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POLL: SW&D does "Traditional" Challenge - Page 6

Poll Results: WHO IS BEST?

Poll expired: Jul 23, 2015 This is a multiple choice poll
  • 13% of voters (14)
    nicelynice
  • 28% of voters (30)
    chocsosa
  • 0% of voters (1)
    EliodA
  • 3% of voters (4)
    upr_crust
  • 2% of voters (3)
    kashmir
  • 6% of voters (7)
    zissou
  • 28% of voters (30)
    Rais
  • 2% of voters (3)
    Caustic Man
  • 15% of voters (16)
    Claghorn
  • 8% of voters (9)
    Darkside
  • 12% of voters (13)
    EFV
  • 8% of voters (9)
    GusW
  • 55% of voters (58)
    Tirailleur1
  • 40% of voters (42)
    Rosenrot
104 Total Votes  
post #76 of 85
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tirailleur1 View Post
 

oh snap. I was sure @Rosenrot  was gonna take this. Is it possible to request fr the 2nd place prize? 

 

well no, because I'm not going to stick her with a gift credit at a men's store...

 

I should have known this was going to be trouble

post #77 of 85

Thanks for the votes everyone, I feel bad to place well since I didn't actually wear this out. Voted for Chocsosa and Tiralleur1, really liked their styles and the actual photos too.

 

Also, T, if you don't like your prize, maybe I can cede and you and Chocsosa can administrate the next challenge together and award that gift card to the next winner? Otherwise I'm happy to co-run the next challenge with Chocsosa. Will try to come up with something simple and fun to get a lot of participation.

post #78 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by StanleyVanBuren View Post

well no, because I'm not going to stick her with a gift credit at a men's store...

I should have known this was going to be trouble



I'll take the 50 bucks then


Expect a pm shortly.
post #79 of 85
I've got a great photo in mind for a historical challenge.
post #80 of 85

 

Well, @Rosenrot; here is your prize. Make of it what you will.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Background (Click to show)

I just came across this thread and I thought I might contribute with something I wore recently. The outerwear is a traditional Japanese firemen coat made of sturdy sashiko weaves.

 

"The exterior of the firefighter's coat tended to be plain and uniformlike, with characters or numbers of the fire brigade stenciled in white for quick identification, needed if a building collapsed or a fire spread too quickly."

 

For more information on these hanten coats please read here: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2003-12-04/features/0312040064_1_firefighters-edo-blaze

 

The rest of the items are not traditional of course, but the Comme de Garçons sarouels are reminiscent of the traditional Persian garments. 

 

From Instagram:

 

"I pored over various Japanese traditional garments beyond kimonos and haoris. That was when I discovered vintage Japanese firemen hanten/happi coats. They come in various different weaves, depending on the purpose. The one worn here is the thickest one I've come across, made with sashiko weaves. The firemen would be doused in water first before going near the flames. 

 

Not all hanten coats are reversible, but this one here has a different illustration inside, which makes it a hikeshi hanten. If the firefighters were successful in their mission, they would turn the coat inside out and parade victoriously through the streets. "

 

 

 

 


 

 

Rose’s Story

 

 

I have few memories of my mother, but her legacy lingers in my name. It is the only gift she gave to me before she died that I still have, before the fires that accompanied the Prince’s wild coup took her life and left me motherless at eight years old. Fatherless, too; his mind followed his wife, even though it took his body years to catch up.

 

I grew up alone in our cinder-block house on the outskirts of the City, watched him as he sunk what remained of his being into his work for the Prince, congratulated him and comforted him and even, after he had rebuilt our old life, had achieved Royal patronage, and had moved us back into the comforts of the City’s First Ring, gave him my own meager blessing to remarry the woman the Prince had found for him, found as an ally for the corporations and for the crown.

 

The Prince gave him a prize for his service to the throne: a coat, red and blue, stitched together from heavy cotton. The royal seal adorns one side, the inside is emblazoned with the sigil of victory. A celebration - or it should have been, but I saw how the weight of it made his shoulders sag. He wore it in his shop, while tinkering or thinking, wore it when I brought him his meals, wore it as he favored me with an increasingly blank smile. I did not know that he had his own fires that consumed him from within, and when the drugs took him a year later, I cursed my abandonment in silence. 

 

Rose, the cleaning. Rose, the cooking. Rose, the washing. Rose, the repairs. The Baroness - my father’s second wife - could have hired all the help she needed. And sometimes she did, for brief periods - brought servants in as friends to her twin daughters, as accomplices in their mockery of the poor girl whose father had left her behind. Left her out of his non-existent will, left her to rot at the feet of the woman who married him for his money, for his influence, for his life. She shed no tears when he died.

 

“You ripped my dress!” 

 

The twins are indistinguishable, the result of years of genetic tinkering and an ideal blood-match from the Baroness’ first husband. They are perfect, doll-like, their mother’s masterpiece and the reason for her high standing among the Corporations. But their faces turn red and hot and ugly when they are angry, and when they raise their perfect hands to strike my face - as they often do, when they can find an excuse - you would not know that they are the same people. I have a scar on my upper lip from one of their rages; a tiny thing that the Baroness mocks when she pretends I am out of earshot.

 

I ripped the dress on purpose, knowing full well what I would receive for my trouble, knowing just how angry it would make her.

 

Perhaps I could have complained to the Prince, had I been able to manage an audience. But the Prince has no regard for me. I don’t believe that he had any for my father, aside from in his utility - and everything my father built the Prince claimed as his own in the name of “research.” I have not seen him in almost a decade, but he is still young - he was young when he took the City from his tyrant of a father; a vicious, bloodthirsty teen; young when he named himself heir; and he will be young for years yet. Perhaps the folly of youth is forgivable - though I wonder if he has any idea of the citizens who are crushed beneath the knees of the Corporations as they bow and scrape to win his favor. The ones who live in the hovels like that my father and I used to share. Now I watch the City rebuild around me, and I sleep in the servants’ quarters of our estate as the Baroness and her offspring wield my father’s name and legacy like a dull knife, stabbing wildly towards the heart of the struggling empire.

 

The Baroness screams at me, curses me, bemoans my idiocy and my clumsiness. I keep my eyes on my father’s coat, still hanging on the wall in the study as an empty gesture. I pull my shoulders forward, and I pretend to crumble underneath her blows. She had high hopes for the dress, as her daughter did. This year was meant to be their coming of age, their triumph, and their fury is born of frustration.

 

There is a week-long fête on every anniversary of the coup, thrown in the Prince’s honor at his ugly castle of steel and glass and concrete. One of the twins will be without the dress, black as night, that was meant to match that of her sister. I am not invited, though as the daughter of a Lord it is my blood-right. I think that they have come to fear me; fear my silence and my suffering. They want me to complain, fight back, so that they can crush me. But I watch in silence as they leave that first night, poised atop their ornate carriage, pulled by the brainless automatons my father helped create. These are in the shape of horses, but two-legged, their beautiful gilt necks sculpted in constant strain against the weight of their charge. As they high-step away, flashing gold and silver in the bloody sunset, they leave oily smoke in their wake.

 

I clean the estate in preparation of their return. And then I escape to my room, and I bring out my needles. For five years I have been ripping dresses. I have been saving the scraps. I have been oh so very clever, so clever that my father would smile, if he still could. I stitch for hours, my heart pounding. 

 

The Baroness and her creations return in the early hours of the morning, all of them furious. One of the twins leaves a bright line of fire down the side of my neck with an over-long fingernail. It makes me happy, calms me down.

 

There is a boy I have known for a handful of months. His name is unimportant. His master is a carriage-worker, his appointment is to the castle. The boy fancies me, has been promised in whispers prizes that he will never collect. He believes that I owe him. He believes that he owns me. It is sweet, in a way.

 

The next night, I watch the trio leave once more. And then I slip up the stairs to my filthy room, and I pull my secret from beneath a loose floorboard. It is red and black and blue, stitched together from all that I have stolen and all the twins have discarded. It is ragged, unfinished, a patchwork riot cut low in the front and longer in the back, the plumage of a drowned bird. It is beautiful. It has a sister, but she will stay hidden a little longer.

 

The palace fireworks have already begun when the boy’s carriage appears at the house, its presence there unknown and un-condoned by his master. It is old. Black and aged and tarnished, self-driven with no gilt marvels to pull it. It is sculpted in the shape of a swan. The boy arrives along with it, and his grin is as sickening as the lights from the castle. I smile, I flutter my eyelashes, and I pretend not to be sick when I feel his rough hands on my shoulder. I grant him a wink, another empty promise. His lips are dry and cracked. He believes that I am a simple serving girl, enamored with the luxury of nobility. He has secreted me this old carriage because he believes it will fulfill a lifelong dream of mine. He is not wrong. He wishes me well with a smirk, he turns his back, and in the dim light of the gas-lamps I bury my father’s silver letter-opener in his neck. Its handle is carved in the shape of a rose, the blade a stylized thorn; his blood turns the silver petals a dark ruby. A boy with an unimportant name will not be missed, and reprogramming the ownership of the carriage is a matter of moments for a girl who spent her life with their creator.

 

I take a circuitous route to the castle, and I leave his body in the river. My hand comes away stained, and I wipe both it and the letter-opener on one ragged, crimson hem of my perfect dress before I tuck my silver thorn back into the silken pocket that was made only to hold it, to hold this last, most precious heirloom. It is nearing midnight when I reach the castle, and when the guards see me they see a woman from a High House and they do not stop me.

 

Electric lamps light the interior of the palace, and none of the guests hold embroidered kerchiefs over their mouths as they might if they were outside. Most are of the old blood, nobles whose alliance would shift with a gust of wind. The Prince is their minder now, and they are determined that they should profit from it. Others are from new money, granted status and lucrative contracts for their aid in the Coup or in the years that followed. They are viewed with distaste by the old blood, and in turn they view the old blood with venomous and jealous disdain. But the old families are growing fewer, and the court is hungry. 

 

When the ballroom doors are opened for me, the Prince is standing in the center of the floor, beset on all sides by well-wishers and gold-diggers and profiteers. Many of them are young women, hoping to catch his eye - or that of another good match. I wonder how many are present at the behest of a mother or a father with eyes on a court appointment.

 

I stand in the doorway. I know that the hazy night behind me makes the reds and blacks of my dress stand out. I feel eyes on me. I ignore them, and instead I find a drink. I pretend that it is not to quench my nerves. And I studiously ignore the center of the room. 

 

The twins are there, in the crowd. They look bored and desperate. Their mother must be here as well, watching. Both of them glance toward the open doors, toward the newcomer. For a moment, their eyes slide over me. But they do not stop. They would recognize the meek serving girl. They do not recognize this woman, standing tall in a strange dress, her eyes blacked and her lips painted red as blood.

 

I sip my drink, I smile at the old men who appraise me with watery gazes, and I climb the stairs to the quiet balcony above the ballroom. I wait. I wait for ten minutes, and then he appears at my side.

 

“I have not seen you before,” says the Prince. He looks at the selection of drinks instead of at me, his half-cocked smile both curious and inviting. He has, but it has been ten years. He is beautiful, perfect, a dream. 

 

“I am newly arrived in the City, Highness,” I tell him as he turns to face me. I have practiced the curtsy a thousand times in the mirror. I know that it is perfect.

 

His eyes narrow when he sees the small scar on my lip, hidden imperfectly under the crimson lip-paint. I smile at him. “From the riots, Highness. A small price to pay for revolution.”

 

He smiles back, and his eyes crinkle. For a moment he looks kind.

 

“They were difficult times,” he says. He sounds sad.

 

“A difficult time for all of us, and none so much as yourself, your Highness. But we are all here now, and it is worth remembering everything that we have to live for.” I barely recognize my voice; low and husky and burning with a fire that I know the Prince will mistake for belief. Or desire.

 

He sighs, gestures below towards the center of the room, where the crowd pretends that they are not here solely for his favor, pretends that they can disguise the raw hatred with which they stare at this strange, unwelcome woman.  “I wish that I could remind this lot of the very same. But they forget what we fought for so quickly. They forget the terror that my grandfather created and his son - my father - perpetuated.”

 

“Perhaps we should all look to the future as they do, my Prince.”

 

He shakes his head. “We should remember what we came from as well.”

 

“Some of us will not forget.” 

 

“Some of us.” He pauses. Drinks. Looks to the center of the floor, towards eyes that look away as one. “What is your name?”

 

I hesitate. “Rose.”

 

“An old name,” he says. “Graceful.”

 

“Others have called it weak,” I say.

 

He favors me with another long glance. “I see no weakness in you.”

 

I incline my head, as thanks and as acknowledgement. “Then you are as wise as they say, my Prince.”

 

He laughs. “Who? I don’t believe many call me wise any longer, Lady Rose. They want change. Progress. They have very little use for a Prince who was a figurehead at the age of thirteen, and who now finds himself with a measure of power.”

 

His candor surprises me, unbalances me, and I take another glance at the old blood that lingers in the center of the room. And then I see that his cheeks are rosy, and I wonder how much he has had to drink. “They are greedy, then. And as you say, they have forgotten where we came from, and who we have to thank.”

 

Out of the corner of my eye, I see the twins leave the center of the room, stalk towards the wing of the castle. 

 

“You flatter me.”

 

“Do I?” I say. I have almost forgotten that he is beside me. “Perhaps. But that is not my aim.”

 

He sets his drink down on the table while my eyes follow the twins across the room. It is growing late.

 

“Why are you telling me this?” I ask.

 

He looks at me more sharply than a drunkard would, nods again to the center of the room. “Because you’re not like them,” he says. “Even I am wise enough to see that.”

 

“Wise enough to trust a stranger with your complaints?” I say, but I smile at him and he smiles back.

 

“Would you like to walk with me?” He asks, and his lips hold promises that haunt the dreams of thousands of young women. “It is quieter in the gardens.”

 

My heart beats faster at this, and a silly, youthful part of me wonders if he can hear it. And then I shake my head.

 

“I’m afraid I must leave,” I say. “Perhaps…another time?”

 

“But you’ve only just arrived,” he says, and then he realizes what he has given away. He smiles. I smile.

 

“Another time, then,” he says. “Please.” I curtsy once more, a half-curtsy, and by the time the Baroness and the twins return to the estate I have hidden my tarnished carriage, hidden my perfect dress, hidden my face beneath another layer of filth and soot. They are in a fury when they arrive; they curse and stomp and hit me for spite. I do not ask them why, but when they are not looking I cannot keep the smile off my lips.

 

The third night arrives. The Baroness departs, her creations with her. In my room, beneath the loose floorboard, lives one more treasure. It is the dress I finished two nights prior, the dress that cost me the fury of the twins. It is black, black as raven’s wing and the dark behind the moon. It pools around my feet when I pull it on, clings to me as though it is alive, spills out behind me in grasping tendrils sewn of shadow. 

 

When I arrive at the palace, the royal guard is expecting me. The doors open as my carriage arrives, and there are men and women on the steps to watch my entrance, to wonder who I am. The carriage stairs extend, and I descend them, and around me billows and roils the dress that is made of night. I do not look around me as I pass the people on the grand stairway, although I know that they are staring. I look at no one, save the Prince, who stands in the center of the open doors. Waiting. 

 

I say nothing as we walk through the ballroom, past malicious eyes, through the back doors, into the night that blankets the gardens. I say nothing when we stop in the center of the labyrinth, far from the music and laughter of the ballroom, in front of a towering rose bush. I say nothing, but I do favor him with a smile.

 

“This is my favorite part of the garden,” says the Prince.

 

“You flatter me,” say, and I smile wider, because I know what he will say next.

 

And he knows, too: “Do I? Perhaps, but that is not my aim.”

 

I reach out a hand, stroke one perfect petal. I let the moment drag. 

 

“What is your aim, my Prince?”

 

“Simply to share a beautiful place with someone I think will appreciate it. And understand it, I think. There is beauty in small things.”

 

“And in growing things,” I say. He nods.

 

I fall silent again. The rose blossoms drip, crimson, from branches so green they are almost black. 

 

“What are you thinking about?” he asks me, and he sounds so honest and so curious that I answer without thinking.

 

“I am thinking of all my regrets,” I say, “and of all that I will come to regret.”

 

“These are grim words for a festival, Lady Rose.”

 

“Are they? Perhaps levity is made sweeter by hardship.”

 

He waits, but I do not continue.

 

“Perhaps. You are mourning something, Lady Rose. Some grave wrong, some tragedy. But I should like it if, for a week - for a night, even - I could…help you.”

 

I hear the quiver in his voice, even if he does not. He is so earnest, so young. So old. I am old, too. The both of us, birthed and shaped in fires a decade past. A rose of possibility blossoms in my mind, unfurls in infinite directions. Perhaps he is right. Perhaps we could help each other.

 

I smile. A genuine smile, not painted or pantomimed or pretended. I have forgotten what it feels like. It feels…good. His eyebrows raise in surprise. I offer him my hand. He takes it, and as we walk through the beautiful rose garden back toward the palace, eyes turn to follow our laughter, and a cloud rises to cover the moon.

 

The Prince’s room is heated by a real fire. Wood-burning, like the one in the cinder-block hovel I once shared with my father. When I wake in the night, it is still hot, still strong. I peel away from the warmth of the Prince’s skin, add a log to it - perhaps hoping that the noise will rouse him.

 

He struggles some, when the letter-opener slips into this throat. It wakes him - his calm, sleeping face transformed by surprise and terror and the disbelief of betrayal. I hold my hand over his mouth while his life puddles on the sheets beside us, whisper to him for the eternity it takes his body to realize the fight is useless, for him to stop twitching, for his perfect, beautiful eyes to freeze in the rictus of despair. It is a lullaby, a lullaby my father used to sing to me. It is not until my tears hit his face that I realize I am crying.

 

The only guards I see are drunk and asleep. The palace dreams, and there is no one in the kitchen when I start the fire. Concrete does not burn. Steel does not burn. Except by secrets known only to a few - to the daughter of a machinist, who knows how to destroy everything that humans have ever built, because she was there to watch her father and she knows how to build it all. She knows how to make the fire so hot, so hungry, that it will devour the world and the city along with it.

 

I leave before the screaming begins, before the castle explodes in flame, before the night is lit by a firework grander than any the Prince could ever muster. I walk among the gas-lamps, barefoot beneath the shadowy moon, and my dress tugs and catches on the cobbled roads, pulls dirt and detritus along behind it. When I arrive at the estate it is still quiet. I take my father’s coat down from where it hangs, turn it inside out, pull it over my shoulders. There is no one there to stop me, and before long, the greasy flames lick at the pillars of my father’s broken castle.

 

Are you watching, father? Are you proud of your legacy? The Prince’s fires took mother. They took you as well, and you embraced them, left me behind to pick through the ashes of your life. Soon they will take the Baroness, the twins, the City itself. And when it burns, when we have all burned, I will have my victory.

 


post #81 of 85

Sooo yeah if you could just write a full-length novel some time soon that would be great @Synthese 

post #82 of 85
Thread Starter 

Absolutely incredible.

post #83 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rosenrot View Post




I just came across this thread and I thought I might contribute with something I wore recently. The outerwear is a traditional Japanese firemen coat made of sturdy sashiko weaves.

"The exterior of the firefighter's coat tended to be plain and uniformlike, with characters or numbers of the fire brigade stenciled in white for quick identification, needed if a building collapsed or a fire spread too quickly."

For more information on these hanten coats please read here: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2003-12-04/features/0312040064_1_firefighters-edo-blaze

The rest of the items are not traditional of course, but the Comme de Garçons sarouels are reminiscent of the traditional Persian garments. 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Six View Post

Beautiful example of the firemen's coat, very well worn. I have one with a burn hole in it hanging in my house. It's one of my favorite things. I particularly like the way that it exemplifies how practical things can be beautiful, and beautiful things practical.

Very cool. I have a similar one, obtained on Okinawa, but don't know if it's a fireman's coat. Very sturdy - had it for years.
post #84 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by Synthese View Post
 

 

 


 

 

Rose’s Story


 

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)

 

I have few memories of my mother, but her legacy lingers in my name. It is the only gift she gave to me before she died that I still have, before the fires that accompanied the Prince’s wild coup took her life and left me motherless at eight years old. Fatherless, too; his mind followed his wife, even though it took his body years to catch up.

 

I grew up alone in our cinder-block house on the outskirts of the City, watched him as he sunk what remained of his being into his work for the Prince, congratulated him and comforted him and even, after he had rebuilt our old life, had achieved Royal patronage, and had moved us back into the comforts of the City’s First Ring, gave him my own meager blessing to remarry the woman the Prince had found for him, found as an ally for the corporations and for the crown.

 

The Prince gave him a prize for his service to the throne: a coat, red and blue, stitched together from heavy cotton. The royal seal adorns one side, the inside is emblazoned with the sigil of victory. A celebration - or it should have been, but I saw how the weight of it made his shoulders sag. He wore it in his shop, while tinkering or thinking, wore it when I brought him his meals, wore it as he favored me with an increasingly blank smile. I did not know that he had his own fires that consumed him from within, and when the drugs took him a year later, I cursed my abandonment in silence. 

 

Rose, the cleaning. Rose, the cooking. Rose, the washing. Rose, the repairs. The Baroness - my father’s second wife - could have hired all the help she needed. And sometimes she did, for brief periods - brought servants in as friends to her twin daughters, as accomplices in their mockery of the poor girl whose father had left her behind. Left her out of his non-existent will, left her to rot at the feet of the woman who married him for his money, for his influence, for his life. She shed no tears when he died.

 

“You ripped my dress!” 

 

The twins are indistinguishable, the result of years of genetic tinkering and an ideal blood-match from the Baroness’ first husband. They are perfect, doll-like, their mother’s masterpiece and the reason for her high standing among the Corporations. But their faces turn red and hot and ugly when they are angry, and when they raise their perfect hands to strike my face - as they often do, when they can find an excuse - you would not know that they are the same people. I have a scar on my upper lip from one of their rages; a tiny thing that the Baroness mocks when she pretends I am out of earshot.

 

I ripped the dress on purpose, knowing full well what I would receive for my trouble, knowing just how angry it would make her.

 

Perhaps I could have complained to the Prince, had I been able to manage an audience. But the Prince has no regard for me. I don’t believe that he had any for my father, aside from in his utility - and everything my father built the Prince claimed as his own in the name of “research.” I have not seen him in almost a decade, but he is still young - he was young when he took the City from his tyrant of a father; a vicious, bloodthirsty teen; young when he named himself heir; and he will be young for years yet. Perhaps the folly of youth is forgivable - though I wonder if he has any idea of the citizens who are crushed beneath the knees of the Corporations as they bow and scrape to win his favor. The ones who live in the hovels like that my father and I used to share. Now I watch the City rebuild around me, and I sleep in the servants’ quarters of our estate as the Baroness and her offspring wield my father’s name and legacy like a dull knife, stabbing wildly towards the heart of the struggling empire.

 

The Baroness screams at me, curses me, bemoans my idiocy and my clumsiness. I keep my eyes on my father’s coat, still hanging on the wall in the study as an empty gesture. I pull my shoulders forward, and I pretend to crumble underneath her blows. She had high hopes for the dress, as her daughter did. This year was meant to be their coming of age, their triumph, and their fury is born of frustration.

 

There is a week-long fête on every anniversary of the coup, thrown in the Prince’s honor at his ugly castle of steel and glass and concrete. One of the twins will be without the dress, black as night, that was meant to match that of her sister. I am not invited, though as the daughter of a Lord it is my blood-right. I think that they have come to fear me; fear my silence and my suffering. They want me to complain, fight back, so that they can crush me. But I watch in silence as they leave that first night, poised atop their ornate carriage, pulled by the brainless automatons my father helped create. These are in the shape of horses, but two-legged, their beautiful gilt necks sculpted in constant strain against the weight of their charge. As they high-step away, flashing gold and silver in the bloody sunset, they leave oily smoke in their wake.

 

I clean the estate in preparation of their return. And then I escape to my room, and I bring out my needles. For five years I have been ripping dresses. I have been saving the scraps. I have been oh so very clever, so clever that my father would smile, if he still could. I stitch for hours, my heart pounding. 

 

The Baroness and her creations return in the early hours of the morning, all of them furious. One of the twins leaves a bright line of fire down the side of my neck with an over-long fingernail. It makes me happy, calms me down.

 

There is a boy I have known for a handful of months. His name is unimportant. His master is a carriage-worker, his appointment is to the castle. The boy fancies me, has been promised in whispers prizes that he will never collect. He believes that I owe him. He believes that he owns me. It is sweet, in a way.

 

The next night, I watch the trio leave once more. And then I slip up the stairs to my filthy room, and I pull my secret from beneath a loose floorboard. It is red and black and blue, stitched together from all that I have stolen and all the twins have discarded. It is ragged, unfinished, a patchwork riot cut low in the front and longer in the back, the plumage of a drowned bird. It is beautiful. It has a sister, but she will stay hidden a little longer.

 

The palace fireworks have already begun when the boy’s carriage appears at the house, its presence there unknown and un-condoned by his master. It is old. Black and aged and tarnished, self-driven with no gilt marvels to pull it. It is sculpted in the shape of a swan. The boy arrives along with it, and his grin is as sickening as the lights from the castle. I smile, I flutter my eyelashes, and I pretend not to be sick when I feel his rough hands on my shoulder. I grant him a wink, another empty promise. His lips are dry and cracked. He believes that I am a simple serving girl, enamored with the luxury of nobility. He has secreted me this old carriage because he believes it will fulfill a lifelong dream of mine. He is not wrong. He wishes me well with a smirk, he turns his back, and in the dim light of the gas-lamps I bury my father’s silver letter-opener in his neck. Its handle is carved in the shape of a rose, the blade a stylized thorn; his blood turns the silver petals a dark ruby. A boy with an unimportant name will not be missed, and reprogramming the ownership of the carriage is a matter of moments for a girl who spent her life with their creator.

 

I take a circuitous route to the castle, and I leave his body in the river. My hand comes away stained, and I wipe both it and the letter-opener on one ragged, crimson hem of my perfect dress before I tuck my silver thorn back into the silken pocket that was made only to hold it, to hold this last, most precious heirloom. It is nearing midnight when I reach the castle, and when the guards see me they see a woman from a High House and they do not stop me.

 

Electric lamps light the interior of the palace, and none of the guests hold embroidered kerchiefs over their mouths as they might if they were outside. Most are of the old blood, nobles whose alliance would shift with a gust of wind. The Prince is their minder now, and they are determined that they should profit from it. Others are from new money, granted status and lucrative contracts for their aid in the Coup or in the years that followed. They are viewed with distaste by the old blood, and in turn they view the old blood with venomous and jealous disdain. But the old families are growing fewer, and the court smells blood. 

 

When the ballroom doors are opened for me, the Prince is standing in the center of the floor, beset on all sides by well-wishers and gold-diggers and profiteers. Many of them are young women, hoping to catch his eye - or that of another good match. I wonder how many are present at the behest of a mother or a father with eyes on a court appointment.

 

I stand in the doorway. I know that the hazy night behind me makes the reds and blacks of my dress stand out. I feel eyes on me. I ignore them, and instead I find a drink. I pretend that it is not to quench my nerves. And I studiously ignore the center of the room. 

 

The twins are there, in the crowd. They look bored and desperate. Their mother must be here as well, watching. Both of them glance toward the open doors, toward the newcomer. For a moment, their eyes slide over me. But they do not stop. They would recognize the meek serving girl. They do not recognize this woman, standing tall in a strange dress, her eyes blacked and her lips painted red as blood.

 

I sip my drink, I smile at the old men who appraise me with watery gazes, and I climb the stairs to the quiet balcony above the ballroom. I wait. I wait for ten minutes, and then he appears at my side.

 

“I have not seen you before,” says the Prince. He looks at the selection of drinks instead of at me, his half-cocked smile both curious and inviting. He has, but it has been ten years. He is beautiful, perfect, a dream. 

 

“I am newly arrived in the City, Highness,” I tell him as he turns to face me. I have practiced the curtsy a thousand times in the mirror. I know that it is perfect.

 

His eyes narrow when he sees the small scar on my lip, hidden imperfectly under the crimson lip-paint. I smile at him. “From the riots, Highness. A small price to pay for revolution.”

 

He smiles back, and his eyes crinkle. For a moment he looks kind.

 

“They were difficult times,” he says. He sounds sad.

 

“A difficult time for all of us, and none so much as yourself, your Highness. But we are all here now, and it is worth remembering everything that we have to live for.” I barely recognize my voice; low and husky and burning with a fire that I know the Prince will mistake for belief. Or desire.

 

He sighs, gestures below towards the center of the room, where the crowd pretends that they are not here solely for his favor, pretends that they can disguise the raw hatred with which they stare at this strange, unwelcome woman.  “I wish that I could remind this lot of the very same. But they forget what we fought for so quickly. They forget the terror that my grandfather created and his son - my father - perpetuated.”

 

“Perhaps we should all look to the future as they do, my Prince.”

 

He shakes his head. “We should remember what we came from as well.”

 

“Some of us will not forget.” 

 

“Some of us.” He pauses. Drinks. Looks to the center of the floor, towards eyes that look away as one. “What is your name?”

 

I hesitate. “Rose.”

 

“An old name,” he says. “Graceful.”

 

“Others have called it weak,” I say.

 

He favors me with another long glance. “I see no weakness in you.”

 

I incline my head, as thanks and as acknowledgement. “Then you are as wise as they say, my Prince.”

 

He laughs. “Who? I don’t believe many call me wise any longer, Lady Rose. They want change. Progress. They have very little use for a Prince who was a figurehead at the age of thirteen, and who now finds himself with a measure of power.”

 

His candor surprises me, unbalances me, and I take another glance at the old blood that lingers in the center of the room. And then I see that his cheeks are rosy, and I wonder how much he has had to drink. “They are greedy, then. And as you say, they have forgotten where we came from, and who we have to thank.”

 

Out of the corner of my eye, I see the twins leave the center of the room, stalk towards the wing of the castle. 

 

“You flatter me.”

 

“Do I?” I say. I have almost forgotten that he is beside me. “Perhaps. But that is not my aim.”

 

He sets his drink down on the table while my eyes follow the twins across the room. It is growing late.

 

“Why are you telling me this?” I ask.

 

He looks at me more sharply than a drunkard would, nods again to the center of the room. “Because you’re not like them,” he says. “Even I am wise enough to see that.”

 

“Wise enough to trust a stranger with your complaints?” I say, but I smile at him and he smiles back.

 

“Would you like to walk with me?” He asks, and his lips hold promises that haunt the dreams of thousands of young women. “It is quieter in the gardens.”

 

My heart beats faster at this, and a silly, youthful part of me wonders if he can hear it. And then I shake my head.

 

“I’m afraid I must leave,” I say. “Perhaps…another time?”

 

“But you’ve only just arrived,” he says, and then he realizes what he has given away. He smiles. I smile.

 

“Another time, then,” he says. “Please.” I curtsy once more, a half-curtsy, and by the time the Baroness and the twins return to the estate I have hidden my tarnished carriage, hidden my perfect dress, hidden my face beneath another layer of filth and soot. They are in a fury when they arrive; they curse and stomp and hit me for spite. I do not ask them why, but when they are not looking I cannot keep the smile off my lips.

 

The third night arrives. The Baroness departs, her creations with her. In my room, beneath the loose floorboard, lives one more treasure. It is the dress I finished two nights prior, the dress that cost me the fury of the twins. It is black, black as raven’s wing and the dark behind the moon. It pools around my feet when I pull it on, clings to me as though it is alive, spills out behind me in grasping tendrils sewn of shadow. 

 

When I arrive at the palace, the royal guard is expecting me. The doors open as my carriage arrives, and there are men and women on the steps to watch my entrance, to wonder who I am. The carriage stairs extend, and I descend them, and around me billows and roils the dress that is made of night. I do not look around me as I pass the people on the grand stairway, although I know that they are staring. I look at no one, save the Prince, who stands in the center of the open doors. Waiting. 

 

I say nothing as we walk through the ballroom, past malicious eyes, through the back doors, into the night that blankets the gardens. I say nothing when we stop in the center of the labyrinth, far from the music and laughter of the ballroom, in front of a towering rose bush. I say nothing, but I do favor him with a smile.

 

“This is my favorite part of the garden,” says the Prince.

 

“You flatter me,” say, and I smile wider, because I know what he will say next.

 

And he knows, too: “Do I? Perhaps, but that is not my aim.”

 

I reach out a hand, stroke one perfect petal. I let the moment drag. 

 

“What is your aim, my Prince?”

 

“Simply to share a beautiful place with someone I think will appreciate it. And understand it, I think. There is beauty in small things.”

 

“And in growing things,” I say. He nods.

 

I fall silent again. The rose blossoms drip, crimson, from branches so green they are almost black. 

 

“What are you thinking about?” he asks me, and he sounds so honest and so curious that I answer without thinking.

 

“I am thinking of all my regrets,” I say, “and of all that I will come to regret.”

 

“These are grim words for a festival, Lady Rose.”

 

“Are they? Perhaps levity is made sweeter by hardship.”

 

He waits, but I do not continue.

 

“Perhaps. You are mourning something, Lady Rose. Some grave wrong, some tragedy. But I should like it if, for a week - for a night, even - I could…help you.”

 

I hear the quiver in his voice, even if he does not. He is so earnest, so young. So old. I am old, too. The both of us, birthed and shaped in fires a decade past. A rose of possibility blossoms in my mind, unfurls in infinite directions. Perhaps he is right. Perhaps we could help each other.

 

I smile. A genuine smile, not painted or pantomimed or pretended. I have forgotten what it feels like. It feels…good. His eyebrows raise in surprise. I offer him my hand. He takes it, and as we walk through the beautiful rose garden back toward the palace, eyes turn to follow our laughter, and a cloud rises to cover the moon.

 

The Prince’s room is heated by a real fire. Wood-burning, like the one in the cinder-block hovel I once shared with my father. When I wake in the night, it is still hot, still strong. I peel away from the warmth of the Prince’s skin, add a log to it - perhaps hoping that the noise will rouse him.

 

He struggles some, when the letter-opener slips into this throat. It wakes him - his calm, sleeping face transformed by surprise and terror and the disbelief of betrayal. I hold my hand over his mouth while his life puddles on the sheets beside us, whisper to him for the eternity it takes his body to realize the fight is useless, for him to stop twitching, for his perfect, beautiful eyes to freeze in the rictus of despair. It is a lullaby, a lullaby my father used to sing to me. It is not until my tears hit his face that I realize I am crying.

 

The only guards I see are drunk and asleep. The palace dreams, and there is no one in the kitchen when I start the fire. Concrete does not burn. Steel does not burn. Except by secrets known only to a few - to the daughter of a machinist, who knows how to destroy everything that humans have ever built, because she was there to watch her father and she knows how to build it all. She knows how to make the fire so hot, so hungry, that it will devour the world and the city along with it.

 

I leave before the screaming begins, before the castle explodes in flame, before the night is lit by a firework grander than any the Prince could ever muster. I walk among the gas-lamps, barefoot beneath the shadowy moon, and my dress tugs and catches on the cobbled roads, pulls dirt and detritus along behind it. When I arrive at the estate it is still quiet. I take my father’s coat down from where it hangs, turn it inside out, pull it over the my shoulders. There is no one there to stop me, and before long, the greasy flames lick at the pillars of my father’s broken castle.

 

Are you watching, father? Are you proud of your legacy? The Prince’s fires took mother. They took you as well, and you embraced them, left me behind to pick through the ashes of your life. Soon they will take the Baroness, the twins, the City itself. And when it burns, when we have all burned, I will have my victory.

 


 

 

I cried, and then laughed. And then cried again. You have some real talent dude.

post #85 of 85

Wow, thanks guys. Glad people enjoyed it! 

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