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The waltz is languidly slow, and she moves in the circle of his arms like the sweep of the waves across the beach. Their bodies move in a perfect time, neither pulling nor pushing against the other. She wonders vaguely behind the dazzling ballroom's crushing impression on her brain, if the two of them would move this same way were they yards apart instead of merely inches. She imagines that the answer would be yes.

It is not her own Ballroom she dances in now, but somewhere else entirely; a sort of bridge between many worlds, where dreamers come to consort with others of their ilk, dancing nights away with joyous grace. The man who's arms hold her now is the same one whose bushes she once crouched in several years ago, yearning after his blinding brightness. His glow warms her now as the waltz slows, and he swings her into a slow turn and into a dip. For a heart pounding second their lips are but a thought's breadth apart, and she blinks up into his startled eyes. Fear.

The girl wakes, heart pounding from the nightmare. No, no nightmare, for these were events that truly transpired. The Glimmer's eyes had been lanced with fear, though she'd felt through him the urge she too had had, to close that infinitesimal distance in a kiss. He had backpedaled then, explaining awkwardly of his duties, of the Lady with whom he shared his realms. She had stood back quietly, safely outside his bewitching presence, and nodded and smiled in agreement with him to try to hide the hammering of her heart.

She pulls the covers around her, sliding deeper into her bed. One arm reaches out for the bell-pull by the headboard, but Eddie is at her bedside before her fingers touch the silken cord.
"Misssssstressssss?"
"Some cocoa Eddie, please. And put a little warmth into it."

The Shadow is gone from her bedside before she can blink, and she stares up at the moving lights of the City on her ceiling. Their twirling does nothing to soothe her, and with a sigh she pulls at the coverlet and gropes for her kimono, toes smarting at the chill of the floor beneath them. After a moment's thought, she heads towards the Presence Room, her footsteps quiet over the marble threshold. Torches burn on either side of the throne, and although the place looks somber in the half-light, there is a sense of warmth to it as well.

She kneels before the throne, hands clasped before her in the expectant silence.

"I refuse to dirty him." The words are broken when they come; a self-reassurance torn from the lips of one who despairs.

"The saints of the path he follows were hallowed for driving out the likes of me, centuries ago. I will not see him cast him down in the eyes of his fellows for my sake."

Her hands clench in her lap. "I will pull back. I don't know if you can hear me, but I could use a little help. I know that his god and my gods don't always get along, but..." She shakes her head miserably, then looks up at the empty throne.

"Please, please send solid distractions my way. I could use the help."

Changeling

Nov. 17th, 2005 12:03 am
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"Please, I've tried so hard to avoid this..."

Her words are lost in her folded arms on the linen of the dining table, and Desire stands over her in a spotless white tuxedo, proffering a handkerchief. There are black streaks under the girl's eyes, bisecting the purple that tells of sleepless nights and long days. Her gown's pink satin has faded and the silk crackles like the leaves of a neglected tropical plant, flaking away with every breath and every movement. Underneath the silk that scatters like the dust of moths' wings, a layer of black is barely visible, shining and glimmering vaguely as if it contained stars. In the adjacent Ballroom the skeletal dancers twirl and there is a faint discordant accompaniment from the dusty pipes of the calliope. Desire says nothing. She looks up, and the gown begins to shatter and peel away from her.

"I tried so hard to resist this. I don't want to fuck this up, and it's not what he wants. He doesn't feel that way. Hell, I don't think I feel that way. We're equally unfit for this... Please." She gestures in the direction of the balcony, to the breeze that carries the whiff of still-raw pine stumps. "Was that not enough?" She points at the calliope. "And that? I don't need, I don't want, I can't survive any more of this!"

She stands suddenly and the dusty remains of the gown peel and fall away like a chrysalis, but the rustling of all-black taffeta petticoats fill what little silence remains. The gown is black, but not without color, much the same way the carapace of an exotic beetle might contain flashes of the rainbow. The skirts rustle restively, and a froth of black lace encircles her shoulders as she paces. "She said you didn't want me injured, wanted me alive..." she mutters to herself "how is this supposed to help?"

Desire remains impassive, tucking the refused hanky away. "You know, I am as much a product of your vitality as a reason for it. As long as you are alive, you cannot escape Me. I would take that as a comfort, if I were you."

The girl shoots a look that could freeze gin in Desire's direction. A pair of black gloves have begun at her fingertips, and begin to spread up her fingers and over the back of her hands, the satin spilling up her pale flesh like ink spilling through water. She stares at the ballroom unhappily. "But no good could ever come of this! This is madness! I want to keep him as a friend, at least a friend!" The girl tugs at the edge of the satin as it spills over her elbow, then in frustration rips the damp fabric from her arms and throws it in a slightly twitching pile on the table. It gives a startled lurch, then lies still and begins to fade into nothingness. She turns her back on Desire, and strides to the balcony window, resting her head on the doorsill and folding her arms as the tears begin afresh. In front of her eyes the remains of the forest are like an open wound on her Domain. She shudders as Desire comes up behind her, a breath of a kiss laid against the back of her neck.

She puts fingers to her chest, and the tips come away stained with blood, old and black. She closes her eyes. "Yes. The three of swords. I always thought that the third blade in the heart was for me, but the Prophetess said that it was an old would, one that could now heal. Perhaps this is it." The girl turns to face Desire again. "But not all Healings come without their fair share of pain."

There is something amused and ironic written across Desire's face. "Embracing me does not mean accepting the path that you fear. There is choice in all things. Acknowledging your desire for him might even provide a bit of relief. To admit it is not to act upon it." Desire takes the girl's hands, ignoring the faint tracery of long netted-lace mitts that have appeared, and kissing one, pulls her to the ballroom.

"Come my pet. You have little choice in this one matter."

Black skirts and white tailcoat blur together in the twirl of the Dance.
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The girl perches on a ledge, high up in a room filled with flashing lights and gyrating, indistinct black shapes. Her normal attire is gone, replaced by black fatigue pants, knee high silver boots, and a black tank top under a long black coat that pools around her like an extended shadow. She sits, arms clasped around one knee drawn to her chest, and watches the dancers with an expression of disappointment and loss. As the dark thumping music crescendos, she shakes her head violently, and lights slowly fade up to reveal her Ballroom, just as it once was, the skeletal dancers peering puzzledly at each other as the strains of a waltz begin again. Clad again in rustling skirts and with eyes streaming, the girl jumps down from the end table and strides out of the Ballroom and to the Grand Stair, and the landing window overlooking the grounds to the rear of the Palace.

Outside, the green eyed one stands, idly juggling orbs filled with fire from hand to hand. He is completely oblivious to her, or her pain.

She makes a gesture, and swathes of heavy black velvet form on either side of the window, and at her command they creep closed, blocking her view of the man and his amusements. The tears come harder now, as she strides to the next window and the next, locking out the starlight and locking in the lights of her own Domain. Finally, she is at the back parlor and the last open door to the palace grounds. She steps outside, and beckons to the green eyed one, who waves merrily, but goes on juggling.

With a sob, she closes the last door.

Retreating to the library, she then piles up a number of books, names of people she knows or once knew emblazoned on each spine in gilt relief. Each one she thumbs through, then places in a crate, which Eddie carries downstairs after her, and places outside of the rear servant's entrance of the Palace.

Finally, she retreats to her apartments, but looking around sees no space to suit her purpose. It only takes a thought. Her footsteps float down the stairs to the cellar, and in the warm darkness near the furnace she finds her oubliette, most unlike those found in other castles and equipped with a thick woolen blanket, a tiny night lamp, and a soft cushioned floor. She curls up, still crying softly, and turns her face to the wall, shutting out the world.

Outside, the green eyed one suddenly notices that the lights from the Palace are all missing, and misses a beat in his juggling pattern. But that is all.
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The girl paces restlessly across the floor, skirts failing to rustle with the muggy heat of the room. The night outside sparkles and wavers with heat stored in cobbles and stone blocks during the hours of brightness and released grudgingly by the masonry in the dark hours. The girl knows this academically, but remembers that she has never seen the sun up over the City. A timber creaks beneath her foot and she winces, thinking that she should attend to the maintainance of her palace, but her thoughts travel onward without a care for the upkeep of her architecture. A niggling guilt remains behind though, which eats at her concentration and loops endlessly, dangerously towards chaos until she plunges her hands through a plate glass window, the glass melting and reforming itself to her will around her hands and torso. Her hands resting on the outer sill she takes deep, gulping breaths of the still stifling air, hoping to clear her head. But the City's lure of a thousand amusements only shatters her concentration further and it is only with the utmost care and by sheer force of will that she removes herself from the window and returns to her Ballroom. The skeletal dancers whirl on in the pressing heat and damp even as she dashes from the room.

Eddie finds her a few hours later perched upon a barrel in the vast catacombs of the Palace cellar, candle by her side, quill in one hand and her Book of Duties in the other. The air is cool and dank, dark and without the distracting sparkle of the burgeoning Summer to distract her here. She is scribbling furiously, letting no thing distract her save the redipping of her pen, and the shadow servant sees that there are but a half score of pages left in this volume of the Book. She is writing furiously, and doesn't look up when a tall glass of lemonade and a plate of gingersnaps appears by her side. It is as if she is waiting, the whole world is waiting, for that final page to be filled, for the Book to be closed and that penultimate volume finished.

She writes on into the night, a newly filched candelabra from the vast Dining Room by her side. They know to give her support, and not more worries in this last stretch of the Book.

Advice

Apr. 6th, 2005 11:34 pm
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The girl stands apart now from the dancers in her ballroom, watching the moon rise above the City from the window of the grand dining room of her palace. The green eyed man sits behind her at the table, playing idly with a single champagne flute left uncleared on the table. He is engrossed in thoughts of some sort which twist his face and beetle his brow, then make him mouth silent, empty words by turns. The girl watches him in the reflection in the glass, and despairs.

She turns to look at him, and he does not notice. She strides up to the table, and he does not cease his fiddling until her fingers are on the arm of his tuxedo jacket. Green eyes, startled, bore into hers. She sighs, inwardly shaking her head. He blinks, but says nothing.

"You have lived in my kingdom for a month now," she begins, but pauses.

"A month and more. Almost two. And yet you behave as a casual visitor. I see less and less of you, though I know you are around. You speak little to me, and littler still of me, and-" A sharp rapping at the window draws her attention, but she snaps it back nearly immediately...
To find the now empty chair in front of her, the champagne flute glistening in the light from the candelabras.
"-and you keep disappearing mid-conversation."

The girl sighs in frustration, and settles into a pile of rustling skirts at the head of her table, planting her head on two fists. She grits her teeth against the tears, but they are inexorable, and eventually she lets them fall, blotching the damask tablecloth and spreading dark trickles under her eyes. The candles splutter out, one by one, and the music from the adjacent ballroom fades to a slow, slow waltz, but still her tears come. Finally, a spindly arm unfolds slowly from beneath the tablecloth, extending a soft linen handkerchief.

"Missstresss..." The girl looks up, tearstains trickling away already like disappearing ink.
"Eddie? What is it?"
"Missstress, you have a vissssitor."

The girl takes the handkerchief and looks up, to find that there is indeed a dark shape inhabiting the chair next to her. He waits patiently, his shape indistinct in an uninvited Sending, and his pinpoint eyes revealing nothing.
"Lord Shaper," she starts, wiping her eyes, "Pray excuse me, I was not expecting..."
"You are... unhappy with him."
She is silent a moment. "I am not... unhappy with him. On the contrary, he makes me very happy sometimes."
"Sometimes."
She sighs, dredging up her frustration. "He is not... Not what I expected. He is here for a lark, a spree, and he's not here for any devotion to me."
The shadow remains silent, but there is perhaps a flicker of sympathy in those eternal pinpoint eyes.
"He is so... silent. I cannot talk to him, and he will not talk to me. I grow tired of chasing him 'round and 'round trying to ask for what I deserve for my hospitality, and then finding him other times in my bed, beseeching me with those eyes of his."
"His kind are not known for their mastry of speech."
"I have noticed. I was not informed of this at the outset." She grimaces slightly, her gaze turned inward.
"You did not ask."
She ponders this for a moment before replying "I did not. But now I ask your counsel, Lord Shaper, as he is a creature of your realm."
"I will not play messenger between you."
"That is hardly what I would ask for. Imagine, one of the Endless playing... No, no, not that at all." She pauses. "But I would ask how you think it is best I act, given the circumstances."
"You let him in on your own terms," there is a twinkle of humor now about the figure, "Perhaps you should exert your rights as both ruler of this domain and his Sponsor in it. I am quite certain he is enjoying his... vacation here."
The girl smiles softly, but the edges curl slightly into a relieved grin.

"Indeed, Lord Shaper. Your advice is most...astute."

The Gift

Feb. 13th, 2005 11:28 pm
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There is a bright corner of the City too, one populated with creatures of such blazing beauty and perfection that they sear the eyes of our young lady. It is in this corner of the City that we find her, crouching in stained skirts in a hedge. She is peering into a blazing window at couples inside who dance on, oblivious. Desire stands over her left shoulder, idly amused, if somewhat annoyed.

Inside, the dancers twirl in perfectly matched couples, bodies moving as one inside richly gliterring gowns and expensive tailcoats. These are creatures who have never known hunger, have never known poverty, never known what it was to want something unattainable. They are so young and strange to her, so used to the stiff creaking of the skinless dancers of her own ballroom. She watches them, fascinated, wincing all the while from the light and dazzle that stabs at her dark-accustomed eyes.

It is Desire who speaks first, impatient at the girl who crouches still in the bushes, content to watch the dancers through slitted eyes.

"You know you can't have him, my pet. You do know that."

It is not jealousy that motivates Desire's words of course, but contempt for time so wasted. Desire is never jealous, no, but often sadistic.

"You know he is not for you. He has an entire world inside that ballroom, built and sculpted just for him. And you aren't in it."

Stung, or possibly annoyed, the girl finally turns, the crinoline under her dishevelled skirts rustling restlessly.

"I know that. Will you be quiet? They might hear you."

Desire laughs, a loud, racous sound that fills the night and wraps around the girl like a seducer's arm.

"They can't hear me. You know that, my pet."

The girl turns back to the window, silent.

"And yet you still watch him. You gaze at him like he was a raft and you were drowning in a sea of blood. You watch every finger her puts on her and imagine it was you he was dancing with. You imagine that it was you he gazes at in the turns, you that brings that smile to his lips and that light to his eyes." Desire leans closer, crouching over the girl's shoulder so that the hair by her ear flutters with the next words. "You love him, don't you."

The girl jumps back, swatting at her ear as if stung. Desire takes on a smug aspect, arms folded. The girl's face holds first horror, then shame, guilt, and finally sadness. She looks back at the ballroom, and then down at her hands, eyes welling up with tears unshed. She stands, and pushes her way through the hedge. Desire follows.

Back at the Bal des Morts she sits on a sidechair, sighing. Her skirts are once more pristine, her arms unscathed by the hedge's thorns. A tear trails down her cheek as Desire sits beside her.

"I do not love him. I do not know how to love anymore."

From somewhere, Desire pulls a handkerchief and offers it for the girl's overflowing eyes.

"He is so perfect. He stands for everything I wanted in life, everything unattained. But I am not... I would be lost in his dazzle like stars are hidden by the moon. I mean... nothing to him, and I know it."

She looks up, angry now, and returns the handkerchief to Desire, who placidly folds it and tucks it away in some hidden pocket.

"That's why you're here, right? To break me of it? Well congratulations, you've done it. I know I never will be good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, rich enough, alive enough..." her voice catches "to ever..."

Desire shushes her with a single finger held close to her trembling lips. "But that doesn't change how you feel about him. You'll continue to beat your heart against the windowpane like a canary against the bars, until it drops dead from the effort. That's why he sent me. You're no good to him if you become a permanent resident of our somber sister's realm."

Desire gestures, and suddenly a line of handsomely tuxedoed gentlemen appear, standing at attention with hands clasped behind their backs. They are all different of hair, eye and skin color, of varying heights and builds, but somehow alike, as handpainted porcelain miniatures are all strikingly different but still alike.

"I was sent, my pet, to try and bring you comfort. The Lord Shaper sends you a present in your time of confusion."

Desire stands, walks to the nearest man and passes a hand through his shoulder and torso. The girl starts as the man walks forward, picks up her hand in his all-too-real one, and kisses it.

"They are but dreams, but even dreams have substance. You have but to say which..." Desire waggles both eyebrows lasciviously "...or how many of them you wish, and they are yours. No strings attached."

The girl gulps, eyes fastened to the smiling man still bent over her hand.

"I think... Yes, I think... Thank you. This should help."

Homecoming

Jan. 20th, 2005 07:39 pm
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In a dim alcove to one side of the ballroom stands a lone, androgynous figure in a handsomely tailored tuxedo. The heavy Rococo mirror over the side table reflects the achingly perfect features in cracked silvered glass and gilt swirls. Desire plays idly, caressingly, with the long white tail of an arctic fox.

"I am standing in your damned ballroom, and I am holding your sigil, my pet. Show yourself before I lose my patience."

The mirror ripples, slightly, fogs, slightly, and reveals a pair of glaring brown eyes half hidden behind a dark curtain of soaking wet hair. The girl crouches, naked and shaking in an underground nook or den somewhere, fists balled defiantly despite their coating of mud and mold. She says nothing, only glares at the beautiful form gazing placidly at her from the other side of the mirror.

"You thought you could hide from me. How... quaint a notion."

The girl says nothing, but sniffs, tossing strands of wet hair back to frame her face.

"You know, it really was quite an invigorating chase. Your kind would be proud of you. It was quite the hunt. You know the fox never wins though, don't you?"

A low growl emanates from the mirror, but the girl remains speechless.

"I knew where you were hiding all along, you know. Every time he saw you in his dreams, every time he thought of you while he was supposed to be doing something else, I was there. Well he's gone now. And still you thought you could hide in him, you thought you could keep me out!"

Long white fingers tighten convulsively on the fox tail, and throw it to the yellow waxed floor. The mirror ripples as Desire thrusts both arms into it, reaching wildly for the girl who now writhes in her corner as if in agony. With the Endless strength, Desire grasps her, pulling her slowly, painfully, through the mirror. In seconds, there is a panting heap of petticoats and pink and cream colored skirts on the ballroom floor, a stunned, and now perfectly primped and coifed girl looking out dazedly from the center of them.

A small, sardonic smile quirks at the corner of Desire's mouth as the girl struggles awkwardly to her feet. Desire bows, extending a gloved hand in invitation. The girl blushes shamefacedly, but accepts.

"You and I, my pet, have been apart too long. We need to make up for lost time."
arsenicwaltz: (Default)
There is a ballroom that resides somewhere inside my mind. The walls are a pale and languid yellow, lit by candles and the occasional gaslight. The floors are honey colored, shining with beeswax and reflecting the gilt of the ceiling ornament. On this floor, masked dancers twirl in layers of skirts and petticoats, starched white shirt fronts and gold cufflinks, and nary a scrap of skin among them. The yellow light shines upon green fabric and white bone, red rouge applied to polished ivory cheekbones. This is the Ballroom of the Beautiful Death, where things wonderful and morbid keep themselves when I choose not to let them out. And now, gentle readers, you have an invitation to gaze upon the wonders, and the horrors, contained within my seething brain. Beware, and enjoy.

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