All entries for January 2010
January 14, 2010
Alex was buried that afternoon with full honours. The whole community gathered to pay their respects; they all knew he had sacrificed his life for them.
There had been whispers of him being buried at the cross roads outside town but I squashed those ideas before they could gather momentum. There was no way on earth I would allow him to be treated in such a fashion. His sacrifice had guaranteed his position in the cemetery and his right to a decent burial.
“It isn’t right this, this burial. He shouldn’t be on consecrated ground, he should have been burned, or put outside the town. It’s unholy—an affront to all that’s decent and right. Lord knows I don’t doubt his sacrifice, and I am ever thankful for it; but as soon as tradition and good sense goes out of the window, well, it’s a quick skip to complete anarchy.”
“I agree completely Agnes. It’s better to be safe than sorry—the priest is a fool. All the men are though for that woman. She seems to make them spellbound. I don’t understand why though, she gives me the shivers—those eyes of hers…”
“Don’t get me started on her Rachel. You know how I feel about her—Mute? Humph. I know better, I heard the story from Ned. She’s just too high and mighty to talk with the likes of us.”
I eyed the old woman, Agnes Black, who was whispering to her friend, Rachel Turncoat. Unfortunate names, I know. They were four rows back and to my left. I marked them well.
Agnes caught me looking and blushed at my stare. She tried hard not to be intimidated though and to look confident. She sat up taller in her seat, and fidgeted.
I left quickly after the service; I had no wish to be gawped at for longer than was necessary. I would return later, in the eve, when all was quiet and still.
I wanted to keep watch over him. I was sure he wouldn’t rise, due to the loss of his heart and head but I wanted to discourage any militant townsfolk who may entertain ideas of digging him up and spiriting away his body; either for burning or for hacking up. My written assurances that I had removed his head and heart wouldn’t satisfy some. They wouldn’t believe me.
I sat by his grave and placed a bunch of forget-me-nots on the mound of soft earth. I had no idea what to do. I now had no one to care for me, not that Alex did much caring but from the outside it may have appeared so.
The people of the township could force me to leave, after all Alex and I were Outsiders; wanderers of the wastes. We were people with no home or clan to call our own. We didn’t have any rights and were often looked on with disgust. Trading with us was fine but allowing us to have a permanent residence? That was a thought beyond most townies. Whitefalls however had been different. We were given a place to stay so long as we proved useful. Alex was skilled with a blade and bow, in an area so far removed and isolated within the wastes these talents were prized. He had helped man the defences for five years, and had worked his way up to leading his own band of men in that time.
I never felt useful or wanted. The women of this town are strangely removed from reality. Unlike most towns in the wastes these people have an organised religion, one that Alex feverously ascribed to after living here a while. And it is the women of the town who are the most serious about it; and in particular, to my mind, the three Ds; decorum, duty, and dullness. They seem to belong to a different age; an age whose brilliant fires died out long ago; but here is a flickering candle. They are a remnant of another time.
They puzzled me and I could not bring myself to seek their company. Now I doubt they would let me if I tried. I do not feel a rub though because the thought of spending time with them chokes my breath. And so they naturally look upon me with fear and anger; the threat I seem to pose to them and their ordered way of life.
My gods however do not frighten me nearly so much as theirs; their two-faced god with three forms. He frightens me for he smiles and offers me shelter, but behind him is a past is wreathed in fire and smoke. The form that smiles has a father who smites. I feel that too about the women; they smile at me and turn the other cheek to my supposed insults, but I worry that behind it all they are grinning and sharpening blades.
I jumped as a noise of scrabbling came from beneath the mound. It sounded like something was digging its way out of Alex’s grave. This wasn’t good and it should have been impossible. I had carried out the necessary actions to prevent a Rising; he should not have been able to wake.
I drew my dagger and my stake, though without his heart I had little idea what I could do, and prepared to meet Alex head on. But it became clear that it wasn’t him who was crawling up through the dirt. It was something that had been resting inside of him.
It wriggled up through the soil and gazed at me. I was unable to move with the shock and surprise of seeing such a creature. I swiftly recovered my wits and dived at it with my blade, but it was fast. It squealed, or rather shrieked at me, and fled from the grave, darting between the headstones.
I chased after it, my feet were also swift and I had good reflexes. I observed as I ran how its fluid, oily form was evolving and changing as it ran. It kept mutating into a myriad of forms and motions as it tried to evade me.
The dull candles on the gravestones cast a weak light but it was just strong enough to flash off its skin. The light darts allowed me to keep it in view; if not for them I would have had no hope of finding it.
It spotted a hole in the wall and made a sprint for it but I leapt and brought the dagger down onto it. I was lucky and the knife pinned it the floor. It began to screech as it spat black blood everywhere, the creature was fully impaled on the stiletto and as it died it struggled and screamed.
I backed away, horrified at the destruction and torment of the thing. It shrank and grew weak as its blood and life-force spurted onto the ground. When it finally stopped I crept in close and picked up the dagger. Beneath it was a smashed crystal.
I began to shake and cry soundlessly as I realised the enormity of what I had done. And of how lucky I had been.
The noises in the churchyard had unsurprisingly attracted the attention of the night watch man who now came hurrying into the yard; his lantern was light bobbing before him. I was still grounded enough to feel annoyed that he had only made an appearance after the screams had stopped, but then Ned had never been that brave or skilled at fighting. Snooping round peoples’ houses and spying on them seemed to be much more Ned’s kind of thing. I hid the blade and tried to wipe the blood from my hand. I rose and smoothly stood in front of the bloody patch. I didn’t want Ned to see anything. He shone his light close to my face and looked me over. His eyes were dark and large and his face pale and drawn.
“Miss James! What’s happened? Are you alright? I heard screams and came running, you haven’t been attacked have you?”
I shook my head.
“Are you sure? It sounded like something was in a lot of pain and sounded human in fact.” He eyed me shrewdly.
I felt anger flare up inside me. Athena grant me wisdom when dealing with such a fool, I thought, he obviously thinks it was me screaming, like he thought it was me singing. I shook my head again.
“You’re not hurt in any way? You’re fine?”
I nodded strongly. I wanted to get away from here but I wanted to take the crystal with me. It would need a further study; I had certain books that I thought would be useful.
“Hm. Did you hear anything then?”
I nodded and pointed out towards the forest. I shrugged.
“From the forest? Guess that’s possible, the wind is blowing mighty strangely tonight--probably a creature being killed by them demons.”
Ned glanced around, trying to check if there was anyone else in the yard. When he was satisfied he turned back to me. There was anger and suspicion in his eyes. “You can try to fool me Miss James but I ain’t believing it. You are up to something…I can’t prove anything now, of course. But I know you ain’t what you seem. If you know what's best for you...” His fiery god was burning in his eyes and I felt afraid, though with his reaction my fear of the people seemed justified. Then his countenance brightened, but this frightened me more than his anger, it was a veil of normality or a sudden realisation that he was speaking things he shouldn’t. “But then again who is eh?" He smiled. "I’ll be seeing you around Miss James.”
I watched as he left me, whistling a slight tune under his breath and swinging his lantern. I had never found Ned frightening before but I was now very wary of him. I didn’t like the idea of being observed by him, he suspected too much about me already.
January 13, 2010
Bushy beard that lures (and only his) out from a face that abounded, surrounded by, lied. It's that way.
He now stalked the streets and lanes. The desire was to walk; he thought it an excellent confidence booster. Though is shouldn't be. He would dream, of seeing it gathered, hacked off in clumps. He would wake and query, no it's still there, it's still in place. He feared that he'd cut it off if he got drunk, so he feared drinking alcohol, but events were out of control. Most didn't find it too hard but he liked to drink alone and so it returned to him, stealing over the light. He was helpless, he wanted to cut it off. No he didn't want that at all.
He grew a beard. It was a large, bushy beard that obscured most of his features but his beetle bug eyes peeped out still even though nearly everything else was covered with hair. Good. He wanted that. He felt safer when he had it, no longer felt the urge to walk in the shadows. He treasured the disguise: a real confidence booster. It did itch though and at night he thought about shaving it off and allowing it to gather around his feet in clumps. He had to quickly check it was still there, he might have shaved it off.
He avoided seeing the social question of its presence. Anyway he didn't care and had never cared. Too many memories, too much darkness. He didn't want that feeling, he didn't.
We know that you no longer sleep. War has come to our lands and we hear you wake within our heads and hearts. We welcome you “Come, lead us into battle.” we say. “Fly to us down the long, yellow, mountain road. We are waiting for you by the dry red stone that will run with new sacrifices, and we make the night full of our fires. They burn red and yellow in the darkness, while above us the eye of the Dog Star, white and black, gazes down on us.”
Our people have named you the Battle Crow; you can be a bird with many black feathers, wings and tail but you are a woman with a fierce beauty and a lust for blood. You are the Morrigan, a goddess of war made from three and we offer you an egg of blood. You sleep when the land is peaceful, when the earth is green and good, but we now walk an earth that is black and full of smoke. Therefore we call upon you to aid us in our plight.
We lie round the red fire; breathe in the smoke, drink water laced with ashes, and burn from both the fires without and within. We all hear you say this: kill. We know with sorrow what we must do.
We give you a pig; and its blood wets the dry red stone making it the egg upon which you can feast. Ashes are cloud the water and the smoke obscures the sun above us, making twilight eternal. The red fire that we lie round burns the fat. We eat the meat, skin and bone. Blood and smoke: we see red and black. We look for you but no word comes…we realise that this is not enough.
So we give you a man who is also made of meat, blood and bone. We say your name as we bite his liver. We kill the man who once stood beside us, who had to offer himself to your mercy.
All around us we have seen trees die, the green leaves and seeds all dry and dead, dry and cold. Their roots and bark turning black…you killed the trees. I know this. I whose heart you know is made of stone. But it is a sign that the sacrifice was good.
You are a queen of terror, a woman who has red and yellow eyes, long black fingernails and a dry tongue. You do not know clean water, green earth and white clouds…You eat stars, sand, and ashes. You have to drink black water, bite black earth that burns with fires, and swim in black clouds of smoke. You are a fish of black clouds, a swimmer of black rain. We all know you and drink the pig’s blood, eat the meat.
Night falls again. I hear your call and I am cold after leaving the fires. I am walking up the long yellow mountain road to you and I give you the skin of the man and my heart. I lie with you and know your warmth, full burn. You give me a vision. I see the yellow mountain walk and the black trees stand as the red fires of man sleep. The moon is full and round and the stars are cold and white.
You say to me, “This blood and skin are good. I will give you a tooth from my mouth. On the battlefield raise it above your head and I will fly to you, and invoke the great mages.”
I hold the gift in my hands and I see that the white tooth is a moon; cold and round. The moon tooth that once bit the earth now lies in my hand. The tooth is good.
I walk back down the yellow mountain road, and sit with my men around the fire. I say you gave the tooth. We know new goodness, but now we will not bite the bones. The man we once loved lies dead. We know that you are not good, you are the killing night.
We stand and all walk down the long mountain road to the field. The long road we walk to our deaths. The road we walk to kill; man, woman, dog and bird. The tooth we hold aloft and the mages answer your call. We know great victory on the field that day.
The fires die. The sun is not dead, not eaten. The trees stand and many know greenness and goodness. Earth is green and good. We all killed. We all died. We all now sleep and know you: the Night Bird, the Phantom Queen, and the Battle Crow.
I hate them. Do you understand me? Nothing about them is redeemable in my eyes. I hate their smell, their looks, their viciousness and blighted beauty; I hate their hunger, their violence and their laughter…I hate what they do it the ones I love, the madness they inspire and the monsters they create: I hate them!
Alex had been hunting them for years along the borders of the township. He had been trying to keep us all safe; to keep the promise he made to the people. But something had gone wrong tonight. He had been left to struggle alone and vastly outnumbered. He had lived up to his name though and to his lineage: he was dying with dignity.
His men managed, somehow, to recover him. They dragged him in and slung him onto my table, sweeping the pots and ceramics off the surface with their brutal arms. The crockery smashed on the stone floor and their shattered fragments scoured the surfaces and rattled into the corners, hitting the boards. The flowers I had lovingly grown were crushed beneath their boots and the purple and pink peonies bled their petals among the smashed plates. The blue cloth I’d laid on the table began to stain crimson as the blood smothered it.
I watched the crimson spread over the blue; it was turning a once calm sea into a cursed lagoon.
I reached for Alex but his arm lashed out and knocked me across the room. I lay stunned in the wreckage of crockery, my face and hands were cut from some of the sharper shards. I had hit the wall hard and both my head and body ached, I knew I would have bruises. I put pressure on the worst cut, and tied it up efficiently with a handkerchief; but otherwise I ignored the wounds.
His companions laughed at the action. They clapped him on the shoulder and laughed again as he lashed out at them too.
Alex growled and moaned in his delirium. He had little idea that he was now safe, I guess he thought we were the monsters. Or perhaps he knew exactly where he was, and hated us all, maybe he felt betrayed by all of us.
I sat up and I licked some of the blood off my fingers. My dress was rumpled and torn from the violence; I attempted to straighten it out and the light fabric drifted easily beneath my hands as I stood and dusted myself down.
I forgave him for the slight. Besides, in this world, violence was nothing new.
I heard a man's voice from outside in the corridor ask sharply "Where is he?" I didn't recognise the voice, but he sounded authoriative and stern.
A doctor (or surgeon, or charlatan or wizard) made his way quickly into the room. His bag of instruments was clutched in his arms. He hurried over to Alex and attempted to assess his condition but he got almost the same treatment as me. The doctor was swift and had fast reflexes though, and after the first glancing blow he managed to easily dodge the flailing limbs. In the end though when the doctor wanted a closer look the men had to hold Alex down. He was still violently defensive and appeared to have little awareness of what was happening.
Blood ran freely from his wounds, and I watched intently as it dripped over the edge of the table and onto the floor; some of it hitting the peonies.
The doctor had him stripped.
I saw the deep cuts and slashes. I saw the wounds (his bones too), and I stared at the contrast of red and white. His skin seemed so pale compared to the rose red of his insides.
The doctor's neat stitches closed him up and the bandages shrouded his figure, like winding cloths. My table cloth contiued to drink up the blood. But we all knew the wounds were too deep and terrible; his bones had shattered and skewered his organs. He was destroyed on the inside even if he appeared fixed on the outside.
I held his hand as he slept and I prayed that Morpheus would grant him a wonderful abyss. Alex had always loved the darkness, the quiet of night and close physical warmth. He would lie curled up, deep within the bed, below the covers, like a babe in the womb.
He stopped breathing just before dawn, as Aurora rose from her own slumber and opened the gates for Apollo's chariot to enter the sky.
I had to make sure he wouldn't Rise. If I didn't do it then one of his men would have to, and I couldn't bear the idea of it. I beheaded him (quickly and easily) with my cleaver, and then removed his heart. I wanted it to be buried with me when my time came. My dress was covered with stains, and I knew they wouldn't come out in the wash.