A Short Story by Cassandra J Mitchell
a child laughs
love’s twisted death mask
silent pleas to the heavens
“Mother, do not make me do this. There are plenty of other young men. Skilled, capable men, more than willing to take his place.” “Men like Bael?” Roselyn’s face flushed at his mention. “It is for the sake of the clan, my dear. It is tradition. Don’t fret my daughter. It isn’t that bad. You will see. You already have some love for him.” “But I don’t want to! He’s my brother!” “Bael will still love you, will still have you after all this is over. He understands why this must be done.” Her childhood suddenly began to make more sense. She realized why they had been allowed to run so freely. When the other girls were moved to separate rooms, and got their own bathing pools, lest even their own male family happen upon their nakedness, Roselyn and Frederick were left as free as wild birds. The other girls always resented her for it. They all loved her brother, yet it was her who went swimming with him alone. It was to her he gave every dance at the festivals. When the other girls left her out of their games, it was Frederick who laid her tear streaked face in his lap and made up stories to cheer her spirits. It was all for this. How long had he known? Roselyn had been so naive. Of course she’d heard the stories, but that was ages ago. To think that they should be coupled. Roselyn hissed. “Never.”
Roselyn gazed across the meadow. A faint aroma of wildflowers filled her chambers. The curtains swayed lazily in the breeze. She never wanted to forget the beauty of this spring sunrise. Today, today she started a new life. “Please don’t leave.” She turned to face the whispered plea she had heard so many times before. Frederick wrapped his arms about Roselyn’s waist, holding her close. The desperate look on his face was like a knife to her heart. Roselyn stared into his eyes, a single tear rolling down her cheek. She stood in silent determination. Frederick sighed. “Then if you must,” he pulled a wrapped package from behind his back. “Take this with you.” Her fingers shook as she tugged at the delicate strings. It was a beautiful, violet journal, a golden ‘R’ emblazoned in the center. “You write in here, and I’ll get it over here.” He pulled out a matching journal with the letter ‘F’. “I am going to miss you terribly. We’ve never been apart so long. I’ve always had you by my side. What am I going to do without you? I don’t begrudge you your happiness though. I am truly delighted that you have found love. King Mag Raith is a good man. He will take good care of you and . . . “ The unspoken words hung heavy in the air. “My only regret is that I won’t get to see what a wonderful woman you will become. You will write me? I want to know every detail. Please?” “Yes Frederick, of course I will write.”
Martha and I have arrived safely at the castle. It’s beautiful Frederick! It practically shines in the light. I’ve never seen a building so large. It’s bigger than Deacon’s mansion. I can hardly believe it. When I think I’ve seen everything there is a new room for me to discover. Bael makes sure I want for nothing. He has the finest seamstress in all the kingdom making me a new wardrobe. You wouldn’t even recognize me. But don’t think that because I have all these new feminine gifts that I have given up my leathers and boots. For my wedding gift he gave me a beautiful chestnut mare. I decided to name her Winny. I will know these woods like the back of my hand before the month’s end. The Captain, Adias Raghilleach, has assigned me my own personal guards. He says it isn’t proper for the queen to be roaming about unattended. Unfortunately Bael and Martha agreed. More often then not, they spend their time trying to find me rather than supervising me. I know I shouldn’t give them such a difficult time but it has turned into a rather fun game. To entice me to come inside every now and then, Bael gave me space in his library so we can be together while I’m studying with Martha. It is very funny to hear him called King Mag Raith everywhere we go. Oh Frederick, I am so very happy. How is mother handling my absence? I miss you all. Write to me soon.
I think the hound keeper, George Whelan, has taken a shining to Martha. She giggles and carries on like a school girl whenever I see them together. So much unlike the Mother Martha that would rap our knuckles when we misbehaved. It makes my heart glad to see her happy. She practically glows. My belly swells. I look as if I were about to explode, but Bael reassures me daily of my beauty. All this sitting around is getting rather drole. Winny is very antsy. The stable boy, Peter, has been taking her out for rides but it’s not the same. Bael does his best to keep me entertained. He has ordered a chestful of new books. I eagerly await their arrival.
I am ready to get back to my normal life. Martha tries to keep me in my studies, but I tire quickly. This baby is draining the very life from my limbs. I have contented myself to lounge around and tackle my new books. The day my little one enters the world is drawing near. I am nervous.
I weep in joy and sorrow. Twins! A boy and a girl. I wish you could see them. They look just like us. Bael thought the children should keep our initials as small piece of their heritage. He named our son Feoras after his great grandfather. We named daughter will be Raelyn, for she is a little ray of sunshine. You should see the way his eyes light up when he looks at them. He loves them as if they were his own. Brother, you cannot tell anyone about the twins. If anyone in the coven were to find out . . . Our children will not be used as we were. Bael, Adias, Martha, and myself are the only ones who know about the twins. My heart breaks at the thought, but we have decided to raise them apart to keep from arousing suspicions. Bael needs a son to succeed the throne. Feoras will fill that role. He will be a great prince and someday my baby will be king. Martha has agreed to take Raelyn. She and George will raise her to become the next Hound Keeper. It is an honorable postition. Martha can start training her when she comes of age and I will still be able to see my baby girl. Please, Frederick, try and understand.
Motherhood suits me well. Though, Beal threatens that I should smother our son if I do not leave him be sometimes. He is growing so quickly. He looks more like you every day. How could I not want to spend every moment I can with my precious baby. I have set about building a beautiful nursery with all the toys befitting my little prince. I wish you could visit me, although I know that’s not possible. I miss you.
I have witnessed a most terrible nightmare. It sounded like there were voices coming from the nursery. I thought it might just be the wind. They grew louder and louder until I was sure there were people in my baby’s room. What I saw made my blood run cold. My heart stopped. Feoras was standing there, dark shadows swirling all around him. He was smiling, talking back to the voices in a language I have never heard. My baby can not talk. He can not even stand on his own. Am I losing my sanity?
I feel a shadow being cast over our kingdom. Feoras has gotten out of control. Whinny is dead! I wanted to introduce the two of them, but she wouldn’t have it. She wouldn’t let us get close. The next day she died. I just know it was him. Lately he has taken to biting me when I try to nurse him. He giggles when I squeal. I am still hearing the voices. All I sense is darkness in his heart. Adias has also removed all my guards. I am forever under his eye. I have spoken to Bael about it, but he waves it off as nothing more than “brotherly” concern for my safety. I believe Feoras might have him spellbound. What am I to do? What must a mother do, dear brother? I am so afraid.
“Come at once.” As Frederick read the last message from his sister, his heart sank to the pit of his stomach. “Come at once.”
Roselyn waved her hand and the fireplace crackled to life. Despite the heat, she shivered. A figure emerged from the shadows. “Whomever Feoras might have become, that path is no more. He is tainted with darkness. We can no more draw the evil from his heart than extinguish the love from ours.” She laid Feoras’ blanket on the table. She held him tight, then, choking back a sob, laid him down. Frederick began weaving his enchantments to bind him. Feoras squirmed and whimpered. She kissed his forehead for the last time. “Shhhhhhhh baby. Everything’s going to be alright.” With a cry she plunged the dagger into her son’s heart.
Roselyn opened her eyes. She was confused. The kitchen was dark, naught but glowing embers in the fireplace. Someone was calling her name. It sounded like Frederick. The back of her skull met cold stone. She stared wide-eyed. What was Frederick doing on the ceiling? Rivers ran from his eyes. He was arguing with someone she couldn’t see. “Brother,” she croaked. She was cold and so very tired. “Brother.” She closed her eyes. A smile played at her lips as she listened to her son’s laughter. “My beautiful baby boy, how I love thee.” Her face contorted in horror as the realization struck her. Heavens help us all.
a child laughs
love’s twisted death mask
silent pleas to the heavens