Fortunately, her pet's senses gave her plenty of
warning. Rapidly, but without vigour, she showered and dressed. The leather of her boots
needed oiling but she had no time now. Pulling them to her knees, she noted the results of
the resident population of rodents. The rats were drawn to the oil, rapeseed being one of
their favourite tastes. Her duties were fairly sedentary and most of the time involved no
more than a wriggling of her toes to keep the blood pumping in her legs. Despite the small
amount of motion, the nibbles along the edges of her boots would irritate her skin as she
stood the many hours required.
Petra stepped from her dwelling, fingertips
brushing the batholite doorframe. Her final preparation was to apply lip-gloss-the winds
from the Lake would peel skin from a mouth despite few spoken words. As it was, blood
vessels proliferated throughout her lips, giving them a ripe hue, as misleading as they
Walking down the path and through the gate,
turning about to sense the first view of all visitors. She then mounted the first step of
entry, pausing briefly to ensure the white marble was free of all dirt.
On the next step, the rough, dark grained stone
grabbed at her heel. A wry smile revealed Petra's memories of the night before. It was a
night of meetings and of explorations, a four-sensual night, enlivened by her new
That thought was quashed by her step onto the
arterial red stone of the third step; not purple enough to be porphyry but otherwise
indistinguishable in texture. On this step she turned about again, toward the path, to
await the arrival of the entrant.
Petra heard the swoop of her eagle's wings and
felt the talons grab her shoulder. Soon settled, the eagle tilted its head, viewing the
arrival. With a gentle pressure from its feet, the eagle drew Petra's attention to the
visitor present before her. With an overdone flourish, Petra drew her sabre, purely a
ritual element of her job, but nonetheless useful in gaining the upper hand. It helped
redress the inequality of her missing sight, as if her height were not enough to
intimidate the most daring arrival.
Strangely, the first thing she observed about the
entrant was his aroma. Yes, she knew it was a he, the musky underlayer is never hidden
from the sightless. She was amused that the fear he also smelled of was due to her sword,
as it was unable to deliver a grievous wound. She knew this. She had tried.
Although she was three steps high, she looked up
to his eyes. The horse he was on sounded large and somewhat skittish. And then, her
sightless eyes boring holes in his, she waited without a sound.
Eventually, he surrendered to her demand and
"I have been summoned," he said. She held her lips tight and without expression.
"Here are..." and he realised that showing the papers would do no good. "To
the lord's dwelling. For a meeting. May I..."
And Petra stood aside. The blood red of her boots
blended straight into the stone beneath and his words seemed the ignition of the
metamorphosis. Now still at the side of the gate, she waited again.
His dismount was skilled, his life ahorse audible.
Just as his left foot bore upon the third step, Petra raised the sabre, impeding his
admission. She raised the sword tip to his forehead, now sure of its position, and
engraved the air before him and only just the epidermal layer of his frown with seven
sigla in an uneven row. Some of the sigla were positioned higher on the forehead than
others, and this intrigued many entrants as the pattern was different for everyone though
the same signs were used.
There were many ideas about the meaning of the
sigla but no absolute proof. The only shared belief was that every siglum represented some
quality of the person but how that was measured was open to debate. Some residents of the
estate believed the gatekeeper (they did not even know her name), was mad and that the
engraving was a manifestation of the insanity. When Petra heard these stories, she smiled
broadly. Some of the residents knew the real meaning, she was sure. She guessed the
Evangelist knew, and thought that a few others shared the knowledge.
The horseman went to ask about the markings but
halted, sure he would remain unanswered and in this he had already begun to learn well.
With the reins gripped tightly, he began to move forward again.
The horseman stepped through the gate... and
When he had passed, Petra began to wonder how the new poet royal was at a loss for words.
She knew more of him than he imagined, as she did of nearly all entrants. But these
thoughts left her mind rapidly as she idly fingered the braille-like engraving on her
sword of her family emblem (see diagram). She had done her duty in full, and she had
better thoughts to dwell upon. Memories to retrieve and futures to imagine.