Girl With Golden Eyes

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Parisa Blackwillow

It was twilight when Isolde would finally step outside, her bloody and blistering hands messily bandaged, face and body covered over with soot and grime. Her hair was a filthy, twisted mess, and coughing loudly, the bones in her body all seemed to ache at once. She always felt tired and worn, every second of every day. Whether she didn’t work at all, or worked from morning until night, she’d feel that same weariness pervading every piece of her being.

Focus drifting from her own pain, it began to shift to the world around her, and she immediately caught sight of something odd: there were people moving about the streets, heading towards the far-end of town. Many more souls than usual at such an hour of the day, and all heading in the same direction. A part of Isolde wanting to turn back inside and go to sleep, but another part of her was drifting towards what was happening.

“You there!” she shouted out to one of the people walking along. “What is everyone doing?”

“It’s Lady Parisa,” the man said. “She said she has an important announcement for the whole town, but especially to the young men, which has many excited for news involving her courtship. Maybe she’s finally chosen a suitor after all these years!”

The man hurriedly went on, Isolde sighing, staring at the orange and purple hues filling the sky. It would be best for her to sleep, but she knew her heart would never let her. Never before had Parisa announced being in any place at a certain time. Never any moments Isolde could take to deliberately seek her out and finally see her. Perhaps if Isolde stayed home, it’d be years more before she could see the blessed angel they all talked of.

“I better find out who’s been driving all the men crazy over the years,” she said with a sigh, heading towards the direction of the manor. “Besides, her flowers are always the most beautiful at twilight.”

She breathed in deeply, already filling with the phantom scents of that glorious flower sea.

Crowded a short distance from the gates were far more people than Isolde had anticipated. The crowd was mostly young men, but was also filled with curious and intrigued souls, and somehow in the large mass, Isolde had found herself pushed close to the front. She hadn’t cared about her appearance when she had started out, but grew to realize how out of place she seemed. All the men about her were dressed in their finest suits and garbs, cleaned and fancied up, while she looked like some street urchin.

She turned around to head back and leave, but she barely made it a few feet before she could hear the creak of the wrought iron gates. Her mind was whispering to head back home, but something much louder yelled at her to stay. More than a voice inside, it felt like a rope was being wrapped around her waist, something forcefully dragging her back to where she had been standing.

So Isolde turned around, and all in a moment it felt like her heart had fallen into a dream, tumbling through a different world and sending shivers throughout her whole body.

Her heart had been sent into this different plane of existence from the sight of a woman standing in those opened gates—Parisa Blackwillow—those golden eyes of hers glittering in the orange hues of twilight. Isolde had always assumed the rumors to have been grossly exaggerated fluff, things said by foolish hearts in love, or by those consumed by greed and lust. Yet in that moment, Isolde found herself utterly breathless and captivated.

Parisa stood tall, at level with or above most of the men in the town. Although her figure was sleek and lithe, she held an aura of precise power to her, like a wolf might have, a hunter quiet and dark. Dark like her dress of black lace and silk, like her wavy raven hair, which cascaded far down and past her waist. Against these shadows, a ruby necklace in the shape of a rose clung about her neck. There was a grace to her features as well, as if her cheeks, nose, and brow were carved from smooth marble as the radiant statues of goddesses could be. Soft, curving lips of a naturally sweet color, like a wave drawing your gaze. These things could catch anyone’s attention, but as with most people, everything else always started to fade in comparison to the sight of Parisa’s eyes: they were a pure golden color, and shimmered with brilliance in the light, both magically beautiful and unsettling to witness at the same time.

It was a very long moment before Isolde even realized those golden eyes had turned to look directly into hers, the little breath she had left in her disappearing completely, heart turning into stone.

“Give me a minute and I’ll explain why you’re all here,” Parisa said with a voice which soothed into Isolde’s ears: it felt fresh and earthy, like the flowers in the garden, with an accent Isolde couldn’t recognize. “But first…”

Isolde found her feet rooted into the earth as Parisa walked up to her, those golden eyes seeming to stare through her very soul for a minute before Parisa reached down and softly took Isolde’s hands into hers. Isolde could breathe again after that, and had never felt anything quite as soft as the touch being given her.

“You’re hurt,” Parisa said. “Are you okay?”

“I’m sorry for looking like this,” Isolde said, dropping her gaze. “And I worked too hard, I suppose. Just some cuts and blisters, that’s all.”

“Well, you shouldn’t work yourself too hard like this.” Those soft hands left Isolde, leaving a crushing absence in their place. “But do come see me some time, and I can help patch those up—I have some plants in my garden that’ll help heal your wounds quite nicely. I’m Parisa Blackwillow, by the way, but you probably already know that. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Parisa reached out her left hand as if for a handshake, Isolde looking down at it and reaching out her own hand, but then flinching and retracting it back a bit mid-air. Her gaze caught upon her own hand—bandaged, bloody, covered in soot, with its ugly nubs and harsh skin—then turned back to the soft grace of the one offered out to her, as smooth as a doll’s.

Before Isolde could pull her hand completely out of reach, though, Parisa took it softly into her own, shaking it. Isolde closely watching Parisa’s face, but seeing no signs of disgust, pity, or mockery anywhere in her features.

“I’m Isolde Tremain,” Isolde let fall from her mouth, only realizing as their hands were parting that it had been years since anyone had last touched that hand. “But I don’t know if I can take your offer. It’s cats, you see...”

“What about them?” Parisa asked, eyebrow arching up.

“I love them to death, and I think they’re the most marvelous and beautiful creatures…but ever since I was a child, I can’t be near them. It just gets hard to breathe whenever I’m close. So I’m sorry, I can’t come to see you about my hands.”

“I understand.” Parisa nodded, starting to walk back. “I guess I’ll just have to visit you myself sometime, Isolde Tremain.”

Isolde stood in place, barely blinking, feeling oddly out of herself and wispy. She couldn’t quite tell, but it looked like Parisa had given her a wink and a sliver of a smile. The girl with golden eyes, who barely talked to anyone, who almost never approached someone first, had walked up to her and taken her hands in her own. It raised a smile onto Isolde’s face, a smile that faded as she could feel her left side not rising up, her expression becoming a quiet melancholy.

“The matter of this evening is in regard to the relentless suitors pursuing me,” Parisa began from back in front of the gates. “This town is truly lovely, but from the moment I’ve stepped in here, I’ve been showered in love songs, gifts, and lovers’ pleads. I am tired of it all, so I’ve decided to settle everything now.”

Parisa clapped her hands, and out from one of the rose bushes a shadowy black cat came running like the wind. They were a small thing, rubbing at her legs, and with golden-colored eyes like Parisa’s. Around the cat’s neck was a ruby collar with a golden key hanging from it.

“This is Roana,” Parisa said, stooping down low, happily petting the cat. “Around her neck is the key to the gates and the front doors of my manor. If you can get this key from around Roana’s neck, then my home is your home, and your name shall be my name.”

Excited murmurs and whispers began to erupt all over in the crowd, a pulsing beat sounding off in Isolde’s heart, something so sweet and soothing to watching Parisa petting the cat. It was as if Parisa didn’t give a damn about all the crowd around her, the cat being more important.

“Roana will be let out into the town sometime tonight,” Parisa said. “There is one rule, and that is that you can’t hurt her at all while trying to catch her. Believe me, I will know if any one of you has laid the smallest finger on her in your pursuits.” A smile grew onto Parisa’s face, a rare sight sending everyone’s hearts aglow as she picked up the cat and cradled them into her arms. “And that’s all I’ve come here to say. No one is to ever bother again with trying to court me, for the only one who shall own my heart will be the one to get this key.” Parisa flicked at the key on the cat’s collar, it twinkling in the last of the dying light. “There is no other way.”

With those words, Parisa turned around and walked back into her grounds, the iron gates closing once more. After that, the crowd became a loud sea of raucous voices. Countless men were all proudly bragging about catching the cat, saying what an easy game it would be. Many already musing on having Parisa as their bride, reveling in their vulgar and crude speak on the matter.

Isolde, though, kept staring off through the bars of the front gate, past the sea of flowers, and to the distant crimson doors that gave one entrance into the manor. Her heart was twisting inside of her as she couldn’t understand why she kept imagining what it’d be like to step through them.

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