An Amateur's Inquisition.

Re: An Amateur's Inquisition.

Postby catch » Wed Sep 11, 2013 7:49 am

Harder and harder, her fingers, her steel. And it is welcoming. The crushing pain in his hand - and how bird-thin bones could squeeze bones of stone! - took away the sting of Calamity. And had there ever been a Catch? A creature that acted of his own nature, a creature that could be kind or cruel, a creature of nature, unnatural, able to act on whim? Because he had no need to procreate. He had no need to pass on, for he would linger for an eternity. He was the silver shadow under the moon; he was a song, sometimes terrible, sometimes lovely, singing for nothing but the joy -

Come all ye fair and tender maids, who flourish in your prime. Beware, beware, make your garden fair -

And he was a man, broken and bound in flesh, in the scars that formed runnels in his hands, the only blemishes on a pale, smooth body. As a man, he was taught to question. In kind eagerness he had been told what to do, and too late, he sees the goodness in it. From one spectrum to the next, from too-trusting to never-trusting.

"No." His own no is there, heavy as stone, his eye never leaving Gloria. "You were, you were sm-sm-smart to b-b-bring her. She has the Glass Words. You c-c-could ask her to speak them, and I'd do wh-wh-whatever you wish. And I love her, too - I m-m-might n-n-not, not even resent it."

Even called a Calamity, he loves her.

"Wh-wh-what do you want f-f-from me, aside th-that which you, you c-c-can't give?" His fingers were crushed, and he didn't care. "Aside f-f-from, from what you want. D-d-do you want me to, to go on being quiet, being clever? Will you c-c-crush my bones and swear to, to help, b-b-before you skip b-b-back to Her? Why sh-sh-should Gloria and I t-t-trust you. What t-t-test could you give - what words c-c-could you say - will you dig us a hole, and laugh wh-wh-when we step into it?"

And through his words, his tone is a dull, stupid anger.

"I'm waiting f-f-for your story, Airy Ann. Wh-what story will you give us."
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Re: An Amateur's Inquisition.

Postby Rance » Wed Sep 11, 2013 2:08 pm

Stop looking at me, she wanted to say to Catch, but her voice never found its whetstone.

In the far distance, a thousand leagues and more away from her, Ariane twitched beneath her steel. The woman staved off the need to retch, but the seamstress breathed long and hard through the beams of the Sun and felt the tiny morsels of sand biting into her skin. She was in her mar'dak's room, her mother, her mother, and the hot and reeking alcove stank of shit that wanted for water, so much water, where is my root, light the root to ash and let me take it in, Ightik Wynsee pleaded, screaming--

--screaming, get your hands away from me you frigid little Pens-horse, I hate the way you touch, I hate the worms under my skin, but Gloria -- no clothes, too young for clothes, nine years of age and her favorite color was green like mythical grass -- tried to peel back the hides that covered her mother. The woman was a wisp, a bony wraith with a black ball-bearing stare and a maw lined in rotten teeth. Ightik had been a beauty once, such a wonderful lass, but now she squirmed in her bedroll like a worm, smearing muddy feces into the bedclothes with her heels and begging to smoke, just put that knuckle of root over in the copper bowl and light the fire beneath it, be a sweet girl and sing me a song, let me see that little belly--

But that was long before here: the shack, Catch's shack, redolent with its rot-odor, its tension, its wrath.

Crying without sound. How dare he speak of her as if he knew; he thrashed the world around them with talk of Glass Words and love. The Marshall was the totem between them and the seamstress' coal-stained fingertips were still open, waiting for the curls of a dress to fall into her grip.

This is not for you to ask. And Glour'eya, you do not have the means to make it a demand.

For all that she wanted to scream, spit upon Catch in that apologetic and humble moment, she gave sullen reason to the Marshall. Her eyes were blind with wetness. Fat tears broke through the blood on her cheeks like ugly, misshapen diamonds. "Then I will not demand. But you say these words to -- to a Glour'eya months younger than me. If you think I've no means, then ask a dead girl.

"Ask Mister Catch. Ask Noura, to whom I uttered a very familiar threat because I could not get it out from under my skin. Ask Elliot Gahald, whose mouth I tore with a horse's bit to shut him up. Ask Cherny, in whose hand I put a killing-sword though I never once touched it. The means are certainly there now, if not by intent, then by pure, utter mistake. Show me glass and I will break it.

"Where were you, Ariane," the girl asked, "when we were all losing ourselves? You were lost too. You see? You were sipping your tea without cream. You were painting pastures and wearing slippers. Stop trying to -- to be the same Ariane you were before. Catch is not the same Catch; I am not the same Gloria. Do not, do not claim I do not have the means to make my demands of you."

Her lips tightened into bloody bow, the teeth behind them grinding into the flesh of her lower lip. Keeping her from saying everything at once.

"You will have your names. In an hour's time, bring Caliir a half-chewed apple." The granite faded out of her voice. "In my stupefaction, you -- you will forgive me if I do not welcome you back how a friend rightfully ought."

She turned. The girl pressed a palm against the door to Catch's shack, nudging it open only enough to draw in a suctioned burst of the cooler summer air. The gust blasted away the invisible sand trickling against her mind. She felt the addled man's gaze crawling underneath her blouse and sliding its oily tendrils up through the hairs of her legs. She loved him too, but she was dumb to it.

Why sh-sh-should Gloria and I t-t-trust you. What t-t-test could you give - what words c-c-could you say - will you dig us a hole, and laugh wh-wh-when we step into it?

"Mister Catch," she said -- mind stuttering Calamity, Calamity! -- before Ariane Emory could give any sliver of the story he requested, angling her chin over her shoulder. He could speak for her; she wouldn't remain. This conversation would be theirs alone. She would be scrubbing all the flecks of blood out of her hair. "What my Jernoah did to you, I can't change. I would take it away if I could, I would learn my whip again and be a good enough Jerno to hit each one of my people until they sobbed and -- and bled and begged me to stop. And even then, I would keep whipping. Of course they weren't your murders; they were Jernoah's. But that makes them no less awful.

"My mother never recovered. I ask that you don't remind me."

Let them have their stories. The girl retrieved her mirror-shard knife and a sliver from Ariane's ruined dress. Then she fled, ran away from Marshalls and Calamities and long-ago memories of beasts that gnawed th-th-through bellies. There would be no Glass Words. She might shatter those, too.
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Re: An Amateur's Inquisition.

Postby Carnath-Emory » Mon Sep 30, 2013 3:43 am

What does he ask of her, if not a collar for his throat? Exactly the sort of leash that she'd loathed, as a child; that, as a woman grown, she'd learned bitterly to resent. That she'd once been in such need of just such restraints had only fueled her loathing.

What does he ask? And with such solemn need, so that in the end it is not unlike what Cherny had told her - months ago, during another lifetime, just as complicated and in entirely different ways. Tasty porridge, he'd said. Tasty porridge in a magical bowl, the tender lies a child might tell, a child or else a desperate adult; the sort of loving deceit of which she herself was never quite capable. Not when she was told to be; not even when she longed to be, those moments in which it seemed like a single word, falsely-said, might be the brightest kindness she could bestow.

Until a Lady's grace lifted a thousand heavy burdens from her soul and replaced them with the capacity to deceive.
That, too, she'd struggled desperately to shed.

"Glour'eya." Because it's to her that the words must go, and of all the things she might have said under gentler circumstances - of leverage, of the ways in which a swordswoman might be effectively compelled - in the end it is only this: "I am not glass. I do not break."

But she does not restrain that glittering knife from the hand which hastens to retrieve it. She does not hold a girl back from her escape - and in the wake of what Catch has said, horrors which she wishes, fervently wishes had never been spoken aloud - what could this be but an escape? Turns her back on this, with a seamstress' charges in her ears and in the wake of the only promise she's ever known how to make, and takes the seat offered her by a Catch who, through all his angry hurt, still wanted her hand.

Steel is a gentle trickle across their fingertips: hers, his; warm yet with the memory of her veins. It does not explore his skin but only yields to the tug of gravity, where she's allowed it to flow, for like its owner it is keenly familiar with the threat of violence; unlike its owner it does not know anything else.

"There are - so few good stories about little girls with stolen horses." Because that was what he'd asked of her, days ago: that girl, that escape that in the end had amounted to so little, so much. "A girl so young - it's not her time yet, you see? She must wait a little yet. If only she knew how to be patient." Her mouth was never made for smiling. This time it hardly tries. "Two nights before he left us forever - "

He. Us.
So little need to speak the names.

" - he had me meet him near the tavern's stables, there being a thing which he would have me see. His steed, I thought. What else could it be? And I was not wrong."

Her hand had been a mindless clench upon his own, long moments ago. Had she ever actually realised? It's gentled somewhat now, in either case; long, scarred fingers have grown very still.

"An uncommon request. You know what it is, to - know a person, without that you speak much words ever at all?" A glance, wondering; knowing. "It was ever this way between us. Uncommon, that he would make this - overture. So: to these stables, and to this steed, and he wondered, would I ride with him a time? And to look into his eyes was to understand that this was no idle request; of course I agreed."

And was there anything, really anything that she might have denied him? The General, who'd wrenched that knife out of her skin and staunched the fountaining blood that followed. Who'd held a girl's arms as she put the schiavona right through her -

"I must hold tightly to him, he said." Strange, her eyes confess. "I must trust him with all my heart. And when the ground gave 'way beneath us, when his horse became - " Smiling after all, thin and wry. "Hrimfax were not the first of his kind I had ever seen; did you know this?" He didn't. Of course he didn't. "And the other, the first; it ended - badly."

The strange, dreaming daze, afterwards. Her body sluggish with the memory of wounds it no longer wore.
Blood splattered her ankles with every step she took, and none of it was his.

"I must have deafened his ears with my screaming. 'til there was no voice left in me, and then I just clung to him, terrified. This thing he wanted to show me, glorious and precious, and this was my answer to it, all this fear. But he had bade me trust him, Catch, and his voice were quiet and steady even when mine was nothing but a - a croak." Laughter. Almost laughter. "The world sank into darkness beneath us, but I held to him with all my strength, and he did not let me fall."

The breath comes to her slowly, now; her eyes are quietly for his.

"I will not put no leash to your neck, Catch. I do not want to. I cannot bear to. But if you think you want one - if you feel you need one - let it be this: when inside you it is all furious and hurting, when it wants to shout, when it wants to hit, when all the world is sick and on fire - right at that moment, Catch, you listen to what I have to say.

And we see if we can keep from falling."
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Re: An Amateur's Inquisition.

Postby catch » Mon Sep 30, 2013 5:23 pm

She told her story, and here, under the sightless haze of dozens of dolls - plucked from rubbish-heaps that, now, longer existed - their silver fingers entwined, the boards and brick groaning from the very weight of him pushing out, pushing deep, throbbing with such desire that she speaks of, the desire to cry out, to lash out, to tear to pieces, here, here he listens, a bestial ear cocked to her while a star-studded eye trembled with grim, unknown thoughts. He knew the truth of it. Hrimfax had whispered it to him, though the brute could, certainly, not speak. He had shared the tales of a hoary, ice-filled North, of grim battle and the wind whispering along his flanks, of the Silver Sword that his absinthe master had bade to love. And they had been together, those two, so that the Northsman heart beat as one with the beast's, so that it was easy, so easy, to give that love to her.

"Why do men love you," is what he asks, his throat a mumbling thickness. "What is it in you, th-th-that bends backs to your will." He knew why Rhaena had tried to take her; he wonders, only, why Rhaena had not tried to take himself. Or maybe she had, under bowed trees, when her reptile smile had bade him go to the Wall. His scattered brains could not be marshaled.

She asks him of this, this one thing, and he turns his eye back to her, the inhuman, broken face that should spark fear, or awe, and - instead - moves only to pity, a shattered godling huddled in his shattered hut, his hand a bloody mass cradled against his belly.

"Tell me why I shouldn't." It was not a demand. It was asked of her, in a pleading way. "Tell me why you d-d-don't ask me to finish it, now, when you know th-th-that you could - why you d-d-delay, when friends fall and hate settles in, and the spiders and serpents and pus festers. Tell me." This was not a demand, and she would know it as such, because she knows the answer - he knows the answer, yet needs that silver hand on him.

Because she could see in his eye what would happen if she asked such a thing - if she allowed it - and in the pit of his eye, she could see Jernoah in flames, could see long-lost Spires of long-ago Lothaine crumble under writhing hoof, could see, stretched through decade and century and into antiquity, what only manner of Fixing Catch could provide for the sickness that gnaws at Myrkenwood.
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Re: An Amateur's Inquisition.

Postby Carnath-Emory » Tue Oct 01, 2013 5:30 am

It's not difficult to picture how he might pull the walls down around them. Even a swordswoman's stunted imagination can manage it. Not difficult at all, to see how brick might wrench itself free of its mortar, how tortured might bend in towards the epicenter that is Catch until everything splinters, everything breaks...

Still, their entangled hands: his, hers. Still, a swordswoman's scarred fingers, relearning the subtle textures of gentleness: upon his own, her hand is something other than a vise, and steel like quicksilver ebbs and flows with the rhythm of their halting words. It does not falter, when he speaks this question - but her fingers do, a tiny startle against his own, and in her eyes something gently grieves. There are a dozen replies she might have given him, a hundred half-certain explanations. She might, very easily, have described how a pretty face - pretty, before men came to her door with knives - will sometimes dazzle a man's wisdom, blinding his better sense until he forgets to think on what hides behind what consumed his eyes. She might detail another's eagerness to break what will not bend, to fundamentally transform what will not be commanded and does not care to aquiesce; might, just as readily, have described how a girl who knows better might still lose herself amongst those efforts - when they are careful efforts; when they are brutal, when they are pleading -

But that was not the direction in which he'd asked.

"I don't know." It is the confession never spoken, in answer to the question she'd have never tolerated from anyone else at all. A glance for him now, as quiet, as solemn, as her words had been. "Only a few ever have, and what they gave to me was more than I'd ever deserved." It's possible to speak these words, when it's Catch who'd asked. Catch, who knows: who'd seen how she laughed as she clung to Hrimfax's back, all rampant arrogance and exulting strength. Alike in their pride. Alike in their ferocity. "I'm impossible." Something in her wants to smile at the word. "And I know it. What I do is unacceptable. I am at every turn a hypocrite." One rule for students, for friends and for lovers; another, very different, for her. "What I love, I love completely. But I'm not very good at it." Smiles then, despite herself; despite groaning walls and half-flayed limbs and the horror that had been their world just moments ago. Smiles, small and rueful. "Sometimes - sometimes it's me that bends. Those few, they were worth that, worth anything, Catch. Everything."

Were. Ask her to write down the names and she will pen you a list of the dead and departed. All save for one, only one, and it is a man that Catch has never met; the realisation of this is sudden and piercing, sharp with distant regret. She will change this, somehow. On some future date, and nevermind that it takes a certain arrogance to plan for futures when Myrken is lost to gauzy dreams. She will change this, just so that they may each of them experience what the other is.

"You know why," she answers him - after a lasting quiet, his hand and hers and all beneath the stare of empty-eyed dolls. Lifts her gaze to meet his own, where burns the sullen flames that she'd never needed to see; you know, she'd said, because she does too. "Because this is not Jernoah, where they care only to be monstrous. This is not Golben, where they hardly knew what they could do 'til it was done - and oh, they mightn't have cared anyway. Lost, you know? To their rivalry, and blind to everything else." A thin swallow; Golben screams hard through her veins, a clarion call. "This is not Orvere, where the insurgency flexed its fists against - not what it would not accept, but everything which it claimed to cherish.

But this is Myrken, and we are already the wreckage of mistakes made long before our time. And this is Myrken in the time of Glenn Burnie, and we who move this place now, we are arrogant enough to believe that we learn from those old mistakes. We do not let for anger, for hurt, to blind our eyes and dampen our hearts. Not as it did theirs. We do not burn this to the ground when there is the chance, the least chance, that it might yet be put right."

Her hand, gentle but firm.
Her eyes, no less.
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