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Felix Epitaph

Drama Fantasy Thriller


4.7  

Felix Epitaph

Drama Fantasy Thriller


All In A Day's Work

All In A Day's Work

21 mins 177 21 mins 177

 "Aunt Cerina!" Her miniscule nieces came bounding down the hall, holding up their dresses, their feet thumping against the stone floor. Beat to the chase they were by her nephews however, who blindsided her, and unexpectedly crashed into her side.


    "Ahh, my little Jack and Emert!" She gasped out. Not a moment later, another impact followed, meaning the nieces hit their mark. "Diana! Rose! Oh, my girls." They beamed up at her with their flushed rosy cheeks, and dimples. Moments like these made her heart melt inside. She loved all her nephews and nieces equally, but her girls had a special place in her heart. She scooped up Rose in her arms.

    "Aunty Cewina!! I lowes your dwess."


    "Oh why thank you Rosie!" She looked down at her dress, which was a summer yellow, etched with floral designs. A perfect fit too, hugging her shapely form. It was made of Spring silk, the finest around, pronouncing her lilac eyes and matte black hair, which Rose was running her fingers through.


    "Cewy,look!" She opened her mouth in a wide smile, revealing a gap where her front tooth should've been, only making her cuter. Cerina playfully opened her mouth in astonishment.

    "Your first tooth. Oh no, did it hurt little Rosie?" Rosie nodded glumly. "Well, I think I know just the thing." She clapped her hands, and two men wearing peach colored tunics came scrambling up, only they were not exactly like men. Not a facial hair of note, they had, and a manner of walking that looked right queer. In their hands was a rag doll, with red hair, and a sweet smile. Rosie’s eyes lit up.


     “Thank you Cewy!!!” She gave a peck on the cheek to her aunt , and ran off to introduce her new doll to the others in her host. Cerina had seen it too one day, forcibly. The joy such little things gave children was too bittersweet for her, so she never did go again. By this point, the other kids looked up enviously at her. Diana especially, was enraged, her cheeks puffing up. She hated testing the little girl’s patience, but wanted to bring up her plan unexpectedly. 

     “Now now Diana, I heard you were practising ‘The Girl With The Wild Hair’. Would you like to sing it for your aunt?” She asked tenderly. Diana stared at her defiantly. “Please, for me.” The girl, still unhappy, looked around the room, twitching slightly. “Just us here,” Once she’d confirmed no one else was within earshot, she started off reluctantly, with a wavering voice.


     “There once was the girl,

      Who grew up, in the castle.

      Someone to brush her hair

And all the dolls, she’d ever need” She paused, and continued, this time singing from the chest, and with merry..

      “This girl was for to marry

      A highborn prince

      A lovely life

      They’d lead

      But this girl never wanted, no dolls

      Nor to ever brush her hair

      And noone could stop her

      From living for herself

     So she rode, from dusk till dawn

     On her beautiful horse

      A blade, strapped to her back

      For she was the lass 

      With The Wild Hair” Cerina joined in on the last lines. 


      “With the wild hair, With the wild hair, oh, with the wild wild hair.” She clapped with gusto. “Marvelous, Diana. We’ll make a singer of you yet.” Her niece smiled adorably, seemingly having taken her mind off her younger sister’s favorable treatment. Now. “And I daresay that my wild-haired girl might just find something waiting for her in our yard.” Diana looked at her curiously.

“Something that her boring mother thought was too dangerous for her to be doing. Something that she’s wanted for the longest time.” It dawned on Diana finally, and bubbling with excitement, she darted out of the hall as well, but through a different arch than Rose had taken. 


    The room itself had three high arches, and one door, in the form of a mirror. Logic being, that it would be socially unacceptable to dwell at one’s own reflection for too long. Rather, that’s what her foolish mother had told her. A woman who lived despicably to please the whispers from the mirror that spoke to her. The door being the informal entrance, led to the residential wing of the palace. The other three arches led to the yard, the front, and the kitchens respectively. Fireplaces and oil lamps lit up the room as the sun’s last rays trickled through the glass windows. But her admiration of the architecture could wait. 


       Her Jack now looked positively downcast, though Emert showed no sign of jealousy. Most curious it was. Even as a baby who still had not learnt how to walk, he’d never quite had that instinct. Never wanted anything for himself, he did.

       She chose to indulge them slightly longer, at the expense of her rumbling stomach, as she’d nothing else to give. “Emert, I heard some screaming in the woods just last evening. Now I’m not like my sweet sister when it comes to recognizing your voices, but I could’ve sworn it was you” She’d a playful smile on her lips. Noticed, she did, that Jack’s mood swung like a pendulum. He now had a wide grin pasted on his face. He looked at Emert, who stared daggers and knives back at him, prompting a few restrained giggles, but audible enough. “Jack seems to have something to say, do you not Jack” she egged him on. 


    “Well yesterday, Emert and I were after going into the woods after the light had started to fade. I told him that mother does be telling us not to, but he said there was nothing to fear, no. So we went in as if on a stroll, and not five steps we’d taken, no, when we heard a growl from the depths of the forest. I just stood there, holding my ground, but my dear brother just fell right there, like a rock. Pissed his pants too he did, and I had to drag him out.” At this point, he laughed uproariously, with his aunt taking due part in the tease religiously, by cupping her mouth. “Moments later he woke up, and screamed, “I’m going to die”, he did, shaking all over too.” Now he started wheezing, and had to stop, but the damage had been done. Emert ran off to his table, punched it savagely, and buried his head in his hands. Slowly, the pleasure of narrating the story disappeared for Jack, as the consequences started to show. Cerina gazed at him fondly.


    “Do not worry, he’ll be fine. Just go and apologise to him. You have not done anything wrong, it’s just banter, that’s what it is.” Jack didn’t look so re-assured as he trudged off, not so sure of himself. 

    Now she was free to head off to the dinner table, and head off she did, and like a gazelle at that, with long, elegant strides. But in the midst of her grace, a small form she saw curled up at the corner table. Em. The one niece she shouldn't find it in herself to show any affection. Looked too much like her,she did, the woman who'd rid her of all forgiveness and happiness. Had the same bloody name she did as well. 


    "Arfhh!!!" She cried out, as her toe banged into the step of the raised platform of the dinner table.

    "Cerina!!Are you all right!' Rachel sprang to her feet, and tried to help her sister up the step.

    "I do not need help!!" Cerina muttered impatiently, her face contorted into sobriety, a superhuman show of will. Biting her bottom lip she was, eyes fixed straight ahead. After fixing her posture,she smiled guiltily. "I apologise. You were only trying to help." Rachel went back with her waist length brown hair whipping about, and sat at her place, her chair clattering with the table legs. 

    As soon as Cerina took her seat, the cook, with his white apron, and tunic came scurrying over to declare the day’s spread. Every item that he enumerated he tasted himself. A measure of precaution Cerina deemed necessary these days, for she’d heard too many stories in her time. Roast beef with potatoes, lamb chops garnished with lime, tender chicken in a savory stew, and assorted vegetables were announced. She inhaled the citrus smell, and the fragrant spices that were generously used in the stew. Next, the various wines on offer were sampled, and only after each chalice and goblet were drunk from first, did the table dig in. At the head of the table she was. Rachel, a thin pony-tailed man, and a shy ginger were sitting on one side of her. On the other hand were two men, both fashionably dressed. Heartwood vests on top of blazing red tunics they wore. The resemblance they bore to their sister at the head of the table was remarkable, high cheekbones, eyebrows, nose, and all that. 


    "Care for some wine, my lady?" The man at Rachel's elbow asked, eager to offer. A man who never eased back onto his seat's backrest, and giddy with energy was Dan Marksew. However, the exact qualities which had won over her sister made her cross just then, as she glared at her husband. He barely noticed however, as he picked up the goblet. Cerina nodded her assent.

    "Krayanz wine, is it?" She enquired just before he tipped the goblet over. His eyes were twinkling. "The very same my lady. Your favorite." 

    "Absolutely. They sure do know how to whip up a storm.” Rachel snorted derisively. A heavy downpour followed, the glass being filled up to the brim. 

     

    "You've something to say, sweet sister?" Cerina asked after sipping her wine. There was something in Rachel's smug smile that suggested it wasn't limited to the subject in question.

    "No. Just wondering what yak's piss tastes like. Trying to draw a comparison, you see." A deadly silence ensued, in which Cerina's serene expression almost wilted. She stared into her sister's eyes. "Okay, I've a bone to pick with you.” 

    “Drop it Rachel, she’s only doing what she…”


    “Don’t you take her side!” She retorted back to the man opposite the redhead. Her head angled back slowly to her older sister. “You can’t keep after giving them gifts every time something happens in their life. They’re not pets or something, no, for you to pat their head every time they take a shit in the right place. Now they expect the same from their parents.” Cerina screwed up her eyebrows.

    “Now, I don’t see the problem in that. Unless of course their mother is a strict bore.” The edge of her lips curved up a bit.

    “Of course you don’t. You’ve got all of Marlye’s treasury sitting in the bloody coffers.” Rachel fumed.

    “Well, it’s your money too you know. I’ve never said it’s off limits. Not like I’ve got it locked, and have a special key for it. ” She looked genuinely confused.

     “You don’t get it, do you? You’re after spoiling them.”

    “I don’t see what’s wrong in that. I’m her aunt. If not for me, who’ll spoil them? Certainly not their parents.” Rachel was starting to lose her patience as she took a deep breath.


   “The girls have got two other aunts and uncles each, but that’s beside the point.

   “Then what isn’t Rachel?” Cerina said impatiently. Her understanding of raising children was bleak, and for good reason.

   “Because they’ll bloody turn out like you!!” Rachel spat. Cerina laughed.

   “Well, at least they’ll have a sense of humor.” Her brothers laughed nervously, as Rachel went red in the face. Dan quickly took her arm.

 “My lady, if I may excuse us, for Rachel’s stomach is feeling quite peaky right now.” Cerina nodded, as her husband escorted Rachel out of the room. She took it well, Cerina thought. For one, she didn’t hear any low growls of constipation while she was leaving. Not that it was her concern, as the juicy lamb chops were waiting to be attacked. She turned back to her brothers.

   “So, I hear tell of commotion in the Grease, Keiran. Been mostly quiet ever since the hangings I thought.” Cyaro, who’d been quiet since being shut down earlier, saved his brother’s graces, by filling in while Keiran tried to get past a mouthful of chicken.


   “Aye, it’d been quiet, for a while. But turns out that even getting old Gartholem to vouch for your intentions in the town square isn’t a sure way of shutting up the vigilantes. I for one do be looking forward to hunt down each last one.” Cerina clicked her tongue.

   “Let’s not shut them up. They’ll make our job easier. Turn a blind eye towards it for some while.” Cyaro looked scandalised. 

   “You can’t possibly be after asking us to sacrifice innocent lives.” He paused to take a look at his brother, who was drinking wine like his life depended on it. “If you have your mouth full one more time while our business is being discussed, I'll drop you in one of those eating and drinking tourneys!" Keiran took two more gulps, and belched a loud one. 


   "What would you have me say? That she's not in her right mind? Because I think she's right. Let the rats come out their hiding spots looking for cheese. Pick their poison they must, whether it's ours,or theirs, what does it matter." And as easy as you like, he went back to wolfing his food down, clearly disinterested in arguing further.

   "Cynics, the both of you." He retracted back onto his seat, no longer interested in what was on his plate. His sister sighed.

    "I think the job's gotten your head brother. Why don't you, as you men say, 'go to spring for a fling'. He frowned.

   "I'd sooner become a pirate of The Dreadlocks, and pillage,rave, and rape as I see fit." 

   "You could, not that I would prefer it." Cyaro gave an exasperated look in her direction. 

   "But you'd let our Adaan go into their midst like a common footman, just to help your cause. You'd side with, and tolerate their filth, just for your power,won't you? She didn't look up.

   "I did what was necessary, and it worked. I don't see what you're complaining about."


   "Oh, do you not?I wonder where Paulette is then? The poor thing barely leaves her room, barely eats. The state of her, you should see."

   “Well maybe I will. She’ll do well to remember it was I who graciously extended our hospitality to her. She…”

   “You sent her husband, and our brother on a suicide mission, on the day of their marriage. They haven’t even consummated it yet as well!” he cut in, positively livid now. Here, he hit a chink in the armor even he didn’t know about, as cruel memories surfaced in her head. She pitied Paulette, in a way which she’d never even done herself, but didn’t know how to be accessible. I’ll sort this out after this is done, she resolved. Dessert followed the delicious main course. The cook religiously walked out again, but was waved out, as Cerina wished to make haste.


    She excused herself, and walked purposefully towards Paulette’s room. It’d been an entire spring ago that Cerina had sent her brother Adaan on a mission that she knew would play a crucial part for the realm, and could only be carried out by him. Loyal, clever, skilled, and patient only began to explain why she chose Adaan for the mission. Of course the rest of the explanation she’d rather never tell. He could also change his colors like a chameleon, and veer his tact at the speed of light. Traits which, now that she thought about it, were present in Fina and Shayara too. They are from the same father, so I shouldn’t be surprised. At least I didn’t turn out like Keiran and Cyaro. I’d be good for nothing more than slicing into bits those rag dolls my Diana likes.

     She found herself at Paulette’s room, an unanticipated outcome considering her unfortunate unfamiliarity to her room. She knocked on the door. 


    “May I come in?” She got no response from the other side, and paused for a few restless seconds until she barged in. With a canopy of wavy black hair enveloped over her face, and her legs drawn up so that she was curled up like a ball, Paulette sat in the corner of the room. Cerina approached cautiously, tip-toeing around the broken glass on the ground. She went and sat next to her on the ground. 

    “How’ve you been?” she asked with great difficulty. Paulette laughed psychotically at this. 

   “Clearly, you’ve never done this before. You’ve only killed my husband, you have. How would you expect me to be?” Clearly taken aback, Cerina was lost for words.

   “Don’t be silly. I sent him on a diplomatic mission that he’s more than capable of seeing through. It was nothing personal, I assure you.” The shattering of glass echoed across the room, as Paulette smashed it onto the wooden floor.


    “Don’t you dare make it sound like a different decision. Ohh, I’m sure you beat yourself up over it. Done you get nightmares because you were so torn apart? I’m not a child, so don’t wrap your words like you would gifts. You mustn’t have hesitated for more than a second sending your dear brother to the gallows, because that’s what rulers do!!!” Cerina’s face hardened. No-one had ever talked to her like that before, and her tolerance for Paulette’s hardships was balanced on a needle. She took a deep breath, and raised her voice, giving it a harsh undertone.


   “Now you listen to me. You will never talk like that to me again, with such insolence, or ever question my intentions again. And rulers never send their family to the gallows! ” That part was a lie however.

  “Is that true, then guess I’ll never be a ruler.” Paulette shook the mop of hair in her face, revealing red feral eyes, and her mouth that had been contorted into a lopsided grin. Cerina’s heart stopped as she saw a flash of silver drawn from Paulette’s belt, and her gut brought her right hand up just in time for her to hold onto her attacker’s knife hand. She was barely able to bear Paulette’s raw energy, as the knife beckoned at her throat in no time. She felt the cold of the metal kiss her clavicle, as she brought her left hand into play, and pushed like she was having a baby. 

   “Aaaaaaaaaraggggghhh!!!!”” Her efforts were futile as her attacker’s rabid intensity just had no match. 


   Vivid pictures painted her memory. The ethereal whi'e gown that she’d worn that day, flowing all the way to the end of the room, and the smi'ten eyes of the one she’d loved. The visions flashed, and then she found herself peering at a river, humming quietly, in resonance with the birds chirping, and the men’s songs at work. Suddenly the songs grew darker in tone, and the river had a red hue to it. The men were nothing but bare skeleton and dirt, and smiled eerily her way. Next she heard squeals of joy and humour. A moment later, she heard cries of terror, coming from a face which was blurred out to her. All her brothers and sisters were sitting round the table, hardly able to breathe from laughter. Only then did she realise with horror that they were holding her bloodied body parts, relishing every inch of meat that they dug into. Nothingness awaited her, as she fell into a chasm, and heard a shout of horror.


   “Cerina!!!!”, a large figure yelled from the periphery of her eye, and came sprinting over as if his pants had been on fire. 

   Suddenly, the death vice around her throat ceased to exist, and a warm pair of arms wrapped around her, as if on a cold day. She saw a motionless figure in front of her, writhing in pain, and the last thing she remembered before darkness was the world on it's side. 


   She felt light-headed, but was barely able to lift her head as she opened her eyes. The room assaulted all her senses, with it's Rala-tor stench, and the walls painted in bright red and yellow. 

   “You gave us quite the scare, and that’s definitely not the first time. How’re you holding up?” Cerina was still gazing around the room, Cyaro’s voice like fading light thrown across the room. 

  “I’m…I’m fine..And how about that bitch?…” The choice of words took Cyaro aback. His sister was not one known for using profanity.


  “…She’s in a dark cell, mulling over her actions. And she might not be what we thought she was. Interrogation is happening as we speak.” Cerina was hardly surprised by that, as she knew that the woman who tried to kill her wasn’t the same sweet and sensitive Paulette who thought swords were used only to cut up large pieces of meat. Her surroundings truly puzzled her however, and brought her mind back to the present.


  “Where are we?”

Tapestries of death were hung on the walls. Black cabinets stacked with ointments, vials, and potions coloured the left of her sight. The room was warm and sticky, or maybe that was just the Rala-tor effect. On the right, there was a bedside table which had a red ribbon wrapped across a vellum scroll. “Well, I can’t speak for the ambience. The maester insisted that you be brought here, to avoid any mishaps. Hardly a place to house a patient if you ask me, but hey, I couldn’t tell a sting from a blister, so what do I know?” Cerina could sense Cyaro’s unease.

  “What’s that”, she motioned her head towards the direction of the scroll.

  “Ohhh, that. Well, I was hoping we wouldn’t have to deal with that until you’re better.”


  “I am better. Tell me.” Cyaro tensed at the harsh tone.

  “Be that as it may…..”

  “Tell me Rachel'' cut in Cerina icily. She was in no mood to be polite, not after being nearly cut to death the night before. In fact, she felt even more alive, and barely felt like a victim anymore. She braced herself, and then pulled her neck up and tensed her shoulders to stretch for the scroll, and plucked it in the grip of her hands. 


When the carrots may yet be harvested

When the days tarry no longer 

When the sun is all but forgotten

Beckon, where the sands no longer burn


When tunics and dresses no longer suffice

And the West wind comes for us all

Flowers no longer bloom, and leaves no longer grow

Gather round, for you must now shield your visage

At the beginning of our great age.


The momentary confusion foreshadowed her unenviable mood.

  “Since when did silly poetry come in official scrolls.” She locked eyes with her brother, who didn’t seem to be amused at all. She read the scroll again, but her mind still drew a blank.

  “I’m in no state for riddles. What did you gather from this?”

  “Well, not I, but Shayara….” Cerina did a double take. She hadn’t seen her wild brown haired sister for more than one summer now, and was longing for her company.

  “She deciphered it when she dropped in last night. She said it was an invitation for another convention at the Helm.”

  “Why what a pleasant surprise. Our sister’s coming of course, not the Helm. But neither are any reasons for looking as sullen as you do right now.”

  “Well,…” Cyaro gazed worryingly at Cerina, as if inspecting her.

  “Ohh, I’m fine. A nice bath, and some of that honey apple pecan bread that I couldn’t properly have the pleasure of before will suffice, to say the least. I’ll be up and running like your Diana’s new white pony in no time.” Cyaro looked truly puzzled.

  “A pony. I would’ve thought that after the impairments you’ve received from horse-riding, you’d be dissuaded to urge your niece to do so.” 

  “Ahh, I wouldn’t recommend it to Rosie, but Diana’s much less clumsy. Never mind that, fetch Shayara at once. What in Dreadlock's name has the little beast been upto.” There was a long pause.

  “I’m sorry Cerina, but Shayara’s gone. She vanished as inconspicuous as she came. A moment she’d been sitting down with us, and the next, she excused herself to make herself presentable, and that was the last we’d seen of her.”

  “Damn Magyar, why does she do this every time? And it’s not like we can ever find her anyways. I hope she never comes around again. I’ve had too much of her bloody antics.” She had a long look on her face, introspecting about what she’d possibly done wrong to endure her sister’s ignorance. Only then, a faint voice talked from the wall. It got louder, like a buzz in her ear. When she turned her head the other way in distress, it disappeared.

  “Cerina, are you okay??So, are you going to the Helm? I mean, in this condition, and in light of recent events. Let me plead with you on behalf of everyone that cares about you, to not make an appearance.” Cerina scoffed slightly. She didn’t enjoy being patronised, not nearly as much as she did patronising others.


  “If you’re worried about the ‘for you must shield your visage’ line, then don’t worry. It probably means ‘wear a helmet’. Besides, I’ve been cooped up here for far too long. Some fresh air could do no harm. And I’ll double my vanguard in either case. Will that be enough for all those who care about me?” Cyaro sighed, but his eyes were those of a defeated man.

  “It will. I just couldn’t bear that you might be gone, and the last thing I ever did was lead you to your death.. It doesn't matter at all that Adaan’s psychotic lover tried to slit your throat just hours back, in the midst of our own palace. Fresh air promises to be a sea of trustworthiness and safety, doesn’t it?” She admired Cyaro for taking one last swipe, swiftly recalling that the lack of it from Paulette a few hours ago was what had seen her through with just a minor wound. She was resolute however.


 “I appreciate your concern, but I must go. I will not be seen as a coward, and besides, we’ve still yet to figure out what party the bitch is playing for. “

 “Alright. And she’s proving to be a tough nut to crack. All of the innocence and girlish sensitivity was just a pretence.” Cerina’s face was stone cold.

 “I don’t know how you’re going to do it, but make her wish that she slit her own throat when she had the chance. I want her to suffer every last second of her life, till her skin becomes like parchment, and her nails grow to the size of claws. She'll never be able to fool anyone again. ”

Her brother studied her warily, as he left her to rest. 

 “I’ll let you sleep on that sister. Don’t think about it now.” He walked out, his boots clanking on the wooden floor, the start of a lullaby.


  Cerina knew not when the first signs had set in, but within moments of her last dialogue, she found her eyes shut tight. This time, she wasn’t interrupted.



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