The Duchess of Mount Zirra


She resided in the castle long after the others had departed. The magnificent structure graced the peak of Mount Zirra which stood within the mist of the black sea. Unreachable and crumbling in parts, no visitor had dared to venture to the desolate mountain.

In 1633 the castle had been constructed as the residence to the first generation of Zirras.  Inside the golden gates had once existed an unparalleled beauty and opulence.   Inside the walls which once held hope and kindness now held death and despair.

The Zirra family had spanned centuries within the castle and ruled the Magonitz Islands until the gradual and final demise. Now, only fragments of the past remained. Diseased memories lay hidden in dark rooms. Webs which had weaved throughout centuries covered vast ceilings and towers and layers of untouched dust contained all that remained unspoken. Tragic secrets loomed inside every wall, where beauty became decay and life became death.

The Duchess was not of a sane mind and had acted upon evil intention, forcing the others to flee from the mountain. Some escaped to other shores but most had met a deadly ending. Their remains could be seen crashing upon rocks in eternal damnation as the tides ebbed and flowed, forever bringing them back to the foot of the mountain.

Despite much frenzied pleading, the only daughter of the Duchess, Lady Genevieve, had been unable to escape her mother’s wrath.  Her crime had been an untainted beauty to surpass her mother’s own. Her fate had been death by poison.  Entombed inside a small crevice under the stone stairs she now lay, held as a token of triumph.  The Duchess could not bear the existence of beauty to challenge her own and she had felt no remorse.

The Duchess now existed alone inside the chamber of mirrors. A vault to her vanity where she continued to indulge her only interest.   Dressed in the most delicate corsetry and adorned with the finest jewels, she graced the looking glass night and day, transfixed in her own reflection, hypnotised inside her own treacherous soul. She combed her golden mane until she became delirious and the shine reflected blinding lights from the mirrors and up into every crevice of the chamber.

Screams and lucid hauntings would visit her on certain lunar phases to be met with sinister laughter, the power of which would shatter the highest window panes in the crumbling towers.  She could not be driven from her slumber and remained resilient to any attempt of revenge by malevolent spirits.

On one such evening, when more than one and fifty months had passed, when, it seemed the Duchess inconceivably invincible to all living or dead forces, there came above the castle a powerful shift in the heavens.  The sky now electric and mist thick around the howling moon, it cast a fertile shadow upon the mountain top.  Flashes of red volts pierced the atmosphere, conjuring a miracle of resurrection upon the bloody rocks.  One by one, bones began to emerge from the putrid waters, reunited, slotted into parts, skulls twisting and reeling, fingers grasping and gripping up the surrounding terrain until the entire mountain held an ascending entourage of vengeance.

Inside the chamber of mirrors, the Duchess, unaware of external forces, danced lovingly to her own piercing song.  Her multiple reflections changed costume and began merrily adding to the abundance of jewellery hanging down, limb upon limb.  As she fanned herself and made love with the abundant imagery, there came upon the looking glass an unexpected reflection.

The corpse of the truly fair one had emerged from the tomb and descended upon the chamber.  Slender bones clutched onto corset strings, screams from the sinister one failing to overpower and merely shattering each golden reflection into twinkling crumbs upon the stone floor. Tighter and tighter the corpse of Genevieve pulled until there were no more screams, only a doomed face of blue reflected in one hundred crumbling mirrors.


first published in ‘The Rogues Gallery – The illustrated Police News‘ 2014