Thursday, November 1, 2012

Chapter 96: Ermengarde Is Shown The Snake And The Swan

Fri, December 11, 2074 9:36 pm-- 88 Wilkins Ave.; Camden, Pleasantview


"The subject has been exposed to 4.87 kilograms of tartaric acid derived from Vitis vinifera grown in the Arbormoor region. It was administered orally over a period of seventy-six hours, during which time, our team observed and documented six of the biological and energetic changes most commonly associated with vampirism in non-fae humans."

"You will of course note the translucency of the epidermis, the sharpened and protracted canines, and if we dim the lights--thank you, Isis-- you can see the slight glare from the tapetum lucidum, here. The-- Oh no."

"Begging your pardon, Dr. Beaker?"

"Did you see that?"

"See what?"

"She flexed her fingers just now. Mrs. Goth? Mrs. Goth, can you hear me? Hand me that light. Mrs. Goth?"

"Watch it! She's up!"

"Wh-- She didn't even have a pulse when we wheeled her in here! Isis, get me 30 cc of fluoperidol, now! Mrs. Goth? Oh my god."


My family owned a beach house on Belladonna Cove when I was a little girl. It was beige with blue shutters, right on the edge of a narrow jetty. So narrow, in fact, that there was a straight drop from my bedroom window into the ocean. We didn't have any neighbors. Belladonna was a different place then, not quite so fashionable, just a few small properties surrounded by cane fields. During harvest season, the farmers would set controlled fires to clear out all of the leaves and debris before the hand pickers could come to cut the stalks. I remember driving down those red dirt roads at night with my brother. There was one spot not too far from Braebrooke Station where the fire would close in from either side of the road. For the better part of a mile, Michael and I would be walled in by flame. And it's funny but all I can remember thinking is that this was the true face of the world, stripped of all its ambiguities. You see, fire wants nothing more than to eat and multiply just as we all do.

April 10, 2016 - Arbormoor Forest; Arbormoor, Pleasantview

Springtime, Arbormoor Falls. Cordelia and I were playing a game where the winner would successfully knock the loser off-balance with one arm and one leg. The trick was to learn to stand firm while you sought some place indefensible like the back of the standing knee.

"Girls! What in the name of heaven are you doing? Stop that this instant!" Mrs. Capp was pounding her hip with her fist. That was how you knew when she really meant something. Cordelia let go of my shoulder. I told Mrs. Capp that it was only a game. She sniffed at me. It was a contemptuous little gesture. Mrs. Capp never did like me. She was good friends with my mother but to her, oh, I was nothing but trouble. Cordelia grabbed me by the arm. Her sweet smelling hair brushed my cheek.

"May we go into the woods to pick flowers? Please?" Cordelia could have gotten away with murder, and I'm afraid she knew it. Had that been my idea, it would not have been a good one. Too much dirt, too many mosquitoes, wasps nests, strange men, etc. Mrs. Capp waved us away without a word, and my mother stirred from her poetry-induced daydream.

"Mind your stockings, Bella!" Cordelia grabbed me by the hand. I shouted some reassurance over my shoulder as Cordelia whisked me off towards the glade.

On our way down the hillside, she let go of my hand. I was slowing her down, as always.

"Last one to the creek is a rotten egg!" I staggered my pace, having no chance of catching up and no fear of rotten-eggdom. The canopy marbled the sky overhead, green and pink with vegetation. I stopped to admire it. Morning doves stirred in the bushes. This was once my favorite place.

While I was observing the birds, Cordelia had gotten so far ahead of me that I lost sight of her. I took off down the trail to find her in the middle of a thicket, standing motionless.

"What is it?" Cordelia placed a finger to her lips and pointed ahead. I crouched to her eye-level and peered through the bush. The hillside peaked ahead, dense with flowers. Only the mountains lay beyond. It took me a moment to see what had so transfixed her, but a bit of movement and a flash of white drew my eye. There was a young buck shrouded in dogwood blossoms.

It locked eyes with me and perked up its ears, chewing delicate blades of grass. I tiptoed closer to get a better look.

"Bella!" Cordelia reached for me as I passed, but I shrugged her off. The buck was studying me as I came closer.

There was an instant of shared curiosity. The buck tossed its head and snorted. I did the same. It was so unperturbed by my proximity that I thought I might get as close as I dared. Maybe I could even touch it. As I climbed the hill, my foot got caught in a tree root and I slid, causing a minor avalanche of stones. It was enough to frighten the deer. Perhaps this was not my brightest moment, but I dislodged my foot and chased it.

I could hear Cordelia calling after me. I looked to see if she was following when the deer bounded off between two boulders.

I followed, dropping down into the yellow weeds behind it. There was a cracking sound upon the impact of my feet with the earth, like the shattered surface of a frozen lake. The ground beneath me then began to slide away, emptying into a chasm some fifty or so feet to the bottom. Note that I was a small child. There was probably more weight in my hair than my bones. It did not seem physically possible, but the force of my jump from the boulders was enough to dislodge the ground beneath me. Sinking into that hole was probably the queerest feeling I’ve ever had. Much like Alice, I fell down, down, down and was not a bit hurt.

I landed on my backside in the quagmire. Time passed and I just sat soaking up the muck, too disoriented to register what had happened. I squinted at the hole above me as it continued to rain dirt and other detritus onto my head. The surface was impossibly distant. Pale mist skirted the mud, and the smell of the place was not at all what you would expect. It was heady like rosewood, fragrant and warm, not at all like swamp water. I climbed to my feet.

I was standing in the remains of some great hall. Water rushed behind me. And perhaps you'll think I'm crazy, but it was like the air was electrically charged. I could feel all the little hairs on my arms standing on end. Then I started to hear this sloshing sound over the falling water. Footsteps, surely. The braziers were lit. I was not alone.

I thought about hiding, but my limbs would not comply. I was fixed to the spot like one of those cracked pillars, forever awaiting some end to the story, some form of absolution. Either help was on its way and I would be restored, or the opposite was true.

The outline of a woman came into view. She was tall and thin, I thought, vaguely familiar. She paused when she saw me. I remember being awed by the contrast between her black hair and her red dress. There was something commanding and alluring to the look of her. Then she stepped into the light. It was my neighbor, Mrs. Matlapin.

I might have rather seen a wild beast or a stranger. The appearance of this very mundane acquaintance floating around a dank and mysterious cavern was nothing short of uncanny. Imagine, if you will, running into your neighbor under such circumstances. Now imagine that same neighbor dressed like a fae girl, and ethereally beautiful. It was just bizarre. I was dreaming. What other explanation could there have been? I’d hit my head, and I was lying beneath the boulders way up above, my hair decked in yellow leaves. I probably looked damned peaceful too.

Mrs. Matlapin rushed forward and placed her hand to my lips. It was only then that I heard the second pair of legs wading through the mire. She turned her back to me and I knew from the way that she was standing with her arms wide at her sides that she meant to protect me from what greeted me next.

This second apparition I knew only as a gazelle knows a lion. I cringed, disappearing behind Mrs. Matlapin as best I could without shifting my ankles in the watery muck. It was a fae boy, half-naked, ghastly thin and white as a sheet. His ribs were tattooed with a lot of swooping lines, and the more I looked, the clearer the image became—It was the entwined bodies of a snake and a swan. Later, I would learn that these creatures were symbolic of the Creator and the Destroyer in fae mysticism. The boy cocked his head around and his eyes, unfocused, swooped right by me.

“Here! I’m here.” Mrs. Matlapin’s voice echoed then trailed off. The fae boy reached for her with both hands. He was blind.

“What was that noise?” He tried to get by her but she held him back.

“It was only a fox. Stay back, you’ll frighten the poor thing to death.” The boy frowned at her somewhat skeptically. She smiled at him though he could not have seen. “I’ll take care of it. Change out of those wet trousers and go back to sleep.”


“Go now and have something to drink. You’re wasting away before my very eyes.”

“What are you hiding?” He was smiling too but it was not a happy smile. He looked dangerous. Mrs. Matlapin held her ground.

“Orion,” she said. “Don’t you trust me?” The boy stood up straighter then as though his dignity had been challenged. Mrs. Matlapin tucked a lock of his hair behind his ear. “Don’t worry, I’ll be along shortly.”

I breathed a sigh of relief when he disappeared into the cave. Mrs. Matlapin turned and cupped my chin in her hands.

“Bella, are you alright? Look at me. Don’t be frightened. He’s gone.” Mrs. Matlapin began rubbing the soil from my face. Her hands were clammy and shaking.

“That boy wasn’t normal.” It was the most articulate thought that I could manage. Mrs. Matlapin sank down to her knees, meeting my eyes.

“Listen to me, Bella. You must never come back to this place, and you must never tell anyone about what you have seen.”

“It was an accident!”

“I know, sweetie. I know, and we’re going to get you out of here.” Tears welled up in her eyes. She pressed her fingers to her mouth, looking off over my shoulder. “He’d have killed you.” She dropped her gaze down to the water between us. Her certainty alone was chilling. “Someone is probably up there looking for you. We must never speak of this again. Promise me.”


  1. Happy Halloween, guys. :)

    Also, sorry about how different the new Ermengarde looks.

    Also, sorry about the new Arnaud, as yet unrevealed.

  2. We never saw all that much of Arnaud, so I wouldn't worry too much about him. As for Ermengarde, I recognized her right away; she looks a little sicklier, but hey, that totally works given all she's been through in the story ;)

    So we finally get another glimpse of the mysterious Bella! I'm betting she did come back to that place eventually. I'm wondering if maybe that's why she was targeted?

    Stunning shots here, Pen :D

  3. I thought I could get away with Arnaud for that very reason. *shifty eyes* Heh, you know, I didn't set out to make Ermie look sicklier but now that you mention it, I might push that further. Poor kiddo.

    Stay tuned on why Bella was targeted. I think the only person left alive who knows the reason behind that is Addison. Although, it is safe to say that Bella returned, yes. ;)

    Hey, thanks! This was a pain to shoot but I was happy with the images in the end. XD