Written below is an exclusive poem – one that encompasses an entire chapter of Tenebrae Manor. Read at your own discretion; there are minimal spoilers if you have not yet read Tenebrae Manor. Entitled Juniper, the poem entails the protagonist Bordeaux and his journey through a foreign land. Influenced by epic poems such as Iliad and The Divine Comedy, Juniper is the most unique chapter of Tenebrae Manor.
Bordeaux had turned back towards the town and readily felt his mind unravel;
after the hours had gone by in thought, he sought a useful way to travel.
To return somehow to his immemorial home and save his friends in time,
He would need to cover ample ground swiftly and what better way than equine?
Atop a horse’s hasty flight of hooves, he would be able to spread his wings
And hope against helplessness that his soaring would fling
Him in the correct direction, the accurate degree of the compass where his home
Waited in mid-peril for him, their saviour, to return from his unexpected roam.
So within the harbour town, he made his way through the bustling parade
Of markets and stalls and found a merchant with whom he attempted to strike a trade.
Though they spoke no common tongue, Bordeaux’s remaining coins and a silver ring,
One of many he wore, were an absolute bounty to the peasant, who stood grinning.
He was more than ecstatic to acquire such treasure for a common horse
And Bordeaux was pleased that his exchange had not required force.
Thus the crimson demon rode away from the coast and left
The harbour town betwixt the sea and mountains in that salty cleft
Where land and sea locked in embrace. The road he had chosen became
Little more than dust and grass until he found the path had dissipated into no more than a plain.
The sunlight shone down onto his back, igniting the steppe of reeds and flowers
With a vibrant fluorescence of colours – green, blue, yellow and they showered
Onto him, with the foreign intrusive red of his hair and his horse with a pelt of auburn
Disrupting the harmony of those glowing colours poured from the sunny urn.
The breeze whispered sea-bound and flew over his shoulders,
Fleeing the steppe that lay littered with blossomed bud and boulder.
And this wind was accompanied by the glassy currents of the rivers
That ran like veins towards the heart, the sea, in glossy cool slivers.
Breaking the field of verdant green, those trees that stood few and far between
Were of a variety of juniper and Bordeaux had forgotten how open space could spark the serene.
Yet even with such velvet verdancy stretching towards his every horizon,
Each day that passed punctured his confidence and mounted his wizened
Appearance into something increasing haggard and poor;
A weather beating proven by the stubble that sprouted on his gaunt jaw.
Gradually the scene shifted, before eventually growing stale in his heart.
The open space of the fields that once thrilled him did start
To evoke loneliness akin to the forest that he yearned for in vain.
Gone was the freedom of riding across this lush and uninhibited terrain.
All that remained in its place was a crippling and desperate despair
That was magnified verbatim by the roaring rush of the lilies and above, the daylight glare.
Night had revived Bordeaux time and again, so that he pressed
On further until the steppe grew in shoots of tree and became woods. He addressed
The reality of his stark situation. Another change of scene and no hint for him to grope.
He found he was blindly reaching at the fraying strands of his hope.
“I am at a loss. My efforts are futile. I cannot continue on this way,” he said.
“I’ve no idea where my home is and surely my friends may have already assumed me to be dead.
Is there any point to travelling further degrees of longitude on this planet?
Though where else can I go and live in tranquillity unmet?”
Just as Bordeaux had begun giving up and thought he might cast
His anchor overboard, so to speak (for he felt like a rudderless boat) and avast
His travelling for favour of aimlessly drifting alone over the lands,
A certain movement of a creature, namely a tamely colt, captured his glance.
The beast, clearly domesticated, peered from his timid eyes
Beneath the drape of a brush, whose blue-black cones and grey-green fronds disguised
It in a considerable camouflage to the unobservant eye. Although hardly an unusual sight,
The horse made Bordeaux realise a possible end to his plight.
For the wayward appearance of this particular saddled thing could only mean
That a settlement, be it farm or town nearby, would break the monotonous bush land green.
Bordeaux forced his horse into a trot and rounded a corner of hill,
And there, just out of sight down the foot of the slope was a windmill.
It stood as a beacon, towering over the small farmhouse next to it.
The fields of trimmed grass surrounding were inviting, he had to admit.
Straddled by a verandah, the house appeared ancient and in need of repair
And Bordeaux wondered whether its inhabitants still lived there.
As he drew nearer, he dismounted his horse and crept
Towards the flimsy fence near the house. On a sudden his heart leapt,
For the movement of a human being startled Bordeaux.
As she glided from the door of the cottage into the afternoon glow.
The lass he observed was in the prime of youth, simply adorned in a sky coloured dress.
Her entangled hair glowed a palette of auburn, shifting shades with the sunlight’s caress.
As she hung out linen to dry in the sun, Bordeaux attempted to call out and speak.
The travelling had him worn with fatigue and a nagging hunger made him weak,
But could there be harm in confiding with her? There was no town for miles,
This Bordeaux knew, so perhaps she could offer safe lodgings for a while.
So a demon posed as a man called out at the girl, who showed little shock
At the sudden arrival of a stranger. A turn of her head and a sway of her frock
Preceded a confident smile that startled him; for the ease of her beauty was akin to a nymph
Or any of those other mysterious dryads that hover through nature as sprightly glyphs.
As though he were little more than another tree in the forest, another post in the fence, she turned
And left him alone in the grass. The screen door closed and the wind was all that could be heard.
She returned, With a tan-furred dog at her feet that raced at Bordeaux, whose fearing eyes suddenly bulged wide.
But the dog’s advance was friendly and when he looked up again at the girl, she beckoned him inside.
Bordeaux was never quite certain whether the girl spoke a foreign language or simply didn’t talk at all
But never once did the girl say a word and her spritely mystery kept the demon in thrall.
Despite the lack of verbalism in their commune, Bordeaux spoke to her often and felt she still understood
The desperation of his situation. He named her Juniper, for the abundance of such plants in the surrounding woods.
Together, they tended to the health of the horse that had transported Bordeaux safely until now
And as the days drifted by in sweetly, Juniper carried about her errands feeding chickens and milking cows.
He had thought that Juniper must live alone; though found soon enough that she had her own demons.
In a certain sunny room of her humble house sat an invalid old man, who painfully cried for deathly haven.
The man must have been Juniper’s father; he could not stand on his own accord.
He was completely dependant and the man’s tears were his only way of expressing thanks to his ward.
The sight of the sickly man struck a chord in Bordeaux’s heart
And he tried to ask Juniper how she became tied to this part.
It seemed to upset the girl to reminisce, she showed Bordeaux a grave
That stood lonely at the bottom of the garden, at the back of the enclave.
With the headstone unmarked, Bordeaux could not discern whom the grave was for
But gathered it must have been her husband or mother, someone else who may have poured
Their heart into the tending of this farm and the caring of the sick old man.
Bordeaux realised that Juniper too, was trapped in a world of limited span.
As the sunlight filtered through the quiet days, he felt his heart become enveloped
With fires of love and tenderness, albeit somewhat impetuous and less developed.
Perhaps it was merely the farmland’s secluded reality presenting idea of freedom
Or that Juniper represented the folklore of more relatable kingdom.
Their similarities were unassailable; she too was stuck in a world reliant on her servitude,
So maybe between them, they could share their inequitable load and belay the attitude
Owing to a life where their whims, fancies and dreams would always be second
To the needs of others that lay languid in their introspective pond.
Yet these very thoughts ended up pivotal and soon Bordeaux’s calling took its toll.
He realised that he was chasing an ideal life that he could never hope to control.
Although in his heart, he felt that staying with Juniper was no act of whim,
Nothing would change the fact that his own home and friends needed him.
The emotion welled in his chest and when he one day caught Juniper’s gaze,
He exclaimed, “Juniper, this cannot work! I cannot stay. Though your beauty amaze,
You don’t understand the words that I say and nor could I hope to properly know you.
Even though the agony we feel is certainly burdened well together, you know it to be true!
Between us there is mutual devotion, derived of my love of your heart, so altruistic!
No chimera could destroy my knightly ambition to nurture you, my fantastic!
But while my home calls for me, the idea of us united is indeed a chimera,
Aspired dream must give way to my responsibility, such cruel terror!
Oh chimera – a dream from whence I stumble on my words, darling Juniper.
Let me say – no other muse compares to you, you star of brighter luminance than Jupiter.”
Juniper’s eyes swelled with a torrent of tears as she clutched at her heart.
The deluge of Bordeaux’s avowal, even with their foreign linguistics, did impart
The expression intended. And her acceptance of his pleas shone through their mutual affection,
The realisation that both must go alone and attend to their own afflictions.
He longingly stared at her with sorrowful eyes and repeated, “I have to go.”
Juniper kissed him softly on the cheek and whispered a word for him, “Bordeaux.”
His horse was prepared in the symphonic nocturne of the evening, where the crickets
Rung their ornamental anthem sempre forte in the gnarled brambly thickets.
Bordeaux painfully uttered farewell and hoped to guide himself through the treacherous shoals
With the spritely image of Juniper forever etched into his soul.