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"It was an apt name you gave her, you know."

The girl shuts the tiny wooden box with a loud snap and a gasp, whirling to see Desire's idle form draped over a nearby setee. If it unnerves her at all that the Endless can come and go so easily in her kingdom, she does a good job of hiding it, instead frowning softly to herself and turning back to the box. It is a small thing, lined in stormy blue velvet, a complicated celtic knot burnt into the lid. Inside sits a single, elf-made laurel leaf, so real in its seeming that one might never know it for an artisans work, except that it is made completely of silver.

Unimpeded by her silence, Desire continues. "You know what the myths said about elves, don't you? That mortals who dared taste the Summerlands could never return, else they'd pine forevermore."

"I am... quite... aware of that, thank you" she grits out through clenched teeth. "I am also aware that that one taste was all I'm ever likely to get." She shuts the box again, softly this time, and turns to the door. Desire does not follow, but merely calls after her.

"You're not likely to shake me so easily. What, did your struggles with the Wolf's memory teach you nothing?"

Stung, she turns, eyes flashing. "He was not a wolf. And I can certainly try."

Purposeful steps take her to the Gallery, but her certainty wanes as she approaches a few lines sketched on the wall in place of the frames they represent. Touching their sigils, the ankh, the mask, she murmurs a Calling and stands back.

Death appears first; unsurprising given her ability to be anywhere and everywhere all at once. Dream's arrival is more leisurely, his image appearing as if a fog had seeped into the frame and then reluctantly taken the form of a tall man with wild hair and galaxies for eyes. She turns to Dream first.

"Lord Shaper, to you I give this dream. I fear I have ill-used it, but it has in return given me nothing but heartache. I understand that this is my sole responsibility, and my fault, and I beg your forgiveness for ever harboring it." She hands him the box, which he takes with a grave look. She turns to Death, looking solemnly out at her from her pane of the Gallery.

"Lady Ender, to you I give this struggle. I do not give it lightly, but I beg you take it, as your sister has taken my hope in the matter." The girl shoots a look to the next frame over, where the hooked ring glistens dully in the diffuse light of the long hallway. Death nods, but touches the shape of the box uneasily.

"You know that you've had terrible luck flouting Desire in the past. I hope you know what you're doing this time."

The girl ducks her head in acknowledgment. "Telute, it is the only thing I can do. I cannot stand any more of her half-rejections, no more of Despair's visits to my Realm."

Death nods, slowly. "I wish you peace, then."

As the Endless fade from view within their frames, she whispers her thanks.
arsenicwaltz: (Default)
The Grand Parlor of the Palace is a quiet space, crowded with the ephemera and rickety souvenirs of a thousand dusty memories. From the ornately swirling William Morris wallpaper, to the crystal fringes on the ornate cream and burgundy lampshades, to the claret velvet of the overstuffed horsehair couches, the Parlor exudes an air of quiet luxury and repose. Framed pictures hang from the picture-rail on ornately tasseled cords, small wing tables stand at attention at the ends of the furnishings, and a large curio cabinet filled with indistinctly glimmering objects stands next to the sea of shining bottles that is the sideboard. One wall is graced with an ornate fireplace, silvery marble nymphs supporting a matching mantlepiece bedecked with carved laurel wreathes. A pair of brass andirons in the shape of pair of dancing ponies hold a number of blazing logs before a fender of polished pierced brass. A large brushed sheepskin rug in a shocking shade of plum purple sits before the fire, and upon this we find our girl, her black skirts spread like a halo about her.

She lies quietly before the fire, staring into its depths, watching the interplay of blonde and red tongues of flame on the sturdy oak logs. A hazy presence forms in one of the tall, wingbacked chairs to her right, and she looks up quizzically to find a pair of pinpoint eyes upon her again.

"Welcome, Lord Shaper." The figure nods acknowledgment as the girl rolls over onto her back, staring contemplatively up at the ornate copper ceiling. There is a long pause, while she gathers her thoughts.

"Dancing with him is just as good as I remember. Better, perhaps. Or maybe I'm just better at it now than I was then." Her mouth quirks in a self-deprecating smile. "Yes, probably that." She takes a deep breath, wrapping pale arms around herself, the glimmering jet fringe of her bodice lost behind them.
"Knowing there is another that hunts him... That hurt me more than I can say. It is not," she sighs in frustration, "that I begrudge her the opportunity. Far be it from me to infringe on the hunting rights of any of my kind. But she is not... I have not... the respect for her that I perhaps once did. It would hurt me more than I can say if she caught him." She pauses again, fighting the lump in her throat.

"I have not hunted him but in my heart, because he told me several months ago that it wasn't what he was looking for. I've held myself back, chained my heart, done my best not to let it slip. But the heart is a wayward creature, and my regard for him as grown over the past several months until I cannot be in his presence without feeling it tremble. To know that I might have had a chance, had I but taken it, would be nearly unbearable."
The girl throws one arm across her eyes and lies still a moment, basking in the heat of the fire.

"It was good for me to tell the Letter about it. It was such a relief to have someone finally know all of what's been going on inside my head. I mean, he was there for most of it, so he had a better understanding of why it hurt so much. It was like piercing my heart, and letting it all drain out, and then salving it by spending some small time with him and the Lamb." She rolls up to a sitting position, clutching her knees tight to her chest and staring back into the fire, which has dimmed somewhat.

"I told another that to hunt the Flame outright would endanger our friendship, and ruin that perfect fantasy of him that I have cached away in my imagination. He said that it makes me a coward, that I'd rather have the friendship and the fantasy than to act on my feelings." She glances up at the hazy figure in the wingback chair. "But you of all beings would understand how a Dream can be so much more fulfilling than the reality. I would rather live in your world than to have to do without him in mine."

The girl looks down now, speaking to the flames, to her black satin dancing slippers, to nobody in particular. "I am resigned to it. Perhaps I can hold my heart in check until she catches him, and then perhaps... Perhaps this feeling will die."


Apr. 6th, 2005 11:34 pm
arsenicwaltz: (Default)
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."
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."
arsenicwaltz: (Default)
The girl stands on her balcony, overlooking the starlit and gaslit bustling of the City. In her hands a piece of parchment flutters, crisp and new, on the evening breeze. The inked terms of a contract line its surface and glisten slightly as if not quite dry yet. The girl smiles, thinking of the cost of zephyr ink these days, and begins carefully to fold the thick paper in thirds, and then in thirds again. The almost-square feels heavy in her palms, like a chunk of glass. She kisses the center of it, leaving a red impression that slowly twists before her eyes into the shape of a dancing fox, her seal and sigil. Her hands clasp around the document, and she bows her head, murmuring. When she opens them again, the paper bursts into flame, and burns merrily on the platter of her open palms for a few moments before guttering out. The folded ashen paper holds its shape in her hands, trembling slightly with her breath. Closing her eyes, she closes her hands again, crushing and grinding the ashes between them until they begin to trickle from between her fingers like fine black sand. When she opens her hands again, a tiny key, the length of the final joint of her little finger, nestles delicately among the ashes. She holds up her hands, letting the remaining ashes drift away across the City on the night air, then turns to the shadowy figure that has been watching her from the balcony door all this time.

"I will not claim him like property. That would defeat the purpose of the arrangement. No," she hesitates, deciding, "And I will not keep him past the time that he wishes to stay. Let it end where it will, of its own accord." The final words are tinged slightly with defiance, like a child resigned to punishment who will not give up her pride.

To her surprise, the figure only nods once, solemnly, and drifts into a mist that disappears as if it never was.

Inside, the green eyed man stands, barechested and with his face quietly downturned. She walks to him, the spreckles of ash on her skirts fading and winking out like stars at every step. She cups his cheek in one hand, and with her thumbs, dabs his eyelids, lips, and heart with the residue of ash from her palm. His eyes dart to hers, bewildered. "Speak," she says softly, "Speak and be heard, for you are a guest in my kingdom." His mouth gapes silently, but no words come. Quickly, the girl puts the tiny key upon his tongue and kisses him, hard. In surprise he swallows, and breaking the kiss, smiles softly back at her. The green of his eyes is drowning, and he is suddenly more solid, more present in her land, more real.

The girl closes her eyes, and whispers softly to him. "Yes, come and go as thou wilt. Leave when thou must, as thou will. Be neither servant nor slave in this kingdom, but lover, companion, and friend."


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