Monday, December 29, 2008
“Expect more of your family to suddenly arrive,” he had suggested to Devi Nightfire, ”And then expect changes amongst several of the houses…” Pontifex had demurred when accused of scheming, implying that long-ago patterns were, once again, repeating themselves. “Chance favors the prepared mind,” he’d said in a mild tone, the same tone in which he’d earlier suggested that Denenthorn’s past was darker than I’d supposed. My brow furrowed as I considered the possibility that the Dark Librarian could be, as Pontifex had implied, one of the enigmatic Strykes, angelic beings who had ruled the City with duplicity until Lorne’s arrival.
I had just turned the corner of Luxuria Lane and begun heading toward the warmth of the Library when I felt a slight tug… not a summoning… but something. I glanced upward toward the roofline and could just make out a silhouette against the moonlit dark. I began to climb and was unsurprised to see the Dark Librarian standing there alone, staring into the winter sky as the snow drifted and fell on his bare shoulders and chest.
“I felt you calling me,” I said as I walked toward him, my boots crunching against the layer of ice-covered snow beneath my feet. He neither turned nor responded so I laid one hand on his arm, “Sir?” I asked.
“I am feeling Drow tonight,” he responded. Denenthorn barely seemed to acknowledge my presence as he continued to gaze over the City.
I shifted around to get a clearer look at him. “Why the dark mood, sir?”
“I’ve been contemplating my life these past few months,” Denenthorn shrugged, “And I feel that I've lost much, though I have gained much much more....”
I nodded slowly, thinking of his attempt to rescue Picket from hell. “When you were gone, sir, we didn't know... I didn't know if you would be coming back. And when you returned, you didn’t seem yourself.” You are not yourself even now, I thought, though my opinion remained unexpressed.
Denenthorn sighed. “My soul his whole, but the sacrifice cost me Lady Picket.” I watched a look of weary resignation wash over his features as he continued. “I went to the very depths to save her soul, was willing to sacrifice my own…. But she shunned me away, she no longer needs me. Perhaps I remind her of the dark she suffered through,” he shrugged, “Now she wants only that I stay far from her.” His tone was bitter. I stepped back slightly, thinking that he perhaps preferred the solace of his own company to mine at that moment.
Instead Denenthorn sighed and held out his hand to me. “No come closer,” he said quietly. I walked to his side and took his hand in my own. “I have all this power,” he mused, “But now without Reaper and Hatter, I feel empty... they are a part of me, but they cannot truly exist if my soul is not torn.”
I struggled to understand. “And now that your soul is whole yet you feel.... You want them back?” I asked in confusion.
“I miss the insanity,” he sighed, “But no, they take too much from me… my time, my patience… and the constant internal struggle harms me physically... they are why I was so scarred. It was the madness, though, that made me the Denny everyone knew....”
I lay my head against his arm. “And if you could choose now, sir? Which would you choose...whole or torn?” I was hesitant to ask, but I knew that I needed to know his true answer.
“Whole,” Denenthorn replied, turning me around slightly. “Because I have the ability to lead when I am whole.” He gave me a searching look.
“You led when you were torn, Sir...although it was a frightening and chaotic leadership.”
“Exactly,” Denenthorn agreed. I had met his gaze, seeing the sadness in his eyes, when I felt him suddenly begin to pull me toward him. He looked at me deeply for a long moment, then bent to kiss me passionately and without warning. My eyes widened, then closed, as I sank into his embrace. The taste of his lips, though unexpected, was warm and sweet.
As quickly as he had taken me in his arms, he released me. He stepped away and folded his arms across his chest, turning once again to gaze at the wintry night and leaving me in complete surprise.
“That is all for now, Praetor Menjou,” he said evenly. “You may return to your duties in the Library.”
I turned and left without a word.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Taking one hesitant step forward, then another, I was inexorably drawn into the Garden before me. The abundance of trees was overwhelming and beautiful in its greatness. The branches of the largest seemed to lift ever upward to the sky, its roots going down to the waters of the river. I turned my head this way and that as I walked, the sound of birdsong catching my ear. Each call was piercingly beautiful and more real than I had ever heard before. The smell of the air was crisp and green.
I stopped beside the river and stood still as a needle, breathing deeply, and taking in the sweet smell of cedar mingled with the fragrance of the other trees. After a moment I knelt at the water’s edge and dipped in my fingers, finding surprising warmth where I had expected the icy coldness of a spring. I brought my fingertips to my mouth, tasting the water’s sweetness. As I did so, the Garden began to become ever more green, its smells more intense. I felt as though I had never tasted water before, never before seen a real tree.
There was sparkle of light, then three stones glimmering in a small patch of sand on the riverbank caught my eye, all smooth and polished by the water. I couldn’t tell you why, but at that moment I felt a strong impulse to choose one. It seemed important somehow, even necessary. I ran my finger over each stone, but the one in the middle seemed to tingle under my touch. After a moment, I chose it and dropped it into my pocket. I straightened and stood, noticing for the first time two trees at the very center of the Garden.
Each of the trees was laden with ripe fruit, but a fruit that I’d never seen before. At the base of one, there bloomed a rose bush; in the lowest branch of the other there nested a bird with brilliant red and gold feathers, a single plume of purple cascading from its back. I walked softly toward the tree not wanting to frighten the bird away, each boot making an impression in the tufted grass beneath my feet. I knew only that I longed to touch the bird’s silken feathers, I hungered to look into its dark and seemingly endless gaze. As I extended one hand toward it, the bird’s nesting branch seemed to bend toward my touch. I reached out to brush the soft red and gold plumage with my fingertips, but as I did so my fingers passed through unexpectedly, the creature’s feathers turning to flame and nearly consuming it with my touch. Its ashes drifted like dark snowflakes before me in a sudden stirring breeze, and I heard a lone cry as the single, remaining purple plume fell into my outstretched hand.
I stared at the purple blaze and then looked at the empty place where the creature had been. I should have felt fear or perhaps sadness for its loss, but instead I felt wonder. Whatever had happened to the creature had been so utterly right that I knew it with every fiber of my being. Unbuttoning the collar of my jacket dress, I slid the feather between my undergarments and my skin, placing it over my heart. I stepped forward and wrapped my arms around the creature’s nesting tree, laying my head on its trunk and listening for something within.
Then I felt its pulse, images and sounds and scents rushing through me: The dance of fire at night, the scent of Grr’s fur, the cry of a newborn, Lorne’s touch on my cheek, the twinkling of the North Star, Brit’s shining eyes and the smell of the cookies she served in the Library. I closed my eyes and rested my cheek against the tree’s smooth bark, holding it and being held by the most living of living things. I’m not sure how long I stood there. I only know that I did not stir until, with the sound of rustling leaves and a glint of shimmering green, one leaf fluttered to rest at the toe of my boot.
I knelt at the foot of the tree, plucking the leaf from the grass and holding it between thumb and forefinger, studying each perfect vein from the base to the tip of the blade. I kissed it lightly and inhaled its scent, looking up to the tree with murmured thanks, before pulling a handkerchief from my pocket and wrapping the leaf neatly within. As I slid the small bundle into the folds of my skirt, I thought, “If only Grr could see this...it would make him whole....”
No sooner than the thought had formed, I found myself alone, standing in the wintry graveyard beside a cold slab nestled in the Toxian snow.
Lorne was nowhere to be seen.
Morticia licked her lips, her tongue gliding over extended fangs. “Nessa, darling, never heard of sharing?” she asked slyly. I looked at each of the vampire women, their hunger for Lorne apparent and I straightened up, wary once again.
Nessa thrust out her hip and pressed into Lorne. “I don’t like to share, Mother. I’m greedy ‘n selfish.”
I watched as Lorne placed His index finger on the center of Nessa’s sternum and slowly pushed her back. "Your pardon, good lady. I am back from a long journey, and wouldn't want to contaminate you with supernatural miasmas."
Nessa affected an insincere pout. “Okay, Lorney, babe… I get ‘ya, doll face… maybe we can meet up later when you have been cleansed...” she laughed.
“Err, mum…” Ashe poked Nessa behind the back, “being greedy and selfish is a sin, I think....” She darted her head around Nessa to lick her lips at Lorne.
“Shhh, Ashe,” Nessa replied, “I’m trying to master all seven….”
The Overlord cut the banter short, moving quickly beyond the ability to see, to stand just beside the stone slab on which I sat. Looking at both Lorne and me, he said in a voice dry with age, “I do believe you are paying visit to the dead... or is this a private meeting in such an uncommon place?”
Lorne shook His head, turning to speak over His shoulder to the Overlord. “It seems Joah was more contemplating the dead, I was simply using the unique spiritual qualities she has to guide my way back to the physical plane.”
I didn’t relax, but I did shift slightly on the slab, pointing to the headstone by my side. “Mary Olive Faith Dewitt,” I said in reply.
Ashe hopped up on a nearby headstone and looked around, amusement twinkling in her eyes.
“Is there a empty tomb around here?” Morticia yawned, “I’m sleepy.” The night sky was beginning to lighten, the sun not yet up, but the stars were fading and twinkling out.
“Tombs are so outdated, Grandmother… I prefer my big comfy bed with heavy curtains to draw around it, and shuttered windows….” Ashe wrapped her arms around herself with a dreamy expression on her face.
Lorne looked back to Morticia, nodding as He gazed around the graveyard. “There is more than one I believe. As I understand it, there were relatively large numbers of funerals performed here after no body was recovered for one reason or another.”
The Overlord nodded to Morticia, dismissing her to explore. She drifted off, walking around various tombs and inspecting each one. His gaze, however, never wandered from Lorne. “Then you don’t mind if we stay here a bit contemplating the dead too... we used too do so once a week and I wish this practice to be restored.”
“To see an Overlord of the Kindred Alliance in the graveyard would not be an unwelcome sight in My opinion,” Lorne said evenly. “Your predecessor spent many hours here, tending the graves, and showing them reverence.”
“That is correct, indeed,” the Overlord agreed. “But lately we have not been so welcome here….”
From a tomb to the right of me, Morticia muttered, “They need to clean in here.” I looked over to see her rubbing a finger along the stone tresses of a blank-eyed girl in a summer bonnet. The girl sat frozen in time, her hand resting on the carved stump of a tree before her. A few toys and trinkets had been laid around her and in front of the tomb’s opening.
I turned back to the headstone beside me, brushing a bit of snow from it’s top. Mary Olive’s engraving was worn. Weeds poked up through the cracked surface at its base. “There’s much that needs tending here,” I said. “Their memories are all but lost.”
Lorne looked down at me with a wry, if light smile. “Hopefully not all.” He turned back toward the Overlord. “Your predecessor also once confided in Me his intention to eat god.”
Ashe bent over a nearby stone and began cutting the frozen weeds with her claw and crushing them to powder with her hands, a sad and angry expression on her face. The Overlord shifted slightly giving Lorne a tight smile.
“Vladimir’s ambitions were high, but I suppose he was within his rights to try.” The Overlord spread his hands as if offering an apology. “I’d not dare to try in such a challenge… not yet, at least,” he grinned.
Morticia closed her eyes. With a murmur barely spoken, she rose in the air, floating and slipping into a trance.
“Difficult to say which ambitions were his and which were those of the dead, but it was always fascinating to witness,” Lorne observed mildly.
The Overlord shrugged. “I have more urgent business to take care of right now.” He met Lorne’s eyes with a cold gaze. “Maybe in due time I will try. Who knows...after all we have eternity….”
Lorne looked at the Overlord a long moment. “I can't imagine the taste will be palatable, but it is your eternity to have, of course,” He grinned slightly.
The Overlord stepped back, his eyes roving over his family. “I shall leave you all for now, but I want you to come here to remember your ancient blood.... I want this habit restored.” Without a word, he turned and departed, his movements so smooth and quick that he appeared to be walking through the headstones instead of around them.
Lorne watched the Overlord retreat then turned slowly away from him and back toward me, answering the question I had asked and almost forgotten during the descent of the vampires. “In Eden, Joah, it was perfect,” He said. “And that is why Eden did not work.”
“I hate perfection… it’s odd,” Nessa muttered, then startled as Morticia snapped out of her trance and landed with a curse on the frozen ground.
“Perfect beauty,” I mused, “Perfect love... perfect minds... why wouldn't that work, Lorne?” I was genuinely puzzled.
“Maybe too perfect?” Ashe muttered as she rubbed some dirt off a headstone.
“Because humankind are creatures of change,” Lorne began, “and perfection is a static thing. Idealized love leads to wondering why the object of your love is not what you thought they were.”
As Lorne spoke, one by one the vampires began to drift away from the graveyard. “Sun’s almost up,” Ashe murmured. I nodded goodbye as she and Nessa and Morticia slipped away. Lorne stood watching, his arms folded in front of Him. He lifted a hand in farewell as they departed.
I twisted around slightly to look up at Him. “It would seem to me... that in a place of complete wholeness, the possibility for infinite change would be possible… creativity would know no limits.” I looked down at my lap. “Look at the creation of the world,” I said a bit tentatively, knowing something of Lorne's role in that.
“Therein lies a problem as well, Joah, perhaps the problem to being with. If one does their best to do something, perhaps it will grow beyond them and take on a life of its own. Now imagine that on the scale of deities.”
I lay on hand on Mary Olive’s headstone, pulling myself up to stand, my boots still on the slab that was nestled in the snow. “You’re well acquainted with creation taking on a life of it's own, I suppose.” My memories were mixed, all Pestilence and Lilith and Eve and Sariel… creation and loss. “Still… it seems….” I broke off, staring down at my boots.
Lorne cocked His head, placing his His hands again behind His back. “Is there something on your mind, Joah?”
I raised my head to meet His eyevoids and spoke with great hesitance. “You say that no one can go there... not anymore. Yet, sometimes I feel I belong there.” I turned away with confusion, gazing out over the graveyard, then up at the lightening sky, pretending to look for the stars.
I could feel Lorne watching me for a while, and as He did so, my attention was drawn once more to Him. He wasn’t angry with me; instead, He was smiling sweetly. He raised a hand, finger curled to draw up my cheek softly.
I tilted my face slightly to His touch. “I'm being foolish, aren't I? Just dreams, I suppose... an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato.” I felt embarrassed and ill at ease.
Lorne smiled broadly at me, pushing His fingertips through the hair at the side of my face, and back behind my ear, cupping my cheek. “Not a silly dream, nor a quote from an instance where an actual dream was being discussed either, silly or otherwise.” He dropped his hand and brought it back behind Him.
“I suppose that's true,” I said softly. “But how does one know... if the dream is... real?”
Lorne shook His head. “There is only deduction, and even that is not unflawed at the introduction of the idea of Descartes’ perfect dream, Joah.”
“You mean the senses can trick us?” I asked. I brushed a bit of snow from my skirts, my small, gloved hand moving delicately over the fabric as I smoothed away bits of frozen debris it had picked up from the stone slab.
“I mean if your senses were all of them fed false information, all of them, how would you know?” Lorne’s eyevoids tracked the movements of my hand.
“There must be a way to test the senses, Lorne.” I trailed off thinking about the problem of dreams and reality. “How do You know?”
Lorne Harlequin shook His head, turning to look away. “Apart from logical inconsistencies, and only if there is a mistake in the dream? I don't see a way that any can.”
“I want to go there,” I said, turning my face away Him. I felt that I was making an impossible request, one I that had for so long been afraid to speak.
“Go...to Paradise? Go to Eden?” Lorne raised His eyebrows slightly, looking back to me.
I slowly met His gaze, nodding hesitantly, but saying yes. “I feel it calls to me Lorne.” I was at a loss as to how to explain. “After the Eden soil, Your seed...the death of my... fear... it grows stronger, more vivid... and insistent."
Lorne nodded slowly as I spoke. “I can take you there. To a part of it.”
“Please do,” I whispered. “Even if to a part of it... please....”
Silently, Lorne reached toward my cheek, as if in slow motion. As His fingers touched my skin, the world began to blur and brighten at the sound of rustling foliage and avian wings….
I opened the Iron Gate, stepping beyond it into the cemetery proper. Many headstones listed to one side or the other, or had crumbled and fallen to the ground entirely, given up to the purchase of weeds. I was drawn to one headstone in particular. Before it lay what appeared to be a footstone, though it was really a large, solid slab. I was uncertain of its purpose, but I sat down on it anyway, facing the engraving before me, and touching my fingertips to the lettering in the stone.
The air hissed beside me and after a moment I heard it crackle. A line rose up from the air tracing an area that soon tore open into a great blue void. I startled and pulled back, every sense alert as I watched. Out of the tear squeezed a globe of brilliant blue, trailing arcs of plasma that licked and hissed against the ground, an apparent cocoon forming over a skeletal humanoid torso.
I watched warily as the figure began to form, readying myself for any eventuality when all at once, the globe disappeared with a loud pop, leaving the bones to grow legs, a feeble layer of skin, and cloth. The death's head grin on the skull began to grow into inscrutable, expressionless lips as a face bubbled out of bone. I pulled my knees up to my chest, watching and waiting, still as a cat while the form inflated with grotesque and fluid sounds muffled by the skin.
As I began to recognize the form a silent “Oh!” of surprise escaped my lips. Before me stood Lorne, holding His arms out as the cloth continued to grow after the inflation has desisted, and then lowering His arms the process completed. “Thank you, Joah,” He said, stepping closer. “You make some journeys much less of a bother to return from.”
I smiled with relief, seeing Him fully formed before me. Relaxing, I unwrapped my legs and began to stretch out along the slab below once again. “You gave me quite a scare, Lorne,” I smiled. “Journey?”
Lorne Harlequin cocked his head, taking another two steps toward me. He lifted a hand and shook His head with a nonchalant, shrugging-off expression. “Simply a small visit to planes nonphysical, hence the dramatic entrance.” He stopped, leaning down to see what I was fingering on the headstone.
I turned slightly, looking into His black eyevoids. “Mary Olive Faith Dewitt, 1706-1768,” I murmured, pressing my fingertip into the worn engraving. “Eternal Rest Grant Unto Her, Oh Lord,” I said softly. “I wonder if Mary Olive found that.”
I could see Lorne following the text, His lips pursed. After a moment, he responded. “Well, she won't have been allowed into Paradise, I am sure of that.”
“Why do you say that?” I asked with a small frown. “Did you know her?” I gazed around at the other stones for a moment, wondering if any of those lying beneath the frozen ground had found paradise.
Lorne smiled vaguely as He turned to look round the graveyard, seemingly for His own reasons. "I did not know her, but because I know no one is permitted into Paradise I thought the assumption safe to make.”
“Eden, you mean...not...Heaven,” I nodded, finally understanding. A feeling of wistfulness and longing so sharp it hurt flooded me. “I dream of the Garden, Lorne. It started the night that Omega made Nareth her Chylde. Then… after You... ” I grew quiet thinking of all that Lorne and Legion had done. “It's vivid,” I finally said. “What was it like...when You were there?”
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Joah lies on the woolen rug by the hearth, one elbow propped on a pillow, her head in her hand. Before her, on the pillow, is a large, unclasped book bound in red leather, its braided ties loose. She tends the flames with a slight turn of her head and a small, secret smile to the creatures who dart about the logs, tails flicking. As the flame licks up, she returns to her book, carefully turning each warm vellum page, studying each drawing, her lips moving silently as she reads.
Touch the wooden gate in the wall you never
Say "please" before you open the latch,
walk down the path.
A red metal imp hangs from the green-painted
as a knocker,
do not touch it; it will bite your fingers.
Walk through the house. Take nothing. Eat
However, if any creature tells you that it hungers,
If it tells you that it is dirty,
If it cries to you that it hurts,
if you can,
ease its pain.
From the back garden you will be able to see the
The deep well you walk past leads to Winter's
there is another land at the bottom of it.
If you turn around here,
you can walk back, safely;
you will lose no face. I will think no less of you.
Once through the garden you will be in the
The trees are old. Eyes peer from the under-
Beneath a twisted oak sits an old woman. She
may ask for something;
give it to her. She
will point the way to the castle.
Inside it are three princesses.
Do not trust the youngest. Walk on.
In the clearing beyond the castle the twelve
months sit about a fire,
warming their feet, exchanging tales.
They may do favors for you, if you are polite.
You may pick strawberries in December's frost.
Trust the wolves, but do not tell them where
you are going.
The river can be crossed by the ferry. The ferry-
man will take you.
(The answer to his question is this:
If he hands the oar to his passenger, he will be free to
leave the boat.
Only tell him this from a safe distance.)
If an eagle gives you a feather, keep it safe.
Remember: that giants sleep too soundly; that
witches are often betrayed by their appetites;
dragons have one soft spot, somewhere, always;
hearts can be well-hidden,
and you betray them with your tongue.
Do not be jealous of your sister.
Know that diamonds and roses
are as uncomfortable when they tumble from
one's lips as toads and frogs:
colder, too, and sharper, and they cut.
Remember your name.
Do not lose hope — what you seek will be found.
Trust ghosts. Trust those that you have helped
to help you in their turn.
Trust your heart, and trust your story.
When you come back, return the way you came.
Favors will be returned, debts will be repaid.
Do not forget your manners.
Do not look back.
Ride the wise eagle (you shall not fall).
Ride the silver fish (you will not drown).
Ride the grey wolf (hold tightly to his fur).
There is a worm at the heart of the tower; that is
why it will not stand.
When you reach the little house, the place your
you will recognize it, although it will seem
much smaller than you remember.
Walk up the path, and through the garden gate
you never saw before but once.
And then go home. Or make a home.
And rest.-Neil Gaiman
Saturday, December 13, 2008
So long ago, the Garden, she thinks.
But while she’d been a vessel of conflict and longing, Omega had been seduced by Her own desires for power and had opened Herself willingly. Joah’s earlier quiet accusation had hung in the air; Omega had failed to protect Her House, had, in fact, been the breaking stone that had shattered Grrbrool’s will and crushed his spirit.
“I thought…I could best it, Joah....” Omega had said quietly, the memory of War still tracing a shadow on her smooth face. “I thought...the power…I thought I could use it, to advantage. There were factors…I did not consider.”
Factors like the twist in Denenthorn, like Severus’s injuries, the problem of Del, the Harbinger…and a crew of loyal but inexperienced Omegans: Rhaven, Zoe, Wire, Blake. Still in all, Faye’Li had remained constant, seeking help of the Coven, leading the Institute to safety in a time of turmoil when its leaders had fallen.
Joah shifts as she gazes, wrapping her quilt around her and looking to the moon as if it could answer the questions in her heart. In the end, she remembers Lorne kneeling beside her as blood soaked through her stockings and her dress, pooling on the floor. Though a bitter frown clouded His face, He still gave His hand to Denenthorn, His strength to Rhaven, while Meng Po had joined in, whispering, “Pestilence has nearly stolen everything from her.” Joah had opened herself to their healing, the bright, warm touch of Denenthorn’s hand on her forehead, the feeling of rushing back into herself as energy from the four poured into her. So much life…so much loss.
“What is past... is past,” Omega had said. “We must not mire ourselves in regret. This experience has taught us…much about ourselves. Let it be worth the price we have paid for such knowledge.”
Joah looks at the moon.
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.
September 1, 1939
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Lorne, leaning over the balcony railing, armored and wings spread, full of cold and silence as He watched Joah floating above the mantelpiece, her fingertips dripping maggots to the floor. The rushing sound of Sariel’s Sword unsheathed, stained with War, Lorne’s voice demanding for the Thing to leave, to return home. The Thing felt Joah’s body, her spirit tug as It watched Him reaching down through her and laughed.
“It shall already have been,” He spoke. The Thing grinned in reply and fed upon the imprint of the Void within Joah. It taunted Him, shifting shape to His firstborn, Lilith, reminding him of his failures before, of what he had lost.
Lorne watched wordlessly, and then raised His hand, palm up, and lifting the Sword: a squeal of metal cutting through metal. It sheared through His gauntlet palm, flashing red, exuding pure self-destruction into the throne room the Thing had made in Joah’s psyche.
Rhaven stood quietly, gathering her energies, preparing for anything.
“Joah needs fixed,” Brianna said in a hushed tone.
Grrbrool sang and raved and quivered, but was of no use.
The stench of rotting garbage began to fill the Library. The Thing fought against itself, touched by War and without the strength from its lost Sister-Brothers. It too, reached along the cord between Lorne and Joah. It, too, knew His weaknesses. The Thing's face began to shift; it’s eyes opening wider as the smell of rotting flesh assaulted the room. Long red hair streamed from Its head, creamy skin upon a beautiful face, wide eyes approximating innocence. “You’d do this to me?” It lisped.
"Joah isn't Joah. She's Pestilence and had me infested with Death," Blue hissed.
Denenthorn growled, “I want that sorry excuse of a Horseman gone and I want Grr and Joah back, Lorne. BREAK HIS SPIRIT LIKE HE AND THE OTHER THREE BROKE GRRBROOL'S."
Severus watched in silence, absently picking at the fresh and still dripping scourge marks left by Lucifer, pale eyes staring blankly.
Lorne sheathed his Sword and moved closer. Not Brit, not Eve he thought looking at the face before him. A set of scales dropped from his torn, empty hand, a haze of black drifting after the red along the link way, "You are called too early, tool. That you are here before the intended hour means you are called not by the One you serve, but the Adversary."
A cruel smile formed upon the lovely mask as the Thing changed its appearance back again to Sariel’s firstborn. “You are the Adversary, Old One,” it hissed, grabbing its belly in pain as it felt the gnawing of Famine’s black mist. The roar of birds’ wings arose from the hearth, screams and caws and claws scratching. “The stars are right. My time is now.”
“Your time is up,” Denenthorn snarled.
Suyuan stepped up behind Rhaven, her small warm hand coming to rest upon Rhaven’s shoulder, exuding energy, as Rhaven extended her wards, drawing Zoe and those about her into a protective cocoon.
“Turmoil,” Brit murmured, peering inside and coughing at the stench even outside the Library’s door.
Lorne lowers His hand, the scales sinking back into His palm, stepping down the stairs closer to the Thing. As he nears, He raises both arms high to the side. From each palm there grows crawling tendrils of wood, cricking, and snapping until they form a handled staff. With a sound of metal on metal, the blade of Death’s scythe extends, and He swings it, sending it through the body inhabited by Pestilence, passing it through without any visible mark left behind.
The Thing jerks violently, shrieks from the walls as a flock of ravens bursts from the hearth and pelts to the floor, beginning to decay instantly. The visage of Lilith drops from the Thing’s face and her eyes blaze white. "You think this will stop me? How many vessels do you think you can protect at once? I'll just take another...and another...choose Old One...which of these should I take?"
“But she should be dead,” Brianna blinked, “not...not go into another...it worked with the rest...."
Denenthorn growled, “I hate something that doesn't know when to quit..."
“Just give Joah back,” Blue hissed at the Thing.
Lorne drops the scythe, which disintegrates before it hits the ground. He then reaches up, wrapping His fingers around Joah's ankle, pulling her bit by bit closer, while rearing His injured hand back. The Thing looks at the Old One and grins as she is pulled down. "I believe I'll grant Blue and Denenthorn’s wish," she laughs, looking at Brit. Joah's body slumps and a rush of locusts flies from her mouth toward Brit, shattering the Library windows. The stench of rotting ravens permeates everything as the locusts fly.
Brit screams as she is surrounded, turning one way and then another, seeming confused at the mass of insects that surround her. Lorne turns, opening His mouth in a deafening howl, trying to pull them into His mouth with gale force winds, as Blue sends streak after streak of fire after them. Denenthorn clutches Blue’s arm, transferring strength to her ‘til he understands the attack is aimed at Brit, and then rushes out the door.
“Fuck!” Grr howls.
“Oh, fuck no!” Denenthorn cries in alarm, unable to tear his eyes away from his daughter.
“Go, if you need to Denny,” Rhaven yells urgently through the swarm, “I’ll try to heal Joah…”
The whirlwind continues around the floating Thing, Its hair flying wildly, wind swirling through the broken glass, pummeling Brit, lifting and tossing her through the air to the outside wall of the Library. The glass grazes her skin in prickles and points, sticking like tailor’s pins as she attempts to stand, coughing and pulling locusts from her hair.
“Not my daughter, bitch!” Denenthorn snarls.
Suyuan gasps, covering her mouth as she recoils, gripping Rhaven as a cool breeze surrounds them both, and Meng Po materializes to gaze down at her.
Lorne rushes to Brit, his throat tight, fearing her dead, hands reaching for her shoulders, air still dragging harshly into His mouth. A red glow begins to emanate from him, and the Thing’s body contorts, Its eyes and ears leaking blood, though It continues to pound Brit, tumbling and turning her, glass flying in shards, as she covers her ears trying to block It from reaching into her mind. It roars back in anger, blocked by the thing about Brit’s neck, as it slams her into the wall once again and drops her to the concrete, bouncing once like a sack of flour. Severus whirls around, striding out of the Library, uttering in Enochian as he gestures towards Brit and draws a glowing Theban symbol with one clawed hand, expelling all of his stolen soul essence into her in the form of a protective healing ward. The cuts in Brit’s skin begin to visibly heal.
Denenthorn begins to glow with power as he feels Brit's every hurt and pain, the Library begins to sing in the minds of all as a shield of healing and comfort enters those that mean no harm.
Lorne closes His eyes, sighing, and reaching back along the link way within Joah, looking about for any trace of the Horseman left to grab onto. “Joah?” He says into her mind, “Joah? I need your help.”
“Come on Joah...Sister by fate,” Blue urges.
Joah’s mouth opens slowly, blood spilling from her lips as her body shakes. The Thing feels her resistance, feels Joah grabbing, grasping the link between her and Lorne. "Lorne...." she half stammers, half whispers in her own voice.
Kneeling in front of Brit, Lorne raises His hands, palms open, and speaks into Joah's mind, "Joah? Where is the sigil?" The wind whirls in a deafening roar as Joah pushes against the Thing, calling on Creation’s power, Legion’s words echoing in her mind. She lifts up her shaking hand as the thighbone of a rat appears upon it.
Lorne reaches forward to Brit, trying to hug her close. He holds His injured hand out, willing the thighbone to it as Brit uses his cape like a rope to get to her feet. She coughs again and stares wide-eyed at the thighbone as it melts into the bit of black shown through the gash in Lorne’s gauntlet. He holds her tighter as the gauntlet itself melts away in a wave leaving His original flesh and clothing behind, spreading until even His wings are gone.
Inside the Library, Joah falls to the floor with a thud, blood leaking between her legs, pooling on the floor.
Monday, November 24, 2008
It hadn’t particularly tried to hide what It had done, though at first, only the Watcher had noticed. The Coyote had looked within the girl. He couldn’t see what the Thing was, but he knew It was there. As the Thing toyed with the girl’s body and her innate abilities so underused, the Coyote threatened. It’s response was to feed, kissing the Grrbrool with a seed of Ebola, smiling Its death grin as the Coyote stumbled into the wall of the hidden Library laboratory, blood streaming from his nose and mouth. It was a pity that Lycans healed so quickly.
When It used the girl to ravish Rhaven’s mind, the Coyote had called on his earthbound gods. “If you hurt my Family, I’ll stop you,” he snarled. He called on the Spirit in the Walls, slamming the girl’s body to the ceiling of the Library. The girl’s shoulder had been dislocated. The Thing had been amused. While It took no pleasure in the earthly sense from Its torments, It did relish the results.
The Coyote warned the Thing that he would break It’s shell if It didn’t stop. “Break it too badly and she will never come back to you," the Thing answered in rush of whispers.
“I’ll kill her ta free her from you, if I have to,” the Coyote said. In reply, the Thing extended one of the girl’s hands to the rusted, iron railing on the scaffolding where the girl’s body sat. At Its touch, a flood of ice...then a snap. It lifted the broken bar and plunged it into the girl’s chest. But the Coyote and the angel, Darkstorm, had intervened. They took the girl to the Wide River while her body yet lived, a place they believed could bind what cannot be bound. “I have dwelt ever in realms apart from the visible world," the Thing’s voices mocked as it hovered above the body.
The Coyote handed the girl to Darkstorm, and then pulled two gold coins from his pocket. The Thing watched. “Life is a hideous thing," It’s voices laughed. "You didn't want the body. I will take it." The Coyote and the Angel disagreed, working in tandem, the Angel pouring energy into the beast and the beast standing in Death’s river, the fire of the sun in his mouth and hands, the gold searing his flesh. He breathed life back into the girl’s body. And the Thing let her see the two, but only for a moment…then on a dry wind of plague It slipped back in.
It waited. Waited for the other Vessels…until the Death-Dreamer was ready. With a flood of vermin spilling from Its mouth, the pale girl's body found Her and kissed Her. As Death rushed into it's Vessel, the girl's body felt Her icy touch at the small of her back, tasted the charnel house on her lips. The Death-Dreamer had been called Blue. Together, They extinguished the fire of the Spirit in the Walls, the feeble Library Spirit. Together, They sought out the other Vessels, leaving in Their wake a red-haired girl with a touch of dengue fever and a Shelter full of dying rats, gifted with Black Death. They were unstoppable.
There was the problem of Sariel.
(quotes from HP Lovecraft)
Tohu va Bohu Series
Saturday, November 8, 2008
The easy conversation was interrupted with the sound of glass shattering in the street. Rhaven turned toward the window. “I wonder when I’ll get used to the not-silence of this place,” she sighed.
“If you get used to it and don’t react, good chance your dead,” Starwalker grinned.
GrrBrool nodded, “Err, well, we don’t got a lot of law here, one reason it was a good place ta run to fer a lot of us.”
“It’s the end of the road for many,” I agreed.
Rhaven offered a soft shrug, “It’s just a matter of getting used to it, I imagine.”
I began stroking Grr’s back, my fingers lingering in the fur at his neck. “I’m worried about Brit. Has anyone seen her?”
Grr shook his head. “Hmm, no, truth be told, I ain’t seen Strong Gal save when Snappypants is with her.”
Starwalker frowned, hearing about Brit’s absence. “She wasn’t around to see how things went with the training sessions at the beach yesterday?”
“Not during the day…no,” I sighed. “Never during the day.”
Grr suddenly stood and bowed. I looked up to see the Lady Omega. She looked around, smiling a greeting to everyone. “How do we find ourselves this evening?” she asked.
“Yer Ladyship,” Grr began, “We were just wonderin, no one’s seen Strong Gal recently…last few days….”
Omega frowned. “No, she has not been seen.”
I turned to Omega. “Lady, I’m…worried.”
“I believe Ethan may be restricting her movements.” Omega settled in her customary chair by the fireplace. “I will be…investigating the matter.”
“Lady, I tried to speak with Ethan about…locking her in during the day.” I said this with not a little worry, for Omega had forbidden me to speak of the matter to Ethan. But when he had been in the Library, and Brit had been there, I had hoped that by drawing out I story I could help him see. “He was not…receptive, Omega.” I sighed. “I’ve told her Father. He is…most displeased.”
Grr nodded his head listening. “Err, yer Ladyship, I was wonderin if maybe I could give her some instructin.” Grr had been researching historical fighting techniques used by women, rapier and escrima…when women wearing bustles and hoop skirts had been trained to defend themselves. Grr thought that a “ladylike” method of self-defense might appeal to Ethan.
Omega barely moved her head, yet her eyes bored into mine. “I asked you to leave this to me, Joah, did I not? Yet you saw fit to question him on the matter. Now we see the results.”
I felt Grr’s back stiffen beside me. I lowered my head. “I’m sorry, Lady…but . . . he was here with her, and ….”
She cut me off. “Yes. Tempting. I know.” Rhaven lowered her gaze at the turn of the conversation, pretending to study a snag in her tights. Omega continued, “I am not accustomed to being disobeyed.” I rose from my seat, went before the Lady and knelt at her feet, my head low.
Grr cleared his throat. “Err, is she in any danger, ya think?”
“She is as safe as she may be, I suspect,” Omega replied to Grr. She then leaned over, whispering to me. “Joah…do you remember, what I did to my lamb, my Nareth, when she lied to me?” A shiver of dread shot through me. “She bore the scars of it for the rest of her existence….” Omega reached out, stroking my face with tenderness. Grr’s ears flattened.
I replied quietly. “Yes, Lady…I do.” I glanced over at the fire, remembering how Omega had plunged Nareth’s hand into the flames. “Please forgive me, Lady….”
Omega ran her finger along my jaw line, lifting my chin. She whispered, “And what must I do to you, to make you obey? Brit is paying the price for your disobedience now.” Though her tone was gentle, the threat behind her words was clear. My heart pounded in my chest, involuntarily causing the flames in the hearth hiss and spark. Rhaven and Starwalker said not a word.
I tried again. “But Lady, it wasn’t me…Ethan…he’s…there’s something wrong with him.” I stammered at a loss for words.
“His actions would not have garnered comment a few short years ago,” Omega said dismissively. I was reminded once again that she is not as I am. She is an ancient predator with a long and bloody history.
Grr shook his head with slight disagreement, his fur ruffling. “Protective of his mate, even past reason….”
“Past reason,” I agreed. I heard Rago come into the Library and attempt a greeting, but I didn’t turn away from Omega.
“Joah, he is unaccustomed to being questioned…especially in a matter he feels he has absolute dominion. It required a gentle touch, from one he considers an equal.” Omega had begun to speak very softly; now even her tone was not gentle.
“But…it’s wrong, Omega,” I pleaded. “Even if it’s done for love’s sake . . . it’s wrong,” I whispered. “And Brit is my friend….”
Grr looked over Rago. “Err…long time….we’re just…err, have a seat, mate,” he finally said, gesturing Rago to the sitting area.
Omega didn’t look around at Rago. She remained focused on me. “Which is why, Joah, I asked you quite directly to leave it to me.” Anger flashed across her face. “Well, you now have ample time to contemplate the fruits of your labor. Think on Brit, and her present state, next time you feel it’s wise to disobey me.”
I tried to turn away from her, but couldn’t. She had locked me in her gaze. “I had thought to go to their rooms, Omega.” I spoke barely above a whisper, but my own anger was rising, my words defiant.
“Yes, Joah,” Omega said with a voice full of derision. “Encourage Ethan to take her further away, beyond our reach, to where we know not. Excellent idea. Go bang on the door and harangue Ethan some more while you’re there…”
My eyes grew dark. “He’s making her thinking that he is the world, Omega. And he’s not.” A log fell from the fireplace with a loud pop and a shower of sparks.
Omega gave me a long look. “Well, I could appeal to your sense of reason…I could ask you simply to obey me. It seems you are interested in neither.” She stood abruptly, walking past me up the stairs toward Rago, greeting him as if nothing had happened. I continued kneeling in front of Omega’s chair, my head lowered, studying the carpet and saying nothing.
I felt Grr reach out to me, grabbing the shoulder of my jacket, hooking fingers and thumb through the seam, and pulling me slowly, but surely close. I darted a quick look at him, overwhelmed with confusion and dread at having displeased the Lady. Omega walked back toward us and stood over us, looking down at us.
“Joah, do you know what the road to hell is paved with?”
I nodded. “I’ve heard it said.”
Omega studied me in silence for a moment. “I do not doubt your motives, but I do not give instructions simply because I like the sound of my own voice.” The flame in the hearth began to lick up uncontrollably, spilling out over the hearth. I stiffened and sat quite still, nodding at the Lady’s words, though ever fiber of my being was alert.
“Operational protocols,” Grr murmured. “Understandin ain’t always required, in order ta act, when ya can’t see tha whole battleground….”
Omega continued. “Had I the opportunity to speak to Ethan, unimpeded...Brit might even now be enjoying the warmth of the fire with us. This matter will be concluded when Brit is returned to us, Joah. When we see what she has endured, then we will think upon a suitable punishment for you.”
I started to open my mouth to speak, then shut it realizing that there was nothing I could say.
“In the meantime,” Omega said, “We shall make her a care package…such as one might give to a prisoner. It will have some of her belongings. Things to eat. Letters from us. It must be given to Ethan.”
“May I take it to him, Lady?” I asked quietly.
Omega’s reply was cool. “I’m not sure you can be trusted with such an errand, Joah. Could you hand it over, graciously? Or must you continue to wield your barbed tongue, making the situation worse?”
I glanced over at Grr, hoping for reassurance, but there was a peculiar expression on his face. He had dug out his battered camo notebook and begun to draw.
“I promise, Lady, that I will say as little as possibly can be said.” I stood and walked to my room, looking for writing paper of my own.
Read Grr's perspective.
Friday, November 7, 2008
I nodded and headed toward the table in the corner. Nerissa appeared much better than the last time I’d seen her. She’d been raving about seals and vomiting blood on the stone paves of the Library. A stranger from the Coven had pressed a silver coin into her wrists, causing her to fall, nearly comatose, to the floor. Whatever had caused the fit, her internal wards now had been restored. She appeared, if not whole, at least contained.
I sat down in the armchair facing the window. A rowdy group of felines were playing in the street as if the City were the best toy in the world. I gazed at Nerissa as she settled into the opposite chair quietly with a deck already in hand. “Do you want to know why I am seeking the reading? Or do you read the cards cold?”
“I’m curious,” Nerissa said. “Why would you come all the way over here to me, specifically. I figure there’d be someone else around that could help ya.” She shuffled the deck slowly and gently.
“I came to you because…well, I trust you, Neri. You were Omegan. There is the matter of these dreams,” I began. “Four riders…then a fifth….” I paused wondering how much I should say. “Blue had them, too…at any rate, I can’t cast runes for myself…my judgment is clouded.”
“Ya shouldn’t really do a readin’ on yer self anyways,” Nerissa said, looking at her deck. “So, anything specific ya wantin’ to know? I’ll warn ya now though, it’s somethin’ I’m still learnin’.”
“I want to know what the dreams mean,” I replied. “War, Famine, Pestilence, Death… then the fifth rider…it drove a chariot pulled by the others or their horses. And at one point, I rode behind.” I sighed. “Faye’Li keeps saying that something is coming…that somehow I’m involved…I want to know what it is and why it comes and whether…I will prevail.” I met Neri’s gaze. “I want to know why Blue and I dream the same dreams.”
Nerissa’s finger played over the backs of the elaborately decorated cards while she looked across the table. “Does it have anything to do with the Tohu va Bahu?...or however ya say their name….” She tapped the cards. “Pick me five cards and leave them face down before me.”
“Yes…the Tohu,” I nodded, my fingers lightly touching the cards and hovering over them for a moment. I closed my eyes, breathed one long, slow breath…and began to draw from the deck…one, two…five cards. I set them face down before Neri.
Nerissa frowned a little and sighed under her breath. “I don’t like that they call me Princess…no one calls me that but Pie to annoy me…and I’ve not been one since my foster mother disappeared.” I looked up abruptly when Neri said, “Princess”, but she didn’t notice my glance. Denenthorn’s source had said they were seeking a princess. I had thought Brit; perhaps I was wrong. Reaching across the table, Neri gathered the rest of her deck and set them to her right elbow out of the way. The small stack she took to herself, laying it down before her from the far right, moving to the left.
Neri’s hand hovered over the first card she had set to the table. She turned it over to expose the card of strength in reverse. I sat up a little straighter, following Neri’s eyes as she looked it over. “Well,” she began, “This is a way to look deep into a situation of something specific…it’s usually used for deeper readin’s actually…but….” She stroked the elaborate card’s face. “There’s some weakness presented in the face of obstacles and adversity. Usin’ tremendous power and releasin’ it at the wrong time,” she murmurs. “Inability of defendin’ oneself. Confusion, and a lack of preparedness. Illness and hardships. Distress…and failin’ of physical forces….”
Slowly, Nerissa moved to the second card from the right. “Physical vision. How we see it at the base of a mechanical level….” Nerissa’s fingers turned it over to reveal the Magician. “The Master over words, mind and matter. To turn ideas into action. To control one’s life…an initiation to start a new project or a new way of life. “ Her brow furrowed as she looked at it.
“Inability…to…defend oneself…” I murmured. “Distress…failing….” I took a deep breath of resignation. Finally I said, “I see.” I looked up at Nerissa. “But…a new way of life?” I was puzzled. “The Tohu…I think they portend…the end of the things…perhaps it is a new way…or a way vastly different and very old.”
Nerissa touched the third card in the middle. “I don’t always understand why they come out the way they do...perhaps it was the wrong choice of spread.” She looked at the card. “A mental vision….” She turned over a reversed Queen of Swords. “A gifted person with both keen logic and natural intuition, showing uncanny powers of perception and insight…” Nerissa folded her lips tightly for a moment before continuing. “One that sees easily the weakness of any argument and feels the need to savage both friend and foe alike with biting sarcasm. A hollow sense of isolation and dissatisfaction with life is covered with dry and vicious wit….”
I nodded, biting my lip…but what could I say?
Nerissa moved to the fourth card and turned over the eight of cups. “An emotional vision. One to lose the interest of a matter deeply important. Bein’ forced to abandon something in which you had to invest great love and devotion. Seekin’ earthly, physical pleasures, to the exclusion of spiritual growth and emotional fulfillments. One showin’ emotional withdrawal and lethargy..”
“Visions we have had,” I nodded. “They come whether we bid them to or not. ‘And your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions,’” I whispered.
Nerissa moved to the very last card and turned it over to show the six of swords up side down.” Mystical vision. “Conceit and intellection pride is shown. Bein’ stuck in a problem which has no apparent solution. Frustration and anxieties that are left unsettled. A trip or explorin’ is delayed in the end….” She frowned a little self-consciously to herself and finally looked up from the cards. “I hope it makes sense for ya….
“It makes no sense and all the sense in the world, Neri.” I stood up. “Thank you. The reading was…invaluable. What payment do you seek?”
“Nothing,” Neri replied. “Consider it a token to make up for all trouble I’ve caused.” The demoness leaned forward, her hands in her lap now, and stared at the spread. “I wish I knew what they meant when they spoke of the Storm comin’ to look for me….” Neri’s words were soft and far away with her thoughts and in the end she shook her head.
I folded my arms across my chest and gazed out the window. “There is a gathering storm, Neri. But know this…you will always have sanctuary with the Institute….”
Nerissa quickly gathered the cards neatly and carefully, handling the custom deck with delicately boned fingers. “If it’s not to yer satisfaction, we can try for another readin’ later.”
I watched as the ornate deck vanished in Neri’s hands. Then I slipped my hand in my pocket and fumbled for something in my skirt. “You left this, Neri, when you were…ill.” I set down a small black phial, full of Neri’s vomited blood. “I would normally keep it…but let there be no debt between us.” I smiled. “I used only a very little of it…in the lab.”
Nerissa ‘s eyes flashed with fear and alarm. She snatched the phial from the table and looked at me. “Why? Seein’ what I’m made of?”
I shook my head. “Your blood does not begin to tell your story, Neri. But it is safe with me.”
Nerissa looked at the container, watching it freeze as she gripped it tight enough to shatter. “I hope so,” was all she said, meeting my gaze.
I nodded and headed back out into the street.
Friday, October 31, 2008
“It’s been quieter than yesterday, though I don't expect it to be too quiet for much longer,” Star said. I nodded; I didn’t expect it to stay quiet either. I tried unsuccessfully to catch Grr’s gaze, but he still refused to look at me. I gave up and stared at a spot on the floor.
“Anybody wanna hear anythin?” Grr asked.
“Anything by Twisted Sister,” Starwalker said with is usual incongruent cheer. “Or KISS.” Bellaa nodded to the last request, then shifted on the couch, turning onto her side and gazing out the windows.
“Twisted Sister I can do, or…maaaybe some KISS,” Grr replied.
Starwalker sighed, changing the subject. “Hell of a fight here yesterday, three or four deaders attacking residents….”
“Who won?” Grr asked while he continued to queue up songs.
“Well, the fighting isn't still going on…so I guess we did for now.” Starwalker stared out the window. “With all the gun fire, I was up on the fire escape casting my healing magicks on those below that fought. Took them a while to figure out that they were shooting each other up in cross fire as much as they were getting hurt by the risen dead.”
I listened as Starwalker spoke, then finally glanced up and said quietly to Grr, “I'd like to hear The Wolf Sky.” He looked sharply across at me, mixed emotions flashing across his face: anger, fear, deep sadness. I stared at the floor again. I didn’t understand why he either wouldn’t look at me or why he had looked at me the way he’d just done, but I wasn’t quite sure what to say. I reached over to brush Bellaa's hair back. She jumped slightly, the touch on her head waking her from the daydream that she had slipped into as she was staring out the window.
“I should probably get some rest,” Bella murmured. “It’s been a huge day for me. Joah, where did you say I could…or should sleep?” As she looked up at me, Starwalker said something about checking the Library. He unfurled his wings and stepped out of the second story window.
“You can rest in the Shelter, Bellaa,” I replied. “But if you feel comfortable there, you may also rest in the Library. We have cots upstairs, although you are welcome to rest on my bed. It’s in the small room next to the Lady's office.”
Bellaa stood and stretched. “Thanks Joah. I think I will head back that way and see if I can get some form of rest, at least for a little while...” She turned toward Grr, “Nice meeting you.”
Grr nodded. “And you, dont get killed.”
Bella laughed nervously. “Umm...one last question...which way do I go to not get killed?”
“North, head north.” Grr pointed behind him, over his left shoulder. “That way, one block over, three blocks up.”
Bellaa nodded. “Gotcha, and thanks.” She waved a goodbye, trying to smile bravely as she headed out.
And then we were alone. I looked up again at Grr, worry clouding my face. He continued working as if I weren’t there. The minutes ticked on. Finally, I closed my eyes and listened quietly to the music. I didn’t even try to dance.
“Where do tha coins come from?” Grr’s voice interrupted my scattered thoughts. “Spirit Gal? where do yer coins come from?” The question was abrupt.
I sighed. “It…depends. Do you mean the coins I gave the waitress?”
Grr nodded, then spoke brusquely. “That too. Legion eats memories. You gave Lorne a coin. Ya arrived here with lots of memories gone, and pockets full of old coins.”
I slipped one hand in my pocket, holding up an ancient looking copper coin. “The coins in my pocket…I'm not sure where they came from, to be honest. What I gave Lorne was not one of those. As for Legion…Legion has taken none of what memories I do have.” I slipped the coin back into my pocket.
“Fine.” One word. That was all he said. I winced at his tone of voice.
“Grr,” I began, not knowing quite what to say. “I sacrificed something to Lorne…the coin…was just a representation of it. It was small and cold and misshapen…but it was a representation, nonetheless.”
Grr turned swiftly toward me. “Ya could have asked,” he said, his words coming out in a rush. “I'd have left ya alone.”
I was confused. “Left me alone? But…but I don't want you to leave me alone.”
“Well, I'll be sure ta avoid humpin yer leg,” Grr said in a cold mimicry of Lorne’s words.
My eyes widened with understanding. “Oh, Grr…He didn't mean…I mean…when He took what He took….” I trailed off.
“Yeah,” Grr said, voice full of pain. “And when “it” rubs on yer leg, ya wont have ta feel a thing.”
“No…no, Grr.” I shook my head. “Lorne wasn't speaking about you.”
“Huh?” A puzzled expression crossed his face. “Then who?”
I took a deep breath. “Do you remember, I asked Him how to fight the powers of an Incubus? He was taunting Severus.”
“Yeah…lust,” Grr nodded. “When? What? Tha Maker?” Grr’s expression of puzzlement had turned to surprise.
I nodded. “What Lorne said to me was…well, he suggested that if I did not want Severus' body, I should sacrifice any taste I had for it to Him. And…I agreed.” Breathe, I kept telling myself. Breathe. “The coin…was something he pulled from within me. Not from my pockets.”
“Tha Maker?” Grr asked again.
“No,” I replied. “Lorne pulled it from me.”
Once more Grr asked, “About tha Maker?”
“Yes, Grr. My desire for the Maker…to free me from the effects of the Incubus.”
“Not me?” he asked, a strange look washing over his face.
“Severus…only. Not you, beloved. Not ever you,” I sighed.
“I…” Grr began. “Not me? Not me!”
“No, never, you, Grr.”
Suddenly, there was a streak of fur and paws as he ran over. He scooped me up and began swinging me about, laughing. “Rah seh nacs sherrr rash grrrah charrrkk,” he said between laughs. I smiled and tried to wrap my arms around his neck as he began dancing to the song that was playing, carrying me effortlessly.
“You are…you have all my desire,” I whispered. He gently plopped me down and pressed his muzzle against my face.
“I don’t need it all, Spirit Gal, just any.” I could feel the softness of his fur against my skin.
“Well,” I began blushing. “Denenthorn has all my desire, too.” I kissed Grr's muzzle affectionately, breathing in the scent of his fur.
Grr opened a single golden eye, in line with mine. He swiveled and looked into me. “Any, all I need.”
I nodded, smiling, “All you need.”
“Ahoy!” Faye'Li shouted, grinning as she walked up the stairs.
Grr looked up, “Err, yer a pirate now, Messenger? Oop! Song!”
“Yes…back to work, you,” I said before smiling warmly at Faye’Li, all traces of worry gone from my face.
Faye’li looked from me to Grr and back. “Glad you're both ok.”
“Am now,” Grr beamed. “Had a worry there fer a bit.”
“Oh? problem?” Faye’Li asked, as she moved toward the arm chair and settled herself comfortably in it.
“We had a magickal misunderstandin, Messenger,” Grr explained, “Tha Spirit Gal and me.”
“Oh, hope is alright now,” Fay’Li said politely.
“Yup! All bloody good!” Grr beamed.
I smiled as I felt a warm flush creep up my cheeks. “Yes…all good.”
Faye'Li chuckled. “I…see,” she giggled, and then the talk turned to other things.
Ethan barely noticed me. I don’t even think he realized how intently I was studying him, debating whether to ask him the question that burned within me. I gazed at Brit for a long moment and made my decision, even though I knew at heart she would disapprove. They were talking about the fireplace, how Brit loved it. I waited till a lull in the conversation then asked, “Ethan…you have been a warrior, haven't you?”
He looked at me curiously. “I have fought in many wars, seen several empires rise and fall and believe I could attribute to myself a warrior background. It is not what defines me, but it is surely a part of me, Joah.”
I nodded. “What things did you fight for, Ethan?” I glanced at the fire, watching the flames flicker, then turned to watch Ethan and Brit again.
Ethan looked at me with an intrigued expression. “Not that I understand what triggered this question, but since you ask, it was mainly issues of faith, loyalty and duty Joah. At some points to defend the righteous path, at other times to ensure prolonged existence.” He inched closer to Brit and stood behind her, wrapping his arms around her and caressing her fingertips one by one.
A sudden knock on the Library door disrupted the conversation. Pix Cazalet had come in looking for a book on Necromancy. She wanted to command the spirits of the dead. Brit bounced excitedly when she saw Pix, who was wearing a skirt made by Brit and Ethan’s seamstress. She happily agreed to help Pix find her book, going straight to the real magicks section of the library, past Road Kill Puppets and on to Necromancy.
I focused again on Ethan as Pix and Brit pulled down various books, studying each one. “I was just wondering, Ethan. You've lived so long…when you fought for your faith…did you fight to protect those who were persecuted?"
“It depended on why they were persecuted Joah.” Ethan had turned back to me, but his entire frame indicated that his primary focus was on his wife, Brit. “I will not lie about this, Joah. I have personally persecuted and imprisoned, even slaughtered for issues of faith. It depended on which side they were.” He lapsed into silence for a moment. “The crusades were not a time of impeccable ethics.”
I listened quietly as he spoke. Finally, I replied, “It’s good to know that that you’ve changed, Ethan. That you’re no longer a man who persecutes others or imprisons unjustly.”
Ethan’s dark eyes narrowed for a moment. “I never said it was unjustly done...it was questionable at times in, retrospect, but I am glad to not have too many regrets for most of my coordinated actions of the past.”
I studied him for a moment before speaking, trying to carefully gauge the impact of my words. “You know…a prison, no matter how lovely, is still a prison, Ethan.”
“I’ve never seen a lovely prison, Joah. Of course that would depend on how you define a prison. For example, being imprisoned would involve being held against ones will, correct?” Ethan flexed his muscles and fine mist engulfed his body.
I lowered my eyes, gathering courage, then met Ethan’s gaze. There are few I truly fear in the City; Ethan is one. What I needed to say must be said with care. “When I was on the mainland,” I began, “I heard the song of a beautiful bird. It was thrilling and high and sweet and lovely, the song coming from behind a garden wall. I walked over and peered through the gate.
“I saw a garden full of roses and jasmine. In the center of the garden was a beautiful cage. It was large, ornate…gilded and gleaming. There were perches and food and beautiful little toys inside…. On its perch inside the cage, was a pure white bird. It's feathers cascaded over the perch. It sang the most heartbreakingly beautiful song as an old man dressed in a morning suit cooed and tended it.
“I asked the man why he kept the song bird in the cage. He said it was because he loved her and wanted always to hear her sing…he wished her to come to no harm.
“But the thing is…she could never test her wings. And he could never see her fly.” I continued to watch Ethan carefully. “So was it a prison? Didn’t the songbird love being with her keeper? Didn’t he love her? I'm certain they both did…but she never flew.”
Ethan listened to my story, shifting his weight from side to side. “Ah,” he nodded, “So the old man was missing a vital part of the equation: the nature of the animal in the cage. Now that is very unfortunate, one must see their loved one’s strengths, weaknesses and gifts, and allow them to explore them.” He paused. “That was certainly a prison. If the bird was happy in it though we will never know. Maybe the song was so beautiful because it was an intricate cry for help trying to entice someone to rescue her.” He pauses again. “It is fortunate humans don't have such problems and can express themselves freely.”
In the meantime Brit was helping Pix choose her book then complete a library card application. Pix left satisfied with what she had chosen, and Brit wandered back over to the fire. I gazed at her, such a sweet and beautiful songbird. I looked back toward Ethan, “Perhaps the keeper of the garden was simply too afraid to see what would happen should his little bird spread her wings and fly,” I said quietly.
Ethan blinked and replied, “Well, we will never know if the garden keeper was telling the truth when he spoke to you, but also won't be able to know his motives. The fact remains, he was ignoring her nature. She was not a gramophone but a bird,” he smirked slightly.
I took a deep breath before going to the heart of the matter. “Ethan, last night Brit was making a list.”
His expression softened. “My wife was working on a list...that is so typical of her lately, I am getting so many lists about the Shelter from her, it makes me wonder if she begins to develop an organizational mastermind.” He grinned and looked over to Brit again.
“She was working on a list, Ethan,” I said quietly, “because she can no longer leave your resting place when you sleep. Her wings have been clipped.” I lowered my eyes to the ground, speaking as respectfully as I possibly could. “The list was for things she might need…cookies…crayons….paper….”
I looked up and could see Brit processing. “That's so I don't forget things, Joah,” Brit said, a trace of worry on her face. Nibbling her lower lip, she reached for Ethan's hand, thinking and puffing her cheeks slightly.
Ethan tilted his head to the side. “Why would you say her wings have been clipped?” His face began to harden. “I keep her by my side as a husband should do with his wife. She stays by my side, as a wife should do. These things we promised to Him. I simply keep her with me and make sure none can enter our resting place especially in light of the recent events. Again, when I was not present and she was in the streets. I would prefer to see her safe. It was fortunate Lorne was here to deal with the offensive werewolf.”
I looked seriously at Ethan. “It is well that you love her and that you wish her to be by your side. I know that she wishes it too. But what if she needs something you can’t? What if there were an accident in your rooms, while you slept?” I paused for a moment trying to frame my words carefully. “What if she was needed here? And Ethan…she is not a child. She is a woman. Your wife…but not…a slave, or a prisoner…or song bird in a cage....”
Brit frowned slightly and looked at me. She whispered, “Between beloveds, Joah.” She turned her head, looked out the window and slipped her arm around Ethan. I could tell she was unsure what to say, but she puffed her cheeks again, slowly processing.
Ethan closed his eyes for a prolonged moment. Little sparks, similar to the coals in the fireplace shone through his eyelids, before he opened them again, his eyes looking normal. Inwardly, I drew back, but I held my ground. “If my wife needs something,” Ethan said in an even voice, “I can supply it or she can acquire it in the time I am active. An accident in our room will not happen, because of the rituals I painstakingly made sure to protect us within it. I am a vampire Joah, a species hunted for centuries. I know how to keep my haven safe.”
His words had come out in a rush. He paused a bit, and then continued at a calmer pace. “If my wife is required in the library, I hope it is not too much to ask for her to be able to come when her husband is around. Surely you would not do anything that required my absence.” Ethan’s expression seemed calm again, but his tone made it obvious he was sharing information, not waiting for approval.
I breathed in deeply and faced squarely from my seat by the fire. I knew that that Brit had said this was between beloveds, but Ethan’s use of restraints warred at me. I caught his eye, imploring him without a trace of anger. “It is wrong, Ethan.” I lowered my head respectfully and spoke barely above a whisper. “Even if it is done for love's sake…it is wrong.”
Brit stammered, “J.J...Joah!” She bit her lip and said, “Between beloveds...just...between beloveds.” She blinked slowly and struggled for words. Turning back to Ethan, she looped her arm around him and says simply, “Ethan keeps me safe...and...is my husband...and....” So many things were pouring into her thoughts.
Ethan clenched his fists. The artery on his throat pumped visibly as he repeated over and over, “Wrong....” He kept Brit's hand in his and looked at the fireplace for some moments, then turns to me, forcing my eyes up with his gaze.
“I will not be told what is right and wrong in a matter that is strictly between Brit and me, Joah. Your input in this is appreciated but not required. I will not try to change your mind, though any further mentioning of this idea you have of....” he trailed the sentence off before adding, “wrong...will be considered interfering.
“Do not judge, not to be judged. I do not wish to start counting off the things going on in this library that are most definitely wrong...yet I do not mention them out of, not ignorance, but knowledge of my place and rights.”
He emphasized the word “rights.” Ethan looked to Brit and his fingers relaxed again, reaching for her face to caress her cheek.
I raised my head, watching Ethan as he spoke, an indefinable sadness washing through me. I said nothing for a moment after he finished. I simply stood up, watching him. Finally, I whispered, “As you wish, Ethan.” I gazed a Brit a long moment, then turned around and headed quietly upstairs.
Brit and Ethan's Perspective: The Nature of Beasts
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I sipped my tea, listening as the talk in the Haven continued. Who was he? Had anyone ever seen him around before? He didn’t look like a Righteous or a Shadow. His curious death had become a topic for early morning conversation over a bottle of beer or a full shot glass, the easy idle speculation of bored and hung over patrons.
But I had known the man. I’d known his purpose, if not his origins. Setting down my cup, I templed my fingers to my forehead in concentration, closing my eyes to think. I wondered if he had been successful in his quest. The monk had said he was on a pilgrimage. It was not, I discovered, a pilgrimage to a city or a country: it was, instead, a pilgrimage to Nareth—or rather, the young woman who called herself that. She was his holy place. He’d wanted to take her back with him to the island temple of his faith. He’d wanted to make her a god.
And then she was gone. Without a word or a message, she’d disappeared from the Library where she had taken refuge, slipping away unobserved. The identification card and the communication device I had taken from her were gone as well, spirited away from the locked chest in which I’d placed them. Not only was this future Nareth gone, but the golem Nareth had vanished, too.
“Tag,” Bella had said to me once. “It’s a game to her…making the other Nareths come unstuck in time.” Perhaps that is what had happened. Maybe it was tag. She’d succeeded and they had all gone….
After all, the monk was dead.
Off the coast of Cyprus there is an island. The night is balmy as warm breezes blow in from the sea, but in the seemingly endless subterranean passage the girl feels only a cool dampness against her skin. She hears the clicking and chittering of blind cave dwellers, and like them, she has no eyes to see: lidless sockets sit deep in her small, brown face. She turns her head slightly, listening to the sound of a pan flute in the distance….
“You think I despise you,” I said quietly. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Severus glowered down at me. What Lorne had taken from me did not seem to ease the sensation of my gaze upon him. “If you didn’t hate it so much, why else would you take away the part of yourself that could feel me?” he replied, his deep tone flat.
“That part of me did not touch who you are Severus,” I said. “It only touched what you are.”
He shrugged his broad shoulders slightly. “Who I am and what I am…they are the same. I was made into something filthy and corrupt...it is all I know anymore...and why I refuse to feed my own corruption.”
“Severus, when we were in Dream...do you remember why you let go of my hand?”
He paused considering his answer to my question. “In Dream…you were touching me...there was flame...I don’t recall...everything....” Severus trailed off.
I stepped closer to him, gazing directly into his eyes. “You let go of my hand, Severus, when I spoke of love. You may have been changed against your will, but Incubus is not all that you are or ever will be. Grrbrool has named you “Maker”…and Grrbrool does not name falsely.”
Severus scowled, taking a step back away from me. “It is all that I am now...this is what I have been condemned to for eternity, there is no way out of what Lucifer created me to do. And so what if I conjure things for my own amusement, it is something to do to pass away the centuries and amuse those who summon me,” he muttered with more than a trace of bitterness.
I shook my head. “You made soup to feed a hungry and cold stranger. You showed compassion. You dried my flood-soaked clothing, so that I would be warm. You showed kindness.” I continued to walk closer to Severus, standing a hair's breadth away. “What I did with Lorne, I did to help bring forth that part of you. The part you keep buried...hidden.”
“I wasn’t being kind,” Severus snapped. “I was being practical.” He glared at me with icy coldness as I drew nearer and nearer, his pale, chiseled frame stiffening even though he could no longer feel me. “Your things were dripping on me, so I dried them.”
“Severus,” I whispered, shaking my head. Words could not communicate what I wished to say to him. Slowly...tentatively...I placed one hand on his chest. I looked up at him, open, vulnerable, and begin to pulse prana toward him, a feather brush of essence, warm and pure and sweet.
“What...are you doing?” Severus ground out, his deep tone raw. His brows creased and he flinched, the solid muscle of his chest tightening beneath my palm, as his entire frame grew taut. I knew he could no longer affect me or read what I desired. When I gazed at him, he appeared utterly lost and confused.
Severus recoiled at the strange sensation that washing through him. He rocked backwards slightly, his hard abdomen knotted at the sense of purity and his hunger awakened so fiercely that he gasped, although I knew he still didn’t quite understand. What I gave him was in no way like the lust he knew. I answered his confusion, not with words, but with a kiss.
Taking one of his hands in mine, I traced the spikes in his wrist with my finger. My throat ached as I began to experience his suffering. He winced at my touch; the hell-forged spikes and their heat had left his skin permanently raw. I drew one finger over the dark blood seeping down his wrist, wiping it away with one gloved fingertip, and then I kissed the skin. Breathing deeply, a rush of sweet warmth spread from my lips to him and my skin began to shimmer with faint traces of a fiery glow. I closed my eyes, kissing the spikes, his wrist, the palm of his hand, all the while pulsing more of my essence to him, pure and light and full of love, opening myself to him.
Severus was caught between intense pleasure and pain. A low agonized sound escaped him as flashes. I knew him well enough to know that the Lightbringer’s punishments filled his mind; yet, as my lips continued to touch his skin, I gazed up to see his pale eyes widening and refocusing. He panted raggedly, his thick chest heaving as he fought against the desire to feed and the knowledge that what I offered would not be after the manner of Incubi. “Wha...what are you doing...to me?” he rasped.
“I am giving, Severus,” I said softly. “I am giving myself.” I breathed in deeply again, gathering my life force, allowing my essence to flow out of me more strongly, like a wash of cleansing water in the spring, the fragrance of life and love and possibility. It cascaded over the two of us. “I want to give you what I have…because you are hungry and weary and heartsick.” A gentle blue flame began to shimmer over her skin, flickering out and over Severus, enveloping the two of them. I pressed my lips to his chest and wrapped my arms around his strong waist.
Severus dark brows creased as though he couldn’t comprehend such a thing and he winced as the sensation washed through him. I could feel his ache and his hunger intensify almost unbearably. His knees threatened to buckle, his every muscle taut as he staggered slightly before the closed expression set in on his face. It was as though he chased a dream he couldn’t quite hold onto, a memory too hazy and forgotten. It tempted him and he yearned to remember, but the more he struggled the further it slipped away.
As the flame surrounded us he gasped. “I...I don’t understand,” he ground out through clenched fangs, shuddering within my embrace. “I...want to feed...but I can’t,” he roared, his entire frame trembling as he sank to his knees.
I stepped back a little as he fell to the ground, but I kept one hand upon him, one small connection of life and essence. I moved closer to his fallen form, kissing his hair, his face, and touching his lips with my own. “You can,” I whispered. “The only question that remains is will you? Will you taste what I have to give?”
Severus’ breath came in ragged pants as he knelt before me, struggling to move yet paralyzed by a sensation, as he had never been before. Inside he wanted to crawl away from what he knew had to be forbidden while another part of him that mindlessly hungered held him back. He shuddered beneath each brush of my lips. As I joined with him, I could sense that every wash of prana filled him with painful need.
“I can’t,” he rasped. He reached to take and hold the feeling within him as he would have taken and held a soul, pouring out upon it the unearthly pleasure he could bring. “I...cant...I'm trying...I want,” he stammered between ragged breaths.
“You can…if you will,” I whispered. “Feed on this, Severus, not on what the Lightbringer tells you must. He is a Liar and the Father of Lies.” As I spoke, I pushed toward him in spirit, washing him again with purity and inviting him to feed on the essence of my love for him. “You will not harm me,” I said tenderly, speaking softly into his ear, my cheek pressed close to him.
I could feel the Lightbringer’s influence fighting against me as the pain from the spikes in Severus’ clenched fists flared out, bright and angry. His eyes were full of agony and confusion while his body cried out. “It is not...what he tells me...but how he made me...I can’t!” he growled while he still strived, like grasping at smoke, thirsting for water that vanishes in a shimmer of heat. He drew in a sharp breath through his fangs, his eyes mad with desperation, his mind torn and wishing he knew if I were right.
I knelt to kiss Severus’ neck. “Let me help you,” I whispered. I turned to face him squarely, meeting his eyes and said aloud, “Your pain…my pain.” As I did so, a shimmer of radiance cascaded from me, full of warmth, enfolding Severus. I opened my thoughts to him, gently pushing into his, becoming one with the pain of his memories and drawing each into myself, a shared burden. My hands drifted over to the spikes in his wrists as I pulsed prana. At each of my wrists, dark pools of blood began to form. “I give you myself, Severus,” I breathed, my mind to his. “What I give…will sustain…if you only say yes….” I shivered with his pain, my arms burning in agony, but I did not move away, not with my body, my mind, my spirit or my heart.
Severus recoiled and hissed sharply, shaking his horned head furiously, his pale eyes wild. “No!” he bellowed. I could feel him trying to pull way from me, too much inside him, too many trials his body had been through for far too long. He watched horrified, frozen tears sliding down his cheeks, his body wracked by need. Then a pull…a snap…a rushing away…a subtle and strange darkness began creeping from him through blue of the flame surrounding us. “I cant...let you do this,” he growled between clenched fangs, wrenching himself aside, free of my touch, crouching shakily like a wounded animal.
His chest heaved as he shook his horned head as though to clear it, “I can’t let you take...what were meant to be my punishments,” he gasped between pants. “I can’t feed from what you would give me. I tried...if I had...been able to...I would have consumed you utterly....” The wild gleam in his eyes dimmed as he huddled there, defeated.
I felt broken, almost at the end of myself, overwhelmed with compassion for his need. For long moments there were no words between us. Finally, I spoke. “If that is all you can take, Severus, then do it…consume me utterly,” I said quietly.
Severus flinched away, the darkness still pouring from him, pouring into the fire of my touch, until the flame dimmed and guttered out. He pushed himself backwards, wincing as his spikes ground against bone and flesh, adding to his pain and erasing the warmth, leaving him excruciatingly hollow.
The feral gleam returned to his pale eyes briefly at my offer before he shuddered and turned away. “No, I will not...you have...others...who need you. I am not worth this, or anything,” he said with finality.
I shook my head somberly. “You worth is immeasurable Severus.” The blood dripped from my wrists, puddling on the rooftop. My arms throbbed with pain and I felt utterly exhausted, though I did not step away. I said simply, “My offer stands. If you have need of it…if you have need of me…the offer stands.” I lowered my eyes to the rooftop.
Severus sighed heavily, his white-maned head hanging low, his body trembling with hardly the strength to stand. He rasped out a word in a language I did not know and shivered as if in pain. Almost immediately warmth began spreading over my wrists and arms, stopping the blood loss.
“Thank you,” I said sadly. I placed one hand upon his shoulder, trying to give some small solace. Feeling him flinch under my touch, I turned and walked away.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Yet I felt I’d lost him. The woman left and we were alone in the Library; still, he was not with me. Pretending great absorption in a drawing that had been left of the chess table, he studied it as though it were a map to the greatest of hidden treasures. I thought over the past few days. He hadn’t said a word to me other than a neutral greeting since the night he bounded away from me through the debris-laden floodwater and into the street. The night that I sought aid from Lorne.
Every time I approached him, trying to lay a gentle hand on his arm or back, begging for a moment to ask him what was wrong, he simply turned away. He wasn’t angry, abrupt or rude. Somehow, it would have been easier if he had been. I could not choke off the feeling that something had changed between us, that I no longer mattered. His anger would have been easier to bear; at least in anger there is passion. But this nothingness…it was untenable. Love is so short...and the emptiness so long. He had promised to walk the path with me, to lay with me even in a field of stone. But I fear I now walk alone on a rocky, narrow way, with cut and bloodied feet and my mouth full of ashes.
If you were coming in the fall,
I'd brush the summer by
With half a smile and half a spurn,
As housewives do a fly.
If I could see you in a year,
I'd wind the months in balls,
And put them each in separate drawers,
Until their time befalls.
If only centuries delayed,
I'd count them on my hand,
Subtracting till my fingers dropped
Into Van Diemens land.
If certain, when this life was out,
That yours and mine should be,
I'd toss it yonder like a rind,
And taste eternity.
But now, all ignorant of the length
Of time's uncertain wing,
It goads me, like the goblin bee,
That will not state its sting.
Lorne gave a nod, letting out a slow breath as He stood more comfortably. “Old, old magic. If you ask for help, and you make a sacrifice, there is a great deal I can do for you.” He paused as a portal opened, and with a rush of cold air, Severus appeared. Lorne continued, gesticulating toward Severus as if presenting, “You don't want this? Sacrifice your taste for it to Me.”
Glancing at Lorne with supreme distaste, Severus gestured dismissively with one large pale-clawed hand. “Whatever it is...I think not,” he drawled with his usual sarcasm.
I watched Severus carefully for a moment, then stepped closer to Grr, laying a hand on his arm. Grr looked up at Severus. “G'day Maker. Water botherin ya?”
Severus shrugged his broad shoulders slightly. “No worse than it did millennia ago….”
Lorne caught my eye and waved off Severus' response. “There, there, big guy, I know you don't like Me. Of course, I wasn't speaking to you, so the point is moot.”
“Don’t think yourself special,” Severus snorted. “I don’t like anyone.”
Lorne grinned. “Not even yourself. Yes, we know.”
“Nothing like a master of the obvious, Lorne,” Severus muttered dryly.
I glanced from Severus to Lorne and back, watching both demons warily, awaiting Lorne’s response when it dawned on me that He’d already answered. My eyes widened with understanding. It barely registered to me that Omega and come into the Library, I was so focused on the matter at hand. I bit my lip and met Lorne's gaze.
Lorne looked back at me, grinning. “To fight hellfire with hellfire. The irony itself is something to be appreciated. Granted, I never have resided in hell, nor in fire of that name, but let's just leave that pass, shall we?”
With bluster and the sound of wet boots on stone, Denenthorn swept into the Library. “Hullo Lorne, Sev, My Sweet, Coyote, Lady Grace....” Denenthorn has taken to calling me that. Lady Grace. He yawned loudly. “What's up?”
“I’ve no idea, just got here,” Severus muttered, giving me a pointed look.
“Water levels, fer one,” Grr replied, “And tha zombies….”
Denenthorn shrugged, “I've fought it all before, bring it on,” he replied lazily.
“Lorne,” Omega said with mild sarcasm, “Such a pleasure to see you again. Have you bought cake?”
Lorne did not reply to the Lady and let others field Denenthorn’s question. He raised His eyebrows expectantly to me, holding a hand out as if to prompt. “It starts simply, really. You needn't even say it out loud...I want....”
I looked steadily at Lorne, shifting slightly in His direction. I took a deep breath and nodded my head. “Yes.”
Grr immediately alerted, looking from me to Lorne and back, then from me to Severus and to Omega, and back to me. “What are ya askin?” he spoke with alarm.
Lorne said nothing, but held my eyes. As I nodded, His hand closed abruptly, and He looked down to it. Opening His palm, a rather corroded looking coin, crude and uneven, lay there in His palm. He took it, and slipped it into His breast pocket, patting it as He looked to Omega, finally answering her question. “I'm afraid I don't deal or gift in lies, Omega. I had a gift, but it's already been given.”
I shook my head as if waking up when the coin appeared in Lorne's hand. I felt…different. I looked at Him again and smiled, murmuring, “Thank you.”
Grr opened his mouth at the sight of the coin and looked at me, still open-mouthed. “Coins…Spirit Gal, what did you do?”
Lorne gazed at me. “Not at’all. If it oils its nude body in front of you, and starts humping your leg, as if it would, you will feel not the mildest tingle.”
Omega turned toward me with a raised brow. I started to speak but was taken aback by the stricken look on Grr’s face.
“I…I….I have ta go,” he said in a rush of words, bounding out into the water of the flooded first floor, sloshing in the direction of the Hotel. Omega sighed, watching his retreat. I stared after him as he bolted away, full of concern and not understanding what had happened.
Severus blinked at Grr's disappearance and then glanced back to me. “Joah...so I repeat...what’s all this then?” he muttered irritably.
“Would you like me to show you?” I asked, turning toward Severus.
“Probably not,” he replied tersely, “But you can go ahead and spit it out.”
In answer, I simply began walking slowly toward Severus as he gave a heavy sigh and glowered down at me. He watched me warily, his towering frame taught, as if ready to spring away from my touch. I stopped, full of uncertainty. I looked from Severus to Lorne, hesitating.
“No cause to worry, Joah,” Lorne said quietly. “I have it all right here.” He patted his pocket.
I nodded to Lorne, then stepped very close to Severus and placed my hand in the sigil on his thigh. Severus scowled blackly as my hand passed through his ward to touch him. “What the bloody hell are you on about?” he said with anger, taking a step backward.
I said nothing, but stepped closer again, pulling off one of my HazMat gloves and placing my bare hand on Severus' chest. Lorne raised His brows expectantly, turning His head slightly to the side. “Anything?” he asked.
“No…nothing,” I replied with a smile. “Not a tingle.”
“What the fuck did I just miss?” Denenthorn blinked.
Omega whirled around, “Joah? What have you done?”
Severus glared icily as I touched him again. I knew that the reflex of his skin would send a torrent of pure lust to course through me, yet there I stood: unaffected. Severus tensed, his pale body growing taut as he drew in a sharp breath through fangs. “What the hell did you do?”
Lorne nodded, smiling. “Excellent.”
“I sacrificed something, Severus,” I said quietly, my hand remaining on his chest. There was nothing, just as Lorne had promised. Not a tingle.
Denenthorn looked on rather confused “Can someone tell me what in the world is going on?”
Severus narrowed his piercing pale eyes sharply at me, brushing my hand aside. “So now, not only do you have no soul but no desire? Of all the utter bloody stupid....” He ground out between clenched fangs: “Why?”
Lorne gestured towards Severus, and then to me. “I believe she may be getting to the exposition right now.”
“I still have desire, Severus,” I replied. “But I won't be left in the Dreaming again by you.” Denenthorn studied me a confused, concerned expression on his face.
“Lorne has, it seems…given Joah a charm against…well, Severus' charms,” Omega said coolly. “Am I correct?”
I shook my head. “Not a charm, Omega. He holds in His hand…my desire for Severus.”
Lorne looked over to Omega, reaching for His pocket as He gazed at me. “Well, in My pocket, but close enough.”
Omega gave me a long look. “Joah, why would you give him such a thing? Have you learned nothing from us…from Nareth?” Nareth had gone willingly to Lorne, trying to summon…something. In the process, Lorne had slain Nareth, feeding her in bits to the Shadows…keeping only her heart.
I turned toward Omega, watching her carefully, but saying nothing.
Lorne pulled out the coin from his pocket, looking down to it, then up again to Omega. “Do explain that to Severus, won't you?”
Severus continued glaring at me. “I certainly dont scent her,” he said as if I were no longer in the room. “You did all this just because of that...I repeat, utterly absurd....” he trailed off with a dark scowl.
“It is hard to feel pity for a lamb that will not stop straying into the abattoir, Joah,” said Omega with more than a trace of anger in her voice.
Denenthorn appeared deep in thought. With a small frown on his face, all he said was, “I see....”
“Lorne,” Omega said sharply, “If I were the megalomaniac you think me, I would not allow Joah to do this thing. Nor would I allow her to continue to indulge your...obsessive meddling.”
Severus gestured dismissively at me. “If you had wanted me to be less than nothing, you certainly succeeded. I trust you're satisfied,” he murmured, his voice dull.
I watched Severus thoughtfully and sadly as he opened a portal and disappeared without a word. I then turned toward Omega, glancing briefly at Lorne. Breathing deeply, I replied, “He was not meddling. I asked Him.”
Lorne smiled warmly at Omega. “I do enjoy our little chats. I just may grow a wide mustache if there is a next time...I would defend Myself, really, I would, but...” He sighed dreamily, “you paint such vivid picture, I find Myself swept away.”
Denenthorn rolled his eyes. “Both of you argue too much. It's bad for yer health....”
“Nonsense, Denny,” Lorne grinned. “I'm teasing her, not arguing. If there were any purpose in arguing, her side of this marry old capering would not have grown new, and exciting limbs.”
Omega shook her head and watched Lorne in cold, icy silence.
Lorne creased His brow, turning back towards Omega, muttering with a wry sort of soft tone, “Exciting limbs. What a ridiculous phrase. I like it.”
I turned away from Omega and Denenthorn, nodded my head slightly to Lorne, and headed upstairs.