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Memories and a Harvest Pie

PostPosted: Tue Sep 26, 2023 6:25 am
by Rance
Gloria Wynsee was not a happy woman.

She found happiness, certainly, in circumstances: in late nights with wine, in a morning pipe of coltsfoot to loosen the lungs, in the kind of laugh that made the belly shake so hard that it fought against the slow-crawl hang of age. In Genny Tolleson's warmed manyberry pie, cut clean and served with a side of soothing conversation. In books both amusing and infuriating. In Cherny's occasional letter. In the way she sometimes scrapped with fists and knees in muddy alleys and then paid for an opponent's time and silence.

At night her brain didn't tire. She sat staring at the same spot on the ceiling-slats while words as thick as spilled ink droned on in her brain, danced behind her eyes. She didn't sleep but two, three hours at a time; she turned left, right, onto her back in the bed, found excuses to rise just to silence the restlessness in her legs. Maybe she'd read the same paragraph time and time again before she found her mind wandering; other times, she'd bloat herself on diluted tea, just to give her hands a mug to hold and avoid this damnable, anxious jittering in her fingers.

She was happy, but she was not a happy woman.

Because everything — everything — seemed quiet.

Except her mind.

"There's no danger in it," she told Genny one night when the candles had been extinguished. "I promise as much. It's but a key to doors long hidden behind old curtains. But as always, I could use your aid." A stalwart seed had gotten stuck between her two front teeth. A stubborn fellow, that remnant of a scrumptious pie, nearly cutting her tongue every time it touched. She turned her head, seeking Genny's face in the darkness. "Will you help?"

* * * *

...drew her face up out of the water and sucked in a desperate breath. She crawled like the first creature from water onto soil, emerging into a new, cold world. To squeeze through the tiny blemish in the ground was an effort of strength and flexibility, but she did it. She did it, but wondered why this muddy boot-print as opposed to any other was the one. Her lone hand gripped dirt and grass and branches and she wriggled out of the tiny puddle, a squirming Jerno worm.

The tiny anvil charm left a pocket of skin shaped in its likeness in her palm. The chain bit into her knuckles, wrapped so tightly around them she feared the bones might splinter.

She hadn't been in this place in years. Not since she was a younger girl. Not since she'd been more whole. The pollution of brightness from distant towns flickered like arctic skylights against the fog hovering far over their head. The crevace, for as large and wide and hungry as it always was, hadn't often agreed to the patterns of weather that affected the lands surrounding it: after all, magic snarled and snapped silently in the weave of this place, akin to the long-standing howl of an explosion still groaning on and on in the millennia. Cruel things had transpired here, and she could feel such ruin inside her guts and spinning in the hollows of her brown bones.

Gloria Wynsee hated the Golben Pit. But she stood at its center once again, with waterlogged hair and a soaked dressing-gown that draped over her thick body like another layer of damp skin. Gracelessly, she blew water from a nostril, then began to wring out her hems.

Nobody else was here except her. Nobody else except...

Maybe he was like she remembered him. Maybe nothing like it at all. Maybe she'd have to explain why
he even was at all. Maybe.

"Giuseppe Chiavari," she said to the hedges and memories. "I need to speak to you."

Re: Memories and a Harvest Pie

PostPosted: Fri Sep 29, 2023 7:45 am
by Glenn
There was only room for one disembodied voice in Golben. It filled up the place. It encompassed it. If one were to disencompass it, that one would need to be a presence of substance and weight. Gloria Wynsee invoked the exact opposite, a man who had faded from her life, from the life of everyone in Myrken Wood and that left nothing behind but scars and clothes and memories. Scars could wrench flesh together, could create a bond that was stronger and more distinct than virgin skin never cut, but so could many other things. To find the splicing laudable was to forgive weaknesses and transgressions for the sake of sentiment. It said more about one's self than it might about Giuseppe.

But then, what was Golben? Was this Golben? If this was more about her than him, what power did she invoke?

"Mine were a hardy people." The tone was off. "They had hardy views." The rhythm was off. "About life and about death." It lacked a lilt. "About what came after." Before it had been nothing but lilt. "They walked among men with softer views." Now it was even. "In secret, they believed as they did." It was steady. "Consciousness." That word would have been a struggle before. To say. To hear. To understand. Now, it was plain in sound and meaning. But it did seem to unlock a steadier flow of words to follow. "Continues. Whatever you believe the afterlife to be is what the afterlife is. But it must be a true belief." There was still no inflection, nothing but one word after the next; now there was just more of them. "You cannot train yourself. You cannot fool yourself. You cannot trick yourself. You cannot trick death and you cannot trick what follows."

Just a voice, a voice that was not even his voice. No man in black. No shadow. Nothing. Just a voice. "What do you think I believe at the end?"

Re: Memories and a Harvest Pie

PostPosted: Mon Oct 02, 2023 1:01 am
by Rance
It had been so long since she'd heard his voice, she almost didn't believe it was him. But this place, like a vault, had locked truths inside it: among them was Giuseppe Chiavari...

...and though it had been many years since they'd spoken, enough that Time itself had made his voice even more foreign and strange to her ears, she knew it was him.

It could only be him.

"It doesn't matter what you believe, does it, Giuseppe," said the woman in the sodden dress. "Because Myrken Wood has a habit of shaving belief down like an infected hoof. I believed things false and true when I first arrived here; they both got washed away, just offal in a stream."

A strange, cool sensation under her fingertips. She looked. Sometimes this place formed itself before one's very eyes. In Gloria's hand was a bottle of Derry Red, its glass sweating in the mist. She peeled its mouth free of paper and wax with her teeth and placed the bottle on the stubborn stump of a tree that had been long ago decapitated in the cruel, contracted creation of this place.

She motioned to it, like an offering. To it, and its two wooden cups, newly realized. She spoke to him, to all of Golben. He could be everywhere and nowhere. Her senses, like hot embers, buzzed and smoked.

"Genevieve sends her regards. The gift was not my idea. It was hers. She is endlessly considerate, and even moreso in the honor of a memory. Consciousness continues," Gloria repeated, slinging the words back to him, "for those better than us. It's been almost ten years, Giuseppe. Ten years. My right hand's been gone for almost eight, and I still can't wash you off it."

Re: Memories and a Harvest Pie

PostPosted: Fri Oct 06, 2023 2:31 am
by Glenn
"Myrken Wood this and Myrken Wood that. Such chatter. Was it better in Jernoah? The world chews us up if we let it and all the more if we don't. We make the current stronger by pressing against it. Did you come to Myrken untouched and untainted, Wynsee?" No body. Not even a shadow as of yet. But there was something more behind the words now. There were no bellas, no hints of an accent, no affectations in phrasing, but it was a steadier stream of syllables at least.

Yet there was no one to accept the cup, just as there was no grave to drip the liquid down upon in tribute. "This is the first thing I've had to say in many years. You asked for me. Hear it. Current is good. A current and a stream. A river. That's what my last belief was. Death is a river and we are stones plopped down into it. Plop. Plop. Plop." There was no body to make a slicing expression across a throat that wasn't there, but somehow a word that from the architecture of its sounds should not have been able to suggest so theatrical an edifice managed to do just that. There was something unnatural there. "We're pushed forward but can't be swept away, not until the pressure wears us down. Once we're smooth, then we go. Everything unique about us washed away. Nice round stones to re-enter life as someone else. We go from being turd-shaped jagged things to starting once more as simple pebbles."

Not silence then, but stillness. If it was silence, Gloria would have filled it as she so often did. "Ten years hasn't been enough for me, Wynsee. For you, a hundred won't be. Ten years. Still not enough to make a Genny into a Genevieve. You shouldn't do that to her. You shouldn't let this place do it."

Re: Memories and a Harvest Pie

PostPosted: Fri Jan 26, 2024 4:35 am
by Rance
If listening to him expel philosophies was the cost involved, then so be it: she endured him, and endured him more patiently than she expected. She listened, and truly. Their past was but a blurred series of shadows and memories: why did she hate Giuseppe again? Why did she possess such a hearty knot of frustration toward him, and the recollections of him? Time sanded edges, blurred images in the looking-glass...

Or maybe it was that he was him, but not him. His voice unaffected by accent, by what made him uniquely him.

Death wrung out life somehow, after all.

"Whether or not you believe it of me, I'd let no harm come to her that I could directly prevent," she said. "I've changed in a great many ways in ten years, Giuseppe. You have too. And so has Genny. If it is for the better? Well, only your currents and streams will tell."

She came closer to the sound of his voice. She was no child anymore. Lines made crude crags at the corners of her nose. A few streaks of early, Sun-bleached gray mottled her black hair. Where usually her tall shoulders tightened in preparation for violence, they sagged. She poured a cup of wine for him. "I can't free you from death, Giuseppe. I've heard there are tonics and charms that can do such things, but I possess none of them. This is just temporary work. And it can last as long or as little as you like. One glass, or none. Or twenty."

She poured for herself, too. The bottle never lost its fill.

"I need your help."

Between them, on the same stump where the wine lay, she placed a little boot-knife, procured from the air. On its dull blade, carved clumsily, Liam.

Re: Memories and a Harvest Pie

PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2024 2:17 am
by Glenn
Were this a story, the laugh would have been a bitter, raspy thing. A story would have made sense. A story would have connected the dots in all the ways that they ought to be connected. A story would have given him the accent, would have had him the Giuseppe of old. In Myrken, stories had been real. They had killed him and kept him alive past that death. They never came when it was convenient and they never left when their utility had passed. "I wasn't free from death even when I was alive. Not at the end and barely before it. I clung and paid the price. There's nothing admirable in accepting death only after you've seen the worst of the alternatives. Nothing cowardly either though."

This was a process. There was a voice, yet nothing discernable about it. Now, there was a shadow of a shadow, something that obscured the light but that did not leave a mark upon the ground. It was substance without form.

"I suppose then, Wynsee, we will see how drunk you are by the time your need is met."

Re: Memories and a Harvest Pie

PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2024 1:52 am
by Rance
"No, you skirted that line all too closely," she said, almost too casually. "I should know as well as you: I didn't even need to kill you to kill you. A piece of glass was all it took. You didn't even merit a knife, messa."

And really, that's what this was about, wasn't it? Being bound too closely with another, being inextricable, losing the boundary between self and other. Giuseppe and the Storyteller. Fionn and Catch. Burnie and his new obsession.

Just then, a bolt of yellow shot out of the blurry edges of their surroundings, slicing through the dark air of Golben like a silent arrow. It swooped and fluttered, gave little belting chirps, and then alighted on the side of the stump. The too-yellow canary hopped this way and that, its eyes seeing everything and nothing. Gloria bunched up her gown to sit, and perched on the edge of the stump. She crossed a knee over the other and let her foot bounce, bounce, bounce as she took up a cup. Making no grace about it, she drank, fully and thirstily.

"You may be disappointed, Giuseppe, that I've something of a grand tolerance. Why else do you think I'm here?"

She wiped her mouth with her cuff.

"Do you want to do it like the fae, then? Just to keep things alive: a bargain, the way your Storyteller would have preferred. For I aim to eliminate another of her kind, and that death may be worth it to you."

Re: Memories and a Harvest Pie

PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2024 1:29 am
by Glenn
"An edge is an edge." And for the first time in this nascent conversation that was hardly a conversation, there was just a bit of such a thing to his voice, something with traction, something with friction, something alive as opposed to everything dead and lacking. "The only difference, ever, is what happens after the stabbing. Does it withstand or does it shatter? You're a blunt thing with a sharp point. You didn't shatter. Did Genny? Could your Genevieve do it again if she had to?" It was an edge, but not much of one. There was no venom behind it, no rancor. A factual statement and a question mired more in curiosity than resentment, but in truth not much of either. If Gloria's words had been a cause, Giuseppe's were merely an effect.

What was disappointing, far more than his feelings about her ability to hold her drink, was the laughter he was able to muster for her suggestion of a bargain. The canary could have emanated more dreadful sound. This was barely the wind. "When have you last bargained with the dead, Wynsee? Why would you think anything would be worth anything to me? I'm dead. I lived my last days greedy and afraid, as much of either as anyone could be. I used all that up. What would I care about now? Revenge? Legacy? Those left behind? They'll all be like me in the end."

If anything, the shadow was less vivid now. "No bargains. No deals. You have nothing to offer. Here is the bitter truth, Wynsee. You have a need of me. You've crossed a line to seek it. You've paid a cost already. Will you get it? Will you not? It will be not due to any trickery or cleverness. It will simply be a whim. Maybe or maybe not. If you can live with something so weighty decided by something so fickle, then ask away."

Re: Memories and a Harvest Pie

PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2024 2:52 am
by Rance
"No bargains? No deals?" A smile of cork-colored teeth. "Some fae servant you turned out to be, Giuseppe. But it's good to know that in death, you find yourself free of those shackles. Here I was, thinking you'd leap at the chance to barter like your late matron."

She turned her head to regard a spot on the ground just as uninteresting as the rest of them, overgrown and beleaguered with weeds.

"It was right there where it happened. I certainly didn't shatter, but even a good blade made well blunts and rusts after enough time. I certainly drink more—" Gloria raised the ever-filled glass, "—and smoke a pipe more than I ought to, but the edge is still there. It always will be. Perhaps I ought to thank you for that."

Could Genny do it again, if she had to? Gloria filled the air with words to give her mind time to turn the question over and over like over-kneaded bread.

Two knives falling at once.

Two girls wielding them.

Three dead.

An hour gone missing.

Yes. Yes, she could. She certainly could. Genny Tolleson was the better of them. The best of them. Was destroying something beautiful — killing it — such a crime when the very deed fostered prosperity for others? Death was a natural answer to life. The Odos and the Nameless said as much. They'd scorched that into Gloria's mind when she'd been tasked with stripping the corpses in the jerethedrals, ridding them of their body-warm clothes while their blood hadn't even fully cooled. She shook those tenets free from the cobwebs of her mind. For a fleeting moment, she missed belief. She missed when it was all so simple.

She silenced the shaking of her left hand by pressing it against her thigh.

Genny was fine. Genny would be fine.

"What were you so afraid of in your life, Giuseppe? What could possibly have scared you that fiercely?"

Re: Memories and a Harvest Pie

PostPosted: Thu Feb 15, 2024 1:46 am
by Glenn
"They say that when you die, your whole life flashes before your eyes, no?" It was just as good to look at weeds as it was to look at someone who wasn't there with her. At least the weeds had color and presence. They took up their own space, asserted themselves, jutted forth with life where it hadn't been planned. His life had been planned and now it was gone. "What happens instead is that when you die, you're left with nothing but your life. Live well, live interestingly, live without regret. There's nothing new to learn after you die. There's nothing new to experience. You're just left with your memories, with what you can remember. It doesn't read like a book. Not page by page by page. The vivid scenes become more vivid as everything else is dull noise. What did you eat for breakfast two weeks ago? What did you wear the day before that? Who did you smile to? What did you ask them?" The questions threatened to increase in volume, in speed, to stumble over one another, but then, simply silence, nothing at all for a long second.

But not long enough for her to intervene. "When you die, you value each and every one of those things that you can remember. But over time, you get sick of it. You get sick of yourself. The good isn't cherished. Not over time. It becomes overly familiar. Banal. The sum of our lives becomes insufferable. It is only in remembered minutia that you can find escape, that you can preserve those things worth preserving. But over time?" Said in threes, because it was the enemy. People rushed through their lives from moment to moment. When you were dead, there was nothing but time.

"So then what could you provide me? New sensation? New conversation? That is a trick, a trap. Either it's finite and will just give me new memories that become miseries as I am trapped with them or it is an eternal desperate grasp and we saw how that went, no?" But then she had asked him a question and it was not a bad one at that. "I fear I had the same issue you had in the end, which means it stemmed from the beginning, Wynsee. I was raised poorly."

Re: Memories and a Harvest Pie

PostPosted: Wed Mar 27, 2024 1:39 am
by Rance
"But you didn't have a life. Not entirely."

At least to her understanding. He led the counterfeit of one; he had formed a good phantasm of life, but had lacked its central tenets — or the tenets so central to her own that it defied logic that one could live without them. She drained the wine from the vessel, clacking her teeth and smacking her lips at the woody sharpness of it. Did she even like wine?

"Raised poorly," she reiterated. "By whom? By the Storyteller? Truthfully, I hope a part of the reflection pains you, if there is a part to be pained at all. But only so much. I'll strive to be a little less cruel. And that too," Gloria said, "only so much."

She circled around the front of the stump, placed down her cup, and took up the knife named Liam. It was a dull, small thing, suited more to the grand promises of You'll one day get a larger knife than this than anything else, but it still had a fierce enough point. With enough force, didn't every blade? She held it out at arm's length, surveyed it, turned it, and squinted her eyes so hard that her black eyebrows almost crashed together right above her nose. "I don't like telling dead men that they're right. That we all get sick of ourselves. That the good isn't cherished — and that the good even gets forgotten.

"Enlighten me, so it doesn't get lost: what was Giuseppe before he was a half-man?"

Re: Memories and a Harvest Pie

PostPosted: Wed Apr 17, 2024 1:01 am
by Glenn
"Hmm." That hardly did it justice. There were certain benefits to being the dead. The wind favored you. It could turn a single syllable into a drawn out melody. "You wanted a bargain, did you not? Information. Vengeance. Dirty work." One of those three things didn't quite fit with the others, but there was direct correlation between a request being abstract and the dead granting it just as there was a probable cost to that granting directly relative to the lack of exactitude. "Here is a bargain you do not want, that you do not need, that will waste your time," for his was worthless and hears decidedly not.

He went to spit upon her feet but he lacked much of the necessary attributes to do so, not the least of which being saliva. If he had a worm, it might exit his mouth now for similar effect, but he had no worm. He had nothing at all currently. "It's convenient to you to think my life a product of this place. Only my death was. The unliving that followed it was but a waiting game. I had walked off the cliff. It was just a matter of time before I could no longer deny it, a matter of time before I had to look down. At that point, you can walk on forward, but never go back. Some walk forever but there's no substance to their steps." He was a stubborn sort, even in death, and he tried to spit once again to the same result. "How many times have you walked right up to the edge, Wynsee? If you crossed over months ago, years ago, would you even know?"

He had known, but then he was never a strong man, and death had only made him weaker. This second death had made him feel apathy more than anything else. "People stay here when their other choices are exhausted. I was born a man of means from a family of purpose. I first came here, not of my own volition. I came back, stayed, later, because I thought this my best option. If this is the bargain you wish to make, to know of someone you had discounted until this very moment, then the agreement is that every question you ask of me must also be turned back upon you so that I may hear your answer."

Re: Memories and a Harvest Pie

PostPosted: Wed Apr 17, 2024 3:22 am
by Rance
She laughed. A full-body, full-shoulder, full-belly thing that was both simultaneously true and unpleasant, for authentic emotion was rarely a beautiful expression. "Your wisdom's a decade late, Giuseppe Chiavari. Here you are, standing here, speaking like I've not stared up at that cliff every day of my life."

He spit. Or tried to. He tried, but like it'd all been dried up long before, he was just a clumsy tongue and pursed lips. In that moment she saw his weakness, or what she perceived it as: he was small, he was faint, he was words holding onto some memory of life. If she'd ever cared to pay attention to edge of a wave dissolving on a shore, she might have named it Giuseppe.

So she spit for him. Not a gesture of disgust, but one of...sympathy? It had body; it landed on the crushed grass, a little foamy testament. A drop gleamed on her lip.

"You tell me you'd a family, but you tell me nothing of them. You might as well speak about a fart on the wind, Giuseppe. You want something back? Give me substance. You know all too well I'm good for it."

Her toe smeared in her spittle, dragging it dry across the grass. Now, she angled the blade for use, and with her gray eyes and their unchanging, desert-burnt pupils locked onto him, she gave him something: she gripped Liam's handle in her lone hand's fist and dragged the edge of her other arm's soft stump up its edge. The edge chewed into her skin as if she were ham. Her throat constricted. She felt it. Blood nearly as dark as her sweat drained out from her. It dribbled along the hem of her damp gown. It fell to Golben's ground.

Re: Memories and a Harvest Pie

PostPosted: Wed Apr 24, 2024 12:47 am
by Glenn
"That's one problem with this place." They were still on cliffs and had not yet gotten to spitting. Wisdom was nice though. Laughter should have been nice but there wasn't very much nice about Gloria Wynsee, which in and of itself, could be refreshing if not exactly nice. Giuseppe could handle refreshment. In living, he could handle nice too, but right now it'd probably serve as a reminder of what he might never touch again. In death, left with naught but his own memories, mundane and tortured, she made for all too familiar company. "We misunderstand each other. You look down from the cliff, not up at it. You can't fall up a mountain."

Gratitude was a dangerous game given how she had first approached. She had a bargain in mind or at least the notion of bargain itself. Could she buy what she wanted from him with a gesture, with the spittle from her lips. That was no small question either. Fluids had fell power in their own way. He wouldn't put it past her. Gratitude, in this case, was the pursing up lips that he did not actually have and a nod that he did even if actual possession of a head might have been far more questionable.

"There is money in principles. No, that's not right. There's power in principles and there's money in power, yes? My family was in the business of having principles then. It was a lucrative business. A man, generations ago, saw a world of chaos and misery. What use is philosophy, Wynsee? What practical use? It gives people permission to do anything that they want. A lucrative business indeed."

Re: Memories and a Harvest Pie

PostPosted: Wed Apr 24, 2024 4:04 am
by Rance
Philosophy. She grinned.

"Give a man or woman a morsel of what they want, and they'll gladly pay for the price to gorge on it. This business of your family's, did you follow in it, or seek to make one all on your own? Had you something of a mother or father, or were they caught up so greatly in it that they—" a wave of the blade, "—vanished to you?"

One asked questions to create paths. Sometimes they followed those paths. Sometimes they went untrod, consumed by weeds, went lifetimes without a single sole to beat them.

"My father loved me, Giuseppe. Too much, I think. And in Jernoah love is a wild thing: brothers lay with brothers, mothers with sons, even fathers with daughters should the need for more children be so pressing. But his wasn't wild, like such loves as those. He loved me purely and safely and — and endlessly: he cherished me, and what goodness I may have in me is entirely that which he gave me. Sometimes I too gorge myself on the idea of it. Be good, like he told me. Be fair, like he told me. Be just, like he told me.

"But he left me to define on my own what was good and fair and just, and because I lost him so early in this world, I had nothing but the world to teach me what they were. And we see how well that's gone."

There, then. Maybe it wasn't the blood she dropped. Maybe it was more. Because here it wasn't about the mountains or the altitude or the fall; here, it was about something else entirely. Her blood was Par'dak's blood, this image of a man that she sometimes squinted at in the darkness just hoping she might steal a glimpse of his memory. In this off-place, she stopped bleeding as soon as she started; it dried like rust on the knife-point, and scarred just as quickly.

"I don't remember his name," she said. "No one ever tells you that when you learn a new language, you begin losing the tiniest pieces of the first. Not great swaths of it, but of it, like nails rusting in their holes in an old home. I don't remember his name. I—" she swallowed, "—don't remember it.

"Do you remember yours? Do you remember him?"