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.