Disclaimer- I own nothing except the Robin.
Can't take all the credit for this. The imagery of black vines and red blossoms was actually from a review left by 'Sparrow'. I hope S/he doesn't mind that I used it, as I thought it was lovely.
Thanks so much to everyone who reviewed my last Gormenghast fic ('Once'). This is for all of you.
The frost claimed everything.
It was a stealthy thief, appearing in the night to cover Gormenghasts towers and rooftops. The lake was a frozen looking glass, the only colour was the black vines that clung to the ancient stones, and the dying red blossoms, their petals, one by one, detaching themselves and mournfully falling to the ground, making no interruption to the quiet.
She had woken very early, when it was still not properly light outside. Despite the pans between her sheets, her hands were still freezing, her feet tinged blue with the cold.
She sat at her window, watching the first tendrils of the morning unfurl over the castle. Gormenghast seemed a very different place, when hidden beneath that twinkling white sheen. At this time of the morning, when there was no-one to tell her off, no-one walking through the little cobbled streets that she could see from her balcony- when it was so quiet, and so still, that she could have been walking through a dream and not known it.
She had been in a sort of doze, and the sudden intruder to her unmoving morning caught her by surprise.
A tall figure, dressed in black, walking slowly beneath her window. She gasped, withdrawing a little. Who else would be awake at this time, and who would be walking around in this cold?
She received her answer when the man, who had before been considering something cupped in his hands, looked upwards, directly at her, as if he had known she was there all along.
Those steel-cold eyes, the paleness of his face, the curiosity in his expression- who else could it have been?
The two looked at each other for a long minute, each surprised by the other's presence. Then, almost tentatively, he smiled up at her, lifting one hand to wave.
She could not help returning the smile, blushing a little, not sure whether or not to wave in return.
What would Nanny say, if only she could have read Fuchsia's mind at that moment- her delight, to see Steerpike standing there in the little courtyard, smiling at her?
He raised a finger to his lips, silencing her if she had been about to say anything. He held out his other hand, clasped firmly around something. Slowly, to indulge her curiosity further, he unfurled his grip one finger at a time, his grace captivating.
Fuchsia unlatched the window and leant out, anxious to see what he was hiding from her.
Frightened and timid in his hand, was a little bird. It's black beady eyes shone out from its feathered brown head. Red-breasted and plump, it seemed to twitch agitatedly, scouring the skies, wishing for freedom.
It was a beautiful little thing, and to see it so well delighted her. She laughed a little, and the bid ruffled its feathers. Steerpike's smile grew, and he released it.
It wasted no time, immediately taking off into the grey morning sky. Its wings carried it quickly away from its prisoner, up into the coldness, away from the castle and out to wherever it wanted to go.
Fuchsia stared after it for a long while, envying it, startled by its poignancy. It could go anywhere it wanted to, it was free to do what it liked.
She thought that perhaps Steerpike was trying to put something across to her, and she thought that maybe she understood it's symbolism, in that one quiet moment.
She looked down, and he had gone. Fast and silent as the bird itself, and she was disappointed. She closed the window and leant against the glass, and did not hear the door behind her opening softly.
"Lady Fuchsia." He said timidly, announcing his arrival. The young girl jumped, turning to face him. He could have written endless prose about her eyes, how wide and blue they were.
"You frightened me." She said, feeling as though she should whisper.
"Please forgive me. I only came to see that you were well."
"Well, yes. I am." She murmured, her heart still thumping quickly, and not only because he had scared her.
"I'll leave you, then." He said politely, going to the door. Just as she had been about to protest against his departure, he turned around and said to her, "Did you like the bird?"
"Yes." She said, hoping he would stay.
"I caught it for you." He said sincerely, watching the colour rise in her cheeks. "And I set it free for you."
She bowed her head, shy, and he smiled again, turning to leave. When out of the door, he chanced another look back at her, and she was as beautiful as ever, sitting framed at the window, her long dark hair mussed from sleep, her wide blue eyes that seemed to see things far away.
"And one day," he whispered to the girl that could not possibly have heard him, "I will set you free too."