Wrapped in a green cotton travelling cloak with a leather strap across the neck and carrying a tattered old knapsack containing a knife and a magic scroll, Benjamin set out into the woods. He isn’t scared, there isn’t anything to be afraid of in the trees, just small animals and shadows. His father taught him how to live in the wild and they had been camping in the forest before, on the outskirts. He takes out his scroll because the shafts of light dancing through the branches are growing dim. He reads the enchantment out aloud, the syllables slithering around his tongue like a serpent, watching as a little spark creeps off the page, floating up and growing brighter. It follows Benjamin, lighting the way. An obedient spark.
She can see him. Through the jet-ash boughs and trunks. She creeps. Watching him is making her thirst.
Soon I’ll make my move, she tells herself. An apocalypse of feeling rushes up her spine, causing her to shudder. Soundlessly she jumps to the next tree, her claws sinking into the bark.
The boy was walking, searching for a good spot to make camp, when he saw the black tower. Glimmering like an obsidian spike, it stands in a clearing of trees. Looking up he sees a window high above, near the tower’s peak. A light issues from within, its warming tendrils pulling at the boy, showing a presence inside. Benjamin strides up to the door and raps his knuckles on the ancient wood, no shame, no fear. The door slowly opens. When Benjamin thinks about it, he should have found it strange, the door opening as soon as he knocked. But he was too pure, too unassuming. Standing in the doorway is a tall woman, skin like a stone, washed by time, hair flowing like blood, thick and dark, her face too perfect, too symmetrical, beautiful but in a hideous way, a mask hiding secrets. The boy feels something, a depth within him, a cave opening, a gnawing.
I shouldn’t be here, he thinks. She beckons him, her words cannot be heard, cannot be remembered. He follows. Her long violet cloak reaches down past the smooth stone floor. Like a ghost, he follows her up the stairs, past flickering torches in brackets high above. No shadows though. The black marble, its bone-white ripples, they take the shadows.
They are in a bedchamber, ornately furnished with plush purple cloth, a four-poster bed of regal proportions taking up the majority of the room. The boy feels uneasy, noticing that nothing in this, the highest room in the tower, seems to have any signs of the damage of age. The wood of the bedposts, the long flowing material, the stone walls, they were from the beginning of time, yet they will be there for forever. The window offers a view over the trees, a sea of green, brown and black, waves billowing over the branches. The woman slides over to the bed, busying herself at a cabinet beside it. He is looking out of the window, gazing towards Karletto, wishing he were there, sweat and fear driving him to rush away. He doesn’t jump when she touches him, turns him towards her. Like a mother, like a fiend, she removes his cloak, taking his dignity. He sees for the first time she is wearing nothing beneath her gown, a figure crafted from darkness. He hurts inside, a well of confusion, staring at that body, he will gaze as she fully removes the gown. She takes him across to the bed.