The Branch that Beareth Not, Part III

Friday February 13, 2004 @ 02:07 PM (UTC)

← Part II

Anthea fell back onto the dusty cushions of the carriage, disbelief and fear fighting for primacy within her rigid form. What can I do? she finally managed to think. Even if I were free of this carriage and safely away from the ghouls that attend it, then I would be alone and lost in the midst of a Shadowland, whose size and bounds I do not know! And more, at night, when they say that even if you should find the edge of a Shadowland, it gives not on Creation but on the Underworld. “What do they want with me?” she whispered, almost sure a spectral head would appear through the dark woodwork to answer her.

It might have been a minute or an hour that she had spent tracing circles of confusion, terror and abhorrence in her mind, when she heard a sound without.

“We are almost there, mi-la-dy,” sang the human footman mockingly, and she started from her misery. The carriage was poorly supplied for a battle, as, indeed, was she. She hefted the lantern and prepared to break it over the head of whatever beast might come to carry her out — for now, indeed, she feared to be wrenched from the haven of the carriage which had seemed a prison only a few minutes before.

The horses’ hooves sounded once again on cold stone, and echoed back and forth in some great space that must, she judged, be a courtyard. The carriage turned, slowed, and halted, and she heard a scrabbling of fingers at the latch without. She raised her lantern high.

The door opened, and she saw a smoothly flagged courtyard lit by flickering lamps somewhere beyond her view. The grinning footman’s mocking smile ducked away before she could be tempted to bring the lantern down upon it, and beyond him she saw, smiling and impassive, a young woman.

Or was she young? Her face could have been cut from marble and set on a monument for a mourning muse, but its very smoothness seemed of a type with stone — not new, but unchanging. Her white-gold hair was coiled behind her head, and long tendrils of it held back from her face by a diadem of dark metal that sat low on her forehead. Her lips, curved into a welcoming smile, were as white as her shining teeth. She wore a wide-skirted, bare-shouldered dress that came to her knees, and was made of hundreds of thin leaves of black soulsteel that chimed and keened when she moved. She moved now, stepping forward and raising a hand for Anthea’s. “Good night, and welcome, Anthea di Nassos,” she said in a soft, low voice.

“Stay back,” Anthea barked at the malefic figure, but the pale woman only smiled the wider, and raised her face to better study the girl.

“I am the Dancer of the Silent Grotto,” she said softly, and stared up at Anthea. She had terrifying eyes, the alien eyes of a tiger or an ebon shadow, and just as golden. They were shining and cold, dilated on pools of utter blackness, and Anthea wanted to cry out, to run, do anything rather than stay within their gaze. “Let us be friends,” the soft voice said clearly.

Anthea smiled like the sun breaking through clouds, and, putting her olive-skinned hand in the Dancer’s white one, stepped down from the carriage, eager to see her new home.

Part IV →



There is a charm afoot, there must be. Quick, get it before we all go giddy for shadowlands!

wrenches Abyssals book out of Mithrandir’s hands and stops him from typing

No charm for you!

If you ask real nicely, I might write the next part this weekend, instead of waiting for Tuesday to post another article :)

I have ice cream, that i could give you as an offering ;) The peoples of friendland ahvnet even gotten a chance to taste it yet. ;)

I’ll see what I can do. What kinda ice cream is it?

Orange creamsicle and rootbeer float. They are both full of creammy tasty goodness.

Okey-dokey. Writing fiction just squeezed into my schedule.

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