Facing the Twilight
by Rachel Parsons
Table of Contents
Chapter 2, part 1; part 2
appears in this issue.
Princess Rhiannon of New Fairy was a prodigal daughter of a king, forced by circumstance into a life of prostitution before returning to her father. Though freed from her servitude, Rhiannon has suffered a terrible curse and must appear naked at all times, vulnerable and cold.
As she resumes her rightful place in the world, she encounters dark sorcery, the evil of men, the intrigue of enemies and her own inner conflicts. She now confronts two crises at once: the menace of the offworlders and an ancient conflict between dragons and men.
“God, you’re naked and beautiful!”
I nearly jumped out of my skin. I placed my right hand between my bosoms.
“Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“Well, you did. And look what you made me do.” I pride myself on my penmanship, and I had just smeared the ink all over the document I was working on. I crumpled up the parchment and threw it across my office for Rhonda, my secretary, to pick up. “And stop staring at me.”
“Again, I apologize.” My visitor did not stop his vacant peer. But he did shift his head from his left hand to his right. Big difference that made. “It’s just that you are naked and beautiful.”
“You just said that.”
He held his head to better take in my chambers. The pot bellied stove to my left, which had the percolator on it, the one fine wooden step, freshly waxed, that led to the blessed fireplace, the leather sofa and chairs surrounding it. He took in the Western rugs I had attached to the walls, the double crossed swords on the southern wall of the lower arena. His eyes finally came to rest again on my bosoms.
“Would you please put your head back on your neck; you’re giving me chills.” I shuddered.
“I could ask you to put some clothes on. But you don’t see me doing that, do you?”
“I am cursed by a witch to be naked. I cannot put clothes on, lest my kingdom die.”
“You’re the queen, then? Excuse me for saying so, but you don’t look very regal. I expect queens to have flowing long blond hair, not short black hair. Not to mention to be wearing fine gowns. I do admit, your breasts are queen sized, though.”
“You are very blunt, sirrah, as well as very dead. You do know you are dead?”
“I suspected as much,” he said, putting his head back where it belonged. “It seemed the only explanation for why my head was three meters from my body when I woke up. Ever try giving directions to your sightless body? It took a while for George here to catch up with where I was.”
“You name your body?”
“Not my whole body,” he said, his eyes moving to a small part of him. He saw me looking at it, and got embarrassed. “Pretty limp, I’m afraid. But my hormone levels seem down. Death will do that to you, I suppose.”
“You were leering at me, sirrah, when you first manifested. Now why are you bothering me? You are clearly a soldier. The war with the offworlders is past. You should be halfway to Valhalla, or wherever you Earthmen go when you die heroically.”
“Did I die heroically?’
“You are in the greens of combat, your head is severed; you reckon it out.”
“I’m still adjusting to the fact I’m dead and you can see me. Are you some kind of medium, or something?”
“Those goddamn scullions will be the death of me!”
I looked past my visitor to see Rosalyn, the controller of my royal household, come storming in; her brown locks heaving spasmodically. She was dressed in a two-piece, emerald gown, cinched in the middle. On her girdle were the usual scissors, perfume bottles, and clippers, but she also sported a whisky flask, a bodkin, and my death sword, as I have no place to cradle it.
She walked through the spirit, grabbed a coffee cup from the peg by the stove; poured out some of the black gold. She then, holding the coffee in one hand, managed to one handedly take the whisky flask, unscrew its lid with her mouth, and pour some of its contents into the cup. She took a lingering sip.
“I take it she can’t see me,” the ghost said.
“Of course I can see you, you idiot. You think I’m blind?”
“But you walked right through me.”
“That’s because you were between me and the stove.”
“Rosalyn likes to be direct, both in speech and in her manner of walking.”
“But wouldn’t you normally go around someone?” The soldier seemed confused.
“You’re head is only resting on your neck, you have a sickly green complexion, and you smell of the grave. I was pretty sure you were just a spirit.”
Leave it to Rosalyn, I thought, to have no respect for the dead.
“Now why are you bothering my mistress?” she demanded.
“We were just getting to that,” I replied. I gave him an ‘hmmmm?’ expression, cradling my right hand under my neck. With my left, I took the proffered coffee. It had been for me; I had graciously allowed my lady in waiting to take a swig. She also had buskins; I was barefoot. If she stomped me, it would really hurt.
“I guess I came to you to find out why I died.” He looked somber. Many dead people do. To them, death is not a laughing matter.
“But I did not summon you. Without your skull I lack the ability. And the dead usually avoid me because they know in my presence I can command them.”
“You can command the dead?” He was incredulous.
Rosalyn handed me my death sword. I pointed it at him. “Stand on one foot!” I ordered. He complied. Rosalyn’s eyes met mine and we burst out laughing.
“All right. You’ve made your point. Can I put my foot down now?”
“So be it.” He relaxed. “Now, sirrah, is it not obvious that you died in the war?” I handed Eligor back to Rosalyn, who sheathed it with a smirk.
“But that’s just it. I wasn’t in the war.”
“Then why are you in a soldier’s uniform?”
“No idea. I was the son of the ambassador. My father had paid some poor slob to take my place in the army. By right, he should be the one dead.”
“The Terran envoy is here, mistress.” This was the day for my privacy to be interrupted. Gondryn, one of my heralds, had opened the door with this announcement.
“I hate to barge in like this...”
The Terran envoy had not waited. She had almost knocked poor Gondryn over. A tall, severe woman, from one of their southern continents, with skin even darker than my suns-baked one, marched in. She was in what they call a ‘power suit’, a gray skirt that came below her knees but immodestly exposed her ankles, a gray vest over a blouse (women wear blouses on their world, not men), and a light gray jacket. There were stripes up and down her.
“Mother!” The boy cried. The envoy stopped speaking, stared at him. Then her eyes rolled up in her head, and she fell into a crumpled gray mess. She farted on the way down.
“Inconsiderate, these offworlders. Did she not realize someone is going to have to pick her up?” Rosalyn exclaimed.
Copyright © 2006 by Rachel Parsons