Ruby Red and Gentilberry Green: A Fantastical Romance - Part XI

in #fiction6 years ago

This is the eleventh part of an ongoing serial. Here are Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, and Ten. Updates every two days.

“I need you to kill me. Take my heart, Anne.”

To put Anne’s state of mind in a courteous way, it felt as if several dictionaries had been opened, dropped on her head, then splashed with fresh tea. And she couldn’t even read.

“I am going to take a very deep breath, Mr. Sorcerer.”

Necristo nodded. Anne inflated to a considerable degree, stayed there for several seconds, then returned to a presentable size.

“Now, I am going to scream, Mr. Sorcerer. If you would?”

Necristo nodded, with much less confidence this time. Anne stood politely, placed her fork neatly next to the tower of pancakes, dusted her hands and skirt off, then walked daintily over to the mirror in the corner.

”FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS SACRED IN THIS COW-EATING COSMOS, WHAT IN THE FIVE HEAVENS IS THIS?”

Necristo opened his mouth.

“No, no, no, no! I am not taking one more minute of this… this rat-eaten sack of horse apples!” yelled Anne, jabbing her arm out like a one-pronged pitchfork. “Explain, Necristo! Explain now!”

She became aware, suddenly, that there were tears in the corners of her eyes. The realization was so mortifying that she burst out bawling.

“Uh,” said Necristo, face twisted in a rictus of polite agony. “Please don’t cry, Miss Gentilberry. It’s all… all planned out. It’s much less gruesome than it sounds.”

“No!” sobbed Anne, dragging her hands along her wet red cheeks with vehemence. “You keep doing this to me! All of you! You n-never tell me what’s going on, and I h-hate it!”

“But all I want you to do is take my heart,” said Necristo, as if he were trying to ask for an extra egg at table.

”EXPLAIN!” roared Anne, before dissolving into a fresh round of hiccoughing wails.

Necristo put his hand down, looking perfectly forlorn. He rubbed his chin, bit his lip, and finally, spoke.

“When I was still… still mortal, I wanted to do something. Be someone.”

Anne glared at him, sniffing blearily.

“My mother always told me that I would never, ever amount to anything. That I was a runt, a weakling, who didn't deserve the food I ate or the air I breathed.”

That thin, transfiguring smile again. It flicked across his face like a weak razor.

“She was right, I suppose. It’s why I became a sorcerer.”

“I d-don’t i-imagine you learnt anything,” said Anne shakily, hating the tremble that marred her voice, the wet red glow that burned her cheeks. She hadn’t cried in front of anyone since… since when now?

“Oh, no. They taught me more than enough at Skalathos. Not everyone has the penchant for sorcery. I was, you could say, one of the lucky ones. The sad thing is, they don’t tell you whether or not you’re compatible until you pay your fees… which is, now that I think about it, terribly, um, inconvenient. Because if you’re not compatible, see, you die… You’ve stopped crying. That’s… good?”

“I’m s-still angry,” blared Anne, trying her best to overcome the blockage in her nose.

“Sorry,” said Necristo. “Oh, no, I wasn’t meant to say that - ah, sorry… oh …”

“Look,” said Anne, putting her hands on her hips and swallowing, “it’s not like you’re not allowed to apologize ever again. I just wanted you to stop apologizing for things that weren’t your fault, because it was… well, it was stupid.”

“But this is my fault,” said Necristo, looking thoroughly worried. “I mean, I’ve been leading you in so many circles.”

“And I haven’t been the most helpful, either, but I guess I’ll have to let you get away with that apology,” sniffed Anne. It felt good to be slightly annoyed again, instead of incredibly incensed and/or confused. “So. Skalathos. Heart. You’ll forgive me if I don’t think they stick?”

“Quite simply, Miss Gentilberry,” said Necristo, “I’m very tired of living. Unfortunately, as a sorcerer, I’m immortal. There is absolutely no way that anyone will kill me… not unless they take my heart and steal my power. Age will do the rest. I have quite a few years on me, even though it may not look like it.”

“So you want me to…” prompted Anne.

“Yes.”

“And you’d rather you…”

“Yes.”

Anne nodded, made a thoughtful face, then smacked her fist into her open palm.

“That is the most stupid thing I have ever heard,” she said brightly.

“I know,” said Necristo with a sigh. “But I am in a rather silly predicament.”

“Is that why you’ve been so incredibly annoying? Just to make me mad enough to take your heart and kill you?”

“It was part of the plan, yes,” said Necristo. “But I do have some natural inclinations in that direction to begin with, and, well, I’m not too sure where the acting begins and ends anymore. Does it even matter?”

Anne put her hand on her chin and thought very hard.

“Do I have to cut your heart out?” she asked at last.

“Well, yes,” blinked Necristo. “That is how it works. I had a whole slew of hints for you, complete with hidden magical sword and a rousing tale of revenge.”

“Are you sure that’s how it works?” frowned Anne.

“I suppose so,” said Necristo. “How else are you going to take my heart?”

That did it. She shook herself straight, wiped her eyes again and returned to table.

“Miss Gentilberry?”

“Mr. Sorcerer,” said Anne, “I’m nothing but a simple country girl with a very silly name. I don’t cuss, I don’t look at boys strange, and I sure as anything don’t cut people’s hearts out, even if they ask me to.”

She cut deeply into the heart of her pancake tower.

“But…”

The fork went up. Anne chewed, then swallowed. The sweet buttery batter went down her throat like a portion of paradise.

“And there’s another thing, Mr. Sorcerer. If you keep me here, well, my Ma and Da are going to worry themselves sick. But if I leave, well, you’ll just be miserable for the rest of forever, and I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with that.”

Necristo said nothing. His white hands were clasped, one on top of the other. His thin brows were bent in exquisite agony.

“So,” said Anne, as nonchalantly as she could, “I guess I’ll have to help you find some joy in life, won’t I?”

Necristo’s hands dropped straight off the table and into his lap. His eyes were wide as strawberries.

“You’d… you’d do that for me?”

“Well, it’s not like I have a choice,” shot back Anne, composure gone in a second. “Don’t go getting the wrong idea, you hear? I’m not after your magic, I’m not after your house, I’m not after anything. It’s just that, well, my Da told me never to let anyone hurt for longer than I could stand it.”

Before she knew it, he had both her hands in his. The blood rushed straight to her face, and she stared, horrified, into his grateful eyes.

“Thank you, Miss Gentilberry. Thank you so much.”

“C-cold,” she managed, steaming red and stuttering like a kettle. “Hands. Get your hands…”

“Oh,” said Necristo. “Of course.”

When he released his grasp, they were both wearing pairs of matching mittens.

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