What love knows best
we keep closest nigh.
Leap, heart! Thrill at
the promise of pain
and awful humiliation.
(Yeah, I really wish I could ascribe that to someone else.)
Be prepared for the purple, the poorly executed, and the laughable; such is my intent. If you catch the references, you’ll enjoy this thoroughly, like an episode of MST3K.
In her haste, Isabella slipped upon the stone steps, slick with ages of mildew and green fungus. A stone of these slimy steps gave way and a recess revealed itself to her; that is, she beheld beneath the stone’s resting place a hollow leading by means of a narrow passage no wider than she down to some sinister black pit far beneath the staircase she was now upon.
Greatly fearing the blackness of the chasm, but more so what should become of her if Manfred seize her, she held her breath and wriggled through the tight corridor, down into that darkest and most Stygian abode.
The pass crept down at an angle, tight about her shoulders and hips, yet not unfamiliar in some strange sense, as a memory of a dream that unnerves on moonless nights; to find herself upon a narrow cliff or shelf overlooking an unlit chamber; the floor, a mosaic in silver and jet, caught the feeble rays filtering through the crack overhead and glistened some nineteen cubits less a span beneath her.
Once, when she was very little, a troupe of acrobats, motley arrayed in gay colour, did chance upon her father’s doorstep and he, being a lord of letters, took them in to sup in exchange for their performance. Thus they climbed about the great hall, leaping and prancing, cavorting and gallivanting, bouncing and pouncing, bumping and thumping, limping and jumping in such aerial displays that her lady mother’s heart took flutter and the performance need end at once. Yet to her, it had been a wondrous display, a spectacle to which she aspired, and she begged her father for months after to allow her to study to become a performer; a kindly man (unlike her pursuer, the wicked and licentious Manfred) he spared her the cuff, but each enthusiasm he rebuked with a smile and a soft whisper discouraging a lady from doing such. So he bought her a pony, taught her to ride, and she practiced in secret in the forest behind her lord father’s estate, scampering from tree limb to tree limb in perfectly astute imitation of the performers she had seen previous in her lord father’s own house. But when her lady mother had recovered enough from her fainting spell (for she was delicate of constitution and often required letting so as to avoid letting) her physician prescribed a daily constitutional which brought her through the forest and so she chanced upon her daughter, Isabella, cavorting and did swoon, so ending the girl’s ambition to the circus once and for all, as her guilt was tremendous for having caused her mother another collapse.
And so she lowered herself over the shelf that erupted from that claustrophobic pass and held firm by her fingertips, recalling to her mind those moments when, in the forest as a child, she did climb and cavort as the acrobats her father had entertained, that had caused her mother’s life to palpitate most irregularly, and so did bring her to practice in the woods until she was discovered and a minor scandal ensued that dominated the household for a fortnight (and she was sore ashamed.) And then, with breath held extended, she did drop.
The roll accomplished, she righted herself and dusted herself off, noting a tear in the rich purple of her gown. Allowing her eyes to adjust to the darkness, she did espy a table with a brass lantern thereupon and a small thurible. Greatly daring, and crossing herself with a deprecation to her patron, Saint Alexandra, she hoped to find a warm ember within; and so she did. With some small labor (and help from a pile of kindling also upon the table resting among several strange instruments that her hands passed over as she sought out something with which to build a fire) she finally brought for a flame, and so did ignite the lamp.
Horrors! Her newest most fervent wish, aside from her desire to escape from the clutches of the wicked Manfred who, even now, pursued her through his own mighty fortress, was that she had been stricken blind rather than behold that accursed, black chamber! Abomination!
About her in every direction were devices of such torture as should never be described, but the least among which were the wrack and the iron maiden, the heretic’s fork and the pear of anguish, the ducking stool and the wheel, and all variety of gibbets, straps, Crosses of St. Andrew, and diverse other implements of sensual deprivation, mutilation, strangulation, humiliation, murder, and torture. The sight so unnerving, the horror so revolting, Isabella’s heart caught for a moment and she feared she might die even there within the accursed room, beside the table with the pincers and pokers, prodders and peelers, lances and knives needed to extract any manner of confession as only an Inquisitor might know full their use.
But she soon regained her wits and did escape that chamber, though how I can not say, for a lady must be permitted her secrets.