Jun. 22nd, 2008 10:52 am
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She is walking by the arbor when she first notices it, and at first it doesn't even quite register. The smell of warm teak reminds her of ships, of the sea, of adventure and wind and the sun that her City never sees. And then she's upon it in her rambles; the tall arched door burnished to a dark gold, its hammered hinges the black of pine tar and the wrought-iron grille of a peephole shuttered loosely with tiny doors. The girl opens the tiny doors curiously, and peers out.

The Woods stare back at her, the same as they always have. It is only then that she realizes which corner of her Garden this door is in. Fog curls around the massive trunks, beckoning flirtatiously, and she can hear the forest's call in the back of her head: Give up, give it all up, come run with us in the moonlight...

She slams the tiny door shut against the sound, her heart hammering in her breast like something small and trapped. But over the smell of teak and pine she can still smell them: wolves. Why did it always have to be wolves?

Her back against the door, she surveys her surroundings with anguish. All she has built, and all she has created - the Palace, the Temple, her gardens, the myriad parlors and conservatories, grottoes and twisting passages filled with wonder, the Vault and the Gallery and the Hall of Faces - what does it mean, to any but herself? These wonders mean so much and yet so little. She heaves herself from the door and runs, petticoats rustling like storm-tossed leaves, back to her apartments in the Palace, to her sanctuary, her place of meditation.

And somewhere inside, the skeletal dancers of the Ballroom dance endlessly on.
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She wakes to the smell of smoke. The acrid scent pushes away a very pleasant dream, and she wakes in the dark to the soft sounds of the Drummer's breathing, and the crackle of pine. She closes her eyes with a sigh, then pushes away coverlet and silken sheets, wincing at the temperature change. Inside her apartments a ghostly orange light, at the same time similar and different from the light of the City, dances through her windows and flickers along the gilt ceiling ornaments.

Outside the Shadows have gathered in a throng on the back balcony to watch, but she pushes through them. The air is thick with smoke and flying ash, and there is a solemn funeral air to the scene. It is a funeral; a cremation.

On the other side of the Palace's walls, the stumps of still-living pine burn like smudgepots, some sending up jets of bright flame as their sap ignites. Tiny sapling pines, no more than a few fingers thick disappear and reappear in the smoke like doomed dancers in skirts of flame. The forest burns, even where it's been chopped back from the walls, and the walls themselves creak and groan with the heat. Above the flames the Tower still rises, a burning light at its apex glimmering like a malevolent eye.

The sense of waste overwhelms her. Even as the Forest burns, she can see it's no use; the Tower and Palace are too closely bound in the World to ever fully sunder in the City. The pines shriek and wail in a voice that only she can hear, and she turns her back on the sight, clutching her kimono tightly about her as if to close out the entire awful thing. Eddie is by her side now, and the rest of the Shadows turn to look at her, expressions of fear and sadness written on their faces. She shakes her head.

"There is nothing I can do. The Wolf thinks that I'm hunting him, and anything I say to the contrary will sound like a false denial. This," she gestures to the burning trees, "should at least make him feel better."

The Bridge

May. 21st, 2005 01:49 am
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The girl stands, staring out over the City from the balcony of her apartments. The green eyed silent one stands at her elbow, his cheek pressed comfortably against hers. The stars twinkle over the lights of the bustling City, and there is a faint strain of music on the air. And again, the strain grows more insistant, and the green eyed one starts as if pinched, looking wildly off into the dark. The tune fades and swells again, and this time he looks down, then up at the girl, eyes beseeching. She sighs tiredly, and nods, turning away. The man is gone in a blink, but she knows this already and does not bother to confirm it.

Instead, she turns back and walks through her apartment to the back balcony, robed in silence, where the pollution of no other galas can touch her here. She stares out aimlessly at the yard of the Palace, small in the cramped quarters of the City, but indicative of no little force of will in its sprawling size. To one corner, the dim haze that might someday become a stable again shimmers in the faint moonlight, and the faint tracery of a baroque swirl etches where there should be a formal herb garden, should she someday choose to focus on one. But she frowns as her gaze follows the far wall backwards, and loses sight of it in a crowd of trees and some attendant mist. Her fingers clench on the railing.

"Eddie?!" It is less question than command, and the shadow is by her side immediately, a fleck of foam still bedecking one spindly hand that was hitherto immersed in sudsy water.
"Yes, Misstresss?"
"Eddie, where did that come from, and when?" She waves, flustered at the forest now stretching into darkness in her very backyard.
"I cannot tell when it came," he fidgets, wiping the suds away, "But it appeared a handfull of daysss ago, after the Wolf dissssappeared."
"Ah. I see."

And indeed she does. As the moon comes out from behind a cloud, she sees the faint outlines of a tower rising up above the forest, far, far in the distance. The forest is a bridge, a promise. Thinking this, she listens as a wolf's howl carries faintly to her on the night breeze. She shudders a little, goosebumps briefly marring her skin. Let it be a bridge. There was no crossing it, just now.


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May 2009

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