Every week, we’re going to post some new fiction for you to devour and read, with original art as a header, and then a collected version for purchase from our store when the book is complete. Questions? Comments? The writers are right here, and they’ll respond as they’re able.
– 03:00:02:03 –
The Vanir held a beauty that Veskur never would have guessed at. She had found wonder in mathematics, in ritual and form, in her countless theories and the frozen world that surrounded her remote keep. She never would have believed that people could be beautiful, that people could be miracles. She had noticed the ties between other people and thought it as little more than chemicals playing with foregone conclusions but now that she was in love…
She was in love. She smiled at the thought and still was not certain how that had happened.
There was Figo, lovely Figo. They would walk for hours and talk for days and all the raging voices in Veskur’s head would turn quiet when Figo was there, his very presence a balm on the disease of her soul. And Figo, as far as Veskur could tell, loved her back with a hunger and passion that tickled Veskur and filled her with feelings of worth that she had never had before.
Fifty seasons past and their love stayed strong, braving whatever troubles tried to cross them. There were times when the pressures of politics came between them, as Figo’s House did not approve of Veskur, but their connection always proved stronger than Jera’s social games. Those brief absences didn’t bother Veskur, for Figo always came back and, besides, she had never cared for any other member of Figo’s House or their closest allies.
And then, too, there was Endrall Sahr. He was a grace and a blessing, a sun among stars. He attracted people in a way that Veskur might have if she cared to and held them there to the benefit of all. An air of destiny clung to him like the thickest of cloaks and Veskur used her gaurn to reinforce it, making it stronger and stronger and stronger still. She had done the same for Figo and he had turned out to be excellent.
“You kiss the same way he does,” Endrall told her one night, referring to Figo. The two of them lay warm and together, as was their custom, staring into one another’s eyes. Veskur kept silent but smiled – she liked having someone who understood exactly what it was to love Figo. Endrall was perfect in that sense; Figo quieted the raging noise in her head but Endrall, well, Endrall understood.
Her life was better than it had ever been now that there were people in it. Thea had been writing from a far distance, sometimes saying horrible things to her and sometimes providing support. He was going through difficult times and Veskur lent him what support she could given the space between them.
River began to withdraw, not only from her but also from the Vanir as a whole; he spent more and more time in the far west, dealing with creatures that had no place in any waking world.
And then there was Sotaas, as solid in name as in deed. Veskur began to depend on him, finding in his presence a comfort that she simply could not find anywhere else. The two of them talked of everything and nothing and grew close, closer. For him, Veskur made the fourth gaurn, working the sigil of House Ygg into it. Sotaas took to the basics of Veskur’s Science quickly and began to theorize about how it might affect the natural world, the two of them inventing an entire language of math to try and encompass their theories.
Veskur found herself happy and smiling, a laughter that had never been easy for her settling in her throat and eyes. She became more talkative, more confident, more willing to deal with guests than ever she had been. Her House marked the change but thought nothing of it; few outside her inner circle did, for she was still reclusive enough that she would not fight for herself, only for those she cared about. For herself she desired only their company and the chance to continue her work.
A celebration was approaching for Figo in recognition of all that he had accomplished. He stopped by Veskur’s home and the two of them went for a walk, discussing the coming ball and the gifts that Veskur had put together for him – a levl she had forged for him herself and an invitation she had gotten to an exhibition of Darroken sorceries. They discussed the time of the latter, trying to figure out when they could both go, and Veskur found herself smiling and happy and content.
“I have to go,” Figo said, turning to her, stepping back and away. “I can’t do this anymore.”
And then Figo was gone.
Veskur thought it was a joke at first, some sort of game that she did not quite understand, but Figo did not respond to any attempt at communication; he was simply gone, an aching absence from Veskur’s life without explanation. She didn’t know what to make of this, but Endrall was there to hold her and whisper in her ear, pressing his lips to hers and sucking the sobs from her lungs. He was soft and lovely, a comfort that Veskur no longer felt that she deserved – for she must have done something to drive her love away, but no one would tell her what crime she had committed.
Sotaas, too, stood by her, getting closer and closer to the core of her. His presence was as constant as Figo’s had been, a regularity that Veskur could latch her wounded sanity to. She devoted herself to her work, pausing only to indulge the hungers Figo had kindled in her with Endrall, growing closer to Endrall even as the healer taunted her with stories of what Figo was doing.
In the quiet nights when no one but her manservant was present in her home, Veskur would shoulder on a heavy cloak and walk the land, staggered by the weight of what she had lost and would never find again. The fingers on her left hand twitched and her work was forgotten as she stared at her gaurn – she could change things, she knew, change the threads of destiny and fate until Figo came back to her. She reached out and touched the soft fabric of her Science but did not slip the gaurn on.
This was something she would never do; Jesam had done that to her love, taken all choice from him and forced him to be someone other than what he wanted, but what Jesam had done had only touched Figo’s flesh. Veskur – were she to act on this mad whim – would be touching her lost love’s soul and making him someone other than who he was. She could not imagine a greater atrocity.
Weeping, shaking, she fell to her knees in the wild places and huddled into herself, waiting for the pain to pass and knowing that it never would.
Her work provided her a shelter from the passions that were now threatening to overwhelm her, and so she tossed herself into theory and language with reckless abandon. Sometimes Sotaas was there and sometimes Endrall was there but few enough of her old visitors came to her, the lot of them gone with Figo. Thea kept writing but his notes took on a denigrating slur. River, in one of the last moments that he would share with her, explained why.
“Thea went back home and tried to destroy himself,” River said, shaking, eyes flashing with anger. “This is your fault and your responsibility. If he’s hurting you, well, it’s only because you deserve it.”
Veskur could have mentioned how little River had seen the youngster during his visit, how he had ignored the terms that Veskur had agreed to beforehand. She could have mentioned how the handful of times Thea and River had been together had been for social affairs and that Thea had learned nothing of his stated goals from the elder noble. She might even had mentioned how River’s few moments with Thea had all been constructed only when Veskur had forced the issue.
She did not, however. She let River belittle her like he always did, the words striking her in the wake of Figo’s absence, a terrible sense of guilt washing over her and crippling her in ways that she could only begin to dimly recognize.
It did not appear as if Thea was doing any better.
As she began to spiral apart inside herself, Veskur clung to the only two centers of calm she had left: Endrall and Sotaas. She held to them both and sometimes did nothing with them when they came to visit, needing their presence to enjoy even the solitude that had once been her refuge. Slowly, slowly, she began to weave herself back together, the gaping wound inside her that Figo had left waning to a dull throb that would never entirely fade.
She looked to Endrall to finish that mending. The two of them even went to the Darroken exhibition that had been meant for Figo. He took the levl that had been made for the Jera noble, promising to give it to the man that had left. He held her and stroked her hair, soothed her madness and seemed to want to take Figo’s place. The warmth that had once been Figo’s began again, Figo’s heat not replaced but matched in Veskur’s heart. She was ready to give him anything, everything – whatever he wanted so long as he would stay.
He would hold her, his fine muscles pressed against her body. She would lean up to kiss him and he would push her away, then lean down and kiss her with all the heat inside him. He would melt into her, the two of them cradled against one another in the dark nights of the frozen north. He would toy with her, strum her like an instrument of string, and when she responded he would push her away. She pushed back, hungrier for his teasing, wanting so very badly, but always he would push her away and welcome her back and she would push further and further and further.
She noticed the way he looked at Sotaas. She noticed how when Endrall was temperamental and lost in the moods that sometimes took him that a simple message or word from Ygg’s wanderer could brighten his expression and paint a smile across his wonderful features. She asked him about it and heard his confession, his want, his hunger, and she vowed to do everything she could to help her love be happy. It killed pieces of her to do it, but Endrall wanted her help and she would give it to him because that’s what love meant.
It didn’t matter what she felt. It didn’t matter that watching the two of them together felt like a dryw in her heart. Endrall would be happy and Sotaas would be happy and she would be alone just like she had been alone before, cold and pure, cold and perfect.
That was all that she had ever been meant to be: cold and cold and cold.