Two Years Ago...
There is a fragrance to snow. It is a biting clean. It felt impossible to feel dirty in the snow. It's why I had always loved this place.
The walk from the Club was a relatively short distance. The familiar cobblestone street weaves before her, cigarette ash blooms behind her hand. She watches smoke dance. Eventually it moves on. Everything moves on. She had meant her words to him.
Even if he had a way back. It didn’t mean it was to her.
With a solemn jump down from the steps, she walked the distance to the edge of the Row. Her feet burned from where she landed. Jorsca was back. That meant something. But what? Was it a chance to get it back.
That thing he had stole from her? From Cynrick?
It wasn’t that small a thing. It wasn’t something that she could overlook. It required a response. The kid was fucking crazy. She knew that. But there was something in him. Something good, once. She knew that too.
Still, that didn’t mean she wasn’t going to make him pay.
He had stolen the one thing that she had left.
If there is anything that Synnaquin Bellamorte knows; it was that Trisfal Glade is not the place to spend a pregnancy.
This was not how I intended to end the night.
“I love you. We will work this out Aelberyn.”
I woke up sore in all the right places.
Five months she has carried her. Five months of concentration. Five months of enduring bouts of illness, soreness, exhaustion, tears, and the closest connection to any individual she has ever had. She loved her child. It was not a twisted love. It was a pure one. She knew the difference innately now. Ironically it would set the tone for all future love. Children did that.
This was probably one of the very last things I needed to hear at the moment.
Synn was trying to help, with her scathing words. I knew that. She spoke the truth, and the truth is a painful thing.
But what she shouldn't have brought up, was the Marquis, and how he'd apparently died. How his darkness had consumed him, so his “friends” helped him.
So why was I only just now finding out?
I miss her scent.
I can feel it like a dull ache in my belly. I wanted her to be here besides me.
Even now, even when I was like this.
This thing I have become.
TELL me not (Sweet) I am unkinde,
That from the Nunnerie
Of thy chaste breast, and quiet minde,
To Warre and Armes I flie.*
Zalinara sat on the balcony and watched the sun rise over the Dawnfire estate; her estate in a little under two weeks. It was an odd thought. As a girl, she had rebelled against her family's plans to marry her off for property and politics, a rebellion that had led her down dark paths, and now she was making a far better marriage than her parents could have hoped to arrange.
Somewhere in the bowels of Draenor.
The air was nearly static as I circled down towards the outcrop of pebbled floating rock. I fell to a grinding halt, my claws digging into the rock, sending skittering debris into the violet and sickly green atmosphere. I moved back to huddle over my mentor. His skin was clammy and his eyes slammed shut as he shudders and shakes in his rumpled scholarly clothes. I pull his head to rest in my lap; the tattered robe seems to hold his head at a strange angle, his lips turning nearly bluish despite the fiery heat that poured from the magus.
Iantoh Stardust was badly hurt. I could smell it on him.
His impending death was a perfume of weakness that I could not ignore.
I saw his Diogenes dying before my eyes.
Iantoh had given up.
He was ready to accept that beyond.
He was perhaps too old, too weary to sustain in the face of his suffering.
He wanted me to end him.
Fel knows, I will do it too.
Cynrick sat beneath a shower of electric lamplight, hunched over a sprawling landscape of mechanical gore. The tweezer-tipped edge of his attention gently manipulated tiny bones of polised metal, affectionately affixing rings of brass teeth to spindels of delicate copper, and his mind began to wander. The comforting chill and the scent of ash in the underground workshop slipped away from him, bowing to his imagination as the night does to the dreams so often spoken of by his companions. While his hands busily created he freely strode the barren and hate-shaken world of his seldom glimpsed mind, standing in inquiry of the allies that surrounded him. Each of them drifted before him like the mechanisms and wheels of his Master's schematic filled notebooks. There they stood for him, diagramed in sure strokes of white and blue. They fell apart and came together as all things did. A line here, a screw there.
The shimmering cotton candy pink liquid fell to the floor and I had to see what it did. I touch my fingers to the liquid, slipping it between my lips experimentally. A love potion. As if such things existed. Like all magic it would be a bastardization of such feelings.
I just knew it.
Nothing happened at first. Then I saw her. Her divine halo. She was the Light. I was her eager supplicant. She was pure and I could not resist my advance. I could hear the roar of my friends and friendly gawkers as I cradled my new love to me. She responds to my worship with gentle innocent desire. The Light loves me!
This smouldering cog-driven engine,
centerpiece of my imagination.
Chaos of a warlock saw it riven,
her fire consuming the spark of my creation.
I'll forgive her for her lack of vision,
and this beauty turned dereliction.
I will not tolerate this kind of opposition,
for the sake of an angry sexual position!
HEAR ME, SYNNAQUIN?
I was being bad.
In the ruins of my Tranquillen estates; I practice deception. I test the filigree of the Pact and its binding spells. In order to destroy it, I need to know the limitations of its power. I stare with bloodshot eyes at my narrow fingers trembling to grasp a quill that refuses to commit words to paper. A crimson trail of blood that slides from my left nostril and drips onto the parchment almost in mockery of the black ink that shimmers rebelliously at the quills tip.
It is as though it says, NO, NO, NO, the voices of a thousand in blood screaming in my ears.
I concentrate on writing another letter, the rebuke of magic forms into that inky ichor forces from my parched lips in rebellion, as I try to assault the ancient magic of the Pact. My breathing escalates pained from the constant rumbling assault of magic against her shaking hand.
Saturday Morning ...
Do you love an apple, do you love a pear?
Do you love a laddie with curly brown hair?
Still I love him, I'll forgive him,
I'll stay with him wherever he goes.*
Zalinara lay curled in the bed, listening to the sounds of Darroc washing himself. She moved carefully, wincing at the soreness in her limbs and groin and the tenderness of the mark on her inner thigh. She briefly considered joining Darroc in the bath before rejecting the idea. She was too ... she wasn't quite sure what ... but being with him right now wouldn't be good. And she had a song stuck in her head, an oddly appropriate one, considering the circumstances. At least it helped to drown out the whispers.
When I was single I wore a black shawl,
Now that I'm married I wear bugger all.
Still I love him, I'll forgive him,
I'll stay with him wherever he goes.
Zalinara frowned in annoyance at the sudden rapping on her door, "Yes, who is it?"
"Your arch-nemesis", came the muffled answer, "Open the damned door."
She rose, chuckling and shaking her head, and opened the door. "What's up?"
Synnaquin lurched against the doorframe, haggard, an expression of annoyance painting her circled eyes. "Something is going on with Cynrick, he is acting weirder than usual."
Zalinara motioned her into the room, frowning at her words. "What do you mean?"
Synnaquin pushed past her, exhaustion tugging at her motions. "He can't focus, he is losing control of himself. Spending hours ... He's acting like a succubus is controlling him or something. Insatiable, hedonistic and utterly depraved and he can tell something is wrong. I think he is possessed."
Zalinara blinked in surprise. "Wait, what? Insatiable? Depraved?"
They are the whisper on the shivering wind ...
Zalinara made a complicated gesture with her and and watched the diagram on her workroom wall change subtly in response. She had pared it down from its first days, before she knew what she was drawing. Now it showed the Pact between the Dawnfires and the other families in all its intricate, twisted glory. With one new addition, the diagram was complete, a line now writhed from the center linking two new nodes into the whole.
"No, Cynrick." She said aloud. "It is not your Pact, it is our Pact - my Pact." She might not be a blood mage, but she was finally starting to understand how the damned thing worked. If the Pact was to be a weapon it would be her weapon.
The stars sweep chill currents that make men shiver in the dark ...
It shouldn’t have hurt as much as it did. Jerichos’ words, I mean. They cut deeply though. I guess he still has the power to hurt me even more then I suspected. I had forgotten.
Jericho says I destroyed him. I made him weaker, softer. Is this what I am trying to do to Cynrick too? Destroy his dreams? His plans? Is that what I did to Tylel? I ruined his reputation, made him a laughing stock of the Convocate.
Am I at my core just the betrayer that Iloam accused me of being?
Aelberyn is worried about me. She knows me well enough to know I am taking Jericho’s cold words to heart, enough to wander the streets at ungodly hours, searching for something more. Some measure of truth.
"What would you do to save Darroc?"
Arya's hair spilled across the pillow, fiery red in the morning sunlight that slanted through the curtains. Zalinara propped herself on one elbow and contemplated the sleeping woman. Faye had been suspicious and distrustful, something had changed with her rebirth as Arya. It hadn't been dramatic, just a slow slide from sympathy into a tenuous trust and then an alliance.
The wood of the scaffold was rough under her bare feet as the guards half-carried her up the stairs. The authorities weren’t taking any chances; even though she was still weak from childbirth they had kept her carefully drained of mana, leaving her barely able to stand. She took an involuntary glance to her left as they reached the top of the stairs. The heads were still there, adorning the spikes above the Shepherd’s Gate, Cynrick and Darroc’s features still recognizable despite the attentions of the crows. One of the empty spikes would be for her. A murmur ran through the crowd and the executioner raised a hand from the pommel of his heavy sword and beckoned her forward. It was time.
Let me share my vision, he says.
The manor was remote in its destination. It nestles itself within the twin hills of some desperate stretch of land that was probably considered a part of Brill. My companion for this trip hugs my back as we coast on the newly repaired rocket that Cynrick had recently bolstered. I look down at the pale elongated fingers that are grasping my ribcage for support. His nails are a strange combination of black and splatters of red at the tips; like murder rests underneath. The crimson haired warlock with hetero-chrome eyes is gaunt and pale in ways that I identified with. Not all of us elves are pretty.
The Marquis went a huntin’,
Over roaming green
Unknown to the warlock
Who skulks sneakily.
The rich tang of iron hangs in the air.
“I have to marry Arya Duskhallow,”
“It’s the only thing Darroc has ever asked of me. It is to solidify our houses. The families have to be bound together.”
A long, long time ago...
The girl tumbles thoughtlessly from the soot stained cupboards, her hair jerked to the side; falling in a feathery mist from the grip of the nail that had held her captured. The dolls fall to the side besides her like guilty companions. She blinks at the troll who had 'found' her and is staring in disbelief. Her mouth parts in rounded surprise as hands come to slap at the clouds of dust that litter her from head to toe. Synnaquin saw a parade coming down the hallway and she squints at the procession.