Friday, October 31, 2008

What Lorne Took

I sat on the sofa of KTOX, listening to Starwalker spin tales as I took in the music. I’d brought along someone new to the city, Bella Demina. She’d come following a voice, a voice that had drawn her to many places and many cities, ‘til finally this one. She lay exhausted on the sofa beside me, drifting toward sleep. GrrBrool stood at the decks, thumbing the scratched iPod he’d taken off a dead man.

“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. “ 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.


I was writing by the fire when Ethan strode into the Library, heading straight for Brit. Her face lit up and she reached for his hands, beaming. Silhouetted in the moonlight of the Library’s large window a passerby would have thought they were a paradigm of love. A touch of his cheek, and kisses. A long pale finger brushing back her hair, and kisses again.

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 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 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


They said the monk was dead. They didn’t know who or what he was really; they only said that a man with long, blondish hair wearing strange robes had been found on the beach beyond the seawall. He’d been face down in the sand. When the lycan who’d scented him had rolled him over, the expression frozen on the man’s face had been one of shock mingled with horror.

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….

The Marketplace

From Out the Bitter Sea

I walked steadily up the fire escape to the roof of the Library, my boots crunching upon the grit and loose stone. I sought Severus. There was a gulf of misunderstanding between us and we needed to talk. As I stepped over the edging I spied him settling down upon the rooftop, his dark wings dissolving. I stood quietly for a moment, gazing at him.

“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 is all I know anymore...and why I refuse to feed my own corruption.”

“Severus, when we were in 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 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 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

If You Were Coming in the Fall

I watched him as he worked on the woman, tending the burns on her arms and legs, skillful as a surgeon, fingers just as deft. I sat quietly, gazing at him over the top of the book I held in my lap, but his eyes never met mine. For three days, never a look, never a smile, never a touch. I had kissed him so many times under the infinite sky. How could I not love him, his liquid golden eyes, the scent of his fur, the memory of his claw tips and teeth against my skin, his gentled and scarred heart?

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.

E. Dickinson

To Resist His Charms

“Lorne, may I ask You a question?” I spoke with hesitance. He raised His eyebrows to me attentively, and I continued. “How does one resist an incubus?”

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. “ 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.

Sariel and Raven

“After Nareth, it's real important we don’t lose another like that. Tha Huntress walked tha path on purpose. I can deal with that, as bitter tha thought is that I couldn’t bring her back,” Grr said seriously.

“I don't want to lose Abi, either,” I replied, “But she thinks she is a parasite…because of what I said to her.”

Grr seemed lost in thought. “In tha end, I saw it was her own path.” He wasn’t talking about Abi any more. He was reliving his failure to help Nareth. “If she had wanted ta Cross, I woulda taken her to tha Wide River, but, she peferred tha Nothin…and then, tha Boit, and then, more Nothin….I'd have carried her across, its an old duty, but, I woulda, ya both have ta believe me, if she had wanted ta Cross…”

Lorne Harlequin silently gazed at us, and then shook His head at Grr. “You’ll remember meeting the Raven once when We spoke. I understand.” I didn’t understand what they meant. Raven, the eater of the eyes of the dead, a Trickster who delights in tricking others into doing something for him they may not actually want to do, something that may cost them dearly. I couldn’t grasp what Raven had to do with GrrBrool.

“Exactly,” Grr said quietly. “But I got ta help tha passin, from It ta tha Bot, at least, ta make that end, so, that’s something….”

Lorne looked somehow profoundly tired, a slight hint of reverberance as He spoke in a voice that may as well have been made of sand and stone. “It's a cruel love to have, taking everyone you ever care for to...away.”

“Well, point is, Lorne, if tha Little One is stuck, and she don’t know she's stuck, because she's beatin her self up….”

Lorne continued to speaking, barely acknowledging Grr’s words, as if He were speaking through us, His words distant. "And you...who have not dispensation to go...She knows.” He paused for a moment, blinking out of His distance. “I can take you to her. Ties that bind, and all that,” He said with a defeated smile.

“You would take us to her?” I stammered.

“Though I would insist it wait for a window of receptivity,” Lorne nodded. “I can't imagine you would object.”

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Little Girl Lost

I folded my arms across my chest, the Hazmat suit making a slight metal-on-metal sound. “While you are here, Lorne, I probably should talk with you about Abi. She's still missing.”

Lorne nodded “Yes. Last I saw her she had herself suspended in a cage by hooks. I attempted to tutor her on the details of the mod equivalence relation,” he explained.

“Ya know, Lorne, Spirit Gal here and Bright Gal went huntin fer yer pup,” Grr began. “Tha Maker contracted ta take em to her. The dumped Spirit Gal in Dream.”

“The Maker?” Lorne asked.

“Severus,” I replied. “The Incubus. He and I had a disagreement, you might say.”

“Oh, yeah, sorry,” Grr apologized.

Lorne smirked, His lips curling from closed to exposing His teeth. “Ah. The whore, yes.”

Grr went on. “He says he was just a step to tha side on tha path, but when they didn’t come back, and I took a jaunt myself, I found Spirit Gal all alone and asleep in Dream.” Grr gave a canine frown. “Even I know ya dont go ta sleep in Dream…that’s fucked up.”

I nodded. “When I wouldn't…when I didn't...well…at any rate, he let go of my hand. That's the last thing I remember, until I felt Grr's teeth in my shoulder. He didn't break skin, thank goodness.”

Grr shook his head up and down, “Well, no hands….” He’d been in his native form, a pure coyote.

“But we didn't find her,” I continued. “Although Severus says his contract isn't complete, that he'll go back until we do, I'm…a little uncertain of his methods. And Abi may need some persuasion. She doesn't understand about…the need for an equal exchange. She thinks there’s something wrong with her.”

Lorne nodded slightly, then shook His head. “Indeed. I can just imagine poor, poor Severus enduring the guilt of having caused you to lose your mind into a perpetual limbo state.” Lorne wrapped His arms round Himself, and began rocking back and forth, affecting a high-pitched, mocking tone "Boo. Boo hoo. I'm such a horrible, dirty, broken widdle pawn.” He motioned as though He was shying away from someone's touch "No. No. Don't try and comfort me.”

“Oh, ya HAVE met tha Maker,” Grr said.

“So I have, yes,” Lorne nodded. “Not the first Incubus to employ the tired technique of open self-loathing.”

“But thing is, Lorne, yer Pup is still locked up. Maybe its doin her good, maybe she’s in torment fer no reason,” Grr replied.

Lorne nodded again, his face becoming a bit more somber. “There is a problem in that this exile is ultimately self-imposed.” He gave a thoughtful sigh. “I spoke with her. She believes she cannot love. There is a lesson one must learn before they can love any other.”

“And what is that?” I asked quietly.

Lorne looked at me evenly. “Before you may truly love another you must learn to love yourself....”

A Respite From the Flood

I walked into the Library from the flooded streets, wearing a heavy duty, waterproof HazMat suit. It was clunky and heavy, but it kept out the toxic floodwaters, the overflowing sewage, and the floating debris. Lorne was there with Brianna, talking to Grr and taking a respite from the constant downpour. “Well, less sulfuric acid left, and more nothing but lead sulfate,” Lorne mused, “Still....” He turned toward me, knitting his brow. “Are you wearing a powered hard suit, Joah?”

GrrBrool grinned, “Ah, how’s tha HazMat suit workin Spirit Gal?” I met Grr’s eyes as he grinned at me with obvious delight and probably a bit of bemusement at the contrast between my pinned up pigtails and the Hazmat suit. I was lost in his deep, golden gaze for a moment.

Brianna giggled something about me be being half robo-man, while I tried to determine whether I could actually sit in one the of the armchairs while wearing the suit. The lining had begun to itch dreadfully, but I was reluctant to take the whole thing off in case I needed to venture out into the floodwaters again. “It’s a HazMat suit, Lorne, and it’s working well, actually. Of course the water still comes up to my shoulders....”

Lorne held His hand to about the level of my neck in His field of vision. “Bit of a larger percentage than that, methinks. That's for the water?”

I nodded again, deciding to stand rather than attempt a chair. “What were you saying about acids, Lorne?” I asked, moving closer to Grr and laying a hand on the small of his back.

“Bri here lugs a car battery about in her pack, Joah,” Grr smiled. “Must be what gived her those calves….”

Brianna is cute, very cute. Cuddly and adorable, almost. But she is a Shadow. And as Grr so often reminds me, one can only trust the Shadows to be what they are. Brianna had been reading in the Library, studying books on the effects of electrocution. She’d been most eager to find “patients” to try her theories out on. I turned toward her. “Umm…is your experiment working, Bri?"

Brianna began pouting with sweet, pink lips. “Well…with all this water it is hard to find a patient, and I've been fighting skeleton men all day.” She shivered, “Cold, icky water all over....” Grr and I had treated many of those who had been injured in the floodwaters. The level of debris, sewage and chemical contaminants…not to mention the blood bath contamination and the unearthed decomposing bodies…had created a toxic soup that poured into many of the buildings in the City, including the Library. I looked Bri over, but she seemed to be unharmed. She flicked her tail back and forth, giving a slight yawn.

Lorne looked up to Grr, then to me. “Did you collect Warhammer figurines at some point?”

“I knew a guy that used a hammer,” Grr replied, “But, I dont think thats whatcha mean….” I leaned my head on Grr’s arm, turning toward the fire as I did so, studying the blaze in the hearth to make sure it was still burning brightly. “We had an engineer, from tha Feline Corps, who wore somethin like that,” Grr continued. “Tha FURF's had some funny ideas, but they got stuck in, no slackers, well fer kits at least.”

“What is Warhammer, Lorne?” I asked.

Lorne blinked, His expression becoming more present. “Warhammer is a table-top game of strategy played with miniatures, many of them wearing powered armor.”

“Oh,” Grr, mused, “Tactical simulation trainin, i getcha…”

“I'm unfamiliar with such games, Lorne.” I continued to gaze into the fire, causing it to lick up brightly and boil the water around it. Two sets of dark eyes could barely be seen among the logs, two small heads, and two red and orange tails. There was scampering as I directed the flame, until one of the logs shifted slightly, emitting a shower of sparks.

Grr wrapped his arm around me briefly and whispered. “I never get tired of watchin yer fire-critters, Spirit Gal.” I hugged him in return, then shifted around to face Lorne and Brianna.

Lorne smiled at me. “Yes. Somehow, when I look at you, weighing all that I am aware of in your person, the first thing that comes to mind is not ‘This is a person who likely enjoys collecting small metal figurines for the purpose of painting them intricately, and simulating intergalactic wars.’”

Grr looked puzzled, “Err…what do ya think, then, Lorne?”

I lifted my head from Grr’s arm. “Yes, Lorne…what do you think?”

Lorne turned His head slightly down and back, looking sidelong at the Grr and me with a demurring smile. “Ah, but that would be telling.”

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Cara Amica,

I hasten this letter to you, Blue, because no moment must be lost when a heart is breaking. I have thought of you often since the darkness of recent events. Though we cannot assist another's night, I hope that she who received immortality against her will has found some measure of peace. It was a bloody gift and one not willingly accepted.

To remember your sister-wife now is all any of us can do. I will not forget that she saved my life the night I went with Labyrinth through the fire and the void. But it is with grief now that our remembrance must be done. Perhaps she does not go so far, as we who stay behind suppose. Perhaps she will come closer to you, Blue, for the lapse of her corporeal clothes.

I can only hope that my broken words have helped you. I felt so faint in uttering them, thinking of your great pain.

With greatest sadness for your loss,
I remain,

(Adapted from the funerary letters of Emily Dickenson.)

R.I.P., Picket McDonnell

Denenthorn stalked by the Shadows

Monday, October 13, 2008

He Walks in Dreams

Severus stepped out of a shadow-shrouded portal into the Library, a seeping, bone-numbing coldness following him. He glowered, and then slammed the portal behind him with a vacuum-like sucking. As he turned to glance outside at the pouring rain and the rising floodwaters, he sighed heavily. Faye’Li and I were watching the rain-swollen streets, too, but she was pacing up and down the stairs, looking out every window, while I stood still in front of the hearth, close to GrrBrool and a sleeping Brit.

“I dun tink I'll be able to sleep if I see fish or bodies swimming by da windows,” Faye’Li sighed.

“Feel better fer tha little walk?” Grrbrool asked, referring to Faye’Li’s constant pacing. “Ya'll be awright, Messenger, we got…contingency plans. Heh.”

Faye'Li frowned. “I'm going to learn 'ow to swim when dis is over, Grr.”

“It doesn't matter, Faye’Li,” I replied. “In a flood, it isn't safe to swim.
Debris, toxins…bloated, decomposing bodies…the current….” I could hear Brit begin to breathe in slower, easier breaths. She snuggled under the cape she was wearing, using Grr like a pillow. Only her red hair could really be seen. I tried to catch Faye’Li’s eye. “It will be fine. The Institute is always prepared. And the Library protects its own.”

Faye'Li bit her lip, “I’m sorry. Just 'aven't been in a flood before.” Severus slowly arched a brow at her words, pale eyes shifting about.

Grr wrapped an arm around Brit as he shifted slightly toward Severus. “G'day Maker, heard tha news? Damp outside, and tha locks are off tha weapons lockers.” Upstairs, Blake and his companion had grown silent. His nose was buried in a book although I knew he was carefully listening.

Severus inclined his head slightly. “So I saw...yet another flood,” he muttered, his deep tone bitter. “Don’t have anything to lose this time.” I turned from gazing out the window to watch Severus, studying his appearance. He seemed himself. Not like I saw him last, pale as bone, his eyes lifeless, a scythe in hand.

Faye'Li Vidae looked over. "Ah welcome back monsieur." For a moment, she seemed somewhat relieved before thoughts of the water outside came back to her.

Severus shrugged his broad shoulders slightly, not really acknowledging the welcome. For Severus, the Omega Institute is not family. His own was lost to him in the Great Flood: his wife, his children, and his freedom. He had been like an angel; now he was of the damned. Yet…he stayed with us. He aided us, although there was always a price to be paid for his efforts.

Grr snuggled with Brit, leaning close to let her feel his radiant body heat, almost hot to the touch himself. Brit continued to sleep peacefully, hugging Grr as if he were a giant teddy bear. Severus’s intense pale eyes shifted over, meeting mine.

“Severus,” I began as I walked toward him, “Why….” I bit my lip, thought better of asking, and stopped.

Severus slowly arched a brow. “Why what?” he muttered tersely.

“Why…why did you leave me, Severus…leave me there in the Dreaming?”

Severus scowled blackly. “I didn’t. You...left me...I merely released you to sleep for a time. I never abandoned you. I'm contracted.”

“But I was…lost.” I pressed on. “Where did you go? You weren't there when Faye'Li and Grr came for me.” Grr nodded quietly.

“I was a few feet away from you on the path, Joah.” Severus narrowed his eyes. “You merely drifted in sleep.”

I lowered my eyes to the floor to hide my anger at having been left behind, struggling to speak without emotion. “We didn't see you. None of us did.”

Severus shrugged slightly. “You don’t know the laws of the path to the Dreaming. They weren’t brought or guided by me. Of course they wouldn’t see.” Faye’Li stood looking between the two of us, watching.

I raised my eyes, meeting Severus's, exasperated by his obstinacy. "She's still there."

“Larissa you mean?” he said nonchalantly.

“No,” I replied. “Abi.”

Severus nodded slowly. “Yes, yes she contract remains incomplete.”

“And will you . . . complete it?” I asked.

“I can’t until you join Larissa again,” Severus shrugged. “You are in my contract. However, Grr offered another option…perhaps if my methods are so unfavorable, you should take it.” I glanced at Grr. His golden eyes met mine, but he didn’t speak. He knew this battle was between the incubus and me.

I drew closer to Severus…not touching him…never touching his skin, but closer. “I rode with you,” I said quietly, my anger rising.

“You what?” Severus uttered flatly.

“You were Death,” I whispered. “On a pale green horse, Severus. You pulled me up behind you…and I rode with you.”

“Death?” asked Faye'Li in a puzzled voice.

“Not exactly my kind of dream....” Severus muttered dryly. “Are you certain you don’t have any strange riding fetishes?”

And that was it. My temper exploded as I lunged across the space between us, grasping one of the spikes in Severus’ wrist. “You pulled me up behind you,” I spat. “Where were you going? Where were you taking me?”

Severus hissed through clenched teeth, pale eyes blazing as he wrenched his wrist from my grasp, the spike grinding against bone as his black blood began to seep through the open wound. I don’t know, damn you! They are your blasted dreams,” he snapped acidly through clenched fangs.

“You were in them,” Joah I said tightly.

Faye'Li looked at Severus and back to me, “What…does it mean?”

I whirled around. “Ask him. He's the one who walks the planes. Not I.”

“I don’t know what it means, Joah.” Severus growled low as he clutched his spike-pierced wrist to his chest, his black blood seeping down his arm sluggishly. “I simply don’t have the control I once did...I must be drifting through dreams,” he muttered, his deep tone terse.

“Yet you still do not feed…” I said, chagrined.

Severus shook his white-maned head slightly. “And I will not,” he said bitterly, continuing to rub his-spike impaled forearm.

I could only turn and walk away.

See Abi, lost in the Dream World.

Read about Blue's visit to Abi.

Read about Grr and Faye'Li rescuing Joah.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Depth of Blue

I stood waiting just inside the gates to the Pit. At the sound of boot heels on stone, I turned to see Blue at the open doorway. “We need to talk, Blue,” I said, stepping closer to her and unfolding my arms from across my chest. Blue had been to the Library. Tried to stab Grr, then to drown him. There were none of the usual familiar smiles between us.

“Perhaps,” Blue said evenly. She fingered the hilt of her dagger drawing it out, looking at me with something akin to sadness.

My eyes never leaving the dagger, I began to frown. “Blue…is it true that you tried to use that on Grr? In the Library?”

“It’s not like I can feel bad about it, Joah. I got no guilt. It’s nothing personal,” Blue shrugged.

“What do you mean nothing personal?” I frowned. “When you draw a weapon on my loved ones, it becomes personal, Blue.” I looked from the blade to Blue’s face. What I felt was a mixture of anger at what she had done, and worry and concern for her.

Blue tossed the blade into the air and caught it. “It will become personal, Joah…for the whole group. Every Omegan.” As she stepped closer to me, I could feel the fire rising within me, flames licking in eyes.

“What do you mean, Blue?” I asked quietly.

“It’s just family business,” she said off handedly. “You always knew it would come to this at some point.”

I stood my ground, wary and alert. “Speak plainly, Blue. I know you.
What you are. What you were. And the girl…is not gone…no matter how hard you try to kill her off.”

Blue gave a disconcerting grin. “Family comes first. I do as I have to. Joah, I got no conscience. I can’t feel bad or guilt over anything...Legion ate that part of my soul before I turned.”

“That's not true, Blue,” I replied, shaking my head. “I saw you as a feline. I saw your spirit.” The loneliness, the sense of grief, had overwhelmed her in neko form. A kindness and consideration few have ever seen had welled up within her.

“Sadness and loss are not the same as guilt,” Blue frowned, tilting the blade and moving forward. “You can ask Legion yourself because I asked her to eat the part I did not want.” A look of indefinable sadness clouded Blue’s face. “I got rid of it because of what I had done,” she barely whispered.

She’d just been a girl, living on the edge of demon territory with her parents and her brother, when a demon had come knocking on their door. Her father had been the first to die, his head torn off like a paper doll’s. Her mother was next, dying in a spray of blood as Blue and her brother ran. She lost her brother by the tooth and fang of a lycan.

Or so she had thought.

I stepped closer to Blue, full of uncertainty. I dared not push into her mind, her spirit. To do so would have ended with a knife in my chest or across my throat. But I had to try. As I moved forward, I began to pulse prana, a violet flame shimmering around me.

A look of uncertainty crossed Blue’s face. She gripped the hilt of her dagger, looking as though she was losing some internal argument with herself. “Joah….” she said evenly.

My heart was pounding in my chest. I sucked in a quick breath and pulled deeply from within me, sending a rush of warmth over Blue. Not in her, not pushing into her, but attempting to surround her with flame, transforming my fear into courage, my anxiety into peace and her inner, hidden, self-hatred into love.

“Blue,” I spoke quietly. “You are my friend. This is not business. I know you. What you are. What you were. Perhaps what you may one day become.”

Blue’s eyes met mine. “I'm quite capable of hurting friends, Joah. Just ask Pix and Delrith. Don't start predicting the future…I get enough of that from Rayden.”

I took another breath and reached for the dagger. As I did, tongues of violet fire licked up Blue's arm. I opened my being, flooding her with warmth. An enticing scent began to surround us, as something between us connected. The scent of the things that Blue, the girl, had loved best, reminders of love and longing for home.

“You are more than friend, Blue,” I murmured. “I don't understand why. Or how. You are family.”

Blue gripped her dagger tighter, her blue eyes flashing with inner light, as she hissed, “You’re not a Shadow…you can't be family.” She shook a little as the flames pulsed and undulated around me and toward Blue in endless shades of violet and purple and pink.

I moved closer. “Not Shadow family, Blue. Not Omegan family. You and I alone. Family.” My body was beginning to look almost transparent as the flames curled up from beneath my feet, passing through and around me and over my head.

Blueray bit on her lips hard enough to make the blood well up. “What...?”

“We are, Blue,” I whispered. “Bonded to each other.”

Blueray shook her head as if trying to awaken, raising the dagger in one hand. “Joah for once don't talk in riddles.”

I breathed deeply, walking toward the dagger and laying one hand on Blue’s cheek, stroking it. “Haven't you ever wondered, Blue, why we are friends? Why we watch each other's backs, even though we are light and dark? Why we dream the same dreams?”

“I don't know, Joah. I hardly know anything,” she sighed.

I reached up to brush Blue's hair back from her eyes. A radiant spiral swirled up from me, descending over Blue, and blazing through her, dark and purple. “We are, Blue.”

Blue shook her head slightly. “I only have my twin brother, and he is lost to me right now.”

“We are, Blue,” I continued. “Family.” I continued to pulse prana, washing it over Blue, not taking, but giving and opening myself to her.

“Picket isn't going to be happy...” Blue seemed to finally relax, the blade lowering. “Drinking buddies is how we started, dear.”

I smiled wistfully at Blue, watching her sheath her dagger after relenting, and in the end, not injuring me. Her tail flicked behind her. I took my hand from her cheek and lowered it to hold hers. As I began to breathe more evenly, the flames began to draw back into me. Like gently lapping waves, they cascaded from Blue, over her arms, drifting back to the center of my being.

“Perhaps I'd better head back to the Library,” I said quietly. Blue tilted her head, watching me closely. She shivered as if she could feel her spikes and wings wanting to come out through her skin. I kissed her lightly on the lips.

As Blue returned my kiss, she whispered, “I still don't know what you are….”

I smiled enigmatically at Blue. “You will.”

“One day?” she asked ruefully.

Nodding my assent, I wrapped my arms around her and held her for a moment before heading down the stone steps.

I could feel her watching me as I went.

Read Blue's perspective.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Fifth Rider

Joah stands before the hearth, warming her hands by the fire. Her thoughts are of Blue, of the dreams, of the riders. As she gazes into the fire, the flames lick up in a shower of sparks, her eyes directing each flicker though she is barely aware of it. Twice since the dreams began, the incubus, Severus, has appeared before her as if entranced: first as a red-haired man, crossed with blood and scars, then pale as death, a scythe in hand. She could barely move or speak or breathe in his presence. “I rode with him,” she thinks, “I rode…but to what?”

The room grows warmer and stiller, the silence a palpable presence, till a thud at her feet interrupts Joah’s thoughts. She looks down to see a slim, red leather volume lying at her feet. Its pristine cover belies its great age. A gilt stamp of a tall man in a chariot drawn by four horses adorns the front panel. In his left hand, the man holds high a winnowing fork; in his right, he holds the world. Joah bends to pick up the book; as she studies it, it seems to open of its own volition.

The Prince of Peace is the Royal-Sent Champion,
The Rage-Warrior stands for all the wars, 'til there are none,
The Dark-Guest, equals eye-for-eye, ‘til due is done...
And always coming for someone.
That's why the Horsemen must ride,
The Horsemen must ride...
Following side by side, ever-rushing tide,
Ranging far and wide,
The Horsemen must.

(The Four Horsemen by MoonBee Canady)

Read Blue's Dream.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.

Soul and body have no bounds:
To lovers as they lie upon
Her tolerant enchanted slope
In their ordinary swoon,
Grave the vision Venus sends
Of supernatural sympathy,
Universal love and hope;
While an abstract insight wakes
Among the glaciers and the rocks
The hermit's carnal ecstasy.

Certainty, fidelity
On the stroke of midnight pass
Like vibrations of a bell
And fashionable madmen raise
Their pedantic boring cry:
Every farthing of the cost,
All the dreaded cards foretell,
Shall be paid, but from this night
Not a whisper, not a thought,
Not a kiss nor look be lost.

Beauty, midnight, vision dies:
Let the winds of dawn that blow
Softly round your dreaming head
Such a day of welcome show
Eye and knocking heart may bless,
Find our mortal world enough;
Noons of dryness find you fed
By the involuntary powers,
Nights of insult let you pass
Watched by every human love.

W.H. Auden

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

ίππος χλωρός

Joah turns fitfully in her sleep, kicking the quilt and sheets to the floor unknowingly. “The stars are not wanted now; put out every one.” A multitude of whispers stirs the air. “Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.” She tries to lift her head, shaking the sleep way, and finds herself standing on a barren promontory, the dull orange moon low in the sky. She turns slowly around to see a pale green horse, ribs protruding, sickly and weak. Voices as dry and barren as a wasteland murmur, “Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods.” Her eyes gaze up from the horse to its skeletal rider, wrapped in a winding sheet, a long thin stave in its hand. The sound of a death rattle, then the whispers: “For nothing now can ever come to any good.” The horse and rider move toward her as a chittering sound comes from the rider’s unmoving mouth. “ίππος χλωρός, θάνατος,” it says. The rider extends one bony hand to Joah, pulling her up behind it. She mounts and rides.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

ίππος μέλας

Joah walks along the shore of the Toxian Sea, the hem of her dress dragging in the wet sand, her boots sinking to the heels with every step. The twilight rain drizzles bitter cold as she watches the sea foam wash up crusty chunks of old tar carried along by brown water. She has been unable to sleep, all rest eluding her, so she paces while the first light of weak sun fights the clouds, the upper limb failing to clear the horizon.

She stops where the rock jetty meets the shore, a shiver running through her that does not come from the cold or the rain. The many whispered voices sound inside her. “Come and see…” they say, as she turns slowly toward the pinnacle facing the sea wall. In the distance there stands a black horse, its rider dour, graying and deathly thin. He raises one arm to show a pair of scales in his hand. As he does so, the wails of the hungry and dying fill her ears. The rider locks his eyes with hers and gives a silent, mirthless laugh. “ίππος μέλας,” whisper the voices, “Come and see….”

Read Blue's Dream.