Friday, February 27, 2009

Ill Met in House Silverkin

"I think I would prefer talking to you if you cover yourself and show modesty befitting the matron of the house," said Pangold to the striking, lithe blond figure that sat facing him, her back to a dressing table and mirror.

"In some ways I am sure you would," she replied with a small, ripe smile.  She made no move to cover her skin, bare from the waist.

"I do not have time for this.  I've decided to leave tonight and not wait until morning," he shot back.  "I came up here only for a kerchief with Crest you had promised me," he moved across her dressing room to the large oak armoir he knew sat under the far window.  At this late hour it was bathed in dark shadow.  He tried deliberately not to bring his eye to meet hers.  

Her eyes continued to follow him nonetheless.

"I know that Marshal keeps them in cedar bundles," he continued, trying to move beyond the suggestiveness of her answer to his request that they resume their family roles.  Family roles keep things in their rightful place.  Family roles keep things from getting messy.  Apparently she now desired that things get messy, he thought.

He bent to one knee to open the lowest master drawer.  A small crack and painful snap reminded him of the mace that had glanced the outside of his right kneecap delivered by the large Iberian he contested in the ring just two nights earlier.  Pangold had eventually bested the brute, removing a large chunk from the fleshy spot where the back of the head and spine fuse.  Although he lives, the Iberian strong man will never himself raise a weapon to Pangold to exact revenge for his loss. Nor, even, would he stand again.  This had been winner's intention.  The wound to his knee was Pangold's most serious, and it had been healing nicely to point previous, but as he bent to secure a family heirloom, he became aware of some residual inflammation.  

The tall, lean fighter quickly rummaged through the drawer and deposited a small white cheese cloth bundle reeking of cedar into his belt pouch.  He rose quickly, turning towards the wall opposite his mother, moving in a head's rush back to the door.

She decided this was her last remaining chance.  

"Pan," she said, her voice now innocent and sincere.  "Pan, why do you both desire me and yet hate me so?  How can you both love and hate the same thing in the same way?  Please, please try to make me understand.  If you are leaving to never return, then you must tell me: How can you have lain with me and yet have eyes that seem almost to burn right through me, so hot is your contempt?"

"Does your contempt extend to every inch of me?" She rose to her feet, the folded lengths of silk dressing grown tumbling to the marble floor.  She remained naked from the waist up as she moved to meet him at the door.

Pangold paused, allowing his mother to close the door to her inner salon, blocking his only exit.  In this way, at least, the valet Bronoc couldn't catch glimpse, or, worse, alert the absent Marshal to the queer situation in which his wife and his son now found themselves.  Although father and son had not spoken in over a year, their feud had nothing to do with his wife, at least as far as Marshal was concerned.  If he were to find out about the compromised positions of mother and son, his rage would be even more inflamed.  

They stood nearly silent for several heartbeats.  He refused to cast his gaze directly at her eyes.  She reached her soft, small white hand to stroke his bruised cheek.

"If you must leave us forever, if that really is your begotten intention, then let me share with you the gift of my love one more time.  How can you refuse me?"  She tried to slowly press herself against him.  "Who knows the next time a woman who loves you will care for you?  Do you think the Drowned World is full of women who truly love wanders?"  For a moment he allowed himself to enjoy the wave of warm needles that flowed immediately upward from his groin.  Then he swiftly backed away.

"What I am to your father, I can also be for you, if you will let me once again," she continued, thinking she correctly sensed the source of his reluctance.  She again moved in close, allowing the swell of her breasts to expand against his chest and arms, their skin separated only by his chemise.  But the fighter firmly pushed her small frame back a pace, and for the first time in his life decided to share his deepest feelings with his mother.

"What kind of creature are you?"  He snapped.  "How can you go through life without the respect for self shown even by rats?"

Lucy Silverkin was visibly shaken and shrank in stature at these words.  She turned away from her son and back to her dressing table.  The bounce of a few blond natural ringlets caught Pangold's eye as she pivoted away in haste.  In this light she looked even younger than usual to him.

"Do not do this again," she pleaded, her dramatic shift of voice left her sounding increasingly like a small girl.  "I give myself to you, and you respond with daggers."

"You are nothing but a vehicle for men to leave their deposits.  You disgust me."  His intention was to leave a mark that she would not forget.

"Pangold, please!"

"Please.." he mocked her with his most sardonic tone.  "You are but a little girl whose head is so empty of thought and reflection that you are willing to allow men to come and fill it for you.  You do not even know the depths of the game you have signed on to, and what is worse you have signed on to this game for your life.  

"No," he corrected himself.  "That is wrong.  You are not a little girl.  You know full well what you do.  That is why I hate you."

"As before, I beg you, I do not understand your words?"  She couldn't help but almost whimper.  "What have I ever done to deserve such treatment?  I did not even know of you when your father married me.  Do you really blame me for falling in love with him before I fell in love with you?"  She paused.  Sliding her left arm gently under the large fold of fabric that bunch around her waist, she smoothly pulled a cover up over her bare breasts in obvious effort to regain something approximating composure.

"Is it, perhaps, that you think I do not please your father as his wife should?" She probed further.  "Am I in some way deficient as a wife?"

"You are a proven whore to start."

She sat at her bench retaining a dignity in her posture beyond what comes naturally to girls barely twenty years old.  Pangold noted this as well as noted that such dignity was, too, just an act, the result of the inculcated instinct of her breeding.  She had been raised her entire life under the roof of a high-level administrator in the king's court.  Thus the art of sitting pretty while things all around get messy was clearly a trait she had developed quite young.  Pangold even felt hostility towards the posture the girl adopted.  But at the same time he could appreciate the beauty of a pretty thing on its perch.

"If I am a proven whore, then you are convicting me of a crime in which you are co-conspirator.  But beyond this, tell me, in what single way am I not a good wife to your father?'

Pangold hesitated slightly.  He measured his words carefully.  

"You are precisely the kind of woman my father wants you to be.  You fulfill all his wants.  You dote on his eccentricities and you liven his hours with your charms and devotions.  He found in you precisely what he sought.  And that is why I hate you."

"Because I am not your mother, you mean?"

"See, you are emptied-headed indeed, slut."  The last insult stung, as he proceeded to speak to her for the first time with an honest bluntness that smacked like the open face of a hammer.  "Little girl, how do I say this to you in a way you will best understand...You are exactly like my mother."

Lucy Silverkin vaguely remembered the oldest son of her husband saying something like this before.  And like that prior occasion, she again did not understand the statement.  To her naive ear he sounded nearly deranged.

"If you refuse the gift of my love, then just leave me.  There is no reason to continue this torture session."  She again straighted her back, inadvertently exposing her full side of her right breast.  In the soft light of the many-candled wall sconces, her flawless skin looked like alabaster.

"Come to me on your knees and I will stay," Pangold said flatly.  

His mother slowly rose to her feet and crossed the barely ten feet of room that separated them.  As she approached she dropped dutifully to a single knee.  She let her improvised garment drop again to the floor as she looked up into his wide, tanned and stern face.  The many hours he spent in competition in the district's open-air arena left him with a healthy bronze hue.

Pangold spat fully in his mother's face.

Her figure scrambled away in retreat, unable to get fully to her feet.  As she raced her lithe body no longer looked seductive in the light of the room but ridiculous and pitiable.  A helpless animal both shamed and revolted.

"Out before I call the street guard!" she cried, cowering next to her jewelery chest, the darkest corner of the salon.

"Mother.." Pangold spoke in a soothing voice.

"Do not call me that!  You monster, you scoundrel of the lowest order!"  He could make out her shadowed profile huddling in the sudden chill of the room.

"Little one," continued Pangold in a slow, calming, yet stern and commanding fashion.  "I needed to know you truly cared for me.  Please, come back to me.  I had to test you, you must understand.  Come back to me."

Lucy Silverkin, a young women married only three years to a man nearly three times her age, was surprised to find herself rising once again to her feet, and making the walk to her step-son.  Ignoring the remnants of her own tears from just moments earlier, she again supplicated herself to him.  In turn, Pangold reached forward and took hold of her soft mouth in his hand, and, with a force, put his own onto it.  He kissed her deeply and only slowly and with great reluctance did he pull away.

In a flash of motion, Pangold brought the back of his strong left hand down hard across his mother's face, and produced a large, broad-bladed dagger in the other hand which he held fast at the base of her neck.  Before she had time even to whelp, his left hand closed over her mouth.

"You come back after you've been spat on, degraded and defiled?  That is why I hate you."  He breathed heavily down unto her straining face.  "You are a worm, little girl.  I would as soon destroy you as adjust my path even the slightest."  He slowly removed the threatening blade, and removed his hand from her mouth.  He turned to exit.

"If to be a worm is your destiny, little slug, then at least think on this.  That you are nothing more than a worm is precisely why my father claimed you.  It is the quality that he values most in you.  If nothing else, always remember this:  as you are pleasuring him and feeding his perversions, remember that my father's desire for you only burns as long you exist as an empty vessel to fill when and how he wishes.  What do you think he would do if you ever dared attempt to fill the vessel for yourself?  What do you think that says about the depth of his regard?  What do you think it says about value of a worm?"

He opened the door sharply, the light from the corridor spilled in enough to reveal his mother on her knees, attempting to cover herself and hold her head as she wept, refusing to look up again at her abuser.  

"So my crime is that I am not her?  Not Esmeralda?  That I am not also made of something stern like granite?  Well, look what happens to my kind that prove made of such stuff.  They do not last long in this world." Her words came out in great sobs. 

At the mention of his sister's name and murder, Pangold briefly considered escalating his farewell lesson to his mother to include taking her by force, knowing full well that her screams would yield way to goading moans in short order.  Even degraded, the small, doe-eyed creature stoked a blaze of desire in his heart.

He thought better of it, closed the door firmly, and proceeded to the foyer where the rest of his baggage was stowed.    


post festum said...

Since I'm one of the few who have yet to try their hand at a sexy scene, here's my go at it.

Pangold, you can see, has some identity issues.

I would apologize for the length, but those of you disinclined to read my posts for this reason probably aren't reading this comment anyway.

Ironbeard said...

Wow. I'm not really sure what to say here, except that you are definitely moving into unexplored territory. The piece is very well written and your handling of the dialogue is fantastic. I also really like the fact that you are working outside the realm of most fantasy tropes as I understand them. This gives the piece a real boldness that verges on the experimental, in a good way. I'm going to re-read it now. Thanks.

Aeschere said...

This is far more than a sexy scene, my friend. There is so much going on here, in fact, that I'm not sure where to start. You develop the erotic tension very effectively, and describe Lucy in a manner that is both vivid and enticing, but it is the way that you shatter that tension that makes this scene so remarkable. You then proceed to reestablish that tension and shatter it again so convincingly that I was shaken as badly as poor, salacious little Lucy. This is some damn good writing.

I agree with Ironbeard that this combination of fantasy and complex psychological realism is unexplored territory. I urge you to continue exploring.

Though Pangold is not the sort of fellow I would want to spend a lot of time with, he is turning into a fascinating character whose inner conflicts run far deeper than mere identity issues, to be sure. Really great post. 300 XP for Pangold.

post festum said...

uh, after reading this again I guess it isn't really sexy at all, is it? Sorry. ;)

I'm really glad you guys were willing to stick with this little backstory, given just how odd it is for a sword & sorcery tale.

Some jack ass at the power company decided to turn my power off in the late morning to run some tests, so, since I couldn't catch up on work email, I sat down to write a small tale.

I'm glad both of you enjoyed the played-up psychological realism, since this is something I've been thinking about lately. And I think I have to slightly disagree with Professor Ironbeard on this point.

True, this story is more extreme than most general fantasy, but I'm not so sure that it isn't related to a theme that does reappear regularly in the sword&sorcery sub-genre.

Exhibit A: Look at 3/4 of the Frazetta canon. Case closed. A Silverkin woman at the feet. Who is she?

Exhibit B: Sword&sorcery seems to me to be maybe the most juvenile of all fantasy sub-genre's. And I don't mean this in a bad way. If REH or Leiber are the definition of s&s, then the classic protagonist of s&s - outsider, lives on the boundaries, amoral or even egoistic, hedonistic, exceptional melee ability, you know, chaotic neutral - is really just a projection of the teenage mind.

One thing I liked about Leiber's "The Snow Women" is that he tries to answer the question of what would family life and relationships be like for these kinds of super people.

So I do think this story is working on this same basic recurring theme of the Silverkin woman that I at least seem to find in s&s.

I just tried to complicate it a bit, wondering what would happen if the s&s fighter archetype - who is not necessarily exceptionally intelligent or wise - developed conflicting feelings about male dominance and the macho ethic of the his class (didn't Farhd sing with a high contralto voice?).

Thanks for reading!

Ironbeard said...

Post Festum - I wasn't speaking so much about the male dominance as I was about the quasi incest.

Concerning the male dominance, I definitely take your point about this theme being present in much s and s, of course it is, but I still think that you are rendering it here much more overtly than is typical. Not that that is bad by any means. This is not intended as criticism but rather, as an observation that you are moving into new territory.

Actually now that I think about it, I think what makes Pangold so unique among other s and s heroes, for me, is his sheer creepiness. While Conan and Fafhrd were operating outside the boundaries of conventional morality, they never seemed this psychologically sadistic or icky. I think you said it yourself - these themes, when they appear in s and s, are usually kind of sexy. Pangold . . . not so sexy. Maybe that is what struck me as the chief difference.
Again, though I hasten to add that this is what makes the character interesting.

post festum said...

Your points are well taken.

I think I've always had problems identifying with the fighter class personally, even as a kid, and this contributed to my giving Pangold that air of 'ickiness.'

Going with the idea of the juvenile nature of s&s, psychologically fighters seem to me to be of the same mind as the playground bully. And even when they are on your side, a bully is still a bully. I just have trouble valorizing them (like Conan - who claims a throne for himself for christ sake). So I went in a different direction.

And I think I was too quick to say that in the canon of s&s, the protagonist fighters are not particularly intelligent. REH writes Conan as if he is supremely clever and even erudite at times.

I guess maybe Pangold is turning out to be an experiment in wondering what would happen if the juvenile really got the chance to be that big and strong and yet still retain their adolescent shallow personal and emotional life.

Aeschere said...

"I guess maybe Pangold is turning out to be an experiment in wondering what would happen if the juvenile really got the chance to be that big and strong and yet still retain their adolescent shallow personal and emotional life."

That sounds an awful lot like somebody I know, though I can't quite put my finger on it. By the way, where has Domenick been? He hasn't posted in ages...

Ironbeard said...

Believe it or not Post Festum, but I was thinking about your post a great deal as I was running today.

My thoughts:

Basically, if Pangold lived in our world, we would classify him as a complete sociopath (and maybe a psycho-sexual sadist) based on your description of him. Now, most people, and there may be exceptions, would consider sociopaths to be rather "evil," or at the very least to perform actions that are considered evil. And yet, in the D and D world, he is chaotic neutral.

I say this not because I am suggesting that Pangold's alignment be shifted, but rather to suggest that your experiment is succeeding in foregrounding just how out of sync the D and D system of morality is with most real world ones. Pangold's behavior clearly corresponds with D and D's conception of chaotic neutral, but c'mon, if we knew this guy intimately, we would consider him evil.

I suppose that this might also might reveal something about the early days of the s and s genre that D and D alignment system grew out of. It was in no way as goody goody as the fantasy genre has become.

So, I like the creepiness. It's a welcome antidote to the cloying morality that seems to characterize so much fantasy these days. If you like this sort of stuff, check out Robert Aspirin's Thieves World.

Inakai said...

I say, yay for "ickiness"!! I enjoyed your post, PF. I love inner conflict within a character, it makes for more interesting role play, and gives us all distinct personalities. Kudos! I can't wit to read more about Pangold. I think there's more to him that we have yet to find out...

post festum said...

Thanks again to all for more replies.

dm: I don't know where our mutual friend has disappeared to...I was wondering that myself.

Ironbeard: Great analysis. I think you are exactly right. But, I wonder, do you think a fully-realized s&s hero would interesting for more than a short story? Would people hold their interest for a full-length tale?

Heather: Thanks very much for the kind words. Pangold is turning out kinda creepy, but I think the more you get to know his father, step-mother and step-sister you will more clearly see the source of his "inner conflict". Cheers and thanks.