Saturday, May 22, 2010

Beauty + the Feast

He lumbered through Devilmass Manor like a wounded hound of Hades. It would be an evening for remembering if he left anyone to remember it. His experiments had gone wrong this day. No longer was he Lord Blackthorn, man of letters, distinction, and bodily sciences. This night he was no man. He was beast. He was heathen. He was-

“Master Blackthorn?” a timid voice sweet as orange marmalade sounded in the doom-tempered darkness. “Has something happened to Cook?”

The monster in him laughed a snarling, sinister response. If the organ and its most ardent player, Cousin Alonso, had not recently been set to burning in a fit of serum-soaked hellwrath a foreboding tune would surely play. For just paces from Lord Blackthorn, Cook lounged on a newly-crimson chaise holding a bowl of blackberry jam. Part of Cook, anyway.

A clatter of pans on the distant kitchen’s flagstone floor snapped him from his sinner’s survey. “Oi!” the candied cry of the distant maid called to him and his insatiable hunger. “Master, I am all thumbs and apologies!”

“Child, you will be sorrier still.” He murmured to the drawing roomful of destruction and dead before giving a bit of a howl and bounding for the scullery maid’s scent. His immense shadow soon fell over the girl and a king’s bounty of baked goods flung upon the kitchen floor. She was a bit tall for a scullery maid, and her back held a slight hump, but when she turned to see him he saw her tear-streaked face was vaguely pretty and familiar.

“Master Blackthorn!” she cried while scooping some mashed muffins into her apron. “Your eyes! They’re quite dilated!” He emitted a growl and lunged for her throat, missing her by moments as she turned to pull a tray of tarts from the oven. “All sorrows for the lateness of the meal, Master Blackthorn. Cook was to help me learn the ropes of it but has been away ever so long with business I know not-AH!” She let out a little scream as Lord Blackthorn pinned her against the stone wall and bared his bloody maw. “I understand you’re hungry, sir. I’m sorry. It’s just, it’s my first day with all the responsibilities heaped on only me, sir. I’m used to the scullery bits moreso than the cooking. Not that I can’t do it, sir. Me mum was a cook, a bloody fine cook if you excuse my vulgarity. My nerves, sir. You being a genius, perhaps you understand. It’s just a lot to take on, sir. Sir!”

He kicked the waffle press from her hand with his bloodstained boot. “Forgive my presumption, Master Blackthorn, but to look at the state of you! Clothes in tatters and what ghastly stains! Indeed you are known for your eccentricities and brilliance but what will the little-seen but oft-alluded to Lady Blackthorn say?”

“Nothing. I have eaten her.” Lord Blackthorn foamed at the mouth and furrowed his hairy brow. “I’ve eaten them all, you see. In a fit of rage brought about from my meddling with the makings of man. My potions and bottles and experiments have gifted and cursed me with the strength of a billion brutes. Watch, girl, the orange flames dance in the woodstove round your mincemeat pies-“

“They’ll be done at half past, Master. I swear it.”

“Splendid…er…The flames…they dance like my own madness. My rage. My genius. And they claim the pies as I claim my victims, wholly. Indiscriminately. Now you I shall claim the same. I cannot stop myself. I am the devil, maid!”

“Yes, sir. But are you hungry?”

“For bones and blood and-“

“Scones, I do hope. And hot buttered ham. Brunch will be served within the hour.”

“Erm…” the beastly form of Lord Blackthorn paused in pursuit of his quarry and quite near a tray of steaming pear popovers.

“The scent captivates you, don’t it, sir? Cook’s recipe. Cook was to show me how to do them properly of course, but as you’ve eaten him, I’ve had to go from memory of watching. I do hope they’re not awful. Listen to me. My nerves! Of course they’ll at least be a little of alright. Sir?” She delicately lifted his death-caked hand from her throat. “Do help me set the table? I wouldn’t ask it’s just, with the rest of them all eaten up it’s too much work for me alone, it is. And a strawberry rhubarb pudding for your trouble.” She stuck a serving tray in the crook of his outstretched arm and a spoonful of sweetness in his mouth before sweeping past him regally for the dining room. The pudding tasted even better than the flesh of his enemies, and he softened upon her near-instant return.

“Let us take our meal in the courtyard, as the dining room has burnt quite away.”He followed her out to the honeysuckle-scented courtyard and watched her spread a red-checkered blanket on an only partially-charred lawn. She enlisted his aid in carrying out another several baskets of sweetmeats and silverware before they both finally settled down to eat.

“It seems you may plan on eating me, sir. But it would, pardon me, be a bloody shame for my work to go to waste. Let us see if you are still hungry after all this.” They both cast a look at the sumptuous spread before them, and she turned her gaze to the quietly burning estate.

“Perhaps the next stroke of genius you have can be less mad and more…philanthropic?”

He looked at her in awe. Perhaps he nodded. His unearthly anger, unlike the flames engulfing Devilmass Manor, was extinguished. He snatched at a blueberry muffin with the hunger of an animal and the wonder of a child. The maid laughed a tinkling, goodhearted laugh.

“Well go on then, sir. Tuck in!”

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