23 – Vanities

Bonnie hadn’t expected Ramon to apologize. Most people who screwed her over didn’t tend to, but the red wolf actually seemed contrite. 

Not that he hadn’t planned to have her fight the lion in his place. He most certainly had. It was just, to hear him tell it, that he had planned to actually tell her, not merely throw the lion at her and hope she would win. That the lion had attacked before she had been warned was an unfortunate and unplanned circumstance.

Above that though, she had done what he wanted, so he would pay her back. Transactions required trade from both sides, after all, and she had paid so he would give his aid.

Being bloodied may be acceptable in the Bear’s bar, but other lounges would take issue with such a state. There were ways to harm without spilling blood, so making a mess was considered gauche at best.

Issues could always occur, so it was only natural there be a place to clean up. Such was the magnanimity of the Castle that there was such a place instead of merely throwing the bloodied guests out entirely.

Bonnie hadn’t expected Gloria to help her. It had been a coincidence that she ran into the blonde as Ramon led her along. Disgust crossed the half-fae’s face at the sight of blood, yet she took Bonnie by the hand regardless and led her to a place to change. 

A generous place, a lovely place, one that could not merely be called a dressing room, but a palace. Was a palace necessary to dress? Certainly, of course, it was a full necessity to have a place grander than any other for the guests to dress, clean, and maintain such lovely appearances, masked though they were.

Vanity famously took the form of a preening peacock. What other creature could it be? What else had such beauty? What else walked with such confidence? What else was blessed with looks beyond compare?

Eyes were made to gaze on glory and the Peacock had a hundred of them in his tails.

The peacock’s palace was a place of beauty for it reflected the beauty of those who entered. He loved beauty, you see, absolutely adored it! His beauty was beyond compare, yet that did not mean no other beauty existed. He was not ignorant of such a fact and so he adored the fair and the faint in all their many forms.

The foul, he had a curious interest in. Their beauty was always twisted, not quite as it should be, yet did that not make it all the more fascinating a beauty? Was there not something gorgeous in abomination? Could horror not be adored in all its grime and gristle?

One eye in the mirror took an idle notice of the Gritam girl leading a wolf-masked hunter across the violet carpets of the peacock’s domain. Woven eyes in the thread took a faint interest, following the steps of the heiress and the hunter. 

Mirrors extended across the hall in a myriad of shapes and sizes, some long enough that they nearly, not truly, touched the floor and ceiling at the same time, while others hung in simple places for make-up to be checked and masks to be adjusted. Some reflected people that did not stand on the carpet, while others refused to reflect those that did. Mirrors were fickle, yet no one would seek to break their silvered surfaces, for that was one of the few rules the peacock held and an offense so great, it was only right such indelicate individuals become glass themselves.

The peacock cared little for anyone foolish enough to break. A physical break, a mental break, an emotional break, those could be fascinating and beautiful in their own right, but a breaking of the rules for foolish pride? Aggravating at best. A peacock had its pride and the peacock had his own in spades.

Those that became glass could return again if they did not shatter by the end of the night. Since the night did not end, such a decision was arbitrary at best and the peacock took pride in being as such, for who should arbitrate but the arbitrary?

There were tales of those lost in his mirrors, trapped in the depths, but that was not a sign of anger, no sign of vengeance, it was a granting, born out of love. Some truly could not care for the physical, could not live in faint reality, and thus were given an out, a way out, a beautiful world in the glimmer of the mirrors. Places without fear or pain, beautiful and eternal, fair for those who entered and never left.

The other gift the peacock could grant was preservation. Not in porcelain, not in painting, but in flesh. Of all the arts, taxidermy was the least respected, in the peacock’s vain and therefore correct opinion. A humble opinion was often lying, so it was better to have a proud opinion, a vain opinion, an opinion so haughty it could not be denied, not by whim or by firm refusal, for it was a truth in a sense. The truth of “This is what I believe”, and that is a difficult truth to deny for it was always true so long as confidence was held.

Glass cases held those who chose beauty preserved. Life had left them, for it would be unfair to leave any alive in such a motionless state. The peacock was not cruel, it was vain, and vanity, confidence, was surety. Not merely surety, for there was nothing mere about vanity, not in the peacock’s way.

It was not a corpse-feasted Raven, it sung no nevermore, it was proud, colorful in its beauty, and curious in its many eyes, a dozen or so now following the heiress and the hunter out of a growing fascination with what the young ladies might be doing together. A roguish hunter and a beauteous heiress were fascinating for their contrasts, and more eyes looked closer as the young Gritam with Beldier blood dabbed at the hunter’s busted lip with her handkerchief.

A fair faint with a foul, a curious sight all around, and one that brought more eyes their way. 

“You need to be more careful around here. The people here might be ‘fair’, but they are not kind.”

The Gritam girl had learned her lessons well. It was enough for the peacock, magnanimous as he was, to make an offer.

A frown crossed Bonnie’s face as she noticed movement in the mirrors. She’d seen the people, fancy folks dressed in finery, old nobility and strange figures that weren’t quite right. Now though, in the mirror nearby, she saw gowns of different styles. 

Some modest, some daring, some old, some new, some thin, skin baring, most false, but all true.

It was an offer, Gloria explained. No cost, no penalty, the peacock was generous and liked to be known as such. To give was to be loved, and the peacock was adored. Thus it granted favor in turn.

There was no trick there, no falsehood, the peacock was too proud for that. The only thing to be worried of was if another Bonnie had worn the gowns. But then, that was nothing to be worried about.

The peacock made the offer with pure intentions. A replacement was only offered to those who wished to be replaced. At times, there were those who accepted his generosity, only to refuse it afterwards, after the new person had taken their place and the new place had taken its person. 

That was annoying.

A refusal of generosity was acceptable, it was accepted, a gift was meant to be given, not forced. 

But a gift taken, then complained of? A gift accepted, then denied with a sort of taker’s remorse? It was insulting.

People saw the eyes of the peacock, beautiful on its gorgeous tails, and failed to see his talons and beak. 

Any bird can be fierce, and the peacock was once a king. A tyrant, who lusted for beauty. A fowl, drab and muted in color. A beast, more scaled than feathered.

He remembered angels. There were more in that day, before rebellion, before death, before hunting. Long before the sky fell to the earth and smothered what was there. Before the boar became the pig. Before the Castle had its hosts.

They were beautiful. Myriad in their forms, yet alike across the spheres. Most beautiful of all were their wings. Great, winged, and covered in eyes.

He coveted those eyes. Many did, but for foolish reasons. Knowledge, most often, as though eyes were meant for learning alone. They were for beholding. For looking upon magnificence in awe.

His eyes watched the young hunter with interest as she selected a black gown that bared her shoulders. No awe, not yet, but there was something there, he knew it.

Young Gloria saw it too, her own eye lingering, looking, staring at the muscles of her hired guard’s back. Her fascination was obvious through a poor attempt to hide it and amusement radiated through the mirrors in the form of giggling falsehoods when the heiress averted her eye to avoid the hunter’s gaze.

His interest was piqued. A fair faint and a fascinating foul. A curious pair.

He would keep eyes on them. Through every mirror and reflection, he would look on with interest. It was the least he could do for such fascinating people.

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