Wed Jun 27, 2018 3:17 am
It came to Daryl first, and presumably, he knew the handwriting and the seal: without a proper coat of arms or family crest, the author had instead chosen to press the head of a sewing needle into the malleable wax. The package came to Daryl, specifically, because he was trusted — at least, as far as one could trust a courier.
The letter on top was for him.
I regret contacting you only becase something is needed of you, and it remines me to admit my fault of absence and distance. I hope you have aged well, healthy, and hale; I imagine if you have not found one yet there is a good trade seeking a fine and dedacated apprentice there in Myrken Wood. Perhaps a baker work to satisfy that sweet toothe of yours?
Because I do not know of her location I trust in you to deliver the attached letter — seal intacked — to Menna Genny Tolleson. For your trouble I have included several gifts for you: a banknote for four shillings from my account at the Inquisitory (Maxwell shoult be able to fulfill it), which you may keep for your pay and any future delivery costs. In addision to this there is a promisary note from me which ought to be given to whoever tends the Inquisitory accounts that, for future deliveries, you may be allow'd to access my funds. This is for any currier payments as well as for the truble of any deliveries you may make in my name.
I am greatly deserous for my Myrken home, but my time away is necessary.
I have also included a very unique artefact: a Razasani mark, which is a sort of money inked upon paper. While it does not have value in Myrken it may be a very interesting piece to collect shoult it stay dry and maintained.
Yours in good health,
Thu Jun 28, 2018 12:44 pm
Dutiful Daryl was at the Inquisitory, though it looked completely uninhabitable with construction blockades and heavy sheets pinned up over bookshelves, desks, and furniture. There was constant activity in and around the area with masons, carpenters, and builders; therefore, it would be well known where to find the mop-headed teen.
The missive and package arrived as he and the lead architect of the renovation, Walter, were sitting in the miraculously clean, head office about to dine on a modest lunch. Thanks was passed to the intermediary courier, and a curious glance paired with a shoulder shrug was offered to the sandwich wielding Walter.
“Is’your layee-frien cour’ing you wif gifs now,” he teased the younger man through a mouthful.
If Daryl hadn’t been an official Inquisitory courier prior he might have ripped open everything without hesitation; given the nature of wrapped things to be mysterious and the nature of young people to be curious. But he did unfold the letter and stood still for a long few minutes attempting to read it, his brow furrowing as his fingers ran idly over the curious paper money. “What is pro, pro-misery?” Pruh-mis-airy?”
At this the large, bearded architect rose and gently snatched the letter from the boy. “Promissory,” he confirmed, examining the writing, reading the remainder of the letter before offhandedly offering it back to the boy. “Means an official note of promise; I think she means to pay you for the trouble.” Wiping the crumbs from his shirt and beard before he sat back down he gave a deflated look, clearly disinterested in the contents of the letter, “ah, love will find you yet.”
Walter chuckled and reached for the second sandwich. The subtle movement was apparently enough to trigger an immediate reaction from the boy who snagged it, and the package, up quickly offering only a predatory squint at the man, who only laughed more in return.
“Hurry along then,” Walter called, though Daryl was already a bite into the now misshapen sandwich and passing through the door into the dusty hall and then outside. A fence enclosed the construction creating a contained labyrinth of salvaged supplies, new materials, and of course the grounds themselves. He ran past workers who were taking a midday break as well; some casually balanced on broad wooden beams that spanned the entire length of rooms, perched on makeshift benches or directly on the dusty ground.
Either there had been a space all along or one had been carved out just behind the Inquisitory, the space had been built up handsomely into a small courtyard with what might promise to one day be a garden. Presently it was overgrown with trampled grass and a large tree that offered shade to the few who had opted to take their meal here. It might have been the most peaceful, hidden place if it weren’t for the clang of swords clashing and not melodically. Being soundly pummeled was the towering redheaded woman.
His dash slowed until he stopped just outside the makeshift arena, and held up the package. Without a word Genny stopped, lowered her weapon and opened her arms in submission, giving a polite bow to excuse herself from her opponent. With a smile that thanked her paige for the timely interruption she took the package.
“From Gloria?” She stated aloud with a note of surprise before finding her way to a secluded alcove and an unoccupied stone bench on which to rest and open the curious parcel.
Fri Jun 29, 2018 2:07 am
My hope is that you will receive this letter warmly and with no ill will, for last we spoke it was a tamul toomb tamulteuous time for both of us and I fear my affecktions may have been disturbed by circumstances beyond my control. But I am older now you see, and I hope afflicted with a more pasient brand of wisdom more befitting of a woman of nearly twenty years. I write this to you from the Gruelmaster inn in Razasan, where I have busied myself with diplomecy on behalf of Ruann. And while you may wonder to yourself how such a hothead being as I has found herself embroiled in such a thing as diplomecy, know that with all Myrken has taught me, it has also bred into me a stubborness and a penchant for politicking the likes which only Glenn, Ariane, Proctor Duquesne, and Sinnabar — and you, I say with respect — seem to have patience. Be around such beings enough and one finds themselves, too, speaking like a diplomat when necessary.
But mine is a shady diplomecy, and not one fit for words upon a page.
What of me: I have found myself quite adept at beating men to pulps; I reside in the Gruelmaster and spend my nights testing my mettle in the fighting pit. I am a prize ox. I enjoy to beat others and to be beaten; it ramines me I am hale but also vulnerable. I raflect with fondness on my time at the Inquisitory. I do hope it and you are both well and thriving; with the vanishing of Giaseppe it could not be in more capable or worthwhile hands as yours. How does Myrken fare? How does Inquisitory business? Do you find yourself subject to mysteries or to mundanities?
Speaking of mysteries: I have packaged with this, in a tiny bamboo vessel, a sliver of moldy bark. I will explain this soon.
But written hereafter is the greater purpose for my missive, not solely to catch up, but alas to bring to your attention a matter of magical concern and worry. For it involves one of our fellow Myrkeners. A friend. Someone lost.
Here, the text changes in its style: what was before a rushed and swooping handwriting became straighter, more strict, more exacting and precise. Gloria had taken a rest before writing this next part, and the means of her adjournment was thick in the fibers of the page: it reeked of a crisp pipesmoke, and one or two smears of ash ground into the paper by the heel of her hand spoke of the occasional habit.
It is the matter of Elliot Brown. I have spoken to him. Or what of him remains. I dared chance a ritual of some personal risk, but found myself face-to-face with him, not in person, but in the depths of my sleep. What I found was a boy who I fear may be at the edges of his existence. If you remember, Rhae the mindwitch cast him off to replace the boy we knew with Elliot Gahald. And while all other matters of her reign have been, for the most part, wiped clean, Elliot's loss seems neither a concern nor a matter of import for any left in Myrken. I have got my theries of this and why this has happent, but they are far beyond necessary here.
He fancies himself a wraith of dreams. A blacksmith of hope. Altering minds and dreams. Nudging sad souls to artificial happiness. I fear what he has become and has yet to become. He will be lost in a matter of time, and yet, against his will, I write this to you: I would wish to help him find his way back to this world, whether or not he desires it, before he is a but a Thing which must be destroyed. it frightened me, and I am struck only occasionally by such a powerful feeling.
I dafer to your guidance and judgmint, as a woman of far greater knowledge and resource than I. Can this be done? ought it be done? to what ends may we act? Perhaps the Inquisitory libraries may help. Gloria embarks on yet another fool's errand it appears; she would like to do so with the aid of one far less foolish, far more capable, and leagues more sensable. I have paid Daryl for future corraspondence.
I cannot close this letter without some expression of my inner weakness: shoult you see your brother, please pass along to him my greeting. Distance has not burnt away the lo tenderness I hold for him; I would not embarass you or me with its details, but know that for all the dark beings that surround him, there is at least one distant soul, striving to be as good a person as she may, who holds him dear.
Mon Jul 02, 2018 8:09 am
Would it be any surprise that Daryl himself was soon in Razasan, looking terribly young to be at the Gruelmaster Inn. Not that young men weren't often seen traveling or in similar establishments, but it was quite clear that the last few years the brown-haired pre-teen had spent more of his time at a desk than running about the streets of Myrken. His fingers resembled that of his employer, with spattered constellations of hastily dipped ink that faded into permanent stains showing a grueling practice of letters in favor of heavy swords or field work. He'd ask after Gloria, the bulky letter for her was one of many to be handed directly to it's intended recipient and sealed with a marbled blue and black wax, the embossed signet was of the Inquisitory revealing the desk from which it had been written rather than the official nature of it's contents.
I am honored you wrote and flattered, though it is a gracious favor you bestow naming any of my work or accomplishments in the Inquisitory as diplomatic. There are certainly areas I fall dreadfully short; however, I too am working at these.
It is true that wounds remain between us, they would not have been so deep or painful but that we are friends. However, much has passed and I think it best to rest well in the knowledge that we are both more than we once were - for better or worse, the sum of experience and years has yielded a more complete person. I should imagine us the better for it all, though it is hard won. Especially so if you have taken to fighting; not that I relished the idea of encountering you in such a context previously. I can only imagine you do well for yourself and better still with practice. But an ox? A curious analogy.
To address your inquiries: The Inquisitory is prosperous, should you return, or shall I say when, you will find it to be an establishment slightly different in nature. Nonetheless, whether we agree or perhaps, specifically because we do not always, we will surely have need for your perspective, skills, and tenacity; you are welcome. Myrken is well enough, it persists - healing and perhaps even ready to press on, rather than trudge well-worn cowpaths. But I digress, this is an opinion warranting a letter unto itself. As to mystery or mundanity, a bit of both with a blessed reprieve from anything terribly demanding. It has afforded us an opportunity to renovate, chief among these changes includes expanding the library.
Which brings me to the vessel you sent. I have narrowed your dendrological sample down to a range of several possibilities, one of which is a remedy for foot fungus and another a lethal toxin and key ingredient in a number of complex tinctures for aiding slumber. Before I examine it further, please do elaborate.
And finally, to the purpose of your writing, it is a circumstance of which I am keenly aware. Though it may seem selfish to write that I have focused intently on defining, perhaps a more apt description would be: containing, my existence the last several years. I have not forgotten Elliot. Having similarly encountered him in this state I find your description of his self-image rather apt.
I have found nothing in the Inquistory library with specific mention or instruction, nor in the Library of Mud, I had even sent Daryl to what remains of my father’s library in Meadowford. The Inquistory has now amassed a respectable collection of resources regarding dreamwalking and unsurprisingly, mentalism in general. I have a few more books and perhaps some other, less conventional methods that given the danger I hesitate to yet consider as viable solutions let alone actively explore them. I too wish to return him to our tangible plane, so please share what knowledge you find, if any. I refuse to accept it is an impossible task - this established, I feel compelled to tell you, I have no desire to force our will upon him. If we are afforded the opportunity, I would like nothing more than to try and convince him, but even in this he ought to have a choice.
You most of all must understand my inflexibility in this regard.
As for Tennant, I hear he works hard and it may well be a sign of rehabilitation. However, your affections would be better placed in someone more trustworthy and deserving of your devotion. I recommend you send your salutation directly, else he might never hear them due only to our purposefully few encounters and not my regard for you.
I eagerly await your reply,
P. S. If you have had the opportunity to visit Mr. Burnie, please let me know if you think him well. His letters are far too infrequent.
Tue Jul 03, 2018 3:27 pm
The tone in her voice could have either been misplaced admonishment or pure elation; even Gloria Wynsee didn't know. But when she saw the boy, her brow furrowed (What are you doing here!
) and her blunt-toothed, cork-colored smile beamed across the Gruelmaster's common room (It's so splendid to see you!
). Before the letter, there was an embrace (even now, thicker and stronger and darker than she had ever been, Gloria Wynsee still bore that Jerno smell, that sandswept sharpness, that sourness that refused to disperse from her clothes). And food. There was food, all ordered with haste, biscuits and sausages and stringy Razasani meats. And mending! The hole in the knees of his pants did not remain long; she demanded the garment with a powerful flick of her fingers (Upstairs, I've a pair of trousers you can wear in the meantime; you'll be all but swimming in them, but I've a desperate need to vanquish this tear and must do so before you depart
Gloria's doting over the boy was an act of warmth, cheer, stubborness, and — lacking any better term — suffocation: she asked after him, after his health, after Myrken, after familiar faces; she wiped a smear of dirt from his cheek, scrunched her nose at the state of his shoes; she ate and he ate and only then
did she accept his letter. Even in excitement at receiving it, she dedicated her time to him, settling the unopened missive aside to pour over him with attention. She demanded he remain at least a few days (I'll show you the lowstreets, just as long as you stay close
And when he was tired, worn to threads by his journey, she gave the boy her bed. She stayed awake and only then struggled, with lilting confidence, to mend the leg of his trousers. In her remaining hand, an undisclosed tremor kept the needle from perfection. Her knuckles, swollen and cracked, were far more suited to throwing punches than working seams. But for Daryl, she worked them.
Then she read the letter.
Then she composed her response.
The words in your letter sooth me. Disagreements as we have had and discomforts as I have given you, I am thankful that you still consider ours a friendship. I cannot bare to face some of the realitys of some of my past choises and am struggling to rediscover friendship with myself in the process. For shoult I have met me yesterday, or a year ago, or six, I woult have become a quick enemy with myself. Consider this journy to Razasan an escape, not from Myrken, but from myself.
Daryl arrived safely. I venture he will complain upon his return about how I scarcely gave to him a moment for himself. Shoult Myrken ever become too dangerous, I implore you send him my way. He will always have safe harbor with me. It was a wonder and a relief and a rege rejuvi refreshment to see him. I cannot imagine such a rapid journy be undertaken by an adult let alone a boy but he is well and he is so very good. He sleeps as I write this and my hope is that his dreams are uneventful.
To matters of Elliot: I appresiate your honesty regarding the matter of his choice and, whether or not it be believed, both understand and respect it (see, Gloria has grown, she knows now how to respect another's choices, and nex week she may very well learn how to say please and thank you!). For this too is where I encounter moral challenge. I do not wish to force my will upon him. But at what end does the refusal to force will also breed a monster where before there would never have been one. Power consumes him there, he beliefs himself capable of a great many alterations and that these alterations to dreams and thoughts (and I argue souls) are both his purfew and his responsability. That with this newfound power he aught to change frowns to smiles and forge dreams where otherwise there may have been none.
I hope you, too, will understand my inflexibility in this regard. For if no action is taken, then nothing is prevented; if every action is taken at the wrong time, then everything will be broken.
I do not want to be forced to help destroy a thing for which I have come to care very deeply. And yet if left unchecked this may become problematic.
I know I am in the wrong to force this upon him and do not wish to. Convincing is the only way it must be done but I fear it may be hard to convince a dog too elated by the strength afforded it by the foaming of its mouth. The goodest news of this is that he is not yet lost: in him as you might have noticed is still an Elliot who has not been wholly changed. Even in her death she proposes challenges for us to overcome. I tire of her legacie and her name and her affect upon the world we know. When may we truly commit her to be forgotten?
To matters of the wood: First, I aught to ettempt it in a tincture cure for the itch of a foot with your suggestion. Remedies are quite funny things arent they. Consider this: as a child in the seam house learning my trade I too often fell victim to a rather embarassing habit of making water in the bedding, and they had no bark to take this away, so do you know what they did: they tied desert rat's tails to a child's toes and she was to sleep with them facing perfectly upright and also was prescribed to hold an alderfruit between her ankles and this was proved to solve the
A second page continued on from where the first left off. The woman's handwriting had become quick, efficient, and rapid. Her capacity to express with language had increased, and consequently, its precision had waned — a symptom of either crushing boredom or increased exposure to one Glenn Burnie.
damning act. But alas, it did not prevent what age gradually learned to overcome. Now this is what I find of great interest: Myrkeners have a far less primative grasp on medicine and the ways of leaves and herbs and you have already discovered other uses for this bark. But so too have I. You will find a limitless supply of this flaking off the stump where our Catch used to serve the town by chopping wood. It has swallowed some bit of him and of other trials and of other tribulations and violences. Sleep with this specimen gripped in your hand. Perhaps on the other side of this sleep I will meet you. I cannot explain this any more fruitfully, but it is a thing that I know.
I hope that you will forgife the rambling and exhaustian of this letter. In my brain there are a great many words and only a fraction of me can find its way expressed through the blow of a fist to a cheek. Glenn is here and I shall greet him from you; Lady Follox too is here, and Raf, and others, names which to me are friends and accuaintances but to you are just letters upon a page. Yet I find myself in desparate need of companionship, yes? At what point shall a body fail to serve a brain gone too long unstimulated.
You need no final advice from me upon matters of family. But I will sleep with the hope that one day before your old age you will reconsile with your brother. That he will reconsile with you. Scars do not lose their memory but they lose their pain. Both Tollesons are made of the most goodly stuff. I will direct future corraspondence to him as instructed if I shoult ever find the gall to compose such a thing.
Let us solve this matter of Elliot as best we may. He too is made of goodly stuff. I would hate to see it become her final casualtey.
In a blink, morning was upon Razasan with its cruel summer sun and the gasping bleats of birds upon the Gruelmaster's sills. None of these disturbed a sleeping Gloria, whose final task had been to sand the letter, stamp it with a sloppy seal, and label it to its recipient before daring a few moments of slumber (Just a few, just a few...
) with her head hanging back over the spine of her bureau's chair.
She slept with the missive clutched against her breast and Daryl's mended trousers still on her lap.
Sat Jul 14, 2018 5:29 am
If Genny had thought Daryl incapable, perhaps she would not have sent the young man so far with such an errand. Or at least not alone. Of course, to say she was without worry would be inaccurate. But he was not entirely defenseless. The sword practice he’d interrupted to deliver the last message was similar to daily exercises he also endured. While he wasn’t quite a son, Daryl had stuck by Genny through the darker times and was afforded many more benefits than any other paige or employee. An education in letters and swords, an informal apprenticeship with the architect, Walter. It was well understood by anyone on the grounds of the Inquisitory, and apparent in how Genny’s expression lit up upon his return, that she genuinely cared about her youngest employee.
Though it was some time before he returned, Genny couldn’t help but to hug him tightly when he entered the Inquisitory office. After eating supper he would tell stories of his visit, Gloria’s handiwork apparent on his trousers and her kindness evident from the smile on his lips - like a sister spoiling her nephew.
Having the letter in hand she dismissed the dusty boy, urging him to take a bath and get some rest. She saw him out, the pale lavender of twilight making even the streets that lacked lamps or torches still visible.
Returning the desk, where now she sat behind instead of across from Glenn or Giuseppe, she set her tea, ink, a quill, and ready parchment; prepared to pen a reply. The seal was broken and the letter read, twice, and then again to be sure she understood. While there were a great many things to say and to ask, she simply sat, contemplating whether or not a missive would be futile.
Sleeping with a stick wasn’t the strangest thing she had ever done. And so she would, letting the remainder of her tea go cold, retrieving the sample from a drawer and taking the letter with her. Rather than leave for home, which although near the bakery, was no longer a single room in an attic, she folded down a cot in one of the Inquisitory rooms that had been mostly sealed off to protect the mountain of books and records stored for safekeeping during renovation.
Slumber did not come easily. For one, the cot was unbearably uncomfortable after becoming accustomed to a real bed. But she also hadn’t walked in dreams in a very long time.
It is the scent of the seaside first, mingling with the real smell of the parchment and dusty tomes. Then the feel of it, a gentle, cool breeze. Soon the sensation of grass under bare feet grounded her and she was surrounded by the vision of the forest at the coast’s edge, whose massive trees themselves were looming bookshelves. She used to come here with Zilliah and it had been where Elliot had first appeared.
Touching the bark of a tree, it felt as real and solid as any physical tree, she surveyed the landscape.
Sat Jul 14, 2018 5:10 pm
To be tugged like a ragdoll from the black, timeless embrace of sleep into another place was a violent and unnatural reaction that rippled throughout a resting body: as she slept, her shoulders jerked, and her breath caught like broken glass in her throat. The legs stirred in a listless cycle, and a lone hand kneaded at the collar of her ragged, sweat-blackened nightgown as if desperate, in that moment, to wrench it free—
A name had power. But that power was nothing without connection: there were likely a thousand Glorias scattered throughout the known world, each a different woman or different girl composed of her own sovereign parts. The name alone, if given blindly to a dream, could have called upon any one of them. But this was Genny Tolleson, whose mind reached out for one very specific Gloria: only one that bore her dark face, that matched the image held in the open palms of her mind.
A rushing commotion buffeted violently against her ears and deafened her to the gentler whispers of the world. With the hissing, splashing, rushing noise came a pressure so great against her sinuses that her nostrils felt corked and her jaw ground itself riotously to try to rid itself of the discourteous sensation. When her lips and teeth parted, a fistful of water rushed in, filled her nose, stung her eyes. Salt shredded her throat. Her hands — hand, rather, and stump — cut through the air, and...
No. No, it was not air. It was not so agreeable as that.
It was water.
Her thrashing knees, strangled by sucking barnacles, desperately pumped her in whatever direction they could. Up? Down? With the wrong choice, she would drown, and only have herself to blame; with the right choice, she'd find that precious, life-giving air. Her heartbeat already began to punch against her skull. Inside the cage of her ribs her lungs swelled and burned. In her panic, her stomach had taken on a great glut of water.
Then her fingernails scraped at sand, and her head broke the membrane of the foamy water.
She clambered out of the water on her elbows and knees. Life-giving air rushed into her. With her mouth agape and her tired, waterlogged body slithering out from the sea and onto the shore, she was more creature than human — at least until her legs remembered how to support her and she regained her balance. The voice had called to her, and she obeyed it, squinting through the night to that city of trees built out of tomes and knowledge.
This Gloria was a sliver of the waking girl. She wore only a sleeping-gown, its neck and wrists and the crests under its arms patched with the blackness of Jernoan tarsweat. Instead of being bound in its usual fist-knots, her hair was a loose and weedy array of jet that hung like a sopping curtain in front of her face. She had always been tall — tall and broad, as if someone had taken an average girl and stretched her like syrup-gum in every direction — but her bent knees and slumping shoulders reduced her by several inches, and all her energy seemed drained from her, rolling off her skin and soaking into the sand.
A finger scraped hair out of her gray eyes. Her face was a battered patchwork of yellow and brown bruises — courtesy of Twice-Marked Kualdin — but her smile, upon seeing Genny Tolleson, began to widen.
"I take it this means that Daryl returned home with all his limbs still attached, and with my letter to you.
"You came," she said, and then again, reverently: "You came to see me, Genny."
Sun Jul 15, 2018 5:07 pm
Though there were fantastic elements, the idyllic, scene in this place was so complete there must have been noise. Even if it was merely the ambient hush of waves brushing the sand, a gentle breeze causing summer, moon-lit leaves to shimmer, or crickets and cicadas chirping. But against the violent crashing wave and the trashing in the water all other sounds went silent.
Having spoken the name, Genny was trying to listen, searching for a particular Gloria, straining to hear her.
The gasp for air echoed like an intruder alarm despite what physics or good sense would deem impossible, and at this Genny started to run towards the abrupt auditory explosion. A first, it was as if the legs attached to her body here were real, the muscles pumped and pressed into the soft earth. After a moment her strides grew as she remembered the nature of this place; it was a dream, one she knew, and at this the ground seemed to fold to carry her swiftly with just a few steps, crossing from the grassy glen to where Gloria emerged along the shore.
Her pale figure stopped and stood stark against the looming, dark trees at her back. She too wore a whispy, white nightgown. However, she was not quite the same as her physical, red-haired, waking-world, counterpart. The woman who stood there now was not unfamiliar, Gloria had met this flame-haired iteration before, an echo of how Catch had seen her, and how she had come to see herself. Still as tall and lean, but lovelier and lacking the ink soaked finger tips that were ever present on her Myrken body; it was her hair that was most spectacular, it flowed in the air as if it were under water, diaphanous with a flame-like luminance, though it’s movement was calm.
Perhaps she ought to have been more astounded, or surprised, presenting expressions of awe, and giving voice to a barrage of questions. Instead she merely crossed the distance, extending her left hand to more thoroughly brush back the curtain of black hair.
Obviously Daryl had returned. As if she’d already forgotten it was a dream, she looked to her hand as if expecting to see the piece of treebark clutched tight. A moment passed as she considered the statement and offered her own, somewhat more meek smile in return.
“On the contrary, it seems I have summoned you to me.”
There was a deep, almost sorrowful sigh, as she considered the last time she had been in this place. Looking to the side at the beach and then back towards the massive forest, whose branches held merrily, glowing lamps, that from the distance appeared as stationary fireflies.
“This place is a familiar; a dream of mine, I believe.”
As if to lead her somewhere dry or at least not in immediate threat of the tide, she offered her hand though her smile fell to a frown of concern.
“I hope you were not hurt, traveling so far. Even in this manner, it cannot have been easy.”
Mon Jul 16, 2018 2:26 am
In a book they shared full of hand-drawn pictures of mythological beasts and beings born from fantastic minds, Cherny and Gloria had found a passage about a bird — she could not, for her life, remember its name — formed of fire and ash, blinding to behold, reborn over and over again from its embers. That was the first comparison that came to Gloria Wynsee as Genny Tolleston stood before her, feet in the wet sand, dressed in the vibrant splendor of her copper hair. What fault it was, whether of blood or or nature, that bred such remarkable hair, Gloria did not know, but some secrets were best left to wonder and fascination.
Genny touched her hair, and Gloria tightened her jaw and averted her eyes. Hers was not beautiful hair; it was wiry, sun-scorched, and knotted from water and carelessness. She wondered, briefly, if Genny was embarassed to touch it. Wasn't that the way people thought, sometimes? Dark women and their dark hair — Jerno hair — were the world's blemishes.
(A dream in her first few years in Myrken Wood: that they would wring the Jerno from her, and find the pale girl and pale hair underneath, and they would lose her in a Myrkener crowd.)
"I hardly remember the trek," she said, watching the other woman. "I drank wine until the world was heavy, and — and fell asleep. I was dreaming of home, I think, and you called to me. And I was hoping you'd call to me, too, one day, but I didn't think it would be so soon."
"So I swam here. And here you are."
Genny towered. Not that she was taller than Gloria Wynsee — few were — but she filled this place out with herself more readily, and Gloria felt the cracks in her skin begin to widen — exposed, half-open, imperfect.
The other woman's hand, inkless and clean, reached out for hers. After a surge of hesitation, she took it, and followed toward this city of lamplight and illumination. Sand clumped on her toes and kicked up onto the hem of her nightgown. She was Genny's unclean shadow, trailing after her. A tremor afflicted her hand. She sweat profusely. Her heartbeat pulsed in that too-tight grip, beating with wild abandon through her veins, like she'd been sprinting, was still sprinting. "I was possessed of a terrible thought when I wrote you. That I had broken everything so badly that — that you would refuse to come. You'd have right and reason to, and it'd lessen no — no bit of my appreciation for you, had you simply burned the letter."
But she hadn't. She didn't.
"You look different. You're different. In — in a good way."
Underneath their feet, the beach began to fade, and the forest loomed ahead of them.
"What is this place, Genny?"
Mon Jul 16, 2018 4:05 pm
The gesture was merely meant to better see her friend’s face by tucking back the soaking blanket of hair, the lack of hesitation in the action implied comfort. However, the subtle tightening of Gloria’s jaw was not missed either and Genny retracted her hand cautiously, as if she had moved too soon or too swiftly towards injured animal. It wasn’t Gloria’s strange and lovely hair, but a buried fear from their interactions long ago, that she might intrude more than intended. Perhaps neither would ever know the difference in the subtle reactions of one another in this moment.
That Gloria didn’t think she would respond so soon was a surprise, written plainly on her face as her eyebrows lifted. And that the Jerno swam, for multiple reasons; Zilliah had taught Genny the basics of building dreams but it was Elliot that truly taught her the ground needn’t always behave as it ought to, if one merely understood that it wasn’t truly ground. But then again, this was her dream and not Gloria’s. Perhaps that’s why Gloria looked as she did with the mud, the sweat, and the heavy stain of a world apart.
Maybe that helped too. Maybe it grounded her. Distinguishing reality could be a strange and terrible thing to be faced with.
And so it was that everything about Gloria seemed loud. The sweat, the smell, the thud of her heart, the pressure of her hand. Against the absolute silence of the night, everything she was seemed large and foreign here.
“Such concern is unnecessary. I cannot pretend to be above disapproval for some of what you have done in your past, but neither am I without trespass. I should like to think you would not burn my letters either.”
Squeezing her hand reassuringly, the soft sounds of the world slowly returned; the calm white noise of a peaceful evening began to surround them again as Gloria asked her questions.
“Different, yes. Strong and lovely, I think, perhaps a bit strange. I could have never imagined this for myself.” She gestured broadly to herself, offhandedly, as they walked. “Catch saw me this way once,” she spoke with a small amount of reverence and even pride. As if having seen how someone else perceived her made her realize there was something lovely and even change how she saw herself.
“Do you not imagine yourself different from how you are?” Although the question was innocuous the implication was that Gloria appeared here very similarly to how she did in the waking world.
Sand gave way to a lush carpet of dewy grass, miraculously free of twigs or small, bitey critters and Genny’s pace began to slow. Soon they were in a small clearing amongst the trees where a cheerful bonfire crackled. The looming treetops nearly blocked out the night sky, replacing the cool moonlight with patches of golden light from the lanterns above, giving the bark rich hues that echoed the warmth of Genny’s hair. The effect of it all made the space somehow more cozy and welcoming. Gesturing to the strange library trees Genny stopped and smiled.
What is this place.
“My dream. You could never visit it in the waking space,” perhaps the invented nature of it made it easier to change the laws of a place, like physics and time.
“Zilliah helped me build it,” but the hesitation that trailed after the statement suggested it was all a bit more complicated than that. “The beach is part of a memory from Ovrere,” she had wanted to add, but either couldn’t bring herself to say or felt it too obvious to mention, that it was from a childhood time before the coastal city had been devastated in the war. “And the trees, you might recognize” they were varieties native to and Myrken-like, except of course more verdant, larger in circumference, and filled with seemingly endless tomes. “These are the safest places in the world to me,” the statement was said peacefully but as plain as fact.
From how she walked here, proud to share the sweet and gentle space, it was almost sacred. Releasing Gloria’s hand with a contented sigh, she leaned against a mossy ladder the lead up a great height to the books above.
"As I cannot know how long the effects will last or that you will stay tethered here, speak freely of your concerns or plans. Do you imagine we can summon Elliot similarly?"
Tue Jul 17, 2018 1:32 am
Zilliah helped me build it.
A name that dredged up unpleasant memories. Were they unpleasant? There were so many logbooks in her brain, so many tiny compartments full of opinions and convictions, it was impossible to keep from storing a bit of one in those next to it. Zilliah, the man of jewels and bells, simerping and sensuous, an avatar of hedonism. Once, he'd offered her opium; she'd fervently denied — Mar'dak, she relied too much on smokeroot, burned her into a shadow! — but that had been years ago, before Gloria herself had dared once, twice, and a third time to dance with the stuff to quiet the constant barrage of sniggering anxieties echoing in her brain.
But it made sense, when she beheld it, that he'd been a partial architect of this odd realm. Gloria wended after Genny, her face angled toward the forested canopy in wide-eyed wonder to behold the countless books tucked into creases and notches in the trees. The sand clumped on her toes broke apart and vanished in the grass.
The reassurance Genny squeezed into Gloria's mangled hand was a pulse to the woman's restless, tirelessly-pounding heart. Gloria returned it, a communication by contact alone. "Different," she repeated, committing the words and their order to the air, to her mind. "Strong and lovely. Perhaps a bit strange. There are — are no better qualities to possess." She smiled at Genny. Gloria never smiled well; her dry lips were always at the ready to defend sight of her damaged teeth. "But out there—" in the world beyond sleep, "—you possess them in no small amounts. Perhaps here you're more — more attuned to them? More willing to accept them.
"More willing to wear them without fear."
Do you not imagine yourself different from how you are?
The question rattled her. Gloria freed her hand, not for any reason but to suddenly explore herself: to pull at the shoulder of her creased nightgown, to twist and turn her lone hand in front of her and wonder at its missing ring-finger and the damp mountains of scabs on her knuckles; to touch the scarred froth of skin that had overgrown her arrow-damaged left ear.
"Am I supposed to?"
And do I deserve to?
When Genny approached the ladder, Gloria moved instead near to one of the sister trees. Because this was no place of her making, it was both fascinating and widlly accurate. She all but jammed her nose against the bark, breathing in its wetness, its mildew, its moss and moisture.
It smelled like home. As for the matter of Elliot Brown—
"He can be sought out, or seek us out. Whether or not he came to me or I tugged myself toward him with that bit of enchanted bark, I'm unsure. I've no plan yet formed. I've come to the realization that when I plot alone, I — I damage things. I hurt people and bruise hearts, and that is the very least of it." NIall's face flashed to mind; Niall, who she despised, who despised her; Niall, whose dedication to a cause had been utterly misplaced in Gloria's fumbling hands. "To be so obtuse as I have been — as I am — is a weapon turned against the world. Sometimes against those I love.
"I cannot be wrong in this case, for Elliot's sake. And if we are wrong, if he is beyond being preserved or well past reformation, if his newfound freedom has poisoned him too greatly, I — I will commit no unwilling hand to the act of eliminating him."
Such words. Such choice words, such avoidant and euphemistic ones. To eliminate; it was better than murder or slaughter or outright kill. If she thought too much of it, if she considered it past the dry, sharpened metal of those words, they would twist into her too deeply. She grimaced, sucked a wisp of air in between her teeth, and then, as if releasing pressure form the butt of a keg, gently pounded the base of her palm against her forehead.
"I'm trying, Genny. I promise I'm trying."
Wed Jul 18, 2018 3:53 pm
Were it ‘daytime’ Gloria might behold tokens of Zilliah’s influence on the forming of this place. Here and there, in similar clearings or in a couple of hammocks high above them, she might find fine fabrics, rugs, silks, and pillows. Other echoes of his mind were far more subtle, such as the prolific vibrance of the forest itself, the saturated hues of sunsets, and otherworldly luminance that made flame hair seem entirely ordinary. The construction was like sculpting a river stone; embellished accuracy tempered with an intentional gentleness.
Gloria’s smile, and the echoed words that built upon her own, left Genny smiling too. “Stubborness is not the same as strength,” she laughed, an applicable truth for them both. “But perhaps,” she offered tentatively at the mention of acceptance, reinforcing the notion that taking a compliment and believing it were very different things.
“I am not sure there are any rules about what you are supposed to be, here especially.” In all likelihood, it was merely easier for one’s dream-self to be projected as they perceived their physical-self; by now Genny had years of practice building in the mental plane, evolving the avatar that inhabited it and Elliot had as much time walking dreams. And even then imagined things could be difficult to conjure without conviction.
As for deserving to be the body she projected, a silence lingered. Genny shrugged mildly, perhaps at both the possibilities her question presented and the unspoken, but obvious, question that only Gloria could truly answer.
There weren’t many guests in her dreams, even if there were occasionally other voices in her head. As Gloria beheld the constructed dreamscape and smelled the trees, she watched with curiosity. The deluge of information and self-deprecation went mostly uninterrupted.
“Poisoned,” the word was repeated softly with a furrowed brow, the fire crackling.
No longer leaning, Genny’s hands raised slightly and bobbed, a quieting gesture, weaker than one might offer a child or a riotous crowd, but asked for calmness. “Let us refrain from plotting then and for the time simply try to understand, together,” she offered supportively, if not optimistically. But for a few moments she was silent, beginning a slow pace around the still, cheerful flames as her face grew pensive.
“If you found me, I am certain he can too,” after all, he had shared a dream with her and Zilliah before.
“Has he changed so much,” she asked softly, wistfully recalling the spirited young man who had danced with her, lead her over rooftops, to hidden doors, and inspired hope. “The boy I recall was stubborn and blunt, proud, trying in his own way to make the best of a peculiar situation. But hardly a danger.”
With an eyebrow lifted she stopped, on the other side of the fire, facing Gloria. “Your conviction is such that you sought me, so I have faith in that you believe something is wrong. But what… what happened, what was it that has convinced you, so thoroughly, that he is lost? That he is changed against his will or running out of time?” Some of the words were borrowed, flashes of them returning to her mind from the letters they had exchanged.
Not that either of them, or even the Elliot she knew for that matter, intended for him to languish in the dreamscape for eternity.
Thu Jul 19, 2018 2:25 am
He had been compromised. Compromise, like the wasting disease, was irreversible; now, it was a matter of mitigating collateral damage. To him. To those he'd touched. Not knowing his own danger, it would be absolutely necessary, against her desire or anyone else's, to put him out of his misery. She'd never killed a dream before, but she would, or Genny would; they'd sharpen their blades to points fine enough to slice through reality and wonder, they'd follow his trail through an overgrown hedgemaze, they'd confront him, he'd refuse to listen; she would strike truer, this time, than she had on anyone else, because Elliot Brown deserved such a grace. Maybe down between the shoulderblades, or up through the chin, or—
Her brain was an arrow loosed. Once shot, it refused, on its own, to cease its trajectory. It embraced the worst case scenario, prepared for its inevitability by imagining every branching possibility, by planning for them, steeling her body and heart for them until her brain was no longer a thinking thing, but a primitive machine that discerned only two remote possibilities: prevail or perish.
She did not realize her chest was rising and falling with the intensity of a hearth-bellows until Genny's words pierced through the curtain of terrors clogging her sleeping mind.
Let us refrain from plotting then and for the time simply try to understand, together.
That last word deflected the arrow of her mind. Cast it toward a harmless burm. Stopped it.
"Together," Gloria repeated.
The saltwater wetness on her skin was beginning to chill her. She approached the bonfire and stood with her toes inches from the embers. Sparks floated toward the sky and dissolved among the stars. Her brown skin withstood the heat like damp leather. Jernoah occasionally granted her a welcome resilience to matters of heat and temperature.
She pulled her gaze away from the enchanting fire, and toward another: that of Genny Tolleson, whose burning hair was as bright as the Glass Sun, whose impressive strength and calm and resolve she wished she could parcel out to herself like a ration of food.
"Understand. We — we can understand it before we take any action to disrupt it. I quite like that." As if so novel an idea had never before been realized! "I think he believes that the task with which he has busied himself these few years is perfectly harmless: namely, altering the dreams had by those in Myrken Wood. Granting them morsels of false hope and promise. He told me, he said—" Gloria drummed a fingretip against her temple, finding the words buried in her conscience like the stanzas of a Jernoan poem. "'I steal hope. I move it around. I steal memories and trade them for truths. I fight nightmares with captured light.' But a mind ought to be its own, Genny. Shouldn't it?"
A flicker of reminiscence darted across her face. The fires reflected themselves in the facets of her eyes. For a moment she was elsewhere, remembering. Hours spent in her meager bedroom, clutching mirrorglass, staring back at her blemish-scarred face and the full, unfeeling rocks of her own gray eyes, whispering My mind is my own, my mind is my own, my mind is my own until the words became just a lump of bumbling noises.
"Stealing memories, seeking truths. Like she did, Genny."
A hoarse breath. The calm of this place began to saturate her. Worry started to vanish like smoke in a wind. There were books here. Books and warmth and a friend.
"Stubborness? You discredit yourself," Gloria said, her mouth twitching into another smile. "Your strength is a wonder, and — and I admire it. A younger girl I used to know, I have on good faith, dreamed once or twice of being just like you, Menna Tolleson."
Thu Jul 19, 2018 2:01 pm
Genny’s once raised brow furrowed and fell as the woman across from her visibly disarmed. It was never resolve that Genny lacked. Knowledge, perhaps, Good sense, assuredly. Cunningness, most of all. As for calm, calm was easier to achieve with distance, or ignorance; wasn’t that why so many had exiled themselves from Myrken? Even she had done it, for a time.
Bewildered that the thought of investigating hadn’t occurred to Gloria, she shook her head. It was an expression of disbelief rather than disappointment, though Gloria had been an Inquisitor so perhaps there was reason to be.
“I steal hope. I move it around. I steal memories and trade them for truths,” she repeated, releasing the tension that had held her still and staring, resuming the slow gait that would have her encircling the fire.
A mind ought to be it’s own.
Though the two women had made peace in the decaying library years before, the words were a punch to an unhealed bruise. And with it Genny sucked in a sharp breath while a sudden wind dragged the embers sideways, briefly making the flames dance more erratically and shift the shadows. The disruption was brief, the flames’ merry dance returning as Gloria’s memories pulled her away.
Like she did.
“Rhaena should not be equated to Elliot,” unafraid to name the woman, her tone was suddenly forceful, defensive. The circumnavigation of the fire halted abruptly as she turned with purpose towards a nearby ladder, that may or may not have been there a moment before.
“Young girls dream of foolish things, or grand things, or things of which they cannot know the cost to achieve. The strongest, sharpest blades, must first be forged from fire and hit, again and again, until they are changed completely; unrecognizable from the raw metal that made them.” Though the shape of their blades would be different, the world would surely continue to forge these two women. Other than this odd insight, Genny all but ignored the comments that rebutted her own personality assessment; uninterested in a compliment war or too engaged in the more pressing matter and mention of the woman who had preoccupied her thoughts and whose ghost occupied the hallways of her mind.
Genny had made certain there was a definitive line between offering and pushing. The line had not always been so obvious, so narrowly drawn, or precisely placed, and walking it had taken practice, which meant failure on occasion. But that was the trouble of Mentalists or Dreamwalkers, even in error there was no authority or power to answer to but one’s self. And so, while Elliot and she, herself, were like Rhaena in many ways, was it fair to say they were the same?
Preparing to climb the ladder, as if to retrieve one of the books from above, she finally looked back to Gloria, “have your studies progressed to logic and fallacy?”
Thu Jul 19, 2018 5:42 pm
The fire wavered, leaned, bowed like it was, for a moment, captured in its own torturous dance. Trying to avoid its own heat. She watched it, then turned her gaze down to the brown-and-red scabs clumped like tiny damp mountains on her knuckles.
"Proctor Duquesne would be disappointed. Logic and fallacy I may understand at the most primitive level, but I've—" her voice broke, forcing itself past a momentary lilt of shame, "—abandoned such studies. Not necessarily by choice, but by sheer circumstance. Rhetoric and argument have served men like Glenn Burnie very well, but they've done nothing for my survival. I have made a living these past two years beating men to pulp with the hand I have left. I am very good at it.
"And there are many, many men who deserve a beating as only I can give it."
A ladder reached up into the canopy above, a guiding path toward the volumes upon volumes that hovered like perched birds above them. When Genny touched the ladder, so did Gloria. She angled her gaze upward, squinting into the great, black expanse.
Her fingers darted out, for only a brief moment, to snare the edge of Genny's gown-sleeve. To pause the other woman's ascent. To bring herself close, and with a great care that the motion be slow, deliberate, and secretive — and safe.
"Please don't misunderstand me," she said, her heavy-tongued Jernoan accent as thick as stew while she spoke on the edge of her breath. "I fight, every moment I breathe, to stifle impulse. Impulse of thought, of action, of everything else. To equate Elliot Brown as he is now to Rhaena Olwak is a cruelty. But every instinct I possess and every tiny fracture in this very dull brain screams at those words he said. It springs back in fear and anger—" she drummed a knuckle against her temple, knock-knock-knock "—and it's fear and anger toward Elliot, and toward the circumstances that led him to exist in this state.
"But mostly, it is fear and anger at me, at my reactions, at my impulse, at how they betray me, that I presume I should trust terror before I trust the words of a boy I love."
Her hand became her own again. She drew up her nightgown, as if preparing to mount the ladder behind Genny Tolleson, looking every part the willing subject.
And it was only in this moment, with her back warmed by the bonfire and her face cooled by the the darkness of night in this wondrous, created place, that she understood why she'd reached out to Genny Tolleson in the first place. Her purpose had been to understand Elliot Brown as he was now, twisted and marred by dangerous magic. To obtain a better understanding of his behavior. Genny's appearance had relieved a knot of tension fermenting like hot flame at the top of her stomach. It had been there since the dissipation of that dream, like she'd swallowed broken glass or scraped away the inner layers of her guts.
"Can you help me," she asked, "protect Elliot Brown from me, Genny?"
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