Chapter 10: True Myth
Cosio Belecash was a famous mask-maker during the reign of the last king of Vynam. He was born in Sou, the state ruled by the Ulumie branch of the Canid family. My mistress had shown me drawings of his masks that were characterised by breathtaking traceries created with filigree, or life-like designs of ferocious wolves made with careful granulation.
Whoever had made Lady Golia Aspertin's mask had attempted, in every way and form, to imitate the Belecash style. It was a beautiful piece with gold traceries forming lace-like patterns around the eyes and hessonite garnet imbedded in the corners to bring light to the face.
The mask was formed like a wolf mid-snarl, down to the crease between the brows and the tufts of fur running in gold strings down her cheeks. It was a surreal creation, though, since delicate deer horns protruded from its top. Belecash would not approve of such a breach in tradition. One could only belong to a single house and wolves clearly did not have deer horns.
She was a milk-skinned lady with honey-coloured curls that mingled with the yellow gold of her mask. Her dress was a fiery bourbon colour, highlighted with yellow trimmings and gold thread, meant to correspond, I supposed, with the season.
"My lady," I said, making a deep curtsy. As I bent down to show her the back of my neck, I noticed that the room was empty of servants. I wondered if there was still someone listening from behind the rich tapestries that hung over the walls.
Behind Lady Golia, on a low divan sat a chestnut-haired, pale-skinned boy in a maroon cotton mask. The spectres never came for children, but they wore the masks from a young age.
He watched me with small dark eyes. I had never seen a child sitting so still.
She sat in her chair, twirling a lock of her hair around her finger. "You're late," she spat. "I asked for you an hour ago."
I had come as soon as my conversation with Afali concluded, but I wasn't going to defend myself. "I apologise, my lady."
Dylana had asked her sister to look into a matter before she left. What methods Kitlidara used to obtain her information had me worried—if there was a Tvereman spy here, in house Aspertin, I was going to be recognised. But what Dylana's original query had been was now clear to me. She wished to know if her secret was safe, and if Lady Golia Aspertin was now satisfied with the punishment received—she wasn't.
But the lion, the score...I didn't have the leisure to think of that now.
Lady Golia waited for my excuse, but I offered none. "You're a wretched little thing, aren't you? Have you no respect for your hosts?"
I knew that nothing I could say would please her. Her only intention with me was to be as displeased as she could. "I appreciate the efforts that have been made for me, my lady," I said.
"You? Appreciate?" She rose from her seat and began stepping towards me. I was surprised to discover that she wasn't actually as young as she had looked at first. Like Afali and Lord Aspertin, she projected an almost overwhelming sense of well-being, but there were lines of age on her neck and an obvious stiffness to her movements. "I doubt you appreciate anything that was done for you. You don't know how to appreciate."
"Perhaps you could teach me how."
"Don't pretend to be coy. You exist because of a man's weakness and mistake. You are a prisoner here and will be made to understand your place."
I took a step back.
"Afali has rained luxury upon you. Does she think you're truly her sister? I've had a cell prepared for you, Dylana."
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WATTYS 2018 SHORTLIST "Every person is a book, Yael. You just need to find the right way to read them." In the land of Vynam, all must wear masquerade masks to ward off the deathly touch of the spectres. Eighteen-year-old Yael was a talented mask-m...