It's nighttime. It's dark. And I'm alone. And I'm rotting from the inside out like I always am. It hurts. Not me. The people. The masses. It hurts. Them. They hurt.
And I'd like to live a virtuous life, I think. But the truth is I'm honestly too wrapped up in sin.
It's nighttime. It's dark. The moonlight glints on the water, low and dull and slimy. I can see it from my arching, clawing window. Not that I care. I'm too far gone to care.
I hate the river and everything it's come to represent.
Death is really the only way out of this bullshit is what I'm trying to say. We hate ... we do absolutely hate those who didn't take up La Causa and that includes us but the promise of a better world is just as out of reach as the promise of justice is.
He comes to me when it's late at night, one night. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Angelic. Enticing. Entrancing. My knees are weak. And I know I'm a disappointment to him. But I want to know him. I reach out to touch (to taste) but I'm stopped by ... by something clutching at me with waves of smoke. Just a few millimeters away from falling out the windows into the depths of his arms.
Milimeters. I think about him sometimes when my mind lets me. Dear God he's beautiful. Pitch-black (raven-black) wings darker than the sky around him, feathery. If he but touched my hair I could perhaps learn not to sin. If he kissed me roughly, desperately, I would melt into the ground in the best possible way. Emerging from the shadows of the cave of ignorance and ego, into the light and freedom of equality. Kiss me, kiss me, kiss me, part of me thinks of saying. But I can't or maybe I don't.
The words I love you don't mean I want to touch you. The words I love you mean I want to die for you.
I want to die for your cause. I want to die for your well-being. If my death is what it would take for you to get the respect you deserve then I forfeit this life. And I want to die for someone's cause. For his cause. I want to burn all his demons, crush all his enemies. I want to help him emerge victorious. But I also don't want to. I'm a cog in a machine and I'm too young to fulfill my place on it, young enough to have some rebel left in me. But that will change if time finds me alive in two years' time.
I want to die for you, I want to die for you, I want to die for you. And I don't want to die for him, but part of me does. And if he wanted me to touch him I would, I hope.
I'm dreaming. I'm standing in front of a boy that shimmers like moonlight. Magical. Not pretty how a painting is pretty but pretty how a blizzard is pretty. Powerful. Potentially devastating. But a part of nature in all it's glory. A force of nature. Necessary. To be respected, feared, and admired all the same. His hair shimmers like dusk. My knees are weak. I cut open my palm with a small dagger. The blood is beautiful, burning, red. So red. I bring my hand to his cheek, caressing, leaving trails of red as I make my way to his lips. I hover over his pink lips gently, not touching, waiting for him to move.
He's buzzing with electricity and moonlight and hope and brightness. Need. Dear God, he's everything that belongs in the world. My knees are weak, weak, weak. His whole being is overwhelming. Hope and anger. Hurt and desperation. Love and confidence. He's the Katniss to my Peeta and he knows it.
He holds my hand in his, and presses my bloody palm to his lips. I smile, my eyes lighting up. He presses hard, longing kisses into my palm and it hurts and I love how it hurts. Suddenly heavy, invisible arms try to pull me back but he keeps me there, the light from his eyes banishing my demons. He looks ... he looks imploring as he asks me to ... to stay. I do.
His lips, his chin, his cheeks, the tip of his nose. All smeared a wild, wild crimson. He shoots me a playful, almost childish look. I shoot one back. He takes hold of the back of my hand again, moving it down his face and licking my fingers with an exaggerated, unapologetic expression. I laugh. Quietly. We honestly can't be found out.
Like ... I mean we can ... but not by ... not by anyone society would take seriously. So if like a little girl walked in on whatever this is we'd be fine.
His spit and my blood intermingle on his face as he pushes his tongue through my fingers. Smiling, I press one on my fingers into his mouth. He looks delightfully surprised, and sucks softly as I press my still-bleeding wound onto his chin, his cheeks. He leans into it, and my hand throbs with pain. I press two other fingers into his mouth. He pulls a fourth one in.
Blood has started to run down even his neck now. We stay like this for a while, my fingers dancing in and out of his mouth, like threads being woven by his own slender fingers. my blood dripping all over him.
The lock to my door starts turning. We gasp as he opens his mouth and I yank my hand away, behind my back. Whoever is behind that door is not a little girl.
"The world pulls, you pull back harder." He whispers, barely whispers, and I have to strain to hear. And I think of all the people that are unheard in this world. This is who the song is about. And I remember. But my hand is still bleeding. I hope it never stops. I kiss it, tasting his sweet, bitter saliva. And I drift off to sleep.
I awaken with a large, gaping, scabbed-over cut on my hand. And I cry tears of joy.
Mountains and mines and factories and plantations and houses still exist. But butterfly wings also exist. Firework people also exist. And obviously something deeper, more all-encompassing, fairer, more equal, more motherly, exists. It exists beneath the surface, aching to be let out. Rich people have their own God. Revolutionaries have a different God.
If you like this piece check out my Mastodon my account is FSairuv@mas.to and I po abo human rights, social justice, and the environment.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
Thrice you’ve texted in the years since you’ve passed, the same curt message:
Sunt mama, pisica de piatră. Vino la Cimitirul Eternitatea pe luna albastră. Te iubesc.
Always during blue moons. Always from random Romanian numbers.
And, quite frankly, ma, I’m a little pissed.
Alive, you had no time for me. Just flew your little Starla off to “un loc mai bun…” As if any place without you was better than being beside you. But dead, well… Now you want me back. Won’t even tell me why (or how you’re doing this!). Not plainly.
But Iași isn’t my home, you saw to that. Neither is this culture you’ve denied me.
I came for you, though. Eventually. Cost me two day’s travel on economy planes and rickety trains. Had both my laptop and cell phone stolen by a gang of scraggly, yet surprisingly adept, youngsters—that one girl’s portrayal of “lost and scared” would have had even Meryl Streep rising to applaud. And now I’ve no way to translate, I’m perpetually confused, more scared than I probably ought to be, and so, so furious. You never taught my tongue how to dance like yours; I am speechless in your language.
And as I wander through this crumbly constellation of tombstones dotting “Cimitirul Eternitatea,” the sun setting ablaze the horizon with all the colors of angst and fury, I’m searching for every cat of stone. Looking for you.
Happy now, ma?
Five…six…seven. Seven cats of stone. I make a mental note.
Which one are you?
The sun now passed, the moon a faint print in the sky, I sit myself upon a rusted bench along a cobble walkway between graves and puzzle over what to expect. You’re a cat (or so you claim). Of stone. Fitting, I suppose. You never were easy to understand. Ever distant. Enigmatic.
Will you come alive with the blue moon? Or is this just more wasted time?
A few plots away an older woman tends to the cradle grave of a loved one. O bătrână. Frumoasă. Swaddled in a black shawl and a red headscarf, she lights candles, places them into gilded lanterns hooked on either side of the white marble tombstone. Their small flames illuminate the mass of rose bush spilling out from the grave where it had been planted. Nurtured and grown. Here. She reaches for a white rose, bloomed wide, caresses its petals. Offers care and warmth. Acknowledgment. She turns, meets my eyes. Smiles.
I nod, smile back.
The blue moon (luna albastră) crowns the distant buildings now, accentuating their brash and distinct brutalist-styling. I remember the few tales you’ve shared. Of communism and corruption. Of hardship. How, even after the revolution, life wasn’t easy. You did what you thought was best. Gifted me an opportunity at a life you never dared dream for yourself. And I don’t blame you. But that doesn’t mean the missing hurts any less.
The older woman rises from her tending beside the grave and approaches, small bags clutched and crinkling in hand. She nears, says something I don’t understand. My throat drys, tenses. Uncertain of what constitutes proper protocol in this situation, all I can think to do is shrug, say, “Uh…”
“Zi bogdaproste.” She makes light of my ignorance with a soft chuckle, waves her hand in encouragement as she repeats, “Zi bogdaproste, dragă.”
“Bo–bogdaproste.” The word is clumsy on my tongue, but her brown eyes twinkle.
Pleased, she nods, proffers a bag. I accept, and she departs.
Stars blink now, and the blue moon glows overhead. I rise from the bench, my eyes already leaping through the cemetery, sweeping across stone cat after stone cat. They’re all where they were, ornamentations scattered amongst various graves. Except one.
Did I…miscount? I must’ve.
I cannot move, stilled by thoughts and recollection.
But…no. No, I didn’t… There were seven cats. But…dammit, ma! You can’t be…
My legs start to move, aimless at first, wobbly, then with vigor, dashing between tombstones towards where the one cat is missing.
You’re gonna owe me such an explanation. Can you…even speak as a cat?
Movement catches my eye. A man in overalls. He’s charging towards me, hollering nonsense, a hoe raised above his head. I lunge behind a nearby tombstone, shout back as he passes, “What the fuck!”
He pays me no mind, keeps on.
I shake my head, bite my lip and rise, glaring after him and his maniacal assault. It’s then I spot you—a sleek figure darting just ahead of the man, dark feathers streaming from your mouth like a grotesque trophy. And I don’t know how, but I recognize you instantly. Some inexplicable knowing, deep in my bones.
He’s got you backed against a thin copse of trees, swinging his hoe. Jabbing.
You stand your ground. Hiss and shriek. Bristle.
I come up behind the man, angle myself so he sees me. He shouts something, sounds like profanity, but I wouldn’t know. Flashcards shuffle through my mind. I search for something to say, something he’ll understand.
“Vă rog!” I start, firm, “Gata.” Enunciating every syllable. “Pisica e bună. Vă rog, pisica e bună.”
He jabs again and again. Misses you. Misses you.
“Vă rog!” I implore. Please.
He looks at me, shouts back, “Pisica nu-i bună. E agresivă. Sălbatică.”
From what I understand him say, I agree. You look the part: plumage and bones pouring from your mouth. Jagged. Bloody.
“A mea,” I insist, stepping past him, towards you. “Vă rog, pisica e a mea.”
Breeze and breath fill the silence.
I bend down, scoop you up. You paw at the bag the older woman gave me.
“Mulțumesc,” I say, backing away through the trees. “Mulțumesc.”
He waves us off.
“Plecați de aici! Plecați!”
I hurry, eager to be rid of him, too.
It’s true night now. Bright stars wave from their beds of distance and darkness, thousands of small candles wave back, cozy beside their flowers and tombstones, left behind as the stream of straggling visitors trickles out past the iron gate.
I settle us in the quiet, sit on the steps of a small mausoleum. Look at you.
“Ai venit, Starla! Ești aici.”
My heart skips a beat.
“Nu avem mult timp, draga mea. Ascultă-mă.”
Gibberish in my ears, I forget to breathe. Just stare at you.
“No. Nooo. No. You’re a cat. Cats don’t…don’t do that.”
“Starla. Ascultă-mă. Te rog. Ascultă-mă. E foarte important.”
I press against my temples, feel my pulse hasten.
“Ma,” I say, half in disbelief. “Ma, I don’t understand you. I don’t…understand any of this. You’re dead. You’re supposed to be dead. The fuck is going on? How are you alive? A…a cat. How is…any of this happening?”
I cover my eyes. Breathe.
In all the years that I’ve received these messages from you, I didn’t actually think anything would turn up. It’d just be some sick joke. A misunderstanding. I came here on a whim, not on belief. I came hoping to prove to myself that whatever insanity was transpiring, it was…unprocessed grief manifesting as…something, anything other than this. Because this…can’t be real. Cats don’t talk. Cats don’t talk. THEY DON’T TALK!
I stumble to my feet, pace along the steps, clap the tips of my fingers together. You follow along beside me lithe and calm and regal as any cat. Somehow that makes everything seem even more impossible.
“I don’t even…” I exhale. Stop. Look at you. Away. At you again.
“Concentrează-te, Starla. Concentrează-te,” you say. “Ai telefonul tău?”
“I. Don’t. Under. Stand,” I say, miming to you. “You’re. Supposed. To be. Dead. Why aren’t you dead?”
You roll your eyes, grumpy-growl at me.
Your ears shift back and forth, like you’re listening to something.
You’re gone, weaving through trees and tombstones. Swallowed by the dead and night.
I hurry after you, more stumbling than running. For a time, I can no longer see you, just keep drifting from candle glow to candle glow. Exasperated and weary. Then I hear you: a guttural shriek followed by what sounds like the howl of a man. I hurtle myself in your direction, prickly bushes and chipped tombstones lash and brush against my arms, my pants, scrapes stinging.
I come upon a hooded figure curled on the ground. Rocking, whimpering.
“Ma?” I call out.
A few rows away, behind a tombstone, you call back, “Aici, Starla. Sunt aici.”
I press forward in the direction of your voice, confused and hating myself for leaving the injured person behind. What did you do, ma? What did you do?
A cellphone’s glow illuminates your form in the dark. You’re snarling, pawing at the screen.
“What are you…”
“Trebuie să vorbim, Starla. Am nevoie să înțelegi. De ce nu înțelegi?”
“I don’t understand because you weren’t there to teach me! Fuck!”
I take the phone in my shaking hand, stare at the lock screen. It’s a blur at first, my eyes adjusting to the influx of light, then a young couple. Crisp. Smiling. Bright. The phone slips from my hand—or I let it go. I don’t know. But it lands with a thump on the cobblestone. Cracks. And I teeter to the side, lean against a tombstone. It’s cold and solid and the greatest comfort. I slide down until my butt meets the earth. Just sit there.
“Starla. Dragă.” You come beside me, nuzzle your nose into my leg.
I want to brush you off. I don’t. You’re warm and here and alive. And I don’t. But I don’t embrace you either. Just let you be. Be beside me. You’re here…
“What did you do, ma? Ce ai făcut?”
A growl is your response. Bristling.
I look up. Scream.
A man stands over me. Us. No longer hooded. A deep, clawed-gash marks his left eye. Red pulses and dribbles down his face, splashes against dirtied sneakers and the ground. He yells. Hits me. Shoves me against the tombstone, his grip dizzyingly strong. I can’t think. I let him. I can’t think. I let him. I can’t think.
You don’t let him. You nip, snarl, and claw.
He turns, tries to grab you. You nick his hand. He shuffles, goes to kick you. And I don’t know where you land, only hear the thump. The wheezing that follows.
“Ma,” I say through tight breaths. “Ma.”
I don’t see when he leaves, just know that he’s gone. Phone, too.
Once my feet are under me again, I go to find you. Your breath is sharp, soft, and all I can hear. Neither of us says anything as I scoop you into my arms, hold you to my chest.
“I’m sorry, ma. I’m sorry.”
What I apologize for, I don’t know. Just seems right.
You lick my hand.
I focus on getting you someplace safe where I can take care of you. We’ll figure this all out later.
We have a later…
I trudge towards the exit, draw near. You weigh heavier in my arms, fur stiffens, and streaks of grey ripple across you. You’re turning to stone and your shriek stills my heart. Stills me.
“Nu pot pleca,” your voice is a whisper, cuts deep. It takes all I have not to fall to my knees. “Nu pot. Nu… Nu pot.”
Not knowing what else to do, the blue moon fading from the sky, I take you back, place you where I first found you. The missing cat. And as stone takes you, you say, “Te iubesc, Starla. Draga mea. Te iubesc.”
“Te iubesc, ma.” A tremor in my chest. “Te iubesc.”
I follow the rising sun to leave, pass a still flickering candle and stumble upon that crinkly bag the older woman had given me. Treats fill it, wrapped in packaging with words in your tongue. Some I know. More I don’t. And so I’ll learn. One at a time.
“Until the next blue moon, ma… Ne vedem curând.”
A Badger and a Fairy
It’s not every day that you are lucky enough to catch a fairy. At least, I had thought so.
When I snatched the tiny being between my hands, she wasn’t anything at all like I expected. She looked up at me from the cracks between my cupped hands with large brown eyes. Her wings looked like those of a little moth. She even had fuzzy antennae. They prodded my skin gently through my gloves as if trying to scent my intentions.
I had intended to tail the badger that was tormenting my chickens night after night, but this was so much better. I couldn’t wait to tell my colleagues that I’d found one. Now I could justify renting a little cottage up on the lonely moors of northern England far away from the laboratory in California.
I brought the fairy inside my house. Very carefully, I dropped her into a little enclosure on the desk in my living room. I used it for a variety of little critters I studied, but it would do for now. I set the video camera up on the desk to catch both the little fairy and me in the frame.
“This is Dr. Shane Yeoman, and this is day forty-seven of my studies about fairies from England. Today may be the most important day because as you can see,” I pointed a gloved blue finger at the little humanoid figure huddled on the mossy bottom, “I have finally captured one.”
The fairy bared little fangs at me, with her back to the camera.
“Sharp little teeth,” I chuckled a little, jotting it down. “Similar to that of a mink or a ferret. Fingers are long and spindly ending in bluish fingernails, but it doesn’t appear to be from oxygen deprivation.”
Her antennae began to wilt as she crept behind one of the ferns in the enclosure. She had the presence of a predator.
I finished my visual examination and shut off the camera. “I’m off to grab a cup of joe, but you stick right there, eh?” I left the fair alone in the living room and walked over to the old coffee pot that had come with the cottage. It might have been older than me. But the coffee was fresh.
I didn’t have more than a few sips before a crash followed by shrieks and squawks sounded in the back of the house. I stepped into my rubber boots and flew through the back door. I was only just in time to see a badger, dash off into the woods with one of the adolescent chicks in its fangs. It wasn’t even dusk. What was that nocturnal creep doing out in the afternoon? Did they never tire of my torment?
I needed to get a dog.
I trudged back to the living room and suppressed a heavy exhale of frustration. At least I had the little fairy. I walked over to the desk. The top of the enclosure was crooked as if she’d pushed it off with ease.
The front door creaked. It was open. I ran towards the door, not caring about the mud I tracked across the faded rug. It wasn’t the fairy I saw, but my video camera laying on the front porch. The memory card was gone.
A jolt of movement caught my attention. At the far end of the English garden, a badger, shrieking in laughter. I looked back down at the camera. There were bite marks on it in the shape of the badger's.
I looked back at the fiend in time to see it disappear. No. Not disappear. It turned back into the fairy. She waved with the memory card in her hand and flew off as fast as a hummingbird, taking all of my research with her.
A silly little story that I wrote for my niece.
The Water Screams in Protest
So this is all a dream that I had one night. It takes place in a dream world that of course is different from the real world. An alternate world. But like most alternate worlds, this world perhaps mirrors our world in some ways.
It takes place in somewhere that looks like a mixture of Antebellum America, Victorian England, and the wilderness. It takes place in a country - Marissileccea- whose economy basically runs on slavery. Most people are slaves, a few people are unbelievably rich, and a very small number of people are free but poor, scraping by on just what they need to live. They have some plants that we don't have and they don't have some plants that we do have. They have magic forces interacting with their world that our world might not even understand.
But the way their world is the same to ours is that both worlds have beautiful nature, beautiful people, suffering, greed pride apathy, change, and learning.
I will be honest with you, this work is far from perfect. I don't entirely understand what I dreamed or why I dreamed it. I don't think I did a perfect job of conveying the dream to you on paper. But I'm not any more perfect than you or anyone else, all that I have going for me is my constant and unwavering effort to make the best decisions I can and know how to make. So if it inspires you, great. If you hate it, great, that's your opinion that you're completely entitled to. But I hope that I can improve your experiance on Mother Earth's beautiful world. And yeah. :D :D :D Onto the story!
—A Light so Faint and Distant:—
Thomas is coming home to Carolivia from studying abroad. He was supposed to study business and politics, which would mean having to continue the slave trade in Coralivia and other places. That's because for any business to be even slightly viable it needed to have slaves because of the massive profit margins slaves generated. And only wealthy people could vote so to get into politics you had to be pro slavery. Now slavery those days, in those lands, wasn't really about race at all, it was more about getting crazy rich off the suffering and poverty of your slaves.
Coralivia was a beautiful place with amazing, breath-taking nature with sandy beaches, tall evergreen forests, bright deserts, peaty loam, jagged cliffs, and the river that ran through everything. But the citizens' minded were unnatural due to their greed and exploitativeness and all manner of other vices, and partly due to the presence of the Roaring King who made sure nothing would ever change.
Now Thomas was a pretty intelligent guy. He was a young man from a very rich slaveowning family with a bit of power and a huge mansion. Huge, ornate, architecture and made from stone. It caught your eye. It was very far removed from the nature around the manor. Thomas always had the shine of the idea that slavery was wrong somewhere in his mind but didn't understand how to follow it and mostly just went along with what his parents wanted in his life, growing up.
Going to college, those views quickly began to change. He had to live humbly, as a student, in small, quite small, simple tents, by nature, with simple food, with his only form of entertainment being talking to his fellow students, all young people, in their early twenties, really young. He had no slaves. He realized he liked this lifestyle. He didn't need all that extravagent stuff, he was okay having just what he needed. Also, it was so peaceful for the soul, spirit, and conscience to not have slaves. It was so great to not have slaves, to not be waited on by slaves, to not have the source of your lifestyle be someone else's suffering. It was also good to not have a lot of stuff, becasue that meant people were being cheated out of their fair share, suffering, so you could get that much stuff.
But he wasn't perfectly good yet. He still didn't know how to live without his parents' blessing. He didn't know how to or think he should live without his parents accepting him and being okay with him so he consigned himself, reluctantly, to going back to his life of being a slaveowner. He also, while he was okay with being lower middle class, he wasn't okay with being poor and not having the stuff he needed to live and be healthy. He knew that without his parents no-one would give him money and you needed a bit of money to get started on a career. So even though he didn't like having slaves he didn't want to not have slaves enough to fight against it.
During the whole time he spent in school and changing he also really got into theatre and playwriting. He loved making stories and acting them out and potentially changing peoples' thoughts, though at this point his stores weren't too original because he wasn't too original. Plays could be very elaborate and extravagant with flashy costumes, sets, and props if sponsored by a rich patron. They could also be very simple, with just a bunch of people in you tent and you and your friends acting it out. Thomas liked the latter type much more. Writing plays was very hard word but he and his friends liked it. Thomas liked it a whole lot. The feeling he got was incomparable. A constant push foreward met by a constant buzzing sense of harmony.
Playwrites never made more than a little money so he could tell his parents wouldn't want such a career for him. But playwrites never had to use slaves so that was a huge plus. His friend Alexander, who was from a different, better countrym encouraged him to go professional in his passion. He eventually decided he wanted to, but he still wasn't okay with potentially not having enough to live. So he decided to ask for more money from his parents under the guise of it being for something else, and use it to sneakily start his playwriting career.
But he didn't ask soon enough and soon it was time for him to go home. His stint at college may have been ended prematurely by his parents catching whiff of his plans. He could've tried to say longer but he didn't since he was so against being abandoned and poor.
Anyways, dark things were at work, always had been at work, (for a while) in his home state of Coralivia.
A spiritual weapon that would help him on his future journey of redemption was that he had talked sincerely (respectfully, listeningly) to a few slaves and therefore the thought that people experiancing slavery had their own thoughts and emotions was more strongly within him.
—Forwards Into the Sunrise—
One of these slaves that Thomas talked to was a seventeen-year-old (and therefore, you know the key word, YOUNG) stableboy named Leonard. Leonard had hair as golden as sunlight and eyes light blue like the daytime sky. (Author's note: I'm not implying that "Aryans" are prettier than other people, truly all people and all peoples are equally beautiful. I'm trying to symbolize his connections with daytime and the daytime sky.) While this may be hilariously bad in context it's meant to represent daytime and how it's good for people and how day always comes after the oppressive night.
And to further symbolize the fact that he represents the changing from a painful situation to a positive on, his spirit name was Golden Dawn, after the liminal, emotionally mixed, and dynamic time between night and day. He was a quiet, thoughtful, passionate boy.
This is the scene I was witnessing from the world inside my dream. Leo was riding through the outskirts of Coralivia on a horse he loved. He had just escaped his old master and he was filled with brightness, happiness, lingering sadness, and hope. He was excited and ready to start his new life in place where he could be free since no-one knew he was a slave. He was anticipating all the great things just across the horizon like respect and dignity and being a part of and accepted by society and being able to work in a dignified and humane work environment and not feeling trapped to be with people he hated and not being hungry and sick all the time. He really thought he could make it in the world as a free person. He was a firm believer that things could get better, that peoples' lives could get better, that the world could get better, though he wasn't really thinking about that last one right now, yet. He felt great changes, great power, great inspiration, alive and at work within him. He felt like very important events, not just for him but for the whole world, were taking place.
But he also felt and almost supernatural sense of fear, that something dark, something corrupted, and oppressive was coming to get him and hurt him, supernaturally. Now Leonard didn't beleive in magic yet, so he wrote it off as paranoia, which was especially ironic he WAS magic, he just didn't realize it yet.
While he was riding he also remembered his life as a slave, which was very painful and depressing. His master was a very rich nobleman who really enjoyed plays. He would fund a lot of really extravagant plays, often with very pro-status-quo stories, and sometimes Leo was brought along to the performances to take care of his master's horse. Being a stableboy was an incredibly lonely job as he had to spend all of his days in the stable, cleaning it, getting hay, feeding and brushing the horses, etc. He didn't really get to see the other slaves, and the loneliness was agonizing. He did develop a close relationship with the two horses though, especially the roan horse, Hacombe, who was being mistreated just as Leonard was. Leonard also didn't get enough food or warm clothes from his master, which meant he was sick a lot of the times, which meant the work was agonizing a lot of the times.
One day, though it's never explained how, Leonard stole a bunch of supplies, and rode off to Coralivia with Hacombe. During the ride from there to here both lives got considerably healthier and less sickly, on account of Leonard being able to take care of them properly. Leonard was the first escaped slave in the entire country's history, bestowing him quite a legacy to have. Amazing things were unfolding.
By the time they got to the town - a small, sprawling town compared to the city they were used to - supples were running a bit low so Leonard knew it was imperative that he get a job and settle down (no more constant traveling). He was very excited to have a real job where he could be respected and part of free society. He was, yeah. Happy. But he knew it would be kind of hard.
During all this time the Roaring King was looking for Leonard. The Roaring King was the embodiment of lines, of metaphorical lines, but not in the same way Leonard was. He was enraged at Leo for escaping. He was also enraged at him for plotting to help other slaves, who couldn't, of course, escape on their own but are beautiful souls deserving free lives, to escape.
Now Leonard was going around town trying to land apprenticeships but he hadn't landed anyand his stuff was running out. In his desperation he went to the estate of a slaveowning family to see if they had any jobs for him. He was scared of them and uncomfortable in his interactions with them but took comfort in knowing he was a free man as far as anyone knew. There was a dark, unsettling, corrupted, and almost infectious atmosphere over the estate. The manor house was huge, and towering, and the ladies were in very frilly dresses with frilly umbrellas. They said they didn't have any work for him and Leonard left a bit sad.
But mostly he had a feeling of something dark watching him.
What happened next was a nightmare. The author doesn't quite know how to write it down. There was a man behind Leonard. Not a man, a thing. A grotesque, disgusting, horrific thing. But as frightening as it was to look at what was ten times more frightening was his vast, deafening aura. The immense feeling that rode with him like an outstretched peacock tail of a thousand snakes. The being had long, rough, white hair, and sunken dark eyes embedded in what seemed like an ocean of wrinkles. His face seemed to be a wrinkled, saggy, loose, pale gray mass of skin loosely draped over a fat, deformed skull. His body was fat and pale and wrinkly. But the feeling he carried, like an immense, deafening, rabid, raging, grating, yet silent scream, was beyond proper explanation.
Leonard beleived in magic now. Whatever that thing was, it could not possibly be human, it had to be a dark, powerful force.
It rode behind him, sometimes on a black horse with red eyes and sharp teeth and sometimes on a motorcycle, which was an alien device to Leonard. Hacombe galloped fast but could not get away.
The aura of the inhuman rider was all-encompassing, all around Leo. It was smothering and oppressive, grasping to reach him and hold him down and suffocate him. It was roaring and screeching and powerful and corrupted, and inspired terror and disgust. It was angry and raging and furious. It fell over him, all around him, and blared through his mind. It was strong and proud and tangible. It was choking him.
He tried so hard to escape the rider. But the rider was gaining momentum. Leonard was terrified and, as the rider came up to him, the last thing he saw before passing out was Hacombe galloping away, and he was at least happy the horse escaped.
He woke up and the dreadful rider was standing over him. He felt a cold, weary sense of dread. The rider had a gruff voice. It said it was going to hurt Leonard. It introduced itself as the God of Lines, as the god of lines society said were not supposed to be crossed, of the social structures, behaviours, lifestyles, and attitudes that the status quo said must be maintained.
Leonard was scared because it was going to hurt him, but he also couldn't help but feel a sense of connection to the beeing's affinity with lines. He recognized the magic in himself and that a big part of him is to see the lines set by society and to analyze why they're there and what they're for and what they're about and then he crossed those lines and broke those social codes. Lines, and specifically crossing them was intrinsically a part of him, was tied to him, and was the constantly burning star within him.
Now, he saw he was on the ground beside a tend and in the tent was a dark-haired teenaged girl strapped to the bed. He knew the girl was there even though the tent was closed and he couldn't see into it. He was scared for this mysterious lady just as he was scared for himself.
The dark rider, who was, in fact the Roaring King, knew he would torture and kill Leonard for being an escaped slave and therefore challenging the status quo of slavery, which no-one had done before. But he saw the fear and tentative, confused respect Leonard helps him with and thought he could use that to control him into aiding the King with something. He told Leonard to go inside the tent and hold his daughter down and attach a drip containing the King's blood into the girl.
So Leonard learned from that that the girl inside the tent was this mysterious entity's daughter, and probably he was trying to somehow hurt her. This confused him. Shouldn't magic things, especially family-related magic things, get along? Well, he didn't know too much about magic. He could tell though that having the dreadful rider's blood but into her would corrupt her and weaken her, and having the corrupting, corrosive, locust-ridden force in her would really hurt her.
He didn't want to do it. But the suffocating, oppresssive, corrosive, scary force in the air was still around him and choking his mind and forcing I'm forwards. But as he got closer to the tent he felt a different force. A kindly free, comforting, warm, airy feeling that made his mind feel free.
He took that power and inspiration and used that power and inspiration to escape. To get out of there. He thought he was free from the dark rider, that he could live free and the way he's wanted to as long as he stayed out of that rider's way. He knew though that were forces at work within him and within the world that he had not known before.
—Light on the Water—
Reuniting with Hacombe, Leonard set out to find work. He saw Thomas in town briefly, a man he remembered as questioning his own place in life, and Thomas gave him a few small silver coins which would tide him over for a few days.
Eventually he considered asking the rich people for a job again. He was outside the gates of an estate, sitting in the grass looking in and pondering if he should go in or not. They were outside their big whitewashed house, sitting in designed chairs and drinking tea from delicate, colourful china cups on glass tables.
Leo was thinking on how the dark rider was, or called himself, the God of Lines. How did that relate to the power or meaning of lines that was working inside of himself? And why was this being so angry at him? And why was his line affinity so oppressive while Leonard's line affinity was so freeing/kind/warm? Leonard realized that the dark rider was the God of Not Crossing Lines, of seeing what the status quo was and keeping it there, while Leonard's power was crossing lines, of triumphing over status quo. He realized more than ever that he'd have to help as many slaves as he could get to freedom.
He, on an unrelated thought, resolved to go into the estate and ask about employment. What he didn't know was that becasue of the Roaring King's influence the slaveowning families knew that he was an escaped slave and would jus enslave him again if they found him. Before he stood up he felt a finger over his lips.
He looked over and saw a girl, fifteen or sixteen, lying on the grass crouching like an antelope. She had dared hair darker than the night and pale skin paler than snow. And she had one hell of a gaze. He was lost in it, it seemed to hold him, and he could see her looking into his soul, connecting with him, trying to understand him, trying to protect him. It was so powerful, and so friendly, and so kind.
Leonard had no idea who this girl was he didn't know who she was or what she wanted. Some strange part of him trusted her though, and another part of him was questioning, and another part of him was rebelling against the sheer strangeness of it all. She was motioning to her helmet, which was similar to the helmet he saw the dark rider wearing. How would she get that helmet? It it even the same helmet? These thoughts were rushing around Leonard's brain. It couldn't be a different helmet because literally the only other time he saw a helmet even similar - black with a white, thin animal skull, weirdly shiney, made of strange material - was on the dreadful rider.
Why did she have it? Was she some kind of helper for that being? No, she seemed too protective/nice and too ... rebellious for that. Was she this daughter he'd heard about? Maybe.
She put his hand on her heart and then started beckoning him towards the river. He followed, unsure, but trusting her.
Suddenly ther monsterous rider burst out, explosively, and just as terrifying as he was before, maybe even more so. He was attend horseback on each side. Men in shimmering, multicoloured, silken suits and top hats. Women in large, voluminous, silken dresses of variou shades trimmed with lace-like material. They looked human but Leonard could tell that they werern't. He suddenly knew that these were his attendants, his cronies. And they were about to capture him for crossing the "sacred" line of slavery, for changing who was and wasn't allowed to be free.
Everyone should be free from Leo's previous torment, no questions asked.
Leonard and the young teen started running, as fast as they could. Away, far from those guys, towards freedom and safety. They kept running, on foot, exhausted and full of energy at the same time.
The crowd chasing them was rambunctious and rowdy, yelling insults at Leonard for being a slave, shouting profanities and threats at him for running away, chiding the girl for being so rebellious and not listening to them. They chittered about how superior they were and how superior they were and great they were. The girl was running hard to get away from the noise, from the ones bent on making her the perfect complacent daughter. The boy was running for his freedom.
The riders, the ring of screeching flame, always carried a deafening loudness which was silent with it, as the lone Roaring King also did. This loudness though was filled with haughtiness and judgement and contempt. Rage and superiority at Leonard for being an escaped slave. Contempt towards him because of his perceived inferiority. Superiority and control over the girl for being so rebellious, for thinking differently, for being so contrary.
Their force and the tangible power of their rage tried to reach the youths and writhingly wrap around them and hold them. They wanted the two youths back. They wanted them in their proper place. They wanted to entangle them and keep them down and keep them in their place forever. Their deafening silent loudness was viscous and clawing.
Leonard could feel it, feel their ferocity and their aggression as they tried to get him. He felt the sting of their words, the sting of the emotions they conveyed to him. He felt their scrutiny breaking him down, tearing at his sense of self-respect, making him feel like a little bug under their gaze. This was not as bad as how he felt as a slave, because the human masters while not as blatant as these attendants in their hate, made their feelings more than clear. But he could tell that if they ever caught up to him, if he ever fell into the heavy, bitter air that was around them, it would be unimaginably horrible.
He felt a soft fire within him though, that was keeping that heavy air at bay as long as her ran. He could feel an energy from the girl too, strong and fresh like river currents keeping him safe. But the closer the riders got, the more his defence faltered.
The girl was getting weaker, and was increasingly stumbling and tripping as she ran.
He reached a fence, a fence with a hole in it. On the other side of the fence was a blue lake, deep blue with waves that reflected the sunlight. Det couldn't swim. He looked around and couldn't see the girl.
He faced the riders. Their horses were whinnying like feral wolves. The air around them was bussing with aggression and pride and corruption. And they. Looked. Terrifying. Leonard knew that drowning would be better than this so he slipped out of the sugar field he was in and into the water, through the hole of the fence.
Leonard thought for sure that he was going to drown. But as the cool embrace of water led him down, he felt ... not dead. He felt himself navigation through the water like a bird through the air. He felt himself not needing to breathe. He glided to the river.
The river was beautiful. Heavenly sunlight came flooding in though the top layer of water. THe water was cool and fresh. Flowing constantly forwards as humanity flowed constantly forewards as one generation made way for the next. Some fo the water bent, swirled, and beat against the edges. The cool ribbons of liquid caressed him.
There was a girl in front of him. No, a mermaid. No, it was the very same girl as before. Her pale skin was blue in the light underwater, and her dark hair and lips looked navy-blue. She had a long tail that also liked navy-blue tipped by translucent fins. She had a simple dark strip of cotton around her chest. She looked so healthy. She looked so at home. She looke so one with the river around her, like she understood it perfectly, like it was a part of her, like they were intrinsically tied.
She seemed full of spiritual energy.
The river teemed with life. Beautiful, magical full of energy and spirit and harmony and nature, shining in the sunlight as it constantly moved and shifted.
She beckoned him to follow her. So he did. She was so wild, so lively. Wild and free and untamed like the water that constantly rushed to sea or the fish that followed their instincts and their nature or the rocks that jutted in and of put of the river bank. She showed him through the nature of Coralivia. The intrinsic energy that flowed within it was the intrinsic energy that flowed within us all, that flowed through us all.
She was constantly moving, constantly wanting to improve, constantly wanting the world to improve. Progress. Improvement, Positive change. It's what she ached for. What she burned for. What she wanted intensely with the whole of her entirety. He longed for it too. He longed for positive change, panged for it. So maybe, very likely, his powers and her being were tied. Yes, she agreed.
They communicated not by words but by feelings. By overwhelming, joyous, hopeful feelings. She beckoned him to her, trying to show him the way to freedom. She really really wanted his freedom, he could tell, it meant a lot to her, to them both.
The river danced with the dance of life, with the dance to nature too. And he felt it all go into him and strengthen him and heal him and he felt that magical flame inside him grow stronger and healthier. The nature, the nature was so wild and free and harmonious. Everything inside it followed it's nature, followed it's instincts, did what it inherently felt was right. It flowed into him reminded him to always follow his instincts and be kind and generous, let his life and his love flow undisturbed by things like things and objects and money.
The river maiden flowed in it and with it and as it and by it like the river's - like nature's - daughter and sister and mother and baby all at the same time. Her love pressed onto him. She wanted him to be free. She wanted him to be respected, healthy, treated fairly, not exploited or seen as a source of gain but seen as human. She ached for it. For all the slaves. This was a positive change that needed to happen.
She was so in tune with the river, everything in the river was so intune with each other, worked in perfect harmony and understanding. It was inspired/reminded him to always respect and try to understand people. To understand that they were pockets of love and life and beautiful spiritual energy. He had to respect and understand and value them all as pieces of spiritual energy and glory. Just as every life form and environmental aspect was part of each other people were all part of each other. Just like ever twist and bend of the river brought with it new question on the nature of life, Leo knew that life itself and love itself and humans and relationships between humans and the inhuman were infinite and there were infininities of question you could ask about them.
The River Maiden, she was intrinsically tied to youth itself, to the very concept of youth and to youthful rebellion. So she questioned everything. Every action, every idea, every aspect of life and the world and existence, she questioned it. If she found that an idea was good she accepted it, dedicated herself to trying to protect it. If she felt an idea to be good, if it resounded within her spirit as natural and right then she railed for it. It was almost dangerous, how much she questioned everything. Almost dangerous, but not quite.
Leonard felt thrilled to be travelling down the river with her. Thrilled and energized and inspired.
The ecosystem was always breathing, always intermingling. Every beautiful aspect was sharing it's energy and being with every other beautiful aspect. It reminded him to be as kind and generous as he could and always try his very best to help people. To share as much as his own sacred energy with other people as much as he could, to share his love and his care. Light pooled over the river. The maiden was smiling. The river was so kind, so caring, so wanting all people to be well, physically emotionally, and spiritually. Leonard reflected that it was good for him to do the same.
The river gave him hope that the greedy, excessive, proud, dehumanizing face of Coralivia wasn't the real one. Hope that the natural state could be returned to. That a kinder, simpler, more generous time could be reached where people saw each other as people and that view wasn't marred by desire for illicit gain.
The River Maiden eventually dropped him off at shore, where Hacombe and a bag of supplies were waiting, at the edge of Coralivia. She told him to get out of here, that it wasn't safe with her father around.
—Thistles and Sparkling Souls—
Leonard didn't want to leave though because he felt that if he left he'd have have failed at becoming a normal citizen. Now this wasn't true, he was a normal citizen no matter what. But while he knew very well how to be kind to other people he hadn't quite mastered how to be kind to himself yet. So he went back into town, bumped into Thomas again briefly, job hunted for a while, and also spent his time spying on the esttunities for him to free any of the slaves.
HIs folly caught up with him though as soon some of the slaveowners captured him for being an escaped slave.
He found himself again sleeping on the bare ground, working long and strenuous hours in sometimes extreme weather, and generally suffering. He was put to work picking crops, so he had the company of the other slaves at least. That was a fact that we was grateful for.
Sometimes the sun was searing down on him and he was incredibly overheating, making his head throw horribly. Sometimes the evening chilll bit into him. He had to work fast, incredibly fast, inhumanly fast, and it strained his mind and his arms and his focus so much that by the end of the day he felt like a bundle of frayed string. The constant fear of being punished weighed on him, terrifying him. And each day seemed more painful that the last. They didn't give him enough food, didn't give any of them anough food. Leonard quickly lost a lot of weight, became as thin as he used to be before he escaped for the first time. The hunger made the work so much more painful. He cut himself on the more thorny branches at times.
He knew that whatever he was experiancing wasn't any worse than what the other slaves were experiancing. He knew they all suffered together. There was a sense of oneness, of camaraderie and brotherhood amongst the slaves. He loved that feeling. He wouldn't trade it for the world.
But that didn't mean he wan't in a lot of pain. The experiance was harsh, unforgiving, terrifying oppressive, grating, ad melancholy. The worst part was when he was seeing one of his comrades die.
He didn't give up hope though. He knew that there was some power working within him stronger than he himself, that no-one else had. It was that flickering light he'd noticed before. Separate from but tied with the River Maiden's power. It was the act of crossing lines, of emerging into a better situation, of creating a better situation. He knew he had to use his power to help his friends. He knew he had to use it to help them emerge into a better situation, to free them. After all, that's what the power was for. He couldn't selfishly keep it that would be treacherous. He'd learned by this point to by kind to himself too, by the way. He didn't know how but he would go about freeing people.
One day, on a cloudy day in August, he found himself by the river again though. How he got there is not shown. Hacombe was there though, and Leonard was overjoyed to see him again and embraced him. He saw the River Maiden with her head out of the water, looking deeply, longingly at him, smiling a bit sadly.
She let him know, without speaking, that one of the things she is a spirit of is desiring for positive change. Desiring for it with all of her being, incredibly, intensely, needing it, longing for it, supporting it wholeheartedly.
She tried her best to make change happen. But she wasn't the spirit of making change happen directly, she wasn't directly the spirit of change happening. So she couldn't always make change happen. Change happening was made even more impossible by her father, the spirit of keeping things the same, and his cronies. But Leonard was what could perhaps change that.
Leonard had the spirit of change happening, of situations improving, inside of him. That might be why he was the first escaped slave ever. Wanting change, panging for change and hoping for change is what powers change and drives change into happening. But it's not all-powerful. Sometimes, only sometimes, there's a lot if can't do. Leonard's spirit though was the actual phenomenon of change occurring, which of course, needs her spritit, the spritit of wanting change. Together they could be incredibly powerful.
She gave Leonard a bag of supplies and money. She said that food was magical and was extra nourishing and healthy. There was an extent to which the food and money in the bag could replace itself once take out, but this couldn't happen an infinite amount of times. It was she best she could do.
She told Leonard to meet Thomas, who had been changing his own life a lot lately, in a tent near the town by the river and evergreen forest. She gave him a pale stone from the river and told him to hold onto it, as it would prevent her father or his cronies or even the estate owners form finding him or recognizing him.
Then the group would work on freeing as many slaves as they could together.
Leonard took Hacombe and the magic supply bag and walked into the river. The currents were soft and cool and deep as the River Maiden transported them to Thomas's tent.
—Friendship with Living Redemptio—
Leonard and Thomas became great friends. Thomas had been living on his own in his small, sparse tent for a while. He had finally gotten the courage to leave his parents and was content, he explained to Leonard in one of their many talks. While Thomas definitely would like to have enough food, everything else was okay. The tent was small but it had all the space he needed. He had no furniture and just a few tools, a mattress, and some bedding, but he had everything he needed to write his plays and be happy.
He didn't go to grand places anymore and that was okay as he had a lot of peace being here and hanging out with the less affluent denizens of the town.
Leonard told Thomas of his own history too. Of his adventures in town trying to build a life, of his adventures galloping away from his old master, across the country. And of course he told him about all the terror and misery of his time in slavery, and the dark horror of the River Maiden's dad. And he told him of all the fantastical things he experienced with the River Maiden and his glorious journey through the river.
Thomas said he knew the River Maiden, that she helped him leave behind the corrupt side and be who he was and find purity.
Leonard liked how Thomas talked to him. With a quiet, constant, unquestioning respect that was as strong as stone. Leonard was just another person to him, just another human being, just another pocket of love. He was not something to be used, he was not a pathway to some end, he was not valued for what he did. He was simply valued because he was a human trying his very best to help people. He was simply a friend, to be respected and helped. He was simply seen.
Hacombe was the happiest out of the three of them. He was able to wander though the meadow and the grass, running and grazing to his hear's content. He was the only one with quite enough food, as Thomas's theatre hadn't taken off yet and Leonard had yet to find work.
They had the magical bag, but even though they were hungry they knew it wasn't infinite and they didn't want to take too much from it. But even though they were hungry they were respected and that was much better than being a slave. Also, the work they did was uplifting and not degrading, which was a major difference from Leonard's old life.
Leonard asked Thomas one day, while they were sitting on the untreated wooden floorboards of their dark blue canvas tent, how he got the courage to leave home. Thomas said that at first he was iffy about slavery and materialism but he didn't wanna leave his parents becasue he didn't wanna be who knows how hungry for who knows how long. He got to his parents estate and saw how big it was. How big and towering and ornate their harsh stone mansion was. He'd seen it before but this was the first time he saw it with his eyes open. It was so distant from nature, so far removed from it. It was a wound on nature. He felt a heavy, suffocating poisonous force around that place. And he couldn't get used to all the wealth he was around either, it was so far removed from nature. And what he coudln't get used to most of all was having slaves around. It was such an abomination. It was so corrupt and unkind and disturbing. He realized he couldn't live like this anymore.
He was alright if he starved. He was alright if he died. Dieing was preferable to this scheisse. He could feel the threads of corruption in the air. So he packed a couple of things, some money, and left. He'd been living in his tent and trying to start his theatre career ever since.
Leonard agreed that the wealth of the estates was really far removed from nature and of course slavery was an abomination. They talked about how in contrast their hut seemed so in tune with nature, how it seemed huddled up against nature like a child on it's mother's lap. It didn't seem to be hurting nature. It seemed to be in harmony with it. Small and humble and nestled by the forest.
They worked in their respective fields for the next few months. Leonard got an apprenticeship as a carpenter. HIs place of work wasn't extravagant. Just a few tools and some wood. He enjoyed it, it was peaceful, he felt respected. He did his best. More people eventually came to see Thomas's shows too, and he started earning a steady income from that.
Most of his stories were subtly anti-slavery, and he made them especially for the young children of slaveowners, who often came by to see his shows. His theatre was pretty simple and in his tent, but children preferred love over a bunch of stuff, like kids do if you let them be free and without pressure.
The two youths also spent much of their time scouting estates and trying to free any slaves they could. They made instant and warm bonds with all the wonderful slaves they tried to free. The rescue missions were terrifying and exhilarating and filled them with with such a lovely, perfect, sense for purpose.
But they never went well. Even if they did succeed at freeing someone, and they often didn't, that person would often be found again and returned to their places of torment. Leonard and Thomas knew that something was wrong. This wasn't the mission they were brought together for. They had to know what was going on.
They realized, though they hadn't noticed it before, that every time they freed a person corrupted, invisible stings were gathering around that person and pulling them back. Leonard instantly recognized what this was, this was the work of the same evil force that had gone after him.
Leonard's spirit and the River Maiden's spirit and Leonard and Thomas all felt pulled to each other, and in a small while the three ... whatever's ... found themselves face to face, with the Maiden's head bobbing out of the water and Thomas and Leonard on the bank.
The River Maiden was frustrated, enraged, despondent, and overall going crazy that her father was still too strong for the brotherhood of change. She had been fighting against his dark magic with her own passionate energy.
But he was too strong and it was unbearable for her that nothing was still happening. She called him the Roaring King, said that was his title, and that his reach as vast and powerful in Coralivia.
Thomas said that maybe they should all go together and confront the Roaring King, head-on, and perhaps they could weaken him. Leonard remembered how weak the River Maiden had become the last time he'd seen her and the Roaring King face-to-face. He wondered if it wasn't a good idea but thought about how they had another person no their team now and he himself had gotten much more connected with the spirit inside of him so she thought it worth a try. Especially if it could help free other slaves.
The River Maiden said she was intrinsically tied to nature and would get weaker the longer she was away from it so the faster they got the mission done the safer it would be for them and the likelier they were to succeed.
But whatever happened, they agreed, they had to give it their best go.
—Running At It—
They put sprigs of cedar in their hair, behind their ears, to bring a bit of nature with them, even though that wouldn't help much. They wrapped their arms around each others' waists so they'd be closer to each other, and they walked all in a line, in sync. Leo brought his stone of protection, clutching it tightly in his hand. THe spirit inside him, Golden Dawn, was much more tied into the world now, on account of being better shared and understood, and therefore stronger. There's fear, hope, and confusion as they press forwards in the soft post-sunrise light.
When the Roaring King saw them coming at him he ran. Leonard thought this was incredible as this time the Roaring King feared them as they had feared him before.
They chased it back to that first tent where it had first taken Leo. When it w inside the tent they used their collective power to knock him down. They were scared, determined, and they felt the corruption getting stripped off and vanishing as the Roaring King's form diniminshed. Try as they might though they they couldn't make it vanish entirely.
They realized that they weren't strong enough to take away all it's power, and the Roaring King was strong enough to persist still, probably for years more.
Realizing that they did all they could, they scattered and ran back to the river.
They realized that though they could not defeat him yet, they had weakened him and could use this opportunity to free as many slaves as possible. The The River Maiden burst into a rush of waves and Leo clutched his stone tight.
—Blooming Springtime Cascading Twilight—
River spent the next years wildly, ragingly, fighting the Roaring King in confrontational magical battles, aiding escapees and giving them tailsmans for protection, and doing whatever she could to progress the cause.
Leonard and Thomas also freed and helped free person after person, giving them protective stones and helping them be happy in their new lives.
Thomas's plays also helped bring a couple of people from the new generation of overpriviledged snobs onto the good side.
Escapees in turn helped other people escape.
It was like emptying the ocean with a cup but at least it was something.
They were a very tight-knit community together and always helped each other out. Yes, there were a lot of things in their lives and their relationships they could improve upon, but they were willing to find and work towards progress.
Change, in Coralivia, was moving slow. But people believed in it. And everyone was doing everything they could. And Leonard could feel the gentle summer breeze of change slowly picking up speed.
He could feel the threads of corruption laced through Coralivia weaken and fray. The King's power was weakening.
Coralivia, in all it's beautiful natural glory, had hope. The whole country had hope.
—Extra Information, Loose Ends, and Clarification—
The state Leonard used to live in was called Macomica. It was very urbanized. It had a lot of manufacturing, textiles, stuff like that. Coralivia was much more rural. They grew, sugar, tea, spices, flavourings, herbs, fancy fruits, cotton, silk, fabric dye, stuff like that. They also had ranching and some mining.
River stole that helmet she was wearing in that one scene from her father the King. She wore it when meeting Leonard because she couldn't communicate too well at that time, probably because she was too weak, and she thought that wearing the helmet would help Leonard figure out that she was the daughter that he helped save.
Thomas's mother, who liked to wear large dresses made of colourful, textured velvet, particularly red, was the one who pushed him to conform most, and who put the most pressure on him.
In case it wasn't clear, Leonard was a human with a good spirit or some kind of thing (think of it was a mixture between a good spirit and a good force) "living" inside of him. This spirit was kind of similar to the River Maiden in that they were both benevolent and magical but very different in many ways as well.
A corrupted, dark, heavy, and terrifying ambiance could be felt all over Coralivia, which was tied with the Roaring King and his hold over the place. The only places this wasn't present in were as follows: the blue canvas tent by the forest and later the part of town the escapees lived in, the fields in the estates where there were lots of slaves and mostly just them, and parts of nature humans hadn't really built over. As the Roaring King's power slowly faded this ambiance faded too.
Leonard and Thomas both developed short-lived crushes on the River Maiden at one point in their lives, after the main conflict with the Roaring King got resolved. But she, being a benevolent spirit or whatever and all, is asexual and aromantic. Like super asexual and aromantic. She's not going fall in love any more than the river itself is going to fall in love. She's not going to want to kiss someone any more than the river is going to want to kiss someone. But Leo and Thomas both understood that once she explained and weren't creeps about it. Also Leonard is straight and Thomas is either bi or pan, though I don't know which. Which means that while they're best friends and partners in abolition and they stay best friends throughout their life, no romantic stuff happens between them. I don't know if either character gets married in the future of their lives but I'm thinking they probably do. So, yeah.
- This story is part of a collaborative project with additional talented writers. The previous chapters can be found here: https://theprose.com/post/438830/tag-list-and-schedule
Olban raced to the cave, the deafening screams within reminding him and his companions that they had to act fast.
Are we too late? Did we not reach my Dad on time?
"Do you not recognize your father Gareth? It's him, probably losing his mind after going from one dark place to another. It will take some work, but we will save him."
This is good news Gareth.... your mum is an ally now, and soon your dad will be too!
Yeah, you're right. Just never heard him like this, and I'm scared to see what kind of toll everything he has been through has taken on him.
"You do remember we're in my world now, right? We have magic that is more potent then the top medical advances of your world. But in the meantime, let's light up the surroundings of Brian Wilks!"
Olban's magic lit up the cave, revealing a naked Brian covered in scars, bruises, and deep cuts. His eyes were bloodshot and his screams continued. His mouth foamed as he picked up a nearby rock and lunged at Olban. Olban quickly dove out of the way before getting his skull bashed in.
Dad, stop! It's me, your son! We are here to save you!
"Gareth, would you please not scream in my head? You know Eloise and I are the only ones that can hear you."
Sorry.... it's just, seeing my dad like this.... it is even worse than just hearing him....
We'll rescue him Gareth. We are in Olban's world, and they have magic on their side. And we do too. If we use the binding spell from the armband, we can protect ourselves from Brian, and protect him from himself too.
Ok.... good thinking Eloise, and thanks. I am ready anytime Olban.
"Now we're talking." Olban grinned, despite Brian racing at him again with even more murderous intent. "Now or never, say the chant!"
"Initosh kaglabah regafla!"
Initosh kaglabah regafla!
Initosh kaglabah regafla!
The welcome glow of the familar golden laser emitted from the wristband, binding Brian and dropping him to the ground. Brian struggled and continued screaming, but was firmly held in the laser's grip.
"That secures good old dad. Now we need to get him back to Master Stell, and restore his mind. Even bound like this though, we might need some back up to bring him there."
A mist then quickly rose from the floor of the cavern, silencing Brian's screams. Olban then slumped to the floor, his vision that he and his comrades shared rapidly fading.
"Oh yeah, that spell.... maybe should have started with that.... instead of a light...."
Olban came to with a familar face standing over him.
"Master Stell.... the mist...."
"Indeed, that was my handiwork. Rushing headlong into the unknown was an impeccably dangerous approach. Your counterpart's father is now dressed in one of our finest tunics and trousers, and I have healed all of his injuries."
"Thanks Master. Will he be ready to talk upon awakening?"
"Heh heh, I would be doing my apprentice a grave disservice if I did all the work! How to fix what's going on in that man's head, that one is up to you son."
"Master, wait!" Olban called out as Master Stell walked away, humming in amusement.
I could probably talk my Dad down.... or then again, maybe I couldn't. He never believed this part of my life existed to begin with.
Sorry Olban, we can't do much here. Although we could offer up helpful things to say to Gareth's dad.
"If I can't accomplish this, I have no right to be Master's apprentice. Besides, I've been in your head too Gareth. I am familar enough with your dad to know how to handle him."
Olban approached Brian and sat by him until he stirred. He hoped that his next words would prevent another aggressive episode.
"Mr. Wilks, I can't imagine what you just went through, but I promise that you are safe now. I am human, not one of those monsters that hurt you in the darkness."
"Heh heh, yeah sure. Not the first time I've heard that. You bastards take on so many forms before showing your real side. You comforted me in the image of my wife, then strung me up and sliced me with your claws, all while smirking while wearing Sarah's face. Then one of your pals would pose as my son and slice him up in front of me, both of you laughing as I screamed. I've been had before, I'm not buying it, you devil."
Dad sounds coherent at least, but he is rightfully suspicious. I don't think I would believe us either.
"You can doubt me all you want, but do you have anything to lose at this point Mr. Wilks? Maybe if I don't shape shift, you'll believe me?"
"Your kind have said that before too. Then you escorted me out of the darkness, into a beautiful, peaceful forest. Or a beach. Even my neighborhood. Then it all started again. The darkness returned, followed by glee from your deceit, then physical and mental agony. Then I would be restored, assured that I was rescued. Then it would happen again."
Could you say something to him from Gareth that only his dad would know? That might convince him.
No, these arseholes can read minds. Sounds like they used what they learned to raise my dad's hopes, before crushing them in their grubby paws.
"I suppose I wouldn't believe me either. I'm a random stranger that helped knock you out in a cave, you don't know anything about me. Not even my name."
"I do admit that you are taking on a different form from the others. Your kind always appeared as someone close to me. But I have never seen your face before. Who are you pretending to be now, if anyone?"
"I am the other side of Gareth, the one whom you chalked up to being a mental illness. My name is Olban, and you are in a world that you originally claimed to be the symptom of Dissociative Identity Disorder. I, and this place, are very real."
"This is certainly a new swindle, possibly the wildest one yet. But no, I don't believe you beast. I know how this will end, and the anticipation of the torment to come is unbearable. Do what you intend to do, and get it over with so I can return to the madness that numbs me somewhat."
"Very well then, I will escort you from here to the next place of your misery. When you see what I really have in store, maybe then you'll be ready to listen. I suppose you can walk, human garbage?"
Bloody hell Olban, I am frustrated too, but egging my father on won't help! What are you thinking?
It might be the only way Gareth. He is convinced Olban is another minion. But if he can get him out of this cave and someplace that isn't a torture den, maybe he will start to realize we aren't the evil ones.
"No devil of the dark, I can't walk on my own, thanks to your brethren! I tire of this cave though. Guide me out, and get a move on with whatever you are scheming."
"That's a good worthless sack of flesh." Olban jeered, realizing he would have to play the part of villain for now. "Cooperate like a good little play toy, and maybe we'll go easy on you this time."
"Every session has been worse then the last." Brian said, attempting to sound bold in order to hide his hopelessness. "But the more you creatures hurt me, the more I will learn to give you less satisfaction, no matter how many times it takes."
MIRACLE THE FIRST
She came to me on the first day at this lovely seaside town. I was on the pier, admiring the sunset, when a porpoise shot out of the water and turned to purposely and porpoisely exhale a plume of water at me. It was a miracle, this roguish act of nature.
As such, I happily withstood this act of mammalian daring — this cross-species effrontery. Yet, I reconsidered, because it seemed as if it were personal.
Then she appeared.
It was well after the expanding concentric waves fizzled out in attrition, along the spoked radii. I thought of π, as ethereal a concept as any mermaid could be — one etched into the elitist postulates of geometry, the other ingrained into folklore.
She was as surprised to see me as I was to see her. Unlike her cetacean chamberlain, whose purpose it was to introduce her, she remained surfaced, some caudal machinations below sea level, maintaining buoyancy.
"Greetings," she said. It was a melodious voice, musical, fittingly flippant, with a hint of a giggle imbued within its tone.
"And to you, as well, " I answered. "This is the second miraculous thing that has happened to me — the first being your herald, your popoise."
She smiled, her own concentric circles spreading out to sea.
"Miracles come in threes," she said mirthfully. "I urge you to pay attention."
"For what? What will constitute my third miracle?" I asked.
"We mythical creatures," she said, with a sarcasic inflection on the "mythical," "are questful."
"Yes. That is your task, your quest. To recognize your third miracle when it happens."
"You mythical creatures," I rejoindered, mimicking her previous sarcasm, "are riddling creatures, like the troll under the bridge."
She seemed offended.
"No!" she snapped. "That is exacting a toll. Under that bridge." Then she laughed — "Ha! A bridge! What I offer you is an epiphany you might not otherwise notice. If you were more astute to the concentric interrelations of the mere posing, as you navigate, your world, and less on things like π, you would already be prepared."
"A riddle, for sure!" I left the pier, happy to be alive.
MIRACLE THE SECOND
I returned to that pier the next day. Again, I was greeted by my cetacean Master of Ceremonies, who performed his perfunctory gesture, leaving me drenched in spittle from his blow-hole.
"Oh, you rogue!" I laughed. The porpoise returned my laugh with its cackle, then arced into the air to dive back into the water. The dive was smooth; the water's surface lay undisturbed.
Yet, I was excited in anticipation because the last time this had happened, I was soon visited by a mermaid. I awaited the tell-tale bubbles effervescing to the surface. The waters remained inert. I looked for the tell-tale circular and expanding migrations, obeying π, but I remembered yesterday's miracle that had taught me my epiphany: to ignore the geometry of this world and be astute to what transpires in the otherworldly æther.
Then, Oh! There ensued perturbations! These, however, were different.
In silent protrusion arose, upward, three vertical shafts. They continued to rise, perfectly aligned, parallel, until a base supporting all three manifested. From there, another vertical shaft, raising the entire construct into the obvious — a Trident, balancing in scaly grasp by its wielder, Poseidon.
I knew from my lessons as a child, Trident was his greatest weapon, a lightning bolt from when he was the god of the skies — sublimating into gold and diamond from its original form when Zeus, his jealous brother, had cast him into the seas. The entire scenario spoke volumes about envy and family. God knows I had my own bitter story to tell about a brother, my estranged brother. But here, presenting as my peril, Trident had the power to smite me.
"Oh, spare me!" I shouted.
"What is the one thing you can reveal to me to spare you?" roared the god. "I need a miracle!"
I quaked. I recalled the mermaid's message about miracles coming in threes. I required a second miracle, so I pushed aside my physical realities of immediate danger. Thereby, I produced my own miracle, the second in as many days.
I simply said, "Brother, I forgive you." Said to my own brother, the sea god submerged to address his own.
MIRACLE THE THIRD
First epiphany: Being alive as its own reward. My miracle, self-actuation of self-awareness.
Second epiphany: Sorting out the perspective of the truly important things in life. My miracle, forgiveness.
I returned to the pier the next day, forarmed, but forewarned: knowledge of miracles is dangerous, even deadly. Yet how one wielded his miracle, as one wields a Trident, separates joy and regret.
Miracles, it seemed, were to be my education. Once again, wetted by the playful porpoise who lept, spit — then retreated — I looked to the liquid surface for tell-tale commotion.
I didn't wait long.
Again, the perturbations differed. No turbulence from below, no turbulence. Instead, a dimple appeared, a concavity that began spinning. It swirled and deepened. It widened. Its force grew such that I feared for the pilings upon which rested my pier.
"Oh!" I bayed. "What be this? Will I be sucked into this maelström?"
From the mouth of the voracious vortex sang her song:
“Come hither, hear the sweet voice from Sirens' lips, belched to you from Charybdis. Listen well and profit from your gift, for we know all things that come to pass upon the fruitful earth."
"You will tell me of my future?" I asked. "That is to be my third miracle in as many days?"
"Yes. He who hears our song will know to manipulate the future for his gain."
Truly, I thought, this be miracle enough. My third, and I can finish this tripartite task — this quest, as said my first miracle, my mermaid; and my humanity, as indicated by my second miracle. The good I could do!
But, wiser, I sidestepped the goings-on of this world. My third epiphany — my third miracle.
Spurning the tumult, I forced a finger into each of my ears as forcefully, deeply, as I could, until all I could hear was the deafening hiss of innnate wisdom.
The waters calmed; the whirlpool subsided. I went into my future, ignorant of what was to come. For such knowledge would spoil my first miracle — the miracle of living; such manipulation would bury my second miracle — my humanity; such self-indulgence would abandon my third miracle — my place in the world.
My quest was over, and I shouted it to the sea.
Final Penance Of A Paladin
The tavern was not crowded this time of evening. Most of the regulars had left and now weary travelers, bounty hunters, and other strangers took their place. Still a few of the day to day clientele hung around as the barkeep lit the gas lanterns and yawned.
One man in particular seemed to be a constant fixture at the bar. He had aged significantly though he was only forty. He stared into his empty glass like it was a scrying pool.
He would occasionally turn his head to scan the newcomers then he would turn his attention to his ale. The barkeep, a rotund fellow with hair the shade of raven wings would always ask him what he was doing and he would always answer that he was waiting for someone.
Eight people, that's how many occupied the tavern now. Eight including the weary man at the bar.
Once he was a paladin, a holy warrior. He'd faced dragons, slaying some, taming others. He had driven the dark mages from the kingdom and had been the mightiest of the knights of this realm.
That all ended one night right here in this very tavern. His glory days came crashing down in a moment of weakness. That weakness had been blonde, voluptuous and friendly. She'd been very friendly in fact.
She was almost hypnotic. He took an instant liking to her and eventually they'd gone into the inn which adjoined the tavern and had coupled together. The moment he planted his seed within her he felt something leave from him and that's when she revealed her true form.
Above him was knelt, not the human female he'd lusted for, but something else entirely. She had all the shape of a woman but her skin was violet, her eyes burned like the sun, horns protruded from her forehead and her skin was no longer warm like that of a human woman but it burned like hell fire.
He knew now what she truly was and she mocked him before disappearing in a puff of smoke. From that day forward he grew weaker and soon his fighting days were behind him. She'd taken part of his soul. He knew that. He also knew it impacted him physically as well.
After loss after loss in combat he visited the temple of Dri The Creator. The wise woman there told him Dri had stripped him of his might and turned his face from him.
Now he could make it alright. She'd be back here someday to claim another victim; he just had to wait. Just as the tavern's proprietar was about to announce last call, she walked through the doors.
The former paladin recognized her instantly. She hadn't aged a day. Of course not, she was incapable of aging. She looked at him and winked taunting him.
He left the bar and walked over to her table. "You look like crap," she stated with a smirk of that variety only a woman can give in malice.
"You know bloody well why," he said.
"I guess that happens when your diety wants nothing to do with you."
Silence filled the void between them then the succubus continued. Your soul was delicious by the way. It was a shame I only got to sample a small morsel of it. Of course we were engaged in other matters."
She smiled devilishly at him. "We could always go back to bed and finish the job."
"I plan to finish it," he said, gripping the hilt of the sword strapped to his hip,"This ends tonight."
"You'd like that wouldn't you? It's not that easy, lover. You know the cambion warlord that's been terrorizing this puny little kingdom as of late?"
"Yes. He uses the blood of those he slays in demonic rituals."
"He's your son."
"Do I really?"
He thought about it for a moment. He knew it to be true.
"Thank you. I know what I must do."
It happened suddenly and swiftly. The torchlight danced off metal and the woman's head toppled to the floor as blood spurted from its fromer place on her neck.
Everyone was shocked and was prepared to take down this murderer when the head and body took on their true forms as the illusion died with the succubus.
The former paladin was grim and silent. He walked out of the tavern and into the night.
A figure in gold armor rode through the countryside all day and all night. He came to the camp of the warlord. He waited until daybreak.
He looked up to the sky. "Dri, I have no reason to expect you to turn your ear to me but please grant me one last request. Give me the strength to set right my terrible sin and the calamity it has brought upon the land."
With that benediction said the paladin set upon his son's camp and slew his soldiers while they still slept. Heavy armored footsteps caught his attention and he turned to face his son who wore a full set of armor sans a helmet and held a giant hammer in his left hand. "Hello, Father. I wondered when we would meet. I sensed Mother's death two nights ago."
"No doubt through your damnable rites."
"Those are smoke and mirrors. Do I really need sacrifices to commune with the citizens of the Netherworld,I who was born in it?"
He now held the hammer with both hands and took up a battle stance. "Let us finish this. I have cities to raze."
There is no need to describe in epic details the clash that ensued. It lasted for five very tense minutes until the hammer caved in the knight's breastplate. With his ebbing strength the holy warrior struck off his son's head.
He collapsed to the ground and lay flat on his back. He looked skyward and saw a woman on a winged horse coming down to take him to Dri's realm as reward for his penance.
An Old Man’s Only Remaining Vice
And just what do you present me with
under this covered dish?
I sure hope you can nourish
my desirable hunger that has begun to flourish.
My, my! What an Atlantian treat!
How sweet is such meat!
What a bother it is, though,
that my protein
lays upon a snow scene
atop this blizzard of jasmine rice.
In my advice,
I'd rather have ordered a potato baked twice.
(However, if I may say cockily,
I really love the broccoli!)
And how divine are these yeast rolls!
My dear chef,
I am putting you on the payroll!
Religion on a Plate
My friend Al the chemist
is juggling spirits and their vapors
between the Bunson burners
from one hot plate to the other
the blue lit flame
for the insane
in a day
for the millennia
My friend Al says
that our Cooking's'
neither art nor science
fuel molting like lava
red as faith
burnt like coal
I look in the dish...
well then... What is it?
Dish... or dishes challenge @Last
For the Betterment of Mr. Pike
What a day it was, when I fired off the missives,
I watched them fly away against my father's wishes.
My father was pernicious about the spending of his riches,
but I invited all the witches, and all the other misses.
He said to me in stitches, "you're too big for your britches",
"I'll never find a wife, I've burned too many bridges".
But I knew that the truth, was that he longed for long kisses.
Never in his life, had he fallen so listless.
Never considered a new wife, he just lived to miss his.
So I resolved to help this man, as difficult as this is,
by throwing a ball to bring new life, to the lifelessness of the premisses.
Now a magical feast of fishes, to lower his inhibitions,
the only question left is...which one of these bitches?
And which dishes I should use, for these wonderful dishes.