Feathers

Feathers

Postby Glenn » Fri Feb 19, 2021 1:35 pm

"Eat the cake." A rum cake. Curt words between good friends, or from one friend to another, but attached to a gift. Gifts had special significance in the raven's culture, or at least the culture he was attached to. It softened the blow through its existence (or in this case, it's freshness and the meaning associated with that) alone (not alone as it was three things in one).

Burnie wrote:

I have been barred from writing her in return, not that I consider her enough in her right mind that her every wish must be respected and regarded, not that I ever would for every wish in the first place, for she can be a fickle and tempestuous thing, and know you well that I do not automatically think all women thus; while categorization is the greatest tool we have, misconceptions and simplifications, especially the more insulting sort, only blind us to more important truths. Having been barred, I could simply speak to Benedict, for he is here, but not all thoughts are best spoken, to him or anyone else. Some are best meant for the page. If not to her, then I write to posterity and to organize my thoughts; not for the sake of it, for nothing should be done for its own sake.

I will be sufficiently judicious in what I write and what I speak. Know then, she who is not to see this, that I have spent the last many months recovering, not from any physical ailment, but from a reputational one. I would not be accepted freely given my past actions, but Gloria made it more difficult than it ought to have been considering my rather meager aims. Best not to give her too much credit. The cruel coincidence of the time of my arrival back home to Myrken did the most harm. I return, things happen. You would think that they would realize even I would not have had time to orchestrate such happenings, but when the actual happenings of the day, the truth of the day, are contested due to the nature of glamourie and the limits of our own human perceptions in the face of the implausible, mere coincidences seem like perfectly sound explanations. To those lacking imagination or experience, they make more sense than most truer options. They are easy answers and there is nothing that dooms humanity, save short-shortsightedness, than the intellectual laziness that goes along with easy answers. On to Benedict then.


The words came quickly, without warning if the bird was focused upon the cake. If he was keeping one eye on Burnie, then he would have been at least partially prepared. "Catch frustrates me. I've figured out why. I've had time to figure out why. He, unlike Gloria Wynsee, unlike your Lady, unlike a good third of the populace of Myrken Wood, knew me before. Moreover, unlike that third, he understands what happened. He understands what I went through. He understands what I was facing. He understand why I changed. Yet, now, on the other side of it all, years on the other side, on the other side through, in part, his own indirect and misguided (misaimed would be a better word) action, he shows me no such regard, no consideration for who I had been and who I may now be. At first, I thought it was because he does not feel I am truly recovered," this said with a tone of wistfulness, with body language which can only be observed as fatigued, seemed just a bit older than the raven had known him, "but instead because it doesn't matter and it will never matter. His experience in humanity notes the fact I fell in the first place, no matter how much fault of it was mine or other parties'. The disappointment he wears is due to that original failure. His resentment is for himself for loving me despite it. When redemption is impossible, when the very hope of it engenders a self-loathing in the party that would offer it, it makes it very difficult. It makes it all very difficult, Benedict."
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Re: Feathers

Postby Niabh » Sat Feb 20, 2021 4:24 am

Of course the raven kept an eye on Glenn. It didn’t pay not to. The other eye was trained to his cake, which he devoured as messily as if he hadn’t eaten in months—hopping up to attack it, hopping away, shaking his head and scattering crumbs. Bugs, berries, and carrion had their own savory charms, but carrion was not cake.

He also kept at least one ear on him. The dry, eager scratch of nib on paper sounded like a rodent gnawing—nibble-nibble-nibble, excited, as if Glenn couldn’t wait to scribble down whatever asinine thought had just popped into his head, as if he might burst if he couldn’t get it out fast enough. He was used to that sound from the lady, except he could always tell a bit about what she was writing from the quality of the scratching. When she was pleased, it was smooth and steady, reminding him of the way she hummed while she was busy. When it was short, sharp bursts with long silences between, she was thoughtful. Sometimes she would scribble away furiously for minutes, leaning so far forward that her brow almost brushed the paper, then give a decisive jab to the end of a line and ease back, smiling. Usually a little while after those ones, she stood up and shook out her hand, and the raven would check the weather and mentally map out his route. He couldn’t guess Glenn, though.

“Or maybe it’s because you talk over people,” the raven grumbled. “She sent me here to find out what’s going on with you and you just wasted half a day’s breath tellin’ me what’s going with the Big Guy, who you haven’t even looked at in months. Pretty convenient, if you ask me.”

The rum cake in ruins, he backed away enough to cock his head at Glenn.

“You know why I always forgive the lady when she does dumb shit? Because she doesn’t try to tell me it’s my own fault I’m pissed, or that I’m not really pissed at her, I’m really pissed at myself, or that I can’t be pissed at her because reasons. You can’t reason your way out of feelings, man. You especially can’t reason your way out of someone else’s feelings. Bringing reason to a feelings fight is like bringin’ a chessboard to a craps table. You can play the best damn game in the world but you’ll never win because it’s the wrong game.”
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Re: Feathers

Postby Glenn » Sun Feb 21, 2021 8:45 am

"Then I suppose it's a good thing," Burnie's tone, his body language, his gaze even, would be best descried as lazy, which was feigned, of course, as he was many things but never that, "that I've done nothing to offend you and don't need your forgiveness." That said and the moment stalled, he went back to his writing.

There's little benefit in arguing this with Benedict, but he is of course wrong [about reason being useless when it comes to emotions, that being a paraphrase]. Reason is an exceptional tool as it always is. The difference in this case is you cannot expect reason from the emotional party. So long as you are not in immediate danger (which is not always the case in dealings with Catch), you can start with the most reasonable possibility and then use your own reason to categorize all other possibilities. In my experience, I have rarely encountered a madness that is truly random or chaotic. Almost always, the party we consider to be mad is working with a mindset that is twisted and askew but still entirely consistent and reasonable. It is the basic perception of reality that are erroneous. Perception again, and why glamourie is so dangerous. A Tuatha of moderate skill could make anyone seem like a madman. With enough effort, she could make someone see themself as a madman. Either scenario is enough for madness to be assumed. Even so, once the basic tenets of the party's perception of reality can be surmised, his individual, and entirely reasonable, emotional state can be surmised as well. So, of course, Benedict is wrong. Also not endlessly patient, I'm afraid to write.

Burnie therefore turned back to his friend with a soft shake of his head. "Also, it wounds me if you truly think I couldn't win a craps game with a chessboard." Satisfied with both the banter and of his own ability to do just that, he continued. "You wouldn't have left her side if you didn't think she was safe. If ordered, you still might leave even if you didn't think she was sound. What about you? How have the months treated you? It's not been winter for you at all, has it?"
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Re: Feathers

Postby Niabh » Sun Feb 21, 2021 9:22 am

The raven didn’t answer at first; he was still scratching for stray cake crumbs, pointedly not looking at Glenn. He carried on guzzling while he spoke. “This is my life now. Traveling between the irresistible force that is her and the immovable lump that is you.”

Eventually, much as he tried to fake it, he ran out of crumbs and had to address the man directly. Though his expression remained the same, he managed to convey weariness. “It’s winter everywhere, in case you ain’t stuck your head out there long enough to notice. It’s winter more places than here. I been back home. You know, the way you do when you think someone might care if their queen’s gone off her damn nut.”
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Re: Feathers

Postby Glenn » Mon Feb 22, 2021 5:23 am

"If she's a force, then I should at least get to be an object and not a lump. I think it's more accurate if she's the irresistible nag. Not hag, nag, as, unfortunately, you're all too possible to resist." Sometimes the words did outpace any sense of conversational etiquette, even if not necessarily Burnie's brain. Sometimes his brain outpaced the social norms as well; that was the larger problem.

This time, however, it wasn't just to stall. Burnie put down his quill and looked the bird dead on. "I tried that once, when she wasn't well. I tried to write home. Her bard was less than helpful." This was said deadpan, with no wrath or ire, but with certainty. He warmed just a little with his next words. "When it's winter here, it's winter there?" That last bit was an warmer aside, as he'd never thought to ask. Contemptuous communication with her homeland hardly mattered relative to contemptuous communication between Razasan and Myrken. Some people, when dismissing a question as curious but not entirely important, might indicate said dismissal. Burnie just asked another question. "What do they intend to do, then?"
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Re: Feathers

Postby Niabh » Mon Feb 22, 2021 6:30 am

“A lump’s an object,” the raven pointed out. “You know. Like the one you got balanced on top of your neck.” Adversarial banter made for a good ice-breaker. He wasn’t trying to score any points off Glenn, but it helped lighten the mood. The gods knew there was little enough to banter about.

“I dunno what the plan is. I didn’t go to the bard; I went to His Lordship. He was…well, alarmed’s a good enough word for it. Lady Meg ended up getting in on it. Meg never wanted to send her off alone to begin with. She’s all for haulin’ her back home this minute and damn the consequences, only even if they could, they can’t, since no one’s gettin’ out of there until it thaws. That’ll be nearly summer here, plus how long it would take to even get here. Lady Meg sounded about ready to strap on some snowshoes and walk here like it’s the Crossing.”

He turned sober. “I’m afraid that's what might happen. Maybe they won’t send anyone to fetch her back with things like they are, but they might send folks here to take care of her. I don’t think they’d set up Court out there or nothin’ but there’d be enough folks to raise some hackles. His Lordship were bantering about the logistics. I tried to tell him, now is not a good time for the tultharian to find out the Tuatha have set up camp right outside of town, but it’s on the table. Far’s I know it might be a bard, some foot, maybe Lady Meg. The good news is whoever they send, it wouldn’t be him, since there’s only two Nialls and one of them’s got to stay on the land. But the other thing is one of the old left-handers called the clan out right before Midwinter, and they think the High Queen in back of it. There’s gonner be a battle in spring, if not an outright war. Lady goes back right now, she’ll be right at the front of it. I told ’em, I don’t know if she’s in any shape for that right now. If I need to back up and explain any of this, let me know. Just remember I’m a raven, not a military tactician.”

His wingtips sagged guiltily to the tabletop. “She knows about all of this except for the bit about Lady Meg, so if you write to her after all, don’t mention that part. She doesn’t want them here. She’d rather go back.”
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Re: Feathers

Postby Glenn » Mon Feb 22, 2021 6:58 am

That was a lot of politics all at once, and, as such, the death of banter. It was more of current, or near-current, events than she'd usually tell him. Older stories were well and good. General political atmosphere was useful in building understanding, but even the notion that there were two Nialls and one had to be there all the time was brand new information, let alone specific battle logistics. "Someone will have to contest with Catch, either those who come to get her or those who end up with her if she decides to leave. That'd upturn the battlefield, I imagine."

His imagination was running quite wild at that. Fingers wanted to reach for quill and ink and jot down what he thought a full out war might look like. Humans had their iron and the tuatha their glamourie and the different styles of battle likely followed accordingly. It was always tempting to see iron thusly, as symbolic, but there need not be anything symbolic about a poison that acts so directly.

"That sort of escalation would be looked at unfavorably. I doubt they'd be subtle about it, looking after their beloved own, though there's more chance of subtlety with someone other than him, I suppose," and really, this wasn't the time to express Burnie's own feelings about her 'father,' and in the similarities she saw between the two men. "I'd like to meet Meg, though, here, not there, so if that came to be, it'd be as welcome as any other possibility. Be it her bard, I'd lock her in a room with Gloria Wynsee and throw away the key. We'd come out of it with one less problem one way or the other."
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Re: Feathers

Postby Niabh » Mon Feb 22, 2021 7:34 am

At that, the raven glanced up quickly. He began a small anxious two-step, foot to foot, swaying side to side. “Crap. I didn’t even think about the big guy. You really think he’d put up a fight if they came for her? I mean, if they just showed up and snatched her, sure, but not if she wanted to go.”

He wasn’t quite fibbing. He had thought of the big guy, just not in the terms of opposition. Mostly he’d wondered how much of a problem it might be if the Lady didn’t want to leave him, not if Catch decided he didn’t want her to go.

Glenn’s fingers were twitching. It made the raven want to snatch that quill right out of reach, maybe snap it.

“Whatever shape she’s in, Glenn, she’s still Queen. They’d obey her. I don’t think she’s far enough gone to turn ’em on Myrken. If she tells them to lie low, they’ll lie low. I mean, she’s been here for years and up until this whole thing with Gloria, no one ever thought to look for her. They might be able to keep their heads down. I just don’t know what the endgame would be from there.” Having Myrken find out that a delegation of Tuatha was hiding out in the Woods was one thing; finding out that they’d been hiding out there after they’d been there for months or gods-save-us years…that just looked suspicious. “It couldn’t be indefinite, that’s for sure.”

He contained a sound extremely like a chortle at the thought of Gloria and a bard—especially a tough old bird like Ainrid—stuck in a room together. “Yeah, well, Gloria gets what’s comin’ to her, I guess. But the Lady’s not gonner want Lady Meg anywhere near this place. That’s why I said don’t even mention it to her. I think she’d just leave rather than lettin’ Meg come here.”
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Re: Feathers

Postby Glenn » Mon Feb 22, 2021 9:11 am

"I think misunderstandings can happen very easily when ancient powers, and egos, and desires, and that wizened sense of entitlement all crash into one another," which was said with a very careful look, using very specific words, so that the bird might not lump Glenn into that described morass. He was aware, defiant but aware, and the bird did not have permission, though whether that would stop him was anyone's guess.

Burnie's snort came earlier than Benedict's. "So they'll obey her if she's not in her right mind? Or they'll be the ones to decide she's not in her right mind and not obey her? There's a difference between a mental connection and the sharing of glamourie. One deals in truth and the other in the mere expression of it. She's not the woman that she was. She wasn't the woman that she had been even before this last bit of chaos. Would they have thought her sane and well before? Would they have listened to her before?" It worked both ways. If she spoke madness, would they heed it as truth?

This was an engaging enough topic that he regarded the bird entirely and the page not at all. In fact, so engaged was he that he wanted nothing more than to stare the raven down. Instead, he looked just past him, steady and intent but not as threatening as he could be. "I think myself what's best for her right now. I'm sure Catch feels the same. You think what's best is for her people to come to her. She is only beginning to think of these questions herself. Her eyes are half open but the world will not wait for her to shake off the dew. Benedict, I think the best choice now is for you to go back to her and try to see what she might want. Whatever happens next, let us at least be informed by what she, with as clear a gaze as possible, wants for herself."
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Re: Feathers

Postby Niabh » Mon Feb 22, 2021 9:36 am

The raven overcame his natural aversion enough to give Glenn a steely, pointed glare. “This is Clann Niall we’re talkin’ about. They have a standing tradition of following mad queens.” This felt disloyal. He shuffled uncomfortably and his gaze fell away. “Anyway, that’s what the bard’s for. If she’s fallen apart, the bard can pull her back together.”

What he didn’t add, what he didn’t quite dare think, was if she still wants to be pulled back together. Maybe a bard could jam those pieces together and make them stick. He’d never known what it was exactly the baird did, or how much they could do. Deep down he didn’t believe the lady was so far gone that the best that could be done was glue the shell together with all the cracks showing. Maybe he didn’t want to believe it, or maybe it was true. What he did believe was the Lady had a powerful motivation for staying the way she was now: being mad had won her Catch. Maybe the big guy was a whole other sort of problem than the one Glenn proposed.

Faltering, he added, in a near-pathetic defense, “She’s still her in there. I’ve seen her. She’s still got that laugh.”

The direct gaze only lasted so long. He fluffed himself out, then shivered himself smooth again. As if to counteract for looking, his head darted in every direction except the one pointing toward Glenn. “Look, she sent me here to find out how you were doing, if you needed anything. Give me something to tell her to shut her up. Make something up if you want.”
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Re: Feathers

Postby Glenn » Mon Feb 22, 2021 10:11 am

"If it's any help," and this felt, if not disloyal, than unfair, a notion that almost brought forth another snort. It was okay to talk about the woman when she wasn't there but not okay to speak of her words? "there's enough in the letter to let me see some promise in it all," and maybe that, and that alone, was what provided him with the ability (given his own deep limitations) to suggest a path forward that led with finding out what she wanted for herself.

Speaking of words, now he was tasked with them. What sort of obfuscation could he craft for her that she would be satisfied with, would be charmed with, would cherish and resent all at once. "Tell her that my people have passed me by but not so much so that I would take hers over my own. Tell her that I've passed them by but not so much that I've given up on them. Tell her that it has been more slow months in a period of slow years, when things should have somehow been better upon my return. I am disappointed but not undaunted and kept busy. Tell her I'm lonely, but more for your company than hers and enjoy the look on her face. Tell her what else you've witnessed." That last bit was with a dismissive wave for he knew the bird would anyway.

"But most of all, find out her preferences for herself."
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Re: Feathers

Postby Glenn » Wed Feb 24, 2021 6:07 am

The bird returned carrying another letter in hand, beak, claw. This was read quickly, quickly enough that Benedict had little time to even begin the rumcake. "My failing, above all others, is hypocrisy. Double-standards. Not with your queen though, funnily enough." At that, teetering upon the precipice between amusement and bemusement, Glenn shook his head lightly and sat back down.

Ink to parchment as he let the bird eat and watch him once more.

It comes back to Catch. Given her words and given what I have learned, how can it not. It is the nature of sentient creatures, not humans, sentient creatures, though perhaps in this I would put a limit on my definition of sentience... Being long-lived is one thing. Being a god is another. That's no real good, though, is it, as we have to stop and define what a god is. Unending, as opposed to long-lived. Omniscient, as opposed to sentient. Perhaps not all knowing, but with a consciousness that spans, either space or time. Power to shape reality. There may be rules to this power, rules to the omniscience, limitations or conditions, but it still is a point of differentiation between those mortal creatures, the sentient creatures I began with.

So then, it is the nature of sentient creatures to wish to be part of something bigger, to wish for the world to make sense, and so often they quell this wish through religion, through the worship and empowerment of gods and their mortal agents. They give up their own agency for a taste of this glory and clarity and straightforwardness. It is a circular exchange, as the god demands certain beliefs and those beliefs then constrain the god. That is what has happened here, I'm sure. Communion is the word for it. She sits in communion with Catch. Normally, one mortal would not be enough to hold a god's full attention, but she is not the standard mortal. She is a power of her own, could well be a demigod if she so desired it. She is a queen. I imagine it is a loop then. He provides her with a conduit to the more primal state of the universe. She provides a certain level of worship and adoration that he can feed upon. She is at peace. He is sated. Ultimately, they fall deeper and deeper into repose. Eventually, though, over a span of years that is almost certainly greater than my lifetime and the lifetime of the grandchildren I am not to have, she is used up, and he will be forced to put her aside and seek other sustenance. In the meantime, it looks well enough like sweet and dewy-eyed love and protection.


"I'm sure you'd rather come up with others, but you'd be wrong," He spoke suddenly, rose suddenly, turned back to Benedict suddenly, but he had faith enough in the raven's ability not to fall to a surprised doom and of its self-restraint in not rushing forth to peck his eyes out. "I refused to think of Rhaena as magic. I refused to see Catch as a god. More the fool, I. I see the queen for most of what she is, not as much as you would like, but then I don't think you always give her enough credit either. Whatever she will one day be, she is not entirely so yet, not now and not here. But know this," He reached back to hold up her letter to him, "when I read these words, I think it very unlikely she will ever be allowed to become that Queen. Do I yet have leave to write back to her, Benedict?"
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Re: Feathers

Postby Niabh » Wed Feb 24, 2021 8:00 am

Benedict didn’t even inspect the rum cake. It perfumed a little dome around itself, but it might as well have been a block of wood. In general, the raven didn’t quite understand the concept of hunger as anything more than opportunity: if there was food, he ate it; if there was more food a little later, he ate that, and if there was no food, food didn’t even cross what passed for his mind. To have food and not eat it meant you were ill, possibly even near death, but he felt fine. Just annoyed. It said something that Glenn could be aggravating to a level that overcame innate instinct.

“She hasn’t said anything,” the raven replied. “I told her what you said and she shrugged and went along her merry way. No, because shrugging implies she expressed an opinion about it. Not even a shrug. Like when I told her I’d been to His Lordship, I figgered she usually has several strong opinions about him, but if she hadn’t turned around to look at me, you wouldn’t even know she noticed I was there.”

Instinct overcame inertia. A broken corner of the cake dangled temptingly close to tumbling onto the desk, practically begging for its own demise. His beak lunged forward like a coup de grâce to put the damn thing out of its misery.

Fortunately he could still talk while masticating. “Don’t do this to me, wanker. Make these dire proclamations and then just leave it. What did she write that would make you think a thing like that?” Not that he thought Glenn was the be-all, end-all of insight to the lady. But he was curious, and in all frankness, he would have listened to anything that started to make sense of all this.
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Re: Feathers

Postby Glenn » Thu Feb 25, 2021 7:53 am

Up, down, up, and down again. This time it was to sit, to look at the letter once more. Rarely had the bird ever seen him need to read a letter once more before answering, but for one reason or another, he decided there was a need now. "I wasn't writing back to her, obviously. I didn't yet have leave." He leaned back then in his chair, lolling his head back as well so that his eyes were looking straight up. He spoke to his friend or the ceiling or to the barred sky behind it. "I'd tell you that I do not fully trust my instincts in this matter but you have no one else so you will have to be satisfied with me and with them. She asks for help. I think she asks for help. By this, I do not mean she wishes me to sweep in and carry her away; she certainly doesn't mean for me to confront Catch. What then?"

He shifted the chair about so that he was at least half facing the raven, though his head was tilted sideways and his eyes were shut. At least he was projecting the voice in the right direction. He was alert, not feigning sleep, just shutting out all other stimuli as he spoke. "This is important. I need you to understand, Benedict. Whatever it is her people do to communicate, it's not this. It's not words on a page. It's not letters with permanence. Their very idea of permanence is different, shakier, a story retold and made better with each telling. Their truth is a fluid thing. This pins it down. She's told me how strange it was to her, how offputting. Now though, it is, I think, a saving grace. It lets her find herself in the endless mist of Catch's presence. It lets her decide who she is to be instead of he deciding for her or comforting so much that she sees no reason to be anyone at all. It lets her declare some independence. It is wholly hidden from him and through it, she can decide upon a path. She's not done so yet. She's merely decided that she needs to decide, that she cannot stay in this state forever."

He let out a long exhale through his nose. "This is new. I can't look at past experience to make a decision, only to provide myself context. I think, however, given the difference between her first letter and her second, it is the third letter that I should be replying to. It'll be to me to help her find the strength within herself to jump free. It's on you to find her a welcome and safe place to land if she does."
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Re: Feathers

Postby Niabh » Fri Feb 26, 2021 5:17 am

From his perch atop a chair’s back, the raven bobbed upward when Glenn stood, downward when he sat, like a black barometer. These days the weather was pretty fickle. He never knew what he was flying into. The wanker, if anything, was a small pocket of low pressure, but a fairly predictable one. Just now he was doing his I-and-only-I-can-solve-this-predicament voice, even as he admitted uncertainty. Normally this would drive Benedict batty, but in this case, sadly, he might be right due to sheer lack of other options. And in case the raven hadn’t already reached this conclusion himself, Glenn helpfully reminded him.

“Yeah, but between the two of us, only one of us can cosh her over the head and lock her in a wardrobe until she comes to her senses, if it comes to that,” the raven grumbled. “And only half of that’s a matter of you bein’ bigger’n me.” What it came down to was that, like it or not, Benedict was a servant and Glenn had wriggled his way into something between an equal and a rival. She might fight tooth and nail not to agree with a thing the wanker said, but she held him in enough regard to let him say it.

Then again, Glenn liked to assume people were asking for his help when they weren’t. Dammit, he wished he could just read.

“Part of the problem is even if she left, I don’t know where she’d go. Town would be bad. Even if there wasn’t a chance Gloria’s still lookin’ for her, she hates it here.” That sounded petty. “Hates beyond just a matter of personal preference, I mean. You saw her back in the city. I’d like it if she just cleared out of Myrken, period.” He blurted that out like a dead rat he’d dropped at Glenn’s feet, letting the opinion stink up the place. “She doesn’t need to be in this town anymore, or anywhere near those Woods.”

Anywhere near tultharian, was what he wanted to say. Even if Glenn was included in that number. Hell, especially if he were. He wouldn’t go as far as to say that tultharian were at the root of all this trouble, but he couldn’t think of any situation where some distance from them wouldn’t improve matters.

“Except I don’t know if she can even do that now because to get somewhere, you have to know where the hell you are and I don’t think she does anymore. Something happened in those Woods, Glenn. Even before the fire. And I don’t know what it was but I think it’s got more to do with Gloria than with Catch.”
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