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.


Apr. 13th, 2008 11:16 pm
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The feeling is... strange. Like walking underwater, at double speed. There is a revelation in every movement, in every twanging muscle, in every darting glance, and then...

Tangled in her bedclothes, the girl sits up in the dark with a jerk and a gasp. There is something strange here too, she notes. The soft cotton that should have been under her palms is gone, and the faint starlight through her curtains falls into and is absorbed by something of a deep, dark color. It takes a moment for the slippery rustling beneath her fingers to make any sense, but yes, here it is - she lights the nearby candelabra with a thought - silk. Her bedclothes are silk. She swears softly to herself, rubbing her eyes. Eddie appears a moment later, an anonymous stoppered bottle held gently in one hand.

"No, no. No need" she waves him away, swinging her legs over the side of the bed. "Some things I need to see about. Has there been any word from the Watcher?"
He pauses a moment, looking thoughtful. "No missstressss. No breachesssss reported on any front. Issss sssssomething wrong?"
"Wrong?" it is her turn to look thoughtful. "I don't know. Wrong is perhaps a little strong a word. Something is... different."

Candle in one hand, and the tail of her kimono trailing behind her, she prowls the halls restlessly, searching high and low for the disturbance that rings in her mind like the echo of churchbells. Her steps draw her ever inward, deeper and deeper into the depths of the Palace, until she stands again before the curved door of the Chasm and the Heartstone, the hum of air across the lintel a constant and soothing sound. She opens the door, trembling. The room is bathed in the same pale sourceless light as always, but there is something amiss, something different and unseen here. Taking one step past the wrought-iron railings and out onto the void, she pauses, thoughtfully, and looks back.

She almost falls, almost drops her single candle into that depthless chasm, almost forgets who and where she is in her startlement and falls, herself.

Above the door of the Chasm stands a nook. In that nook, until now, stood a statue of Psyche, blindfolded. Now the statue stands, bare-eyed, with rivulets of golden honey pouring down her cheeks, sword in one hand and lamp in the other. The girl squeezes her eyes shut, taking deep breaths to quell the pressure rising through her.

Later, she sits in the Palace garden, head on palm on knee, staring out into the warm spring darkness and thinking. The wind shifts imperceptibly, bearing on it the faint sounds of the City outside the walls, but also something... She sits up, sniffing the air with surprise, then gets to her feet and strides to the far wall, hands outstretched. The bare, blasted alabaster stones are gone, completely obscured by trellised oranges in bloom, wound with sweet night-flowering jasmine and honeysuckle. Crickets sing in the foliage, and fireflies blink and hover gaily. She sits, for she does not know what else to do, taking deep breaths which explode like a waterfall from her in laughter.

"Am I? Oh goddess, healed? Now? Only when all hope is fled?"
She flings her arms wide into the night, her heart full to bursting. "Then let them come!"


Jan. 3rd, 2006 03:14 am
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She is perched on the balcony railing overlooking the foyer of the Palace, one arm wrapped casually around a marble sylph-shaped column when Eddie finds her. Her hands are idly but busily engaged with a knife and apple, and tiny tendrils of apple skin fall into a small pile on her lap. She seems pensive, meditative, as she looks out over the space towards the heavy brazen doors with their sculpted trees and vines. Her mouth twitches, quirks experimentally, then she smiles, shaking her head.

"Nothing turns out the way you expect." The sound startles Eddie, who jumps, twig-like limbs flying.
"Yesss, I mean... No! - no indeed Missstresss," he answers, regaining his composure.

No answer is required, however, and the girl stares dreamily at the door, turning the naked apple in her hand. With an absentminded gesture, she places the knife to the right of her at about chest-height, as if she were setting it on a table and not on thin air over a goodly amount of empty, open space. The knife hovers in space obligingly, and disappears. Eddie sighs inwardly, making a mental note to check the kitchen countertops to see where the thing ended up. The girl stares out at the doors, the true Gateway to her kingdom, for a moment longer. The sculpted leaves seem almost to sigh in a passing wind, the vines flicker and sway as if real and not locked in cold, solid metal. She starts gently, then pivots on her perch on the railing, absently patting the sylph's marble knee as she dismounts onto the balcony.

With a handful of apple peel, she strides through the back parlor and drawing room, out to the patio and down the steps into the formal garden. Her feet crunch on blue-grey gravel as she walks to the center of the space, pausing to let the ripples on the new-Called reflecting pond subside. She sinks to her knees on the pond's smooth granite margin, the jet fringe on her skirts clinking softly against the stone. A snap of her fingers calls two candles to her, one for each side, and they shed a warm steady light across the still, still water. Taking a deep breath, she casts the peels onto the surface of the pond. "Tell!" she gasps.

The peels scatter, then as if guided by many unseen hands, begin to twirl and turn in the water, forming circles and lines and eventually a pattern that she recognizes. It is a bodhran, the image strangely outlined in bits of fruit skin. With a laugh, the girl plunges her hands into the water, sending droplets flying. When she pulls them out there is a drum in them, dry as a bone with a pattern of celtic knotwork worked on the head. She stares at it for a moment, a smile on her face, then stands to go. With an absent thought, she Calls fish into the pond where they eat the apple peels, then just as quickly unthinks them when the surface of the pond is empty. The candles she leaves, two flickering points against the dark, still night.

Back in the Gallery, she strides down the row of frames until she finds the one that suits: a rich dark oak, carved with a treble clef at one corner, and a green, green leaf at the other. The drum nearly leaps from her hands to hang within it, and she laughs again. Following behind her, Eddie marvels at the sound. As she leaves, he notices that the frame of red wood, with the tartan scrap inside, has fallen back from its former position near the heart of the Gallery, and the drum has taken its place. With a shrug he turns to leave. The ordering of Her gallery was not his concern.


Dec. 26th, 2005 01:31 am
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She is walking across a desert, parched skin cracking in a dry furnace wind, her bandaged feet leaving bloody footprints behind her as she trudges ever onward through the infernal gale towards some unseen point on the horizon. Her clothing flutters from her in torn, colorless rags, leaving bare skin at the mercy of wind-driven sand. Eyelids lowered, she squints into the storm, hands wrapped and bound, and clutched protectively to her chest around an empty golden chalice. The metal weighs her down and burns her flesh, and in the golden curve of the vessel one can see flames dancing. Stretched in front of her ad infinitum is a sentry line of silver chalices, each similar and yet different from the one she holds, each containing cool water in a tiny pocket of storm-free calm. But the girl's gaze does not wander from the horizon, her blistered hands cannot stand to unclench from her burdensome treasure, and she stumbles on, unseeing. Finally, she sinks exhausted and weeping into the sand, her broken hands automatically releasing the golden chalice, which rolls quickly down the dune she has just climbed. Empty now her hands, nay, her whole body yearns towards the cup which glints merrily, far from her grasp. As the sand piles at her back, sticking in her clothes and hair, she throws out her hand in one last desperate grab, and comes back without the golden chalice, but not empty. A silver chalice, light as air and encrusted with sapphires, now lies beside her, spilling an endless stream of cool, clear water through her hands and into the pocket of calm that has reached out to envelop her.

Inside the Palace the girl turns away from the image on the page, her face troubled. The bindings on her hands shed bloodied sand onto the hearth as she stands to lean against the ornately carved fireplace. She drops her head into one hand, trying to make sense of the image and failing.
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In the very heart of the Palace there is a grand chamber of multicolored marble, long lines of tall pilliars marching towards a dais on which sits a grand and highly ornamented throne. The throne's claret velvet is worn and threadbare, and the spires of gilt carving are bedecked with dust and cobwebs. A great sense of vacancy fills the room and more particularly the throne, relieved only by the presence of a very large, somewhat careworn looking spider who has taken up residence as caretaker of the seat. In front of the throne sits a flimsy looking folding stool, an abused and flattened pillow perched atop it for the comfort of the sitter, though it is quite evident that nobody has sat here in some time.

The girl stands behind one of the matched pair of black marble pillars, shivering with her body pressed up against the cold stone as if to hide herself. Her cheeks are wet, her eyes closed, her hands clenched and drawn to her chest, and she gives the impression of trying to press herself inside the pillar as if to escape something. Her lips move silently against the carved and polished stone, and the entire chamber is suffused with an air of sympathy. Finally, her lips stop moving and she slides down the pillar to curl fetal position against it, a fragile-looking thing in a nest of skirts. Finally, she speaks aloud.

"It pains me, this slow drawing apart. It's as if that moment, those few precious hours were some dream world, and now that I've returned, they are as insubstantial as butterfly ashes. I want to be that close to them again. I wish for that feeling of connection. It was glorious while it lasted, but I had hoped... I wish it had lasted longer."

As she falls silent, the long hall is filled with the sound of rushing wind, though not a breath of air stirs. The spider takes cover in one of its many maze-like webs, leaving a trembling thread of spidersilk glimmering over the seat of the throne. In that space condenses a Presence; a bright glow without shape or substance, but which dominates the entirety of the long hall, casting the pillars' shadows in sharp relief against the cold walls. The girl looks up in consternation, but not in fear.


The girl nods shakily, her face pale. "I will try! I have tried! It is not as if I didn't understand what he was trying to teach me, it's that I couldn't make myself give up! I could not quash those feelings so easily!" She hides her eyes, though the brightness has taken on a warmer color.


With that, the Presence vanishes, lifting a heavy pressure from the room. The girl collapses into unconsciousness against her pillar, and sleeps.


Feb. 12th, 2005 03:24 am
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In a small cafe in a dark corner of the City, a young woman sits, writing by candlelight. Fire catches in her hair, her eyes, and glints sympathy in the empty wineglass resting tiredly beside her. The pages are blotchy and ill-sanded, and her fingers are stained with ink, but still she scribbles on in an ancient secretary hand.

Finishing, she rubs a hand tiredly across one cheek, leaving a black smear, and stands. The shadowy others who inhabit the cafe turn idly, speculating and murmuring into silence. She speaks.

"Once, there was a dream." Her voice falters, and she pauses before continuing.

"Once there was a dream. A dream of outcasts. Once upon a time a group of outsiders came together in their isolation, and in so doing created an inside. A circle formed, vast and far-reaching, and within this circle physical havens came to be. These households were the manifestations of the circle in the real world, and for many years they provided sanctuary and friendship in good times and bad, for those who passed through them. They were a gate into another world, and as such, much celebrated.

"But the times changed. The outsiders became so thoroughly entrenched in their inside that they created a microcosm, where within the circle of insiders, there too were outsiders. The havens, robbed of the feeling that created them began to wither and die. One by one they closed their doors in silence and mourning, their once bright halls now dimmed in their return to the world outside the circle.

"And in this sinking twilight, one of the last great havens was corrupted, it's once bright ideals put to use in the pursuit of earthly lusts and selfish pleasures. As this became so, the very fabric of the household began to putrefy, and so fell the great house."
Softly she adds, “I know, for I was there.”

The woman stands unsteadily now, her voice caught in her throat. She looks down, closing her notebook slowly, and when she looks back up, her eyes are steel, devoid of that rich sentiment. Her tone is strident, hiding a quiet resolve that burns in the backs of prophet's eyes.

"I am the firebrand. I am the bringer of Endings. As all things begin, so must they end, and thus my place in this world is assured."

"I am the firebrand. I am the destroyer of putrefaction, I am the searing flame that reaches into dark corners where slimy creeping things lie, and I am the blade that rends the weaving of stagnant patterns."

"I am the firebrand. I am the agent of the measures required, that things fallen into darkness may not prevail. I am the conduit and vessel of God's will."

Her voice breaks, and she delivers one last proclamation before sitting, like a broken doll, and staring blindly at her notebook.

"I am the Vessel of Flame, and now I am empty."


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