quork: A sketch of a raven, black on white. (Default)
The thing was free. "Loose" or "amok", some might say, but perspective is a fickle thing. Matters were different here, the grasping draw of the earth's bulk less oppressive. Out here the air was thin and clear and gratifyingly motile. Perhaps it was a good thing to be out of that hole. While the mountain had been a protection for some centuries, fleshy little vertebrates had wormed their way down into the thing's lair, disturbing the silence of the ages. It was not the first time they had been drawn below; the place's distinctive energy [and free flow of the same] often attracted them. This time, however, it was not a few respectful antlings, wrapped in their dried mammal-husks, here to vibrate the air and writhe about for a few short days before creeping back upwards... this time had been different. These antlings brought metal, brought sharp-smelling earthsblood, brought sand seared into crystalline tubes and bulbous shapes. These antlings itched and burned like biting insects. They had woken the thing; gotten its attention; tried, at some point, to communicate with it -- though their thoughts were too disorganized, too alogical, to succeed; only the barest shreds of equations of to them! -- and they merely irritated, an abrasion at the periphery of the thing's awareness.

And then they had come. They spoke not true language; no, their thought-ripples were as chaotic as their antecedents', but they sang against the grain of the world, etching their personalities' signatures 'cross the weft of the cosmos, and through those grooves had the thing stretched out and spread its mind to fly...

And so it flew. Things were thinning here, at the edge of the Tellurian. Fewer particulates bouncing noisily off its carapace, though that made it harder to maneuver. Ahead of it, a void; perhaps it would prove an interesting place to explore. Perhaps there could be other beings of logic to find, out here, out here where no air pattered against the brain and where no stone crowded overhead. Perhaps it would be different.
quork: A sketch of a raven, black on white. (Default)
Things was bad here; real bad. They been gittin better, though, specially since thems strangers was through here. Those ones what spoke all fancy and falutin' like they was on stage in one of Doc Strangetian's prancin' plays.

Least there weren't no worms no more. I could be fair set for the rest of my life without a goldurned worm, even a bittie one like Pa used to git the crawdads with. Not even a goldurned bittie one. Nope.

First there had been the dreams, then the screams, screams fit to chase a girl right outta her own head, shriekin' straight out an ear-hole. Or maybe the nose. I ain't rightly sure which way minds fix to leave the brainmeats, once they can't take it no more. Doc'd know. After the screams had come those flapping bits, then the worms. Then the strangers, loudest goldurned strangers you ever done heard. Some with shootin' and some with hollerin' and some what was so quiet an' dark that they mighta been just sittin' on yer shoulder an breathin' in a body's ear.

Then came the shakes, and the fires, and that was the worst time of it all, and the rain came. And things was gettin' better, by mites an' fits an' starts. I was pleased things was to be better.

We'd set up the 'apoff ick erry' like the hollery man had said, and cleared out the streets like that hatty man says to. That bird statue we done built took fair longer, but we done shipped up a bell-caster from Sandy Eggo. That man done poured bits of metal into his fires and out the other end he pulls a metal crowbird, neat as you please. We set our bird up like that bird lady said us to do. Our bird's makin' things better now. Mayhaps it's so that things couldn't get goldurned worse, may be, but we like our bird. And, you never know, maybe she's helpin' us. Our bird.

Things was bad, but they been gettin better.
quork: A sketch of a raven, black on white. (Default)
The horse was content. It ran in fields, it rolled in the dew-rich grass, and it frolicked through British copses. An idyllic life, for this horse.

It avoided the stone paths on the far sides of the hill, there. Those stone roads brought to mind places where everything was stone. No smells worth smelling, nothing to be eaten worth eating, no places to run worth running. That was a while ago.

So, too, did it avoid the deep waters in the bottom of the shallow, scooplike valley. Deep water was a source of fear. The horse did not remember why or how, just that it preferred to drink from the more shallow runnels and streams. Deep water was not good water. Deep water had precipitated a long, long run, though; out of the stone paths, to here. Here was not-stone. Here was good.
quork: A sketch of a woman on a raven, white on black. (cosmic flight)
There were horrors in the room, but the girl wouldn't - couldn't - let that distract her from the business at hand.

It was a sticky, icky business. Her eyes were wide, the whites fully visible around the dark blue irises. Her face was filthy with unholy muck from another not-realm. But she was set and ready to extract Sir Callum from the grotesquely squicking eel that had swallowed him. The battlelust drenched her vision: all she could see was her knife sliding through unspeakable viscera and slimy, squiggly skin, freeing her friend from his tubular prison, the knife, the slice, the freedom.

So intent was she on her plan that she saw it too late; another of the monstrous eels vaulted toward her.

She had only a moment to scream before its terrible mouth came down on her.

Pressure.

Everywhere. All around. Unrelenting pressure. Pushing. Crushing. Swallowing.

Her arms were smashed up against her chest, bent at awkward angles. She could faintly - very faintly! - feel the knife in her left hand. The eel's body hardened around her; the contraction pulled her deeper into its hateful body. Her legs were bound together, knees knocking, joints straining. She tried to kick and could not! Foul, viscous slime slipped down her throat. She could feel the thing's sick heartbeat, thumping in counterpoint to her own high, thin pulse. She thought the dissonance might drive her mad.

Her chest was compressed. She could not breathe! Her air was running out. Push. A little further down the tract. Red threads of panic began to weave a complex course behind her eyelids. At the edge of her awareness she felt the burn of the monstrosity's digestive juices, a distant pain that slowly began to flare. She had to get out!

The girl focused her will, the will that had kept her alive for more than five hundred years. The will that had helped her reconcile with her animal nature, the will to fluidly move between those worlds. She would not die as this abomination's dinner. There were more battles in her future, this was not her end.

She twisted her left wrist, accepting the sharp pain of the small bones grinding together. The blade came up, and she thought it was just enough. And that was good. Suffocation. Pressure. Time was running out. The first black blooms of unconsciousness appeared as she pushed with all her gathered might, pushed out with the blade in a savage, ripping arc.

The knife slid through the eel's revolting skin like butter, and with a few determined thrusts of her legs and arms, the girl splumped out of the writhing body. Endless gobbets of stringy, sticky guck poured out around her. With a great wrenching glurt, she ejected an alarming quantity of slimy goo, coughing and choking.

For a moment, she lay on the floor in her puddle of eel slime, trying to gather herself before she took up the fight again. It would not do for this to happen again.
quork: A sketch of a raven, black on white. (Default)
It was.. glorious to fly again.

Up and up he went, great black wings working the wind like clay, creating fanciful not-shapes that blended into the soft grey down of the clouds. Still the rain fell in a capricious mist, but it was certainly no trouble for a knowledgeable bird. No, the sky was far too open to ignore; the clouds parted before him like a lover's arms and he rushed headlong, heedless, into that embrace.

It had been far too long.

The land spread below him, a pastoral quilt of muted greens and browns, now that he was well away from the city. Here and there were cottages and patches of trees, noted but fairly insignificant from this height. He wanted to soar, to drift, to glide - he did not want to be bogged down by thoughts of earth and stone and noise.

So for the moment there was only the great rush of the wind, the gentle whisper of the rain and the disapproving grumble of thunder, somewhere far off to the northwest.

He flew. And began to shed the stresses and shocks of the past few weeks. In the body of the bird, his thoughts were swift and abbreviated, jittering from point to point with the tiny thunder of his pulse. He felt relief in the shape of his wings, the pattern of his sooty black feathers. This felt right, this felt pure. But the image of the woman - the woman he knew he was, just as the woman knew she was the bird - pestered him, returning just as he would lull, gliding in a lazy circle before pressing harder and faster through the low clouds. He had spent so long as the woman. For now, he wanted to forget that. He wanted to fly.

He thought about the things that had happened, the conflicts, his new mates. He was disturbed that the images of his mates came from the perspective of the woman, when it had always been the other way around. He thought about how satisfying it had been to wrest that unholy creature from the water, how it had felt to cling to it with his - her, his traitor mind whispered, but they were layered together, one and the same - human body as it burned in the strange sunlight of a late Budapest afternoon. He dropped a dozen meters, well below the cloud line. These thoughts were so strong that his form felt insubstantial. It felt weak.

It simply wouldn't do to fall from the sky as a naked, wingless, awkward-bodied creature. His great pride existed no matter what shape he wore, always a little larger, always a little brighter. He spiraled down, wings shamefully wobbling as the rain thickened. There was a likely field just over that narrow line of trees. A twitch of his wings steadied his course, which sent a short shower of feathers drifting toward the ground.

The field was soft green grass, silvered with moisture. He landed, hopped twice, little birdy feet slipping through the dew, and croaked out a phrase in a tongue long dead. The bird strained, wings arching out and up, head curling in to his feathered chest.

In the bird's place lay a naked woman flushed with the ecstasy of flight, her coarse black hair damp and heavy as it tumbled over her shoulders. Her left arm was extended, bent over her head, and in its fist was a hornbeam dagger. She twitched once, a violent spasm, and for a moment lay still, reacquainting herself with her human body.

She had to acclimate herself to it, she could not change who and what she was. As she lay there, face down in the freshened wet grass, it came to her that she could perhaps cope by accepting that being both was now her truth. But she knew that she could be even more than just both.

And for the first time since her initial transformation, she began to feel something akin to hope about the life that now stretched in front of her. She could be one, or both, or many. Her chin came up defiantly. There was nothing that could tell her otherwise.

She stretched out in the grass, fingers combing through the damp blades. In the distance, she could hear a herd of animals bleating. It was a familiar sound; she had tended sheep with her people, long and long ago. It was time to see about moving on. She was halfway to her feet when she was startled by a sharp whistle.

"An' what's this, then?" barked out a gruff woman's voice. "Yer as naked as th' day ye slid from yer mother! Can't see much these days but I can see that. Mind tellin' me what yer doin' on me patch o' earth?"
quork: Color painting of woman facing a lightning storm. A mix of hair and raven feathers pours down her back. (lightning storm)
The city was noisy.

The city was busy and noisy.

The city was smelly, busy and noisy.

She felt quite out of sorts as she wandered the streets most adjacent to Elleshar's garden. Her senses were continually assaulted by the bustling activity and oppressive air. She had seen all of these things slowly come to be, of course, but the perception was quite different when wearing a human body.

She was becoming better acquainted with that body, putting it through its paces to reacquaint herself with all that it could do. She supposed that she might never entirely return to what it was, before that first change. She would drop things. Her entire body would be overcome with uncomfortable, violent temblors. She still tried to break eggs with her nose. It was often embarrassing. She felt that she could probably come to accept these tics and tremors as just another part of her, no different from her long shins or her fuzzy, unkempt eyebrows, no different than the sharp red seed of rage that had taken root near her heart.

And what was she to do with that? She walked down the drizzly streets, turning the matter over and over in her head. She had always been fierce but this was something else entirely, a screaming fever beneath her skin, a fire that could not seem to be quenched. The force of it quickened her step, and before she knew it she had walked quite a distance away from the garden. These streets were not so familiar. But she kept on. She had the right to be furious, no one disagreed. Her people were gone. The worst part of that was that she had already lived that pain on the night that she had been taken, but time in its slow but incredible kindness had blurred the memory until it was gone. Upon regaining her true human form, all the memories had come slamming back into her mind, sending her reeling at a time when she had no solid foot on the ground.

Her sisters, gone. Brothers, gone. Parents, beloved aunts and uncles? Gone. She had loved her entire clan, and now it seemed there was no sign that they had ever existed. Her grief was large and ragged and had to be put aside and ignored to deal with the ever-present dangers in her current reality. Still, she would not go back to total confinement in the Tower for all the corn in the New World. She counted herself fortunate that she could return to the raven form at will. Once the connection was made, she felt monstrously stupid at not having known it immediately. It was a great comfort to her, taking the shape of the raven. For the moment, it felt more natural to her than did her true form.

She came to a gradual stop near a large intersection, quite close to the bridge that she hoped would take her over the Thames and into the countryside. The wind chose that moment to give a great gusty push, and it flapped the left side of her cloak back over her shoulder, revealing a good portion of her naked white body. It did not take long for someone to notice, of course.

"Indecency! Ruin! Oh, look away, children! Indeeeecenceeeeeeeeee!" howled a gnarled old harridan just across the way. She was pointing at Croárc with the tip of her umbrella. "Poleeeeeece! Stop her! Save the children!"

Croárc couldn't see any children about, but she did see the dutiful policeman running up to assist the old woman. She fought the urge to sigh; these people were so ridiculously repressed! No wonder they all had pinched faces and cruel mouths. But she knew she couldn't get caught by these gaolers. Too much was at stake, and certain things simply could not be explained to the wrong people. So she gathered herself and sprinted off, dodging the small crowd that had begun to form around the poor, sad offended old woman.

"Stop! In the name of Her Majesty the Queen!" the gaoler shouted, but Croárc could move faster than he could ever hope to. She felt no shame, but she was starting to feel the thrill of the hunt. A razor sharp grin showed amongst the wild toss of her thick black hair. But she knew she couldn't run forever, she had gleaned enough from society to know how these things eventually ended. She knew what to do, it was as natural as breathing. Quickly shooting down a little left-hand alley, she drew her ritual dagger from a fold in her cloak. Still moving, she spoke the dark, ancient phrase and with a great gesture, brought the dagger down into the twisted white scar between her breasts. The cloak - and a handful of bright farthings - fell in a heap to the muddy cobblestones. And a great black raven took to the rainy sky, cawing triumphantly as he climbed up and up.
quork: A sketch of a woman on a raven, white on black. (cosmic flight)
She wandered through rooms of ruin, her cracked bare feet marking strange time. Had she been here before? She did not know. But it was so familiar, somehow personal, and so she moved through those rooms with a careful confidence. No matter that all she saw flickered at the edges, shifting and changing with each breath. Were they memories? Were they ghosts? For her, were they not the same?

A hauntingly beautiful song was drifting on the dead dry air, the delicate sounds of a violin coming from somewhere deep within this once-fine house. The song, so achingly dulcet that her throat constricted just to hear it, was faint here in the foyer with its tarnished chandelier and pocked parquet floor. She licked her lips, determined to find the source of the song, to bathe in its truth and beauty.

It is not here, a voice lilted, riding the high sweet waves of the song.

Her head came up. Did the music seem to swell as she pivoted toward the left, toward an empty parlor? Here, the windows were boarded up and the heavy damask draperies were dulled by a thick coat of dust. The walls were papered with a curious, interlocking pattern of ravens in flight, torn in places and rippled with errant moisture. Now, this was something, she knew something of ravens.. but before she could think too deeply, the violin's song billowed, beckoned, and she moved on through a crooked, metal-framed door into an overgrown greenhouse paradise.

The lushness was nearly vulgar; how it had grown to such a degree in a house of ruin she could not know. Vines tangled with branches tangled with stalks, strange flowers blooming shamelessly, decay everywhere, but everywhere met with new life. The air was humid, heavy and redolent with an intense blend of floral scents. Through this inner jungle she wandered, ears poised for the ever-faint strain of music, until she came at last to a massive tree lovingly shaped like a bear. A bear? She seemed to remember a bear, but..

It is not here, grumbled the bear topiary - and somehow even that sound seemed to simmer like honey and rise up with the bliss of the violin.

She jumped back from the bear and made for the nearest exit, one that led to a windowless back hall. She was in total darkness, but did not fear for she still heard the lovely song. Perhaps a little louder now? Smiling toothily in the darkness, she held her arms out before her and moved down the hall until she found a very narrow, cramped staircase. It opened onto a slightly wider hall, and this one had humble windows which let in bars of weak white light. She followed along, raising up on her toes in an unconscious bid to get closer to the divine song, finally coming to what appeared to be a main hall. A door on the left creaked open at her approach, and she nosed her way inside.

Although stripped of linens and draperies, this room was clearly intended to be a gentleman's bedroom. The naked bed beneath the room's sole dusty window was firm and unapologetic in its sensible metal frame. A single coin rested on its edge on the modest bedside table, but before she could rush forward to inspect this wonder, the hat-stand near the bureau caught her attention. A right smart hat sat atop the tall, dark wooden pole, tilted at a rather jaunty angle.

I say, it is not here, the hat-stand admonished, its crispness absorbed and lifted up by the voice of the violin, and she knew that she must go on.

Her feet whispered along splintery floors as she searched, now feeling the music course through her veins, nearly consumed by something akin to bloodlust. The song flittered and wailed, it spoke of all things good and evil, it mourned what could never be, it shivered with the promise of what would be. She moved faster now, leaning forward with the need of it.

An arch on her right opened up on a room that was far more furnished than the other room. The walls on both sides were dominated by stuffed bookshelves. A ghostly scent of leather and tobacco hung around the low, scuffed desk. She wandered in, breathing deep, and that was when she saw that the wall behind the desk was covered with an enormous map of the known world, heavily marked with bullet holes that had punched through parchment and plaster and wood, leaving tiny points of light behind. The shape was - something familiar? Was it a shape? Yes, how could it be missed? The belt was the key. Tattooed into the wall was a revered constellation, they had called him the Eternal Hunter, and they had called upon him to bless their-

It ain't here, whispered the constellation, aiming for low notes and flying up to meld with the beautiful music that was even now much louder, vibrating down the halls of ruin.

Every hair on her arms and back and neck stood up; the music may well have been played on the willing instrument of her body. She backed out of the room, hasty now, her eagerness a red raw roaring in her stomach. Onward and onward she moved, stopping at last before a spiral staircase that led to the highest tower in the house. Of course. Of course. She took the stairs by twos, ascending with the music, feeling it exult at her presence, feeling her own surge of joy in response. And she came before a closed door, marked with a raven. Light shone fiercely through the narrow spaces around the door. She did not hesitate. Her hand turned the knob, the door clicked open..

Light was pouring out of the door, drenching her field of vision. Pushing forward, she found herself in a small room with a woman swathed in yards of green and gold silk, a woman drawing a bow across a violin with smooth, precise movements. The woman's elegant back was facing her, her head tilted to help support the exquisite violin on her pretty bare shoulder. The song was overwhelming; she felt hot tears streaming down her cheeks and a tremendous unlocking sensation within.

"You've finally come," lilted the woman in her cultured voice. "I'm ever so pleased." The words were formed around a secret smile. She put the violin down, but somehow the song continued, bright and sweet and sad, silk along the veins, pure and palpable energy. The woman stood, and began to turn around, but the radiance intensified - she never saw the woman's face.

"There's nothing to fear," the woman reassured, but she was holding up a terrifying object none-the-less, the source of the Light, perhaps even the source of the song that continued on in quivering ecstasy. It was a mirror, no, not just a mirror but a Mirror, and it was shaped like a knife. She knew that knife, knew it, but she had no time to think, no time to shout before the woman flowed toward her on shifting silks, holding the knife high.

"You know the way," the woman whispered as she stabbed the Mirror-knife down, directly into the thick scar marring the flesh between her breasts. She exploded in fine white light, and, thrashing in that light for an eternity, she was shown the truth of herself.

She woke up with a harsh gasp, tangled in sweat-soaked blankets and panting.
quork: A sketch of a raven, black on white. (Default)
He had never seen anything like it.

As his horse-drawn cart creakily wended its way down the rutted, cold mud road, he tried and failed to reject his memories of last night. Later, he would convince himself that it had been a trick of the flickering torches, nothing more, a hallucination induced by the pounding drums and relentless chanting, the mindghost in the bitter herbs that he still tasted on the back of his tongue. No, he couldn't forget, not with the product of the evening's.. festivities caged and lashed to the side of his cart.

The girl had been the best of a good lot of captives, and the taking had been right and good and true. He understood that, it was their way; defiance, dominance, storming the enemy and proving, time and again, strength and worth and power. He was a warrior, and he reveled in the warrior's life. That this particular hunt had been especially mandated by the druid - he glanced sidelong at the man, sitting silently beside him on the cart's rough seat, cloakless even in this pre-dawn chill - did not bother him, but that was unusual. It is the solstice, the druid had said before the hunt. And the time of the tribute. The sacrifice must be greater than we have ever given before. And a watch was put on the girl's people, learning their habits so that the right ones would be taken.

And so they had been, every last one of them. The feast had been magnificent, centered around the tribe's polished stone altar. Within a ring of bonfires, the victorious tribe had supped and drank and told boisterous tales of each other's exploits in battle. The captives had been bound together near the altar, and they too were regaled with stories of how their kith and kin perished in the quick, violent hammerstrike of the raid. Their wails of rage and sorrow were met with only derision and laughter and embellishments of the raiders' prowess.

The crude lantern swayed back and forth at the end of its pole, casting an orb of faint, greasy light against the black morning. The crooked arc of light made the man queasy. He was sure it had no such effect on his silent companion. He hadn't really known the druid beyond sight before last night, for the Dalraida were large enough, powerful enough for their paths to remain uncrossed. He knew he'd never forget him now, especially the way he had marched into the feast, followed by an austere line of acolytes who had beaten their flat palms against the bottoms of wooden bowls as they moved. The merriment had ceased almost immediately; the druid and his acolytes had formed a circle around the bound captives. Some had been crying, others cursing. The girl had been screeching loudest of all, straining against her bonds until blood ran down her arms and ankles. He remembered that too, the sight of that blood, so red against her white skin.

"Tomorrow is the day that we pay tribute to the fool king in London, so that he and his.. lords leave us to live our lives in the old way, as we have always done," the druid had announced in his disturbingly deep voice, spreading his hands as if to encompass all of the people. "The Dalraida are powerful, this we know! Look well upon our harvest! The pact will be met. But this year, our might will truly be known. This year, we give a gift of wonder, of true power! If you would see this done, if you would see us be covered in untold glory, step forward and drink from the white bowl."

No warrior wanted to be the one who didn't drink, and as the long line formed before the steaming bowl, the druid's smile was a scythe in the shadows of his thick woolen hood. The drink was hot and so bitter it curled the tongue, so bitter that it required a strong will to swallow. But the bitterness was forgotten as the effects quickly took hold, mesmerizing the warriors, separating minds from bodies, opening unknown doors. Some had taken up bowls and platters, their contents forgotten and spilled to the cold ground, to join in the rhythmic thumping. Others had felt their lips split and their voices begin to pour out a chant that accentuated the simple percussion. Slowly, deliberately, they had moved into a wide circle, three people thick.

The druid had thrown back his robe, exposing a body evocatively marked with rings and chevrons, the paint dark against his pale skin. He had lifted his arms to the moon, left hand open, right hand curled around a ceremonial dagger, adding his deep bass to the chant as two acolytes freed a yellow-haired female captive. They had dragged her over and forced her to kneel before him.

His strike had been swift and brutal and he never stopped chanting; he brought his ironwood dagger down across the captive's long, vulnerable throat. The other captives had screamed; she only gurgled and gasped as her bright life's blood drained into the waiting bowls by her knees. Four more had been brought forward and slain, drained and discarded. Three others were marked as slaves and forgotten. Several of the bowls now had their own full portions of steaming blood, arranged in a semi-circle at the feet of the druid.

And at last, there had been the girl, alone and hoarse but still screeching there in the center of the circle.

The cart suddenly bucked hard, slamming into a jutting nugget of granite in the uneven road, forcing a startled yell out of the man and a protesting whinny out of the sleepy horse pulling them. The druid rode out the commotion without a word. But the man could see the sharp corner of his smile, clear and mocking in the feeble light that bounced about at the end of its pole.

"Be easy," said that deep, richly arrogant voice. "We don't want to lose any cargo, do we?"
quork: Color painting of woman with raven wings sitting beside an icy river (icy river)
Her brain felt like a shattered picture, uneasy fragments of five hundred years of memory and experience and dream, the pieces ill-fitted and unpleasant to the eye. People - her friends, she was sure, but how could she really know? - surrounded her, talking of this and that, but the tide of the conversation rarely washed up on her shores in any way that she could understand. Comprehension seemed to peak at flickering, a sickly light that made recognition a difficult task. She had traveled with these people for some time, why did their faces not look right?

She thought she might be able to go back to what she had been. It has something to do with the dagger, of that she was certain, and she was not willing to part with it for long. What if.. what if she disappeared, were the blade not returned to her hand in a timely fashion? What if she simply ceased to exist? Her stomach roiled at the very idea. Her back muscles twitched in response. Would that ever stop? She exhaled huffily, blowing a tangle of hair from her eyes.

Everything she perceived was tinted with confusion. Just when she thought something might be right, the color tilted and the picture was awash in doubt and uncertainty. Things had come out, today. A flash of ancient memory, nothing more, triggered by the unsettling nearness of the Priest-Man. It had seemed - just for a moment- that she had slipped out of her ungainly body, slipped out of time, and she was back there, in the deep dark of the solstice, restrained, surrounded by dire, painted chanting faces, their rings of torches lurid and flickering, the frigid air pebbling her naked white skin, her shouts swallowed by the endless rhythmic chanting-

They were before me and above me and they were chanting!

But she was pulled away, back to the present (or at least she thought, at least she hoped), the Priest-Man's deathly cold hand cupped around her breast. Was she even real? The Priest-Man's disturbing, predatory charisma was real enough - she felt equally drawn and repelled by the touch, nearly consumed by need and disgust. And then they had moved on, and she was grateful for the good, clean air outside, grateful for its natural dispelling qualities.

Within the inn's common room, the other patrons actively avoided the party but she was only peripherally aware of that. She was with them, they were hers, she would go where they went and fight what they fought if only because she knew of nothing else to do. Deep beneath the darkest waters of her memory, she seemed to remember fighting in a body like this, and she seemed to remember liking it. Her left hand tightened around the dagger. An important dagger, she knew it. Her right hand slipped between the folds of her borrowed cloak to absently fuss at the scar on her chest. It had felt.. flexible, hadn't it? That first night in her new-old skin she had thrashed wildly, slashing out with the blade, clumsily moving as if to stab herself in the heart, and it had felt.. flexible. It was important. But was she ready to try it? Nothing to say that it might work and quite a lot to risk. That seemed familiar, as if it might have been an underpinning of the person she had been.

The alcohol she drank had the happy effect of stilling her body; she no longer shrugged to right wings that simply were not there, there were no more twitches intended to ruffle feathers. She remembered ales and beers and wines and sacred nectars. She remembered drinking them for important festivals and ceremonies and she remembered drinking them with most meals and she remembered through this what it was to relax.

And then the Cowboy-Man - (Quincey, part of her mind whispered) - proposed a swap of knives. At first she could not do it; it was too important! What if she disappeared? She was just relaxed enough to be persuaded, enough to feel trust. The blade would not be far. If she felt like she was coming undone, being unmade, she would just leap for the dagger. That resolved, she took Quincey's great Bowie knife into her hands - and it had to be hands, for it was much larger than her own blade. It had seen a lot of blood, he said. She could feel that. What, she wondered, would he glean from her own?
quork: Color painting of woman with raven wings sitting beside an icy river (icy river)
She feels wrong.

Before she drifts off into a thin and rocky sleep, she is overly aware of her form and she feels wrong. Her body is too large, too long, too heavy, awkwardly curled up there on the rough wooden floor. All of this sudden new flesh tingles and aches and throbs, each sensation different, each sensation unpleasantly out of time with the others. She shifts, twists, twitches under her scrap of blanket, its coarse woolen texture utterly alien against her skin. She mutters, words of anger and confusion and displacement in her mother tongue, words unspoken with lips and teeth and tongue for over five hundred years. Eventually, raw exhaustion drags her down through the gray nullspace before sleep, quieting her mutters but not stilling her restless body.

Because she is running through the pillowy grey fog, swift as a doe, sure in her skin. It is Before, and she understands this in a very basic way beneath the gossamer fabric of the dream. It is Before, and she is running, dodging thick black tree trunks as they materialize in the fog. Her feet know the path as well as she knows the elder legends of her tribe, the symbols that spell her name, the faces of her brothers and sisters. Here, a moss-slick stone, there an ancient fallen log, here a snarled patch of nettles. She is running, and she is laughing, looking back over her shoulder, looking back through the thick black tangle of her hair, thinking that today, she just might allow him to catch her.

The thought quickens her blood and she changes course, her bare feet digging confidently into the soft dark mud. The trees have thinned out around this narrow, burbling stream but she remains no less adroit than before, leaping where she must over the natural detritus of her unspoiled forest. It is quiet; beneath the obscuring veil of fog she can only hear her own breathing, the impatient thunder of her pulse, the small trickle of the stream, the faint call of her name from somewhere behind. Closer, now. A half-grin; yes, she might well be caught but she saw no reason to make it easy for him.

Ahead, the land begins to slope downward and the stream crescendos, meeting a deep, clear pool about six feet below in a modest spray of water. She does not slow - she cannot slow - not now that her goal is so tantalizingly near. Anticipation swirls low in her belly. She is running, her body gathering the necessary will and energy. She is laughing as she springs up and out and forward, feet leaving the good strong earth, the heady exhilaration of flight singing true, pure notes in her every cell. She is laughing as she reaches her arms above her head, as her form cuts through the fog in a white arc, as she begins to fall..

But the fog clears in an instant.

And her reflection in the pool twists.

She sees not a healthy young woman but a great black raven, spreading its dark wings wide. She has only a moment to scream her confusion - in a rusty, birdy voice that couldn't possibly be her own but she knows it, somehow she knows it, of course it is her own - before she smashes violently into the pool.

The impact awakens her with a startled, choked gasp, and she is again an awkward pile of legs that are too long and arms that refuse to fly and a body that feels entirely wrong. Shuddering and bewildered, she scrabbles into the nearest corner and huddles there until dawn.

Quork!

3 October 2011 04:00 pm
quork: A sketch of a woman on a raven, white on black. (cosmic flight)
Quork quork, click clack quork.

Quork quork quork!

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quork: A sketch of a raven, black on white. (Default)
Croárc ná Corvain

May 2012

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