Freezing

Freezing

Postby Niabh » Sun Jan 09, 2022 7:45 am

You said I must write to you.

Full letters, you said. It seems a silly insistence when we are scarce a morning’s walk from one another. I would prefer to visit, yet when we are in one another’s company, it goes all odds and ends. I have never puzzled out just why, unless it be that in letters there is enough distance to find your insolence droll. Then, too, it could be that when we are not together, there is no risk of you becoming glam-dazzled, which I know you dislike. Or perhaps you like it too much. I like you glam-dazzled, too, which is why it is such hard work not to encourage it. Or perhaps you can be more yourself in these letters, without the distractions of being present in the flesh.

In any case, we need must resort to letters soon enough, for now I am in seclusion, which is harder this year than usual. I am miserable without Catch, yet the thought of being near him now sickens me. I toss and turn all night, and rove about all day in search of anything to occupy me. I never lacked for things to do when I was with him. I could lose myself for ages only in watching him watch the world. I was never the sort of woman who absorbed herself completely with a man when she was enamored. No doubt this letter will be ten pages long simply because it proves my only distraction, save for one that would certainly embarrass you should I describe it; you may well guess what it is.

At no other time of the year do I so long to be home. Would you understand how joyous it is there now? It is much different when everyone you know is going through the same thing. You may imagine there is a lot of joking and teasing, whispering and gossip and speculation, and a great deal of quarreling; and on the other side it is very solemn and serious, and so very many people will come away disappointed at the end of it. Yet here there is neither joy nor solemnity, only locking oneself away as though one were a criminal, uncomfortable and objectionable and alone when one most wishes for company, and nothing to be done but to sit and think about it.

I am staying in my gentleman’s old place for now. I’ve had some distraction in cleaning the place and acquiring my bedding and stores. He has not been back for two summers now, and mice moved into his mattress. Scrubbing the place reminds me of what fun it was to help build it. He is much larger than I, and so everything had to be proportional: the windowsills come just to my neck. We had a joke that his bed was so high from the floor that he must pick me up and set me on it, and sometimes he would pretend to forget and leave me to climb up the footboard as though it were a stepladder (though of course it was not really all that high). He was a good friend, a good lover, a good hunting partner, sweet-humored and mannerly. One cannot rightly call him handsome, not by any common measure, but I did love to look at him, silver as moonlight, and the way he moved was quite elegant and extraordinary—nothing like a man, nor like any beast, but as his own creature, wholly incomparable. Never have I had such a lover before, and likely I will never have another of his like. I do miss him.

Another effect of the season is that we do eat—ravenous in every hole, as we say. You caught me at the end of it last time, and you saw I was cooking then, and I’m afraid I ate up all that was left of your portion when you went away, and that was the end of the season. In the middle of it, I feel I spend every waking moment chewing. This morning I ate three white barm cakes stuffed with butter and applesauce, then ate a fourth while I was dressing. And I am going to have a duck for supper, or whenever it finishes cooking, and I shall probably end up chewing the bones.

Oh, I certainly must be in season, to go on about food and my old loves to Glenn Burnie, who has no care for such things.

Why though? I asked you once, and you did not truly answer me, what you thought people would do once they were free of ignorance and want. I expect most of them will eat, and after eating, quite a few of them will seek someone else’s bed. I wonder if you have ever spoken to these people you wish to save and found out what it is they truly want. It might not be what you would choose for yourself, and you will say that it is inferior to what you would want for them, but be that as it may, I know from experience that it is well nigh impossible to convince people to do what is good for them, unless doing so allows them to enjoy their particular appetite afterwards.

I gang with a good many of our own soldiers at Knockna Neal, and if put to the question, every one of them will swear they fight out of loyalty to their lady and love of our land. But I know in private they have their own loyalties and their own loves, and that their loyalty for me is a fiction. They would claim the same loyalty to any queen who was not I, too. Is that bitter of me? I wonder, betimes. They fight for me, and I fight for them, so that when their fighting is done, they will be free to feast and to love as they will, with no care and none to keep them from it. If you wish people happy, my shunna, you must allow that they will choose pleasures you would not, and half the time what they want is not at all good for them. But one must allow for that, too.

But oh, Glenn, the nights I’ve ridden with the far patrol, those cold nights where you can only see the pony in front of you through the mist. Other than that, one may as well be alone at the ends of the world. And there is nothing to be done but sing so that we can find one another, to know someone else is there. Surely, there are patrols in the summer, too, but to me, they are all in winter, and never have I so longed to be somewhere warm to unthaw my curled fingers and peel off my wet boots, and yet to be exactly where I was, alive in the cold, lost and singing. I feel that way for Catch, too, I realize. But all things come to Catch for me now.

You would hate it. Too wild and too wet for you, and not a scrap of paper nor a blot of ink for a hundred miles. I do not doubt you’d be fine for rough living, but I picture you bearing it all stoically, with no pleasure or appreciation. I do wonder. Do you truly dislike such things, or is it that you are no good at them? I am not much good at any of the things you enjoy, but I find it interesting to try and keep up with them. Sometimes it seems to me you avoid things out of hand when they simply do not match your impression of yourself.

You present me a difficulty. You are my closest friend here, yet you are a man and very much a man, with all a man’s priorities and ways of looking at the world. Sometimes I appreciate this, for this country is a man’s domain and it is helpful to have a man’s perspective to understand its ways. But when it comes to other matters, I miss the company of women. I miss their sympathy and good sense, yet I have never found any women I much care to know here. I get along better with your men, for men here behave in ways I think more womanly. But it is never quite the same, and they get very insulted when one mentions it. Being womanly is not considered an attribute here, but an insult, and actually being a woman is looked upon as a crippling ailment.

I miss Catch, and I miss my gentleman, and I miss you, though you are nearer than you have ever been before. I miss home, and I miss missing my season, and I think about how many seasons I have missed already and how many more before I may return, and it makes me altogether soppy and full of self-pity. There is no place for me here and my greatest fear is that there will be no place for me at home when I return. My eyes are full of tears and what will they think of that?

I thought once that this would be an adventure, but now it feels more like a trial of endurance. No one passes through a trial and remains what they were.

Tell me things, Glenn. Tell me the first place you ran to when you were free. Tell me the first thing you did when you could choose as you liked. Never mind if it ended poorly; tell me what it felt like before that.
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Re: Freezing

Postby Glenn » Tue Jan 11, 2022 8:47 am

Finn,

I am left at a momentary loss. A disadvantage, maybe? Neither of those words feel quite right. Still, let me explain: at the beginning of your letter you say that I indicated that you must write me, yet you frame it in a way that is completely opposed to the reality of the situation. The letters are not an alternative to you simply walking a few feet and knocking on my door. The letters were meant to be an alternative to you avoiding me altogether. They were a way to force you to engage with me, to engage with someone other than Catch. I could not have predicted the obvious lucidity (albeit one full with certain significant and distinct inclinations) that would come from seclusion for I could not have predicted seclusion at all. In your recent state, you may have been all the more intent on staying near Catch. Honestly, these letters were a sort of desperate grasp by me so that i would not lose you in my life and that you would not be alone deep within the endless pits of him. The number, the surrendering of a certain amount of my own autonomy to you at the end, all was intended to ensure a continued correspondence.

What that means, then, is that if you wish to come see me in two week's time, you're more than welcome to do so. There's a room here for you, relish it and take offense of it and whatever else you feel like doing today. As for the glam-allergy, I found it to be quite resolved as of late. This, like many of the unique elements of my physiology, I put to encountering Catch. I was awash of his energies, in his proximity, that evening and a lingering pain in my knee seems to be gone. Why not that as well? I'm sure I'll pay for it before long. I always have. It's disorienting not to have any sense of one's age, less so for you because what's ten years here or there. More so for me and mine. And the difficulties we have in visits? Simply lack of familiarity. A few more would likely solve the thing. Or it wouldn't and at least we'd know and could change accordingly. For now, there haven't been enough visits so everyone becomes all too monumental, all to life and death, when these letters are casual and enjoyable.

But of course, you likely did not register much of this for you've spent the last while not of a clear mind, drunk not upon glamourie but upon Him. Sobriety much more suits you.

Perhaps some other time we can muse on about either your season or your food. Maybe less your lovers. I am glad that you were not alone when you were not alone, if you were well respected and well revered and well treated, as seems to have been the case, and I would rather you not be alone now. Food and the season could help me understand things better. Imagine, Finn, if I was the only human you had ever met, but if we had still developed the friendship we have developed and had the same sorts of conversations. Imagine if you just had a few stories on top of it to learn. That and nothing else. What a skewed and broken understanding you might have of humanity from only knowing me. Still, everything I could tell you would help.

That said, I remain far more interested in you than in your people. But one can only fully know you by knowing your people as well, for they are so important to you.

What would you have me say of my own people. How about this? I do not imagine that the goal is possible even over multiple generations, but if it can be gradually achieved? Ten percent. Twenty. Thirty. More. That would create the potential for incredible improvements that are impossible now. There, is that a healthier view? It still doesn't answer your question, but if I do not think that ultimate level of freedom from need, that absolute luxury, is even achievable, then perhaps I can dodge your question, as asked, altogether.

This matter of men and women. It would be helpful for you to provide me with more specifics. Am I one of the more womanly men or one of the less womanly men. Your father is more of a womanly man for your people and I am akin to him, so perhaps I am a differently womanly man. Specific listed qualities would make all of this more helpful.

It is nice to hear you still consider me your closest friend. There were moments recently where that made me wonder if you thought i was a liability for you because of it.

This will not reassure you but I have returned home to find it to be a geographic designation and little more. I am not afraid of that with you, though. The things you have to return to are much more tangible. For me, all tangible things are gone and what remains is more aspirational. You have a bit of that, but there are literal embraces waiting for you, not just figurative ones.

If I continue on, I'll never answer your question at the end. My first goal was to get distance from myself and the Monastery. I was owned. I knew things as any of the wards there did. I wasn't the first to try to escape. In fact, had things not gone the way they had, I most likely would have been recaptured. Not a thought I oft linger on. That I was so reliant on forces outside my control. What a terrible beginning to Glenn Burnie's story? If caught, I would have escaped again and kept escaping until I was bigger and older and had an actual plan other than defiant flight. But that was all that was on my mind. Running until I could run no more. It all happened very quickly after that. Flight. Wonder. A dream. A nightmare. I'd argue that I didn't get to do anything like what you suggest until I arrived in Myrken much later, not really. That I'll tell you about if it would help pass your time.

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Re: Freezing

Postby Niabh » Fri Jan 14, 2022 2:07 pm

Shunna,

I celebrate and mourn the loss of your glam-allergy, as you put it (as if it were bocaleen!). How ever shall I overwhelm your prudence now? On second thought, with our last encounter still hot from the mint, perhaps it is for the best. When did you see him? Since me, or before me?

I have myself wondered what he sees when he sees glamourie. Sometimes it is as though he sees it with mortal eyes, knowing no difference, and sometimes he is as impervious as my old horse Thistle. And still other times I feel he is merely playing along because it delights us both. You think me young, Glenn, but when he and I are together, we are the same. Whether it be that I grow old or he young, or if we are both of an age so vast the years matter not, I could not say. You know the truth of that. Why would sobriety be preferable to that? Let me be sober tomorrow, if there be one. I will stay with him forever and there will be no ending to it. I shall drink deep while there is still time.

My grandmother Mave’s name means “she who intoxicates.” Drunk on the liquor of her presence. I said that to you once, when I was fetching you cider, and you retorted that you were not yet drunk on the liquor of my liquor. See? I remember how witty you can be when you choose. But those moments are not an entire friendship. Friendship based on fleeting moments of wit and warmth when all else is a battle is exhausting. I have had friendships such as that, and broken them off, with much pain and bitterness, because they took more than they offer. Oh, now Glenn will say he offers what no one else can, but do you? What can you offer a Queen, my shunna? A few moment’s wit, and these letters? There must be more. We have not come so far on nothing. Yet it is hard for me to see just what.












I have had to consult your letter. You asked questions.

To explain how men here are like women would require explaining all about the keem, which is so complicated as to require its own letter. We have the keem and you do not—or you do, rather, but it seems far less codified, if that is the word. Far less acknowledged, might be nearer the truth, for here I find you have Rules, Rules as firm as our own, only lacking the capital letter, for how women and men should behave, of which no one speak and yet everyone is expected to know, and the gods protect those that forget their proper role. I have seen how your country treats women who act too manly, and the only thing worse is a man who acts too much a woman. This may explain why no man yet has understood when I call him womanly, it is not insult. As for those who might be neither, or being one, choose the other, I cannot say, for I have never to my knowledge met such a one here; I have met men who dress as women, or women who dress as men, but that appears to be some other purpose, and in any case is not a true change. Perhaps you do not even have them, lacking the glam to shift yourselves to a true seeming.

(Father is neither man nor woman. Father is an ass.)

This itself is another question for which I would wish a lady to consult, for a fresh pair of eyes and a tongue might see and speak of more than I, who have grown somewhat accustomed. Perhaps it would be best by comparing what I know of you: you are quite the most manly of men, for you are stubborn, preferring to suffer for your own cause rather than to yield by a fraction, convinced of your own rightness despite all evidence to the contrary, refuse to accept sincere offers of help even when you are plainly in need, and unable to see past the end of your own nose. These are all very masculine traits. Men here accept neither advice nor aid. Once their mind is made up, they will not accept even a crumb of new information which might alter their course, for the greatest sin here is to be proved wrong—nay, not even proved, but only to have one’s rightness challenged, which is as great an insult as having one’s honor impugned.

Yet you do think forward, much like a woman, but what you see there is very much a man’s world, cultivated, dominated, precise and orderly, every contingency accounted for, all want relieved—an impossible, sterile, dull place. It is why you give me your snake of an answer and then make so bold as to say you will dodge my question (boldness being a very womanly trait). You are very confident in yourself, and refuse to succumb to false modesty, which are likewise womanly traits to my mind. But in your perfect confidence, you refuse to see yourself in the world you would have, and reject the world you have now, so that I do not know what to make of you at all. You have all a lady’s cleverness but lack her ability to compromise.

If this is not home for you, Glenn Burnie, then you must make it one, or else abandon it and move on. Do you think you will be changed if the world changes? A home is people, my shunna, and all your people are in the past. Use that keen forward sight of yours and find new ones. As a starting point, you might have a housekeeper. The corners of those windowseats were positively encrusted.

I do not think that is such a terrible beginning for Glenn Burnie’s story. I think it the only beginning that makes sense. You were young. You had no power yet of your own. You relied on circumstance. You knew the narrowness of your escape. My shunna, I have oft wondered where it comes from, this determination never to trust in another, never to allow anything to have power over you, never even to trust in anything that could have that power. That is why I keep asking.

I would know whatever you would share with me. It brings some comfort.

Finn
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Re: Freezing

Postby Glenn » Tue Jan 18, 2022 8:11 am

Finn,

That night of the fire. It was just slow moving and needed a push, which you provided. Catch's remedies are often such. A seed planted. That sort of thing. The Storyteller was able to grow the seed planted in Rhaena for instance. And so on. The cross-section of that night and him would make me wonder what would happen if you fully dropped the glamourie. Would you show signs of it still or would they all be gone through his presence. That's what he does and that's what he is, but it's always with change and always with cost.

Your people deserve a sober queen. I'd prefer your presence, as much or as little as I can have, for as long as I can have it. But it's less disorienting when you know it's today and not tomorrow or yesterday. Maybe less sensation but more discussion, you see?

We've met in person three, four times, and each time has been momentous. I have no idea what it might be like when there are no linger names between us, no unrealistic expectations, no plots afoot. And if there will always be such things, at least they will be normal. Let us have spent a few more hours with one another first. I don't know what it will be like, Finn, and there's an appeal in that as well.

Here you have gone into a very long and well appreciated explanation, all the more so because you detailed very specific things about me, so I do not have to ask for more clarity based just on general traits. I could say that your inability to make sense of me is one thing I can offer a queen that no one else can, but that seems a weak lure. The unknown draws me but something that is both unknown and aggravating is still aggravating nonetheless. Perhaps there's some value in understanding me, or, even better, for you are what you are and are drawn to those things in which you are drawn: to use your wisdom and empathy and cleverness to rebalance the alchemy. If there are remarkable manly and womanly qualities within me, a mix of sorts that would be very difficult to find at home or in this place, perhaps you can work the balance just so that it becomes something worthwhile indeed.

Unless of course my manly stubbornness and womanly cleverness simply outpace and outmaneuver you at every turn.

As for my determination, you'll have to go both backwards and forwards to better understand that, now that you have actually voiced so direct a request to know of it.

When I arrived in Myrken, I could not name these things you have mentioned, but I knew that I no longer wanted to run, that I wanted to plant my feet and struggle against them, to surround myself with others and make a stand. Before that, I saw again and again how little power man had in this world. After it, my attempts at altering that imbalance, even in small ways, led to great success and great sorrow and personified the notion while also making it personal. Oh what about this? I'll give you the first month or so in Myrken in a letter and then if you still want more, earlier, maybe I can find a way to tell it to you in person? You'll appreciate it more that way.

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Re: Freezing

Postby Niabh » Wed Jan 19, 2022 12:08 am

Shunna,

Your letter took me by surprise. I forgot I wrote to you until I found your first letter. I know not if it is mine own affliction that makes me lose track of the days, or that this season seems interminable. I ache in my bones for Catch, yet of all the men in this world, he is the one I would not dare be near right now. Yet when he is not, my memory works at me. To be with him is to sink away into nothingness. I want to forget. Particularly now, when there are so many places I do not wish to go. It is so cold there, and the air stinks so that it feels like choking, and all the voices come down to me. They’re talking about me up there. The guards are all angry. I think they do not like this. They’re very good, these guards. They feel it against their duty to let harm come to one they are sworn to protect. Even me. They’re so good, but there’s nothing they can do. I felt so sorry for them at the same time I despised them for cowards. It isn’t their fault. I know what I would do if my guard disobeyed my command. But I never would have commanded this. I never would. No matter who.

I forgot who I was writing to. It’s at the start of the page. I could start afresh and you would never know. But I want someone to know.

I never told you about my hand. I used to make up stories whenever someone asked, every story different. Even my gentleman. Even Catch. To you I give the truth: whenever I tried to escape, she had a finger struck off. Two attempts, two fingers. She let me choose which ones. Had I not chosen, she would have taken my thumb. That is her great and awful trick: she gives an impossible choice, and by choosing, she makes you culpable in your own suffering. But I tricked her. I spared my string fingers. Those lost fingers meant that I would live to draw a bow again. Betimes that to believe one will survive is the only defiance possible. You of all people will understand that.

It is all like what I know of dreams—you know you are in them but there is nothing you can do to stop them. You let the dream sweep you along, even when you know it will turn terrible. Glenn, why is that? Why can’t you stop it, when it belongs to you? It is a horrible sort of glamourie. If ever my glam betrayed me like that, I would go mad. Even thinking of it makes me feel sick. But I already felt sick.

Will we grow common, do you think, if we go on meeting? Do you fear that? I can’t imagine you would, you who so like to chase down your mysteries, get to the heart of them. Perhaps that is why you seek out those like me, like Catch, who have no hearts. You will never come to the bottom of us; there will always be more mysteries and you will never grow tired of pursuing them. You are relentless, my shunna, and you know your own appetites too well. Mayhap I named you Shunna too soon. Perhaps my first name was best, for you are like the salmon, who never stops striving to go where it must.

But familiarity is a sort of power, too, my shunna, and that is the other side of you. The mystery drives you, but your goal is to make all things predictable, and thus remove the need to fear them. Perfect predictability is what you had with Rhaena. The opposite of helplessness may be power, but what does power mean? I would say it means safety, the knowledge that one will never be hurt again. Even to have power over others cannot be for solely for its own sake, but that there be the knowledge that they can never have power over you in return—that you will never be called to answer for it. To put a thing in a cage is to render it safe, but what is power but the power to put things in cages?

Whenever I had the chance, I hurt them. One of them, I bit open his cheek. If I leave a mark on him, I can find him again. That is what we things in cages dream of, Glenn—we dream of the day when we will escape.

It is why I could never bear to put a chain on Catch, either one of iron or one made from mine own love. I could not bear the thought that the time he spent in my company was spent only in thoughts of escaping me. If he comes, I bid he come freely. When he chooses me over all the world, I know that I am better and brighter and more important than all the world, that he, who could be anywhere, has come to me. Any lack of freedom would spoil that joy. It is why I could never go to your yellow room, though you say you offer it without obligation. I have played that trick before myself, and if you think more on it, you will understand that betimes the invitation is itself an obligation. You will know that when I do come to you, it is because in that moment, you are better and brighter than the brightest creature in all the world and I could not help myself.

Whatever story you have, if you would tell it in person, it needs must wait until after this wretched season is done. At risk of embarrassing us both, you are the other man in the world I would not dare be near just now. Until then, I would be glad of anyone’s story save for mine own.

Finn
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Re: Freezing

Postby Glenn » Wed Jan 19, 2022 8:34 am

Finn,

This is a bit worrying as you're supposed to be more clear-headed away from Catch, not pining for him to the point of distraction. Must you have my letters in front of you for you to remember who and where you are? You would think Benedict might be some help in this, but I'd not chance a risk that you glam him into a human again, not even to sate your own needs. That last time, as part of your madcap plan to free me, was a unique disaster and we both need admonish you for it and never speak of it again, a contradiction whose latter element will surely win out.

There are so many things we never had a chance to speak about. It was a beginning delayed and now we're so deep in a different hole.

But this is acceptable for I'm happy to be in a hole with you. And now it's become deeper and wider still. I find myself not sure what to deal with first, the general or the specific or the unexpected, but likely the general as they are all part of the same and that at the root of it all.

What I want emotionally and what I hope my people may have in a practical sense may overlap but that does not mean they are the same. I do not need emotional safety. I will be uncomfortable without it, but I will survive. My people stand defenseless against so much of what afflicts them. Their only defense, relative to all that your people have, is an ability to breed. Knowledge would provide more options. More options are better than none. It need not be absolute.

That is them. As for myself, I don't know. It is like you and Catch. Had you never known this, you would imagine it, perhaps, but not want it above all else. I crave that security and that familiarity for I had it and had it for years and I never before and never since felt secure. It is an absolute I cannot shake, even as I am trying, even without any credit from you, might I add, to shake others.

The more we know, the more options we have. It is not necessarily that I want power. I want options. It seems that the only way to obtain them in a practical sense is to have power. But note how often I look for an option that benefits as many as possible. Often those options are hard to find and require great knowledge and great power.

There is a line between not being powerless and having all the power necessary to have absolutely control over any eventuality and maybe I do not walk that line well. But I have been in that pit. In the cold. And the dark. Weak. Helpless. Unaware. And it drove me to such things then, for I had power but not enough. I had enough power to scrape my way back up, but not enough to do it without such cost.

Years prior, that was when I had no power at all. And in the middle? Right before I fell? I strove to gain as much as possible for vengeance for my aggressor taking Rhaena's hand and to be able to stand against her, and I gained it (at cost) and all it did was give me enough to do those terrible things once I failed anyway. And, I suppose, to be the force I was in the years that followed.

I don't even know what was the point there. Except for that a little bit obviously wasn't enough. Any less and I would have been swept under and it wouldn't have mattered anyway. I wouldn't have been complicit at least? Except for in absence of making any difference at all. Better to be able to try and fail and get up to try again.

I too survived. I too was defiant. And what I monster it made me.

Now I am on the other side of that. You never knew what I had become. You only see the aftereffects of it. This is the reward of surviving it, who and what I am now. Do you find me a treasure worth keeping? Do you see the value in the chances I still have before me? If so, perhaps. But survival is then just a temporary defiance, and a pathway to even greater defiance yet to come. Survival is an opportunity. It has to be. You see that, right?

The simple truth is that I will not live long enough for you to grow common. But I will live long enough that you could grow familiar and that we could grow close. That we could find a new rhythm between us, one that would bewilder both old stories and fond friends. I wonder if every person I meet that knows you will simply assume that we are sleeping together.

I was born in a cage. It took quite a while to even learn what escape was. Anyway, my absolute power does not seem all that different than your absolute freedom. I want to be able to choose from as many possibilities as exist and you wish to be always be able to choose for yourself no matter what. The differences are more interesting than the similarities but only because the similarities are so many.

I arrived not far from the Dagger and was guided there as I searched for lodging, probably as a joke upon an obviously disoriented newcomer. The map wasn't much help as of yet, not so soon after my arrival. The coin I arrived with wouldn't take me far, even if metal tends to be metal, no matter what's printed upon it.

Oh, Finn, look at all the words tottering on top of this. Let us work through those and if we do, I can tell you about this.

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Re: Freezing

Postby Niabh » Sat Jan 22, 2022 4:54 am

Shunna,

Catch reminds me often that if he gets cold, or hungry, or exhausted, he will not suffer from it as we would; that is, he will not die of it. He does this because I am always fussing over him that if he is hungry, he should eat, and if he is cold, he should dress warmly, and there is no sense not to. In life there are times aplenty in life when suffering cannot be avoided, so what use be it to endure it when there is remedy? I will make sure that such a creature as Catch has food and a fire and a fresh bed to lie upon, even if they are of no use to him, and I will tell you that while you may not die from want of emotional safety (as you put it), that is hardly need to do without it. You are full of such contradictions, and you should know it makes you hypocritical to go on so much about life being more than mere survival while rejecting all those comforts that make life worth the living. You may think it makes you look brave or stoic, but you only seem a fool. Perhaps you think you are above such things, but the truth, much as you dislike it, is that you are flesh and bone as much as we lesser folk, with the chief difference being that my flesh is more durable than your own, and more flatteringly molded to my bones.

I do sound like my mother, who is a great advocate of base comfort, believing that the strain of our long war and the lack of safety makes people more prone to illness and melancholy, therefore she will at times prescribe that one so afflicted go off and do something cheery, in addition to her medicine. She is possessed of a great many queer notions but in this, I believe she is correct.

I struggle with this letter. Part of it is the season. I, too, am melancholy. I struggle to find a phrase that will not offend. I am every kind of alone. That seems the best way of putting it. My only companion is this damnable weeping. I hate it! My whole face feels raw under the eyes. I still do not see the use of it, Glenn. I know what I am feeling; I don’t need to be reminded that I am sad, or frustrated, or lonely.

You will be pleased to know some townsfolk all unwitting saved me from myself. They crossed my path just when I was in a state, and I had to go and drive them off. By fortune, one dropped his dinner in his flight, so now I have eaten a very nice ham turnover, which is better fare than I expected today. Food does wonders for self-pity. Betimes the tultharian have their uses.

One time I was in the Dagger in secret, listening to a poacher exclaim that he had encountered some slavering black beast in the Woods. I was so caught up in his story that I wondered if I should myself be on the watch for this beast, only I realized he was talking about me. Then I pretended to be very interested, and acted as though he had been very brave, and he began to play up to me, and soon enough he started lying to make himself look better, as I knew he would do, so that by the time he was done, you would think he defeated his beast blind and with both hands bound. Tultharian men can be very funny when a pretty woman hangs on their every word. Do not pretend you are immune, my shunna; I’ve seen you do it, too, though I think less because I am pretty than because you have an audience.

Some folk I do not chase away. The Woods lets them in, not I. One learns the difference. The Woods has always been generous with me, but I have been respectful of it from the start. One learns. I miss my woods, Glenn. Down in the valley at Knockna Neel, with the river the only safe path in. And all mine. Father’s, too, but he never cared for them. He says they were spoiled for him long ago. He says he is old enough that he no longer needs a place to hide. It never felt like hiding to me. In a way, it felt like being found. Now that I think on it, it felt very much as it does with Catch: to be safe, utterly safe, and to know that no one can ever rout you out. Only Catch is better, of course. It was only ever a woods, after all. There is something to be said for creatures that are warm and alive, that can speak your name and put their arms around you.

Now we have come back to safety. I didn’t mean to. I will eat my turnover and address the rest of your letter. I apologize for the fingerprints.

You call yourself a monster. You have called yourself that before. I insist that you are not a monster, only a very bad man, which is no better in practice, but monsters cannot help but be what they are, while men must choose. To dismiss yourself as a monster then is to divorce yourself from yourself. No one knows what you were better than you do now, my shunna, and even though I never saw it, I see your reputation. I see what you tell me. I even see, though perhaps you do not, how desperate you are to be someone else, something better. How far you have come is for you to judge.

I was different when I came away from the High Court. I learned a lot of things I never wished to know—about myself, and of how low the world may be. How the law, which I had believed was good, could be used for ill and still be law.

It is evening. It was mid-morning, and now it’s evening. My turnover has grown cold, my ink has dried. My hair was up and now it is down. I don’t remember undoing it. There was something I was going to tell you there, but I lost it.

This is too dangerous for me, Glenn. My one reassurance was that I would never have to go back. Now I go back to where I did not wish to be. I am so

Something is wrong. This house is wrong. I think they might have come back.

There. Latch is drawn. So why do I feel I have locked myself in to keep the world safe from me?


Morning now. A hectic night. The raven came to ask if my letter was ready. Shall I send this one?
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Re: Freezing

Postby Glenn » Mon Jan 24, 2022 7:48 am

Finn,

Who am I trying to impress here? Let's avoid the back and forth on this one. You'd come to the conclusion that I should be trying to impress you but that I am ultimately trying to convince myself, either to prove some point, or to show some merit, or to avoid some weakness. You'd say that I can never understand them as I don't live like them, or even among them. But I did. Barn dances and nights, almost every, sitting at a bar and sharing drinks, breaking a sweat with sparring, sword in hand. I may have kept to one woman, but most would not fault me too much that. All sorts of stupid adventure. Asking a thousand questions of every new person that came through the province. There were a few years of it, good years, before it all started to crumble. It probably crumbled because I did too much of it too quickly. I overreached. I got involved in everything that there was to get involved in. I couldn't get enough of it.

Then later, there were more mature endeavors. Correspondences, the trading and collecting of books. Politics of course. Organization. There's joy to be found in all of that. Trying to move pieces into shapes that make sense, into ones that can make a difference. I'm barred and banned from it now, reformed as I may be, whole and healthy as I may be again. Maybe that's the problem. There are things I do enjoy, even if they are not the things that so many others enjoy, and I'm simply not allowed to do them anymore?

What does it say of you that your mother would call you her sister? I only ask because it's one of those unique questions that often would say more about the mother than about you but in this case, given the fluidity of the situation at hand, actually says more about you.

As you would say I am trying to fool myself, I imagine the point of tears is less for you, who claim to know yourself, and instead for all others around you. Which, I know, you cry most out of solitude, but were others nearby, they would be compelled to react in one way or another. We do not survive nearly as long as your kind might alone. And you should not survive well here alone either.

It was never your tears that drew me to you, but your questions about tears did not hurt.

But now you have Catch. Am I jealous? Of what? Not warm bodies, no matter how well your skin fits your far too elongated bones. I am far, far less alone for having you in my world. You supping upon the comfort and escape of Catch (running towards something or running from something, you are still running) means that there is less of you. Less of you for me. Less of you for you. Less of you for your people. The world, and not just my world, is lessened for it. I shall not deny my selfishness along those lines.

It frustrates me that you do not break protocol and take Benedict more into your friendship and trust. He has been a comfort to me even as you have. He is a piece, maybe the only true piece of your home that is with you. I do not think you so haughty, years gone now, that you would impose hierarchy either for your sake or his. I think instead you are afraid to open up to him in that same way exactly because he does represent home and you would not have home see you cry (metaphorically for he cannot help to see).

Do you need me to send you food? I could come up with some sort of ingenious way to do it without humans coming past you? Send out ten donkeys with your scent. That sort of thing.

I can be flattered that you choose to come to me, but be flattered too for what I would choose to make for you. For I make it for no one else. That does not mean you cannot be irritated with me as well just as I can also be irradiated by you, flattered or no.

I will trade away nothing to any of your people if I can avoid it, certainly not to Ainrid. But, to Meg, I will pay her price, and I will imagine it to be fair, to find the words, the medicinal words, to explain to you what happened to me in that pit. Almost all I say is in a metaphorical sense, but not that. But it is in the past test, Finn. A relapse may be possible. I have found that which is mended is never as strong as it originally was, but then again most things are not mended by Catch and not with such a price paid as a destroyed Rhaena to power such a mending.

So maybe I should feel safe moving towards my joys once again?

Glenn
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Re: Freezing

Postby Niabh » Tue Jan 25, 2022 2:21 am

Shunna,

You said ten letters. Is that ten each, or ten between the two of us? If it be ten between the two, then we have reached the end, for your next shall be the tenth. So soon. I did not expect to speed through them. When I last left you, I was so angry I near resolved that I should never write a word, but circumstance has softened me—circumstance, and you. Just you. Once more I have that feeling of being linked in spite of ourselves, for good or ill, and if I write or do not write, it matters naught; the bond remains. If I were you, I should not reply at all, then you will never have to live up to your end of the bargain. But knowing you, you will make a point of pride to hold your word. Rest assured I will make you regret it.

You need not send any food. I have enough to last to the next moon. Failing that, I hunt. Before I left, I made Catch a little pantry for his winter stores, so he will not have to travel abroad for his meals. It would be much easier to feed him if I could hunt for him, but on that point, there is no changing him. I fear it shall be a very turnipy winter.

One favor you might do for me: will you take in my ransom-box? I do not feel right keeping it with Catch. As payment, you may use whatever you like of it, in case you need to bribe your way out of jail while I am absent. Anything in a sack by itself, I would prefer you leave alone, and there is a red leather case that you should not bother, but for the rest, it is of no concern. Ask the raven and he can take you to it. You may wish for a wheelbarrow. I would not suggest you hire help.

My mother and I have often spoke of how strange it is that I began as her sister, became her child, yet slowly we have become sisters again as I grew up. I do not think we shall ever quite stop being a mother and her daughter, but perhaps what we both need now is a sister to confide in. A parent will always be a place of refuge. Then, too, there is some difficulty with my being Queen and she the elder sister with no claim to title, though that is the least matter between us. In court they call her Lady Meg, though she is not a lady of anything, but they love her enough to give her a title from affection. I cannot object; I love her, too. I have even offered to give her a place of her own—the little lake in the south where we both grew up—so that she could be a true lady, but she declined. What would she do with a lake, she says. It is a good question, once you think down below the surface of it. But how do you know anything about what she calls me?

As for Benedict, he was in my confidence before he overstepped himself. Think you I cannot guess who has been telling you all my business? He has broken my trust, along with every protocol for a raven, so that now I cannot tell him anything without wondering who he might tell in return. I have even wondered if Father sent him on purpose to keep track of me. You do not know how powerful is a raven’s magic, Glenn, and how easily it might be ill-used should a raven begin to go his own way. You need not tell him I said all this; I have told him to his face. It is hardly hierarchy, but betrayal.

I can picture you younger, let loose in the world for the first time and meddling in everything that presents itself solely because you had been so long deprived of opportunity. It makes me smile. What a nuisance you were then! Those dull monks did not know what they had in you. You were wasted on them. Myrken, however, knows all too well what they have in you. That is why you are banned from practicing it. Trust is a long, rough path, my shunna.

You never truly left Myrken. Whether you were here or not, all your thoughts were, the better portion of your heart and memory. You are condemned to remain here, and perhaps this is the punishment you deserve: to be locked outside of what you love. I can think of nothing more cruel, and nothing more suited your crimes. Myrken could, I am sure. Myrken is a brutal place.

Full well you know, Glenn, that if I find value in you, then soon I shall have to wonder if there is such value in all your people and so must extend the same courtesy to them all, and, as I am a queen and cannot do things by halves, this will be to their benefit. Someday, if the gods favor me, I will be High Queen, as I should have been born, and the benefit will be all the greater. Then we shall be in the realm of politics, and I will have to move a bit beyond you. I believe I told you that Father’s original plan was to send me straight to your king, though of course we none of us knew what that truly entailed then. Your court is not like ours, that anyone may present their plaint, though I am not above seeking audience solely by favor of my face first, and my authority afterwards. What use is it to be a beauty, if not that?

Thinking this, I cannot but wonder if it was your plan all along. It is exactly your way to sacrifice yourself for the good of your folk, although I flatter myself that my company is not the hardest sacrifice any man ever made. You know I am temperamental, but not so much that I would sour to the whole should we two part favor.

You have said the whole heart of it, Glenn, and better than I could, for I could not pin the thought with words. You must stop thinking that this time will be the same as last time. You must stop seeing all healing through Catch’s eyes. What he does is not mending. It is something else entirely. What we do, as people, is collect the broken pieces and shape them into something new. It will never be the same as it was, and it may not be better, but anything is better than being broken. You and I, we both know what it is to come up from underground and no longer recognize ourselves, and to rebuild what we were. All the same pieces, but not in the same shape, perhaps. Yet we move forward. Our lives did not end underground. One does not lock oneself back in the dungeon to make peace with one's time in the dungeon. And a life without some few joys is no life at all. If we let our lives be undone by what became of us, we may as well have stayed in the pit, for there was never any use in escaping.

I will tell you what I must tell myself to keep from being lost:

Then is not now. Now is not then.

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Re: Freezing

Postby Glenn » Tue Jan 25, 2022 7:53 am

Finn,

Let us think of the reasons behind things. You were angry, offended as much as angry or more to say, the offense drove the anger. As we did not specify, let us say ten letters each then. I will continue not out of pride, but due to the reason behind it all. I am not trying to trick you or defeat you. I didn't tempt you with the prize at the end to get these nine letters. You say I will regret it, but maybe it will be a prize for both of us.

You say it yourself later in your letter: I am already punished and you can think of nothing more cruel.

It was incentive but I wanted not just letters but prolonged interaction. I wanted to see to you as best I could too. But let us focus on the interaction. To complete our letters means that I will see you again. This is what I want. That you can dictate the terms is fine, for while you are admittedly temperamental (and who I am to argue with a queen on such matters), you find value in me, and when you seek me out, it is because there is no one you would rather be with. I think you are capable of squandering such an opportunity out of pettiness, maybe doubly so because I raise the matter now, but I think, whether I regret what is to come or not, I will also be forever glad for it as well.

Trust is a long, rough path, and we have walked it and we walk it still.

One can betray another out of love and care. Part of trust is trusting the other to be well even without having control over the situation, without having a hand in the situation, to trust in their strength and competence.

He had every reason to doubt you after what happened in the woods and your subsequent loss of perspective and grounding with Catch and every responsibility as your vassal and emissary to then act upon those worries.

Your health and well-being drove him to his actions and then his concern mixed with mine drove me to my actions. If you would do any different in his place, I would think all the less of you for it, which is why I wholly refuse to believe that would be the case.

I will safekeep your box. I will only look at one and only one thing I am not supposed to and nothing more. And then only in a month's time and in a moment of weakness, so it may not be an issue in the end. Hopefully it will not be.

Many things not my business but end up at my pleasure instead, whether I want them or not, whether I know well enough to take any pleasure from them or not. Even so, I will tell you two letters from now and not make you ask three times. That will ensure our new definition of ten, will it not?

Know that when I emerged from underground, I did not emerge at all, but also know that I did emerge years after which is also years before now.

Anyway, there were surely better ways for me to martyr myself for my people when it came to you. If anything, I have held things back for my people by hoarding you for myself so greedily.

It began as a mystery, grew into an opportunity, and now it's gone off the path entirely (oh no i have gone off the path with a fairy queen surely i am lost woe woe learn from my tale mortal correspondents everywhere). Now it is friendship for the sake of friendship and affection for the sake of affection and caring for the sake of caring and many other things for the sake of who you are and not what you are.

My plan is to have a friend and to cherish her and maybe even be cherished by her. Shall we go so far as to call it a plot? A scheme perhaps?

Do try not to foil it.

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Re: Freezing

Postby Niabh » Wed Jan 26, 2022 5:53 am

Shunna,

Now I will disappoint you by saying there is nothing forbidden you to look at in the ransom-box, only things I would rather not be bartered. The red case is the Neal garnets, which are supposed to have come from the hands of a goddess; these we have managed to keep together for many generations, so I would prefer they not be separated. There too are six of the black pearls from the net that captured the last unicorn in the world. Very few of them remain, and they are so old and fragile they cannot be handled, and they are cursed, which is three reasons to leave them be. And in a hide pouch is an amber brooch that I took from my first hostage. She was very poor, but very honorable, and she gave me the only precious thing she had in exchange for her freedom, and for her sake I will not part with it. Almost all of it has some name or story attached to it.

I was thinking of how we two began. You made Catch weep. That was the start of it. I did not know he could weep before then, and I was shocked, and angry with myself for reading him the letter, and angrier still at you for writing it. I felt then much as I felt when I first learned of Gloria, that you were a damned fool who thought him common, who did not know what you had meddled in. But he wanted to answer you. Even then, I could never deny him anything it was in my power to give. Do you know how I first met him? He admired my gown, so I stooped and cut off a piece of the hem and gave it to him. Just like that, and at a time when I had only two proper Myrken gowns. From the moment I laid eyes on him, my heart was his, and had he asked me for it, I expect I would have cut it out and given that to him as well. That has happened to me only once before, with my Deidre.

I knew her before then, of course, as a face in passing and a name in the registry, but I did not see her true until the night she stood up before all the orricktus and lashed my father within an inch of his life for his rudeness. Her voice kept getting higher and faster, and she pressed herself closer and closer to him until he was forced to step back lest she trample him. It says much that when she was through with him, His Lordship must take a deep breath before he could begin to take back his own. I did not intervene, but I know I must have been grinning like a goblin. People at these things always look to me to see how they should react. A hall of mirrors. So they all smiled at her too. And Deirdre came back to her seat and threw herself down on the pelts in a huff. I don’t think I heard a word of the rest of the council. I could not take my eyes off her. Though she was not yet mine then, I knew she would be. It was as much a certainty as the sunrise. I felt like a thief in taking her for myself, but not so much a thief that I was inclined to give her back.

Quite soon it became clear to all the court that Deirdre was the Queen’s favorite. My bard recommended I declare it, to quell the rumors, but it was a tricky time. We had only just rousted one spy from the court; we did not know if there were more. Deirdre did not have the resources to protect her house. That would fall to me, a fact Father noted with his usual sourness. I accepted it. Nothing was stated outright. All was understood.

She hated everything I ever loved. She tolerated horses as a means to get from one place to another, but she never understood them and was always a little afraid of them. Somehow she managed to find these terrible palfreys, sure-footed in every respect, but slow as spring thaw. She was afraid of the sea, too. She hated the slime on the rocks, and cutting up her hands, and the smell of rotten fish and rotten weed, and getting salt in her hair. I never knew a woman who washed her hair so much, nor one who smelled so much of soap, and if I ever wanted to court her good graces, I knew I could always find her some sort of new oil or scent and she would be mine all over again. I for my part made mock of her: I would always swim out farther than she dared go, climb higher than she could follow, outpace her mount, and then taunt her from wherever I was, daring her to join me.

But things that were quiet and still, she loved, which I always found so strange in someone so tempestuous. I always thought it was her way of getting rest from herself. Nighttime she loved, going out among the stars. She knew the Great Map better than I ever learned it, all the connections and the stories tied to each one, even the ones that had fallen out of favor, and that she loved them made me want to know them better. There are such worlds of ideas inside the ones we love, things we would never have thought of for ourselves. That is what I learned from her.

Glenn, my shunna, this breaks my heart: both that she is not with me, and that you will never know her, you will never understand what she is. Only know that once I loved a lady so well that I wish you could meet her. I wish Catch could meet her—even though I know her well enough to know she would like neither of you. She would fear Catch, and you, I suspect, would end up with the sharp side of her tongue. It might even be worth it to see you two go at one another, but I would be too busy keeping you apart to appreciate it.

To think of her makes me wish that I could have known your lady. What was in her that drew you to her? What did you learn from her that was only hers? Was it only that you two were so thoroughly in sympathy, or was there more?

It is near twilight. I have wiled away most of this day writing of Deirdre. I knew where I was all the while, which is good, but strayed far, far from where I meant this letter to be, which is not so good. I think we should resolve to stop insisting that we wish to be friends, or whatever we are to one another, and simply be. We can be it without forever stating and restating the fact. We, too, have strayed far from where we began. I remember you thought me some precocious little tultharian ingenue, and I thought you the thoughtless, heartless prick who wounded my Catch. I am still an ingenue and you are still a prick, but we are both more than only that. We must learn to be less selfish with one another. I am greedy by nature with what I cherish. You are greedy, I think, because you have so little and have lost so much.

I shall even try to be kinder to the raven, if you wish. I do not think he works well as a raven anymore, they who are so held to their rules and codes of service. Yet I worry for him. He is like me: ill-suited to rejoin his own kind, not quite the same creature he was, yet neither of us were meant for this place, either. I can weep and I can dream. He can disobey.

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Re: Freezing

Postby Glenn » Wed Feb 02, 2022 6:56 am

Finn,

Well, now you've taken the mystery out of it. I am just happy to be able to do something for you during this time of inconvenience, which is, of course, sitting within a broader time of outright ailment where you find yourself at times unawares (I need not say of what). I cannot muster even the slightest impulse to spite you in the face of that. Your possessions will be both safeguarded and unmolested.

Unmoored. Untethered. Better words and words more suited for Catch. Does he liken you to anyone selse as you just have likened him to Deidre (you did not such thing, except for that you did). Having heard his truths directly and having been able to piece other things together indirectly over the years, I do think I serve as a broader symbol for many people, and hearkened back to one or two.

It's further complicated that when he sees me, he sees my present but also the past that he knew, and the past of me he knew before that, even as he sees all of his other past moments with all others. I cannot tell you if he sees possible futures as well. That benefited me, though not Myrken, when I, myself, was untethered, for it meant he would not see me as the danger I was, for I was that and everything I had been (and maybe for the sake of the argument, some of what I might be as well). It punishes me now, though, for it means he still sees those years. You cannot reason with that. I will not live long enough to offset it. Perhaps if I grew a mustache, it might confuse the matter enough?

It can be a mortal's only hope that someday one will write of her as you write of your Deirdre. I could ask you where she is now, when you saw her last, but to do so would take the matter even farther afield from you and I. If I am selfish, it is not for the so little I have, but instead for the so much I have in you.

If you ever do speak of me later, in decades to come, not years, do not lean so hard on what I did or did not love. You doing so makes me suspicious that you encourage me to live in such ways only so that you might find the taste of me more palatable.

I know you as a queen. I know you best not as a queen. I know him as a raven. I know him best not as a raven. Try to be kinder to the raven. Try harder to be kinder to Benedict.

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Re: Freezing

Postby Niabh » Sat Feb 05, 2022 7:34 am

Glenn,

If I have learned nothing of you, sir, it is that the best way to keep your fingers out of my affairs is to take the mystery out of them.

Betimes I forget your folk do not have anything like a season. When I explained it to my gentleman, he was to say the least intrigued and a little concerned, but he laughed to see how it really was, though do not doubt he took thorough advantage. In any case, the fever is off me. I am no longer a menace, but likely I would be a nuisance. I’m a nuisance to myself as well, but that gives me no right to go imposing.

Shall I note that I asked you of your love for your lady, and you instead wrote of Catch? Did you realize you were doing it, or was it deliberate; and, if it was deliberate, was it done to obfuscate the question or is it itself your answer? I doubt you will answer this, either. Whenever you do not answer me, I reach my own conclusions, and, as you cannot bear for anyone to be wrong in your presence, yet have never bothered to correct me, I will assume those conclusions are correct.

Glenn, I have told you that Catch has a heart of snow, so easily does it melt for those for whom he cares. But his memory is much longer than mine own. If I have learned nothing from this affliction, it is just how long and just how keen can memory be. You left your mark upon him, which, I suspect, is something you desire: to be remembered, and to have that memory be permanent, to defy the restrictions of your own years, perhaps to scar us so that we will be reminded of you every time the wound aches. We who live long will hurt long after you’ve gone. I have met some of your kind like that, though few with your determination. Yet this is how no sensible man would choose to be remembered, with resentment and bitterness. Again, this is your punishment, and I have no right to say that you have earned less, or even that you have learned better since. Yet I do not believe you cannot live long enough to change, only you should change for your own sake, to improve and go forward better than you have done, rather than in hope that you will ever be allowed to return to the way things once were. Hold the memory of what you have lost before you and resolve yourself never to make the same mistakes again. Remember, I have seen the path where you tried again.

Perhaps I was too hasty in naming you Shunna. Perhaps I knew best when first I called you Braydon, the salmon, who will kill itself striving to go where it must.

We are defined by what we love. It becomes who we are, and this you will understand if you ever met one who loves nothing, or who loves only power or vice. I find that to know what things people love, to what degree and in what combination, tells one all about their true nature. Even my father loves Knockna Neal, and it is the one point on which I trust him fully, knowing he would never do anything to risk it harm. Then, too, he would do anything to keep it. I spoke to you about the great destroyer, which is how the poets name love. The two halves of love, to know one would both die and kill for it. I tell you to fall in love with the world because it is too dangerous a thing to put all your stores in one object. Even my ransom box does not hold all my treasure. One must have something for one’s own.

I realize I wrote of Deirdre as if she were long past. She is now, I have no doubt. I could not tell her I was leaving, and I expect she has moved on. I wish I could write to her as I do with you. So many things here I would wish her see and experience, to know what it is like; there was a time when I longed to have someone to tell all the strange things that happened in a day, and always I imagined she was my audience. I knew just how to describe everything to make her laugh, or make her share my outrage, or my confusion. But of course, I cannot tell her where I am, for her sake and mine. Someday, if she is understanding, I will tell her all of it. Even about you. Then you will have two ladies of the court who remember you.

Finn
Anything can be magic if you're gullible enough.
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Niabh
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Re: Freezing

Postby Glenn » Mon Feb 07, 2022 3:29 am

There were five Rhaenas. Please understand that when I write this, I mean it literally. There seems to be a disconnect there at times, so I shall be clear on that point. They all shared certain qualities and inhabited the same body, but they were five different entities.

The first was her true self, the one that I met. She was playful, curious. In some ways she was almost as curious as me, but she could be more coy about it. It was less of a need for her and more of an expectation. Less about the learning and more about the knowing. She was young. I was young. It was matter-of-fact. Her defiance was against norms, not against fate. She came from a society where they wore veils; she had an older brother who was overprotective. She was a better match for Agnieszka than she was for me, but in some ways, I was a better match for Agnieszka than I was for her. That, in itself, made us a good match. She was a trader, an organizer. That last bit would remain true for all five.

The second was her under Sarayn's curse. A ring. Given and then discarded, meddling for a fickle monster of a girl. The entire point of it was to blur the waters between the two women. Sarayn's qualities overwrote her own. Haughty, abusive, arrogant. A few months like this, gradually changing. The ring affected me as well so that I couldn't see it. Sarayn, of course had moved on to other schemes and was surprised when she came back to it. She took Rhaena's hand, ring and all, for her impertinence to dare resemble her.

That restored the first Rhaena, but changed (you see, I understand the distinction. The first and the second were two different entities but this here, was the first again, simply changed. There is a difference and there is a difference when I refer to myself as well). She became withdrawn, from her powers, from her friends, into her veils. She wore the trauma of this, of the Chimera dream and being bound to Ariane within it. She was timid, quiet. We lunched. She busied herself with quiet work. I asked her for little and provided company. She did not withdraw from me. Instead, I looked outwards, away from her, towards revenge.

I came back a different person, disassociated, severed, incapable of introspection. I schemed and through one incident and another, she became the third Rhaena, a match to me, bound once again in thought and mind and heart, though I had none of the last, of course, and so neither did she. Pragmatic, practical, efficient, cold. Catch grafted the metallic covering she wore to replace her hand and animated it. It was a proper symbol for who she became as much as anything else. She wasn't as proactive as I was, but she worked with me hand in metal hand.

The fourth Rhaena stemmed from yet another incident with Catch. I do not think he consciously intended it, but an attempt to redirect his impulses went astray. He attempted to heal me, heal her, but it was too much, too focused, and what was left behind was a wholly innocent Rhaena, bubbly and amiable, lacking sin but lacking complexity as well. If the third had been a dark figure, this one was light. She overlooked my transgressions against my fellow man, or more likely was incapable of understanding them. She sought out wholesome pursuits, such as opening a school. During this period, that healing began to bleed through to me. It left her vulnerable however.

The fifth Rhaena, then, was the fourth twisted by the Storyteller, who I have come to imagine to be one of your people gone astray (or not astray at all). All of those norms of society that she once rebelled against became the entirety of her passion. Personality gave way to propriety, all done for its own sake. She betrayed me early into this transformation and sent me to Golben, where through starvation, visions, and Catch's healing, old and new, I became whatever remained of the first Glenn Burnie once again (there were only two). I was cut off from her and obtained her memories later, as you know. In that last moment when she forced another to kill her, she was the first again, if only for a moment.

There could well be a sixth now, the ghoul attached to Brown, and for the sake of classification, I should name it so, for while it shares no body and less qualities, it also highlights and reiterates the difference between the first and the others.

My next letter will provide answer to some of your most recent points and to what else was promised earlier.
Glenn
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Re: Freezing

Postby Niabh » Mon Feb 07, 2022 5:29 am

Glenn,

You gave me what I asked for, good neighbor, and yet nothing of what I wanted. You confirmed a great many things, and I confess I was in the wrong for most of them.

I will tell you this: Elliot Brown is mine now, as much as I can claim him as he is. I am not yet familiar with the ways of dreams, only that I dislike and mistrust them. They are a sort of glam over which I have little control, yet they, too, are mine. If anything, he has the shaping power there. As best I can, I offer him stories, strange sights, adventures, visions that are curious of him but that will do him no harm. For him I have created a version of my own country that never existed anywhere except in legend, the oldest stories where the gods still dwell on the land, where the fomorah were never vanquished, and where there are so many winding paths that he can never come to the end of them. It is an echo of the world he wanted when first he went into the world, before your wife destroyed him.

I much mislike his creature, his ghoul, your Rhaena, the little that is left of her. I would never have liked her no matter what form in which I found her, only this is the worst. Of all the versions of your lady you knew, this is none of them. Do not hold out any hope for her. The best fate for all of us, herself included, is that Elliot Brown abandon her so that at last she may die. What is left is not death, nor is it living.

And now I ask how you found me out.
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