V. Dream of the Night of the Sabbath

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“And as do I.”

She was unharmed. Sore and somehow knocked to the ground, but unharmed. When she looked up, she found several soldiers bent over their employer, who fell to the floor. Her attention was soon diverted, however, by a low groan. She pushed herself to a half kneel and snapped around to find its source. Her throat ran dry. “Sirius!”

She somehow managed to flung herself towards him, who barely remained above the ground with his knees and a hand. She seized his shoulders to forcefully turn him onto his back. The second she pulled his cloak away, she weighed the inevitability pounding in her heart.

He moaned, “Esther…” Her hands were but sieves pressed against his wound, a steady stream of scarlet seeped through her shaking fingers, soaking her sleeves. “My love…I-I am…”

“No,” She stopped him, biting her lips as though that would stop the tears from falling. “No, no, you agreed that we would leave together…” The last syllable cracked and she said to herself, I must stop the bleeding, I must…His life continued to fade through her hands. “Sirius, love, please look at me.”

“Es…” He began again in a quivering whisper, his dark eyes drowsy. “…ther…I’m…so-sorry…”

“No, an apology does nothing. Save you breath for later,” She almost yelled, but choked instead.

She could measure the agony in each gasp for breath yet she was…helpless. She summoned the willpower that she did not know she was in possession of to not burst into tears, reassuring him to fight, to seize the last wisps of bitter life as she, alongside his mother, attempted to bandage, call and cling to him. He met her forced smile with one of his own, chapped lips opened to utter syllables that were forever unacknowledged, before his hand, originally resting in her grasp, made a slight wave.

Then darkness overcame her.

She woke in a bedroom — not unlike the one she shared with her husband — as though from a nightmare, though she later learned from Madame Crisiota, who made her entrance so silent as to startle her, the hard truth that her reality and her worst nightmare were indifferentiable. After inquiring after her health, her mother-in-law began to explain the entirety of the happenings starting shortly before his demise: the elderly lady took the pistol from Esther before the latter’s attempt at self harm while her father shot Sirius fatally, which prompted his mother to try upon the Council member’s life.

“Your husband…he used his dying breath to send us here…”

Esther bit her lips and inquired after her sons to distract herself from the gory visions of her beloved’s end.

Madame Crisiota answered her question with too much hesitation for Esther to feel ensured, “Gabriel and Canopus are both here…but there have been some complications…You see, the time is very different from ours: recall that you were born in the last quarter of the 18th century? Well, as of today, it is 1977, and both your sons and I have been here since 1975.” Her mother noted how deeply knitted her brows were, so she prepared to explain the complexities of time traveling when a shrill call interrupted them.

“Grandma!” a toddler burst through the door in excited chatters, closely followed by his doppelgänger.

“Sorry, Madame, I wasn’t able to stop them,” A nurse, clearly too out of shape, practice and breath made her appearance leaning upon the door hinge in minutes delay after the two boys flocked to their grandmother’s side. “The second they heard their mother was awake, they just abandoned their walk and ran here like little –”

“– Don’t worry, Anne, it is quite alright,” Madame Crisiota excused the rumbling nurse and chastised the two troublemakers with pretended chagrin, which was immediately brushed aside after several solemn nods from the two-years-olds.

Having spent a good five seconds repenting for their enthusiasm, the two began anew, “Grandma, grandma, is that my mom–” “– Our mommy, not just yours –” “– Are you my mother?” “Are you okay, now?” “I’m Canopus!” “And I’m Gabriel!” “Ma…”

Esther was awestruck by growth that she missed in the span of two years, and instinctively, she drew both of them to her in a tight embrace, mumbling spoiling affections onto their bonny heads as though that may fill the gap. She thought that she already shed all the tears that she was capable of for her entire life, though she was wrong as her eyes watered from the sheer happiness of being able to hold her beloved children again.

Later on, as her ankle was well patched and Madame Crisiota helped her into the improper set of strangely tailored clothes, she was conducted on a brief tour around “town” by the two over-zealous children and their contrasting grandmother. The world was so much altered. The dull scent of wet earth was replaced by a putrid acidity that made her gag and reel. Walls moved upon her, rough bricks and calloused structures sharp and concrete. Dismal screeches of discord erupted against her ears in whooshes of pitches, rising then falling with the distance.

All was so overwhelming, yet she appreciated the struggle in her adapting to the current society: anything, anything that could distract her from the recurring nightmare of her lover forever bleeding to his painful death in her arms was welcomed.

Many, many years had passed since then. She had performed her duties as a parent to the best of her abilities in pretending comfort in this hazardous world and in giving the two a perfect transparency of their origins when they were old enough to understand without confusion. She retired from the busy world and her productive life originally in hopes of keeping the aged Madame Crisiota company, though the old woman passed before Esther could do much to repay her kindness.

Now the narrative had chased her to her current, hermit state in her isolation from the world, her pains had greatly subsided. She thought to read Canopus’s letter: he writes unusually well for men of this time, and the script nearly distracted his mother from its important content. It was a kind reminder for an arrangement the brothers made with her scheduled this Sunday, which she, surprisingly, actually still remembered. So, she sat idly for a good couple of minutes to contemplate if her reply would be received before then.

*******

“You ought to tell me where we are heading.”

Gabriel turned from the front seat to meet her command with a grin that was more or less forced, “Should we, Canny? I think it might take away the surprise…”

“You just don’t want to be the one to tell her,” his brother was almost bitter, but not demanding.

“…” Gabriel turned his attention back to the scenery flying past the window while his brother began after a moment’s silence.

“We found where he was buried, mother,” Esther had a glance of hesitance and solemnity in the same deep, dark eyes that still haunted her from the back view mirror.

At that moment, she was too filled with the awakening of dormant emotions to question the brothers’ source. The long silence left the three of them mindful of the passing of other cars and each rough bumps upon the increasingly sparsely traveled road. Canopus, keenly aware of the distress the two of them might have inflicted, added.

“We really don’t have to go if it’s…too much for you.”

“No, no, no I would like to see it, and we absolutely have to,” She didn’t mean to sound offended or sarcastic, but she was misunderstood as both of those qualities; the brothers exchanged a quick look while Gabriel muttered something that Canopus merely turned away from.

Yet, still she didn’t realize how much the first part of her statement was a lie until she was immediately before the engraved stone. It was…too simple and understating, with only a faded, hardly legible name and two dates too close to each other, both in terms of time and their position on the stone. His supposed criminal actions had stripped him of epigrams, titles and relations to mark him, condemning him to his final slumber among crooks and felons.

After Canopus and Gabriel retreated to the car for her privacy, she dared to reach out and rest her hand upon the weathered monument, made even rougher with its recent freedom from ivies. She wasn’t sure what her gesture was meant to symbolize, but really just an unconscious belief that the earth may stir below and knock her off of her feet.

Thankfully, the earth remained as deathly unmoving as its quiet inhabitants.

Instead, the constant light breeze brushed over her; cold, though not harsh. It wisped against her coated frame and shifted her scarf. Delusions placed words that were whispered unacknowledged centuries before in the breeze’s mouth, and just like the first time she heard the utterance of these syllables, she replied aloud in a low sigh only audible to her sole audience below and herself.

“And as do I.”

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IV. March to the Scaffold (Part II)

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So she read another, and another, and another. The pile was eventually exhausted, and so was her faith.

Gabriel cooed with content as he tucked at the loose curl of his mother’s hair; the absence of hunger only invited mischief, a character so rarely displayed in the author of harmless tricks’s elder by seconds. It was still a wonder to Esther how the two little ones could already behave so differently. Perhaps it was to make her life the simpler in distinguishing the indistinguishable. Or perhaps Gabriel only meant to uplift her heavy mind, she contemplated the possibility as the said babe grabbed at her hand and made noises resembling giggles to rouse his napping brother. Canopus gladly joined the squeal of excitement. She smiled.

The days had been very long. Merely three days before, her parents came to her at the notice of Sirius’s predicament, closely following Madame Crisiota. The confrontation was vastly uncomfortable, as the fervent admiration Mrs. Gilabre so readily bestowed upon the noble widow deteriorated into blatant disdain that both her and her husband thought best flaunted, the proposal of divorce the only subject upon their busy lips. One night, Esther found the Madame alone in the hallway, her small frame shaken after more consternation from the world.

A pang at her heart prompted her to ask, “Madame?” The older lady was much startled by the lack of venom in a voice, and eased at the sight of her daughter-in-law. “Sorry for disturbing you…”

“Sorry?” to hear the word uttered by another soul seemed incredulous to Madame Crisiota. “No, you should not be sorry, my child, much less should you be capable to disturb.”

A deathly pause passed.

“You mustn’t blame yourself,” the Madame kept her dark eyes fixed upon the wall behind her. “If there is a fabric of guilt entitled to you, it would only be having not too be of this…bizarre curse in which the Crisiotas possessed…”

“Oh child.”

“I am not accusing you of anything, mother, it’s just that…the confidentiality might have saved me from questioning the genuineness of my relations with both you and Sirius…”

“Child, the lie was a desperate attempt to maintain your innocence from unexplainable horrors beyond both Sirius and I,” Madame Crisiota snapped around, her eyes glittered. “It claimed his father, his sister…my love and my daughter…we didn’t think…we didn’t think…we both thought he would be well hidden, but now…” The glitters had turned into a downpour, and she held up a handkerchief to cover her face: Esther knitted her brows in confusion. “I am sorry, my dear, now that I have said this much incoherence, I must explain it in full: the truths and confidentiality that you so more than deserved.”

So she began a splendid speech: “presuming your familiarity of the Scriptures, you must know the Sanhedrin? The council of elders of Israel that condemned the Lord? Very well. Then, you must understand that this same council lived through this crime to manifest in…organizations of sorts with a mission to guide the development of mankind to become pleasing to their eyes. With its claim to ancient knowledge and the name of God they strove to control and…extinguish…” Here she took a deep breath. “…Any…’abnormalities’ that may pose a threat to mankind, and it is to their duty to ‘correct’ such a thing. And this is thus how the Crisiotas became a target.” She went on to explain that the Crisiotas had always been in possession of certain abilities, though even she was never in their confidence enough to learn the true origins. “Before Sirius’s great-grandfather (he too, was named Canopus), the Crisiotas had been…rather more or less selfish with their blessings and kept it to themselves. Then he thought it unfair and had a grand vision of helping the entire world with his family’s prowesses, and his naively altruistic act eventually attracted the Council, whose desire for these convenient powers prompted them to draw closer to the Crisiotas. Ultimately, the Council rushed to phony friendship when it learned that such powers are simply hereditary and not transferable to their own kin.”

Esther would hardly believe that purposeful accusation by court would constitute as “phony friendship.” But, she thought better than to interject.

“Yet this ploy became clear to my husband when the existence of the Council was betrayed to him through one of its members that was also his close friend. And, the same naivety being seemingly hereditary as much as their supernatural abilities, he thought it wise to confront the core of the Council, which only led a heated argument in their different philosophies that prompted his…early demise. I was with child and Eleanor was but six…”

Esther sensed contradiction in her paranoia, “So…how exactly did you catch wind of all these details had the late Baron passed so early? Why would an organization such as the Council, which is cruel enough to silence with murder tolerate its target in recounting such accusing details to yet another witness?”

Madame Crisiota was clearly taken off guard by her question and her lips quivered, though not from grief, “…I…Sirius really did not exaggerate when he noted your keen abilities to observe and rationalize. My old feminine mind is clearly defenseless in the face of a wit as sharp as yours: then I shall be blunt in my truths, and come clean altogether.” Another long dab with her handkerchief, “I am the traitor of the Council in my narrative, for youthful love is blind: the arranged marriage that was the Council’s means to secure a closer eye upon the Baron only led to the bloom of true affections during courtship and their loss of a weak-minded member who had been working against them ever since. Now that I have filled the holes in my tale, allow me to finish.” Disregarding Esther’s widened eyes, the madame went on to address the lives of the surviving Crisiotas after her lover’s death. “Then the Council disappeared mostly out of our lives, probably thinking it unnecessary to associate with us for fear of complications that may lead to the necessity of killing a widow and her children. Then both Sirius and Eleanor grew up to be a true Crisiota in both beauty and their wicked abilities, and though I bore in mind the looming presence of the organization, I cherished my abnormal life and deemed it happy. By the time it became imperative for me to answer the outstretched hands of numerous suitors, I was mostly too taken by pride for my children and a false assurance from the long peace to act as though we were free from the Council. Eleanor and Sirius were both ignorant of its existence. Imagine my shock when Eleanor came to me with a young man she favored, with all the charms a youngster could ask that I would have approved of had he not been the heir of an old associate of mine back in my days in the Council. I denied the match with all the vigor I could muster, which only strengthen the bond between Eleanor and the young man despite my belated explanation of the hidden venom that the young man had within the facade of his well-breeding. Then they…the pair eloped. At that point I cannot help but give them my blessings to keep Eleanor by my side, which was a decision that I have yet to forgive myself for as that same year, my servants stopped this young man from strangling my son to death. I knew fully well what he intended. He was simply tasked with the same mission as I was years before: find out the true nature of the abilities of the Crisiotas (for there are much varieties), though our methods clearly differ. Eleanor was heartbroken, for she loved her brother dearly, and finally understood my chagrin. She confronted her husband in a stormy argument, by the end of which she swore her being with her powers against the Council. Her defiance was short-lived, as her husband pleaded for forgiveness and she was too kind to grant it. A few weeks later, the two of them went on an evening walk that neither of them returned properly from: the constables found her body in a near by canal, while her husband was never seen again, clearly under the sanctuary of the Council for his crime. I didn’t have time to mourn, as I searched for a sanctuary of our own for Sirius and I. Eventually, we found space here, in this property among sparse towns as recommended by one of my former colleagues that followed a similar trajectory as I, away from the Council. I finally came to my senses and told the boy about the root of the entirety of our family’s tragedy, and bid him strictly from using his powers. Our society was rather small, with just the two of us and the occasional peaks at the outside world vetted by the same dear friends that brought us here. One such instance was the Thenazra Ball, as Sir Mileach was one of these dear friends of mine. I suppose you know fully the rest…”

“…Why, such treacherous paths both of you partook, and I seemed to have only added more peril with my mere existence.”

“No, no, no, that will not do,” the Madame took her hands in her own. “You have no space to place blame upon yourself: the fault lays solely upon Sirius and I. For the most basic responsibility of a woman is to rear her children in the light, and yet I have allowed the shadow of my past to consume them both along with you. Had I been barren, it would have saved so many pains…”

“Please, mother, if you are truly sorry for the pains that you have inadvertently caused, then do not pain me in cursing my beloved and his mother,” she squeezed the hands of the lamenting woman. “He killed only to save me: his crimes were that he loved me with too much passion and too little sense, and if you are truly sorry, suffer no longer and rid yourself of your present misery. Begone, hide yourself from society; I do say so kindly.”

Lady Crisiota gripped her hands a little, wrinkles deepening either in confusion or perturbation before she met her eyes, “You are right.” She drew her little hands away. “You are right…God bless your soul and maybe take pity upon mine.” With that she went away with a final kiss upon her brow, a shaky breath wisped away into the dark.

Today, she pondered the perils she would have been in if Canopus or Gabriel was condemned for slaughter. She gently caressed Gabriel’s cheeks, and the idea forced her to return the child to the crib.

She had no time to sympathize. The execution was to commence in a matter of hours, and she had to fulfill her beloved’s last wish. Out of their false sense of protectiveness, the Gilabres prevented their daughter from tending to the trial out of fear of the wrath of the victims’ families. Yet this fear was so invalid, since the arrest of her husband, she was bombarded with a surprising number of letters and notes from these same families.

“We do not bare any ill will towards Baron Crisiota. In fact, we are grateful for the riddance of an abusive tyrant (or drunkard, gambler, bastard…) The generous payment only made for more grace, and we could only hope for the Jury in understanding this sentiment.” The more well-written notes generally conveyed a message along these lines, and some of their authors even took the liberty of visiting her to ensure their intent was clear and not mistaken for some cruel sarcasm. From their eyes Esther read geniuses and true sorrows that corroborated with the proceedings at the trial, which her frail body at last convinced her to be absent from.

Instead, she was condemned to hear the matters from her mother, an unlikely witness for the trial and an unreliable narrator. Still, Esther extracted a sketch of the truth from her mother’s excited story: the victims’ family seemed to have agreed upon a tone of sympathy for the accused. “They weren’t even remotely angry or grieving beyond their black veils,” Mrs. Gilabre spat with disgust at the impropriety. To her, outward flaunting of such sorrows was the only way to show loss, and what occurred in the court was but an abnormal ploy that twisted sadness and human decency into immorality and sympathy for the condemned. At this part of the retelling, Esther was almost happy, but the end was not nearly there, so she abstained from premature celebrations.

“Fortunately, your father was there to right their wrongs.” The tone and foreshadowing nature of this statement made her flinch visibly, though Mrs. Gilabre failed to take note as she went on.

“Your father—you ought be glad that he is so eloquent—was able to make the double-sidedness of of the scoundrel’s nature apparent, thanks to some of the past correspondences the foolish fiend left behind in his own writing…”

“What, he has no written correspondences to condemn him!”

“…And upon this assumption, you err, my dear,” Making an erroneous assumption that her daughter wished for the death of Sirius as much as she did, Mrs. Gilbre produced a thick pad of leaflets covered in fine script.

Eager to prove his innocence, she seized one of these letters, reading the fine lines crafted by a familiar hand. Yet the contents dated years prior, and were composed in an unusually venomous tone of raw violence threatening her father to concede her hand to the writer in courtship. She crumbled it, much to her mother’s chagrin, and tossed it aside for another, only to find a yet more malicious threat for the Gilabres’ silence unless they wished to cost the future and honor of their beloved daughter. She ripped this despite her mother’s belated alarm. So she read another, and another, and another. The pile was eventually exhausted, and so was her faith. Had the entire reason for her existence been baseless? The earth beneath her feet swooned, reminding her that she stood up from her seat in her passion of denial.

Or perhaps it was an unconscious standing ovation to the masterful deception?

But, she begged for no encore, but simply the truth. Each pound of her heart reminded her of her last conversation with Madame Crisiota: the Council, it must have been them. Those villains must have forced him into writing these letters. The tone was too condescending, too harsh, too heartless to be the same man who lulled her to sweet dreams and nursed her at the expanse of his own health. She fell back into her seat and nodded her mother’s concerns away.

After assuring the health of her daughter, Mrs. Gilabre thought best to finish the tale, “So, the Jury was at last informed, and conferred to the decision of putting the wretch to justice.” She went on to utter the words that continued to haunt her for the rest of her life with an animated ardor.

Death by the guillotine.

She removed herself to the window in his office, where only a while before she thought herself the most loved and luckiest individual, her eyes dry and face robbed of expression by the constant chirps of lamentations the world thought appropriate to shower her with. The kind notes took a subtle turn as the victims’ families realized their benefits from their murderous negotiations had been annulled and confiscated along with further monetary compensations on their part. They were lucky that the Jury somehow found it unnecessary to deem them accomplices, yet the glimpses at an improved life and the dispersion of this dream made them bitter: “Though we thank Crisiota for dirtying his hands in ridding my bastard of a husband, we also thank Gilabre for the certain gloom of starvation and poverty.”

These words pinched her, chased her into the safety of her lofty and now more or less eerie home. No passionate plea or gold would allow for a visitation, so she remained by the window. Fear, she found, was all she saw in nature now, with shadows of their past happiness like taunting fairies just a pinch away from her reach. She also found that dread was no intangible entity, but a liquid, or fine particles, that found cracks and gaps and crept to fill all findings until none could move in a solid mold of death. She wasn’t dreading tomorrow, the day of the execution, but rather the gliding uncertainty of her beloved’s character. Had there been a glimmer of cruelty beneath his gentle brows? Was the hands that embraced her, the lips that blessed her, authors of utter terror? No, his eyes were not made to hold malice, but bottomless love…

…Which turned out to be a perfect stock for a concoction of desperation and conflict in the face of her suffering.

She couldn’t bear to look out of the park any further, so she snapped the curtains shut.

*******

The hour was near, and her early. Esther kissed Canopus and Gabriel earlier in the morning in hopes of gaining some courage from the gesture. She wasn’t sure if it gave either one of the party involved any.

Despite the fact that she was at least an hour before the scheduled execution, the grounds were already housing a substantial crowd since another beheading was in place. So, she had dismounted her trusty stead and left him in the care of a store clerk that was an old acquaintance that also turned into a pile of premature condolences. She tucked herself deeper into the anonymity of the crowd in the plain cloak that Corah lent her.

Esther beheld the bladed beast with mortification. Its gleaming teeth were with scarlet, and only becoming increasingly so as it counted in long slow thuds. No…perhaps it was not a count, but rather, a beat. The heartbeat. An injured beast pumping sprays of blood into nonexistent arteries and into the air. She retched, coughed, and turned away to let her ears stay watch while her eyes fixed themselves onto the face of the pocket watch in her hand. She measured each minute step despite the pulse of the crowd around her in pushed and shoved.

“Brian Adlar, guilty of theft and attempted murder.” Some skirmishes, a thud. Next. “Eleanor Warren, guilty of adultery.” Skirmishes, struggles. Thud. Next.

At last, the hand reached twelve, while its shorter brethren greeted nine. Esther forced herself to look up.

She saw a cart approaching from behind the face of the guillotine. As each clear click-clop came to be closer, she attempted to look past the beasts drawing the cart for a familiar facade. She could not decipher one from the uniform mass of misery, so she bit her lips instead.

The additional inmates were ushered off the cart with barks of instructions and kicks. At that point, the scaffold obscured their figures from her frantic search, which turned out to be useless as the presider boomed.

“Sirius Crisiota, guilty for murder and accounts of blackmail.”

With a gaoler’s push, he ascended the platform, and she squinted and knitted her brows and gaped at his deplorable state: his dignified walk was reduced to a slight limp urged on by the grips of the two soldiers that flanked his side, which, despite the plain white cotton, evidently lost flesh. The wound clearly still plagued his tortured being; his cheeks were sallow, setting his features to become more angular, sharp, and if she allowed the preposterous rumors to affect her, cruel in his blank stare into the crowd before him. She shifted against the sudden breeze, her hand shot up to hold her hood in its place. That was enough for him to find her.

What unknown doubts for his possible capacity for evil was dispersed as a keen look of concealed passions and conflict passed in the brief second their eyes met. His lips, which she now noticed were cut and chapped, opened as though to utter anguish, but closed again as he tore his gaze away and threw it to the floor before him. Was it guilt? It was difficult for her to remain partial in the face of his obvious misery.

The guards noted the delay in the prisoner’s limp and gave another shove that made Esther flinch. The crowd around her jeered in what she took as the usual insults hurled upon the criminals that she had numbed herself of for the past couple of trials. But, the words made her blink.

“Innocent!” “Falsely accused!” “Injustice!” The cries grew in fervor with each vehement shout and raised fist.

Then from among the throng produced a pebble sailing straight for the head of one of the guards by Sirius’s side. Unlike Goliath, the guard was not slain from a single stone, though the rock left a white mark that began trickling red and crumbled the civil restrain upon the rest of the outcry. More lethal projectiles were issued, as the rally found greater stores from loose pavement, sticks, other assortments of urban decay haphazardly strewn upon the crooked establishment. Esther was shuffled to the edge of the outrage, noting with growing anxiety that despite their intentions of freeing Sirius, he was not even free from the rain of bricks and concrete in the mobbed blindness, one of which collided against his agitated side and jolted him with silenced agony. He fell forward, hard onto his knees as his bounded hands left no means of cushion. Instincts overcame her, sending her sprinting to the side of the platform with the plan of forcing her ascend through the guards that were rushing to their confounded comrades’ aid. Yet she found that she was beaten to the task, as some of the more motivated mob had secured the stairway by drowning the guards simply with their unexpected fervor and numbers. She hesitated from daring her passage, but propelled herself forward anyway. A gruff man was wrestling a musket from a soldier, and a woman grabbing that same guard’s hair as though to free them from the roots. Esther planned her ascend in the moment’s distraction, but the man took notice of her shortly after dispatching the soldier with the butt of his newly gained firearm. She froze and took to assume: unhooding, she spoke, “I am Esther Crisiota, please allow me to tend to my husband…” The man yielded before she even finished speaking. “Ah, Lady Esther, we —“

A loud crack broke the air: a squadron leader fired into the air for decorum. The man originally addressing her scoffed, responding to the attempt by taking aim with his newly gained weapon, and before the smoke cleared from the first shot, another blasted and clouded the air. The soldier stilled, then toppled over the scaffold with a gaping hole in his chest.

Esther fought the urge to vomit and took the opportunity to ascend, but before she set foot upon the platform, a rough push sent her sprawling down the steps. She groaned at the sores of her rough landing and attempted to catch her breath, “What on earth…” A dull crack and hiss answered her.

She looked up, finding a steady screen of smoke obscuring her vision. What…the smoke choked her, squeezing the last breath out of her and made her gag and tear until even her hands appeared blurry held up against her eyes. Her head throbbed in loud pulsating pounds. She might have thrown up, might have shrieked and writhed on the floor. Then she passed out.

She recalled coming about to a loud crack of gunfire near her. Her lungs burnt and she was immediately seized with a violent cough, her numbness made her ignorant to a figure stooping right before her.

“Esther, my child” A low voice murmured above the chaos around, and Esther regained her sense enough to realize that she was leaning against the dusty floors of an alley neighboring the scaffold. “Can you stand?”

She beheld the speaker: a few blinks removed wooziness, “Madame Crisiota…why?”

“We shall talk later: I was not aware that you were in such proximity to the smoke screen, and for that I do apologize. Now, we must take flight after that minute’s delay…”

“Where is Sirius?” The elder woman helped Esther unto her feet and allowed her to lean on as the earth reeled.

“He’s waiting in a little distance from here. Let us leave before your father brings the entire Council with him…” At this the Madame took her hand and started deeper into the alley.

“My father? Why…”

“Do you think the Council found Sirius only because of his one time use of his powers this month? We must make haste…”

Madame Crisiota’s fear rang true as a thundering of footsteps approached them from behind. Yet Esther was still weak from her tumble and suffocation; at the most untimely moment her legs gave. A gap upon the floor caught her clumsy ankle and in her fall, tearing it. She cried out and clutched to her feet, her shaky hands groping for her handkerchief to secure it while Madame Crisiota, justifiably distressed, urged her on. Still, even the common guards were not to be mocked and soon overtook them: she watched with helpless horror five uniformed men preceding her father, who dressed in a dark coat as though for a hunt. She stared at squadron, “Go on, Madame, my father would not hurt me…”

As though to mock her naivety, Mr. Gilabre raised a pistol and fired in her direction. She screamed and turned away, a searing heat grazing a path across her left cheek and issuing a yelp of pain behind her. Her eyes fluttered open, and she held a shaking hand to the scratch to paint her fingers with blood. She turned only to find Madame Crisiota upon one knee, her hand pressed against a fresh wound upon her shoulder. Esther turned to face the aggressor’s eyes, which where identical to hers and yet void of the terror and shock that beguiled hers. Mr. Gilabre was not stirred by his daughter’s injury and terror. Instead, he frowned upon the previous shot being too nonfatal, tsked at his old age and lack of practice before raising his pistol again to aim.

“Father!” The men froze at her shriek as she sprung upon her feet despite the pain to spread out her arms before her mother-in-law. “You’ve gone mad, father, please, she is my mother!”

Mr. Gilabre clearly flinched, “Move out of the way, Esther, I do not act upon my own will…”

“Must your cowardice towards the Council cost my happiness?”

It might have been the surprise in her knowledge of the Council and the truth of that statement altogether that made Mr. Gilabre hesitate, his gun slightly lowered by the smallest degree of reconsideration. This was enough of a distraction: from the turn of the alley a shadow emerged, subduing one of the five guards. In the same breath, the shadow drew the subdued’s long sword to parry the blow of a clueless soldier, whose head was later dashed against the enclosing brick walls while the blade stained itself with a third guard’s blood before knocking the pistol out of Mr. Gilabre’s relaxed grip. Stepping into the narrow strip of light in the alley, their aid revealed himself.

“Sirius!”

The Baron ignored Esther’s call and made quick work of the other dumbfound guard immediately before him, blocking the bullet from the last soldier with his comrade’s corpse. A flick of his hand, and a dagger embedded itself deep into the last guard’s chest. Mr. GIlabre blanched as his son-in-law held the bloodied blade against his collar.

“Sirius, no!” Esther ignored her burning ankle and flung herself at him, begging him to stay his blade. “Please, don’t kill any further…please…for me.” She could feel the muscle of his shoulders tense at her sudden embrace.

Then all was stilled.

He dropped his shoulders before he choked out, “Then please tend to my mother.” He said so without looking at her, expecting her to follow suit and release him. So, she did, and limped hurriedly to Madame Crisiota’s attention. She heard a grunt shortly followed by a thud and snapped around in fear that Sirius already contradicted his agreement. He didn’t kill, but only turned the stolen blade around to strike his enemy with the hilt. She supposed it was only safe and fair considering her father’s aggression, but still she winced.

Madame Crisiota made a much better dressing of her wound than Esther could ever had, though she was faint from the blood loss. Resting the old woman against the wall, Esther turned again to confront her husband, whose cloaked figure leaned heavily against a wall. Uneasy, she called out his name again as she made her painful passage to him; the proximity allowed her to see the irregular rise and falls of his quiet gasps, “Are you alright?”

He finally turned to face her, his features in obvious pain from producing an assuring smile, “Esther…” She didn’t think before she embraced him, kissed him, struggled to be more gentle as she finally released him to agonize over his feverish state. Then all the sudden, the venom of the letters that he supposedly wrote rushed back into her veins, and the sting upon her cheek felt even more acute. He frowned in concern.

Distancing herself a step away, she stated flatly, “Those letters…did you really threaten my father? They were written in your hand…”

He blinked in attempt to grasp the random nature of her inquiry, but understood, “Oh, Esther, they were—”

“— No time to chat now, they are here!” Poor, poor Madame Crisiota was forgotten in the lovers’ confrontation, which she curtailed with a stern nod at the shadow of more approaching soldiers.

So, they started their escape again after Esther threw a doubtful glance at her father, who stirred briefly but was mostly unconscious. The sting in her cheek and Madame Crisiota’s bloodied shoulder prompted her to run from his unreasonable cruelty, leaning heavily upon Sirius’s relatively steady arm.

“Why on earth did you come back? I told you to remain with Elon by the carriage!” Madame Crisiota assumed hypocrisy and picked up chatter with her angry demand for an explanation of Sirius’s disobedience.

“I am sorry, mother, but you were abnormally late and I couldn’t help but realize how bad of an idea it was for you to bear the sole responsibility as important as retrieving Esther!” He shouted back above the enclosing reinforcements while Esther shivered as she mistook a command to shoot on sight for her father’s voice.

Her distress coincided with Madame Crisiota’s sudden halt, which sent her stepping too hard upon her injured foot. The pain blanked her sight and forced her legs to give.

“Esther!” Sirius stooped to gather her in his arms, but before he could lift her, a violent cough took hold of him.

“We…no…we are surrounded…” The elder woman bemoaned a late explanation for her disastrous halt.

Sirius turned away from Esther, seizing the wall and coughed into his hands. His frame was thoroughly shaken by the fit, and his hand slipped into his cloak against his side. Strips of light that fell into the alley struck his hand as he drew it out of his cloak, and it was steeped scarlet.

What could we do? She began to acknowledge the breath of death traveling down her neck. Sirius was clearly in no condition to fend off a more numerous militia, their shadows and now audible steps suggested their numbers. Clearly, his jailers did not bother to improve her amateur treatment for the wound on his side, and adding on to the previous accidental assault, it was no surprise that it should reopen to torment him again. Silently, she drew to his side and took his hand as though her concern could stop the blood and pain.

“Esther, those letters…” As the Council’s mercenaries closed in upon them, he began amidst his haggard breaths. “…they forced me to write them in my imprisonment…they are also the reason that I reported myself…they would kill you and our sons if I didn’t…”

Yes, these were the words she would die content with, “I have made myself the author of your doom.”

At this he grimaced, “If you were the only author, I would die happy.”

The soldiers halted a few yards away from them, allowing their employer to step forward, “Leave that brute in this instant, Esther.” It seemed that the blow did very little to incapacitate him.

“Father, what wrong was there for me to do so? You are the ones who used forgery to accuse for your own purposes? You knew that I love him, why?”

Mr. Gilabre remained expressionless, “I shall not repeat myself, my child.”

“You have no right to call me that if you do not even have the basic esteem of a parent!”

“Esther, you are being unreasonable: what the Council have done is for your safety…”

She didn’t really understand her reasoning when affected by the pang of desperation, but she wrenched a pistol from Sirius, raising the alarm of all around her as she pressed it against her temple: her father made a flinch for his own weapon at her sudden movement while Sirius attempted to wrestle the gun from her. Adrenaline allowed her to overpower him in his weakened state, and she elbowed him in his injured side, sending him stumbling, wheezing against the wall. The pain in her ankle kept her from remorse.

“Very well, if you are so concerned for my safety, let the three of us leave or I shall end my life here.”

“Esther…no…” Sirius rasped from the side, where his mother had rushed to his attention, while Esther tried her best to stand in such a way that the two were obscured from the soldiers by her boast.

“You are trying my patience and exhausting my original fondness for you, Esther Crisiota,” the pure disdain her father heaped upon her futility made her tremble.

“Let us go.”

A deathly silence fell between the father and daughter before the former chuckled, “I suppose God made it so that I should also lose a daughter today.” At that he drew out yet another pistol and aimed, and before she could follow suit her arm was twisted, the pistol slipped out of her hand. Two shots rang with proximity.

So, the execution was complete.

IV. March to the Scaffold (Part I)

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“Just you wait, my love.”

Under the boisterous urging of Mrs. Gilabre, who was utterly bewildered by the caliber of elegance and grace Madame Crisiota, Esther’s mother-in-law to be, bestowed upon their household during her ladyship’s inaugural visit, they were wed as soon as the date was calculated. They moved to the Baron’s estate, merely a couple days fare away, shortly after (ah, for the sake of blessed serenity and the newlyweds’ mutual selfish desire of having each other to themselves for once). Esther could only say that she was pleasantly surprised with the wealth and well-bred tastes that was her new home: a handsome architecture in the safety of an enormous ground (yes, even more than her father’s property), framed with woods and waters in a symphony, further sweetened by the songs of happy nature and the very thought of the grounds’ master.

All was well. Sirius devoted as much of his time from business to her, resuming their long walks and talks and merry-making together. And every night she would let him kiss her worries of the day away, lulling her to sweet dreams in the safety of his arms.

As the environment became her over time, she retreated from the initial excitement of exploring the estate and learned to spend her own time on artistic ventures of prose and paint. This was also convenient, as it came to her notice, after a miserable morning of headaches and vomit, that she was with child. It was the summer following their union, and the world was only too thrilled with the news. Her parents immediately visited her to check on her health and congratulate them (excessively). Madame Crisiota did the same, though with a much quieter regard as she bestowed a loving kiss upon her children’s brows before promising Esther to find her the best of midwives and gifted her a detailed journal to prepare her for the inconveniences of motherhood. Others came, too, as soon as her parents polluted the world with the news. Once the meetings over teas and sweets were over, they returned to the comfort of their privacy. 

One afternoon months after, she decided to invade her husband’s office declaring her purpose being to paint his usual views of the park during his work. To tell the truth, she merely longed for his company and felt childish for not having a valid excuse for this intrusion. He didn’t seem to mind much, allowing the peaceful quiet to settle snugly between them as earlier conversations died down to the scratches pens against numbers and brushes against facades. 

“I really hope that he will grow up to look just like you,” adding a flourish to her latest masterpiece, Esther heard herself say stupidly.

He looked up from his writing, a small grin gracing his lips, “Why the bold assumption of our child being a boy?”

“I just thought…” She peered over the canvas, savoring the way Sirius’s locks caught specks of sunlight. “I don’t know, it is too inconvenient to be a woman.” Only just realizing the implications of her comment, she sank into her stool to obscure herself.

“If that’s the case, I will just have to make sure we remove the unnecessary inconveniences.” She heard him get up, making his way towards her in a teasingly slow gait.

“What if it is not so easy to remove such things?” She tried to focus on her painting, ignoring his advances until he circled around her and wrapped his arms around her from behind, his chin resting stubbornly upon her shoulder and his breath light against her neck.

“I thought you said you were going to paint the view of the park,” he whispered into her ear, the rumble of his voice made her knock over her colors. He apologized, assisting her in roughly wiping up the mess with her handkerchief while continuing, “still, it looks more like a helplessly lovestruck (and awfully clumsy) man waiting to become a father, wondering about how his beloved is still growing more beautiful each day.”

“Oh, you sycophant, stole my opportunity to be poetic,” she leaned back into him, resting a clean hand upon his cheek. “What if I say that all I see in nature is you?” she brushed her lips against his, nestling happily within his embrace.

“Then I would just be happily flustered,” he continued to speak softly into her ear.

She sighed and reclined into his frame, her eyes half closed, “Canopus. Your father’s name sounds good.”

“Maybe…How about Angelica? Your mother’s name would do very nicely.”

“No, I don’t want our child to aspire to be a nervous lady.”

“Ha,” she felt his hands resting on the slight hill of her swollen stomach. “How are you feeling?”

“Bored…how do you like Zacharias?”

“Oh, am I boring you? What about Annabel?”

“No, you are not….Stephan?”

“Hrmmm…Elizabeth.”

“For a baron, you are quite unconfident, Sirius.”

“Esther is a lovely name.” “You should go back to your paperworks…and did I mention that Sirius is quite poetic.”

“Aww, you are so eager to be rid of me.”

“I am not talented enough to paint without a reference.”

“Didn’t you say you see me in nature? There is a window full of it right there.” 

“Oh shut it. I just wanted you to finish your work earlier today…”

“Hmm…these letters can wait…” he spun her around and claimed her lips with his own. She felt herself instinctively tugging him closer, and his touch broke her breaths until…

“My Lord —“ a clueless boy assisting with stewardship barged in; the two of them sprang apart, he immediately folding his arms behind his back and started for his writing desk while she fumbling to prepare feigning distraction with her painting and realizing that her handkerchief was gone. “Oh, uh,” forcing back the laughter in seeing his employers furiously blushing, the boy managed, “Apologies, is this an inconvenient time?”

“Of course not, Abel, when are you ever intruding?”

“Alright, thank you, My Lord. Mr. Elon is requesting an audience.”

“I shall be there in a moment.”

Abel bowed deeply and left the couple to their own awkward devices. There was a pause before Sirius laughed, a hand shot up to brush back his disheveled locks. 

“Abel could make for a good name,” he reduced the distance between them again, giving her a light peck on the cheek before heading down. “I shall see you a little later, love.”

“Alright,” she returned his smile until he shut the door behind him.

The study was quiet now, and she lost interest in her paint. Instinctively, her hand went to her abdomen, stroked and rested there as though that would polish her future while she contemplated searching for her handkerchief, but thought otherwise as she was distracted by a pair of robins.

************

The time eventually came that she was to give birth. Madame Crisiota fulfilled her promise in finding the most experienced midwives and physicians to her knowledge and paid them handsomely as though to compensate her son’s stubborn insistence in being by his wife’s side through it all. So, he remained as she sweated and gasped and screamed (she might have cursed Lucifer, Eve, and/or God, she cannot recall), his poor hand crushed and cut as she dug her nails into it in her agonized grasp. It was not until long after the midwife happily overlooked the eccentricity of the couple to pronounce the health of their twins that he withdrew from her and inadvertently drew her attention to her abuse: he attempted to make a fist with his bloodied hand and flinched visibly. She wanted to apologize, but she was overwhelmed with breathlessness and fatigue and most importantly, the cries of her children. Her children. She opened her lips to speak through her panting, gathering her remaining energies to reach out for her babes, but fell against Sirius’s shoulder instead. He might have held her, the midwife might have showcased the two bundles of wrinkle-faced joy to her, she did not know. All went by in a bit of a blur as she fell into a feverish slumber.

She woke in the middle of the night, now in fresh clothes and tucked in the familiarity of their bed. Immediately, she was seized by an unforgiving chill that made her realize Sirius’s absence and clutched her blankets dearly. Her teeth chattered slightly from the cold or the unsettling pressure upon her heart and head, her body still numbed by pain and its killers, she assumed. Their bedroom zoomed with unsteady floors before her, the silks of curtains all so far and aloof. “L-Love?” Oh, was that the croak of an injured animal that came out of her throat? Her breath quickened, she never liked the quiet. “Sirius…?” She expected a stirring or an echo of happy cooes of her newborn children, but all was stilled. “…L-Lo…ve?” Her throat ran dry, and she stifled her unexplained anguish with a shivering gasp. She sat up. The moment the shell of silken covers fell slightly from her body, an icy grasp of air seized her. She cried out, cowered and was terrified. She shut her eyes and the world.

“Esther?” She didn’t notice until the door opened and closed. He was there, his eyes boring into hers with sheer concern and love and guilt. “Oh, my dearest.” He found his usual place in their bed, pulling her into him in a gentle yet enveloping embrace. 

The world steadied when she was pressed against the soft fabric of his nightshirt, his firm chest; his lips pressed against her forehead in quiet whispers of comforts. 

“How are…how are…”

“They are fine. You have been through much, just rest now.” The unnamed pressure began to lift, and she felt sleepy once again. “Esther, how are you?”

“I…” the question wasn’t different, but she couldn’t assemble the words no matter how much she tried, the icy grasp left her head burning. “I…”

He placed his hand upon her forehead, “Esther, you are awfully feverish.”

“I…I’m…”

“I must call the doctor. I will be back.”

“…Fine…I’m fine. No…”

“What is it?”

“Don’t leave.”

“But, you need medical attention. I will only be gone for a moment.”

She made a sound, a low moan so childish that she curled up into the safety of her blankets as she whispered. 

“What, I didn’t quite hear you. Do you need something?”

“Don’t leave,” she fisted a handful of his shirt, raising her voice just by a small degree. “I am…terrified. Please don’t leave.”

There was a truly conflicted frown twisting his features, “I am sorry, love, but it’s only a moment or so. I will be right back.” He managed to pry himself away from her, giving her one last reassuring peck on the cheek before hurrying out of the room and out of her sight. The room swerved again, and her only defense was the possessive claim of sleep in forcing her eyes shut. She might have grown faint.

The next few days passed with her in and out of consciousness with a feverish trance. Her husband kept pulling her back from her illness more effectively than any physician’s medicines with his magnifying assurance and the mere comfort of his presence. Still, she was in great pain, and no incantation of her name or gentle embraces could change the reality of her failing health. Was she to die? The question became desperate when one day, she lost count of the days, Corah held the older son for her to see with a maid by her side, carrying the younger one in his cluelessly sleep.

Why, why, why…She became so weak that she could hardly move. Perhaps the end was near, the unusual gentleness and the void of maternal harshness in Corah’s voice was more than enough for her to know that she was dying.

Then came a night, when the last doctor shook his head and retreated from the bedroom, she was left alone with Sirius, who had to sleep in the guest room during her illness when he didn’t fall asleep kneeling by her bedside.

“My dear,” his voice sounded so gruff and strained that she could see his raw eyes and pale cheeks vividly despite her blurred vision. He sat down at the edge of their bed, his hand reaching out to grasp hers. She never noticed how calloused his hand was until now: her fragility made even his aristocratic hand seemed rough. “I am so sorry.”

Why, it’s not your fault, she wanted to tell him, but mumbled unintelligibly instead.

She felt him turn with the rustle of the sheets, and he chuckled bitterly as though he understood her and disagreed, “I promise, I won’t let you die,” he squeezed her hand. “You have yet to name our sons and yet to watch them grow and yet…and yet….” He turned away in his passion, got up, and sat back down. He, too, had his share of unintelligible mutters. “Just you wait, my love, I can save you, just you wait…”

With a newly set determination he got up, seeing that his wife fell into a feverish slumber once again, got dressed and cloaked and exited the room after peering at his lover one last time.

************

One morning, she woke to find herself wrapped securely in the comforts of her blanket, her vision clear and head free from the plague of her infectious ache. 

“What on earth…” perhaps this was heaven, her good health suggested such. She clamored upon her side and sat up. The expected sores struck her, but her fever was…gone? She dared to get up from bed, and though she nearly fell from fatigue, she was otherwise fine. What on earth…?

“Esther, you are awake!” Ah, Sirius, walking into their room beaming despite his apparent pallor and creases upon his brows that she did not recall seeing before.

He ushered her back to bed, attributing her extremely impossible recovery to a new drug the physicians came up with. She didn’t have time to doubt before he urged her to get more rest as he had to deal with business in town. He promised to return in two days, and expressed that he trusted she was in good hands with his mother and Corah around. Then he left, just as unexpected as he came, both of them not knowing that it would be the last time they were to meet normally.

For he did not return in two days, but rather, two weeks, and by then her miraculous path to health made her almost as good as she could be. For the brief two days, she was merely an overly joyous mother of Canopus and Gabriel. Then after the two, she pined and worried for her husband’s unexcused delay. Eventually a letter came, hurriedly pardoning himself with a simple “there had been complications.” So, she waited, laughed little, and waited. 

Then came a night, when she was preparing to retire to bed, a knocking sounded upon the glass doors to the veranda. Before she screamed for her attendants, however, she vaguely heard a familiar voice calling her name, muted by the glass panes, but still, familiar. Arming herself with a candle, she approached, discovering that, leaning with one hand pressed against glass, was the figure of no other than her beloved. Immediately she unlocked the doors, allowing him to stumble in.

“What on the goodness of this earth, how did you…” she recalled that they were situated comfortably upon the third floor. Before she could finish rattling on about logistics, she found Sirius falling to his knees. “Sirius, are you alright?” Despite his protest, she removed his cloak, revealing a stain of deep scarlet on his side where his gloved hand made a futile attempt to staunch its steady spread. 

“My God…What on earth happened…?”

“It’s not as horrible as it looks, Esther, but we really don’t have time…”

“Stay here, I shall ask Corah to fetch the doctor…”

“No!” The sudden outburst made her pause in her way. “Please, Esther, just listen to me. We have to go, now, no one can know of this,” he pushed against his knee, scrambling upon his feet with her assistance. 

“What nonsense are you babbling about…”

He grasped both of her shoulders firmly as though she wouldn’t value the weight of his words without having a bloody glove staining her clothes, “There are certain things that I really should have told you a long time ago, Esther. I abstained the truth from you simply because I didn’t think that I would have to…” He looked down at the marble floor between them, sighed; then she realized that his grasp upon her was only for his own nerves. “Look, Esther, I am afraid you will never believe me, but as it now comes down to this, I can no longer lie to you.” 

“You are scaring me with all this talk, Sirius.”

He looked up to meet her troubled gaze, his looks wild and disheveled and his brows heavily knitted in pain and indecision, “I am sorry.”

He then began a splendid monologue that made little sense to her at that moment, “I suppose, to put it simply, the Crisiotas have always been…cursed. Well, I thought it a curse until very recently, anyway. Shhhh, let me explain. Every Crisiota has a special ability nearing the supernatural, if you would call it. And, mine…is to manipulate the passage of time and space with the understanding of the entirety of human existence…”

“What.”

“Shall I demonstrate?” Seeing no opposition, he did just so: with a flick of the wrist a fabric of air twisted above his outstretched hand, producing, she blinked several times to confirm, her handkerchief, dyed by spilt paint of a fusion of colors from a canvas weeks ago. She took the handkerchief from him, feeling the wet paint without fully accepting or comprehending.

“Impossible…”

“Yes, it may seem so…”

“Why, this is quite…I don’t know how to phrase it…why haven’t you tell me of this earlier?”

“Well, in order for me to utilize this power, I have to…I have to find time by…,” here he paused, releasing her and taking a slight step back. “…I…” 

“What have you done?”

“…I can’t just twist time without sacrifices, Esther, the time that is displaced is spent at the price of…lifespans. Or rather…the unspent years of lives that…”

She was cruel enough to break his euphemism, “you killed people?” She could taste the weight of her question in the flimsy, leafy air as they both forgot to close the balcony doors.

“…Yes.”

“How many?”

“Esther, I…” “You said you are going to tell me the truth, then why obscure it?” 

“…” 

“Even I can believe your insane family curse, and yet you do not have faith in my ability to withstand the news of atrocities you committed?”

“Fourteen.”

There was a sharp intake of breath that she did not notice was hers, and she asked “why?” though she guessed at the answer.

“Well, that’s not the important part, we — ”

“ — NOT important, you said? You took away the lives of fourteen men and it is not important to you that you at least have a justification?”

“I have a justification to fool myself with, and it would be most effective if I would hold it to myself—“

“—Don’t I deserve to have an explanation for the sudden savagery of my dearest husband?”

“Yes, but…” “Then say it: at this point, the half obstructed truths are more painful than the full picture.”

“Please, I don’t want to pollute your conscious any further—“ 

“Can it be polluted any further?! You think anything can hurt me any more than knowing that the love of my life is a serial murderer who hides himself from me?”

“…Esther, I am so sorry, but the only reason I told you any of this…was just to explain the current predicaments…” He swallowed hard, allowing himself to fall into the chair by the bedside and twist his hands together. “…if you must know, if this appeases your conscious of my character, then I suppose I can only say that…it is very unlikely that the medicine of our time is so effective. I had to…find something that could actually save you…”

She released a shaky breath that she forgot she was holding, “You…so it’s all because of me…”

“No, absolutely not, it is my curse and my decision to bear: you weren’t conscious enough to agree to anything anyway…no, please do not blame yourself —“

“— I made you dirty your hands, our name, our future, everything…what of our children? What of…what of…” it was her turn to collapse, and he reacted in time to catch her though she involuntarily flinched at his touch: the same look of hurt that she remembered from a distant memory passed by his façade briefly and it only made her hate herself more. 

“It has nothing to do with you, Esther, it was my own irrationality and carelessness…”

“…Yet I am the impetus, though I never asked to be saved, their blood is on my hands.”

“I am sorry.”

“…Fourteen, fourteen…they all died just because some supernatural entity favored me…”

“I am sorry.”

“…I would have gladly died had I known the price of my life…I would have…” She wanted to repeat it for conviction, though she couldn’t since she had enough of lies for a lifetime. At this she pushed against him and found herself at a more comfortable angle seated at the foot of their bed while he retreated to his chair, leaving him out of her direct sight in fear of betraying the slightest disbelief and disgust in the fact that he was a killer.

“I…am so, so sorry, Esther, please stop blaming yourself for something that you clearly did not take part of…Besides, they were voluntary…”

“What.”

“I made…deals with each one of them…the payments were exactly what they demanded…” Right, so he bought their lives with their permission: that certainly made everything justified. “Then, somehow the authorities found out, now…” He drifted off, and she was too much engulfed in turmoil to decipher that as a warning that his wound had been mostly ignored.

“Right, and I am assuming that they were the ones who delayed your so-called business trip and put you in this current state…I still don’t understand why you didn’t confer with me earlier?”

“…”

“And, why…is there just absolutely no way for you to utilize this ability without the expense of innocent’s lives?”

“…”

“How on earth is all this happening…Sirius?”

She finally noticed that he was faint and for a moment the insanity of the current situation ebbed past her as she rushed to his side. The hazel of his eyes were half closed, his skin cold with sweat, his breath haggard. Perhaps she was too selfish in her anger to ignore the bleeding gash across his side, she still managed to chastise herself as she hurriedly attempted to bandage his injury with the bits and pieces of knowledge she collected over the years of living in her father’s library. Why and what were all these things happening? Did her current action condemn her guilty by association? Why did he think it wise to kill just to save her life…? She knew the answer to the last, though she would much rather pretend that he was too rational for such inhumane atrocity. “Ugh…” He groaned as she pressed against the broken skin with much more pressure than necessary. She made a decision which she felt she would learn to regret, and immediately her natural reactions in putting his safety before carrying out this decisions proved that she lacked the conviction to even proceed to remorse: she was going to inform Corah, call the servants, to…to turn her beloved in. It was the only chance at both of them not having to live the rest of their lives in infamy and guilt and shame and tainting the lives of their children with it. Let him have the sweet release of the guillotine, she shall bear the blunt of his murders and the weight of life.

She found her cheeks soaked with two streams that she wasn’t aware that existed, so she took a shaky breath and fell back onto the floor. What did she just contemplate? He was her love, her life: how did she dare to think of betraying him? He was made desperate by their deep bonds and was driven to his actions. Yet, for her. For HER. Just imagine the weight of the trigger, or the downward stroke of a blade. No, no, no, perhaps they could all escape this somehow. With his ability, the four of them could…just maybe, find a different niche in the entirety of human existence to blind themselves of the blood upon their hands. They could move on, laugh the nightmares away, blame the Crisiotas for having cursed their descendants with such ungodly powers to begin with. But, but, how…

“Love,” he came about drowsily. “Please forgive me for having overwhelmed you with this unnecessarily belated revelation…I…”

She shushed him, tying an unreliable knot upon his makeshift bandages as gently as she could manage, “We must leave, I know, we can discuss this at a later time.”

He was evidently taken off guard by the sudden firmness in her tone, but pursed his lips to hide the surprise, “Right.”

They concocted a plan of taking the four of them two decades into the future while staging it all as an accident of sorts. By fire, she said, that they should purposely set the manor alight and leave it all to burn. “By then, no one would have bothered with past trifles and would assume us gone from existence.” Though she saw him flinch evidently at the idea and her willingness to conjure such a thought, he acquiesced under the impression that this was all for the best. She, too, choked at the very notion of this plan despite the fact that she was the chief orchestrator. When he looked up at her, meeting her glassy eyes, he started.

“Esther…”

“…Yes?”

“…I suppose it’s only right,” he ran a hand through his matted hair, a slight smile disturbing his otherwise deep-set frown. “I suppose it is only right that way.”

“What?”

A film passed over the depth of his eye briefly, “Oh, actually nothing.”

Then the unbearable silence filled the air between them, squeezing, unrelenting. She cleared her throat with the intention to speak, but had no mastery over her nerves to do so. They then managed to agree on setting off tomorrow night, and she rushed to make the proper preparations with a poorly made excuse for Corah: she was packing under the pretense that Sirius was still on his trip, and that she wanted to surprise him since he said that he missed her immensely. Corah appeared convinced and saw to it that her mistress had all that she asked. With the conflicted conscious of an accomplice, Esther found that her convictions for remaining by his side only grew to be greater with each box her servants filled with her belongings. Perhaps, the entire world didn’t have to know of the atrocities that saved her. Perhaps, they could all just fade into the creases of time and be forgotten. Perhaps, they could one day continue the soft innocent embraces and walks and kisses and surround their children with only love. With this thought she went to bed, putting her thin strings of morality to rest. 

She woke to a general buzz around her, the sky a pale dark grey obscured by half drawn curtains,.”Lady Esther!” A gruff hand shook at her, and she was broken away from sleep.

Before she could rebuke the servant from entering her room despite her instructions against it, the gravity of the voice only made her panic and notice the fact that Sirius was gone, “What is it?” 

“You are finally awake, My Lady.”

“Yes…I believe it’s not even that late just yet, Corah, what was it?”

“No, you have been unconscious since two days before: are you alright?”

“What..” She searched around the room for a proper reaction and explanation, and the first of the latter brought back the mirage of a look of remorse in her mind that made her heart skip a beat with its implications.

As though to answer her inquiry, Corah added, “The constables wait at the door, My Lady. They have already called yesterday…”

“For what reasons?” Her attempt to feign innocence seemed more than forced to her. 

“They wouldn’t say, My Lady.”

So, she was dressed in a mighty hurry and escorted to meet the constables, “Gentlemen, what brought you two at this ungodly hour?”

The two constables, seated at the guest room with perfect uneasiness in their grey coats and shifty eyes, jolted to their feet at her voice and turned to greet her politely while she curtsied in return. “Apologies, Lady Esther, but we have to inform you of some horrible news.” The shorter one spoke with a nervousness that puzzled her very much, and by the constables’ lack of displayed suspicion, she assumed her puzzlement was mistaken for a commonly dull female mind and not that of an accomplice.

They went on to explain that her husband had been arrested on the charges of countless murders and was to be brought to trial in a matter of days. At this point, she could hardly contain her confusion and blurted out a “what?” that was so improper that she didn’t care. 

“It must have confounded you, My Lady,” the taller one spoke now, his beady eyes darting away from contact. “We are very sorry.” Perhaps this was the place for her to faint or beg for their pardon, she wasn’t sure: instead, she merely turned her knuckles white clinging to her gown: under the growing pressure of her nails digging into the palm of her hands, she suddenly remembered. So, was this what he meant by “it’s only right that way”? A fool, a total fool her husband was.

“We understand this revelation must be bizarre and painful for you, but we must ask you several questions, My Lady.”

Their voices droned on, and she folded her hands beneath her chin to hide its tremor. Their speech was but formalities, each syllable gravitating her further away from their triangle of discussion as she puzzled the significance and consequences of Sirius’s decision together to form an ugly picture.

“Lady Esther? Are you alright?”

“…No,” she muttered, rising to her feet to excuse herself. “I am sorry, gentlemen, I…I simply need some time before I could be of any use to you…I am sorry.” With that she ignored the bids of understanding and possible pity and bolted out of the room.

She passed by Corah, who pulled her out of her original trajectory towards utter panic and into the drawing room, “Lady Esther.” There was an absolute resonance about her voice that forced the frequencies of her heart’s flight to regular. “This,” at this she produced a large pile of crumbled letter from her pocket, “His Lordship left it for you.”

“How did you…”

“He told me of it,” and that was enough for Esther to understand and to grasp the leaves of ruffled paper from her servant’s hand.

“Lady Esther…”

“…Yes?”

“You ought to act more distressed: it’s suspicious that you haven’t fainted or even shed a single tear.”

“Suspicious? Corah, you ought to know that…”

“…Not every constable in the world is an old maid that raised you, Esther. They wouldn’t know your tempers, and your unusual calm only frightens them and gives them ridiculous ideas that would enlarge an already outrageous case along with their careers.”

There was a sound silence audible to both women as another weight crushed Esther’s shoulders. Corah nodded gravely. After reassuring her swear to secrecy, the servant retreated from the picture while her mistress immediately assumed the security of the drawing room to decipher the mess of a script presented before her. She wrinkled her brows furiously to read in detail.

He did not write ill for someone who fainted from blood loss and knew of his ultimate demise, though the stark reality bled through the forceful attempt upon optimism and reassurance. He started with optimism, anyway, When I saw your expression upon hearing the number, I knew that it would not be possible for us to leave this all behind, he wrote. Another thing that I knew, was that I do not deserve your regards, since my choice of being held accountable by the law is only a way for me to avoid an uneasy future ruined by our knowledge of the atrocities that I committed, and a naive hope of clearing my hands, my name, with my self-justified life in hell. Yes, of course. She would do the same if she was now in the dim cell of whichever horrible prison of human depravity he was in now: to sound devilish and abuse her own character just so her loved ones would not miss her.

Yet, little did he know of her knowledge of this device, which took away the effect of it altogether. He called for her to take heart and flight, though requesting her to be present, for the very least, at his execution. This was…uncharacteristic. So, she read the last lines again, and again. And…

…again. The messy scripts did not morph into anything more palatable. So, she supposed, she would just have to force herself to look forward towards meeting him again.

Yet another failed attempt at optimism.

III. Scenes at a Field

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But, somehow, as the black mists of her unhappiness transferred itself onto the flimsy papers, it morphed into a familiar scenery.

Esther jerked awake and shrugged off her fatigue as a deep grumble sounded from the dull, grey sky. Is a storm approaching? She took a breath, and the heavy humidity confirmed her suspicion. Clearly, she was not the only one who was disturbed by the impending storm: whispers of hushed chirps in the harmony of leaves was replaced by a much harsher song, while the wind cut at her cheeks and found loose strands of her hair to tussle.

“Perhaps it would be best to head indoors,” She said to herself, hoping that the thought would be more propelling if said aloud and thus able to tear her away from her fascination for the temperamental nature.

Yet she was wrong. Her aged bones remained seated upon her chair, her watering eyes ever so fixated upon the way the scene before her danced and flashed; the wind lifted the leaves’ underside in a display of fresh greens to dull white lime, late birds scurried for shelter with its mate in dots of blue and brown; the grim sky at this early hour bestowed an ethereal blue upon all. There would come rain, sheet tasted the moisture in the air. There will be bitter rain.

Deep down within, she found a little girl in her favorite hyacinth gown, gaping at the showers of icy droplets crashing against the world outside the window of her father’s library, her breath fogging the pane of glass and — what she used to think — cushioning the rain drops in their steady descend to the earth. Stupid girl. She should have been playing with dolls or instruments, not documenting her observations of natural phenomenons around her. Had she wrote and read less and philosophized less and smiled idiotically more, she would not have attracted…that man. Perhaps, her having been a normal idiot would have saved them both from love, and had them parted ways. Or, to be fair, he could have just been less heroic to prevent their first encounter. Or he could have just been less secretive, less desperate, or…just less of whatever he was.

A stroke of lightning did not warn her sufficiently for the proximity of the next thunder. The boom deafened her from her yelp of surprise as her shoulders perked from their stiff places. She did not notice that she wrung the silks of her gown in a sad attempt to keep her heart in it place, and in this struggle the deep pounding of her racing heart resonated against her skull to awaken a dull ache that she naïvely thought a quick nap could dispatch. She groaned inwardly, her free hand shot to massage the nape of her neck and her temples. At this, another bolt crossed the sky, and the flash of shadow it casted from the lush trees to the park morphed into a legion of a familiar figure, whose lean frame upon the scaffold were brushed by the harsh howls of the blood thirsty wind.

“Ugh..” She clasped her head in her hands as it threatened to explode under the well-timed insult of the roar of thunder.

Esther had enough. She scrambled upon her feet despite her throbbing head, entering her cabin in a wobble. Immediately one of the maids came up to her in observance of her agony, though she excused the girl with a lady wave of her hand and began her retreat up the wooden stairs towards her study.

“My Lady,” the maid stopped her mid-ascend. “There is a letter from Young Master Ca…”

“Ah,” The throbbing of her headache skipped a beat. “May I?”

The maid quickly shuffled up the steps and handed her the envelope, and once again inquired after her health before bidding good afternoon, descending the stairs and out of sight. So, she continued her ascend, clutching and feeling the corners of the envelope to distract herself from her agony. Oh, her blessed child, with his sweetest tempers that, for a second, lessened her headache, before she was reminded of how awfully similar the boy’s tempers are to that of his late father: the lively airs masking sophisticated sensibility so dedicated to putting all before himself. Ah, how such character only comforted the common mind, and only serve to torture hers with remorse.

She managed to stumble into her study, wading through the loose blanket of abandoned drafts of her pointless musings, and collapsed into her chair. No, she said to herself as she placed the letter on far corner of her desk. I shan’t taint the pure bliss that I should have in reading my dearest’s letter with useless regret. Instead, she drew out several sheets of paper and a split pen, abusing the former with the latter, which was haphazardly dipped in ink, with a random assault of mindless scribbles. But, somehow, as the black mists of her unhappiness transferred itself onto the flimsy papers, it morphed into a familiar scenery. Tamed trees framing paved walks by a lake of calm waters graced with a pair of mindless ducks, where from a distance, a stately mansion overmatched the beauty of nature. Of course, only her mind knew how to relieve her from her pain, by recalling the day she was made the happiest of the face of this planet, even though her uplifted spirits only dove into a downward spiral from that point on. Her mind cleared, and she now remembered, that it all took place in her father’s estate on a dreamy afternoon.

It was a few days after the ball when Sirius was officially introduced to the Gilabres. And, his handsome features accentuated by his noble manners easily won her mother’s favor in a swoon, while his connections as the son of the late Baron Crisiota and his now inherited title of aristocracy were more than enough to gain her father’s approval. As for her, though she now cynically questioned the impetus of her infatuation simply being hinged upon the fact that she met Sirius before her parents, she was fully, if she could say so without blushing, in love. Never once did her heart cease leaping in those afternoons when he sometimes read some volumes aloud under her mother’s repeated request, or when he joined her in balls, or — as her parents became too convinced of his excellent breeding and eligibility of taking their only child’s delicate hand — when he joined Esther in her afternoon walks, occasionally accompanied by an unusually stoic Corah.

But, on one particular afternoon, Mrs. Gilabre insisted that she requires Corah’s assistance making arrangements for unspecific reasons. So, Esther found herself in the company of her love, striding on the paved paths of her father’s property under the cheery chatters of wild critters. Soon enough, the two lost their way deeper into the estate, down the winding paths and its share of scenery. Soon enough, the birds’ songs were overtaken by the bubbling of a spring, whose melodious murmurs increased in volume each step they took upon the trail.

“Isn’t it lovely here, My Lord?” She chided, though immediately regretting so superficial a comment that only her nervous self thought wise to verbalize.

“Absolutely, Miss Esther,” His voice was thoughtful, though still gentle nonetheless as he greeted her inward panic with a smile.

She was thankful for his genuity and learned to distract herself with a trivial occurrence at the meeting of the brook and the land: a small frog pulsated its slimy throat in silent croaks. It was nothing heeding her attention, until she noticed something…odd. Right before she tore herself away from the sight, the critter froze, its large watery concave eyes reflecting blankly her puzzlement and distorting it into fear. Then it began to..shiver? She was not aware the amphibians are capable of such an action, but she realized that it was not the cold that made the little frog tremble. Across its throat was a…pair of sticks. She looked closer, and noticed how the sticks extended to a solid bodice attached to the back of the critter. Ah, a water bug. She decided to spare herself from the gruesome spectacle as the vermin fed, sucking away its fellow creature’s life in one foul breath.

She returned her attention to a much more desirable subject, whom she had accidentally left in ignorance and momentary loneliness staring the tips of his boots, his hands folded behind him and his thoughts seemingly occupied. He shifted his weight from one leg to another, adjusting himself as though the slightest mistake in placing himself may earn him scrutiny. At this uncharacteristic fidgeting she chuckled, startling him and prompting him to attempt to hide his embarrassment with a friendly smile.

“I am sorry, I do digress,” She then took his hand, allowing him to lead them astray from the aimless stream and towards the western part of the park, predominately composed of large expenses of opened fields dotted by wooded clusters.

Somehow, her young mind thought it appropriate to embark upon a conversation that could only be deemed untimely and altogether horrifyingly impertinent (her mother would have fainted out of embarrassment had she been present). Perhaps it was the effects of having watched the water bug’s nonchalant feasting of a melted frog.

So, she started,” My Lord.”

“Yes?”

“Do you fear death?” Her voice, crystalline and thus seemingly indifferent to the morbidness of so bold an inquiry prompted the wind to take a breath from its courting of the trees.

He chuckled, though not out of scorn or uneasiness, “Why the melancholy, Miss Esther?”

“Oh, there is no melancholy, but simply…inspired curiosities.”

There was a pause, “To tell you the truth, I did fear death, and the mere reminder of its steady approach used to horrify me to the core.” He looked forward as he spoke, his deep, dark eyes vacant and blankly reflecting a truthful image of the scenes of the field and her question back to her. “I have exposed my cowardice at your pleasure, now prey, if I may, would you enlighten me with your sentiments?”

She was too distracted by her theorizing over the significance of his use of past tense in his response to assess the haughtiness of her answer, “I don’t think one should fear the inevitable.”

“But, how does one come to terms with the inevitable?”

“I believe one can come to terms with it, once one understands that the end really doesn’t define or affect the value of the process.”

“Does it really not?”

“I choose to believe not.”

He paused in their stroll, alarming her as to how crudely she had spoken up until then. Before she could apologize for her language, however, he said.

“I truly admire your capacity of composure and calm, Miss Esther,” She contradicted his compliment immediately as her cheeks flushed red with embarrassment. “Would you care to enlighten me upon the subject of accepting the fear of a different inevitable?”

From the corner of her eyes she saw a hare hurrying across the path. Perhaps it was losing a race against time.

“What is it, my Lord?”

There was a long pause before he began, “Tell me, Miss Esther, what is one to do with the irrepressible emotions so encompassing that it draws an individual to despair in each moment of separation from an object of fixation, so irrational that it drives this individual in question against his usual conduct to give a poor impression as a helpless clown?” — she read the unspoken things, drawing him closer as she unlinked their arms and took his gloved hands in hers instead, a steady hum drove the previous, much grimmer discussion away from her mind — “What is one to do if he is to be drawn, as though by the cruel strings spun by fate, towards a perfection that he learns to adore and admire though he clearly does not deserve it?”

“Perhaps he is deserving of it, and ‘perfection’ is merely a flattering exaggeration,” she whispered, the wind thankfully cooling her enough from directly bursting into flames here and there.

“I can assert you that it is certainly not,” at this he daringly rested his arms around her waist as she tugged herself against him, her hands contradicting her institutions of propriety and meandering to rest upon his chest. “But, Miss Esther, how could he affirm that he is deserving of such happiness?”

He leaned down to whisper the rhetorical into her ear, his warm breath somehow misinterpreted as cold as she shivered involuntarily, “He will…just have to ask?”

“Then, Miss Esther, I am afraid that I have to bother you with another question then,” His hand traced the small of her back and to her shoulder, finding its way to the crook of her neck and cupped her cheek. “Would you kindly make me the happiest man of the world of existence?” He tilted her head gently to face him, since she snapped away earlier to hide her idiotic grin.

“Gladly so, Sirius…” And, it is I who is made the happiest woman in the world since existence by you, this line, though unspoken, was communicated soundly through their gaze.

She briefly brushed away a strand of hair that the slight breeze would not left alone, fearing that her wayward hair should break their gaze. Then he smiled, his boyish, bright beam that glowed with sheer joy. She knew that she was smiling too, but in a much more idiotic and less attractive fashion. Her eyes fluttered closed as his thumb brushed against the corner of her mouth, tracing her jaw and tilting her chin. In the same careful tremor he leant down and kissed her.

Her naiveté tasted the promise of eternity in his lips, his gentle and enveloping love. Eventually he pulled back, both of them breathless as he rested his forehead against hers.

“I…I love you.”

She merely embraced him tightly and whispered back, “And as do I.”

Once again Esther jerked awake from troubled dreams, and found the little ink sketch before her an incoherent splotch of happy fantasy. So, she allowed herself to crack yet another mask for her beloved and smiled. Oh, if only, if only. If only scenes such at these were the only reminisce she had of her past. The storm was upon her, the atmosphere bearing upon her frame made meek by time. Why must things turn out such as this? What went wrong?

All she knew was that her wedding tunes were actually an elaborate prelude to a requiem.

II. The Ball

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The gentle, flattering wind brushed against her masked face as she leaned against the marble railings, resting her head upon her hands and gazing upon the smile of the moon, whose genteel light seeped through the shivering branches.

It all started a long time ago, on the year when the Thenazra Ball was hosted at Sir Mileach’s manor. The fashion of the time was for the lords and ladies to don masks in these festive dances, and Esther was among the faces of painted porcelain that night, dressed in a fine gown of hyacinth blue silk and a complimenting half mask painted with lapis lazuli and adorned with a single peacock feather. The vague anonymity gave her much excitement; she shared a dance or two without any introductions through her chaperone, wandered around the decorated halls, and found a flowery veranda where she could overlook the beautiful estate. The gentle, flattering wind brushed against her masked face as she leaned against the marble railings, resting her head upon her hands and gazing upon the smile of the moon, whose genteel light seeped through the shivering branches.

“Miss,” a voice called out to her with uninvited familiarity.

She turned to face the owner of said voice to find a man of medium built and an elaborate mask, raising her eyebrow and pursed her lips in dismay that someone dared to interrupt her daze.

“Miss, I believe you might have dropped this,” he said, gesturing ungracefully with a handkerchief that she never recalled ever seeing.

“That must have been a mistake: it does not belong to me,” she turned away coldly, crudely imitating her father’s usual apathetic indifference towards all whom he loathed.

“Is that so? My sincerest apologies for having bothered you then, Miss…?”

She knew that the man expected her to introduce herself, but she thought otherwise, “Good night to you, sir.” After a quick bow, she quickly made her way towards the indoors. The man gripped her by her forearm and pulled her back into the chill of the night — the cold did not seem clear to her until now — her heart leapt against her breast as she thought the worse.

“Well, I was simply asking for a name, if the dame would so grace me with such acquaintance?” She cursed herself for having chosen a veranda so faraway from the festivities as she met the intent stare from her aggressor.

She squeezed her eyes shut, “If you insist, the name is Gilabre, now would you please let go of me?”

A flicker of shock passed over the man’s face at the mention of the her father’s name, much to her satisfaction. But, the joy was short-lived as the stranger failed to comply and took a step towards her instead.

“You don’t mean the Mister Gilabre of Lunzeldine, now, miss? Why would he allow his dear daughter wander into such an occasion unaccompanied?” Well, his point was not baseless, but her chaperone was merely still frantically looking for her at the moment. She squirmed against his strong grip and the menace of his voice.

“Please let go of me.”

The man took another step, his body uncomfortable a breath that smelled of wine away from hers now, “Why, will your father sue me in court or what?”

So, this brute was a drunkard. “You are being improper, sir, please get your filthy hands off of me!” She swung her free hand at the bastard, but he caught her. A struggle ensued in which the ribbons holding her mask became undone, allowing the fine porcelain to fall and shatter against the floor. The revelation of her face affirmed her bold claim and encouraged the offender to pin her against the wall by the glass doors.

“I will sure love to see how Mister Gilabre would react if he knew of this encounter, and just how much he would give to buy my silence about his daughter’s…improper behavior.”

She tried to scream, but the man simply silenced her with his gloved hand. Tears of anguish and panic began to blur the  better of her judgement as the man pulled at her outfit, but that stopped when she heard a yelp of surprise from him along with a solid crunch. She opened her eyes, which she had no recollection of closing, finding the man sprawled upon the floor a good distance away from her. A figure stooped over him, holding the bastard by the collar and delivering another blow to his face, which was cut by the broken shards of his mask and steadily tainting the white marble floor with droplets of scarlet. Then, her “savior” of sorts — seeming a little too violent to be called such — turned to face her, his sharp features left unobstructed by any baroque masks.

“You are not hurt now, are you, Miss Gilabre?” He extended his clean hand to her, but she flinched away from it nonetheless and gathered herself up.

“I am fine, thank you for…saving me.”

She caught a moment of what she interpreted as hurt in his hazel eyes at her blatant distrust, and the still night air solidified between them for a split second as both struggled to find the most proper words under such bizarrely improper circumstance. His gaze broke from hers as he suddenly fixed his eyes upon the floor before him, taking off his overcoat and draping it over her shoulders.

“I suppose this will have to do in the meantime.”

Her confusion was soon killed by the searing red embarrassment when she suddenly noticed that the neckline of her gown was ripped downward in a scandalous display, “Oh…I….uh….I-I am s-sorry…I….”

“It’s quite okay, Miss Gilabre. I swear my secrecy unconditionally,” Thankfully, the man read her mind and excused her worries with his baritone voice.

At this, he escorted her back towards the main ballroom, her hand resting about the crook of his arm to steady her nerves.

“Hopefully you don’t mind me asking, but…”

“Sirius Crisiota,” he read her mind once again, but he seemed to have judged his cutting off of her sentence as a sign of over eagerness as his free hand, thankfully cleaned from the blood, shot into his hair and ran through it nervously.

Esther chuckled, “I don’t suppose you are in any way affiliated with the late Baron Crisiota?”

“Well…”

“Miss Esther!!!”

The anguished cry of her loyal servant, Corah, prompted Sirius to mutter his leave. Bowing curtly and his brushing his lips briefly against her hand, which she offered to him unconsciously, he said, “Good night to you, Miss…” darting a glance towards the direction from which the call of distress came, he dared, “…Esther.”

“Good night to you, too, Mister Crisiota.”

She watched as he headed back into the dark in graceful strides, peering back at her with an uncharacteristically boyish grin before the darkness of the night hid him. Meanwhile, Corah caught up with her and started accusing her for the death of her nerves even though all Esther could really hear or feel was the ready buzz in her head and the heat that rushed to the back of her hand.

About Requiem Fantastique

Hello readers,

This is just my notes and some background information about my current, main ongoing story, Requiem Fantastique.

Requiem Fantastique is a five-chapter story (not counting the prologue that came out a long time before I finished planning the story) inspired/based vaguely on Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. For those of you who are not familiar with Berlioz, you just have to know that his Symphonie Fantastique (or Fantastical Symphony) is a program symphony in the early Romantic period (1780-1910) that tells of an artist desperately in love. When his love remains unrequited, he poisons himself with opium — though, not a sufficient dosage to be fatal — and enters a dream sequence about his own execution for having killed his beloved and attendance at a witches’ sabbath in his afterlife (where he found his beloved, though now she is a witch as well). Wikipedia might have done a way better job at including Berlioz’s own program notes for each movement, but this is basically what happened in the original Symphonie Fantastique.

My rendition of this symphony is vastly based on my imagination as I listened to it on YouTube. While I originally intended for it to have taken place in Tang China, it had to be changed since the second movement is taking place during a social ball, and Tang China clearly is not the time and place where such a thing exists. The five chapters of this story is named directly after the chapters of Berlioz’s symphony and represent a certain element of nature. The plot also could be seen as an extended metaphors for some of my life experiences, most of which are still working to be translated into posts in this blog.

Above all, if I ever finish this story, it would be the first completed piece of fiction for me: I have at least twenty different outlines of different ambitious novels planned, yet school had kept me away from bringing those plot skeletons to life. Therefore, it would be really great if you, who is already very awesome for reading this post, can leave some comments, constructive criticisms, or even some questions for me. I want to be able to grow as a writer, and being part of my school’s newspaper, I know that it is only through edits and corrections that I can do so.

Sincerely,

Meiko

I. Reveries

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This afternoon, when she resumed her usual perch upon her chair, she continued to bleed out her heart while the wind began to bellow out why.

One afternoon, Esther resumed her perch upon the mahogany chair in the exposed elements of the front porch to her cabin, rocking gently to the half-hearted warmth of the wind. As she closed her eyes, she could hear the delighted squeals of sprouts bursting out of the earth. A deep breath, and the reviving creeks returned her a breath of dampened moss. There were other sounds now; the endless twitters and boundless energies of the birds and critters reminded her of her lethargy.The wind picked up, finally deigning to greet her directly and reminiscence of the times when it brought her leaves from her first love, promises of happiness written in a handsome hand; or that night when it kissed her cheeks and embraced her when she waited by an opened window for a rendezvous; and less pleasantly the time when it warned her with bitter premonitions, yet she brushed it aside as though she was allowed to. So as the wind blew, she saw too clearly the shadow by the scaffold, the embodiment of her remorse…

She opened her eyes, now tearing, though not only from the specks of dust that assaulted her. Her mother was wrong: nature cannot heal everything. Besides, her heart was not wounded, but scarred, and most would know that scars cannot and will not ever heal; they just stay as patches of new skins that strain and pull upon the old when moved. However, as the chill of the wind passed over her, it was as though these scars did not just strain or pull, but erupted against all of her self resolve. What can nature do if even time cannot wash her clean?

The same wind now attempted to wipe away her tears, but to no prevail. Instead it picked out wisps of grey from her braid and brushed at her wrinkled cheeks harshly. Scarred, but still, her heart bleeds…

…this afternoon, when she resumed her usual perch upon her chair, she continued to bleed out her heart while the wind began to bellow out why.