A Dirty Paperback

Recommended Posts

I sit at a vanity table whose contents I recognize but have never touched. There’s threads or hair like copper wire weaving through the bristles of a paddle brush, the ends of them resting against the ivory handle. Rosewater in a crystal decanter. Vanilla extract encased in amber, the phial no bigger than my thumb.

When I look into the reflection of the mirror, I see the expanse of the bed’s rolling hills. I can see the divot I had made lying in the valley they make. While I had rested there, hands that weren’t mine had reached for each other, the fingers woven together to create a cup over the rise of my hip.

I had seen the sunlight filter through the curtains, past the heavy drapes hanging from the canopy, reaching out in it’s envy to touch on the miracle of that gentle love and know true warmth.

How I have stolen into this sweetness, I will never know.

They’ve given me a new purpose. With it, a whetstone upon which I sharpen my blades. I’ve found few motivators that invigorate me more than possessive obsession. What kind of monster will I become, should they come under threat? I want to know. When I imagine the kind of violence that can be inspired by my devotion for them, my frustration rattles through me. The universe will provide me that opportunity soon enough, but the tedium of the wait has me restless. Amazing, how their love will give me power to become a horror like I’ve never known. What does that power feel like in its manifestation? It’s trapped in my veins, desperate for an outlet. I am aware of it’s undercurrent with every glance I steal over their prone bodies tucked under the sheets.

My two treasures. Amalyn, in her tranquility. Faelenor, whose troubled heart quiets with the serenity of sleep, to lax his face into a softness that I’ve never seen before. There will never be enough mornings to allow my eye’s exploration and find satiation in the study of his morning repose.

I imagine crawling across the length of the bed, rustling the blanket, and stealing a kiss of Amalyn’s mouth. She has her head rolled to the side on the plush down of her pillow, with her neck tempting me. The space between us now feels intolerable, but if I gave in to that milky softness of her, I’d be helpless to keep from claiming the rest. To push away the silk of her nightgown, to know what her shoulder tastes like after a night’s sleep. To hear her breathless exhale when she stirs under my attention. What other noises could I draw out of her, her voice rough with hours of disuse?

But I can’t, not yet. There’s still so much uncertainty between us. This requires patience. The reward that waits for me at the end of my effort keeps me tempered in my actions. For that, I find my fortitude to endure.

  • Like 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

They’ve responded to my request in a week’s time. The bumbling idiots that act as administration to the Seminary of the Sunflare will pay the price for ignoring my initial inquiries. They need to quickly learn the worth of their history if they intend to re-establish their house as a sanctum of learning, or else they’ll lose favor with their previous benefactors. They’ll heed the name Arath’dorei again, as they did for the Patriarch Bacrean. His granddaughter will know the same respect.


I’ll make do with the recruits they’ve sent me for now. Three acolytes whose names I’ve not bothered to learn stumbled off their horses to knock into themselves on the front lawn. They inspired little hope in me. Listening to their conversation as they ate in kitchen, however, proved worthwhile. With their seclusion assumed, I learned that one of the acolytes acted as senior to the others. He alone engaged in prayer before their meal. It evoked memories of the convent; of a time of belief as opposed to the more utilitarian philosophies that his younger counterparts practice.


Their consecration of the land had much the same effect as the efforts of the clerics they came to replace. I predict to regain that eighth of an acre in the time they spend with me, assuming they last the length of their contractual obligation.


The last of the missing vineyards. I’ll finally see a hoe taken to that despoiled earth in the hope that it will once again bear fruit. Years of painful reconstruction, of regaining ground with each channeled force of Light against the decay will produce a milestone set in weeks time. I see the revitalization of the Sunwell soaking into the rotten earth. I see progress.


But what of the future?


I’d started this reconstruction initially for the sake of myself and my unborn child as we had nowhere else to go. It’d been a project born of necessity, to assure the safety of myself and the life I carried. Now the initial driving force behind the venture is no longer relevant. This has become a matter of pride, to restore the fallen name of the Arath’dorei family to it’s former glory. Yet I am inescapably plagued with questions.


To whom do I bequeath the responsibility of the manor’s care in my inevitable passing? To my youngest daughter that I’ve raised from birth? To the son that I claim as mine, who certainly shares my blood but whose true mother died in a timeline apart? Or to the eldest, who flagrantly disrespects any notion of tradition in favor of fraternizing with the shorter-lived races? She’s never once shown interest in my values. Not that it matters much in the grand scheme; her lover will die long before either of us. There is opportunity to find her a more suitable partner before too late. My son's competency matched with his obvious attachment to his original mother makes him the most promising candidate. I'll take him on a tour of the grounds, divine if he has any interest.


None of this takes into account the complication of the Rayfeathers.


They make concerning proclamations. Amalyn’s optimism comes seemingly from blind faith, which I naturally distrust. It also inspires strongly felt sentiment within me. I’ve called it love, but in the distance I’ve taken with these overnight journeys to the Arath’dorei Estate, I’ve regained some of that clarity she steals from me by being in her presence. In those lucid moments, I’m forced to recognize that love and passion wear similar trappings. Infatuation is the fool’s gold of emotion. Only time can tell me if I’ve misjudged and even then the investment might lead us all to ruin.


Faelenor. I’m afraid that he wants the impossible. He entertains the idea of acting as an alchemist, to break apart the foundations of my being and to separate the pieces of myself that belong to Isendur.


When I met Isendur, transmutation occurred. He was the catalyst for a change within myself that stems from his teachings, forever altering who I am. Of the reagent that was the laughing, lonely priestess, there is nothing left. Only the product of his methodology and everything that I am. Part of the draw between Faelenor and myself is that darkness that Isendur cultivated within us, but which existed inside of us long before we met our teacher. By suggesting that we could be free of he denying a part of himself? And worse still is the lingering betrayal, the thought that perhaps there lies a critical difference between us which will fracture our tenuous relationship with each other.


If I was given the key to my freedom of all that is the Wolf, I’d find a means to destroy it.


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

The land mocks me.


From a young girl who wavered between the idleness of school and home, I was rootless. My parents had no grander plans for me, as they struggled to reclaim their glory and seek revenge over those who cursed our vineyard.


Now these hills take no roots, as if to mirror their holder. The unnecessary mockery of it stings my ego.


Much of my story has been told already, in these past entries. Their message echoes into my future, the tale referencing itself as it remains unfinished.


Isendur’s story might see it’s final chapter, at least. Something’s changed. When I dwell on the past, and thoughts of him, it is like glancing across the expanse of the ocean to seek out where my boat had once been moored only to find the horizon line of the sea. What had tethered me to his memory might not be unlike the motivations of a child clinging to their toy; he was once familiar and his cruelty distant enough in my memory that I felt comfort in using him as the foundations for the manner in which I lived my life.


But he is long gone, or dead.


I often blamed him for my inability to be happy. He molded what already existed inside of me into a weapon that I use to protect myself against the world. That I understand parts of myself so thoroughly is due to his teaching. He was more than a teacher, or the first to ignite the light of my maiden affections. He became a god, the center of my universe. Disillusioned by his absence, I’ve pierced the threshold of his claim to my mind to reach the other side, blinking into clarity like a fawn’s first gaze upon the mortal world, drifting aimless into the haze of my future without his ghost to guide me.


With great reluctance I recognize that the freedom I refused to seek on my own has found me, unlatched the chains without my notice, and coaxingly shoved me forward.


What of the Wolf’s legacy? He left two students,lacking in direction, lost, finding a false solace in one another. Faelenor and I have never been closer than we are now. I fear that, not unlike the shadow in which we dwell, we will constantly seek out each other, to feed one another until our self-cannibalism ends us.


And of Faelenor’s wife? She is beautiful, but worn. She doles out mercy, and it can be vast, but there are droughts. She is more complicated than I allowed her, which is my mistake. While she is a passionate woman, and can rally her strength just as all else seems hopeless, her quiet insecurities have slipped under my skin to fester.


Or is it my own uncertainty that I see in her? It is, after all, easier to pick apart someone else’s anxieties than to examine my own.


I try to forge a relationship with the elder children. Phyruss has an edge of rebellion to him that I find unbecoming in a young lord. He allows his childish anger to rule over him in times when decorum is required. I find myself disappointed to learn that the Sinlanna of his timeline neglected to teach him the power of a level head in times of great stress. His respect for me, during those moments when our opinions clash, takes on the quality of a play-act. His insolence against my decisions, my authority, grates on the little patience I can muster. He tests me and wastes the precious time of those who are generous enough to offer him advice and instruction. His discourtesy for others cripples his ability to learn. I wait for life to cut him at the knees, to humble him, so that he might be given the opportunity to mature.


The eldest girl, Dora, mirrors her brother at times. As of late, however, I prefer his vibrancy to her inaction. Where Dora was once energetic, she has become listless. She has made only a handful of excursions outside the manor property since she arrived at my doorstep nearly a full lunar cycle ago. She’s a ghost of the girl I have come to know, haunting the rows of withered grape vines in the way of a solid spectre, her black hair a shadow among the posts.


I would be more concerned if I wasn’t entirely sure that the girl will find her path, soon. She’s only wounded for now. Even as she struggles with herself, I can see the spark beginning to return to her eyes like that of her many mechanical creations which reside in the makeshift barn.


My own path is much less clear, riddled with the shattered fragments of my mistakes. In the path I see my many broken promises. It was foolish for anyone to believe in the word of a noble, for we are thieves of more than gold. We are thieves of prestige. We invite you into the trappings of our world, to dance the sophisticated turns of our wordplay, until we take what we deign to relieve from our prey before we release them with their reputation bloodied by the maw of our societal teeth.


But some bite back.


My first memory of Zakael Solsmite involved his flushed face as he dangled from a tree, caught in the trap laid out by an orc boy so young he’d not seen his first hunt. The next has my fingertips pressed into his breastbone, walking him backwards into an infirmary wall.


“You’re so very shy,” I told him. “Oh sweet boy, you don’t have to be afraid of me. Does a woman’s body inspire so much hesitation in you?”


"W-wll, n-no, or yes..I mean...I-I...."


He stammered, shrunken against the wall. Faintly, I heard the laughter of Aaren muffled by a blanket. Pythral’s giggle sounded closer, louder, and it fueled me further. I watched his eyes, wide and panicked, dart along the neckline of my tunic. I pulled him down until I felt the shell of his ear under my lips.


“If you’re a good boy, I might help you overcome those fears of yours.”


I turned my back on him then to take in the sight of Pythral’s lips curving around her tusks as she snorted another laugh. He ran from the room, his robes billowing behind him like a sail.


I worked alongside him as a potions specialist and shadowmender in the Frostridge base. He dropped bundles of bandages in my presence, knocked over carts of supplies, and made himself a nuisance underfoot, but at least he amused me.


Then, as is inevitable in the company of our kin, there was talk of the Fall. And me, as the only mentalist available, was forced to dive into the mind of Zakael who had gone silent, with symptoms of shock.


Some of us coped with our loss by finding purpose in the destruction. Some of us became Wretched, destitute creatures who are more monster than elf. Some of us became united, no longer Quel’dorei, but Sin’dorei with a kinship forged in blood. Some of us hid away, to lick our wounds in the quiet left after the storm. Most of them (who only became a ‘them’ after the blood spill, who had once been a part of ‘us’) died, without mercy.


Some of us went insane with our grief, like Zakael; who frothed at the mouth, struggling against bindings, whose mad eye pivoted between infinite walls to a stare safely secured behind a small, square peephole. The memory, his memory of the events directly after the Fall, collapsed under my stare like a mirage that I’d approached too closely. When I rose back to consciousness, I saw the sail of his departure billow at his back, this time a flag of surrender.


Our acquaintanceship loosened from its previous strain. With several tides of the moon’s shifting shape, Zakael changed. He offered his reasoning to me along with a steaming cup of tea; he found a half of himself that was missing, making him unbalanced and skittish. While I was away hunting rare specimens to cure Aaren of her ailment, he had braved his fear of the Shadow, and made himself whole. When we met again, he had sought me out for advice. He had a child well on the way, and his relationship with the mother creaked with the strain of two youth who misunderstood love and loneliness.


I counseled him, to the best of my ability. The eventuality of our shared time together had taught me more about the young man, my student.


His youth placed him in the path of a traveling caravan. The Fall’s aftermath saw him locked away in a cell, with him deemed magically unstable. A human deacon, whose name I’ve carved into a throwing knife that I keep on my boot sheath, taught him to fear the Shadow. I learned of his patience. I learned of his intolerance for the mistreatment of others. That he was strong, and his strength became mine when I broke that accursed staff that held my captivation during the events of investigating the Quorum.


I ignored his youthful affection for me, much the same as Isendur to mine.


I wouldn’t touch my student. The madness of my obsession with Naheal shed itself from my mind with an aching slowness, leaving me raw and unwilling to allow another so close again so quickly.


I learned of my student’s persistence. His presence became wind, to wear me down.


Then I took a space in his bed. His eyes professed love. I stayed silent, smiling, and let him believe what he liked of my affection.


There were moments, when he jerked my chin in his hand, forcing me to meet his stare, where I was nearly convinced that he could provide more than a crutch to lean against while I recovered myself. That, maybe, this is what I needed afterall. Perhaps I was afraid of what he offered. In my mind, I never saw a future where I could be happy.


I am not one built for happiness, I lie to myself.


The lie holds fast against everything that the past fortnight forced me to experience. When I saw Zakael again, we’d not yet spoken of my arrangement with the Rayfeathers. I’d been angry, insulted by a scheming little shadow priest and his shadow minion. I was looking for a fight.


When Zakael asked after my ‘toys’, I knew I had found it.


I asked him if he thought my little birds were lovely.


"Shame they must settle for a flea-bitten alley cat who startles at the first sign of trouble and flees with her tail between her legs."


That day, I had no patience left for words, not when the seduction of violence was so strong in my blood. I threw the brunt of my shadowmagic as a whip towards his frame; he screamed into my mind. He used the remnants of the connection we had once forged between each other, as two mentalists can. Once, his presence had been a soft hymn in the back of my mind, a comfort.


We fought until he had his staff shoved up against my throat.


"What are you going to do, Zak?" I asked, feeling feral, "Going to put down the little alley cat?"


"No," he answered me, without inflection, his hand on the back of my vest. "Merely show everyone what you are." Then he ripped the fabric.


Weeks have passed. I find myself able to write of these events, but even now, in the safety of my home, I find it difficult to breath. His staff against my windpipe. There were chains of Light, that would bind me if I had let them.


I escaped.


How could you?


But I escaped.


I spoke with the Rayfeathers. I learned that he had lost his child, and the mother who birthed her. He’d been half-mad.


And when I realized that the girl had been stolen from him, it was several days later when I could offer him my resources, to help find Jeho.


"I'll find them both without your help, so try and atone yourself somewhere else."


"You've lost your right to claim the moral high ground, Zakael. You have crimes of your own of which require repentance. But your child doesn't deserve your punishment, or mine."


"And NOW you care about my child?!” he had roared, "After you turned your back on her and me? When you abscond to heaven knows where and leave us behind?! I should blame YOU for her disappearance, when you always had myself to watch over Isadore, and could never bother returning the favor!"


I’m so sorry, Zakael. I’m so sorry.


With every fellowship that I try to cultivate, I wonder if my impatience threatens them. Like the land that was handed to me by my ancestors, I tend to the plots but they bear me no fruit. I hack away at withered vines, I toil under a burning sun to till the land, and then in my haste I burn them, assuming them useless when they refuse to sprout.


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now