The lilies faded as lilies do, and the dark death roses came into bloom. I cut them and carried them to Thecla, nigrescent purple flecked with scarlet. She smiled and recited: "Here Rose the Graced, not Rose the Chaste, reposes. The scent that rises is no scent of roses." "If their odor offends you, Chatelaine..." "Not at all, it is very sweet. I was only quoting something my grandmother used to say. The woman was infamous when she was a girl, or so she told me, and all the children chanted that rhyme when she died. Actually I suspect it is much older, and lost in time, like the beginnings of all the good and bad things. Men are said to desire women, Severian. Why do they despise the women they obtain?" "I don't believe all do, Chatelaine." "That beautiful Rose gave herself, and suffered such mockery for it that I know of it, though her dreams long ago turned to dust with her smooth flesh. Come here and sit by me." I did as I was told, and she slipped her hands under the frayed bottom of my shirt and drew it over my head. I protested, but found myself unable to resist. "What are you ashamed of? You who have no breasts to hide. I've never seen such white skin coupled with dark hair... Do you think my own skin white?" "Very white, Chatelaine." "So do others, but it is dun next to yours. You must flee the sun when you're a torturer, Severian. You'll burn terribly." Her hair, which she often let fall free, today was bound about her head in a dark aureole. She had never more closely resembled her half-sister Thea, and I felt such desire for her that I seemed to be spilling my blood upon the floor, growing weaker and fainter with each contraction of my heart. "Why are you pounding on my door?" Her smile told me she knew. "I must go." "You'd better put your shirt back on before you leave - you wouldn't want your friend to see you like that."This implies that Severian and Thecla remained chaste. But "The lilies faded as lilies do, and the dark death roses came into bloom." I talked about the symbolism of flowers in a previous post. Unfortunately, the lily has so many meanings I forgot to mention the Christian symbolism. The lily represented innocence, and the Virgin Mary's purity. The rose represents love and passion, and the "dark death roses" could also mean sin, innocence lost. So I think that this is a clear signal that no one is chaste here. "I suspect it is much older, and lost in time, like the beginnings of all the good and bad things." This is another sign of the age of their civilization. It probably wouldn't take billions or even millions of years to forget the origin of stories or theories or artworks. What do we know about what happened even 10,000 years ago? Maybe it's a false analogy, since our recordkeeping skills and materials have gotten better. But consider the origin of Rose the Graced:
Higden, monk of Chester, says: 'She was the fayre daughter of Walter, Lord Clifford, concubine of Henry II., and poisoned by Queen Elianor, A.D. 1177. Henry made for her a house of wonderful working, so that no man or woman might come to her. This house was named Labyrinthus, and was wrought like unto a knot in a garden called a maze. But the queen came to her by a clue of thredde, and so dealt with her that she lived not long after."A Labyrinth and a clue of thread, eh? It's hard to say which parts of this are historical fact and which are inventions. And this is only about 850 years ago, imagine what 85,000 years would do. Barring catastrophe, though, I think the real problem in the future will be that we are so good at preserving things now. Eventually you'll have something like Master Ultan's library, stretching for who knows how far, with only two librarians to take care of it. Maybe the recording materials of the future will be well-nigh indestructible, but who is going to organize and search through all that? "She had never more closely resembled her half-sister Thea, and I felt such desire for her that I seemed to be spilling my blood upon the floor, growing weaker and fainter with each contraction of my heart." Lovely writing. So part of Severian's feelings for Thecla are mixed up with his romantic moonlit encounter with Thea and Vodalus. I think one of the signs of a good writer is giving characters complicated feelings like this (unless they're deliberately going for a two-dimensional feel).