Sunday, August 31, 2008

The end of the little death

The girl stands on the corner, beneath the dim glow of the streetlamp, studying the Pit in silence. Legion’s words whisper to her on the breeze, a dry rustle of many voices, drawing her up the stairs of the darkened fortress, each footstep cautious, hesitating. Across the grate, fires burning below, the girl sees the pale figure of a woman holding the hand of a feline: the woman regal and erect, with endless deep eyevoids, standing in a swirl of blue light; the feline, sinuous and amused. Legion smiles to the girl, raising Her hand to beckon her closer.

Biting her lip, the girl glides forward as Legion steps around the altar, allowing the feline’s hand to slip through Her fingers, and holding Her hands out as She approaches the girl. Wrapping Her arms round the girl, She pulls her head to Her shoulder. The girl shivers, and then rests, asking quietly, “Why did you call me?”

In wordless response, Legion rubs the girl’s back, drawing Her hand down to her wrist. There is a metallic clap as the first cuff is fastened. The girl’s mouth opens in surprise; she tries to pull her hand away. She looks pleadingly to the feline who merely turns and walks away.

Legion leans back enough to see the girl’s face, sliding Her hands down the girl’s arms, allowing her to draw away until Her hands get to the her wrists. Another metallic clap as the second cuff closes. There is a glint distant in Legion’s left eye void, as a vaguely matriarchal smile of pride adorns Her unmoving lips, whispers crawling round the girl’s shoulder.

"How many times have you all but died?"

The girl frowns in confusion.

“I...when I came here...I...was almost...the rats in the street...then Lestat...and something before...I don't know....” she trails off.

Legion tilts Her head slightly to one side, looking questioningly at the girl, “What was it Lestat did?"

“He...I tried to stop him,” the girl stammers, “from forcing me...into his mind...he...impaled me...twice. I...I'm not recovering quickly any more.” The girl unbuttons her jacket and lifts her corset up slightly revealing two pink scars.

Legion reaches forward slowly, touching each mark with soft-gloved fingertips. Her expression remains rather the same as She appraises the scars. Looking again into the girl’s eyes, Legion reaches both Her hands apparently up to the girl’s cheeks, then jerks them down roughly, hooking in the her bust line, and tearing her blouse open.

The girl gasps and stands stock-still.

Legion looks down the girl’s body to her middle, reaching a hand out, index finger extended, drawing it's tip across her collar bone as She begins walking round her, drawing the fingertip across her shoulder, and the top of her shoulder blade. Looking up to the back of the girl’s head, She draws the fingertip down the center of the girl’s back, pulling remaining clothing off her back and arms. Her hands again move suddenly swift, tearing away the skirt from behind, and the panties, drawing Her hands, palms against the girl, up her back, while Her whispers crawl upward. "You are bound. You are a prisoner, fearing to lose your shackles....” Looking down the girl’s body, Legion lowers, drawing Her fingertips down from the girl’s shoulder blades until they reach her ankles. There are two more metallic claps.

A surge of panic wells up like a fist in the girl’s chest, pressing into her, preventing her from breathing. "Why are you doing this, Legion?" she whispers, her throat aching. She struggles against the cuffs, her fear rising.

Legion rises back up behind the girl, laying Her hands upon her shoulders, leaning forward, breathing a plume of cold fog over her right shoulder, and trailing whispers within. "Your free dominates you. You lay yourself open to manipulation by most unworthy individuals...those that know how to hurt you physically…."

She begins pushing the girl forward towards the altar, and bending her over it, Legion bending over her, unmoving lips just behind the girl’s ear, many ragged breaths rolling around them, cut by cold hisses of words. "You are bound by your flesssh..." Pivoting on Her cheek, Legion looks down the girl’s back, drawing Her hand along her spine. "You are bound by pain." Looking up again quickly, She continues, "We can't have this."

A small puff of air escapes the girl’s lips as the edge of the alter comes in contact with her stomach. The pink scars are tender against its surface. “He...I...did...not...lay myself open. He overpowered me, " she stammers at a loss for words. The girl knows the pulse of her prana is strong, made stronger by Legion and yet she failed. Had Nicholette not grabbed her, ordered her to focus on love, she would have died. "I despise being weak. "

As Legion's hand reaches the small of the girl’s back there is a sound like metal sliding against metal. Legion pushes Herself slowly further up her back, and slightly to her side, cheek upon the altar to see the girl’s face. Whatever the metallic noise portends, a cold hard point of sharp touches in between two vertebrae top most of the girl's tail bone. Something like sympathy crosses Legion’s features as the sharpness drifts back and forth between not quite enough pressure to pierce skin, and a light brushing. To accompany Her expression, a wash of whispers, and murmurs splashes into the girl’s senses, Legion's eyevoids widening beside her face. "But you are weak...aren't you, Joah? Hate and love are not mutually exclusive; you can feel both. Tell Usss: Do you love being well as hate?"

The girl winces at the pricking and brushing at the small of her back. The cold, the suddenness of it, worry of pain with icy stroke. "I do not want to be weak," she whispers, barely above a breath. "I do not... love. It clouds the judgment. I should have overpowered him. I should have crushed him." The girl continues speaking in a very uncharacteristic way. "Weak is for fools…others hurt you when you're weak.” The girl shakes her head, trying to clear her thoughts. “No, I don't love it Legion. I don't want it at all." She finishes trying to sound hard, tough of heart.

Legion inclines Her head slightly in the girl’s periphery, the glint reaching both eyevoids, and growing deep red. The whispers dip abruptly lower in pitch, and resound gravelly, lower than natural human range, very much many growls of words. "Then tell Us...if you fear paralysis below the waist." The cold point pricks a sharp stab of pain as it penetrates the skin, stopping a small ways within...then proceeding slowly further in, slicing steadily between particular vertebrae.

The girl’s eyes well up in tears of pain and fear. Her sureness about her body's ability to heal itself has long sense evaporated. All she can think of is being paralyzed, face down…unable to move, as she was when she awoke in the City.

"Please....please don't,” the girl chokes out, nausea roiling over her. "I have to be able to move…I have to be able to run…please...." The girl’s breath comes in small ragged gasps, the fear leaving a sour taste in her mouth. Her eyes plead, searching Legion's eyevoids, finding nothing there in the deep red.

Legion leaves the cold sharp something slightly penetrating the girl’s vertebral synovial tissue. Her expression is, for a moment blank, until a sound the same character as the previous growl of words rises angry in the girl’s senses, something somehow more violent and angry in the burning red. Before growl becomes words, Legion has wrapped Her fingers around the girl’s neck in front, revealing the cold sharp as one of the black glossy claws now curling from the tips of Her fingers. Barely penetrating the girl’s flesh at the sides of her neck, Legion lifts her up, and sets her roughly on the altar. Swiftly Legion moves from then, pulling chains to each cuff, securing the girl in place as the words, and angry voices crash roughly along her edges. "Don't!? Please!? Spare me!? I may do anything to you that I wish! What are you to do!?"

Without warning, the girl lashes into Legion, washing a wave a pure blackness over her, her hatred rising. A flicker of flame licks the pupils of girl’s eyes as she spits at Legion and pulls against her shackles. "," she hisses. "!"

Legion does not flinch as the spittle spatters across Her face, and neck. Her expression remains blank. Slowly, the corners of Her lips curl wry, and She raises a hand to the top edge of the girl’s nearest pelvic ridge, the points of the claws not penetrating, but leaving an uncomfortable sensation of cold points within the concave of her waist. Watching the girl’s face, the words continue: "Demand? Defiance? Are you trying to order Us to let you free? Or are you trying to entice Us to make you hurt more?”

The claw extending from Legion’s index finger penetrates the girl’s skin near the center of the concave it rested in. “Are you not trapped?” The claw curls past epidermis, dermis, pricking, then penetrating synovum, and the joint of the girl’s leg ball joint, pressing into the bone. "By what authority do you demand anything?"

The girl bites down hard enough on her lip to draw blood, the pain coursing through her side as claw tears through hitting bone. Her face remains defiant although tears spill down her cheeks. A flash of faces flickers through her mind at the words, "By what authority...." Harsh voices, cruel words, over and separate from Legion's guttural whisperings.

“You promised,” she gasps, “Creation's said." The girl stammers in stunned disbelief, not comprehending the thing Legion has become. Always was. Always was, her mind taunts.

Legion lowers Her face closer to the girl's, drawing the claw only very slightly in one direction or another, scraping but small distances, deep against the bone. She raises Her other hand to grasp the girl’s head by the jaw, tilting it to look into her face.

“You think We do not keep Our promise? You think We break it? We can not!" She slaps Joah hard across the side of her face, grasping her by the jaw again, squeezing at her jowls steadily harder, such to open her mouth, as the lower hand draws the claw out from her, bring it to her lower lip, watching her face with an expression touched subtly with something...not angry, dragging Joah's blood across the unwounded inner edge of her lip. The whispers hiss off the backs of unseen throats. "You are better than your fear. You shall not righteously be kept beneath it's thumb...You shall be PURGED!" Legion clenches Her teeth, squeezing the girl’s jaw harder, and drawing the claws around her neck, to a vertebra near the base of the neck, watching her eyes.

“You need be able to move?...To run?”

The girl’s mind races wildly, the taste of her own blood on her lip, the sensation of Legion's claw causing her to gag. She would vomit if she could, but she can't. Comprehension dawns on her slowly...her poisoned blood has no affect on Legion...her push has no affect. If the claw goes in...she won't just be able to not run...she knows she won't be able to breath. Voices whir in her head, Legion's mixed with something else, someone else, she cannot think. She takes a deep, shuddering breath.

“Do it, then.

“I can't stop you.

“You won't stop.

“Just do it and be done with it.”

Legion nods to the girl, pressing Her claw in through the skin, beyond, and in past the spinal connective tissue. The entire time, Legion lowers lower and lower, eyevoids fixed upon the girl’s eyes, and growing wider and wider in her field of vision. Legion's hand reaches to the top of her head, and points her eyes to down the front of her body as the spinal cord is severed.

The girl feels a stabbing ragged pain, then...nothing. She knows her head is being lifted, she can see the rise of her breasts, the skin of her belly, but she cannot say or do anything. She lies completely helpless at the end of herself. The sound of a pitcher cracking and water pouring out fills her ears, water cascading over her eyes. Her eyes widen and no longer blink. Though unseeing, she is not unaware. She hears the rustle of Legion's skirt, billowing in her mind as she rises and falls with the swish of the fabric and the swirl of the water pour, cascading over her eyes.

The billowing spreads out around the girl’s mind, black, and all encompassing. A growing sense of detachment and solitude floods over the girl as the darkness settles. Then a sense of scintillation¬–glinting in the black, giving off reflection where there is no light. The glints grow, each a shard–each a face–each watching the girl, and waiting. She stares blankly back, eyes glazed and unfocused, unmoving. No breath escapes her body, no sense of breathing, only ...floating.

The black and cold rolls around the girl, rolls in, rolls through–faces indistinct, and blurry watching her as they slide past her perception, floating. The multitude is expansive. So expansive, each and every face looking back at the girl, not Legion's face, but Lorne's...Sariel's, smiling back at her perception, conscious despite death.

A strange peace spills over Joah as Lorne's face smiles at her, Sariel's face . . . something in her consciousness knows the name though her mind no longer thinks. The sensation of floating lingers...her vacant eyes, unseeing, yet each face looking at her, thousands of face...each speaking to her. There is not one face silent, each speaking in unison¬ with the other¬–somehow the girl might simply know, if she were to wonder. The multitudinous unison adds up to a tone much more serene, and caring despite repeating the same words: "By what authority? What shall you do? What do you fear?"

As the girl floats the voice of a small child seems to drift from her. She hears singing, feels the desert sun beating down on her face, watches her own small brown hands playing in the dirt, mixing water and dirt and clay…the child's voice lilts…I am clay.... The child's voice blends into the voice of a young woman's yelling above a crowd, fighting . . . screaming in anger . . . in fear . . . and tearing . . . tearing . . . the young woman's voice is serene…I fear…being torn....

“You will be torn,” every voice intones. “What shall you do?”

The girl holds up dead arms, palms open toward heaven in supplication though her flesh does not move. She lifts her face upward, open and vulnerable as a small child expecting to be lifted up in her father's arms. Wordless trust, waiting….

Sariel's face shakes its head in every mirror, fading, no light shining down from on high–no saving grace, or godly hand uplifting. "You will save yourself...or you will not be saved. You must not wait, you must do...what will you do, Joah?" The glinting fades into cold black, and silence.

The girls hands drop to her side, her head lowers as a look of quiet anguish and indecision crosses her face. Then a subtle change, a seed of…determination. “I will stand," the girl’s voice drifts toward Sariel. A germ of sureness begins to grow. “I will stand.” Certainty, calmness, focus.... "Stand," she whispers.

Legion does not respond or lift a finger to assist. She watches, and hopes as a ripple, shimmering cascades over the girl. The girl seems to step outside herself, leaving behind a vaporous remnant of her former being. As she steps away, a glow begins to emanate from her though her truer deeper self lies just under the illusion of her skin. She steps toward the faces, eyes roving from one glinting mirror to the next, studying, appraising. She takes another step, unaware that her flesh does not move.

Every face follows her movement, smiling as if simply unable not to. Every eyevoid follows her progress, nodding here, and there encouragingly. They seem to nod more and more in unison as she progresses.

The girl walks slowly, taking one tentative step after another, until her steps are quiet and sure. With each step, the vaporous doppelganger begins to fade…fear visibly dropping way from her as the form turns from Joah, to a wavering image, to a mist and then gone.

Legion draws the backs of Her fingers across one cheek, then the other, smiling affectionately down upon the girl’s body, watching, certain. The girl feels no sensation on her cheek and yet she feels Legion, sees Legion smiling with affection, her face brightening as if seeing for the first time after having been at the bottom of a well.

Legion lowers a little once more towards the girl’s ear, cupping a cheek, and breathing a whisper so nearly spoken as if from a final breath. "Stand up. Be free."

The feeling of rushing into something, rushing into herself, the girl stands on the alter and looks down at Legion not quite comprehending what was happened. A sense of peace and strength and freedom remain. The girl realizes the fear that was her companion is…no longer there…she feels an absence of what was, but does not yearn. She stays present in what is.

“Legion?” The girl gazes down at herself with wonder.

Legion smiles up at her, reaching for her hand, holding it with both of Her own. "Joah."

The girl allows her hand to be held, relishing the touch, feelings of thankfulness overwhelming her, full of words she cannot quite express.

“May I . . . may I get down?”

Legion cranes Her neck to see the girl’s back, and the top of her spine, then looking up to her face, nodding, and leading her by her hand to the ground. Reaching down to the stone pavement, Legion grasps one piece of clothing, then another, handing each to Joah fully intact.

The girl’s fingers trace the concave of her pelvis; though her skin feels smooth to the touch, the sense of a scar remains. Her hand drifts up to the back of her neck, and the sensation is the same: smooth skin, yet the feeling of a scar. Reminders, she thinks. She begins to smile as Legion hands her her clothing, piece by whole piece. She slips on her undergarments, her skirt and her jacket, and then stands facing Legion.

“Thank you,” she smiles with real, free warmth.

Legion nods to the girl, beaming, a sensation of pride thick in the light of Her expression. She steps forward, and throws Her arms about the girl, a whisper, sounding singular, sounding as though coming from Her own throat, "Free..."

Joah nods and whispers, "Free," her hand drifting up to touch Legion's cheek in wonder.

Friday, August 22, 2008


She probably didn’t think I noticed her dancingdancingdancing, hair sticking to her smooth neck, slick with sweat. She probably didn’t realize that I could see the pink tinge of the wetness on her skin as I ascended the stairs of the Library. But I did notice, even though my mind was elsewhere, focused on the golem. And so did Grr, sniffing the air. “I smell Brit’s blood…it’s….” he’d said, then trailed off.

And when she came back into the room, I could see from the corner of my eye that she was freshly washed. I could hear the exchange of whispers between the girl and the coyote, see Brit blushing furiously and Grr patting her arm, then a look of relief and the question, “Promise?” addressed to Grr. One more piece of the puzzle.

In the twilight of the following day, I sat near the Library fire, thinking about Brit and reading a slim, small book I’d uncovered in the stacks. Omega stood gazing out the window. Pontifex worked quietly, scribbling notes. Severus . . . well, Severus sat silently, grim and glowering. I turned the book over in my hand: “Celerity” was stamped neatly in gold script on the leather cover. One passage in particular confused me and I wondered whether to seek clarification from Omega. Omega noticed my expression and asked, “Interesting reading, M'dear?”

"It’s talking about blood dolls,” I replied, “And the effects of vitae. This says a blood doll is ‘A mortal who freely gives her blood to a vampire. Most blood dolls gain a perverse satisfaction from the kiss, and actively seek out vampires who will take their vitae.’” I paused considering how to phrase my question before just blurting it out. “Is Brit a blood doll?”

Omega’s gaze narrowed. “No. she is not. And I would advise you not to use that term around her or Ethan; they believe it to be a disparaging one. Brit is not…bonded to Ethan. In all other ways, perhaps, but not that one.”

I didn’t understand. Brit and Ethan were beloveds, married. They drank deeply from each other. “What do you mean, ‘not bonded’, Lady?”

“Blood bonded, Joah. She is not bound to him in that way. Some mortals find the kiss of a vampire…any vampire, addictive,” Omega replied. “They will seek out any who would give them their desire. That could be classed as a general addiction, I suppose you could say. One who becomes bonded to a particular vampire though, that is somewhat different.”

“But she drinks his blood,” I wondered aloud. “Is she a ghoul then? This says: ‘A ghoul is a minion created by giving a bit of vampirism vitae to a mortal without draining her of blood first.’” Severus began muttering something that I couldn’t quite make out about his own addictive blood.

Omega ignored my question. “Brit is not blood bound to Ethan. Perhaps the question we ought to be asking - is why? Not all humans can be bonded. It is rare…very rare. It would have a certain irony to it though, would it not?” Omega paused, considering her words. “I would think carefully before broaching this subject with them, Joah. I have seen Ethan react very aggressively to the phrase ‘blood doll.’ And suggesting that he has not been able to bond Brit would be insulting on many levels.”

Pontifex chuckled, “How does he react to ‘sex doll’ then?” Severus grinned and made a ribald comment, which I pretended not to hear. I tried to press on. "But Brit's different, Omega. She's been becoming stronger and faster and…more alert. She picked Grr up and threw him once. And the other night she ran after him faster than any human being can run." I looked at the book again. “‘Celerity,’” I began reading. "‘The ability to move at faster-than-human speeds and with uncanny precision.’"

“She is getting the benefit of his blood, undoubtedly,” Omega said.

“But if she's not a blood doll…and she's not a ghoul …what is she?

Omega smiled, “Something else. She is something else.”

“She's married,” Pontifex said in his usual sarcastic manner. “It’s not entirely unusual in many cultures for the wife to suck her husband.”

“Pontifex,” growled Omega. If you have nothing of worth to add to the conversation, please be quiet.” Turning toward me, Omega began to explain, “Celerity is product of consumption, not bonding.”

Pontifex shrugged, “What I mean is, they are of one flesh … yeah … that's it.”

Omega whirled on Pontifex. “Must everything be a jest? A foolish question. Of course it must.” She shook her head, anger and something else unreadable on her face.

“If it's not life or death, then it is jest,” Pontifex demurred. “If not to use, then least to the djinns of fate.”

I studied Pontifex for a moment. “You are a scholar, studying much that is arcane. How does this bonding take place?”

Pontifex turned his gaze toward Omega, though he responded to me. “I have to say, with vampires I know little, except to avoid any fluid transfer.” For a moment silence was thick between the two of them; Omega seemed lost for words. “Those were your words after Myriam attempted to enthrall me, Omega.”

“But Brit and Ethan exchange fluids,” I began, trying to steer the topic away from the rift between Pontifex and Omega.

“Forgive me,” Omega hissed, “For attempting to protect you, Pontifex. How very foolish of me.”

Severus shrugged his broad shoulders slightly and turned toward me. “If it is anything like the addiction of an incubus, then the blood of the vampire binds its victim … or erm … partner. The more she feeds from the vampire, the stronger the bond.”

“I'm merely just stating my sum total of vampirism lore,” Pontifex continued. “No offense implied.” The smirk on his face said otherwise.

Omega acted as though Pontifex had not spoken. “As Severus says,” she began, “That is the usual way of it, yes.”

“So why doesn't it bond Brit?” I asked.

“Brit simply is not blood-bonded,” Omega replied. “In spite of … as Pontifex so eloquently puts it, their fluids transfer. An interesting puzzle, to be sure. But one I would tread delicately in attempting to investigate.”

Severus mused, “She must be unbondable … a rare condition. I wonder if my blood would have no affect on her either … not that I'd try….”

Suddenly, Pontifex interjected, “Am I the only one who sees the obvious?”

“Do, please, enlighten us, Pontifex,” Omega said in an icy tone.

“Brit was already bound to Ethan before blood, before marriage, before even Toxia.” Pontifex spread his hands in explanation. “Their bond isn’t some mere vampire or incubus trick. It is the one of their souls.”

“Seems Brit’s not the only one who can avoid bonds around here,” Omega muttered. “I'd say you've found the expert you were looking for, Joah.”

Omega strode over to the mysterious crate that had been delivered to the Library. Pushing at it, she shoved it a few inches. “About time we moved this damn thing.”

Pontifex smiled, but his mouth held a cruel twist. “You might best speak to Merma, Joah. She's the angel of the family, but, yes, souls are something both our kinds are intimately familiar with.”

I nodded and tucked the book back into my pocket. "Perhaps you are right, Pontifex. But maybe…." I glanced at the crate, at Omega, then stopped myself in mid-sentence. "We do need to move that. Or unpack it."

Pontifex did not relent. “Your book mentions how much the receiver enjoys the kiss. But I suspect the Vampire or Incubus draws pleasure from it as well. If it’s anything like … other releases of fluid, potentially even more so than the receiver. I can definitely tell you that possessing a woman is very pleasurable for me … though her pleasure isn’t really of mine concern....”

"Ownership," I speculated. "So it wouldn't matter to you where there was bonding?"

Severus interrupted. “For us the pleasure of the female is the ultimate concern. Without it, there is nothing to feed upon.”

Omega turned from the crate and spoke in a low, steely voice directed at Pontifex. “If you'll excuse me, I think I've heard quite enough. I would be happy to discuss this matter with you at another time, Joah.”

“Well, I believe I'm finished telling Joah the birds and the bees, ex rudis,” Pontifex smirked. “Though, Joah, if you need more private tutoring, I'm sure I can find someone to help you. I see my work is done; enjoy your day.”

I nodded to Pontifex, a bit confused, and then went to assist with the crate.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

But iron, cold iron, is master of men all

Dark luster standing in the dim light of the Library window, eyes empty, mouth closed. Blood, heart, spirit: the golem had none of those things and required them all. Labyrinth watched, opening and closing her hand. She would not help, but she would not hinder. She held in her fist a die with infinite sides, spinning and stopping. Time was short, fragile seconds expiring ever faster as the die spun.

It was time to bring Nareth home. I called on the Outer Gods, the true Ones, and then Omega offered. I would have used Nareth’s blade upon Omega’s wrist, but Jack wanted her throat. A swift, deep cut, and my hand to the wound, then delicate fingertip brushstrokes on the golem’s forehead: EMET. On Labyrinth’s: MET.

I gave the dripping blade to Pontifex, a door only he could open, for he is intimately acquainted with the gift of pain. And pain he did cause, but he did not take it without consent: Abi wept as he prodded, demanded, forced her to remember the taste Jack’s razor, sour and biting cold at the moment of her birth, pulling her screaming into the world. Nareth, the bloody midwife. The pain of losing Nareth and the pain of bringing her back.

And it was enough: Nullam nunc dolor. The blade began to glow black in Pontifex’s hands. Hendrerit nec. A dark violent tendril arced from the blade to Labyrinth. Gravida eu, turpis. Probability and possibility collapsed. The die vanished. Things began to fall apart.

You must speak its purpose, Labyrinth had said to Omega. You are its creator. And the Lady with chilling finality: Nareth must act in accordance with my Will, for the benefit of us all. I shuddered, but it was too late to stop her; Nareth’s purpose had been cast. For the benefit of us all.

With sudden speed, the Watcher attacked. Wolfe, coyote, beast—Grrbrool ripped the heart from Labyrinth’s chest, all razor teeth and claw and blood-matted fur. He placed it, beating, into my hands. Omega lifted them up to her, lips bending close to taste the god’s blood. She gave Abi the choice: Bring her back? Or burn the heart? Abi whispered, Bring her back.

I opened my spirit to Legion, making the thing that should not, be: a beating heart in a chest of iron. Labyrinth’s exoskeleton disintegrated, only a few shards littering the floor. Larissa’s lips on the golem, a kiss, a breath and please live. Nareth’s eyes fluttered open. My bloody thumb on her mouth and speak.

Then Nareth was back. Her green eyes, watching. Her voice, speaking. Wondering why we were assembled. Some one said, We’re mourning. Mourning who? Nareth had asked. You, I replied.

Pontifex did not correct me. But Labyrinth was gone. Eris, Discordia, Azathoth, the Whisperer in the Darkness. Aunt Beast. Pontifex stood still and silent as stone. Artemisia whimpered, lost. We were mourning. But not for Nareth.

I knelt and picked up the few remaining shards of Labyrinth’s exoskeleton and quietly placed them in my pocket. She had walked in the world among us, but it was not the appointed time. Though I knew she went to await the Messenger, I wondered if she had truly gone. For of the many lessons Aunt Beast taught me, the deepest one was this:

She always wins.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Iron from the rock

The cliffs leading up to the seawall loom cold and dark above the Toxian Sea. Joah stands considering the rock face, her boots sinking into the wet sand. Extending one hand, she traces the stone with her fingertips before laying a palm on the rock, probing. A fiery light begins to spread from her hand causing the surface to glow, a white-hot ember. Legion’s words echo in her mind, “The song of creation, when sung in its complete harmony….” She begins singing softly as she works, a canticle high and sweet and other.

She steps away from the rock, lifting her hand slightly, but keeping her palm facing the cliff. A spongy mass of dark metal begins to bloom from the cliff’s surface as liquid slag drips down its face pooling in the sand. Joah watches the bloom grow, checking the formed mass against the design in her mind, the diagrams over which she had labored in the Library. As the impurities drip to the ground, the bloom swells: malleable and pure, but strong.

Joah extends both arms as if in prayer, glowing palms open under the bloom. Legion’s many voices whisper over the wind and the bloom bubbles out slightly. A portion separates, flattens and smooths. Joah spreads her fingers, tilting and turning her wrists, and flipping the floating slab over in the air. Etch marks appear at its edges as it curves and begins to take shape. A perfectly formed thigh-shaped plate falls to the ground and settles softly in the sand.

The process is repeated until the bloom is gone: a calf, a foot, the top of a hand, fingers, a jaw…over and over until the sand is littered with plates, pieces of an apparent marionette awaiting assembly. Joah’s hands drift to her side. She feels a stirring in the breeze and turns toward the gate in the seawall, Pontifex’s dark figure approaching silently. Meeting his eyes she says simply, “It is done.” He nods and bends low to lift one plate from the sand, then another. “To the Library,” he directs and Joah kneels to assist him.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Legion and the sea

The small pale girl with blood on her hands darted into the shadows, watching and wary. She’d tried to cut out Denenthorn’s eyes. He’d been foolish to unbind her in the first place, but he’d allowed Pontifex to bait him into it. She knew Denenthorn’s wrath was legendary so she crouched, waiting and listening for the rustle of wings, Nareth’s blade dancing in her hand.

A shimmering in the air alerted the girl that someone was coming. She quickly padded into the alleyway, staring into the darkness as Legion appeared, first as an impression of a transparent outline, then drifting slowly into opacity. Legion gazed gently at the girl, Her eyes wandering from the girl’s face to the blade at her neck. A whisper of many voices echoed on the air as She stepped forward to place a hand upon the girl’s shoulder, "We are here to take you with Us."

A shiver swept through the girl at Legion's touch. "They're trying to find me,” she whispered. “I don't want to be bound again." Her voice pleads. The blade at the girl’s neck is hungry, and she wants to feed it, but she also doesn't want to be found. "It's hungry." She taps the blade’s edge urgently with her fingertip.

Without a word, Legion leads the girl by the shoulder through the dim streets, out towards the shoreline, to the edge of the floating platform overlooking the sea. The girl can feel the boards bobbing lightly under her feet to the lapping of the tide. Legion trades the hand on the girl’s shoulder with Her other hand, facing the girl out to sea. The girl looks out silently over the water.

Placing Her freed hand between the girl’s shoulder blades, palm adhering with something rather like a static pop, a feeling like the attraction of many begins to conduct through that touch, and plumes out into the girl’s chest. Legion’s whispers come affectionately from inside the girl. "Look out to sea, Our jewel."

The girl blinks, and then eyes adjusting to the twilight, she takes in the hazy sky, the stars. Though it is a night with no moon she sees clearly over the water.

Legion draws nearer to press Her front into the side of the girl’s back, and Her chin over her shoulder. She draws Her palm down the bare portions of the girl’s back, dragging the feel of static with it. The voices slide around inside the girl, branching out and in and around like endorphins. "The sea is the world remembered,” Legion begins, “The world as it is...and the world yet to be...all in song...all in never ceasing rise and fall." Her hand drifts idly down further, finally resting on the curve of the girl’s hips.

The girl listens to the lapping water, smells the sickly sweet salt marsh mingled with toxic fumes. Finally she relaxes against Legion's arm, whispering, "Her heart is out there. I can feel it beating."

Legion maneuvers the girl into the cradle of Her looped arm, encouraging her back into Her strong embrace, and rocking her gently to the sounds of the sea. "Her heart means nothing,” She says. “Her heart is a grain of sand upon the ocean floor. We are here as on the event horizon of all time, the rise and fall of civilizations, the birth and death of billions, all have their place in the song..."

Legion coaxes the girl to give her weight to Her, and hang weightless in Her arms, floating free above the advancing water. The girl takes a deep shuddering breath, then leans, trusting, into Legion's arms. She drifts, weightlessly, eyes gazing out to sea, mesmerized by Legion's words. She can see civilizations birthed and dying as she floats; she can hear the song.

Legion's cheek presses into the girl’s, Her jaw sliding over her shoulder soft as clouds, till the corner of Her mouth is against the girl’s cheek. The words continue in a quilt of rhythms, rolling towards the girl’s consciousness, mesmerizing, like the surface rolling across girl’s sight, and running under the edge of her field of view, every wave surely lapping into her. "The song is in you, Our Jewel...the song of creation, when sung in its complete harmony, can raise the light from out of void, and make creation out of nothing it all." Legion's hand is upon the girl’s lower stomach, laying Her palm and fingers sprawled upon it's skin "We have put a piece of it inside you...inside your womb...and you will be it's flower bloomed..."

The girl’s eyes half close as her fingers trace the tops of Legion's hands. She feels wrapped in warmth, peace. She sees the void washing over her, then a little point of light like a star, growing, sparkles radiating outward, filling the nothingness.

But the blade does not sleep.