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.