Concessions

Re: Concessions

Postby Niabh » Thu Sep 03, 2020 9:08 am

In the end, she thudded to her knees. Corm McKinnon—what remained of him—rolled off her back and bumped into the soft muck. The relief of his weight from her sore shoulders was keen as a second scalding and she shook her head, trying to remember why she had carried him so far.

An anything in him can still speak, he will answer me.

If anyone awaits at the end of this path, they’ll know I tried to save the wretch.


Over her shoulder, she could still see where her shuffling path began—not far at all. When she tried to look ahead, her eyes swam over, no longer able to see through the smoke. When at last they refocused, they honed on a faint shifting in the snow. A cluster of green spears broke through the crust, unfolding themselves into white flowers that promptly drooped their sorrowful heads at the shambles in which they’d found themselves. The blossoms trembled.

Under her folded legs, the earth thrummed.

He comes.

Silently, she struggled up from her knees, hitched the torn shoulder of her tunic from where it threatened to slip down her chest, and with very tender fingertips touched the stubble above her ear where her hair had been, the spongy blister beneath. Then the cold, reassuring gold of her torc. She inflated her lungs as best she could, lips parting to Sing back to Him—joyful, the old glad delight of last summer on those lucky days when she could coax Him to visit her—but her limp tongue was too heavy to lift. The Words beat against her soft palate, choking her like smoke, but she wasn’t the right shape to Sing them.

Her teeth clenched, jaw tight with frustration and defeat. Unfair. To have a Song, and unable to Sing it…



It feels tight in my chest, he said once, when she had asked him about tears. I don’t know what it’s called. It makes my eyes burn, and I have to scream to make it all come out. If it’s bad, sometimes you have to do both.

And in perfect innocence she had replied, Is that what that is, then? I know that feeling. It swells up in your chest, and it’s too big to fit, and it hasn't anywhere else to go. Like a black thunderhead. Mostly it comes out through my finger-ends.




Her left hand, which had gone blessedly numb, awoke and pulsed sluggishly, shooting bolts behind her eyes. Black droplets welled from her fingertips.

Mayhap she could not Sing, but her glam never left her: glamourie, which could stretch a night into a hundred years and condense all summer into a single day; glamourie, which turned the short trek from the Dagger to her den into an impossible journey. A very simple thought, one which had never occurred to her, but which seemed obvious and eternal in its very simplicity, sprang to mind:


Why bother glamming anything to look real when I could just glam it to Be real?

Then I could…

I could
Fix everything.


Her gaze traveled from her dripping fingertips, upward and upward, to where the tops of the trees flamed like torches and the smoke towered in the sky.

All she need do was glam them to not be on fire, and…

And now they were whole and green, thick as all midsummer, without even a final puff of vile-smelling smoke to show they had been otherwise, and she, fixed to her spot with wonder, too full of utter delight in her accomplishment to realize her heart was hammering twice its speed or feel the tiny snaps in the backs of her eyes as the delicate capillaries ruptured, or the trickle seeping cold from her nostril.

The glamourie spread outward, effortless and inexhaustible as it always was, not in discrete tendrils but in a wide and growing net. It cast out for Catch and tugged him toward her, time dwindled along with the distance between them, while its far-most corners fumbled still further, seeking an edge she could sense but not see.
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Re: Concessions

Postby catch » Thu Sep 10, 2020 9:39 am

In truth, he does not know if they are still on his back. He cannot feel them except as a thrum, twin heart-pulsings somewhere in his ears, fluttering against his heart. But that means only that he is alive. They are present. He does not know their state. Glenn would be bitter-sweet. Benedict, at this point, would be more regrettable. The raven was hers. His ear flicked back to them, and he felt that they were still There, at least, their bodies were. The sheer effort it took to keep himself Present, keep them Safe, was exhausting.

And She was there.

And there were things, suddenly, that were not.

Corpses vanished, flames vanished, oranges and reds curled into themselves, rimming greens in the promise of autumn. The frosted rime of snow dissipates into the sudden green. There is no bloody, charred morass where hundreds of frantic hooves and paws have churned the water and mud in a frantic effort to soothe burns and escape the Fire. Oh, he could hear her Sing. Her Song - her Glam - was all around him, around them.

His skin under their legs twitches and ripples, a smattering of colors as iridescent and warning as any venomous creature. A small eye blips into being, rotating furiously to find Glenn before it quickly smooths away.

Catch bends again, his bony knees thrusting deep roots into the earth, and finally, finally, the World was close enough for Benedict and Glenn to scramble off if they so chose. Catch bowed before the Queen, his neck outstretched, his long lips twisted and curled, but not quite touching burned skin.

No.


Again, Bell-like. And he cannot be Gentle. There is no time. Before she can find those edges in her delirium, he shatters the Glam with that Bell's peal.
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Re: Concessions

Postby Glenn » Fri Sep 11, 2020 5:55 am

In the tangled and twisted story of Myrken Wood, there have been three separate chapters detailing the relationship between Glenn Burnie and Catch. The first had Burnie as healthy and hale as he might be expected to be, full of kindness and curiosity. This chapter contained the first clues and a Catch that seemed not much more than anyone else. There were still plausible explanations then, though even with all the time in the world, Glenn would, of course, never find them. This more idyllic chapter was relatively short, for old wounds and inescapable grudges proved to be far too tempting for young Burnie. His doom and his ruin both were to be found underground. The second chapter was cold and empty and bitter, longer, though still but a blink for Catch and more of a beady stare for the mapmaker who fell and the Governor that rose in his place. It was a continuous decline, though always outside of the Circle that was Catch's existence. It was more personal, more prodding, and the cost compounded accordingly. At the end was the loss of everything and a salvation that came far too late.

Even in this current chapter, where eyes are opened as they never were before, there were certain limits. Burnie had used Catch to heal Rhaena, to heal himself, to expand his consciousness, to survive Golben (though in that case, if not the others, the agency of it all had been reversed), and he (and she) had been forever changed because of it. Never, though, did he use the grandness of such ancient power to frivolously ensure his own sobriety.

That was what happened now, albeit indirectly.

As the glam fell, as Catch leaned down, Burnie stumbled and fell. Instinctually, he reached for the woman he had rode with, for she might be able to steady him, slow the descent, perhaps prevent it altogether. There was very little a raven's mass could do in this situation though, and all he did was take Benedict down with him.

As such, several pertinent questions came to mind. When had he last eaten? He had partaken in Fionn's food, though they'd made a game of it, multiple games. Was there anything with Catch? No bread and water at the Inquisitory? How long exactly then? Long enough, he decided as if he had a choice in the matter, as he rolled away from Catch, from the bird, best he could (though that might be harder if they were intertwined) and heaved out little more than spit and air and hacking, coughing fury. The world spun, but it least it was the world and at least he traveled through it clear-headed for now.

It was over as quickly as it began, for there was nothing meaningful within him to retch. His heart? His soul? His mind? The first two were packed in tightly and the third reeled back in thanks to Catch's actions. Just bile then and he didn't need that anyway. That was what had ended the first chapter and what a terrible ending that had been.

There was nothing to do then but to shift around on his hands and knees so he could face the King and the queen. Rising to his feet wasn't an option. Staying on his knees before them was absolutely not an option. So he rolled to his back instead and looked at them upsidedown. His allergic reaction to glamourie (and that was a kind way of putting it and only half clinical) was a binary thing. Yes or no. Inhibitions or not. It wasn't a matter of scope or intensity, only duration, the thing he had been working on for the last many months to pitiable returns. Somewhere deep inside, he knew that if Catch had not stopped her, it would have escalate to a matter of intensity.

That was not, not entirely at least, why when he opened his mouth next, he voiced so simple, so direct an agreement. But it was probably part of it. "Yeah," he uttered with volume and exhausted force, but also the raspy, prickly tone of a man who had just hacked up a whole lot of nothing. "The answer's no. Nothing that can't be undone or come back from. That goes for both of you." He'd just lay there for a few moments. That's what he'd do. Fionn and Catch were both apt to live for millennia. They had the time to wait.
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Re: Concessions

Postby Niabh » Thu Sep 24, 2020 8:19 pm

The glam’s undoing took even the raven by surprise: before he could register that he wore quite a lot less mass, a hot heavy Something (which turned out to be Glenn’s arm) pinned his wing to his side; the other wing battered the air, striking back against something solid that may well have been Glenn’s face. For the whole of that frenzied ride, the Raven could not remember ever drawing in a single breath.

In the next second he was flat on his back, squawking and scratching at the air. For a terrifying moment, he had no orientation, and since a raven always knows where the sky is, all he could figure was that either Catch or the Lady or a combination of the two had, somehow, obliterated Up.

Then he flipped himself onto his feet, and the world turned with him, settling itself into horizons and verticals. Up was Up and Down was Down. Glenn was Down, crawling away retching. If you were whole enough to crawl and had enough innards left to retch, you were probably alright enough. For now.

And the Lady?

The raven had to squint past Catch’s blinding whiteness to find her.


* * *



And the Lady…

She both heard and felt his single word as it slammed into her. Her skull rang. He did nothing; He only commanded, and before she could even register what the Word was, she obeyed. The web snapped like so many cut cables, every strand flicking back to slap her across the face, the breasts, cutting her legs out from under her so that her knees thudded in the mud, while her forearms crossed over her face to ward off an assault she couldn’t even identify while she cried out with fat, tongueless croaks and gurgles.

The onslaught passed as quickly as it had begun. She lowered her shaking arms, but the pain of the invisible welts melted away before she could even begin to look for the damage.

The half-head of hair gave a defiant little toss, fluttering like a tattered banner as she raised her gaze upward to Catch. Her Catch. Both on their knees, face to face, even though He was enormous and glorious, a shade no one could possibly mistake for silver, His filaments writhing and rippling. Her trembling hand reached for the curve of His jaw and at once her fingertips began to ooze and throb, black tendrils dripping down and curling upward under their own power before they touched the ground.

The glamourie snagged one edge, then the other, and once they were found, it was a simple matter to fold



and the world—


shattered—

—into quadrants




Through no effort on either of their parts, Benedict found himself settling lightly upon his lady’s forearm. Her blackened left hand reached for his face, but he ducked its head, shuffling out of reach. His sharp face twisted back and forth, stabbing the air. Not only were they alone, the whole Woods felt empty. It smelled like high summer: the green reek of the lake, grass baking in the heat, a noontime stillness in the air. No skates on the water. No fluttering insects in the tall grass, no rising sizzle of cicada. No other birds. The lake was flat as glass, blinding to look at with the sun straight on it.

And over the Lady’s shoulder, past the far gleaming edge of the lake…no Myrken. Only an unbroken line of trees.

But this didn’t feel like a glam, dammit. Try as he might, he couldn’t find any edges. As far as glamourie went, this was a seamless glass globe, all summer tucked away in a little sphere with them in the center. Just him, and just her, dreamy and thoughtful, as if she had all the time in the world.

His beady blue eyes jerked back to her. “Where are we?”

Her smile reformed with frankly worrying softness. She shrugged a shoulder carelessly.

“Yes, it damn well does matter.” The raven crawled back and forth along her forearm, wingtips shivering. “Who’s doin’ this? You or the big guy? Why can’t I find the wanker? He was right over there—”

Both heads turned to look—she with amusement, the raven with increasing anxiety—at the uncreased spot in the grass where Glenn had been lying.

“—and now he’s not. He’s not anywhere. Nobody is anywhere.” Angrily he dodged her hand again. “Don’t pet me! I ain’t in the mood.”

Her fingers curled inward and her hand drew away, chastened. She seemed earnestly baffled. The raven felt a thin thread of hope. He made himself calm, almost limp on his perch.

“Look. I don’t know what’s going on here, but this really isn’t fair. We came to fetch you out, and now there isn’t any out. I can’t find Myrken. I can’t find anything. And you…ah, your head there. That looks like it hurts. You’re going to want patching up.” The raven lowered his voice, proof against no one, as the two of them were all that existed in this splinter of time. Nevertheless, you never quite knew. “You’ll be alright, I know. And the big guy, he’ll be alright. Me, I’m always fine; I can fly myself somewhere. Glenn, though—he can’t. You know what he’s like. If he’s somewhere, he’ll try to wait you out, and he’s already sort of a mess right now. Think of him, at least.”

The Queen, surprised, turned her head toward




Her sionnach, flat on his back on a mat of rust and gold. Her clever, stubborn, graceful fox. She herself lay stretched on her side in the crackling leaves beside him, one hand cushioning her head. Not touching. Only looking. They had both been there for a goodly while. Sunset lapped at the lake, the last light falling on the city walls, and the ground had grown chill enough to hint that perhaps it might be a good idea to move along soon, but there was no pressing need. She had done the impossible trick: she had made the glamourie real. The still-more impossible trick was to make herself believe that she had done it for his sake.

Her lips pressed in a wry line, she plucked a wedge of dark hair off his brow and tucked it back into place. The sick sweat vanished with it, along the acid burning the back of his throat. More leniency than he deserved for such foolishness. There was little doubt that if he was here, he was here of his own volition; even Catch would have had to drag him, and no doubt untangle him from every tree trunk along the way as he resisted.

Admonition would do him no good. It was only his nature. She forgave him for it, all in the single sweep of a finger against his forehead, but did not speak. Couldn’t. Only the gesture had a voice:

The only reason I never loved you, my sionnach, was because you would never love me back. It is a pity for us both, though mayhap not for the world. Such edifices we might have built! I would have convinced you, or you would have talked me into it, one way or another, had we love among all our other armaments. Perhaps that is why you did not. You knew better. You have always known better than I.


A sudden pulse of brightness distracted her. She shifted slightly on her hip toward



Catch, her leannan, now made lovely and wild beyond all reason. Had she held that head in her lap? What on earth had been in her—bravery or ignorance?

But look at him now, pure silver, rainbows rippling along the lengths of his tendrils, the world bowing to his feet. Undaunted. Choosing his own path. And she had played a part in that. Oh, the least little part, true, but her pride glittered bright, a lesser star bound in orbit to his shining. Love for him swelled in her chest, too big for her to contain. Glamourie blurred in the impression of thoughts:

I am so happy for you. What you have become. What you are. What you have always been. Fortunate am I, to live in such an age, to see you so! You have made peace of my war, mo leannan, for if was needed to bring me to this moment, it was worth the blood.

The black blood gushed from her hand and pooled under her feet, tarring them to the earth. Spring violets uncoiled and popped out of the black earth. A wind shivered the new leaves.

But there isn’t any moment, is there? There is no age. The raven was wrong, and she was wrong, too, wasn't she? It is not that no one is anywhere. Everything is everywhere. All the time. Always. That is the only way to Fix everything: to go to the place where it was never broken.

With a musing, thoughtful expression, her head turned toward the Woods, seeing through the miles of trees and fields and tultharian towns as though they had all turned to glass. All the way to the sea. The glamourie turned with her, stretching like a greedy hand toward the north. Far, far north.

I’ve solved the riddle, mo leannan. I know how to bring Mabhe ni Niall out from under the hills, so that she never died at all, and still make myself be born as myself. I know how to undo the High Queen so that she never was. And once ’tis done, I can make Here Home and Home Here. All I have to do is put everything in the same place.




And here, and now, she was: slumped on her knees at the banks of the night-black lake, indifferent stars above, shivering uncontrollably in spite of her burns. At her back, she heard voices, a great pack of them, bodies jostling, and the crushing of brush underfoot. She held an old man’s cold stiff hand between her own, pressing it to her chin while she rocked back and forth, keening faintly. Alone. Unable to remember how she had come here. Or where Here was.
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Re: Concessions

Postby Glenn » Fri Sep 25, 2020 7:46 am

From the Journals of Glenn Burnie

You may think me overly forgiving of glamourie, but I can I find fault in it and not fault my own use of language. Remember, reality matters little. Truth matters little. Perception and Belief are the underpinnings of our world, of everything we do and dream. It is, as much a anything else, an input to be perceived, like a beautiful voice or a terrible noise, the natural defense of a skunk or the natural appeal of a flower. The only difference is in its complexity.

Imagine once again, a society of those who can utilize such a thing. No, imagine instead a society that cannot understand speech. Think of how difficult it would be for them to communicate, for them to build anything. Think, however, how they might use other senses to compensate, how they might use other tools, how they might not fall to certain lazy failings of humanity. Now extrapolate that forward to think of the society that exists in overlapping glamourie, that add to the communal painted picture and that shifts reality underneath one's feet at any and all moments. They communicate this way, just as we do with speech. There are advantages and drawbacks to this.

If we lose control in anger or distress, we may curse, may insult another, may shout or speak out of turn. If they lose control for those same reasons, they might cause a volcano to erupt or turn a man into a pig. That is would make others perceive a volcano and all, including the man, perceive that he is a pig.

In truth, it reminds me of Rhaena's mentalism. The level of communication was not as constant and absolute. I knew what she was thinking. She knew what I was thinking. We were two individuals but there was no divide between us. It is instead a more elaborate and absolute tool to communicate one's ideas and feelings. It is, however, also something one can hide behind. Putting aside the notion of changing one's own perception (to get lost in a glam, as they say), the convenience of reshaping reality to something more pleasing or erasing mistakes one's made or hiding away from all others. I feel that glamourie can be a way of expressing personal truth but also a way of denying it. Extrapolate that notion, as well, to the entirety of a society.


There was he and there was her and there was little else. Grass, leaves, inconsequential things for Glenn Burnie's defiance. There was both finality and eternity in her voice, or the thing that was certainly hers but not at all a voice. Her expression, her glamourie.

"Love is not the only worthwhile and admirable thing in this world. Or to put it in terms to which you might more easily relate, it is not the only thing worth coveting." His eyes shut, and why not, he'd seen what she wanted to communicate. Artists and critics operated upon entirely different planes. Her words were more important to him, of course. "You're a tad too young for me anyway." Which was a repetition, neither the first or the last for this moment. Anyhow, closed eyes would give her implicit consent to touch. That was his guess at least. Best to have her feel comfortable in her own unveiling.

There were other ritualistic hurdles to leap over. "I assume that Benedict is safe?" It was a question, though not necessarily worded as such, but it was not the question of 'Where is Benedict?' It wasn't entirely rhetorical, but instead something that only required a response if the answer was not in the affirmative. He continued on as if it was a non-issue. "Do you know why I'm here, Finn? Not why i chose to be here. (This isn't where you begin to chastise me. I've been chastised by more terrifying than you, believe it or not and you won't anyway). But what my purpose here is? Do you understand what I'm meant to do?" Which of course, being Glenn Burnie, enemy of fate, defiler of constraints, did not mean what he was doomed or fated to do, but instead what he, himself, decided that he was meant to do, but that distinction almost certainly didn't matter to her either.
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Re: Concessions

Postby Niabh » Tue Sep 29, 2020 6:22 pm

They had never seen things the same, the two of them. To him there was little else; to her, even this stillness was constantly full of motion, things hidden just beneath the blanket of leaves and in the Woods beyond. There was Glenn, and herself, and the Woods in autumn, and one thing more: Myrken, looming on the far side of the lake like the inevitable hangover after a night of revels. She could not see it from where she lay, but the smell of it was a pall on the evening. A mucky, earthy rot straight from the depths of a midden, charred rope, cut with the sour tang of iron, it prevented her from forgetting it was there.

Her thumb traced a blue vein in his temple. It would seem you are the one who has confused love with coveting. Coveting is wanting what someone else has. What have you that I should covet it? Only that you give without being asked: your look, your manner, a certain level of candor. Your friendship, I should hope. If anything, there are things I would want for you, but you are very stubborn about accepting gifts you feel you have not earned.

Still, it was much the same argument as she expected of him. Anything else might have been worrying.

In a small shower of autumn detritus, she rolled upward, propping herself on an arm. He was quite right. She was younger, though she wore it subtly: hair past her shoulderblades, cheekbones and chin a little rounded.

When he closed his eyes, she let out a frustrated grumble he could not fail to hear and nudged his shoulder with the heel of her hand to spare her fingers. Benedict is safe. The words carried a weight of assurance, along with mild astonishment that he might believe otherwise. There was no doubting they were true.

She scooted a little nearer, rustling leaves ahead of her knees, and was carefully to tap his wrist, so that he would know she was there, before twining her fingers through his. The hand was feverishly hot, like a separate live creature from the rest of her.

As for why you are here, that would depend where you think here is. You are Here because I bid you be here. If you meant to be elsewhere, then it is not where you are. I do not think this is a Here. It may be a When. Things are very out of order today, my sionnach. She found herself looking away from his face and back toward the city, inevitable as ever, a thing that could be put off, but which must be dealt with. She smiled as she regarded him once more, and set her hand more firmly in his. But as for what you have decided you are meant to do, Glenn Burnie, or what you have determined you are to do, I confess I find myself witless. Will you tell me?
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Re: Concessions

Postby Glenn » Thu Oct 01, 2020 2:21 am

He was not incapable of gesture. Usually, though he needed a broader audience. He was an orator when he had to be, intelligent and quick, but when himself, when introspective, perhaps not entirely charismatic. He always wore chains, human ones, ones of his own making, ones bequeathed to him by the world and the weight of events, by what he had seen and what he had learned and what he had lost. When these had been shattered (for years and by the sundering underground) or were loosened (his "allergy" to the glamourie, which had far more to do with the death of Rhaena Olwak and a mind that even Catch's primal magics could not rejuvenate), then he was something to behold. In normal times, however, his strongest virtue as a speaker was that he entirely believed he was correct at all times. Assurance was half the battle and on that front he was the greatest warrior in the land... or perhaps, he was just a male in a world of men. Surely, the fairy queen had her opinion there.

But even small gestures, sometimes, sometimes he managed them. Asking after the raven was one of those times. It was a slight upon her and her regal protection, mayhaps, but while it was a red mark in her ledger, it was a black mark towards Benedict's. At times, Burnie could be egalitarian to a fault, at least in society's eyes, certainly in the eyes of most nobility. He'd strike his own balance here.

And well he did, for she would take both a nudge and his hands (but did she see both acts as giving?). A balance restored. How was it that Glamourie worked? Human beings had five senses. He suspected she had six. For her, opening or closing one's eyes would have made no difference for the glam. Burnie, at best, had his five and a dowsing rod. His other senses were burning as hot as her hands, though. Were his shut eyes due to defiance or simply so that he could focus and gather his thoughts?

"Not here, Finn, but there. Why I came not to this moment, but to the one which preceded it." For he could not be here if he had not been there. They could play with that notion for hours that seemed like seconds, for the rest of time, but he had purpose, and Glenn Burnie with purpose could not be delayed for long. "Your hope for your people is a single, solitary destination. Survival. There are many paths to it, but just one destination. We have a luxury of survival, for we breed and grow and spread. It is not our destination, but instead the road itself, a hilly path that we are all trapped upon. You have such freedoms, the sort power and longevity provide, and we have none. You have but one inevitability you battle and we have nothing but inevitabilities that we are constrained by. Each moment of finality is the end to our hope and merely the end of a simple chapter in your book. I'm here to make sure that nothing you do and nothing he does cannot be turned back from. I'm here to bring you back or to bring him back if you step too far. I am here to stand between the two of you and inevitability, to push back against forever, to ground you like only a mortal made of dirt and soon enough to return it (no matter his aspirations) can."

His eyes opened, sharp, alert, focused and not at all wild. Even here, in this moment of paradise, in this when instead of where, in this paradise of her making and more importantly, of her being, Glenn Burnie would not be delayed from his purpose for long. "So then, what have you done, what was the cost, and if we cannot walk it back, how do we walk forward past it? Together." All four of them if they must, for he was both willing to band with them and speak for them if the need called for it.
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Re: Concessions

Postby Niabh » Sat Oct 03, 2020 3:01 pm

Indignation passed between their clasped hands like a hard pinch. I? What have I done? Your people did this. They came here to smoke me out, burned the Woods, killed who knows how many of their own doing it, and I—I Fixed it.

Crackling like an undercurrent of static below the more coherent surface thoughts lay panic:

there are so many things broken and I know where all of them are, they are everywhere, they’re jabbing into my head like bits of glass and I can’t feel anything else

Along with the undercurrent came a sick awareness that he might be able to hear her panic as well as her words. The lack of privacy sickened her. She couldn’t snatch it back, but instead struggled her way from beneath it, each word sharp as a wasp sting:

That woman from Razasan was among them. The baobhan-sidhe, the— Frustrated, she shook her head. As she had before with Catch, but with far less certainty, she tried to project to him the image of

an old woman in a white shift, white bandages wound around her skeletal wrists

a skeletal creature wrapped in blue-white flame, old black blood dripping down its chin


She held the image as long as she could, until blood began to pour down the shift’s front and for her own sake, she had to push it away. She was there. I cannot be mistaken. This is Gloria’s doing, she did this, it was her witch and these are her people. She got you out of the way long enough to—to—

Words broke apart under the static. Her head was too heavy to lift anymore, all the cords in her neck straining with the weight. Exhausted, she let it hang forward. A round blue blob dropped and burst on his shirt, and, horrified, she rubbed her wrist against her nose, sniffling. The other hand bore down on his all the harder and she grimaced as a bolt of pain flashed from broken fingertips to the crook of her elbow, unsuccessfully stifling a whimper.

The black blood began to ooze from beneath blue-bruised nailbed, winding sinister kisses tight around Glenn’s wrist.
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Re: Concessions

Postby Glenn » Mon Oct 05, 2020 8:33 am

Her lack of privacy was his deep intimacy. He had not sought this out with her. Theirs was an exchange of ideas. Yes, there were moments of deep glamourie, but they had been more performative than explanatory. Yes, names were bandied about, but at no moment were those names used to bridge any sort of gap. His words and her words and occasionally, very occasionally, their actions. This was something entirely different, but yet to him, wholly familiar. She was split open, an impression of Catch and his scar, with words and feelings and yes, panic, slipping out into the world, with only Glenn Burnie to catch them before the flew away for all to see.

There was, however, no one more thoroughly suited for this. He absorbed her words calmly yet warmly. He squeezed her hands with an easy physical affection she'd rarely experienced from him, for it was full of clear-eyed restraint and deliberate offering.

He listened, he watched, he absorbed. "Gloria opened a door out of fear and rancor. When you have authority in Myrken Wood, your job, your most important job, is to keep that door shut tight. Only when the dead charge towards the innocent, only when the toll of deaths outweighs the toll of this, do you open the door. These people, at their worst, are worse than any natural threat to Myrken Wood. She opened the door and look at what's come out of it. So she is responsible but this was not her intent." How many times had he stood with Ariane or Rhaena or Calomel or Savoy and prodded at the issue of intent. "Intent does not matter when it comes to judgment, I do not think, but it does when it comes to understanding, and understanding will see us through this more than fell judgment."

The drop fell from her face, and with it fear all her own. He did not recoil, but instead drew her closer to him, his free hand going around her waist in an embrace. The steady warmth of it put his hand-holding to shame. "I would spend the next year with you here, gladly, but we have not that luxury. No one does. Take us back. Back to Catch. Back to Benedict. And we'll see you through this together."
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Re: Concessions

Postby Niabh » Fri Oct 09, 2020 6:01 pm

She was sore in both mind and muscle, and his arm rasped like sandpaper across her burned back. She sucked in a sharp breath through her teeth, then her brow slumped onto his shoulder. The static rose and wiped away words. Glenn might be enlightened though not surprised to find that most of her feelings were felt, sensations in the flesh that the mind neither examined nor questioned: gratitude, warm and sweet and thick, welling up and buoying her. All of this was a little awkward, but she appreciated being held and was very glad he was the one to do it. Underneath, dread like the beating of hooves in the back of her skull, and sorrow like a dull, unceasing rain that will carry on all day, not violent enough to be dramatic, but the sort that turns the landscape grey and sodden. The Woods. They had been kind to her. She had done the best she could to look after them when it didn’t matter, and failed when it mattered most. But it could be made right.

On the whole it was largely distasteful and embarrassing, but she couldn’t seem to find the spigot to switch it off and keep it from spilling all over him. Even if she could, she might be too tired to turn it.

Unable to even pull away from him, she shoved back roughly against the idea of being seen about, a fierce but silent objection. With an almighty wrench, she managed force the feelings into the form of words: Glenn. There is no back. We are back. Look there.

She raised her head enough to look over Glenn’s shoulder, back toward town.

That is Myrken as she was the day before you set foot there. In the morning, you will arrive. You could start anew. Go there with all the knowledge you have now and avoid your past mistakes. Make new ones. Have your lady back, if you wish. Get it right this time, or another sort of wrong. And in sixteen years or so, I would return and see what you have made of it. Would you be a better man, or only a different one?
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Re: Concessions

Postby Glenn » Mon Oct 12, 2020 1:53 am

Stefan Berdini, who as much as anyone still living within Myrken Wood, betrayed Glenn Burnie and helped shove him towards his doom seven years ago (the others were all dead), was a master of sleight of hand, of a sort of stage magic which still captivated people in a world of true mysticism, monsters, and miracles. Burnie's fascinating was solely held to pulling apart the trick, of removing the veil and understand how it all worked. The secret, the one that none of his fellow Myrkeners seemed to realize no matter how many times they watched Berdini's show or how much true magic they encountered, was that there was very little difference between the two. It was all about craft and skill and practice. It was all learning how to manipulate something, be it attention or cards or the primal forces of existence.

So, given the greatest choice most mortals would ever possibly face, first and foremost, Glenn would try to pull back the veil. Some of that was natural curiosity but much of it, most of it, was how this could possibly work. She could not DO anything, but she was at the height of her power, and hasn't Benedict suggested as such? Didn't the ichor flowing from her (which he had seen before over the years, of course) suggest the toll that might be paid for such a thing? At the height of her power, it wasn't about doing anything but about the perception of all things. Could she make him believe that he was living his life anew? Could she take the end point of that, all the things he might have changed, and then overlay it upon Myrken Wood as a whole? She would not bring the dead back to life, would not change the path of those who lived, but she could make all who entered Myrken, all who encountered anyone ever to step foot in Myrken, live a life as if all of this was true, to have memories that would be true to them, new paths that could span a thousand years. Eventually, the belief would be so strong, the weaving so thorough and ironclad (ironic turn of phrase might that be) that it would self-perpetuate forever more. It would become more real than the reality that most of humanity waded through.

Or he was wrong and it was something else entirely, though in this moment, he couldn't imagine what.

It hardly mattered in the end. "I would have such an advantage over those I love. I would know everything about them and they know nothing about me. I could not help but manipulate them, even in the most well-meaning way. I think I'd make mistakes though; in my attempt not to make the same ones, I'd tie myself up in knots and make new ones. Then we'd reach this end point and do it again, start over again, and eventually, it would become perfect and artificial and meaningless. I'd corrupt your good intentions with everything that I am." Which for most people would lead to a horrible contradiction, but not Glenn Burnie. He and his infernal mouth were two steps ahead of what he had already said. "It's the awareness that'll do it, but without that, there's no point. We can move forward together: you, me, Benedict, Catch, all of the good and bad folk of your people and mine. There's no going back, but we can move forward together. That's what I want. Not this."

In holding her, she was looking back over his shoulder, but he was only looking forward past hers.
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Re: Concessions

Postby Niabh » Thu Oct 15, 2020 4:15 pm

That was Glenn for you, answering everything but the question. Ordinarily, that would be infuriating. The very fact that she could recognize, from a distance, that it would be infuriating, that she remembered ordinary, gave her a tiny handhold on a sanity that was fast sliding out of reach.

Frustration welled up to drown her. She crushed her face against his shoulder. My sionnach, you don’t understand. I have already been to the place where you said yes.

Words departed, replaced by the hiss of blind nerve endings. She broadcast pain and panic in icy waves, intercut with stuttering: stop stop stop. must must must.. What must be stopped and what must be done were without object.

He said forward, and she stirred. Her skin had hardened in one shape and to move made it split and weep. But forward was a direction better than sitting here.

But he had also said Benedict and that was good, yes, because she knew where Benedict was.

The force that gathered itself in her left hand stretched itself outward until her already sore arm felt it would pull right out of its socket. She gritted her teeth through a thin, shrill scream. It didn’t matter if he heard her. What he would hear, if not that, was a rising and increasingly desperate voice begging oh please please please stop as the line between what she controlled and what controlled her thinned, as the force found an edge and bent it inward.


to fold
the world

forward



to Benedict, who made a mad jump backwards from the lady’s forearm just before it dropped from beneath his feet. “Lady Niall? Ah—”

Her knees collapsed under her. She managed to save herself from a bad fall by putting out a hand, but the moment her weight landed on it, it shrieked in outrage and she spilled onto the side the fire had raked, cradling her hand to her chest. It was a tough choice which hurt worse. With her eyes closed, she wondered if she’d landed in a puddle, but the wet on her face was blood, pouring piss-hot out of her nose and down the side of her chin, and she without the strength or even a hand to wipe it away.

The raven fell into a dance, back and forth from foot to foot, wings arched, hissing and helpless. “Lady? Can you hear me? Say something.”

Her cold lips parted. She knew she could say something, all the speaking-parts were present and functioning, but her lips only worked an endless, silent buh-buh-buh, never getting any farther than the first syllable before her head thudded down, useless. Copper slime coated her teeth.

Glenn was there. By now the raven was beyond asking questions about the order of events. How and when had become irrelevant. He half-scurried, half-flew, skimming over the ground to Glenn and blurting out, “She just keeled over! Where’s the big guy? I don’t know what happened to—”

Wherever she had brought Glenn, it was a place where Myrkentown was gone. The Woods held dominion. It hardly mattered if they had reclaimed it or if it had never been lost.
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Re: Concessions

Postby Glenn » Fri Oct 16, 2020 8:29 am

She broadcast pain, and he took it in. It was not the first time. He was connected to Rhaena Olwak when her hand had been severed. He was connected to her when she died, though that memory only came to him, thanks to the fairy queen before him, years later. So she broadcast, and while he could not take it from her as he might have once been able to do so with Rhaena, he met it without hesitation or remorse. He understood it, and while that might matter little now, it could matter a great deal later.

Once they moved forward, as he always bid them move.

"Benedict," more of a statement of recognition than a greeting. His head throbbed, but pain always took a back seat to exhilaration, and when would he be more exhilarated than in a moment like this? He breathed it in. it smelled like blood and pine, oak maybe? Fah, he was no natural scientist. Like trees. Blood and trees and he knew the former more than the latter. "I think all I've wanted to do today was talk to you." That was not a very helpful comment, but it was the first thing he offered his friend. Maybe it would be helpful later, too.

He knelt down beside Fionn, but did not yet touch her. "Catch will find this moment when he's ready. She was at more risk when you and I were apart than with he and us apart. He can sustain her," and they could not, which wasn't something Glenn ever felt the need to say. "Did she tell you anything when you were alone with her?" He let that sit there for only a moment, for there was something more important to say. "It doesn't feckin' matter right now if it costs her," he made no attempt to mimic Benedict's voice, especially because Benedict's voice hadn't even been Benedict's voice in that moment. "That's what you said. You're as acutely aware of consequence as anyone I know." They were staring at cost. Cost was right before them. Cost was dripping from her nose. "You did not misspeak, yet clearly you were mistaken. Tell me what I do not know that shaped your assurance so that I can help her, Benedict."
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Re: Concessions

Postby Niabh » Fri Oct 16, 2020 12:02 pm

The raven hovered, tsk-tsking over his queen like a prissy hen. With his beak, he plucked the wiry red hairs out of her face, drawing them out of the puddle and away from her sticky wounds. He couldn’t do much, but he could do that.

“She didn’t say anything.” Since his voice had little to do with his beak, he could talk and work. It came out defensive, defiant. “Lit-er-al-ly. She didn’t say anything. She was still messed up and all, but she seemed alright, but she didn’t say anything. Then all at once her eyes kind of glazed over and her nose started gushing and she dropped. Right before you showed up.”

Fussing was useless. He gave it up, turning his sharp face upward to Glenn. “I couldn’t find you. I can’t find anyone.” Now a mutter of uneasiness crept in. “Well. I can find some of them. But no one Here. Here’s gone. I tried a buncha folk. I even tried that girl you was travelin’ with. I tried folks back home and a few of them were there but a lot of the ones that should be aren’t. They’re just not there. Now either something’s wrong with me or something’s really wrong.

A whole sense, up and vanished, just like that. There were always things he couldn’t find, the Big Guy being the most immediate example of it, but the Big Guy was the Big Guy; he fit into a general pattern of anomalies. He couldn’t find the Ganconner in the woods, either, or Grey Agnes on the hill, or the Hunt on the rare occasions it passed low in the winter storms. Some things were just too big to find, was all. All ravens knew that. He hadn’t been able to find Glenn, either, but now that Glenn was here, he could’ve followed him anywhere. The reassurance eased his largest fear: that he couldn’t find anyone because this terrible cataclysm had wiped the world clean.

He wanted most to ask Glenn where the hell he’d been, and more importantly if anyone else had been there, but that struck him as a tultharian question. Lady first. Once she was on firm ground, he’d worry about the rest of the population.

“I meant what I said. Cost.” He all but spat out the word. “You really don’t get it, do you? There’s never been a queen couldn’t glam anything she liked as much as she wanted and leave it that way until she got bored of it. But this isn’t glamourie. You know that. You’re not going all wibbly over it, are you?”

His neck shot forward, and he dragged a hank of blood-clotted hair away from her throat. The torc beneath was beslimed, and a ring of near-black blistered oozed out of its margins, stamped into the skin. “See that?”

He got no further before Fionn rolled over and made a clawed snatch for him, too slow and too awkwardly angled to grab him. Still he hopped out of reach, the feathers on his neck and head ridged. A gurgle rose from deep in her throat, and the raven froze for a moment; it sounded like a death rattle, blood acidifying in the vocal cords. Then he saw her gnashing teeth and realized she was trying to growl at him. Her blackened hand spread over the torc, and she rocked onto her back, stomach rising and falling, her one good eye wide open and watching. Listening.

The raven muttered, “Catch’d better be ready soon, I’ll tell you that.”
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Re: Concessions

Postby Glenn » Mon Oct 19, 2020 6:10 am

Glenn let his friend fret. That came in a physical form, the dragging of her hair. It came in the questions that were voiced and thsoe that were not. It came, finally, in the admission of Power and the trappings of such. "The way a cone can amplify the sound of one's voice. You should see what people can do with a ram's horn. The only limit then, is imagination, and her people are both bred and nurtured for it. Specifically in this way. I imagine queen's are given even further tutelage."

There was time for clarifications, understandings. The more Glenn learned, the safer his actions might be for all of them. That was the way it ought to work at least. Was there time to reassure, Benedict? "The problem is not the world, but this immediate geographic area. That's probably the wrong way to look at it. It's not a spacial issue, necessarily, though I imagine it had some limitations along those lines, no matter how unencumbered she is in her power. You and I could have been a mile apart, however, and we would still be affected by this." In truth, he was gathering an altogether different set of thoughts as he lectured the bird. "Humans have five senses: sight, smell, sound, taste, touch. Likewise, there are various interrogatory words that shape most investigations: what, where, when, why, and how. Ignore the senses and focus on the question. We are not elsewhere as you think we might be. You are not else what, as you were as the woman. I do not think this is entirely a temporal issue as well. I would say that we are currently elsehow." Now, finally, he was kneeling beside her, for he saw the grit of her teeth to be a positive development. "Instead of reaching out to her mother or her bard, I do think we'll have to deal with this ourselves, though she'll be less splintered once Catch arrives. Arrives, of course, being entirely the wrong word."

He breathed in through his nose as he decided kneeling wasn't good enough and laid beside her, his eye not all that far from hers. Still, he didn't yet direct his words to her. "Benedict, I need you to trust me right up to the point where you realize that you shouldn't trust me anymore. You'll know when we've arrived there. Hopefully, it won't come to that." He exhaled through his mouth, straight up, before turning to look at her once more. "Fionn, there is, I think, an easy way to do this, and then a direct way, and both of them are wrong."

Laying on one's side was terribly uncomfortable when one had another to keep track of. His hand fumbled clumsily for a moment before coming to rest towards her arm, putting very little pressure upon it. "So we'll muddle through the hard one. Bodies mend, especially when there's magic at play. None of that's worth anything if you're not whole. Your people need you whole. Benedict needs you whole. Catch needs you whole. Fionn, to be entirely selfish for a moment, however, think of what I lost and think of what you reawakened in me. I'm back here for myself, and for them, but most of all, I'm back here for you and I just got here. This is just the start of this story. If you need a light to bring you home to yourself, I am here. Let's find our way together."
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