Volume 1, Issue 2, May 31, 2006|
© Cile Bailey
|The Ghosts of Malibar|
by Robert Bee
Matirsutrus shone full on the waters of Malibar, his face mournful and pockmarked as he crept along the canals. Arundel Visigotti, the Mouth of Malibar, watched from the palace's upper gallery as guests arrived aboard barges poled by their servants.
Several green-finned heads of mermen and merwomen bobbed in the silvery water beyond the line of barges. When a retainer walked in their direction, the mers darted under the water.
The courtiers sported every fashionable style: from jewel-encrusted gowns to silk shirts to the purple vests worn by the duke's immediate family. The Baroness of Coal Vein wore a headdress of wire and gold coins so heavy that one of her servants supported her while she walked. The Lord of Marmsby, a philosophic old gentleman, wore a plain tunic and hose, an outfit cheaper than the attending servants, showing the court he considered himself above their frivolity.
"What fools these people are," said a woman's voice from the darkness behind him.
He turned; no one was there.
The woman spoke again. "The whole court is blind, but not you."
At first, he could make only her bare outline, but she gradually grew more distinct like a painting after removing the grime from the glass. She was in her early 30s, with the Malibarian aristocracy's high cheekbones, long nose, coal black eyes, and lovely dark complexion. Her evening gown was designed in the previous century's style with tiny jewels glittering in the bone-colored moonlight.
Arundel had seen her face in one of the ancient oil portraits downstairs, but could not place her. "Who are you?"
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