Impeccably Salvaged

Originally published on State of Liberation

Sure, she didn’t get to study any of the subjects most deem important. Her family was too poor to let her study law. She was too weak to advance in physical areas. Not quite clever enough for technological work. Too high in status to dirty her hands in the farmlands.

In the oversized room, golden with the light of a thousand candles, an exciting atmosphere breathes comfortably, like a tamed animal. At the center of an unwound cornucopia of luxury, she is the mistress of the event. She watches the calculated sparks of laughter rise across the musical landscape. Guests have been fed and befuddled with drink enough to dance attractively on the shining marble floor.

A long and tedious learning process has made her the administrator of an evening such as this one. The privileges earned were well worth the time, even if her role is underrated. Dressed in fine emerald green silks, decorated with metals, stones, feathers and lace, she is as though elevated on a puffy cloud, reaching with ease those typically unapproachable in regular society. The powerful and the rich tend her a trusting ear, or bow down in respect at her passage.

Suddenly, a commotion in the south end of the hall breaks the festivities. The room has gasped into silence, alerted by the sound of breaking wine glasses and sudden raised voices. Two men seem to stand a few feet from one another, weapons drawn.

She glides across the room, the smile on her face unaltered. She steps between them, her presence peculiarly compelling despite the tension.
Not a bad education at all. The kind that gets somewhat unnoticed, that makes difficult things look easy and that require unexpected levels of discipline. The kind that saves men from one another.

“Gentlemen,” she says with a perfectly conjured chuckle.

Her imperative tone, though polite and inviting, lets the rest of the guests know that the situation is being controlled; timid comfort spreads among the witnesses of the scene. As she turns around, she nods at waiters and guards in a subtle manor and each finds the strength to shake up and carry on. Some conversation is resumed, food and drink being once again consumed, musicians start playing again, two maids flutter by quietly and clean up the broken glass. The evening is impeccably salvaged, as though nothing has happened at all.

The two violent men seem embarrassed; they casually lower, and put away their armaments. The schooling she has received is often overlooked. Yet, she has learned to be the one with power, among armed men. Each is charmed by her strong presence, her control over the airs around them. Soon they are individually introduced to skillful hostesses, who guide both in separate directions with refinement, towards interesting conversations, flavours, and pleasures.

Entertainers appear just in time and quickly gather a crowd, eager for a distraction. She moves aside, admiring their fire juggling and acrobatics, enjoying the expressions of the watchers. Their ‘ooh’s and ‘aaah’s of fascination revive the room to its former glorious state. The delight of her guests has wholly resumed. She is indeed, the mistress, tonight.

People have sometimes laughed when she mentioned her education. “Just a party school”, they would call it.

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Sayre of Apomixis

I traveled for six days before reaching the desolate Apomixis Manor. I finally saw it, it’s small stone structure fragile against the wind. As I approached it, the level of decay the building had suffered over the years became slightly distressing. The roof of the second floor had long since been abandoned, and the ceiling of the ground base was reinforced with nothing but hay to keep the rain out. It all looked as though it might fall apart at any moment.

I knocked at the dusty and moldy front door and received no answer. I was about to start calling out, when I heard a sudden, gay laughter emerge from the back of the manor; it pierced the gloomy atmosphere with a sudden brand of warmth. Following the voice, I walked along a high and overbearing hedge trying to circle the enclosed garden area. I suddenly came upon a serious looking man in an outdated soldiers uniform. He took a moment to look me over and said:

“Are you lost, sir? The last village is long passed west and there is nothing around here expect the hills and the cliffs.”

“I don’t think I am lost.” I said. I showed him the picture I had of Apomixis, given, from over 20 years ago.
“I was told that Lady Sayre is…” I chose my word wisely, “…housed here. I have news she needs to hear. Do you happen to be Private Gull?”

The man was satisfied with my answer, turned around and led me to the back of the manor, “We have waited a long time for news.”

The knowledge of my message sank heavily within me. “When was the last time?”

“About 16 years ago. Back when we asked for provisions. You know,” he sighed, stopping to look up at the broken stone structure. “I was still trying to save the original roof back then.” We turned the corner to see the ajar back door, which had no doubt become the usual point of entry. He continued: “Mrs. Celina, oh, she’s been wanting those tomato seeds. And the Lady, she had wanted a dog at the time.”

We entered a small and humid kitchen. There were small bouquets, garlands and wreaths of wild flowers everywhere, livening up the dark, mossy stone. Jars of honeys, conserves, and jams lined the back wall, gleaming in the sunlight. A table with three chairs, that seemed to have been fixed with leftover materials time and time again, were set close to the door where the spring air invaded. A small fire burned in the hearth, crackling happily.

An elderly woman entered from the right, fresh fruits caught up in her apron. When she saw me, she let go of her plunder, fruit bounced and rolled on the floor.
“A visitor?” she said with disbelief. She could only be Mrs. Celina.

“News for the Lady,” Gull said, still standing next to me said.

“I’ll prepare some tea,” the elder said nervously. “Fetch her from the garden” she ordered the soldier.

I followed him through a small corridor and out a side door into the Apomixis yard. He went ahead of me and disappeared in a mass of vegetation; flowers grew in every corner, vegetables claimed plots of land in all areas, trees grew splendidly, creating lapses of shade and light and making the small garden seem like a large forest. I saw goats eating shrubbery happily, chickens wandering freely, and a cat purring softly on a patch of grass. Clouds overhead parted, revealing patches of bright blue sky and adding a warm glow to the scene. An unseen cicada serenaded the light, while a honey-bee hive in a flowery expanse sung the harmonies.

I was mesmerised; this is how they had survived all this time this far from civilization. Despite their misfortune, the three isolated here had built a paradise, a wonder hidden from the rest of the world. Some people feel the rain, others just get wet.

The Private then emerged from the thicket with Lady Sayre, wearing a lightweight gown in shades of pink, no doubt dyed with flower colouring. She must have been in her early forties, but seemed to have kept herself young through the years. She smiled and welcomed me, invited me back indoors. I regretted leaving the sight of the beautiful garden behind.

We sat at the official dining room of the house, which obviously hadn’t been used in years. Mrs. Celina seemed to have hastily dusted it, but it still felt stuffy and like forced formality. After allowing the three inhabitants of Apomixis to take a sip of tea, I cut to the chase.

“Lady Sayre, 19 years ago, in the role of what can only be described as ‘hostage’, you, your personal nurse Mrs. Celina, and your cousin who was enrolled in the national army, Private Gull, were to be housed here until conflicts were resolved.”

They don’t really react; they know all this already. I take a deep breath and continue.

“About three years later, those who had negotiated your position were executed, without mentioning your situation, or your whereabouts. Your home city was ravaged by invaders, and your immediate family was unfortunately killed. Not long after that, a peace was brokered, and your position as detainee was fully forfeited, if not completely…forgotten.”

She speaks promptly: “Thank you very much for bringing me news of my family…though I will grieve greatly, I had of course imagined such an end by now.”

She doesn’t seem to realize what I am trying to explain.

“I humbly apologize if I have not been clear…You could have left this house 16 years ago without triggering any consequences. No one remembered you were locked away, the discovery was only made a few days ago.
You are free, Lady Sayre. I am authorized to bring you back to the capital at once, and a rather generous compensation will be given for this horrible mistake.”

The Private seemed somewhat uncomfortable, while the elder was smiling to herself and shaking her head stubbornly. The Lady looked at me like I were a naïve child.

“I think, sir,” she said with a powerful voice, “that the first order of business regarding compensation, would be to fulfill our original order.”

I looked at her slightly confused.

“Mrs. Celina really would appreciate a stock of tomato seeds, and a large guard dog of a friendly breed would be incredibly beneficial.”

“Your original order? But, you don’t need to live here anym-”

“Sir,” she slammed as she stood, her chin high.

“Return from where you came, and get me what I need to fix my home!”