The long hem of the woman’s skirts flew up behind her as she marched headlong down the corridor to where she was expected, and running late. Sheets of light sliced through the tall ornate widows lining either side of a corridor whose walls were painted in murals containing fantastic sea creatures suspended in a blue sea of paint, and whose marble floors, hedged by aqueducts carrying running water along the sides of the hall, echoed with the steady click, click of the woman’s boots.
Pink silk curtains parted and fell away to the sides as the woman strolled in, head held meaningfully and pointedly, blue eyes stone serious, lips pressed together in what may have been annoyance, or a lack of emotion altogether. The vast room was a circular chamber whose walls also were adorned with murals of fish, leviathans, whales and mermaids, in every corner were shelves of hard bound volumes, and on pedestals of stone stood busts and statues of all manner of polished and beautiful men and women in states of undress, here a bronze woman whose hair flayed out behind her and whose silken robe wound lazily around an exposed chest with nipples bare and pointed, there a young man whose bronze curls framed eyes that stared out longingly from the position where his completely nude form stood on his pedestal.
A grand archway was cut into the wall, around whose curves wound more sculptures of nude men and women, interspersed with one another, climbing over one another’s forms, those on the western and eastern sides reaching, hands outstretched, longingly for one another, faces chiseled into expressions of anguish, or love, or something between the two. Framed by this grand archway was a view of the city below, upon whom the early morning sun flashed across it’s many small rivers that wound along its streets, and whose tall stucco buildings sported and tall stone spires, kissed in the blinding reflection of morning light.
In the center of the room was a stone platform, and the aqueducts lining the hallways and the edges of the room turned inward at the archway and fed a tiny river surrounding the platform, in which swam coy of every color, and a countless assortment of other small, colorful fish. The platform was connected to the blue limestone floor by a single walkway stretching out from stone peninsula, and on this platform itself were lounges, couches, armchairs and benches decorated with silk pillows, in which sat a dozen or so men and women, all resplendent in robes, jewels, headpieces, gloves and shoes as varied in color and texture as the fish swimming around them in the pond.
At the far end of the platform, his back to the early morning view, stood a man whose hands were tucked neatly into the folds of his dark robe, his pitch-black hair falling in shaggy tresses about his shoulders. He fixed his gaze upon the woman who had entered in a hurry, charcoal eyes assessing her. When he spoke, his voice was both compelling and terrifying, “You are late, Magister Nero.”
The woman’s steely blue eyes flashed with something between resentment and amusement, and a smile, cold and coy, played at the edges of her lips. “One is never late in one’s own home, Magister Sylmire.” She strolled nonchalantly across the bridge and over the coy pond to the stone peninsula, and arranged her flowing skirts about her as she seated herself in a downy armchair. There was a long silence as something unspoken passed between these two, the woman sitting with an ease of comfort, yet rapt with attention, and the dark-haired man, as he always did, taking the measure of her with his eyes. Between the two was something that was not quite tension, and not quite rivalry. To the dozen others who had gathered, their breath held in anxiety, there was a nervousness in the air.
The man with the dark eyes, Magister Sylmire, spoke up, “I was just beginning to brief our esteemed council on the matter of the fated ‘lost continent’ to the north, long held to be unreachable by sea or air, due to the mists and storms which surround it and permeate the sea.”
“Yes,” responded Magister Nero calmly, “You may go on.” The permission given in this statement to Magister Sylmire, who was her superior, was not unnoticed by the gathered council, who collectively shifted in their seats. Sylmire betrayed no visible sign of having noticed the slight, however, and continued.
“As you all know,” he began in a louder voice intended for a crowd, and beginning to swing his gaze around the circle of attendees, “The mists surrounding this ‘lost continent’ recently disappeared, and the storms brought to an abrupt halt. The exact cause of this phenomenon is still unknown, but it has given our nation a chance to finally being airships and sea ships to its shores, to explore this lost land, and as it happens, to make introductions of ourselves to the natives.”
The attention of several council members was caught by this remark, and some sat forward expectantly. Sylmire allowed a slight grin to play at his lips; his statement had had the desired effect. Nero internally marveled at his ability to control a crowd, and noted to herself to beware of this particular talent. “Yes,” he said, answering the unuttered question collectively asked by everyone in the room, “There are people on the lost continent. And as our nation’s first expedition of ambassadors and anthropologists have learned, they are a remarkable people indeed.
“I’m told that they are in many ways primitive, living in small, roving bands, and where population is dense, congregating in tribes. They practice ritual ceremonies, apparently upon the changing of seasons and other local holidays, but unlike our own history these rituals are far from blood-soaked or sinister in nature, in fact these people appear to be cheerful and inviting, frolicking in orgiastic ceremonies revering nature. Our explorers happened to come upon them during their autumnal celebration and, upon making acquaintance with a particular tribe, our ambassadors were welcomed with wide arms and permitted to take part in their joyful, if somewhat juvenile festivities. Dancing, drinking of local grape, even some vulgar displays of sexuality. However, it was during one such festivity that one of our field members noted something absolutely remarkable.”
Here Sylmire paused. Nero raised her eyebrows expectantly. “Go on,” she said placidly.
Sylmire looked directly into Nero’s eyes, and said in a voice so intimate that it was difficult for those on the edges of the platform to hear, “They practice White Magic.”
Some council members heard, and expressed their understanding through sharp gasps, while others whispered and chattered, asking if they’d truly heard correctly. Nero nearly lost her composure, but, resting her hands on the edge of the armchair and attempting with great difficulty not to tighten her grip, only said cautiously, “Careful, Magister Sylmire.”
Notes: Yes, it ends right in the middle of things. I can’t remember if that’s because I got interrupted or because I got bored. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the latter, this scene is boring. I’ve never been good at “descriptive language” or “setting the scene,” in my mind I can see what the setting looks like, but it’s kind of a pretty blur, and I’m focused entirely on what’s being said between the characters.
In this version of events (and there are MANY versions of events in Fairy Tale; as with the last post, more on that later) this is intended to be a prologue. Nero is a character that was inspired by Kate Mulgrew’s performance as Flemeth in the Dragon Age series, and Nero both looks and sounds like Mulgrew. Interestingly, I happened to have been reading Kate Mulgrew’s autobiography while writing this chapter, and by reading I mean I listened to it on audiobook, because the only way to hear a story about Kate Mulgrew is to hear her tell it in her own voice.
It’s pretty clear that I was mimicking a style here that wasn’t my own. I tried to spend some time setting the scene, but ultimately it felt boring to write and boring to read, and I wasn’t very good at it. I do have a clear vision of what this very odd-looking room looks like, but it’s just too hard to describe. Maybe I’ll figure out how to do that soon. Seems like an important skill as a writer.
At the risk of writing almost as much ABOUT this scene as there is content of the scene itself, I mainly wrote this because, in this version of events, everything begins far away from Lucas, and far before his time, when Drosselmeyer is a mage among a nation of mages, and at the ending of the book, I was going to have Nero make another appearance as a much older woman, and something of a mentor for Lucas. Now? I’m not sure, maybe I’ll save Nero for later. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what this world looks like. I will say that I’m glad I wrote this just so I could get down the cattiness between Nero and Sylmire that goes on in my head, particularly the line, “One is never late in one’s own home,” even though I’m not sure that’s true at all, but still, I like it.
Oh! One final thing. If you’ve read some of the other concepts scenes, you may have noticed that the setting of this scene was very similar to Madeena, the City of Water, from another scene. That’s because it is, only this time Madeena existed outside of the area of the world where Lucas lives. Still getting it sorted out. I know, it’s confusing, but maybe one day all of this will make an interesting read when the book is finally finished and, hopefully by that time, has some direction.