serebryany

He didn’t like mirrors. Had never liked them, because something drew his eye deeper, more fixed, than was justified. His grandmother had had a floor length oval mirror that she kept in front of a tall window where her velvet curtains fell in whorls on the floorboards, and the beveled edge of the looking glass caught the play of shape and shadow across their edge. He had been caught in front of it one too many times, without an explanation or excuse. Movement from the corner of his eye, indescribable flickers of things remembered were better left in silence than confirmation of their fears. 

Traffic hummed down the hill and he listened to it between Saul’s quiet breaths. He had thrown his coat over the mirror, but something moved behind the tails, padded on soft feet just out of sight in the low light from the streetlamp. He didn’t like sharing a bed either, come to it. The hard clean demarcations of the end of history appealed to him, materialist realism, solid and clean as a marble inkwell. The party was at least less interested in his affection for men and women alike than it was in his potential as a clean cut figurehead of respectable intellectualism. 

Saul didn’t wake up when he rolled out of bed, walked naked to the kitchen and lit a cigarette over the sink, palms braced against the tile edge of the counter. The clothesline jittered in a soft breeze from up off the Pacific, but it was still warm in the house. He jumped at the clock chimes from his office, and ash fell onto his knuckles and a dirty milk glass plate. The witching hour, his mother used to say, is at three o’clock. 

Someone whistled from down the block, soft round notes of a song he knew without remembering. It sounded again, and he shook his head, pushed his hair back out of his eyes. But he dressed anyhow with the quick grace of plenty of early morning goodbyes, padding down boarding school halls and down summer house staircases. Wind ruffled his collar, and it smelled of hill scrub and azaleas, mingled with the faint decay of the shore. It was dark between the streetlamps, and only a few windows were lit down the hill and in the grand old houses that were now private clubs with a bay view. 

She had black hair in a Veronica Lake, and her coat collar was turned up, lambskin in spite of the warm night. She tilted her face up and whistled again, but the corner of her mouth turned up a little and he knew she had noticed him. 

“Have a light?” He asked, and she turned toward him. Her face was too angular in the streetlight, she reminded him of a Kazakh girl he’d met in Odessa, but her mouth was softer. 

Chapter 4, Part 1 (rough draft)

Serebryany Teavane Veidrodis got off the train at a quiet cluster of buildings of weathered log and neat white-washed clapboard that shone in that clear grey Northern sun that seems always to carry a memory of snow in it.

He’d passed through a sea of trees on his way into this forest country, trees like the columns of an endless balustrade blurred into a corridor out the cold warped glass of the train window as they passed.  Rivers wound between the orchards and the evergreens, quicksilver in the distance, dark as tea when it snapped by beneath the carriage. He’d sat at the front of the carriage and watched the Thaumaturges sweat out the silent sway and shush of the caravan cars. The navigator, a short, stolid woman woman of middle age, was his study for the last leg of the trip.
He watched the proprietary way her fingertips rested on the runners, and tried to work out some sense of their secret, of how the pressure of her hands could sound the pitch and roll of the land and shift the car through them– if there was some clairvoyance to it, he couldn’t work it out, couldn’t catch the language that wound beneath the verdant green velvet of her tunic where it gathered in gentle folds over a lambskin belt. The knuckles of her hands showed more wear than they should have.

Messages sent through the infinitesimally small cracks of joint bones seemed fantastic and impossible to copy, so he gave it up for a bad job and stretched out his legs. Every navigator did it differently, they said. Maybe that was part of the secret too, or maybe it wasn’t a secret at all, just another magic he couldn’t see the roots of. Something bothersome wriggled at the back of his mind, and he let it, let his knees sway with the carriage, but not enough to bump the portly old man the next seat over, or roust him awake.  

He felt the tug of a spring breeze along the tails of his traveling coat as he stepped down, felt the silver around his wrist grow cold with the last yawn of winter in the air. He followed the runners, a couple of broad shouldered boys with close cropped dark hair and sweat drenched backs, the thew of them showing where their brightly dyed shirts clung, toward a squat building near the station.

It was warm and well lit, and nobody was friendly. There was a pointed contempt in the deliberateness of how they ignored him. He didn’t mind them ignoring him, except for the woman behind the bar, her fox-red hair cut at daring angles along the planes of her broad cheekbones, set off by elaborately worked copper hoops that hung nearly to her shoulders, and almost touched her elaborately embroidered cerulean dress.

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“I could think of nothing to call you, until I looked up and saw the crescent moon. So I thought of an old name, the name of the line between the shadow and the bright, and called you that in my heart, and in my heart it seemed to suit you best." 

–Serebryany

Just a quick and dirty anatomy practice of my personal prince charming XD 

OK, done spamming for today, I swear. But this, this is why mage robes. 

Hey look, a scene with absolutely no context or explanation

He walked gingerly on bare feet, palms still itching from the feel of the furs on which he’d lain. His feet were quiet on the gloss of the stone, and he felt the sun on his back, passing through him like threadbare silk. 

He stopped to lean against a sooty beam, pulling at the tangle of his hair, taking shallow gulps of breath, suddenly afraid to take one step more under the weight of the light, as if his bones were opal, as if they could crack, minuscule fissures at first, and then a flood, flakes of bones without any light left in them, without magic. 

He rubbed the back of his hand across his eyes and blew out a deep breath, listening to the steady ring of hammer on metal, the scent of smoke and fire more solid than him as he pushed through, a ghost brushing at the curtains of a house no longer his own. 

She wore her hair pinned up, her back bare and drenched in sweat, red where her smith’s leathers chafed at it, skirt slung low– the rise and fall of her arm hypnotic, muscles twisting serpentine under her skin, more scarred now than before. 

All scars now. The sun behind passed right through him and made them luminous, made them sing. 

She paused, hammer suspended, and then let fall, striking a final bloom of sparks, and he felt it then before she turned, no wildness now, gentle as the first drop of rain on the face of white desert stone, a thread, reaching out for something that had gone from his bones, he could not say that it was taken. 

He had knelt and nodded and thought that he was buying peace, that peace could be bought out of his bones, and now they weren’t bones at all, empty opal, flakes of dried milk flecked on the mouths of the dead. 

She turned in a sudden motion and it was a solid and true as a sword stroke, her face illuminated, soot and sweaty tendrils of hair plastered to her cheeks, her stone dark eyes lit lamps, a sunlit illusion, a trick like the warmth in the moonlight.

She slid off her gloves, and he felt as if he might scatter from the air she moved–there was so much of her, so many, and always startling him between stillness and movement, so that it seemed he’d looked away and found a mountain had got up and left. 

“Serebryany–” She was close now, the heels of her hands on the sides of his face, softly for such calloused hands, fingers twining in the hair at his temples as he shook. 

Rain, water-dark in the sky or in the sea, in sheets of rain that fell across the lowlands like curtains moved by ghostly hands, in the sea that was dark below even at the brightest hour. 

Water in the bone, water in the desert, and her eyes were cloud-dark. 

“You shouldn’t be up.” She spoke soft and low, and he pressed his forehead to hers, throat making dry sounds without words. 

He wanted to say, 

Suviera, there’s magic, still. 

Suviera– give me shelter in the quiet heart of a rain cloud. 

But there was only sunlight in his throat and dust and a burning city taste, the heavy sweetness of the dead as they lay. 

She held him up as he shook, face buried in her neck, her smoke and sweat and leather smell, and the scent of flowers underneath. 

“I told you, I told you I’d come for you,” she murmured again and again, a lullaby of rain, as they sank to the floor, “I told you I’d cut down anything, anything.”

Rough Draft of Chapter 4, complete

Serebryany Teavane Veidrodis got off the train at a quiet cluster of buildings of weathered wood and neat white-wash that shone in that clear grey Northern sun that seems always to carry a memory of snow in it.

He’d passed through a sea of forest on his way through Dukzhemli, trees like the columns of an endless balustrade blurred into a corridor through the cold-warped glass of the train window as they went. Quicksilver Rivers wound between the orchards and the evergreens in the distance, dark as tea when the carriages went silently over them.

He’d sat in the front car and watched the Thaumaturges sweat out the silent sway and shush of the caravan cars. The navigator, a short, stolid woman woman of middle age, was his study for the last leg of the trip.

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A Scene without context or explanation (out of sequence, oh well)

             She watched the dissolution of his solidity as his form fell away and he became a twist of floating petals, delicate as ash, unnoticed among the light and movement of the feast. He drifted up and around lazily, sweeping through the dancing flames, and she followed at a distance, slipping after him through the trees, quiet and careful. He whorled and began to fall down,  faster now, and she saw the ribbon of the river below them, its black depth reflecting the lighted sky so that it looked like broad road of stars and flame.

         Her eyes widened as she saw him settle on its surface, eddying for a moment, and then disappearing into the frigid water. She struggled out of her tunic and skirt, kicking off her shoes and rolling them into a bundle, heaving it off to drop onto the river bank below. She scrambled down the steep cliffside in a shower of falling stones and broken branches, finally finding her footing on the jagged edge of a cliff above the broad sweep of the water. She held her breath and braced for the impact of the water, cold as the high mountain ice that was its source.

          Even prepared for it, the cold and the current gripped her like stone hands and made it difficult to kick, to keep her eyes open in the rushing blackness. She dove deeper, following the gleam of his magic, and hooked her arm under his, pulling them up against the weight of the iron-dark water, relief giving her impetus when she felt the smooth edges of stone under her bare feet and they broke the surface. She pulled them out of the water and onto the stony bank, thankful for the lingering warmth of the sun as her teeth chattered.

             Serebryany opened his eyes when she peeled off his clothes. She draped her tunic over his bare shoulders, her muscles aching and burning with the cold and fatigue as she gathered dry tender and piled it in a depression. He was silent, his fingers stiff as he set spark to the dry wood, curling his knees up to his chest, hunched low, the wet strands of his hair hiding his face except for the gleam of his eyes.
             She sat down close to him, palms out, pressing her leg against his to stop it shivering.
   “There’s a dragon in this river. You can’t just jump in.”
   “I didn’t jump.”
   “Fall, then.”
   “How did you find me?”
   “One of the lights was missing.”

             He tilted his head back and looked up at the sky, still dancing with flames of every shade, his face expressionless for a moment, eyes wide, mirrors as dark as the water he had fallen into.

   “Of course.” He pushed his hair back from his temples and squared his shoulders, and arranged his face into a smile with extraordinary effort as he looked at her.
    “You don’t have to smile for me.”
           His eyes widened and snapped shut, and he covered his face with the length of his hand, the tips of his fingers pressed into his hairline, the corners of his lips drawn back into a grimace that showed his teeth.
    “I had thought–” his voice was ragged and low, thick in his throat. “The sea. I had thought to lay on my back and drift down to the sea. Just for awhile.”  

          She reached out and covered his other hand, his fingers curled so tightly in the fabric of her tunic that the white of his knuckles stood out, his skin still cold. She tilted her head back so that the wet of her hair hung away from her back, not looking at him, watching the dance of lights and spirits passing around them. racing through the trees on the cliffs above them.

      “ Even beautiful things are sad, sometimes.”  His fist loosened, and he turned his hand palm up, twining his fingers with hers. She smiled and pressed the heel of her palm against his. “Even the beauty of this feast-day is full of sadness, when you remember why.”
      “It’s in honor of the triumph of Narjoska, the last Empress. How can that be sad?” Serebryany pressed the tips of his fingers against hers, his magic a soft pull, a tingling thread that filled her with longing.
       “The stories say that Narjoska and Sakalas loved each other so much, but in the end, he still had to offer his heart to the god tree create the great seal, and she had to offer hers to maintain it. And that self-same seal which holds the nothing god and our lady of the flame in balance also holds the lovers apart. Gods save us all from such triumph.”
          He lowered his hand from his face, and leaned close to her, hooking his elbow with hers, their shoulders pressed together. “It was extraordinary magic, at an extraordinary cost. But they bought peace. Isn’t that worth the loss?”
      “If it were, this feast wouldn’t exist. We light up the sky every year for them– for all the souls and spirits bound up in that loss, in place of the flame that would set them free.” She held up her free hand in the flickering shadows, fingers reaching toward the dancing points of light that drifted between the darkness of the earth and mirrored the stars.
     “This is a funeral that hasn’t ended for a thousand years. Even the most beautiful things are sad.”

             She watched the dissolution of his solidity as his form fell away and he became a twist of floating petals, delicate as ash, unnoticed among the light and movement of the feast. He drifted up and around lazily, sweeping through the dancing flames followed by his spirits, and her as she slipped after him through the trees, quiet in their shadows. He whorled and fell in lazy arcs, faster now, and she saw the ribbon of the river below them, its black depth reflecting the lighted sky like a broad road of stars and flame.

         Her eyes widened as she saw him settle on its surface, eddying for a moment before disappearing into the frigid water. She struggled out of her tunic and skirt, kicking off her shoes and rolling them into a bundle, heaving it off to drop onto the river bank below. She scrambled down the steep cliffside in a shower of falling stones and broken branches, finding her footing on a slender ledge above the broad sweep of the water. She drew a deep breath and braced for the impact of the water, cold as the high mountain ice that was its source. 

          Even braced for them, the cold and the current gripped her like stone hands and knocked her breath out, making it difficult to keep her eyes open in the rushing blackness. She dove deeper, following the gleam of his magic, and hooked her arm under his, pulling them up against the weight of the iron-dark water by brute strength, relief giving her impetus when she felt the smooth edges of stone under her bare feet and they broke the surface. She pulled them out of the water and onto the stony bank, thankful for the lingering warmth of the sun in the river rocks as her teeth chattered. 

             Serebryany’s eyes fluttered open when she peeled off his tunic and undershirt, leaving him exposed to the warmth of the air and stone. He pushed himself up with a tired sigh, and she draped her tunic over his bare shoulders. Her muscles ached and burned with the cold and fatigue as she gathered dry tender and piled it in a depression. He was silent, his fingers stiff as he set spark to the dry wood, hunched over his up-curled knees, wet strands of his hair falling like a curtain around his face, slack except for the gleam of his eyes.
             She sat down next to him, palms out to the fire, pressing her leg against his to stop it shivering. 
   “There’s a dragon in this river. You can’t just jump in.” 
   “I didn’t jump.” 
   “Fall, then.” 
   “How did you find me?” 
   “One of the lights was missing.”

             He tilted his head back and looked up at the sky, still dancing with flames of every shade, his face expressionless for a moment, eyes wide, mirrors as dark as the water he had fallen into.

   “Of course.” He pushed his hair back from his temples and squared his shoulders, and arranged his face into a smile with extraordinary effort as he looked at her.
    “You don’t have to smile for me.” 
           His eyes widened and snapped shut, and he covered his face with the length of his hand, the tips of his fingers pressed into his hairline, the corners of his lips drawn back into a grimace that showed his teeth. 
    “I had thought—” his voice was ragged and low, thick in his throat. “I had thought to drift down to the sea. Just– for awhile.”  

          She reached out and covered his other hand, his fingers curled so tightly in the fabric of her tunic that the white of his knuckles stood out, his skin still cold. She tilted her head back so that the wet of her hair hung away from her back, not looking at him, watching the dance of lights and spirits passing around them. racing through the trees on the cliffs above them.

      “ Even beautiful things are sad, sometimes.”  His fist loosened, and he turned his hand palm up, twining his fingers with hers. She smiled and pressed the heel of her palm against his. “Even the beauty of this feast-day is full of sadness.” 
      “It’s in honor of the triumph of Narjoska, the last Empress. How can that be sad?” Serebryany pressed the tips of his fingers against hers, his magic a soft pull, a tingling thread that drew her like the spirits were drawn to the conjured flames. 
       “The stories say that Narjoska and Sakalas loved each other so much, but in the end, he still had to offer his heart to the god tree create the great seal, and she had to offer hers to maintain it. And that self-same seal which holds the nothing god and our lady of the flame in balance also holds the lovers apart. Gods save us all from such triumph.” 
          He lowered his hand from his face, and leaned close to her, hooking his elbow through hers, their shoulders pressed together. “It was extraordinary magic, at an extraordinary cost. But they bought peace. Isn’t that worth the loss?” 
      “If it were, this feast wouldn’t exist. We light up the sky every year for them— for all the souls and spirits bound up in that loss, in place of the flame that would set them free.” She held up her free hand in the flickering shadows, fingers reaching toward the dancing points of light that drifted between the darkness of the earth and mirrored the stars. 
     “This is a funeral that hasn’t ended for a thousand years. Even the most beautiful things are sad.”

          He slid his arm away from her and pushed himself up, his fingers tracing the line of her arm and lingering in the hollow of her reaching hand. He looked up into the luminous night, perfectly still next to her where she sat listening to the sound of distant music and the cries of sea birds, the whisper of the breeze in the tall grass and trees, feeling the flow and pull of his magic echo through her bones. 

     "Do you think it was worth it?” a white flame hung above his outstretched hand for a moment and then danced around them, brushing across her skin as softly as spider threadings. 

    “The sacrifice?”

    “The loving that came before.” He held his long fingers out, graceful and steady, done with shaking.  

She said nothing, watching his magic flow and ebb, rising like windblown seeds to join the rest of the procession.