When Rachel was seven and living in a swamp the destiny of the Saraman attracted to her an evil frog.
“Ribbit,” the frog said.
Rachel went to pick up the frog. It spoke in a demon’s tongue, warty, old, and black:
Take me not unto your bosom,
I am an evil creature in my way
And they are horrid boons I bear.
“You’re a frog!” declared Rachel.
She picked up the frog. She hugged it to her chest. It was not really a bosom, because Rachel was seven.
The frog croaked.
“How can a frog be evil?” Rachel said.
“Because I shall tell you to go to Castle Gargamel,” said the frog.
“Mom said that if I went to Castle Gargamel, Montechristien would kill me. That he’d take the skin off me, bit by bit, and use my ears as razors.”
Rachel holds the frog out. “Is that true?” she demanded.
“It is not,” said the frog. “Such a chin is Montechristien Gargamel’s that he scarcely needs to shave. And what good is the skin of a half-elder child to one who commands the hundred golden men?”
“I thought not,” said Rachel.
She sat down cross-legged on a lilypad, demonstrating her attainments. She reflected.
“But why should I go, when he’s such a fearsome man?”
“To claim your mother’s legacy,” said the evil frog.
“Ha!” said Rachel.
The frog looked startled.
“Too boring!” declared Rachel. She threw the evil frog back into the swamp.
Splish! splished the frog.
“Next time,” Rachel asserted, “I want an evil swamp-dwelling hermit!”
We do not know how Montechristien Gargamel came into his power. His origins are a mystery. How such an ungainly, strange, and immoral man could rise so swiftly to prominence puzzles even the greatest scholars of our time. Of his life once established in Castle Gargamel, however, certain facts are known.
He took to wife the Lady Yseult Gargamel, one of the great beauties of his day; and though many a rival pressed for evidence that he’d bewitched or stolen her, none was ever found. They had and loved six children of their flesh, until the seventh, Elisabet, killed Yseult with the complications of her birth. Each of these children was a prodigy, possessed of astonishing talents. When at last Montechristien stumbled towards the grave, the talents of his children turned against their siblings, every hand against the other, until at last they could dispose of the matter of their legacy.
This is the thirteenth installment of the story of that time.
“So tell me,” says Manfred. “Why do you speak so blackly of the Saraman?”
Rachel looks from Manfred to Sophie. She frowns at the blankness of their faces.
“You honestly don’t know?” she says.
They are sitting in Manfred’s cottage, sharing out bread and jam, and the conversation has turned to Rachel’s cursing of her line.
Sophie shakes her head.
“It’s strange that the Lady Yseult never told you,” Rachel says.
“She died while we were young,” says Manfred.
“And Montechristien is not the most talkative of fathers,” Sophie adds.
“Huh,” Rachel says.
She gestures broadly with her bread, causing a bit of jam to fall off onto Manfred’s bedspread.
“It is like this,” says Rachel. “Cedric Saraman, the founder of our line, was betrayed by his sons. So he cursed the black blood that runs in our veins and now we find ourselves possessed of evil opportunities.”
Sophie carefully spread orange peel and marmalade upon her bread.
“If I wanted to betray you,” says Rachel, “and seize your stock, Manfred, of fine jams and jellies, then I should only need to wait. The chance will come. Should I wish to sell my soul, or betray my country? These things are as trivial. The flies of the Pit are drawn to me as to uncertain priests; they buzz around me, and I will always feel their presence in the air.”
“But I have put great effort into my jams!” answers Manfred.
There is a burst of thunder from outside; the jams and jellies in Manfred’s pantry rattle, lids against glass, and then subside.
Rachel looks at Manfred, and her eyes are soft.
“I do not wish to betray you,” Rachel says.
An Unclean Legacy
The Saraman Destiny
Rachel has left for the night, to the gardener’s cottage wherein she stays.
Sophie stirs the embers of the fire.
“Am I evil?” Manfred asks. “For wanting her?”
“I think evil is more complex than that,” says Sophie. “It’s more like when shadows tell you things that hurt to hear, or frogs start rhyming.”
“Santrieste hates her,” Manfred says.
He goes to the wall that his cottage shares with Santrieste’s stable. He taps on the wall, ever so gently. There is an angry whuff in reply and a hoof thudding against the wall.
“You see,” Manfred says.
“That’s equine for ‘I was having a marvelous dream about an apple,'” Sophie opines.
“It means that he’s angry,” Manfred says.
“Ah,” Sophie says.
“I don’t need her,” Manfred says. “I have my brassards and my unicorn and my family. I won’t be alone.”
Sophie looks in the direction of the window. The red and black that walks the night shows right through the curtains. It is livid. It is horrible.
Sophie looks down.
“Manfred,” she says. “Are you happy?”
“I have hated this,” says Manfred. “And I have loved this. I do not know where I have landed.”
“I won’t be able to help you,” Sophie says.
“Eh?” Manfred says.
“I think that you should love her, if you can.”
Manfred takes Sophie’s hands. He hugs them gently.
“Thank you,” he says.
“It does not make you an evil thing,” Sophie says, “drawn to the destiny of the Saraman. It just makes you Manfred.”
“Ah,” says Manfred.
It is not a truth he often hears.
What kind of jam would you want to eat?
And who would you believe: your sister, or your unicorn?
Tune in tomorrow for an exciting Unclean Legacy exclusive: “Rachel’s Blood!”