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

in #fiction6 years ago

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

It turned out that steak by the sea was not the experience she had hoped it would be. The air was far too briny, the sand was far too white, the sea was much too bright and the gulls were entirely too annoying for her to stomach more than a few mouthfuls. However, she was a firm believer in the unsparing exploitation of edible food, and so she ended up eating much more than she could stomach.

This did not make her very happy, as a rule.

“Mr. Sorcerer, cheer me up.”

Necristo turned from his sandcastle and blinked at her. The sandcastle was alarmingly real, with every rampart and pennant rendered in exquisite detail. Inside, little white sand people busied about, forging little sand horseshoes, making little sand barrels, and roasting little sand turkeys. The sand nobility was nowhere to be seen.

“But how will I do that, Miss Gentilberry?”

It occurred to Anne that not only was Necristo building an impossible sandcastle, but that the sand was also his creation, as was the sun, and the sea, and the sky. The thought was vaguely vexing. It was like he was shoeing his own two feet.

“Don’t you give me that do-no-harm look. You know exactly what I’m on about.”

“Well, you see, Miss Gentilberry, I’d love to cheer you up, but, you see, I’m not exactly sure… how to do the cheering.”

He was enjoying this! Anne huffed, then kicked up a spume of white sand. It felt mildly suspicious, what with the ground being so loose and all. Like she would sink in if she stepped in wrong.

“Take me out on the water, then. I’ve always wanted to be in a boat.”

Necristo shaped the last window with a careful pinch, then placed the sand-king on his throne in the courtyard, to the general acclaim of the sand-populace.

“I can do better than that,” he smiled. “Would you like me to teach you how to swim?”

“And how would you know that I can’t?” frowned Anne.

“Matilda couldn’t,” said Necristo, as if that settled everything. “Come with me.”

“But I don’t have anything to swim in,” said Anne. “If you ruin this dress…”

The sorcerer waved his hand, and she was wearing something else.

“Likta’s lasso,” cried Anne, clutching her bare arms in terror, “what have you done to me?”

“It’s… ah, a swimsuit,” blinked Necristo. “For swimming.”

The swimsuit was a piece of frilly pink fabric that stretched against her skin like cool and supple leather, only without any stiffness. It felt completely unnatural. Anne stared down at her bare legs and arms, completely mortified.

“H-how dare you?” she managed. “This is completely and utterly indecent! Why, if our Ma saw me in this, she’d turn me out of house and home, and send the dogs after me for good measure!”

“But there’s a skirt,” supplied Necristo lamely.

“Is there now?” demanded Anne, scrunched around herself like some disabled snake. “Well, I’m not about to go around dressed like one of those loose town hussies, and especially not with you!”

She became aware that parts of her were pinker than the swimsuit, which, naturally, horrified her to no end. She made a high-pitched noise of considerable discomfort and slid straight into the sand, embalming herself like a mummy. It was remarkably fine sand.

“Well, I suppose swimming is off then?” said Necristo, looking worriedly at her ripening head.

“I didn’t even want to swim in the first place!” snapped Anne. “I wanted to go on the water! In a boat! Like any decent woman!”

She got up, pouring with grains of white, fought the urge to rub her sand-caked lids with her sand-caked hands, and thought a command. The sand melted off her like so much water, leaving her utterly pristine. The swimsuit flashed, then changed back into her well-worn, chequered blue dress, complete with socks and red shoes.

“You’re learning,” said Necristo, sounding pleased. “That’s wonderful news.”

“I don’t know how you do it,” frowned Anne, checking the lacing of her left sleeve with a practiced eye. “I’m not even sure I got the stitches right.”

“I think this filling went here,” said Necristo, touching her arm, changing the lace just-so. “And this seam didn’t run that way, either…”

He was so close, she could smell him. Breathe in his scent, like old books and fine wine, see just how perfect his white skin really was. Feel the softness of his careful hands. And before she could even ask how he knew what the precise shape of her own dress was, the dress she had sewn for herself last winter, he pulled away, and she was left clutching herself, and wondering why she’d forgotten to breathe.

“Your boat, Miss Gentilberry.”

“Gods in heaven,” whispered Anne.

The ship on the water was light as new-milled grain and bright as standing wheat. Unadorned, yet golden nonetheless, and so smooth and natural in every aspect that it seemed grown and not made, a thing coaxed and not carved from living wood. There were no slots for oars; there was a single white sail, unemblazoned, but no ropes or rigging to tie it down. The masthead was a proud swan, and all along its sides ran the suggestions of wings, as if it was only waiting to take flight.

Necristo twiddled his fingers, and then they were on deck. He pointed off into the horizon and said a word, and the ship began to move, carving through the surf like a vision from a dream. Anne rushed starboard and stared down into the water, eyes as bright as emeralds.

“It’s a ship!” she squealed. “I’m… I’m on a ship! A real ship, just like the stories… oh, Ma, if you could see me now!”

Necristo smiled and raised his hands. A flock of gulls rose overhead, casting their shadows over Anne’s delighted face. A single albatross called its greetings, then rose up on the salt wind, dwindling into infinite freedom.

“And they said I’d never make it!” Anne crowed. “They said I’d never get on a ship, ever! Well, I showed them, didn’t I? I’ll go straight to…”

She looked over at the infinite expanse of blinding water, then back at the beach.

“Wait. Just where are we headed, Mr. Sorcerer?”

“Anywhere you want, Miss Gentilberry,” said Necristo. “Anywhere in the world.”

“Try not to go too far,” grinned Anne. “I want to be back in time for dinner. Oh, and Necristo…”

“Yes, Miss Gentilberry?”

“Thank you.”


Charming! The little sand people scurrying about in the castle - then Anne's realization that "not only was Necristo building an impossible sandcastle, but that the sand was also his creation, as was the sun, and the sea, and the sky. The thought was vaguely vexing."
In Part One, I didn't like her at all; I've come to like her better, though she reminds me a wee bit of the crass Daisy of Tarantino's "Hateful Eight" movie. Aunt Mattie (whichever one is really her) is full of intrigue, as is Necristo, of course. White skin, red eyes, eww, yet you bring him to life in a way that we can't help but like.

Thank you very much! Yes, Anne is a bit prickly, but I really do like her, and I'm glad she's less grating now -haven't seen The Hateful Eight myself. Also, mystery under mystery with the other two. Maybe with time, I'll be able to unpeel them both.

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