Friday, October 29, 2004
the child, nine
In the morning, when Mathilda came to awaken the Child, the tall one did not bring a tray of food for her to eat, as she usually did. Instead, she stopped in the doorway and said, 'The Master requests that you come and break your night's fast with him this morning.'
The Child - Starr - gasped. And then she flew from the bed, hurriedly washing up and dressing, making herself ready. The Master...!
Soon she was ready, flushed and breathless, and Mathilda led the way through the corridors of the house. A different way this day, one the Child had never taken before. Just when she was beginning to wonder where in the house they were, Mathilda stopped before a door.
Nervous, Starr stepped into the doorway and peered in. The room, to her surprise, was not large nor lush nor opulent, as she had imagined it would be. It was just a very plain room, about the size of her own. Here was a table set with two chairs. There a fire on the hearth. There a small window much like her own, spilling in the morning sunlight.
And there, of course, he himself. The Master. He came forward, smiling warmly. 'Starr, my dear Child,' said he.
Deep crimson her cheeks flamed, just at the closeness of him. And her heart - oh! surely he could hear the beating of it! She felt that she ought to bow to him, or curtsey perhaps - but she feared that if she tried, she would tumble right off her feet.
He took her hand in his, his eyes owning hers. 'You may serve the meal now, Mathilda,' he said. And the tall one bowed and went out.
'Master...' the Child ventured, her voice sounding strange to her own ears.
'You slept well?' said he, leading her to the table, helping her into a chair. He then took the other chair. It was a very small table.
'What would you like to ask me now, dear one?'
Last night the questions had crowded into her mouth, competing to be spoken. And now...now quite the opposite. Her mind was a blank.
'Then I will tell you,' said he. 'I bought you here, after rescuing you from the palace of my enemies. They had held you there long, since you were an infant. The chains you wore kept you bound to them, to do their will. And you were content there, for a long time.
'And of this you remember nothing.'
She watched this wonderful face before her, nodding. 'Yes,' she said. 'Nothing. Nothing at all.'
'I have been to that palace many a time, my dear, to rescue those held captive there. One time very recently, as I was in the belly of the fortress to rescue another, you saw me.' He smiled the more deeply, a precious, secret smile. 'Well. I let you see me. We spoke briefly, you and I; I told you of this house. You asked to go with me; I made promise to return for you.
'That promise I kept.'
She blushed and dropped her eyes.
'I bore you here as on eagle's wings, to bring you to myself.'
Her heart was beating so, she could scarcely breathe.
A soft knock at the door. At the Master's word, the door swung open and in came Mathilda, bearing the laden tray of their breakfast. This she served quickly, silently, efficiently. She bowed, turned to go.
'My Master,' said the tall one, turning again and bowing.
'You veil yourself.'
'Yes, my Master. For the comfort of the little one's eyes.'
'Yes. She sees the light.'
A bow. 'She does, my Master.'
'Few do. But this gift is given her. Unveil yourself now please, Mathilda.'
The tall one lifted her hands and began to remove the veil. As she did, the light grew, grew until it was dazzling to the Child's eyes.
The Master rose and went to the Child, who was shielding her eyes with her hands against the light. 'Look at me,' he said softly. She obeyed, squinting up at him. To her surprise, she found that though all else in the room was quite lost to her sight because of the light from Mathilda, the Master himself she could see with no trouble. She gazed on him.
'Stand up, dear,' he said. She did so. 'Now close your eyes, Starr my love,' said he. She obeyed him.
She felt his hands, strong and firm and gentle, as they cupped her face between them, tilting her chin up. And then she felt - oh! - the touch of a kiss, one, two, upon her two closed eyes. A gasp escaped her at the touch, all too brief. She would have preferred for those kisses to have lasted forever. Familiar thought.
'Starr my sweet - breathe my breath after me.' And a deep sigh she heard, sweet and gentle and fragrant. She lived in the breath of that sigh, drawing it deep into her lungs, into her being. His breath...
'Now open your eyes, my Starr.'
She obeyed. To her surprise, though the light was still there and strongly present, she no longer needed to squint against it, but could see all things quite plainly. Even so, she looked not at the things surrounding her, but only at the Master's dear face.
He smiled and sighed again, a deep and contented sigh at the adoration in her gaze. 'Starr,' he whispered, so pleased with her. So pleased.
'Now turn and see.'
She turned. She saw. She gaped in astonishment.
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