I started this. No idea whether it's any good or not... 0.o. Comments would rock.
"She's dead, I believe."
Delphine's corpse was sprawled silently across the couch, its scarlet cushions echoing blood, although there was none. Her lips were painted as usual, and her skin's pallour expounded by powders. Rouge provided a cold shadow of the pink flush of her cheeks that had since died away. She had not been dead long, but already the grey pallor of a cadaver had overcome her skin. On the floor next to the couch lay a bronze goblet, indicating the probable cause of death.
"It was very unexpected. We thought it would be best if you knew." Lord Quintus placed a hand on Thaladius' shoulder. "The two of you were rather close."
"Not entirely," said Thaladius, "but at the moment, that is beside the point." He knelt; extending a hand, he brushed Delphine's dark curls off of her sallow, dead cheek. He supressed a sigh, and stood up again. "Now, which of us is going to tell Marina?"
"I suppose you ought to," said Quintus. "You know her better than I."
"Understood." Thaladius paused a moment. "Where is she?"
"Asleep, I would presume, given the hour."
"Ah. Should I wake her?"
"It would be best. She might want to see Lady Delphine, and if so we cannot wait much longer until..."
"Don't be squeamish, Quintus. Until she rots."
"Yes, that." Quintus looked down at the corpse before him. "She was quite beautiful."
Thaladius did not answer. Rather, he stooped to pick up the goblet off of the floor. He sniffed it tentatively.
"Red wine. What was in it, I can't tell. Probably hemlock."
"Are we sure, Ambassador, that it was suicide?"
"Who would kill her?"
"One never knows. She had many lovers, Ambassador."
"Why would they kill her?" He paused. "She was manipulative, but I doubt any of them would go so far as to kill her. Besides, recently she only had one that I know of, and that would be Marina, whom I highly doubt has the proper consitution to carry out a murder. Go call a servant, Quintus."
"Yes, sir." Lord Quintus left through the doorway, and his footsteps receded down the hallway as he went to wake one of the servants. Thaladius stood beside Delphine's remains, gently caressing her hair. He turned her head upward, beholding her strong features and arresting brow. She had dark eyebrows, but kept them groomed meticulously. He bent down and gently kissed the cold, scarlett lips. They had an unnatural feel to them, icy and slick, as if they were made of wax instead of flesh.
"Still beautiful in death." He ran a finger gently down her creamy, swanlike neck, down to delicately sculpted collarbones. Her dress was made of deep red silk, deeper even than the hue of the couch on which she lay, and emblazoned with thread of gold. Her necklace was a fine gold chain dripping with large rubies and garnets, the longest strand brushing the top of her ample cleavage. Thaladius kissed her breast lightly, then stroked her hair.
"I hope you rot in Hell."
"This way," said Quintus from down the hall. Thaladius pulled away from Delphine as he entered the room. He was followed by Marina. She was a small girl of about seventeen, with a rather frail look about her. Her skin was a different sort of pale than the living Delphine's had been; Marina appeared rather sickly at times, or at least gave that impression. She was rather thin and small, with ash-blonde hair and pale grey eyes. She was accompanied by a maidservant in a blue dress; she herself wore a pale yellow nightdress.
Marina gasped and swooned a bit; Quintus caught her. The maidservant clapped her hand to her mouth. Quintus helped Marina stand up; she slowly walked toward the couch where Delphine lay, looking almost as if she were sleepwalking. She extended a quivering hand and touched Delphine's cheek. She inhaled sharply and fell to her knees; Quintus and Thaladius rushed to her side. Marina lay her arms on Delphine's stomach and buried her face in them. Thaladius and Quintus could hear her sobs. Thaladius went to pull her off of Delphine, but Quintus stayed his hand.
"Let her cry," said Quintus.
"She can do it elsewhere. We need to get a coroner and dispose of the body properly."
"The poor girl is in shock."
Marina continued to sob uncontrollably. Quintus gently placed a hand on her shoulder.
"I'm.... I'm sorry... it was completely unexpected."
Marina looked up; her face was swollen and red.
"Who... who did this?" she choked.
"It was suicide," said Thaladius. Marina broke into tears again.
"Oh... oh god!" She buried her face in her hands. "This is my fault, this is all my fault."
Quintus knelt beside her. "No."
"Yes! We... we had a fight..." she sobbed. "She was angry with me, because... because I wouldn't do... something... I can't say..." Quintus helped her up. She leaned sobbing against his shoulder; he held his niece comfortingly.
"We should get a coroner," said Thaladius. "She needs to be buried tomorrow." Marina sobbed again.
It was a cold, late autumn day, and a frigid dampness pervaded the air, misting the naked trees and drizzling on the mourners' tenebrous garb. The entirity of the upper class of Tyruvia seemed to have arrived for the burial ceremony of one of its most quietly notorious members. They wore fine garb, all black, a sea of black buzzing and churning outside of the Temple as they awaited the arrival of the corpse. The coldly archaic towers of the Temple of Ferrus loomed above them, almost menacingly, its spires of dark stone casting a shadow that compounded the fitting darkness of Delphine's funeral day.
Thaladius found himself part of that crowd as he pushed his way through the sea of funerial garb and obligatory tears. Women dabbed at their eyes with embroidered handkerchiefs.
"So tragic," said a middle-aged woman.
"It was," said her husband.
"She was so beautiful and young," said another.
"Unmarried, too. So tragic, to die a maid."
Thaladius raised his eyebrow at that one as he elbowed his way past the man who uttered it. Delphine was no maid; in fact, he distinctly remembered that same man, a light-haired young man with a strong chin, proposing to Delphine and being soundly rejected. Thaladius wondered if the man was being ironic; he noticed that the he wore not black, but a very dark green: the color of life and growth. Thaladius smirked a bit.
The humid air lay heavy in the claustrophobic confines of the tightly packed throng. Thaladius found the close quarters with so many seething bodies to be singularly uncomfortable. Irritated, he pushed his way through until he saw the balding head of Quintus. He tapped Quintus on the shoulder as he pushed aside a chattering young woman.
Quintus turned. Usually fond of bright colors, he looked rather out-of-place in his long black velvet cloak. It was secured with a silver pin bearing his family crest.
"Thaladius! I was looking for you. We should make our way to the front."
"Sorry I'm late."
"Is Marina here?"
"She's inside. We sent three handmaids with her, in case she faints."
"Ah." He looked around. "I'm rather surprised that so many people came."
"Why wouldn't they? Delphine knew everyone."
"Only because she slept with them all."
"Be respectful!... Ambassador," he added, flushing a bit at his disrespect to a superior. "I mean to say, it's her funeral day, after all. Ought we not to show respect to the dead?"
"The dead had no respect for anyone. Least of all herself."
Quintus moved a bit as if he meant to reply, but stayed his tongue instead.
"Come, we should move forward," said Thaladius. They began to push their way to the front; it was a relatively short distance until they found themselves at the foot of the solemn granite steps ascending to the doorway to the Temple of Ferrus. Silently they climbed its high, narrow steps. The door was large and made of a very dark wood, ornately carved with symbols of Ferrus, the god of war and reason and the patron god of the city. Thaladius gave the door a strong push, and its weight swung slowly backward. The two men passed through the threshold.
The interior chamber was nothing short of enormous. Light filtered sparingly through a few narrow windows near the top; torches provided solemn, flickering illumination. The altar lay at the other side, flanked by two enormous statues of dour-faced griffins. Other statues lay in alcoves along the walls, and the top of the walls, near where the ceiling began to curve upward, were emblazoned with mosaics that reflected the light of the torches, portraying the city's legendary founding. Above the altar, the mosaic pictured a large Ferrus, his wings done in gleaming mother-of-pearl and his sword glistening silver, dripping with deep red jasper at the end of the great battle that led to the Fall of the Fathers. Thaladius had a small replica of that segment of the mosaic in his living quarters, and he brought it with him when he travelled to distant lands as ambassador. As a young man, attending ceremonies at the Temple, he had seen that mosaic time and time again. It was a portrait of victory, of order out of chaos, of triumph over antiquity. Thaladius did not believe in Ferrus, nor any other god, but he held a solemn reverence for that portrait.
The temple priest and two deacons stood before the altar; the priest was an older man with a long white beard and contemplative eyes. Thaladius approached him, extending his hand. The priest gripped it firmly.
"Good afternoon, Thaladius."
"Good afternoon, your holiness."
Quintus shook the priest's hand as well.
"Is the body prepared?" asked Quintus.
"I believe so," said the priest. "Who is speaking about the deceased?"
"We're not certain at the moment," said Thaladius. "Her close companion, the lady Marina, might speak a piece, if she is inclined or able to do so. She's a bit in shock."
"Ah. What about family of the deceased?"
"Her parents are no longer with us," said Quintus, "and her only other family, I believe, lives in Pilas."
"Ah. Will either of you be speaking?"
"I may say a word or two," said Quintus, "seeing as that she was so close to my niece Marina. What about you, Thaladius?"
"I have nothing to say," he replied. "What is there to say?"
"I suppose," said the priest, "that we ought to allow anyone who so desires to come up during the ceremony and say their piece. Now, the ritual is prepared, and we are about to open the temple to the attendees. The corpse in its coffin is being watched by a few resident Sisters in the chapel room. If you are so inclined, visitation is open to those close to the deceased."