Monday, November 24, 2008

Lord of Fevers and Plagues

It slipped into her almost unnoticed with a breath of frozen air, the skittering of mice on a stone floor, and the cries of those dying with bitten and yellowed skin. It slipped in because the door had been opened before—perhaps not fully, but all It needed was a crack, a thin sliver. It slid in where the pale girl’s spirit was slightly ajar. Nareth, Labyrinth, the dreams, and her very nature had made it so. Now the Thing waited, tamping down the fire within the girl, choking off her speech, bored with her existence but compelled to wait within for the Others.

It hadn’t particularly tried to hide what It had done, though at first, only the Watcher had noticed. The Coyote had looked within the girl. He couldn’t see what the Thing was, but he knew It was there. As the Thing toyed with the girl’s body and her innate abilities so underused, the Coyote threatened. It’s response was to feed, kissing the Grrbrool with a seed of Ebola, smiling Its death grin as the Coyote stumbled into the wall of the hidden Library laboratory, blood streaming from his nose and mouth. It was a pity that Lycans healed so quickly.

When It used the girl to ravish Rhaven’s mind, the Coyote had called on his earthbound gods. “If you hurt my Family, I’ll stop you,” he snarled. He called on the Spirit in the Walls, slamming the girl’s body to the ceiling of the Library. The girl’s shoulder had been dislocated. The Thing had been amused. While It took no pleasure in the earthly sense from Its torments, It did relish the results.

The Coyote warned the Thing that he would break It’s shell if It didn’t stop. “Break it too badly and she will never come back to you," the Thing answered in rush of whispers.

“I’ll kill her ta free her from you, if I have to,” the Coyote said. In reply, the Thing extended one of the girl’s hands to the rusted, iron railing on the scaffolding where the girl’s body sat. At Its touch, a flood of ice...then a snap. It lifted the broken bar and plunged it into the girl’s chest. But the Coyote and the angel, Darkstorm, had intervened. They took the girl to the Wide River while her body yet lived, a place they believed could bind what cannot be bound. “I have dwelt ever in realms apart from the visible world," the Thing’s voices mocked as it hovered above the body.

The Coyote handed the girl to Darkstorm, and then pulled two gold coins from his pocket. The Thing watched. “Life is a hideous thing," It’s voices laughed. "You didn't want the body. I will take it." The Coyote and the Angel disagreed, working in tandem, the Angel pouring energy into the beast and the beast standing in Death’s river, the fire of the sun in his mouth and hands, the gold searing his flesh. He breathed life back into the girl’s body. And the Thing let her see the two, but only for a moment…then on a dry wind of plague It slipped back in.

It waited. Waited for the other Vessels…until the Death-Dreamer was ready. With a flood of vermin spilling from Its mouth, the pale girl's body found Her and kissed Her. As Death rushed into it's Vessel, the girl's body felt Her icy touch at the small of her back, tasted the charnel house on her lips. The Death-Dreamer had been called Blue. Together, They extinguished the fire of the Spirit in the Walls, the feeble Library Spirit. Together, They sought out the other Vessels, leaving in Their wake a red-haired girl with a touch of dengue fever and a Shelter full of dying rats, gifted with Black Death. They were unstoppable.


There was the problem of Sariel.

(quotes from HP Lovecraft)

Tohu va Bohu Series

Grr's Perspective

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Anger of the Lady

It was comfortable and warm in the sitting room for the Library. I leaned close to Grr, stroking the fur at the base of his tail. He had taken off his back to lean against me; his lycan warmth of the scent of his fur felt like home to me. Rhaven Twine, one of the newer Omegans had been talking with Starwalker, their conversation a gentle background mixed with the popping and hissing of the logs in the hearth. I felt a soothing murring from his chest as Grr pressed in close.

The easy conversation was interrupted with the sound of glass shattering in the street. Rhaven turned toward the window. “I wonder when I’ll get used to the not-silence of this place,” she sighed.

“If you get used to it and don’t react, good chance your dead,” Starwalker grinned.

GrrBrool nodded, “Err, well, we don’t got a lot of law here, one reason it was a good place ta run to fer a lot of us.”

“It’s the end of the road for many,” I agreed.

Rhaven offered a soft shrug, “It’s just a matter of getting used to it, I imagine.”

I began stroking Grr’s back, my fingers lingering in the fur at his neck. “I’m worried about Brit. Has anyone seen her?”

Grr shook his head. “Hmm, no, truth be told, I ain’t seen Strong Gal save when Snappypants is with her.”

Starwalker frowned, hearing about Brit’s absence. “She wasn’t around to see how things went with the training sessions at the beach yesterday?”

“Not during the day…no,” I sighed. “Never during the day.”

Grr suddenly stood and bowed. I looked up to see the Lady Omega. She looked around, smiling a greeting to everyone. “How do we find ourselves this evening?” she asked.

“Yer Ladyship,” Grr began, “We were just wonderin, no one’s seen Strong Gal recently…last few days….”

Omega frowned. “No, she has not been seen.”

I turned to Omega. “Lady, I’m…worried.”

“I believe Ethan may be restricting her movements.” Omega settled in her customary chair by the fireplace. “I will be…investigating the matter.”

“Lady, I tried to speak with Ethan about…locking her in during the day.” I said this with not a little worry, for Omega had forbidden me to speak of the matter to Ethan. But when he had been in the Library, and Brit had been there, I had hoped that by drawing out I story I could help him see. “He was not…receptive, Omega.” I sighed. “I’ve told her Father. He is…most displeased.”

Grr nodded his head listening. “Err, yer Ladyship, I was wonderin if maybe I could give her some instructin.” Grr had been researching historical fighting techniques used by women, rapier and escrima…when women wearing bustles and hoop skirts had been trained to defend themselves. Grr thought that a “ladylike” method of self-defense might appeal to Ethan.

Omega barely moved her head, yet her eyes bored into mine. “I asked you to leave this to me, Joah, did I not? Yet you saw fit to question him on the matter. Now we see the results.”

I felt Grr’s back stiffen beside me. I lowered my head. “I’m sorry, Lady…but . . . he was here with her, and ….”

She cut me off. “Yes. Tempting. I know.” Rhaven lowered her gaze at the turn of the conversation, pretending to study a snag in her tights. Omega continued, “I am not accustomed to being disobeyed.” I rose from my seat, went before the Lady and knelt at her feet, my head low.

Grr cleared his throat. “Err, is she in any danger, ya think?”

“She is as safe as she may be, I suspect,” Omega replied to Grr. She then leaned over, whispering to me. “Joah…do you remember, what I did to my lamb, my Nareth, when she lied to me?” A shiver of dread shot through me. “She bore the scars of it for the rest of her existence….” Omega reached out, stroking my face with tenderness. Grr’s ears flattened.

I replied quietly. “Yes, Lady…I do.” I glanced over at the fire, remembering how Omega had plunged Nareth’s hand into the flames. “Please forgive me, Lady….”

Omega ran her finger along my jaw line, lifting my chin. She whispered, “And what must I do to you, to make you obey? Brit is paying the price for your disobedience now.” Though her tone was gentle, the threat behind her words was clear. My heart pounded in my chest, involuntarily causing the flames in the hearth hiss and spark. Rhaven and Starwalker said not a word.

I tried again. “But Lady, it wasn’t me…Ethan…he’s…there’s something wrong with him.” I stammered at a loss for words.

“His actions would not have garnered comment a few short years ago,” Omega said dismissively. I was reminded once again that she is not as I am. She is an ancient predator with a long and bloody history.

Grr shook his head with slight disagreement, his fur ruffling. “Protective of his mate, even past reason….”

“Past reason,” I agreed. I heard Rago come into the Library and attempt a greeting, but I didn’t turn away from Omega.

“Joah, he is unaccustomed to being questioned…especially in a matter he feels he has absolute dominion. It required a gentle touch, from one he considers an equal.” Omega had begun to speak very softly; now even her tone was not gentle.

“But…it’s wrong, Omega,” I pleaded. “Even if it’s done for love’s sake . . . it’s wrong,” I whispered. “And Brit is my friend….”

Grr looked over Rago. “Err…long time….we’re just…err, have a seat, mate,” he finally said, gesturing Rago to the sitting area.

Omega didn’t look around at Rago. She remained focused on me. “Which is why, Joah, I asked you quite directly to leave it to me.” Anger flashed across her face. “Well, you now have ample time to contemplate the fruits of your labor. Think on Brit, and her present state, next time you feel it’s wise to disobey me.”

I tried to turn away from her, but couldn’t. She had locked me in her gaze. “I had thought to go to their rooms, Omega.” I spoke barely above a whisper, but my own anger was rising, my words defiant.

“Yes, Joah,” Omega said with a voice full of derision. “Encourage Ethan to take her further away, beyond our reach, to where we know not. Excellent idea. Go bang on the door and harangue Ethan some more while you’re there…”

My eyes grew dark. “He’s making her thinking that he is the world, Omega. And he’s not.” A log fell from the fireplace with a loud pop and a shower of sparks.

Omega gave me a long look. “Well, I could appeal to your sense of reason…I could ask you simply to obey me. It seems you are interested in neither.” She stood abruptly, walking past me up the stairs toward Rago, greeting him as if nothing had happened. I continued kneeling in front of Omega’s chair, my head lowered, studying the carpet and saying nothing.

I felt Grr reach out to me, grabbing the shoulder of my jacket, hooking fingers and thumb through the seam, and pulling me slowly, but surely close. I darted a quick look at him, overwhelmed with confusion and dread at having displeased the Lady. Omega walked back toward us and stood over us, looking down at us.

“Joah, do you know what the road to hell is paved with?”

I nodded. “I’ve heard it said.”

Omega studied me in silence for a moment. “I do not doubt your motives, but I do not give instructions simply because I like the sound of my own voice.” The flame in the hearth began to lick up uncontrollably, spilling out over the hearth. I stiffened and sat quite still, nodding at the Lady’s words, though ever fiber of my being was alert.

“Operational protocols,” Grr murmured. “Understandin ain’t always required, in order ta act, when ya can’t see tha whole battleground….”

Omega continued. “Had I the opportunity to speak to Ethan, unimpeded...Brit might even now be enjoying the warmth of the fire with us. This matter will be concluded when Brit is returned to us, Joah. When we see what she has endured, then we will think upon a suitable punishment for you.”

I started to open my mouth to speak, then shut it realizing that there was nothing I could say.

“In the meantime,” Omega said, “We shall make her a care package…such as one might give to a prisoner. It will have some of her belongings. Things to eat. Letters from us. It must be given to Ethan.”

“May I take it to him, Lady?” I asked quietly.

Omega’s reply was cool. “I’m not sure you can be trusted with such an errand, Joah. Could you hand it over, graciously? Or must you continue to wield your barbed tongue, making the situation worse?”

I glanced over at Grr, hoping for reassurance, but there was a peculiar expression on his face. He had dug out his battered camo notebook and begun to draw.

“I promise, Lady, that I will say as little as possibly can be said.” I stood and walked to my room, looking for writing paper of my own.

Read Grr's perspective.

Friday, November 7, 2008


I went looking for Nerissa Dae, walking briskly from the Library to the Voodoo Shop. I’d barely asked Cinnamon Braveheart if Nerissa was available, when Nerissa strode in. “I thought my ears were burnin’. Have ya come for yer readin’?” Nerissa looked me over from head to foot. “Pop a squat, Joah. Gimme a moment to wake up a bit more.”

I nodded and headed toward the table in the corner. Nerissa appeared much better than the last time I’d seen her. She’d been raving about seals and vomiting blood on the stone paves of the Library. A stranger from the Coven had pressed a silver coin into her wrists, causing her to fall, nearly comatose, to the floor. Whatever had caused the fit, her internal wards now had been restored. She appeared, if not whole, at least contained.

I sat down in the armchair facing the window. A rowdy group of felines were playing in the street as if the City were the best toy in the world. I gazed at Nerissa as she settled into the opposite chair quietly with a deck already in hand. “Do you want to know why I am seeking the reading? Or do you read the cards cold?”

“I’m curious,” Nerissa said. “Why would you come all the way over here to me, specifically. I figure there’d be someone else around that could help ya.” She shuffled the deck slowly and gently.

“I came to you because…well, I trust you, Neri. You were Omegan. There is the matter of these dreams,” I began. “Four riders…then a fifth….” I paused wondering how much I should say. “Blue had them, too…at any rate, I can’t cast runes for myself…my judgment is clouded.”

“Ya shouldn’t really do a readin’ on yer self anyways,” Nerissa said, looking at her deck. “So, anything specific ya wantin’ to know? I’ll warn ya now though, it’s somethin’ I’m still learnin’.”

“I want to know what the dreams mean,” I replied. “War, Famine, Pestilence, Death… then the fifth rider…it drove a chariot pulled by the others or their horses. And at one point, I rode behind.” I sighed. “Faye’Li keeps saying that something is coming…that somehow I’m involved…I want to know what it is and why it comes and whether…I will prevail.” I met Neri’s gaze. “I want to know why Blue and I dream the same dreams.”

Nerissa’s finger played over the backs of the elaborately decorated cards while she looked across the table. “Does it have anything to do with the Tohu va Bahu?...or however ya say their name….” She tapped the cards. “Pick me five cards and leave them face down before me.”

“Yes…the Tohu,” I nodded, my fingers lightly touching the cards and hovering over them for a moment. I closed my eyes, breathed one long, slow breath…and began to draw from the deck…one, two…five cards. I set them face down before Neri.

Nerissa frowned a little and sighed under her breath. “I don’t like that they call me Princess…no one calls me that but Pie to annoy me…and I’ve not been one since my foster mother disappeared.” I looked up abruptly when Neri said, “Princess”, but she didn’t notice my glance. Denenthorn’s source had said they were seeking a princess. I had thought Brit; perhaps I was wrong. Reaching across the table, Neri gathered the rest of her deck and set them to her right elbow out of the way. The small stack she took to herself, laying it down before her from the far right, moving to the left.

Neri’s hand hovered over the first card she had set to the table. She turned it over to expose the card of strength in reverse. I sat up a little straighter, following Neri’s eyes as she looked it over. “Well,” she began, “This is a way to look deep into a situation of something specific…it’s usually used for deeper readin’s actually…but….” She stroked the elaborate card’s face. “There’s some weakness presented in the face of obstacles and adversity. Usin’ tremendous power and releasin’ it at the wrong time,” she murmurs. “Inability of defendin’ oneself. Confusion, and a lack of preparedness. Illness and hardships. Distress…and failin’ of physical forces….”

Slowly, Nerissa moved to the second card from the right. “Physical vision. How we see it at the base of a mechanical level….” Nerissa’s fingers turned it over to reveal the Magician. “The Master over words, mind and matter. To turn ideas into action. To control one’s life…an initiation to start a new project or a new way of life. “ Her brow furrowed as she looked at it.

“Inability…to…defend oneself…” I murmured. “Distress…failing….” I took a deep breath of resignation. Finally I said, “I see.” I looked up at Nerissa. “But…a new way of life?” I was puzzled. “The Tohu…I think they portend…the end of the things…perhaps it is a new way…or a way vastly different and very old.”

Nerissa touched the third card in the middle. “I don’t always understand why they come out the way they do...perhaps it was the wrong choice of spread.” She looked at the card. “A mental vision….” She turned over a reversed Queen of Swords. “A gifted person with both keen logic and natural intuition, showing uncanny powers of perception and insight…” Nerissa folded her lips tightly for a moment before continuing. “One that sees easily the weakness of any argument and feels the need to savage both friend and foe alike with biting sarcasm. A hollow sense of isolation and dissatisfaction with life is covered with dry and vicious wit….”

I nodded, biting my lip…but what could I say?

Nerissa moved to the fourth card and turned over the eight of cups. “An emotional vision. One to lose the interest of a matter deeply important. Bein’ forced to abandon something in which you had to invest great love and devotion. Seekin’ earthly, physical pleasures, to the exclusion of spiritual growth and emotional fulfillments. One showin’ emotional withdrawal and lethargy..”

“Visions we have had,” I nodded. “They come whether we bid them to or not. ‘And your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions,’” I whispered.
Nerissa moved to the very last card and turned it over to show the six of swords up side down.” Mystical vision. “Conceit and intellection pride is shown. Bein’ stuck in a problem which has no apparent solution. Frustration and anxieties that are left unsettled. A trip or explorin’ is delayed in the end….” She frowned a little self-consciously to herself and finally looked up from the cards. “I hope it makes sense for ya….

“It makes no sense and all the sense in the world, Neri.” I stood up. “Thank you. The reading was…invaluable. What payment do you seek?”

“Nothing,” Neri replied. “Consider it a token to make up for all trouble I’ve caused.” The demoness leaned forward, her hands in her lap now, and stared at the spread. “I wish I knew what they meant when they spoke of the Storm comin’ to look for me….” Neri’s words were soft and far away with her thoughts and in the end she shook her head.

I folded my arms across my chest and gazed out the window. “There is a gathering storm, Neri. But know this…you will always have sanctuary with the Institute….”

Nerissa quickly gathered the cards neatly and carefully, handling the custom deck with delicately boned fingers. “If it’s not to yer satisfaction, we can try for another readin’ later.”

I watched as the ornate deck vanished in Neri’s hands. Then I slipped my hand in my pocket and fumbled for something in my skirt. “You left this, Neri, when you were…ill.” I set down a small black phial, full of Neri’s vomited blood. “I would normally keep it…but let there be no debt between us.” I smiled. “I used only a very little of it…in the lab.”

Nerissa ‘s eyes flashed with fear and alarm. She snatched the phial from the table and looked at me. “Why? Seein’ what I’m made of?”

I shook my head. “Your blood does not begin to tell your story, Neri. But it is safe with me.”

Nerissa looked at the container, watching it freeze as she gripped it tight enough to shatter. “I hope so,” was all she said, meeting my gaze.

I nodded and headed back out into the street.