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26 May 2017 @ 02:18 pm
LJ Idol Season Ten: "Under Cloak Of Night"  
Under Cloak Of Night
idol season ten | week 19 | 1400 words


There were whispers at night in the bottom of the garden. Alina heard them, even in her dreams.

At times, when everything else went silent, she caught a note of something that sounded like her own name.

Out under the moonlight, she searched for answers. "Who is it?" she would ask the willow, the wandering rose, the westerly wind. "Is it you?"

None of them replied.

You are imagining things, Alina, she would think. You'll soon be inventing dragons rising from the forest.

Returning to bed, she would sleep until morning, her rest broken by murmurs too faint to fully wake her.

It was odd that she noticed nothing during the day, nothing apart from birdsong or the quiet rush of breezes. She went about her work, her hands busy dying and spinning wool or tending to her loom, while questions turned over in her mind like pebbles tumbling in a stream. Some shy creature, perhaps, or might it be nocturnal?

After dark, she took to strolling or sitting in the moonlight, listening to all that surrounded her and pondering the mystery of night. In rare moments, often just as her eyelids grew heavy, there were whispers—always too distant to be certain of the source. Once, she caught a hint of a melody that almost seemed familiar, and just as quickly, it was gone.

One warm clear night, as she was on the verge of returning to her bed, she saw man sitting under the willow tree and looking up at the stars.

"Oh!" Alina gasped.

"Forgive me for startling you," the man said. His voice was low and deep, his words like music to the ears of one who had strained so long to decipher plain speech from unknown sounds. "I am surely intruding in your garden. It is very beautiful here."

Alina smiled gently. "It is no trespass," she said. In truth, it was, but she had been alone too many years and made lonelier still by nights spent waiting for answers to be revealed by whatever might come.

The man rose slowly, and stepped forward, reaching for her hand and bowing over it. "My name is Bram, and I am most pleased to make your acquaintance."

He was beautiful, Alina noticed, tall and lean with fair skin and with hair the color of night.

"I am Alina," she said, "and bid you welcome. Is it you I've been hearing in the evenings for so long?"

"I cannot say," Bram laughed, "for I do not know what you might have heard."

They talked on for a bit, as Alina showed him the rest of the garden. The roses had a lovely aroma, the feathery heather a spicy green smell.

"What a pity the petunias have closed up," she said. "All of this is much prettier in sunlight."

Bram turned to look at her. "Many things are beautiful by day, but that which shines at night is rarer and far more precious."

Alina wasn't certain she agreed, but was too caught by the intensity of his gaze to contemplate the idea. An odd way of thinking, but he is surely entitled to it?

Bram showed her his favorite constellations and described the stories behind the ones she did not know. At last, Alina could no longer keep her eyes open. Bram begged her pardon for having kept her out so long, and thanked her for her company and bid her good evening.

Alina slept well that night, with dreams of moonlit flowers and handsome strangers.

Bram was not there the next evening, although Alina wandered outside for some time, hoping to see him. He returned the following night, bearing a few blossoms of his own.

"These are moonflowers," he said, as he offered them to her. "Perhaps you know them?"

"They're lovely!" she said. "And what a pretty fragrance they have. Are they from your own garden?"

"No," he said, "I have no garden of my own. But I have found them many times in my travels."

"Really? Where are you from?" Alina asked. "Is it far?"

"Everywhere," Bram said, his arms encompassing the fields and sky. "Everywhere and nowhere," he added.

"I imagine you've seen a great many things," Alina said. "I should love to hear about them."

They strolled through the garden and the fields beyond until Alina grew weary and Bram bid her farewell again. She went back to her cottage, turning around just before opening the door. In the distance, she could see Bram's dark outline as he stepped into the forest.

He returned every few evenings, and she did not presume to ask where he was on the nights she did not see him. He was always pleased to be with her again, and she with him. The days, once too short, began to feel long and the unslept hours in Alina's nights were over far too soon.

She found herself dressing prettily for him, and yet wondered if the colors—even the ribbons in her hair—were lost to him in the absence of real light? For Bram's part, he favored dark clothing, which lent a simple elegance to his appearance. His fair skin glowed against his black clothes and hair, and his eyes nearly black as well. She had seen the reflection of the moon in them one night, an astonishing thing that left her breathless.

As for Bram, he was equally captivated by her appearance. The pearly gleam of her face in the moonlight, the bright beacon of her hair—they entranced him, he said. He told her she was beautiful, and he could not take his eyes off of her.

"Why do I never see you by day?" Alina asked once. "Where do you go?"

"I often sleep then," Bram said, "or work that I may eat."

"Don't you miss the sunlight?" she asked.

"I see it from time-to-time, but I prefer the night—and those who are able to see its beauty."

So much was beautiful to Alina, a gift given by her mother now many years gone. All of the seasons were exquisite in their own ways, and there was a quality of loveliness to all times of the day, even evolving hour over hour into something new. Since meeting Bram, she had seen more of the night than ever before. It was more strange and majestic than she'd realized.

As the weeks became months, she was surprised to discover that she preferred the night. The days had changed for her, somehow growing dimmer simply for all of those hours in which Bram was away.

She rose later in the morning to allow more time at night to be awake on those evenings when Bram joined her. He was rarely absent now. On the few nights he missed, she was beside herself with disappointment.

She was becoming someone different, attending less and less to her work and growing thinner. Too often, she neglected to go to the market for food.

She wondered if she cared.

The nights grew colder as summer turned to autumn. She was bold enough now to entreat Bram to come inside the cottage, but he always refused. He wore a cloak against the wind when he visited, the darkness of it fluttering like wings behind him as he moved. The moonlight glinted off of his hair like lightning released from a storm.

Winter would come, Alina knew, and what would happen then? Would Bram stop coming altogether?

One late September night, the wind turned bitter, and Alina went back into the house for a blanket to wrap herself in. How much longer would it be before all she loved was suddenly gone?

Bram must have glimpsed something in her face when she returned, for he pulled her gently to him and stroked her hair.

Had she betrayed herself with the glimmer of tears?

"Alina, my love," Bram said, "I cannot bear the thought of the seasons ahead without you. Will you come with me and be mine forever?"

Yes," Alina said, her tears flowing unceasingly now. Wherever Bram might live, the loneliness without him was agony. She cared less for hearth and home than for the unrelenting need for his presence.

Bram kissed her deeply and held her close, warming her against the chill of the rising wind.

That, it was said, was how the beautiful Alina came to be The Raven's bride.


If you enjoyed this story, you can vote for it along with many other fine entries here.

planebumplanebum on May 27th, 2017 04:37 am (UTC)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 27th, 2017 07:37 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)
sagittariuspilosagittariuspilo on May 27th, 2017 06:59 am (UTC)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 27th, 2017 07:37 am (UTC)
Thank you so much!
cindy: misc fictsuki_no_bara on May 27th, 2017 01:16 pm (UTC)
i was expecting to bite her at the end - i mean, "bram", such a vampire name - but "the raven's bride" is so folktale-y and vaguely mythic, more so than "the vampire's bride", i like it better. :D the progression of the relationship is really well done, and it has a really good mysterious tone.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 27th, 2017 08:13 pm (UTC)
The Bram was a nice bit of misdirection, given what you're likely to associate it with... but in fact, it actually means Raven!

I wanted a not-too-obvious name that had gravitas and that meant 'raven' or 'rook' or 'black.' Bram fit so much better than Brandon (so trendy-sounding), Bran (cereal!), or things like Kieran or Corbin. And it has the benefit of hinting at something else. ;)

I'm glad the progression worked as well. That was what kept me up late on Thursday night-- getting in the sense of it deepening and evolving so that the ending makes sense. And yet, keeping the mystery in there as well.

So glad you enjoyed it!
i_17bingo: toileti_17bingo on May 27th, 2017 01:26 pm (UTC)
This has the feeling of a fairy tale that adults might tell. I was constantly concerned for Alina's safety, but I could also feel her loneliness and yearning. This was so good!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 27th, 2017 08:31 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I wanted a sort of dreamy, fairytale feeling to it, and a sense of potential creepiness. And yet also to have the ending come off as romantic, which I hope it did.

Thanks for reading!
favoritebeanfavoritebean on May 28th, 2017 06:45 am (UTC)
This was quite enchanting. But for some reason, I thought of warewolves rather than ravens for this setting. Perhaps it was the collection of flowers that Bram brought early on.

Nice work.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 28th, 2017 08:05 am (UTC)
I chose moonflowers because they bloom at night, and they have a nice fragrance-- and are not tropical. There were a lot of pretty night-blooming tropical plants, but that didn't fit with the geographical location!

Four-o-clocks would have worked too, but the phrasing would have been awkward for that.

I learned more than I expected about flowers that close during the night and those that close during the day, most of which was about attracting the right pollinators and discouraging others. Conclusion: you probably don't want to meet up with a night pollinator.

Glad you enjoyed the story, nonetheless! Thanks for reading. :)
bleodswean: pic#126855595bleodswean on May 29th, 2017 02:33 pm (UTC)
A fun little folk-y foray for you! I thought for sure this was a vampire tale, though! ;) I enjoyed being surprised by it!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 29th, 2017 07:03 pm (UTC)
A vampire tale would be so... ordinary, almost, these days! I wanted to mislead a little, but the raven was my goal all along. :)
marlawentmadmarlawentmad on May 29th, 2017 05:12 pm (UTC)

Wonderful! I really did superbly in creating a timeless fairy tale feeling. I am enamored.

The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 29th, 2017 07:03 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much!
penpusher: SciFi  honoring <lj user=melodymuse>penpusher on May 29th, 2017 05:49 pm (UTC)
It definitely had the feel of a vampire tale, being out at night and becoming a creature of, scanning the skies, the weather chilling to Autumnal... fascinating nonetheless!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 29th, 2017 07:06 pm (UTC)
There are a lot of dark associations with ravens-- even independent of Poe's poem-- so, while they are out and about in day, if you wanted to find a mate who would tolerate the darker side, I think you would court her or him by night.

And all of the blackness, the wings, etc... as true of ravens as bats, or even more so. :)

dmousey: owldmousey on May 30th, 2017 01:54 am (UTC)
I LOVED this! The gothic atmosphere of it. I was waiting for him to turn out to be Bram Stoker. This was just as satisfying for having not done the expected! Hugs and peace~~~
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 30th, 2017 06:46 pm (UTC)
Yay! I'd been hoping someone would mention "gothic" in relation to this story. :)

It's unfortunate that Bram Stoker is the most famous use of the name "Bram," as it actually means 'raven'. And that was definitely the story I wanted to tell. :)
(no subject) - dmousey on May 30th, 2017 07:46 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Teo Sayseternal_ot on May 30th, 2017 11:15 am (UTC)
Amazing! I didn't suspect him to be a Raven at all and that was a pleasant twist, neither did I expect a happy ending..that's what made it a great read. I loved the progression here. Good work!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 30th, 2017 06:47 pm (UTC)
Haha! I'm glad I caught you by surprise with the happy ending as well!

Inside of all the mystery and the potential darkness, this was ultimately also a love story, albeit a somewhat strange one.

So glad you enjoyed it!
rayasorayaso on May 30th, 2017 03:59 pm (UTC)
This was so wonderful! The first time I read it, I was sucked into the vampire clues, but the second time, knowing that it was the Raven, I could see how they made just as much sense for him. It was great! There was also a nice, kind of Victorian romance tone to this as well. You write outstanding misdirection stories!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 30th, 2017 07:08 pm (UTC)
I'm glad the sense of Victorian romance came through-- that was part of the feeling I was aiming for, along with the sense of worry that the more sinister aspects of the story might be leading somewhere scary.

I wanted spooky, moody, and then relieved feelings to come from all of this by the time it reached the end. I hope it did the job!
Rebeccabeeker121 on May 30th, 2017 09:37 pm (UTC)
I wonder if Alina can still go about in the day now?

This has a dreamy, gothic feel, and while I'm still a little worried for Alina at least Bram's intentions were honorable. Really nicely done.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 31st, 2017 01:01 am (UTC)
She should be able to-- the Raven can as well, but wanted a mate who could endure a lot of night. So much easier than losing her later to such an essential part of who he is.

I'm so glad you enjoyed this-- and the mood. Thanks for reading!
encrefloueencrefloue on May 30th, 2017 10:36 pm (UTC)
So lovely. Lush, vivid, lyrical. Reminded me of the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet, where they scorn the beauty of the day since the only time they have together is at night.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on June 1st, 2017 07:16 am (UTC)
Thank you! What a lovely comment, and I had forgotten that part of Romeo and Juliet, but I can see why you would be reminded of it. :)
lolaslaughter: pic#127245911lolaslaughter on May 31st, 2017 08:31 pm (UTC)
"Many things are beautiful by day, but that which shines at night is rarer and far more precious."
I especially loved this line!! I'm a night owl myself and there is a certain beauty to the night.
I really enjoyed this entry!! I'd love to know more about them!! And the twist at the end totally threw me!! This was such a lovely read!! ❤️❤️
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on June 1st, 2017 07:19 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm glad this struck such a strong chord for you.

I love the night as well, and how eerie and beautiful it can be, and it set such a mood for this story.
Hillaryxlovebecomesher on May 31st, 2017 09:42 pm (UTC)
I really like this though I did not expect him to be a raven but a vampire!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on June 1st, 2017 07:24 am (UTC)
Thank you! I wanted something more unusual than a vampire, since they're so common in TV and literature these days. In many ways, this seemed stranger, and as something like a myth it interested me far more.