Again

Brass Automaton Cover - version2

[1010 words – #3WW]“You have seen it?”

Snow’s eyes focus on the advancing figure. “Yes, Sky,” she replies, pausing to keep her voice even. “We all make sacrifices to the cause.”

“Reese will be remembered…”

Snow slams the glass fragment down on her desk, the impact causing a rough edge to cut her hand. “Damn it,” she whispers, looking away from Sky.

Sky walks around the desk, positioning herself behind Snow’s seated form. “Let me see your hand,” she commands.

Glistening eyes lock on Sky’s and the women share a poignant moment. Snow allows Sky to gently lift her injured hand, her leather armor creaking with the motion. Snow shifts her head first to the left and then to the right, each action resulting is a snap. “I feel drained,” she whispers to Sky as her friend wipes away the blood from Snow’s hand.

“No doubt,” replies Sky.

Snow turns to look to her most trusted sister, who busies herself wrapping Snow’s hand in a delicate white cloth. The square happened to be positioned over the worst cut with the white embroidered apple absorbing Snow’s blood. The white-on-white apple transforms before her eyes to red.

Sky finished wrapping Snow’s hand and took a step back. “Do we respond to this latest development?” she asks.

Snow shakes her head, her dark curls bouncing. “To respond would be to reveal that we have acquired one of the mirrored fragments of legend.” Snow rises from her wooden chair. “I have many sisters, but only one daughter…” Snow’s voice fades as emotion overcomes her.

“I understand, my Queen,” Sky says in solemn reverence.

“Ha! Queen.” Snow heaps as much derision as she can on her title. “A queen usurped by her own husband and an evil sorceress. A queen hiding in the mountains while her subjects bow and scrape to rampant subjugation. Bowing to that…” Her voice rises, and she clamps her eyes shut allowing the thought to perish lest it poison her soul.

Snow opens her eyes, ablaze with compassion and strength. They’d always been the eyes of a ruler, but Sky saw a new fire burn. A menacing fire. “Ready project Muted Sight,” Snow commands, her voice hardening. “I want him in the castle as soon as possible.”

* * *

Click.

The sound is as familiar to Ceridwen as her own breathing. She looks at her subjects to see if any of them noticed the sound. As if these mindless Tenyks would notice, she thinks as everyone goes about their business.

Click.

Ceridwen shifts uncomfortably in her throne of brass. A puff of steam escapes from beneath her elegant gown. She holds her hand out, and studies the fine lines on her fingers. It’s time, she thinks, and rises. The throne room is suddenly silent as all eyes turn to their ruler. Even in the silence, no one but Ceridwen is aware of the metal-on-metal shifting beneath her gown.

Click.

“Bring me one of the captured rebels!” she bellows as she walks stiffly to her antechamber.

In her private room, she removes her gown and examines herself in a full-length mirror. Her gaze focuses on her brass legs. The magic façade has faded, and the whirling gears refract candlelight on the walls and ceiling. She adjusts her bosom and turns so her profile is reflected in the mirror, sucking in her abdomen.

“Mirrored fragment, sight so clear, tell me now if danger’s near.” A recess in one of her brass legs opens and she withdraws a mirrored fragment. She aims the fragment toward the full-length mirror, and it reflects the peeled face within the fragment. Shadows and highlights reflect off each other, the infinity manifestation forming a visage with blind eyes, but a sight known across the nine kingdoms.

The magic mirror fragment’s reply is interrupted by a rap on her chamber door. Ceridwen sighs, and replaces the fragment. She walks to her bed, sits on the edge, and covers her legs with a blanket before announcing, “Enter!”

A Tenyk ushers in a young man, his sightless waxen eyes darting around the room. Ceridwen smiles, watching the man’s eyes move to and fro, a habit left over from when the centers of his eyes comprised a color other than white.

“The rebel, per your command, my queen,” says the Tenyk, pushing the blind man forward.

Ceridwen looks from the rebel to her subject. His eyes have color, but they lack the spark of life. The Tenyk is oblivious to the nakedness of his queen. Pity, she thinks, as she examines the Tenyk: his broad shoulders and muscular chest ripple beneath the taut fabric straining to cling to his neck. “Leave him,” she commands. A smile the Tenyk cannot see spreads across her lips. “You will make yourself available to me this evening.”

“As you wish, my queen,” the Tenyk drones before turning on his heel and closing the chamber doors behind him.

* * *

Tell mother I love her.

“Again.”

Sky watches Reese die one more. She feels something heavy in her chest. John cradles Reese’s body, and before the glass eye sails out of view, Sky sees Rees’s lips try to form her next words. She knows those lips. Even aged as she had, Reese’s high cheekbones were the same young ones Sky caressed at night. She would know Reese’s attempt to say her name no matter where or when her beloved was.

“Again.”

The scene moved forward with precision. She imagined she heard the bones in Reese’s chest crack as the chunk of rock struck her chest. It had only been a few weeks since Reese left on her mission to protect their “future” king. A king who willingly bit the poisoned apple, she thinks as the life fades from Reese’s eyes again.

“Again.”

She traces her finger over Reese’s lips as they speak their last words. A teardrop distorts the image, and Sky closes her eyes, imagining the intimate moments with Reese, instead of the broken woman she sees in the fragment. Her tough warrior woman façade unraveling with each subsequent viewing.

“Again,” she whispers.

Next: The Twist of Mind

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About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior. View all posts by Mark Gardner

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