This poem came out of the September 2013 crowdfunding
Creative Jam. It was inspired by a prompt from ellenmillion
. It also fills the "prostitution" square in my 6-10-13 card
for the hc_bingo
fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette."The Thief of Her Heart"
Delbar knew something was wrong
when he rescued the girl
and nothing happened.
She did not scream in fear
as they rappelled down the wall.
She did not burst into tears
from the release of pent-up sorrow.
She did not smile or kiss him in joy
at the return of her freedom.
"Say something," Delbar urged her,
hoping that she would give him a hint.
"What do you want me to say,"
she whispered, her voice
as dull as dry leaves.
"Tell me your name,"
he tried next.
"Cassia," she said,
still empty of inflection.
"I'm Delbar," he said.
"You seem ... not all right.
How do you feel?"
"I do not feel," she said,
her face bland and still
like the porcelain mask of a doll.
To say that Delbar was horrified
would be an understatement.
He had known that the wizard
must have been up to something wicked,
because the tales were impossible --
whores who smiled and laughed,
or hung on men as if deep in true love,
or wept in terror at the slightest sound --
and a given woman might do
any or all of those on a single night.
This was precisely why Delbar
and some other young heroes
had set about to rescue them,
one at a time since a frontal assault
against a powerful wizard
would only end in defeat.
"Do you know what happened,
why you do not feel?"
Delbar asked her.
"The wizard took out my heart
and wrung it like a sponge
so that all my feelings ran out,"
she explained. "I have heard
that he keeps them in his chamber."
"Then how in the world do his girls
captivate the fancy of men?"
Delbar asked. "It is said
that they show amazing range
of emotion, far more convincing
than the best actress on stage."
"That is simple," Cassia said.
"He brings a potion, and pours into us
whatever we are meant to feel."
Delbar felt a strong wave of disgust.
He could not understand how anyone
would want to have sex like that,
without even knowing
or caring that her "passion"
was nothing more than potion-smoke.
For him it took a long time to form
a strong enough attachment to someone
that desire might begin to emerge from it.
How awful would it be
to remain trapped in a fog
without a glimmer of joy or rage,
no cries of sorrow or passion?
Delbar led Cassia to a rainbarrel,
empty after a month without storms.
"Hide in here," he said.
"I will go and fetch your feelings."
The night was beginning to wane
toward day, the horizon
slowly bleaching with false dawn.
Delbar scrabbled his way back up
the gritty stone of the tower.
He slunk past the defenses
and slipped through the hallways.
The wizard snored in his chamber,
all the room filled with faint fairy-light
of countless unnamable colors.
For each girl there was a crystal dish
etched with her name and a bindrune,
brimful of viscous glowing liquid.
Swiftly Delbar located the one
that belonged to Cassia.
Cupping it carefully in his hands,
he crept back out of the chamber.
Then he cradled the dish against his chest,
gripped the rope in one fist, and
slid down from the top of the fortress.
Even through his heavy leather glove,
the rope burned, curling his right hand
into a tight knot of pain.
Delbar returned to Cassia.
She showed no interest
in the shining bowl of emotion,
or indeed, anything else.
He led her back to his room,
a small quiet space where
she could stay until she recovered.
There he sat her on his bed,
put the crystal dish to her lips,
and coaxed her to drink from it.
Cassia's face surged into motion,
no single expression dominating,
just a jumble of twitching muscles
and conflicting impressions.
She tried to throw it up,
but the potion was already in her,
feelings all back in her heart
whether she wanted them there or not.
She stumbled to the window
and retched over the bushes below,
but nothing came up except clear spit.
Delbar steadied her as best he could
and kept her long dark hair out of her face.
Cassia raged and wept,
screamed, laughed, moaned,
ran about the room, flickering
from one emotion to the next.
Delbar held her while she sobbed in grief,
shuddered with shame and guilt,
snarled her contempt and disgust
for the men who used her.
He tried to keep her from hurting herself,
gently untangling her hands
when she tore at her hair in despair.
The height of her fury drove her
to beat her fists against the wall,
and he slipped a pillow into place
for her to punch instead.
Terrified, Cassia crawled under the bed.
Delbar tried to entice her out,
but she would not come to him.
Slowly, carefully, he lowered himself
and slid into the space beside her.
He could hear harsh swift whistle
of her breath, tightened by fear,
and could do nothing more
than be there with her.
She turned on him in passion,
quick as a striking snake,
coiling herself around him
and squeezing in delicate places.
Gingerly Delbar untangled her,
murmuring a soft demurral.
He didn't want this,
and he felt certain that
she did not really want it either,
by the flood of pent-up feelings.
The tears came again,
raining loss and abandonment.
Delbar sighed over the change
and embraced her from behind,
reminding her that she was not alone.
Joy spiraled up into euphoria,
left her in fits of giggles
until she could barely breathe.
He smiled to support her
in her happiness, even though
he knew it would not last.
Together they weathered the storm,
anxiety and affection,
bitterness and misery and regret.
Sometimes she startled at every touch
so that he had to step away,
her surprise drowning out recognition.
At last Cassia succumbed to exhaustion
and passed out on Delbar's bed.
He tugged her shoes off
and pulled the blankets over her.
Then he lay down beside her,
on top of the covers, within easy reach
in case she needed him.
He did not want to crowd or alarm her,
but he dared not move farther away
lest something else
When they woke,
Cassia was calm --
not the wooden lassitude
of her earlier emptiness,
but the calm after a tempest.
"How do you feel?"
Delbar asked tenderly.
Cassia stretched and winced,
muscles clearly protesting
"I'm a little sad, a bit relieved.
I can't feel much, I think.
It seems that I got back
less than I gave,
for all that it swamped me
returning in one great rush."
"Perhaps the wizard used
some of those fluid feelings
to make his potions,"
Delbar said. He was no expert
on the theory of magic,
but it made sense in context.
"Perhaps," Cassia said
with a shallow nod.
"Do you think what is missing
will grow back, or is it gone forever?"
"Well, if you lose blood from a wound,
your body makes more of it,"
Delbar pointed out.
"You seemed to have the whole range
of emotions last night, so I don't think it's like
cutting off a finger that won't grow back."
Cassia stared down at her hands.
"What am I to do while I wait
to see what will happen?" she said.
"I seem all heavy and slow.
I do not think I would be good for much."
"You may stay with me if you wish,"
Delbar said. "I planned for this,
although I didn't expect your lost feelings.
I'll need to warn my friends
just how much of a mess to expect
when they make their own rescue runs."
She did not scream in fear,
weep for sorrow or rage,
nor try to kiss him again.
They were both relieved by that.
Instead her hand crept out
to lay very softly over his,
a moment of warmth and stillness
before they needed to get up
and see to such needs
as food and fresh clothing.
Delbar squeezed her hand a little
and leaned against her shoulder,
lending her what comfort he could.
So Cassia stayed with Delbar,
the thief who stole her heart
only to give it back to her.
* * * Notes:Prostitution
often (though not always) involves sexual exploitation. As a branch of human trafficking
, it's known to cause flat affect, diminishing emotions and their expression. It can harm prostitutes
in other ways too.
Emotional dampening includes flat
and blunted affect
entails difficulty in feeling, identifying, and/or expressing emotions. Prostitution is also associated with depression
, including emotional suppression.
Delbar is demisexual
. So here we've got a hero who can't
respond to the heroine in a sexual or romantic way, because he doesn't know her well enough yet. It changes the conventional character dynamics of a rescue story.
It's important to understand emotions
and know how to name them
Tags: creative jam, cyberfunded creativity, event, fantasy, gender studies, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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