To Take the Will of An Angel
"It was an accident."
Four words and I was outplayed. I stood at the head of a hotel hallway, beige and brutally adorned, no longer advancing on the man I meant to kill. The smile at the corner of his mouth tripped a wire I'd tried so hard to keep taught. He wasn't even facing me, like I wasn't a threat, his brown dress shoes turned toward the other hall.
"An accident," I said, the trap springing open. I took a cautious step, though knowing already I could do nothing. "An accident killed the only thing keeping you from leaving St. August? You were tied to that trust, Matthew, the same as she was. That's money! Money you threw away when you shot her in the chest! And for what?"
"What is this, John? She was my wife. I should be the one outraged."
I gritted my teeth, imagining his head on the floor. "Do you feel anything? For her? For anyone but yourself?"
"You mischaracterize me," he said. By his smirk, he knew he could say anything. "I cared a great deal for Geneva. I contain my grief and I prioritize. It's not wise to be unprepared for the eventuality of death."
"Bullshit," I said. "You're a psycho. And you're spiralling."
His mouth twitched, but he carried on. "Language and insults don't suit you, John. I'll be going to my plane." He disappeared down the hall, and I could hear when his footsteps found the marble stairs.
I cursed profusely as I pulled out my phone. Amy answered on the first ring.
"John! What happened? You said you wouldn't call until--"
"I know," I said. "Amy, I let him go."
"He..." I gritted my teeth, "he said it was an accident." I started for the stairs myself.
"Bastard!" Amy said. "Shit, that means he knows about us."
"I know," I said. "We'll have to leave. Is there a chance we can follow him?"
There was silence on the other end.
"John, I'm staying," she said finally. I stopped at the top of the staircase, gritting my teeth. I had a sudden urge to throw the phone through the glass wall across the lobby.
"I was afraid you'd say that," I said as I continued down. "Amy, you can't stay in the States. One annonymous call and your life will be over. You'll be processed and I'll never see you again."
There was another long pause on her end as I made for the doors, stepping into the night.
"We didn't even..." she began.
"I know. He's got us."
"I'll send you an address," I said, and hung up.
As I crossed 42nd Street I looked up at the unmistakable outline of the Chrysler Building, as I'd done out of habit for the last three years. I'd met Amy up there on a tour. I'd dragged her into my world without any thought for the consequences.
I swore again, then hailed a cab.
The Way They Used to Talk
I miss the weather's oldest friends
Stale and bitter to the end
I miss the way they used to talk
The silent way they used to walk
I miss the way they made me feel
It didn't last, but it was real
I miss the simple yesterdays
Weather's friends without a cage
I miss not knowing where to go
It was simpler when I didn't know
I miss the chance to turn my head
To pages that I haven't read
I miss not knowing how to lie
Weather's oldest friends and I
I think we started off well
But I'm not sure
There were some things I couldn't tell
Without a Life to Live
Lying plainly, writing poorly, with heat of envy on your cheek;
Staring sour, wishing dour, while smiling fake in your sleep,
Aloft a cloud in a solemn facade, wandering in your tainted way;
Writing lists of course and courage as you watch the crumbling days
Bending to the wind of pleasure in your cold, collected play.
You sing of harpies in your head; a feather without a home
Is a sad and sullen image; these monsters that you call your own
Listen to your every cry as the night takes your pain away,
Step through cold corners and warm rooms in their stay,
Watch the borders of your mind, counting wolves and blooded sheep,
Taking what they please away, choosing this and that to keep.
Hate isn't passion, it's a shallow writhing through your veins,
Love isn't empty, it's a mark of trust that leaves a stain;
Jealously is a lie,
But without it, certain things would change.
You'd never call across the ocean to that something that you need,
You'd never search the shattered rocks, never caring if you bleed,
Never opening the earth to finally plant a dying seed.
Yet, it came as no surprise when I finally slipped away.
You'd stolen far above the line, and in the light I couln't pay.
The dying roots that you pulled from my chest began to burn;
You said, "Without a life to live, your world will never turn."
A Place I’ve Yet to Be
Ever sung a melody
On a stage you couldn't see
Ever saw the curtains part
Finding that you couldn't breath
Here is one I've yet to start
Lifted up to heavens high
Past the wind and past the sky
Climbing up to where I see
Where the sun will pass us by
There's a place I've yet to be
Across the waves of Scotland bay
Climb the rocks before the day
As the sun breaks o'er the hills
I linger 'fore I'm torn away
For this hour I'm longing still
Ever known a lover's heart
Confided in the deepest part
Beneath the stage do words descend
To bring our days a noble start
This I want before the end
Far I Go
Whendred the Whisperer took a quiet road to Gar Heldred. He feared his fears would find him if he walked any other.
Lighting a lantern that was not his own, Whendred slipped into the twilit night, an ashen cloak obscuring every inch of his skin. The mill creaked behind him, and his eyes flicked to catch the sighing silhouette of the blades. A hushed wind blew beneath his hood from somewhere beyond there, and a shiver whispered through his bones. He ignored the chill, but his eyes would not leave the house.
It took but a simple blink, and his gaze slipped away. Whendred returned to watch the road, his head low as he began into the trees. The forest was silent as he walked along, but for the gentle shhhsh of the wind in the leaves, and the moon was a sliver behind the timid clouds. Carefully he crept, never disturbing rock or vine where it crossed his path, always wary of the soundless shadows that seemed to stalk him through the trees, always watching the next bend of undergrowth where the road disappeared. He kept the lantern close as the remaining dusk gave way to complete the black of night. It wasn't so different a road than those he'd known years ago, but the darkness did seem to cast something of a shadow upon his mood.
The hazy hours bled into the next as Whendred walked, nothing but the night consuming his attention. In truth, there was nothing but the night. What more could he think of? He would not let his thoughts dance as they once did, carried off to reminisce of a desire that was not his own. It seemed to him as he walked, however, that the longer he dwelled on things that were not his, the more he desired them.
Unbidden images crept into his mind. The turning of the mill in the dark was as a whisper that tickled his ear, seducing his soul to return. He counted the stones that led him to the house, and heard the creek and thump of the door. The light that poured out from the candle on the table was nearly as real as the darkness that truly surrounded him. He saw the bed in the corner, its sheets unkempt, the wagon wheel and crop propped against the footlocker; the dusty hearth and mantle of dried flowers; the cabinets and bookcases on the other walls, crowded with pageless book-bindings, and jars full of feathers, clotting ink, and delicate shards of painted glass. He saw finally the unopened letter on the table. The scarlet seal was broken only by the knife Whendred had thrust through it. He knew the words within, the delicate hand that wrote them.
Yet, somehow, his thoughts remained.
Whendred slipped nigh into a dream as he walked, not realizing as his feet slowed.
He saw the crimson towers of Lea Arabon rise before him, felt the flagstones familiar beneath his feet. He saw the way into the keep, and could see every face he ever passed inside, aware as they looked on in envy that they would never know what was buried beneath the beauty of their city. Whendred had long known those depths, but the allure, warm and deep and pretty as it was, was far too easy to lose one's heart in.
Tower after tower Whendred passed, the one he sought on the farthest end of the city, buried at the heart, embraced by the mountainside. Selendria, it was called. The life of the city seemed to beat around her, the red people making merry in their opulence and wealth.
As the evening turned the streets to gold, Whendred watched those he passed. Women danced in the streets coquettishly, children played, men sang drunk from the bars and rooftops, hawkers cursed each other as each boasted their wares over the others’. North and south, east and west, high and low, their dress was much the same. The men, the women, the old, the young, all wore cloth of rich colors, golden and silver jewelry adorning necks, wrists, ankles, fingers, pierced through their ears, noses, lips, and anywhere else one could think to sink a needle. Now and again, a hunched figure or two in black drab could be seen slinking in or out of a back door or an alleyway.
Whendred tried to put the people, colorful or otherwise, out of mind. Intent he was only on the tower rising before him. The setting sun at his back lit the higher red stones with its most regal flame, while shadows of the city danced on those lower.
He ascended the steps to the tower from the courtyard, and as he reached the top the great doors to the hall rumbled open. A woman, fairest hair and silken dresses, tall and refined, strode from the tower, escorted by single guard in silver armoring. The glint of her eyes and the curl of her lips changed when she saw Whendred.
“All my hope was not in vain,” she said. Her voice held the grace of a petal, but beneath was the sharpness of the thorn. “My letter reached you after all.”
Whendred bowed. Of course he'd gotten the letter, or he would not have come so soon. It had found his door a fortnight ago, soft and sealed in scarlet. “My lady Selaine can trust her judgement well,” he said, his voice nothing more than a whisper.
“Come then,” she said, offering her hand. “I wish to see the lake as the sun touches it.” She slipped her hand into his arm as he joined her, and together they set across the courtyard.
Near the moorings on the lake was a balcony that lead off from a garden square, overlooking the water. It was a pond, really, but few there were who called it such. Whendred and the lady approached the white balustrade of the pier, their armored shadow close at hand.
“It is a lovely eve,” she said, resting her gloved hands on the pearly stone. “Would that we only had music.” He stood facing her against the rail, but was content watching the sun play her light on the water.
“Come, you must sing for me,” she said abruptly. “Sing of you travels, your journey here.”
He smiled. “You must not tease,” he said in his whisper. “If I had such a voice even to speak, I fear I would still know music too poorly to sing to you, Selaine.”
“Whisper me a song, then,” she said. His tongue was ready to disappoint her with another excuse, but her eyes shone with a silent plea.
“Very well,” he whispered. “If it will please you.”
He chose one of the very few songs he knew, one that most sounded as though it might be sung at a lakeside, and as he began to whisper out the song, Selaine relaxed into the balustrade.
Well I leave you,
Far I carry you on.
Safe I leave you,
Far my feet have gone.
Crying I leave you;
I go to follow a song.
Long I leave you;
I go for I am gone.
Far I go, far I go,
’Cross the wind and through the snow.
Far I go, far I go,
Without a star to follow home.
Will I stay?
Long I may.
Wait for me
Find a boat
To rock the blue;
Blue I'll be
Well I’ll find you,
Safe in castles warm.
Safe I'll find you,
Whispering to the storm.
Crying I'll find you,
Behind a curtain torn.
Though I'll find you,
I go when you are born.
Far I go, far I go,
’Cross the wind and through the snow;
Far I go, far I go,
Without a love to guide me home.
Selaine was crying silently when the song was over, lines running down her cheeks.
“I'm sorry, Selaine,” Whendred whispered. “I'll sing something happier if you like.” But she shook her head.
“It's a cruel world here,” Selaine said, “and I---” A sudden sob broke in her throat, and her eyes squeezed tight as tears streamed from them.
“Selaine?” Whendred whispered carefully, and touched her arm with a steadying hand.
She gasped and lashed away from him, her eyes wide. Then sank to the ground, sobs shaking in her chest.
“Selaine, I don't—” he began to move toward her, but as he did he saw something silvery flash from her sleeve. He veered back a moment too slowly, and the dagger tore open his shirt, slashing a red line across his chest. When again she attacked, Whendred caught both her wrists and shook the blade free. It clattered to the ground, a sprinkle of blood staining the white cobblestones.
“No!” she insisted, fighting. “No!”
Cold settled in Whendred's chest as he looked from the dagger on the paving to the little girl struggling against his grip. The silver guard made no move, as if a gargoyle set in painted stone.
“Selaine… I don't understand.”
“They want your life!” she cried. “They only want your life!”
“Who?” he said sharply. “The barons? Your father? Selaine, please…”
“They know we married!” she said. She finally stilled, but would not look at him. “They know…”
“And you would kill me?” he hissed. The dagger may as well have entered his heart. “Selaine, I don't understand.”
“You wouldn't,” she said, still averting her eyes. She tugged her arms. “Let me go.”
Whendred picked up the dagger and tucked it in his belt, then took Selaine to the tree on the edge of the square. He sat her roughly on a delicately carved, stone bench, beneath the wide canopy of white branches and red leaves.
“I'm letting you go,” he whispered. “This is what you wanted, my lady Selaine.” He turned away to leave her weeping into the white stone, her shoulders shaking as the pain unravelled.
As he had left Lea Arabon, the sun finally having slipped beyond the mountains, something in Whendred's chest had cracked in half. It had left only a shadow of a desire he once felt so strongly. But desire leaves burns and bruises… and scars.
He felt his chest as he crept through the shadows on the road to Gar Heldred. It was still sore, but had crusted over after a fortnight. What lay beneath was mending poorly in comparison.
The riling beat of horse hooves was the first sound that disturbed stillness in the forest. Whendred blew out the lantern and darted into the trees, wrapping his grey cloak tight around him. The rider reined in the horse, the hooded figure turning its head about as if startled by a sudden noise.
“Whendred?” It was a woman's voice that whispered through the dark.
Selaine? For the briefest moment, a light flickered in his stomach. But it was drowned all too quickly by the darkness issuing from what was rent in his chest.
He stepped from the trees, through the mist that was beginning to creep out of the forest.
“Selaine,” he whispered. She threw her hood off when she saw him, the scant moonlight illuminating her pale hair. Whendred came no further than the edge of the road. When Selaine dismounted she kept hold of the reins, biding close to the horse.
“The Whisperer is traveling north, they said.” Her voice was the one he remembered, but touched with a desperate plea. “He would not say why, only that he must get far away.” She stepped timidly, imploringly toward him. “I know why, and I know you can never forgive me.” She closed the distance and knelt at his feet. “But they gave me a choice. My forbidden love must die, or…” her eyes whelled with tears and her lips pursed, “or our child...”
All at once, Whendred was weak. His stomach trembled in the cold, a question burning in the air from his throat. “Why…” did they… is he…
“He lives,” she said, “safe in Alantaire. The barons believe that is where I am gone.”
“You told them you were gone south,” he whispered, “but followed me north instead. Why?”
“I…” she cried, “I need you... I never wanted you to let me go.”
Whendred knelt and took her hands, helped her to stand. “Then I forgive you,” he whispered. She looked into his eyes, tears from her's flowing anew. “But you must return home.”
Her eyes shattered, and she clung tighter to his arms. Whendred wrapped her up in an embrace, kissing her fair head.
“Dearest lady Selaine,” he whispered as she cried. “I am gone finally to Gar Heldred. When you can, bring the child and find me. If that is what you wish, I will be waiting.” She nodded into his chest. “Time, Dearest. Time is what I leave you with. Time with our child. Time to become whole. Take him from your father's house and raise him in mine. That also I leave you. It is little, but it is all a child needs... save for a good mother. And when you can, bring him north and he will have a father as well. And I will have you.” He held his head against her's, their lips inches apart. “Now, go.”
Her hands slipped from his, trembling. Tears streamed down her sobbing throat as she turned slowly back to her horse. The dark nor the shadow of her cloak could hide her beauty as she sat high in the saddle, a sorrowful longing in her eyes.
As he watched her ride away, a song came to Whendred's lips.
Far I go, far I go,
’Cross the wind and through the snow.
Far I go, far I go...
We the People Have Spoken
“This is CBA here with President Jolistan, standing by to begin the address. Are we live, Harry?”
“Frequency received, CBA. Stand by...
"You are on air in three... two..."
″‘We the people... we the people!’
“That is a phrase from the founding literature of our nation. It is a phrase intended to give even the least among us a voice, to bring unity and equality to every one of us the people. However, it is also a phrase that has been spat upon, abused, and ignored by so many who would see themselves as above the common people. These elitists refuse to see us! But how much longer will they turn a blind eye?! I say no longer! I say show them! Show them that we remember the justice that belongs to us all! That we all shall not rest until we have won back that justice!”
“Where does this disease begin? Where is the root of the corruption? Who are those that sow the seeds of poverty, of oppression, of this vast inequality? Even as I ask, you all know of whom I speak. How long will they sit high in their towers, contemptuously adrift of the true pains we face? How long will they continue to discriminate the company they keep, looking down on women and folks of color who want no more than to earn a fair wage, preferring the safe presence of other rich, white bastard cats, who show no interest in the common people but to shill us for every last penny in our pockets?! How long will they hide behind a facade of arduous labor, when even they know it is the labor of the underpaid they lie upon? How long will they lie?! How long will we allow them?!”
“I say from this moment we shall not! I SAY NO LONGER!”
“And of this singularity we shall remain! We must be hard of mind and of soul, for we cannot let in the vehement words of those reactionary! We cannot falter to their deceit! For their lies ring through the nation as the flaming serpents on the tongue of Hell! This we cannot allow! For this cause have we to fight; and fight we must! Fight we must, or this grave injustice will grow. This scourge that is the enemy of unity and just equality will fester in our nation until it becomes impossible for the oppressed and impoverished among us to live the dream that was meant to be America!”
“This is a dream that we can and must realize! But it is a dream that we will never see without an absolute equity of station! Without an equal people, this nation is a shadow of what our founders intended! Irrefutably and unquestionably! And this just movement could never have come to pass without an enlightened people to drive it! It is you, and it is I, that shall set the governance of this country on the only true and worthy path! And though it was I who coalesced we the people into a single voice of freedom, I believe that truth will out among a good people! Were it not I, another would have come forth to lift the torch! For as this your truth is also mine, so is it OUR TRUTH! SO SHALL THIS NATION SEE US RISE! WE THE PEOPLE!
“WE THE PEOPLE!”
“WE THE PEOPLE!”
“WE… THE PEOPLE!”
“...the people have spoken! We the people have sp—”
The Foulness of His Wake
Whitewashed. Blackened. Blooded. Cleaned.
Severed. Scarred. Congealed. Stained.
Whispered. Righted. Tainted. Blamed.
Guilty. Hated. Sadist. Game.
Sundered. Spurned. Angered. Fueled.
Bitter. Fitted. Calloused. Cruel.
Lost within a world of dread.
Ripe to pluck his feathered head.
Tarred. Burned. Peeled. Stoned.
Drugged and lashed. Crowned with bone.
Smote. Pitted. Wreathed in pain.
Late to cast the growing flame.
Hungered. Shunted. Kicked and rent.
Dragged. Harrowed. Bowed and bent.
Lifted up upon the pyre.
Cast into the raging fire.
Scoured. Seared. Cracked and emptied.
Crumbled. Ashen. Dried to bleed.
Stilled and silent. Carried far.
To sleep within a darkened star.
Born into a world weak.
Rising from his ashen sleep.
Water dried and light erased.
Dead his heart and dun his face.
Stretching. Seething. Reaching out.
Breathing. Beating. Soundless shout.
Watching. Willing. Wanting sorrow.
Racing toward a dark tomorrow.
Writhing into bosoms deep.
Making oaths he will not keep.
Marking those with branded ire.
Leading with his words' desire.
Lifting up the hollowed hearts.
Enough to tear the truth apart.
Lying. Listening. Sowing hate.
To see his power cannot abate...
"[But] in those final days the heavens shall burn and shall embrace the earth; and the Father of all Darkness shall be scoured from the hearts of man, to be cast away into that unending void, that pit of pits, for which there can be no salvation; and those that follow his word shall be cast after him, to choke on the foulness of his wake."
~Tides of the Covenant
Silk and Steel
On the bank of the river Talay wept a queen of silk and steel.
Her tears dripped into the gentle water as she cried, rippling the light of the noonday sun. The soft current carried them away, far down the river into Raladryel, the city of the queen’s birth. As they wandered through the city, her tears brightened and cleansed every water to be found, a gift to the people of her beloved home. It was a gift indeed that held away darkness and disease, one that without, the city would crumble and all within her walls would die.
For as long as the queen cried, Raladryel would live.
And live they did, and shine and flourish for a hundred years after their queen broke the silken chain that bound their land to the dark. It is whispered that the silver sword of Talay, with which the chain was broken, still lies in the river, caressed by the very tears it had caused to be shed.
For as long as the sword was safe, the queen would live.
And live she did, and safe it was, for a hundred years... until her tears ran dry and the river stopped, and the sword was raised from the still waters at the hand of a silken king.
The Forest and Her Uncertainties
I was born in a place of obscurity. My eyes first opened on a dirt trail hardened by the past. Like waking from a dream, I thought, Was I not just somewhere else? Someone else? Yet, as from any other dream, I had little choice but to move on…
All around was a world I didn’t know. Humble trees of hazel wood and shamrock stretched for as far as my untested eyes could see, soft as the underbrush that pillowed the ground. This part of the forest looked well cared for, tended to in places as if preparing for my arrival. No, not my arrival, I realized. In the dirt before me was a trail of bare footprints, leading down the road and around the bend in the distance.
It did not take me long to stand, weak as my legs were. No, not weak… new… unseasoned. I fell in line with the ruts in the road naturally. Lines were good. Lines had purpose. I was perhaps too hard-headed to walk with the trail of footprints, intent on carving my own way.
With my first step came a shock. My legs surrendered to my weight, and I was a lump of body on the ground again. I had tried to run.
What’s this? I thought. I knew running, didn’t I? How is it that I’ve forgotten?
I wished then that I could’ve taken my legs with me from the other place. Those had been strong legs… Wait, I thought, that wasn’t right. Waking was all I knew. The other place was nothing but a dream.
I stood just as easily as the first time, yet aware of a new weight that settled with the knowledge of my inept legs. To spite the shadow of that knowledge, however, I was determined. I was a runner, I was a fighter—of that much I was sure. I steeled my feet, challenging the short stretch of road before me. This is what I am, I thought, and tried again, reaching for the bend.
The cruelty within the earth beckoned me, and I fell into the dirt.
Again, I stood. I would not relent. Again I fell, ears burning with the laughter of this unfamiliar world. It asked much of me, but it would not let me give. Around the bend the world called out, but I was helpless as the forest held me fast.
“RUN!” I cried, prostrate in the dirt. To what end was I reduced to this?! Is it not mockery to forsake me and leave me with this impaired frame?!
I glared in envy at the trail of footprints in the road. Those had been made mere moments ago, I knew. I’d watched him walk around the bend…
No… just a dream.
I could do nothing but lie there, incapable, unable to fathom my sudden subjection to such cruelty. My will collapsed as I stared up through the encroaching branches, watching the sunlight playing through the leaves. The forest swallowed me as it laughed at its own beauty, wrapping me up in black obscurity with every breath. So I was quieted, and I embraced it. I embraced obscurity.
Into this bright place was I born; and on that same day I surrendered myself to the weight of the forest…
Towers Bend and Break and Bend
A storm of fire upon the hill,
A plain of snow, a holy land;
The word I send across the chill,
To ease the burdens carried still,
Is scattered in the flaming stand;
But I in agony remain
Within the storm I’d not create,
Without a foot to cross the plain;
For in my ball and weathered chain
The storm abound cannot abate;
Still I cling to open air,
Lifting Hell upon my back,
When towers in my brazen stare,
’Cross the plain, asunder tear
Through the hill an earthen crack;
Into the dark I see descend
Rock and river, snow and stone;
Towers bend and break and bend
Through a void without an end,
To leave the storm and I alone;
The stillness rises from the deep,
With voices of the fallen, bound
By burden lifted not by sleep;
Yet while I watched their crumbling keep,
A burning line of hope I found.