applespice: it is a sparkly fairy ([autumn] leaves in the wind)
How About Them Apples? ([personal profile] applespice) wrote2011-11-30 07:54 pm
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LJ Idol - Week 6 - Food Memory

The air bristled with the crisp tang of autumn. The prince drew deep draughts of it through his aquiline nose, and his mustache quivered slightly. His attendants stood breathlessly in wait as he stood surveying the lawn, until at last he nodded and they rushed away like so many startled mice. Only one servant remained, a grizzled old man with white hair and eyes like a winter sky.

“Autumn is a fine time to dine outdoors, Ilie,” the prince said suddenly, his eyes fixed on the lawn.

“Yes, Your Highness,” the old man replied. “A fine time, indeed.” His own eyes were cast far from the property, reaching for the wooded horizon.

“My wife finds the air too brisk this time of year,” the prince continued, as if he had not even heard. “She prefers to eat in that dark, musty hall of mine. A miserable place. But I have always been a man of the outdoors.”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

“There is nothing quite so satisfying as devouring a meal one has killed oneself.” The prince’s mustache twitched. “And, of course, the smell of blood in the air adds a certain ambiance.”

“I heard that the stag was fearsome large, Your Highness,” Ilie said deferentially. His eyes were now downcast, tracing bootprints in the mud.

“Yes indeed, a great beast. I slew him with an arrow to the eye,” the prince said. “He was a noble creature, worthy of a quick death. Would that I could say the same of men.”

There was a sudden flurry of movement as the prince’s attendants materialized on the lawn, carrying a table and ornate chair among them. The table was covered with a white linen cloth, which flapped in the cool air like a gull's wing, and the chair was carved to resemble the curled form of a dragon. Behind these men came a caravan of servants in rust-colored livery, bearing a number of covered plates and jugs of beaten silver. As they approached, all lowered their eyes. Within moments they had set an elegant table. Ilie himself drew back the dragon chair for the prince.

One of the prince's attendants withdrew the cover from a large plate, revealing a venison steak that steamed in the autumn air. Another stepped forward to pour the prince's wine. Ilie remained behind the prince's right shoulder, and the other attendants spread in a line behind him. Most, he knew, stared toward the woods at the edge of the prince's grounds, or at the earth like he did. The younger ones let their eyes be drawn upward to the strange forest that surrounded them. He could hear the disturbed exhalations of their breath, their nervous fidgeting. He hoped for their sake that the prince could not.

A scream rent the air - a thin, tired, hopeless sound. Ilie knew it well. It was the sound of a man who has given up the last hope of living, a man who must now face intolerable pain with the complete understanding that it will only end in death. He also knew without looking that the young attendants behind him were staring, horrified, at the source of the sound and that the prince, in his dragon chair, was smiling.

"You see, Ilie," the prince said, without turning around, "there is no flesh as sweet as that of a noble enemy. Were I to meet a man as noble as the stag I killed today, I would roast and eat his flesh, and I have no doubt that it would be the finest meal I would ever consume."

The prince paused for a moment to chew a slice of venison.

"But the flesh of men is befouled with sin and cowardice," he continued. "It is not worthy of consumption. Instead it should be mortified and punished for its weakness."

"Yes, Your Highness," Ilie said. What else was there to say?

The prince nodded and returned to his meat. One of the young attendants gagged as the stench of loosened bowels filled the air. The prince seemed not to notice. He stared out at his kingdom, methodically placing each slice of steak into his mouth as if he could focus on nothing but the quality of the meal.

Around them, the spikes of raw wood reached toward the grey autumn sky. All bore dark stains of old blood, though many were slick with fresh viscera. At various points on those fresh-anointed spikes hung men, impaled in the air. Some moaned fitfully, but many had lost the ability. Still more were dead. The spikes had protruded through the mouths of the corpses. The man who had screamed was the latest of the prince's offenders. He might last for days yet.

Ilie kept his eyes well-trained on the horizon or on the ground before him. He had learned years ago not to stare at the bodies of the damned. The prince smiled his enigmatic smile, and reveled in his meat and wine.

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