Author's Note: Genesis hates making appearances and my brother deleted a large chunk of this which I had to, painstakingly, re-write, thus slow update. Also, I have a fear and fascination with ravens. On writing this chapter I discovered that I love tormenting Sephiroth. Poor guy...Screw sympathy – he was asking for it! :) and you have no idea how irritating it is to write him human!
On this story: Some people have asked if this is to be an OC based story. I will say it now: No, they're just devices that don't steal the stage at any point.
Soundtrack: Symphony No.5 in D Minor: III Largo – Shostakovich.
Chapter II: Besieged
"The sickness – the nausea – the pitiless pain-
Have ceased, with the fever that maddened my brain –
With the fever called "Living" that burned in my brain."
~ Edgar Allan Poe (1849 – 'For Annie')
The harrowing events of the day ceased in his time. The darkness shied away at the illumination of the candle. A flickering flame crowning a blackening wick melting wax down a silver holder made the shadows separate and loom in corners, scraggly arms reaching in futility to encircle and engulf the room in black silk.
The scratching of a quill and the tousling of papers made the silence sit in wait...somewhere far off yet crawling nearer. Sephiroth could make do with the soundlessness, the slightest unhinged moments seemed rather befitting for him. It gave him solace, despite its eeriness and disjointed occurrences, it had a quite sublime effect on him. Aside from that, he would take whatever moment of quiet as peace and allowed disconnecting words and unsolved phrases to occupy his senses.
By the time wax drowned the silver holder, the moon glowed like iridescent moths clouding round a lantern aloft in the sea of black. Limbs weary, desiring rest, yet Sephiroth's mind stayed in conscious, searching widely for an obscure sign hidden in ink and yellowing paper. Perhaps desperation led him to his restlessness, in all it seemed not even Queen Mab could whisk him off to a fanciful land of dreams.
It refused to make much sense to him – this ordeal with Sir Walter Rhapsodos. Surely, he must have flushed skin and a beating organ in a home of rib and lung, though the scenes in which he witnessed argued against his hopes. There was this new boy, Genesis, and Sephiroth frowned sharply at the mere thought of his name. It seemed like a cruel joke, a distasteful one that a grave be marked with a name, which defined 'New Beginning'. He was a sceptic, believed in only which held profound reasoning, and rather sought out answers independently.
He pressed his palms to his eyes, vision blurring at the lateness of the hour. Collecting himself once more, he went back to staring almost mindlessly at two dissimilar works. Angeal had called them fraudulent, just sheets with sinister drivel, however, Sephiroth disbelieved his friend, he found a truth.
He glanced over his own scribble again, understood his friend's scepticism:
12th June 1883, Sir Walter Rhapsodos enters the literary scene. Fanciful romance occupies much of the earliest tales. Exceedingly successful, becomes a prominent figure of literature...
...17th April, 1888, Sir Walter Rhapsodos' proposals are rejected from this date onward. Talk of his name dwindles. Works lack his infamous use of light Romanticism. Words are transitioning from white to black. Madness. Disjointed phrases...No sign of wanting to praise readers...
Comparing the works of differing dates, they both within themselves held no similarity, in context and writing, though what remained a constant was the signature scrawled at the bottom. The latest piece was written hurriedly, a little sketchy as if the hand which writ was unused to writing or in excruciating pain. Numerous words were struck through with bold lines. The content was darker, spoke of ravens and anguish, betrayal and murder.
It seemed blasphemous for a man with such a gentle heart who wrote joyous stories of love, manifested his hand to write fiendish tales of beasts and maggots. Was it wrong for Sephiroth to say that he found them so much more intriguing? However, the disturbance grew out of context as well. Droplets of blood bordered the pages, smeared over words in tones of red, but what troubled him the most was the repetitive line etched so delicately at the bottom of each page:
"He reaps a song I do miss."
The meaning was lost on him, and he found himself incapable of any interpretation. He spent numerous hours and an incalculable sum of paper, ink and quill (always snapping in his hands from frustration) questioning the properties and possible hidden value in the vague, unrelated sentence. His discoveries brought him to a conclusion: it made utterly no sense.
It was rather unlike a Rhapsodos to be so wasteful with words. He heard them a poetic bunch, having done something extraordinary with a small country town in the matter of a few generations once they decided to expand their wealth for the town's aid. It must be stressed that that was what he heard. They led secretive lifestyles, so secret that Sephiroth, a man who obtained their state records had never come to know of a Genesis Rhapsodos. He knew of a brother – some younger man with an unsociable persona – but not as far as knowing the name of 'Genesis'.
A stifling issue it was.
Breaking himself from pointless distractions and unnecessary extra puzzles, he slumped forward onto the desk and held the distressing sentence before his eyes as if inspecting the fibres of the paper, hoping so much for the meaning to approach him in a rush so he could pack up and leave for Midgar, abandoning his disappointment.
Sephiroth sighed and let the sheet drift from his hands, held aloft by a draught and came swinging to the carpeted floor. Dispassionately, he grunted and proceeded to gather it up. An unnaturally cold chill permeates his skin. He stiffened, and dropped the paper again, deserting it at the ground and allowed the surreal sensation to seep from him – almost luring him.
A squawk cut the air and Sephiroth swiftly turned his head to the window. Curtains ajar, he caught only a small assembly of black and the dark outlines of a barren tree, limbs seemingly grasping the window. There was a tapping on the glass, like a stone beating the window. Slowly he stood and eyed the gap in thick velvet. Hopping into the stream of moonlight, its deathly being blackened the room in a consuming flame of darkness. Pointed beaked and cloaked in black, bead eyes penetrated his soul and with a final succession of tapping beak to glass, it froze as if petrified, a haunting presence in those onyx dots stuck to a narrow head, then vanished in a flurry of black wings and night sky.
Sephiroth thought not of what to make from it, but the curiosity of the act instead. How odd for a raven to dare tap at his window. Then again, he thought, had it truly been for me? Taking in his surroundings again, he was brought to memory of the recently deceased. Even in consideration, it was perturbing still, but he blearily shook his head at the nonsense of societal omens and Vanitas – they did not apply to him.
Turning to the desk, he made for a return to his previous affairs, yet his actions halted. A soft light glowed past the crack of door and floor, lingering for a few moments before disappearing beyond the far corner. A frown settled on his face. What would that careless woman possibly be doing at such an hour? Although, she failed to make herself known and the dull tone of light, feminine footsteps did not echo, but rather a fluttering of silk. Would she wear silk garments? Sephiroth thought not and met the door with a gentle turn of the knob.
Cold brass bit his hand, he retracted with a snap of his wrist and made a dash for his rifle as the crows in the willow larked. He knew his actions silly, so foolish, but his upbringing told him otherwise, and the creaking of the thirteenth step on the stairs motioned an unlikeable guest.
Opening the door, he slid out of the room and had it shut. Sound escaped and the world turned black.
"Madam Lockhart?" he called, advancing down the hall, somewhere in the abyss of his mind hoping to be greeted by her.
Reaching the passageway, he debated his search and rather than proceed he spoke her name, "Miss Tifa?"
With lack of response, but the roar of troubled winds beating against the stone facade of this lonely, old house, Sephiroth turned back to the hallway and clutched his heart at the startling sight. In the faint amber glow of a candle in silver holder aloft by translucent fingers, he could discern an unfamiliar figure clothed in night's velvet with ebony breeches and a charcoal coat, staring transfixed at the chamber door. But the vision wavered like a flickering flame and the witch's hour struck loudly on the grandfather clock breaking an anxious reaction from Sephiroth who drew his eyes to the knell-like sound downstairs.
The candle's light frightened by an unknown breeze and the ghostly image burst into darkness. He remained rigid, lacking ability in movement as if the nails rose from the floorboards and impaled through leather, flesh and bone, had him locked painfully to the spot. Sephiroth could not help the all-consuming sense of dread for both sound and soundlessness, which swelled in his innards a tight, unrelenting knot.
The scrape of branches, the tempest brewed in the heavens – of crashing thunder and blinding lightning, which ignited the house in eerie white, the incessant tick of the grandfather clock all met to a crescendo marked by a horrible squawk of a large shadow, for a tiny black bird. He thought himself to have become mad, for surely – so surely! – that raven by the window, framed by withered roses and two of the richest ruby, had turned the darkest shade of red and unravelled the secrets hidden deep within his soul with those piercing eyes of raw black diamonds before taking flight on blood-dyed wings.
Devoid of noise the house became, and the tempest began to ease till only the soft patter of rain on windows remained. The dark corners became friendlier and the winds stilled, the silvery light of the moon casts its romantic glow over the roses. An eerie peace filled the atmosphere, made the air more fragrant as he filled his lungs. He stayed fixed for some quiet moments, senses tingling for the slightest of disturbances in the house. Nothing peculiar made itself known, so he took a tentative step followed in succession with a vaguely human groan permeating through the floorboards. A quick fright it gave him, but the low guttural sounds did not cease and the clatter of steel to timber jolted him to an undignified state of his man while the groans turned to animalistic howls, which screeched in his ears a melody of pain and the sharpest slices of agony.
Sephiroth fled for the chamber door, giving blame to his childish imagination, grasped the brass handle and frowned deeply. Viscous, like ink it stained his hands, warm and metallic in scent swirling so bitterly around him he choked. Silver light streaming upon the thick, dripping fluid showed the richest red. He stared dumbly at his soiled appendage, face turning pallid as he wondered briefly what animal had been slain before his thoughts crossed to a shadowed human face clamouring for a god. He took the handle again and hauled himself beyond the doorframe, staggering so pitifully he then forced himself upon the table. Blindly did Sephiroth reach for the papers, so multitudinous against his shape of trepidation he lost his balance thrice in stuffing his suitcase, and the blood wetted the words, secreted those contents in smears of red.
What point is there, this thought did enter, and that bird called for him again in its discordant, mocking song more like a shriek to his ears. Sephiroth knocked his inkwell in his haste, and the black charged towards him like some fast growing vine of a deep shadow so prepared to engulf him into the abyss. A madness welled in him, he cursed at the stagnant raven, knowing the smugness placed to the ominous beak and laughed back at it, hurtling out the door with what little he could fill his suitcase with.
He staggered about as if drunk on opium, eyes wide and vigilant. Breaths rasped, Sephiroth was lost in the darkness, guided by the flashes from the daggers of the worsening storm. Life was risen in the house, in every object of every state, their sight met him in sinister glows and dull green eyes remained unblinking at the coiling of the flowers in the paintings– from dove white to lark brown and crow black, till they fell away from bloom to ash. Strides urgent, hands quaking, he reached the stairs and the carpet so red, had its dye still fresh with that vile odour of death and torn flesh.
Rapidly did he descend those stairs, and Sephiroth missed the thirteenth step, tripped, but caught himself at the rail, before charging down all that did remain, tearing off the scrabbling wispy arms of cold shadows in the entrance hall, knocking down that azure vase to a myriad of jagged fragments. The door failed to open, and he moaned his discontent, cursing loudly as he beat his exit with the weight of his body. Drawing out his rifle, he shot the handle, and turned to fire blindly at the accursed demons following in his path in the black.
Running through the swinging door, released by a brutal wind, he found himself in the jungle of tall grasses. Closing his mind to the unforgiving world, he cringed at the raven that stood by the gate, which he so hastened for, and desperately wrenched the high thorned weeds tirelessly from his garb, cutting his hands and tainted the grim in red in a distinct trail, the rain taking his body into a grip of cold tightening around his chest. He neared, so close from what he could discern through the blur of pounding rain, and knew he trod heavily on the head of a rat that he could faintly note upon amiss the disorderly yard.
Sephiroth grasped that wrought-iron gate and sneered at the bird, "Let me out!" he cried, rattling the black gate, "Let me out and I shan't return to disturb your peace!"
His answer was the fluttering of wide wings as it became one with the unlit sky. Sephiroth shook from the cold as the elements waged war against his wretched soul. He faced the house, mindlessly thinking to seek its refuge. A harsh wind thrust him against the gate, sharp pain striking his spine, the rain blinded him, swirled dirt, and debris into his silver hair. His breaths quickened to a furiously thrashing heart, and those tendrillar arms surged towards him, caressed his colourless face, holding him with a sickening tenderness that sapped the fire from his mind, arousing a perilous weariness.
Fatigued green eyes fought relentlessly to remain open as that unnatural cold – from the tempest and the black – imbued beyond his garments and skin, brought his flesh and heart into an icy resolve – rain wetting his very soul. Vaguely he could feel in the midst of shadows, a surreal touch, one more human, yet not quite for its deficiency of warmth. And the caress was so familiar, so gentle, so real...Sephiroth could not subdue the fear, nor the smile at the comforting fingers splayed across his bicep and the hand so tenderly placed to his cheek. He saw none aside from indistinct hazes of the sinister world, but he felt and his need of rest was calling to him so sweetly resistance of such a temptation was treacherous to his person. So blearily Sephiroth swayed, sensed the presence of someone so indistinct had he the strength he would have questioned their substance – a work of god or of his mind? – and down he fell by the iron gate to lock himself in thorns and weeds.
He closed his eyes to red and black.
Dust sprinkled in the air, glinted like diamond grains in the majestic golden light filtering through lace curtains. Patterns danced across the carpet, of roses and arabesque, the thick velvet curtains drawn apart somewhere in the night to allow the sun its welcoming radiance. Gentle fingers wove through silken silver, a sweet caress that soothed the man with a pleasant rest and eased the perturbed furrow of brows into a patrician grace that all ignited his face into its most handsome, peaceful state.
Sephiroth stirred mildly in his uncomfortable position and those fingers halted their foray in silver streams. A soft sigh sounded, and they swept across the small grimace dishonouring his features, having it fade in all of the touch's tenderness, leaving in its place the faintest upturned quirk of pink lips. Slowly the man was roused from his sleep, thought the pleasing caresses a figment of his now forgotten dream, still lingering was that lovely sensation so rich in gentleness it calmed him, had him yearning to rest for much longer. His own curiosity betrayed him, as if somewhere in the many caverns of his mind he wanted that surreal touch to be real, and he opened his eyes, the touch dissipating in an instant.
For a brief moment he dwelled on the regret which approached him, then felt the ache in his spine and the hard pressure to his cheek. Green eyes adjusting to his peculiar surroundings, his vision was greeted by mahogany, and his face by the rough texture of paper. Lifting his head, a very audible crack sounded from his neck and he groaned in displeasure, then had to confront that he was seated by the cluttered desk of Genesis Rhapsodos.
Last night's events came at him in a rush like a violent wave. He looked about his surroundings, his suitcase still propped by the stately bed, the papers still in a disorderly heap on the desk and his rifle still rested on the bookshelf. Had it been a peculiar dream?, he thought. He stared at his hands, what had been cut and bleeding only showed white palms and the vague image of blue veins spread beneath his skin like forest waterways – not a hint of any injury had been left, but the scarring details held evident only in his memory. Though, could his mind lie to himself? Sephiroth did not wish to believe in such.
Whoever it had been that willed away those demons in his approach to awakening was still faceless. Having quite clearly not been Miss Tifa (for she was not, and rather polite of her, in this room), he resolved to allowing the gentle touches belong to an indiscernible figure whom he had grown to call his mother for such tender caresses were all he knew of her – possibly something he gathered while he was in her womb. Sephiroth shook his head at his own menial and outlandish thoughts, he knew for himself that an unborn child's mind had not yet functioned to remember or to recognise such things for the birth's later life.
Rising from the chair, he stretched momentarily and frowned deeply. He was certain that the curtains were not open so wide last night. Had Miss Tifa made an entrance and opened them for him? He needed to talk to that woman; did she not know that it was discourteous to enter the rooms of guests when uninvited? Yet something within him sent word that the woman could not have drawn such heavy curtains apart – she was a lumbering, fragile wreck. She would have done something terribly pitiful like snap her wrist or tear the velvets, and she was a maid. Had she been in the room she would have tended to him (which she most clearly had not by the red mark on his cheek from the hard wood of the desk).
It felt utterly odd sitting in that room so filled with an untainted serenity. Surely, he did question last night's occurrences for a dream and not a truth, but such thoughts did not stir the image away, but rather reawaken them. Sephiroth had to leave the house, just shortly though, he would not allow himself prolonged distractions from his work. Besides, he had arranged a meeting with Angeal the previous day which he needed attending to, only it was decided for the following day due to careless hopes of spending some time with Sir Walter Rhapsodos.
Donning his coat against the winter cold, he straightened his slightly crumpled attire and made to leave the room. Upon the opening of the door, Miss Tifa screamed and flung herself back to the opposite wall in a shower of silverware and ceramic, startling Sephiroth in the process. Seeing the careless woman, he clenched his fists and fought the desire to wrap his hands round her pale throat.
"Collect yourself woman! What misshapes you? Have you not seen a live man before?" he snapped sardonically, quite irritated by her alarm.
She gave a lame curtsey on shivering legs and sent perplexed brown eyes to livid green, "I...I am dreadfully sorry, sir." she stuttered, voice both somewhat surprised and confused.
Sephiroth simply chose to ignore the maid's peculiarities and shook his head at her words, "Please. Do not bother to state your apologies."
"I –" Her words froze and she clapped her hands over her insolent mouth at the realisation of her error.
Miss Tifa stared up at him, eyes wide and full of timid terror. All he bothered to do in response was scoff, leaving her to her own maid-ly vices, whether she decided to follow those or not caused him no fuss.
Careless woman, would make a dreadful wife, he thought dryly with a wry smirk to his lips, however she became a maid, and the last one of the Rhapsodos house at that, was a mystery that not even her god was quite certain of.
Breakfast was served informally in the kitchen by the small round table. Although he cared naught for flowers, he could not help but grimace at the empty sea-green vase between he and Miss Tifa. Despite her recklessness, she was not an awful cook (perhaps the mystery surrounding her survival and role in the house was not as mystifying as he had thought), though the wordless conversation they engaged in was nothing short of unsettling.
Leaving her to her deeds, he ambled about, remaining in her presence as if undisclosed worries resided within his person – after the experiences of last night, it only felt wise to do so, even if Miss Tifa could not bat away a fly had she tried to. Regardless of the coat he wore, the chill still percolated and he resorted to futilely rubbing his arms for warmth.
Spying Miss Tifa, who stood precariously on a cushioned chair, she showed no signs of effect by the cold, possibly so accustomed to the dramatic weather it gained no reaction from her.
"Are you not cold?" he asked, while she dusted the golden frames of still-life paintings in a red walled corridor.
She cocked her head his way, eyes diverted as if in thought, "I...am not cold."
With that she went back to her duties, missing Sephiroth's bemused frown.
"How is that possible?"
"How is what possible, sir?"
My, the woman was dense! Tilting a silver brow he cleared his throat, grasping her attention and slanted his chin at the thin, tall, heavily curtained window at the end of the hall. Slivers of ice fused to the glasswork forming hills in the corners of the wrought-iron panes like an uneven landscape. A crystallised spider-web spanned from its centre – partly a ruin from the unkind winds – held aloft insects in shimmering white cocoons. The round orb spider had lost a leg and dangled from a long stream of its hardened silk.
"Oh. The windows have frost, sir." she said and turned to him, "Are you cold?"
He would have groaned, but instead nodded slowly. "As for you?" he asked.
Odd. She had not been only moments before. However, Miss Tifa asked him to follow her, and he only complied. Lead back to the room he was to occupy, she curtsied by the door and promised a quick return. He waited patiently, picking up an old, leather-bound book from his satchel and proceeded to read words already read.
"...These violent delights have violent ends and in their triumph die like fire and powder which as they kiss consume..."
With all honesty, he disliked romances, but was always so curious. Sephiroth was not the man to simply let matters be. He found pleasure in analysis no matter what the issue or topic was – he wanted to understand, but perhaps he wanted to understand too much. Was there a limit to how far a man can understand? Did it reach a pinnacle where all perception was not of raw knowledge, but the mind's own conclusions? Not at all a religious man, it did not prevent him from thinking that had he been born utterly detached from society, would he have believed in god and all questions shall be answered by their name – a being too grand they are unimaginable under human ideology?
He shook his head and shut the book. His focus was slipping, mind distracted by the mediocre fancies of what his dear friend had dubbed reality (though of course Sephiroth lived in a very real world and had a very real mind – his outlook and beliefs were not the same as what he dubbed illogical trivia). Gathering his wits and the persona that the previous night had shamefully soiled, he took himself to sit in the very chair he had slept in and put the papers and items into order. A vague shine in the borders of his sight, caught a gleaming item resting in the curiosity cabinet. Providing it his full attention, he approached, sensing rather than seeing.
There was a fine collection of items of mundane things. What good were shrivelled rose petals and a bit of lace? In the centre was a stately cream candle, wicker white and body flawless and around it lay strange objects: a broken pocket watch, an assembly of black feathers, withered autumn leaves, a tattered leather bound book, a wooden artist's model, stones of different stature and the head of a raven.
Pearl coloured, somewhat jewel like, yet utterly hideous with its long, ebon beak formerly used to gouge out flesh and organ from the living and the dead. Sightless, the eyeless gaze still pierced the soul, had Sephiroth entranced by its perpetually menacing character. Stretching his hand above the golden handle, so lustrous it beckoned to be touched. Two soft knocks had him spinning in direction of the door.
"Yes?" he called and the door did open revealing Miss Tifa, dazed and wiping a hand down the whiteness of her apron. Gazing so transfixed, a portion of her body weighed down by the heavy iron axe she held.
He looked at her bleakly, then dumbfounded as he came to, mildly concerned and stupidly – slightly – fearful. But the dainty hand swiping her brow with a white kerchief subdued his worries.
"We are out of firewood, sir."
Sephiroth learned quickly that Miss Tifa seldom held her tongue. She chatted idly on numerous subjects thinking he to be interested on each and all. Even so, he knew that his thoughts were unfair to the poor maid; she having been lonely for the past six weeks since the death of her master, an event which he did not approach due to her ailments.
Together they trudged through the unkempt gardens, Sephiroth having spotted rose bushes – dim and wrapped in thorned ivy (as were much of the other otherwise beauteous plants), and found themselves just beyond the brush into a small clearing in the wood of pine and maple. She directed him to a fell tree, an old one with orange and white fungus which looked like brightly coloured fans decorating its side.
While he swung axe into wood, she stood by watching him, and every so often taking the pieces he cut to a growing pile. She talked also.
"I do not like the winter. So cold and inconvenient," she said, drawing her arms tighter around herself, "The world is in such a miserable state. So dark and uncanny. I find it rather marvellous that you are able to operate, particularly in such a strenuous manner, Mister Sephiroth. Many respects to you, sir. But the cold does trouble me. I abhor the winter."
"I do not mind the winter."
Miss Tifa tilted her head to the side, somewhat bewildered that any being would say such a thing. Though the snow had not yet entirely fallen, the chill was still rather devastating, though he managed to withstand the cold.
"You are not a liquor guzzler are you?" she asked, rolling a block of wood away.
Sephiroth halted mid-strike, before lowering the axe and frowned deeply at her out of complete bemusement, then shook his head and went about his task. His tedious task.
Through the prattle of her voice, his eyes caught the strangest flash of red between two old oaks. Glancing up he saw before him a clear path blanketed in flame-like leaves. There was the barren tree, too large and portentous in its melancholy glory. It glowed with surreal darkness, casting black light upon the plain gray stone where one raven trod cautiously before beating its wings up into the spindly branches, swinging in icy winds.
He turned suddenly at his name and met the concerned dark eyes of the maid. He payed her little mind, simply inclining his head in her direction and pulled out the axe only to stab it hard into the heart of the tree.
As the dull sun shared its last flares over the wooded hill, Sephiroth dumped the final load of chopped wood in a storeroom by the kitchen while Miss Tifa took charge of warming the palatial house, not leaving even one dark corner sombre.
"I like the light," she had said when tossing matches into the fireplace, "It is the light of God Mister Sephiroth. Do you believe in God, sir? I believe you do. Such a fine, handsome, charming, noble man as you always believes in God. How gracious God is, Mister Sephiroth, how masterful. We shall thank him for this day, and in advance we shall thank him for the next."
And all the while she muttered prayers as if she dwelled rather in a monastery than the stricken, empty, stone house she nursed like a mother without children.
The day waned and Sephiroth admitted himself to the room he was given, set on completing or at least discovering something he had missed many times before. While he read, he felt the throbbing in his temples, a sure sign of mental strain. Truly, he felt so stricken in that chair and at that desk, head resting in his hands as he stared at those papers hoping for an answer to make itself appear in simple language. He knew that these texts would not answer themselves, he needed the ulterior information that he was certain the maid did possess. He needed not just the content of these words, but rather the context in which they were written.
And there was that nuisance of the dead brother he had to concern himself with. Just who was he, what role did he play in this house and why is it that he was never mentioned? There was another brother, a nameless one, who had died from a disease that no one knew of, then there was Walter himself, somewhat arrogant and sinful and, to his own discovery, some clandestine soul shrouded in shadows.
Genesis Rhapsodos, he thought, dipping his quill into ink and pushed the papers aside for a piece of clear parchment and wrote.
You baffle me in all of your existence.
He held the paper before himself and smirked wryly at his dry humour – the irony in those words...
Then came a tapping, like a stone gently rapping, yet so loudly, at the panelled window. Please don't let it be, he thought, closing his eyes and dulling the sound with the empty void of his mind...soon echoing the irritating tapping till his thoughts were filled by rage and aggravation. Standing up to his terrifying height and hurling the chair to its side, hearing a crack as timber split, he charged towards the window, pulled back those velvet and lace curtains flirtatiously hiding the hideous raven outside. It gazed deeply into his angry eyes, analysed the nature of his man from the very soul to the clothes he donned.
Sephiroth wrenched the window open, lunging for the neck of that bird, wanting to crush its trachea and delight in the cold blood that would spurt from its dismal eyes, but its wings were much too fast and it flew past him and settled on the desk seemingly paying him no mind. For some moments he stared, stunned at the occurrence, watching that foul bird sift through his papers with its long, carnivorous beak. Their eyes met again and Sephiroth was sure he saw a haughty grin drawn on that black mouth, till it fluttered about, splaying its wings wide across the desk as it tossed aside papers, picking out few from each pile. Then it stopped, having no shame in the disorderly mess it had created, and held one piece of paper in its beak before hopping to the lit candle, setting the corner aflame.
The action startled Sephiroth and he bound towards the bird, death threats coming anew in his mind. The raven dropped the burning paper and fled from him, perching itself on the immaculate cloth draped over the mirror by the vanity table. Alarmed, he tried his best to preserve the text, hurling it to the floor and extinguishing the flame with his boot. Picking it up, he hoped so deeply the text was saved, but a generous quarter turned entirely to ash and the paper itself was black. Yet in the far corner he could discern a few words of the same paragraph, disjointed since the sentences had been burnt, but he could identify the romantic tale of a young man lost in the throes of love. An earlier work.
He faced the raven, highly dissatisfied, but it flicked its head in a most conceited manner before taking flight between the curtains trembling from wintry winds and vanished into the dreary abyss. With a sigh, he shut the window and drew the curtains before righting the chair and planting himself back down into it, mind still lost to the bizarre event. A dispute with a raven. How laughable.
The candle's flame diminished, the silver stream of smoke left in its place. Producing a box of matches from his breast pocket he struck a match only to produce no flame. Again he tried, but the match failed to ignite, so he tried another and another after that, but flames did not come of them. Sephiroth cursed and hammered his fist to the desk, thinking that he should have allowed Miss Tifa to light the fireplace in this room.
His discontent was, however, answered by the dulcet tones of a piano, resonating so clearly through the house and sounding so pleasant to his ears. It calmed his soul and sparked his curiosity...that same gentle, harmonious tune that he had heard the first day. A song of beauty and clarity which seemed so liberating...so redeeming.
Rising from his seat, he carefully left the room and shut the door behind him. He held no flame, instead relying on the silvery glow of the moon through the panelled windows to light his path. Beneath his boots the floorboards creaked and a low unnatural moan came from below. He chose to ignore those sounds, the guttural groans and deep thuds, and followed the entrancing music, but it stopped abruptly as he reached the end of the hall, having had no crescendo.
A draft skimmed lightly over his cheeks, turning his skin numb from the sudden cold. Strange...the house was warm only moments before and Sephiroth dared not think that his mind was being plagued by his own unnatural trepidation. He knew there was something hidden in the black expanse before him, more indigo from the soft light, but its origins (or its figure) did not make itself know in both vision or imagination.
Should I advance? he thought, find the being that I do know exists, yet cannot seem to find? And he felt panic, for the previous night seemed to repeat itself. An ongoing event – could that be? But the dark was so tempting, so seductive in its mystery. Again, temptation was denied – his thoughts were pitiful. Just careless fantasies, illogical superstitions...that became so vivid.
A flash of candle light shone through the briefly seen doorway across the hallway before him. With an uncertain smirk, he quietly made for the doorway. Spying the hall in which the light disappeared to, he spotted a turn to the right down at the far end and casually followed in the dark till he was brought to widely opened doors and a corridor lined with a wall of black latticed windows. Night's light glowing bright, made the lamp in gloved hands like an amber stone and Sephiroth quickened his pace towards the billowing coat, the movements of which were too fluid to be that of the useless maid, reaching out to the ebon clothed figure. Hand grasping the silk collar and thrusting it against the windows; resonating a distinct rattling in the glass, cracking frost and the lamp shattered against marble tiles, bringing death to flame.
Fingers twisting into an ivory cravat, eyes glaring foully down at the foreigner.
"What brings you here?" Sephiroth asked, demandingly, seeking an explanation for such a late night wanderer.
It did not speak, but rather attempted to shy away. Keeping its face hidden from view, obscured by hair and the intent to eye the floor, it was utterly unresponsive and such impolite behaviour only invoked disdain within Sephiroth.
"Miss Tifa has told me that only she resides here..." he said in as level a voice he could muster, yet mockery still lurked within the baritone. Grip tightening he shook it against the window, "What are you? What is it in this lonely house that excites you to be here?"
Gloved fingers tried fruitlessly to delve between the cracks of his, but Sephiroth merely clamped the wrists in his hands, pressing them to the cold glass. The bones felt fragile like a sparrow's wings, and still it held its tongue.
Be it his superstitions he did not know, but there was something utterly macabre. The way the room darkened and how the shadows splayed across the walls.
"Be you a wraith, a being of the unnatural?" clenching his hands further, somewhere distant in his mind hoping to be delighted in the sound of snapping bone, "Your appearance is unearthly, unorthodox. What are you? A lingering soul of the dead!"
He could taste fear and anguish, feel the strain as it pulled against the restraints. It was sure to pay for the trickery it played upon him, and such thoughts aggravated Sephiroth more – his own terror and dread, apprehension and alarm flared such fury, such hatred, such madness. Still, not a word it did mention.
"No...you are an unholy apparition." It gasped in evident pain and Sephiroth, elated, smirked wickedly – for all the damage to his pride that this demon did bring him, "A ghost...a phantom!"
Further did he squeeze, tighter with each passing moment, desiring to hear even a protest if not an answer, but never enough to inflict caustic harm. Yet it screamed – resonating down the corridor, ringing sharply in his ears. Head thrown back, face contorted in the most stricken agony as its body collapsed inwards on itself.
Taken aback, his hold loosened and it fell to the hard, stone floor in a panting mess. Hopelessly it dragged itself away from Sephiroth, wrists far too weak that it would not go very far – constantly slipping and moving so lethargically.
Sephiroth himself did not know how to feel at the ordeal, but mild concern came to him. Reaching into his breast pocket, he produced the box of matches he had before and searched the broken glass for anything useful of the lantern as a cloud thickened across the sky leaving them in a darkened mist. His hand collided with a candlestick, briefly noting the absence of oil, and lit a match over the wick.
The warm toned light made it turn to its back, hands pushing itself upright, afraid as it stared at Sephiroth with large eyes and a heaving chest. After a short moment it winced and looked down, rubbing at its wrists, attempting to soothe the ache.
Sephiroth stretched a hand out to it, moving closer as he did so, and with that, spilling the light upon it.
With the blindness of rage and fear dissipated by courtesy, he saw a man as whom he presented himself to be. By the flicker of candlelight, warm autumn hues ignited his hair, which gracefully framed a finely boned face that held the fragility and charm of porcelain. Glinting brightly were wet eyes of rich cerulean that rivalled the brilliance of the crystalline waters of the ocean. He was heavenly in his untainted purity, his vibrant youth and the glow of his ostentatious beauty and his near translucent skin made him all the more delicate, and Sephiroth all the more ill at his brash actions.
He knew he should apologise, but the words failed to reach him, rather guilt overtook his state. Slowly, he settled by him and showed him his palm.
"May I?" he asked, sincerely, but the man did not speak, nor did he move, though his body stiffened and Sephiroth in turn waited patiently.
Long moments passed, enough for Sephiroth to coat a square of marble in candle wax, but he gave in and gingerly laid a limp wrist in his palm. Nodding a small thanks, he offered the candle to him and pulled back the lace trimmed sleeve. Contusions of the deepest purple with a film of red formed beneath the thin layers of his skin and Sephiroth frowned deeply. His grip was tight, but hardly enough to create such wounds.
"Who are you?" he asked, gently placing the sore wrist in the man's lap.
Unsurprisingly, he did not reply and this time he was excused.
"Sephiroth." he said, introducing himself with a bow of his head.
The man tilted his head in acknowledgement, but nothing more as serenity overcame them. Moonlight shone again, streaming though the windows and drawing the darkest shadows away. Wind ruffled through the empty branches of the trees and the chill grew colder . The events which followed after that was the most faintest blur. Sephiroth could only recall the half-awakening in the early hours past midnight; he lay in such a comfortable, warm bed and a soft, pleasant touch weaved through his hair and calmed him to a gentle rest with a barely audible 'good night, Sephiroth.'
I thank thee who have taken the liberty to favourite, alert and review this story. Most appreciated - this chapter gave me hell. NR - Yeah...he's OOC...I know he is.
Do review if you so please.