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LoaMR: Ch.XIX: Léonard and Monique 3

by MailicedeNamedy


"This game organised by Hannah Goldmann or as she is called in the Abbey - Medea - offers too many dangers for the two of us to be together," Léonard said thoughtfully, "It took me a long time before I understood what it all meant and how it was connected. Ironically, it was the abbey that gave me the final confirmation.

And that is why we want to get the last two caskets. Travel with these four to the Eternal Realm one more time and ask the Goddess to accept our apology in her palace.

Just as we had broken in and faced her then, we now plead for the lifting of her torment. It is our longing for death. It is to find an end.

For too long we frolic in the mortal world without experiencing any sense of time or sorrow. Her way of punishing man with eternal life is crueler than any torture. At some point we see everything. We see what is precious in life and how we have squandered it in our greed for freedom. It is difficult for us to continue to exist without worrying while everything comes to an end.

We tried to die.

Drowning, hanging, gunshots, torture, knife blows, trying to chop something off, we couldn't lift the spell. Our bodies no longer have human blood in them to feel anything at all! It's like a black viscous juice that keeps us alive. The only way out is to cut the strings of the Goddess before she changes her mind and leaves us further in the world.

Especially now, in this century, when we have made friends, we do not want to outlive them. We want to finally find peace beyond earthly life. We want to be totally free.”

Claire and Emma were deaf.

For so long Claire, Emma and Julius had listened to their two narrators and could not understand the silence in the room. The three of them were isolated from everyone. A chamber that closed in on them and made them feel suffocated made them breathe. There was no scepticism. There was regret. A hurting, helpless regret for satisfaction.

The nightmare was to come to its conclusion, the soul was bleeding and the thoughts of those present were confused.

Tormented by Léonard's life journey, Claire could no longer be insensitive. She understood. Everything Julius had told her. All the cryptic remarks about himself when Léonard spoke of himself and this carelessness of his actions. As if he wanted to draw everyone's attention to himself and show that nothing could happen to him.

This spectacle in her mind of finding Léonard and Monique in the Melaten estate and mutilating themselves shattered her indifference into thousands of tiny shards. Desolate was the ice-cold atmosphere in the flat. The candle came to the end of its life and crushed the insensitive spirits on the part of Léonard.

This optimistic, fun-loving person clung to a frayed rope only to be able to die with his fiancée. All his deeds had this reason. And now he sat on the sofa like an old man and looked like a frightened animal. There was no trace of his pride.

He was the tensest of all. He felt miserable or wretched, perhaps even self-hating, after having told them the truth. The rope around their necks was supposed to be loosened, but it tightened and violated their last privacy.

It was a glimpse into the deepest past, into that space in the brain that you didn't open to anyone else, the space that belonged to you alone. Which remained a fantasy until death. Pushed back and swallowed up, it crept into those present and gave them the petrified time to think about what they really wanted to achieve in life.

Léonard did not have a confident demeanour. Léonard's eye lost a tear.

"It is as if we stand before you naked and denounced," Monique whispered in her lonely voice, "We have no more secrets."

Julius remained calm and stared deeply into his friend's eyes.

"Do you want to share something with us, Julius?"

"No... it just crossed my mind, Léonard. Forgive me..."

"Léonard, I... I didn´t know...that not..." whimpered Emma.

"No one knew," Monique said, "That's why we closed ourselves off from the world and sowed mistrust."

"Now we have made it so far that we have two caskets. We see it as an advantage to have you initiated now," he explained, "The important thing is to know whether you want to continue to stay with us to search for the rest or return home."

"Of course! Right, Claire?"

Pairs of eyes turned towards her. Nervously, she looked up at the ceiling and had to try not to be a killjoy.

"I... I believe you, Léonard. I'm not sceptical, before us are the Imperial caskets, the abbey actually exists and so... your life story... well, it's all good, but... isn't this Eternal Realm imagination? I mean... it's supposed to be the home of the Goddess… And you want to travel there?"

"If you don't believe in the existence of the Goddess, or the Eternal Realm, you doubt everything," Léonard said, "I was the same. It doesn't exist, there is no paradise, it's all the invention of these priests. This whole religion is based on the spinning of people addicted to power. Sure, there were those who believed their words and actually prayed for a better world, but they were all corrupt deep down and wanted dominance. To have everything under control and manipulate the world as they pleased. There was said to be no freethinking and those who began to think were dubbed witches. In this, they were no different - the abbey and the priests.

But the Goddess really does exist. The one who watches over us lives in her self-constructed palace, far away in an area where we, the humans, cannot get to without help. I have seen her with my own eyes. And yet Claire, you must not think of it as a just paradise. It is the refuge of a madwoman."

"Let's all sleep on it for a night. A lot has happened," Julius spoke fatherly, "Claire needs rest. She's not fully cured yet. Sleep is the best medicine."

She could not speak up. She was forbidden to do so before she could lose a thought.

How is it possible that people can make a decision immediately? Don't they have to think about it? Go through all the paths before they come to a decision? Why does it take me so long to get something out of my mouth? Because I can't believe it?

The bed is softer when its own warmth transfers to the blanket. She turned several times. One minute she was staring out the window, the next she was staring at the door. Claire heard indistinct murmurs in the flat. It had to be Léonard and Monique. Or was Julius with them? And Emma?

As she strayed from the actual thread, a cloud floated past her, breathing the lovely voice of the Goddess into her. The Eternal Realm, whether it existed or not, was the place Claire had been looking for all these years to be at peace. And yet it sounded like a fairy tale, a place people dreamed existed to come down from suffering.

***

Monique was sitting on the sofa.

As if she hadn't moved since last night. Claire realised that she was for once one of the early risers.

"Léonard is outside. The others are still asleep."

"What... what is he doing?"

"To distract himself. Yesterday took a lot out of him," Monique replied, "Would you like some tea?"

"Yes, please."

Next to the steaming cup, Monique handed her a cosy blanket. It was cold, but Claire tried with all her might not to show the shivering. It was strange to stand next to her. Claire felt that something was different. But it wasn't Monique or Léonard who seemed different, it was Claire. It was her standing there naked and not trusting. There was something incomplete inside her that wanted to get away from everything that had been said yesterday. But she couldn't leave the balcony.

"Thank you."

"Léonard is not as cocky as everyone thinks. He acts out to avoid showing his true feelings," Monique explained.

"Hm..."

"Have you thought about everything?"

"There's too much," Claire admitted, "So much that I... I understand, but it's not becoming clear to me. It's like I'm fighting a thousand-armed army with no help, pinning me to the ground. I don't know how we could help you. Do I know anything about the caskets? Can I do anything special?"

For a short time, she had puzzled in bed over whether one of the caskets was not in her father's possession. Since he was interested in the abbey, he must have come across it sooner or later. This insanity was quickly driven out of her. She had almost laughed.

"You are helping us in another way," Monique said relaxed, "We know where one of the caskets is, we will know the other soon."

"Is the abbey showing itself?"

"Not really. Julius has had a hunch about where the next casket might be since Kapellengarten," Monique revealed, "That's why Léonard mentioned your mother back at the estate. He's really sorry about what happened."

"My mother has nothing to do with it!" resisted Claire, "does she?"

"She has nothing to do with it," Monique reassured, "Probably the abbey played a trick."

Monique told her about the Viktoria Luise orphanage. It belonged to Seelenherz Inc. and had a connection with Mönchsberg Abbey. At least with some of the members. The source had lured Léonard there to show him something, taking everything except documents from Claire's mother.

He had assumed that this must be the identity of his source. Léonard rarely flipped a coin to the second side and interpreted too much on the first hand.

"He made a wrong assumption," Monique finished.

“Hmm," Claire mused.

"You keep freezing." she said, "Take a hot bath.”

***

When Claire returned, Emma was speaking with Monique and Julius.

The cold in the flat was spreading. Nevertheless, it was cosy after all the candles were lit. What was missing was a stove, Claire thought. As obvious as it was, everyone had already thought of it.

"We don't really get cold," Monique expressed.

"Really?"

"We cannot feel pain or cold. Only the happy feelings live in us," she continued, "It is wonderful and yet there is this absence. We cannot always float in glee when there is no reason to want to settle an argument or to be hurt. It's like a wave that flattens more and more. There is no happiness without pain."

Drowsily, the sky developed a pinkish colour. The cold draught in the coming night was to be the first test of endurance for the wandering homeless.

"Where is this abbey? Can't the police just arrest everyone there?" interjected Emma, "It's not just you, they're after! I'm sure there are a lot of people in danger there."

"The Abbey has kept themselves undercover since the Faith Conference. Their increased, public outreach during this time has to do with the outbreak of war," Julius replied, "I wouldn't be surprised if they have a pact with von Federstein that gives them the power of disposition. Their castle, the abbey itself is directly in Knokenhofen. Have you been there?”

He asked Claire and Emma.

"No."

"Knokenhofen lies deep in No Man's Land somewhere near the Lapis. The forests and the many valleys and mountains make it almost impossible to find the castle. Besides, not many people know about this community. When you hear No Man's Land, names like Diekathedral, Wolfsberg, Hirschlingen, Regenschloss and possibly Fasich come to mind. Not Knokenhofen, that little nest."

"Besides, standing on the doorstep wouldn't change anything. Léonard was there and they let him do what he wanted. All the cowls ignored him as if they had taken a vow of silence. From the moment you set foot in their realm, they haunt you. A week later you disappear.” Monique continued.

Emma swallowed.

The snowing stopped as the sky faded into darkness. It was momentarily more pleasant in the living room. Léonard did not return until late in the evening when the three of them were already in bed.

Claire remained unsure of what exactly to say during the day. Emma had agreed several times to help Monique and Léonard, and each time she repeated herself, there was a stab in Claire's stomach. She didn't know what to choose, almost as if she had to answer a question in an exam where she didn't know what was right or not.

Actually, Claire knew how she wanted to answer. She had told Daphne that she would close the chapter with Léonard before coming back. But there was also the feeling of not being helpful. All night Claire lay there, unaware of the time and preoccupied with the mere thought of saying it without looking incredulous. She was unsure about Léonard and Monique and yet there was something that made her feel that he was speaking the truth. And yet...

* **

Léonard was back the next morning.

Closing the door behind him, Claire heard his greeting drift through the flat when she was in the bathroom. From his voice, she could detect nothing unusual.

It was now his presence that captivated her. He was a mysterious man. If he really spoke the truth, it was almost eerie to face him.

Claire imagined how much he must have seen already. His life experience had to surpass that of grandparents by decades. At the same time, finding something non-human in a person was disconcerting. She had known him that long. To think of it felt wrong. But it made sense. His words were all made up.

She reconstructed the evening at the Melaten estate. His short birthday speech was concise and became believable.

Knowing from the beginning that this task entails death... I don't understand it. I have seen nothing in the world, not lived... but he and Monique... they helped shape history. They lived. Every single day. And now they want to be redeemed together...

Claire had fallen asleep.

The sweet scent of the salt crystals had beguiled her. The lukewarm water woke her up.

In a hurry, she managed to leave the bathroom unnoticed. Julius was sitting in the kitchen. He was talking to Léonard about the Imperial caskets.

"... it's important that we keep going. Sitting around all the time doesn't do any good, of course, but it arouses suspicion when we're all there."

Claire remained still. She could be looking for Monique, that would have been more noticeable than staying in the room.

"I will help you.”

Claire said these words still with disbelief but in a loud tone.

To XIX.4.


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Tue Aug 16, 2022 11:17 am
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MailicedeNamedy says...



Hi @Liminality!

Thank you very much for reading and staying so long with my story. It means a lot to me! :D

The thoughts in this one feel very haunting and poignant. The rhythm of the paragraph is also really good at conveying that. Where the sentences start “For too long” and “At some point”, it feels a bit like a monologue during the pivotal moment of a play or a scene in a movie. The mixture of the short sentences like “At some point we see everything” with the longer ones also create this unique engaging rhythm. (It’s also a bit like poetry, if you’ve noticed me reviewing it as though it were!)


Thank you very much! :D

It's like a wave that flattens more and more. There is no happiness without pain."

I thought this line by Monique was really interesting, especially when contrasted with how Claire was thinking before:
The Eternal Realm, whether it existed or not, was the place Claire had been looking for all these years to be at peace. And yet it sounded like a fairy tale, a place people dreamed existed to come down from suffering.

Claire is someone whose mind prefers to be in the clouds, thinking up her own ideal version of things. However, on this journey of hers she often find that these fantasies can’t happen, or when she chases them things tend not to be as nice as they seem. I think something that could be a problem for Claire is if she forgets this when they get the other two Imperial Caskets, because from what it sounds like the Goddess’s ‘heavenly realm’ might not be so good after all.
I think Claire’s insecurities will continue to torment her as well, since even in this chapter she’s still wondering if she’ll be useful to the others and especially to Léonard. It makes me wonder if or how she might gain more confidence in herself.


A very, very interesting perspective you have here! It honestly makes me wonder because I see that you see the Eternal Realm and immortality as two different points. That's good because I think you have to understand that you are not bound to the Eternal Realm to be immortal.

And yes, Claire certainly drew a lot of inspiration from childhood stories to imagine the Eternal Realm. But I think I've already explained a little bit what the Eternal Realm is in another answer, so I won't go into it here.
A really good chapter, and definitely makes me want to read on! It’s always satisfying to see the different threads of plot and foreshadowing be revealed and how the characters react to it in mystery stories, and this one is no exception. Furthermore, this part has shown new sides to the main characters. It’s a bit hard for me to predict what is to come in the following chapters, other than that the characters will probably be on the road again looking for the next casket, which makes me curious as to what direction the story is going to take from here.


Thanks again for your review! :D As we are in the home stretch (we only have three chapters to go) I'm glad you've been with us for so long. As I am currently working on a final draft, the insights and details you and the others give me are very important.




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Sat Aug 13, 2022 12:27 pm
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Liminality wrote a review...



Hi Mailice!

First Impressions

Woah, what a chapter. There’s really something different about the style of this one. I can’t quite articulate it yet, but it’s very impactful. Let me just note a few of my favourite paragraphs:

For too long we frolic in the mortal world without experiencing any sense of time or sorrow. Her way of punishing man with eternal life is crueler than any torture. At some point we see everything. We see what is precious in life and how we have squandered it in our greed for freedom. It is difficult for us to continue to exist without worrying while everything comes to an end.

The thoughts in this one feel very haunting and poignant. The rhythm of the paragraph is also really good at conveying that. Where the sentences start “For too long” and “At some point”, it feels a bit like a monologue during the pivotal moment of a play or a scene in a movie. The mixture of the short sentences like “At some point we see everything” with the longer ones also create this unique engaging rhythm. (It’s also a bit like poetry, if you’ve noticed me reviewing it as though it were!)
Claire imagined how much he must have seen already. His life experience had to surpass that of grandparents by decades. At the same time, finding something non-human in a person was disconcerting. She had known him that long. To think of it felt wrong. But it made sense. His words were all made up.

Again, the short sentences here create this big impact. It’s like Claire is trying to process all these different realisations about someone she thought she knew at least a little bit, and it’s appearing in the staccato flow of her thought.
I really relate to Claire’s feelings surrounding her having to make this decision. How she feels almost like she’s being tested is conveyed nicely with the “exam” metaphor and how everyone turns to her after Léonard is done talking.

Characters

Something I like about this chapter is the balance between character development and consistency. Léonard is definitely the most different from how he usually is, but I think that kind of dramatic change just kind of *works* for him and his situation. Because he’s lived a life that’s so different from the average mortal human, I feel I don’t have the same expectations for his behaviour that I would for the other characters. I also like Claire’s tentative decisiveness at the very end there. I’m always eager to see her get out of her head and act on her goals. The way she mulled it over for a while and also was motivated by remembering what she told Daphne also makes it an ‘earned’ moment, like she had her own little battle with herself.

Setting

I like the idea of the setting here. The cold dimly lit flat at sundown is a good location for an unsettling conversation and an important decision made.
Drowsily, the sky developed a pinkish colour. The cold draught in the coming night was to be the first test of endurance for the wandering homeless.

Something I think could help me fit this in with the dialogue happening here could be if this description of the ‘outside’ could be tied more into the ‘inside’. Monique is talking about not being able to feel cold. When the paragraph starts talking about the sky, it kind of interrupts the continuing thought about ‘coldness’, only to resume it in the sentence after. One suggestion I would make is that if a piece of setting is most relevant to the dialogue preceding, it could be placed right after said dialogue. Another suggestion would be to try and integrate the sky colour a little more with how the interior is described. Maybe instead of ‘the sky’ being pink, which diverted my attention far away from the people sitting in the flat, it could be that ‘the pink sky cast a glow on the windowsill’ or something like that. Small detail, but that’s just what came to mind here.

Themes and Continuity

It's like a wave that flattens more and more. There is no happiness without pain."

I thought this line by Monique was really interesting, especially when contrasted with how Claire was thinking before:
The Eternal Realm, whether it existed or not, was the place Claire had been looking for all these years to be at peace. And yet it sounded like a fairy tale, a place people dreamed existed to come down from suffering.

Claire is someone whose mind prefers to be in the clouds, thinking up her own ideal version of things. However, on this journey of hers she often find that these fantasies can’t happen, or when she chases them things tend not to be as nice as they seem. I think something that could be a problem for Claire is if she forgets this when they get the other two Imperial Caskets, because from what it sounds like the Goddess’s ‘heavenly realm’ might not be so good after all.
I think Claire’s insecurities will continue to torment her as well, since even in this chapter she’s still wondering if she’ll be useful to the others and especially to Léonard. It makes me wonder if or how she might gain more confidence in herself.

Overall

A really good chapter, and definitely makes me want to read on! It’s always satisfying to see the different threads of plot and foreshadowing be revealed and how the characters react to it in mystery stories, and this one is no exception. Furthermore, this part has shown new sides to the main characters. It’s a bit hard for me to predict what is to come in the following chapters, other than that the characters will probably be on the road again looking for the next casket, which makes me curious as to what direction the story is going to take from here.

Hope some of this helps, and feel free to ask for more feedback!
-Lim




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Mon Jul 18, 2022 4:09 pm
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RandomTalks wrote a review...



Hi Mailice!

RandomTalks here with a short review!

This was a nice conclusion to the tension-wrought previous part. It seems that even while we were learning about Leonard's story and his unbelievable past, all the while we were really waiting to find out how Claire took it. Her reaction was the one we were holding breaths for and this was a very satisfying way to lead to it.

One thing I really liked is how the central theme of the novel shifted irrevocably after the revelation of the previous parts; there is an undertone of graveness running throughout the narration and all of a sudden, everything feels much more serious and important. We can feel this change in Claire as well - a sense of maturity in the way she deals with everything. We have often seen her struggle with making decisions and she nearly always criticizes herself for the ones she does end up choosing. However, I felt that Claire was truly present throughout this entire episode. She was confused and overwhelmed, but she did not choose to escape to her internal world.

I really like these subtle ways through which you have displayed the development in the characters. We have come far enough in the story that we can identify each of the milestones our characters cross and it is really amazing how you have kept us invested in their stories from the very beginning.

I also feel as though we got to see Leonard in a completely new light here. For so long, he has been the charismatic, mysterious young man who is always getting Claire and Emma in trouble. Despite the enigma surrounding his character, I have always viewed him with a sense of mistrust. We have gotten a glimpse of the many different sides to him throughout the novel - the playful young man, the excited schemer, the regretful friend, the sincere fiancee, etc.

However, this is the first time that we actually got to see him be vulnerable. It humanized his character a great deal for me and it actually helped me to empathize. However, I think something that could have worked even better here is if you tried to show his vulnerability through not just the stubborn distance he maintains with the rest of the group in this part, but through small moments of unguarded genuine emotion. For example, instead of having Monique hint at his mental state, you could have included some scene where Leonard tries to interact and express himself but he cannot articulate his words due to the raw vulnerability that he had displayed to them so completely. I really would have liked to see Leonard fumble with his words - it so unlike his character and it would have effectively conveyed his mental state in a less obvious way.

Some other points:

For too long we frolic in the mortal world without experiencing any sense of time or sorrow.

The way Leonard says this, it sounds as if he is giving a speech or a sermon when it should have reflected his grief and sorrow and vulnerability. It creates a kind of distance in the narration where we are more focused on what he is saying and how instead of focusing on the way it makes us feel. I think if you switch to the present perfect tense here, it would flow more naturally. For example: "For too long we have frolicked in the mortal world without experiencing any sense of time or sorrow."

A chamber that closed in on them and made them feel suffocated made them breathe.

There is a bit of a contradiction in this sentence which I did not completely get. This metaphorical chamber suffocated them, but it made them breathe as well? That part was a little confusing to me.

Overall, this felt like a very pivotal chapter to me. I also liked the fact that the Goddess is being portrayed as the antagonists to Leonard and Monique's story here. Its unique and I am really curious to see how it is dealt with in the future chapters.

That's all!

Keep writing and have a great day!

Until next time!






Thank you very much for your review! :D




"What is a poet? An unhappy person who hides deep anguish in his heart, but whose lips are so formed that when the sigh and cry pass through them, it sounds like lovely music."
— Søren Kierkegaard, Philosopher & Theologian