Mon Jan 27, 2020 6:08 am
There. Now she had his full attention once more, a very gratifying feeling indeed if only she did not doubt her continued ability to contort her tongue to flattery. Exactly like the old story about the boastful hare, this cycle this could too easily feed itself to surfeit: she stoked his ego, which made him more agreeable and more impassioned, which in turn made her feel more warmer toward him and thus more likely to be admiring. It was the sort of comfortable, self-perpetuating progression in which she might revel on an indolent night in a tavern with a man other than Glenn Burnie. Unlock the proper pattern and you could talk your way right into a man’s lap, or his bed, or his purse, depending on which you fancied. With Glenn she had only the mildest prurient curiosity in any of the three, and she liked him too well to satisfy it.
“If there is no dancing or drinking in your new world, I don’t think I want to be part of it. The difference between us is that I believe there be room enough for both. Drinking and thinking.”
So saying, she tipped back her chin and drained the last sip from her goblet, then refilled it from the jug, with a polite glance to see if he required more. The smile on his face gave her enough boldness to nudge just a fraction more by asking the most obvious question. “But if, perfortune, the one who needed you were quite the most fascinating and certainly the best-looking person with the most difficult and intricate challenges on all the continent…” She played at admiring her own hand, eyelids lowered and lips pursed in a very parody of conceit. “What then?”
Burnie had fallen so far, far enough that he ran, tail between his legs, into exile, an exile that no one forced upon him but himself. He had brought down the woman he loved multiple times. He had seen his goals twisted into horrors. Multiple times as well. Internally and externally. Yet he still was who he was. As was she. A queen and what...? Not a king. A godslayer who had slayed no gods? A soothsayer that sought to make truth instead of telling it? A man so defiant of fate that he had brought it down upon him? How dare he bask in her praise, preen in it? How dare he turn pleasant words into a churning cycle? Perhaps it wasn't like the hare at all. She knew by now of the sort that found their way through Myrken. She knew of the drowess and the tower (and the window), of teahouse girls he sparred with instead of enjoyed. This was different, and well for her hesitation, in the end. "Then I suppose we'd have no choice but to let our reflected light change the world?" Because neither of them would act monstrous to one another, would even be able pilfer purses or abuse trust (their loop, unique and strange, was only as strong as the trust between them), as the tide swept them away, but they might well become monsters both, hand in hand and arm in arm.
Even knowing he was still mute, the raven stretched low, shuddered, and mimed retching. Fionn flashed Glenn a wicked grin, canines very white and sharp against her violet lips. “Oh, come now. You know perfectly well if you hadn’t happened upon me, you’d’ve happened to someone else. You can’t help it; you’re a born meddler.”
Catch warned her about that, more than once. The thing he seemed to fear most about Glenn was the persistence, the insight. Oddly, too, that it was a trait he shared with her father, possibly the trait that defined Mactíre most, and certainly the one that caused her the most aggravation. Glenn lacked her father’s spite, though, and that made the difference. Perhaps his spite had been burned out of him along with his failed revenge.
Was the coal completely cold? What a sudden, bitter thought on an otherwise pleasant evening. She found herself utterly uninterested in ever finding out. There were scars one did not inquire about, even from curiosity.
And then he all but told her the what-then, which was a delightful and refreshing change, even though she suspected he would have told her whether she asked him sidelong in jest, or directly and in earnest. She listened, ears cocked forward, then gave a grudging turn of one shoulder. “I suppose I could ask no more of you. What do they say here, when someone is being modest? You hide your torch under a barrel? Am I using that right?”
She was skeptical. She did not doubt his sincerity in offering to show restraint or his will, but his ability to keep silent was a different matter. “Still it is a most noble offer. I appreciate it.”
The correct thing, the polite thing, the queenly thing, would be to leave it there, a tidy parcel tied up with simple gratitude and no promises. But even if she were able to, the telltale, skeptical twist of her lips, and the way her gaze hung on him even after she fell silent, would have told him there was something unspoken. Knowing him, he would pester until he worked it out of her, so she might as well say. “But Glenn, I would be remiss if I did not say that you have far more to lose in any of this than I do. If the whole thing collapses, my folk will be no worse off than they have been these past thousand years, and Myrken…well, Myrken’s a mule; it’ll go on plowing the same furrow with or without us. It’s your reputation that must be mended. There’ll be nothing for you in Myrken otherwise. And I think in spite of all you say about how much you should never have power here again…that still means something to you.”
He have allowed the briefest of nods for the notion of light hidden in barrels; a true response would come soon enough on the proverbial wing of a raven. Then she had to go on, of course. "Thank you," wry, wry, and more wry. She could have enjoyed doting, mutual appreciating all night long. Instead, "And what would you have me do instead, Finn? My last gambit was to hide away in a room drawing lines on maps." There it was, for he was aware, all too aware. "I need to dare. I need to try. I can't try the old way, the first way, what I had thought was the best way, but this shines all its own. If you fail, your people will die off, not today or tomorrow, but soon enough. You need a hundred sparks to light your fire and this will be but one, but then you have none at all as of yet. If I fail, my people will survive, but dull and grey, the least that they can be. If I fail, then I am still something for the trying. If I do not try, then I am nothing as well."
The raven was inevitable. Still he took her off guard, possibly entirely by accident. When he asked his question, her eyes widened, and she glanced in quick surprise and alarm at the raven, who was still strutting able in the grass, scavenging for scraps.
“Force his wing? Why, what’s the matter with it?” His wings were folded smoothly upon his back, not a feather out of place so far as she could tell, and he’d leapt lightly enough to his perch when he arrived. Her concern took on a note of genuine umbrage. “Glenn, I would never hurt his—oh, paugh!”
The exclamation came out a growl and she dropped her fists down, exhausted with him. “You utter prat, was that supposed to be ‘force his hand’ but for birds? What is wrong with you?”
Judging by the raven’s dry regard, even he didn’t find that mutation of phrase clever.
“Very well then.” She pulled herself up straight, rocking back and forth on her haunches to settle herself more comfortably into storytelling position, and took up her cup to fortify herself with a drink, and as an excuse to have something in her hand. A silver shield to hide behind. “Gloria.”
Her doubt was palpable, even here, even after what he had been through this night; he could not deny it and he could not unknow it. She had cleverly or kindly or truthfully couched it a handful of concerns, many of them easier to dismiss or confront, but she had shown it directly as well. She reveled in his enthusiasm, but with her, it edged on mania, and over that edge was madness. Whatever she brought out in him, through personality or disease, it was not restraint. Perhaps if their conversation had not led them to this moment, perhaps if she had brought up the topic earlier instead of waiting for him to surprise her with it, his attitude might have been different. It arrived now, however, and that meant proving something to her at the least advantageous possible time.
Twenty minutes before, the name Gloria would have sent words spiraling out of his mouth and she would have been able to craft her story in reaction to his views, would have won a hundred tiny victories while baring lifting a finger. Now, though, his eyes were steady, focused, disciplined. Before Governor, he had been inquisitor, and before that, investigator, and before that, general busybody. His greatest strength in Myrken had always been that he was the only one to not only ask questions, but to listens to answers as well. "Of course, but then Gloria did not do this to Benedict." Yes, the tone was warm, even just a tiny bit playful, but it was a far different game than what they played before. "Go on, please."
Now came the delicate moment. Underneath her airy weariness glittered a brittle, jagged edge, detectable only in the way her tongue ran across her front teeth, as if the name left a sour scum on them. Anything she said, the raven could undo, and she could wring his skinny neck for dragging Glenn into it after all. It was women’s business. He didn’t need to know all of it.
“Gloria.” The way she said it made this destination sound inevitable, if not exhausting. “The damn daft thing was nosing up on my lands, stumbled into a trap in the dark, and couldn’t get herself out again. Too rummed to know which way was up, I expect. By the time I got to her, she was unhinged. Raving. Saying ugly things, mad things. She thought I had come to kill her. I would not have reached a hand into that pit with her as she was, not if you offered me lands and title—it wasn’t worth my neck. She…”
With a sudden frown, she broke off, then twitched her head in a violent and involuntary denial of a memory vivid as a flash of lightning.
White eyes gleaming from the pit’s darkness, and a crunch she could still hear, then blood so red it looked black boiling out of Gloria’s broken mouth.
Her fingertips rolled against the hinge of her jawbone, pressing into the muscle as though to assuage a toothache. “She kept hurting herself.”
Her hand drifted from the side of her face to her throat, where the muscles constricted as she swallowed back a knot of gall. As with the wedding, she was no longer fully with him. Into the still glade blew a gust of wind, sweeping first the wintry cold in an unexpected and unpleasant blast, but followed by a warmer, stronger eddy, warm as summer and distinctly redolent of rain, rippling the grass and nearly flattening the fire. The raven jumped, then glanced fiercely at the clear sky for the storm he could smell but not see. The green odor of lakewater became overwhelming, choking the air with its dank, stale reek.
Her voice, when she spoke again, resonated with suffocating sweetness, precious and cloying as a marzipan piglet, and more malicious than unbridled spite could ever be. “It was her own fault for snooping, but I do hate seeing things in traps. I have told you this before.”
Finally she lifted her head. Glenn was there, and winter was back, the chill held at bay by the light of their fire. Memory ached like a dull punch to the chest, and she felt as twisted inside, as furious, as she had the morning afterwards, when all the jagged, nightmarish fragments of the previous night rearranged themselves into unrelenting lucidity.
“And then someone—” her head jerked to the side, eyes fixing on the raven “—someone got shirty because he thought I was leaving her to drown, so he threatened to tattle to the town guard. And to you. That was when I took his tongue.”
Benedict was watching her, unyielding as rock.
“And then you didn’t come back.” She ran her fingers across the grass again, luring him out. The raven, surly, turned his stiff head and pretended to look elsewhere. After a moment, he hopped one-two steps closer, enough for the fire to gloss his breast. “I thought you must’ve gone to find Glenn. Or that you went home. I shouldn’t blame you for either, but please do not leave me to wonder, my raven.”
The raven flicked his tail, dismissively, and plucked a twig from the grass, nibbling it up and down, back and forth, without looking at her. When he wasn’t speaking, and when he was putting his dumb-bird act, he could easily pass for someone’s oblivious tame pet, blithely disregarding the world around him. She wasn’t laying it on thick, exactly, but it was getting a little gooey. If they were alone, he might’ve believed her. As it was, he had to wonder which of them she was spreading it on for, him or Glenn. Anyone else might’ve looked into those big black doe-eyes and seen a woman fishing for forgiveness. She was pleading, all right. But she was begging him to back her up.
“I am sorry, my raven,” she said, more quietly. Glenn might as well not have been there at all. Just the two of them, looking out for each other like they had Back Before Shit Got Weird.
And he believed her, all the while wondering if he should. Not like there was much of a choice. And feckin’ hell, what was a raven for, if not to keep his queen’s secrets?
Benedict worked his way down to the twig’s end and let it fall as if he had forgotten about it. He edged the last two hops toward her and, begrudgingly, tugged her little finger with his beak. Just a tweak. He even submitted to her hand gliding down his satiny back, just once, even though she knew he didn’t like having his wings messed with and it made him shiver. Relief shimmered in her eyes. He couldn't tell what for.
Wed Jan 29, 2020 2:06 am
When he first arrived to Myrken Wood, Glenn Burnie had nothing to his name but a half-developed wit and an overdeveloped curiosity. He wanted to talk, to interject, to intervene, but he didn't yet know what to say. He'd seen things, but he hadn't absorbed enough. So, he asked questions. Very few others in the province had the fool temerity to do so; this was ground out of Myrkenborn early on by life and circumstance and generations of tradition, and most visitors knew well enough to keep their head down lest they lose it. He never lost the skill and luckily enough never lost his skull. Over time, his questions got better, even though he so often would create his own answers (plausible and often right) instead. The first step, even in that, however, was to have enough information to find the patterns.
So, as she spoke, he listened. He had even, as a prelude, covered his mouth with his hand when she chastised him for that feeble feint of wordplay. That could be the excuse if she needed one (as a natural storyteller, she did not). There were holes, and more than the one Gloria fell into. He noted them mentally but did not interrupt. There would be time for questions later, perhaps all the way later into morning so that they could be put to Benedict as well. He knew what he had here. This was familiar. He had questioned Catch and the Ashfiend, had unraveled Calomel's secret and pulled at the roots of modern Myrken every morning over swordplay with Ariane. If sentiment had to battle with illuminating the darkness, sentiment would lose.
The appropriate response was clear: two phases of questions, the first to make concrete elements that were nebulous, that were soft and loose, that could go this way or that, that one could hide behind or twist accordingly. Then, once her position was fully committed, Benedict would have no choice but to react and respond to it. There was nothing particularly cruel about this; it was, after all, how he treated his friends.
Somewhere in the telling, she made the decision, conscious or not, to recount, preach, and plead to a difference audience. As well as she knew Glenn, knew his questions, knew his persistence and stubbornness, she simply didn't have the in-person familiarity to know exactly how he'd react. With little other choice, he drifted from listening to her to observing them. Imagine the sight: a fairy queen at the waning end of her month of vitality and volatility yet wholly in her place of power and a talking bird courier, with appeals to loyalty and honor and pride that could be found only in the most dramatic epic poems.
Glenn had seen so much, experienced so much. There had been a sort of routine in Razasan, the first in his life since running away decades before, but deep down, that had been alien to him, unfamiliar. Ultimately, he rebelled against it, rushed into danger, towards her, towards this. Still, the sight was so outlandish, so strange, and yet, to him, so natural. Yes, there were inhuman idiosyncrasies to both of them, things that stemmed from what they were and from how the what had defined their lives up until now, but they were just people in a broader sense. Even the fairy queen. Even the raven. They were people and they had his affection and his sympathies.
By that logic, Gloria had at least one of the two as well, maybe more than one.
All of this left him a bit at a loss. He did not want to intervene but storytelling had given way to something else entirely. He was sober now, himself (though, then he was always himself; now, he could stand behind the veil of himself instead of sweeping over the world with the flood of himself; that was the difference). He showed restraint, to a point. There were no pithy lines about rumcakes or tampering of witnesses.
Instead, after allowing them their moment, and with some reluctance, he spoke with a soft voice, one without humor but not without lingering warmth. "I don't think you would have her drown. I do think you'd make a salmon out of her to save her," and what irony that: all the knowledge in the world given to someone who would only resent it like she resented everything else.
Wed Jan 29, 2020 3:44 pm
Like a kneeling statue, she did not move, did not glace up at the sound of Glenn’s voice, scarcely seemed even to breathe, until the raven let go her finger and stepped away. The spell between them held each in orbit. Even once it broke, she did not look at him when she answered. “If anything, I would turn her into a she-boar. It suits her best. Mayhap she would even enjoy it, once she grew accustomed.”
Her ears twitched at a soft, whining hiss, just before one of the steaming chestnuts burst and shot itself into the flames. At the pop, the raven practically evaporated, a silent explosion of black feathers. The next instant he was peering cautiously around Glenn.
Fionn chuckled. Using the cheesecloth to shield her fingers, she pinched the chestnuts one at a time from the hot stone and tossed them to cool in the damp grass. Silent. Too deliberately focused on the mundane task. She kept her neck muscles locked to stop herself from looking for Glenn’s reaction, kept her tongue pressed tight against the roof of her mouth to prevent herself from saying one more word. Until she was finished. Make him wait.
She leaned away from the fire’s glow and sighed before reaching for her silver goblet, rolling its frost-dewed bell first against her cheek, then her brow, before she finally cooled herself with a sip. “I would not have left her there because that is where they put me in Leabharcham. Half a year in the High Queen’s court, in a hole in the ground. They only took me out when they found I was with child.”
From the corner of her eye, she saw the raven raise his head sharply, in surprise. Mayhap he thought she’d told Glenn already, or mayhap he was shocked she would tell anyone, or why she would mention it at all. The important thing was to keep her gaze fixed on Glenn; let him be the one to take note of the raven’s astonishment. Speaking such a thing aloud made her throat feel raw, and she fixed her pain on Glenn, too—jabbed him with it like a tattooing peg. Leave a tiny black pinprick that couldn’t be erased.
The purpose was three-fold: an admission, a distraction, and the truth. His reward for being lied to was the thing she had not spoken of in nine years.
“You may ask Gloria, an she has not already told you everything already. I really don’t care if she has.”
It was not Gloria’s version of events that he would believe. Nor her own, not completely. It was the raven’s. She was counting on it.
Sat Feb 01, 2020 3:08 am
"Can she-boars swim?" It was capricious at best, uncaring and even cruel at worst, a reaction, a rhythm that he had with her, a back and forth he could not escape, even when fully lucid. Not yet at least. It was all new again, interacting with people, and especially new, interacting with her. Most of all, though, it was about the need to be right on every niggling little point, to always have the last word. That had something to do with her and so much more to do with him. "I don't know. She was in a pool of water, so therefore, a fish would make more sense." This, this right here, was the very distance that had driven Gloria away from him. She had come to him with a very real, very imminent, very traumatic problem, and he treated it clinically, as if it was something out of a book. He was disconnected from it, disassociated. It was just another page for the book of life that he was ever writing. That said, was it how he reacted to everything or was it particularly worse when the Jerno was involved? She'd have ample chance to find out soon enough, as she was about to reward him with a distracting truth of her own.
Still, it had been quite a while since he had so thoroughly wanted answers from her, since he had interrogated her directly. This had been his reaction, yes, but maybe it wasn't what it seemed: it could have been a feint, a trap, something to draw her out and provoke an inhuman reaction, one full of spite and rancor if she had an neutral or even sympathetic audience, something that would turn the matter-of-fact telling into something more sinister and premeditated.
Then, with a stop, a break, a separation of nothing more than a popping chestnut and shifting raven, she took things another direction entirely. Here he listened, listened and winced thrice: first for her and what she had experienced, second for himself and his own similar and horrible experiences, and third, for the question that careened towards his lips. "How many of our months are your people generally with child?" With Gloria, he had let it sit. Here, despite her defiant truthtelling and intent stare, his own eyes gazed off, not down, but past her, and he dug his own hole a little bit deeper. "I just want to understand the sense of time. The exchange isn't always equal, and..." An hour before, he would have gone on and on and on some more. Now, sobered, he stopped, refocused, and spoke forth with sharpness and precision. As such, after a brief victory, a brief victory for her and retreat for him, he stared at her once more. He'd meet her pain with his own and they would find a ground that was common even if not the same. "In Golben, consumed by the natural and unnatural culmination of my own arrogance and by two betrayals, it felt like no time at all. I starved for months thinking it was but days. Underground, unable to see properly, walk properly, hear properly, speak properly, a month felt like a year." He embraced her pain with his own. It would not sway him. Instead: "You forgive your people a great deal. We should be judged for our highest and our lowest as well as we should be for the middle."
Which brought them in a less abstract way to the problem of Gloria. He continued to stare at his hostess, continued to speak steadily, evenly, clinical once more. "She's well positioned to give us trouble. She knows enough of what we intend to be dangerous, though not nearly as dangerous as she would be if she knew none of it at all. I've a letter from her that I arrived to, but you and Benedict took precedence," which could have meant a number of things: had he read it? Had he not? Had he responded in a small way as opposed to a large?
"So you say that Benedict stilled your hand? He threatened. You took his tongue. He left for me? How then, did Gloria get out? The way you present it, he left you, in a pique of rage, alone with her, completely at your mercy?"
Sat Feb 01, 2020 2:27 pm
Glenn’s world was so different from her own. He didn’t know a chestnut would bite if you picked it up, a thing a child of two winters could figure out. He did not know a boar could swim more swiftly than a person could, and how that skill added to the challenge of hunting them—how they could cross a river and disappear into the woods before a mounted hunter could circle back to a ford. He didn’t—and this piqued her curiosity and brought a slight smile to her face—know how long it took for a child to be born, a lack which baffled and delighted her. Was it his disregard for children in general (she’d a feeling that Glenn took no notice of anyone who wasn’t old enough to understand his jokes), or did they really keep their men completely in the dark? If so, it was the first true confederacy she’d heard of them, and she could not but be a little cheered by it.
Therefore it was with a quiet, sad smile that she managed to answer him. “Half a year, Glenn. It takes half a year. A year is no longer or shorter for us than it is for your folk; I’ve told you that a dozen times ere now.” She faltered a moment. A minuscule crack in the glam. “And I think the very fact that you asked that question means you know enough that I need say no more.”
In the silence, the fire crackled companionably. She folded her hands across her knees and closed her eyes. The firelight was as bright through her eyelids as it was warm upon her cheek. The sound of his voice and the raven’s rustle, the fat lap and splosh of the lake in the background, Tintreach shaking her mane in the stable, the smell of hot chestnuts, all merged as a single sensation. Even the pressing need for answers, the need that forever drove him, was as much Glenn Burnie as she had ever known of the man—every other facet of his personality crystalized and defined by that single desire. And what Tuatha was not charmed by a little desire?
In spite of everything, it was lovely. This was what she wanted from the evening. Yes.
But still there was the faintest twinge of the knotted, spoiled-cabbagey emotion in her stomach. Why? What had she to feel guilty over? Lying was necessary; she’d never lost a moment’s sleep over a lie. Lack of kindness was another thing altogether. Her fingers wrestled together as she slowly tried to compose a response.
“I never really wanted to ask you about Golben. Or the Underground.” Her lids lifted. She smiled to him, then said, even more gently, “I knew it hurt you. I did not want to open those doors. And perhaps a little, I didn’t want to open any of my own. I…don’t know if that is an apology. I don’t even know if an apology is something you would want. Whatever it is, it is yours.”
Half-scooting on her behind, half-knee-walking, she wriggled herself around the fire’s perimeter, displacing the raven as she settled tailor-style, not quite knee-to-knee, nearer to Glenn. She leaned long to the side, stretching her arm full-length to snag her drink and drag it to join them.
Now there was a hole in the story and she must back up and fill it. There were lots of holes in this story. Literally and metaphorically. It was practically pockmarked.
“Oh…he told someone. He’d fetched someone by the time I got back with the rope. To my credit, I did not still his tongue for threatening me, but I did when I saw he’d actually done it. I suppose he thought I had forsaken her. I didn’t stay. If she wrote to you, she got out. I certainly left her no pen.”
Speaking of the raven made her glance over her shoulder toward the lake. The water was still full dark, a black mirror, and the ghostly cloud of residual light that hung over Myrken—that hung over all tultharian cities, she knew now—made the hour difficult to judge. But the stars looked a little paler, and the bright point she knew as Ríchathaoir had sunk behind the curtain walls. Not long now.
Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:29 am
"It's three-fourths of a year for humans," he said carefully, not necessarily wanting to interfere with that smile, but needing to correct a record, records, including after a moment, his own. "A third of a year, I guess," which might indicate how much practical experience he had with pregnant women and babies. He seemed on the verge of saying something else to expain that gaffe, words on the tip of his tongue, when instead he dove fully forward on the broader issue. "It makes no sense. You're much more long-lived. Why would your gestation period be actually shorter. With that in mind, it ought to be easier for your people to repopulate, not harder."
Which was, of course, Glenn Burnie getting away from himself at the worst possible time. To his credit and maybe even hers, the frown was quick to come (though after his words, always after his words) and he seemed slightly, not properly, self-chastised, though not exactly apologetic. He slumped a little, maybe?
That was the mood then, for Golben and the Underground to return, and for her apology. "You need not apologize, not for wanting to spare both of us pain. If I raise them, and raise them so much," albeit one more than the other, "it is because they are important to my story."
Then, as a counterbalance to his previous behavior, he refused to dive deeper, instead pushing off and looking at things, looking at them, from a different angle. That she had repositioned herself beside him didn't hurt. "You're the first, you know. The first person to really get to know me as I am now, without having known me as I was. It matters. Catch knew me before my time Underground. Gloria never did. No one else in this world knows me as you know me."
He did not turn his head to her, but did not recoil away from her presence. It was comfortable and complementary to his words. "You think I'd chase him. Who I was before, connected to everyone and everything," and she had heard previously his thoughts about how the two of them would get along; he did not repeat them. "I don't though." No explanation, and maybe, in conversing with one with no great understanding of regret, he needed none.
Instead, soon after, it was to business, and wasn't this a different Glenn than she was used to? Instead of a litany of questions, it was just one or two, each building off her previous answer. "So you arrived, rope in hand, after he had gotten help but before Gloria was fully out of the hole. You took Benedict's voice. How did you think of punishing Gloria and her savior?" as Glenn did not expect anyone the bird fetched to be able to weave so complex a web as his own about being summoned by a queen's emissary. Even so, there were worse holes earlier on. Was he playing with her? Was he trying to bide time and minimize what damage she might wrought before the raven could speak again? Was he soothed and charmed by her proximity? Was he simply curious?
Mon Feb 03, 2020 4:55 pm
Fortunately, he had digressed into a subject—children—that interested her enough that she was willing to forgive it. From her stunned face, he might as well have slapped her with that piece of information. The question was writ comically large upon her generally placid, merry expression: nine months? “That’s as long as a cow!” Her hand cupped her own lower belly in sympathy. “Lugh’us Dannan, those poor women!”
In her mind, a bit more rationally, she dissected the same question from a slightly different slant, coming to the same conclusions as he. Hunting seasons and breeding seasons went hand in hand; you must know something of the latter to be any good with the former. You could take as many hares as you wanted because there would always be more of them, but you had to leave deer alone for part of the year to let them fawn. Small creatures bred faster, larger ones took longer…but she had always believed that had more to do with their size than their longevity. Size-wise both humans and Tuatha were comparable, but Tuatha lived so much longer. If there were a difference, then it should be the Tuatha who took more time, not less.
That was a mystery to set aside for another time. For now, his shoulders slumped. It was a novelty to see him correct course without prodding (or, frankly, even with prodding) that she let him speak, ears leaned forward in polite expectation.
“That’s just the thing. They are important to you. It is unkind of me not to acknowledge them because I was afraid.” As ever, she expressed such things as unadorned statement of fact, incontrovertible rules rather than moral convictions. She picked up a cooled chestnut, pried back the shell with her thumbnail, and offered it to him. The raven had already snagged one and snipped it in half.
“Full well you know that I believe there was never more than one man, Glenn Burnie. It’s never been more than you. You can’t seek him out without you find yourself. But I think…I think it’s a matter of pruning away the parts of your old self that no longer serve you, like dead branches from an apple tree, and seeing what grows when all the bad wood is gone.” Vaguely, she wondered if this was a metaphor. If it was, she felt a little pleased at coming up with one all by herself, but too earnest to point it out. “What I fear most, mo sionnach, is that no matter what you are, they will not risk you a second chance. An they do not, ’tis as much as you deserve, but still it would be a pity. For all his faults, I like this man I know. If no one else wants you, then so much as I am concerned, that means but that I do not have to share you.”
She turned her head to look at him, but his gaze was elsewhere. How much of the rest of him was also elsewhere was a matter of conjecture. To nudge him back to the moment, she gave his shoulder a friendly bump and a brush with her upper arm, like a cat greeting him. “You’ll go on. You’ve come this far.”
As intriguing as the prospect of a slightly more approachable Glenn was to her, the Glenn she did know did not pace his questions, and rarely did he go without explaining his statements; if anything, he relished explaining himself. This quiet both amused her and filled her with mistrust. Yet she was confident. Perhaps more confident than she should be, but perfect confidence even had confidence in its own excesses. One question, one reply.
“The savior didn’t deserve to be punished for getting into the middle of something he knew not what. He was just some lad trying to be helpful, I suppose, or out looking for an adventure. For Gloria, I rather wanted to shoot her. She was being very noisy.” She laughed lightly, as though this were a delightful and wholly typical lapse in good manners for her, then shook her head, the smile dimming. “I just wanted the whole thing done. I played the Queen of the Woods and ordered them out, all imperious, then hied myself out of range before I changed my mind.”
Thu Feb 06, 2020 2:20 am
It wasn't that Glenn didn't feel some sense of sympathy for pregnant women. No, it was much more of a case that he did everything in his power to avoid them entirely. Generally, with Fionn, he was glad when they were able to cut through the cultural differences and end up in the same chapter of the same book, if not exactly on the same page, but her amusement here slightly grated. "I find it odd," he said in a tone that, by now, likely let her know that he hadn't actually found anything in the first place, but was instead was fabricating a burr for her to step on barefoot, "that someone so inclined to rob a bank doesn't know when it actually opens in the morning." An unwise comment that, as much as his slumping shoulders, likely had an impact on them not spending the next hour discussing the reasons between six months and nine.
Sympathy for her? Well, that was another thing. Sometimes it seemed that, so long as he interacted with her far more than anyone else, the well of sympathy he had within his chest, a strange and unreliable thing, all flowed towards her. That she stated it so directly gave him a foundation to build upon. "If something is hard for you and important for me, or hard for me and important for you, there is a good chance it is both hard and important for both of us and could well be something that we better face together." And to punctuate that, she offered him a chestnut and he took it. A binding accord, no?
He took her metaphor for granted, if only because of his need to endlessly clarify. In truth, this was something that was more suited to letters. He played with the chestnut in his hand, fingers moving it about with the dexterity he generally hid so well. For all of his words, he had such precision in his writing, in his mapping, in his swordplay. "I had ample time to think of this before you came along, months where I had no need to think of anything else." It made the gap where she simply would not talk of this a little problematic then, for that time was long ago now. "The core of me remained. It's not unlike your transformations, I think, if you do them true. There is what is natural and what is learned, but there can be the unnatural as well. I spent years like this, Fionn. Years. Whether it is because of some break of an already shaky sanity during my time in the darkness or due to the fell ritual I participated in to expedite my climb out, the change was unnatural. It was everything I was but lacking the chains of restraint or introspection. Unnatural." All of this was completely beside her point, though also speaking to the heart of it. He could have used an excuse like this at some point, that he had been possessed, ensorcled, manipulated by Rhaena like the rest of them, and they would have pitied him. That would have served neither of them in the end. "Whereas, my mind's wounds notwithstanding, my recovery, though spurred by things unnatural, Catch, Rhaena's death, Golben, so forth, has been in and of itself, more natural. The same core, not necessarily chained again, but with rebuilt structures of emotional and rational support around it, so that it might stand instead of ooze about?" Her metaphor had been more pleasant.
"As for them," and here his voice was entirely without sympathy. "They welcomed back Bromn after he became something visibly worse. They tolerate Aloisius still. I'd be in better standing if I didn't spend the last of my capital for Agnieszka," the second time he'd mentioned her on this night when he'd barely at all in their letters. "but I don't mean to stand before them again. As I said, Fionn, their disdain will provide us a certain amount of cover. It's fine. And anyway, at the end of the day, I care more than anyone does, could, or ought to, far more than they want me to and far more invasively as well. They'll find begrudging affection in that." That last bit was for the sake of her nudge. If she meant to be endeared, he'd at least feign being endearing.
"If you wanted the whole thing done, you wouldn't have punished Benedict." Was he playing with his food? He'd played with the chestnut enough. It was questionable whether he was going to eat it after all this. With her, it was a different matter. He did not smile as she laughed. "In fact, it's not over still. Once you realized the cost would be too high, be that cost my feelings or his, you wanted that chapter of it over. For that reason, and despite the coincidence, I believe the incident was not of your making. I also believe that Gloria's arrival was entirely a surprise. If you had planned this, you'd have something more thorough in mind, something that would not have led to this moment. The coincidence bothers me," his voice was idle. Somehow he had decided on certain aspects of this even with so few words from her and none at all from Benedict, "but then this is Myrken and sometimes it happens. We trip over each other at the worst times. People think the Wood lives, breathes, and thinks, but I disagree." And, in this case, he also refused to be distracted. "No," and here he fought a smile, battered down enjoyment of this, "you were upset at her trespass, especially given the timing, certainly upset that she'd arrived by mistake in an addled state so you had to be merciful, frustrated that this wasn't somehow part of your own design. That's half of it, but only half. Despite it not being of your making, you were in complete control of the situation. She was totally at your mercy, mercy that you had reason enough to offer her. Yet, somehow, it escalated to the point where Benedict acted when he hadn't acted before, where he, knowing everything I just said, felt like things had gotten out of control. Why did it escalate, Fionn? What did she say? What did she do to make you do what you did?"
Wed Feb 12, 2020 7:24 pm
Her eyes narrowed down to two black cat-slits, and she made a sudden snatch for the chestnut rolling across his knuckles—fist closing nowhere near it, yet somehow he wasn’t holding it anymore and she had popped it neatly into the fire, gone in a scatter of cinders. Or else she made him think he wasn’t holding it anymore while tossing a different one, except in that case Glenn was now holding an object he could no longer see or touch. Or else the one she had offered him was a mere glamour all along and had vanished. This last was the least likely, as it would be rude to be offer him anything only to make it disappear. Contemplating further variants would lead to lunacy.
Her voice held not a trace of the ferocity her gesture insinuated. “Do not presume what I feel, or what I felt.”
She paused to gulp her drink, scarcely tasting it, before primly setting aside the empty goblet.
A lie is less a tapestry than a lace. It must be delicate, but also durable. If there are holes in it, they must be part of the pattern so that winks and flashes of authenticity shine through. The most calculated confession must seem more truthful than the truth.
He knew her too well. He knew what she would give away and what she would not. That had always been part of their long-running game: coaxing, cornering, tricking one another to give away one fraction more than they would for anyone else. The uncertainty of knowing whether it was real when it came down to the red, raw bone where things hurt. High stakes made the game more exciting, but also lonely.
Ever so subtly, the raven was going through his sneak-up-on-the-shiny-thing-while-pretending-he-hadn’t-seen-it routine, hedging nearer and nearer while chasing half a chestnut that kept slipping out of reach. Except this time, the shiny thing was this entire conversation. He wasn’t being particularly subtle about it, but he didn’t need to be.
“She did nothing, Glenn. It was Benedict.” The raven looked up, startled out of his stealth, but she did not notice him. Her face was the smooth, unassuming expression of a wax doll, sculpted so that any emotion one chose could be projected upon it, but the fire stayed reflected in her eyes as they fixed on Glenn’s face. For this story, she was fully present with him. “I needed him on my side, and he was not. He was on yours.”
That was near enough to the truth to make her angry all over again, and shamefaced. To her credit, she did not pout, though she could feel the pout welling up until her jaw stiffened to kill it before it could bloom.
“He didn’t believe I would come back, and when I did come back, and found that he had gone for someone else, and not knowing what he might have told them, or who else might be coming…all I could think was that everything was over. I was going to have the whole town on me either way—be it Benedict or Gloria. Her I could understand, but him…He did not trust me anymore, and I could not trust him, and if I couldn’t trust him, then there was nobody, nobody at all. I didn’t know what to do.”
She blinked, very slowly, like a cat. Some of the waxen stiffness melted in the fire’s warmth. Her jaw softened and unlocked, her hands unclenching and rewrapping around her calves in a tight hug. Compacted against herself, drawn away from him, her expression wavering like water. Her voice held a rough burr. The Queen of Fairy could not weep, but it sounded as if she could learn. “I still don’t. I don’t know what to do, Glenn.”
Thu Feb 13, 2020 1:18 pm
The three types of Glamoruie (as observed by Glenn Burnie):
1. Glamourie of the self;
2. Glamourie of the environment;
3. Glamourie of the other.
In truth, all glamourie is glamourie of the other to a degree. Glamourie of the self, will affect the other, after all. The distinction is important, however, and plays into the practical section of this treatise, namely how to cope with the possibility that you are under a glamourie. If you are dealing with the first or the second, you can still be able to reason, and through reason, can decide upon the most likely truth. If not simply your individual perceptions, but also your ability to perceive and process any sensorial stimuli has been altered, then your reason can no longer be trusted.
How do you know if it is one or the other? You cannot and therefore must rely upon context. The basic truth of it is this. If your ability to perceive and reason have been changed, there's nothing you can do. In that case, simply do your best to make small actions and move forward processing the stimuli you are facing. You can try to seek out assistance but it is a entirely thorough affliction. You cannot trust that which you can normally trust. Fostering relationships with powerful beings that might see through the glamourie and help you see through it as well is the best option, but otherwise, as I said, simply do your best.
As it pertains to the fairy queen Fionnuala and my own relationship with her, she may cast a significant glamourie of the other, with me being the other, in times of fear, anger, pain, or extreme spite. In most other situations, she will not. By placing myself at her mercy at times, and in stressing to her, repeatedly, the notion of personal choice and the potential violation of that, especially based on my previous, meaningful interactions with specific entities of my past, etc., and finally, because of the fact that she seeks out honest victories and honest counsel with and from me (and finally more, a shared affection, I will admit), she will not capriciously cast upon me (this is the wrong phrase) a glamourie of the other. I can, generally, anticipate when my own actions will bring such a thing down upon me, and thus gauge whether or not it is worth the risk, but, of course, I am still so afflicted that I might, in person, act without foresight and make a grave error.
Therefore, when encountering her glamourie, I expect it to be one of the first two types. Of the first, glamourie of the self (pertaining to her modifying the inward and outward perception of her own body), outside of moments of extreme stubbornness and mole-staring, it is my every intention not to resist it. If a woman wishes to put on a hat in order to create a sort of aesthetic effect, it is not my place to tell her the hat is wrong or untruthful or inappropriate. Yes, she may mean to outright deceive me this way (pretend to be someone else, for instance) and that is a matter of her intent and not her magic. Otherwise, I am content in letting her appear however she wishes and to compliment her as I would an artist (or musician or chef, for it is not just her image that she changes but instead how she is presented to all the senses), or in fact, a woman with a hat.
Glamourie of the environment is therefore most important. Here what you must not do under any circumstance is try to seek actual truth. What you must instead do is to utilize your breadth of wisdom and experience to look for cracks. Is something unlike how it has always been? Have the patterns you have been observing your entire life been upended? How have they been in the past? The best defense against glamourie of environment, therefore, is to be constantly observant. Due to the nature of the magic, your mind will try to fill the gaps, will try to smooth over the differences. Only by possessing significant undersatnd of all stimuli at all times, will you be able to make that self-defeating effort futile, even ridiculous. It goes without noting that there are many other great advantages to being highly observant. Once you have detected that something is amiss, it is best not to try to 'solve' the discrepancy. Instead, move forward and make decisions accordingly based on that observation and do not be afraid to express your awareness to the practitioner. In this, it may be helpful to "bluff" to the degree of 25% of that awareness in general terms.
One could not say that the entire treatise passed through Glenn Burnie's mind as his hostess played her game with the chestnut. It was far more a circular thing, a drafting and redrafting of words that would never be put down on paper. It did not come in one moment, but throughout the conversation, pulling together already extant bits. It lingered on until the day after, the day after that. Some of it would rush back in a week's time. Much of it was always with him, as so much else was always with him.
So yes, he allowed her that little bit of excess, but she took it not without ultimate impact. It always had impact. She should know that by now. Just as he knew not to press her harder when she decried his presumption. That was raw while other, more pressing things, were less so.
Not in that but in many other things, he did know her too well. That knowledge bred not contempt but the aforementioned (hinted, only hinted) affection. There were things that he could endure and there were lines that he would cross. Even at his best, he could indulge her just as she could provoke him (or was it the other way around?)
So, she assaulted him with truth, and he accepted it. He was sober now, entirely so. Lucid. The time of his affliction had passed. As he approached her, it was with clear eyes. An hour earlier, he might have rushed to her side. Now though, he only took three measured steps, but they were endlessly more meaningful. "You are fortunate then, Queen," not 'my queen,' but not 'Finn' either, "that you and I are on the same side. There may come a day where our paths diverge, maybe sooner, maybe later, when my people and yours will be at irreparable odds. Benedict did not choose my people over yours. In fact," one more step, his voice steady and calm and kind. "Despite what you have said and how you feel, which I do not presume but know because you have told me," he added as if it was a simple dotting of an i and crossing of a t, "I do not think he chose me at all. I think he chose something more valuable than either you or I; I think he chose us."
He didn't smile. This was not a time for a smile. What he did instead, however, was Believe. He believed in Benedict. He believed in himself. He believed in her. Most of all, though, he believed in all of them, and the honest Belief of Glenn Burnie, of sound mind and piercing eyes, was a fell thing indeed. "As for what you do? You choose us as well. Maybe not for all tomorrows, maybe not when the roads diverge, maybe then too, but tonight? Tonight it's an easy choice that will make your heart warmer than it's been for a very long time and that will do the same for mine."
He was lucid, though. He was aware. His tone barely shifted. He even took one smaller step towards her. "All that remains, really, is understanding just why Benedict felt so strongly that he'd betray you for you and I." The angle of his chin, down towards her instead of up and away. That was the difference. "You had all the power, all the control; the indignity of trespass, yes, and the moon working against you, but you held all the cards. So what did she do that made him think that you would do what you might do?"
Fri Feb 14, 2020 9:54 am
Up to her feet, a hail of chestnuts rolling off her knees and pattering upon the grass. Unobtrusively, she had gone back to being the same height as Glenn. The corner of her mouth turned up in a skeptical smile—but a smile nonetheless—and her arm bent, fingers patting restlessly upon her hipbone. It was a good pose, radiating incredulity while still being approachable. It should be good; she’d had decades to it practice.
Her admiration was not a pose, for who could but admire him just then? Well…doubtless plenty of people. Anyone who had been forged under the hammer of his Belief, for one. Most of Myrken. Catch, certainly (and that thought set her candlelight wavering—not guttering, not extinguished, but only a flutter in a passing draft). That poor girl at the wedding, had she been caught in the company of the genuine article rather than a convivial, lightly drunken duplicate, might have taken to her bed and reconsidered the course of her life in the face of it. But the Queen of Cnoch-na-Niall did, and her admiration was vast enough to be mistaken for a very small sun.
What happens when such Belief collides with elemental falsehood? Which is the flame and which the moth? Does one prevail? Do they cancel each other out, or, attracted, draw one another into orbit, forever spinning, never touching, until one is flung free?
It was the ‘Queen.’ Not once could she recall that he had named her Queen and meant it. This time, she thought he might.
“Your notion of ‘us’ may be somewhat different than mine.” Her tone was carefully neutral, but she stepped a little nearer to him. “I say ‘us’ and mean us. We two. You say ‘us’ and mean yourself, plus whoever else you regard privileged enough to be included. There isn’t a pronoun in the world fit to convey all that.”
She tapped his chin with a fingertip. Part to annoy and distract him, to steal some relief from his intensity. Part to remind him where he was. Part to prove that she was still herself and would ever be, Belief or no Belief—that a lady who loves a unicorn, a child who once picked up a stick and swatted a beannaithe across the backside, would not be humbled by a mere mortal man. Part as a dare to herself, in the same spirit she had picked up the amber beads at the market and made herself put every one back again. To know that she could, yet still refrain. It was a very light tap, considering the weight behind it.
Then she stepped away, folding her hands behind her back—the same way, she had told him once, that she usually walked through the market, to keep herself from taking anything that wasn’t hers.
“You shall have to ask him. I would have no way of knowing why this moment above all others should move him to action—nor would I presume to know.”
Which would have been a very neat rebuttal, coming as it did on the heels of his previous presumption, save that the only reason this conversation existed was because Glenn could not ask Benedict anything. Benedict, all too aware of this irony, silently huffed, feathers spiking on the back of his neck. Now it was she who must pretend not to notice.
“I lost my temper. That’s what it comes to. It could have been anything. As it was, it was just her. It was me. The situation. The two of us together, after the business in Razasan. Everything. I don’t think even I would have dared cross me in the middle of all that, but Benedict could and he did. He is braver than I.”
Wed Feb 19, 2020 2:18 am
Rarely did he seek adoration. Credit was nice, sometimes, sometimes, but he had learned early on that he'd do far better working outside of the public light. Myrken so rarely allowed for that, however. It chewed up Governors and dignitaries. If one was capable and possessed of strong intention (good or ill, it didn't matter), there was a very good chance one would get swept into power. In fact, the only way to avoid it seemed to be to actively seek it out. Those people were crushed first and brushed aside. He claimed not to want credit. He claimed not to want to even partake in the fruits of success. That would take generations and he, most certainly, would not live that long.
Still, her admiration was altogether different. It was not adoration, for one. Nor was it a thoughtless tidal wave from an aggregated public. She was a fairy queen and she would get neither swept along (though by her empathetic nature, she so often did, just not in this) nor crushed underfoot. In the beginning, she had reviled him so much as she gave him a moment's thought. The destination was nice. Her pose was nice. She was nice. But the journey; ah, the journey. He wasn't about to get swept away either though. Someday, he would be extinguished by time and mortal frailty, but until then, she could fan in the flame and bask in the heat and they could feed upon one another while the rest of the world shivered in timidity. Would it change him? Her? How much had it changed them already? Of that, he was entirely unaware, for even introspection needed a sort of distance their togetherness could not allow.
"It's good then," he responded without missing a beat, though it was all more measured than when he was at his most unhinged. There was no wild abandon to it. It was a confidence game with unspoken, agreed-upon rules. "that I have words enough to make pronouns completely unnecessary." He didn't try to humble her, just as he didn't try to best her or resist her. Instead he provided them common cause. It was the only way he could ever win; she had to win as well.
It was not, however, the only way she could ever win. That was part of the confidence game: not looking down; so long as he didn't, he simply couldn't lose.
Not with her at least. She wasn't everything though (she could be, she absolutely could be, if he just let it happen), and if she forced him to far extremes to not lose with her, he might well lose with everyone and everything else.
For now, though, she could tap his nose, and they could both come out winners. That was fine by him.
"He is braver than you," Glenn agreed easily, "for you have all the power in this: temporal, political, oathbound. Magical." Temporal may have been a stretch but he imagined she didn't know what it meant anyway, and it sounded good, "Look at how you have used it." He waved an idle hand towards his feathered friend. This is where Burnie could not have it both ways either. He could not make it about what Benedict did for her since he had just crafted a golden 'us.'
It would also be easier if Gloria wasn't so damnably stubborn. Catch was a catch, a grand one, but she was one as well, common but insatiable. You could make the most beautiful tapestry of a society and Gloria Wynsee would always stand out. If everyone was satisfied with it, she'd see that as suspect and go and find a flaw; if none existed, she'd make it. He could make claims, make accusations, call forth suspicions, but in the end, maybe it had just been Gloria being Gloria and she being herself.
He could only make these claims at once, and, with a quick glance to an untrustworthy horizon, he made a decision. "I think I've given you enough time to sweet talk the witness, your highness. Any further questions shall be to both of you. Is it not yet time for the dawn to come?"
Thu Feb 20, 2020 4:23 pm
Both she and the raven glanced toward the lake, heads turning as one. Their side—her side, her side—under the eaves of the Woods, was still dim enough for the fire to have full strength. In the east, lazy Lugh dallied behind the hills, awake but in no hurry to show his face. The black lake was a dim grey, shrouded in layer upon overlapping layer of mist, with that eerie silence of a winter’s morning, as if the cold itself were a blanket muffling sound: no birdsong, no creaking insects, the lap of water muted. On the lake’s far bank, Myrken emerged from a single dark, carven monolith to individual pale outlines seamed in shadow. “Dawn will come when it always comes,” she replied. “Too early and far too soon.”
Her gaze fell, and she sighed a little more wistfully than she intended.
Since there was no way to conceal or excuse it, she turned back toward him. “Do you realize, mo sionnach, that you have just solved the riddle? All this time trying to work out what we are to each other. We were us all along. All the entanglements that go with it.”
Benedict gave Glenn an oddly reproachful look—though with his expressions, one always had to employ a little imagination—before he took wing, cutting right before Fionn, stopping her in her tracks. He fluttered back to his talking-branch, where he picked through his wingtips with his beak, smoothing and straightening, only to fluff himself sullenly against the early-morning chill.
“May we assume,” she said, “that I feel exactly as bad as I am likely to feel about the whole matter?” She kept her voice as light, as careless, as she ever did, but a tension underpinned it like a net of wires, one that likely only Glenn would be able to read. The tightness at the corners of her mouth and the way she kept her hands clasped behind her back, the way she kept shifting on the balls of her feet, as though anxious to be elsewhere, while her chin remained a level line—all desperately dignified. “Probably not bad enough to suit you, but certainly more than I am comfortable in feeling. And since, as you say, I am a hedonist, I much mislike feeling in any wise uncomfortable and am apt to do all in my power to negate it, which in this case means making amends with Benedict. I would rather have done so in private, as apologizing before an audience feels disingenuous and performative—but, as has been noted, the audience was not anticipated.”
That, too, came out a little more plaintive than she would have liked. To dull the poignant edge of sincerity, she smiled and bowed her head, a sheepish but forthright acknowledgement. “How long do you plan to stay this time, Glenn?”
Fri Feb 21, 2020 8:13 am
There would always be lingering business. That he would rush towards it now instead of crunching on chestnuts could have meant so many things. The shroud had lifted. He was serious again. Still, one would think that Glenn, when lacking inhibition the most, would have throttled her to get answers and truth, that he would not have had the patience to be distracted. Then again, they had been apart for so long. Then again, he was playing a ploy, just as she was. Then again, maybe truth and accusations weren't what he truly wanted at all. Maybe he had wanted what she had wanted or maybe he had wanted to give her what she had wanted. What he thought she had wanted, for they were not of one mind and he was often wrong with all women, and her especially, no matter how much he paid attention, no matter how many mental notes he took, no matter how often he was actually right.
If nothing else, it was a haze between them. Even if she hadn't menaced Gloria, even if that would not lead to more trouble or perhaps, just perhaps, some ill will from him, she had punished Benedict and Benedict had come to him. That he had been so amiable to her, no matter ploys or ailments or anything else, should have told everyone a great deal.
But dawn would come.
"So long as we were us, then you have to admit that we were us before as well. Just a different us. We'll be a different us tomorrow as well. We'll only be this us now, here and now, until dawn comes." She was wistful and he snuck her a smile. "These are not dots on a canvas however. It is a not even a line connecting those dots but instead a wave that sweeps up all that has come before and that heads towards our hopes of what will be. The us of yesterday has shaped the us of today and the us of tomorrow shall be shaped by now, dawn or no. But then, I believe in the possibility of progress and you believe in the serene inevitability of fate. Benedict believes in the path of least resistance. I wonder which of us is the largest hypocrite?"
Then she spoke, a bold approach that balanced a smidgen of guilt with imperious pride. "May we suppose that you will be you? I suppose we may suppose that. If we are to suppose that, then it depends on what Benedict says, what I hear, and how I feel."
He said nothing about judgment or punishment or preventing reoccurrence, just about feelings, which is where she seemed to be in all of this as well.
So deep in the supposition of feelings were they that her question took him by surprise. Still, he was always quick to answer and this was no different. "I mean to stay. I will stay until I have gained all and lost all once again or I will stay until I have created such ruin that even I can never hope to restore it or I will stay until I have achieved a meaningful amount of my goals and someone can convince me of more worthwhile ones."
Sun Feb 23, 2020 7:44 pm
Her brows raised, a little impressed with how easily he proclaimed his intentions. Part of her suspected that Glenn took a little time at the beginning of each day, just before breakfast or perhaps during, to anticipate any questions that might be set upon him and to compose outlines of appropriate responses, with enough flexibility to account for circumstance. It wouldn’t surprise her.
But she was aware that she’d caught him in the middle of thinking something else. What it was or how she knew, she couldn’t account for, save that all Tuatha possess a touch of the Sight. Or perhaps it was simple familiarity. How odd to feel familiar with a man you’d only seen twice in the flesh. Three times now. Three times should mean something. Something should be different.
“And those are the only three possible outcomes, are they?” She gave a small chuckle, rich as plum cake. “At least they’ll all take a while. Mayhap by then, you’ll find a fourth. Or mayhap you will even find a reason to stay rather than a reason to leave.”
The raven’s crossing had set a boundary. She did not come closer to Glenn, but held back at a rather awkward distance: too far to converse practically, far enough to seem like a warning. The season left a tingling in her palms that she recognized as the need to touch something, and it was best to keep that urge to herself, though rubbing her hands together only made the itch worse. The base of her thumb throbbed with a tiny heartbeat mismatched to her own. She was quiet.
“I told Catch that I believe you were coming back because there was no other place for you save for Myrken. I still think that. I thought it the first time you were here. You were happy.” She waved her hand idly beside her cheek, brushing away a pesky invisible fly. “Or…whatever fleeting palpitation passes for happiness with you. I would not dare imagine what that might be.” She was still smiling, even as she regarded him soberly, clear-eyed. “I will not have any association of ours, nor any of mischief of mine own, put at risk whatever brought you here. Gloria and I were ill-met in Razasan and this incident will not much improve matters. I don’t doubt she suspects I have laid some ill influence on you, and she’s already proved she’ll go out of her way to confirm her worst suspicions. I would just as soon you stay clear and let me handle it. I know you won’t. But on this point, I am prepared to be stubborn.”
As with most of her people, Fionn was prone to learning the right lesson for the wrong reasons. She felt very little guilt over what she had done to Benedict. However well-meant his intentions, he had overstepped himself, borne out his penance, and it was now time for him to be let off the hook. Fionn did not consider herself the sort of person to accumulate grudges: once a sin was punished, its weight was discharged. For Gloria, there was no guilt at all. Gloria had come out much better than she deserved, considering the indignity of her trespass and the trouble it caused—and would continue to cause, she had no doubt. Inwardly she sighed, anticipating a long spring of pulling up the weeds of a single careless encounter.
But she felt a little sorry that it ultimately cast a pall over seeing Glenn again. They might have used this time to deal with more pressing matters, or even to simply catch up with one another.
“Let’s leave it to Benedict, then.” She glanced behind them, through the wall of false trees to the true path by which he had come. “The sun will be up by the time you reach the Dagger’s side of the bank. Would you rather he lead you back, or shall I?”
It pained her to leave things uncertain, her fate resting on the raven’s back. She would rather know his judgement before she sent him away, but the whole glam rested on a delicate fulcrum of trust: hers for Benedict, Glenn’s for her. Her lips pressed inward, as though she had more to add, but such sentiments refused to resolve themselves into words.
Instead she shrugged once more and touched the side of her throat. “Or you could stay.”
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