This is a direct sequel to my previous two "Amnesia: The Dark Descent" fan fictions, 1. Broken: After the Fall, and 2. After the Fall: Sol Invictus Mithras. Please read those two stories first! The story of Daniel and Henry Bedloe, his former bully, continues. This story opens up the Lovecraftian mythology of the "Amnesia" series and takes the story in a new direction: the direction I always imagined Daniel's life going in (if he does survive Brennenburg). It is also the most nihilistic of the stories and cements exactly how selfish those seeking power or love (or anything) can be. That said, this story also deals with some brutal themes (a sexual situation without explicit consent, violent death) so be warned. I want to mention that I also quoted "Casilda's Song" concerning Carcosa from "The King in Yellow" by Robert W. Chambers, it's definitely not my poem! This story also leans more into the fan theory that Daniel is Oswald Mandus's great-uncle; I establish once and for all here that Hazel IS the one through which that connection is forged. I never liked the "third sibling" theory, I always saw Daniel and Hazel as the only children of that troubled little family. I intend to trace that connection all the way to "A Machine for Pigs", if I ever get to finishing this series of fan stories someday. I really enjoy writing for this series and particularly Daniel. This story moves the plot along further into the arcane. I hope you enjoy it! Thank you for reading!
May 8, 1840
Hazel awoke before the sunrise. Her weary lungs and weak heart gave their usual pangs as she slowly sat up. She squinted her eyes against the light. The sunshine dappled her stark white skin and illuminated the delicate blue veins traced beneath it. She sat breathing laboriously, eyes half-closed beneath long lashes, a smile on her pale thin lips. At last she was able to catch her breath and she beamed into the daylight. Life was so very difficult to grasp, but that made it all the more precious.
Hazel's lady's maid soon came to her bedside. Hazel was unused to having another person wait upon her but her betrothed had insisted upon it. Hazel thanked the woman as she helped her out of bed, although she knew it was improper to thank the help simply for doing their duty. Her maid was a stately older woman and while she could not acknowledge the gratitude directly, she did smile gently at the girl. She helped Hazel go about her morning routine and then into a hot bath.
The warm water soothed Hazel's lungs and calmed her heart. She sighed deeply in pleasure and shut her eyes. She used to wish she could float away from her body while bathing but now she cherished her physicality. She clasped her hands together, remembering the feel of her love's strong hands caressing them. She ran her palms over her thin body, thinking of his promises to cherish it, to cherish her. A flutter of nerves flew through her belly but it was not an unwelcome sensation. She trusted Xavier Mandus. She loved him and trusted that he loved her. Her desire for him soothed away her virgin's fears and she let eagerness overtake her.
After the bath, Hazel's maid attended to her grooming and dressing. Hazel gasped at the sight of the wedding dress and veil. Her child-sized hands traced the patterns in the handmade lace and caressed the white silk. Her maid dressed her reverently and Hazel blushed from the attention, though grateful for the care the woman took with the gown. The morning hours slipped by as Hazel was readied for the ceremony.
Hazel had chosen not to eat before the wedding because she was of delicate constitution and would not risk falling ill during the ceremony. She was a touch lightheaded but last night's large meal kept her fortified still. She could think only of the wedding she had never dreamed she would have and of her beloved.
Hazel had not been expected to live past thirteen yet now she was nearing her seventeenth birthday. Xavier Mandus was fourteen years her senior at thirty but he was a gentle man. Although he was the owner of the famed Mandus Meat Processing Company, Xavier confessed to Hazel that he had never enjoyed overseeing the business. He was sensitive about death, even that of livestock, and all suffering made him sorrowful. Xavier favored the arts, particularly poetry. Once he was comfortable in their friendship, Xavier had read his poetry to Hazel. Although he could never share his true passion with his family or even friends, he opened his heart to Hazel. In turn, Hazel had let all her repressed sorrows pour forth—No, they had been torn out of her by his beautiful words. Xavier shared her pain and understood it as no one other than her brother Daniel ever had. He had comforted her and talked through her pain, and when their friendship had turned to courtship he had held her in his arms. Friendship became affection and affection blossomed into love. Hazel felt their separate hearts had somehow fused, two beating as one. The very thought seemed to strengthen her weak heartbeat, made her heart beat for love.
Hazel stared at herself in the mirror for a long time. There was no vanity in her gaze, only childish wonder. A part of her felt like a little girl dressing up in her mother's few gowns, which she had done only once and had been spanked thoroughly for. Her mother had told her that an ill girl could never grow to be a woman. She had told her not to long for such things as God did not intend her to have.
But God must have found a purpose for me after all, Hazel thought. She shut her eyes in silent prayer. Thank you, Lord, thank you so very much for finding a use for this pathetic body. Thank you for bringing Xavier to me, my dear Xavier. If I am overstepping my place, then strike me dead, but I beg you, not before I bring my dear Xavier some joy. I ask only for his joy, Lord, never for my own. Oh let me please my beloved, Lord, let me please him well.
Xavier Mandus stood before his own looking glass as his valet fussed around him. He was a plain but pleasant-looking man. He hid the weakness of his jaw and sorrowful tilt of his mouth behind bushy brown whiskers. He could never hide his soulful brown eyes, however. His eyes were the sort of brown that had reddish tints, and he had always felt the blood of butchery had seeped into his family's very souls like poison.
Not that he was ungrateful for his heritage. The Mandus Meat Processing Co. had elevated his bloodline from the working class to true wealth. They would always be looked down upon by those of finer breeding but no one could deny the family's status. He knew that in the future the family would come to be accepted into society, whether society liked it or not.
'Blood is money and money is blood,' Xavier's father used to say. 'We butcher animals, and what of it? The nobility send their soldiers to butcher nations and plunder their wealth. Is that more glorious? Aye, 'tis, you can make pretty stories and sing songs about that sort of butchery. But our butchery is honest. We've no songs to sing or perfumed water to wash our hands lily white in, but we have honesty. Our sovereign lords and ladies all sup upon the meat we butcher, aye, and the soldiers, too. 'Tis nothing more honest than eating, boy. We are all of us beasts when we deign to consume other beasts.'
Xavier shuddered and shook the memories from his head. He barely ate meat. If he could, he would subsist upon greens alone. His childhood had been stained by too many tours of the butcher shops, too many visits to the abattoirs. He had acted indifferent to the gore to please his father, but inwardly he had never lost his initial sense of horror.
Xavier had split himself into two different people. He presented a face of good-natured callousness to the world, as best an impersonation of his deceased father as he could manage. As the only heir to the Mandus fortune, he had no other choice. During his private hours, Xavier sank into a world of literature, music, and theater. He roamed the world of the arts like a starved animal, feeding his soul as voraciously as his father used to feed his appetite. Though he cherished those hours of anonymous indulgence, they were very lonely hours. He never dared share his true persona with anyone in his social circles, lest they ridicule him as his father would have.
Then the illness came. At the time, Xavier had believed it was a just end to his disingenuous, lonely life. Just as he sank into his most miserable period yet, he met his salvation. They had been taking air outside the hospital and informally began to converse in the way only the ill were allowed to. Freed from the expectations of society and the ration of well minds, Xavier and Hazel had lapsed into friendship. In their normal lives such a thing would have stricken them both as wildly improper. Xavier still thanked God for the fever that had let his normal reality slip for just a moment. A moment was all he needed to fall in love with Hazel.
Xavier still remembered the girl as he first saw her: in a chair in the hospital's courtyard, white as porcelain, eyes closed beneath long-lashed lids. He had failed to see her breathing and had shuffled over in alarm. A beautiful corpse, he hated to admit it but that was how he had first perceived her. But a miracle! Upon touching his fingertips to her neck, he had detected the most delicate of pulses. She had stirred and opened luminous eyes upon him. Though her face was young, those eyes were suffered, wise, and benevolent. Surely they were the eyes of a Madonna, but more alive than any of the paintings Xavier loved. He was held to her side in rapture and the fever had loosened his inhibitions. He introduced himself, she had done the same, and then he sat on the grass beside her chair. She had been too weak to do more than laugh at the strangeness. They rambled on about anything, jumping from subject to subject like bees dart from flower to flower.
Xavier drew a deep breath and could almost smell the summer grass again. Soon he would have Hazel by his side forever and always. She was as refreshing as the first breath he would draw outside the abattoirs, more beautiful than any prose could describe. How fortunate he was! He would have been content to die of fever and let the Mandus line end, but he had been pulled from bloody darkness by an angel. His angel. For she would soon be his, as he would be hers.
They would belong to one another forever.