Saturday, June 19, 2010

Episode III

Horatius left Katrina per usual with his palate satiated and his mind pleasantly cushioned in the exquisite femininity of her company. ‘All that is best of pert and sweetness! How could I prefer another for marriage?’ Though e'en now, he did not see her as his last love.

How he could he ever wait for a last? One's mind may be filled enough with text or the stomach with eating, but Horatio knew all too well that the desire for hunger itself would come to wake him, and he then must need find succour again.

He found no flaw or deficiency in Katrina's company, indeed in mind she was alert. In taste, original without trite notoriety or servile attentiveness to fashion's whims. Her heart was passionate and virtuous, and this must be a woman's quality, if she is to have any. And her ear, ever attentive to holy vespers, provoked the sweet reminiscence of childhood. Horatius slapped his thigh heartily. Aye! He was ready to bid adieu to Ráichéal.

Riding with increasing speed down the slowly dwindling paths of town, as swift as his stomach would permit, Horatius was soon beyond the hamlet. He cast a glance behind to make certain that his poor valet could not have pursued his course. With a smile, the hard master entered the overhung bosheen.

All was black within the wood, the moon waned dull and her starry handmaidens were entangled in the serpentine branches. Yet, Horatius's horse plodded its well known course, hardened to the routes branching away from any road of man and deaf to the distant howls of wolves and suspicious murmurings of wind and water. The cawing of a raven wed with the cooing of doves hailed Horatius as he finally entered the glen.

A great stone crowned with laurel trees and moss overhung the diminutive cottage, what little of it that stood above the earth. An opening in the canopy of trees revealed the moon shining beauteously upon the hollow. Not regarding the knocker, Horatius imperiously entered the rounded, green door of the ivy choked dwelling.

Lavender, rose, and musk encircled the cavalier as he footed the earthen floor of the dim abode. Lights of emerald, magenta, violet, and cobalt danced along the floor from some occult source, and Horatius waited until they alighted on the basement's trapdoor.

Prying up the haven's barricade, he descended with intrepid haste, though he was taken aback on the last step as a brief, flaming haze of ochre sprouted at his feet and burned up through his nostrils while venomously stinging his eyes.

‘What's this?’ he hacked, ‘Am I greeted with the colour of a coward?’

‘Yellow ’tis the colour of a liar as well,’ a low, soft voice answered within. Horatius blinked once more, before he beheld Ráichéal’s form bent over her porphyry table. Her dark, green eyes were bent intensely upon a scroll, whereon she was illuminating her alchemical runes.

‘I hath never lied to thee,’ the libertine answered indignantly. ‘'Twill be not hard to bid adieu to this sullenness.’ He added in his mind.

‘There are more falsehoods than those of the tongue,’ she answered, finally standing aright, ‘And I don’t suppose thou hast come to contemplate the Mysteries or dissertate on philosophy.’ She folded her arms beneath the long drape of her scarlet, velvet sleeves, looking as stern as an elongated statue atop a cathedral’s portal.

‘Garbed in red?’ Horatius teased, seeking to avoid her gauntlet, ‘The liturgy's colour is green, and thou hath always dressed to match the altar’s cloth.’

‘Perhaps this is the day of a martyr? The one for whom I was named perhaps, since it is the day of mine own birth as well? Perhaps thy attendance at the hermit's Mass would have afforded thee this knowledge, if it had so concerned thee.’

‘Ráichéal– ’

‘I am not interested,’ she shrieked at last, ‘Indeed, I know already why the Basilica has long claimed thy fickle attendance. Well, art thou come to me thyself of thy wedlock plans?’

‘For sooth, I didst not think that thou stirred far enough from thy woods and glen to know such matters,’ Horatius found himself sneering in spite of his intention to be magnanimous. His scorn did kindle the wrath welling up through her eyes, orifice, and every window into Ráichéal’s being. There was a cry more horrible than her ravens, and she leapt like a tigress for the man’s throat, claws outstretched.

The warrior easily disarmed his attacker by clamping her wrists together and wrenching her aside so that she came off her feet.

‘Such an unseemly fit ill suits thee, woman.’ he coldly spake. She struggled a while more, all dishevelling her long, dark hair in her rancour. A few moments more, and he felt the tension slacken in her hands, and so released her.

‘So go then,’ she suddenly said in broken abandonment and pulled herself to her feet as feebly as a maimed bird. Horatius watched for another outburst, but she only glided away. She would go back to her scrolls or elements, then. But all his predictions she thwarted and instead turned aside to her inner sanctum. Falling onto her couch stuffed with heather, she fell to weeping as easily as a sweet dairy maid and as silently as a high noblewoman.

So frustrated in his musings, Horatius could but stand dumb and still. Did he truly know the woman within? He thought he had learned well of her bardic lore and craft in alchemy, of her angry passions and mental discipline. But this weeping he had not seen, and he was nearly unnerved. What had she been hiding? Was there some other secret this soul still held for him?

The scent of lavender teased him into deeper thought, and the jewelled hues of this cool place were reborn with their former charms. He followed her to her mournful couch.

‘Ah, Ráichéal, weep not! And send me not from thy sight, for thy tears have won me back, and I would fain not depart from thy company!’

A long groan escaped the distraught woman, as she raised herself on one arm. ‘I destroyed myself in loving thee. All that is left of my heart is thine, even if thou doth choose to partake of another's.’

‘Ráichéal, thou must know that my heart—’

‘Dost thou have one?’ she asked with a curious twist of a dark, arched brow, her eyes settling on the left of Horatio's breast. ‘A soul thou doth have, with reason and passion complete and a body for sooth, but dost thou have an organ called “heart”, or doth the surplus of passion and spirit rush thy blood about?’

‘Ráichéal,’ Horatius groaned, unable to meet her eyes, ‘Take me back, I beg this of thee.’

She caressed a leaf of ivy dangling from her wall. ‘Did I not already say that I must?’


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Domine, spero quia mundum vicisti. Lord, I trust that Thou hast overcome the world. Panie, ufam, żeś pokonał świat.
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