==>Eriond: steal yourself a Signless Sufferer
Watching was a nightmare. The one You’ve come for, the one whose cry woke You in the night dies hard, burning in the sunlight, burning from the manacles chaining him to the stone pillar. You watch him die when every instinct is screaming for You to rescue him, to put out the fires and ensure they can never be lit again.
(You have never felt so angry, or so helpless.)
He’s shot, and his final cry is the Word that traveled over an unimaginable distance until it reached Your ears. It was a cry full of frustration and grief, a cry that shook You in a way that reminded You of Your poor fallen brother. The Word had been a furious expletive, yet You had known that encoded within that cry was a great and powerful thesis of peace and cooperation.
Despite knowing that the Word was the death cry of the one who spoke it, You were determined to somehow rescue him. The Word had not been a cry for help, and did not demand an answer, You felt compelled to answer it, to see the one who had shouted it to what he had thought was an uncaring universe.
You conferred with Your Father, and listened to the silent voice of Your Mother. (The former would have been closer to arguing, the latter was more like a waking dream. Both were worried at the feat You were attempting, but in the end, They gave way.) The voice of the Singular Destiny doesn’t disapprove, but warns You to take care, grants You little hints and riddles.
You learn during Your journey that there is something out there that creates universes, put in place by some other Being or Beings. (You suspect this is just one of many ways Universes are born. Your Parents as far as You know created Themselves.) It presents Itself as a game, the way the Two Destinies played a Game with each other. The Players of the Game are the Children of the Game, created to play, and hopefully in the playing, create a new Universe.
The Universe you find is a universe created by the game, though it is actually a tangled double binary of Universes, at the middle of which is a Demon. Not a Demon like the ones You are familiar with, but a Demon just the same. The Demon seeks to perpetuate Himself through a vast loop of Destiny, forever creating, forever destroying and forever becoming. The Demon has infected this particular branch of the universe-creating game, and might infect Yours if You’re not careful. He is aided by slaves and pawns and a number of objects. Being outside the universe, You have time to learn as much as You need to.
You have no choice but to learn. Though you want to destroy the Demon, the Demon is not for You to slay. You are informed of this by a strange and terrible being, a woman with curling ram’s horns and white fire for eyes. She is bitter and angry and utterly foul-mouthed but she answers your questions and gives you advice. She knows you in some strange way that isn’t strange at all, because she already knows what you’re going to do, because you’ve done it already and her being there is simply closing a loop.
Your moment is the moment they turn their back on the body. The Empress and her retinue leave, the crowd is dispersed. All that’s left is the one you came for. You insert yourself in that moment. (There are flickering words flaring across your mind: Rogue of Hope.) The sun is bright and terrible, and the still body hangs stiffening from the pillar. It’s a work of a moment’s thought to remove the cuffs, and catch the body.
The woman appears, dressed in green, eyes flickering with a thousand colors. In her hands are slim wands that crackle with deadly energies. She has been sent here to investigate, as You were warned by her furthest iteration. “What are you doing?” she asks.
“You don’t need him anymore, do you?” You ask in return. You’re speaking, and your languages are completely different with different concepts, but You Both understand each other.
“He’s played his part,” she says indifferently, though she doesn’t lower the crackling wands. “But you are an unknown. Who are you?”
“No one you need to worry about, Damara,” You tell her.
She starts with surprise. “How do you know that name?”
“You told me it,” You tell her, and she frowns, her chin tucked in defensively. “A further iteration did, anyway. She told me to tell you, ‘we weren’t given a name, but that’s our name. Damara Megido.’”
“No,” she says, suddenly both angry and afraid. A whip of light is aimed toward you. You send it back and she dodges.
“Yes,” you say in return, and hold her in place with an extension of Your Will.
She curses furiously at You, angry and frightened now. “It’s all right Damara,” You tell her gently, kindly as You know how. It’s easy for you to soothe people, to reassure them because you know them and love them. You don’t know Damara beyond what she told You, but You can sense that her life has been terrible beyond measure in the service of her Master.
You want only to reassure her, to gentle her, but she flinches as if the sound of her name or the sympathy you’re sending her is painful. “No,” she says again. “It’s never been all right. It will never be all right. I’ll make sure of that. Don’t fucking look at me like that. You’re not my moirail.”
“I know Damara, I’m sorry,” you tell her. The word “moirail” has a strange and wonderful meaning, strange and beautiful for such a harsh people. (All languages have such beautiful words, even Old Angarak, but this one was especially lovely since it was a word that meant a deep and protective love that subdues rage and madness.) “Everything will be clear to you, many years from now, when you become your furthest iteration. For right now though, I need you to forget about Me, and remember what I tell you.”
You tell her what she needs to remember. You don’t push and don’t even have to exert Your Will. There is a part of her, a very small part of her capable of defiance toward her Master. A part of her is seeking escape, and that part of her overwhelms the obedience that had been beaten into her. It is a tiny burning spark that You try to strengthen. When she no longer sees You, when her eyes slide over You as if You aren’t there, You release her. She sways on her feet for a moment, and then disappears in a crackle of green light.
You take the body. The soul hasn’t gone very far. (Souls in this universe don’t seem to travel or move the way souls in Your universe do. You think it’s because of the essentially broken nature of it, due to the Demon.) It’s still raging, still full of despair. You gather it up, calming it into something not quite like sleep. and shift out of the moment, out of the universe. (Before You do, You see a boy dressed in blue, trousers, tunic and a long-tailed hood. He stares at You in surprise. You can’t help but wink at him in return.)
The journey is both long and not long at all. The spirit of Damara follows You at least part of the way. You would invite her further still, but she tilts her head in a gesture You’ve come to realize means no. “Not yet,” she says, and looks at the body, and at the soul. “Not while the Green Sun burns, and I am not there yet.”
“If that’s what you want,” You tell her gently.
She frowns at You. “You are still not my moirail,” she tells You.
You apologize. She snorts, and disappears in a flicker of shadow, and the after image of a clockwork wheel.
==>Signless: wake up
The first things you’re aware of is the mattress beneath you and the pillow. One stuffed with dried grass, the other with avian down. You’re covered by blankets, and the room is dark and comforting, the only light a candle shielded by a glass cylinder. You burrow deeper under the blankets at first, and don’t worry very much about the strangeness of the bedding materials. There’s a strange buzzing in your horns, a bit like feeling Psii’s psionics, but not quite. You’re awake, but still so tired, you could drift right back to sleep.
You almost do drift back to sleep, but then you remember.
You remember burning, the smell of your own flesh. You remember your family in chains, your mother, Mituna, Meulin. You remember screams, you remember the Empress. You remember the deaths of your followers, each one more horrible than the last. You remember screaming, though you don’t remember what you said. You remember the arrow, and sit up fast.
This is a mistake. The dull pain you’re feeling sharpens for a moment; you gasp, hand over the wound. You’re wearing some kind of long, light tunic of some kind of plant fiber, with sleeves that go down to your elbows. It’s white with multicolor embroidery and shell buttons. Beneath the cloth you can feel a bandage wrapping your torso. Your wrists are also bandaged.
Now that you’re sitting up, you look around cautiously.
The room has no windows, and has the feel of being underground. In the light of the little candle lamp, the walls are closely fit stone and the floor is wood. The platform you’re sleeping on is narrow but fairly comfortable, just big enough for you to lie flat on your back, and just wide enough to fit you. (It makes you think a little of a concupiscent couch, but the materials are all wrong and there’s no indentation toward the middle.) In addition to the bed is an armoire, a chest of drawers, a writing desk and a small book case stuffed with paper books and oblongs you think might be…scroll cases? (Scroll cases, like something from one of Dis’ favorite historical romances!)
The thought almost makes you smile, but not for very long. You can’t think of Dis without remembering her face. She had been trying so hard to be strong, to analyze what she was seeing so she could record it later, (if there was a later) but you had seen she was on the edge of losing it. You had shouted her name and the highbloods had laughed, thinking you were calling to her for help. You had wanted her to stop looking, but she hadn’t. She wouldn’t look away. (None of them would, and not because they were being forced to watch your death.) Your eyes start to tear up, and you draw a hard, shaky breath.
There’s no sign of technology in the room. That’s the first thing that draws your attention away from grief. Even when you were living in caves as a child with your mother, there had been technology. You and your mother had husktops, an inflatable mattress, electric lamps, a camp stove. Candles were for ambience, not light sources. This was a very strange afterlife.
There are footsteps outside the door, which opens. An alien, almost trollish except for its disturbing lack of horns and the color of its skin and eyes peers into the room. It sees you and speaks in a low, musical voice. The buzzing in your horns, which you had almost forgotten about becomes a bit more intense, though not painfully so, and you hear, “My daughter notes you are awake, and greets you,” in your head.
“Hello,” you say, to both the mysterious (and apparently very intelligent and very telepathic) lusus and its alien daughter. “Yes, I’m awake now. I. Thank you, but where am I?” How you were still alive was also a question.
The lusus seems to translate this to the alien, who spoke in its own language. The lusus translates. “You are in Maragor, this is my Daughter Taiba and this is her home. The room belongs to one of her sons who is away in Ulgo to study. My Brother Eriond brought you here.” The lusus seems both put out and amused by this last detail.
“I see,” you say. You saw nothing. The lack of visibility was absolutely astounding. All was a void unpenetrated by a single point of comprehension. The terms that you almost understand swim quickly by, impossible to catch.
The alien speaks again, and again, the lusus translates. “Taiba asks if you are hungry.”
Your digestion bladder informs you that yes, it is empty and would prefer to remedy this as soon as possible. At a loss for the moment, you indicate “yes,” though you aren’t sure if you’d be able to consume alien food. “Thank you,” you say, and clamp down on any nervous requests. Making demands of a host--or captor--right away was sometimes seen as rude. You don’t know how long you’ve been here recuperating from what turns out wasn’t your death, but they haven’t poisoned you yet. Perhaps the aliens understood enough about troll biology to not accidentally kill you.
The alien shows you flat teeth in a smile and retreats from the room, leaving it slightly ajar. It’s either reassurance that you’re not a prisoner or an invitation to explore. Then again, it might be neither of those things.
“You are My Brother’s Guest,” the lusus murmurs, and finally makes an appearance. It appears to be the same kind of alien as the “daughter,” Taiba. It was dressed in kilt and a long sleeved tunic. It wore leather sandals that were laced to its knees. It’s hair was dark and long and tied back in a simple braid, and looked a great deal like Taiba, though much taller. Despite the similarity to its “daughter” it wasn’t the same kind of alien at all. It was something other, something more spirit than flesh and bone. “He heard your voice and was moved to seek you out and give aid where he could.”
You press your hand to your wound. “He was a little late,” you say dryly.
The being smiled. “He would have taken you before the arrow even reached you, but he was warned against it,” the lusus says. “He could do nothing that interfered with the causality bound in the creation and destruction of your Universe.”
Your hands clench into fists at that. Everything you worked for, everything you had said and done hadn’t changed anything. All you had done was create the circumstances that would enable your Descendant to play the Game. What you had wanted was to create a world where your Descendant wouldn’t have to hide. You wanted to create a world where the hemospectrum was a circle instead of a hierarchy, you wanted equality for everyone. “What does he want with me?” You ask.
“From what I understand, he wants your help.”
“My help?” you ask. What kind of help could you give a being allegedly capable of bringing you back to life? Or who was apparently able to steal you out from under the Demoness’ sniffnode.
The being nods its head, and you understand that it’s indicating an affirmative. “I will let Him explain,” the lusus says. “For now, eat and rest.”
You dip your head in acknowledgement, confused but curious. “I’ll do that then.”