Here, as promised, is part 3 of Madeleine Shrewsday’s 13-part modern fairy tale. If you haven’t been following and have stumbled upon this gem for the first time, you can read part 1 here, and part 2 here.
“Are…are you in earnest?”
“Of course,” smiled Govenor. “I remember it as though it were yesterday. I made you last. You were the trickiest to make; my needle kept slipping as I sewed your hair. And your eyes were so hard to paint. I couldn’t make the right shade. And as for your wretched soul, well. I had to go to the end of the universe to find the silk that would make it. I had to be so careful as I sewed it into you. Because all the other citizens were made to love and look after people of the lower Plane, but I made you specially for me. To love me, and help me make all my decisions. That’s why you are such at planning .”
“-Then why didn’t you tell me this?” said Lara, “And now I cannot return, because the citizens think that I am dark and they are already starting to blame me for the new state of the plane.”
Governor knelt before her. “Well then, I have a proposal for you. I would like you to come and work with me as my strategist. You can have your own chamber in my palace, and no-one may see you or speak to you unless you command it. And you will be able to sing whatever songs you wish, be they hymns of praise or orisons. The only condition is that you won’t throw yourself off the end of the world as I do believe you were intending to do.”
And now Lara laughed. “I promise, my Lord.”
Govenor rose and led her away from the mountains. “My name is Abiel, dearest.”
And so, things were different. The citizens did indeed feel an iota more darkness than they felt before, but it was a good pain for Lara. A lovely pain. And as for the citizens, they were happy to bury their discomfort deep inside them, and ignore it. They pretended that nothing had changed.
But something had changed; and it wasn’t just the state of the Plane. Senator Lara had seemingly won the highest favour with The Govenor, whom she now addressed as ‘Abiel.’
“I think that ‘Abiel’ is a pet name,” said Damariel to Gabriella one day, “For Govenor always calls her ‘dearest’ as well.”
Ah, perhaps. Gabriella and Damariel ignored that change as hard as they could, for it was the hardest change to ignore. Lara did not live like all the other citizens did. She now lived with Abiel in his palace. Keeping his promise, he gave her her very own bedchamber, with a painted ceiling, wide window, and a beautiful cot to sleep in. The cot itself was shrouded is silver gossamer curtains, so that no-one could get to Lara if she was feeling sad. As well as this, Abiel gave Lara a circlet of gold to wear upon her brow. He hadn’t promised that, but still he made a present of it.
If ever Lara’s candles began to burn too brightly, they would go together to the end of the world and look together at the mountains.
“When our work is finally done,” he would say, “Then we will go together to those mountains of the lower plane and set up home there.”
And Lara always turned round to him with a wily look in her eye and say, “For how long will we stay there?”
“Forever, my dear. We will live there forever. And neither of us will ever be unhappy ever again.”
“If unhappiness is burning candles,” said Lara, one time, “Then perhaps I am glad to feel unhappy, sometimes. For my candles allow me to see strange and beautiful things where other people see the ordinary.”
“But your candles cast a shadow,” Abiel knelt beside her and they peered over the edge at the mountains together. “You do not have to suffer in order to see beautiful things.”
Beauty was all Lara’s now. Beauty, and knowledge. She saw each day the roundness of power in the sky’s infinite glass, and felt her eyes opened as wide as her life. Now, instead of gazing at the citizens in sadness and envy, she regarded them with pity. Their little lives were filled with gentle white and creams…yet her’s was filled with all the hues that the universe could create…and a little more.
“Sometimes,” she said to Abiel one day, “I think I will be turned to ash by the candle that burns for you.”
And Abiel said, “I will have turned to ash long before you, my Lara.”
Abiel was the stitches that held her world together. He was her inspiration, her power, her knowledge. For the first time in the seeming eternity that she had lived, Lara saw that she was not as aborrhed as her mind had always told her she was. She no longer hated herself. The burning needles and candles were dimmed and softened inside her, until their light was soft and gentle, and warmed her from within.
If there was one thing that troubled Lara about her existence now, or about Abiel’s existence, which now was eternally her’s also, for there was nothing else for her but his life, was Midgard. The possibility of him. His name was the small sharp stone that hid away just beneath the blankets of her cot and night. Whenever she turned over, he dug into her side, just a little.
One day in the evening, when Abiel was taking his sustenance, Lara remarked the tiredness that Abiel’s eyes now held.
“You are tired,” said she.
“I am,” said he. “I feel like a long day. Or leaprosy, perhaps.”
“You should rest,” said Lara. “Or you might become ill. In fact, I fear that you are ill already-”
“-How can I be ill when I look upon you?” said Abiel. There was something alarming….hysterical, almost, in his manner. This was not like him. Abiel was calm, and gentle.
Lara remained silent. Abiel looked at her with in a way that made her feel almost unsafe. His smile was more harmful now.
“Are you afraid, Lara?” he asked in this new manner. There were red flecks of earthen rubies in his eyes and his skin was pale.
Lara’s face was a mirror to the moon. “A little, I will admit.”
Abiel chuckled and then laughed loudly. “Poor Lara,” he giggled. “My poor Lara!”
Now Lara was afraid. Mastering her fear she rose, “let us go to the mountains,” said she. “Now.”
Abiel looked with laughing eyes and cracked soul upon the food he had been taking. “Yes. For pity’s sake.”
So it was that Lara and Abiel found themselves by the mountains once more.
“See how unchanging they are,” said Lara. “See there? That is you. You have a footing as wide and eternal as the mountain that grows from the earth, and the highest plane is your summit.”
Abiel stayed a long time by the mountains that day. He stayed there with Lara, leaning his cheek against her hair and picking at the skin on his thumb. It was times like this that made Lara most unhappy, as she knew that Abiel was very anxious about something.
And sometimes-when things were really bad- Abiel was changed by his anxiety. His golden eyes were filled with flecks of red, and his hair filled with black. His fingers became knarled and his skin bleached white. The ends of his fingers were the worst. They were far too long. When he touched her she ended up with scratches on her hands and her face.
But it usually passed, eventually. And Lara loved Abiel enough to forgive him his darker times.
“I wish I could carry you away from all of this,” she said to Abiel, one time that he had become franticked, and the two had come to the end of the world together “I wish I could fly away to the mountains and take you with me.”
Abiel did not answer. He only pulled his cloak further about himself. “I wish that sometimes,” he muttered.
As time continued, Abiel grew worse rather than better. Even after they had reached a decision together, she would walk past his room at night and see him at his desk, wide eyed, staring fixedly at his maps, torturing over the decision he had made with her.
“What can I do,” asked Lara, as she sat alone, “What can I do to take the weight off his shoulders?”
Nothing, said the mountains. Nothing. And Lara knew they spoke the truth, though she thought about it harder than ever.
One night, the air was filled with electricity. Lara felt it and shook. She went to her chamber, drew the curtain well about her cot, and tried to rest.
Abiel, she thought. Perhaps this current means he’s not safe. No sooner had the thought crossed her mind, she rose and hastened to Abiel’s chamber.
He had not rested for days, but there he was, sitting at his desk with his maps and charts spread before him. He was rubbing his clawed hands together and staring obsessively down at his papers. Lara was silent for a long time because she knew that something had changed again.