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Fiction – Love is War 03:00:03:04

Books & Writing, Culture, Short Fictions

March 24, 2017

Click here to read the previous entry.  

There were moments, so many small moments, where Endrall missed Veskur.

He didn’t understand why the woman just couldn’t keep her mouth shut and accept whatever treatment he chose to give her. Didn’t she understand that her every moment with him was a gift that no one else anywhere in Midgard could give her? He stood outside her keep one night, scared of knocking on the door, terrified of being turned away. Finally, he screamed at the woman he had abandoned.

I don’t think you’re a rapist!” he cried, again and again. He saw Veskur appear on the battlements and so he pressed on. “I never thought you were a rapist and I already apologized but you’re never going to accept that apology, are you? You want me to crawl. You want to make me small. What do you want me to do? Beg to be in your life? Everything you have was given to you, I was given to you!”

The silhouette of her vanished and was gone. No matter what he said or how he called, she did not return. Her manservant came out eventually and told him to leave. He felt like stabbing the man, ending his life and entering the place that had felt like home for so long, but in the end, he shouldered his coat and walked away. The healers of House Suwilo had never tried to be fighters and he didn’t even have a levl, only a dryw. The other man would have torn him apart.

Dejected, Endrall went home. In his talks with everyone else, he took to referring to Veskur as the dryw, refusing to address her by any other name or title. His father merely looked at him and said nothing. His mocking smile and wise glances spoke volumes in and of themselves. Veskur had never had many friends or allies and Endrall was charming, the heir to House Sahr. It didn’t take much effort to poison the hearts of everyone else against her.

Soon, people that had never met or even seen the woman were speaking against her and Endrall found some comfort in that – but in the darkest hours of morning, when he was alone and he could not hear even the heartbeats of anyone else, he would hold the gaurn that she had made him and rock back and forth. Why had she rejected him? He couldn’t understand it. It was infuriating. How dare she? How dare she?

Sotaas had finally re-emerged from whichever hole he had gone to hide in. Endrall had sent him letters, not bothering to try and look for him or even enter the lands held by House Ygg. He had liked some of the people there and the things they did for him, sometimes comparing Sotaas to members of his House and telling the scout how he came up short.

There were things that Endrall had left with Sotaas and things that Sotaas had left with Endrall in turn. The wanderer of Ygg came to House Suwilo alone to collect what was his. Endrall tried to speak with him about Veskur and all that had happened, getting nothing more than half-hearted monosyllables in return to his witticisms and soothsaying. Sotaas said something about how he had done the bare politic minimum to contact him during his long absence and that he was well aware of this.

Don’t you know my efforts, no matter how slight, are equal to the greatest efforts of anyone else?”

Sotaas did not respond to this truth. It was probably too large a concept for his feeble and empty mind, Endrall thought. Glancing at the gaurn on his hand, however, Endrall said nothing more. For all that Sotaas was more feral than rational, the man still had access to the ethcinos and Endrall had never learned what it was, exactly, that Sotaas Ygg was capable of.

Veskur’s birthday came and Endrall knew better than most how often people forgot that day, knew how much the Good Lady tried to pretend that the lack of well-wishers didn’t bother her. He used Science to contact the woman, wishing her joy in the coming year. It didn’t surprise him when Veskur responded, her words not entirely hostile. They spoke a little longer but never in person – always through intermediaries or through the Sciences that the Lady had developed, refined, and perfected.

They spoke like that for some small time, Endrall taking the time to feel the Good Lady out and get a handle on her fractured psyche. She was still weak, still wounded, still nothing more than a pet. She mentioned how angry she was at how she had been treated but told Endrall again and again that she loved him and would do anything for him.

She was lying, of course.

His father was the only person that would ever love him.

Even knowing that, however, Endrall felt that there was still some use to be taken from the Lady Wyrd. He played along with her game, dismissing her complaints and ignoring the lies of her pain. He knew she wasn’t really real, wasn’t a real person. She was just a toy, a pet, something to be used – and when she remembered her place she made him feel better, sang his fears away and eased away his doubts. He would ride her and tease her again, he knew, and though he would be sated, he would never sate her and she would thank him for it. He was certain of it; certain he could make her see things the way he wanted her to.

When he proposed that they meet somewhere neutral she agreed to do so, the feel of her so very eager. He made the arrangements, picking a spot not too far afield from the seat of Suwilo influence. They had not seen one another in five full passings of the seasons.

Lady Veskur Wyrd was much as Endrall remembered her – unkempt hair and ruffled clothing, eyes maddened from far too little sleep and far too much energy. She stepped out of her carriage and ran a hand through her hair, walked into the inn that he had told her to go to, people that believed the lies he had told them looking at her with narrowed eyes. Veskur didn’t notice them, took a seat, ordered something to drink, sat and began to mull things over; Endrall watched over her for a time. He had arrived hours previously but he affected being late, going so far as to apologize for it before wrapping her in his arms.

He felt her stiffen and he smiled as he felt her resolve slowly vanish, the scent and presence of him overwhelming her pathetic need to stand apart. She told him she had brought him a gift once they had parted and showed her what had been wrought; an offering of power, a draught of the liquefied life-force of Midgard herself. Endrall eyed it and smiled, the two of them settling in to eat as she stumbled her way through a conversation. She was trying so very hard.

They talked at length about many things; why Figo had left her and what had happened to him since, about Endrall’s heated affair with Hekro. It secretly pleased him to know that Veskur had not been with anyone since he had left her to rot in the northern wastes, but that very leaving was an event that had stuck in her craw, a lack she felt the need to hold against him.

You left me,” Veskur said, holding one knee against her breast at the table, staring at him with eyes that held far too much to be real. “You were an absence in my life in every way. I couldn’t get a hold of you. You clearly didn’t want me anywhere near you. So why am I here now?”

This is why you can’t be trusted. I don’t owe you anything for this,” Endrall said, waving one hand in casual dismissal, taking the tone of an adult speaking with a difficult child. “I was angry with you. I hate you. I don’t trust you. It’s perfectly okay for me to not be in your life when I’m angry with you.”

You could have let me know.”

Endrall shrugged. They moved on to other topics.

Endrall told her about what he’d done with his time since escaping Jesam the First, how he had returned home to a hero’s welcome and how even his father had been there to greet him. Veskur listened with rapt affection, asking the occasional question as Endrall waxed about his accomplishments in the field of healing. Already he was beginning to eclipse the works of his father; his theories were bearing fruit in every field of medicine that House Suwilo practiced and many felt it was only a matter of time before his works dominated the studies of every noble in his House.

He asked Veskur what she thought of that but the woman was not gushing enough in her praise, so he interrupted her, speaking for her. He knew from long experience that anything that she had to say would just anger him – he told her this, looking into her eyes.

It’s not just what you have to say,” he told her. “It’s how you say it.”

She started whining about being spoken to in such a way, so he paid for his own food and left the inn, staring in the window as the woman sat there dumbly, staring at the gift that he had neglected to take and the emptiness that was where he had been. Eventually, she struggled to her feet, dropped some gold for her meal with the innkeeper and shuffled out after him.

You speak with too much flair,” Endrall told her. “What you say, what you feel, it isn’t that important and it certainly isn’t as deep as you make it sound.” She said nothing, merely following him as he walked away from the city and into the woods surrounding it.

She said nothing, merely following him as he walked away from the city and into the woods surrounding it.

See, here’s the thing with you, Veskur. You make it sound like you’re so much more than you are by speaking in terms of poetry and philosophy, but we both know you’re little more than an empty shell. You whine and moan about being so tired, so lonely. You talk about how Figo abandoned you but we both know you never cared about Figo; you just liked having him around to boost your own ego. If you had cared about him, well, you never would have done what you did.

But you did do what you did. And, no, I don’t have to apologize for what I said then. I don’t think you’re a rapist and I never said that but I do think that you’re a monster. You’re incapable of even the most basic kindness without expecting something in return, you like putting people in your debt. It’s why I don’t trust you, why we’re not friends, but it is simply who and what you are. You should be hated for it, but you know what? I love you anyway. I love you because I’m kind, because I’m great, because I’m the one of us that’s worthy.

I don’t trust you, Veskur. You talk about yourself too much, the things you feel and the things you think, and you talk about them as if either of them matter. Yes, you can hold me. Do so now. I’ll tell you everything important, share with you all my deepest secrets. I’ll rely on you, take comfort in you, be supported by you, but you must remember that you are not worthy of the trust that I have chosen to give you. We are not friends. You understand this? We are not friends.

I read your missives and they were all poetry, all asking which of us had it worse. It’s you that does, a thousand times you, and do you know why? Because, in the end, I have my father’s love. I have Figo and Hekro and I’ve had Sotaas in ways you never will. I touched their hearts in ways that you’re not capable of. And look at you, all alone, rotting away in the wastes that your parents gave you.

My father loves me, supports me, but he never gave me my own keep. He never really gave me very much beyond love and support. So, you see, I’m better than you. I’ve built everything I am while you just accept everything that comes your way. You suffer the abuses that you do because you think you deserve it and you are absolutely correct in that thought.

And you love me, right? You love me. Say it. Say it. Say it.”

I love you.”

Of course you do.”

He held her, drew her into his arms, and he knew in that moment that everything would be alright for the people that mattered.

 

More coming next week. If you like the artwork, why not go and thank Meghan Duffy at duffyartdesign.com? She’s cool people.

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Fiction – Love is War 03:00:03:03

Books & Writing, Culture, Short Fictions

March 17, 2017

Click here to read the previous entry. 

Sotaas watched as it all unfolded. There was nothing that could be hidden from him, not a moment that passed that he was unaware of. Oh, the warlords of the Coeecians thought they were secretive when they met in their eyries or caves or tents, but there was always wildlife around them and anywhere life prevailed he could see. Even in those places where there was no life he could go, slipping between their moments of awareness.

No place was safe from him. There was no where to which he was unattached, no distance he could not cross with a thought. All space was a single space to him, though as he become more aware of that it was harder for him to focus on a single location. There were times he felt like letting himself unravel, sinking into every measurement of length and width and depth until there was nothing left of him. Some sense of things always held him back, however.

Some sense of things. He wondered if he was going mad.

His left hand ached, sometimes, but still he refused to take the gaurn off. He had left the civilized world to calm himself and sort through his feelings for treacherous Veskur and unfaithful Endrall, but his efforts in that area had been underwhelming at best. A terrible anger grew in his heart, a rage and a hatred that no one would be able to withstand should he ever let it free.

Sotaas’ reasons for remaining in the wilds were, he would have thought, obvious.

Members of his House sometimes came looking for him. They were the best trackers and scouts in all Midgard, a House that prided itself on such activities. He stood in the midst, sometimes, and listened to their words, cobbling together a picture of what was happening among the Vanir as they made war on the Coeecians.

It all seemed so trivial out here and in the wilds. The idea that thousands and thousands of people were dying in every battle over some imaginary border, over which way of living was right. Couldn’t the Coeecians see how wrong they were? Were their thought processes too flawed to understand the superiority they consistently threw themselves against? It baffled Sotaas, left him thinking that there was some part of their physiology that was wrong. No matter how many of them he dissected, however, he was unable to discover what that mistake was.

So he wandered along the borderlands, unseen by all – his nation, his House, his Njord and Freyr and Freya. No one could find him due to his mastery of the ethcinos and he vowed that he would never know a personal tie again, never be bound by thought and heart to anyone that he could love. There would be no more friends who betrayed him, Njords that asked him to do unsavory things, lovers who soothed with words while stabbing into his guts with a smile.

He moved east and further east, past the Darroken lands and into the Middle Kingdom of a people called the Hsien, then further east still to a nation of shattered islands. It was here that the sun was born every day and here where he set down to watch light vanquish darkness every last mourning. There was something soothing about the birth of light, a vision taken in absolute solitude as the days slithered past and bled together.

“Sotaas?”

The voice startled him. The question in it wasn’t one of presence; the speaker knew he was there but wasn’t certain of his exact location. Sotaas turned and stared from a place of hiding, wondering if this woman – the inventor of the Science that kept him hidden – could see through that very Science. He did not think so, but had learned long ago that it was never wise to believe that a Lady like Veskur Wyrd had any limitations at all.

“I know you’re here.”

Sotaas circled her, his consciousness wandering through the world around her. Veskur was sitting down in a natural break in the woods they were in, her bum resting on the grass, her eyes downcast. She was trembling, frightened, though of what exactly Sotaas was not certain. He drew a dryw as he circled, considered jabbing it through the skull of his old friend as he stalked around her prone form. The Lady had to know what was happening but she offered no defense, did not even raise arms or head.

“I came to a-apologize.”

Sotaas stopped. He was not certain if he had ever heard that note of quiet desperation in Veskur’s voice – he had kept tabs on Endrall and Veskur only enough to know that there had been some sort of falling out between them. Endrall, he knew, had half-heartedly tried to contact him for a while, but even the ghost of attention that Sotaas paid the darling of House Suwilo allowed him knowledge of his old lover’s thoughts; when Endrall spoke of Veskur it was in nothing but insults. He had even taken Veskur’s name away, referring to her as the dryw.

“There’s a peace offering. Will you drink with me?”

Slow, gentle, Veskur shrugged a pack off her shoulders and opened it, producing a bottle of fine wine and two glasses. She possessed none of her usual arrogance right now, Sotaas saw, held none of the manic confidence that had always been her air and armor.

“Please? I’m sorry, Sotaas, I’m sorry for everything. I don’t, I didn’t…”

Sotaas was not certain when he took Veskur in her arms. They held one another for a time, grasping at one another, holding one another steady in the face of their separation. They discussed everything, leaving no truth unlit no matter the ugliness of it. They spoke for days, the sun rising and sleeping over them as they banished all the things that stood between them.

“I can forgive you,” Sotaas said, finally. “I can forgive you because you understand that you were wrong and you came out here to find me. Do not expect me to forgive him.”

“I wouldn’t ask that.”

“Did you know he asked me not to take a lover after he left?” Sotaas felt bile rise in his throat. “He told me it would break him to see me with someone else. And then, not a moon after his absence, he was lying with an echo of his mother.”

“Hekro.”

“If that is her name.” Sotaas scowled, clenched and unclenched his hands. “What has been happening in Midgard?”

“Much. Where would you like me to begin?”

“Politics and succession. I would like to know what sort of jungle I’m getting into now that I am rejoining the rest of the Vanir.”

Veskur smiled and nodded, telling Sotaas everything she knew.

Click here to read the next chapter. If you like the artwork, why not go and thank Meghan Duffy at duffyartdesign.com? She’s cool people.

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341

Fiction – Love is War 03-00-03-01

Books & Writing, Culture, Projects, Short Fictions

December 18, 2015

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. 

***

Click here to read previous entry.

***

– 03:00:03:01 –

Thea had yelled and yelled at her, calling her a coward, a hypocrite, a liar. He had belittled everything she was while telling her again and again that they were meant to be together and that it was only with him inside her that she would ever be complete, that she would ever be whole, that she would ever be at peace. Veskur had sat with her head bowed and listened, offering no defense.

She had told Thea everything, hoping for some moment of peace and getting none. The boy had traveled across the breadth of Midgard to come and see her and she had ended up telling him what had happened with Endrall. This was not something she had wanted to do, but Thea was not and never had been an idiot – he was able to read her moods, knew that something was wrong and had wanted to know what it was.

“Are you sure?” Veskur had asked him. “You’re not going to like it.”

“You can tell me anything.”

So Veskur had told him everything and now Thea was hurt and upset and lashing out, his wit sharp as any dryw. He ripped her apart with words, flaying her mind, unable to see anything past his own desires. Veskur accepted this. She deserved it. She deserved all the crosses and nails and agonies that Midgard could offer her for the crimes she had committed, the things she had discovered, the sins that were so very uniquely hers. All ten thousand swords of humanity’s hatred could be sheathed in her and then, perhaps, she would begin to pay the penance for all that she was.

Dropping everything to go get Endrall had been a big part of the problem. Thea had screamed and cried and hit her, told her that she was abandoning him for a man that did not care about her, had never cared about her, and was incapable of caring about her. Veskur had considered all that was said and finally decided that whether what Endrall felt was truth or lie did not matter; what mattered was what she herself felt, and she knew above all other things that the passion she felt for Endrall Sahr was truth.

She had called upon the Ethcinos and created storm and steed, riding out to save the man that had come so very close to destroying her. It had hurt to see him so badly wounded and she mended him on the way back to Midgard, making sure that he was safe at home with his father before retreating back to her keep. Thea was waiting to berate her, injured and insulted that she had once again left him behind to deal with what crossed her.

“You only like him because he’s taller than me,” Thea claimed, sniffling all the while. Veskur was uncertain how to deal with the degree of that insult – belittling her emotions by claiming that they were based on nothing more than some physical attribute. The shallowness of it… Her guest continued to be insulting, to push boundaries, to hurt both himself and his host. He expressed remorse but then continued to cycle through the same sins, the same sins, the same sins.

It was intolerable but still Veskur did nothing.

Thea eventually left and then she was alone again, but there was no peace in that solitude. She discovered that she did, indeed, have a bedroom in her own home and went nervously inside it. The stone walls felt cold and empty, the bed something that she had never touched. There was probably some method for creating light in that small space but Veskur did not know what it was and did not care; she wanted to curl in the dark, alone and empty, both inside and out.

She was not certain how long she lay like that, trapped in a void of her own making. She shook and shivered and did not sleep, did not rest, did nothing but quiver in an echoing agony of her own making. Endrall and Thea’s words rang accusingly in her head, Figo and Sotaas’ absence a burning lack that she was all too aware of. Her servant checked in on her, bringing her food she did not touch. She withered, muscles atrophying as no one called on her, no one wanted her.

It had been so easy before, to be alone. It had been so easy for her to know no one and dwell within the equations that had once been her passion. It had been a mistake to let people into her life, she could see that now. It had been an error to love Figo, to care for River, to rely on Sotaas, to welcome Thea, to hear Deeam, to embrace Endrall. She should have known better but she did not and now she was stuck with this terrible sense of absence.

“Where is my ending?” she would sing to herself, her broken voice a rasp in the endless shadows around her. She started hallucinating shades of darkness, terrors that she welcomed and hoped would be her death. “The thing that defines us? The sense of closure, the only thing left… to us…”

Her lips bled when she smiled.

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When the light came, she was too far gone to fight. Her servant took her in his arms and washed her, forced her to eat, and took her on walks. Slowly, slowly, her mind came back and she was once again aware of the pain that had driven her to a starving ennui. Her servant looked at her and she knew he would save her from that slow suicide no matter how many times she gave into it. She scowled at him and he smiled at her with thin eyes, daring her to try and escape him.

She took to the land, walking the woods that had been her comfort and company back when she had been ignorant of all that she had missed and now was far too aware of. The forest and the night were not the solace that she had hoped for, not quite, but they did soothe the ravaging wounds of her soul. There was comfort to be had there and she accepted it, began to rebuild herself, and for the first time in her life she felt anger on her own behalf.

It scared her. She was uncertain what to make of this swelling emotion, this terrible fury that rose out of her like a reaping whirlwind. She went into the drifting snow around her home and screamed into the wilds, taking a savage delight when her rage caused avalanches. She wondered how those around her could claim that this was love when all they had done was take and take and take, when all they had tried to do was define her as something that she would and could never be.

Still, when Endrall contacted her there was a fluttering in her heart, a joy that sang to her and wanted to lay that simmering anger to rest. They spoke only briefly, setting a time and place for their meeting.

Humming to herself, Veskur cleaned up, dressed up, did everything she could to be everything that Endrall deserved. They met at neutral ground and Veskur took the younger man out for an evening meal, the two of them discussing what had happened and the fallout of it. His father and he were estranged, Endrall claimed, and he laid the blame for that estrangement at Veskur’s feet. Veskur paid for their food and they walked outside and began to discuss everything else.

“I don’t have to apologize for what I said,” Endrall told her. “I just hate when you’re like this. I hate you. I have every right to say what I said. I’m sorry, but I don’t mean that, not really. I stand by my statement.”

For two days Endrall said exactly that. They walked and spoke about everything, but where once their conversations had been a flowing and lively process whereby all seemed understood, now Endrall refused to understand how there could possibly be anything resembling even the tiniest sliver of an iota of wrongness in what he had said. He drove that point home again and again, that he had been right to say what he had said, and that whatever pain Veskur had suffered because of it was her own affair.

When Veskur tried to express any opinion that did coincide directly with Endrall’s, he mocked her and laughed at her, touched her the way a lover might while telling her that she was in the wrong and always would be, would whisper that whatever she felt counted for nothing.

“I meant what I said,” Endrall told her, holding her. “We’re not friends. You get that, right? I don’t have to apologize for that, but I will anyway. I want you to understand that I’m not actually sorry.”

The repetition sank into Veskur’s head and into Veskur’s heart and she fell into silent acceptance. Hekro came to collect Endrall eventually – the two had become lovers at some point – and he left in her arms. Veskur walked away and did not look back, could not have looked back even if she had desired to. She found somewhere quiet and curled into a ball and shivered and shook, tearing at her arms, wishing she could pull her veins from her flesh, wishing for silence unending.

She made it home somehow, screaming and kicking with an insanity that she could recognize without the ability to do anything about it. She managed to hide her gaurn and her levl, told her servant to flee and then lost herself to the madness. She did not know how much time had passed when she was next able to recognize her own thoughts, but everything in her keep had been destroyed and her body was covered in scars and blood. She was standing in the main hall, dressed in rags and looking into a window, the light behind her turning the glass into a mirror – and what she saw there terrified her, a nightmare granted skin. She fell to her knees, hugged herself and wept.

I meant what I said. I don’t have to apologize for that but I will anyway. I’m not actually sorry.”

***

More is coming next week. If you like the artwork, why not go and thank Meghan Duffy at duffyartdesign.com? She’s cool people.

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326

Fiction – Love is War 03-00-02-09

Books & Writing, Culture, Projects, Short Fictions

December 11, 2015

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. 

***

Click here to read previous entry.

***

– 03:00:02:09 –

Endrall tended to the wounded. It was what he did out on the front lines, far from where his father’s long shadow would drape over him. He worked under an assumed name and though some of the nobility he tended to recognized him, they respected his desire to remain incognito. He was there when the survivors from every battle came round; he was there when the Coeecians pushed forward with a large invasive swarm. The other lords barely discussed strategy with him, telling him that healers had enough to think about what with all the healing, but he snuck into a couple of their discussions anyway.

Veskur had taught him how to lurk unnoticed in the background.

He tried not to think about Veskur too much.

Life was difficult but good. He had lost the weight of Sotaas weighing him down; the Wanderer of Ygg had consistently missed the obvious, and had proven to be much less interesting than Veskur had insisted he was. He’d gone into Ygg lands a handful of times to collect old things, but none of the faltering nobles there seemed to know where Sotaas had gone. Not that Endrall cared. He just felt it was good to feign an interest in Sotaas’ well-being. He knew the nobles of Ygg were too stupid to recognize his performance for what it was – had he actually cared, well, he might have done more than simply ask after him.

It was arguments with his father over Sotaas that had finally driven Endrall out, arguments about Sotaas and Veskur. He didn’t want to discuss either with anyone but people kept bringing them up relentlessly, as if either of them were worth talking about outside of their relationships with him. It was frustrating. It was intolerable.

Veskur kept sending him missives, begging to be allowed back near him. He looked at them with the amusement they deserved and watched as she tried to mend the damage that lay between them. He insulted her and she flinched, saying nothing like the pathetic toy she was. Endrall kept her around on his terms, showing her the occasional flash of affection before insulting her thoroughly and reminding her of just how utterly without worth she was.

She deserved such treatment. Both of them knew it. Neither ever stopped to wonder why.

The only problem with Veskur was that occasionally she would stand up for herself, or express her feelings – as if her emotive state was something that Endrall was supposed to care about.

“You treat me like an ailing pet!” she would wail, staring up at him.

“I hate when you say that.” He did not deny the truth of her words. “I hate you.” He loved the hurt in her eyes. All he wanted, all he ever wanted, was for his favorite toy to be silent and accept whatever he chose to give her.

He ignored her most of the time. When he felt bad he went to her and she made him feel better, explaining anything, justifying his every want. She was wise in any way that was not immediately related to her, able to see and explain connections and events with a clarity that always amazed, and yet she was unable to do so much as walk into a room without doing something wrong or breaching some bit of protocol. She was an embarrassment, really, a connection that Endrall sometimes felt ashamed of in ways that he would never express or admit.

However, after he had finally grown tired of her pathetic begging and the ceaseless questions about her that others asked, well, then he had left the world he knew behind and entered the world he had been groomed for all his life. The work was difficult, yes, but he made real headway. There were nobles that knew his face and not his name, nobles that sought him out and spoke of him and owed him so much. They trusted him with their lives and their hearts and he healed both, soothing their hurts and calming the raging demons that sang within their veins.

It was Figo Jera that brought things to a head for him. Lovely Figo, one of the most successful of the Vanir Lords, one of the warriors that held the line on the killing fields of south and west Midgard. Endrall had made his way there only gradually, not knowing what to expect and not truly caring – what would be would be, and he was not trying to control his destiny so much as letting himself drift and learn from wherever his path took him.

Figo was holding a rocky cliff that was covered in brambles and thorns. In more peaceful times, those thickets would flower into a cascading fall of roses, daffodils, and ivies, but now those plants were trampled underfoot as men and the barbarians that assailed them made war. This cliff was widely considered an indefensible position by the entire host of the nobility, but here Figo was, holding it, keeping it safe, keeping the Coeecian mass out.

Losses were heavy. House Suwilo was already spread thin, the three lines borne of the House cast all across the borders of Midgard. Endrall could have ended up anywhere among the Vanir armies but he had ended up here and Figo had recognized him and retained him as a personal healer, respecting his desire for secrecy in public and granting them moments to satiate their hungers in private. They clung to one another, whispering secrets to one another.

Endrall wondered what circumstances would be required to destroy Figo utterly.

Figo wept sometimes when Endrall was holding him, clinging back with a painful strength. Endrall allowed this, stroking the general’s hair and whispering in his ear, calming him, offering solace as only those of House Suwilo could. Figo accepted this comfort and flung all the harder, desperate for even the smallest measurement of comfort.

“What is it?” Endrall would ask, when the sobs had left Figo and he had regained a measure of calm. “What is it that strikes you?”

“It’s just…,” Figo would pause, his grey eyes growing distant as his gaze turned to the gaurn on his hand. “You know what it’s like. What she’s like.”

“All too well.”

“I can’t help but wonder what I could have accomplished without the tool she gave me, but more than that, well, do you know what she can do? Yes? I wonder how many of my victories are mine, how many of the choices I’ve made were truly meant for me. I wonder if she’s influencing me even now, violating everything that I might ever choose to be or become.”

“And this upsets you?”

“It makes everything that makes me – me – invalid! There’s nothing I can do, no choice I can make, nothing that I will ever be that has not been defined or chosen by her! She’s ruined me, ruined me, and there’s no way to know if I’m right or wrong because even if I were to ask her I know she would lie to me, I know it.”

Endrall was all too aware of how often Veskur said she never lied.

“You could just walk away from everything.”

“I could never do that.” Figo licked his lips. “I could never do that. I could never walk away or put down my levl and gaurn and let them overtake me. There’s nothing in me or in who I am that would ever let me make that decision, which only raises the question of whether it’s me or something that she put in me.

“How much of who I am is who I might have been? How much that I have accomplished is actually mine? Even if she only did it once that would make me fundamentally different, because every decision that I would have made afterwards would have been predicated on the decision or the outcome that she made sure would come to pass. She’s violated everything that might ever define me – my will, my choices, my life. She’s violated me on such a fundamental level and there’s no one that will ever truly understand what it is she’s done.

“How am I to explain this to Deeam or Hekro or anyone else? No one really knows what she’s capable of, not even you or I. We think we know but she can radically change anything any time she feels like it. All the paths of our lifetimes are hers to play with, all the decisions and outcomes and eventualities are open to her, and she can write any of us any way she feels like it. And every time she does that to one person she does that to everyone, she invalidates everyone. Even if she changes something simple, it will ripple out and touch everything, change everything, make everything that follows a shape that she has sculpted.

“Do you see the scope of what she is? The monstrousness? I love her. I count my time with her as good and gracious. She was never anything more than willing and supportive and caring, but I cannot help but think that she manipulated circumstances in all those instances to make me believe that was what she was.

“And I know she was manipulative in her dealings with me. I know she never looked to anyone else for years, even when I told her I was leaving her, even when I told her that I had taken on other lovers and did not want her anymore. We’d speak or part ways and within the span of a moon or three, we’d be back together like nothing ever happened.

“She made that happen. I know she made that happen. Do you remember when you and Farrell told me just how badly she was using me? Do you remember that? I went home and thought about it and realized it was true. I was talking with her and she was telling me of her plans to celebrate me and I just couldn’t take it anymore, I couldn’t be around her. I asked her not to contact me or touch me or have anything to do with me and as far as I know she hasn’t and yet I can’t help but think that she’s just biding her time.

“She’s a monster, an utter monster. I don’t know what to do or think or feel. I drown myself in work. That’s what I do. That’s all that’s left to me.”

Figo was shaking at the end of this speech, his eyes glazed over and his skin pale. Endrall held him and held him and soothed him to sleep, using the Science that his gaurn gave him access to. He narrowed his eyes, waited for Figo’s breathing to steady, then took his leave to go and find the nobles of House Elhaz. They did not know him. When he asked them to take him somewhere quiet and alone they simply nodded, guided him there, and left.

Night had fallen. He was unsure when that had happened. Veskur had been trying to get a hold of him now for some time but he had ignored her, caring nothing for her, but now the Good Lady was going to get a piece of his mind. Endrall pushed his left hand forward and cut into the very fabric of the world, wrestling it to his will. His Science shaped that energy and he opened an avenue of communication with Veskur Wyrd, heard her intake of breath when she realized who it was that called upon her.

“You’re a monster,” he hissed. “You’re a beast, a savage, an animal. I do not trust you. You’re no better than Jesam was. I hope you die in horrible, horrible pain.” He severed the connection without another word. He could feel her trying to contact him but he did not answer, would not answer, ignored her until the war turned and the Coeecians pulled back. He could have gone home but chose not to, turning instead to the east and north, bordering the lands of the Zaerm.

It was from there that he called Veskur and bid her come to him.

She was working on something, that was clear. There were people in her home and, undoubtedly, whatever she had devoted herself to was something that she considered important. Still, she abandoned everything and came to see him, following his orders as she always did, appearing before him like the failed pet that she had become.

He motioned her closer and she came, hesitant, so very clearly wanting to touch him. Endrall held her at arm’s length. He looked into her eyes as deeply as he was able, watched her tremble, watched her shoulders slump, her lips part, and heard the beat of her heart thrumming like the pitter-patter of a weeping sky.

“Every time I look at you I’m going to see a rapist.”

The words rolled off his tongue, searing the air between them before striking her.

Fascinated, he watched as she collapsed in on herself. He saw it in her eyes, the trust she had for him, the way that she accepted his words as truth over anything she might believe of herself. He recounted what Figo had told him, twisting it slightly, perfectly, knowing how to hurt her.

She crumbled, fell to her knees and shivered so hard that Endrall thought she would break apart right then and there. She rocked back and forth, her breathing shallow, a low moan leaking past her throat.

She believed him, he knew, believed him more than she believed in anything else, believed in him more than she believed in herself.

Every time I look at you I’m going to see a rapist.

The words echoed between them.

Veskur’s eyes went dark, her musculature instantly slack. She tried to run, stumbled, mumbled incoherently, stopped herself and stuttered. She heaved forward and Endrall thought she might vomit but she didn’t, she didn’t, she just lay there and shivered and didn’t even hold herself and he thought he might have gone too far.

When he tried to move closer, to hold her, she waved him off and he narrowed his eyes at her. How dare she do this, deny him her, deny him the right to touch her. He tried again and she denied him again, this time a terrible violence barely held in check caught in that denial.

Endrall kept his distance after that.

He walked about for an hour, Veskur listlessly trailing after him. She shambled like a marionette, the core of her absolutely destroyed under the weight of what he had accused her of. He smiled at her and explained to her again why she was a monster as she meekly followed him back to his carriage.

“Did you want me to help you get home?” he asked her. She blinked, shook her head, fell away from another offer of physical contact, arms hanging limp at her sides. He shrugged and left her there, looking back at her as the carriage started away. She stood, shivering and alone, no longer one of the Vanir but a simple empty husk, a broken creature made of shells and shards.

He went back to the frontlines after that. The Coeecians had all but retreated. Months passed and there was no sign of the incursion that had once threatened all of Midgard. House Elhaz searched and searched but found no sign of them and the Vanir returned to lands they had been forced out of, began to rebuild.

During this peace Endrall fell into the company of a Nauthiz noblewoman named Secu, and the two of them got along splendidly. They were of similar age and temperament, sensualists assured of the world and their place in it. They went to markets and balls and dances, Endrall still hiding his name but basking in the glory that his skills had earned him. So many nobles knew him or of him, so many nobles welcomed him at their tables. It was intoxicating and wonderful to have such admiration.

When the Coeecians struck anew it caught everyone off guard.

They came seeking hostages as much as victims, killing Vanir peasantry as they went, binding the unprepared nobility as they were caught. Endrall knew his way around a levl but he was no warrior; he and Secu were taken, bound, dragged away past the confines of Midgard and deep into the Coeecian camps. He had heard Figo’s accounts of what happened to captive Vanir and he felt himself trembling and horrified. They brought him before a grinning warlord and forced him to his knees, interrogating him and beating him and keeping him bound for hours and hours.

He was locked away with Secu. They had established and confirmed her nobility by speaking with both her and others, but though Endrall Sahr had told them his name there was no one there who knew who he was and no one there that could vouch for his identity. A ransom was paid and Secu was given back to her parents, but Endrall was left alone on his rocky plateau.

The Skie, rulers of the Coeecians, did not believe in locking people away in the dark. They were the people of the storm and their ways were far more frightening and far more barbaric. Caves in their mountain fortresses were pushed out onto the mountain, facing a sheer incline thousands of feet up. There was no hiding from the wind and the rain where the Coeecians kept their captives; there was only a forced appreciation for the forces that they claimed were divine.

Four by four times the sun set and rose after Secu was sent home. Endrall was cold and wet and miserable, the foods they brought him tasteless and empty. His captors looked in on him only to see that he was still there, bringing him food once a day and expecting him to subsist on that. When he had complained they had told him that he could always go and kiss the storm. They smiled when they said it and gave him no more food that week.

03-00-02-09

He heard that there was talk among them concerning which of their lords would get to keep him. The thought terrified him but not enough for him to step out of his prison and plummet to freedom. He held himself, hoping that someone would come and save him.

No one did.

He was alone.

They had left him his gaurn.

Why wouldn’t they have? The nobles were all left with their weapons. There was no chance to use them. Besides, they did not recognize the tools for what they were and why would they do even that when only four such gloves existed in all the world? Endrall thought about saving himself but he could see no way to use the Ethcinos that he had been granted; what use was healing others in a situation such as the one he found himself in?

He could, however, cleave the energies and so find someone to come and get him.

He thought of his father, first, and used the Sciences he knew to craft the sending. His father looked at him with cool eyes over the distance that separated them, listened attentively when Endrall began to tell him all that had happened.

“You thought to make it on your own, child?” His father sighed, sat down and rubbed his temples. “A fine mess you’ve made of it, traveling without your name or my leave. You have nothing now and your life is over. Do you understand? Your life is over. I will not pay for you even if they were to believe me – my resources must go to healing those children that listen to their parents. You have built yourself a tomb. Perhaps you will make it out on your own, child. Perhaps.” His father looked at him, smiled, and severed their connection.

Endrall wept.

There would be no salvation. The one person that loved him, the one person that truly cared had left him here to this. He sat on the cold stone and cried until there were no more tears and then he heaved and was sick over the edge.

He considered jumping.

What was left to him, truly? What destiny could the world hold for him now?

He thought of Figo crying because all his choices had been taken from him and Endrall laughed with bitter mockery. He was the one that had been robbed of choice, left with only two options – suicide or submission. There was nothing else, nothing else that could happen, no one else he could turn to, unless…

Endrall stood and walked to the very edge of life. He held up his gaurn and tapped the energies once more, sending a desperate missive out into the world. It reached its destination, he could feel the response.

Veskur stared back at him in her laboratory, Thea behind him for some reason, and she looked at him with a hatred that melted the moment she saw him fully.

He tried to speak, failed, fell to his knees and wept. He heard Veskur telling him to breathe, to just breathe, and to tell her where he was. He heard Thea in the background saying that it didn’t matter, demanding that Veskur leave him to rot, but Veskur waited and waited, prayed and repented until Endrall was able to give her the knowledge she needed.

“Be strong, Love,” Veskur whispered. “I will be there as soon as I am able.”

The connection severed.

Another sun rose, all the promised warmth contained therein a lie. He froze and held himself, too exhausted to sleep or eat as the wind came, whipping all around him, and a violent rain arose from nothing to pelt the world with an unrelenting fury. Thunder doomed down all around him, shaking the earth and making him jump as lightning as thick as any keep slammed down into the earth, an onslaught that he would never have imagined possible had he not been there to witness it.

Not a drop of moisture touched him. Not a single breeze ruffled his hair.

Staring from the eye of the storm, he he could understand why the Skie dominated the Coeecian people and why the Skie worshiped the storms that ravaged their lands, but even they had seen nothing like this. He blinking, looking at roiling black clouds that shifted like an ocean tide, narrowing his eyes to see the impossible.

Riding the storm was a figure on a horse with hooves of lightning. She carried no levl, wore little more than casual clothing and a glove on her left hand. When she moved the storm went with her. The horse circled the mountain once, twice, blasting the stone and peak, and every time the horse went by electricity crashed into rock and Endrall could hear Coeecians scream and die.

Veskur Wyrd had come for him and she would not be denied.

***

More is coming next week. If you like the artwork, why not go and thank Meghan Duffy at duffyartdesign.com? She’s cool people.

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370

Fiction – Love is War 03-00-02-07

Books & Writing, Short Fictions, Showcase

November 27, 2015

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. 

***

Click here to read previous entry.

***

– 03:00:02:07 –

It was a strangeness, to be sure. Sotaas was uncertain how he felt about it, especially at first. There was a closeness between Veskur and Endrall that he didn’t want to get between, but Veskur seemed to be alright with it – or, at least, she seemed to be as alright with it as she was capable of being – and Endrall was all for it. The boy spent four days regaling him with reasons why they should be lovers but still Sotaas was not certain; they knew each other only barely and had nothing to fall back on if anything should go wrong, save their mutual tie to the Lady Wyrd.

However, Endrall was insistent, so much more insistent than Sotaas was willful. Endrall held him and he felt something he had not felt in so many long years – loved, wanted, desired, cherished. And though Sotaas was older than Endrall, the boy still seemed so wise, so powerful. He walked into a room and all eyes turned to him and there was something nice about being woven to someone possessed of such gravity.

So much of Sotaas’ depth was hidden. Like a mountain, much of what made him who he was, was kept safe from eyes that might otherwise search those qualities out. Betrayal and betrayal and betrayal had taught him to do this, and so he played to his own consul, living up to his ideals as best he could and never compromising those ideals in spite of the problems and troubles that continued to assault him.

The first five seasons he was in Endrall’s arms made him feel safer than ever he had been. Endrall made him feel like he could trust people again, like he could conquer the world. The gaurn that Veskur and he had made also helped: Sotaas found himself wandering the wild places with an ease that no other noble of his House had ever dreamed of possessing, leaving no sign or mark of his passage. Thanks to this new Science, he was now always able to find shelter or location, always knew what was around him and where he was. He had always been talented at navigating the stranger roads outside of Midgard, but now his House looked to him as if he were the greatest scout their line had produced.

He was not certain how to deal with the attention that consistently sought him out.

He and Veskur were still experimenting with his gaurn, still trying to determine what it was fully capable of. The survivability and alertness he experienced while wearing the tool, to say nothing of the capacity to fade into the wider world, were apparently not enough for the Good Lady. She seemed to think that there should be more to the wonders that this tool could produce, but Sotaas was not so certain. Wasn’t what they had accomplished enough?

Sotaas did not need to ask to know what Veskur’s opinion on that would have been.

Their work brought them closer and closer, though sometimes Veskur would pass on the chance to re-examine the equations that seemed to be her only joy so that they could look at the myths of faraway cultures. It was through these studies that Sotaas learned more about the Hsien and the Kami, the Trahmin and the Darroken, the Zaerm and even the Coeecians. These studies kept him amused. He wasn’t certain what Veskur was searching for in the lies that the lesser nations used to justify their place in this world.

In the quieter hours of the night, Sotaas admitted to himself that he didn’t care what Veskur was looking for. It passed the time, and gave him more of an excuse to wander further and further from the lands any Vanir knew.

When things turned dark with Endrall they would both turn to Veskur. Endrall would retreat and spend some time alone with her, and then the Good Lady would talk with him and then everything would be alright again, at least for a little while. Sotaas wondered what the two of them got up to, but believed that Endrall was up front about everything they did. Veskur herself sometimes asked Sotaas if he knew what the two of them were doing and Sotaas said that he did, confident that Endrall was hiding nothing from him.

It would be seasons later that he would learn otherwise.

Endrall was going to Veskur for physical affection in addition to whatever advice the Good Lady could offer. Outside what Sotaas had been told, the two of them were exploring one another with a desperate hunger that bordered on insanity. Sotaas sat still and quiet when he learned this. He could be forgiving. He and Endrall spoke of it for a time and then he went to confront Veskur, who shook and looked even paler than usual and would not meet Sotaas’ eyes.

“I thought you knew,” she said. “I thought you knew I thought you knew I thought you knew.” Sotaas looked at her through the senses that his gaurn offered and saw the hairline fractures that were beginning to form in Veskur’s psyche, the evidence of a terrible breaking to come. He knew, then, that he and Endrall were all of what was keeping the Good Lady from shattering completely.

Love is War 03-00-02-07

They talked everything out, Veskur confessing her entire litany of sins, of every time that Endrall had come to her for comfort. Sotaas listened and was reminded of the core betrayals that had shaped his life – the time his mother had abandoned him in the wilds to die, the time his closest friend had turned on him and tried to destroy him – but this was something new. His mother’s sin had been apathy and his friend had acted out of sheer malicious spite, but Veskur had believed they were being open with one another when they had not been.

It was damaging, terribly damaging to the tie between them, but that tie and the order of Deeam kept the two of them talking and they worked what crossed them to a parallel.

All that crossed between him and Endrall, however, was harder. Endrall berated him, mocked him, tried to make him feel less while depending on him for emotional stability. He tried to undermine every dream Sotaas built for himself, doubted the rightness of his decisions, made him question the purity of his vision or the strength of his will. And whenever he questioned him on this or pointed out the flaws in the boy’s logic Endrall would explode, yelling information that spun in circles before fleeing back to Veskur, still expecting the Good Lady to set things right.

The Good Lady always seemed to find the time to set things right.

When Endrall announced that he was going to the Darroken lands and that he intended to bring Sotaas with him, Sotaas was ecstatic. Here was a chance for the two of them to escape the confines of Midgard and talk things over without the shadow of Sahr Eri looming over them or the spiked balm of Veskur Wyrd there to soothe the fury in their hearts.

From the moment they left, however, things began to sour. Endrall sat back and expected him to handle everything. “You’re from House Ygg,” he would say, looking down at Sotaas with contempt. “You’re supposed to be able to find your way around wherever you happen to find yourself.” And, though he could do this even without the gaurn he had left behind, Sotaas’ victories were still not quick enough to satisfy the man that had brought him here.

Endrall grew sick as well as insulting. Farrell came and met them in the Darroken capital and spent his time drinking and seducing everyone around himself with a leer on his face. Sotaas never slept with the fox but the two of them went out often, whenever Endrall’s moods became too much for Sotaas to take. The two of them would crawl from one pub to the next. Farrell liked to get other people intoxicated so that he could have his way with them; Sotaas just wanted to dull the pain.

By the time they returned from the Darroken lands, things were over between he and Endrall. Endrall could not even be bothered to say anything that was not an insult. To add injury, the moment they were back he fled north and entered the Good Lady’s keep, falling into the eager arms of the woman that lived there. Sotaas would hear later about how Endrall cried and cried over how badly he had failed him, these claims made with a vehemence equaled only by Endrall’s accusations that the Good Lady had taken advantage of him in a moment of weakness.

It didn’t matter at that point. Sotaas wanted nothing to do with either of them or anyone else. He wrapped the gaurn around his hand and went to House Wynn, took Deeam aside and spat at his feet and told him that he was washing his hands of all of it. Deeam looked concerned, even offered to listen, but Sotaas was having none of it, not then, not ever again. Growling, he spun the sigil on the back of his hand and activated the Ethcinos Sciences that he and Veskur had been working on for so long, fading into the background and walking into the wilds.

No one would find him. No one would ever find him and he never wanted to speak with any of them, not ever again, not after the insult and the injury he had suffered at the hands of those people that had once claimed to love him as much as they loved their own lives.

***

More is coming next week. If you like the artwork, why not go and thank Meghan Duffy at duffyartdesign.com? She’s cool people.

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398

Fiction – Love is War 03-00-02-06

Books & Writing, Culture, Projects, Short Fictions

November 20, 2015

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. 

***

Click here to read previous entry.

***

– 03:00:02:06 –

Every time he said Sotaas’ name, Endrall shone.

Veskur watched this with amusement at first, catching Endrall in his darkest moments and mentioning the wandering Ygg noble’s name, smiling herself when the boy shone like the sun his House took their name from. That light was a balm to Veskur’s wounded heart, and when Endrall confessed that he loved Sotaas and wanted Sotaas as his lover, Veskur conspired with him that they might catch the object of Endrall’s passions.

Sotaas didn’t make it easy. He was as leery of emotional traps as River was eager to set them. Veskur brought Sotaas to her keep more and more often, even going so far as to make him a gaurn, even going so far as to include him in the process of that making. Sotaas asked intelligent questions, analyzed the flaws, even came up with a method of making the gaurn more sturdy that Veskur began to include in her design process.

Simply, the maths that Sotaas came up with were easy enough to fold into pre-existing formula, while still requiring Veskur to re-evaluate the entirety of her depths. It was perfect, perfect. She was all too ready to get lost in her work once more.

There was still no word from Figo, but Thea had come north to help fill that gaping void. River had been an absence in Veskur’s life since he had blamed her for all that had gone wrong with Thea’s last visit and Thea alternated his words between praise and hurt, favoring the latter more than the former. He questioned when Veskur stopped talking to him as much, cursing her, accusing her of not knowing her own destiny.

Veskur looked at the sum total of her work and wondered if he was right.

“Why call your little gloves gaurn, anyway?” Thea demanded. “What does that word even mean?”

“It doesn’t mean anything,” Veskur admitted. “I just like the sound.”

“Your egoism is proven time and again,” Thea sneered. “Why not go vomit into your little healer’s mouth. Do you like the sound of him gargling on your puke, or is it the sound of your throat’s waste that gets you off?”

Such accusations were frequent, and Thea wondered why Veskur gave him nothing but silence.

Her gaurn and hers alone allowed her to see the long equations of each individual, the possibilities tied to the choices they made and the capabilities they were. Her gaurn gave her the power to change those equations, to map out the numbers behind every last act. She could explain everything, every thought and deed through the application of the mathematics that came so easily to her whenever she wore her invention.

While there was still a sense of giddiness to the thrill of discovery, a harrowing sense of terror was beginning to overtake her mind.

Changing even a single number could have consequences, long term effects that could change the very nature of a person, place, or thing in ways that Veskur could not predict while also changing the world around them in ways that were incalculable, not with her current understanding.

Sometimes, she looked at the weapon on her hand and wondered about her own destiny; she was fairly certain that she herself remained intact but she could not say for certain – her Science tore the delicate thread-work of all reality like a dryw sawing through a tapestry.

All of this made her fearful of doing too much. She sat in her tower, in her lab, head in her hands. It became her preference to do little and thereby maintain the integrity of what already was. There was too much that could go wrong and the initial excitement of re-crafting every possibility had long since worn off.

The other gaurns she had made did other things, none of them so blunt and changing as the one she wore on her left hand. She had studied them extensively, had kept from Sotaas what the other sigils of the Houses might do if such tools were to be made for them.

No more, she thought. No more of them will be made. No others will ever have to feel the weight I’ve place on my shoulders.

Figo, lovely Figo, might never have left her had she just let her work go.

LiW 03-00-02-05

Veskur was beginning to doubt that she had any real gravity; the tides that pushed and pulled the Vanir seemed to find no purchase within her and she was left adrift, wandering the lands around her keep. Endrall’s every visit became a broken promise as he increasingly voiced his desire of Sotaas while reminding Veskur that she meant nothing, would never mean nothing.

“We’re not friends,” Endrall whispered in her ear. Veskur nodded, taking the words to heart and slipping her guarn on her hand, using it to set the circumstances Endrall wanted.

When Endrall went and spoke to Sotaas next, they parted as lovers.

This relationship needed to work. Veskur needed it to work. She needed the vicarious sense of gravity in those that were closest to her. It would have to be enough for her, have to be enough even though whenever they kissed Veskur felt like someone was stabbing her in the chest and laughing.

She pretended not to imagine that laughing figure looking down on her from behind Endrall’s eyes.

***

More is coming next week. If you like the artwork, why not go and thank Meghan Duffy at duffyartdesign.com? She’s cool people.

 

 

 

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343

Fiction – Love is War 03:00:02:05

Books & Writing, Projects, Short Fictions

November 13, 2015

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. 

***

Click here to read previous entry.

***

– 03:00:02:05 –

Where was he?

Where was his darling child, his perfect son, the weapon that he had raised so perfectly? Lately he’d been acting like a dryw and Sahr sometimes wondered whether the child was worth keeping – he loved the boy, yes, but the boy was beginning to rebel and to hurt him with the same sharpness that he’d been taught to hurt his mother. It was intolerable, the things that young Endrall would say to him, the things he would do and the demands he would place. He was only a child; he should know enough to listen to his betters, his elders, the people that were wiser and smarter and just plain better than he was.

This wasn’t to say that the boy was not talented. Far from it; the boy was wise in ways that others, quite simply, were not. This was to be expected considering that Endrall was his son, and there was a certain amount of pride that Sahr accepted when it came to acknowledging whom he had sired, even if the mother had been a complete waste and even if the rest of Midgard now agreed with that sentiment. Still, Endrall should have known better. He should have been home days before this present moment.

Sahr immersed himself in what work there was for him to do, a series of wounded nobles that could afford his immediate care and other hurt Vanir that would have to accept lesser healers or wait for him to find a moment. Sahr didn’t care so much; he found the work a distraction from his worry and his anger, still coming to terms with the errant fact that the child he had raised and cared for and defined had once again stepped out of line.

How dare he.

How Dare He Do This.

Figo was back again. He’d been throwing himself into the thickest fights, winning ever greater glory while wandering deeper and deeper into Coeecian territory. Though he wore one of Wyrd’s stupid little fashion accessories he refused to speak of his former love, his bright eyes darkening whenever the Lady was mentioned. Farrell smiled whenever he saw that happen and even Endrall had looked amused when the boy had been present. Sahr sometimes wondered what those two knew that he didn’t, but could get neither of them to speak of what brought such cruel smiles to their faces.

The two of them only spoke briefly. Sahr got the increasing impression that Figo didn’t like him. Hekro certainly didn’t, or Risue, or the Nauthiz Coven, or any of the other nobles that came to see him for his talented hands. He didn’t much care, seeing them all as tools that were trying to take his son’s attention away from where it properly belonged. Endrall would have never been gone so long without word nor been late in returning before he had met them, and Sahr sometimes found himself cursing the time when he had left Lord Figo Jera in his son’s care.

He cursed only the Lady herself, his former wife, and Hekro Gherlid so often. The former for what she was, the middle for what she had done, and the last for the similarities she bore to his old wife. He had caught Endrall making eyes at the warrior, but his darling son had denied feeling anything for the old woman. He believed his child; he had raised him to have better taste in lovers than that.

Endrall was supposed to be visiting with the northern Lady, that stupid whore. He had contacted the Lady already and asked her where his son was, using the base sciences and circuits that the Vanir employed. He had learned how to do this specifically to keep track of his son. The Good Lady had told him that his son had left and would be home when he was home.

The Lady’s words left him wringing his hands with worry. Wasn’t he the only one that loved his son? Wasn’t he the only one who cared? Wasn’t he the one who had told Endrall this again and again, drilling it into him until he believed it with the same lack of thought with which he believed the sky was blue and the earth pulled down upon all that walked upon it?

“She’s drugged him,” Farrell would slur, quiet in his cups day after day. “She’s addicted to more narcotics that you can imagine or that I can name. That’s why Figo left her up there alone. She’s drugged him and will make him an addict. Everything that you think he might be he won’t be because he’ll prefer to be sheathed in her rather than doing anything you believe is of value.”

Sahr believed the fox. What did he have to gain from lying? Certainly not his son, not the way that Wyrd did. She would take him the way his wife had taken him, the lying dryw, and she would scar him, hurt him, and ruin his life.

He luxuriated in the things he had, seeping into the illusions of wealth in an effort to stay distracted. Every carriage was a broken promise that his son was home, building his rage into fury, cementing his anger into something as solid and painful and right as any levl. He wanted to burn the world. How dare Endrall do this to him. How dare his son betray him like this.

Love is War 03-00-02-05

When Endrall finally did show up weeks after he should have returned, Sahr walked away from the surgery he was performing and went directly to the boy, demanding leave to perform a physical examination on him right then and there. The boy protested but what the boy wanted did not matter – only Sahr’s needs mattered, only his will counted, especially given all the worry and frustration that he had felt. He ignored the boy’s protests and hysterics as the trivialities they were; the boy had no rights and no identity other than those that Sahr chose to give him, and right then he chose to give his child nothing.

The taint of the Wyrd woman was still on him, barely there but there all the same. He could find no traces of narcotics in his system but that meant nothing – she could have access to intoxicants from other nations, wilder nations, might have possibly infused Sahr’s child with poisons that Sahr knew nothing about. He went further than even this, tracing the marks that old villain had left on his child even as Endrall said that he had just lost track of time, a confession that proved the words the woman had given him a lie.

Endrall protested and screamed about how his privacy was being invaded but his ravings were the ravings of a child and safely ignored. Sahr summoned the guards and ordered Endrall confined to his rooms, and then used the Process to contact the woman that had tried to steal his son from him. Yes, Endrall had eventually returned and, yes, Endrall was now home and safe, but still the woman had tried to steal him away and had lied about that and who knew how many other things.

He used the Process but there was no response from that far away keep to the north. He screamed at Endrall, struck Endrall, forcing Endrall to try and contact the woman. There was no response. He turned his attention to the manservant that the woman’s family had placed in her home to keep an eye on her and was able to get a hold of him. He didn’t know where the woman was, but he told Sahr that he would have her contact him upon her return.

Sahr forced Endrall to his knees, forced the boy to remember that his father was the only one that would ever truly love him and that he was utterly worthless without that affection. The boy shook but refused to cry, refused to crack or bend. Sahr didn’t care, continuing to scream until the boy was shivering and holding himself in his silence. He reminded his son that women – especially older women – were not to be trusted and never to be taken as lovers, never to be loved or spoken to except in polite company. The boy said nothing but still Sahr could see the glimmering fires of rebellion in his child’s eyes.

“The woman is a coward,” Farrell told him. “She will not contact you. She will ignore you, forget you called, come up with some excuse. Come, I took some of her notes from Endrall. Read them for yourself. It’s plain to see that the narcotics she has ingested have driven her insane.”

Sahr read them, attempting an open mind, but with every word he read he imagined that woman’s tongue running along the flesh of his son. The words were senseless, the intent without meaning. The woman was clearly insane, a flaw. Endrall would have to be made to see that.

The good Lady used the Process to contact him within the week.

“I was out in the wild where no one could reach me,” she confessed. “I needed to get away.”

“From your sins?” Sahr sneered. The woman said nothing. “What you have done is deplorable. You are a coward and a fiend and a whore. I’ve read your writings and I know you to be nothing but some insane harlot, a charlatan hellbent on filling the empty void that exists where your soul should be. You are a liar, a thief, and a hypocrite and there is nothing you can offer my son except suffering.”

The woman said nothing in her own defense, undoubtedly seeing the truth in Sahr’s statements.

“It took guts for you to contact me,” Sahr admitted, willing to give her at least that much.

“It was the right thing to do.”

The simplicity of that reply infuriated him all over again.

A season later, he would talk to Figo about it, believing that the White Rose had to know more about the woman than anyone else after having spent so long with her. Figo would not speak of why he had left her but he refused to believe the truths Farrell offered regarding the woman’s addiction.

“She never lied to me when I was with her,” Figo said, his eyes shadowed. “I do not think she can lie. She hides much of what she knows and her beliefs are twisted but she does not lie, at least not of her own accord.” Sahr pretended to accept Figo’s words and then left him with whatever care a fool could be given – for he was a fool. He had to be a fool and he had to be wrong.

The alternative was not a thing to be considered.

***

More is coming next week. If you like the artwork, why not go and thank Meghan Duffy at duffyartdesign.com? She’s cool people.

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377

Fiction – Love is War 03:00:02:04

Books & Writing, Culture, Projects, Short Fictions

November 6, 2015

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. 

***

Click here to read previous entry.

***

– 03:00:02:04 –

Risue Nihm of House Elhaz was one of the best politicians in his family. He could talk and negotiate, carried himself with an air of confidence that often rolled right over lesser men. From the time he could speak he was pushed towards wheeling and dealing, accepting only the best as he dealt with the brightest children of the other noble Houses. He took to fighting with a levl early on, meeting Hekro Gebo as a child, the two of them learning from one another.

Perhaps it was because of his learning with Hekro, one of the best fighters in Midgard, that he developed a strongly defensive style. Perhaps it was where his own skills would have taken him anyway. The fact remained, however, that his preferred method of physical combat was in direct contrast to the way he spoke, and it often confused others.

It was through Hekro that he met Secu Nauthiz, a girl with long red hair and bewitching yellow eyes. She followed at his shoulder in all things, walking with him into meeting halls with the rest of the nobility and listening as he won favors for both their Houses. The elders of Nauthiz took note of him, met with him, deemed him a worthy match for their pretty scion and met with Risue’s father, seeking an engagement.

It was granted.

Life, Risue had thought, could not have been better.

He served along the Coeecian border as all noble youth must. His father made certain that he was sent to the north and west, a place where the barbarians did not strike all that often, and the few fights he found himself in were more exhilarating than terrifying. When a handful of Coeecians attacked and ran away his people thought nothing of it, riding down their enemies into a valley and thinking to finish them there. Never once did any of them suspect that Coeecian cunning had brought them into an ambush.

They came from the top of the valley, raining down boulders that crushed some of their mightiest. Primitive weapons followed their use of terrible chemical fires that no amount of water could quench. Scientists were targeted and picked off, leaving the remaining Vanir with no defense against the extant superstitions that the Coeecians could call from myth to reality. The Coeecian mystics tried to flood the valley and the Vanir tried to escape, and failed. The water rose and soaked them through to the bone, all of them shivering and pale, none of them able to remember what it had been like to be warm.

Risue came up with a desperate ploy, a quick run that cost them half their remaining number but saw them escape. He himself was injured in the process, some Coeecian savage shoving a pointed length of wood into his spine. He ran anyway, as fast as he could manage, further and further north as their enemies chased them. One of their number – a woman from House Dagaz that he had never learned the name of – said that there was a proper keep up in the most remote wastes. They ran for it, hoping that whoever lived there would give them shelter.

The Lady of that keep had emerged from her home and used some form of Science no one had ever seen before to flatten those that chased them. She called a mountain out of the sky and caused it to crash on top of the Coeecian horde, rattling the earth, tossing them from their feet, shaking the bones in their flesh. The Lady’s manservant, Jaso, had emerged from the Keep and told them that the Lady was not receiving guests and gave them every supply they asked for before sending them on their way.

It had been the first time that the Vanir people as a whole became aware of Lady Veskur Wyrd and her strange Science.

Love is War 03-00-02-04

Risue had been shipped home. The house medics could do nothing for him, and so he was sent to the nobles of House Suwilo. Eri Sahr himself had tended to his wounds, sealing the gaping hole in his spine and teaching him to walk again. There was pain, a lot of pain, and old muscle began to soften as the exercises he had done since childhood became impossible to perform. His mind and his tongue remained sharp, however, and that gave him some comfort even as the levl at his hip became something he carried more for comfort than practicality.

Seasons came and went and past and slowly, slowly, he came to terms with his new lot in life. The Golden Champion fell to Jesam, Jesam fell to the Lady Wyrd, a new Njord was named, and the White Rose became hero to the Vanir people. Risue’s father was never able to accept his new weakness, but Secu remained by his side. It was enough; with skill of word he created a web of contacts and contracts that brought both his House and Nauthiz wealth and honor.

However, the glory that he had hoped to win fell by the wayside. Worse, when Secu travelled, she did so under the protective arm and eye of a recovering Golden Champion. Risue pretended that it didn’t bother him to see his fiance walking with his friend, the friend that would recover physically where he could not. When it happened he forced a smile and kept on talking, relying on his quick wit to shield the agony he felt whenever he saw his love in Lady Hekro’s arms.

Life went on.

He did the best he could.

He brokered treaties with the Darroken and fermented trade through the Darroken lands with the strange eastern nations – the Hsien, Zaerm, and Trahmin peoples. He was important in the eyes of his House but not his father, and every time the old man looked at him he was reminded of how much he had lost and all that he might have been. He wondered if perhaps the world might not have been better off had he fallen in that valley so long ago, his blood soaking into Coeecian hands, but then he would shake his head and smile and get on with the business of leading his life.

It was harder and harder again to do so. He began to lose focus and confidence, keeping his word and charisma at the beginning of various encounters but becoming frustrated as people failed to live up to the expectations he had for them. They placed difficulties in his way, conspired against him, and he knew that they did even if he could not prove it. They did not pay him for his work and he felt exhausted, betrayed, and alone. Still he tried to be the best person that he could be, still he tried to live up to the potential that he had once possessed.

More and more his father set him out and away from the family holdings, traveling from one place to the next to carry the family banner. Lesser Vanir were sent with him to try and finalize the terms that Risue tried to set but the longer he was gone the more of what he tried to build crumbled.

Finally, he was sent far to the north and west, his father returning him to the place where his life had ended all those seasons ago, the place where his body had refused to lie down. Perhaps his father thought that by returning him to this place he would finally be able to rest, that the not-life that he continued to suffer would finally give way to the ending that should have been his.

And it was there, on the borderlands where he should have died, that he befriended Veskur Wyrd.

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419

Love is War – 03:00:01:07

Books & Writing, Culture, Short Fictions

September 26, 2015

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. 

***

Click here to read previous entry.

***

– 03:00:01:07 –

There were many warm mornings for Figo in the northern climes. He’d wake up and find Veskur nestling beside him, the madness that drove her in waking banished when fatigue finally overtook her and sleep became her only option. Typically when he visited, she would break from her reading and theorizing and testing to spend time with him, discussing esoterica with him that seemed somehow counter-intuitive, but whenever he thought of a question she had an answer.

He knew she barely slept and didn’t eat when he wasn’t there. Her manservant, Mika, told him so whenever he could free himself from the various engagements that held him away from Veskur. Mika always looked relieved to see him, always slunk off and collapsed in an exhausted heap. Figo could understand why; Veskur was very intense, sometimes too intense even for him. She didn’t understand the concept of the rhetorical query – everything was a challenge, a question to be answered. He could understand why her family had set her up here, in the middle of nowhere.

Nevertheless, he loved the woman, loved her intensity and her madness, loved the way she smelled and the way she moved. He loved the way she thought, the quizzical expression that claimed her features when she discovered some new question and the glee that danced through her when she figured out an answer. He loved the way she clung to him, the way she held him when he woke up whimpering and told no one of his weakness, whispering secrets in his ear.

At her word he could almost believe himself strong.

She understood when family matters called him away. Where the lovers he had taken before her would have pleaded to go with him, Veskur preferred to stay in the north, letting him to his life. Moreover, when he returned to the battlefields of his youth he had to smile at the sight of those boys and girls he found there; none of them knew how to handle themselves. Veskur had no military training but she somehow still managed to fit right in, a natural in a crisis.

Given the explosions that sometimes rocked her keep this was hardly surprising.

Veskur was a cynic, however, and refused to see the rightness of the Vanir cause. She called certain commanders bullies and would put up with not a single slight. She also fought on Figo’s behalf, refusing to let anyone make him less, though her definition of what that meant was different than anyone else’s would be. It was a bit of a relief to not have to deal with her sometimes, especially in front of others, especially in front of his old friends.

All of them questioned him about her, wanting to know about the woman that was too much a freak for even the strange House Wyrd to deal with. They saw her as craven and insane and sometimes, in the darkest hours when he had been away from her too long and he was in his cups, he could see what they meant. She was mad, completely out of any head that was not her own. He would resolve himself to ending things with her but then he would see her, see her happiness at his presence and remember the way she had walked over Jesam and taken him in her arms and he would melt into her warmth, her comfort, the solace that she and she alone could give him.

My beautiful, she would whisper, cradling him.

Your beautiful, he would agree.

You’re beautiful, she would murmur, and he would believe her with everything he was.

How could he do anything less?

Lately, she had been conversing with a distant noble that River Megru had introduced her to. Figo knew River mostly by reputation and didn’t much care for him, finding him spiteful and arrogant in story and casually insulting in person. This mysterious noble River had put Veskur in contact with was a young boy named Thea Raido, and he studied some of the same things that his lovely devoted so much time to. Worse, the boy had read all of Veskur’s works and commented on them, Veskur herself claiming that his words and insights had helped her with some of her most recent discoveries. Figo had tried to read Veskur’s tracts but had been unable to separate the cold writing from the woman he knew, always setting the papers aside with a sigh and promising himself that he would see to them later.

He never did.

Veskur had told him that Thea was planning a trip to the north to work with River, as he planned to do something similar to whatever it was that River did. The idea of this young boy from Raido seeking to become as much of a whore as River was strangely amusing, but Figo was uncertain as to how comfortable he was with Thea spending any amount of time with what was his. Veskur was blind to the affections that most people paid her but that did not mean that Figo was so ignorant – he knew exactly what Thea wanted and what River had planned, he just wasn’t certain what he could do about it.

Sighing, he had to admit that there was little enough at present. Family business had once again seen him dragged to the south, though far enough away from the Coeecian borders that the night terrors couldn’t find him. His brother, Nicu, wanted his help settling a treaty with House Ihwaz.

“What’re you thinking of?” Nicu asked, smiling lazy on his side of the carriage. It was the first time in a while he had spoken, his use of narcotics leaving glazed eyes and a slurred tongue. “Your far-away lady love?”

“More or less,” Figo admitted, resting his hand on his levl. “It’s been too long since I’ve seen her.”

“Is she really that good?”

“Better.”

“Perhaps you should let me try her,” Nicu giggled. “We’re family. We should share pretty baubles.” Figo said nothing, knowing that it was the addiction speaking and not his sibling. Nicu had spent far too much time in the company of men like River as a youth and, Figo knew, had always wanted the rewards he thought came with power without wanting to do any of the work to get them. It was far too common a fault within her House.

Figo steered the conversation to other topics, keeping Nicu’s mind on things other than his lover until they arrived at House Ihwaz. The entire city stank of horse, a smell that wasn’t terrible so much as it was present in everything. The Ihwaz had been impressed with the skill of Zaerm cavalry, the military force of another nation with a history nearly as rich as that of the Vanir. The nobles of Ihwaz had taken to keeping horses although they were not, in Figo’s opinion, any good at riding them.

They had other uses, though. No House offered scientists so ready for battle, so level-headed and calm in the midst of chaos. They also traded in the best venison in all of Midgard, soaking their fine meats in sweet and spicy sauces that made the long Vanir winters bearable. One of their green-coated nobles came out to greet them, a pretty woman with long silvering hair and deep blue eyes.

“Greetings, nobles of House Jera,” the woman said. “You are welcome here.”

“We both thank you for your kindnesses,” Figo answered, pausing to meet the woman’s eye. “And your hospitality.” The woman smiled, was about to voice some response when the Coeecians attacked.

It wasn’t a large assault, but even so Figo found himself terrified, a second too late drawing his levl to completely parry the attacker that came for him. He drew a dryw and slashed at his attacker, heart racing as the nobles of House Ihwaz lumbered out of their city to attack with their favored noble tool, the saer – a heavy block of metal attached to a long stick. Such tools were meant to destroy structures or force things together, but the damage they inflicted on the human body when in the hands of Ihwaz’s giants was terrifying to behold.

The Coeecians fell back, tried to regroup, giving Figo a chance to breathe. He remembered the things that his lover had told him: the Coeecians are cowards at heart, he heard her whisper. They require gods to justify themselves and protect them from their terrors, and one another to goad themselves into doing anything. Find their leader, kill him, and the rest will scatter.

Figo scanned the small group. Even now they were retreating from Ihwaz in a tight pattern while causing as much damage to the city as they were able, forcing some of their victims to stop and deal with what they left in their wake. He remembered the lessons that Hekro had given him regarding the Coeecian placement of troops, how their chaos only appeared as such. A single man stood in the center of the chaos, untouched by the madness happening all around him.

Running with all the strength in him, Figo edged ever closer to the Coeecian raiders, flanking them from the left. He hopped up a barrel, leaped up and caught the roof of a house, ran across the structure and jumped off it and into the midst of the Coeecian swarm. The leader had time only to blink before Figo’s levl lashed out and caught the man in the throat, crushing his windpipe. The man clawed at his neck, fell to his knees, keeled over when Figo booted him in the face, and then lay still.

The Coeecians broke and ran.

Something slammed into his spine.

His knees lacked the ability to hold him upright; he fell. He heard a woman scream in anger, the same woman that had greeted him earlier. Gentle hands spun him carefully, fingers cradling his neck. A giant, looking embarrassed, stood over to one side, cradling his saer, as the woman looked down at him and tried to say something that Figo could not quite understand. He tried to nod but couldn’t, his body tingling but otherwise without sense.

Nicu was nowhere to be seen.

He was placed back in a carriage and lost track of time. He knew he was being taken east but he did not know for how long he traveled. He heard himself ranting, sometimes, and felt himself uncomfortably hot. Blessed cold cut through the haze of that burning and, in his more lucid moments, he realized that someone was placing wet rags on his forehead. His fever broke at some point. He thought he might die anyway. He wondered what Veskur would do when she found out.

Figo was somewhat lucid when they reached their destination – an outpost of Suwilo healers.

Time passed; Figo was unsure how much. The moon had been dark when he had arrived at Ihwaz and it was almost entirely light now. His back felt sore and his throat felt dry but he could think again, was himself again. He tried to move, feeling soft hands press against his bare chest.

“Stay.” The voice was conversational, the tone one used when addressing animals. Figo tried not to feel insulted. “I am Sahr Eri of House Suwilo and I have been healing you. The idiots that brought you here kept your spine together but neglected another wound that, given the slightest bit of attention, would have been nothing. They ignored it and it poisoned.

“You should be glad they brought you to me. A lesser healer would have had to sever your arm. As it stands you will spend a moon and a half longer here and then you will have full motion again. You will feel stiff in that time. This is because I have had to rebuild your spine. The liars of Ihwaz tried to pass responsibility for your more serious injury to the Coeecians, but I know the sort of impact that an Ihwaz saer can have on a Vanir body.

“With a lesser healer you would be paralyzed for the rest of your days. With my aid you can move, though you will have to re-learn your body and you will experience a crippling agony sometimes – perhaps once a season. I will teach you to make a salve that will soothe that pain, though you will have to get someone else to apply it. I hear you have a lover. Perhaps they can do this for you.”

“Thank you,” whispered Figo. He felt the other man’s arm wrap around his shoulders, lift him up slightly while cradling his head. A cup was placed against his lips and he was commanded to drink.

He did as instructed. Moments later he was asleep.

When he awoke again he was introduced to Sahr’s young son, Endrall. The beautiful boy was meant to take care of him and guide him through his convalescence, but there was something to the boy, some echo of distant Veskur in the way the boy held himself, in the way he spoke and fell into quiet repose. He was lovely in ways Veskur was not and Figo felt his heart a traitor when he kissed the boy, when he drew the boy to him and found his passion matched and overcome.

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When both were sticky and spent and silent, Figo felt safe and warm, experiencing the same sense of belonging that he had when wrapped in Veskur’s arms. The boy even spoke like Veskur, using a similar cadence and turn of phrase, turning to similar topics that Figo understood but had not considered the full depth of. Like Veskur, Endrall thought too deeply about things, was driven to subjects that others would have thought without passion.

And, like Veskur, Endrall was alone.

There was sadness to him, a quality that Figo feared that only he could see. He sent word of the boy to his lover, confessing everything. If Veskur was hurt by his dalliances with Endrall she kept that pain to herself – and, in fact, seemed supportive of Figo’s wandering affections. She expressed an interest in meeting Endrall, a meeting that Figo felt was only fair; if Endrall and Veskur were echoes of one another, well, perhaps they could help one another come to terms with the individual passions that drove them.

Figo sent back word that he would make that meeting happen, fingers tracing the elegant scrawl that Veskur had sent back. The last portion of her words spoke of her love for him, the language much more flowery than he would have expected and the declaration of her feelings terrifyingly intense. Before it, however, was a note about the boy Thea Raido of that distant House. The boy was going to be working with River, but the boy did not want to travel or stay with his mentor due to River’s unsavory reputation; he had asked, instead, to stay with Veskur two days out of every seven.

He could see Thea’s plan. It was this bit that troubled him, as he had read some of Thea’s notes to his love and even spoken with him on a handful of occasions. The feelings the boy felt for Veskur were wild and uncontrolled, a burning sense of possession that refused to acknowledge any thought of failure, any doubt that Veskur belonged with anyone but him. Figo could not believe that Veskur could be ignorant of the young noble’s intent and here she was, inviting that noble into her home.

There was only one thing that he could think of to do, all things considered. His heart was healed, his courage certain. He had stood against the Coeecians and was now nearly hale once more, his passions sated in strong gentle arms during his recovery. If Veskur desired someone else, Figo had no choice but to accept that desire, his letter back the only permission that Veskur would ever require: a promise to be an absence in her life from that moment forward.

***

More is coming next week. If you like the artwork, why not go and thank Meghan Duffy at duffyartdesign.com? She’s cool people.

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359

Fiction – Love is War 03:00:01:06

Books & Writing, Culture, Short Fictions

September 18, 2015

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. 

***

Click here to read previous entry.

***

– 03:00:01:06 –

Veskur Wyrd sometimes looked at other couples in love and saw that they often lived together. Her mother and father, for instance, had lived with one another for all of Veskur’s life. Figo’s parents had split up years ago, whatever romance that had once bound them long since turned to ashes. Wyrd suspected heavily that the mother had abused her child physically and knew for a fact that the father had abused him emotionally. She did what she could to help make up for both, though she knew her efforts were awkward at best.

Figo seemed to appreciate it, though, and that was more than enough to make everything Veskur felt and everything Veskur did somehow better. She felt her life complimented and perfect thanks to the presence of the young noble.

She was not arrogant enough to believe that she made Figo’s life better, but she hoped that she did, anyway. She knew she was strange to be around and most of the time she did not care, but she found herself making concessions for the sake of this other, behaving in ways that no one had ever been able to compel her to behave before. It was strange, how one person could make everything she felt seem so much more, how one person could fill her with feelings of joy that she would never have expected could be culled from a tie to another Vanir.

Her heart did not live with her. His parents approved of Veskur as a war hero but were leery of her House, and his allies and even his friends wanted nothing to do with her strangeness. This suited Veskur fine, as she found Figo’s entire inner circle vapid, empty, and spiteful. They took her heart for granted in so many small ways, undermining Figo without ever seeming to care or even acknowledge the hurt, and Figo accepted their abuse with a disregard for his own well-being that Veskur herself mirrored when it came to her own dealings.

For reasons she could not name, however, she refused to tolerate anyone treating Lord Figo with such disdain.

River commented on Figo’s absence sometimes, but Veskur understood that her heart had other things to do than be with her in the remoteness of her frozen home. It made her cherish those times that they could be together all the more, and there were some nights where she found herself restless and warm and would wander outside, singing her passion to the valley she had made and the snow that filled it. She would smile when she did this, overcome with a sense of giddiness that she never tried to tame.

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River, when he heard her sing, told her that she was deaf to any kind of tone.

Her old friend had given her the means to contact Thea and the two of them had exchanged tentative greetings before getting into the meat of things. As promised, the young Lord proved to be a quick study and a good scholar. Veskur was inundated with the events that plagued Thea’s life, his triumphs and tragedies, and found both impressive enough. The boy also expressed an interest in her that Veskur was uncomfortable with, her manner and oddities apparently taken as some form of flirtation. By the time Veskur realized what had happened it was too late to say anything about it while being polite, though she did try to decline without hurting the youth.

Thea pressed ahead anyway.

All the stories that the noble of House Raido told of himself ended with him victorious over whatever trouble presented itself. Veskur thrilled to the tales of the boy’s many victories, his accomplishments enough to sate the necessity of glory in any man thrice his age. Still he pressed on, never satisfied with what he had done and always looking for another horizon to overcome. It was admirable, though quiet Veskur was uncertain how to deal with such an outgoing and hungry personality.

River told her to accept the boy’s eager lust and be done with it, but Veskur had never been comfortable with the sort of passions that River explored and so declined time and time again. She did her best to keep Figo from learning of Thea’s desires, but that proved fruitless. Figo said he wasn’t threatened or bothered by his would-be rival’s affections and Veskur, taking hope from this, resolved to never hide anything from her heart ever again. She put it out of her mind.

She put it out of her mind.

Her work was still progressing, though perhaps not as quickly now that her attentions were divided. There were two things that mattered now instead of one and she was not nearly as upset about this as she would have expected herself to be. Figo’s warmth and presence, his laughter and light, his lips on her neck and earlobe, his hands running through her… all these things came to hold more value for her than she would have ever believed possible. She told him she loved him and meant it, was left breathless when he pressed his lips against hers and held her down and loved her, loved her, made everything in her feel like light and fire.

He was all that mattered. He was everything, everything, perfection made flesh in ways that she knew even he would never understand. She listed for him fifty things that she loved about him, covered her home in flowers and light to celebrate him, everything he was and everything he meant.

She was happier with him than she ever would be again.

***

More is coming next week. If you like the artwork, why not go and thank Meghan Duffy at duffyartdesign.com? She’s cool people.

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