Wednesday, January 28, 2009
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 her...day 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.”
“Rhaven...no 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.
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
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
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.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
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
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
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
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.