Mon Apr 05, 2021 8:01 am
Somehow she was across the room, prowling back and forth before the fire with her hands tucked behind her back. The long train of her skirts dragged at her feet. Her face was frozen, distant, but for the firelight glittering in her eyes.
“I liked the letters. I wondered that I might like the…the ritual of them, more even than what we were writing. Setting aside a space to read, and another to write. Waiting to see what you would answer, trying to predict which way it would go, this way or that, and how I might respond. Wondering if I should try to look clever, or to speak true. Most of the time I was clever was because the truth was too difficult, and most of the time I told the truth was when I couldn’t be clever. Wondering if you were doing something of the same. Reading bits of them aloud to the raven, which was probably awful of me, but sometimes you made me laugh, and he would ask.”
Reflection was dangerous. The pauses between sentences stretched. She stumbled between steps from the concentration. It would be much simpler to be there, rather than the nuisance of explaining. Finally she slowed, stopped, rocking on the balls of her feet as though hypnotized by something Glenn could not see.
“And then once every year or so one of us did something to set the other off so that we had to meet in person to set it right. It was a good game.” She stared at him with the fire at her back, face in shadow. “But it isn’t a fair game, because I was always going to win. After that first time you left Myrken, I knew how it was going to end. One day I will send you a letter…and you’ll never answer.”
The glittering broke away from the corner of her eye and left a path down her cheek.
Fri Apr 09, 2021 5:15 am
She'd told him that the game was no longer enough from him. She mentioned how much she loved the game. While both things could be true, it felt like there was something else at play. Her previous words had exposed deep deficiencies in who he was and who he could be after all this time. Her current words showed those deficiencies to be welcomed and valued. Had he not said it multiple times before to her? In their flaws could be found their virtues; in their virtues could be found their flaws. You could not have the one without the other for they were interdependent. That was as true with Glenn Burnie as with anyone or anything.
She had withdrawn, somehow, and he approached in direct, obvious ways: carefully, impudently, compassionately, arrogantly. How dare he? How could he not?
She stared at him and she defied her own most primal question, its answer running down her face, far more desperate to escape her than he was, than anyone or anything had ever been perhaps. And still he advanced.
Someone else would apologize to start this sentence, not for anything they did but for manner's sake. He did not. "You know how that game will end. This game is different. There's no letter. There's me and you, a room and a fire, all truths laid bare, the weight of a plot no longer secret, ancient silken chains keeping you tethered after having flown too close to the sun, no chance for me to hide behind the time of travel, promises that ache to be fulfilled. No letter. No Benedict. No distance. No "one day." What shall we have instead?"
Sun Apr 11, 2021 5:55 am
The tears welled up and spilled under their own weight, like water oozing from a stone, with no effort to blink them away. She hardly seemed to notice them. “It is the same game, Glenn. It is the only one you know.” The pity in her voice was merciless. “It will always be the same game unless you take it upon yourself to change it. I cannot. I can only change the outsides of things.”
She spread her palms outward, showing them to him. The webs of her fingers did not stretch as far as they should have done; the burns had knit into scars. “And you’ve even bound my hands there, for you haven’t been wicked enough to deserve what I would do to you.”
Her brow furrowed in concentration, dredging words out of the murk. She had to close her eyes to concentration, causing two tears to roll away at once; distracted, she brushed at one. “Catch despises you now, do you know that? He cared for you, and you never cared more for him than what you could mine from him. You were like everyone else. That’s how he’ll remember you, forever. In the last days of the world, if someone should speak your name, that’s what he’ll say of you: you were like everyone else.”
Mon Apr 12, 2021 3:57 am
With her, as opposed to even Rhaena or others, he had a tendency to lose perspective. Rhaena was of his world. Catch, in every way that mattered, was of his world. She was snot. There was something entirely alien about her and her people, something familiar but askew. That's what led so many mortals astray. They felt like they understood what they were dealing with, but once that connection with one's world was severed, once you were left adrift, it was so easy to lose your way. In some ways, with his lack of personal connections, Burnie was even more susceptible to such an impulse. In others, given his past experiences and his general overbearing sense of self, he was far less so.
Still, there was a detached, dreamlike quality to this moment, with the fairy queen crying before him and making broad declarations. He felt outside his body, watching it all progress. "I think you're wrong. If you had your way, we would have written much more about our daily lives in the letters. There would be more smalltalk, more incidental bits, more moments between the moments, smaller ones outside of any game or outside of any battle of ideas. There is a difference in modality that forces a difference in the game, as you put it. You can't just skip over all of that if we're together in person. It's different. Even if the game might be the same, and I rather doubt it would be after a few months of you, it won't be the only thing." His tone wasn't exactly patronizing, but nor was it concerned. Things shifted drastically when she invoked Catch.
"Fionnuala." There was a sharpness now that wasn't there before certainly. "Gloria frustrates me but she does not offend me, for she never knew me before I was dragged underground. She only knew me after I fell and she judges me accordingly. While she was here with dewy eyes and earnest notions, I was a soulless monster sweeping up all in my path. I had no introspection, no true free will in any meaningful sense. I was nothing more than a beast. I do not say that in symbolic terms. It was a concrete reality. Of course I don't hold it against her to see me as dangerous and detrimental now. She has no point of reference and no reason to differentiate."
That had been a burst and an extraneous one at that, but it was going somewhere. It just had to make it through one extra turn first. "Then there's you. You've only ever known me after. You have every reason to extrapolate whatever I may have done backwards as I am now. You too have no reason to differentiate, but your point of reference is entirely different. In this, you are kinder than I deserve and I thank you for it."
Which would then bring them to the point of it all. "Catch though, Catch is the only one who can understand it, who knew me before, who knew me during, who knew me after, who now has the reason to understand all three. And he makes no attempt at it. Whoever I was then when I sought to use him may have been the worst mockery of myself, but it cannot be me. My strengths and failings are tied together and in truth, neither of them were in play for those years." Rarely had she seen him like this, but then rarely had she seen him at all. He was always playing some game or another, or just the same game over and over. Now though, his voice was laden with pain, his body almost writhing as his arms drew in towards his torso. His posture was that of an old man, though there was a much younger pain crackling within his voice. "Can he be wary that I will be reduced to that being once again? Of course. I am. Can he hate me for the weakness and foolishness I showed in letting myself end up like that in the first place? Absolutely. I do, young as I was then. These are reasonable notions. But does he hurt me by not giving me even a chance now? He does. Do I wonder sometimes then, having seen him and subjects of his love over the years, if he didn't love the monster within me more, the very one who sought to use him, that was unleashed and unbridled and pure and raw as he is? Do I wonder if he mourns the loss of that monster that he coveted so and that his behavior towards me now is simply because I can never hold a candle to him? Yes, well, I suppose I do.
"But can he hate me for what I did during those years? No. For he knows better. He damn well knows better, most especially now. You do not. Gloria does not. Agnieszka cannot. Sylvius doesn't. Even Ariane likely doesn't, not really. But he does."
Mon Apr 12, 2021 6:15 am
“You love him still.” Spoken quietly, a statement of fact, but with a half-imaginary note of triumph. Victory, perhaps, that she loved him now, or that she had at last fulfilled her long-held wish to crack the hazelnut. One last tear dried slowly on the curve of her cheek. “You never told him so.” Equally quiet, weighted with reproach.
Abruptly, she turned away from him as if disgusted by his display, her hair lashing across her back like a lion’s tail, and in the same turn she was somehow once more back in the chair. Draped over it, really, languid and brooding, with her knees draped over one of its arms and her hair dangling over the other, looking away from him.
“For all that he is ever so grand, Catch’s heart is soft as snow. If it was only a matter of what you had done, you would have his forgiveness ere you could even ask for it. He held a mirror before your eyes and you do not see what you are, only what you’ve done. The fault lies in you, and you do not change. Perhaps he does not despise you. Perhaps he has only given you up.”
Thu Apr 15, 2021 9:48 am
Burnie watched Fionn in her lounging satisfaction. The moment was rare, though she had no way of really knowing, having spent so little time with him in person; her personal impressions and what the raven had told her would only take her so far. It was two points of a triangle instead of three, a line that might not hold any weight. Or maybe it did, or maybe she thought that it did, which was all that truly mattered. "No," he finally said. "We said many things that day, and if I had my way, we would have said more. He said I knew nothing of love, but I think he knew it to be false. I told him that we both cared for you. He saw no need to take care, for by his nature and your beliefs, whatever he inflicts upon you in the name of healing is right and true and natural. I might have pressed him harder on that but I was still focused on the two mothers bit," one little piece of hugely important information that had highlighted the frailty of his approach, of his technique, of everything about him. "It was all a lot and then I went home and slept like I told you I would, or Benedict; I told someone. The next thing I knew I was getting punched and dragged off."
After the storm came the calm. He was focused, poised. The stakes were too high. It would be different if they could just be. They couldn't just be now, maybe when they needed it the most. "He is a creature of purity, as much of one thing as any one thing can be. You are a being of obfuscation, yet I would trust your mirror over his. I would rely upon it more. You see more clearly, as you must. You're a queen and an admirable one at that, one that puts in the effort and carries with her such deep passion and care. He can never shut the flow; he can rarely ground his feet in today, but then he has so many luxuries you do not."
Thu Apr 15, 2021 12:03 pm
She was a touch too long for sitting sideways in an armchair, but the fire mesmerized her. One would think she’d never want to see another fire in her life, but a fire tamed and tucked into a stone hearth on a night when the rain battered down remained one of civilization’s small luxuries. Her chin fell to her chest. If not for Glenn’s natter, she might have dropped off.
As it was, she heaved a deep sigh and raised her voice above his: “You do not change. Even he, even he, can bend himself for you, but Glenn Burnie does not change. Glenn Burnie remains obdurate. Alone and obdurate, though it profits him nothing and costs him all he has ever gained.” Her skirts swished as she kicked her feet to and fro. “The numbers don’t lie, mo sionnach. Your ledgers are scarcely in the black, and the only balance there is sorrow and your own skin. That, and a queer sort of optimism. You are always so certain that the same plan will work next time. No faith in anything at all, except for the next time.”
She chuckled, then touched her brow. “Gods, but I do sound like my father.” Glancing back over her shoulder, she added, “That’s an insult. If there be a next time this time, you may hold it against me.”
Suddenly she twisted around in the chair, ending up on her knees, facing him, her expression amusement bordering on viciousness. “Did you really warn him about hurting me? Did you really? Do you realize what an insult that is? Betimes you act as though I dropped out of a bluebell the morning you learned I existed. I have fifty winters over you. When I took my first lover, you were still shitting your nappies. I was in your miserable country for well-nigh six years before I set a pen to page for you. Can you guess how many days I had been here before one of your people tried to force himself on me? Here’s a hint: if you guess more than five, you’re wrong. My people did not send me here alone because no one volunteered to be my nursemaid. A queen who cannot fend for herself has no business to choose for anyone else. Here I am at the mercy of any tailor’s needle, yet somehow, I live.”
Mon Apr 19, 2021 12:58 am
It was civilizations great luxuries that he offered, that he looked to foster within the hearts of her people, that he wished to package and offer for her in return for whatever gains might help to even the odds, if only a little. Of course, he was a terrible judge, the notion of luxuries big and small often passing him by in the name of expediency. Past the little matter of procreation, her people needed for nothing. There was, however, perhaps no limit to what they wanted. He was equal parts limits and boundless wants, himself. Who knows what he needed? Did she?
She knew well what he was capable of, such as this groan, his soul creaking even if his body didn't; his voice certainly creaking as she threw her age at him. "Yes, which by my transitory accounting, makes you at least five and more likely ten years younger than me, relatively. By the measure of your people. We've known each other for too long for you to toss that about like it's some badge of merit giving you superiority over me. If you want to claim that, and you're certainly allowed to, a weighted numerical figure isn't going to do it for you." It had been the same for Sarayn, of course, but he wasn't about to make that comparison aloud. "The gap will only continue too, and you well know it. We're as close in age now as we'll ever be and tomorrow we'll be a little bit farther," as she inched towards tomorrow and he sped towards death. Best not to voice that part either. There had been enough tears.
"The rest is no better. Yes, you hate it when others talk about you when you're not there. Yes, you hate it when others suggest doing something for you that you have not asked for and don't think you need. Yes, you hate it when others care so much about you to dare bruise your queenly ego. When they see you as a person instead of a force. He is a force. I am a jagged rock, and be you some great ship, you could still be damaged as you sail past me. I warned him that both of us were capable of hurting you, as we were capable of hurting each other, as you are very likely capable of hurting us, and as you and I, at least, are capable of hurting ourselves." She faced him and he faced her. "Which of those things are at play now, Fionn? For you are obviously not well, though you may fair argue that I am obviously not well either."
Mon Apr 19, 2021 6:18 am
“My point, Glenn, is that it would be a little easier to accept your solicitude an I believed it were true concern and not merely you angling for significance.” She met his gaze steadily, but her nails dug hard into the chair’s arm. “He could undo me. Just as much as he could undo…everything.”
Frustration swelled her throat shut, choked her with the enormity of the dichotomy. Just as easily as everything could be fixed, everything could be undone, never-was. Nothing and nothing, forever and ever.
Her hands made unconscious small grasps at the air, gathering in, then dispersing, and her voice became smaller and more fragile. “I am not afraid of that. It…is inevitable. That such as he exists means that the ending exists. There could not be one without the other, and I would not be without him. I feel sorry for him, because he does feel it. I think he must. He’s like me in that.” She smiled. “We’re both in love with the world and the beauty that’s in it. He doesn’t want it to be over, but he carries the knowledge with him, always. He is too much himself now to be a force, and that is its own sorrow. He shouldn’t have to know such a thing. We shouldn’t, either, but we are spared in how little we can see of it. I saw a bit too much. So did you. But I think…perhaps I was better built for it. Perhaps it is the gean-connah in me, for the gean-connah lives in that place, too, at the edge of the inevitable. But the gean-connah is ignorant, and better for it. We can never be ignorant. You and I, we…fiddle with things. Turn them over, chew them smaller that we may swallow them. But perhaps it’s only because…I am Tuatha.”
Her surprise was evident even through the daze in which she spoke. Of course she was Tuatha, but sometimes she found herself staring in the face of the fact that Glenn was not. Catch was many things both terrible and wonderful, but he would never be Tuatha. No one Here was; none of them knew what it meant. Even she hadn’t truly known until she came Here. It was no great revelation to be Tuatha in a place where there was nothing to else to be and nothing to compare it to. She had to leave to find out what she was.
Her head, sliding forward, jerked up suddenly. She pushed herself up straight in the chair and blinked at him as if rousing from a dream, wary of the room itself. “Am I…talking?” Saying it made her notice her own voice bouncing off the plaster walls back at her, and that she had been hearing it for some time without realizing what it was. “Have I been talking?”
Mon Apr 19, 2021 6:35 am
Frustration was not telling her that he was primarily doing this, not caring, not wanting her to be there, but acting now and so directly at that, because of the circumstances, because of the raven's request. He would have given her time to emerge otherwise. Instead, he'd been asked to be in this position and now he was, but it would help no one and nothing, save his ego, to make that proclamation. His composure had slipped during this conversation: once, twice, thrice, and recently at that, but he was still focused enough to see the point of all of this.
She spoke then, which was a mercy, and then lost her own focus, which was no mercy at all. It gave him no chance to respond. He would have never responded with the obvious, that she had been put there to make Catch ignorant again, I think only she could do, her own mercy, her own change, a reversion to the natural state of things. She had not realized she was speaking aloud but he knew he was not saying, the second thing he held from her at this point of the exchange.
Instead, he took a step closer, his voice calm, compassionate. "You were. You were speaking of the unfair tragedy of Catch's awareness, of seeing the decay of everything he loves ever around him. The inevitability. And how by trying to change it, he just hastens the ruin, just makes it more painful and horrific, how many times he's tried and how it's all ended in gilded misery. That it'd be no bother if he was unaware, like the gean-connah, and how you understand, because you are Tuatha, and you see it every time you look at me." Which was a dour note to laugh softly upon, but there he was, shaking his head. "At least, that was my understanding of it, tempered for the moment and your tears. It was a lot, Fionn. Do you want me to write it down for you so that you can examine it later?"
Then, after a pause, for he was Glenn Burnie and the limits to him not being Glenn Burnie were absolute. "And at some point, I would give you my response to it all."
Mon Apr 19, 2021 8:42 am
“Of course you would.” She managed a very tired smile, wilted around the edges. Somewhere along the line, the raven had seen that smile and felt enough confidence to tell Glenn that his lady was still there. “Mo sionnach. Ever the optimist. Later is just another word for next time.”
Hard enough to think of next time when this time was so slippery. For all she knew this was already next time and she had failed herself, or he had tricked her into it.
She looked at him again, and sighed. “You do still love him.” And sighed again, for both of them, two sorry fish with more nothing in common than being caught in the same net. “Tuatha or not, I don’t understand it either. He’ll never be like the gean-connah, though. It’d be the best thing for him and the worst thing for me, for all that I love would be gone.” She flapped her hand absently near her temple. “Aye, yes, and the gilded misery and the ruin, all that, too, but I am being selfish just now. I don’t know that he’ll ever…go all the way back to what he was before.”
She sat brooding a moment, then brushed at the dry, flaking path on her cheek. “This keeps happening now,” she said, an abrupt apology. “The first time, I thought my eyes were bleeding. Now it won’t stop.” She hesitated. “I don’t know if I can go back to what I was, either.”
Tue Apr 20, 2021 8:27 am
She didn't see it that way (or maybe she did) but his kindness was not in offering to do something for her later, but in not doing it now. He wanted to respond but it would do neither of them much good in this particular moment, which was seemingly many moments for her. Wasn't it what she had said? That if you write something down, you make it real and immutable. That had been what she had been trying to do in writing him. He only understood now how foolish he'd been to think more could be accomplished in person. He'd let Benedict throw him with what horribly dire revelations and avian anxiety.
At her little comment, he scoffed. "Yes, I love him. I love Agnieszka too. I love Calomel. I love Genevieve. I love Aloisius even; sorry, but I do. Love rarely has anything to do with value. I love the memory of Rhaena, at least two or three versions of her. I love Benedict and I love you. I have quite a bit of love within me, believe it or not. If I didn't care so much, all of this was easy. For years, it was easy, for I could not reach any of it except for the purpose. Other than those years, though, I've done nothing but value that which I had, for I've started with none of it and ended with none of it. Nothing makes you value something or someone more than that."
He dared advance once more, for she was apologizing and what was an apology save for an invitation to try it all again differently. "There's so much I wish I could ask you, so much to say. I wish I could stop it all right now and ask you if you could explain tears to me now. I badly wish that, not even out of cheek. I just want to know how you'd answer. There isn't time though. We've got to get you back in the now. Whoever you'll be. Whatever you'll be. We need you to be it in the here and now. A queen must learn from the past and plan for the future, but she must rule in the present, right?"
Tue Apr 20, 2021 2:17 pm
He approached. She did not draw away, but her lids were lowered, her gaze turned inward. He gave her a list of what he loved and a vague look of consternation, almost irritation, slithered across her face. She roused, and slurred as though sleep-talking, “You ijit, that’s not even her. That’s just…whatever Glenn thought she was, something he made up to make himself feel better. Or feel worse. Far be it for me to guess...”
She broke off suddenly, mouth twisting in disgust as an old, stale scent wafted under her nose. Dry and dusty, oddly sweet, like a woman’s perfume. It caught her hard enough to make her head jitter, a reflexive shake of refusal that snapped her back, fully awake, eyes agog at the room. For once, she remembered exactly where she was—she had been invited in, so that was alright—and the rain still hammered, and her hair still felt damp, so it was the same night, which felt enough like progress to melt her backbone and let her ease back.
Her lips rounded into an explanation that wouldn’t come out. He’d already seen it; there was no going back and telling him nothing had happened. If she could get back to Catch, it would be better; she knew where he was, and as long as she knew where he was, she could stay in one place. Glenn wouldn't understand that. He only wanted to fix things.
She nearly knocked over the chair in her struggle to get out of it, raising ridges in the loose rug. One hand locked around her throat as though she would strangle herself.
Fri Apr 23, 2021 12:02 pm
Rarely, very rarely, did Glenn Burnie wonder if it wasn't all too much. He spent a decade of his life carrying with him a primal misunderstanding of the past of Catch. That had been despite all of his best efforts. The counter, of course, was now, at the end of this road, because of the work he had done, he had been able to understand Catch's story when he finally told it to him. Without all that work, it would have been gibberish. Still, there were limits. He was but one man and no genius. Arrogant though he was, he saw certain limits. There were those, and yes, begrudgingly Sylvius Duquesne came to mind, that far surpassed him. In a world where the majority couldn't even read, it meant that number was few and far between. In another world, he might be middle of the road, persistent and organized, hard working to the point of obsessive and able to make certain connections through experience alone, but ultimately simply better than average. In another world, that wouldn't have been a bad burden at all to be saddling with, the onus to accomplish something slightly more than average. One could have a fine, successful, complete, even happy life along those lines. This was his world, however, and it meant always pushing himself right up against the wall of his own capabilities. One could only grow so much.
So he would push himself now. He could do nothing else. The fact of the matter was that he didn't know what was before him. Three minutes before, he'd have thought that the explosion of glamourie, the combination of her blood and her mantle and her torc and the stress of the woods aflame and whatever was at play underlying and Catch's invigorating presence amplifying all had made her perception shifting ability into something more tangible and that the cost of it all had been to dislodge her from her own sense of reality. The trauma of her wounds kept her there. Subsequent interaction with Catch only enhanced the effect, so that she could no longer feel secure in her own sense of time and space. That was the most logical clinical answer. The solution to that, past letting her write to him and using that writing as some sort of an anchor in the here and now (combined, of course, with her being away from Catch) was ultimately beyond him. He could, perhaps, help her cope, prevent it from getting worse, prevent her from hurting anyone else, but he'd have to wait for her people for anything more. At least he knew what was going on, though. At least he had a feasible, reasonable working theory, one that probably touched on the truth even if it didn't fully reach it.
That was then. This was now, just moments later, after he'd saw her outburst and watched her claw at her throat. "Work with me," he said softly. "One of two things. Someone just called someone an idiot. Some just referred to me as if I wasn't here. I have to think that the person calling someone an idiot wasn't calling me an idiot then. So, Fionn, was someone calling you an idiot or were you calling someone one?"
Fri Apr 23, 2021 4:26 pm
On the verge of bolting, Glenn’s calmness made her hesitate, wavering on the balls of her feet between the opposing pulls of the doorway and of his voice. Her breath came in short rasps, and she felt a bruise swelling on the side of her knee from banging against the chair’s arm. Above her grasping hand, her expression darkened and turned sullen. “Not you. Just some boy I know. It doesn’t matter.”
Her hand relaxed and from her throat as her tense mouth eased into puzzlement. Something strange, something new. Not quite wrong, but different. Then her brows went up in surprise. “I promised I was going to remember him this time,” she said, “and I did.”
Memory being what it was these days, the details were soft as sand, blurring at the edges. She frowned, and the fire dimmed, as though the force of her concentration drew some of the light inward. The newly shadowed corners rustled, and as the storm pushed against the outer walls, the ceiling creaked gently, like shifting tree branches. She noticed, but not enough to attribute any significance; it was as inconsequential as a knot cracking in the fire. Something else nagged at her, a detail that had slipped her mind, an idea on the tip of her tongue.
“He always reminds me of you, in a way,” she said, groping her way from word to word. “Both of you so confident that the rules don’t apply to you. Both of you so certain you can get around them. Though he would hate to hear himself compared.”
That wasn’t what she had forgotten, although once out of the perpetual, all-consuming fog of dreaming, it seemed hard to miss. Maybe one had to have both of them in the same room to see it.
Save that Elliot was not there. Her head snapped up, and she looked Glenn over, up and down, rapidly, to confirm that there was only one of him. Once verified, she felt the same uncontrolled quivering in her stomach that she had felt out in the rain, a cold so deep, no warmth could reach it. She hadn’t meant to talk about Elliot. That was the thing she had forgotten, and remembered too late.
She felt the hot pinch at the corner of her eye and pressed a knuckle against it in anticipation, bracing herself in nearly the same posture Glenn assumed when he awaited her glam. On top of everything else, this.
“Tears are a curse, Glenn.” Her breathing shattered, broken and hitching. “That’s all they are. They don’t mean anything. They don’t change anything. They only make things worse.”
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