by Strand Zero (CGH)
Katrin sat alone on the wall, a short way from the frosted lake. The quiet of the night left her tortured by her thoughts. No distractions, only pain of heart and pointless questions. For only he could answer them, and she now had no right to ask.
Katrin sat this night a free woman. The love spell that had held her to Agobard had been lifted by the wizard Vector. The years of enforced love were past, as Agobard now loved another in some plan of Dirk Blackpool's. But, what was there now for Katrin?
All plans she had made for the future were with him in mind. At every mental turn she could not avoid his needs, his interestsand his desires.
Each of these considerations carried the longing to please him, to be pleasing to another. Even acts of criticism, as Agobard called them, were motivated by concern. All for the man to whom she had given her life.
Each remembered consideration now also carried the equal knowledge that the strength of her feelings had been artificial. But these thoughts did nothing to relieve the pain of lost love.
She again tried to plan for her separate future. Agobard was more than generous to her in regards to lands, wealth and servants. She could move toward any goal she set for herself.
But, each future she envisioned became fractured by a love of habit, not heart. Plans she made now were from her mind's love, no longer from her heart's dreams.
The heartstring has be cut, she thought, but was it because of the potion years ago or the words of Agobard. He had made his position crystal clear. He wanted her no longer.
Katrin breathed in deeply, and it was released as a long shuttering sigh. She had realized in the afternoon that the pain in her chest was not from her heart, but from the muscles she stressed with each sigh.
"My lady Katrin," came the hard smooth voice of the woman whom Agobard now said he loved. "Your servants are worried that you have not eaten all day."
Only a day? thought Katrin, I feel as if a lifetime has passed.
Debora was dressed in a gown of fine lace, which seemed internally radiant, but which was not suited to the grounds far from manicured gardens of the manor. Katrin did not think for a moment of the worn dress and coat she had donned this morning. Katrin turned from the lake to examine Debora. They were both of the northern type in appearance, similar in temperament and interests. Debora's hair more curly, but Katrin's face was fairer. So, Katrin wondered, is it that which had turned Agobard's heart?
"I have no interest." Katrin said, thinking she had always considered this woman a friend. Not close, but still a friend.
"But you must keep up your strength."
"There is nothing, for which I need strength. Life is void, cold, futile.
"I love a man, I do not love. I love a man, who does not love me. I don't love the man.
"I only think I love the man."
"I will pray for you, Katrin," Debora said softly.
"If it will make you feel better."
"No!" Katrin looked back to the lake, and sighed.
They stayed silent, for a time.
"I would understand if you hated me," Debora said firmly.
"I don't hate you. I don't hate anyone."
"I had my husband taken from me. I know what you are feeling," Debora said with the assurance of a curtain fact. "My man took another to his bed. I had no choice but to hate and leave."
"Then why take Agobard from me? Why be what you hate?" Katrin had voiced one of her unanswered questions.
Debora left in so.
Again they stood and sat silent in the night of stars in the sky and in the lake.
"Lady Debora, I do not have any feeling for you at all. Only the acts of Agobard have hurt me, that he has cast away our love with no reason of care or physical justification. He ends our years together for reasons of his heart, which he never shared with the one person who could never harm him.
"He only canceled the love potion, in the hope that I would hate him for my years of slavery. That he could justify his abandonment of me, by my angry departure.
"But, I didn't leave.
"I never hated him. I think I love him still. I pray that it will fade in time."
Debora turned her back to Katrin. "I have always liked you, and would like to have you for a friend. But if that is not possible. I understand."
Katrin turned to look at Debora's back. "I have always admired you and your easy ways in conversation at parties and with servants. I hope that we can be friends, in the future, when I have gotten over Agobard.
"I can not think of any reason to avoid friendship. To be your friend can only be to my advantage."
Debora hissed, "How can that be true?"
"I can, I must, make choices now, without considering Agobard's feelings. I think my love for him is strong, but now only beautiful memories. How could feeling jealousy for your maneuvers do me any good?
"When you take the potion you'll see how glorious all things are." Katrin's voice sounded awed. As if remembering a religious experience, memories of love and sharing shined in her mind's eye.
Bluntly Debora said, "I am not taking the love potion." Proudly she turned to face Katrin.
"Agobard has agreed."
Katrin was stunned. To be replaced in Agobard's heart by someone who will not be making the same commitment that she had made. Could Debora think her love for a man could be more enduring than the magical harnessing of a love potion? How many years could she pretend to love?
Katrin stood and faced Debora. "Why have you done this?"
The two women looked at each other. Silent for a time, then reaching out as one they clasped hands. Katrin's was warm, the other's chilled, and Debora said something too soft to be heard.
Katrin wanted to scream, to demand a louder response to her question. Suddenly she became aware of the way her body had tightened and her breathing rasped. Then, deep within her, a tattered heartstring loosened.
Taking a deep breath, she sighed it out. The tightness felt like it literally drained from inside. A wave traveled down through her eyes, neck, shoulders and out of her feet.
She felt so light. A thought, a realization had relieved doubt and cleared her mind. Freed her.
Dropping Debora's hands, Katrin looked about. The night, the whole world was different because of a notion. The thought seemed to change the world more that the lifting of the enchantment.
"Lady Debora, thank you." Her sudden bliss was so warm. "I would like to be alone now please."
"Of course, but you should eat something," she responded hesitantly.
"I will, thank you," Katrin added quickly. "Please don't you pray for me, but if Agobard will pray for me I would like that. But I leave it to you to ask him, or not."
Katrin turned back to the lake.
In that moment. Beautiful.
Katrin felt so free for now. The reason might not ever be known. But there was an answer for her mind that her heart did not need to hear. She had now mourned what was, and now she could see more clearly.
Katrin sat again, and smiled, as she made plans to visit her father. Then all of Aperans awaited.
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