Dark Waltz: Part One
I find I have been remiss in my duties…I have neglected to put up Dark Waltz! This ongoing story was started back before school ended. Part One was written by Der Nachtfalter of Requiem Aeternam, Part Two by myself and Part Three by The Pooka of Musings and Sensible Nonsense. Rather explains the characters, doesn’t it? I will be posting each part separately. Enjoy!
Part 1: The Dying Time
We are the lucky Ones
It was the dying time. The trees understood and celebrated the passing of time with brilliant reds, yellows, and oranges that shone luminously in the afternoon sun. For them the chill breeze whispered promises of rest, a detachment from the heat and activity of summer, the burrowing grub, and the worm. They rustled in unison, waving their limbs freely in the open air, the last stretch before the deep sleep. It was the dying time, and the trees glowed in anticipation.
“Do you think we’ve come too far north?” asked Amandus. “The sunlight is thin here and chills my blood.”
The small hobbit wrapped her blue velvet cloak tighter around her body, her fairy eyes darted nervously from tree trunk to tree trunk. Where she grew up everything lived in a dreary yellow-green stupor, crushed by heat and humidity, but everything always lived, and she had never known the dying time. In the distance a raven screamed.
Her companion put an arm around her, comforting her. “Have you so soon forgotten the shame that drove you here and me with you? Cousin, whatever we find here, whether ice or flame, dead or living, can be no worse than what we have left behind.”
Amandus leaned closer to her friend and nodded. “You are a true friend Zo’koll. Not the kind that stabs poor hobbit friends in their sleep at all. What you say is true. Dead or living, it can be no worse.”
Ice or flame, dead or living—these words held no meaning in the dying time which was all of these things mixed together heartless and terrible. A live nemesis can be killed; a dead one has no power. But what happens when the living and dead fuse together in the womb of winter?
* * *
They came to the blood tree. Year after year its blur of blood-red leaves festered deeper and darker than the red of any other tree. It towered ancient and primeval over the pathway easily older and taller than anything else in the forest. Under the thick leaves a shadow fell and a darkness that crowded in on the hearts of Amandus and Zo’koll. They fell silent without knowing why and in silent agreement simultaneously lengthened their strides. They passed the blood tree, shaken by the whispers which jumped from leaf to blood red leaf. They passed the blood tree and did not turn, and so they did not see the black hooded figure which stepped out of the shadows to watch them. The figure lingered near the path and leisurely plucked two leaves of deepest red before vanishing into the woods.
* * *
The hobbit and her friend soon forgot the shadow of the blood tree though it did not forget them. Slowly, their natural warmth and cheerfulness returned as the sun grew stronger. A stream gurgled nearby. Suddenly, Zo’koll laughed as if a spell had been lifted.
“Really, we are the lucky ones to have escaped with our dignity and lives. I mean—imagine the shame that would have followed you for the rest of your life! Being proposed to in that dark musty closet?! But here we have each other and freedom. And these woods and the cool air have their own charm. Aren’t the colors beautiful?”
Amandus shuddered. “Zo’koll! I was trying to forget! But it always comes back to me. When I close my eyes, I can feel his sweaty palms all over again, hear my great-aunt trying on coats in the back of the closet. I get nauseated from the smell of the gallon of cologne he must have been wearing! Can you believe it, he wanted to kiss me!”
Zo’koll’s foot was much too big to fit in her mouth, but at times she wished it would. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to remind you of it all. It must have been very horrid. I’m sure I would have died from the mortification if it had happened to me.”
“It’s ok, cousin,” said Amandus. “I’ll forget eventually, and so will everyone else. We’ll be able to go back then.”
“Yes, cousin. I feel that this is a place of forgetfulness and healing. We are going to have the time of our lives here!”
“Yes, and we’re almost there!” replied Amandus. “The real estate agent claimed there was a clearing there full of thick soft grass where we can run barefoot chasing sun rays until our hearts are ready to burst from happiness. That will heal anything.”
Shame, mortification, stress—all these things disappear in the dying time. From the time the first snow falls to the spring thaw, an enchantment falls over the North woods. White numbing forgetfulness. But who is the enchanter, the blizzard-bringer? Who wears the frost-iron crown? And what does he do with the survivors?
* * *
On a knoll overlooking a small log cabin the hooded figure watches. A dagger glints in the sunlight, the tip of its blade resting on the tip of the hooded being’s left index finger. The dagger spins, digging into the fingertip until blood drips, falling on two blood colored leaves. Although the afternoon air is mild, the blood freezes on impact with the leaves, and the hooded figure picks the leaves up. He places their tips together, carefully spreading out the bases, and drives the dagger through them, pinning them to a willow tree, the leaves forming a pattern like ragged bleeding moth wings.
Only a short distance from the cabin, Amandus and Zo’koll felt a sudden chill as if a great coldness had taken hold in their hearts. They shivered and held hands, stumbling together to the dark waiting cabin.
To be continued . . .