By Jeff Franzmann
A silver disc in the velvet sky, pinpoints of light
flickering above the fields and snow capped hills, all sounds absorbed,
contained, by the night. Against the backdrop of the sky, barren trees, naked
and sullen, shrouded in the moon's radiance, and a great mansion in the vale,
known to many, visited by all too few.
Alone she sits by the great window, candlelight spilling out
over the snow draped pine and willow which stand just beyond the ivy coated
walls. Tapers burn low, pale shadows dancing against the walls. She stares at
them, seeing in those dark, shifting forms the promise of a thousand dreams.
Within there is hanged man, a swan in the middle of a lily coated pond, a flock
of starlings. To so many others it is simply shadows against a wall.
The door opens, though she senses a new presence more than
she hears the sound of footfalls against the soft carpeting. The candles drift
and flicker as the air is disturbed, several wink out, tendrils of smoke
wrapping themselves about her body. She would not think of turning, even as the
presence comes in behind her, breath warm against her neck, for as quickly as
it arrives, it is gone, as tangible and as real as a memory.
As ever, the query is unanswered, although she knows there
is no need to ask. In another time and place, he had given his promise, and his
gift, and from that moment on what had taken place was forever. The man may
have been mortal, his flesh weak, but his passions were eternal. Love never
She shook her head, smiling. In all the years since his
death, she had been visited on this night, and though the course of her life
flowed on, she made it a point to return here that same night every year, no
matter what efforts it might entail. She knew he would understand if she could
not make it, one cannot dwell on the past. It was something she wanted to do.
She closed her eyes, and drifted back in time
The Magistrate of Blacksand was known far and wide for the
elaborate efforts with which his soirees were put together. The great mansion
which dominated the hill looking over the city was illuminated by hundreds of
wrought iron lanterns suspended upon poles, each casting a small pool of
radiance about them, until the pools were absorbed into each other, a pale and
ghostly illumination which only added to the majesty of the mansion. Guests
were brought to the great filigreed gates by horse drawn carriage, silent
coachmen in black greatcoats and top hats bringing them gold embossed
invitations to the event, offering their services in lisping voices from behind
the thick black scarves which obscured their features. And the guests would
invariably dress in their finest. Silk corsets, lace cuffs, finery without
compare in the most decadent court was everywhere.
When he first arrived, few were aware of who he was, only
that he, like they, was an invited guest of the Magistrate, and therefore
worthy of respect. His black shoes were polished, silver buckles standing out
without being overwhelming. The tails of his black waistcoat came down almost
to his knees, the silver trim emphasizing the simple yet stunning manufacture.
A black vest with silver buttons, a white silk shirt beneath, completed his
attire. His hair, swept back to reveal a widow's peak, tied with silver cord,
was striking in its simplicity. While many attempted to court favor with the
ladies with elaborate powdered wigs or even natural curls, he kept it simple.
His features, harsh and defined, seemed delicate in the weak light offered by
the lanterns about the grounds of the mansion. It was his eyes that caught
attention, emerald pools, filled with knowledge, with sorrow, and something
else that no one was quite able to place.
She had looked into his eyes at that moment, and realized
then that there was something different about him. Though many eyes were upon
her this evening, few rose past the silver cording which lined the top of her
black velvet corset. His eyes passed over her, almost ignoring her, although in
that brief glance a thousand different possibilities seemed to cross over his
features. In the eyes of many, there was lust, desire, need. In his, something
She nodded politely to the young courtier who had held her
attention for most of the evening, a pleasant, if persistent youth in service
to the Magistrate's Guard. He blinked as she excused herself, and nodded
nervously as he stepped over to a group of his friends. He was not used to be
being brushed off in such a manner by women.
She slowly made her way over to where the newcomer was
standing, adjusting her hair, and the silver chain which fell from the
elaborate curls like a cascade. The flowing black skirt which she wore hindered
rapid movement, and at the same time accentuated her form, something which drew
even more attention in her direction. She brushed the hurried introductions and
advances aside, intrigued by this lonely stranger.
Past the lantern's pale light, and beneath the natural,
ghostly light of the moon, near the entrance to the gardens, he stood looking
at the stars. She stopped, unsure of how to approach.
"I look into the sky, milady, and see things I could only
dream of experiencing. It would be to my honor if one such as yourself were to
She stepped forward, hesitating briefly.
"It is a wondrous night indeed, though I fear we have yet to
He smiled, briefly, and nodded.
"I am Canticle, though if you desire, you may call me
"Strange, for names which you have taken to seem so
"A name is no different than the clothes one wears. It
suits, or it does not, and you may take as many as necessary, should they
She nodded, and began her own introduction, but he simply
put his finger to his lips.
"There is no need, milady, for I have known who you are for
a very long time."
"I beg your leave, but we have never been
He smiled, laughter in his eyes.
"There are times in this world, milady, when one does not
need to hear a name to know who one is. You need only know that I have loved
you from the moment I saw you
He turned from his contemplation of the stars, and made his
way to the gardens. She stood there, blinking, an astonished look upon her
features. After a few moments, she followed him into the gardens.
"Milord, you flatter me indeed, but you have no idea who I
Canticle stood before a shower of chrysanthemums, his
features outlined against the moon.
"You will find, milady, that there are many who will not
know who you are, and yet desire something from you. You have seen the looks
which men pass in your directions. They engage you in conversation, yet they
desire something else entirely. They hear your words, though they would prefer
you did not speak. And as the evening progresses, you will find that with
enough wine in their bellies, they will be far more forthcoming about their
true desires," he paused, leaning over to pick a black lily from a bed of
flowers. He handed it to her, "I have simply stated what it is that I have
felt, and have no desire to keep hidden. You know how it is that I feel, and
you may now act without wondering at my intentions."
She blinked once again, although a smile was on her
She opened her eyes, looking out from a darkened room. The
candles had burned themselves out, and the moon was slipping beneath the
horizon, the faint blue dawn fast approaching. She rose from the chair, and
made her way to the door. It would be another year before she would return, and
as she always did, she captured the moment in her mind's eye.
Love never dies.
Dedicated to Lady Shard
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