Monday, December 29, 2008

The Dark Librarian

I strode briskly along the snow covered Toxian streets, pondering all Pontifex had said about the old clans coming back to the City. The night air was crisper and colder than usual although it had little effect on me, wrapped up as I was in a woolen walking cape that I probably didn’t actually need. I had circled the perimeter of the City in a dark mood, thinking of my early days on the streets where had I walked alone to feed. Strands of incongruous multicolored lights twinkled from a window here, a doorway there, or circled a Christmas tree oddly placed upon the sea wall at the City’s southernmost edge. The sparkling provided mute relief to the grimness of the City. My heart was heavy with worry for Grr, who was not yet in his right mind. Ardere continued to taunt and threaten him. And Denenthorn hadn’t been the same since his descent into hell. Now, if Pontifex was to be believed, the Nightfire clan, the Strykes, and Vulcan, a son of Belial, were returning for some purpose unknown to me.

“Expect more of your family to suddenly arrive,” he had suggested to Devi Nightfire, ”And then expect changes amongst several of the houses…” Pontifex had demurred when accused of scheming, implying that long-ago patterns were, once again, repeating themselves. “Chance favors the prepared mind,” he’d said in a mild tone, the same tone in which he’d earlier suggested that Denenthorn’s past was darker than I’d supposed. My brow furrowed as I considered the possibility that the Dark Librarian could be, as Pontifex had implied, one of the enigmatic Strykes, angelic beings who had ruled the City with duplicity until Lorne’s arrival.

I had just turned the corner of Luxuria Lane and begun heading toward the warmth of the Library when I felt a slight tug… not a summoning… but something. I glanced upward toward the roofline and could just make out a silhouette against the moonlit dark. I began to climb and was unsurprised to see the Dark Librarian standing there alone, staring into the winter sky as the snow drifted and fell on his bare shoulders and chest.

“I felt you calling me,” I said as I walked toward him, my boots crunching against the layer of ice-covered snow beneath my feet. He neither turned nor responded so I laid one hand on his arm, “Sir?” I asked.

“I am feeling Drow tonight,” he responded. Denenthorn barely seemed to acknowledge my presence as he continued to gaze over the City.

I shifted around to get a clearer look at him. “Why the dark mood, sir?”

“I’ve been contemplating my life these past few months,” Denenthorn shrugged, “And I feel that I've lost much, though I have gained much much more....”

I nodded slowly, thinking of his attempt to rescue Picket from hell. “When you were gone, sir, we didn't know... I didn't know if you would be coming back. And when you returned, you didn’t seem yourself.” You are not yourself even now, I thought, though my opinion remained unexpressed.

Denenthorn sighed. “My soul his whole, but the sacrifice cost me Lady Picket.” I watched a look of weary resignation wash over his features as he continued. “I went to the very depths to save her soul, was willing to sacrifice my own…. But she shunned me away, she no longer needs me. Perhaps I remind her of the dark she suffered through,” he shrugged, “Now she wants only that I stay far from her.” His tone was bitter. I stepped back slightly, thinking that he perhaps preferred the solace of his own company to mine at that moment.

Instead Denenthorn sighed and held out his hand to me. “No come closer,” he said quietly. I walked to his side and took his hand in my own. “I have all this power,” he mused, “But now without Reaper and Hatter, I feel empty... they are a part of me, but they cannot truly exist if my soul is not torn.”

I struggled to understand. “And now that your soul is whole yet you feel.... You want them back?” I asked in confusion.

“I miss the insanity,” he sighed, “But no, they take too much from me… my time, my patience… and the constant internal struggle harms me physically... they are why I was so scarred. It was the madness, though, that made me the Denny everyone knew....”

I lay my head against his arm. “And if you could choose now, sir? Which would you choose...whole or torn?” I was hesitant to ask, but I knew that I needed to know his true answer.

“Whole,” Denenthorn replied, turning me around slightly. “Because I have the ability to lead when I am whole.” He gave me a searching look.

“You led when you were torn, Sir...although it was a frightening and chaotic leadership.”

“Exactly,” Denenthorn agreed. I had met his gaze, seeing the sadness in his eyes, when I felt him suddenly begin to pull me toward him. He looked at me deeply for a long moment, then bent to kiss me passionately and without warning. My eyes widened, then closed, as I sank into his embrace. The taste of his lips, though unexpected, was warm and sweet.

As quickly as he had taken me in his arms, he released me. He stepped away and folded his arms across his chest, turning once again to gaze at the wintry night and leaving me in complete surprise.

“That is all for now, Praetor Menjou,” he said evenly. “You may return to your duties in the Library.”

I turned and left without a word.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

In the Garden

I felt a slight tug and jerk as Lorne touched the side of my cheek, my eyes growing unfocused. As the Garden swam into view, I know what I expected to see: A fiery Creature, a whirl of beating wings and blinking eyes, a blazing sword in Its midst. What I saw, instead, was a copse and beyond its perimeter, a free flowing river, its banks covered with lush and dense greenery. A Voice whispered on the breeze, “On the day you were created, you were prepared....” I turned expecting Lorne or Sariel, but I was alone in the stillness.

Taking one hesitant step forward, then another, I was inexorably drawn into the Garden before me. The abundance of trees was overwhelming and beautiful in its greatness. The branches of the largest seemed to lift ever upward to the sky, its roots going down to the waters of the river. I turned my head this way and that as I walked, the sound of birdsong catching my ear. Each call was piercingly beautiful and more real than I had ever heard before. The smell of the air was crisp and green.

I stopped beside the river and stood still as a needle, breathing deeply, and taking in the sweet smell of cedar mingled with the fragrance of the other trees. After a moment I knelt at the water’s edge and dipped in my fingers, finding surprising warmth where I had expected the icy coldness of a spring. I brought my fingertips to my mouth, tasting the water’s sweetness. As I did so, the Garden began to become ever more green, its smells more intense. I felt as though I had never tasted water before, never before seen a real tree.

There was sparkle of light, then three stones glimmering in a small patch of sand on the riverbank caught my eye, all smooth and polished by the water. I couldn’t tell you why, but at that moment I felt a strong impulse to choose one. It seemed important somehow, even necessary. I ran my finger over each stone, but the one in the middle seemed to tingle under my touch. After a moment, I chose it and dropped it into my pocket. I straightened and stood, noticing for the first time two trees at the very center of the Garden.

Each of the trees was laden with ripe fruit, but a fruit that I’d never seen before. At the base of one, there bloomed a rose bush; in the lowest branch of the other there nested a bird with brilliant red and gold feathers, a single plume of purple cascading from its back. I walked softly toward the tree not wanting to frighten the bird away, each boot making an impression in the tufted grass beneath my feet. I knew only that I longed to touch the bird’s silken feathers, I hungered to look into its dark and seemingly endless gaze. As I extended one hand toward it, the bird’s nesting branch seemed to bend toward my touch. I reached out to brush the soft red and gold plumage with my fingertips, but as I did so my fingers passed through unexpectedly, the creature’s feathers turning to flame and nearly consuming it with my touch. Its ashes drifted like dark snowflakes before me in a sudden stirring breeze, and I heard a lone cry as the single, remaining purple plume fell into my outstretched hand.

I stared at the purple blaze and then looked at the empty place where the creature had been. I should have felt fear or perhaps sadness for its loss, but instead I felt wonder. Whatever had happened to the creature had been so utterly right that I knew it with every fiber of my being. Unbuttoning the collar of my jacket dress, I slid the feather between my undergarments and my skin, placing it over my heart. I stepped forward and wrapped my arms around the creature’s nesting tree, laying my head on its trunk and listening for something within.

Then I felt its pulse, images and sounds and scents rushing through me: The dance of fire at night, the scent of Grr’s fur, the cry of a newborn, Lorne’s touch on my cheek, the twinkling of the North Star, Brit’s shining eyes and the smell of the cookies she served in the Library. I closed my eyes and rested my cheek against the tree’s smooth bark, holding it and being held by the most living of living things. I’m not sure how long I stood there. I only know that I did not stir until, with the sound of rustling leaves and a glint of shimmering green, one leaf fluttered to rest at the toe of my boot.

I knelt at the foot of the tree, plucking the leaf from the grass and holding it between thumb and forefinger, studying each perfect vein from the base to the tip of the blade. I kissed it lightly and inhaled its scent, looking up to the tree with murmured thanks, before pulling a handkerchief from my pocket and wrapping the leaf neatly within. As I slid the small bundle into the folds of my skirt, I thought, “If only Grr could see would make him whole....”

No sooner than the thought had formed, I found myself alone, standing in the wintry graveyard beside a cold slab nestled in the Toxian snow.

Lorne was nowhere to be seen.

What was Eden like... when You were there?

We were interrupted in our discussion of Eden by the arrival of a number of vampires led by the Overlord, JonnyGio Forcella. Among them were Nessa, her mother, Morticia, and Nessa’s daughter, Ashe. Nessa ran up to Lorne, grabbing him roughly and laughing wildly. “You like this or d’ya like it rougher?” She curled around Lorne, bringing her face within inches of His. Ashe choked back laughter. “What, honey?” Nessa replied to Ashe’s unspoken comment, “Ain’t you seen him topless? He’s hot, I tell ‘ya.”

Morticia licked her lips, her tongue gliding over extended fangs. “Nessa, darling, never heard of sharing?” she asked slyly. I looked at each of the vampire women, their hunger for Lorne apparent and I straightened up, wary once again.

Nessa thrust out her hip and pressed into Lorne. “I don’t like to share, Mother. I’m greedy ‘n selfish.”

I watched as Lorne placed His index finger on the center of Nessa’s sternum and slowly pushed her back. "Your pardon, good lady. I am back from a long journey, and wouldn't want to contaminate you with supernatural miasmas."

Nessa affected an insincere pout. “Okay, Lorney, babe… I get ‘ya, doll face… maybe we can meet up later when you have been cleansed...” she laughed.

“Err, mum…” Ashe poked Nessa behind the back, “being greedy and selfish is a sin, I think....” She darted her head around Nessa to lick her lips at Lorne.

“Shhh, Ashe,” Nessa replied, “I’m trying to master all seven….”

The Overlord cut the banter short, moving quickly beyond the ability to see, to stand just beside the stone slab on which I sat. Looking at both Lorne and me, he said in a voice dry with age, “I do believe you are paying visit to the dead... or is this a private meeting in such an uncommon place?”

Lorne shook His head, turning to speak over His shoulder to the Overlord. “It seems Joah was more contemplating the dead, I was simply using the unique spiritual qualities she has to guide my way back to the physical plane.”

I didn’t relax, but I did shift slightly on the slab, pointing to the headstone by my side. “Mary Olive Faith Dewitt,” I said in reply.

Ashe hopped up on a nearby headstone and looked around, amusement twinkling in her eyes.

“Is there a empty tomb around here?” Morticia yawned, “I’m sleepy.” The night sky was beginning to lighten, the sun not yet up, but the stars were fading and twinkling out.

“Tombs are so outdated, Grandmother… I prefer my big comfy bed with heavy curtains to draw around it, and shuttered windows….” Ashe wrapped her arms around herself with a dreamy expression on her face.

Lorne looked back to Morticia, nodding as He gazed around the graveyard. “There is more than one I believe. As I understand it, there were relatively large numbers of funerals performed here after no body was recovered for one reason or another.”

The Overlord nodded to Morticia, dismissing her to explore. She drifted off, walking around various tombs and inspecting each one. His gaze, however, never wandered from Lorne. “Then you don’t mind if we stay here a bit contemplating the dead too... we used too do so once a week and I wish this practice to be restored.”

“To see an Overlord of the Kindred Alliance in the graveyard would not be an unwelcome sight in My opinion,” Lorne said evenly. “Your predecessor spent many hours here, tending the graves, and showing them reverence.”

“That is correct, indeed,” the Overlord agreed. “But lately we have not been so welcome here….”

From a tomb to the right of me, Morticia muttered, “They need to clean in here.” I looked over to see her rubbing a finger along the stone tresses of a blank-eyed girl in a summer bonnet. The girl sat frozen in time, her hand resting on the carved stump of a tree before her. A few toys and trinkets had been laid around her and in front of the tomb’s opening.

I turned back to the headstone beside me, brushing a bit of snow from it’s top. Mary Olive’s engraving was worn. Weeds poked up through the cracked surface at its base. “There’s much that needs tending here,” I said. “Their memories are all but lost.”

Lorne looked down at me with a wry, if light smile. “Hopefully not all.” He turned back toward the Overlord. “Your predecessor also once confided in Me his intention to eat god.”

Ashe bent over a nearby stone and began cutting the frozen weeds with her claw and crushing them to powder with her hands, a sad and angry expression on her face. The Overlord shifted slightly giving Lorne a tight smile.

“Vladimir’s ambitions were high, but I suppose he was within his rights to try.” The Overlord spread his hands as if offering an apology. “I’d not dare to try in such a challenge… not yet, at least,” he grinned.

Morticia closed her eyes. With a murmur barely spoken, she rose in the air, floating and slipping into a trance.

“Difficult to say which ambitions were his and which were those of the dead, but it was always fascinating to witness,” Lorne observed mildly.

The Overlord shrugged. “I have more urgent business to take care of right now.” He met Lorne’s eyes with a cold gaze. “Maybe in due time I will try. Who knows...after all we have eternity….”

Lorne looked at the Overlord a long moment. “I can't imagine the taste will be palatable, but it is your eternity to have, of course,” He grinned slightly.

The Overlord stepped back, his eyes roving over his family. “I shall leave you all for now, but I want you to come here to remember your ancient blood.... I want this habit restored.” Without a word, he turned and departed, his movements so smooth and quick that he appeared to be walking through the headstones instead of around them.

Lorne watched the Overlord retreat then turned slowly away from him and back toward me, answering the question I had asked and almost forgotten during the descent of the vampires. “In Eden, Joah, it was perfect,” He said. “And that is why Eden did not work.”

“I hate perfection… it’s odd,” Nessa muttered, then startled as Morticia snapped out of her trance and landed with a curse on the frozen ground.

“Perfect beauty,” I mused, “Perfect love... perfect minds... why wouldn't that work, Lorne?” I was genuinely puzzled.

“Maybe too perfect?” Ashe muttered as she rubbed some dirt off a headstone.

“Because humankind are creatures of change,” Lorne began, “and perfection is a static thing. Idealized love leads to wondering why the object of your love is not what you thought they were.”

As Lorne spoke, one by one the vampires began to drift away from the graveyard. “Sun’s almost up,” Ashe murmured. I nodded goodbye as she and Nessa and Morticia slipped away. Lorne stood watching, his arms folded in front of Him. He lifted a hand in farewell as they departed.

I twisted around slightly to look up at Him. “It would seem to me... that in a place of complete wholeness, the possibility for infinite change would be possible… creativity would know no limits.” I looked down at my lap. “Look at the creation of the world,” I said a bit tentatively, knowing something of Lorne's role in that.

“Therein lies a problem as well, Joah, perhaps the problem to being with. If one does their best to do something, perhaps it will grow beyond them and take on a life of its own. Now imagine that on the scale of deities.”

I lay on hand on Mary Olive’s headstone, pulling myself up to stand, my boots still on the slab that was nestled in the snow. “You’re well acquainted with creation taking on a life of it's own, I suppose.” My memories were mixed, all Pestilence and Lilith and Eve and Sariel… creation and loss. “Still… it seems….” I broke off, staring down at my boots.

Lorne cocked His head, placing his His hands again behind His back. “Is there something on your mind, Joah?”

I raised my head to meet His eyevoids and spoke with great hesitance. “You say that no one can go there... not anymore. Yet, sometimes I feel I belong there.” I turned away with confusion, gazing out over the graveyard, then up at the lightening sky, pretending to look for the stars.

I could feel Lorne watching me for a while, and as He did so, my attention was drawn once more to Him. He wasn’t angry with me; instead, He was smiling sweetly. He raised a hand, finger curled to draw up my cheek softly.

I tilted my face slightly to His touch. “I'm being foolish, aren't I? Just dreams, I suppose... an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato.” I felt embarrassed and ill at ease.

Lorne smiled broadly at me, pushing His fingertips through the hair at the side of my face, and back behind my ear, cupping my cheek. “Not a silly dream, nor a quote from an instance where an actual dream was being discussed either, silly or otherwise.” He dropped his hand and brought it back behind Him.

“I suppose that's true,” I said softly. “But how does one know... if the dream is... real?”

Lorne shook His head. “There is only deduction, and even that is not unflawed at the introduction of the idea of Descartes’ perfect dream, Joah.”

“You mean the senses can trick us?” I asked. I brushed a bit of snow from my skirts, my small, gloved hand moving delicately over the fabric as I smoothed away bits of frozen debris it had picked up from the stone slab.

“I mean if your senses were all of them fed false information, all of them, how would you know?” Lorne’s eyevoids tracked the movements of my hand.

“There must be a way to test the senses, Lorne.” I trailed off thinking about the problem of dreams and reality. “How do You know?”

Lorne Harlequin shook His head, turning to look away. “Apart from logical inconsistencies, and only if there is a mistake in the dream? I don't see a way that any can.”

“I want to go there,” I said, turning my face away Him. I felt that I was making an impossible request, one I that had for so long been afraid to speak.

“ Paradise? Go to Eden?” Lorne raised His eyebrows slightly, looking back to me.

I slowly met His gaze, nodding hesitantly, but saying yes. “I feel it calls to me Lorne.” I was at a loss as to how to explain. “After the Eden soil, Your seed...the death of my... fear... it grows stronger, more vivid... and insistent."

Lorne nodded slowly as I spoke. “I can take you there. To a part of it.”

“Please do,” I whispered. “Even if to a part of it... please....”

Silently, Lorne reached toward my cheek, as if in slow motion. As His fingers touched my skin, the world began to blur and brighten at the sound of rustling foliage and avian wings….

Mary Olive Faith Dewitt

I felt restless. The snow continued to fall, covering the City in a blanket of white despite the toxic properties of the air through which it drifted. Grrbrool had called my true name – three times he had called me – and yet the confused and fearful look remained in his eyes. My stomach twisted with guilt and responsibility and the complete inability to completely rectify the wrongs I had done. It was in this frame of mind, that I walked to the graveyard, wondering about other lives that had gone amiss, seeking the company of spirits as restless as me.

I opened the Iron Gate, stepping beyond it into the cemetery proper. Many headstones listed to one side or the other, or had crumbled and fallen to the ground entirely, given up to the purchase of weeds. I was drawn to one headstone in particular. Before it lay what appeared to be a footstone, though it was really a large, solid slab. I was uncertain of its purpose, but I sat down on it anyway, facing the engraving before me, and touching my fingertips to the lettering in the stone.

The air hissed beside me and after a moment I heard it crackle. A line rose up from the air tracing an area that soon tore open into a great blue void. I startled and pulled back, every sense alert as I watched. Out of the tear squeezed a globe of brilliant blue, trailing arcs of plasma that licked and hissed against the ground, an apparent cocoon forming over a skeletal humanoid torso.

I watched warily as the figure began to form, readying myself for any eventuality when all at once, the globe disappeared with a loud pop, leaving the bones to grow legs, a feeble layer of skin, and cloth. The death's head grin on the skull began to grow into inscrutable, expressionless lips as a face bubbled out of bone. I pulled my knees up to my chest, watching and waiting, still as a cat while the form inflated with grotesque and fluid sounds muffled by the skin.

As I began to recognize the form a silent “Oh!” of surprise escaped my lips. Before me stood Lorne, holding His arms out as the cloth continued to grow after the inflation has desisted, and then lowering His arms the process completed. “Thank you, Joah,” He said, stepping closer. “You make some journeys much less of a bother to return from.”

I smiled with relief, seeing Him fully formed before me. Relaxing, I unwrapped my legs and began to stretch out along the slab below once again. “You gave me quite a scare, Lorne,” I smiled. “Journey?”

Lorne Harlequin cocked his head, taking another two steps toward me. He lifted a hand and shook His head with a nonchalant, shrugging-off expression. “Simply a small visit to planes nonphysical, hence the dramatic entrance.” He stopped, leaning down to see what I was fingering on the headstone.

I turned slightly, looking into His black eyevoids. “Mary Olive Faith Dewitt, 1706-1768,” I murmured, pressing my fingertip into the worn engraving. “Eternal Rest Grant Unto Her, Oh Lord,” I said softly. “I wonder if Mary Olive found that.”

I could see Lorne following the text, His lips pursed. After a moment, he responded. “Well, she won't have been allowed into Paradise, I am sure of that.”

“Why do you say that?” I asked with a small frown. “Did you know her?” I gazed around at the other stones for a moment, wondering if any of those lying beneath the frozen ground had found paradise.

Lorne smiled vaguely as He turned to look round the graveyard, seemingly for His own reasons. "I did not know her, but because I know no one is permitted into Paradise I thought the assumption safe to make.”

“Eden, you mean...not...Heaven,” I nodded, finally understanding. A feeling of wistfulness and longing so sharp it hurt flooded me. “I dream of the Garden, Lorne. It started the night that Omega made Nareth her Chylde. Then… after You... ” I grew quiet thinking of all that Lorne and Legion had done. “It's vivid,” I finally said. “What was it like...when You were there?”

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Joah lies on the woolen rug by the hearth, one elbow propped on a pillow, her head in her hand. Before her, on the pillow, is a large, unclasped book bound in red leather, its braided ties loose. She tends the flames with a slight turn of her head and a small, secret smile to the creatures who dart about the logs, tails flicking. As the flame licks up, she returns to her book, carefully turning each warm vellum page, studying each drawing, her lips moving silently as she reads.

Touch the wooden gate in the wall you never

saw before.

Say "please" before you open the latch,

go through,

walk down the path.

A red metal imp hangs from the green-painted

front door,

as a knocker,

do not touch it; it will bite your fingers.

Walk through the house. Take nothing. Eat


However, if any creature tells you that it hungers,

feed it.

If it tells you that it is dirty,

clean it.

If it cries to you that it hurts,

if you can,

ease its pain.

From the back garden you will be able to see the

wild wood.

The deep well you walk past leads to Winter's


there is another land at the bottom of it.

If you turn around here,

you can walk back, safely;

you will lose no face. I will think no less of you.

Once through the garden you will be in the


The trees are old. Eyes peer from the under-


Beneath a twisted oak sits an old woman. She

may ask for something;

give it to her. She

will point the way to the castle.

Inside it are three princesses.

Do not trust the youngest. Walk on.

In the clearing beyond the castle the twelve

months sit about a fire,

warming their feet, exchanging tales.

They may do favors for you, if you are polite.

You may pick strawberries in December's frost.

Trust the wolves, but do not tell them where

you are going.

The river can be crossed by the ferry. The ferry-

man will take you.

(The answer to his question is this:

If he hands the oar to his passenger, he will be free to

leave the boat.

Only tell him this from a safe distance.)

If an eagle gives you a feather, keep it safe.

Remember: that giants sleep too soundly; that

witches are often betrayed by their appetites;

dragons have one soft spot, somewhere, always;

hearts can be well-hidden,

and you betray them with your tongue.

Do not be jealous of your sister.

Know that diamonds and roses

are as uncomfortable when they tumble from

one's lips as toads and frogs:

colder, too, and sharper, and they cut.

Remember your name.

Do not lose hope — what you seek will be found.

Trust ghosts. Trust those that you have helped

to help you in their turn.

Trust dreams.

Trust your heart, and trust your story.

When you come back, return the way you came.

Favors will be returned, debts will be repaid.

Do not forget your manners.

Do not look back.

Ride the wise eagle (you shall not fall).

Ride the silver fish (you will not drown).

Ride the grey wolf (hold tightly to his fur).

There is a worm at the heart of the tower; that is

why it will not stand.

When you reach the little house, the place your

journey started,

you will recognize it, although it will seem

much smaller than you remember.

Walk up the path, and through the garden gate

you never saw before but once.

And then go home. Or make a home.

And rest.

-Neil Gaiman

Saturday, December 13, 2008

From Here On

Joah sits quietly in her small room at the top of the stairs, contemplating the moon, as she so often does. Tonight, the moon is full, two weeks ‘til the new moon, two weeks ‘til GrrBrool shifts to his near-human form. She wants badly to bring him back to her before then, to heal the broken creature that walks like a ghost through her days. Her sense of guilt overwhelms her, knowing that it was her own vulnerability and longing for the void that opened the door within her to Pestilence. Had it not been for Lorne…for the bit of the Garden…

So long ago, the Garden, she thinks.

But while she’d been a vessel of conflict and longing, Omega had been seduced by Her own desires for power and had opened Herself willingly. Joah’s earlier quiet accusation had hung in the air; Omega had failed to protect Her House, had, in fact, been the breaking stone that had shattered Grrbrool’s will and crushed his spirit.

“I thought…I could best it, Joah....” Omega had said quietly, the memory of War still tracing a shadow on her smooth face. “I thought...the power…I thought I could use it, to advantage. There were factors…I did not consider.”

Factors like the twist in Denenthorn, like Severus’s injuries, the problem of Del, the Harbinger…and a crew of loyal but inexperienced Omegans: Rhaven, Zoe, Wire, Blake. Still in all, Faye’Li had remained constant, seeking help of the Coven, leading the Institute to safety in a time of turmoil when its leaders had fallen.

Joah shifts as she gazes, wrapping her quilt around her and looking to the moon as if it could answer the questions in her heart. In the end, she remembers Lorne kneeling beside her as blood soaked through her stockings and her dress, pooling on the floor. Though a bitter frown clouded His face, He still gave His hand to Denenthorn, His strength to Rhaven, while Meng Po had joined in, whispering, “Pestilence has nearly stolen everything from her.” Joah had opened herself to their healing, the bright, warm touch of Denenthorn’s hand on her forehead, the feeling of rushing back into herself as energy from the four poured into her. So much life…so much loss.

“What is past... is past,” Omega had said. “We must not mire ourselves in regret. This experience has taught us…much about ourselves. Let it be worth the price we have paid for such knowledge.”

Joah looks at the moon.

I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

September 1, 1939
W.H. Auden

Sunday, December 7, 2008

In the Time of Pestilence

She remembered it all.

Lorne, leaning over the balcony railing, armored and wings spread, full of cold and silence as He watched Joah floating above the mantelpiece, her fingertips dripping maggots to the floor. The rushing sound of Sariel’s Sword unsheathed, stained with War, Lorne’s voice demanding for the Thing to leave, to return home. The Thing felt Joah’s body, her spirit tug as It watched Him reaching down through her and laughed.

“It shall already have been,” He spoke. The Thing grinned in reply and fed upon the imprint of the Void within Joah. It taunted Him, shifting shape to His firstborn, Lilith, reminding him of his failures before, of what he had lost.

Lorne watched wordlessly, and then raised His hand, palm up, and lifting the Sword: a squeal of metal cutting through metal. It sheared through His gauntlet palm, flashing red, exuding pure self-destruction into the throne room the Thing had made in Joah’s psyche.

Rhaven stood quietly, gathering her energies, preparing for anything.
“Joah needs fixed,” Brianna said in a hushed tone.
Grrbrool sang and raved and quivered, but was of no use.

The stench of rotting garbage began to fill the Library. The Thing fought against itself, touched by War and without the strength from its lost Sister-Brothers. It too, reached along the cord between Lorne and Joah. It, too, knew His weaknesses. The Thing's face began to shift; it’s eyes opening wider as the smell of rotting flesh assaulted the room. Long red hair streamed from Its head, creamy skin upon a beautiful face, wide eyes approximating innocence. “You’d do this to me?” It lisped.

"Joah isn't Joah. She's Pestilence and had me infested with Death," Blue hissed.
Denenthorn growled, “I want that sorry excuse of a Horseman gone and I want Grr and Joah back, Lorne. BREAK HIS SPIRIT LIKE HE AND THE OTHER THREE BROKE GRRBROOL'S."
Severus watched in silence, absently picking at the fresh and still dripping scourge marks left by Lucifer, pale eyes staring blankly.

Lorne sheathed his Sword and moved closer. Not Brit, not Eve he thought looking at the face before him. A set of scales dropped from his torn, empty hand, a haze of black drifting after the red along the link way, "You are called too early, tool. That you are here before the intended hour means you are called not by the One you serve, but the Adversary."

A cruel smile formed upon the lovely mask as the Thing changed its appearance back again to Sariel’s firstborn. “You are the Adversary, Old One,” it hissed, grabbing its belly in pain as it felt the gnawing of Famine’s black mist. The roar of birds’ wings arose from the hearth, screams and caws and claws scratching. “The stars are right. My time is now.”

“Your time is up,” Denenthorn snarled.
Suyuan stepped up behind Rhaven, her small warm hand coming to rest upon Rhaven’s shoulder, exuding energy, as Rhaven extended her wards, drawing Zoe and those about her into a protective cocoon.
“Turmoil,” Brit murmured, peering inside and coughing at the stench even outside the Library’s door.

Lorne lowers His hand, the scales sinking back into His palm, stepping down the stairs closer to the Thing. As he nears, He raises both arms high to the side. From each palm there grows crawling tendrils of wood, cricking, and snapping until they form a handled staff. With a sound of metal on metal, the blade of Death’s scythe extends, and He swings it, sending it through the body inhabited by Pestilence, passing it through without any visible mark left behind.

The Thing jerks violently, shrieks from the walls as a flock of ravens bursts from the hearth and pelts to the floor, beginning to decay instantly. The visage of Lilith drops from the Thing’s face and her eyes blaze white. "You think this will stop me? How many vessels do you think you can protect at once? I'll just take another...and another...choose Old One...which of these should I take?"

“But she should be dead,” Brianna blinked, “not...not go into worked with the rest...."
Denenthorn growled, “I hate something that doesn't know when to quit..."
“Just give Joah back,” Blue hissed at the Thing.

Lorne drops the scythe, which disintegrates before it hits the ground. He then reaches up, wrapping His fingers around Joah's ankle, pulling her bit by bit closer, while rearing His injured hand back. The Thing looks at the Old One and grins as she is pulled down. "I believe I'll grant Blue and Denenthorn’s wish," she laughs, looking at Brit. Joah's body slumps and a rush of locusts flies from her mouth toward Brit, shattering the Library windows. The stench of rotting ravens permeates everything as the locusts fly.

Brit screams as she is surrounded, turning one way and then another, seeming confused at the mass of insects that surround her. Lorne turns, opening His mouth in a deafening howl, trying to pull them into His mouth with gale force winds, as Blue sends streak after streak of fire after them. Denenthorn clutches Blue’s arm, transferring strength to her ‘til he understands the attack is aimed at Brit, and then rushes out the door.

“Fuck!” Grr howls.
“Oh, fuck no!” Denenthorn cries in alarm, unable to tear his eyes away from his daughter.
“Go, if you need to Denny,” Rhaven yells urgently through the swarm, “I’ll try to heal Joah…”

The whirlwind continues around the floating Thing, Its hair flying wildly, wind swirling through the broken glass, pummeling Brit, lifting and tossing her through the air to the outside wall of the Library. The glass grazes her skin in prickles and points, sticking like tailor’s pins as she attempts to stand, coughing and pulling locusts from her hair.

“Not my daughter, bitch!” Denenthorn snarls.
Suyuan gasps, covering her mouth as she recoils, gripping Rhaven as a cool breeze surrounds them both, and Meng Po materializes to gaze down at her.

Lorne rushes to Brit, his throat tight, fearing her dead, hands reaching for her shoulders, air still dragging harshly into His mouth. A red glow begins to emanate from him, and the Thing’s body contorts, Its eyes and ears leaking blood, though It continues to pound Brit, tumbling and turning her, glass flying in shards, as she covers her ears trying to block It from reaching into her mind. It roars back in anger, blocked by the thing about Brit’s neck, as it slams her into the wall once again and drops her to the concrete, bouncing once like a sack of flour. Severus whirls around, striding out of the Library, uttering in Enochian as he gestures towards Brit and draws a glowing Theban symbol with one clawed hand, expelling all of his stolen soul essence into her in the form of a protective healing ward. The cuts in Brit’s skin begin to visibly heal.

Denenthorn begins to glow with power as he feels Brit's every hurt and pain, the Library begins to sing in the minds of all as a shield of healing and comfort enters those that mean no harm.

Lorne closes His eyes, sighing, and reaching back along the link way within Joah, looking about for any trace of the Horseman left to grab onto. “Joah?” He says into her mind, “Joah? I need your help.”

“Come on Joah...Sister by fate,” Blue urges.

Joah’s mouth opens slowly, blood spilling from her lips as her body shakes. The Thing feels her resistance, feels Joah grabbing, grasping the link between her and Lorne. "Lorne...." she half stammers, half whispers in her own voice.

Kneeling in front of Brit, Lorne raises His hands, palms open, and speaks into Joah's mind, "Joah? Where is the sigil?" The wind whirls in a deafening roar as Joah pushes against the Thing, calling on Creation’s power, Legion’s words echoing in her mind. She lifts up her shaking hand as the thighbone of a rat appears upon it.

Lorne reaches forward to Brit, trying to hug her close. He holds His injured hand out, willing the thighbone to it as Brit uses his cape like a rope to get to her feet. She coughs again and stares wide-eyed at the thighbone as it melts into the bit of black shown through the gash in Lorne’s gauntlet. He holds her tighter as the gauntlet itself melts away in a wave leaving His original flesh and clothing behind, spreading until even His wings are gone.

Inside the Library, Joah falls to the floor with a thud, blood leaking between her legs, pooling on the floor.