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Archive for January, 2012

Such a little thing.

Such a small, trivial thing.

She knelt in her corner, fingertips brushing past the pages of worn, faded scripture, eyes unseeing. A violent tremor crept across her spine. She could feel it now, the closeness of the shadows, the bitter taste of Fel magic on her tongue, but it was only a little thing, a sigil etched in blood, a ward of protection-

Her knees pressed against the hard wood of the floor, feeling the cold past the layers of skirt.

“I only wanted to show him…” The words were a breathy whisper edged in fear- they seemed to twist in the ringing of her ears, a soft purr of laughter blossoming from the base of her neck. Show him what, pet? I can only imagine…

Her hand snapped up to swat at her neck, book toppling from her nerveless fingers. “You’re dead now, you’re gone, I paid in blood and sacrifice, I’m free, damn you!”

She could feel the knot of her spine beneath her fingertips, could hear her pulse jumping and taste cinders on her tongue, and the laughter, it was louder, now, familiar voices swirling and coalescing into sibilant whispers- Little bitch, thought you could get rid of me did you…? Her blood began to grow hotter, sweat beading her upper lip as she wrenched and bit back a scream. The smell of burnt flesh and the sudden sharp pain of claws digging furrows across her ribs-

Stop. Don’t damage it. The third voice was quiet, scarcely audible amidst the laughter and murmurs. It knew it couldn’t run forever.

It knew it would never be free.

Marlbane’s head jerked up sharply, breathing ragged and unsteady as she clutched the tome of scripture closer to herself, panic twisting in her belly. She could feel the pressure, still, at the base of her neck- that aching, empty place where they once dwelt. Cold sweat beaded her brow, and she didn’t dare let go of her book. The stump of her right hand lifted to swipe away the perspiration, then quickly dropped, inert at her side.

“… Hell.”

The word was whispered hoarsely in the darkness, her throat tight and dry. The slender, steady flame of the oil lamp at her side illuminated her pale features, making her look ghostly. There was something hollow about her eyes, as if overwhelmed by defeat- but her lips abruptly tightened, chin jutting and lifting to a stubborn angle.

Only a dream. They’re gone, well and truly gone. Stop jumping at shadows. The order was sharp and she could feel her head clearing as she set her features flat, jaw clenching and unclenching. With slow, deliberate motions, she set the holy book down and lifted her hand to examine her finger, gaze settling on the small cut at the end of it.

It had been her first casting in months, more blood than shadow, no Fel whatsoever. She felt the draw, but it had only been for protection-

And because I wanted him to see. To have some idea of -what- I am.

She forced a bark of laughter- it sounded more like a sob- and drew herself to her feet, lifting the lamp to set it on the table carefully.

Her arm moved to fold about her chest restlessly, feet shuffling- leather slippers muffled her steps, careful practice minimizing the sound of her light footfalls further. One, two, three, four, five- one, two, three, four, five- she paced a square with precise, deliberate footsteps, trying to still the rapid palpitations of her unsteady heartbeat.

They’re gone, they aren’t coming back. It was only a dream. The words sounded hollow, even in her head. The pressure lingered in her neck, remembered voices echoing in the strange emptinessshe felt bile rise in her throat and swallowed it back, focusing on her numbers, on the counting that so frequently proved a refuge.

It was always only a dream, these day. She’d payed the price. She was free.

So why did the whispers keep haunting her?

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Resisting the itch

It was a heavy thing, dense and compact- smaller than average.

Such a small thing, the mahogany handle polished to a warm rich gleam, the barrel dark and cool against her hand as she brushed a reverent finger down its length. It was finely crafted, but not ostentatious. The grip seemed to invite her small hand to envelope it, the trigger was smooth and worn.

It was empty, of course. She hadn’t yet purchased bullets.

Here was death, in the cradle of her hand- and she felt nothing.

Only relief, and a cool, collected sense of calm. She had never been helpless, but for the price of damnation should she dare to defend herself.

But she feared the shadows more than she feared death. They never stopped calling to her. The empty places inside herself felt dark with desolation and fear, but better to be afraid than to face them again. She could feel it, taste it in the air- that faint, acrid scent when she passed too near to the Lamb, when a stranger brushed by her. She ached in ways she dare not reveal, not to anyone- and the frustration of helplessness had only added insult to injury.

Old, bitter hurt twisted inside her. Warlock.

“Never again. I’ve forsworn it.” The stubborn hiss of her own voice mocked her in the darkness, and she set the pistol down with great care, moving to cross the span of her room restlessly.

Her phantom hand itched. It was maddening. The amputated limb couldn’t be scratched, had crumbled to ashes when Mahlar had removed it- an evil thing, a wretched, unclean thing. She was tainted by it, but- no. I am tainted by my own foolishness and pride. I will repent until I am whole again- however long that might be.

And even still, she could feel the pressure at the base of her neck, the nagging need to sate the darkness, the contamination that coiled in the pit of her belly, just waiting for her to lose control. She hadn’t, though. And she wouldn’t. Never again.

It seemed worse, tonight. It troubled her, kept her restless- like an old scar before the rain. The thought made her smile, but only briefly, as her bare feet padded back and forth across the length of the room.

She had told Nessun of her thought- the possible reclamation of her House. It had hurt to even think it, let alone plan it- now it seemed an impossibly lofty sight. The last thing she wanted was to be involved in any sort of legal system. They might find out. She would be watched, or worse- jailed. Her job would be jeopardized. Her mere association with Nessun would put him in a bad light.

It had been a stupid thought anyhow, a stupid idea, a lofty, noble goal that she had no business pursuing.

A pale figure caught her eye in the mirror; it took a moment for her to recognize herself.

A year ago, she’d been starving to death, wasted by fever and hunger. Those ravages lingered in the brittle edges to her lips, the slight depletion of her breasts. They weren’t so high as they’d been, nor so full. She was still slight, waifish by nature- but her ribs didn’t jut so alarmingly as they had, her arms and legs were healthfully muscular. Hell, her thighs were downright plump- she frowned at them unhappily, shifting from one foot to the next.

But it was still hard to look on the pale, jagged scars that cut filthy words into her skin, was hard to examine the mottled burns about her throat, the gouge-marks…

Maharani had said it was possible to remove scars, but that it was painful, agonizing business…

Marlbane’s lips pursed as she looked herself in the eye, searching for something that wasn’t there. Her hair had grown long, long enough to pull back in a thick horsetail. She moved to brush it, still eying herself.

Not yet. I am not ready.

Bad enough that they were there. She hadn’t earned the right to remove them, hadn’t redeemed herself to theĀ  Light’s grace. They must remain until she stopped feeling the temptation. A lesson and a reminder. Even now, she felt their draw, their pull- her will was clearly weak, her desire for redemption not strong enough to stifle her filthy longings. She was unclean, and it was right that her body should say so, was right that she bear the markings of her own stupidity and avarice.

She must try harder. Life had purpose again, now that Nessun had returned. She’d made two new friends, too. That put the number of people she could such at ‘three’, and she felt that perhaps it was a good thing, though there was an uneasiness to it. Lorcain was interesting to her. He knew things that she wanted to know, too. It seemed unlikely that he ever lie awake in the dark of the night, feeling helpless and afraid of what was inside himself.

And Maharani… was not the sort of person she would typically have given second thought to. She was talkative, friendly, intelligent, beautiful- skilled. Experienced. She almost felt- jealousy, for all the woman and could do. It was not for a daughter of House Brightmoore to take up sailing, to be a pirate or a privateer or the Captain of a ship, after all, but Maharani had done and been all these things, seeming no worse for the wear other than her uncouth language and sometimes unladylike behavior.

If Nessun hadn’t asked her to consider befriending Maharani, she could easily have hated the woman, despised her, imagined doing terrible things to her, simply for being as vivacious as she was. But then, she had to admit it to herself- she wasn’t a very good or nice person. Sometimes she wished she was nicer, but it was difficult and exhausting to even contemplate the sort of mentality Maharani bore as easily as she breathed.

There were many things Marlbane wanted, and all of them felt out of reach, just past her ability to touch them- like an itch on a limb long severed.

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She stood still, arms looped loosely about herself, staring up at the sky.

Time passed slowly. She studied the sensation of her beating heart, felt it tighten and clench inside her chest, and suddenly wished she was home, miles away from where she stood now. She hurt. Her ribs felt as though someone had taken rocks to them- not rocks, walls- and every mender’s instinct she had told her she should be resting.

But she didn’t have time to rest.

The loop was broken, and soon, any minute now, the end would come for her. The end she’d tried so hard to prevent, had failed so drastically at stopping. She wanted to scream, wanted to shout that it wasn’t fair, that nothing had gone as planned-

Her breath grew ragged and her knees gave way, planting her in the mud. Her hands reached forward, grasping the soggy grass before her. Only the rain bore witness, as she began to silently weep, waiting with unsteady breath for the fire to consume her, for the blackness to reach inside and steal the soul from her body, for heaven, for hell- for whatever lay next.

Prayer parted her cracked lips, dissolving into sobs, but she forced herself on–

Surely it was time by now? It had to have been longer than the hour they’d had left…

The moon had traveled halfway across the sky.

January 15

I don’t understand.

Nothing went the way it was supposed to.

And after everything had failed, after all had been lost, and I could see the end before me, and I felt

so many pieces

IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE

I knew we had lost, that everything was gone, that we were

she was dead and I couldn’t save her

We are alive.

All of us are alive.

Except Penn.

I don’t understand.

We failed. We failed, didn’t we?

It’s still out there. We didn’t kill it. It’s still out there and we needed to make it die and now it will destroy us all but we failed and we’re supposed to be dead right now but we aren’t

Everyone’s drinking and laughing and celebrating, like we won some great battle, but all we did was get beaten to a pulp, ripped into a thousand tiny piec

I don’t understand.

I am home now. I crept in as quiet as I could, I didn’t want to wake Thoran, or Myk, if he was sleeping. I’m supposed to be happy, because I am alive, so we must have won- didn’t we? But we failed. We were beaten once, we ruined everything, and then it all happened again, almost exactly the same, and

I am supposed to be happy, to be cheering and drinking and laughing, but I don’t understand if we won or if this is some new deception.

I wish Audran Jahgan was here. He could help me understand. Ereleth knows me for a coward now, I’d rather not show my face. I miss Audran. He’d know what to say to make it all make sense.

Myk… hasn’t pushed me for the details yet. I must look as beaten as I feel. He didn’t seem too thrilled about my ribs. I doubt if he’ll let me out of his sight. It’s good, though. I don’t want to be away. I don’t know if I can stay, or if we’re fighting more. I don’t understand what has happened.

I wish I had answers. I’ve always understood before, more or less, what was happening. Sometimes less. Frequently less. But I had some idea.

I’ve applied the balm Mahlar had me testing. It’s eased the pain quite a bit. I breathe a bit more easily. I’m certain I could walk without limping now. But that is the false confidence of pain fading, and I will remain here for the time.

I do not know if we are to go or not.

I miss Penn.

I wish Gaell was here. Manny’s a nice pup, but I miss Gaell. I miss Audran. I wish he were still living.

I can hear Thoran’s breathing not far away. And Myk’s outside, chopping wood for the fire. This is enough for now.

I’ll sleep when he returns. I am afraid this is all a dre

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The end?

January 13

I am not afraid anymore.

The plan has been set. Whatever will come of it, will come. I am exhausted of all my doubt and second-guessing. Now all that is left is quiet. It is too late to turn back.

Mykhael-

If this is the end, then it is a wonderful end.

But I believe this is only the beginning of something much larger- and I love you.

And if I am wrong, I’ve left a sheaf of letters with Sir Redhand. I trust him to disperse them.

If I don’t come back, it doesn’t matter- we’ll have succeeded. And if I do, then we’ll have succeeded as well.

I love you.

~Odynae Dawnhammer

PS- If I do bite it? You get to deal with Newt until Thoran comes of age. Hint: He likes nose scritches and eating trees/barrels/crates. GOOD LUCK.

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