(Shadows crook their fingers out to her, and she dances on the edge of existence.)
“They’re back again,” Reggie said, arms crossed over his chest as he stared out the window.
Concetta made a strangled noise of exasperation, stomping over to stand beside him. She put her hands on her hips, scowling fiercely. “Really? Don’t they have better things to be doing?”
“Guess not,” Reggie said with a bored voice, his expression blank in a way that she recognized from the ease of long practice— he had already lost interest. Reggie turned away and let the curtains fall back into place, dismissing the mob milling about outside. They had bright torches held in work-calloused hands, and they were using the light to peer through the clearing.
She imagined that they were staring right at her, and shivered. Concetta wished that she could have the same indifferent attitude as her housemate, but even now she could feel the fear creeping up on her.
Once, Jasmin had jokingly said that a person never forgot their first witch hunt. She didn’t know just how right she was. Or maybe she did. Jasmin was different, even among the settlers here.
Reggie’s hand settled lightly on her head, ruffling the short haircut. “Don’t worry. This isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last.”
She stared up at him, expression deadpan. “That’s… actually not helpful. That’s almost the exact opposite of what I wanted to hear, congratulations.”
Reggie shrugged, unbothered by the criticism. “What does it even matter? Even if they do manage to get in here, nothing they do will stick. Jasmin made sure of that.”
“I know,” Concetta said, and her mind was flooded with images of flames licking her skirts and shadows peeling themselves off the ground. “But that doesn’t mean it won’t hurt.”
(Death is an old family friend, and she laughs when they come for her. Death laughs too, and takes her hand when she offers it. It hurts.)
“I wonder if they really even know,” Concetta said one day, eyeing the angry villagers that had once again begun to circle the mansion. “Are they aware of what this place really is?”
“As aware as a bunch of half-blind mortals could be,” Jasmin answered, a bit distractedly. She was concentrating on the bright fabric in her hands, carefully cutting off each of the glittery buttons. “They know that there’s something here, something that raises goosebumps on their arms and blurs at the edge of their vision. But they can’t really see it. They’re only human, after all.”
Jasmin didn’t mean it maliciously, but when she said human like that, so full of pity and careless arrogance, Concetta couldn’t help but shy away.
Concetta wasn’t human, true, but she hadn’t known that for a long time. And though she may have hated many humans, she did not hate humanity. It was hard for many of her companions to say the same. She didn’t blame them, not really. Concetta knew just how hard it was to separate the vicious few from the indifferent majority.
Even she had difficulty with it, sometimes.
(Come to us, they whisper. Come to us, and never be lonely again.)
The morning was crisp and cool. Reggie had gone to bed a little under an hour ago, the door to his basement room shut tight in order to prevent any light from leaking in.
Concetta had no idea where Jasmin was. The older woman had likely wandered off into the forest somewhere. She might not return for several more hours— or weeks, depending on how long her good mood lasted.
Concetta was used to the silence, the distinct absence of any other living beings. Jasmin and Reggie were the only other permanent residents besides her, and they were both drifters, content to follow the wind and listen to the stories it had to give them.
She couldn’t speak with the wind. She had tried, once, but gave up almost immediately when the only answer she was given was the furious roaring of a hurricane in her ears.
Concetta wasn’t meant to speak with the wind. She wasn’t whimsical and blunt like Jasmine, or relentless and steady like Reggie. While the two of them weren’t exactly soft people, they carried a gentleness in their souls and hearts that broke themselves over and over again simply so that someone else could have a piece of it.
A witch-child is not soft or gentle; they are harsh and unforgiving and dance with fire nipping at their heels.
“I, uh, heard this place was safe,” the man said, an almost sheepish expression on his face. He avoided looking her in the eye, keeping his gaze fixed on somewhere over her right shoulder instead. “My name is William. Is it okay if I, uh, stay here?”
Concetta could do nothing but nod in agreement, pulling the door open fully to allow him inside. Just as Jasmin had done for her, that rainy night so many years ago.
(The shadows dance, they rip and chew up the earth with their long claws, and she is running running running—)
“And here is your room,” Concetta gestured towards one of the empty guest rooms, hoping that the Dryad who had stayed in there last had remembered to clear away any plant growth before she left.
“Uh, thanks,” William said, still looking slightly to the right of where she was actually standing. “Is there anything I should know about this place before I get settled in?”
Concetta thought for a moment, and then shook her head. “Nothing that I can teach you.”
“U-uh, wait…” William stammered, clearly even more nervous than before. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Exactly what I said,” Concetta blinked, a bit unsure of what all the fuss was about. “There are a great many things in this place that even I cannot explain. It would be best for you to discover them yourself. That is why you’re here, right? Though I have to say, I’m a bit impressed. I’ve never seen a human manage to get this far before.”
“Oh, thank you—” William began, face flushing pleasantly at the praise, before he dramatically paled. “Wait, you know—”
“I know lots of things,” Concetta said amusedly, already turning to walk away. “Perhaps, at the end of this little venture, you will too. Have a wonderful stay, Mr. William.”
Behind her, she could hear him gulp. She felt a little bad for tormenting him, but not enough to actually stop. After all, she recognized this man.
The vicious few and the indifferent majority.
Weren’t both of them at fault, in the end?
(“Help me!” she cries, not to the shadows but to the people, the people who watch her with wide, pitying eyes. “Help me!”
The people don’t answer, but the shadows do.)
Second one of the night, woohoo! I’m so tired, what the hell. Anyways, this is a fun one too! I definitely enjoyed writing it, so I’m satisfied! Another Caffeine Challenge, and they seem to get better every time. Cheers!!
I would flambe my buoyancy With flame hair and skirts that Shout about my wildly sexy legs. I would flourish for you. Violets And rages of yellow: my hair Dyed like daring. I would skim The air with my fair waywardness. It is little in my circle knees, please. You please me and I bevel into you: If you ask me too, I will fit, knit, be it.
Good to see you back <3 How about some Fenris and Hawke dancing? ;D
& co. would have made a great addition to the Inquisition’s shenanigans at
“I know you’re
going for that whole ‘endlessly broody and unapproachable’ look, but I feel I should
tell you that downturned mouth is all but begging for a marriage proposal. Or at the very least an indecent proposition.”
A glass of
sparkling wine is pushed into his hand, and Isabela bumps her hip against
his, lifting the rim of her own glass to her lips in a smooth arc that betrays
nothing of how many she’s tossed back already.
His fingers curl around
the crystalline stem, longing for the rough pommel of his sword, although the
glass rests in his hand with equal weight. He doesn’t drink. This isn’t the
Hanged Man with its easy atmosphere and where he knows the layout with his eyes
closed. This is a battlefield clad in silk and gold, and with the sheer amount of frilly garters
hiding hidden daggers in the room, Fenris prefers to keep his wits about him.
familiar brand of humour loosens some of the tension sitting in his shoulders,
and so, “There have been none of either sort,” he remarks, sliding her a dry look. “A rather sorry
turnout, as it were.”
Isabela snorts. A copper-and-gold
mask hides the upper half of her face, beneath which a knowing grin sits with
an ease the years have yet to shake from her skin. “Don’t count your losses just yet, pet. The night is still young.” Her smile widens, a gleaming dagger of mirth.
Calum’s family had practiced witchcraft since the early days. His family fled from Salem to Australia in hopes of safety for the years to come. Calum had watched his grandmother be burned at the stake. He remembers the day like it was yesterday:
The knock came to his door in a harsh rap.
“Old Lady Hood! Old Lady Hood?”
“Calum, please hide in the corner with Mali and don’t come out.” Calum’s grandmother warned.
“Old Lady Hood, we know you’re in there! We’re coming in!” Calum ran into the small space and Mali-Koa held him in an embrace. They heard the door slam on the ground and looked to see a bulky man grab his grandmother harshly. They tugged her out the door and that was when Calum shouted:
“No! Grandmama!” The men’s heads immediately turned to the noise, spotting Calum and Mali. One of them, Gasteaux, marched up to the children and picked up the small boy by his arm. He leaned in close to Calum’s face.
“And are you a witch too, petite garçon?” he spat the question, ending it in his native language.
“W-what’s a w-witch?” his baby voice whispered. Calum had no idea what Gasteaux was talking about. He was only seven.
“Leave him alone! He doesn’t know anything! He’s not like me…” His grandmother begged.
“Et la jeune fille?” he asked, curious about Mali-Koa.
“Both of them are human,” she lied
“Bring the children,” Two other men came and picked up the siblings. They brought them to the town square where they watched the men tie up their grandmother.
“Today we witness one of our best nurses be known as a witch. Today, she will be burned at the stake for her evil practices and die for her sins.” Gasteaux shouted to the people.
“Grandmama!” Calum cried and cuddled closer to Mali, who had tears rolling our of her eyes like an active volcano spewing lava.
“I love you…” their grandmother mouthed before the flames licked at her skirt, climbing its way upwards, spreading until her body was engulfed. The flames rawed and distorted her wrinkly skin. Her screams pierced the people ears, bursting their eardrums, but giving peace to her grandchildren. At the shriek, the flames burst green and blue from a deep red and orange.
Calum woke up sobbing. He reached for his phone, calling his sister. When she answered the phone, he could hear the blaring music. Calum rolled his eyes know his sister was probably at a club somewhere in Europe.
“Wassup, Cally?” Mali slurred.
“For heaven’s sake, Mali, be sober for once!” Calum groaned, annoyed with his sister’s constant state.
“Relax, Cal-Pal, I’m– I’s is– you’s are– I am drinking resmonsinbly…”
Calum sighed, rubbing the place between his eyebrows, “Do you mean ‘responsibly?’”
“Yes! How’s d’you know?”
“Mali-Koa, are you coming back to see the new sachem mage?”
“Yeah, yeshh, I’m is gons-ing to be there.”
“Be safe Mali,”
“I love you, Calum.”
“Mm– Love you too,”
“Hello, and welcome witches to the party for the new sachem mage!” Coraline, the necromancer emissary spoke. The huge crowd cheered and screamed waiting for this girl, the first girl sachem mage, to come out. “Please welcome, Y/N Y/L/N!”
You had your Y/H/C curled to perfection and your face was as flawless as you could make it. You wore a black lace dress, which kind of reminded Calum of American Horror Story: Coven, to be honest. Not that he watched it or anything. Calum thought that you would be some old, crinkly lady, but you ended up being the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.
You walked around, people coming up to you and congratulating you.
“Y/N?” you heard someone ask. You turned around, and your eyes widened.
“Mali-Koa Hood?” you asked surprised. You met Mali during your training time in Cologne, Italy. We got pissed-drunk and partied all night.
“So how was Copenhagen?” you winked, trying to get your point across.
“You bitch! It was great though; great beer, great food, great men…” You laughed as she signaled her weird innuendo. She suddenly squealed and turned you around to a boy around nineteen years old. His chocolate brown eyes swallowed you whole and his dark hair made you want to run your fingers through what seemed to be a silky texture. His tattoos made him seem even more attractive against his naturally tan skin.
“Y/N, this is my brother, Calum.” Mali-Koa smirked and gave them both a knowing look.
“Mali, it’s nice to not hear the slur in your voice.” Calum sassed, “But Y/N, congrats on sachem mage, you look gorgeous today.” You blushed hard at his words.
“Thank you, Calum.” That’s when you finally looked into his eyes, and you immediately knew that you fell for him. You fell for his big eyes that reminded you of a puppy dog, his lips that made you want to kiss him to no end. But the one thing that stood out to you was the way his breath stopped short when he saw you.
“Y/N, he’s going to pass; let him go…” his mother whispered, rubbing up and down your arm.
You sniffled and shook your head, “No, no… he’s not dying… he can’t be…” you placed your hand on his and squeezed. He opened his eyes which you gasped in surprise at the yellow-ness of them.
“It hu-urts…” he groaned in a whisper.
“It will be over soon, I promise.” His father said.
“You are horrible parents.” you whispered to yourself more than them.
“Excuse me?” they both asked because they couldn’t hear you.
“You just stand there and accept that Theo, your only son, is going to leave you forever. Don’t you love him? Because I do,”
“Y/N,” you heard a frail, weak voice come from beside you. “It’s going to be okay.”
“No it’s not, you’re going to be gone. You’re the love of my life, Theo; I can’t live without you…” you started crying.
“I love you more than anything in the world.” he said as loud as he could. You leaned in and placed your forehead on his. He pushed his chin, signifying that he wanted a kiss, you complied. The last thing he did before he closed his eyes one last time was give you a beautiful gaze with his yellow eyes and let out a short gasp of breath saying:
“You are always able to take my breath away.”
You stared at him.
“I am so sorry, but I have to go and– and speak to other guests. If you excuse me.” you lowered your gaze and head, walking away.
When you walked away, Calum felt like a part of him left too.
i miss just daydreaming. finding myself in the lost. cocooning in a cotton nest on a sunlit afternoon. make believing eternities.
close my eyes and see a thousand lives i could have lived.
see a strawberry blonde ponytail sticking out from a freezer door. she’s picking out frozen dinners for little sister, little brother. mother isn’t home yet. she hasn’t been home in a while.
see a child of dusty corners trembling for the sun. moonlit serving girl, holding stardust in her violet palms, singing her skirts in flame. kissing princes in the pantry. too lovely in the lantern light. too easy to betray
see a golden rabbit tucked away in the midnight folds of a magician’s sleeve. she dreams of nights spent drinking honeycomb in the servant’s kitchen, tasting flowers on his lips. she dreams of strawberry strands strayed across a pink pillowcase like sun rays across a blushing sky. she dreams of a girl wrapped up in moth wing blankets, make believing eternities
Godric Gryffindor is the second son of an old Pureblood family. He’s raised
a warrior, trained with both sword and wand. He grows up in a hidden magical
village as safe as is possible for his time period.
He knows little of the outside world, and thinks that Muggles are, well…
interesting. He thinks they’re simple, and slow, and so yes there’s the Witch Burning’s,
but the poor things are frightened and don’t know any better. If they could
stop being afraid, he thinks they’d get along swimmingly.
In all honesty, Godric is rather much like Arthur Weasley, which makes
sense, if one was aware that Godric’s third daughter married well and has a
son. That son marries and has a son of his own before dying, and when his widow
remarries, both she and the boy take the surname of her new husband, which just
so happens to be Weasley.
But that is not the point. The point is that for all his bravery and
chivalry, Godric is a little too trusting. A little too friendly and kind…
2. Rowena Ravenclaw
Rowena Ravenclaw is also a Pureblood.
She’s the firstborn daughter of a magical house that has a peerage in the Muggle
She’s a noble. She’s also very, very clever. A little too clever. For what
comes with Pride and Intelligence is Hubris, and in her case it is dangerous. Rowena
Ravenclaw is curious. She wants toknow
She knows her potions, and she’s gifted with what will later be called
transfiguration and charms, only known as ‘casting’ in this time period. She
loves numbers and runes the best though, finds them fascinating.
She’s not the best with magical creatures, but that’s more to do with the
practical aspect. She doesn’t like to get her skirts muddy, or dirt under her
But that’s okay. That’s normal for a noble.
Until one day she forgets to make sure nobody is following her, her thoughts
caught up in a new rune array she’s been wanting to try out.
She doesn’t hear the footsteps behind her, doesn’t know she’s in danger
until blinding pain explodes through her head as a heavy tree branch collides
with her skull.
She wakes up, half-dazed and nauseous, tied to a stake, her wand in pieces…
And her heart sinks. She’s in no state to do magic right now.
And that’s where Salazar comes in…
3. Salazar Slytherin
Salazar Slytherin is, ironically considering what his house becomes, a Muggleborn. The only one of the lot.
He lives a rather normal life in a rather normal village, and if he can
speak to the grass snakes out in the field, well, he keeps that his own little
secret. And for good reason.
But one day, he’s caught off guard, his father finds him holding a conversation
with an adder. The adder is dispatched ruthlessly with a swing of the farmer’s
scythe, and poor Salazar is dragged kicking and screaming by his father to the
His father apologizes, crosses himself, and prays to God for his son’s soul,
before trying to drown him in the river. Salazar’s magic kicks in, saving his
life by spiriting him away to a random space in the woods.
But he’s a child, and he’s frightened, and he doesn’t understand. So he goes
home to his mother.
Or rather, he tries to.
When he reaches the outskirts of the village, the air is heavy with smoke
and the dying screams of a woman. His mother burns at the stake for consorting
with the devil and birthing what can only be called devilspawn.
He turns his back on the village, and closes his heart to Muggles.
He will never trust blindly again.
So years later, when Salazar later finds Rowena tied to the stake, her wand broken into
pieces and flames licking up her skirts, he snaps.
Not a single Muggle from the village survives, he spirits her away from
there and spends three days nursing her back to health.
It’s not long after, when they run headfirst (no, literally) into Godric.
So that’s Godric and Rowena, and that’s Salazar. But what about Helga?
Helga Hufflepuff is the most normal of the lot. If one can call her normal.
She’s a Half-blood, born to a Pureblood wizard and a rather pretty young Muggle woman. Her father’s name is George and her mother is Mary, and their
story is a little outlandish.
Once upon a time, Mary had almost been eaten by a dragon. And then George
had come along, wand in his left hand, and sword in his right. The legend says
that George slew the dragon, but what they forget is that yes, he killed the
dragon, but in the process he dropped his wand twice, was thrown into a tree
once and almost fell on his sword three times.
In the end, Mary had been so amused and charmed by his demeanor that she married him. Nobody so clumsy
could possibly be sent by the devil, of course, nobody who would slay a fire
worm could have been a servant of the devil either.
So Helga grew up with a foot firmly in both worlds, and a loving family who
impressed upon her the importance of familial loyalty and determination, a
family who insisted there was more to a person than meets the eye.
And that suited her just fine. She’s the last to join the gang, but she’s
the first to suggest what will later become the foundation for Hogwarts.
She didn’t choose the name though. That’s Rowena, drunk on mead for you.
5. Hogwarts is…
Hogwarts is meant to be home. Hogwarts is
meant to be a safe haven.
And it is, for a while.
But Salazar is wary of the Muggleborn like
himself, more afraid of their families than the children themselves. And Godric wants
everybody to love magic like he does.
The two friends can never see eye-to-eye on
They argue for years, while Rowena watches
stonily, her own experience with fire and death still haunting her dreams on
stormy nights. Helga, who has never known that fear, smiles and tries to keep
But fear is powerful, is dangerous, is a
magic all on its own.
And it tears them apart.
Finally, Salazar cannot take it anymore, so
he leaves. But he does not leave his own students without a final defense. He
leaves the hatchling basilisk in his chamber: little Belinda, who so bravely
promises to guard the children from the muggles, and even from Godric himself
if it comes down to it.
He parts with Godric on bad terms, and the
centuries twist their words, twist their stories as people remember Godric’s
cheer and humor and blinding grins… Well, it makes sense, does it not, for a
man who speaks serpent tongue and opposes such a kindly wizard to be evil.
So history paints Salazar as a villain, and
puts Godric on a pedestal. It ignores the love Helga has for all children, even
those who are not hers; and it forgets the haunted look in Rowena’s eyes and
her ever-so-slightly broken soul, forgets that she’d loose herself for days
locked up in a tower trying to discover the secrets of the universe.
The little every day things (or not so little) are ignored, and set aside.
History forgets that the Hufflepuff line descends from Helga’s brother, the woman herself unable to have children, which is why she loves them all. It forgets that Rowena’s disassociation with people leaves her daughter with an absent mother. It forgets that Godric had blood on his hands, his smile a little bit more forced after Salazar leaves… History forgets that Salazar was kind, that his strongest spell was the flame-freezer, a spell that he himself created…
History becomes legend and legend becomes
A madman rises from that myth, and that is
where a new legend begins…
The way it flickers, the way it dances. He disliked the way
it acted like it was so contained but then the next moment, it was out of
control. He disliked the color of the flames and he disliked the way that he
couldn’t touch it. He hated how he could feel the heat but if he laid a finger
on it he would get hurt. He didn’t like that fire was the source of his
problems yet it was also a source of comfort. He disliked the fact that he
liked seeing the flames dance and flicker and he hated the fact that fire was
the thing that killed his parents.
Third Sunday of Advent
The third Sunday of Advent is called “Gaudete” Sunday—“Rejoicing.” On this Sunday, we light the pink candle in our wreath and the priest wears rose-colored vestments. This is where we pause in our season of preparation and repentance, to remember what it is we anticipate. And to remember that joy does not depend on youth, beauty, or even good health—but only on the presence of love.
[This is our wreath in Santa Fe, where the snow is falling and the night is still.]
[Excerpt from THE FIERY CROSS, Chapter 85, “Hearthfire”]
I had any number of objections to hearthfire, ranging from splinters under the fingernails and pitch on the hands to blister, burns, and the sheer infuriating contrariness of the element. I would, however, say two things in its favor: it was undeniably warm, and it cast the act of love in a light of such dim beauty that all the hesitations of nakedness could safely be forgotten.
Our mingled shadows flowed together on the wall, here a limb, there the curve of back or haunch showed clean, some part of an undulating beasts. Jamie’s head rose clear, a great maned creature looming over me, back arched in his extremity.
It reached up across the stretch of glowing skin and trembling muscle, brushed the sparking hairs of arms and chest, to bury my hands in the warmth of his hair and pull him down gasping to the dark hollow of my breasts.
I kept my eyes half-closed, my legs as well, unwilling to surrender his body, to give up the illusion of oneness—if illusion it was. How many more times might I hold him so, even in the enchantment of firelight?
I clung with all my might to him, and to the dying pulse of my own flesh. But joy grasped is joy vanished, and within moments I was no more than myself. The dark starburst on my ankle showed clearly, even in firelight.
I slackened my grip on his shoulders and touched the rough whorls of his hair with tenderness. He turned his head and kissed my breast, then stirred and sighed and slid sideways.
“And they say hen’s teeth are rare,” he said, gingerly touching a deep bite-mark on one shoulder.
I laughed, in spite of myself.
“As rare as a rooster’s cock, I suppose.” I raised myself on
one elbow and peered toward the hearth.
“What is it, wee hen?”
“Just making sure my clothes won’t catch fire.” What with one thing and another, I hadn’t much noticed where he’d thrown my garments, but they seemed to be a safe distance from the flames; the skirt was in a small heap by the bed, the bodice and shift somehow had ended up in separate corners of the room. My brassiere-strip was nowhere to be seen.
Light flickered on the whitewashed walls, and the bed was full of shadows.
“You are beautiful,” he whispered to me.
“If you say so.”
“Do ye not believe me? Have I ever lied to you?”
“That’s not what I mean. I mean—if you say it, then it’s true. You make it true.”
He sighed and shifted, easing us into comfort. A log cracked suddenly in the hearth, sending up a spray of gold sparks, and subsided, hissing as the heat struck a hidden seam of damp. I watched the new wood turn black, then red, blazing into white-hot light.
“Do ye say it of me, Sassenach?” he asked suddenly. He sounded shy, and I turned my head to look up at him in surprise.
“Do I say what? That you’re beautiful?” My mouth curved involuntarily, and he smiled in return.
“Well…not that. But that ye can bear my looks, at least.”
I traced the faint white line of the scar across his ribs, left by a sword, long ago. The longer, thicker scar of the bayonet that had ripped the length of one thigh. The arm that had held me, browned and roughened, the hairs of it bleached white-gold with long days of sun and work. Near my hand, his cock curled between his thighs, gone soft and small and tender now, in its nest of auburn hair.
“You’re beautiful to me, Jamie, “I said softly, at last. “So beautiful, you break my heart.”
His hand traced the knobs of my backbone, one at a time.
“But I am an auld man,” he said, smiling. “Or should be. I’ve white hairs in my head; my beard’s gone gray.”
“Silver,” I said, brushing the soft stubble on his chin, parti-colored as a quilt. “In bits.”
“Gray,” he said firmly. “And scabbit-looking with it. And yet…” His eyes softened as he looked at me. “Yet I burn when I come to ye, Sassenach—and will, I think, ‘til we two be burned to ashes.”
“I dinna say it for pity, he said. “But ye ken…now and then my bones ache a bit.” He didn’t look at me, but spread his crippled hand, turning it in the light, so the shadow of the crooked fingers made a spider on the wall.
Now and then. I kent, all right. I knew the limits of the body—and its miracles. I’d seen him sit down at the end of a day’s labor, exhaustion written in every line of his body. Seen him move slowly, stubborn against the protests of flesh and bone when he rose on cold mornings. I would be willing to bet that he had not lived a day since Culloden without pain, the phyiscal damages of war aggravated by damp and harsh living. And I would also be willing to bet that he had never mentioned it to anyone. Until now.
“I know that,” I said softly, and touched the hand. The twisting scar that runneled his leg. The small depression in the flesh of his arm, legacy of a bullet.
“But not with you,” he said, and covered my hand where it lay on his arm. “D’ye ken that the only time I am without pain is in your bed, Sassenach? When I take ye, when I lie in your arms—my wounds are healed, then, my scars forgotten.”
I sighed and laid my head in the curve of his shoulder. My thigh pressed his, the softness of my flesh a mold to his harder form.
He was silent for a time, stroking my hair with his good hand. It was wild and bushy, freed from its moorings by our earlier struggles, and he smoothed one curly strand at a time, combing down each lock between his fingers.
“Your hair’s like a great storm cloud, Sassenach,” he murmured, sounding half-asleep. “All dark and light together. No two hairs are the same color.”
He was right; the locks between his fingers bore strands of pure white, of silver and blond, dark streaks, nearly sable, and several bits still of my young light brown.
His fingers went under the mass of hair, and I felt his hand cup the base of my skull, holding my head like a chalice.
“To see the years touch ye gives me joy, Sassenach,” he whispered, “—for it means that ye live.”
He lifted his hand and let my hair fall slowly from his fingers, brushing my face, skimming my lips, floating soft and heavy on my neck and shoulders, lying like feathers at the tops of my breasts.
“_Mo nighean donn,_” he whispered, “_mo chride_. My brown lass, my heart.
“Come to me. Cover me. Shelter me, a ¬_bhean_, heal me. Burn with me, as I burn for you.”
I lay on him, covered him, my skin, his bone, and still—still!—that fierce bright core of flesh to join us. I let my hair fall down around us both, and in the fire-shot cavern of its darkness, whispered back.
Or the one where Laura subsequently makes some very poor decisions. Written entirely on my phone- I apologize for any inconsistencies or grammatical errors.
She’s only just starting to get warm.
Snow is still flurrying down outside and the sky has the sullen appearance of an oncoming storm. The sun is masked by the mottled, dark banks, and so shivers rack Laura’s body as she huddles closer to Carmilla.
It’s times like these she wishes Carmilla was biologically able to produce some form of body heat. As if sensing her discomfort, Carmilla draws her closer, obsidian eyes glinting with concern.
“Are you okay, cupcake?”
Forcing a smile, Laura nods. “Yeah. Just, you know. Cold. We are on the run from an insane mob.”
“You were delirious,” Carmilla reminds her with a touch of worry in her voice. Her gaze clouds as she stares past to the darkening snowscape outside, the fluffy flakes now heavily dousing pine-capped peaks. Laura slides her gaze to where LaFontaine is (unsuccessfully) attempting to spark a fire before talking.
“I’m fine. I just wish we were back in the barn. At least it was warm.”
“Ah,” Carmilla reminisces, giving a fierce look that speaks of the feline within her, “But here we have the pleasure of being accompanied by the Ginger Squad 24/7- shit,” she swears furiously as LaF gives an excited shout. A bitter, sharp scent suddenly fills the cave, chasing away the scrupulous reek of bats that’s been suspended in the lofty cave.
“Good going,” Carmilla snarls, snow flecking the dark tumbles of her hair and her (torn) Grumpy Cat sweater as she devolves into spitting profanity that would put anyone to shame at the napalmistic scent on the air. Grinning at her, Laura moves to where LaF is giving a fond look at the leaping fire that now burns in the cave. Something dark and cylinder shaped is burning in the heart of the flames.
“Oh God, is that…?”
LaFontaine ignores Perry’s loud and disapproving sniff. “Bear spray, yeah. We lost the firewood after, you know-”
“The attempt on arson?”
“No,” LaF grins crookedly, “You two hormone bombs couldn’t help because you were making o-”
“Oookay,” Laura coughs loudly, drowning out LaF’s sentence in an attempt to bring this subject back into safer waters. Warming her frigid hands by the crackling fire, she sighs. She still wishes she were with her dad. Of course she loves being with her girlfriend, too, but it’s not exactly been easy to get… quality time with Carmilla, not with LaF and Perry butting in.
Laura immediately feels guilty. No, she’s glad to have her friends with her. Better to have more than less, and fleeing hasn’t been easy on anyone- Laura can see the dark circles shadowing Perry’s eyes, lit by the dancing flames.
Laura suddenly notices, with a certain amount of curiosity, that the cave doesn’t end in rock. A dark maw, yawning like the cavernous mouth of some animal, opens in the cave’s downward slanting slope.
Checking- LaF is now stirring the fire, which is gently spitting glowing sparks, Perry is watching them with an all-too-obvious look of affection, and Carmilla is busy cycling between sneezing loudly and then giving a murderous glare at the fire- Laura pauses.
It’s the hungering desire to know more, the journalistic streak that flows within her, that makes her turn on her phone, sending silver light spilling down, and slip into the shadows.
* * *
“You have got to be fucking kidding me.”
“Yep, that’s a dilemma,” LaF says, edging away nervously from a very furious Carmilla. Carmilla growls down at the footprints trailing away into the darkness, straining not to sneeze again as she rounds on LaFontaine and Perry. “All right, bye.”
“You think I’d let her wander off half delirious into a mysterious cave in the middle of the Hoher Dachstein without going after her? ” Carmilla snarls, voice harsher than she intends: damned if she admits the imminent worry pulsing in her veins at the thought of Laura lost, Laura hurt, Laura dead. Her heart takes a huge leap against her ribs. “Think again, bio major.”
“We’re coming too, then,” Perry announces with a grim edge of determination to her voice.
Carmilla almost argues, but something about the thought of company isn’t totally appalling. Feeling disgusted at herself for feeling what could be fondness towards the Ginger Twins, Carmilla nods curtly before narrowing her eyes and plunging into the darkness.
* * *
Laura gulps. It’s really cold, bone crackingly so, and she’s starting to feel the hard lump of uncertainty in her stomach, but curiosity and the knowledge that stopping equals dying keeps her prevailing on this treacherous journey.
Laura gapes as a shimmering, glimmering light bobs ahead. The shine lights up narrow, slick walls and she squints; a moment of doubt quivering in her chest. But the air is still, gripping her with icy claws- she has to go on. Plus, what the hell is this light? This is worth an investigation.
Driven by fear and held back by it too, Laura hesitates.
The light retreats.
Laura takes a careful step.
Using her phone to send blue, wavering light pooling onto the rubbled floor, she heads on.
After about an hour of this- and, admittedly, she’s somewhat annoyed. Every time she thinks she’s near enough to just reach out and touch the mysterious light it flits off into the impermeable darkness. The unnerving thought at what it could be is banished by her frustration.
Laura comes to a tiny staircase, coiling down into blackness. The rustle of what she thinks (and hopes she’s wrong) is spiders comes from below.
“I wonder if this used to be a mine,” she whispers. “A tiny, tiny mine.”
The light flickers, bobbing and pulsing eerily, as if beckoning, as if saying ‘come with me’.
Damn curiousity. Praying that there are no malicious supernatural creatures waiting to prey on her, Laura clatters down the rickety boards.
About ten minutes later, or what she thinks is that time interval, she has the idea to leave a trail of chocolate chips. Who cares if she read Hansel and Gretel way too much when she was young? It’s a solid idea, especially down here, if she ever wants Carmilla to find her. And she’s angry at the twisting, patternless tunnels, anyways- she’ll never find her way back without making some semblance of a path.
But like all good ideas she runs out. After tweeting by text- ’@heycarmilla- where are you?’- a tiny notification pops up. Her mounting feeling of frustration swells as the text obstinately refuses to load.
And then comes the laughing.
Laura freezes, clutching her phone more rigidly, a tight knot of panic building in her stomach.
And that’s when the glowing gnome pops out of the looming wall in front of her.
* * *
“Where the fuck,” Carmilla grits out through clenched teeth, barely suppressed frustration and overwhelming worry in her voice, “did she wander off to?”
“You never wander off into a mysterious cave system,” whispers LaFontaine, side-eyeing Carmilla, “especially not to leave your defenseless friends alone with your angry vampire girlfriend.”
“LaFontaine,” they interject, and Perry sighs; the frustration on her face is not lessened by the shadow surrounding them. There’s a moment of pause as Carmilla sends out a (probably irate) tweet.
“LaFontaine, then. You know Laura isn’t in her right mind, she’s suffering hypothermia…”
“I’m just saying,” they mutter, before perking as the tiny group halts at a narrow, rickety staircase.
Carmilla crouches down, momentarily becoming one with the darkness. “Wait,” she glances up, a rare expression of confusion on her face, “is this… chocolate chips?”
“But I thought she might have the sense to keep her food with her,” Perry groans, kneading her forehead with a long-suffered sigh.
“Well, we’re getting closer,” LaF says with a cheer that neither of the group share.
And it’s with worry that they take the steps down, Carmilla in the lead, eyes burning with paralyzing worry.
Carmilla saves both of them from a chasm that unexpectedly yawns up. But it’s a small victory. The trail is dwindling and soon it will stop completely.
And, Carmilla thinks with a mounting feeling of sinking despair, no sign of Laura.
About ten feet after walking from the abyss, and twice as many profanities from Carmilla, LaF gives a yelp of glee. It’s then that the tiny tunnel is doused in an eerie, pulsating, dim green light from a seam of rock on the wall.
“Ore! Cobalt!” When they’re met with a querying look from Perry and a snarl from Carmilla, they look disappointed. “It’s a really rare rock, I’ve never seen any. It burns on contact!”
“Oh no,” Perry says firmly, attempting to steer them away. “You and fire, not again-”
“I didn’t set the barn on fire,” they object. “That was all on the mob.”
“Need I remind you of the cocoa incident?”
Carmilla rolls her eyes, tuning out the ginger twins bickering. With trepidation, she notes that-
She’s pulled up short by a frightened yelp and a crackle, punctuated by a blaze of light. Hardly thinking, Carmilla whirls and seizes LaF by their collar just as they jerk their hands from the wall. A jet of wavering flame skirts the wall before fading with an ominous hiss and LaFontaine’s hands fly up to their now eyebrow-less forehead.
“Not again,” they cry, and Carmilla snorts before proceeding down the narrow passage.
Soon after, the trail stops immediately and there is no Laura.