Mon Nov 11, 2019 6:40 pm
Daryl was already hard at work, ferrying various bags, trunks, crates, and sundries from where they’d been unloaded at the curb. It wasn’t a glamorous residence, it would be difficult for hosting parties, but it was convenient for Genevieve. She had been able to renovate a portion of the existing Inquisitory structure into residential quarters, just above her office. It was a large space with an equally large, proper, four post, bed and a fireplace across from the foot that shared the chimney with the office below. The stairs going up were lined with stacks of books that would eventually find another home when construction was complete. More rooms, even quarters like hers, would be built for the larger project creating a series of interconnected structures for government, education, and inquiry.
Staffing was lean on this particular day, Walter must have been on an errand and perhaps the Juniors had already left for the day. Master McKinnon was in the hall when she arrived and it allowed her to make cursory inquires about the state of things in Myrken, about Walter, Gloria, and line up appointments for the following day. She had no intention of going into her office today and excused herself just shy of actually waving him off. Another day wouldn’t hurt. She needed a bath and a good night’s sleep in her own bed.
Thanks were given, sincere ones for all the work that had been done in her absence, but she did not hesitate to climb the stairs and go straight to her room. Instead, hesitation came when her fingers found the door handle. What would she find? Gloria had been given free range over the quarters. Would she be there? Would she be gone? Which was worse? After a deep breath, or several, she turned the handle and entered.
Tue Nov 12, 2019 5:34 am
Corm McKinnon, upon seeing her, excited little. Myrkeners were not excitable souls. Men like him, they were not excitable men.
"Little to speak of. Except a few matters, but in due time."
In chaos, there is comfort.
Would Genny have noticed, in her tired ascent, how the books had been shuffled, reorganized, replaced? How one stack at the foot of the stairs had been piled in a pyramid from widest to thinnest. How another, ordered by title, had been nudged painstakingly close to the lip of the stair upon which it stood? How there had been some semblance of order brought to them all, without initially disturbing the pandemonium of their original placement?
"She's got some doggedness, but none of the straying sort. Kept straight to your plan, she did, Miss Tolleson. For the most part."
The only evidence of other peculiarity was but an imperfect blemish upon the glass knob of the door to the flat: a thumbprint of mud, stinking like swamp-soil, smeared like a grotesque tattoo.
"Inquisitory's well, though she's got us busy. Secured some printworks in Aithne for us, though how we'll move that thing's a damn mystery. Though last night, there was some commotion, some business—"
What greeted Genny as she opened the door to the flat was everything she might have remembered: the bedding, meticulously folded, the corner-ropes secured, and the candles perched in their usual places, their light the perfect distribution for both illumination and reading undisturbed as one paced and flitted from bureau to wardrobe. A fire, healthy and alive, but altogether unobtrusive: warming, yes, and radiant, but at a steady rhythm upon the logs. In front of it, hanging, a pair of trousers, smeared in mud and torn at the knee. A woman's boots. A tattered blouse, gutted like an open fish, drenched in half-dried dirt. Irreparable.
Would the writer in her notice the new organization of her desk? How the exotic and domestic inks had been ordered from tallest bottle to the shortest, how the papers had been stacked upon one another, and how in the center of the desk, there were two new decorations: a potioner's glass vial, filled with a glowing redness, as if lit from within. And a tiny twig, hardly the size of a forefinger.
From the darkness behind the open door, a hoarse voice danced between ruthlessness and apology.
"Tell me what we wrote of. Or what we dreamed together."
Though but a whisper, the accent and voice possessed force. And daring. And, underneath it all, a stitch of fear.
Faintest hint of blood. Metallic. Cruel. Like a draft from a bad dream.
Tue Nov 12, 2019 5:59 pm
Little to speak of. Quiet could be good. Calm should be reassuring. But there was something about it preceding a storm that wouldn’t let her find comfort in this reassurance. In chaos there was comfort, indeed.
Books stacked, rearranged, and touched; a smile might creep to Genny’s lips at seeing that the collection was being used. But it fell quickly, the thought of it fed the trepidation in her approach.
For the most part. That was really the best she could have asked for. A request for a full review in the morning and individual summons sent to the Juniors for report. And get Walter.
Her hand over the knob, hesitant for a million other reasons but with a furrowed brow as she beheld the mud.
Printworks, what a delight. We are in the business of dispelling mystery. Let there be no unknown we shy away from - even ones that would test our best engineers. It is well that such a device should live here and be a fount of knowledge for all.
The muscles in her neck stiffened and she took a long, deliberate breath through her nose. A soft hiss followed her sword as it was unsheathed. Her fingers delicately stepping around the muddy print as best they could, to turn the handle and ease the door open.
The room was as she remembered, disarming, inviting, the perfect refuge of orderly but abundant stacks. With barely a foot over the threshold the tattered clothing gave her pause. Her eyes flicked to the articles of clothing, the shoes, assessing the size, the style, mentally verifying the owner or at least, making an informed guess.
The detail of the desk was noted, if just because she was actively trying to take in all the detail and change of the room. A vial containing the glowing red was certainly new and the most inviting for further examination. She took a step towards it, her furrowed brow renewed, plowing pensive lines deeper. And then a voice, a sound, words, ruthless and pitiable.
Who else could it be here, in this sanctuary, this safe space where only she had been invited. Genny spun to face the darkness, the shadow behind the door. Her sword fully drawn and held defensively at an angle that crossed her body.
“What happened here? ... What we dreamt?”
Her voice rose from inquiry, higher and tighter. Confusion and a stitch of fear too.
“Of lovely dresses,” she offered cautiously, her words gentle and soothing. The sword was lowered only slightly as she strained to see, to feel, to know if this was Gloria. She had been on her guard with Glenn, but it had softened over their journey. In a way, things had been easier and she had almost forgotten that there was never peace here.
Wed Nov 13, 2019 1:12 am
"Lovely dresses. I — I quite like dresses."
A repetition. A comfort. A breath.
But the tension did not wholly fade away. Instinct did not demean itself in the face of necessity.
How Gloria's face changed when she saw her, even if the change had been little brightened by the candles. For such a figure, such a memory and fixture, was unmistakable to her. First, there was the hair. Always the hair. Like a bonfire lit from a beautiful match. Whether constrained by bun or let fall freely, it struck her dumb with all its alien peculiarity, all its coppery, precious-metal beauty, loose embroidery brought to life. And the stature, tall and lanky, as if Genny Tolleson had taken her share of bone and joint at birth and refused to surrender it to anyone else. Years compressed into seconds, and a wild rush of thought scrambled behind her eyes: how much she had changed! How much she hadn't! A silhouette always cut itself with distinction in the eyes of the admirer — only this time, the admirer knew her role, felt it as keenly as the quickening punch of her heartbeat.
There was a sword, readied, unsheathed. Good. The Genny before her materialized into something more mystical: a brightly-cast image, protective, unyielding, ready.
And how Gloria felt herself minimal and base in comparison: standing like a gargoyle in the corner, all six-feet-and-more of her, and her wide and mountainous shoulders more stone than skin. Time had demanded she grow taller, broader, like a callus. Both of them had steel, that much was true, but the Jerno's was only half-unsheathed, the loose scabbard of her dwarven blade squeezed between rib and bicep. Her lone fist wrapped the handle, its cross guard split from the leather by but the length of a trembling thumb.
Her hair, unkempt and clumped by dirt, bloomed like a black halo. Her body was draped in a cotton shift. Simple. Always simple.
Her left cheek, stuffed full with cloth, bulged thickly, and the scrap of a blood-soaked rag dangled like a tongue from the corner of her lips.
Inside, screaming Go to her. Go to her. But first—
"I dreamed of you. Sword raised high, protective and powerful. I told you I would draw you a picture. I've — I've drawn no picture," she admitted, almost girlishly, "but wish I could. And I did as you asked: I followed instructions, I was good. There's iron in the bedstand, Genny. There is a nail I withdrew from the waste of the Meetinghouse, just for us. Fetch it for me and I'll hold it in my hand so you know who I am."
She lifted her hand warily from the handle of her knife, then reached out, touching air.
"You call me a name. You call me a special name that — that only you wield. Grace me with it, so I know you to be true."
Mon Nov 18, 2019 2:45 pm
Genny was not much different. Or rather, she felt of herself that not much had changed about her in the years between. When was it that these two women had last seen each other outside of a dream? Was it clinging to one another in the decaying library; an uncertain mentalist, gaunt and sickly, terrified of herself and the world? Much had changed since then. She was always lean and long limbed, but now there was wellness and strength to her, confidence too. That red hair was much the same, half up in a braided bun, tied tight and pinned to controlled perfection, while the other half flowed down in loose organic curls to the middle of her back. In an odd way the style represented her personality perfectly; warm and passionate, but ever meticulous, measured, and in control. It was not such a far stretch to see how Catch had interpreted the free flowing strands as flames, especially as the hearth’s warm light made them glow in the dim room.
But it was nothing compared to the warmth that came to Genny’s face as she beheld the dark eyes of the strong woman. She liked to think herself a dull stone, but she was a pillar, supporting weight beyond measure. Simple, yes. But honest, and real, and comforting. Recognition relaxed Genny’s face, drew a relieved, happy sigh from her, and the tension of her defensive stance melted. Her sword lowered entirely. Whatever her role, whether she knew it or not, was a kind of love. She seemed to mirror Gloria’s admiration, or perhaps simply that of a friendly reunion; fondness and delight rose in her cheeks and shone in her eyes. If only for a moment before the growing worry pulled her brows back in, her eyes drifting from the bramble of black hair, down Gloria’s body and took in the blood soaked, swelling, muddied, bruised, and battered woman.
Gloria babbled and it drew her further down, her posture shifting defensively as one might as they approach a frightened animal. A dream, they had dreamed together, but this part wasn’t familiar.
“We dreamt of Elliot,” she agreed diplomatically, nodding as a means to quell the concern. Agree without agreeing.
“Who should you be if not yourself?”
Of course, she knew or had an idea. But asking, and the time it took to do so, gave her the opportunity to investigate further. The sword remained in her hand, gripped loosely so that the point of it hovered merely an inch above the floorboards as she moved. Stepping with a careful slowness she approached the nightstand. What more was there to see, what clues she might observe? They had grown close and yet had a great distance between them; how would she even know if Gloria was not herself? Would she have left her a message somewhere? She was clever, perhaps a book on the nightstand or in the drawer.
Firelight shifted on her dark skin, the air moved, and Gloria’s hand reached out. Genny stopped, turning slightly to face the hand, the arm, the body behind the request. She could grab her hand and comfort her, give her words of reassurance and find the happy embrace that one anticipates at the end of a long journey. But she wanted a special name.
“All of these articles were relayed in your letters,” the implication being that they could have been stolen. Useless as proof. Genny slid the drawer open and found the iron nail, took it up and held it, rolling it between her fingers and passing it to the other hand so that she could set it daintily in Gloria’s palm.
“You nearly drowned in that dream. Do you remember? We had to find Elliot, where did I look,” it was in a library, her peculiar library, a place that oddly enough only Gloria and two others had ever ventured. One was the architect and the other was Elliot himself.
She knew the name, but she didn’t say it.
Tue Nov 19, 2019 1:17 am
"I remember. I remember."
With what intention she observed as Genny turned and, without hesitation or concern, went to the stand to retrieve the truth-speaking nail, neither questioning nor delaying the task. She watched as children wait for a beloved toy, or a sheepdog for food. Watched as rusted steel disappeared inside that delicate hand. Proof. Watched Genny, now, as she drifted closer, closer still, and gifted the nail. Gloria's fist clenched powerfully around it, raised between them like a a totem, as if to say, Look, I'm real, I'm real, in whatever unspoken language existed.
We had to find Elliot, where did I look...
"Your study. Your library, your Laboron," she whispered, as if afraid one word would not suffice. How quickly, with the transfer of this nail, the Jerno's face underwent a tidewater of alteration: it was cold iron which confirmed, and sent her into a wild, violent shuddering — not of chill, but of excitement, like lightning confined. A noise lifted in her throat. A hoarse rattle. Then it crescendoed, up, up, up, until it was a laugh, a squeal, and happiness broke through the citadel of her worries. "H'zlz," she breathed. "H'zlz, H'zlz — Genny, it's you—"
Palm reached for the angular cheek, and thumb for it too, as if to wipe away the dust of a road and see what was underneath.
"It's you," Gloria whispered. "It's you."
The nail fell to the floor, rolled away. Her sheathed knife fell useless to the boards, too. This was enough. Wasn't it? No image could be so convincing, so perfectly formed; no illusion could remain so close without being subject to a cautious and scrutable eye. The fears in her mind unraveled like a spool of thread: such clever beauty could hardly be recreated, or that gentle odor of horse and road-dirt and book-page and ink and — Gloria's smile could have been a crack in the world itself — ink and ink and ink! And if for whatever cruel reason this prove but a fabrication in her sleeping mind, or a trick perpetuated by another party, it wouldn’t matter, it didn't matter...
"'I eagerly await the day that we might speak in person,'" said the dark woman, right near to Genny's ear. Her final proof. "'To share words that cannot seem to find purchase with ink. Until then, I carry your letters and wish you to know, you are already a fond memory.'"
A hundred times. A thousand times. How many had she looked upon it?
Her arms, then, coiled with strength and hardened by burden, sought out an embrace.
"Do I match it? The memory?"
Sat Nov 23, 2019 2:39 pm
The significance of the iron was not lost. Genny knew far from everything about the fae, but their dislike, or allergy to it, had been in every book though there were few. And the asking of such a significant task was telling, it answered her previous question without words. ‘Who should you be, if not yourself,’ someone with the capability to appear as her, a face-thieving fae.
It had been a library and the answer seemed to satisfy her, a small smile crept at the corner of her mouth. It was a subtle thing, the prevailing tension of worry remained as she beheld the anxious woman. Knuckles tightened defensively around the hilt of her blade as violent, shuddering excitement rippled through the Jerno woman.
Gloria’s hand touched her face and though she didn’t react with recoil, her eyes opened more widely as if caught by surprise with the sudden physical contact. After all, it had been so long and after their uneasy reunion only moments ago, she had far more questions. Whatever words and inquiries she had before that moment fell away, lost in the action.
Whispered words, warm, gentle; Genny’s own words, remembered with care. Gloria might not have seen the growing gloss of wet in Genny’s eyes because her cheek was so near, the heat of it radiated warmth to her adjacent face. Mere inches away, she could not sheath her sword, her grip loosened but the arm sat dumbly as if entirely forgotten. Her now empty right hand set gently to Gloria’s waist and when the Jerno pressed against her in embrace, her breath caught and it slid hesitantly up her back.
“H’zlz,” she repeated softly.
For a long moment she was silent, simply holding on. A gentle pressure came from the single arm wrapped around and pulled Gloria in, as if to reassure herself that the woman here was solid, real and not made of intangible dream material. And when she finally spoke, her voice was small, it lacked the strength and confidence of that dream version of herself that Gloria had encountered months ago now.
There is a figure that resides in the mind, a visage of who we think we are. A distorted reflection of how we see ourselves; for Genny it had once been, and sometimes still was, the quavering child who had almost drowned, helpless against the current, grasping and feeble. The version of Genny that Gloria had met in their shared dream had been a figure of aspiration; a person she wanted to be, a projection perfectly controlled. Confident, strong, a mighty protector whose voice would ring loud, encouraging, and lovely. Gloria had projected a version of herself that was different than the physical thing; different but not untrue to herself.
“No,” the squeaked whisper eventually came, “you are far better."
Subtle tracks were cleared through the dust on her cheeks as quiet tears rolled down.
Sun Nov 24, 2019 2:51 am
She leaned into the embrace with a great and unfettered sigh, a breath like that of a death — not the death of life, but that of tension and uncertainty, pouring right out from her. Genny's hand carried radiant warmth. It was here. She
was here. For some time, with the name of that ancient poem's hero still humming on her tongue, she watched the theatre of Genny Tolleson's face: its exhaustion, its cheer, its own hesitation, written like inky script upon the tall woman's cheeks.
When finally — a thousand years later — she unwound herself from the hug, she drew herself back enough that Genny's hand slid from her back to the broad shelf of her waist, her hip, like they might dance. Here, protectively, Gloria's palm covered the other woman's daintier knuckles and squeezed. "It's all right," she whispered, seeking the softness of approval. That this closeness, this meeting, was allowed. That they could
hold hands. That they could
touch. Dark, frantic eyes sought out every angle and freckle of Genny's face, flitting left, right, and smiling all the while. "I thought, before long, that I would have to come to you. I — I began to fear that perhaps I'd fabricated all of the words we shared, like some clumsy symptom of hope, and so I would reread the letters and imagine your hand writing them out and then I'd try to hear your voice saying them, and sometimes it became so overwhelming and so lovely that I believed I couldn't possibly be imagining reality, and—"
The words all poured from her with a frantic excitement, as if she didn't say them all now, they might never be spoken. But they stopped, suddenly, mid-sentence, as a tear crawled down the ridge of Genny's cheek and fell toward the sharp edge of her chin.
"No," Gloria whispered, while an empathetic smile began to creep across her face. So quiet were her words, they might as well have been breath. "No, no, no — no need for tears, unless you want me
to cry, and I am quite the ugliest crier, and I fear you'd dash right out that door and get your sense about you, and — and—" Another traveling touch. This time to Genny's other hand. The one holding the sword. Not to pry it free, but rather, to softly encourage Genny's hand to re-establish its grip. The sword was hers. The sword, in the glimmer of dreamy memory still sparking in Gloria Wynsee's mind, was
Genny Tolleson. "I — I like this," she said. "I like this."There is a figure that resides in the mind, a visage of who we think we are. A distorted reflection of how we see ourselves.
(I am small. I am reduced. I am nothing. Aren't I?)—different, but not untrue to herself.
(No. Because she is here, see? And to be nothing, it would shame the authority of her choice.)
The divot in the middle of her chin twitched. Flicked by thought. Hesitating for something, holding still the movement of a muscle underneath skin.
"I like this," she repeated, then pecked, like an unsure bird—
At a lone tear. To kiss it away.
Sun Nov 24, 2019 6:06 am
It’s all right. It is. It is? She could almost believe it under the soothing heat of Gloria’s hand, squeezing reassurance. She could almost forget the letters, Glenn’s condition, Egris, the fae, the work that awaited her just downstairs. She could almost believe that in this, everything would be all right. Those lovely dark eyes flitted over Genny’s face and a softness rounded the edges of Genny’s eyes, watching the humming bird eyes search her, take her in.
Words flowed from Gloria, swelling currents of happy encouragement, tangled admissions with barbs of guilt that snagged Genny’s lips as they floated past. The journey had taken too long, left too many letters unsent, and she had asked so much of Gloria. The words themselves were harmless but to her they became thorns, small regrets and knowledge of the emotional injuries she had caused, stuck and pulled at her small smile. Exhaustion, cheer, hesitation, yes. It was held, carefully contained in her expression and the few tears that had managed free betrayed her.
Those few letters had been better, more accurate, more ready, more and better able to say the words. Now, in the moment, in the reality of their reunion, she felt frozen. No, not entirely frozen. Something swelled within her, an answer to the flood of words. And yet, she was still, a gentle smile of a reply held firm by tension in her cheeks and eyes.
Gloria kissed her cheek, her jaw, a small peck tasting of salt-water and dust.
The gentle warmth of Gloria’s lips pressed momentarily on her face, Genny's lips parted and she let free a small gasp. No, not a gasp. That would be a quick inhalation of surprise or dismay. This was an exhale, a small, soundless, held breath that was let free with a short, quavering inhale behind it. And pressure surged against the barrier, threatened the membrane at the edge of Gloria’s mind. Genny’s eyes had closed and then opened slowly, her lips, as if suddenly self-conscious, pursed as an audible swallow followed.
“I,” she croaked, as if her body followed suit of her mind and couldn’t manage to form the words. She pulled her head back, reigning back the tide, subduing the pressure, regaining the small measure of composition she’d lost. “I like it too.”
Genny’s hand lifted from Gloria’s waist, touched at the spot where her lips had been and then wiped away the remaining wet. When she finished she set her hand to the other woman’s chest, high, between the collarbone and shoulder. Her touch was gentle, she might even feel a heartbeat, but the placement was such that she could just as easy press away any additional advance.
“I am sorry for such a prolonged absence. I never meant,” again the words failed her, though she referred to the worries of imagined correspondence. “Tell me what happened,” her eyes darted away to the clothes, to the fire, to the nail, gesturing without her hands to the damage. Intent on learning about whatever had threatened Gloria and had held her frightened in the corner of the room, asking for iron nails.
Sun Nov 24, 2019 7:13 am
The heartbeat underneath Genny's palm did not rush, but it was certainly not at rest, either. Every new point of contact necessitated another. I like it too. Her only hand, which had found itself wrapped like a cocoon around Genny's sword-clenching knuckles, lifted enough to find the ridge of a tiny, ink-smudged wrist. I like it too. An assent ringing like bells in her head, congested as it was with a thousand unuttered hesitations. She feared if she'd fully let go of the fire-haired woman standing in front of her, she might tumble back into some blind place where Genny wasn't. I like it too.
And at the edge of her mind, like a dull finger rap-rap-rapping at a windowpane...
Her grip intensified. Squeezed. White-knuckled. Then it softened, but didn't retract.
"I refuse to accept that apology," Gloria said gently, "because there is no need for regret. You attended a friend in need, and did so because your heart and instinct drove you it. You could have stagnated here, consumed with worry, and it would have done you no good. A good heart oughtn't be shut up like — like a precious gem." More softly, now. "I knew you'd return. You've never been unreliable, nor have you ever been anything but a woman of — of your word. I knew this, but my Patience was harder to convince."
A sudden surge of mortification. She realized that tucked within her cheek, soaking wet, was still a sliver of rag, sopping with blood. Color flushed her face. The ache of her gums where a tooth had been pried free began to smart and throb. A raised finger begged a modest moment: Gloria turned, found another rag, and (with her back to Genny, as if she'd be afraid to shatter the happiness of the moment), spit the lump of fabric into the other. She wiped her mouth, cast the rag to the fireplace, and admitted— "I'd no time to prepare my better self for you. I wanted you to return to — to wine, and a basin for washing, and all other kindnesses as you deserve. I was going to put cinnamon in my hair and read from a book to you. Just a few days ago I refreshed the hay in the bedding, and I've hardly slept a wink on it for — for fear of stealing too much of its softness from you, and—"
She turned to the fire. An old log, desiccated and black, begged refreshment. Genny was home. Genny was here. It could have been perfect. Gloria gave a weak slap to the hanging trousers, as if they'd been to blame for all of it.
"I found her without intending to find her. I fell into — into one of her killing-pits."
Shoulderblades tightened nearly to stone. Gloria's frame stiffened. Back, once more, to its old tension, its comfortable readiness, as if the world had turned its knives on her.
"How do I say it the right way, Genny — that she sought to do me harm, even end my life — so that I may be heard?"
Wed Nov 27, 2019 12:00 pm
“You are terribly stubborn,” she didn’t so much deny the kind words, the reason Gloria gave for a declining her apology, as she carefully maneuvered her words so it needn’t be acknowledged. There were some battles that simply weren’t worth an argument. Not to mention, Gloria was correct in her self assessment as far as Genny was concerned. The Jerno woman had reason, it did not make her reasonable.
“I did intend to return more quick...,” Gloria's fingers lifted away from Genny's hand, one held vertical in a shushing gesture, and the words trailed to silence. Genny seemed to have an explanation at the ready, but as Gloria turned to stuff another rag into her face the redheaded woman leaned slightly to observe, she wasn’t quite so used to the sight of blood.
For all that Gloria had planned, Genny could only raise an eyebrow. With her hands free she sheathed the sword; it wasn’t an entirely smooth gesture, she had some practice in the swinging but not so much for day-to-day brandishing-and-putting-away.
“Prepare yourself?” Her tone held a subtle blend of confusion, concern, disbelief, with a hint of anger. “It troubles me that you worry yourself with such trivial matters above your own well-being,” worried about cinnamon hair and books while her face actively bled.
Genny took several steps back, deeper into the room towards the neatly arranged desk. She added distance, not that it would ease the burden of building emotions but it may make those that came with their proximity ebb. There were already so many, some conflicting, and with Gloria’s answer to what had happened, guilt joined the swell. She took a deep breath, touching her own forehead, rubbing her middle finger along her temple as she began to pace. Her thoughts remained her own, even if anyone with a sense for it might feel the pressure build like a distant storm.
Killing Pits? It certainly appeared that Gloria had barely escaped some encounter.
“I hear you,” I believe you, was the message. Perhaps Gloria sought some other means to share her experience, to show the place or to prove that she was where she claimed to have been and how close she had been to harm. But Genny’s reply was simply that, a verbal acknowledgement. Her pacing slowed and she looked up, brow furrowed deep and pensive.
“Her. You mean to say the fae woman, mentioned in your letter? Did she do this to you? Directly?” Clarification was in order, anger surged but reason won, they were both Inquisitors after all and the questions came quick and neat. It did neither any good to provide vague statements and unevidenced accusations.
Wed Nov 27, 2019 3:00 pm
People were things sometimes more than they were people. Gloria thought herself a hammer, with a strong, heavy top and a stiff handle. Ariane Carnath-Emory, she'd been not a sword, but a needle — so tall, so thin, so perfectly shaped for every encounter and every need. Duquesne, a book, always full of such knowledge and wonder. Glenn Burnie, he was a sundial, liable to be right occasionally and utterly unnecessary otherwise, especially when the Sun itself already told enough about time.
But Genny Tolleson? Fire. She had always been fire. And not because of her striking hair (did she ever tire, she wondered, of being asked how it was so bold and bright?), but rather, the energy and warmth and force she exuded. Sometimes she was a furnace-flame, a well-contained warmth around which one could not help but find themselves gathered, drawn toward; sometimes she was the flicker of an enlightening candle, the illumination of clarity in confusion. Then other times, she was fire to burn, to sear, in anger—
"She never laid a hand upon me," Gloria said, clutching her truncated arm close to her chest, as if afraid it might offend. "But she found me in such a state, and sought to leave me, teased me and — and berated me like I was some cattle to be left in mud. She closed the light out of the world, made me believe I'd been buried alive. And — and there was a dead girl there, floating in the mud, or so I thought — because I held her hand and she touched me — and even if she'd just been fabricated in my mind, it was real and I brought her finger—" Here, sudden, frantic, a wild motion toward the desk, where the tiny thumb-sized twig lay. "Because what if there was truly a dead girl, wouldn't someone want to know? Wouldn't she be missed, Genny? I have to be sure. I have to be.
"The fae means harm. She means harm," said Gloria, breathlessly. "There, that vial, that's fatum, an awful poison. She's cultivating it in the woods. I was doing my diligence. Poisons and pits hidden in the woods, and I am to believe she's in possession of some goodness to offer us?"
Her breathing had turned to a wild, rapid rhythm, almost enough that she felt the pulse in the exposed root of her gum. Exasperation overcame her, and as Genny paced, she sat down upon the edge of the hay-stuffed bedding, scraping the tips of her fingers through her hair, loosening it, as if wanting to hide behind it.
A long stretch of quiet passed before Gloria began to pick at an old smudge of ink on the knee of her dressing-gown, as if she might be able to peel it right off. Trivial. There was some asp's tongue in that word, hissing at her, carrying the brunt of Genny's frustration. Of course she was frustrated. She returned. To this. Gloria shrunk like a half-crumbled gargoyle, perched but altogether unbound. She'd played those things out in her head. Fine theatre. Good intentions. Cinnamon and books. Wine and baths. "They're — they're not trivial to me," she said, speaking mostly to her own lap. "If they're for you, they're anything but.
"I just wanted you to return knowing you were someone's first choice. That you were someone's preference."
Wed Nov 27, 2019 4:40 pm
Gloria could be blunt, thick headed, striking heavy, passionate blows when what was required was a gentle push, but her aim rarely faltered. The problem was other people could redirect the momentum, sway her without her notice so that even swinging true might still land astray. Fae were especially good at cunning tricks and manipulation.
Perhaps Genny was fire, unpredictable, destructive, she could consume and spread, level a house or a town if she wasn’t contained.
She never laid a hand upon me.
Indeed, how could she have and still make claims of abiding by laws in Myrken.
Genny gave Gloria space and quiet, listening, silence to speak, to breathe, to recall and retell. She stopped pacing entirely, leaning against the back of the chair at the desk, watching as Gloria flailed near, pointed at the stick and glowing sample. She watched as the Jerno woman eventually settled, curling down. The frantic energy dwindling as she lost confidence, collapsing in on herself. Made somehow half the size and strength she was only moments ago.
It was pitiable. And entirely relatable.
A deep sigh came some long moments later and in a single stride or two she was in front of Gloria, she didn’t sit on the bed beside her, but knelt on the floor in front. The scabbard made dull thunking noises against the floorboards and her skirts rustled as they folded. Genny didn’t need to reach up, just out, to clasp over the picking hand. Her eyes did peer up, reaching above to find where Gloria had hidden again.
“That was cruel of her, you must have been terribly afraid.”
Silence fell again as she took deep, deliberate breaths, exaggerating the slowness and the rise and fall of her own chest. Or perhaps she too was trying to find some calm.
“It is entirely possible she used a glamour, a kind of illusion to trick you into believing there is or was a dead girl.” Her tone was measured and patient, while her eyes watched Gloria, tried to find eyes to read rather than thoughts.“They rarely have inclination to be accomodating unless it suits them,” Zilliah had been notably mercurial and sometimes quite cruel. Not to Genny though, never to Genny. The comment was made almost off-handedly, as if quoting some passage from a book on the study of them.
“You are to rest; I am to meet with her under hospitality and will uncover any plotting of harm. And will demand to know why you have been tormented so,” her tone had softened but was no less resolute or commanding. These things would be done.
Genny’s hand lifted from Gloria’s and brushed away some of the loosened strands from the downcast face.
“The intention is sweet, but the guilt you feel in not accomplishing these kind gestures is a weight upon you. Which is a weight upon me.” It was hard to explain; not accomplishing something you planned to do was like burning a pie. Forethought and effort went into the timing and choice, a specific recipe could be followed exactly, but then something entirely beyond your control happens; a distraction or the oven fluctuates in temperature. Perhaps the weather changed, suddenly cooling the air or making it too moist. And you are left with a pile of intentions and rotting mess, blackened and bruised, entirely unappetizing. Perhaps Gloria was a bit like pie today, and Genny could appreciate that. It was beautiful in a way that she understood.
“They are not trivial, but compared to you, they are. I wished only to see you.” The phrasing didn’t quite make sense to her, but there was no one else she had wanted to speak with more so Genny responded in kind, “you are my first choice as well.”
Thu Nov 28, 2019 1:46 am
Before even the words, there was the breath. Gloria felt the vast and uncanny gap between the pace of Genny's breathing — slow, intentional, rhythmic — and her own, and sought to match it. Her nostrils flared as she drew in large, thirsty breaths, and her chest deflated as she exhaled, mimicking the same pace, the same pace, the same...
Genny's palm folded over hers, ceasing her hand in its flinching, its picking. She hadn't even realized. Tension drained out of Gloria's knuckles. She was here. Here. A truth that both invigorated and frightened her. While Genny spoke, Gloria's gaping gray eyes devoured the other woman's, flicking left and right, a flurry of minuscule motions that feared they might not process enough in the moments they had. "Afraid indeed! Four fingers does not a climber make. If she hungered for fear, then — then I can only hope she was satisfied. I just—" Her hand turned upward, then, so that her palm touched Genny's. Despite its nervous dampness, she clenched, held fast. "Even if that dead girl was glamourie, she seemed so real. She was lonely and cold and hadn't anybody at all to understand that she was afraid, and she died obscurely and without companionship and I tried closing my eyes and all I see are the remnants of her face and what counterfeit of life my mind forms out of them—"
Shrinking, just a little more, as she made this final admission:
"I did not want to end up like her, Genny."
Her thumb began a gradual caress of the back of the other woman's hand, forming minute patterns and unseen cycles. Tracing lines between ridges and edges. And so quieting was the motion that Gloria seemed to dissolve: she faintly hummed in time with the touch, then all as one, dripped down from the edge of the bed to sit upon the floor in front of Genny, their skirt-hems mingling. Soon, they could talk of the Other Woman; they could talk of those matters, all in business and fact.
Bolstered by Genny's resolve, Gloria — pie that she was — cooled to the lukewarmth of rationale. Of ease. You are my first choice as well. Her dry lips twitched, betraying a controlled and gracious smile. But her eyes? They nearly glowed, nearly exploded with excitement. "I'm not used to being a gift," she admitted. "That someone would ever be excited to see me, it confuses me. Truthfully, it frightens me. What if I don't meet the expectations or perfectly complement that desire? What if I make a mess of it all? Of us?"
Weight. It was all about weight. Weight, Gloria understood. Her bent knee touched Genny's. I'm here, too.
"Tell me of your trip, won't you? The wonders and the woes of it. Tell me what transpired in Genny's world. My ears are yours. Just—" Tightening of the hand, holding it, like some beautiful bauble.
Just don't let go.
Mon Dec 09, 2019 5:23 pm
It was so much. It was wonderful and terrible and something she willingly, happily embraced. But oh, so much.
Their hearts rose and fell in tandem, their breath synchronized and slowed, there was somehow peace in being able to help Gloria. How was it easier to help someone else, to give better advice than could be followed personally? But somehow it was. That was easy. Being here. Here. That was hard.
Genny squeezed Gloria’s hand softly, listening to the story of the girl and the earnest admission, the not-so-veiled plea for companionship. Gray eyes flicked over her and she followed them with her own green companions, trailing after as if to follow her through the labyrinth of the story. Gentle and neutral, but open and sort of welcoming, as if somehow eyes could listen.
Gloria slid down to her. The space between them drew nearer, stiller, gentler, and cozier as those grey eyes warmed. Without even realizing it Genny had begun to smile. It was a small expression, something that slipped through the cracks of her otherwise even and diplomatic presence. Gloria felt excitement, admitted to fear, and with her head cocked slightly Genny considered those feelings. Quiet and pensive for longer than would be comfortable in this intimate moment under such weight.
“It frightens me too,” she agreed, though her reasons were likely different. Her breathing slowed further still, as if she were trying to hear her own heartbeat, to use her own body’s metronome and recover balance. She didn’t look it, but internally there was a small dizziness that came under Gloria’s touch at her knee.
She breathed deeply, a big sigh, as if pulling all of her will together to restrain some deep and tumultuous anxiety and then released the breath with a smile. The strain didn’t show in her face, gentle and jovial; she nodded and began to tell of the journey, little about Glenn or Egris, and much about books and the shops where she’d found them.
She even held hands with Gloria, separating only momentarily to show how large a tome was or help set the stage for some small, side adventure. She seemed content, more than content. Genuinely happy.
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