Thursday, 20 August 2015

Everything About Her Was White

Everything about her was white...
Almost, not quite, for her eyes were dark limpid pools and her mouth was a neat bow of crimson. And her soul, which had been like a heaven-sent ray of light had dimmed. Its glow whilst still warm flickered like the flame of a candle as if a shadow had some point crept in and caused a draught. And there was a slight chill within that there hadn't been before which made her involuntarily shudder.
But against the black backdrop of permanent night, she was lily-white insomuch as the landmarks surrounding her were ice or crystal. She was a chess piece that been bought because in this world her whiteness was prized and because the buyer had been assured that despite her dark doe eyes and scarlet lips her duty was to God, which at that time to mankind meant she was subservient. This was not strictly true for in her childhood it was said she had been wilful, but when such a bargain is being made, details which appear small are often overlooked or even omitted. And so they were in this instance for the seller (her legal guardian) was intent on establishing royal links and the buyer (an illustrious prince) one way or another swore he would own this pale, interesting beauty.
After many months of haggling she was indeed his, sold for a very fine title, but Leda, for that was her name, didn't at once wed this man who was said to her prince. She was whisked away in a horse-drawn sleigh to the land of his birth, which was very Russian in style in a remote snow desert and on eternal Icelandic winter time, an everlasting December, where she was kept in a vast wing of a white marble palace with other maidens whom the prince also considered suitable and precious. Each had their own quarters which they were supposed to keep to and not come together unless summoned, and this rule they observed, although some did devise ways to disobey, and of course gossip was freely spread by the various maids and man-servants.
The servants reported to their mistresses and to the prince himself that the newly acquired Leda was the whitest of the white. None of the twelve could ever hope to match her milky skin or her peaceful, almost too accepting demeanour. But she was biddable in all but one ritual, that of worshipping the midnight sun. She stubbornly refused to do so, writing to the prince that she'd taken a solemn vow that if this was now to be her life she'd rather live in darkness and deny herself that right to witness that beautiful sight. And being granted this was the first stain on her pure soul.
When the reverent time approached, the midnight sun was blacked out from her quarters and in those hours she slept, but this did have a knock-on effect for Leda would then be wide-awake whilst everyone else was not. Yet it was those very hours she cherished, for since she arrived she found she enjoyed this blanket of dark stillness and had taken to sneaking out of the slumbering palace, down the cool, shallow marble steps that led to the sparkling lake where she would stand at the edge and gaze at the starry skies overhead. Yet whenever she crept out she purposely wore her silk betrothal gown with its lace veil that in places shimmered like dew on a spider web, although this was against all her principles and decidedly improper. And this along with being a white daughter of the night, and a conspicuous one at that, attracted shadows; shadows that had infiltrated the palace grounds who were drawn to unaccompanied maidens.
Little by little, Leda strayed ever further, compelled by shadowy presences to slip through the main gate and out into the frosty landscape, yet despite this daily escape she always returned. Her mood elevated from her dark wanderings, although there are no records of what good or evil she may have seen or heard. And the prince when he discovered her trespasses for somehow he did, instead of having misgivings he rewarded her with two giant protectors: Cloud and Moon, the mightiest of his polar bears.

Picture Credit: Plate, Everything about her was white by Edmund Dulac, from The Dreamer of Dreams by Marie, The Queen of Roumania