Beyond the Ice
and the Fire
Then the mountain rose before me
By the deep well of desire
From the fountain of forgiveness
Beyond the ice and the fire
Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me
Darius felt as though he was drowning, he couldn't get enough air and a heavy pressure burdened his chest. Everyone who knew of his life so long ago was dead, who would be so callous to do this, to torment him now? How he wanted to forget, his memories of those days in Florence surprisingly clear as if the events of over seven hundred years ago happened just a day before.
He made his way back to the rectory, collapsing in the chair by the fireplace. Closing his eyes, he laid his head back and cleared his mind, or at least attempted to. He slowly opened his brilliant blue eyes and his gaze caught the book...that damned book. It all started when it came crashing down upon his head, just as his life was doing at this very moment. He reached over and picked it up from where Amanda had placed it a couple days before. He traced the faded gilt on the cover with his strong callused fingers. God was speaking to him, but this time his message had not the clarity that Darius would have preferred. He slowly opened the leather bound tome to the front leaf, the writing stark against the creamy paper.
The book had been published a couple years after the entire affair, Alighieri using it as some sort of therapy to heal his soul, while Darius was lost, his usual ability to overcome any obstacle removed from his arsenal. Overall, Darius thought the book well written, but not nearly enough to capture fully the object of his affection. Dante had no idea how close he came when he described the blessed nature of his beloved. Darius had seen the more earthy side, the falible aspects of her nature for what they were, and rejoiced in them.
"Brother Darius, would you take a look at this?" Beatrice thrust a sheet of paper into Darius' surprised hand. She had come bursting through the door, no warning rap upon it. They had spoken on several occassion between her socializing and his work schedule, the conversations entertaining and somewhat heated on her part, ranting about the injustices and impolitic of Florentine society. "He wrote me another one. God have mercy on me for saying this, I love him as only you can love a friend, but this is getting out of control."
Darius gestured for her to take her usual seat while he sat upon the bed. He opened up the wrinkled sheet, written upon in young Dante Alighieri's handwriting was a simple sonnet....
To every captive soul and loving heart
to whom these words I have composed are sent
for your elucidation in reply,
greetings I bring for your sweet lord's sake, Love.
Joyous, Love seemed to me, holding my heart
within his hand, and in his arms he had
my lady, loosely wrapped in folds, asleep.
He woke her then, and gently fed to her
the burning heart; she ate it , terrified.
And then I saw him disappear in tears
Darius's expression as he read it must have spoken volumes to Beatrice, because when he looked up as he finished reading, she replied..."See what I mean. Isn't that the most grotesque thing you have ever read? That isn't me."
"No, Signorina. It isn't, but he is trying???"
"Too hard. I can't marry him anyway, I told him that. He knows but says he "is content to adore me from afar." What a bunch of..."
"Don't be so hard on him. How is the situation with your father?"
"He's still sick and still adamant about marrying de'Bardi." Her delicate face scrunched up in distaste at the thought of being bound to the pompous oaf.
"Your father wants to see you taken care of, especially now, in case something happens to him."
Beatrice stood up, Darius following her with his azure gaze. She paced around the room. "I can take care of myself. I'm certainly more intelligent than most of the half-witted men in this city."
"There is one thing you will never be accused of, Signorina."
"A good logician knows exactly where his intelligence stands in comparisions with others, he should not denegrate or overexaggerate his abilities."
"Touche." Darius stood to return the poem to her. As he handed it to her, their hands brushed, sending a shock of electricity coursing through his veins. He thought it a fluke, nothing more than a physical response to a beautiful woman's touch. Beatrice's dark eyes gazed up into his deep aqua ones, startled but excited by the prospect of finally experiencing the feelings she had only read about before.
"Signorina, when are you to be married?" His soft tenor voice, slightly roughened by his arousal and her nearness, echoed in her ears, finally drawing her attention back to the present.
"Wha...oh, the end of the month."
"Good, I shall be here to wish you well. I leave the middle of next month for Rome."
"Why are you leaving so soon?" Frightened by the prospect that she would soon be losing her one confidant and friend, she understood now Dante's agreement to adore from afar, but she didn't not think herself capable of maintaining that status. Darius' attraction was too powerful.
"My work here will soon be completed. I have missives that must go onto Rome, then I will return to my monestery. Surely you did not think I could stay here under the graciousness of the Alighieri family indefinitely."
"No...no, of course not." Beatrice turned to gaze out upon the city from Darius' window. "I shall miss our talks."
"I too," Darius smiled brightly at her, attempting to cheer her melancholy state. "But you will be much too busy in your new life to think of me much."
Beatrice spun around to face him, tears streaking her beautiful face. "Don't say that. Don't ever think that." She fled past Darius, who was confused at her apparent discomfiture with his impending departure. He could only chalk it up to the myriad of changes in her life, her father's illness, her betrothal, the change in Dante.
Darius groaned in frustration. When would the memories go away? He was so tempted to throw the book into the fire, but he resisted it because it was the only link he had to her and he wasn't ready to give that up. He slunk down in the chair even farther and contemplated all that he had done in his life. Very few moments, if anything, amounted to the time he spent with Beatrice. Their talks, her insightfulness and intellegence intertwined with his experience and wisdom of the ages.
A sharp knock resounded upon the door to his bedroom, startling Darius out of his reverie. He hoped fervently it wasn't Duncan and Amanda, he just wasn't in the mood to try and explain away his erratic behavior of this afternoon. As he opened the door, he was shocked to find no one there. Darius wasn't a believer in spirits, he was unnerved a little...almost doubting his sanity at hearing the noise. He walked down the stone corridor to the main part of the church.
There on the altar sat the painting.
He had left that sitting in Telois' Gallery today, hoping never to see it again. Darius was troubled by the artist's ability to capture many of the qualities that the living object of his painting once had before the bloom of life had left her body. He reached out and briefly touched the canvas, sensing the material barely roughened by the brushstrokes that composed the picture. He felt as if the painting could almost transport him back to a time when he was the most happy and felt the most excruciating loss.
Footsteps resounded through the empty hall, sending small vibrations up the stone steps. Darius felt a faint buzzing, not as strong as some of the Immortals he had encountered, but surely it was there. He turned to peer into the shadows of the nave, unsure of how he should progress. His heart sped up as he asked, "I am Brother Darius. You are safe her. Please show yourself."
"Are you the one who bought the painting?"
Darius' anger was rising. What kind of cruel joke was this? "Damn it, whoever you are, show yourself. This game has gone on long enough."
A cloaked figure stepped out of the shadows. As the figure pushed back the hood of the cloak with gloved hands, it spoke, "I always thought you liked games, Darius."
Darius stared as his worst nightmare showed her face. He would have recognized that voice anywhere.
He crumpled to the ground as the memories of her life and his loss overwhelmed him.
TO BE CONTINUED......