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  #11  
Old 08-11-2012
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Sunset Fallow Sunset Fallow is offline
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Sunset Fallow is a jewel in the roughSunset Fallow is a jewel in the roughSunset Fallow is a jewel in the rough
Nephthanee

“Mistress?”

The handmaiden stood at the door to the terrace overlooking the castle walls and the lush landscape below. It was late in the afternoon. The last few days of autumn were upon them and soon snow would blanket the hills around the castle. Yet, today was warm and the breeze moved the trees in the forest below in a slow and sinuous dance. The sun was just at the horizon and illuminated the sky in that kind of bright orange glow one only sees on those certain days. Nephthanee, her mistress, sat staring into the last vestiges of the sinking globe; it's fiery orb reflected in eyes pale and blue like a robin's egg.

“Mistress, your tea is cold. Shall I get you another cup?”

Nephthanee sat unmoving, the diaphanous material of her gown fluttering lazily in the warm autumn breeze. The last rays of the sun bathed her face and hair and lent color to her otherwise pallid countenance. "No...no, I'll be in shortly.” She paused seeming lost in thought as the handmaiden waited. “Mella...?”

“Yes, Mistress?”

“Could you stay, have dinner with me?” A sudden gust sent a chorus of sounds from the rush of leaves below, like waves crashing upon some forlorn beach.

“I have a family, mistress.” The excuse hung between them, unfinished. “I'm sorry.”

Nephthanee stood without turning. The fading light shown through her gown revealing the silhouette of a young athletic body. “Of course, your family.” Melancholy tinged her voice. "I forget, sometimes."

The handmaiden walked to the door, then hesitated and turned. “You could come down to the village, Mistress...eat with us.”

“Your husband, Mickel, isn't it?” She had never met her handmaiden's husband. The fact was that she had never met most of the villagers. There was a time that she knew most who inhabited the tiny village at the foot of the small keep that was her home. In those years she had ventured out daily to walk and visit with them. She had been accepted and they greeted her with a smile. They talked as any who might talk, of the weather and the crops and the things people talk about when they are comfortable with whom they speak. But that was then.

“Yes, Mistress. A good man, a wonderful man!” A smile swept quickly across the handmaiden's face.

“A good man, Mella; an honest man?”

The handmaiden sensed some change. Dread squeezed at her heart as her gaze swept the floor between them. “Yes, Mistress...an honest man with a good heart.”

Nephthanee placed her hands on the low wall of the terrace and looked into the darkening orange of the evening sky. “An honest man. An honest man with a good heart who no doubt has heard rumors of who I am, perhaps even asks you what I am. Do you tell him? Do you say I am kind...and not what they say? No, I shall not burden the table of a good and honest man this night.”

The pause between them lengthened into an uncomfortable silence. Mella took a step closer. “You're so beautiful, Mistress...and young.” They had all heard the stories. “Is there no one, for one so beautiful?”

“Beautiful...and young.” A tiny hidden smile curved Nephthanee's lips. “Yes, there is one, and she too is beautiful, and young...but not like me.” Nephthanee turned as a gust of wind caught her hair and blew it about her face; hair as white as the driven snow.

“No, never like me.” Nephthanee stepped from the terrace into the adjoining room. She walked the few steps across the room to a small table and from a drawer withdrew a packet of parchment letters bound with ribbon. For a moment she held the letters to her face and, closing her eyes, inhaled the sweet scent that still faintly lingered. “All these years, even the image of her face fades from my memory, yet each time I smell these...I see her. I hear her voice. I can almost feel the touch of her skin so smooth beneath my fingertips. She called me Snow...my father...he...” The handmaiden stood in an embarrassed silence unable to look away.

Nephthanee slowly opened her eyes and replaced the letters into the drawer, shutting it quietly. “Her kind do not age as...you...or I. Perhaps you know of them?” Nephthanee looked up at Mella, then continued. “No, perhaps not. Go then...down to your waiting husband. I shall have for company my whispered words; petty lies to warm my heart and wine to ease my sleep.”

Though her face was downcast, one could still see the flush about the handmaiden's face. She stammered at her words. "Of course...mistress." The handmaiden took a step back.

"Wait, Mella...you'll return, please, tomorrow?" Mella couldn't help but see the loneliness in those pale blue eyes.

"Yes, mistress." She inclined her head and turned, but then stopped as she was about to leave. "Mistress, my mother said she served you, as I do."

"Yes, you know as much. Your mother and you lived with me for many years. Is it so distant that you forget?"

"No, Mistress. But my grandmother, and her mother before that...they served you as well?" But it was not the question she wanted to ask. It was never the place of a servant to ask too many questions. One could know too much, and questions aroused suspicion of insolence.

"You know they did, Mella. Did your mother not tell you?"

Again there was the hesitation, the search for words that would not seem impolite. The downcast eyes and lowered voice, all signs of submission. "She said I was not to speak of it to you, nor to anyone. She said...she would explain, one day..." Her voice ended in nearly a whisper.

Nephthanee finished her thought. "...but then she died."

"Yes, mistress." The handmaiden turned and looked up into the face of Nephthanee.

Nephthanee took a deep breath and sighed deeply. The gesture one of a dreaded but inevitable task that has finally arrived. "You're different from your mother, and grandmother...their mothers. I thought, perhaps, you would be happier this way. Are you happy, Mella...married to your good and honest man? Do you really want to know so much?"

Concern etched the handmaiden's face. She wanted to know, but knowing and wanting are different. She could ignore the rumors and stories of the villagers. Stories born of their fear, told to their children and then to their children's children. And who was to say what was true. They never said much, sly little remarks, but the truth of it was they were scared, scared that the remark might make its way back to her mistress. Better to not know and say as much, than to know all and claim less.

"No, mistress. I'm happy." The handmaiden inclined her head. "Sleep well, mistress."

Last edited by Sunset Fallow; 12-16-2012 at 08:36 PM.
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  #12  
Old 08-03-2014
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Sunset Fallow Sunset Fallow is offline
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Eypheha

Are these my dreams? How odd.


The remnants of the memories she had were not the effortless cascade of ordered events one finds in a normal set of recollections. It would be hard to categorize what she actually remembered. It is, for most of us, that memories are well organized by years of careful manipulation, the incongruous edges smoothed, the tiny bits that don't fit excluded, details inserted here, generalizations gradually added and perfected there. Yet for her, those memories she glimpsed seemed odd, that they belonged to another person, disjointed, unarranged, uncategorized, unrecognized; not molded by her mind at all. It never felt like she was seeing something which belonged to "her". And that was very odd, indeed.

"Eypheha, are you awake?" It was Noa.

Yet there was a memory she had of a thing not so recent since her time in the castle and her escape. It was more distant, yet still seemed to belong to her. It had all the right qualities. She felt like she was the viewer of the vision, but couldn't say why that was so. And now, she had a name that went with that vision...the face she saw, Nephthanee. It was quite a lovely face, as faces go. She was looking up at it. She couldn't say why she felt that she must be 'looking up' except that she was sure she was lying on her back and thus 'looking up' seemed the only reasonable assumption.

Noa’s hand on her shoulder..."I have breakfast." She took a deep breath, and rolled to her back.

And so it was that she felt it was not a dream, but a thing remembered. She recollected vividly every detail of that short encounter. Of course, what was true of all memories was also true of this one, and that being they are highly pliable. But the voice she heard was far from imaginings, she was certain. She had nearly died as that calm voice spoke to her on that high pinnacle and at the end said a name. Could it be coincidence that the name from the voice would suddenly bring forth images of the face she remembered so vividly? Having a name to put to the face was a relief, yet is also bothered her that she couldn't quite arrange the details so that she could say why that name went with that face. And that she could recall it so vividly; white hair, pale blue eyes, skin so clear and nearly as white as her hair; it was bizarre, really, to wake and see that face staring down at her so close that she could feel her warm breath on her face.

Noa leaned closer, so near her face, he wanted nothing more than to kiss her. To feel the warmth of her close to him. His breathing quickened.

...the warm breath on her face. She opened her eyes. "Nephthanee! Her name is Nephthanee."
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  #13  
Old 06-09-2017
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Sunset Fallow Sunset Fallow is offline
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The Hunter

He slid the gold piece across the table, his fingers pressing the coin firmly down onto the scarred wooden surface. The beggar licked at thin, dry lips, his hands at once reaching and hesitating; trembling as Sabbah watched.

Desire was written among deep creases and leathered skin; the 'need' etched within trembling muscles. He could get the information without the coin, of course, in a place where no one would hear the screams, or care if they did, but this would do. The beggar would remember more without the pain.

“Tell me…” Sabbah inched the coin forward. “…no lies.”

The beggar’s fingers rubbed at his upper lip. “I seem ta ‘member them headin’ west...” He nodded as he spoke. He looked up at Sabbah then back down at the coin.

The coin slid further away. “What road?”

The beggar reached for the coin. “Wait now! I kin tell, I kin tell. It were ta High Road. Yessus, it were. Ta one dey call da Golden Way. You know ta one, ta one…west, it were.” He rubbed his lip again then pointed at Sabbah to emphasize his recollection. “Yep, yep. Dat were it.”

Sabbah watched the old beggar a few seconds. “What’d they look like? A man and a woman? Just the two you said.”

The beggar rubbed at his face, his alcohol laden memories stretched to dredge up details of the pair. “Yessus, and he were tall, a bit taller ‘en you, thin, an’ rough lookin’. Not a city fellar, I reckon. He wore all leather clothes. Clean shaved…an’ he wore a hat. But I could see he had…umm…long hair that was brown.” His fingers tapped at the table, the effort to remember details evident on his face.

The beggar thought for a few seconds then continued. “An’…..ummm, the girl. Well, lemme see.” He paused again. “She was right purdy.” The beggar nodded to Sabbah with a lecherous grin.

“But I betcha know dat, don’t cha? She had dark red hair. What they call dat…?” The beggar paused again unable to remember the words he wanted. “Well, no matter. Her hair was short, near like a man. But it were her eyes that I ‘member most. Gods, almighty! Her eyes! They was the most brightest thing I did see…almost glowed, they did.”

The beggar stared for a moment remembering, his eyes unfocused. “Beautiful, yes she was, but ‘em eyes…I kin tell ya, they scared me.” The beggar nodded to Sabbah solemnly. “When she looked at me and kinda snarled and then…then her eyes…they turned fer jus a minute to the brightest yellow I ever did see.”

The beggar’s eyes wandered. Then he shook his head and slapped at the table with a hand that trembled. “Now there ya go…I told ya what they looked like.” His head twitched nervously as he stared at Sabbah.

“The weapons...tell me.” Sabbah drew the coin away.

The beggar pursed his lips in frustration then spoke after a long pause. “A bow…he carried a bow. A big bow…long an’ heavy. An’…the girl. All I saw was a dagger ‘er maybe it were a huntin’ knife.”

“How long ago?” The coin didn’t move.

The beggar rubbed at his lips and chin. “Well, that’d be two…days…maybe. Or three…” He looked up at Sabbah and nodded to no one in particular.

Sabbah pushed the coin across the table and let it rest before the beggar. He watched as the beggar’s eyes lifted from the coin to his own, his greed not quite outweighing his fear.

They sat for a few seconds, the beggar and Sabbah; the beggar’s hands poised over the coin, Sabbah watching silently. Then slowly Sabbah rose from his chair across from the beggar and looked around the room. The few patrons that had gathered only glanced occasionally at the two of them.

He looked back down at the beggar and chanted near silently as his fingers traced an intricate pattern in the air. The beggar looked up and then seemed to relax and stare vacantly, the gold coin clutched tightly in one hand. A shadow, darker than that already in the dim room, passed between them as the chant was completed. Sabbah moved off as the beggar sat unmoving, staring at the place where Sabbah had been.

Two days…west along the Golden way. Did they know where this mage Naphthanee lived? It didn’t seem possible.

He moved to the door and stepped out into the bright sunlight. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. The sun warmed his face and soothed the cold. He always felt so cold after.

Inside the Inn...the beggar sat quietly, shaking his head as if to clear his thoughts. He felt something in his hand. Opening his fingers her saw it...a coin...a golden coin.

Last edited by Sunset Fallow; 06-12-2017 at 02:31 AM.
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