In the end, she thudded to her knees. Corm McKinnon—what remained of him—rolled off her back and bumped into the soft muck. The relief of his weight from her sore shoulders was keen as a second scalding and she shook her head, trying to remember why she had carried him so far.An anything in him can still speak, he
will answer me.
If anyone awaits at the end of this path, they’ll know I tried to save the wretch.
Over her shoulder, she could still see where her shuffling path began—not far at all. When she tried to look ahead, her eyes swam over, no longer able to see through the smoke. When at last they refocused, they honed on a faint shifting in the snow. A cluster of green spears broke through the crust, unfolding themselves into white flowers that promptly drooped their sorrowful heads at the shambles in which they’d found themselves. The blossoms trembled.
Under her folded legs, the earth thrummed.He comes.
Silently, she struggled up from her knees, hitched the torn shoulder of her tunic from where it threatened to slip down her chest, and with very tender fingertips touched the stubble above her ear where her hair had been, the spongy blister beneath. Then the cold, reassuring gold of her torc. She inflated her lungs as best she could, lips parting to Sing back to Him—joyful, the old glad delight of last summer on those lucky days when she could coax Him to visit her—but her limp tongue was too heavy to lift. The Words beat against her soft palate, choking her like smoke, but she wasn’t the right shape to Sing them.
Her teeth clenched, jaw tight with frustration and defeat. Unfair. To have a Song, and unable to Sing it…
It feels tight in my chest, he said once, when she had asked him about tears. I don’t know what it’s called. It makes my eyes burn, and I have to scream to make it all come out. If it’s bad, sometimes you have to do both.
And in perfect innocence she had replied, Is that what that is, then? I know that feeling. It swells up in your chest, and it’s too big to fit, and it hasn't anywhere else to go. Like a black thunderhead. Mostly it comes out through my finger-ends.
Her left hand, which had gone blessedly numb, awoke and pulsed sluggishly, shooting bolts behind her eyes. Black droplets welled from her fingertips.
Mayhap she could not Sing, but her glam never left her: glamourie, which could stretch a night into a hundred years and condense all summer into a single day; glamourie, which turned the short trek from the Dagger to her den into an impossible journey. A very simple thought, one which had never occurred to her, but which seemed obvious and eternal in its very simplicity, sprang to mind:Why bother glamming anything to
look real when I could just glam it to
Be real?Then I could…
Her gaze traveled from her dripping fingertips, upward and upward, to where the tops of the trees flamed like torches and the smoke towered in the sky.
All she need do was glam them to not
be on fire, and…
And now they were whole and green, thick as all midsummer, without even a final puff of vile-smelling smoke to show they had been otherwise, and she, fixed to her spot with wonder, too full of utter delight in her accomplishment to realize her heart was hammering twice its speed or feel the tiny snaps in the backs of her eyes as the delicate capillaries ruptured, or the trickle seeping cold from her nostril.
The glamourie spread outward, effortless and inexhaustible as it always was, not in discrete tendrils but in a wide and growing net. It cast out for Catch and tugged him toward her, time dwindled along with the distance between them, while its far-most corners fumbled still further, seeking an edge she could sense but not see.