The Spirit is Willing

Re: The Spirit is Willing

Postby Niabh » Fri Dec 22, 2023 7:12 am

“What? No!” Already alarmed, Glenn’s moving his arm was enough to make him lose his grip on the chair’s back. He tottered, but finished upright, leering forward with his lower jaw open. That it did not move, and that the voice heard so clearly did not issue from the open beak, gave him a shade of ominousness. For once, he really might be one of those prophecy-quoting ravens of yore. “Mortal men who get involved in Court don’t come back the way they were. Mostly they don’t come back at all. They either stay forever or they die there. I don’t want that to happen to you. But I don’t know how to stop you, and I don’t know how to help you, either.”

He crrked, softly and sadly, to himself. Helplessness was only a recent development for him. Under ordinary circumstances, his duties did not require him to be helpful, only obedient. It anyone needed help after that, he could be reasonably assured that someone else would supply it—a real person, a Tuatha, someone with power. Not him. The idea of helpfulness and its opposite only became an issue along with the notion of responsibility, which in turn had come with his growing independence. It seemed fun at first, making his own decisions, until he figured out that the world was full of decisions, and that it was never a matter of picking the good options and avoiding the most obviously bad ones, and that if you screwed up, there was no one to take the burden off your back. Now he longed for Glenn to simply tell him what to do.

“I told you to walk away partly because I didn’t want you getting into Court any more’n you already are just by being on a first-name basis with her. I mean, when I first came Here, I figgered she was stringin’ you along for something and kept waiting for her to spring the trap. That’s when I tried not to get to know you because I figgered you were a goner. But you stuck around. Then for a while I thought maybe you were some kinda gombeen and you’d huckstered her into pinning her dreams to a star, but then it seemed like no matter what outcome I waited for, it didn’t happen, and it went on not happening, and I couldn’t figger out why. Then I guess I resigned myself that, well, whatever’s going on between you, it’s not that. And if it’s not that…”

The outline of the concept was nebulous. The carousel of Court whirled through his head, dazzling him with stained-glass flashes. The Lady could dance in Court; she was born to the music, but he could find no place in that dance for Glenn, or for himself. The echo of that music in the dark, resinous heart of Myrken seemed as keen as a razor, slicing open its dull mundanity like an overripe pear.

His scratchy voice transformed into some eerily savage. “If it’s not that then I have to trust that you both just like each other for whatever stupid reason and that makes things a hell of a lot more complicated than if you’re just stringin’ each other along.”

He sighed again, then pulled himself upright, flicking his wings down smooth against his sides. “All’s I know is that whatever happens, I’m gonner be right there with you.” There was a bit more resignation in that statement than he cared to admit. “I’m your raven now. And we’re friends, ain’t we? There’s been way too many rumcakes for us not to be friends. I already lost my Queen. I don’t want to lose my friend, too.”
Anything can be magic if you're gullible enough.
User avatar
Niabh
Member
 
Posts: 926
Joined: Fri Jul 24, 2015 4:40 pm

Re: The Spirit is Willing

Postby Glenn » Wed Dec 27, 2023 6:50 am

Glenn Burnie wasn't one to laugh. He didn't often guffaw or snort. None of that. He could make a show of it, let his guard down, pretend to be a nice, normal fellow who could interact with other nice normal fellows, but it was very much an act, and one that Benedict had rarely seen anyway. Still, here, as Benedict was presenting as foreboding a figure as possible, Glenn did chuckle despite himself. "This is why we ask these things, because so often, we're wrong. The way you were going on right there, I thought you were excited for me to challenge the court, but I think you thought I was excited to do it and you were just being encouraging."

What followed were a series of statements from the bird that were deflating and encouraging both, and Glenn was left having to figure out what to do with them. "At first, we were likely bored. Later on, we were certainly lonely. At no point were we attracted to one another. Whatever material gain we might hope to get from the other paled in the face of what we might gain from the companionship of having someone to write to without any of the preconceived notions that rule our respective lives." He knew that on some level this was not at all what Benedict wanted to hear; on another level, however, Glenn was quite sure it was better than he could possibly hope for. "If it was just what we are at play, it would make for a dull story. That we are who we are is what makes it interesting. Now, though, what she is complicates matters, and how we must be to continue this any further is about to complicate things all the more; I must enter a conspiracy with her in order to ensure our friendship in the face of her responsibilities." There was nothing in the human's tone that might make his friend think that he resented her for this. He had not fully accepted it yet, but he was closer to the end of that process than the beginning.

"In order to keep being friends, she and I have to craft a story, a true story, that tricks everyone but ourselves. And you'll be right at the center of it, a friend to both of us, essential to both plots."
Glenn
Co-Founder
 
Posts: 3227
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2007 4:00 am

Re: The Spirit is Willing

Postby Niabh » Fri Dec 29, 2023 6:11 am

Glenn’s insistence could be read as stubbornness or a fatal breed of optimism. He seemed confident that he could wiggle under the wire snares that now lay between him and the Queen—the wires, the raven realized gloomily, that had always been there, sharp and bright as ever they were, but slack from disuse. Now with the camp in residence, they were pulled taut, and the raven felt them wrapped around his wings, pinning him fast, limiting what he could offer and what he could provide. How to even reply to a statement as brash and ignorant as that?

“Look, I told you. You can overlook Court, but she can’t. If you want to write a different story, you’d better get her on the same page with you, and you’re gonner have to accept that’s the baggage she’s bringin’. That’s that.” He gave a firm nod. “I don’t doubt you’ll find a way though be fucked if I can see it right now. That’s the challenge.”

He almost wished he could read, or that he was bold enough to demand Glenn tell him everything that was in those letters. Conversations flew thick as snow over the raven’s head, powerful enough to make Glenn so determined, yet the raven never knew just what had passed between them. In his mind, the letters transformed into an arcane language that only Glenn and the Queen spoke, and the raven saw only the impact the magic had upon them both. The secrecy with which he was entrusted made him powerless even to ask for the truth. It was like secretly longing for bread, and only ever getting what crumbs fell beneath the table.

“And for that matter I do think you’re excited to do this,” he added defiantly. “Because you don’t like rules. You don’t like being told what you have to do. I think you’d feckin’ love to snub the Court, and it doesn’t have anything to do with her. It has to do with you not likin’ the idea of Court on sheer principle. You always do this.” If he sounded tired and exasperated, it was because he was. “I just…I don’t like the idea that one day I’m going to tell you ‘don’t do this or it will go badly’ and you’ll do it anyway, and it'll go badly and it’ll be my fault.”
Anything can be magic if you're gullible enough.
User avatar
Niabh
Member
 
Posts: 926
Joined: Fri Jul 24, 2015 4:40 pm

Re: The Spirit is Willing

Postby Glenn » Wed Jan 03, 2024 8:38 am

"Benedict," this was not said with outright impatience, but the emissary knew well the look of Burnie when he was overeager to write. "I agree with what you say, and moreover, I feel the need to inform you that she and I are not yet of one coordinated mind as it pertains to these matters. Maybe, maybe we would have been closer had the letter made it intact, but that would have just been one step in the road. I should probably drive it forward with another letter before it's too late." He was already shifting, turning, moving to get closer to ink and quill. He spoke on, nonetheless. "I do mean to avoid the court. Were I younger and more foolish, I would desire nothing more than to make a mark there, to showcase some level of superiority of thought and deed and merit, to prove all the old songs wrong. Now I hope to avoid them altogether. If I find joy in that, perhaps it is because I find joy in most things I do with her and, I would ask you to note, that I do with you. As for the rest, haste in writing." He looked down and began to work.

Here is a brief summation of what you missed after the notion of balance was mentioned.

I stated that I would take no premeditated risk that involves you without first informing you. That is what I said. Why I said it as such was to leave out risks that were not premeditated or that did not involve you. It gives you a modicum of security and deniability unto yourself but leaves open the wholly understandable notion that I may sometime act in passion. I do feel after all. I am not always poised. I am not some cold, empty thing. You've ensured such a thing. To that end, I added only that you would admonish my impulsiveness and I would admonish yours.

To repeat it as such and explain it so takes all the poetry out of it. I had tried to make it rhythmically pleasing for you.

Then I said that I would keep my distance from your Court so long as it is here for as long as it is possible.

Then I said something entirely impertinent unrelated to those things and I am glad to know the letter was destroyed and that he likely wouldn't have been able to read it even if it wasn't.

We may return to it once your dogged question about balance is resolved.

Balance. I thought I explained this in the text itself. An approach to friendship as it pertains to all other matters but the business of the child and the accord between us. Confiding in one another. Asking questions full of honest and earnest care and curiosity. Forgiving each other for the asking and the answering and the refusal to do so. Forgiving persistence nonetheless. Perhaps boundaries would have been a better word, but there is an ebb and flow to it, a flexibility, a careful sort of treading where instead of avoiding a fall, we're trying to be considerate towards one another through all our faults.

Balance.

Glenn
Glenn
Co-Founder
 
Posts: 3227
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2007 4:00 am

Re: The Spirit is Willing

Postby Niabh » Tue Jan 09, 2024 5:10 am

Glenn,

Of course I am the most interested in whatever you said that could be considered impertinent. It must have been splendid. Now I am even more annoyed that I was deprived of it. At present, I cannot further punish His Lordship without resorting to extreme measures, which I have neither the time nor inclination to invent. If there is anything you would see done to him, please enlighten me. He despises you, so even the mildest chastisement in your name will wound him as would a scourge.

In truth, I am tired of hearing of either of you. Betimes I cannot take ten steps from my own mat without that one person or another should approach bearing questions I have no desire to answer. They think me mysterious and coy. They have thought me so for so long that it has come out the other side, that there are those who believe I am playing at being coy to drive curiosity, therefore there are still others who claim to have no curiosity, believing that there is nothing behind my silence. I wish they would all take this position and leave me in peace. I expect that you would be pleased to hold such a prominent place in so many minds, but it makes my days difficult. Were it within my power, no one in my court would even know you exist, for your sake and mine, but that egg has cracked, and the chick will not go back into it. We must proceed from where we stand.

There are styles and styles of Queens, my shunna, and I have always dreaded to be relegated to nothing more than a pretty Queen. Fionn the Fair. They call one “fair” when one has no other memorable attributes. The Scrolls are littered with “the Fairs,” and one knows at a glance that none of them ever passed a law or held a peace or waged a war or possessed a talent—nor yet even gone mad, which is another common epithet, particularly for the Nialls. For myself, my place in history is sealed by being the returning Queen after the clan’s great fall, which is no work of mine own. I would be remembered for something I
did, rather than for the accident of my birth, but history bestows the moniker and I will have no say.

You may be amused that with the presence of a bard comes the return of my lessons. One of the nicer parts of living on my own was that my schoolgirl days were suspended, but now we are back to drills and drumbeats and determining what I have forgotten in my long recess (which is more than I like to admit) and what has gone on without me. You who have no care for queens or titles may think our heads are constantly filled with our own importance, but in truth, it is quite humbling to be told how little one knows and how much is there to learn, and, for me, how much may happen in one’s absence with no need for a Queen at all. Ainrid tells me this last is a sign of good council, that they know one’s will well enough to carry on in one’s place; that a good Queen is no better than the worst of her counsel; and that it is the mark of a good Queen to surround herself with those best suited to assist her. Then I recall that Ainrid herself, the best of my council, was assigned by the College when I was twenty—far too young to have any say in it. Likewise with Bruidda, who served under my father while he claimed regency (he was in truth usurping). I inherited her and have never known a time before her, so what choice is that?

In truth, I do miss you, Glenn Burnie. I miss our squabbling and our letters flying to and fro. In part I believe I miss you so much because I chose you. But I do not know if missing is reason enough to take you back. Father would scold me for my sentiment, which is something a Queen can ill-afford, but I am full of sentiment, and I do not wish to be without it. It is myself and I am loath to lose it. I do not want to be some cold Queen like my grandmother, who left me with enemies that could have been avoided by only a little compromise. The wisest thing would be to cut you out. I can and have invented a dozen solid reasons to do so, but none of them ever quite fit. They are untruths and excuses.

Everything has changed so suddenly, and the future is uncertain. I suppose that it ever is. You say balance when all the world seems like sand underfoot, which makes the offer ever more tempting, but I cannot base decisions on my longing for stability. Betimes I fear there is no longer any place for what we were in all that is now.

(Here Ainrid has asked me for another hated lesson. I used my best excuse yesterday so now I must oblige her.)

So much for that. Where was I?

I have here a letter, which I did not send before, that was only a list of rules. I thought them good rules, and even wrote them when I was still cross but yet calm enough to be reasonable, but then realized that there is nothing on this earth you like as well as to defy a rule, and that you would only quibble this point and that until I threw up my hands and let you do what you will, which is, you must admit, exactly what you have been doing with all these letters. If we must have a boundary, let it be that, for I am sick to the teeth of being gainsaid by you, Glenn Burnie, and now the stakes are higher. There can be no compromise without trust, and I simply do not trust you not to go against me when you get it into your head that it is the right thing to do. Moreover, I do not believe that you truly trust me, either, if you must so often defy me. I admit that as of late I have not done well to keep your trust. I am agreed to do better to earn it going forward, but I must have the same promise from you. Only in this way may we be mended and go on as true and considerate friends.

This letter must end abruptly for there is some silly ceremony that will take half the night, and I must prepare.

I eagerly await your next.

Fionn
Anything can be magic if you're gullible enough.
User avatar
Niabh
Member
 
Posts: 926
Joined: Fri Jul 24, 2015 4:40 pm

Re: The Spirit is Willing

Postby Glenn » Wed Jan 10, 2024 2:58 am

"Benedict," there was no point in hiding the smile, so he did not, not much at least. "One more letter to see what she says next and then I'll go back and review with you. We remain on a tipping point and I need see which way she will decide to leap."

Finn,

You have placed me in an interesting spot as you so often do.

You have written, and not without reason, that we simply cannot fall back into habits and comfortable positions. You write about it here. But you write nonetheless. This was inevitable in as communication remains necessary and it would complicate matters all the more by have me summoned before you. Dictating a message to Benedict turns our dialogue into something broader and more involved; he has opinions and he cares deeply. That makes things harder for both queen and interloper (a kind title for me all things considered?).

So you write.

And in doing so, you create a sort of template for how things can move forward, one that I likely would have preferred to most other possibilities. You do not do this to tempt me, tease me, or test me, unless, of course, I am to entertain the notion that the old stories were literal and that you are endlessly mutable, that you ever adapt to what would beguile me the most. It is a ridiculous notion, one that removes your sense of agency, that places far too much importance on me, that minimizes your other responsibilities and I find it offensive for you. A potential offshoot is that your nature forces me to do it to myself, to potentially see within you those things I would find the most enticing and engaging, but I am far too stubborn and contrary for that. Were that the case, I'd likely cut off my own ears before listening to you and so on and so forth. To reiterate, the notion that our intentions are anything but earnest and genuine is thereby, as noted, offensive.

If one or both of us charges forth towards ruin, let us do so with unbridled enthusiasm at least.

Back to the point, your letter paves a path, no? You tell me what you are encountering. I respond, offer a unique suggestion and perspective. Even if my advice is no good, my outsider viewpoint has quite often driven you to create your own connections and derive your own solutions. Can any but the bards even read my writing? Benedict will ensure safe arrival. You can wield my existence like a bludgeon. If someone displeases you or gives you reason to distrust, there's always the tulthurian to seek counsel with, an ever looming threat over their head. Am I not the perfect scapegoat when you must do something unpopular? So long as none of them tries to kill me over it. My aloofness and disinterest goes against everything they can understand and imagine. I am a tool of finite utility in this manner; within ten years, they'll have figured out a way around and through and above and below. But then ten years for me is an eternity. If you can enjoy my somewhat distant companionship for that long... well, I would celebrate that.

So yes, I am tempted. I hope I am not teased. If this is a test of boundaries, I am failing it with each word.

This is not at all what I expected. I expected business. The business of the child, for you to constrain us into the agreement we made and then, over time, we might find other avenues for warmer discussion to resume.

This is far preferable and natural.

Obviously I have specific questions. I have questions about your lessons. I have questions about Ainrid. I have questions about your plans. I have questions about the complications and implications of your Court being here. I could give you a proper response to your letter and it would lead us into an entirely new direction. Depending on your next letter, you may get that proper response and I will explain the impertinence too.

But I would have been remiss and selfish if I did not pause and express this to you first. Trust is being honest with one another and not just capitalizing on what is there within our grasp, avarice in our eyes.

You've presented us a lovely path though. We could walk it together. If there's but one rule we need agree to follow, something we could both agree upon, it could be this: we stay on the path.

Glenn
Glenn
Co-Founder
 
Posts: 3227
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2007 4:00 am

Re: The Spirit is Willing

Postby Niabh » Fri Jan 12, 2024 8:05 am

Aye, there is my shunna, forever examining why I say a thing, somehow without hearing what I am saying. Have I missed that? I am not sure. A flare of very familiar irritation lit up when I read it, but I am not so sure that familiarity is fondness in this case.

If you mean to suggest that I shall write things to you and you will do that to them, forget it. It takes more than one pair of hands to carry a conversation, my shunna, and you are sore neglectful with your lifting in that regard. The last time you shared a thing about yourself without that I had to pry you open like an oyster was when I was still cross with you over Catch, and even now I confess I do not know what was your purpose for it. Were you warning me, or trying to frighten me off? In truth, at the time I was not at first certain that you spoke of yourself at all, for you seemed so removed from your own story. But at that time, you did not know me and I did not know you. Now we know each other, and still you are a cipher. You leave me to but guess your motives, and betimes I believe you do that for no other reason than to tell me how wrong I am. There are times I feel I use you only to hear my own voice thrown back at me, to be rid of the dull battering of thoughts in my head, and that is not right, either.

It is not right, my shunna, for me to give and you to merely absorb. Nor is it much fair to you, but I know no other way to invite you but to leave the door open. If the dust upon that sill is deep, it is because you do not cross it, not because the way is barred.

But I can think of nothing so dull, so dreary, than your proposal. It is a hollow thing, what you offer. Here I do confess that on reading, my very first thought was to wearily put aside your letter, and your friendship, as there did not seem any hope that either would improve. I have time—infinite time, more time than you, time to wait out any digression of yours, time to see outcomes—but I have not tolerance. You offer yourself as an asset, but what good is an asset when it comes as slow as a northern thaw? The price of your utility is my patience, and that was worn to shreds ere you raised that vial to your lips.

Glenn, I speak as your friend: stop trying to sell yourself to me. Have I not told you that what is between us has already been bought? We have paid it in sympathy, in time spend, in a thousand intimacies. Are you a mercenary like Bruidda, who must be paid by the term? What is in you to think that you must win a place with me? It is yours already. Think you that I have been writing to find excuses to keep you? It would not be such a chore to be rid of you if you were not already so securely fixed. I want our balance to be in both our favors. We have been ill-set. I would correct it. But I cannot do it alone.

If that be not temptation enough, you should go out and find some richer Queen, for I have nothing else to offer but friendship.

Fionn
Anything can be magic if you're gullible enough.
User avatar
Niabh
Member
 
Posts: 926
Joined: Fri Jul 24, 2015 4:40 pm

Re: The Spirit is Willing

Postby Glenn » Fri Jan 12, 2024 8:34 am

Benedict

I converse with him. I do not read the letters to him generally. I have, one or two, bits and pieces, as of late. He worries. Our friendship, yours and mine, is unique and different. It is not arrogance for me to say that. It fits into none of the classical stories from your people or mine. That does not inherently make it remarkable (in the figurative sense of course). It just makes it different. The place where he has landed because of his role in our story and his decisions within his own, however, is quite remarkable. You and I face opportunities that others generally do not. He, however, flies in a sky that is entirely unprecedented. Any perch to land on could be unstable, could be a predator in disguise. A queen has her lessons. In them, there is breadth and depth and width; many perspectives. A raven has his duty, his job. His world is direct. It has two dimensions. Those dimensions might stretch as far as the eye can see and farther, but there are but two. We have given him more. He grows. He adapts. It is challenging. I support him, but then I have my own worries as well. His fate is intertwined with mine. Both of us are in a unique place that we could offer you something when you had nothing, but we may not make sense in the same way now that you have far too much. We bond, not just about you, but about each other as well. Still, his world is one of certainty, for generations, for time immemorial. This is new.

My Health

Your mother and your sister and your physician is expert at her craft. There are such similarities between your people and mine. Blood flows. Bones support. Organs do debatable things. You live, we die, but if you open us up and compare, that would probably a smaller difference than it is on paper. I walk. I run. It hurts. I train. It frustrates. Send your guard back now and again, would you? I'm not ready for her yet. I would embarrass myself. You know that such a thing would not generally bother me, but there is only one chance to make such an impression. If I try myself against her too soon, she will not push me hard enough when the time comes. I have far more experience battling very capable women than I do men. I doubt that surprises you. Still, I make progress. The hardest bit is not pushing past the point of productivity. The world moves slowly when you are not your best. I know that I did this to myself, but there are old wounds at play too. Strains, not wounds. This is not the first time I was put together by hands that were more used to working on things not tulthurian. At this point, one of our physicians might get it wrong. Still, I recover. In the past, when I have done so, there was a purpose behind it. There was a goal. Sometimes, it was revenge. Sometimes, it was defiance. Sometimes, it a job needing doing. Now, perhaps to assuage guilt that lingers between us. That is not moving towards something but instead scuffing clean the tracks on the path behind us. I suppose revenge is not much difference but there's more satisfaction in the scuffing.

The Impertinence

Did you mean to make the child your heir? I had a lengthier way to put it with more connected questions, but impertinence is best delivered directly.

What Remains

I think. I cannot stop thinking. I am always thinking. I may write. I would like to write about your people, but not with absolute truth, not your actual people. Many of our great philosophers engage with the issues of the day by creating fictional kingdoms, mythical ones, impossible ones, and then filtering questions of politics, of tulthurian nature, of morality, through the lens of this. They are often logical extremes. By doing so, they can make their point in interesting ways. They can build a society from a pebble to an empire and then tear it down in the span of pages. They can run the sort of hypothetical experiments that would be monstrous to attempt in anything but writing. Perhaps I could do with with long lived, matriarchal people who communicated through glamourie. I do not think it has been done. I would like to do that, but yes, I will need to listen more, if only to know what not to include so as not to overly offend and perhaps endanger.

I would not wish to start this before you were gone anyway.

Your Remaining

Not that I am not glad for it, in my own way, but...

And why are you still here?
Glenn
Co-Founder
 
Posts: 3227
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2007 4:00 am

Re: The Spirit is Willing

Postby Niabh » Mon Jan 15, 2024 9:29 am

As she sat brooding over the pair of pages the raven had just delivered, Fionn sensed a presence hovering darkly in the doorway. From the thick scent of sweet woodruff, she did not need to look over her shoulder to know who was there. “Father,” she said wearily, “I just let out you.”

“Carry on with whatever put that look on your face. I came with legitimate report.” Taking acknowledgement as permission, he stepped into the tent. A mist of rain hung over the camp the morning, and his loose red hair had frizzed into curls where it was not flattened to his scalp. He approached her with a cursory nod and a tap of his fist to his breastbone. “We are less one tultharian.”

For a moment, she assumed the tultharian was Glenn. Then she remembered and bestirred herself, laying the letter aside on the trestle. “Alive?”

“Alive, though for the time and trouble it took herding it along, we could have just as well dumped its body in the Woods for the animals.” He came to the other side of the narrow trestle, one hand mere inches from her precious pages. To her credit, she did not tense, nor did she take her eyes off him. “Are we going to go through this rigmarole every time a human crosses our lands?”

She sighed in exasperation. “They are not our lands, Father. They live here. We are but guests—and uninvited ones, at that.”

“Inevitably, the patrol’s going to miss one. Particularly now, when they’re coming in to gather fuel. This one slipped in during change of watch.”

“And as soon as one does, you may kill it any way you like.” After so many years, Father’s bloodlust stopped being shocking and became an annoying habit to pacify, like Acorn’s thumb-sucking. “Have Bruidda tighten the watch change.”

“Bruidda’s spread thin as butter as it is. There aren’t enough bodies for everyone to watch everyone else’s back.” He backed away from the trestle when she stood, squaring his broad shoulders to challenge her superior height. There was an intrinsic tension in two people standing on either side of an unsteady trestle table: in a moment of pique, it could be flipped one way or another, and this one was a slab of black river-rock. “We arranged this as a rescue, lady. The impression we had was dire. We thought we were sweeping in to slip out with an immobile Queen. There was never enough to maintain a camp. Particularly through the winter.”

“Would you like me to set you a watch?” she inquired solicitously. “Your hands certainly seem idle.”

A touch of choler rose to his face. His stormy brow furrowed, and she was gratified to have struck a nerve. “Which brings me to my next point. What are you still doing here?”

So much for small victories. If Father and Glenn were both asking the same questions, the matter was becoming unavoidable, and her excuses were becoming ever more threadbare. “I have made my reasons known.”

“You’ll be leaving no later than spring or I’ll stuff you into a sack and throw you over the back of my horse,” he said. “Cnoch-na-Niall by midsummer, my lady. Set your warrant by it. If your Catch pines for you, he’ll find you there.”

She laid a hand upon her throat and let out a quick, sharp, mocking laugh. “An Catch should trek all the way to Avalon to find me, you’ll soon wish I’d stayed.” The moment’s humor quickly tempered to a cool, amused smile. “I can order you back alone, you know.”

Now he laughed, gently slapping a palm to his thigh. “Well, well. I thought you’d never get around to threatening it. Sent home from the ball early, missing all the fun.” His smile in return was warm, fond, with a glimmer of triumph. “And I could make sure that when you do return to Cnoch-na-Niall, you’ll have to take it from me.”

“I could do it,” she said, without hesitation.

“You could, but I’d make it difficult.” He glanced downward, smiling, and ran a finger down the edge of one of the letter’s pages, before giving it a flick of his nail to knock it askew. This time she did tense protectively. Privately he was pleased at finally digging a response from her, though that she seemed more frightened for the sanctity of her correspondence than for that of her clan made his palm itch to slap her.

She sighed once more, folding her arms and tipping her head to the side as though he were an exasperating child. “Talk sense, Father. I’ve spent the past hundred years gathering banners under Clann Niall. It’d be you against all Avalon the moment I set foot on the island.”

“A small correction: I have spent the past hundred years and the hundred before that gathering banners under your name. I made you legendary ere you drew your first breath. If I have to undo it all, it’d be a regrettable loss of time and investment, but it’s not unrecoverable. I could do it again.”

Braggard, she thought. Cracker. He’d played the I-lifted-you-up-and-I-can-tear-you-down game before, though usually a bit more subtly. An idle threat, no different than telling her that the Wild Hunt would scoop her up if she walked afar after moonset, but it galled her that he always resorted to flexing his power to do what ten words might. She settled back to her letter once more, taking up her quill from its inkstone, before adding, without looking at him, “I grant you a day’s head start. Then I set Bruidda to fetch you back. Surely, that’s plenty of time make it all the way to Avalon and muster my loyal ladies against me.”

When he did not reply, she shifted her chair a little nearer the trestle and drew a blank sheet from her precious thin pile. Her pen scratched away in the silence. Outside, the misting rain strengthened to a clatter. Out of the corner of her eye, she watched his hands. Father’s hands were restless; they betrayed him more often than he would like, and more often than he knew, but now he kept them hidden under his fur-rimmed leather cloak. A moment more, and the weighted tent door slapped back into place, though he himself made no sound. He might never have been there, save that the leaden weight of his disapproval was gone with him. He complained when she did not Queen as much as he thought suited, but resented it when it was successful with him.

He was right in one respect. The tultharian were becoming unavoidable, and Fionn knew, as the camp did not, how little Myrken cared for outsiders, particularly those associated, however remotely, with the Woods. Secrecy would be taken as proof of scheming, and that Myrken forced them to secrecy for their own safety against Myrken would not sway them one jot. For these Myrkeners, to be an outsider was proof enough of treachery.

Tapping the ball of her stylus against her bottom lip, she thought of the city where she had visited Glenn. That’s where they keep the king, she’d told the raven with excitement the day its skyline emerged from the horizon, and with every mile that crawled by that day, that skyline had swelled until it became the horizon, blotting out all beyond it as though she’d come to the end of the world. The larger it grew, the more her enthusiasm ebbed, until she found herself waiting her turn at the gates, a querulous peddler all that separated her from the inside, and feeling as wee as a pisgie, as insignificant as she had ever felt in her entire life.

That was where they kept the king, and what was she? Who would see her in that iron-girded place with the streets so narrow you bruised your elbows to walk them, no room to draw a full breath and what air there was was warm as ditchwater, stewed with enough smells to make her nauseated, and crammed with enough tultharian to make her wonder with the whole world to live in, why are you all here? Drop Leabharcham in the middle of that like a penny down a well, no splash worth mentioning.

Fine one she was, contemplating how to conquer a city of tultharian when she scarce understood the one she had in front of her.

She bent her head and carried on writing until the evening’s dimness made the words smear, by which time she had a crick in the neck. She stood, rolling her head on her shoulders, and called for Bruidda, who brought a coal for her lamp. The scarred woman waited with her wrist on her sword’s pommel, patient as a broodmare, until she had the flame going.

The fire-box’s milky glow shone through Fionn’s fingers, turning their tips translucent as they brushed Bruidda’s. “Make sure Father doesn’t leave camp.”

Bruidda nodded, pocketing the box. She raised her hood and slipped out into the blowing rain.

Glenn,

I can never tell if you are particularly bad at common conversation, or if you are being objectionable on purpose, or if your mortal memory does not stretch to the last time you sent me an enumerated list of questions. By courtesy (and because the gods alone know what you’ll send next otherwise), I will presume the first.

Benedict.
’Tis queer to think of him with a name. The ravens are interchangeable, and their lives are perilous; it does one no good to give it a name (and he has told me that you
did give him the name, or rather, in your clever way, made him give one in order to proceed). I have warned you, my shunna, of the dangers of names. Give a thing a name and it takes on new dimension, another light, but loses what once it was. With no name he would have been forever a raven, anonymous and safe. Now you have named him, and it is no one’s fault but your own what he becomes. You are responsible for him now. Be gentle with him. He bears my colors yet, and I will not allow them to be insulted. He especially likes raisins.

Your Health.
Though she had never before lain hands on a mortal man, my lady sister was very pleased to report there proved few difficulties to treating a human. Such things do please Meg, for her curiosity in this regard is great. She did at a time send me a frantic message to ask if I knew whether you had a stomach, and I told her I did not, but then she found it on the other side. Now she thinks that human stomachs may lie opposite from ours, and she asks you if it is so or if it is only yours. She did try to make a map of you, but only your innards, but claims she does not know enough yet, and I told her I doubted you would lie still on a mat while she palpitates you, which is how she determines if one’s organs are misshapen or overlarge or out of place. (When my brother and I were small, we would beg her to do it as a game.) She says as well that you should be perfectly capable of taking exercise—though perhaps not the rigors of field practice, not at first—and that if after such exercise you feel faint, or have chills in the bone, send her word and she will send you a healing broth. There, now you regret mentioning Meg.

At present, it is impossible to spare Bodairlín. I will tell you if that changes.

Impertinence.
What matter it to you my intentions? Would they make any difference to our agreement? You cannot dictate what I do with my prize.

Your Remaining.
Have I ever told you how Ainrid came to my service? She gave her dissertation on the Nialls, from the first Mabhe to my grandmother, and won thereby her bands and a permanent place in the Library. Unfortunately, she did this about fifty winters before I was born, meaning that when I rose to power, I rendered her life’s work obsolete. She pretends to resent me for this. My point is this: we tell our own tales. We know our own stories. They have their own meanings and cannot, should not, be mined for metaphor. That is nearly worse than what you wanted to do to our conversations—nay, it
is worse, for there you are only talking over me. To put it down in a book as you say would be to silence everyone, all of us. My shunna, think how you say these things. I would hesitate to tell you anything at all for fear what your mind might make of it.

My remaining.

I remain,
Fionn
Anything can be magic if you're gullible enough.
User avatar
Niabh
Member
 
Posts: 926
Joined: Fri Jul 24, 2015 4:40 pm

Re: The Spirit is Willing

Postby Glenn » Wed Jan 17, 2024 4:07 am

Finn,

Shall we review?

Your proclamations are as such: I cannot write of your people at a time when your people are no longer here even if I were to creatively blur details in an allegorical way. I cannot train strenuously for I am not well enough. I cannot spar with your guard for she is too busy, which is what it is because I cannot train strenuously in the first place. I made a dire, offensive, selfish, and dangerous mistake in daring to grant a raven autonomy and it is not nearly enough that he is my friend. I cannot be directly curious about your intent for the child and whether that intent is still valid and accurate now that things have changed (when, all I am to do is support you along these lines, for...). I cannot inquire about how your oh so Queenly days are going and provide support and advice as that is far too one-sided and monolithic (yet...). When I make an attempt to write of other matters, matters personal to me, you cut me off at every turn.

I know what you will say here, that I shouldn't have to try. I shouldn't have to make attempts. It should be natural and easy. I do wonder on some level, what value there is to be found in someone with so bleak and empty a personal life? Perhaps that is why I try to show my worth, because I see it only in the theoretical. Had things turned out differently, there were different things I might have offered you. Every meeting in person between us ended in disaster. It is worth it to me to write on however. There was a richness in our exchanges when we made our efforts, when we looked forward and back. I think what has changed is that your life has expanded once again and mine has not. We navigate that reality.

For now, send Meg to prod me. I have images in books as well. I imagine she wouldn't be interested. Need I find her a cadaver? We remain in Myrken. This is very doable if it would bring her intellectual pleasure.

What about Ainrid? I am more sympathetic to your bard now that I know her misbehavior was at your bidding or at least in your service. I might give it another attempt. Letters first maybe?

Perhaps something will shake loose.
Glenn
Co-Founder
 
Posts: 3227
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2007 4:00 am

Re: The Spirit is Willing

Postby Niabh » Tue Jan 23, 2024 9:59 am


Glenn,

You are right. I asked you for an ordinary conversation, yet when you provide me your version of it, I chide you at every turn. This is most unfair and inconsiderate of me. I have oft told you that I keep a rule with you, that I should never mock or grow cross with you when you are trying to be sincere, for you will never get any better if you are scolded whenever you fall short. In the future, I will satisfy myself to keep silent so long as I believe the effort is sincere; however, you should know that you
are quite bad at this and it is difficult not to be a little cross.

Betimes I think you just enjoy sparring with women, be it verbally or with sword in hand. Why women in particular, I cannot say and will not speculate. Still you must prove yourself our equal again and again, which is something I cannot but understand. While I would never suggest you cock up your heels upon your reputation, this would be a moment when you have all justification to rest and regroup, and perhaps resume whatever less strenuous business brought you back to Myrken, as you once did claim it was more than I alone.

But in any case, at present, your only purpose should be to recover your strength, so that you can make a proper nuisance of yourself. Who in Myrken knows you are there? Will there be difficulty should you attempt to assert yourself? I may pass on to you some accounts in town that I have sore neglected these past months, and which I cannot attend at present. Or perhaps someday we might spar together, though I suspect you may be handier with the sword than I. One day I should tell you all about the Lughnassadh games, and how I convinced them to let me compete.

Being among my own people once more, I realize that I, too, have forgotten how to hold a conversation. I am often at this disadvantage, for many of these others have known one another for many years, some centuries, when I myself have not yet seen the end of my own first hundred years. When they discuss some old matter between them, I have only the context of the Scrolls or the ballads to know when and where and who they mean, and it is all the difference between a living landscape and a painted one: they have
lived, whereas I have only looked. Fortunately, we are at a place where my adventures in the mortal lands are of much more interest, so I can keep up a conversation if pressed, but then soon they go and talk amongst themselves, and I cannot follow them.

Of those present, the nearest one to my age has still fifty winters over me, and while she would befriend me, I do not much like her. She has a fancy for me that is so plain that any other topic of conversation is merely a diversion as she waits for me to make some sign that she may press further, and I will not. I fear I shall have to cut her cold, which is disappointing, for when she is not wooing, she is a good source for the sort of idle conversation I have missed, and which you would find frivolous: what manners are fashionable now, and what style of dress, and what baird are in demand, and who is in and who is out. The token of commerce in Court is gossip, so I may excuse it as having some practical use, but I also miss it for itself, for I do have a weakness for frivolity and have not had much excuse for it here.

Meg says she would not like a cadaver, good neighbor. She seemed quite shocked at the offer, though she did at first believe that you were offering to murder someone for her benefit, as though this were something the human folk do as we would slaughter a lamb for a distinguished guest. She does not know if she would like a book, though I think she would. She keeps her own set of sketches to know all that is inside, though I believe she drew them all so long ago that she does not rely on them overmuch. I remember when I was very small, and her notes were always the last things to be packed on moving day, wrapped in an oilcloth. All doctors keep their own set of notes and whenever two of them are together, they compare, and there is no parting them until both are satisfied there is not a thing more to say about it; the baird are much the same. At present, I cannot spare Meg for you, either, and it may take some persuasion to convince her to return to Myrkentown at all, but perhaps the prospect of finding out where your stomach lies may tempt her.

But do you see what I mean? Betimes you do behave as though we go on like reindeer, season after season ever the same, and never examine our position. In truth, I might well accuse your folk of the same, for of all of them I have met, you are the only one who seems to have any learned opinion on what your kind are and what they do, what are their failings and how they may be improved; but yet there are scores of such folk where I am from, and all of them trying at once to impart their wisdom on me, so that I must sort out what I do believe from what they say I should. It is very vexing to find you going about scheming to find meaning from us apart from that we give ourselves. If there be something you would know the meaning of, I could tell you myself, or soon find someone who could. I see no benefit to us in having our stories told for us.

Fionn
Anything can be magic if you're gullible enough.
User avatar
Niabh
Member
 
Posts: 926
Joined: Fri Jul 24, 2015 4:40 pm

Re: The Spirit is Willing

Postby Glenn » Wed Jan 24, 2024 2:18 am

Compromise could best be defined as follows: there were rumcakes but this time they contained raisins. More than a healthy amount at that. They had been procured before Benedict arrived with the letter, of course, but Burnie was quite glad to have them and to share them given the contents of said letter. "I know little about the art of baking, but it is my understanding you cannot simply add things without care. Recipes must be balanced or the whole thing falls apart. A perfectly good rumcake ends up a bannock and no one wants that." Knowing that his friend would likely be preoccupied with the small feast before him, he glanced back down at this or that paragraph of her last letter once again. "I have no meaningful connections out there anymore, but I could create a small booklet ranking dozens and dozens of bakers if need be." It would have utility for about six months before a handful of them ended up dead or maimed or moved or maddened.

He glanced down once again, looking up with a newly found frown. "There are paths forward, but they're muddled. To be just her friend, I would very likely have go back out there, among my people, and make a life for myself again. This place has passed me by. I'm not ready to admit it to her, but it's obvious now that I'm not needed here, that I likely never was. It all felt so consequential in the moment, so pivotal. It was life and death and hopes and dreams and misery and madness and so much gained and so much lost and it was all but tracks in the snow gone by Spring. I don't think I can do it again. I don't think I can start anew, and without doing so, I have so little to offer her except for so much of what she's now inundated with already." He'd look to the door as if it was the most foreboding thing in the world. Before, ideas had been enough, because she was alone, away from such tutelage. Now she was drowning in it. Even if he could offer her a different perspective, it was something she barely had the need, let alone the luxury for.

"So business then, the business of the child, the bond that we now have between us. It feels an afterthought for her given how things have shifted. There could be enjoyment in such a collaboration, in scheming and cleverness, but if neither she nor I have our heart in it, it would be ultimately hollow. It was to be the means and not the end." He ran his fingers between the third and fourth paragraph of her letter, up and then down and then up again. "I think to focus all of our efforts in that direction would create unforeseen dangers in the name of so little gain."

Easy friendship was too hard. Hard business was too easy. That left but one path. "Only Court remains. Temptation comes in many forms, Benedict. I have seen so much literal magic that I refuse to believe the stories all allegorical, but that is what I face here. They whisper about me at Court. Even not being there, I matter. Were I there, I would be part of her world, interfacing with it, learning, acting, able to provide direct advice that might be of use instead of indirect advice that is just more noise. I would have finite things to offer once the mystery passed, but my span is so tiny compared to theirs." He turned the letter sideways, and then sideways again as if there was some hidden message to be found by looking at it in such a manner.

There was not. "It feels like surrender though. It feels selfish. It feels self-destructive. It feels like the end of possibilities. Doing the wrong thing for all the wrong reasons. But when I list them, they seem as reasonable as any other choice, maybe even more so." There were not enough raisins in the world for this, but the two of them were here, together, in the face of it nonetheless. "Renewed futility of a madman in a world that does not want or need him, misguided destructive utility for its own sake, or a pathetic surrender I would certainly never recover from." He had refrained from tapping for the raven's sake but given the circumstances, self-control had its limits and he had surpassed them. He turned the letter sideways now and started tapping upon it for long seconds as he thought. "Three terrible choices taken independently, but if I were to spread my efforts equally among all three, creating an architectural tapestry out of the boundaries of each, the edifice might hold?"
Glenn
Co-Founder
 
Posts: 3227
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2007 4:00 am

Re: The Spirit is Willing

Postby Niabh » Wed Jan 24, 2024 3:47 am

“Hey, I like bannocks.” The raven jabbed at the cakes with fixed intensity, not even sparing Glenn a look. It was far too easy to imagine him digging out a poor dead creature’s eyes with the same gusto. “The lady used to make blackberry ones in summer. They were pretty good.”

His head popped up, a black raisin pinched in his beak. “Wanker,” he said, strained, “you keep going back and forth on this Court thing and that makes me afraid you’re actually gonner do it just to end the debate. Would it help decide you if I told you that the risk of you gettin’ killed is kind of secondary to the risk that you’re going to get cursed or glammed or enchanted or turned into a holly bush of equivalent size or something? Maybe you’d live, but you wouldn’t be yourself anymore, and you wouldn’t even be able to do anything about it. Couldn’t even off yourself to end it. I don’t want that to happen to you, and you definitely don’t want it. I think not even she wants it because if she did, she would have done it by now. I don’t even know if a holly bush can think.”

He was losing this argument. If Glenn was going to reject it, he would have rejected it whole-hide, and probably had some very clear and specific reasons for doing it. Ambivalence wasn’t his style. Was it her after all? Was she—he could barely find the right verb for it, but was she doing something to him to change his mind? She swore up and down she never had and never would, but that was before the clan came. No one would blame a Queen for changing her policy to protect the clan. But if she thought Glenn so much a threat, would she bother to seduce him? He was, at the end of the day, a single mortal man, as easily squashed as a pestering fly. Maybe she thought him more useful alive, but then what could she want him for? The wheel of logic stuck on that conundrum and would not turn further.

It was her. It was the two of them together. She’d given every indication that whatever lay between them was true. So, in his recalcitrant way, had Glenn. Maybe if he could kick aside that stubborn truth, he could figure out what she was up to now. Maybe it wouldn’t look like such a monstrous betrayal if he knew her reasons. Maybe she was protecting Glenn. Except that you didn’t protect Glenn by encouraging him, and what were these letters but encouragement?

It should be over, but it wasn’t. No logic could turn that into sense.

As Glenn turned the letter sideways, the raven’s head turned sideways to follow it, at such an impossible angle it seemed his neck should snap. “If you got yourself into Court, who would it really be for? Is it because you think you can help her somehow? Or is it for yourself? Like, maybe you think there’s something to be gained there, or something you can learn?”

It was a pale imitation of the true question he really wanted to ask, and which he could not quite bring himself to suggest. Is it her? Do you just want a reason to be near her? To be part of her life?

That was a sticky matter, full of implications. But it touched a parallel, which he cautiously explored: “You…do you understand why I’m here? In spite of everything? I mean, yeah, I got kicked out of Court, there weren’t a lot of options, but there were some, and this is the one I chose. I’m just here because I like you. We’re supposed to be friends and all. Sometimes you do stupid things for your friends. Sometimes you go out of your way and put yourself out for your friends. Sometimes you can’t offer them anything at all, except to be a friend, and that’s all you need to offer, really. Like, I hope that if for whatever reason I can’t deliver your notes or offer you advice or anything, you’d still want me around. I’d still want to be around. Just maybe not if you were a holly bush.”
Anything can be magic if you're gullible enough.
User avatar
Niabh
Member
 
Posts: 926
Joined: Fri Jul 24, 2015 4:40 pm

Re: The Spirit is Willing

Postby Glenn » Thu Jan 25, 2024 1:23 am

Bannocks. Holly bushes. Motivations. Friendship. The letter had its blank spaces, most especially at the top and the bottom, and at the bottom Glenn would make little, mostly equidistant tears, only a few centimeters up for each, with about the same distance between them. No words were mauled or mangled. He provided Benedict with nothing free-standing, no little pieces to scamper off with. It was all still connected, just now in a new pattern where none had previously existed.

"There are limits to how deep we can delve before we lose sight of the point entirely. Yes, friendship. We would not be having this conversation otherwise. This is not a conversation I have. Maybe with Ariane, maybe when I was young. But she was more a mirror tempered by experience, arched and angled just so to refract the light as well as reflect it. You're many things, many more things than you ought to be so far as I am to understand ravens. You're not that." What else to say there? There was no getting bogged down in maudlin sensibilities. "I think of you. My letter before last to her was an attempt to speak to her about my life and my thoughts and what was currently of value even without her. You were the very top of the page."

When he smiled, however, it wasn't because of the raven but instead because of the queen. It wasn't bitter but it was just a little exhausted. "I had suggested a potential goal, one that would work quite well along the lines you say, that could follow from me going to court to learn something. It wouldn't provide me with power, either temporal or supernatural, but it would provide me with information for a treatise I might write to benefit my people over time and espouse my political views. A lasting work. She took offense and warned me against it." She had a way of closing every door, but perhaps that was less incorrigible an action when the doors themselves were flimsy at best.

"The philosophy that drives me, above all others, is that one must not just survive but instead live. One must challenge himself, must strive for improvement, must find purpose. I am disconnected, severed from the affairs outside my door. I am connected to her and that connection may only grow. Still, what I have just suggested to you instead," what the bird thought to be ambivalence, "is a form of balance." There was that word again. "I push further into her world and am thereby revitalized and refocused, but try to find, once again and newly energized, some restoration of the connection with my own." Then and only then, finally, did he tear off the far left corner of the letter and press it forward towards the bird. "I'm not sure what else to do, Benedict, holly bush or no."
Glenn
Co-Founder
 
Posts: 3227
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2007 4:00 am

Re: The Spirit is Willing

Postby Niabh » Fri Jan 26, 2024 7:25 am

As a matter of instinct, the raven plucked up the scrap of paper and nibbled his way around its triangular edges before letting the corner drop with authoritative finality: he had done all that could be done for this scrap. Still it bothered him, in an obscure way, to see the Queen’s letter mangled, when he himself was entrusted to protect his deliveries from injury. He pecked at the other pieces, trying to push them back into a whole. His end result was more ragged than Glenn’s destruction. He cocked his head as if he had somehow rearranged the contents themselves, breaking a code that might allow him to decipher it.

He regarded Glenn with much the same expression. “I had a purpose once. It was her. Well…it was the clan, but she’s the body Clann Niall takes, so it amounts to her. I had one purpose, and that was if someone came in the Queen’s name and dictated a letter to me, I took it where it needed to be. There is no higher purpose than to serve the Niall Queen—that’s what my mother told me. I mean, all of us get told that; all of us think we serve the best Queen—the High Court ravens are in-suff-er-a-ble. But I always thought she was the best.”

A touch of his old pride came back: he lifted his head and shook out his wings, flashing a glint of gold-and-scarlet on their underside.

“So…I get it, I do. I get needing a purpose. But when your whole purpose is all tied up in someone else, and they don’t need you anymore…I dunno, wanker.” While speaking earnestly, he began a series of stealthy crab-steps toward the pile of crumbs that had been a rumcake. He swooped down to gobble a mouthful before straightening quickly and flicking himself neat and smooth, as if Glenn hadn’t seen a thing. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with myself, other than what I’m doin’ now. Same thing I always did, except now I gotter make decisions and it’s hard. You’re askin’ me to help make your decisions and that’s impossible. I’m not used to it. I have a point, I swear, I’m gettin’ to it, it’s just…I didn’t realize we’re kind of in the same fix. You think you could find your purpose with her. I do too. Find my purpose, I mean; you, I think it’s a terrible idea. You have options. I don’t, really, unless I go freelance, and this town?” He whistled sadly. “No market. They think I’m a demon.”

He paused for a rare straight gaze at Glenn, though after a few seconds his third lid kept creeping down, turning his grey eyes milky. “Mate, I ain’t ever gonner tell you this is a good idea, and that seems like what you’re waiting for. But if you’re waiting for me to come up with a better one, you’re in for a long wait, because part of me still believes there’s no higher place than at her side. But I can’t think any other way about her; I ain’t got, y’know, perspective. You can.”
Anything can be magic if you're gullible enough.
User avatar
Niabh
Member
 
Posts: 926
Joined: Fri Jul 24, 2015 4:40 pm

PreviousNext

Return to Myrken Wood



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests

cron