Two Little Stones

Re: Two Little Stones

Postby Niabh » Mon Jul 06, 2020 6:20 pm

Aye, but still they’ll come, old man. They’ll come to see, and to save who they can, but mostly they’ll come with spades and sacks because they’ll want to turn back the fire and save their city. Every able back will come, and more will come to gawk; they’ll all be looking here, but inside…inside…

She never took her gaze off him, and her posture never altered, but her foot drew casually away just in time for the brass bauble to thunk in the damp mud of her heelprint. She had seen such a thing before—Lady Patience had had one shaped like a fluted tulip—but she had not known then nor did she know now what it was or its purpose.

“Neither my fire, nor my smoke, nor my Woods, sir.” Underneath her glass-smooth face she was, in a vague, musing way, sorry for them all, the way she might feel for a good tale which was now over; she might have liked for it to go on longer. “Nor are they my people. They’re yours.”

Her temples roared. The fire roared, and there seemed to be no boundaries between the two: the fire’s heat seethed under the skin of her back. She fixed her gaze on the old man because she had to, because the edges of the world pulsed black and gray, contracting and expanding until he seemed to merge with the lake’s lapping.

“An you are a soldier, do what a soldier does. Save your people. I am under no obligations to they who came to do me ill.”

She came forward in a rush, the air roaring around her, only a faint metallic tick as the tip of her boot connected. The brass bottle sailed over his shoulder and dropped with a hollow glug into the moss-green water.
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Re: Two Little Stones

Postby Rance » Wed Jul 08, 2020 7:57 am

"Only your Woods," he said, with a smile he tried to wipe away with a sweaty, sooty hand, "when you find it convenient to claim them. But I think, Fionn, whether or not you claim them, they are your people. As of today, they are yours. From this point forward, whether or not you wish them to be, they must be. You've lost something, and so have they."

They. As if suddenly, he no longer belonged, no longer mattered.

As she rushed forward, he expected her to strike him, and like any intelligent creature, he flinched in anticipation. But her boot never found him. Instead, it clipped up the perfumer, sent it hurtling like a gleaming arrow into the air, and it landed in the water with an unceremonious plop. A few bubbles. Then it sunk, fell to the depths, where he imagined it would stay for ten years, a hundred, a thousand, to be consumed by mud, preserved in a shell of its own rust, forever, forever...

"Today is a very strange day. I don't imagine it will get any less peculiar. Do you want to watch with me? This is the last time we'll speak—" he said, his tongue darting out beneath those silvered teeth before they clapped back closed, "—and we could either pass it in silence, or in each other's good company. A fire's a beautiful thing. Quite a muse," he reasoned. "Quite a muse." On his side of their world: calm water that began reflecting the yellow-orange flames as the evening sky began to crawl toward them from the horizon. On hers: smoking leaves, the heat of a blaze that by each minute grew more ferocious, and its relentless crawl through the black woods. Smoke crowned the darkening canopy, and no doubt the world would react, come running, come shouting.

He lamented the loss of the perfurmer with a miniature frown. What a clever piece.

From his satchel, half-submerged, he withdrew a tiny, corked bottle. The cork floated away. He sipped, sucked through his shining teeth, then offered it to her. Sharp brew. A human's spirits. Too bitter.

"She knows you want her. She feels your eyes on her when you sleep. That's what she told me."
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Re: Two Little Stones

Postby Niabh » Fri Jul 17, 2020 10:51 am

Shock and the sound of fire merged, the hiss and crackle hypnotizing. It split her in two, like a lightning-scored tree: one half in swollen and in agony, quietly keening for the loss of the trees, and the other half observing the first with a glassy, near-mystical calm. If she could but stay very, very still and constrain her consciousness to the calm half, she might be alright, only the other half kept creeping in, clawing and moaning for her attention. She listened to his words as if they were inevitable, and neither flinched nor glanced around at the crash through the blazing shrubbery behind her. A moment later a hare as big as a hound came shooting wildly through the underbrush, barely ducking around her knee before it leapt with abandon into the lake water, where it crouched shivering amid a clump of cane.

The next instant the entire bank, as far as the eye could see, was invaded: a vixen and four gangly, long-legged kits fled in a single swift line, vanishing into the high reeds. A burst of birds. A badger, badly scored down its back, stumbled down the bank and flopped over, grunting and wallowing in the mud, and a torrent of red squirrels—as if someone had poured them out of a sack—and what she would have readily sworn was a grey wolf trotted out, calm and placid as though the world were not burning down all around it, and dunked its snout to drink.

One did not light fires for the god of the forests. One imagined this was the reason why.

The rest of his words poured off her like water. They would all come, the ones that could escape, and that was good. That was exactly as it should be.

Then:

She knows you want her. She feels your eyes on her when you sleep. That's what she told me.

Her one good eye flickered.

She? She? Who is she? What she do I want? I want such a lot of things.

The stillness snapped. Suddenly she was brightly, blazingly alive, cheerful even, her movements stiff with pain but natural, flowing with fiendish good cheer. Her hair, bright as any flame, lifted and wavered as a hot blast of wind flattened against her back, and the heel of her hand, pressed tight against the prickly bark, throbbed with a secret pleasure. She squeezed down harder on it, felt the wood crumble and a strangely carnal pang shoot from the little black dot under her thumb up to her elbow. Her tongue rolled against the roof of her suddenly flooded mouth.

“Did she now? I am surprised she spoke of me at all.” Her smile tugged her burned cheek. “Do you know why they came for me? Do you know who sent them? Oh—” and she cast aside the torn sleeve from her mouth, carelessly, and was rewarded with a snort of smoke. Her chest hitched. She squatted down, knee in the mud. “Not that I expect you to answer, mind. I don’t even know who you are. I don’t know who they are, either. Does your arm hurt much? It looks as though it hurts quite a lot.”

The violet lips stretched wider. Her canines were two tiny fox-fangs.

The tang of compelling smoke vanished, or else it reversed itself. His blistered arm would awaken and sing and scream as if the lake water had turned to caustic salt.

“Where did you come from, old soldier?” she asked, then laughed softly at herself. “Ah, that sounds like some song, that.” She hummed a phrase, head cocked in pleasure at the harmony, then crooned, “Old soldier, old soldier, whence did you come?”
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Re: Two Little Stones

Postby Rance » Sun Jul 19, 2020 6:37 pm

Plop. A speck of red in the water.

"Of course she spoke of you," he said, with incredulity. "Her world is small. Too large, and she would take it upon herself to fill it with herself more than she already does. Such an urge is best left...uncultivated. I am sure you understand." Truly, it did not matter to him if she didn't. Every time he spoke, those silvered teeth seemed to flash, as if they'd been just a little too large for the gaps they'd been shaped to fill.

This moment could have been plucked from the pages of a tale: the fleeing wildlife, the predator-turned-graceful-dancer dipping to lap at ever-cool water, and despite the flames crashing through branches and brush, there was a serenity here to ponder. Underneath the pinkish flesh of his charred arm, a spark of pain awakened. Corm McKinnon's mouth tightened to stone. He clenched his fist, denying the agony. She grinned. He grinned.

Plop.

"It hurts a great deal, though I doubt that matters much to you. I think we can shed the niceties, Fionn — because whether it comes with blood or fire, our time is but a gasp at best, whether we're here—" said Corm, before his glassy eyes lifted up toward a secret in the sky. Ah. There. Glowing dully in the twilight, the misshapen oval of the moon, half-transparent, like a dream unrealized. "Or whether we're there." Against the complaints of old bones, Corm McKinnon began to stand again from the water, though the muck and the foam seemed too interested in him to let him grow. That wounded arm, as she sang her playful little song, reached out to her, sought out the muscular crescendo of her shoulder.

Just to touch her. Just to steady himself, and stare in her eyes.

"I sent them, if only with the intent to rid this place of her newest curiosity. I cannot have her interested too greatly in the women floating in her dreams, for fear she might weave a mother out of them."

Plop. A dollop of red wax falling to the ripples around their knees.

His left nostril overpoured, ran down the divot of his upper lip, stained his teeth.

"Where I will not succeed," he said, his breath full of copper, "then Myrken Wood shall."
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Re: Two Little Stones

Postby Niabh » Fri Jul 24, 2020 2:26 pm

The fire howled. Sparks showered down on them both, leaving black pinpricks in her tunic and pinching her skin before they winked out.

melted away


In the dimming evening, the sparks glowed white.

white as snowflakes


The wind shifted, pushing against her back.

a stiff winter wind full of frost


His hand found her shoulder, and she instantly stiffened, seeming to bristle. Her own throbbing hand strayed to the side of his weathered face, the fingertips warm and surprisingly tender. Humidity radiated from the hollow of her palm. The air filled with hissing as though the fire itself recoiled, and the sweeter, cleaner scent of steam cut through the choking grey smoke. Six-sided flakes caught in her hair.



How long have you been here? Seasons. The ashes have since long grown cold, and the clamor has faded to the perfect silence of winter. Powdery snow covers the black scars. The lake’s edge is laced in frost, the bitter water grows teeth to sink into your flesh, the burns numb to nothing, and even the townsfolk have found other things to talk about. She has sealed you in place, and here you are, and here you will remain, unchanging, deathless, bound eye to eye with this creature until she tires of the game.

Judging by the orange coal in the depths of her black gaze, she will not grow tired for a long, long time.




“You poor thing. You poor, poor…” Her cracked as though she might weep, but nothing touched those eyes. If anything, they were oddly thoughtful, attentive. “You came too late. All this…ruin, all these lives, and you were too late. You have already failed. The bargain is struck. She is ours already. If I live this day, you might still have a chance to win her back. If I should fall, you have no chance at all.”

Her thumb grazed the bristle on his cheek. “Fortunate you are I have no intentions of dying today.”

The spot below her thumb, swollen to the point of agony, burst like a purulent boil. Silver-black filaments oozed from beneath her fingernails, from out of the wound itself, writhing their way toward the corner of his mouth, his eye, into his earholes.
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Re: Two Little Stones

Postby Rance » Sun Jul 26, 2020 4:35 am

"The bargain is struck," Corm McKinnon ragreed, softer than any soldier had a right to speak. "Your bargain. Our bargain. Her bargain. Gods, the prices we've paid."

Staring at the coal of her eyes, frozen in this moment, in this place, this husk of a man with the seasons of fire and frost at his back, he began to smile. Smiling at her, smiling through her, smiling so widely that his bottom lip split at its center, been here for seasons, for years, for aeons, and yet his legs grow no wearier, and he grows no more tired of the company, but his bones, his bones, they grow brittle and frail and his skin flakes and the sixties become seventies become eighties become, become...

"So this is the one," he gasped after some time, as if seeing great lands spread before him, "in which you live through this day."

Then the boil burst, and like a squid's sucking, slurping, oily tendrils, the Black Oil lashes for him, slithers into him, jabs at the ducts where tears flow freely and the channels of his nostrils and rips at the edges of his mouth. Spills into him, filling him, gagging, old soldier bulging, seizing, and then, and then—

A child born on the back of prices is a thing burdened by limited value. But so be it. Name your desire.

Fionn stands in the tiny chamber, this prison of the mind and all its misshapen wall-stones and the throbbing eye of a wisplight hovering nearby. She's been here before, experienced its simultaneous warmth and dampness, standing right in this very spot still warm from her bare feet. A dark little girl with odd little eyes huddles in corner, stinking and frail, fat like a good child ought to be.

This place again. This chamber of thoughts, where time crumbled away like ashes from the edges of quickly-burning paper.

The pulsing morsel of light and sound reared back, then rushed for Fionn, burning hot with fury both primal and infantile.


We are whole enough to make our own bargains. What bargain did you strike on our behalf, Second Mother? Out with it. Speak it true — now.
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Re: Two Little Stones

Postby Niabh » Mon Jul 27, 2020 6:44 pm

Her lovely mouth twisted away from her teeth, poised, serpent-like, to spit venom in the face of a tultharian who dares suggests that she might die on this or any other day, but before the perfect rejoinder comes, the smile reshapes itself into a grimace, her eyes squeeze shut, and her hand…

explodes.

No other word for it. No pain like this in the world. Her blistered scalp was nothing next to it. Her teeth jittered in her jaw and her arm trembled under the force of her pull as she tried to tear her hand away. His skin might peel from his skull or her fingers break off at their joints, but no strength of hers could separate them. His face and her fingertips had fused.

Smoke blotted out the sky. Black oil blotted out her sight.


And then, and then—


She stumbles backwards, with a sob of relief, as she clutches her freed hand to her chest. Every nail is spilt deep past the quick, the fingers swelling fat and turned near-black with bruises. Her hand looks as if it has been run over by a millstone, but the fingers flex when they are bid. They creep up to her throat, curling around the cold solid gold of her torc for comfort as she orients herself to the space.

The shape of the blocks in the walls. Like fat little bodies all squashed together into a solid mass. And the thick, greasy feel of the air. Familiar enough that her mind does not question how she came here, only where she has seen it before.

She steps past the dark child as though those black eyes were blind after all. Her other hand trails through the air. Her face is upraised, searching in wonder for that voice. “Gwynevere?”

How old must she be now? They grow up so fast here, so fast. Surely she is a bairn no longer. A chubby little creature with fat, stumbling legs and dimpled fingers. Or a little older, just starting to grow into her height, that stage where the awkward beauty begins and one catches a faint glimmer of how they will be when they’re full grown. Surely no more than that. Surely.

And perhaps she would see her father somewhere in that child’s face.

The ache of a Tuatha heart for a child is a collapsing star. It sucks all lesser light into its void.

Calmly, she turns toward the furious light. It illuminates nothing but her fearlessness.

“I am your godmother, so named by your own true father. I begged him that boon and he granted it. For love of him, you shall never weep nor want, so long as it is my power. You will grow up safe and beloved in a land where no iron chain will ever hold you. And one day, you shall be Queen.”
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Re: Two Little Stones

Postby Rance » Tue Jul 28, 2020 6:36 am

Gwynevere? Gwynevere, the voice repeated, first with curiosity, and then with an increasing pace and violence, as if the word became only sound and devoid wholly of meaning. Gwynevere, Gwyn-e-vere, Gwyn-e-vere. Laughing, tittering, as if the sound tickled and prodded.

Then, like a wave slashing up and dragging back with its undertow, the name keeps coming, the light surges, and the disembodied voice spits it with a tumult of rage.

Gwyn-e-vere, Gwyn-e-vere. How awful, how awful—!


The damp eye and its wisp-like form darts left, darts right, in some learned counterfeit of shuddering agitation. Occasioanlly it strikes the stone walls, then spins and sets its unsettled, lidless gaze upon her. Fionn's emotions roll right over this strange, restless presence without meaning — it abandons understanding of such things except its own. In its faceless presence, it reflects nothing: it could have a face, but hasn't one; it denies a form, a body, but glows hot like a Sun over age-old deserts.

Begged, it says. And then it begins to laugh, a titter, a giggle, as if only trying to mimic the mirth of a child, but knew only the final form and not its origin. You begged him. For a boon? A boon, a boon. You speak very cleverly. A boon. A boon! The Queen begs. Miss Queen begs, she repeats, with all the resistant and rebellious humor of an unconcerned child. Miss Queen, she begs! Repeated and repeated, a repetition for every brick in these black walls, the voice jerking and stuttering like some frenetic storm.

A Queen that bargains and begs is not a queen. She is a little bug. She is Second. She will always be Second.

Then light then dared to float forward, the wholeness of its gruesome, wet eye almost challenging, pressing nearer and nearer to Fionn's black-gazed visage.

Do not give a name like it is a bowl of porridge. We did not have one, and we shall not have one. We are Nameless, and we think we are already a better Queen than you.
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Re: Two Little Stones

Postby Niabh » Wed Jul 29, 2020 6:44 pm

The taunting ricochets around the chamber. Every echo makes her flinch, and every flinch scrapes her already-raw skin. The lovely name she had chosen grows shabbier with every repetition, the battering exposing all its faults. Gwynevere, Gwynevere. The white shadow. That ancient and unfortunate changeling queen. What a name to choose. What a name to curse upon a child—what had she been thinking?

“A child deserves a name,” she says softly, more to remind herself than to protest. “A child deserves a mother.”

Her finger throb like a steady rain in time with her heartbeat. Blood wells, pools, and droplets big as silver coins drip from their tips. Every patter on the floor is a thunderclap, vibrating in her legs. Blood splatters on her feet.

Despair creeps up her throat. Lugh’us Dannan, the dream, the nightmare, is back. Once it starts, it never ends. She always wakes up exhausted and she is already so, so tired. The mocking voice spins all around her, the light blurred and dizzying, and she stuck dully in the middle of the room with the terrible sense that there was something she could say to make it stop, if she could but remember it.

“A child deserves a name. Names have power. She needs a name to keep her safe.” It is all wrong, all the wrong words. If she keeps talking, she might stumble by pure chance upon the right ones. “She needs a name to make her mine. I promised,” she insists, as though that makes all the difference. “I promised him.”

As the orb looms kissing-close to her face, she blinks. Twice. The blackness itself flicks a second set of lids, deep within. Her eyelids follow. She is, for a moment, two creatures, one inside the other, the second wearing the first for a shell. The outer woman, herself, refuses to step out of reach; she refuses fear. Refuses the relief of sinking to her knees.

“A queen…” Her voice is rusty, raspy. The words drag on her tongue. “Does what she must. If the cause be worthy.”
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Re: Two Little Stones

Postby Rance » Thu Jul 30, 2020 3:09 am

When it responds to Fionn's words, the wisp throbs with a wild array of processes: light, sound, breadth, ever-changing, ever-moving, as if experimenting with its own morsels of the concepts. When hesitation creeps into the Queen's voice, it shrinks, fading to a dull indigo, and when excitement overcomes her, or passion (passion for names, for promises) it bleeds to purple, to a swollen red. What if we should not want a name? What if we are happiest without a name?

If we did not know a stone was a stone, we'd think it a mystery!

If a leaf was not a leaf, wouldn't it be alien, and wonderful!

The topography of its voice shifts from each moment to the next: at times, it cuts through the air with a child's relentless energy, all impulse and urge and cruelty; at other times, it reduces to a wise hum, well beyond the constraint of words. Ageless and infantile. Fionn could have fallen apart, and the being would mourn not her, but the moment in which she existed, and then in the next, forget her in all the folds of its excitement...

You make promises on our behalf, and you own without owning. Mine, mine, mine! Such simple things. We hate simple things, like little books and dead flowers. The most interesting thing in little books, to us, is not the life of a Queen, but how the Queen dies. We skip to such pages, it proclaims, pulsing white. If we do not like how the deed is done, we step between the ticks on the Sundial, where moments turn into lifetimes, and make the Queen perish the way we want it: perhaps with bad poisons, or angry riots, or they might lop off her head or tug her apart like a beetle until all her strings come out...

And then the little books change, right in front of our gaze.


At all times, the eye watches her. And at all times, the eye is blind. It retreats, splashing its radiance across the stony walls.

Why should you want us so badly to be yours? Is that a worthy-enough cause, Miss Queen? Here, the fire is stopped; here, that man is just one heartbeat before the next. We have forever, just the way we like it.
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Re: Two Little Stones

Postby Niabh » Sun Aug 16, 2020 6:19 pm

Whiteness. The silvery glow of Catch by moonlight. Barely light at all, for all its brightness. Color splashes across her face, staining it with lurid reflections. This close her vision should be swimming with spots, and her dizziness, the weight of her own head on her shoulders, makes her roll on her heels, but she does not blink. The greedy blackness in her eyes could drink down all that light and still be parched.

“Own without owning. Aye. That is exactly what a queen does.” The thought both strengthens and steadies her. “We claim things. Then they are ours. Anything. Everything. But you must want it. The wanting makes it worthy. Without the wanting…you might have the whole world, and it would be nothing but a pile of ash.”

A pile of ash is all that will be left of the Woods, and possibly of herself, if she cannot pull herself together. Then again, where else could she be? One cannot leave if one never came, and she is already here.

Through pain she manages to pull herself up straighter, ignoring the stretch of drum-tight skin. “Of course,” she says, insouciant and careless, but also kind, “I don’t expect you to understand that. Things that live locked up in little rooms…they never know what they’re missing. Things always seem simple when you’re only looking out at them. I have a friend who locked himself up in a room, and he was terribly boring until I let him out. I lived in a little room that was a whole island, but I got out, and there were s-so…so many…”

Her voice dwindles to a smoke-cracked croak. She clears her throat, rubbing it with her broken hand, though even the least pressure on the broken nails feels like rat’s teeth gashing. The words roll away from her like marbles on a tilted floor, and she feels herself losing her balance, sliding away along with them.

With a fierce burst of effort, she squeezes the fingers of her left hand into a broken fist and bears down hard on the root of her injustice. When she speaks, it comes from her mouth but from that black well of wanting, strong enough to chatter the stones in the walls. “She stole His child.”

They tried to steal my child, came the plaintive echo.


“She did a terrible thing. She hurt Him.”

They did a terrible thing. They hurt me.

Stones bounce in their sockets, slivers of daylight creeping in before the gaps snap shut.


“She didn’t even want her, but she did it all the same.”

I wanted her all the same.


“Once she had her, she took her away.”

I had to take her away. They would have taken her away.

She advances a step, spiraling her glamourie outward to find the edges of the room. There is a fire hot on her back and cool water slaps at her calves and gritty, greasy stone under her feet. Her shoulders shake under the force of pulling the two halves of the world together.


“And then she left her, she left her there all alone.”

I had to leave her. I left her all alone.

“There is none who wants her more than I.”

A splintering, as of old rotten wood, and the warm room is warmer yet. Smoke seeps through the stones. It hurts, but she is astonished and a little dismayed to find that it is so easy to draw two realities together like a split seam. How long has she been able to do this? The power was in her hands, in her hand, all this while.

I want her back. I want her back.


And I will have her.” Her true voice bellowed off the walls. “The Queen does not die this day, nor any day. Skip ahead to the day I die and after it you will find naught but blank pages. I will have her.”
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Re: Two Little Stones

Postby Rance » Mon Aug 17, 2020 4:14 am

You hurt.

It falls back upon simple statements, squinting-without-squinting at the brightness of silver and pain written in the Queen's face. The wisp, however, processes with its strange, preternatural instinct all the cracks and crevices: hears the stammer of the
s-so...many... and witnesses the rubbing of the throat, feels the looseness of the words pouring out of this interloper, this Second Mother, this object of flesh.

But know this, Queen: we were not an object to be stolen. He did not make us, and she did not take us. Wanting is for little bugs. We gave them no choice.

The voice becomes suddenly flat, as if ground free of its childishness, its youth, its excitement. It becomes a pale banner. The wisp surges back.

Those who live without living, they are provided no choice. They are just words in little books. We erase them or reform them or smear our finger over them however we please!

The room, as it fills with smoke, gets no darker. The spark of being either brightens, or it demands the muting of its elements. Heat seeps in through the walls. In this enclosed space, it magnifies, it becomes a stone-formed stove, trying to summon the water from the eyes and turn the skin to rawhide. The speck of sentient light grows even more formidable, until it seems to swell and take up every available space above it and below it. The corners. The cracks in the paltry stone. The particles of the air. Sucks in the light. Devours the heat. Its voice grows greater, greater still, until it must be felt as much as heard...

A more terrible thing than that which was done to you, it says, was done to us. Once, we read a page where we did not exist. We were not mentioned, nor willed to be: a little doll's house where we did not live. We came to know that if we did not force ourselves to Be, then we would never be. So we wrote ourselves upon the page.

The smoke begins to stifle and choke. Behind the Queen, a gust of cool air reaches out to grasp her like a tongue. The wall parts as if formed of water and blood. The light of day warms her back, and the whisper of trees and flames bring murmurs of burning wood to the nose.

We filled her veins with us and swelled her mind with Bad Urges.

We found the tiniest speck of Obedience in him and squeezed it so hard, he stood at attention for her.

The page wrote itself out in Black Oil. Then we Were.

We were Nameless before, Second Mother, and still will be.

I don't expect you to understand that. Things that live locked up in little rooms...they never know what they're missing.
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Re: Two Little Stones

Postby Niabh » Mon Aug 17, 2020 7:56 pm

The voice rattles in her bones until they must split, erupting sap. By now it feels as if the torc is the only thing keeping her upright, a gibbet around her neck. Her toes across scrape the floor as it pushes her forward without walking.

Her eyes close for the first time and she silently wills If there be a Niall queen in this torc, raise me up.

And is utterly unsurprised when her feet leave the floor without effort. The weight of her own limbs drags on her injuries. She swings in space like a kitten from its mother’s mouth—but in pursuit, brought eye to eye with this eyeless eye.

“Then there is a thing you want. You want to be. No less a thing than any other creature wants. Even the little bugs wish to be.” And somehow, incredibly, her lips spread into a smile, the parched skin splitting in its wake. No humor in it, no triumph, though there remains a note of pride that she is still capable. “’Tis why we sting when you pick us up.”

Ascending causes her own eyes to film. Grey snot clots their inner corners, and there is no air in the air she breathes. Her mind flutters in momentary panic: I’m smothering, the smoke… and she dips a fraction, stomach dropping from the lurch. It infuriates her. This whole situation infuriates. She rises again, buoyed on a cushion of pure anger.

“I cannot fault you for wanting to be. But it remains there is a child. You wrote her into the world, and she must live in the world. In this world—” a swollen finger stabs fiercely downward “—she will need a mother. And a name. You must have known that ere she came to be here. You chose it. To live in this world means she is its subject. There are no exceptions.”

Glamourie rakes a hand over her head and rips aside the ceiling. No sound, no rendering of joists, no shuddering in the walls. Smoke gushes forth as from a chimney. Her gaze follows it upward in wonder. Stars above, so many tiny white pinpricks, and among them, moving through them, a thousand smaller stars swirl downward: snowflakes. Oh yes, my snowflakes; I near forgot I did those. Her throbbing hand uncurls from its claw, trying to catch one, but they drift down only so far before the heat winks them away. Snowflakes.

“You cannot stop me,” she say. “You can only detain me, and you have done so quite long enough. I shall go now.”

This is spoken with a good deal more authority and confidence than she can actually summon. There’s smoke in her skull, heavy enough to make it slump forward, her chin nodding. Her breath comes harsh and rough, rattling in her chest.
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Re: Two Little Stones

Postby Rance » Tue Aug 18, 2020 4:27 am

Bugs sting, and then they perish. Then we forget them after we grind them to powder. What little fools. The world bends for Him, and so it does for Us. You are so small. You are so, so small.

The snow refuses to melt here. It lands upon the stone, and even if heat licks and laps like a wild tongue, the beautiful spear-point symmetries of the tiny artifacts never melt. They reflect Fionn's face. They absorb the blackness of her eyes and stare back at her.

Do you know what we did, Second Mother? It can be our secret, mother and daughter.

A gust, pushing her back, back, toward that slit in the wall, where the heat and fire and ash and snow swirled in a wild storm—

We unwrote them all, like nothing at all. Just to see if we could. Sand cities and sad people. It was terrible fun. And we did it just knowing how much it might please you...

Then, a repetition of the voice, rolling on and on and on from the blackness and the light:

An it please you—

An it please you—

An it please you.

The water of the lake was still as frozen ice, blown by no wind, rippled by no tilt of the world. Night had started to fall upon Myrken Wood, and the burning Wood was its own blinding torch behind her, every flame sucking desperate breath from the air around it. Corm McKinnon's feet no longer touched the earth, but hovered and kicked as if the rest of him were suspended from some disembodied umbilical cord. The twisting, black spiderlegs-tendrils still held him, held inside him, lofting him high. His body jerked, twisted, spasmed; he clucked and gasped for air, and though he'd only been here for seconds, hadn't it been aeons, aeons? His liverspotted hands swiped at the air, at the spears of Black Oil piercing his ears, his eyes, his mouth...

"Ruann," he managed, heaving the word out around a mouthful of foam.
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Re: Two Little Stones

Postby Niabh » Tue Aug 18, 2020 9:56 am

We unwrote them all, it says, and its last look at her face—if such a thing could see at all—was an expression of such horror that it reduced her to stunned wonder: a child who has been slapped, too astonished to cry.

And now she was evicted: mid-air still, a bean-sidhe sailing silently down the cnoch, with the weight of a grown man abruptly hanging off her arm, her hand still glued to his face. He spasmed and kicked like a man on a gallow-tree. On instinct she stiffened up her elbow and wrapped her other arm around his waist (the too-hasty gesture split the skin over her shoulderblade) and thought down now, down now, even though there was no real need to command it. She was holding herself in the air by her own power, and she always had been—not the torc at all.

The moment her weight fell on her feet again, her legs spilled out from under her. Her limbs felt as they did after she’d been swimming a long time: the pull of the earth reasserting itself after the liquid weightlessness of water. Her mind felt the same. She stared agape into his face, trying to remember why she had hated him.

Mo stórin, you’re hurting him, came Meg’s mild voice in her mind. That’s not nice of you at all. You had better stop.

The black cables extruding from her fingertips crackled as they whipped back to the space under her nails, and she, dazed, was only grateful that they could do that, that they could be withdrawn, though she still could not allow herself to wonder where, exactly, they had gone.

Snow on the ground, ice on the water. Her mind groped forward and seized on the idea that snow might slow the fire, that it might make a barricade. It might not reach the town.

It had been snowing that day behind the Dagger with Catch, and there had been an emptiness in the world that cried out, and then there was nothing at all, nothing and nothing, forever and forever, and then the wintry world had returned but for a moment, there had been nothing but whiteness. Everywhere. Forever and ever.


Catch, Catch, where is it? Where did it go?

His reply, newly calm, still unfamiliar, had seemed almost like someone she didn’t know:
I have to speak to Gloria. That was Jernoah, leaving.



Ruin, he had said. Ruin.

And certes there was ruin enough: ruin all around, the Woods in ruins, her left hand in tatters and blisters on her back, and the man himself, drooling across her inner wrist as she cradled his head, trying to lift it upright. The gods alone knew what ruin lay behind his face. They had gone into his eyes. Her mind groped lazily, then seized upon the thought that he had said Ruann, not ruin—seized it with such ferocity that her heart squeezed tight. At last, a word she recognized.

Her lips parted to repeat Ruann?, to demand he explain himself. Her chin quivered, lower lip shaking. All that emerged was a thick crow’s-croak—uck—with tongue mired behind her teeth. Tried again, jaw flapping open, and fell into a blind panic as the words kept rolling further and further out of reach. She knew them, she could hear them, but her mouth seemed incapable of giving them shape.

At the bottom of her despair, she tried to scream and found that she could: a wild, wordless shriek.
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