If my mind is a house with countless doors down endless hallways, and those doors have always been closed and locked, or maybe just closed and waiting to be nudged open, then now it’s as if every door in every hallway on every floor stands wide. I shrink from these open doorways, fearing what I will see if I creep around their corners; empty drawers, bare windows, layers of undisturbed dust on every surface. My footsteps would echo on hard floors and blank walls with no signs of life to dampen the sound of my passing. At least when the doors were shut I might peep through the keyholes or press my ear to the wood, gleaning in fragments the mysterious lives within. At least when the doors were shut I could wonder at what their locks protected from intrusion – or barred from escape. But open wide like this they hold no wonder and I am only too aware of the vacancies, the silences all around. If my mind is a house with countless doors down endless hallways, then whomever lived in these rooms is gone, vanished, removed.
1 – The Wanderer: A figure clad all in black, the hood of her cloak always drawn up to hide her face. Long black hair streams from the hood. No bladed weapons or jewelry save for a single silver ring on one finger. Carries a wooden staff topped with a clear crystal crescent moon. Solely uses far-range magic attacks, combo elemental spells involving wind, earth, ice, and lightning. Battle takes place in a frozen wasteland.
2 – Darkelvenmage: The Wanderer unhooded. Same outfit, though now you can see her face. Still solely magic-based, though the attacks are both long-range and close-range. Uses speed to close quickly and then back away, much like a game of cat and mouse. Circles patiently until an opportunity presents itself. Battle takes place in a fae forest which responds to her spells.
3 – Mage: The first incarnation with hair shorn at the chin. No cloak now, and her dress is more casual; black pants and corset, bare arms and neck decorated with silver jewelry. She uses a combination of magic and blade attacks, which have become more playful and impulsive. Battle takes place on a Sanctuary Island training ground. Is the battle serious, or just practice? Are the combatants friends or enemies? Hard to tell.
4 – The Dark Lady: Captain Mage; she wears a tattered black captain’s coat instead of the cloak, and carries a long rapier on her belt. Her ears, neck, and arms are covered in silver jewelry and charms. Some light body armor. Battle takes place on the deck of the Jolly Roger, which bucks in perpetual storm and over which waves frequently crash. Uses spells to summon monsters from the deep, as well as to increase the severity of the storm and control the thrashing of the ship to her advantage. Closes in with the rapier or hidden blade for final blows.
[ The name is a reference to the song The Dark Lady. ]
5 – The Trickster: Beast form. Mage assumes the form of a giant fox-like creature reminiscent of the kitsune, lithe and many tailed. Uses speed and agility attacks, as well as dealing damage with teeth and claws. Moves in shadows to hide her location, darting out to attack. Can also send out shadow forms as distractions. Battle takes place in the dream world, where nothing is as it seems.
6 – Shatterpan: The Mage we know best. Her outfit carries over from The Dark Lady, though now she wears a ragged cloak instead of the coat and more body armor. Uses the Hook to call down lightning and also as a close-range physical weapon for slashing/stabbing techniques. Also does double attacks using the Hook and another bladed weapon (either sword, dagger, or stiletto). Can call down darkness to partially veil the battlefield. Battle takes place on the shores of Sanctuary Island, pre breaking of the light.
7 – The Exile Queen: Final form. The original cloak and hood are back, veiling her features completely; it looks as if she is made of the shroud and nothing more. The cloak is made out of shadowstuff, which ripples and extends unnaturally across the battlefield, causing mild damage if touched. Uses control over the moon and stars to completely black out the playing field, attacking in the darkness with razor sharp claws (once the Hook) and magic. Battle takes place in the ruins of the Sanctuary lighthouse.
Mini Boss 1 – Tanim: Uses a single handgun. Main attributes are strength and firepower. Possible final form as The Sun.
Mini Boss 2 – Daren: Uses only bladed weapons, favoring small hidden blades. Main attributes are speed and agility. Possible final form as The Moon, or The Angel of Death.
Bonus Battlefield: The Starship Jolly Roger.
You have wept an ocean in the middle of the night, curled against my back as if to keep yourself from being swept under, and in the morning I long to kiss away the dried salt in the corners of your eyes; but I never imagined this, never in all the years before we met did I wonder what you looked like with tears in your eyes (because how could I ever cause you pain?) so when your gaze finds mine I’m suddenly too shy; too shy to say I would drown with you in that ocean, if you asked, or that I will shelter you through every storm no matter the waves or the wind; too shy to profess my desperate, devoted heart and so I merely kiss you, lips and brow, and promise to return to your side.
If you want me, oh summer king, oh golden lord, then come and seek me; cast off your heavy silks, your rings of amber and tigers eye, and go slumming in the dark places; I am waiting for you in those cold depths, crowned in funereal ashes and buried in shadow, exhaling smoke with every deathslumber breath; take my cold hand, brother, if you do not fear the grave, and draw me out of this purgatory; resurrect your winter lord.
Dear Tanim and Daren,
Yeah. Hi. Remember me? Your faithful, humble scribe? The one who’s devoted her entire existence to chronicling your endless, messed up lives? The one who’s been available to you 24/7/365 for the past twelve years?
Right. That one. Good. Now that I’ve jogged your memory a bit, I just have a quick question for you both…
What. The fuck. Is going on here?
Seriously. Virtually no contact for, what, two months now? Three? What exactly have you been up to in that time? Are you on a fucking vacation or something and just happened to forget to leave a note? I’m not running a shitty poetry blog here; you have to give me something to work with so I can stop vomiting out bad haiku. That’s the deal, isn’t it? You do your thing, fuck or fight or whine, I don’t really care, and I write it all down. That’s the deal.
Let me be straight with you: It is way too fucking hot for you bitchy motherfuckers to go full on radio silence on me. I know it’s always angsty-rain-clouds where you are, but over here we’re having what you call a god dammed heat wave and I am way. too. hot. to keep playing nice.
So here’s what you’re gonna do. You’re gonna get your shit together and start giving me something to write or I swear to every god in the multiverse that I will straight up unleash the insane pirate elf on you. Don’t make me get Mage involved; you know that bitch is just itching for a fight. So do the right thing and nobody gets hurt any more than they respectively enjoy being hurt.
Finally, in closing:
Summer nights like this, hot and dead, my legs recall the endless circles paced along well worn paths, between brick buildings and silent chapels, dormitory windows slid wide to catch a nonexistent breeze. Sleepless nights like this, my legs itch to run but you are sleeping fitfully beside me and I no longer need to go seeking in the dark, headphones blaring Eisley and Imogen Heap, Sixpence None the Richer urging me onward another loop in the endless quest for something which couldn’t possibly be real yet lays at my side now, a lifetime later. I sought you for so long that on these stifling nights my body still falls into the familiar rhythm, the need to pace, to pine, to be unsettled and unfulfilled, the impulse almost overwhelming until I turn over and brush my hand across your bare skin to feel your warmth and life beneath my touch, the proof of our reality; the proof we no longer need to wander in lonely circles on restless nights and return, exhausted, to empty beds – our seeking is over.
Tanim’s hands shake as he wedges the knife blade beneath the edge of the capsule’s seal. He draws in a slow, steadying breath before working the blade back and forth enough to slide one half of the capsule free, and a teaspoon of white powder rains down to join the contents of the other pills already emptied into the steaming cup of tea. A swirl of the spoon dissolves the powder, leaving nothing behind to betray any hint of the drink’s addition. Cup in hand, he pushes open the bedroom door and moves through the warm gloom to sit at the edge of the bed. Its occupant doesn’t stir at the motion, nor the light streaming in from the hallway. Only Tanim’s hand shaking his shoulder with a murmured, “Daren, darling, wake up,” draws him from an exhausted sleep. Glassy eyes deep within sunken sockets roll up to meet Tanim’s and Daren wets dry, cracked lips before rasping, “Morning. I think.”
Daren’s frown deepens and his eyes narrow, bright and focused now, searching Tanim’s gaze for a silent moment. Whatever he reads there must decide him; he levers himself up to a sitting position, a soft hiss his only acknowledgment of the pain even simple movement causes, and reaches out one skeletal hand. “For you.” He brings the cup to his lips, meeting Tanim’s eyes once more over its trembling rim as if in challenge – or submission – then downs the contents in one swallow.
Tanim catches his companion as Daren slumps forward, the cup clattering from limp fingers.
high above the city, the world, if it must be done then just let it be done spoken with a weary sigh to the chill night, silent night, one way or another, what does it matter? holiest night and the sun long set, where is the sun? by my hand or his, blood or bruises, or just one simple step off this edge no sun, just the darkness and the wind tugging at hair, fingers, clothing like a lover’s supplication but I don’t want simple, not this time gentle yet insistent, urging him to take that one step into oblivion no, I want to fight, I want to rebel, even if it means falling I just want to live a different kind of lover’s supplication as the hand closes around his wrist, if you fight, I fight at your side and the wind picks up, fate demanding submission to the ritual death, howling for blood, how dare they defy? but I choose the dawn not this time, not this night, destiny denied as the Moon steps down and the Sun releases his wrist, kneeling in allegiance, adoration and abdication, and I choose you, always
[ I have a number of new followers, so to those of you who are new to my characters, here! Have a tragic solstice myth! ]
There is much to say, and no knowledge of how to say it. Forgive me for the lack of focus. I only hope you finish reading this knowing I am in your debt.
Much of my life has been spent struggling with this feeling, like a secret bursting at the seams to be told, but coupled with so much fear of getting caught that, ultimately, the secret dies in the keeper’s throat.
One year ago, I began to feel different. The fluttering was still there, oh yes, but it had moved from my throat to my chest. It felt like I was being torn apart on the inside, ventricle by valve. So what did I do? I fought, of course. The loneliness had been safely harnessed in my throat, effectively silencing me my whole life. Suddenly, the animal wanted out. I couldn’t let it. Because if I did let it out, there’d be nothing left inside me, and I already felt so hollow.
This was when I made a decision. I chose to let things happen. I opened my cage and closed my eyes and waited for the parades of tourists to mock the botched pieces that composed me.
But something happened that, in all my emphasis of claiming I knew myself, surprised me: I wanted someone. A girl. A girl I’d never met. A girl whose words flowed through my veins in place of blood. And the more I fought it, the deeper she got. I pulled away, but it was as thought I had bound myself to her, and she had no choice but to follow.
You know of whom I speak.
She is as valuable to you as you are to her, whether or not you are aware of it. She often speaks about you and your mate as though she owes her life to the two of you. I’d never tell her otherwise… but I wonder how much you two realize that she is vital to you. Yes, you two would live on regardless… but she has been nothing but a faithful servant. Please don’t think me insensitive. I know that you at least acknowledge her and the role she plays in your existence. But as her mate, it bears repeating.
You and I share a bond: we both serve the one we love. And perhaps that’s all I needed to say. My hand desperately had to write this, to write to you. I feel close to you in a way I’ve never felt close to anyone before. Do you think that means we owe something to one another?
There’s more, other things to say that, in time, will be said. But for now, it’s enough to thank you for this gift you’ve given me.
I trust we’ll speak soon.
- – -
Love bites. Love bruises. Beware.
I will not dissuade you from your path – it is mine as well, after all, and you no more chose to walk it than I did. But be cautious in your footing and do not rush overlong when you have yet to see what waits beyond the turn. Step lightly.
You are right: we have much in common, you and I, as do our lunar paramours. I too was blindsided by that feeling of being torn apart and yet knit together at the same time. The fear of hollowness; the fear of being filled and consumed. Neither could I pull away, drawn like a helpless magnet caught in an ancient force. Yet you have avoided the vices and demons which plague myself and my own, and will continue to do so if you are willing to fight for each other. Look to the one you love; she is yours to protect, from others and from herself. We are guardians and servants both, and you hold wells of strength of which you are not yet truly aware.
I know you would have us see the worth of her, and we do. I promise I respect the gravity of our debt. You must be patient, though. It has been just the two of us in this tale for so long, and such a tragic tale… we lose track of everything beyond our sorrow, sometimes. And you know He is not the kindest of men, especially toward those to whom he feels indebted. He fears her love, just as he fears mine.
Change is coming, Little Flame, and it is our duty to anchor our beloveds lest they be overwhelmed and undone. Have faith and hold fast.
In my dream the ghosts reach out to you with electronic tendrils, seeping through the ether(net) to slip filament lies through your veins and into your brain, and even though I’m begging and pleading, yelling and screaming, I can see the digital glamour glow in your eyes and you’re already turning away, ears blocked by whispering static, fingers poised to craft a reply that will only feed the specters, only make them stronger.
A confession: I did not read last night like I said I would, after you fell asleep. I was going to, I swear, but I could not take my eyes from you. The curve of your bare shoulder, the arch of your neck, the coils of your dark hair piled upon the pillow… I could not look away from such beauty. I never thought something as simple as the meeting of copper skin and black hair at the nape of your neck could fill me with such painful, glorious longing. I never thought I’d want to run my fingers along the curled shell of someone’s ear; to press my palm to warm, silky flesh and feel heartbeat beneath, and the gentle rising, falling of slumbering breath. In these moments my love for you feels overwhelming, like it has filled me completely and must spill over as laughter or tears or something, anything, I can’t contain it all. I live for these moments, you know. I live for any moment with you.
You think I have forgotten who you were once, but I have not. I remember him, the one who was both god and beast, angel and demon. My beautiful monster, tragic and deceptive and deadly. We have lived a thousandfold lives yet still I recall that incarnation, oldest and cruelest, most clearly. I carry those memories with me like battle scars; memories of madness, of destruction, of desperation and sorrow. Memories of blood and ash, myself kneeling at his feet in the wasteland, the gun in my hand. The gun at my temple. I remember it all, and I love that creature still. I worship the shard of darkness he left within you.
Or do you loathe me, specter, because you fear what I may reveal? The past of which your lover may only guess, and to which I am more privy than you would like? Yet I have given you no reason not to trust me with such intimate information. As bound and indebted to you as I am, I should not have to swear an oath of silence to prove myself; let my twelve years of unbroken faithfulness be testament to my willing servitude. Yes, each time we join I sink a little further into your consciousness, and with the weight of your body anchoring my awareness come, too, the memories stirring unbidden beneath your mind. But these are your memories, your experiences and burdens, and I would slit my own throat before letting a single one pass my lips. You know this, specter. You share my essence as much as I share yours, and every part of myself is open to you if you deign to look. I don’t ask you to trust me. I only ask you to judge my actions, not the threat I could pose.
I feel your hatred every time we join, specter; your animosity, your rejection, your disgust. I’ve always been aware of it on the periphery, but now it’s a force I must reckon with each time I gladly relinquish control, every time I unwillingly wrench it back. Why? What have I done, faithful scribe as I am, to earn your eternal condemnation? I thought once it was my necessity you scorned, that you resented needing someone else to tell your story, an intruder into your ill-fated tale. Yet… that isn’t the entirety, is it? Yes, you begrudge me my role, but there is more to your disdain. Something deeper. Something private.
Tell me, specter… do you hate me so because I know what you strive to hide even from yourself? Do you loathe me because I know that more than anything else, you want him to hold you? Just to hold you, like a child woken from a nightmare? I’ve felt that longing, so strong and sharp it makes me want to weep at its mere recollection. To deny that need for even a moment, let alone constantly as you have done for so long… no wonder you’re filled with such rage. No other emotion is powerful enough, nor volatile enough, to bury such a thing.
I will not ask for your forgiveness, specter; I do not expect you to give it. I only wish you to give me time to show you I pose you no threat. I am yours in all things, in all ways, body and heart and soul. You know this as well, even if you choose to deny it.
[They lay silent in the darkness, bodies curled into each other like spent Autumn leaves. It is Daren who speaks first, his words a low murmur against Tanim's bare chest.]
Daren: What does it feel like?
Tanim [shifts to draw Daren closer against himself ]: Being with you?
Daren [nods]: Yes.
[Tanim is silent for a moment as he considers his words.]
Tanim [thoughtfully, more to himself than his companion]: Like living and dying at the same time. I can’t tell which I’m doing, and I don’t care.
Daren [at once both weary and hesitant]: Do you wish it were otherwise?
Tanim: I wish a great many things, but not that. Never that.
Daren: What do you wish, then?
Tanim [reaching up to brush his fingers through Daren's short hair]: I wish for you to sleep peacefully through the night, love, just once before I die.
Daren: The only small amount of peace I’ve ever known has been with you.
Tanim [emphatically]: And I have never known peace before you. Not once.
[Daren says nothing to this, and a brief moment of silence passes between them.]
Tanim: Do you believe me?
Daren [sighing]: No. But you are a fool, and I know you believe yourself.
Tanim [tightening his embrace on Daren for emphasis]: Your fool.
Daren: Mine. [He nods, a faint smile of concession drawing back his lips, and turns his face into Tanim's chest.] Yes. Mine.
dazed, soul aching and body craving, desperate for a hit, a fix, an escape, cessation culmination everythinganythingsomething, tired of useless alcohol and worthless drugs, no chance of reprieve there so he turns to pain, fresh and hot and searing like it used to be, can be again, palm flat on the table and fingers spread, he presses the barrel of the gun to the back of his hand and pulls the trigger
I’m taking donations at the Queer Prom registration table, waiting out a lull between packs of gangly teens dressed from debutante to punk rock and everything in between, when the love of my life comes over, braces her hands on the table, and mutters, “They think I’m a bouncer or something; everyone keeps looking at my like this” – making a petrified face beneath her half mask – “and showing me their hand stamps.” I grin up at her from beneath my own mask and reply, “Well, you look like one. What do you expect?” She rolls her eyes and wanders back to her station at the gym door, where between handing out raffle tickets she’s also unwillingly become the door keeper.
“Is that one yours?” The volunteer beside me, a nurse in her sixties manning the table with the help of her long time partner, fixes me with a knowing smile. I can’t help the grin that splits my face as I nod and reply with pride, glancing over her shoulder to where my beloved stands, “Yeah, that one’s mine.”
I’ve been watching her all night, stealing glances between taking cash and explaining the sign-in process to eager prom-goers. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to admire the subtle balance between feminine and masculine in some of tonight’s attendees, but my girl takes the cake. She’s dressed in black pants and a crisp white dress shirt beneath a fitted black vest, shirtsleeves rolled up to show the black leather vambraces laced up her muscled forearms. Her face is hidden behind a black mask bordered in tarnished gold scroll work and framed by dark, wavy locks of hair through which I’m dying to run my fingers. She does look like a bouncer, back straight and legs planted firmly, and I know I can’t be the only girl here tonight who can’t stop staring at her in hopes of catching her eye.
Is that one mine? Fuck yes she is, and not a moment goes by that I’m not humbled and awed by that knowledge. Maybe it’s the symbolism of this night, a first prom for her and the only one that will ever matter for me, or maybe it’s seeing so many kids comfortable in their own skin and with their chosen partners in ways our generation was never allowed, but I’m suddenly overwhelmed with love for this girl. I want to tell her I’m proud of her, the way she stands stiff-backed and alert, my guardian, my warrior goddess. I want to tell her she drives me crazy with her curves and muscle, silky copper skin and calloused fingers, the unkempt hair that nonetheless falls in perfect waves. I want to tell her she’s the most beautiful damn thing I’ve ever seen, and the bravest, fiercest, sweetest person I’ve ever known. I want to tell her she’s the one. The first. The only.
I don’t tell her these things, though, at least not in words. What I do is jump up the moment my shift ends, grab her hand on my way past, and drag her into the pulsing noise of a dark gym packed with people just like us. We find our own little pocket within the crowd and share the dance for which we’ve both been waiting years; the first dance, but not the only. All the things I want to tell her, I say in the way I hold her against me, in the way we sway out of time with the music, in time with our own.
You’re born into this station like royalty, your blue blood thick with money and power. High society’s a modern court all its own, with an unspoken hierarchy based on the subtle messages sent by your clothing, your mannerisms, how efficiently you speak the language of feint and parry. This is the privileged world into which I was born, heir of a financial dynasty whose value was determined at conception by ancestry and last name. Like any good prince I began my training for the boardroom throne early and took my lessons to heart; I was nothing if not the dutiful son, proper in all ways, a model courtier. And while blood cannot truly bind, and names may be cast off like an ill-fit suit, even a renegade of high society cannot escape its influence completely. Years have passed since I led the stifling, affluent life of capitalist royalty, yet not a day goes by that I don’t move subconsciously to slip back into the role I abandoned. More than the ingrained habits or nagging memories, it’s the sense of judgment, of being watched and weighed, which seems impossible to shake. I live in fear some member of that court might spot me one day and know, by the way I act or look, that I too am one of them; fear that someday I will be dragged back to take my unwilling place beneath the detested crown.
Sometimes I dream I am trying to talk him down from the ledge. He stands facing the drop, body stiff against the wind, toes hanging over the edge of the roof. I can’t see his face but I imagine his eyes are open, staring out over the sleeping city with neither interest nor fear. I want to grasp his wrist and pull him back yet some instinct urges caution (to protect him? or myself?). Instead I bridge the space with my voice, begging him to stay, promising I can help if he’ll just give me a chance. He never answers me, though, nor acknowledges my presence. He doesn’t even move until inevitably I falter and fall silent, at a loss for more persuasive words, and even then it’s just the barest scrape of his heel moving over the ledge as if he might step out onto the air itself. He won’t, though, dream or no. He always falls, just as I always wake with the need to cry out a name I do not know; the newspapers never revealed the man’s identity. I am left haunted by the ghost of some stranger’s suicide, unable to shake the guilty suspicion that I could have helped him, had I come sooner into his life than the last few seconds of his plunge to the pavement.
I felt you today, like a dream only more elusive. The wind blew past me, muggy and warm, and suddenly we were in a confessional, tucked away and claustrophobic. And you whispered to me through the wooden slats, “Priest, tell me your sins.”
It was like a memory, but I have no recollection of it. And yet it felt so familiar.
|subject:||Re: In Passing|
That’s because it is a blood memory, a bone memory. Your mind has forgotten it but your body and spirit remember.
life is still stressful
that’s why I’m writing haiku
this shit is easy
[ But on the super bright side, I just moved in with my girlfriend so guess who's, like, a totally legit adult now? ]
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.
Welcome to my kingdom.
[ Life is super stressful right now; apologies for the string of bad writing to follow. ]
–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.