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Visbhume, apprentice to the recently dead Hippolito, applied to the sorcerer Tamurello for a similar post, but was denied. Visbhume then offered for sale a box containing articles which he had carried away from Hippolito's house. Tamurello, glancing into the box, saw enough to warrant his interest and paid over Visbhume's price.
Among the objects in the box were fragments of an old manuscript. When news of the transaction came by chance to the ears of the witch Desmëi, she wondered if the fragments might not fill out the gaps in a manuscript which she had long been trying to restore. Without delay she took herself to Tamurello's manse Faroli in the Forest of Tantrevalles, and there applied for permission to inspect the fragments.
With all courtesy Tamurello displayed the fragments. "Are these the missing pieces?"
Desmëi looked through the fragments. "They are indeed!"
"In that case they are now yours," said Tamurello. "Accept them with my compliments."
"I will do so most gratefully!" said Desmëi. As she packed the fragments into a portfolio, she studied Tamurello from the corner of her eye. She said: "It is somewhat odd that we have not met before."
Tamurello smilingly agreed. "The world is long and wide. New experiences await us always, for the most part to our pleasure." He inclined his head with unmistakable gallantry toward his guest.
"Nicely spoken, Tamurello!" said Desmëi. "Truly, you are most gracious!"
"Only when circumstances warrant. Will you take refreshment? Here is a soft wine pressed from the Alhadra grape."
For a time the two sat discussingthemselves and their concepts. Desmëi, finding Tamurello both stimulating and large with vitality, decided to take him for her lover.
Tamurello, who was keen for novelty, made no difficulties and matched her energy with his own, and for a season all was well. However, in due course Tamurello came to feel that Desmëi, to an enervating degree, lacked both lightness and grace. He began to blow hot and cold, to Desmëi's deep concern. At first she chose to interpret his waning ardour as a lover's teasing: the naughtiness, so to speak, of a pampered darling. She thrust herself upon his attention, tempting him with first one coy trick, then another.
Tamurello became ever more unresponsive. Desmëi sat long hours with him, analyzing their relationship in all its phases, while Tamurello drank wine and looked moodily off through the trees.
Neither sighs nor sentiment, Desmëi discovered, affected Tamurello. She learned that he was equally proof against cajolery, while reproaches seemed only to bore him. At last, in a facetious manner, Desmëi spoke of a former lover who had caused her pain and hinted of the misfortunes which thereafter had dogged his life. Finally she saw that she had captured Tamurello's attention, and veered to more cheerful topics.
Tamurello let prudence guide his conduct, and once again Desmëi had no complaints.
After a hectic month Tamurello found that he could no longer maintain his glassy-eyed zest. Once again he began to avoid Desmëi, but now that she understood the forces which guided his conduct, she brought him smartly to heel.
Desperate at last, Tamurello invoked a spell of ennui upon Desmëi: an influence so quiet, gradual and unobtrusive that she never noticed its coming. She grew weary of the world, its sordid vanities, futile ambitions and pointless pleasures, but so strong was her disposition that she never thought to suspect a change in herself. From Tamurello's point of view, the spell was a success.
For a period Desmëi moved in gloomy contemplation through the windy halls of her palace on the beach near Ys, then at last decided to abandon the world to its own melancholy devices. She made herself ready for death, and from her terrace watched the sun set for the last time.
At midnight she sent a bubble of significance over the mountains to Faroli, but when dawn arrived, no message had returned.
Desmëi pondered a long hour, and at last thought to wonder at the dejection which had brought her to such straits.
Her decision was irrevocable. In her final hour, however, she bestirred herself to work a set of wonderful formulations, the like of which had never been known before.
The motives for these final acts were then and thereafter beyond calculation, for her thinking had become vague and eerie. She surely felt betrayal and rancor, and no doubt a measure of spite, and seemed also urged by forces of sheer creativity. In any event she produced a pair of superlative objects, which perhaps she hoped might be accepted as the projection of her own ideal self, and that the beauty of these objects and their symbolism might be impinged upon Tamurello.
In the light of further circumstances1 her success in this regard was flawed, and the triumph, if the word could so be used, went rather to Tamurello.
In achieving her aims, Desmëi used a variety of stuff: salt from the sea, soil from the summit of Mount Khambaste in Ethiopia, exudations and pastes, as well as elements of her personal substance. So she created a pair of wonderful beings: exemplars of all the graces and beauties. The woman was Melancthe; the man was Faude Carfilhiot.
Still all was not done. As the two stood naked and mindless in the workroom, the dross remaining in the vat yielded a rank green vapor. After a startled breath, Melancthe shrank back and spat the taste from her mouth. Carfilhiot, however, found the reek to his liking and inhaled it with all avidity.
Some years later, the castle Tintzin Fyral fell to the armies of Troicinet. Carfilhiot was captured and hanged from a grotesquely high gibbet, in order to send an unmistakably significant image toward both Tamurello at Faroli to the east and to King Casmir of Lyonesse, to the south.
In due course Carfilhiot's corpse was lowered to the ground, placed on a pyre, and burned to the music of bagpipes and flutes. In the midst of the rejoicing the flames gave off a gout of foul green vapor, which, caught by the wind, blew out over the sea. Swirling low and mingling with spume from the waves, the fume condensed to become a green pearl which sank to the ocean floor, where eventually it was ingested by a large flounder.