The lonely footsteps. The low, haunting song that vibrated in her throat. The soft tinkling sound of the garnets on her ankle swinging to the rhythm of her dance.
How lovely it had been, when she feared no harm, and could dance as lightly and as freely as a bird. It had been so easy. Her feet had moved quickly and without pain. Her arms would sway gracefully, long and white above her head. Life and laughter had filled her lips, and her eyes had shone like two pearls, though black as the dead of the night.
Stretched full upon the floor would lay the minstrel, lute in hands, thrumming gently as his voice rang out through the marble room. A lovely voice – its very breath pleasant to the ear, and its timbre both strong and effortless, as it floated amongst notes both high and low. Pieta would smile at him as she passed, humming in her smooth alto the same lingering notes that he sang. He would smile back at her.
How Pieta had loved that minstrel. How many times had he spoken to her in that cajoling yet manly voice, calling her all manner of lovely things…woodland sprite – muse – rose-blossom – butterfly.
He had often called her a butterfly.
Her movements had been lithe and light; her hum had been sweet and mellow; her clothes had been bright and colorful. What else should she be called but a butterfly?
The steady ache that had been growing in Pieta's throat finally erupted into a sob. Through blurred, melancholy eyes she looked at the ruins around her that had once been the palace in which she had served. The walls were now cracked, the marble floor covered in dust and grime. The tables were overturned. The place was awry.
Her minstrel was gone. He had been killed by the intruders. Their sharp weapons had pierced his sweet heart, and he had fallen at her side. How Pieta had paled. Her own heart turned to air, and she faced the intruders with mad resilience. But she had not been able to defend herself from the dogs…the tall, black beasts of the night that accompanied the intruders. Like shadows they had surrounded her, fierce and growling. Mad with terror, she had attempted to ward them off with fragments of a splintered chair. But she provoked them instead, and they fell upon her.
Pieta's crooked shoulders throbbed at the violence of her shudder. She turned in the silent ruins, trying to wash the memory from her mind. But her foot dragged as she moved, and she knew she would never be able to ignore it.
She bent down and looked at the bare little foot. It had once been white and slender. It was now brown and calloused, sadly twisted and deformed. A long red scar ran up its length to her ankle. No anklet hung at her foot, for it was now lame, and would nevermore allow her to dance.
She crept up to the wall and looked at her reflection through a dusty, cracked glass that remained upon it. She gazed into her eyes, which had once been as bright as black pearls. They were now dull, dark, and melancholy. Her posture was crooked because of her constant limping, and one shoulder sloped downward. Dingy brown clothing covered her back.
Butterfly? Butterfly? What sort of butterfly boasted such a sorrowful hue? What butterfly lingered in such dolorous solitude?
The butterfly had been ensnared; the cruel shadows of night had dampened its hue and maimed it. Pieta remained a butterfly…a butterfly with a broken wing.