Thursday, 11 March 2010
It was said that the six Sanguine sisters were the most beautiful women in Regenza, the former Capital of our dear nation. I cannot answer for that, I was not even born when they were said to be in their heyday. But my great-grandmother Ygraine Vermouth knew them. I believe she was at school with the younger Sanguines. They were beauties when children and grew up into bright, sparkling beauties surrounded by young men and a few women. The Sanguine family lived in Beauregard (pronounced locally as Brigard) not the most beautiful part of the city ironically. Their mother Thistle was gentle and sweet-natured and a terrific maker of clothing a skill she passed onto her daughters at an early age (theirs, not hers). The result was that the Sanguine Sisters grew up as highly in demand for fashionable clothing as their mother. As such, they soon became the richest schoolchildren and not being obsessed with money, but fun, they would organise parties for their peers.
Naturally they had their enemies. There were those who were jealous of their beauty and charm and even of their kindness. The Harkenwell Dress is still spoken of in Beauregard in memory of how the six sisters spent a good deal of money making a whole wardrobe for Lilia Harkenwell the highlight of which was a silk satin, taffeta and velvet dress of dark purple with matching shoes that they bought to match. Lilia was not a rich girl, on the contrary, she had lived barely and scarcely without complaint, but she was quiet and gentle and Sylvia Sanguine adored her. Lilia was a shy yet pretty girl with dark hair and deep eyes. She always wore her hair scraped back from her face for work, but Sylvia and her sisters determined to give her the most wonderful 21st birthday there had ever been. The wardrobe and the dress were given as a present to Lilia and when she broke down and wept at her own party, Sylvia embraced her and told her that they should always be friends. In retrospect, it was lucky that this was the case.
Illianne Scattergood moved to Regenza when the Sanguines were in their early twenties. Illianne had moved there with her mother who was a bitter and vitriolic woman with a wild and thuggish husband. Illianne was not bullied because her mother was dangerous when her patience was tried, loved her daughter and was a particularly dangerous witch. Let me be clear, I do not mean to use the word 'witch' as a term of abuse, Mrs Scattergood was actually a witch of some considerable power.
Nonetheless, the Sanguines unknowing of her mother's power, or indeed her own tried to befriend Illianne treating her with great kindness and affection. It was not returned, for Illianne I regret to say had taken after her mother in bitterness and vitriol. Wolfram Tollworthy called her a poison bottle on legs. The next morning, Wolfram was half wolf and half ram. Literally. He was chased out of the city and shot dead by a farmer who thought he might be a threat. The Tollworthy's reported the matter to the police who advised them to move for their own safety. The Sanguines became very quiet for a while out of respect.
One winter Mrs Scattergood turned up at the Sanguine house and demanded to see the six sisters. It seemed that they had arranged a winter party in the park and Mrs Scattergood was displeased with this. She had arranged a 'meeting' of the Witches Association of Regenza in the park at midnight on that particular night (something to do with a full moon). Her manner was arrogant and brusque and as a result the sisters felt justifiably put out and dug in their rather elegant high heels. They would have their winter party and the ladies of Mrs Scattergood's Association (she had not told them it was a witches meeting) were welcome to join the festivities. Mrs Scattergood was not given to such jolly things as festivities. She swore they would be sorry and left more in anger than in sorrow, her stout boots clomping along the street.
Now it also seems that young Lilia Harkenwell had done a little housework for Mrs Scattergood and discovered that her employer was a witch. She did not like to mention this to the Sanguines who would have cried, 'For shame, the woman may be a little prickly, but calling her a witch?!'
So instead, Lilia befriended a mouse who lived in the house, by feeding it outside in the coal house. The mouse was most communicative and was happy to see what it might do to help Lilia keep her friends safe. Three nights before the party, while the Sanguines sat at home sewing and talking to each other with much excitement and merriment, Lilia met the mouse who informed her that the antidote to the spell, though he was not sure what the spell would do, was 'a drop of fresh blood upon the transformed object' or at least that was what Mrs Scattergood had told her daughter. Lilia thanked the mouse and gave it a whole sausage for which it was most grateful. She dressed up and along with many other charming creatures headed for the park with a small fruit knife in her clutch bag.
The party began and there was much music and merriment amid the snow. The dresses were fine creations and the Sanguine Sisters were admirable hostesses. They made everyone feel both welcome and charmed. Sylvia paid special attention to her dear Lilia and sang to her a song of love and of longing that moved Lilia deeply. However, almost half an hour into the festivities, storm clouds gathered and the wind began to howl up high. The partygoers moved towards the many pavilions in the park, but before the Sanguine Sisters could move, their shoes broke open and their toes seemed to push down deep into the hard icy ground. Their legs seemed to pull together and reaching up their arms and the hair on their heads seemed to spread wide. Their bodies writhing in bewilderment became solid and fixed. The partygoers screamed in terror and fled. Even though Lilia had known of a spell she was so shocked she fainted, collapsing in the snow.
When she awoke, her face was numb with cold for her tears had frozen upon her face and upon each other as they fell. She struggled against the cold of her own body and raising herself up, she staggered towards the trees. Her fingers could barely hold the fruit knife, but she gritted her teeth and set her jaw against the pain. Then she cut her palm to make her blood flow. It was so cold that the blood had retreated from her skin and weeping still, she pushed the knife deep into her wrist. Now her slow blood seemed to sigh out of her, trickling sluggishly along her hand. She smeared the blood on each tree and stood back letting the knife fall. She was so cold that she collapsed to her knees and watched as her blood pooled in her palm and slid along her fingers to the snow. She remembered Snow White's mother and whispered,
"Skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood and hair as black as a raven."
Her head had become heavy with weariness and was bowed. So she did not see the transformation reverse itself. She was only vaguely aware of a tender arm about her and voices that seemed to come from a long way off. Her arm was bound with torn silk to stop the blood flowing and she was carried away until she slipped into unconsciousness and knew no more.
When she awoke, she was in a warm bed and Sylvia Sanguine was sitting beside her holding her hand.
"My dear Lilia, what have you done? Did I say something to hurt you my love?" Sylvia asked.
Lilia smiled and shook her head, her fingers closing weakly about the hand that held hers. It seemed that Mrs Scattergood, having been thwarted in her spell had herself been turned into a mouse and been eaten by the cat next door. Illianne had grabbed all of her mother's books and equipment and left her father for distant parts. How do I know all this?
My dear, I know all the right people in Regenza, but I know this, because Lilia was my great-aunt and lived happily for many years with Sylvia Sanguine who was a great deal of fun right up to her nineties.