#1393

afraid to speak, to startle the other into remorseful flight, he pleads with his body instead don’t go, don’t leave me gripping at jagged shoulder blades, pulling the narrow waist down to his own please, can’t you see I’m yours? as he opens himself to be filled, to be completed, shivering at the hot mouth on his skin, the teeth digging in to leave their mark yes, please, claim me as hands move to hold him in place with an iron grip against which he writhes in pain and pleasure both, thrilling at the bondage of flesh and bone, his wordless moans speaking for him as he surrenders, submits, swearing I love you, I have always loved you with every exhalation

#1392

apology and supplication in the way his hands clench on muscle, fist around silken hair and yank back for a kiss that draws blood, every movement a wordless begging as he sinks his teeth into bare flesh to muffle the moan or choke back the howl, which will it be?, such terrible need in his trembling body and through it all the overwhelming hatred of that need, every thrust of his hips the punishment for staying, for loving, for embracing this madness with open arms and willing body, he leaves bruises in his wake as he presses, desperate to be closer, skin to skin, two bodies moving as one, and when release comes it brings no easing, no comfort, yet he allows himself to be held a moment before pulling away, the ice creeping back already

#1391

When the eternal winter descended upon the land, the Wanderer looked to the frozen sky and understood what tragedy had befallen the heavens, and what must be done to free the world from its prison of ice. So she set out across the white wasteland which had once been fields and meadows, rivers and lakes, and made her way to the distant mountains. At the base of their mighty peaks she began to climb, heedless of the driving wind, the razor sharp rock beneath her palms, the drop that would surely kill her should she slip just once. She climbed for days and days, never once glancing away from the summit so high it pierced the clouds.

On the seventh day the Wanderer reached the summit and stood upon its peak, the land a distant smear of white beneath her and the dark sky stretching out in all directions around her. It seemed she could go no farther, but the Wanderer knew magic older than the mountains themselves and with a wave of her hand the staircase revealed itself, an impossible thing of stone stretching into the darkness on nothing but air. She made her way up the steps, treading carefully for even here the ice covered every surface, and soon came to the pavilion at the top. “Lord,” she said, and placed one hand to her heart in greeting.

In the center of the frozen chamber stood the Moon, robes of silver and white stained with golden blood, his eyes a more dangerous darkness than the eternal night all around. In his arms lay the Lord Sun wrapped in the Moon’s dark cloak, serene in death despite the blood upon his lips and the tears still wet upon his cheeks no matter how much time had passed. So too the fateful blade still lay at their feet where the Moon had dropped it in horror at his own actions, its silver blade dripping gold.

“Who do you think you are, to trespass in this realm?” the Moon growled, but the Wanderer would not be cowed, no matter how fierce the threat in the Moon’s voice, and stepped forward. “You know me, Prince Moon,” she soothed. “You have watched me, once upon a time. But now you watch nothing but the stillness of your lover’s breast. Have you seen what desolation your grief unleashes upon the land? Do you realize you are not the only one who mourns the Lord Sun?”

“And what of it?” he snapped, angered at the intrusion on his sorrow. “Do you think yourself so truly powerful you come to undo my crime? Do you think you can resurrect a god?” The Wanderer shook her head and replied with patience, “I can no more resurrect the one in your arms than you can give me my name back. But I know one who can, and I will go to her on your behalf. She has the power to give you back your Lord Sun, though the price shall be high.”

The Moon narrowed his eyes as if trying to see through to the hidden truth. “Why would you trouble yourself to such an extent for us?” he asked, calmer now but no less suspicious. “Surely not for that world down there, that cast you out so long ago?” The Wanderer shook her head. “No. I would do it because we are kin, of a kind. And I have no kin left.”

“And what do you ask in return?” said the Moon, for he could not believe anything came without a price. “Only that you remember, for no other shall,” replied the Wanderer, for truly she wanted nothing else he could offer. The Moon thought on this, and then he nodded, resigned to the fate he had sealed yet willing to humor her quest. “You have a deal. Go, then.”

So the Wanderer climbed back down the frozen mountain and set back out across the wasteland, traveling through snow and ice for countless hundreds of miles before her journey brought her to the end of all land, to the shores of the roaring ocean where beyond lay only sea and sky as far as the horizon. There she found the little cottage in the dunes, and in the little cottage a little room in which the Dreamer slept, reaching out in her sleep to all the world around her. The Wanderer knelt down beside the bed and leaned over, whispering in the Dreamer’s ear, “Dreamer, awake and seek. You must find Them, the Sun and Moon. They are in dire need of your help; you are the only one who can complete the circle of fate and set Their destiny to spinning. Go now. Find Them.”
And as the Wanderer made her way out of the little cottage by the sea, the Dreamer turned over in her sleep and reached for the pen and notebook laying ready on her bedside table.

“And what do you ask in return?”

“Only that you remember, for no other shall,”

Daren glances over his shoulder and across the ship’s deck to where Mage stands tall and stiff at the railing, gazing out across the ocean to something only she can see. Even here she is still the Wanderer, still the Exile no matter that there is no home left from which to be exiled. She has a name now but it is not her name, not the one which was taken from her. That one can never be returned – and even if it were, she is not the same person who bore that name before, and it does not suit her now. She has become something else, immortal yet unbearably weary.

#1390

You ask what advantage have I, outnumbered as I am with no comrades to stand at my back as I play the willing villain? My advantage is the sword of clarity, the shield of truth, the twin engines of destiny and entropy. You see, I understand. I see through the glamor to the heart of things: the blood I spill is ink, the split bones paper and wire and nothing more. Why take hostages, or show a momentary mercy, when every death is meaningless? So let them all be cut down like wheat before the scythe. The defenders who rail against me do not see this world is false, that we are made of dream and metaphor; they do not understand they sacrifice themselves for an imaginary victory on false shores. It is easy to move in and out of the system when one realizes the boundaries are merely theoretical, that “canon” is but a belief and not law, and so I may pass between realms at my whim. Even if on one page I am slain, it is but a construct, a paper doll, which falls to their blades. I remain. I endure. I know the manner of war I fight and that is why I shall win no matter the outcome.

#1388

At some point I must have fallen to my knees, dry-eyed yet trembling, hands clenched in white-knuckled fists, and when she came to stand over me, shadow cast long across the ground, asking what I bid of her, I must have growled “burn them” or “punish them” or “wake them from their cowardly dreams” and so around her the shadows lifted, shifted, twisted, a cocoon of darkness from which tore forth the creature she is now, a thing of revenge and chaos, hungry and tireless and driven by this singular goal, the burning need to tear down the walls of Wonderland, to reduce Neverland’s wilderness to ashes and rubble, to rip the dreamers from their slumber and cast them back into the one true world where the only thing of wonder is how quickly it all can come crashing down around you, so do they realize they made her what she is now, that she is a product of their selfish make-believe as much as she is my own grief and rage?

#1387

Over a glass of Angel’s Envy he breaks the settled evening silence, murmuring as if the thought has just crossed his mind, “You’re like a tiger.”

“A tiger?” I glance over but Tanim’s gaze rests in the hearth fire.

“Yes,” He nods once, sips his drink. “You’re like a tiger kept in some run down zoo, caged behind rusty iron bars and cold cement. You’ve been in there so long you’ve forgotten you ever knew anything else, felt the wind or rain or earth; yet still you pace your confines in endless circles, lashing out through the bars, starved and desperate. Instead of defeating you, the captivity only fuels your rage, makes you a feral, senseless beast. If someone were to open that cage for you, you’d leap at them and sink your teeth into their flesh before you even realized the door to freedom stood open.”

Tanim’s speech leaves a strange taste in my mouth, not bitter yet unpleasant nonetheless, and when I scoff, “I’m no tiger,” the denial feels false. He eyes me now, and replies with slow thoughtfulness, “No, you’re not. You’re far more dangerous. Even with that door wide open, you’d remain in the cage and wait for your prey to come to you.”

I have no reply to that.