Fiction: A Lady's Prerogative Book I: The Yearning And The Learning Part I by Brian Joseph Johns
Warning: This story deals with some mature situations. Reader discretion is advised.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
This is the book that started the A Lady's Prerogative series, around which all other stories are fastened. It contains a fitting introduction to the world and it's characters without revealing too much about what is to come. If you're new to A Lady's Prerogative, this is the best place to start though keep in mind that this isn't just for ladies It includes a variety of heroic and villainous characters of all genders though the main characters of the story are essentially four Women. I will be publishing the entirety of the book over the next week or two which includes a much updated and edited storyline from the original publication of 2012. It is a part of a much bigger story that will unfold as you read this book and those that follow it.
Please do enjoy,
Brian Joseph Johns
Mila placed the candelabra on the table and traveled the distance around it, to a window near the far end. The table itself was oval in shape, with enough places to seat ten comfortably though only four places were set. No cloth covered its surface, only the evenly spaced place settings, which included an array of salad, shellfish, dinner and dessert forks, spoons for soup and legumes, and knives fit for cutting rolls or buttering them as desired. The center of the table housed the newly placed candelabra which was curtained with various serving dishes that contained sauces and other elixirs.
The table itself was made from a variety of different woods which were each sculpted and carved and assembled by a craftsman. She had custom ordered this table and supplied a large portion of the design herself. Everything in her house was as this table, things of which she had dreamt and that had made their way into the world by her creativity and sometimes, her obsession. Taking the idea from a dream and turning it into reality always required a skill or a combination thereof that she did not possess in the means necessary to make that dream, whatever it was. Finding the right person, with the right combination of skill, artistry and expression was always the interesting part.
She closed the window, through which the wind pushed the curtain into a willowy dance. This window, about three feet removed from the end of the table, looked out onto a grove that blanketed the property for fifty yards all the way ‘round the house before giving way to a thick overgrown forest. During the day, the odd chipmunk or squirrel would make its way through the grove in order to search for something that may have made its way to the ground from one of the orchard trees. There was no activity in the orchard on this day. Most of the squirrels and chipmunks were well into the task of preparing for winter, or had already settled in for their big sleep. The sun was already hidden beyond the forest and just beneath the horizon. She noted the state of the trees and the foliage that had spread itself onto the floor of the grove. She let the curtain fall back into place in front of the window, its dancing done for the day. It was still too early to prepare for her guests, as punctual and reliable as they were, they'd likely never arrived before dark. Fashionably late as it were. Besides, Mila thought, there were still many preparations necessary for what was to follow.
She crossed the distance of the room through an archway that opened into the kitchen. The room itself sang with the same atmosphere as did the dining area. Lit well enough for one to see, yet dark enough to be relaxing at the same time. On a large cast iron gas stove, a trio of pots boiled, water frothing as the bubbles climbed, never quite reaching the edges to escape. In the center of each pot, was a second pot, a double boiler as it were. Within each of these boilers were suspended several pieces of string which were tied to a rod stretched across each boiler. Within each, a different colored liquid simmered, without bubbling, but moving just beneath the surface enough to let one know that something was happening. She proceeded through the archway and over to the stove, reaching for a handle at the end of one of the rods. She skilfully lifted the rods by this handle and placed them on a rack, where the strings, now covered in this liquid set to solidify.
As they dried, essentially becoming candles, she tended to the clutter on the stove itself, removing the pots and boilers to the sink. It would take some time for the candles to dry, for these were no ordinary candles. After she had put everything away, she proceeded to the living room to enjoy a bit of relaxation to summon up the kind of energy that she would need. She made her way down the hall, through the archway that opened into the room she sought. The living room itself was compact and bodingly dark and the walls were framed by tall baseboards, each etched with a multitude of carvings. The walls were painted in what looked to be a smorgasbord of streamers and confetti in a variety of reds, oranges and pinks which like the baseboard carvings, never repeated or made any kind of pattern all while concealing a common motif.
Her favorite chair, a large soft overstuffed, upholstered in cashmere sat a body length shy of the center of the room, with a large ottoman perched before it. She reached the chair and sat upon it, stretching her legs out comfortably on the ottoman. The chair faced a fire place, which like the baseboards, had their own carvings, but of a much different style than those on the baseboards themselves. The mantle piece above the fire place appeared almost as a framed mirror or painting. It’s surface ever so slowly changed in shape and color in harmonic appreciation of the burning wood. Even the wood in the fireplace played its part, dense pieces of cedar, its aroma filling the air. On a table beside her chair, sat a few books she'd left half read, although there would be no reading tonight. She closed her eyes and concentrated on the crackling of the fire, drawing its energy in as she drifted.
She was in another place, a street in Alivale, the small township a good many miles from the house. The street was empty, but there seemed to be a festive spirit in the air regardless of the lack of patrons. She was walking down the street, in a clear midday sun, towards a “T” intersection. Across the street at the end of the “T”, was her destination. She looked to her left at a display window. A mannequin stood modeling farming apparel, holding a large pitchfork, its spokes reaching for the ceiling. Hay was scattered around the floor of the display window, making it look like a simple caricature of actual farming life. She looked to the face of the mannequin and thought there was something that just wasn't quite right. She tried to pause in her footsteps but found that she couldn't. She continued her journey, startled as she encountered another mannequin in the store window that followed, a lady modeling jogging sportswear. None of the mannequins seemed to breath yet they were definitely alive. None of them resembled anyone that she had ever seen in her trips to the town, though they were possessed of the same sense of familiarity.
As she reached the intersection, she heard the sound of moving water and was met with a cool and misty breeze. The street itself had become a river, the waters seeming to accelerate as she approached. She tried to stop herself from stepping out into the street/river but encountered the same resistance to her efforts that she had experienced at the display window. Her foot met the water, which was moving rapidly, roaring as it did. She braced for cold flow of water over her body, but found that she didn't sink as she stepped out onto the river. The rushing water supported her weight, which felt like mossy tundra under her step. The water didn't stream up her foot or shower her in splashes as she took each step, it merely flowed underfoot. She took her final step onto the curb and turned her attention from the rushing water to her destination.
“Graduation year is it? This year is going to be different Mila!” the face spoke, in a gargling like dialect.
“Just ask the kind Alivale folk what they think!” the face nodded in the direction of a crowd of storefront mannequins that had gathered on the other side of the “T” intersection across the river.
Each mannequin still held its canned smile, their inanimate expressions fixated upon her. The jogger sportswear mannequin backed up to take a run at hurdling the river. The mannequin ran a hard sprint, leaping into the air in a steep arc. If flew silently its arms and legs flailing as it did. Reaching the end of its arc, the mannequin failed to cover the full distance, plunging into the river. Mila stepped back against the display window aghast at the mannequin, eerily smiling as it failed to get a hold of the curb and was quickly swept down stream, tumbling through the water. As quickly as it disappeared, one of the other mannequins stepped forward, in a three piece suit, squatted and projected itself at Mila like a dapper missile. Despite the initial lack of momentum, the suit mannequin was able to launch itself far enough across to get a purchase on the curb. It held on, struggling happily against the force of the water to pull itself onto the sidewalk at Mila. As it managed to get its other hand on the curb, another suit mannequin leapt out of the crowd and into the water, spurred on by the former’s success. In doing so, it accidentally knocked a couple of other onlooking mannequins into the water. The first suit mannequin had started to pull itself from the water, Mila watching in horror as it did. The second suit mannequin had leveraged its distance across using the other waterborn mannequins as rafts, pushing off from one and catching the first suit mannequin’s leg. The first suit mannequin, unfazed and smiling, pulled itself up onto the curb.
The second suit mannequin, whose wig had fallen off into the water, climbed up and over the first, now already part way onto the curb. Mila, spurred to action by their success moved forward in an attempt to knock them back. Her foot connected with the chest of the second one in a solid blow, knocking the mannequin backwards into the water, where it disappeared quickly. The first mannequin, reached out and grabbed her exposed leg, its hand feeling like cold wax. She screamed, kicking it with her free foot. The suit mannequin held fast, as it reached for her other leg. In her frenzy, she noticed the farm hand mannequin at the front of the crowd, clumps of hay stuck to its feet. It arched its arm back, wielding the pitchfork like a javelin. The pitchfork flew through the air in a deadly arc at Mila. Mila reached for the suit mannequin’s tie, and yanked it to its feet just as the pitchfork reached her. It plunged into the back of the suit mannequin with a chunk sound that made Mila shudder. The mannequin remained unfazed by the wound, still smiling despite having stumbled backwards if only by the imbalance caused by the pitchfork. Mila pushed with both hands against the mannequin’s shoulders. The mannequin plunged into the water, cart wheeling downstream, still reaching for the curb with futility.
Mila looked back to the crowd, which seemed to have lost its collective nerve and was backing away from the street. Catching her breath, she turned to confront the face in the window only to find it empty.
Mila sighed, still shaking a little. She had leaned against the store window to keep her balance when a cold waxy hand gripped her shoulder. She turned screaming to see the face of the farm hand mannequin smiling back at her. Her scream filled the air as a log in fire place cacked making a loud noise, suddenly waking her from her sleep.
She scanned the living room for mannequins, finding none to her relief. She paused a moment, allowing herself to calm. The house was even darker since the sun had completely disappeared, and the full moon crept its way into the night sky. Her guests would be arriving soon.
Mila made her way back to the kitchen hurriedly for some final preparations for the special candles, as they were an important part of the evening and part of her contribution to the night. She trimmed the candles of their excess leaving a bushy wick on the end of each. She placed each on its own holder which bore engravings lacking symmetry and if one looked close enough at them, they may have noticed a similarity with those on the mantle piece. She paused to admire her craftwork despite her disturbing dream. She took them each, two at a time to a hutch that stood upon a buffet in the dining space. They were evenly distributed across three separate shelves where, to an observer they would have seemed more pronounced than the space that surrounded them. Again she admired them within their setting then continued on with the final preparations.
Most of the feast had been prepared by her in the days prior to the date although the feast was not the main attraction of the evening. Every last vegetable, legume, berry that had made its way into one of the entrees she had hand picked. A lost art that was very important to those who understood its value. She retrieved each of the entrees from the stove, which she had cleverly converted to an oven sized steamer. She grabbed each of the serving dishes and placed them upon their setting on the table. When finished, she paused once more to admire the entirety of the scene before her. She sighed and made her way up the back stairs and to her bedroom. There she quickly washed her face and donned her white evening gown, which bore her curves in exhibition and yielded to her movement without constricting her. She wore her sexuality with confidence as a mature woman, yet retained her personal sense of poise. She considered intimacy as a sacred form of expression that should only be communicated between those who sincerely meant it. She braided her long hair and twirled it into a spiral shaped bun on the back of her head. She was as ready for the night as it was for her.
Mila made her way down the stairs to the dining room and took her place on the end of the table closest the kitchen. By that time, the air had already begun to move in scattered and erratic bursts making the candles on the candelabra dance, in erratic sudden moves. There she seated herself in wait for her guests to arrive, observing the coming show. Each air burst was now accompanied by the presence of a dense dark patch of space that no light could pierce. As quickly as they would appear, they would fade. She jumped as a bolt of static electricity shot from one of the black patches on one side of the table to a point in the corner of the ceiling. The air itself seem to darken as the show progressed. There was a loud POP and another bolt of static shot from the one of the corners of the buffet into a spoke on the candelabra. She jumped in her chair, startled but amused.
The air in the room seemed to fold into itself while the other settings began to shudder. Mila scanned the room, making sure there was no damage in the fray, when she noticed a butterfly fluttering to one of the chairs, quickly to be followed by another. Yet another followed those two and then one more. Additional butterflies continued to materialize as tiny puffs of smoke until there was a cloud of butterflies forming up onto the first chair. The mass of butterflies slowly congregated, taking the form of a combined larger shape on the chair, their wings still beating the air. Mila watched in awe as their wings slowed. They slowly combined into a human shaped cocoon, their movement continuing under the shell. A moment later, the movement in the cocoon had stopped and the cocoon itself dissolved, pieces floating into the air and disappearing revealing a beautiful woman seated thereupon. Her beautiful red lips and deeply penetrating eyes appeared first, followed by her shoulder length blonde hair which flowed down onto her indigo green dress. The lady sat quietly beside Mila, who was still keeping an eye on the show around them. From the comfort of her chair, she raised her hand and extended her index finger. Three butterflies fluttered to her from the dancing shadows within the room, landing on her finger. The lady held then close to her nose before releasing them back into the air. She then looked over to Mila.
The second place setting, the one across from her recent arrival, continued to rock from side to side, occasionally bouncing off the ground altogether. Mila had observed that the shadows in the room had began to take on a life of their own. The shadows combined, like a pool of liquid, streaming toward the chair from all directions. When the shadows had made their way to the chair, they continued up the chair, and like the cocoon, took on the form of a person. The shape slowly gained dimensionality and the curves of another beauty took form. Her black night gown clung to her figure yet still retained an air of elegance. She smiled with a hidden prudence as the contrast of the shadows were replaced by her pale white skin, her lips red and as dark as her gown, her eyes even darker with an elaborately etched eyeliner tail on each side of her eyes. Her face was pale white and smooth giving contrast to the make-up surrounding her lips and eyes. Her hair was more a deep triking red that pierced the darkest shadows. Mila heard something fierce from the shadows of the room breathing, watching them obviously having arrived with the shadow lady. The shadow lady craned her head back looking in the direction of the shadowy beast, and shushed it quiet. She held her silence, the three looking at each other and then to the remaining chair.
The last chair, which had come to life and was now hopping and rocking around an imaginary point at the end of the table. Then without warning, it suddenly stopped. For a moment there was complete silence and all of the activity ceased, the room visibly darkened. The three women eyed the room as if in disbelief that the show had ended, the shadow lady pursing her lips feigning disappointment. A low frequency hum began to oscillate, shaking the entire house and its occupants. Mila could feel her insides moving sympathetically to the low frequency harmonics as she fought the urge to gag. There was another moment of silence, then the walls and ceiling disappeared altogether revealing the night around them in all of its glory. A strong wind blew from out of nowhere towards the empty chair, as if the space the chair occupied had become a vacuum. Even the trees of the orchard which were visible to the ladies, swayed against this wind. The clouds themselves had become caught up as well, and had been pulled from miles around, out of the sky in a stream all leading to the chair. Several lightning bolts swept across the sky, followed by the blast of thunder. Mila gripped the arms of her chair as if hanging on for her life. When the cacophony had reached nearly unbearable proportions, a loud boom echoed out from the house, and the walls and ceiling reappeared, the momentum screeching to a halt like the end of a terrifying roller coaster Amazingly, nothing in the room had been disturbed by the maelstrom, though its effects were visible on the faces of the three ladies. While they caught their breath in the silence, they almost failed to notice the last guest.
Mila paused for a moment, scanning the room with her eyes and senses, both simultaneously trying to see through a thin veil of mist that enveloped the room and to evaluate the room for damage. When she was satisfied with what her eyes told her of the situation she turned her full attention to the new guest. An elderly lady with sparkling eyes alight with the curiosity of someone a hundredth her years, sat in her chair, a mystical cloak flowing from her, billowing despite the still air.
"Please, stay seated. I insist." she turned to Mila and the other guests, who all simultaneously rose from their seats in unison with Yirfir.
The trio looked on returning to their respective seats.
"Well this is a far cry from what I expected!" she proclaimed proudly as someone who'd been to Mila's abode in the past despite this having been her first time.
"How quaint, yet bold in approach. I see you've been busy with the details?" she inquired of Mila, who smiled politely and nodded.
Yirfir was of course referring to the decorative work which ran lightly through the surface of all the walls, though barely noticeable, and especially such in the dim candle light. Mila's cheeks flushed as she was not accustomed to the attention, as she was the sole occupant of this stately manor.
Yirfir eyed each of the occupants at the table in turn, each obviously a little uncomfortable with her outward enthusiasm, as they had expected someone or something a bit more refined. The prison of age, kept by the young against the elderly. It was always naturally a shock to see someone like Yirfir whom had not lost her spice for life upon reaching her cliche shelf life. Yirfir would never relinquish that spark to anyone, and this is what had earned her loyal friends, young and old alike, as much as it had earned her fierce enemies.
"The table is set, so let's get the feastivities started" Yirfir exclaimed with intentional pun, punctuating her regard for the ladies' impression of her.
Mila smiled, amused by Yirfir's lively attitude. This occasion belonged to Yirfir, for she would be the guide for the night's adventure and it was her prerogative, a lady's prerogative to bare the joy of life in spite of those who thwarted it. Tonight was the real beginning of their journey. A journey that did not always see those enduring its path, arrive safely at the destination. For this night was the beginning of their graduation. Their coming of age.
Two Of Hearts
Nelony, the lady of nature, the natural world and of the butterflies sat quietly taking in her surroundings. A butterfly perched on her shoulder, fanning its wings in practice of the next step in its simple life cycle. She looked on to Mila, who eyed her with curiosity.
"I love butterflies" Mila stated with genuine interest examining the elaborate painting that Mother Nature had etched onto the little creature's wings.
"They're pretty beasts, they are. But you must guard that they don't make purchase of your lashes," Nelony stated, as if well experienced of that scenario.
Mila giggled quietly at Nelony's joke.
The feast had proceeded and Yirfir held the spotlight, savoring every moment of it. She had attended such gatherings for years before the ladies seated around her could walk. Mila tended to her guests, a responsibility she relished.
It was an another art form to her: the evening's festivities and the appetite of her guests were her palette. Each morsel of food and droplet of wine were the paint that she had applied to the her utensils, cutlery and place settings. Mila was by no means stuck to the trappings of what one would call a home-maker by cliche. She was just another kind of artist, and had taken up all such pursuits with the same attitude towards the activity regardless of what they entailed. Explore the wonder in doing it and enjoy the wonder it yielded.
Whether it was a practice in social etiquette, an exercise in firm regard for her ideals, she had applied her artful approach to the activity. Men had been a part of her life and they too were her canvas, though she had recently started to refrain from social encounters as she had found that she was often drained in her attempts to bond emotionally. Few men realized what an emotional investment women make in them and Mila was no exception.
She had never found a mate that had bonded with her at the level she sought. When she did meet someone, she had a tendency to push them away as she found herself on unfamiliar ground with such men as much as they'd found her unfamiliar. She'd met men who tried to assume the role of what they thought a man should be, rather than being themselves and this had always led to problems. They'd either try to dominate her, manage her time and constrict her freedom. Being an artist her very being was about freedom and such relationships never fared well. She liked to play and was a playful lover. When she'd meet the kind of man who would treat her like a possession or try to take ownership of her, they would be gone with the wind. That was until she had met Ethran at the furniture finishing shop in town. She had ventured into town in order to find the price of finishing some furniture for her manor. She had arranged for a sales estimate at her residence as part of her project with the interior design of the manor, something she enjoyed, especially big projects as this one. Ethran had arrived at her place, dressed both professionally and casually, and she had found him quite attractive from the moment she had first laid eyes on him.
He hid his interest in her rather well and fooled even her keen senses while she toyed with his ego, as an artist as herself might. He flinched naught and kept at his estimate professionally evaluating each piece in turn asking her questions with regard to her requirements. Her level of frustration rose as she realized that they were not speaking the same sexual language that she was trying to communicate to him. He hadn't a "ring" nor would she have ever pursued someone committed to another as she had lost her by way of betrayal by her former husband.
Discouraged, she had almost given up and as a last attempt she had lured him up to the bedroom suite to evaluate her wardrobe and chest of drawers. He had played naive 'til the last moment, but when he had seen her invitingly strewn across the bed, her thigh visible up to her privates and her seductive gaze directed invitingly at his, he could no longer maintain his feigned disinterest. They had occupied the room for fourteen hours, emerging only once for finger food, which she brought back to the bedroom for their consumption which swiftly lead to hours more of intermittent love making. He had adored her and he embraced her artistic approach as he possessed his own, and by Monday morning he knew her better than most had, including her former husband.
Her encounter with Ethran had healed three years of pain she had experienced upon finding her former husband with another woman, in their own bed no doubt. She had left the house quietly that afternoon, tears streaming the height of her cheeks and finding gravity enough to hang drop to her blouse from her chin. Her pain had taken years to find resolve and she evicted her memories of him one at time over the following year. She had agreed to give him the house they had resided in together, though more to cleanse her memory of it and her time with him. He'd been one of the men who'd treated her as a possession though she'd pretended him not to be as such. Pretention can only keep the seams for so long before the threads unwind and they did. Early marriage for her had been more to escape the feeling of being in a world without her parents.
Ethran had made her feel vulnerable in a way that she had only experienced at the hands of her former husband, though Ethran was actually aware of her wholly. She had began to feel for him from their first encounter, and they had many encounters beyond. He would call her and they would meet in secluded, and sometimes public places, and share their need for gratification that could not be found with anyone but each other. Her vulnerability had reached a peak when she had called him one afternoon and had arranged to meet him in the evening, at his modest apartment in Alivale. He agreed, and her imagination had already begun exploring and anticipating.
When she arrived at his apartment, and they embraced she held him tight but pursued him no further than his embrace. For the remainder of the evening he felt at odds with her, even distrustful of her. He kept a barrier around his being for the night until they retired to bed, when something different had happened. When they retired to bed, he had made advances upon her as she was at her peak, potent and virile with artistic energy seeking manifest through his embrace. She avoided sexuality and asked him to lay beneath her naked, close. She indulged him, not knowing what to expect but ultimately expecting another sexual escapade.
"Line up your heart beat to mine" she asked him quietly, her cheek pressed against his chest. He sat still, not sure what she was implying, and when their heart beats didn't synchronize she lay still and disappointed upon his chest. He was not the one she'd been seeking and this symbol was important to her. Not because they could not achieve it. He could not make the time nor effort to explore something as important to her. Something that did not require money or any other extraneous influence, only his person and being and their being together. He was not the one for her and though he was a wonderful lover, he was for someone else. Not her.
When morning had come around, Mila had felt distant and even a little cold. She abandoned him in the early morning and sat curled up on bathroom floor crying quietly, trying to rid herself of attachment and the risk it held for her. At breakfast she remained distant, her heart on the bathroom floor, bloated and beating, flushing ice from her system in abundance. He eyed her with delicate sensitivity, trying to breach her pain, but only colliding with her guarded feelings. When their connection had been lost and they did feel it. They knew it was over.
Mila watched left and headed back to the manor that morning and never saw him again. That was her last time with Ethran and any man beyond that. She fought back tears and hid from her pain and when it found her again she knew that she'd felt something for him, though she knew that she could never love him. Could she ever really love someone and become commited to a relationship as much as she was her art? Did being as such mean relingquishing her freedom? Mila slowly crept her way from her memories back to the manor dining area.
Alliance In The Night
Mila sat staring ahead, caught in the world of her memories.
"I said I think we need to start doing this a little more often. Don't you?" Nelony said to Mila who seemed to return from the depths of her memories.
"How about quarterly?" Mila said jokingly smiling for her friend.
"That sounds good. We could do up a newsletter and let everyone else at the Sanctum know about what happened at the previous meeting..." Nelony said taking a healthy sip of her wine and rolling her eyes.
"Just as long as Shaela doesn't get up on the chair and start dancing like she did last year. You know how she gets when she's had a bit of drink?" Mila said taking a modest sip from her glass, her cheeks reddened as she held back laughter.
"Absolutely. She starts out the evening all dark and glum, the mysterious lady of the shadows. A few glasses of wine later and she's the life of the dinner party." Nelony laughed.
"Maybe we're just jealous..." Mila said thinking back to last year's gathering.
"I'd say! I'd be swimming in men if I could dance like that." Nelony said running her hand down her dress a big smile on her face.
Yirfir spent a little time with each of the guests in turn, in order to understand them better, and find them within their shell because they all had one, even Yirfir. Shaela was confident and quaint, and spoke without revealing her intent, making her difficult to read, even for Yirfir. She kept her vigil on the end of the table deepest in the shadows, only slightly visible in flickering vestiges at the edge of the candle light.
"Shaela, you must realize that this is an important night for you. For all of you." Yirfir told Shaela, who only seemed to be half listening, the other half engaged in the conversation between Nelony and Mila.
"I see you have found another interest away from your shadows" Yirfir paused, slightly impatient with Shaela's lack of attentiveness.
Shaela, whose form was almost as that of a shadow and whom would have gone completely unnoticed if not for her striking eyes and pale skin and darkly contrasting lips, immediately focused upon Yirfir. Her voice emerged from her, a dark aural wind from deep within a cave.
"I am interested only in what I need to know to complete this night" she stated, keeping her eyes upon her contemporaries.
Shaela held forth the three mid fingers on her left hand, upon each of which a small flame sprang forth, and merged before her to ball no bigger than a marble. It quickly shot across the room, between Nelony and Mila, who were deep in conversation, and burst into a firework, startling them both as they shielded themselves.
Yirfir, stood watching the show, only slightly amused, while Nelony and Mila were completely caught off guard. Nelony's temper flared and she immediately rose from her chair, her hand thrown forth. She uttered an unintelligible word, and a loud pop like the crack of whip burst from a point near her extended hand. A large hornet, just a little smaller than her clenched fist materialized and sped towards Shaela, directly at her nose.
Time slowed and just before it reached the purchase of Shaela's sellion, Mila gestured moving each of her two extended fingers as paintbrushes across the distant canvas of Shaela's face. Intricately detailed and shaded lines crept their way across Shaela's face meeting in the middle, where a beautiful flower took form: a still life begonia tattoo. The edges of the tattoo curled from Shaela's face and it sprang forth, floating before her face, intercepting the hornet, which oddly enough had become happily part of the artwork. The picture fluttered harmlessly to the floor landing before Shaela.
Shaela looked down at it a little shocked, and then looked to Mila, who returned her gaze.
"Keep it. There'll be more" Mila offered, still sounding a little agitated.
"Bravo. Bravo. I am truly impressed. Let us hope that is not all that you have up your sleeves, for tonight you will need more than fireworks, hornets and paintings to help you succeed."
"I thank you Mila." Shaela offered sincerely. She looked over to Nelony and continued.
"Nelony, this is not over between us".
"You startled us Shaela. How would you have reacted?" asked Mila with a sincere concern.
"A lot harder than she did." Shaela's voice deepened and the room visibly darkened with her statement.
"You don't scare me." Nelony responded, a deep humming sound could be heard from outside, growing in intensity. A humongous swarm of insects, birds, wings and other avians of the night had materialized outside in the fog laden air around the Manor. They buzzed and flapped with the intensity of Nelony's anger, each crawling and fluttering against the exterior seeking entry to the Manor.
An instant later, the Manor and swarm had all disappeared and they were standing in the orchard itself under the stars. Yirfir seemed to grow in size and presence before them, her cheeriness replaced by an omnipresence that terrified the three younger ladies, each cowering together in the grass that occupied the former plot of the Manor.
"If you will not find peace with each other, then you will find conflict with me." Yirfir's presence had become all imposing and deeply vindictive, and the three ladies gained hold of their fear and stood together.
Yirfir's halo in the moon had become that of large and angry beast, easily four stories in height, two glowing eyes peering down at the three ladies, who huddled together momentarily held in fear.
Nelony broke the stand off as her temper flared again.
"We're not afraid of you!" she shouted.
"Silence!" Yirfir's voice echoed throughout the orchard.
A moment passed while they stood waiting to see what would happen. When nothing did Shaela stepped forward. The shadow that trailed her cast by the moonlight (Shaela's favorite kind) had grown to the form of a large dark cat-like creature which had emerged from a portal there within. It was easily a third the size of Yirfir's beast. Its shadowy snarls and breath could be felt by all three as it stood vigil.
"Don't you talk to her that way!" Shaela demanded coming to Nelony's aid.
"Then I shall deal with the two of you together!" Yirfir boomed.
"You'll deal with us all three!" Mila jumped in front of the other two.
There was a tense standoff, the cat beast roaring and Yirfir's giant lurching forward to meet it's challenge and for a moment, they feared the situation had gotten out of control.
"That's better" Yirfir broke the tension, the beasts faded and the Manor returned along with Yirfir's unimposing demeanor, her glass of wine in hand, a smile crept to the corner of her mouth and quavered a moment.
The tension in the room slowly dissipated, and Yirfir continued, an ecstatic and deliberately slow chuckle emanating from her like the wiles of a lady who possessed the secrets of great pleasure. She basked in the afterglow of her magic, and eyed each of the ladies in turn.
"As you know my darlings, this is an important night. For all of us. For each of you. It will determine your place within our gathering and other gatherings like ours. It will determine your place within the Sanctum and within society itself, and how you will serve them both, should you survive. You will need to do so together and not apart." Yirfir spake her wisdom and the three listened intently. She had abandoned her prior aloofness in favor of the age born cliche which at least two of the dinner guests had expected of her. In time they would learn to be aware of what one would not expect from another.
The town was quiet at this time, roughly eleven post meridian and a slight fog had settle over it, blanketing it with mist. The street lamps penetrated this mist and were reflected by the damp roads and sidewalks, giving the whole an eerie and solid glow. The town had stood for a long time, springing forth from the brush as a farming community nearly three hundred years ago. Before that for a breadth of five hundred years, it had been home and habitat to a variety of fauna in its temperate climate, each etching out its existence in the peaceful environment which had become the overgrowth of a conflict over nine hundred years prior to that. That conflict found people fighting over the fertile lands for their value as a potent source of food and sustenance. Before those fighting for claim to the land had found it, it had remained free of any form of civilization for over three thousand years prior to the conflicts of those fighting for claim of its beasts and berries. It is the conflict from that era, almost five thousand years ago that brought the stranger to the streets this night.
He walked slowly down the main street, the same one where Mila had admired the storefront mannequins, before fleeing them in terror in her late afternoon dream. He took notice of the stores, each a small business run by a member of the community, who likely had relatives that went back to the time the town was settled or those whom had come seeking a new start. He had no interest in the store fronts or the pasts of those who kept them though he did admire the perseverance of the people, while he pitied their ignorance. He brandished a walking stick in his right hand, which clicked with each step. His head was furnished with a designer hat, from years before though it gave no indication of whom that designer might be, or what era it originated from. From beneath the hat, stringy strands of white hair dangled to the shoulders of his black knee length long coat. Dressed a gentleman, and an elderly one at that, Jasmer strode down the main street, his tall frame of six and a half feet casting an even taller shadow on the fog and streets.
He had come here seeking history, though not the history you might find in books. He was looking for a history that occurred before there were such records of history. Where such tales were passed on by those who knew of them, and only in spoken word, though it was not the words that he sought but something they might speak of. The problem though for him was in finding those who knew those words, and that could be a tricky business, even for someone as gifted as Jasmer. He had in the last sixty years found no less than six people that had known those words, those tales. Getting at each of those people and their tales had been a long and difficult process, but a man of his perseverance and determination made it appear like clockwork, and time was Jasmer's ally. In this evening he needed the seventh piece to his puzzle and he was less than an hundred feet from that piece and getting closer to it with each stride. He smiled to himself thinking "lucky seven".
He tapped the door with the platinum plated head of the cane, which bit at the door with each contact. Jasmer was met with silence, but his patience had met sturdier adversaries and he waited. The locks clacked on the door and the hinges creaked as it opened. A small man peeked out from behind the oak eying Jasmer with an expression between suspicion and familiarity. Jasmer smiled deceivingly as it were.
"May I help you? You are aware that it is past the browsing hour?" the small man inquired.
Jasmer smiled and responded as he had for hundreds of years.
"I assure you I'm not here to browse. You came recommended to me by a close friend." Jasmer replied to the small man who was the shop keeper in the flesh.
"Well, we're closed as you can obviously see." the man behind the door extended a shaky hand and pointed to a painted sign.
Jasmer eyed the sign, though more to humor the artist who had constructed it, as he had seen many before and deceived them each.
"No I'm not here to see your sign. I can assure you of that. I want to see your collection." Jasmer smiled, and few could refuse.
"It is long past our store hours. I suppose I could let you, but only for a few minutes." the shop keeper opened the door for Jasmer to enter the store.
"It will be worth your while, Sir." Jasmer assured the shop keeper as he stepped in.
The shop was tightly filled with racks that had been hauled in from the street where they'd been set up to lure the tourists who frequented the area.
"Let's hope. Is there something in specific that you're looking for?" the shop keeper asked.
"Yes, as a matter of fact there is. I am looking specifically for the works of two artists. The first is Leanare Wentward." Jasmer said examining the shop's interior.
"Oh, a history buff are you? You're in luck. I have a display full of her works right here..." the shop keeper made himself some space to open a rack he'd indicated.
The shop keeper unfolded the rack which displayed nine paintings in all. Each was from a time between sixteen forty-eight and sixteen fifty-six, when the painter had accomplished most of her works. The first row were still life renderings depicting various tools and implements, or vegetation from that time that were used by the colony. The second row had a painting of a large galleon setting in to port which was bustling with foreground activity. Jasmer eyed it carefully before moving on to the next two. The other two were portraits of some of the colony members who had posed for the portraits in their best attire. Jasmer peered at them quickly before moving on to the last row with his discerning eye.
The last row contained two paintings of interest, one depicting a vertical pyre, upon which was a single occupant held in place by wrist cuffs and obviously in agony. The second depicted a forest scene with a huntsman in the foreground dropping his arquebus and screaming in fear of an enormous shadowy feline figure just ahead of him. In the painting even the silhouette of this enormous beast was terrifying. Just beyond and off to the bottom right corner could be seen a mysterious lady with bright red hair, her eyes glowing over her pale white skin as she skulked forth just behind the giant feline beast. The last painting was that of what appeared to be a clergyman brandishing a knife high in one hand a halo purposefully painted above his head. His other hand clasped a ferocious looking beast of a lady who appeared devilish in the depiction. Perhaps a demon or wytch as the red haired lady from the prior painting. The artist had obviously taken liberty to portray the Woman in such a way in battle with this clergyman. Jasmer peered at it as a visible dismay crossed his face.
"When will we ever learn." Jasmer said quietly under his breath.
"Yes, most of her work was during the great hunt. A time of... turbulence in our history here in Alivale. But part of our heritage nonetheless. She was a conscripted artist by the forces who commanded the great hunt of course. Many of her paintings were based upon accounts taken from the time during the hunt itself." the shop keeper shared the history of Alivale and the artist's connection to it with Jasmer.
He listened still examining the paintings, each of them with a discerning eye before returning his attention to the shop keeper.
"Yes. I can see that. What about the other artist, I believe her name is Mila Rendebelle." Jasmer inquired of the shop keeper.
"Mila? She's a local artist you know. She lives just a hop skip and a jump away, up on Orchard Meadows. The orchard is actually her's you know? We have that sculpture right there, a beautiful piece and I have three paintings in the back if you'll excuse me..." the shop keeper ducked into the back of the store while Jasmer examined Leanare's display.
Picked up the painting with the galleon setting to port, and turned it over on the display so the back of the painting was facing out. There in the bottom left corner was a piece of folded canvas that was tightly stuck between the the painting and the frame. He tugged at it until it became dislodged from the frame and then unfolded it before examining its contents.
They came at night and took away,
A house my home, my husband's grave.
They took it all and in their claim,
they left me none except the blame.
Tanara Milaise 1651.
He quickly folded up the note and pocketed it before moving on to examine Mila's sculpture. It was a beautiful porcelain statue of what appeared to be a wood nymph (Mila did live on an orchard after all). Her arms were by her sides part way following her twirling motion which had been implied by the sculpture. The lady's face was a full and bright smile full of joy. Her clothing was elaborately modeled vines and foliage which wrapped her body and covered her privates in a subtly alluring fashion. The base upon which she stood had an decorative pattern which encircled the platform. Upon close examination Jasmer realized that it was not a pattern at all but in fact a language of some form. It was definitely ancient and sometime after the era of the five clans and most certainly not cuneiform despite its striking similarity and symbolic nature. He took a moment more and deciphered it, finding it to be a mixture of ancient Lyrael, a long disappeared language used by artificers of ancient magic. He read it aloud and stood back.
"Velara Selenis Trecocious Nubium" the words left his lips quietly as the sculpture began to shimmer and glow.
The little lady of the sculpture began to animate and dance, her voice coming to life and singing a beautiful melody though no words. She spun and pirouetted on the sculpture's pedestal as the music of her voice quietly filled the air. At that moment Jasmer's mind fell upon Yirfir. He remembered fond moments with her and the look of her face and the curves of her body and the scent of her as the sculpture wove its spell. After a moment he quickly realized he'd lost his train of thought and returned his attention and focus to the base of the sculpture. Fifteen seconds later the statuette stopped, ceasing its dance and the melody of her voice as it once again became motionless appearing as it did before he'd spoken the words etched onto its base.
"Here's three more of Mila's. My wife must have sold the other two earlier. Was that music I just heard?" the shop keeper asked brandishing three more paintings.
"Yes, I love to sing you know." Jasmer said somewhat cynically.
"You're playing with me. Heh. So would you like to buy one of these. I hope that you didn't waste my..." the shop keeper was interrupted.
"I'll take the whole lot. Everything that you have by Leanare Wentward and Mila Rendebelle." Jasmer said confidently pulling out his wallet.
The shop keeper's demeanor immediately changed from one of mild irritation to that of the joy and exuberance of one who'd just won a fortune as this was the biggest single sale he'd made ever.
"Certainly! For the Miss Leanare's paintings I can give them to you for eight thousand. For Mila's, these three paintings are two thousand a piece but I'll sell the three for four thousand. The sculpture for the same making it a grand total of sixteen thousand dollars." the shop keeps told Jasmer trying to keep his excitement at bay.
"There's sixteen thousand. In cash." Jasmer counted out sixteen crisp thousand dollar bills for the shop keeper.
"I've never seen these you know. How do I know they even real?" the shop keeper asked.
"I assure they are." Jasmer said as the room around him darkened and his face and hands started to glow with a green tinge.
"Right now though you're going to do something else for me. You're going to go to bed and have a wonderful sleep. I did not buy these paintings from you. A little old lady from the west coast came in here and insisted on buying the whole lot. That's what you'll remember and that's what you'll tell your wife. I'll let myself out thank you." Jasmer held his hand towards the shop keeper as he spoke.
"Hmmm. I seem to be a little bit tired. You can let yourself out? I'm just going to hop into bed then. Thank you very much." the shop keeper responded immediately making his way back into his attached house and up to his bedroom.
As the shop keeper disappeared into the back, a dark doorway opened from the thin air. Air flew around the room as the air pressure of two different locations in space attempted to balance itself through the portal. The air failed to slow but that did not stop the many figures that emerged from it. They moved about collecting the art that Jasmer had just purchased and disappeared with it into the newly opened portal. He followed behind them when all of the art he'd purchased had been collected.
It was going to be a long night and there was still so much to do Jasmer thought as the last of his paintings made their way into the nether.
Unwanted Dinner Guests
Yirfir eyed the three before her, each a fine lady and each in their own right, but this wasn't about what one could see. She walked the room, her experience one step before her and her wisdom between.
Mila remained silent, the good hostess making sure that the food was present and the drink flowed and keeping herself contained within. Nelony enjoyed being pampered by her friend as she had not often received as often as she was present to give. Shaela on the other hand was there to protect herself and her interests among them, though inside she was just as protective of them all. She had learnt that to care was weakness and this conflicted with her person fiercely and fueled the harsh elements within her.
The anticipation became apparent within the air and though Yirfir recognized it she belayed it before she spoke.
"Ladies, if you would for a moment. I am here to introduce into a world that you've been striving to earn by the expression of your unique abilities each." Yirfir paused, sipping of her wine and savoring it though not letting it savor her.
"You have worked hard your whole life to achieve this night, though never knowing for sure what it may hold for you." She continued, relishing another sip.
Yirfir was about to continue when there was a loud "pop" as if the air in the center of Mila's room had collapsed into itself to fill an empty space. Before Yirfir stood a tall darkly clad figure, eyes glowing intensely. Yirfir startled for a moment quickly reacted gesturing with her right hand and mouthing a word silently. A gray ambiance slowly to encompassed the the darkly clad figure, each portion of their figure being consumed by it and becoming still, though perfectly. Before long it was entirely consumed.
A moment later another "pop!", followed by another and there were two beside Yirfir, one grabbing her right arm. Her wine glass quickly changed form to a spiked glacious blade, the wine falling to the floor. She swung it at her assailant while the newly appeared attempted to grab at the wine glass/blade.
Shaela leapt to action, a blue bolt of ice and lightning climbing the exterior of her arm through her fingertips and arcing to Yirfir's attacker. He cringed slightly as the bolt impacted, his grip upon Yirfir's arm lost, he shielded himself. The first assailant had been completely consumed and stood as a statue before them, Yirfir's makeshift blade narrowly missing him. The blade impacted upon her other attacker's shoulder, forcing him to use the hand he was restraining her with to defend himself. She withdrew long enough to see Nelony firing a barrage of seeds from her fingertips like bullets. They impacted the assailant's forehead burrowing deeply leaving it pocked with seed filled pimples. He screamed as each seed sprouted to life, a small plant emerging from each entry point. The plants each grasped at his eyes while he screamed.
"Now that's more like it!" Yirfir exclaimed, waving her hands, slowly clasping her fingers turning the cloaked figure's garments into a netted trap tightening around him and constraining him.
The last attacker having recovered from Shaela's bolts redoubled his efforts to constrain Yirfir. He grabbed what looked like a cattle prod from his belt and swung it at Yirfir's unprotected arm. Mila shouted, arcing her hands and rippling her fingers floor ward. The outline of a trap door etched its way onto the floor in intricate design wood grain and hardware, hinges appearing and a latch snapping open. The assailant's cattle prod barely missed Yirfir's arm before gravity took hold and pulled him into the depth's of Mila's imaginary trap door. A scream echoed from the interior before the door latched shut again.
"What'd you put in there?" Nelony asked Mila.
"I don't know. I'd hate to think." she replied.
There was another loud "pop" and this time the assailant appeared ready and from behind Yirfir. He threw a large hood around Yirfir's head, blinding her and suffocating her simultaneously pulling a drawstring on the hood which closed it tightly around her neck. A moment later there was a loud and concussive pop and Yirfir was gone with her assailants all four.
"Yirfir!" Mila screamed, leaping forward.
The air held a misty point of tension where they had vanished. It floated a gaseous swirling energy, slowly disappearing and closing the only door and clue there was to Yirfir's whereabouts.
Old Friends Meet Again
Yirfir sat in an old oak chair which offered little give and great discomfort. Her hands were bound tightly while her mid section was bound to the chair. Her captors had only moments earlier removed the burlap sack that they had used to obscure her vision while they ushered her to the realm. She looked around the room, little bits of burlap fluff clinging to her face irritating her.
The room was somewhat small at about 20 feet for each wall, with a door directly behind the three brutish guards who stood behind her. An oak table with intricately designed relief work on its borders sat in front of her. There were no signs of damage or scuffs to the table that would indicate it had seen any sort of violent use which relieved her.
"Do you brutes have any kind of common decency?" she glared around turning her head as far as her neck would allow her.
Her other senses made up for the lack of turn in her neck and she spied three of her captors, all hooded and cloaked. They were likely the muscle used by whomever had brought her here and seeing as they all wore roughly the same clothing, they were organized in some form and had structure and discipline and likely a hierarchy and chain of command.
"Where did you learn your etiquette? In a bowling pin factory?" she asked and was only met with silence.
"I take that back. I've met bowling pins with great etiquette. I don't know where that leaves you." she continued, still no response.
She heard the door click and someone else stepped into the room. The temperature immediately dropped a notch and the room lost a bit of its tension. She immediately recognized the essence.
"Jasmer, Is that you?" she inquired politely and with renewed cheer.
"Why is she bound! Remove those bindings at once!" He shouted, menacing over the brutes.
Two of the brutes immediately started removing the ropes carefully from her waist and hands.
"Its about time, I thought I was going to be here for ages with Tweedledum, Tweedledee and Tweedle-burlap." she stated, mildly wiping face with her free hands, fluff falling fleetingly to the floor.
"I am truly sorry my dear. I had been held up with a pressing matter and had expected to be here much sooner." Jasmer offered his apologies.
"Well my dear Jasmer, you should know better than to keep a lady waiting." she took hold of the conversation.
"Would you care to join me in the lounge for a drink and perhaps a dance?" he asked her and she knew immediately what he meant.
Jasmer was a great verbal dance partner and she expected that this was going to be no exception and there was already so much to learn and so much to catch up on.
He held out his arm and she took it. The brutes stepped aside quietly as they passed through the doorway into the hallway beyond.
The halls were finely manicured and crafted, with Wayne Scott wooden paneling intricately carved detailing similar to that of the table, indicating a unified design between both furniture and house decor that she immediately noticed as would have Mila.
Rows of perpetual candles, which were contained in lanterns that lined and hung from the ceiling, the shadows on the walls dancing slightly as they disturbed the air in the hall. The hall stretched a short ways and then opened into a foyer with arched supports held under wooden pillars spanning a domed ceiling. Each archway leading to a different hall and branching off into four rooms. They turned and entered the lounge, a bar tucked away in one corner and a small fountain with seating nestled in the other. A large empty floor space, the dance floor was surrounded by a flowing moat, fed by the fountain in the corner and lit by more perpetual candles nested in the wall. The music could be heard softly just over the chirping of the fountain.
"Such a beautiful place Jasmer. How did you keep it hidden from me for so long?" Yirfir inquired politely.
They approached the bar and Jasmer spoke as he pulled a bottle of wine from that had been brought up from the cellar earlier.
"It was initially built in the sixteen hundreds by Master Daryn, one of the Lords of Merival, seeking a recluse to match his enormous tastes and wealth. As time went on, it was passed on generation to generation with it eventually ending up in the hands of the Wellingswirth family, and from that time we've been minding it and keeping it in its former glory." Jasmer offered her, as he studiously poured her wine, sampling it in his own glass before he allowed any to flow to hers. He carefully grabbed the glass by its stem, and she gracefully accepted it, smiling.
"Now my dear, let us toast to long lost friends reunited on this the one night." Jasmer raised his glass.
"Yes my dear Jasmer, let's." Yirfir responded, a little eager to move on in the conversation.
They both sipped their wine, its rich and fruity flavor filling their palette.
"Jasmer, why on earth did you have me absconded by force to the other side of the world?" she asked him, still holding onto the Casus Belli firmly.
"My dear, these are complex times and one does not truly know their allies by familiarity alone. I had feared that you might regard me in such a manner and therefore employed the assistance of the members of the Uxgard Norbids to assist. They obviously had different ideas about what 'gentle persuasion' meant. I assure you that I meant you no harm." Jasmer answered, his eyes never leaving her.
"Why did you not invite the others. Obviously you knew they were there. Why me?" She asked him, a slight expression of concern with a hint of disgust.
Jasmer smiled, requesting Yirfir's hand extending his and she hesitatingly gave hers.
"You must understand that we; you and I have a past. One that we can't just bury. This time needs us. It's lost. There's no direction anymore. We've both been through centuries and seen wonders that few would know and most would miss in the blink of an eye. The world is sick and she needs us now. She needs our leadership. A direction that we can give." Jasmer pleaded with her, grasping her hand, stroking it gently with his fingers.
"When you say lead, do you mean control?" Yirfir's eyes pierced his affection and once again he was on the defensive.
"Lead. Control. They are but the same animal with each a different set of horns." Jasmer spoke, still stroking her hand.
She withdrew it from his grasp.
"And which set of horns have you?" She demanded firmly.
"Neither. My interests are not with the responsibility of lead as they used to be. I'm more of a historian for the current time. A calling I'd long neglected and the glass from which now I drink." Jasmer took a mouthful of wine, savoring it while deep in thought.
"And in the process it is our history that you've sacrificed." Yirfir withdrew him from his place in thought.
"Us? Our history together? It was the Sanctum that kept us bound to one another. When it fell, so did we." Jasmer replied coldly.
"The Sanctum never fell, but rather it was you. You abandoned us in our greatest hour of need. For what? To side with those who oppose everything for which we stood?" Yirfir spoke appalled by the very statement.
"The Sanctum was lost and so were we. The world needs a new direction and we needed to unify with our enemy. To put aside the war between us that has gone on for millennia. Neither of us know the truth anymore. How can you say that for which you fight is on the firm ground of truth?" Jasmer posed.
"They won't allow others besides themselves and their ilk to wield the power of rule. Control. In turning your back on us you've abandoned life, fairness and freedom. What we wield was meant to be shared and taught to others, not horded for the purpose of power over others!" Yirfir exclaimed.
"Perhaps and for the sake of peace, it is time that we put aside our differences and moved forward together rather than apart." Jasmer seduced.
"Our differences are what define us and that for which we stand. You'd ask us to put aside our values and to keep our silence? This sounds like a very one sided offer. You used to stand for something Jasmer. What has become of you?" Yirfir peered deep into the man she'd once loved.
"My dear, I've lost nothing in my lust for progress and the providence we once provided the rest of humanity. Perhaps with time you'll agree to coincide with my point of view." Jasmer summed up his stance.
"You've lost everything if only you seek the consent of silence from others. It seems that we are done." Yirfir finished her wine placing her empty glass on the bar.
Continued in A Lady's Prerogative Book I: The Yearning And The Learning Part II
Brian Joseph Johns
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Copyright © 2012 Brian Joseph Johns