Yseult is dying.
She is dying in childbirth.
She clutches at Montechristien’s hands. She says, “Oh, love, do not forsake me.”
And Montechristien holds her hands tight.
“I see angels walking towards me,” Yseult says dreamily. “On a path of gold.”
Everywhere there is blood.
Yseult frowns. It is a distant, worried frown. She says, “Wait. Wait.”
“Hm?” says Montechristien.
“Why do I see angels, love?”
Montechristien glances towards the bowls of water and the towels and a wet towel flies through the air undripping to brush gently against Yseult’s brow.
“Why are there angels coming for me when my Gargamel is damned?”
“Peace,” says Montechristien. “Do not become upset.”
“No,” says Yseult. “No. I must go downwards. They tell me I will forget. That this will pass from me. I do not want to forget, my love. Shake them from me. Drive them forth, my love. Send them forth with broken wings and tattered robes.”
“I would not do that,” says Montechristien. “Even were I God.”
“Tell them,” sobs Yseult. “I have always been evil. I have slept with elder things. I have consorted with sorcerers. Tell them I have always been evil, my Gargamel.”
“Love,” says Montechristien, “in our lives we transcend such small and barren categories. In your life you have been nothing more or less than my Yseult.”
And Yseult lays back and there is another rush of blood and the child is born in it.
And slowly the life passes near from Yseult’s eyes.
“Oh, love,” says Montechristien. And he starts to close her eyes.
That is when Yseult wrenches herself back nearly from the grave and rises on her elbows and tries to see the child she has given; and seeing Montechristien’s face instead a terrible fear and anger grow in her and she points at him and cries, “Gargamel! Gargamel! Do not you blame the child!”
Then she dies.
And Montechristien looks down at the child, still unslapped, and this is what he sees: a creature of protoplasmic shadow, its tendrils flailing still about, extracting gently from the vaginal tunnel the cord through which it drained its mother’s life. He sees the product of Yseult Saraman’s black blood and the seed of a soul already dead and damned: a creature as much of Hell and Montechristien’s own doom as anything of Earth.
His face twists.
Slowly, he picks up Elisabet. Slowly, he cradles her in his arms.
That sphere of shadow that most resembles for Elisabet an eye turns to study him. A mouth gapes. The thing in his arms says, “Father, I am scarcely born; why do I know you?”
And “What am I, father?”
Montechristien Gargamel thinks. He walks the child about the room, rocking it gently. He thinks further.
And he hears in his mind: “Gargamel! Do not you blame the child!”
Montechristien looks down at her with his long nose and his thin hair.
“It is because you are a ninja,” lies Montechristien.
“A mystic warrior of the far east. Trained to hide in shadows and throw shuriken and—”
He held out a finger and black tendrils wrapped around it.
They are like sharkskin. His finger is bleeding, just a little, into his daughter’s unformed shape.
“—and to kill those who must be killed.”
“It is hard,” says Elisabet, “to be born a ninja, and to kill your mother with your birth.”
Montechristien clenches his teeth together. He hyperventilates to hold back tears.
“It is a great gift,” he says. “And a great curse. But you must be worthy of the sacrifice she made.”
“I promise, father.”
And it is not until Elisabet is safely in her cradle with a magical bottle and a blanket once made for Violet that Montechristien screams and from his tower splits apart the world; and then, on hands and knees, with tears and mumbled apologies to the Lady Yseult for all his clumsiness, knits the Earth carefully back together at its seams.
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 eighteenth installment of the story of that time.
Montechristien is dying, and his seven children have gathered to his keep.
Elisabet is walking the halls and she meets Tomas.
“Hi!” she says.
Tomas looks at her. His eyes are cold and severe. Elisabet shivers.
“What would you do,” Tomas asks, “if father named you his heir?”
“I hope he doesn’t,” Elisabet says.
“I know who I am,” Elisabet says. “But having near-infinite power—that would mess everything up. I wouldn’t even really know which fork to use for the salad any more. Also, I think maybe the little gold men make their owner shriveled up and cranky. You?”
“I would use them for good works,” says Tomas. “I would clothe the naked, feed the hungry, tend the sick, and wipe away the unworthy.”
“That is a fine ambition.”
Tomas is looking at her.
“I should kill you,” Tomas says. “Here and now. I should destroy you and leave nothing. But it is hard for me because you lie so well.”
An Unclean Legacy
Way of the Ninja
Elisabet fades into her shape of shadow, but she does not retreat.
“Why do you think I’m lying?” the shifting inhuman Devil’s child asks.
“When I was ten,” said Tomas, “I looked upon the face of God. I saw the order and the purpose to which this world is arranged and the glory and the honesty of it.”
“That is as may be.”
“You are no part of that, Elisabet.”
“Ninjas are forgotten of the Lord?”
“You aren’t a ninja,” says Tomas. “I don’t even think there really are ninjas. It’s just something father made up.”
“Oh,” Elisabet says.
“You’re a child of that shadow that came to Castle Gargamel that night,” says Tomas. “A protrusion of Hell and horror into this world.”
Elisabet is in her human shape again. She is shaking.
“Everything else,” says Tomas, cruelly, “is a lie.”
“Do you think that you can kill me, Tomas?”
“No,” says Tomas.
He turns and walks away.
“I think you will,” he says, as he departs.
And Elisabet falls to her knees.
There is a blade in her hand. She’s not entirely sure where it came from. Possibly from Hell.
“Father says seppuku is just a myth,” she reminds herself. “So I shouldn’t.”
But the blade is there.
Just in case she’s someone who should die.
“Tomas is lying,” says Elisabet. Her voice trembles. But she knows better. She’s always known better, or at least ever since she was six and found Montechristien’s copy of Mysterious Oriental Ways: How Ninja Techniques Can Help You Catch Blue Essentials!
“I wonder if it matters,” she says, distantly. “I wonder if it can even hurt me. I wonder if dying changes anything for me.”
The blade shines.
“Oh, well,” says Elisabet, and the blade moves in her hands.
Hop hop hop! Hide in shadows! Blood is red!
That’s it for now for Elisabet’s story, but tune in tomorrow for the next exciting chapter of An Unclean Legacy: “The Spear Named Cursebreaker”—also called: “Francescu’s Answer!”