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His Faded Idol


The Ceremony of Leavetaking was, as Zoltan predicted, tedious. At first, Erszebet had been excited by the striking visuals of the ceremony: the Lakatos women stood on the central dais in force, dressed in almost-identical black floor-length dresses that varied only in small details that tailored the dresses to best flatter their owners' figures. They formed a protective curve around the coffin, which was closed at this point. The Lakatos men and Klotild's companions sat to one side of the stage, all dressed in white. In an elevated box seating visible on the other side of the stage sat Madame Griselda and her other Cotyngham women, dressed in deep red, like most of the rest of the audience. Zoltan acted as the master of ceremonies, dressed in tailcoat, trousers, tie, and waistcoat of dove grey with just a spot of red handkerchief visible in his left breast pocket. Erszebet knew from seeing him up close earlier that there was an elegant diamond pattern worked into the waistcoat fabric.

"To those here," Zoltan said, the sound system projecting his voice over the vast spaces of the largest auditorium in the convention center, "Lady Klotild was sister, wife, mother, lover, and companion." He swept his arms to encompass the Lakatos family, dressed in their severe black and white. "To others," he said, turning to the audience with a slight bow to the Cotyngham box, "she was colleague, enemy, respected elder, thorn in the side, advisor, philanthropist, voice of wisdom, voice of stupidity, creature of habit, creature of daring, saint, sinner, angel, devil, goddess... in short, Klotild was an unforgettable portion of each of our lives. We are here this evening to say farewell to the woman I was proud and privileged to call my dearest friend." There was a ripple through the audience at that, quickly quelled by the severe glances of the Lakatos women. "According to custom, anyone whose life was touched by Klotild may come forward to speak about her -- memories, thoughts, feelings, anything at all. But, recall, there are so many of us, and so much grief and loss to be expressed, I beg of you to keep your remarks brief so that others may have their turn before the sun rises."

Erszebet dutifully managed to last through the speeches of all the Lakatos women, Klotild's three primary companions, and dear old Harald before she joined the silent stream of people past the grim werewolf guards and out the rear exit doors.

She found an enthusiastic, talkative reception going on in the main hall outside.

"You look surprised," said a nearby black woman with her hair done in short dredlocks. She was wearing a red silk coat of Chinese styling that reached her knees over matching trousers and a dark blue shell. "There's always a party during the Leavetaking." She had a slight accent that Erszebet thought might be West Indian.

"I have not attended many funerals," Erszebet said, still dazzled by the many shades of red that were milling around lengthy buffet tables and cash bars. "Yet," she added.

"You're Zoltan's cousin, aren't you?" the woman asked, gesturing at her with her plate of hors d'oeuvres. "I only ask because you kind of look like him."

Erszebet eyed her for a moment before nodding. Who was this woman and why did she seem to know so much? She could feel the woman's intense curiosity, and could perceive no sign of conscious restraint around her emotions. This was baffling, given the amount of lockdown and paranoia Erszebet could still feel all around her at this event.

"I'm Isolde, a friend of his." The other woman smiled, toasting her with her wine glass.

"I am Erszebet Farkas," she said, and she decided that Isolde must be a human, because the alternative -- that she was vermin -- was too appalling to consider.

"You're just as gorgeous as rumor had it," Isolde said, studying her carefully.

"Thank you," Erszebet said, thoroughly off-balance and not liking it a bit. She glanced around for someone, anyone, she knew.

"Is it true the Zalazars are courting you?" Isolde said, and just a little malicious glee leaked into the curiosity as Erszebet's attention was jerked back to her.

"I do not think they are courting me," Erszebet said icily after a moment's recovery. She smoothed the satin fabric of her red, red dress down in a gesture that might have been nervous but she fervently denied such nervousness to herself. "I think they are being friendly." It occurred to her to wonder why this human (or vermin, the back of her mind filled in) would be interested in Family politics.

"Maybe they're hoping you and your sisters will come start a Manaige in their territory," Isolde said. "Maybe take some of their boys off their hands."

It took Erszebet a few seconds to realize that Isolde had used the Old French term for Household that was common to western European Families. She blinked at Isolde and blurted, "You're Family!"

Isolde's mouth curled into a wry little smile. "Didn't expect that, did you, ma douce?" She turned away, still smiling over her shoulder. "The saw about books and covers may apply here."

There was a little shiver in everything that Erszebet had been sensing from Isolde, and suddenly, for just an instant, the previously invisible barriers that had made her seem so human were gone, and Erszebet could feel all the tense emotional complexity, in all the accustomed flavors and scents, that she associated with her own kind. Her eyes were still at war with her other senses -- she had never seen such a dark-skinned person of her own kind. Leave it to her cousin Zoltan to find the oddity!

Then, as she watched, Isolde slid across the room and linked arms with two other women who looked a great deal like her, and one of them turned an interested glance towards Erszebet. They were surrounded by admirers, including a number of men, almost all of whom were as dark as they. She could pick out some French in the language they were speaking, including at least one scorching comment she took to be about her and her youth.

Erszebet turned into the crowd, battling the crimson heat in her cheeks. Perhaps not such an oddity after all. Perhaps Erszebet herself was the oddity here for being quite so ignorant.


Author's Note:

Oh, Erszebet, why are you so young?

Date: 2012-04-17 07:27 pm (UTC)
the_rck: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_rck
Erzsebet is meeting a lot of surprises. I imagine it's good for her.

Thanks for writing!

Date: 2012-04-18 01:32 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
I imagine it's good for her too. In the meantime, she'll suffer. :}


Date: 2012-05-10 03:43 pm (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
Ah, but how she'll grow!

I am continuing to love this. Thank you!


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