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Mystique

                                        by Lynne Charles

After the introduction, the pair continued on in silence for several minutes, until they reached a quiet, grassy knoll shaded by the overspreading branches of an ancient oak tree. They dismounted to let the horses graze, as well as to rest themselves from their ride. They sat next to each other against the towering oak, and Pierce waited for the woman to resume her tale.

"My story begins twenty-three years ago, with my birth. Our mother died in childbirth, and..."

"You said 'our'. Whom else do you speak of?"

"I have a twin. His name is Aviar. I will speak of him in greater detail later. To continue, our mother died giving birth to us. We were kidnapped as infants and left with a couple who resided in the woods. The kidnappers never returned to reclaim us, so we were raised to adulthood by the couple.

"But what of your natural father? Could not he have rescued you and raised you?"

"He could have, had he been alive. Our father soon followed our mother in death. It was rumored that he died of a broken heart."

Here Asiel paused and looked out over her surroundings.

"Aviar and I recently discovered that another child, our older sister, had been born to our parents. Aviar is a very jealous man. He seeks to find her and destroy all that surrounds her. He has always been that way. He refuses to allow anyone, especially family members, to experience the luxury of happiness."

The bitterness in her tone caused Pierce to look up, surprised. Asiel was clenching her fists at her sides. Pierce reached out and took her hand, squeezing it warmly in his own. She smiled faintly at him and continued her story.

"I have come to warn you."

"Come to warn me? Why? Who is this sister of yours?"

"Surely you have guessed by now. You are deeply involved with her. For what other reason would my brother seek to harm you?"

A look of astonishment flashed across Pierce's face.

"But you cannot mean Dion, my fianceé? Why, this is... is... unbelievable!"

He sprang up and paced anxiously back and forth.

"Is there no way your brother may be persuaded from his path of destruction?"

He looked toward Asiel for her reaction and was dismayed as she sadly shook her head 'no'. Pierce was lost in thought when Asiel suddenly arose and shoved him to the ground. Startled, his mind formed a question, but before he could voice his thought, she yelled, "Run!", at him and raced off herself toward Sunbeam. She vaulted lightly onto the horse, Pierce instantly following on his own mount.

"What?", he shouted at her as the pair rode swiftly toward the Manor. The one word she shot back at him chilled him to the depths of his soul.

"Aviar!"

The stablehands led the horses away as Asiel began striding quickly toward the Mansion. Pierce, his ire rising in the confusion, soon followed. He reached her as she arrived at the front door. Angrily, he grabbed her arm.

"Do you mind telling me what is going on?" he demanded.

"Please, not here." She looked anxiously about her, as if afraid someone might overhear their conversation.

"Alright, then. Follow me."

His tone left Asiel with no choice but to comply. Pierce walked quickly throughout the house, and beckoned toward a door set in a wooden frame. He opened the door for her, and she found herself in a comfortable sitting room. The walls were painted a light turquoise blue, and several large, overstuffed chairs were in evidence in a slightly darker shade. A deep shag rug, matching the walls exactly, paraded around the room. Mahogany stained end tables were placed in and among the chairs, adding an effect of practicality to the coziness inherent in the place. Small writing tablets, pens, and other assorted accoutrements were placed on the tables for a visitor's amusement. Asiel glanced briefly about, then elected to sit in a chair directly beneath a stained-glass window, in which turquoise stones were placed. Pierce took a seat directly opposite and waited impatiently for her explanation.

"I really do not have time to dally, my dear. Kindly explain your actions."

Her gray-green eyes flashed at him, then were still.

"Very well. While you were in a daze, pondering your predicament, Mystique was trying to attack you."

"And who, pray tell, is Mystique?"Pierce asked arrogantly. He did not, as yet, know whether he could really trust this stranger who had appeared from nowhere.

"Mystique is a large yellow cougar with black eyes. She is my brother's pet, and is, like Aviar, governed by evil."

"But I saw no such animal."

"You would have felt her claws in your back, had I not pushed you. She leapt from behind you, and ran up the oak. I am sorry if I frightened you by my silence and hasty retreat. However, it could not be helped. Mystique and Aviar are both extremely dangerous. Even I cannot stand against him, for his powers cancel mine."

She saw the question rising before it came and shook her head silently as a refusal. The quiet pause that followed was long and uneasy. Finally, Pierce spoke.

"Well, if Aviar is as dangerous as you say he is, you must stay here, where you will be safe and protected."

She protested. "But I cannot impose on your household. Aviar is unable to prevail against me, as I am powerless against him. I will not overextend my stay and show injustice to your hospitality."

"Nonsense. I insist. And as master of this house while my friend Iffley is absent, you must do my bidding."

He was enjoying this, and she knew it. Nevertheless, his expressionate brown eyes filled her with an unexplainable warmth, and she found herself agreeing with the man, if not his logic. Seeing her acceptance, pleasure shone in his brown eyes.

"I have just the room for you. I will tell the servants to prepare it for my beautiful guest."

He rose to leave and took her hand in his. Lifting it to meet his lips, he kissed it warmly.

"Goodbye, fair lady."

As she watched him leave, an odd thought crossed her mind: 'So chivalry is not dead, after all.'

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As she waited for Pierce to return, she took up one of the writing tablets and a pen, and began to doodle. Soon the page was filled with illustrations of wild creatures, both birds and beasts. At the completion of her sketching, Asiel drew a tiny, scripted 'A' in one corner. A knock on the door drew her attention, and she laid aside the sketches and pen. Pierce was looking steadfastly pleased with himself as he announced, "Your room awaits you, my lady." The contrast between the seriousness in his voice and the twinkle in his eye caused her to burst into laughter. Puzzled, he looked at her, then laughed himself. As the two regained their composure, Pierce held out his hand. Asiel took it in her own as they walked. Abruptly, she stopped.

"Mr. Pierce", she began, "Intrigue..." Her voice trailed off, as she was obviously embarrassed to even ask such a thing.

"You mean your beautiful black panther? Why, of course, he is permitted to accompany you, if you so desire. All you need do is call him. By the way, the name is Jonathon, not 'Mr. Pierce'."

"Yes, Jonathon", she obediently said. "Thank you very much."

She called the great cat, and it followed them up winding stairs to the second story of the Manor. Pierce presented the room with a great flourish.

"Naturally, we have arranged the Topaz Room for our sunny friend."

He smiled and opened the door to the room. Asiel stepped into the room and became speechless with amazement. The room was entirely decorated in yellow, as befitted its name, and was accented charmingly in white. Lemony-yellow carpet spread throughout the room, giving it a warm, cozy appearance. In the center of the ceiling a delicate chandelier hung, adorned with teardrop-shaped stones of topaz. Tiny little daisies in vertical columns patterned the wallpaper. A huge, four-poster bed rested against the far wall, with a light yellow canopy spreading out above. The four posts of the bed were made completely of carved topaz. A large white wicker chair with a comfortable yellow cushion stood waiting in one corner. A sweet, white wicker nightstand with a small vase on it attended the bed. Pretty blooming daisies peeked out of the vase to enjoy the fresh, spring atmosphere in the room. Near the door, against the wall, sat a heavy dresser. A huge mirror towered over the dresser, captured in a delicately carved, ornate wooden frame. Floor length, shutter-style, pale yellow doors conspicuously marked the closet. Opposite the closet, pale yellow vertical blinds almost covered the entire wall. Asiel walked over to the blinds and pulled a short, golden, tassled cord. The blinds moved to one side, revealing an enormous window. The sunlight streamed through the window, striking the golden-hued posts of the bed. The light sprinkled all around the room, reflected by the posts in a myriad of prisms. The effect was quite dazzling.

"Oh, it's wonderful. It's perfect." Her eyes twinkled with excitement and Pierce watched her, satisfied. "I will leave you, then, to rest and settle." With that, he closed the door and departed. Asiel began walking in the room, familiarizing herself with its every detail. She opened the closet doors and gasped in astonishment to find the closet filled to overflowing with gowns and other outfits, most of them in yellow, or some complementary color. Wondering at such surprises, she sat back in the canopied bed. Intrigue, following his friend's lead, lay on the floor next to the bed. 'So this is the man to whom my sister is engaged. I must be extremely careful with him. It would be very easy to fall in love with him.' With such thoughts, she drifted off to sleep.

*  lc  * * * * * * * * * *  lc  * * * * * * * * * *  lc  *

Angry pounding on the door of the Mansion brought Pierce running hurriedly to investigate the source of the trouble. He opened the front door to reveal a darkly handsome man. Next to the man sat a huge cougar with coal black eyes. The man's own piercing black eyes seemed to look straight through Pierce.

"I demand to see my sister!"


 © 1985, 

K. Blaire, L. Charles, D. Conrad, Enad the Great, J. Pierce, B. C. Randolf, and T. G. Taft

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