Coeur de la nuit – Urban/Historical Fantasy Short, 1/2

On another sleepless night, Lucilla followed the corpse-light as it beckoned her through the motley waters of the Venetian lagoon. The brightness of the full moon scattered in feverish sparks on the surface of the ephemeral Adriatic, by might of silver conjured. With each stride she spilled more water up her thighs, balancing herself by holding out her arms, an empty lantern in her left one. 

The glowing orb glide just a few steps away, just a few steps down, where the water was deeper, and darker, and hungrier. It beckoned her with its pulsating glare, painting the water a deep green. 

Lucilla took a step forward – stumbled, and water sloshed up to her belly, staining her maiden dress. She held up her empty lantern, as if to find some help there, but no help would come.

She was all alone in the dead of night, and only the blanket of stars and the judging moon were out there to look for her. This far past the shore, even the caw of seagulls and cormorants, the chug of the occasional steamboat cutting through the channel, the wind rattling through branches were just memories: all that surrounded her was dead silence and the pulsing echoes of the grave-light. 

It was so close. She’d just have to take two more steps through the black waters. Its light waxed and waned like a far-off beacon, one made just for her. 

Lucilla advanced and the skin of the sea splashed against her torso.

The will-o-wisp stopped moving. Its light pulsated once. Eager. 

Maybe even more eager than her. 

Another step. 

Water reached up to her ribs now. It was getting harder to walk and the tide was starting to make her dance upon its own rhythm.

The wisp pulsated once again – how bright, how close! How beautiful. 

All for her.

She had followed it for weeks – always out of reach, always tempting her, calling unto her. So beautiful.

And now right at hand.

She stumbled forward.

The corpse-light flared and it moved forward to meet her, its glow all-encompassing, the touch of its venomous brightness already making her skin itch. 

Lucilla sighed.

The wisp bloomed into a wider circle – one contoured with teeth. Between the twisting flames a circle of hungry faces appeared.

It really had taken its sweet time. 

Lucilla’s left hand reached for her wet blouse and produced a thin ivory horn, inscribed with a series of flowing letters, starkly-crimson against the fair material. She put its thin end to her lips and, before the wisp could realize what was happening, what was bound to happen, she blew a deep and shuddering note to tear the silence apart.

Lucilla smiled against the horn’s end as she saw weeks-long bear fruit: the note tore through the wisp, scattering its flame into chaotic filaments, like a yarn lost in a storm. 

And then she sucked in. 

The wisp disappeared inside the horn – the letters began to glow a deep green. She withdrew her lips and let out another long sigh. 

“Holy Virgin, what a catch.”

She began to walk back, now helped by the tide as it slowly pushed her against the shore. Once water had withdraw to her calves, she produced a thin glass vial out of her pocket and attached it to her horn. She put the ivory against her lips and murmured words that sounded like gnawing on ice. 

A green glowing liquid began to drip into the vial as the horn lost its brightness. She allowed herself a grin as she walked back to the shore, holding both items in her arms. 

What a night! Her muscles ached and her skin now shivered from the impromptu bath – how many days it had taken her to finally catch this crafty thing! – but she was victorious. 

A few hearty giggles escaped her lips as she walked back to the Master’s home; as she walked, the world around her gained its colors and noises back, the oppressive presence of the wisp erased.

She felt like she could afford a cup of celebratory tea before going to bed – tomorrow would be another long day after all; she reached the outskirts of a wide garden, passed through the bushes and past the entrance of a low building, a seemingly-forgettable house like many others on the thin isles of the Venetian lagoon. The city glistened to her right, oil and gas lamps carving a golden silhouette of domes, churches, ships and bell-towers out of the jaws of night. 

Speaking of which. 

The vial was now full and the horn back to its usual state. She put it back and affixed the vial to the inside of her lantern, making sure it stuck. She tapped against the vial three times and the light’s color turned from its venomous green to a more practical pale yellow. 

“That’s a good boy,” she tittered. Much more useful this way. 

Now helped by a proper source of light, she walked to the house’s entrance. 

Only to stop. From the west came the echo of hooves hastily running against the trail. She lifted her lantern and the wide circle of brightness illuminated a lonely traveler, wearing a long dark coat, holding onto his horse as he pushed him right past the entrance, the gate and next to Lucilla.

As she met the newcomer’s gaze she showed him a brief curtsy. 

“Fruitful night, Madama Brughiera?” He asked in light German accent that made him stumble around his gs.

“It almost wasn’t. We weren’t informed, young Master. The kitchen will be cold.”

“It does not matter. I am not here for a meal. I heed from Eridania. Is uncle still up?”

At that name Lucilla’s brown eyes flashed with interest. She was still dripping with sea water, but it wouldn’t take long to make herself presentable.

“I see. I’ll wake up the Master. Might I join you two for a cup of tea?”

Pic by PrinceYaser

Author’s Notes: I want to take a couple days of break from Patina as we are approaching the tail end of the story and I want to make sure I have everything clear in my head, as far as I can. Also, this idea presented itself and I wanted to show you something more about this world. I think this might just be my next web novel, I really love this setting and characters. Hope you are finding Lucilla interesting. I’ll see you tomorrow for the rest.


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