Feathers

Re: Feathers

Postby Niabh » Tue Mar 16, 2021 2:19 pm

Ordinarily she took her coffee with enough honey to stand a spoon in it. Tonight it was a luxury all by itself. She held it under her nose and breathed deep. Earthy and velvety. Aromas were comforting; they helped keep her in one spot.

“When you forget what you are under the glam, the glam becomes what you are.” Looking thoughtful, she blew across the oily surface, then took a sip. “You are always trying to forget. ’Tis why you keep the ring.” Another lingering sip. She licked her lips. “Mm. I do wonder, though. There is a boy back home. Gerraid A’Belfeirst. You remind me of him, a bit. One of those fellows who’s right in the middle of everything. Picked first at every game, Long Patrol, hunting, herding, all of it. The trouble is he’s quite as good as he says he is, only he’ll never stop telling you about it.”

Her voice became sharper, with a young woman’s weary aggravation, and a wrinkle of playful disgust settled across the bridge of her nose. Even her accent thickened. She directed herself to the coffee mug. “The only reason he’s worth speaking to is because he’s uncommon pretty, but then you get past the prettiness and you’re stuck with his awful, stupid, vapid boasting for the rest of the night. The difference is that Glenn is terribly interesting, but then it is very tedious waiting for him to get over himself enough to get to the interesting bits, and nothing much to look at while you wait. They say such men are secretly insecure and need reassuring, but I don’t know. They all seem very satisfied just as they are. In any case, it’s not worth waiting around for them to improve, and no woman’s job to improve them, unless she’s their ma.”
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Re: Feathers

Postby Glenn » Wed Mar 17, 2021 5:22 am

Having the coffee gave him something to do other than reply. Eventually though, after he'd already scalded the inside of his mouth and after she had gone on from talking to him to talking about him, there was little point in demurring further. "I don't want to forget. Not really. Maybe just have it not be so hard all the time." It had always been hard, but at one point he could have busied himself with important things worth doing, and then later on there was Rhaena. For a few years, it wasn't hard; it wasn't anything at all and he had been a monster. Now it was harder than ever. "Writing helps. If not for people outside of this room right now, you could go back to him tonight and we could just write, and that would probably be enough for me. Not for you though." Not for her on multiple levels. "And enough isn't always healthy anyway. It's just enough."

And it wasn't just enough about him anyway. "I sympathize. I sympathize with the letters. You can just skip paragraphs if I'm going on. You can't do that in person. Maybe Catch can. I sympathize with him too. Being with him makes it all easier. And yes, Finn, it's not your job to improve me. You already have a job. It's being queen."
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Re: Feathers

Postby Niabh » Thu Mar 18, 2021 4:04 am

She frowned and touched the gold torc, then slipped a finger under it to the glasslike scar around her neck. At day’s end a farmer lay down his hook and went home; that was a job. Glenn had always spoken as if some things could be taken off and cast away and leave you unburdened rather than less. But Glenn himself gave nothing away.

Now she was comfortably in the present, unaware she’d ever left it. “He told me you were going to do this. You do it to everyone. You can’t help yourself.”

She stood, clutching the blanket with one hand, the steaming mug pressed to her chest. Its heat burned the black spot under her thumb, but in a pleasantly irritating way, reminding her it was there. “I wish…”

She paused midstep, fumbling for words. It would have been easier with Catch, who would have understood what she wished without her needing to voice it for herself. “I wish…I’d known what I had. Back there in the Woods. I saw it for a moment. But then I could only see what was in front of me. I could have fixed everything.”

She looked back at him, studying him. One could almost see her, mentally trimming and rearranging. “I still could. But it isn’t the same, the way I do it. You will never understand how…how patient he is, with all of us. How much he tolerates us. I saw it. I saw how easy it would be to…bring everything back to the place where it was never broken to begin with. There’s so much to be fixed, but so easy to do it that I don’t understand what’s stopping him. It’s what I would have done had I known what I was doing.”

Her jaw was tight; she spoke to him as if by sheer force of will, she could make him understand it, or make him explain it to her. “You want me to leave that when it’s everything I’ve ever wanted.”
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Re: Feathers

Postby Glenn » Fri Mar 19, 2021 6:08 am

She spoke and he listened. He did not interject. It was hard. It was but human nature to ask what Catch had told her he would do, and he was the most and least human person in Myrken. Then the problem was not confusion, was not asking clarifying questions. He knew exactly what she meant. No, the problem then was not stopping her midway to tell her that, was not stopping her to tell her what he thought.

His hands were somewhat tied here. What he wanted to say and what she needed to hear may have been the same thing. That did not actually mean that him saying it would give her what she needed. Benedict was right, of course. Directly confronting her wasn't the way to accomplish anything.

When he spoke, his voice was soft. His gaze was somewhat beneath her. "There are two elements at play, Finn. Why does Catch not do it? Because he has. Multiple times. In many ways. And it's led to ruin for those he only wanted to help. That's important. It drives my actions. It drives his actions. It's disqualifying, in and of itself, but it's a practical issue and not a moral issue."

He took in a breath and let it out, lips pursed slightly as he gathered his thoughts. "I feel very differently. Were I you examining myself from the outside, I would see this as a necessary impulse based on the discrepancy of power: It is not within my power to do as you say so I see it as bad. Were it in my power, I would see it as good. You can think that if you want. You know me. You know my people, so much as I overlap with them. You know people in general, so much as I overlap with them." His lips remained tight but thought soft, there was a fleeting hint of a fleeting smile in his voice. "I feel differently and I think it is for this reason: the effort matters. The journey matters. To wave your hand and change the nature of things, of people, of the world, to make it a better, fairer, happier place, would rob people of the understanding of why all of those things mattered in the first place, would rob them of the agency of being able to make their own decisions, of the satisfaction of those decisions having been good, compassionate, correct ones. We'd never grow, would never be anything better than what we are now. And most likely, without that understanding and agency and satisfaction, without the weight of it to carry, we'd all destroy it anyway because we wouldn't understand the meaning of any of it."
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Re: Feathers

Postby Niabh » Sat Mar 20, 2021 3:00 pm

He hadn’t denied it. Explained everything, but didn’t deny the accusation. Hadn’t that always been the rule with Glenn? He wouldn’t deny it and he wouldn’t acknowledge it, either; he talked over the point. Catch had warned her, hadn’t he, and she had her own experience to draw from. She felt herself wanting to be frustrated, but whatever well from which she drew her frustration was dry. It all felt…inevitable. She turned away from him again, moving toward the room’s one window.

“ It’s funny you should think so.” In passing, she raked her fingernails lightly across the green wall. Testing boundaries. She had never much cared for walls, and these were particularly hideous and strident, drawing attention to their own determination to be cheerful. “The effort being worth it, I mean, when with you it never seems to be about the effort so much as the effect. Never the thing itself, but only what you want of it. I have seldom met a man who wants so much and yet denies with every breath he wants anything. You knew I would come here. You knew I would know you knew. And still I came. You were counting on it.”

She began to feel chill again on the far side of the room, away from the fire. Already she missed him. She was never cold when he was near. Except it would be a long ride back. The sooner she—she shook her head.

“This is still Myrken. Certes that it smells like Myrken.” She sipped the coffee, just to have a different scent up her nose. The trick worked. She’d been on the verge of answering a question she couldn’t quite remember, and she was wet and miserable and on the verge of doing something about that, too.

She turned back and froze midstep, almost in the same spot as before, when she spotted Glenn by the fire. Her eyes narrowed in confusion. “What are you doing here?”
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Re: Feathers

Postby Glenn » Mon Mar 22, 2021 2:16 am

She was testing boundaries, and not just the room's, not just the wall's cheerfulness, but his own effort to be welcoming. If that was the least of it, it wouldn't be so bad, but it was just the beginning. She tested his words, his ethos, and here, in the face of such need and such mutual vulnerability brought forth for all the wrong reasons, they've reached a moment where he'd give her answer.

"What if it's not worth it?" His eyes were for the fire now, as he plunged something of himself not at all physical into the heart of it. Maybe it was just his gaze. Maybe. "What if we're just meat and bone and impulses? What if we're just cattle, domesticated and bred? What if we're actually something more but still incapable of reaching some grace of our own making? What if we reach that grace and it's still not worth the effort? What if we're just given it and it's worth more having now than after we somehow get it for ourselves, if that's even possible? What if our suffering is just being prolonged for nothing?"

The only mercy he could offer her was this: when he turned to look at her again, there were no tears in his eyes. "I can ask everything of anything, but I can't touch any of those questions. Only a madman or a nihilist could move forward believing that and even when I was a madman with nothing inside of me, that was not what I believed. It has to be worth it, the effort and the effect, and the two have to go hand-in-hand. But, you know what I've seen."

Those last words were oddly punctuated. There was more, though likely more of the same. There was always more with Glenn Burnie. She was gone then, gone for a moment, cold and wet and wandering. She returned with a surprised question upon her lips.

What are you doing here?

"Not what I want to be doing. I wanted to just wait for your letters. Spend a year being your journal to write in until you found yourself again. I trusted you to do so, to heal, to remember you care about something other than grace. So what if I needed you when you needed something more. But your people are on their way and others who trust you less may act more directly to prevent you from being a victim and whatever you have in play with the child is all too likely in motion. Events are outpacing what either of us want. That's what I'm doing here."
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Re: Feathers

Postby Niabh » Mon Mar 22, 2021 6:31 am

She stared at his face as though she had never seen it before, her head tipped in curiosity, and thought: poor man, I wonder what has happened to him.

The uncertainty lingered on. Her lips moved along with his as though mouthing out a silent retort, or else trying to repeat his words along with him to make sense of them. Confusion on the verge of terror. What was he doing here? Perhaps he had misunderstood the question, or else, in his usual way, had seen through it and gone to a more generalized, universal answer. Perhaps the real question was what was she doing here, in the more concrete sense: how had she gotten here? how long had she been here? where was here? Here was Myrken; that had been established, but Myrken was more than one room and this could have been any of them.

Her jaw shook. One hand wrapped around her own throat, as if she could squeeze the words out. But she had never been much good at being afraid, and embarrassment rose quickly in the face of frustration. Her face twisted in pain and she whipped her back toward him to conceal it. The mug smashed with an icy tinkle, dark brown soaking into the grass-green. A short, harsh croak, like a sound the raven might make, squeezed between her teeth.
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Re: Feathers

Postby Glenn » Tue Mar 23, 2021 7:47 am

She had never been much good at being afraid and he had never been much good at being reassuring, but there they were. He put a hand upon her shoulder. There may have been a hug once in those last few years as hands may have been held and nudges may have occurred but they were few and far between and this was a Glenn Burnie that was bearing his soul to her, but he was somehow more reserved than he had been the first few inebriated, fantastical times they met. "This is my home, here in Myrken. I own this building. Just this part of it, not the whole block. You came to see me. You're worried about me. I'm worried about you." Short sentences, save for that one bit about the block that he couldn't help himself on. This was how he talked to Catch when he wasn't getting emotion around the larger 'man,' which, lately, seemed to be more often than not. "You're safe here. All you have to worry about is getting frustrated by me and hearing truth you don't want to hear. You were worried. I'm worried. We care about each other. Even if we are ill-matched friends and maybe not very good at it." If she hadn't pulled away, he'd give her a little squeeze of her shoulder with her hand. "Do you have more questions? When or who or why? Just ask and I'll answer as best as I can."
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Re: Feathers

Postby Niabh » Tue Mar 23, 2021 2:44 pm

She shook her head at him and snatched herself out of reach, still rubbing her throat, where her nails had dug welts on one side. Her whole face sweltered from embarrassment, and the rush of blood flushed the paler, delicate scars a sickly bluish-grey. She forced her expression still and stony, all but her eyes, squeezed shut in pain. Not looking risked losing her place again, forgetting where she was and who she was with, but the alternative was acknowledging that she was in such a state that she needed consoling, and of all people, of all people…

She cracked a hard, stuttering laugh with her fingers to her temple, overcome to the point that the only choice was laugh at it or give in to it. She mouthed out a few words, caught herself, and managed to look at him.

“They…can’t.” She closed her eyes again. The words felt like thorns snagging. “They can’t come Here. It’s…years and years, and still I can’t…I don’t know how to be Here. Them, they will…start from the beginning, all over.”

By the time she struggled to the end of the brief sentence, she looked as if she had been pushing herself against a hard wind, shaking with frustration and with the palpable wish that she could just make him understand what a terrible idea it was, and sick at the thought that things had devolved so far, they thought they must.

Underneath:

They’re going to take me away from him and I won’t have it.

One hand crept down and rested upon her stomach, cradled it as thought she were going to be ill. The corners of her mouth turned down to sharp points. “What child?”
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Re: Feathers

Postby Glenn » Wed Mar 24, 2021 8:03 am

An unfortunate bit of dissonance was staring him right in the face. He went on about perception and how important it was, and his perception, currently, was telling him that his understanding of the closeness of their friendship was not the same as her understanding of it, at least not currently. While he could struggle against such bits of truth, deny them, try to change then, that would not be healthy for either of them. Instead, his lips tightened to a small frown. This was not a time for playfulness, for the heady sort of fairy interaction of songs and stories. He'd deny he ever did that, but it was all relative, all of scale, and their interaction, even more within his realm than hers, had a sort of abandon of its own. Not now, but that was alright. He had spent many a day and many a night with someone so wrought, someone so lost.

Someone so dangerous.

He took a breath in through his nose with her last words. Glam or no, game or no, the world suddenly became more vivid. She was no enemy. She was his friend. Benedict was his friend. He cared for Catch. He wanted to care about Gloria. It meant restraint, so much restraint, no playing. Not your godchild. Not Oh? How many children are in play then? Simple and straightforward, even. It was better this was asked and said without his hand upon her shoulder, though. "Catch's child, Fionn."
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Re: Feathers

Postby Niabh » Thu Mar 25, 2021 4:31 am

As always, there are paths.

The first path: take refuge in madness. You know not where you are. Your perceptions are unreliable. This is not far from the truth—though, if you can still plan for it, perhaps it is nearer than you care to admit. Deny it. Deny everything. Feign ignorance. Later, if you need to, claim the madness spoke, not you, and if later madness prevents you from doubling back…well, then you will have other worries.


The second path: accept that he knows. Find out what he knows. What he knows is wrong, of course. Fancy convincing Glenn he’s wrong of anything. Assuage. Delay. That path peters out into a scatter of sand after the first few steps. That way lies nothing but a few heartbeats longer before the inevitable.

The third path: the truth. A great deal you have built between the two of you will be undone. All those years, all those letters, and the one who knows you better than all of them Here—all of it finished, and what will it do to him? His ground lost, too. Perhaps all of it. No way to know what will be left. No hope of winning him over, him and his fine, bloodless morals. This is the man who told you one child is not worth dying for. If he knows the truth, he’ll try to stop you. If he tries stops you, you’ll stop him, and it will all be over anyway.


The fourth path is irrevocable. He’ll never know, but you will. You’ll always know. Every time you look at him, it will be the only thing you see. Any other path might be kinder: one swift thrust versus a thousand small cuts. Killing him might be kinder.

Of the four, three lead to the same place.


And she thinks this is all the truth buys you: no room for a lie, even when it will save you.



For the first time since she arrived, glamourie rose between them like static, enough to crackle the hairs on the back of his neck. Her hand clenched and fell away from her belly. Her voice dropped to a gravelly whisper. “You don’t want to be part of this, mo sionnach.
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Re: Feathers

Postby Glenn » Thu Mar 25, 2021 5:19 am

The hairs on the back of his neck had already been crackling. He knew her as well as anyone here, but he also knew here as well as anyone. There were lines that you would not cross, said Ariane Emory, often and never without meaning, and Glenn Burnie knew exactly how it felt as he approached one, exactly how it felt when he stepped over it, exactly how it felt when he stepped over the dozens of other lines that she was less prone to mention. They were over a line now.

He'd like to say that it was the touch of glamourie that tugging his lips into a smile, especially as it all felt very wild, but he knew that wasn't it, not really. He hadn't felt the bottom drop out like before, maybe only a little.

Then, of course, there was she said. She didn't forbid him. She didn't deny him. She didn't warn him, not really. She expressed this in terms of him and in terms of what he wanted. Of course he didn't want to be a part of this. She knew what he wanted, what he had expected upon his return to Myrken and it wasn't this.

He did not say that aloud, did not try to reinforce what she knew. That would be an invitation. An invitation for her to give him what he wanted. How bad could it be to give a mortal what he wanted? What he said he wanted? What they both KNEW he wanted? Why that would be even better than the usual fairy deal because maybe it was what he needed to, all rolled in one.

"Am I? Part of it?" Words mattered. You don't want to be part of this, she had said. That was different than You don't want any part of this, for instance. It meant inclusion as opposed to possession, very different things. "I'm not." He shouldn't play with her. He could feel them dancing about upon his tongue, fast, wet words, dangerous words, words to provoke, to incite, to draw her forth and cause her to act. Words of opportunity. His eyes were steady in the sense that they remained upon her, unwavering.They contained his familiar spark, the one she knew well by now even though she'd seen it so infrequently. The words were carefully spoken, "save for that I am a part of you and you are a part of me.

"And," he continued, eyes upon her, steady, so steady, "Insomuch as you need to be awake in this moment." He held his arms out before him, an inviting gesture, though it was unclear what he was inviting her to do. "Good morning, Fionn. You are in my home, but you are not a guest. This room belongs to you. It is yours. You are here because of the concern of those who care about you, near and far, and because your concern for me, entirely near. The Tuatha live in the moment. Concerns about tomorrow are Tultharian concerns. Let me carry those for now. Shall we speak of the present instead?"
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Re: Feathers

Postby Niabh » Fri Mar 26, 2021 4:35 am

She shook her head at the question. No, he wasn’t any part of this, except who could keep Glenn Burnie out once he’d caught a whiff of a plan? Hadn’t she just run through and rejected a whole host of ways to bar the gate after the horse was out? She’d still be plotting, except the weight of disclosure caused her shoulders to sag, defeated. He knew. Everything after was only mitigating.

Although frankly, now he was acting suspiciously blithe. She regarded his opened arms and inviting gesture with undisguised skepticism. Glenn Burnie did not let things go. Glenn Burnie did not think about it later. Glenn Burnie seldom even concerned himself, unless that concern involved meddling. This bonhomie spoke of being glam-drunk. For a brief panicked moment, she even considered whether she had simply thought of doing something or if she had done it.

The slight glamourie shrank inward, dimming like a hood drawn over a lamp. His indicating the room gave her permission to look at it. She wandered over to the chair he had pointed out before, pushing down on the cushioned seat with one hand while glancing over her shoulder at him, puzzled. He’d pulled the tacks out of it. How long must he have been at this? How long, exactly, did he intend her to remain here? Her nostrils flared lightly, smelling a trap.

“You know I will not stay here,” she said, low and raspy as before, but a touch of her old fondness gave the words some warmth. Perhaps it was him using the tultharian, even though she knew would never voluntarily accept any label that could possibly include him. “Would you keep yourself to one room, even if I gave it to you?”
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Re: Feathers

Postby Glenn » Fri Mar 26, 2021 4:45 am

She'd seen him glam-drunk. That led to more words, not less; less restraint, not more. He seemed to be using the least amount of words necessary at every turn, especially when it came to the matter at hand.

Was it at hand, though? It had been the third clause of an entirely different sentence.

What was the matter at hand, then?

Yes, he seemed to be fighting a smile, but he was fighting it. If there was a tenseness and energy to him, it was neither mad or manic, though that made it no less intense.

Glenn Burnie did what he felt must be done.

"The room has a door. The door connects to a hallway. The hallway leads to another door. That door leads outside. You've walked down the hall. It's an easy path. The notion of staying was never my intention. Under the same roof, we would have been sick of each other within a week. I had been thinking more of a freedom to come and to go. A place to come to. A place to go from. Yet a room belonging to you nevertheless." Past the bit about them driving one another mad, it had been short sentences, but very, very specific words.
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Re: Feathers

Postby Niabh » Fri Mar 26, 2021 5:57 am

Clarification cleared up nothing. Her brow folded in consternation. “But I do come and go. If anything, I had no freedom not to come this night. You offer me a freedom I already had.”

She did not sound the least indignant. Her expression pleaded him to understand. “Do you think he is keeping me? I was ill. All of this—” Grimacing, she waved a palm toward the scarred half of her face, then bowed her head. Part of it was that she had been ill, aye, but no less a part was that she hadn’t wanted to be seen. “I did not believe they would do that. The Woods. I did not believe she would kill her own people. I thought I knew the stakes. The…perimeters. There are rules. You know that as much as I do. When you go beyond them, everything…elevates. In a way, it made it…easier, to know what she was willing to do. Betimes I know not why we even draw all these lines, when everyone else is so willing to go beyond them.”

Her glassy eyes unfocused, staring hard at a point on the floor that didn’t exist. Her voice rose, the accent coming forth harsh and strong. “Why should we keep the rules when no one else ever does? Why do we always wait for someone else to make the first move? It doesn’t make us look better; we look like cowards. We look weak.”

Both hands gripped the back of the chair. Suddenly she sagged against it, the blanket sliding off her back, her expression dazed.
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