Malignus

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Maiden’s Cradle

Silence fell upon us as the gates creaked open. Stepping through the door was a willowy young woman. She was shorter than Berrón, but still quite tall for a lady. Her eyes darted between the two of us anxiously.

“And who is this?” She questioned Berrón directly.

He strode towards the woman and greeted her in embrace. Shyly, she pushed him away.

Berrón glanced back at me, presumably debating whether or not to tell her something.

“It is only Mistress Cadia, dear.”

The woman gleamed with happiness, barreling towards me and examining me carefully.

“You look just as he painted you,” said she, placing a hand softly onto my shoulder. “I am certain you will keep our secret, Cadia. We shall be quick friends.”

Bepuzzled, I could barely string together my words, “What secret do you speak of?”

Her face went ajar. I supposed I was meant to know her title, but I did not, nor did I know her name.

Berrón stepped in. “Dear, she does not know of your relation,” he told her.

“Oh!” the woman exclaimed. Curtsying, she addressed me once more, “Lady Titania, but you may call me Ania.”

What my face said was so severely outlandish that the two of them reached for me. I must have grown pale.

“Cadia, darling, please promise me you will not tell a soul,” Titania pleaded as I came to my senses.

I merely nodded.

It was hard to swallow. Betrothed, to be wed, it meant a certain level of respect for one another. Each soul had chosen corrupt adultery rather than matrimony. I began to question the very nature of marriage at that moment.

“I do not love her…”

That was what he said. It appeared neither felt any semblance of affection for the other. Yet, they would not nullify the engagement.

Berrón tugged on my robes to pull me from my thoughts. “You are shivering, it would make me a sick man if I did not take you back before you freeze,” he said.

Titania nodded. “I hope to see you soon, Cadia,” she leaned into Berrón and kissed his cheek, “and goodbye, my love.”

Berrón whisked me away while Titania remained in the garden, admiring the flowers.

An image of her and Berrón meeting in that same garden passed through my mind. They brightened up as they saw that someone else found solace in the gated-garden.

I felt that it was true. That Titania was not happy in her engagement, not until she met Berrón. It made me feel sour for thinking ill of them

“Berrón,” I trailed, his full attention moved to me, “what is it like to be in love?”

His eyes filled with watery remorse, and countless other fleeting emotions, and he halted our step, facing me fully. Berrón sighed.

“Terrifying, in the most beautiful way,” he said. “Once you find love there is nothing more important than to ensure you hold it closely, carefully, as if it might break at the slightest touch.” His eyes were filled with a confused, sad kind of comfort. “That is what it is to be in love.”

Words swirling in my tortured mind became paintings, memories, faces. I thought of those at the Abbey who gave me a home, and how it hurt me when they were gone. I thought of Friar Ruthson, and all he taught me. Most of all, I thought of him. A thought that should have never crossed my mind. I could not love him. No. Who could ever love a monster?

We came upon the living quarters much too quickly. In mind and body I was not capable of fighting. Berrón earnestly told me what a love might be, and I was not so sure I wasn’t in it with the worst man possible.

He did not feel the same regardless. Though he said it, he did not show it, only controlled me like a marionette and begged for me to believe it was so.

Until I was of sound mind I would not touch him. He would call for me, but I would not answer. If I were truly blinded by love I could not risk his company. Surely, he would take me for a fool and destroy me once again. I would not be fooled a second time.

The door shut behind after Berrón led me into the quarters. On the bed there was a woven basket, but Orynicus was presumably missing.
I strode across the room and sank into the bed next to it, just barely peering inside.

Atop a pile of fresh linens and colorful silks there was a beautiful, shiny trinket, and it tempted me.

Silently checking the room, I decided I was, in fact, alone. I carefully picked up the trinket. It was heavy, made of precious metal, and as I opened it, a tiny dancer began twirling around at the top.

She was thin, frail and delicate. Her little feet were bound with white, ballet flats, tied below the knee.

“Such a clever thing,” I whispered.

I moved the gold, crested box in my hands and found a small wand at the base. Shaking fingers, I touched the wand. A small noise spooked me. It came from the box.

Starry-eyed, I touched the wand again, but nothing happened. I reached into the small divot where it was located and tried to force the sound. In doing so the wand rotated to the side, making an even more pronounced noise. I was afraid to break the contraption. Yet, I could not help but be curious of the magic box, so I reached in and turned the wand.

A twinkling tune played softly. The sound was like listening to the stars. While it played, the tiny dancer spun in circles along with it.

I was fascinated. Though, as I listened to the twinkling of the magical box I felt more than just that, I felt sleep finally taking me. It was welcoming.

I placed it on the dresser beside the large bed. Moving the basket just at the foot of the bed, I lay down to rest, and hoped for happy days once more.
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