The Branch that Beareth Not, Part I

Monday February 09, 2004 @ 04:46 PM (UTC)

Anthea diNassos was born in a villa west of Thorns, overlooking the sea. Her dark-haired mother was the daughter of a thriving vintner, rich in both jade and beauty; her father, small and sparkling-eyed, the fruit of the thinnest branch of a noble family tree. She was born just as the light of morning came running along the wavetops to see her; her eyes drank in the ocean, and opened deepest blue. She was raised in the airy loggias of her family home, and learned to run playing hide-and-seek in the vineyard of her forefathers. Her fingers were the color of wine from stealing grapes, and her ready smile was likewise tinted burgundy. So she grew, between nobility and merchant class, between the parties in the rich houses of Thorns and her playmates in the harvest fields. She had dozens of friends, but her best friend was Marina, the daughter of her family’s steward. Together they ran and played, and the old men who were the tyrants of the grapes used to say wisely, seeing the brown toes miring in the rich earth, “They also have roots in this soil.”

All childhood dwindles into memory, golden or no, and there came a time when her parents realized that Anthea was growing tall and slender, and they began to turn their thoughts, and her time, towards the further health and wealth of the diNassos name. They increased the frequency of their daughter’s school lessons, arranged for her to go to parties every week, and transferred the family steward to representing the family wine business in Thorns, so that Anthea would not have Marina constantly distracting her from her studies and her new life. Anthea was less than pleased at the idea of marrying, being shackled to some unknown lordling, and leaving behind the fields and waves that had always been her home, not to mention her friends both at the farm and in Thorns. Well she knew, however, that this was the course she must follow. Her parents knew what was best, and were providing for her as their parents had for them. She swallowed her sorrow and fears, and contented herself with praying, every day, at the house shrine. Their patron spirit was Bountiful Lady of the Pearl Wine, and Anthea grew in her own room little vines of the family stock, that a bloom or bunch of grapes might be ready each day for her to lay on the Bountiful Lady’s terra cotta altar, in prayer for good fortune, for good health, and for love.

It was autumn, and Anthea leaned on her window-sill, drowsing in the lingering warmth just as the dormant vines below her did. Her parents had been staying in Thorns proper with friends for almost a month – strange, but a blessing all the same, for there were no parties to go to, no rich or well-born gentlemen to dance withal under her mother’s anxious eye. They had not even written her, sent word to heed her studies, or told the servants she must practice her music lessons. She was free. Her hand under her chin, her hair floating in a last warm breeze like a breath of the setting sun, she fell into a light and blissful sleep.

“Summer Child!” a voice called her through the fields, and she laughed. She pulled Marina with her, effortlessly seven again in the fluid world of dreaming. The voice was her grandmother’s, gone many years, and she called out to her as she wove through the vines like an old woman’s shuttle. “Summer Child!” the voice came again. Marina fell behind, and Anthea stopped only to make a face and run on towards her Oma.

There was an empty place in the vines, a circle of mud that had never been there before, but this did not trouble Anthea as she rushed to the woman seated in the midst of the clearing, like her Oma but younger, with eyes like the sea, teeth like pearls, and skin the smooth brown of clay. “Summer Child,” she said with a frown, “you have always been a good girl. I must leave you now, but do not forget me, or yourself.”

Anthea started to cry, and suddenly remembered, this was not her Oma. Her Oma had left her long ago. She raised her head, and she was no longer a little girl, but the slender Anthea who unknowingly broke so many hearts in the scintillating parties of Thorns.

“Who are you?” she said, and stared at the beautiful, young face of her Oma.

“I…” the woman reached out her hand, and it began to dry and wrinkle. She shrank on her throne of vines, becoming as old as Oma, now older, more wrinkled than a dried apple, all in the blink of an eye. Anthea screamed and stepped backwards from her, but the brown hand was on her wrist, gripping tightly even as it wizened and wilted. Anthea screamed and screamed, and the woman’s brown flesh broke like pottery on the kitchen floor, and her blue eyes fell into the shards and were lost.

Anthea woke, her heart pounding, and breathed shuddering deep before opening her eyes. The warm breeze tugged insistently on her hair, warmer than before, and Anthea opened her eyes. Into the dusky sky black smoke was rising, as from one side of their lands to the other, the vineyards kindled a scarlet nightmare of flame.

Part II →


I like it. It has very nice imagery. I feel sorry for her, knowing what must come to pass.

Thanks for kind words!

Yeah. I pretty much flinch every time I type the word “Thorns,” so I figure that must be true for other Exalted fanboys and -girls.

And for those who don’t know about Thorns… MWA HA HA HA! Wait for next ish. That is all.

I concure with Matt. It seems very lively and full of detail. I like stories htat are full of detail, it makes them seem more real. ;-)

Well, I was going for “florid,” but “detailed” is good, too. Better, in most cases. :)

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