It is born to a temple of many gifts. You bestow them carefully.
It wakes untouched, alone, and you teach it that to be Alone is to be Forsaken. It wakes in the darkness and you teach it that to be in the Dark is not to See, that to be in the Dark is to be Lost. It wakes untouched and ungrasping of a place so much larger than its smallness, and you teach it of a Vast that can consume it whole.
This, you tell it, is Fear.
This brings broad hands lifting, and the firmness of a chest, the murmur of a voice, and a moment later a light, flickering dimly, but enough. You Open its eyes and they are unfocused, half-formed wet things, and this, too, was a gift. It had been a many-monthed growing thing, kept close in the fragile flesh of That Which Belonged to You, and you had held its eyes Closed while it grew, in a promise that it would not wake for the first time into Darkness.
Your Archivist holds it close and says nothing-words, and you See this through its eyes, Give to it your recognition of him. The Archivist’s eyes belong to it entirely, as they have since it first breached into the light, squalling and blood-slick and whole. You give to it that it is being Always-Watched. You teach it that this is being Seen, that to be Seen is to be Known. That to be Known is to be Unafraid.
This, you tell it, as it is rocked softly back into milk-dreamed sleep, is Love.
Deep in the coughing dust-choked underbelly of the House of Usher, a Junior Curator traces shaking fingertips over jagged, ink-blotted letters. You Watch as it learns for the first time of a Many-Eyed Crown.
It has not found this by accident. You can See the gossamer threads stuck-clinging slick to the brittle paper, wrapped around its brittle wrists.
The Mother’s spitted discontent is clear: two Archivists have failed. It will try a Curator, this time.
This is well. Her Craft is not to be rushed, and if there is to be another Attempt, it will take time for her to string this one up, to carve the correct holes into her new toy. You will Watch her progress. You are Watching many things.
The concept of possession is a slippery, slipshod, shifting thing, requires of you a sense of yourself in order to demark what you own, and to be a You in this shifting place of words and touches and blood is an awful thing that recoils from itself because You Are Not What You Are—
But in this Now, this is what is Yours:
The Archivist, and the Anchor, and the thing between them, from its very conception, from the second it took root, was Claimed. And you Know it, and have always Known it, and what you Know, you Are, the way you Are the fever-quick mind of your Archivist, the way you Were the cloying, greedy-taking want of your Heart before his eyes were Closed.
And now you Are this small, swaddled thing, clumsy and heavy-headed and soft, and you have never Been this before, have never had to learn the grasping of fingers and the pain of teeth, have scarce Known a helplessness that was not bred of ropes or chains or Corruption rotting the body, but you Know this now, what it is to be splayed bare on a damp towel and dressed by broad hands, coaxed and stroked and soothed and lifted and fed and bathed,
and you take this newness greedily, countless new statements taken and carefully Filed under your Archivist’s quick-fingered sharp box-minded system, and in return you give it small gifts, teach it to hear in the lull of words the noises that mean its Name, the sound that means it is Seen and Known and Addressed, and give its struggling tongue the sounds that mean That Which Belongs To It, and catalogue the Vast-Swinging-Vertigo of being swung into steady arms, the fast-insistent press of lips to downy-soft hair, when it at last strings together the correct sounds, when it Knows papa.
The Anchor is awake.
The Anchor is Alone.
This is not well.
You follow him soft-footed through the house as he fulfills his own small rituals, a boiling kettle and a quiet-clinking mug, and you have many times through him Known the heat of it on flesh-soft palms and Know it again, even as he drifts, chilled, across chilling tile and does not drink.
He returns to the doorway of the room where the Archivist and the little one drift sleeping, and he Watches, and fog licks at his ankles and at his mind and you Know this anger from the Archivist, the surge of possession-wanting what is yours by right, what the Captain had sunken grinning fishhooks into, and when you pry the Anchor open you find those wounds still bleeding sluggishly, water spilling brackish-pink-red at his feet.
He was torn from the Forsaken by force, returned to the fold, and he is That Which Belongs to You and your Archivist is stitched to him in uncountable places and unnamable ways with the Mother’s unbreakable thread and yet, the Anchor teeters, threatens to sink. This is not well, indeed.
His Fear is Known to you in snatches that you pull from the fog—
she likes Jon best, of course, the lull of his voice puts her right to sleep and
sometimes he speaks to her like he can understand her, and she’s all he’s got eyes for, beautiful thing and
she babbles endlessly at him, and watches him in pure fascination and thinks he’s the funniest thing in the world and
lord, but the two of them hardly need him at all, do they?
—Silly, is the word your Archivist’s voice gives you. You find it apt.
You nudge the little one into hazy-waking, open its eyes and Know as it recognizes the shadow of the Anchor in the doorway, and Feel the muddled surge of joy-warm love as its mind feels at the shape of him, even as its heavy-soft arms cannot quite be persuaded to reach for him.
The Anchor Sees it wake, and he lifts it so gently, fits it to the curve of his shoulder and it settles against his neck, and he murmurs questions to it that it answers in contented sighs.
It is shifted against his side and the Anchor meets its eyes and you are Watching through it and you are Watching through him and for a moment you Let-Feel their Knowing slide against each other, and these flesh-warm creatures speak more truly in voices than tongues and it is such a simple matter for you to turn their noises to Meaning and—
he dabs the nib of the bottle against the inside of his wrist, ever-scared of scalding her tongue and he is saying, I love you, and she fists young-slow fingers in the soft knit of his jumper and does not let go and she is saying, I love you, and he is guiding her fingers to the flap of a picture book and pressing it open with the tiny meat of her thumb and he is saying, I love you, and she is noisemaking to him, trying to sing even though her Throat does not Know what that is yet, and she is saying, I love you,
—you File the feel of hot-streaking tears in its hair as the Anchor presses it close against him, insistent kissing and shaky-laughs kept to whispers that will not stir the Archivist, and shaky-murmurs that Belong just to the soft shell of its ear and he is saying, I love you, I love you, I love you.
This is well. You will watch this, a while.
The Curator’s left hip is a marred, raised, pink-knotted thing, stinging-sore where a Hunt caught it by the claws and left its Mark, and coughs past lungs full of Choke-Dust, and is strung up in delicate gossamer thread that moves its puppet-limbs, deliberate and slow. She is crafting this one carefully.
This is well. You will Watch the Archivist a while longer.