A Letter for Crows

A Letter for Crows

Postby catch » Sat Oct 05, 2019 6:06 am

The Letter is jammed in the door. It is not the way that a Letter is meant to be delivered. The writing is careful, blocky, filled with pits and errors of the hand if not in spelling. It is unaware that a boy has already discovered something gruesome.


I know that there was a Man that you loved who called himself Bertram.

He did not Love You.

There are Three Things. He could not Create or Destroy. What he could do was Change.

He could Ruin.

He could Change a Lonely Boy to give himself friends. He did not do this for altruistic needs. He did this to hurt.

You should not go and see him. He has been taken care of.

He will not Hurt you further.


User avatar
catch
Member
 
Posts: 678
Joined: Mon Aug 31, 2009 4:00 am

Re: A Letter for Crows

Postby Cherny » Sun Oct 06, 2019 7:56 am

Wedged between door and jamb the letter is a pale scrap caught and fluttering between wooden jaws, at the mercy of the autumn air. It is spotted by bead-bright eyes, carefully plucked free and carried to the youth's hand as a human thing, a curiosity, an item of interest. And perhaps, the crows hope, a distraction.

They find him not far from the lodge, where brambles and berry bushes cluster around a small clearing with a flat stone at its centre. He sits hunched with arms wrapped about his knees, huddled into a too-large coat still greasy with lampblack and dubbin that hides deeper stains, a shock of white fur at his collar and a mess of black hair above. Silent as he has been for days now, barely acknowledging the concerns of crows or rats or hounds, lost behind his own eyes.

The letter draws only a dull glance before he looks away again, the faintest shake of his head to signal his disinterest; the crow bearing the letter - Bone Button, hatched the spring before last, already earning a reputation for stubbornness - croaks impatiently and sets the scrap of paper down on the flat stone, working with beak and feet and clawed thumbs to unfold it, weighting the corners with twigs and pebbles. For a time sharp eyes inspect the marks and scratchings with an unseemly shrewdness before the crow feels confident in assembling shapes into sounds, the hoarse voice of a young boy speaking in stilted monotone.

"I - know - that - there - was - a - man - that - you - loved - who - called - him - self - bert - ram."

The youth's spine stiffens, his gasp sharp enough to give Button a moment's pause before forging on, encouraged by having prompted any kind of a reaction.

"He - did - not - love - you - there - are - three - "

The recital abruptly becomes a corvid shout of alarm and reproach as the letter is seized, snatched from beneath its reader's feet, the boy's lips moving silently continues the crow's task of deciphering the letters inexpertly scribed. A moment to feverishly check the back of the paper for more before he starts again, reading the message a half-dozen times through before he sits back, staring at nothing, the paper forgotten and crumpled in a fist clenched white.

* * *

An hour after, and the woods echo with the calls of crows; they move with purpose through the treetops in groups of two, each pair keeping a steady distance from the next, bead-bright eyes scouring the forest floor below.

Searching.
User avatar
Cherny
Founder
 
Posts: 373
Joined: Sat Nov 17, 2012 8:34 am

Re: A Letter for Crows

Postby catch » Fri Oct 11, 2019 4:15 am

There was no way to avoid the Crows.

He did not wish to. There was a sense that, perhaps, he should. But there was also an (amusing) thought that such an idea was futile. He did not know if he was meant to be amused, or frustrated, or angered by it.

So he did not move the way that he wished to move, save in the dead of night, when the moon was heavy and yellow and Sang, and Fionn wanted and he wanted. Night, when crows and boys must sleep, no matter how clever they were.

When they find him, he is sitting on a rotted log; it is not a clearing except for now, in Autumn, when the leaves begin to drift downwards. He is not dressed for the chill, never dressed for the chill, and his head his down.
User avatar
catch
Member
 
Posts: 678
Joined: Mon Aug 31, 2009 4:00 am

Re: A Letter for Crows

Postby Cherny » Fri Oct 11, 2019 5:29 am

He is a smudge of soot against the blaze of autumn, a black silhouette as he hastens through the woods; black leather boots, black iron hat, black mailshirt chiming beneath a dead man's coat. One hand grips a rune-carved spear, relic of bloodshed and deceit, for years kept tucked away in a dusty corner until today. Until now.

Scraps of black flutter and croak through the trees above him, and he corrects his path at their direction, though the crows around the clearing are quiet as the distant cries grow nearer. In the higher branches a pale shape perches, bone-white against the autumn sky, keeping watch with eyes like gold pennies.

The boy is running by the time he glimpses a pallid flash through the trees, ducking below branches and hopping over roots and stones, but slows before he draws close enough to hail the pale figure, breath clouding in short huffs before his face. He turns to inspect the woods around him, to either side and behind, a glance for the branches above before before treading a few cautious steps closer closer, a soft crunch of leaves beneath his boots.

"Ser C-catch?"

His voice is deeper than it once was, though still hoarse and harsh, still sticking and stuttering behind his teeth; taller than he was but by no means tall, not so much skinny as lean, still not all the way grown.

Quicker now, a brisk crackling of leaf litter as he closes the distance, and a moment later he is knelt at the madman's side, spear dropped against the rotted log and forgotten as he peers up at features half-veiled by silver curls before looking to the rest of him, searching.

"I'd n-not seen you for, for d-days. I was w-worried." A slender hand reaches for the young giant's own, a gesture of familiarity, reassurance.

"I'm glad you, you're s-safe."
User avatar
Cherny
Founder
 
Posts: 373
Joined: Sat Nov 17, 2012 8:34 am

Re: A Letter for Crows

Postby catch » Fri Oct 11, 2019 5:56 am

He didn't want this. But he's not sure what the alternatives would, should, could possibly have been. It's not as if he could have always avoided Eater. Like the Crows, the idea was a conflict of amusing, frustrated notions. He cannot hide. And he does not mean his Body, the heavy thing that sits on this log as the Crows silently gather

smart enough to gather silently; smart enough to whisper and plot


scarred thumb kneading into the meat of his palm, eyes desperate and distant and bright as they glare past the strings of his curls at some point beyond his toes. The pain of his too-hard press fights to keep the smell of the Coat out of his nose. It smelled of teak-slop and polish. Bertram's revenant clung to it, but it was Cherny's steps, Cherny's still-small hands seeking to stop his pain-inflicting own

and that was familiar. worry

"I waited here for you."

There was no stutter on his tongue.

His eyes refused to meet Eater's. That was familiar, at least.

"You don't have to worry."
User avatar
catch
Member
 
Posts: 678
Joined: Mon Aug 31, 2009 4:00 am

Re: A Letter for Crows

Postby Cherny » Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:33 am

How many years has he known Catch, has he hopped and darted about him, an attentive little shadow to the madman's silver fire? How often has he cared for him, seeing that he is fed and clothed, groomed and watered, his hurts tended and his troubles calmed?

Enough to know the man well, enough to pay more heed to his gestures than his words, enough to recognise those little signs of agitation and distress. Enough that he has learned a multitude of small things which might soothe them, might offer the madman an anchor in the storm of his own thoughts, might ground him in something real and draw him back out of his own head. This is something he can do, something upon which he can focus his attention and push aside recent horrors, at least for a time.

So it is that the boy's thin fingers touch Catch's own, tracing the creases of knuckles and the silvery lines of ancient scars. Firm enough to be noticed, but no more than that.

"I, I do, though." He does, and he must. "I sh-should've looked for you s-sooner. It, it's c-cold, and you've no w-winter coat, and you'll c-catch your-" A stumble. "a, a chill."

Quiet for a span of heartbeats, apparently intent on Catch's hands, before he speaks again.

"That w-wasn't true, what I s-said. I, I wasn't worried." Eyes downcast beneath the brim of his iron hat, struggling with his words. "I w-was frightened. I thought s-someone might, might've h-hurt you. Or, or w-worse."
User avatar
Cherny
Founder
 
Posts: 373
Joined: Sat Nov 17, 2012 8:34 am

Re: A Letter for Crows

Postby catch » Mon Oct 14, 2019 8:46 am

He wanted to laugh. The hysterics threatened, pitch-black and thick, like the awareness, the sanity, the words. Unbalanced. Easier when he was Nothing. Catch turns his hands, waiting until Cherny's natural tracing led to his palm, so that his fingers could close on the boy's - gently, very gently. Bird-thin bones.

"I didn't want you to go there." Eater may lie. He hadn't meant to lie, and he apologized for it, he had. Immediately corrected himself, because he is Eater, and he is nothing but Good.

Catch didn't have it in him to turn aside.

And Cherny wore the Coat.

"I'm safe, you're safe. We'll all be safe, soon."
User avatar
catch
Member
 
Posts: 678
Joined: Mon Aug 31, 2009 4:00 am

Re: A Letter for Crows

Postby Cherny » Mon Oct 14, 2019 11:43 am

The squire allows that touch, that grip, indeed welcomes it; a wordless sign that the man has not retreated, has not gone into his own head. It reassures for that reason and others, and brings some fleeting flicker of a smile to his face in gladness that this, at least, is familiar. He devotes himself to granting Catch a moment of something like comfort, and the giant, by his presence, repays it in kind.

Too soon, however, the moment passes, as this small measure of calm at last allows him a chance to notice the madman's words and how they are spoken.

A breath half-drawn, perhaps to offer some amiable agreement, paused in his throat.

Thin hands, an instant earlier in soothing motion, fallen still against silver-scarred skin.

A span of quickened heartbeats in which the boy's eyes widen and blink beneath the brim of his iron hat, before reflexes learned through the Lady's Summer assert themselves in placid features and gentle voice.

"Go w-where, Catch?"
User avatar
Cherny
Founder
 
Posts: 373
Joined: Sat Nov 17, 2012 8:34 am

Re: A Letter for Crows

Postby catch » Thu Oct 31, 2019 3:52 am

He doesn't miss it. What carefulness Cherny has attempted.

He may have, before, but he does not now. He doesn't have the luxury of Forgetfulness. He can parse through the Memories, can shudder at the subtle molasses in Glenn's throat, the machinations, the sweetness of cakes on his tongue, his ears, his eyes, drowning him, drowning, the rotten, pus-filled honeycomb of Rhaena pressing in, and in, her fingers on his spine, Faeryl to Fear, Treadwell to Saccharine Sweetness.

He was no longer afraid of Treadwell - memories still plucked - but the loops created by Rhaena still held, and he was briefly caught in the tracks of them, a moment taken until enough rage allowed him to break free.

"Do not do that," he chokes, low and incredibly dangerous. Placid. Placid. Careful words between them. How dare Cherny? As if He were Rhaena, Ruinous, as if he were anything but Gentle and Honest with his Cherny, his little Eater.

His hand shakes, but it never tightens on Cherny's. It never would, never, never, never. No matter the slight.

"Where you got that Coat."
User avatar
catch
Member
 
Posts: 678
Joined: Mon Aug 31, 2009 4:00 am

Re: A Letter for Crows

Postby Cherny » Thu Oct 31, 2019 5:39 am

Perhaps there had been hints before now, clues and indications which he'd missed in his relief at finding Catch safe and whole, the creaks and cracks of too-thin ice beneath his feet overlooked until he took the briefest moment to pause, to think.

Strong hands, strong enough to make a red wreckage of the woodsman's hut, of the woodsman, to rend flesh and bone in ways that blades or teeth would not.

He could Ruin.

A bloody trail away from the scene, the sickly sheen of oil on water.

Where you got that Coat.

An abrupt and vertiginous drop into cold that shocks and engulfs, that robs sense and feeling, that drives the air from his lungs in a croaking sob, that has his fingers tightening upon Catch's own.

It is a span of moments before he eventually draws shuddering breath, and then another, and then a third.

"Y-y-you were, w-were th-th-there."

The Words buzz and whine behind his teeth, and he must pause, must clench his thin jaw and swallow them back like bile. Must be sure of that, at least, before he can look up, red-rimmed gaze finally fixing upon his friend's features, seeking his eyes.

"W-what did you f-find there?"

No accusation, but scrabbling for whatever scrap of hope might remain, reaching, pleading for an explanation, a reason to believe anything else, anything but that. Something which might make sense of the senseless.
User avatar
Cherny
Founder
 
Posts: 373
Joined: Sat Nov 17, 2012 8:34 am

Re: A Letter for Crows

Postby catch » Thu Oct 31, 2019 6:00 am

Catch had given Cherny those words.

At the time, he had not been able to bear to see the boy without them. Words had been... so important. So needful. Catch could not imagine living without them, even as he was trapped in his head.

Cherny's touch, his fingers, were an insistent buzz. Catch welcomed the way they tightened, the way they even began to hurt, a little. It was Good. Strong talons made hard through work, through practice with the Sword against his little dogs.

"Mine uncle." Words, words, they come archaic from his throat, older in their hate. Catch lifts his hand, and he grips at the Coat, the roughness of it, sour with coal and polish, the Wolf's skin a hatred; this, he could grip, this, he could grip roughly, without injuring the little boy underneath. Little boy. He was a man, now.

What did you find there.

He knows what Cherny found there.

"He did this to me, Eater." Cherny sought his eyes, but - as ever - Catch's eyes refused. "I will never tell thee sour, so. He took Men and he put them on me, and they tore It from mine head, and Took me to pieces, and I - I ruined Him as he Ruined me and Thee. Eater, Cherny, Boy, Vrana -"

Reverent, and - even this close - his eyes every moving, unable to meet, unable to stay still, his hand caught by Cherny's, his other gripping the wolf's fur of the Coat - dragging the boy's neck, pulling him close, so that ruined brow may rest against the tin-pot of makeshift helm, may push it back so that skin may meet skin. His eyes, though never shall they meet, are too large - too large - full of stars, full of moons, full of far too Many Other Eyes, Mouths, Feathers, Names -

" - krage, kraai, varis, wrona - Eater, Eater, look at you. He has ruined you, too."
User avatar
catch
Member
 
Posts: 678
Joined: Mon Aug 31, 2009 4:00 am

Re: A Letter for Crows

Postby Cherny » Thu Oct 31, 2019 7:27 am

Limbs still cold and heavy, numbed, the madman's words come to him as through water, blurred and muffled, and he must struggle to hear over the rushing in his ears, heart flapping against the cage of his ribs.

A story he's heard before in pieces and scraps, as woeful sobs and febrile raging, and here at last the culprit named, accused, condemned. It is hard to think, to listen, to understand, to hold from falling into eyes like noon and midnight, to resist those wide and teeming skies.

Catch's skin is feverish against his brow, his paw fierce upon his collar, and it is an effort for the youth to shake his head so faintly as his dark eyes well and spill.

"I, I'm n-not ruined." His voice a hoarse and croaking whisper, but thin features are earnest, emphatic, and the hand not held in Catch's grasp lifts to the giant's face, threading through silver curls along his jaw.

"H-he was only ever k-kind. He w-was alone so, so I'd v-visit and t-talk and drink t-tea and he, he'd l-laugh. He'd never have h-hurt me. He--" His eyes lower, close, squeezed tight with loss too fresh and raw, a moment to steady his breath.

"He w-was my, my friend."

The word is a heavy bell, sonorous with years of all the trust and affection to be found in the boy's heart, and the memory of it hangs in the air for moments after it has left his lips.

"I d-didn't know." Scarcely more than breathed.

"I didn't know." Stronger, a rasping hiss. His eyes are open now, locked on the madman's own for all that they rove and stray, bright with anger and betrayal and conviction.

"I d-didn't kn-know he, he h-hurt you. But you, you w-were never ruined, Catch. Not t-to me."
User avatar
Cherny
Founder
 
Posts: 373
Joined: Sat Nov 17, 2012 8:34 am

Re: A Letter for Crows

Postby catch » Tue Nov 05, 2019 6:45 am

This was Good.

Cherny was Good. It was not like Fionnuala, all Heat and Want and Desire, and the fault (there was never any Fault) was not hers, never hers, but it's just how she was. It was how she was, and how He was.

Cherny was cool. He was feather-soft. He was a breeze between the fingers, fingers that were tight in their abuse of the wolf's fur of the Coat the boy had appropriated. A beloved item for Eater. An acceptable target for Catch.

"Your rats," Catch says, giving the Coat a little shake. He could tell himself that he shook the Coat, and not the Boy. Still, gentle, gentle. He must be Gentle. "Your dogs. Your crebain. Eater. Do you know what you are, now?"

Eater's eyes spill. He sees this, and now her certainly cannot meet the boy's eyes. He did this. Catch turns his head, removes it, presses his nose, his eyes, against the crook of his arm.

"He didn't care." Muffled words. "He wasn't alone. He doesn't - he never felt things like that. It was you who felt alone. He was watching me, and he saw you, and he Changed you."
User avatar
catch
Member
 
Posts: 678
Joined: Mon Aug 31, 2009 4:00 am

Re: A Letter for Crows

Postby Cherny » Tue Nov 05, 2019 9:28 am

There is comfort in these little touches, a gentle fussing as he idly combs the man's curls with his fingertips, tucking a stray lock behind his ear, a constant wordless reminder that he is present, that he is attentive. Soothing for the squire as well, warming his fingertips against Catch's scalp, taking some measure of satisfaction in a small chaos tamed.

He listens, though, watching the giant's features for all that he turns to hide them, hungry to know more, to understand how he might have been so wrong, so wronged. A small shake of his head at that half-rhetorical question - he might have attempted an answer, once, might have suspected it a test in some other place with some other teacher - and a frown as he thinks on the madman's explanation.

"I'm s-still, still me." An edge of boyish stubbornness in his voice there, a denial of Change, or at least whatever baleful version Catch believes it to be. A perhaps deliberate skipping past the other matter, of rats and dogs and crows.

"I, I'm still your f-friend. He c-couldn't change th-that. No, no-one could."
User avatar
Cherny
Founder
 
Posts: 373
Joined: Sat Nov 17, 2012 8:34 am

Re: A Letter for Crows

Postby catch » Sat Nov 09, 2019 10:49 am

A pause, a long one. Because what Eater says, both things, is true. The Change has been so long in him that it has always been part of him. An awkward, little boy with gentle hands, feeding the Murders in the Wood and the Mischiefs in the Dagger's barns, until they grew, and multiplied, and succeeded over the others -

- until they learned their letters -

- until a small litter of rescued pups gripped pens and tools and clumsily learn the Knightly Arts -


"I couldn't ever hate you, Eater," Catch says, soothed yet still trembling under the boy's touch. He sounds saddened, but there is an edge of some sort of untrammeled, fierce joy. Becayse Eater doesn't hate him. because Eater is his friend.

"We are equals, now. And I could not st-stand you hating me forevermore." There is only a hint of his old stutter at the voiced thought.
User avatar
catch
Member
 
Posts: 678
Joined: Mon Aug 31, 2009 4:00 am

Next

Return to Myrken Wood



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests