The Spirit is Willing

Re: The Spirit is Willing

Postby Niabh » Fri Feb 23, 2024 3:19 am

Fionn’s morning had been a rare pleasant and meaningless conspiracy: Tristan had gone out to the Woods before dawn, returning with a mess of wild greens the Queen had requested. Meg seemed the natural choice to help him sort. As it turned out, Tristan and Meg were much alike in temperament, both slow to think but careful in their conclusions, and both had their curious private habit of enjoying the solitude of the Woods for itself alone, with any stated purpose serving as a mere excuse. Fionn enjoyed arranging excuses to put them together, and Meg’s constant complaint that she left half her medicine cabinet at Cnoch-na-Niall was as good as any reason to make them friendly.

It was probably not the done thing to actively encourage one’s pretty widowed sister to spend a great deal of time wandering the Woods with one’s bachelor betrothed, but Fionn had no particular attachment to the fellow, even though now that she had a chance to see him every day, he did seem a decent sort—even handsome, in the careless, unkempt sort of way that made a pleasant contrast to Court polish. It was certainly not done to plot foisting him off on one’s sister once the marriage was through, but Niall Queens had done far worse with their cast-offs, and Meg was so merry in his company that Fionn could hardly feel bad about it. They would get along or they would not. If they got on, all to the better, and if they did not, no one would be any worse off than they were now.

But the real reason was that it left Acorn in her care for a whole morning. At present, the child was pinned upside down between her knees, both hands on the ground and bare feet thrust in the Queen’s face, which was the only way to distract her while Fionn delicately used the point of her dagger to dig a jagged chunk of twig out of her heel. The splinter had buried itself deep, and she’d spent half the time cleaning Acorn’s black soles enough to work, and she despaired of doing this as neatly as Meg would. If it were a horse’s hoof, she’d feel on firmer ground.

The raven approached, cautious. He twisted his head upside down to look at Acorn, whose delighted squeal upon seeing him made him jerk away nervous. Fortunately her hands were occupied keeping her up. “Glenn said something about you wanted to know the willow song?”

Tongue firmly in the corner of her mouth, the Queen made a noncommittal “um” while she tried to pin a foot under her arm, while simultaneously giving her a light swat on the bum. “Acushla, an tha does nae cease thy wriggling, I’ll cut off thy whole foot, and what would thy mumma say to me then?”

“No you won’t!” said Acorn with confidence.

“I might.” She clamped the foot tight enough to make a deft twist. Acorn let out a shrill, ringing yell, loud enough to alert the whole camp, and the last bit of wood popped out, stuck to her blade. She flicked it away, then flipped Acorn back to her feet. “Don’t go anywhere. I must clean that.” Finally she pushed her hair out of her eyes and spared a look for the raven.

“Surprised she left you with the kid,” remarked the raven.

“Whyever wouldn’t she? I’m her aunt.” She caught Acorn by her sash and hauled her backwards. “Child, tha hast a hole in thy foot!”

Acorn squirmed at the end of her leash, lunging for freedom. “You’re mean!”

Fionn deflated slightly. “My most honest courtier.” With a sigh, she reeled her in, plopped the child back on her lap, and went after the wound with a rag dipped in reeking, goaty glennwyr, over Acorn’s objections. “How is he?” she asked, far too casually.

“Up and about.” It wasn’t the answer she was fishing for, but it seemed the safest. “He’s at loose ends, I think.”

“May the gods spare us from Glenn at loose ends.” She wrapped the cleaned foot and gave Acorn a little push, sliding her off her knees and down the slope of her calves. “That’s got to stay on, Miss Wriggler.”

“I know that.” Acorn stood on her good foot to examine her bandaged one, turning it back and forth critically, like a lady checking the fall of her gown. “I know that, Lady.”

“Well, remember it.” The Queen propped her elbows on her knees and looked gloomily at the white rectangle of the letter, incongruously tame against the tangle of winter grass. A message from another world. “Is he good to you, Raven?”

“Eh. It’s Glenn. He does his best.” He hesitated. In other times, any question of his would only be a question of Glenn’s, whom he now represented. Ravens did not ask questions themselves. Ravens were meant to remain neutral and incurious. A question of his own would test the boundaries of his new independence. “Does it matter?”

“It does to you, I expect.” Leaning down, she took up the letter, cracking the seal with her thumbnail, then sat for a moment, quietly reading. Behind her, Acorn chattered softly to herself as she hopped on her unbound foot, trying to hold the other above the grass. At the bottom of the page, she raised her eyes. “The song?” she reminded gently.

Without pause the raven’s beak parted. From it issued a sweet, tremulous croon like a young girl, the voice of the very same dark-haired farm maid he first heard singing at her work. “We met, my love and I, beneath the weeping willow, but now alone I lie, and weep beneath the tree.

And suddenly they were alone by a crackling campfire two years past, the weight of the quiet night pressing around them, and if it was the Queen’s enchantment or something they created together made no difference to the song. They met each other’s eyes as though they were two wild creatures together. Acorn drew near, her ears tingling as the Queen and the raven melded into harmony: “Singing o willow waly, by the willow that weeps with me.”


Glenn,

Less hate than pity, I should think, though you would dislike the pity more. Hate you might refute. I remember I once asked you what sort of world you would have, what sort of living, but I do not recall if you told me. You do that when you think the question not worth the answering. My shunna, betimes it seems you strive to live when you have no notion of what living should mean. How can I but pity that? What if life
is naught but those things that make the enduring tolerable? Must we wait until all is well to sing?

The chief difference between yourself and Father is that you are often rude by expediency. You are simply not patient enough for niceties of manners, for you find they get in the way of purposefulness. You do not seek to harm with your rudeness but believe it to be advantageous, as though all would give up their manners could they but see how much could be accomplished without them. You are like my Meg, who can be ruthless to set a bone or close a wound, causing pain only because there is no gentler means. But also I believe you take refuge in it, by using it to gloss over those places where you find your capacities for kindness lacking.

Father is rude because it sets people on edge to be confronted by bold rudeness, by which means he unbalances them, for it is the way of mannered people to remain mannered in the face of rudeness, believing at heart that most rudeness is merely a mistake that can be corrected by example. Manners are a set of rules, and you dislike rules for themselves, whereas Father secretly enjoys rules, knowing that others cleave to them and that they may be undone thereby. He knows every rule of polite engagement solely that he may use them to his advantage. I have seen his manners when he chooses to employ them, and they are very fine, having been brought up in High Court. Yet High Court was also the place he learned to turn them against others.

I will warn you as a friend, my shunna, that if Father should ever make it his business to be your rival, you must not be tempted, for by that same lack of regard for rules of engagement, he is dangerous. He speaks a great deal of killing because he has done a great deal of killing. I would keep you far from him.

I shall indeed have the raven tell you any future instructions and you may use him the same. I suppose I am so used to our letters that it did not occur to me to send word directly. Be assured that self-same glam remains upon our correspondence, that anyone who might see them will see nothing, though by now you should have a job explaining to anyone who inquires why you keep so many invoices.

Retribution makes the thing sound noble, but it is so base, in my experience. There is seldom need to cause real suffering when the matter could be just as soon and better settled with restitution and reformation. Still betimes the belly growls for blood. I have felt it. The wolves may turn against their mistress when retribution is demanded, but it comes that in the end, there is nothing to make another feel the same pain, the same loss, that cries for vengeance. Not even death will sate it, for death is but an ending to punishment. It is no credit to my people that our need for retribution is so great that we have found penalties worse than that.

It is a gloomy note on which to close, but even in the midst of such solemnity, life goes on around me, and I must chase a child out of the lake. If you would say to chase an unruly child is not living, I invite you tell her that. I invite you to merely watch her, for in her is true life, unclouded by our heavy concerns. She lives with all her heart and all her body together. You might understand it better for seeing her.

Yours,
Fionn
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Re: The Spirit is Willing

Postby Glenn » Wed Mar 06, 2024 2:17 am

Fionn,

You have luxuries I do not. Time.

A fine thing for me to say to you ten years ago, before we met one another. Back when I was far more active. I squander now, a consequence of failure. Let us not dress it up with niceties. Yet I do not think I would get joy from dance or song. Not sober at least. And what I would get, were I in drink, would make false the words "I" and "from" in that statement. Thought it would not be intent, I imagine most things I find joy in could lead to harm for others. I find joy in you and we constantly walk with the weight of what harm that might cause.

Capacities for kindness. That's a rather damning statement, especially while we're in a mood to toss such things around so freely. Back then, I was quite similar to "father" in that regard, actually. I'd frame it a little differently, in that I was born low and did not rely upon social niceties to bolster my confidence and sense of pride. Those came from other wellsprings entirely. As such, I could lean into my low upbringing to create opportunities. I will not say that I envy him, for I do not and I would not, but I appreciate, I suppose, that he can lean into his passions. It was always hard for me to stop dissecting the structural aspects of everything around me and actually act in the moment. If he gives in to his vices, well, I suppose that's a luxury too.

I want nothing to do with him though. Whatever game he is playing, it is not healthy for anyone, myself include, for me to be playing it as well. For me to joust with him would be above all else a matter of principle, or something done for the sake of doing it. I am simply too old for it. Plus, he takes it all too seriously. He lacks perspective. I am working hard to find some. Therefore, it would be a waste.

My mindset is twofold. Evidence, even obscured is still evidence. There is a psychological impact to it if nothing else. It gives this all more a feel of conspiracy than it should have. This is not so transactional, even if fair value is being transferred. It is, if nothing else, kindness, fidelity. To see people provisioned in a way that has the least negative impact to all. But more important, I want him to feel involved. I want him to be involved. I want him to feel like he is making an impact.

All I have to say about retribution is that do nothing for simply tradition's sake. Whatever you do, think first of the results and what you are actually trying to accomplish.

We are finding our footing once again with certain things unresolved, I think. There is no one in my life like you. I think there is no one in your life like me. Though we filled a need in lean times, we also created an expectation and familiarity, maybe even a new need that still exists. These recent letters are far more about me than ones had been previous. On some level, and this is something I am working out as I write. I have as much to offer you as I did before, but I am competing with so much more than I was before. Moreover, whatever purpose I thought I had found now seems unsure. When you combine these two things, what I have to offer you that I had not before is an additional layer of personal truth. I hope you do not find it clumsy and artless and jejune. I hope you do not see it as ill-timed or (it too) lacking in perspective. It has not come easy; what is far too easy is to imagine it fruitless. That is enough of it for now.

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Re: The Spirit is Willing

Postby Niabh » Wed Mar 20, 2024 6:03 am

Glenn,

So far as we two are concerned, the only time you need worry about is the time till I return to Cnoch-na-Niall, and that was ever a concern. This new development means that our time is now finite, save that, for me, my time with you is ever finite. I have discovered the old truth about you mortals, as though it were not told in a thousand songs and stories: that every encounter with one of you plants the seeds of its ending, and, once that is learned, there can be no joy that is not tinged by sorrow. I suppose that for each of us who learn it, it is ever for the first time. In all likelihood, once I go, we shall never see one another more.

Nevertheless, my departure will not wholly be a parting, for as long as there be ravens and a will between us, we shall still correspond as we have always done. The matter then will be that you have such a penchant for troublemaking that it might be useful to keep a Queen in your pocket for when things are dire. I should like to leave you in a place where you can see your own path forward ere I depart, for, having cajoled and bullied you into the world again, I feel somewhat responsible for what becomes of you. For me, you are unique among all humans. My care for you has made you so, and that same care creates obligations. There are none like my shunna, and it is my fond duty to preserve you in whatever ways prove best. It is true that you are very stubborn, and not much good at niceties, but that stubbornness and rudeness is no burden, for without it, you would not be yourself.

But there is yet time. I would not say it so were it not so. But such limitations make it more urgent that if there be things yet unresolved, we must resolve to resolve them. (That sentence bothers me, but I will leave it alone.)

Father feels I have not made my bones at all, save in one matter alone, and that, in the end, reflected poorly upon myself and, through me, the clan. It was, he says, a poor foot upon which to establish a reputation. It garnered sympathy for my cause, but an image, once manifested, remains central. I will never be shed of my victimhood, and it irks me to have it played for politics. For such sins, retribution is the custom. But there was a moment in the High Court where it came upon me that it is all in play—that we are all acting out roles, and that the only rule of the game is that one must continue playing it. To think that such things have solemn purpose is one thing, but for it to have no purpose, only performance, troubles me. I cannot put my thoughts down to the page, but I think them all the same. There was no meaning in what became of me, and yet it happened. Whatever I do in return will happen, but I dread there will be no more meaning to it than the gesture, and no gesture can be great enough to make more of it.

Father can be entertaining to spar with, but the line between sparring and attack is thin with him, and often unpredictable; he is just as apt to become bored and end debate with violence as entertain it, and he does not much care what anyone thinks of it. I must take the risk of it even to wish him good morning, but there is no need at present for you to have any dealings with him at all, nor will there be, if I should have anything to do about it. He is a thing to be let off his harness when he is required, and muzzled when he is not. This is probably not a nice thing to think about one’s parent, nor yet about one’s senior (for whatever else he is, he
is a Niall), but he would be annoyed to know niceness played any part in it, for he thinks it useless and counterproductive. Nice gets one nowhere, as he puts it, and he is bound to prove it true. Ainrid privately believes he is miserable, but I see no evidence of it. He appears to be enjoying himself thoroughly.

But it makes me wonder. Chief among the differences between yourself and Father is that I know all about what he has done and why he did it and what makes him do as he does, for all of that is a matter of record, and if it were not, I have before me the original who is more than glad to admit it. For you, I have only what Myrken tells me, and while I question the specifics, I do not doubt that their resentment is real enough. In truth I long ago gave up mentioning your name in Myrken, for I soon found there were no means subtle enough to avoid suspicion, and far too many who were eager to name their grievances, as much as though you had wronged each of them in their own houses, and it seems quite impossible to think you were that man. When you were like him, were you miserable?

As for the raven, I would not have entrusted him to you if I did not think you would do what is good for him. Ravens are quite simple creatures, my shunna, and the worst thing for them is to feel they have no home. You must be a home for him now, for whatever task he is set, he will return to you. Bear this in mind always, but remember: the bonds of such obligations are not binding. They are all that makes meaning. He is as much yours as you are his, and both of you are mine.

Good neighbor for sending along the papers. Meg has been engrossed in them, though it seems that learning the structure of the human liver has only raised more questions that I cannot answer, having never seen one. According to her, they are quite different from ours, being smaller and having only four lobes instead of six. I do not know what any of this means in practical terms, nor what she intends to do with the information, but she was very enthused. She asks if there is some similar book regarding childbirth. Poor Meg thinks I have been here long enough that I must know everything about it, and I am embarrassed to admit how limited my interactions have been.

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Re: The Spirit is Willing

Postby Glenn » Tue Apr 02, 2024 12:43 am

Fionn,

Were this a year or two ago, I'd document, at length, why this only made our communications more special, how the understanding of loss makes one person appreciate the other all the more, perhaps at the notion that there is value most in scarcity. If resources are in abundance, they are not valued in the same way. I imagine that's more of a concept for my people than yours. The only thing I see you covet in such a way, as opposed to riches or treasures or even power, are children. We are defined by our situations more than anything else. What you need, you desire. What we have, we ill treat. Where the situations are reversed, however... It doesn't speak well for any of us. I suppose it does allow for further examination of the initial theory, no? Before, when you had little else, I was all the more important. Now that you may lose me before long, I am important still. No, I don't think my pride can take such a mechanical view of things. You'll forgive me whatever hypocrisy this reveals, I hope.

But just as I would not wish to be seen as an asset or possession, I would not want to see you as a gambit or a plan. I am back in the world, Fionn (you prefer an 'o' in there, so I shall grant you it henceforth, lest I forget; I would not appreciate having but one 'n' after all), but I lack ambition for such things anyway.

You speak of who I was and how they look at me. We have spoken of this before, but it remains just as true. Had I met you before things became bleak, you would have devoured me whole. A thousand riddles and mysteries and tricks. A dogged enthusiasm that would have delighted and exhausted you. A demand for truth where none existed and, because of the vulnerabilities in your nature, a creation of truth where none should have ever been. It would have been a series of cascading disasters.

Once I fell, I was ill, mad. It's no excuse but it is an explanation. It sounds well enough like your Father, tireless, ruthless. He carries with him full introspection, though. Never, not even for a second, is he unaware of who he is, what he is, the forces of history and birth that limited his potential path and that drives him forward. I lacked those completely. One day I had them, the next they were cut off from me. All purpose and no perspective. Now I am all perspective and no purpose? I have seen enough to understand so many costs not worth paying.

In many ways it was easier before I returned, easier to plot and plan and theorize and suggest. Now, around them all once again, I see each individual life. That is the difference between him and I, perhaps. Sturdier resources. If I had more luxuries along those lines, maybe I'd be a worse person for it.

Is this a particularly useful line of discussion. Is it satisfying for you? Is it illuminating? Reading this back, it makes me wonder if a man trying to be nothing but honest becomes instead nothing but tedious.

Glenn
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Re: The Spirit is Willing

Postby Niabh » Sat Apr 13, 2024 5:30 am

Dear Glenn,

One thing you may disavow yourself of is the idea that you are valuable only in your scarcity, or important only in the absence of more pressing business. Knowing how highly you think of your skills, this attitude is most unseemly, like a young courtier fishing for complements. Having made yourself so infuriating to deal with, why would anyone bother with you in the face of something better to do, without they believe that you have value of yourself? Do you think I coddle you with blandishments as a sop to your feelings? I come to your letters with relief, as a refuge. Were I invited, I would be at your doorstep in an instant, and the only reason I am not is because I do not feel either of us are ready. I chewed all my nails ragged while you were ill. I did not create your worth and you do not need me to tell you it, so let us consider that point resolved and move on from it.

I suspect that tedium is due more to avoiding honesty. You are ever guarded. Many times I have teased you, or scolded you, when you ignore a question that might require honesty. You see me very well but betimes I think you must fear to turn that light inward. Therefore you offer confidences that cost you nothing, and even you find their recitation weary, for what has no cost is worth nothing. Moreover, I think that much of this is old, well-worn road for you, not the least reason being that you have offered them to me before, though not in these same words. I remember them from long ago, when we were firing letters to and fro and hoping one would strike the mark, before we knew one another.

Are we, then, learning to know one another again? Is the rift between us so great? I pray it not so. Still, there is promise in beginning again, and best of all, rather than starting afresh, we are beginning after we already know each other, and so can avoid the more tedious parts of getting acquainted—where one was born, how many siblings one has, and so forth. We have opportunity to focus on the essential.

Less and less time I find for essential things. According to Court manner, it is rude to complain overmuch about how difficult it is to live a life of privilege—it is considered a form of boasting, which is subject to its own set of rules—but I feel it is less boasting and more the opposite. I have resumed the life of a Queen, where everyone seeks my opinion on everything, and it embarrasses me how ill-suited to it I am now. It feels I am given five solutions, all of them bad, for every problem, and of them required to decide the least bad. Perhaps I have been away so long I have forgotten that it was always so, or perhaps my counsel has chosen this circumstance to kick away my props and let me stagger on my own. I have not stumbled yet, though that may just as soon be luck as skill. We have a saying, which I find difficult to translate, that luck is a thin rope, in that it is not to be relied upon.

But there is so much to be done, every decision of utmost importance in its moment, and then once all is resolved, the day has slipped with little time to reflect upon it. In my absence I have grown indolent with introspection, so that now I am less fit for more rigorous duties, and you are partially to blame. In that way I can almost see how easy it would have been for you at your worst, to let the purpose blind you to perspective.

But my shunna, I believe it need not be that way again. If I offer you no other service, I can certainly rap you hard on the crown of the head if you should start to lose perspective once more. But that would depend on what that perspective is, and to what purpose it leads you. And there is, surely, more world than Myrken.

One small happy report is that my captain spared a moment to test me and now I am Adept Seven, which means I could be an archer for my own house were that allowed. My shunna, you have no notion of what Adept Seven would have meant to me thirty years ago! Somehow I thought that if only I could train to seven, I would be so skilled that everyone would have to respect it and stop calling me the Little Queen. I had a dream then, that perhaps to be a great archer would overshadow even being a Niall, yet now that I have the rank, I find it is only one more useful talent. Such for the ambitions of youth. Your guard Bodairlín is Adept Twelve, which is so rare as to beggar belief, but she refuses to demonstrate. The true Adepts never do.

Yours,
Fionn
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Re: The Spirit is Willing

Postby Glenn » Wed Apr 17, 2024 12:43 am

He read the letter three times. That was never a good sign. Usually it was once, a quick second review of a word here or a paragraph there, and then on to writing. There was no writing. He instead cycled back to the top once again before pressing thumb and middle finger to his temples and rubbing them ever so slightly. "There is good news and there is bad news, Benedict." With that, he shifted his weight backwards in his chair. By the end of it, he had been hunched over the letter and now, with just a bit of graceless scooting, his lower back was a few inches from the back of the chair; it wasn't an outright slump but he would win no awards for posture. A book, placed upon his head, would certainly fall.

"The good news is that she is no longer angry. The storm has passed. It was nothing I said. It was nothing I did. Time helped a bit. Moreover, I think she was just done with it and ready for something else. It does not mean I would be allowed to do such a thing again without repercussion." That, of course, did not mean he wouldn't. They'd both just move forward with open eyes. "The bad news is that we're a bit adrift. She has a life she can talk to me about. I spin in circles trying to show her something of value within me that she's not already found. Or perhaps I try to find that in myself to document it for her."

He began to rise up out of the chair, a second shift that would place feet more firmly upon the ground, that would allow for planting and pressing upwards. Then he thought better of it and stayed where he was. "I've currently little present, no future, just a past she knows well enough about and my own rattling about throughout it searching for answers in the murk and mud. It was understandable when I was infirmed and bedridden, but that is no longer the case. I find myself stricken with a paralysis of the mind, and while I would rather some more wholesome and worthwhile impulse drive me than just avoiding embarrassment in whatever letter I next pen to her, this is the situation we find ourselves in."

Which brought things to a point. Eventually. It usually did. "What do you want to do today, Benedict? Is there anything you'd like? Is there anything you're curious about? Is there anything you want to see or do? For if left to my own devices, I'd very likely sit here, and then the next letter would worse than this last. Her wrath is, at least, something to push myself off of. This?" He'd nod down to the letter, "This is quicksand."
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Re: The Spirit is Willing

Postby Niabh » Wed Apr 17, 2024 6:33 am

While waiting for Glenn to finish reading, the raven occupied himself by selecting the smallest twigs and scraps of bark from the cold firebox and laying them into neat, overlapping squares, building the foundation of a titmouse-sized nesting box. So absorbed was he that by the time Glenn shifted in his seat and spoke, the raven jerked his head up, knocking the structure askew. “Gah! Dammit, wanker!”

He puttered briefly with his box, trying to salvage it, only for his efforts to cause the rest of the twigs to slide and scatter like so many fortune-sticks. Finding no future to be read in them, he shot a nasty glare at Glenn and crilled in defeat. He left them on the hearthstone and jumped down, making his way toward Glenn in a series of short, toylike hops.

“But…that’s good, ain’t it? She’s not pissed anymore. That’s what you wanted, right?” He reflected these things never felt sorted—that everything seemed to lead into the next bout of bickering. The last time he’d offered his own skills to help them sort things, he’d ended up out of favor. The time before that, she’d taken away his voice for a day or two. Glenn, meanwhile, existed in some enchanted harbor of royal tolerance. Not that he wanted the Queen’s temper to turn on Glenn, but it seems a little unfair that it hadn’t yet. By now Glenn should have spent at least some time with a black pudding on his nose.

“You both overthink this stuff. Before it was like both of you trying to figger out what the other one was thinking. Now it’s almost like…you’re both trying to figger out what yourselves are thinking, which is weird. Actually, you know what’s really weird?” He perked up, fluttering, delighted to show Glenn his cleverness. “Humans and Tuatha alike, you both think about what you’re thinkin’ about. Thoughts on top of thoughts on top of thoughts. You’d never catch a raven doing that, nor any bird worth its wings.” His chest puffed up. “We have one thought at a time and that’s it. It ain’t natural to have ’em all stacked up like…like twigs or something.” True to form, the fact that he had just been stacking twigs never occurred to him.

He blinked at the question, seemed to give it serious consideration. “Er…my only plan for the day was to go down to the docks, see if I can score a bit of mackerel.” Even as he spoke, he realized guiltily that he hoped Glenn would reject that outing; he couldn’t see Glenn making his begging any easier. “Trouble is, a lot of the places I go, you can’t come because you don’t fly. There’s this peregrine, you see, says he got brought Here from a long ways away a long time ago but he escaped. I like ’im. He’s got some stories. Or—hey!” He jumped up in excitement. “Can you teach me how to read? Is that going to take a long time?”
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Re: The Spirit is Willing

Postby Glenn » Thu Apr 18, 2024 1:39 am

"Introspection," he was used to surprising the bird, used to being yelled at for it, used to being called names, or at least one name. None of those things much changed his behavior. The only thing he did differently now was not look Benedict directly in the eyes if it could be avoided (granted, sometimes he did it for purpose, but those were few and far between and when the need was great, and he well understood the potential for cruelty involved). Here, though, there was a different sort of care. "That's what we call it. I spent a few years without the ability to do it. I wanted things then. I did not second guess them. I took them. People were hurt and eventually I lost everything. We try very complicated things, things that affect many people or that have a large impact over time. It's best that we think about them very hard, including thinking about what we think about them. Otherwise, we're more apt to get them wrong. For all that I explained to her, I don't think I've ever really been able to explain who I was then. Some of that is on my fault, some hers, I think. Glamourie is a tool and a crutch, both for the person expressing an idea and the person receiving it."

Following that, he asked Benedict what he wanted to do and received answers that probably would have been helped by introspection. One comment in particular made him wonder how much of Benedict's day would have been based on interest and how much would have been based on necessity. "Clarity is important then. And I should be clear with you and you with I as well. To me, we are friends. It means we do things for one another not because some sort of contract but because we care about one another and want to do good things for one another. If you need something, I would try to provide it to you because I want you to be well. I think she sees it differently, that you are somehow bound to me and I you; if that is the case there could be obligations and if I am unware of those obligations, then I very well may not be meeting them. How do you feel along these lines?"

All paths here led to what Benedict wanted, and he seemed to want to read. "I've never taught anyone else, but we can try. I have no idea how long it might take. You have unique skills that no human has but those skills may be helpful or detrimental. We won't know until we try."
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Re: The Spirit is Willing

Postby Niabh » Thu Apr 18, 2024 6:02 am

“I just called you a wanker,” said the raven, dry as sand. “In all this world, only two kinda folk’ll call you a wanker to your face: your best mate or someone who’s about to rearrange your face. Didn’t we just have this conversation?” The question, rhetorical though it was, triggered the raven’s preternatural recall to confirm that yes, they had. Normally that was useful. This time it only irked him.

He sobered a bit, smoothing himself down. “I don’t know what she meant because I don’t know what she said,” he pointed out. “All I knows is…well, it’s different. It’s like…the moon.”

He seized upon this idea as brilliant. Everyone knew what the moon was, even Glenn. There seemed no way this could be misconstrued.

“The moon always stays in one spot. Sometimes you can see it, sometimes you can’t, but you know it’s always there. No matter what else moves, the moon stays put. Everything in your life, you measure by where the moon is. Then one day, the moon moves three feet to the left. And you gotter reorient everything. It’s easy, because everything else stays more or less in the same spot, once you get used to the new center. But the moon bein’ there…that’s what keeps everything else in orbit. I wouldn’t call it an obligation. It’s just…geography.”

He finished a bit bleakly, with the sense that perhaps he’d just made everything less clear. It had been clear enough when he started, but maybe he’d carried the comparison a little too far.

“What is all boils down to, for you, is that you give me messages and I take them where they need to be, because that is what I do. The only difference is I’d do it for you anyway, even if the moon didn’t shift.” He flicked his tail cheerfully. “But it’s got to be somewhere, the moon. Otherwise I can’t find anything. I’m lost.”
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Re: The Spirit is Willing

Postby Glenn » Wed Apr 24, 2024 4:58 am

"She's the moon," because one had to have some perspective in this. Glenn knew what he was and he knew what he wasn't. "She's the moon," he repeated, "and I am a star. Maybe a bright one, but not the moon. In summer, you know where I am. In winter, you know where I am. Through the night, I move, and you can track that. I don't wax and wane as she does, but it may be harder to see me than her on a cloudy night. You'll never miss her. You might lose me among my peers."

An acceptable metaphor then. It made sense. She was a Queen. He was Glenn. She was tempestuous. He could be obscured. If he had just stopped there, they might have actually gotten somewhere. But then he never just stopped, did he? "She's big, fills the sky with light, blinds you to anything else, at least when she's full. And then when she's not, you only get partial answers, can only see a portion of the real truth. You have to look for me, but so long as you'll find me, you'll have more freedom, more room to move, more room to interpret." Mercifully, he went quiet then, went quiet and looked of past Benedict as he would sometimes do (but likely had not done for a while).

After a time, he shifted his head to focus towards the raven (but not directly on him) once again. "I could provide you with food. Daily. Whatever you wanted. You might grow so fat that you could barely fly, but you have enough self-preservation instinct that you probably won't. Maybe it would be out of obligation, something a star or a moon ought to do, or maybe it would just be out of friendship. I get the sense though, that part of your day, a regimented, routine, comfortable part, is you seeking food out. Were I to take that away from you completely, you would have to fill your time in some other way." He was getting at something, obviously, for how intent he was speaking, the cool, steady focus of his words, but they were still in the realm of metaphor, even though no individual word (save for moon and star) would indicate as such. "Likely it would be your choice then to strike something of a balance, even if it might be my preference for you to focus entirely on things other than survival. Survival is easy. It may be endlessly hard in practice, but in theory, it's easy, simple. Larger initiatives, bigger dreams... these involve greater thought, greater effort, strain." His focus had strayed once again, moving past Benedict to the wall behind him. "Support?"

He shifted his head backwards so it was staring at the ceiling though there was nothing there, nothing that hadn't been there a moment before at least. "It's a circle, a cycle. These people have known scarcity and hunger. Pestilence, war, loss. They know how to survive and how to move on but they've rarely had the luxury to focus on other things. They fear change because the inherent risk, but also because of the risk of success. If they do not have this, what do they have? You can try to sell them ideals and dreams, achievable things, but they can't afford to think of them now and if you want until they can, it's too late. The seed isn't granted and the ground's gone hard." Enough staring at the ceiling then; instead, a return to at least pretending to converse with his companion. "The only answer, past tyranny of Her type or mine, is incremental change. A step forward, one small idea. Another step, another idea. Give them a bit of space and immediately fill it. It's hard, though, hard and frustrating. One misstep and the entire house of cards falls. I'm stuck in this room because I don't think I'm capable of it. Maybe I ask her for help though?" Benedict may not have been able to read, but that was a shift in tone he was all too familiar with, the shift of Glenn going from talking at him to talking to him. That was a question addressed to the bird and the bird alone.
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Re: The Spirit is Willing

Postby Niabh » Fri Apr 26, 2024 7:33 am

The raven followed his logic, listening intently, until he realized that Glenn had shifted topics entirely and left him behind. The change left him a little dazed and disappointed, particularly as he truly had tried to follow along, but then Glenn often did that. The Lady did, too, but she was quicker to spot his confusion and backtrack. Glenn left you scrambling to keep up.

"I mean there's always got to be a fixed point. Ravens gotter belong to someone. It's not like you people, who get to choose. Ravens get chosen. I mean, mostly we get hatched to one house or another, but they're not under any obligations to keep us, though they mostly do, the same way that if you have anything useful, you'd want to keep a lot of it around, just in case. I get this idea that you feel like not having a choice in things is awful, but it's different for me. I like knowing who I belong to. I like knowing where to come to ground. And in this case, I like that it's you. If I had a say, I'd pick you anyway."

That was mostly a sop to Glenn. If he had his choice, he'd be back at Court, but being with Glenn felt safe. Glenn liked to natter, which he enjoyed, and which he wouldn't have gotten in Court. If anything, this felt like a pleasant exile--not as much status, but not as much responsibility, either. He preened himself while Glenn went on.

"That's because you can't just give tultharian anything. They want everything. Even the ones who have everything want more. And the ones who don't have nothing don't really know what they want, so they'll take whatever they can get. Humans have this whole different idea of what belonging means. I have to belong to someone because I'm a raven. I have a job. I know what I am. I know what I'm s'posed to do. But humans have got belonging all mixed up with...owning. The Queen don't own me. You don't, either. I just belong to you. That's different. Belonging goes both ways. Humans get something, they don't ever want to let it go. Probably because most of 'em don't have anything."

The thought made him sad. There were so many humans, and so many things, and it seemed as though the math should work out based on simple abundance. Humans were wealthy beyond description, but Glenn painted them as desperate, fearful even to take what was being thrust on them for fear of losing the little they had.

"I don't think she understands it, either. She used to get mad at it. She thinks humans are hopeless fools."
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Re: The Spirit is Willing

Postby Glenn » Fri May 03, 2024 5:17 am

"Hm." That was a rare response from Burnie. It meant, perhaps, that there was nothing more to say. He couldn't fix human nature. He could try to accentuate the positive of it and downplay or control for the negative. He could explain it. He had done all that. There was little point now. It was a matter of accepting it and moving on in the most productive way manageable. The problem was that nothing felt particularly productive anymore.

So instead he pleasantly enough looked past Benedict, not at him, and yes, yes, pleasant enough. "That was clarifying, thank you." He could have stopped there but instead, "not the bit about humanity. That's my own fault. I started going off. You can repeat it back to me and I'll write it down at some point. No, best not," he amended shaking his head with a little sigh. "It's not fit for anyone else's eyes. There's little point in writing depressing philosophy if you don't have a solution at the end of it and I don't. If you're just noting the harsh and brutal realities that we all face, there's little point in writing at all. Most people can just look around."

Even that didn't feel particularly useful. "But thank you for clarifying how you feel, for clarifying how this would ideally work in your eyes. I value you as a friend and a messenger. I would not wish for you to feel anything less than valued in either of those roles."

It also meant, however, that he was not going to find any extra purpose in life through fulfilling his side of this bargain. If anything, Benedict required him to come up with a life that had absolutely nothing to do with him and his needs; ironically, that was exactly the same thing the fairy queen needed. "I will say this: your observations are accurate enough. Whatever I do, it's going to have to better the lives of people here. There's much bettering that needs to be done. In my next letter, I'll ask her to help. We've spoken of beneficial arrangements between her people and mine. This seems like the best time for it, when there's no greater court at play." Hers was already there after all and there was immediate need; immediate need was the grease that turned many a wheel. "I'll ask her what she thinks they need most that she and her people can provide without this all ending in pitchforks and fire. What do you think of that?"
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