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