Monday, April 18, 2011

Castle: Balthazar the Urisk

Those of you walking the gardens come across...

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by Prue Batten
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My legs were as heavy as lead after walking up and down so many stairs in the castle. If you ask me they move too freely, rather like stairs in another castle I know of. I had come to an outer doorway, this one impressively studded with ironwork and with a huge ring the shape of a snake swallowing its own tail. The door was cut into the wall of the castle and towered over me as if it had been made for a giant. Perhaps it had. In the castles in Bruges anything is likely.

I turned the ring, shuddering as my fingers closed over the cold bronze of the snake’s head, the latch clicked and I leaned forward to push with all my might. But the door opened before my shoulder met the wood, swinging wide so that I fell through the opening into a garden lit subtly by moonlight.

It was flowered in white, the petals catching moonbeam after moonbeam and turning the place into an ivory dreamscape. Ahead of me a white marble fountain spurted delicately into the air, creating a musical sound as the droplets fell back into the sculpted shell bowl.

‘Pretty, isn’t it?’

I jerked around and saw a darker shadow against the blackness of the garden walls. ‘Who’s there? Show yourself.’ I trembled and my hands clenched.

‘Have no fear, mistress. I shall not hurt you. I may be Other but I am as like to give you good fortune as bad.’ The voice had soft edges and was modulated to reach me with no effort on the part of the speaker.

‘Sir, if you mean me no harm then could you be so kind as to show yourself? I swear my heart may stop its frenzy if I may see to whom I speak…’ I bit the inside of my cheek. ‘I don’t mean to offend,’ I hastily added.

He moved forward into the light of the moon and I sucked in my breath. He stood a head or more taller than myself. He wore a flowered damask tailcoat and a silk vest striped in the muted colours of the flowers. His stock was pristine white and crisply tied showing a degree of fastidiousness that I warmed to. His taupe coloured locks were abundant and he smoothed his hand through them to reveal two small horns curling heavenward. As he walked toward me, his cloven hooves click-clacked on the flagstones of the path. A urisk! No! Only bad luck shall come my way.

‘I shall not cast bad fortune upon you, my dear, not tonight.’ He bowed in front of me as he spoke but his words hardly comforted.

‘But you might tomorrow night?’ I asked.

‘Perhaps. It depends how much I enjoy our encounter. Shall we walk under the rose arbor?’

I could hardly refuse and allowed him to take my hand and slip it through the crook of his arm where it rested on the damask. ‘The fabric in your tailcoat is truly superb, Sir Urisk.’

‘It is, is it not? I confess to liking apparel. It has the capacity to make my mood improve. I noticed your wrap in the moonlight. The gauze silk caught the beams and trapped them there and they seemed to jump all over the silver embroideries.’

‘It comes from the Raj. I purchased it at the Stitching Fair in Trevallyn.’

‘Then perhaps you met the embroiderer Adelina there. She is one who is protected by Others you know.’

‘So I have heard. It was unfortunate I did not meet her but I would like to see the robe she embroidered.’ If I manage to avoid the bad luck that shall surely come my way.

‘Ah, the robe. It tells a dangerous and dark story. Have a care mistress, if you see it. Remember it is a warning from an urisk.’ He tapped my hand as it lay over his arm. ‘If you go to Veniche, you must visit the Di Accia palace, Lady. You must see the collection of glass paperweights they call A Thousand Glass Flowers. Trust me when I say they are not at all what they seem.’

‘Sir Urisk, I am learning that nothing is as it seems in this world. I am by turns fascinated and frightened.’

‘Then I have a proposition, dear one.’ He looked at me and I noticed how lovely his face was, not at all terrifying and very strong, even compassionate.

My eyebrows rose in enquiry and we stood and stared at the light of the moon stretching in a line as solid as a road across a small lake.

‘Indeed. I propose that you give me your silk wrap and I shall give you my name. By having my name, you have armour against the malfeasant and can call upon me for help anytime you need me.’

‘Oh!’ I laughed softly as I pulled the wrap from my shoulders. ‘With pleasure,’ I said as I passed it to him.

He laid it round his neck, holding the ends so that they hung evenly either side of his chest. Then he turned and began walking toward the lake and I sighed, realising I may have just been played like a harp-string.

‘Balthazar,’ he called as he stepped onto the moonbridge. ‘Just say Balthazar when you need support.’ And with that he was gone as if he had never been at all, leaving an empty space filled with the ivory of a moonlit night.


Balthazar the Urisk post created for Fairy Tales in Bruges event by Prue Batten author of The Stumpwork Robe and The Last Stitch © 2011. All rights reserved.

~-~-~-~-~ guest ~-~-~-~-~
by Prue Batten
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Read more about Balthazar here...

--~ Book Giveaway courtesy of author ~--

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The Stumpwork Robe
The Last Stitch (sequel)
by Prue Batten

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* image source moonbridge

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