashes of rage, such overwhelming and all-consuming floods of memory that need pushed back into the depths of my mind, back behind the centuries of existence. Oh how tiresome this life becomes, when it falls away from such lovely plans! I had everything so nicely laid in place for the evening, and now I am forced to improvise, how impossibly tiresome.
        I sigh and move the few remaining steps over to the fountain, and seat myself on the low wall which surrounds it. I lean against a stone urn draped with some mixture of damp foliage, and let my gaze wander without focus. I listen only to the sound of the water, I look only into the faint shimmers of the darkness before me, I look until the stars have blurred and become only the world again. I stare until my eyes have gone dark, and all darkness is pressed back behind me, and my mind has pushed aside all thoughts but those I wish to keep there.
        It is late at night. I am in a park, which looks quite lovely by night. There is a young and terribly attractive girl here, whom I have brought to like me. She believes I will be open with her, as she believes herself to be open to many things which are not in the usual realm of experience.
        This is an arrangement I can manage.
        I open my eyes, and look for her. She stands near, perhaps a few feet away, to give me privacy but also keeping close company, amusing herself by studying the foliage in another urn. Really, she is such a very aware and intelligent child, she shall grow to have such a wonderful sense of tact. "Cerise," I call softly, and as she looks up I motion her over to me. She smiles, almost in relief, and when she is in reach I take her hand between both of mine, holding it warmly as I look up into her face, with all the appearance of bare honesty. "Cerise, dear, do forgive me, I... I have not always been well, there are things in my past I do not wish to discuss, it... I have been through much pain, as you have surely seen. I wish to make my life anew, and keep all that dreadful past locked behind me. Do, Cerise, do indulge me in this, for I should truly love to enjoy my time spent with you."
        "Oh, Adrian!" She drops to her knees before me, her pale skirt pooling around her as she lays her head in my lap and presses her palms against my knees. "You must warn me whenever I am about to say something foolish, I do it so often and I truly don't mean to, I---"
        I silence her, putting a finger tenderly to her lips. She looks up at me, her eyes wide and caught between hope and anxiety and a sudden rush of sensation hitherto unknown. Oh, that sweet innocence! It is a wine of which one can never have too much, one can become quite drunk on it and yet never tire. I slide my finger slowly down over her lips to her chin, and trace lightly along her slim neck. She swallows involuntarily, and I cannot help but smile. I grasp her chin tenderly, tilting it upward, as I lean down to brush my lips across hers, lighter than the brush of starlight upon the skin, leaving a sparkling tingle which makes her scarcely dare draw breath, for fear she shall blow away the essence of what I have just given her.
        Suddenly she starts back, her gaze turned sharply away, looking about anxiously.
        Puzzled, I lay a hand lightly on her shoulder. "Cerise, darling, are you all right?"
        "Oh, Adrian, what is the time! Do you not hear that chime in the distance? Oh I have missed a few strokes, I do not know, have you a watch?"
        It is no use pretending I do not, the intricate chain shows clearly from my jacket pocket. "Of course, dear... it seems to be midnight. What a lovely hour, is it not? So full of---"
        "Oh Adrian I am so terribly sorry, but I must go!"
        I laugh lightly, not taking her entirely seriously, knowing I can coerce her back to my side. "My dearest Cinderella! I promise I shall carry you home myself, do not worry about your carriage, or the disappearance of your delicate slippers."
        She grins, melting a little. "You are such a dear, you really must let me find you more often in the night streets. Will you promise to meet me tomorrow night? I am so sorry I must leave, but I have given my promise, and I really must attend this meeting."
        I clasp her hand tightly as she rises, looking up at her with an expression I believe quite mournful. "Cerise... must you go?"
        She nods decisively, squeezing my hand. "I must, yes. But you will meet me tomorrow? We have waited so long to meet alone as this, it should be no trouble at all to wait another day to spend more time together." She smiles without a care, sliding her hand out from mine.
        I could, of course, go into some melodramatic fit of misery, and thus keep her beside me, for fear I should "do something dreadful" if I were not closely watched and kept company. And there is always the route of a straightforward seduction, I could grab her 'round her tiny waist and carry her off into the areas of densest bushes, and kiss her until she was breathless and her breast heaving, and deflower the tender bud right there on the ground - I am certain I could carry it off in such a manner that she would not be horrified at all, merely swept away by the romance of the thing.
        But ah, I feel so tired this night... perhaps I shall merely find a place to sleep, with a bottle of wine to carry me there. I shall save this one for a night in which I will enjoy her to the fullest, I will let her go for now. I stand and give her a final, tender kiss on her cheek, and smile as she flushes again.
        "Farewell, dear one... I shall find you again soon, do not worry. It is not far that you need go to your destination? For it is late, and you are a girl walking alone in these streets..."
        She shakes her head, still smiling. "It is scarcely out of sight from here, and-- oh there! That woman there, she goes as well, I met her some days ago and she is entirely too kind, I shall walk with her. But do find me tomorrow, I shall look for you."

        I watch her as she goes, her step light and full of life and energy, full of that joy in mere existence which comes so easily to the young... and I wonder, was that a joy we ever knew, we, who began so long before Time Began? Ah, but I am weary, I will not think of this now.
        I remain a few minutes in the park, letting the mist of the fountain cool my skin and my thoughts, the endless sound of the water a dullness that calms me. I take a long, slow breath, and rise to my feet, looking about me and considering in which direction to head. I have a room not far from here, and it is one of particular comfort, filled with soft cushions and feather-stuffed throws of warm velvet. It is the perfect place to wrap oneself in warmth and consolation, and I recall having had some especially good wine sent there several days ago. I shall rest there for a time, and perhaps, Cerise will find me again soon.
posted by Melissa at 9:04 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Monday, November 26, 2007
part 26 - Carey (continued), Adir
        Meres' gaze shifts again, and though there is still seduction, there is also threat seeping through his voice. "Oh, I am terribly sorry to hear that, I should have so liked to only borrow it, for my own edification... No, no, you need not apologize more, dear, clearly you have no power here." He takes a long draft of his wine, sinking back into his chair.
        Into the silence, Claude tries to make light conversation, but it plummets dully in the thick air. Where Meres has cast his disapproval, there is no recovery. I have been quietly resolving what I shall do, now that this diversion seems to be ending. Of course I might go with Meres, but I tire already of this hunt for information - oh I should like to know, certainly, but I hardly think it likely to succeed, and even if it did, it could not heal wounds already made. Surely not, it is silly to raise one's hopes so frivolously. If he finds something worthwhile, it will come out, and we shall all enjoy its benefits, there is no need for me to trouble myself with the process. I grow tired of this game - why does Meres not simply have Claude copy down the list and pass it along? He could claim some passing fancy for the sound of the names, and Mark would hardly question it, he so indulges the boy. At least we should then get some use of the child!
        But I shall go to the club - there are still some hours left to the night. And in the morning, I shall go to the nearest of Sadie's apartments. If she is not there, certainly I will learn of the servants or neighbors where she is. Whyever did I not simply do so in the first place? Really I don't know what got into me earlier, it must have been the rush of fresh air after the close, perfumed quarters of Rebecca's house... oh, the afternoon feels an age ago and more! What a brute Time truly is...
        I have neglected entirely Claude's fumbling conversation - what do I care for the chatter of some boy? And Meres is now in a horribly foul mood. I finish my wine, and rise to go - the motion feels pleasantly blurred, the numbing quality of the alcohol lying comfortably in my veins.
        "Are you going, Carey?" Claude asks, a note of anxiety in his voice. I believe he is frightened of what Meres might do, without myself there as - what, mediator? intercessor? pacifier? Hardly! He probably assumes Meres will not make a scene with me present - and he is correct, but not to the extent he believes himself to be. Meres will probably not commit a murder with me standing by, but that is only because he conducts even murder with such artistic flair. Why, I heard rumor after the rose party that---
        "Oh! My apologies, I... my thoughts were elsewhere. But yes, I am going, I am long overdue for an appointment. Was lovely to meet you more personally, Mark."
        He smiles and extends his hand, but I have turned already to Meres. "Meres, dear, do let me know the results of your inquiry, I am most curious."
        He sighs in exaggerated sufferance, and waves me away dismissively. "Certainly, darling."
        "Have a pleasant evening," I say, with an amused smirk at the miserable group. "I shall show myself out."

        I am already a block or two away when I find I have left my jacket behind. It is of no consequence, for the chill of the night will have little affect upon me. And I will soon be with Sadie, and her touch will warm this icy flesh which binds my soul. Ah, woman, your charms are unending! Through all your petty grievances and airy slights, there is an ineffable grace to your every motion, and eyes which are backlit by a kindling compassion. Ah, my Sadie, you are the loveliest of women, your hair so long and shining with a thousand shades of flame, your eyes which... ah, such eyes They seem to see all that I am, though I know they cannot, they seem to forgive all, though I know they could not. Your body so smooth and gracious, your every motion fluid and certain, your every touch of such brilliance that all this dull world falls away from me...
        Ah, Sadie, you are as that first woman was to me... never since those countless years ago had the pleasures felt so bright and new. Oh Sadie, there are those who believe in souls reborn, to visit again this earth, and darling you nearly bring me to believe it, so near you are to her... she, whose name left my mind a millenium ago, but her blood must have continued into you...
        ...but oh, if it did, you should be my child! My own daughter, after so many years... Perhaps that is why I am so bound to you, perhaps there truly is something of that other realm in you, as there is in me, though, oh, you shall never know the glory of the wings which ought to be your birthright! Oh my Sadie, I shall be with you soon, so soon, forgive me my neglect for I shall make it up to you, oh my darling that I could grant you wings as those I once had! But perhaps if Meres can find our Names, oh, if that than anything might be, Sadie Sadie I must find you! My emotion again consumes me and Sadie you are the only one who can hold it all, can embrace me that closely, Sadie, Sadie I must find you!

[end of Carey]
- - -

        I see Carey staggering, undoubtedly drunk, on the other side of the street. Disgusted, I hurry on, keeping to the shadows. Though he is silent I can hear his soul screaming desperate pleas, "Sadie, Sadie!" What a wretched thing he becomes! And all the more pitiful because he refuses to see his own weakness. Mephisto at least has the decency to be conscious of his fancies, and even seems to embrace his particular predilection, however demeaning it might look to become so ensnared.
        How far they have fallen, how much they have forgotten! They have adapted too well to this human guise, and have not had the strength to keep themselves above it. Pathetic little fools.
        When all danger of encountering Carey has passed, I emerge from the shadows, to openly saunter from one pool of lamplight to the next. I have no set agenda for the remainder of the evening, but I am restless and hungry, though I just left Sadie's embrace. Carey you fool, did you think she would wait so long for you, and refuse to be consoled by one who did meet her upon her return? I do wonder if you properly enjoy her charms, so tangled in emotion do you become.
        Ah, those delights which so entice the senses! I have lived on them so long, and they sustain me still. A panther prowling the endless night, searching out its meals with senses acute, every motion honed to smooth perfection...
        There is a girl near.
        I pause as though reading her scent on the air, for she is behind me. There is some disturbance around her, and I am unsettled. This of course only draws me closer, for it has been some time since someone put me at such unease, yet there is a familiarity to it all the same... This girl seems far too young to be able to feel so to me. I slow my stride, that she will gradually overtake me. As she comes nearer, my mind sorts through the thousand minutiae of her presence, seeking her identity. The lightness of her step - she is indeed young, there is an innocent confidence in it, an unconsciousness. She wears no perfume, but has a bit of honeysuckle somewhere about her. Her breathing is soft and slightly anxious - wherever she is going, it is not a place of comfortable habit. Her presence feels familiar, I have met her before...
        She draws just ahead of me, and I see the gentle curls of her long, flaxen hair.
        "Cerise, dear child, is that you?" I inquire, my voice as polite and unobtrusive as it can be made. Being so young, she will be easily impressed with a suave demeanor, a gentlemanly manner.
        She stops and turns - and oh, I had forgotten his strikingly clear her eyes are! The brightest of blue-violet, as the illuminated sky just before dawn, as polar waters untouched by man.
        "Why, hello! You will forgive me, but though I remember your face, I cannot recall your name."
        I smile indulgently, taking her gloved hand - so small and delicate! - and pressing my lips gently to it, lingering just long enough that I know her skin will long tingle from the contact. "Adrian, dear child. Do not feel embarrassed, you met so many of us that day! I am glad to meet you again, but whatever are you doing out so late at night?"
        "Could I not as the same of you?" she asks, with just a touch of slyness to her voice, her eyes sparkling as she grins.
        I laugh lightly, and take her arm as we begin to stroll down the street. "Of course you could. But being a bit older than you, it would be rather impolite, and anyway I have more plausible reason to be out." I had forgotten what a charming mix of delicately proper and naively bold she is!
        "And I do suppose you asked me first," she sighs with delightful dramatics. "Very well. I am on my way to a meeting, rather a secret one if you must know," she adds in a confidential tone.
        "Oh? And what sort of a secret one? Oh but I do not mean for you to tell me all! Only I wonder what sort it is, a political rally, a rendezvous with some charming young man..?"
        She laughs, and I am truly taken with the freshness of her beauty. I must find some means of waylaying her, and then, quite simply laying her. She is such a fetching thing, but there is that intangible air of virginity about her, that I know I should be her first. "No, no, though I suppose it is equally as scandalous. If you will be so kind as to escort me there - for it is quite dark, and I really oughtn't to be on the street alone - I will tell you."
        I smile warmly down at her. "However could I refuse an offer to walk beside such a lovely thing as yourself, dear? I should be more than glad to do so, even without the promise of hearing the sweet song of your voice."
        She blushes, and the warm rose glow is visible even by the fickle light of the dull lamps, for her skin is such a flawless porcelain. Ah, I can see what a lovely warmth it should draw from candlelight, and imagine how that flush should spread all over her naked skin, as it trembles with exquisite pleasures...
        "Dear sir, you are far too kind."
        "Not at all, child, you are far too beautiful for me to refrain from such talk."
        She eyes me curiously for a moment. "Sir, do you flatter me toward some object?"
        Startled, I laugh. "Ah, you see through my devices far more easily than I would have guessed! Forgive me, my dear, I assume too little of your age. But you must know, I wish only to gain enough of your favor to spend a little more time with you - not only are you lovely, but I find your personality positively engaging."
        "That is not mere flattery?"
        "I swear on my life, I mean every word." Oh what easy play is this! I feel almost as a child again myself, this is far too simple. I have only to dissuade her now from her destination, or at least detain her from it for a time. I shan't need to bother actually going with her, and waiting until afterward - I will not need to build up such an elaborate pretense of companionship with this one, I have won her trust already. Sober words and a hand pressed against the breast are all the sign she needs of my honesty.
        "Well, then, I am glad of your company, Monsieur Adriàn," she answers, readjusting her arm to rest more comfortably in mine. "It is a lovely night, but I must admit I feel better with someone to walk beside me. Darkness can make one so lonesome, wouldn't you agree? All the world hiding away from your timid gaze..."
        I pat her hand comfortingly, and when she looks up at me, she is met with a soft, understanding smile, and eyes which gaze so deeply into hers she will think they see through to her very soul, and in that sight, understand and love what is found there. I can sense that her heart flutters, for her step falters ever so slightly, and her grip on my arm tightens just a bit. I can feel her skin warming, with that radiant flush of emotion which so quickly leads to affection. She is young enough yet that she will understand none of this, yet her heart will beat more rapidly with a yearning she cannot name.
        I shall teach her that name.
        For ah, the child is no child but a young woman, and I shall show her a blossom she has not yet seen. Though her wide eyes have taken in all the world around her, there is so much of it she knows nothing of.
        "But you know, you never did answer my question, and I do think it only fair," she pouts petulantly, fluttering her lashes in a mimicry of persuasion. Though the act is only a thoughtless mime, it is effective all the same, for her lashes are long and her eyes are truly striking.
        "Oh! I had entirely forgotten, my sincere apologies. But I really was headed nowhere in particular, I have only recently left the residence of a friend, and had not yet decided quite where to go next."
        "Not home and to bed, at this late hour?"
        I laugh aloud, and she cannot help but smile at the mirth in my voice. "Ah, but my dear! This is the hour when I am most myself, these hidden hours are those I most delight in. For what is new in the daylight? All is seen and all is known, all is made pale and dull by the vapid sunlight. But the night, with its silvery cast of moonlight and starshine, where all is shrouded in secrets and mystery... the night, where all is wrapped in the warmth of tender shadows, where all is silver and violet, gold and indigo... that is the loveliest time, the most delicate and sensuous of times."
        I can feel her draw closer to me - in such subtle motion that I know she is not consciously aware she has even done so. She looks at me now in open admiration, in tender awe, entirely captivated. I glance down at her, feigning shyness, and she smiles so warmly, so openly, that I almost - almost - lose my posturing, and allow that compassionate affection wash over me and consume me, and pull me in to the sweet innocence of her world... but why should I not? Surely it would do no harm, it might even be interesting, it has been so long since I visited in such emotion.
        But no, no! I cannot return to a place I have left so far behind me, I am not Mephisto I am not damnable Carey, I have no confusion as to who I am, what I have been and what I am now and ever shall be. I am no child, who can forget in a moment the sufferings of a lifetime.
        "Why do you not come along with me? I am... oh!" She bursts into a rippling fountain of laughter, holding to my arm tenderly and looking into my face with embarrassment. "Why, dear Adrian, I never did tell you where I am going! And after all of that! Oh I am sorry..."
        I join in her laughter, and it sounds as though I am as full of mirth as she, though my heart has in truth grown heavy again within me. "Sweet Cerise, I had forgotten as well, you had so distracted me with your charms. But it does not matter to me, so long as I am allowed to walk beside you. Is it some distance from here? I must say that I do hope so."
        "I do think it is not much farther, really... dear me, it has taken far less time to arrive than I had anticipated, I do hope no one will think me terribly rude for arriving so early!"
        Oh dear one, you make it so easy for me I find it hard to believe this is not some dream, or some set-up of Luce's, or anything but the truth! But I see that you mean every word you say, there is an earnestness about your every word and motion. You have slowed your walk, and look perplexed.
        "Then may I suggest a brief detour? I know of a lovely little park just over on the next block, where we might walk for a time, before you need arrive."
        She smiles brightly, and it seems the sun has for a moment returned to the night. "What a perfect suggestion, thank you ever so much! I really... I must admit I am rather nervous, and a walk in a park ought to help calm me. Though, really, you are doing a wonderful job at that already."
        "I aim only to please, my darling," I murmur, allowing just a hint of seduction into my voice now, as I turn her aside from the street and toward a small, undoubtedly deserted area of lush gardens and dense bushes, where our privacy will be assured. There is even a fountain there, which is just loud enough that it covers over most low sound from the park - such as the murmur of voices.
posted by Melissa at 9:41 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Sunday, November 25, 2007
parts 23-25 - Carey (continued)
        There is a long moment's silence, as our thoughts drift along diverging paths, but Meres sighs and recalls himself. "Have you any thoughts on where it might be? The man does not look to keep his things terribly organized, and I hardly think Claude will detain him for quite that long."
        "Oh, I don't know... but the boy seems quite determined, don't you think?" I answer lazily, lifting a book from a pile beside his chair, then settling back in to a couch. I flip lightly through it with a furrowed brow - it is in Greek, and I feel more tired simply by looking at the letters, and trying to recall a language I have not spoken in perhaps a century. This shall be a horribly tiresome task, and though I should like to find the answers, are we really to look through every book here?
        I sigh heavily, passing a hand over my brow. I do not think this book will be it, the contents show a tiresome listing of points regarding that ridiculous Resurrection, what a pointless excursion that was! Did He really think He could leave an indelible mark on the forgetful human race, by walking the earth for scarcely more than a score of years? Of course they still pass along the stories of him, but the meanings and messages have become so corrupted over the long years, I find it hard to believe there is any real meaning left to it anymore. Men have locked the most frivolous facets into mindless tradition, which they follow numbly by rote, while the true intents have become catchphrases, which are tossed about in the air without thought. "Love thy neighbor!" they jest when they hear of some injustice done. "An eye for an eye," they retort when defending some petty revenge they have taken. "Turn the other cheek," they tell their children when they face some bully, rather than take the trouble to root out the real causes of the situation. And they haven't the faintest what contradictions they live, they hear only what they want in their sermons (and the ministers increasingly give them only that), and feel all the more progressive for picking and choosing those elements which most suit the lives they already live.
        I select another book, and flip through to find the contents. Ah, a translation of Faust! Oh how we laughed when we first read that dramatic account, and poor Mephisto! To find himself cast in such outrageous caricature, I think he hardly knew whether to laugh himself or be outraged. But this will certainly not help me, and oh, the illustrations! What ridiculous images are created of devils... though I suppose it is only fitting they should look so like humans.
        I set these two aside, and reach for another volume, this one looking promisingly old - but there is a sound of footsteps on the stair, slow and cautious. Claude is the first to look in, his hair tousled, a gleam in his eye. "Sorry to have kept you waiting, dears, but I presume you found some entertainment of your own?"
        Meres makes a show of being quite annoyed - it seems he has taken the boy under his wing to some degree, training him to be... oh, not that he could ever be as one of us! But to be a little more like us, that he will annoy us less, I think. "Really, it is quite rude to leave guests so long unattended. Whatever took you so long? I do hope the wine at least will be worth the long wait."
        "My apologies, gentlemen, but we had some lengthy discussion in the kitchen, and quite forgot ourselves for a time," Mark answers diplomatically, entering the room with a tray of glasses and two bottles of wine, along with a small plate of cheese and pastries. Really, I am quite impressed with the apparent quality - but, there, it is a wealthy parish, and I should hardly think his visitors would be fed on the bread and water of Christ. "Mere symbolism," they would say, with gruff certainty. "Of course the Son of God did not eat such simple fare! Why, wasn't the first thing he did make himself some wine?" Oh what pathetic little fools, whyever did we think you should be worthy of our society? It grows so hard to find ones we do not tire of... even I, with my constant searching, grow tired so soon, with very few exceptions.
        Sadie! Oh Sadie, my dear one, do forgive me this night! If only I knew where you were, I should have gone to you, but I am bound up by my own excuses now, and cannot go to look for you... Meres may show a face of compassion but I know full well what lies beneath it, if I left now he should laugh and spread the word to all of my weakness.
        By the time my thoughts have returned to the room about me, the wine has been poured, and glasses passed. The tray is set on a low table within easy reach of us all, with Mark sitting in a more comfortable chair than the one at his desk, and Claude - oh I can never seem to find a word for his manner of sitting besides perching! Even when still, he seems to flit about so quickly, I do not know if it is his eyes or his passionate gesticulations. But the boy comes to rest on a surprisingly plush footstool, remaining ever near Mark, really bringing nothing more clearly to my mind than a moth to a flame.
        The wine is passable, nothing to take especial note of but far better than I had expected. Light conversation begins, about the food and the wine, and drifting to other things of no consequence. Gradually, however, Meres shifts it to causes of more interest, and manages to make his question entirely casual and unobtrusive:
        "So, Mark, darling, I ought to have asked far sooner, but whatever is it that had you so engaged in study when I entered? I hardly dared distract you from it more than I had already done, so I did not inquire but allowed you to continue, you looked so very lost in it all."
        "Ah, well, I am afraid it is a bit of a personal indulgence, though of course all things eventually lead back to His service, you know."
        It is all I can do to not burst into laughter at this absolute naïveté. Oh what a consummate scholar! So perfectly out of touch with what living life and its pleasures will do to the soul. We simply must ensure he does not discover the depths of his error for quite some time, this is far too entertaining to listen to.
        "I do not know if you are familiar with it, but in the book of Genesis, just before the story of the Flood, there is a brief line regarding some scarcely-mentioned Biblical figures. It is said: "That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose." Following that, there is a reference to giants being in existence in those times and in times which followed, "when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown." "
        I swallow hard and steel my body, feeling my heart pick up its pace. I do not dare to look at Meres. This... this was what little we allowed to remain in their knowledge, and so few have ever noticed the vague reference that it has been... oh I do not know how long, but so long! So long since we heard those words, and heard another speak of our true heritage. I fight my body's will, struggling to keep the shake from my hand as I take another long draft of wine. I will the alcohol to slip into my bloodstream, urging it to dull my senses, to make light of all things...
        "There are other references to giants, of course, but they are referred to by different names in the Hebrew, and appear to be merely different ethnicities encountered by the Israelites in their travels. The word used here, in this first reference, is nephilim, translating as "sons of God", or, more literally, "sons of the powers"... oh but I must be boring you, to go on so!"
        "No, no," Meres answers, his reply coming quickly, his voice remarkably calm, but I can hear the strain he feels in making it thus. "No, do go on... I am quite intrigued."
        "Well, I was struck terribly by the strangeness of such an idea, certainly it was never covered in any of my lectures at school, or, indeed, any sermon I had ever heard. To think, that angels fell from Heaven to lie with human women! Given the placement of this mention, it seems quite probable that this was the very reason for the Flood itself, to rid the world of these unwanted half-breeds, along with the other evils prevalant at the time. Of course this entire thing may be a mere construct, to allow for some deviance into the vast pantheologies of all the cultures surrounding them - a loophole to let the early Jews fit in a little better with their neighbors, if you will, explaining the existance of semi-divine things in the world. All the same, I was intrigued, and began to research, and eventually began looking outside of the accepted canon of Scripture."
        Claude, who had been silent up until now, suddenly cuts in. "You hadn't told me that! Is that really allowed, then?"
        Mark chuckles softly. "It depends upon who you ask. Really, there are some books within the canon itself that are quite controversial - the libraries of the past, while attempting to be comprehensive, did not always do the work we do toward verifying the authenticity of their collections. And so there are many things which seem, upon closer examination, to be mere derivations of other works, or use as sources other books which are now lost to us... really, the whole field of manuscript authentication is quite a maze, I have had all I could do to find what I needed without becoming overwhelmed by it!"
        "So where do you find these sorts of books? Does the seminary really keep such things in its library?"
        I have to smile a bit at this - we hardly need step in at all, to get the information we desire. Still, this conversation is work enough, merely to survive it! To hear such strained references to a story we know so very, very well, and not fill in the glaring holes... to hear of those women we first thought we loved, those who seduced us and those who praised us, those whom we clung to, terrified... oh such strange things happened in those times! All was confusion, we were intrigued and thought we knew precisely what we did, but we knew nothing of time and mortality and the physical form... and then all was washed away, by the torrents of God's curse upon us and our children, our children whom we never knew...
        "It does, yes, for research purposes of course. Hardly the original manuscripts, those are found only in the largest libraries. But there have been translations of most, and copies made of all, that study might be done. Although, one of the books I have found especially enlightening, I have found is still considered canon in Ethiopia!"
        Claude laughs lightly. "So the dark continent is yet dark, after all!"
        Mark smiles, but shakes his head. "How can we know? Perhaps they were the more intelligent, for having held onto such a book all these years, while it was elsewhere lost. Our own church fathers thought it gone for good, until fairly recently. The book of Jude makes reference to it, so it is not as though it were entirely shunned by our traditions."
        I sneak a glance at Meres, and see him nod, his eyes dark and intense, a thousand thoughts steaming through them. I do not know what book it is of which he speaks, but from Meres' expression, I would assume it is the one we desire.
        "And what book is this? I do not pretend any great knowledge of religious texts, but..." I am amazed he is able to keep his voice so calm, so smooth and refined, for it is clear his emotions are as knotted as my own.
        "It is called the Book of Enoch, though its true authorship is of course highly disputed. When it was written is also questioned, particularly as it makes some messianic references which many think place it after Christ's ministry. Still, such references were made in the book of Isaiah as well... oh but I have gone so far from my subject!" He laughs, shaking his head. "But you must understand, I have studied this for years, and rarely have a willing audience for my findings. You must stop me if I ramble too much for your patience."
        "No, dear, we are in no hurry this evening, and the wine makes even the most dry conversation comfortable. Do go on, you have such a pleasant speaking voice."
        I believe the man blushes, but it might well be a flush from the wine, which he is sipping scarcely less frequently than we. "This book of Enoch, it seems to be a compilation of several different sections, which may or may not have been written at the same time - there are all sorts of discrepancies, in names and positions and such, but really, there are discrepancies within the canon as well, the most obvious being among the lists of lineage."
        Ah, yet another bright spot in this man's theology - he focuses on the academic minutiae, reading over all with a critical eye. Really, we haven't a thing to worry about from him, he is so engrossed in learning that he will scarcely ever think of applying any of it to his life. He is in the field for its vast knowledge, not for love of the faith. I let his voice subside into gentle, caressing waves for a minute, letting my body relax, it grows tired of the stone-like tension brought on by the content of the man's words. I do wish Meres would do something to hurry him up, I should like the information soon, so that we may go and find what we need to find, and get this whole messy episode over with. It is terribly uncomfortable, and I do not wish to think of it any longer than I need.
        Still, I cannot leave, for... I do not know where to go. I am terrified of another lapse, I dare not go far from the support of one of my own. Sadie, do find me, I do not know where to find you...
        "...the book of the Watchers, really, is the one I have focused upon, along with the Dream Vision section. It tells of a group of angels who were instructed by God to watch over the human race in its infancy. The angels begin teaching mankind various things - it is not really clear if this was God's will or not - astronomy, weaponry, cosmetics, that sort of thing. They found women to be attractive, and lay with them, and had offspring which became the Nephilim. They did seem to realize this was a sin, for their leader bound the rest of them with him in an oath, that they would pay the price for the sin together, were they discovered. In the end, God banished them from Heaven for these sins, and it seems they came to Enoch to bid his intercession on their behalf. This in itself is an interesting concept, given that tradition shows angels to be in a station above that of man - yet apparently, this group was under the impression they could gain some special aid by enlisting one of them to their cause."
        "What was that, Meres?" Claude inquires curiously, leaning toward him. I look up, to see Meres seething with rage. Even I unconsciously move backward, keeping distance from him, for he is terrifying in his anger (as are we all, I suppose).
        The boy, however, does not quite have the intelligence to realize the depth of the fury flaming up into Meres' eyes. He moves his ottoman closer, and peers into Meres' face with the trace of a mischievous grin. "Whatever so bothers you about this idea? You look altogether offended!"
        "I am." His voice is a low growl, the words sublimated in ominous hatred.
        Mark, flustered, begins a confused apology, but Meres cuts him off. "Go on! Did I tell you to stop? Do continue, and keep the boy from so interrupting, or I shall cut his tongue out from his head."
        Even I am taken aback by this. Claude, thankfully, finally realizes the seriousness of the situation, and moves hastily back to Mark's side.
        Timidly, nervously, Mark resumes. "Well, I... where was I? Oh, yes. Well, in any event, Enoch's intercession is contained in a later part of the overall book, which repeats many ideas from the first part. There is a bit of uncertainty, though, on the fate of the fallen angels. On the one hand, God commands several of his archangels - Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, and Uriel; this book is quite wonderful at providing names to what are canonically nameless beings - to bind the fallen ones, the leader in particular, burying him under rocks, until he is cast into fire at the final judgment. Uriel is sent to warn Noah of the impending flood. Yet in the Dream Vision section, the judgment is applied more generally to the earth, and it almost seems as though the fallen might have been carried on the ark. In either case, given this source and others, it looks as though the Nephilim may all have killed each other off, been hunted out by the Israelites, or merely died from lack of nutrition - it seems their immense height put a bit of a strain on the resources for survival, and they consumed all that was available, in the end resorting to cannibalism, for God's sake! Really, it is almost a tale for the tabloids - I suppose that is why I find it so engaging!" he finishes with a slightly-embarrassed laugh, glancing anxiously at Meres. "But, there, I have tired you enough, I must have worn your nerves terribly. Is there anything I may get you, Meres?"
        Meres has buried his face in his hands, his hair hanging low before his bowed head. He sighs deeply, taking a slow breath. With everyone's attention thus diverted, I take a moment to compose myself as well, breathing slowly and taking another long sip of wine. I do feel a touch of its sweet numbness settling into my limbs - a thing I am most grateful for. I dab the corner of one eye with my kerchief, and drink a little more wine. It was not an easy tale to hear, corrupted and vague though it was...
        "More wine, please," he sighs softly, his voice faint and exhausted. Mark obligingly refills his glass, and offers him the plate of pastries, but Meres waves it away, taking only the glass. He drinks half of it in one long draft, then takes another slow breath. Finally his gaze returns upward, and meets Mark's. "That book, darling," he continues, his voice so soft it is a silken caress, a lover's light touch, the whisper of a child, the murmur of a courtesan. "Do you have it here?"
        "I do, yes, I have it on loan from the seminary."
        "Would you lend it to me, dear?"
        He takes a slow breath, and shakes his head apologetically. "I am afraid not, the library is quite strict in their policies. It took some doing for me to be able to borrow it beyond the seminary grounds alone, and I must return it quite soon."
        "Darling..." he croons in a low voice, leaning forward and placing a gentle hand on the man's knee. The seduction in his voice is powerful, so smooth and rich, and I can feel the electricity in his gaze and in his touch even at a distance. (Or perhaps it is only the wine, and the recent amplifications of memory...) "Darling, you must know I can be trusted with it. Would I so betray your confidence in me? I am not one of the vulgar masses, or even one of the blind to whom you tirelessly preach. I know the importance of this volume, I shall of course treat it with great care. I should only like to peruse it myself, for I am intrigued by the story you tell."
        "I'm very sorry to disappoint you, but I really can't..."
posted by Melissa at 9:51 PM | Permalink | 0 comments