A young man tumbled through the mines, choking the last slither of life from his brother’s twitching body. A child, cheeks raw with loathing, at knowing what was to come, turned his back on his family and fled sobbing into the dark. A boy, starved and beaten, crawled towards the light.
“I can help you,” said the woman, her skin pale as snow, her eyes like precious gemstones, her smile irresistible. “I can save you. Just take my hand.”
The boy reached out. All he ever wanted, all he ever desired, and all he had to do was take her hand, surrender himself, his soul…
The Maiden stood upon the fields of Avalon, silver hair flowing in the summer breeze. Ahead of her, a single tower thrust its way towards the heavens, its faceted walls a rainbow of recollection and regret, desire and despair, its roots drenched in a thick fog of faces, wraiths of the women Jonas Mireille had deceived, a mist of memories he held close to his heart, but could never let inside.
But she was different. She was everything he ever wanted, everything he ever dreamed. He could not deny her. Jaw clenched, back straight and chin held high, she started towards the tower, her naked body luminous in its beauty, irresistible in its perfection.
She was on the verge of entering the fog when a cold, gentle trace of fingers brushed against her leg. Turning, she saw, sprawled out in her shadow, a breathless corpse of a figure, her rotten skin draped over bones that would shatter under the slightest touch, her hair so overgrown and tangled that it resembled a mottle mass of seaweed. But her eyes—her eyes shone bright in sunken sockets, a brilliant blue so pale as to appear almost white.
“Don’t!” she said, her voice weak and pleading, yet somehow familiar. The voice that had promised Emily Fomalhaut her protection. “He is connected.”
“I have to,” replied the Maiden. “I’m the only one who can do this. People are depending on me.”
The world was depending on her.
The figure’s arm slipped to her side. She did not have the strength to argue, only to watch with those sad, forgotten eyes. Emily Fomalhaut might have heeded her warning, taken the time to ask her name, wonder how a person could end up in such a state of mind and body and spirit, but then Emily Fomalhaut would never have lowered herself to this, never have cast aside her dignity to please a man she despised.
With jaw clenched, back straight and chin held high, the Maiden turned back to the fogs, to the fragments of false friendship Jonas Mireille had collected to shield his lonely heart from the outside world. And, as she stepped into their midst, she saw for herself the things he had told them and the lies he had sold them, filtered through the lens of his own, twisted fantasy.
“You can take me to Malkuth?” asked one, her eyes wide with a youthful innocence, her body slender and pale, still to ripen. Fresh.
“You deserve nothing less,” he said, running his fingers through her soft, silken hair, a river of gold tied with a bright red bow and worth almost as much.
“I don’t know,” said another, studying her reflection in the mirror. “It’s a little … it’s not me. And I can hardly breathe.”
Behind her, away from her line of sight, Mireille let his eyes wander down her curves. She filled the dress out rather well. “You look wonderful,” he said. Irresistible, in fact. Veres would be pleased. “And it’s a small price to pay to live under blue skies, don’t you think?”
“Blue skies?” asked a third. “But my grandma told me they were a myth.”
Mireille smiled. She wasn’t the most attractive of girls, but sometimes the customers liked things a little rough around the edges, a little “down and dirty”. He reached for the elevator controls. “Then this may come as a shock,” he said.
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Sigmund Freud gave me the thumbs up when I showed him this chapter.