LADY DONARCAEY's JEWELRY

A SANTHARIAN PARABLE

 
The Frethoni Book of Fables   
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Introduction. Lord Thorverg, a reputable jeweler, has fulfilled his wife's every wish, and yet she has doubts concerning his faithfulness. Driven by jealousy Lady Magghrin vows to find out more about Lady Donarcaey, the secret lover her husband often refers to jokingly. But is there more to it than that?

 

n the harbor town of Lorehaven there once lived a jeweler and his wife. Well off as they were they inhabited a huge estate overlooking the picturesque Gulf of Maraya and had everything one could only wish for.

Their mansion was decorated inside and outside with pearl shells as is customary among the most moneyed Avennorians, and from all the homes of those rich merchants, ship owners, traders and the lot, the jeweler and his wife certainly had the most magnificent residence in town. Even the mantelpiece in the drawing room was made of nacre with real pearls added here and there for ornamentation, gilded picture frames hung everywhere; the drinks were served in leaded crystal glasses and the dinner plates of the finest imported Uderzian porcelain. The master of the house, Lord Thorverg, had even constructed a fountain in his vast gardens according to the wish of his wife: Jets of water shot out of an array of silver fishes, whose eyes sparkled with real gems! Oh, and then of course there was the Lady Magghrin herself, who was known for wearing all those rings and bracelets and necklaces at the sumptuous monthly banquets at the mansion – after all her husband was one of the greatest jewelers of the whole kingdom! The Lady earned many an envious look, and she was ever so proud of her husband for the wealth he had provided her with and had pleasure in showing it off.

Lord Thorverg was a self-made man. He didn’t have much back in the days when he had married Magghrin of Bridgewater, and little had she. They had both been commoners upon meeting for the first time – he, a lad from Shimmerrock near Griffin’s Marl, who went to town to earn a living as a goldsmith’s apprentice, and she a dainty seamstress, who often used to while away an hour at the pier watching the ships and the sunsets during the mild Manthrian summer evenings. Well, and there they had met, at the Lorehaven docks, and a couple of months later they were already married. Now, about thirty years after, the once aspiring Thorverg had made a fortune selling jewelry from Astran up north to Cape Strata, Santharia’s southernmost point. He had become a Lord, and only recently the Thane had bestowed on him the title of Skeijorn, reserved only for the wealthiest of the wealthy. Lady Magghrin on the other hand had quit her tailoring long ago of course; rather she employed a couple of seamstresses now on her own, whose almost sole duty was to make her presentable at the next official occasion.

However, with all the riches and splendor at hand Lady Magghrin had changed in the past years. At first she had enjoyed all the gifts her husband made her, but she got used to them, aye, she even expected them: like a new sapphire ring at her birthday, or a jeweled medallion in shape of a heart with a touching engraving one New Year’s Eve. But all of that wasn’t anything special anymore after so many years. In fact, when Lord Thorverg left on longer journeys and she stayed back home hosting one of her banquets as she had done for many years, her mind began to wander. She thought about all those well-situated ladies her husband provided jewelry for, and how they must admire, yes, idolize him. She thought about him touching another woman’s hands and wrists and necks when he tried new jewelry on them, and the more often she saw him leave to spend a couple of days in another province, the more she turned jealous. Several days a month he often was away, and handsome and rich as he was, Lady Magghrin had no doubt in her mind that certain... opportunities... must have presented themselves to him. Yes, maybe he already had a mistress somewhere, had had her for months maybe, or even for years, and she had been ignorant for so long, letting him travel alone whenever he so pleased, on his so-called ‘business trips’, while she was entertaining party guests...

The more she thought about it, the more everything her husband had ever said appeared in a new light to her. Lord Thorverg was quite the joker, and she had loved him for it ever since they had met. But now she took what she had always thought was playful teasing for something else. She remembered that upon leaving for a customer he would say: “I’m off, darling! More gems demand to delight their new owner!” And when she asked who that might be, he used to add with a smirk: “Well, Lady Donarcaey of course, my secret lover, my dear! Who else?” Then they would both laugh, only to repeat the whole back and forth the next time more or less in the same manner. But could there be some truth to it? I have to find out, Lady Magghrin said to herself, and swore to learn more about Lady Donarcaey or whatever mistresses there might be – one way or another. So she tried prying some details out of her husband by posing innocuous questions that might nevertheless help her cause. However, Lady Magghrin’s attempts to shed light on her suspicions yielded no significant results. Maybe that was because her husband expected her to try to find out and thus was prepared perfectly.

Then the day came when Lord Thorverg set out for another of his trips. “To Klinsor, didn’t I tell you yesterday already?” he replied when she asked him where he was heading this time. He was already standing at the doorstep, next to the coach and the coachman was stowing away the luggage. “I’ll be back in four days or so. But you enjoy your banquet this Folkday, darling! You don’t mind me being away over the weekend, do you?” he added. “For you know, all these festivities, the long dinners, the hours and hours of small talk aren’t for the likes of me. However, I’ll be with you next time, I promise, and serve my sentence on your side if it helps to make you just a tad happier.”

“Fine then, I’ll take you up on that. No excuses next time!” Lady Magghrin replied, though, truth be told, her mind was preoccupied with other things. “But say, to Klinsor?” she then went on. “Has that secret lover of yours, you know, this Lady Donarcaey, moved eastwards per chance?”

“Ah no, thankfully not, my dear! I’ve other business to attend to this time. But now that you remind me,” her husband said thoughtfully. “We’ve made a piece for Lady Donarcaey recently, which the errand boy delivered just yesterday. I must have left the jewel case at the mantelpiece in the drawing room, along with the key to open it. Would you be so kind as to bring it down to my study and put it in a drawer until I return, for I have to make haste?”

“Yes, of course,” Lady Magghrin whispered.

“Just promise me not to open it,” Lord Thorverg said. “It’s really a very unique item, made especially for her. And you know how women are, they are a bit on the chatty side,” he laughed.

“I will,” Lady Magghrin replied almost soundlessly.

“Good bye then, my sparkling jewel,” Lord Thorverg bade her farewell, and thereupon he took his leave. His wife pulled out her handkerchief to wave after him as he drove off.

But once her husband was gone, that very same handkerchief served another purpose: It dried Lady Magghrin’s tears, which now came flowing freely over her cheeks as if a dam had just burst, as if all her doubts and fears fed into that river running down her face. Whatever had been kept inside her for a long time now erupted like a torrent. The morning was warm and bright, the sun shone on a cloudless sky, but Lady Magghrin felt as though she could be washed away, there and then, overcome by her emotions. He said it, she reminded herself. He said it, she incessantly repeated again and again. She is not just an imaginary figure! She really does exist, that Lady Donarcaey! He hadn’t even lied, he admitted it right away! Oh, what a fool I’ve been all those years, believing he were only jesting! She had hoped so desperately that there was nothing to that silly talk of his, but all of a sudden her worst fears seemed confirmed, inflamed by a slight remark.

The seeds of mistrust sown, the Lady dreaded going into the drawing room. She made a step towards it, but then hesitated, her foot leaden as if she were heading for the gallows. And yet at the same time she felt drawn towards that object her husband had provided for Lady Donarcaey, probably a gift he had personally prepared for his lover... She took another cautious step. In her mind’s eye she expected nothing but a poisonous snake sitting there on the mantelpiece: a monstrous serpent, quiet, but deadly, one that could strike at her any moment, wind itself around her, strangle her, punish her for the naivety, carelessness in face of the obvious, the undeniable, which she had chosen to ignore for so long. She couldn’t bear looking at that case her husband must have chosen for his... his... mistress. For that she must be, this conniving Lady Donarcaey: her husband's longtime mistress. Finally it has become clear.

The Jewelry Case

View picture in full size Picture description. The jewelry case for Lady Donarcaey. Image drawn by Bard Judith.

Lady Magghrin composed herself. She went in, up the stairs, straight towards the drawing room, wiping away the tears, brushing aside her unsettling thoughts. Maybe she was just imagining things, she tried to convince herself one more time. Maybe there was nothing to it, maybe it was all in her head? Then again, how could she know for sure? Perhaps she had jumped to a conclusion too hastily, she considered. There had been so many kind words her husband had spoken, so many tender moments with him, she now remembered. But... what if he used the very same compliments and shared such affectionate moments with another woman secretly as well?

There it was, resting on the mantelpiece. Just as her husband had told her: A small, beautiful sandalwood case, inlaid with golden swirls and meticulously crafted ornaments, complete with decorative beads and the tiniest of gems worked into the design. A most beautiful box indeed, one she’d admire herself very much, if it only belonged to her and weren’t made for her husband’s lover.

Lady Magghrin picked it up, weighed it in her hand. It felt light, but it might contain the most precious of stones, or something of significance only for the both of the two lovers others couldn’t possibly understand, a token of his devotion. There must be a good reason he doesn’t want me to open it, she thought. Eagerly she grabbed the key, but then reconsidered. No, she didn’t want to see it, didn’t want to know, didn’t want to learn what he had made for that wench, didn’t want to be reminded how much he desired her.
Instead Lady Magghrin rushed down the stairs, into her husband’s study, opened the first drawer and dumped the jewel case in it. Like a hot coal she couldn’t bear to hold any longer than absolutely necessary. There, it was done. As he had wished.

The following days proved torturous. Time and again Lady Magghrin’s thoughts returned to the last moments with her husband, his request, and then the ghost of Lady Donarcaey, along with the realization that this once believed 'phantasmal customer’ was no figment of the imagination, but a real person, a woman of flesh and blood. Every time she thought of her she couldn’t help but picturing her husband together with this striking beauty, helping her put on a necklace, her shoulders bare and immaculate, her blond hair fragrant with the aroma of lavender and jasmine. The seductress’s voice she thought of as soft and breathy, the laugh of being warm and infectious, and in the presence of her lively, ever bantering husband there was no doubt that it would ring out again and again in amusement; the sweeter and more innocent she imagined it, the more it sounded like sheer mockery to her, the cheated wife back home. Needless to say, Lady Magghrin caught very little sleep these nights.

Folkday evening, at the banquet she held, Lady Magghrin, was barely herself. She didn’t enjoy the musical performances that were given or any of the conversations for that matter, drank more than she used to and eventually had to excuse herself early on, despite being the host. So the party dissipated long before midnight, and the lady of the house was all alone again with herself, aside from the handful of servants of course. But her heartache was with her as well, and, alas, it had no plans of joining the guests’ early departure.

Thus Lady Magghrin dropped into her bed, and the burden that she carried with her made her fall into a deep, deep sleep, filled with agonizing nightmares. Hours later, sometime in the middle of the night, she woke up in fright. She lit a candle and watched her sorry self in the mirror, sobbing uncontrollably. It was then that, through a veil of tears, her eyes fell on a small object on the carpet, a silver key: It was the one for the jewel case, she understood, which must have fallen out of her pocket while undressing. Lady Magghrin picked it up. Apparently she had forgotten to put it in the drawer along with the jewel case. Indeed, she remembered now. But as these distraught moments – when she had rushed down into the study with the case in hand – returned to her, all the anguish she had felt came back with renewed fervor.

I’ve had it! she said to herself and jumped up. Taking the key she dashed down into the study. Haunted by visions of her husband in the arms of another and driven by her curiosity she unlocked the jewel case...

Lo and behold, the case was – could it be? – empty! There was a purple velvet inlay, but nothing on it. Lady Magghrin let her fingers run through the folding of the fabric, carefully feeling her way through the various creases to maybe find a tiny, precious gem that might be hidden within any of them – but to no avail. She turned the case upside down, searched the drawer lest she had overseen something dropping out – nothing. How could that be? The case had been locked all the time! Or has it?

The servants couldn’t have stolen it. Impossible. Right? The errand boy? Had her husband checked the contents of the box before he left at all? Upon opening the case he’d have found out immediately! Unless the jewelry had disappeared later... Or was it... – Lady Magghrin froze as the thought occurred to her – was it... that she had opened the case herself? Was it possible? That she had done so when she was drunk after the banquet? Had she disposed of the jewelry in her rage? She couldn’t recollect any of that. But maybe she didn’t want to remember. And maybe it wasn’t important anymore to remember where a piece of jewelry had disappeared to when her marriage was in tatters, when the only man she had ever loved prepared jewelry for his mistress... – And she? She even was serving as his personal messenger, carrying his jewelry around!

Well, whatever might have happened, Lady Magghrin didn’t regret anything. She slammed the drawer shut. It wasn’t her business anymore.

The next day Lord Thorverg arrived back on the estate. He was right on time for afternoon tea. The servants, and Lady Magghrin of course, welcomed him, as they always did. While sleep-deprived and agitated, Lady Magghrin tried to remain calm and restrained. However, she was determined to confront her husband as soon as she got her chance.

“Care for some tea?” she asked, and Lord Thorverg agreed.

After a while it was her husband himself who touched on the subject that Lady Maggrhin couldn’t stop thinking about: “Oh, I’ll have to deliver the jewel case for Lady Donarcaey right after, haven’t I?” he brought up. “You’ve put it in my study, right?”

“Of course,” Lady Magghrin answered. “You find it in the first right-hand drawer of your desk.” And she thought: Suits me well! Let him deliver an empty box. Lady Donarcaey will be delighted when she’s receiving this little courtesy...

In the evening, long after supper, which Lady Magghrin had eaten on her own, her husband returned from his errand. He sat down on the porch with his wife to a glass of Bard’s Own, and they gazed together at the fascinating constellations formed by the stars.

“So?” Lady Magghrin approached her husband, ready for a serious conversation. “Did the Lady like it?"

“Oh,” said her husband, “we’ll see, but I’m quite sure of it. After all, she was delighted to see that jewel case, that’s for certain. It’s quite an extraordinary piece of work, isn’t it?” His wife nodded absent-mindedly. Who cared about the jewel case? “But as for what’s in the case, sweetheart: She hasn’t opened it when I was there. I trust she’ll get to that later, together with her husband, when they both will be renewing their wedding vows.”

Lady Magghrin swallowed hard. She hadn’t expected that.

Lady Donarcaey – married? Even more surprising was that she would renew her wedding vows! Lady Magghrin had been prepared for anything, but not this. Was he still lying? Regardless, she suddenly felt overwhelmed by guilt. As much as her suspicions had festered in the past days, now everything seemed to be blown away by a fresh, icy breeze of reality catching up with her.

“What... what’s in it, dear? What’s in the case?” she asked sheepishly, aware that it was empty and that she probably was even responsible for the disappearance of its invaluable contents.

“Ah, I can’t tell you that, dear,” Lord Thorverg replied. “I already told you that it is something very special, something very personal to her. Something that reminds her of the time before she was married. What’s in there only matters to the two of them, to those who found themselves, and anyone else could hardly understand its importance.”

“Well, you’ve made it, now haven’t you? So you know how much it is worth, don’t you?” Lady Magghrin’s eyes widened. “What if... what if it happens to be gone? What if there’s nothing in that case you just delivered?”

“Well,” her husband chuckled, “then that must be what reminds her of the time before she got married, wouldn’t it?” He sat back, considering the idea. “Let’s see: Maybe she was just a gal from the village then and didn’t have any jewelry or big gifts either, for she didn’t need any of that. I guess the love of a young lad must have been enough for her. How’s that for a thought? – Then again, with customers like that who only order jewel cases with no jewels in them, we wouldn’t get much business done.”

Lady Magghrin smiled about his words and wiped away a tear from her eye. He always came up with the strangest explanations! But she couldn’t hold back any longer about her opening the case. She had to confess that she had found it empty, or at least that she didn’t know what had happened to the contents.

“I have something to tell you...” she finally said with a quivering voice.

But her husband cut her off. “First, let me tell you something,” he said. “I’ve got an idea: Isn’t it time to renew our wedding vows as well after so many years? At least the thought occurred to me a while ago. But what kind of present could I possibly pick out for you, sweetheart? We’ve been so fortunate that I fear you’ve got everything already you could ever wish for. That, and a good deal of jealousy – for it so happens that I know the love of my life at least a tiny little bit.”

Lady Magghrin's head drooped. Maybe it was she who didn’t know him well enough, she thought, and rather envisioned him what he might be then what he really was. She felt regret.

“You see,” her husband continued. “I have a little confession to make. I didn’t visit Lady Donarcaey this afternoon. I went to my old comrade Haerneph, on Threepswitch Ave, you know, and had a little chat with him for old time’s sakes. That’s because to my knowledge there are no Donarcaeys living around here in Lorehaven, so I’d have troubles finding some, even if I wanted to. Though for some reason you seem to have made a sport out of it to keep looking for that fabled lady, don’t you?

Anyway, that’s at least why I happen to have an extra jewel case. You like its design, don’t you? – Now for lack of a better spot it now rests right at your nightstand, naturally with everything in it, which I otherwise would have given to Lady Donarcaey. Doesn’t matter whether you peeked in it already or not, but in your heart you know what is in there, and what it might remind you of, right?” Then he kissed her tenderly. “But enough about jewelry boxes, my dear. Excuse my rambling. – You wanted to say?”

Lady Magghrin didn’t say anything at all for a while. Her mouth agape while she was listening she just couldn’t. She embraced her husband though, wouldn't let go of the treasure of her life, and then she kissed him back and whispered softly in his ear: “I love you.”

And that’s the story of Lady Donarcaey’s jewelry and how it contributed to Lady Magghrin and Lord Thorverg living happily ever after – because in fact, that’s exactly what they did. Now some say, certain marriages last because it’s the jewelry that keeps them alive. Others however last because of the lack of it. This is one of those.
 


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Parable written by by Artimidor View Profile