Aug. 23rd, 2014 12:05 am
aliaspseudonym: (Default)
[personal profile] aliaspseudonym
This is a memory. There is a woman who will be old, though she is not quite yet. She has serpent’s eyes. They do not look like serpent’s eyes, you understand -- they appear human, brown with specks of green -- but they are serpents eyes nonetheless. With her is a boy who will become something else altogether but now is only a boy. They are walking together down a winding path through a park. It is after the boy’s bedtime, but he does not mind. He likes how the darkness alters the familiar scenery, making it murky and strange. If he was on his own or even with one of his parents he might be frightened of things lurking in the deep shadow. He is not frightened now. It is raining, but only a little.

They stop for a while at the crest of a little hill. There is a break in the clouds and the woman who is not quite yet old looks up at the star-speckled night sky with fear in her serpent’s eyes.

“Do you see them too?” She asks. The boy does not understand.

“The stars?”

She shakes her head slowly, sadly, in the moonless darkness, but what she says is “Yes, Elliot, the stars. Aren’t they beautiful?”

The boy nods. The rain stops. Restless, ill-defined shapes shift in the deeper shadows.

There is a thud and then a crack. Hailey is pinned to the far wall, impaled on a long metal spike through her chest, gurgling, her eyes glazing over. The trapdoor is open and there is a man in the basement in a coat the same shade as his eyes, the same shade as Hailey’s eyes. He is carefully rewinding a large mechanical crossbow.

“Elliot Crane,” He says, “You stand accused of conspiring with a heretic and misusing an organization artifact. If you do not resist, I will not harm you.” His expression and stance are alert but completely neutral. It would be better, Elliot thinks, if it was a nasty sneer or a self-assured grin. Malice or arrogance could be construed as weakness.

“Stand up against the wall and keep your hands where I can see them,” the intruder instructs. Elliot remains seated and stares him down. There’s something about this young man’s eyes and the way he talks that’s familiar, only not really. He is certain he’s never seen a person like this before, but something ancestral, something behind his eyes is stirring with recognition, is flooding him with a cold, overpowering fury, crowding out the terror paralyzing him. He stands and takes a step toward the greycoat, who raises the crossbow.

“If you are not compliant it is unlikely that you will survive this encounter. This is your last warning, I -- wait, what are you doing? Stop!”

The runes etched into the walls are beginning to burn dimly with a soft green light. Elliot can feel someone else’s eyes behind his, looking through him. Someone else’s voice speaks through his mouth, speaks a language he understands but does not recognize, a fierce language of hissing and growling.


The greycoat pulls the trigger but the crossbow has jammed; it jerks in his hands as the firing mechanism strains and snaps. The metal bolt clatters onto the ground, followed by the broken weapon itself. “What did you do?” he demands, his voice still calm but much more urgent than before.


The walls of the room are changing, growing translucent. Beyond there is a rocky chasm and beyond that rise enormous mountains carved of bare, rugged reddish-grey rock against a deep indigo sky. The greycoat lunges toward Elliot but Elliot yells something even he does not understand and there is a rush of wind; a sound like the beating of titanic wings. The intruder flys backward, carried by the gale -- he is flung through the fading walls as if they were not there, he tumbles into the abyss, screaming --

Something abstract gives way with a perceptible snap. Elliot screams and stumbles backward, clutching his head. The runes on the walls, which are opaque and solid once again, flare brightly and go dark. The greycoat has returned from the abyss which may or may not have really existed and is lying on the ground near the trap door; he rises smoothly to his feet with a calm but strained expression and begins walking slowly forward.

“I don’t know what you just did, but you’re coming with me and we’re going to find--”

He breaks off abruptly because a pair of hands have grabbed his head from behind and twisted violently, cleanly snapping his spine near the skull and sending him back to the floor in a twitching heap. Hailey is standing behind him, clutching the metal spike still lodged in her chest. Elliot sees this dimly, through a haze of strange swimming colours as he stands, clutching his head and swaying from side to side.

“Elliot? Can you hear me?”

“Y-yeah, I think so. U-um ...”

“Sit down and don’t make any sudden movements or, like, think too hard about what just happened,” she advises, moving toward him a little unsteadily but more smoothly than one would normally expect from someone impaled on a metal spike.

Elliot sits, still clutching his head, trying to ignore the strange lights and colours flickering at the edges of his vision. “Ugh ... wait, you’re worried about me? You have a fucking harpoon in your chest.”

“Normally,” Hailey says, ignoring the quip, “black magic doesn’t affect ... people like him and me. Most supernatural effects either fizzle immediately or simply act as if we weren’t there. Some kinds of power draw on ... unconventional sources, and are able to affect us briefly, but casting such a spell attracts the attention of the power that provides our protection. The backlash is usually instantly fatal. I don’t know what you did, but it incapacitated our guest here just long enough for me to get out of his line of sight and neutralize him, and you seem to still be alive. If I’m going to get out of here I need you to continue to be alive, so hold still for a moment.”

The entry wound on her chest is not bleeding, exactly, but there is blood and small amounts of it are oozing out around the edges. She touches it with two fingers and quickly traces a circle with a strange emblem inside on Elliot’s scaled chest. The strange lights and colours in his head fade dramatically and he sits up a little, shuddering. “What did you just do?”

“It’s a sacred mark. It is a claim by me, as a cleric of a certain power, that you did not act against that power’s interests and do not deserve its wrath.
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