Lady Coraline had ordered me to keep the ruby necklace on me at all times, and given what I have seen in Kraken Moor, I was inclined to follow her directions. The question became where to put it? The necklace was a long, golden chain, and the ruby itself was actually 6 rubies: a large centerpiece, and then one smaller ruby on its right, left, and top, and 2 rubies at the bottom. All were surrounded by gold. I would not fashion a guess as to its value; I would only go so far as to say that the Sharpers of Mississippi were (and are, I imagine) of significant wealth, and I never saw either my mother or any guests with a piece of jewlery jewelry as magnificent as this.
I could not wear the piece as it was intended, for even if Coraline and Mrs. Cotts were amenable to me keeping the jewelry on me at all times, it would draw far too much attention for me to wear it around my neck whilst wearing my chambermaid’s uniform.
The chain was long and large, and I first believed I could simply wear it around my neck and beneath my uniform, but my duties resulted in the necklace moving around with too great frequency. So constantly was I adjusting the necklace, and thus so often did I touch my neck or chest that I drew stares from my fellow members of staff. I had several pockets on my uniform, but they either proved themselves too small or too large. The necklace either did not fit or it moved around too easily. It would not do for such a valuable item to fall out of my pocket while bending over.
My solution came through sheer desperation. Lady Coraline had left with Lord Shepherd for errands in Marehaven, and so I secreted into her room. Still having seen no evidence of Kadul or Jackson or Patricia since my time in her room several days past, I daringly pulled the deep purple curtain from her gargoyle-topped mirror. Greeted only with an image of myself, I pulled the top of my uniform down to my waist. I removed the necklace from a pocket on my skirt and could not help but put it around my neck.
Instantly, my memories of childhood came rushing back to me, as I recalled countless hours as a young girl standing before my mother’s mirrors trying on her jewelry, hats, and gloves. As a child and having heard nothing else, I always thought I looked the essence of beauty. Now, years later, I was aware that my form was attractive to the opposite sex, but the previous months of runaway travel had taken its toll. Looking at my current body in the mirror, I saw bruises from the work and a too-thin body. When I left my father’s plantation, I was rounded and healthy, but now there was a coating of physical exhaustion on my skin. At first, this image of myself distrubed disturbed me, but after a few moments I took pride. While it had been ages since I had properly washed and primped myself, my body now told a story of a life lived instead of one solely witnessed.
It was in a moment where I was tracing my finger across my stomach that inspiration struck. The necklace was so large that I believed it would fit around my waist. Stepping completely out of my uniform, I extended the chain to its widest allocation and connected it around my waist.
Feeling incredibly awkward and self conscious at having the rubies hanging between my legs, I turned them to the side, allowing them to sat sit flush on my hip. Looking at them in the mirror from every angle, my eyes eventually caught sight of my face.
I was smiling.
I felt such silly joy at standing in front of this mirror and acting like the girl of my youth that I actually had to suppress a giggle! It is rare that I have felt anything akin to regret at my decision to leave my father’s plantation and strike out on my own, but one should not assume my travels have been easy upon hearing my lack of regret.
My life has not been easy, yet it has been my life.
Standing in front of that mirror and wearing such a luxurious necklace – and wearing it around my waist, no less! – gave my spirits a much needed lift!
Hearing movement in the hallway, I quickly stepped back into my black and white uniform, my long, slightly-billowed dress easily masking the necklace’s presence.
Before leaving the room, I stood directly in front of the mirror and looked myself over from head to foot. In truth, I was brazenly daring Kadul to reveal himself to me, or for Patricia Valmont’s spirit to drift out of this looking glass.
Neither event happened, but that did not mean I was not being watched.
As I turned my body slightly to the right to view my side and back, I caught sight of a pair of eyes looking at me through the room’s window!
I spun quickly and the eyes had vanished, and such is the state of life inside Kraken Moor that my first instinct was not to run to the window to discover the owner of those eyes, but to look back to the mirror to determine if they were other-worldly in origin!
When one lives in Kraken Moor, one becomes quickly accustomed to being caught unawares; it is as if the demons (as that is what I believe them to be) who frequent this castle wait for your weakest moment to reveal themselves. That is prelude to revealing that when I turned back to the mirror to search for the young eyes in the window, the reflective glass had turned into a looking glass, and I saw Jackson Dereks and Patricia Valmont (guised as myself) sharing a moment together somewhere in Hell.
“My darling Bea,” a beaten and bloodied Jackson asked my doppelganger, “I must know, how did you find passage into Hell?”
I watched myself run my hands through Jackson’s wavy and unkempt black hair. “Hush, my beloved,” Patricia whispered, pulling his head into her bosom for comfort. “Just know that there is no sacrifice I would not make to rescue you from the eternal torture of Hell.”
As she spoke those final words, she turned to me and smiled, grinning in such a wicked manner that I took an involuntary step backwards, where I bumped into a solid object.
There are times when my life at Kraken Moor seems little more than a never-ending succession of turning around to find terror standing behind me. And so it was now, that I turned and looked into the purple eyes of Kadul!
A blackened face of a goat, those unnatural eyes that blazed with a purple energy, the deathly grey skin that was covered by no clothing, and the horrid black hooves … Kadul stood in all of his great height inside Lady Coraline’s room!
“Beatrice,” he growled, his eyes pulsing so much energy that his eyeballs could not contain all of it. A plum-colored trail of energy wafted out of the far corners of each eye.
“I am not afraid of you!” I whispered, though both I and he knew that I was very much afraid.
“The devil does not reveal himself to those who are ruled by their fear,” he smiled, the goat’s snout twisting horribly at the act, “but to those who seek to conquer it. You are such a spirit. As was Patricia.”
“And how does Patricia now fare?” I asked.
Kadul motioned to the mirror, “She hath no complaints.”
I turned to see a smiling Patricia – the real Patricia, curly blonde hair, young, and full of life – looking out at me. Jackson was kissing her neck and removing her clothing.
“That can be you once more,” Kadul offered seductively. “Just give me your body and you shall have Jackson Dereks as your eternal companion.”
“But not in torture.”
I forced myself to look back into the looking glass. “He does not appear to mind your version of torture, demon.”
Kadul laughed, rich and full, and moved to sit on the bed. In this position it was impossible for me to ignore his state of being. He snapped his finger and Jackson screamed.
I refused to look.
Kadul ran a hand over the rich, thick, red bedding on Lady Coraline’s bed. “Give yourself to me, Beatrice. Give yourself to me now, and save Mr. Dereks his torment.”
The goat man shrugged. “Very well,” he said, and rose from the bed. “There are others in Kraken Moor who desire to give themselves to me. If you will not submit, I will take one of them.”
“Who would freely give themselves to a horror such as you?” I asked, as he walked past me and into the mirror.
“The eyes at the window,” he replied without turning as the portal to Hell shimmered, and became once more a mirror.
This time I did what I should have done first, which was to run to the window. A few steps from its surface, as my eyes gazed out onto the snow-covered grounds of the back of the estate, I remembered that Lady Coraline’s room was on the second floor! Before I could ask myself how anyone could have thus looked into the window, my eyes took in the form of a young girl, running through the broken castle wall, heading for the maze.
I clutched my chest and realized what Kadul had meant – if I did not give him my body, he would take Gretchen Haupt’s.