As Aurora shyly unfurled her rosy robes against the spangled cloak of night, and diamond dewdrops sequined the velvet lawn like haughty jewels on the altar cloth of some popish ceremony, several resplendent carriages dashed across the causeway of the Olympian River. The acclaimed arms of Zamorna — per bend sinister vert and or — which struck such dread into the hearts of his enemies, flashed and gleamed in the early rays, followed by de Rubempre’s vairy argent and gules.
Thus wrote Zamorna, and then paused and gnashed his teeth at the interloper who was riding in his carriage.
A third carriage followed behind, holding the architect Goudy, de Rubembre’s second, and the surgeon, McCoy.
All descended onto smooth, grassy parkland alongside the river. Arms were presented; the dueling pistols were inlaid with ebony and silver, whose delicate artistry belied their deadly purpose.
The paces were counted out. The duelists removed their jackets, and Goudy called, “Ready, aim, fire!”
Two bright flashes rend the morning air; two loud cracks, like whips, ring out; two puffs of smoke envelope the scene.
Here Zamorna paused again. Much as he wanted to kill the imposter, he found, at last, that he could not allow Lucien to win the duel. It was unsupportable.
Lucien lay stretched out on the grass, gasping and bleeding. Branwell stood still. The pistol fell from his hand.
“My lord, are you hurt?” exclaimed Goudy.
Branwell said nothing, but he put his hand to his arm, where he felt a hot stinging, and his hand came away wet. A bullet had grazed his upper arm, and the blood was staining his shirt sleeve.
McCoy knelt over Lucien. He was not dead, but seriously wounded in the chest. The seconds helped lift him into his carriage, which sped away.
As Branwell and Gaudy bowled back towards town behind Zamorna’s splendid horses, Gaudy prattled on about his idea for creating a subterranean ballroom inside a salt cave, with narrow shafts bored through the dome, so that you could see the stars at midday.
Branwell was silent. He had nearly killed a man, but he was thinking of something else; not death, but sleep.
Zamorna’s head sank upon the desk, and he drifted off, pen in hand.
Minutes later, it seemed, the same horrible blunderbuss explosion that had awakened him the morning before repeated itself. He was cold, his neck was stiff, and the side of his face was creased from the hard surface of the desktop. But he leapt up; there was urgent business afoot. He had to write himself back to Glass Town.
He ensconced himself in the parlor, surrounded by the three sisters, who sewed diligently as he chewed his quill. It must be the mirror, he mused — it had to be the mirror in Una’s boudoir.
Branwell awoke in a room of more than Oriental splendor, buoyed upon pillows of silk and goose down. He immediately rang for his carriage, and gave directions to Una de Trois’ townhouse.
Charlotte looked over Zamorna’s shoulder. “That is not right,” she said. “Why would he debase himself with the company of one who had plotted against him?”
Zamorna asked her, “Why did you make her into a traitor? I liked her.”
“She wasn’t worthy of you,” Charlotte replied.
“Ah ha!” he exclaimed suddenly, scribbling excitedly: Little as he wished to see the scheming enchantress, he must need return to her rooms, for he had left his signet ring sitting on the bureau in her inner sanctum.
He jumped up, calling: “Follow me, sisters!”
He bounded up the stairs to his bedroom. He stood before the mirror in anticipation. The sisters surrounded him, gazing into the glass. And the image began to waver.
While the faces of the sisters remained clear and serious, the face of the man in their midst began to fade. As if an invisible artist were scrubbing out his image, Zamorna saw his own features blur and disappear. In their place he saw the ugly visage of the redheaded personage who had impelled his transport to the parsonage. Glimmering in the background were hints of silver, velvet, and lace. He reached out his hand… What does he do next? Please return to the top of the page to vote on what happens next!