The Demon in the Mask

Venetian mask

Venetian mask

When you touch me my heart melts
(And anything you did wrong I forgive) Yeah, yeah. So you play me and take advantage
Of the love that I feel for you

Why you wanna hurt me so bad
I believed in you that’s why I’m so mad. Now I’m drowning in disappointment. And it’s hard for me to even look at you

-Recorded by Heather Headly
“I wish I Wasn’t (Radio Edit)”
Songwriters: James Wright, Terry Lewis, and James Harris Iii

Four strong, brutal men held Andre motionless in the tiny cell of the North Tower as the unholy Priest locked the iron mask over his face. He didn’t resist, though in fact, it would have been impossible for him to do so. He had failed and this was the consequence and his penitence. If she would have just killed him as she had so many others, at least his soul would have known peace. To be kept alive like this though was worse than an eternity in Hell.

Only after Andre’s handsome and nobel visage was encased in the cold metal did she finally appear. With a nod, the four armed thugs accompanied the Priest out of the cell. Katia took the key to the mask from the Priest and in return presented him with the only key to the door of the tower’s solitary cell. The eldritch clergyman ceremoniously locked it and then returned that key to the Princess as well.

Once the door was secure, she spoke solemnly to the men, “Leave us.”

They obeyed immediately and without a word. Everyone did, everyone except Andre.

The Princess walked up to the barred window in the cell door. For his part, the man in the iron mask kept his distance. He could see her eyes glistening, the sorrow, the pain. He had betrayed her just as he had planned, but unfortunately had not moved quickly enough when the moment to strike presented itself. Had he truly fallen in love with her, this embodiment of evil? Is that why he was able to inflict only a minor wound?

“I would have given you anything. Even now, my heart melts with love for you. You betrayed me. You tried to murder me. I was beguiled not just by your handsome face and your pleasing shape but by your gentleness and compassion. I’ve known so little of it in my existence.

I can no longer bear to see your face, thus you shall never again be released from that mask, nor will you ever again see the light of day except from the window of your cell. You will be my guest here for the rest of your life, and when you die, I shall mourn you for a thousand years.”

She paused waiting for what she did not know. Did she expect him to beg? He was above that being heroic and courageous. He would tolerate any indignity, any torture in silence. She loved even that about him.

“I have failed my people, my country, and my God, Katia.” When he finally spoke, his voice was angelic, almost like the deity he worshiped. “I accept my fate at your hands for it is the price I must pay for my defeat and my weakness. My only consolation is that if my face remains in eternal darkness, so does yours.”

Princess Katia moved several steps back from the door but he could still see her. She was dressed in the finest velvet and silk, robed from head to foot, including the hood that embraced her head. She wore gowns of splendor and richness that could only be rivaled by the royal coat of Joseph or the elegance of the garments of Solomon. Her final accoutrement was unique.

The mask she wore could have been ivory, though no one was sure, inlaid with gold, silver, tiny precious gemstones, and elements unknown to any civilized person.  Only her deep green eyes and full crimson lips were visible. The mask was the source of her power, but instead of plunging the silver dagger blessed by the Archbishop himself, into her black heart, he had only managed to render a single scratch in her mask, forehead to chin, just to the left of the nose.

He watched silently as she permitted some few tears to streak the mask, escaping the bondage of her eyes, one following the slender channel created by his blade,  and then dropping full from her covering and onto the cold, stone floor.

Time passed with the rise and fall of the sun and the coming and going of the seasons.

Andre had a single barred window through which he could look outside at the world. The North Tower was situated on the edge of the sea cliff, beyond which lay the endless ocean. Summers were generally pleasant with their warm breezes and the call of the sea birds. Occasionally, he caught sight of fishing boats and if the wind was right, he could even hear the fishermen calling out to one another. They were the voices of rough, honest men, plying their trade, working with their hands and backs as God had meant for such as them.

He had grown up in the monastery, left at the doorstep in a basket as a babe, no doubt the bastard child of a young maid who had indiscreetly paired with some farmer’s son or perhaps a young Lord touring the provinces and sampling what “entertainment” there was to be had.

He was taught first by the monks, gentle quiet souls who tended their gardens, and taught him simple chores, growing in difficulty and complexity as he did.

Then he went to the parish school by day and received teaching from the Priests and Nuns. He learned of God and Jesus, but they also taught him writing, reading, and the spoken word, in French, German, Latin, and Greek. He even managed a small bit of that barbaric English. He learned the sciences, literature, and art. The Priests were most impressed with his intellectual prowess and cognitive acumen and considered admitting him into their order.

However, though always a beautiful child, as he attained his majority, he became truly handsome, almost demoniacally so, tempting more than one Nun to consider forsaking their vows of chastity, though none would ever admit it except in confession.

The Cardinal Gabriel Bernard Desroches visited the parish one spring and spied the young man, named Andre Paul LeClair by the monks because, after all, they had to call him something. Unknown to most and never mentioned by those who did know, the Cardinal had particular tastes, specifically young boys and men. He at first considered making Andre his aide or secretary, a traveling companion to warm his nights and his loins, but then one of his attending Priests made a bold suggestion, one that, if successful, might even put Gabriel Bernard Desroches in line for the Papacy.

Before all that though, the endeavor had to be shrouded in utmost secrecy. Young Andre did leave the monastery with the Cardinal and his attendants, but not in the role Desroches had previously intended. Instead, he was taken to a remote mountain Chateau, a retreat of sorts for the wealthy and the privileged.

There he was left in the hands of the courtesans and a retinue of advisers, tutors, and even soldiers and spies, to be taught the ways of seduction, intrigue, subterfuge, open combat, and covert assassination.

The King of their tiny principality was a mere puppet, the figurehead for a much more powerful figure who always hid in shadow. She was called a “Princess,” but no one was actually sure of her heritage and pedigree. What was known for sure was that the Princess Katia Asa Vajda was a witch most vile, and regrettably, most powerful.

Even the oldest among the royal court and in the Priesthood recalled her sitting on the Obsidian Throne in her hall at Castle Hemsboore on the northern coast since they were but young lads. Their grandfathers told similar tales of a woman, if human she be, who had ruled for generations, perhaps centuries, and perhaps even longer than that.

One old hermit, whose age was also extreme but unverified, said she had even witnessed the great flood which sank Atlantis and had seen the rise of men after the Ark of Noah. However, he was generally thought to be mad.

For the next ten years, Andre learned the arts and manners of the court, the ways of nobility, how to discern fine wine and cuisine, he became a master at fencing, gained proficiency at the piano, violin, and guitar, and otherwise was transformed from an illegitimate country maid’s child raised in a monastery to a refined gentleman.

Andre’s final test, a trial by fire metaphorically speaking, was to attend the annual ball held by the King at his summer home in Svendervek, though keep in mind, what the royals call a summer home is still an expansive palace, merely placed in slightly cooler climes with nearby water and shade trees to shield delicate pale flesh against the harshness of a warm sun.

Every summer on Solstice Eve, the doors to Svendervek were thrown wide for Dukes and Duchesses, Lords and Ladies, Earls and Marquesses, all of the wealthy, landed, gentlefolk of the Kingdom and other principalities who wished to honor His Highness King Ferdinand DerVanKlink. In whispers it was acknowledged that the King was not in fact, the ruler, but to fail to honor His Highness would be to fail to honor the one behind and above the throne, so you shunned a royal invitation at your extreme peril.

Most present had attended many times before, but there were a few, one in particular, who entered the great hall for the first time that night. He was announced as Sir Andre Paul LeClair, recently knighted by Queen Isabella Segovia St. Martine of the bordering realm of Adrienna, Lord of Sabrine Manor, Hero of the Battle of Danab, and the most eligible bachelor of the Ten Kingdoms.

That last part was not actually announced aloud at his entrance, but his reputation had become well known thanks to numerous rumors started in the palace by both knaves and nobles.

All eyes were on the newcomer. Men admired his legendary prowess with the sword and women for his reputation with a more “symbolic” blade. He spent the night dancing with the eligible maids and a few of the ineligible matrons, discussing court politics and the rather disappointing brandy being served that year with the gentlemen, and analyzing classic military tactics with generals and admirals.

Needless to say he was the “hit” of the ball.

Andre had received no less than eighteen discreet invitations for a liaison with some of the most highly placed women in local and foreign courts. They made a choice impossible, so he regrettably had to decline them all. All that is, except for one and she had not appeared even once in the main hall, had not sipped a single glass of chardonnay, had not joined one gentleman in a waltz, and in fact, had never been announced to those in attendance. She had not even met privately with the King.

They all knew she was there, though. The Princess Katia Asa Vajda attended each and every royal function, seeing both loyalty and disloyalty, her spies attempting to uncover any potential plots against her (not that any could possibly succeed), and her advisers and viceroys seeking out any who might be suitable to serve her at Hemsboore in any capacity.

woman in mask

iStock photo

In a booth high above the ballroom, peering through a hidden curtain, she fixed her attention on Andre. To Charmaine, the oldest of her attendants, trusted for his decades of unwavering service, she ordered, “That one. Fetch him to me. I shall be waiting in my rooms.”

She kept a suite in the manor for her convenience and, on rare occasion, to be entertained by a man or woman, boy or girl, or some combination among those.

Sir Andre Paul LeClair became Katia’s lover from that night forward. He was expected to reside with her at Hemsboore permanently, to travel with her at her whim or to remain in the Sea Castle awaiting her return. His things were sent for, but he held one item near his bosom as it was most dear. It was wrapped in consecrated cloth, perhaps originally taken from the robes of the Pope himself. Thus she could not detect its power and its danger. The silver dagger had been blessed by the Archbishop and then quite separately cursed by “other authorities” as the Cardinal had put it.

It was to be the murder weapon and the symbol of their nation’s freedom.

“My dearest, if I may impose, I must ask a question, one most personal.”

They lay under a canopy on her mattresses in the royal bedchamber at Hemsboore. The window in the north wall was open to the sea. She enjoyed the chill, the salt-infused air, the sound of the ocean as its mighty waves crashed upon the jagged rocks below, stony sentinels that defied Poseidon’s dominion.

The quilts kept them warm, though she was immune to the cold. He’d discovered that the day he saw her doff all of her robes and dance amid the snow-covered peaks of Kirnborg, high above her ocean keep. She scampered across the frigid landscape like the Snow Giant’s daughter, a winter waif, a fairy of ice, skin nearly as white as her majestic surroundings.

“You have but to ask, my love. To Andre, I deny nothing.”

They had made love for three hours and were now basking in the glow of exhaustion, profound satisfaction, and the light and warmth of the fireplace on the western wall, which was lit for his convenience, not hers.

“Your mask, my most beautiful Princess. Will you never reveal your face to me, your beloved?”

They were embracing, he totally nude as was she, except for the mask. He had no idea how it was attached to her face. The pallid shell, decorated by the most intricate designs in many previous materials, designs he did not recognize even with his great learning, seemed to almost be a part of her face. There were no straps or other devices visible. It simply clung to her from forehead to chin, from ear to ear, with apertures for eyes, mouth, and nostrils. He had never seen her without it.

“That is the blessing and the curse of your Princess, beloved Andre. My mask is the source of my power, but only so long as it is never removed. I daresay, you would think much differently of me should you gaze at what is hidden beneath.”

He reached up to caress her check and she rushed to grasp his hand.

“As I said before, dearest. I allow you to touch my body freely in any manner we both find pleasure in, but my mask is not permitted. It is not that I do not cherish you or that I wish to withhold from you even your fondest desire, but to merely brush your fingers against its surface would deliver an agonizing and final death. After all, my wonderful Andre, you are only mortal.”

The mask was Katia’s greatest mystery but not her only one. In the great hall where her Obsidian Throne rested on its high dias, where she received royal visitors, condemned betrayers to death or more often, worse than death, above the throne itself on the wall behind was suspended a magnificent sword. The blade was of the finest steel and carved upon it were angelic symbols. The hilt was ivory inlaid with filigree gold and silver. The sword seemed to faintly glow, especially since the hall was always in semi-darkness, and when one approached the throne, Princess seated upon it or not, a slight hum could be heard, as if the sword were vibrating with life.

“One of my greatest victories, my brave knight. A sword worthy of even your nobel self. Behold! Ariel!”

She was feeling particularly exuberant the morning she answered his question about the majestic blade. It was just the two of them in the great hall. In his presence, she dismissed her customary guards and advisers for she said, “With wise and mighty Andre at my side, what need I of anyone else?”

Perplexed, Andre stuttered, “But…but my Princess…” His voice dropped involuntarily to a whisper. “Is not Ariel an angel of the Most High God?”

She threw back her head melodramatically and laughed, as if he had just delivered a hysterically funny jest. It was some moments before she could compose herself.

“Why yes, dearest Andre. An angel of God indeed, and he is mine, now. Captured he is in yon blade, weapon of immense power, but completely under my control. I keep my pet upon my wall as a reminder that even the greatest can fall, if not by power then by guile. Only the mightiest warrior could possibly wield Ariel, and I have no doubt you are among the mightiest, my love. Would you care to try your hand?”

She would have let him. Katia trusted him that much, but to “handle” an angel of the Most High was sacrilege and blasphemy beyond imagination, an extreme offense to the Heavenly King. Andre dared not commit such an act.

“My Princess, you deem me worthy, but I am but a lowly peasant in the face of Divinity. My hands are like filth and I would not presume to touch such that has been in the Presence of the Almighty. To even be in the same room…”

It was the only time she had acted bored and even annoyed with him. “Yes, yes and all that. Never mind. The price I pay for possessing such a pure and lofty lover is that you indeed are pure and lofty. Come, you have spoiled my festive mood. Let us recapture it immediately. Perhaps an impromptu visit to the valley below. I should send them a demon to collect my annual tribute and to consume any hapless serf who dares to object.”

Andre offered to make the collection personally with a squad of the royal guard. They were three months early for that duty and once out of sight of the palace, Andre thought of an excuse for not extorting the valley people of their meager resources. Only because the soldiers of Hemsboore obeyed him as they did their Princess was the act successful. Certainly by the time they had returned, Katia had forgotten all about the tribute (she didn’t require the money but she did bore easily and needed to be entertained almost constantly) and proceeded onto some new interest.

Had it been five years or perhaps six? Andre thought he would be able to keep track of the weeks and months of his captivity, but his memory had weakened.

He ate what he was offered, drank stale water, eliminated in the bucket provided (which happily was replaced with a clean one every morning), looked out the window to the sea, exercised his body as he could in his small quarters with a narrow bed of wood and straw as the only furniture, paced, prayed fervently to his God, resisted the temptation to curse his God, and pined for both his life with the Princess and that which he knew before at the monastery.

He so loved and so hated Katia. He hated the Cardinal for getting him into this mess. He hated himself for the grandiose arrogance of believing he could both seduce and slay a goddess. He laughed. He wept. He sulked. He turned to God, turned away, and then turned back again.

He feared Heaven and Hell even more than he feared Katia and in the end, he chose not to forsake God, for though it seemed otherwise, he had faith that God had not forsaken him.

And so he prayed daily for deliverance, if not for his body then for his immortal soul.

He thought of the angel Ariel, who as a Divine being, was in an even worse situation than the mortal Andre.

The autumn storms were more severe than most that year. Frigid winds drove icy rain into his cell, needles piercing his vulnerable flesh. Even covered with threadbare blankets and straw, he thought he would die of the cold and wet. He would endure. He had to. Andre still hoped in his great purpose to serve God and defeat evil. Arrogance or faith? Perhaps a bit of both. But he had little else to sustain him.

iron mask

From the 1977 film “Man in the Iron Mask starring Richard Chamberlain

He huddled against the wall, placing his bed frame between the window and himself in hopes it could act as a shield against the worst of the tempest. The tower and likely the entire castle shook as thunder sounded and lightning struck. The once intrepid knight thought he would go both deaf and insane as the storm spent its wrath on Hemsboore, a just and mighty God venting rage at the indignity of His servant’s continued captivity.

As if the target of cannon fire, the room exploded with an incredible roar and the world tore itself apart around the mortal Andre. He regained consciousness some ten cubits outside his cell, away down the hall.

Shivering, now by fright and not cold, he looked back at the gaping maw that was once his North Yower cell.

“Lightning.”

In truth, lightning did strike the roof of the tower, obliterating the entire top two levels and miraculously throwing Andre clear. He was soaked to the skin, his ears were ringing, and yet he climbed up to his knees and gave thanks to God’s Providence for this delivery.

Then it occurred to him, “If anyone should see this, they would think me dead.”

He walked back to as close to the edge as he could manage. The stone was black and still smoking. He felt the wind and rain, saw the sea roar and surge beneath him. By rights, if the lightning had not blasted his flesh and bone to ashes, he should have fallen many hundreds of feet to be crushed on the rocks or drowned in the ocean. He still had a chance.

For over a year, Andre had been given free run of the castle. He knew every passageway, even those hidden. As Katia had promised, she denied him nothing except for the mask. She had denied him nothing, not even Ariel.

He considered the silver blade with which he was meant to execute his Princess. She had most likely disposed of it even before she disposed of him. Yet with Ariel, she would not part. She was too prideful and he could only hope that would be her downfall.

He could hear guards in the distance from his hiding place.

“Are you going to tell her?”

“I thought you were. After all, you’re the Captain.”

“Then I order you to do it.”

“I’d rather throw myself into the sea after him than inform her Highness of her paramour’s demise by the hand of God.”

“I swear, she’ll be so enraged, she’ll take that angel of hers and use it to slay the God himself for denying her Andre.”

“Be still, you buffoon. Do you think Andre’s God cannot hear you even in a place as damned as Hemsboore?”

As much as they feared both God and Katia, they would take back the report that he had perished by lightning. Against death, even she was powerless, well against his death anyway. Her own she had managed to forestall for countless ages. As it turned out, the old maddened hermit did know a thing or two. She was older than anyone had realized, old, she had admitted to him, as Adam. Her immortality and her might were hard won and they came with a terrible price.

Andre had broken into the larder and had his first descent meal in years. He vomited. Rested. Drank a bit of water, then slowly ate again. This time his rebellious stomach obeyed his will and took in the much needed nourishment.

He replaced his filthy rags with cleaner garments, though still humble and worn. Of the iron mask, he could do nothing. He could not break the lock with the instruments found in the kitchen or the laundry, and Katia held the only key.

But he had found a key of his own and it was suspended above the Obsidian Throne of the Princess, or witch if you’d prefer.

“Forgive me my God and my Master, but great is my need and only yon sword Ariel gives me scant hope of slaying the evil one and freeing both your servant and your nation.” With that Andre stood and approached the throne. He had to mount the dias and stand upon the hewn black stone to reach the sword. He could hear it moan and wail like a thing alive, as if the angel encased within longed for the freedom that the man now gripping it enjoyed.

Andre had regained the floor when she entered. He had supposed she would have retired to her bedchambers in mourning. What was she doing here now?

“Think you that anything could disturb the angel and I would not be aware? We had shared a bed for many nights and if you had breathed your last, I would have known that, too.”

As the sword in Andre’s good right hand began to glow more brightly, so too did the mask of Katia, a mask forged in ancient and unnatural fires by celestial beings.

“I am no longer your prisoner Katia, and with Ariel in my hands, neither is the angel.”

“Angels are immortal but not so men, my dearest Andre. Renounce this madness, place the sword at my feet, and I may be merciful.”

“A quick death rather than a slow and tortured one, beloved?”

“You should be honored that I’m granting you a choice. Consider it a gift from the woman who once would have given you the world.”

“Woman? Don’t make me laugh. A back alley harlot in the gutters of Fainstedt is more of a woman than you, and no doubt far more virtuous.”

She screamed hideous obscenities meant to curse him body and soul and then cried out for a hundred heavily armed guards to enter the room and slay him.

Oh and they tried.

Most say that Ariel is an angel, but there are a few who speak the word “demon” in hushed whispers when invoking his name. Whatever was trapped in steel, ivory, and gold, took on great power in Andre’s hands. The skill and strength of both man and Divine were woven into one and no minion of Katia could tell where one left off and the other began. The blade was a continual trail of light and blood as five score battle-hardened warriors fell at the knight’s feet, the floor of the throne room running thick with crimson.

Andre, his ankles awash with blood, strode through the bodies and their parts toward the author if this evil.

Katia screamed in rage, and words no righteous man had ever heard uttered streamed forth from her lips. The glow of her mask seemed to shine forward of her and in the space between witch and knight formed the monstrous.

“Behold the demon Jullah Keshan and perish!”

It was half again as tall as a man, stank like the sewers of Manheim, oozed pus, blood, and anal filth, and bore tusks larger than what Andre had once heard called an elephant.

Jullah Keshan rushed forward with a roar, the stench of his breath nearly causing Andre to pass out. It was the strength of the angel that kept the mortal on his feet, his right arm raised to defend with the sword.

The battle was not man against demon but angel against darkness. The man just happened to be on the battlefield, but that plane was ethereal and well as material, and on the other side of the mortal world, Andre witnessed the full might of the angel Ariel locked in mortal combat against Jullah Keshan. Andre was later adjured by Heavenly forces to never speak or write of what he saw and heard that day. In any case, the experience drove Andre to near-madness and in a fortnight, he scarcely recalled what had happened.

At the end of it, the demon wasn’t dead, but oozing black bile from a dozen wounds, it dwindled and finally vanished back into the dark and bloody pit which had spawned it.

Andre stood facing her and then he charged.

It was Katia’s turn to stand transfixed, unable to believe that man, even with angelic sword, could have survived a demon’s onslaught. Then as he raised mighty Ariel and his downward killing stroke began, she lifted her arms to invoke who knows what other terrible evil.

Andre saw a brilliant white line, thin as a quill tip, extending from her mask’s forehead down to the chin just to the left of the nose. It was where his dagger had struck years before. The damage still existed and the fury of the magics she had been summoning had increased the rift, further weakening both mask and wearer.

Ariel struck and the mask was split asunder along that self-same line.

Katia’s scream of agony and horror sent deathly chills down the knight’s spine. The Princess was thrown backwards against the closed doors of the chamber, her blood splattering across walls and floor stones and dripping from the holy blade.

He stood over her at last understanding. Katia never took off her mask, the source of her power because to do so would not only deprive her of her mystic abilities, but reveal the twisted and mutilated face beneath.

Long, long ago, the first woman was not Eve but Lilith. Lilith was not taken from Adam’s body but created with him of the same clay and at the same time. She was not a helpmate suitable to the man and so the Almighty cast her out to wander creation. She astonishingly survived the flood, not within Noah’s Ark, and only because she had made an unholy pact with the evil one, agreeing to become demonic, a wanton temptress of moral men, who kidnapped infants from their mother’s breasts, and who became the mother of all female lilitu or demons.

kinski

1981 Richard Avedon Vogue portrait of Nastassja Kinski.

It was the angel speaking. Andre looked at the bloody blade still in his hand and although it remained a formidable weapon, it had been emptied of the Divine. The shattering of the mask and the splitting of Lilith’s grotesque visage had broken the spell binding him. Yet he related the tale of her existence.

Her powers eventually begun to wane and after seducing the archangel Samael, he captured her and affixed the mask upon her, long metal spikes on the inner surface bored into her flesh as he applied the gruesome punishment. Yet what God had intended was once again twisted by the Adversary and while the now disfigured she-demon was fated to permanently wear the badge of her dishonor, she infused it with the life force of every child she had consumed and every man and woman whose erotic vitality she had used to corrupt them.

Only by that might was Ariel betrayed and captured. Ariel had the power to reverse the effect, but only if wielded by a champion and servant of the Most High.

Having no more use for it at that moment, Andre laid the sword next to Katia’s lifeless body. He felt through her clothing and found what he desired for than anything else; the key to the iron mask.

Only pain and death could release his Princess, but one tiny key liberated Andre from years of entrapment. Bruised, bloody, weakened, but unbowed, he ripped the foul mask from his face and let it drop next to her broken one. Now they were both empty as was Andre.

With their mistress expired, the rest of her servants fled. Knowing the sword Ariel had slain a hundred in a single battle, no one desired to face Andre in combat. Of course, the sword was now without such power, but he could keep that knowledge to himself.

He buried her in a small grove on the southern side of the castle, one that, when spring returned, would be covered with wildflowers. Throughout her long existence, she had been filled with such ugliness. Now at the changing seasons, beauty would adorn her grave.

Andre fired the blacksmith’s forge near the stables as hot as the pits of Hades and then threw in his mask and hers. Together they heated, melted, oozed together into the blazing coals, and when the fires cooled in the coming days, they had fused and joined into a single shapeless mass.

By that time, he had regained his strength, appropriated fine clothing from what he had brought with him, equipped a strong horse with food, water, and what belongings he would need to forge a new life along with a small chest of riches from his dead lover’s treasury, and rode south away from the lands of sea and ice.

The sword Ariel was worn at his side. As he encountered villages and towns, Andre the Knight discovered his reputation preceded him and he was both much admired and much feared. He had his fill of court intrigues as well as the machinations of Cardinals and Archbishops, so he rode for undiscovered countries. Perhaps there, he could find some peace.

I wrote this for the #SongLyricSunday and #musicchallenge for 10 December 2017 (yes, I’m a few days late). The idea is to take lyrics from a song, or some portion of them to use as an inspiration to author of a piece of fiction or other creative work. The lyrics and their source can be found at the top of the page.

Just as with the Simply Marquessa #LyricalFictionFriday challenge, the words and tunes tend to be of a romantic nature, describing the heights and the depths that occur between men and women.

I’m not that “mushy” as you no doubt can tell having read my tale. Yes, it’s lengthy, but I required a lot of room for character and plot development. I was not without my sources.

In reading “And it’s hard for me to even look at you,” I fixed on the Alexandre Dumas classic Man in the Iron Mask (which I must admit I have never read, nor have I watched any of the film adaptations). I considered a man who had betrayed a powerful lover and who was then punished by being locked in a metal mask and then imprisoned in a stone tower facing a lonely grey sea.

Then it occurred to me, what if she wore a mask as well? Doing a bit of Googling, I came across the 1960 Italian film Black Sunday starring Barbara Steele in a dual role, a witch forced to wear a spiked mask and then burned at the stake only to return as a vampire.

I could use almost nothing of the film’s plot so I made up my own story. I did take certain elements of Zukala’s Daughter, which was a comic book adaptation (written by Roy Thomas and drawn by Barry Smith) of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian, and incorporated them into my story. I also leveraged the Jewish mythology around the figure of Lilith to complete the picture.

The idea of capturing an angel and imprisoning him in a sword came from a game of Dungeons and Dragons I played with some friends in the early 1980s.

It took me several days of writing and editing before I was able to arrive at a final version. I hope you enjoyed reading it.

To find other stories based on the prompt, click HERE and then scroll down looking for pingback links and links to stories in the comments section.

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10 thoughts on “The Demon in the Mask

  1. Epic tale! “She scampered across the frigid landscape like the Snow Giant’s daughter, a winter waif, a fairy of ice, skin nearly as white as her majestic surroundings.” So visual. I can see why you took extra time with this one. Great piece!

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    • Thanks. Marquessa. Actually it was also time consuming because of its length and the amount of research I had to do. All that, and editing is a lengthy process. Yes, it is an epic, historic, fantasy tale (I very loosely based my place names on cities in Denmark, though I changed things around a bit. Most of my characters had French names except the Princess who was named after the main character in the 1960 film “Black Sunday.” Now I actually want to watch the movie since it seems like a lot of fun.

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