Adrasteius: Really?  Really.

The Second Truth From the Left

quarter to never

beep
Adrasteius: Really?  Really.
lynstraine
i still read my friends list on the regular but i mostly exist over on tumblr these days! also twitter.

hello
Eulalia: Yee!
lynstraine
IS ANYBODY OUT THERE?

Anyway, I am reviving my old site! On it, I have posted what's completed of Familiar--the rest of chapter 2 and all of chapter 3, as well. I've written 10,000 words of this thing; let's see if I can keep it up.

(it is possible that I am communing with ghosts, but you never know)

lmao
Zuko: Smirk.
lynstraine
So the 'I'm quitting WoW forever because everyone was sooo mean to me and I'd rather just make a blanket statement instead of taking responsibility for my behavior' thing lasted roughly three weeks. That's longer than you or I suspected, teaandfailure, at least X)

Unburdening myself. (tw: misogyny, gendered slurs, profanity)
Adrasteius: Really?  Really.
lynstraine
I don't know how to start this, except to say that, although the events discussed herein involve people close to me, I'm not writing it for or because of them. I'm writing it for me, because I've been quietly, seethingly angry about this situation for going on two years now, and the fullness of time has finally allowed me to say something about it. AVALI YOU DO NOT NEED TO READ THIS. PRETEND IT'S NOT EVEN HERE. But I've been holding in this bitterness and rage and I just have to, HAVE to get it out.Collapse )

the harpy prince
Adrasteius: Really?  Really.
lynstraine
Once upon a time, a kingdom was invaded.

The kingdom was vast and beautiful, teeming with ivory fountains of
shimmering water and enchanted fish,

of golden spires painted with intricate designs that became
illuminated in the night,

of magic threaded through the very air.

The royal family of this kingdom lived in a richly appointed palace,

Filled with many treasures.

Chief among these treasures was a bird in the shape of man

Kept in a golden cage

Adorned with fine silks, jewels, and a crown fit for a king.

As they swept through the palace, the invaders took everything of worth

But they weren’t quite sure what to do with the creature in the cage.

A soldier approached him, a girl. She looked into his eyes, which
were human and not,

And decided to set him free.

She opened the door of the cage, and the harpy prince stepped out, his
silks rustling.

He gazed at the girl, but he neither spoke nor moved.

The girl did not know much of harpies, except that their territory was
far from here,

Deep, deep into the northern woods.

Her people cautioned her, told her to leave the harpy prince alone.

He only appears human, they said, but he has the talons of a beast,

The intelligence of a predator,

The teeth for rending flesh.

But to the girl, the harpy prince was like a lost child.

He had no guile, and he trailed along behind her like a baby duck
Following its mother.

She needed to help him, and so she turned to the woods.

The journey was long and dangerous. They traveled through dense, dark forests,

Filled with biting insects, howling wolves, and hissing snakes.

The girl’s homeland had few trees, and all the animals she knew were pets.

She was frightened, and not always sure of her steps, but

For some reason

The forest mostly left them alone.

Occasionally, the harpy prince would wander away for a few hours’ time,

And the girl would panic.

When he returned, he would gaze at her in confusion, as though unable to process

Her concerns. She would fuss over him, over the tears on his beautiful clothes,

The jewels falling from his neck, and the blood spatters

Soaking the fabric over his chest.

She told him that he must not leave her. She had a gun, and could protect them.

He was defenseless.

For the sake of propriety, she did not remove his clothing.

She never saw that he had no wounds.

Eventually, they reached the harpies’ territory. The girl knew it by
the many enormous,

Intricate nests built into the trees, and by the skulls and bones of
other animals

That the harpies had captured and eaten.

The prince suddenly took hold of the girl’s wrist, pulling her back.
He shook his head.

She tried to ask him what he meant, what he wanted, but he could not
answer her.

Instead, he pulled.

Frustrated, she shook him off. They were so close.

As soon as they entered the camp, excited screeches filled the air.

The harpy prince trilled back, opening his mouth for the first time.

The girl took a step back.

In moments, the harpy women descended upon their visitors.

They crowded around the prince, talking to him in their
incomprehensible, high-pitched

Language, pulling off the adornments that the humans had thrust upon him.

The girl did not know what to do. She supposed it was time to go home.

But, before she could leave, the harpies turned to her. They crowded her, too.

Males in their species were rare, and the harpies were grateful for his return

but they were also hungry.

The harpy prince was glad to be home, and also grateful to the girl

In his way.

After all, he had tried to warn her.

familiar; 2.3
Adrasteius: Really?  Really.
lynstraine
A smidgeon more :v
---
I held onto the counter for support. I wanted desperately for someone to shake me awake, but I could no longer deny that I was not dreaming.

“A demon,” I repeated. “From hell?”

“That’s a common and extremely hurtful misconception,” Mordecai said, sounding more rehearsed than offended. “You’re conflating two different concepts. Fallen angels live in hell, and I assure you that I have no part in their business.”

“But you said that Brigid locked you away.”

His gaze dropped to the floor. “An unavoidable truth.”

“Can I ask why?”

He clicked his tongue and sighed deeply. “It has been so many years … I simply cannot recall. I’m sure it was something dreadful.”

“What brand of dreadful?” I said. I replaced the receiver on its base. Some part of me wanted to hold onto it in case Mordecai lunged at me and I needed to call for help, but I had a feeling that a fight between me and demon would be over in a matter of seconds. Besides, even though I wouldn’t call him stable, he didn’t seem dangerous. If anything, he was depressed.

I walked into the den and he lumbered along behind me, his heavy boots thudding against the linoleum.

“Was it, like … stealing a necklace, dreadful? Telling an embarrassing story in public? Calling her best friend a slut, maybe?”

“No …” Mordecai said. “Much worse than that, I’m sure.”

He sat down on the long, plush couch and yawned, showing off his fanged teeth. I cleared my throat.

“Do not misunderstand,” he went on. “Brigid summoned me in the first place. I … cared for her.”

I touched my lips, remembering how he had greeted me with a kiss. My first, actually, unless you counted towheaded Tim in my kindergarten play group, which I did not. Technically, Mordecai didn’t count either, since he wasn’t human. Though he definitely had a body like a man. But still. Not eligible, especially since he wasn’t kissing me—only who he thought I was.

“Did she, uh, care for you?” I said.

“My memories are a broken mirror. But I do have a vivid image stuck in my mind, of Brigid casting the binding spell,” he said. “Her voice was clear and firm, her eyes bright … but her hands shook, and tears trailed down her cheeks.”

familiar; 2.2
Adrasteius: Really?  Really.
lynstraine
My goal is to complete at least a chapter of this each month--hopefully more, but, who knows.
---

“Does this mean that you’ve forgiven me?” the man-thing said, his voice just as urgent as his eyes. His claws bit into the meat of my shoulders, and I gasped in pain.

“Let me go,” I said, and he did, skittering away from me as if struck, as though I was the one doing violence to him.

“I am so very sorry,” he said. “Please, Brigid, say that you forgive me.”

“That’s not my name,” I said, now looking around frantically for someone, anyone, who might be witnessing this. But the park seemed empty, aside from the two of us. Dusk had quickly turned to full-on darkness, and I shivered; the night had brought a chilling wind with it.

“I don’t know who—or what—you are, or even what’s really happening right now, but I need to go home,” I said. I grabbed my black lump of a purse and fished around until I found my iPhone; the time was six-thirty, and I had missed three calls from my mom.

I decided that I was hallucinating, that my brain was somehow damaged from trying to sit primly on an uncomfortable rock for two hours, and that I would just walk away. He watched me as I set off for my car at a brisk pace, my eyes forward and my posture stiff. The parking lot was not far from the stream, and I reached my gleaming Lexus—last year’s sweet-sixteen present—after a few minutes’ walking. The car beeped comfortingly as I unlocked it on my approach. Several other vehicles dotted the lot, and I wondered where their owners were and why they hadn’t seen the strange man-creature accosting me.

Convinced now that he was an illusion brought on by fatigue, I opened the driver’s side door and slid into the front seat.

“Brigid, what manner of carriage is this?” He was in the passenger’s seat, his gravelly voice full of wonder, his cat-like pupils dilated with interest.

“You’re a figment of my imagination, so could you shut up, please?” I said. “I can’t drive well when I’m distracted.”

His earlier anxiety resurfaced; he wrung his hands and said, “I did not mean to be so forward, but I’ve been imprisoned for such a long time. Longer than I had originally presumed, for I find nothing familiar about my surroundings.” He leaned forward, and I pulled away, pressing against the hard, cold glass of my window. “Aside from your face.”

“We-well,” I said, hating my nervous stutter, “I read on Wikipedia once that everyone has a few people who look just like them, so I think you’re mistaking me for someone else. How’s about you go invade her mind and personal space, huh?”

I jammed the key into the ignition and the car growled to life. The guy-whatever panicked, extending his massive wings like a frightened bird. I was momentarily blinded by a mass of black feathers. Coughing and spitting, with my foot firmly on the brakes, I cried, “Stop! Stop.”

I reached through the swirl of feathers to touch him, both to check my understanding of reality and to, hopefully, calm him down. My hand brushed against the sharp, bony ridges of his horns, and I forced myself not to recoil. Instead, I endured the strange texture, running my fingers over his head until I felt a soft shock of hair. I petted him gently, like someone trying to soothe a fussing cat, because that was the only experience I had to draw from.

Fortunately, it worked. He settled into the seat, retracting his wings to the point that they disappeared. I blinked and began to feel a little faint.

“Okay,” I said, through gritted teeth, “I need to drive home. It’s two miles down the road. If you’re going to hang around, could you not move or talk for the next five minutes?”

“Of course, my lady,” he said, his eyes half-closed in pleasure, as I was still rubbing my thumb against the back of his neck. Maybe treating him like a cat was the right instinct. Maybe he was a dream-version of my cat and I had imagined this entire day, had lost my nerve at leaving the house in my frilly clothes and instead daydreamed a scenario in which I was brave. Maybe I was actually sitting on my bed at home and would wake up soon. But the scene never shifted abruptly to my room, and his breathing was too audible and his skin too warm to be anything but real.

I withdrew my hand, and he slumped down, sullen but docile.

He remained that way until I pulled up the drive way to my house, which was big, bright, and free of human life, as usual. Mom insisted that I keep all the outside lights—including the pool lights—on constantly, and that I make sure at least three of the windows facing the street were lit up, too. She thought this would deter home invaders. I glanced at the persistent figure of memory/mythology beside me and concluded that my mother’s efforts were in vain.

He followed me up to the door, staring silently as I went in, disabled the alarm, and then headed to the kitchen. The answering machine had six messages on it, and I knew without listening that at least four of them were mom. As I punched in the numbers for her office, my figment asked me what year it was.

“We are firmly in the twenty-first century, Buck Rogers,” I said.

My mother picked up on the second ring. “Ciara, where have you been?” she hissed. “You know you’re supposed to check in with me every day, before dark.”

“I know, ma,” I said. “I was at the park and lost track of time.” And possibly my sanity.

“But you’re at the house now, right?” Over a full minute passed before her reply, and I could hear other people trying to catch her attention in the background.

“Obviously,” I said.

“Sorry, we’re about to start a conference call. I’ll call you later. Make sure the doors are locked!”

“Little late for that,” I muttered, but she had already hung up. My mother practiced intense and largely ineffective long-distance concern. I doubted that I would see her until the middle of the week—when she was in the middle of an important deal, which was constantly, she often rented a hotel room nearer to her office and slept there instead of coming home.

Figment-thing had inspected the kitchen while I talked on the phone. His head was in the freezer when I turned back to him.

“Enjoying yourself?” I said.

He rumbled with dissatisfaction and stepped back from the fridge. “That’s truly the most advanced ice-box I’ve yet seen. This is the twenty-first century, you say?”

His accent was vaguely British, and he pronounced words carefully, as though he thought for a second about each one before saying it out loud. When he moved towards me, his body was awkward, loping, like a large and uncertain child. Still, he crossed the room in two strides, stopping right in front of me again, staring at me.

“You are not Brigid,” he pronounced.

“My name is Ciara Fisk,” I said. “Mistaken identity, I’m telling you.”

“No,” he said. “I am not mistaken. Her blood is yours.”

“Her—what—?” I glanced at the receiver in my hand. This was progressing from unnerving to creepy real fast.

“She is your relation,” he said. “You have no one by that name in your lineage?”

I was about to say no, and then paused. I had done an ancestry project in social studies ages ago, and an image of my clumsily drawn family-tree popped up in my memory. My father’s great-grandmother had that name. Or great-great. It was way up the branches.

“So what if I do? She’s been dead for over a hundred years now,” I said.

“And I have been locked away for that long, Ciara Fisk,” he replied. “Only her blood could break the spell set on me, and so it has.”

“Blood spell?” I whispered, clutching the receiver so tightly that I accidentally dialed a random mish-mash of numbers. A computerized woman droned that my call could not be completed as dialed, but my mind had turned to cotton. “What are you, exactly?”

“Mordecai,” he said, extending his hand with a flourish. “Demon prince of the lower depths. I am esteemed to be in your service.”

familiar; 2.1
Adrasteius: Really?  Really.
lynstraine
OH MAN I am so nervous to post this! This is the start of the second chapter, in which there is a dramatic shift in perspective and timeline. The story alternates between past and present; the past chapters are told in limited third (Brigid's PoV), whereas the present story is told from first. The first person narrator is a girl named Ciara Fisk; she's 17, lonely, spoiled, nerdy, nervous, etc. She's a counterpoint to her ancestor, Brigid, whom you met previously and who is (intense situations involving zealot assassins and traumatic loss notwithstanding) altogether much more level-headed and mature.

Mordecai, of course, is the link between them, and the past chapters trace what happened during his and Brigid's partnership. As even this small piece implies, things did not ultimately end well. The question is, what does that mean for Ciara, and what is Mordecai's true nature?

Anyway ...

---

Here were the things that I believed in: curling irons, books heavy enough to double as paperweights, dry cleaning, and the flat, smooth rock under my butt. I had a firm idea about the powerful breeze winding through my curly hair and causing my book’s pages to flap like a desperate bird, too.

Don’t get me wrong. I wanted to believe in all kinds of unlikely realities. I wanted to believe, for instance, that my mother would be home for dinner, or home at all in the next two weeks. I wanted to believe that my father would call me from whichever co-op or artists’ retreat or unholy pilgrimage he was undertaking. But Mom would work late, possibly get called to Japan or Greenland or Middle Earth or something, and dad would forget to call until it was four in the morning on a Wednesday night and I had a Latin test at seven.

Other beliefs I wanted to nurse included: the existence of kind faeries, a just God, and the dazzling worlds depicted in my heavy fantasy books, where good triumphed over evil and parents only neglected their kids because they had tragically died before the story started.

But seventeen years of life and a steady diet of old fairy tales and modern television is enough to be skeptical.

The wind was relentless. My hair flew in every direction, and the book became a living thing, fighting to escape my grasp. I wasn’t wearing the most practical outfit, either, because I had decided to try wearing my favorite style in public. These clothes were old-fashioned by any standard, featuring lacy, full skirts, long sleeves, and more bows than were strictly necessary. My dress was white with black details, and my hair was (poorly) restrained by a black, rose-topped headband. I had on white stockings and shiny Mary Janes with a little heel. In my mind, I was a refugee from a more elegant and refined time. To everyone else, I had forgotten that Halloween was two months away.

The entire ensemble was imported from Japan, a gift from my mother after a business trip. It was beautiful, expensive, and until this moment, had never been seen by anyone, except for the few hundred people in the online communities I frequented. I loved this style. I collected this style. But the thought of wearing my Lolita clothes at school or to a restaurant intimidated me; things were bad enough without giving people an obvious reason to harass you.

The creativity of cruelty was another thing I believed in.

Despite that, I had received mostly polite stares since my arrival in the park. Whenever anyone came to grab a stray Frisbee, they would pause for a second and let their gaze linger on the petticoat and stockings. But no one said a thing, aside from a five year old boy who asked if I was hot.

I was boiling. The dress had a high collar, and I felt the sweat gather there as I sat with my book, trying to read, to exude an aura of prim elegance. The wind was not helping my efforts.

I cut my finger on the book’s pages as I tried to flatten them out, and I winced as blood welled from the wound. I didn’t notice it then, but a few drops fell from my finger and into the clear, placid stream beside me, which was really more of a trickle than a body of water. Clusters of stones formed a rocky bed for the stream, almost entirely exposed, bright with the sun. My blood splashed against one of those stones; one drop of it, not enough to mention or miss.

I sucked on my finger and surveyed the park anxiously, hoping that my display had gone unnoticed. The afternoon had shifted to early evening, and the area’s population had thinned. The families were home now, fixing dinner; the dogs were asleep on the bed or in the yard. A few joggers passed by on the trail, but they were intent on their exercise and did not even glance at me.

I was about to stand, thinking I had survived this whole endeavor, when one of the rocks caught my eye. It was glinting with an intense, unnatural light, like a piece of coal in a fire. Disturbed, I took a step back, and then light erupted from the stone, blinding and howling.

I opened my mouth to scream, but something silenced me. Another mouth, hot and insistent, pressed to my own. I was too shocked to fight back, and strong hands on my shoulders held me still, besides.

The light faded, revealing a body, then a face—almond skin, black hair, wicked horns. A man, or something like it. He pulled back and opened his impossible, cat-like, ink and amber eyes. His expression was hopeful, pleading, and, to me in that moment, absolutely terrifying.

I tried to wrench away from his grip, and his claws tore the sleeves on my dress. His claws.

Obviously, I needed to re-evaluate my belief system.

familiar; 1.5
Adrasteius: Really?  Really.
lynstraine
So Brigid watched, her heart splintering, as the boy she once thought of as peaceful and kind destroyed the most significant piece of her mother that Brigid had left. Riordan didn’t stop his assault until roughly a third of the book’s pages were in tattered clumps on the floor. He muttered prayers and curses as he worked; he lacerated both hands from the paper’s edges. Finally, he took the iron stylus and drew over the symbols on the book’s cover, cutting into the leather like a hunter cleaving into a wild animal. The book burst into flames, and Riordan stood before it, breathing heavily, his own blood trickling down his wrists.

Brigid choked on her horror and her tears; she felt the demon’s embrace reluctantly tighten, heard him mutter, “Forgive me,” as he held her fast.

Riordan’s gaze swept the room for a final time.

“I’ll find you, Brigid. And whether you seek absolution or you continue to stand in defiance of the church, you will be delivered. I will not rest until this is so.”

He let the words sear the silence, as though hoping for a response. He clenched and unclenched his fists. Then he turned and walked back up the steps, where he lingered.

His voice cracked. “Please, Brigid, for your sake and mine, make the right choice.”

Riordan shut the door behind him and then was gone.

Moments later, the house began to burn. The acrid smell of melting glass and smoking stone assaulted Brigid; she could not see through the film of water over her eyes. She had no time to register any feeling beyond that; Mordecai grasped her about the waist and extended his wings.

“N-no,” she managed, reaching for the remains of her mother’s things: the scattered, pulverized herbs, her mortar and pestle, the ritual knives. From the upper floors, she wanted the dresses, the perfumes, the recipe books. But these were already ash, and the flames now slid their tongues beneath the cellar door. Smoke poured into the basement; a herald of the destruction to come.

“We must go, my lady,” Mordecai said, his guttural voice painstakingly soft.

Brigid let her body go slack. He was right: there was no help for it. If she tarried any longer, she would die.

Mordecai lifted off from the dirt floor and flew at the back wall. “Close your eyes and hold your breath,” he whispered. She obeyed, and as Mordecai burst through the wall, Brigid felt a flash of heat so intense she could swear her flesh had curled and blackened like meat left too long on a spit. But then the fresh, chilled air of the autumn evening buffeted her, and she opened her eyes to find that both she and her demon were intact.

They were also flying.

Brigid heaved.

“I will not drop you,” Mordecai said, and certainly his arms were cinched securely around her small frame. “We will come down as soon as I find a safe place.”

Brigid nodded, but after that did not dare to move or speak or look in any particular direction, for fear of unleashing her rising panic. Mordecai’s grip on her stayed firm until her boots touched solid earth; she pitched forward, and he caught her, easing her down to a sitting position on the grass. She forcefully restrained the bile in her throat, produced from the dizzying flight and the stress of everything that had preceded it.

Mordecai sat across from her, watching her with his luminous, amber-colored irises, as wide and curious as a cat’s. He had brought them to the forest that was several miles south of her old home. They were in the thick of it, surrounded by tall, thin trees that grew in clusters, trees that formed a heavy canopy in the summer, but were presently shedding their red-gold coats onto the forest floor. Brigid picked up a fat leaf; its sheen of dew slicked her hand. She traced the leaf’s veins with her nail.

“It’s dead,” Mordecai said. “But it will return to the earth and nourish the next season’s life.”

“My mother told me that before,” Brigid said.

She dropped the leaf back onto the blanket of them that lay over the brittle grass; it was a burial shroud, she thought.

She curled up against the tree behind her. Now that the danger had temporarily subsided, the grief and the uncertainty took their cues. She hid her head between her knees and sobbed.

The demon did not try to touch or converse with her again that night. Instead, he set about gathering dry wood, so that he could build a fire for her. Something to warm her, and to keep away the predators.

—-

Thus ends chapter 1! What say you?

(It should be noted that the chapters in this story alternate between the past and the present; the second chapter is in first person, present tense)

familiar; 1.4
Adrasteius: Really?  Really.
lynstraine
Riordan stalked around the cellar, fury evident in his usually amiable expression.

“This is a witch’s sanctum all right,” he said in disgust, glaring down at the worktable and the paraphernalia still piled on top of it. He swept everything off with one motion of his arm, looking satisfied as the glass ink wells shattered and the loose papers curled wetly on the damp dirt floor. He smashed the barrels and tore apart the wine casks, soaking the books in alcohol and fragments of thyme and basil.

Brigid flinched, but said not a word. Riordan behaved as though she weren’t there, and she quickly understood that the demon had somehow turned them both invisible.

Her skin was so far intact; Mordecai’s black talons touched her lightly, delicately, with no more pressure than an insect on a leaf. As they stood there, silent and immobile, she became aware that he was hardly breathing, and his body temperature was just short of boiling. He was embarrassed. She wanted to laugh, because surely a six-foot tall, bat-winged demon had no need to worry about anyone’s opinion save his own. Besides which, his claw was still pressed to her lip, though his hands trembled slightly.

Riordan sat at the worktable and took an iron stylus from his belt. He carved a rune into the wood, his strokes precise and angry; the symbol looked like a wound when he was done, so deep were the gouges. Riordan pressed his index finger to the grooves he had etched and the symbol flared to life, first burning itself and then consuming the entire table. Riordan made the sign of the cross over the ashes and whispered, “May your evil die with this cleansing.”

He looked momentarily tired, burdened. His shoulders sagged, and he dug the palm of his hand against his closed eye.

“Why?” he said. “Why are you on this wicked path? We sat in church together. We praised God!”

Brigid kept still.

Riordan strode around the room, knocking books from their shelves and stepping on the spines until they broke. He circled the area until he was in front of the altar, in front of the spell book that Brigid’s mother had written. Riordan flipped through the pages, his lip curled in disdain.

“A litany of sins! A trove of iniquity,” he declared, and began to shred the pages, tearing them until they were no longer recognizable, letting the tattered remnants fall like snow on his boots. Brigid stiffened, wanting to cry out.

“You mustn’t move, my lady,” Mordecai whispered urgently. “Else the spell will break, and he shall be upon you.”

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