Friday, October 2, 2009

It's Time to Begin Again...

New sim. New stories.Legacies 1891... Beyond Darkness.

Ode to Katan Amano

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Because of the vicissitudes of life and the banning of several players from Toxia, it's doubtful that many of the stories begun in Envenom will ever be finished. Grrbrool Lykin sent me the lyrics to "Beloved" by VNV Nation and I am posting them below as the ending to his and Joah's story. Let them also be the ending to many of the tales of the roleplayers who met and told stories in Toxia.

It's colder than before
The seasons took all they had come for
Now winter dances here
It seems so fitting don't you think?
To dress the ground in white and grey

It's so quiet I can hear
My thoughts touching every second
That I spent waiting for you
Circumstances affords me
No second chance to tell you
How much I've missed you

My beloved do you know
When the warm wind comes again
Another year will start to pass
And please don't ask me why I'm here
Something deeper brought me
Than a need to remember

We were once young and blessed with wings
No heights could keep us from their reach
No sacred place we did not soar
Still, greater things burned within us
I don't regret the choices that I've made
I know you feel the same

My beloved do you know
How many times I stared at clouds
Thinking that I saw you there
These are feelings that do not pass so easily
I can't forget what we claimed as ours

Moments lost though time remains
I am so proud of what we were
No pain remains, no feeling
Eternity awaits
Grant me wings that I might fly
My restless soul is longing
No pain remains, no feeling
Eternity awaits

My beloved do you know
When the warm wind comes again
Another year will start to pass
And please don't ask me why I'm here
Something deeper brought me
Than a need to remember

My beloved do you know
How many times I stared at clouds
Thinking that I saw you there
These are feelings that do not pass so easily
I can't forget what we claimed as ours

Moments lost though time remains
I am so proud of what we were
No pain remains, no feeling
Eternity awaits
Grant me wings that I might fly
My restless soul is longing
No pain remains, no feeling
Eternity awaits

Moments lost though time remains
I am so proud of what we were
No pain remains, no feeling
Eternity awaits
Grant me wings that I might fly
My restless soul is longing
No pain remains, no feeling
Eternity awaits

Moments lost though time remains
I am so proud of what we were
No pain remains, no feeling
Eternity awaits
Grant me wings that I might fly
My restless soul is longing
No pain remains, no feeling
Eternity awaits

VNV Nation

Friday, April 24, 2009


It's been said that the best place to hide something is in plain view. What needed to be hidden, in this case, was me. I needed to go back to the City without the knowledge of a single soul. I would have normally chosen to travel under cover of night. The darkness of Toxia, however, was not my friend. There, in the wee hours of morning, the City fitfully wakes and it's denizens roam freely. I knew I must return, but I would go in the hazy noonday brightness, instead.

I unfastened the bodice of my gown and began to pull off my skirts, shrugging out of my petticoats and dropping my clothing on the floor in a heap. I made quick work of my corset and garters, pulling off stockings, and then finally my chemise. I couldn't afford to be seen in my usual attire; I needed clothing that would draw no attention. I rummaged through Kryss's things until I found black leather trousers and a long coat. It was the uniform of the City and assured I would go unnoticed.

On the docks of the mainland, I waited impatiently. The ferry was late in arriving, and when it did, I purchased passage with a munitions shipment and one or two unfamiliar lycans. The ferry travelled swifly, much more quickly than I had supposed it would. I stood beside stacks of crates watching the water slowly swirl from blue to green.

As I disembarked, I gathered my thoughts and headed straight for the Library. It was no longer home to the Omega Institute, but housed a faction named the Illuminati. The streets were empty and the Library, once I had stepped inside, was quiet. A dark haired man sat with his head bent over a pile of maps that were laid before him on the large, oaken Library table. He paid me no mind.

Opening my hands, palms spread before me, I began to pulse, looking for the remainders of a death struggle. From the hearth to the landing to the balcony overlooking the street I roved, watching.

But there were no ghosts.

No shadows.

No impressions left by the mark of violence.

Not one life had been lost.

It was, in the end, a lie.

My Beloved was alive.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I walked the edge of the cliff and stood looking over the sea, a sea unmarred by toxic spillage, though it was not a peaceful shore. Too much had happened in this new land and my heart was turning to stone because of it. Insurrection in the Alpha Institute… petty squabbles among the Praetors and the Legate… a Choi and Constantine who professed to have been ever only angels… it made no sense. Constantine talked of curtains and dreams, killing kitten after kitten in his failed attempts to open a portal to who knows where.

It was all too much, too soon after the flight from the City. I had done much of late that shadowed my heart with regret. I could no longer depend on Nareth, for she was not herself. Whatever remained of Omega’s Chylde lay deep in the belly of a ghost, growing into some unknowable thing. Our attempts to restore her had failed. The moments of her passion had been followed by insufferable anguish for me, and Desdecardo had made it clear: there was no easy freedom from thralldom. I was not unaware of the distrust with which most of the Institute viewed me because of this. Thus, I did the only thing I could… I sought refuge in the Tree of the Garden until all my desire was replaced by life and fire. I felt my wings unfurl. I was thrall no more, but the cost was great.

Now an even greater weariness lay upon my shoulders, a weariness from which I could find no rest. I’d heard the reports from the City, read the letters… Grrbool was dead. A picture drawn in crayon from Brit seemed to say only that Grr and Omega had left the City for a while. Ethan, however, would have sheltered Brit as best he could. The news in the letters though... I couldn't believe the truth of it. Grr and Omega’s bodies had been found in the Great Library. Their remains had been burned and carried away from the City.

Denenthorn hadn’t even wept.

Yet I still hear Grr’s cry to the moon.

He’s not dead.

He can’t be.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Musée des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

W.H. Auden

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Inventory of Goodbye

The streets of the City were nearly empty. I’d walked up and down Luxuria and Superbia, but had seen only a few individuals. Here and there, someone stood alone on a corner or in the shadow of an alley. It had all happened so suddenly. The Tyrant had come and most of the Institute had fled. Tonks, Pens… Redd and Attie… all gone. Choi had taken Nareth… or rather Dana… out of the City, along with Constantine, to a land reputed to be even more violent than the City itself. I sighed, filled with sadness and remorse; I felt I should have been able to do something to avert it all, but there was nothing I could do. Even the Lady had failed. I stood gazing one last time into the flames of the Library hearth, then headed quietly to my room at the top of the stairs. As I slowly opened the door, I gazed at what had been my home for well over a year: the small narrow bed, the wooden writing table, the hi-backed chair… all worn and meager furnishings, but well loved. I neared the bed, took off my armband and lay it flat on the coverlet, tracing my finger along the Omegan insignia for a moment and thinking of the many remaining I yet held dear. Still… I had to follow her. There really was no choice for me. I turned, left the room, and closed the door behind me.

I have a pack of letters,
I have a pack of memories.
I could cut out the eyes of both.
I could wear them like a patchwork apron.
I could stick them in the washer, the drier,
and maybe some of the pain would float off like dirt?
Perhaps down the disposal I could grind up the loss.
Besides -- what a bargain -- no expensive phone calls.
No lengthy trips on planes in the fog.
No manicky laughter or blessing from an odd-lot priest.
That priest is probably still floating on a fog pillow.
Blessing us. Blessing us.

Am I to bless the lost you,
sitting here with my clumsy soul?
Propaganda time is over.
I sit here on the spike of truth.
No one to hate except the slim fish of memory
that slides in and out of my brain.
No one to hate except the acute feel of my nightgown
brushing my body like a light that has gone out.
It recalls the kiss we invented, tongues like poems,
meeting, returning, inviting, causing a fever of need.
Laughter, maps, cassettes, touch singing its path -
all to be broken and laid away in a tight strongbox.
The monotonous dead clog me up and there is only
black done in black that oozes from the strongbox.
I must disembowel it and then set the heart, the legs,
of two who were one upon a large woodpile
and ignite, as I was once ignited, and let it whirl
into flame, reaching the sky
making it dangerous with its red.

-Anne Sexton

In a Field of Stone

I stood in the doorway of the Haven, allowing my eyes adjust to the dim light and looking for the familiar face of my Beloved. He stood behind the glassed booth, moving in time to the pulsing beat of the music he played, his hands at the decks. He looked so different to me. His long red hair cascaded down his shoulders and his very human looking face was turned to a battered iPod. His eyes, though, were the eyes of a feral creature.

Grr looked up! “Spirit Gal!” he smiled, beckoning me closer. I stepped into the booth beside him and as I came nearer, his eyes narrowed with concern as he studied me. “Are you doin’ ok, Spirit Gal?”

I nodded, though I was acutely aware of his gaze on my puffed and bruised lips.

Grr frowned, stepped and stepped back from the deck to inspect my face. “That wasn’t there when ya spoke with Her Ladyship… you been chasin’ cars and catchin’ them?” he asked gently.

My fingers went to my mouth. “No, Beloved... Mr. Constantine... wished to show me something.” I felt embarrassed by my weakness.

Grr narrowed his eyes and lifted his lips in a distinctly canine baring of teeth, regardless of his human looking form. I moved closer to him, wrapping my arms around his waist and moving under the shadow of his arm.

Grr pulled me toward him. “If he wants ta tech ya somethin’ again, let me know, ok?

“Yes... yes... Beloved,” I replied, leaning my head into the side of his chest.

“I don’t abide tha beatin’ on tha weak,” Grr frowned.

I looked up at him. “He didn't hit me.... He was…” I trailed off.

Grr cupped my chin and tilted my head toward him. “Trainin' accident? Doorknob jumped up at ya?”

I fumbled for words. “He was trying to show me something…. “

“And yer face got busted?” Grr asked. “Or did you take tha wound from someone else, pranic?”

I shook my head for I’d healed no one. “He held my arm behind my back... and when he became displeased... he pushed me away... I fell with the force of it.”

Grr’s hand moved to rest on the hilt of his sword. “And he was restrainin' you fer his own safety?”

“No.... “ I looked away. “It was because I didn’t see… the difference between art and garbage.”

“Uh huh,” Grr grimaced. “Art lesson from an angel. A violent angel. And people call me a beast. I'll never understand Fleshie culture….”

“Please don't lecture me, Beloved,” I pleaded, “Please just... hold me.”

Grr lifted his hand under my chin again and drew me back toward him. “Can I tend yer face, Spirit Gal?”

I nodded mutely.

Grr let go of me and began rummaging in his pouch, letting it glow for some time, and withdrawing his hand. In his hand was a small jar, and a cloth. He dabbed the cloth in the ointment and applied it carefully to my broken and swollen lip. “This will be numbin’,” he murmured soothingly. “I ain’t even begun a lecture, Spirit Gal, I'm just assessin' tha situation.”

I held quite still as he finished dabbing the ointment, replaced the lid and then handed it to me, closing my fingers over the small jar. “Calendula cream, it'll fix it up in a day, faster at yer healin’ rates, I expect. Nareth won’t even notice by tomorrow, I expect.”

I took the little jar and dropped it into my pocket. I was thankful, and yet a lump had risen in my throat at Grr’s mention of Nareth. He turned to look at smile at sadly. Lifted my hand to his shoulder, taking a strand of his hair and twisting it around my fingertip, uncertain at the sadness on his face. He looked deep into my eyes.

“I want ya to be happy, Beloved… and safe.” Grr draped an arm around me, holding me close to him, protectively. I leaned into him again, relishing his human touch, and the feeling of being held tenderly.

He cleared his throat and spoke hesitantly. “Yer gunna leave, aintcha? strike out on yer own, or with Nareth?”

I felt the tears welling in my eyes. “I can't just let her go... But I can't leave you either, Beloved. I’d perish,” I said quietly.

Grr nodded slowly. “No lectures… I meant what I said, still do.”

“You'll think it strange,” I tried to explain, “But... somehow I feel I have to look after her... though there are two Gardens of entirely different sorts between us.”

“No, not strange at all, Spirit Gal,” Grr replied tenderly. “I’ll probably understand better than most.”

I gazed into his eyes. “You do?” I asked quietly.

“I think I might. I live in two worlds. Spirit Gal, in two skins, in two worlds. I live alone from my own kind. I’m not human, Spirit Gal, I never was. I see all this, with different eyes. My instincts, my values, they ain’t tha same as yers, as hers, even Her ladyship’s….”

I nodded slowly. “I’m not human, either.”

“No, I guess not,” he smiled, “But, well, I think ya got a better handle on it, so, that difference, it frees ya…”

“I will always be yours, Beloved.” I squeezed his smooth hand. “So soft.”

He, in turn, just held me. “Be safe, Spirit Gal… be safe.”

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I Will Not Make Her Choose

I felt the beating of his wings before I saw him fully materialize, black and white pinioned, the chaos angel. Denenthorn gazed down at me and I could do nothing but look up to meet his gaze. I knew my eyes were rimmed with red, and my lip was still swollen and bleeding.

He looked at me for a long moment and then spoke, without turning, to Constantine. "I assume this is your handiwork,” he said calmly.

“We had... some negotiations…. ” Constantine replied with the slightest of shrugs.

Denenthorn crossed his arms and continued to stare at my wounds. "Aggressive negotiations, I see.... " He looked over at Constantine. "Ever a fool who must use his fists to negotiate.... "

Constantine’s tone was silky. “War is father of all, king of all,” he began. “Some it makes gods, some it makes men, some it makes slaves, some free.... ”

I didn’t take my eyes off Denenthorn. I was torn, wanting to flee to his side, but afraid of further retribution.

"I've walked this world for Six Thousand years,” Denenthorn said grimly. “Do me a favor, Constantine." His eyes shot venom at the angel before him. “Leave the riddles at the door and speak what you really mean to say.”

“War is a contest of wills, Denenthorn. One will must be subdued… in this case: hers.”

"Do you see this as a war?” Denenthorn gave Constantine a dark look. “How narrow minded you truly are.... This is no war... you are clearly angry because she does not see things your way and therefore you took out your aggression on her.... This is no means of war..." He gave him a deathly stare. “It's a means of cowardice."

Constantine was nonplussed. "Ah… that is because you believe the notion that there is a fair war. How can anything be fair, when there is a victor and a loser?"

Denenthorn rolled his eyes. "Life is not fair, I never said war was fair.... I said your act was an act of cowardice."

Constantine looked at Denenthorn blankly, "Why?"

"Because,” Denenthorn replied, “My moral and ethical sense tells me that it is wrong to hit a lady… especially one with such a deep beauty to her.... "

"Well,” Constantine nodded, “As they say... spare the rod…. "

“Unless I am mistaken,” Denenthorn growled, “She is not a child, nor is she your child.... "

I could feel the tension in the room as Denenthorn’s wings began to spread in the posture of battle. I watched him carefully, not daring to speak.

Constantine shrugged, “All a matter of perspective... anyhow... is there more to the lecture?”

"No,” Denenthorn shook his head, and turned toward me. “I came for another reason..." He sighed heavily. "I wanted to see if my Night Angel, my Lady Grace, is ready to come home.... "

I looked from Denenthorn to Constantine, and the Dark Librarian did not miss the questioning look in my eyes… the need to ask permission. As he saw the fear causing my hesitation, his hands moved to rest on the hilts of his blades, watching Constantine’s every movement.

Constantine laughed. “Ah, and now who is thinking of war? So narrow minded?”

"I’m not thinking of war,” Denenthorn snapped, “Just thinkin' how nice yer head would look on my desk for the insult you place on this life...."

I began to shake.

Denenthorn held out his hand to me. "Home... where you are loved, " he murmured. He faced Constantine. "Home because she may come back to see you… I will not make her choose… but I will keep her safe." I lifted my hand to Denenthorn’s and he pulled me gently to my feet.

Constantine arched a brow. “Do you love her here, beaten, before us?”

"I love her here,” Denenthorn said quietly, pulling me into his cloak. “I love her at home, I love her when she infuriates me, I love her unconditionally." He looked at the angel, "Of course you would know all about love now, wouldn't you.... "

"More than you can imagine,” Constantine agreed. “I just need to know your intentions are pure."

I lowered my eyes and stared at the floor, not a word escaping my lips.

"Purer than you could ever imagine... Sir, " the old Librarian grumbled, drawing me closer under his arm.

I leaned into Denenthorn. "Please... home..."

“Home,” he soothed, and then we were gone.

The Art Lesson

I felt a sudden jerk as though my spirit were being pulled from my body, heard the harsh whisper of my name, and then gasped at a tearing in my shoulder. A warmly lit brick room gradually came into view. I had no idea where I was, but I knew with whom I was. He was holding my arm stiffly behind my back. I tried to pull away, but found him unyielding. He’d summoned me and I felt his breath against my ear.

“I gave you time, to walk to the beach…” Constantine’s voice was ice. “I gave you time, time to walk, time to talk with your people...”

My heart began to pound. I pulled at my arm, trying to free it when I felt a stinging slap across my face.

“I watched as someone else did things to you that I long to do.” Constantine spoke lower as he continued to twist my arm.

I grimaced in pain. “Stop… please,” I stammered.

“I was patient, and I gave you an excuse to come willingly to me, yet you resisted… Now you struggle,” he said, his voice rising.

“You called me a liar,” I hissed.

Constantine laughed harshly, and then pulled me sharply toward him. “Are you daring me to expose our relationship, miss? I will pop your arm out of its socket it I need too.”

I could feel my skin begin to warm with my anger, flame beginning to shimmer out from my palms. He grabbed my throat with his other hand, choking the air out of me.

“I will call you a liar, a bitch… whatever I feel like,” he said in a deadly quiet voice.

“I hate you...” I spat out, and my skin flared as I tried to pull away with all my might.

His fingers bit into my throat. “Now tell me, miss… do you think I care?”

Tears began to blur my vision. “What kind of a monster are you?” I gritted out.

He shook my head with the hand around my neck. “One who will not take crap from you. Do you understand?”

My throat ached as the pressure continued. “What am I to you?” I croaked.

Finally, Constantine released his grip around my neck. “Nothing but filthy trash, if you aren't mine.” He turned my body to face the balcony as I continued to struggle. “Look out there. What do you see? Everything is either trash or art. The trash must be swept away before the beauty can be shown. The excess must be chiseled away to let the art appear.”

“I... am... not... trash... “ I spat.

Constantine jerked my arm up tightly. “Do you want to know what you are to me when you are so disobedient? You right now, are the excess I must break down.”

I pulled as hard as I could with the whole weight of my body, the flames licking down my arms to my boots, and up over my shoulders, over my head, as they shimmered gold to pink to violet, and then dark purple. “I know what I am...” I warned.

He let go and pushed. “Then go, be what you are.... “

The force of his hand pushing combined with my pulling, and I tumbled face first into the floor, my lip hitting the wood and splitting.

“No matter what you think you are,” Constantine said, “I see something better inside you. But go... accept yourself as simply for what you are…”

I pulled myself up, wiping the blood from my lips with the back of my hand. My head was spinning with confusion. “Better?” I asked.

“I said go.” He spoke evenly, and then stepped away.


The low murmur of conversation continued below me as the members of my House gathered around the Lady Omega. Denenthorn had gone to stand on the balcony above us, keeping watch over the street, as was his habit, while the angel, Constantine, appeared to be examining a text pulled from the stacks only a few feet from where I stood. The Lady’s words echoed in my mind, and my heart was torn. I couldn’t leave… I couldn’t stay. I was so lost in thought that I didn’t notice when Choi climbed the stairs to stand quietly beside me. Her ears twitched as she leaned forward and whispered, “Are you all right?”

“No,” I replied quietly. “Nothing is right....”

The feline swallowed slowly, then reached into her pocket and pulled something out, hiding it from everyone's view but mine.

The blood tear pendant.

A soft sigh escaped my lips and I lifted my hand to touch it. It was a message. She was safe then. Nareth… safe among the Righteous. I found it nearly impossible to believe that she had sought sanctuary within the confines of the Church, but she had. Choi held the proof in her hands.

Abruptly, Constantine, moved closer to us, speaking in a tight voice. “Choi, your help in the matter has been noted. You need to speak with the Master Librarian, and Joah and I have matters to discuss.” He didn’t quite push us apart, but his nearness ended any hope I had of more news of Nareth from Choi. And I was wary of Choi speaking with Denenthorn. He was displeased and angry at Nareth’s insubordination. Displeased and coming for her. I glanced up the stairwell, hoping he hadn’t heard the conversation below. As far as I was concerned, Denenthorn was the last person that I wanted Choi to see.

Choi simply ignored Mr. Constantine for a moment, smiling at me gently, reassuringly, and closing her hand around the pendant, then putting it back in her pocket. She turned toward the angel. “My apologies, Constantine,” she said without a trace of sincerity in her voice, “But I believe that chore is for my 'betters'.”

I dropped my hand to my side and faced the angel. “I have nothing to discuss with you, Mr. Constantine.” The memory of the his attempts to bend me to his will was raw and bitter. He spoke in riddles and his help always came with a high price.

Constantine seemed to grow larger before us. “Nice way to back out, Choi,” he said sarcastically. “And you, Joah,” he said in a voice brimming with anger, “You don't care about your friend.”

I shook my head. “I care... I care deeply.”

“There are things that neither you nor the Church knows that are critical to your friend's survival,” Constantine said evenly.

Choi hissed at him, her tail flicking wildly. “What could you possibly do to help? All you've done so far is accuse her of lying.”

I nodded, watching the angel carefully.

We were interrupted by the Lamia, Kryss, who had slithered up the stairs, watching the scene before her quietly. She looked from Choi to Constantine. “Both of you should know this is not the time for this. She is hurting enough already....”

Constantine turned to regard Kryss. “Pain means the muscles are actually working… she's been resting too long.”

The Lamia frowned, and she moved toward Constantine with a hint of threat in her posture. “As much as I appreciate your lessons, here is one for you: compassion.”

A flash of light pulsed from the angel as he gave me an angry look, turned, and strode out of the Library without a word.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


It was evening in the Library and I stood quietly on the landing, watching those gathered by the fire. The Lady sat in her accustomed place by the hearth while Denenthorn stood tall and dark by her side. Grrbrool knelt at her feet, firelight shimmering in through his long, red hair. The sight of him in his flesh form never failed to surprise and arrest me. Attie and Redd chatted playfully, whispering into each other’s ears and laughing, while others read or bent towards their work. Dryl seemed dazzled by the gathering, wisping from one small group to another after her fashion. Such companionable gatherings had been common once, but the recent troubles in the City had set everyone on edge.

Grr looked up at me, smiling a human yet distinctly canine grin, and then he called my name, “Spirit Gal”, his true name for me. I smiled back at him, whispering, “Beloved,” but my eyes were drawn from him to Omega, and when my eyes met hers, I lowered my head, afraid to look.

The tension in the Institute had been almost unbearable of late. At the coming of the entity proclaiming to be Cthulhu, many had fled. Nareth had disappeared into a chrysalis in the floor of the laboratory, cocooned beneath some pulsing wet membrane. We’d not known whether she was even alive, and when finally she emerged, she sprang not from the chrysalis but from the sea, proclaiming the true Father Dagon and Mother Hydra. And with that proclamation, a rift had torn fabric of the Institute: Mother Hydra, not Sire Omega.

Grr caught the exchange between the Lady and me, gave me a long glance, and then turned toward Omega. Omega simply stood and began walking in my direction. “Joah?”

“Yes, Lady?”

“I would speak with you.” Omega continued up the stairs to the landing, stopping just in front of me. She extended her hands towards me and began to stroke my arm. “I have been worried for you, M'dear...” I could see Grr rise and follow the Lady with some caution, remaining a few steps behind. “Very worried indeed. We fret for you.”

I nodded, listening, but otherwise stood very still. "Why Lady?"

The taffeta of Omega’s skirts rustled as she turned slightly to look out the window for a moment, considering her words “There are those… who crave freedom. That to whom the idea is restriction is abhorrent.”

“I don’t understand, Lady,” I replied.

“Oh, I think you do,” Omega said, arching one brow slightly, “Because you understand, that there are those… to whom freedom itself is abhorrent.” As Omega spoke, Denenthorn walked wordlessly to stand by her side. He looked down at me, his blue eye leading the purple, gazing impassively in silence.

I frowned and lowered my head again. “Lady... we all serve Your will."

Omega slid her hand down my harm until it gripped my wrist. She leaned in, her lips close to my ear. “There are those… who can only feel free within boundaries gifted to them by another....”

I struggled against the impulse to pull away, my heart beginning to pound as Omega’s hand tightened slightly until I winced in pain.

“If one of that kind, is left neglectfully to roam,” Omega continued, “She will seek bonds, needfully... seek them where she may.”

I began to tremble.

Omega leaned in and whispered, her lips brushing my ear. “I know who is at fault here. I know what has occurred, and why.”

I twisted my head away looking to Grr for help, but though I knew he felt my discomfort, he did nothing. He stood Watching. Dryl hovered, fidgeting nervously. Denenthorn’s face was unreadable. I tried to pull my wrist away from Omega. "I don't know what you mean, Lady," I replied.

Omega grip on my wrist remained firm, but not crushing, and was no longer painful. She lifted her other hand to trace the side of my face with her fingertips. “I ask your forgiveness,” she whispered.

At this, I began to cry. "Your forgiveness? How have You wronged me, Lady?"

“I have neglected you,” Omega replied, “And it has lead you into peril. I would not see you neglected, Joah. I would see you cherished. Not held as thrall, but beloved.”

My tears began to flow freely for Omega had reached the heart of the matter. In the end, what was I to Nareth but her thrall? I had never thought to place myself willingly in such a situation, but Nareth’s lost vulnerability, her attempts to do what was right…I had fallen into compassion for her, all traces of my angry suspicion evaporating the night Pontifex had nearly severed her head from her body. And she had called me lover….

I brushed back tears as Omega took her hand from my wrist, and put her palms together, flat, lifting them up as though holding something. As she lifted, she opened her hands slightly. The shimmering image of an adornment floated between her palms. An adornment worn only by Denenthorn and Grrbrool.

“There is much I could offer you, Joah,” Omega said gently, “Out of our love. Our care for you. GrrBrool, Denenthorn and I… we wish no harm to come to you.” Soft and kind laughter came from Denenthorn’s lips at her words. Grr closed his eyes and looked slightly away, rubbing his face, so none could see.

"I don't deserve this, Lady," I said thickly.

Omega’s hands became fists and dropped to her sides. “You do not deserve peril, Joah. You do not deserve thralldom.”

"But I love her," I said softly.

Omega continued to gaze intently at me, speaking in the merest of whispers... “None loved her more than I.”

“She... disowned You, Lady,” I said sadly, “For another Mother.”

Omega nodded. “Her decision has given me grief I will carry till I am ash… But I would not add to these losses. I would not lose that which it would break me to abandon. You, my sweet Joah, I love more.”

I wept in frustration. "I cannot... Lady... I am... bound," I finally stammered, words choked by the anguish welling within me.

“What is bound can become unbound, if you wish it, Joah.” Omega gave the hint of a smile. “My blood is the stronger.”

My fingers moved distractedly to my waist, fingering by habit the silver chain and flask that were no longer there.

Omega watched the trace of my hand. “And her blood,” she said pointedly, “Is a dilution, merely a dilution....” She looked into my eyes. “Please. Consider my words. I will be waiting for your answer.”

The Lady smiled, and then affectionately reached to brush away a strand of Denenthorn’s hair, before turning and walking away.


Dear Joah,

My situation with the Omega Institute has become untenable. Indeed, I now have the clarity to see that it was my great mistake returning to the OI, that day you found me at the hospital. Effective, immediately, I am tendering my resignation with the OI. I can no longer believe in, nor serve, nor defend, an organization that is so riddled with corruption and deceit.

I am whole, and I see this now.

I am whole, and I hereby renounce all ties to my Sire. No longer will I be known as the blood Chylde of Omega. I now serve another mistress, an infinitely greater being, and one who is not fickle and who took the time to properly mentor me. And, though not affectionate, Mother Hydra is just. I am reborn, from the benthic chrysalis that lay so long in the library basement. Never again will Omega punish me for her failings as my blood mother.

I am now whole. Sariel's seed has bloomed, during my time in the halls of Y'ha-rthyneil. The Watchmaker has no hold on me. I will never again serve as a portal.

As you are now bound to me, and as I depend upon you for sustenance, you know that I need you with me. However, I am granting you the ability to make that decision for yourself. I have been forced down too many paths to now force you.

I have taken with me certain files, and deleted the electronic copies of those files, specifically all those pertaining to OI Case No. 80501 and to the matter of the false priests recently masquerading as servents of "Dagon." This is my concern, and nothing for the OI to worry itself with. Morever, I have managed to wrest from the Old Woman that shard of identity she recently stole from me while I assisted in the healing of the incubus. The Countess Báthory Erzsébet is once again within me. A shame about the damage to the library, but it's nothing a good carpenter can't fix. However, I have left the Old Woman hungry.

Praetor, I will now entrust this letter to your capable hands. You will know how to reach me, should you wish.



“Joah? Do you hear me?”

On the rocky point, Joah turns her head. "Nareth?" she asks in wonder, her voice floating away in the crash of the waves.


“I am awake.

“I am returned.

“I am... new.”

“Where are you?” Joah whispers.

“Near… I can see you all. I must rise slowly. I have been down so long.”

Joah closes her eyes, her thoughts drifting toward the deep. “We thought you... dead.”

“No... just dreaming.”


I sat on the promontory near the Toxian shoreline at dusk. Clouds dotted the horizon as I watched the sun set through the haze that seems to hang forever over the City. I wrapped my arms around myself because the air was brisk and cold, although most of the snow in the City had melted. Here and there, an icy spot of shadows still held a crystalline drift. A short span away, two young girls stood near the surf, one brown skinned with chocolate eyes and hair, the other lighter skinned with eyes the color of sunflowers and black hair falling to her shoulders.

The brown girl seemed poorly dressed for a walk along the beach. She wore an old-fashioned black dress with a stiff white collar, all strangely formal and out of place. The girl with the sunflower eyes was rather less remarkable, dressed in a sweater, jeans, and sneakers. As I watched the pair, I thought it odd that any parent would bring a child into the City, much less allow two girls to wander freely through its hungry streets and toward the sea.

The black-haired girl stooped to pick up some half-buried sea glass and the girls examined it for a moment, standing just at the water’s edge where the brackish water licks unnoticed over their shoes. I watch the sea, and my thoughts wander to the events of the prior evening.

We had been out further along the promontory, when the air suddenly had filled with a high-pitched trilling sort of song. The sound had been beautiful, but almost painful to hear. I had heard her calling, drawing me along. Tonks, Constantine, Pen and Kryss had followed. Tonks watched the sea, her wings unfurling and feathers rustling in the night wind, her eyes scanning the surface and the depth of water. I stood beside her, feeling my hair whip about her head and peering into the deep. “The Siren...." I had asked, “Do you hear her?” Tonks had simply nodded, while Pen paced around her in circles, watching his angel more than the water, nervous about what was to come. Constantine and Kryss had stood in silent sentry.

A sudden movement drew my attention back to the pair nearby me as the yellow-eyed girl plucked the sea glass from the sand and threw it out into the water. She seemed agitated. She was talking talking loudly to the black-haired girl, who seemed nonplussed. “Who are Father Kraken and Mother Hydra supposed to be?”

“Mother Hydra and Father Kraken are the Pillars of the Sea,” the brown girl replied, “The Keepers of the Abyss, Mother and Father, destruction and conception and everything that lies anywhere in between. In the days of void and shadow, before the gods had grown weary of nothingness and pulled the land up from the sea….”

“I get the picture,” the black-haired girl said with annoyance. “It doesn’t matter to me.”

I watched the pair, carefully studying the brown girl who seemed to know so much of the deeps and the Ones who live there. She in turn studied the black-haired girl, finally shaking her head the way a teacher might shake his or her head if a student was being particularly dense.

“The Keepers have many names among the tribes of men,” the brown girl finally said. “Names are only tools….”

The Keepers.

I stared openly at the girls.

The evening before, Nareth had risen from the sea. I had thought her lost, yet she rose from the water, her hair streaming seaweed against scaled skin. Gill flaps had fluttered as she stood on the same shore. They had fluttered and then lain flat before melting into her.

She’d been reborn of Mother Hydra, consort of Dagon, whom the Old Ones name Cthulhu… or so she’d said after she’d regained the ability to speak, ejecting a gout of seawater and mucus from her mouth.

I tried to shake the cobwebs from my mind as I watched the girls, watched the surf, and drifted on the sea of my thoughts. The girl with the yellow eyes turned swiftly on the brown girl, her black hair lifted by the breeze.

“I wish you’d shut up and leave me alone,” she said as she began to cry. “Go away and never come back.” She pivoted, her sneakers making small wells in the sand, and before the brown girl could say or do anything, she strode away the beach, heading back toward the City.

The brown girl merely turned, looked knowingly at me, and smiled before walking on.

Quotes and paraphrases are from Daughter of Hounds, Chapter 5, by Caitlin R. Kiernan, c. 2007, used with permission of the author.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sirenum Pocula

The waning Snow Moon casts a mere shimmer on the surface of the Toxian Sea. Joah stands quietly, water lapping her toes, as the remains of a winter storm casts waves upon the shore. The cold wind bites at her pale skin; the sleeveless muslin chemise she wears provides no protection against its salt sting.

Are you listening, Joah?

She shrugs the chemise from her shoulders, unmindful as it falls into the pull of the tide and is drawn, floating, from the shore. Stepping slowly and certainly, she walks into the icy waters, the cold of it all nearly taking her breath away. Briny fingers wrap calves, thighs and hips; still she walks, the waves pushing and pulling at her, drawing her in breast deep, until she stands swaying like a reed.

Joah closes her eyes, tastes the salt spray on her lips and sees legs that aren't her own, curled and sleeping in the cast-off husks of titanic mollusks extinct a hundred million years before the coming of man. She has closed her eyes on darkness, but when she opens them again it is to the selfsame darkness. In sleep there is the memory of light, and the promise of the phosphorescent glow of Y'ha-rthyneil, which still lies out before her.

Do you hear me?

She lifts her arms, gazing on them as they drift, marveling at the delicate bones in her wrists and graceful webbed fingers of another's hands. She grows hungry, but knows the sea will sustain her. Even as great, unseen leviathans have battened themselves for aeons, so she feeds on the eyeless things that creep across the silt and the blind fish. The blood is cold, not like the blood to which she has grown accustomed, but it is nourishing, nonetheless.

"I am become a pilgrim," she often thinks. "This is my Hajj." There are few conscious thoughts left to her mind here in the deep places, but this one, recurring, comforts her.

"You will be prepared," the sea whispers all about her. "You will be made whole, at last."


She is in what oceanographers call the Sigsbee Deep now, that black abyssal Grand Canyon of the Gulf of Mexico. She follows the trough ever deeper, thousands of meters down, and down, and down. At the southern end of the Sigsbee lies a city of the Deep Ones, and it is there that Mother Hydra and the children of Cthulhu wait for her. The featureless plains of silt give way to hydrothermal vents and towering forests of giant tube worms, glistening brine pools and sprawling mounds of methane ice. These are, she knows, the borderlands, and so she has left the wilderness behind her.

Past a vale of cold seeps, and threading her way between the high sulfide chimneys of black smokers, she becomes aware, for the first time, of another mind brushing against her own. The one bound to her before her departure from the city and the world Above. And she stops drifting.


Are you listening, Joah? Do you see?

When there is no answer, she moves on.

Beyond the black smokers, she glimpses something, not light, but a paler sort of blackness. And she knows it is her signpost, and some weight is lifted from off her mind that she was not even aware lay there.

The Undying Court is near.

Dream Sequence, C. Kiernan

Monday, February 16, 2009

On Seas Hideously Serene

Joah sits in utter stillness, head bent over a leather-bound journal. A nondescript volume, it lies on the table before her, its dark cover worn with age. Each brittle page is filled with neat, old-fashioned script, written in ink that has faded to brown over the years. The pages are covered with curious drawings, wine-fueled thoughts, and line after line of poetry. Here and there, there is a signature: Henri Le Rennet. Joah pulls the oil lamp nearer as her eyes are drawn to one particular page.

Lo! Death has reared himself a throne
In a strange city lying alone

Far down within the dim West,

Where the good and the bad and the worst and the best

Have gone to their eternal rest.

There shrines and palaces and towers

(Time-eaten towers that tremble not!)

Resemble nothing that is ours.

Around, by lifting winds forgot,

Resignedly beneath the sky

The melancholy waters lie.

She leans back in her wooden chair, placing one hand on the journal, the other over her closed eyes. Joah cannot forget the pull of the dream, the drifting down into darkness, utter inviolable darkness, though she could still see. She remembers the descent, and then there are the endless abyssal plains of gray silt and primal ooze and the pale brittlestars that creep across the mud. The featureless deserts of the Gulf, broken only occasionally by the wreckage of a sunken ship, a week old, or a thousand years old, or by the carcass of a whale, wreathed by the squirming bodies of the hagfish that will pick the bones clean. These are her only landmarks in a world devoid of landmarks.

No rays from the holy heaven come down
On the long night-time of that town;

But light from out the lurid sea

Streams up the turrets silently-

Gleams up the pinnacles far and free-

Up domes- up spires- up kingly halls-

Up fanes- up Babylon-like walls-

Up shadowy long-forgotten bowers

Of sculptured ivy and stone flowers-

Up many and many a marvellous shrine

Whose wreathed friezes intertwine

The viol, the violet, and the vine.

Resignedly beneath the sky

The melancholy waters lie.

So blend the turrets and shadows there

That all seem pendulous in air,

While from a proud tower in the town

Death looks gigantically down.

Joah’s hand grips the edges of the journal, her fingers nearly crumpling the page before her in her fist. Yet she cannot pull away. It is the end of the descent. And there is the cold, which is almost beyond bearing. But only almost. And there is the weight of all that water pressing down on her from above, from the sunlit surface. Joah knows well enough the burden should crush her. But it sits easily upon her barnacle-scabbed shoulders, and she carries it as easily as do the native anglerfish and all the other nameless and blind deep-sea things.

There open fanes and gaping graves
Yawn level with the luminous waves;

But not the riches there that lie

In each idol's diamond eye-

Not the gaily-jewelled dead

Tempt the waters from their bed;

For no ripples curl, alas!

Along that wilderness of glass-

No swellings tell that winds may be

Upon some far-off happier sea-

No heavings hint that winds have been

On seas less hideously serene.

She has made a choice. And she wears proudly the scars of the decision, and her mind is still filled with the song of Those Who Have Called. There is more delight in the song than the touch of any lover. More joy than in any kill she has ever made. More satiation than the blood of any being she has ever devoured. More release than she has received from even the most terrible pain.

She drifts, the sharp claws at the ends of her webbed toes digging furrows in the silt as the current bears her ahead, and the Song continues, so that she knows there is a destination.

But lo, a stir is in the air!
The wave- there is a movement there!

As if the towers had thrust aside,

In slightly sinking, the dull tide-

As if their tops had feebly given

A void within the filmy Heaven.

The waves have now a redder glow-

The hours are breathing faint and low-

And when, amid no earthly moans,

Down, down that town shall settle hence,

Hell, rising from a thousand thrones,

Shall do it reverence.

Dream Sequence, C. Kiernan

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"From space, the world is blue."

I rose early and dressed. The moon was still up when I closed and locked the door to my little room, heading down the stairs to the hearth in the Library. Grrbrool crouched by the fire, its flames creating a halo behind him.

“Hello, Spirit Gal,” he grinned. “Rested and renewed? I kept tha…well, tha OTHER wolves from tha door.”

“Other wolves?” I laughed. I brushed my hair back over my shoulder, and went to his side, bending to kiss the top of his head.

Grr grinned again. “Keepin’ tha wolves from tha door, er, whilst ya slept. Watchin'.” I settled in beside him on the floor while he spoke. “I Watch, whilst ya sleep, I guard tha dark places whilst ya work… I am tha Watcher, tha Ferryman… tha Guide, but fer you, I just like ta Watch.” He leaned in and sniffed me all over, scenting me, and licking my hands.

“Beloved,” I smiled. I leaned back, enjoying the feel of his canine tongue against my skin, raising my hand to stroke the side of his face. “I had the strangest dream last night.” I bent my head to rub my cheek against his ruff, taking in the intense new scents that I slowly now was growing accustomed to.

“Dream?” Grr asked. “Was it a good dream? Or just strange?”

“It was... so vivid,” I replied. I pulled back slightly from him, my hand going to the silver flask held on its chain about my waist.

“Dream Walkin'? Was it like bein' -in- Dream? Or just a vivid dream?” Grr lowered his eyes to the flask and then touched it with one claw. “New power, new understandin’, can do things… not bad, but scary, if ya ain’t ready, or aware.”

I shook my head. “I was drifting... just ... drifting in a void of utter, perfect, boundless blue. It wasn't like being in Dream... but then again, it was... I mean... it was peaceful.”

“Floatin’ in tha sea? Or tha sky? Blue like that?”

I closed my eyes, remembering. “Shafts of light shone down on me from somewhere overhead.... more like the sea, I think. I could barely remember the surface... but I felt buoyed and surrounded... yet pulled deeper.” I smiled at him. “I wasn't afraid.”

Grr looked at me with a wary expression. “I like tha bay, but deep scares me if I can’t see bottom.”

“This was different, Grr,” I replied. “Deep, but... no fear. I felt myself descending willingly, settling with infinite slowness.” I laid one hand on his thigh and began stroking it absently. “You'd think I would have been afraid... but the pull... even when the light began to fade... I could feel the pressure of all the water around me, pressing me down... threatening to crush me from every imaginable point of contact, but…. “ I shook my head again. It puzzled me. “Somehow, Beloved, somehow I knew that wouldn't happen. That it wouldn’t be allowed to happen.”

“Ah.” Grr nodded as his eyes began to widen with understanding. “It is a vision from Nareth, maybe. She sleeps in tha deep.”

I glanced at the outer wall of the secret room behind the lab. “I'm not sure where she lies, anymore... nor with whom.” I felt a sudden, surprising stab of longing for Nareth. When I turned to look at Grr again, I could see in his face that he’d read me plainly.

I cleared my throat. “The thing is, Beloved... I knew I was safe.” I tried to meet his golden gaze.

“Do ya wanna go look over her restin’ spot?” Grr asked gently, laying one paw atop my hand. “I don’t mind. I keep ya both safe, when I can, when ya sleep.”

“Yes, please,” I whispered. With great warmth, Grr offered his paw to me. I took it in return and rose slowly, following him to the shelves that concealed the lab. I watched as he manipulated the books on the shelf randomly, opening the secret doorway. Hand in paw, we walked down the two stone steps into the darkness.

The stench was overpowering. As we drew nearer Nareth's resting place, the smell of rotting fish, a bone yard of crab skeletons, and the spray of turbid seawater assaulted us. Grr wrinkled his nose. “Fishy….”

We knelt on the floor beside the pit that was Nareth’s resting place. A dark, glistening membrane could be seen pulsing just beneath the surface of the hole.


“Mmm?” Grr murmured, swirling the water gently with a claw.

“I felt something... in my dream.” I grew quiet, lost in the memory of that place for a moment. When I looked up, I saw Grr studying me intently.

“You and Nareth,” Grr began hesitantly, “Yer bonded, aintcha? Tha smell… and taste….”

I had known this moment would come and I feared it. “Bonded,” I whispered, meeting his gaze. “Yes.” My eyes spoke the question to him that I could not.

Grr nodded slowly and smiled faintly, a little softly sad. “By blood and Family, Sister-Lover. Kin, Pack, Blood.”

I lay one hand upon his chest. “But Beloved, I am bonded to you... always. Always.”

Grr took my hand and held it close. “I ain’t jealous or nothin’, just wanna make sure yer safe, and free ta be you, how ever ya need, or wanna, be.”

I reached up to hold his face lightly. “Once together,” I said quietly, then closed my eyes, drew near to him, and touched my forehead against his.

Grr bumped his forehead against mine and smiled in the gloom and reek. “Always together.”

I burrowed into him, laying my head on his chest and gazing at the hole, watching the membrane pulse in the darkness.

“Whatever path ya walk,” he said, claw tips tracing through my hair. “I meant that, I still do.”


From below (a direction that seemed to the girl even more infinite than above), cold tendrils of blackness rose to embrace her. Her long, white hair drifted about her as eel-like shadows caressed her pale body. She knew she was welcomed there, called down, and all the fear and pain and rejection that haunted her above began to dissolve like salt in the sea.

Her lips were no longer red, but blue as the light began to fade, as the light shifted, as all red vanished from the world and from her mind. She began whispering wordless prayers to Mother Hydra and Father Kraken, to Dagon and Great Cthulhu and nameless beings from Paleozoic depths, to the Urdines, and to the Nereids...

In reply, a greeting chant rose from below...

"There gathered round her every goddess, every Nereid that was in the deep salt sea. Glauce was there and Thaleia and Cymodoce; Nesaea, Speio, Thoe and ox-eyed Halie; Cymothoe, Actaee and Limnoreia; Melite, Iaera, Amphithoe and Agaue; Doto, Proto, Pherusa and Dynamene; Dexamene, Amphinome and Callianeira; Doris, Panope and far-sung Galatea; Nemertes, Apseudes and Callianassa. Clymene came too, with Ianeira, Ianassa, Maera, Oreithuia, Amatheia of the lovely locks, and other Nereids of the salt sea depths."

The girl sank, answering.

Dream Sequence, C. Kiernan

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

But Death Mars All, Which We Cannot Mend

“Larissa...she's gone…I cannot now find her.” Nareth sat gazing at the fire, a study in grief and loss, her back against a chair of Indian reed, her porcelain fingers resting on its wheels beside her. The drawing room of the Library was full; it’s hearth provided some comfort against the raging winter storm.

I rose from Grr’s arms, where he and I had settled, warm fur against flesh, upon one of the large brocade pillows that ringed the fireplace. Rhaven and Kryss read quietly, both pouring over open books in their laps. “She was never really in there, you know,” I said as I drew close and began rubbing Nareth's shoulder. "What's troubling you?"

“I don't know what I know, anymore, Joah. But...Dryl,” Nareth sighed. I could feel her shivering under my touch. Still cold, I thought. “Dryl gave me this blanket, but... I think no one else can see it.” Nareth pulled at something that wasn't there, wrapping it around her.

“The ghost girl?” asked Kryss, looking up from her book. She gazed at Nareth with unblinking, unclosing eyes.

Nareth nodded. “When I saw before yesterday...there were parts of her...simply missing. Parts of Dryl...missing.” Grr listened, stirring slightly by the fire, and giving growls and yips in low tones to a strange lycan pup that had wandered in from the snow.

I began to work my thumbs in small deep circles between Nareth’s shoulder blades, intending to examine her wounds but hoping to touch the invisible covering. “Do you think the blanket is part of her?”

Grr quirked to attention. “Wha’? Wait? Missin’? Spook's got parts missin’?”

“I think it must be, Grr,” Nareth nodded. “She said...she had placed parts of herself into…me...the missing parts.” Nareth shivered again. “And...she made me sleep.” She shook her head, trying to clear it.

Grr looked slowly up at Nareth, his golden eyes unfocusing and looking Within. Grr, the Watcher. “When, yes, when she did,” he replied, “She…she bore your wounds, stigmata. She didn’t feel it, but I saw it in her, I saw you…in her….”

“We need to research her,” Rhaven spoke up. Her tone was harsh, her voice full of irritation. “Y’all don’t understand. She wants us to and what I just heard from y’all, we might be running out of time.”

“ one ever runs out…of time…time always keeps up.” Nareth gave a humorless laugh.

My fingertips moved up Nareth’s spine into the base of her head and then down to the small of her back, still seeking, as she leaned forward allowing access, her lips parting slightly. “Dryl may have placed herself within you, Nareth, to heal your injuries,” I said, remembering the night of Pontifex’s vicious attack. We had worked furiously over Nareth’s prone form as she lay dying in the street. I’d asked Dryl to touch her, to reach in, to try to repair the knife wound that had very nearly severed Nareth’s head from her body.

Kryss turned her head toward Rhaven. “What do you mean... out of time?”

Rhaven didn’t respond, but instead pointed to Grr as if he had proven her point. “You can speak in levels and planes that you know well.” She turned to Nareth, pushing aside philosophies for the time, her sense of urgency overwhelming her. “But I will be heard this time. She wants us to study her, to know her connection to us, to the Library, Herself.”

“Yup, Raven's Song, we have been studyin’ her, but do ya have a better way? Cause if ya do, it'd be welcome, too,” Grr replied diplomatically.

“She is in need...yes,” Nareth murmured. “She is so beautiful. And now…she is…in me.” Nareth look back at me and whispered, “Very small pieces. Quanta.”

I gazed at Nareth for a moment, pausing in my ministrations, before turning to face the dark witch in reply. “Dryl is a convocation of Spirits, Rhaven,” I said, “And while she is connected to the Old Woman in the Walls... she isn't Her.” I opened my hand to use the heel of my palm against Nareth’s hips when suddenly I felt it: a cold, moving blanket of something pulsing as though alive.

“Go deeper, Joah,” Rhaven insisted, her brows furrowing. “Pretty is pretty, but.... There’s more that she wants us to know. We need to look deeper.” Sighing heavily, Rhaven flopped back into her chair, her expression darkening as thick lashes shuttered her eyes.

Grr shook his head, golden fur glinting in the firelight. “Tha Library Spirit, came from elsewhere, tha Other. Dryl, she's made from tha bits and pieces of folks and critters that never made it over tha Wide River from tha Disaster.”

“Rhaven, we will not force anything from Dryl.” Nareth voice dropped an octave or two, becoming more commanding. “Not ever. She is precious.” She shuddered slightly and went back to watching the fire.

“Glad ta hear that sentiment, Nareth-Realmwalker,” Grr said as he refocused his eyes on Nareth-in-the-World. He nodded as if confirming something to himself. “I really bloody am.”

I continued to explore while listening, my fingers drifting to Nareth's sides and swimming through the cold wrapper, until I leaned over her, resting my chin on her shoulder and folded my arms lightly around her waist. She leaned back slightly, savoring my touch.

Rhaven suddenly opened her eyes, snapping her head up to look at Nareth full on and unflinching. “She asked Us to research,” the dark-skinned witch intoned, her voice growing harmonic. “It was her behest and you were there. You heard not what We have said. Listen beyond your own ears.” Rhaven’s eyes began to glow as the voice of Omen overtook her. “You think you speak what We know not?” Rhaven’s black curls shook in negative. “It was Her request and, as such, it should be honored... or We shall take it upon Ourselves.”

Nareth straightened in her chair and blinked, confused at what seemed like a sudden deluge of voices. “You think you could stand against me?” she warned. I unwrapped my arms and stood back.

“You would raise to me?” Rhaven replied in a multitude of layered voices.

Grr flattened his ears. “Godlings…everywhere, godlings,” he muttered.

“You'd be unwise to try that Rhaven,” I frowned, meeting Rhaven’s eyes before returning my focus to Nareth. “Besides...You may not have understood the question that Dryl truly asked.” I moved my hands up Nareth’s arms in deep strokes, then over her shoulders, ‘til my fingertips touched her collarbone. She shifted slightly in her chair, accommodating my examination.

“We do want to study tha Spook,” Grr placated. “But…she ain’t here.”

Rhaven turned her glowing gaze to Grr, her expression softening as her chin lifted proudly. She appeared unmoved in the least by any threat spoken or implied.

“Have all tha looks ya like, Omen,” Grr chided, “But we can’t study what we don’t have in front of us.”

Nareth seemed to drift into a world of her own. “I was in Dryl, and Dryl is in me,” she chanted, laughing again and closing her eyes.

I lowered my lids slightly and dreamed a shimmer of flame, which began to spread from my fingertips, pulsing from gold to pink, then purple and violet. I moved slightly to Nareth’s side, never lifting my touch. As I lay fingertips to breastbone, a comfortable warmth flowed from my hands. My eyes widened as a felt the draw of something familiar, yet something I could not yet discern. “I wonder....” I whispered.

“Ask it of her.” Rhaven responded in soft melody. She expects it. She wishes it. She has much to tell us but wishes us to look.”

I ignored Rhaven; my thoughts were no longer on Dryl. All my focus was on Nareth as she closed her eyes tightly, her shivering easing as warm hands touched cold skin. As she relaxed my palms began to tingle. Then the room seemed to shift, going in and out of phase, as my fingers began to move of their own accord, first hovering lightly upon Nareth’s chest, softy grazing her breast, and seeking her bodice just above her heart.

My whole body gave an involuntary jerk.

She Tears Herself

It’s my fault. Somehow, things have turned upside down. Rhaven and Nareth tried to heal Severus after he savaged himself. My fault, again. He wouldn’t have done so if I hadn’t encouraged Redd to touch him, to determine by his degree of revulsion and longing whether she had a soul. But touch she did and as a result he tore himself. I assented to his healing. Nareth, this Nareth-Not Nareth Chylde, asked permission. I told her yes, use the passion of Larissa. Take it from the flames. Lar had been able to heal Severus once before, working in tandem with Rhaven. I couldn’t leave him lying eviscerated on the Library floor.

The healing worked, or worked as well as it ever does given Severus’ perpetual wounds. But what remained of Larissa was lost forever. Completely destroyed. That passion had been all that remained of her mortal form, lingering where the wards once stood, in the flames of the hearth. When it was taken, the Old Woman in the Walls shook. She nearly tore the building apart, threatening all of us in her charge, until she took me through the flame, reached out and snatched the passion of one less gentle and loving from the mind of Nareth: the Countess Báthory. Erzsébet. Now I wonder what I have done. Where once the heart of the flame was Eros, it is now bloodlust. My fault.

It is a sad and bitter irony that now Severus is feeding, while I am not. He found a lycan, a willing one, and somehow the healing impelled him forward to a place where no amount of pleading on my part had been able to take him. I could have compelled him, but I would never have done so, so great is his self-loathing as an Incubus. But who will impel me? I’m bone weary and ravenous. I haven’t fed since the time of Pestilence and some avid spirit still stirs insatiate within me. I nearly killed Grr. I pulled from him to the point of blindness and hemorrhage. What if I do it again? The dark yet whispers to me and I hear the pan flute. Jack’s blade yet sings and its twin calls louder. I touch the stone of Eden in my pocket and wonder was I ever in the Garden?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

And this feende...was all redy, and lay by hir, while she was slepynge

How know you that your lover

Of death’s tideless waters stoops to drink?

Severus glared at Nareth as his clawed fingertips trailed along the cheek of the lycan woman he held tightly in one arm. “You hypocrite... it is fine for all of you to rut and smear yourselves all over this building as you please... but now you deny me this?” He growled low, curling his towering frame over the lycan woman, shifting against her sensuously, and savoring the pleasure that radiated from her due to his touch. He felt more than heard the snap, and then his powerful arms loosened, startled and scenting her.

"If we rut and tear ourselves, as you say, we do it by mutual consent. I cannot hold the Old Woman back, Severus, and she can kill us all.” Nareth placed her hand on Severus' chest again. “I will not see this happen....”

Me by night doth mouldy darkness cover,
It makes me quake to think:

She stood, improbably, leaning on a cane. “Joah, you need to release that bastard. If that's even possible. He is a threat to us all.”

“And what would happen if I did, Nareth? He would be without restraint.”

“It’s your call, Joah. Unless it becomes Omega’s.”

All night long I feel his presence hover
Thro’ the darkness black as ink.

“I spent two hours talking him down… so that he
wouldn't take a lycan woman here in the library.”

“Nareth, yer standin’, that’s good.”

“Yes... Grr. I am standing. Just barely....”

Without a voice he tells me
The wordless secrets of death’s deep:

“Grr... you, Lycan... tell me the nature of your kind's soul….” Severus uttered fixing Grr with his burning black eyes.

“Tha nature of our souls, Maker? Complex. Wild and free, eternally cyclin’ and tied to tha cycle of tha world…. ”

If I sleep, his trumpet voice compels me
To stalk forth in my sleep:

“I wish to know if the souls of your kin are born damned as some have said... if there is no redemption for them after tasting the blood of mortals... is this correct?” Severus asked, his eyes wild and desperate.

“Not as far as my own leanin’s go, no, that ain’t correct. Redemption is fer all who seek it, soul or no. I don’t believe, nor does my totem, that anythin is unchangeable. Nothin’ is born damned, that’s somethin’ that happens to ya, or ya do yerself and everythin’ – everythin’ – can Change its own destiny. Even you.”

If I wake he rides me like a nightmare;
I feel my hair stand up, my body creep:

“That is not... the answer I had hoped,” Severus ground out between clenched fangs, his every word a struggle, strangely accented and slipping towards the First language. “I will not damn another....”

Without light I see a blasting sight there,
See a secret I must keep.

A Coast-Nightmare, C. Rossetti

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Þe quene þat by þe stod, of loue teres heo weop a flod

Nareth had been standing in the open entryway to the Hospital when Severus and I had found her alone and looking out into the street with a disoriented frown. “I’ve only been gone an hour,” she said over and over again. “It wasn’t snowing….” She began questioning me as though she’d seen me scarce moments before. My shock at seeing her alive, as it were, made little impression in the swirl of confusion that surrounded her.

She’d wanted to return to the Library. Severus and I had walked with her, matching each long stride as her boots crunched through the ice in the frozen streets. She didn’t seem to know Severus. She didn’t seem to know about the changes in the City. And as we walked, she shivered. Nareth was… cold. “Impossible,” I thought to myself, “The undead don’t feel the sting of winter…. “

As we made our way the Library Nareth hesitated, surprised by the large Christmas wreath hanging on the Library’s door. After a moment, she entered and headed directly to the drawing room hearth. She fell straightaway into the armchair to the right of the fire. The myriad conversations surrounding us fell silent, as one by one eyes turned to Nareth, not believing what they were seeing. She was trembling. I’d never seen her tremble; she seemed almost vulnerable. But this couldn’t be, I kept telling myself.

“I was going to the Pit. I didn't go to the Pit.”

“You summoned Labyrinth, Nareth. You went.


But she had gone, had been destroyed there, carved into pieces by Pontifex and fed to the Shadows by Lorne in her bid to summon Labyrinth. She didn’t believe it or wouldn’t. And frankly, I didn’t know what to make of this Nareth who was confounded, shaking and near tears. She wasn’t the brutal Nareth I’d known, nor was she the Golem or the small, Vietnamese thief tossed by the sea upon the City’s shore during a late-night torrential downpour.

Nareth murmured, “Something has gone very wrong, I think.”

“Yes, very wrong,” Pontifex replied. “What if the others come back too? We both went to the pit, only I came back.... “

An icy voice. “What is the meaning of this?”

And the Lady had been shocked. Angered. Then…if not accepting… somehow resolved. Lorne had prompted, “Look into her soul, Omega. If she still has it within her, that is one thing, and the nature of a soul to show what it is quite another.” The Lady couldn’t look. But Grrbrool could.

“Realmwalker,” he said, “Not tha Huntress.”

She went to the Pit; she didn’t go. She died there; she lived.

Nareth; not Nareth.

I just don’t know.

Nareth Returns

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Journal Entry

He called me Spirit Gal.

The Summer Country

I lay upon the hill

That lay beneath the wolf sky

I felt the dark clouds forming

An omen apparition

And with the thunder rolling

A howl preceded the storm

We lay within the bird

That lay beneath the Wolf Sky

We lay within its wing and

We felt the bird within us

And with the thunder rolling

We left the ground for the sky

We drank the dark clouds deeper

And ran the wild moon hunting

Alive with fur and feather

As omen apparition

We left the moon suspended

And leapt back onto the ground

We lay upon the hill

That lay beneath the Wolf Sky

We felt the dark clouds forming

An omen apparition

And with the thunder rolling

A howl preceded the storm

We lay beneath the wolf sky

Wendy Rule, The Wolf Sky

Your Battle-Wounds are Scars upon My Heart

I stood near the large windows of the Library gazing at the milling crowd on Luxuria Lane. Rhaven and Zoe were at the open doorway, chatting about the snow, which, inexplicably, fell white and soft from the every hazy Toxian sky. At least, I presumed the snow was what they were discussing. I could only hear Rhaven’s half of the conversation, having blocked Zoe’s telepathic communications from my mind. Zoe, Rhaven told me, had lost the ability to speak as her telepathy grew. The new Omegan had persisted in her steadfast refusal to communicate in any other way, despite my warnings. I, as well as others, had many reasons to disallow any sort of telepathic communication. I knew I would have to deal with her later, but at the moment, my thoughts were on Grrbrool.

He hovered near the open hearth, alternately crouching and standing, the recent, familiar look of confusion and fear on his face. He sipped tea from an army-issue metal cup, such a mundane and heartbreaking thing to watch. It reminded me of how far from himself he still was. No one had been able to help him completely. Faye’Li had tried, even Rhaven; Dryl had sung to him. But the song wasn’t enough. He remained mute, only able to express himself through sad and bitter song.

I feared trying to reach out to him. The harm I’d done to him already weighed heavily upon me. I’d even sought traditional healers in an effort to avoid touching his essence. I’d visited the hospital to find medical assistance, but psychiatrists were few and far between in the City, and most would plainly benefit from receiving the services of their kind themselves. After seeing the painting, however, I knew that that the risk of touching him was one the Old Woman in the Walls wished me to take. It was an invitation, to a place about which I was greatly uncertain, but there was no mistaking who and what I’d seen upon the beach of the Summer Country’s shore. The Old Woman had told me more.

I turned away from the window and toward my Beloved, beginning to cascade warmth over his being, the image of a pup in the womb floating peacefully and securely, eager to be born in my mind. “I want to tell you about a place,” I whispered. “A place of pure love, a place where the Mother spent an age.”

Grr nodded slowly and swallowed, his eyes turning toward me as he set the cup on the floor beside him. “A world where all is peace, grace, and pleasure,” I continued gently. I walked closer to him, reaching out to wrap one arm about his waist, envisioning the pup born gently below warm waters.

Grr shuddered and lightly relaxed into my embrace. “There’s a blissful, crescent shaped island in an azure sea.” I spoke as if singing a lullaby, tendrils of essence enfolding him as the pup rose from the warm sea to a warm beach filled with delicious scents. Grr began swaying in the crook of my arm, relaxing, as I’d not seen him do in a long, long time.

“It’s a place you can't go to if you strive...” I whispered. Grr wrapped his arms around my back and waist, flattening his body to press against me, fur to flesh where exposed. “A place where your need takes you.” I leaned into him with my whole being, breathing in the scent of his fur, humming, envisioning the pup, a coyote pup, running along the shore...running up to the tree's edge, sniffing at each bright green plant.

“Hhh… rrr… how?” He stammered.

“When you accept the love of the Mother, Beloved,” I replied. “Accept her healing. I want to take you there.” And I did want to with every fiber of my being, although I didn’t know how. I am no planes-walker. I don’t know the outside over there, how to get to it or to come back. But the Old Woman had wanted me to offer this to him, and offer I did. I pulled back slightly to look deep in Grr's golden eyes. “I want to walk the path with you, Beloved.”

As he leaned his head over my shoulder, I felt a rumble from his throat. “We lay upon the hill that, lay beneath the Wolf Sky,” he sang. “I felt the dark, and with the thunder rolling, our howl preceded the storm…” he trailed off, burying his head softly against my neck.

I sang quietly back to him, “We lay within the bird hat lay beneath the Wolf Sky, we lay within its wing and we felt the bird within us….”

“And with the thunder rolling,” he replied, “We left the ground for the sky….” His mournful cadence broke off and he held me more tightly.

“And we will,” I whispered. “We will.” I pulled back again and looked at him deeply. “I’ll need your mirror, Beloved… if you want to go….”

“Always with the beloved crap,” a sharp voice interrupted. I stepped out of Grr’s embrace to see Ardere yawning and scowling slightly as she brushed snow off her shoulder with a curse under her breath. “So sappy.” The smirk on her face was evident as she stood flicking the razor sharp claws at the ends of her long, red fingers.

I shook my head, fearing the moment lost. “No, Ardere... please don't...."

“Please don’t what?” Ardere snickered loudly. “Wander where I can freely go?” Ardere arched a brow and tilted her head toward Grr. “Is that mongrel still spouting gibberish? I still stand by putting it down.” Grr had begun to look alarmed. He began patting himself, looking for his pouch.

“Tea…. ” Grr muttered, seemingly not understanding the danger at hand.

I stepped closer, sensing his alarm and realizing that his brief moment of lucidity was gone. I only hoped that Ardere wouldn’t make it worse. I shook my head at her again mouthing no.

“T-Tea…” Grr stammered. He began looking around the hearth, locating the metal cup he’d laid on the floor and picking it up with one paw.

Ardere grinned wider, quite pleased with unbalancing me. She winked and gave me a lascivious look, then blew a kiss. “Doesn’t matter, Joah,” she laughed. “Your sentimentality bores me.” She turned toward the door, her hips swaying. “Ta ta,” she wiggled her fingers in a mocking wave.

I turned back toward Grr, confused. “Tea?” I asked. I realized for the first time that his pouch… and the mirror… were missing.

Ardere stopped at the threshold of the door looking from Grr to me as he searched, cup in paw. She gazed at the place on his side where his pouch usually lay. “Maybe someone pinched it.... never know.... “ She laughed and left. I wouldn’t have put it past her to take it.

Grr nodded as she left, although I wasn’t sure to what. He held his muzzle closed as his ears flattened. He looked at me and pointed to the half empty, cooled tea in the metal mug, then drew close, dipped his paw into the tea and flicked it at my face. I startled at the wetness against my cheeks and began to exclaim surprise, when he redipped his paw and flicked the tea at the fire, where it sizzled for a moment.

Then the world fell away.

With thanks to Vera Brittain.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Painting in the Room of Lost Works

The peculiar thing was that I’d never seen the painting before. I’d been working for hours in the Library’s private collection, hidden away in the quiet, undoored room beside Omega’s office. I’d finished mending Cato’s Carmen de Moribus, puzzling over the incantations for the dead, when I happened to glance at the wall to my left. Next to the deep, burnished bookshelves there hung a small painting of what appeared to be an island.

I rose to examine it. As I drew closer, the details of each tiny image became clearer and more distinct. At first, it appeared to me to be a painting of a crescent-shaped island in a tranquil blue sea, lush tropic greenery visible just beyond the waters’ edge. As I drew near, however, so did the place before me. I could smell the tang of saltwater, feel a warm breeze drifting toward me. I shook my head as I felt a light spray of seawater on my face while I watched the gentle surf lap at the shore.

On the beach stood a golden creature, fur rippling in the breeze and glinting in the light of the morning sun. He bent to crouch over the waves, paws darting in and out as if fishing in the shallows. I stepped back a pace, wondering if this small painting was a gate to another place, but as I did so, the waves and the breeze ceased. The delicate painting of the island hung in stillness on the wall before me. I lifted one hand to touch its frame and noticed, for the first time, a signature I couldn’t quite make out beneath an elegant inscription: The Summer Country.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

What Would You Choose?

“I… hate snow,” Grrbrool growled, pacing in front of the Library’s hearth. Heading down the stairs I could see Grr’s fur glinting in the firelight, his tail swishing angrily. The snow fell in a gentle drift outside the windows, powdering the night air. Severus stood grim as usual, not a pace away from Grr. “It’s wrong,” Grr continued, “And not in December neither, it should be HOT now…” He dropped to a crouch.

I walked over to him and leaned down to kiss the top of his head, lingering a bit as my lips touched his fur. “You’re in the wrong hemisphere for that, Beloved,” I smiled wryly. I rose and began stroking Grr’s fur absently, watching Severus turn away with disgust, as he was wont to do at any display of physical affection. “Severus,” I said after a moment.

The Incubus scowled and turned away to stare out the window. “What….” he uttered flatly.

“You and I... share a bond we didn't share before.” I was trying to choose my words carefully, watching his every move for a reaction. Severus had returned from Hell lost in an illusion of torment, new wounds reinforcing his perception that Lucifer had not let him go. Many had tried to help him back, but none had succeeded except to restore his body somewhat.

I’d been reluctant to try to help him at all, given my past failures, but try I did. I’d done something I rarely do. I’d pulsed into him, into his very being… not entirely with his consent due to his incapacitated state… and I’d seen something. I’d learned something about him no one else knew.

Severus shrugged his broad shoulders. “We share nothing,” he said dismissively. “You have something of mine, just as Lucifer does... to control me.”

Grr nodded slowly, his face still confused and his memories of his days as a soldier coloring all his responses. “Rank gives control… chain of Command runs both ways.”

That I had, as Severus had put it – something that belonged him – was a shocking realization to me. In my efforts within his broken psyche, I’d seen what Lucifer had placed within him. To my knowledge, this was something only one Other had ever seen. But I’d also learned something about Severus that no one else knew: I’d discovered his true name within him and used it to call him forth. I’d found after having done so that this required him to obey me.

I looked on impassively, not responding to Severus’s barb. “I’m not Lucifer... and Grrbrool is correct.”

“Orders and my name work just as well,” Severus snorted derisively.

“Affirmative,” Grr replied, not understanding Severus’ meaning. “ Ta live is ta serve… and ta serve, is ta live.”

Severus narrowed his pale eyes. “Perhaps for you, were-creature. I have never had a choice in the matter.”

“Serve or die, learn or die, fight or die,” Grr continued. For a moment, he no longer seemed lost in his own world. “I ain’t immortal… not a real good choice.”

I continued to study Severus, my eyes running down the wounds at his back, lingering over his broken wings. “What if you were given the choice, Maker? What would you do with it?”

“I would die as i should have long ago,” Severus said quietly, lowering his shadowed and haunted eyes. “l... I would seek oblivion. There’s nothing for me here....”

“There is no death, Maker,” I said. “You know there’s no true ending... not in the sense that you seek. Or do you wish your spirit to wink into nothingness as well as your body?” I asked.

Grr looked thoughtful. “You could go ta Oblivion's edge…. It’s a place, just a hop and boop, off ya go…”

“Yes,” I nodded. “Or you could drink Meng-Po's five flavored tea...and forget… if that is what you truly desire.”

“I don’t wish to exist any longer,” Severus spat. “I have no true purpose aside from Lucifer's compelling... and forgetting won’t solve anything aside from making me a slave to desire again... no doubt Lucifer would be pleased if I forgot what I once was,” he muttered bitterly. He lifted his hand to the air and, without a word, opened a portal and stepped through, a loud cracking noise following him as the portal closed.

“He's bonkers too… “ Grr said sadly.