Mmm possible submission by the only person who missed the 15th May deadline – aka me

Posted: May 17, 2013 in Home

How Simeon Came to Sithiche Hall and Perdita was left in the human world.

Simeon strode into the hall and looked around at the spell-bound women with an air of satisfaction.

“They will do for now,” he said to himself, as Sarah and Bella were recovering themselves enough to speak. “And I have Jeannie of course, for when I am tired of them.”

Jeannie was his familiar. She was a companion who changed her shape into whatever Simeon desired, and whenever he desired it, though he could place her under a glass dome in his room when he was tired of her. She glowed there as nothing but a sullen red light until he called her back. He glanced again at the women, and decided straight away that the sisters did not need to ever be introduced to Jeannie; he knew at a glance that they were the haughty types who would disapprove of such an elemental companion.

“Where is William?” asked Bella.

Without answering, Simeon strolled around the large room with its endless reflecting mirrors interspersed with portraits of people who looked just like them. Languorous, long-limbed, beautiful people with a flash of malice in their eyes despite their languid posturing. Each one of them could have been a representation of Simeon, Sarah or Bella Large chairs were arranged around a huge fireplace where a cold fire spat and flickered. The chairs were upholstered in the finest materials, brocades, satin, velvets, and Simeon’s feet sank into the thick wool of the carpet with its complex pattern of bright tendrils echoed in the flourishes of red and silver in the elaborate wallpaper.

He ran his fingers down the strings of Bella’s harp with a discordant jangle of notes.

“Oh he told me that he’s tired of female company. He has decided to join the faery troop again in the perilous realms, and he is riding in hunts with the faeries and the dead. Here is his ring. And here am I, Simeon, at your service”

The two women looked suspiciously at his face then down at the large signet ring that glittered on the long second finger of Simeon’s left hand. It was William’s; in fact if they looked closely enough they could see a small, moving picture showing them quite clearly where William galloped with the Faery Troop, his black hair blowing in the wind, his mouth open in a silent yet enormous smile.

Simeon was an exceptionally beautiful specimen with a long intelligent face and brown eyes that flashed with amber lights. His dark hair fell in smooth curtains to curl softly on his shoulders, and he looked at the women with a lazy, cynical smile. Sarah and Bella turned their own beautiful faces on one another and nodded. Simeon would do as well as William; maybe better even, as William was always dreaming of gaining his freedom to join the processions and participate in the endless hunts and celebrations.

Of course, the signet ring had been the only thing that had bound William to them. Bella had slipped it on William’s finger when he was concentrating only on enjoying their beautiful bodies, and with a hoot of triumph she and Sarah had told the chastened faery that he now belonged to them, body, and soul such as he possessed one. They had expected the charm to do its malevolent work for as long as they chose.

The ring could only have been passed on to another if Simeon was willing to be their companion and they were at a loss to know why he had taken William’s place.

“I am weary of the endless processions, the hunts, the masques and balls, the interminable days of feasting and celebrations. I am tired to the very death. I heard of William’s trials, languishing in this magnificent hall with his beautiful lady companions, and I decided that his life was infinitely more appealing than my own.”

So this was how Simeon came to Sìthiche Hall.

Time or what equated to it there passed and Sarah was ready to give birth to a child she had conceived with Simeon.

“You must go and fetch a midwife.”

Simeon nodded grimly. He had never intended this child to manifest itself. Life was pleasant as it was, with the beautiful and proud sisters to amuse him, and Jeannie for when their charms palled.

Birth in their world always involved complex and dreary manoeuvres to find a human midwife and inveigle her to attend at the labouring woman’s bedside. Their own people were too selfish and squeamish to do anything as menial as midwifery; that was always human’s work. The purloined midwife was not to suspect anything other-worldly about her business and was to be returned to the human world, unscathed and ignorant.

Simeon set off. His white horse was saddled and bridled for him by one of the attendants at the Hall to whom he never paid any attention, though they were very attentive to him. They watched him closely.

. He rode fiercely, enjoying the freedom from the sometimes claustrophobic walls of Sìthiche Hall. He was annoyed with the carelessness that had resulted in the conception of the child, and wished the lacklustre process of the birth was over and done with.

Faery children were seldom what one might have hoped. They were generally sickly and hard to raise and Simeon was endlessly amazed that the faery folk had never perfected any alternative method of bringing new members of the troop into their world. They could change everything but this one thing; they could confuse, deceive and create anything but a new faery child.

Now that he was in the human world Simeon drove his sleek white Jaguar into the village of Fairchase, which was the nearest, ethereally, to Sìthiche Hall, and found the midwife’s house by the instinct that his people had.

He knocked loudly on the door, wrinkling up his aristocratic face at the shabby paint.

A confused woman in pyjamas with printed kittens all over them opened the door and stepped back at the spectacle of male perfection in front of her. Susan East was a private midwife who was much in demand by the local women who wanted joyous home births with no intervention, or by the women who had so many children already that it was almost impossible for them to leave the house and go to hospital without total chaos ensuing. She had only just delivered Caroline Northman’s little girl, as blonde and bonny as the twins had been; and as their parents: touched with gold the lot of them.

“My wife urgently needs your help” said the glorious man. “Money is irrelevant.”

Susan saw the sleek white Jag against the kerb and purred at the sight. She changed out of her nightclothes, grabbed her bag, and sank into the scented leather upholstery of the car.

Susan could never have explained afterwards how and where they travelled; she was aware only that the sound of engine turned into the roar of the wind in her ears, as the ground flashed under the hooves of the big white horse. In time – how long she could not say – the sweating horse arrived at the gates of Sìthiche hall and grooms ran forward to take it away as Simeon hustled her towards the door.

Susan was vaguely conscious that she had seen the Hall before; but also that the Hall she had seen was ruined and crumbling away to an uninhabited shell. She smelled smoke and heard a crackling as the house began to burn. Simultaneously she was aware that there was another house entirely, which stood on this spot, a solid if fanciful Victorian house in which Caroline Northman was nursing her new baby.

Puzzled, she turned towards the tall man who had brought her there. He flung open the door onto a palatial hallway with a double staircase leading upwards to where she thought she could hear, faintly, the familiar sound of a labouring woman.

Simeon looked coldly at her.

“You will see all, do all, and then forget all. But it will not go well for you if the child you deliver is not a strong and healthy one.”

Susan blinked and forgot everything.

It was a long and difficult labour and at many moments Susan thought she would lose one or the other or both of her patients. It was all very well wanting a natural birth, she grumbled inwardly, but sometimes a natural birth is the last thing you need. She hesitated and considered ringing the hospital to admit the dark haired woman who was cursing and moaning in front of her, but Simeon’s cold fury smothered the idea. Eventually a dark-haired baby girl was delivered, tiny, but alert and seemingly well.

“I shall name her Perdita,” said Sarah weakly. “For I thought she was lost.”

Perdita wailed. It was a thin but penetrating cry which pierced Simeon like a terrible migraine.

“I must take you back,” he said hastily to the exhausted midwife, and the wild ride was repeated until Susan was returned to her cottage in the sleek white car with no memory of her night, but with a generously filled purse which was both pleasing and puzzling at the same time.

Perdita grew but she did not thrive. She was a fretful and unhappy baby and as time went by her eyes sunk into her head, and her cheekbones stood out in her tiny face, which looked something like a starveling monkey’s, according to Simeon. In fact, she was a beautiful child, as was to be expected, but a beautiful child that was not thriving.

Just as the human midwife was essential to a successful delivery of a child, so human medicine was sometimes the only remedy for the illness of the faery child. As a weak and sickly child Perdita was smuggled into hospital where she was successfully treated by the staff who both could and could not see her.

For ever afterwards the doctors and nurses who had been in the hospital at that time were plagued with self-doubt about what they had done or not done, and of course to whom, during the ten days while Perdita and Eleanor were in their care. The faery family used their powers to ensure that the medical staff saw what they expected to see, and forgot anything that might have puzzled them, although they were left with a gauzy sense of something. But what? Something like a hangover, a slippage, a recovery from a delirium, that stayed with them forever more.

And so, in the course of time, Perdita was well again and ready to be appropriated to her own home and people.  Simeon was sent to retrieve her.

Simeon returned, crashing into the hall, carrying a small bundle in his arms. His face glowed with pleasure.

“Come and see!” he gloated

“You have her?” exclaimed Sarah, pausing in her pacing around the beautiful room.

“Well…,” said Simeon.

Bella sprang forward and stared at the child in Simeon’s arms. It was without doubt a baby, but also without doubt is was the wrong baby. This one was not wiry, dark Perdita. This one had pale blonde curls lying softly on her pink cheeks; her eyes fluttered open momentarily and big blue eyes, fringed with long dark lashes stared up at her, Sarah and Simeon..

“What – have – you – done?”

“I saw Perdita in the next crib. She was well but…”

“But?” said Sarah, in a freezing voice.

“She is such a skinny, small, ill-favoured creature. I thought you might want this one instead. Don’t worry, no-one will notice, I have used the herbs of forgetfulness and their memories are changed now. And I have sealed the gate. They cannot pursue us here. She is ours. I suggest we call her Perdita anyway to prevent confusion.”

And Simeon went off whistling while his indignant companion looked balefully at the pretty little baby he had swapped for their own child.

“You or I should have gone,” said Sarah looking at the infant with a softening expression. “A blonde haired, blue-eyed baby!  Irresistible to us, of course! But who would have known that the temptation would be there?”

Naturally, Sarah, Bella and Simeon all doted on their changeling. Like all of their kind they relished the possession of a healthy human child whom they could nurture and cherish. In time Sarah sometimes forgot that this new Perdita, pretty, lively and vigorous, had been changed for her own child, but nevertheless she and Bella wondered and worried about the little girl that Simeon had left behind.

With difficulty, expense and much cunning and duplicity, eventually they procured a scrying bowl of unspeakable magnificence, so that they could watch their lost child in the human world.

It had been made following the directions of Paracelsus (Taylor, First published 1900, p. Loc 504 of 2639). The original fabricator had used electrum magicum (ten parts of pure gold, ten of silver, five of copper, two of tin, two of lead, one part of powdered iron, and five parts of mercury. The lead was melted and the mercury added when the planets of Saturn and Mercury conjoined. This amalgam was melted and added to tin, which had been melted separately, and combined at the exact conjunction of Jupiter with Saturn and Mercury. Any of these planets could conjoin with the sun to add the gold, the moon to add the silver and with Venus to add the copper and finally with Mars when the final ingredient, powdered iron was added and the molten substance stirred with a dried witch-hazel rod.)

At the exact time of a conjunction of Jupiter and Venus, the mixture was poured into a fine sand mould, smoothed with a grindstone, polished with a piece of lime-wood and with tripoly, then doused in well water when the correct planetary influences combined with the maker’s house of the zodiac.

In its rippling surface they could see all the secrets of the past and present, but they chose to watch their faery child, abandoned in the human world by Simeon. Perdita, too, was consumed with curiosity, for this was her true family, though she disbelieved in them and in herself as their child.

They saw that the changeling was small and dark and full of nervous energy, and that she seemed far from happy amongst the family the new Perdita really belonged to. She was called Eleanor, which meant shining light, or the bright one, according to Sarah and Bella, though she was generally called Ellie. Perdita rolled the name around her tongue but she did not feel that it belonged to her. The house was full of big fair haired people, strong and healthy, and with an almost crude vitality. Perdita watched them with a strange, rapt expression on her face, a mixture of attraction and repulsion, and an odd kind of nostalgia, considering she could not remember anything of her previous life in the human world.

“Some time the curtains between our two worlds will lift again, and we must be ready to draw Eleanor to us,” said Sarah, staring at Ellie’s peevish face.

“What will happen to me? I don’t want to go there – back there – ever. I want to stay here.”

“Of course you shall,” said Bella carelessly. “We have you and we will hold you. However, we want Eleanor as well. She is one of our own, after all. And those big clumsy humans have got plenty of other children. They’ve got those big noisy boys and the pretty little girl – who looks just like you did when you were her age, Perdita! They will scarcely miss her and she is a very poor fit with them; you would have thought they would have noticed.”

So time went on as Sithiche Hall. Simeon ensured there were no more births to spoil his harmonious days with the sisters and with his familiar, to whom the others had still never been introduced.

However Sarah, Bella and Perdita were not so contented and they watched and waited for the opportunity when Eleanor could be retrieved from her distressing human existence. They were certain that their time would come.

2698 words

Works Cited

Taylor, B. (First published 1900). Storyology: Essays in Folk-Lore, Sea-Lore and Plant-Lore. Elliot Stock. London; downloaded as a e-book.

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