Authors: Annie Eppa
THE FORBIDDEN ROOM
© Copyright 2013 Annie Eppa. All Rights Reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imaginations or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the author.
The Forbidden Room is an erotic retelling of Bluebeard, and is a part of the Fairy Tales Behaving Badly collection.
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The Forbidden Room
Few people would have expected Melisande to marry for money. Everyone agreed that she was the most beautiful girl in their small village, with long lashes that framed her deep blue eyes, and untamed hair that looked to have been kissed by the sun. Her skin was soft and creamy, unmarred by any blemish, and it only heightened her exquisite beauty. Her sweet bow mouth, pink and lush, could drive any man to distraction, and though her clothes were plain and conservative, it could not completely hide her curvy hips and delicate waist, nor could it mask the swell of her full breasts. She was gentle and obedient, and never raised her voice in anger. Her sweet allure could drive any full-blooded male there to temptation, but she was beloved by many of the villagers, and they protected her in their own way.
As she grew into womanhood, many of the boys in the village came to court her. Melisande politely, but firmly, rejected each and every one of their proposals, for she had wished to stay with her parents a little while longer. Her family was a poor one, not unlike many of the other residents of Sleeping Fallow. Her father had been a woodcutter, and her mother a gentle woman who kept their tiny cottage by the woods as clean and as happy for her husband and daughter as she could possibly have it. Nobody thought that both would die from the plague that had so recently ravaged through the lands, the man dying a mere week after the woman. It was fortunate that a group of healers had been passing through the village, who wound up staying behind to render their assistance, thereby saving more lives that would have been lost had they not been so kind to remain. They were especially concerned for the grieving Melisande, and took great pains to keep her safe and healthy.
It left Melisande in dire straits, for the loss of her parents had now left her a young orphan at the tender age of eighteen. They had no other relatives, and she nowhere else to go. The boys who had once come courting her had already left the village in pursuit of some better line of trade. The plague had devastated most of the population of Sleeping Fallow, leaving left many destitute. No one could help Melisande, for they were still coming to grips with their own personal losses.
So it came as a surprise to many when an expensive carriage arrived at the village, such luxuries being unheard of there. The richness of the coach, with its fine gilded edges and polished jewels, seemed offensive somehow, given the villagers’ current troubles. The man who emerged from the carriage was tall and imposing, though he was considerably older in years. He had receding white hair and fierce eyebrows, his nose hooked like an eagle’s. He paid scant attention to the residents of Sleeping Fallow, who were still mourning and burying their dead, and instead demanded that Melisande be brought to him.
This astonished the young girl, who had never seen the man before in her life. Still, she had been brought up to be respectful and polite, and immediately went to meet him.
“You are the girl named Melisande?” The man inquired. At her nod, he continued. “I have come here on behalf of my master, the Marquise of Eddom.”
This brought a gasp to her lips, for the Marquise of Eddom was one of the richest nobles in the land, and also one of the most secretive. Very little was known of him, though rumors say he had amassed his wealth dealing in weapons of war, indirectly responsible for the many battles waged within the kingdoms. They called him Bluebeard though, curiously, most had never seen his face. It was a term used among the common folk, to refer to one they considered rich but unnatural; blue-blooded, and strange. From all the gossip she had heard, rumors that reached even her tiny village - of dark tortures conducted in his castle, how he had sold his soul to the devil to gain his wealth and influence - Melisande could understand why people thought his name a cursed one.
“My master wishes to offer you a marriage proposal,” the man continued, and this time her gasp was loud, as was other people nearby who had drawn close to hear. “He is prepared to make as many concessions as you wish, any terms you may choose to add. And once you have agreed,” he added, like she had already done so, “another carriage shall be sent for you in two days’ time, to bring you to his castle.”
“But I do not know your master,” Melisande protested, overwhelmed by this unexpected proposal. Surely the man’s master would make such a momentous proposal himself, and not through some subordinate? “How do I know this is not some trick?”
In response, the man produced a small document, stamped in the Marquise’s signet. It was the intended marriage contract between the Marquise of Eddom and Melisande of Sleeping Fallow, to be finalized once the wedding had taken place. Some of the villagers who frequently traveled were called forward, and they were forced to admit that this was the Marquise’s insignia, for the nobleman engaged frequently in trade in the nearby cities, and his seal was a common sight there.
“I am an orphan, with little money of my own to prepare an adequate trousseau. I have little to my name. I bring no advantages to the marriage.”
“The master will pay for your clothes, and other things besides. As your parents are no longer living, he has agreed to pay a thousand gold coins to your village instead, for your brideprice.” The cries from the others are louder now, but the man paid them no mind. “You will have two days to consider my master’s proposal. The carriage will be sent round for you by then, and you will tell me of your answer.”
Without another word, the man climbed back into the coach, and the villagers watched it depart, still stunned by the man’s extraordinary visit.
Melisande had always been a spiritual rather than a religious girl, but the services she attended at the local parish had always given her peace of mind. Her friend, the old priest who tended the poor church, had watched her grow from a young, bright-eyed girl, into the ravishing woman she was today, and she often came to him for advice.
Still, the saintly man hesitated when she told him of the nobleman’s proposal. “I have heard of the Marquise of Eddom, my dear,” he told her, “and I know a little of his unsavory reputation, though I believe them unfounded. For all his influence, the king would have had the Marquise imprisoned by now, if even half of these were true. Still, this does not sound like an arrangement that I would ask any gentle young girl, least of all you, to consider.”
“But he is prepared to pay any price for me,” Melisande said, “and the money shall surely help everyone in the village.”
The priest smiled at her. “Placing others before yourself, as you always have. I cannot in good conscience tell you which decision to make, my dear, for you must do what you think is best for you, and not just for the people of this village. Ask God in his wisdom to guide you, and you shall know your answer.”
Melisande did just that. By the time the carriage arrived again at the appointed day, the elderly servant found her waiting calmly by the path. All the meager items that she possessed lay in a bundle by her feet, and a look of determination was on her face.
“Does your master promise to pay the village a thousand gold coins as my brideprice?” She asked.
“He shall,” the man confirmed.
“Many of the people here have died from the plague, and others are still recovering. Will he also promise to send more doctors and healers to aid them at no cost?”
“Then I accept your proposal,” she said, “take me to the Marquise’s castle.”
Though the villagers were overjoyed by their good fortune, they were sad to see her go. Many hugged her and wept copiously in her arms. They were saved, they knew, and it was Melisande’s sacrifice that had made it possible.
But the girl only smiled sweetly at them. “I do this of my own volition. I do not know the Marquise, but I am certain he would not go through all this trouble if he does not truly intend to honor his word.”
After bidding them farewell, she climbed into the ornate coach. When the door shut after her, Melisande could not help but feel, despite all her reassurances, that she had willingly entered what would amount to a gilded prison.
The Marquise of Eddom’s castle was only a day’s ride away from Sleeping Fallow. This surprised Melisande. Many in the village, those who had been to the cities numerous times, often spoke of that large forbidding castle that spiraled up from inside the dense woods, but she had not imagined it to be so close. She stared in awe as the carriage approached the imposing gates. Though it was a tall and forbidding fortress of heavy granite, and looked like it was formed of black ash, she could not deny that there was something majestic about its appearance, like a solitary colossus standing within that thick forest, forever keeping watch against the coming night.
It was just as impressive inside as it had been outside. She stared about the large hall in awe, taking in the expensive rugs scattered about the floor, the brightly colored windows that graced the walls. A heavy chandelier hung down from the ceiling, and beautiful tapestries adorned the stone walls. A grand staircase wound its way up, inlaid with dark oak. Melisande had never been in such a place before; she had only known the thatched huts and the stone houses common in the village. While she had sometimes seen large imposing houses on the very few occasions she came to Aven, the nearby market village, they all paled in comparison to the beauty of this manor.
The servant showed her to her room, and she gasped as she saw the beautiful bed with its soft sheets and goosefeather pillows. She marveled at the ornate dresser and wardrobe, at the soft rugs that decorated the ground.
“The master has gone away on business, but he shall return in five days’ time,” the servant continued, oblivious to her delight. “Meals shall be taken at the dining hall. While the master is away, you may ask to have them in your rooms, if you wish. You are free to roam the castle, as the master has instructed that all his possessions are yours - except for one place in particular.” And here the man paused. “There is one room at the end of this hall, the furthest one, that you are not permitted to enter. It contains many of the master’s personal belongings, and he has ordered that no one must be allowed inside, not even his affianced, lest they be severely punished. Is that understood?”
Melisande nodded, and the man departed.
Two days passed, and though she enjoyed the many comforts the castle provided, she found that she was lonely. In sleeping Fallow she was always surrounded by people, and here she felt more alone than ever. The Marquise’s elderly servant was not one to make friends, and after receiving only curt responses to her questions about what his master was like, Melisande gave up trying.
The meals served to her were always delicious, food her family could never have afforded, bordering on the exotic at times. The gardens were a pleasure to explore, with Melisande spending hours up to her waist in herbs, trying to examine every flower and plant she could find. The simple clothes she had brought from the village disappeared overnight, and gowns of every imaginable color and style were laid out for her to wear instead, each costing more than what her village made in a year.
Still, one thought continued to nag at her. She could still not dismiss the many rumors surrounding the Marquise, and somewhere in the back of her mind she feared that they could be true, that she had agreed to marry an evil man. Wasn’t there often truth to gossip, no matter how ill-intentioned or embellished?