Sweet Sorrow, Act I
Hey, everyone. I'm as surprised as you are on the relatively fast update on this story. (Compared to a five month long hiatus...) But the plot bunnies were in my garden, and they weren't going anywhere anytime soon. So yeah.
By the way, I realized that I hadn't left a translation for what Wulf said to Vlad last chapter. It was:
"Hello, evil one. Your queen will kill you if my fangs do not."
Brrrr! Look for a translation at the end of the chapter for more.
This chapter has no Shakespeare quotes, but we do get to see all of our heroes again-in the same chappie, for once. Please review, as reviewing makes for a very happy author and quicker updates. ^^
If she did not already grasp the gravity of tonight, she would have gladly thrown one of her bejeweled perfume vials at yet another antique vanity mirror out of sheer frustration.
But as much as she wanted to scream, to cry, to be a little girl again and insist that she wouldn't go to dinner-that she'd rather starve-such could easily put her children in harm's way, and that would not, could not, happen ever again. Especially not tonight. If she had to go mad and become a marionette in Vlad's despicable, horrifying play, so be it. Whether it was just for tonight or the rest of her lonely, painful life-it didn't matter. Too little mattered to her anymore, save for her children.
Maddie tried not to wince as the maid behind her tightly pulled on her lilac-covered gown's stays, tying them into neat bows. Her violet eyes fell to her mirror, where her reflection dazedly stared back, looking wan and liable to collapse. With any luck, the stays weren't so tight as to prevent her from speaking without gasping. Or have her sinking into a dead faint into her soup.
To think, she'd had silly dreams of this sort of luxury while she was living with the love of her life. That she'd fantasized of romantic dates with her in stylish gowns in beautiful and ornate places with her goofy husband was bizarre; incomprehensible to her now. She'd already been decked out in dresses that were every shade of the rainbow, in colors that she didn't even know existed, and in the finest silks and shoes worth small fortunes that were nonetheless thrown away after every first usage to make way for another sea of new and expensive dresses, of pearls, of mountains of shoes. The waste sickened and saddened her, and the memories of Jack shyly offering her a single rose on their dates made her already breaking heart crack at the seams.
She obediently raised her neck when another maid approached her with a bottle of perfume, and turned her eyes anxiously at the grandiose gold clock ticking patiently in the corner of the Master bedroom. It was half-past five, now.
Great. Just another unbearable thirty minutes until she got to hold Jazz and Danny again. She hadn't seen Danny for days now, despite her pleadings to her spouse, who each time had either attempted to placate her or idly postponed their scheduled visits.
A spasm appeared at the corner of her lip, and her cosmetic artist Leroy accidentally ran his rouge brush off her lips and onto her cheek, making it look like the mother's lips were bleeding off of her face. Maddie closed her eyes as half a dozen hands rushed out to fix the mistake, and tried to control their prickling.
Only in hell, which it seemed the world had gone to. Vladimir claimed that she was his crown jewel, his prize and his joy.
But he stole her and her family away, and he hurt her as no one else could ever have, besides Jack. She became his doll, who needed about an hour every day to be frilled up in some new dress for meals, which were also ridiculously long, and more than often painful. Some days, Vlad claimed that Jazz had either too much homework to do or had been particularly "unreasonable," and was taking her supper upstairs. Even when the two got to see each other, real conversation was difficult to manage, because the second that it appeared that either of the two were bringing up "disagreeable" subjects, (I.e, primarily Jack Fenton) Jazz was usually whisked away from the table by a couple of servants, and dragged back up to her room, despite her struggles and Maddie's pleas. She could go two or three days without seeing her precious daughter after that-her poor, exhausted, sad little girl, who was suffering more than Maddie was under her ridiculous workload that seemed meant to punish more than anything else.
Maddie took deep breaths to steady herself, trying not to pull her hands into fists as another servant slid on new, elbow-length gloves, her teeth grit, her hands trembling.
Then there was Danny. Danny, who had no one but that ghastly doctor and that deranged animal looking after him. Danny, who had seen and been through so much that his once youthful and exuberant eyes had now faded to those of a world-weary shadow; a sad child who had so much horror in his mind that he forgot how to chew in the rare occasions he would eat, and consequently had choked the few times he'd joined everyone at the table. Danny, who had curled up behind that beast with feverish eyes the last time she'd came to visit, saying over and over again that he didn't know who she was…..
That moment had passed, but the memory released the floodgates: tears came streaming down Maddie's ivory face, and they were not ceased by the many hands that wiped at them, attempting to repowder her face.
Losing her composure, Maddie staggered backward from the servants clustered around her, fell backward on the enormous bed that Vlad took her on every night, and began to weep, her tiara slipping out from its perfectly positioned place on her brow, falling lopsidedly over her head.
She heard a great deal of muttering and pleas for her to regain her composure, but she only curled deeper into a ball, and howled for a moment, burying her face in her gloved hands. After a moment, a familiar voice broke out, stilling the crying woman's sobs:
"Get away from her. Get AWAY, I said. Good Lord, you people are idiots. Let the poor child cry-it's the least she deserves. Go on, now. Go."
Somewhere far away, Maddie thought she could hear Leroy objecting.
"Jane, the Master-if she comes down to dine and she's not properly prepared, our heads-"
"-will not be nearly in as much danger as they'll be if the Master comes in and sees that you poor fools are gathered 'round this here girl cryin' her heart out," interrupted the voice firmly.
There was a sea of collective gulps. The voice went on:
"Think he's gonna wait for you to explain yourselves? We'll be picking you folks out of the carpet for the next week. Now get out of here before I ring him up to deal with you folks, or what's worse, you'll deal with me. The girl's pretty enough to get away without getting all dolled up over every little thing. Shoo. Shoo!"
Maddie raised her red eyes from her hands in time to see her head maid Jane sashaying all of the queen's unhappy looking beauticians out the enormous doors. The large, motherly-looking woman locked the grand doors behind them, rolling her dark eyes.
"Good Lord, I don't know how you do it, child. A new, hoity-toity dress with every meal! I've worn the same one every Christmas for twelve years."
Shaking her head, she tentatively approached Maddie, wringing her hands anxiously, earlier boldness gone. As uncertain as if she were about to poke a lion in the eye, she put a hand on Maddie's forehead, and then smoothed her hair back gently.
"Child," the woman said softly, "I know this might be a ridiculous question, but….are you alright?"
Jane started as Maddie threw her arms around the woman and buried her face in Jane's apron, crying out in misery. While clearly surprised, and casting an anxious glance at the door, it didn't take long for the woman to sink to the floor, pull the thin body against her, murmuring softly and continuing to stroke through her hair.
After about ten minutes or so, Maddie reluctantly rose her head from Jane's warm shoulder, pulling herself out of the maid's embrace. She gratefully accepted the woman's proffered handkerchief, dabbling her red eyes, and taking deep breaths to steady herself again.
"Jane. Jane, I'm sorry," she said hoarsely, glancing at herself anxiously in the mirror again. If she came down to the hall with red eyes…! "I just….all those people…..tonight…..my baby….."
Jane tugged her back into a hug, cutting her off.
"Shhh. You're a brave woman, honey. A brilliant, amazing, better woman than I, and a good mother. Lord knows courage isn't about holding all the cards-it's about holding out when your hand seems darn low."
Maddie attempted a watery smile, and wiped her eyes again.
"What news do you have from Jazz? Are you sure you'll she'll be with us tonight?"
One of the many things Maddie found invaluable about Jane was that her head maid was willing to risk visiting Jazz by bringing up her meal trays when Maddie's daughter was otherwise instructed to be left alone. It didn't always mean that either Fenton girl got to hear from each other the same day that they sent the message-it was a risky job, and Jane was a busy woman-but it was an immense comfort and relief to Maddie to be hearing regular updates.
Jane sighed, and rolled her eyes.
"W-elllll…..last I saw her yesterday evening, she was fine. Tired, needs some meat on her bones like her Mama, but fine. I think it would have been kinder to put that child in a padded cell, though. I feel like throwing up every time I go into that pink nightmare of a room of hers. Viola and her helpers should be getting her ready for dinner right about now."
Maddie rolled around one of the two heavy, bejeweled rings Vlad had given her.
"Any word on Danny?" she asked hopefully. "Have you seen him?"
Jane gave her a sad look. "Sorry, honey, but normally, only that eerie spook and that nice, terrifying wolf-creature are allowed anywhere near the boy. And the master, of course. Oh," she said, when she noticed Maddie's expression, "The doctor won't hurt him. I've only seen him once; the guy doesn't exactly look like a charmer, but he doesn't have a spark of meanness in him."
"How can you tell?"
"I just can. And, as for that…." Jane shivered. "Um….scary puppy…."
Maddie bit down on her lip so hard the skin nearly broke. A monster. A monstrous, spectral werewolf was the one "safe-guarding" her baby. While the thing seemed tame enough when she visited Danny's room, she never once took her eyes off it, ready to wrestle it with her bare hands if she had to. The idea of that thing being so close to Danny chilled the marrow in her bones.
Jane gently patted her shoulder. "Now, now. I've only ever seen the boy once-that creature was carrying him outside-but Danny wasn't struggling, and that wolf-monster-thing was being as gentle with him as I've ever seen a wolf-monster-thing to be. Uh….." she added, as an afterthought, "Never mind. It's like Lassie, only with a werewolf instead of a Golden Retriever."
Maddie made a face, but said nothing. Jane went on:
"Still, I don't blame you for being nervous. Werewolves. It's bad enough that the master turned out to be Count Chocula with frostbite and bloodshot eyes. I don't expect anyone would say a thing if I came in tomorrow dressed as Frankenstein."
"Hard to say things to dead people," Maddie muttered grimly as she adjusted her hated jeweled tiara. Jane shrugged, acknowledging that.
"True enough. Ghosts….werewolves….every time I keep thinking the world can't get any madder than it already is, something around the corner keeps waiting to contradict me." A sorrowful look sank onto her brow.
"Like you three being here, child. Lord knows Miss Jasmine's suffered her fair share of trouble-can't imagine what Danny's seen, from your descriptions. But no tears now, honey-you can save those for me later. You'll be seeing your daughter tonight! Isn't that wonderful?"
"And my son," said Maddie softly, standing up from the bed, face resolute. "Vlad ordered him to come tonight, too."
Jane slowly rose up too, looking stunned.
"Is he feeling better?"
Maddie wanted to waver, but she kept her back straight as she rose and lowered her shoulders in a shrug.
"I…I don't know. I haven't seen him for days. Sometimes, I have nightmares of Vlad confessing that he was lying to me-that my son was….was actually…."
Again, her lip trembled, but she glanced at the clock again, and hurried to put on her expensive, uncomfortable shoes.
"But Vlad came to me earlier today-happier than I've seen him in a very long time-and said that both Danny and Jasmine finally acknowledged him as their father today."
Her voice broke, but she went on, seizing a pair of diamond earrings from the enormous jewelry box Vlad had given her, and its priceless, necklace mate:
"So, he's decided to reward Jazz by allowing her to spend an actual full evening with Danny tonight. And she'll be allowed to visit him as much as she wants from now on. Can you help me get this thing on?"
Jane gasped, and hurried across the room, grabbing the glittering Victorian necklace from Maddie's fumbling fingers, and helping her fasten it around her neck.
"That's….that's wonderful. Shoulda been their right to begin with, but still, that's spectacular."
"I know," said Maddie sadly, relaxing as Jane retied her stays, making them looser. "If tonight goes well, I see no reason why I should need an escort to see my son, or to have to beg my so-called husband to allow me to hold my daughter."
"Don't tell him I said so, but Vlad's a sentimental nutcase; hit him in the heartstrings, and I believe it'll ultimately pay off," said Jane quietly, anxiously glancing at the door again, as if she feared there were spies lurking behind it. "Getting to see your children should hopefully ease this experience for you, darling-I hope everything goes well tonight."
Maddie granted her a thankful smile as the woman squeezed her shoulder. But it faded a moment later.
"Jane," she said beseechingly. "You're my only friend here; please be honest. Do you think I should be focusing on getting us all out of this mad house, or creating a safe existence for us here?"
The woman clasped her shoulder again, but didn't look at her.
"I hope everything tonight goes well."
She'd opened her mouth to speak again, but at that moment, there came a polite knocking from the door. Both ladies stiffened. A servant's voice called out:
"Is Her Majesty ready to adjourn to dinner? His Majesty Vladimir Masters the I requests you meet him, Princess Jasmine and Prince Daniel for supper posthaste."
The two women quickly looked at each other. Jane quickly kissed her on the forehead, and started pushing her back.
"Go, go! God go with you. Best of luck."
Maddie whispered a word of thanks before she called out a quick "Coming!" and hurried to the door, leaving Jane to sink to her knees, and start praying feverishly.
"Viola, I'm sorry, but can't you hurry up? My hair looks fine."
The young woman cast a sympathetic glance at her, but said nothing; Jazz supposed she couldn't blame her. After all, the maid's life literally depended on the young woman's looking her best for the evenings. Jazz shifted uncomfortably in her fuzzy, pink chair while the women worked on fixing a fancy, bejeweled butterfly into her long red hair.
At least tonight, instead of her usual, frilly pink princess gown, she'd been given a pretty black and white dress. Although she found it extremely annoying that she hadn't seen a pair of pants in weeks, she prayed that, so long as she had to stay here, she could soon "graduate" from this room to one a little more dignifying. After a few weeks in here, she was ready to start bashing her head against the walls while Bearburt and Mr. McSmileyPuffin watched from the pink tea table.
As weird as it was to think it, she missed the plainness her home in Amity Park had to offer; the simple designs, (Other than the honking satellites outside) the dark blue basement lab-the comfort of her own room. The annoying fact that her father would barge right in to jabber on about ghosts when she wanted to be left alone…..
Jazz smiled sadly at herself in the mirror, too exhausted to break down again. She could barely get herself to come out of bed when Jane had reluctantly poked her awake for her lunch. The maid had responded to none of Jasmine's many questions, but she'd left a fortune cookie on the girl's tray. The tiny scrap of paper inside had read:
Heard what happened today. Am sorry. Love you so very much. Danny coming tonight. Let's work hard to make this work. –Mom
Jazz squeezed the message in her dark gloved hand, jaw set, though her heart fluttered with trepidation and suspicion.
The last time she saw Danny, her brother was a wreck. How had he recovered enough to be with normal society so soon? Vlad had made it clear that he wouldn't tolerate any of his "fits" (Oh, how dearly she wanted to murder the man), especially when the four were all together as a "family." What sort of trick was he trying to pull-what test was he trying to confirm?
The young genius didn't know, and didn't like it. Her stomach churned unpleasantly as the maids carefully began to apply a new color of nail polish onto her toes (Thankfully, also not pink), and her mind began to whirl.
Danny was sick. What point did Vlad want to prove, exactly? He'd had her dragged upstairs after she'd snidely implied that the king wasn't her true father-what might Danny say or do when he was so far gone he forgot his own name on occasion?
The maids had just finished putting on her dark heels when a tapping came to the door. Jasmine was up and out at the next flash, leaving three bewildered maids in her wake, and her escort running to keep up with the princess flying down the stairs.
It was warm.
It was dark and warm and there was his-friend-speaking, which was very good.
Danny couldn't understand what the green-eyed creature was saying, but it sounded nice. He fidgeted with the strange metal shackle that was always around his ankle absentmindedly, then snuggled into Wulf's shoulder, listening to the creature sigh beside him. He inhaled the scent; it was comforting, like tingling-tingling-pine-needles, home, and dog. He closed his eyes and wriggled, happy to sleep after the long-long-unpleasant day that he'd had. Shortly after Vlad had gone, Danny had started screaming and screaming and could not stop screaming.
Wulf might have held him and spoken urgently to him, but he didn't know, didn't care. There was only hot lead in his veins, and there was violence and the world flashing in and out of his eyes with horrifying images bleeding into his eyes.
Then, when the pale-man-with-a-cracked-head had rushed in with his cold cold cold hands, there had been….he didn't know what the long, shiny cold things were called anymore, but it had gone into him, and the world became quiet, and his body heavy. For whatever reason, his eyes began to rain, and Wulf had lapped at his face, tickling him. He'd fallen through a very dark hole after that, and had woken up maybe an hour or so ago to see his friend gazing anxiously at him.
Wulf was murmuring fabelos in Esperanto that he'd heard when he was a youth in his village, still human, still alive. Although the poor creature wondered what point there was in it, considering his amigo hardly understood his language when he was still sane, it gave him something to do, and Danny seemed to enjoy listening to him.
Well, he stopped shrieking, anyway. Danny poked at the back of Wulf's paw while the convict continued to murmur stories, occasionally thumping his tail appreciatively when Danny would have one of his clearer moments, and scratch the wolf behind the ear.
The screaming in Danny's head had faded by this point, and so the young halfa felt relatively at peace. Earlier that day, Wulf had carried the young teen across the room, opened the window (Being careful not to trigger the invisible boundary that would set off his shock collar), and showed Danny white flakes tumbling through the air. Snow.
It had frightened him at first-made him angry, even. But Wulf made him stand there, though he fought and tried to close the window at first. It was a terrific delight to finally give in and touch the pretty crystals, which melted almost immediately when he tried to hold the little stars under his eyes. It became a game of sorts, for Danny to try and seize a snowflake drifting on the breeze that wouldn't immediately melt. He hadn't been successful yet, but it kept him occupied for a good amount of time before Wulf, not wanting Danny to catch a cold, finally closed it.
Now, Danny was closing his eyes again, snug and content, but now Wulf was gently nosing him awake, much to his confusion and annoyance.
"Amiko," said he, "Vi dev resti maldorma. Vi estos ir al ĉefmanĝo ĉinokte." (1)
Getting a vague idea what he was saying, Danny frowned and buried his head in the pillows, muttering inanely to himself. But Wulf gently tugged him back up, his hollow green eyes full of pity.
"Mi scias vin volas dormi, sed tiuos alirita poste. Via patrino Maddie estas atendanta vid vin, kaj ankaŭ via fratino Ĵazo. Ni dev akiri vin pretan." (2)
Danny shifted uncomfortably, but could not break his gaze. A moment later, there was an almost inaudible tap-tapping at the door, and St. John glided through it, his dead face just as morose and bored as it ever was.
Wulf growled. Danny's attention turned to the man, and then away, towards the empty hearth in the corner. To his delight, he noticed something that looked a lot like the pretty crystals that had been falling outside just sitting there. And they were not melting. And there was something glowing softly beneath them! He sat there looking at the ashes and dying embers, enraptured. St. John was blah-blahing at his friend, as usual.
"As you may have already heard, the king requests Daniel's company at dinner tonight. As you scarcely like to let a servant approach the child without informing them you'd like to tear off some rather useful body parts, I suggest you get the boy ready. And get some of that vile black paint off his hands. I don't suppose we could hide it by putting a strait-waistcoat on the boy and putting a tuxedo jacket over it to cover it up?"
The werewolf let out a bloodcurdling snarl, but St. John was already drifting back through the wall, eyes hopelessly indifferent, to whether the boy was ready or not, and to Wulf's cry of "Amiko! Ne tuŝ tio!" (3)
Walking again was funny. The first few steps were difficult; he felt as if he were on a rocking ship somewhere out at sea. Wulf had walked behind him, ready to steady him if his legs were to give out on him. He only needed to once on the stairs.
Approaching the dining hall doors, Danny swayed slightly, tugging uncomfortably at the fancy tie and emerald brooch at his neck. He felt dizzy, and the buzzing in his ears was starting up again. It was a fight to exist in the present moment, to see one of his polished shoes moving in front of the other, to keep the names Mom and Jazz running through his mind consistently to drown out his dark thoughts.
"Vi estas certe vi povas far ĉi tiu?" wondered Wulf anxiously, as they passed a row of bowing servants in immaculate uniforms. "Eble alia tempo. Vi rigardas..." (4)
"I'm fine," said Danny quietly, attempting to smile. "You….you will be…near, right?"
Still looking a little worried, Wulf nonetheless smiled as he picked up the surprised boy, and carried him through the door.
"Estos bone, amiko. Mi promesas." (5)
*Avoids getting hit by throwing garbage* So I wanted to explore the characters' psyche, okay? Next chapter will have our bone-chilling part II. Fear the salad and the soup.
Until then, adieu, my sweet readers. Please review! :D
(1) Friend, you must stay awake. You will be going to dinner tonight.
(2) I know you want to sleep, but that will come later. Your mother Maddie is waiting to see you, and so is your sister Jazz. We must get you ready.
(3) Friend! Do not touch that!
(4) Are you sure you're ready for this? Maybe another time. You look...
(5) It will be alright, friend. I promise.