Transcript – Captivation

[The Pensive Tower theme plays]

Scroll & Dagger presents
The Pensive Tower
Episode Fourteen: Captivation

[A click, and the strange whirring of the venoscribe begins]

This is the memory of Rehmand duCosst. Human, aged twenty-three, identified as male. Memory regards his relationship with Sir Abraem and Lady Mirina DulinArker, and was donated on the twenty-ninth of Sunsheight, in the year 727. Inscribed by Paxton Ferox on the ninth of Sunsfall, 729.

We Begin.

Beauty. It’s what sets us apart from the animals. At least, that’s what I think. The twelve peoples are the only ones capable of recognising and appreciating true beauty. Even the rudest, most common wheel-pusher out in the hills can recognise beauty when it’s in front of them, even if it’s something they could never hope to achieve.

Oh, I know that peahens and similar creatures will flock to the male’s bright plumage but that’s just a natural attraction to bright colours. It’s not the same, not at all.

You learn to truly appreciate beauty when you live in Brana. It is, after all, the centre of culture and art in the Federation.

I know some might disagree, especially down here. I know Elalton has a… decent social calendar and some of the estates in the city are… passable, I suppose. But they really aren’t comparable to what can be found up in Brana. The operas, the parties, all the people of high calibre meeting together to enjoy good food, good drink and good conversation.

And, well, no offence to the notables here in the south but the fashion is a little behind the times compared to up in Brana. Just on the way here I saw a woman wearing a dress I saw Madam SinDaalain wearing at last year’s High Seat Champion Chase. An elegant dress, to be sure, but, well… it was last year.

But I should perhaps get on and tell you what I came all the way here to tell you. No small thing that, by the way. I know you’ve likely never ridden the Pascorrean Express but the tickets are not an inconsiderable expense, and that’s before you even factor in the first-class ticket and catering and all the rest of it. Fortunately, my father does own most of the silk trade from Sangland so cost isn’t often an issue but still, I hope you appreciate the effort and expense of my coming to make this donation.

This all began, oh, I should say nearly two months ago. I was to attend an evening party at the home of a dear friend of mine, Jachim SinAlant. He’d invited quite a few of the big names in Brana’s drapery circle, trying to network for his new business, you understand, and, since my name is rather well known in said circle, I promised I’d go along for support.

It was the least I could do. Jachim has been a loyal friend since we were in school together, always the one I could most rely on. But his family isn’t as well off as mine, hence the need to start his own business. So, I bought a new suit, had my manservant shine my shoes and, when the evening came, I went over to the venue.

I say venue since it obviously wasn’t at Jachim’s house. I mean his house is fine but it’s not the sort of place where one hosts a party. Certainly not a party to impress the sort of people he was inviting.

At my recommendation, he’d rented out the Crystal Suite of the Everseason Hotel, a much more suitable location. Three spacious rooms centred around an indoor fountain with easy access to the kitchen. I’ve been to a few gatherings there and have never had a bad time of it.

I arrived and was pleased to see the party had attracted quite a few notable faces. Sir Alard DuVent was there with his latest wife, so too was old Colonel DuMirisson. Madam SinDaalain was there, though that was hardly notable, she never misses a party no matter who might be throwing it, but Rayarin DulinMahlan was there with both his wife and his mistress and their presence alone was enough to raise the notability of this party up by several notches.

I made sure to avoid Rayarin, I have no issue with the man, nor he with me as far as I am aware, but before he took Zara SinFrost as his mistress, she and I had a few tumbles of our own, though that relationship was rather soured when she caught me in bed with her brother. Such is life, I suppose.

Still, there were plenty of other young men and ladies I could find some entertainment with. Dustin DuJanna, looking very dashing in a fine, embroidered blood-red coat, dropped me a wink from across the room as I made my way through. I gave him a smile back, though my eyes had already found Ms Alayne SinDreda. She’s hard to miss with those auburn curls of hers, courtesy of her Gellish mother, and she was wearing a truly gorgeous midnight blue gown.

She was surrounded by admirers, as usual, a pack of younglings barely old enough to be attending the party, never mind trying anything with a woman like Alayne.

She spotted me as I was crossing the room, raising a hand to me and bidding me join her. I’m not sure if I found that or the enraged faces of the young pups around her more enjoyable.

But, as tempted as I was to go over and enrage the admirers further, I mouthed to Alayne that I’d speak with her later. This was my friend’s party, after all, it was only right I go see him first before going to enjoy more pleasurable company.

Jachim was over by the drinks table, talking with Evrard SinMarrek, another big name in the silk trade. I was impressed Jachim had been able to ingratiate himself to so prestigious a guest so quickly, I’d been sure I would have to be the one to make introductions. And, to his credit, Jachim looked like he was doing well. He didn’t look at all nervous or intimidated. I was quite proud of him for that.

Not wanting to interrupt such an important conversation, I kept back and waited to be noticed.

When that took longer than I cared for, I began making small coughing noises. Jachim noticed me then and smiled, greeted me warmly and invited me to join him and SinMarrek in conversation.

I knew SinMarrek rather well, of course, my father has hosted him on multiple occasions. One of the most dreadful old bores ever to walk the land, but he’s one of those chaps who you need to be on the good side of if you want to make any headway in high society.

We made polite conversation for long enough to maintain face and then made our excuses and left SinMarrek to locate his next conversational hostage.

Once we were safely away, I was able to talk to Jachim as I usually do. I congratulated him on the turn out, gave him a little advice on dealing with some of the more uppity members of this part of society, and then asked if there were any particular ladies or gentlemen he might point me in the direction of.

At that point, I was already reasonably certain I’d be leaving the party with Alayne but it never hurts to be on the lookout. And it was a lucky thing I did ask. Had I left it there, gone and spoken with Miss SinDreda, I would have had a memorable night of it, to be sure. But I would not have met the woman who would forever change my life.

Jachim told me, as a matter of fact, there was a woman there that night who was turning quite a few heads. He claimed she was a beauty the like of which he had never seen and, on top of that, truly the most fascinating woman he had ever spoken with.

At this point, I was taking in all of this with lemon and sugar. Jachim is a fine man but he never had my knack with… shall we say, finding romantic partners. I mean, hardly surprising when one restricts oneself to only women. But he is always so in awe of beautiful ladies that he quite overexaggerates their qualities in his mind until they achieve near enough the position of godhood.

The reality is hardly ever the match of what he describes. With the exception of that night of course.

Jachim said this guest’s name was Mirina DulinArker and advised me to make her acquaintance with all possible haste.

I was, I admit, rather amused by my friend’s fervour on the matter but I promised him that I would make this woman’s acquaintance as soon as I could.

I then noticed Rayarin DulinMahlan, flanked by his wife and Zara, no doubt coming to greet the host themselves. I hastily bade Jachim good luck and told him I’d catch up with him later and left before they reached us and I ended up trapped in a rather uncomfortable situation.

Even then, I could have turned aside from destiny. I could have gone to Alayne, or a number of others. But I was curious. I had seen Jachim flustered by a woman before but never quite that flustered. I wanted to know what woman this was who was sending him into such a fit.

So, I went looking.

I did not have to look very hard.

This woman, this Miss DulinArker, left a trail of gaping mouths and whispered conversation that a simpleton could have followed. It seemed Jachim was not the only one to be affected by the woman’s allure.

With every murmuring I heard and stunned expression I saw, my resolve to see just what all the fuss was about only strengthened.

And then, when I saw her, I saw exactly what all the fuss was about.

Mirina DulinArker was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She was slender but not skinny, her skin a deep dark-brown and smooth. Her hair was long and black as ebony, falling to between her shoulders in an elegant curtain. But her eyes were what most caught my attention. They were large and dark, like deep pits that seemed to contain the light of the night sky.

I first saw those eyes as they met mine from across the room. In that moment, I understood how a rabbit must feel when it meets the eye of a fox. I knew, right then and there that to flee or resist would be entirely pointless. I was caught already; it just hadn’t happened yet. But, unlike the rabbit, I had no desire to run. I was lost in those eyes as they took me in. Whatever this woman’s will was, it would be my pleasure to see it done.

And she knew that. Somehow, whether she saw it in my face or in my mind, she knew. And she smiled. A dazzling smile. Diamonds and fresh fallen snow were nothing compared to it.

Like Alayne, she had been surrounded by a decent sized crowd of young admirers. Sycophants and no-hopers who practically stank of desperation as they competed to attract the lady’s eye. None of them were more capable of appreciating the beauty of the woman who honoured them with her presence than a kallafly is capable of appreciating a stained-glass window.

Madam Mirina moved through them like a shark scything through water.

This time, I hardly noticed the faces of the other would-be suitors. Though I’m sure they were more filled with rage and disappointment than even the ones who had surrounded Alayne earlier, the only face I saw was the one coming towards me.

The time it took for her to reach me was at once too long and too short. And I could only stand there, for the first time in my life struck dumb.

And then, she was stood in front of me, telling me her name and asking me for mine. For a moment, I confess, I quite forgot it and I think I rather embarrassed myself, mouthing dumbly like a fish.

Fortunately, she seemed to find this charming and laughed the sweetest, most adorable laugh I’d ever heard. And that sound broke whatever had come over me and I was finally able to conduct myself with proper decorum.

I introduced myself, did the usual thing of asking if she had heard the name duCosst before. She said she had, that she had never had the pleasure of acquaintance with anyone from my family but knew us by reputation.

As she was speaking, I took her in fully for the first time. I had been so entranced by her eyes, by her smile and her laugh that I hadn’t even noticed what she was wearing. Now that I saw it, I don’t know how it wasn’t the first thing I’d spotted.

The current fashion for dresses, or at least what was current that evening, was for long, silk gowns made in the A-line style with halter necklines, decorated with rich embroidery and off set with rich jewels, preferably rubies, set in yellow gold.

Madam Mirina was not wearing silk, nor satin, nor even brocade. Her dress was made of a material I had never seen before, it looked almost like leather. It was tight fitting, reminiscent of the trumpet style that was popular two years ago. On anyone else, I might have been appalled at her being so out of fashion. But, on her, it seemed the very height of sophistication.

And she wasn’t wearing much jewellery either, no gold or gems, just a small silver chain necklace with a matching bracelet. It was so simple, yet it was perfect. Surely anything more than this, I thought, was too much. I looked around at the other guests, bedecked in their fine clothes and jewellery, everyone I had up to that moment been admiring, and suddenly saw them as gaudy, overdressed. I myself felt a foolish peacock.

Fortunately for me the Lady Mirina did not seem to mind my frippery. She asked me instead if I had seen Eltoiyan’s latest opera, what my thoughts on it had been. I, of course, had seen the show, only the previous week so it was fresh in my mind and so I gratefully jumped on the subject to prove I was no simple fool who was all flash with no substance.

We passed a fair amount of time in conversation, blissfully unaware, at least in my case, of anyone else around us. Eventually the music started and my new companion asked if I wished to dance.

I account myself a better than average dancer so I told her I would, took her by the hand and led her to the floor. The feel of her hand in mine sent a thrilled shiver down my spine and I could feel the eyes of every other guest on us as we took our position. I, of course, was so focussed on Lady Mirina that I did not even see who was looking.

The first dance was a waltz, a dance my father had ensured I had mastered by the age of fifteen. I don’t mind saying I’ve won a few hearts with my dancing ability. But as good as I am, I might as well have been an untrained fool compared to my partner. Lady Mirina moved with a fluid grace I have never seen in another person. She was so poised and elegant, I felt quite churlish to be the one leading.

I couldn’t take my eyes off her as we danced together around the floor, oblivious to all else around us. She smiled every time she caught me staring, and the glint in her eyes was one I am familiar with. It seemed she was taken with me. I couldn’t believe my luck.

The next dance was a slightly more spirited number, so much so that I was on the verge of asking for a break before the third song began. But she kept me on the dance floor, and I am glad that she did. It was a slow song and Mirina pulled me in close so that I could feel her body against mine as we gently swayed to the music. I was suddenly aware of her mouth by my ear and her whispered voice asking if I wanted to bed her that night.

I am not usually a man easily flustered, nor am I inexperienced, as I think I’ve made clear. But her asking me that question in that way temporarily robbed me of my senses. Eventually I was able to regain my composure enough to say yes, I certainly did.

She smiled and laughed that tinkling laugh of hers again and led me by the hand away from the dance floor and towards the lobby.

I caught Jachim’s eye on the way out. He was talking with Alayne. She glared at me, furiously. Jachim on the other hand gave me a knowing smirk and a wink. I smiled back at him which only seemed to enrage Alayne further. I didn’t care. I was leaving with the most amazing woman in the whole of Brana on my arm.

Mirina led me to her carriage, let us both in and signalled the driver to move off. The horses had barely started moving when she was on me, pulling my face into hers in a passionate kiss.

This was an area I was well practiced in so I returned the kiss, my hand going to the back of her neck while the other rested on her hips.

How long we remained in that blissful meeting I don’t know but eventually she pulled away and those deep dark eyes met my own.

She told me that before anything more could happen, there was one person I would have to meet.

I asked who.

Her husband, she said.

What followed was a… lengthy silence to say the least. In the end I managed to splutter out a collection of syllables that amounted to asking just what in the Depths she was playing at.

She laughed that laugh of hers again. Good sense would have been to jump out of the carriage and run, but, the Three help me, I was enchanted.

And then she told me that her and her husband had an… unusual but not unheard-of arrangement. She was free to bring home a suitor, but they had to be approved by the husband. I actually have a friend, Luna SinStell, gorgeous girl who, unfortunately, prefers the company of her own sex, anyway she once entered into a similar situation with a woman whose husband had become… too old to fulfil his marital duties. She had told me the experience had been quite enjoyable and the husband had actually seemed quite happy about the whole thing.

So, as we pulled up to the front of the DulinArker house, I was expecting to meet a similarly old gentleman. A grey beard, maybe hunched with age but with the money to attract and hold onto such a gorgeous wife.

You can imagine my surprise when Mirina introduced me to a tall, dashingly handsome man who appeared only a few years older than myself.

As entrancing as the wife was, so too was the husband. He had pale skin, hinting at a Gellish origin, but with hair as dark as his wife’s and almost as long. High cheekbones and a chiselled jaw that sported an immaculately groomed beard.

He was dressed in a simple tunic of black velvet, trimmed in patterns picked out in silver thread. One thing that struck me as passing strange was that here, in his own home, he was wearing a cloak, made of the same leathery material as his wife’s dress.

For the second time that night, I was struck dumb at the beauty of the figure in front of me.

His eyes were piercing blue. Yet, like his wife’s, they were deep and seemed to contain twinkling starlight.

He introduced himself as Sir Abraem DulinArker.

This was almost too much for me. To be standing there with a gorgeous woman and an honest to the Three actual Federal knight? I felt like I was in a fairy tale.

He waited politely and, realising he was waiting for me, I stammered my own name.

I was suddenly aware of Mirina at my side, her hand caressing my cheek.

“He gets so adorably flustered,” she said, “I think he likes you.”

Sir Abraem’s statuesque features creased into a warm smile. He stepped forward and lightly took my chin in his hand.

“Well, that’s good,” he said, “because I think I like him too.”

I won’t go into detail about what followed. Suffice to say, not one of the three of us got much sleep and it was quite the most enjoyable night of my life.

I was worried when I saw the dawn light creep in through the windows, worried that this would be the end. That I would be cast, if very politely, from the house, never to see the DulinArkers again.

But that was not to be the case at all.

In the following weeks, I saw Abraem and Mirina many more times. Always in the evening, but that was fine, I had a busy life helping to run Father’s business during the days. In the evenings, we dined together, went together to the clubs and theatres. We talked, we laughed, we ate and drank, we enjoyed each other’s company. And, yes, we would sleep together. Either all three of us together or sometimes just two. I became a part of their lives and I adored every moment.

That brings me up to earlier this week. I’d arrived at the house earlier than I’d anticipated and had let myself in, as I was free and welcome to do by that point.

I made my way through the house, towards the lounge but then stopped when I heard voices.

They were coming from a small room off the hall. I’d been in there only once, when I’d first been shown around the house. It was just a small office room where the DulinArkers kept their correspondences and their safe.

I recognised the voices of both my darling Mirina and my dear Abraem so I approached to let them know I was there. Then I started being able to make out the words coming from that room.

They were hushed, like the whispers of those in a trokosh. There was a reverence in their voices I had never heard before.

I peeked in through the door and felt my eyes go wide.

They were both in there, Mirina and Abraem, lit by candlelight. And they were both naked. At least, sort of. I had never realised until that moment. But Abraem always wore that cloak when we went out; and Mirina always wore the same style of dress, but she’d told me she had many of the same made. And when we’d been… together… it had always been in the dark, or by dim light.

And now I saw why. A great pair of leathery wings unfurled behind each of them as they knelt in their communion. Their skin sparkled like diamonds in the flickering light. The word “vampire” came unbidden into my mind.

A part of me wanted to run but I couldn’t move. It… they… were just too… beautiful.

They were kneeling in front of some form of crystal; it was dark and opaque, but full of glittering light, like it was full of the night sky.

“He is almost ready,” Abraem was saying.

“Very close,” Mirina added, “he will soon be yours, my Queen Lil’esh.”

That name sent a shiver of fear through me, and I did not have to think very hard to know who “he” was. Every part of my mind screamed at me to run, still, I could not make myself leave, though I did back away from the room.

Eventually, they both emerged. Seeing me, they welcomed me as they always did. I did not tell them what I had seen. I pretended that all was well. The evening passed as many others had in their company.

I’m supposed to be seeing them again tomorrow. I will see them again tomorrow. That’s why I’ve come here. Just in case. I know it’s a bad idea, seeing them again. Whatever Mirina and Abraem are, they are planning on doing something to me. A part of me, the part that thought to come here, rails against the idea, tells me to run and hide.

But I can’t help myself. I have to go. Whatever Abraem and Mirina are involved with, I have never known a beauty like it. I have to see it for myself.

Final notes… I, um… I only skimmed the memory before I, uh… it didn’t seem that important… but, um…

[Paxton’s chair scrapes as he stands up. He walks across the room and opens a door.]

[Calling down the corridor] Szelia, can you come in here a minute?

[From a distance] I’m busy!

It’s important!

[Szelia sighs and approaches.]


I need you to take a message to the High Librarian. Tell him I need to talk to him about something urgent.

[Sarcastically] Oh, so it’s my job to carry messages for you?

Yes, it quite literally is. Just do it will you?

Fine, I’ll go now. You left the venoscribe running by the way.

Oh, erm…
[Paxton steps towards the venoscribe]
Inscription Complete.

[The venoscribe clicks, and the whirring stops.]

[The end theme plays and the Announcer recites the credits.]