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LoaMR: Ch.XII: The Closed City 5

by MailicedeNamedy


Claire's last day was coming up.

The man who brought her breakfast said it with a big smile. It made her feel uncomfortable. Was he standing outside the door guarding? Had she released her thoughts aloud? Talked to herself in the room?

She usually forgot that she was talking to herself when she was alone. Once, a few years ago, Giselle caught Claire walking through the house trying to resolve a conflict between herself about whether the piece she was practising on the violin was good enough. Giselle never told her how much she had enjoyed this argument.

***

The rain had subsided.

The sun-dried the fruit-coloured rocks and mountains within minutes. The little bit of walnut brown on the stone had changed to peach red overnight. None of the workers had noticed.

Noon showed itself to be merciful. The food tasted better than usual. Claire was already looking forward to her departure.

Without knocking, someone entered. It was not Newman.

The dark-haired woman was standing in Claire's room.

"Hello," she greeted, "I have your papers."

She placed the parchment-like, thin document on the table in front of her.

It reminded Claire of a telegram. She read no attachment. There was none. The second sheet was meant for Emma. Claire stopped reading.

"Erlenbrunnen too?" she asked quickly.

"Mr Neumann informed the WA office immediately after the incident with your friend to get the papers ready for Erlenbrunnen. You wanted to go there.”

Claire swallowed.

"Thank you very much..."

"Don't mention it," said the woman, "Today is your last day. “

“Yes," she whispered.

"Did Mr Neumann show you around a bit? Not just his work routine walk?”

She looked up.

"No."

"Then come with me, I'll show you."

Without knowing how Claire had managed to leave the room, she now followed her. They took the stairs down and for the first time, she left the building through the main entrance.

The ground was strangely clean. There was a lack of sand or gravel. Few pebbles found their way onto the flat roads.

Between the treetops, Claire could usually hardly feel how warm it was. The blazing, oppressive sun heated the canyons. For a short walk around the house to the rocks, drops of sweat remained on her forehead.

"Here is it."

They were standing in front of a mountain. It shot up a hundred feet. The wide entrance was decorated with mosaic. It wasn´t interesting. Only the inside changed Claire's world.

Multi-storeyed, the beautiful, enticing courtyard led the guests to the respective floors. Ivy and other magnificent blue and purple flowers hung down from the balconies. The wooden panelling for the respective rooms and resting oases had windows. They all looked the same. In the middle of the courtyard, there was a corner with seats, a fountain, and a medium-sized pool of blue water.

It was the jewellery hanging everywhere, richly decorated with East Nedanian ornaments, that impressed her as much as the countless patterns of the floor. Clouds of mist rose upwards, while the slippery floor kept the visitors moving.

The scent of vanilla or something similar was in the air. Titian? Claire didn't know. It smelled seductive, warm, with an amber scent of essential oils. At the very top, looking skyward first, one could see the outside world. A skylight as big as a house provided the flood of light.

She got caught on an ivy plant as Claire spun in circles. The few guests were not bothered by her. Orchids lived in strange pools between them, other small green plants sweated in the half-moist stone floor and watched the curious creature.

"The oasis of Edward-Lloyd-Newman City, " the dark-haired woman explained, "It is open to any of the workers in the city. I'm surprised Mr Neumann didn't tell you about this."

"It's fantastic," Claire enthused, "Goddess-like."

"One was inspired by the legends of the bathing chamber of our Mother."

"Indescribable."

The attendant led Claire through the various rooms to the bathrooms.

There was a large basin, room for half the city, beautifully decorated with colourful square ceramic plates with faces of the muses and columns in the shape of goblets. With lights hidden behind thin, coloured paper, there was a mysterious, honey-scented dream.

Another bath was the narrow Swan Lake. Made of azure tiles, there was room for a single person to swim a lap in this strangely arranged pool. Potted plants with pungent, stiff leaves lived in the shade.

The third area was a square basin filled with heated spring water. Carved in stone, they had a romantic hidden view out of the mountain into the lake, a reservoir by the way, as the guide described.

What was it that Claire admired most? Was it her raging, exuberant, ecstatic explosions of emotion, the smell of a thousand oils or simply the pleasant, constricting heat that surrounded her like a beloved cuddly blanket?

Claire didn't speak a word.

Invisible, she floated through the halls, afraid to touch anything, to soil it, and always stayed behind the woman. Didn't look at her, turned her eyes skywards, supporting her mood to fly out, to plunge like a stream into the depths, to appreciate everything. Claire almost flapped her wings.

***

"Would you like something to drink?"

Claire nodded sheepishly.

"Then come with me."

Claire followed her to a small bar in the courtyard. The bar was behind the fountain. It was beautifully decorated. The many lights, provided by the oil lanterns and scented candles, enchanted the place.

"It's too early, otherwise someone would be present," she spoke quietly and disappeared behind the counter.

Before the young Silberlilie could say anything, her counterpart had already brought two drinks, decorated with a straw and a piece of spiky melon it seemed. Claire later found out that it was pineapple.

"Let's sit out by the fountain."

The cushions were soft, elegant, Elysian. Claire was floating on clouds. She had already completely forgotten where she was. The sky above them reflected in the magical blue of the pool. She would have loved to plunge into the Swan Lake. The soaps, the oils, all the products she wanted to possess alone.

There was a minute of silence. The woman raised her glass and took a big gulp. Claire followed suit uncertainly and choked down the contents with a playfully happy manner.

"My name is Daphne. “

She held out her hand to her.

"I failed to introduce myself. You're Claire,” she added.

"Right."

She felt the coldness of the palm. Her eyes straightened towards the basin. Claire didn't want to look at those pupils right away.

Silence.

Silence.

Peace.

Despite the presence of another person, Claire was not at all uncomfortable. That feigned, put-upon calm of not knowing what to tell brought out her teeth. Daphne returned it and finished the glass.

"You don't find very often those who can talk in silence."

"Yes!" Claire spoke in surprise.

"All the world must speak, challenge the others and win. They must show themselves by bringing change with their signless sounds from their mouths. It doesn't work. The written word has the power to change the world."

Claire agreed.

"Another glass?"

She nodded.

A wave of words bubbled out of her before she realised that she had not opened her mouth. For the first time in her life, she wanted to communicate - in a positive way.

"A lot of people don't understand when you don't want to talk," Claire babbled as she was handed the new glass.

"It is strange. They don't even want the other person to speak. They just want to hear how someone pleases you," Daphne continued, "They think so much about what they are saying, without considering the feelings of others. How do you understand a person who doesn't speak much? By asking him. But no one comes up with that.

Because we don't want to communicate with people who are out for something specific. Isn't it true that nobody is interested in your opinion? They ask how you are out of politeness and really just want to tell their own story! No one wants to hear about how you are when they ask something like that. “

Claire couldn't believe it.

Her counterpart was a conversationalist like she could never have imagined. She understood Daphne's views too well. During their conversation and another creworée, the ice around her body thawed and developed into a wildfire of statements.

When she wasn't affirming or adding to Daphne's attitudes, Daphne was listening to Claire give examples to back up what she was saying. When Daphne asked her what she had seen, she felt almost moved and excited to make her life story sound dramatic and epic.

Her usually calm demeanour developed into a waterfall of joy that she had forgotten all about for the past week. Léonard, Emma, her father seemed so far away to her. She felt free and contemplative, emerged from melancholy memories and worries that kept her from falling asleep at night. But above all, she liked having someone who did not have the urge to speak in order to communicate, like Emma, but who demonstrated the urge to listen to the other person.

***

It was around half-past five when the barman walked to his post. It was the man who brought the food and the bowl of hot water every day.

"Come along. We benefit from the quiet,” Daphne said.

Claire followed the order. She wore the invisible necklace Daphne had put on her with pride. She felt rather queasy all at once when she noticed how they strolled thoughtfully to the spring pools.

"Grab a towel, I'll wait in the water. Mine is on the far left."

Claire was alone.

She stood in front of a mirror and a small chest of drawers. Bath towels were ready, a coat but no swimsuit. Daphne chuckled when Claire asked her for a swimsuit.

I can't go into the water naked, can I?

The inner voice grew louder and repeated itself. When the dress was off, she felt the cold.

Should I just go into the water now? What if someone sees me?

She covered her breasts as she stuck her head out of the dressing room. There was no one far and wide. Breathing shallowly, she tiptoed all the way to the left.

Relieved, she caught sight of Daphne in the water.

"Come in, it's nice and warm."

With one leap, the young woman slid down the steps into the pool. Not far beside her, she floated in the chest-deep water.

"Sit down. It feels unfamiliar at first, but after a while it works," Daphne explained, pointing to the hammered stone bench next to her.

Almost four feet away from her, Claire retreated. With her posture closed, she could not enjoy the view of the lake.

Daphne watched her intently. Sitting still, her eyes followed Claire as she stared off into the distance, inhibited and now a little tired.

It was the heat that made her doubt. The thoughts and voices stewed in her head. As if someone had switched on the television and was looking for a new programme, it flickered in bright colours and fidgety tones in her brain.

What am I thinking about right now?

She breathed in and out deeply. Then she noticed the powerful, lively body of Daphne in front of her.

"That's where we differ," she said steadfastly.

With hearty, lively fingertips, she pulled at the platinum blonde hair. Impatient or stunned? Claire held her breath.

Determined, the fingers fell on the shoulder. Fascinated by the deathly pale skin, Daphne's hands inspected the soft hairs on her arms. It took an eternity. Claire's face was blue when Daphne sat down next to her with a funny grin.

"You have a stunning body," she spoke in a respectful voice, "It's the most beautiful skin I've ever seen in my life. I'm really captivated by it. It's like our Mother created you personally in her palace."

Claire didn't know whether to say thank you or be embarrassed.

"You too," she said, agitated.

Daphne looked at the young thing with a caring expression.

"The youngest are the most beautiful. Besides, you don´t have to be so formal. We are friends."

Her mouth opened. Silently, Claire gushed with happiness. She couldn't remember how long it had been since anyone had called her friend.

I have never had anyone I can call a friend.

Emma...

"...Thank you... Daphne."

She laughed, touched.

"You don't have to thank me."

Thank you, Daphne...

They fell into silence. Claire looked bravely into the sunset and admired the true beauty of the lake.

"Now tell me, what brings you to Erlenbrunnen?" she chatted warmly.

"It's a little stop before my destination. I actually want to go to Berlyne."

"Really? I live there," she said with joy, "Then we'll meet often, won't we? Do you have relatives in Berlyne?"

Claire squealed inside.

"My brother."

"Fine. What do you want to do?"

"An apprenticeship as a train conductor."

"I see. That sounds hard, but I'm sure it's very satisfying to already have a goal. You know, if you only have a goal in mind, but no plan on how to get there, it's nothing more than a wish. “

Claire nodded.

The evening never wanted to end.

It was just beginning when someone lit the candles and more guests joined in the other pools. The homely warmth and laughter, the faces and Daphne's vision changed.

With an impetuous will, she continued as soon as the friend asked something. The barman brought them new drinks several times and asked the guests how they were doing. There were some small appetisers served on a tray that floated shallowly on the water.

It was a wonderful, paradisiacal evening. The colours reminded Claire of sunflower yellow, clay brown with a mixture of red clay. The azure and turquoise tiles, the black hair, the smells, the drinks, everything transformed into a wonderland of dance, magic, and freedom. They laughed and discussed, they talked and enjoyed themselves, the world revolved around them and no one else.

Enchanted by the moon shimmering on the reservoir, enchanted by this oasis of peace, Claire could eventually only listen and agree. Everything had turned her head.

No, it was just one person.

It was Daphne.

***

Claire woke up in the night.

She lay in her bed. It was not the gloomy mood that woke her. It was a dream.

A dream about a woman called Daphne. She understood me and was happy to be with her. She spoke to me as if we had known each other for a long time. As if we had been at school together. I went to the oasis with her. That wonderful, wonderful place... Why am I shedding tears? Because it was just a dream? No... it wasn't a dream. It's over, that's why I'm crying. I never want to forget this most beautiful of memories. For the first time... wonderful...

Then she curled up and flew apart. She flapped her wings so hard that she hit the wall several times. But she didn't care. Happiness prevailed for one night.

She even asked if I should move in with her in Berlyne. This is the nicest thing that can happen to me! I can't believe it... For once something good happens to me...

Euphoric, she jumped around the room and stared out the window the whole night. A lot went wrong in her life. Once Claire was allowed to rejoice. Once she was granted this wish by the Goddess.

END OF CHAPTER XII

To the next chapter.


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Sun Nov 21, 2021 3:05 pm
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MailicedeNamedy says...



@HarryHardy

The same problem, that I can´t answer directly more than “Thank you”. It makes me mad… xD So I´m here to get some things off my chest. :D

I think in this chapter everyone has to decide for themselves whether Newman or Daphne are to be trusted. Newman is actually quite a self-absorbed man (who named the town after himself), critical of others, but also someone who follows the rules very closely. He was planned in the sense of being an opponent of the regime, but still one who profits from it to make a small fortune. If it looks like the Empire is losing the war, he would certainly switch sides to look for profit there.

Daphne is more of a very special character. She's already appeared briefly in this one part where the assistant to Claire's father is at home. Rothmann's roommate is Daphne. And again, I think you have to decide what to make of her, because Daphne is a closed book. She makes a bigger appearance in chapter 16, which is why she was presented briefly before that.

Well, this raises a few alarm bells for me honestly, Daphne could just be really good at getting friendly with people and getting them to open up like Claire did her only to try and gather information that perhaps the city suspects Claire of hiding.


Haha, that´s suspicious. :D But yeah, I can see what you mean by that.

Thanks again for all your reviews! :D




HarryHardy says...


You're Welcome!!

Also oof...I wonder why that happens...

Hmm, well, let's see what I end up making of them I guess!! Its hard to say....these minor characters are just names to me most of the time, there's simply too many in this story to remember. :D



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Sun Nov 21, 2021 12:16 pm
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HarryHardy wrote a review...



Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening/Night(whichever one it is in your part of the world),

Hi! I'm here to leave a quick review!!

First Impression: Okay...so this was quite a surprising chapter. I don't fully know what to feel about it. I loved the interactions that Claire had with Daphne and its great that she has an opportunity at a bit of a happiness but I have a sense that something might go wrong and also I feel like this happy scene went on for a little too long here.

Anyway let's get right to it,

Claire's last day was coming up.

The man who brought her breakfast said it with a big smile. It made her feel uncomfortable. Was he standing outside the door guarding? Had she released her thoughts aloud? Talked to herself in the room?

She usually forgot that she was talking to herself when she was alone. Once, a few years ago, Giselle caught Claire walking through the house trying to resolve a conflict between herself about whether the piece she was practising on the violin was good enough. Giselle never told her how much she had enjoyed this argument.


On one hand, that was a fun opening scene with a nice little joke, but also I feel like a joke like that is not quite suited to the kind of situation that we are in the middle of here, so I'm a little conflicted on that particular one.

The rain had subsided.

The sun-dried the fruit-coloured rocks and mountains within minutes. The little bit of walnut brown on the stone had changed to peach red overnight. None of the workers had noticed.

Noon showed itself to be merciful. The food tasted better than usual. Claire was already looking forward to her departure.

Without knocking, someone entered. It was not Newman.

The dark-haired woman was standing in Claire's room.

"Hello," she greeted, "I have your papers."

She placed the parchment-like, thin document on the table in front of her.


Okayy...well so it does appear that she is officially going to be let out here...also I love how you have this whole thing of the document. It doesn't do that much for the story as a whole at least I don't think so, but I always love seeing little extra details like this.

"Mr Neumann informed the WA office immediately after the incident with your friend to get the papers ready for Erlenbrunnen. You wanted to go there.”

Claire swallowed.

"Thank you very much..."

"Don't mention it," said the woman, "Today is your last day. “

“Yes," she whispered.

"Did Mr Neumann show you around a bit? Not just his work routine walk?”

She looked up.

"No."

"Then come with me, I'll show you."


Okay...so she seems to appear to be headed in a direction that is definitely not the same as the one that Emma took. That's certainly quite interesting...so it seems the narrator who mentioned them parting ways well and truly at some point so early in the chapter was right about it all.

Without knowing how Claire had managed to leave the room, she now followed her. They took the stairs down and for the first time, she left the building through the main entrance.

The ground was strangely clean. There was a lack of sand or gravel. Few pebbles found their way onto the flat roads.

Between the treetops, Claire could usually hardly feel how warm it was. The blazing, oppressive sun heated the canyons. For a short walk around the house to the rocks, drops of sweat remained on her forehead.

"Here is it."

They were standing in front of a mountain. It shot up a hundred feet. The wide entrance was decorated with mosaic. It wasn´t interesting. Only the inside changed Claire's world.


Okayy....well, things are moving along to what seems like a much less scary prospect than what I was imaging with that cliffhanger..hmm, I'm not letting guard down just yet though, things don't seem safe just yet.

"The oasis of Edward-Lloyd-Newman City, " the dark-haired woman explained, "It is open to any of the workers in the city. I'm surprised Mr Neumann didn't tell you about this."

"It's fantastic," Claire enthused, "Goddess-like."

"One was inspired by the legends of the bathing chamber of our Mother."

"Indescribable."

The attendant led Claire through the various rooms to the bathrooms.

There was a large basin, room for half the city, beautifully decorated with colourful square ceramic plates with faces of the muses and columns in the shape of goblets. With lights hidden behind thin, coloured paper, there was a mysterious, honey-scented dream.


All...this description has been lovely as always...another wonderful little location as things continue to move rather well for Claire at the moment. There's an interesting bit of context there as well with Claire never having been shown this place, that certainly is pretty interesting.

Claire followed her to a small bar in the courtyard. The bar was behind the fountain. It was beautifully decorated. The many lights, provided by the oil lanterns and scented candles, enchanted the place.

"It's too early, otherwise someone would be present," she spoke quietly and disappeared behind the counter.

Before the young Silberlilie could say anything, her counterpart had already brought two drinks, decorated with a straw and a piece of spiky melon it seemed. Claire later found out that it was pineapple.

"Let's sit out by the fountain."

The cushions were soft, elegant, Elysian. Claire was floating on clouds. She had already completely forgotten where she was. The sky above them reflected in the magical blue of the pool. She would have loved to plunge into the Swan Lake. The soaps, the oils, all the products she wanted to possess alone.

There was a minute of silence. The woman raised her glass and took a big gulp. Claire followed suit uncertainly and choked down the contents with a playfully happy manner.


Okayyy...well, it seems that these two are about to have some sort of conversation here. It seems she is also the same one that stepped in earlier so either she has a bit of a soft spot for Claire or she herself has some sort of ulterior motive...well, I suppose we shall find out soon enough.

Silence.

Peace.

Despite the presence of another person, Claire was not at all uncomfortable. That feigned, put-upon calm of not knowing what to tell brought out her teeth. Daphne returned it and finished the glass.

"You don't find very often those who can talk in silence."

"Yes!" Claire spoke in surprise.

"All the world must speak, challenge the others and win. They must show themselves by bringing change with their signless sounds from their mouths. It doesn't work. The written word has the power to change the world."

Claire agreed.

"Another glass?"

She nodded.


Hmm, okay these two are getting what seems to be a little bit of bonding time almost here. I have no idea where this is going to lead especially with it seeming clear that Claire will leave this place shortly, but its certainly something here.

Because we don't want to communicate with people who are out for something specific. Isn't it true that nobody is interested in your opinion? They ask how you are out of politeness and really just want to tell their own story! No one wants to hear about how you are when they ask something like that. “

Claire couldn't believe it.

Her counterpart was a conversationalist like she could never have imagined. She understood Daphne's views too well. During their conversation and another creworée, the ice around her body thawed and developed into a wildfire of statements.


Well, this raises a few alarm bells for me honestly, Daphne could just be really good at getting friendly with people and getting them to open up like Claire did her only to try and gather information that perhaps the city suspects Claire of hiding. I know I should enjoy this moment of Claire finding a person who values listening but I'm just too paranoid I suppose.

Determined, the fingers fell on the shoulder. Fascinated by the deathly pale skin, Daphne's hands inspected the soft hairs on her arms. It took an eternity. Claire's face was blue when Daphne sat down next to her with a funny grin.

"You have a stunning body," she spoke in a respectful voice, "It's the most beautiful skin I've ever seen in my life. I'm really captivated by it. It's like our Mother created you personally in her palace."

Claire didn't know whether to say thank you or be embarrassed.

"You too," she said, agitated.

Daphne looked at the young thing with a caring expression.


Well, this is dragging on for quite some time now between the two of them. At this point, its getting to be a little too long almost. I hope there's something more planned here with Daphne becoming more important to the story, because otherwise it feels like a little too much time is being wasted here.

"You don't have to thank me."

Thank you, Daphne...

They fell into silence. Claire looked bravely into the sunset and admired the true beauty of the lake.

"Now tell me, what brings you to Erlenbrunnen?" she chatted warmly.

"It's a little stop before my destination. I actually want to go to Berlyne."

"Really? I live there," she said with joy, "Then we'll meet often, won't we? Do you have relatives in Berlyne?"

Claire squealed inside.


Hmm, so I suppose that could potentially be a connection there which will hopefully justify such a long scene here...well let' see how it pans out, it seems all those cliffhangers and warnings are going to amount to exactly nothing in the end.

With an impetuous will, she continued as soon as the friend asked something. The barman brought them new drinks several times and asked the guests how they were doing. There were some small appetisers served on a tray that floated shallowly on the water.

It was a wonderful, paradisiacal evening. The colours reminded Claire of sunflower yellow, clay brown with a mixture of red clay. The azure and turquoise tiles, the black hair, the smells, the drinks, everything transformed into a wonderland of dance, magic, and freedom. They laughed and discussed, they talked and enjoyed themselves, the world revolved around them and no one else.

Enchanted by the moon shimmering on the reservoir, enchanted by this oasis of peace, Claire could eventually only listen and agree. Everything had turned her head.

No, it was just one person.

It was Daphne.


Hmm, well that faded away finally, although that escalated quite a lot there. For all that setup I am a bit disappointed to see everything turn out this way, but I do like that Claire maybe got at least a bit of time to relax. I'm still not convinced but Daphne appears to be genuine so far I think.

A dream about a woman called Daphne. She understood me and was happy to be with her. She spoke to me as if we had known each other for a long time. As if we had been at school together. I went to the oasis with her. That wonderful, wonderful place... Why am I shedding tears? Because it was just a dream? No... it wasn't a dream. It's over, that's why I'm crying. I never want to forget this most beautiful of memories. For the first time... wonderful...

Then she curled up and flew apart. She flapped her wings so hard that she hit the wall several times. But she didn't care. Happiness prevailed for one night.

She even asked if I should move in with her in Berlyne. This is the nicest thing that can happen to me! I can't believe it... For once something good happens to me...

Euphoric, she jumped around the room and stared out the window the whole night. A lot went wrong in her life. Once Claire was allowed to rejoice. Once she was granted this wish by the Goddess.


Well, we're ending this chapter on a very different note from what was well...predicted with the other chapters and I don't quite know how to feel on this. On one hand I love that something good happened to Claire after so long and she might be happier for it going forward, but now I feel that the last part was then building towards a false bit of tension which then sounds unnecessary cause this is supposed to be a continuous chapter after all...and you don't need cliffhangers that have no impact.

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall, its a mixed bag this one. That's where I am at the end of this chapter. A lot certainly has happened and this ending feels like an odd mix of happiness and yet a sense that things aren't over just quite yet. Well, let's see where this goes.

As always remember to take what you think was helpful and forget the rest.

Stay Safe
Harry






Thank you for your review! :D



HarryHardy says...


You're Welcome!! :D




Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.
— Henry David Thoreau