The Comte de Lyonnesse sat stylishly in his outdoor seat and closed his eyes, allowing the smells of his sumptuous banquet to invade his flaring nostrils. His sense of smell was renowned throughout the land and on this evening he could discern every meal laid before him and his four guests, and he could even identify the most subtle of ingredients in all of them.
Some of his favourite meals were laid on the table, including venison tartare – so fresh he could smell the blood pooling on the plate around the finely chopped flesh; roast buffalo calf – again, he could sense that it had the right rawness about it, so that the flesh could be fully appreciated; and lightly braised blood sausage – dark with the richness of congealed sanguis, contrasted with delectable globules of bone-white fat.
He opened his eyes and caught the remnants of the setting sun behind the far-off hills, the sky blazed in burnt umber, and in places nearly as red as life-blood. His eyes turned to his guests, the Vicomte du Mal and his wife, and Margrave Champoleon and his very lovely daughter, Cybele.
Cybele. He had loved her the moment he saw those emerald green eyes, her jet-black hair, surrounding her porcelain-white skin. It was her skin that drew him in at first, that flesh which promised so much softness to caress and to place one’s mouth against. He swallowed hard. This was always so difficult, so frustrating.
He had seen her that first time four years ago in a royal function, and it took nearly twelve months for Champoleon to finally agree to attend a dinner engagement on his estate. The elderly nobleman enjoyed his feast, and eagerly agreed to return regularly. This was what he wanted, in order to be near Cybele, and hopefully win her heart. Unfortunately she was shy, or perhaps disliked him, as she only spoke to him when responding to his questions or statements; and when she did speak, she never allowed eye contact.
Tonight was the nineteenth dinner where Cybele attended.
He worked his way slowly through the dishes, always sticking to his favourites, finding rapture in the taste and texture of the raw or near-raw animal tissue. He was the perfect host, responding to each guest’s needs, partaking of small talk, offering titbits from the banquet table when they were out of reach. Much of his behavior was automatic: his mind was only half devoted to etiquette. The other part of his attention was centered on Cybele, as it always was, hoping that he could break down her barrier.
A servant refilled his goblet with the dark, blood-red wine, and he sipped it, feeling the soothing effects of the alcohol permeate his body. He noticed that she hardly touched her own. He wished she was less inhibited, to give his love – his need – a chance.
Like all previous dinners graced with Cybele, this night saw no progress at all. His disappointment was tangible, heart-rending, but he still continued to feign the perfect host.
There was one last meal that was numbered among his favourite that was not sampled this night – the tartare. It was untouched, and on the far side of the table near his object of adoration. He studied the small plate with the minced venison molded in a slightly rounded shape – much like a young girl’s breast he thought, and he felt himself salivate at the bright redness of the freshly chopped flesh, and the glistening, diluted blood around the rim. He then turned his eyes to Cybele, as he frequently was want to do, and for a fleeting moment their eyes met. Gods! Is there a possibility that the ice is melting? His heart started to beat faster, his anticipation started to rise.
He saw her pick up the venison tartare dish and offer it to him. He couldn’t help but stare at her, and her eyes locked onto his and she smiled. “Comte de Lyonnesse, are you still hungry?”
He smiled back; his teeth were long and straight. “Yes thank you, Mademoiselle Cybele, I am hungry like a wolf.”