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.

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

May 2012

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