An Unclean Legacy: “Violet’s Sin”

These are three moments from Sophie’s life.

The first is when Christine’s house reaches the castle. It pulls in its iron legs. It squats there and it rests.

Christine emerges.

“Hey,” Violet says.

Christine doesn’t respond. She walks past Violet into the castle, leaving the door of her house open behind her.

So Violet walks in. She walks to the great furnace at the house’s core.

“Hey,” she says.

The furnace has gone cold. There is a great black lump in it. Violet takes a poker and she prods the lump.

Slowly, Sophie uncurls. The ash on her skin cracks and falls away. She is withered, like a homonculus. Her hair is mostly burned away, but it’s growing again, in fits and starts.

“I brought you some clean clothes,” Violet says. She puts them down.

Sophie has a fingerbone in her palm. She’s been curled around it to protect it from the fire.

“How did you know I was here?” Sophie says.

“Where else would you be?”

Sophie frowns at Violet. Then, slowly, she offers Violet the bone.

“If I keep this,” she says, “I’m going to break it. I can’t let him win. He isn’t worthy of it.”

Violet smiles at Sophie. She pushes Sophie’s hand away.

“He’s your brother,” Violet says.

Sophie stares at her.

Then she lowers her head, hair hanging over her face to hide her tears.

“I’m not good,” Sophie says.

But Violet touches her arm, gently.

Sophie looks up, and for a moment she is naked; but then she dons the clothes that Violet brought her and they walk out to Castle Gargamel.

In a time of wizards and kings, one name stood above the rest. He was Montechristien Gargamel.

He seized from the mushroom village one hundred of the blue essentials and transformed them into gold. From that time on his power was limitless. He broke the world and repaired it again. He dispensed terrible destinies and powers as if they were the most ordinary of gifts. And as the time of his death approached his children came to his Castle to dispose of the matter of their legacy.

Violet, his eldest and most dear, who had betrayed him before she was even half-grown.
Francescu, the deathless sorcerer, who had turned his back on the affairs of the world.
Manfred, the fallen knight, whose strength was legend and whose spear was magic’s bane.
Tomas the cruel, who had looked in his tenth year upon the face of God.
Christine, the mad sorceress, who wandered the world in her living house.
Sophie the skinchanger, soulless and Devil-tainted, and once the one Montechristien loved best.
Elisabet, the Devil’s child, a creature as much of shadow as of life.

In the hour of the end, each turned their hands against each other, and the halls of Castle Gargamel ran with blood. This is the twenty-sixth installment of the story of that time.

“Father,” Sophie says, not long thereafter.

Montechristien Gargamel does not turn as she enters the room. He is staring out the window. Now and again his neck will twitch, as if he might turn his head, but he does not.

“Sophie,” he says.

“I’m sorry you’re dying,” Sophie says.

“Are you?”

Sophie stands there, hesitant. She wrings her hands. “Yes.”

“It won’t matter,” Gargamel lies. “My soul is already in Heaven.”

“Hell.”

“. . . it won’t matter,” Gargamel concedes. “My soul is already in Hell.”

“It will matter to me.”

“Did you know,” says Montechristien Gargamel, “that I have in my possession only ninety-nine golden eidolons?”

“Pardon?”

“I will die,” says Montechristien Gargamel, “and there will be nothing left for me but damnation, because someone of my kin and blood took from my treasury the eldest golden man. And I must ask myself: who is it that the Devil hunted at night for seven years? Who is it who went out and faced him alone, and fell beneath his will? Because that person would be, you see, the natural suspect in this matter.”

“I didn’t—”

Gargamel laughs. It is bitter.

“There is a little crack in my defenses now, you see,” he says. “A little hole through which the shadow creeps. I should not have let you live, Sophie, or let you in—”

“What did Christine tell you?” Sophie shrieks.

“Be still!” Gargamel says.

He turns on her. There is no air around her. Her words are swallowed up in the void and her eyes hurt and she cannot breathe.

“You were my favorite,” Montechristien says.

Then there is air again.

“I didn’t fail,” Sophie says, her voice as tight as an overwound spring.

“Get out,” Montechristien says.

“I didn’t—”

“Get out!”

And she realizes that she will leave the room or she will be cast from it.

So she backs away, her face as stiff as stone. She says, “I will come back later, when you have recovered your composure.”

Then she closes the door and runs in swiftness down the stairs.

The old man goes to his bed. He sits down. He lets himself cry.

“Don’t lie to me,” he says to the air.

And as he thinks of what she has endured, he adds, “I never thought it was your fault.

An Unclean Legacy


“Violet’s Sin”

Some time has passed; and four of seven children are dying.

Tomas makes protests to Violet. He seeks to stall her. But she is not stalled. She has picked up the scent of blood and death in the air and Violet follows it at a run.

It is not Elisabet she finds.

Violet bursts into the room at the base of Gargamel’s tower; and what she sees there tears a scream from her throat.

Francescu flicks his eyes towards Violet.

Painedly, he says, “Please excuse us.”

Tomas comes. He stands in the doorway. He stares.

Manfred is slumped on the floor, bleeding out his life. His spear has pinned Sophie to Francescu, and both seem dearly hurt.

Violet, after a moment of frantic thought, steps forward. She pulls on the spear Cursebreaker; but it does not move. The outer layer of skin upon Violet’s hands comes off.

“Manfred,” Violet says.

She kneels down by him.

It is hard for her to think because this is an agony room: though Manfred, Sophie, and Francescu are stern folk, still there burst from them at time to time whimpers and sounds in an erratic symphony that no ears should ever have to hear.

“Manfred,” she says, holding herself from fainting by sheer will, “you must pull it out.”

And Manfred gives her a kind of weary, dizzy grin, and he mouths, “No.”

“I will make Francescu heal you,” Violet says, causing Francescu’s mouth to narrow before a spasm of pain distracts him. “But pull it free.”

“No.”

“Don’t you understand?” Violet says. “Don’t any of you fucking understand? You are so dedicated to how important it is to love or hate or kill or save one another and in my entire life I have never seen any of you be right even once about who the rest of us are.”

Manfred peers at her blearily, as if her words are the bleating of a goat. He makes a wretched gargling sound.

Tomas says, “It is enough, Violet. Let them die.”

And Violet turns on him, and she says, “I love them.”

And the words are raw in the air.

Christine is standing in the doorway behind Tomas. She says, softly, “The Devil is coming. There is a great fire to the west. Where is Elisabet?”

“Elisabet?”

Christine is not looking into the room. She is not processing what she sees there at all. Her eyes and ears are closed to it. Her face is pale and her voice is soft.

“If these are dead, then who else can defend us?” Christine asks.

Manfred is slowly rising to his hands and feet. Violet casts him a startled glance.

“Manfred,” she says, “you have cut arteries. You can’t fight the Devil.”

Manfred hits the ground with one fist. The stone floor cracks. There is a faint white light rising from below. Violet startles back.

Manfred sways to his feet.

Manfred seizes the spear in his two hands. With a growl and a gurgle, he wrenches it out. Then he falls half-dead to the floor.

Sophie staggers. She goes down on hands and knees. She coughs up black ichor mixed with little veins of red and blue and gold.

She is gaunt.

Francescu looks distant and calm again, though his wound is unhealed. The lines of pain on his face are gone.

“Not Elisabet,” Sophie mutters.

Manfred nods.

“She can’t know,” Sophie says.

Violet is staring fiercely at Francescu. After a moment, Francescu growls irritably and makes a gesture and Manfred’s throat is whole.

Then Violet sits by Sophie and gently she strokes Sophie’s hair and she says, “I’m sorry.”

And Sophie does not know that Violet is apologizing for her sin; for her secret; for the fact that still after all these years Montechristien does not know that it is Violet who betrayed him.

So she leans into Violet and she cries and she says, “They abandoned me.”

And Violet holds her; and Sophie is, for the smallest moment, weak; and Manfred stares at them like a man would stare at a great black blotch appearing, unexpectedly, upon the sun.

An Unclean Legacy concludes tomorrow.

27 thoughts on “An Unclean Legacy: “Violet’s Sin”

  1. It has some good moments, but there’s something that seems just slightly off about this entry. The final scene doesn’t quite work for me.

    Here’s a list of things that I’m puzzled about:

    1. Gargamel doesn’t have any divination magic that he could have used to find out who stole the eidolon? I had assumed that he knew that Violet had stolen it but had more or less forgiven her because it was the only way that she saw to protect the others; having him not know at the last minute seems a bit too melodramatic. The others suspect each other because they don’t know each other’s mental state or intentions; they’re pretty clear on the general outlines of what they did or didn’t do.

    2. “You are so dedicated to how important it is to love or hate or kill or save one another and in my entire life I have never seen any of you be right even once about who the rest of us are.” It’s a good tying-together thematic statement for the series, and fits with the similar one from the end of _Standing In The Storm_ (about people seeing each other as heroes, villains, or trash to be slain, not as people). But I’ve never really seen any of them be dedicated to how important it is to love each other, except for Violet, and presumably she isn’t including herself. Manfred and Sophie seem to want to protect Elizabet (in part by keeping her in the dark) but that doesn’t seem like love exactly.

    3. It seems odd that, after so many attempts to kill each other on sight (including Christine’s attempt to kill Manfred), that people would generally change their minds just because the Devil is approaching and (for Manfred and Sophie, apparently) because Elizabet is under threat. Maybe they’re just really used to listening to Violet?

    4. “Christine is not looking into the room. She is not processing what she sees there at all. Her eyes and ears are closed to it.” Then how does she know that the people in it are apparently dead?

    Sorry to go on about this. Maybe there will be slight edits when the monthbook comes out.

  2. Gargamel doesn’t have any divination magic that he could have used to find out who stole the eidolon?

    Perhaps Violet, or the Devil, or the eidolon itself used the power of the stolen eidolon to obscure any such divination. Perhaps the magic of the golden eidolons doesn’t lend itself to divination; we’ve yet to see Gargamel perform any, though Francescu has.

  3. 1. Gargamel doesn’t have any divination magic that he could have used to find out who stole the eidolon?

    No edit here. The constraint on limitless power is the user.

    When does Montechristien use magic, and for what?

    2. But I’ve never really seen any of them be dedicated to how important it is to love each other, except for Violet, and presumably she isn’t including herself.

    Hee hee. ^_^

    No edit here. Violet isn’t the narrator. She’s Violet.

    Manfred and Sophie seem to want to protect Elizabet (in part by keeping her in the dark) but that doesn’t seem like love exactly.

    There’s no real reason to think that Sophie loves Elisabet.

    3. It seems odd that, after so many attempts to kill each other on sight (including Christine’s attempt to kill Manfred), that people would generally change their minds just because the Devil is approaching and (for Manfred and Sophie, apparently) because Elizabet is under threat. Maybe they’re just really used to listening to Violet?

    Their reasons are more individual than that. I’ll wait for people’s thoughts after they’ve seen the whole series and processed it for a bit.

    4. “Christine is not looking into the room. She is not processing what she sees there at all. Her eyes and ears are closed to it.” Then how does she know that the people in it are apparently dead?

    This one might merit a minor edit at some point.

    It’s not magic that’s keeping her from seeing into the room. It’s inability to cope. Possibly the language is too strong; she is processing enough to go, “Oh, no Francescu. Blood. I guess no Manfred. Huh.”

  4. Okay, while you’re answering questions…

    Why smurfs?

    A lot of Hitherby legends use pop culture references of various sorts, but generally (to my eye) they’re either passing comments, or bringing more of their own flavor to things. Unclean Legacy seems to be neither, with the smurf elements occuring quite a few times, but generally only in terms of names and physical descriptions, but not really anything about what the show was about, to the extent that it was about anything. I don’t understand the use of smurfy elements in Unclean Legacy.

    So, why the choice to choose the smurf setting as a framing device for these stories?

    -Eric

  5. Thanks for the detailed response!

    Hmm, now I’m going to have to go think about it some more.

    The only one of these answers that really still puzzles me is the Violet/narrator thing. It really seemed that Violet was saying, since it was in quotes, the sentence beginning “You are so dedicated to how important it is to love or hate or kill or save one another […”>”. Since she says You instead of We, I figured that she must mean the other siblings, and not be including herself. I’ve seen convincing examples of the other siblings thinking that they have to hate, kill, or save each other for some reason, but Violet is the only one who really seems to have shown love for the others in scenes that we as readers have seen. Manfred has shown unwillingness to attack Elisabet back after she has attacked him in two different scenes, but an unwillingness to attack your sibling doesn’t quite translate to love, exactly.

    It gives me a feeling like I’ve missed an episode. :) Like, was there one with Elisabet’s 10th birthday, where she had a birthday party and blew out all the candles and Manfred thought “Oh, my poor shadow-sister, it’s really important that I love her all her life to make up for the circumstances of her birth”? That would be the kind of fake reason that Violet seems to be talking about, because Elisabet is not a poor little girl, and if people had just talked to her when she was older and let her come to terms with who she is, she could have grown into it and people could have had a real relationship with her that isn’t based on hiding what they know and Tomas would never have succeeded with his cruel revelation. But I don’t remember seeing something like that.

    Oh well, one more entry and then my questions will either be answered or not answered. :)

  6. I don’t think violet is so much the narrator as the “straight man” of the story. She doesn’t have to care much about anything that happens in the story, but does, because she’s human.

    The only real instance of the supernatural in her life was when the Devil came and scared her into giving him the golden idol, but she’s about to get a blast of it pretty damn soon.

    question is, what was her present? We know the other’s presents.. but did I miss hers?

  7. So, why the choice to choose the smurf setting as a framing device for these stories?

    Eric, obviously I can’t answer, but I can tell you my own interpretation. These stories are being told (primarily) by Jane, who is in some ways (not chronologically or, really, intellectually) a six year old. So naturally they are told through the settings that she would use, the ones that she would have seen on TV when she was with her family. If she wants something that plays off the idea of people with defined roles, and the limitations of those roles, she goes to Smurfs, not to Carl Jung.

    At a more metaphorical or thematic level, the use of the Smurfs as framing device is part of the tragedy in this series. As I’ve said before, a good deal of Hitherby in general seems to be about reactions to abuse. Grounding the series in the Smurfs keeps it focused on childhood even during the times when it is apparently about adults.

  8. question is, what was her present? We know the other’s presents.. but did I miss hers?

    In “Grinding Samael”, it says that Violet’s gift was the autothreshing of suitors.

    My interpretation of keeping Elisabet away isn’t that they’re trying to protect her, but that they think that she’ll side with the devil, because of her heritage. The new intro does call her “the Devils child”.

    Also, another question for Rebecca. On Merin, you said that “Unclean Legacy” was the best title you could think of that wasn’t a spoiler. Now that the series is nearly over, what was the other title you had in mind? Or is this too spoily to answer before tomorrow?

  9. question is, what was her present? We know the other’s presents.. but did I miss hers?

    In “Grinding Samael”, it says that Violet’s gift was the autothreshing of suitors.

    Ah, right. Ah well, too many characters to keep track of..

    anyway, that ironically reinforces my perception of Violet being immune to the troubles the others have. She doesn’t have to worry about supernatural devils or suitors… she dealt with both in her childhood, and now doesn’t have a reason to change.

  10. I must have missed it, but what was Tomas’ gift? The vision of god?

    Also, we’re told that each of the children was a prodigy, possessed of astonishing talents. What are the astonishing talents of Violet and Tomas? Apart from “being sensible” and “cruelty”, respectively.

  11. Violet and Tomas have been kind of at the bottom of the “astonishing!” scale, although even so they’re a bit larger-than-life.

    Rebecca

  12. Manfred and Sophie seem to want to protect Elizabet (in part by keeping her in the dark) but that doesn’t seem like love exactly.

    [Quote=”Rebecca Borgstrom”“>

    There’s no real reason to think that Sophie loves Elisabet.

    But Manfred does? Interesting.

  13. As far as I can remember, the 10th birthday gifts and native abilities of the siblings were as follows. Please correct me if I get something wrong.

    Violet — autothreshing of suitors. (This appears to be one possible reason for the oft-mentioned blood gutter in the castle, by the way; I think it’s on the floor under the suspended threshing machine. Violet appears to have no special powers, although her social and interpersonal skills may qualify her as a prodigy.)

    Francescu — magical power. (Though he apparently did his “put your life into an object” trick with his fingerbone earlier, with his own magical talents).

    Manfred — his unicorn. (Manfred wanted something to tell him what to do. The oath/brassards seem to have been coincidental, part of the ritual of making him a knight, and seem to have magically protected him as well as preventing him from killing anything. Manfred’s strength was his own.)

    Tomas — a vision of the face of God. (Tomas also refers to having done sorcery at one point, though he seemingly gave it up. He also did the magical oath ritual at Manfred’s 10th birthday. We never see Tomas’ 10th birthday, or indeed much of Tomas’ backstory at all.)

    Christine — her house. (Christine is also a sorceror, though not in Francescu’s league, and created her house as a baby.)

    Sophie — part of her transformational ability. (Her wish was that she would be worth tempting by the Devil. This appears to have been done by giving her the ability to be anything that anyone wanted her to be. Before her wish, she already knew how to do transformations, and how to fly; it’s not clear whether this was an innate magical talent or because she was soulless, although seemingly not all the soulless can do this.)

    Elisabet — unknown. (I don’t think that we ever saw her 10th birthday or heard what her wish was. She has a natural shadow-protoplasmic form that appears to be more “real” than her human form, since it’s what she was born in, and since (having the ability to think and talk at birth) she does not really seem to be human. Her ninja abilities appear to be due to self-training.)

  14. Oh yeah, and here are the last unanswered plot-related questions of the series for me (other than what’s going to happen just after this entry). I might as well write them down now before some of them are answered in the next entry.

    Why was Yseult so determined to be evil?

    What happened to Cedric Saraman? (I think I can guess what happened to Sir Jasper.)

    How did Yseult meet and marry Gargamel?

    What was Elisabet’s 10th birthday present?

    Were Montechristien and Baltasar from any noteable line of descent, other than what appears to have been a standard noble family, or were their magical talents an individual accomplishment?

    What made Santrieste part of the onyx realm?

    Do any noteable beings of the purple realm affect the story? It’s the only one we haven’t seen a member of.

  15. What made Santrieste part of the onyx realm?

    As I understand it, that was because he was an elder creature, and all of those were of the onyx realm.

    Why was Yseult so determined to be evil?

    As I understand it, she knew Montechristian was damned, and so, didn’t want to go to an afterlife without him. This is most obvious when she’s dying, and telling him to deploy a can of whupass on the angels who’d dare drag her away.

    -Eric

  16. As I understand it, she knew Montechristian was damned, and so, didn’t want to go to an afterlife without him. This is most obvious when she’s dying, and telling him to deploy a can of whupass on the angels who’d dare drag her away.

    I understand that, but she seems determined to be evil when she’s freeing Cedric, and that seems to be before she met Gargamel. At least, she never mentions him in that scene.

  17. I think in that scene, she was annoyed that Sir Jasper would not understand her true nature as the daughter of an elder being, and thus her lack of love for him. Sort of, “If he can’t see that I’m not like him, I’ll do something really evil to show him.”

  18. Maybe, melsner. But doing it just to show him seems peevish and other-directed, which does not seem in character for someone like Yseult, who seems to have been good/nice even though she didn’t want to be. That’s why I don’t think that her “true nature” was that of daughter of an elder being, at least insofar as that nature is most often understood. It’s also quite an overreaction for that purpose; she could have just slapped Jasper and told him off if that’s all that she wanted to do. He didn’t seem like the type to hang around if she told him to go.

    After Eric’s comment, I’m thinking that perhaps she met Gargamel early in life, fell in love, and from then on decided that she had to be evil in order to not be seperated from him, and that’s why she freed Cedric. But that doesn’t quite work. At that point, Gargamel was not damned, because Baltasar was not, so Yseult couldn’t have been sure that Gargamel wouldn’t end up in heaven after all. And it seems like she could have just run off with Gargamel rather than free Cedric. The sequence seems to work better if she hadn’t yet met Gargamel at the time she freed Cedric.

  19. Violet’s social and interpersonal skills may qualify her as a prodigy.

    Yeah. I think the ability to get her siblings to shut up and do as they’re told definitely qualifies her as a prodigy. Also, having the guts to go out and confront the Devil.

    Why was Yseult so determined to be evil?

    Why was Ink Catherly so determined to go to Hell? I think these are, if not the same question, at least closely related.

  20. Violet and Tomas have been kind of at the bottom of the “astonishing!” scale, although even so they’re a bit larger-than-life.

    Rebecca

    Tomas? Really? I thought Tomas was pretty astonishing compared to, say, Christine. I mean, he’s SCARY. He survives Francescu’s sorcerous onslaught, he’s seen the face of God, he has random insights into the long-past personal histories of elder beings that lets him curse them for all eternity (or the maximal duration allowed by curse). He nearly kills Elisabet with a couple of well placed words.

  21. he has random insights into the long-past personal histories of elder beings that lets him curse them for all eternity (or the maximal duration allowed by curse).

    Long past history? That was, what, five minutes before?

  22. he has random insights into the long-past personal histories of elder beings that lets him curse them for all eternity (or the maximal duration allowed by curse).

    Long past history? That was, what, five minutes before?

    The incident in question:

    There’s a click. There’s a hum. There’s a shifting in the world.

    Tomas looks down.

    “Such is my instinct,” he says, cruelly, “that you have attempted this trick before; sliding this leaf under the feet of good honest men like me, to entrap them into servitude. And it is my belief that at one such time you chose a great sorcerer as your victim, and so were cursed that should you ever attempt this again, your next victim would choose your punishment.”

    Francescu closes his eyes.

    “No doubt,” says Tomas, “this was many centuries ago, or even millennia, and that is why you have forgotten.”

    It’s certainly POSSIBLE this was a referrant to Francescu, if there had been an unspoken a curse contained in his words to the pixie immediately earlier, in which case, yeah, five minutes. I had read this as referring as a separate incident, and thus as an indicator of Tomas’ preturnatural insight inot the nature of things (accompanied by the SFX click/hum/shift in the world). Seems a reasonable sort of side-effect for looking on the face of God.

  23. Francescu had, immediately before, said “And you will find yourself troubled should you pull such tricks again.” to the fairy.

    And the context, in the story, seems to make it clear that it’s Francescu’s curse that’s being referred to.

    -Eric

  24. I agree with Eric, not only from context, but from Francescu’s particular form of annoyance — he knows that Tomas is using Francescu’s own curse to ordain a punishment that is much more severe than anything Francescu would have chosen. It’s a mini-parable of the problems of having great power and leaving its manner of use to other people, which presages Gargamel’s problem at the end of the series.

    But Hitherby context is often difficult, in part I think because of the way that we read it. If it were all in one big piece, you’d sit down and give it more focussed attention. But because it’s a daily thing, elements of context recede in your memory a bit. There are also some word choice and phrasing issues that determine a lot of the meaning which the daily-reading format helps me to miss.

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