Midnight Calling

Re: Midnight Calling

Postby Rance » Thu Nov 15, 2018 8:25 am

He passed her by, went to his bureau, to his favorite place. Where, no matter what she demanded, he would write any damn letters he wanted to. This one, however, would be hers.

"No."

The thumb nicked at the hilt. The knife slid free. Its steel was cheap, warped, but steel nonetheless: still shone as steel did, still took a sharpening as steel wanted to.

"If you believe that I expect gratitude, then you know very little of me. What I expect," she said, "is that you should have learned from those chances — and yet I stand here bewildered at your capacity to be the same gallantly inhuman boor you were two, three, four, five, six years ago, when first we met. I do not waste time answering your questions because you have already answered them for yourself, and because you value nothing beyond your own schemes and your own voice."

What boldness it took, to unsheathe a blade in another man's home. But Gloria Wynsee did, not with a grand sweep of her arm or the adoption of a righteous stance, but with belabored breath and squinted eyes. The edge scraped along the patches of her skirt. She did not like this. This did not please her. But Glenn Burnie might as well have plucked the blade from its scabbard on his own, what, with that same palpable hand of arrogance and invulnerability that commanded his tongue. "Belief matters," she repeated, "and I believe. In Myrken Wood. In Ariane, to be the best of us when the best of us is necessary. But to hide behind her reason and calculation, especially when it meets your convenience, demonstrates what I already know to be true:

"That before believing in Myrken Wood, you believe first in Glenn Burnie. Glenn Burnie, who plays with devils, and relies on those around him to — to ruin themselves for his sake."

Simple. This was simple now. All things eventually found themselves reduced to conflict and contempt, but here, they both shielded themselves with their greatest assets: Glenn, his cool challenges, his words and pen, his clever wit; Gloria, her brusque convictions, her indomitable willingness to survive.

"You will have your arrangement, unmolested, and I, my letter — for whether or not you believe me reckless, Glenn Burnie, my child lives, and I would not risk her wellness with some unnecessary feud. But I demand contingency, and I require accountability. If I cannot have these things, for her sake, and for Myrken Wood's, then I will have more blood — for there is enough already, and it always runs back to you."
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Re: Midnight Calling

Postby Glenn » Mon Nov 19, 2018 2:03 am

"You would do this," four little words, simple and neutral. If anything, there was disappointment, though it would be in his eyes and not his voice. He was one to explain himself at length, far more than anyone wanted him to. Here, though, there was nothing but that. At first there was nothing but that.

There were men in this world who could do but one thing at a time. Then, there were those like Burnie who could not simply do one thing and one thing alone. For him, writing was often different, for in writing, Burnie, in fact, did many things at once. The letter was mostly written by the time he sat down, however, and in this case, there was reason to do something more than just write.

The desk was controlled chaos. It was covered with papers, tomes, writing instruments, but everything was organized in its own way. Things were piled, tied together, turned at specific angles. There just wasn't room enough for all of it. Clumsily stacked upon one pile was a flask of vaguely green liquid. Whatever other food and drink he had was seemingly cordoned off to other, safer parts of his abode.

As ink met paper, words left his lips once more, like some precocious bard who could both play the lute and sing at the same time. One complemented the other, though she would not know the full truth of this until letter was before her.

"If you wish to keep your child safe," he began, hand moving with quick, precise motions, tone vaguely uninterested, "then you would serve her well by being a mother, by mothering her, by raising her. No matter what accord you made, those who do so now have their own interests. That they made an accord in the first place is testament to the existence of such interests. Only you, not I, not anyone but you, can be trusted to put the interests of your daughter first." There was a dagger. He was uniquely unable to defend himself from it by writing. He was nonetheless goading her. Maybe it was just what he did at knifepoint. "That's step one. Step two is to actually be a mother. Be stronger. Be more selfless. Be more caring. If you really care, you find a way to learn. If you believe in Myrken, then you believe in humanity, and if you believe in humanity, then you believe that you can be capable of that. Otherwise, what's the point to any of it?" Finally, the impatience began to stir in his chest. It did not affect his penmanship in the least. "Stop worrying about unnecessary feuds. You can't truly do a damn thing about those. If not mine and hers, or her people and ours, which is exactly what I'm trying to prevent, by the way, it'd be something else. It's always something else. If you kill me, it'll be something else, at least in the short term. I'm working towards the long term but you don't want to hear a bit of that. Anyway, here's the point: better yourself. Take a direct hand. What do you think I've been trying to do? What do you think I'm doing? Everything else is ultimately cowardice and dereliction."

It was timely he got to the point, because he had, it seems, finished his letter. Without turning, without looking, he rose and waved it about as if swatting a fly behind him in her general direction. "I could fold it into a swan and throw it at you, but that takes more effort than actually writing it." Plus, they didn't fly nearly as well as you'd think. They were for looks and not for function, which made it a wonder that he could manage the trick at all. If she took it, he would slowly start towards the fire, apparently brooding as she read.

Aloisius,

I write this to you as the only stable and everpresent part of Myrken Government. I would address it to the inquisitory or the constabulary but who knows who is in charge of the latter today and as for the former, well, I rather doubt she'd toss me in irons even if I asked nicely. I am not asking you to take direct action here, merely to read this, to be sure to only harrumph, exhale, ruminate for a short time, and then to take the central message within and pass it along as you see fit to be most effective given the current political situation.

Remember, old friend, how you showed me kindness when I first came to Myrken. I know now that this was not due to any sort of general goodwill towards man, but instead due to your skewed and unique sense of justice whereas you find the idea of want and poverty to be anathema, but only when it is directly in front of you. You would eagerly provide a starving man with a feast but you would do nothing to ensure that he did not starve once more in a week's time. You are wholly incapable of enacting systemic reform ever placing a bandage upon the gaping hole in Myrkeners' stomachs.

Still, the intent and focus of kindness is so often less important than the effect upon its recipient. In the immediate, you likely helped to save my life. In the long-term, you gave me pause, pause well-spent in truly looking at the place and the people around me. My natural instinct was to run forward from danger, but your kindness, if nothing else, delayed me, succor that weighed down supple legs and brought a nourished haze to an overly alert mind. What I saw inspired me and it continues to inspire me even now.

This was a hardy people, one who met misfortune after misfortune, so much of it not of their own cause, afflicted by gods and monsters, by drought and famine. They are survivors. In surviving, they shout to the heavens against the powers that oppress them. They celebrate their continued existence with barn dances and costume parties, not escaping the horrors of their lives, but actively defying them. Moreover, they fight, pushing back the darkness time and time again. That, I am afraid to say, has always but been the symbolic equivalent your bandage of repast. Their spirits, their very lifeblood, starves, and they push back, expelling the virus that currently inflicts them. The body remains weak and susceptible to the next disease, actual or symbolic. The process is repeated, as it is when you find a new wastrel.

Nothing ever changes.

I meant to change things. Perhaps this is a lesson you learned sixty years ago, Aloisius. Perhaps, once upon a time, you were a young man who wished to make the world a better place, who failed as I did. Perhaps you learned that there was nothing to be done about it, that every grand, sweeping gesture would only make things all the worse, so that all that could possibly help was the small bandage, the one starving man fed for one moment in time. If you learned that lesson and became a safer, if far more disappointing person for it, then I am afraid that I never can. I cannot stop. I will not stop. I have spent years away from Myrken Wood to recover after my ordeals, and to ensure that I am remain sane, but my purpose remains. I want to help people. I want to help them reach a point where they might live as opposed to just being alive. Survival is the bare minimum, old friend. Sustenance is necessary but it alone does not make for a satisfying life. Even in the best of times, we are fleeting. We will never escape death. Within a hundred years, it will come for all of us. It is my beady-eyed desire, so much as you desire a hamhock, that we do not spend the years of our life just trying to reach as high an age as possible. It is the experiences that matter, the purpose that drives them, not some mere number, worthless alone.

Therefore, as I cannot stop myself from acting with the best of intentions, I will soon return to Myrken, showing remorse only for my failures, not for my attempts. Others are already there. Others will soon return as well. With that in mind, it is very important that you pass along this message to those in authority, even though I know it will pain you to do so: Gloria Wynsee should not be overfed. Her mind is like a knotted tree and to swaddle it further in glistening fat would only cause the run off escaping her mouth to flood the streets with the sap of hypocrisy and misanthropy. I fear the town would not survive.

With regretful warning,
Glenn Burnie
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Re: Midnight Calling

Postby Rance » Wed Nov 21, 2018 4:51 am

She watched him write.

"One—"

(she said, when all had been composed and read, when with the same four-fingered hand she held her dagger she snared the paper and took it as her own)

"—for even though you are someone I consider a friend, this does not mean you are beyond my judgment nor wholly saved from my violence should I ever feel it necessary. You would do this," Gloria repeated, never blinking, the stone-colored, small-pupil stare having never met a challenge — including fourteen years in the sweltering Jernoan Sun — it was willing to blink away. "You would presume yourself to be the smartest person in the room, so great of mind that you believe yourself capable of explaining motherhood to a mother, new at the task as she may be."

No. She was not going to stab him today; she'd not disappoint Ariane Emory by putting her loyalty to the test; she'd not turn her silent promise to Genny Tolleson — that impulse would not so quickly arrest her — into meaningless sound. To show him the knife was enough, that she would draw it, and in the wake of all Myrken had demanded of her, that she would be willing.

"Two—"

Away went the blade. She bent the letter back between her fingertips, folded it, and made it her own.

"Women are your greatest weakness, Glenn. You inherently believe them less intelligent than you. Objects," said she, staring at the fire, "broken by default, for which only you have the advice for repairing them. Challenges wearing dresses and finery that you must overtake, prove wrong, and by your hand alone, raise up. So incapable and ineffective on their own, without your presence, that — that without the catalyst of your influence, they would hardly have reason to exist. Rhaena Olwak perished because of that arrogance. Because the childish, smirking, and self-absorbed tyrant of reason standing in front of me valued, first and foremost, his capacity to — to repair her over anything else.

"And this new enigma you've adopted? This Other Woman—" A glance down to the smear of blood she'd left upon the carpet. "I imagine you promised — what, to fix her? To guarantee her, by alliance, a chance to touch her toe into the fountain of human kindness?" Leaning forward, now, all shoulders and serrated spine, the dollops of tar sweat on her brow crawling down to frame the intense tightness of her face. "Glenn Burnie, who unravels himself to tame women.

"Glenn Burnie, who breaks women to tame the world."

A cut of her hand through the air. This was futile; Gloria Wynsee could bash walls, punch them, hammer them into submission, but this was too unnecessary a citadel to puncture: waging war on the capital of his being would do nothing. A line from H'zlz ar G'leuse came to her, so rapid and so sudden that she swore she felt the Glass Sun on the back of her neck. Invaders who tear down the statues before winning the war do little but embolden the opponent.

She looked about, wondering if he'd still had the copy she'd gifted him.

"A truce," Gloria finally said. "Never again will Rhaena Olwak's name come from my lips in your presence — as long as we speak nothing more of motherhood from this day forward. These weapons are too clumsy to unsheathe."
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Re: Midnight Calling

Postby Glenn » Wed Nov 21, 2018 6:00 am

He had been prepared for violence. He had been prepared to break both of them against the rock of the unknown. There were more conventional ways to escape it, but he wasn't feeling conventional lately. He certainly wasn't feeling conventional on this night. There were safer ways to escape it but then she wasn't the only one who had found a sort of life in the pits. He had known many such pits in his life. Instead, however, he listened, as he had for so much of their time together tonight. Was that simply patience? Was it an allowance due to her difficult experience and his role, however indirect, in its cause?

When she was done, words bandied, blade sheathed, truce offered, he looked to her more quizzically than anything else. "A moment." It was a short march from the fire back to his desk. He placed the vial back upon it. That would have been the means of their journey, and what a journey it would have been. He did not look at her, instead, still as a statue, head down, he stared at the desk. Finally, without turning, he spoke, voice distant. "Mortality, not kindness. Absolutely not kindness. The opposite of kindness. Mortality to offset her people's malaise and lack of imagination." The words were quick spurts. Then, silence once again. "I would revisit certain letters due to your claim, but I no longer have them. I'll find something else to revisit instead. You won't care." This was said offhandedly, as if they were both in a story and he was speaking the narration, as if this was written within the very margins of their lives.

He took a determined breath and turned, cut the distance between them. "You're right and you're wrong. Here's where you're wrong. Were you a man, this would go no different. Were you a father, perhaps like my own, one that claims the same distant motive for your action, this would go no different. Here's something about my presumption, Gloria: it doesn't matter who else is in the room."

With that, he retreated, both a few steps and a few strands of intensity. His voice softened as did his gaze. "With one very distinct and wholly frivolous (though not uncommon) exception, I truly do not think I differentiate as you say. Perhaps I treat everyone miserably, but I treat them equally. Were you not a woman and were you not a mother, I would find something else. If you are to chastise me, reach for the general principle instead of the specifics. If the one is true, the other is as well. It's the same with my weakness. General principles, Gloria." It was argument and admission at once, but there were hardly unexpected or disappointing limits to what he was capable of.

"As for your truce," the one that would get them through this night without further bloodshed. "I imagine you not mentioning Rhaena's name would do far more for you than for me, while at the same time me not mentioning motherhood to you would be doing you a disservice. As such, the balance, while wholly within you, is potentially equal. I will agree to it, in the name of regard and affection and peace, if that is what you desire and if it will make your difficult night end upon a more palatable note."
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Re: Midnight Calling

Postby Rance » Wed Nov 21, 2018 3:51 pm

Palatable.

That was the word he chose, when she'd come to him with a sackful of her bloody, sick-ridden clothes to burn up his chimney.

It had shattered him, being sold as an infant; only here and now did she realize how fully. Mutating him into some obscene caricature of human who thought that human mortality was the answer to another race's bountiful ills! She watched on, both in fascination and utter confusion, as his words careened further and further into the realm of the nonsensical. He had woven himself as a necessity not just into Myrken Wood, but into the wider world beyond, fancied himself the corner-stitch at the connection of two completely disparate societies, that he could combat such intangibles as—

(What words had he used?)

malaise and lack of imagination. It was, at the end of it all, a wholly visible mask of disgust that swept across her face: a squint of one nostril, a narrowing of the eyes, and the wrinkling of her chin toward prunish distaste.

"When you are done remedying the ills of her kind," Gloria Wynsee shot back, "perhaps you can try your hand at saving all of Jernoah, if still it stands. And by all means—" her lone hand lunged out, encompassed the room with a grand gesture, "—when you've conquered their hearts with all the wondrous and immaterial offerings you bring, where next? New Dauntless? Or perhaps we hoist the sails and shoot off toward the end of the world to discover the next undiscovered corner of our realm that only Glenn Burnie can save."

It was hopeless. Or she was hopeless. Or he was. But this all was. Well beyond her capacity for patience and rationale, she scooped up the travel-chewed corners of her patchwork skirt and jammed its edges into her beltwaist with her thumb. Save for the letter pressed against the bend of her thigh, she'd leave Razasan the same way she entered it: with nothing but grimy clothes and a head filled to the brim with notions to escape.

At the door, her hand touched the jamb. A tiny sprig of red hair wrapped around her knuckle paused her advance.

(Tell me true: should you look someone in the eyes when you tell them you have no belief in them?)

"I will put up whatever wall is necessary, Glenn, before your return. Not because I find myself at continuous odds with your motivations, or even that I question the authenticity of your purpose, but because — for what little I have grown to know of you — I fully believe your momentum has carried you further away from the sense and health you hoped to rediscover here.

"When I leave, write as you will. Surround yourself with your usual shelter of voices. I hope their discourse guides you as you truly require."
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Re: Midnight Calling

Postby Glenn » Mon Nov 26, 2018 3:19 am

She was there at his door. Whether or not she looked at him, he was looking at her. There was a sort of effortless flippancy to his words, a defiance that was not against her necessarily, but against what she had invoked. Was it the very notion of limits? Of the impossible? Of futility? Or was it just against good sense? It could well be all of those things, the very last slipping out of the box as he pried it open, turned it upside-down, and shook it with a madman's abandon (or a dreamer's? could she be sure?). "Dauntless is too cold, both the weather and its people. I've no desire to sail; too many things outside human control. Maybe someday we'll manage it." For now, they could barely even manage simple navigation.

Instead, then: "It's all tied together Gloria. Everything is. We can't ignore our neighbors and only focus on our own ills. It's a system and if we don't factor in, outside elements will impede us. I can't control for all of it, not even half of it, but I can't ignore the things I know." The things he knew. He could hear it, distant in his ear, the sound of legend and myth. She Believed it and that meant he had to as well. "In the meantime, if you find a better plan, if you find someone better to execute it, please introduce me. I have my doubts, Gloria. I don't think I'm worse off than when I arrived, but I do think might well be soon. So you'll build your wall and I'll write my letter, and we'll see each other again on the other side of this."

What were they, then? Enemies? Rivals? Foes? Was he a threat and she the guard against it? His smile would say otherwise, whether she saw it or not. "I'll write you on the road." Had things gone differently, they'd be travelling together. "You're not obliged to write back, but know that choosing not to will not halt my letters from coming."
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Re: Midnight Calling

Postby Rance » Mon Nov 26, 2018 6:38 am

For a man who had so many words, he had always spoken in vague, inaccessible generalities around Gloria Wynsee, and she felt all of them for the burden they were: a vast and impenetrable blackness, an unspoken demand that she abandon her agency and simply trust without reason. He constructed a barrier between her and the intricacies of Myrken Wood's heart, as if he somehow knew the right of it, bred an expectation that she should never grow, or want greater than the filth clumped under her fingernails. Gloria, little more than a grungy tradesgirl with a deference for authority and Jerno notions and poems clogging the avenues of her brain.

Happy to follow.

Happy simply surviving.

Did he still think her so small?

"The things you know," the young woman said to the door, to the knots in it, for it was a far better ear than his, "are clever fabrications, Glenn — and not of her making, but of your own. Phantoms to swing at, wrestle to the ground, and overcome, for all that you could not combat them years ago. Whether or not you see it or sense it, it's a war that rages in you, and — and I need not Ariane's instinct for conflict, Duquesne's unique insight, nor Genny Tolleson's powerful and capable mind to see it shredding you to pieces.

"Fight those phantoms, your past, and yourself, but do not use Myrken Wood as your bludgeon. It cannot — absolutely cannot — survive another round of Glenn Burnie's mistakes."

This was their impasse. They spoke around one another, sometimes listening, sometimes not; she pitied him and found him flawed; he thought her brash, myopic, unseasoned. The night burnt to cinders like the remnants of her moon-patterned dress. What had she expected, coming here? What had she expected, showing him blood? Had she expected him to lay his hands upon it all, upon Razasan, upon her shredded clothes and the terrors in her mind and remedy them, or for him to share the secrets of their rehabilitation?

"Write," the Jerno said quietly, her chin turning just enough that she could glance at him from around the wing of her ragged bonnet. "And I will write in return, when time allows. I may even leave the knives sheathed."

Away from him. Away from Razasan. Away from the caustic images of Follox's open throat and black pits of those alien eyes staring at her whenever she closed her own.

"We will see each other again on the other side of this," she repeated. "Until you face it again, I am sorry for the ugliness of my friendship and all its demands."

Razasan, killed for her, looked no less alive as she walked through it for the final time.
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