nepenthe: (Feather)

This will be the last part of Bonny Swans. I'm not sure how the tale should be ended after the reveal, so. To all my three readers, I'm putting this out and would be happy to hear which (not well done) ending is better in general. Once that is established, I will make that version of the ending not suck and then post the whole of the narratives together.

Without further adeu, our conclusion:



 

 

My False Sister Ann
 

A tragedy it was, for I loved my sister. My silence is not for guilt. I know not how to turn my grief to words, so prefer to say nothing at all.

 

I remember this past Christ-mass well: Isabelle in her white lace, a gold chain encircling her breast-bone with a diamond at its heart. She sang at dinner. Others were moved by her tuneless song. That which we can never hear once again has become the melancholic topic of conversation—do spare me rumor. I was witness to all that did transpire. Speculation rises as the snow mounts. It gives me and my family heart-ache. Doubtless William would never entertain their notions, even if he cannot help succumbing to the mood.

 

Let us not dwell on what cannot be. The dead remain so, and may they rest sound in their graves. We are yet here, alive, in the splendor of my father’s hall and its festive warmth in this, the coldest season. Is it not perfection of holiday ambiance? See the gold-glass, light-trimmed evergreens and wreaths of holly. I’ve decorated our home by my own hand for the most sacred of celebrations. I’m surrounded by my hard-won blessings; a sumptuous meal, all friends and family gathered in a loving embrace. Let us be merry. . .

 

Have you ever heard such a harp?

 

The sound is not. . .I hear no note out of tune, yet I find the sound displeasing. The look of the instrument beguiles. Never have I seen a harp fashioned of reed-banded ivory, its golden strings playing without a soul to strum them. No, were this not enough a marvel, it now must play her carol. How tired! Dredging up a mournful melody as though it too, might sing.

 

No. Not sing. Play upon its own it may, but none but humans and birds sing.

 

What of it, that it plays that song? Does this mean we must assign significance, that we must lose ourselves in sad memories and forget our cheerful present? Why does the hall lose themselves, turn their ears, fall silent, straining. I do not like this enchantment. The dread of it settles as a cold diamond in my heart. It has cast a spell, I am certain. Playing our heart-strings as sure as its own. Am I the only one to see what it does? It’s sure to ensnare my family, my William, playing for him a long-dead love song to hold him in thrall.

 

Did you see it? The harp pins flex as if fingers of bone. If you had, you would feel the uneasy shiver of fear as they brush the melody from the strings, through the wisps of golden strands.

 

Oh, god.

 

The harp is undone. See the specter unfurl, her breast-bone brought forth of the neck gleaming in the burning light of a thousand flicking candles nestled in evergreens. She takes to her feet. She is white-lace and deathly pallor.

 

William takes a place beside it, leans in to the imagined caress of hand pins.

 

The specter, she looks to the head of the table. It is not her lips that move, but a cold breath of winter air: “Father, Mother.”

 

Horror! What lies? What lies dead should stay so!

 

“Hugh, my brother, my friend.”

 

Dead!

 

“William, my love, ever true.”

 

His eyes shine for a demon-commanded corpse. I cannot bear this, this horror, this undoing of my year, my night, my time.

 

“Do not give it reply,” I do not shriek.

 

“I am here,” William says to her, only for her.

 

I quake. All are taken in, all of you. “It is a devil in the room. The dreamer you pine for is dead, died of her ambition, her selfish wants without consideration for the heart of her own sister.”

 

“My false sister,” she lies from the pitiless hallows of her corpse-eyes.

 

“No! This is my family. Your spell neither hold sway over my heart nor conscience. The truth remains: I am the eldest and my love was first. First by my birthright and provoked to anger, you forced me to take what was mine. Refusing aid to the undeserving is no crime. Drown of her own sinful weight, taking, taking. Be gone, be a corpse left at the bottom of the river and leave me what is my due.”

 

The specter does not listen and all the hall strains to hear another whispered lie by her gaping dead lips.

 

I take action, take hold of a champagne tray sending glass and frothing alcohol to the air. I take the table, hurdle it, land with glass crushing under my feet. I am heartened by the sound as I rush her, wind back with the tray and loose my fury upon her.

Ending #1

 

The last haranguing dissonance as it strikes the floor and the cracking of her neck fills me with satisfaction.

 

Gone. Once and for all, not a reason for her to torment me again. . .

 

All is silence, save my own heavy breath. I turn to my hall and expect to see the company awaken from their demon-induced stupor, yet not a friendly eye is upon me. They look to me, me, as the source of slack-jawed horror, as though I were the undead creature who'd awakened in their midst! Can they not see what I have saved them from? And William! Should this be how my affection is disparaged after such travail as I have suffered for the least of his regard?

Curse them all to folly, curse her for leaving me a life with naught but despair for a future.

 

Ending #2
 

Hugh? Wha—

 

My own brother takes me to the floor; pins me into glass and causes me such pain. I scream, I scream, I scratch and kick and hit and—

 

Last I see is William taking a stand between me and the harp, taking up my tray. He couldn’t; our destiny was. . .he wouldn—

 

 

The harmonic resonates

The song is over

 

nepenthe: (Feather)

A Harper Passing By

 

At night I dream of a white-fingered lady with golden hair.

She asks me to make her a harp.

Who am I to refuse?

 

nepenthe: (Feather)

The Miller’s Daughter

 

My father, my daddy, tells me there is a pond here heated year-round and home to a pair of swans. The mortician (a new word I have learned to-day) keeps them. He feeds them and clips their wings so they cannot fly away. I think that is why big, free birds don’t like him as I did not. Father tells me to stay away.

 

I slip from the mourners taking Bonny, my cousin and bosom friend, with me. She glides over the snow as I trudge through it. We saw the pond when we passed the gates into the yard. It is not hard to find. I’m thrilled; I’ve never seen a swan in life, not even stuffed. I only know them from my mother’s stories. Sometimes, they are princesses bewitched into birds. I wish to meet a princess.

 

The pond ripples because the wind is strong and cold to-day. It has blown my petals away, over the hill to the pond’s brim. I know it isn’t a real pond. The wild pond in the woods behind our home is ugly and shallow. Thorny trees and bushes grow all around. This pond has nice edges marked with stone, the snow melted around yellow-brown peaks. I follow them to the reeds. Reeds would make a fine home for a swan-princess.

 

I find no swans in the reeds and check the depth of the water with a pebble. The ripples are burgeoning half-moons until their pattern reflects off a floating body, its clipped feathers like lace; moons become sapphire diamonds surrounding her.

 

I smile and return to my father.

 

“Father, oh Daddy, here swims a swan! Come, see her.”

 

“Imagining things, little dove?” my father says to me. “It is winter, too cold for swans. They are kept in the menagerie ‘til spring.”

 

“Oh.” I know it is too cold for swans. There is a swan in the pond. No matter.

 

I tell Bonny of the swan and her plight. Bonny suggests we take the swan home with us. This is not a good idea because my father shouldn’t like a swan in the house and I tell Bonny so. We speak of houses, Bonny and I, then of the reeds and shelter.

 

Together Bonny and I use sticks to direct the swan to the reedy bank. As she floats, the bird loses some lace and hair along the way, but I am careful and it cannot be helped. Bonny would help too, but she cannot touch things anymore and I wore my warm goulashes. I wade ankle deep into the water, for the mud beneath is solid and I don’t sink. The swan is cold (Father spoke truly; cold is not for swans), stiff, and heavier out of the water than in it. But I manage to settle her in the midst of the reeds. Using strings from the tassels on my coat, I make a tent over her head.

 

Bonny warns that my father seeks me. I bid my swan fair-well and good-bye. I return late, and he chides me. My coat is muddy, and the red tassel’s missing and I am wet, wet, wet and shall catch my death, God rest my mother.


nepenthe: (Feather)

A Mourner

 

The Miller’s daughter dressed in red. Mad creature doesn’t know her mother’s dead. Sickly woman knew her time would be short and spoilt her child with fantasies and illusion befitting none but the devil. Here stands the pale child at the grave’s brim, knee deep in snow plucking petals from her roses instead of throwing them to the grave. The sight awakens some memory or terrible premonition of blood-spattered snow, those red petals on the white. I will not linger in this graveyard, not for the first heap of dirt to be thrown after. Any with sense and seen the sight would feel the same in their bones.

 

Miller, the love-struck father, is blind.

 

Pray, pray for a mad child’s soul and her dead, Godless mother!


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