Oh My Goodness

Saturday, October 17, 2009 - 9:55 PM

Sometimes you blink and the time whistles by like a bullet. By the time you figure out where the bullet came from, you have to dodge the next bullet. Now I've got some cover.
Just a couple of odd notes: First, given all the time I'm spending at a college these days, I'd like to mention that my experience of the average men's bathroom puts considerable doubt into our reproductive method. Seriously, the accuracy is Lacking. I'm amazed our population is as high as it is. I've heard tell that women's bathrooms are worse, but I have my doubts.
Second, Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness is lodged in my brainstem. This means I have Kurtz, in stereo, 24/7. The horror!
What follows is a kind of warm-up for a game session that I am working on. Yes, it is postmodern, surreal and fragmented. But I like tossing things like this out for players.

"The Lady is indisposed. Come back another time."

From a cobwebbed balcony, he watches the gray dancers below as they gust back and forth over the dance circle. They laugh and smile and touch with eyes, but they are silent, and their music is a succession of thin, strange memories that tangle the air like the clinging gossamer that blankets everything in the place. He watches them, forever apart, and he keeps no opinion. They are different from what was, and so is he; even his oath is finished, a trail of blood-stained shards leading back to a day when the court shone with art and beauty and he bent the knee to a great lady. And yet, he remains.
He must keep them safe. The Mother of Terror nests above, and must be watched over. Even in a place where forever can be measured, things must be done in the proper time, and time must be dealt with properly.
But caught in the timeless, he is alone, more than he has ever been. Once, it was his way. Now he has little choice. There is only one other court in the Manor now, and he will not go there.

"All I wish is to be free, but I keep my promise."

She must always run.
Her companions would help, but they fear him even more than she does. She cannot go back to her home, because it is full of memories that kill. She cannot go back to her brethren, because they are locked to a court where death cannot exist and a monster lords over them with his pain. So, proud as she has been, she must run, because he is always searching. The sky is her enemy; the black birds will show him the trail. The trees do not talk to him, but he moves through them as easily as the wind. Once, the gate was open, but now she must race back and forth, because of the day when the second palace burned and the humans died and the Manor drifted into slumber.
She cannot go back, and she cannot leave, because she will not abandon her beloved friend. One day she may know whether she can be let go, but until then she must escape his attention. He is all unfeeling animal fury and hunger and anticipation, and she knows that running makes him chase her, but she is too afraid to stay still.
One day she may know, and then perhaps her promise will no longer be needed.

"Dreams? There are no dreams here. Everything is real."

Three, they watch the thing move slowly through a forest so gnarled and twisted that it is difficult to tell one tree from the next. The thing is equally awkward; all stilts and scarecrow, it moves like a crippled insect. But the three look next to the drifting lights that follow it, and the dark one nods.
"Something else comes," she whispers, and the other two pay attention; one swiftly, one slowly.
"For blood and wealth," says the hard-eyed one, and she smiles like an opened razor.
"Dancing, and then love, and then sleep," murmurs the third as if remembering.
"Foolish," bites the second. "One does not come here for joy."
"There is no joy in you," retorts the third, but her eyes are sleepy, and she strokes her clothing.
"What good is joy," snaps the second again, the sneer implicit. Her fists are clenched. "Joy is transient. It cannot last."
"Ah," sighs the third, touching her lips. "No matter how cold, your joy is enough. I have seen that."
The second cannot rebuke the third, because both fall silent at the whisper.
"Oh, the threads of the old shadow are coming, the old shadow unraveled and rewoven. The old shadow who left us before we were bound here. Come, sisters; we must sing."

"Redemption, like sin, is a human word, for human ideas. We tried to understand them, and it ruined us."

They watch over him. He stands, mid-step, his hair fanning out as if the wind around him had suddenly turned to ice, and the light that filters down through the glorious dome breaks around him through the uneven, pinkish crystal he resides within. They are small, dwarfed by the opalescence of the memorial tomb around him, and the place makes them restless, makes them feel alien and left out, just like his beauty does. They have accepted as much as they can, but they can do nothing for him. There is only the exorbitant tomb, full of the pale pinnacles of song from a hundred gold and diamond birds, full of sculpture so smooth that it seems grown, full of engravings so delicate and precise that the walls are a book. And yet, all this is not enough for him, and they fester at the inadequacy.
They want to belong.

"If you lose, I can go. If I lose, you can go. Simple."

Sometimes the ache and the longing was overwhelming. It was impossible to count how many deaths occurred here, nor how many times his companions changed. Others would come. Some went around him, dodged his wary eyes, and were snared. Others met him and he threw himself against them, a tornado of frustration and will. There was no point in warning them; nothing would come of it, save more blood among the flowers or another statue in the hall.
It had been too long, he thought, but he remembered fearing the dana aelf and their ways, and he remembered years of howling exultation, of steel and sweat and heat and breath. Sometimes the writing almost spoke to him, as if it could give him all that time back again, but everything else was nothing more than the hollow sounds of the great hall and the compelling oath, the silent and invisible goad that prickled over his heart like brambles.
He loved so much that he had no choice, and he no longer dreamt. He had heard that no one dreamt here, but then, he was more part of the hall than a human being now.
Watching the woods, he tapped a finger on his weapon, and waited for destiny to arrive.

"I cannot reconcile the fact of my son."

There is a mirror. He spends time staring at himself in the mirror, and it shivers like a pool of blood when his eyes touch it. Others do this too, when his eyes touch them. He is aware, but he is indifferent.
He picks up a crystal goblet, practically invisible but for its shape.
This, he thinks, is nothing but a collection of wounds that have not yet happened.
As if to punctuate this thought, he lets the goblet fall from his hand to shatter into jagged, beautiful points, scattered across a polished floor.
He studies this casual act of ruin for a long moment, and then realizes that there has been a lull in the singing. Turning slowly, looking past the bower of long-thorned white roses, he sees the crescent of shapes made ghostly by a waxing moon.
They attend me because they crave me, he thinks, not because they wish to.
Their singing resumes, another of the old songs (which he loves, though the songs have grown as pale as the space between them and the moon), and he turns away again to face the mirror.
What must I do, he thinks, and in a fit of sudden rage, he points at the shattered goblet.
"I wish for my court to dance."

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