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View Full Version : "The Emerald Archon" - Chapter 2.2



monseratthefool
December 29th, 2012, 02:23 AM
The second half of Chapter 2. Any critiques most welcome, and fully appreciated :)

-

The stained-glass door opened, and Bartolo looked up from his cup of tea.

The woman at the door was young and classically pretty, with dark brown hair pulled snug to reveal a smiling, welcoming face. Although her modest frame filled but half of the door, her steady, calming presence and gentle smile felt so expansive that it filled the entire room. Her blue-grey eyes seemed to shine from the inside, and they captivated the older man.

Sylani seemed otherworldly to Bartolo, as if her Ceru gown were a flowing waterfall, making her seem taller and more timeless than her twenty-four years would allow.

Wonderment notwithstanding, there was some fundamental impulse missing from deep inside of Bartolo. It was the perplexing impulse that men often feel in the presence of a young, beautiful woman that was missing so entirely in Bartolo’s mind that he didn’t even know to miss it. The need for sexual procreation, for conquest, for possessiveness, all spring forth from a place that was now sleeping soundly under the influence of the ancient, powerful retrolian bark.

Sylani, being careful not to let on any signs of investigation, was searching the man’s eyes for any sign that the tea had not taken effect. She saw nothing alarming, and with one hand stealthily capped the assassin’s pin concealed in her dress.


Bartolo, meanwhile, was enjoying a wave of relief. Had he shown up late at his own home, Alena would likely be screaming right now, while Sylani seemed simply satisfied that he was here.

She beckoned for him, and invited him into an embrace that was full and unafraid. She nestled her head into his shoulder and pulled him close enough to feel the unsteadiness of his breathing. Bartolo, unaccustomed to being so close to a beautiful stranger, became terribly uncomfortable.

Sylani maintained her embrace, while skillfully pressing two thumbs into his back to bring awareness to the place between his shoulder blades where the muscles were involuntarily contracting. His mind, guided by her hands, let go of the gripping muscles and helped Bartolo give himself more fully into Sylani’s arms.

He felt at once as if he would cry, as if he were reuniting with an old, lost friend. It was all he could do to stay standing.

Bartolo’s breath had caught in his throat. His mind sent fearful thoughts at rapid fire, “Is this OK? Do I smell badly? Is she going to be disgusted by me? Am I allowed to hug her?”

The thoughts were so pointed as to feel like small stab wounds, until he heard Sylani release a big, almost comical sigh.

In a moment of surrender unlike any he had ever experienced, he sighed along with her and felt an enormous weight begin to slip away from him. Her nurturing was so pure, so free, and so perfect.

He began to sob onto her; his mother, his daughter, his only friend. She held him until the sobbing started to subside, and then led him into the circular room that was the heart of the Sapphire.

-

With Sylani’s help, Bartolo collapsed into a strange, reclining chair near the middle of the room. It was a fascinating chair, with velvety soft cushioning and supports for the head and legs.

This chair, also standard-issue to every Sapphire house in Sadutran, was specially designed to let allow the priestess to gain access to her client, and for him to be able to release all muscular tension in his body. It is taught to every priestess that past traumas and accumulated stress become trapped in the muscles, fascia, and organs of the body, and it was her job to try to help release it.

Bartolo was seated comfortably and began to explore his new surroundings. This room was totally different, with an exquisite claw-footed bathtub underneath a wall of bottles holding magical-looking potions and herbs. There were shelves of colorful tomes and alabaster statues and transparent crystals. The sound of running water drew Bartolo’s gaze to an unusual spout that was flowing clean river water into a bed of rocks cut into the fancy wooden floor. This room also had a small fireplace, and he noticed the stack of caliphon branches he smelled burning on his way to the house.

Sylani stepped to the back of Bartolo’s chair and placed her hands lightly on his shoulders. She spoke in a voice that was silky and sedative, “Bartolo, my dear, welcome to the Sapphire House. Tell me, how was your day today?”

He thought back to the morning. “Not…not really all that good,” he said. “Alena woke up and was still angry with me, and on days like that its like she is determined to make everything very difficult for everyone.”

Sylani kept her hands placed steadily on his shoulders.

“She can be so selfish sometimes, you know, and I’m just trying to get to work in a good mood and not have to hear all of her complaining about little things, silly little things. She tries to turn the kids against me, and I get so fed up with it I don’t even want to be there.”

She listened carefully. “Bartolo, that sounds very frustrating. Tell me, why was she angry this morning?”

“Well, Galley and I were working on a really difficult job, a hand-carved wooden frame for a mirror that had its own little legs. The tough thing about it is that it has a concealed hinge that lets it swing around to a painting of some atrocious-looking rich woman who lives on the East End. She’s so vain that if her reflection ain’t good enough; she likes to see the peak of her own beauty captured in paint.”

“Galley and I were finishing the job and decided to get into some mead as a celebration for a nice payday. So I get home late, and Alena starts shooting at me right away. I just wasn’t in the mood for it.”

Sylani pressed down gently on his shoulders. “What did you say to her?”

“Well, you know, sometimes I don’t want to be bothered, so I tell her that its none of her business, cause its not! I’ve told her a hundred times that sometimes I like to drink with Galley after work and it’s never a good enough answer.”

She released the pressure on his shoulders. “It’s difficult to feel like you are not being heard or understood. It sounds like neither of you is getting what you really want. What do you want, Bartolo?”

Sylani moved both of her hands to the top of Bartolo’s head.

“I just want her to be fine with who I am and stop complaining so much.”

“Would you be willing to do that for her in return?”

Bartolo was suddenly defensive, having noticed the focus turned back on him. “I’m fine with who she is, as long as she’s not nagging me.”

Sylani took Bartolo’s earlobes between her thumb and pointer finger. She squeezed them firmly, “Are you?”

Bartolo’s mind started to find reasons to blame Alena, but every time he would begin to find blame in his mind, Sylani would press harder into his earlobes.

Sylani spoke sweetly, “You are right, she is being selfish. But it sounds like you are both on opposite ends of a canyon and neither is willing to throw the other any rope. When she asks where you have been, don’t you feel it may feel selfish to her when you don’t give her an answer?”

“Yes, but the answer is never good enough for her and it always leads to a fight.”

Sylani circled around the chair and retrieved a purple glass bottle from a shelf. She moved to Bartolo’s left hand, and began to rub a strongly-scented oil into his palm.

“Remember, Bartolo that you can only control yourself. It sounds like Alena needs something that you are unwilling to give.”

“What do you mean?”

Sylani moved further onto his forearm, massaging away the firmness left from a day of manual labor. “They seem like little things to you, but these are the things that she needs to feel OK. She is telling you outright, ‘I need you to tell me where you’ve been.’ She is telling you what she needs, and you have denied that to her.”

“But every other time…”

She interrupted him as gently as possible. “It’s not about every other time my darling. It’s not about whether she is right or wrong. If you cannot meet her in the present, all is swept away in regret and hurt feelings. Today, right now, she needs to hear where you have been. Do you have it in you to tell her with kindness? To remember that she’s not your enemy?”

She gripped his arm firmly and her voice changed subtly. Suddenly Sylani was Alena. “Bartolo, where have you been?”, she asked.

From someplace small and sharp in his mind, the answers came out with spite. None of your business. Maybe a tiny lie; Galley forced me to stay at work late. Or, why can’t you just be happy I’m home? I don’t like your tone of voice. Leave me alone.”

He thought about that one. Leave me alone. He was suddenly mortified. This is what he had been asking for, and this is exactly what he was getting. He had truly never felt so alone. That had changed now, with Sylani’s sweet smile shining down on him. She was waiting patiently for his answer.

Somewhere deep in Sylani’s eyes, he recognized a part of Alena. Suddenly he remembered how graceful and loving she could be. Sylani was right…he was being selfish. Regardless of how Alena was asking, it was his choice how to answer. He could choose to make the canyon deeper, or to throw the rope.

He spoke, “Honey, Galley and I have been working on a frame for a painting that is so hideous that the only way we could even get close to it was to drink a half jug of mead!”

Sylani smiled, “Now, you’re certain you weren’t looking into the mirror side, right?”

They laughed.

Sylani released his left arm and put her left hand on his chest, speaking through a broad smile. “If you are seeing selfishness in another person, try to find it in yourself. You can’t control her, or anyone, but the way they act around you is only a mirror of what is going on in yourself. Above all else, be honest. Holding back your truth will cause the world to hold back its gifts from you. This is true every single time.”

She laid her head down on his chest. “You are a lovely man Bartolo, so don’t forget to put loveliness out there, and watch what happens to your world.”

-

Bartolo was walking on the road towards Tranton’s Bridge, smiling ear-to-ear. He was going to tell Alena about this experience, and hold her tightly, and bring her this bottle of fancy perfume, a gift from Sylani all the way from the Ceru Sea.

He was going to listen to what she needed, carefully, and try to remember that the things that seemed little to him, might feel much bigger to her.

He was practically floating when some type of commotion on the road pulled him back into reality.

Through the darkness, coming over Tranton’s Bridge, he noticed a tiny light swinging wildly back and forth. The sound of horse hooves became audible, and he realized that it was a horse-drawn farmer’s cart careening full speed straight towards him.
He jumped to the side of the road and watched the driver, a shirtless boy with a streak of silver in his hair, driving the horse faster with shouts and the snap of a bullwhip.

As the cart passed, Bartolo saw an old man in red robes lying in the bed of hay, seemingly unconscious, sprawled across the lap of a sobbing young lad with black paint streamed down his face.

The cart barreled down the road, headed directly to the Sapphire.

Segrotlo
December 29th, 2012, 07:47 AM
A fun and mysterious story - go on.

Ariel
December 29th, 2012, 09:06 PM
It's official, Monserat, I'm stalking you.

I see the description of Sylani's face. But a description like "her face was classically beautiful" is still vague. Does she have a strong jaw? Is it round and smooth with a long narrow nose and high arching brows? Is it square with high-cheekbones with large almond shaped eyes?

Either way, still beautifully done. I'm so glad Bartolo came out intact. And I would hate to see that painting.

monseratthefool
December 29th, 2012, 09:20 PM
Hahaha, I support it.

Ok, I'm going to rewrite Sylani's introduction and try to give her a face. I realize upon reflection that she has no face in my mind, and that is dangerous. It removes an entire dimension from the story. Will do it and post. Thanks again for the helpful feedback, as always :)

Ariel
December 29th, 2012, 10:03 PM
Monserrat,

If this is ever published please let me know. I will buy.