Chapter Twenty Nine

Posted: September 7, 2015 in Arc 3 - Sinking

Lynn watches.

A shadow fey, liberated from Gwydion’s grasp, stands on the edge of the light. Fine chains adorn her clothes, bearing seals proclaiming she is Probably Not a Spy for the Shadow and Is Allowed to Walk About (Within Reason). She may have been a slave of the Shadow before, but it’s only now that she’s free that she has to wear chains.

She faces the turbulent towering darkness before her. Reaches out, then withdraws her hand. Walks away, then runs back. Clasps her chains until her pale knuckles turn white, maybe to tear them apart, maybe to hold on to them. Probably both. Reaches out, like she’s a spurned lover. Reaches out, like she’s drowning in the light. Reaches out, in a curse and a prayer. Her hand falls, powerless.

The Shadow remains untouched. Tears streak down her cheeks as she walks away. Behind her, a ripple passes through the primordial darkness, and a seeking tendril emerges. It extends after the runaway fey, maybe to caress her, maybe to strangle her. Probably both. She doesn’t notice. The shadow tendril falls, powerless. It is obliterated by the merciless borrowed sunlight.

The fey will be back tomorrow.

Lynn watches.

A tiny old man trundles down the street, wizened and weathered. He mutters constantly, and glares with beady black eyes through the bush of dirty grey hair, and spits on the ground. No one pays him any heed as he dashes through the crowd, too nimble for his age, for any age. His iron-shod shoes hit the ground as if he was trying to punish it. His iron teeth gleam darkly when he sneezes.

The horrid old man has a sack on his back. It clinks with his every move, and shifts of its own accord. The sack is heavy, even for him. The old man moves from alley to alley. Sometimes, there’s a rat waiting for him there. He picks it up, and listens to its squeaking. Then he puts it into his sack.

Sometimes, he reaches deep into his sack, and the sack goes into a frenzy. His arm is covered in rat bites. He chuckles as he pulls a rat out, angry and vicious. The old man sets it loose, and moves on. The rat’s iron-shod claws gleam darkly as it scampers away.

Lynn watches.

A young woman sells dried fruit from her tray. She’s been on her feet since dawn, walking up and down New Valenar. She comes here every day at about the same time. Looks around, bites her lip. Wipes her hands on the sides of her dress, runs them through her hair nervously.

An elfblooded man rounds the corner, sees her, and his face lights up with hunger. They greet one another warmly. Their smiles only grow wider when the other isn’t looking. They do a lot of not looking. Money is exchanged, then fruit. Their touches linger. She’s hungry, too.

Eventually, he leaves. She watches him go, then pretends not to when he turns around. Out of her sight, the man hands the fruit he bought to a beggar. He has been sated, for now.

Lynn watches.

A cogheart stands on the edge of a garden, a trio of barren trees outside the boundary of the daylight crystals. Mechanisms whir and hum quietly inside its chest. Snow piles up on its shoulders as it stands perfectly still. It used to be a man once, or perhaps a woman.

Children play snowballs among the trees. They no longer notice the metal figure, used to its presence. Too used: a stray snowball hits it, and the kids freeze. The cogheart looks down at the snowprint left on its chest, and the kids back away slowly. It reaches down, grasps snow with metal fingers. Regards it silently, quizzically. The kids glance at one another.

The cogheart cups both hands over the snow, making a snowball. It reaches back, and tosses the ball, aimed at no one. Unwieldy metal fingers fail to compact the snow, and the throw lacks force. The snowball falls apart ineffectually before it even reaches the ground.

The cogheart hangs its head as it departs. There are no more games that day.

Lynn watches.

A palanquin carried by four burly men speeds down the street. It’s windows are draped. The men in the front yell at stragglers to get out of their way. They are tired, heavy breath erupting from their mouths in fog clouds. One of them stumbles, and the palanquin careens for a moment. They exchange glances, their faces contorted with fear.

A bell rings out, and the palanquin stops. More fearful glances. A long finger moves the drapes aside. Carriers stand to attention, straining to not be noticed. Beads of sweat form on their foreheads as the palanquin door swings open.

Karadash steps out, walks up to Lynn. Regards her. Asks: “Do you know me, child?” Bends down, his face centimeters from hers. There is the face her mind tells her she sees, sharp, noble, alluring, exotic face of the marquis. There is the face her eyes tell her she sees, covered in fur, shrouded in terror, sharp toothed face of the Beast. Lynn watches.

Karadash grabs Lynn’s chin. The Beast’s claws pierce her skin. Lynn watches. Karadash looks her in the eyes. The Beast looks within her. Lynn watches. Karadash sneers. The Beast bares his fangs. Lynn watches. Karadash stands up, turns away, annoyed at her lack of response. The Beast is frustrated its prey is gone. Lynn watches. “Pity”, he drops as he boards the palanquin.

Lynn smiles.

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