Neil Gaiman reads Instructions
Illustrations by Charles Vess
This is a book trailer. The poem contains the true etiquette one must observe in Faery.
Increases potency and power
“Marcsa Virag, get away from the door!”
The voice struck like a blast of cold wind, blowing me into the shadows below the torchlight. The toes of my pointed shoes caught in the swirling hem of my shirts, tripping me to the floor. I broke my fall with my hands and lay winded for a moment. As I struggled to catch my breath I glanced around for my doll. She was gone. I turned to look back the way I had come and, through a blur of tears, saw my doll’s small, dark shape lying in a wand of firelight between the wall and the door that was cracked open upon the private chambers of the Countess Orzsebet.
There was a flicker of silence. I crept forward thinking that I might have time slip back and rescue my doll before anybody noticed, when suddenly the door opened wide, and in that shaft of light, the profile of a long-nosed mask appeared, surrounded by an elaborate circular neck ruff. A glimmer of bright fabric rained down from the mask to the floor and a single hand curled there around the handle of a long whip. The mask slowly turned to face me, its eyeholes stared in my direction, and the frill fanned out around it like the neck feathers of a great bird of prey. When the Countess saw me, she drew swiftly back into the room and out of sight, only to reappear and gaze at me again.
Captured in the beams of the Countess’s eyes, I was unable to move, frozen like a mouse crouching in the witch grass waiting for the descending claws. Suddenly she was walking towards me with a smooth, gliding step that reminded me of the small serpents that slithered into my chamber in the night and hid beneath my bed to escape the winter cold. The eyes behind the holes of the mask bore down upon me, baleful and fiery blue.
The corridor was colder and darker than ever now. The Countess Orzsebet, my mother, had sucked away all of the heat and light and taken it away into
her personal domain. My doll lay face down like a fragment of torn shadow. Her black hair was tangled. Her dress was draggled and ripped. With my
eyes still fixated upon my mother’s door, I leaned over slowly and picked her up. When I looked at her face I almost dropped her again. Someone had
burned out her eyes!
“Marcsa Virag, you have not seen what you think you have seen. Mark me! You do not remember a thing.”
Wheeling around, she threw my doll at my feet, floated back to her chamber and shut me out.
The corridor was colder and darker than ever now. The Countess Orzsebet, my mother, had sucked away all of the heat and light and taken it away into her personal domain. My doll lay face down like a fragment of torn shadow. Her black hair was tangled. Her dress was draggled and ripped. With my eyes still fixated upon my mother’s door, I leaned over slowly and picked her up. When I looked at her face I almost dropped her again. Someone had burned out her eyes!
I held my poor doll to my heart and ran as fast as I could down the rest of the corridor, almost tripping down a flight of wide sloping steps. I sped across the wintry cobbled courtyard where the ice-cold waters in the unicorn fountain were frozen in the air like silver ribbons. I plunged into a shadowy, smoky maze of arches and out again into the dim winter light of the Castle Courtyard that stretched behind the Main Gate to the steps of the Reception Hall. My steps echoed as I raced across the flagstones, scattering a flock of pigeons that flew around me like a storm. Finally I arrived at the tall, heavy doors to my wing of the castle and the guard let me inside. I slowed my pace down the wide corridor to the grand staircase that swept up to the galleries. My legs were heavy as I climbed into the gloom. I had to sit down to catch my breath. One look at my doll told me, more than words, that my mother hated me. I pressed the tip of my tongue against my teeth to calm myself. Above the top step, the landing stretched spaciously to the foot of an enormous tapestry of a beautiful walled garden where ladies danced with hares around a tree in the moonlight.
I fixed my gaze on the rich colors of the tapestry and finished my climb up the stairs. One either side of that weaving were two stained glass windows that shone hot for a moment and then dimmed, telling me that the sun had just fallen below the rim of the Carpathian Mountains.