Chapter 1

High above the world, Lady Rosemarie watched the butterfly blue as the summer skies brush her window; she pressed a delicate hand against the glass, her eyes flutter to the marks on the wall scratched in with her fingernails, the sound of keys turning in the lock of her prison door startles her, she whirls about, but it is only the doctor.

Prunesquallor schools his face into as kindly an expression as he is able; he prays silently that she will not fight him this time. It would be ghastly to have to have a lady of the blood restrained like a common lunatic.

And the cuts have only just healed from his last visit.

He cheerily announces that it is time for her medicine, her wild eyes blue as sapphire jewels harden, she sinks onto her bed, and her head falls into her hands, the doctor kneels before her, "My lady, please, you must believe me, I only wish you to be well."

She draws back the sleeve of her gown and exposes her lily white arm, the veins run beneath the skin, he draws the needle and she closes her eyes as he presses it in, it is over in less than a minute. He wipes the end of a handkerchief "See, that wasn't so dreadful was it?"

He tries to catch her eye but she looks away. "Thank you for your visit, doctor." Her voice is cold as snow.

He gathers up his bag and hurries through the door, the key turns behind him and he sighs, how long will this go on, it has been eight years and his potions and elixirs have yet to improve her state of mind.

If only the Secretary could be persuaded to relent, but there is no good in wishing for miracles.

He shudders as the keening starts, the merciless scratching upon the stone as if a thousand rats were running within the walls; the doctor quickens his pace, desperate to escape the shadows that seem to peruse him through the cold hallways until he emerges out into the sunlight.

Each week it is worse, and he is sure in that moment, as clear as the light that warms his ruddy skin, that there is no cure for her ladyship: Barquentine would never allow one. That cold, desolate tower has become her place in Gormeneghast; after all, there are no longer rituals for the Second Daughter of Groan.

She is dead to the world, but there is not even a stone for her in the family cemetery: she simply ceased to exist one night.

He will not think on it; Irma is waiting and will doubtless be anxious; he really must give her a tonic against her nerves.

In her lonesome tower the sound of running feet breaks the endless silence; they come closer and closer with every passing moment.

No-one moves so swiftly in this place, there is no call for it.

Outside the bars a slight figure rushes past her door, blond tresses flying, she would swear she has seen him before…

The world melts away, and she is a young girl of only eight years, seated at the great table. A blue egg is spooned onto her plate by a serving man; her Lordly father sits hollow eyed beside her mother, her simpering sister is at her left; the great bulging Cook stands before them, his round face hideously red from the heat of his kitchen domain far below, behind him the dregs of the kitchens stand in a neat line, small boys all in white, stained with grease and old blood.

She returns to her chamber in a daze, pitches herself against the bars and shrieks, she cannot form the words, the doctor is her only visitor, the only time she speaks…her throat is like a door left unopened, left to gather dust and rot.

"Help me!" the words burst from her chest, he is exquisite, hair falls like spun gold to his shoulders with eyes as blue as sapphire jewels, the thunder of the guards boots echoes in the hallway, he glances back like a startled deer, his eyes widen and he turns and flees, he vanishes through the window at the far end of the hall, she reaches out screaming, begging him not to leave her…but it is too late….he has gone…she collapses to the cold stone beating her fists against the door and howling like one possessed.

A heavy boot kicks the door "Silence in there!"

She stuffs her sleeve into her mouth and rocks moaning like a pitiful ghost left to haunt a cold and desolate room for all eternity.