The White Quill
Volume 1, Issue 2, pp. 04-06
She walked, trekked, and staggered her way up the pine mountains and, at last, made it to a meadow.
She had always had a thing for the pale ones, and held a keen desire to know more about them. It was something that had been calling out to her from her past and urged her to go closer. She read way too many books on them and fantasised about meeting one. We never know where life takes us and how everything changes within seconds – that is what happened to her.
After enjoying a party at the hotel with her friends in Paris, Taralyn was on her way back to her hotel room, enjoying her walk and the view of the fire-like dusk. She and her friends had planned a trip together as they needed to spend a little girl time after so long. The hotel had seemed a little off to her ever since she had checked in, because of its weird location. As she was nearing the property, she could see a vast spread of dense forest cover behind it, which stretched up to miles. Huge mountains, with nothing but tall dark pines, gave her chills but also excited her and made her want to explore them. She stopped right at the main gate of the hotel and wondered if she really wanted to go in. For some reason, she took a path which led to an area behind the hotel, instead.
The path was narrow, rough, uneven, and unusually dark. After a few steps, she thought of going back as it didn’t seem safe to her at all, and again a voice in her head pushed her on, as though something was calling her from deep within the woods. She had now made up her mind, and was firm about her decision, so she pulled the hood of her sweatshirt over her head and set forth.
She walked, trekked, and staggered her way up the pine mountains and, at last, made it to a meadow. By now it was already dark, so she couldn’t really make out what lay behind the field, but could only see a huge dome-like shadow. Walking and stumbling for another fifteen minutes or so, she stood in front of that dome, and upon looking closer she made it clear to herself that it was a tunnel leading to some place. The moon shone bright that night, so she could make out a little of the faded shapes she saw. She looked down to find a train track barely visible. She walked toward the tunnel fearing the blinding darkness, when suddenly she ran into something solid and injured her knee. She felt the structure with her hands and discovered, to her surprise, that it was a mine cart.
She pushed the cart a little to see if it had rusted over the years, but she was amazed to see the cart wheels move forward a little, and she sat in it to see where it took her. It drove slowly at first but raced a little as it gained pace because of the slanting track. She could see nothing but hear the wheels on the track, and a distant tolling of the bells. All she could make out was that she was heading toward some church or institute. After a while, she saw a light at the end of the tunnel and noticed that the cart was slowing down.
There were a few more carts ahead of hers, all queued up. As the light got brighter, she saw a gigantic gothic gate and two handsome but pale looking gentlemen standing on either side of it. Her heart had now started to race, as she saw people, mostly young, get off the other minecarts and walk towards those men, who were examining their wrists one by one, as if it were a medical examination. She had no clue of what was happening and where she had landed up. For a moment, she thought to herself that she had made a big mistake. It all seemed like a big underground drugs market, where they were all working for some drug lord. Substance abuse was something that she had tried her best to keep away from but now she realised that she might just get caught up in that rut.
She wanted to escape all this, so she got down from the car and managed to hide herself against the dark damp inner wall of the tunnel. She was glad no one saw her, but suddenly the wall slit open, as if there was a secret door against which she leaned. She fell back on her head, and lost consciousness.
“How long was I out?” she asked herself, when she woke up in a room, the next morning, where the sun shone bright in her eyes. She looked around and saw a spiral staircase leading upwards and also heard distant voices — happy and lively voices. She took the stairs and was amazed to see a monumental, beautiful old Victorian castle. It had a vast lush green lawn and there were people dressed all in black. She stood there trying to understand everything around her, and noticed there was something strange about them all, besides their gothic baroque dressing style and their new but attractive English accent.
She walked right through them and felt no one noticed her. She could hear a beautiful piece of melodic hymn which she followed and entered a big hall, decorated with candles and chandeliers. A great buffet was laid along the tall lancet windows. Just as she was inhaling the aroma of delicious food, a bell tolled loud thrice, as though it was indicating something. Everyone was now quiet and they all laid their eyes on her. They were smiling and their eyes were full of respect. They were all dressed as if they were from the sixties. For a moment she blushed and thought she had been there at the wrong time, but when she turned around, she saw a cascading staircase, upon which stood a strikingly attractive young gentleman, who wore a black pea coat with a high-collar white shirt. She noticed the glorious, breath taking glare in his eyes.
That was it! She had fallen for him there and then. He climbed down the stairs and bowed a little, in response to which they all bowed back before returning to what they were doing. He walked towards her, laid his eyes on her for a second, and then walked right past her. She felt a strange feeling in her stomach, but still could not understand anything, so she went out to get some fresh air. He turned around, saw her go out, smiled a little and mumbled, “Finally!”
Taralyn could not understand what was going on. A thousand questions arose inside her head. She was still playing with her questions when he emerged out of nowhere and stood in front of her. She was startled and her heart pounded aloud. Questions and questions popped in her mind, but a second later everything went blank and silent.
He took her hand in his, placed a white peafowl quill in her palm and said, “This belongs to you.”
She looked down at the quill and felt a sharp sting in her head. She passed out.
A while later, she opened her eyes, regaining consciousness for the second time in two days, and saw him sitting beside her, as if waiting for her to wake up. She got up abruptly from the Victorian chaise she had been lying in, and reached out for her hoodie, when he gently grabbed her arm from behind. The moment ceased and they fell in love in with each other.
Taralyn had never been attracted to the opposite sex and never really dreamed about having a prince charming. Even in college, when her friends discussed about their boyfriends and relationships, Taralyn had always been a laughing stock for having remained single.
Yes, she was poetic and romantic, and she wrote about love better than people who really experienced it, but to her, ‘romantic’ defined the feelings of knowing the unknown more than just the idea of love itself.
What had just happened was something both of them had no control over and looked as if this was all they had ever wanted. They hadn’t been so sure of anything in their lives before, and felt a sudden urge to spend the rest of their lives together.
It was midnight, and the news spread. It was time for a festive gathering at the wedding of Taralyn and Nile.
It was midnight, and the news spread. It was time for a festive gathering at the wedding of Taralyn and Nile.
Things had happened so fast and unexpectedly that she still felt as if she were in a state of swoon. She was happy and, for the first time in her life, felt a sense of belonging and satisfaction. She was wearing a gorgeous black corseted gown with a black veiled hat, and was blooming with sheer bliss. He was wearing a double-breasted coat, his hair still open and brushing his shoulders. The ceremony took place and they were pronounced husband and wife. There was a mix of love, laughter, and happiness in the air, and now he was Lord Nile and she Lady Taralyn.
The merry making went on and they all waltzed with each other in the ballroom. Nile and Taralyn enjoyed the dance but he wanted to show her around, so he took her to the second floor above the hall, where they entered another wide chamber. There were men and women crafting tiny pieces of art, and had a display of handmade gothic jewellery, makeup, décor, dresses, hair accessories, and a lot more. She was impressed and excited and tried to enjoy all that lay before her eyes.
Someone tapped on her back and a voice whispered, “A wedding present for you!” She turned around and saw a trousseau trunk filled with tiny items. Taralyn was taken aback and thanked the woman.
An hour later, Nile took her to a hill top which was hardly twenty minutes away from the castle. It was a bright sunny day and the view was magnificent but unusual. The sun shone over the castle, as if the clouds were torn apart to let the light in only in that area, but the rest of the land was covered with thundering clouds and it rained heavily. She stood beside him and asked, “Do you own this place?” He grabbed her by her shoulder in order to bring her closer, smiled and said, “We do!”
Taralyn rested her head on his shoulder, breathed a sigh and felt the gentle breeze blowing through her hair.
They spent some time there under a tree and then he was reminded of something very important that he had intended to show Taralyn. He now asked her to close her eyes, which she did, and took her back to the fortress. All she could feel was him hugging her hard, with her eyes still shut tight, and a rush of strong wind in her ears. She did not feel the land under her feet and within no time they reached the back gate of their castle. They took the stairs to the top floor where no one was allowed to go. It was said that the top floor was the one that held Nile’s secrets which he refused to share with anyone.
He stopped right at the old rusted wrought iron gate for a moment, and then pushed it open. It creaked and screeched, and they could not see anything. It was darker than the tunnel that had led Taralyn to the castle, but Nile went right in, like an owl in the darkness. There seemed to be no windows…or were they all sealed up?
He lit a candle and turned towards her. Other than their own faces, nothing else was visible. He pulled out a scroll paper from his pocket and handed it over to her. It was an old crumpled paper, which was also burnt from the edges. She took it under the light, unrolled it and read:
“Oh! You beautiful soul,
Enlightened world of mine,
Years of passing days,
Years of passing nights!
Is it a word to say or is it the truth?
The beauty of your soul,
Shattered this selfish heart of mine.”
A tear trickled down her cheek but she didn’t understand why. She choked on her words. Nile didn’t want her to struggle anymore, so he drew open the wide curtain of a window, from where a ray of light fell upon a big canvas painting of a man and a woman. It looked as if the woman wore a wedding gown and as soon as she laid her eyes on the man, she saw it resembled the face of Nile.
He walked through the corridor and his footsteps echoed, and all the curtains threw themselves open. It wasn’t just one painting, but a row of dozens of them, hung on the walls. The bright light filled up the hallway and she saw similar paintings of the same couple. He stood against one of the paintings and said, “You wrote me letters with that white quill. We have been married for centuries, over and over again. I have been waiting for you...”
Tanya Panta graduated from St.Bedes College, Shimla and pursued a master’s degree in English from H.P. University. Her articles have been published in the St. Bede's college magazine. She has written an e-travelogue, Himachal Unexplored, which is available on Amazon. Currently, she’s working on her second book.