camaraderie

shakin off the dust, had this scene in my head for a while.

“Eden!”

She grunted and Cam didn’t have to look to know she’d made her way to him. The next second her back nudged up against his. It gave him a kind of visceral comfort, to keep her safe. Sometimes he even let her believe she’d done it herself. Like this time, he’d armed her with an extra sidearm he’d charmed (stolen) from Barlowe. She clutched it at her hip with both hands, looking painfully like a rookie in the way he knew she thought made her look like a veteran.

The grimy band of coyotes who’d stolen Morgenrot circled. And at the top of the broken band, Morgen themself, splayed across the concrete with their tatterdemalion brown cloak thrown up over their head.

“Ready?” Cameron said.

Eden braced herself against him, choked up her grip on the gun.

“This is gonna suck.” He glanced over his shoulder at her. She nodded impatiently, her dark eyes meeting his.

He remembered the first time they’d done this. Fought together.

Cam’d just been a kid, then. Ties severed and adrift. Headed toward the river because that’s what he’d heard a drifter muttering about as the way out of the city. Hadn’t expected to be much else besides alone for a while—maybe forever.

It hadn’t mattered to him, then. Nothing had.

Even then, Eden hadn’t screamed. She’d just sort of grunted and it got Cameron’s attention. He pulled his hands out of the pockets of his coat and touched the gun against his side. Rounded the corner.

The two of them had her cornered in an alley. Her almost-black hair was disheveled, matted and clumped, a line of red dark against her brown skin. She twisted her mouth into a snarl and lashed out, and one of them cried out so she must’ve hit him with… a knife?

Cam wondered why she didn’t scream. The thought came to him dully as he stepped into the alley and wasted the guy she’d just slashed. He’d taken the heat down a couple notches so the guy didn’t evaporate like his father had. Just sorta slumped backward.

The other one spun and tried to flee but Cameron sidestepped to block his egress and took him out, too.

It didn’t feel good. It didn’t feel like anything. It just felt like maybe this lady would go home at the end of the night, instead of dying in an alley at the edge of the city.

She was breathing hard, mouth open, her fingers at the cut on her face. She didn’t have a knife.

Shit,” she said finally, focusing on him. “Let’s establish something, are you going to shoot me, too?”

“Nah,” Cam said, shrugging and replacing the gun at his side. He pulled his coat back over it.

“Well,” she said. “Good.”

He just stood there, not really noticing that he was effectively blocking her way out of the alley now, too.

So her fingers had slid from the cut on her face and she’d walked up to him, and he’d looked at her. She was about as tall as him, with a strong jaw and an unimpressed expression.

“You going somewhere, or are you just gonna stand in my way all night?”

“Oh.” He sidestepped again, pushing his back against the wall. She walked past him to the end of the alley and then paused.

“So?”

He stared at her, uncomprehending.

“You coming with?”

Starting forward, he pushed himself off the wall and followed her. She turned in the direction that would take them out of the city and Cameron thought he would’ve followed her even if she hadn’t.

“What’d you get him with?” he asked after a tense moment of silence.

She laughed, deep and rich. “My nails.”

Had to keep them from shooting Morgenrot in the fray. Had to keep them from shooting Eden in the fray. Somewhere along the line it had gone from Cam, on his own, to Cam, keeping an eye on every damn person east of the river.

The coyotes pulled their circle inward and he kicked out, striking one of them square in the stomach. He blasted another, his thumb finding the heat control and knocking it up a few—probably excessive—but the raw heat immolated the next target and he remembered how satisfying that was.

Somewhere in the midst of it the pressure of Eden at his back had disappeared. Now it was replaced with the muzzle of a gun finding a place between his shoulders, like it’d always belonged there. A sloppy shot. It’d still kill him.

He flung an elbow backward and Eden squawked. The sound of a body hitting the ground, but his elbow hadn’t connected with anything. He pivoted and there she stood, shaking her hand. The gun lay on the pavement a few feet back.

“You almost elbowed me in the fucking face, imbecile,” she said.

“You punched him?”

She made an incredulous face at him. “Uh, yeah.

“I gave you a gun.

She shrugged. And once again Eden lost any kind of transparency. Either that or Cam lacked the emotional intelligence to know whether or not she were playing at being so casual about dropping a coyote with a punch to the back of the head.

Eden walked away toward Morgen and Cam stared at her back.

“Uh, so I guess I’m carrying the moth?”

He startled forward and walked up beside her. They stared at Morgenrot for a long moment. She put her arm over his shoulders, then shifted her hand to his waist and squeezed him in an awkward hug.

Maybe once he would’ve flinched away from that sort of touch. It still reminded him a little of his mother or sister, the sort of warm familial affection that he’d burned away when he’d killed his dad. It still evoked that tickling burn at the back of his throat—guilt and betrayal and rage.

Still not quite knowing the protocol, he hooked his own arm around her shoulders and patted her arm before maneuvering out of her embrace to grab Morgen.

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they forget so easily

prompt for 1/31: “You forget so easily.” DAI fanfic because come on, that prompt was made for Cole.

Cole felt cold.

Part of him recognized the dissonance in this, because how could a spirit feel something corporeal as cold? But it lingered, lying leisurely in his stomach, as he watched the rest of them carousing at one of the tables in the Inquisition’s grand hall.

He was accustomed to watching from the outside, face pressed against the windowpanes. His breath didn’t fog the glass but he wished it would. The ice threading its crystalline webs across the panes reminded him of the mage tower—it reminded him of Dorian with ice at his fingertips. Of Dorian’s laugh. Dorian was laughing, inside, clapping his palm down against the table, probably at a joke he’d told. Dorian found himself very funny—

“A wit such as mine is difficult to find, my spirituous friend,” he’d said. “But then, do you even appreciate humor?”

“I heard a joke once,” Cole had said, but Dorian had found that funny as well and the rest had been lost to laughter.

—“Hey, kid.”

Varric’s hand touched Cole’s shoulder and squeezed. Cole had learned not to jump because it upset Varric. He looked away from the window but the patterns the frost made felt frozen into his brain. Concentrating on the low beat of the dwarf’s heart—like someone rapping their knuckles on a piece of granite—made Cole feel calmer. Varric was the stone—sturdy and sane. He felt like coming back to Skyhold after a long absence—seeing the familiar keep and knowing you were safe. Varric was—warm and welcome, wise and wry. Cole liked him because dwarves kept their pain smothered beneath layers of stone, so it wasn’t so loud.

“I’m cold,” Cole said.

Varric chuckled.

“Nah, you’re Cole.

Cole’s mouth twisted.

“I know, I know. I was joking.”

“I heard a joke once.”

“Yeah, so Sparkler told me.”

Cole looked down, and the brim of his hate shadowed his eyes.

“Alright, what’s the matter, kid?” Varric said. “You know, it really won’t help Cassandra’s opinion of you if you’re always skulking outside of windows. In fact, please avoid hiding in dark hallways or in any closets, too.”

Cole couldn’t catch it, this feeling. So instead he said—

“I feel cold.”

“You gotta help me out a little, kid.”

“You forget so easily!” The words burst from him and Cole hated them—they felt like fire, fierce but fettered, falling to fracture whatever humanity he’d gained in Varric’s eyes. It burned, to feel this angry. “You say you trust me, you want me here, and then you blink and I see it! Every time anyone blinks I can see them forgetting.”

Because the world had always been cruel, Varric blinked and Cole watched the vague, subconscious surprise manifest again on the dwarf’s face.

“It doesn’t happen so much anymore, Cole,” Varric said. “There’s kind of a trick to it. I can talk to everyone else.”

“It makes me feel not worth remembering,” Cole said. “How can I help if nobody knows I’m real?”

Varric shrugged, lifting his hands.

“Why don’t we go inside? I’m cold, you’ve said fifteen times that you’re cold, seems like a good plan.”

Varric stepped to the side and placed his hand on the keep’s great doors, but he paused. He looked at Cole and this time he remembered.

“It’ll come. I think. Look, kid, I don’t even know what you are. If you’re a demon, I feel kind of weird for liking you as much as I do. If not—all of us are trying. And all of us want you here.”

“I’m helping?” Cole said. “Not hurting?”

“Helping.”

Varric pulled the doors open and walked inside, and Cole followed him. His heart beat a little faster when Adaar looked up with an exuberant greeting—but then, when the others began to call out to Varric, he realized what had happened. Varric turned around and scanned the area where Cole stood, his mouth down-turned in puzzlement. Then the dwarf turned back to the table and took a seat beside the Inquisitor.

Cole wandered to where Dorian sat and crawled onto the bench beside the mage. They’d notice him, in time. But it never lasted.

They forgot so easily.

salamander

once again nothing, but you can see more of Samuel here

Their first night together, Samuel awoke to Craiton sitting on a chair by the windowsill. The gentle morning sunlight played across a man nobody could describe as beautiful—his face was drawn in the craggy way Samuel knew well. He sat up and moved to the edge of the bed, ran his fingers over the intricate web of burns across Craiton’s shoulders.

Craiton flinched, the scowl evaporating from his face. For a moment he looked younger—like he had when he and Samuel had been boys kissing beneath the apple tree. When he’d possessed more blind idealism than blind hatred.

“Sorry about that,” Samuel said, allowing his fingers to linger over the burns. When Craiton turned to meet his eyes, Sam gave him a little smirk that said he wasn’t really that sorry.

“No you aren’t,” Craiton grumbled. “Besides, I like when it hurts a little.”

“Must be a mage thing.”

Samuel stood from the bed and moved to the windowsill, clutching the edge of it with his fingers curling under. It didn’t escape him, the way that Craiton’s face tightened a little. The erratic, masochistic thing that lived in Sam’s gut made him want to call Craiton a mage again and again, just to see the kind of power he would unleash. He’d witnessed it before—if he’d been anyone else besides the man they called Salamander, it might’ve frightened him.

“So what now?” Sam asked, because it didn’t escape him that Craiton had ambitions that overruled a brief fling with a childhood flame. Craiton had ambitions that involved marrying the king’s daughter. And he’d promised Sam a place within these ambitions, but Samuel didn’t think it involved being a lover. Craiton lifted his eyes, sharp and ruthless ordinarily but with a touch of softness reserved for Sam. He reached out and took Samuel’s hands.

“I love you,” he said.

“But.”

Craiton smiled, the expression breaking across his wide, angular face.

“But you know of my plans.”

“I have no intention of interfering,” Sam said. “I only intend to be a member of your army. A tool. A sword.”

Craiton narrowed his eyes, tightening his hands over Samuel’s.

“I intend for you to be much more than that,” he said. “I would make you my second.”

“Then I will serve you as a loyal and honorbound second.”

“Until your death.”

“Until my death.”

Samuel knew Craiton well enough to detect the note of delectation in his voice. He knew Craiton well enough to know that the man he loved was not a good man.

“This felt right,” Craiton said.

Samuel nodded.

“I would like to wake up beside you in the future.”

Again, Sam nodded. He knew his place had been decided the day they’d first met, as children. His place was beneath Craiton’s heel.

And he’d never been happier.

the cruelest prison

another old prompt from the same novel idea. Sarai and Shai belong to a race discovered on the island that have no discernible sexual dimorphism, so no concept of ‘gender’

The guilt caged her. It’d been something she’d done, she felt certain. Maybe the opium. She hadn’t told anyone, when it’d happened—not even Mr. Lindsey. He’d noticed her scrubbing blood off of the floor in the wash room and hadn’t said anything.

She hadn’t wanted it, at all. Children disrupted things. Made life complicated when Lindsey wanted everything in order. But since, she’d woken up in the middle of the night choking on loneliness. Afraid to go anywhere. Do anything. This expedition had been a reprieve—a way out of the bars that didn’t cage her. It felt wasted, now. She sat in the wan light of her lantern as the rain thundered against the heavy sailcloth tent over her.

Sarai ducked through the entrance, crouched there, blinking their enormous black eyes at her.

“Something’s up,” they said. “The angry one sent me to fetch you.”

Brendan. Always ordering her research assistant around. ‘Research assistant.’ Hah. Prisoner. Saboteur. Minor annoyance. Useful, though. Taller than Lindsey. Able to navigate the living swamp with relative ease. Lindsey stood up and followed Sarai out of the tent, eyes trained on the tall, slender, iridescent shape as they moved through the rain.

“Do you sleep?” Sarai said, pausing to allow her to catch up. Black eyes fixed on her and Lindsey looked away.

“No,” she said.

“I thought humans needed to sleep.”

“Research has shown it to be helpful for—thinking,” she mumbled, shaking her head and continuing on past Sarai.

“I believe that was a joke, Dr. Lindsey,” Sarai said. “But your speech patterns are not as evident as Connor’s.”

“Nobody’s speech patterns are as evident as Connor’s,” Lindsey said to herself, pushing through the brush toward where she saw a couple of lanterns glowing feebly through the black.

“Doctor,” Brendan said, waving her over. She frowned and ducked beneath a palm frond to reach him. The frond deposited a load of rainwater over her head for her trouble.

“Our scout came back like this,” Brendan said. He pointed downward. “Can you fix her? She’s distressed. We need to know what she found.”

Brendan, throwing around his false pronouns as usual. Lindsey scowled but she looked down and her breath caught in her throat. The creature—like Sarai and Shai—sat against a tree with a gash across their stomach. Blood, diluted by the rain, poured down their abdomen and legs. The skin had peeled back from the wound and decayed, and the rest of the creature’s flesh had begun to slough away. Like it did when a human touched them. Sheets of it sliding off. Coated the ground and the tree where the creature sat.

Lindsey tried to breathe but she couldn’t. She clenched her fists and they stayed like that, her throat tightening as she swallowed and then tried to speak and then swallowed again. The scent of it—their blood smelled like a rotting tree after a warm summer’s rain. It filled her nose, filled her senses, that putrid but warm and earthy smell. Different from hers. Different from the wash room and the smell of blood like wet copper, the feel of it warm on her fingers and legs. Chunks of—it—floating from her in the basin. Sobbing. Saying the names she’d chosen without telling Mr. Lindsey. Thomas for a boy. Sarah for a girl.

“Dr. Lindsey,” Sarai said. They touched her and she felt their skin peel off and adhere to her own.

“Nothing I can do,” she said, snapping her gaze back up to Brendan. “If I attempt to treat, will cause further damage to the skin. Can provide opium for comfort. Might become lucid if pain is lessened.”

Brendan stared at her. If he’d been Connor he would’ve asked about her clenched fists and tight, careful breathing. Brendan didn’t care. Lindsey liked him more because of it, even if he insisted on assigning genders to creatures that didn’t have them.

scavengers

Prompt from a while ago, just trying to … infuse some life into this. Prompt was “scavengers.”

From an old novel idea that I still may write, ~who knows~, about a voyage of discovery led by Brendan that turns into a mutiny on an island that transcends the bonds of reality.

The ancient texts, once deciphered, had said that the glass forest gave voice to the memories of the departed. That each fragile filament contained a remnant of a soul that had once inhabited this world—that some contained hints toward what worlds lay beyond.

Brendan stood amidst the trees and felt the leaves’ frigid touch against his skin, cool like ice but without the wet. He’d read all the texts, he’d listened to Connor painstakingly translate them, glasses on, that look of scholarly disapproval appearing whenever Brendan had interrupted him. The memory caused physical pain, a knot of hurt lodged in his sternum. He thought—I wish I’d listened to him, more. Talked less. But the thought was fleeting and he allowed himself to marvel at the world around him, a world he’d conquered but scarcely explored.

He’d scoured the texts but he’d never been to the glass forest. And he’d come here on a whim—woken up this morning and Connor wasn’t there, not even the shell of Connor he’d come to expect and rely on. A memory had come swimming back—

“It is said that the memories of the dead whisper with each flash of the sun through the leaves, and the wind stirring the trees is the voice of the past.”

“Yes, but—strategically, an army led through a forest made of glass would be disastrous.”

Connor glanced up from his reading, lifting an eyebrow archly at Brendan.

“I think you’re not quite grasping how beautiful—“

“I’m a warrior, Connor.” Brendan smiled and he felt ugly, twisted up inside, like being a warrior hadn’t ever been a choice. Not once he’d replaced Connor on the Boadecea. The thought had lashed through him not for the first time—anger at the events that had made him into this.

“I would think a warrior, more than anyone, would long for the whispers of the dead.”

—strange, how it’d taken him this long to recognize the truth in that. He crouched a little beneath the trees, the sun through the multi-faceted, multicolored glass blinking and blinding. Fear gripped him and he didn’t like it—because the whispers of the dead wouldn’t only be Connor. If he stilled his mind he’d hear them rising, the tormented, accusatory roar of those he’d left trampled in his wake.

Strength left him and he sat down carefully, being that the forest floor was littered with shed glass leaves. Now, a scavenger in the world he’d created, Brendan sat still and he listened, but the only noise the wind stirred from the trees was the shrill, grating scrape of glass on glass. No whispers. No voices from the past. No explanation for why the fulcrum of his conquest and then his life had one day begun to waste away. No explanation for why he’d faltered, when—

“Please, Brendan, please give me my sword.” Connor had been sobbing for a while, his eyes bloodshot, his pale skin blotchy and red. He’d woken Brendan up by pushing his shaking fingers into the younger man’s hair, so that the first thing Brendan saw upon waking was the look of tortured longing in Connor’s eyes.

“Why?” Brendan knew the answer.

But Connor didn’t give it. Just stared.

“Go back to sleep.”

The remnants of Connor’s affection had spoiled, turned to resentment and the most pathetic, feeble sort of anger in the weeks that’d followed. Brendan had watched him fade into a husk that he hardly knew and hardly acknowledged, because Connor had exuded the sort of fragile weakness that the warrior in Brendan needed to extinguish. He’d denied Connor the last opportunity to die of his own volition.

He wished he felt guilty. He wished he heard anything in the glass forest.

revelations

not sure if this’ll actually end up in the story but i wrote it so it should go somewhere

Tarin had answered the phone at three in the morning to a call from a trucker about a golden eagle that had appeared wounded and flown into the woods. Now, he knelt over the eagle’s inert body, his legs mostly numb where they’d been pressed into the snow.

“What will you do?”

He should have noticed the pair’s arrival—the wind that gusted continually through the woods went still a moment before the crane-masked man spoke. The stars shone out brighter overhead, twinkling through the distorted silhouettes of the branches overhead. The snow glittered, and All Names bled into it. Tarin looked up from the eagle and met Kurki’s ice-pale eyes.

“I don’t know.” He didn’t know how to save animals—that had been Hugh’s area of expertise. Hugh had lived in the mountains long enough to know the anatomy of every denizen of the woods, here, and how to heal them, what to feed them. Martin had been able to connect with the animals, to know which wanted to survive. Or at least that’s what he’d said. Tarin was a fair hand at math and finances, and terrible with animals. But he’d come out here with the intention to try, and found the eagle with its wings spread from its body, flat in the snow.

“This isn’t what—I’m supposed to do,” he said. His voice sounded weak and imploring even to him. Kurki’s eyes remained impassive. “But it’s what they expected of me.”

Kurki tilted his head to the side. “Not what you expect of yourself?”

Tarin curled his fingers in the snow and stood up. The eagle had died minutes after he’d arrived, he thought. He lacked the practical knowledge to know when an animal had died. It could have been barely alive, for all he knew. Either way, he thought bitterly, he’d be of no help to it.

“Martin was good at this. I’m not,” he said.

“Did you not have the same opportunities as he did?”

“Of course I did,” Tarin said. He frowned, shook his head. “But not really. He liked animals, already. Our grandpa knew how to deal with him.”

“But not you.”

Tarin met the crane-masked man’s eyes for a long moment. He felt conflicted, anger boiling somewhere deep inside him.

“No. Not me. They both left me behind.”

He found it unnerving, how All Names continued to stare over his shoulder, unblinking and unmoving aside from the steady motion of their breathing. He wanted to touch the stag again, to feel the thick, coarse fur. But Kurki stood between them, a pale guardian.

The crane-masked man did not speak, and Tarin clenched his fists.

“Why do you care about any of this?”

A gentle smile touched Kurki’s mouth beneath the mask’s curved beak. He turned and lay a hand upon All Names’ cheek.

“All Names feels stagnation and pain. To heal you is to heal some of them.”

Tarin stared and Kurki stared back, and then before he could question Kurki further, both man and god had vanished. Tarin released a long breath he didn’t know he’d been holding, tears burning behind his eyes.

Winter looked so grey, without them there. The stars faded back behind the clouds and the wind blew against him. He pushed his hands into the pockets of his jacket.

Walk Beside

yes, I use the same characters for everything.

He thought of Kurki and the stag. Kurki knew what he could do—Kurki had said that he knew where Hugh and Martin were. Tarin’s mouth settled into a tight line and he turned and walked to the fence. Pulling himself over it, he strode beyond the first solemn line of grey trees. A flurry of shimmering snow settled down onto him from the trees as he walked.

“Come out!” His voice broke, turning the command into a supplication. “Come answer me!”

In response, the woods changed—the wind silenced, the light and contrast of everything revivified. Again he saw them: the pallid stag, the sense of quietude they brought, the way the woods tamed at their behest. Winter did not seem so savage with the stag and their ward standing there. As if in a dream, Tarin brushed snow from his jacket. He did not feel the cold.

“Why are you here?” He’d asked the question before, but Kurki hadn’t answered.

“Why are you here?” Kurki asked in return, blinking slowly.

“I don’t—I don’t know,” Tarin said, choking on the emptiness that question evoked.

“Did you love them?”

“Yes, I—yes.”

“Did they love you?”

His eyes burned with restrained tears. “I don’t know.”

“Their dream is your cage. Why stay?”

Tarin licked his lips and stared at the stag, the creature Kurki had called a god but that just looked broken. The red gaze passed straight by him.

“I have to wait for them,” he said. “They have to—they have to come back. Right?”

Kurki shook his head, betraying no emotion.

“Oh, god,” Tarin said, the years of bitterness festering in his stomach turning into something else—cold panic, colder yet while ensconced by Oregon’s bleak winter. Because it’d been a year that he’d waited for a brother and a grandfather that had never really known him, a year since they’d vanished into these woods and he’d fallen into possession of their dream. He’d waited for them, and yet when he really considered it, he couldn’t remember the last time Martin had looked at him, smiled at him, understood him.

“They looked past me,” Tarin said, the words soft as snow on his lips. “But I need them to come back.”

Jack & Nosturi

11/11 yeah apparently drunk writing makes all my character relationships queer-platonic

Nosturi’s eyes contained a depth of sympathy I would never understand. He looked physically pained for my transgressions. He reached out and lay his soft, graceful hand on my shoulder, and it struck me for a moment the differences between us. Him slight and pale and beautiful, I tall and dark and striking. I bore his touch upon my shoulder and simply breathed for a long minute.

“I will add to this number if I must,” I said. “I do not care. That is something I have realized about myself, crane-masked man. I do not care. But there is one I do not wish to kill.”

“You must hold onto this,” he said gently, his fingers squeezing my shoulder. “I did not mean to strip you of your humanity, Jack. I only wished to help you.”

I laughed, a cold sound that I hardly recognized. “You did none of this, my friend.”

Looking askance again, I found his eyes and realized how worried his expression had become. I felt my own stab of sympathy. Nosturi took the burdens of the world unto himself, and he suffered for it. I wished, in that moment, to ease the suffering of another. Perhaps as some twisted recompense for the four names drifting through my mind.

“Nosturi,” I said quietly, and his eyes cleared as he turned his attention wholly upon me. “Nosturi, you must tell me how to make him forgive me.”

He shook his head slowly. “You cannot make him forgive you. You must not strive for such goals. You are not a god in his eyes, Jack. You are the man he loves above all else.”

“Still?” I asked, and the word threatened to choke me.

“Still.”

I did something I think neither Nosturi or I expected; I crumpled sideways and I lay my head on his slender shoulder. I knew instinctively what the crane-masked man would do and he did not disappoint. He leaned toward me and engulfed me with his slight form, gathering me close and holding me against him. I huddled inward in a pathetically fetal position, and I admit that I wept quite openly, the sobs wracking my body as Nosturi held me. But I knew above all else the god would not judge me, would not demean or deride me for this open display of weakness.

His hands tightened on my ribcage, pulling me closer and closer to him. I did not resist—instead I allowed my body to be pulled inward, until our chests rose and fell against each other, until I smelled the soft, pungent scent that defined him. Ocean water and sea foam and salt on skin—that’s what he smelled like. I breathed it in off of his skin and it felt like summer, being held against him. I felt his hair feathering against my face as I exhaled and I buried my face into where his neck and his shoulder met, almost overwhelmed by the weight of compassion I felt radiating from him.

Being embraced my Nosturi broke the burden of emptiness that had entrapped me. I wept into his white tunic, gripping his body against mine, feeling the rough plaster of his mask brushing against the top of my head. To be utterly helpless felt strange and welcome, and it took a solid few minutes before I felt ready to draw myself away from his presence.

I did, finally. I pulled away from the scent of summer and I sat sullen against the trunk of the tree and again stared at the dirt between my feet. I had my feet against the ground and my knees bent.

“For all I’ve done, I still thank you for bringing me here,” I said finally. “You have changed me. And in spite of everything, I believe you have changed me for the better.”

Nosturi nodded, a slow and solemn gesture.

“But Nosturi,” I said, and I felt myself so close to breaking. “I must know how to have him at my side again.”

He nodded.

“Apologize, Jack,” he said, his voice soft and consoling. “Apologize and mean it, and he will know. The world cannot keep apart such souls as yours, who were meant to be together.”

At that moment he looked away from me and I followed his gaze to Kurki, still standing beside Drex and staring off at some unseen destination while the demi-god of metal spoke. I think I understood, then—a fraction of their connection, of their separation, of their pain.

“That’s all?” I asked. I felt like some base vermin, crawling from the cellar to the light.

“I cannot know,” Nosturi said, turning back to me and tilting his head again. “I cannot know these things. They belong to you. You must own them and know them yourself.”

I rocked back and rested my back against the tree, frowning as I studied the valley before us. Overhead, the storm grumbled and tossed a desultory smattering of raindrops down upon us.

“That’s the problem,” I said. “I cannot know how he will react.”

“You can,” Nosturi said. He looked at me for a single, intense moment longer. “You must look into the eyes of another, Jack Immortal. You must feel what they feel. And then you will understand.”

I narrowed my eyes at him, and nodded. I thought I understood.

Razi’s Death

written yesterday, 11/10

This time I had no shame and I picked up a jog, which turned into a sprint as his taunting resumed in the sound of laughter and of rustling in the undergrowth beside me. My breath came shallow and ragged as I ran, dodging around trees that appeared jaggedly in the flashes of lightning. The rain began to pour down upon me, soaking me to the skin within moments—my theory was initially that the storm had intensified, driving more of the rain further through the trees. But upon looking up, I noticed that the canopy had thinned appreciably, and that now I ran through a thin smattering of trees. Then I noticed that the black wolf raced along right beside me. He turned his face to me, a mocking grin struck across his canine visage.

The moment I realized this, the trees ended and we went pounding out into a valley filled with tall grass, flattened by the wind. I reached out and the ground exploded before both of us. I was running too fast and too hard to exercise too much control over the action. The wolf and I went hurtling backward. I saw him hit the ground on his back as I dislocated my shoulder in the collision. Biting back the cry that threatened at my throat, I crawled to my feet and hit him again with a blast of fire, before reaching down and seizing the wolf by his scruff. It quickly turned into a handful of Razi’s matted hair.

I dragged him to his feet and then off his feet, so that I could stare into his dark eyes. The fear in them pleased me in a visceral, savage way that I had not felt since killing Vandr. What had I felt after I’d killed Vandr? I couldn’t remember, not quite. I lifted my other arm, my eyes going a little wild at the pain that screamed through what felt like every nerve in the appendage. My mouth opened in a pant after I thought I’d fought back the urge to vomit enough. Razi’s eyes moved to my lifted hand and in the moment before I closed my fist I watched his fear turn to panic, watched his mouth open in supplication.

I closed my fist and his voice fell silent. His mouth opened and closed as he struggled to draw breath. It seemed to go on for several minutes, this process of him suffocating—but I cannot be sure. His eyes rolled back into his head, the whites showing as he died. I dropped him onto the ground and allowed my arm to drop back to my side, once again battling back the bile rising in my throat.

I looked out across the valley, lit by lightning and torn by the wind. I did not know where to go from here. I did not feel—anything. I wondered if I had, in fact, felt this empty after slaying Vandr. Somehow I doubted it. Somehow I didn’t care.

I’d had enough of symbolic vengeance. I’d had enough of the gods and their trifling in others’ affairs. Razi had orchestrated All Names’ slaying at Huna’s behest. This knowledge made me feel tired.

I sat down where I’d stood and Drex emerged from the jungle, only he was not alone—I watched with dead eyes as Nosturi and Kurki stepped out from behind him. They seemed to practically gleam in the darkness, and both of them fixed me with their passive and impassive blue eyes.

“You start throwing fireballs at your friends, you get a motherfucking god intervention,” Drex said, looking darkly at me.

I laughed, and it sounded dry even to me. “I do not need an intervention, my friends. My work is done.”

Nosturi looked away from me and down at Razi’s still form. After I had killed Vandr, he had seemed relieved, albeit a little guilty for feeling such. This time he just looked sad.

“I’m sorry,” I said, and I surprised myself by meaning the apology.

prompts again whoo

11/2: “she throws away her body in battle”

(doing NaNo? let’s be friends)

Huna leapt forward another step and stabbed her hand toward Sathanus. The wraith’s expression distorted into one of surprise, and he flailed backward from the concussive force of her blow. Gritting her teeth, the witch felt her ancient power fighting against the restraints imposed by Savriel’s mortal form. She could not summon the full extent of her power. Her eyes glinting, Huna lashed out again with her hand, and this time Sathanus tumbled from the pulpit, smacking into the ground before his great wings spread again and once more bore him toward the ceiling.

As he went, she heard his voice become an immense chanting, thrumming beneath the level of her awareness. Shadows crawled from the spaces between stones. A shadow snaked out and pulled her leg from beneath her—the witch hit the ground and pain lanced through Savriel’s body. Huna dropped her mind to the nothing space, that place between waking and sleeping from whence true knowledge came. She dragged herself to her feet, her eyes staring and vacant, and thrust her hands down at her sides.

A seething torrent of birds poured through the cathedral’s great schism. Sparrows and ravens and hawks flooded the church, until their wingbeats sounded like distant thunder, like the wind through the trees on the wild mountain. Huna sent her mind out to them and she was three—the witch on the mountain, Savriel in the broken church, and hundreds of birds, all at once. She sent them upon Sathanus, and the wraith screamed as they tore into his wings and brought him back to the ground.

From between the birds, she did not see him clench his fist. But she did see the birds die. It tore her mind from the nothing space, and Huna screamed in Savriel’s voice as the entire flock dropped. The sound of distant thunder became the soft patter of bodies striking the stone. Again Sathanus laughed, and now his laugh was something of triumph—he opened his clenched fist and swiped his hand sideways. Once more, a shadow pulled Huna to the ground. This time, the shadow raced across her even as she cried out and sent the power from the wild corners of the universe rushing out against it. But her energy waned, and she felt Savriel’s body crying out from the abuse it had suffered.

The shadow covered her and Huna felt her mind go cold. Her breath stuttered, came hoarsely to her lips. With a last effort, she forced the shade back and pulled Savriel’s body onto its elbows. But the shadow came again. She could not contest it. And she could not die here with her acolyte.

Huna made a decision.

“I’m sorry,” she said, whispering the words to Savriel even as she reached out to touch the shepherd’s mind with her own. She felt the horror of realization and pulled herself back to the wild mountain before she could feel more.

Savriel blinked and felt the horrific vacuity within her thoughts. Huna had felt like—everything, like all the arcane knowledge of the universe hovering just within reach. She gasped, physically exhausted by the witch’s departure. Mouth open, she dragged herself onto her knees and faced Rha. He looked down upon her with that sickening gargoyle’s smile, his dead eye pointing straight ahead.

He said nothing. No valediction, no torment, no taunt. In fact, Savriel thought he looked a little sorry as he raised his hand with the shadow clinging all about him like some loyal hound. He closed his fist and the shadow rushed down upon her, and the shepherd had no time to even scream as the light left her.