Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Another 50k!

Today, I wrote until I had two and a half pages, then got annoyed that Adir was being so blah today, and wrote someone else until I had gotten through 2k. I took a break to play Star Wars cards with Tom (which I lost, miserably, surprise). I kept writing until my word count hit 50k, then came over to check and see what the Official NaNoWriMo Word Counter sapped out of my count, while another scene was still in my head to write.

AND IT ADDED WORDS!!!!?!?! This has neeeeever happened to me ever. I gained almost 200 words.

So, as usual, I came nowhere NEAR the end of the story itself. Just as well really, as I now have like 473902 other side-stories that need battered into shape. For as much as I meant this year to fill in gaps of the first version... I've added so, so much content. Relationships like whoa. I'm really, really happy, I feel like it adds so much depth, having given the characters more room to spread out a bit and gain some extra dimensions. (We'll just ignore today's bit with Adir - he killed Sadie out of desperation, really, he had to do SOMETHING. bleck.)

As usual, more will be added to the story as time rolls on. Haven't decided if it will go here, or if I'll be a more reasonable person and build a page for the story itself, now that I'm moving so many chapters and things around. If you're interested in the few bits I haven't re-posted here, follow the link on the right to the '07 Amaranthus - the Carey chapter near the end is probably going to be changed to Adir, and maybe be tacked onto the crappy Adir section I just wrote. There will be some more ominous bad things that happen, and then the last chunk posted over there, with Luce and Azal. Things get REALLY bad, and then everything goes to hell. Only sort of literally. <3

21 - Azal

       A tray is brought to me, and the servant pauses for a moment, seeking an empty place to set it down for me. I wave a hand vaguely at her.
       “I am not hungry. You need not find room for it, I do not need it.”
       She continues gazing around, and finds a small table in the corner of the room. Balancing the tray with all the precarious grace of a circus performer, she holds it while lifting the table, and bringing it over nearer to me. She places the table a meter or so from me, near enough that I might reach it, yet not so near that I would accidentally knock it over. She sets the tray upon the table, and gazes at me a moment as she straightens up. I can sense the satisfaction from her, and cannot help but look up and chuckle softly.
       “Do not always flaunt my requests in such a manner, my desert flower. But I appreciate the break in predictability. Thank you, you may go now.”
       A mysterious smile curls over her dark lips, and she walks with silent grace from the room, the misty swathes of fabric draped about her leaving echoes of her motions in the air. I am glad I brought so many of my servants along with me, when returning here. I find the combination of subservience and defiance quite enticing in these girls.
       On seeing the tray, I find that I am indeed somewhat hungry. It is well that I give the servants such autonomy – they are able to anticipate my needs quite thoroughly. I take the mug of spiced tea, letting its heat refresh my face, which feels as though it is coated in fine dust of ancient vellums. There is a warm damp towel on the tray, and I clean the dust from my hands before partaking of the tropical fruits arranged prettily on a plate. I am careful to sit back as I do so, not wishing to let the smallest bit of juice stain the old pages any further. They are so fragile... and I suppose the damp air of this gray city does little to allay this. Such books are best preserved in the dry desert, among the cool tombs of the dead kings who collected them, far from the threat of earth and hungry worms, safely wrapped in fine, clean sands.
       There is not so much as Meres had hoped in these books... and yet there is something. It can be so difficult, to find the truth among the thousand tangles of invented complications. I have this difficulty often, when looking through books on the calling of demons and angels, on the arts that men have now derided as “magic”. There are so many layers of mysticism and self-aggrandizing frivolities, words added merely to make the speaker sound more important, that it is difficult to find the root of the thing, the actual fact that leads to the power intended.
       The Book of Enoch. That is the one we need, I think. It seems to exist in a few fragments, but the translations are poor. I have read one translation, but it was missing large portions, and I could tell that much of it was born of sheer imagination. I suspect much of the original meaning was lost, when translated from one language to another to another, and the version I have read was obviously poorly done. I have sent word to Meres, to see if we might find an Ethiopic script – though I am wary of even that one, for though it is the only version to survive intact all these centuries... there are always errors made over time, a scribe neglects a letter here, and “low” becomes “lo”, and an accent lost changes entire meanings. And those are only the unintended changes! Doctrine demands alterations of its own, and for a book to become a part of the church's canon, there are always certain requirements made of it. Oh, mankind, you have so little respect for the written word! We should never have granted you such power, had we known what poor use you would make of it... You make thousands of copies of frivolous romances, of poems that praise a pastoral past that never was, thousands of works of fiction, that none care to read even a decade later. And you let such important fragments fall away... Those few short lines in your Bible, that is all that is left of us, of our children.
       Almost all that is left, anyway. I have made copies of the other references – and though it is in a hand and a language that no man now recalls, it is one that I can read, and hold on to.
       For oh... though I have forgotten names, I have not entirely forgotten the faces, the embraces...

       “Azal? Oh--- I did not mean to startle you, I ought to have knocked.”
       “Meres.” I look up, and paint a warm smile over my sorrowful face. “It is no trouble, I was merely lost in thought a moment. Have you anything to add to my piles?”
       He chuckles quietly, and pulls two slim volumes from under his jacket, setting them on the table. “Of course. But I'm afraid I must take a few in exchange – Mark will notice them missing soon, for he mentioned last night the direction his studies were headed, and I suspect he will need these.” He browses carefully through the piles of old books that cover the table, and selects three of them. He holds them up to view, and I nod in acknowledgement.
       “I have finished with those, and made what notes I needed. Does the man really keep this number of rare books in his study? It is quite a collection, Meres, and I must admit to being more than a little jealous!”
       “Oh, not all of these are Mark's... Many are borrowed from the seminary, and other church resources. He draws on quite a network of libraries in the course of his research. And a few... well, I may have made visits to a few other places as well,” he finishes with a wink.
       “I will ask no other questions – but if you find that there are any that will not be too terribly missed, particularly from theses other places, well... My library certainly has room to accommodate them. And I must say, I would likely take far better care of such treasures!” I gesture sorrowfully at a book whose pages are crumbling at the edges, its binding cracked, the glue lying as dust down the center of the open pages.
       “I will return no more books than I find absolute need to, my dear,” Meres replies with a chuckle, leaning over my shoulder to kiss my cheek lightly. “It is only fair, as you have spent so much time shut up in this room.”
       “I hardly mind! It helps me better ignore the bleakness of the weather here.”
       “Will you return to the deserts soon, then? The dreariness will take a turn for the worse soon, with winter approaching.”
       “Oh, I suppose I shall... I had not really thought of it yet. I do find that I have missed your company. Can I not coerce some of you to visit more often?”
       Meres smiles at this, and seems to be extraordinarily pleased by the suggestion. “I had thought of this just the other day. Do you not think the warmth would help Veri? And I should love to escape the dim gray months of winter here, and flee to a place of more vivid colors.”
       “If you believe he could be troubled to make the journey, I do think it might help him. The warm languor of those more temperate climes seem to ease many pains.” I lean back in my chair, and let my eyes close, my head falling back against Meres for a moment. He sighs thoughtfully, and strokes my hair a long moment. I know he is thinking of my recent trouble – but he worries about others far too much.
       I open my eyes and adjust my seat, pulling another book toward me. “Do continue looking for that Ethiopic version? Translations are always so poorly done, the rhythm of the names is all wrong.”
       Meres pauses a moment, then takes a step toward the door. “I will. You are alright here alone? You will let me know if I might be of any other help.”
       “Of course, my dear.” I look up, and force another smile. He smiles in return, and bows his head slightly before exiting.

20 - Adir

       I wonder if it is morning? There are no windows, but the atmosphere has that weary, chilled feeling of another day dawning. I should have gone long ago, this party has brought me nothing... but, where better could I be? Best to remain among my own... I should never have thought Sadie could be enough for me. I... there is no reason that she ought to have been so upset, to have... I am deserving of so much more than she could ever have offered! I will remain here, among my own, indulging every whim, and I will not think of her. I will not! She is not worth my effort. None of them are. I am above them all.
       ...so why, then, is my heart still in a knot, unable to beat, without her near me? without knowing she will answer when I call? There is nothing she offered me that I cannot find here, and yet... and yet...
       Sighing heavily, I pull my frame from the divan, leaning wearily against the cushioned back. My eyes are dull with wine-induced sleep, and sleep brings me little refreshment even on better nights. This night should have... it was, it was lovely, the women were so engaging and eager, my blood thrilled at such wild displays. Captured in the music, blood subsumed by wine, there was such a feral pleasure in all of our bodies... My eyes still refuse to focus, but I slide the vine-wrapped limbs of a woman away from my side, and slide carefully away from a sleeping young man. I should have returned to my apartments hours ago... I should not have remained while the party tired around me, motions made sluggish in exhaustion, spirits weighed down by the first breaths of regret.
       Regret. An odd thing. Why fret over things that Time has walked on by? There is nothing that can be done about them now. They are only experiences, they were only the motions of a body, the dying waves in air made by speech, all is fleeting and leaves no real trace behind. I lift a half-full glass of wine from the floor at my feet, take a long sip, letting the tart liquid ease the cloying dryness of my long-empty mouth. I stand, and stretch, my muscles feeling so tired and heavy. I gather the remainder of my clothing, pulling it on thoughtlessly, annoyed by the sticky feeling of fabric that is no longer fresh. There is motion still in the room, though whether it is from persons who are waking or those who have not yet slept, I do not know, nor care. I am bored with this place. Mephisto had a lovely arrangement for the music, and it was sufficient for a short evening, but he really failed to think through the entire event. Were the wine not so good as it was, we should have found ourselves bored far sooner...
       It takes several minutes to exit the room, for the floor is covered in flesh and discarded fabric, emptied goblets and their spilled contents, trailing grape vines and a few neglected instruments. The hallway beyond is empty, though I can hear voices in low conversation in several of the rooms that I pass as I walk along toward the exit. I have nearly found my way out – the hallways intersect in strange ways, and I may have made a few incorrect turnings – when I find someone else walking the hall.
       “Adir? Are you leaving? Splendid.” Turning around, Carey takes my arm, and falls into step beside me. “Have you any destination in mind? This party lost its energies hours ago, though being otherwise occupied in another room, I hadn't noticed until now. The club? We might have a drink, and discuss the latest news?”
       “Mmm. If you wish – I have little preference.”
       Carey looks into my face curiously, not used to hearing such flatness in my tone. But I have no energy to concern myself with his assumptions. If he wishes to talk, I will listen, and perhaps the distraction will settle my restless mind.

       It is rainy and dull outdoors, and the hour is far too early to be about. Businessmen stride with determined paces and stony faces. Servant women huddle under drab and faded shawls, oversized baskets empty as they make the morning rounds of shopping. I lean my forehead against the glass of the carriage window, gazing dully out, letting the coolness of the glass slow the whirling thoughts screaming of nothing in my head. Carey chatters on – I do not bother to reply, and I am sure he is aware I am not listening. But he continues on, perhaps knowing that I find the low hum of his voice soothing, perhaps only wishing to hear himself speak.
       “Jocelyn is in town again, did you see her last night? Perhaps not, for she was not in the main room for long, retreating to an atrium where she could more properly hold court. She is more imperious than ever, I think Paris is turning her into something of a snob, even among our sort. She hardly spoke to me at all. She seemed thrilled to have seen Luce, yet I know he has little affection for her shallow manipulations. She was entirely disgusted by Claude, but I don't know anyone who wasn't last night, he was so awfully drunk! It is one thing to release a little control to the alcohol of course, quite liberating and relaxing, but he retained no trace at all of propriety. Such a child. It was embarrassing to even look at him. If only Meres had not left so quickly, perhaps he could have kept the boy a little more in line.”
       None of this is news to me. Why must he repeat things which are so obvious to all? Now I suppose he is going to discuss the conflict between Meres and Veri.
       “I am still surprised that Veri showed up only after Meres left – so strange, the distance between them of late, don't you think?”
       I sigh heavily, shifting in my seat, turning a little more toward the window. There is nothing out there in the gray streets to hold my attention, yet it seems more appealing just now than Carey's useless babbling. But there--- He has put a hand on my knee, and fallen silent. I let him wait a painful moment, before I turn my head to look at him.
       Oh for the love of--- He looks concerned! I do not have the energy for this today. “Carey, I'm afraid I am more tired than I thought. You must excuse my rudeness, but I have little energy for gossip so early in the day. Enjoy yourself at the club, but I will continue on home. I feel I should rest.”
       “Then I will accompany you there! We might sit in the library with the shades drawn and---”
       “Carey. Please.”
       The air in the carriage becomes chilly, and I will not meet his eyes again. There is a heavy silence, and after some small eternity, the carriage comes to a stop. A moment's hesitation, then the door opens, another moment, then it closes.
       The carriage slowly rolls back into motion, and I fall back across the seat, sprawling my length upon it. I am so weary... there are no thoughts in my mind, and yet it will not be silent. I need some stronger distraction... but what?
       Oh, Sadie... why did you have to slight me so? Why refuse to open your door, why keep silent against my pleas? Why keep silent, only to break into meaningless screams, making insane demands of me? Sadie, I had thought of nothing but you while you were gone, and when you returned, I wanted only to be with you... What difference should a few hours make? I was there soon enough. My life is so long... hours are of no consequence, even to your short score of years of life. Why should you have believed the tittering gossip and whispered words of jealous old women, when I lied so prettily to you?
       Sadie, I would have lavished such wonders upon you, Sadie, I was so desperate to lie in your arms, I would have forsaken all others for weeks, would you only have let me stay in yours...
       Sadie, I asked no forgiveness, only forgetfulness, could you not have granted it? Why did you let me in, only to bar all entrance to your companionship? Sadie, I could have given you... but you forbade me any slight thing I asked, and Sadie, oh Sadie, why did you treat me so rashly? Sadie, you know I have no patience for such belligerence, I have been patient so often, but not when so desperately in need of your solace... You know I am stronger, more powerful than you could ever hope, did you not think I would take what I needed, if you would not give it? Oh, Sadie, Sadie, my love and my desire, the siren who could soothe all my heart's heavy troubles, the enchantress whose embrace made all memory disappear... how could you threaten to take yourself from me? You knew I could not stand to see you with another. Sadie... a few short hours late, and so much changed. You should not have threatened me so, you should not have let his name pass over your deep lips. I could not hear another's name from you. I could not. You must have understood that, Sadie, you knew I could not hear that from you...
       And so, if you would give me silence, I would make certain you could not give more to another. If you would deny me your sweet embrace, I would not allow another to have it. If you would keep from me the absolution your presence brings... I could not let another bask in that warm comfort.
       Sadie, my beloved, if you would take yourself from me, I would not let the world secret you away for itself. None could be more worthy of you than me, and so...
       And so, if I could not have you, none other would, and so... and so you are now lost to us all.

Monday, November 29, 2010

19 - Luce, continued

       As we make our approach, I hear strange melodies carried on the wind, and I am reminded of marble pillars stained with spilled wine, images of impossible ideal beauties, and gods who sinned as men but with celestial power. A gritty, haunting wavering sound, an aulos, was it? And as we draw near, I hear the crisp chiming of stringed instruments, and the music is fast and wild, revealing the abandon of the guests. I shall not take Cerise to the main room, then, for it would be far too disturbing to her tender soul.
       Instead, I turn us aside long before we have reached the brightly lit main entrance, and lead us in through a smaller doorway. Music curls around the interlaced corridors, echoing from walls and pillars of stone, pushing through narrow hallways to expand in the larger spaces of covered rooms and open atriums. Cerise speaks little, instead captivated by the eerie sounds of music that was lost to mankind centuries ago. I wonder if some ancestral memory of it remains in her blood? For this music was created by man, as equally as the music created in this time, so its sound cannot be entirely alien to her. Yet the harmonies and scales are different than those she has known all her days... so perhaps it is both strange to her ears, and yet familiar to her heart's blood. What an odd combination for one to experience. If I thought she could express the answer, I would ask her to tell me of it – but I do not think words could relay such things, not in any direct fashion.
       The sound of a stringed instrument grows louder as we walk, and turning a corner, we find ourselves in a small atrium. We nearly stumble on a young man seated in the entryway, a stringed instrument resting on his folded legs. He does not look up, so intent is he on the rippling sounds he is producing. Though there is a plectrum of some sort beside him, he now uses his fingers to pluck the strings, creating an eerie echoing sound, as rain among empty rooms. The sound is caught perfectly in the arched entryway in which he sits, amplifying it and adding a subtle layer of depth in the faint echoes.
       Cerise moves slightly into the courtyard, and I follow, as her eyes seem to indicate a wish to speak with me.
       “Whatever is that instrument? I have not recognized a single sound that I have heard this night!”
       Though the name did not come to my mind instantly, it has had time enough to rise up from the depths of memory now. “A barbiton, an instrument from ancient Greece. Aristotle once said that it was an instrument incapable of being used in educational settings, for its sounds induced only pleasure, and imparted none of the intellectual gifts of understanding. It was considered the instrument best suited for drinking wine, and one legendary player claimed his instrument produced only tones of erotic yearnings.”
       Cerise flushes a little at this, and I smile reassuringly at her, touching her cheek softly. “My dear, you need not worry over such things. I shall keep you safe from any impertinent glances this evening.”
       She smiles warmly, her eyes so sweet and trusting! “It has a lovely sound – and it is such an interesting shape... it does seem as something one would see painted upon some ancient urn, it is so strange to see one actually in the world, being played upon.” Her eyes trail slowly over the not-quite oval, not-quite triangular, shape of the barbiton, its strings suspended in the air between the narrow curve of the base and wider curve of the top, caught between the arcs of the upper curve by a straight bar, curious horned shapes at its edges.
       But her attention is drawn away from the instrument, and mine is drawn away from her, at the sound of laughter from the opposite side of the atrium. The sound is light and bubbling, but I can hear a strain within it, and an image of warm golden curls enters my mind---
       “Why! That must be Jocelyn. I have not seen her in years – come, let me introduce you.” Placing Cerise's hand upon my arm, I stride quickly across the small space, though I can feel the girl pulling back just a little, evidently feeling shy, timid at meeting another of our company. Truly, her misgivings are probably well-founded, though she could not know this – but, we shall see what the two will think of each other soon enough.
       “Jocelyn, our Aphrodite! It has been far too long since you have graced us with your lovely presence.”
       “My dear Luce – your flattery does not cease, even after all these years.”
       She lounges on a cushioned divan set among overflowing urns of flowers, and I lean down to kiss her hand, her lips, in greeting. Oh, our lovely Jocelyn, you have kept your appearance so well! Though the gold of her hair is not so warm as it once was, it is still the aureate hue of an autumn afternoon, if not that of summer's high sun. It cascades in long waves over her shoulders, and would hang down to her waist were she standing. She is dressed in loose folds of some fine white fabric, which is held in cunning arrangement by ornate pins and brooches of gold and gemstones, each one undoubtedly worth a small fortune. There are stones scattered through her hair, and upon her head rests an intricate tiara of laurel leaves and tiny flowers, cast in gold and more colored stones, tiny diamonds sparkling in the moonlight.
       And her face... whatever art she has found, she must teach the rest of us, for though her skin is pale, it maintains the firm flush of youth, and she looks hardly older than Cerise (so long as one does not look into those ancient eyes, which once were blue, but have darkened from seeing only the dull earth for so long).
       “Ah, my dear... you are still, as ever, too lovely for words.”
       She smiles, pleased at the compliment, and nods her head in gracious acceptance. Then tilts her head, smiling curiously at a glimpse of something behind me. “You have brought me a guest? Do introduce us! For all your compliments, your manners seem a bit lacking this night, Luce.”
       I chuckle, and turn to motion to Cerise. She hangs back, standing in my faint shadow, uncertain of protocol – and, no doubt, more than a little intimidated by the goddess-like beauty of Jocelyn, as well as her rather imperious manner. “Jocelyn. May I introduce Cerise Walker? She is a recent acquittance of ours, whose talents as a seer we have been seeking tutelage for.”
       “A seer! What a lovely diversion. Do you read the tarot, my dear? Palms, or phrenology? Or do you speak with the ghosts of the departed?”
       Cerise stutters a little, shyly. “I... I have not done much with any yet, my lady. I sometimes have visions, and unbidden insights, but I have little control over these still. I am only beginning to learn what direction my abilities might best be trained in.”
       “I see,” Jocelyn comments, already bored. “Luce, darling, whyever are you so late this evening? Though punctuality has never been a concern for you, I should still have expected you far earlier.” She waves a hand, and a young faun scampers quickly out from a dark archway, standing at attendance before her. “Wine.” He makes a sweeping bow, then hastens away on the instant. “You have missed all sorts of intrigue, and I would have thought you would make better use of such an evening of indulgence.”
       I seat myself on a nearby bench, and indicate for Cerise to sit as well. She hesitates a moment, then does so, folding her hands nervously in her lap. I gaze at her a moment, stroking her hair soothingly, and she smiles faintly, her eyes showing that she is determined to be calm and decorous, despite the strangeness of her situation. “I doubt there has been much intrigue I could not have foreseen – things have been a bit predictable of late. I spoke with Veri, who was leaving as we arrived, and I presume he and Meres are still at an impasse. Meres, I suppose, is spending yet another evening enthralled by Claude, the painter?”
       Jocelyn raises an eyebrow, quirking a smile. “Meres is no longer here – he appeared for a brief time, perhaps a quarter of an hour. He was seen speaking with Claude, but the boy came away from the conversation looking quite put out. Meres spoke to no-one else, and left long before Veri arrived.”
       “Curious... still, Meres has his moods. I am somewhat surprised Veri attended at all, but I suppose even he must get out once in while.” I recall, but make no mention of, Cerise's reading of his state. I am certain Veri was here only to see Meres, and finding him unusually absent, was drained of all strength.
       “I find it hard to believe that Mephisto is still enraptured by liasons with young actors,” Jocelyn comments idly. The faun returns, and pours a glass of wine for each of us. The wine is incredibly dark in color, with hints of dark cacao and musky woods. Cerise takes only the tiniest sips, and those as sparingly as politeness will allow. Yet I find the light bitterness an intriguing aspect, and quite enjoy the subtle elements of the cacao, as it mingles sharp and sweet and spice.
       “I do not quite understand it either, for it seems all of these boys have been the same... still, he engages each one as if it is the first time he has found such purity, passion, and talent. But Mephisto is a tiresome topic for discussion – whatever has lured you away from Paris, Jocelyn? I had thought it was impossible to draw you out from its endless charms.”
       “I will admit this to you, Luce – I simply grew tired of reading letters!” She laughs at her own wit, and I chuckle as well. Cerise only smiles shyly, soon turning her attention back to the flowers in a Grecian urn beside her. Her delicate fingers lightly trace the curves of the moonlit petals, and I wonder idly what meanings Meres would put to the lavish blossoms.
       “Bored by the lack of variety in our gossip, or tired of the effort of reading our elaborate scripts?”
       “Both, of course, and more tired still of the expectation of replying. Why, my last dozen letters – you know of course that I did not write them myself, but nor did I dictate them these past months. I simply told one of my attendants to reply as it seemed best, and let them handle it entirely!”
       This is hardly news to me, or to any of us who have received such letters. So bland and dull, filled with such drivel portrayed as gossip, platitudes as insight, and cold formality in place of elegance. Whatever was she thinking, to waste our time so?
       There is a sudden burst of raucous laughter, and the pleasant music of the barbiton is cut short in a harsh chord.
       “Oh! Ha! Oh, I am too sorry! Your instrument – we didn't break it? Here, wine! Do, take some, in recompenanen... recompeten... in payment, dear sir, for our faults.”
       Cerise turns on the instant, peering curiously into the shadows. I pause a moment, for I do not entirely wish to condone such unrefined behavior by paying it any attention. But I have recognized the voice as Claude's, and so I turn to look, for it may be interesting to see how the boy acts, without Meres' supervision.
       He is very, very drunk. One arm is thrown clumsily around the shoulders of a satyr, a young man a few years older than he, and equally as drunk. They laugh among slurred words, their eyes thick with the haze of inebriation, their motions graceless and exaggerated. Though one bottle is now in the unsettled hands of the musician at their feet, Claude still holds another, and the leather pouch slung over the satyr's shoulder holds the shape of several bottles within it.
       Claude takes a long pull from the bottle – I can tell by the color of the label that it is far too fine a vintage to be drunk in such a manner – and laughs loudly, passing the bottle to the satyr, who drinks deeply of it as well. “Musician! Give us a song. Satyr! You should play along. A duet! And I shall dance, as the beautiful King David danced before his people, drunk and joyous and a delight to the eyes of all!”
       The barbiton player picks a hesitant tune, looking anxiously at the satyr, who has pulled a pan-flute of some sort from his loosely-tied belt. I suspect it has been damaged in some clumsy action, for when the satyr plays upon it, one note is out of keeping with all the rest. Of course the scales of the instruments are not what we are used to in these times, but I have not entirely forgotten the sound of the Greeks, and there is certainly a bad note produced by the instrument. The satyr seems not to notice, for he begins to play a wild melody. It is a moment before the barbiton joins in, and when he does, he has adjusted the notes of his accompaniment, avoiding the note the flute plays incorrectly, that the correct note will not clash harshly with it. A clever man, and quite a skilled musician, to make such a drastic change off the cuff. Mephisto, as always, has chosen only the best. Though the satyr has no great skill, the predetermined notes of the pan flute are impossible to play unmelodiously – or, at least, it would be impossible, were the instrument not damaged. Still, the effect is a nice one, with wild improvised melodies, and I know why the man was given such an instrument.
       Claude's dancing, however, has a less pleasant sort of wild quality. He stumbles dangerously near the musicians, drinking lavishly from a fresh bottle he has obtained from the satyr's pouch. His body careens without control, his limbs awkward and sprawling, and the effect is not so much that of a jubilant King, as it is a gangly bug tied to a string, being shaken about by a child.
       Jocelyn clucks her tongue, shaking her head. “How atrocious. Absolutely gauche. However did such a creature gain admittance?”
       I chuckle wryly, shaking my head at the boy. “I am afraid I can scarcely defend Meres' choice. While he is a wonderfully talented painter, and made for easier access to the lovely Father Douglas – whom I suspect you would be bored with, my dear, though I find him an absolute delight to talk with – I am finding the boy to become rather wearisome. Still, you must agree that it will be interesting to see how his continued relationship with Meres affects Veri.”
       I can feel Cerise tense a little at this. She has shown such a strange amount of concern for Veri – I wonder why? I will admit, I am concerned as well, though it is largely because what happens to him... could, in theory, happen to any of us. And I find far too much enjoyment in this world to wish to pull away from it so soon.
       Jocelyn laughs lightly, waving the faun over to refill her glass. “I suppose so... still, I wonder that Meres should not have discarded him already.”
       “I suspect it will not be long – he has been distracted by other matters of late, for Claude complains loudly of his neglect.”
       “Painting, I suppose?”
       “That is our guess, though he has spoken very little to anyone, apart from Azal, and he is choosing to be rather quiet as well lately.”
       She frowns at this. “He has always troubled me. Azal is too... too serious.” She waves a hand again, and I notice there is a subtle change in the motion of her fingers. This time, the faun appears with a tray filled with delicate cakes and exotic fruits. He brings over a small stool, and sets the tray within Jocelyn's reach. She begins to nibble delicately at the refreshments. She does not, however, offer any to myself or Cerise. I suppose she assumes I should have some brought for myself if I want anything, and I am sure she does not think of Cerise at all.
       “Hullo there! Would you like to dance, lovely lady?” Claude has stumbled across the open floor toward us, and come near enough to notice us through his alcohol-clouded vision. He swings himself around an urn, and falls to his knees before Jocelyn.
       She narrows her eyes, and her gaze is cold as ice. “I do not dance with such as you.”
       Claude only laughs, reaching for her hand to kiss it. She suffers this, but with obvious distaste.
       “If you will not dance with me, you must still allow me to paint you. Your hair is the loveliest gold, your figure divine, your eyes an enchantment. I would paint you as Venus, for none other could so sway the heart toward devoted love.”
       “Venus is the Roman goddess. Aphrodite would be the appropriate one tonight, child,” she comments, her tone entirely dull with boredom. “You are in the way of my wine. Remove yourself.”
       He stumbles to his feet, reeling a little from the sudden motion upward. “I shall do as you wish, my lady, but I will not always take your refusal so lightly.” He winks quite outrageously, and I can feel Cerise tremble with a bit of laughter beside me. Jocelyn only looks bored, and I cannot help but share in Cerise's amusement at the contrast between the graceless amour of the boy and the imperial coolness of the lady.
       Rushing – I could almost say scampering, he looks so like an over-eager puppy – around the columns and urns, Claude approaches the bench Cerise and I share. He takes no notice of me, but makes a sweeping bow to Cerise, nearly falling over forward as he does so. She cannot help but giggle at this, though she stifles it as best she can.
       “Will you dance with me, sweet lady?”
       “I am afraid I do not know the steps to your dance, monsieur,” she demurs politely.
       “Nonsense! I shall teach you. Do, take my hand. Please, do?”
       And even I must admit there is something in the earnestness of the boy's request, that makes him almost charming for a moment. He has such innocent belief that his charms cannot be denied, and though this makes him cocky at times, at other times, it has a rather fetching boyish quality.
       Cerise looks questioningly at me, and I give her a half-smile. “Do what you will, dear child. But do mind his motions, for he will injure you without intending to, I think.”
       “Oh, I can--- oh!” She laughs as she jumps to her feet, rushing over to catch Claude as he trips over a loose paving stone. “Oh do be careful, you could hurt yourself terribly, these stones will not exactly cushion your fall.”
       “Cerise! You are my saving angel. Now come, dance!” He takes her hands in his, and begins racing her around in a circle, the two lithe young bodies whirling ever-faster across the cold stones. They are both laughing, and the musicians play on, the barbiton player shifting into a swirling dance rhythm, the satyr throwing wild melodies into the air. Cerise alters her steps when needed to accommodate Claude, helping him maintain some semblance of balance, keeping him from harm.
       “Ah, youth... Were we ever so carefree, Luce?”
       “Are you not still, Jocelyn? Is that not why you remain in Paris, away from our melancholy rains and gray moods? There, you can surround yourself with beauty and youth and frivolity, forgetting for a time that you are not one of them.”
       She sighs heavily at this, and drinks slowly of her wine. “Ah, Luce... you must visit me, but not too often. It is good to hear such moods put into words, for once defined, they can be corrected. But I should not like to hear of them spoken often, for it makes life too... too...”
       “Ha! Precisely. And reality is the one thing best kept away from our lives.”
       I raise my glass in the air, and we feign a toast, smiling with only a little sadness as we watch the stumbling dance of the children we never were.

Note - Research on Enoch, Grigori

...can be a pain in the butt. I wanted to check up on my basis for Jocelyn, who we might actually meet if I ever make it to the writing part of my day. In my notes from '07, I have listed Johnalyn, female, being the prettiest of all the angels.

All over the internet, all I can find is this SAME SENTENCE copied over and over on a dozen pages:
"According to the Book of Enoch, Johnalyn was known as the prettiest of God’s angels that did not betray Him. She became most well known for the inspiration of Eve. As God made Adam in his own image God made Eve in the image of Johnalyn."

It's almost always in a paragraph on Lust, part of a few pages worth of text that has been copied over and over again on different websites. Not only is this kind of non-credited plagiarism irritating and angering, but... where the $#^*(Q)# are people getting this from?? I just ran a search through my pdf of Enoch, and there is NO mention of a Johnalyn. The only mention of Eve is that she was led astray by Gâdreêl.

...when November is over, I will sit down and actually read all through The Book of Enoch (The Book of the Watchers, anyway - I'm not sure reading through the more mystical allegorical bits will do me much good).

It's just making me all kinds of crazy, that I cannot find a source for this information. Not that it should actually matter - my rational: if Johnalyn didn't fall, then obviously Jocelyn borrowed the name, to bolster her own reputation as beautiful. All works quite nicely actually.

Still.. I hauled out my copy of A Dictionary of Angels, to skim over the descriptions of my characters again. Not that they all wound up following the attributes granted them in Enoch and elsewhere - and I realize now that many of the names were pulled from lists of fallen angels, not the grigori.. buuut, things get muddled in time. There are only twenty grigori listed, and there were 200 or so more who fell along with them. Even among the twenty names, at least two of them might be different variations of the same name.

But my Luce is prideful, and Azal likes his eyeliner, so all is well. And maybe I'll find a way to work in Penemue - he taught mankind how to write, which I love, but I wasn't able to find a way to make his name pretty enough to use, back in '07. ;p

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Alright! Just shy of a day behind on the wordcount. I snuck in an hour or so of writing last night before bedtime, which helped a little. I wrote a little extra today, and hopefully can squeak some more in. If not.. well, I'm off work on Monday and Tuesday, which are the last two days of November. ;)

The Official NaNoWriMo Word Counter usually tells me I have fewer words than I'd thought (every word count works differently) - I just found a forum thread that explains what Open Office's issue is. It likes to count the end-quotation marks as a word. This can be fixed by turning off the smart-quotes-like feature, so the quotes all stay straight instead of curly.

...unfortunately, mine are already all curly. I have a TON of conversation in the novel this year. I miiight go in and find-and-replace the quotes, but... more likely, I'll just write extra, cross my fingers, use the official word count, swear and fume and spew out a few hundred more words, and then hopefully hit 50k. Next year maybe I'll set it up properly from the start, and avoid the annual trauma.

On another topic - yes, I forgot about Cerise too. ^^; I've already made note to bring her into the middle areas of the story more, sometime when re-writing. I need more female characters! And she's a lovely little contrast to everyone else. Also, she will be a catalyst for the closing scenes, and.. well, she was in my dream that gave me the opening scene at the rose party. So, she stays, and needs to gain enough presence to merit staying. I have no idea why Luce, of all people, is her escort, but that's what he demanded of me this morning.

I'm glad I thought of a way for them to die, but be incapable of dying. I think it's a good balance. They need to be generally immortal, but... I suspect Veri ought to die, and it's going to break my heart to do that to Meres. Honestly, they were supposed to have a happy sweet little reunion like two scenes after the rose party! I have no idea what is happening to them, but it's making me really, really sad. It was supposed to be the love between the two of them that was the bright spot in the story...

19 - Luce

       “Is that not one of your companions? He does not look well, ought we to see if we might help?”
       I smile bemusedly down at the girl. “I would not have thought to do so, but perhaps we will. Veri rarely looks exactly well, but I am surprised to see him out at such an hour.”
       “...I probably ought not to be out at such an hour, myself,” Cerise comments thoughtfully.
       At this, I laugh. “Dear child. There is no harm in the night, and you have seen so much of the daylight! It is only fair that the moon ought to have the pleasure of shining down upon you as well, as the sun has done for so many years.”
       We change the angle of our path, and walk toward Veri, who is moving with halting steps toward the stables, that he might find his carriage and leave, I presume. The night is far from over – I am surprised that, having made the effort to actually attend, he would leave so early. He glances slightly toward the sound of our approach, but pretends he has not seen us. My lips quirk in a smile – he will not dodge me so easily.
       “Veri! My dear, you look quite weary. Shall I have your carriage sent round for you?”
       He exhales tiredly, and though he forces a weak smile for Cerise's benefit, his eyes are cold when they look into mine. “It will be here in a moment, I have already sent word. Do go in and enjoy the party – it does not suit my mood tonight, I am afraid.”
       “Then we shall wait here with you – it would hardly do to let you stand here, alone in the cold air. Have you left your jacket somewhere? I could get it for you, if you would like.”
       Veri raises an eyebrow at the girl's eager effusions, and I cannot help but chuckle, patting her arm, which is entwined with mine.
       “It's not necessary, I will be quite alright.”
       Cerise pouts a little, obviously unsatisfied by this answer. I can see Veri trembling, ever so slightly, though whether it is from cold or some other ailment, I cannot quite tell.
       “No, Cerise is right, we will wait with you. I am not certain we shall stay at the party long ourselves, though I thought we might look in on it. It is too lovely a night for a walk, to spend it indoors, lost in lamplit amusements, rather than under the silver moon.”
       Veri looks at the girl's face again, now seeming to remember her. I can see that he is noting her still-innocent expression. “She has not been to a party since the rose one, has she?”
       Cerise smiles, a little shyly, shaking her head. “I have not. And even that one, I left a little early, I felt so out of place... but Monsieur has been so considerate to me this evening, that I let him convince me to accompany him.” She smiles sweetly up at me, and I am pleased by the sweet naivety with which she beholds me. She is such a charming little thing, and so easily flattered into complacency.
       Veri looks slightly annoyed by all of this – but he is always annoyed by something, it is hardly of concern to me. Still, he considers the situation a moment, then meets my eyes. “I suspect she will feel even less comfortable at this one – it has become more Azal's style of party, in the main rooms.”
       Cerise looks curiously from one of us to the other, uncertain. Though she did not understand his meaning, I suspect he is warning me that the party has become an orgy of some sort, and he does not think I would want such a delicate flower as this subjected to such extreme debauchery. He is, of course, correct – but I had already planned to keep to the outlying rooms, for in what other direction could a Greek-styled party progress? Too much wine, and too much wildness of spirit in those ancient deities. I chuckle softly, patting her arm again, and smiling at Veri. “I shall keep watch on her, though I thank you for the advisement.”
       The clattering of wheels upon cobblestones is heard at a little distance, and Veri's eyes look up eagerly. “Ah! My carriage is here. Such tardiness, I shall have to have words with the driver. Good night, Luce, Cerise.”
       “Good night – and I do hope you feel better, after having some rest,” Cerise replies kindly, her large violet eyes filled with sympathy.
       Veri quirks a wry smile at this, and I think he is almost touched by the simple sincerity in her voice. “Thank you, dear. I hope so as well.”
       The carriage comes to a halt, a servant hopping down and coming around to open the door. Veri nods respectfully toward me, then steps inside, and is hidden from sight by the dark curtains covering the windows of his carriage. Cerise and I take a few steps back as the driver coaxes the horses into motion, and she watches the carriage pull away and up the street. She remains still another moment, after it has rounded a corner and passed out of sight.
       “You are quite thoughtful, my dear,” I prompt gently, watching her eyes, which do not seem to see the world before her, yet they are clearly fixed upon something.
       “Luce... Lord Veri is very unwell, isn't he.” Lord! I bite back a laugh. The girl insists upon using some sort of honorific when speaking of us, despite my explanation that we have long outgrown the use of such things. Since I will give her no options, she has chosen her own, trying out new ones on each meeting. But she continues to gaze intently after the long-gone carriage.
       “Yes, I am afraid that he is. We all have our ailments, but Veri... Veri has suffered a good deal more. His body is quite frail, it seems.”
       “He has no other focus for his thoughts – and so they focus only on his troubles, and pain flourishes under such attention.”
       I raise an eyebrow, pleased at her insight. “I believe that is a good portion of his trouble, yes.”
       “Still, there is... there is something else...” She narrows her gaze, as if squinting to read something written on some distant wall. “...his heartbeat so weak and slow...as if it loses the will to continue... loss surrounds him, it haunts all of you but most, most can keep it at bay, yet he lets it subsume him. Something... I think it will consume him, soon, something... something will break what little strength he has, and he will... oh, Luce, I fear---” She turns tear-filled violet eyes to me, her body trembling with wordless knowledge, pain filling her voice.
       She throws herself into my arms, her body shaking with sobs and exhaustion. “So much pain, I... how do any of you live through it?”
       “Hush, darling girl...” I hold her warmly, stroking her hair soothingly. “It is not so terrible as you imagine.” This is a complete lie, but I could not tell her of the truth. “It is only that you have been wounded so little in your short life, that you cannot imagine such things. Do not trouble yourself too much. It is sweet of you to show such concern for Veri, but he has been in such state for longer than I can say. He will continue on, as he always has.”
       But she shakes her head, drawing shaky breath, blinking away tears in order that she might look into my eyes. Her gaze is eerily calm and certain. “No... No, Luce, I know. Veri will not live long, if his heart continues like this.”
       I can find no words to contradict the confidence with which she utters this doom. The girl is a seer, after all – perhaps her fresh young eyes can indeed see things that our tired ones miss. I stroke her hair thoughtfully, gazing off after Veri. And I wonder...
       When was the last time that... that one left this world? There have been a few, there were some in those first days, when we were entirely overwhelmed by our cursed state. There have been very, very few in the centuries since... and always, they were such strange ailments, which we could not seem to control. Unknown diseases, vicious decaying of living bodies, veins which exploded beneath the skin, such haunting, horrifying things. And then there were those with whom there was nothing at all to be seen... but left all the same. It has been long, long years, since any have gone. For though many of us have wished to end such meaningless prolonged existence, there is nothing that we can do. It does not matter how much we bleed, how shattered our bodies, how wracked with pain, how splintered our bones – though the recovery may take decades, and the damage is never fully absolved, we do not die...
       I startle, as something touches my cheek. My eyes regain sight on the world around me, and find Cerise gazing intently into my face. Her finger brushes at the corner of my eye – no, there are no tears there, but she saw that there could have been. I take a slow, deep breath, and force a weak smile into my face. I kiss her forehead tenderly.
       “Dear Cerise, you must forgive the wandering thoughts of one so old.”
       She smiles at this, and her soft eyes regain their fresh morning light. “You are far too handsome to be an old man!”
       I laugh, and hug her close a moment, burying my face in her flaxen hair. She smells of lilies and lilac, purity and youth and innocence in the scents of those simple flowers. I can feel her blush at such display, and I cannot help but kiss her hand tenderly as I draw back, my lips lingering a moment on her fresh silken skin. “The compliment is all the more flattering, for being given by one so lovely as yourself, dear Cerise. Come, let us continue our walk. We need not spend much time at the party, for I am certain it draws to that weary portion, where the novelty of the setting is just wearing away, and the guests begin to look for other amusements. But I should like to look in on a few of my fellows, and see if there is any fresh gossip of interest.”
       Cerise giggles, again taking my arm as we turn to continue walking. “I do not mean to laugh at you, but I can hardly picture you as being a gossip.”
       “Perhaps you do not know me so well as you think! I am quite the connoisseur of gossip.”
       She considers a moment. “I believe you are – but I also believe you invent as much of it as you hear from others.”
       I laugh. “So! You do know me, after all! It is always fascinating to me, to see how easily bewildered people can be, when one slips lies in among truths. They are far too trusting of rumors, in the first place. In the second place... why, many of the things I invented have become more true than the things I had heard!”
       She giggles, shaking her head. “And you call me a seer.”
       “Oh, I am no seer... I only see the world around me, and can read it with more accuracy than most. Predictions of the near-future is quite an easy matter, once one understands the motivations others operate under. And I have spent such time among my companions, that they are often easier to read than the headline on a newspaper.”
       “And what of myself? Am I so predictable to you?”
       I stop a moment, then lift her hand in mine and twirl her quickly about. She laughs, the whispy gray layers of her dress swirling about her as a mist. “Your motivation in this world is to bring beauty to it. To remind the old how beautiful is the world of the young. To remind those of us who walk at night how lovely is the morning dew.”
       She flushes shyly as she comes to a stop, glancing into my eyes happily. “You flatter me so!”
       “I do no such thing – flattery would imply that there is little truth to what I say. Come – I have been so terribly selfish, keeping you all to myself this evening. Let us go bring a breath of fresh moonlit air to the party.”

Friday, November 26, 2010

18 - Mephisto, continued

       “We should do something about the boy.”
       “That is a thought to consider,” Veri muses, swirling the wine in his glass, studying the whirling trails of bubbles rushing up through the pale gold. “While it would not do to interfere with the amusements of our companions... they would find a new toy soon enough. And I do not think this one will provide as much entertainment as they had hoped.”
       “We already have access to the priest – Luce seems to get on with him quite famously, and it seems Meres and Adir have spent a good deal of time with him as well.”
       “True. And Meres has begun painting again. He will soon forget all about the boy in any case, so we might as well cut the needless slow decline short.”
       I raise an eyebrow curiously at this news. “Has he? I had not heard. Have you seen any of the paintings?”
       Veri falls silent, his entire body sinking into itself. He empties his glass again, and pours another, without answering me. Either the subject of the paintings is too painful, or Meres has not allowed Veri to see them. I am not sure which would be the worse for Veri, but in either case, I will receive no further information.
       We are quiet for a time, losing our thoughts in the idle wanderings of the music which blows though the atrium, swirling slowly around the quiet echoes of the wilder music from the room we have left. Veri shivers, and I wrap an arm around his slim shoulders. My skin is hardly warmer than his, but he seems to draw comfort from the gesture nonetheless.
       “Would you care to return inside? There are, of course, other rooms that we might visit.”
       Veri sighs, shaking his head slowly. “No... no, I shall return home now, I think. I am weary, and will draw nothing more of worth from this party.”
       “I am sorry it so failed to bring you a worthwhile diversion,” I reply politely. I am a little hurt, but not much, for I know that there are moods which come to us all, in which nothing, no matter how wondrous and sensual and exotic, can soothe the troubled mind and body.
       “It did, for a time... and I am glad to have talked with you. I see you so rarely, my dear Mephisto. Do bring me some music, on days when I have no strength to leave my rooms. You are so much more knowledgeable in that area than I, and I should be glad for some change in the sounds about the place.”
       I smile broadly at this, and caress his cheek lightly as I stand. “I would be happy to do so, darling. Send word round to me, at any time.” I offer him my hand, and he rises slowly, wincing a little as he does so. “Are you quite alright? Shall I have someone accompany you home?”
       “No! No, I... I will be fine in a moment. The cold, you know, it makes the body move so awkwardly.” He holds to my arm for several steps, then straightens and forces a smile. “Thank you for a pleasant evening, Mephisto. I do hope to see you soon.”
       “It was my pleasure, dear Veri.”
       He turns away, and leaves the atrium through a darkened doorway, presumably to avoid seeing anyone else on his way out. I remain for a moment, breathing in the cool air, letting the sweet waves from the hydraulis fall against me.
       David. I shall go find David, and perhaps we might find a small, warm room off the atrium, where the gentle music can caress our ears all through the night. Certainly I cannot leave him in that room of such loud debauchery – perhaps he has already been awoken! Oh my dear little boy, I would not have you sullied by such depraved hands. You are mine yet, and I do not wish you to be spoiled by others. I shall kiss you gently awake, and see your blue eyes smile as they find it is my face they open to. And I will rest in the beauty of your presence all the night, away from this party I have attended a thousand nights before, the pleasures and iniquities that have filled so many years. Though there is peace to be found in deafening sound, which drowns out all thought and concern, there is a greater peace to be found in silent beauty, which melts away all fraught worries, washing them from the mind and leaving it a quiet fresh bit of slate.
       David, my dearest one, my heart's only rest... do stay with me this night, and ease my troubled soul.

18 - Mephisto, continued

       “David, my darling young Orpheus, how you charm us all!”
       He laughs, shaking his head, refusing to meet my admiring gaze. “No, no... my Greek is so poor! Little wonder I hardly passed my exams, I do hope I didn't embarrass you too badly – but I could not help but try to sing something. Such a lovely song! So bright and exuberant, so haunting in its pure simplicity.” He sings the first two lines, approximating the sounds of the Greek, though he bungles the words badly.
       When he sings, the sun appears from behind the deep clouds hanging over all my days. When he is silent, the music of his eyes and motions pacifies me. When he is away... it is as an eclipse, the sun that grants all light and life stolen away from the entire world. It takes all of my strength (which is not always enough!) to maintain my composure around the boy, for he holds my heart, and no lifeblood moves through my veins without some touch of his hand.
       A laughing faun darts up and grabs David's hand, yanking him into a line of dancers weaving through the crowd. Horrified by the abrupt interruption, I grab at David's other hand--- but I have been made weak in my raptures over him, and cannot seem to hold my ground, and we are both drawn into the wild dance.
       He is laughing, struggling helplessly to get his hand away from the faun's, clinging tightly to mine, that he might not lose me in the rapid spirals and turns of the line, which whips across the floor with surprising speed. The faun whoops in abandon, darting back and forth from one side to the other, whipping us helplessly after him. I hold David's hand so tightly in my own, half-frantic at the thought of losing him, particularly in this moment when I have been so greatly moved by him.
       The music shifts, and the aulos flares in volume, its eerie buzzing melodies reaching into the crowd as a wind among sharp rocks, the notes caught and tattered and torn by the quick turns and rough corners. The strings become rougher as well, the musicians strumming fast jagged swathes across the strings, and the tempo soon quickens. The dancers are running now, and it is all we can do to hold onto each other as the line whips us around in such fast turns. We are all breathless, but the feel of air flying past our faces is so exhilarating, our lungs burn with exertion and the rapid motion of the atmosphere around us. All the crowd is a blur, falling away in drunken waves, as we fly past them as birds flying low over the ocean, as a wind rushing over fields... David laughs, and then--- oh, my darling, you sing! You sing with words and you sing with no words, throwing strange melodies out into the air, a high descant, the notes chiming as bells in mountain air, falling as starlit raindrops, scattering the light as they fall and casting a thousand colors onto the world below... You sing as the stars sing, of that pure joy in sheer existence, in mere existence and all existence, for the very act of being, of sensation and expression which brings such fulfillment to your soul, that all your heart can bear to do is let it fly out in pure beautiful rapture.

       “Hoson zes, phainou... shine as the stars above, as the stars below, with the stars surrounding in the circle of the dance... the dance, with our hands, the dance that binds us with the stars your brothers, phainou... the stars above and all around... shine, as the stars, while you live...”

       And I have no words, I have eyes for nothing but you, it is all I can do to clasp your soft hand within mine, and not let it go... never will I let it go.
       But I am shaken from my dream of happiness, jarred back by another hand, which grabs at my free hand and tugs me just that littlest bit away from you. I whip my gaze around in a rage, and it is Claude, that pretentious painter-boy of Meres'. He laughs lightly, his feet flitting over the ground as he keeps time with the wild dance, and he says something to me but I cannot hear him, for the line moves near the musicians and all is lost in the ecstatic chaos of their sound. And David... oh, my David, still you sing, and I have ears only for you...
       “His Greek! Do make him stop, it is awful!”
       My heart ceases, my body stops in a dead halt, and Claude crashes into me, taken by surprise. David cries out as his hand slips from mine, pulled away in the inexorable dance, the faun still refusing to release him. My heart crashes at the sudden loss, but even this is hardly to be noticed, so fierce is my sudden rage. I yank my hand free of Claude's, and slap his face sharply, snarling.
       “You. It is not your place to say such things. You are too presumptuous.”
       He holds a hand to his reddening cheek, still stunned by the action, his eyes wide and bewildered. But he recovers himself quickly, and retorts back. “It was only true! It is too embarrassing, to hear him.”
       “You are in no place to make such judgments. Meres may have patience with your rude narcissism, but I have not.”
       Claude laughs derisively, straightening his jacket. “Meres has less patience for you than for me!”
       I pause at this, for it strikes me that it might well be true. Still! It does not matter. What matters is the crudeness of this boy's manner. “You will not speak so freely with us. You will show due respect, or you will cease to be admitted to such company.”
       He barks a laugh, his face twisted in a derisive sneer. “You so threaten me? Meres will not let you cast me out. Nor will Luce, or several of the others, I think. You have only Veri on your side, and he is not strong enough even to leave his house.”
       “You presume too much. You do not know all that you believe you know.”
       “What does it matter? I shall learn what I need to know, soon enough. I hardly care for your so mysterious past – what does it matter to me? I shall gain power and influence through these associations, and my work will be seen by so many more people, thanks to all of you. That is what matters.”
       And it is my turn to laugh derisively, though there is exhaustion rather than exultation in my tone, as I put a hand to my face, closing my eyes. “Oh, you dear young boy... how little you know of the world and its truths. You expect to be more than the amusement of a season? Go. Do not trouble me. You have caused me annoyance enough for an evening.”
       He starts to retort something, but stops. I open my eyes, and see Meres standing behind him, a firm hand on the boy's shoulder. Claude's face is flushed with passion, but he bites his tongue. Meres says nothing, but looks into my eyes for a long time, as I look back into his. The exchange would not translate to words. But Meres walks off with Claude, speaking softly to him, and I turn away from them, no longer caring.
       I step slowly, a little shakily, toward a marble pillar, which I lean against for support. I lift my eyes to the swirling crowd around me, and feel more tired than ever. My David... where have you gone? A dryad passes by, and offers me a drink from her tray. I lift two shining goblets, draining one absently and replacing it on her tray before she has had a chance even to step away. The second glass, I hold in reserve, as an archer retains his final arrow in case of extreme need. My eyes are lost in the ceaseless motion of those around me – my still frame, and the pillar which supports it, are the only constants in this ever-spinning world. The musicians move with the sounds their instruments send forth into the air, the dancers race about in endless circles, and those few who do not dance are caught up in still wilder motion, their bodies moving in tandem and in opposition. I alone do not move, my body frozen in weariness, muscles carved of ancient stone, as the cold marble beside me. My eyes slow, I drink slowly of the wine, my arm slowly dropping away with the glass empty in my hand, my fingers slowly uncurl and the goblet falls to the floor, the moment of its falling a weary eternity, before it clatters and rolls across the stone floor.
       A maenad stumbles into me, her eyes wild and lips frantic, her body made desperate by the heat of the room and the heat of the wine and the heat of her own blood. She moves over me, but I am motionless, I am as the cold marble pillar, for I see no thing in this world that would move me... David, my David, your memory will pass so soon from me... for I am as the stone, and will not change, and will not move, and your entire life will run so quickly from my sight...

       Cold fingers touch my cheek, and my eyes open again, tired, so tired...
       “Mephisto? Do, come with me. You are too weary for this room, I think.”
       “Veri? I did not think... you are here?”
       He laughs softly, and the sound is so heartbreakingly weary. “Such an absurd question. Let us move to a quieter room.” He offers me a hand, and though he often seems so weak, he seems in this moment to have far more strength than I, as he helps me to stand. The body of a young woman falls away from me as I rise, as do the hands of a young man, but their eyes are so dusky with the haze of too much wine, that I do not think they have seen me at all.
       We move carefully through the room, searching out the elusive paths between the many bodies still in motion... how can they do so still? I am so weary. But Veri leads me from the room, and down a short corridor, and into a large atrium, where no roof stands to block our view of the cold, distant stars. A haunting melody floats through the air... the hydraulis, I had nearly forgotten it. At the far end of the atrium, just beneath an arched doorway which captures and amplifies the sound, two young men are poised at a small organ. One kneels on the ground, his body moving in calm clockwork as he moves the arm of a water pump. The soft rhythmic snick of the pump's motion is a calm heartbeat, barely heard. The other man stands behind the intricately carved wooden podium, half-hidden behind reed-shaped tubes of bronze. Though I cannot see his hands, I hear the sounds produced by his fingers moving over the keys... a breathy, haunting sound, as a wind passing over empty bottles, as an ancient flute heard at a great distance. Each note has the slightest hesitation before it sounds, a gentle exhale, and the slight waver of water fluctuating against the air lends a tenuous delicacy to the tone. I am soothed by the very sound of the instrument, for though it is not exactly quiet, its tone lends calm and peace.
       Veri seats himself on a low stone bench, and I do the same, letting the cold stone soak into my skin. A few large urns, set on pedestals and overflowing with exotic flowers, somewhat obscure us from the entry we passed through. Veri rises again for a moment, catching sight of a servant passing a doorway, and waves him over. Low words, a dismissive wave, and a scarce moment later, there are cushions for the bench, a bottle of pale golden wine and two delicate glasses. Veri waves the servant away again, and pours us each a glass of the wine. “Do, drink. This will refresh, rather than befuddle you.”
       I take a slow sip, and find the light sparkling quality of the champagne to indeed be refreshing. I nod appreciatively, and smile faintly at Veri. “It seems you are playing a better host than I, this evening.”
       “Ah, but it has been so long since I played host... I could use the practice, my dear.”
       I sip calmly at the wine, letting it wash away the dull tensions within me, as the tiny bubbles mirror the ethereal sounds of the hydraulis, all gently burbling as a solitary forest stream. Veri is silent as well, sipping his wine and gazing idly at the marble arches surrounding the atrium. He lightly fingers the small white blossoms of a miniature tree in the nearest urn, smiling wryly to himself.
       “Citron. I can rarely be bothered to recall the names of plants, but Meres is always pointing this one out to me, for it means 'ill-natured beauty'. Apparently he believes I should thus feel an affinity toward it.”
       I smile weakly in return, my strength slowly returning, as though the soft notes in the air are breathing life back into my weary body. “There are times I suspect he invents such meanings on the instant. They are always far too apt.”
       Veri laughs at this – and there is some mirth to the sound, alongside the pain one always hears in his voice. “He plants his gardens according to such meanings, you know. He makes no arrangement purely for aesthetic reasons, but always considers the meaning and compounded meanings of the flowers he places together. So the strange coincidences are never really so, for he plans them all.”
       I cannot help but laugh. “So this is what we have come to! All the grand schemes of all the long centuries, kings and emperors, court intrigues and military coups, the plots which altered the very growth of mankind... and now we arrange flowers with the same subtle intrigue.”
       Veri laughs as well, but soon sobers, refilling his glass. “Ah, but I no longer have the strength for such grandiose plans, have you?”
       I need not answer – the state in which Veri found me not a quarter of an hour earlier grants him reply enough.
       “I suppose this is why Claude tires me so – he does nothing that we have not done a thousand times before, though typically with loftier goals in mind.”
       Claude. David! “Have you seen David? We were seperated in the crowd, and---”
       Veri lays a hand on my arm, and I realize I have jumped up in my momentary panic. I sit down again, forcing myself to calm.
       “David is in safety, do calm yourself. I saw him dozing peacefully, on a chair set among the musicians. How he can rest in all that noise, I do not know, but they will watch over him well enough.”
       My heart gradually slows itself, and I find myself almost embarrassed to have shown such passion before Veri. I sigh heavily, and pour another glass of champagne. “My mind is ill at ease this evening, I am afraid... But you spoke of Claude, and that is what called David to mind, for the painter gave such crude insults to me earlier. He believes – I know not how – that he could supplant me among our group, that Meres holds him in higher esteem than myself. The presumption of that boy! It is intolerable.”
       Veri raises an eyebrow at my outburst, then nods solemnly. “He has implied similar to me. He is not to be believed, of course. And yet...” He trails off, his eyes losing focus, and a deep cloud seems to settle over him. I feel as though a heavy weight has fallen over the both of us, each breath filling our lungs with some terrible mixture of sorrow, forlornness, yearning and exhaustion.
       “...and yet you fear he is right,” I murmur softly, curling my hand around Veri's. Our skin is so cold, colder than the stone beneath us.
       He sighs deeply, biting at his lip, his fingers curling and uncurling around the stem of his glass. He glances into my face for just a moment before looking away, but in that moment... I see fear in his eyes. Fear, and even panic, of the loneliness and abandonment that threatens him. Though I spend little time with Veri, for rarely do any of us wish to be near such clear reminder of the weaknesses that grow among us, I know how deeply he relies upon Meres. It could, I fear, even kill him, were Meres to ignore him for long.

Note - music

EEEEE!!! So, writing this morning, I have fiiiinally gotten Mephisto to wander over to the room with the hydraulis in it. (This has been making me crazy, because it's such an awesome-sounding instrument, that I had to use it, but couldn't yet.) I think there's one in a song or two among the 734820 I downloaded last week, but, wasn't sure, so went back to this video I posted a link to the other day, to get a refresher on the sound.

It's the Song of Seikilos!!! I didn't even know! The video was one of the earlier things I looked at that day, and it wasn't until later that I sat down and taught myself the song. (I now have it memorized, and it makes me very, very happy to be able to sing.)

...of course, now I have a *third* version to listen to, and so far each one has slightly different pronunciations in it. As I know no Greek whatsoever, I'm going to have to arbitrarily decide between them. hmm.