Peer Review by Indexianna (Latvia)

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golden | #ManateeYellowContest

By: Anha


golden godchild, gleaming, gilded and splendid. beloved of the queen and her coming proclaimed by the gospels. they gifted her gowns of gossamer silk and gloves of glowing gauze. golden godchild, they whispered among themselves, she was to be perfect. nothing less than perfect, for if not her, who else could contest?

    they named her aurelia, for it meant she would be reminded of their promises every time they called her name. aurelia, they'd say, golden girl-child. you will deliver us, spin our debts from our fingers and return with shimmering leafs of gold. that was her purpose. she was born to serve. so although they gifted her gowns of gossamer silk and gloves of glowing gauze, all she could see was the gleam in their eyes, whispering through lengthened lashes and squinting lids, you will return our gifts threefold.

    she took lessons every day, a new wizened tutor every other week as she quickly surpassed what they could teach her. she wrote in ink distilled with shimmering gold, the grandeur of her mere notes stark and shining against the aging yellow parchment. these were king lucio's papers, they had told her, they are relics, and you are honoured to grace them with your script. her childlike scrawl did not become of her ink. they hired her a calligrapher.

    the years passed, and the golden coffers began to empty seemingly of their own accord. the golden godchild seemed to sweat and cry ichor, desperation and yellowing bruises from her innate failure beginning to consume her and threatening to claim her another victim of midas. her father whipped her, riding crop handle bronze and tarnished, handprints remaining where the lustre had rubbed away. she knew that her golden reputation had been shattered, but how could they expect so much from a child? barely past her seventeenth winter, she had spent most of her life within the palace walls of Lydia. skin as pale as her nightgown shift, she had never experienced the warmth of the summer sun or the chill of winter's snowfall. if she could not find a way to create a golden future for herself at least, aurelia knew she would perish. if not in body, in mind and spirit.

    but then summer came.

    make no mistake, winds still whipped about and stung at exposed cheeks, and sleet pelted down on roofs and wary travellers, but this summer held the same warmth and joy that was to be expected of the season. companionship and offhanded complaints. his name was cyrus. and he brought her gold.

    not the kind that would fill her kingdom's coffers, but it made her rich in life. and for the first time, the golden godchild felt happy. in his presence, liquid happiness filled her cheeks and she laughed for the first time since her childhood - a sound sure to attract any suitors had she not been born with such a duty, for it was such a tinkling and gently honest thing.

    cyrus brought her stories, tales that knitted history and fantasy so seamlessly, she couldn't help but fall into the fantastical worlds he brought every time he came to visit her. she brought them drinks of dandelion and honey, and they would talk for hours about stories, worlds where gold was never an issue, and worlds where love could buy almost anything.

    "i'd like that world please," she had said, upon hearing that particular story. "i'd like it to sweep me away on a spectral steed so that i might never have to be golden again."

    cyrus had smiled his storyteller's smile (he told aurelia that all dreamers and storytellers could smile so, and she had asked him which he was, and he replied with did he have to choose?) and sipped at his mug of dandelion and honey. "we'd all prefer worlds to escape into that make our world seem like a dreadful thing," he mused.

    "but this world is a dreadful thing," she insisted. "greed runs rampant in the hearts and minds of noblemen and women, and i am powerless but to help to provide them with a temporary means to a never-ending suffering."

    "say you were not so powerless," said cyrus, all pretence of fantasy gone from his voice. aurelia indulged in cyrus' lilting tones, to her it was like fine wine and velvet, comfort and pleasure rolled into a single sultry sound. "say you could do whatever you pleased, with no repercussions. what then, golden child?"

    cyrus appeared to be only a season or so older than aurelia (they'd never spoken of each others' ages, they simply hadn't needed to), but his parabolic turns of phrase and distant gazes towards the East made it seem like he was eons older. he never usually addressed the girl by her most hated title, but now, it seemed to draw significance to her decision.

    "if there were a reality where i was not who i am now," she began slowly, glancing into the swirling contents of her cooling mug for a moment, and then back to cyrus' vacant eyes, "i would leave Lydia and her ties to me forever. i would travel to Kyrie, land of sunshine, eternal blossoms and cascades. i would like to feel cold water on my face when the rain falls and smell the scent of lilies when they flower, i would like to taste salt tears when i weep from happiness, i want to feel dirt beneath my nails when i bathe at the end of the day, i want-"

    she was breathless and shaking, and cyrus waited patiently.

    "i want to be free."

    cyrus stood from his seat and pulled his brown cloak around his shoulders. aurelia also stood, but for what purpose, she did not know.

    her companion looked sideways at her, the beginnings of a crooked grin etching themselves onto his brown and weathered face. "now dear, that's a wish i can grant."

ten years later, she called herself aeronwen, for she was no longer simply golden, but resplendent, and cyrus, well, after escorting her to Kyrie, cyrus the dreaming storyteller vanished without a trace. but she left a mug of honey and dandelion tea for him on the windowsill nevertheless. it was always empty when she came to collect it.

she no longer cringed when her lotus-flower lover called her golden, but simply kissed her and smiled. golden meant something different now.


check out Majestically Awkward Manatee's contest here

Message to Readers

i couldn't help myself. i indulged myself in thyon nero too much to be free of his influence, even in writing.

edit: special thanks to loveletterstosappho for pointing out a mistake in the last version

Peer Review

I love how poetic this piece is. Even though you write it in story-form, your attention to the important details are spectacular; I wish I could write with as beautiful of imagery as you weave into your writing. Also, I'm a huge Greek Mythology fan and caught most of your references. I love tying mythologies into my work, and you do it very well.

So, I'm assuming that the "they" you repeatedly mention in paragraphs one through three are the gospels? Whomever they are, they seem to be forgotten after we meet the character Cyrus. Do not "they" want something ("their gifts returned threefold"?) from Aurelia/Aeronwen. Is it that Cyrus frees Aurelia/Aeronwen from their service by moving her to Kyrie? Or do they just grow old and forget? It kind of seems that they are forgotten after we meet Cyrus, like I said earlier. Perhaps in the end (like the part you put in the footnotes) you could explain that further.

Reviewer Comments

I hope this was the piece you wanted me to review!