When Darkness Falls Part 2

 

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Please read Part One here.

 

The silver chain inside me is painful, nearly unbearable. With each step I feel it rub, shredding the walls of my vagina. I had envisioned it to be no worse than a tampon or a diaphragm, but this?  It is thick, akin a chain link fence or a bicycle’s lock.  Yet I’ll need its weight, the rough grid of it, to bring him down.

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I plan to wrap it around his neck, tie it in a knot if need be.  Under such duress the great and powerful Eric will certainly do my bidding.  I have not spent a lifetime studying vampirism only to be turned down but the illustrious Mr. Northman!

Finally darkness falls and the moon appears in the sky, a waxing crescent.  I drive my car to Merlot’s. First stop on the adventure. Here I will pick up my friend Lucy. Lucy, although she does not realize it, is going to be my secret weapon.

Getting past the strong-arm bouncers at Fangtasia will be no problem; this I know because they are human. They apparently get a kick out of working for Eric and Pam, hanging out in that atmosphere of death and ripe blood.  Oh, but they are cowards compared to me!  For all their brawn and bravado they would never imagine crossing the line, asking Pam or Eric to actually turn them permanently.  They do not intimidate me in the least. Best of all they will have no inkling of the silver I hide inside myself.

But also there is Pam. Bothersome little bitch. Nothing gets past her.

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She could be a problem. I have, of course thought of a solution.

My friend Lucy is beautiful. More like cat-walk gorgeous. Long legs, silky red hair and cheekbones to die for.  When Lucy enters a room, she turns the heads of men and women alike. And Pam?  Queen of the lesbian vampires?  She’ll never be able to resist Lucy.

Lucy, of course, thinks this whole thing is a game. I have offered to pay her one hundred dollars to seduce Pam. It won’t even be difficult. All Lucy has to do is walk into Fangtasia, toss back her hair, catch Pam’s eye and it will be as good as done. With Pam thus engaged I will smuggle in my silver chain and approach Eric. I will then make my offer.  It is, as I have become most fond of calling it, ‘An offer he can’t refuse.’  A brilliant scheme. My own cleverness surprises me.

With delighted anticipation I drive to Merlot’s.  Lucy waits for me in the parking lot. Ever the fashion icon, she is dressed in black hose, stiletto heels and a filigree blouse, breasts pouting through the lace and gauze.   I nod approval as she tumbles into the car. “Easiest hundred bucks I’ll ever make,” she quips.

 

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If only she knew. When we leave I will not be driving her home as a human being, but as a true creature of the night.  We pull up to Fangtasia. “OK Luce,” I say. “Just remember, Pam must be NOWHERE near the door when I enter.”

“Will do!” Lucy nods and gives me a mock salute. “This will be fun.”

“You have thirty minutes. That should be plenty of time.”

“In thirty minutes I’ll have Pamela whisked away to the Isle of Lesbos.” Lucy winks. She loves every minute of this.  She walks away from the car swinging her purse and strutting her heels.

Impatiently I watch the hands of my dashboard clock. Ten minutes. Twenty Minutes. The silver chain scrapes inside of me. I can’t wait to get it out.  Finally the clock reads 10:30 pm and I open the car door. I wince as I walk to the entrance, chain snagging at the tender skin of my vagina. Damned thing!  I plaster a look of stoicism to my face. Never let them see you sweat. 

Smoothly I flow past the bouncers. One frisks me, big meaty hands against my rib cage and ass. Another peeks inside my purse. “Clean,” he mutters, and I pass through.  Once inside, I glance around the club. Goth kids stand in groups, whispering like secretive birds, mascara streaming across their eyes, faces powdered pale.

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A band called Night Prowl plays on the stage, the lead singer clearly a wanna-be Lestat. He is dressed in French cuffs with a lion’s mane of blond hair that hangs to his waist. Girls jump and gawk at the front of the stage, nearly fainting before him.

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 In the middle of all this chaos, Eric Northman sits upon his throne. (Yes a throne. That ought to give you an idea of his arrogance.)  He looks at me, slightly annoyed but also amused. “What brings you back?” he asks. “I thought I deemed you unfit!  Don’t take that personally, of course. I am just not in the habit of turning mortals into vampires without good reason.”

Oh the stubbornness of him!  But still.  I gaze into his glacier blue eyes and imagine what it will be like to spend eternity with him. I long for his darkness, his  eclipse   of my own humanity.  I must have him! That is final.

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“I have given up on the idea of being turned, Eric,” I answer flippantly.

Folklore claims that one can never lie to a vampire, but I have practiced this routine time and time again in my mirror. I am able to actually slow my own heartbeat, lower my own blood pressure, and convincingly lie through my teeth to anyone.  I return him the same cool serene look he gives me.

“Then what brings you here?” he asks. “The band? You are partial to Lestat Lioncourt?  Or perhaps you require a shot of V.”

“I am no junkie, Eric Northman,” I say, pressing my face close to his. “I come bearing good news. Tidings of great joy.  Something you may be quite interested in.”

“I am seldom interested in the dull affairs of humans.” He smiles, one side of his mouth dimpled in sarcasm. He looks at me as if I were a lost dog.

“This is not news of a human affair!” I peer at him, narrowing my eyes.  “I was just at Merlot’s. The local vampire council had a meeting there. I heard rumors. It seems  you are being considered for a promotion. That is — if you play your cards right — you may be moved from Area 5 Sheriff to President of Louisiana. The position right under the Grand Vampire King himself. What do you think of that?”

Eric arches an eyebrow, now fully interested.  I KNEW this would get him.  Eric Northman may be able to resist my feminine charms, even my blood itself, but one thing he CANNOT resist is a chance at acquiring more power.

“Would you like to hear more?” I tease.

He rises from his throne. He leads me to the same underground chamber where we had been the night before. Ah, but little does he know. This time the result will be much different.

As we walk down the corridor I feel the chain move,  now near to my uterus.  Somehow, Eric has not yet figured this out. I have the silver buried deep, and mixed with the secretions of my body fluids he cannot smell the poisonous metal. Not yet. But Eric is clever, with a thousand years of vampire sensitivity under his belt.  It will only be a matter of minutes before he detects it. I must act fast!

Secluded in the basement chamber I bolt the door. I reach to my crotchless panties and in one millisecond I pull out the chain. It stings, but like a quickly pulled bandage, I ignore the pain.  Then, while he is still gawking at me I wrap it like a lasso around his neck. His eyes bulge in  terror.

“Sneaky fucking bitch,” he hisses.

“Now will you do it? Turn me into one of your kind! I command you.”

He lowers his head. The silver has already begun to make a mark in his skin. It has weakened him and he is now powerless under my grasp. He sinks to the ground, long legs splayed yoga style on the concrete floor.

“Will you do it?” I persist.

“You have no idea what you ask,” he says. His voice is dust.

“Oh but I do! I have done my research Eric. Immortality is my goal, no matter what the price.”

He glares at me, a blood tear falling from his eye. “You ask for a living hell. You ask to be a predator, a killing machine with no choice but to prowl night after night with an endless hunger that will only be satisfied by another’s death. And for us there IS no death, only the disgraced wasteland we leave behind. You think this is some game, some lark, some —  fashion statement?” He spits the words. “Do you realize I have been upon this earth for twelve hundred years? This earth!  And it gets no better. An endless barrage of human stupidity. Wars and fighting and sex and bloodlust. All to no end, all for what?  I am only an observer. An observer of  hell, who night after night is forced to feed on the likes of you.”

 

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I watch the blood tears  trickle down his cheeks. My throat clenches and I fear I too may cry. But no. I will not show him my sorrow, will not show any emotion. I tighten the grip of my chain. Large welts have now begun to form on his back and shoulders. “Remove it!” he groans. “Please remove it.”

“Give me your word!” I shout.  “Say you will turn me! Say it!”

(I also happen to know that once a vampire has given his word to transform a human, he cannot take it back.  This is a little known fact that only those privy to the grand teachings of Vlad Dracul would be aware of. As I said, I have spent a lifetime studying this stuff, and with good reason.)

He looks at me in astonishment. “How do you know that?”

“You think you are the only one who reads Vlad’s Sacred Book of Secrets? Come on now Eric. Just about anything is available on the internet these days.”

He scoffs in anger. I force him to lie on the floor. He stretches beneath me, his six foot four inch frame cowering like a beaten animal. “Say it!” I scream.

He says nothing but only nods with a sigh of resignation. That is fine. I do not need the words, only the action!   I know he is too weak to puncture my jugular, so I reach for a razor blade in my purse.  I slash my own neck and bend into him. Finally!  I will now enter eternal life, bound forever to this  glorious Scandinavian god.

Just then the door bursts open with a flash of white light so powerful it knocks me to the ground. Near blinded, I squint through the blur. This is not sunlight, of course it is not!  But what?  A rich silver glow, such as could only come from the stars or the moon. In the platinum mist I see her. The outline of her hair, Merlot’s waitress uniform, her fingertips radiating the light.

Sookie Stackhouse? Sookie Fucking Stackhouse?  The fairy girl. What is SHE doing here?

“I read your thoughts a mile away,” she says coolly. “Hell, I even read Lucy’s thoughts at Merlot’s two hours ago. But I didn’t think you’d have the guts to go through with it. No one has ever defeated Eric Northman.”

I feel nauseous, still half blinded by the fairy light. I squirm on the floor. Sookie kneels and removes the chain from Eric’s neck. Lamely, I reach to stop her but the silver light holds me back.

Within seconds Eric’s welts disappear. He is restored to his former strength. Standing, he towers over me, extends a hand to help me to my feet. “I think you’d better go now Mina,” he says. Oddly, his voice is patient, not unkind. This is the very first time he has ever called me by my name. Mina.

Oh, he is KILLING me. The wheels of my brain churn. It cannot be finished, it cannot be over!

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Sookie  then nods in agreement. “You’d better go,” she repeats. She waves her fingers and I know if I do not leave I am in for another dose of her fairy light.

 

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Dammit! After all my meticulous research, only to be defeated by that mind reading fairy? Ha. That is what they think.  I will go now, but Mr. Northman has not seen the last of me. Reluctantly, I plod upstairs. I walk toward the exit door. In one dim cobwebbed corner I see Lucy and Pam, shamelessly groping one another, back buttons of Lucy’s shirt undone.

“Hey Luce!” I shout. “If you want a ride home you’d better step to it.”

But no. Lucy looks at me, her eyes half lidded. I see the trickle of blood where Pam has taken a gouge from her neck. Lucy parts her lips in a smile.

Then I see them. Lucy gapes her mouth wider. They glint in the darkness, white as pearl and sharp as my own razor blade. Proudly, Lucy displays her brand new set of fangs.

 

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Juliet at Lammas Eve

 

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My name is Juliet and I was born to the House of Capulet in fair Verona where my story begins.  My birth was on Lammas eve in the night, or so says my wet Nurse, and she ought to  know, having suckled me from her own teats, changed my dirt rags and weaned me with wormwood before my second name day.

The good Master Shakespeare would have you believe I stabbed myself to death for love, unable to live without the lad Romeo after he had foolishly swallowed a measure of poison. Suicide?  Me?  Well now.  If that were true I would not live to spin this tale, would I?

Come closer.  Sit by my side and I will tell you what really happened.

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It was my wet Nurse that cared for me most, for in those days aristocratic women were lack to give attention to their children, save for our wedding prospects and the marriage mules we eventually became. My true mother, the Lady Capulet, had none of me.

“Juliet,” my Nurse told me. “You were born under the star of Leo, on the thirty first day of July, the eve of Lammas or Lughnasadh as I call it.   Because of this your heart will be overwhelmed with love, for Leo the lion knows no boundaries.”

This was my blessing and also my curse.   For better or worse my affections were boundless. Deep as the sea. The more love I gave the more I had for me.  This is the one truth I have always known: love is infinite.

And so it was I fell madly and deeply in love with young Romeo of House Montague.

I had been raised as an aristocrat and it was understood that I be wed before my sixteenth name day. There was a fine man that bid my hand, name of Count Paris. A good enough match this would have been, but when I saw the young Romeo at my father’s masque I was completely smitten. It was as if Cupid’s very arrow had struck my back, never to be released.

 

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Romeo and his cousins had attended my father’s ball in false pretense, for everyone knew a Montague had no business delving in the affairs of Capulet!  Our families were arch enemies. Our feud, however, was so ancient none could remember whence it started, nor what it was even about.  And so when I fell in love with young Montague I could see no reason why we should not be wed.

Romeo had his surname and I had mine.  Montague and Capulet. What of it?  What’s in a name?  A rose, were it called by any other name — say ‘lily’ or ‘weed’ or even ‘shit’ —  would still, of its very essence, smell as sweet.   There was nothing to a name, and none could convince me otherwise!

It was the good Friar Laurence, a well meaning (but somewhat vacant headed) man of the cloth who agreed to wed us in secret. We had a proper ceremony in a proper church, with only my Nurse as a witness.

 

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Alas, after our wedding the real troubles began.

Street brawling was forbidden in Verona. Yet a fray could easily start with a malicious word, a wayward glance, even a biting of the thumb!   Anything at all could bring out the temper in  dramatic  rival foes such as our families were.  So often I had begged the men not carry blades in the street!  But  what was I? A mere female, a fluffy thing of ornament. My requests were dismissed, quickly as the sun sinks a horizon or the wind whistles a breeze.  Yet all who lived would regret this!

 

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It was my cousin Tybalt who acted first, slaying Romeo’s friend Mercutio,  who fell to the ground shouting “Worm’s meat! They have made worm’s meat of me!”    With his quick temper Romeo then chased Tybalt, pursuing him to the top of a cobbled road, finally stabbing him straight in the heart.  Tybalt was instantly dead.  Our Prince Escalus, keeper of the peace, was enraged.  Escalus then banished Romeo from Verona, the act of murder  unforgivable.

The benevolent Friar Laurence and my Nurse, in their mercy, arranged that Romeo and I could spend one night together in my chamber before his banishment. For that I have always been grateful.  My maidenhead was hitherto untouched and our act was one of purity.  Lust unfolded, slowly and delicately, flesh touching beneath those bed sheets.

With much grief I let him go as the sun rose and the morning lark sang.  If it were not for the strict orders of Escalus, I would never have released my dear Romeo from the passion of our bed chamber.

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My father, in his sadness and panic (and knowing nothing of my marriage to Romeo)  then insisted  I marry the Count Paris immediately. With Tybalt slain I was now the sole heir of Capulet blood, and my father wanted I bear children in haste.  Naturally I refused.  “If you’ll not marry the Count Paris,” my father bellowed, “you shall go to a nunnery! Or live in the streets. Die, starve, I care not what happens to you!”

All of this, mind you, occurred before my fourteenth name day at Lammas eve.

Friar Laurence then came to my aid. Or so he thought. His plan was a silly one at best. Listen close, for this twist in the tale will surely cause you amusement: The Friar bid I take a potion that would make me appear dead!  He said I would lie comatose, without breath for three days.  My family, thinking me no longer quick, would bury me above ground in Capulet’s tomb. After those three days, the potion would wear off and I would rise again,  like Christ himself.  During this time, Romeo would be informed of all and he would ride back to Verona to claim me.

When my Nurse heard this preposterous idea, she would have none. “A fake death?” she scoffed.  “The Friar!  Though he fancies himself a worker of dark arts, he is naught but an amateur.  Juliet my child, you will leave this to me,” she said, her cool eyes deep in thought. “I have a much better plan, one that will serve us well.”

 

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My Nurse then told me of the doppelganger.  This being a double spirit that takes on human countenance.  The doppelganger would look like myself, act as myself, seem in every way to indeed BE myself.  But I, the real Juliet, would be elsewhere.

It was my Nurse who gave me the true potion, a noxious mixture of tansy, vervain and mugwort, with frog sperm and another secret ingredient she refused to reveal.  Upon drinking the potion I could feel my body split, like two halves of a walnut shell.  Then, standing  before me was my double Juliet, a picture of myself in every way; the same hair, the same wide eyes, the same birthmark upon my shoulder. Myself but NOT myself!  Had I not seen this with my own eyes I’d not have believed it.

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The doppelganger was obedient. She could  do only as she was told, for that was part of the Nurse’s spell.  This worked out well, for my father adored the docile new Juliet who would adhere to his will.  This Juliet could easily forget the Romeo she had never known, swallow the Friar’s death potion without a blink, even be buried alive in Capulet’s tomb.

As for the real me, I was sick. Devastated.  I wanted my Romeo back and I knew not the outcome of all this.

“Your situation here is hopeless,” the Nurse told me. She peered in a stone of crystal and continued.  “The Friar has sent a messenger to Romeo in Mantua but I assure you, he will not arrive in time.” The Nurse put down the crystal and grabbed my hands. “Juliet, hear me! Your Romeo will never get this message. He will die of grief , and at his own hand.  Yet you can still save yourself!  We will journey to Venice.”

The Nurse’s prophecy came true. Romeo was told only of my so-called death. So distraught was he that he purchased a poison from an unscrupulous apothecary in Mantua.  He then rushed back to Verona. Upon seeing the doppelganger in Capulet’s tomb and thinking it was me, he hastened to imbibe the poison, and so, killing himself.

It was the doppelganger who awakened and, seeing Romeo dead, in turn stabbed herself with his sword.  Her purpose, I must admit, served well; it brought an end to the feud between Capulet and Montague.  Our parents agreed to have us buried side by side, forever ending the silly war that had caused so much grief to all.

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As for myself, I stayed on in Venice with my Nurse. She taught me all her tricks of prophecy and potion. Together we created a thriving business.  Oh! The price men would  pay for a doppelganger, one that allowed them to be in two places at one time! The price men would pay for a prophecy, as we scryed our crystals, predicting the future with accuracy.  Soon my Nurse and I acquired a fortune much bigger than all of Capulet and Montague put together.

My one night with Romeo had left me with child. A boy whom my Nurse delivered, though I suckled him myself, changed his dirt rags and vowed never to partake in the cold ways of  my mother, Lady Capulet. My boy grew strong, and I vowed also to teach him of prophecy and potion, just as my Nurse had taught me.

 

Through all of this I still missed Romeo terribly. Then on one rare, rainy day  as we not often had in Venice, there appeared at my door a stranger dressed in  a hooded cloak and robes.

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I thought at first it was the Friar, come to beg my forgiveness. But no. The stranger moved closer and whispered in my ear, “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?” There was no light on this gray day, but I’d know the voice anywhere. With haste I removed his hood.

“It is the east,” I answered boldly. “And Romeo is the sun!” With that I fell into his arms. My own dear Romeo! But how so?

Unbeknownst to me, the good Nurse had given Romeo a doppelganger of his own!  It was that who drank the poison from Mantua, that who now lie in the coffin with my double.  When enough time had passed so none be suspicious my Nurse arranged this reunion.

I was shocked in joy and ecstasy.  I could not be angry with my Nurse, for her plan had worked only to my benefit.  My love, as ever, was boundless as the sea.  The more I gave of it, the more I had for me.

Ah Master Shakespeare!  If only he’d known the truth. Then mayhap he could have written a tale worth reading!  For you see, I was never the star-crossed lover who took her own life. Oh no.  I am Juliet, with Romeo and our son by my side, with potions and prophecies, my great Venetian mansion and enough gold to last  a lifetime!  I am  Juliet —  who in time and with experience became known as none other than the true Merchant of Venice.

 

Romeo and Juliet

 

 

 

Tripping the Green Fairy

 

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To the audience who watched us upon the stage we must have appeared carefree, smiles of red wax plastered to our faces, legs high in can-can kicks. We moved in synchronicity like mechanical scissors while the orchestra led a bombastic dance.  The men clapped and cheered, often losing their oculars as we stretched our thighs. exposing loins beneath fish netted garters.  Our breasts jiggled like soft melons. The Moulin Rouge was a playground. But not for me. Oh no!  I was no better than a trained pony, a paid concubine who did all but the prurient deed itself in my tiered skirt and high heels.

Monsieur Toulouse attended the cabaret nightly, perched at his table side stage, top hat askew.  He was, apparently, a very important person for he received not only the best seat in the house, but the best of service. It was later that I found out he had been commissioned to design a series of posters.  He sketched constantly, ever bent over his charcoals and parchment, stopping only to sip his absinthe which was brought to him in jar sized glasses with regular replenishing.  Monsieur Toulouse carried a cane and — strange as this may sound —  he sipped from the cane as well.  Later I was to discover he had hollowed  out the middle and filled it with absinthe also, so as to never be without the beverage.

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Monsieur Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec ingested liquor as if it were the very air he breathed. Yet for some inexplicable reason he never appeared intoxicated.

As for his commissioned posters, he took no interest in them. It was portraiture that  he considered his true art.  And so it was one rainy evening that Monsieur Toulouse approached me on Montmartre and asked if I would  consider posing for him.  I  did not like the idea. Toulouse was a spooky, peculiar little character. It disturbed me to even speak to him.  I refused but he persisted, approaching me every night until finally out of sheer exhaustion I agreed.

I followed him to his chambers which  served as an art studio.  Large water color drawings and half finished canvases filled the room, which reeked of oil and turpentine.

Toulouse asked me to disrobe. This was not offensive to me as I knew he often painted nudes. Can-can dancing had made me free with my body and I had no qualms nor embarrassment as I removed my garments.

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Toulouse, however insisted that I must have something to calm me and offered his liquor.  This was ridiculous and I told him so. “Brigitte!  Mon cher!  I insist,” he said, handing me a flute of green absinthe.  It looked so pretty, shining with an odd, preternatural glow. I  became quite mesmerized with the sight of it and I could not refuse.  Upon the first sip it was so delicious that I quickly finished it off.

After drinking the liquor I immediately felt lightheaded and dizzy. Silently I cursed myself for accepting this peculiar man’s peculiar hospitality. I knew well the dealings of his sort!  He was known to frequent the street girls , dirty and syphilis ridden. I was much better than that, certainly! If he planned on procuring any service from me, he’d pay for it,  and he’d pay handsomely,whether he drugged me or not.

It was then that the dizziness subsided and there appeared in the room an entity. She was female with green skin that glittered like the dewdrops at dawn and chartreuse hair that sprouted from her head in tendrils. “Coletta!” Toulouse greeted her, as if this were the most ordinary of circumstances.

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I’d have thought this was a hallucination, but I pinched myself to make sure I was awake, then realized if I’d had the wherewithal to pinch myself, how inebriated could I be?   The woman he called Coletta pulled  a vile from her pocket. She shook it, unscrewed the top and poured to her hand what appeared to be glittering grains of sand. She sprinkled them upon me. My eyes and head burned in fever. The room appeared blurry but I saw Toulouse throw away his cane. He commenced to dance with the green woman, both of them waltzing around the room as some orchestra played through the open windows.  They then tumbled to the bed, pawing one another and laughing the laugh of the insane. The ringing of their voices was the last thing I heard. The two immersed in bed sheets like white waves of an ocean was the last thing I remembered seeing.

When I awoke I was on the stage of the Moulin Rouge. I snapped myself alert, for I was now dancing the can-can in line with the others!  My skirts were green. I kicked my legs higher than I remembered ever kicking them. I looked for Monsieur Toulouse  but he was not seated at his usual table.

During my break I asked the manager what had become of Toulouse. “Monsieur Henri?”  He arched his eyebrow as though I had uttered some obscenity. “Why, he passed away last week!  You stood graveside at his very funeral!  Brigitte, are you quite well?” He looked at me, narrowing his eyes as though I were some strange creature. “You do not look  like yourself.”  He advised I take the rest of the night off. That, of course, was ridiculous!  I had never felt better in my life and I told him so!

Later that night, my body craved absinthe and I ordered a carafe from the Maitre d’.  Upon drinking it I felt my legs go weak and rubbery. The skin on my hand turned a shade of  dark emerald, the exact color of the liquid.  My hair sprouted in tendrils that fell down my back. It was then I heard the voice of Coletta. “My duties here at Moulin Rouge  are done Brigitte,” she said. “You will now carry on and you will be quite good at it.”

I was confused. “But what are my duties?” I asked.  Coletta smiled. “Only to assist our good clientele in the tripping of the green fairy,” she answered. “You are adaptable. You shall soon master this talent.”  She curtsied and then vanished into a stream of green glitter.

Coletta was right. I adapted well to my new duties which sometimes involved life and sometimes involved death.  I never danced the can-can again.  I never felt more carefree.

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This post was inspired by the Daily Prompt Carefree

 

 

Feast of Stephen

 

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For seven years of my life, I was privileged to serve as a page to his Majesty, the Good King  Wenceslas of Bohemia. This was a great honor to me, for I was from  a modest family, orphaned at a young age, and it was the King  who took me in, treating me practically as his ward.  A fine page I was and I served my master well, so much so that I became his favorite. I was privy to the King’s every secret and whim and I daresay I came to know him better than his own advisers.

The story I am about to tell may come as somewhat of a shock to you. It may in fact seem unbelievable. I assure you it happened,  for I would never tell a lie, and sure as my hand is my hand and my bone is my bone, this story is true.

It was the Year of our Lord 946, on the 26th day of December, the Feast of Saint Stephen. As was the custom for every saint’s feast day, a great repast was served in the King’s hall. The cooks prepared every carnage known to the kingdom; succulent ducks, hogs heads, blackbird pie, mutton and  hens. Great barrels of mead and momsey were served, as well as desserts of apple cakes and plum puddings.

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There was grand entertainment, jugglers and dancers and acrobats that walked like crabs, hands extended over their heads and bodies arched. Fiddlers and drummers and choirs chimed in magnificent orchestration.  The King was quite pleased with this entertainment, but the evening grew late. The King excused himself, and just as he was retiring to his quarters he looked outside the window. Here was something  most  disturbing.

A peasant in tattered clothes with no cloak to warm him scavenged outside in the forest for spare wood. The man rummaged and shivered , filling up his tiny cart, then hobbling away, for he had no horse to pull it.  The King  peered through  window and then tilted his head and let out a long sigh. I quickly jumped to his side, for quite fond was I of the King, and being his favorite I was able to approach him about his every sadness.

“Sire, something troubles you?” I asked.

King Wenceslas nodded. He gestured toward the peasant. He then looked upon me, suddenly serious, a depth of sorrow in his eyes.

“Ah, my dear boy,” he said. “It is with much grief I view yonder peasant. Did you see the  man? Scantily clothed, gathering meager wood from the barren trees. From whence comes he? Where lives he?  Knowest you?’

Sadly, I told the King I was well aware of the poor peasant’s dwelling. Leagues away from the castle the man scraped out his living in a hovel that was little better than a cave.  I was lack to reveal more of the bleak story,  but Wenceslas urged me.  The peasant’s wife and child had recently taken ill from malnutrition.  The scant amount of wood the peasant stole would barely last them the night.

Upon hearing this, the King hung his head. “Their Feast of Stephen was meager I take it,” he murmured.

“Sire,” I said, “Their Feast of Stephen was none!”

The King shuffled his feet, something he was fond of doing when thinking of solutions. He scratched his head and looked back out the window where snow swirled like a vast tornado.  The peasant was long gone.  The King then glanced back to the dining hall where the servants were cleaning up the leftovers.  Suddenly he pivoted on his heel, smiled broadly and grabbed me by the shoulders.  “But of course!” he bellowed, eyes bulging. “Boy,  go to the servants! Tell them to pack baskets of meat and mead, breads and cakes of all kinds!  Kindling wood and candles and blankets and raiment. Tonight that peasant shall dine in splendor.”

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The servants packed up several baskets. My first thought was to get the carriage driver to transport the goods, but the King bid me no. “I shall deliver them in person my dear lad,” he said. “And you shall go with me.”

The King was known to sometimes get odd notions in his head. When this happened, there was no stopping him until his ideas were completely carried out.

The night was bitterly cold, with snow packing the castle walls, so deep  I could barely tread upon it without my legs becoming enveloped. Yet the King insisted we walk, for he longed to visit the peasant in person, goods in hand, making a grand and bold entrance.

We left the palace and headed out into the bleak night. The wind whipped at my back. On and on we walked. The night grew darker still, the moon obscured by  thick drifting clouds. A numbing cold set to my toes. I breathed heavily, teetering my bundles. The King also carried bundles, but I was just a small boy, my legs short and spindly. Finally I knew I could go no further.

“Sire,” I panted. “I fear my heart will fail if I continue.”  My numb hands dropped my bundles in the snow  and I clutched my side. My ribs ached.

“Ah, my dear lad.” The King knelt beside me. “Be not troubled. I have just the solution! Now hear me. You see that my boots make large footprints in the snow, yes? I want you to tread behind me, follow in those footprints. You will find that you are soon warmed and invigorated.”

I knew it would do no good.  My master had surely lost his sanity. The night was now black as pitch. Snow swirled like icy diamonds and I feared a blizzard was  heading our way.  Yet the King casually set back on his path, blithe as if it were a summer’s day. I followed, doing as Wenceslas asked, only because it was my job to amuse him.

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If I had not seen it with my own eyes, felt it in my own flesh, I would not have believed it. The instant I stepped in the King’s footsteps, all chill left my body!  I was invigorated with a health and vitality such as I had never known. Merrily I followed Wenceslas. Once or twice he called behind to me, “How fare thee my lad?”  “Ever so happily Sire,” I sang back, for it was true.

When we reached the peasant’s hovel we found him with his wife and child, shivering in the darkness.  Quickly the King lit wax candles and commenced to lay the feast upon the table. The peasant’s eyes popped. He dropped to his knees, squinting through the candle light, lack to believe that this  generous stranger was actually the King.

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When the meal was finished Wenceslas made a promise; none in his kingdom would ever suffer hunger and cold again.

It was an extravagant promise, but the King made good on it. His great stores of treasure and gold were traded in exchange for new housing, timber wood and farmland so that all in the kingdom were given the chance to thrive.  Wenceslas then had a great dining hall built on the same land where the peasant’s hovel had once been. Ever after that, on the Feast of Stephen, all in the village, peasant and courtiers alike, dined in that great hall. Indeed, no one in Wenceslas’ kingdom ever went hungry again.

I frequently asked the King how it came that my feet had been so warmed and my heart so invigorated in his footsteps that night. It was still a puzzle to me.  The King only smiled, patted my head and said, “The snow and wind and I – we have an understanding.”

 

 

This post is in response to the Daily Prompt  Feast

 

 

Glass Slippers

 

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By day I swept the floor, cooked their meals, washed their trenchers.  By night I slept in the hearth cinders.  I was no better than a slave, an indentured servant, bound by my stepmother’s rules and the whims of her spoiled, guffawing daughters.

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When the Prince’s ball was announced, my stepsisters were giddy with glee.  He was the Prince of their dreams. They wished only to wed him and from this lot of attendees he would pick an eligible maid.  Silly women!  As for me, I wanted no part of it.   A marriage to the Prince?  Such a thing would be little more than a step up in my indentured servitude. I could just imagine it.  “Yes your Highness.  No Your Highness.  Good morrow Your Highness. What bid thee, Your Highness?”  Bound to the Prince just as I was now to my stepmother.  Oh no.  I’d have none!  But what I DID have was an escape plan…

On the evening of the ball my stepsisters fussed and preened. I brushed their gowns, tied their bows, even pinched their cheeks to add color to their pasty, sallow faces.  “Cinderella,” they said, “You are to remain here. Do not wait up for us. Surely we will be late. That is IF we return at all!”  With that they cackled loud laughs like crowing roosters. My stepsisters planned to seduce the Prince and stay in the palace the entire night, scandals be damned.

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They will tell you a fairy godmother appeared to me, offered me a fine gown and made a carriage from a pumpkin. That is rubbish.  The truth is, I weaved my own gown, from discarded lace and damask thrown away by the Queen’s dressmakers.  (You’d be surprised how much the Palace let go to waste.) I needed no carriage, for my feet were good enough to carry me to the ball.

But it is true I had a godmother of sorts.  Old Nelly  lived in the wood.  She eked out her living by blowing glass figurines.  Such beautiful sculptures they were! Fit for the King’s Court. The palace knew well of her work, but Old Nelly lived in squalor, never adequately paid for her creations.

 

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It was at Nelly’s  hovel that I weaved my  ball gown till it was finally complete, rich blue, the color of sapphire with a taffeta train, fine enough for any castle.  I now needed decent shoes. I had only my tattered wooden patterns, worn from trudging to market, soiled with soot.  If my plans were executed correctly, I’d have far to walk that night.

Old Nelly blew her glass into a fine pair of slippers, a perfect fit to my rugged feet, which were, by the way, not small.  I was no delicate thing; my chores had made me strong and sturdy.  My slippers too were strong , made of unbreakable glass,  with hard cleats, fit for any journey.  Nelly then braided my hair and rubbed my skin with her own perfumed creams.  “This,” she said, “will help a good deal.” I smiled, for I knew Nelly was wont to put a bit of magic in all her creations.

When I entered the ball, I was myself, but not myself. I looked like some otherworldly creature.

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The Prince was well taken with my beauty.   It took no effort to catch his eye and engage him in a sparkling conversation, which he quite enjoyed, for the Prince was not used to women of my bold manner.

A servant girl such as myself is no stranger to the world of men.  I had lain with many, and proud I was of my skill. The Prince was no virgin either, and eager he was to partake of my gifts.   Together, we rolled in lust upon the satin sheets of his palace bed. Oddly,  no one at the ball seemed to notice his absence. When it was finished the clock struck midnight. The Prince was so exhausted he could no longer entertain his guests.  How sweetly he slept, so innocently.  I even felt a bit guilty when I took the pouch of gold from his chamber. Ah, but no matter!  My services were worth it.   Besides, he would not miss it. That gold, although it meant the world to me, was a mere tuppence to him!

I left the Prince sleeping  and vanished away in the night.  My glass slippers carried me like the wings of Mercury, cool on my feet.

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I walked all the night and still felt no fatigue.  When daylight broke a coach approached along the cobblestone road.   The driver pulled back the reigns and studied me. His eyes popped at  my blue glass slippers, for who else in the kingdom wore such a thing?  “Your Majesty,” he called to the Prince inside the carriage. “I believe we have found your woman.”

The Prince offered me marriage but I refused.  What I accepted instead was his eternal friendship.  That and more gold. Which I would use as seed money for my new glass factory!

Old Nelly and I created a line of fashionable glass slippers, available in every color, custom-made to fit to every foot.  We sold them at cut rates to the women of the village, peasants and gentry alike, so all  could own a piece of that beauty.   When the women wore our glass slippers, wonderful things happened, for each shoe was imbued with a bit of Nelly’s magic.  Most of all, with each pair came knowledge; no women should ever sell herself short of her skills, talents and ambitions, whatever they may be. My stepsisters even bought a few pairs, though they complained they never got another servant as good as myself.

The Prince?  As my business prospered I paid him back tenfold!  Besides that, he and I had an eternal friendship that was mutually beneficial to us both.

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This story is in response to the Daily Prompt Glass

Forbidden

 

EVE temptation

“Don’t you dare eat the fruit of that tree,” my husband Adam commanded me. “It is forbidden.”  Oh, but the apples looked so delicious!  Scarlet and gold, so ripe they practically fell off the branches. My mouth watered at the very sight of them.

Before then I had known only one way of life.  Speak when spoken to.  Answer to my husband, attend  his every need and (worst of all!)  listen with feigned amusement to his dull jokes and long winded stories.  I had no ideas, no discourse, no opinions of my own. My husband insisted  this must be so, for I — lowly creature that I was —  had been created from a rib.  A rib!  Bone-cold and useless, pulled from Adam’s very belly.  I had no sensibilities, no sensitivities, no reasoning powers of my own.

“Eve,” Adam told me, “your brain is pulp.” He picked an apple from the tree, sliced it in half with his carving knife. “Your mind is no better than these seeds.” He dug his fingers in the crevasses of the fruit, picked out the brown seeds, and, in disgust, flicked them like bugs off his fingers.  He then smashed the apple in the palm of his hand and flung it far across the garden where it fell among the droppings of my pet unicorns and pterodactyls. “Go to bed  now Eve,” he ordered me, finality in his voice.

But sleep would not come on a night such as this!  The black sky twinkled with stars and the moon shone bright as a silver jewel.  I wandered back to the orchard, grass wet against my bare feet.

They will tell you it was a snake that tempted me.  A snake!  Do you know any woman in her right mind who would get within a stone’s throw of a boa constrictor?

Oh no.  My tempter was a man, full fleshed and handsome, with a body rippled as the waves on the sea and a voice full of velvet and earth.

 

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He never promised me knowledge. He never actually promised me anything.  He only made one claim. “You, Eve,” he said, “shall be the mother of all humanity.”

He reached a long arm in the darkness and picked an apple from the tree.  With perfect white teeth  he bit into it,  twirling the fruit on his tongue.  I watched as he swallowed, the bulge in his throat bobbing.

 

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He licked his lips, brushed juice from his mouth with the back of his hand then studied me with wide lustful eyes.  Never, in the history of all the world, has there been a gesture so tempting.

“This apple,” he said, “is of no consequence.” He threw the bare core in the grass.  “What you need you have always had.”  He moved closer, his breath hot against my neck.   “It is hidden here,” he whispered, gently tapping his  fingers to my temples. “Inside your mind. Therein lies all wisdom,  all intuition, all femaleness. You are  powerful as the ever-changing  moon.” He pointed to the sky and the moon illuminated his face in the darkness. “But you must learn to trust your own thoughts,” he added.

Trust my own thoughts?  Such a thing had never been suggested to me!  Not by Adam, not by the other one, he who had claimed to be my father.

They will tell you I was banished from that garden. Oh no! Not I. The truth is  I left of my own volition, for how could I stay?  That very night I rounded up my unicorns, whistled for my pterodactyls. Hand in hand with the apple man I exited. My birds spun in a feathery stream, their chirping sweet as the pipes of Pan. My unicorns glided behind me in a white trail.

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The apple? I never bothered eating it.

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This story is in response to the Daily Prompt: Forbidden

A Beltane Tale (Part Two)

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** Please read Part One first 🙂  A Beltane Tale: Part One

After Beltane the days grow bright, the summer sun golden as shadows stretch long in the early evening. There is more time for chores and tedious tasks. Marion does as she has been taught in the Priory; washes laundry in the river, sheers the sheep, brings the cows back for milking from their lazy afternoons at pasture.

But Marion is changed and now she grows restless, She thinks often of the green-hooded man she met in the forest. Was he real or merely a dream? She wonders this only to herself, sharing the story with no one, for on Beltane all manner of illusions and trickery are like to happen.  And yet, there is the lock of hair she found beneath her pillow, along with the note etched in green cambric. Surely they must be his,  and surely he is real. Real as the flesh she has touched, real as his seed that spilled within her. She has taken that lock of hair and that swatch of green cambric and placed them in a locket that she wears beneath her kirtle, keeping them always close to her heart.

She knows only that she loves him. She longs to see him again.

The Prioress seems to read her mind. “What irks you, my child?” she asks one morning as they break the night’s fast. The matrons have brought fresh honey, cheese and pannam, but Marion can eat none of it. Instead, she stares at the Prioress. She longs to tell everything! But how could such a woman understand?

The Prioress  takes Marion’s hand and nods knowingly. “You traveled alone to the Greenwood on Beltane, did you not, my child?” Marion nods timidly. “And stood you in the ring of mushrooms as well?”  Marion nods again. She cannot lie to the Prioress.

“Ah well. You had been warned against THAT.” The Prioress cocks her head. “THAT is a thing which brings trouble and mischief.” The Prioress purses tight lips. Marion expects a reprimand, but instead the Prioress softens. “The Greenwood,” she sighs.  “I know it well. You are of an age, daughter, and such things of the flesh beckon you. I understand.” She clasps her hands together. “Although you may find it hard to believe. I too was once young.”  Marion blinks wide eyes. She feels her cheeks grow hot. She thinks of the touch of the man who called himself Robin.  How could the Prioress, so gentle and proper, in her stiffly starched robes, ever possibly understand?

“I was not always living in this nunnery.” The Prioress smiles. “I know something of desire, my girl.”

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She winks a sly wink and Marion is near come undone!  The Prioress has raised her since childhood. She is indeed the only mother Marion has ever known.  Yet to speak of this, to speak of these intimacies, it is more than shame!

“What keep you in the locket, child?” the Prioress asks. “The one you wear beneath your kirtle since the Beltane.”  Still embarrassed, Marion pulls out the locket, revealing the lock of Robin’s hair and the stitched note. “Well, it is settled then,” the Prioress says.  She runs her fingers over the cambric swatch. “You must go to the Greenwood and find him.”

Just then comes a knock at the door. Sister Jude-Thomas leaps to answer it. Behind the heavy oak lurks the Sheriff Nottingham.

“Reverend Mother.” He approaches and gives a bow of greeting to the Prioress. “Forgive me for disrupting your break of fast, but I have urgent news. I fear there is trouble in the village.”

“Trouble?” the Prioress asks coolly. She hides Marion’s locket in her lap.

“Aye, Madame,” the Sheriff continues. “It seems a band of hoodlums have been caught poaching game upon Lord Weatherly’s manor grounds. Two deer have gone missing and quiver of stray arrows found on the land. I seek only to warn you, Madame, and alert you of the danger, for this band of outlaws are most despicable. One wears a cloak of green. All are armed with bow and arrow.”

“Thank you Sheriff,” the Prioress answers. She gives him a tight lipped smile, one that suggests the visit has ended. Sister Jude-Thomas leads him to the door and he exits politely.

“Quick now, Marion,” the Prioress whispers. “You must go to the Greenwood.  He waits for you there.” Marion is taken aback. She almost refuses, but the Prioress presses the locket to her hand. Marion feels  Robin’s hair, thick and smooth on her fingers.  Yes, yes! She must go.

Marion runs through the forest, May grass soft against her slippered feet. In the bramble she spies him, a flash of green cloak, the hood that covers his face. “Robin!” she dares call his name and he turns. “My lady.” He smiles and runs toward her, pack of arrows jiggling on his back. She falls to his chest, his long, strong arms circling around her.

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Just then there is a rustle of leaves, the clap of horse hooves upon the dirt road. It is Constable Sloane, the Sheriff’s man, come to capture him!

“Robin, you must flee!” Marion whispers desperately in his ear. “They accuse you of poachery. They will lock you in a cell!”  He should fear for his life, but he only smiles flippantly. “The Sheriff’s men have no claim to me,” he says.  “But you, Marion…” He runs a finger across her cheek. “There is a possibility, my fair maid, that you may have many a claim upon me.”

The Constable Sloane then spies them in the thicket. He rides closer, halting his horse and pulling a sword from his sheath. “Outlaw!” he yells. “Outlaw and poacher! Make not a move or I’ll slice you in two!”  He points the blade to Robin’s neck. Marion’s heart beats fast as a rabbit’s, but Robin only smiles. He gently pushes Marion away. “Run now, run quickly,” he commands but she cannot move, her feet firmly on the earth. Oh no.  She will not leave his side, that she knows.

“Girl, move away from that villain!” the Constable shouts, but Marion does not budge.

“Lay down your arms, Sloane,” Robin says calmly. “Lest you injure this maid.”

“If she be one of yourn I’ll not lack to kill her too!” the Constable retorts.

“She is of the Priory,” Robin says.  “An innocent.” That should be of some status, surely. Yet the Constable keeps the blade firmly pointed under Robin’s chin.  Just then Will Scarlet and Alan of Dale emerge from the bushes, their brown garments blending like extensions of the trees.  In one swift move they aim arrows, surrounding the Constable.

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“Lay down your rapier, Sloane!” Will Scarlet commands, but instead the Constable pierces the blade closer to Robin’s neck, drawing a pinch of blood.  Marion winces, then throws herself in front of him. “Take me first!” she shrieks.  “Stand down, Marion!” Robin commands.  In that very moment Will Scarlet shoots his arrow. The Constable, struck, tumbles from his horse like a sack of lumpy flour.

“Quick now Marion!” Robin shouts. He grabs her hand and the two run through the forest till they come to the place where the mushrooms grow wild in a ring.

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Robin holds her close. The purple sky swirls around them like a fierce tornado. In minutes they fall through, down the hole of the earth to a soft landing, the place where on Beltane the fairy folk danced and played fiddles.  Even now Marion hears strains of their music in the distance.

“’Twas a narrow escape,” Robin says. “But Nottingham’s men, they’ve got nothing upon me. Not a stitch.” Marion looks into his eyes. Dark as kohl, they seem to swallow her as the earth itself has swallowed her. “Who are you?” she asks, her mouth dry as dust.

Robin only smiles, pulls her closer and runs splayed fingers through her hair.  He kisses her, his lips warm satin against her cheek.  It is as though the earth has stopped in its orbit and time itself stands still. He kisses her again, full and wet on the mouth. In that moment she forgets her question, forgets her very self and falls deep into his arms.

She knows only that she is loved and safe, here in the underworld with this man they call ‘outlaw’.

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A Beltane Tale (Part One)

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On Beltane eve Marion goes to bed early. She places sprigs of heather and mint  beneath her pillow. Her room in the priory is sparse, with a lone straw bed and one window where the beloved moon shines its silver light.  Marion, an orphan, has been raised here by the good Prioress. She has been well  cared for. But she longs for more, she longs to be free of the confines of the walls, the trap she never asked for.

If Marion wakes in this night surely it will be the fairies come to take her away to their underground home. Each year she prays for this; each year it does not happen.

On Beltane morning she rises at dawn. She goes with the other girls to the gardens  where they collect hawthorne and wild flowers. They weave  garlands to wear on their heads.   They return to the village where the men have built a maypole. Large and mighty, the pole towers, decorated with ribbons, every color of the rainbow. At noontide the matrons serve a great feast; mutton, spring greens, porridge and violet cakes.

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There is a legend that on Beltane the Green Man comes to the forest to claim his lover, the May Queen.  She is wife of the Winter King, and he is lack to give her up. But the Green Man persists and eventually wins the lady. The Winter King is defeated until Samhain when all things of summer will die.  The mummers in the town square reenact the story and Marion watches as the lovely May Queen is taken by the Green Man.  He sweeps her in his strong arms, her long hair cascading against his bare chest. Marion is jealous. When will such a love come for her? Surely now she is of age, having reached her eighteenth name day.  The Green Man and his lady then retire to the forest, for nuptials of their own.

There is dancing. The revelers braid strands of the maypole together and step to the music. Lass, lad. Lass, lad.   Even the Sheriff and the Friar and Prioress join in.   Great fires are lit as the sun sets low. Those brave of heart and long of leg dare jump over the Beltane fires. Not Marion, for she has been raised to be cautious.

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After the maypole dancing, when the embers of the fire grow low, many a couple traverse to the wood. There, they too will bless the land in their own way, making it fertile for the summer.  Although Marion has no man to claim as her own, she follows.   Alan of Dale and his girl Eleanor hide in the bushes, as do Will Scarlet and Lucy Sprint.  Marion knows what they do and she dares not look. Instead, alone she walks deeper into the forest, her flickering rushlight guiding her way. Orion’s constellation twinkles above her.  It is then she comes upon the ring of mushrooms.

Oh, she knows the legend well.  Were she to stand in the middle of that circle for long enough — so goes the tale — the fae folk will come for her.  And never will she see the mortal world again.  She has been warned, all her life she has been warned of this.  And yet, it is what she has longed for.  But is this tale true?

Marion stands, still as rock till the sky swirls purple around her. And then, like a fall down a well, a sweep of wind and soft landing, she is there, in the underworld.   They surround her, these peculiar people, bent of ear and wide of eye.  It is then Marion sees him, a man in green robes with a hood. He is handsome. Dark eyed  with thick hair that brushes his shoulders.  “Milady,” he bows, “I am called Robin, and your escort I shall be.”

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What follows is much merry making and drinking of elder flower wine.  The fairies play fiddles, music loud and jaunty. There is Dancing. Dancing in a circle, faster, much faster than ever at the maypole in the village.  And Robin. He takes Marion’s hand, spins her in a reel and she twirls beneath his arm.  Then he leads her away to a place of seclusion, a place in the meadow where the ground around is soft.  There, he removes her kirtle and skivvies  and she lies mother-naked before him.

He plays her body like a harp, plucking its strings and secret places, a thousand butterflies released as his seed spills inside her.  One time is not enough to satisfy either of them and they repeat the act, again and again until at last they fall to each other’s arms exhausted.

Oh, how she loves him! Truly and deeply. She loves him as she has loved  the moon and her dreams, for he is the forest itself. He is animal and outlaw, dangerous and forbidden. He is all of life and all she desires.

Finally the sky splinters pink daybreak and the sun peeks its gold rays.  She sleeps in Robin’s arms.

In the morning of May 2nd  she awakens in her priory bed. The sprigs of heather and mint still reside beneath her pillow. But there is more. A lone lock of hair, and a note stitched on a green cambric swatch. “To my May Queen ,” it reads. “From Robin, with love.”

She sighs.

It will be a long wait until the next Beltane.

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Want to read more Marion?  Continued here: A Beltane Tale: Part Two