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2023.06.09 14:55 kiplet1 [City of Roses] no. 27.3: “Quite distressing” – well as She might – taking Any hand – Something falls
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tends to crumble
“Quite distressing,” says the older man, there in the wingback chair. “Though one does not wish to play the churl. A certain degree of disarray must certainly be allowed, given the shocks – the challenge, the duel – ”
“Allowed?” says Agravante, there by the yellow stone fireplace, an elbow up on the mantel, and the older man takes a sip of milky tea from a thin bone china cup. “How is the King’s champion, by the way?” he says.
“Death’s door,” says Agravante. There on the mantel by his elbow a fiendish little basket-box, carved from a chunk of dark red wood. “Shame,” says the older man, shaking his head, stiff grey curls swept back, and the collar of his shirt undone, a blue scarf knotted tidily about his throat. “Though it is distasteful, how they might linger, on that threshold? Neither here, nor there,” and another sip of tea.
“What is it that distresses you, Medardus,” says Agravante. White-gold locks tied neatly black, his grey suit shot with blue.
“It’s a delicate question I’d have answered, Pinabel,” says the older man, setting the cup in the saucer on his lap, clink. “Does the King yet mean to pursue his bold vision?”
Agravante’s brow pinches. “Of course,” he says. “Insofar as I know.”
Medardus smiles. “Delicately put,” he says. “It’s been two days.”
“These things take time.”
“Two days,” says Medardus, “since he took from me mine offer,” knobbled fingers closing in a fist, drawn up by his yet-mild smile. “And not a word said since.”
“There’s much to be considered,” says Agravante. “Four of you do vie for her hand.”
“Please, Pinabel,” says Medardus, dropping his hand, and a clatter of cup and saucer. “It’s an indulgence to pretend the choice isn’t manifestly clear – that mine is not the best offering.”
“The best, perhaps,” says Agravante. “But sufficient?” A slatey shoulder shrugs.
“The King would demand more?”
“How can I answer that,” says Agravante, “when I know nothing of what you’ve promised, or he might require.”
“Nothing,” says Medardus, still smiling. “Such a delicate word.” Setting cup and saucer on the low table between them. “I would hope,” he says, “it could always be said that the Hound has done well by Medardus,” and he knots those knobby fingers in his lap. “Much as it can be said, to a surety, that Medardus has done well by the Hound.”
Rather carefully, Agravante does not smile at that, or nod, his shoulders do not move, nor does his arm, there by the basket-box. “Of course,” he says.
“But it’s also said,” says Medardus, “that a fear grips your court: that the line is not unbroken. That the Queen, despite her, prodigious recovery, has no Bride of her own. That your King’s hand, howsomever reluctantly, is forced. That he means,” and here Medardus leans forward, elbows on knees, “to take the Princess for himself, and that is why our offers go unanswered.” Sitting back, a dismissive fillip of his fingers. “Or so it’s said.”
“By some,” says Agravante.
“Indeed,” says Medardus.
“But not to me,” says Agravante.
“Ah.” Medardus pushes himself to his feet. “Tell me,” he says, as Agravante leads him out of the little drawing room, “how fares the Count?”
“Grandfather?” says Agravante, pushing open the sliding wood-paneled door. “He sleeps.” Beyond, a narrow hall, in the shadow of a long straight staircase.
“Oh,” he says. “It’s you.” A glass of wine in his hand, something dark. “She isn’t here.”
“She will be, soon enough,” says Marfisa, muddy boot up on the side porch step. “Jason, can I just, wait inside?” The collar of her sheepskin coat turned up, loose white hair stirred by a gust. He steps back, the door held open, his lips a sour purse between his mustache and his dull red beard.
Up the steps into a mud room, painted blue, forgotten coats and a tangle of umbrellas, a scooter, a chalkboard palimpsested with to-dos and shopping lists, “Ah ah,” he’s saying, pointing, thick-lensed glasses blanked out by the ceiling light, and she scrubs her boots against a mat before stepping up into a kitchen to the left there, ruddy stove and a steaming pot of something, stainless steel refrigerator hung about with coupons and note cards, a calendar, a math test festooned with red checks and gold stars, past a breakfast bar sloppily piled with newspapers and a box of soda cans, into a narrow sitting room, a low brown couch, a girl tucked at one end of it, under a red and yellow blanket, and pink headphones startling against her dark hair, watching something on the tablet on her lap. “Grace,” says Jason, still in the kitchen, but she’s already snatching off the headphones, a burst of chirpy music, as Marfisa steps about the low coffee table. “Hey, Mar,” says the girl on the couch, and “Grace,” says Jason again, “upstairs,” as Marfisa sits herself at the other end. Something bulky’s tucked in her coat, she leans over the table, pulling it out, a flat paper sack that spills out a sheaf of handbills, goldenrod pages splashed with black lines, a dancer rendered in calligraphy, and each marked by the green dot of an eye. “Oh, hey,” says the girl, springing from under the blanket, all elbows and knees and clattering headphones, “is that,” says Jason says “Grace!” again, but she’s already scooped up a handbill, turning it over and back again, nothing else to it but little pull-tabs at the bottom, each printed with an elaborately arabesqued question mark. “You’re putting these up?”
Marfisa shrugs. “You’ve seen them?”
“Yesterday, at Mississippi Pizza?” says Grace. “Did you hang ’em there?” Marfisa shrugs again. “The Mercury just had a thing about these things, like how nobody knows what they are, or who’s, it’s, it’s you! You’re doing it! Is it like, are you putting the band back together?”
“Grace,” says Jason.
“What,” snaps Grace, rolling her eyes away.
“Upstairs,” he says, “now. Flashcards till dinner.”
“Jason,” she says, but she’s kicking off the couch, scooping up the tablet, stomping around the table when back that way there’s a clatter and a squeak of hinges from that side porch, “I’m home!” cries someone, and “Carol!” cries Grace, turning on a dime, scampering off past Jason, through the kitchen, “Guess who’s here!”
Marfisa leans forward, slipping the handbills back in the sack, not looking up at Jason looking down at her.
And there’s Carol, by the breakfast bar, setting a brown leather book bag on the carpet. Draped in a brown and yellow striped serape, her dark hair neatly short. “Mar,” she says. “How are you.”
“Well as I might,” says Marfisa, looking up, pushing back a wave of white-gold hair. “What would you say to a chance to sing again, together?”
A hallway narrow, dim, dark doors to either side, silvery numerals set in the walls by each, slender 1s, a wiry 7, great round-bellied 6es, an 8, a 9. Iona in her yellow track suit leads the way around a corner, stops before the door at the end of the hall. 620, the numerals beside it. She plucks a white card from a pocket, holds it up before slipping it into the slot above the knob. “I miss keys,” she says, as the lock chunks, a green light flicking on. “These may be better, but not in any way that matters.” She opens the door. “Go on,” she says.
Within brown walls and gold, bathed in daylight hazed by yellow curtains drawn over corner windows. A comfortable yellow chair, a reading table and a lamp, unlit. A wide bed draped in blue and brown and at the foot of it, sat tailor-fashion, Ysabel, in a white chemise, and soft white leg-warmers thickly rumpled. “Starling,” she says, with a smile.
“My Queen,” says the Starling, a shadow there by yellow Iona, black jeans, black sweatshirt, the hood of it up. “This is not our usual Thursday,” she says, in not much more than a whisper.
“This isn’t a Thursday,” says Ysabel, nodding to Iona, who steps out, closing the door behind her. “This is a whole weekend, if you’d like.”
“But I must dance, ma’am,” says the Starling. “Today and tonight, at the club, and Saturday – ”
“It has been cleared, with your, manager,” says Ysabel. “You’re free, till Monday.”
“Free to be here, with you,” says the Starling. And then, “If it’s just to be the two of us?” Her words worn thin.
“If you’d like,” says Ysabel. “Or, step back through that door. The Chariot will happily take you anywhere in the city you may wish to go.”
The Starling reaches for the strap of the black gym bag slung from her shoulder. “I don’t mind,” she says, “being with you. I’ll just go change,” but “No,” says Ysabel, quickly, “Starling, no. Put that down. Sit with me.”
“My Queen,” says the Starling. “I am not who I am, when I’m with you.”
“Please,” says Ysabel. “Sit.”
The gym bag slumps to the speckled brown carpet. Stepping over, the Starling stands a moment before the foot of that bed, and Ysabel sat there, smiling up, but then she turns, the Starling, and finds the yellow chair behind her, and sits, a darkness in that weak light.
“I’m glad you came,” says Ysabel.
“My Queen desired it,” says the Starling.
“I thought,” says Ysabel, looking away. “I’d thought today that I might dance for you. I have danced, you know. At a party. She said I was quite good.”
“Of course,” says the Starling.
“I settled on an outfit,” says Ysabel, looking down at herself, “nothing too elaborate,” and “Good,” says the Starling, “but,” says Ysabel, “I’ve been flummoxed by my lips. What should the color be?” A hand, lifted to her mouth, her hair, “White?” she says. “To go with the ensemble? Or would that be too much? Would a simple red be enough?”
“No one pays attention to the lipstick,” says the Starling.
“You do,” says Ysabel, quickly, even sharply, and then, “You take such care, with yours.”
That hood shifts, down, to one side, dim light passing over her chin, the tip of her nose. “White’s better for the stage,” she says. “Too bold for such close quarters.”
“A simple red it is.”
“Your majesty is sad,” says the Starling, then. “Why should that be?”
“I,” says Ysabel, shoulders lifting, and her chin, a retort swelling but then suddenly pricked, deflating, and she looks away. “Affairs of the city,” she says.
“Not the heart, then?” says the Starling. “Nor the hips?”
Ysabel untucks herself, a bare foot lowered to the carpet, and her hands on the edge of the bed. “Tell me,” she says. “Do you know the smell, of blood?”
That shadow sits up. “I do, ma’am,” says the Starling.
“She sleeps,” Ysabel’s saying. “Peacefully. Her wound is poulticed with a fief’s portion. The bleeding’s long since stopped, but,” and she takes in a deep breath, shivering at the top of it, a sigh, “wherever I go in those rooms I still can smell it, that – tang, like an armor hot from the sun, and I,” but the Starling’s standing, stepping over, she kneels at the foot of the bed, reaches for a hand that Ysabel lifts away, “here I am,” she says, “holed up in a hotel across town.”
The Starling sits back on her heels. “Would you rather go to her?” but Ysabel’s shaking her head, “The Mason,” she says, “watches over her. She wants for nothing. I am,” but then she stops, and the Starling catches her hand, draws it down, covers it with her own. Ysabel says, “My brother once told me,” but then she stops again, blinking rapidly, looking down at the Starling looking up from under her black hood. “He was once a little boy,” says Ysabel. “Did you know that?”
“The King,” says the Starling, “yes, ma’am, of course. I remember those days.”
“Not even a Prince, just an infant, he came to me, in the little garden, and took my hand, and asked me, sister, why are you crying?” Turning her hand in the Starling’s hand, taking hold of it, squeezing. “And I said, because I do not wish to wed. But I am the Bride, I said, and one day a King will come, and I must take his hand. Whether I will or no, I must, but he,” looking away, “he swore to me, then and there, most earnestly, that he would one day be the King, that I might never need take anyone’s hand.”
The Starling says, “And he did just that.”
“My brother,” says Ysabel, “the King, this,” and her eyes close, the lashes of them shining, “city,” she says, and her mouth closes about another, unsaid word, she swallows, and a lick at her lips. “Jo,” she says.
“My Queen,” says the Starling. “I will go, and change, and dance for you, to take your mind,” but “No,” says Ysabel, leaning forward, her hands on the Starling’s shoulders, “do not change, do not dress, do not perform,” lifting a hand, right to the very hem of that hood, but then pulled back, withdrawn. “I would see you just as you are,” she says, her hands once more in her lap.
“But, my lady,” says the Starling, and she reaches up to draw back that hood. “I am always as I am.” Black hair uncurled, slicked back, clipped down to stubble along her temples, about those ears. Her cheeks, the line of that jaw. The nose. Those eyes, only a hazeled hint of green. Thin lips unpainted, upturned, parting as Ysabel leans close to say, “And you are with me,” and then a feathery kiss, tugging at the Starling’s hands, lifting, the Starling who stands up before her, and her hands fall to the Starling’s hips, rough black denim, the belt loops, her thumb, the wide leather belt, looking up, those green eyes. She yanks at the bulky black sweatshirt, “Get this off,” she says, and the Starling lifts it up and off and tosses it aside. Bare now from the waist up, and the torso of her lean and long, and her long arms sinewy lowering, curling, Ysabel’s darkly hands caught up against the smooth pale chest of her by those wide white hands, and the backs of them snarled with thick blue veins.
“Now would you have me go and change?” murmurs the Starling.
“But you are beautiful,” says Ysabel, slipping her hands free, reaching for the tongue of the belt. The buckle jangles. “Majesty,” says the Starling, “I am many things, but,” and a gasp, at the kiss pressed there below her shadowed navel, as those black jeans loosen, lop, as Ysabel’s fingers dip within to uncurl a palely slender cock, and a stroke for the lengthening lift of it, “oh,” says the Starling, “my Queen, you needn’t,” as her hand cups Ysabel’s face.
“But do you want me to,” says Ysabel, and the Starling, shivering, nods. “The principles, I should think,” says Ysabel, “are essentially the same?” And a lick of a kiss for the tip of it, there on her palm.
Pinned to the pole a mulching bark of posters, flyers, handbills, postcards, lapped and shingled one over another, rain-dimpled, sun-faded, twisted, torn, defaced, Thrash or Die, April Showers Burlesque, Snap! at the Holocene, Anodyne Presents, Missing Dog, Laughing Horse, Drum Circle Saturday Rain or Shine, Cinco de Mayo on the Waterfront, big black letters on an enormous sheet, Grupo Samurjay, Grupo Maravilla, Los Supremos de Los Hermanos Flores, Woodburn Rocks. As the bus pulls away she’s pushing back her black hair looking up toward the top of that slithery bristling treeline, there where handfuls of old notices have been ripped away leaving crowded dozens of denuded staples, glinting, by a metal sign that says No Parking This Block, a relatively fresh sheet of goldenrod paper, mad black scribbles limning a dancer, a single eye of bright green ink. She reaches up, to the pull-tabs fluttering the bottom of it, each printed with only an elaborately arabesqued question mark. Her other hand holds fast a black leather knapsack slung from the shoulder of her slick black jacket. Her glasses with thick black frames. With a sudden yank she rips the handbill down.
A broad porch with four front doors set one right next to another, and she unlocks, slips through the third of them, and up an immediate steep staircase, narrow between dark walls, unlit, that yellow page bright in her hand. Around the wall at the top of the stairs through an open room a couch the floor before it piled with cardboard boxes into a long hall once painted white, some time ago, lit by daylight seeping in from somewhere else. At the end of it a dark room, curtains drawn, and she closes the door behind her, a shadow in the shadows. Flump of the knapsack, dropped to the floor, creaking footstep, the thick click of a switch. Light blares from naked bulbs in the fixture in the middle of the ceiling, pink springs from the walls all whorled curlicues and faded bouquets, the bed there, skewed bedclothes striped dull brown and beige, and on the floor at the foot of it a great conical pile knee-high or more of gleaming golden dust.
She steps around it, jacket half-unzipped. A ridge of the pile has settled, slumped, dust trailed over the floor away from it, and the goldenrod poster drops, crumpled, from the hand she’s lifting to her throat, to the bit of black lace tied there. Steps back, around the bed. She grabs a little hand broom from the nightstand. Kneels down by the pile. Begins to sweep up the goldstuff, careful with each thread and grain.
Eyelids a-twitch, lips parting just to say not even a whisper, maybe a number, counting, nine or ten, eleven, those lids blink open over mud-colored eyes that swivel, narrow, try to focus, a gleaming edge there, mirror-bright, shifting as she blinks the length of it flat and smooth and slender, somehow deep within it coiling whorls of light and dark chased up and down a shallow groove that cleanly stretches up and up to a glittering net there on the pillow, wiry strands that knot a cage about a simple hilt she jerks away, kicks back sitting up, “Shit,” she says, as the sword’s tangled in the sheets, teetering at the edge of the futon. She’s bent over, thin white T-shirt, wine-red hair, rubbing her shin, a thin dark line of blood beading down by her ankle, “Shit,” she says, again. Snatching the hilt she whips the blade free from the sheets, “this fucking,” but it turns in her hand, a wrench and away it flies across the room to crack and a wibble it’s stabbed the white wall there by the plain black scabbard, hung from a nail, and the painted skull-mask also, the mane of it stirred by that thrust. Jo blinks. “Okay,” she says, to herself.
Without, the hallway’s dark, the little lights strung along the ceiling unlit. The kitchen beyond is empty, only glancing daylight and shadows. Jo leans over to knock at the door across the hall, “Ysabel?” she says, turning the knob. The room within all yellow and white, gauzy curtains, big bed neatly made, the armoire shut, and nothing draped over the dressing screen in the corner. “Ysabel?” says Jo again, but something, she looks down. Something lightly, barely there, faintly wisps, like down, like ash, falling from, brushing her foot, past her knee, caught there in the hem of her T-shirt, falling from, she lifts it, peering down at her belly beneath, and the line that climbs it packed with an ashen crust and a last few spangles of gold and, she touches it crumbling, flaking away, the pink skin taut beneath.
Back against the jamb. Dropping the hem of the shirt her hand to her breast, and quick wincing shallow breaths. Lurching up across and over to the dresser, a bouquet of heavy-headed peonies pink and yellow, she grabs a small brass box and pries it open, frees a cigarette, and a ragged book of matches.
The hall, the back room, dark, the back door and out, outside, out in the grass, under the sky, sunlight and blue sky, and glowering clouds behind, white and blue and grey and blue and greenly black, swollen with the coming rain. Fitting the cigarette to her lips but even as she opens the matchbook she’s falling to her knees in the lushly green, soft grass out to the parapets to either side, and she coughs up a sob, another, doubled over on her shaking shuddering self, her hand a fist to her chest.
The cigarette falls white to the grass before her. Feathers of grey-white ash caught about it, and sparks of gold.
A call behind her, muffled by walls and doors. Sitting up she catches, holds her breath. Swallows. A slam back there, distant, bump of a footfall, she wipes her eyes with the back of her hand and leans forward getting her feet under herself but the back door bangs open boot-thump someone shouting and she springs up turns her arm flung out the sword
The sword in her hand –
Her hand, her arm extended shoulder dropped her torso sidelong and her front foot planted, off leg leaned back straight and true, off hand slung back to balance the thrust that’s ended sword-tip snagged in a corner of his unzipped shortwaisted jacket yanked up one side he’s twisted, turned away from it, both arms flung up and alarm gently folding his face.
“Oh God,” says Jo, dropping the blade, the ring of it soft on the grass.
“You’re awake,” says Luys, lowering his arms. Brushing the front of his soft brown jacket, his finger finding the hole punched there. “Your coat,” says Jo, “I’m so, sorry,” but “No sin espinas,” he’s saying, almost to himself, holding out a hand, “You are awake,” he says, but she rushes past that hand to crash into him tumbling her arms about him there on the rooftop under the clouds, she’s kissing his throat and then as he lowers his head she looks up to kiss his mouth, his mouth.
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2023.06.09 14:50 AutoModerator [Genkicourses.site] ✔️Dan Pye – The Period Time Publishing Program ✔️ Full Course Download
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