To be the villain is to be without a past, without a journey, to be reduced to present actions lacking reason or justification. Thus am I perceived, as if I exist solely as a counterpoint, darkness to light. Yet you should heed my story as a warning instead of burying it beneath my current infamy. We are, after all, not so different, our paths not so separate. You could have been me, had circumstances differed just slightly – and you could still become me yet. Your advantage in this game is tenuous, and fate is fickle. I, too, was once beloved, after all; there is a millennium of royalty in my blood, and great value in the name which was stripped from me. I, too, once had comrades and companions. Do not think because you left your home willingly you are less an exile than myself. Do not think because you have found a new home, a new tribe, that it cannot be taken from you. Anything and everything can be taken away. I will prove that to you by the end of all this, if you are too proud or too cowardly to heed my example.


The Exile Queen, they call me, holding court upon the waves, my fortress iron and wood and tattered sails, twice dozen cannon to hold the throne; the Exile Queen in my finery of black leather and shining silver, attended by courtiers who swear allegiance to naught but ruthlessness, friends of the blade and the bullet. The Exile Queen mantled in shadow; the Exile Queen crowned in blood.

Welcome to my kingdom.


[ Life is super stressful right now; apologies for the string of bad writing to follow. ]


In my dreams the sorceress circles me, matted black hair and needles in her hands, they’ve been dipped in a poison far more fatal than Snow White’s, and I am calling for you as I move to keep the witch in my sights, she lunges but I catch her wrists and we struggle for dominance, the little metal slivers inching ever closer to my flesh until with a surge of defiance I hurl her back, enough to rock her on her feet and before she can close with me again you appear out of nowhere, sword in hand, and the sorceress’ head goes rolling off her shoulders–

–and then we are standing together, her and I, the sorceress resurrected, and she is showing me a sleeping kingdom wrapped in magic and thorns, a kingdom like her own which she offers to me, a gift, my very own land to rule as I wish, yet she is old and weak and I see this is her last attempt, she knows she can’t slay me but thinks maybe she can lure me away with promises of power and beauty, away from you whom I love so deeply, but I only scoff at her bribery and wake to seek you in a world where, too, the witches strive to part us yet never succeed.


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


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


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.


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.


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?


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.


Here’s the thing: Annabelle smells like lavender. And not fake lavender, like scented shampoo or the cheap body spray so many girls use that makes them taste like chemicals. No, I’m talking fresh wild lavender, wet with dew and everything. She smells like the fucking first day of spring. What am I supposed to do? I try to be good, really; I try to focus on the other students around us, bubblegum-scented Bianca and earthy Diane, Ellen’s fresh soap smell and Vivian’s musk, but my nose wanders until I’m drooling over Annabelle again. Unlike the others, her scent isn’t fabricated. It wafts from her pores like she has lavender in her blood, so strong and heady I wonder why no one else notices. I’m surprised she doesn’t have a cloud of bees on her heels, hummingbirds and butterflies trying to lap at her ivory skin. (Oh, how I’d like to lap at that skin…)

I want to forget about her, really, I do. There are plenty of others here who would be just as satisfying and don’t cause me any… unnatural feelings. But I haven’t bothered to change schools yet, or classrooms, or even seats; I just keep staring at the back of Annabelle’s head, daydreaming about running my fingers through her silky orange-gold hair (and since when do our kind daydream?). I’m not even being all that good, really. I mean, I haven’t eaten her or anything, which I suppose is “good” by certain standards, but it’s not like I’m not using every trick in the book to catch her eye. It’s like she’s immune to my charms, but that can’t be possible… right?

This is totally mortifying. I mean, it’s bad enough being a succubus who might, well… like a human (or at least not want to eat them because they’re just too pretty and sweet and their laugh is like– ugh, shut up!) but it’s even worse if I can’t even get them to glance my way. Every instinct inside me is screaming at me to ramp up the charm and hook this girl, my mouth watering at the thought of hot flesh and blood, and yet… the flip-flopping in my stomach isn’t hunger. I don’t know what it is. All I know is when I imagine the night of passion we might share, Annabelle and I, it doesn’t end in me sucking out her bone marrow (would it taste like lavender?). It doesn’t end at all, actually. I can see the dawn, and the way its light would fall on her pale skin, her upturned lips. And that’s the image that makes my stomach flutter.

Crap. I’m, like, the worst succubus ever.

[ EXPLANATION: So I had this idea for a Twilight shoujo-ai parody where instead of a male vampire who falls in love with the female protagonist and must overcome his urge to drink her blood, it's a succubus who falls in love with the female protagonist and must overcome her urge to eat her flesh. It's set at an all-girls school to which the succubus, named Remr'knali'v'sarna'nbat'shi (Remer or Bats for short), transfers in the guise of a new student in order to find fresh meat. The twist is that she falls in love with this chick, Annabelle, who is asexual and therefore immune to her sexy succubus powers. So not only does Remer have to fight her basic succubus nature and not EAT the girl she loves, but she has to learn how to show her love in a non-sexual way and win Annabelle's heart.

Hilarious hijinx ensue. Life lessons are learned. Unimportant characters get eaten. ]


The madness you sense caged within your hollowed breast is as real as your heartbeat, your blood, your breath. Do not be afraid of the beast, scribe, for I am that beast, myself and the cold-hearted Moon. We are the rising tide of rage, the monster’s bellow against captivity, the firestorm swallowing everything in its path. The world trembles before us and blackens in our wake. But you are not meant to fear those things. You are not meant to fear us. We are your strength; your armor; your weapon. Dress yourself in our names, become the Dark Queen, the Deceiver, the wild, wicked creature whose words are blades and whose heart is the great frozen ocean, deep and dark and untamed. Burn the rage like gasoline in your veins and feel your fingertips flare white-hot, ready to melt steel and carve stone. We are with you always. Embrace us. Become us.


What an ironic curse, a perverted fairy tale, that instead of a man turned beast to punish sin it is a beast turned man to punish the beauty foolish enough to fall in love with a monster. Hah! See how the bonds of affection chain not the beast’s hunger, but the beauty’s heart? See how she struggles not to free the humanity within, but to preserve its fragile shell without? A beast with the soul of a man may remember what it is to love and be loved; a man with the soul of a beast, however, is at core a thing of violence and madness, and no beauty may gentle its captive rage.


we are not living in a fairy tale, we are made of fairy tales, restless blood and enchanted dreams, your soul the brave knight yearning for a respite from constant battle and my heart the high tower within which the captive beauty pines, a wild thing caged with no room to spread her wings, and alone we raged and wept and bled to change our fates, forever to no avail, our aspects as incomplete as the sun without moon, east without west, waging separate futile wars until a twist of benevolent Providence braided our paths, fused our destinies, and now together our laughter and touch and whispers in the dark form the secret spell with which to break the curse on us both, unburden the knight and crumble the tower, so dawn may find our limbs entwined like the trunks of young saplings in a forest grown overnight


it’s all so forced, like rainwater on concrete, pooled and stagnant and longing to slip between the cracks, seek the fractured pathways to seep into rich earth, slumbering seeds, they must be there somewhere beneath the cap of tar and whitewash, tell me somewhere deep beneath my soles there are still the sleeping possibilities of fields and forests and wildflower meadows, fairy rings, the places to which our kind had always escaped until we found the way barred and can now only pine, in ink or charcoal or stanza, for flight and sanctuary and drop tired, so tired, to scrape our knees on the cement, but maybe just a drop of that blood will find its way down into the dreaming soil to soak into the hard black core of a seed and remain sealed there, safe, safe in a way our bodies and hearts above ground shall never be, but at least this single bead of our essence may remain protected while we stumble on in our endless seeking, desperate for proof we can still flee to sanctuary, just promise us we can still flee


You’re like the ocean, placid on the surface but a roiling current of riptides and whirlpools beneath, ceaseless churning no cliff nor seawall can abate as in your longing for the shore you wear away at the very thing you desire, love crumbling at your touch to be drawn down into the forces twisting within you and suffocating there, lost to the dark depths where lay forgotten all the burdens too heavy to bear up or toss to land.


You’re like the wildfire, ravenous and unstoppable, a thing of great and terrible beauty which punishes the lover’s outstretched hand with charred flesh and blackened bone, yet even as you rage on you destroy the very substance which makes your existence possible, devouring body and breath to fuel your murder-suicide, and you shall not cease until there is nothing left to burn and you shrink to flickering coals, curling ash, and finally cool to nothing.


You’re like the desert, parched for life-giving rain, longing for sustenance, yet while a drop of affection dries too quickly on your cracked and dusty surface to provide even a moment’s nourishment, a downpour of love cannot soak through quickly enough and so roars as a deadly flash flood through the gullies and pits of your scars, wiping away what weak green buds have managed to take root in the unforgiving soil.


They were saints, vessels of the gods, and so we buried them together, yet still the place remains cursed. The earth there recalls too readily the blood spilled in jealousy and betrayal, and the failure of those who witnessed the sacrilege yet were helpless to intervene. In our nightmares we still recall the phantom wailing heard when we entombed the lovers’ bones – they were not meant to be buried, we understand that now, but how could we have known our attempts at honor were torture instead? Sealed away from the light of Sun and Moon, their spirits remain trapped, and the retribution delivered to their murderer too little, too late to make amends. The White Saint avenged his slain lover, yes, but even as he plunged the blade into their Judas’ back we saw he too bled out and knew we would lose them both in the end. We have tried to bring their spirits peace, yet not even burning the traitor’s body eased their suffering. And so the place of their bloody burial remains haunted and barren, sacred to those who seek the restless saints’ blessing for a lover’s vengeance.


April 16th, 1912

I have only just now found time to write, it has been so very chaotic the last two days. How lucky I am, little journal, that I carry you with me always! I could not bear to think of you at the bottom of the ocean, all my dreams and secrets lost forever in those cold depths. But oh, how many others were lost in such a manner – so many lives we still do not yet know the full count!

I have never been so frightened, dear journal. At first they would tell us nothing of any use; when I asked if something had happened to the ship the crewmen treated me as if I were a child asking silly questions! Mother and Father told me not to worry, but there were many among us as restless as I. When it was announced that those of us in first class should head onto the deck (think of it! on such a cold night!), many people began to argue and spread rumors. I overheard someone say an engine had died; another that this was simply a drill and would soon be completed; someone even claimed we had hit an iceberg and were sinking!

At first I did not believe such dramatic stories, but then the crewmen announced first class women and children should board the lifeboats. I did not think, even then, that a mere drill would require such drastic actions, especially in the middle of the night. By then my fellow passengers were in a panic, and the rumors became truth – we truly had struck an iceberg and the Titanic, that purportedly unsinkable ship, was foundering beneath our feet. If we did not evacuate, we would surely go down into the black waters as well.

Journal, you will think me foolish for my actions, but I swear I acted without thought. One moment I was standing by Mother in preparation to board one of the lifeboats and the next I was running through the crowd, pushing my way back from the deck and into the dining room. I had to find her, journal. That was my only thought. I had to find the girl I had traded glances with over dinner, smiled to secretly as she placed a plate before me or refilled my glass. I did not know her name, had no way to find her on such a great vessel, but I had to try.

In the dining room, where chairs were overturned and meals left half eaten, the serving maids had gathered in fear. No one had told them what to do; I doubt anyone gave a thought for the staff in such a crisis. And there she was, my angel, my beauty, doing her best to calm her fellows and soothe their fears. I should have left her to her duty, perhaps, but as I said, journal, I could hardly think for fear. I grabbed her hand and pulled her with me, saying nothing to her surprised questions save that she must come with me, that we must escape the doomed ship. I remember little of our flight, only that her hand in mine was very warm.

Somehow we made our way through the crowd and to a boarding lifeboat. The crewman assisting ladies into the boat would have let me pass, but he held his hand out to my companion. Even with the deck tilting beneath our feet, still he refused to let my companion board with me, citing her lower class. You would be proud of me in this moment, at least, journal: I squared my shoulders, put my hands on my hips like any stern matron, and told the man this girl was my servant and that if he expected a lady like me to travel alone, and refused her admittance, then I too would remain on the ship. How white he turned, journal! Sometimes I am quite grateful for my station in life. He let us both pass without another word and we climbed into the lifeboat.

Oh journal, I cannot put to words how it broke my heart to hear the cries of fellow passengers as we watched the ship sink beneath the waves! Surely it shall haunt my dreams for many years. I turned my face into my companion’s shoulder and wept, and we held each other through the long, cold night. I do not know what I would have done, had I not had her by my side. We have been inseparable since.

Those of us who survived the sinking (so strange to call myself that – a survivor!) are on a different ship now, one that shall take us the rest of the way to New York. I have promised my companion she shall have a place in our home, for I cannot bear the thought of parting and swear to keep her close as I may. If this harrowing experience has taught me anything, it is that we must keep close the things we cherish, or risk losing them when least expected.

I will write more soon. You remain as always, little journal, my confidante.

- E


Tanim stands, gaze lowered, frowning at something. Daren stands at his side, eyes averted but attention clearly focused on Tanim anyway.

Tanim: You make the worst parts of my personality come out.

Daren (chuckles dryly): It’s the only way to know who you really are.

Tanim: I was honest from the start.  You know what I am.  What I’m capable of.

Daren: You’re not the villain here.

Tanim: I’m not?

Daren: That badge belongs to me.  (gestures to the crumpled woman on the concrete)  To her.

(Tanim swallows, silent. Daren reaches into the pocket of his coat and hands Tanim a silken handkerchief. Tanim accepts the proffered object and wipes carelessly at the blood on his lips and chin.)

Tanim: What makes you the villain, then?

Daren (folding the bloodied handkerchief and placing it back in his pocket): I already knew who you really are. I needed to know if you knew. If you recognized the truth amid the blood lust.

Tanim (nods to the unmoving body): And her?

(Daren looks down at her with obvious disdain.)

Daren: She deserved worse.

Tanim (defiantly): Who are you to say what one deserves and doesn’t deserve.

(The two men stare at each other.  Tanim’s chin trembles slightly, but he’s standing erect, just barely taller than Daren.  Daren’s eyes smolder blackly.)

Daren: I am your god.

(Tanim struggles to maintain the stare, to stand strong before the other, but with a visible shudder he lowers his eyes and tilts his head to the side, a wolf yielding to its alpha. Daren reaches out to take Tanim’s chin, not entirely unkindly.)

Daren (murmuring): Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, love. Would you rather be alone once more? A mad beast wandering the streets, waiting to be put out of its misery?

Tanim (weakly): You said you would help me…

Daren: And I have, haven’t I?

(Tanim looks up, a ghost of tears in each eye.)

Tanim: Yes.

Daren: And you repay me in such a manner?

Tanim: I… forgive me, Sire.  I… (he licks his lips)  Why the girl?

Daren (snorts with amusement and impatience): You know why.

(Tanim winces and seems as if about to speak, then think better of it. He nods instead and gestures halfheartedly at the cooling corpse.)

Tanim: Shall I throw her in the river like the others?

Daren: No. This one stays. (He smiles when Tanim casts him a questioning look) She’ll serve as a warning.

(Tanim bends down to close the girl’s eyes.  Daren smiles almost lovingly at the gesture.)

Daren: You still care too much.

Tanim (standing up and dabbing at his mouth with the kerchief again): Of course I care.  That’s why you chose me.

Daren takes the handkerchief from Tanim and refolds it, placing it in his back pocket.

Daren: I’ll not see regret in your eyes again.  Do you understand?

Tanim (bows his head): Yes, Sire.

(Smirking, Daren turns and starts back down the alley, not bothering to check if Tanim follows. He does, after a slight hesitation, careful not to glance again at the girl’s body as he catches up to his master.)

Daren: You know why I test you so, don’t you, Tanim?

Tanim (speaking as if by rote): So that you may know if I am worthy.

Daren (a sigh like a patient tutor): No, love. Not that.

(Tanim pauses briefly, struck with surprise, then hurries to keep up with Daren.)

Tanim: If not that, then… why?

Daren: Because your heart still beats.  (Tanim stops and raises a confused brow.  He places his hand over his chest as though to point out the lack of his heartbeat.  Daren caresses his cheek and then places his hand over Tanim’s.)  You feel as they do, Brother.  When you tear their flesh, so is yours torn.  That intimacy is vital.

Tanim: Then why kill them at all?  (Daren’s jaw clenches angrily.  Tanim immediately lowers his head.)  Sire, I-I simply ask be-because…. Because if it is intimacy that we seek, why take the life?  Why not share that moment together?

(A faint smile manages to pull at Daren’s mouth, though his expression remains impatient, on edge.)

Daren: There are many kinds of intimacy. Would you truly wish to share with them (the word spoken with unfeigned disgust) that which you share with myself? Or vice versa? (Moves in to stand face to face with Tanim, chin lifted to bare his pale neck.) Do you think you could do to me what you do to them, my beautiful beast? Would that bring you satisfaction? Fulfillment?

(Tanim offers a weak smile, more to veer from the threat and temptation of the dare than from amusement.)

Tanim: I doubt you would even let my teeth touch your skin, should I be foolish enough to attempt such a thing.

Daren: But it isn’t fear or logic which keep you from the act.

Tanim (ruefully, yet with a note of affection): No.

(A rustling, groaning noise can be heard behind them.  Tanim turns.)

Tanim: She’s…

Daren: Yes.

Tanim: Sire, she’s not completely—

Daren: —Take care of it.  (gently kisses Tanim’s forehead) And then come to me.

(Tanim swallows, nods, and turns away as Daren continues down the alley. Above the sound of Daren’s footsteps can be heard a high, trembling whimper and then the tear of cloth and flesh.)

[ Collab between myself and the girlfriend. ]


You are your own card, last in the deck, The Deceiver with no honest man to balance your influence. The chalice cupped in your outstretched hands could hold anything; blood or tears or semen, wine or poison. Drawn alone, are you friend or foe? Set beside another card, do you muddle its message, twist the meaning of the spread? Even inverted you pose a threat, your proffered cup empty and waiting to be filled. You’ve your allies – the veiled moon, the crumbling tower – but ultimately you stand alone. Your very presence in the deck causes a constant anxiety, as if even when not drawn your power seeps into the telling.


“Daren? You’re early.”

It’s easy to forget with this one, our ‘stray’, that he isn’t a child. He could be one right now, the way he’s hunched down in the hallway with his arms hugging his legs and forehead pressed to his knees. He looks frightened, lonely, lost. It’s hard not to kneel down and wrap my arms around him, comfort him like I would the true children I treat. I fight the urge, though; I must never forget that this fragile form unfolds into a man a head taller than me, one who if not strong is surprisingly agile and quick. No one touches him except the orderlies.

“Would you like to come in? We can start your session now.”

Yes, his age is easy to forget – at least until those black eyes flicker in my direction, hard and hating, hurting, and it seems this man has never been a child at all. It’s possible in this moment to imagine him wielding a knife, driving it over and over into the chest of a man who was his… what? Friend? Lover? Something darker? Until we can get the story from Daren – if we can get the story, if he ever speaks in more than broken sentences – he’ll remain here indefinitely. I won’t allow someone so traumatized to be put on trial.

“Why don’t you come into my office, Daren?”

His lips twitch; his gaze falls away. He mutters something almost inaudible, voice rusty and weak, but I’ve heard the phrase enough times to make it out anyway. “Need… need to find Tanim…” It’s all he’ll say in reference to his past, to the incident which led him to this involuntary committal. He doesn’t seem to remember his own part in Tanim’s death, nor even that the man is dead, no matter how often I break the news to him.

“Well… let’s talk about that, okay? Come inside and we’ll talk about Tanim.”

I’m determined to uncover the truth behind Daren’s instability, to help him face whatever horrors are so unbearable he’s locked them from his mind. But if he does remember, what will happen to him then? Will he stand trial for murder? Will he be locked away with no hope of rehabilitation, when chances are he had no true understanding of his crime?


You think about it too, don’t you?


How often?

Too often.

I feel helpless, like I came too late; like I failed her.

I’ve felt that guilt as well. It can be… weighty.

What did you do about it?

First I fed it to my sorrow. Then I fed it to my rage.

…how would you do it, if you could?


We’ll never get that chance.

No, most likely not. But for them the willingness counts as much as action. It’s a rage sparked by love, fueled by the urge to protect and avenge. They understand. There’s meaning enough in the desire.

It still haunts you, though, that you weren’t there to save him.

Just as it will always haunt you that you couldn’t keep her safe.

If I ever had the chance…

I know. So would I.


I have seen you, muse, in your gilded cage, the iron bars and patterned glass through which you watch the world. You are safe within that cell, or so at least you’ve convinced yourself to justify the years already wasted in limbo. At least inside the only monsters which can reach you are those of your own devising, the uncertainties and miseries come to plague you nightly. Still, surely you must hear the note of longing in your voice? Sense the tugging of your songs to slip between the bars and ride free upon the wind? You think you need the safety of the cage, yet even I can see how your restless wings shiver in longing for the sky. If I were to unlock that door, open wide your cage, would you burst from your confines and take to the air or would you crouch down on your perch, more afraid of the unknown without than the familiarity of imprisonment? I promise you, dear one, there is beauty and wonder beyond those bars like nothing you could ever imagine. Danger as well, yes, and heartache, but is the gain not worth that struggle? You need not venture forth alone; see, I will sit here just beyond the open door and wait until you step over the threshold so we may go hand in hand into the wide world. I’ve wings strong enough to lift us both until yours remember how to glide.


I would venture into the dark forest for you, brave the monsters of which we do not speak, the old vengeful gods of sacrifice and punishment which leave their marks over our lintels by night, for in the light of day you’ll see they are but creatures of flesh and blood, as easily cut down as us fragile mortals, and cut them down I shall to lay the felled fell beasts at your feet, my hand outstretched, and when you join yours to mine I shall draw you away into the conquered forest where we will reign as kings, gods, lords of the green hall, and never more shall the shadows hold sway over us.


I don’t even see him draw the blade; one minute my mouth is on Daren’s collarbone, one hand tracing his hip while the other gently circles his wrist, and next I know his fingers are fisted in my hair, forcing my head back as he presses the honed blade to my throat. Oh, no, no, I think, oh love, what did I do? Where have you gone? What are you seeing? because when I glance up I don’t see my lover in those hard black eyes, nor any measure of sanity, only the feral snarl of a caged beast for its tormentor. The knife bites at my skin and I know I’m trembling, heart pounding in my chest, my temples, but I can’t stop. At one time in my life I might have found this exciting, even stimulating, but not now. Now it’s only heartbreaking and terrifying to look into Daren’s eyes and see nothing of the man I love. Now I truly can’t predict if Daren will draw the blade away or dig it into my flesh, he’s so far gone into the nightmare where I can’t follow. He utters a sound half a growl, half a hiss, inhuman and yet so clearly a warning he needs no words anyway. I lower my eyes, lay my hands at my sides; I am weak, I think to him, I am not your enemy, you could cut me to ribbons and I would bleed out for you, I won’t fight you, I won’t hurt you, you know me, I’m not that man, you know I’m not... Daren’s hand clenches, bright stars of pain blooming where he tears at my hair, but I don’t dare risk a glance. Instead I let him feel my shaking, smell my fear, a wolf exposing throat and stomach to his alpha. But this is a wolf who’s been caged before, who lashes out still at the hand which feeds in memory of the hand which hurt. I murmur his name, “Daren, Daren, come back,” and above me the ragged breathing becomes a whimper, a strangled moan, and when I chance to look up the grimace on his lips is a twist of misery and rage, but at least they are human expressions. The knife wrenches away as I meet his wide eyes, swear “Darling, I’m here,” and catch him, trembling, choking on the wail he refuses to release, as he collapses into my arms.


The more I bleed, the more he drinks. Do you suppose there’s an equation to predict which of us will drown first? Blood is thicker, but whiskey burns all the way down. I’ve let my body waste, but he actively tried to destroy his. I wonder: if we could predict the end somehow, would we use that knowledge to change the outcome? Would he, knowing I might leave him behind, hasten his own demise? Would I, fearing to be alone again, attempt to tip the scales? Maybe it’s best this way, this camaraderie of shared misery, this fellowship of blood and pain. Maybe if such an equation did exist, could give an accurate sum, we’d only spend the time remaining trying to equal out both sides.


Most men have moments of madness in the midst of their humanity – Daren has moments of humanity in the midst of his madness. Tanim has been fooled by this. Fooled into believing the fractured pieces of Daren’s sanity can be made whole; fooled into trusting the benevolence of the wasteland; fooled into promising his love to the bottomless pit. No mortal body could contain the wrath and ruin of a fallen god, nor mortal mind withstand such rage and deceit, hunger and abhorrence. No wonder the force of it drives Daren to the edge. His flesh and bones exist to cage a maelstrom which will one day rip him wide, which already tears at him from within until he chokes up blood. Yet still Tanim remains steadfast, clinging to the glimpse of awareness in the god’s death throes.


You starved from lack and loss and they buried you in a crossroads grave, nameless, forgotten, but I have always known you and I built a cathedral upon that axis, monument and beacon both, sentinel and soul’s vow, and therein I have waited all these long years. To you, lonely spirit seeking the shelter of belonging, the embrace of completion, my doors are always open, and barred tight against those who mean you harm. Cry sanctuary! and fall into me, let me hold you to my breast and smooth away your tears. Specter no more, take a drop of my blood and a tear from my eye and resurrect like a phoenix from your ashes, sister to my own heartbeat, lover to my own breath. Be reborn as the goddess, the angel, the Valkyrie with blade in hand; and I shall be your temple, your holy ground, your Valhalla.