Those Who Form

The clear waters of the lake form a mirror image of the shimmering scarlets and glimmering golds of the maples on the far lakeside. He always likes to walk by the lake when discussing things of import.
She reflects on the lake, reflects on the way tiny wind fairies break the sky into a mosaic of autumnal chaos and reflects on the clement day. She says, “I fear the wrong that I might do if I just let myself run wild. I am afraid of the unintended evil I might work.” She hurls a stone, skipping it further than you might expect.
He says, “For every angel created, a demon must be dealt with. This is after all, the way that balance is maintained.” He producers a York apple (her favorite) with a magician’s flair, she passes and he sequesters the apple as though it had never existed.
She says, “I want to be a good person, a creative person, creating many things of lasting beauty.”
He pulls a journal from inside his jacket and makes a big deal out of searching the pages. At last he sighs with satisfaction as he extracts, from between the pages, her schemagram, the chimera one. The creature seems to wake up when light hits it. He scratches one of its chins (he has those gloves that look like the tips have been cut off), and its purr is the rustle of dry paper. She giggles despite herself. The creature jumps off the page and runs across the lake, disappearing on the far side.
He says, “The only thing that endures is the instant that beauty strikes. This is a difficult lesson for those of us who Form.”

They walk in silence, the silence of rustling leaves and lapping waters. He eats the apple.
The westering sun explains the time and they turn back toward the transport. She says, “I’m reaching a point where I may be dangerous. I see the pathways that you spoke about when first we met, the pathways beyond number. Perhaps I take my responsibility too seriously . . .Is it ok for me to take this path?”
He says, “What? Are you running off into the woods?”
“Silly, of course not. I will be assigned soon. I will be walking the pathway of Artificer and I would like to think that I might be good at it.”
He says, “There is a terrible beauty in the way fire burns. In the way a knife cuts. In the way storms build over the oceans. For me, the real question in any tragedy is whether the actors had any real choice in the play.”
He hurls a rock and it skips out of sight. He says, “If you take this path, or if you do not, you will still be you and though there is a bitter sadness in this, it is also your greatest triumph.”
The sun has set, but the sky and his eyes still glow.
He says “Yes, it is right and proper that you seek your destiny, for it shall find you whatever you choose.”

a World Creation Table

Karl logs them into the Mox-Nix lab, a very sparse space with a World Creation Table in the middle of the room. A Kyber comes to life and greets them. Jexi walks to one of the work benches and toys with the cytometers (she’s kinda distracted), Karl and the Kyber are talking in a highly animated fashion beside portal. The Kyber relents and moves to the panel that engages the Table. The Ergon field emitters energize and the generator sounds very much like a swarm of locusts in a blender.
Karl rummages through the frig, looking for anything that might have magically appeared over the course of the last few days (it is his frige after all). He nudges her and offers the remnants of a wabe sandwich. She refuses.
He turns back to the Table. It is fully energized now, waiting. She comes up behind him.
He says, “Don’t touch me there, unless you’re serious.”
“You are everso tawdry. . .”
“I’m serious Jex, mean it or leave it alone.”
She steps away from him and closer to the Table. She says, “How can I forge a new world without destroying the old one?”
“Not sure I understand the question.”
“Is there some way to forge a new world without destroying the old one? I have no wish to destroy the world; I’m just a bit bored with its current state.”
“You are the most dangerous when you’re bored.” She shows very little appreciation for his attempt at humor. He shrugs.
The Kyber brings control-gauntlets for both of them and helps her don her pair. Ripples appear in the field as she flexes her fingers. Karl says, “Focus on the details and the under currents will take care of themselves. It is in the details that the best worlds are made.”
“If I create them and destroy them is that murder?”
“That depends.”
“I hate crap answers like that.”
He selects a world seed from the codex. Rotates it two hand widths above the table. It swells to the size of a Slag-ball while fractal subroutines add appropriate waters and land masses.
Karl says, “My studies have taken me to far an exotic places and in every one of them there is this thing called Life.”
The view zooms in so that a single oak tree fills the display field.
“Yet, no-one really knows what this ‘Life’ thing is . . . That whole particle and wave argument . . .”
The tree sprouts acorns.
“But I know one thing,” he whispers, “Life is an emergent property of the timely intermixes of matter and energy . . .and so is Death.”
The tree ages and shrivels. Barren rocks and volcanoes crop up through the vegetation. She weeps for the tree.
“You weep for the tree?”
“It was a beautiful oak . . .”
“How do you know it was an oak?”
“Acorns. Oaks all have acorns.”
“So by its fruit you know a tree?”
“OK, your turn.” He clears the table.
She lifts her hands. She says, “Are you going to get into trouble for letting me use this machine?”
“Depends on who you tell.”
“Your rivals of course.” She selects another seed from the codex. Her smile is radiant.
The seed evolves into a barren world. She discards it and tries another. This one develops a scummy layer that bathes the world in poison.
She says, “I’m doing it wrong. What is the problem?”
“You’re trying to do it with your mind and not with your heart. You have to let your hands feel as well as grasp.”
She selects another seed, pulls it into the air slowly, gently. Plasmids twine into self-replicating worms. Primitive plants rise from the land masses. She laughs.
She says, “I got this.”
“You might want to turn the tempo down a bit.”
“No, this is good. I am going to make this world perfect; no pain, no suffering. . . everything perfect.”
And everything is perfect for about a microsecond, then everything dies (horribly).
“Put it back . . . please.”
He does something interesting with his gloves and the world convolutes, twisting back and consuming itself like a virus. It turns turbid and then everything dies, again.
“You’re doing this. It not nice . . .”
“I turned it over to you.”
“Not fair, this is your machine.”
“Anyone can use this machine, but most people give up.”
“This time I’ll be more clever.”
“As you wish.”
She does something a little different and everything dies very quickly.
She says, “Shut it off, this entertains me no longer.”
“This is Art, it’s not for your entertainment, and it’s for your edification. You want to create worlds where there is no suffering but you also want worlds where there is Life. You want a top without a bottom, a Yin without a Yang. You want a wave that is a crest with no trough, a day without a night . . .”
She throws her gauntlets on the floor and storms out.
He removes his gauntlets and signals the Kyber to shut the system down.
To no-one in particular he says, “The problem when I started was I didn’t understand that the only real difference between a god and a man, is that a man knows when to quit.”

Teachers and Students

“It is said this arrow seeks your heart
But in Truth there is no aim
There is no time
There is no arrow

There is only your heart”

– unknown poet of the late 20th century

“What is this?”
“This is my version of string theory.”

– same poet

Sequence #1 – Chapter 1 – Sage & Thomblin

Sage finds Thomblin looking out one of the parapet windows on a day gone dismal grey. Her breath clouds the ancient glass as she leans against the granite stones of the wall. Her hair is raven black and seems to undulate of its own accord. Her eyes are cyan blue.
“I have a bit of lunch here if you are interested. . .”
He sets the burlap sack, which he carries, on the rough hewn oaken table. The contents shift slightly, at length settling into a stable configuration. He pats his pockets till he finds a small pack.
She does not turn to face him, but heaves a sigh not unlike a dry and tired old soul confronting Eternity.
“I see that you are bored and you must understand, I am not here to be your entertainment. That is the job of some younger scoundrel, as yet unnamed.” He fidgets until he finds a flask of something that might have been wine, once. Retrieves a sandwich from the pack, examines the contents, puts it back, and then pulls another. This process continues for some time until he is at last satisfied that the sandwich he wanted is not to be found.
He sits with flourish, peels and uncorks the lunch items, cracks his knuckles like a concert pianist preparing to play and mumbles some kind of incantation.
“Old man, why must you make such a huge production out of everything?”
“Not so old, in fact, younger than I used to be.”
“And to what do you attribute your advanced age?”
“Clean living.”
She chortles.
Sequence #2 – Chapter 1 – Tygrae Vivian

Vivian is fishing, well; she is dragging her hook through the rippling stream. In its current unbaited state only trout seeking to end their existence will throw themselves upon such a barren hook. Well past the age of consent, this is how she gets away from her family and appears to be doing something useful.
She runs the stones along the bank of the brae, a task requiring mental concentration as she maneuvers around a recently fallen oak.
She comes around the boughs and wham, there is a fully arrayed warrior facing her with his bow drawn. She can see the silvered edge of the arrowhead that is pointed at her chest. She slips and falls trying to stop. He does not help her up, nor does he lower the bow.
She laughs. She can’t help it.
“Are you injured little cat?” His voice warms toward the end. She checks to be sure all her limbs are still attached and working. He lowers the arrow as she clearly presents no threat.
“I am no cat, sir. How shall I call you?”
“I am called Dark Captain Tygrae, do you wish assistance?” She nods in the negative.
The Dark Captain returns the arrow to its quiver, unstrings his bow and with a final test of its fatal yew, he secures it to his back. With the poise and ease of a task often done, he loosens his ebon leathers, returns the hold straps to his sgian dearg array and removes his leggings to his pack.
In a show of trust he turns and walks to the rippling brae, bends to the water and drinks a long draft. When he stands the waters sparkle as they drip from his short ginger beard.
His hands are not large but they are swift and horribly scarred. His legs are sturdy and his shoulders erect (tough he favors the right shoulder, probably an injury).
He sits on a large rock beside the waters, leaning back against the cleft in the bank. He is now invisible to any casual passers.
His voice is not unlike the rushing water behind her, “While it is never my way to tell someone what to do, I would ask that you might consider sitting a spell.” She doesn’t move. He says, “Or stand as is your want.”
He rummages through his pack without apparent concern about her. He produces a bagget of course bread which he breaks and gently hurls a half at her. She snags it before it can hit the water. Its tastes sour but very substantial.
Holding the bread in her mouth, she shimmies up a large rock, that is half in and half out of the water. He pitches a small round of white cheese at her.
From his pack he withdraws a skin of wine. “I loved a woman once . . .” (dry laugh – no humor in it), “but I was not worthy of her glance, not worthy of her concern. Oh, she wanted to know the warrior ways and there was no limit to the number of compliments she offered. She was quick and lithe but had no heart for the dance. No instinct for. . .” Tygrae sighs, lowering his food and his paring knife. “Oh yes, a Lady who would be a warrior.”
The brae fills the silence.
“It was the night of the Lute Player’s Ball. We danced. On the balcony above the founts, she asked to be my Tyro, my student. . . my protégée, such a thing is not unheard of these days.”
Vivian is a study in concentration. She tears small pieces of bread and cheese without looking at her task. She quietly stuffs them into her mouth.
“I wonder if you have heard the tale of Nimue and Merlyn?” He chews and considers, makes a sign in the air. “He loved her more than himself, taught her all that he knew and more
and when she had taken . . . everything he had to give, she put him under a rock and left him for dead.” He shifts and his leathers creek. The wind plays with the verdant forest roof.
“People often wondered at his defiance of age, wondered how he could master the energies of the unknowable without falling into chaos, wondered how he could let a slip of a girl kill him. . .” The wind goes silent, the forest is listening.
“He didn’t die. . . no, not dead yet” Roiling clouds from nowhere obscure the part of the sky that can be seen. Vast things are moving above the world. A strange wind walks the trees, is there a coming storm?
“He crawled from under the rock she had placed on him and took assessment of his life. He found that while he still loved her, he could not bear to see her again.”
The waters in the brae become restless. Vivian is no longer eating, only wide-eye watching.
He laughs and the rocks shake. There is a peal of thunder, distant, but powerful.
“He walked away. Left the court and his friends to her tender mercies and we all know how that went. . . don’t we?”
“He walked away from the only woman he had every loved. . .” The warrior becomes harder to see in the dusk of gathering clouds, appears older.
“He walked the world. . . a vacation of sorts – yes, a vacation (he laughs again, some of the edge is gone). He consorted with dragons for a time, a long time and he became a physician, a poet, an engineer and a warrior. He learned many tricks and ways, even spent some time beyond the seas. There are more than a few songs of his travels; he danced more than a few dramas to keep himself entertained.”
Vivian no longer notices the chill of the unyielding rock beneath her, no longer notices the rush of the approaching storm. All she can see are his glowing cobalt eyes in the darkness. Her continence is that of the rock she on which she perches, but her heart is wild.
He lifts his hand and everything becomes silent, the wind, the sky, the brae. He sighs and the sun returns to the world. He takes a bite of the loaf and chews it.
He lowers his hand and the sky is clear, the sun is warm and the weather clement. He spends the rest of his meal in silent contemplation.
When at length he’s done, he stands, brushes crumbs and debris from his leathers, looks up and down the road.
Walks to the rock she is on and extends his hand to Vivian. “And now little cat, do you fancy adventure?”

Sequence #3 – Chapter 1 – Martel and Carl

She’d known him for four years and seven months and nothing like this had ever happened, in fact nothing like this had ever happened to her before.
He was in the lobby, at the annual Ides of March party. He was smoozing with Jameson in shipping and Maxwell in Engineering and her. They were talking about something boring when the new kid in accounting came through the door.
She’d only recently learned to Timporshift, a technique for speeding or slowing time. To the best of her knowledge he was the only one, other than her capable of using this technique, but he and the kid both went timporial in a heartbeat. She pushed to her limit and joined them in Fast Space. She couldn’t keep up so both of them seemed to be wavering into and out of Real Space.
Then she saw what he was doing. It looked like transparent tentacles extending out of his body in all direction, not just Three Dimensional Space. And they were moving fast. The kid was growing a similar array but it was nothing compared to his and she thought, “The kid is way out classed.”
Both Carl and the kid knew it. The kid kinda surrendered and Carl didn’t attack but cease in his display. He shifted into different shapes and all of them seemed to be in the same place at different times.
Then he spoke to the kid, “Young one, you may not touch me here. Return to your tribe.”
“I carry a message.”
“Messenger? Then why come you arrayed as a warrior?”
“It was estimated that I might actually survive this way.”
“It occurred to none that this might provoke me?”
“It was estimated that everything provokes you, I merely wanted to get your attention and live long enough . . .”
“Your masters breach our agreement and if this ‘message’ is of no import then I will extract payment.”
“This is understood. Therefore let me speak. This one,” and the kid pointed directly at her, “is not of the kind. What is your intention in assisting her?”
“My business is my own.”
“Still . . .”
He was on the kid before any of them had a chance to think. His eyes were. . . there are no words for his eyes. “Young one, your masters owe me. I will remind them of this. If I decide to release you remind them that they are in no position to renegotiate this debit. As for this one, if I ever scent even a whiff of you or your kind within parsecs of her I will find your masters in person and show them the extent of their error. They will not like what happens next.”
He backed away from the kid who was visibly shaken. With his physical hand he patted the kid on the shoulder and all of them returned to Three Dimensional Space. It was rather like being on a conveyor belt that suddenly stopped.
She noticed that the kid didn’t say a word but turned and left through the door never to be seen again.
She looked at him and despised him in that moment. He had never said anything about this to her. “You did not have to protect me,” she spat.
“Technically I was dealing with old business and I must admit I might have enjoyed watching him kneel under your hand, but such amusements are reserved for another day.”
She hurled her cup into the trash and stormed out. He followed. She turned on him wondering if he would shift into something dangerous. She was afraid.
He approached her cautiously and looked sheepish. “Martel, I am sorry. I was acting purely on instinct, no one was hurt.”
“Is that some kind of excuse?”
“No, it isn’t.”
“What happens if I hurt you, are you going to do that to me?”
“No, never.”
“How can you say that?”
“Time isn’t linear . . .”
“I hate when you say shit like that!”
She stumbles into the ladies room, crying, not even sure why she was crying. Sees herself in the mirror and notices what she has noticed before, her eyes changing color and shape. Becoming . . . Oh God, was she becoming one of them?
“I’m sorry.” He is there.
“You are not supposed to be in here.”
“I’ve always wondered what it looked like in the Ladies room . . .”
“Get out.”
“Yes, but first I make a promise. Next time one of those things comes, you can deal with it yourself. I have never considered you a lesser . . .”
“Get out,” but her voice had softened. He had gone.
To no one in particular she had asked, “Why do you care so much old man? I’m just a girl . . . just any girl,” but then she sees her own eyes again.

Sequence #1 – Chapter 2 – Sage & Thomblin – On the Outside

Thomblin watched the old man as he poured over maps, charts and schematics, wondered if he had ever been a young man. He kinda smelled like a man. . .
She checked her leggings, had he hesitated for the smallest fraction of a second? The beard was so frustrating. It hid most nuances of his expression. What would he look like without the beard?
Sage rapped the table with one of the tomes he held. He was prone to such actions when her attention strayed.
She said, “Why don’t we go outside? Continue your discussion on Dark Energy in the light of day?”
“Every time we go outside. . .”
“The air is fresh out there. . .”
“The air in here is perfectly. . .”
“I promise, promise on my heart, I will at least feign attention on this most boring subject, if we go into the garden.”
“I promised that I would show you the Disciplines and the Arts. You are the one that asked me to teach you.”
“And I will attend your brilliant dissertations concerning all your complex magics when we are under an open sky.”
“Oh, very well, you’ll ignore me either way, so we might as well venture out a bit.”
Sequence #2 – Chapter 2 – Tygrae and Vivian – The Archery Lesson in the Garden

How could she know exactly what he meant? He was prone to such wild expectations.
Vivian pulls on the archer’s glove and pulled the quiver and the other archery gear onto her shoulder. At moments like this she wished he’d gone ahead and shot her when first they met.
But no, he had dragged her to a covenant house. Set her up as his tyro, his new tyro. Everyone looked at her funny. Everyone knew Tygrae and no one knew her.
Why had she agreed to this? She was no warrior.
The sky above the archery range is warming with the crimson and gold spirit of a new day. He is there waiting for her. He is holding the arrow he fashioned last night. The blade of the head is sharp enough to bend light. It glistens in the first rays of the sun. Sharp on one end, beautiful in the hand but it can cut.
Everything he said to her was a poem, an arrow, but now he stands in silence as she strings the double curved bow of Artemis. He had shown her the way of making a perfect arrow, now he hands it to her. She just wants to hold it, look at it, and keep it.
She’s hoping he’ll tell her to sequester it in her quiver, to draw out another lesser arrow.
He indicates this one.
She notches the lovely, ebon shafted arrow, hoping he’s only fooling,
She tries to focus on the familiar feel of tension as the muscles in her shoulder and back slide.
` “Release!” he shouts
And before she can aim, before she can think, before her mind can stop her, she lets fly the arrow, and its sooooo beautiful as it arcs away, only complete in this perfect motion.
“It must be released before it can be truly appreciated. See how it catches the morning sun, see how it arcs.”
“You are so careless.” she shouts. “I have no idea where it’s going. How will I find it now that it’s gone?”
“Look in your hand,” he says.
And there is another arrow. She has no idea how it got there. It’s somehow different and yet, as strangely beautiful as the first.
“This isn’t funny.” she says.
His eyes are deadly earnest. “It’s not meant to be.”
She notches the new arrow, takes aim on his chest . . .
Silent, he doesn’t flinch.
The arrow pierces his right shoulder barely missing the top of his lung and nipping the top of his right shoulder blade.
His expression is enigmatic. “I didn’t say release!”
“You knew I would!”
“Come here and pull this thing out. No, not back out. You’ll have to pull it in the direction it was going. Break the feather end off first! Ouch! Now pu l l l l l l. . . Don’t stop, pull!”
“You knew I would! Speak to me. Speak to me!”
“That hurt.”
“What can I do?”
“In my kit there is a vile of clear liquid and clean cotton patches. Yes, now soak your hands and the patches in the liquid. Don’t be afraid to spill it. Split the patches. Put one on the hole in the front and one on the bac . k k k. k,. k .k .k ! Damn that hurts.”
“Hold still”
“Why, so you can shoot me again?”
“Are you going to die?”
“Not at the moment, but the day is young.”

Sequence #4 – Chapter 1 – Two Children under an Open Sky

She has in her short life achieved the truest form of Love, the Love that asks no return.
And now she uses every aspect of herself to save him.
She builds a fire in the twilight, a dry pyre consuming her offering of incense wood, becoming a river of twinkling crimson spark salmon cascading into the sky. She builds a fire in twilight under a sky gone crimson.
She struggles to move his supine form to an energy Lagrange point near the fire’s ring of stones. When, at last, all blood is drained from the sunset, when the sky is black velvet strewn with diamond chips, when silence has become the voice of the night creatures, she snuggles in under his listless arms.
When she can worry no more, she falls into the open arms of the Lady of the Night, Nyx. She sleeps.
The arms of Nyx close around her as she opens her heart, opens her mind to a possibility she’d rather not consider. How can she heal him, when she cannot heal herself?
Her sadness falls like rain, quenching this dry and desert place. After a time her rain tears cascade to the sea, increasing the depth of the oceans. In the manner of her people she does not hold her grief behind clenched teeth. Her’s is the lamentation worthy of a saint and he is the one she yearns for with all her heart
In her dream sky he becomes the focus of her sigh, the need of her cry. He becomes her every thought.
In a time after Time, in a place beyond all Space, she learns the sound within all the world. She falters at first but with the trust of a child she learns the dance. Every second becomes a lifetime as she drubs the drums of her feet, beats the staccato of the Dance that changes things with poise and grace.
Because she doesn’t know it’s impossible, she unlocks her every joint, stretches every fiber in perfect form, exceeds herself until every movement, every nuance, becomes a metaphor, an alter where she offers her prayer to the Universe.
She becomes a stroboscopic flicker, committing the blasphemy of bending Cause and Effect, her movements exceeding the cradle of Time and Space without question, pause or consideration of the consequences, the cost to herself.
She becomes the daughter of Nyx. She becomes the night and she covers the land seeking his smell, his spore. Seeking him in his injury.
Finding him at last in the heart of the Mountains, she congeals by his side and he is howling mad with the parasites of infection.
She isn’t even aware that something inside her is changing, mutating . . .into . . . How do you say what can’t be said . . .? Her hands are becoming, something . . . There’s something about her hands. Her hands are becoming anti~parasites. And within her grows a need. She wants to touch the parasites. She feels the correctness in this.
The first soul parasite she touches withers and dies. She touches another and another and . . .
She extends her hands, for now she had many, like a Hindu goddess, hands in all directions. She caresses all the parts of his mind, body and soul. Where her hands touch him a healing begins.
Beside a fire that has gone out, under a sky pinking with a new sun, his ragged breathing is soothed.
His heart has found a path to true healing and she relinquishes the Night.
Sequence #3 – Chapter 2 – Martel and Carl – On the Question of Trackers

It was one of those quiet moments when things can be discussed at leisure. Carl had a cup of Yerba Mate and Martel had a bottle of pre-manufactured green tea extract.
Carl had found the window and appeared to be doing nothing but looking out across the campus grounds.
“What’s a tracker?” Martel asked out of the blue. Carl physically jumped, never a good sign.
He shot her a sideways glance, “A tracker is a person or thing of unknown origin. They show up at random points in space or time.”
“What do they do?”
“Where did you hear about trackers in the first place?”
“It was a note on the dash of your car. . .”
“Damn, I have got . . .”
“None the less . . .”
“OK, you will probably need this information sooner or later. A tracker can be used to track certain individuals . . . don’t interrupt. . . track certain individuals of some small talent. When trackers are human they are typically in the process of going mad. In their distress they generate parna spikes like those bombs they used to use for submarines. . .”
“You mean depth charges?”
“Yeah, they drop bombs where they think a submarine might be. When they go off any sub unfortunate enough to be too close is either destroyed or detected. Trackers are like parna bombs. When they spike any ‘sensitive’ in the area is affected.”
“You said parna spikes were bad.”
“They are. Parna spikes can go up any number of levels and they are very distasteful.”
“How does a tracker do that?”
“I would rather not talk . . . OK, the tracker is sacrificed. Anything parna spiking will eventually be driven mad. Nothing can generate spikes and no go mad, it has to happen.”
“But we use parna all the time?”
“First, we are using it only in moderation with a great deal of self discipline.”
“Speak for yourself.”
“WE, are using parna only in moderation with a great deal of self discipline. Why do you think I have introduced you to the concepts of Life Force interplay so slowly?”
“I just figured that I was a particularly slow apprentice.”
“Again with the self image . . .”
“Are trackers dangerous?”
“Not particularly, just really annoying, but that’s not the question is it?”
“No, the question is why there are trackers?”
“I honestly don’t know.”
“Is someone or something using the tracker?”
“Again, don’t know.”
“OK, this just isn’t going well; you have admitted twice that you don’t know something. Can you stop a tracker?”
“Yes, but that might be a bad idea. It’s almost impossible to see who’s holding the leash.”
“Great. So what should we do with a tracker?”
“Let it do what it does and lay low. Whatever you do, don’t react.”
“What happens if you react?”
“You’ll have to take the tracker out.”
“That’s a little melodramatic, don’t you think?”
“Once one of them has your scent, they are relentless.”
“This ever happen to you?”
“How do you know? It did happen, didn’t it?”
“This is not open for discussion.” His face had become closed. She knew she would get no more information on this subject.

Sequence #2 – Chapter 3 – Tygrae and Vivian – The Art of Letting Someone Go

Tygrae lifts his ebon travel leathers, engages the safeties, and checks all the weapon arrays, both hidden and showing.
Her entry into the room is a study in silence.
He signals that he knows she is there with a slight shift of his stance, much the same way he would shift his position to defend against an assassin’s stealth attack (the difference being, she would very likely leave unscathed).
“Tygrae . . .”
“She speaks . . . I am honored. Such an honor.”
“Don’t be like that. Why are you behaving in this fashion?”
He slides his gear into place, turns to face her head on, a move seldom attempted among their kind, among the warrior poets. The tension level in the room skyrockets.
“Tygrae. . .why?”
“I love you. I wanted you to love me.”
“Is this what happened to the other woman warrior? The one before you found me beside the stream?”
“I love you. I wanted you to love me.”
“I love you as a mentor. Your wisdom rises above us like a mountain above the plains.”
“You love me as Nimue loved Merlin. Seeking to learn all my spore, but withholding yourself.”
“It’s creepy when you talk like that.”
He moves to pick up his travel pack
She moves to block him, more by strategy than physically blocking him. He counters with a move she has never seen. He says, “I didn’t teach you everything I know.”
“Then teach me.”
“I love you. I love you as a man loves a woman. Now, show yourself to be more than a child. Stand aside.”
“Why are you going there? A man your age . . .might not . . .”
“I am retasked as a seeker and seekers go to the Far Places.”
“I am not fooled; this is of your own asking. Why did you volunteer?”
“I knew I would go when I was promoted from guardian class. Yes, before we had even met.”
“So, you wanted me to love you knowing you were going to the Far Places””
“I have walked the Loop and I have seen my suffering there. From you I wanted a reason to live, to continue living.”
“You wanted me to love you knowing you were going to leave””
“I only asked a token. Not your sex, nor your vows, but you could not even give me the token of your affection.”
“You want . . .”
“From you I want nothing, except passage from this room.”
“Don’t go.”
He moves toward the door and she yields. The creek of his leathers follows him out of the room. Silence pours in from the Void to fill the spaces he leaves behind.

Sequence #1 – Chapter 3 – Sage & Thomblin – the Circus of Heaven Incident

The day is slightly over-cast and humid, very humid. The Sage carries a folded dragon parasol and an orange. Thomblin literally dances across the wet grass of the manicured lawn. Her pull-over shirt shimmers with translucent rainbows, a light in the greyness.
A commotion by the East-gate catches her attention.
Some kind of massive animal is trying to get through the gate. The guards and tenants are trying to help it into the courtyard.
Sage laughs, actually laughs. Thomblin looks. . . wary. “OK old man, what is that thing?”
“It’s one of the animals in the Circus of Heaven. An elphfulum if I guess correctly, never really seen one myself.”
“It looks all furry and it’s so big and smelly. I don’t like it. Let’s go back. . .”
“Pish and Posh to boot, let’s go see what’s going on.”
“You knew this was going to happen, you knew these things were coming.”
“As I remember it was your idea to come outside, you said “Why don’t we go outside?””
“And now I want. . .”
“Look! Seraphim and cherubs.”
“They are all golden, I like silver myself.”
“The seven Dragons of Regwin and the golden Stallions of Far Calabria, oh, and a Unicorn.”
“Ha, you can never ride one of them.”
A fanfare rings out and, as if on cue, the sun breaks through the clouds. The Parade of Heaven labors across the grounds and the first of the beasts are exiting through the West-gate.
A cloud whale, trailing pure white streamers of vapor, drifts above the mêlée, circled by domesticated wind sharks.
“Thomblin, they are leaving, this must have been a parade to get our attention, a kind of advertisement to get us to come to the show. I hope they have caramel floss, I love caramel. . .”
“I’m glad it’s going.” She interrupts.
The Sage turns and sees her for the first time since they noticed the parade, his expression strangely confused. Her expression, enigmatic.
“Why do you choose to be this way?”
“This is crap, I want to know about the important things, I want to know about Love.”
“The Circus of heaven is more fun.”
A long silence ensues.
She walks toward the South-gate. He follows.
“Old man. . .”
“Stop calling me ‘old man’. I, at least, am young enough at heart to want to go to the circus.”
“Tell me of Love.”
“Tell me of Love.”
“Let’s go back inside.”
“Tell me of Love. I want to know.”
“No, no you really don’t.”
“Surely you were in love once. . .”
“Far worse than that, I am in love now.”
She smiles and pirouettes. “Tell me, tell me old man.”
“Stop calling me. . . “
“You are in love? With who?”
“This is none of your concern. . . I want to tell her, but she doesn’t want to know.”
“She doesn’t know? Who is it? Who do you love?’
He turns away and sits on the grass. She moves quietly to face him, a suppressed smile on her features.
He says, “I don’t like you, please go away.”
“So, it’s a love that is wrong?”
“You’re afraid.”
“Very much.”
“You should just tell her.”
“You should hold her hand and tell her.”
He takes her hand. She looks confused.
He says, “She is younger than me.”
“That shouldn’t matter, not if you love her.”
He says, “You look at love as some kind of enlightened commerce, an exchange of vows and fluids. “There is more under heaven than is provided for in your philosophy. . .”
“Who is it?”
“It is. . . it is you. There, I’ve said it.”
Her expression is not unlike one she would wear while watching a diseased homeless commoner hawking up a chunk of lung. She withdraws her hand and wipes it on her leggings.
She calls him a pervert, calls him a sick old man, and vows that she has never felt so cheapened in her life.
He leaves, his movement a study in sadness as he walks toward the West-gate, following the Circus.

Two days later, she walks through rain that falls in sheets, through chance dancing ghosts on windswept on midnight streets.
She wants to find the Sage to tell him that he was wrong. That love can only occur between a young woman and her young man, the one, the only one for. Wanted to tell him that love has to have a future, where the lovers enjoy each other’s company forever.
She finds the Circus Grounds. She stamps across the wet dank grass only to see that the show is over. It is packing and will be gone by first light.
She enters and approaches a small man in carnival dress. He says that he has not seen the Sage, says that she should go back into town and ask for him there.
She grabs another carnie and he tells her to go.
She grabs a woman who must be a performer. The woman tells her to go home, to forsake her quest, but something about the woman makes her sure that the Sage is here. She insists and they woman tells her to wait here.
Directly the woman returns and hands her a slip of paper, then leaves without another word.
The note reads, “My dear Thomblin, I have joined the Circus. They took me on despite my total lack of anything resembling talent, must have been my recounting of our little drama. So now I am the cotton candy man making spun sugar topiaries for an awed audience of tender brats. I wish you well and farewell, Chyfrin the Sage of E’rhothous- Ra”
She finds the carnies somehow less friendly. When she asks again for him they just laugh and laugh.

Sequence #3 – Chapter 3 – Martel and Carl – the Cosmic Wheel

Martel doesn’t like knowing.
Doesn’t like standing in front of the massive picture window and watching as the World spins on the silent lathes of its cosmic axis.
Doesn’t like the way she now sees trees as dirt fountains and the way the sky gathers parna as it recedes beyond the horizon.
She was not happier when she was just drifting through life, but she was at least ignorant of her naïveté.
He had stood, over there, just outside the garden gate, his face shifting and fading into and out of real Time/Space. He had taken on a glow that was clear even in the full light of day and. . . And he was holding out his hand. The air crackled with St. Elmo’s fire and she could just make out his voice. He had called her, pleaded with her to go, to go with him.
And suddenly the world went lucent, and there was a thunderclap! And he was gone.
He was gone.

Sequence #4 – finis – Children Alone

She could never give herself wholly, could never yield her whole body, her heart, her soul, the way that children do, holding a small flower in their hands, saying, “Take this, and love me. Please love me.”
She held herself back, hiding away the tender part. She became her own dragon, damsel and the tower in one.
Empty, she feels so empty. No longer lithe and limber, no longer filled with naïveté, the primal energy of simplicity.
She sold her Heart for silence.

Chen Lei

Chen Lei shuffles across the doorstep into his house. He surprises his daughter, Chen Xi .
“How is your mother?”
“Sir, she is still quite ill.”
“I have come home to care for her . . .”
“Sir . . . a man of your standing must not do such . . .”
“Gentle one, any man who would fault me for caring for my wife when she is ill is not worthy of consideration.”
Chen Xi embraces her father and they exchange chi for a long time. “Sir, you are wise.”
“None of it. When was the last batch of medicine brewed?’
“Moments ago, it is still fresh and charged with content. I was preparing to feed her when you arrived.”
“You have spent too much time in this house, as you are a worthy daughter. Go to the market and get the ingredients for dinner. Avoid Gen Gaou, he always charges too much for vegetables.”
“Sir, I would stay here . . .”
“No more of this. I am here to care for your mother, as she has cared for me. Obey he in this. Go to the market, but change into some spring trappings.”
“On the way here I saw that young man . . what is his name?”
“Sir. I am embarrassed . . .”
“Young one, the present is always a gift and the future is only a promise. We must always prepare for the promise of the future. You are the future little one. Now go.”
Chen Xi shuffled out of the room. Chen Lei straighten his clothing, gathered the medicine into a tureen and stepped into the bed room.
“Hello, is my wife Ping here?”
“Husband, you are home early . . . I must fix you something to eat.”
“Yes, about that, I require that you eat . . .”
“Oh no, where is Xi?”
“She obeys her father in all things and is at the market gathering the ingredients for dinner.”
“She should . . .”
“About this eating thing you mentioned, please eat some of this.”
“Husband . . .”
“I am a man of some honor, am I not?”
“Yes, you are a good and noble man.”
“I am a good provider for this family, am I not?”
“I am honored above others . . .”
“And are my wishes to be ignored?”
“No sir.”
“Then please, Ping, please eat your medicine and care for yourself. You can not serve me and not serve yourself.”
“Husband . . .”
“Woman, you make me absent from court and the others will be talking. Let me help to heal you so that I may get back to my difficult job of service to the king and to the empire. I can not focus on the matters of state when I am silly with worry about you.”
She lifts her hand and brushes his hair the way she did when they were young. She sits up and takes the tureen. Knocks away his hand when he tries to feed her and starts to feed herself. “You are a stubborn old fool.”
“Madam. you might be correct. In matters concerning you my logic is often flawed.”

Guardian Angel

I watch as she drives home in traffic talking to herself about the about the Korean account. She’s such a good driver, always in control, it is such a pleasure . . . Damn, I slipped again. She can smell me now.
“OK, I know you’re here . . .”
She is clever. She says, “You know what, you smell like . . . like the scent of Christmas cookies. You’re like the sizzle of summer rain. You’re . . . just the perfect C chord progression. I wish just once you’d talk to me.”
I’m her guardian angel and I’m in love with her. I guess every one of us is in love with our charge but this one . . . this one is different, this love is wrong. I am not supposed to feel this way about a woman.
We’re stalled in traffic and she turns the radio off. She tilts her head and I swear I think she can hear me, hear me . . .
“You are music to me,” she says and her pursed lips relax into the merest shadow of a smile. Traffic surges and her mind is off again.

She parks in the lot of her comdo. In the spot not under the tree where all the birds gather to take their morning crap. Boy was she mad that time.
I exit the car and she opens her door and climbs into the sweltering heat. Digs her stuff out of the rear and I think for the thousandth time, ‘You really need to clean that back seat out.’
She opens her mailbox and finds she has a chance of winning millions . . . it’ll be some demon in a far place promising the same fortune in her e-mail. I know I peeked.
I watch her walk up the flights. My heart is in the sigh of the concrete steps. I love to watch her walk . . . I listen when she talks . . . This love is wrong.
She leaves the door open a fraction longer than absolutely necessary. She knows I’m following and she is taunting me. She kicks her shoes across the dining room and scrunches the pile carpet with her toes. She throws her business suit jacket across the recliner and hits the answering machine. I mean she physically hits the machine. Poor device, wonder how much longer it can last.
I do not follow her into the nether regions. Even angels must honor certain privacies.
She returns sorting the mail and tosses the envelopes onto the oaken buffet that Grandma Pennington left her. She fingers the lace crocheted doily that the kindest woman in the world knitted, well crocheted actually. Oh God, why must I watch this. She wants so much to touch the hand of a daughter, to have someone to hold. To hold her . . . I can’t watch, its too painful.
OK, I return.
She has set a place for me at the table. I never know how to feel about this, but then our relationship is not normal.
She nukes something French and puts a roll on my plate.
She stares at the chair where I sit for the longest time, then thanks God for his many blessings. Good, she’s hungry, always a good sign. I look at my roll.
She starts the conversation, as a courtesy I guess. She tells me all bout her advanced numerical torture and the absolute nonsense of her day.
I sit there and try not to cry. I would walk through five kinds of hell just to be able to pick up that bread. Not because I’m hungry but because she has offered it. Seven Kinds of Hell . . .
She loads the dish washer, checks out the chat on the net, reads all those nice emails from people she knows. Maybe if she had a dog or something . . . Not a cat, I hate cats. The way they just stare off into space, you know they’re watching us don’t you.
She stretches, rubs her own shoulder, plops down on the couch and tries in desperation to find something interesting. She finds a Cheeto in the couch lining, Oh please don’t eat . . . good, she throws it away.
The phone is ringing. Its her mom, I don’t even have to peek. I can tell from her facial expression, moms and daughters, go figure.
She is casting about and finds her favorite book. She has read it so many times. The cover says something like “City of . . .” the rest of the title is worn off. Again the smile. The glow . . . the soft wonder of that glow . . . I love this woman.
She’s reading, here’s her favorite part. Where he’s breathing in her ear and it is the gentlest of sounds. And she drifts away . . .
I pause consider that I would love to pull her cover over her exposed feet.
Her eyes are closed, she’s starting to dream.
“Goodnight.” she whispers
And she can almost hear me say. “I love you.”

A Man and His Demon

by: William C. Burns, Jr.

On the evening of the day after Kota Tu Arye’s burial, Kota Cyon, son of the elderly healer, received a summons to the “Court of Thieves” to settle one last affair of estate.
As he entered the cobbled marketplace, the blue-white sun broke through the perpetual cloud cover. Everywhere, people paused in their transactions and shielded their eyes to look skyward. Sunlight was rare here on the water-covered world, Lao-Damia, and the youngsters cast off their cloaks and danced in the glaring light. The elders tried to look on with disdain, but a glint had appeared in their eyes also.
Smiling to himself, Cyon reexamined the address noted on the summons and quickly found the edifice of Das Mi, dealer in demons, new and used. The Aegis, guarding the entry, bowed in deference to the Kota’s lincoln-green robes, then smiled warmly and admitted him to the inner court.
“Kota Cyon, please be welcome and comfortable! Bring wine; what am I saying, this man is a healer. Bring iced tea, spiced? . . . No? Very good, be seated.”
“Das Mi, it is a pleasure.” Cyon shook the dealer’s hand and seated himself in the aromatic furs of the proffered chair. Both men maintained the customary moment of silence, allowing themselves time to gather their thoughts. Their drinks arrived.
“You are wondering about my summons, young healer. Yes, well, the fate of one demon, holding of your father, must be decided. He mentioned as much?”
“While serving internship at Creautal, I seldom communicated with my father. His illness had advanced when I returned and he was often incoherent. As executor of his estate I’m surprised to find he held a demon, angel or any other thing of value.”
“Well, about that . . .” Das Mi looked embarrassed and uncomfortable. He stood and motioned for Cyon to follow him, in response to the healer’s puzzled look.
They passed though an ornate door and down a short stair. The damp air was thick with the acrid smell of demon.
The dealer guided Cyon into one of the demon keeps. The leathery scales of the creature, writhing against the rough stone wall, were dull and some of the thorns cresting the head were missing. A shrill whine escaped its drooling mouth as it repeatedly raked blunted claws across the floor. Three of the delicate eye stalks dangled listlessly. The dealer remained silent.
Cyon moved to the head of the beast. It hid its face, turning away.
“Can it traverse the Path?” Cyon asked.
“Well, yes, it yet retains some virtues, but for how long? I haven’t a clue.”
“Perhaps you could barter the privilege of this beast and retain the profits for yourself.”
“Honestly, I fear that such a barter would be a liability to my business. In fact, the sooner you take it . . .”
“Das, I just received commission. I plan to minister locally for the next seven years and then perhaps barter for transport, to reach the Far Places. My father left many unsettled affairs and in the balance I have very little with which to compensate . . .”
“Kota, Kota, there is no charge associated with this beast,” interrupted the dealer. “I am mortal and as such I have no desire to incur the wrath of a healer. I may require your services someday. At such a time, I would see you smiling.”
“Well, I can use transport.”
“After all, you are Kota. Perhaps you can . . . heal it?”
Cyon was clearly not amused.

Beyond East Gate, in the rolling hills of Rewgen, the evening mist wrapped everything in a soft blanket of darkened fog. Cyon kindled the fire in the hearth before venturing out to the improvised grotto to assess his inheritance.
The demon lifted itself when he approached. It groaned and stretched its tattered membrane wings as he pulled down a bale of straw.
“You could at least be grateful I did not leave you to the charity of Das Mi, you filthy beast,” he said raking the fur behind its (his? her?) wings playfully. The throttling smell of the demon was only heightened by the moisture.
“What shall we call you? You have the power of speech, speak to me. Tell me your name?” There was no response. “Vector, I will call you Vector. Do you like that?” It huddled against the earthen wall and would not face him directly.
He sensed something of the afflicted thoughts churning through the mind of the creature. He poured the prescribed three measures of food into the massive feeding pot and checked the water, then stood a moment in silence, measuring his circumstance. Shaking his head after a time, he walked back to the warmth and light of the cottage, leaving the grotto door unlatched, as custom demanded.

The Call came five days later. Cyon, the only Kota with any chance of reaching the Fringe with haste, dropped his travel pack on the floor of the keep and approached Vector. Gently, taking the head of the beast into his hands, he stared into the three fixed eyes in the center of the forehead.
“Fainthearted beast, great is my need for your services. There is a little boy in the Fringe and he is very sick.” Cyon visualized the destination and impressed it on the seething mind of the creature. “You must take me there,” he said, at last satisfied it had understood. Vector tried to pull away. Cyon gently but firmly pulled the head back around. “Demon, stand.” It mewed softly and obeyed. Cyon snatched up the pack and mounted.
There was a flash, a clap of thunder and they were gone.
By what road do demons and angels take us? This is difficult to say exactly. Even those who have traversed the Path more than once give widely differing accounts. Human senses are so undependable and the passage taxes travelers beyond their limits. Two things can be said for certain. First, humans would have no access to the Far Places without the aid of the creatures. Second, angels take the high road, while demons take the low.
Cyon felt something . . . something other than the gut wrenching after-shock of traversing the Path. He slowly opened his eyes, finding a vast desert, dark with night. Looking up he caught his breath. A dazzling ringed moon, many times the size of his sun, hung above the distant hills, filling the horizon. The entire surface of the moon, obscured by cloud bands, ran the visible spectrum from ultra reds to incredible violets. The clouds of the moon whirled and danced at the whim of the distant winds. Three sets of rings crisscrossed the vista. One was barely visible because it was edge on and the other two were at various angles.
“Wrong! Vector, this is wrong.” Vector mewed in discomfort. The mind of the beast was slippery and hard to hold. Cyon fought his own anger as he re-envisioned their original destination.
“Why?” asked the demon, speaking for the first time.
“Vector, I’m gratified you’ve a voice, but this has to wait. We must go . . .”
“But, why?” it whined.
“Because, our assistance is required.”
“You won’t like it.”
“Do it!”
The flash lit the night desert and thunder rolled over the empty dunes.
The hovel of the sick child was abominable even by Fringe standards. The father, a self-exiled refugee from civilization, ignored the healer and beast when they arrived. The wife and mother threw open the door and dragged Cyon into the dim interior without greetings. A boy, about five years of age, lay in a small, freshly made bed.
“Vector, wait outside.” The beast complied.
“Please, your name?” Cyon asked, removing his travel cape.
“Mehetable, Mehetable Aryowade, and that, that was my husband, Urse. He doesn’t like healers.”
“Charming fellow. How long has your son been ill?”
“He got the fever three days ago. I thought it was just the faints, you know? But it got much worse. He’s burning up and I can’t do a thing for it. What do you think?”
“What’s his name?”
“Linwood, we call him Lin.” The mother appeared worried, while the father on the other hand, had looked extremely angry.
Cyon carried out the four rites of examination. There were contra- signs for all known diseases. He concluded the child had contracted a nova-virus, the kind that crop up on the Fringe all the time. He gave remedies designed to relieve the fever. Together, he and themother cleansed the boy. “Mehetable, have you ever received ministration of a healer?”
“Well, I was awful sick when I birthed Lin. The midwife at Central, Angela, she helped me.”
“Was she Kota?”
“No sir.”
“Might I spend some time with Lin? Alone?”
“No sir. Urse didn’t want you here, wanted no part of it. He’ll kill me if I leave you in here, alone. I’m the one what sent the call, this is all on my head.”
“You want to stay?”
“I insist. I must,” she said taking hold of his sleeve. Cyon looked into her eyes and knew the measure of her determination.
“Well, this might get messy. I need an assistant. Feel up to it?”
“Yes sir.”
“First, there is the ritual of preparation. I will be a moment.” Cyon assumed the position beside the foot of the bed. Moments passed as he centered. Mehetable watched silently. There was only one way to kill a virus. The boy would need quickened anti-viral bodies, produced in a living body.
Cyon stood, drew the cleansing breath and moved over the boy’s head. “I must kiss him,” Cyon whispered, then licked the boy’s forehead. Special senses in his tongue, mouth and mid-brain began the analysis. “And now I must prick his finger.” The mother drew back as he penetrated the soft flesh at the tip of Lin’s finger and squeezed out a ruby droplet. A stifled squeak escaped her when the healer put his lips to the drop of blood.
Cyon sagged, staggered and caught himself on the edge of the bed. The mother rushed to catch him.
“Ease me to the floor,” he whispered.
“Is something wrong, Kota?”
“No, no . . . well it hit me rather suddenly, but this is normal, everything is fine. I just need to sleep a moment. Cover me with the cloak, yes. Thank you. Watch over things for me?”
“Yes sir.”
The modified spleen and liver of the Kota produces anti-viral bodies genetically designed to seek out and destroy the invading antigens, while fortifying and regenerating the host. All this happens without the Kota’s direct knowlege, all in all, a pretty good system.
However, there had lately been talk of psychogenic diseases that could overwhelm even the healer’s fortified immune system. Of all things, this frightened Cyon the most. Such a disease could not be contained.
Cyon awoke hungry, which was a good sign, just a simple virus. The itch across his abdomen and in his wrists indicated that his immune system now held the healing agent.
Lin stared at the ceiling, fevered eyes glazed and uncomprehending. The Kota placed his hands on Lin’s temples and the flesh in Cyon’s hands opened. He pressed both hands firmly to keep blood from escaping. An artery and a vein crept from the incisions in his hands and burrowed into the temples of the boy. A tingling sensation along his left arm told him the anti-viral bodies were leaving his body and entering the boy. This one had been tricky, but the boy was going to be well again.
Suddenly, something struck Cyon across the back of the neck. His mind exploded in fireworks and he was falling into darkness.
Without fully regaining consciousness, Cyon tried to drag himself into a standing position. He had to reach the bed, something to do with the bed. Pain assailed him and his hands felt wet. There was blood on his hands.
“The boy!” he bellowed, staggering. He saw the bed, empty. The woman was in the corner rocking back and forth, weeping. Beside the bed, a pile of rags suddenly resolved itself into the stone-still body of the husband.
“Woman? Woman!” he shouted, bracing himself on the headboard of the bed. She did not respond. “What happened?” he asked, creeping in her direction. She was cradling Lin’s dead body. “Mehetable, speak to me,” he commanded.
“He came in . . . He promised to stay outside. He came in and he was wild. He hit you when he saw . . . and now . . . now my Lin’s dead. My little boy is dead.” She sobbed.
“How long?”
“How long has it been?”
“Yesterday. It happened yesterday.”
“Noooooo!” shouted the Kota. He couldn’t breathe. He was numb with shock. Vector seized the helpless healer and dragged him from the hut. Then came the flash and thunder.
The hell ride went on forever. Faces whipped across a sky filled with fire. Voices chanted, whined and screamed all at once. The world was coming apart with a bang. All times were crowding into this place all at once. His mouth filled with the taste of bile and his skin felt like ice, though he was sweating. And then there was darkness.

His head began to clear. The demon had returned them to the desert world of the awe inspiring moon.
Cyon scooped a handful of sand and watched it slip through his fingers. The wind played with the sand as it struck the ground, making it dance. Had he come here yesterday or been here forever; only dreaming his other life, the life he thought was real?
Vector stirred at his side, but remained silent.
The wind twisted a vortex of dust and danced in the growing light. Distant voices hissed in the wind. Cyon contemplated the strange constellations lingering in the unfamiliar skies. They bore no resemblance to the skies of his youth. Just before sunrise he discovered the moon had an equally spectacular sister.
“How can you do it, Healer? How can you stand it?”
“The child died.”
“I didn’t kill the child.”
“But you failed.”
“Deep was your grief, deeper perhaps than even mine. I felt . . .”
“What is your grief, Vector?”
“We will not speak of this,” the demon hissed. There was silence.
“Vector? You know the problem with demons?”
“What is that Kota?”
“Demons just can’t let go. They know only one emotion and their whole existence centers around that one feeling. All of your thoughts are one thought, all of your memories are one . . .”
“Healer, how can I let it go?”
“Don’t fight it. Don’t give in to it. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. Just let it happen and let it end.”
The wind whispered over the sand.
“Healer, the sun will rise soon and the sands will burn.” Cyon looked at the demon. All the eye stalks were erect and there was a new luster in its scales.
“Where shall we go Vector?”
“Home, I would like to go home, healer.”

The Binder and the Dark-spawn

Jenelle is sleeping on the couch. I sit in the chair, right beside her head.
Her demon is running back and forth across the back of the couch. It does that a lot when it’s bored.
It is a slither of smoke with oversized paws that conceal nasty little claws. I have seen it for as long as I have known her. It is my small talent/curse.
It’s time I spoke to it directly. The myst that makes me demon-proof is kinda thick and it take a bit of concentration to thin it enough to speak Hesirith. That, and it makes the shielding kinda itchy and cantankerous.
“You. . . on the couch.” It ignores me.
“Shac-akawak-naw wa-tokata. . .” That gets its attention.
My hand is on her arm before it can get back into her. “Sorry, old sport, but no.”
If it dissipates, then problem solved, one less of its kind.
It decides to try attacking me. Bad choice. The shielding holds. They hate it when I laugh at them.
By its actions it has created a relationship with me. I reach through the connection and grab it by the underside. They really hate that.
An hour of really pointless struggle ensues and the dark-spawn starts to run down. It can’t feed on either of us and I’m not letting it out, so its starving.
It whines for a while; threatens for a while more and at length goes silent.
“Now, little pup, I am sure you have heard of Binders. Yeah, it’s like that. I am gonna make a deal. Either you dissipate and leave this plane for all eternity or I bind you to something inanimate and throw it into the ocean.”
It tries to bite my face. I sigh.
“Son this is pointless,” and I find the part of me that does the binding.
The creatures speaks, “Hold thy hand. Lest you in haste bring a misfortune to all concerned.”
“You mean Jenelle?”
“She summoned me and in exchange for the gifts she gives me I provide her with. . . entertainments.”
“About that, I don’t care, leave now or be bound and learn to entertain fish.”
“You insolent human, if you knew of my master. . .”
“I am the Keewah of Sultac, Binder of Nethers and Dark-spawn. I am the Fear-god of your fathers and your master fears me. Stop the rhetoric and decide your fate.”
“She needs me. . .”
“No, she doesn’t.”
And it is gone, choosing dissipation above binding. Eh’.
Jenelle awakes and is dulled by the experience.

Within an hour she has thrown me out of the apartment. The last thing she said to me before throwing her cell phone out the window was, “How can I write now! I needed that inspiration if I’m ever do anything worth a crap. You did this to me, and I hate you! Never come back!”

So, I guess its true, you must be careful when you throw out a demon, that you don’t throw away the best part. . .